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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 06:17 pm
Title: Man In Motion
Fandom: Numb3rs
Characters: Colby, Megan, some Colby/David
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 23,000

Summary: When the offer to transfer to Washington after the spy thing comes through, Colby decides, not completely un-influenced by a certain other person, to take it, hoping it will be a good way to put everything that happened in LA behind him.

Washington, though, doesn't prove to be all that easy, even without the shadow of his time as a spy hanging over him, and the freedom he's finally got to be himself isn't turning out quite like he always imagined it would. Plus, he's mostly failing to leave LA behind, between Megan's friendship and Amita's and Charlie's math smarts.

It's only a matter of time before something gives

Notes: Beta'd by the awesome [livejournal.com profile] miss_zedem; art below the cut by [livejournal.com profile] fanarts_series; written for [livejournal.com profile] numb3rs_bigbang







Leave feedback on the art





Man In Motion

*

Part One

*

This was why Colby hated the drugs that the hospital had him on now that Lancer's stuff had worn off: because he was drifting, trying to wake up, and he could feel a hand curled over his, and he knew, he knew, that it was David, that it meant he was forgiven. Except that, when he opened his eyes, it wasn't David at all, it was Mr. Eppes, looking at him the way he looked at Don and Charlie, and Colby wanted it to be David, wanted it to be his own dad, so bad, so much.

Mr. Eppes smiled at him. "How are you feeling, Colby?"

Colby took a breath that hurt, pushed away the phantom sense of David sitting there. "Okay." He wanted to have something sarcastic to say, something that would make Mr. Eppes smile like he was amused instead of like he was worried, but everything ached.

"You've just missed Megan," Mr. Eppes said. "She said she'd be back this evening."

Colby nodded. His room didn't have any windows to the outside, and he had no idea what time of day it was. "Did she –" He had to stop to breathe, not even sure if it was the drugs or the effects of the CPR he'd received on the boat that made it difficult. "Is there any news on Dwayne?"

"Oh, Colby," Mr. Eppes said, his face falling. "I thought someone had told you. He died on the boat."

Dwayne had shot Lancer, Colby remembered that, hazy through the drug cocktail, sirens and gunfire outside, but he remembered watching Lancer fall over, the crack of a pistol that could only have been Dwayne. "He died?" he asked, frowning. The words sounded familiar, like maybe this wasn't the first time he'd asked.

"One of that man's henchmen shot him," Mr. Eppes said, frowning as well. It took Colby a long moment to realize that it was anger on his face, even though he couldn't tell who Mr. Eppes was angry with. He hoped it wasn't him.

"He was trying to save me," he said, not sure if he was right or not. He probably was.

He wished he'd never swallowed that key. Dwayne would have been safe in jail.

Of course, Lancer would still be out there then. "Lancer's dead?" he asked, checking.

"Yes, Colby, he's dead," Mr. Eppes said. He squeezed Colby's hand, which Colby had forgotten he was holding, then reached up and smoothed his hand over Colby's forehead. "Go back to sleep."

Colby nodded, not trusting his voice against the way his throat felt like it was closing up.

"I'll be right here," Mr. Eppes said, and Colby closed his eyes, tried to let that be enough to feel safe.

*

He jerked awake at the sound of a gunshot, chest tight with panic, and for a moment, the white ceiling was the room on the boat, he was strapped to a chair as Lancer injected him with something that slid cold under his skin –

"Colby," Megan said, sharp and commanding, and he snapped the rest of the way to awake. Hospital room. Blankets tucked tight around him. An IV, not a needle. Megan's hand was tight on his shoulder, and when he turned his head in her direction, she smiled, warm and reassuring. "Hey."

"Hey." Mr. Eppes was gone, which meant it had to be later. "All done at the office?"

Megan left her hand on his shoulder for a long moment, then let go and perched on the edge of his bed, her hip against his. "Except for the reports. All the usual, plus extra for the CIA." She smiled again, but this one was more troubled. "They're pretty grateful to us for getting you back."

"I think my handler's dead," Colby said. He remembered, suddenly, standing on the train, texting Where are you? and getting no reply, but maybe Don and the others had been able to find him.

"Yeah, he is," Megan said. "I'm sorry."

Lancer must have done it, or one of his guys. Mr. Eppes had told him that – or, no, not that they'd killed Kirkland. "And Dwayne."

"And Dwayne," Megan repeated. She wasn't smiling at all, just looking at him with dark, sad eyes.

"Okay," Colby said. "Is everyone okay?"

"One of the back-up guys took a bullet to the arm, but he's fine. No-one else was hit." Megan touched the back of his hand, so light he could hardly feel it. "The doctors say you're doing well. You'll be out of here in a couple of days."

The bank would still be paying his rent, the bills on his apartment. He'd set it up like that when he got to LA, partly military habit, partly Kirkland's advice. At least that part of his life would still be there to step back into. He didn't want to ask if anyone had called his mom, told her that actually he wasn't a spy, that he was out of jail and in hospital. He didn't want Megan to say that they had, not when he still remembered opening his mom's letter, sitting on his bunk in a prison cell and reading, How could you do this? Your father would have been so ashamed.

"Colby?" Megan said quietly.

"Sorry." He blinked, refocused on her face, not sure how long he'd gone away for. "I didn't mean to…"

"It's the drugs," Megan said. She smiled, not very well. "You can get away with it while you've got an IV."

Colby smiled back. Thank God for Megan, sitting at his bedside the first few times he woke up, before Lancer's drugs wore off. Being the only one who hadn't yelled, back at the FBI, hadn’t hurled accusations like she'd never trusted him. "Is David here?" he asked.

Megan's face fell, and she bit her lip, sure sign she was upset. "Get some more sleep," she said, leaning in to kiss his forehead, like he was a kid.

*

Charlie and Amita visited together. Amita brought flowers, dark purples and blues that she fussed over arranging while Charlie told him all about something stupid one of his students had said in class that morning.

"I think that's only funny to people who've read that paper," Amita said, giving Colby a sympathetic look.

"Oh," Charlie said. He looked surprised for a moment, then started patting down his pockets for a pen. "Well, it starts with…"

Colby watched him scribble equations that he didn't understand, Amita laughing at him, and thought, Dwayne died trying to save me, because these guys trusted me. Somewhere, assuming no-one had wiped the board clean, there was a string of numbers and symbols that Colby didn't understand, but which said that he could be trusted, that Don and the others should come after him.

He wasn't sure if that was comforting or terrifying. Maybe both.

*

Don called, apologized for not visiting. "The ADIC's trying to bury me in paperwork," he said, and Colby could hear the smile in his voice, strained but there. He closed his eyes, remembered Don nodding at him and David when they'd climbed down from the bridge, pleased with them.

"Sorry," he said.

"Eh," Don said, verbal equivalent of a shrug. "Keeps us out of trouble. Megan says you're getting better."

"Yeah," Colby agreed. He didn't have to ask about Dwayne any more when he woke up, knew that he was dead. He was pretty sure that meant he was getting better.

"Okay, good," Don said. "Keep it up. My dad's going to visit again this evening, I'll try to come with him."

"Thanks," Colby said.

*

David didn't come. Didn't call, didn't send a message with Megan, didn't arrange for some horribly over the top gift to be delivered like he had when Colby had gotten hospitalized with food poisoning, eight months after joining the team.

Colby wasn't surprised. Not when he could close his eyes and see David's betrayed expression in the interrogation room, hear him yelling about trust and partners.

He thought, at first, that that was all it was, when he blinked slowly awake in the middle of the night to David watching him. Just some fragment of memory, part of a dream. Except that David was too far away for it to be a memory, silhouetted by the electric lights over the nurses' desk, trapped by glass –

Behind the observation window. It wasn't a memory, it was David, for real, standing in the hospital corridor and watching him sleep.

He saw the exact moment David realized he was awake, ducking his head to avoid Colby catching his eye. Colby wasn't awake enough to be happy about it – wasn't awake enough to feel anything about it – but when David looked up again, it was like the opposite of the drug, something warm and familiar under his skin. "Come in," he said, too quiet for David to hear through the glass. It wouldn't matter; David had watched him say those words enough to recognize them.

It seemed like forever before David moved a little, and then he shook his head, stepped away, out of sight.

Colby twisted up, trying to catch sight of him again, the movement tugging at his still-bruised ribs. Bruised from David's hands, according to Megan, doing CPR until the medics had arrived to shock his heart back into beating.

The next breath he tried to take caught in his throat, came out damp. Everything blurred, and he was shaking, like he was cold, like that damn drug was still in his system. He'd have given anything, right then, for someone to walk in, for the phone to ring.

In the morning, he thought maybe he'd dreamed it, that David had never been there, and couldn't decide which would be worse.

*

Colby'd expected his apartment to be covered in dust, with once-vegetable mush in his refrigerator and the potted plant that Ranger Williams had brought him once when she'd been in the city dead on the windowsill.

So he was a little surprised, when the cab dropped him off, to find the place recently cleaned, with actual food in the refrigerator, and, instead of a dead plant, an empty space where it should have been, like someone had thrown it away.

"Okay," he said quietly. There wasn't a note, but he suspected Megan's hand – she was the only person other than David with a key, for starters. Or, more likely, Megan's hand to the cleaning service he'd used; he couldn't see when she'd have had time to come in and do this, and the idea of her cleaning his apartment for him made him weirdly uncomfortable, only partly because there were things he didn’t want his friends seeing.

For want of anything better to do, he pressed play on the answer machine, letting it spool through the introduction while he opened a couple of windows, sun and warmth that he'd missed way more than seemed reasonable over the last few months.

"Hello, dear, it's your mother. I know you're busy, but a call to wish me happy birthday –" Colby hit delete. She had to have left that the day he was arrested, and she had a point, he hadn't remembered that her birthday was coming up.

Two hang-ups, one date-stamped the same day, one a couple of days later, then a tele-marketer, wanting to sell him a new cell phone. Thomas, the ex-marine who lived on the floor above him and who he sometimes went running with, wanting to know if he was still living there. Another hang-up.

Colby hit delete on all of them, wondering what his cell phone voicemail would be like. It was probably still in evidence; he doubted he'd get it back. He was probably lucky the CIA had swept in before Don and the others could go through his apartment as well.

"Mr. Granger, we see from our records that you have three over-due books, and we wish to remind you that fines are still accruing –" He hit delete again, couldn't remember what books he'd taken out anyway.

The next message was silent, other than the faint sound of someone breathing, and Colby was reaching out to hit delete when the other person spoke: "Why did you do it?" It was David, Colby realized, frozen, and he sounded drunk. "I don't believe you did it for the money, you're not like that. You weren't lying about the money in Afghanistan, I know you. I thought I knew you." There was a long pause. "I think you did it for Carter," David said, and Colby hit the delete button, his hands shaking, not wanting to know what else David had to say, what else he thought he'd figured out about Colby.

He'd thought – that first time, when Dwayne was holding a gun on him, when he'd known that the rest of the team was going to show up in time – that maybe Dwayne would be safe in prison. Not an ideal solution, but Dwayne had been his friend for a long time before he'd decided to spy for the Chinese, and as much as he'd hated what Dwayne was doing, it hadn't been enough to make up for how he felt like he owed Dwayne for dragging him out of that Humvee.

Lot of good it had done either of them, in the end.

He kept going through the messages – they trailed off for a while in the middle, when he'd been in prison, then picked up again a few days ago, agents who hadn't been to the hospital calling to say that they were glad he was okay, an awkward subtext of 'sorry we thought you were a spy and said mean things about you,' that Colby figured he'd maybe laugh over, eventually.

Nothing from his mom, but maybe they hadn't told her. Maybe they thought he had, and talk about conversations he wasn't ready to have yet. Maybe he could just send her an email.

There was a message from someone in the Director's office, calling on his behalf to tell Colby that he was being awarded the FBI Medal of Meritorious Conduct for "your bravery and dedication to the core principles of the FBI," which he figured mostly meant "for getting arrested then killed so we could say we apprehended a spy who we already had in custody at that point and several men who we didn't realize we should have been looking for in LA."

At least it meant he was still an FBI agent. That had to be a start, even if no-one had anything to say on where he was assigned to.

The doctor at the hospital had signed him back on for the next day, and he didn't have any better options than getting up and going into the office. He figured someone would tell him if he wasn't supposed to be there, although it wasn't particularly reassuring to turn up and find that, not only had they cleaned out his desk, they didn't actually seem to be expecting him.

*

Colby was channel-surfing, trying to ignore the envelope with his offer of choosing whatever reassignment he wanted, lined up next to the second letter that was a bit more specific, when the intercom buzzed. It was instinct to reach for his gun, sitting on the coffee table, so much so that he didn't even realize he'd done it until he was pressing the answer button and found it in his hand. At least he'd left the safety on.

"Hello?"

"It's me." Even over the poor connection, Colby didn't have any trouble recognizing David's voice. He couldn't read the tone, but that didn't seem to do anything for the sudden rush of hope.

"You need me for the case?"

"No." A static-filled pause, then, "Can I come up?"

"Yeah."

He just had time to tuck his gun back in the desk drawer it was supposed to live in at home before David tapped on his apartment door.

"It's unlocked," Colby said, rendering that pointless when he opened it anyway.

The trouble with knowing someone as well as he knew David was that he could read him too easily for any kind of blind hope. More than easily enough to know that, still in his suit, David wasn't there to ask if they couldn't figure out a way to get past the awkwardness and the way David could barely look at him.

"You want a beer?" Colby asked anyway. It wasn't like he couldn't pretend – he'd done it for two years, though apparently not quite as well as he'd thought at the time.

"No, I…" David took a couple of steps into the room and stopped. His hands hovered awkwardly at his sides for a moment, then he stuck them into his pockets, didn't take off his jacket like he usually would.

"You want to sit down?" Colby offered, taking the armchair so he wouldn't have to watch David do it, one more sign that he didn't want to be around Colby. "What's up?"

"I wanted to know if you're planning on staying here," David said. He actually looked at Colby as he said it, and it was Colby who had to look away.

"I don't know. They offered me my choice of reassignment."

"Megan said."

"And you're here to tell me you don't want me there any more?"

"I think it might be easier for everyone if you weren't on the same team any more," David said, not entirely like he was correcting Colby.

"Okay," Colby said. He wished he'd made coffee or something, had something to do with his hands. "I don't think any of the other teams are looking for another agent."

"We could trade," David said.

"A traitor for a stranger?" Colby asked, more bitter than he'd meant it to be. So much for, 'I get that you couldn't tell me, I respect it.'

"For someone we know," David corrected.

We. Colby swallowed down the urge to ask if this was a team thing, knowing that it wasn't, that Megan would never say that, or Don. He'd thought David never would either – had imagined up this conversation, sometimes, staring at the ceiling in his prison cell, waiting, waiting, imagined being able to say, "I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you, but I was trying to do a good thing. I'm not a traitor, I didn't betray you," and having David forgive him.

He'd never imagined this conversation, and in retrospect, he thought that'd been incredibly short-sighted.

"I'm not going to ask to be transferred to a different team unless Don asks," he said.

"So you are going to ask to stay."

"I don't know," Colby said, truthfully. He hadn't figured out which side was going to win yet – the part of him that wanted to stay with people he knew and trusted, or the part that hated how awkward it was, hated that they felt like he'd betrayed them and treated him like they still weren't sure they could trust him.

"Fine," David said, standing up. "I guess I'll wait to hear it from the ADIC."

"That's not fair," Colby said. "I told you, I couldn't tell you."

"I get that." David was closer, suddenly, than he'd been since before Colby got taken away, and it felt too close. "I get that you were undercover and you couldn't tell any of us. I just don't get why you let me think I could trust you, that you were my friend."

"I was your friend," Colby said, hoping David couldn't tell how much that hurt. "I wasn't lying about that."

"Just about everything else," David said, bitter and angry.

"What's this about?" Colby asked, abruptly curious, knowing he was missing something. "What's it really about?"

"Because knowing that my best friend was lying to me for two years isn't enough?"

"Other than that," Colby said, not bothering to argue the details again.

David sighed, ran a hand over his face, and when he looked up again, he looked more hurt than angry. "What else were you lying about?" He held up a hand before Colby could do more than take a breath to answer. "Was it just some trick to get me to trust you?"

And that, stupidly, was when Colby got it.

After the shooting at the office, after Colby's shooting of their pedophile had been declared good, after they'd gotten a little drunk while Colby talked about Afghanistan, after they'd gone back to David's and gotten a little more drunk – David had kissed him, and Colby had gone with it. Gone with it for far too long, really, trying to fight the voice in the back of his head telling him to stop, except he'd wanted it since the first day he met David, when they'd barely been able to agree on the time, and it had only gotten more when they'd become friends.

"I can't," he'd said, too late, half-naked and turned on, leaning as far back from David as he could when he was the one pressed into the couch. "I'm sorry, I can't."

"Why not?" David had asked, rubbing his thumb over Colby's jaw, repetitive, soothing motion, and Colby had wanted to say screw it and let it carry on.

"I'm – you’re my best friend," he'd said instead. "And we work together. It's too dangerous."

"You know it's not," David had said, making Colby regret that one time he'd acknowledged that some of his old army friends had been a little more.

"I can't," Colby had said, feeling it like a weight in his stomach – the lie, how much he wanted to say something else. "I don't want to lose you."


"No," he said, too shocked to say anything else for a moment. "No, I – David, I wouldn't do that to you. Come on."

"It's kind of hard to know what you considered off-limits to lie about right now," David said.

A part of Colby couldn't help imagining it, how David must have felt when he'd been arrested, all the time he must have spent trying to figure out what Colby had been lying about. A bigger part of him was just hurt. "Everything but the spy stuff," he said, too loud. "I can't believe you think…"

The message on his answer machine, I think you did it for Carter, and how could David think that and this at the same time?

"I don't know what to think," David said.

"You did," Colby said, before he could think about it. "You heard my name on that tape, and you didn't even ask me if it was true. You and Don, you assumed I was guilty, that I was just going to leave Megan to be shot." He stopped, before the crack he could feel in his throat came out in his voice.

He could feel David looking at him. "If you want to talk about being betrayed," he added.

"I didn't lie to you for two years," David said, stubborn. "Or let you think I was, what, in love with you, so you'd trust me."

Colby turned away, not wanting David to see his face. "I think you should go," he said, and didn't turn back until he heard the door close.

*

The next morning, he called the number on the offer letter from Washington, and told them he accepted.

*

Part Two

*

When Colby turned up to the Washington field office at eight thirty sharp on Monday morning, the security guard ran his finger down a list, looked at Colby and said, "You sure you're supposed to be here?"

Colby dug out the confirmation letter and handed it over. "Yeah. Monday 17th, 8.30, asked for Special Agent Delgado."

"Hmm," the guard said, reading it, then turning away to type busily at his computer for a minute. "I've still got nothing here."

"I don't know what to tell you," Colby said, trying to sound patient and not nervous. It wasn't like they could have changed their minds about him and not bothered to mention it.

"Hmm," the guard said again. "Why don't you take a seat, let me make some calls."

Colby obliged, leaning back in the leather seat and digging out his cell phone. No new messages, just Megan's from last night: Good luck. Call me. He suspected that call was going to start with a lecture about leaving without telling anyone.

At the desk, the guard made a frustrated noise and started dialing again. "You'll probably turn out to be an admin error," he said when he caught Colby watching him. "You're probably supposed to be in California."

"Pretty sure I'm not," Colby muttered.

The guard looked at him for a moment, then said, "Who's that? It's Matt; Delgado there?" There was a pause, then he said, "You sure you guys still work up there?... Yeah, yeah. Tell her -? Thanks."

"Anything?" Colby asked, wandering back over to the desk again. This wasn't turning into the most promising start.

"She's around, but not in the office. Stay there, I'll –" He cut himself off as the internal door swung open, and a blond woman strode through, followed by an Eastern looking woman and a younger, similar looking man. "Delgado," the guard said, bringing the blond to a skidding halt at his desk. Up close, she was maybe ten years older than Colby, taller, her hair pulled back in a neat plait. "This is –"

She turned before the guard finished his sentence, her two companions – the rest of her team, he guessed – scooting past, the woman spinning a car key around her finger. "You're Granger?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Don't call me that, unless you want me to start calling you sergeant." She stuck her hand out. "Special Agent Delgado, call me Maggie. Got your badge? Gun?" Colby nodded. "Great." She smiled, more anticipatory than friendly, but still mostly welcoming. "Let's go, we'll brief you in the car."

She shoved him into the backseat of a black Suburban and herself into the passenger seat, and the man was pulling out into the traffic before Colby's head had even finished spinning.

"James Suresh, on loan from the UK Met," Maggie said, gesturing to the man as she flipped open her cell. "Sabirah Farad, not on loan from anywhere, Colby Granger, late of LA. Yeah, hi, this is Special Agent Delgado –"

"Hi," Sabirah said, turning in the seat next to him and smiling. She reminded him of Megan a little, despite looking nothing like her – shorter, a little less perfectly in shape, her dark hair pulled back from her face in a bundle of curls. "Here," she added, handing over a file.

Colby flipped it open to a mug shot of a Pakistani man with a drooping mustache, and started skimming.

"We just got a tip he's holed up in an apartment downtown," Sabirah said. James spun the car a little too sharply round a corner, and Colby barely kept hold of the papers. "Maybe get us there in one piece?"

"Yeah, maybe," James said. He grinned at Colby in the rearview mirror. "Don't worry, I'm not a native Londoner."

"Okay," Colby said.

"He means, he doesn't know two words of Cockney Rhyming Slang, and he grew up in Sussex," Maggie said. "This guy's gotten out from under us twice already, we're bringing him in this time."

"Wait a minute, he got let go?" Colby asked, sticking on the words and forgetting that he'd just met these people.

Sabirah groaned. "Please, don't get anyone started on the misdiagnosed medical problems thing. It's like something out of a bad comedy routine."

Reading the account of Prakash being arrested for holding up a convenience store then shooting the clerk and two other customers, then escaping custody while using the bathroom, being chased across the country, re-arrested, let go after being diagnosed with multiple personality disorder that was later concluded to have been a misdiagnosis, Colby sort of agreed with her. "But the armed and dangerous part is true?"

"Probably," Sabirah said, drawing her weapon and checking it.

"Though it's possible he's converted to Buddhism and is following a path of peace and love," James said. He was grinning again, like the prospect of facing off with a possibly-armed, possibly-dangerous guy first thing on Monday morning was making him happy. Colby could see himself getting along with this guy.

"Watch the road," Maggie said mildly. "Or at least keep on the right side of it."

"I am on the right side. That's what makes it the wrong side."

Maggie just shook her head, like this was a long running, familiar argument. "Colby, stick with Sabirah. Get round back of the building, but don't go in. SWAT's on their way."

"Roger that, boss. I won't let him get shot."

"My grateful thanks," Maggie said dryly, as the car coasted to a stop at the side of the road. "Radio check. Remind me when we get back to the office."

"Sure," Colby said, biting down the urge to call her ma'am again, and followed Sabirah out onto the quiet street of up-market looking apartment blocks. Certainly more up-market than the one he was living in, courtesy of the FBI's relocation team.

"Twenty says we get a concerned resident calling the office if there's shooting," James said, locking the car and checking his gun.

"No bet," Sabirah said. "Come on, there's an alley between this block and the next one."

Tucked up against the back wall of the building, weapons in hands, Sabirah with a radio receiver in her ear, Colby couldn't decide if he felt at home or out of place. It didn't help that he kept glancing behind himself, looking for a familiar face.

"So," Sabirah said, looking out at the garden, the line of washing flapping in the light breeze. "What's LA like?"

"You've never been?" Colby asked.

Sabirah shrugged. "I grew up in Pennsylvania, my family lives in Pennsylvania, I went to Columbia, then I trained at Quantico and came here. I like the east coast."

"LA's warmer," Colby said, not sure if he was arguing or just answering her first question.

She laughed. "They tell me. But we have the President. Congress. Senate."

"Winter temperatures that make the Arctic look good for a vacation," Colby chipped in, oddly pleased when she laughed again.

"Snow is good for the soul," she said, then held up a hand, listening to her radio. "SWAT's coming around."

They got three guys, bulked up in coveralls and vests, all of them towering over Sabirah. One of them tapped her on the shoulder. "Vest?"

"Urgent call-out," she said, smiling sweetly. "I have you to protect me."

"And him?" the guy asked, hooking a thumb at Colby, then straightening Sabirah's jacket while she rolled her eyes and smiled.

"Pretty sure I can protect myself," Colby said mildly.

"Ability to stop a speeding bullet with the power of his mind, check," the guy said. "You got a name we can give Delgado when we're telling her you're bleeding to death on the floor?"

"Granger," Colby said grudgingly. "Colby."

"Mark Canavan," the guy said. "You get to know these two if you don't get killed."

"Something to look forward to then," Sabirah said, shifting her grip on her weapon and lining up behind the SWAT team, leaving Colby to take their six. He had time for one deep breath, then she was tapping the agent in front of her on the shoulder, giving Colby a quick glance to make sure he was with them, and they were spiraling up two flights of stairs, the beat of the other team's boots on the front stairs just audible over their own.

Maggie's team hit the apartment door as they were stepping onto the corridor, her voice loud and clear for all of three words, then sounds of a scuffle and someone shouting. Colby's natural inclination to run towards any shouting sort of kicked in without him noticing, at least until he was pounding down the corridor after their gun-toting criminal, a couple of pairs of feet behind him, steps he didn't know.

Prakash swung round the handrail and up the next set of stairs, firing blindly over his shoulder and missing them all, then bursting through a metal door that nearly hit Colby in the face as he followed, out onto an open walkway to the next building. Three floors up, and Colby really hoped he wasn't going to jump.

For a second it looked like he had, then Colby heard his feet on metal steps, realized he'd hit the fire escape. He fired up again, one of the guys behind Colby fired down, and then Colby was on the fire escape above him.

Prakash kept going down the stairs, picking up speed, and Colby thought, to hell with this and jumped from halfway down to the first floor.

Hitting the concrete sidewalk sent a jolt up through his knees that he knew he'd be feeling for days. Prakash jumped the last three steps of the fire escape, turned to keep running and came to an almost comical halt when faced with Colby and his weapon.

"Stay right there," Colby said, hoping he didn't sound out of breath. Prakash's gun started to come up, and Colby shifted. "Don't do it. Put the gun down."

"You think I won't shoot you?" Prakash asked.

"I think if you do, one of the eight people I've got with me will shoot you," Colby corrected. "Do it my way, who knows, maybe you get off on another insanity plea."

Prakash actually looked like he was considering it for a second, and that was all Colby needed to spin him, down onto the sidewalk, kicking his gun away and straddling him, since he didn't have any handcuffs with him.

"Here," someone said, tapping his shoulder. He looked up to see Canavan holding out a pair of cuffs that probably weren't his, his gun still pointed at Prakash in his other hand. Sabirah was standing just a little back and to the right of him, both hands holding her gun steady on Prakash.

"Thanks," Colby said, cuffing him. "Um."

"I got it," Maggie said, appearing from God knew where, not a hair out of place. She let Colby drag Prakash to his feet, then grabbed his cuffed wrists and started leading him away, rattling off his rights as she went.

Prakash interrupted her, said something to her that didn't sound like a compliment, and James, who'd just joined them, said, mildly, "That's no way to speak to a lady," which got him his own curse.

"Nice job," Canavan said, already turning away to round up his team.

"I thought you said I got to know their names if I didn't get shot," Colby called after him.

Canavan turned slightly, grinning. "Maybe next time. Could've been dumb luck."

"Come on," Sabirah said, gesturing back to the building. "We'll go secure the room, put in a call to Evidence Response."

"Right," Colby said, holding the door for her.

She nudged him as she went through, smiled when he looked over. "Welcome to Washington."

*

"So?" Megan said that evening, greetings and lecture about jumping off fire escapes dispensed with. "What's it like over there?"

"Cold," Colby offered, standing up again to go look out of his fourth floor window, streetlights below. "Still no pool."

Megan laughed a little. "I don't think most people on the east coast bother with pools."

"I guess," Colby agreed. He could feel an awkward silence coming, the space Megan would leave for him to talk about the people he was working with, their names and their histories and what they were like to work with, or the office, how Maggie, as team leader, had an actual office and even used it, how the three of them sat at a little nest of desks, surrounded by filing cabinets so they couldn't really see the rest of the office.

"So," she said, the too casual voice she used when she was pushing a little. "You want to tell me about them?"

And there was the awkward silence, right on cue. "I –" he said, and didn't know what to say next. He thought about last time, Dwayne and his mom and Kirkland asking. He didn't think he'd told all of the truth to any of them. "I don't know yet," he said.

"Okay," Megan said easily, like she'd heard what he couldn't say, that he wasn't ready to talk about them yet, the same way he and David hadn’t asked when she'd come back from the DOJ, even though he'd been able to take a pretty good guess at what she'd probably been doing, why she looked like she didn't sleep. "So what's your apartment like?"

"Small," Colby said. "And very beige."

Megan laughed, but it was true – the walls were a sort of off-tan color that really didn't work, the furniture was mostly dark wood, and the couch was dark green, some sort of corduroy stuff. "I feel like I'm living in the middle of a forest."

"You grew up in Idaho, Granger, you should be able to cope."

"Yeah," Colby said, and there was another pause, the one where she should ask about his mom, but wouldn't. He'd sent her an email when he got to Washington, with his new number, but she hadn't called, just sent a stilted email saying she was glad he was safe. He figured it was a good enough start, even if it did hurt to know that their relationship was yet another victim of what had happened.

"You don't have to stay there," Megan pointed out. "Anyway, it'll look better when you finish unpacking."

"How do you know I haven't?"

"I worked with you for two years," Megan said.

"Right," Colby agreed. He wanted to ask, but he couldn't, any more than he could talk about Maggie and Sabirah and James. Part of him wondered if it would just be easier if they pretended they'd never worked together, though he couldn't see Megan going for it. "I should probably go."

"Sure," Megan said lightly.

*

James was already in the office when Colby arrived for his fourth day. He waited for Colby to hang up his coat, which he'd already figured wasn't going to cut it in Washington winter, then held out a dark blue 'FBI Washington' mug.

"Thanks," Colby said, taking it gratefully – he hadn't figured out yet where to stop for coffee on his way in – then giving James a confused look when it turned out to be empty.

James shrugged, grinning. "The welcoming committee only extends as far as the mug. You're on your own for coffee."

"I'm pretty sure I could have found one in the break room," Colby said, not sure what James was getting at, not for the first time. Everyone in Washington turned up in suits every day – Colby figured it was because their chances of talking to a politician were a lot higher than in LA – but James managed to look smarter in his than the rest of them, even after a day tracking all over town talking to witnesses, like Tuesday, or chasing down suspects, like Wednesday. Plus, there was something about his slightly clipped British accent that made Colby feel like James was laughing at him on the inside for being an army grunt from Idaho, even though neither of those things mattered much any more.

"Sure, but you have less on your desk than I do," James said, shrugging. "And I had to bring everything on a plane."

"Right," Colby said. They'd packed up his desk and all the personal stuff on it when he'd been arrested, and he couldn't exactly call up Don and ask him to get it back. It was enough to make him glad he hadn't ever taken in any pictures he wanted to keep.

"So, mug," James added. "Put some pens in it or something. Look like you're staying. You're making Maggie nervous with the whole 'I'm just squatting here' thing."

"Squatting," Colby echoed, eyeing the piles of files that seemed to multiply every time he took his eyes off it.

"Don’t ask me," James said, watching Colby until he dropped a couple of pens, a pencil that needed sharpening, and a purple highlighter into the mug. So much for coffee. "She likes it when people put down roots."

Colby turned his computer on, flipped open the first file. "She was in the service, right?"

James made a little hmm'ing noise. "The army, for a while." There had to be more, and he sounded like he probably knew it, but Colby couldn't push without finding out how much they knew about his past. They probably knew about the spy thing – he figured most people in the FBI had probably heard about it – but that didn't mean he wanted to know for sure, yet. "Like you," James added.

"Yeah," Colby agreed. For a second, he heard the flames of the Humvee crackling towards him, before he shook it off. Dwayne had sold state secrets to the Chinese, and now Dwayne was dead. "Like me."

*

They spent most of his first month up to their eyeballs in a series of jewelry store thefts that made Colby's head spin, trying to keep the addresses straight, then closed it out unexpectedly, late Friday afternoon.

"Now that's what I call team-work," Maggie said, following them back to their corner of the bullpen and leaning on the divider by Sabirah's desk. "Right, Granger?"

"Sure," Colby said, not entirely convinced, since his part of the team-work had mostly been standing around taking notes while Sabirah asked questions, then chasing down their suspect – again.

"Gee, hold the enthusiasm there," Maggie said, rolling her eyes, but she was smiling, and four straight fourteen hour days were more than enough to feel like part of the team, mostly, so Colby smiled back. "Good work," she said again, patting Sabirah's shoulder. "Go home, all of you. Reports on Monday."

"Monday?" Sabirah said, one hand on her heart in fake shock. "Did I just hear you giving us not just the evening, but the whole weekend off?"

James laughed, and Maggie mock-frowned. "Enough with the tyrannical boss thing, you'll put him off."

"Nah, he's got sticking power," Sabirah said, smiling at Colby, who smiled back, automatic. "But whatever you say, boss."

"You're damn right," Maggie agreed. "Even if you are just saying that so I won't change my mind."

Sabirah shrugged. "It's barely seven, I could call my date and uncancel."

Maggie waved her away. "Don't let me stand in the way of your sex life."

"You're the best," Sabirah said brightly, bouncing to her feet and reaching for her coat. "Anyone else leaving? Please tell me you're not going to stay here all evening."

James stood up as well, reaching for his jacket. "My sister's just getting off-shift, I could actually speak to her. She's started leaving threatening voicemails."

"Man, that's never good," Colby said, reaching for his own jacket.

"You're telling me," James said. "Though at least she hasn't set my nephews on me yet."

"I'm sure it's only a matter of time," Maggie said, tapping the divide once more on her way back to her office. "See you all Monday."

Sabirah waved over her shoulder, then caught the collar of Colby's coat and pulled it into place. "Much better," she said, smiling. "What are you going to do with your unexpected free time?"

"Um," Colby said, caught off guard. They hadn’t gotten out much before nine all week, and he'd pretty much gone home, eaten a bowl of cereal standing over the kitchen sink, and crashed. James turned slightly, obviously waiting for Colby to answer, and 'finish unpacking' died in the back of his throat.

Sabirah laughed, a note of awkwardness in it that Colby wouldn't have expected to be able to recognize. "I bet Washington seems really dull after all the Hollywood glamour."

"No, it's…" Colby started. "No surfing," he said, instead.

Sabirah shivered theatrically. "Not now, unless you want us to find your frozen corpse floating down the Potomac."

Colby couldn't quite hide his wince, hoped she'd chalk it up to the thought of freezing to death. "I'll pass, thanks."

"Wise man," James said, holding the door for the three of them and nodding to Matt on the security desk. "Well, enjoy it, whatever you end up doing. See you Monday."

"Good night," Sabirah added, following James down to the parking lot.

"Night," Colby echoed, and headed out to the Metro.

*

Not entirely sure if he was doing it just so the unspoken wouldn’t be a lie, or because, after the better part of a month, the boxes were starting to bug him, he spent an hour when he got home unpacking. He meant to start again after dinner – pizza, because grocery shopping was always the first thing to be sacrificed to a case, closely followed by sleep – but he couldn't concentrate, kept getting distracted by the thought of something else he hadn't unpacked, something that wasn't in the box he was working on, wondering how he still had so much to do after a month.

David had moved, ten months after Colby joined the team, when his landlord sold the building, and Colby had gone over one Saturday to help box up his stuff, mocking David for writing lists of the contents on every box. It had been more time than Colby had ever spent in David's apartment – back then, they'd usually gone somewhere if they met up outside work – and he'd ended up cooking, couldn't remember why David hadn't, only that David had leant in the doorway watching him.

"Get a grip," he told himself sternly. That was done. David didn't want anything more to do with him, and the sooner he got that through his head, the better.

Sabirah had spent most of their time driving around the city playing armed tour guide for Colby – Washington Monument, metro police, that's where we had a three-day hostage situation last year, there's a great diner down there, the White House. 17th Street, mostly gay bars. She hadn't even blinked as she'd said it, and Colby had said, "Okay," like he did to most of her commentary.

They'd had a few cases around the gay neighborhoods in LA, but he hadn't paid that much attention. There hadn't been any point when there was no way he could risk it, not when he wasn't really out at work, not when he was still close to Dwayne in a way that would seem weird. None of that mattered any more, and he hadn't had sex in too long to really want to think about.

He went into his bedroom, opened the closet. Mostly suits, work clothes. A couple of pairs of jeans, some more casual clothes. What did people even wear to try to pick someone up? For an absurd moment, he thought about calling Megan. She probably wouldn't even bat an eyelash at him saying he needed advice on what to wear to a gay bar – Megan was pretty hard to shock, and he didn't think that would even be a surprise, not really. He just couldn't imagine getting the actual words out.

He picked out his better pair of jeans, then changed his mind and swapped them for the pair with a rip over the knee. White t-shirt? That seemed easy, inoffensive. Except it was too cold to go out without another couple of layers, and he was pretty sure people didn't wear coats to go clubbing. Probably took a cab. Or not, in Washington, in case someone remembered them.

Colby sighed, then put his clothes away again. Nothing else to be ashamed of, nothing else that was likely to end in disaster, and that included one night stands with closeted politicians.

He fell asleep in front of a re-run of Blade Runner instead, and dreamed that he was chasing a suspect through the city in the movie, trying to keep up with David, who kept getting ahead of him, until he tripped over a bamboo pole and went flying, waking himself up.

*

Saturday morning, he woke up at six thirty and couldn't fall back asleep, too firmly in work routine to relax. After half an hour of frustrated tossing and turning, he got up, found his sweatpants and running shoes, and jogged down the four sets of stairs to the street. He hadn't gone running since arriving in Washington, discounting all the running after suspects, but he'd passed a park when he'd taken a wrong turn coming home one evening, which looked as good a place as any, since getting down to the river would take more time than he was willing to put into it.

Even moving, it was cold out in a way it had never gotten in LA, the air still and gray, still not quite proper daylight. The park was nearly empty – a couple of other runners, a handful of people walking dogs under the trees, an exhausted looking woman pushing a stroller with a sleeping baby – but the rhythm of his own footfalls, his breathing, was sort of calming. Easy to fall into, until he felt faintly disconnected from the world around him.

So much so that the man running towards him didn't register until he slowed down and said, "Granger?"

"Yes?" Colby said automatically, then stopped and actually looked at the person who'd spoken. "Canavan."

Canavan grinned, startling white in his tanned face. "Still not dead then."

"Not so far," Colby agreed. They both shuffled their feet for a moment, then Colby said, "You live near here?"

Canavan gestured off to his left. "Lots of the agents do. Close to the office, but not too close, mostly politician-free, and actually within the range of an FBI salary."

"Right," Colby said.

Canavan rolled his eyes, still looking amused. "Are you even awake yet? You in the middle of a heavy case or something?"

"Long week," Colby said, nowhere close to ready to admit to weird dreams waking him up all night.

"Just for a change." Canavan turned back in the direction Colby had been heading and started walking, so Colby had to walk with him. "There's a coffee shop near my place, I'll buy you coffee."

"Thanks," Colby said uncertainly. He was pretty sure he only thought it sounded like a come on because of what he'd been thinking about the night before – Canavan flirted pretty heavily, if politely, with Sabirah. "I don't have my wallet."

"I think I can just about run to a couple of cups of coffee," Canavan said. "Maybe even a Danish." He must have caught something on Colby's face, because he added, "Good coffee, but all the wait staff are frustrated congressional staffers. You're a better option than being asked for my opinion on the latest floor fight at seven thirty on a Saturday morning."

"Sure," Colby said, and decided that he wasn't going to worry about it, at least until after he had some caffeine in his blood stream. Maybe Canavan was like James, just being friendly, trying to make him feel welcome.

He tipped steadily further in that direction over coffee at a corner table in the small café, when Canavan mentioned that he was ex-army as well, and obviously knew that Colby was. It turned out they'd served in a couple of the same countries, not that far away from each other, even had a couple of mutual acquaintances, though Colby carefully kept away from talking about Afghanistan, even after it became clear that Canavan hadn't been there.

"Thanks," he said when they were leaving. The streets still weren't exactly busy, but there were more people about, mostly families with small children who probably didn't have much choice about being up at that time on the weekend.

Canavan shrugged. "You looked like you'd run under a bus as soon as you hit the street, and then Sabirah would have been upset."

"The bus doesn't come down here," Colby pointed out.

"Then she would have been even more upset," Canavan shot back. "I don't know if you've got plans, but there's a sort of standing invite to my place on the first Sunday of the month."

"Why?" Colby asked.

Canavan shrugged – he seemed to do that a lot. "Habit, now. We barbecue in the summer. Sometimes people bring food. Lots of the agents come – James and Sabirah usually show up." His voice softened, just a little, when he said Sabirah's name, and Colby wondered, again. They were easy in each other's space, casual touches and leaning into each other, but Colby didn't know either of them well enough to read if it was sex or just good friendship. "Maggie sometimes. Good way to meet some people."

"What are you, the social secretary?"

Canavan laughed. "I need something to do when I'm not charging down doors. You don't have to come."

"No, I'll think about it," Colby said. "Thanks."

Canavan bounced on the balls of his feet a couple of times, then turned and started jogging in the opposite direction to Colby's apartment. "Bring food," he called over his shoulder.

*

Colby meant to go, if only because it seemed like sort of an odd thing to do, but his cell rang at a little after eleven with Maggie's number, and he was already digging out his gun and badge from the desk drawer as he answered.

"How long till you can be here?" she asked without saying hello.

"I need to change," Colby said, looking down at his ragged jeans – definitely not suitable for either work or clubbing.

"You get the Metro, right?" Maggie said. She sounded like she was walking, but Colby couldn't hear any street noise. "I'll get James to swing by and pick you up. You can head straight to the scene. Ten minutes?"

"Sure," Colby said, but she hung up before he got the word out.

James, when he pulled up outside Colby's building, was unusually casual in dark green slacks and a white shirt, the skin of his face drawn tight. He handed over a file without saying anything and pulled back into the slight traffic.

Colby got it as soon as he opened the file, a picture of a girl who couldn't be more than four or five.

"She's missing," James said, watching the traffic with more concentration that it warranted. "Since Friday, but Dad thought she was with Mum, and Mum thought she was with Dad, and they only just noticed she's not."

Colby turned the pages, not that there was much. "We're going to her school?"

"Drama class," James corrected. "Dad was supposed to pick her up after, he says he left a message on the mother's cell that he couldn't make it, she says she never got it. Local police pulled in the teachers, bunch of other parents for us to talk to."

"Her parents?"

"Maggie and Sabirah are on their way to the mother."

Colby paged back through the file, then asked, "She doesn't live with the father?"

"Divorced two years ago, mother has custody." James swerved sharply to avoid a cyclist and swore. "We're having trouble getting access to the father."

"What?" Colby asked. In his limited experience, getting away from the parents was usually a bigger problem than getting access to him.

"His lawyer's stonewalling," James said darkly. "The father's a senator."

Colby checked the name again but didn't recognize it. "What's that got to do with it?"

James smiled sharply. "He thinks we think he did it."

"Do we think that?" Colby asked.

"Good a theory as any other," James said, and slammed on the brakes outside a two storey brick building with 'Jade's Drama and Dance School' on a sign by the door.

Colby closed the door and followed him in with a sigh, already expecting the worst.

*

Their case was the lead story on Monday's breakfast news, complete with a barely composed appeal from the mother of the missing girl, Edith, for her safe return. Maggie took James with her to talk to the father, and his lawyer, in his office on Capitol Hill, and Sabirah and Colby spent the day tracking what felt like an endless series of leads, none of which got them anywhere closer to finding her, or even figuring out the first steps of what might have happened.

When they got back to the office, late enough that Colby really didn't want to know what the actual time was, James was talking in Arabic on the phone, and Maggie was staring at a blown up map of Washington, covered in red push pins.

"Tip line calls?" Sabirah asked.

Maggie nodded, pushing her hair back from her face. "It hasn't even been up and running for twenty-four hours. We haven't got a hope of keeping on top of these."

Sabirah patted her shoulder. "Maybe we can borrow some uniforms. Get them tracking some of them."

"Maybe," Maggie said. She sounded tired; Colby grabbed four mugs and made for the coffee machine opposite their cluster of desks. "But we've only really got another hour to be knocking on doors and asking questions tonight. Waking people up won't be worth the grief for the quality of answers."

"In the morning, then," Sabirah said, obviously trying to be consoling.

"Thanks," Maggie said, accepting the mug of coffee Colby handed over. "We're not going to find her this way. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. The two of you get anything useful?"

Sabirah shook her head. "Parents' friends, her friends, pre-school teachers. They all say she's perfect, they can't think of anyone in the family's life who'd do something like this. They all think it was a random snatch."

Maggie shook her head, like Sabirah had been making a serious suggestion. "Not with all those parents around. It had to be someone she knew well enough not to make a fuss, someone who knew her well enough to notice she didn't have a parent there."

"Not necessarily someone she knew," James said, drifting over from his phone call and standing next to Colby to stare at the board. "She's a senator's cute kid, you're telling me she hasn't been trotted out in front of a hundred strangers? She's probably used to it."

"Anything on the father's whereabouts?" Maggie asked him.

James shook his head. "Plenty of people think they saw him at the reception, but no-one who specifically remembers him being there the time she was grabbed."

Maggie sighed. "Back to the tip line. I just wish we had some way to narrow these down, figure out where to start."

Actually, it's more like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. "I might know someone who could help with that," Colby said. Everyone turned to look at him. "I mean, I don't know, but he's good with puzzles. Seeing patterns we can't see."

"Oh," Sabirah said brightly. "You worked with the mathematician – what's his name? Charles Eppes."

"Charlie," Colby said, not sure if he was correcting or confirming. "I could give him a call, if you want."

"He's got clearance?" Maggie asked. "Then do it, absolutely. We need all the help we can get."

Colby felt awkward as hell calling Charlie's house, especially with his team not very subtly eavesdropping, but it was dinner-time in LA, and he doubted there'd be much point trying either Cal Sci or the FBI. To his surprise, Amita answered.

"Oh. Hi. It's Colby. Granger."

"Colby," Amita said, sounding pleased. "It's good to hear from you. How's Washington?"

Colby definitely wasn't ready to answer that one. "This isn't actually a social call," he said. "I was hoping to talk to Charlie, get his help with a case."

"A case," Amita echoed. "The missing little girl? That was on the news earlier, the senator's daughter?"

"Yeah," Colby said, a little surprised that they'd heard about it over there.

"You just missed him," Amita said, apologetic. "He's in the middle of some work for one of Don's cases, they both just left in the middle of dinner."

Well, that explained why Amita was answering the phone at least. Colby hesitated. Except Maggie was right, they did need all the help they could get, and if Don's case was at the 'dashing out in the middle of dinner' stage, Charlie would probably be caught up in it for a while. And Amita was brilliant, maybe even more so than Charlie in some things. "Listen, Amita, maybe you could help?" he tried, then, when Amita didn't say anything, "We're trying to narrow down a whole lot of possible sightings from the tip line. I know it's probably more Charlie's thing than yours, but…"

"Can I take a look at it for you?" Amita suggested, already slipping into her academic voice. "I helped him design a program for something similar, I can find it and run your case through it, at least. Can you get me all the sightings, locations and times, and…"

When he got off the phone, with a promise to email everything through to Charlie's secure account – apparently not that secure, since Amita had the password – Sabirah was the only one left, leaning on the edge of his desk and looking at him a little oddly. "What?" Colby asked.

"Amita," Sabirah said, like she was tasting the name. "Good friend?"

"I guess," Colby said, uncomfortable. "Why?"

"You looked relaxed, talking to her," Sabirah said. "You don't, usually."

"Yeah, well," Colby said, and realized he had no idea what to say after that.

Sabirah took pity on him after a long moment, waving a handful of printed sheets. "Come on, Maggie wants us to grab a few more interviews before the end of the day."

Colby went, gratefully.

*

Amita came through the next morning, sounding like she'd been working all night. Since Colby'd had five hours of restless sleep, he sympathized pretty hard. "I grouped the sightings according to most likely," Amita explained, and if Colby closed his eyes, he could see her, stood in front of the screen in the conference room, her face earnest as she explained. "It's only an initial analysis, so it's not perfect, but you sounded like it was urgent."

"Thanks, Amita," Colby said, pulling up the file attachment in his email. "I owe you for this."

"Don't say that yet," Amita said. "Megan came by while I was working on this, she recognized one of the addresses. I think she was going to call, except they got caught up in their case,"

"Do you know what she was going to say?" Colby asked, half-impatient, watching Maggie tap her pencil against a file.

"You should probably ask her for all the details," Amita said. "But she said three of the addresses on the list – there've been child pornography arrests near there," she finished, and Colby felt the bottom of his stomach drop out.

*

"How the hell does an agent all the way over in LA know about this?" Maggie demanded when Colby took the printouts to her.

"I think it was connected to one of her cases," Colby said, wishing he'd been able to talk to Megan about it.

Maggie flipped through the printouts, frowning. "Christ. No offence to your math girl, but I really hope she's wrong."

"She isn't usually."

"That's what I was afraid of," Maggie said. "All right, get James and Sabirah on the phone, tell them to meet us at the first address."

*

The little girl started crying when they burst into the room she was being held in, and pretty much just kept on crying until her mom took her home. Not that Colby blamed her – the case made him feel like crying as well. Even more so when Megan called him, asked Did you get her back? and Did you get her in time? and he had to say no to the second one, listen to Megan's sharp in-drawn breath and the way her voice trembled a bit when she said, "I'm sorry."

"Thanks," he said, then, "For your help," like she might not realize he meant for her sympathy as well.

"I hate cases like that," Megan said, soft and worn.

"Everyone does," Colby said, instead of something about her time at the DoJ, like he wanted to. They didn't talk about that. Didn't talk about a lot of things, but they still talked. That had to matter, like how Amita had dropped everything to help him, how Megan had been the one that helped them crack the case, even from the other side of the country.

"Nice work," Maggie said, heading out that evening.

Sabirah gave her a tired look, James murmured something in Arabic over his paperwork, and Colby just nodded. Weirdly, for the first time since arriving there, he felt like he was really part of the team. Like this was going to work.

*

Part Three

*

Because the FBI never liked to actually reward a team for cracking a high profile, ugly case, they got assigned a series of small factory armed-robberies, the last of which had wound up with the security guard getting shot and killed at the end, and spent most of the week just missing the robbers, tracking them across the city and back.

"Christ, you haven't caught them yet?" Canavan asked when his team pulled up next to where Colby was waiting for them at the end of the road down to the factory they thought was next.

"Yeah, but we figured we'd drag you out here just for the pleasure of your company," Colby said. He checked his radio again, couldn't help it – the rest of his team were in place in and around the factory, blending in. Assuming the robbers stuck to their usual timetable, they were probably close already, or at least close enough for the staging area to be pretty open in an empty parking lot.

Canavan laughed, clapping Colby on the shoulder. "Fine specimens of manliness that we are, who wouldn't want to see us?" He steered Colby over to where the team were assembling. "What's the plan?"

Colby outlined it for the team – wait for Maggie to signal that the robbers were in the factory, then close up enough to grab them making their getaway, but not so close that they retreated into the factory and took hostages. Canavan nodded along. "Sounds good. You're staying here?"

Colby nodded. "Police, fire and ambulance stop, just in case." In case the plan didn't work out and they ended up with a hostage situation anyway – he had the beginnings of a command point already going, which didn't say anything positive about the plan.

Canavan eyed his team. "Radio check – Granger's going to listen in." He waited for their nods, then started directing people into position. In their full callout gear, they'd be hard to miss if the robbers weren't in the area yet, which meant Colby focusing on the road, hoping not to see a white van go past. Not that it was exactly a challenge – the street was even more run-down than some of the others the robbers had hit, and their end of it was practically deserted, most of the other buildings boarded up.

His ear piece activated before he could think about it any more, Maggie's voice saying, "They just went in. No sign of weapons yet. Stand by."

"They're in," he called over to Canavan, who acknowledged it with a brief hand wave and started moving his team down the road towards the factory, just visible before the road started to turn. "SWAT's on their way," he told Maggie and the other agents, knowing he'd only get her acknowledgement. Sabirah was posted inside, and James was around the back with a couple of other agents.

Everything fell silent, and Colby squinted, trying to make out what was happening. All he could see was the dark line of SWAT agents formed up at the side of the street, and he gave a moment's thanks that no-one was around, apparently having taken the hint from the armed agents and found somewhere else to be.

He was too far away to hear anything in the factory – the first he knew was Sabirah's voice in his ear, suddenly: "Shots fired, shots fired."

"Go, go, go," Maggie's voice ordered. "Granger –"

He cut her transmission off, toggling over to Canavan's team. "Move in now." They didn’t even bother with an acknowledgement, just started moving.

For a moment, there was nothing. Colby forced himself to stop moving towards the road. When he looked down, he found he had his gun in his hand, didn't even remember drawing it.

"James, one coming your way," Maggie said, totally calm, even though Colby could hear movement, scuffling, in the background of the transmission.

"On it," James said.

More silence. Maggie'd ordered him off the channels unless anything happened that the teams up front needed to know, but that didn't stop his hand going up to his radio, wanting to ask. No-one had come out of the factory, but no-one had called for medical help either.

"Clear out back," James said.

"Roger," Maggie said. "Granger, we're secure in here, get EMT moving, we're got some superficial – fuck!"

The shout was followed by a thud that must have been someone hitting the floor, and her radio didn't shut off, so Colby heard her shout about a runner, the thud of boots as someone went after him.

Colby expected the guy to go out the back of the factory, but he ran out of the front door instead, followed by two – no, three – SWAT agents. He didn't make for a vehicle, just started up the street towards Colby, haphazard dash that looked more like panic than anything else, and that didn't fit with what they knew about the robbery crews.

Colby pushed that aside to worry about later. They were getting close enough that he could hear the SWAT guys shouting for the runner to stop, then more clearly as Colby moved up to meet them, the runner between them. Someone fired, missed. The runner looked back over his shoulder, half-raising the gun in his hand like he was planning to return fire.

"Stop," Colby yelled. The runner turned back to him, came to a skidding halt like he'd realized he was stuck. "Put your weapon down."

"It's not like it looks," the runner shouted back. Behind him, the three SWAT agents lined up, taking aim.

Colby kept his own gun on the guy as he moved in. "You can explain it all back at the FBI offices. Just put your weapon down."

"Yeah, uh." He looked down at the gun in his hand, then back up. He was young, Colby realized, barely more than a teenager, but his face showed more confusion than fear.

"Get down on the ground," Colby said, keeping his voice steady. On the still open radio channel, he could hear the faint buzz of Maggie talking to someone with her. "Put the weapon down."

For a second, it looked like the guy was going to comply, his body moving as if he was going to bend down. "That's it," Colby said, almost close enough to touch him at that point.

Something flashed across the guy's face, confidence or humor – something that didn't belong there. Colby said, "Don't –" and the guy spun away from him, the gun coming back up, the sharp crack of a shot – firing at the SWAT team, what kind of idiot tried to take on three armed SWAT officers with a pistol?

He missed, Colby thought, in the absence of any shouts of pain, he missed, and then it didn't matter, because the kid was falling backwards, away from the SWAT line, the back of his shirt exploding in blood, exit wound. Colby spared a glance for the line of SWAT agents, checking no-one was going to follow it up and hit him, then bent over the kid, feeling for a pulse as he swept the gun aside. Waste of time – he was obviously dead.

He heard footsteps, looked up to reassure whoever it was. Except his eyes stuck before he got past the barrel of the SWAT agent's weapon, caught on the other agent, crouched in the dust where the three of them had been lined up.

"Is he dead?" the agent standing over Colby asked.

"Yeah," Colby said. He couldn't remember, suddenly, if he'd called for EMT or not, raised a hand to his radio to do that.

"Don't bother," the SWAT agent said. He reached down and pulled Colby bodily to his feet, not looking at him. "They're both dead."

"Both?" Colby said. He felt cold, even with the sun bright and hot on the back of his neck.

The agent nodded to where his colleague was still crouched in the dust. "Head shot. Lucky shot."

"Who?" Colby asked.

The agent – Colby was sure they'd been introduced at some point – said, "Canavan."

Maggie's voice came over the radio before Colby could say anything. "What's happening out there?" She sounded impatient.

"The runner's down," Colby said. "Dead."

"Great," Maggie said. "I'm sending Sabirah out to you."

"Don't," Colby said without thinking. "Don't send Sabirah."

"Granger?" Maggie asked, picking up something in his voice. "What's going on? Where's my med team?"

"Canavan was shot," Colby said, feeling numb. "Don't send Sabirah. He was shot in the head. He's dead," and maybe they were just friends, maybe they just flirted to pass the time, but Sabirah liked Canavan, and she didn't need to see him with his head blown open and his eyes glassy.

"Oh, Christ," Maggie said, low and shaken. There was a pause, and when she spoke again, her voice was back to normal. "Get EMT on their way. I'll send James round to you and put in a call to SWAT command. Get a perimeter up, I don't want anyone else in the middle of this."

"Yes, ma'am," Colby said, and she didn't bother to correct him.

*

Colby meant to go straight home when they finally wrapped up for the night, wash off the shock and the grief and Sabirah's tears from when she'd started shivering in the elevator and then crying when he'd touched her arm to ask if she was all right.

Except that, when the Metro pulled into a station a couple of stops before his, he found himself staring at a poster for a bar. A gay bar, from the rainbow colored text.

A woman had picked Sabirah up from outside the office. Maggie had gone to spend the night at her sister's, and James, who lived in the same apartment building as one of the SWAT agents who'd been at the call, had invited Colby to join them in trying to drown out the day.

He'd said no, but he didn't want to go back to his apartment, knowing that no-one was going to come by to check he was all right, like David had after their first encounter with Dwayne, or call him to talk about nothing, like Megan after Colby'd shot McCall. The thought of lying in the dark, trying to sleep, missing them, seeing Canavan's face every time he closed his eyes – he couldn't do it.

He made it to the platform just before the doors closed.

*

The place turned out to be more of a club than a bar, complete with pounding bass line and lights keeping time with it, but there were three floors of balconies looking down onto the dance floor, and by the time Colby made it to the top one, the music was just about distant enough to be bearable. It was late enough, or maybe he was just far enough away from the dance floor, that the bar area was only two-thirds full, most people settled at tables in pairs, or in groups in the booths.

Colby took a table towards the back, too far from the edge to see down to the dance floor, and nursed his beer, letting the noise wash over him, push away everything he didn't want to think about.

It took twenty minutes for someone to approach him, a man who was maybe five years older, tall and in shape, dark-skinned against his black pants and shirt. When he leaned a hand on Colby's table and Colby looked up, he got an oddly sympathetic smile that made the edges of the man's eyes crinkle. "If you don't mind me saying," he said, voice raised a little over the music, words rounded by a Georgia accent, "You look like hell."

"Bad day," Colby said. Not that the man didn't have a point. He hadn't bothered to change his shirt, and there was blood on the cuff of one sleeve, he didn't know whose; he'd spent too much of the day being hot, stressed, sweaty or all three to look well put together; and he suspected he looked like the other three had, like someone who was trying and failing to cover up his messed head.

The man touched the back of Colby's hand, holding his gaze. "Maybe I can make it better," he offered.

Colby sort of doubted that, but if he'd wanted to drink the day away, he'd have gone with James. "Sure."

The man nodded. "There's a couple of back rooms. Unless you want to finish your drink."

"Not particularly." Colby stood up, too close for a moment, before the man stepped back. "After you."

That got him a grin, actual amusement. "Rob," the guy said, offering his hand.

Colby took it, shook, the gesture feeling oddly out of place. He was pretty sure that wasn't how things usually worked. "Colby."

"Nice to meet you, Colby," Rob said, letting go of Colby's hand to weave through the tables and out of a door that Colby hadn't noticed, painted the same dark purple as the wall around it.

He saw a brief flash of corridor under fluorescent lighting, more doors, then Rob caught his wrist, pulled him through a door to their right. The room was barely more than a closet, poorly lit and completely empty. It reminded Colby, for a moment, of stripper booths back in LA, from a couple of cases, and he bit his lip against the laugh he could feel bubbling up, right in time with the voice in his head saying that this was a bad idea. It sounded kind of like Sabirah.

"Meet with your approval?" Rob asked, still amused, close behind him. He put one hand on Colby's hip, and Colby turned into it, caught Rob's arms and dragged him into a kiss.

It was sort of like kissing Dwayne had been, harsh and careless. He wondered if Rob had a wife and kid somewhere, same as Dwayne had had then, and pushed the thought aside. No more thinking about Dwayne, even if the alternatives were David or Canavan.

His back hit the wall suddenly – he hadn't noticed Rob moving him back – and Rob pulled away, said, "Want me to fuck you?"

Colby shook his head without thinking about it, then realized that probably came across as pretty dismissive. "We could…" he started, but he had no idea what he wanted to do. Stop thinking. Not go home.

Rob looked at him for a long moment, then said, "You could blow me. See if you figure out what you want while you're doing it." He was already nudging Colby down, so Colby went, glad when the floor didn't turn out to be sticky under his knees. Thankful for small mercies, even if the thought did make him feel old and tired.

He expected – actually, he didn't know what he expected, but Rob just opened his pants, pulled out his cock and started stroking himself hard. It wasn't until he put a hand on the back of Colby's neck, tilting his head, that Colby snapped back into reality and said, "Condom."

Rob hesitated. "You don't have anything?"

"You don't?" Colby countered, looking up to meet Rob's eyes, feeling stupid.

"I –" Rob started, then apparently thought better of it. "No. How about if I don't come in your mouth?"

"Sure," Colby said, not totally sure he believed Rob would stick to it, but not sure how much he cared right then. He wasn't hard, wasn't even really turned on, but he opened his pants anyway, palmed himself a couple of times.

"Nice," Rob said, appreciatively, then got one hand back on Colby's neck, the other angling his cock down.

He wasn't any bigger than the other men Colby had gone down on, but Colby hadn't done that in over two years, and it turned out there were some things that weren't like riding a bicycle, so it wasn't long before Rob took over, fucking Colby's mouth, slow and not too deep.

Colby kept one arm round Rob's waist, holding himself up as much as anything, and wrapped the other around his own cock, stroking himself in time with Rob's movements.

It didn't take long for Rob's rhythm to speed up. He said, "Oh, fuck, fuck," sounding almost drunk, and Colby tasted the first drops of come on his tongue before Rob pulled out. Some of it slicked across his bottom lip; most of the rest of it hit his neck, the collar of his shirt, when Rob didn't turn aside fast enough.

Usually, it would have been a turn-on. Instead, it felt like one more thing clinging to his skin that he didn't want, one more thing to have to shower off. He was glad he'd taken his jacket off. At least that would cover it.

"Get up, come on, let me –" Rob said, one hand on Colby's shoulder, still a little out of breath.

Colby realized he still had his hand on his own cock, which was completely soft. He didn't think he had the energy to stay standing long enough to get hard and then get off. Wasn't sure he wanted to look up and meet Rob's eyes either.

He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "I'm fine."

Rob made a disbelieving sound. Colby waited, head down, for him to say something else, push it, but after a moment, he took a step back, refastened his pants. "Suit yourself. You weren't so good that I'm feeling a big need to reciprocate."

"I know," Colby said, for want of anything else to say.

He expected Rob to just leave. Instead, he crouched down in front of Colby, reached over to fasten Colby's pants for him, then rested a hand on his thigh. "You okay?" he asked, sounding honestly concerned.

Colby felt his throat closing up, swallowed against it. He wasn't going to fall apart in front of some stranger he'd just had sex with. "Bad day," he said again.

"I got that," Rob agreed. "Do you want to – I know this is weird, but if you want to get a drink or something, I can be a good listener."

Colby shook his head, watching Rob's hand on his thigh. "I just want to go home," he said.

Rob patted his thigh once, then took his hand back, balancing on the balls of his feet. "Then let me call you a cab at least," he said, and Colby nodded, because It's too far to go by cab would just make him sound crazy.

*

When he got back to his apartment, the answer machine was flashing one new message. He went over to play it, then stopped, pulled out his cell. No missed calls or messages, which meant it probably wasn't work, or at least wasn't urgent. Unless his cell was about to ring, and he was pretty sure that just a change of shirt wasn’t going to be enough for him to be able to walk out and straight into another case.

He put his cell, ID and keys next to the phone, thankful suddenly that he'd left his weapon at the office, and went into the bedroom to strip off. He was honestly tempted to throw his shirt away, not wanting any of the reminders when he came to do laundry, but he didn't exactly have a never-ending supply of decent office shirts. It went in the hamper with the rest of his clothes, his shoes kicked less than accidentally under the bed. The left one had blood on the toe, something he hadn't noticed up until then.

The shower helped, a little, with the need to get clean, but he was mostly conditioned to showering in the morning, not the evening, which meant his body getting too many signals that it was, in fact, time to be up and alert, even if it was past midnight. No excuse not to check the message.

Granger, it's Megan. Saw you on the news this evening – that green shirt doesn't suit you. I think Larry's got a crush on your boss. Give me a call some time.

The message had been left a couple of days ago, not that Colby remembered seeing the light flashing, but Megan wasn't much for early nights, and it wasn't that late in LA. If he was going to be awake, he might as well do something with the time.

She answered on the third ring, sounding wide awake.

"It's me," Colby said, then added, "Is this a bad time?" even though he'd called her home number.

"It's fine," she said. He could hear movement, pictured her settling into an arm chair, even though he'd never been to her place. "I was beginning to think you were avoiding my calls," she added, teasing.

"No," Colby said. "We were busy with a case. A string of armed robberies and –" And Canavan, shot dead, right between the eyes. EMT had covered the body before most of the agents in the factory came out. Colby hadn't had that luxury.

"Colby?" Megan said, sounding very far away. Colby blinked. "Are you still there?"

"Yeah. Sorry."

"No problem," Megan said, laughing a little. "You sound really out of it, you been out celebrating or something?"

"Just out," Colby corrected. Maybe he should have made some coffee before starting this.

"Oh, out. She have a name?"

"Rob," Colby said, mostly without thinking. He heard the crackle of Megan taking a breath to answer, and when he blinked, he saw Canavan, standing in the park and inviting him for coffee the morning they'd met while running. "He's no-one," he said before Megan could say anything. His voice came out scratched.

"Colby?" Megan said softly. "Is everything all right?"

"Not really," Colby said. He closed his eyes, leaned back on the couch. His hands were shaking. "I let a guy pick me up in a bar," he said, not sure why he was telling her that. "We –"

"It's okay," Megan said in what Colby recognized as her traumatized victims voice.

"One of the SWAT agents was shot," he said, fast. "Mark Canavan, he –" He had to stop then, couldn't breathe.

"The one you were friendly with," Megan said. "I'm so sorry."

Colby nodded, even though she couldn't see him. His throat was too tight, and his closed eyes weren't doing anything to stop the tears. He couldn't think of anything to say.

He wished he'd never left LA.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Megan asked gently.

Colby shook his head, managed to say, "No."

"Okay," Megan said. "What about the guy at the bar?"

"No," Colby said again. He wanted to forget that had ever happened.

"Okay," Megan said again. "How about if I tell you about what's happening up here instead?" She didn't wait for Colby to answer, just started in on a story about Larry that Amita had apparently passed on. Colby kept his eyes closed, not paying much attention to the details, just letting her voice wash over him, like the music in the bar, only this time it worked to calm him down, until he could breathe without feeling like every breath was going to come out in a sob. He knew that, if he interrupted her, said something about Canavan, Megan would drop her story immediately – that she was probably waiting for that, using the story to pass the time until he could talk, the same way she'd sit and stir her tea, waiting, if they were face to face.

He meant to say thank you, or something about Canavan, though he didn't know what. What he actually said, when he'd gotten it together enough to talk, was, "Do you think David will ever forgive me?"

Because she was Megan, she didn't ask what he meant, just went silent for a moment. "I think he already did," she said eventually.

Colby couldn't quite stop the bitter, disbelieving noise in the back of his throat. "I'm pretty sure he still hates me."

"He's…" Megan started, then trailed off into silence again. "It was bad, when we thought you were a spy. It's hard, making that kind of shift in perception twice." Colby closed his eyes, pictured her biting her bottom lip, feeling out how to explain. "You nearly died, and it turned out you really were one of the good guys after all so – I think we all felt guilty."

"You were supposed to believe me," Colby pointed out. David hadn't seemed guilty, just angry. Like he wanted Colby gone.

"You were part of the team," Megan said, sounding sad. "It felt like – if you'd died, it would have been because we didn't trust you."

Colby's throat tightened up again. He hated knowing that he'd hurt them, even if he hadn't had a choice. He'd never expected to get as close to them, when he'd agreed to be a double agent, as he had.

"You should call him," Megan said into the silence, her voice carefully neutral.

"I don't know what to say," Colby admitted. It was easier than saying that he was afraid David would hang up on him, or say he was glad Colby had gone. He wasn't ready for that, didn't think he ever would be.

"Most people start with hello," Megan teased gently. "I know he misses you."

"Me too," Colby said. "All of you."

"You don't talk much about your new team," Megan said.

Colby shrugged, even though she couldn't see him. "It feels weird."

"I bet," Megan said. "I'm not looking forward to when I have to tell you about your permanent replacement."

"You're not keeping Liz Warner?" Colby asked. He'd figured Megan just felt awkward talking about it, the same way he did.

"She's sticking around to fill in, but I don't know that she wants to be on the team long-term," Megan said. She sounded thoughtful, like there was more to it than she was saying. "So, you know my team. Tell me a little bit about yours. What's your lead agent called? If I'mgoing to compete with her for Larry's attention, I need a bit of a head start."

Colby thought about Canavan, Sabirah's tears and James' invitation to drink away the day with him and the SWAT agent. "Maggie Delgado. She used to be in the army…"

*

Part Four

*

Colby was following evidence response through the crime scene at the latest in a series of murders when Sabirah ducked under the crime scene tape to join them, her notebook already in her hand.

"Sorry I'm late," she said briskly. "Carry on."

She was, unusually, wearing dark jeans and a blue FBI t-shirt, instead of her usual suit and shirt, her hair falling over her shoulders. Even without the circles that had lingered under her eyes for weeks after Canavan's funeral, she looked stressed out, though Colby couldn't exactly ask if she was okay in the middle of the crime scene.

"Um," the senior tech said, obviously thrown, then rallying. "Blood spatter here and here…"

Colby made notes on something close to auto-pilot, mentally classifying the murder against the three others in the past couple of weeks, and the five from four years ago that the FBI hadn't been involved with, but which Metro police thought were linked. This one seemed a reasonably good candidate for being the same killer, though it was hard to tell without any particular signatures. He wished for Megan, who'd undoubtedly have been able to say with more confidence.

"Excuse the clothes," Sabirah said as they left the scene.

"Everything okay?" Colby asked carefully.

"Yeah." She rubbed a hand over her face. "You got a spare pencil or something?" When Colby handed over his spare pen, she scooped her hair back, then stuck the pen through it, somehow holding it all in place. "Okay, that's better. I was expecting to have time to change, but Maggie called when I was on my way here."

"Okay," Colby said.

Sabirah smiled ruefully. "Sorry, that was oddly cryptic, wasn't it?"

"You don't have to tell me where you were," Colby pointed out.

She shrugged. "It's not a secret. I volunteer on the junior special agent program, I got a call to go see one of my kids this morning, she got caught fighting."

That explained the casual clothes, and the FBI t-shirt. "That's a good thing to be doing," Colby said.

Sabirah nodded. "I think so, anyway. It's nice to be doing something that doesn't involve dead bodies or bank robbers." She looked at him, her head tilted slightly to the side. "They're always looking for more people to volunteer," she added. "You should come with me sometime."

Colby wasn't sure he'd be that good with teenagers, though he'd done an okay job with David's group at the community center, the one time David had asked him to cover for him. "Yeah, okay. Thanks."

"Great," Sabirah said, looking pleased. "Tell me you know which officer we're supposed to be talking to out here," she added, looking around the unusually high numbers of police uniforms.

"Fraid not," Colby said.

Sabirah sighed. "Par for the course this morning. Come on, someone'll know who's in charge."

*

When security called up to say that there was someone waiting to see Colby at the front desk, he said okay without asking who it was, expecting it to be the Metro cop who was supposed to be coming by to go through some of her old notes from the first five murders.

Sabirah was on the phone, nodding to whatever the person on the other end was saying, but she caught Colby's eye and gave him a more purposeful nod when he gestured to the door.

He knew the moment that he walked into the front office that he should have asked who had come to see him, because where there should have been a Latino woman, there was a Black man in a suit, his back to Colby as he studied the wall display about the dog handling team. Colby glanced over at Tom on the desk, in case Officer Valdez had stepped out, and got a chin jerk at the man in response. Helpful as ever.

Colby straightened his tie a little and stepped across the room. "Hi, I'm Agent Granger, can –"

The man turned then, and Colby cut himself off, too surprised to say anything.

"I remember," David said. He wasn't smiling, but Colby could still read amusement on his face, beneath the uncertainty, like he wasn't sure if it was all right to joke, or maybe wasn't sure of his welcome. He looked good, dark suit and a green shirt, coat over one arm – a real, wool coat like Colby had never seen him wear – his badge open and tucked in the pocket of his suit jacket. Nothing like he'd looked the last time, standing in Colby's apartment and telling him to leave.

"What are you doing here?" Colby asked, hoping he didn’t sound as stunned as he felt, wishing Megan could have given him some advance warning. He'd wavered about calling David for days after talking to her, but in the end he hadn't been able to pluck up the courage to do it. He definitely wasn't ready for David to turn up at his office, looking like normal, almost, like the past few months hadn't even happened.

"The ADIC wanted someone to attend a conference on surveillance techniques, I lost the coin toss." Colby couldn't tell if he was telling the truth or not – if he'd asked to come, or if Megan had maneuvered him into it. It hurt unexpectedly sharply; he'd been able to read David so well for so long, and now he couldn't even read if he was lying or not.

"I meant, what are you doing here, specifically?" he asked instead.

David shrugged, still looking uncertain and awkward. "Looking for you."

Colby swallowed down the automatic urge to say something stupid about being plenty far enough away from LA on the other side of the country, and then realized he didn't have anything else to say, or at least nothing that he could say in the front office, in front of the security guard.

Nothing that wouldn't betray him.

David seemed to be having the same problem, his eyes flickering over to Tom, then back to Colby. "Can we – the conference finished this morning, but my flight's not till tomorrow. Maybe we could get together when you're done for the day?"

"I –" Colby started, but the sound of the door into the offices opening distracted him, and he looked over to see Sabirah stepping through.

She stopped when she saw him and David. "Sorry, I thought Officer Valdez was here." She looked between the two of them, then took a step back. "But she's not, so I'll go back to my desk. Call if she turns up?"

Colby nodded, watching her go. When he turned back to David, he'd obviously been doing the same thing. Colby didn't want to contemplate what Tom was thinking of the whole thing. "Let's go outside," he suggested.

David hesitated. "It's cold, you don't have a coat."

Or his suit jacket, still hung over the back of his chair, but Colby wasn't about to point that out. "I can take it," he said firmly, holding the door for David.

"She's part of your team?" David asked when they were outside, the air exactly as cold as Colby had expected it to be.

"Yeah, she's…" Colby stopped. "What do you want?"

David opened his mouth, then closed it again, looking away to pull his coat on. "Let me buy you a drink," he said finally. "We should talk."

"It's been months," Colby said, before he could stop himself.

"I know," David said, sounding awkward, still not quite meeting Colby's eye. "That's why we should talk."

A big part of Colby wanted to say no. To tell David that he wasn't interested after the way David had reacted before he left, how David had ignored him for months while Colby left a team he loved and moved to the other side of the country because the thought of trying to carry on with things as they had been had been unbearable.

A bigger part wanted to say yes, because David had come to him, and maybe it was only because he was in Washington, but Colby hadn't known he was there, and he could have left without ever letting Colby know.

And David had been his closest friend for two years, and Colby couldn't read him any more, and Colby still missed him.

"Okay," he said, before he could change his mind. "Where are you staying?"

"The Doubletree on Rhode Island Avenue," David said, jerking his head in roughly the right direction. Less than three and a half miles from Colby's office; he'd driven past it with Maggie the day before.

"I'll meet you there. About eight thirty."

David hesitated, like he was going to argue, then just nodded. "See you then."

It felt more awkward than the rest of the conversation had, even though they'd said goodbye countless times without fanfare. Colby stuck his hands in his pockets, not sure what else to do with them. "Yeah."

Sabirah was at her desk when he got back upstairs, James and Maggie still out interviewing a possible witness. She frowned when she saw him, and came round to lean on the edge of his desk. "You're shivering."

"It's cold," Colby pointed out, which just made her frown more.

"You shouldn't have been out in just your shirt," she said, faintly reprimanding. "Are you all right? You look…" She tilted her head a little. "I don't know, actually. Like you've had a shock."

"I'm fine," Colby said, even though she wasn't that far off.

She shook her head. "The man in the lobby, what did he want?"

She sounded suspicious, like she might go chasing after David and demand to know what he'd done to Colby. The thought of it made Colby want to laugh. "We worked together in LA," he said instead.

Her eyebrows went up, and he flushed, not quite sure why he was. She smiled then, warm and affectionate, and rubbed his shoulder for a moment, her hand warm through his shirt. "I see," she said, standing up.

"Okay," Colby said, even though he sort of hoped she didn't.

"He in town on a case?" she asked, prompting, like he was an uncommunicative witness.

"Conference," Colby corrected. He looked down at the open file on his desk and couldn't remember why he'd been reading it. "We were friends," he said, not looking up at her. "We –" The words stuck in his throat for a moment, but he'd told Megan about Rob at the bar, and if he could tell her that, he could tell Sabirah this. Wanted to tell her, just so he wouldn't be the only one who knew. "We were a bit more than friends," he said.

"I see," she said again, softer, and he figured she did this time, sort of. "You looked – it ended badly?"

Nervous, tense, he filled in silently. "It never really got started," he said, instead of asking what kind of bad ending she was imagining. He probably didn't want to know. "And then the spy thing, and – he didn't want to be around me any more."

"So you left," Sabirah finished. She touched his arm again, light and brief, and he still couldn't look up.

"Not just because of that," Colby said. He couldn't explain the rest to her – could barely explain it to himself, how he'd felt like a piece that had been stuck together imperfectly and didn't fit any more, couldn't fit any more. How he'd wanted to run, maybe more than he'd wanted to stay.

"What did he want?" Sabirah asked, letting it go.

"I don't know yet," Colby said. He wished the phone would ring, or someone would walk in, put an end to this conversation.

"I hope you get it worked out," Sabirah said, moving away like she'd felt him wish.

Me, too.

*

He'd picked up the phone three times to call Megan during the afternoon, and put it down without dialing each time. They'd spoken a few days ago – she'd have known then that David was coming to town, and she hadn't mentioned it, so there had to be a reason. Probably that she hadn't expected David to actually get in touch, and if the evening made everything worse, Colby didn't want her to know that.

And maybe he didn't want to hear her say that she'd told David about Canavan – she wouldn't have told him about the bar, he knew – and David figured Colby was vulnerable, easy to win over… He pushed the thought away, hating that he was thinking it, and thought again about calling Megan, checking that he was wrong about that.

Then he thought about the way she'd sound if he asked, and put the phone down again.

Unfortunately, it meant that he felt like he was going in blind, worse than when he'd started at the LA office, because at least then he'd know a bit about the members of the team, even if he'd had to pretend he didn't. He'd meant to go home and change, but it had been one thing after another, and he hadn't managed it, had barely managed to get out of the office to hail a cab and be only acceptably late, Sabirah offering a worried smile as he left.

He shoved his hands into his pockets, standing on the sidewalk, then took them out again, feeling stupid. It was just David, and he hadn't been nervous to see David in – well, ever. Not even when he'd gone back for the first time after the spy thing, when he hadn't exactly been looking forward to it, but had at least thought he knew what was coming. He hated not being able to figure out what David wanted.

Not that it was going to get any better for standing around in the cold.

The lobby was typical hotel style, all beige and white, with mostly dark furniture. There were a few people moving around, a couple checking in, but David was easy to spot, facing the door on a purple armchair and flipping through a magazine too fast to be reading it. He'd lost his suit jacket and his tie, which made him look more casual, and made Colby feel over-dressed, unbalanced.

David looked up as Colby got closer, put the magazine down and stood, so that by the time Colby was close enough to speak, they were back to the same awkward place they'd been in saying goodbye outside the FBI building, where Colby felt like they should shake hands, even though they never had.

"I wasn't sure you'd make it," David said. "I was going to call, but then I realized I don't have your cell number any more."

"Got caught up in the case," Colby said, ignoring the second part. "Do you want to go somewhere else?"

David shuffled his feet a little, gesturing over towards the restaurant. "I got a table here. The girl on the desk says the food's good, and I figured you wouldn't have time to eat first."

Colby hadn't expected dinner, though David was right. "That sounds fine," he said, appalled at how stilted he sounded but unable to do anything about it.

"Right," David said. He looked uncertain for a moment, then offered a sort of smile that didn't make him look any better. "It's this way."

"After you," Colby said, and didn't at all contemplate making a run for it.

They limped through getting seated and ordering in near silence, but with that over and the waiter gone from bringing their drinks, someone had to say something.

"How was the conference?" Colby asked, since David didn't seem inclined to say anything. He still couldn't remember seeing anything about it, which was a bit odd, but he figured the flyers had probably gone round not long after Canavan had been killed, when Sabirah hadn't been the only one having problems keeping it together.

David shook his head. "Fine. Dull."

"Right," Colby said. He knew he should ask about LA, but even after Megan had said his slot on the team hadn't been permanently filled yet, he didn't want to hear about how fine they were without him, not from David. "Did you see much of the city?"

"Pretty much just the hotel." David turned his wine glass in his hand, then put it down again without drinking, looking over Colby's shoulder into the restaurant.

Colby took a large swallow of his own drink, instead of sighing like he wanted to. "It's a better time for sight-seeing," he offered. "Fewer tourists right now."

"I guess," David said. "Too cold?"

"Something like that," Colby agreed.

"Hmm," David said, and forget excruciating, this was ridiculous. The thought of even an hour more made Colby want to break out the heavy liquor.

"I think this was a bad idea," he said, reaching for his wallet. "I'm going to go."

"What?" David said, meeting his eye for the first time since they'd sat down. "Why?"

Colby fought not to roll his eyes. "Come on, you don't want to be here, not with me. You can tell Megan you did your duty and checked up on me or whatever, but it's been a long day, I think I'd rather go home."

"This isn't a duty call," David said. His hand twitched, like he'd meant to reach for Colby but changed his mind. "Okay, yeah, Megan pretty much ordered me to come see you, but it's not like you're making it sound."

"How is it then?" Colby asked, fed up with the whole conversation. Wishing David would just say that Megan had told him Colby was a mess, ordered him to try to fix Colby.

David shook his head, reaching for his glass and actually drinking this time. "She pushed me to do something I wanted to do," he said finally.

"Last time, you said it would be easier if you didn't have to see me," Colby pointed out. "And now you can barely say two words to me."

"I don't know what to say," David said, low and intense. He caught Colby's eye, and Colby couldn’t look away. "I was hurt, I acted like a child, and then I looked around and realized my best friend was on the other side of the country because I couldn't just let it be for a while, I pushed him out."

It felt like all the air had gone out of their space, or all the noise. David just kept looking at him, steady enough that it felt more like being touched, like a hand holding him in place when he wasn't sure if he wanted to get up and walk away again, and now he was the one with no idea of what to say, because David hadn’t said what Colby had been waiting for.

My best friend. He'd wanted that so much, sitting in his cell, waiting to get out, waiting for the next part, anything from David to say that he hadn't just written Colby off. He still wanted it, even with Sabirah and his team. After the last few months, after everything that hadn't been, he wanted to believe that this one thing could be that easy.

"I hear 'sorry' works," he offered, his voice oddly scratchy.

David laughed, sitting back in his chair, and that was better, less intense. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Okay," Colby said. He took a deep breath, tried a smile that didn't feel too much like it might crack, like he was faking it.

"And – Megan told me about the SWAT agent," David added. "She said he was a friend of yours."

There was something in his voice that Colby couldn't read, but there was no way Megan would have told him about the club. She and Colby hadn't even talked about it again. He didn't think about what Megan might have said alongside telling David Canavan had been killed, what she might have said about how it had hit Colby. The need to hear that this was a pity visit had faded. "Thanks."

The waiter chose that moment to bring their food, breaking up the last of the weird intensity, and they talked about the weather in Washington, a little more about David's conference. Except that Colby couldn't concentrate, on his food or the conversation. It felt too simple, too easy, and he could still hear David's voice in his head, accusing him of using David for unfinished sex, pretending to be in love with him, just to get closer, his own voice pointing out how fast David had believed the worst of him.

He wasn't even sure if that was included in David's apology.

"Why did you believe Ashby?" he asked, before he could talk himself out of it.

David stopped, his fork halfway to his mouth, and just looked at Colby. "You wanted us to," he said.

Colby shook his head. "I needed you to," he corrected. That split second in the interrogation room, when David had said, you're not a spy, the moment between that and David calling him a traitor, when he'd thought maybe, maybe – that David wouldn't believe it, would call up their friendship, their partnership, and refuse to believe it. Except that David had believed it as easily as everyone else had.

"You looked guilty," David said softly. "On the stairs, you looked -. I kept playing it, over and over in my head, and you looked guilty, like you'd known this was coming. I didn't believe him, not till I saw you, and then it was like all these pieces making sense all of a sudden."

He'd hated seeing David coming up the steps towards him – hated that it was David – and he knew he'd looked guilty, because he'd hated knowing that this was going to hurt them. "Dwayne," he said, instead of saying any of that.

David nodded, frowning. "You were weird about him from the moment his name came up, even more after we arrested him."

"We…" Colby looked down at his half-eaten food and pushed the plate away, no longer hungry. "In Afghanistan," he said, hoping David would hear the words that went in the middle. He wasn't sure he could do that kind of confession again, not after Megan and Sabirah.

"I figured," David said. "I spent weeks feeling like it had to be a nightmare, like there had to be an explanation, and just when I got to the point of thinking maybe it was real, you were dying on that damn ship, and I wasn't ready to rethink it all over again."

Colby nodded. "I think this was good," he said. He'd wanted to stay with them, where he felt comfortable and safe, but the truth was, he'd never have been able to escape the spy thing, or even the triple agent thing, and for that, he'd wanted to go. He didn't have that in Washington.

"I thought –" David said, then stopped, and started again. "I didn't expect that you'd leave LA. I can't help thinking you left because of what I said."

Colby shook his head, not ready to try to explain how David *had* been part of it, but so had other things, other people, not sure he'd be able to any better than he had with Sabirah. He took a long swallow of his drink, drowning the hurt of that out, because he liked Sabirah, they were friends, but he didn't expect to have that kind of connection with her, like he should have had with David, and wasn't sure he could get back.

"You're okay, though?" David asked.

"Yeah," Colby said, meeting his eye, reading the same concern he'd seen there when everything had been happening with the shooting, or with Dwayne, and David had hovered, looking out for him. It made something inside him ease up, some of the hurt drift away. "Yeah, I'm good."

They stayed in the bar until far later than Colby would have expected at the start, and by the end of the evening, he was just about buzzed enough to ask about LA, the team there, and laugh at David's stories of Amita and Charlie's relationship, Megan and Larry's oddball romance, rather than just feeling homesick.

With all that, he wasn't expecting, when they'd paid their tab and were walking through the lobby, for David to catch his wrist, pull him to a stop. David's hand felt too warm against his skin, even through his jacket, and when he turned, they were too close, David watching him intently.

"I'm sorry," he said, quietly enough that Colby had to lean in a little to hear him, not sure he'd caught it right, since the words didn't make any sense. "Especially for what I said at your apartment. For saying that you nearly slept with me so that I'd trust you."

Colby had thought they just weren't going to touch that, the same way they'd steered wide around the night they could have spent together, if Colby hadn't stopped it, and he didn't know what to say, like this, couldn't figure out why David was saying it.

"I wasn't pretending," he said. Maybe it was the only thing he could say, when there wasn't any point in trying to deny it. That, or the rest of what David had said, that Colby had been in love with him. He felt exhausted – tired of lying, tired of losing people. Just tired.

"I know," David said, still watching Colby, all intense focus, his hand on Colby's wrist. "I know you weren't."

"David," Colby said. He wanted to pull his hand away. He wanted to let David hold on.

"Come up to my room," David said. "It's okay now."

It really wasn't, even if they didn't live on opposite sides of the country, even if they didn't have months of silence barely papered over between them, but Canavan was dead, Dwayne was dead, and Colby'd let a guy pick him up in a bar because he'd wanted something other than what was happening, then not even been able to get it up.

And everything that he hadn't been pretending to feel was still right there, same place it had been the whole time he'd been trying to ignore it.

"Yeah," he said. "Okay," and tried not to feel like he was making a bad decision, doing the wrong thing because he wanted it to be as easy as David seemed to think he could make it, or because David could hold ice cold grudges for years, the way he had with Ben, and Colby thought he could bear this more than he could bear that, more than he could bear losing David until he needed to be rescued again.

*

David's room was lightly furnished, not much more than a closet, desk and bed, all in varying shades of cream and brown, with a carpet in an odd shade of tan that didn't really match the rest of the room. Standing just inside the door, watching David cross the room in the dim light from the open curtains to turn on the bedside lamp, Colby tried not to think about all the reasons he shouldn't be there.

Apparently he didn’t do a very good job, because David was frowning at him from the other side of the room. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Colby said. "Just…" He trailed off, not sure what the word was, and David grinned.

"That makes two of us. Maybe you should take your jacket off."

Colby was pretty sure it didn't, but he complied anyway, toeing out of his shoes at the same time. It helped that David was fiddling with the coffee maker instead of watching him, and that David had somehow gotten his shoes off without Colby noticing. He tossed his jacket and coat over the back of the desk chair, which didn't look comfortable, and sat on the foot of the bed, for want of a better option.

David started when he turned round and found Colby sitting there, almost comically surprised for a moment, before he recovered, coming over to sit next to Colby. "Take your tie off," he said quietly, then started on it himself, his fingers warm against Colby's throat. Colby closed his eyes, let David do it, exhaustion washing over him again until he wasn't sure he'd be able to do it himself if he wanted to. "I can't get used to you wearing a suit all the time," David added, pulling the tie loose and opening the top button of Colby's shirt.

"Everyone does here," Colby said. He tipped his head back a little, and David got the hint, opened another button.

"I know," David said. "All those interrogations with senators and congressmen."

"Congress people," Colby corrected.

David made an amused hmm and lifted his hands away. Colby opened his eyes, meaning to protest, just in time for watch David lift his left hand, cupping it in his so he could open the button on the cuff. It was a stupid, small thing, but it made Colby shiver. David noticed, of course, and took Colby's right wrist, opening the button there. "You like that?" he asked, curious.

Colby gave him the best glare he could manage under the circumstances, which wasn’t much of one. Not that it mattered, since David was looking at his hand, not his face. "Come here," he said instead. David looked up, confused, and Colby touched his face, not quite holding on. "Kiss me," he clarified.

David did, bringing one hand up to cup the back of Colby's neck, the other still holding his wrist, so that when they tipped over to horizontal, it wasn't smooth at all. Colby got an elbow in his side, and they were too tangled together to shift up the bed, feet still on the floor.

David pulled away, then pushed himself off Colby and twisted to sit on the edge of the bed. "You get comfortable," he said over his shoulder. "I'm going to take my socks off before one of us does grievous bodily harm to the other."

Colby contemplated taking his own clothes off, to make life easier, but having David do it was turning out to be an unexpected turn-on. He pushed himself back into the middle of the bed instead, his head mostly on the pillow and watched David. Who'd apparently had a similar idea, as he was pulling off his shirt and undershirt, though he left his pants on, somewhat to Colby's disappointment. They hadn't gotten anything close to that far, last time.

Then David stretched out beside him, pulled him close to kiss again, and after that, he was mostly too distracted to think about what they had or hadn't done last time, how this time was different – better, so much better – until they were lying next to each other, the bed a mess beneath them, several of the pillows knocked onto the floor, catching their breath.

"Huh," Colby said after a while. David turned to look at him and Colby shook his head. "That's all I've got."

David laughed, his eyes crinkling with it, and Colby's eyes burned, his chest tight with sudden, shocking loneliness. Stupid to miss David still, when he was right there. Except he wasn't – the easy way David laughed said they weren't on the same page. "If this was an old movie, one of us could offer the other one a cigarette," David said.

"Neither of us smoke," Colby pointed out, trying.

"If it was a movie, we would," David said. He looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then back to Colby. "Glass of water?"

"Shower," Colby corrected. "I don't want the cab driver giving me knowing looks the whole way home."

David smiled again, but it didn't touch his eyes this time. "You could stay," he offered. "Shower in the morning. Early, if you've got to go in – my flight's first thing."

Colby didn't want to think about David going back to LA, about the conversation that was probably coming but could be avoided if he left. On the other hand, he didn't really want to get up and go back into the cold either, his limbs heavy and tired. Didn't want to try to sleep in his cold, empty bed, reaching for someone who wasn't there. "Okay," he said.

David's eyes widened in surprise for a moment, then he nodded and got up to retrieve the pillows and climb under the covers.

It was weird to climb into bed with David – weird to climb into bed with anyone, something he hadn't done in more years than he wanted to remember – and he thought at first that they'd just lie side by side, like friends. Then David shifted, turning towards Colby and resting one hand on his arm. Colby shifted into it, until he was lying on his side, a hand against David's hip, not quite holding him, just listening to him breathe in the dark and letting it lull him into sleep, instead of letting his brain spin with all the ways this was a bad idea.

"You'll be here in the morning, right?" he asked, mostly asleep.

"Yeah," David said, sounding far away.

He wasn't.

*

Colby looked for a note, checked his cell, even though David didn't have the number, because they hadn't bothered exchanging numbers, hadn't needed to when they'd be saying goodbye in the morning, and thought about calling the front desk to ask if there were any messages, before deciding that he didn't need to be that pathetic. David had made his feelings perfectly clear, packing up everything and splitting while Colby had somehow slept through the whole thing, deep, empty sleep like he hardly ever managed, and it wasn't like a part of him hadn't known this was coming. Just not like this. He'd woken up feeling good, even knowing he'd have to say goodbye to David, and that just made it all worse.

It didn't help that the room door wouldn't slam, just closed with a slow, hydraulic hiss.

David hadn't left him a key card, which he took to mean David had paid up the bill on his way to the airport, or wherever he'd fled to. Small favors; at least Colby didn't have to actually speak to the desk staff, since he suspected he looked exactly like someone leaving in last night's clothes.

He went home to shower and change out of his suit, but the truth was, even on a Saturday, he didn't have anything better to do than go into work, so he went.

Sabirah, unsurprisingly, was there as well, a stack of files on the edge of her desk obscuring everything but the very top of her head.

"Morning," Colby said, and she straightened up with a startled squeak, then relaxed back into her chair when she saw him.

"Thought you were someone else," she said, watching him over the partition as he booted up his computer. "What are you doing here?"

"Figured I'd make a start on the list of possible related cases that Valdez gave us."

"Good timing," Sabirah said dryly. "I just spent two hours over in police records pulling these, since their clerk doesn't work weekends. You want half?"

Colby nodded, accepting the stack of files, and settled down to try to pick out more homicides belonging to their possible serial.

He'd gone through five files and found one possible when Sabirah tapped him on the shoulder and handed over a mug of coffee, leaning on the edge of his desk. "How did it go last night?" she asked.

Colby shrugged, couldn't find the answer.

"Because you're usually in before me on weekends," Sabirah went on. "The first couple of months, I kept expecting to come in and find you asleep under the desk."

"Too much dust," Colby said, angling to make her laugh. She smiled, which was pretty good.

"Also, you have a mark," she said, touching his neck, just above the collar of his shirt, very lightly. "Right here."

Colby hoped he wasn't blushing. He remembered, suddenly and vividly, David holding him down as Colby jerked them off, his teeth sharp against Colby's skin as he came. "I didn't think anyone could see it," he said, since denying it was probably pointless.

Sabirah shrugged. "You can't, really." She crossed her ankles. "So, do you want to tell me about it? I don't think I've seen you date since you got here."

Colby wanted to point out that she didn’t go out on many dates either, but he still wasn't too sure what her relationship with Canavan had been, didn't want to risk bringing it up. "There's nothing to tell," he said firmly.

"That's not nothing," Sabirah said, not quite teasing.

Colby looked down at the arrest sheet for the victim in his current file. "I woke up in his hotel room, alone," he said, not realizing he'd intended to say it until he heard the words.

Sabirah didn't even flinch. "I'm sorry," she said. "Your friend from yesterday?"

Colby nodded, glad she'd just said friend. He felt tired and hung-over, even though he hadn't had enough to drink to have a hangover. He should have stayed at home.

"Maybe something came up and he had to hurry back," Sabirah suggested.

"Maybe," Colby echoed, pretty sure neither of them believed it.

*

They broke the case Wednesday afternoon, between a witness coming forward unexpectedly and the results for a series of forensics tests from the latest murder, which had happened on Monday morning, coming back.

"Two killers," Maggie said, staring at the two faces looking back at them from the big screen, one man, one woman, no obvious connection between them, or between either one of them and their victims. "Sabirah, take Colby and pick up Mr. Nion here, James, you're with me and Ms Jenkins."

Mr. Nion took one look at the two of them smiling politely outside his first floor apartment and took off running. "Great," Colby grumbled, taking off after him.

Sabirah shouted something after them about circling round the back which Colby barely heard over his own pounding feet. Nion shoved through the doorway into the stairwell and started down. Down was good. Colby drew his weapon and went down after him, grateful that Nion and Jenkins didn't use a gun as their murder weapon of choice. He hated running into gunfire if he didn't have to.

He heard the door into the building's parking lot swing open and closed as he rounded the final bend, and burst through it after Nion, expecting to see him up ahead.

There was no sign of him, no sound of footsteps, no sign of Sabirah. "Anthony Nion," he yelled, feeling slightly foolish as his voice echoed back to him. "FBI, why don't you come on out so we can talk?" No reply. Colby couldn't imagine that had ever worked.

He toggled his radio on, let Sabirah know where he was so she could come up the other way to meet him, and started between the rows of parked cars. Nion had to be there somewhere. If he'd run, Colby would have heard him.

He heard the car engine start a moment before he saw the kick of exhaust from a blue car, only half a dozen cars from where he was, and raised his gun. "Don't do it, Mr. Nion," he warned.

The car screamed backwards out of the space. Colby fired, aiming for the tire, and missed as the car careened round to face him. "Stop," he yelled, pretty sure Nion couldn't hear him over the car engine, the sound bouncing back to him from the concrete walls.

Nion gunned the engine, heading straight for Colby, who fired at the windshield, the shape of his body behind it, three shots, shattering the glass. He couldn't tell if he'd hit Nion; the car kept coming. He fired again, must have missed, because someone, Nion, had to be Nion, gunned the engine, and Colby threw himself out of the car's path, intending to roll back to his feet and keep firing.

Instead, he slammed straight into the rear bumper of a truck, catching his head and shoulder painfully against the towing equipment hooked up to the back. Everything blurred for a moment under the pain, and he couldn't risk firing, not when he could hear footfalls on the concrete.

A moment later, Sabirah was there, her fingers light on his head, making him hiss. "-last seen heading west," she was saying. Putting out a BOLO with the police who had to be making their way in. "And we're going to need an ambulance."

"I'm fine," Colby said. "Just bruised."

Sabirah held up her hand, sticky with blood on her fingers. "Not so much," she said dryly.

*

Maggie was waiting when Colby, released with a couple of stitches and a mess of bruises, got back to the office with Sabirah.

"What the hell was that?" she demanded, before Colby could even take his coat off, which maybe wasn’t such a bad thing, since moving his shoulder enough to do so hurt. "I was hoping Sabirah was exaggerating when she said you jumped in the path of a speeding vehicle, but clearly not."

"I never exaggerate," Sabirah said mildly, stepping around Colby to get to her desk.

"I jumped out of the path of a moving vehicle," Colby corrected.

"Then you need to do a better job of it," Maggie said. She looked angry, and worried under it, enough to make Colby wonder how bad he looked. Probably fairly, since he was stiff and in pain and really not in the mood to be yelled at. "What were you doing *in* the path of a moving vehicle?"

"Trying to stop the murderer behind the wheel from getting away," Colby said.

Maggie sighed. "Next time, stand to the side, okay? I've never lost anyone on my team, I don't intend to start with you, no matter who you're trying to stop from getting away."

"Yes, ma'am," Colby said.

"Don't call me ma'am," Maggie said. "And for God's sake, sit down, before you fall down and give yourself another head injury."

*

By the time he made it home, Colby's head was aching and his shoulder had stiffened up to the point that he seriously contemplated going to sleep in his suit. Between that, and Jenkins clamming up as soon as she realized they hadn't managed to track Nion down, he probably wasn't in the best frame of mind to be talking to anyone.

Not that it stopped him from finding David's home number in his address book. The better part of a week was long enough to wait for David to make the next move.

It rang for so long that Colby was about to hang up when David's voicemail cut in. He nearly hung up anyway, not sure if it meant that David was screening calls or just out, but if David was avoiding him, it wasn't like he'd get a better chance.

"I never took you for a coward, David. You could have done the decent thing and woken me up. I want us to stay friends, even if that's all we are."

As much as he'd hoped for it, he didn't feel much better after hanging up.

*

Three days later, there was a padded brown envelope waiting in Colby's in-tray when he got to the office, a type-written label stuck on it. He turned it over, looking for a return address, but there was nothing, and it was too light to take a guess at what might be inside.

"You could try opening it," James offered, looking up from his computer with a raised eyebrow. "Unless you've developed x-ray vision."

"Not yet," Colby said, tearing it open and tipping it upside down, shaking out a single folded piece of paper. He felt inside the envelope, his fingers closing over something soft and fluffy.

It was a fishing lure, slightly squashed from being tucked into the envelope.

"What is it?" Sabirah asked, negotiating around the desks with a file box in her arms.

"A woolly bugger," Colby said, straightening it out. There was purple thread mixed in with the binding, familiar from years of tucking it into duffel bags and jacket pockets.

"A what?" James asked. Sabirah put her box down and stepped close, stroking the soft material with one finger.

"A fishing lure," Colby said. He found a spare pin on the divider between the desks, and wrapped the clear thread round it, pinning it up. "My dad made it for me years ago."

"That's nice," James said, losing interest.

"Yeah." Colby felt Sabirah's eyes on him, couldn't remember if she knew his dad was dead or not.

He found the letter and opened it to avoid having to meet her eye, unsurprised to see David's writing.

I thought you might like this back. Quantico's got nothing on the paperweight.

I shouldn't have just left, you're right. I don't know what I'm doing with you. I want to try though. We should talk – you've got my number.

David.


"You okay?" Sabirah asked, not loud enough for James to hear. Colby angled the letter so she could read it, and watched her smile. She squeezed his hand, and said, "That's good," softly. "You're pleased, right?"

Colby nodded, feeling something bubble up inside. Not quite happy, not yet, but pleased. "Yeah." I want to try. "You think Maggie would approve some time off?"

"Don't see why not." James shrugged, looking up again, not even blinking to see Colby and Sabirah standing so close. "You planning a trip?"

"Yeah," Colby said, folding the letter again and slipping it into his jacket pocket. He owed Amita a drink for her help with the child kidnapping case, and it would be good to catch up with her and Charlie – Megan had said something about them developing a matrix to figure out if they should move in together or not. And Megan, of course, to see her face to face instead of over the phone.

And David. And maybe it still wouldn't work, maybe they couldn't get past the spy thing and David asking Colby to leave, then running back to LA, but maybe they could. Finally, Colby wanted to try – felt ready to try. "Thinking of going back to LA for a visit," he said.

The End


Comment on livejournal
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, oh wow! This was excellent. Heart-rending and realistic and just... life. Losing people and stupid, mixed-up emotions and moving on. Love what you did with the OCs. Really love that Colby didn't just suddenly find himself with a new team/family, that it was awkward and not quite the same, but still nice in other ways.

I totally wasn't expecting you to kill off Canavan, though. That was a shocker!

You should post to [livejournal.com profile] wolf_tickets :)
(Anonymous)
Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
Have to agree with Scrollgirl's comments regarding this fic. Completely life stuff... very well crafted, nicely done and very in character for the two.
(Anonymous)
Monday, January 3rd, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
i was reading your end of the year review, and when reading this fic again, i saw that i didn't leave a comment which is awfully negligent of me. so here i am to correct this mistake. i loved this fic, it's very well written, thank you for sharing this universe with us.
(Anonymous)
Monday, January 3rd, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
i don't an accouny but on lj i'm lorientad
(Anonymous)
Saturday, January 8th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
You caught Colby perfectly-not a thing I recently saw in any fics really! He's such a hard nut to crack, with all those pent up emotions and secrets. Thinking about a sequel? Keep up the brilliant work!
Monday, February 14th, 2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
I loved this story. It felt heartbreaking and honest and just--I loved it. *nods*
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 08:55 am (UTC)
Colby has always been a character that makes my heart ache in sympathy and empathy. There's so much there, under that hard-to-ruffle exterior. Like some kind of sadness no one wants to really talk about.

That's why I loved this fic. Actually, it's the first Numb3rs fic I've ever read - I didn't realize there was a fandom, for some unknown reason - and I loved how you left the two awkward. Because as friendly as they were on the show, there was a level of discomfort that never quite went away. From beginning to end, really. It's what made their friendship so poignant, I think. And this fic so chest rubbing.
Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
He has a really rough time though

See, I always thought Colby was born a bit...sad. Not like, depressed. Just a little not-quite-happy. He seems to be strong on his family. The pillar, you know? Cause he's got such an innate sense of right and wrong.

And then all this with the FBI kind of feeds into it because he's essentially lying to his second family, the people he saves time and time again. Not just cause it's the job, either. You can see how much they mean to him, as a touchstone.

Like-when do things start to get easier, I think.

I think that's exactly what he wanted during the time he was forced to play games he didn't really want to participate in. He wanted it to be easier, to have something of his untainted. And then it all went pear-shaped and he practically lost everyone he'd gained while in L.A. That'd be hard on someone that wanted roots, somewhere to land, in the grown up stage of life.