blue flamingos

Down The Rabbit Hole

Fandom: Numb3rs/SGA/SG1

Category/Rated: Slash, PG-13

Year/Length: 2009/ ~10,000 words

Pairing: Colby/Lorne, past Colby/Daniel

Spoilers: up to the end of SGA season 5, up to Numb3rs 503 Blowback, and for SG1 to season 7.

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Some days are just not worth the effort of getting out of bed.

Series: Uses the backstory from 5 crossovers Colby Granger was never in, but I don't think you need to read that first.

Author's Notes: Written for koanju, who bought me in the Sweet Charity auction.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

hr

They're on their way out of the hotel, having found their witness not there, like he's been not there at the last five places they've tried, when Colby catches sight of something – someone – moving at the far side of the lobby. When he turns, the man's just going through a door marked 'Staff Only,' slowly enough for Colby to see brown hair and glasses. And there must be hundreds of men in LA with brown hair and glasses, but that doesn't stop him from thinking, "Daniel."

"And if he's not there, we'll – hey, are you even listening to me?" David asks, walking back to where Colby's come to a halt.

Colby drags his eyes from the door that Daniel – the man – disappeared through. "Sorry. Thought I saw someone. An old friend."

David frowns. "You want to catch him up?"

Colby shakes his head, trying to get it together. Trick of the light, familiar face. It's nothing. "No. He died a long time ago." David's looking worried now, and a little like he thinks Colby's gone crazy. "It's nothing," Colby says again, trying to sound more convincing. "Come on, let's go, where's next on the list?"

David keeps looking at him, more of the worry and less of the crazy, and Colby wishes he hadn't said anything. David's always been a bit of a mother hen, and it's only gotten worse since Colby's very brief affair with Lynn Potter. "Come on. We'll never hear the end of it if Nikki finds this guy before we do. I promise, if I start thinking I see Elvis, you can worry all you want."

"If you start thinking you see Elvis, I'll do a lot more than worry about you," David says, but he cracks a smile with it, so Colby chalks it up as a win. "Pavilion Hotel. I'm driving."

hr

The Pavilion Hotel's a bust – their suspect was there, but he's not there now, checked out earlier that morning – and so are the next three places on the list. They stop for lunch after Liz calls with another six sightings, all over the city.

"This is why tip lines are a bad idea," Colby says, shoving his cell back into his pocket and reaching for his coffee. "One glance at a bad closed circuit picture, and suddenly everyone and their goldfish is sure they just saw him."

"Cheer up," David says heartlessly. "At least they've been verified as probably him before we get them."

"Yeah, and that's another thing," Colby says. "How's this guy getting around so fast? We've been to six different hotels this morning, and they all say he was there last night. So what's he doing, moving between hotels in the middle of the night?"

David shrugs. "Maybe. Trying to muddy the waters. They all say they've seen him, no-one's quite sure when or where, and so maybe he really was tucked up in bed when a convenience store was being held up at gun point."

"Great." Colby sighs. He's gotten way too used to Charlie pulling out some trick to circumvent all the running around town chasing pointless leads, enough so that it took three tries before Charlie's, "I can't help you with this one," sank in.

"Maybe the lab guys will get something from that second store," David suggests, stabbing a couple of fries.

"Maybe the lab guys will go on strike because asking them to run every print found at a convenience store when we don't even know what we're looking for is a compete waste of time," Colby counters.

David frowns at him. "Get out of the wrong side of bed this morning, did we?"

"No, *we* didn't," Colby says. He actually felt pretty good when he got up, even knowing he was going to be spending his day schlepping around the city. He just doesn't any more.

"I thought you were looking forward to Evan being home." David lowers his voice a little, even though they're in the middle of a crowded diner and no-one's going to overhear. Colby's never quite sure if he's touched or frustrated by the gesture. Maybe both.

"I am," he says. It was a little weird to get a call from Evan saying he'll be in town on leave sometime in the next couple of days, when usually all the advance notice he gets is a call to say Evan's flying out from Denver that night, but he can handle that level of weirdness. The anticipation is less fun, but whatever, it can't be worse than months with no contact when he has no idea if Evan's even still alive, wherever he is.

"Your friend from earlier?" David asks, eyes gone dark and sympathetic, and Colby has to look away. It's been years since he sat on his bunk in Afghanistan and read from a woman he'd never met that Daniel had been killed. He's accepted it and moved on, and even seeing that guy, there's no reason for it to be hitting him anything like this hard all over again.

He shrugs, pushing his half-eaten food away, not hungry any more. "It was years ago," he says.

"Another soldier?" David asks, soft, like when he's probing grieving witnesses. Colby hates having that voice turned on him – it makes him feel way too vulnerable, like he'll spill something he doesn't want to, even when he doesn't really have any more big secrets from David.

He shakes his head. "Friend from college. The archaeologist?" He looks up, waiting for the flicker of recognition on David's face. David nods, looking like he's waiting for Colby to go on, but Colby's got nothing. Daniel's as dead now as he was yesterday, and Colby's just being a freak about it.

"Don't worry about it," he says firmly, wishing he could take his own advice. "Look, he's moving across town, right..."

hr

By the fifth of the six places on Liz's list, Colby's ready to declare the whole thing a waste of time, Don's disappointed look be damned, so of course that's when they get a hotel clerk who takes one look at the picture and says, sounding like she just hopped off the plane from London this morning, "Sure, he's staying here. Room 212. Second floor, turn right out of the lifts. Need the key card?"

Colby and David look at each other, and Colby can read his own surprised amusement on David's face – the chances of them getting someone this willing to help are roughly equivalent to the chances of them *not* having to chase someone down at some point in every case. "He's here?" David asks.

The clerk nods. "Just came through reception about twenty minutes ago. I mean, unless he's gone out of the fire escape." She grins, but Colby wants to groan, because that's just tempting fate.

"Great," David says cheerfully, and they head off for the elevators.

"So, you want to decide now who gets to leap off the fire escape and who gets to chase up five flights of stairs?" Colby asks, checking his gun. Only one of the holdups has ended in violence – the third one of seven, the one that brought them into it – but there's no such thing as being too careful.

"Maybe he'll just come quietly," David says.

He's half right: David knocks, a guy who matches the one poor picture they have – Colby's height, sandy hair, hooked nose – opens it and before they can manage to explain who they are, he's babbling away agitatedly in a language Colby doesn't recognize. Colby's pretty sure, while he's trying to make himself heard and understood over their suspect, that he would have preferred having to leap off the fire escape.

The guy – name currently unknown – goes willingly enough when David gets a hand on his elbow, though, so all in all, things could have gone worse.

hr

Back at the FBI, Don's gone over to Cal Sci to consult with Charlie about who knows what, but Liz and Nikki are there to witness David and Colby's triumphant return, complete with suspect. He keeps talking, even after they leave him in an interrogation room by himself.

"What language is that?" Nikki asks, leaning on a console and watching him through the glass.

Colby sort of understands her fascination. There's something about this guy that just doesn't feel right to him, even without the foreign language. He's obviously uncomfortable, but it's not the kind of uncomfortable that either the guilty or the innocent have. He looks like someone who's just realized he's in the wrong class but doesn't want to make a scene by leaving. If it wasn't completely obvious from the badges and the weapons, Colby would almost say the guy doesn't know where he is.

"Latin, maybe?" David suggests.

"Latin?" Nikki echoes doubtfully. "Who speaks conversational Latin these days?"

"Ancient history professors?" Liz suggests. "If we can get his prints, I can run them, see if we come up with anything."

"In what, the big damn database of college professors?" Colby asks. Liz raises one eyebrow at him, which is never a good sign, and he shrugs an apology.

"Maybe Italian?" Nikki suggests, still watching their suspect, and Colby says, "Nope," automatically.

All three of them turn to look at him. "You speak Italian?" Liz asks, sounding surprised.

Colby shrugs again, surprised at their surprise, when David at least already knows he speaks Spanish. It's never struck him as all that weird that he has another language on top of that. He's not giving up how he comes to speak it, mainly since the person he learned from is still in the service, and probably wouldn't appreciate Colby outing him, even just to a handful of FBI agents.

"You've got hidden depths, Granger," Nikki says admiringly.

David rolls his eyes.

"Some of the words sound kind of similar," Colby says before they all get any more side-tracked. "Maybe David's right, maybe it is Latin."

"Latin, great," Liz says, standing up. "You think the FBI keeps a Latin translator on the books?"

hr

Unsurprisingly, the FBI does not, but a call to Charlie leads to Charlie making a few calls and producing a professor of ancient languages, fluent in Latin, who can come by in the morning. After both the fingerprint check and Colby and David's search of the hotel room turn up a whole lot of nothing, Don waves them all out of the office, promising to get warrants for the suspect's other hotel rooms so they can hit them all in the morning.

"Anyone want to get a beer?" Nikki asks, walking half-turned next to Liz as they head down to the parking lot together.

Liz nods. "Count me in."

"Boys?"

David hesitates. "Maybe another night."

"Okay," Nikki says dubiously. "Just remember what happened last time you had a date."

"Who says I have a date?" David asks. Apparently he's over the girl who tricked him during the magician case, because his eyes are crinkling the way they do when he's amused and trying not to show it.

"Oh, so you're just blowing us off because we're less interesting than late night TV," Nikki teases. "What about you, Granger?"

"Sorry," Colby says, shaking his head. He likes Liz, and he likes Nikki, mostly, and he even likes hanging out when the four of them are together, but him and the two of them is a recipe for disaster, not least because he always feels like he's crashing their date, even if he is the only one who realizes they're *on* a date.

"That's it?" Nikki asks. "You're not even going to fake a good excuse?"

"Nope," Colby says. "You'll have more fun without us there to cramp your style, anyway."

"You're damned right we will," Nikki says, linking her arm through Liz's as they walk away, and, seriously, dating.

hr

He's waiting at a stop light, trying to remember if he has anything he can cook, or if he'd be better off stopping for pizza, when a dark gray sedan rolls by the cross street, Evan at the wheel.

Colby blinks, leans forward for another look, but the car's already halfway down the street and the light's changing. He's not so far gone as to follow it, especially when there's no way it can really be Evan.

"Great, hallucinations." He hasn't had any of those since he was in the hospital after nearly dying on that damn yacht, and he'd just as soon keep it that way.

On the other hand, his apparently deteriorating mental health is a pretty good excuse to stop for pizza. Clearly he's in no fit state to cook.

hr

When he gets to the FBI offices the next morning, Don's there, wearing his bad news face. "Come on," he says, nodding to the conference room where Colby can see Liz, Nikki and David perched on desks with mugs of coffee in their hands. He hopes David's gotten coffee for him as well, because he's pretty sure he's going to need it.

Don flicks the monitor on as soon as he steps into the conference room. David nods a hello to Colby and hands over a coffee, thank God for best friends with caffeine addictions, and then Don says, "Someone want to tell me how the suspect we have in custody knocked over another convenience store last night?"

Colby looks at the screen, which is showing yet another grainy CCTV picture of a guy who, okay, sure, doesn't look *unlike* their suspect. "Twin brother?" he suggests.

Don doesn't bother answering, just glares. Colby probably wouldn't go for that explanation either, if he was Don.

"You two picked up the wrong guy?" Nikki suggests.

"That's not what you were saying yesterday," Colby says, irritated. This is why he only likes Nikki most of the time, rather than all the time.

"Maybe there's a reason we couldn't get a print match, even with all those from the convenience store," Nikki says.

"Techs are still running those," Liz says, mediating.

Don holds up a hand, cutting them all off. "Whatever happened, I want to know, today, because either we've got two people out there committing crimes or we've got the wrong guy locked up, and I'd really like to know which before the AD comes down here asking." He rubs his forehead and takes a quick gulp of coffee. "Liz, hang out for the translator, he should be here soon, you can run the interview. Nikki, get over to forensics and get them to run this guy's prints against the ones from the stores, then you can start running his details against missing persons' reports, we might get lucky. You two, get his picture, go back to the stores he's hit and see if anyone can ID him." He drains his coffee and stands up. "Anyone needs me, I'll be at the latest crime scene."

hr

"Maybe there are two of them," Colby says, halfway to the first store, stuck in rush hour traffic. Sometimes, he really wishes David was less responsible, then they could cut through the traffic with a quick burst of lights and sirens, instead of sitting in it with all the other impatient commuters. "Would explain all the ducking in and out of hotel rooms."

"What, one to commit the crime, one to be in a hotel?"

"Sure. Perfect alibi, right?"

David nods slowly. "So how come he hit another store last night? You think he didn't know his partner got arrested?"

Colby shrugs. "Pretty sloppy, not to check."

"Maybe he's just that confident," David suggests.

Colby sighs. "Great."

hr

The owner of the third store, Mrs Meeks, is pissed off and impatient when they ask if she's got a minute to look at a picture. "I do have other things to do than help you try to solve this," she says, raking her hands through her dark hair and looking at them over the top of her glasses. Somehow, it's intimidating even when she's a foot shorter than they are.

"This won't take up much of your time," Colby says. "But it is important."

"That's what the last two said," she grumbles, holding her glasses and hooking them in the v-neck of her green t-shirt.

Colby looks at David, who's looking at him. "Last two?" David asks.

"Yes," Mrs Meeks says. "The last two agents, they were here waiting when I came to open up this morning. Asked me a whole lot of questions, showed me a picture, just like you're doing now. Don't you talk to each other?"

"Must have been a confusion in the orders," Colby says. "You wouldn't happen to remember their names, would you?"

Mrs Meeks frowns, looking down at the shiny linoleum floor. "Do you know, I'm not all that sure they gave me their names, now you mention it. Two men, older than the two of you. Very polite. Reminded me of my nephew, he's in the navy."

Colby waves goodbye to the faint hope that Liz and Nikki decided to come interview victims at the crack of dawn, and there's no way she can be talking about Don, who, even if he did strike someone as polite, or even as military, is still only one person.

"We'll have to ask around when we get back to the office," David says, smiling at her. "In the meantime, could you just have a quick look at our picture? Boss'll have our heads if we go back without asking." He smiles again, and, to Colby's complete lack of surprise, Mrs Meeks smiles back and takes the picture from his hand.

"It's the same person they had a picture of," she says, straight away. "Different picture though."

"Do you recognize him otherwise?" David prompts.

"Of course," she says, frowning at them. "Like I told the other agents, he's the man who held up my store."

David takes the picture back. "Thanks a lot, ma'am, you've been a big help."

"Hmm," she says doubtfully. "I'm not going to get anyone else asking me the same questions today, am I?"

"We'll try to avoid it," Colby promises. She doesn't look convinced.

hr

"You want to good news or the bad news?" Liz asks when they get back to the office, coffee mug in one hand, file in the other.

"Bad news," David says resignedly.

"Good." Liz grins dryly at them. "Because we don't actually have any good news. Bad news is, the translator says he's not speaking Latin. Translator's got no idea what language it is."

"Wonderful," Colby says. "Because the store owners all agreed he's the guy."

"So, he's the guy," Liz says, jerking a thumb over her shoulder to the interrogation room. "But he's not the guy who looks like him who was holding up a store yesterday."

"Plus, we don't know who he is, we don't know what language he's speaking and –" Colby's sure there's something else, but his mind's gone blank.

"That's not enough?" Nikki asks, coming up behind him. "Want some good news?"

"Sure, why not?" Liz says brightly.

"So, the techs ran the prints from this guy against all the prints they lifted from the fourth store and got a match. And then they ran them through... some equation of Charlie's, I dunno, but it pulled up matches at every store that was printed."

"So that means," David starts, then frowns. "I have no idea what that means, actually."

"Can they use Charlie's equation to see if there's any other prints that show up at all the crime scenes?" Liz suggests. "And then maybe we run those against all the databases, get lucky on the other guy."

"Didn't the techs already run the prints?" Colby asks.

"Yeah, but only from one store," Liz says. "Maybe they missed something."

"Maybe," David says doubtfully. Liz glares at him and he shrugs. "Try it, it's not like we've got any better ideas right now."

"Didn't realize we needed your permission," Nikki grumbles.

"So check with Don," David says, pointing behind them.

Colby turns with the rest of them to see Don steaming through the glass doors, half-turned to talk to someone behind him. Correction, two people, two people Colby *recognizes*, and not because they're cops or agents or anyone who ought to be walking in to the FBI.

He's moving forward before he thinks about it, until David catches his arm and stops him. "Maybe not the moment to interrupt," he says.

Colby can't take his eyes off the two men Don's talking to – arguing with, from the way he's frowning. "Yeah," he says absently.

David doesn't let go of his arm, just tugs slightly till Colby has to look at him. He's got the same worried look from yesterday, not unreasonably. "You okay?"

"Yeah, Granger, you've gone really pale," Nikki puts in. David shoots her a quick glare, and Liz says something in her ear before the two of them head off towards forensics.

"Colby?" David says, watching him.

Colby looks over to where Don's pulled his two visitors into the coffee room, his back to Colby now, leaving the other two facing him, both in jeans, one in a gray t-shirt, the other in a black shirt. The one in the black shirt is leaning one hip against the counter, ultra-familiar from a dozen mess tables and desks, and even out of uniform, there's no way Colby wouldn't recognize John Sheppard. It's a weird coincidence, but it's less weird than the guy standing next to him, tense like he's about to start talking back, and Colby's not going crazy, he's not hallucinating, because that guy is Daniel Jackson.

He takes a breath to explain, but nothing comes out. David's hand tightens on his arm and Colby says, "I have to go talk to them."

"To who?" David asks. "Nikki's right, you have gone really pale, are you sure you're okay? Maybe you should sit down."

"I'm fine," Colby says, shaking his head. Daniel's saying something back to Don with a lot of hand gestures to accompany it and Colby smiles helplessly, because it's so familiar, like he'd forgotten how well he used to know Daniel. "I gotta..."

"Talk to them, you said." David's eyes flicker, like he's trying to look over his shoulder without looking away from Colby. "You know them?"

"I used to know them," he says, then, "Daniel's supposed to be dead."

"Dead?"

"I got a letter. We knew each other in college."

"Your archaeologist friend," David says, realization dawning.

Colby nods. "I gotta," he starts again, pulling away from David. Daniel and Don are still going at it, but Colby doesn't care, because that's Daniel standing there, Daniel who's been dead for years and now isn't, and Colby has to speak to him.

"Not now, Colby," Don says when Colby opens the door, without even looking at him. Both Sheppard and Daniel look up though, recognition lighting their eyes up one after the other.

"Long time no see," Daniel says, coming over to shake his hand. Colby's not sure he can let go.

"You know each other?" Don asks, still glaring.

"He's my dead friend from college," Colby says without thinking.

"What?" Don and Daniel say in unison, and Daniel lets go of his hand like he's just realized he's still holding it. "You knew about that?"

"Major Carter wrote me," Colby says, and that's when Sheppard steps forward and says, "Maybe we could talk to Agent Granger in private."

hr

Colby sits opposite Daniel in the break room, unable to stop looking at him, while Sheppard mutters into his cell phone in the corner. "What happened to the army?" Daniel asks.

Colby shrugs. His whole army career is too complicated to explain when all he wants is to ask how Daniel went from confirmed dead by the air force to walking around arguing with Colby's boss. "Left a few years ago. Not long after you..."

"Died," Daniel says, smiling slightly.

"Yeah," Colby says and swallows down the urge to ask, stopped by Sheppard's request that he let Sheppard make some calls first. "You're here about one of our cases?"

"Convenience store robberies," Daniel says. "We're going to need the suspect you have in custody."

"I... don't think Don's going to go for that," Colby says hesitantly.

Daniel laughs. "No, I didn't really get that impression either. Kind of territorial, reminds me of someone I used to work with."

"For the air force?" Colby asks. And Daniel has to be back with them now, has to be, because why else would he be in Colby's office with Captain Sheppard? Though what Sheppard, who should have been born in a chopper, is doing in LA, Colby would love to hear.

"Yeah, for the air force," Daniel agrees. "He's in Washington now."

"And you're back in Colorado Springs."

Daniel tilts his head slightly. "Some of the time," he says, something in his voice like it's an in-joke, except Colby doesn't get it. Same way he doesn't get how Daniel looks now, the leather jacket over his arm and the could-be-military haircut. The body, because he wasn't bad looking before, but now, he's something else entirely. Something that reminds Colby a little weirdly of Evan, which is somewhere he's just not prepared to go.

"Thank you, sir," Sheppard says, snapping his phone closed and turning back to the two of them. Unlike Daniel, he really hasn't changed all that much, other than not being covered by a fine film of sand and grief. "O'Neill's faxing the paperwork over here," he says to Daniel. "So maybe I should round them up?"

Daniel nods. "Great. It's been months since I did one of these, I was starting to get rusty."

Sheppard smiles, eyes crinkling, and comes over to Colby. "Good to see you again, Granger," he says, shaking Colby's hand. There's something there, the same flicker of recognition as there was when Colby was giving his condolences to Sheppard after Holland died, and it makes Colby flush. He probably doesn't need to tell either of them that he's not exactly out at work. He'd bet they both know how to keep that secret. "Conference room in five?"

"Can't wait," Daniel says, watching him go. "Come on," he says when the door closes behind Sheppard. "You're going to want coffee for this."

hr

Sheppard closes the doors, draws the blinds, and flicks on the screen, then stands to the side, armed with the remote, while Daniel steps up. He's gone straight into lecture mode, and Colby wants to laugh, because he remembers this from sneaking into a couple of Daniel's seminars, just to listen to him. Don stops pacing the back of the room, comes to stand near Liz. Colby can feel David next to him, the way he keeps glancing at Colby.

"This," Daniel says, nodding to Sheppard, "is what we call a stargate."

The black of the screen dissolves into a huge metal ring, filled with some kind of blue... something. Colby's got no idea.

"It's currently housed under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs," Daniel goes on. "Where a branch of the US military known as stargate command uses it to travel to other planets via an artificial stable wormhole."

Larry, Colby thinks, would be getting a total kick out of this. Unless Larry already knows about it, of course. "Wait a minute," he says. "Stargate like the CIA thing?"

Daniel and Sheppard look at each other. "Um, probably not," Daniel says. "CIA thing?"

"The psychic project?" Don asks. "With... what was his name, that psychic who got killed working on a case for us?"

Colby nods and Daniel says, "No, I think that's something different. I don't think we have any psychics on our project."

"Well, not that we know of," Sheppard puts in.

"Okay, just, wait a minute," David says. "That thing is a gateway to other planets? And you expect us to just believe you?"

"Well, it'd make a nice change," Daniel says. "But no. Colonel?"

Sheppard points the remote again, and the picture switches to video, lights flickering round the edge of the ring, four people in green BDUs standing at the bottom of the ramp, and a voice off-camera somewhere saying, "Chevron One encoded... Chevron Two encoded..."

It is, Colby would grudgingly admit, pretty cool when the blue surges out and collapses back in on itself, and the four people walk through it.

"My name is Dr Daniel Jackson," Daniel says when the film ends. "And I've been with the SGC since its inception, over a decade ago. Colonel Sheppard here is the military commander of Atlantis, a city in the Pegasus galaxy which was once occupied by a race of humans we call the Ancients. They're the ones who built the stargates and placed them across the two galaxies."

He pauses, like he's waiting for questions, but if the others feel like Colby does, they're too stunned to do anything but wait for this to start making sense.

Daniel nods. "There was recently a threat to Earth from a race known as the Wraith, who you really don't want to know about right now, and so we brought Atlantis back to use as a weapon against them."

"What, in pieces through that thing?" Nikki asks, pointing to the frozen picture of the stargate.

"Actually, we flew it back. Think of it like a city-shaped spaceship," Sheppard puts in.

"O-kay," Nikki says slowly, still sounding pretty doubtful.

"Atlantis has been docked in the San Francisco bay since then," Daniel goes on. "And a couple of weeks ago, a piece of equipment in the city got turned on and started producing clones of a man who lived in the city about ten thousand years ago, an Ancient. We're not entirely sure how, but a number of the clones managed to escape and find their way here." He smiles without any amusement in it. "Which is where you come in, and why you've all just been given security clearance to hear about the project."

"Well, and because Agent Eppes here won't let us have his prisoner," Sheppard adds, smirking at Don when Don glares at him.

"So *that's* why we couldn't figure out what language he's speaking," Liz says. "What is it, some kind of really ancient form of Latin?"

"Actually, it's ancient," Daniel says. "Ancient with a capital A. It's not dissimilar to early forms of Latin."

"That's nice," Don says, clearly not meaning it. "Travel to other planets, alien races, and a bunch of clones running around my city holding up convenience stores. I still don't see why you expect me to turn my case over to the air force."

"Not your case, just your prisoner," Daniel says. "Then we'll round up the last few and be out of your way."

"Because you've done such a good job of that so far," Don says.

"We've got twelve of the twenty in custody," Sheppard says mildly. "Over the course of the two weeks in which the five of you have managed to find one."

And even Don has to concede that point.

hr

"Okay, but here's what I don't get," Nikki says after a while. "The guy, the... clone, or whatever he is, he's ten thousand years old. Or, well, *he's* not, he's brand new, but the..."

"Yes," Daniel says, when it becomes clear she's stuck. "The man whose DNA was cloned lived ten thousand years ago. It's probably easiest for you to think of this man as having last lived ten thousand years ago as well."

Colby's not sure why, but he's almost disappointed when this isn't followed by, 'think of it like...' Maybe he's just so used to Charlie that he's conditioned to expect all lectures to come with an analogy. He feels David watching him again, looks up to find him smiling ruefully, like he's having the same thought.

"Okay, so, he was last around ten thousand years ago, how's he even know how to fire a gun? Or what a convenience store is, or why he might want to rob one or why it's not a good idea for us to catch him doing it?"

Daniel and Sheppard look at each other. They're doing that a lot, enough to make Colby wonder if maybe there's a reason it's the two of them running around capturing clones. Except then he starts wondering if that means he and Sheppard were in the same place, near enough, grieving the same person without knowing it, and that makes him feel like he's sitting through a math lecture without the analogies to make it make sense.

"While it's true that the Ancients were what we'd consider a very early civilization, they were actually far more advanced than we are," Daniel explains. "Remember, this is the race that conceived of and built the stargates. Not just their technology, but their lives, their systems of law, everything, were far beyond what we've accomplished thus far. It's really no surprise that this clone is more than capable of functioning in modern society, even in a criminal context."

"So all those times Megan complained about how civilization might as well be going backwards, she was right," David says, smiling at Colby. Colby smiles back, but he can see the worry under it, David's concern, and it makes him feel better than it should when his dead ex is standing in front of him talking about travelling to other planets. He's had plenty of occasions to be grateful for David over the last four years; this is just one more reason to be glad David stuck with him through the first few months when they drove each other crazy, because he's never had a best friend like David, didn't even realize how much he wanted it until they ended up working together.

"We've got two other members of the SGC with us," Sheppard puts in. "They're out tracking another of the clones with a device some of our scientists have just created, but they should be with us pretty soon. Until then, maybe we can have a look at each others' files, see if we can come up with locations for the last few."

Colby looks over at Daniel, hoping to catch his eye, and finds Daniel looking back at him. Colby can't read Daniel's face at all, but he knows his own is showing way too much desperate hope, because Daniel's not going to be around forever, and Colby's not prepared to keep going without knowing what actually happened to him.

"Actually, it's been a long morning," Daniel says suddenly, looking over at Don. "I could really use some coffee. I don't suppose I could prevail on you for Agent Granger's time to keep me company?"

Colby's expecting Don to say no, except Don knows they know each other, heard Colby say that Daniel was dead, and Don's nowhere near as heartless as he likes to make out some times. "Sure. Take your cell, Colby, we'll call when the rest of these guys' team shows up, okay?"

Colby nods, grateful beyond the telling of it.

hr

Once he's sitting alone with Daniel in a coffee shop around the corner from the bureau, though, he's reduced to methodically destroying his wooden stirrer until Daniel puts a hand on his wrist and says, "You can ask."

Colby looks up, and Daniel's giving him the same sympathetic look David does, except from Daniel it makes him feel really young. "Major Carter wrote you were dead," he says, not sure what else to say.

"I was," Daniel says. "I got better," he adds softly, then sighs. "It's complicated. The Ancients didn't just have technology beyond what we can even imagine, their brain's worked differently to ours. They used more of their brain capacity, it let them do things we can't, and one of those things is ascension, a way of moving from existing in a physical form to existing as pure energy." He hesitates, and Colby pushes his coffee cup away from his own trembling hands. He's pretty sure hearing about Daniel's death when he's clearly not dead shouldn't be this difficult, this uncomfortable.

"I was dying," Daniel says. "There was no way to keep me alive, and an Ancient, a powerful one, offered me the chance to ascend. I took it." Colby looks down, eyes burning, remembering how it felt to sit on his bunk and read that Daniel was dead. Was working for the air force, and was dead.

"No-one thought I'd ever be able to come back," Daniel goes on, so soft Colby can hardly hear him. "So they treated it as though I'd died, and then a year later, they found me on another planet, without any memory of my life before. They brought me back to Earth, back to the SGC, and eventually the memories came back. Most of them, anyway."

Colby's not going to ask. It's none of his business what Daniel's forgotten, and if he's forgotten parts of his friendship with Colby, there's nothing to be gained from either of them knowing that.

"After that, they stopped bothering to tell people I was dead, they just figured I'd come back eventually, and they haven't been wrong yet."

It takes Colby a few seconds to realize what Daniel's telling him. When he looks up, Daniel's watching him patiently. "It's happened more than once?"

"Several times," Daniel says, calm and easy, like he's not talking about his own *death*. Like this is normal coffee break conversation or something, and the thought that for Daniel it might be is just too weird to contemplate. "I wouldn't exactly say it gets easier, but there's something comforting in the reasonable certainty that my death isn't likely to be permanent." He sits back, takes a sip of coffee, and Colby can't even tell if this is real or if he's putting it on to make Colby feel better. It doesn't hurt as much as thinking Daniel was dead, but it still hurts; they used to know each other, well. Daniel used to know all Colby's secrets, all the stuff he hardly tells anyone, and he knew enough of Daniel's to know he knew the big ones.

He guesses it's hard to relate to an FBI agent when you travel to other planets for a living.

"This is," he starts, and hesitates. "A little more weird than I think I'm really ready for."

Daniel smiles at that, completely genuine. "Yeah. The stargate program tends to get people like that." He leans forward, touches Colby's wrist again. "It really is good to see you again," he says. "I couldn't exactly get in touch after what happened, but I did want to." He smiles, self-deprecating. "I used to worry about you."

Colby feels himself flush. "Sounds like I should have been worrying about you."

Daniel shrugs it off. "Life goes on. If you don't mind me saying, you seem happier, out of the army."

"Yeah," Colby says, and it feels like an admission of something. "I guess you were right all along."

Daniel shakes his head. "It was what you needed to do," he says, and before Colby can say anything in response – like, you don't seem happier at all - his cell starts vibrating, and Don's on the other end calling him and Daniel back.

hr

David's waiting by the elevators when they walk back into the building. "You worried I'm going to get lost between here and the office?" Colby asks.

David grins. "Nah. Been down in the basement trying to find a file." He lifts his hands, shows his empty palms. "I don't know, maybe space rodents got it or something."

"There aren't any space rodents on this side of Earth," Daniel says, totally deadpan, right as the elevator arrives.

A couple of guys from the next floor up get on with them, so they make the ride in silence, since there's really not a lot they can talk about that isn't classified. Colby wonders idly if there's a way to ask if Charlie, with his NSA clearance, knows about this. If Larry does, after working for NASA. Probably there isn't, and if they don't know, he'll probably get arrested. Again.

"Looks like they're here," David says as they step out of the elevator, nodding at two guys standing talking to Don and Liz.

Colby would have said running into his dead friend and an old colleague, then finding out that there's life on other planets, and people have been going there for years, would have been enough shocking events for one day.

Fate, or, what the hell, maybe the Ancients, the ascended ones, appears to think differently, because as the three of them walk into the office, the two new guys turn around.

Colby blinks, and David says, "Hey –" then cuts himself off, like he's not sure if he should admit to knowing who one of them is.

Truth is, Colby's pretty good at pretending a relationship isn't what it is, but he's not good at all at pretending it doesn't exist. At least the former's about to come in really useful. "Evan," he says, holding out a hand. "Wasn't expecting to see you here."

Evan shakes his hand, looking like he wants to start laughing, and Colby can't help grinning back. Talk about explaining a hell of a lot. "Colby. David."

"You know anyone else working in a top secret government program?" Don asks, sounding pissed.

Colby shrugs. "I don't know. It's a top secret program, I didn't know these three did until a couple of hours ago."

"Fair point," Don says. "Come on, let's find Colonel Sheppard, get the rest of this over with."

"No need," Sheppard says, following Nikki out of the coffee room, and Colby gets it, suddenly. All the times Evan said he didn't need to worry about his CO finding out, that he'd be cool with Colby and Evan's relationship – it was Sheppard. Evan's he'll be fine, he's not a hypocrite CO is Colby's sort of acquaintance from Afghanistan whose boyfriend was shot down and died.

Considering he just found out that there's human life on other planets, it feels like the world is just too damn small right now.

No-one says anything, but Evan ducks his head, just enough so Colby can only see the back of his neck going faintly pink, and Sheppard's eyes go bright with realization as he looks between the two of them.

Forget Daniel coming back from the dead. This is definitely more weird than he can handle.

hr

Don declares that they might be tracking ten thousand year old clones from another galaxy, but that doesn't make it an air force case, and takes it upon himself to divide them up into teams, sticking Colby and David with Sheppard and Daniel, and Liz and Nikki with Evan and a small guy who turns out to be an anthropologist named Corrigan.

Sheppard and Evan, it turns out, both have one of the devices that lets them track the clones, which only they can use because, hey, they have some kind of special descended-from-Ancients code in their DNA. At which Colby decides he's checking out of the Ancients-aliens-city-in-another-galaxy stuff and just concentrates on kicking in doors and slapping handcuffs on people who speak a language he can't understand.

Regardless, they make a good team: by ten pm, the last six clones have been rounded up and beamed away some place, along with Corrigan the anthropologist. By a spaceship which belongs to the air force and is hovering over LA.

Yeah. Checking out. To be dealt with at a later date, preferably with alcohol.

As weird as this all is, Don's pleased with the results, grinning at them all, back in the conference room with the blinds drawn, which, now Colby's thinking about it, seems like woefully small protection for a national secret. Of course, they've parked an intergalactic city-ship in the San Francisco bay (under an invisibility cloak, sure, but still, city, someone's going to hit it eventually), so maybe they're less worried about it than he is.

"I wouldn't exactly say it's been nice working with you," Don says, shaking Sheppard's hand. "But it's been an experience."

"I get that a lot," Sheppard says. "I won't take offence."

Don actually laughs at that. "Any more aliens get loose in LA, give us a call. The rest of you, go home, it's been a long week."

"No arguments here," Nikki says, sliding off the table. "Liz, you need a ride?"

It's a little disturbing to look up and find Evan looking back at him, one eyebrow cocked in knowing curiosity. Colby's saying nothing. Well, nothing except that Liz drove in yesterday, which means she didn't drive home last night if Nikki's offering her a ride. And maybe she slept on Nikki's couch, but, yeah. Maybe not so much.

"Sure. Let me grab my jacket."

She offers a general wave to the room, then buzzes out, Nikki drifting behind her, and Don following them. David looks around the remaining people, then looks at Colby like he's trying to ask something. Colby shrugs, no idea what David's trying to say, and David, ever helpful, shrugs back at him. Okay then.

It's either the right answer or a sign to David that he should give up, because he goes over to Evan and shakes his hand. "Good to see you again, man. Even if it was in slightly odd circumstances."

"You too," Evan says, still looking like he wants to laugh, and Colby wonders if they're fooling anyone. If they've ever fooled anyone, even before there was anything for people to need to be fooled about.

"See you tomorrow?" David asks him, pausing with one arm in his jacket.

"Yep," Colby agrees. "Unless I'm abducted by aliens in the night."

David opens his mouth like he's going to say something, then looks at Sheppard and closes it. "Well, if you don't show at least we'll know who to ask to start looking for you," he says brightly, and wanders out, leaving Colby alone in a dim room with his ex, his current partner, and his current partner's CO. Which is not a situation he ever particularly expected to find himself in.

They all shuffle their feet awkwardly for a minute, then Sheppard takes a deep breath like he's about to throw himself on a grenade. "Well, the Daedalus is waiting to beam me and Jackson back to where we should be, so we probably need to head out." He hesitates, then adds, "Lorne, you want to start your leave a couple of days early? Unless there's anything you need to pick up from the base?"

"I, er, no," Evan says, looking a little dumbstruck. "No, there's nothing I need to pick up." He clears his throat awkwardly, which is fair comment, since he just more or less announced that he might as well be living with Colby for all the luggage he ever brings with him. "And yes, I'd be happy to start my leave early if you're sure you don't need me."

Sheppard smiles. "I think we can survive without you for an extra day or two," he says.

Evan makes a doubtful face. "If you're sure, sir."

"Don't push it," Sheppard says, but he's smiling still, a little. "Granger. Try to send him back in one piece."

"I'll do my best," Colby promises, swallowing down the sir that wants to tack itself to the end of that sentence, because he's never sir'ed Sheppard before and no way is he starting now. He feels like there ought to be something else, like running into Sheppard again got over-powered by running into Daniel, except he and Sheppard were never close, and maybe this mutual acknowledgement of their secret is as near as they're ever going to get to 'something else.'

Plus, he's not the kind of person who goes around telling people he's glad they're serving with his partner, because he's sure they'll go back for him, if anything should happen. Thinking it, yes. Saying it, no.

Evan's looking at him again, something there that resigns Colby to having to answer some kind of question when they're alone, but all he says is, "I'll walk the Colonel out, meet you downstairs?"

"Yeah," Colby agrees. "I won't be long."

And then he's alone with Daniel all over again. Waiting for Daniel to leave, except he doesn't want Daniel to go, not yet, in and out of Colby's life like he's no more important than a passing acquaintance like Sheppard.

"So," Daniel says, mouth quirking into a smile when Colby looks at him. "You and Major Lorne."

Daniel's hardly someone Colby needs to hide from, but he feels himself flush anyway. "Yeah. Since I joined the Bureau, so... four years? Nearly."

Daniel smiles, apparently genuine, and Colby wants to ask if he's got someone. He really seems like he could use it, someone to take care of him and maybe stop him from dying so often. "Good for you. He's a decent guy."

"Yeah," Colby agrees, smiling without really meaning to. It's better than the dance of joy he wants to be doing, because Evan's here, now, for a week, maybe even a little longer, and Colby's even got leave himself for some of it.

They lapse into silence again, long enough for it to get well into awkward territory. "So," Colby says finally. "I guess you have to get back. Clones to process and all."

"Something like that," Daniel says. "I don't know if you're ever in Colorado Springs, but let me give you my cell number. We can have dinner or something. Catch up."

"Assuming you're in the galaxy," Colby teases. He's pretty much never in Colorado Springs, since it's full of military personnel who know Evan, but he could be. Will be, if it means he gets to see Daniel again.

"Maybe not on the planet, but in the galaxy should be doable," Daniel says, handing over a piece of notebook paper. "You have an email address here?"

"Yeah," Colby says, fishing out a card. "And, hey, I have security clearance now, you can tell me all about your wild adventures across the galaxy."

"Probably not without a lot more encryption than I can really handle," Daniel says. "But the edited parts, maybe."

Colby nods. "Good." He shifts, not sure what he wants. "You need me to walk you out?"

"No, I can find my way," Daniel says, glancing in the direction of the elevators, even though he can't see them through the blinds. He looks back at Colby, face unreadable. "So."

"So," Colby echoes, then figures this is ridiculous, he's slept with the guy, what, a hug's going to kill him, and reaches out for Daniel. He's been with Evan, been friends with David, long enough that hugging someone taller than him is weird again, but Daniel hugs back and he smells the same, same shampoo, same soap, same Daniel who's not dead after all, who's going to email, maybe even take him for dinner some time, and that's way more than he ever expected to have.

Daniel pats his back a couple of times and pulls away. "For what it's worth, I am sorry I didn't tell you I wasn't dead," he says.

Colby shrugs. "I can see how that might have been difficult to put into a letter," he says. "Go on, you'll miss your flight. Spaceship. Whatever."

Daniel smiles. "I'm pretty sure they'll wait for me," he says, but he shrugs on his jacket, pats Colby's shoulder once more, and walks out.

hr

It takes Colby a few minutes to finish up and say goodnight to David, who's looking at him with an expression that promises many weeks of teasing about how Evan started dating him and then went to another galaxy. He's half afraid that, by the time he gets out of the building, Evan will have been beamed away with the others, but he's still there, leaning on the walkway railing. In jeans and his familiar leather jacket, he looks like he should be standing on Colby's balcony, and Colby has to curb the urge to go put his arms round Evan. He's not really in the closet at the FBI, but he's not really out to anyone but David either, and Evan definitely isn't. Sheppard, notwithstanding, anyway.

"Hey," he says instead, leaning next to Evan and looking up at the building, most of the windows still lit, despite the time. He's pretty sure he's still waiting for this to stop being weird.

Evan smiles a little. "All done?"

"Till tomorrow, anyway," Colby agrees. "Not counting the thirty-two emails waiting for me to read them."

"Delete 'em," Evan says. "If it's important, they'll find you."

"Yeah," Colby says, and they fall into a silence that's not exactly uncomfortable, but not exactly comfortable either. Whatever conversation they need to have is not one they can have outside the FBI building.

"You drive in?" Evan asks after a while. He's turned away from Colby again, looking down onto the street below, and in the electric light, Colby can't read his face.

"Yeah. You need anything, or straight home?"

"Home sounds good," Evan says. Colby doesn't need to see his face to know he's smiling as he pushes away from the railing.

The parking lot's still maybe a quarter full, but Evan and Colby are the only people in it, even more shadowed than they were outside. It's as close to safe as they're going to get at the FBI, and Colby's buzzing with Evan's presence, has been all day, under the weirdness and the aliens. Plus, it's not like Evan protests when Colby crowds him against the side of the car leans in to kiss him, one quick, hi, nice to see you kiss, then another, longer, slower. More of a promise of something he's never quite been able to label. The words don't really matter when Evan's got a hand in the small of his back, pulling him closer.

When Colby leans back a little, Evan's smiling, eyes bright. "You do that for all your external consultants?"

"Nah, just the hot air force ones," Colby says, grinning.

"So should I be preparing to have to duel Sheppard?" Evan asks.

Colby laughs. "Too weird," he says. He can't remember if he's ever told Evan about Sheppard and Holland. Probably not, since he didn't know Evan and Sheppard knew each other now.

"Yeah." Evan touches Colby's cheek gently. "Afghanistan?"

Colby nods. Afghanistan is a whole lot of not that great memories, between Dwayne and his own injury, the friendly fire incident and the members of his team who died. One of the many good things about Evan is that he knows how far he can push, because he's got a lot of the same pressure points as Colby. "We didn't have much to do with each other. Air force, army."

Evan laughs, then explains, "I'm the only other air force officer at the base. Most of the military force is marines."

Colby tries to imagine the marines he's known working for Sheppard. He really can't. "In your city in another galaxy," he says instead.

Evan looks down slightly. "Yeah." It should be the moment where he says he's sorry for not telling Colby where he really was, but they both know what Colby's answer would be. Might as well skip that part of the conversation.

"It does explain why you could never visit, when you were supposed to be based in Colorado Springs," he says instead.

Evan makes a rueful face. "It's not the world's best cover," he agrees.

There's another awkward pause, and Colby can think of better places than the FBI garage for this part of the conversation. On the other hand, maybe they're better off having it somewhere they can leave it behind.

"The city –" he starts.

"Atlantis," Evan says, soft enough that it's pretty much an answer on its own. Colby still has to ask. Has to hear it out loud, in words.

"Is it going to go back?"

"To Pegasus?" Evan asks, then shakes his head a little. "Sorry. That's the other galaxy. No-one's saying right now, but I think so. They're still assessing the damage to some of Earth's defenses, but it looks like it wasn't as severe as they thought at first. And it's not like we can keep it hidden forever. I don't think the SGC or the IOA are ready for full disclosure quite yet."

Colby has no idea who the IOA are, but he agrees with the sentiment. Not that there's ever going to be a good time to reveal the existence of life on other planets, but right after a new president was elected has to be an even less good choice.

"What about you?" he asks.

Evan just looks at him for a long moment, everything right there on his face. It's what Colby was expecting, but he still feels like he's swallowed too much crushed ice, because they flew a city from another galaxy to see off the latest threat, flew *Evan's* city, and that's not the kind of thing that happens for a small threat. Not that he thought Evan was safe, but he sure didn't think Evan was in another galaxy fighting space vampires, with technology that can make criminal clones.

"I have to," Evan says softly. "I can't – it's not like anywhere else, there's just so much – everything. Sometimes it's awful, but sometimes it's..." He trails off, shakes his head. "The most amazing experience ever." He hesitates again, and Colby waits. "And I don't think I could leave Sheppard out there on his own," he says, sounding almost curious, like he hadn't realized it was true until he said it.

"I get it," Colby says quietly. He does, mostly, the way he felt when he got offered anywhere he wanted after the spy thing, and chose the team, because he didn't want to leave them, and because he felt like he'd be abandoning them, even when David wouldn't look at him and Megan looked like she was going to cry whenever she thought he wasn't looking at her. And they're not facing down space vampires light years from home, and none of them are bisexual and in the military and in charge. He probably wouldn't feel like he could leave Sheppard either, in Evan's place.

Evan opens his mouth, and Colby knows, without a shadow of doubt, that he's going to apologize. Colby's not ready to hear that, not for this. Not when nothing's changed, not really, except that now he knows where he didn't before. Of all the things he knows now that he didn't this morning, this probably shouldn't be the important one.

"It's okay," he says, and kisses Evan again before Evan can say anything.

When he steps back, patting his pockets down for his car keys, Evan's still giving him a worried look. "Let's go," he says, brightly. "I'll drive you over to pick your car up tomorrow."

"What car?" Evan asks, pushing away from the car so Colby can unlock the passenger door.

"Your, whatever, rental car," Colby says. "The gray sedan."

Evan frowns at him. "Again, what car? Corrigan returned it before we came here, some red thing that stood out way too much."

Colby closes his eyes, just for a second. Just when everything was starting to make sense. He should have just kept his mouth shut.

"Colby?" Evan asks, touching his arm.

Colby laughs, a little. What's one more bit of weirdness in his life right now. "It's nothing. Let's go home. You can tell me stories about your epic space battles."

Evan's still got a hand on Colby's arm, and he squeezes a little. "Maybe in the morning," he says, voice full of warmth and promise, and that, at least, is normal.


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