Title: The People You Loved (And We Loved You)
Rating: PG-13 (for cussin')
Pairing: Hodgins/Angela. Subtle references to Brennan/Zack, Angela/Zack, Cam/Zack, Brennan/Booth.
Summary: Sometimes, Zack reminded Hodgins of a fish (paracheirodon innesi maybe) swimming upstream against not only the current but thousands of other fish. Hodgins POV.
Notes: Spoilers for Pain in the Heart. Unbetaed. I don't own Bones but I sure as hell wish I did! Written because Zack is my fandom bicycle or something, idk. :P
Hodgins used to think, I know him better than he knows himself. When it came to people and their interactions, all the things that were irrational and messy and wholly alien to Zack. Things that made you human. Hodgins saw Zack react and understood before he even did. He had always reveled in explaining the world to Zack, making him think, making him see the world in a different way, making him think outside his perfectly constructed box.
But this, he missed. Missed it so far and wide that he can't go an hour without wanting to smash his fist through a pane of glass. I know Cam didn't mean it, but she's still wrong; we all had a hand in this. There's a dull, throbbing anger lurking inside him, but nothing more, and he doesn't have the patience to wonder why that's all he feels.
Sometimes, Zack reminded Hodgins of a fish (paracheirodon innesi maybe) swimming upstream against not only the current but thousands of other fish. Zack lived by his own set of rational rules and it was hard to sway him away from them. Hard, but not impossible. Hodgins knows this because he has tried and succeeded before.
But he wishes he'd had the chance to sway him when it mattered the most.
It didn't take a genius to see that Zack was completely enamored with his new boss. Well, maybe it did. Brennan, at least, never seemed to have a clue. If she did, she never showed it.
Zack's crush lasted for quite some time, starting from when he began working with Brennan up until... well, when Booth entered the scene. Hodgins guessed that Zack recognized an overbearing alpha male personality and chose to win his approval instead of competing for female attention. How logical.
No one noticed Zack had a crush on Brennan, which sort of amazed Hodgins. Not even Angela noticed; she would stare at Brennan arguing with Booth and nudge his ribs with a knowing glance. All the while Zack would watch quietly, shoulders drooping in sad recognition of defeat.
"There are plenty of fish in the sea, dude." Hodgins patted him on the back, out of the blue one day when he noticed that forlorn look on the grad student's face. Zack raised his eyebrows in confusion but Hodgins just turned back to his particulate analysis. He wasn't even sure if Zack realized that he knew.
Actually, there had been someone else who noticed aside from himself. I'm surprised pink little hearts don't flutter above his head when she looks at him and Hodgins had to cover his laughter with a cough as his boss looked on with concern.
"Do you think it was us?"
Hodgins pulls away slightly, away from the sweet scent of Angela's hair so that he can look into her eyes. It's late, but neither of them can fall asleep. "What do you mean?"
In the dim light, there's a sick expression on Angela's face, like her very thoughts are poison to her. "That... we were so wrapped up in each other that we forgot about him. Remember we used to all go out together, the three of us, before?"
He remembers; lots of times, back when Goodman was around. Restaurants, movies, bars, anything to get Zack out of that protective shell he carried himself around in. Anything to get Zack more familiarized with how normal people went through their everyday lives. Because Zack was not normal people; he was extraordinary.
Hodgins blows out a weary breath, running his hand along Angela's cheek. "Hey, even after you and me got together, we still asked him to hang out with us. But he didn't want to be a third wheel."
"He said that?"
"Never in so many words." But I knew.
Angela's eyes begin to haze over with tears again. She's been crying so much lately (first Booth, now this) that he worries that she'll dehydrate herself. "But still... at the Jeffersonian, we never had lunch with him that much once we started dating. It's the little things that matter, you know?"
Hodgins knows this very well. The urge to punch a wall returns, so he kisses away her tears instead.
Zack didn't even know he'd had a crush on Angela. But he did. Hodgins could tell, cause shit he'd seen the same look on his own face.
They'd been spending so much time together and Angela was an exceptionally friendly person. A simple hug, hands on his shoulder, linking her arms with his, even a stray kiss or two... Zack reacted to them strongly. Like he did to anything he couldn't measure, put on a scale, pinned down. You couldn't pin Angela down.
Hodgins kept a friendly distance from her back then, afraid to come on too strongly too soon, unsure if his attraction to her was mutual. Angela was difficult to read that way, so she must have been an alluring mystery to Zack, a flame he was subconsciously drawn towards with every gentle embrace she gifted him with.
Hodgins once mentioned this to Angela and she laughed. "That's so sweet. I wouldn't be surprised."
But a couple days later he noticed that Zack could not look Angela in the eye as they took part in a meeting with Goodman. To this day Hodgins has no idea what transpired between them, and he knows better than to ask Angela about it.
He had planned on asking Zack, one day. But now...
He knew. At first he just vaguely suspected, but the more he thought about it the more sense it made. No one has asked him why he wasn't more upset when they met at the hospital to hear what would happen to Zack. They think he was being strong for Angela.
That traumatic blow was not there because he already knew.
"Did you figure it out?" Angela asks the next day, as the sun shines through his bedroom window. She looks like she's just had a revelation in her dreams. "Did you know it was Zack before Brennan told us?"
"I had an inkling." He can't lie to her, not about this, not now.
"And you didn't say anything. You protected him from himself." Angela looks at him for a moment, then kisses him with great seriousness.
Her tears spill onto his cheeks and he wishes he could share her inner turmoil just as easily.
It would be corny and vaguely odd if Zack and Cam ended up together, Hodgins thought. Like everything is wrapped up in a nice, neat, ribbon-tied package, double (or triple?) dates all around.
Of course, life and neat little packages rarely went hand in hand.
Hodgins noticed a strange dance between Zack and Cam from the very get go. Cam didn't quite know what to make of him. Zack wasn't sure how to process a new boss in Brennan's brief absence. In the end, they established a wary sort of camaraderie, which developed into a friendship that continually piqued Zack's curiousity.
"Her stories about life in New York City are highly memorable and compelling."
Hodgins looked up from his microscope. "Maybe you should go some time."
"With Cami- Dr. Saroyan? It's worth considering. She was telling me about the appalling conditions she had to work under while-"
Hodgins frowned as Zack rambled on, pointedly ignoring the fact that he almost called her by her first name. He wondered if their boss had instructed Zack to do so, as a sort of reciprocity for the informal nickname she had granted him.
The next day Zack delivered a report to Cam and she smiled at him. Nice job, Zackarooni. He beamed at her and Hodgins, who had been watching from a few feet away, crossed his arms with amusement. He'd seen that look on Zack before... when he first started working for Brennan.
But this time, his smile was returned to him with equal delight.
The blow he never felt at the hospital arrives the next night. Hodgins is brushing his teeth and just stops because it hits him, right there, in the gut, that he's never going to do another experiment with him, never going to drive him to work, never going to play king of the lab with him, never going to stop by and invite him to watch the game in the main house, never going to ruffle his hair affectionately because fuck, he loved him. So very much. He was family.
Angela finds him half-dressed on their bed, picking pieces of glass out of his fist as the tears stream down his cheeks. But he's laughing, a strange, hysterical sound that threatens to capsize him completely, wipe away his remaining self-control because how can this be happening, because fuck what other people have said about a weak personality; Zack is one of the strongest people Hodgins has ever met, scarily so, which is what makes everything that happened so very wrong. He wants answers, but there are none, so he continues to cry and laugh at the sheer level of hurt coursing through his veins.
She's silent as she takes over, wipes the blood away, disinfects, the bandages are on and oh god the bandages remind me of Zack, and the laughter almost starts again but there's no room for laughter anymore. His insides are being squeezed, crushed by the unfair hand fate has dealt him, has dealt all of them. There's only tears now, matching the ones pouring down Angela's face as she holds him and joins him in mourning for all that they have lost.