ext_2353: amanda tapping, chris judge, end of an era (n3 colby/david)
[identity profile] scrollgirl.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] numb3rsflashfic
Hi, I'm new. This is my first attempt at Numb3rs fic, and at flashfic. Hope this meets the comm's rules!

Title: Doubt thou the stars are fire
Pairing: David Sinclair/Colby Granger
Rating/Category: PG-13, slash (UST)
Words: 3840
Spoilers: "Thirty-Six Hours", "Blowback", "Trust Metric", and Justice League's series finale, "Starcrossed"
Summary: David and Colby relax at home with some cartoons, but things don't stay relaxed when unresolved feelings start to surface. Set post-"Thirty-Six Hours".
Author's Note: Please be warned that I divulge some plot and romantic story-lines for Justice League and (to a lesser extent) Justice League Unlimited. If you don't know what Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and the rest of the League look like, I posted spoilery screencaps yesterday.


Doubt thou the stars are fire
by Scroll


Colby finds David prone on a bench in the darkened locker room, fast asleep. No surprise there--David hasn't stopped for more than a sandwich and caffeine pills in over fifty hours, too desperate to save the victims trapped in the train wreck to think about his own body's needs. If the past couple of days have proved anything, it's that despite being a highly-trained FBI agent, despite being no stranger to death or violence, ultimately David is a civilian, not a soldier.

It's a forceful reminder of the differences between them, but Colby tries not to let it bother him. Anyway, the other thing the past two days have proved is that David has the biggest heart of anyone he knows. If he's honest with himself, it frightens him a little what that heart will lead David to do. Colby's willingness to fling himself bodily into harm's way is rooted in his confidence in his abilities, whereas David's seems to stem from an inability to let harm come to innocents. Not to say David lacks skills or Colby lacks compassion, but it does mean occasionally their motivations don't line up.

But in the end it doesn't matter what David's reasons are, because Colby will always, always have his back.

"Hey, man," he says, opening his locker to stash his badge, side arm, and spare clip. "Wake up, I'll give you a ride home."

"Yeah," David mumbles, stirring. "Yeah." But when Colby turns around, the guy's conked out again, snoring.

Colby laughs quietly and goes over to pat his cheek. "Come on, don't make me carry you." David wakes up enough to keep his balance once Colby levers him to his feet, and all forward motion after that is simply Colby exerting greater force than David's resistance. They make it to the elevator, down to the lobby, and out into the parking lot without falling down once or running into a wall, which Colby counts as a win.

"Put on your seat belt, buddy," he tells David, who manages after some fumbling and drops off again before the car has even pulled out of its spot.

There's a warm breeze blowing in through the rolled down windows and Colby feels exhaustion dragging him under, but traffic on the 405 is okay at this time of night and David's apartment is right off Venice Boulevard, so thankfully it doesn't take long to get there.

David's a heavy weight pressed along his side as Colby drags him up the flight of stairs, and at the door to the apartment he has to dig his hand into the deep front pockets of David's jeans to find his keys. David murmurs something unintelligible--a name, maybe--and turns his face into Colby's neck. Colby has to stop and breathe for a moment with the key halfway turned in the lock.

Inside, he bypasses both kitchen and bathroom in favour of the bedroom--what David needs more than a hot meal or a hot shower is eight hours of REM sleep. Eyes shut, already halfway to the land of Nod, David moves his arms and legs and stands and sits at Colby's command as Colby efficiently strips him down to his briefs. "I should get hazard pay for this," he mutters, and keeps his eyes above the waist as he tucks David beneath the sheets.

Colby leans over and flicks off the bedside lamp. The bedroom is cool and restful, nearly pitch black from thick curtains blocking out yellow streetlights and the pale glow of the moon. He sits for a minute on the edge of the bed, breathing in the dark and quiet, feeling David's body heat against his hip, listening to his soft, steady snores blur into the rhythm of remembered waves washing ashore, washing over him, the tide of sleep towing him out to sea.

*

David wakes when his bladder decides to make itself known, not an unusual occurrence on his days off when he doesn't set the alarm. What is unusual is finding Colby Granger snoring faintly less than a foot away, one arm thrown over his head, a glisten of saliva at the corner of his mouth. The sheets have been kicked to the foot of the bed, so David can see that although he himself is nearly naked, Granger's fully clothed except for shoes. He hopes that means they didn't get drunk last night and do something phenomenally stupid.

Cautiously he sniffs the air--no lingering sex-smell, but there's the stink of sweat and fear and fire, and it turns a page in his memory, a four colour, full bleed spread of the past three days.

"God," he whispers, and Colby blinks instantly awake.

"Hey," says Colby, twisting his head on the pillow to look at David. "Y'okay?" His voice is scratchy from sleep.

"Train wreck," says David, remembering, but Colby's concerned gaze makes the jagged metal and cramped spaces and poisoned air of the pile seem like a bad dream. It's not worth reliving, not here in the comfort and familiarity of his bed. "We saved the kid and the old man."

Colby's smile crinkles his eyes. "Yeah, David, we saved them." He yawns then, stale morning breath right in David's face, rolls over until he's snuggled up on David's shoulder, and promptly goes back to sleep. It's surreal.

"You smell like a gym bag," David tells the top of his head, but extracts his arm with care, sliding a second pillow under Colby's cheek.

David's not smelling all that fresh either, so he takes a long, hot shower and scrubs away the dirt and tension of the past three days, rinsing from his mind the computer images of fading heat signatures, and before that, the sick look of anticipation on the pedophile they busted. He dwells instead on a teenage girl saved, a mother and child reunited, a trembling hand gripping his own. He dwells on his partner, who followed him into the pile, who took him home and put him to bed, and is now curled up on that same bed like it's his own.

He knows there's something there, though he doesn't know what exactly it is. It's not like Colby has ever checked him out in the locker room or dropped hints in their rambling conversations during stakeouts. He has no evidence to back up his suspicion--no, suspicion's too negative--his hunch that Colby kind of, maybe, has a thing for him.

Colby's his best friend and his partner, and David's secure enough to admit that he loves him. But he's not sure that means he wants the same thing Colby wants--if Colby does, in fact, want something more than their current friendship. David could be wrong--there was Lynn Potter, after all, and all the other women who eye Colby like he's a tasty treat and whom Colby eyes right back. The man doesn't date much, but he's not blind.

David's not blind either. He can admit that Granger's a good-looking guy. Every once in a while, if David's latest date goes badly, he wonders what it'd be like if Colby asked and he said yes. Would it be good? Would it be a one-time thing? Would it screw up their friendship?

Ultimately he doesn't want to mess with the status quo, doesn't want Colby to ever make a move that might result in David saying no and hurting him. The last thing David wants is to hurt him.

He comes out of the bathroom to find Granger sprawled out on his back, the sheet pulled up to his bare chest. From the pile of clothes on the floor, he's still got his underwear on at the very least--unless he's been going commando the past few days. David seriously does not want to know.

*

Colby wakes, nose twitching and stomach gurgling, to the clanging of pans on a stove and the smell of bacon grease. "You better be cooking for two!" he yells down the hall.

"Go shower!" David yells back. "You're stinking up my pad!"

Too hungry to dawdle, Colby finishes up in five minutes, skipping the shave. They've got two days off and no cases pending--nobody's going to care that he's got stubble.

"I left clothes on the bed," David calls through the bathroom door. "Don't take too long or I'll eat all the bacon." It's an idle threat, but Colby's still dressed in four seconds flat--old habits die hard--pulling on an old Knicks t-shirt and a pair of sweats that hang loose on his hips. He considers putting his underwear back on, but they're days old and David's not that much of a prude.

David's on the couch in front of the television, bare feet kicked up on the coffee table, a plate on his lap heaped high with eggs, bacon, bagels, and apple slices that are only a little dried out. The bagels probably came from the freezer, a trick familiar to most bachelors, especially if they work long hours. Colby settles down with his own plate, then blinks when he realises David's watching a cartoon.

He snorts. "What are you, five?" Batman's crouched on the roof of a building with binoculars while Wonder Woman is perched on the peak of the Washington Monument. "What is this?"

"It's the series finale of Justice League," David says calmly, gaze fixed on the TV as if ignoring Colby's incredulous look means he won't have to deal with it. "I'm warning you now--you give me crap about my show, I'mma have to kick you out."

"It's a cartoon," says Colby with exaggerated patience. "You're a grown man. There's got to be a support group for this kind of thing."

David turns and glares. "You watch The Simpsons, jackass. Just because it's a cartoon don't mean it's for kids."

"Man, don't even try," laughs Colby, holding up the DVD case. "It says 'kids' right on the cover."

"Not just for kids," David huffs. "Whatever, it's my TV." He points at Colby with his fork. "Shut up and eat."

Colby shuts up and eats, grinning at David's rapt expression as an alien spaceship attacks Washington, DC, and another alien spaceship comes to the rescue when the Justice League gets their asses kicked. The second group of aliens are all bird people, same as the black guy's girlfriend. "Huh. I thought Green Lantern was a white guy."

"There are thousands of Green Lanterns in the Green Lantern Corps, some human, some alien," David explains absently. "This one's John Stewart, former Marine."

"Explains why he's dating the chick with wings," says Colby sagely. "Marines like it a little freaky."

David smacks him with a throw pillow but never looks away from the TV, so Colby gives up on getting his attention and sits back to watch.

The chick with wings, Hawkgirl, turns out to be a spy, an advance scout for her homeworld who has been undercover on Earth for five years. She's also already engaged, which makes the black guy, Green Lantern, pretty upset.

Colby tries not to notice any vague similarities with real life, mostly because in this story he's the chick with wings. Still, he can't stop glancing at David out of the corner of his eye when Hawkgirl sucker punches Green Lantern and takes him prisoner.

David catches him looking over and pauses the DVD. "We can find a game if you're bored."

But Colby's hooked, much as he doesn't want to admit it. "Do the good guys save the day?"

"The good guys always save the day," David says, smiling.

And he's right, the heroes defeat the alien invaders and save Earth from being blown up--but there's no happy ending for Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. He watches in disbelief as the star-crossed lovers say farewell and Hawkgirl flies off into the sunset. "What the hell?" he protests. "What happened to happily ever after?" This is not at all what Colby expected from a kids show. "I can't believe they voted her off the team! C'mon, she helped save the world. That's got to be worth some forgiveness."

David pats him consolingly on the shoulder. "S'okay, buddy, it doesn't end there."

"I thought you said this was the series finale," he frowns.

"Yeah, but there's a sequel." David goes over to his bookshelf and pulls out another DVD. "Justice League Unlimited. You can borrow it--I mean, if you can get over the shame of being a grown man watching cartoons."

Colby doesn't quite snatch it out of his hand. "Does G.L. get back together with Hawkgirl?"

David smirks. "Watch and find out."

*

They pop in the first disc of Justice League Unlimited and David prepares to initiate the uninitiated into the myriad wonders of DC Comics superheroes.

"Hippy freak," Colby says, and David has to laugh because of course duty, honour, country Colby Granger would think Green Arrow is a pinko commie liberal. "Sounds like Mr. Eppes, kind of, doesn't he?"

"I sincerely doubt Mr. Eppes runs around in Robin Hood gear, stopping convenience store robberies," he grins. "Wait till you meet The Question. He's awesome."

"And she's hot," says Colby suddenly, perking up at the sight of the sexy blonde, just like Green Arrow was doing on the show. "Who's that?"

David shakes his head, amused. "Black Canary, martial arts expert. She and Green Arrow hook up later."

"Aww, you're kidding me," Colby scowls in disgust. "What a waste. It's like--"

David punches him in the shoulder. "If you say it's like Megan and Larry, I'm gonna beat your ass." But Colby wisely keeps quiet and David relaxes back on the couch, spending the next few episodes half watching the show and half watching his partner enjoy the show.

He nods off at some point, and jerks awake at Colby's hand on his shoulder. "Sorry," he yawns. "What'd I miss?" Green Lantern and Vixen are paused on the screen.

"Go back to bed," Colby tells him instead, smiling. "You need more shut-eye before you're fit for duty."

"Yeah, I guess," David sighs. "You want lunch yet?"

"Nah, I'm good. Maybe later."

"Well, the fridge is empty," says David, standing and stretching out his back. "So unless you want to order in, we'll have to do some grocery shopping." He turns back to find Colby staring at him with an odd expression. Almost... wistful. "What?"

"Nothing," Colby says, and looks away. "Mind if I keep watching?"

"Knock yourself out." David yawns again and heads down the hall. The DVD starts up again, but quieter--with the bedroom door closed he can barely hear it. Flopping on his belly, he grins to himself, smug with the success of converting a new fan. "Starcrossed", the first episode they watched this morning, is the same episode that got David hooked on Justice League in the first place, years ago. It seems fitting that he can now share that with his partner.

He'd come close to turning off "Starcrossed" a few times, wary of the Hawkgirl spy stuff dragging up bad memories. But the stories aren't all that similar beyond the basic themes of duty, friendship, and betrayal, and Colby seems more intrigued by the characters than traumatised by the plot. He clearly identifies with Shayera, which surprises David not at all, and seems dismayed that she was not immediately welcomed back into the fold with open arms after she proved herself on the side of the angels.

There's a familiar twinge of guilt in David's gut, because he knows he was a cold bastard to Colby upon his return, too hurt and angry to even think about reaching out to his former best friend. He thinks about Colby choosing a different path, taking that fast-track DC job instead of sticking it out in LA until David got his head out of his ass. Thinks about Colby flying away into the sunset, leaving him behind.

David falls asleep and dreams, dreams of Colby with angel's wings, flying on a cable and lifting William up, up, up into the night sky as David watches from inside the pile. Trapped by twisted metal, David waits and waits and waits for Colby to come back. But he never does.

"David? David, wake up."

Colby's voice pulls him back to the waking world, and David gasps and grabs at his arm, panting, "Colby, come back, you gotta come back."

"Hey, it's okay, I'm right here," says Colby, bending over him with a worried frown. His hands are steady on David's shoulders, comforting. "I'm right here, David, I'm not going anywhere."

"Colby?" David fists his other hand in Colby's t-shirt for a second, blinking away confusion, then pushes him back and sits up. He rubs his face, wiping sweat from his forehead. "Damn." Just a stupid nightmare. He doesn't know why he's freaking like this--it wasn't even that scary. Embarrassment burns through him when Colby shifts closer on the bed and wraps an arm around his shoulders, but he's not strong enough to push him away twice.

"I'm right here, buddy," Colby says quietly. "Whatever you need." He leans their foreheads together and curves a hand up David's spine to cradle the back of his head, a gesture so intensely intimate that David sucks in a hard breath, shocked. Their lips are inches apart, breaths mingling, and for long seconds David thinks: this is it, this is Colby saying screw the status quo.

But then Colby pulls back, slow and careful like he doesn't want to spook him--too late. Colby stares at him, everything he's feeling written all over his face, so close that David can see the flecks of brown in his eyes. "Your call," says Colby, his voice low and shaking. "Whatever you need."

*

Colby swears it like an oath, whatever you need, like it won't kill him to keep it. Like it won't kill him to hear what he knows David is about to say.

David hesitates, cautious. "There was a minute yesterday, when the pile collapsed on me," he begins slowly. "I thought I was dead. Then, when I realised I was alive but the exit was blocked, I figured, well, no reason not to keep going. Because I knew--" He looks at Colby straight on, laying it on the line. "I knew you would come get me." He smiles faintly, and Colby can't help but smile back.

"You're my best friend," he says, an easy confession. "Even when you pull stupid stunts like that." His smile takes on an edge. "Hell yeah, I was coming in after you."

But David shakes his head. "We're partners. Our jobs, the work we do--it's too important to mess with." When Colby tries to turn away, unable to hear this, David grabs his arm. "Come on, Colby. You know this, you saw what happened with Don and Liz--"

He twists his arm out of David's grasp. "That was different." He stands and paces to the window, stares at the curtains as though he could see through them to the sun-filled city. "You think I'd be compromised? That I wouldn't get the job done because I'd be too busy watching your back?"

"That's not what I'm saying!" He hears David's protest, but it doesn't register. He thought he was prepared for this, for David to say no, but he was wrong. He never imagined this. It feels like a knife in his gut, his insides spilling out.

"No, what you're saying is you don't trust me to watch their backs, Don and Liz and Nikki." He slams the heel of his hand against the wall, and David's there a second later, grabbing him by the shoulders. "Damn it, why," he whispers, choking back the misery. "I thought we were over this."

"Whoa, whoa, hold on!" David stares at him, shocked and confused. "What the hell are you talkin' about? You really think I don't trust you?" He grabs Colby's face and makes him look him in the eye. "Granger, no way in hell you think I don't trust you more than anyone else in the world. You're my partner."

Colby can feel the burning in the back of his eyes. "Then what is it? Why can't you just--" He cuts himself off because he knows the answer.

David wants kids. David wants to get married. David wants a family to come home to at the end of a hard day.

He wants to do well in the Bureau, and he's too smart to get involved with someone he works with. Too conscientious to risk the safety of his team on a screwed-up romance.

"You're right," Colby says abruptly. "You're right, I know you are." He bites his lip. "It was just easier, believing you hadn't really forgiven me."

Frowning, David releases him, his hands moving from Colby's face to rest lightly on his shoulders. "What do you mean?"

Colby smiles tightly, still gutted, still bleeding, but strong enough for this. "Easier to believe you hadn't quite forgiven me for what went down last year, because I could do something about that, and we'd get past it eventually. It was easier than accepting that you just... didn't want me." David's eyes went wide and he shook his head violently, trying to deny it. "No, David, it's okay. I think I always knew how this was gonna end--I just didn't want to face up to it."

"Colby, man, you know I love you, right?" says David urgently. "You're my best friend. I don't know what I'd do without you." His voice is like gravel, and Colby suspects David's hating this conversation as much as he is. But what can they do except see it through?

"I know you do," he says, forgiving him on the spot. He pulls out of David's grip. "I'm not going anywhere, okay? We're partners."

David nods slowly, watching as he steps back. "Partners."

Taking a deep breath, Colby grabs everything he's thinking and feeling and stuffs it into a box. He's had years of practice at keeping things locked up, and this is just one more thing to compartmentalise. "I should go."

"Colby..." David reaches out for him, and Colby feels warmed by the protective instinct.

"I'll see you at work, okay?" He's already moving, feet pointed towards the door, his mind leaping ahead to what to do with his time off. He could get some surfing in.

David stops him at the front door with a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry, Colby," he whispers, sounding so torn that Colby grabs him in a fierce hug.

"It's not your fault," he says hoarsely, pushing his hot face into David's neck. He holds on tight for a few seconds, knowing this is all he'll have, soaking up the feeling of being held, David's powerful arms around him.

"Love you, brother," says David, sad and quiet in his ear.

Colby forces himself to let go. "I love you too," he says, and walks away.

*
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, scene ii

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