The snore coming from the direction of his partner surprised F.B.I. Special Agent Colby Granger. Hadn't he just had a conversation with him about heading home? Okay, so maybe it wasn't a real conversation, and maybe David hadn't actually been awake when they'd spoken. He would have to try again, knowing that waking someone that big and that strong after far too many waking hours was risky business. He walked over, calling his friend's name again to try to wake him before he got too close and in harm's way.
No luck forced Colby to reach out and give his friend a friendly pat on the shoulder. "David, come on, man," he said. The snoring continued. Colby raised his head to the ceiling, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. His frustration level was increasing as his energy level dipped dangerously. "David!" he called louder. That did the trick, but it also looked like his partner was going to roll right onto the floor. "Hey," he said as he reached to shove David back into position.
"Sorry," Sinclair said. "I fell right back to sleep, didn't I?"
"So you were awake?" Granger kiddingly asked as he held onto his friend's arm to insure he was steady on his feet.
"I guess," David answered far more seriously as he swiped his face with his hand. He looked up at Colby and asked, "You sure you're okay to drive?"
"We'll take it slow. And you'll keep me awake."
"Oh, yeah? How do you figure that's gonna happen?"
"I don't know. Sing to me."
"Like that's any kind of a possibility," David said with a wry smile, finally seeing some humor after being awake and on his feet for far longer than a man ever should. It had been a series of long, humorless hours for F.B.I. Special Agent David Sinclair.
"Just talk to me, bro. That oughta do the trick."
"I'll do my best."
The two F.B.I. agents made it to David Sinclair's condo without either man falling asleep. But David looked at his best friend and made a unilateral decision that he was driving no further that night. Colby didn't argue the point, sure at the moment David made the call that he wouldn't likely be awake longer than it took his head to hit the well-used pillow he kept at Sinclair's place.
"You okay?" Colby asked his friend as David handed him the sweats that were also stored there in case of emergency. Sinclair had been far quieter in the car than he should have been, considering the assignment that Colby had given him. Granger wasn't sure he wanted to open this can of worms, but his partner still seemed troubled after the events of the last thirty-six hours.
"Yeah," he answered. "It's been a long. . .what? How long has it been?"
"I have no idea." Colby did know, and he knew that David's decision to storm into the train and wait no longer for Charlie's robots to work their magic was mostly due to less clear thinking than he'd have had had he bothered to rest up some during the rescue. Granger watched his friend for a moment and then said, "You were a little scary there tonight. Took a pretty big risk. That's not like you?"
David looked back at his friend, his eyebrows furrowed. "What, is only Colby Granger allowed to make the miraculous rescues?"
Granger stared back at his friend, perplexed by the mean-spirited reply. He decided that it was their too-tired state that was causing this meltdown in communications. Rather than reply with what he wanted, he chose a short, clipped, "I'm gonna head home." He was glad he hadn't bothered changing just yet.
Sinclair shook his head, as though trying to clear it of its fuzziness, and of the not-very-kind words he'd just sent his partner's way. "Colby," he said, reaching out his hand to his friend's arm to stop his movement to the front door of the condo. Granger didn't stop. "Hey!" Sinclair called louder. "I'm sorry, man." Colby stopped, but stayed facing the door, his head lowered tiredly to his chest. "I didn't mean that, buddy," David insisted.
Colby turned around to face his partner. "David, you know as well as I do that things said in the heat of the moment like that usually have a ring of truth to them. We've been at this business way too long now to deny that." The man from Idaho waited, not looking forward to this conversation, but knowing it needed to be had.
Sinclair put his head down, but the delaying tactic wasn't going to save him. He knew Granger was staying now, at least as long as it took to get an answer from him. He also knew that his ability to be understood was likely to be thwarted by how thoroughly exhausted he was, in mind and body.
"I often think back to that day on the freighter," David started. Colby stayed quiet. He himself had learned to remain even more quiet than most on that subject. He'd learned from his painful youth, and through his time in the military, to compartmentalize, and to keep a buffer between his psyche and those things that had happened to him that had hurt the most. He'd had to do that this time, too; he'd nearly died this time. The psychiatrists could have used this circumstance as a model for a really good reason to compartmentalize. It was a psychiatric term that he'd learned the definition of well. And hated, because it described something he felt a fault in his character, a crutch he used to get by.
David went on. "I think one of the reasons I needed you to live, at that time, because, man, I was so angry with you, but I needed you to live. I hated what you did, but we had been through a lot; I would never have wanted you dead. Now, when I think that you almost did die…"
"David," Colby tried to interject.
"No. Let me get this out. I needed for you to explain to me: why you? I don't mean why were you tortured and not me," he said. Colby winced slightly. He had yet to make peace with that term, the one that his boss Don Eppes called it, for what had gone on. He didn't know if he ever would. "I meant, back then, why did they choose you for the mission. Why not me?"
Colby frowned. What did David mean? Circumstance, more than anything else, had put Colby Granger in a position where he couldn't say no. He was never in the driver's seat on this one. A friendship, also based on circumstance, not borne of time, good deeds, duty, commitment to country, shared values –like his and David's – a friendship that was unable to stand the test of time, or the test of temptation for Dwayne, was what made Colby the perfect mark for his far-too-long gig as a spy. And besides, hadn't he made it abundantly clear to his best friend that most every day that he played his part and lied to his friends. . .that every one of those days he died a little bit inside?
"David. . ." Colby started to answer. But David wasn't finished.
"I wonder sometimes if I get passed over for things. The color of my skin is one thing, though I don't feel it has all that much to do with anything within the Bureau anymore. It's other stuff. You have a flair for standing out, for getting the job done in a spectacular way. I'm not like you. Despite the color of my skin, I still tend to blend in to the background."
Granger frowned some more and put his head down. He gave himself, in the quiet of Sinclair's declaration, a moment to absorb what he was hearing. He knew that despite the confidence that David exuded, especially in front of his law enforcement brethren as well as suspects, there was just that ounce of self-confidence, that tiny iota that would put him in line for the agent in charge position he so yearned for, that was missing. At least that had been Colby's read until not long ago, when that read changed and Colby thought that maybe he had been the reason, that David simply wanted, after finally getting their partnership – and friendship – back on track, that he just wanted to enjoy it for as long as time, and promotions, allowed.
But this. This was new. They hadn't talked of this before. And then it dawned on Granger: did his friend risk his own life for a résumé?
"David, don't tell me. . .did you risk your life to. . .because of some competition? I mean, I know we have that, with chasing down bad guys, with basketball, even with fishing. But this? This isn't right."
"Colby, I will not make it beyond where I am if I don't do something. . ." Granger cut Sinclair off, forcefully.
"Look," he said, stepping well into his friend's personal space. He took his index finger and shoved it firmly into David's chest. "I'm going to say this once: Don't. Do. That. Again. I'll chalk this up to exhaustion and not thinking straight." Colby was tired, too, but the revelation from his best friend, the person most important in his life – the person who saved his life – pumped an overflow of adrenaline into his body, more than if they'd just been in a gunfight, or from chasing a suspect up and over L.A.'s endless rooftops.
"Your résumé is plenty impressive. You're top of the list for investigative skills. You keep your cool way better that I do in interrogations. You're brave, you are unafraid to charge right in, everyone knows that. Everyone knows that but you." Colby pressed his finger once more into David's chest. "You need to get past this, David." Colby stepped away, breathing heavily, turned toward the door, and then turned back around. "I don't get this. No, I do. Go to bed. You'll think clearer about this in the morning."
David looked at his friend. He knew that it was hard for Colby to go on like this. His friend was a man of action, of passion, more than he was a talker. That was a well-known fact. So when the man did speak, David always listened. And he knew that Colby was right, in his head, Sinclair knew this. But did he believe it enough for it to seep further, to where it needed to be. . .into his heart. Into his soul.
"You're right, I need some sleep," David conceded as he swiped his hand over his head. He could feel that he'd been far too long awake; he couldn't remember the last time he felt so much stubble on the top of his head.
"I'm right about more than that," Colby said firmly.
"Go to bed," Granger ordered, despite being the junior agent in the room.
"No. I'm heading home."
"No, you're not," Sinclair warned. The two men's eyes locked, and then they scanned in unison over to the countertop between the dining room and the kitchen, the place where Granger had dropped his keys. Colby bolted first, so Sinclair knew the only way to get a leg up on the lightning speed of his partner would be a tackle. He dove, grabbed a handful of leg and put all of his considerable strength into the takedown. Granger fell, protectively turning on his side, and landed with a 'whomph' on the well-padded carpet. They wrestled, at first with serious intent, but then both men tired – exhausted and stressed from a difficult case and a painful conversation – and fell into uncontrolled giggling. The physicality of the match on the carpet remained, but the seriousness evaporated. It was still a competition, though, and in spite of the fact that they both knew that Colby would be using David's couch this night after all, each man tried his best to best the other.
Competition, though the reason for David's disquiet, was still and would always be a healthy part of who they were. And neither one was beyond using every dirty trick in the book, and capitalizing on any weakness they knew of the other to get the best of his partner. David tickled Colby, right where he knew it would do the most good, and then pushed up off the floor, leaving a squirming Granger behind. Ridiculously fast reaction time had Colby up in no time. If the rest of the team had been there, or their other friends who helped them so much in their fight to keep their country safe – and helped to keep them sane in an insane world – they would have seen a verifiable freeze-frame as they both reached for the keychain, one reminiscent of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a team they'd been compared to more than once. And wasn't that the great analogy of their partnership: in it, together, until the end.