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Truth and Loyalty

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The new guy is hopeless.

Of course, he's seen quite a few rookies in his life, but few of them have annoyed him quite as badly as Colby Granger. The kid is hotheaded, easily provoked, and worst of all, thinks he knows best. It is the perfect recipe for disaster for someone working alone; worse, Granger seems perfectly capable of dragging his partner right along into trouble, too. And to top it off, he dared to be indignant about his so called plan getting foiled.

David hopes against hope he won't have to be paired up with the man again.

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These guys know what they're doing.

Of course, it's what he expected, but it's still good to see it in action. He's still not that sure about the whole involving a mathematician thing, but it seems to be working, and in a kidnapping case anything that can save time is great. Especially in a case as convoluted as this one.

He knows Sinclair still isn't sure about working with him, but he's on his best behaviour. Not getting too aggressive, not doing anything too rash. Proceed right according to the plan.

He will be working with this man a lot.

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David can’t get a grasp on Colby.

During the recent kidnapping case, they had been joking about the pool with its bikini/clad women. At least, David had thought they were. Now they are dealing with a genuine Hollywood starlet, yet the only comment Colby makes on her appearance is a quip about how he would be annoyed if his neighbor attracted paparazzi. It almost seems like when Colby had been talking about wanting a pool, he had actually wanted a pool, not women.

But what kind of a man would just ignore pretty young women wearing next to nothing?

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They're working pretty well together, now.

He and David know what to do, how to do it, how to make sure they complement each other's work instead of hindering. Their hunches are similar, and even if there's still some occasional needling, it's more friendly than anything. He's even used enough to the team that he's the one who first brings up Charlie. And when Charlie gets a hit, he calls David.

He still doesn't like running after obsessed gunmen with rooms like a movie stalker's, but if he has to do it, it can just as well be with David.

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"And then you disagree with my plans."

"Hey, there was nothing wrong with my plan." David grins at Colby. "Your plan on that first case? Almost got us killed."

"Yeah, because getting me blind with a guy pointing a gun at me is so safe."

"If I'd fired, there wouldn't have been a guy with a gun anymore."

"Yeah, whatever you say, mister sharpshooter." Colby rolls his eyes. "I say you owe me a beer anyway."

David chuckles. "Deal. But first we'll have to wrap up this case." As always.

"Yeah, yeah. Let's get this clown back to the office."

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"So apparently Don's father's obsessing over a wedding."

"Oh yeah?" Colby glances at David. "Whose?"

"Just some old friend of Don and Charlie's. Except he keeps dropping comments about how the boys aren't giving him a wedding." David is grinning.

"Poor Don." Colby chuckles. "Can't imagine that."

"Why, your dad never set you up?"

"Nah. Never."

"Oh? Not the pressuring type?"

"Not quite." He looks away. "By the time I was in proper dating age, he… wasn't there."

"…I see." David pauses. "Sorry, man."

"It's fine. It's… been a while."

He can't remember when he last spoke about his father.

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"David?"

"Yeah?" If he sounds distracted, it's because he is. The paperwork won't do itself, and he doubts Colby's going to offer to do it for him.

"I'm sorry."

Now, he looks up, surprised. "About what?" Obviously, he's missed some terrible slight to his person.

"About the comment earlier. I mean. About high school."

"Oh, that. Don't be." He shakes his head. "Not your fault you wouldn't think of that. I mean, if you had stuff like that all the way in Idaho, of course us civilized city kids would have even better."

"Very funny, Sinclair."

Colby is smiling, though.

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"I need a drink."

Colby sighs. "You're not the only one. Want to go out?"

"Sounds good."

They don't talk much, not until they've both managed to get some alcohol in to numb the still lingering nausea.

"You know, I've never seen Megan quite that fierce." David looks down at his beer.

"Well, can you blame her?" Colby shrugs. "The sicko makes my blood boil, and I was in the war." And has seen quite a lot since.

"Suppose that's a good thing. Proves we've still got humanity left, even with everything we see."

Colby can't say anything to that.

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"How famous was Edgerton over in Afghanistan, exactly?"

"Told you, he was a legend. Why'd you ask?" Colby doesn't even glance at him, eyes locked out of the window.

"Just curious. I mean, you hardly got your eyes off him the whole time we were talking."

"Well, you know. When you've heard so much about someone nobody ever saw, and now actually get to meet them in flesh…"

"Wanting to make sure he's real?" David chuckles. "The way you stared at him, you were like a schoolgirl with a crush."

"Not a schoolgirl."

"That's all you deny?"

Colby doesn't answer.

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"So what was the big fuss about the skull? That it was old and white?" He's heard about the case, but the details are hazy.

"More or less, yeah." David rolls his eyes. "Though Don added some comment on how race is just a construct or something."

Colby raises his eyebrows. "Not my place to comment on that."

"Well, I guess he meant it in the anthropological sense, which is fair enough, but basically only a white guy can say race doesn't matter."

"Pretty sure the white Jewish guy didn't mean it like that."

David pauses. "Right."

Colby just grins.

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"It still sounds almost unbelievable. I mean, he became an arsonist just to make an impression on his roommate?"

"What, you never looked up to somebody?"

"Sure I have. Not enough to go around setting cars on fire, though." He shakes his head. "Around where I grew up, doing things that impressed the older kids tended to get you in jail."

"Yeah, well, I'm just a boring country kid, but I can sort of understand the idea."

"Why so, Granger? You done something idiotic for a friend?"

Colby gives him a lopsided grin. "Keep chasing killers with you, don't I?"

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"That guy annoys me."

"You too?" David gives him a brief look.

"Yeah. Thinks he knows everything better and won't listen to anything new."

"And not just that." David shakes his head as Colby glances at him. "He keeps making comments that are clearly about the kids being black, then claims all he meant is civilians."

"Figures." Colby sighs. "And it's all means to an end for him. Which is bad itself, but when his ends are questionable…"

"Or at least pretty damn biased." David sighs. "I'll be happy when this is over."

"Believe me, man, me too."

They aren't.

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"Well, that was an interesting experience."

"Can't argue with that." David chuckles. "Not the best environment for focusing, though."

"Yeah, I noticed that." Colby raises his eyebrows at him.

"Oh, don't give me that, Granger. Like you didn't look."

"I'm not the one who had his eyes on Brandi's boobs more than her face."

"Yeah, and I rather wonder why."

Colby seems to suddenly find his files very interesting.

"Colby?" David pauses. "You know it doesn't matter, right?" Because he supposes that's something he has to say.

"These things always matter, David." Colby closes the file. "Even when they shouldn't."

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"Okay, that was one of the weirdest chases I've ever been in." David's trying to make light of the situation. He always does this.

"Yeah, don't think anything will top trying to catch an ambulance any time soon." Colby shakes his head. "That was just messed up."

"This whole damn case is messed up." As he'd suspected. Trying to make things seem lighter.

"Yeah, not going to argue with that." He sighs, running a hand over his hair. "People will do anything to keep on living."

"It's an ugly world out there."

"Yeah." And they're all just as ugly inside.

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"Hey, David? You know Colby pretty well, right?"

"As well as one can in this time, I suppose. Why so?"

Megan shakes her head. "He just said something that made me wonder. I mean, when we were checking the room, I asked him what he was into in sophomore year."

"Oh?" David raises his eyebrows. "And what'd he say?"

"Cheerleaders."

"And? That's a normal answer, I'd think." Then why does David feel tense all of a sudden?

"Sure. Except it sounded like a question."

David gives her a level gaze. "Then I think you should direct your questions at him."

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"That was an interesting stunt you pulled."

"Not that dangerous, though." He shrugs. "I knew it wouldn't blow, and even if it had, hey, I wouldn't be here to get scolded for it."

"I should punch you for that." David shakes his head, with a small chuckle. "Almost gave me a heart attack."

"We're still here, though. And the bad guy's behind bars."

"Yeah. And the young hopes of America don't have to get killed before they actually get to the front."

"That's their risk to take." Just like he'd known the risks.

"Yeah." David touches his shoulder. "It is."

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"Good job calming that girl down."

"Yeah, well, when you're trying to tell someone you're not going to hurt them, it kinda helps if they know what you're saying."

David raises an eyebrow. "Well, sorry for not speaking enough Spanish to converse fluently in a stressful situation."

Colby chuckles. "Hey, I wasn't saying that. Besides, that's what you've got me for. Have to make myself useful somehow, right?"

"Well, I've got to say, in this case it was pretty damn useful. Wouldn't even have found out about our first Jane Doe otherwise."

That, and the sound of it is mesmerizing.

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"You worked with Larry?"

"Oh yeah." He chuckles. "With you away and Charlie busy, I was kinda short on help."

"So that's what I'm to you, huh? Help?" David's grinning, though. "So how was it?"

"An interesting experience to be sure." He shakes his head. "Guy went to the swimming pool and then ran back without his clothes."

"What? He ran up to you naked?"

"Not quite. Swimming trunks and a bathrobe aren't much better when he's wet and running around in the middle of the night, though."

"Man. I miss all the best stuff."

"Shouldn't leave me alone."

Shouldn't.

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"So. Feel good about yourself now?"

Colby glances at him. "Well, we got the shooters, and a rapist on top of that. I'd say that's pretty good reasons to feel good."

"I didn't mean the case." David chuckles. "I was talking about you taking down the tough guy."

"Oh, please." Colby shakes his head. "The kid was half a head shorter than me."

"Yeah, and more or less pure muscle." David pats his shoulder. "That was damn good, man."

"Hey, if I couldn't take down a high school jock, they'd kick me out of the army."

"You are out."

"Retroactively."

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"Sounds like Don got pretty invested in that case."

"Yeah, well, it's how he gets sometimes." David shakes his head. "When he thinks something's off, he won't let go until he's checked everything. And in this case, he was definitely right to do so."

"What tipped him off, though?" Colby frowns. "From the sounds of it, if he hadn't known the victim, ATF would've closed it pretty quick."

"As long as it works, does it matter? The bad guy was in the ATF, too. He'd have made sure nobody looked further."

"Right. Except Don did."

It's tricky, this trusting business.

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Colby's talked about the war before, of course. They've talked about everything before. However, he's never talked about it like this before.

It tugs at his insides, in ways he hadn't expected. Hadn't expected it to hurt so much, seeing the pain in Colby's eyes.

If he can take that pain away, even if it's just for tonight, he'll do whatever it takes.

They're drunk, of course, after so many beers they are absolutely pissed. It's what he plans to use as an excuse, anyway.

When he wakes up with his arm around Colby, he decides he doesn't need excuses.

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"How do you feel?"

"You've asked me five times by now. The situation hasn't changed much." And yet David still looks so very fragile in his hospital bed. "Not that it seems to get through to you."

"Well, sorry for feeling a bit off after seeing you get shot right in front of me." His friend. His… whatever they were.

"Yeah, but I'm going to be fine. I'm getting out of here first chance I get."

"Right." And he'll try to ignore the niggling fear. "I'll let Don know."

"Thanks." David grins.

"Hey, David?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I have your desk?"

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"Must be handy to be on first name basis with the coroner."

"You're not going to let that one drop, are you?"

"Well, sorry if I happen to find it amusing." Something about Colby's grin annoys him extensively.

"Come on. Even Megan's teasing me about it."

"If Megan's caught on to it, there really must be something to it."

"Very funny, smart guy." David snorts. "Let's just focus on the job for now, all right?"

"Yeah, let's do that." A momentary silence. "So you can get on a corpse date."

"I swear, I'm going to punch you in the face."

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"You really didn't notice she was all dolled up for a date?"

"Wasn't exactly the foremost thing on my mind." Damn it. Couldn't Megan just let it drop?

"Sorry, it's just kind of funny. I mean, people do weird stuff all the time when they are planning to die, but not many of them dress up for death."

"Yeah, well, I'm just not in the habit of ogling dead bodies."

"Seems to me like you just don't have much experience on what women look like on dates."

He doesn't answer that.

"Colby?" Megan pauses, now. "Oh, I'm sorry…"

"Don't be."

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"So, how has it been working with Edgerton on this?"

"Well, it's a nice change." Colby gives him a grin. "Gives me a break from always dealing with you."

"Why, if I didn't know better, I might think you're not happy working with me." David pokes Colby. It's easy enough when they're an arm's length from each other in the surveillance van.

"Yes, well, he's pretty interesting~"

"So sorry for not being all charming and mysterious." David chuckles. "Too bad you're stuck in here with me until something happens."

"Woe is me. How shall I ever survive?"

The best company.

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"Man, everyone's going crazy with this damn case." Colby sighs, running a hand over his hair.

"Yeah, it's not exactly been easy on anyone." David seems just as exhausted as Colby feels, though he covers it well, eyes on the road as they follow Charlie's new pattern.

"And some are worse off than others." His gaze wanders along the side of the street. "I never thought I'd see Don lose it so completely."

"Yeah, and Larry's practically broken."

"Which is why we need to get Megan back as soon as possible."

"Right. For all of our sakes."

All of theirs.

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"Running after a painting?" Colby shakes his head. "Somehow, I'm not too disappointed I missed that particular case."

"Eh. For a bit there I thought we might actually have a case without any corpses." He pauses. "Well, not any too recent ones, anyway."

"Like we'd ever be that lucky." Colby chuckles. "Though it might have been fun to see Megan arrest the snob in the middle of a fancy party."

"Eh. He killed a guy to stop him from spilling a secret that it was his fault for not admitting in the first place. He deserved all of it."

"Precisely."

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It's absolutely idiotic, of course.

He knows this even as he considers it, has it niggling at the back of his mind as he gives in. It's idiotic and if he gets caught it could get him in hell of a lot of trouble.

Of course, not doing it might get him in far more trouble.

It comes out, of course it comes out inevitably, and it takes a lot to withstand the disappointment in Don's eyes. But then, he didn't get this job for being weak.

The disappointment in David's eyes, though, is more painful than he ever expected.

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"Hey, Colby? What's your opinion on lying to kids?"

"Well, that's a strange question out of the blue." Colby glances at him. "This to do with the victim with his boys in the car?"

"More or less." David shrugs. "Don told the kids their dad will be okay, then felt guilty for lying to them."

"I'd put that under the more justifiable lies." Colby frowns a bit. "Besides, their dad's getting better, right?"

"Yeah, but Don says it's a lie because their lives were changed forever."

"Frankly, I think their father living is the thing they care about the most."

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"Is this really the only place we can keep an eye on the place?"

"Not the only one, but the best." David can't help but chuckle. "Embarrassed, Granger?"

"Just wondering how exactly it's the best."

"Well, where else can you have two people sit in a car for hours on end without drawing suspicion?"

Colby raises his eyebrows. "No offense, but I'm pretty sure that in this spot, sitting idle is the most suspicious thing one can do."

"What, you want us to make out too?"

"It'd be pretty hard to keep watch if we did that."

Colby's grinning, though.

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"So… big breasts, huh?"

"You're thinking about it now, are you?" Colby grins. "Such a dirty mind you have."

"Oi, you don't get to blame me for something you told me about."

"And you seem to have missed the point here." Colby raises an eyebrow. "In men. Are you really that much into man boobs? Because if so, you're alone in that."

"Hey, I'm joking, man." He lifts his hands in defence. "I'm perfectly happy to let breasts be a female only thing."

"Sure doesn't sound like it."

"Well, believe me, that is honestly the case."

Colby just nudges him.

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"So. Glasses?"

"Something wrong with that?"

"Mmm, nothing wrong. Rather, I heard you looked quite cute with them." He grins. "Kinda wish I'd been there to see it."

"Eh, I don't think it was anything special." Then why did he look almost embarrassed? "Besides, I wear sunglasses a lot."

"That's not the same thing, though." Colby shrugged. "Heard the recording, though. I've got to say, your acting sucks."

"What was that, Granger?"

"You heard me. You sounded like you were reading a script."

"I'd like to see you do it better."

"Eh. At least I know you don't fake it."

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"I've got to say, you're being a real brainiac lately." David shakes his head. "First you know all about chess and then you and Charlie are getting ideas together."

"What, feeling intellectually inferior?" Colby grins as he continues flipping through documents. "Don't worry, I'm sure I can learn to put things in simple terms just for you."

"Very funny, Granger." David nudges him. "It's good to see someone making some sense of what Charlie says, though~"

"Making sense of Charlie? I wouldn't go quite that far."

"Still. Good thinking, man."

"Oh, don't I know it."

That absolutely demanded another nudge.

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"So. Fleinhart in space."

"Kind of hard to believe, huh?" David shakes his head. "Man, that's just incredible. I mean, that's not even once in a lifetime; most people never do anything comparable."

"Yeah. He's now officially the envy of half the little boys in the country."

David chuckles. "And some little girls, too."

"Oh, of course. Amita would take my head off if I claimed girls can take no interest in science."

"You have any impossible dreams, Granger?"

To stop lying to you. "Well, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a dinosaur when I grew up."

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"You don't look very good."

"Don't feel very good, either." Colby sighs, downing most of his drink in one go. "And I thought the pedophile serial killer was bad."

"Yeah, well, the cult ones rarely are pretty." David pours him more without asking anything. "It's kind of terrifying, what you can get people to do with that kind of influence."

"He murdered them. Murdered his own followers, escaped through the back, and then said it was our fault the poor bastards died."

David touches his arm. "Anything I can do?"

"Give me something else to think about?"

He always will.

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"He actually hid underwater?" David shakes his head. "Man, that's actually a pretty smart move."

"Well, it would've been if his snorkel hadn't been bright yellow." Colby chuckles. "Though even then we probably wouldn't have found him if I hadn't happened to look down."

"Lucky thing you did, huh?" David pats his shoulder. "Also that you got his wife to speak."

"Yeah, well, the guy has nobody but himself to blame for that." She'd been quite forthcoming once she'd understood the situation. "That, and Megan's damn good at her job."

"She always is."

"Awful pretty, too."

David just nudges him.

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"Gotta say, you look pretty good in a vest." David grins as he looks at Colby.

"Don't get used to it." Colby chuckles. "Suits are annoying enough to keep clean."

"Yeah, yeah. That's why I'm going to enjoy this as much as I can."

He doesn't like it, of course. The last valet got executed right there on the street, and the robbers have been growing more violent and hurried. The thought of finding Colby lying on the street like that chills his blood, but he knows Colby is as competent as anyone else on the team.

He'll just watch.

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"Walker again?" He shakes his head. "Man, I'm glad I avoided that."

"Yeah. Heard he went pretty much mad at the arrest." David sighs. "Don had to hold him back."

"Well, it was a pretty tense case, right?" He pauses. "Probably didn't help that you had Walker on it."

David snorts. "You know him. Two minutes after he shows up, he's already determined exactly what happened and who the perp was."

"Oh yeah, definitely Walker. One day he's going to be too smart for his own good."

"Kinda hope we'll be there to see it."

"You and me both, man."

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"You would've taken the shot." It's not a question.

"If I had to." Colby shakes his head. "I couldn't have let you do it."

"I'm just glad nobody had to do it." He touches Colby's arm, brief enough to seem accidental to anyone else. A silent little thanks. "And that we got proof it wasn't him."

"Ah, yes. The pretty coroner." Colby raises his eyebrows. "Must be pretty nice to have her on your side."

"Come on, man. It's not like that." She was the one who'd kissed him.

"Sure it's not." Colby's hand brushes against his.

That's good enough.

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"I've got to say, if I never have to do that again, it's still too soon." He shakes his head. "There's just no feeling quite like being on an open stage and knowing someone's got a gun pointed at you."

"We got you out of there in one piece, though." David pats his shoulder. The others see, but right now it doesn't matter. "You and the kid both."

"I knew you would." He smiles. "Wouldn't have gone there if I hadn't."

"Yes you would have." David squeezes his arm. "Because it was the only way to save that kid."

"…Yeah."

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"Okay. That was a pretty damn close call."

"Yeah." Colby sighs. "I'm going to need a really strong drink soon as we're off the clock."

"Can't fault you for that." David touches his arm, lingering a bit to make sure he's still there.

"…Wonder if it was linked to ignition."

"I'd rather think it wasn't." The touch turns into a squeeze before David draws his hand away. "Bad enough we just barely walked off. Don't want to think we might've gone up as well if I hadn't stopped him."

"Probably better, yeah."

He doesn't want to think of Colby gone.

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Edgerton watches him put his phone away. "So. You and Sinclair?"

"Huh?" Colby blinks. "What are you talking about?"

"Oh, I think you know." Edgerton raises his eyebrows, seeming almost amused. "Your tone's always different when you're talking to him."

"Yeah, well, he is my partner."

"I gathered as much." Edgerton folds his arms over his chest. "Don't worry, though, I'm not about to out you. I've got better things to worry about."

"I've got no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh, don't worry, Granger. I'm pretty good at secrets." Edgerton grins. "Evidently better than you."

If only he knew.

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The sound of a cell phone wakes him up from light slumber. Eyes still closed, he hears a shifting beside him as Colby answers. There are a few words, it's Liz and whatever she says surprises Colby, and then Colby says something about telling him and ends the call.

"Liz called." Colby shifts closer to him. "There was a car bomb but they disarmed it, nobody got hurt. They tried to reach you, too, but your phone's off."

"Right. I forgot."

"Now, why would Liz think I can reach you when your phone's off?"

He chuckles and draws Colby closer.

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"What's it with you and getting shot in the arm?"

"Hey, not like I was asking for it." David rolls his eyes. "Besides, I'm not complaining as long as it's the arm and not the head."

"I suppose." Even then, his heart skipped a few beats when he heard. Never mind the thoughts of what might have happened.

"I'm fine, Colby." Damn David for reading his thoughts.

"Right." They're alone now, the worst of the case over with. "…Hey. You want to go to your place and not answer your phone again for a while?"

"Best plan in a while."

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"It's still hard to think anyone would be willing to do that."

"Yeah, well, sometimes people can surprise you." Colby sighs. "And not all surprises are good."

"Still." He shakes his head. "If people can't trust the guys with badges to keep them safe, who can they trust?"

"See, there's the problem." Colby looks aside. "A lot of people don't trust us. Hell, we lied to them about the water. Sure, it wasn't a big lie, but still."

"That's different." So very different. "The lie was to avoid panic. That guy… he sold everyone out for money."

Colby is quiet.

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"So. Liz and Don."

"Yeah." Colby chuckles. "I'm not exactly surprised."

"Don't think anyone is." David looks at him. "You think they're going to get trouble for it?"

"Nah." He flips through the pages of the document. "For that to happen someone would have to blow the whistle, and it's not like anyone cares that much." He pauses. "Or more like nobody objects that much."

"Right." David is quiet for a while. "Things really aren't fair sometimes, are they?" Because there are other things people will object to.

"Life isn't fair."

If it were, he wouldn't have to keep lying.

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Colby isn't a traitor.

He shouldn't be thinking that, of course. All the evidence points towards it. He'd left Megan in a firefight to steal away a witness, he'd covered up for a spy before, he'd lied about so many things David isn't even sure if he knew the man.

A part of him wishes that Colby had just stabbed him in the back instead. It certainly couldn't have hurt more than this.

Everything he feels says Colby isn't a traitor, but he can't allow his heart to take over.

The traitor isn't Colby.

That much he can agree on.

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In the end, he has surprisingly few regrets.

Sure, he's done a lot in his life, but most of it is things he can justify. Things he knew he was doing. No matter what the others might think of him, he refuses to be ashamed for what he has done.

Maybe they'll believe him, maybe they won't. Maybe they just won't find him in time, or at all. In a way, that's fine. He's made his own decisions, time to live with the consequences.

He just wishes he could let David know how much of what he said he meant.

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Colby's back, except he isn't.

It's strange, watching him sitting there at his old desk. It's almost as though nothing has changed, except everything has.

Don talked about Colby. Made a comment about how Colby can probably pick where to go next, now that he's not doing everything according to a script.

David hopes Colby can find people he can be happy with. A person he can be happy with. Someone who can be better for him than David.

He's not sure how long he stands there watching, but as he finally tastes the remains of Megan's tea, it's cold.

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His lure is back.

He'd almost lost hope about seeing it again, thought it had disappeared while his stuff got moved back and forth. Sure, it had hurt, but then he'd gone in willing to risk his life. One little memento had been a small price, even if it was from his dad.

For David to have it he would have had to take it before everything was shipped off. Colby isn't sure he wants to know why, or why David now decided to return it. He's just grateful.

He supposes it can serve as a memento of two men.

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Colby's staying.

He isn't sure how to feel about it yet, but he supposes he can figure it out at some point. For now, all that matters is that Colby is here, that Colby isn't going anywhere.

Damn, he's being selfish.

He's not going to assume anything. He doesn't have the right to. All he can do is just be happy that Colby is back, happy that he has his partner back, and not wonder how different things could be.

How different things are going to be from now on.

It's still infinitely better than not having Colby at all.

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Don's threatening to split them up.

That's ridiculous, of course. They're not malfunctioning, they just need some time. A little while to get their act back together.

Just a little while.

It's not the same, of course. He's not sure if it's ever going to be the same, but it's more than enough.

With the case over with, they go out for drinks with everyone. Even Walker comes, but then he's been much more tolerable than before. It's strange and new and definitely the first in a while, but at the same time, it's good.

He's got David. It's good.

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"Don went on a date with someone in witness protection?"

"So it seems." David sighs. "As friends, he insists, but still."

"Oookay." Colby shakes his head. "I mean, it'd be pretty damn hypocritical for me to scold him for getting his love life involved with work, but…"

"Yeah, can't imagine it was too easy to balance that with spying." He can't help the slightly bitter tone of his voice.

"I was referring more to dating another agent, but hey, if that's how you want to take it." Colby turns towards his computer.

Way to mess things up even further, Sinclair.

Chapter Text

"What the Hell were you thinking?"

"Uh, not that it was a trap?" Colby rolls his eyes. "I don't exactly make a sport of trying to get killed, you know."

"Well, in that case you're damn good at faking it." David frowns, leaning closer to get a look at his scratches. "You're damn lucky they managed to pull you up."

"Yeah, well, better me than them in any case." Colby sighs. "It's Amita they were targetting. Should I have let her get caught instead?"

"Just… not you."

There's a silence. "David?"

"I just got you back. Don't get killed now."

Chapter Text

"So. Megan got you a date?"

"Did her best, at least." Colby isn't looking at him.

"So, that another lie you told me?"

"What do you mean?"

"You claimed you're not into women."

"Not really." Colby shrugs. "Thought I'd give it a try."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Why do you think?"

"Honestly? Best explanation I have is that now that you're not undercover, you can have the life you always wanted."

"Yeah, could be." Colby glances at him. "Or could be there were rumours and I wanted them to stop."

"Rumours bother you?"

Colby pauses. "When they're about you."

Chapter Text

"Never, ever do that again." Colby takes his vest off. "I damn near had a heart attack."

"Yeah, well, I was kind of short on options." David sighs. "Didn't see what else I could do."

"You got back in one piece." He hesitates for a moment before reaching to touch David's shoulder. "Good job, man." His touch lingers.

"Thanks to you. If you hadn't shut that door, I'd have been dead before him."

"Couldn't let them turn you into Swiss cheese."

"Yeah. I just… thanks, man."

"Anytime."

There's a pause. "Hey, Colby?"

"Yeah?"

David sounds hesitant. "You doing anything tonight?"

Chapter Text

"Good ears, man."

"Good enough." Colby shrugs. "We found her."

"You found her." David touches his arm, just for a moment.

"I just happened to hear her first." Colby doesn't look too cheerful.

"But you did. That's what matters." David pauses. "It's hard to imagine, living like she did. Not letting anyone close."

"It's always a gamble, trusting someone else." There's a slight frown on Colby's face. "All the easier to get hurt."

"I know." David swallows. "But more often than not, the gamble is worth it."

His fingertips gently trace the side of Colby's face.

Colby doesn't draw away.

Chapter Text

"Been a while since we were on a proper stakeout."

"Yeah. Suppose we'll have to find some new things to talk about." Colby grins a bit. "At least we've got cards."

"Indeed." David chuckles and shakes his head. "Can't believe it took us over two years to run out of things to say."

"Had to happen some time, I guess."

"…It's kind of weird, though." David isn't looking at him. "I know so much about you, but… I almost feel like I don't know you at all."

"Well." He can't exactly blame the man. "Maybe you'd like to find out?"

Chapter Text

"Hey, Colby? You once said you know chess, right?"

"Well, I know the rules. Play well enough for fun. Why?"

"Think you could teach me?"

Now, Colby looks up from his computer. "I thought you asked Bishop to teach you."

"Yeah, well, I did. The thing is, he keeps beating me. And looks bored when he does."

Colby grins. "And what am I supposed to do about it?"

"I don't know. Thought you could teach me a trick or two."

"Chess has no tricks, David. No lucky shots or keeping a queen up your sleeve."

"But I keep losing!"

"Tough."

Chapter Text

"Maybe I should be worried."

"Oh? About what?"

"The bad influence Charlie's having on me." He tries to sigh but it turns into more of a chuckle. "We've got a private war brewing in our hands and my first thought is to find algorithms to predict their movements."

"Eh, I don't think that's such a bad thing. Work smart, not hard."

Colby snorts. "Like it's possible not to work hard with this damn job. Nah, it's more that I know things aren't that easy. When lives are on the line, you don't follow formulas."

"Hey, if it works…"

"Right. If."

Chapter Text

"So. Is there anyone this guy wasn't playing all along?"

"Pretty sure he covered all his bases." Colby sighs. "Kills a guy to clear the way, poisons the church to get an excuse, blows up his companion when things go awry, and has his girlfriend take the fall when everything else comes down."

"Not to say conmen usually are honest, but this guy really takes the cake." David shakes his head. "I bet when we track him down, he'll blame it all on Susan."

"Nah. I think it's going to be Audrey until the end."

"Twenty on that?"

"You're on."

Chapter Text

"What did Don mean by that?"

"Mean by what?" Yeah, Granger, go ahead and play innocent.

"That you're not going to mess with me." Liz seems more amused than anything, which is probably a good thing. Probably.

"Who knows why Don says anything." Who knows how Don would know anything.

"He rarely says something just to mess with people." Liz's lips twitch. "So? Anything you'd like to confess?"

"Eh, I don't know." He shrugs. "Confessing would imply I've done something wrong."

"Fair enough." Her smile softens just a bit. "Nothing wrong with you."

"Right." He pauses. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

Chapter Text

"We lost our geek." Colby sighs.

"Well, technically, we only lost one of them." Not that it makes it any better. "There's still Amita and Larry."

"I know. Doesn't make this mess any easier."

"Well, we managed to work before Charlie got into this. Suppose we'll just have to get used to not having him again."

"Need I remind you of all the times we'd have been utterly lost without Charlie?"

"I'm well aware, thanks." He pauses. "I hope it was worth it for him."

"Charlie's a big boy. He was aware of the price."

He supposes Colby would know.

Chapter Text

"It's kind of a pity Edgerton can't show up more often."

David gives him an amused glance. "Is it, now?"

"Oh yeah." Colby grins. "He always makes things so much more interesting."

"I suppose I should not ask you what you mean by that comment."

"Oh, I was obviously only referring to him forcing Charlie to work with us again. What else could I have meant?" He puts on his most innocent grin. It's not very innocent at all.

"I've got absolutely no idea." David whacks him over the head with a folder. "Beers after this?"

"You know it, man."

Chapter Text

"Think we are too harsh on her?"

"Nah." David nudges Colby's shoulder. "Everyone gets ribbing when they're new. I know I wasn't too easy on you, either."

"You can say that again." Colby snorts. "Though then, you've hardly gotten any better about that."

"Now, now. I'm not as cruel to you anymore, I hope."

"Well, that depends on how you look at it. Sometimes you can be pretty damn annoying." Colby is grinning, though.

"Very funny, Granger." David chuckles. "We should probably change clothes if we plan to take her for that beer."

"Yeah. Can't let her be too miserable."

Chapter Text

Colby has screwed up, now.

So what if there was no actual sex; he got into bed with a naked woman, accepting her embraces and kisses. He doesn't know what he was thinking, if anything. It doesn't matter that he turned down anything further than that, it doesn't matter that she was the instigator, not even the fact that there was no physical attraction involved on his part has much bearing. He has screwed up, and now he has to face the consequences.

It never even crosses his mind simply not to tell David. He has betrayed him often enough.

Chapter Text

At this point, he can laugh.

The joke is not very funny, just Colby making some comment on how the bureau frowns on involvement with witnesses, but David can't help but chuckle. It's so absurd, isn't it, that just a little while ago it almost tore them apart and now they manage to joke about it.

It still hurts, and he doesn't know when the pain will end, when he can trust fully again. However, it's fading, and every day takes it farther. Every laugh reminds him how insignificant it was.

He wonders if Colby jokes just to remind him.

Chapter Text

It's some kind of revenge, isn't it, this little date of his and then ending up on television for it. Well, he supposes he can't blame David for the media, but the intent of the initial date is clear.

Not that he can blame David, of course. If David chooses to go on a date with a pretty young woman, hell, if David chooses to break up with him for the sake of a pretty young woman, it's well within his rights to do so. Colby has definitely deserved it.

He shouldn't feel so glad the woman ends up fake.

Chapter Text

"I can't believe you guys went surfing without me."

"Not my fault you weren't there." Colby grins at him. The nerve. "Believe me, if I'd had the chance to see you fall right into the water, I'd have taken it without hesitation."

"Like that would have happened." Like he knew how to surf.

"Easy for you to say now, huh?" Colby grins. "Maybe next time we have a day off, we could go and see."

"Hmm, might be fun. I'd get to see you in a wet suit."

"Should have known you'd immediately pinpoint the main attraction of the sport."

Chapter Text

He's not sure afterwards how he gets David home. There are moments when he's more or less carrying his partner when David is barely awake enough to stay on his feet, and David's not a small man. Somehow, though, he gets them both to the car, drives to David's place, and gets him inside and to the bed.

For a moment he stands watching David, weighing his options. He's exhausted as well, but not quite asleep yet. He could, theoretically, drive home.

Climbing into bed, he holds onto his consciousness just long enough to draw the sheets over them both.

Chapter Text

"So. How many times were you tempted to punch that guy?"

"Eh, not that many." David chuckles. "It's not that often that we get to deal with a genuine comic relief."

"A genuine idiot, you mean." Colby shakes his head. "Someone's seen a little too much bad TV."

"Oh, I don't know. Some of his ideas were pretty good, actually." David grins. "I mean, everyone knows that members of the senate are actually appointed by Illuminati, but he's the first one who's linked them to the gas prices, too."

Totally worth it just to see the look on Colby's face.

Chapter Text

"Well." David is shaking his head. "I've got to say, that was not exactly the kind of case that happens every day."

"Thankfully not, no." Colby chuckles. "Though I was pretty impressed with how well those two managed to work together."

"Oh, yeah. I'm not sure if we should be happy or worried that they managed to band together."

"What do you mean? Two heads are better than one, right?"

"These aren't regular heads we're talking about, Granger. These are geniuses."

"Right." He pauses, thinking about the situation. "You know, I think I'm pretty happy with one."

"Precisely my thoughts."

Chapter Text

"You all right?"

David pauses, tensing almost visibly. "There a reason I shouldn't be?"

Colby shrugs. "Well, you did just have to hold us all back while Don gambled his life on his understanding of a teenage psycho's desires."

David is quiet for a moment. Then he spins around, drawing Colby into a crushing hug. "If you ever pull that shit on me, I'll put a bullet in you myself."

"Don't worry," Colby murmurs. "Next time I confront a spree killer I'll make sure to get the plan approved by you."

David laughs, and Colby ignores how teary he sounds.

Chapter Text

"Well, that was an adventure."

"One with no casualties. I think I like this type." Colby's hair is a mess after spending most of the day sweating outside. David itches to reach out and touch it.

"I think I prefer this type too." David shakes his head. "Not often we get someone becoming a widow to spy on us, though."

"Yeah, good call on that one." Colby smirks. "You going to hang around if I get myself shot?"

Somehow, David manages a grin. "Why, you planning on getting into the hostage business?"

Colby laughs, but David will have nightmares anyway.

Chapter Text

"You all right?"

"As all right as I'm ever going to be." Colby shakes his head, somehow managing a smile. "Never been a big fan of hostage situations in the dark."

"Oh, but in daylight they're fine?"

"Sure, I'll take it. Can't get too picky in this field, after all." Colby shrugs. "Shooting hostage takers is basically traditional, like random shoot-outs in a restaurant."

"So." David glances at him, a hint of a smirk on his face. "I'm getting hungry. Fancy some Chinese?"

Colby barks out a laugh. "Actually, I think I'm in the mood for some Indian instead."

Chapter Text

"Wait. Wait wait wait, back up." Colby is barely holding back his laughter, not that David can blame him. "I miss a case, and it's all about sneakers?"

"You think you're baffled? I had to live through that mess." David shakes his head. "At this point, I was half expecting you to turn out to be a secret shoe maniac."

"Me? Nah. I'll leave the obsessive collecting to you." Colby snorts. "One day I'll find you crushed under an avalanche of comic books."

"Hey, as long as you make sure I get buried in nice shoes."

Finally, Colby's composure cracks.

Chapter Text

"You know, we could probably just tell her."

"Tell who?" Colby looks up from his sandwich. Hey, just because he didn't actually go for the girl doesn't mean he can't be hungry. And the roast beef is good.

"Nikki." David shrugs, brushing a crumb of bread from the corner of his mouth. "About us, I mean. I don't think she'd get all weird about it."

"Except teasing us at every opportunity, you mean." Not that it would be too terribly bad, but, it's the principle of the thing.

"She has to get tired of it some time."

"Nikki? Definitely not."

Chapter Text

"So you got the promotion, huh."

"I see you already heard." David nods, not that the confirmation is needed. "Yup. I now officially outrank your ass."

"I don't know, you seem to value my ass pretty highly." Colby chuckles, then turns more serious. "Still think you want the boss job after this mess?"

"Hey, someone's got to do it. And I'm damn well going to get better at it."

"I know you are." Colby nudges him. "You've just still got stuff to learn, that's all."

"Let's hope it doesn't take too long."

He can't stand the thought of failing everyone.

Chapter Text

"I've got to say, I'm glad it turned out to be a hoax." Colby flops down on the couch, making space for David when he gets a nudge. "Wasn't looking forward to my phone turning on me."

"I'm pretty sure Charlie could give us a lecture about how far we're from that, but at the moment I think I've gotten quite enough of tech talk." David draws him closer. "Think you could convince me there's things computers can't do?"

"Oh, I don't know." Colby smirks. "That one was pretty good with its mouth."

David decides to silence him. So, victory.

Chapter Text

All right, so maybe he's being a bit clingy. David likes to think he has an excuse after that hell of a case.

Not that Colby's calling him out on it, of course. He's been quiet for a long while, just holding David while he clings to Colby. It's been like this since Colby walked in.

Finally Colby speaks, his voice quiet. "So, Nikki asked me something interesting."

David can't help but groan. "When did she have time to ask you anything?"

"She finds ways. So, you tell her about us?"

"No." David pauses. "Should I have?"

Colby is quiet.

Chapter Text

"So, eager to get things back to normal?"

"I think we all are." David relaxes minutely as Colby leans against his shoulder. "Being the boss is harder than Don makes it look."

"Especially if you've got assholes working under you."

"Hey." As David glances to his side, Colby doesn't meet his gaze. "Hey, Colby. We talked about this already."

"Yeah, well, I'm still sorry." Colby's hand touches his, just for a moment. "Things were already shitty, and I made it harder on you."

"Can't blame you." David sighs. "Things were hard on everyone."

He reaches for Colby's hand, seeking warmth.

Chapter Text

"You sent Charlie to the conspiracy guy?" Colby isn't sure he can keep the amusement out of his voice. Or disbelief, he isn't entirely sure which one he is going for right now.

"He wanted anything I could give him, and there wasn't much I could offer. Officially, anyway." David shrugs. "If he gets something more concrete, he'll come to us."

"I would pay good money to see that meeting in person." Colby shakes his head. "Think anything will come of this mess?"

"No idea. But if there is something, Charlie will find it."

Charlie always comes through, after all.

Chapter Text

"You did well, you know."

"Really?" Colby lifts his eyebrows. "Because listening to Nikki you'd think I was selling out state secrets. Again."

"Nuh-uh, not touching that particular bombshell." David shakes his head. "Just. You helped Bloom get some… closure, I guess. Even if he wasn't playing by the rules."

"Yeah, I know how you like your rules." Colby looks away. "I was being pretty selfish, though. And it could have gone all wrong."

"It didn't, though. And we saved a lot of lives." David pauses. "And got good pizza."

"Yeah. Pizza's always a good end."

Finally, Colby smiles.