Pairing: Colby/(Charlie) Alan
Disclaimer: Belongs to other people, not me.
Warnings/Squicks: some homophobia
Summary: Colby finaly goes to an Army reunion.
Previous chapters: Part of the Vignettes ‘verse after Don’s Surprise but connected to a drabble I wrote called Love and Fear.
Notes: I would really like people's feelings on this piece. For ionaonie for being so sweet on V-Day.
Beta(s): irena_adler the magnificent.
Colby's Reunion - Part 1
Colby paced outside the large VA hall. A light snow was beginning to fall. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt snow. A book of snapshots was tucked under one arm. Warm light spilled from under the door. Colby flipped open his phone and dialled a number without even having to think about it.
“Hey," Alan greeted warmly. "How’s the reunion?”
“Um...fine,” Colby mumbled.
“You haven’t been in yet, have you?”
“Did Charlie get off to the conference ok?” Colby asked quickly.
“He’s fine. Go to your reunion, Colby.”
“Alan, I’m not going to make it five minutes.”
“Then enjoy those five minutes.”
Colby took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair. “Alan...thank you.”
“Being you. I mean I loved my father, respected him but he was never much of a dad.”
“Don’t be. It’s just...I need you guys to know I love you. You, Don, Esther...Larry.”
“We know. We love you, too. Here, talk with Esther.”
“Hi, Daddy,” Esther chirped over the phone.
“Hey, sweetie. How are you doing?”
“I’m good. I got a new book today.”
“Yep! It’s in Russian!”
“Really? You can read Russian?” Colby asked, never quite able to keep up with what language Esther was learning at any given point.
“Not really. Mr. Berkowitz taught me to speak it but it’s heavily accented with Georgian, and I have down the Cyrillic alphabet and basic vocabulary but I’m still a little shaky on the grammar. Have you gone to your reunion yet?”
Colby cringed. “Not yet.”
“You should go in, Daddy.”
“I know. Esther, honey, I want you to know I love you.”
Esther sighed. “You’re not going on a dangerous operation, Daddy.”
“That’s a matter of perspective.”
“I love you, too. Have fun. Bye.” Esther hung up on him. Colby looked at his phone and sighed. That kid was getting too good at kicking him in the ass
Colby took a deep breath and entered the hall. The light was warm and there was the clink of beer bottles and the rattle of dog tags. Colby rubbed his neck. He hadn’t worn his tags in a long time. They felt strange and familiar simultaneously. Someone approached. It had been too many years and shifts in bodies and faces made instant recognition hard.
“Granger?” Colby recognized the South Boston accent if not the face.
“Granger, shit, we all thought you were dead!”
“Not yet,” Colby said with a smile. ‘I can do this.’
Finnegan gave him a punch in the arm and turned to the rest of the room.
“Hey guys. Granger ain’t dead.” There was a general noise of approval and the raising of beer bottles. “Come on man, let’s get you a cold one.”
Colby accepted the beer before Finnegan went off to greet someone else. Colby spun around at a hand on his shoulder. “Mattie.”
“Hey, good to see you.”
“You too. Didn’t expect to see you. You kinda went to ground there.”
Colby shrugged. “Well you know. Been busy, shit happens.”
“I hear ya.”
“So.” Colby took a swig of beer. “How have you been? How’s...Jenny?”
Mattie shuffled his feet a little. “Well you know, that didn’t work out.”
Colby winced. “Hey, I’m sorry.”
“Long time ago now. We were different people, you know. Don’t worry about it.” Colby tried giving Mattie a comforting but manly pat on the arm. “But, hey I see someone got a ring around your finger.” Mattie said brightly with a nudge.
Colby looked down at this hand and quickly shove it in his pocket. “Yeah. Been there a couple years now.”
“Practically a newlywed.”
“Well, there were kinda nine years and a kid first.”
Mattie laughed. “That’s a fucking patient woman.”
“Um...yeah.” ‘Forgive me Charlie.’
“Hey, I gotta...” Colby gestured towards the men’s room and made a quick retreat.
Once there, Colby looked in the mirror.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.” Colby banged his head against the mirror. “Ok. Suck it up.”
Colby took a big breath and closed his eyes and tried to remember the look on Charlie’s face their first night together. The look that had convinced him everything would be fine. The look that had lured him back to Charlie’s side and kept him there for over a decade now.
Colby went back out to the hall.
“Hey, Davis.” Colby greeted a guy four inches taller than him who he’d once pulled out of the line of fire.
“Granger! Good to see ya. How ya been?”
“I’ve been good, Davis. How’s life treating you?”
Davis shrugged. “Well, ya know, can’t complain, ups and downs. Been on a bit of an up. New girl, new job.”
Colby smiled. “That’s great, whatcha doing?”
“Driving, personal security for paranoid business men.”
“Hey, I hear there’s good money in that.”
“Pays the alimony. Whatcha you been up to?”
“Went fed actually. FBI. LA office.”
“Really? And that worked out.”
Colby smiled “Better than I could have hoped.”
“And I see you got hitched.”
Colby looked at his hand again. “Yeah, kid too. Little girl, Esther.”
Davis nodded. “Sounds sweet. What’s the other half do?”
“Charlie, Mathematician, tenured professor at CalSci.”
Davis laughed. “Got a smart one, what the hell’s she doing with you?”
“I wonder daily.”
Davis sucked on his own beer. “So hey, let’s see some pictures, show off this great life of yours.
‘No fear.’ He flipped open the book. “That’s Esther, that’s Charlie, and that’s me.”
Davis looked at the photo, looked at Colby, and took a step back.
“What the fuck!? You go queer on us Granger!?”
The hall went silent.
“Couldn’t have said that any louder, Davis?”
“What the fuck? We used to fuck girls together!”
“And good fun it was.”
“What the hell got into you? You trying to get yourself fucking killed? Become a fucking faggot! Trying to get fucking AIDS or something?!”
Colby felt himself run hot then cold. ‘Well at least we got to this part quick.’
“You know what I’ve got, Davis? I’ve got a loving husband, a genius daughter, great in-laws, an excellent job, a giant house in the suburbs and a cat named Schrödinger. I have got the fucking American dream. What the fuck have you got?”
Colby didn’t have to use fancy moves to duck the punch, he just turned to the right and stuck out his foot. Davis went sprawling. Colby stepped over him and walked out of the hall.
He tilted his head back, letting the snow cool his face. His heart was pounding and he just wanted to be home with Charlie.
Colby heard the door to the hall open. One of his old friends, Jimmy, a guy who made David Sinclair look scrawny and pale came out. He looked at Colby.
“What do you want, Jimmy?” Colby sighed. Jimmy took a couple of steps towards Colby and held out a photo. Colby took it carefully. It was of Jimmy with his arm around a skinny blond guy. A little girl about five with red hair and wild green eyes stood between them.
“That’s Martin and Mary.”
Colby nodded and handed the photo back. “She’s cute.”
“Yeah. We...uh...We adopted her out of a crack house when she was two. Weren’t even thinking about kids. Bit of a handful but good kid, sweetness in her.”
Colby nodded not quite sure what to say. He pulled the first photo out of the album and held it out. Jimmy took it. “That’s Charlie and Esther.”
“She’s cute. He’s the father?”
“You can kind of tell.”
“Drunk, angry one night stand. Esther was in a box on our porch nine months later.”
Jimmy cringed. “Sorry, man.”
Colby shrugged. “I wouldn’t actually change it.”
The door to the hall opened again. Lawrence the unit medic and Frank their radio man came out and stamped their feet in the fresh snow.
“So,” Frank said. “Is this the unit closet queer club?”
Colby looked around. “Looks like.”
“Great,” said Lawrence. “There’s a beer and burger joint around the corner. Who’s hungry?”
“I could eat,” said Jimmy
“You could always eat,” said Frank as the four shuffled down the street.
The restaurant was mostly empty and they got a corner booth. They ordered beers all around and Colby picked up the menu.
“Oh. Bacon burgers. I wonder if they’ll do extra bacon, or maybe just bacon.”
“You trying to kill yourself, Granger?” Jimmy asked.
“Nah. Just don’t get a lot of bacon at home.”
Colby shook his head. “Not really. I mean you’ve got to fight Charlie for the Shrimp Lo Mian and Don’ll inhale Mu Shu Pork but I think bacon is just pushing it.”
Lawrence laughed. “I know what you mean. I think it’s in Leviticus ‘lo if it doth come in a Chinese take out box it doesn’t count.”
Frank gave a laugh. “My ex, his mother was always convinced we weren’t eating right. She would send us these vats of military grade kimchi. I’m serious, screw chemical warfare, just throw this shit at the enemy. She made one batch that actually set off the bio security alert at the post office.” The men around the table started snickering. “I’m not kidding. Homeland Security raided her house. Confiscated her kimchi pots in full space suits and the only phrase this woman knew in English was ‘I’ll sue your ass.’” The table erupted at the mental image.
“Your tax dollars at work,” Colby said.
The beers arrived and the waitress took orders. Colby ordered a side salad to compensate for the slab of bacon.
Frank raised his beer bottle and gave a bit of a chuckle. “To fellow travellers?”
The other men laughed.
Colby raised his bottle. “Fellow travellers.”
They all clinked bottles and took long pulls.
“Ok,” Frank said. “Photos front and centre.”
Everyone slapped down photos on the table. Colby and Jimmy as the family men slapped down entire books centre table. Colby looked at the one photo Lawrence pushed over.
“Shit,” Colby breathed. Colby didn’t usually entertain thought of other men but the man with his arm slung around Lawrence’s shoulder was gorgeous. Colby couldn’t even guess at ethnicity. Tan and exotic was as about as descriptive as Colby could get.
Jimmy looked at the picture and looked at Lawrence. “Lawrence, how the hell did your ugly Irish mug catch that?”
Lawrence shrugged and gave a shy smile. “Well, it’s not a full time thing, it’s sort of off, sort of on. Well, his family just found out and flipped, so right now it’s really off so...” Lawrence gave a shrug.
“Sorry man,” Colby said. “That’s sucks.”
Lawrence gave another shrug. “Yours is cute.” Lawrence said picking up a photo of Charlie. “Where’d you find him?”
“Work. FBI, LA field office.”
“He’s a fed?” Lawrence asked, sounding confused.
“Charlie? Hell no. Mathematician, one of the hundred smartest people on Earth. He...uh...” Colby cleared his throat. “He just happens to be my boss’s little brother.”
Jimmy let out a low whistle “Shit, Granger. We always knew you had brass balls but how’d you manage to not them shot off?”
“I’ve got no idea. Seriously guys, I’m eleven years into a drunken one night stand and identity crises, a good ten years into ‘I’ll just be here until I can find another place’, nine past a ‘we never said we’re exclusive’ argument which is how we got Esther. And the only time I ever got any grief from Don and Alan was when I taught Charlie how to shoot and that was like a year before we hooked up. Other than that, totally cool. Alan, my father in law.” Colby shook head trying to figure out he got so lucky. “Alan actual gave me his blessing. Had me kneel down, put his hand on my head, old school.”
“You’re one lucky son of bitch, Granger.” Frank said.
“You have no idea. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years now.”
The waitress brought burgers and everyone took a moment to show proper quiet contemplation of red meat, cheese and grease. After burgers were half finished, Colby and Jimmy began flipping through each others books. Colby was amused at how similar the pictures were. Christmas, Halloween, birthday parties, family vacations, evidence of two spoiled little girls adored by their fathers.
“Hey, Granger, who’s this?”
Colby looked at the photo Jimmy was pointing at and laughed. “Ok. You guys remember hearing about a sniper called Edgerton?”
“The Ghost? Yeah I remember hearing about him. Found a few of his kills.” Jimmy said.
“Yeah, what did that colonel call him?” Lawrence asked. “Bastard son of Clint Eastwood and Yoda?”
“Yeah, that’s the guy.” Frank said.
“Gentleman, may I present Special Agent Ian Edgerton, known in our house as Uncle Ian.”
Everyone leaned in to get a better look at the photo. It was taken at Esther’s third birthday. Esther was perched on Ian’s shoulders and had stolen his sunglasses right off his face.
“That’s the Ghost?!” Frank exclaimed.
“Swear to god.”
“He doesn’t look that scary.” Jimmy said.
“Oh, don’t let the photo fool you. Still the scariest bastard I know. I have seen him track guys over nothing, thread impossible shots, we’re not going to discuses his interrogation techniques and Esther has had him whipped since she was literally two months old. Spoils her rotten, they get into all kinds of trouble. A visit from Uncle Ian is better than Christmas.”
“Ah, how much trouble can a kid and a sniper get into?” Lawrence asked.
Colby shook his head “Ok, about a year ago, Esther has a career day at school. Bring in an adult to talk about their job. Edgerton happens to be in town working this spree case with us so it’s ‘Uncle Ian, Uncle Ian, come to career day for me.’ Mind you we’re already in hot water with Esther’s teachers after she stole some crime scene photos for show and tell.”
The table erupted into laughter.
“So I figure I’ll go too, just in case, I mean, I’m not going to miss this. So every other kids has brought doctors and lawyers and whatever and Esther drags Ian up to the front of the class and I swear to god is standing there like some Indian Raj posing with a shot tiger and Ian begins to talk about being a sniper and his kill rates with the FBI and the military and why tracking psychotic killers is an interesting carrier.”
The table continued to laugh, holding their sides just picturing the scene.
“The kids are riveted ‘cause it turns out that any child under seven is a mini sociopath and loves blood. The parents and teachers are all horrified. I think if Esther had brought in a hooker it would have gone over better. Well, the teacher finally manages to work up the nerve to ask them to sit back down at which point Esther, who’s a very considerate child and worried about her Uncle Ian being lonely, proceeds to try to introduce him to all the single mothers in the class.”
Colby gasped for air, trying not to laugh just so he could deliver the punch line to the story.
“And just to cover all her basses, in case Uncle Ian is gay like Daddy and Daddy, she introduces him to all the single fathers as well.”
The table erupted into fresh peals of laughter.
Frank caught his breath first. “So is Uncle Ian gay?”
Colby shook his head. “I don’t know. Ten years I’ve never had the balls to ask and I’ve never seen him with anyone. He did give Charlie and I a jar of lube scented like gun oil for a wedding present.”
Lawrence and Frank looked at each other. “Gay.” They said in unison.
“Head’s up.” Jimmy said quickly causing every man to look to the door. Robert DelRay their old CO shook the snow off his coat and approached the table. The men stood. They might have been the unit queers but by god, they were still Army.
There was a quick exchange of salutes. The men went to ‘at ease’ but remained standing.
“So,” said their CO. “Do you have to like guys to join this table or can you plead guilt by association?”
Colby exchanged quick looks with the other three. “I don’t know, sir. State your credentials.”
DelRay reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a snap shot. “You all remember my little boy, Robbie. Well, he’s all grown up. Big fancy art dealer in New York.” The picture was put down on the table with the rest. Robbie was indeed grown up into a very handsome young man, sipping Champaign with another very handsome young man. “That’s Mark Lee. They just moved in a couple of months ago. Good kid, makes video games or something.”
“Works for me,” said Jimmy. “Grab a chair.”
Colby signalled the waitress for another round of beers.
“So what have you boys been up to?” DelRay asked as the men took their seats.
“Private security,” Jimmy said.
“EMT.” said Lawrence. “Back east.”
“Telecom shit,” said Frank.
“FBI,” said Colby.
“How about you, Chief?” Jimmy asked.
DelRay shrugged. “Did my time, went to pasture, mainly been fishing a lot these days.”
Colby sighed. “Man, I haven’t been fishing in ages. I’ve got to talk Charlie into a non-end-of-the-world camping trip.”
“End of the world camping trip?” Jimmy asked.
“Charlie consults for the NSA and CDC and every other three letter government agency. Every so often, he gets worried that the world is about to come to an end and insists we all go camping with, like, twenty times more gear than we need.”
DelRay chuckled as the beers arrived. “If it looks like he might be right, can you give us a heads up?”
Frank raised a bottle. “What’s the toast, guys?”
DelRay stood and raised a bottle. The other men followed suit. “Only toast a solder needs. To all the ones who weren’t as lucky.” Everyone nodded and raised a bottle. They all took drinks and sat back down.
DelRay looked at Colby. “I got to say, Granger, I’m surprised you’re here. Everyone figured you were dead.”
“Why do people keep saying that?” Colby asked with more than a little irritation.
“Well, you dropped off the map and then we heard weird rumours about you and Carter and the Chinese then nothing again.”
All the other guys nodded in agreement and looked at Colby for answers.
Colby sighed. It still hurt. “Dwayne was spying for the Chinese. I was spying on Dwayne by pretending to spy for the Chinese. I got a syringe with potassium chloride in the chest for my trouble and everything else is still classified.”
“Shit,” Frank breathed, voicing everyone’s feelings.
“It was a long time ago. I’m FBI now. Just FBI. I got a big house, a great kid, a loving husband and I plan to live to 113 with Charlie.” Colby hoped his tone of voice made it very clear he didn’t want to talk about it.
“You got a kid?” DelRay asked, picking up the hint.
“Yep. Jimmy’s got one too.”
Jimmy held out a picture of Mary.
“Oh, you’ve got to watch out for those red heads, Jimmy. She’ll be nothing but trouble. I should know, I married one.”
Jimmy laughed. “Ah, she’s already trouble. We adopted her out of a bad situation. She’s got…uh…behaviour problems, learning problems, health problems but by god, she’s a sweet kind and she sings like an angel. First night she came home with us, she wouldn’t look me or Martin in the eye, wouldn’t say a word. The child services people didn’t even know if she could talk. She just curled up in the corner of her crib and held this ratty stuffed bunny then in the middle of the night, we just heard her singing. It was like listening to a bird, no recognizable tune, just singing perfect little notes to herself.”
“How long did it take you to get the adoption through?” asked Colby.
“About two years and boy, was that a long two years.”
“Tell me about it,” said Colby. “When I went to adopt Esther legally I thought, how hard could it be? I’ve been taking care of her since she was a week old and she calls me daddy.”
Jimmy shook his head. “Oh that don’t matter to them.”
“Well, fortunately, Charlie’s the biological father and you don’t need a blood test to tell, but it turns out that dumping your kid in a box on someone’s porch doesn’t actually negate your parental rights, so we had to track down the bitch ice queen of physics land and get her to sign away Esther. Luckily, the statue of limitations on child endangerment wasn’t up so Don and Ian were able to lean on her ‘till she signed. Still took a solid year, though.”
“Got it in the end, though?”
“Yep. When Charlie and I got married, the judge even asked Esther if she wanted me to be her daddy forever and ever. Lucky for me she was in a good mood and said yes. Kid’s got a temper.”
The table laughed.
“So you’re married?” DelRay asked.
Colby held up his left hand. “At least in the eyes of the great State of California.”
DelRay looked around the table and shook his head. “You know guys, when we were up in those mountains I never thought...”
Colby raised a hand. “For the record, I have never been with or looked at a man other than my husband.”
“But Colby,” Lawrence suddenly said with high drama in his voice. “That night of passion we shared. Under the stars. It meant so much to me.”
Colby choked on his beer while the rest of the table cracked up. “The only night I remember with you Lawrence, involved rabid goats trying to eat our MREs”
“And once they got into the packets and had a taste, they didn’t finish them, I remember.”
“It’s ok, Chief.” said Jimmy. “The Army’s the Army. We signed up to serve and knew what that would mean, head down, do your duty. Doesn’t change a thing that happened out there, it just gets listed as a stretch where we weren’t gettin’ much.”
DelRay looked at the picture of his son. “I worry about Robbie. I mean, I’m his father, I’m supposed to worry but...”
“You never expected just what you’d be worrying about?” Jimmy said.
“Someone gives you grief, you boys can take care of yourselves. Shit, I’ve seen Granger kill a man with his bare hands but Robbie... When he was eight, he wanted to have his birthday party at an art museum. Was pretty sure at that point he was never going to be army.”
The table chuckled.
“You know, chief,” said Colby. “Things are getting better. I mean they’re not great, they’re far from perfect but, they’re getting better. Couple of years ago I got to stand in front of a legally appointed judge, and sign a piece of paper saying I wanted to get married to another guy, and I got to put a ring on his finger and say I do, and yeah, I caught a little shit but not as much as I would have ten or even five years ago. Things are getting better and it’s a start.”