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09 December 2008 @ 01:33 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Safe Harbor Part 2  
Posted to numb3rs_slash


Title: Safe Harbor
Series/Universe: Safe Harbor
Pairing/Characters: Charlie/Billy, Don, Alan, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Man Hunt
Summary: While working at Quantico Charlie's security is compromised and Billy becomes his protector
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


Charlie stared out of the window of the police cruiser, watching as the last remnants of dusk turned into night.

The debrief had been grueling and no one had seemed to care that he'd just almost died. They only wanted to see if his equations would help them figure out who the rogue agent - Keene as he'd been told his name was - was working with.

He'd refused to go to Quantico after they'd separated Billy from him for questioning and to their credit the local cops refused to let him go, claiming - rightly so - he was a material witness in a case they had jurisdiction over: Charlie's attempted murder. Just the words gave him heart-pounding flashbacks.

A compassionate sergeant had managed to pull him aside and get him some sweats to change into. He'd arranged for Charlie to take a shower in their locker room and he took his time trying to scrub away the sickly algae infused water from his body. Charlie had asked him to look after Billy as well and had gone into the debrief at least knowing Billy wasn't sopping wet and miserable wherever they were questioning him.

At some point they had put food in front of him, but all he remembered was asking them to make sure they fed Billy as well. When they told him Billy had been released, he felt a sense of relief accompanied with a twang of loneliness. He'd grown so accustomed to Billy by his side that it felt wrong to go through all this without him.

As the cruiser pulled up the driveway to the house Charlie could see Billy pacing just inside the French doors, the warm golden light from inside the house radiating a welcoming glow.

He barely registered the car stopping or the officer letting him out. His feet just knew the way to the front door, thrown open to reveal Billy waiting for him.

It had been a very long day and he was finally home.

Billy nodded to the officer and waited for Charlie to come inside the house.

He opened his arms and Charlie walked into them, no longer uncertain about what he wanted or what they were to each other. He was where he belonged.

Billy crushed him to his chest, holding him tight, and it took Charlie a moment to realize he'd sunk into the embrace gratefully without it triggering his phobia at all. They stood entwined together for a long moment and Billy only let go for a second to close and lock the door behind him.

It took a while, but finally Charlie felt ready to leave the safety of Billy's arms.

"You must be exhausted," Billy said gently, brushing a damp curl aside. "We should get you into bed. Did you eat?"

"Yeah," Charlie muttered. "They gave me something so I'm good. But I could sleep for a week."

"Sorry, can't offer you a week," Billy said apologetically. "Don and your dad are taking a morning flight and they'll be here in the afternoon." When Charlie looked at him, surprised, Billy continued. "You almost died. If that's not a time for family... Well, then there just isn't one. So I called."

Charlie nodded in understanding. "I can't believe they didn't take the red eye though."

"They wanted to, trust me," Billy explained, "but I told them not to. Said you needed to rest and that wasn't going to happen with them going nuts - which you know they're going to do the second they see you."

Charlie leaned a little more heavily against Billy. "I am tired. But..."

"Don't worry," Billy interrupted. "The windows are already all open."

Charlie gazed up at him and smiled his gratitude.

"Thank you... For everything..."

Billy's face darkened. "You shouldn't be thanking me. I left you when you needed me most... Let you get taken by that bastard - right out of my house!"

Charlie stopped him, pressing his fingers over his lips. "You found me. You saved me. That's all that counts. You were there when I needed you."

Billy took Charlie's face in his hands, an unconscious mirror of their moment on the dock. "I'll never let you down again. I swear." Charlie's eyes drooped from weariness. "Come on. Let's get you upstairs and tucked into bed."

"Are you going to stay?" Charlie asked as Billy led him towards the stairs.

"Wild horses couldn't tear me away," he promised.

"I'd like to see wild horses try to get past your security," Charlie joked.

Billy let out a choked off cough of laughter. "Okay, that I didn't see coming. If you can joke like that after the day you've had..."

"Then I think I can handle someone with your job," Charlie said, turning serious. "I mean..." He flushed a little until Billy tightened his arm around him.

"I know exactly what you mean." Billy opened the door to the master bedroom and beckoned Charlie inside. "But it's time to get some sleep. The rest can wait."

Charlie toed off his shoes and slipped between the sheets, letting the cool fabric soothe him as the scent of jasmine floated in through the windows.

"You coming?" he asked, a hint of nerves in his voice.

"I'm not leaving your side," Billy said, kicking off his shoes and getting into bed next to him.

Charlie automatically turned towards Billy, laying his head on his chest and letting Billy wrap him up in his arms.

"This is all I need," he murmured into Billy's t-shirt.

"Try to sleep," Billy said quietly as Charlie stifled a yawn.

In a moment their breathing had evened out and fallen unconsciously into sync.

Before Charlie drifted off, he felt Billy press a soft kiss to his forehead.

Content, he fell asleep, feeling safe once again.

+

Charlie bolted awake, gasping for air, and all but ran for the nearest window.

Billy was right behind him. "What's wrong? What is it?"

"Air! Need air!" he cried, drawing in great gulps. "Can't... Get... Enough..." Dizzy, he faltered, too lightheaded to stay up.

"Let me get you out on the balcony." Billy half led, half carried him to the other exterior wall and opened the French door there. Charlie broke free of his grasp and pushed his way out onto the small balcony, sucking in the brisk night air desperately. "It's okay, it's okay..." Billy soothed, keeping enough distance to not crowd him, but maintaining a calming hand on his back the whole time.

"Please tell me it won't always be like this," Charlie said, near hysterical. "I can't live like this. It has to get better. I can't go to sleep every night thinking I'm going to suffocate, I'm going to drown..."

"It won't always be like this," Billy assured him. "Give it time. For now, just breathe. We can stay out here all night if that's what you need."

Charlie shivered as the chill of the night air finally got to him.

"Cold..."

"Let me go get you a blanket." Before Billy could leave, Charlie grabbed his arm.

"Don't go... I don't want to be alone."

Billy nodded in understanding. "Then let me see what I can do to keep you warm."

He sat down behind Charlie and pulled him down to sit as well. He wrapped himself loosely around Charlie's small frame, protecting him from the elements.

"Warm enough?" he asked, his breath ghosting over Charlie's ear.

Charlie settled back into the secure circle of his arms. "I'm good."

The next time he woke he was still in Billy's arms, but back in bed.

Dawn was cresting over the harbor and Billy was sleeping soundly, his reddish lashes fanned out over his freckled cheeks.

Charlie took a moment to look down at his face, smiled, then settled back in to sleep, no longer troubled at being indoors.

+

As Charlie's eyes fluttered open against the bright sunlight he heard a gravely voice nearby.

"Morning, sleepyhead."

He stretched, yawning himself awake, and turned towards the voice.

"Morning to you too, Red." His lips just found Billy's like second nature and they were halfway through their second kiss before he realized what they were doing. He pulled back and stared at Billy, half bemused and half giddy with delight.

"So, I have a nickname now?" Billy snickered.

"Apparently." Charlie smirked. He glanced around for a clock. "What time is it?"

"About 9AM. We slept a really freaking long time. You ready to get up?"

Charlie nestled back down into the covers and into Billy's arms. "Do I have to? I mean, I kind of don't want to leave this bed... Well, ever. Facing the world?" His expression darkened for a moment. "Not really ready for it."

"We can stay here all day if you want," Billy said cordially. "The home theater in my den is networked so we can call up any movie on the hard drive to any TV."

"I'd like that," Charlie said shyly. "But mostly I just want to be here with you." He pressed a chaste kiss to Billy's mouth. "I feel safe with you."

Billy grew pensive, his fingers brushing along Charlie's well stubbled jaw. "Charlie, you know this... This isn't because of what happened to you. God, I'm not even sure what I'm saying..."

"I understand," Charlie reassured him. "This has been happening since the night you came and got me at the hospital. We were just too blind or stubborn to see it, to let it happen, even though it was already happening." Charlie chuckled. "Now who's having a hard time expressing themselves?"

Billy cut him off with a kiss. "Maybe we need less talk."

Charlie let out a little chuckle. "And more movies?"

Billy laughed, filling the room with the wonderfully relaxed sound.

"Coming right up!"

+

"Charlie!"

The cab barely came to a halt before Alan burst out of the back seat.

Charlie, who was waiting for him at the front door, had about two seconds' notice before he was smothered in a paternal bear hug.

"I'm okay, Dad, really," he managed, fighting down a little rush of claustrophobia at being so soundly held still.

"I was so scared when Agent Cooper called!" Alan exclaimed. "I couldn't believe I'd almost lost my little boy."

"I'm fine," Charlie said, pulling away only to field a second hug from his brother.

"You scared us, Chuck," Don said, so quietly only Charlie could hear.

"I'm sorry," Charlie said contritely. "I really am."

"Yeah, well..." Don finally let him go, looking a little embarrassed at the show of emotion. "I guess you gave me a taste of what it's like to be you looking at my dangerous job from the outside."

"I'd be very happy never to put you in that position again," Charlie said soberly.

Billy appeared out of nowhere behind them, bringing their bags in.

"Don... Mr. Eppes..."

He and Don exchanged a brief hug along with a quiet heartfelt 'Thanks' from Don.

"Please... You saved my son's life," Alan said. "Call me Alan." He put out his hand, a peace offering, and Billy shook it.

"I'm like you - just glad as all hell that he's okay. Listen..." He hooked his thumb towards the stairs. "I'm going to put your bags in the guest room, Alan. Don, there's a Murphy bed in my study that's pretty decent so I'll put you in there. You've slept on much worse on the road, so I figure you can handle it."

"Definitely," Don said, chuckling.

"Charlie's just down the hall in the master bedroom." Before Charlie could react, Billy continued. "I'm out in the guest house, but if you need me for anything at all just press the button next to the light switch in any of the rooms and I'll come."

"You're not staying?" Charlie said under his breath to Billy, a little anxious.

"Just press the button - any time day or night - and I'll come," Billy repeated meaningfully. "Any time... For any reason." Billy glanced back at where Don and Alan were waiting. "This is a time for family."

+

Charlie sat on the sunroom sofa trying to avoid looking out at the waters of the harbor as he finished telling his story.

"So once we surfaced, Billy pulled me over to a ladder on the side of the dock so we could climb out. I could hear sirens and then a bunch of black and whites pulled up. After that they separated us, took us to the police station for questioning."

"What happened to the agent, the one who..." Alan couldn't bring himself to say it, his arm tightening around his son's shoulders.

"Billy shot him, didn't he?" Don prompted from the other side of him.

Charlie nodded. "He didn't mean to kill him. He was running and Keene shot at him first. He fired back and... Well, I guess Billy's a good shot even under fire."

"That he is," Don agreed.

"I saw the body on the dock," Charlie said quietly. "I think a part of me knew that Billy couldn't have come after me if Keene was still... You know. But when I saw him, I just couldn't look. I didn't want his face burned into my mind like that. Well, any more than it already is."

Alan pulled his son into his arms. "You'll forget in time. I promise. Just try not to dwell on it. If you need a picture to focus on, focus on Billy. Focus on him rescuing you instead."

Charlie closed his eyes briefly once his father released him and the moment on the dock replayed itself behind his eyes. The emotion, the certainty in Billy's eyes just before he kissed him...

"I can do that," he said.

"The Bureau's got counselors," Don suggested. "I think you should go talk to one."

"Can they help with the claustrophobia?" Charlie asked, worried. "I can't seem to get over it. It's hard to even be indoors now."

Don stood and put out his hand to Charlie. "Then let's go sit outside. Billy's property is big enough. I'm sure he has somewhere we can put a few chairs that's not facing the water."

Charlie bowed his head, grateful for his brother's thoughtfulness and insight.

"There's a garden. It's nice there."

Alan rose. "Lead the way. I could use a bit of fresh air myself after that flight. Besides, I'll get to see what kind of gardener Billy is."

Charlie let out a little chuckle as he led them outside. "I think you'll find him to be a pretty impressive one. Remember that Weed Weasel we got at the home center..."

+

"I'm not going back with you."

Charlie crossed his arms over his chest and stuck his chin out.

"I know that look," Billy chortled. "His mind is made up."

Alan let out an annoyed sigh. "So do I, trust me. He's had that same look since he was three."

"I bet you he was an adorable toddler," Billy said with a surreptitious wink at Charlie.

"Can we get back to the topic at hand?" Charlie interjected, still petulant.

"Actually, no," Alan said. "I cave. You win. I'll go back to California by myself. Don's already back there anyway."

Charlie looked confused. "Really? I mean, you don't usually give in that easily."

"Well, if you're well enough to argue with me then you've certainly recovered and it's obvious you're in good hands here." This time it was Alan's turn to wink at Billy. "I just don't know what's so important that you have to stick around."

Charlie glanced over at Billy. "I have some work I need to finish up here."

+

"You awake?"

At Billy's whisper, Charlie's eyes opened to slits.

"Only if there's coffee involved. Otherwise I'm going back to sleep," he mumbled good-naturedly.

"I've got something that will wake you up much better than coffee," Billy told him as he rolled over and sat up. "Someone wants to see you."

"Who?" Charlie asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Don and Dad left already."

With a sly grin, Billy went and opened the master bedroom door.

Rocio and Elena burst through, jumping on the bed and pretty much throwing themselves at Charlie.

"Charlie!"

"Elena! Rocio!" Charlie cried, delighted. "I missed you guys!" They took turns hugging him around the neck as Charlie's glance went to the doorway where Magda stood smiling. "I missed you too, Magda."

"I'm glad you're all right," she said with a nod. She waited until the kids were bouncing on the mattress to come give Charlie a kiss on the cheek and an affectionate hug coupled with some whispered words in Spanish in a hushed reverent tone that sounded like a prayer.

"Can we play a board game today?" Rocio asked mid-jump.

"I want to be on Charlie's team!" Elena yelled out.

"No, I want to be on Charlie's team!" Rocio shouted.

"Sorry, I get to be on Charlie's team!" Billy joined in. He grabbed Rocio and tossed him over his shoulder, the boy giggling madly until Billy deposited him back on the floor beside his mother.

"No games until you finish your chores!" Magda said sternly.

Both children erupted in matching groans.

"We just got home!"

"Do we have to?"

"The faster you get your chores done, the faster you get to play," Magda scolded. "Come down from there, Elena. You've said your hellos. Now let the man get his rest."

"Okay," she said, crestfallen.

She crawled off the bed only to be beckoned back by Charlie along with Rocio.

"Hey you two, come here." When they approached, he mock whispered. "Don't let your mom get you down. You can pick out a board game for us to play later - plus I'll make my famous liquid nitrogen ice cream for dessert."

"Cool!"

"Yay! Crazy scientist ice cream!" Rocio called out, jumping around again.

Magda let out a little sigh, more for show since she was clearly still pleased. "I'll prep the ingredients for you."

"Thank you."

"Vamanos!" Magda chased the children out and closed the door behind them. In a matter of seconds, their voices could be heard outside on the path to the guesthouse, Rocio and Elena still playful and full of energy.

"Sorry to wake you, but they really wanted to see you," Billy said apologetically.

"Well, you could make it up to me," Charlie ventured.

"Oh?"

"Warm in here..." Charlie pulled off his t-shirt and lay back against the pillows. The bandages were all gone and all that remained were the scars from the initial attack that had brought them together.

Billy sat on the bed and ran his fingers lightly over the scars. "They're healing well..."

Charlie took hold of his hand and used it to pull Billy down for a kiss that quickly turned passionate as he made his intention clear.

"I'm okay," Charlie said slowly. "You don't have to treat me like I'm made of glass anymore."

Billy hesitated at first then pulled his own t-shirt off, slipping back into bed and pulling Charlie to him.

"Are you sure?" Billy asked, searching his eyes for confirmation.

Charlie settled against him, their bodies fitting together naturally, effortlessly.

"I'm sure."

+

Charlie noticed Billy enter the living room out of the corner of his eye as he was rifling through some of the stacks of paper he had laid all over the room.

"Be careful where you walk! I've got a system for all the data on your case and if I'm going to get through it all and finish my analysis in time for the panel I need..."

"I won't step on it," Billy assured him.

Something in his tone of voice made Charlie look up abruptly. Billy was more staring at the phone in his hand than anything.

"What is it?" he asked quietly, taken aback at the gravitas in Billy's somber expression.

"Assistant Director Harper called. I guess he was hoping I'd break the news to you. I think he's still a little afraid of you." Billy tried to chortle, but the humor didn't come.

Charlie rose, but couldn't find a path through the stacks to reach him.

"What did he say? Was it about..." He let out a shaky breath. "Was it about Keene? Did they find out who he was working with?"

"Yes." Billy looked at him as he spoke, trying to keep his tone even. "In tomorrow morning's paper there will be a news item about Assistant Director Harlan Bartholomew's suicide. What it won't say is his body was found when they were going to arrest him for treason."

Charlie sank back down to the floor, his knees too weak to hold him up. "An assistant director? They had someone that high up?"

"Apparently. He was running Keene and Keene had tricked one of the top IT security guys into believing he was working with them to flush out a mole, not to facilitate one. The IT guy confessed and with the information he gave the investigators they were able to track down enough evidence to point to Bartholomew."

"Do they think there's anyone else?" Charlie asked nervously.

"No, they're sure it was just the two. The good news - if there can be any - is that there was evidence that Bartholomew had gotten greedy. Encrypted files on a computer hidden in his house showed that he had generated a bidding war for the intel that was still ongoing. Since no one had won yet he hadn't passed on any intel. Your data is safe. Your name is safe."

Charlie let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

"Can you come over here?" he asked plaintively. "Sit with me a while?"

"What about the papers?" Billy asked, looking for a way around them.

"Forget the papers," Charlie said, dismissing them with a wave of his hand. "I just don't want you that far away right now."

Billy picked his way carefully across the room, moved the piles off the sofa and pulled Charlie up into his arms.

"You're safe now. They won't come after you, ever again."

Charlie let himself start to relax, the feel of Billy's strength and certainty helping his doubts and fears start to ebb away.

"I believe you."

+

"So, as you can see, even given a margin of error of 2 degrees the angle of entry is still outside of the statistical norm for the attack scenario claimed by the defendant. This, partnered with the height of the blood stains on both men's' shirts showing that the defendant threw himself against Agent Cooper while still upright, counter the statement made under oath claiming that Agent Cooper was the one wielding the knife that caused the injury."

The panel deciding Billy's case reviewed the paperwork Charlie had provided.

"Is it possible that Agent Cooper was holding the weapon and the defendant ran up and impaled himself on it?"

"No," Charlie stated with certainty. "The room was less than eight feet wide at the largest portion. There is no way a human being, no matter how physically fit, could get up enough speed in a mere eight feet to come close to the force and velocity of a human arm making a purposeful movement like a stab."

"So in your scientific opinion," another panel member intoned, "there is no way the defendant's claims can be true."

"Absolutely none," Charlie said proudly. "Agent Cooper is innocent. The math doesn't lie. The facts fully support his version of events."

Fifteen minutes later they walked out separately yet met up silently in the lobby, heading out to Billy's car together.

"Thanks," Billy said, grateful. "With your help I should be back to work in no time."

"It was the least I could do," Charlie said. "But I'll miss you when you go back to Fugitive Recovery."

"Nah, you'll be back in California," Billy said, unlocking the car doors just before they got in. "You'll forget all about me once you go back to your old life."

Charlie stopped him from turning the key in the ignition.

"Is that what you think? That you're some sort of fling? A little romantic tryst for the summer that I just forget about in the fall?"

Billy let his head hang down. "I didn't mean for it to come out like that."

"Then how was it supposed to go?" Charlie demanded.

"You know! You have your life in California and I have my life here! How would that work?"

"We could make it work... If we wanted to," Charlie said softly. "I mean, you're an FBI agent. You could get transferred to the West Coast if you wanted."

"It's not just work!" Billy said, exasperated. "I have.... I have obligations here."

"I see..." Charlie fell silent for a moment, staring out the window as Billy started the car and began the drive back to the house. "No, I don't," he said abruptly. "I don't know what could be more important than what we have, what we're building, you and I."

"Can we not talk about this while I'm driving?" Billy said, a little too sternly. "I'd like to get us home in one piece."

Charlie fell back into silence again, not breaking it when they got home, just taking his laptop into the sunroom by himself.

He didn't get any work done, but as long as he looked busy Billy would let him alone and as long as he was alone Billy wouldn't see how upset he was.

+

"Where's Billy?"

Charlie caught Magda as she was headed out the front door and followed her outside.

"He's not here? Then he must have taken another car out of the garage since I've got the keys to the SUV." She held up the keys briefly as she walked to the car.

"I can't find him anywhere and it's not like him to just take off."

Magda opened the door, but paused before getting in. "He could be working out at Shady Cove. Or he could be visiting his parents."

"His parents? Where do they live?"

"Not far," she replied. "I'm sorry I have to go pick up the kids from their father's. Check the dock! See if his kayak is missing."

She got in the car and pulled out of the driveway leaving Charlie standing there, pensive.

He wandered over to the dock and found that the kayak was indeed missing. He looked over to the deserted beach across the cove and found Billy running laps across the sand - each one at full speed. He watched for a while and it was clear this was more than a workout; he was using exercise to expunge some inner demon.

Ever observant, Billy stopped as he noticed Charlie watching from the dock. Despite the distance, Charlie could feel the weight of his gaze across the water.

Billy pushed his kayak off the beach, dunked himself in the water until it was over his head, then climbed in and started paddling back.

While he waited, Charlie fetched a towel and held it nervously until Billy tied up the kayak and climbed back up onto the dock.

He handed him the towel wordlessly and Billy muttered a quiet 'Thanks' before accepting it and using it to wipe off his face.

"The dean called. He wanted confirmation that I planned on returning to Cal Sci to teach for the fall semester."

"Was that ever in any doubt?" Billy asked, heading for the house as Charlie followed.

"Considering it's time for faculty meetings to begin and I'm not in California? Apparently he felt so."

"I meant in your mind. You plan on going back. You always planned on going back."

"Yes, but..." Charlie halted on the dock, putting out a hand to stop Billy as well. "I thought... I thought if I stayed longer, we could work something out. Make... Make this work." He gestured between the two of them.

"Don't you think I want that too?" Billy exclaimed, exasperated. "But what you're asking me to give up? It's too much."

Charlie stiffened. "I suppose since I'm not wiling to give up my career and my family for you, I can't expect you to give up yours for me."

"I get vacation time. And you know hunts can take me to the West Coast."

Charlie shook his head. "Sorry, I saw how that worked when Don was in Fugitive Recovery. My parents barely saw him during those two years. Something always came up. I can't see that it would be any different now."

"So the only answer is to walk away?" Billy said, desperate. "There has to be something."

Charlie looked at him, lost. "If there is, I don't see it. Maybe... Maybe after some time apart a new solution will present itself and maybe..."

"You think maybe we'll forget? Just decide it didn't mean that much?" Billy said, clearly hurt.

"I don't have any answers for you," Charlie admitted, letting his head hang down. "I have to go pack."

He brushed past Billy, leaving him standing on the dock, walking as fast as he could manage into the house so Billy wouldn't see the tears welling in his eyes.

+

"But I don't want him to go!"

Rocio whined into his mother's neck and Elena stood sulking while Billy packed Charlie's suitcases into the SUV.

"Hush, Rocio," she scolded. "We have to say goodbye now."

"I'm sorry, Rocio," Charlie said apologetically, rubbing the little boy's back as his mother held him. "But I have to go back to school, just like you do. Come on, how about a hug goodbye?"

Rocio just shook his head, refusing to look, so Charlie embraced Magda and Rocio as a unit.

"Take care of yourself," she said. "We'll miss you."

"I'll miss you too."

He crouched down next and scooped Elena into his arms.

"I wish you didn't have to go," she sniffled into his neck.

"Me too, sweetheart, but I have to."

When he released her, she reached into her dress pocket.

"I made you a card. Rocio helped... A little." On the flat of her hand was a folded piece of white paper with a drawing on it. It took Charlie a moment to figure out the picture from an eight-year-old's perspective: it was a misshapen depiction of the world from the Risk board game, only with stick figure drawings of Charlie, Billy, Rocio and Elena mixed in with the game pieces.

'We will miss you Charlie" was written in Elena's steady hand with a slew of exclamation marks added in crayon, most likely Rocio's contribution.

"Thank you, it's a wonderful card." He hugged her again then brushed her long hair back over her shoulder. "Remember what I told you. Take care of that little brother of yours, okay?"

"Okay," Elena agreed begrudgingly. "Will you send us a postcard? With a pretty beach on it?"

"Absolutely."

He stroked her hair one last time then ruffled Rocio's, who still wouldn't look at him.

"Bye..."

"Goodbye," Magda answered for all of them.

Billy was already behind the wheel so Charlie took one last look around the house that had become his safe harbor, letting out a pained breath at the parting.

"It's time to go..."

+

He'd stared out the window the entire flight, mind racing as the plane hurtled through the sky taking him away from the place where he most wanted to be. His thoughts of Billy and Magda and the kids distracted him enough to keep the worst of the claustrophobia at bay, but he still felt grateful when they finally came in for the landing, anxious to breathe fresh air again.

Once they landed he was just as distracted, mindlessly following a crowd to a baggage claim only to realize later it was the wrong one for his flight.

After checking the board he walked over four more baggage claims, watching as one of his suitcases tumbled out onto the belt. He grew alarmed when a hand came out of the crowd and grabbed it, but as he approached he saw Don appear with it in hand, putting it next to his father who stood searching the airport in the other direction.

Don tapped his father's arm as he spotted Charlie, waving to him.

Charlie waved back weakly, bracing himself for his father's ebullient welcome.

Instead Alan merely embraced him gently and briefly. "You must be tired. Don used his credentials to park just outside. If you want you can wait in the car while we take care of your bags."

"I'm okay," he said automatically.

"Son, you look like you just went twelve rounds with turbulence and turbulence won," Alan said kindly.

"Three bags so far," Don said, putting another one next to Alan. "How many all together?"

"Four," Charlie answered.

"And four!" Don held up the last bag with a flourish. "Let's blow this joint and get you home." He put his arm around Charlie and gave him a little shake. "Welcome home, buddy. We missed you."

"Thanks," Charlie said, trying to smile. "It's good to be home."

+

Charlie finished reading his Admissions committee paperwork and set the rest of his reading aside, stretching his arms over his head to work out the kinks. The warmth of the solarium and a good lunch had made him drowsy and he got up, heading for his bedroom for a short nap.

The sound of a car outside made him stop short and he peered out of the solarium windows, catching sight of a cab pulling into the driveway.

He headed downstairs to check and heard a sharp rap at the front door.

Padding down the stairs in his bare feet, he slowed, more hesitant than he'd been in the past when it came to strangers at the door.

He opened the door a crack at first then opened it wide, lost in shock and surprise.

"Billy?"

"Hey..." Billy stood on his front step, fighting down a happy smile. His carry-on bag lay on the ground at his feet. "Got room for one more?" he asked hopefully.

Charlie took in the small bag then looked at Billy, his excitement fading. "That's not enough baggage for more than just a quick visit."

"No, but this is enough for me to stay." Billy tugged Charlie out by the hand to where he could see the cab driver unloading suitcase after suitcase onto the driveway. Billy kept hold of Charlie's hand, his grip tightening on it. "Just say the word and I'll have him put all the bags back in the trunk and I'll be out of your life."

Charlie just looked up at him, overwhelmed.

"Now why would I do a stupid thing like that?" he teased, squeezing Billy's hand back. He headed over to the luggage and picked up two bags. "Come on, Red. If you're going to stay you could at least make yourself useful."

A huge grin split Billy's face. "Does that mean I get to cook dinner?" he taunted, grabbing two large bags and following Charlie into the house.

"Ha! I've had your cooking, so unless you smuggled some of Magda's chorizo in your carry-on I'm going with no..."

+

There were enough bags that it took a while to get them all upstairs and pay off the cabbie. Charlie was hopelessly out of breath and even Billy was breathing a little harder from exertion.

Charlie flopped down on his bed, letting out a breath. "You wear me out."

"Not on purpose," Billy said. "I hope it was worth it at least."

Charlie smiled, putting out a hand to him. "Definitely."

Billy came and joined him on the bed and they melted into each other's arms as if no time had passed since their separation.

"What made you change your mind?" Charlie asked quietly.

"It's a long story, but let's just say someone far wiser than I helped me see that sometimes it's not as 'either or' as we think it is."

"I think I like that person. Do I get to meet them?"

"Yes," Billy said serenely. "You certainly do."

"So... I was about to take a nap," Charlie said, nestling closer to Billy. "Care to join me?"

"A nap with you sounds like heaven right about now," Billy said with a contented sigh.

Billy kicked off his shoes and they settled back against the pillows, Charlie curled up with his head on Billy's chest.

"Are you going to miss Magda and the kids?" Charlie asked softly.

"About that... I was going to ask you. Do you know of any houses in the area for sale? Magda doesn't want to give up working for me, and the kids? Well, they can't stop talking about Disneyland, so you know they're on board with moving here."

"They'd move? All of them?" Charlie asked, surprised.

"Magda, the kids and yeah, even my parents," Billy confirmed. "My mom said she wanted me to be happy and well," his arms tightened around Charlie, "I'm happy being with you."

Charlie brightened and kissed Billy, overcome with joy. "I knew there had to be a way." Billy buried a hand in Charlie's curls and returned the kiss, slowing it down until they lingered unhurried, enjoying their connection.

"Mmm... I missed that."

"Me too." Charlie settled back down with his head on Billy's chest. "You know, my father has been thinking about moving out and he would love grandchildren around."

"So you're thinking of having him share a house with Magda and the kids? That would be brilliant!" Billy enthused. He kissed the top of Charlie's head. "Knew it would come in handy to fall in love with a genius."

Charlie's breath caught and the tiny stutter didn't go unnoticed. Billy shifted until he hovered over Charlie, meeting his eyes.

"I'm not any good at this sort of stuff, but I think there's a time and a place to say this sort of thing and I can't think of one better. I just moved cross country to be with you, so if that doesn't say 'I love you' better than words..."

Charlie kissed him spontaneously, interrupting him.

"I love you too," he whispered.

After a few seconds of foolish grinning from both of them, Billy broke the silence. "So, you offered me a nap?"

"I'm offering a whole lot more than a nap," Charlie teased. "My life, my heart, my..."

"Let's start with the nap then," Billy interrupted with a chortle. "Because you're a handful, sleepyhead. I think I'll need my rest."

"Sleep first, everything else later?" Charlie ventured, settling back down.

"Yup," Billy agreed, closing his eyes. "You and everything else... Just what I wanted..."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 9th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Confession Part 1
This fic was written as a birthday gift for my lovely slashwife melissima. I may have started writing it in January - with all intention of having it done on time - but at that point I had no idea it was going to be quite so long! It was meant to be a surprise, which only means I didn't accept a prompt from her, I just wrote something I thought she'd like. (FWIW I had told myself at the end of last year I was going to cut back on taking birthday fic prompts because it seemed every long fic I wrote was based on someone's request and I never got a chance to write what *I* wanted to write of my own ideas.) It just kept growing though until I finally finished a first draft in June. And then it grew some more during the very lengthy beta/edit process. ;-) (Speaking of growing, a second fic in this universe is planned for 2009: a longer companion version a la Ash and Pines, Billy POV, called Harbor House.)

Like A Shift in the Continuum, Safe Harbor became a long slowly developing relationship story and also like Shift, PG13. People who read my LJ know I'm not anti-smut by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think that's all slash is about. I have tons of PG13 and under slash because to me a good story about a couple is enjoyable regardless of the genders involved. (Above PG13 I do have preferences: slash then het then femmeslash. Sorry ladies, I just think it's easier to read and write the juicy bits using external plumbing.)

FWIW, Acquia Harbour is a real place in Stafford County Virginia with a real country club. I even picked out Billy's Harbor House. Make sure you're on satellite view for the best way to see where he lives (fictionally speaking). His is the big white roofed building at the end of Shady Cove Lane. Shady Cove is indeed to the side and Widewater Beach is to the other side. (LOL at the next street over being Hollywood! At least one other person besides me will laugh at the fact that he's at the corner of Shady Cove Lane and George Street.) If you zoom out you can see just how close of a drive they are to Quantico. Nice commute - if you can afford it. ;-)

Anyway, it felt right to me that Billy came from working class type parents who made good and moved up first to middle class and then upper class. He seems like he'd have been raised by salt of the earth types, but they made sure he went to college and made something of himself. Billy's parents were purposefully kept out of Safe Harbor for reasons that will become clear in Harbor House.

Additional disclaimer: the Weed Weasel mentioned in the story is fictional and has no relation to the Garden Weasel gardening tool or the Weed Weasel fishing lure. The word weasel just has special significance to me, so I used it despite the similarly named products. Also, Risk is a real board game, one I don't recommend to anyone. (It teaches kids war in a positive light; it forces them to be competitive and to engage in willful conflict.) I was amused however at finding a paper dealing with Markov Chains for the Risk board game.

I recently published Hotel Royale, which I called one of my best fic ever. Even though it was published in 2008, 90% was written in 2007 so I kind of don't consider it one of my best fic of the year. Safe Harbor? I definitely consider one of my best fic of the year.

Please read Confession Part 2 for more random comments on the fic.

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

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
rubynye: Origami (by zeldaophelia)rubynye on April 11th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 1
The best thing about awards is finding out the stories one missed. I just inhaled this glorious story, but I'm definetely going to read it more than this once!
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on April 11th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 1
You hadn't read Safe Harbor? /marvels/

Yes, this is one of my best slash fic ever!

And I just started writing the companion fic (Billy's POV) a couple of days ago.

So yay for you not missing this! It was definitely one of my best from last year.
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 9th, 2008 09:39 pm (UTC)
Confession Part 2
Some random comments about the fic...

Don's 'as straight as they come'? /snicker/
"Don's got the curse of the macho." LOL

Mexican Wedding Cookies are a nummy treat.

Chorizo is a sausage many people also find to be a nummy treat. As much as I love sausage, I am not one of them. ;-)

Rocio jumping around and yelling "Yay! Crazy scientist ice cream!" is one of my favorite bits. When you read melissima's 2008 NaNoWriMo novel I'll add that the "Butter Pecan" bit is also a favorite. Clearly I like ice cream and scientists. Hehehe

I might not have written the sex scene in the fic, but I must tell you it was very nice in my head - so much so I'm considering one day writing it as an add-on to the universe.

I confess I am claustrophobic.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 9th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 2
Yeah for the rest \o/
I do like the slow sweet build and I can forgive you for lack of smut. ;-) though if you felt like writing it and posting it on the side I would not mind. I do like this less matcho and more family man rendition of Coop and if you want to add more to this story from his POV I would not mind at all.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 9th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 2
I can forgive you for lack of smut

LOL Well, thank you. /bows head/ I figure Hotel Royale can sate the Charlie/Billy porn needs for this week just fine. It gives me a bye for the two days of Safe Harbor. Please expect regular porn service to resume tomorrow. ;-)

The scene list alone for Harbor House, the Billy POV companion fic, tells me it's going to be even longer than Safe Harbor, but I'm oddly okay with that. I'm actually looking forward to being in Billy's head for it. Being in Charlie's? Ugh. All that claustrophobia was not fun for me to experience vicariously through him. At least in Harbor House I'll get a chance to show more of Billy as a family man since we'll get to see his family! Sometimes people mature quickly in the face of adversity so I can see Billy doing that when someone he loves needs him.

Thanks for reading!
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 9th, 2008 10:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 2
I'm really looking forward to that. We have so very little of Billy in cannon it's fun to see all the permutations of a human the fandom can make him into.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 9th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 2
I like all the Billy iterations in fandom! He's like a nice template we all made our own versions of. He's very versatile - everything from rough alpha male to soft family man. With bonus freckles. ;-)
charleseppescharleseppes on December 9th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 2
Nice story! I would love to read about that sex scene...if you do write it. I'm with you on the claustrophobia. I was fine until I had an MRI done. I haven't been able to handle small spaces since then. I know about Chorizo...I just haven't tried it yet. :-)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 9th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 2
OMG! I totally freaked out having an MRI! I was pretty much an ugly hyperventilating mess. They had put headphones on me to listen to music and I pretty much threw them across the room to get them off me since they made me feel even more trapped. I found out later you can get sedated for MRIs. Bastards! They should have offered! So yeah, you have my total sympathy. Claustrophobia truly sucks.

I'm going to be working on Harbor House probably starting in January, but I'll stay open to maybe writing that scene and publishing it before HH is done, mostly because HH is going to be so much longer than SH!

Thanks for reading!
(Anonymous) on December 10th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
Safe Harbor and others
I loved this Billy! Almost as much as your softer Ian Edgerton in Air and the Wilderness stories. Those are my hands-down favorites in the Numb3ers fan fiction! The Wilderness Colby/Ian story has stayed with me since I first read them recently--just cannot get it out of my head. I am hoping there will be more of these threads, Billy/Charlie and particularly Ian/Colby. Smut has its place, but these pieces are terrific. I salute your genius!
Pam in New Mexico
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 10th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Safe Harbor and others
Pam,

Thank you so much! What a sweet and wonderful comment to wake up to! I sorely wish you had an LJ so I could know you'd see this response, but I'm hopeful. (I heartily suggest getting an LJ if you want to read here. You don't have to put any entries in it at all, just use it to get notifications of responses to comments. It's done, so people don't think it's a big deal, and authors would definitely appreciate it. Plus there's troll loose and I fear people will start locking down their LJs and disallowing anonymous comments to avoid the hassle.

I'm happy to hear you like these softer versions of some of our favorite alpha males. Wild men can and do settle down and alpha males often have another side to them. I love exploring it and these pairings have become some of my favorite because of those very fic you mentioned.

FWIW, if you haven't read A Shift in the Continuum I heartily suggest it. It's Charlie/Ethan from Prime Suspect, but it's just the kind of slow building relationship story this is (it's what got me hooked on them) and I think it's lovely.

Thank you so much for all your kind words and I hope you see this comment!
devon99 on December 11th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
I loved this. Completely.
I never thought I would.
Your Charlie was wonderful and he made your Billy into a character that I loved.

Wonderful, emotional, warm storytelling:)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 11th, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)
This really means a lot to me, thank you. So few people commented on this and it's such a major fic for me this year that I felt pretty down that no one seemed to care. So hearing this made me feel a lot better. I appreciate that. And I appreciate you giving the pairing a chance when it wasn't something you'd ordinarily go for. ♥
devon99 on December 11th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
It's gone straight into my memories file Emma.
As I said - I loved it. It had depth and warmth.

I will read your don/charlie fic tomorrow when I have time ♥
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 12th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
@>------

Thank you! ♥ /feels all warm inside/

The third part of Addiction will be up tomorrow so the whole thing will be able to be read whenever you have time. It's a harsh one, full of angst, but if you stick with it I promise it will be worth it in the end.
Whitneycsichick_2 on August 17th, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
I love, love, love this.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on August 17th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
Yay! You read it!

See, I get a slew of nominations at the awards each year, but I don't win all that much - mostly because I don't cater to what the masses enjoy reading - but this? This was the one I wrote that I would have been pissed if it didn't win (and it did - for slash romance) because it's one of my best pieces from last year and ever.

This is why I adore Charlie/Billy - because I could go here with them and I couldn't have with Don/Billy. Charlie has the kind of vulnerability that Billy needs to protect and I adore that dynamic.

So... Having read this, want to see Harbor House? ;-)
Whitneycsichick_2 on August 17th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
I'd love to see it. And I think Charlie/Billy is going to get added to the massive list of 'ships I have on my profile page.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on August 17th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Awesome!

I'll send it out now. I didn't get any new words this weekend /frowns/ so I could use a push. /grins/
Whitneycsichick_2 on August 17th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
I'll keep an eye open for it.