I plead insanity and disavow all responsibility for whatever happens here. The blame should be directed to whoever it was that encouraged the blackcurrant cider, espresso liqueur shots and truly ridiculous amount of food instead of sleep. I'm not even sure it makes sense. J, you have my apologies.
Colby wasn't sure at first whether it had been his imagination acting up but by the time school's been out four days, he's positive that there are three strangers wandering around town and he can't decide whether they're up to no good or just out of place.
The tallest of the trio is hardest to get even a good look at, he seems to have chameleon abilities, and it takes a lot of effort but he manages to put a picture together from quick glances. He's tall and lean with dark eyes that make Colby a little nervous. He never seems to be with the other two but Colby's willing to bet he's never far and deliberately ignores just how much of a stalker he's become to know that.
The pair fascinate Colby the most out of the whole situation and he doesn't really want to read into that. He would call them brothers if they looked any less polar opposites but as it is, the short red hair and blue eyes stand in stark contrast to the dark hair and eyes of the other. Idaho is full of men who are strong from working the land but these two are built differently.
He had thought that athletic was the best way to describe them until he went for a morning run and happened to catch sight of them on the football field about an hour after dawn. There was no one in Idaho who moved like that and he's pretty sure that while heaving livestock and produce around makes for a beefy bunch of men, he's never actually seen this kind of stuff outside of the television.
Afterwards, he settles on dangerous as the most suitable adjective.
A lot of faith is placed in his newfound stealth because he's almost positive that they haven't caught on that he might be following them yet.
Ian briefly considers, in the beginning, pretending that he doesn't know he's been made but he wouldn't put it past Eppes, or Cooper for that matter, to break cover and turn the tables on him just for shits and giggles. While normally he wouldn't object to such a challenge, it's his first time working in Idaho and the pair seem eerily at home here. Not to mention that kid who seems to be the only one who's cottoned on to the fact that they don't belong.
Eppes seems to have a soft spot for the sandy-haired kid if the way he deliberately seems to be allowing them to be sighted is any indication. Ian snorts. The kid has about as much stealth as an elephant in a china shop and he really hopes that he knows that because he'd hate to break it to him.
Looks like he's got a hell of a set of puppy dog eyes on him and Ian's track record with Cooper and Eppes and their attempts doesn't tell a pretty story.
After five days of playing hide and seek with Ian just because they can, Billy's had enough. They're stuck here until the mess they left all the way down the northeast coast is cleaned up, or in some cases blown up, and seeing as he very much doubts they're looking for he and Don in Idaho, he'd much rather annoy the sniper to his face than from a distance.
It really is more fun when he gets to see the tic right next to Ian's left eye.
Don manages to get the drop on their protective detail, literally, from the low-hanging branches of a tree he can't be bothered identifying. Billy almost pisses himself with laughter at the sight of them sprawled on the ground in a pile of loose leaves and twigs.
"I don't know why they didn't let whoever you pissed off this time just shoot you and save me the trouble," Ian says darkly.
By the time they're seven days in, Don's mildly intrigued by the teenager who seems to be the only one wondering just what he, Billy and Ian are doing in Idaho. He thinks he might remind him of the Pasadena neighbourhood kids that would follow he and Nathan around like ducklings back in the day. Like hell that he's telling Billy that though, he'll never hear the end of it.
He guesses that he'll have some time to figure it out though, from all reports, the syndicate have no idea where they are and no one seems to quite know whether their cover has been blown or not and the eastern states are still in chaos. Their handler squares another month rent with the landlord and Billy asks him, deadly serious, whether they should buy a puppy so they blend in better.
The next morning there is a comically large dog bone on the front porch and Don wonders how on earth he's going to stay sane when he's got Billy and Ian to contend with.
They've been there for nine days when the kid approaches them. Ian's pretending to read the paper about fifty yards away from where Billy and Don are tossing a football around. Don catches the glint in Billy's eye as he fumbles the ball and it bounces away. Like any good Samaritan, the kid scoops it up and jogs over with it. Like Don needed any more of a reason to feel drawn to him.
Don kind of wants to smack that grin off Billy's face but knowing Ian, he'd probably end up getting shot in the ass again. The sniper would beg mistaken identity and a fixation on his objective of eliminating threats and everyone would be so starry-eyed at the performance that they'd forget he got shot in the ass. Again.
The grin Billy flashes him just supports his theory and frankly, he's too proud of his ass to want to get shot in it. Again.
Football in his hands, Colby jogs towards the two men and wonders whether this is really the best idea. The wary glance from the man reading the paper doesn't escape his notice but he swallows the apprehension (because, really, how often do they get strangers in Idaho?) and offers a nod as he tosses it the last yard to the redheaded man.
"Cheers, buddy," the man says in response. He has a smooth, Southern drawl. The dark haired man is moving closer.
"No worries," Colby replies and wonders what to say. "You guys holidaying here for the summer?" God, he says to himself. You might do alright here where you know everyone but don't ever try and chat up a random girl.
"Yeah," the redheaded man says with a grin. "We are. I'm Billy, this here's Don. You are?"
"Colby," he supplies. Don offers a nod in greeting. "You, uh, need a third?"
Billy shrugs and looks to Don. The other man grins after a moment. "Sure, why not? Can mock up some plays. Ian! Tell me, kid, reckon we can teach these two oldies a thing or two?"
Three hours later the four of them lay in ruins and there are a small group of spectators gathered on the sidelines. Billy's lost half the skin on his knees, Colby is going to have a spectacular black eye in another few hours, two of Don's fingers probably need splinting if he's honest and even though his nose is still bleeding sluggishly, Ian is probably in the best shape out of all of them.
"Damn good show," Billy pants, flat on his back with arms and legs splayed out. "Reckon we did alright for a couple of geriatrics, right Edge?"
Don snorts and offers Colby a high-five with his uninjured hand. "We schooled you geezers."
Colby laughs breathlessly. "Think you guys would have schooled the varsity team."
"Don't inflate their egos, kid," Ian says with a groan, swiping at the blood under his nose. "I'll never hear the end of it."
Three days after the football incident, Ian's nose is still swollen, Don's fingers are splinted at the insistence of Marie at the grocery store, Billy's knees are almost entirely scabbed over and Colby's eye is a lovely shade of puce.
His mother has insisted on meeting them and he's a little worried about the glance the three of them share before accepting the invitation to dinner.
Colby is rather surprised at how well it goes, really. Billy and Don charm his mother right off the bat, acting considerably younger than he knows they are. Ian and his grandfather seem to hit it off as well and even though Colby is almost positive that their story about picking Winchester as a vacation spot because of a map reading mishap is complete bullshit, they deliver it so well that it doesn't seem rational to question it.
They're nearing the third week in Idaho and seem to be much more relaxed. Billy gets a phone call when they are lazing about under the air conditioner with a beer apiece and conveniently unbothered by the fact that Colby is barely eighteen.
"Angelica!" he says, a grin spreading over his face as his beer tilts dangerously. "Your wildlife still after my blood?"
Ian looks worried for just a moment before Don waves his hand casually. "She's from Australia," he says easily before shooting an authoritative look at Colby. "Lemme share some wisdom, Colb. Don't go to Australia. Pretty much everything there can kill you."
"They're idiots," Ian says, relaxing back against the sofa and rolling his eyes at Colby. "That whole killer wildlife thing is a myth."
"It is not!" Billy interrupts. "Don, set him straight. Yes, Angie, he knows you love him. Wait, why are you playing Christmas carols?"
Don lifts himself up on one elbow and motions for the phone. Billy's forehead is wrinkled in concentration as he crawls closer to hand it over.
"What are you smoking, woman? Christmas in July? It's too hot to be Christmas!"
Later, Colby wouldn't be entirely sure how the whole Christmas in July thing started aside from the fact that it involved Christmas carols, something called a dropbear and the equator.
Every time he asks why they're trying to find Christmas decorations in July in Idaho, Billy and Don look at him like he's crazy to be questioning their brilliance and Ian doesn't bother answering him through the packet of frozen peas that is resting on his face.
Later that day, his mother asks him why he's rooting through the boxes in the attic where they usually keep their Christmas decorations and he admits that he isn't entirely sure why but that it has something to do with dropbears, the equator and some really terrible renditions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.
She looks even more confused than he feels and helps him find the tinsel.
Christmas in July quickly approaches and it turns out, much to Colby's surprise, that Ian is the best cook of the trio, as the smell of gingerbread wafts through the front door that swings open even before he can knock.
"Put the presents under the tree," Billy says excitedly, waving at the lopsided shrub masquerading as a tree in the corner of the living room. "Quick, Don's in the shower. He's crazy good at guessing from box sizes but he won't go near them if they're under the tree."
Colby can appreciate not wanting the surprise spoiled and if you ask him, he thinks he's done pretty well with the gift selection seeing as there isn't even a real occasion for them in July.
There is turkey and cranberry sauce and more vegetables than Ian was expecting to be able to find in Idaho. Overall, he's rather pleased. He'd been hunting some insurgent over the most recent Christmas and dehydrated rations just don't satisfy like a proper Christmas feast.
Billy and Don are in charge of dessert which makes him a little uneasy but when Colby walks into the kitchen behind Billy there is a dish covered in foil in his arms and Ian's mouth practically starts to water just at the sight.
"Please tell me that's your mother's cobbler."
Don wanders in wearing nothing but a towel at that precise moment and for some reason, it silences the conversation.
Billy, as always, is exempt. He slaps Don on the back cheerfully and the wet smacking noise seems obscenely loud in the silence. "Go and put on the Santa suit!"
Colby and Ian share a horrified glance, cobbler forgotten, as the two men disappear down the hallway.
Ian doesn't even know where to start. There are so many things wrong with the world when Billy and Don burst back into the kitchen.
"What did you do, steal a seventy year old Italian woman's curtains and dye them red to make that?" he asks bluntly after a moment of stunned silence. "Not to mention how many rabbits sacrificed their tails for that beard."
Colby can't help but laugh at Don's disappointed expression and Billy's scowl.
"Least we didn't use your tampons for it, grumpy pants."
The laughter takes a turn towards howling as shock settles on Ian's face at the remark.
Thankfully, the rest of their dinner goes better.
Don has to shed the beard to eat and Billy ignores Ian until he takes his first mouthful of potato casserole. All is forgiven after that.
Colby considers saying a sincere thank you to the three men for including him because he hasn't had interaction like this with older male figures since his father died but as soon as he's gathered the nerve and swallowed the piece of turkey he's been chewing a spoonful of peas hits him in the face.
"Shit, that was meant for Don."
Ian and Don banish them both from the kitchen so they can clean up and Billy shares a wicked grin with him as they settle on the sofa.
"Works like a charm every time," he says happily. "I hate dishes."
Colby laughs. "That was your plan?"
Billy nods smugly. "Don's even more anal about mess than Ian. If I can teach you one thing, Granger, it'll be to take advantage of that."
Presents are done before dessert, according to Ian.
"If we're inventing a holiday we might as well really mess with it," he says, settling in an armchair with a glass of milk. There's a plate of cookies on the coffee table and Colby feels like he's five again as he sits cross legged on the floor with Billy.
Don is crouched down beside the tree, his beard back on to spite Ian, and sorting the presents into piles according to recipient.
Colby's pretty sure he can pick them out by wrapping paper alone. Billy's are absurdly colourful and a little messy. Don's are cheerful and neat. Ian's are block colours, red and green and white, with a military precision.
His mother wrapped his for him but he'll be damned if he's admitting that.
After presents and cobbler, Billy has the straw hat that he received on and is chewing on a rather long piece of grass with the new holster on his lap and naked woman apron draped over him. He doesn't really have the farmer look about him but no one has the heart to break it to him on Christmas even though it isn't really Christmas.
Ian has a crisp new sketchbook and some expensive looking pencils and is also wearing his hat. Somehow the hat looks the most out of place on Don who has refused to take off the Santa suit even though he abandoned the beard when the cobbler appeared. He's playing absently with the baseball that Billy gave him and looking at Ian with narrowed eyes that occasionally flick down to the lewd jack in the box that Colby is pretty sure he'd be happy to never see again.
Colby himself is wondering how to get the handcuffs, potato gun and stack of magazines that they just don't get in Idaho past his mother.
I don't even know where that came from. To everyone who has been following since the Eighty Days and Daily Grind adventures, firstly: you are all amazing. Secondly, I am so close to being done with this certification that I can almost taste it. Thirdly, I am off to New Zealand in six sleeps and I hope to return bursting with fic for you all. A happy 2013 to everyone!