Silence of a Sinner

"I am very surprised to see you here."

"Yeah, well, I don't do psychopaths."

"I had noticed your apprehension when you refused to escort me inside." Zach replied. "But I am glad that you are visiting me now, Agent Booth."

"That was a very stupid thing to do, Zach," Booth said, looking, watching his companion.

"I am sorry about leaving the facility as I did. I am afraid that I got swept up in the case. There is not a lot to do here. I did grow my hair back, and Angela said that I have been putting on weight. I am going to start working out a bit more in the yard."

"Not about the escape," Booth interrupted, "you know what I mean."

Zach frowned, his eyes squinting in puzzlement. "No, I am sorry. I do not."

"Same old Zach Addy," Booth said under his breath. "I meant about the past year," he clarified louder. "It was very stupid. And I know you. You don't generally do stupid."

"I was mistaken."

"It was more than that. There are things about this whole thing that doesn't make sense to me."

"I've noticed that a lot about you."

"Don't." Booth barked, angry at the informal jibe. "You don't get to make jokes with me. I am not Hodgins. I am not Angela or Bones or the other squints. You lost that right a long time ago."

Zach visibly shrank down into his chair, his arms folding against his chest defensively. "I am sorry," he whispered. "It was wrong."

"There are things that I know about you that you don't even know about yourself. I am not a smart man, Zach. Not like you guys." Booth replied. "But I am very good at my job and I am smart in other ways,

"I read your discharge file," Zach looked up. "I know why you left Iraq. I also know what certain euphemisms mean and don't mean. I knew you were telling the truth when you stated that you couldn't fit in. And I also know that the military doesn't care about that sort of thing- boots on feet, rifle in hand, or... tiny shovel in your case. You had other issues. Things you saw, situations that you weren't able to handle. I heard about your 'Burning skeletons' morphine dream. Hodgins and Angela both thought it had to do with the explosion, but I bet that that wasn't the first time you dreamed of burning skeletons. It's an easy enough image when you're in a land full of daily massacres and cheap accellerants." Zach watched him with his inscrutable eyes. Booth couldn't tell if he was listening or had simply gone into standby mode like so many times in the past. Time to play hardball. "You know when you got blown up, I realized then that you were stronger than we, than I had first thought."

"I was almost catatonic the first day."

"Not that time, Zach." Booth corrected. "The way you had joked about it afterwards. Asking for cheap sympathy from Bones with your puppy dog eyes. I saw what you were doing. You were able to handle being blown up by your own stupidity, and that's when I knew you could handle Iraq. That's why I said that you ought to go. Not just to get out of the lab, but also because deep down you had the inner strength to survive. And when you came back, I knew it wasn't for the rather idiotic reason that you struggled to give and everyone bought. But whatever it was, it wasn't a personal failure for you. Something externally happened that made you come back."

"I would prefer not to go into detail."

"I understand. There's always been that invisible wall between civilians and soldiers. You're no soldier, Zach, but that doesn't mean what you experienced was less stressful. Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course, Agent Booth."

"Do your gloves itch a lot?"

Zach's head tilted.

"I know quite a bit about gloves and bandages and gauze for massive burns. They're generally thinner and sterilized and way easier to wear. Yours, however," Booth's voice quieted. "Yours do none of those things. They look like oversized ski gloves. You're not a vain man, Zach, but you picked some of the ugliest gloves I've ever seen. They're black in a non-subtle way, are far too hard to wear and work in properly, and I bet they itch like nothing else. But you just sit there, wearing them without any overt problems."

"I do not understand what is wrong with my gloves. They provide ample protection and coverage. My hands have mostly healed, and the gloves are not problematic."

"I don't believe you." Booth responded.

Zach shook his head.

"That's what the old Zach Addy would say. 'Just a pair of gloves,' he would explain and then everyone would go along with it: 'Zach's just that way. He doesn't care about things the way normal people do. To him, they're just gloves. Nothing else.' Well, I don't buy that. These gloves are a hindrance to you. Worse, they keep you from working at full ability. They've become a symbol for you."

"I don't do symbolism."

"To the new Zach Addy, they're a sign of failure. 'Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.'"

"Job, 7:21" Zach rattled off.

"Yeah… ninety-nine percent of the time I'm generally impressed by that sort of thing. Not this time..."

"I memorized the Bible when I was six. I was raised Lutheran, and went to Bible Camp until the age of eight."

"Computers can quote the Bible, doesn't mean they understand the underlying concepts." Booth explained. "I believe that you're a Christian, but I also know that you use Bones as a template. So when she spouts her atheist whatevers, you take it to heart. So you use her sentiments as your own whether you fully believe them or not. They itch, don't they? They bite and scratch and nip and rub your hands raw.

"They are fine."

"One good thing about being Catholic. I know a thing or two about guilt. But I also know about redemption."

"Are you here to convert me?"

"What? No!" Booth thought for a second. "You don't have to hurt yourself over what happened in the past. You don't have to punish yourself over what you did while you were dealing with an emotional overload. You still have to face justice, but you don't have to harm yourself because of it."

"I can assure you that I am not, Agent Booth. These were the first pair of gloves I possessed after I had healed properly. I have simply grown used to them. I have found that most people dislike seeing my scars so I wear them all of the time."

Booth's mouth went tight. "I've seen far worse wounds than yours. People who have been blown to small, chunky sizes where the only thing left to do was ship the remains home in a small box. Your hands rate about a two to me. Not even that as you still have all of them."

"I do not understand what you are implying, Agent Booth."

"You know, when Sweets came back the next day after he dropped you off, he was jumpy. Very jittery. Like you had overpowered him but didn't kill him because I told you not to."

"I can assure you that nothing like that occurred. I would never attack Dr. Sweets. Even before the promise."

"Which tells me that something else happened."

"Nothing happened."

"Dr. Sweets- he's a smart guy. Voluntarily deals with psychos on a regular basis and survives. But something happened between the two of you that's thrown him off his game for over a week. I know it wasn't physical. So that just leaves verbal. Which tells me that you told him something."

"No."

"Something big. Massive. Something so jarring that the guy can barely form complete sentences. Everyone knows that you're not insane, Zach. This place was just the lesser of all evils. So," Booth added, "what can a sane guy who blew up his own hands to help out a cannibalistic serial killer say that would make his psychologist go crazy?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Plus he's bound by confidentiality. Anything you tell him would be bound by secrecy. You also know that. The whole hypocritical oath and all that. Obviously, since you confessed to killing a man in cold blood, it's hard to beat that on the 'throw 'em for a loop' scale. So what could that be?"

"Perhaps I confessed to other murders."

"No, you would have done that by now, and since the precedent was already set, it wouldn't have been as big of a deal: the first one's always the hardest. No, this is something to do with what happened but not that."

"There is nothing, Agent Booth."

"So you're hiding something or you're crazy. Can't be the latter, so it's the former."

"You already said that."

"Just thinking out loud. What would happen if I went back to security tapes on the day the lobbyist died?"

"They were erased."

"No, not by you, at least. I mean, why erase tapes to prove that you were anywhere else but the lab? A smart guy like you would have pasted yourself onto the tapes, provided an ironclad alibi to show that you were there. I mean, who would argue against federal security tapes? And on that day, I distinctly remember you at the lab, and you were fairly calm. But it was a rather stressful day, wasn't it? When you plunged that knife into the guy's heart. Was there a lot of blood? Did it get all over your hands?"

"Contrary to popular belief, murderers who use knives don't necessarily end up with much blood splatter on their clothes."

"Yes, you would already know that. Having worked in the lab for so long. But I'm not talking about the physicality of it. It's easy to kill someone with a knife. Turn a corner the wrong way and whoops, you just clipped someone's artery. But cold blooded murder? Where you look them in the eyes, and watch as their life ooze out minute by minute?"

"I left immediately."

"No, not you, Zach. There is no immediacy for you. You would have stayed to make sure he had really died. To make sure that the knife had plunged correctly into the heart and not accidently nick a thoracic rib and then bounce off. Zach Addy just doesn't leave things to chance about something that important."

"I had to."

"I don't believe you."

"I… had… to…" Zach repeated, his jaw clenching, almost impercebtibly. "I had to." He repeated, his mind blank but for those three words.

"One day," Booth said quietly. "I'll believe what you tell me. You'll show me your hands, tell me what really happened in Iraq, and then you'll be able to tell the truth . This place, it's just Purgatory, and you will get out one way or another. Either in a few months or a year or forty years from now when every sane person you know is dead. You just have to decide how much longer you want to live like this. In the shadows of a dead cannibalistic serial killer."

Zach nodded automatically, his face roiling with confusion. His body shelled inward. He couldn't move, couldn't say anything. He looked down at the floor, his face blank.

"I see that my time's up. I'll see you later, Zach." Booth said, standing up, cracking his spine. "Back's been acting up again. You can call me anytime if you want to talk again: case, personal issues, even just to gripe. I'll listen. Or at least try. I'm not very good at it." He smiled, to show that he was lying.

"Thank you, Agent Booth," Zach managed to voice lowly as Booth walked to the visitor's exit and left.