A/N: Thank you guest for your review!
"N" is for Nightmare
Colby wondered if this nightmare would ever end.
He wondered if it'd still be a nightmare if Michael had lived. He wondered why Mike died and he didn't but shied away from those thoughts. He'd never had them before. Now they sometimes caught him unawares.
All part of this new nightmare called his life.
He'd told Don's team everything last night, finally telling his story. Only thing, Colby didn't think it made a difference. They still didn't want him at Charlie's. David wouldn't even look at him.
You're not worth it echoed in his head, David voicing Colby's growing suspicions. Echoing his mom's and sister's assessment. His mom and sister who deemed him so worthless they threw him away. Colby supposed it was only a matter of time before the team did the same.
He reminded himself he deserved it.
That's what they'd taught him the past three weeks, ever since he came back. He deserved it.
This was a nightmare he couldn't wake up from, where the morning wouldn't dispel the last vestiges of it; it was real.
So he kept to himself as much as possible, catching up on paperwork, tracking leads down on a couple of cold cases, not drawing attention to himself. He hoped it wasn't too late.
He'd gotten angry last night, let it show more than once. All things considered, Colby thought it one of the stupidest things he'd ever done. Getting belligerent toward people who didn't want him anyway was certain to get him kicked off the team. Then what would he do? He still didn't know.
And he didn't want to find out how much worse this nightmare could get.
Don dropped an unopened bag of chips and an unopened bottle each of soda and water on Colby's desk as he walked by, talking on his cellphone, following his own leads.
He'd been doing that all day, leaving items on Colby's desk; food and beverages and once a note reminding him to take his pain meds. Colby didn't know what to think of it.
He wanted to believe the obvious but what he learned the last three weeks was he didn't deserve such kindness or consideration. He felt as if his instincts were out of whack in this nightmare-turned-reality, so he didn't trust them either.
It left him feeling anxious and uncertain. He didn't know if that's what Don was going for or not. Which only made him more anxious and uncertain.
After all the seemingly fruitless talking he did last night, Colby didn't want to ask; he remained silent.
"Colb—it's 2 o'clock," Don said as Colby came back to the bullpen carrying the files he'd taken to evidence and ballistics to fill in the blanks in the original reports. The rest of the team was gone. Don pushed off from where he'd been leaning against Colby's desk.
"C'mon, man. Time to go."
Colby glanced sidelong at him, hating the hope that blossomed in his heart at Don's words: maybe they'd decided to invite him after all.
But hope was hard to come by in this nightmare, and Colby knew he'd earned no such thing.
Don shrugged, smirking. "Anywhere, man."
Colby didn't know why he was needling Don, why he was being so difficult about this. He blew out a breath, reminded himself the majority ruled and what he wanted didn't matter. He didn't matter.
Don looked uncomfortable. "No, buddy … I'm sorry." He sighed, rubbed his mouth. "But the team's off. That includes you." He checked his watch. "Go home. Get some rest. You've been working hard since you got back. You've earned the weekend. Enjoy it."
Colby offered a quick smile, met Don's eyes for a moment before looking down at the files in his hands.
"Got a couple new matches to one of the guns used in that SunnyVue Mall attack last year I want to look into. And the Murphys are coming in to look at a photo lineup."
"I'll only be a couple more hours, Don."
Don let out a breath. "I rather you leave now, man. You were hurt yesterday; you should be resting." He checked his watch again. "You're not Superman. No one expects you to put in 18 hours a day every day."
He had to if he ever wanted a chance to be accepted back, if he ever wanted to earn forgiveness. "It's okay. I don't mind."
Don rubbed the back of his neck. "C'mon, Colby."
"I won't be all night." Colby flashed a quick smile, wondering why Don was pushing this so much. "Really, Don. I have a couple more things to check out on the SunnyVue case and the Murphys are already on their way in."
"Alright, man," Don said. "I give up. But you better not be here all night."
"I won't. Promise."
Don started away but abruptly turned back. "Listen, Colb—things will be better Monday. I promise you that."
Colby looked down.
"Hey. You still trust me, right?"
The funny thing was, he didn't have to think about it. "Yeah." It was true. Even now, just like back on the subway.
"Then trust this. After tonight, things will change. And it'll be for the best for everyone. Including you. Especially you."
"Okay, Don," he said noncommittally, now even more anxious about what the team was doing and what Monday would bring.
To keep his mind from all the nightmare scenarios it insisted on visiting, Colby threw himself into his work, though he meant to keep his word to Don—no more lying—meant to get out of the building by 6 o'clock.
It didn't happen.
At five, he came out of the breakroom, sipping a cup of coffee, and paused in the doorway, narrowing his eyes at two bald heads—one black, one tanned and freckled from too much time in the sun without a cap on—bent over a desk in the cubicle he shared with David. Ross and Browne.
Colby's consternation gave way to anger and frustration in turn. He'd take the crap from the team—he figured he owed them that much—but he was tired of taking it from the rest of the floor. Although, technically, they had just as much right to hold grudges against him. Still, he was sick of it. At the same time, he couldn't do anything about it. A confrontation would just remind everyone of his existence, and he had no illusions about who'd be believed if it came down to it.
But after sharing his story with no discernible effect on the team, the hurt and confusion and base unfairness of it all erupted unbidden in anger and he started purposefully toward the cubicle.
A small voice reminded him his temper hadn't helped matters the day before, but Colby ignored it. Ignored the other voice frantically telling him he didn't want to lose this job—or this team—and fighting with another agent while on the clock would surely accomplish that.
Browne looked up and clapped Ross on the shoulder, and the two hastily retreated to the elevator.
"You really oughta control that drinking problem of yours, Granger," Ross called over his shoulder.
"Don't know how much more of it Eppes is gonna put up with," Browne added.
The two stepped into the elevator. They were laughing when the doors closed.
Colby pulled up short in his cubicle, staring in dismay at his desk. Half a dozen foam coffee cups littered the surface. A couple still had coffee in them. The rest had been poured over his keyboard, his desk, inside and on the tower, on his lamp, inside the desk drawers, on David's desk.
He briefly closed his eyes. Damn it.
He was tired and sore, abused muscles stiff and achy, and he just wanted to go home.
He'd known it wasn't going to be easy once it came out he'd been spying on the FBI LA field office for the past two years, but to not even be given a chance, to be treated with such animosity and spite … he wished suddenly and fervently that Mike was still alive. Or that David didn't hate him so he could talk to him.
But he was on his own.
And this nightmare showed no signs of ending.
By the time Colby had the desks cleaned up (checking to make sure there was nothing he'd missed in Don's, Megan's, or Liz's), a workorder form promising his keyboard and tower would be returned sometime next week (the IT woman had not been happy to see him, though he thought it wasn't because of who he was but more the hour and the state of his equipment), his lamp cleaned (the Wooly Bugger thankfully easy to wash), the odds and ends in the drawers cleaned or replaced (his photos from Afghanistan somehow escaped unscathed), the tiled floor around his desk mopped to the best of his ability, and his ruined reports rewritten it was 9 o'clock. He was the only one left on the floor.
And now he had one more thing to add to his disquietude. If by some chance Don meant what he said about Monday, Colby's missing tower and keyboard—and the reason for it—was sure to make the team lead change his mind, a workorder for cleaning and checking for impaired CPU's and files notwithstanding. Colby had already learned Don wouldn't believe him, that it hadn't been his fault, the 302 taught him that, so Don would assume gross negligence on Colby's part; that Colby willfully damaged the FBI's property. He couldn't help but wonder if this would be his last weekend as an FBI agent. He shoved the thought out of his head.
After swallowing more pain medication, Colby gratefully took the elevator down to the lobby.
Since 9/11, the Wilshire Blvd building had adopted strict security protocols that included, among other things, signing in and out of the building, true for employees and visitors alike. Colby made his way over to the security checkpoint, took the offered clipboard from the unsmiling guard, and scrawled his signature and the time next to his computer-generated name.
He didn't attempt to engage the guard in conversation. Even though the man worked for the building—not the Bureau—he'd been treating Colby as contemptuously as most of the agents within the FBI. Colby didn't know if it was because someone told him of Colby's supposed treachery or if it was something within Colby the guard reacted negatively to. It was just another element of this never-ending nightmare.
Colby handed the clipboard back and headed over to the elevators.
"Hey!" the guard yelled, pocketing his cellphone. "Hold the door for me, will ya?"
Colby did so, warily watching the guard—his nametag read C. Stewart—as he entered the confined space.
"Time for rounds," Stewart said by way of explanation. "Ground floor," he advised him with a bellicose tilt of his chin, as if Colby was a valet and this an expensive hotel.
Stewart moved to the opposite side of the car as Colby punched the ground floor button; his floor.
The awkward ride was mercifully brief and soon the bell dinged as the doors slid open on underground parking.
"Shit," Stewart muttered before either of them could take a step, patting his person. "Forgot something."
Colby kept an eye on him as he exited and didn't breathe easier until the doors slid shut behind him. The elevator barely began its ascent before coming to an abrupt stop. Colby started turning around, then froze as two red laser sights landed on his chest.
"Hands where I can see them!" a voice shouted.
"Down on the ground! Get down on the ground!" another commanded.
Four men came out of concealment behind cars and a pillar, and a white van pulled haphazardly into the space nearest Colby and disgorged three more men.
They were all armed, guns directed at Colby, and they wore tactical vests emblazoned with a confusion of alphabet soup agencies: FBI, DHS, ATF, NSA, US Marshals, even LAPD and a plain black one that probably meant CIA.
"Down on the ground. Hands where I can see them."
Not again, Colby thought numbly, not here. There were no faces he recognized this time, warped in fury and balefulness or not. He wasn't expecting it; it wasn't part of a plan he'd given his consent to. Had that nightmare ever ended?
He wanted to demand an explanation but now wasn't the time. He knew law enforcement wouldn't be amenable to anything he said until he was safely secured.
"Down on the ground!"
Slowly, Colby complied, sinking to his knees, hands held up.
"Lay down, flat on your stomach. Hands out to the side. Cross your legs at the ankles."
"Do it! NOW!"
Colby carefully obeyed.
The sounds of multiple feet hurrying across concrete preceded a knee in the small of his back.
"Gun. He has a gun!"
The knee ground into his spine. A boot stepped mercilessly onto his neck but the muzzle of the rifle poking behind his ear kept him still. Hands grabbed his wrists, wrenching them behind his back, where handcuffs were slapped tightly into place. Colby winced.
Someone jerked his gun from his waistband, and they hauled him unceremoniously to his feet. At the van, they leaned him over the hood, holding him there with a brawny arm across his shoulders while they searched him, removing his wallet, ID, cell, credentials, pocketknife, watch, keys, medication bottle, and even his dog tags.
"My name is Colby Granger. I work here," he said calmly and evenly. "What's going on?"
No one answered him.
He opened his mouth to ask again when the ATF agent handed all of Colby's personal effects to Stewart.
"You got this?"
Colby wasn't aware he'd moved until someone slammed him back into the hood. A forearm thrust against the back of his neck, forcing his cheek into the still hot metal. Somebody pressed hard against his body, a knee between his legs to keep them spread, and hands against his shoulders kept him positioned.
"Watch it, punk. You don't want to add aggravated assault on a police officer to your list of charges."
His only answer was the hands pushing him harder into the body of the van.
Up in the corner of the garage, Colby spotted a surveillance camera, unblinkingly watching everything that was happening, and his chest contracted painfully.
Is this why the team didn't invite him to Charlie's? They knew he was going to jail? Or worse … they wanted him gone so badly—and hadn't been shy about letting him know it—but he was too stubborn to leave on his own so they had him arrested? This time there was no Kirkland to get him out … nobody coming to save him.
And the team was celebrating at Charlie's.
He was the only one who wanted things to go back to normal, to before the Janus List had come out. He was the only one who fondly remembered the previous two years, who thought they were worth fighting for.
God, how pathetic was he? Working his ass off to belong to a group of people who clearly didn't want him. He could easily see it from David and that hurt both more and less than the others. He never saw it from Liz or Megan but maybe they were just so tired of the strife within the team, within their personal relationships and agreed with whatever plan got rid of it … got rid of Colby. Don must've thought the team dynamics too dysfunctional with Granger around so put the plan into action.
But why had Don been so nice to him today? Why had he seemed so understanding and sincere yesterday if this had been his intent all along?
Maybe that was part of the plan: lull Colby into a false sense of security so when he walked into the trap, it'd hurt more for all it came out of nowhere. Proving Colby's naïveté, his stupidity. Proving that he didn't belong.
Colby briefly closed his eyes, the agents sorting things out to their satisfaction without any participation from him.
It gave Don's parting words, his insistence Colby leave the office early new meaning. Had they been waiting down here for him so they could watch it in person, watch his ignominy up close and personal? Had they wanted to give Colby one more chance to see how much they despised him? One more chance to laugh at him … one more chance to show him how disposable he really was. Maybe this worked out better for them. Now they'd have the surveillance video to commemorate the occasion, something they could watch whenever they wanted.
And the FBI … they must condone the team's decision, couldn't let Colby's spying go unpunished, even given the end result. He was arrested outside their offices; there was one of their agents represented, even if Colby didn't know him.
Colby slumped, defeated, into his captors.
Don said whatever happened today would be best for everyone. Including Colby. Which must mean it was best if he was punished for what he did … for spying, for lying, for being undercover.
Colby wanted to be angry—everything he did, he did it for his country—but he couldn't maintain it.
He deserved whatever happened to him; however worse this nightmare got, however long it lasted, he deserved it. The team told him so. The FBI did. His family.
The latter didn't want him, the former had him arrested. He was alone.
His nightmare was only getting worse; he was going back behind bars, and no one cared.
He wished it was a nightmare, wished he could wake up. But it wasn't a bad dream. It was real.
They didn't take him to jail. They took him straight to prison as if he'd already been convicted of a crime.
They hustled him into the white van but just outside the empty guard booth, they shoved him into the cargo hold of a black minivan, chaining him in place. They didn't answer his questions, didn't tell him what he was arrested for, didn't rationalize their actions. They asked him nothing.
Most of them climbed back into the cargo van, leaving him a driver who pretended he didn't exist.
The warden and one of his guards met the minivan at Seymour Federal Correctional Institution. He was checked in with minimal input, though he'd never been there before. He wasn't allowed to call a lawyer or an FBIAA representative or anybody else. They didn't answer his questions either. He was stripped and suffered a humiliating, thorough body cavity search that only ended when the guard's rough efficiency turned to fondling and Colby laid him out with a single punch. The warden and DHS agent who'd stayed behind tasered him into obedience.
After dressing in orange DOC scrubs and prison-issued socks, sandals, and t-shirt, he was left in an interview room as they decided it'd be too disruptive to assign him to a cell at this hour. He was fully shackled and chained in three separate places to the stainless steel table and chair combo bolted to the floor.
It was all highly suspect and illegal. Colby barely registered it, barely registered his physical discomfort from the tasering and the on-the-job injuries incurred yesterday. He lay on his side, curled as tightly as he could, awkward and uncomfortable because of the shackles, handcuffs, and chains, his back to the table pedestal. He shivered slightly, though he wasn't cold.
He was alone, rejected, despised, and had been betrayed by the people he trusted most in the world. It was Colby's worst nightmare. Now it was his life.