A/N: A huge thank you to Dinogal95, max2013, Penny Blossom73, SiouxAnne3, and late2bbparty for reviewing!
The next chapter will post on Thursday, and then we'll be back to the Sunday only schedule.
"W" is for Withdrawn
This wasn't working.
David could see that in the guardedness in Colby's body, in the almost dead eyes. Colby had withdrawn so far inside himself David didn't know how to reach him. Only thing, this wasn't protecting Colby physically and David was terrified it wasn't protecting his psyche either.
He could see the same mounting desperation in Don and Megan's eyes too.
Colby had flinched violently from them as they converged on him to unlock the shackles and throw them away from him. He cringed when they reached for him (whimpering lowly, piercing David's heart, nearly reducing him to a blubbering mess), so they let him walk unsteadily with them without assistance back to the interview room, even though they all wanted to touch him, to reassure themselves he was here and alive, that they really had found him at last. David felt it. He could see it in the others.
But Colby remained withdrawn, body tense as he braced himself for violence.
He'd been missing for nearly seven weeks—no, not missing; the sons of bitches had taken him away from them nearly seven weeks ago. What had he endured in all that time for him to have withdrawn so thoroughly? David knew Colby was tough—hell, he was the strongest, toughest, bravest man David knew—but the sheer length of time (forty-one days, because today counted, with what Olsen had done, even if it also ended today) to be at his captors' mercy had clearly damaged something inside of him, irrevocably or not only time would show.
David was terrified of that too.
Especially given what Colby's mother had done to him beforehand; what the FBI, what his own team had done to him. They'd left him without anyone, taken everything from him and then they brutalized him when he was already breaking (it didn't matter that it was different sets of 'they'; they were all frigging sons of bitches who could all go straight to hell). Was it any wonder he'd withdrawn?
Their explanations, the three of them talking over each other to get the words out before they swept over them like tsunamis, hadn't reached him. Moving him to an employee only breakroom on the other side of the barred door at the end of the corridor, the only room off this section of hall, hadn't registered. Taking off their tactical vests and divesting themselves of their weapons, making themselves as non-threatening in appearance as they were able, hadn't done anything. Colby had withdrawn so deep, had shut down in expectation of what David could only name torture, he'd lost himself.
The way Olsen had thrashed him so easily and without restraint, what little Don had shared in the SUV on the way here made it beyond clear that that hadn't been unusual treatment, that they were used to doing it, that it was just one more thing he'd weathered during his weeks of lockup. Beyond clear that Colby had suffered physically at his jailers' hands; mentally at his family's, at his team's. The team that was supposed to be his family. The man who was supposed to be his brother.
Now David could only helplessly watch as Don and Megan tried to get through, tried to find that place where Colby had withdrawn to, to call him back.
Nothing worked. Colby stayed withdrawn, standing near a corner, waiting. The orange scrubs were loose on him, the tee too, the sleeves falling halfway down his hands. David didn't know if it was because they hadn't bothered to give him the appropriate size clothes or if he'd lost that much weight. The exhaustion shadowing his sunken eyes and the scruffy beard hiding his cheeks couldn't disguise the hollowness of his face, and it was something else someone would be held accountable for. His feet were bare, save for bruises and abrasions, maybe dirt, maybe stained and David felt the pressure building and he wanted to release it on every single person who had done it to him, who had stood by and watched, doing nothing, who had dared touch his brother in that way. Colby said nothing.
And David knew, with a pang that stole his breath, that while they had rescued Colby, the fight to save him had only begun. Because they were here, and he was here, but Colby had lost himself so deep, he was lost from them, maybe even to them, and gave no sign that he knew them.
David furiously rubbed his eyes. No.
He'd already abandoned Colby, had rejected him. He wouldn't do it again.
Colby had given him the power to destroy him … surely that meant he'd also given David the power to save him? David had once heard a radio program about an autistic woman who although couldn't stand to be touched, craved the comfort of being restrained in some way. Colby wasn't autistic and Sinclair didn't remember the details of the story, but he was desperate and willing to try anything to draw Granger out.
He blinked the tears away as his approach backed Colby into the corner. The green eyes, so nearly empty, flared with something David's vision was too blurry to make out. Colby tried to raise his arms—to defend himself, to shield his head—but shuddered, letting them drop away. Whatever had been in his eyes fled again, leaving Colby even further withdrawn.
Megan and Don shouted furiously behind him—at Colby's reaction, both to David and to trying to move, at the trauma that caused it—but David paid them no heed. He'd already promised himself, promised Colby, he'd hunt down every person responsible for crippling his brother, whether permanently or temporarily, made no never mind to David. He'd hunt them all down, the bastards, the sons of bitches, starting with Olsen and getting all the names from him, hunt them down and if Colby was lost from him forever—if he'd lost his brother—he swore he'd kill them all. Then justice would be served. Not with trials and prison time but death. And not a swift death either.
He was shockingly okay with that.
But if he could reach Colby, he wasn't leaving him again, would never let him face anything for the rest of his life without his brother by his side, and he would abide by the law.
If only he could reach him.
Withdrawn as he was, Granger still violently started when David put his hands on his shoulders and then pulled him into an embrace.
"I've got you, brother," he whispered in Colby's ear. "You're safe. I've got you."
Colby was rigid in his hold, his arms halfway up between their bodies, warding David off.
David unashamedly let the tears fall, let the grief come. Colby was like a bird in his arms: thin and trembling and breakable. He wasn't used to thinking of Colby as thin; lean, yes, muscular, but never thin. Never breakable.
"You're safe, brother," he murmured, voice thick. "I've got your back. You hear me, Colby? I've got your back."
Colby tried to break away, but David held on firmly, easily restraining his brother. He tried not to think of how wrong that was.
Colby's breath hitched. David couldn't tell if he was crying or still fighting. Granger's shoulder was wet under David's face and still he let the tears come.
He didn't know how long he held Colby to him, held on for dear life—held on to a dear life—with Megan and Don somehow disappearing to the back of his mind along with the passage of time. There was only his brother and murmuring words of encouragement, only offering sanctuary to a man who'd been on his own for far too long, only tears and an acute awareness of Colby's slightest shifting of position.
Colby's trembling increased and he abruptly grabbed at the front of Sinclair's shirt. Whether to keep his balance as he began gently swaying or because he'd come back far enough to recognize David, he didn't know. Granger leaned heavily into him, and David suspected Colby'd reached his limit.
"I've got you, brother," David softly reminded him.
Colby's knees buckled; his hands tightened in the fabric of David's shirt, his deadweight pulling Sinclair down too. David caught him up against his chest, momentarily baffled: to ease Colby down, he'd have to change his stance, which entailed letting go, and he would not let Colby go. Not yet. Not until he reached him. Then other hands were there, gently, carefully guiding both of them until they knelt on the tiled floor. Colby tried pushing him away, but David held fast.
"You're safe, brother. Colby, you hear me? You're safe."
He thought back to the poem under the refrigerator magnet, thought how true it was, how it meant something to Colby. He wondered again who'd given it to him. He wished it'd been him.
"I would be true, for there are those who trust me," he recited in Colby's ear. "I would be pure, for there are those who care; I would be strong, for there is much to suffer (much too much, David thought, pulling Colby closer); I would be brave, for there is much to dare."
Colby gave a strangled sob, breaking something inside David, and sagged in David's arms. His hands fisted the back of his shirt, and Sinclair pulled him in tighter. He thought he cried harder than Colby when the shaking arms encircled him at last. Colby's sobs wracked his body—though he barely made a sound and somehow that hurt David most of all and his own tears came faster and harder, thinking of all that Colby had borne without anyone by his side—but he never let go. Only readjusted his hold as needed.
When the juddering breaths steadied somewhat, Sinclair moved his hand up from Colby's neck and cupped the back of his head. He realized he had fallen silent, cleared the sorrow from his throat, and whispered, "It's true, you know. Colby. We trust you. We care."
He didn't know what had happened to Colby while incarcerated, didn't know if he had any idea as to why he was here, who was behind it, but David remembered all too well that last week, especially those last couple of days leading up to Colby's disappearance and he wondered if Colby thought they still felt that way, if he was comforted at all by their presence.
He turned his head, spoke directly into Granger's ear. "You are brave, brother. You're not alone. We do trust you. I trust you." And because he didn't know, he added, hoping it got through, "You're safe. We won't hurt you. We won't let anyone hurt you. It's over, Colby. It's over."
Colby's shoulder was soaked, and his arms had dropped between them again, though he held the front of David's shirt. He hoped that meant what he wanted it to, that Colby meant it that way. His head was still down, and he seemed to huddle into himself as he fought to bring himself under control.
David leaned back a little, keeping his arms protectively wrapped around his brother, nearly starting when he saw Don sitting next to Colby, gingerly, ceaselessly rubbing his back, and David stupidly remembered Don had a kid brother, would know how to comfort him. Don's face was turned away but even the profile showed he was struggling with his own emotions. Megan was standing with her back to them, arms wrapped fiercely around herself.
Colby gave a last hiccoughed sob and went still.
Had he withdrawn again?
Don surged to his feet, but David didn't follow him, all his senses bent to the bowed head in front of him. Eppes returned a moment later, holding an unopened bottle of water out, and David was reminded of that last Thursday back in June, when a different word could've ended this nightmare then instead of being the threshold for it. He choked back a sob of his own.
"David?" Colby's voice was like a rasp scraped over gravel but lucid and aware, and Sinclair thought it the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard (or would ever hear). "Why?"
No, Colby was no longer withdrawn. But now they had to try to explain themselves to him.
In the end, David wished that's what Colby was really asking, that he wasn't asking what it turned out he was, that he hadn't had to internalize all that suffering, giving it that kind of justification. In the end, David's heart broke.
A/N: This is probably my most favorite chapter, and it's one of the first ones I wrote. I had it done before I'd even finalized the chapter words let alone the order of letters. I've done very little in terms of rewriting it; the story pretty much grew from what happened here. Anyway, I'd love to know what you all thought of it, so please leave a review or comment below!