april is the cruelest month (or, tending garden Gethsemane in four parts)

i.

he'd traded stainless steel for silver; x-rays for tapestry; ballistic dummies for Corruptors; lives for the entirety of the human experience. It was like when he was a child, he thinks, sliding perforated pieces of paper over counters to purchase three minutes of pure, unadulterated fear and uncertainty on a garish red-and-yellow contraption. Except that was biological, he thinks, adrenaline and oxygen-saturated bodies—and this, this was anthropological, at least, investigating the human experience.

then he remembers her gaze, and falters—perhaps it had been psychological, after all, and his mind nixes the idea, -logical now only a lexical suffix lodged in the gears of his thought. The trade bothers him more than anything, in a twist of language he hates, he cannot comprehend: the word has more than a single definition, a single meaning. Trade, he murmurs, a job, especially one needing special skill with your hands.

His hands; hands that trembled under the weight of a child's mandible; that indicated social approval or disapproval (whether it was an open hand on the shoulder, or a bump). Hands that shook, like it was the first time, mixing two chemicals together with eyes that shut knowing exactly what to expect; hands that, only months before, had been guided by a new mentor: a knife into a man's throbbing heart.

his heart is throbbing now, cardiac muscle tensing and relaxing evenly as she reads and he attempts to flex a phalangal joint. The bandages are too thick, restricting; suffocating.

(claustrophobia sets in, first in the fingers.)


ii.

long before his death, she manages to forget the pain of loss.

It overwhelms, some nights, twisting through dark shadow-saturated hallways (for she has too many in this apartment), when she finally throws off the bedclothes and stumbles to the quietly humming fridge, fingers finding the freezing smoothness of old takeaway containers, discarding them: fragments of his late-night stopovers.

(there's nothing of Zack's to throw out, of course.)

It's just another day at the lab, another skeleton with peculiar characteristics, and she lifts the skull in a latex-encased palm, calling over her shoulder like she always has:

zack, she begins, take a look at the sphenoid—

(yes, dr. brennan, but-- no, i'm sorry. there is no one.)

She shuts her eyes stiffly, for a split second, feeling a hand on her shoulder, and a quiet sigh: I know, Bones, but it's going to be all—

eyes fly open, parting air.

(there is no one.)



iii.

He sorts things, puts them into labeled shoeboxes. Uses the spare room upstairs, the attic; stacks alphabetically-arranged boxes beginning with a.

It is inevitable, certainly, but his fingers quiver, clutching the marker leaking ink into paper when he reaches the very last letter. He writes slowly, tasting each bitter, sneering letter and line. Filling the box will be harder, later on, with the tangibility, the possibility of the things that belong to him. Belonged.

in the later part of the night she will find him, blood crusting his palms, against a windowsill.

the moon-catching fragments of solid (faux) gold on the tennis court remain until the curious gardener finds it; wonders what kind of king it belonged to.

no one asks where Zack's cardboard box of belongings are, but he thinks Cam knows about that bonfire he had going a few days ago, even if she doesn't know about the debris, pieces of her king of the lab trophy lying on lawns.

(angela moves out; it takes him a week to remember. A month to forget.)



iv.

Nothing changes, they say. Nothing.

(The world turns.)


A/N: The title, "april is the cruelest month," is from T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land.