Being a psychologist comes with its restrictions. Sweets knew that entering the field. It was reinforced when he took his oath and every time he filed confidential patient records and interacted with patients, subjects, and suspects outside of work. The restrictions kept his actions in focus, reminded him of his purpose. His role in the work and lives of others held a significant place (as much as people like Booth liked to belittle it).
Restrictions are important. Sometimes, however, they suck.
Like when Zack forbid Sweets from telling their friends that he did not, in fact, kill a guy.
Being around the others with this weight of knowledge was difficult—similarly difficult to the weight he'd carried being the only one on the team aware that Booth was still alive after his not-so-fatal shooting. But Sweets was a psychologist and a therapist; he was used to harboring knowledge that no one outside doctor-patient confidentiality was remotely aware of. And as he worked for the FBI, some of it was pretty heavy stuff.
But he'd yet to find something as infuriating as a patient who refused to tell his friends he was not a murderer.
Working with Zack was exhausting. He made the sessions difficult with his deadpan responses and overly literal interpretations. Plus, it was still harsh for Sweets to wrap his head around the fact that the whole time he'd known this guy—someone he saw as an awkward, extremely task-orientated, and paradoxically dense genius—Zack was doing Gormogon's bidding behind everyone's back. The events surrounding this reveal were traumatic for everyone involved. Seeing someone you know lying on the ground covered in blood, with hands mutilated beyond repair, was scarring enough. To later find out that this person was accessory to murder was the cherry on top of a wickedly bogus sundae.
More than once, Sweets considered requesting a transfer. Perhaps someone with less of a personal stake in the situation would fare better. But he didn't want to do that to Zack—or anyone on the team, for that matter. It would feel like failure. Betrayal.
Besides, after all their work together—and in spite of the trauma and exasperation—Zack was growing on Sweets. Zack deserved to work with someone who genuinely cared about him.
Sweets could handle this; despite so many comments on his age, inexperience, naivety, and what have you, Sweets knew he was capable of sustaining this relationship. They were making progress. Maybe they couldn't see it yet, but it had to be there.
It was three weeks after Zack had stolen the magnetic strip from Sweets' security card. (Seriously, how had he done that? The card was in Sweets' pocket. The kid's hands were compromised by sever injury and gloves that were the only thing keeping his skin on his fingers. He had just barely regained 60% mobility. He wasn't just a genius, he was a flipping magician.)
He started the session in the usual way—how were things going, how were his hands (he'd hit a few setbacks, as Sweets suspected—too much use beyond what physical therapy had prepared him for set him back a little. He sensed Zack's frustration, but of course, there was no "logic" behind getting visibly upset).
Zack told him how Hodgins had brought him another riddle this week. (Sweets had no comprehension whatsoever of the riddle or Zack's method for solving it, but he liked to let Zack get into it. It was, at least, something Zack enjoyed in a life with so little to look forward to.)
Aside from Sweets, Zack was allowed one visitor a week. The Jeffersonian team rotated their visits, with Hodgins and Angela coming most frequently. Dr. Saroyan occasionally dropped in with books or news clippings of the team's cases. Booth had stopped by once, but according to Zack, it had been a significant amount of awkward silence, a few questions, and an anti-climactic ending with Booth receiving a work-related phone call, getting up to leave, and trying to shake Zack's heavily gloved hand.
Dr. Brennan had not come by at all yet. Sweets could tell this upset Zack, which was saying something, as he rarely showed outward expressions of emotion. Sweets gently reminded him that Dr. Brennan's absence was not a reflection of her disappointment or anger; instead, it indicated how much she truly cared for Zack. Zack, of course, did not see the logic in this. If she cared, why didn't she visit? Sweets tried to explain how strong emotions can make someone do or say the opposite of what they want. Zack replied that that seemed counterintuitive and a reasonable argument for why emotions should not be trusted as firmly as logic. (Sweets was steadily growing to hate that word. Logic. It had gotten them into so much bullshit.) Zack asked why someone as rational and un-emotional as Brennan would succumb to emotional reactions. Sweets reminded him of her reaction to Booth's apparent death: avoidance. Zack remembered how this had been indicative of her anger. Sweets realized they were back where they started. He was getting very tired.
After exhausting this train of discussion, Sweets took a breath. It was time to hone in on today's goal. He knew his end game; hopefully, Zack wouldn't catch on until after Sweets secured his victory.
"Tell me about your relationship with your friends," Sweets said.
"What about them?" Zack asked.
Sweets leaned his elbows on the table, but the position put his face right in the narrow strip of light cutting through the annoyingly thin window in the depressing grey wall to his left. He shifted back, matching Zack's posture: straight, open, hands on the table (though Sweets' were clasped over his notebook, and Zack's were palms-down and still wrapped in the thick black gloves).
"How are you feeling about the relationships?" Sweets asked.
"Nothing in particular," Zack responded.
Sweets tried not to roll his eyes. It was going to be one of those days. Although these days every day seemed like "one of those days."
"Okay, let's try something else. You've been through a lot with these people, both before and after the—" he searched for the best way to refer to the whole Gormogon's apprentice thing. "You've been through a lot together," he compromised.
"Yes," Zack said.
Finally, an affirmative! "Do you still trust your friends, after everything that's happened?"
"I have no reason not to," Zack said.
"Do you think they still trust you?"
"What I think doesn't affect their trust in me."
"I'm not asking it to. I'm asking what you perceive their stance is right now in regard to trusting you, after everything that's happened."
"They trust me not to murder them when they visit," Zack acknowledged.
"Good. Anything else?"
"They don't appear to assume I'm lying when I talk to them."
"You're a very literal person," Sweets said. "That makes it difficult for you to say untruths."
"I lied about being the Apprentice," Zack pointed out.
"Those were lies of omission. That's different," Sweets clarified, opening a palm to emphasize his point. "Not sharing information isn't the same as lying about it."
"It still seems wrong."
Aha! Sweets was totally going to use that later.
"I can understand that completely," he said, cool and professional on the outside. He leaned a little closer. "Zack, I find it interesting that you said it seems wrong. You almost always back up your statements with facts."
"I could point out that the aftermath of the omission of that information has placed me in this institution and caused my friends distress. Those are facts."
"But you lead with seems. That's progress, Zack. You're getting in touch with your feelings."
"Why is that important?"
"If the perception that you were following cold, hard facts is what tricked you into following Gormogon, but you now feel, in retrospect, that your actions were misled, it follows that paying attention to your feelings can help guide you in certain situations."
"I think I need help with that," Zack said. "I've been told I don't have many feelings."
Sweets smiled. "That's what I'm here for, Zack. To help."
When Zack didn't respond, Sweets took a moment to jot down some notes. Then he looked at his watch. "Well, session's over." He closed his notebook. "We're officially not in conversation as a psychologist and a patient."
"I guess that means you're leaving," Zack said. He dropped his arms to his sides as if preparing to stand.
"Not necessarily," Sweets said. Noticing Zack's physical reaction, he responded by leaning back in his chair to indicate he had no intention of walking away just yet. "I don't have any appointments after this one."
"Oh." Zack's expression didn't change. Sweets wasn't sure if Zack wanted him to leave or was glad that Sweets wanted to stay.
"Looking back," Sweets said, "in a purely conversational, non-shrinky light, having experienced the aftermath of your misguided actions, if you had to do it over again, would you tell your friends the whole truth about what happened between you and Gormogon?"
"Not if I thought it might put them in danger," Zack said. His hands found their way into his lap. "My primary reason for remaining silent on the matter was the uncertainty of the Master's reaction to my informing the team of what had happened. He made it clear to me that I was expendable. It was evident in how easily he disposed of his former apprentice. I didn't want to risk the well-being of the others."
"That makes sense," Sweets said. "But what if you knew, beyond reasonable doubt, that telling them would not have a detrimental effect on their well-being?"
"Then I suppose I would not have a reason to keep it a secret."
"Especially if the information might be beneficial," Sweets continued. "Like when you told them where Gormogon was hiding."
"You could make that argument, yes."
Why is everything an argument with these people? Sweets cleared his throat and sat up straighter. "Zack, would you consider me your friend?"
"That depends on your personal definition of what a friend is," Zack replied.
Of course it does. Sweets wished he had a rapid-fire dictionary definition with which to impress the genius, but he came up with nothing exceptional. "How about, someone whose company you enjoy, someone you like to hang out with outside of necessity."
"In that case, my answer would be yes." Sweets smiled to himself, but Zack continued. "We appear to be 'hanging out,' and as you stated, our session has ended, so it's not strictly necessary for us to remain in the same room. As for enjoying your company, I would concur with that, as it is better than that of many of the nurses and guards in this institution, as well as the patients, the former of whom focus primarily on keeping us on schedule and doling out medications, and the latter of whom tend to keep to themselves or approach me with arguably unintentionally inaccurate or lewd remarks."
"Wow. How sweet," Sweets responded.
"I suspect you're using that word as a metaphor."
"In short, I do consider you my friend." His slightly higher pitch and a minute raising of his eyebrows indicated to Sweets that Zack felt it was important the doctor be ensured of his sincerity in the statement.
"That makes me happy." Sweets smiled openly at Zack. He hoped keeping it simple would help Zack process.
Zack smiled back, a rare enough expression for him.
"If I'm your friend, and you say you trust your friends, does that mean you trust me?" Sweets asked.
"I assume that you follow up with the promises that you make," Zack said. "You have yet to exhibit behavior that indicates you're lying to me."
"I'm used to sticking to the truth," Sweets said. He shifted closer to the table; the slice of light had moved slightly and was no longer in his eyes when he leaned forward. "Speaking of truth, do you think it's important for friends to stay honest with each other? In light of our previous conversation."
"Yes. I do believe so," Zack said. "Lies and mistrust have shown to be detrimental to relationships."
"Including lies of omission," Sweets added.
Zack merely met his gaze. Sweets wondered if Zack was catching on faster than he'd anticipated.
He continued quickly. "So, if I'm your friend, and your friends back at the Jeffersonian are my friends too, and I have information that would be important to them, my not telling them would be a lie of omission. Would you agree? And so not telling them would be similar to lying, which we've established to be detrimental to relationships."
"You said we would be talking in a non-shrinky way," Zack said. "This seems a little shrinky to me."
"Nope, we're totally just friends right now." Sweets held out his arms, palms up, in what he hoped Zack would perceive as a convincing gesture.
Zack gave him nothing.
"So, my knowing that you did not in fact kill a person is knowledge that your friends deserve to know. And as your friend, not your psychologist, it's wholly within my right to tell them."
Zack remained silent.
Sweets fell back against his chair, sighing with exasperation. "Come on, Zack!" he said. "That was a perfectly logical argument."
"It was," Zack said. "But it does not apply to our current situation."
"How?" Sweets blurted out.
"The information you're referring to was conveyed to you in confidence during a conversation between doctor and patient. As I said, ethically, you can't reveal that information to anyone because of the oath you took as a psychologist."
"But I'm not your psychologist right now. I'm your friend!"
"That is true."
Sweets slapped his notebook. "So let me tell them!"
"I haven't given you that information as a friend," Zack said. "Only as your patient."
Sweets' shoulders dropped and he stared at Zack.
"The only time I made the statements to which you referred were during times you were acting as my psychologist. Outside of that, when we talked simply as friends, I have not said a word to the affect of which you're hoping to relay to our friends."
"Oh my God." Sweets put his face in his hands.
Zack sat quietly for a moment. When Sweets' face did not resurface, he shifted uncomfortably. "Dr. Sweets, are you crying?"
"No." His voice came out slightly choked. "I am really upset."
"Because of what I said?"
Sweets raised his head to meet Zack's gaze; Zack leaned back a bit when he saw something akin to anger in the gentle man's eyes.
"Because of what you won't say," Sweets answered.
They stared at each other within a moment of silence. Neither had the strength to break it. It was the guard opening the door that brought both of their heads up in response to the noise.
"Dr. Sweets, your time's up," the guard said.
Sweets took a steadying breath and gathered his things. Zack remained still, watching him. When Sweets stood and turned towards the door, Zack spoke up.
Sweets looked back.
"Thank you for being my friend," Zack said.
"Sure," Sweets replied flatly.
The responsibilities of being a shrink sucked sometimes.
But sometimes the responsibilities of being a friend sucked more.