Word Count: 1330
Summary: It could go one of two ways.
Notes/Warnings: Fluffy UST because I think Charlie and Colby would be cute and dorky together, too. Plus, giving Colby a past was kind of fun. *g*
He stands in the hallway outside Charlie’s classroom, listening to the scrape of chairs and sudden bursts of conversation as Charlie ends the class. The door flies open to disgorge students and backpacks and coffee cups, and Colby can hear Charlie raising his voice to say something about not forgetting a review session scheduled for Saturday.
Hell. Even Charlie’s voice is irritating.
Colby takes a minute to take a breath, to make sure Charlie is alone before he goes in.
He needs at least a minute. The last time Colby had seen Charlie, the argument – the one that they were always ready for -- had almost happened. He didn’t remember what Charlie had said, just something incomprehensible and smug, and Colby had asked for clarification. And okay, maybe he shouldn’t have asked like the answer wouldn’t matter anyway, but Charlie had just shrugged in that irritatingly dismissive manner, like Colby couldn’t possibly understand, and somehow that had been it, the end, the last straw -- or would have been if Don hadn’t walked into the room. Luckily Don had been too distracted to feel the tension and had ignored them both, giving them time to back down.
But for a minute there, God -- the last time they were alone, Colby hadn’t cared that Charlie was his boss’s brother, or the FBI’s secret weapon, or whatever the hell he was supposed to be. He’d just wanted to pull Charlie up from his seat, curl his fingers around Charlie’s arms and make Charlie stop. Stop distracting him; stop looking past him, through him like he isn’t even there, which is every kind of insult when all Colby can see when Charlie is in the room… is Charlie.
“Are you guarding the hallway?” That voice again, superior and amused, meant to provoke.
At this rate they’re going to end up hitting each other. Colby contemplates the end of his career as he looks at Charlie hunched in the doorway, his bag over his shoulder and mouth quirked in an almost smile that Colby wants to wipe away.
“Just waiting for you to finish up.” Colby can do the not-quite smile, too. “Do you have the results yet?”
“Yeah. Luckily I was able to just snap my fingers and compile and analyze 3 years’ worth of traffic pattern statistics overnight.”
Colby makes his sigh particularly long-suffering. “Kind of in a rush here, Charlie.”
“I gathered that from the glare. The report’s in my office. Come on.”
It’s a relief to be out of the building, in sunlight where Colby can put his glasses on and hide. He tries not to think about Charlie walking beside him, all loose stride and contained energy like he’s ready to move on to whatever comes next. It makes Colby want to hold him here, hold him down – and the visual that comes with that thought slams through him and makes him wish he was wearing more armor than just the glasses.
“Do you have to do that?” Charlie asks, and Colby almost stumbles.
“Do what?” He wonders if it’s possible to sound any more defensive.
“The walk. The glasses. Everyone’s going to think I’m being arrested.”
No answer to that, but Colby slows his steps slightly, following Charlie into the dimness of the administration building. In comparison to the hallway, Charlie’s office is bright with sunlight on old wood, pleasantly crowded with papers and books.
“This is nice,” Colby says, before he can remember it’s safer not to say too much.
“Thanks,” Charlie says, sounding a little surprised. He pulls a file folder from the pile on his desk.
“So does everyone get an office like this, or is this special treatment for geniuses?”
Charlie stiffens a little at that. “All tenured professors have offices.” He pauses. “Tenure is --”
“I know what tenure means. I went to college, too, you know.”
“Oh, right. Let me guess. Football scholarship.”
“As a matter of fact, yeah.”
It’s ridiculous that Charlie can get to him with just a sound, not even a real word, but something about that noise brings him right back to where they were in Don’s office last week, full of anger that had nowhere to go.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing. Just – football. And… you know.” He gestures toward Colby, as if summing him up and dismissing him at the same time. “It’s not that easy for everyone.”
“Easy?” Stunned surprise makes him stammer. “Like every school in the country wasn’t throwing money at you?”
“I wasn’t talking about academics.”
The arrogant, little --
“What makes you so sure you know what my life was like?”
Charlie crosses his arms and leans back against the desk. “I was a skinny, smart, thirteen year-old senior. Believe me, I’ve met dozens of you.”
“You don’t -- you don't know anything about me.” The sudden urge to tell Charlie about a partial football scholarship to a third rate school that was his only option to escape small town suffocation; to tell him about exhaustion and injuries and what it was like to pay for college with your body instead of your mind – the urge blooms and dies.
“You don’t know me,” he repeats, temper reined in, but still threatening. “So how come you look at me and see every asshole athlete who shoved you against a locker in high school?”
To Charlie’s credit he looks a little more subdued, surprised at the turn in the conversation.
“Don and I were in the same class,” he says quietly. “No one ever shoved me against a locker in high school.”
“Maybe someone should have.” Said without thinking, under his breath, and he wants it back as soon as it’s out, because now he’s proven that he’s everything Charlie thinks he is. Colby looks up, horrified, watches Charlie’s face flush like he’s angry.
Before Colby can begin to take it back, though, he notices. He watches Charlie’s eyes drop. To Colby’s mouth. Just a flicker, but a look Colby can almost feel, and he hears his own pulse pounding in his ears.
And then he’s staring into dark brown eyes and he has to do something, anything but stand there. Stand there with Charlie looking at him, like they’re both thinking that Colby shoving Charlie up against a locker or wall or anything at all suddenly seems like a really, really good idea.
“Look. That was out of line. I apologize.” Rough and uneven, but he says it.
“No. I mean -- me, too.” Charlie’s voice is hoarse, too. “Obviously I don’t know you, and I shouldn’t presume...” Charlie trails off and he’s looking at Colby’s mouth again, and Colby wonders how the space between them got so small. He’s close enough to feel the heat from Charlie’s body, to measure exactly how they’d fit together if he took just one step closer.
Colby looks down at the folder in Charlie’s hands. “Is that the traffic pattern analysis?”
“Uh, yeah.” Shoved into his hands like Charlie can’t get rid of it fast enough, and he gets the brush of Charlie’s fingers over his own before he can make himself grasp the folder.
“Do you need to explain --”
“The data’s self-explanatory –”
Talking over each other, and maybe they should both stop talking now. Colby lifts the folder uselessly. “I’ll take this back, then.”
“Okay. Good.” Charlie’s nodding like Colby’s said something particularly insightful, and Colby takes that as his cue to flee.
“See you around, Charlie.”
Charlie probably says something in response but Colby’s already in the hall, thinking about Charlie’s eyes and Charlie’s body and once again, the end of his career.
It’s possible that hitting each other would have been better. Because now he’s afraid that the next time he sees Charlie he’s going to kiss him.
End (hee! I said it was fluffy...)