By Dragon's Daughter 1980

Rating: T (contains strong language/swearing)

Disclaimer: Other than being a devoted fan, I have nothing to do with Numb3rs.

SPOILER ALERT: Janus List (Numb3rs Season Three Finale)

WARNING: This story contains an unusual amount of cursing in it, which I felt was appropriate to the situation. However, out of prudence, I am giving this a higher than usual rating compared to my other stories. I'm asking those who are easily offended to be cautious; please don't read my story and then flame me saying that I didn't warn you about possible offense. Thank you.

Grown men don't cry.

He tells himself this mantra over and over again as he lays face-down in the darkness of his small cell, alone with only his breathing and his rampant thoughts and the video camera in the corner to make sure he doesn't kill himself to accompany him. Apparently the prison docs have labeled him enough of a nutcase to be put on suicide watch for the foreseeable future. Sadistic bastards; they just want to make sure he's really what they think he is. He's in isolation so that he doesn't end up dead too early and that if he decides to break down, it wouldn't kill him outright and screw the whole case over.

Grown men don't cry.

He knows it is a fucking lie, but he still lives by it. Grown men don't cry. Soldiers don't cry. And he's a good little soldier. He grasps a handful of his bed sheets on the darker side of his bed, where he knows the camera can't see, as if it could be an adequate enough outlet for the hell that he's going through. He clamps down on an urge to start screaming uncontrollably, as if that could release the tension tearing through him.

Shit. Just fucking shit. His SpecOps training isn't helping the damn situation at all. He's been trained in counter-interrogation tactics and he's survived in war zones before, but this is a completely different ballgame. He isn't going to be interrogated by the enemy; those people are going to be friends, they're going to be people on his side but out for his blood because he is the enemy now and they could probably break him like a matchstick if they wanted to. A good teacher always held something back from their students, and he had one of the best instructors the CID had to offer. Shit. He is so fucking screwed more ways to hell than he knows. The only reason he's probably not in some prison in the middle of nowhere that doesn't exist is because of a single sentence printed on a flimsy little slip of paper in the hands of a cold-hearted bastard sitting somewhere in a government building hundreds of miles away. Those are the only two things that are going to keep him alive for the foreseeable future. Those things and maybe his wits and luck, if he's got any left.

Charlie probably could figure out the chances of him getting out of this alive. Damn. Big mistake. Don't think about him. Don't think about them. He can't afford to be weak. Focus, damn it. Ignore the guilt and just focus. Focus on the mission, and stop wandering. Get this done and this can all be a bad dream.

Yeah, like fucking hell it would be. Damn it, he's screwed up, big time. If he was alone and unwatched, he would have started banging his head against his pillow or punched it a few times, but that stupid damn camera — !

He hadn't known it would have been this hard. Damn it, he did know it would be this hard. Dwayne just had to get himself into trouble, and he just had to have that type of screwed up, overblown sense of honor to get involved until he was way too fucking deep in over his head. Idiot, idiot, idiot, just a complete fucking idiot! He should have just reported it to their CO and kept out of it completely, but…what sort of friend would he have been? Maybe someone who isn't in as much boiling, hot water as he is in now. He went straight from a frying pan to hell.

He screwed up when he thought he could take it. Take the anger, the betrayal, the stress of the whole damn thing. Walking away from people he'd cared, damn it, no, family, they were family and that was his first mistake. First in a long string of them. Or was it just the most fatal one?

God. The looks on their faces.

He smothers a sob in his throat. Spies don't cry. Traitors don't cry. They don't care about country or loyalty. They don't care about family and honor. They don't care.

If he had only known what they really mean to him, he wouldn't have done this. He would have told CID, NSA, CIA and all those other agencies to fuck off if he had known. He would have never said yes, he would have never even thought about this half-baked plan that probably is going to kill him and destroy his life. As if his life isn't nuked already.

Shit. Oh man… what is he going to do? What in the hell possessed him to do this to his family? What the hell was he thinking? How did the team get into so much trouble without him noticing? Damn it, damn it, damn it! He should have known that something was up with Don. Yeah, when the boss starts seeing a shrink, something's up. It's good that Don's getting help and it's damn great to see him smile a lot more, but…yeah, just had to throw a damn fucking monkey wrench into that plan. Thanks Dwayne, you bastard. Then Megan and Larry, yeah, so it's difficult to see the reasoning, but he makes her happy and glow like there's no tomorrow and it's not bad at all to see him smiling and being completely smitten and the two of them do make a cute, if odd, couple (would she still kill him now for making that comment?) and then he goes off into space, she disappears for a month and a half, and it's like they've both been shattered into tiny little pieces when they come back and he's wondering what the hell happened to the blissfully-happy couple he saw making out in Charlie's backyard (what can he ever say to Whiz Kid to apologize? Explain this damn mess to the genius that's saved his ass more than once? How is he going to look at the professor in the eye and say that he didn't mean for this to happen? He's going to never forget that pain in Charlie's eyes, a child shocked by a betrayal in his world — he knows that Charlie's not a child anymore, not by a long shot, but he's just as protective of him as Don is) six months ago. And then Megan tells him she's in a middle of a crisis just before this whole thing goes down and he's still kicking himself for both saying too much and not enough. Damn it, if he'd known, he wouldn't have said yes and put her through this. She needs Larry now, and there's no way for him to get out and drag the Professor's ass to her door and tell him he needs to comfort her.

And David. Oh crap. David.

Shit. His pillow's damp and clinging to his cheek and he turns away from the camera and tries to keep his breathing even. The last thing he needs is for those bastards to break his cover and screw him over completely. Damn it, what is he going to do? How the hell is he going to explain this to David? His partner, his best friend, his brother? How does he apologize, because saying 'I'm sorry' after what he's done to the other man is about fifty cents too short and thirty years too late. He can't. Besides the obvious security issues and the whole damn 'classified on a need-to-know' thing, he can't. He doesn't know what to say or how to say it if he knew. Dear God in Heaven, he wished he could, but he knew he couldn't. It's over. There's no going back to their friendship, that steadiness that's kept him sane for so long while this damn thing was unfolding, the banter and that trust. That trust of watching each other's backs in the worst possible situation and knowing that you're either going to get out together or die together, and knowing that you're going to beat all the odds just because you trust each other. David's never going to look at him the same way again. None of them are. And it's all his fucking fault.

He's never going to forget the look on their faces. The devastation. The anger. The hurt, that bone-cutting hurt that never goes away, that stabs you in the soul and twists every time you think about it. He knows because Dwayne did it to him. And it kills him to know that he did it to them, that he put that pain there in their eyes, that despair. It's going to haunt them for a long time and he's afraid that he's put it there for the rest of their lives. He did it to them and they never deserved it and he — he has no way to explain what he has done to them. It's unforgivable what he did. They're never going to forgive him like he's probably never going to forgive Dwayne, and they'll never understand why. And…God, he isn't sure he knows why he's doing this anymore, he doesn't know what he's going to do.

He'd laugh if it wasn't going to come out like a strangled sob, if he isn't so bitter. He's a damn headcase, a freaking mess of emotions and no wonder maybe those docs are right about him being suicidal because really right now, he doesn't feel like he has any control over anything at the moment. He's screwed over and he doesn't have a snowball's chance in the Sahara, much less in hell, to get out in one piece.

Oh God, when he needs hope the most, he doesn't have it. He doesn't deserve it. He is going to die a traitor and they're not going to care. They're not going to care at all. And he both wants them to care and to forget him. He doesn't want to hurt them any more than he has, and he's hurt them plenty. This isn't about protecting them from some threat because if Dwayne had even made one move against them, just one word promising to harm any one of them, investigation or no investigation, that bastard would have been dead as soon as he found out. No, this is about carrying through what he said he would, keeping his word to his dying breath. This is carrying through the lessons that they've taught him. This is about making sure that they put this case to rest for good, even if he's got to do it alone, because he has to. He can't atone for the pain he's causing them, but he has to try, has to see things to the end. Because his team doesn't give up halfway through a fight, they close every case they can and this is one case they can close and he isn't going to be a coward and back out halfway through and leave it open like a damn question mark.

Duty is about sacrifice, and he knows what sacrifice is. He's done it willingly. He's put himself in the line of fire, risked his life because he believes in his duty. And he did it willingly the day he said yes to this plan. He's been willing to die to keep his word and he has almost done that once or twice. And now he has no choices left to make about his future, nothing left but his word to some stranger and an ideal that he can't even give up now, not even when everything came down to him giving it up. And knowing that he is going to do his job, even if it's going to cost him everything, even if it's going to cost him more than he meant to give up, that is the only thing really holding him together at the moment. There's no turning back now, no undoing anything. He's trapped in a dead end game. All he can do is just accept it, let them win for now, play their game, and every night, pray for forgiveness. All he can do is hope that he's going to win the game one way or another, but that it isn't going to end with his funeral.

He curls up on his cot, holding his slowing tears deep down in his chest. He doesn't have a choice and that's the choice he's made. His world is going to narrow down to his goal, and he is going to do whatever it takes to get it done. He closes his eyes and as exhaustion and grief takes hold of him and slips him away from the outside world of steel and bars, he knows that he doesn't have anything left, just one thing: duty. And if it kills him, so be it, but he isn't going to fail; he's not going to fail them.