rillalicious: (Caroline/Colby - Wherever I'm With You)
[personal profile] rillalicious
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

"So is the Granger homestead finally clean on a regular basis now?"

"Oh, hell, no. She's worse than I am sometimes."

"Seriously? I might have to rethink this whole match-made-in-heaven thing if you're going to be raising your kids in an inhospitable environment."

"Man, that's not even funny."

"Oh, I think it's hilarious."

"You would. Listen, David, I need a favor."

"Sure. What's up?"

"You remember that florist we had to stake out a couple of years ago? Four days of nothing before we got a look at the guy?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I remember that. You kept going in and pretending to buy flowers because you pissed off your wife. Oh, and that blonde who did the deliveries slipped her number into the card that last time."

"Glad to hear that still amuses you."

"That she put her number in with the apology note to your imaginary wife? Yeah, it does. Bet the old ball and chain tore you an imaginary new one that night."

"Are you done?"

"Let me think... Yeah, I guess I am."

"All right then. Anyway, I'm glad to hear you remember that last bunch of flowers, because this is what I need. It was full of those little pinwheel flowers, some kind of orchids, I think. I wanna know what they were."

"Isn't this what the internet's for?"

"The internet does not provide me with witty repartee."

"Flattery will get you everywhere."

"Plus, I'm worried that they're not giving you enough to do in D.C."

"Do you want me to do this for you or not?"

"All right, I'll behave."

"Good. So, I'm not gonna ask who the flowers are for."

"They're for my mom, David."


"Seriously. She just got out of minor surgery and I wanted to send her something nice. Those looked like something she'd like."

"Minor surgery?"

"Nothin' serious. Bone spur on her wrist. Not a real big deal."

"So you're just being the dutiful son."

"As always."

"Uh huh."

"You always sound like you have so little faith in me. I'm getting a complex, Sinclair."


"Come again?"

"Cymbidium orchids. That's what the flower was."


"Google, Colby. It wasn't that complicated."

"Hey, I tried that."

"Right. So, why'd you really call, man?"

"Why do I ever call?"

"Because your codependency has reached an unhealthy high?"

"Well, there's that."

"Listen, Colby, I wasn't going to ask, even though it's obvious--hell, even Megan's figured it out and you only text her a couple of times a month--but you're flailing here, so I'll let you off the hook. What's going on with Caroline?"


"That's the problem?"

"Well, no--I guess. Sorta. I dunno, David."

"You don't know what you want?"

"The problem is that I think maybe I do."

"Say you ask her out. Worst case scenario."

"She runs away screaming and I never speak to her again."

"Logical worst case scenario."

"She says no."

"How bad is that? You've been rejected thousands of times, right?"

"You're on a roll tonight, aren't you? But yeah, I get your point."

"Now I'm gonna get some sleep. It's getting late here, and I'm assuming you still have a job there that you need to do."

"That I do."

"Cool. Give me a call tomorrow after you turn chickenshit and don't ask her out."

"All ri--Hey! I'm gonna go through with it, I just--David? You still there? Bastard."


"So," Colby said, and he leaned against the counter, watching Caroline examine the tea kettle she'd found beneath the sink. "Whatcha doing?"

On the scale of mockable opening lines, he was pretty sure David would get a lot of mileage out of that one.

"You've never actually used this, have you?" she said, frowning as she pulled off the lid and looked inside.

"No," he said. "Why would I?"

She turned to the sink, squirting a dollop of dish soap into the kettle before holding under the hot tap.

"To boil water, maybe?"

"Isn't that what pots are for?"

Caroline laughed. "You're such a boy," she said, scrubbing out the inside with the rough side of the kitchen sponge.

"I like to think of myself as practical," he said.

She turned on the cold water and started rinsing. "Practical enough to keep an unused tea kettle under the sink?"

"There's a reason for that," he said. "Stay here."

He went to the linen closet, kneeling down and lifting a pile of towels, rifling through the items buried beneath until he found what he was looking for. By the time he returned to the kitchen, the kettle was on the stove and Caroline was reading the label on one of the tins of tea she'd purchased the day before.

"Rosehips," she was murmuring to herself. "I wasn't expecting that."

"No one ever is," he said, and he thrust a round, knitted cow in front of her face. "Behold, the cow cozy."

"The--oh." She stared at it in horrified fascination for a moment, then grinned. "That's remarkably hideous."

"Isn't it, though?"

"It's so awful that I'm actually impressed," she said. "Are those legs or udders?"

"One of each, I think," he said.

"I like that all the spots are star-shaped. That's a nice touch."

"Who wants a cow that's not patriotic?"

"I wasn't going to comment on the color scheme," she said.

"But that's the best part."

"No, the best part is the tuft of hair on top. It's like somewhere in its family tree, someone mated with a troll doll."

Colby laughed.

"So, wait," she said. "You keep a tea kettle around--under the sink--because you have a cow-shaped tea cozy that you also keep hidden somewhere else?"

"My Aunt Madeline knit it for me three Christmases ago. There's maybe a five percent chance she'll get out here to visit in the next decade or so. If she does, she's gonna expect to see the cow cozy being useful."

Caroline shook her head. "Colby, that's not practical. That's insane."

"You can say that all you want, but I know the second I toss that thing in the trash, she's gonna call and tell me she just bought plane tickets."

"And a healthy dose of paranoia to boot. Nice."

"You've never met my Aunt Madeline."

"I'm sure she's not nearly as bad as you're making her out to be. After all, she lovingly knit you this one-legged, one-uddered star cow. For your tea kettle. Because you love tea."

"Yeah, well. Just wait. You'll see." At that, he stopped talking, realizing the implication of his words. He hadn't even managed to ask her out yet and already he was assuming she'd meet his family at some point?

She must have caught it too, because she was staring at the floor.

He rubbed the back of his neck. "I, uh..."

The tea kettle chose that moment to sing out with a high-pitched whistle and an exuberant burst of steam. Caroline cleared her throat.

"Would you like a cup?"

"Uh..." Colby picked up the tin. "Sleepy Dreamtime Calming Tea?" he said, snorting. "Nah, I'll pass, thanks."

Caroline smiled, and the uncomfortable moment seemed to have passed.

"At least come sit with me," she said, bobbing her teabag in the hot water. She walked into the living room and sat down on the couch.

When he followed, she was watching him expectantly, as if she'd had no doubt that he would come just because she'd requested it. He felt more screwed by the minute. This was why he avoided women like Caroline, women who were bright and down to earth and insightful. It was like they had a secret that he'd just never get; they always knew what was coming next, knew what he was going to do.

Colby wished that just this once, he could be in on that secret too.

"And how was work?" she said, tucking one leg beneath her and clutching the tea against her chest.

He watched the way her fingers slid around the mug, caressing it, the way she cradled it between the swell of her breasts.

"What was that?"

"Work, Colby. How was work?'

"Oh." He forced himself to meet her eyes. "Work. Right. Good. It was good."

She nodded slowly, patronizing him in amusement. "The FBI is good. Glad to hear it."

"Well, I mean, I didn't shoot anybody. Or get shot at. So there's that."

He knew as soon as he said it that if there had only been one topic he needed to avoid, it was that. What the hell was he thinking?

"There's that," she repeated, and she set her tea aside, folded her hands in her lap.

"Care, I didn't mean--"

"I know. Colby. I know." Her lips twitched at the corners, as if trying to form a smile that just wouldn't come.

"God, I'm an idiot. I don't know why I'd say that. I'm sorry."

"Really, it's okay."

But he knew that it wasn't.

"Grief sucks," she said, her arms wrapped around her middle. She looked up sideways at him, pleadingly. "And it never goes away?"

"Not completely," he said. He wanted to take it all back, his callous attempt at humor, all her pain. He couldn't, but he could do this. He could talk her through it, like he'd done in the years when her loss was still fresh and the wound torn so far open she was sure it would never close. "I don't think it does, anyway. You know I was fifteen when my dad died, and... When it's a shock like that, it leaves a mark."

"It's not even Phil anymore," she said, her voice thick and uneven. "I accept what happened to him. It's... it's my life. The life I used to have. I wasn't ready to let that go. What if I never am, Colby?"

"I don't know that you have to let that go," he said, and he reached out to push her hair back behind her ear. "It's part of who you are, even if you can't go back."

She caught his hand in hers, and he wanted so badly pretend that he wasn't aware of the warmth of her skin, of touching her, but he couldn't think of anything else. She nodded, swallowed. He licked his lips.

"Don't cry," he said, raising his hand to her cheek to brush his thumb beneath one eye, then the other. She tightened her hold on his other hand.

"Don't worry," she said. "I won't."

She leaned closer then, pulling him toward her by the hand. He thought that if he was noble, he'd stop right there and send her to bed with a hug and warm tea, but all he could think about right now was the way it would feel to stumble down the hallway with Caroline in his arms, how her skin would taste on his tongue, how her hair would feel as it fell across his chest. Her mouth was so close that he swore he could feel her pulse beating against his lips. There was a soft little noise that must have come from low in her throat, and he felt the tremor that ran through her fingers as they tightened over his.

Then, suddenly, he felt nothing but cool air in the space where her warm body had just been. He blinked, disoriented for the moment.

"Oh, God, Colby. I'm sorry," she said, and that didn't make any sense to him. Why? Sorry for what? "I was... That was not a come on."

She took up the mug in her hands again, but this time when she held it to her body, Colby was reminded of a bullet-proof vest. She was protecting herself. From him.

"Oh, uh, don't worry about it. It happens," he said, and he felt like a jerk. He rose to his feet. "I'm just gonna get a glass of water. You need anything else?"

"Um, no." She was already pointing the remote at the television. "I'll get the TV warmed up for us. It's about Wheel of Fortune time." On the last words, her voice regained its usual timbre.

"Awesome," Colby said, and he smiled, genuinely, then bolted for the kitchen. Maybe she'd just stopped them from making a horrible mistake, but somehow, he didn't feel any relief.

Chapter 6
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January 2012

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