Regrets I Have Lived
Your prompt: A Ficathon Walks Into A Bar - sabinelagrande. livejournal 256873. html - Colby Granger walks into a bar and meets Dominic Santini
Fandoms: Numb3rs (pre-series) / Airwolf (post-series [original AU])
Characters/pairings: Colby Granger, Dwayne Carter and Dominic Santini; no pairings – implied pairings if you squint/use rose colored glasses, but not CG, DC or DS. Small mentions of Michael 'Archangel' Coldsmith Briggs III. Indirect references to: Stringfellow Hawke, 'Singin' St. John Hawke, Caitlin O'Shannessy and Jason 'Doc' Gifford
Warnings: Spoilers: Numb3rs - Mole, Janis List, Trust Metric; all of Airwolf really (but don't need any knowledge of fandom); harsh language; war related memories/discussion
Special mention: Many thanks to my betas! Hanna, Annie and Sally, especially Sally. Because of her input, this fic ended up a lot stronger and meatier than I thought of leaving would be great :)
Word count: 2,258
First Army Lieutenant, Colby Granger had needed to get away from the base, at least for a bit, to process everything that was going on in his head at the moment and had ended up in a run down bar somewhere in bumfuck Afghanistan.
It was clear the locals weren't buying his appearance at trying to blend in and were constantly giving him the eye, but also giving his area of the bar a wide berth.
While he was in civilian clothes, he was an American and everyone knew that 'all Americans here in Afghanistan were in the military and were nothing but filthy killers.' And, of course, with his regulation hair cut, as well as the suntan marks around his head, face and eyes that clearly delineated the use of a helmet with a chin strap that couldn't be hidden with the hat he was wearing, didn't help make him go unnoticed. For those observant enough, there was also the American sunglasses that were sitting on the back of his neck, the gun calluses on his hands and the glint of an all too-familiar-looking chain hanging around his neck, tucked into his shirt where nothing could really hide the soft, muffled sound of his dog tags clinking together whenever he moved.
There wasn't any hiding it. He was an American soldier.
Granger took another drink of the what-passed-for-beer beverage and grimaced. He came from a relatively long line of family that made the military their life and he believed and respected that history with everything he was. Growing up in the wilderness of Idaho, a very young Colby had listened in awe to the tales of his relatives in the armed forces and dreamed of heroic deeds and blood-pumping adventure. As the years passed and he grew into a young man, Colby learned more about what surrounded those deeds and adventures – he learned about responsibility and respect and everything else that wasn't part of the tales; he learned about pain, sacrifice, loss. But above all that, he learned the family creed that all Grangers, be it by blood or marriage, believed in.
"Veneratio, Officum, Terra."
The buck stopped with the Grangers; they stood fast for what they believed in, for honor, duty and country, or they died trying.
Back at the bar, Colby took another drink of the bitter, warm drink and made another face.
A couple of months ago, Colby thought that he'd bought the proverbial farm – that he wouldn't survive to add to the tales of his family's military history.
But his long time Army buddy, Dwayne Carter, had come to his rescue.
Carter had been the only passenger in the humvee Colby was driving when it was hit with enemy fire. The vehicle had been engulfed in flame and Colby was pinned in the driver's seat by the steering wheel and some metal from the door frame that had twisted around his arm. With flames licking at them, Dwayne had somehow managed to untangle them both while simultaneously cussing a blue streak. However, freeing them from the vehicle itself was going to be another matter entirely and no matter how you looked at it, it was going to hurt like a motherfucker.
As soon as Dwayne was freed, he'd moved to place his feet over Colby's lap, as close to the driver's side door as he could get. Colby understood what Carter intended to do and, really, it was the only way to get him out from under the steering wheel. But, again, he knew it was still gonna hurt like a son-of-a-bitch with that door frame piece wrapped around his arm.
On the count of three, Dwayne had kicked the door, which barely opened, and the metal pulled at Colby's arm, cutting into his flesh a bit more, causing Colby to yelp with pain. As tears welled in Colby's eyes, and his heart beat loud in his ears, Dwayne turned around and kicked his own door open and ran around to the driver's side.
With no thought, Carter had grabbed the metal wrapped around his buddy's upper arm, crying out as it burned his hands, and pulled it carefully away. As Granger moved forward, Carter then put his burned hands to Colby's armpits and pulled.
Colby had then been able to slide most of the rest of the way out from under the steering wheel. Helping each other, they'd both stumbled away from the vehicle as quickly as possible. There wasn't anything to use for cover really and when the humvee had exploded just moments later, the concussion of the blast sent them to the ground.
While their squad was held in high regard, even amongst the unit, Carter's and Granger's friendship was considered exceptional. You never saw one without the other; awake, asleep, eating, hunting the enemy – it was always two for the price of one. And never more so than at that horrific moment.
But all that was at risk now.
Granger's thoughts were interrupted when there was a commotion at the door. Turning, he was in time to see three older men enter the bar, arms draped around each others shoulders, smiles on their faces and laughing as if they were already three sheets to the wind.
The one in the middle, the loudest of them, must have been in his eighties, however, that didn't seem to impair him much. The man's head was full of white hair, slicked back a little with sweat from being under the baseball type cap he was holding, but looking like the waves in it were doing all they could to turn into curls now that it wasn't covered; the man's large midsection showed a serious appreciation for food and his face, lined with many years of living, showed laugh lines around mouth and eyes, giving the impression that there was more joy in his life than not.
Colby gave them a final once over, deciding they were just what they appeared to be and turned back to his drink and brooding over the quandary he was in.
Here he was, nursing a piss-poor excuse for beer, chancing a random act of violence on his person by those around him, because Dwayne Carter, the man who'd pretty much been at his side from day one at boot camp, who'd saved his life more than once but never more so than in that Humvee, the man who'd kept him going when he wanted to throw it all in and go home… had revealed himself to be a spy for the Chinese.
And he had just called in the debt of saving Colby's life, asking him to join him.
A hand gently rested on Colby's shoulder and Colby whipped his head around to find the older jovial man standing near him. Inwardly seething at himself for being so lost in thoughts that even an old man could sneak up on him, Colby looked a question to him.
"Got a lot on your mind, kid." It wasn't quite a question but not a straight out statement either.
"Doesn't everybody?" Granger replied before shrugging the man's hand off and turning back to his beer.
The man inclined his head slightly and chuckled slightly, "Ah, this is true." Sticking his hand out, the man introduced himself.
The younger man accepted the handshake, "Granger."
Dominic frowned slightly, "Granger… Granger. Say, you aren't the Granger who was in that humvee attack a little while back are you?"
Colby knew the information had been released but he was inwardly surprised the older man recalled his name, as there had been other much more dramatic happenings going on since then.
"No incident regarding an American soldier is forgettable to me, kid." Dominic's statement showed Colby that his surprise had not gone unnoticed.
"Too many kids, a lot of good men, have lost their lives; too many families and friends have suffered for it to ever be trivialized." The lines on Santini's face deepened, clearly showing the emotion that accompanied his statement.
Colby gave a brief nod of his head with an automatic, "Yes, sir."
Santini gave a bark of laughter, "I haven't been a 'Sir' since I was retired from active duty, kid. It's Dom."
Colby got a mischievous glint in his eyes, "Yes Sir, Dom."
Santini laughed again, the other bar patrons paused but sensed no danger in the discussion between the pensive youth and jovial older man and went back to nursing their own beers and their own worries. That and it was obvious that the two other men who had brought the older man into the bar were well armed, the clothes they were wearing granting easy access to the weapons seen when they moved a certain way. No one really wanted to start anything, despite keeping a weather eye on the American soldier.
"So, what's weighing on your shoulders so heavily, Granger."
"It's still none of your business, Sir."
"Look, kid," Dom was pleased to notice Granger bristle a bit with the continuing use of his favorite word for young people, "I'm going to cut to the chase here. You're not in the safest place to be so far in your head that you can let an old man catch you off guard." Colby blushed with chagrin as Dom continued, "You don't look the sort to have a death wish and you've seen enough action to have decided if being a soldier is for you or not."
Colby just stared at Santini, with no idea how to answer him or to excuse himself without being rude. He was also unsettled that someone could read him so well after just a few moments.
That seemed to be the opening Santini knew he'd been looking for.
Dom took a breath. "I knew a kid like you once. He was like a son to me, he and his brother. They lost their parents in a boating accident when they were young. As soon as the eldest hit eighteen, he decided to join the Army – his younger brother couldn't stand being left behind and joined up as soon as he could too.
"They served together for a time but eventually one of them was caught behind enemy lines – through no fault of the other even though he always blamed himself."
Colby listened, drawn into the tale like he'd been with his family's stories when he was little.
"The younger brother spent all of his life looking for his sibling – he made deals with people no one else would touch, worked with others that were nothing more than scum… almost sold his soul to the devil too, if it hadn't been for the interference of a man dressed in white.
"He spent so much time and all of his resources looking for his brother that, well… his whole life had become nothing more than a search for his brother and the truth of the matter is, he didn't care. Every time I asked him, it was always the same reply 'prosapia est prosapia.'"
"Family is family," Granger muttered before taking another sip of his way too warm beer.
Santini looked at Colby with interest, raising his expressive eyebrows, "Latin?"
"It's a family thing."
Santini and Granger reappraised each other with interest for a moment. Granger clinked his beer to Santini's, "I'm Colby."
Dominic clinked his bottle back "Pleased to meet you, Colby."
Colby drained the rest of his beer, "I think you have a story to finish telling me."
Dom nodded before continuing, "We went out one more time, on a very slim lead. It turned out to be another dead end, but in more ways than one. I barely got out with my life, and that was only due to Doc and … and his partner…. Stri— my friend wasn't so lucky; he was killed – torn apart by a hail of bullets…." Dominic trailed off.
Clearly the elderly man was holding onto a lifetime of suppressed emotions, along with an unhealthy dose of regrets.
After a moment's silence, where the man wiped his eyes with a napkin from the bar, Dominic looked back at Colby.
"My friend was a very stubborn kid. He was a brooder and a loner; never complained when things got to be too much; never showed weakness, even when he should have; rarely asked for help, preferring to put himself in harms way doing things by himself instead."
Looking at Colby, Dom once again placed a hand on his shoulder. "Too many people start down the path he did. If I can stop you from doing so, it's one less lost soldier… one less broken family out there."
Colby took a breath, sitting in contemplative silence for a moment and then nodded. Signaling for another beer, he motioned for the older man to take a seat next to him.
As the afternoon wore into evening, Dominic Santini, retired owner of Santini Air and last surviving member of the crew that had flown Airwolf, a technologically advanced helicopter that was capable of Mach I flight and unprecedented stealth and surveillance capabilities, utilized in secret and for covert missions by 'the company,' listened to a young soldier from Idaho.
A day later, Colby Granger was contacted by a friend of Mr. Santini's via video conference.
"Hello, First Lieutenant Granger," The man, dressed all in white with a black patch over one eye, flanked by a woman dressed similarly, began. "My name's Michael Coldsmith Briggs the Third, but you can call me Archangel."
For those of you who missed 'the inside joke,':
"….almost sold his soul to the devil too, if it hadn't been for the interference of a man dressed in white."
'….The man, dressed all in white with a black patch over one eye, flanked by a woman dressed similarly, began.'
To those wondering about the sunglasses perched on the back of Colby's neck. It's not a mistake. In Mole, we learn that Colby and Dwayne were taught to put their sunglasses in that position when approaching an enemy target. [I assume so that a lens spike or such didn't give their position away.]