blue flamingos

Don't Have To Tell

Fandom: Numb3rs

Category/Rated: Slash, PG

Year/Length: 2008/ ~4383 words

Pairing: Colby, David (mild Colby/oc)

Spoilers: set sometime in season 4.

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

Summary: The trouble with FBI agents is, they tend to figure things out; written for [info]lgbtfest

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

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Someone was shaking him awake, a hand on his bare shoulder. Colby tensed for a moment, disoriented.

"Colby, wake up. Your phone's ringing."

Familiar voice. Ben. Ben's apartment. Ben's bed.

Colby sat up, blinking in the lamplight. Ben held out his cell, still vibrating. "It's David," he added.

Colby nodded thanks and flipped the phone open. "It's the middle of the night, man, this better be good."

He'd taken his watch off at some point, couldn't remember where he'd put it, but it was still dark out. He couldn't have been asleep very long. Shouldn't have been asleep at all.

"You need your beauty sleep?" David asked. "Matt Parker just got admitted to hospital, injuries consistent with the other victims. Don wants us to get over there and talk to him."

"Great," Colby grumbled. The first live victim on the case, the first possible witness, of course he'd show up in the middle of the night. "Meet you at the hospital?"

"Don't be stupid. I'm coming past your door, I'll pick you up."

Colby made a face. This was why he didn't go out when they had a hot case. "I'm not at home. I'll meet you there."

"You're not –" David repeated. "What happened to never meeting any women?"

Colby winced. "It's not what you think."

"Right," David said, and Colby could picture him grinning, sure he knew the truth.

"You wanna discuss this some more, or you want to let me get – let me find my keys and come meet you?"

"If the end of that was gonna be 'get dressed', I think I want to discuss it some more," David said.

"Well, I want to do my job so we don't get chewed out by Don again," Colby said firmly. "Be there in twenty minutes."

Ben was leaning back against the pile of pillows, blankets pulled just high enough to cover anything that might be distracting. "You have to go?" he asked.

"Yeah." Colby got out of bed, pulled on his boxers and jeans. They were ragged round the bottom and had a small hole in the left knee – not exactly what he'd choose to wear to work – but his shirt was dark, smart enough, and he had a spare pair of suit pants at the office. "Sorry."

Ben shrugged, a gesture that used far more muscles in him than it did in most people. "These things happen."

"Yeah, not to you, Mr. Nine-to-Five, never-leave-my-office-unless-it's-to-talk-to-the-press." Colby finished fastening his shirt and started looking for his shoes and socks.

"At least working in the press office isn't going to get me shot," Ben said.

"You hope," Colby muttered, giving up on socks since he could only find one. "I'm gonna be late."

Ben stood up – yeah, still naked, not that Colby was looking or anything – and came to put his arms round Colby. "Tell them you were in bed with a hot FBI press officer and he wouldn't let you leave."

"I don't think so," Colby said, ducking out of Ben's hold and heading back into the lounge for his badge and gun.

"It'd be a lot easier to tell them," Ben said, leaning in the doorway. "They can't fire you for it here."

"I'm having enough trouble fitting in right now as it is, thanks. I don't need Don and David to start wondering if I'm checking them out on top of that."

Ben frowned. "They're not that hot," he said contemplatively. "I'd rather be looking at you."

Colby felt his face go hot, glad for the dim light that hid it. "I really have to get going."

"I know." Ben came over and kissed him, longer than a goodbye kiss ought to warrant. "I had fun tonight. Give me a call sometime."

"Sure," Colby said, same as always, slipping out in the early hours of the morning. No pressure, no commitment, on either side. Ben wasn't prepared to be in a relationship he had to keep secret, and Colby wasn't ready to come out, but occasional no-strings-attached sex worked for both of them.

"Good luck with the case," Ben added. He stood in the open door, sheet wrapped round his waist, until Colby stepped into the stairwell, not caring if anyone saw him.

hr

"You're late," David said when Colby finally made it to the hospital.

"Car accident." David was in his suit, of course, looking like he'd just had eight hours sleep and a hearty breakfast. "Got held up till the patrol cop deigned to check my badge and let me through."

"Right," David drawled, looking him up and down till Colby wanted to check he'd zipped his fly. David gave him a quick half-smile. "Doc said we could see him in a bit, when they're done stitching him."

"Great." Colby followed him into the hospital, manfully not pointing out that he'd hardly needed to rush when the guy was still getting medical attention.

"So," David said, holding the door for him, their footfalls echoing in the empty corridors. "Who was she?"

Colby rolled his eyes. "I was at a friend's, I fell asleep. First time we've been out of here before midnight in a week, I was tired."

"Uh-huh," David said, smiling. "I know I fall asleep naked with my friends all the time."

Colby swallowed hard against that mental image. "Whatever, man. That the doctor?"

"What?" David asked, looking round and catching sight of a redhead in scrubs. "Yeah. Saved by the case."

"Bout time."

hr

Between the case finally going somewhere and Colby taking care not to saying anything about wanting to find a woman, it only took David a few days to drop it.

hr

"I still don't se why we have to go to this," Colby grumbled two months later, standing very still while Megan fiddled totally unnecessarily with his bow tie.

"Because we've got the highest solve rate in the department for the year?" David suggested, standing against the divider between the desks and looking unreasonably good in his black shirt and tux.

"Then why isn't Charlie suffering through it with us?" Colby asked, lifting Megan's hands away. "It's fine, thank you."

"Your loss," Megan said, shrugging her shawl back round her bare shoulders. "You'll never get a girlfriend with a crooked tie."

"Oh, so that's what attracted you to Fleinhardt, his neat tie," Colby teased, getting a glare in return.

"What happened to that girl from a few weeks ago?" David asked.

Megan turned back to Colby, one eyebrow raised. "Which girl is this?"

Colby gave them both his best shy grin, which wasn't really all that hard, given the circumstances, and cursed the long memories of FBI agents. "I already told you, I was with a friend."

"And yet you remember the incident so well," Megan said, sliding into her interrogator voice, which went a little strangely with her sleek blue dress.

"Because he wouldn't shut up about it for three days," Colby pointed out. David held his hands up, the picture of offended innocence.

"And where was I?" Megan asked.

Colby caught David's eye, both of them sensing potential trouble. "Vacation?" Colby suggested, trying to remember.

"In-service training?" David said.

"Uh-huh," Megan said suspiciously.

Don chose that moment to stick his head round the door, as harried as he would be in the middle of a case. "You guys ready? The Director's not going to be happy if we're late."

"We were waiting for you," Megan told him innocently, and swept out of the room.

hr

The Law Enforcement Community Dinner and Dance was pretty much a community leaders and important brass only thing, as far as Colby could tell. He recognized a few faces, but mainly from the news, not from around crime scenes. The four of them were seated in a back corner, along with a couple of senior detectives from the LAPD and two moderately senior central administrators.

"Guess we're the table of dateless singletons," Colby muttered to David.

"Speak for yourself," Megan said over her water glass.

"Larry couldn't make it?" David asked.

"Larry wasn't allowed to be invited," Megan corrected, glaring at Don, who was smiling at one of the administrators and didn't appear to be paying attention to their conversation.

"Isn't he seeing Robin?" Colby asked.

"He is *now*," Megan said, and Colby remembered, vaguely, Don handing out their tickets and saying darkly that they were going as a team, back when he'd still been pissed about Liz leaving.

"Right," David said, obviously remembering the same thing. "Never mind."

hr

The evening was about as dull as Colby had expected, full of speeches about inter-agency cooperation and making LA a safer place to live, interspersed with fairly mediocre food. By the time coffee was served, people had started circulating, some of them dancing, and Colby was wishing for a case to pull them away, even though they were dedicated off-call for the evening, which would have to mean a major crisis.

Megan, on the other hand, looked like she was having a great time, out on the dance floor with one of the senior detectives, one hand chastely on his shoulder, the other held loosely in his, both of them laughing. Don had abandoned his coffee and wandered off, hands in his pockets, to find Lieutenant Walker, and the rest of their table had rapidly followed, leaving Colby and David alone in their corner.

"You think anyone would notice if we snuck out?" David asked.

"In a room full of people trained to be observant?" Colby asked. "Nah, I'm sure we'd be fine."

"Spoil sport," David muttered, draining the last of his coffee. "You know, I think I'd actually rather be doing paperwork right now."

"Oh, come on, it's not that bad, is it?" A hand trailed across Colby's shoulder, and then Ben was standing in front of them, smiling.

"Harper," David said, standing up to shake his hand. "This is your thing, huh?"

Ben shrugged. "Partly. Not quite as glamorous as chasing down missing TV reporters, but what can you do?" He looked over at Colby, inviting him to share the joke, and Colby forced a smile that felt kind of wonky. It wasn't like they never ran into each other, and it wasn't like Ben would say anything, but... But paranoia wasn't, it turned out, easy to dial down, even after three years out of the army, six months clear of being a spy.

"What can I say?" David asked, smiling, charming Ben like he sometimes charmed their witnesses. Colby couldn't remember ever seeing the two of them together; it was, maybe, part of why he'd accepted Ben's invitation to go for a drink in the first place, well over a year ago.

Ben grinned, looking back down to Colby who hadn't stood up. "You having fun, Colby?"

"Best night of my week," Colby said, smiling.

Ben laughed. "You must be having a boring week, then. I have to go check on a few things, but let me buy you a drink later, okay?" Colby nodded, watching Ben's eyes warm. "You too, Agent Sinclair, if you like."

"Sure," David said. Standing up, he had his back mostly to Colby, but Colby didn't need to see his face. He knew that tone of voice from a hundred investigations. That was David putting everything together.

Ben looked between the two of them, his expression twisted, like he knew he'd somehow said the wrong thing. "Okay, well, you guys have fun," he said, and left.

Colby focused on folding his napkin into a small, neat square. Maybe David was just –

"So," David said, sitting down again. "You and Harper."

"Me and Harper what?" Colby asked, trying for innocent. It had worked before, often, though not usually with someone he knew as well as he knew David.

"He's the one you were with, the friend."

"You know, I'm sure you were there for Don's lecture last week about not jumping to conclusions." Colby risked a quick glance up and regretted it; David had his interrogation face on, and one hand up to tick points off. Great.

"He calls you by your first name. He came over to speak to you. He offered to buy you a drink."

"He's being friendly," Colby said, trying a shrug that felt too stiff.

"I'm not stupid," David said, sounding hurt. "I couldn't figure out why you wouldn't just tell me who you were with, even if it wasn't a girl. You always have before. And now he's over here flirting with you, come on, Colby, I don't need Charlie to help me put two and two together."

There really wasn't an answer to that; not one that didn't require him to lie, anyway, and he'd been trying not to do that too much lately.

"Why didn't you just tell me?" David asked, and suddenly the ballroom was too small, too many people who might overhear, or see the two of them, huddled in the corner, tense and unhappy.

"You want to interrogate me somewhere there's less chance of being overheard by the Director of the FBI?" he asked, already on his feet. They'd checked their coats when they came in, but the evenings were still warm enough without.

David waited till they were away from the main entrance to the hall before grabbing Colby's arm, swinging him round so they were face to face. "What the hell is this? I'm meant to be your partner, why the hell didn't you tell me?"

"Maybe cos it's none of your damn business?" Colby hissed. He didn't want to yell, he wasn't going to argue, but he hadn't planned on having this conversation, not yet, and never like this. "Or because I was worried about how you'd react? And, hey, nice to see you taking the news so well there, David."

"Please." That was David's spare-me-the-bullshit voice. Colby hated getting that voice turned on him. "Don't even try that."

"Try what?"

"Try to make me sound like some homophobe who can't handle the fact that his partner's gay. There's no way you think I'm like that."

"Oh, so that's why we're out here with you looking at me like I'm your best suspect in a murder case, because you're totally fine with the thought of me being attracted to men."

David took a deep breath, let it out slowly. His hand was still on Colby's arm, not tight enough to hold him, but Colby didn't want to break free. "You can be really stupid some days, you know that?" David asked, sounding tired. "I'm not pissed because you're gay, I don't care who you sleep with. I'm pissed because you've been my partner for two and a half years, and you never told me. I get the spy thing, that you couldn't tell us, but this? What did you think was going to happen?"

"I don't know." Colby looked down at his feet. "Just – let me go, please?"

There was a long pause, then David's hand lifted away from his arm.

"Thank you," Colby said, and walked away.

hr

Hey Colby, it's Megan. Don't think I didn't notice that you snuck off early last night... Listen, David covered for you with Don, but I don't think he believed him. I know I don't. If you want to talk, call me.

Hi, it's Ben. I guess you left early last night, I hope it wasn't – well, I'm sorry if I caused you trouble with David, I didn't mean to. I probably shouldn't have come over at all, I'm really sorry. Um, call me, if you like.

Oh, turn your damn cell back on, for God's sake, before you wind up in any more trouble with Don. I get it, you're screening my calls, you don't want to talk. Fine. Get over it before Monday.

hr

It wasn't like when he'd shown back up after everything went down with Dwayne, when David would barely look at him, never mind speak to him, but it was close.

Not that it wasn't partly Colby's fault this time – he was well aware that he shouldn't have avoided David's calls all weekend. He'd really meant to pick up, eventually, because David had been right, he didn't really think David was going to have a problem with him being gay, not really. Only when he was being really paranoid, anyway.

It was just that, when he'd gotten over the panic and the fear and the surprise, he'd wound up left with the dull ache of knowing he'd been right about the other part. He'd needed a bit longer than he'd expected to get over that as well.

They'd been in the office half an hour, hunched over their own desks and plowing through paperwork in silence, when Don came in. "We've had a call about a break-in downtown, local cops think it might be connected to the ones from a couple months ago."

"And you think?" Megan asked. Colby felt David turn behind him, watching the exchange, and looked back at his computer screen.

"I dunno, it doesn't really sound right, but I said I'd send someone down to take a look. Colby, David, you want to take it?"

Colby didn't say anything, waiting for David. Who was apparently waiting for him.

"Guys?" Don prompted, half his attention on the file in his hand, frowning at both them and it.

Colby saw Megan look between the two of them, and swallowed a silent groan. "I'll go with Colby," she said. "David looks busy."

Don looked over at David, who shrugged, clearly no busier than anyone else. "Okay," Don said slowly. "Whatever. Call if it turns out to be connected to our case."

"Sure," Colby muttered.

Megan waited until they were in the car to say, "What's going on with you two?"

"Nothing," Colby said, concentrating on the GPS. He really didn't need to get lost today.

"And that's why you haven't said two words to each other since you got in," Megan said. "Does it have something to do with your running off and David looking like a thunder cloud all Friday night?"

"I didn't run off," Colby said. But at least David hadn't told Megan. That had to count for something, right? Not that he'd ever really expected David would; he knew plenty about Colby already, and he never shared the stuff Colby wouldn't want him to.

"No, just disappeared without saying goodbye."

"Nothing's wrong," Colby said. "Seriously, Megan, just leave it alone."

"All right." From the corner of his eye, he watched Megan put her hands up defensively. "But whatever it isn't, sort it out."

hr

Colby stuck around after the others left that evening, counting down the time it would take David to get to his car and out of the lot, then adding on a bit extra for maybe bumping into someone he knew. It would have worked out fine as well, except that David was leaning against Colby's car, and already looking at him when he spotted David.

"Hey," he said when he was close enough not to have to shout.

David gave him a flat smile. "I figured you'd rather not have this conversation in the office, and you're not answering your phone."

"Actually, I'd rather not have it at all."

"Yeah, well, tough. Unless you're planning on transferring out of here to avoid me." Colby looked up sharply, but David didn't look like he was making a suggestion. "Yeah, didn't think so."

David hitched himself up onto the hood of the car and leaned back, waiting, and Colby remembered doing this, back at the end of his first year with the Bureau, talking about things he'd thought leaving the army would help him forget. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like David had alcohol for this one.

"So," David said eventually. "What else don't I know about you?"

"Hey," Colby said without thinking, hurt.

"Fine, sorry," David said, not sounding all that sorry. "But, come on, man, we've been working together for nearly three years."

"It's not important," Colby said. There was a space next to David, like he'd left it for Colby to sit by him, but he felt full of anxious energy. He wanted to be able to leave. He didn't want to be that close, knowing.

"Try again," David said. "All that stuff about wanting to find a girlfriend, that was all – what was that?"

"Habit," Colby said. "Mostly."

"Because of the army," David filled in. "Right. You know, that's probably why you never manage to pick up any women."

Colby laughed without really meaning to. "Thought it was lack of social skills."

"Yeah, that too," David agreed, grinning.

Colby sighed, and leaned against the car next to David; maybe it would be comforting, still, even without the faint hope that had always been under the friendship, the comfort. "I got used to being in the closet, in the army," he said quietly. "I don't think I ever learned how to tell people, you know?"

"Because, 'hey, David, by the way, I'm more attracted to men than women,' would have been too simple."

"You try slipping that into casual conversation," Colby said.

There was a pause, then David said, "Okay, point."

"Yeah."

"Still, though. You didn't trust me?" And now David sounded hurt, which was exactly what Colby had been hoping wouldn't happen.

"Man, you know more about me than anyone else in the world," he said, watching two agents walk across the other side of the parking lot. "I *trust* you more than anyone else. You're the only person who knows about my dad, you're the only person who knows about the friendly fire in Afghanistan."

"You don't talk about that stuff with Harper?"

"With –" Colby started, confused. "Oh, no, it's not like that."

"Right," David drawled, just like the last time Colby'd said that.

"No, seriously, it's not like that. We just, you know..." He felt his face heat up, and when he looked over, David's face was caught somewhere between amused and embarrassed. At least he didn't look disgusted or something. Colby curbed the urge to explain how he'd be totally happy to be in a real relationship with someone he liked that much, that he just hadn't found that person yet. Or that he had, but it would be pointless to even try. "Hey, you asked."

"And now I'm sort of wishing I hadn't," David said, but he was smiling, and something in Colby eased. It was weird, knowing that someone knew. Weird, and kind of nice, even if he could have gone a bit longer without knowing for sure that he had to give up hoping. "You never told anyone?"

"That I'm –" Huh, apparently saying the word was one of the things that wasn't getting easier. "Some people know. Knew."

Next to him, David went very still. Not for the first time, Colby remembered that Megan wasn't the only one who was good at figuring people out.

"Dwayne Carter," David said quietly.

"He saved my life," Colby said, stumbling through it. "And we were – I guess we were close already, I wasn't ever going to say no. And then when we got back here... Neither of us wanted anyone to realize there was a connection between us other than the army, you know? It's not like we were – it was just convenient."

"Sure," David said. "But it can't have been easy, doing what you did."

"He was selling state secrets to the Chinese. He used to be on the front-line, protecting the country." They hadn't talked about the whole spying thing, not really; at first, David hadn't talked to him at all, and then he'd been so grateful that David was getting over it, he hadn't wanted to bring it up. "I guess I was hoping I'd turn out to be wrong."

"I get that," David said, nudging Colby's shoulder.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," David said, looking at him with an expression that said he was being really dumb.

"Oh," Colby said, realizing David meant him. He couldn't help the grin on his face, even knowing it probably made him look as dumb as David's expression said he was. "Thanks."

"Yeah, well, I saw you with women, you're not exactly 007."

"I'm better with men," Colby said, surprised by how easy it was to say.

"Apparently," David said dryly. "Harper's pretty good looking."

"Okay, that was surreal," Colby said after a moment.

"Whatever, man, I'm as open-minded as the next guy."

"That's... good to know," Colby said slowly. "I guess."

"So, you wanna go get a drink or something?" David asked after a minute, then, "That came out wrong."

"I'll say," Colby agreed. He figured they might be having that exchange a few times for the next couple of weeks; at least it would help train him out of the inappropriate surge of... something... that came with David sounding like he was asking Colby on a date. He pushed off the car, fishing his keys out of his pocket. "You're buying."

"Yeah, we'll see," David said. He caught Colby's arm. "Look, for what it's worth, I get why you didn't want anyone to know. But I'm glad you told me."

"'Told you' is probably an exaggeration," Colby pointed out.

"Yeah, well." David shrugged. "All we need now is Don."

"What?"

"Look," David said, getting into the passenger side. "Me, African-American, Megan, female, you, gay, we're like the poster team for equality and diversity in the FBI. Apart from Don."

Colby laughed, picturing the three of them on a recruitment poster. It was kind of a disturbing image. "He uses a mathematician to solve crimes," he said, starting the car. "That's pretty diverse."

David nodded. "Your friend Harper would like it."

Colby groaned. "I'm going to be hearing about that for a while, huh?"

"Oh yeah," David said, grinning, and Colby figured maybe he could get used to it after all. Maybe having a friend who knew the truth would be better, in the end, than clinging onto the hope that his best friend would be something other than that. Truth was, having David as his best friend was a pretty good deal, one he didn't want to risk losing again.

And he didn't have to tell all of his secrets. Not yet.


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