Title: Broken Heart Tonight
Summary: I knew the day I met Zack, he'd cause me pain.
Author's Notes: Spoilers for Pain In The Heart. I don't own Bones or any of the characters, duh. And I'm not sure I even like how I've characterized Cam and Zack in this. I guess I just like my characters mildly dysfunctional. Unbetaed.
I should have gotten him a girlfriend, Angela says. The words that spill from Cam's tongue are a blistering condemnation, all distance, all bitterness. She's trying to stay detached but her voice is cracking, thick with emotion.
Zack didn't want a girlfriend, she wants to retort, had no need for one. But then everyone would ask how she, of all people, knows this.
Things are fucked up as they are. Cam does not want to talk about how she knows this; it will reduce her to a mess of tears.
He's like a puppy. An eager, intelligent robotic puppy. Cam understands how people work; it doesn't take long for her to figure out what motivates a person, what drives them. How she can get them to follow rules, keep them in check, good dog, have a biscuit, aren't you the strangest, sweetest little thing?
Back then, she rarely saw emotion behind those clinical eyes that stared back at her, and getting through to him was a daily struggle. She talked to him with gentle authority but he didn't always listen. Zack ran with his pack mates, sniffing for the possibility of another unapproved experiment, standing straight at attention in the presence of the alpha female Dr. Brennan, desperately seeking approval of the alpha male Booth.
For a long time, Cam was just the new bitch in town.
But she won them all over in the end. Dr. Brennan had been a challenge, but when Zack now looks at her with that eager expression, Cam can't help but smile internally. Despite all she says about protocol, she gives all of them him a little bit of leeway, a generous dose of freedom, and in return he is surprisingly docile and obedient.
Good dog, have a biscuit.
The change leaves her quite speechless, unsure how to react. She has to give Angela credit; the woman knows how to give a guy a makeover. Not a guy, a man. Not a boy any more, with that trademarked floppy hair and tattered shirt-tails that's she's come to expect from him. Trim and mature and coiffed but... still so eager. Still the puppy lurks beneath his eyes (beneath that ridiculous hat) seeking approval and validation, look at me, give me a chance, I can do better, I can be the best. It's only now that she realizes that there will always be an innocent quality about him, no matter what he wears, no matter how big his words are.
Cam drinks far too much alcohol that day night and finds herself running her fingers across the sleeve of his suit as the diner dwindles into silence. How come it's just the two of them? Wasn't Hodgins giving him a ride home?
He leans across her, grabbing her purse with the car keys within. "I'd drive you home, Dr. Saroyan, but I don't know how to drive." There's no shame in his statement, just the straight-forward truth.
Cam stares at her purse in his hands, then back to his eager-to-please face. I like straight-forward. She wraps her hand around his arm and leads him out of the diner. "Let's catch a cab instead."
He asks her, point blank, if he can kiss her. Cam thinks about it, tilts her head to the side in serious consideration, then nods okay. She's stone cold sober by now; she spent the past two hours sprawled on her couch as Zack sat next to her and rambled on about fracture pattern interpretation, there's an old article in the Journal of Forensic Science on how to differentiate between blunt force trauma and ballistic trauma by analyzing the concentric-
God, he's the cutest genius she's ever met.
The kiss is astoundingly tentative, beating out when she cornered Steven Reid back in the seventh grade. His lips are a bare flutter against hers, soft and light, and he pulls back before she realizes it's over.
Cam looks at him thoughtfully, straight in the eye, because that's how he operates. "That was rather chaste."
"You're my boss, Dr. Saroyan."
"Technically, Dr. Brennan's your boss."
"But you're her boss, so by process of-"
"Yes, I get it Zack." She sighs; it's because this is a fucking complicated situation.
Reaching out for his tie, she loosens it slightly, then pulls him towards her with it. He gets the point and covers her lips with his. Good boy.
Part of her thinks this is a bad idea. Part of her thinks this is too complicated. Part of her thinks when this ends there's going to be a lot of pain. Because this isn't like when she was with Booth. (Except there is some of that old detachment here too.)
A perverse part of her thinks this is what it would be like if I was with a girl, all breathy whispers and gasps and light light kisses and feathery touches. He showers her with attention, ever eager to please, basking in the chance to just touch her, be there with her.
They don't ever have sex. They don't need to go that far. Mostly, they just lie there, together. He murmurs about heat-induced dimensional changes in bone structure while he nuzzles the crook of her neck. She hears him sigh happily. A giant puppy for me to play with.
Initially, she doesn't hear the news from Zack. She's standing on the sidewalk in front of the church, wondering whether she should stay for the reception or not (cause hey, free booze is free booze and Hodgins is a generous man) when Booth sidles up to her, clearing his throat awkwardly.
"Just a heads up, Zack's thinking of serving in the military."
Cam snorts with laughter, not even attempting to hide her disbelief. "Right, good one, Booth."
"No, I'm serious. Bones is kinda pissed for what I said to him earlier about serving your country, so if you can think of a way to keep him here, I'd really appreciate it."
"Cause that way Dr. Brennan won't take it out on you, huh?" Cam smirks at him and heads back inside. Why is her stomach queasy all of a sudden?
She wants to convince him not to go. Not for Booth or for Brennan. She tries to convince herself she'd do it for Zack's sake, that she wants to protect him. But that rings hollow. She'd do it for her own selfish reasons. She's become used to his presence, and she can't imagine him a thousand miles away, choked by sand and heat and chaos, alone and scared. She can't bear to think of him like that.
But she still says nothing.
Because he's adamant. He has to leave. He has to do something with his life, make it better, make the world better. Cam watches him argue with Dr. Brennan, hug Angela and Hodgins good-bye. She never realized he was such an idealist.
It stings a little, for the first few days. But she gets over it. She always does.
It's like nothing changed, like the last few months never happened. The team is complete again and everyone is happy.
Everyone, she suspects, except for Zack.
Oh sure he's overjoyed to be back home, tail wagging smiling brightly at his colleagues and settling quite comfortably back into his role of methodical forensic anthropologist. But his eyes... what's wrong with his eyes? Something is off and Cam can't put her finger on it.
He doesn't stop by her office anymore, asking if it's okay for him to swing by her place. He works hard, perfecting his craft, straight-forward seeking the truth, but there's a shift in him that she can't explain.
I'm being ridiculous. He's just returned from war-torn Iraq. That's explanation enough. Instead of waiting for him to come to her over-eager with puppy-dog eyes she links her arm through his late one night when it's just the two of them left.
"I really meant it when I said it was good to have you back, Zackarooni."
"It's good to be back, Dr. Saroyan." A faint smile slowly appears on his face and he presses a kiss to her forehead. "I had forgotten how pleasant you smell."
Her laughter echoes through the Jeffersonian. Like nothing ever changed.
"Oh. Thank you." There's a hint of pride on Zack's face as he takes the trophy from her, thumbing over the inscription with care. It shines a dim gold in under the lights of the lab. "I guess this means I win."
"Totally not fair, dude." Hodgins remarks, addressing the both of them with his arms crossed in suspicion. "How come he gets the trophy? I've been king of the lab way more times than him."
"Perhaps. But I'm the boss and I say he wins." Cam smiles brightly before turning heel. Hodgins has been justifiably suspicious for some time now. Complicated, it's all so complicated.
Zack asks the same question to her later that night, while she's draining the last of her wine, legs draped over him in casual comfort.
"You deserve it, that's why."
"That's not a satisfactory answer."
She sighs, placing the glass on her table and scooting closer to lean against him. "Can't you just be satisfied with the fact that you're my king of the lab?"
He's silent and she accepts this, waits for his response. After a moment his arms are around her waist, cool kisses at her neck. "Thank you."
You already thanked me. She draws her arms around his shoulders, trying to figure out if he believed her last answer or not.
She has a great deal of respect for Dr. Brennan. So when the anthropologist shows up in the doorway, Booth at her side with an equally grim expression, Cam knows. And it's like that time she almost drowned while ice skating, the cold water shock seizing her brain and forcing her into auto-pilot. She looks back at Zack for a second and no, it can't be there's no expression on his face. No remorse, no pride, nothing. Those clinical eyes from the very beginning look back at her, and a dull chill settles over everything.
She leaves the room in a daze, wondering if they'll use force or logic to get the information they need out of him.
Hours pass. They wait. Caroline and the others leave the room and Cam can't make eye contact with him for more than a few seconds at a time. Arms at her side, struggling against the chill. How could this happen? Where did I we go wrong? But there are no straight answers. Nothing is straight-forward anymore.
The chill turns into fire, burning deep inside her. On the outside she is calm and collected, seemingly accepting of this twist of fate. But the fire, anger, rage, roils within. She wants to lash out, blame someone for this, tear the walls of the hospital down and scream at him for not believing that she they loved him for all that he did. She's glad Gormagon is dead. She says she wants Zack locked up but she doesn't mean it, not a single word. She just wants him back, wants the eager, innocent, and utterly sweet Zack she's always known to show up at her front door again, hands in his pockets and a shy look on his face, another chance to kiss him and show that yes, I'm here for you, I'll always be here for you...
I knew. I knew I knew I knew. She knew it from the very beginning. About a bad idea, about complicated. And about pain.
But she never suspected it would fall apart turn out like this.