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02 February 2011 @ 06:03 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Strongroom  
Written for numb3rs_newyear 2011
Crossposted to numb3rs_slash


Title: Strongroom
Pairing/Characters: Ian/Colby, Don, Gary, OCs
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Sniper Zero, Judgment Call, The O.G.
Summary: A simple visit to the bank goes horribly wrong
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

Other comments are housed at numb3rs_newyear.


"I don't see why this is so important."

Colby watched as Ian signed his name with a brisk stroke of the pen then pushed the paperwork over to him while the bank employee stood a respectable distance away to give them a bit of privacy.

"Like I said before, I want you to have access to my safety deposit box," Ian explained. "In case something happens to me."

"It's just..." Colby looked down at the form, hesitant. "This is the kind of thing people do when they, you know, get married or at least get a joint checking account."

"Trust me, you don't want to mingle money with me," Ian countered. "I'm too unpredictable in how much I spend when I'm on the road. It's why I carry a big balance and have overdraft protection. I never know when I'm going to say, need to rent a helicopter at a moment's notice."

"I get that..." Colby picked up the pen, but mostly just played with it to burn off some of his nervous energy. "It's just..." He lowered his voice so only Ian could hear. "We're not even out to our friends. And it's been over a year."

"Our friends are all Bureau," Ian reminded him. "We out ourselves to one, we out ourselves to the entire FBI. There is no halfway to this." He edged closer. "You know as well as I do you stand to lose more than I do. Your career is still going places. Me? Hell, they're too scared of me to make a fuss over me coming out. But you..." This time it was Ian's voice that softened. "I don't want to do that to you. You've got too much future ahead of you for me to ruin."

The bank employee discreetly cleared her throat. "Do you need more time? Would you like me to come back?"

"No." Colby shifted the signatory card towards him and signed his name beneath Ian's. "We're done."

"Excellent." She took the card and examined it briefly. "If you come back in a week we'll have a duplicate key made up for you by then."

"You don't just keep extras?" Colby asked.

"There's a reason why I chose this bank for my assets," Ian interjected before the woman could answer. "No one has a vault to match theirs plus their security policies are top notch."

"We like to think of ourselves as the alternative to Switzerland," the woman said with a polite smile. "Why go overseas when you can have all the safety you need right here in Los Angeles?" She gestured to the locked door behind her set in floor to ceiling thick metal bars - the same that enclosed the teller cage. "Shall I take you to your box in the strongroom now?"

"Yes, thank you." Ian gestured for Colby to go ahead of him and they followed her through the door once she unlocked it.

The air cooled as they neared the vault area and as soon as it came into view Colby was suitably impressed. For a strongroom it certainly had tons of metal and concrete keeping it solid. The vault door itself had to be at least two or three feet thick.

"There's a second door past the safety deposit boxes," the woman explained to Colby as they approached. "That separates out the bank's portion of the vault from the anteroom where customers keep..."

She stopped in her tracks as lights began to flash around the large round door. Colby and Ian stopped as well, watching in surprise as the vault door began to close.

"What's going on?" Ian asked.

"Someone must have tripped a safety protocol," she said, breathlessly anxious. "That's the only reason it would close without the manager here to close it at the end of the night."

A spray of gunfire and shouts could be heard from the main room they'd just left.

Ian pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911, looking grim.

"This is Special Agent Ian Edgerton of the FBI. There's an armed robbery in progress at First International Bank on La Brea. Be advised two FBI agents are on scene and responding: myself and Agent Colby Granger. Alert Agent Don Eppes of the Major Crimes Task Force and LAPD." He clipped the phone back to his belt and turned to the woman. "Hide. And don't come out."

Terrified the woman nodded, glanced around and then headed for a bunch of file cabinets lined up near the wall, somehow squeezing her slender frame in the scant space behind them.

Ian had his gun already out as had Colby at the first sound of gunfire, but now they looked at each other to confirm their preparedness to take the robbers on.

A nod from each of them was all that was needed. Ian took the lead and snuck back out to where the security bars separated them from the public. Still on the employee side, they could see all the tellers down on the floor, but the gunmen couldn't be easily seen from where they were.

Ian risked a glance at the edge of the gate and then whispered back, "Two gunmen in black ski masks with semiautomatics. We can take them. I've got the taller one to the left. You take the shorter one nearer the door."

Colby nodded his understanding. "We need to get closer."

Ian led the way back from the edge and headed into the teller area, crawling to keep out of sight of the robbers.

The tellers noticed them both, but Ian flashed his badge at them and Colby held a finger to his mouth to warn them to stay quiet.

On Ian's mark, they stood up at the same time, pointing their guns in the direction of the two robbers.

"FBI! Drop your weapons and put your hands up!"

Both men immediately put their hands up, but neither dropped their gun.

Colby had a sense, a prickling at the back of his neck he'd come to trust as a bad sign, that this was all going way too easy. Something had to go wrong.

The shot came out of nowhere. Colby had been watching both men and neither had aimed their guns at anything but the ceiling. As he glanced around frantically, trying to figure out where to point his gun, he saw Ian fall to his knees beside him.

"Col..."

In one heart-stopping second Colby saw it all: the red stain rapidly expanding on Ian's back, his body falling to the floor and the teller at the end of the row - whom they thought was just another victim - aiming a gun.

The two men out front aimed their guns at him anew.

"Three against one," the teller said snidely, sitting up. "Now you drop your weapon or I finish you both off." He waved his gun in Ian's direction and Colby put up his hands in surrender. He slid his gun away out of reach and knelt beside Ian.

"Oh, god..." Colby tore off his dress shirt, ignoring the gun trained on him, and wadded it up - pressing it against Ian's bloody back.

Sirens wailed outside the doors followed by curses from the gunmen out front.

"This is Lieutenant Gary Walker, LAPD," came the first blast from the bullhorn out front. "The bank's surrounded. Surrender peacefully and no one gets hurt. Just come out with your hands in the air."

"Dude, we've got two FBI agents as hostages!" one gunman said to the other. "That should be worth something."

"Not if one's dead," Colby yelled out to them, mind already racing with angles he could work to get them to release Ian so he could be taken to a hospital as soon as possible. "Which he will be if you don't let the paramedics take him now."

"He's not going anywhere and neither are you." The second voice was deeper, more mature - probably from the taller man. "Not until we cut a deal to get out of here."

The phone on the manager's desk rang and the robber picked up, lowering his voice so that only muffled noises could be heard.

A sputtering from Ian drew Colby's attention back to him, the blood flecked on his lips alarming him more than he imagined possible. He'd been grandstanding to get Ian to a hospital, but the ugly truth was he would only last so long at the rate he was losing blood.

"Need... shift... lung..." Ian's mutterings were hard to make out, but Colby's memory flashed back to an episode of a cop show they'd watched together. One detective had been shot and his lung punctured. They'd propped him up on his injured side to ensure the blood pooled only in the bottom of the injured lung, allowing him to still be able to breathe through his one remaining functional lung.

"I've got you," Colby assured him. He pulled Ian partially into his lap so his thigh kept pressure on the wadded up shirt on his back, but his good lung was lifted up higher. Almost immediately his breathing quieted, seemed less arduous.

"Thanks," Ian managed.

"Who says TV isn't educational?" Colby tried to joke, but it just fell flat. "I'm sorry," he said, his pain clear on his expression. "I didn't think about there being a third guy, an inside man."

Ian shook his head, an almost imperceptible movement. "Didn't either. Not your fault."

"Well, Gary Walker's out there now which means Don can't be far behind. They'll take care of this. I trust them." He paused, swallowing hard. "They just need to do it fast."

The robber's voice had grown louder on the phone to the point where he was almost shouting.

"Jesus! LAPD are a bunch of freaking idiots! Forget you jerkwads! You want these people to live? You have the top FBI guy call me and tell me what he's going to do to meet my demands!" He slammed the phone down and then yelled back over the teller stations to Colby and Ian. "Your guy better knock some sense into that idiot and give us what we want or the 5 o'clock news is going to be littered with bodies!"

Colby opened his mouth to toss back a retort, but Ian just shook his head to stop him. Colby stopped himself; as senior agent Ian would know better how to handle a situation like this, even if he was usually on the other end. Colby, on the other hand, just wanted to get them to let Ian go. His leg was wet with blood where it had soaked through the shirt and Ian's tawny skin was already starting to grow pale as he grew weaker.

The phone rang again and Colby hoped Don would be on the other end of the line. As good as Gary might be, he trusted his life to Don and Don had never let him down.

"You FBI?" the man was saying into the phone. "Yeah, we got two of your guys. One's got a bullet in him so if you want him out of here before he bleeds out you'd better get on the ball."

Colby tuned out the robber's angry prattle as he pulled Ian further up into his lap so his head was resting against Colby's broad chest. "Ian, you know this bank. If you were out there with Don what do you think he'd do?"

Ian beckoned him down to whisper in his ear. "One of the reasons I chose this bank? Sniper friendly clear glass windows with excellent visibility from neighboring buildings."

"Are you saying..." Colby looked at him in surprise.

"It's what I would do," Ian whispered. "Two robbers? Double snipers. Simultaneous."

"But they don't know about the third guy." Colby glanced to where the armed teller was sitting, completely shielded from outside view like all of them behind the teller windows.

"But we do," Ian told him. "You have to be ready when Don makes his move."

"But if I put you down..." Colby's brow creased in concern. Ian was already having trouble breathing. If both lungs filled with blood..."

"You have to," Ian asserted. "Just lay me on my bad side. I'll last longer that way."

"God, Ian..." Colby clutched him tighter, more reluctant than ever to let him go.

"Be subtle about it," Ian reminded him. "The teller can't know you're bracing for an attack."

"Hey! What are you two talking about?" Colby's head jerked up in surprise as the teller addressed them, waving the gun in their direction.

"Just trying to get him to tell me what's the best position to put him in," Colby replied. He grabbed a jacket from a nearby chair that probably belonged to a teller and wadded it up, easing Ian down onto the floor on his side, using the jacket as a pillow. "How's that?" he asked Ian, making sure to keep his voice loud enough so they didn't look like they were hiding anything from the teller.

Ian just coughed and sputtered, but gave him a silent thumbs up - more a signal for Colby to prep to go than that he was fine.

"Hold on," Colby whispered to Ian, giving his arm a final squeeze as he slowly shifted into a good position. The teller's attention left them and he began peering up and over the teller window to watch what was going on in the main area. Colby did the same, watching the two men wave their guns at the hostages. The taller man had been talking on the phone, but now he was back to railing again.

"I don't give a damn! You're letting us walk out of here or they're all dead! How about I knock off a few just to show you I'm serious?" He dropped the phone and Colby heard it clatter on the desk. "You and you! Stand up!"

The shattering of the window glass was louder than the shots; both robbers dropped by separate snipers all at once.

Colby bolted to the right, tackling the armed teller to the ground, catching him unawares.

The man was stronger than he looked and his grip on the pistol was firm. Colby tried to wrench it away from him, but was more concerned about keeping it pointed away from Ian's direction. Given Colby's background this guy had to have once been special ops to match his abilities.

He managed to get the gun between them, hoping to use his bulk to at least point it away from Ian if not tear it from his hands. They jostled for control of the trigger as the gun alternately pointed towards the teller then towards Colby.

The gun went off and fire bloomed in his leg, pain almost completely derailing him. They struggled anew, but unable to use his left leg, Colby was at a disadvantage. He could hear SWAT pouring into the bank, but still the man wouldn't cave. He finally managed an opening - an elbow across the face that knocked him out cold, the gun falling from his hand. Colby pushed the gun away and scooped his own up as he crawled back towards Ian who looked ghostly pale and unmoving.

"Get a medic!" he yelled out. "Two agents down! We need an ambulance!"

Every inch he crawled was excruciating, the pain in his thigh searing.

"Get this cage open!" He could hear a familiar voice: Don's.

"Ian, it's over." Colby shook Ian gently, but got no response. "Ian?" A chill swept through him at how still his lover looked. "Ian, come on man!"

Ian finally stirred slightly, wincing in pain.

"Col..." His voice trailed off into a wet cough so Colby dragged him back up into his lap, easing Ian's airways and ignoring his own injuries in favor of looking after him. "Take my key... It's around my neck."

Ian's bloody hand pulled a set of dog tags out with a key on the same chain.

"No," Colby told him. "I don't need to get in your safety deposit box. You're going to be fine."

"Take it anyway," Ian mumbled. "You're the only person I trust with the key. Promise me."

Colby closed his eyes and took as deep a breath he could manage despite his pain.

"Okay." With his own bloody fingers he took the necklace from Ian and put it around his own neck where it clanged against his own dog tags. "But I'm giving it back. You can count on that."

"Colby!" Don finally got someone to unlock the gate and let him into the secure teller area. As he approached he saw what had happened. "Oh, god. Ian... Where's the medic?" he yelled out.

"Don, this guy's the inside man," Colby told him, gesturing to the still out teller. "He shot Ian in the back when we tried to take down the two robbers out front and shot me in the leg when I tried to get his gun away."

"You went after him unarmed?" Don asked, cuffing the unconscious man and taking his gun.

"He was distracted after the snipers took out the two main guys so I thought I had a chance to catch him off guard," Colby explained.

"We had no idea there was a third man," Don muttered. He moved to kneel beside them, pulling off his shirt and tying it around Colby's leg. "How's he doing?" he asked, cocking his head to Ian who had fallen silent.

"He's at least got a punctured lung. It's been filling with blood. I'm not sure how much longer he's going to be able to breathe."

"Well, I've got a newsflash for you on this leg," Don said, his tone somber. "This looks like the bullet hit an artery. We need to get you both to the hospital before you bleed out."

Only then did Colby look down and see almost his entire pant leg was sopping wet with blood. He felt weak and queasy all at once; only his concern for Ian kept him upright and focused.

"He needs to be kept propped up," Colby explained. "It keeps the blood out of his good lung."

"I'm sure the paramedics can handle that," Don assured him. "And here they are!"

He backed away as two paramedics swooped in, each with a separate gurney. They loaded up Ian first, propping him up on his side just as Colby had done, then helped Colby onto the other gurney - wheeling them out with Don jogging by their side.

"We'll catch up with you at the hospital," Don told him before turning to the paramedics. "Take care of them!"

"Will do," came the answer. They were loaded in no time, each gurney on one side of the ambulance, and the vehicle lurched forward just as the sirens were turned on.

"Work on him," Colby told them, gritting his teeth against the pain. "I can wait."

He watched, feeling helpless as they attached IVs to Ian, calling ahead with his vital signs to the trauma center.

At one point, while there were busy, Colby got a clear view of Ian. He looked oddly peaceful in his stillness, but it wasn't Ian's kind of stillness. He'd mastered his body as a sniper and this? This was the ultimate lack of control. It felt wrong, it was wrong.

Colby's throat closed up with grief at the thought of this powerful amazing man reduced to a mere shell by a single bullet. Needing to prove to himself he was still with him, he reached across with blood-stained hands and felt Ian's pulse under his fingertips.

Convinced he was still with him for now, Colby threaded their reddened fingers together, no longer caring who saw them holding hands. He'd almost lost Ian today and still could. Worrying about who might see or tell just seemed ridiculous now.

The hospital came up quickly and they were unloaded apace, Colby straining to watch where Ian's gurney went even as they pulled him in to prep for surgery.

He could overhear some of what was said in the next room over and he strained to find out how Ian was doing.

"Pulse is erratic."

"We need more pressure."

"How quickly can we get him into an operating room?"

"He's going into v-fib!"

"He's flat-lining! Get a crash cart!"

A nurse tried to put an oxygen mask over Colby's face, but he batted it away.

"Ian!" he called out, desperate for it not to be true.

"Clear!"

"I'm sorry, sir." The nurse appeared above him again. "But we need to take you into surgery."

The mask went over his face again, a needle pierced his arm and everything started to swirl into gray as he felt himself sucked away from reality into oblivion.

+

"Colb?"

The difference in nicknames was enough for Colby to realize the voice cutting through the haze wasn't Ian's, it was Don's.

He tried to respond, but his tongue felt wrong and his throat dry. He forced his eyes open and found Don retrieving a cup of ice chips.

"Try some of these."

He shook a few into Colby's mouth and they helped. He nodded in gratitude and forced himself to form words.

"How's Ian?"

Don's face darkened. "Still in surgery. His lung collapsed. They brought in a specialist who thinks he can save it though. It's just a long surgery - a lot longer than yours." He plucked an evidence bag out of his pocket, showing off a flattened bullet. "Apparently you have strong bones. They stopped this thing cold when normally it would have been a through and through."

"I eat my Wheaties," Colby joked weakly.

Don managed to huff out a chuckle. "So... You and Ian?"

The moment of truth. Colby just nodded. "For about a year now."

"None of my business," Don responded. "And for the record, no one else knows. If you want, we can keep it that way."

"It's not about what I want," Colby said, a tinge of bitterness in his voice.

"Yeah, I get that." Don gave Colby's arm an affectionate squeeze. "Hang tough. I'm going to go check on Ian's condition for you."

"Thanks," Colby told him. As he rose, Colby spoke again. "And thanks for, you know, keeping it to yourself."

"Honestly," Don said, looking wistful. "I wish it didn't matter. Who you love is your business and your business only. I can't think of anything I care less about than the gender of my team's significant others. I'm just glad that they do have someone to go home to at the end of a hard day, someone to share their life with like I do."

Colby's eyes filled up, unable to fight back the welling tears.

"That's all I want. I want him back with me, in one piece."

"Ian's tough," Don reminded him. "So have faith in him and patience with the doctors. Give it time..."

He slipped out the door, leaving Colby to wipe away the drops that escaped to fall from his cheeks to his hospital gown - visible proof of his love and his grief.

By the time Don returned he had pulled himself together, wiping the tear trails from his face and sniffling his way back to something resembling normal.

"He's out of surgery," Don said, looking encouraging. "They said you could do a quick visit in the ICU."

"Really?" Colby blinked in surprise.

"No, but I flashed my badge and looked menacing until they allowed it," Don admitted. "It's amazing what the federal credentials will do to break protocol."

"Thanks," Colby said quietly. "It means a lot to me."

"And to Ian, I'm sure. He won't be awake for this, so be prepared, but Charlie assures me there's good science behind the theory that unconscious people can hear what's said around them, so go talk to Ian. Tell him to get off his ass and fight. We need our sniper expert back." Don looked like he was capitulating a second. "And yeah, I want my friend back too."

An orderly brought in a wheelchair and pushed it up to the bed.

"Ten minutes max," he warned. "Then it's back to bed."

"Okay," Colby said, figuring anything was better than nothing. "Let's do this."

Transferring was more painful than he thought it would be, even with Don on one side and the orderly on the other. The flare of agony in his leg stole the breath from his lungs and he needed a moment once he was seated to get a hold of himself again.

Once he was settled Don walked with him to the ICU as the orderly pushed him.

"I'll take over from here," Don said, moving behind Colby's chair once the ICU nurse had opened the door for them.

"No agitating him," she warned. "He might be in and out, but we can't risk disturbing his healing lung."

Don rolled Colby right up beside Ian's bed and then stepped out of the room, leaving them alone.

"Ian..." Colby took his hand again, noting how different it felt now that they had been cleaned of blood. He traced the veins on the back of Ian's hand with his fingertips as he had done so many times before, marveling at the inherent strength in the broad hands that unlike his were starting to show signs of age. "The doctors say you're going to be fine. You just need to focus on healing. I'll be nearby, so if you need me..." His voice trailed off and he leaned in closer, feeling his throat begin to close up with emotion. "I almost lost you today. No more. I don't give a damn about the Bureau. I don't want to hide anymore. I love you and I want to be with you - not in hiding, but full time. So come back to me and we'll start over. I'll even take your stupid safety deposit box key like you wanted." He fingered the key on Ian's necklace around his own neck. "But you have to come back and claim the original first. Deal?" When Ian didn't respond, Colby just squeezed his hand. "Deal."

He lifted the limp hand before him and cupped it against his face, relaxing into the warmth against his cheek and jaw before pressing a kiss to the palm.

Although he hadn't prayed in decades, silent prayer rose up in him, recited by heart and from the heart on Ian's behalf.

"Sir..." The nurse sounded both apologetic and firm.

"I know..." Colby put Ian's hand back down. "I have to go."

Don appeared and wheeled him back to his room where the orderly joined them, both of them helping move Colby back onto the bed.

Just that simple bit of effort left him exhausted.

"Rest," Don told him. "I'll keep an eye out for Ian while you're sleeping. I swear."

Don he trusted, so Colby just nodded and closed his eyes, hearing the click of the morphine drip before there was once again darkness and nothing, not even dreams.

+

Morning brought confusion, more pain and with the pain, memories.

Colby stared out the window thinking about how they'd been on their way to the bank about this time yesterday. He'd not wanted to go, but Ian insisted. A thousand what-ifs raced through his head: if they'd had a different day off work, if they'd been caught in traffic, if he'd put his foot down and told Ian he wouldn't go. It was senseless mental meandering, but he couldn't help it.

Don appeared at the same time as breakfast and gave him the update on Ian as he ate voraciously, as if he hadn't eaten in days.

"He's in and out," Don told him. "But the lung is healing well. The doctors are encouraged. Barring any unexpected infections he won't lose the lung."

"That's great," Colby enthused around a mouth full of oatmeal.

"Don't get the wrong idea," Don cautioned. "Your leg will heal in a matter of weeks. Ian? He was shot in the back and almost lost a lung. This is not a minor injury; this is a life changer."

Colby nodded solemnly. "I just want him to recover, to be himself again."

"I'm not sure about how this will affect his work, but he'll always be Ian," Don mused. "No one in the world like him."

Colby smiled to himself. "No, there really isn't."

As he finished his breakfast an orderly showed up with a wheelchair.

"I took the liberty of asking for one," Don told him. "I figured you'd want to go see Ian as soon as you could."

"Yeah, thanks." This time the transfer was a bit easier, though the pain was still intense.

As Don pushed him down the hallway, he lowered his voice for only Colby's ears. "I told the rest of the team not to come visit you yet - that you needed your rest. I figured you wanted a chance to, you know..."

"Come up with a story?" Colby asked. "I appreciate it, but I've made my mind up. I don't want to hide this anymore. Ian's going to need me and there's no way either of us will be able to hide that. And I don't want to."

"Good for you." Don took his hand off the wheelchair just long enough to give his shoulder an encouraging squeeze. "And don't worry about the Bureau. If they try to give you any hassle let me know. I'll back your play, all the way. You both have done too much for the FBI for them to hold this against you - officially or unofficially."

For a second Colby felt choked up by the show of support. "Thanks," he finally managed. "That means a lot."

Once inside Ian's room, Don parked him next to Ian's bed.

"No problem. I'll be right outside."

As he withdrew tactfully, Colby called after him. "Don?"

"Yeah?"

"Tell the team they can come by anytime. I'd like to see them."

Don smiled, eyes crinkling up at the sides as he nodded his acquiescence. "Will do."

Turning back as Don left, Colby picked up Ian's hand to hold in his own, no longer feeling any sense of shame or worry at being seen.

The prayers came more naturally now, his pleas for Ian's recovery never far from his mind, so much so that he almost missed it when Ian's eyelids showed signs of movement beneath.

"Hey..." Colby gripped his hand tighter, sending his strength the best way he knew how. "I'm right here," he whispered. "Come back to me."

He saw the nurse hovering in the doorway, glancing at her watch, but he was ready to put up a fight if he had to. He wasn't going to miss Ian waking up and he didn't want Ian to miss seeing him.

"Col..." Ian's mouth barely moved, but his name on Ian's lips sent a rush of joy through him.

"I'm here," he repeated.

Ian's eyes opened to mere slits, but even behind them Colby could see the haze of heavy drugs marring the spark of life in those dark eyes. Still, Ian was awake and that was proof enough for him he'd made it through the worst.

"Lung?" he asked.

"They saved it," Colby said proudly. "I told them you were a fighter."

The barest hint of a smile curved the corners of Ian's lips.

"Good." Ian took a deeper breath and Colby watched his chest rise and fall, relieved at the sight and remembering when he feared Ian had drawn his final breath.

"I know you. You wouldn't leave me," Colby said, his voice low and intimate. He reached under his hospital gown and pulled out the twin necklaces with the dog tags. They were completely tangled together and Colby made no move to separate them. "See? Even your dog tags won't leave mine."

Ian huffed out a little laugh and then coughed a little, alarming Colby when the nurse rushed over.

"You can't disturb him!" she scolded. "He needs to rest!"

Ian waved her off. "Go find someone who's really dying to watch over. I'd like to have a little time in private with my fiance."

She looked suitably chastened, but left with a parting shot aimed at Colby. "No agitating him!"

"Yes, Ma'am," he said with a smarmy salute, making her huff as she exited the room. As he turned back to Ian, he turned serious, finding it hard to look him in the eye. "So were you just saying that so she'd let me stay..."

"No." Ian interrupted, the certainty in his voice clear even in his weakened condition. "And if you don't believe me?" He pulled his hand free of Colby's and reached for the tangled dog tags, pulling the key amongst them free to show him. "Go look in the box."

Rings. Colby let his head hang down even as the smile crossed his face. It had to be. That was exactly the way Ian would show him just how much it meant to him, keeping their rings in the safest place he knew until the time had come.

"I'm kind of busy right now," he finally countered. "I'm staying here to kick my fiance's ass until he recovers and can come home to me."

"Or really?" Ian's smile was a tonic and a tiny glint of his wry intellect shone through the glaze in his eyes. He was on his way back; Colby hadn't lost him. "Because I fully plan to kick your ass at basketball a year from now. Just give me time."

Colby took up his hand again, holding it in both of his own.

"For you? I've got all the time in the world."

"Good." Ian tugged on his hands to pull him closer. "So get over here and kiss me already before Nurse Ratched comes back to throw you out again."

It hurt to stand without help, but once he sank into Ian's reassuring kiss Colby didn't notice the pain at all.

+

The strongroom was cool inside, but it felt good after coming in from the hot LA midday sun.

The bank employee put his key into one of two locks in Ian's safe deposit box then turned to Ian who turned to Colby with an expectant look on his face.

During Ian's recovery Colby had tried many times to give Ian back his dog tags and key, but each time he went to untangle the necklace from his own, Ian stopped him.

This time though he felt almost wistful at having to finally let them go. He'd grown used to feeling the tags clatter against each other over his heart, feeling it as a bit of Ian he carried with him all the time.

As he handed the necklace back to Ian, Ian didn't use it to open the box. Instead he put it over his own head and gestured to Colby.

"Use your key. We need to make sure it works."

Blinking, Colby pulled off his own necklace upon which he'd placed his copy of the key - making their necklaces identical save the chain and engraving on the tags. Ian stepped back and he stepped forward, slotting his key into the lock and turning it effortlessly.

The bank employee pulled the box out for them and placed it on the table for clients to use before withdrawing with a silent nod.

"Ian..." he began carefully. "Is there anything, that as an FBI agent, I shouldn't know about in this box? Like say, an unregistered weapon?"

Ian wrinkled his nose a little. "I'd suggest you not open the black fabric bag at the back of the box and ignore the boxes of ammunition there too."

He'd read him right; of course Ian would keep a spare gun in the box in case he needed it.

Taking a deep breath he opened the box.

It was all very neat and tidy, more a series of boxes and bags within the box so none of the contents were readily apparent.

Colby set about unpacking the box, putting the containers on the table until he got to the back. He could feel the shape of a handgun covered by cloth and willed his fingers to move on. The ammunition was also easy to tell, pushed to the back and boxed, but still making the distinct rattling sound bullets made when they nestled up against each other.

"That's all the important stuff," Ian confirmed. "Most of it's just assets in different forms..." He reached for one large bag and opened it to show it contained stacks of hundred dollar bills. A smaller but heavy bag yielded gold Krugerrands.

Colby raised his eyebrow at him. "Dare I ask if you got those before, during or after the period it was illegal to own Krugerrands?"

"Moot now," Ian said with a bemused huff. "They're legal to own at this point so I'm good."

A third tiny bag Ian shook out into the palm of his hand to reveal a cache of cut diamonds.

"You'd be surprised how many places prefer diamonds to gold when it comes to currency," Ian mused, gazing down at them.

"I'm more surprised that you know these places," Colby retorted. He opened a box and found it filled with neatly stacked bearer bonds. "Now these are definitely handy."

An envelope revealed maps with dots on them, some with addresses.

"Those are my safehouses. Some are friends' places I can crash at and not be found. Some are mountain cabins I own. The ones I own are through a shell corporation that can't be tied to my name so they can't be traced back to me." At Colby's questioning gaze, he shrugged. "When you go through life putting a bull's eye on people's back the best way to relax is somewhere that no one - not even the good guys - knows where you are."

"Fair enough," Colby said. "But now I know."

"Yes." Ian's expression was serious, but unconcerned. "I wanted to show you that I trust you with my life."

The breath caught in Colby's chest as the full meaning of this visit hit him. Ian no longer had any secrets from him. Even his most well hidden hiding place from the world was now known to him.

"It means a lot to me," he finally managed, humbled.

Ian pushed a black velvet pouch closer to Colby, cocking his head towards it.

"This was what you were supposed to find when you opened the box that day."

"That day..." he echoed. Colby closed his eyes as the memories flooded back: the vault door closing, the sound of gunfire, Ian bloody and gasping for air in his lap, how still Ian was in the ambulance, the voices shouting for a crash cart...

"Hey..." Ian's hand was warm on his shoulder, making him open his eyes. "Don't go back there," he warned.

"Kind of hard," Colby huffed. "Seeing as how we're," he gestured around him, "back here."

"That's the past," Ian stressed, squeezing his shoulder. "This is about the future." He pulled his hand away and turned his gaze to the velvet bag again. "Open it."

Steadying himself, Colby undid the drawstring on the velvet bag and pulled out a black jewelry box.

Opening it, he found two matching gold rings inside, simple yet classy.

The light caught them in such a way that he could tell they were engraved inside. He pulled one out to look closer at it and read what was inside.

"Amor vincit omnia." He couldn't help himself, beaming with joy as he translated. "Love conquers all."

Ian came around from the other side of the table to stand beside him.

"It certainly did in our case," he said quietly, taking the second ring out of the box. "So what do you say? I'm ready for the world to know that I'm yours." He slipped the ring on his finger then took the other ring from Colby, holding it up. "Are you ready for the world to know you're mine?"

Colby held out his hand, steady as a rock, for Ian to slip the ring on.

"I'm ready."

+

Colby jumped up to block, but Ian had faked and gotten an opening out of it. They both watched as the basketball sailed through the air and swished through the net.

"Oh, man!" Colby complained. "I totally should have seen that fake coming!"

"You should have," Ian admonished with a chuckle as he retrieved the ball, passing it from hand to hand casually. "Both Don and Charlie used it on you in last week's game against you and David."

"I had an excuse," Colby claimed. "You were distracting me, sitting there watching me on the sidelines."

"So what's your excuse today?" Ian teased. "There's no audience in our backyard." He tucked the ball under one arm then waved a hand around and truly, with the garage set so far back from the street on the large property, there was little chance of them being seen by any passersby in the neighborhood.

"My excuse is the same..." Colby reached forward and ran his fingers briefly over Ian's tanned bare chest to get to his dog tags, tangling them briefly in his fingers before letting them go. "You. Only it's worse today since you're shirtless."

Ian tossed the ball aside onto the nearby grass. "Well, we could always even the score, farm boy," he taunted, tugging at Colby's t-shirt until Colby let him pull it off, the silver of their twin dog tags glinting in the sun along with their identical gold rings. Grinning widely, Ian used Colby's necklace to tug him closer. "Much better. So..." He skimmed his hand down Colby's body then slipped it around to cup his ass, pulling their bodies into contact. "Should I consider your ass well and truly kicked - as promised?"

"You didn't beat me by that much of a margin," Colby retorted, smirking as his arms went around Ian. "But if it makes you happy, old man..."

"Ha!" Ian threw his head back with a bark of laughter. "Just for that I'm going to whup your ass with an audience next time. I challenge you to a rematch at the Craftsman. We'll let the Eppes men decide."

"You're on." Colby's fingers skimmed over Ian's bare back, passing over the long scar from where the doctors had operated to save his lung. In the time they'd been together Colby had at first hated the scar and all it stood for, but with Ian's help had come to accept it as part of who he was now: a battle scarred warrior who always came out on top in the end. "But for now? How about a shower?"

Ian didn't let him loose. "How about a better reason to be sweaty?" he suggested, his tone low and throaty. He pulled Colby over to the cooler shady side of the garage and pressed him up against it, devouring his mouth in a voracious kiss even as he pressed himself - full frontal - against his lover.

Ian felt good, solid, under his hands and Colby let them roam, soaking up the sun-heated skin beneath his fingertips. His hands found their way to Ian's ass, pulling him closer to grind against him - both of them growing hard between their bellies.

Ian's mouth was hot against his neck as he yanked Colby's shorts down impatiently, doing the same for himself before Colby could respond. The feel of skin on skin was intoxicating and when their bodies quickly found a groove Colby held on, burying his face in Ian's neck as friction stole his breath in the best possible way.

The scent of his lover filled his nostrils, that sexy combination of sweat and cordite and something uniquely Ian beneath it all. A flick of his tongue gave him a taste of that warm salty skin, filling his senses as a whole different kind of heat bloomed low in his gut.

Breaking the rhythm, Ian reached between them, taking both of their cocks in one large hand and stroking them together.

Colby let out an incoherent groan and let his head fall back against the garage, his hands now clutching Ian's biceps as he felt himself start to lose control.

"Stay with me." Ian's low voice caught his attention and he opened his eyes to meet Ian's gaze. His jaw was slack with pleasure and his dark eyes shone through clear, unclouded. As Colby held his gaze they both stiffened, falling over the edge in tandem, gasping their way through their completion - their eyes locked.

They broke as the last of their energy failed them and they allowed themselves to lay down on the cool grass in the shade, both panting hard.

"About that shower..." Colby finally managed between deep breaths.

"In a minute," Ian said. "I may have both lungs, but they'd both like a break after that kind of exercise."

Colby rolled onto his side, his hand skating over Ian's flat stomach then rising up to play with his necklace.

That day in the strongroom they'd traded more than rings. He'd given Ian one of his two dog tags and Ian had done the same. Colby had even bought a new chain to match Ian's, which he'd always liked better anyway. Now they truly were identical: one for each of them and a matching key.

"I was hoping you'd agree to an upgrade and we'd switch to the hot tub."

Ian raised an eyebrow at him. "What, you think I'm going to be sore after a simple basketball game? I'm not that old."

Colby leaned in closer, pressing a kiss to Ian's lips.

"Maybe I just want to extend the time period I get to see you all wet."

"Hmm... Wet Colby..." Ian pretended to muse over the idea. "Can't imagine any downside to that suggestion." He rolled over onto his side, facing Colby and mirroring his body language by taking hold of Colby's necklace the same way Colby held his, sealing the decision with a lingering kiss. "I'm in."

Colby's gaze went to the necklaces. "I kind of miss them tangling up," Colby admitted.

Ian tugged briefly on Colby's necklace in invitation as he rose, backing towards the nearby hot tub. As he did, he took off his own, looped it around Colby's neck and used it to pull him along with him.

"Then let's go get tangled."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on February 3rd, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
Confession
This fic was written for lilacs_roses for the 2011 Numb3rs New Year's Challenge at numb3rs_newyear. The request was so long I'll let you all who are interested go to the numb3rs_newyear sign ups to read it. Suffice to say, I chose Ian/Colby as the pairing off her list because in a way it's become my signature pairing for the New Year Challenge after Air and Bravo. I was also inspired by swingandswirl's sign up since she's a big proponent of the Ian/Colby ship like I am. So I think I might be forgiven if I pilfered a few ideas from her list as well. ;-)

Since Ian and Colby whump is no stranger to my pen, I needed a different take on things. Yes, I've done double whump before (Wilderness Bound and Bravo), but I liked the immediacy of the bank robbery and the idea that they were an existing couple who hadn't come out yet complicating matters.

BTW, apologies to anyone who read the original version sans the two scene epilogue. There was an email snafu and I didn't realize the comm mods didn't have the updated version and it took about a day to get it all sorted out. There are more improvements other than the addition of the epilogue, so if you read it once and liked it I hope you'll read it again as I think you'll like it a lot more.

FWIW the cop show I took the shot in the back/collapsed lung thing from was Homicide: Life on the Street aka H:LOTS aka The Best Damn Show on Television. Hehehe

As far as the title goes, I'm not sure how many people are aware of the term strongroom versus say just bank vault, but I liked the insinuation that both of them needed to be strong while they were there and that strength was a test of their relationship - one they passed with flying colors.

For those of you who love marriage fic please note there was a prohibition against this in the sign up so you didn't get anything past the exchange of rings, which was probably pushing it as it was, but I liked the idea that Ian didn't need any more than that to proclaim that he belonged to Colby and Colby belonged to him.

Very special thanks to betas melissima and t_vo0810 for their assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
sentineljandb: Animal Spiritsentineljandb on February 4th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
ope your inspiration never ends!
Wow I was more into Charlie/Don/Ian or Charlie/Ian, but you showed me that Ian/Colby is wonderful. I did not thin two strong men would appeal to me, but you changed my mind.

Thanks for sharing your stories. I am reading your Charlie/Don stories and they are incredible. Hope your inspiration never ends with the numb3rs characters.
laura_trekkie: The Ganglaura_trekkie on February 7th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
I'm always pleased to see some Ian/Colby, as there's really not enough of it. It's even better if that fic is by your good self, swingandswirl or lilacs_roses, because I know I don't have to worry about characterisations.

Sure enough, you nailed them here... literally as well as figuratively with that epilogue ;). Very hot!

They were hurt, they were scared for each other, but it didn't stop them acting. They put aside that fear so that Colby could ask Ian what was likely to happen; so that Ian could warn Colby to be ready to go for the teller, despite having no weapon and no kevlar; and so that Colby was able to leave Ian to bleed out on the floor while he took down the last bad guy.

That showed one side of their strength, but we saw another side as well: the strength to carry on their relationship in secret; the strength to decide to face any consequences of coming out. The strength of their committment to each other.

I liked the rings and the trust behind Ian allowing Colby access to his deposit box and the secrets held within. What I really loved, though, was the dog tags. While Colby was wearing Ian's tags, I thought to myself how meaningful it would be for them both to wear each other's tags... and then you did it and I cheered (in my head, as it's 2:30am and the parents are asleep) \o/.

Thanks for adding another fic to this neglected pairing. I hope you have more plans for Ian and Colby. I also hope my muses will get their act together and help me get a grip on a little bunny I have, so I can do my bit to further the cause ;). I fear it will be awhile, though, so I hope you can keep the ship afloat for now. *g*

Laura.
ladygray99ladygray99 on March 2nd, 2011 06:23 am (UTC)
So Yes I'm still catching up on a backlog of your work. This was great. I always love the way you write Ian/Colby. They've got the big strong alpha!male thing going without it being a pissing match and you can always tell they really love each other in your stories.