Numb3rs 1 through 30
Spoilers: Anything in Season 1 is fair game.
This story is gen, but since it covers the past, Don/Terry and Don/Kim are mentioned, but in the end it brings us to Don's status in Season 1: single.
Major, major thanks to devra. It's because of her this fic even happened.
This story IS complete and is 15 total chapters. I plan on posting one a day as not to overwhelm. However, it that takes too long, it could come a little faster :).
He was nine when his three-year-old brother could do his math homework.
He was sitting at the kitchen table. His math textbook was open, and his assignment consisted of multiplying two digit numbers. He remembered being distracted. He had Little League tryouts the next day. His mother was washing dishes and trying to get him to focus.
Charlie sat on the floor, occupied by some blocks.
The problem was forty-six times nineteen. Don was no slough when it came to math, but he hated his nine times tables and the sun was shining. He wanted to practice.
"Donnie," his mother said, turning off the water and wiping her hands on a dishtowel. She came up behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders. "You're almost done. And your father won't be home for another hour. He promised to help you prepare for tomorrow."
"An hour's a long time. You could help me practice, Mom," he told her and she smiled.
"A ball player, I'm not. That's your father's department. Math homework, now that I can do." She lifted her hand and pulled out the chair next to him, sliding into it and turning his text so she could read it. "Now, forty-six times nineteen..."
"Eight, seven, four!"
Both of them had turned at the exclamation. It had come from Charlie, who was standing up. He'd managed to stack all his blocks up into some sort of tower. He grinned, then proceeded to put his thumb in his mouth.
"Charlie," his mother warned, reaching out to pull Charlie's thumb away.
Charlie squirmed to avoid her grasp. "Eight, seven, four," the toddler repeated around the digit.
He frowned. His mother got up to grab Charlie. He stared at the math problem and picked up his pencil.
Six time nine is fifty-four, carry the five...four times nine is thirty-six, add the five...place holder zero, forty-six times one equals forty-six to make 460...add that to 414 and...
You got 874.
Charlie had just solved his math problem.
When Mom returned back to the table, Charlie in hand, they soon discovered that Charlie could also multiply three and four digit numbers in his head.
Don was excited and proud of his little brother. When his father got home, he dragged Charlie into the living room and showed him off.
Before he knew it, Charlie was being taken to doctors and teachers. Charlie was called a "gifted child." Exceptional. A genius.
Don was thrilled because it meant his little brother could help him with his homework and he'd get more time to play baseball.
The novelty wore off, and wore off quickly. His parents had appointment after appointment to take Charlie here, there, and everywhere. Another IQ test, another gifted program, another afternoon where he went to a friend's house or carpooled to Little League practice.
They started eating out more often, and at first he liked the idea of having pizza every night. But that, too, soon got old. He started getting used to not seeing his mother when he got home from school. She was always upstairs in the solarium with Charlie and some new tutors. New tutors always seemed to be coming. And the teaching sessions didn't stop after they left. Charlie had to be stimulated all the time, he'd heard one tutor say to his mother. So flash cards joined the routine. So when his father got home from work and it was straight to the flash cards and Charlie.
Charlie, for his part, was all smiles whenever he would see Don. Flashcards, tutor, blocks, books or toys, all would be forgotten until he hugged his big brother. Only after Don returned the hug and pried Charlie's arms from around his legs would he go back to the task he had been doing.
Charlie needed his approval; Don wasn't sure why Charlie always needed his approval. Charlie was way smarter than he was. Heck, Charlie was already reading at a fifth grade level.
And Don had just started the fifth grade.
His parents were trying. His mother snuck an extra cookie or two into his lunch in the morning and his father bought him a new glove. And while those things were nice, all he really wanted was their time. Or for things to go back to the way they had been.
Charlie's education was daunting. He needed to be encouraged and stimulated. Before Charlie's high IQ had been discovered, the toddler had already been so full of energy that it had been impossible to contain him and now that his brain was going even faster than his body, it was tiring.
Everything was numbers now. Charlie started writing simple equations across his coloring books. A color-by-number's normal instructions were ignored; instead he began using the numbers to calculate things Don couldn't even begin to understand.
Don wasn't stupid. He brought home A's and B's. His teacher praised him. But next to Charlie, his accomplishments were small potatoes. His parents seemed pleased. The report card still went up on the fridge and they still went out for ice cream to celebrate, but it was different. His achievement was overshadowed by Charlie's growing genius.
When Don was fourteen, he started high school.
So did Charlie. Charlie was eight.
High school made life a little easier for a while. His mother kept Charlie out of the classroom freshman year, choosing a special tutoring program. Don made new friends and joined the baseball team. He got decent grades and even managed to get his first very first kiss.
Yet, all Charlie wanted was to go to school with his older brother.
Don sat at the kitchen table, his algebra homework spread out in front of him. He didn't need Charlie in high school. In high school he was Don Eppes, not Charlie Eppes' older brother. Apparently fourteen-year-olds hadn't gotten wind of Charlie's genius and Don liked it that way. Besides, Charlie was eight. Eight-year-olds should not be in high school. He'd be eaten alive.
His mother looked up from the stove and shook her head. "No, Charlie."
"But I'm just as smart as those kids. And it's boring at that other place. Don does cool things. Like kiss girls."
Don looked up at that. His mother met his eyes and smiled. "Oh, does he, now?" She shifted her gaze back to Charlie. "You, little boy, are entirely too young to be thinking about kissing girls. There will be plenty of time for that when you're Don's age."
Charlie pouted. "When I'm Don's age I could be done with high school. The girls will be too old then."
Mom shot him a look. "Too old, huh? And exactly what is too old?"
"Twenty-five," Charlie said with a nod. But a grin stretched across his face and their mother gave him a playful hit on the shoulder.
"Well, then, I must be positively ancient," she said. "Any of your numbers tell you that? Because I think I've got too many of years ahead of me to be classified as ancient."
"Mom," Charlie responded. "You can't calculate someone's lifespan. Too many variables."
Don rolled his eyes. Charlie was the only eight-year-old he knew that used words like "lifespan" and "variable." Don didn't even know if he even understood what the word variable meant when he was eight, let alone used it in daily life.
"So, Mom...?" Charlie had adopted what his father called the puppy dog look.
She shook her head. "No, Charlie. Those kids are six years older than you. Where you are now is better, the kids are closer to your own age. You can make friends."
At the word 'friends' Charlie's face fell and Don knew why. Charlie didn't do friends.
"Right. Friends," Charlie agreed, softy.
Don laid his pencil down. Despite all the attention Charlie got from mom and dad, he still hated to see him upset. Don had friends. Thanks to sports and a naturally outgoing nature, he never lacked a pal or two after school or on the weekends.
Mom sighed. "Oh, honey, you'll make friends."
"Really?" Charlie looked up at her, hopeful.
She nodded. "Really. Right, Don?"
"Right," he muttered, his gaze slipping back down to his algebra book.
Charlie, the math wonder, couldn't stay a secret forever. Eventually Charlie started attending a few classes here and there at high school. Their parents said it was because Charlie had begged, but Don knew that wasn't true. Charlie had been begging for two years and his mother never gave in that easily to something she was so firmly against. No, Don knew that Charlie's private schools cost money, lots of it. Their dad made a decent living as a city planner, but mom didn't work. Don didn't need Charlie to figure out the math on this one.
He also knew he needed a scholarship if he ever planned on leaving Los Angeles.
Charlie and high school didn't mix. Well, not at first. At first Charlie appeared to handling the transition well. Succeeding. Maybe that was the reason that everyone's guard was down.
That is, until he corrected a teacher in the middle of a class. Not only didn't the teacher take it very well, but he was also one of most liked faculty members, not only among the student body, but also among the administrators. So soon the students were talking about the "freak" that crossed the line.
When Don found Charlie, the nearly twelve-year-old was in their garage, writing prime numbers across a battered blackboard that Dad had set up for him. The board was nearly full. A step stool stood next to it. Another one of Charlie's downfalls was his stature. He was short and most likely not going to receive that wonderful growth spurt many boys hoped for to rocket them towards six feet. Don himself fell slightly short of that goal at 5'10".
"Four hundred ninety-one," Charlie muttered and scribbled the numbers across the board. He paused. "Four-"
"Ninety-nine," Don finished. "Right?"
Charlie turned. "Right. Then five hundred three and-"
"Five oh nine," Don supplied. "You've written them out so many times. It's a wonder you don't have them memorized. I think I might. Actually, I think I do. Just by osmosis."
"It's a lot of numbers."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"It makes me feel better to see them." Charlie blinked, chalk still in mind air. "She was wrong, Don. I was right. So why does that make me wrong?"
"Charlie, it's complicated."
"No, it's not. She was wrong. Every other teacher told me I shouldn't be ashamed that I'm smart. Mom and Dad tell me to be proud. She was teaching it the wrong way. Am I supposed to let her do that? The kids won't learn."
Don sighed. This wasn't easy. Sometimes, Charlie didn't understand why everyone didn't like being corrected, or why they didn't see things the way Charlie did. Charlie didn't have patience for them. He was too busy absorbing and sharing what he knew. Don figured that Charlie never tried to be condescending, but understood why people would think he was.
No one wanted a twelve-year-old to tell him that he was wrong. Frankly, Don didn't want that either, but Charlie was the brother he got and he loved him. He could admit Charlie was smarter, better at most things, yet he would never ask him for help. He learned that wasn't going to work back some time ago.
Which is how Don understood why the teacher was upset. However, he knew that still didn't make her actions right. Charlie saw right and wrong in black and white. For him there was no gray idea. He was naïve, and perhaps would be for a long time. Mom and Dad sheltered him, surrounded him with people who pushed him to succeed, but they failed to acknowledge that there were plenty of people out there that just might do the opposite.
Charlie was friendly, there was no question about that, but more often then not he was so absorbed into his own little world that he didn't always see what was in front of him, including a new social opportunity. He was awkward with kids his own age; they didn't understand why math was so cool. Frankly, never did Don, but Charlie loved it, thrived on in. Therefore, he was quickly branded as "weird" and such a description was never a good thing on the playground.
Don wondered how Charlie would fair in college. If it would be any different with people that might just understand and share Charlie's passion.
"Not everyone wants to learn, Charlie. Some people just like thinking they're right. They don't want help from..." He trailed off. He didn't know if there was a way to say it without crushing Charlie's spirit.
Charlie's eyes narrowed. He got the message, but he obviously didn't comprehend it. "I'm right," he repeated and wrote 521 on the blackboard.
Don listened to the chalk hit the slate. Charlie was clearly avoiding the truth.
Was else could a twelve-year-old do?
Mom worked out a deal with a private tutor two weeks later. The only time Charlie stepped foot back into the high school was when he graduated - on the same day, during the same ceremony, as Don did.