A/N: This is for everyone who kept reviewing and encouraging me to come back to finish this, despite my very long hiatus. I really appreciate you sticking with the story! There will be at least two more chapters, and there is (and always was) a vague plan for a sequel in the future.
Zack stepped into Cassie's room. She smiled at him and gestured for him to close the door. He obeyed, looking over at her, and she motioned back at the door. He returned his attention to it and realized it had a sliding bolt lock. He was fairly certain the lock hadn't been there the day before, so perhaps Cassie was taking the threat to her safety more seriously than Agent Booth believed she was.
"Lock it and get over here," Cassie whispered urgently when he hesitated. "I have something for you."
Zack locked the door, his mind whirling. Dr. Brennan had, among other things, discussed with him the multivariate ways in which one's partner might broach the subject of engaging in sexual activity. One of them had been vague references to 'having something for you'. Cassie's instruction to lock the door lent additional credence to that theory.
He mentally rehearsed several of the comments Dr. Brennan had suggested for a situation like this one. His personal preference was to compliment her eyes - 'flattering but not overtly sexual', Dr. Brennan had told him - and the words were on his lips as he turned to face her. He froze when he saw what she held in her hands.
It was a gun.
It was a modified gun, he realized, once the shock of seeing Cassie holding a firearm had passed. From years of working on FBI cases at the Jeffersonian, he was comfortable assessing it as a .45 caliber revolver. The entire trigger apparatus had been modified to accommodate an unusually large hand, or possibly a two-handed grip for a user with limited manual dexterity or strength.
"Should you have that?" he asked finally, and she laughed.
"Technically, no," she allowed with a smile. "It's yours."
Cassie nodded, releasing the catch and spinning the chamber out to show him it currently housed six bullets.
"Armor-piercing rounds," she identified for him, snapping the chamber back into place with an easy grace that suggested to him this wasn't the first time she'd handled a gun. "If you end up in a situation where you have to shoot, it'll probably be bad enough that you'll need them. I carry them, too."
"You carry them."
His mother had always accused him of having no imagination. He was suddenly willing to concede the point: he flat-out couldn't imagine slight, fragile Cassie shooting armor-piercing bullets at anyone.
"It's a dangerous world out there," she said, handing him the gun. He took it gingerly, as though it was a volatile chemical sample, and Cassie huffed; with impatience or amusement, he couldn't tell.
"It's been specially modified for you. You shouldn't have any trouble firing it even though your hands aren't back up to full function."
He was about to protest when he noticed the necklace Cassie was wearing.
"I've never seen that before." Zack transferred the gun to his left hand and reached out with his right, touching the charm that hung on a black cord around her neck. Cassie rarely wore jewelry, although he knew she intended to start crafting it under Angela's tutelage. "It's black onyx."
"Yes," Cassie agreed, guarded.
"It is believed by several different cultures to have supernatural powers of protection from evil."
Cassie fingered the charm uneasily. "Every little bit helps." At his curious look, she sighed, then added, "Something is coming, Zack. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm worried."
"Could it be related to the killer that Booth and Brennan are trying to catch?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. It's something bad."
"Something like what?"
"I don't know!" She thumped her fist against her leg, frustrated. "I do psychometry, not precognition! I've never had visions of the future. I just have this feeling…"
Zack looked down at the .45 in his hand. "Would it help your feeling if I carried this gun?"
"Yes." There was no hesitation in her response, but her gaze seemed sympathetic. "But I know you don't want to, Zack."
He weighed his innate dislike for weapons and violence against his concern for Cassie's emotional state and found the conclusion simple.
"Does it have a holster?"
Cassie set down the book she'd been struggling to concentrate on, irritated with herself for selecting it in the first place. The Myth of Sisyphus was a difficult read even on days when she felt like delving into philosophy, and today it was making her eyes glaze over. She would have been better off sitting on the other side of the day room to watch mindless game shows with some of the other patients.
Zack was engrossed in the book he'd chosen. She leaned over far enough to see part of the title - Complex Mathematical Theorems in - and didn't bother to try and read the rest. If her own book hadn't put her to sleep, his could have finished her off in no time.
She sighed, curling up in her chair and leaning back against the cushions. She knew she'd been edgy and short-tempered today, and she hated it, but she just couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. Having her Walther PPK concealed in a holster at the small of her back, hidden by her baggy sweatshirt, helped a little, as did the knowledge that Zack was armed with a gun of his own. On the rare occasions when a case she was working required her to leave the grounds of Pine Hills, she always carried the handgun, but this was the first time she'd carried it while still at the facility. She hated that, too. The idea that she was in enough danger even on her home ground to need that extra measure of protection was disturbing. One of the best things about living in Pine Hills was the knowledge that she was safe there.
Cassie looked up to find Paul, one of the orderlies, standing next to her chair. Lost in thought, she hadn't even noticed his approach.
"Hey, Paul. What's up?"
"You have a visitor."
Paul sounded as surprised as she felt. She glanced over at Zack, who was still lost in his book, and then looked back up at Paul.
"Who is it?" she asked, wondering if someone from the team had heard about what was going on and come down to check on her. She tried not to think about the possibility that maybe this was what Booth had been concerned about, that whoever had killed the other girls was going to make a try for her here.
"He says he's your brother."
She bit her lip, uncertain. "I'll be right there," she said finally, and Paul nodded, heading back toward the reception area. Once Paul was gone, she went over to Zack, tapping him on the shoulder.
"Cassie?" he asked, startled by the unexpected interruption.
"Sorry, Zack. I know you're deep into that book, but Paul says my brother is here to visit me."
"Your brother," Zack repeated. Cassie had two brothers, neither one of whom had exchanged so much as a phone call with her since she'd been institutionalized. It would be exceedingly coincidental for one of them to decide to visit her now, and Zack found it highly unlikely that it was a coincidence at all. "Do you think that it could be the killer that Booth and Dr. Brennan are looking for, posing as a member of your family to gain access to you?"
"Maybe." Zack's first thought had been the same as hers, which told her she'd been right to be suspicious. "Come with me to sneak a look at him, so I can figure out if it's really one of my brothers or some psycho impostor."
"You haven't seen either of your brothers in a number of years," Zack pointed out practically. "How do you know that you'll be able to recognize them?"
The look on her face told him he'd said something wrong, but before he could apologize, she shrugged it off.
"They're my brothers, Zack. I'll know."
The two of them went around to the back door to the reception area, which was only a few feet from the carefully guarded emergency exit door. The presence of any other two patients so close to that exit might have raised an alarm with the staff. They'd all known Cassie for years, though, and neither she nor Zack had ever made any trouble for them. Jake, the orderly on the far side of the room, watched them out of the corner of his eye as Cassie stood up on her tiptoes, doing her best to peek through the small window in the door to the lobby without being seen by anyone on the other side.
"It's definitely one of them," she said slowly. "They both look just like my father."
She shrugged. "I think it's George, but it could be Ethan." A smile was tugging at her lips now as the realization set in that, after all these years, one of her brothers had finally come to visit her.
"This may not be a good idea," Zack told her.
"Consider the parameters of the situation, Cassie. Neither of your brothers has visited you in all the time you've been here -"
"Do you think I don't know that?" she snapped, so vehemently that he actually took half a step back. He couldn't remember Cassie ever raising her voice to him before. "But one of them is finally here, and I'm not going to let you ruin this for me!"
She stormed off toward the main door to the reception area, Zack staring after her with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He didn't believe in intuition, but the intuition he didn't believe in was currently screaming at him that something very bad was about to happen.
With a last glance at the door Cassie had disappeared through, Zack left the day room in search of Dr. Carrington. She was the one who kept encouraging him to pay more attention to his feelings, to make assumptions and guess at things and overall indulge the parts of his thought process that had nothing to do with logic. Maybe she'd listen when he told her that Cassie might be in trouble.
When Cassie saw him face to face, all of her uncertainty fell away. This was the big brother she remembered from her childhood, the boy who'd given her piggyback rides and bought her ice cream and held her hand when they crossed the street.
He smiled at her, and his resemblance to their father took her breath away.
"Cassie." He held his arms out to her and she took a step toward him before she remembered that she wasn't the little girl she'd once been, and touching George would probably have the same effect that touching anyone but Zack did.
"It's really good to see you," she said instead, giving him her best smile and hoping he wouldn't take offense at her refusal to hug him. He let his arms fall to the side, looking more concerned than offended.
"Cassie…we need to talk."
"Sure. Of course," she replied immediately. Her brother's smile had disappeared, and now he looked grim. "What's wrong?"