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04 October 2008 @ 06:03 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Wilderness Bound Part 2  
Written for numb3rsficathon Challenge – Ben Ellis, Albuquerque, Television
Crossposted to numb3rs_slash


Title: Wilderness Bound
Pairing/Characters: Ian/Colby, David/OMC, Don/Robin, Charlie/Amita, Megan, Alan, William Bradford, OCs
Rating: R
Spoilers: Seasons 1-4
Summary: Ian and Colby partner up for a mountain man hunt with dire consequences
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


"Over here!"

A light flashed in his face. Jumbled voices rattled in his ears. One voice - one familiar voice - finally cut through the din.

"Colby?"

"Don?" His mouth moved, but the word was more a suggestion than a sound.

"Get the stretcher over here!" Don's hand came to land on his shoulder. "Are you hurt?"

"Left leg..." Colby mumbled. "Busted it falling off a cliff."

"Then how you'd get all the way up here?" Don asked.

"Crawled," Colby replied. "Ian? You find Ian?"

"No, where is he?"

Colby's eyes flew open in alarm. "Ian... You have to get Ian. He's hurt... Bad... We fell..."

David and another man came up with a stretcher.

"Hey there," David said softly, putting a hand on Colby's arm. "We were worried about you."

"Helicopter didn't see us..."

"They did," Don explained. "It's just taken us all this time to hike in and find you. The flashlight helped a lot. We were a little off course since the flare was at an angle."

"I can show you," Colby told them as they loaded him onto the stretcher, tensing at the pain of being moved. "I can take you to where Ian is."

"Just tell us," Don said. "You're in no shape to be going anywhere."

"No!" Colby said as forcefully as he could muster. "Have to go back for him!"

Don nodded in understanding. "So show us the way."

+

The woods looked different all lit up with the team's array of flashlights and lanterns, but Colby pointed out the way he'd come. David and a park ranger who introduced himself as Mark - the same man David had been partnered with in base camp - carried his stretcher back the way he'd come with Don and team following right behind.

"There!" Colby pointed. "Behind the boulders. Be careful moving him, he's got broken bones and probably internal bleeding."

David and Mark lowered his stretcher and the rest of the team rushed over to where Ian was.

"You did good," David said, patting him on the shoulder. "We're going to get you out of here now, don't worry."

"Rutger?" Colby asked. "Did anyone find him?"

"The helicopter did a flyover about two hours ago with a fast flashing blue light so yeah. Apparently someone did catch Rutger somewhere."

Colby finally let his guard down, his last concern addressed.

A flare lit up the night above them and Colby looked up to find Don with a flare gun in his hand.

"I just called for the helicopter," Don told him. "The clearing's not big enough for it to land, but it's big enough for them to drop down a line so we can airlift you and Ian to the hospital."

"Ian... He's okay?"

"He's unconscious, but he's still breathing. He's tough, Colby. Don't worry about him. We've got him now."

Despite Don's assurances, Colby felt tense and worried until the helicopter arrived, lowering a man sized cage to the clearing floor. The men with Ian had strapped him to a backboard and fitted him with a neck brace. They lifted the stretcher he was on, putting him in the cage and closing him in.

The helicopter reeled in the cable slowly and Colby watched breathlessly as Ian was lifted high above the tree level and finally pulled into the helicopter.

Minutes later the cage was lowered again and David and Mark carried him towards it.

"We'll see you at the hospital later," David told him. "We have to take the hard way out," he joked. "You get the chauffer driven helicopter instead."

"VIP all the way," Colby joked.

"Nothing but the best," David added affectionately. "Safe trip." He closed the cage on Colby and locked it down tight, testing it more than once before stepping back and signaling to the helicopter to pull him up.

The wind was cold above the trees and the vastness of the wilderness around him - the wilderness that had almost killed him and Ian - awed him. He'd been in the middle of nowhere and his team had found him: twice.

Tired and cold and in pain he finally knew that Ian would get the medical care he needed. He'd done his duty; he'd looked after his partner no matter what.

He looked up towards the helicopter, but all he could see was a bright glaring white light.

And then he saw no more.

+

White light, only this time softer, was what Colby found when he opened his eyes next.

"Welcome back, Agent Granger," a man's voice said. He blinked and his vision cleared enough to see a gray-haired man in a doctor's white coat standing over him. "I'm Dr. Burton. I'm an orthopedic surgeon. I set your broken femur and your broken tibia while you were out and we've just finished putting a cast on your leg. I'll alert Dr. Adu that you're awake. He's been concerned about your concussion."

Colby nodded, the buzz of pain medication making him woozy and pliable. He glanced down to see his entire left leg in a cast save his toes.

"Agent Ian Edgerton?" he asked. "My partner. Is he okay?"

"I'm sorry," Dr. Burton said. "I've only worked on you. I don't have any information on the agent you were brought in with." He gestured to one of the nurses. "Can you go find out please?"

Colby watched the door until the nurse returned.

"Agent Edgerton is still in surgery. That's all they were able to tell me at this time."

"He survived." Colby let out a sigh of relief and let the swirling whirlpool in his mind suck him back under again.

"Agent Granger?"

Same white light but a different voice this time.

"Yes?"

"I'm Dr. Adu. You have a serious head injury and we need to run some tests. Can you try to stay awake for me?"

The pull of oblivion was tugging at the edges, but he nodded anyway. "I can try."

Lights were shined in his eyes, questions asked, injections given. He felt slow, thick, like moving through molasses, but he tried hard to keep up with all that they asked of him.

Finally they moved him from the ER to a private room, quiet and dimly lit.

"Colby?" Don's voice rousted him from sleep and he was surprised to find the sun bright outside his windows. Don was looking down at him from beside his bed, concern etched into his tired looking face.

"I'm okay," Colby mumbled, his mouth dry. "Ian?"

"He's alive," Don said, not elaborating. "He pulled through."

"What..." Colby's throat felt raw so he gestured to a cup of water on the tray near his bed. Don brought it over for him to take a sip and Colby nodded his thanks when he was done. "What were his injuries?"

Don pulled up a stool and sat down, his voice softening.

"His hipbone? Pretty much shattered. He was in surgery for over six hours with them trying to piece together what was left of it." While Colby sat gaping in shock, Don continued. "Four, I think, cracked ribs and some internal bleeding from them. A serious concussion and blood loss from multiple lacerations. And even though you didn't ask me about your injuries, I thought you should know the bone in your thigh was broken and the bone in your calf was broken in two places. That and a concussion."

"But we got Rutger?"

"And Havilcek," Don confirmed. "Charlie had rated your square the most likely and the other river facing square to the north the second most likely. The team in that square found him and took him down - no injuries."

Colby nodded, satisfied. "So all this wasn't for nothing."

"No, it wasn't," Don agreed. "Our team captured a dangerous murderer and his accomplice. We did our job."

"Only the price Ian's got to pay?" Colby said, emotion rising in his voice. "You know he'll never walk the same again. He's screwed for the rest of his life."

"Ian knew the risks he was taking, same as you," Don said steadily. "But he did have one thing in his favor."

"What's that?"

Don smiled. "He told Charlie to stuff his algorithm, that he was taking you with him no matter what the math said." Don patted his shoulder as he rose. "Looks like he chose wisely." He glanced at his watch. "They said they might have an update on Ian's condition soon. I'm going to go check on him, okay?"

Colby nodded, pensive, still processing what Don had said. "Go and come tell me what you find out, okay? I need to know."

"He's going to come out of this okay," Don assured him.

"No thanks to me," Colby grumbled under his breath.

"Hey..." Don stopped, hand on the door. "Ian survived because of you." He gave Colby a warning glare on his way out. "Don't you go thinking otherwise."

+

The following days were filled with family, friends and fellow agents. His mother and older sister Darcy flew in and fussed over him as Don, David and most of the agents he worked with visited, each signing his cast for him.

Don made sure he had regular updates on Ian's condition, but the news rarely changed: out of surgery, in ICU, stable. Don had never been able to catch him awake so he hadn't spoken to Ian yet.

The morning he was set to be released Don arranged to have him wheeled over to see Ian. He was still in the ICU, but Don's badge had bent the rules enough for Colby to be allowed in for a brief visit.

They brought over a special wheelchair that had a leg rest for his cast and Don and a nurse managed to get him into it. Don wheeled him over to the elevator and they wordlessly took the ride to the ICU floor.

Colby already didn't like hospitals, but this area was the worst. A pallor of death and despair hung over the ward and distant sobbing gave him a shiver, ratcheting up his uneasiness.

His first sight of Ian shocked him deeply. From Afghanistan on Ian had always had this larger than life status and now, pale and frighteningly frail looking surrounded by wires and tubes, Ian looked too much like a mere man, a slip of one at that.

Don ducked out, leaving him beside Ian's bed.

Ian looked wrong to him: his normally tawny sun baked skin ashen, his active muscular arms lax and inconsequential looking against yards of white sheet.

Up close and abnormally still, Colby could see tiny hints of gray amidst Ian's coal black hair. Crow's feet wrinkles at the corner of his eyes spoke of pain and experience - a life lived. Colby reached out and ran his fingertips over the lines, wishing he could smooth them away.

His hand slipped down Ian's cheek and angular jaw, down to his neck and shoulder, following his arm to his hand, taking it in his.

He thought Ian's hands were bigger, but as he examined the one he was holding he found it to be about the same size as his own. Finding his hero was only human - a man like him - should have been a relief, but Colby just wanted Ian to wake up, to go back to being untouchable: the sniper god no one could reach.

At least then he wouldn't feel so guilty at having brought his idol crashing to the ground, breaking him irreparably.

Don came to get him a few minutes later, to return him to his room, his recovery, his life.

Once he was discharged Darcy and his mother both asked him why he was so quiet on the trip home, but he just said he didn't feel like talking about it.

They understood him, for which he was grateful, and let him be.

They just set him up in front of a sunny window at his apartment and let him grieve by himself.

+

Darcy left after a couple of days, her husband Simon calling her so frequently about the kids that Colby told her to just go. His mother stayed, making his meals, doling out his medicine and waiting on him until he was out of the wheelchair and finally getting around on crutches.

Don called daily in the beginning, always bringing up Ian first - knowing Colby wanted to know. No real change, he was recovering and conscious more often, but they hadn't released him from the ICU.

More than once Colby had been about to ask his mother to drive him over to the hospital to visit, but inevitably he'd fall into a funk of guilt and regret and end up in front of the television instead, watching whatever movie his mother had on, not really seeing it at all.

The weekend before his mother flew back to Idaho, he gave her permission to invite his friends over. She cooked and listened to all their stories over a groaning board of her homemade specialties. Colby tried to stay engaged in the party, but laughter didn't come easy and more than once someone took him aside and asked if he wanted to go rest instead.

Once he was finally alone malaise set in and he spent hours just staring out the window, rewriting his history over and over: what if he'd never joined the army, what if he'd never met Dwayne, what if Ian hadn't chosen him as his partner.

David visited often, always in an annoyingly chipper mood, and he pushed Colby to get up and walk around on his crutches as per his doctor's orders. He'd make him take walks around the apartment complex, drive him to the park or to the beach for an afternoon out, but he seemed to be waiting for Colby to ask to go visit Ian.

As much as he wanted to go, Colby's wallowing convinced him that Ian wouldn't want to see him, that he'd blame Colby for waking up unable to walk, for ruining his body, his career, his life.

Don visited again, but this time in an official capacity. He went over the doctor's releases necessary for Colby to be deemed fit for duty again.

Then he added another form to the stack: the department shrink - a psych eval.

Colby had grumbled and Don had claimed standard procedure, but before he left he'd made it clear he felt Colby should consider more than the mandatory number of sessions required by the brass for work release.

He knew moping wasn't a good idea, but once it took hold, it seemed near impossible to shake. When things got really bad he called Megan in D.C. ostensibly to ask her if she felt leaving the Bureau had ended up being a good thing for her. She listened to him talk for a while then kicked his ass but good, in the end agreeing with Don that he needed to get himself in to see Bradford.

In the end her voice had softened and she told him what he needed to hear. It was understandable that he'd blame himself and it was also understandable to think Ian might blame him too, but in the end that was Ian's choice to make, not his.

He had to go see Ian.

+

"Ian's out of ICU." Don's voice wasn't unexpected on the phone, but his words were. "He's asking for you."

Stunned, Colby mumbled something and got off the phone. He'd been working his way up to visiting Ian, but now it would be a command performance.

Unsure of his voice, he texted David to ask if he had time to drive him over to the hospital. The response was pure David: 'Get your ass out of bed. On my way.'

He'd thankfully already showered and dressed so that gave him fifteen minutes to get mentally prepared.

Once they were in the car David carried most of the conversation, talking about the ranger - Mark - that he'd been partnered up with, the same one who'd helped carry his stretcher in the woods. Apparently the two had started hanging out together and David spent most of the trip to the hospital animatedly relating stories Mark had told him.

Colby had been staring out the window watching anonymous buildings blur past the car, but something David said pinged his investigator instincts.

"David, are you and Mark - you know - like seeing each other?"

David blinked for a moment, caught, then finally replied, "Well, yeah. We kind of are." He glanced over at Colby. "You cool with that?"

Colby shrugged. "Sure, why wouldn't I be? I guess I'm just surprised, seeing as how you never let on you were into guys at all."

David took the turn to exit the freeway. "It's the Bureau, man. It's pretty 'don't ask don't tell', you know? I date women too so it's not a huge deal to me, but I'd prefer not to have people talk at the office."

"So Mark isn't the first guy you've gone out with."

"No, definitely not. I was kind of in a long-term relationship with one for a while, but it ended a couple of months ago."

"Oh really?" Colby asked. "Anyone I know?"

David pulled up at a stoplight and turned to face Colby. "Ben Ellis."

"Wow..." Colby paused for a few seconds, thoughtful. "I mean I was glad you two patched things up, but I had no idea..."

David pulled into the hospital parking lot. "Ben's a part of me, has been since I was a kid, but him being away this much? We just couldn't make it work. We split friends, but now that I'm with Mark? It's nice to remember how good it can be to just spend time with someone, you know?"

"Yeah," Colby said, managing a smile. "I know."

He went to get out of the car once it was parked, but David put a hand on his arm to halt him.

"If you want to spend time with Ian, you should just do it. No one would mind."

+

The thing that struck Colby odd when he first entered Ian's hospital room was the stark white emptiness of it.

The curtain was drawn around Ian's bed so he had a moment to look around first.

His own room had looked like a florist's by the time he was discharged, filled with bouquets from well-wishers.

Ian's room was barren of flowers.

"Who's there?"

Ian's voice, while sounding drained, was still undeniably his and that alone comforted Colby.

"Colby."

A hand reached up to tug the curtain aside about a foot so Colby moved forward on his crutches to help, revealing Ian's upper half with a book on his stomach.

Ian gave him a once over, taking in the crutches and cast.

"You look better than I expected," Ian said, waving to a nearby stool for him to sit.

Colby pulled it up and set his crutches against the wall.

"I got away easy," Colby said apologetically. "I'm..." His voice dropped off as he was finally able to see the rest of Ian's body. A metal frame encased his left side from his waist to his thigh. Metal pins connected to the frame were clearly going into his body and Colby had to look away, overcome by what he'd seen.

"Sorry." Ian tugged the curtain a bit more closed, cutting off his lower half from Colby's view. "Nobody likes seeing that part."

All Colby could manage was a short nod, having trouble turning back to face him.

"Squeamish, soldier?" Ian said, keeping his voice light.

"You could have died," Colby said solemnly, not in the mood for joking.

When he finally was able to look at Ian, he found his expression patient.

"I've heard that plenty of times before, but I'm still here."

"Yeah, but this time? You're seriously messed up. This isn't something you just walk away from - literally."

Ian shrugged. "It'll take a while, but I will. Always have."

"You've never been hurt like this before," Colby said.

"Want to bet?" Ian pulled the curtain back and Colby grimaced, trying not to look. He tugged the sheet aside from his good leg and showed Colby some scars there. "Three bullets from automatic weapons fire: one was a flesh wound, one hit an artery and the other splintered the bone." He put the sheet back down, pulled aside his hospital gown and rolled over slightly to show the back of his ribcage to Colby. Several short scars were visible there. "Stabbed four times, serious internal bleeding and a punctured lung." Ian covered back up again. "Should I tell the story of how I broke a windshield with my head?"

Colby shuddered. "Please don't." He grabbed his crutches and rose, turning to leave. "I-I have to go."

Ian's hand snatched hold of one of his crutches, holding him back.

"This wasn't your fault, Colby."

"I have to go," he repeated lamely and fled from the room, feeling Ian's eyes boring into his back as he left.

He only got a few yards down the hall before he collapsed into a chair, mind spinning.

"Are you all right, young man?" a middle-aged nurse asked, crouching down beside him.

"Fine," he muttered. "I'm fine."

"The nurses' station is right around the corner so yell if you need something," she said kindly, straightening.

"Actually..." She paused when he spoke. "I just came from Agent Ian Edgerton's room. Do you know why there are no flowers there? I know people sent them."

"Oh, Ian! He's a dear, he is," she enthused. "He had us take out the cards and give away the flowers to people who we thought might like them, you know, the ones who don't get flowers from anyone."

Colby nodded in understanding and the woman walked off.

He looked over to Ian's door, but somehow he couldn't make himself go back inside.

David was waiting downstairs, expecting the visit to last a while, so Colby just sat until a reasonable amount of time had passed.

David was smart enough to ask questions if he came down too early and Colby wasn't ready to give him, or even himself, any answers.

+

Colby wasn't surprised by the invitation to join David and Mark for lunch, but he was surprised when Don called to make arrangements to drive him over.

After a minute of uncomfortable silence in the car, Colby had to ask.

"So, David and Mark?"

"What about them?" Don asked.

"Have you met Mark?" Colby tried, not sure how to broach the subject.

"Yeah, in the mountains when he volunteered to come with us to look for you and Ian, but since then he's come out to Gonzalez a few times with us on Friday nights. Good guy." Don made a left hand turn and glanced over at Colby. "Whatever you want to ask, just ask."

Colby opened his mouth a few times. "It's not my place," he finally decided.

"You're protecting David, I get that," Don said, nodding. "But I already know. Actually I knew about him and Ben, but I also figured out Mark the first time I saw the two of them together after the mountains."

"Really?"

Don smiled, eyes crinkling up, amused. "Did you miss the part where I'm a trained observer? Hard to hide stuff like that from me." At a stoplight, he turned to give Colby an appraising look. "Anything you want to tell me?"

Colby felt himself flush and turned away to look out the window.

"No."

"Okay." Don continued driving and a silence fell over the car again.

"How's Ian doing?" Colby finally managed.

"Don't know."

Colby turned away from the window to stare at Don, perplexed and somewhat alarmed.

"What do you mean you don't know?"

Don shrugged. "He's gone." In the heartbeat of time it took for Don to continue, Colby felt a stab of pain in his chest. "His brother came to take him back home to New Mexico."

"Oh."

Colby turned to the window again, this time using the privacy to hide the emotions on his face. He'd left things so badly with Ian, been so stupid, and now he was gone. He'd just assumed he'd get another chance to make things right, to apologize for failing Ian. Now if Ian left the Bureau - which Colby assumed he'd have to given his inability to walk - his last chance to see him again was gone for good.

+

"Agent Granger?"

"Huh?" Colby found himself rousted from his reverie looking out the window of William Bradford's office by the therapist's patient prodding.

"You know these sessions tend to go a whole lot better when I'm not the only one talking," William said, more amused than annoyed.

"Sorry, just... A thousand miles away I guess," Colby apologized.

"A thousand miles... Home? Idaho?" William guessed.

Colby shook himself and turned away from the window. "No. My mom wanted me to come visit, but I didn't really feel up to being around people."

"In my business that's what we call a bad sign." William looked at him closely. "Have you talked to Agent Edgerton at all?"

"Briefly when he first got out of the ICU. He went home," Colby explained.

"You two survived a life threatening accident together and you haven't even talked to him but the once?"

"Like I said," Colby intoned. "He left. He's in New Mexico."

"When I last checked they had phones in New Mexico," William snarked.

Colby waved a hand dismissively. "I'm probably the last guy he wants to hear from."

William resettled himself into his chair. "Because you're partially to blame for him being messed up, is that it?"

"Well, yeah," Colby said. "He chose me to be his partner on that mission. If he'd have chosen someone else, someone better..."

"Then he wouldn't have been knocked off a cliff by a landslide?" William looked at him, incredulous. "Agent Granger, unless you pushed him off that cliff - which you didn't - you've got nothing to blame yourself for. He fell; you both fell. Accidents happen and sometimes with tragic results."

"But if he'd been with someone else..." Colby protested.

"They'd have been hurt like you. No difference."

Colby let his head hang down. "They'd have found a way to get him help faster, to have helped him more... I don't know. I just can't stop thinking he'd have been better off with someone else."

William leaned forward to get his attention. "You knew Agent Edgerton before the Bureau, right? In the army?"

"It was more that I knew of him," Colby clarified. "We all did. He was a legend. You rarely saw him, but everyone talked about the impossible shots he made, how he'd show up just in time..."

"So he was almost mythical."

"Definitely."

"And then his idol of yours picks you out of a crowd to be his partner. How did that make you feel?"

Colby flushed, flummoxed. "I... I guess it felt good. Hard to believe at first."

"Hmm..." William made a note on his pad. "And then your larger than life idol gets hurt and you have to see him as mortal, fallible, less than what you'd made him out to be in your head."

"It's not like that!"

"Isn't it?" William glanced up at the clock. "Our time is up, but I'm going to give you an assignment." He tossed his pad aside and looked at Colby in the eye. "Talk to Agent Edgerton. I don't care if it's by email, phone or carrier pigeon. We can spend a few sessions figuring out just why you're avoiding him or we can cut to the chase." William rose and Colby did the same. "Talk to him."

"Fine." Colby headed for the door.

"Agent Granger?" William waited for him to pause. "When you do get a hold of him? Don't just talk. Make sure you leave time to listen."

+

Colby postponed his next session with Bradford and took a whole week before contacting Don to ask for Ian's phone number.

He spent days picking up his cell phone then putting it back down, unable to make the call.

When he tried to figure out what to say he always came up empty. There just weren't any words and his fear of making an ass of himself further was competing with his fear that Ian would somehow sense his unfortunate attraction, leaving him mortified.

When he found himself lying in bed staring at the ceiling with no desire to get up and do anything he finally reached for the phone on the nightstand and just called.

"Hello?"

"Ian?"

"Yes."

"Uh, hi. It's Colby. Colby Granger."

"Ros! No!" Colby heard Ian shouting, muffled in the background. "Ros! Tempe! Out!" He came back on, his tone apologetic. "Sorry about that. Since I've been away my brother's spoiled the dogs and they seem to think they own the place now."

Colby found himself smiling in spite of himself. "What kind of dogs?"

"We're not really sure. Mutts. They're named after the cities we found them near: all dogs we rescued, usually starving by the side of the road in the desert. Curt, my brother, claims Ros - short for Roswell - and Tempe are mine because they hang out in my cabin all the time, but Flag - short for Flagstaff - and Phoenix are just too old and lazy to leave the main house."

"We had an old house dog and two young barn dogs when I was growing up," Colby said, relaxing a little.

"Normally the dogs are good company," Ian explained, "but unless they follow orders they're going to get underfoot and that's not a great idea about now."

"You're walking?" Colby blinked, stunned.

"Not without support, but sure. It's been weeks," Ian said. "Or were you too busy moping to notice?"

Colby let out a huff of air. "Since when are you a profiler?"

"I'm a man of many talents, Granger."

"Miraculous recovery seems to be among them," Colby tossed back.

"I wish," Ian retorted. "No, just hard work. Same stuff that always gets things done. How about you? You coming along?"

"I'm bored stiff, stuck in a cast," Colby bemoaned. "I only leave my apartment when David drags me out and I'm afraid if my mom calls me to ask me to come visit one more time I'll lose it."

"Well, you're welcome to come hang out here. Plenty of room and the dogs would love to have someone new to play fetch with."

Colby couldn't get anything out of his mouth for a few seconds.

"Colby?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Sorry, just... Thought I heard something outside."

Colby heard Ian's voice muffled again. "Hey, have a seat. I'll be done in a second." He came back on the line. "Sorry, the physical therapist is here to torment me. Think about it and give me a call tomorrow, okay?"

"Sure," Colby said, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt. "Don't let him beat you up too much."

"Her and she's a monster." Colby heard a quiet protesting 'Monster?' in the background. "Talk to you later."

"Later."

Colby hung up the phone and laid it on his chest. He fought down the impulse to overanalyze the whole conversation and instead turned on his laptop to look up flights to New Mexico.

+

Curt Edgerton, despite the gray hair, looked enough like his younger brother for Colby to recognize him just before he flagged him down at the airport.

"Agent Granger?"

"That's me."

"Figured as much." Curt gestured to the crutches. "Not that many guys here meeting the description of an Idaho farm boy linebacker on crutches."

Colby laughed. "That's how your brother described me?"

"It's the cleaned up version at least," Curt joshed. "You must be tired. Why don't you go sit down, take a load off? I'll grab your suitcase off the carousel when your flight's up."

"Thanks," Colby said. "It's dark green with a plaid luggage tag on it." He hobbled over to a nearby bank of plastic seats and sank into one. This was the most activity he'd attempted since he got out of the hospital and it was draining him more than he had anticipated. His leg ached and he was sore from using the crutches.

He looked around, still not believing he'd actually come. His follow up conversation with Ian had gone just as well and they'd started trading emails, making plans for him to visit.

He still felt weird about accepting the invitation, but tried to remind himself he'd thought he wouldn't have another chance with Ian and just maybe, deep down in his hopeful heart, some sort of friendship could come of this.

Wanting more was a fantasy, he knew that, but on some level the trip was at least part feeding that fantasy.

"Got it!" Curt walked up brandishing Colby's suitcase. "Let's go!"

The drive was long, but uneventful and Curt mostly filled the time telling Colby about the ranch.

"Ian says he's up and walking around," Colby finally said. "I didn't think that would happen, at least any time soon."

"Ian? He's pretty damn tough," Curt mused. "The doc's got him using a walker, which isn't pretty, but he gets around okay with it." He turned off the interstate and onto a smaller local highway. "At least it's better than last time."

"Last time?"

"The last time we almost lost him," Curt explained. "He got stabbed in the back. Knife nicked a major artery and punctured his lung. He was in the ICU so long I knew every nurse on every shift on a first name basis and knew the names of half their kids."

"And you don't think his job's too dangerous after all this?"

"'Course I do," Curt said. "But it's not like Ian's going to give it up. Once his mind is made up there's no telling him anything. Ian does what Ian wants to do."

"That sounds like him," Colby agreed.

"Don't get me wrong," Curt said. "I love my brother. But he's one stubborn son of a bitch. I can't mind too much," he mused, staring out the windshield. "It's that same stubborn streak that keeps him alive..."

+

Exiting Curt's truck at the ranch Colby was immediately assaulted by two good-sized dogs.

"Ros! Tempe! Down!"

Both dogs - a Rottweiler mix and a mutt that looked something like a greyhound - dropped to the ground on command, their eyes never leaving him.

"Damn, I don't know how he does it," Curt marveled as he pulled Colby's bag out of the back, "but whenever he's here the dogs start obeying commands again." He led the way up the path to the house. "Come on in."

Colby followed on his crutches, entering as Curt held the door open for him. Two graying Labrador mixes, one black and one chocolate brown, looked up from the hearth and wagged their tails until Curt went over and scratched them behind the ears.

"Angie! We've got company!" he called out.

A freckle-faced woman with graying red hair came down the stairs hanging up a cell phone.

"I was wondering what took you so long," she said playfully. "I figured you were obeying the speed limits for once with a Federal agent in the car and all." She laid a hand on Colby's arm when she got down to the landing. "How are you doing? Can we get you anything?"

"I'm fine, thanks," Colby said. "And thanks for letting me come stay with you. Ian swore to me you guys like visitors."

"Don't have proper neighbors out here..." Curt said.

"So we like to import people for company," Angie finished for him. "Let me take you out back. I'm sure Ian's looking forward to seeing you."

Outside the back door was a fresh looking concrete pathway to a cabin set a ways back from the main house. It was small and simply made: one big rectangle, but with nice windows set into it. Instead of a normal door, there were double doors, both open wide to the slight breeze.

Angie paused to ring a metal bell, hanging with a rope handle at the edge of the porch before entering.

Colby followed Angie indoors and through the cabin, rustic and simple yet surprisingly spacious. There was a matching set of open double doors on the other side of the cabin and Angie walked through them and halted, hands on her hips.

"Ian, you've got a visitor."

The second set of doors opened out onto an equally fresh looking concrete patio edged in brick. The view was spectacular: low plains in the foreground, stunning mountains in the distance.

Off to the side of the doors at a patio table sat Ian, a rolling metal walker by his side, shuffling a deck of cards.

"Come to save me from another round of solitaire, soldier?"

Ian looked up and flashed Colby a warm smile in greeting.

"How does Texas hold 'em sound?" Colby tossed back, mirroring his smile with a giddy grin of his own.

Ian finished shuffling the cards and put them down on the table in front of the empty chair he nodded to for Colby.

"I'm all in."

+

"I do not have a tell!" Colby laughed even as he protested, but Ian just smirked from across the table.

"The big pile of chips in front of me says otherwise," he quipped. He gathered up the cards and put them in a wooden box on the table. "Come on. We should figure out where you're going to sleep tonight."

Ian pulled the walker closer to him and used it to stand up slowly.

Colby turned his eyes away, not wanting to see such an overt show of weakness.

"Get used to it," Ian said, drawing his attention back. "It's just a fact of life for the moment, nothing more." He settled himself in at his walker and started the slow procession back into the cabin.

Colby plucked his crutches from where they were resting against the wall and took his time following, so much so that Ian was waiting for him inside by the time he caught up.

"So here's the deal," Ian began. "You're welcome to stay here in the cabin with me. You can have my bed..." He gestured to a large bed that was almost the focal point of the open space facing a wide stone fireplace. "Since I'm over there for now." He pointed again and Colby saw behind a freestanding screen a hospital style bed, clearly out of place in the rustic surroundings. "Or you can stay in the house. They've got a guest room on the ground floor so you wouldn't have to go upstairs at all."

"Here's fine," Colby said with a shrug. "I don't want to impose on your family more than I have to."

Ian chuckled. "Trust me, they'll make you entertain them enough to earn your keep. I guarantee you they'll be pulling stories out of you at the dinner table long before dessert."

A bell clanged outside and a voice called out, "Uncle Ian?"

"Come on in, Erin," Ian called back. "My niece," he explained to Colby.

"Your family has to ring a bell to come in?" he asked, his voice lowered.

"Didn't you learn anything from trying to wake me up in the morning?" Ian teased.

"Hey there!"

A fresh faced young woman had walked in, dressing in running gear, dark brown hair up in a neat ponytail. She clearly was related, with Ian and Curt's dark coloring, but a smattering of her mother's freckles across her makeup-free face.

"Colby, this is my niece, Erin," Ian said. "Erin, this is Colby Granger."

"Heard a lot about you," she said with a grin, nodding her greeting rather than shake his hand since it was busy holding a crutch. "And for the right price I'll spill," she joshed.

"Clearly your family's not afraid of you," Colby taunted Ian.

"This one should be, I'll withhold her paycheck if she betrays me," Ian gave her a mock warning glance.

"Yeah, yeah," Erin said dismissively. "I'm headed out to do a few miles before dinner so I wanted to get your pills in before I go."

"Sure." As Erin headed for the kitchen cupboard Ian worked his way over to his hospital bed. He sat down on the lowered bed and put the walker aside. "Erin's in college studying to be a nurse," he told Colby. "So she's practicing on me."

Erin appeared with water and an array of pills. "Checked and double checked," she announced, handing him the glass of water. Ian took the pills and returned the water to her, nodding, and she took it away, returning immediately. "Do you want to lie down for a while?"

"Please."

Erin adjusted the pillows at the head of the bed then positioned herself next to Ian's bad leg. As Ian moved to lie on the bed, she used her hands to carefully lift his leg on his injured side, helping him get it onto the bed. Once he was settled, she pulled the controls out for the bed and put them next to Ian's hand. "All set?"

"Yeah, thanks."

She turned to Colby with a bright grin. "See you at dinner!"

"Nice meeting you," he offered. She gave Ian a salute farewell and jogged out the door.

"If you want to take a nap, I can leave," Colby offered.

"No. I don't need to sleep, just rest. I'm not supposed to sit in a chair for too long." He used the controls to raise the bed higher and prop himself up a little more. "Have a seat." He gestured to a nearby stool and Colby dragged it over next to the bed. When he was settled, Ian continued. "I'm only going to ask you once and then I won't make you do it again." He paused briefly. "I'm sure you don't really want to talk about what happened, but I really don't remember much and since you were the only other person there... I'd just really like to know what happened, all of it, from the time we fell on." He looked up at Colby. "Do you mind?"

"It's only fair," Colby replied. "You deserve to know."

"Not if it's at your expense," Ian said, his voice insistent.

"It's fine," Colby assured him. "Better to get it all out at once..." He took a deep breath and started telling the tale.

+

Angie came to get them for dinner just as Colby was finishing up so Colby told the last parts while she helped Ian back out of bed.

As they made their way into the house, it hit Colby that the concrete work was fresh enough that they had done it to facilitate Ian's walker. There was even a tiny ramp to bridge the small rise of the sliding glass door into the house.

Angie installed Ian at one end of the table and gestured to a seat beside him for Colby.

"I'll take your crutches and get them out of the way," she said.

"Thanks." Colby handed them over and she put them against the wall then moved Ian's walker there as well.

"See? Now you're trapped," Ian said, pretending sotto voce.

"Very funny, Ian," Angie scoffed. "You'll get them back after dessert if you eat all your vegetables," she teased Colby, who laughed in response.

"Hey there." Colby looked up to find a face that matched Erin's only on a male body.

"Colby, this is my son Eric," Angie said. "Eric, this is Ian's friend he told us about."

"I remember," Eric said, taking a seat on the other side of the table. "How's it going?"

"I've only been here a few hours and your mom is already threatening me with vegetables," Colby taunted, winking at Angie.

"Could be worse," Eric said, grinning. "She could withhold dessert."

"That would be cruel and unusual punishment," Ian retorted. "And against the laws of the United States of America, which I am sworn to uphold," he added, mocking pomposity.

"Does that mean if you flash your badge I get dessert?" Colby asked, playing along.

"Flash your badge at me," Angie warned playfully, "and you're likely to get a raspberry in return."

"Hey everybody!" Erin flounced in, face flushed and ponytail no longer neat. She took a seat next to her twin, across from Colby. "Where's Dad?"

"Fussing with the stew," Angie answered. "He's only made it a hundred times." She rolled her eyes for Colby's benefit. "Man never could leave a recipe alone."

Curt came out of the kitchen holding a large pot with potholders.

"Stew's ready! Anybody hungry?"

+

As Ian warned, the family plied him with requests for stories so much so they were still talking long after dessert and coffee had been cleared away.

Colby was just finishing up a story when he saw some unspoken communication between Angie and her daughter, their eyes flicking to Ian and back.

When he glanced over to Ian, he could see little lines of pain creasing his face and he looked uncomfortable. Colby had forgotten he could only sit for so long and immediately felt bad for making Ian stay up so long.

"I need to hit the books before class tomorrow," Erin pronounced. "Uncle Ian can I get you settled before I hunker down?"

"Yes, thanks," he said.

Erin fetched his walker for him then brought Colby his crutches.

"Do you need a hand?" she asked.

"No, I'm good," Colby replied, rising. "I may be slow, but I can manage."

"A little different perspective on life isn't it?" Ian pointed out. "Being the tortoise instead of the hare?"

They made their way out after saying their goodnights to the rest of the family, Colby thanking them profusely again until Angie threatened to throw something at him to get him to stop.

When they got back to the cabin, Ian headed for the bathroom and Erin brought him a few things before closing the door for him.

Colby's suitcase had been left on the bed and Erin headed for it next. "Uncle Ian said to unpack for you, if that's okay."

"You don't need to," Colby said.

"Not about need," Erin said brightly, unzipping the case. "He cleared out some room for you." She opened the top drawer of a nearby dresser and started putting things in it. "Do you want your clothes hung up or folded?"

"Doesn't matter."

"Folded it is." She made short work of the contents of his suitcase, leaving his toiletries case on a small table by the bathroom door before putting the suitcase itself away in a large armoire. "All set. Anything else I can do for you?"

"I think I'm good."

The bathroom door opened and Erin went to check on Ian then stood back as he worked his way out.

He'd changed into just a pair of cut off sweatpants with a Texas A&M insignia on them.

Colby hadn't seen Ian shirtless before and flush of arousal went through him at the sight of the tanned expanse of his sculpted chest. When his eyes caught sight of an ugly red scar at his waistband it was like having cold water dashed on him: reality destroying fantasy in one blow.

Erin helped Ian into bed for the night, this time drawing the sheet and blanket down for him then covering him up to the waist once he was settled.

"Do you want me to lower the head of the bed?" she asked as he finished taking his pills.

"I'll take care of it later," Ian said, accepting the bed controls from her after she raised the bed back up to normal height.

"Okay!" she said brightly, pulling the screen in place. "Night!"

"See you tomorrow," Ian told her.

She waved on her way out and Colby returned the wave.

"Want me to turn out the lights?" Colby offered.

"Take your time. I'm still not used to having to go to bed this early or being this tired by just sitting around," Ian said from behind the screen. "There's a lamp by the side of your bed if you want to stay up and read. You're welcome to any of the books on the shelf if you need reading material."

"Thanks." Colby turned on the nightstand lamp and turned off the overhead lights. "And thanks for inviting me. You've got a great family. Really nice people."

"Yeah," Ian said, already sounding sleepy. "Always good to have people who get your sense of humor."

Colby bit back a conversation starter and instead took his toiletries case into the bathroom to get ready for bed.

+

Sleep didn't come.

Ian had been silent when Colby left the bathroom so he'd gone ahead and gotten into bed, shutting off the light.

He wasn't sure if it was the new surroundings, Ian being so close - separated by a mere screen in the open space, or the idea of him sleeping in Ian's bed.

Without the normal waking stimuli to keep him busy his mind ran rampant: imagining Ian sleeping naked in this bed, imagining him in bed with a lover, imagining Ian with him.

Every sound, indoors and out, was new to him, perking up his ears. He'd hear occasional noises from behind the screen and he imagined Ian with his hand down his shorts, pleasuring himself even though Colby was mere feet away across the room.

The idea got Colby unbearably excited, but the idea of doing it himself? In such close quarters? He finally got up with a quiet sigh and hobbled his way to the bathroom, surrendering to the inevitable.

Once he got back to bed he fell asleep quickly, waking early to hear movement behind the screen. With eyes barely open, he saw Erin move the screen aside for Ian to get up.

Once Ian was in the bathroom with Erin waiting outside he whispered to her.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah," she whispered back. "Just go back to sleep."

His body protested enough at the waking that he didn't last long past seeing Ian come out of the bathroom.

Still, even that brief glimpse of shirtless Ian was enough to flavor his dreams very nicely.

+

Colby was barely awake when he heard the clang of the door bell out on the porch.

"Come in!" Ian called out from behind the screen.

Angie slipped in with a wave and a smile to Colby.

"You two ready for some breakfast?" she asked, moving the screen aside for Ian.

"Sure," Ian said, looking to Colby who nodded.

"Sounds good to me. Can I help?"

"Yeah," Angie said, doling out Ian's medicine and handing it to him with a glass of water. "You can stay in that bed and concentrate on healing up so you can get your butt back on the job protecting our country." She gave him a friendly smile. "No chores for wounded warriors, although..." On her way out, she paused at the door with a devilish grin. "Come back after you're all healed up and Curt and I will put you right to work on the ranch."

"She means it, doesn't she?" Colby asked once she was gone.

"Definitely," Ian said. "That's why I don't feel so bad having them take care of me now. When I'm here normally? I work my ass off. Always a project with those two, usually Angie's idea and Curt's brawn. There's a whole new paddock next to the stables that was last year's big project."

"I'm not allergic to hard work," Colby said. "I more meant that she seems convinced I'll be coming back in the future."

"You've had Angie's cobbler and homemade ice cream," Ian said with a wry grin. "Wouldn't you want to come back?"

"Point taken. That was a damn good meal." Colby leaned back against the pillows, finally able to see Ian from bed to bed without the screen up. "It just feels weird to sit around and not help out."

"You'll get used to it. Besides, keeping me from deadly boredom? That's enough of a job."

"So what's on the agenda for today?"

"Well, a normal day is breakfast, reading, playing fetch with the dogs, lunch, physical therapy, then going out to Eric's aviary to feed the birds." He made a disparaging face. "See? Boring."

"Your nephew keeps birds?"

"He's part of a wildlife rescue that nurses injured birds back to health then releases them again. He's got a couple of birds that are so bad off they'll never be able to survive on their own, plus at any given time, he has about four to six injured birds to care for. He's in college to be a vet and he has a preference for avian medicine."

"Nurse... Vet... Sounds like your family has a service gene."

"Like yours doesn't?" Ian tossed back. "Whether it's nature or nurture a lot of us are born into families like this. That's why they get it." He waved towards the main house. "They may not like what I do because it's dangerous, but they'll stand tall on Veterans Day, proud to come from a family of veterans."

"Did Curt serve?"

"He did a four year stint then got out when Angie got pregnant with their oldest son, Chad. Chad's out of college and living in Austin. They have another daughter too, Abby, who's also out of college, in El Paso. The twins are the babies of the family." He cocked his head over to Colby. "How about your family?"

"I come from five generations of military service," Colby told him. "But my older sister Darcy bucked the trend and opened up a business with her husband Simon instead of going into the service. They've got two boys in grade school and a little girl who just turned four."

"David mentioned once that you lost your dad early," Ian said solemnly. "I was sorry to hear that."

"Thanks," Colby said. "What about your parents?"

"Long gone," Ian said. "I was one of those late babies that no one expects. My parents had kids in junior high. They didn't expect to have a baby on their hands at that age, but they made it long enough to see me into the Bureau so I really didn't miss out on much."

"Kids?" Colby said, screwing up his forehead. "It's not just you and Curt?"

Ian looked like he regretted saying what he had. "We had a sister," he said reluctantly. The bell rang outside and Ian's expression shifted, reminding Colby of the phrase 'saved by the bell'. "Come in!"

"Anybody hungry?" Angie said, poking her head in the door with a well-laden tray in her arms. "Because I've got a few stacks of pancakes looking for a home..."

+

After breakfast, they enjoyed a rematch at poker, this time with Colby racking up quite a few chips. The dogs did indeed relish the chance to have someone new play fetch with them, competing with each other to get Colby to throw their ball first while Ian sat available and amused.

Lunch was in the main house with Curt flipping burgers since Angie was out running errands. He dredged up some old army stories of his own, but stopped short as soon as Angie got home.

Colby excused himself during Ian's physical therapy, unable to deal with watching Ian's pain. The dogs were indeed good company, Ros and Tempe both attentive and affectionate, taking to him as if he'd always been part of the clan.

When it came time to feed the birds Ian gave him a chance to opt out, which he declined. Eric's aviary was far enough away on the property that it took Ian quite a while to walk over there and he had to be particularly careful since he was off the pavement for the whole trip. Colby kept close even though he wasn't sure how much he could do with his bum leg.

"My exercise," Ian explained as he painstakingly made his way across the yard. "I figure if I don't make it there the birds don't eat, so it makes it a more worthy goal than just doing laps on my patio."

Once they were inside the shaded structure was larger than it looked. One area had a small tree and a couple of potted shrubs in it. "Most of the birds are kept in there," Ian said pointing to it. "But the predators? They have to be segregated." The other side of the aviary had smaller individual cages: enough the birds could wander around, but not fly.

"Can I help?" Colby asked.

"For today just watch, but once you get the hang of it, sure."

"Do they have names?"

"Oh, no," Ian said, chuckling. "First rule of the ranch: you don't name anything you might one day eat. There are chickens on the ranch so birds are included in the no name rule. We get around it with descriptive names like Broken Beak Hawk and One Wing Dove."

Colby paid close attention as Ian pulled food from the stores and went about adding food and water to each cage. When he was done, he pulled a dove from the main aviary and let it perch on his walker. The bird only had one wing so it had trouble balancing at first then settled down, happily accepting tidbits from Ian's hand.

"This is one of the birds that can't be released," he said. "She can't fly away so sometimes we take her out for a while, let her enjoy the open air." He stroked the bird and it responded, edging into his touch. "By the way David called yesterday just before you got here."

"For me?" Colby asked, confused.

"No, just to see how I was doing. He calls every once in a while. Don too." He looked up at Colby. "Sounds like David's getting pretty serious with that park ranger, Mark."

"Mark's a good guy," Colby said. "David talks about him all the time, but I don't get to see him that often. When he comes down off the mountain David usually wants to spend time with him alone."

"Did that bother you?" Ian said. "Finding out about David?"

"No, why should it?" Colby asked. "People can date whoever they want."

"So no residual homophobia from the army?"

Colby huffed. "Hardly. But I'm glad he finally felt comfortable enough to tell me. I don't want anyone to think they can't be open with me. I'm totally cool with people being gay or bi or whatever."

"So it wouldn't freak you out if a guy came on to you?"

Colby felt a hot flush go up his neck and into his cheeks.

Ian picked up the dove and leaned forward, depositing it on Colby's shoulder. The bird nestled in next to his ear, cooing.

"I think she likes you."

+

Colby was distracted the rest of the day and wanted to duck away for a while to be alone with his thoughts, but the twins came home from classes both aflutter with text messages about a bomb threat at a rival school.

They grilled Colby and Ian on bomb squads and such until dinner was called and then continued over the supper table until Curt proclaimed the discussion was killing his appetite, at which time the table degraded into a volley of playful insults starting with Curt needing to lose a few pounds.

Colby begged off from dessert at the end of dinner, saying his foot felt swollen and he needed to elevate it. That just got Erin to burst up from the table, grab an armload of extra pillows from the guest room and go off on a rant about the importance of properly elevating injured limbs.

Curt waved her out the door with Colby saying she'd be in trouble if she ruined his appetite for her mother's coffee cake.

Back in the cabin, Erin got him settled on the bed, the pillows tiered to elevate his foot higher than the rest of his leg and he had to admit it felt good after all the time he spent on the crutches.

She offered to stay, but he sent her away, saying he wanted to close his eyes for a while.

Once she was gone he stared at the ceiling, trying to make sense of Ian's odd comment.

If it was a nonadmission admission that he might be into men as well, the idea was mind blowing.

If it was his not so subtle way of testing the waters to see if Colby was interested, then he needed a word that went past mind blowing.

The door bell clanged, but it was Ian alone, working his way in on his walker.

"Why did you ring the bell for your own house?" Colby asked.

"Didn't want to walk in on you cleaning your gun," Ian said with a playful wink.

Before Colby could even formulate some sort of reaction, Angie walked in with another tray behind Ian.

"I know you skipped out on dessert, but I brought some over in case you change your mind." She set the tray on Ian's kitchen counter. "Night!"

"Night!" they both replied in tandem.

"It's very good. You should have some later," Ian said. He worked his way over to Colby's bed. "Mind if I sit down?"

"Go right ahead," Colby said. "Your bed."

Ian eased himself down beside Colby's cast encased leg. When he was settled he looked it over, running his hand over the surface marked by so many pens and so many hands.

Even though he wasn't touching his actual leg, the contact seemed oddly intimate and Colby struggled to keep his arousal at bay.

"You've got a lot of people on here," Ian mused, reading and chuckling as he went over Colby's cast. "I haven't put anything on there though." He looked up at Colby, hand still resting on the cast over his thigh. "May I?"

"Sure."

Ian got up and made his way over to a chest of drawers, pulling out a package of colored pens.

"Can you roll on your side?" he asked, returning. "No room left on the front."

"Yeah." Colby rolled over on his side with his back to Ian. It felt even more intimate to feel the bed dip when Ian sat down on the bed behind him and he was kind of grateful for the privacy of looking away. He sensed Ian more than felt him writing along the back of his cast. The process took a while, but finally Ian put the pens away and tapped him to roll back.

"Done."

"What did you put there?"

"You'll find out when they cut it off you," Ian taunted. "Until then, I'm not saying."

"Bastard," Colby complained. "You had to put it in the one spot I can't see."

"That was the point, yes." Ian's smile faded and his hand ran over the cast again. "You know, I never got to say I was sorry," he said, gazing at the cast.

"For what?"

"Getting you hurt," he said quietly. "I picked you for that mission. If I hadn't, you'd never have gotten hurt. It's my fault."

"How can you even think that?" Colby protested. "You had nothing to do with my getting hurt."

"I did. Charlie's algorithm paired me with someone else. I overrode his decision. Therefore, I'm culpable. I put you there to get hurt in the first place."

"We are not having this conversation," Colby said sternly. "If anything I'm the one to blame. I failed you, not the other way around."

"What?" Ian blinked at him. "You honestly believe that?"

Colby swallowed hard. "Yes."

Ian sat pondering that for a moment. "I can fight logic with logic, but I can't fight a rationalization with logic." He looked Colby in the eye. "How about we trade? I forgive you for any role you might or might not have had in my injuries and you forgive me?"

Colby opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

"I'll take that as a yes. Shake on it?" Ian put out his hand and Colby dumbly shook it. "There, we're both good. Now that the blame part is over with, how about some coffee cake and a movie?"

Colby felt a lightness bubble up in him at Ian's encouraging smile.

"Sounds good to me."

+

Friday the twins didn't have classes so Ian and Colby went into the main house to have a late breakfast with them.

Angie and Curt were busy working the ranch so Eric made scrambled eggs and sausage for everyone as Erin set the table, going on about the new technology behind walking casts with Colby.

When they were done, Erin pulled out the last of the coffee cake and poured them all a second cup of coffee. The topic of the bomb threat came back up: a student had been found to have made the false threat and both twins wanted to know what would happen to him once he was charged.

"Oh, he'll get Gitmo for sure," Ian teased.

"Only if it's an international university," Colby said, playing along with the joke. "Otherwise we're talking death penalty."

"Actually if it's an international university it would be the jurisdiction of The Hague in the Netherlands."

"Oh yes, war crimes," Colby agreed, trying to keep a straight face. "Because we're always at war on terror."

Erin was fighting a fit of giggles and Eric was chuckling behind his hand.

"You two are a riot," Eric said finally. "You're practically finishing each other's sentences."

"Yeah, you guys," Erin said, getting up to clear the dishes. "Get a room, will you? Oh, wait. You've got a whole cabin!"

Before Colby could register how flustered he was, Eric got up as well, clearing the rest of the dishes.

"Take that show to Vegas," Eric said with a wink. "You'll be booked as the opening act for Celine Dion in no time."

The twins laughed their way into the kitchen and once they were gone, Colby noticed Ian had been laughing too.

"They're great, aren't they?" Ian said, polishing off his coffee. "I'll miss them when they graduate and leave home."

"That... That doesn't bother you?" Colby asked, still reeling. "Them insinuating you're gay in front of company?"

"Since when are you company?" Ian joshed, giving him a playful nudge as he started to get up. "And who said they were insinuating?" Once Ian got settled into his walker, he turned to the back door. "Race you to the cabin," he joked.

Colby stared at the empty table for a moment. He still didn't have any facts to rely on, but the idea that Ian might... His brain obstinately refused to go there so he got up, grabbed his crutches and headed out back.

"That's all the head start you're getting!" he called out. The more he thought about things the worse company he was for Ian and right now, being good company for Ian was a worthy job - and an enjoyable one.

+
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on October 5th, 2008 01:05 am (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 3 for Confession post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
Kristin: Cresent Moon Thingyirish_dragon on October 5th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)
The Femur and Tibia, that would be painful. The Femur and Tibia carry the weight in the leg.

The Fibula helps w/ muscle and no weight.

I love it when proper Anatomy is used in stories, it helps re-enforcing the stuff I'm learning in school, as well as the story.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 5th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I do try to do enough research to be correct on as much as I can. (I did actually look into what birds are found in New Mexico instead of just picking some at random for example.) I actually wanted to give Ian an artificial hip, but the injury he sustained would have shattered his pelvis, not required the actual joint to be replaced, so I went with pins instead for reconstructive surgery, not an artificial implant. A bit disappointing, but in the end I went for factual over fanciful.

For their injuries I imagined that Colby fell feet first and the force of the fall was on his left leg, which touched down first, thus the multiple breaks and the inability to put any weight on it. Ian fell on his side, having been tumbled with boulders. I actually imagined he fell on top of a boulder, breaking his ribs and shattering his pelvic bone, then slipped off the boulder to fall onto his injured side on the ground beside it.

Yes, I overanalyze fic. LOL It's one of my many faults virtues idiosyncrasies. Hehehe

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!
Dani: Ianto smileumbralillium on October 5th, 2008 03:06 am (UTC)
I don't typically cry over stories, but Colby in the ICU with Ian had me tearing up. *sniffles* I really like the dynamic you've built up between Colby and Ian and all your OCs are amazing. Can't wait for part three. : )
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 5th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)
Aww! /hands over tissues/

I ♥ Ian's family, really. I am going to miss them when the fic is done. I almost want to revisit this universe just to have some fun with all of them again.

Of course I need to recover from having written a 30K fic in a week first, but one hopes that will happen eventually. LOL

Thanks for your lovely comment and for taking the time to read all of this huge story!
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 5th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 5th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 5th, 2008 04:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 04:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 5th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 5th, 2008 04:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 07:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 5th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 6th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - umbralillium on October 6th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ladygray99: Colbyladygray99 on October 5th, 2008 07:15 am (UTC)
Hey there, really loving this. angst!colby is fun as is colby's slight confusion surrounding Ian. I'm also really liking Ian's family. You'll have to bring them back. And as someone who's been involved in a lot of wilderness first aid a femur is a bitch of a break. It's one of the most painful you can have because the thigh muscles are so strong they grind the ends of the break together. Colby has balls of steel for moving so much as an inch with that break.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 5th, 2008 07:45 am (UTC)
I'm thrilled that you're enjoying this and extra pleased that I didn't blow any of the medical or wilderness stuff enough to generate any complaints. I wanted Colby's break to be painful enough that it's understandable that he'd black out - either from the concussion or the pain. He's still our Colby, same guy who stood up to Lancer's torture, so if it means saving Ian's life? He'd endure the pain long enough to find a way to get Ian help.

I really adore Ian's family and the whole Edgerton sense of humor. I was so glad the premiere a) didn't Joss me with opposing canon and b) underscored Ian's sense of humor, dovetailing nicely into how I wrote him and his family.

Now that I'm done writing the fic I feel kind of sad. I miss this Ian/Colby pairing and I miss his family. After ~31K of fic in 7 days though I'm ready for a vacation from them. No clue if there will be a sequel (what's left to say?) but they are a fun bunch and I think I'd enjoy spending some time at the ranch again.

Thanks for taking the time to read!
(no subject) - ladygray99 on October 5th, 2008 07:55 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 08:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - emmademarais on October 5th, 2008 08:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - 1trackmind on October 5th, 2008 08:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
Cynthia: Ian Wanna Touch by angeliksmall1trackmind on October 5th, 2008 08:40 am (UTC)
Very nice! I love Ian's family. And you're right, he does seem more and more human. I really liked Bradford's observation that not only had Ian become mortal in Colby's eyes, but Colby was the one who had made him so.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 5th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC)
Thank you! Is it perverse that I think I miss Ian's family more than I miss Ian and Colby now that the fic is done? ROFL

Hee @ your icon! I tell you I used that scene as inspiration for this fic. Nothing like some hot shirtless LDP to spur the muse for Ian/Colby slashy goodness.

I wish Bradford would come back. I really liked his character voice and find him to be great to fic with. Colby certainly needed guidance in this story and Bradford (and of course Ian) was a key source for him. Always good to have a 'tell it like it is' person in your court.
(no subject) - 1trackmind on October 7th, 2008 05:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
fredbassettfredbassett on October 5th, 2008 12:36 pm (UTC)
Great story. Love the way things are gradually unfolding between them. The family are great as well.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 6th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
Thanks! I love this family. I miss them now that the fic is all done. /sniff/
Abbie Strehlow: Lonely Workknotted_rose on October 5th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yay for more Colby/Ian! I'm really enjoying this series. Thanks for sharing.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 6th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
It's all up now! I'm so glad you're enjoying it and I really appreciate you taking the time to read this behemoth. Thank you!
Karen: numb3rs colbybyrons_brain on October 5th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
Fantastic! I love how you write Ian and Colby, I can't wait for more....
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 6th, 2008 03:44 am (UTC)
Last part is up! Whew! I can't believe it's all done...

Thanks for reading, hon!
callisto24callisto24 on October 6th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
Still, even that brief glimpse of shirtless Ian was enough to flavor his dreams very nicely.

Hehe... I can imagine this.
Thanks for the update! Fantastic story. I love to see Ian like this. :)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 6th, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the pictures of LDP shirtless on Psych? Imagination not necessary. *Very* nice!

Glad you're enjoying the story!
(no subject) - callisto24 on October 7th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
rubynye: Faramir (elasg)rubynye on October 6th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
*gives you my Wounded Awesome Guy icon*

This is such a splendid story! I love Ian's family, and I can almost smell the ranch air.

*hurries on to Part 3*
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on October 6th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
LOTR!

I can almost smell the ranch air

What a cool comment! I'm not the most descriptive writer out there and when I write long form work I'm even less so. Still, I hoped en masse I painted a picture of the ranch enough people could envision themselves there.

I do really like that family and I'm gratified people are liking my OCs that much.
Icarus Iso: Lou Diamond Phillipsicarus_iso on October 7th, 2008 09:28 am (UTC)
If sniper Ian has me scorching, human Ian has me melting ;)

LOVE Ian's family, and this line especially:

Finding his hero was only human - a man like him - should have been a relief, but Colby just wanted Ian to wake up, to go back to being untouchable: the sniper god no one could reach

Bitter-sweet beauty. I almost don't want to read part III cause that'll mean no more Ian/Colby *sniffle*
laura_trekkielaura_trekkie on January 21st, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
Yay, the cavalry arrived in time. Looks like neither Colby nor Ian got off lightly though, especially Ian. Though I think their respective guilt did as much damage as their physical injuries, so I was glad that Ian invited Colby to visit and that Colby took the offer. Now if only Colby could stop over analysing Ian's comments and Ian could stop being quite so cryptic...*vbg*. The Edgerton clan is nice and I like how they instantly included Colby in the banter, the teasing, the mothering :).

Laura.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on January 28th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I really like the Edgerton clan. I almost want to write more in this universe just to spend some time with the original characters in it! LOL

Colby fits right in, which is good given that he really is part of the family now. I'm a huge fan of banter on TV (I have a lot of banter oriented shows on my profile) so I enjoy writing it into fic when I can.

Ian asking Colby to come was good for Colby, but it's clearly good for Ian too. Yeah, he's cryptic, but they get it worked out in the end. Colby just needs a freaking anvil dropped on his head. /shakes head at silly farmboy/
pingback_botpingback_bot on February 28th, 2011 04:09 am (UTC)
Wilderness Bound by EmmaDeMarais (R)
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