Pairing: Colby, Alan
Disclaimer: Belongs to many other people, not me
Warnings/Squicks: Just talking
Summary: What moments mark a friendship, a love, a marriage, a lifetime?
Previous chapters: A Fight and 9 Months Ago
Notes: Feedback would be nice.
Beta(s): The amazing irena_adler long may she write.
Colby Granger was wandering back and forth across the living room rug when Alan Eppes got up to get a drink of water.
“What are you doing up?” Alan whispered. “It’s 3 a.m.”
“She was fussing again and Charlie’s got that grant committee thing in the morning.” Colby held Esther gently with one arm with the knuckles of his other hand in her mouth. “I keep trying to give her the ring but she seems determined to cut these teeth on my fingers.”
Alan shook his head as the obviously tired agent shuffled his feet in a slow circle around the room. “Why are you doing this, Colby?” he asked.
“Well Charlie’s got the thing…”
“I mean ‘this’ in the greater sense. She’s not your baby. Not genetically, not legally. You and Charlie have made no vows. You’re still young. A normal man would have run screaming into the night.”
Colby shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You must have an idea?”
“I never planned this, Alan. This life. Any of this. The last plan I made involved trying to find out if Megan was single. And this was before Larry.”
Alan shook his head. “You can’t be passive with your life Colby.”
“I know. I guess…” Colby sighed. “I guess this doesn’t feel wrong.”
“Does it feel right?”
Colby felt too tired to engage in great metaphysical thoughts like right vs. wrong. “Can I tell you something, Alan?”
“After the first time Charlie and I were…together, I had a crisis.”
“I can imagine.”
“I mean right here, on this rug, for about an hour, pure panic, I thought I was going to die. Had no idea what was going on. It wasn’t a paradigm shift, the fucking gear box had fallen out and was a mile back on the road. I was going to run. I was going to transfer. I was going to propose to the next girl who gave me the time of day. Then Charlie woke up. He came out here, stood about where you’re standing and he had this look. I can’t describe it, Alan. I’ve never seen it before or since on anyone. I don’t have a name for it. It was peace and certainty and softness and something else. If I was an artist I could draw you a picture but…but he just looked at me. Didn’t say a word. He turned, went back to bed, and I followed.”
“And that was it?’
“We were drunk, Alan. I mean trashed. The next morning, we could have just blamed it on the booze, slunk off in opposite directions, and never mentioned it again.”
“But you didn’t.”
“We got up, took showers, got dressed, made breakfast, went to work. A few days later, a chance meeting, cup of coffee, small talk. It never felt wrong, Alan. Everything I’ve ever been led to believe was screaming it was wrong, but it felt good. It still does. Between the FBI and the military, you get good at not questioning things and I never felt a need to question this. Even now. I’m thinking about preschools and play dates and collage tuition and it just feels like I’m going with the flow. No need to question.”
“Most people call that love you know?”
Colby gave what could have been a laugh. “Or stupidity.”
“Often one in the same.”
Colby managed to work his knuckles out of Esther’s mouth, since she’d finally nodded off. He sat carefully on the couch and leaned back with a sigh. “You know I finally called my mother. Told her…well, kind of told her everything.”
“How’d she take it?”
“Bawled me out for not telling her about a new baby sooner.”
“Expect dozens of hand-made little dresses to show up any day now.”
Alan gave a soft laugh.
“She also told me she wouldn’t tell my brothers.”
“They wouldn’t take it well?”
“We’re Army rednecks, Alan. Seriously. Army, beer, football, trucks, women. That’s life. We’re not exactly encouraged or motivated to think new thoughts. Charlie makes me think about things that make my brain want to escape out my ears.”
“P vs. NP?”
“To name a few. And I almost understand some of it now. When I think about what my life was supposed to be, my teeth ache. I mean Charlie makes me want to tear my hair out some days but…how could I say no to him, how can I say no to his child?”
“Sounds like you’ve done a lot of thinking for a man who claims not to use his head.”
Colby just shrugged and carefully switched Esther to his other arm, trying not to wake her. “Alan, why don’t you have any problems with…well…I mean I moved into your house, your life, rearranged your fridge.”
“Hey, I lived through the 60’s.” Alan said with a dismissive shrug.
“Colby, when you were shot Charlie’s heart broke, he didn’t know why, probably still doesn’t. We had no information. Just Agent Granger down. He imploded. Started trying to solve P vs. NP on his hand. How could I deny or begrudge my son one of the few human connections he’s ever made? He can’t quantify it so he won’t say it but he loves you. You are in his heart.”
Colby blamed the tears on how tired he was and was thankful for the dark of the room. “And the fact that I’m a guy?”
Alan gave a half smile and dismissive wave that spoke volumes of a life before a wife, kids, and craftsmen home.
“Alan, somewhere along the line, my life got really surreal. But in a good way. I think.”
“Say goodbye to Iowa.”