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17 November 2009 @ 01:29 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Harbor House Part 1  
Posted to numb3rs_slash


Title: Harbor House (Companion to Safe Harbor 1/2)
Series/Universe: Safe Harbor
Pairing/Characters: Charlie/Billy, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Man Hunt
Summary: Billy's house on the harbor gets a summer guest - Charlie in need of his protection
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


A bloody hand reached for a phone, almost knocking it over trying to dial 911.

"This is Agent Billy Cooper with the FBI! I need an ambulance at 1240 Haskell Drive, Apartment 2!"

"He stabbed me! The son of a bitch stabbed me!"

"What the hell?" Billy had one hand on the phone and the other hand clutching a bloody dishtowel which he was pressing into the abdomen of the fugitive he'd just hunted down - one Lonnie Pugh, with four assault charges to his name.

"Agent Cooper stabbed me!" Lonnie yelled in the direction of the phone. "I want police protection! Keep this lunatic away from me!"

"You stabbed yourself, you idiot!" Billy searched around for anything else to use to staunch the bleeding, but the only thing nearby was the knife, which he'd pulled out and tossed aside after Lonnie impaled himself with it and launched himself at Billy. "No way anyone's going to buy some bull crap story that I did this!"

"The ambulance should be there in four minutes," the dispatcher said.

"Good," Billy replied. "Tell them to step on it."

"And the police will be there in two," she continued.

Billy let his shoulders slump, a groan escaping him.

"That's just great. I can see the paperwork piling up already..."

+

"What!"

Assistant Director Elaine Tsiang just kept staring at Billy, riding out his outburst.

"It's out of my hands, Billy. The legal team backs up the Director's policy on this. No agent accused of a crime can be in the field, period."

"But I didn't do anything!" Billy cried. "How can everyone not see that?"

"Legal is confident this won't go to trial," she explained calmly.

"Trial!" Billy exclaimed. "This is insanity! Forensics backs me up though, right?"

"Forensics, at least at this point, is inconclusive." Elaine leaned forward, a compassionate expression on her face. "Go home, Billy. Stay close in case we need you for a deposition or something, but otherwise enjoy your time off." She leaned back, putting her glasses on. "Most people would be happy to be paid to do nothing."

"Most people wouldn't be accused of assault for doing their jobs," Billy snapped. "God! I can't believe I'm on administrative leave because of that stupid weasel! I knew I should have given that case to Ramirez and taken the prison break in South Carolina!"

Elaine got up and walked around her desk, guiding Billy by the arm towards the door of your office.

"Billy, I like you and lord knows I've covered for you plenty when you bent the rules, but this time? We're stuck playing the lawyers' game, like it or not." She all but shoved him out the door, her demeanor more motherly than mean. "I don't want to see you here unless Legal sends for you."

He opened his mouth to protest, but she closed the door behind him, giving him a warning glare he'd seen before: 'be good.'

He'd been good; that's how he got stuck here in the first place.

+

"And on top of it all, I can't go anywhere! The lawyers won't let me leave town!"

Billy paced the living room so aggressively he could only manage a couple of strides before he had to turn around and head back the way he came.

Billy's housekeeper Magda, ever implacable, looked up from her knitting. "At least you don't have one of those house arrest ankle bracelet things." He shot her an annoyed glance, but she just stood and held up the partially finished green sweater against him. "I was right to put in those extra rows. This should fit you even if you do put on a few pounds sitting around the house."

Billy let out a loud groan of protest. "I am not going to sit around the house!"

Magda sat down again and went back to knitting. "So you get some paid time off. You'll live." She looked up at him with a teasing wink. "Unless you bother me too much and then I'll be the one needing a lawyer."

"Ha!" Billy exclaimed, his anger lessening as they shared a knowing smirk. "Forget the lawyers. I've taught you too well how to hide a body."

The sound of children's voices outside made Magda rise and put away her project in her knitting basket. "Well, now that you have so much time on your hands? You can teach me forgery. That will come in handy once you're gone."

Billy roared with laughter then came over to press a kiss onto Magda's forehead.

"I don't know what I'd do without you, Magda."

"Probably end up eating instant ramen and hot dogs," she scolded. "Don't think I don't see what's in the trash when I come home from vacation!"

Rocio crashed through the front door with his sister Elena hot on his heels.

"I win!"

"No way," Elena huffed. "I totally let you go ahead of me. I had to make sure you didn't eat it on the steps like you did last week. You're such a klutz."

"Mija!" Magda snapped and Elena just rolled her eyes. "I'm going to start dinner. Do you think you two can keep Billy company without fighting? If not I'm sure I can find some chores to keep you busy in separate places."

"No chores," Elena said hastily.

"We'll be good." Rocio nodded emphatically, attempting to look angelic, but once his mother's back was turned he raced across the living room to Billy, a bundle of mischievous energy. "Come on! Let's play!"

Billy hesitated a split second then let go of his anger and annoyance, picking up Rocio and throwing him over his shoulder - the six-year-old dissolving into a fit of giggles.

"I am Godzilla!" Billy roared. "No one can stop me!"

Two minutes into Elena's pillow barrage he'd forgotten all about the case.

+

"You're quiet today, dear."

"Hmm?" Billy looked up at his mother from where he'd been staring at the nursing home flower garden sitting on the bench beside her. "Yeah, I guess."

Lillian put her frail hand, more freckled than her son's even if her flame red hair had long gone snowy white, on Billy's arm.

"I know you don't want to talk about your job to me. I know you don't want to upset me."

"It's nothing," Billy said with a dismissive wave. "Just stuck at home waiting on some paperwork and I'm bored."

"You're lonely," Lillian said, smiling wisely as Billy looked up at her in surprise. "It's easy to ignore when you're out on the road, when work keeps you busy, I know. But once you have too much time on your hands you start to remember..."

"Remember what?" Billy asked, putting his much bigger hand gently over hers.

"What it means to be human," she said. "We're put on this earth for such a brief time and we want to live and love and make families before it's too late and it's all gone."

"I have a family," Billy told her. "I have you and Dad. I have Magda and the kids."

"And you love us all, but that's not enough. You know that." She eyed him, almost challenging. "A man can't help but want his own family. Don't deny that."

"Mom..." Billy let out a breath. "We both know that's not in the cards for me."

Lillian made a little noise of disapproval. "William Jameson Cooper, I've known since you were in school you weren't going to marry the girl next door and give me a half dozen grandchildren, but that doesn't mean I'm not impatiently waiting for you to meet someone worth vowing to spend your life with."

"Yeah, I'll get right on that," Billy teased. "Just as soon as Virginia legalizes same sex marriage."

Lillian gave him a playful smack. "Oh, you. As if a mere slip of paper was a barrier to love..." She let out a little sigh. "Why don't we go in and see your father?"

Billy helped his mother transfer from the bench to her wheelchair and pushed her inside, through familiar halls, nodding along the way to the staff he knew well.

Pulling into a room he set up his mother's chair beside his father's bed.

"Hi, Dad."

His father's eyes were closed, as they usually were, but Billy squeezed his arm in greeting anyway.

"He had a good couple of hours yesterday. It tired him out," Lillian said, automatically taking Gerald's limp hand in her own. "He just needs his rest to recover from them."

"Of course." Billy agreed, always the dutiful son.

+

"You call that enough peppers? That's not nearly enough peppers. Here, let me chop some more."

Billy picked up Magda's chopping knife and she very carefully extracted it from his hand.

"Jefe, I adore you, you know I do, but if you don't get out of my kitchen..."

"I'm just trying to help," Billy lamented.

"Help me any more and I'm going to resign!" She fluttered her hands at him, shooing him away. "Vete ahora! Go find yourself a hobby or something and leave me in peace."

Billy's phone rang as she let out a stream of words in Spanish under her breath.

"I heard that," Billy taunted, but crossed to the house phone to answer it. "Hello?"

"Quantico switchboard, transferring a call from Stafford County Hospital," came a clipped voice. "One moment."

"Hello, I'm trying to reach Agent Billy Cooper?"

"Speaking," Billy responded, Magda watching as his face screwed up, unsure what this was about.

"I'm phoning from Stafford County Hospital. We have a patient here - a Dr. Charles Eppes - who gave us your name. Do you know Dr. Eppes?"

The sound of Charlie's name sent a jolt through Billy. The young professor had made quite the impression on him, but him being his former partner's little brother - and 3,000 miles away - had effectively quashed any interest Billy had had in the curly haired dynamo. Or he thought it had until the mere voicing of his name brought it all back, carrying with it a host of visuals: Charlie smiling, Charlie laughing, Charlie sheepishly looking up at him from under his curls.

"Yeah, I do," Billy finally managed. "Is he okay?"

"Dr. Eppes sustained a head injury and the doctor won't release him without assurances that he'll have someone with him for at least 24 hours, just in case. Is it possible..."

"Absolutely, I'll be right there," Billy blurted out. "Tell him I'm coming."

"Thank you. Just ask for him at the Emergency Department reception desk."

"Will do," Billy replied. "Thanks." He hung up and grabbed the keys to his SUV off the hook.

"What is it?"

"A friend's in the hospital."

"Oh my..." Magda crossed herself, a little whisper of Spanish under her breath, this time a prayer instead of a curse. "I hope they're all right."

Billy grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

"I hope so too."

+

The drive to the hospital up near Quantico wasn't long, but it was more than enough time for Billy's memories of Charlie to work their way to the surface in his mind.

Charlie had been so tentative at first, so afraid of offending him. Billy had found it rather adorable, this shy little brother Don had been hiding away all these years. But as the case went on he got to see that shyness melt away and the confidence that can only exist alongside the hubris of genius come forward. Only unlike so many egotistical pretenders Billy had met over the years working for the government, Charlie had to goods to back it up.

Don had described Charlie as having a 'world-class mind.' After they'd wrapped up that prison bus crash, Billy had come back east and done a little research, asked around with the eggheads at D.C. and Quantico. The glowing praise was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Even the NTSB spoke longingly of having Charlie work with them, with the wistfulness of a teenage crush.

But to Billy, he was just Charlie - approachable because of his long history with Don and his profound refusal to kowtow to anyone even if they were superior to him in some way.

He pulled into the emergency room parking lot and pocketed his keys as he entered the building.

"May I help you?" The woman at the reception desk looked as if she'd been there all night, despite it not even being midnight yet.

Billy flashed his badge - it wasn't necessary, but he found it did get people to perk up and move faster.

"Here for Charles Eppes."

"One moment." The woman, suitably charged up by the sight of an FBI ID, tapped ferociously at her keyboard. "He's listed as being in exam room six." She pointed down the hallway where curtained off areas served as rooms.

"Thank you."

Billy headed off down the hall, his curiosity warring with his anticipation. He'd enjoyed spending time with Charlie and Don out west. Perhaps he could talk Charlie into coming and staying at the house - get some good stories about Don out of him.

A nurse exited Charlie's room, leaving the curtain slightly open in her wake.

Billy glanced in to see if it was the right room and caught sight of Charlie sitting on the edge of the exam bed.

He was swallowed up by an oversized gray hooded sweatshirt and looked tiny, curled into himself like a little boy lost. He still had the masculine stubble and riotous cherubic curls Billy remembered as being so at odds in his appearance, but this was a rare moment of stillness - a state Billy had never seen him in.

The squareness of his jawline, the strong line of his nose, the tiny flush of color in his cheeks... Billy had written off Charlie upon meeting him as unavailable for so many reasons, he'd forgotten just how attractive he really was. Don had always been handsome, classically so, but Charlie seemed to take that coloring, that facial architecture in a whole new direction.

Then a pair of big brown eyes looked up and caught his, Charlie's face brightening at the recognition.

Something jolted in Billy's chest at the eye contact and it wasn't just empathy for the clear pain making Charlie hold himself so stiffly.

He was definitely having Charlie stay at the house.

He put on his most welcoming smile. "Cavalry's here," he said cheerfully, pushing the curtain open.

"Billy..." The answering smile on Charlie's face was pained, but genuine. "I'm happy to see you."

Until that moment Billy hadn't realized part of why he was in such good spirits: when he'd gotten the phone call it had proved to him that Charlie hadn't forgotten him either.

Not sure how else to greet him - not knowing his injuries - he kept his place at the entry and just nodded his greeting.

"Likewise."

+

Charlie wandered around the downstairs of the house on arrival as Billy carried his suitcases inside. He took it all in, asking questions, listening to Billy's oft told story about his father's invention and their subsequent and sudden wealth.

And then he'd laughed and the pleasant spell was broken by a reminder of the reason he was there - his injury.

Charlie winced, raising a hand to his forehead. "Okay, no more making me laugh. My head hurts too much."

"Ah, I'm sorry. I didn't think of that." Billy walked over as Charlie was pulling his hand away and he brushed the errant curls aside to see what was underneath. "Butterfly bandages," Billy mused. He'd spotted a flash of white there leaving the hospital so he'd expected them to be there. What he hadn't expected was the sudden rush of adrenaline and subtly racing pulse that came from being so close to Charlie, to touching his skin. "I thought I saw a flash of white there. So it's a little worse than you let on." Billy pulled his hand back, feeling a little self-conscious about being so intrusive. "You want to tell me what happened?"

"It's nothing." Billy was good at many things and recognizing a lie was one of his best skills in the field. So he just stared at Charlie and waited for the truth. "No, I really don't," Charlie said, amending his response.

"Fair enough." Billy stepped away to head upstairs, picking up Charlie's suitcases to take them up to the guest bedroom. "I'm an easy guy to get along with, but I appreciate honesty - even the brutal kind - so if you want to say 'leave me alone', feel free."

He had all the suitcases set up in the room before he heard Charlie's footstep on the landing. He was quiet, but no one snuck up on Billy Cooper - especially in his own house.

It had taken a little clearing, but he'd put the suitcases on top of the dressers so Charlie wouldn't have to deal with them being on the bed - where he's have to move them before going to sleep - or the floor - which might be uncomfortable in terms of crouching down. Charlie might not have said what happened, but Billy had been roughed up enough times to be able to tell when someone was moving carefully because they were physically in pain or restricted by injury.

He glanced up to find Charlie waiting in the doorway.

"Thank you," he said plainly, a strained smile on his face shielding at least some of the pain.

"No problem. Glad to have the company. Just let me know if you need anything at all." He went to exit the room, but instead of Charlie moving out of the doorway he just turned sideways to allow Billy to pass.

Billy, being a lot bigger than Charlie, kind of blinked at it, but flattened himself to the side to get past him.

That tight space brought them into brushing contact and Billy's brain was temporarily distracted by little sparks of attraction at being so close.

"It's late," he managed to stammer once he was out in the hallway. "We should get ready for bed."

"Okay."

Billy paused for a second, watching as Charlie made his way into the room then turned on his heel, heading for his own bedroom at the end of the hall, hoping to get in there before he said anything else equally inane.

+

They settled in for the night eventually: Billy installed in a chair with an ottoman, ready to keep watch for the night, and Charlie in the guest bed, looking small against the king-sized mattress.

He'd fallen silent after Billy told him his cautionary tale about head injuries and Billy hoped that meant he was falling asleep.

"It feels weird to have someone watching me," Charlie finally said out of nowhere. "It's not exactly conducive to sleepiness."

"You've never fallen asleep with someone by your bedside?" Billy asked. "Not even your mom when you were a kid?"

"I don't remember her doing that." Charlie's expression darkened and too late Billy realized the grief from that loss had to still be fresh. David had told him of the death of Don's mother and clearly it still affected Charlie greatly years later. "I do remember Don though."

"Don?" Billy leaned forward a little.

"We had a lousy babysitter once when we were little kids," Charlie explained. "Instead of watching us closely she snuck her boyfriend over. I got a bad stomachache, but she just sent me to bed, saying I was faking to get attention. She planted Don in front of the TV in the inglenook while she went and made out with her boyfriend in the living room. So Don snuck upstairs and secretly called my parents from their bedroom phone. Then he came into my room and sat with me while we waited for them to come home. They were all the way in West L.A. or something so, with Saturday night traffic and all, it took well over an hour to get back to Pasadena."

"And you fell asleep?"

"I must have," Charlie said. "Because all I remember after that was my Dad's voice yelling downstairs and my Mom's hand checking my forehead for a fever. I'm pretty sure she made me sit up to take some medicine, but the only other memory I have of that night is my Dad holding Don in his arms, like on his hip, just outside my open bedroom door. I remember how odd it seemed to me because Don was like nine at this point and my father hadn't picked him up like that in ages."

"He was probably scared too," Billy offered gently. "He was just a little kid; he had no way of knowing if you were seriously sick and needed to go to the hospital or something."

"I get that now," Charlie admitted. "But at the time I just couldn't imagine Don afraid of anything. I think I just told myself it had to be really late and he was sleepy, you know?" Charlie gave him a bashful smile. "Better that than thinking the brave big brother I hero-worshiped could ever be scared."

"I may not have any siblings," Billy told him. "But I think I've got enough big brotherish protector street cred that Don will vouch for, so you're safe with me."

Charlie nestled under the covers, a serene little smile on his face.

"I believe you." A moment of silence passed and Billy sat back, figuring the conversation had ended. "And I do," Charlie added belatedly. "I feel safe with you."

As Billy's mind raced with ways he could respond to that unexpected praise, he missed Charlie's breathing becoming regular and only later did he realize he'd fallen asleep.

+

Three days... They'd fallen into a comfortable routine so quickly it was hard for Billy to believe Charlie had only been at his house for a few days.

Each morning Billy drove him to Quantico and each day he paced the house waiting for Charlie to call to pick him up.

Evenings were the best. They'd all laugh at Charlie's stories over Magda's dinners. She'd outdone herself as of late, having company inspiring her, and Billy had been thrilled. It had been so long since they'd had anyone visit he'd forgotten how much he - all of them really - enjoyed the company.

Charlie had taken his morning coffee out onto the dock, enjoying the view and asking questions about the area. Billy had found himself already starting to feel preemptively blue, knowing they'd have to leave in a few minutes for the drive up the coast to Quantico.

There was a moment of contented silence between them after their conversation stalled, their last to gaze across the harbor before they went back inside for Charlie's satchel and laptop and Billy's car keys.

Charlie's head was bent low over his coffee mug, his face pensive.

"By the way," he said out of the blue, "I asked if it would be okay for me to work here at your house instead of on base. They balked, but when I said it was at an FBI agent's house, they agreed. So if it's okay with you..."

The foul mood that had been threatening like a dark cloud lifted instantly at the thought of Charlie not having to leave the house every day. "Sounds great!" Billy exclaimed, a little embarrassed at such overt enthusiasm. "As long as you don't get sick of me hovering around," he amended, trying to be a bit more serious.

"I'd like the company." Charlie flashed a little smile at him, one that warmed him inside. "Quantico is just too sterile and military for me to get comfortable at. I have a final group of meetings today then I should be good to stay here full time."

Billy tried but was unable to staunch the delighted grin on his face.

"What is it?" Charlie asked.

"Nothing. Just glad to have you around," Billy said, trying to hide his absurd boyish happiness by heading towards the house. He shouldn't be so thrilled by the news, but he honestly was that glad to have Charlie with him. Whenever he spent time with Charlie he didn't worry about the case, the possibility of losing his job or the boredom of being off work. Best of all, he didn't obsess about all the people he wasn't saving because there were more criminals on the street because of his time off. "Come on, let's get you to work."

"Hey, Billy! You said you never had anything going with my brother..."

"And I didn't lie." Billy didn't stop, didn't break his stride. "Don't ever lie. No need to."

"What you didn't say is if you wanted to."

That brought him to a halt. He should have seen this coming - Charlie's insecurity in the face of his hero big brother. What gave him pause was the tiny implication: that Charlie might want to know if Billy had feelings for Don because he wouldn't want Billy to have feelings for him as a substitute - as a second best Eppes.

He turned around and waited for Charlie to walk up to where he waited halfway down the dock.

"Don't get me wrong, your brother's a good looking guy - and I'm saying this from the point of view of someone who has seen him naked plenty of times in the showers - but I bring enough macho bullshit into a relationship on my own. Really don't need to double it or cube it for that matter, given how alpha male Don is." It had taken him a second, but it hit him that Charlie's reaction - his demeanor suddenly turning buoyant - wasn't exactly what he expected. "What?"

"You used a math analogy."

Charlie positively beamed as he bounced off towards the house, a little spring in his step.

Billy watched him go for a second, shaking his head in bemused disbelief, before trotting after him to take him to the office one last time.

+

Billy came downstairs, having showered following his afternoon workout running the Shady Cove beach, to find Magda emerging from the kitchen.

"Whatever's for dinner smells good," he told her with an appraising nod.

"It will smell burned if we don't sit down and eat it soon," Magda teased. "I thought I was going to have to send search and rescue after you in that shower! Oh and the harbormaster called - he wants his water back." She threw a playfully dismissive wave over her shoulder as she headed back to the kitchen. "Go round up everyone for dinner. Andale!"

Glancing around, Billy couldn't hear anyone other than them in the house so he opened up the French doors leading to the yard and listened.

His finely tuned ears directed him to the garden where he found Charlie sitting on a teak garden bench Billy had built for his mother to enjoy the view of the garden. He had Rocio on his lap and his arm around Elena, holding her near as they all looked at what Charlie had in his other hand.

As Billy approached he could see it was a prism - reflecting the evening rays of the sun, low in the sky, and splitting them into the colors of the rainbow.

"So the light goes slower in the prism like my hand goes slower in water..."

"Than it does in air, exactly!" Charlie's voice was full of praise and he gave Elena a little encouraging shake.

"Are the colors always in the same order?"

"Yes, they are."

"Why?" Rocio asked, making the prism spin with his finger and watching the rainbow play against his sister's white shirt.

"Because the numbers associated with their wavelengths will always be in order from smallest to largest." Charlie shifted to point to his own hair. "See how curly my hair is? And see how wavy Elena's is? Your mother's is wavier than Elena's, but not as curly as mine. So no matter what, I will always have the curliest hair. It's the same way with violet. It will always have the curliest wavelength so it will always be at the end."

"Billy's got the straightest hair, so red's at the other end!" Elena proclaimed. "He's got a less squiggly wavelength!"

"You've got it!" Charlie looked up to find Billy standing over them. "I was just teaching the kids a bit of science."

Three faces looked up in earnest at him. Rocio and Elena were always friendly kids, but they'd cottoned to Charlie with ease, treating him almost the same as Billy at this point.

Don had always gone on about how irresponsible Charlie could be at times and how if he ever had kids he'd probably misplace them when he got caught up in an equation, but this Charlie? The kids had his complete and utter focus and were loving it.

"Time for more science tomorrow," Billy told them, his hand finding its way onto Charlie's shoulder - a casual touch, one he'd never have thought twice about with his mother or Magda - "For now, it's time for dinner, so come on inside."

"Okay." Charlie beamed up a smile at him, then the spell was broken. He helped Rocio up off his lap and gave Elena a nudge towards the house. "Don't keep your mom waiting!"

"Okay!" Rocio echoed, trotting off, his sister skipping ahead of him.

Charlie lagged behind a bit with Billy.

"They're great kids," he said wistfully.

"That they are."

"I really like them." Charlie dug his hands down into his pockets and flashed Billy an almost bashful smile.

Seeing Charlie with the kids had reminded him of what his mother had prodded him about. She'd never expected him to get married, but that didn't mean she'd let him off the hook for having a family. And Charlie, he had to admit, was great with the kids. It made him reconsider his pat answer, that he wasn't intended to ever have a family of his own.

"Yeah," Billy said before the silence went on too long. "Kids... There's something about them that kind of makes you feel glad to be alive..."

+

It all happened too fast. Billy had been helping Elena set aside the empty pancake platter when he heard Magda's warning and saw Rocio's tiny hands slipping on the orange juice pitcher.

Billy reached out and caught it at the tail end, but it had already splashed all over Charlie's Princeton Sweatshirt.

"I'm sorry!" Rocio cried, cowering. "I got your favorite sweatshirt dirty!"

"It's okay. It's not my favorite," Charlie told him, dabbing at it with his napkin to get the worst of it off.

"But you wear it all the time..."

"That's enough, Rocio! Take your plate to the kitchen. You too, Elena. Vamanos!"

Magda took the children into the kitchen with her and Charlie, with a gesture, excused himself upstairs. Billy went to the laundry room, sure one of his sweatshirts should be in there to loan Charlie. He grabbed one from the clean pile and headed up to Charlie's room, tapping at the door as he entered.

"Hey, I've got another sweatshirt..."

His voice cut off in his throat when his eyes took in what was before him.

Charlie had taken his sweatshirt and t-shirt off exposing three angry gashes across his bare chest - one trailing up his neck slightly - all stitched and closed off with butterfly bandages.

"Holy... What happened to you?"

Charlie's hands ghosted over the injuries, clearly self-conscious.

"Yeah, um... So maybe it was a little bit more than a bump on the head..."

The sweatshirt all but fell from Billy's hands, forgotten, and he strode over to Charlie, mentally cursing whoever did this to him. He couldn't keep his hands away, moving his fingers across the scant unmarred skin between surgical strikes - too parallel to be anything other than a trained attacker.

That Charlie kept this from him... Billy fought down a roiling rage. He'd been sitting around the house for days when he could have been out looking for who hurt Charlie. Clearly this was no random mugging.

A jolt jarring the slight body in front of him brought him back to his senses and he looked up to find Charlie's eyes closed, a pained expression on his face - one he'd seen on agents who had suffered post-traumatic stress.

"Hey, hey... It's okay..." He folded Charlie into his arms on instinct, holding him as close as he could without hurting him, surrounding him in his protection. "You're safe. I've got you..."

He felt more than heard Charlie's anxious breathing become less hitched, more regular, as he rubbed slow circles into his back, only belatedly realizing the warm bare skin beneath his hand was like a craving he hadn't known he'd had. The touch was to soothe Charlie, but it also fed something in Billy that had gone long hungry.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," Charlie murmured, his voice muffled in Billy's chest.

"It's okay." Billy tucked Charlie's head under his chin, settling his arms around him in a sign he wasn't about to let go. "I understand."

How long they stood there, Billy wasn't sure, but once they parted something had shifted between them: to touch was no longer foreign to them and Billy made sure Charlie was never far from his sight.

+

Charlie still needed to go up to Quantico for meetings every so often, so Billy continued to drive him, albeit paying closer attention than before. This was Billy's commute too, when he was working, so he knew every inch of the trip and every alternate route between his property and the base.

He also had the honed skills of a federal agent to tell him when a car behind him wasn't behind him on accident.

"You're not really listening to this story are you?"

Charlie had been talking, but Billy's attention had been on the silver sedan slipping through the light late morning traffic. Once he turned though there were no cars behind him and the sedan would have had to pull up behind him in full sight. Instead it paused where Billy had turned right, staying at the intersection as if the light was red when Billy knew it was green.

"Not really." His answer was truthful if not fully present.

One more check of the sedan showed a car pulling up behind it.

The sedan turned right, heading directly towards them.

Abruptly, Billy took a sudden left turn and then a hard right.

"This isn't our normal way to Quantico," Charlie said.

"No, it's not," Billy told him, scanning the rearview mirror to see if the sedan had decided to give chase. "Get your phone out and call your contact there. Tell them you might be being followed."

Charlie glanced back briefly. "There's no one there."

So like a scientist to only believe what they can see proof of. Billy growled in frustration. "They were there. Now call!"

Charlie pulled his phone out and dialed as requested.

"This is Dr. Charles Eppes. I have a security concern to report. We are en route to Quantico and possibly being followed. Agent Cooper spotted the tail - we're in his SUV."

"Tell them I may have shaken it, but whoever it was they were a pro in a silver sedan."

"Did you get that? Okay." Charlie pulled away from the phone to talk to Billy a second. "They're tracking your GPS and sending an escort to bring us in."

"Good. I don't like the idea of someone being after you, especially after what happened."

Billy cocked his head towards Charlie's chest to denote the gashes beneath his button-up shirt - the bandages peeking out from his open collar.

Charlie's face darkened. "That was just random violence - wrong place, wrong time mugging."

"I work for the government and at the moment so do you." Billy stopped the car at a red light, hands gripping the steering wheel - tense with the desire to get on base, get far away from that sedan. "I have trouble believing in random violence when it comes to folks like us. Best to just be careful."

"See?" Charlie said, pointing to the empty road behind them. "No tail."

"That doesn't mean anything," Billy scoffed. "They probably figured out that I made them when I turned so they backed off."

Charlie settled back in his seat, clearly unaffected. "I think you're reading too much into this."

Three government issue SUVs, complete with flashing lights, rushed up to them, surrounding the car.

"Wow, that was fast." Charlie stared out the window at the SUVs, standing by like sentries.

"Looks like the cavalry's arrived. Relieved, Billy drove through the intersection when the light turned green, letting the lead car of the escort go before him as the other two fell in line behind. "Something to be said for having hundreds of armed agents and soldiers in your backyard."

The rest of the trip, short as it was, was in silence: Billy still tense and worried and Charlie still dismissive and maybe a little petulant about the fuss.

Upon arrival at Charlie's building, he headed inside and Billy responded to a gesture from the agent in the lead car to join him.

"We tried to track the silver sedan on satellite," the agent told him in a low voice. "But they were definitely a pro. We lost them in an area heavily blocked by trees. Odds are they had a second car stashed there, but since it's residential there's no way of knowing - save going door to door - where the sedan might have ended up."

Billy nodded, grateful. "Not that it helps, but there was no front license plate. This person knew what they were doing."

"I'll put that in the report." The agent headed back to their car and Billy went inside, thoughts disturbed, wondering if he'd done the right thing talking Charlie into moving off base.

+

The quiet of the FBI offices was shattered when Charlie's argument with Assistant Director Chad Harper spilled out into the lobby. No agent would have pulled such a stunt, but Charlie was a civilian - and a highly valued and quite unique one at that - so Chad had come after him, pleading his case.

"Excuse us for a moment." Billy inserted himself into the fray, tugging Charlie aside for a private word. "If you really are in any danger, there's no safer place around than a military base like Quantico," he told him, trying not to make it sound like he was on Chad's side.

"I don't like it here." Charlie's small frame moved closer, into the shelter of Billy's own space and he felt it - felt Charlie's need for his protection as a tangible thing. "I feel safe with you." Charlie looked up at him, eyes near begging and Billy's resolve shattered. He nodded his assent, praying inside he wasn't making a huge mistake.

"Give me a minute to smooth things over with the A.D. and then we'll go home."

Charlie nodded, still grouchy, arms wrapped around himself as if to provide some small comfort in Billy's absence.

"He has to stay on base," Chad got out of his mouth before Billy could even begin to speak.

"Under what authority can you hold him against his will?" Billy asked, smug. "And what are you going to tell the head of every government agency when they ask you why the brilliant Dr. Charles Eppes refuses to consult with them anymore?"

Chad gaped. "But, Dr. Eppes... He's not the kind of man who'd just stop doing good works in the world."

"You're right," Billy conceded. "But I'm pretty sure Interpol, The Hague and the United Nations can keep him plenty busy on an international level, leaving him precious little time for the petty problems of the United States of Government that treated him so disrespectfully." Billy glanced back to make sure Charlie was staying close. "Listen, I have level three security at my property and I'm a fully trained agent with nothing to do but keep an eye on him. Considering we can't prove anything at this point, that should be more than enough to keep him safe. Any new data and we'll reevaluate. For now, keep the genius happy, okay? Charlie's happy, your bosses are happy. We in agreement?"

Chad eyed him, scowling. "I want a full escort anytime you leave the property - coming here, going home..."

"Fine." He turned to go, but Chad drew him back with a tap on the arm.

"Are you sure you want to take responsibility for him?"

Billy's gaze went to Charlie: a bundle of emotions and temper and brilliance all in one never boring package. Watching him was going to be work, but Billy wouldn't dream of trusting it to anyone else.

"Yes, I'm sure."

+

Billy didn't often come to the guesthouse where Magda and the kids lived, mostly because they were always in the main house, but it was possibly the only place on the property he was sure Charlie wouldn't be able to listen in on their conversation.

"Okay, Jefe. You've got me concerned with all the secrecy," Magda said as he sat her down on the couch. "What's going on?"

"It might be nothing," Billy started. "And I hope it's nothing. But the attack that put Charlie in the hospital in the first place got me suspicious and I trust my instincts. This morning when we left for Quantico a car was tailing us. I lost them and now Charlie doesn't believe we were being tailed at all."

"What does the Bureau think?"

"They don't want to take any chances. They asked for Charlie to move back on base, but he said no - didn't see any reason for it."

Magda gazed down at her hands, looking thoughtful.

"I see."

"I don't think he thought it out," Billy said, apologetic. "But as a mother I understand you might feel differently, what with your kids being here as well. So I'm putting this to your decision. I'm happy to pay for you and the kids to stay elsewhere, for you to take time off from work until Charlie leaves, if that's what it would take for you to feel comfortable." He offered up a helpless gesture, no explanation, but it was made in earnest. "I can't abandon him, Magda. I feel like he needs me to look after him."

"His work," she ventured. "I know you can't tell me about it, but it's important? To the country?"

"Charlie's work is so classified even I can't know about it," Billy told her. "So yeah, I'm going to say that it's probably critical to national security."

Magda nodded, uncharacteristically somber.

"I think it's been a while since the children spent some time with their father."

Billy nodded in understanding.

"If you'd like some private security for them..."

"No, that's not necessary." She let a tiny grin slip. "There are times when having a former special ops soldier for an ex-husband is a plus."

Billy managed an encouraging smile for her.

"And you?"

"I'll stay," she said firmly. "Besides, it's not like you can cook," she huffed, her good humor resurfacing.

"Okay," he said, patting her hands. "But the second you feel uncomfortable, you tell me and I'll get you gone. I don't care if you guys want to be shipped cross country. Whatever it takes to make you feel safe, I'll do."

"You're a good man, Jefe." Magda's voice was thick with affection. "Go be a good man for Charlie. He's the one who needs you right now. The kids and I will be fine." She rose and Billy did the same. "Well..." She let out a long breath. "I have some packing to do."

She headed towards the kids' bedrooms as Billy watched her go.

"Thank you," he said plainly.

She paused long enough to nod and he headed for the door.

"Send the kids in, will you?" she asked as he opened the door. "I'd like to tell them myself."

"You don't have to..." Billy looked back at her and she turned to face him.

"They are my children. I know how to tell them so that it won't give them nightmares."

Billy swallowed hard, the implications of his decision hitting him.

"I'll send them right in then."

+

"But I don't want to go!" Rocio whined.

"Hush, Mijo," Magda scolded. "And don't be whining at your father's when you get there."

Billy put the last of the suitcases into the back of the SUV and opened the back doors for Elena and Rocio to get in.

"It shouldn't be too long," he consoled. "So enjoy some time with your dad while you can."

"We didn't get to say goodbye to Charlie," Elena said wistfully, looking back at the main house.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," Billy said. "But he's not feeling well and I don't want you to catch what he's got." He pulled her into a hug. "I'll tell him you'll see him soon, okay?"

Elena gave him a tight hug, but pulled away obediently and climbed up into the SUV.

"Can't he just wave bye from the window?" Rocio asked, pouting.

"He's sick, sport," Billy explained, keeping the agreed upon party line going. "So he's sleeping to try to get better, okay?" He put his arms around the small boy, lifting him up. "I'm going to miss you guys."

Rocio slipped his little arms around Billy's neck and clutched him tight. "I don't want to go!"

Magda frowned, but Billy just rubbed his back consolingly. "I know. But your dad will be really happy to see you and before you know it, you'll be back here with me and your mom."

He deposited the sniffling boy into the car and helped him buckle his seatbelt.

"Take care of each other, okay? Listen to your dad and do as he says."

"It's boring at my dad's house," Elena complained.

"Life's only boring for boring people," Billy chided. "Remember what I always say - bring your own fun!"

"Yeah, but we can't bring you," Elena countered.

"Or Charlie," Rocio chimed in.

"Then I'll just have to send you some fun in the mail," Billy told them, glancing over at Magda who gave a subtle nod of approval. "Watch for packages in the next few days, okay?"

"New games?" Rocio asked, suddenly brightening.

"Maybe," Billy teased. "For now, be good, don't give your parents a hard time. And I'll see you soon."

"Bye!" the kids said in unison, waving.

With great difficulty Billy closed the door on them and handed the car keys to Magda.

"So who consoles you?" she half-taunted, accepting the keys. With a knowing look she headed to the driver's side and got in the car, starting it up.

Billy waved after them, watching them drive away.

Charlie wasn't sick, wasn't sleeping, so perhaps it would console Billy from his loss at least a little to go spend some time with him.

+

"Shouldn't the kids be home from summer school by now?"

The confrontation was inevitable. Billy had just hoped to get an hour of peace alone with Charlie before he noticed how silent the house was and started asking questions he wasn't going to like the answers to.

Rocio had crashed the remote control car he'd gotten for his last birthday and even though Billy would have gladly bought him another one, Magda had decided he needed to learn proper care of his possessions and was ready to leave it broken. A compromise was reached wherein Billy was allowed to do damage control - gluing the broken plastic pieces together, both knowing Rocio would never be able to look at the repaired toy without remembering the thoughtless crash.

His attention was focused on placing one of the tiny parts - glue pen in one hand, part in the other - so he used that as an excuse to not look at Charlie, hoping that would make his answer seem more casual.

"They're visiting their father."

He got the next part in place before Charlie spoke again.

"You sent them away because of me, because you thought I was being followed."

"Nope." Next part in place.

"You can't tell me that it's just coincidence that they left just after it happened."

"You're right, I can't." A larger part - this time one he had to hold still a while to set.

Charlie let out a breath of exasperation. "I need to be precise in what I ask you in order to get a straight answer, don't I?"

Billy risked a glance away, gauging if Charlie could handle a bit of humor.

"It helps."

"Please..." Charlie closed his laptop, face serious. "Just tell me."

Billy put down the glue reluctantly, finally turning his attention to Charlie.

"I told Magda exactly what happened and left it to her to decide. I told her I'd pay for her and the kids to stay elsewhere if that's what she wanted, that she didn't have to work here at the house until she felt safe here. She decided to stay, but sent the kids to their father's place just in case."

Charlie stared at his laptop, eyes downcast and unreadable. "That's all I wanted, just the truth."

"I never lie," Billy swore. "Though I have been known to practice the sin of omission."

"I'll leave. I'll go back to Quantico so the kids can come home."

Charlie got up and headed for the stairs. In an action he could only describe as automatic, given that he'd put no thought into it beforehand, Billy reached out and grabbed Charlie's wrist, holding onto it to keep him from leaving.

He could feel Charlie's pulse under his fingers; he could feel his own pulse racing through his body. This fear wasn't for Charlie's safety - it was concern over losing him, over losing this feeling that had been building up in him since the first night he'd brought Charlie home.

Billy had denied every hint of attraction so far, chalking it up to just having been a long time since he's been with anyone, but this sense of loss at Charlie leaving... It was visceral and in a single blinding moment of understanding he realized why he'd been willing to send Magda and the kids - his family - away.

He'd always have Magda and the children. He wouldn't always have Charlie. And he was realizing he didn't want to just give him up without a fight.

"Charlie, this is my house, my home. I want you here." The words rang truer than any he'd spoken. "I'd gladly pay for Magda and the kids to go to flipping Disneyworld if they wanted just so you could stay here with me." His thumb took a single slow swipe across the back of Charlie's hand and he watched it do it, almost of its own accord. "I know you don't believe anyone was really following you, but that doesn't matter right now. What matters is I want you here and I can protect you if it does turn out to be something." His chest constricted out of worry he hadn't made his case, that he'd lost and that Charlie would leave and this all would end. His hand tightening briefly in sympathy for the strain he felt. "Stay," he pleaded simply.

For whatever reason, Charlie didn't pull his hand away. He just closed his eyes, breathing his way through whatever thoughts battled in that brilliant mind of his.

"All right. I'll stay."

In the wave of relief and euphoria that followed, Billy almost forgot to let go of Charlie's hand, but when he did, Charlie didn't return to the sofa where his laptop was waiting. He just sank down into the chair Billy had abandoned right behind him in favor of sitting on the floor at the coffee table to work on the toy repairs.

Leaning back just a tiny bit put Billy's back against the padded arm of the chair and his side against Charlie's legs. It felt cozy, familiar, sitting so close and when Charlie didn't move away, Billy went back to his repairs silently, feeling content in having him so near.

+
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on November 17th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 3 for Confession post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
fyreflyfyrefly101 on November 17th, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*ahem* I apologise for the abuse of the exclamation mark. However, I have no apology for how much I love this - this chapter, this 'verse, this Billy-and-Charlie. I love seeing this story from the "other", Billy, side - all the additional details, as well as the line into Billy's head that show's his attraction to Charlie is just the icing on the cake.

Looking forward to the next chapter(s)!
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 17th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!!!!!

(Note similar abuse of the exclamation mark. /grins/)

I always adore the Billy/Charlie pairing, but the Safe Harbor universe has always been my favorite. I have a thing for slow building PG13 slash romances and the idea of reliving this wonderful universe once again - this time through Billy's eyes - was just too good to pass up.

Bonus? Safe Harbor was 16K and Harbor House is 24K so much more of it this time around! Yay!

Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely comment!
devon99 on November 17th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
Sweetie, it's 11.45pm, I really should be asleep by now, I have an early start tomorrow, but I so couldnt wait to read this:) I adore this verse. It makes a girl feel all warm and fuzzy.

It is completely worth the wait ♥

Edited at 2009-11-17 11:48 pm (UTC)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 18th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
/♥s you/

I shall try to get the next two parts out a lot earlier in the day for you then. I don't want you to lose sleep over this but I'm so happy that you enjoy it this much. I like the idea that I made you feel warm and fuzzy. :-)

Sweet dreams!
winky3018winky3018 on November 17th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
Eeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

*clears throat and tries again*

Oh thank you so very much for giving us more to this verse! I absolutely adored "Safe Harbor" and am so stoked to see this. :D

*hugs*
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 18th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
Yay! Thank you so much!

I adored the Safe Harbor universe myself - so much Charlie/Billy love - that I couldn't let it go. I know at some point I need to write what comes *after*, but the idea of filling in the blanks in the original story with Billy's thoughts was just too tempting to pass up.

Stay tuned! The rest comes tomorrow and the day after!
ladygray99ladygray99 on November 18th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
(SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!)

better comment coming later.

Edited at 2009-11-18 06:30 pm (UTC)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 18th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
Ah, but this was more than enough to make me smile!

/beams/
t_vo0810: Imp Charliet_vo0810 on November 18th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
the squee, oh the squee, the ever-loving SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! So add abuse of E and ! to my list of offenses. I don't care. I am in heaven, HEAVEN i tell you. that is how freaking much I love this story and its whole beautiful wonderful amazing verse. And let me tell u something, missy.... something this beautiful and sweet and lovely and wonderful doesn't just spring into creation. It is born of a beautiful and sweet and lovely and wonderful heart and a wickedly clever brain. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself with us. I told u this before, but i really do just wanna curl up and live in this verse. seriously, if i was buffy and this was the verse i created in my head to live in while really being held hostage somewhere else, i would never wake up on purpose. if i am MANNA then this was the heaven that sent me.
ok, enough with the fangirling. u already know all my favorite parts without me reiterating them to you again. i will just have to settle for another SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! :D
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 18th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
/tacklehugs/

This comment is so great I don't think there's anything I can say about it to do it justice.

YES! You are MANNA! You are completely heaven sent my dear and I am blessed to have you. ♥
uld_numb3rsuld_numb3rs on November 18th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
Harbor House
I love the 'Harbor-verse' and since I've discovered 'Safe Harbor', I was reading it again and again because it was just perfect. And now, you have added a 'billy-pov' and it's just more than perfect!

I love your stories!
*Hug*
:3

PS: I've written 1 of 100 drabble from the prompt table 001-100 i found on the community numb3rs100 but I'm not sure if it's correct. Can I send it to you? Just to be sure it fit in? Thank you! <3
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 18th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Harbor House
Thank you so much! I too love the Harborverse, so much so I wrote 24K more of a 16K story! LOL And now I need to write a sequel because I still can't let it go! /hugs verse tight/

You are welcome to send me a drabble to look over for numb3rs100! We like having new authors join us so we'd be happy to have you come write our prompts. My email address is on my profile so send it over.

Thank you!
ladygray99: Charlie Blueladygray99 on November 18th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Okay slightly sleep deprived better comment. I am so, so, so happy to see this. And it's great to see this from Billy's POV. It's great to see the attraction building and the places where he's holding back. It's good to see more of his humor and is interactions with the kids. Did I ever tell you I had a dream about Safe Harbor? Anyways couldn't be happier. Waiting not so patiently for more.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 18th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Yay! Oh, this makes me even more happy! I don't remember about the dream, sorry, but I'd love to hear about it. I really enjoyed writing Billy's POV because his time with his parents and his relationship with Magda and the kids was great to have time to explore (thus HH being a third longer than SH).

Part 2 just went up and Part 3, the final one, will be up tomorrow! Enjoy! And thanks for taking the time to write up a second longer comment. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say - it means a lot to me.
ladygray99ladygray99 on November 19th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
The bit where Charlie is in the water and Billy is diving down after him I actually dreamed about that like I was watching a well filmed movie of the scene.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on November 19th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah! I think you might have mentioned that. How cool! /is jealous/ I'm not a visual writer at all - nor an auditory one - but last night as I was doing a final pass on the last part I could actually *hear* Max Martini's voice reading Billy's lines in my head. Shiny!