David kept it for him. It said so much about them as a team. . .as partners. . .as friends. Colby Granger wanted – no, needed, more than anything – to talk to his friend, to thank him for keeping the small token of his heritage safe for him. That his friend hadn't tossed it away meant far more to Colby than it seemed to mean to everyone else. He doubted they understood his feelings about this one small action. It meant that no matter how David had felt over the course of the revelations resulting from the Janus list, and the Chinese spying case, David never lost faith in him, not altogether. Leastwise, that was how Colby saw it, how he felt it.
They hadn't really talked yet, not the way they needed to. They were on their way back to being partners, of that there could be no denying. And man did it feel good. This last case, a disturbing one that found them finally capturing the man killing people the way Jesus' disciples had died, had showed them both that they could work together, even as they ignored the fact that they still hadn't talked yet. Granger still had to be careful how he spoke to his partner; the vast majority of what he'd done, and learned in the doing during the last two years, was classified. He was sure David knew some of the details. . .he was on the freighter and he did save Colby's life. Those efforts alone had placed Sinclair in a position of need to know. Granger would never be able to tell him everything that had gone on. David's comment that he respected that point never really rang true to Colby. He knew it was his friend's hurt and anger at a perceived slight that made him act the way he had. Colby would regret forever his culpability in making someone he cared deeply for feel that way.
But what he needed David Sinclair to know was something far more important to Colby Granger, far more important than government secrets. Something far more personal. Because though he was back on the team, working cases – working with his partner – Colby knew that he would never feel on completely solid footing with his friend until they sat down, man to man, and talked. Colby needed that just as much as David did.
It had been weeks since Granger had returned to the team, part-time and temporary though it was, and the fishing lure was the first real sign of change in Sinclair's attitude towards the former 'spy'. Colby had to admit it had been an exhausting time, working every angle he could think of to get back in his friend's good graces. Their team leader, Don Eppes, had tried to force a reunion early on, just after Granger's release from the hospital. What Don didn't know then, and what Colby spent long weeks hoping and working for, was that time was what David needed, more than anything. Colby thought it would require more than that, and he'd done so much in these weeks to that end that David seemed intent to ignore. The flat out shunning hurt, and Granger knew that his friend would feel bad about those actions, eventually, and his own heart ached for the pain his partner was already starting to feel. Colby could see it in David's eyes, he could sense it in his bearing.
It was just one more topic to add to the long list of what they needed to say to one another.
Colby thought that maybe tomorrow night would be the night. Friday night, not a school night, normally. It was already past seven this night and Colby was feeling beyond beat. He looked at the lure one more time – he never tired of looking at it, originally because of the reminders of his dad, but now in a different way, in the way it said so much about his friend - and then turned off his desk lamp, grabbed his keys, jacket and backpack, and then nearly knocked David Sinclair off his feet and into the next cubicle.
"Hey, sorry, man," Colby said as he grasped his friend's arm. David wasn't really heading for a crash, he was, as Colby had noted to Don weeks ago, 'a big guy'. Granger could again sense the change in his friend when he didn't pull away from the touch.
"No. My fault," David responded.
"Nah, I wasn't looking where I was going," Colby admitted. "Anxious to get out of here." His thoughts had been on issues far more serious than mere walking.
David smiled and said, "Look, I was wondering. Did you want to catch some dinner?"
Colby knew that he should get out of this, at least for tonight, if he could. He was so tired and still sore from the hard fall out the back of that pick-up truck. This last case had been a tough one, the most physical work he'd had to perform since he'd been drugged by Mason Lancer. He was glad that he'd seemed to experience no residual pains or other troubles from that. . .torture. But he was tired and didn't feel up to the conversation they were bound to have and sorely needed.
But he knew that he couldn't say no.
"Sure, but would you mind if we just got some take-out and went back to your place or mine?" He slowly and carefully put his jacket on. David frowned as he watched the action.
"Yeah, sure, that'd be fine. Your place or mine?" David asked, still assessing his friend's movements.
"Whatever. You pick." Colby had fallen into a pattern of deferring to his partner somewhat of late, of being overly solicitous to David's wishes, at least for the very limited numbers of times that they'd had to interact privately lately. It was a tactic, he knew, for as partners he knew that he and David – and he knew Don knew as well – that despite Granger's position as the junior agent, the two were on equal footing as F.B.I. field agents.
"Let's go to your place," David offered. He looked at his younger partner appraisingly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Colby replied. David looked at him closely, and Granger realized that he couldn't get away with the white lie, not now that his partner was paying closer attention again. He also knew that after what they'd gone through to get to this point, he owed his partner nothing less than complete honesty. Colby cocked his head to the side and admitted, "Well, I am tired. I guess maybe I overdid it some. I earned a lot more bumps and bruises on this case than I expected." David frowned at the revelation. "It's nothing serious," Granger insisted. "My ribs are sore from falling outta Porter's truck." He watched as Sinclair continued to frown. Colby preferred the smile he'd finally gotten out of David when their boss announced his official return to the team. "Don't tell Don, okay?" he asked hopefully.
"Look, Colby, if you think you're not fit for duty, I'm sure Don. . ." David's partner cut him off.
"No, David. I'm fine. Besides, I have a follow-up appointment with the cardiologist on Tuesday. I just need a good meal and a good night's sleep." And there it was again. A lie. A small one, but Colby was pretty sure this above all else was what had kept David at such a distance for so long. . .wondering what of the things coming out of Granger's mouth were lies and what he could really take as truth. "Okay," Granger conceded, "maybe I need the sleep more than the food."
"If you want to bag dinner, I'm okay with that. We can do it another night," David suggested, still looking worried for his partner."
"No, David. I. . .I appreciate. . .I mean. . .I want to do this," Colby said, his head down. He needed this, he thought as he shook his head back and forth. He raised his head and made eye contact with his friend. "I'd like to talk."
"Yeah," David replied. "Me, too." They walked to the elevator in companionable silence. "Chinese or Thai?" Granger snorted a laugh as they stopped and Sinclair pressed the down button. "What's funny," David asked.
"I'm barely walking straight and you're asking me to choose what we're eating? I think maybe I'll just go alph'betical and pick Chinese, in spite of the plain weirdness inherent in doing so."
David looked at Colby with a grin that only just covered up his concern and said, "Okay, you're not driving anywhere tonight."
"Tha's prob'ly a good idea," Granger agreed lazily.
The elevator door opened and David stepped into it. Colby didn't follow. Once David selected the parking garage level, he looked to find that his partner's eyes were closed. The door started to close, without Granger on board. Sinclair put his arm in the threshold, which started the doors to retract open once more.
"Colby," he said as he took one large stride and grasped the exhausted man's forearm. Granger jumped, startled alert. The quick movement seemed to aggravate his ribs as Colby leaned into his right side slightly. His eyes now wide open and recognizing no threat in the visage of his partner, he stepped into the elevator, guided by David.
"Sorry," Colby said, sighing. "I. . .I, um. . ."
"Don't worry about it. I'm taking a look at those ribs when we get to your place," David insisted.
"They're just bruised, David. We've both been hurt worse. I'll be fine."
"Maybe." They took the remainder of the ride down in silence. David wondered how differently his friend might be acting in the face of what had come to light. Granger had always been tough, so denying an injury would not be new or unexpected behavior from the man he knew, or rather, the man he knew before David learned that he was a spy, or faking being a spy. Damn it. There was still so much that David Sinclair felt unsure about. It seemed a natural inclination to be suspicious of Granger, except for the overriding urge to trust the man. He was still so conflicted, except that he could feel that the pendulum had shifted in favor of giving Colby every benefit of the doubt. He wondered why it had taken him so long to get to this point when it now felt so right and natural to feel that way.
They eased into David's car and left the federal building. David turned to ask Colby what he should order but was surprised to find him asleep, his mouth open slightly, his head leaned back on the headrest, his face turned just a little toward the driver. Sinclair shook his head and smiled, pleased that his friend felt comfortable enough to be so relaxed in his presence. He used the speed-dial to order from their favorite Chinese take-out, and headed in the direction of the ocean.
"Sorry, man," Colby said as he opened the passenger-side door.
"Will you quit that," David requested, more upset than demanding.
Colby frowned, but immediately understood. "I don't know why I keep doin' it."
"I do. I'm sure I haven't given you lots of reasons to feel comfortable when we're together. I'm the one who should apologize," Sinclair said as he grabbed the box filled with Chinese food.
"I appreciate that, but you don't have to." They reached to door of Granger's condo. Colby unlocked the door and the two men entered, Granger holding the door open for his partner. David placed the food on the counter as Colby closed the door, but before he could get it shut completely, something, or rather, someone pushed the door hard, slamming its edge into Granger's forehead. He saw stars, momentarily, as he assessed what was happening. He staggered back a step. "David!" he yelled, grabbing his partner's attention quickly. Reading the tone instantaneously, Sinclair whirled around, pulling his weapon at the same time. David found Colby, blood streaming down from his forehead and already staining his shirt and jacket, fighting with an intruder. The perp, though much smaller than Granger, seemed to have gained the upper hand with the surprise intrusion and the advantage of knocking Sinclair's partner in the face.
"Freeze!" David yelled. "F.B.I.," he added as he leveled his gun on the man who was punching Granger, landing blows right in the area of Colby's bruised ribs.
"I said stop!" Sinclair yelled as he stepped up and pulled hard, one-handed, on the man's collar, and dragged him to the floor. Granger was over immediately, kneeling with pained effort, wiping the blood from his eyes, and deftly cuffing the intruder.
"You okay?" David asked.
"Yeah," Colby said as he grunted getting up, raising the home invader to his feet. "Not this guy's shining hour."
"No," David agreed, frowning as he took the man by his arm. "You, on the floor," he said, pushing the man onto his knees and then forcing him down to the dining room floor. "Don't move." Sinclair saw his partner flip open his mobile phone and call the police.
"You're sure you're okay?" Colby just cocked his head in reply, a concession easily read by his partner that he might not be.
"You want me to call Don?" David asked. He watched Colby favor his newly re-injured ribs.
"Can't just let L.A.'s finest handle this one, huh?' Granger asked as he swiped at the annoying stream of blood.
"Nah, I don't think Don would like that."
Colby nodded and finished making his call. "All right. Go ahead," the hurting F.B.I. agent said. He walked towards the hallway, taking less than steady steps. "I'm gonna wash up."
"No, you're gonna sit in here," David directed as he grabbed Colby by the arm and redirected him to the living room sofa. "I'll get some stuff to help clean you up. Just sit and relax and watch that guy," though they both knew that 'that guy' wasn't going anywhere. Sinclair watched as Granger sat, extra carefully, where he'd been told. The fact that Colby didn't fight him indicated to David that his partner was hurting more than he was letting on. "You should probably get checked out," the senior agent added as he grabbed what he needed for tending Colby's head wound. A grunt was all the acknowledgement David got from his friend.
Sinclair was only gone for moments, but it was long enough to realize that Granger really was hurt. He came back to find Colby not watching their hostage but with his head hanging down to his chest. After two attempts to get Colby to acknowledge him, he tried one last time with more emphasis.
"Yeah," Granger responded, followed immediately by, "Sorry." He could barely keep his eyes open, but David could see in those eyes the recognition of their earlier conversation. "Oh, 'm not s'posed to do that." Colby blinked rapidly, as though trying to focus, a shy grin forming on his lips.
"It's okay," David said warmly, a smile coming to his own face despite the seriousness of the situation. Colby wasn't too hurt if he remembered where they'd left off. "Here, hold this against the cut while I call Don."
"'Kay." Colby half-listened to David's end of the conversation. It seemed an appearance at the E.R. was inevitable now, from the snippet he overheard. Granger didn't think the head wound was a big deal, just a lot of blood and an all night, and maybe into the next day headache. But the guy had gotten a good punch in, and if past experience was a guide, he now had one cracked rib to go along with his gallery of bruised ones. Sitting up was becoming more uncomfortable, so he eased back into the corner of the couch. He sensed David kneeling in front of him shortly after the L.A.P.D. arrived at his door.
"I'm gonna let these guys in on what happened and then we'll get you to the hospital." David sat next to his friend and pulled the towel from Colby's head, checking the cut. "Don called an ambulance,"
"You could just take me," Colby objected.
"Well, you know Don."
"Yeah." Colby kept his eyes closed as David went to the kitchen. He could hear water running and then the cushion moved with the weight of his partner.
"I'm gonna clean some of this blood to get a better look."
"Okay." Colby quietly let David do his thing, then said, "I think one of those punches cracked a rib."
"I'm not surprised. He took you by surprise, and this cut. . .it's hard to imagine you're seeing straight," David commented as he took a better look at the cleaned cut. "You might need a stitch or two."
"Hmm," was all Colby offered in response. He breathed in deeply, apparently testing the rib. He went back to regular, even breathing quickly, however, and then asked, "Did the guy say anything?"
"Not yet. Let me go check in with them. I'll be right back."
David shook his head, a sad, guilty look on his face. Colby Granger had been through so much lately. It was a man of strong character who he watched now, his friend and partner who he himself had treated so badly of late. Where had his own anger come from? How could he have been so sure that his friend was a traitor to his country? He remembered moments, dark, horrible moments where the contempt he felt for Granger was so real, so ugly. But he had been wrong. So terribly wrong. And Colby had been the one to pay the price. And yet here they were, getting back on track, something that was almost exclusively Colby Granger's doing. David Sinclair had things to say to this man. . .this good man. . .this patriot. . .his partner.
David spoke to the officers, stepped over to Colby once the E.M.T.s arrived, then went to Don Eppes, who had followed the emergency medical technicians into the condo. Don spoke with David as the emergency personnel got Granger ready for transport.
"I can walk," Colby insisted.
"Well, no, you can't," Don replied, "even if they would allow it, which I don't think you would, huh guys?" he asked the two E.M.T.s.
"That's right, agent. If we're taking you in, it has to be this way."
"Fine," Colby conceded wearily.
"How're you feeling?" Don asked as he followed the stretcher to the door.
"Sore. Headache. You know."
"No, Colby. I don't know. How come you didn't tell me about the sore ribs?"
"Because they were just sore ribs, Don. It was no big deal."
"It's a big deal to me," Don said, a hint of accusation in the tone.
"Look, we get hurt all the time. Some injuries are not worth mentioning," Colby raised his voice slightly to defend himself. "This was one of them." His breathing began to grow a little labored as he continued. "It didn't become," Colby took a deeper breath, "a problem until. . .the guy punched one. . .dead-on."
"Okay, okay. Take it easy," Don warned.
"No," Colby challenged, feeling compelled to present his defense. "I feel like you. . .think I withheld something. . .important. I didn't. I. . .wouldn't. . .not. . .after. . ."
"Agent Granger," one of the E.M.T.s interrupted, "you should just lay back and take it easy. That rib didn't rupture your lung, but you're upset and you're putting pressure in that area and it's making you breathe harder than you should. You need to relax."
"Yeah, Colb. I didn't mean to lay any blame here," Don said. "Just take it easy." Eppes looked at Sinclair. "I'll settle up here. Go with him."
"Thanks, Don," David replied. "Let's go, partner," David encouraged as he walked the stretcher to the ambulance.
"I told you it wasn't a big deal."
"I don't know, buddy. That's all a matter of opinion. They wrapped those ribs," David noted as he closed the door, wary of anyone following them this time. He locked Granger's door behind him.
"You could have done that," Colby objected as he sat gingerly on his sofa.
David shook his head. "I suppose. Look, how about I heat up some of this food?"
Granger sat listening to David pull out plates and open up containers of Chinese take-out. The relative silence was nice, it was like it was before, nearly. Except before. . .before the spy fiasco they would have been talking the whole time. Colby got up and went to sit at the counter.
"Hey, I wanted to tell you how much it killed me to keep you in the dark," Colby said, his head down. He raised his head to look David in the eyes when he added, "I hated it."
David nodded as he waited for the microwave to finish heating the second plate.
"I know. Well," he clarified, knowing the hell he had put his partner through the last couple of months, "I know now. Man, Colby, I am really sorry." The microwave pinged to signal its completed cycle. David shook his head back and forth, more to himself though it was impossible for Colby not to notice the silent admonishment. He watched as David grabbed both plates and set them on the dining room table. Sinclair went back to the kitchen for two beers.
"You know," Colby started as he left the stool at the counter and headed the short distance to the dining area to eat with his friend, "for a while there, I thought maybe you were kidding. I mean, I know I was playing a part, pretending to be a spy, but you, you were so good at hating me. I thought it had to be a joke."
"Yeah." David looked down into his food, and then back up. "It wasn't a joke. I was sure you were guilty. After what happened before with Carter, I didn't think, you know, after Don's warning, that you'd ever be involved with him again unless you were dirty. I was sure you were a traitor, or at least I convinced myself that you were. It was the easiest way to justify how I was feeling."
"When Kirkland told me the plan to get to Carter in prison, I nearly asked out. I knew Don would have my ass. For some reason I had it in my head that you'd be there, covering my six."
"Colby," David started, but Granger stopped him.
"No, I get it. Now. I know I made it hard for you to trust me." Colby took a taste or two of the Kung Pao beef and spicey green beans. "It's a lonely time knowing that you've alienated everyone whose respect meant everything to you."
David watched as Colby pushed his food amongst the pile of brown rice. Granger liked the healthier version of rice, though Sinclair doubted his friend would be eating much more this night, not with the direction this conversation had taken.
"I don't think you ever lost Megan or Don, not completely. Your confession forced Don into the action you and Kirkland hoped for. And you always had the one person you really needed on your side."
"Charlie?" Colby asked, though the question was one he knew the answer to.
"Yeah. He put together something, called it a 'trust metric'. He used math, put your life into equations that added up to. . ." David didn't finish the thought as he took another bite of his food. Colby didn't need David to continue; he'd already had this conversation with Charlie. He knew Megan had jumped on it when she learned Charlie's results. Colby knew that it might have been nothing more than healthy cynicism mixed in with a dose of peer pressure that got David to go along with the rescue. What Colby Granger knew was that he owed David Sinclair his life, and maybe, just maybe weeks of indecision on David's part was a fair price for Colby to have to pay for them to get to this place right now.
It still stung. Some. But it was still a good place to start.
"I don't think I could do this again, Colby."
Granger watched his friend take another bite of food, conveniently keeping his head down, avoiding eye contact. He let out a soft sigh, realizing that this just a start. They still had a ways to go.
"I told Don I was done with the espionage thing. If I wanted that I would have put in for a transfer." David kept his head down, eating now for the sake of easy avoidance, but Colby needed his friend to see for himself the sincerity in his words. "David," he said, reaching his hand to grab Sinclair's forearm, to get his attention. David raised his eyes; they captured Colby's as the young man from Idaho went on. "I want this. I want back on the team. I want to be your partner."
David smiled, feeling the warmth and sincerity so easily coming from his friend. "Then we both want the same thing," he said, the worry that he'd worn for much of the evening turning easily to a genuine David Sinclair smile. Colby gave his friend a shy, crooked grin in return.
"You don't suppose Megan has some hidden cameras strategically placed in here?" Colby joked as he removed his hand from David's arm and swiped it over his eyes, which had become damp with just-barely-there tears.
"She would love having this one over our heads," David agreed.
They continued talking well into the early morning hours, sometimes light conversation, like this, but more often not. There was a lot to cover, each man with his own agenda. David needed assurances: he needed to be able to trust his friend, he needed to make sure he was healing, both physically from this last encounter, but also mentally from the anguish of what he'd gone through during his stint as a spy. Colby needed his own assurances: that he could count on his partner, that they could work to a point of trust again, definitive, unconditional. Their start back to that point had been a good one, though slower to get there than either man would have wanted. But they worked this commitment the same way they worked a case, by using all of the skill, compassion and intelligence that made them the good men and excellent agents that they were.
Their future was in their own hands – good hands – which was exactly how they wanted it.