Pairing: Charlie/Colby, the gang
Disclaimer: Belongs to many other people, not me
Summary: What moments mark a friendship, a love, a marriage, a lifetime?
Previous chapters: Taking a Bullet or Three
Notes: I couldn't find a cannon refrence as to the name of Colby's mother. If anyone can find one, great but for now I'm calling her Emily.
Beta(s): The amazing irena_adler long may she write.
Colby really wanted a beer. He hated these things when they were for other people. Standing around, smiling at the bigwigs, pretending he actually liked the agent who just got whatever. The fact that Colby was the center of attention at this one just made it worse. His leg itched, his face hurt from smiling and he couldn’t even sneak out because his mother was there. He looked across the room to Don who had a nice cold beer held easily between his fingers, the nice cold beer that Colby couldn’t have because beer mixed with his pain medication ended in really regrettable actions as the photo taped to the inside of the last stall of the men’s room attested to.
He saw his mother wend her way across the room to him. He took another sip of orange juice, really wishing there was vodka in it.
“Hi mom. Enjoying yourself?”
“Oh yes dear. Everyone’s so nice and they’re all so proud of you.” Colby wasn’t about to tell her that he hadn’t actually met half the people in the room. “And this suit looks so nice. Where’d you get it?”
“Oh downtown.” Actually it’d been a studio auction. They’d been auctioning off the old West Wing wardrobe. Half the LA field office had shown up. The suit had been a Secret Service special. The tag that said Oval Office Agent 3 was still on the inside. Whatever desperate no name actor Agent 3 had been, he’d been just the right size. Colby’d even managed to pick up a Santos tux that just needed a little adjustment. He only wished Martin Sheen wasn’t so short.
“How’s your leg, dear?”
“Oh, it’s fine. Doctors say I’ll be off the cane in a week.”
“That’s good. I know how bored you get when you can’t be up and around. When you broke you leg in the 5th grade, I thought I’d have to break the other one just to keep you out of my hair.”
“I wasn’t that bad, Mom.” Colby said, his mind only half on the conversation. His eyes scanned the room until the found a mop of curly hair.
The last month with Charlie had been confusing. Bruised internal organs, cracked ribs, a bum leg, and heavy medication had put a crimp in their sex life. After a few days of trying, they resorted mainly to making out on the couch like teenagers and, heaven forbid, actually talking.
They still talked around the really big stuff, but at the same time, their thing had turned into a different thing that they still didn’t have a good name for. Charlie turned around and smiled at him from across the room and Colby had the sudden urge to throw the little geek over his shoulder caveman-style and have wild sex in the storage closet down the hall. Colby waved him over instead.
“Hey, Charlie. Charlie, this is my mom, Emily Granger, Mom, this is Professor Charles Eppes.”
“Oh, of course.” She took Charlie’s hand. “You’ve been sending all those math books to our little Katie.”
“That’s right. I hope she’s enjoying them.”
“We can hardly get her to do anything else. She runs right through them.”
“Well, I found my old multi-variable matrix primer. That should slow her down a bit, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll just give her P vs. NP.”
“That’s just mean, Charlie.” Colby said with a smile. Colby caught sight of Megan and Larry out of the corner of his eye and quickly waved them over, hoping a Charlie/Larry debate would impress and distract his mother.
“Larry, Megan, glad you could make it.”
“Like we would miss this.” Megan smiled, and Colby knew she’d caught the hit of desperation in his voice.
“Mom this is Agent Megan Reeves and Professor Larry Fleinhardt.”
“A pleasure, ma’am.”
“My, another professor. And I thought it would just be G-Men running around.”
“It’s the modern FBI mom. We embrace science. Why we stopped reading entrails almost a year ago.”
“Right, now we just read the stars,” Charlie said looking at Larry.
“If that is a crack at my chosen field of study Professor Eppes I’ll have you know I am very close to the secrets of the universe.”
“And how is interstellar string theory going these days?” Colby asked.
Charlie looked at him, took his glass, smelled it and handed it back. “Just checking.”
“I can’t show an interest in Larry’s work?”
“Not while sober.”
“Well it must be the pain killers.”
Everyone in the little group laughed.
At her son’s side, Emily Granger tried to follow the discussion between the two professors but quickly found it went into territories she’d barely heard of. She turned her eyes to her son expecting the bored glaze that his math teachers had always mentioned, and instead found him animated and smiling, occasionally even putting in an opinion of his own. She noticed he also wasn’t leaning heavily on his cane. Instead he was leaning just a little towards Professor Eppes. Charlie he’d called him, in a very familiar tone. There was laughter at some joke she missed, but she smiled anyways.
Charlie looked at his empty glass. “I’m going to grab another drink. Anyone want anything?”
“Beer?” Colby asked hopefully.
“Right, one orange juice. Anyone else?”
“Do you think they have milk?” Larry asked.
“Only if you come order it yourself.”
Megan and the professors wandered off to the bar, leaving Emily alone with her son. She watched as her son’s eyes followed the short mathematician across the room.
“Professor Eppes seems like a very nice young man.”
“Yeah. He’s a good guy.”
“You’re living with him?”
“Um… he’s letting me crash in the spare room ‘till I can get another place.”
Charlie worked his way back from the bar. Emily watched as her son’s fingers touched Charlie’s in the exchange of drink glasses and pleasantries. Emily put herself into what she called ‘church social mode.’ -- friendly smile, exuding politeness and light conversation while only one ear listened, and her eyes kept a sharp look on what everyone else was doing. Other men were brought over. Don Eppes, the boss. The comforting voice on the other end of the phone. Don was harder than his brother, with a short almost military cut controlling hair that probably curled like his brother’s when long. An older man, Alan, the father. Open, smiling, easy laughter. He asks after Colby’s leg, scolds him for standing too long on it. More conversation she doesn’t understand but her son does. Chess, music, sound waves, string theory, some joke about koi.
Emily realised these people are like the ones she sees on TV and didn’t think were real. The professors wear jeans with sport coats, casual, easy. They’ve probably never lifted a single shovel of snow or feared crop blight. They probably play tennis and eat raw fish. She was sure she saw some of that going around on the trays.
And Colby was comfortable with them. More relaxed than he’d been last Christmas. He’d spent his first day back home just staring off across the landscape, then the rest of the trip he’d spent with Katie, even taking the three hour drive to the nearest stationary store the day after Christmas to get her pads of graph paper and others with lines in columns instead of rows.
Then Emily watched as her son reached out and plucked a stray thread that had stuck to Charlie Eppes’ lapel. A simple quick movement, almost unconscious, that spoke volumes of familiarity and domestication. Charlie didn’t even notice, just continued with some explanation. More telling in Emily’s mind was the quick flick of Alan Eppes’ eyes seeing if he needed to be ready to defend…who? His son, her son?
“Colby,” Alan quickly barked cutting through the conversation. “Lean much more on that cane you’re going to break it. Fall over, crack your head.”
“Well, at least it’s a bit I don’t use.”
“Very funny. Let’s find you a chair.”
The group dispersed as Colby was led to some tables, obviously trying to hide the worst of the limp.
Alan looked at Emily. “Your son’s a good man,” he said a serious edge to his voice.
“Your Charlie seems like a nice young man.” Emily replied pleasantly, the vacant church wife look firmly in place. She wasn’t sure Alan bought it. She would bet Mrs. Eppes had had a similar look.
“He has his moments.”
“I’m surprised he and Colby get along so well. He always fell asleep in math.”
“Well, that’s my Charlie. He makes life interesting. Even numbers.”