Disclaimer: Wonderful though they are, the characters are not mine.
Summary: Don gets a little insight into a side of his brother he rarely sees.
Author's Notes: I've missed writing for this fandom.:) Between a tough new school year, a trip overseas, and a whole bunch of orthodontic craziness, I haven't been able to get to my computer very much. I'm hoping to rectify that with the stories that have been pouring out of my head. Sorry for the long wait. I hope this will tide you over while I continue work on my longer NUMB3RS fics.
Don fidgeted impatiently and glanced at his watch as he waited in line. He was late; he knew that. He had promised to pick up a couple of sandwiches and meet Charlie in the quad for lunch by noon. It was already fifteen minutes past, and the way the line was moving ahead of him it looked unlikely that Don would be leaving the deli in the next twenty minutes.
He sighed. Served him right for going to a popular hangout for college students right at lunchtime. Maybe next time he'd make Charlie pick something up.
Don snorted at that thought. If he left it up to Charlie, they'd be lucky to even have food on their lunch break.
Grabbing lunch with his younger brother was something new that Don had decided to try in an effort to get to know Charlie better. As they started working more and more on some of his cases, Don had begun to realize how little he really knew his brother. The top security clearance so he could work for the NSA came to mind. Don shook his head. He still couldn't believe Charlie had kept that from him.
When Don had first suggested eating lunch together, Charlie had readily agreed.Once he discovered that Don had just wanted to hang out and not talk about work, Charlie had been stunned. Looking back, Don realized how much that surprise had stung. Had he really been so shut off from Charlie that somethingas simple as a meal seemed so foreign?
From that point on, Don had made an effort to meet with Charlie for lunch at least once a week. Twice, if there was nothing demanding in either of their schedules. The results of their shared time were beginning to show, too. Charlie was more relaxed and open with his brother. He seemed less afraid of a rebuke, and Don . . .well, Don wasn't afraid to admit that he was really starting to enjoy his brother's company.
Occasionally, Charlie tried to interject some math into their discussions. It had taken Don a while to realize that he wasn't doing it to irritate him; he simply didn't know what else he could talk about. Once Don understood that, he was able to tease his brother into other topics, and help him figure out what else to say to others. It had been a few months since Don had started their lunchtime ritual, and Charlie could now initiate conversations with Don that didn't involve quadratic formulas or fractal patterns. When Don had invited some of the other agents to Charlie's house for a friendly game of poker, he had been pleasantly surprised, and proud, that Charlie had interacted with the agents as if he were one of the guys. No in-depth math lectures; of course, some discussion on mathematic genius versus card playing had come up, but that was only natural.
Don sighed in frustration and glanced at his watch again. Five minutes had gone by, and he had barely moved two inches. At this rate, he'd be lucky to make it out of the deli before one o'clock.
" . . . math for non-majors . . ."
Don's ears perked at the phrase that had been spoken by one of the girls in front of him. He recognized the name of the course as one taught by his little brother. Curious, as well as bored, Don listened in.
"I don't know," the other girl, a brunette, was saying. "I mean, I know I need it, but come on. I'm not a great math student, and the last thing I'd want to do is take a math class from someone who lives and breathes it."
"No, really," the other girl, a blonde, insisted. "I took it last semester. It wasn't that bad."
The brunette shook her head, then turned her gaze to the menu. "You're a better math student than me. Maybe I can clep the course or something."
"Listen, Em, I know what I'm talking about," the blonde continued. "Dr. Eppes may be a genius, but he has this way of explaining math that makes it make more sense. I took his math for non-majors course, and he explained some stuff I know I totally flunked in high school that I totally got. Trust me, girl. Take the class. You won't be sorry."
Don lifted an eyebrow, a small grin tugging on the corner of his mouth. He felt the strange flutter of pride in his chest.
The two girls moved to the counter to order, ending their conversation. Don glanced around the crowded deli, taking in the numerous students talking and working together. His eyes fell on a couple of boys and a girl sitting at a nearby table, pouring over several textbooks and notes. Don watched as one of the boys leaned back and threw his pencil down in disgust.
"I give up," he announced. "I can't do this. I've done this problem three times and got three different answers."
"Come on, Chris," the girl said. "It's not that bad."
"Sure, for you," Chris replied. "You're a math major. When am I ever gonna use math? It's pointless. Who cares how to factor quadrilaterals, or whatever they're called!"
The girl laughed. The other boy shook his head. "I think you need that math course more than you think you do."
Chris glared at his friends.
"Listen," the girl said. "Maybe you can go to Professor Eppes for help. His office hours are later today. He'd be more than happy to tutor you."
"Forget it," Chris stated. "I don't need math, anyway. It doesn't even apply in the real world."
"Professor Eppes said that most of the major baseball teams use math to help their players know how to stand and hold their bats," the boy pointed out.
The girl nodded. "Math is used in every sport. Calculations of angles, spatial orientation, that sort of thing. And not just in sports. A bunch of the kids on campus say that Professor Eppes helps out his brother on some cases for the FBI."
At this, Chris' expression softened. "Really? How can math help solve crimes?"
"Well, Professor Eppes has only ever said that he helps," the boy answered. "But some of the other students said that he writes these mad equations to predict where crimes will be committed, or where to find evidence that the criminal doesn't even know he left behind. My friend, Tina, was looking for Professor Eppes when she saw some blackboards filled with these equations. And you know, I think he helped out on that sniper case a while back. Found out about the copycats and stuff."
Chris looked fairly impressed. Don watched as the boy glanced down at his book, then look back up at the girl. "I don't even have Professor Eppes for a teacher. Do you think he'd mind if I asked him for help?"
The girl shook her head, smiling broadly.
"Sir? Are you going to order or what?"
Don's head snapped back around to the counter. He smiled ruefully when he realized that that harassed clerk was staring at him with poorly disguised irritation. He stepped forward and quickly ordered a couple of sandwiches, paid, collected the food, and moved away.
Fortunately, Don was only about half an hour late by the time he found Charlie in the quad, sitting cross-legged on a bench. He was bent over a notebook, scribbling furiously.
Don sat on the bench beside him. "Hey, sorry I'm late."
Charlie's head snapped up, and he smiled a greeting. He glanced at the bags that his brother held and smirked as he tucked his notebook inside his backpack. "Actually, seeing where you went, I'm surprised you got here as soon as you did. It's Wednesday." At Don's quizzical look, Charlie continued, "Coupon day. Fliers go out all over the campus for half-priced subs on Wednesdays."
Don nodded and passed Charlie his sub. He paused and watched Charlie as the younger man unwrapped his sub in his lap and popped a straw into his drink.
He had been so used to seeing his brother as a mathematician who occasionally consulted for the government that he had forgotten that Charlie was also a teacher. And from what he had heard in the deli, Charlie was a pretty damned good one at that.
Charlie glanced up and caught Don staring at him. "What?"
Don shook his head, smiling faintly. "Nothing."
Charlie nodded and bit into his sandwich. "So, any new cases come up? It's been pretty quiet for you lately. I'm afraid there's going to be nothing available to keep you out of trouble."
Don smirked. "Actually, I was thinking about sitting in on a class or something of yours."
Charlie gave a start, sending a tomato sliding out of his sandwich and into the wrapping on his lap. "I- what? A class?"
"What, is that so hard for you to believe?" Don asked.
Charlie stared at him curiously. "Actually, yeah. You've never wanted to sit in on any of my classes before. Why the sudden change of heart?"
Don shrugged. "I was thinking maybe it was time I start. Maybe I'll learn something."
It was Charlie's turn to smirk. "That'll be the day," he teased.
Don reached over and ruffled Charlie's hair. "Brat," he said affectionately. "Did you catch the game last night?"