Title: Caught Off Guard By Love

Chapter 3 (Your brother must never know)

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters in Numb3rs

Summary: It's been a month,since Charlie discovered what's been bothering Don.

Setting: Eppes home,late evening

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"So long Larry," Charlie said, as he closed the car door.

Surmising his dad, was already in bed, by the darkness of the house, Charlie, very quietly, opens the front door.

Upon, entering the living room, Charlie,is startled, by the silhouette of a man sitting in a chair.

"Dad?"

"Yes Charlie, its me."

"Gheesh dad, you scared the heck out of me. Why are you sitting here in the dark?" Charlie asked, switching on a nearby lamp.

"I was waiting for you,sorry if I frightened you." Alan said in a apologetic tone.

"What's wrong dad? Why are you waiting up for me?" Charlie asked,as a panicky feeling,started to grow, in his gut.

"We need to talk" Alan said.

"Is Don Okay?" Charlie inquires immediately,fearing the possibilities, with Don, being an FBI agent.

"No, no,Charlie, he's fine," Alan said, in a reassuring voice.

"Good," Charlie said, breathing a sigh of relief. He then takes a seat opposite his dad.

"Don, however is one of the reasons,I need to talk to you, Alan continued. Something's been bothering him for months,and I think you know something about it."

"He's been very busy with work,dad." Charlie, blurts out, having nothing better to offer, then Don's, overuse excuse.

"It's more than the job Charlie,and you know it!" Alan said, looking irritated.

"Don will be fine dad, he needs to get some sleep,that's all," Charlie said, trying to ease his father's mind, while, at the same time keeping his promise to Don.

"You're not being honest with me, son,and I, never bought the "talking shop" story, you and Don gave me,after Melinda's opening" Alan said,his voice starting to fill with anger.

"It wasn't a story dad, Don and I, were discussing an FBI case!",Charlie insisted,but not very convincingly

"Stop lying to me Charlie! Alan yelled.Your brother was obviously upset that night,and close to being in tears!"

"Dad..." Charlie spoke, unable to say more. He,too had seen how close Don, was to breaking down.

"Please,tell me what's bothering your brother, why is he avoiding me?" Alan pleaded.

"Dad,I made a promise..."

"Stop, Charlie, don't say another word, Alan interrupted. I, never should've put you in this position, or spoke to you the way I did. I'm sorry, it was very selfish of me. I guess...I...just needed to be sure."

"Needed to be sure of what, Dad?" Charlie asked, wide-eyed and wondering, if his dad, already knew Don's secret.

"I have some great news, Alan said,changing the subject. Melinda's signed, a rather nice, recording contract."

"That's great, dad!" Charlie smiled, still trying to figure out what his father's previous remark meant. "I'll have to congratulate her tomorrow night at dinner, or have those plans changed?"

"A lot has changed Charlie,Melinda and I are no longer seeing each other."

"Why dad,what happened?"

We've reached a point in our relationship,where it's best, we go our separate ways. Melinda has a chance now,at a singing career,it's something she's dreamed of her whole life.She's going to be traveling a lot and meeting new people. It's going to open up a whole new world for her. I don't want anything or anybody standing in her way,including me.

"And besides,Charlie, I'm way to old to be a groupie," Alan smiled, but Charlie could see, his father's eyes weren't smiling.

"I'm really sorry Dad," Charlie said

"Don't be son, I'm not. I've enjoyed every moment Melinda, and I have spent together. I have no regrets,only good memories."

"So, this was your decision, dad, to break it off?" Charlie asked, speculating on whether Don, was a part of this equation.

"Yes Charlie, I broke it off, it's for the best.

"Dad,what about my other question, the one you didn't answer?"

"Yes, Charlie,I did know what was bothering your brother. It took me a while to figure it out, and I didn't want to believe it at first. But,eventually, it became the only explanation for Don's behavior."

"How did you know dad? Charlie asked, looking completely baffled. Don,hasn't been around much and when he was, hesaid very little."

"Sometimes, it's the thing's you don't say or do, that reveal the most." Now listen son, your brother must never know we discussed this, please, promise me this.

"Not a word dad," Charlie said, thinking,about a similar promise he'd made a month ago,to Don.

"Dad,...Charlie, paused a moment. Would things have worked out differently, if Don didn't feel this way?"

"Probably not, but this is the way things are,Charlie. Now,you tell that brother of yours, I expect him here for dinner tomorrow night,no excuses.It's been far too long,since the three of us had dinner together."

"I'll make sure to tell him." Charlie said.

"Well, I'm ready for bed, it's been a long day, Alan said,slowly getting out of his chair. You look tired son, don't stay up, too much longer."

"I won't dad, Charlie said, standing up. I just wish, there was something, I could do, to help you and Don."

Moving a step closer to his son, Alan, reaches out, and gently cups Charlie's face with his hands, and then lightly places a kiss on his forehead. "You do help, just by being here."

The End