Don stepped out of the dark warehouse into the loading bay, sliding his shades on against the brightness of the midday sun. He felt a contentment that was all too rare in his line of work - the perps had been taken into custody without a shot being fired and their shipment had been seized before it could get out onto the streets of LA. Job done.
He smiled slightly at the sight in front of him. It seemed like he wasn’t the only one to be feeling pretty pleased with life right now. Colby was leaning back against his car, eyes closed as he turned his face to the sun, and looking just as relaxed as Don felt. It really was too much to expect Don to resist the temptation handed to him like that. He walked over to Colby and kissed him. Just a quick kiss on sun-warm lips, except it felt so good and the surprise on Colby’s face was so comical that he went back for seconds. And when Colby started to respond, it turned out not to be such a quick kiss after all. Finally, reluctantly, Don pulled back. This was neither the time nor place.
“Get out of here,” he said, jerking his head towards Colby’s car. “Your report won’t write itself.”
“Yeah, about that,” Colby said. “You think Charlie could come up with some sort of computer algorithm that’ll do that for us?”
“Go.” Don’s commanding tone was spoiled by the slight grin he couldn’t help as he watched Colby get into his car and pull round toward the front of the building, presumably looking for David in order to scoop him up and take him back to the office so he wouldn’t be alone in paperwork hell. There was co-dependent and then there was Colby and David.
Don glanced at his watch and turned back to leave. He too should get back to the office, start the interrogation of their suspects. It was all a formality; they’d been caught in the act like a bunch of amateurs.
Speaking of which… Damn it. David was standing rooted by the warehouse door, staring at Don. It seemed as if he’d just gotten an eyeful, which was extra annoying given it was the first time Don and Colby had done anything like that at work in the couple of months they’d been together.
“You need a ride?” Don asked as he walked towards him, because he had to say something to cover the awkwardness.
David ignored his question entirely “What the hell was that?”
Don stopped in surprise. “Me and Colby? You know we’re together.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t expect to see the two of you acting like that on a freaking op,” David said sharply.
Don’s stomach tightened. “You got a problem with it?”
“Yes, I’ve got a problem with it. I don’t want to see an op going south and people getting hurt because you’re too busy staring at Colby’s ass to do your job.”
The anger in David’s voice blindsided Don. It shouldn’t have. He’d just never expected it from David.
“You know me better than that,” he said, biting down the fury that was suddenly washing through him. “What’s this really about?”
“It’s about you not being focused on the job.”
“Yeah? Odd how I don’t remember you having a problem with me and Liz.”
“That’s because you kept it out of the office. And what’s that supposed to mean anyway?”
“You work it out.”
Don pushed past David, who didn’t move out of his way, meaning Don’s shoulder jostled his, and by the time Don got into his SUV and slammed the door behind him, he was really pissed. He knew he’d let the satisfaction of a job well done and Colby’s closeness in that moment lead him into something he should never have done. It didn’t matter that the scene had been secured and cleared, he’d have reamed out any member of his team who’d behaved as he had. That knowledge didn’t make him any happier about the conversation he’d just had.
As soon as he got back to the office, Don got called in to see the SAC about a complaint he’d received about harassment and intimidation by Don’s team. Given the complainant in question was a self-confessed paedophile, Don didn’t express as much regret over that as the SAC wanted, so it was almost a half hour before he was out of there and back to where he could do his damn job rather than worry about the human rights of scumbags.
None of had left him in the best frame of mind when David caught up with him in the corridor.
“What I said earlier, Don – I was out of line.”
Don stopped and swung round on David, but just managed to stop himself from delivering the blistering reply that was dying to get out. David’s face was open, his expression making it evident that he wanted to clear the air.
“Colby and I shouldn’t have been messing around like that, and it won’t happen again,” Don said in the end. And damn it, he was still mad as hell at himself for putting himself in the position where he was in the wrong. Not least because anyone could have walked out that door and seen them, and that was something he didn’t even want to think about.
David nodded, and passed over the file he had in his hand. “Newman’s statement. He’s willing to give us Ferguson if we’ll do a deal.”
Don suppressed a sigh with difficulty. This was the part of the job he found the most soul-destroying: compromise, always compromise. Everyone knew Newman was guilty as sin; the thing was that Ferguson was just as guilty and they needed testimony to touch him. “Let’s do it,” he said in the end, and passed the file back to David who turned off toward interrogation.
Don stood there watching him go. David had been right to call Don on his behaviour earlier; what bothered him was the way David had done it. Maybe it was post-op adrenaline that had fanned annoyance into anger. Don hoped so, he really did. But he’d seen that sort of reaction one too many times, and the whole thing left him with a nagging feeling of unease.
He watched David over the next few days. David was the only member of the team to know about them. Colby had been adamant that he wanted to tell him once it was clear that what was between him and Don was turning into something that looked like it might last. Don wasn’t surprised - he knew Colby and David were pretty much joined at the hip, both in and out of work, and he also had the suspicion that Colby was worried about keeping anything from David following the whole spy mess.
Even knowing all this, Don hadn’t been keen about letting anyone know; he’d regretted it in the past when he’d done so. He and Colby had one of those conversations they seemed to specialise in, in which they managed to say stuff without saying it, and he realised he wasn’t alone in not wanting to let people know. It was just that David was different, at least in Colby’s mind. Colby had assured Don that David hadn’t raised an eyebrow when he’d told David he was gay, and that finding out Don was bi wouldn’t be a problem. Knowing David as he did, knowing he was a fair, principled and decent man, Don had finally agreed. And he’d tried not to worry about it, other than the slight nagging embarrassment at the perception David might have that Don was working his way through his team.
Colby had said that David had been perfectly okay with it when he’d told him a month ago. But now Don was wondering if Colby had only seen what he’d wanted to see in David’s reaction.
Don hated that he was harbouring suspicions about a man he’d trusted implicitly for the past three years. He hated even more the way his gut twisted every time he thought he might be right about it, because when it was someone you know, someone you thought was a friend, that’s when it got past all the defences and got you where it really hurt. But he watched David, no matter how bad he felt about doing so, because if this was indeed what it felt like, he couldn’t afford to be taken by surprise.
It was because he was watching that he saw it, three days later – something which normally he was unlikely to have noticed and certainly wouldn’t have attached any weight to even if he had seen it. Colby had gone into the break-room where David was making himself some tea. Nothing unusual in that, and Don was just about to return his attention to Liz, who wanted his signature on something, when David pushed abruptly out of the break-room, leaving Colby staring after him.
Colby looked confused for a minute, before shaking his head slightly and turning back to the coffee machine. Don left it a minute, then unobtrusively wandered over and in through the door.
“Everything okay?” he asked, a hand briefly on Colby’s back. Nothing he wouldn’t do and hadn’t done for every member of his team at one time or another.
“Yeah,” Colby said. Then sighed. “No. I don’t know.”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Don said, and left his hand there a moment longer than he probably should have done, before he moved away and grabbed himself a cup from the stack. Preceding Colby out of the break-room, he glanced over at David and was startled to find David’s eyes on them both. David looked away when he realised Don had seen him watching. He didn’t look happy.
“So,” Don said later that evening, watching Colby picking pieces of pineapple off the pizza that Don had ordered, forgetting when he’d phoned it through that Colby thought fruit on pizza might just kill him. “You want to tell me what that was about this afternoon?”
Colby sighed. “I have no idea,” he said. “We were talking about the weekend, and I said something about how we were going surfing, and he just shut down on me.”
“You got any idea why?”
Colby glanced up at him, hand poised over the pizza. “No, but it sounds like you do.”
Don hesitated slightly, uncomfortable. “Just something he said the other day. It made me think he’s got a problem with us being together.”
“David? No way, man. He’s not like that.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too. But he sure as hell didn’t like walking in on us kissing.”
“When did he – oh, the warehouse?” Colby frowned and was silent for a minute. “You think that’s why he didn’t want to catch a ride back to the office with me?” He pulled another piece of pineapple off and stared at it as if it held the answer he was looking for. “David’s not like that,” he said again, firmly.
“Yeah, maybe,” Don said. “Just watch your back, okay?”
Colby didn’t answer, but the fact the slice of pizza he picked up and bit into was still pineapple-infested told Don more than words would have done.
“I’ve been thinking,” Don said later, when they were sat on the couch in front of the game, Colby leaning against him, already half-asleep.
When the expected smartass response didn’t immediately follow, he poked Colby in the ribs and almost got Colby’s skull slammed into his jaw for his trouble. Seemed he might just have discovered a ticklish spot. Putting that aside to explore further later, he went back to what he’d been turning over in his head as he’d watched the Raiders destroy the Vikings.
“Think we should tell the others?” It wasn’t like Don Eppes to ask rather than be sure of himself, but it was a hell of a big decision that might just change everything, and not only for himself.
Colby went very still for a moment, then sat up and looked at Don, any drowsiness well and truly fled from his eyes. “Why?”
“I was thinking, if there’s a problem with David –”
“There isn’t,” Colby interrupted.
“If there is, then it might be best to flush that out into the open. Also see who else we don’t know as well as we think we do.”
Colby’s shoulders slumped slightly at that. Don wasn’t surprised; he was pretty depressed by that thought too.
“Listen, Don,” Colby said at last, “I don’t know what’s going on with David but I’m sure it’s not that. He was the first person here I came out to, and he was cool.”
“Yeah, but there’s a hell of a difference between theory and reality for some people,” Don pointed out. “It’s okay to be gay so long as you don’t actually have sex.”
And he saw that hit home, saw the certainty in Colby’s eyes begin to waver as he recognised the truth of what Don was saying.
“C’mere,” he said, and Colby leaned back into him, gradually relaxing as Don’s arm pulled him closer. “Think about it.”
Don had been thinking about it the whole time he’d been supposedly watching the game. He’d been thinking about the way gay law enforcement officers who called for backup were so often left swinging in the wind. At least if Megan and Liz knew, Colby wouldn’t be alone out there on the streets if David really was a problem.
And hell, Don hated thinking of David like that. He really did. He was sure that even if David had a problem with him and Colby being together, he’d never do that to Colby. Sure of it. But there were some things just too important to take risks with, and Colby’s safety was one of those things.
They turned the game off before it finished, Don more concerned right now with taking Colby to bed and reminding both of them that, no matter what anyone else might think, what they had together was good and so damn right. And later, when Colby gasped his name, voice broken and pleading as his body strained under Don’s, he knew it with every fibre of his being.
Don woke next morning to the sensation he was being watched. He found Colby propped up on one elbow on the pillow next to him, eyes steady on Don’s face.
“What?” Don mumbled, scratching his stomach and wishing for another hour before he had to get up.
“Let’s tell them,” Colby said. “You’re right – it’s best to know up front if there’s a problem.”
In the cold light of day, Don wasn’t so sure any more. Maybe it was best to keep the genie in the bottle because once they no longer had control of it, that information could end up anywhere. But he was pretty sure of both Megan and Liz, and if his suspicions about David had any foundation in fact, the genie was long gone by now.
“Okay,” he said, slowly.
“Yeah,” Colby said, as if trying to convince both himself and Don that this was a good idea.
They’d agreed Don should be the one to tell them, being team leader. It wasn’t like the two of them could sit there in the bullpen and tell them together, the way he had with Liz. Coming out to Liz and Megan was one thing; coming out to the rest of the Bureau at the same time was most definitely not on the agenda.
Don had never really had any doubt over Megan’s reaction. He wouldn’t be surprised if she’d figured out he was bi, no matter how well he thought he’d hidden it at work. Ditto Colby being gay. And he was confident that if she felt uncomfortable with his revelation, then she’d turn that analysis inwards rather than regarding
him and Colby as the issue.
He told her when they were driving back from interviewing Cortese’s neighbours.
“I wondered who was putting that smile on Granger’s face,” was all she said. Well, that, and threatening that Don better treat Colby right, before giving Don a nod that said she was happy for him. At least, that’s what Don thought it meant; maybe it just meant that she approved of him overtaking the pickup truck that had been holding them up.
He ran into Liz that afternoon as he was heading out and she was coming into the office, and he took her back out onto the walkway to talk to her. He still regretted that they hadn’t worked out, but things with Colby were so much easier than they’d been with Liz. He never had to wonder what Colby was thinking, for one – if he didn’t like something, or if he thought Don was wrong, he’d just come out and say it rather than hint subtly at it or try to lead Don to that conclusion himself, which had always left Don completely confused as to what the problem was. Colby came with his own set of challenges but at least he was pretty straightforward, though he wasn’t so good at asking for things, unless it was pineapple-less pizza.
“You should know, I’m seeing Colby now.”
Once he’d said it, Don kept looking out over the traffic, arms folded on the railing in a casual lean, keenly aware of Liz stiffening next to him.
Oh, and that tone in her voice didn’t sound good.
And just before he said something really unhelpful in response to the incredulity in her voice, she leaned on the railing next to him. Her body was very self-contained, as if she was making sure there was distance between them, but at least it seemed like she wasn’t completely hostile.
“I didn’t know, Don,” she said quietly.
“It’s the Bureau,” he said, knowing she’d understand that. It was also her assumption, which nobody had asked her to make, but that probably wasn’t the best thing to point out if he wanted this to end well.
They stood there in silence, until Don decided enough was enough. He was damned if he was going to have to watch and wonder about another member of his team.
“Are you okay with this?”
She turned and looked at him. She was beautiful. Also, he suddenly realised, pissed.
“It’s not like your private life is any of my business. It doesn’t matter if I’m okay with it or not, so why the hell are you asking me?”
“Uh, well, it was more the whole guy thing,” he said, and damn it, even now he couldn’t string two words together around her to do with relationships.
“Nice to know you think that little of me,” she said, and walked away.
Yeah, that went well.
He caught her later as she was leaving, and rode the elevator down with her.
“About earlier,” he said, and she said nothing. She wasn’t going to give him the slightest help here. “Sorry,” he said. “I had to be sure, with Colby and our job.”
Somehow she seemed to make sense of his less than clear statement, the way she always had done, and she looked at him. She hadn’t forgiven him, not yet, but at least she wasn’t mad any more. “I guess I can understand that.”
As they walked out into the lobby together she made a peace offering of her own. “I hear someone’s favourite cover band is playing at a little honky-tonk tomorrow night. Maybe you should dust off your cowboy boots and take your date dancing.”
Grinning at the expression on Don’s face, she booked it for the door. “See you tomorrow, boss.”
Yeah, that went really well.
So Megan and Liz were, overall, cool, even if Don could have done without Megan’s knowing smile when he and Colby arrived together the next morning. He caught her later discreetly teasing the crap out of Colby. Maybe he could have intervened, but Granger was so damn easy to tease it seemed a shame to stop Megan’s fun.
David, though. David still bothered him. He seemed off, somehow, in some indefinable way. Don had to admit that one reason for that might be that Colby had withdrawn slightly since the conversation with Don, and if Don was picking up on that, David sure as hell would be.
Don stayed behind when the others left that evening, nodding to Colby to go on without him, because David was still working hard and Don wanted to talk to him. He didn’t intend to broach the subject outright because he still couldn’t reconcile what he’d seen with the man he thought he knew, and that was in itself enough for him to acknowledge he might be wrong in his suspicions. But he was hoping he might pick up on something that would give him more of a clue as to what was going on here.
He wandered over casually and leaned on the partition by David’s desk. “How’s it coming?”
David shrugged, eyes on the screen in front of him. “I’ve narrowed it down to about three thousand possible vehicles,” he said, then looked at Don. “I think we’re going to need Charlie’s help on this.”
“I’ll give him a call,” he promised.
David nodded and went back to the screen.
Don paused, turning over in his mind what to say, when his cell went. He picked up to hear Colby’s voice on the other end, checking what takeout he wanted.
“Thai’s good,” he said. “That spicy beef I like from that place over on Robertson.”
“You got it,” Colby said. “Anything else?”
“That’s it,” Don said. “See you soon, Colb.”
And maybe he was smiling slightly when he put his phone away because he had an evening ahead of him with food and Colby waiting for him at home. That smile dropped the instant he saw the look on David’s face. “What?” he bit out.
David shook his head, his eyes on his monitor. “I thought you were going to keep the lovey-dovey crap out of the office.”
“It was a phone call, David. What the hell’s your problem? Is it because it’s Colby?”
David sighed, before looking up at Don. “Maybe.”
That was enough for Don. “If you’re uncomfortable being on my team, you’ll get a full letter of recommendation from me to wherever you want to go.”
“What the hell?” David was sitting up straight, shock on his face.
Don turned and walked away because if he didn’t, he’d end up punching someone and that really would be a career-ender right there.
“Don.” He heard David behind him and turned, but as he did so his phone went again and it was one of the neighbours he and Megan had interviewed earlier that day letting him know there was some sort of disturbance at the apartment of their prime suspect.
He briefed David as they took the elevator to the parking garage, and they’d been working together so long, knew each other’s moves so well, that it all went like clockwork. Until they found that their suspect’s girlfriend, who was searching his apartment having shot him in the head, shared her homicidal streak with a friend who came out of nowhere and shot David.
Don was holding David while yelling into his radio for the ambulance that he’d been promised. The girlfriend was dead, her friend gone, and he was putting pressure on the hole in David’s side to stop the bleeding, but perhaps harder than he should be because David grunted and grabbed at Don’s arm.
“Sorry, man,” he said. “Where the fuck is that ambulance?”
“S’okay, Don,” David got out between gritted teeth.
Don never lost it like this but on top of everything over the last week he couldn’t help but worry that he’d caused this, that perhaps he hadn’t watched David’s back as closely as he should, even though he'd actually been in the other room when psycho-chick had jumped out of the bathroom and let off a series of shots at David on her way out the door.
“At least she was a really crappy shot,” Don said, hoping to distract David from the pain he was so obviously in, though he didn’t think it really worked.
And then finally, finally, the paramedics were there. Don stepped back reluctantly as they did their job, and then he followed the ambulance to the hospital.
On arrival David was whisked away into surgery, so Don washed David’s blood off his hands, which was really not a good thing to have to do, called Colby, and settled down to wait. He had no news by the time Colby arrived. He looked pale and shocked, and as Don got to his feet to meet him, it was apparent he was absolutely furious.
“What the hell happened?” he demanded, right up in Don’s space.
“We got called out to Cortese’s –”
“Why the fuck didn’t you call us back in? Or SWAT? Or LAPD?”
“You went there on your own –”
“Colby.” The tone of his voice finally got through to Colby.
Don stared at him until he dropped his eyes, and only then continued. “We got a call that there’d been a disturbance,” he said. “Nothing about shots fired. Nothing that any one of us hasn’t responded to a million times before.”
“I should have been there.”
“He wasn’t on his own,” Don snapped, stung.
“Well I wasn’t with him,” Colby flung back. “How the fuck did this happen?”
Don wanted to pull rank on Colby, to get him to settle down and to listen, because this wasn’t about them, this was work. But he had the feeling that if he did that, if he shut Colby down in this situation in a way that Colby couldn’t fight back against, then he’d be setting them up for all sorts of problems.
So instead Don sat down in one of the hard plastic chairs, and started to tell Colby, calmly and factually what had happened. Colby eventually unwound enough to sit down beside Don as he listened. And as Don told it, it became clear to him as well as to Colby that there was nothing either he or David could have done differently to have prevented this, short of going in with a full task force and they’d had no information to suggest that would be necessary.
They ended up hunched next to each other in the way too small plastic chairs, waiting for news.
Finally a doctor came through and spoke to them. It sounded like David had gotten off fairly lightly in the circumstances, though he was going to have to stay in the hospital for at least the next forty-eight hours. They could see him, but they shouldn’t stay for long, and he’d likely still be drowsy from the anaesthetic.
Drowsy was one word; almost completely out of it was a little more accurate.
“Hey buddy,” Colby said as he approached the bed, and gripped David’s arm. “Can’t trust you to go anywhere without me, can I?”
“Gonna have to now,” David said.
Colby squeezed his arm. “Don’t be dumb. It’s just a through and through that bounced a bit. Bullets do that.”
David grunted and closed his eyes.
“Feel better soon,” Don said from the doorway “We’ll let you get some sleep now.”
Colby took the hint and with a few more words and a lingering squeeze to David’s arm, he followed Don out of the room.
They weren’t even out of the hospital when Don’s phone went again. It turned out that LAPD had picked up the girlfriend’s friend, and she was undergoing treatment for the bullet David had managed to put in her.
She’d keep till morning, Don figured, so they went back to his place and tried to eat the takeout that Colby had bought several hours before. Neither of them were too hungry - Don because he’d been there when David had been shot, and Colby because he hadn’t been. Colby had settled down a bit having spoken to David, but was still a long way from his usual calm self. Seeing him like this made Don realise how calm he usually was.
It was when they were in bed and the light was out that Colby mumbled something into Don’s collarbone, and Don realised that part of Colby’s agitation was due to the fact that Don too could have been shot. He held Colby till Colby finally fell asleep, holding on to Don tightly. Don didn’t sleep all that well the rest of the night because of the oversized limpet he seemed to have gotten attached to him who followed him all round the bed, even when fast asleep. Actually, though Don would never tell this to anyone, ever, it was kind of nice.
Next day Don had to deal with the girlfriend’s friend – no way was he letting any other member of his team at her, because he couldn’t be held responsible for the consequences – and deal with getting the SAC the information he wanted for this damn harassment complaint and deal with Charlie’s latest enthusiastic explanation of whatever the hell he’d done to narrow down David’s search. It didn’t matter that the search was no longer necessary – the girlfriend had been driving the vehicle and it had been found at the house – because it didn’t make the math any less elegant. And potentially useful for the future, Don had to admit.
His head was pounding by the time Megan caught his eye and nodded meaningfully towards Colby’s desk. Colby was working diligently at his computer, but even from across the bullpen Don could see the tension in him. He realised suddenly that he was treating Colby more harshly than he would if there were no Don and Colby; in trying not to show favouritism he was going too far the other way.
He let Colby go, knowing he’d make tracks straight for the hospital, and Megan and Liz weren’t that far behind, eager to see David for themselves now the case was wrapped up except for the last bits of paperwork. Don had to finish up the bullshit stuff for the SAC, but once that was done he too headed over to the hospital. The gift shop was just as sucky as he’d deduced it was from his own stay, but he got David a Hello Kitty balloon anyway because revenge was sweet.
Of course, he hadn’t really thought that one through, because he was the one who had to get it David’s room, past the vast number of people who seemed to stalk this place just to side-eye him and snigger. Where was Colby when you needed him?
As if that was ever in doubt. He heard Colby’s voice as he approached David’s room, and jerked to a halt when he heard Colby mention his name.
“I don’t have a problem with you and Don,” David said, sounding defensive.
“So what’s going on?” Colby said. “Because something’s wrong.”
Don would never normally eavesdrop on any member of his team, but this was different. He inched forward just enough to see into the room while staying out of their eye line. David was propped up against a stack of pillows, looking more himself than he had last night, and Colby was sprawled in the chair next to the bed. As Don watched, he put his feet up on David’s bed and stretched out in his chair, making himself completely vulnerable and non-threatening.
“It’s stupid,” David said.
“Consider the source.”
Colby stayed quiet.
“Look, it’s nothing, okay?” David said at last. “It’s just fucking annoying that you can’t even keep it out of the office when you spend the whole time outside of work with each other.”
“We do not spend the whole time –” Colby started indignantly.
“Yeah, you do.”
Colby frowned slightly.
“And get your feet off the bed – that’s unhygienic,” David said, pushing ineffectually at them.
Colby did as he was told, for once, and straightened in his seat. “You want to see that new X-Men movie this weekend, assuming the docs spring you?”
“Seriously? I thought you’d have been all over it.”
“Do you have any idea how badly it bastardises the source material?”
“You’re going to pass up Famke Janssen in leather? Man, and I thought you were straight.”
“I am straight. Just because I don’t jump at the chance of spending my weekend in a darkened room watching Hollywood’s butchering of a classic with a guy who’s going to be inhaling popcorn like it’s going out of fashion, that does not mean I suddenly stop being straight.”
“If you say so. So what’s the problem?”
“What about Don?”
“What about Don?” Colby asked. “He’s not invited – it’s not like we can bitch about the boss in front of him, is it?”
David looked unconvinced.
“Not everything’s about Don,” Colby said. “It’s just, you know what it’s like, when there’s someone and it’s all new.” He shrugged apologetically. “Guess I got a bit caught up in it all.”
“Tell me about it,” David said. “The two of you are sickening. Just get to old married couple status or break up already, would you?”
“And miss out on all that sex? You’re kidding, right?”
“Okay, TMI. He’s my boss, you know.”
“Mine too,” Colby pointed out, and paused to consider. “Which does make things kind of interesting in bed.”
“Stop talking. Now.”
“You’re still on for Saturday?” Colby said
“So long as you promise not to make me think about Don having sex.”
“You buy the popcorn and it’s a deal.”
Don retreated down the corridor before his luck ran out and he got spotted. He took a random turn or two, and ended up in an empty waiting area, where he sat down heavily in one of the ubiquitous hard plastic chairs, still clutching that damn balloon. Shit. How could he have got it so wrong? But even through the sickness at how badly he’d wronged David, he could feel the relief bubbling up. He hadn’t been wrong in his reading of David all this time. He’d just made a rookie mistake – compiling evidence and arranging it to fit a pattern he’d seen way too many times before, without letting himself allow that, very occasionally, a case might come along that seemed to follow the same pattern but actually didn’t.
He’d got it wrong, badly wrong, but it was hard to be objective when the stakes were so personal. And harder still to give one more person the benefit of the doubt when, all the other times he’d tried, it had ended so badly.
He sat there a while longer, feeling the tension he’d been carrying around slowly melt until he was breathing deeply and easily, something he hadn’t been able to do of late. He needed to see David, to put things right after what he’d said in the office, but he’d just take a moment and let himself relax fully for the first time in five days.
When Don got back to David’s room, Colby had gone. The Hello Kitty balloon raised a faint grin from David, but he looked wary as he pushed himself further up on his pillows. Don tied the balloon to the bottom rail of the bed to join the three others that were already bobbing around, and sat down in Colby’s chair.
“Guess I owe you an apology for the other night.”
“Guess you do,” David said.
Don should have known David wouldn’t be a pushover. That was half the reason Don had always liked him. “Rest up and get back as soon as you can. We need you back.” He paused. “I need you back.”
David’s gaze lost its edge then and Don knew he’d understood that Don was trying to unsay what he’d said the other night. And this was as far as they were going to go in talking about it because there was no way Don was going to say he’d thought for a while David was a homophobic asshole. There really wasn’t a good way to say that. Hopefully David would just put it down to Don being pissed at David for sniping about Colby’s phone call, and that would actually have been justified because since when was asking for spicy beef lovey-dovey?
He checked if David needed anything – the answer was no – and left.
He thought about looking for Colby, but it was probably best for him to take a step back right now and let those two find their balance again. He knew Colby would spend visiting hours hanging round the hospital till David was discharged. He’d probably have done that anyway, Don thought, but having been made aware that he’d been more or less ignoring his best friend for the last couple of months, it was a no-brainer.
If it’s what he and David needed to do, then Don was okay with that. Just as he’d be okay with them spending more time together, because that was obviously going to happen whether he was okay with it or not.
As he walked out of the hospital doors into the evening sunshine, Don slid his shades on and headed for his SUV, a slight smile tugging at his lips. He reckoned he was pretty damn lucky to have the team he did.
Colby turned up on Don’s doorstep late that evening, and over a beer filled him in on the important part of his conversation with David. He was obviously feeling guilty; it was nothing to what Don was feeling, so he changed the subject pretty damn quickly, and Colby seemed more than happy to let him.
The next night, Friday, Colby took David home. Don didn’t see him again till midday Sunday, when he turned up at Don’s looking a little sheepish.
“Sorry,” he said as soon as Don opened the door. “I forgot our surfing plans.”
Don had assumed they were off. “How’s David?” he asked, following Colby into the kitchen.
Colby looked up from where he was hovering over the coffee machine, apparently willing it to work faster. “He’s still hurting more than he lets on, but he’ll be okay.”
“He need anything?”
“I did a grocery run, and even went to the comic book store for him. Guess he’s set for today. I’ll check in on him tomorrow.”
Don hesitated. “You think I should check on him or would that be too much like the boss doing it?”
Colby looked up then, eyes narrowed. He knew as well as Don that if Don ever had doubts about his leadership, he sure as hell never let his team see them. “I think he’d appreciate it, so long as you gave him a heads-up first.” He gestured with the coffee jug. “You want one?”
Don pushed an empty mug across the counter at Colby.
“What’s going on?” Colby asked, as he pushed it back, filled.
Don thought about pretending he didn’t have a clue what Colby was driving at, but that would kind of negate all those hours with Bradford. He propped himself against the doorframe and took a mouthful of coffee. He wasn’t avoiding answering, he was just taking his time. The only thing was, he forgot that Colby could outwait the sands of time themselves if he needed to. He didn’t know if it was innate in him or the result of all that interrogation technique training, but the fact remained – you might as well wait for the seas to run dry as wait for Granger to crack first.
“It’s David,” he said at last.
“I figured as much,” Colby offered when Don said nothing more.
“I know him better than that. I feel like – I don’t know, like I let him down or something.”
Colby was quiet, giving Don the space to find the words he needed.
“I couldn’t take the risk, you know?”
“You know why?”
“Of course I know why, Colby, I’m not an idiot,” Don said, exasperated, and then saw the slight smile on Colby’s face. “Oh, fuck you – you’ve been taking lessons from Bradford, haven’t you?”
“I’m just saying,” Colby said,
“And don’t think I haven’t noticed you dodging the question there, Granger. Yeah, okay, so I had my reasons.”
“Good reasons, Don,” Colby said, suddenly serious. “You’ve given other people the benefit of the doubt before on this and it’s blown up in your face. And I know what you were doing, looking out for me, but, you know - FBI Agent here. I can do that for myself.”
“Yeah, and maybe that whole over-protective thing is a damn good reason why I shouldn’t be dating someone on my team,” Don realised. Because without that need to look out for Colby’s safety, he’d wouldn’t have rushed to judgment on David in the way he had. He’d have taken longer in trying to find out what was really going on before voicing his concern.
Colby blinked, and his face slowly lost all expression as he registered what Don had said.
“Okay,” he said slowly. “So if Liz and Megan were dating and you thought you saw the same behaviour, you’d have done nothing? Or what if it was me and Tim King?”
Don was trying really hard not to let his mind wander to thoughts of Liz and Megan together, when the rest of what Colby had said sank in. “Wait, what - you and King? You want to date Tim King?”
Colby closed his eyes for an instant. “No, I don’t want to date Tim King. I’m just asking what would you have done differently if it hadn’t been you and me?”
Don got his mind back on track and realised. He was protective about his whole team and that was all there was to it. Gary Walker had told him off for it before now, and he hadn’t given a crap. And maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t a good way to be, but at least it wasn’t because he was showing favouritism.
“You’ve made your point,” he said, and saw Colby slowly relax. And okay, that thing about not dating someone on his team had been a pretty crappy thing for Don to fling out there without any notice; he’d just been thinking out loud. He’d have to find some way to let Colby know that. Some way that didn’t involve talking about it. Or maybe they could just forget it had ever been said.
“Listen, Don,” Colby cut across his thoughts, looking shamefaced, “Thing is, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been such a dick to David. The worst of it is, I didn’t even notice I was doing it. I just wanted to be with you as much as I could.” And then his cheeks coloured slightly, and Don figured that he’d realised what he’d just confessed.
“Yeah, well, you’re not the only one who’s put other stuff off,” he said, because recently he hadn’t spent the time with his dad and Charlie outside of work that he usually would have done.
There was a moment’s silence when they both pretended that neither of them had said what they’d just said.
“It’s not too late to go surfing,” Colby said. “Unless you’ve got other stuff to do.”
“Surfing’s good. And maybe tomorrow when you see David, I’ll drop in on Dad.”
“You’re assuming the boss from hell lets us get away from work before midnight.”
“Hey,” Don said indignantly, but Colby was already moving out of his reach, a grin on his face.
Don put his mug down on the counter with a sigh. Colby could be so damn annoying sometimes. Don just wished he didn’t find it quite as endearing as he did.
Colby was standing by the front door, looking hopeful, so Don went to his bedroom to grab his gear for the beach.
“So why Tim King?” he asked as he came back out. “Is there something I should know?”
Colby sighed. “He’s just the first person who came to mind.”
“Yeah, and I’d like to know why.”
“Because he still owes me twenty bucks is why.”
Don stared at him. “Colby, that was eight months ago.”
“Twenty bucks is twenty bucks.”
And the thing was, looking at Colby, Don knew he meant it. God, he’d better not forget to give Colby his change next time he gave Don money for takeout or lunch or even coffee, or he’d be hounded for it all the way to the grave.
He opened the door and followed Colby out. Maybe they could look in on David on the way home and save him from a boring evening on his own. He was pretty sure David would be happy to overlook any sand they might leave in their wake for the takeout they’d bring. A game on TV and pineapple-free pizza for three should let them put all this behind them and forget it had ever happened. Just so long as Colby didn’t get short-changed on the pizza, of course, because if that were to happen it would be written into the annals of the world for all time.