rillalicious: (Colby - Wherever I'm With You)
[personal profile] rillalicious
Chapter 1

"So she just showed up at your apartment, cleaned your kitchen, filled your fridge and left?"

"Basically, yeah."

"And you're on the phone with me."

"Uh, yeah."

"Colby, how long have you known Caroline?"

"Four, five years?"

"And you really don't know why she'd do that? You're a smart guy, Colby. Come on."

"It's not like that, David. But she's still, you know, female. And I'm not so savvy on the woman-related issues. If you haven't noticed."

"Point taken."

"Er, not that Caroline's a woman woman or anything."

"Come again?"

"Well, I mean, she's a woman, but she's... Caroline, you know?"

"Another victim of your ridiculously high standards?"

"God, no. She's not even... It's not even like that. It's like... Betancourt."

"Uh huh. Just like Betancourt."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I was agreeing with you."

"No, David, you weren't. That was sarcasm."

"Have you ever known me to be sarcastic, Colby?"

"Maybe a time or two."

"Colby, listen, this girl's interested. In you."

"She's practically family."

"That's why you called me to tell me she washed your dishes? You never call to tell me when your sister does your laundry."

"Erin's never done my laundry."

"I knew she was a smart kid."

"You're funny, Sinclair."

"And you're lonely, Granger. Get over yourself. Ask her out."

"You know what's great about you not being on Twitter, David?"

"What's that?"

"I can log on, right now, for example, and not get any unsolicited relationship advice."

"What do I keep telling you? Twitter's clearly overrated. And besides, this is totally solicited."

"Whatever. 'Night, David."

"It's two in the afternoon."

"What can I say? It takes a lot of sleep to maintain these looks."

"Beauty sleep: You're doing it wrong. Later, Colby."

"See ya."


Caroline came back a few days later. Colby had vacillated between calling her and not calling her, between wondering if this was, as David insisted, something worth pursuing or if even the simple act of considering it would screw up their friendship for good.

And then she was standing there in the doorway, and Colby's grin was a little brighter than usual. In his head, David was quick with a comment on that, and Colby tempered it, stepping aside and nodding her in.

"You come to do the vacuuming this time, too?"

She punched his arm, hard, but she laughed anyway.

"You look like you're in good enough shape to take care of yourself today," she said.

"Finally got a day off," Colby said, heading toward the kitchen. "Can I get you anything?"

"Glass of orange juice would be great," she said.

"Ah, that's why you bought it. So you'd have something to drink when you come over to enjoy the ambiance of my bachelor pad."

"Something like that." She leaned against the wall in the kitchen doorway.

He poured two glasses, then turned to hand her one. "You know, this isn't right. Aren't we supposed to be having housewarming drinks at your place?"

"About that." Caroline sipped her juice, her cheeks a little pinker as she smiled. "I actually dropped by to ask a favor."

"Now we get to it," Colby said. He hoped he sounded more amused than disappointed.

"When I said I was all moved in, I might have exaggerated just a little bit."

"How much is a little bit?"

"I, uh, have no furniture. It's all still at the cabin."

"And now I become useful."

Caroline laughed. "You've got those big, broad shoulders, you know."

"I thought you said you weren't helpless."

"I'm not," she said. She stiffened, defensive at first, then her expression went softer. "It's just... I had a couple of guys lined up last month, and that kind of fell through. They keep telling me they'll be there the first free weekend they get, but I've been sleeping on an air mattress for three and a half weeks now. I'm feeling like it might be time to, oh, you know, live like a grownup again?"

"Care," Colby cut her off. "It's not a problem. Tell me when you need me."

She chewed her lower lip for a moment. "Did you say you were off today?"

A few hours later, Colby was wiping the sweat from his forehead with the bottom of his shirt, Caroline's pick up truck bulging with furniture and bookcases. She hooked the end of the bungee to the bed of the truck, strapping down the last of it. She was stronger than he'd expected, but it had still been a two-person job, probably even three, though he'd found himself reluctant to call Don or Nikki for an extra set of hands.

This mountain had been Caroline's and Phil's, Colby had no illusions about that; it wasn't his territory. But the idea of bringing someone else up here struck him as wrong. There was something personal, sacred even, about his yearly visits to Caroline on this mountain. Something only Colby got. And he knew Caroline well enough to understand that she didn't want to share that with anybody else.

Caroline opened the cooler and handed him a bottled water, then leaned back against the truck.

"Thanks," he said.

"You're the one I should be thanking," she said.

"Tell me about it," said Colby. "You know what I'm missing to come up here today?"

"Dragnet marathon?"

Colby closed his mouth, swallowing his answer along with a sip of his water, and glanced over at her.

"Yeah," he said. "That."

"Is it pathetic that I know that?" she said.

"Not at all," said Colby. "Unless it's pathetic that that was the entire plan for my day off."

"When you put it that way," Caroline said, "yeah, it's pathetic."

Colby nudged her shoulder with his own and snorted.

"Suppose we should haul this load back to L.A. now?"

She exhaled and nodded.

"Funny, isn't it?" she said, sticking two fingers into her pocket and tugging out the keys. Colby's eyes followed her movement, his gaze resting on her hip for a moment before he caught himself. "When Phil was killed, I thought I'd never be able to get off this mountain fast enough, and now... It's harder to leave than I thought."

Colby swung an arm around her shoulder. "It's beautiful. And you've been up here a long time."

"I had a job to do." She stiffened against him.

"Had," Colby said, and his eyes closed in annoyance with himself. "I didn't even ask. You're working in the city now?"

"I've got a consulting job lined up for the time being but... I feel a little transitional right now. I don't know that's where I want to be. Long-term, anyway."

"I get that," Colby said, and he felt a pang of something a little more like regret than he'd been expecting. "Whatever you decide to do, you know," he snorted, "you've got me to help you move."

Caroline laughed, leaning her head against him and patting him on the chest.

"Believe me," she said. "I'm counting on it."

Then she pulled away and headed for the driver's side of the truck. In spite of the oppressive heat, Colby felt a little cold where she'd just let go.

Chapter 3


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January 2012

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