A/N: So hard to write. Ugh. Thank you everyone for your lovely reviews. I promise I'll try not to take away Zack's awkwardness. That's what makes him who he is.
When you walk in the noise disappears
Where you begin is perfectly clear
All this time I felt so confused
Then came you and I just knew
Well I fell out when you picked up the phone
When we'd go out, yeah, it'd feel just like home
Do you think that I'm alright
Shining through and I just knew
And I just knew
~ Better Than Ezra
He left his work where it would be found easily. He wanted his message to be clear.
Ruby woke to find that she'd made herself very comfortable during the night, using Zack as her pillow. A surprisingly comfortable pillow. He might be tall and skinny, but there definitely was some muscle there. It was a nice surprise.
Moving carefully, so she didn't disturb him, she peered over him to see the clock. Just past seven. She knew that she should wake Zack, he probably had to get to work, but when she looked at his face, boyish and peaceful in sleep, she didn't want to disturb him.
She smiled as she recalled the look on his face when she'd asked him to stay. Shocked.
It was hard to imagine how no one had seen the potential in him. Seen past the awkwardness to the sweet, brilliant man underneath. His brain was a wonder to her, the way it seemed to work. She had figured out that the reason he asked those questions that no one else did wasn't just because he didn't know he shouldn't, but because he really wanted the answers.
Propping herself up on her elbow, she gazed down at his face. His lips were parted in sleep, his eyelashes fanning darkly against his cheeks.
Reaching out, she carefully brushed his hair away from his face. He smiled a little, still sleeping.
She debated for a minute on the best way to wake him. Was he a morning person? Or did he wake up snarling and grumpy? That thought made her smile.
She leaned in and pressed her lips to his cheek, slightly scratchy with stubble. He didn't really react at first, so she did it again, whispering his name.
This time, when she leaned back, his eyes opened and he turned his head, blinking at her owlishly.
"Hi." She said softly.
He stared at her for a minute, then reached out, lightly touching her hair with his fingertips. Then he smiled. "Hi."
"I didn't want to wake you," she told him, "but I assume you have to get to work."
He frowned a little. "I don't want to."
"But you have to." Ruby said for him.
She sighed, laying head head on his chest again, listening to the steady thump of his heart. "Do you want me to bring you? I can take you home to change first."
His hand came up to thread in her hair. She smiled. Once he stopped thinking so hard, he definitely had some moves hiding in there.
"I suppose that I should go home and change. Otherwise, I'd be doing the... what is it, walk of shame?"
Ruby laughed. "I'm shocked you even know that phrase."
"Apparently," he told her, "Angela does that a lot. Or so I'm told."
With another peal of laughter, Ruby sat up, then slid out of bed.
"I'm going to go get some coffee and get dressed. You want coffee?"
When he declined, she left the room, closing the door behind her so he could dress.
The ride to his place was quiet, with Zack yawning nonstop and Ruby sucking down coffee from a travel mug. She made some comments about the huge estate he lived on, but mostly kept quiet. She waited in his living room as he showered and dressed.
It wasn't neat freak clean, but what she thought of as 'boy clean'. Dusty and cluttered, with shoes by the couch and books and bits of electronics scattered on the coffee table.
She amused herself by poking around, looking through his books and movies. She was happy to see the similarities in their taste of both music and film.
He was ready to leave gain in what she considered record time. He came out of his bedroom dressed in jeans a t-shirt and a rumpled button down shirt. His hair hung damp over his forehead, and when he drew near, he smelled of soap.
Giving in to the impulse, she leaned closer to him and sniffed.
"Why are you smelling me?" He asked.
"You smell good." She replied, stepping back. "Ready to go?"
"Um. Okay." He shrugged.
The commute from his place to the lab was less silent. Zack was slightly more animated, though still slightly withdrawn.
When she pulled into the Jeffersonian visitor lot, she parked the car and turned it off. "Can I come in?" She asked.
Zack looked surprised. "If you'd like to."
"Will you show me your office? I didn't really get to look around last time."
"You want to?" He was intrigued by the way her mind worked. "Everyone else around here calls it 'Zack's ooky room'. I'm fairly certain that isn't a good thing."
"Even better." Ruby grinned.
"All right." He agreed, leading her into the building and then to his office. He entered first and waved her in. "Here you are."
She went right over to the wall of shelves that held specimens in jars. Leaning close to one of the jars, she reached out and tapped on it.
"I'm kinda waiting for one of these to start moving." She admitted to Zack.
"That would be impossible," he replied. "They're quite dead."
She gave him a sidelong glance. "Uh huh." Moving on, she studied framed insect specimens on the walls.
Pointing at the large boiler in one corner, she asked, "What's that?"
He hesitated. "A boiler."
"Are you sure you want me to tell you?" He asked. He was pretty sure that would be something Angela would say not to mention. Because it was 'icky'.
"Absolutely." Ruby nodded. "I want to know everything."
"We put the remains in there. To remove the flesh from the bones." He said carefully. He was making a conscious effort not to use overly scientific language, like he did with Booth. He didn't want to make her uncomfortable.
Oddly, though, she didn't look the least bit uncomfortable. Only curious.
"That's how you do it? I knew you had to remove the flesh sometimes." At his surprised look, she went on. "I did some research last night so I could figure out what you did."
"Sometimes we use beetles." He informed her.
"Beetles?" She looked fascinated. "How? What kind of beetles?"
He pointed to the tank that housed what he considered 'his' beetles. "Flesh-eating beetles."
She went to the tank, leaning close. "Really? Gross." Only she didn't look sickened.
He went to her side. "I named them." He admitted, then cursed himself. That probably sounded extremely odd.
She straightened and turned her head. "You named the beetles?"
Zack shrugged, now feeling foolish.
But she smiled, once again giving a reaction that was completely unpredictable. "If there weren't so many, I'd ask what you named all of them."
"Sometimes, Hodgins and I race them." He confided.
"That is hilarious. I want in on that." She replied. "I bet I could win."
Her acceptance of what he considered his quirks was unexpected and welcome. Now certain of her interest, and confident on his own turf, he led her around the space, pointing out things he thought she might find interesting.
When he finished the tour of his space, she was leaning against his desk, hip cocked and arms folded across her chest.
"You know," she said. "This place is like a horror movie waiting to happen."
He shook his head. "I find that unlikely. Most of the films I've seen are far too unrealistic."
"I know," She exclaimed. "That's why I don't like horror movies. They're too fake."
"So, you would prefer them to be more realistic? The reality of murder and death is much less spectacular than is shown in movies."
"Exactly. And that would be far more terrifying." She replied, smiling at him the way Doctor Brennan did when he came up with a particularly astute observation. It did not produce the same emotional response. It was much more unsettling.
"You researched what I do?" He asked her.
She nodded. "Yeah. I got a book. I was reading it last night."
Tilting her head, red hair sliding over her shoulder, she shrugged. "I like knowing how things work. I thought if I could understand what you do, I could figure out what makes you tick."
It was a logical approach. Unexpected from her. "What have you found out?"
"You love what you do. It's not just that you enjoy the work, or that you're good at it. It means something. You wouldn't do it otherwise."
She pushed away from the desk and approached him. "The people here, they're not just colleagues or friends. They're your family."
She was very perceptive. For only knowing him for a couple days, she had seen more than his actual family did.
Stopping in front of him, she reached up and slid her hands down the lapels of his lab coat. "You're more confident here. When you put on this coat, you become a different person."
She laid her hands on his chest and stepped close, smiling up at him. "How am I doing?"
He didn't know what to do with his hands. He didn't know how to respond. "I don't understand you." He offered.
"You're not meant to." She said it lightly, though he still didn't understand, he could tell it was okay.
A wicked look in her eye, Ruby tweaked his collar. "Hey, Doctor Addy, wanna play doctor with me?"
He laughed, helplessly. "I don't know what that means."
He had quietly hoped, but never really believed, that someone would look at him the way she did just then.
It wasn't a look he could easily categorize, but he decided he really could think about that later. Much later.
Ruby told her heart to stay out of it. It was too soon to be this stuck on him. But, god, the way he watched her... Those dark eyes fixed on her like she was some sort of rare specimen he was trying to analyze.
What she hadn't admitted figuring out about him was that he was lonely. That was the first thing she'd come to realize. The way he reacted when she touched him, it was obvious he wasn't touched often. Like now. She could feel his heart under her palms, beating fast.
Her playfulness fled. Licking her lips, she whispered his name.
He bent his head.
"Hey, Zack, Booth and Bren..." A woman's voice trailed off, then started again, amused. "I really hope I'm interrupting something."
Zack stepped away. "Angela." His cheeks were pink.
Ruby looked past him to the dark haired woman grinning in the doorway.
"Are you the Angela that tells him what not to talk about?" She asked.
"That would be me." Angela replied. "You must be Ruby."
"Must I?" Ruby asked with a laugh. "How do you know?"
"I'm all-knowing." The other woman replied with a laugh. "Zack I hate to interrupt, but Booth and Bren are on their way with a body."
Ruby turned back to Zack, who was looking distinctly uncomfortable.
"I should go. Let you get to work."
He gazed at her for a long moment, then flicking a quick glance at Angela, who was making flapping 'go ahead' gestures with her hands, he stepped close and swiftly kissed Ruby.
Ruby grinned at him. "Call me later?"
She reached up and patted his cheek. "Don't work too hard."
She stepped around him and gave a jaunty wave to Angela. "See you."