I do not own the Numb3rs characters.

Chapter 1

It was not good enough. Nothing he did was good enough. Once again, Charlie had helped Don and his team to track down a killer.

This case was especially hard. Charlie understood that it was rough on everyone involved in the case. He had spoke to a few of the parents of the murdered children. He was driven because of the pain of the parents and made finding the answer his main focus for weeks.

The Professor had others take over his classes to focus on nothing but the case. The entire team was working nearly non stop and sleep as well as tempers were in short supply. They had existed on caffeine and adrenalin. Ran down any and all leads, had pulled old unsolved child murders to look for an answer wherever they could, but it all lead nowhere.

Don snapped at all of the team at some point during the investigation, but it seemed to Charlie that his brother was blaming Charlie for the delays and dead ends to finding the killer. With every new victim, Don cast an accusing eye at Charlie in front of his white board as he tossed down more crime photos of dead children.

Finally, a break came when Charlie predicted, accurately when and where the killer would kidnap another child from and with a dozen agents ready and waiting, the suspect was apprehended as he again grabbed a child in an open and populated area. With the DNA found from the victims, they had a solid case. After nearly three months, the case was ready to close.

While Charlie had worked many cases for the FBI, NSA and other agencies where there was little to no sleep or breaks from the numbers, never had he felt the complete shut down at the end that he did this time. He was mentally and physically exhausted.

After the interrogation, Don sent his crew home, telling them to take a long weekend and report back Monday morning. Charlie waited in the conference room for Don and after a while wandered out to look for him. Don had left and not said a word to Charlie.

It was not just that Charlie did not even have a ride home, it was not that he expected a pat on the back or even a thank you, but he did expect that Don would say something, anything to him regarding the case, the time he gave and the effort or just to talk about it to help with the closure.

Charlie had given this case everything he had and his own job and responsibilities were put on hold. For as much as Don did not seem to appreciate what Charlie had done it was a fact that the case would not have closed without Charlie's help. The murders were brutal, the stress to find the killer overwhelming. He could not help feeling that his brother had let him down now.

Charlie took a cab home. His dad was out and there was no note. There was no reason why Alan would expect either son at the house that night. Charlie drug himself up the stairs and got out of his clothes, into some sweat pants and collapsed into bed. He was asleep instantly.

When he woke up the next day, Charlie was not surprised to find that he had slept most of it away. He heard the rumbling of his stomach and could not remember the last time he had eaten and he felt periods of dizziness. He took a quick shower and headed down to the kitchen. Just as his foot hit the bottom step, Alan walked in the door. "Hey stranger, I didn't know you were home." Alan noted the dark circles under Charlie's eyes. He had to made a great effort to not gasp at the way Charlie's clothes hung off his skeletal frame.

"Hi Dad, I got home last night while you were out," Charlie said with a smile that did not reach his eyes. "The killer has been caught and the case is finally over. I'm just headed to the kitchen to get something to eat before I call work to let them know I will be resuming classes on Monday."

Alan was relieved that the case was over and hoped it would mean that he would be seeing more of his sons. He had been making plans for when life was in the household was normal again. The senior Eppes had been seeing a woman he recently met through a mutual friend. Pauline was a widow, near his age with three grown children. She also had a few grandchildren. She had certainly been helpful for the lonely hours when Alan was not working or doing volunteer work. He was looking forward to her finally meeting his boys.

Alan thought a barbeque would be a great time for them to meet. Besides his sons he had planned to invite Don's team along with Larry and Amita. Amita was leaving soon and would be teaching at Harvard. It could be a joint purpose get together.

There had not been any word from Don over the weekend. Charlie spend the time catching up on much need rest and his father spent a good bit of time coaxing him to 'eat just a bit more'.

Monday morning, Charlie went in early to get back to his teaching. He knew that things would be hectic with his classes. Finals were fast approaching and judging by the grades he saw when looking over the student records, a very large percentage of his students would just not be ready.

His first week back his students were taking up all of the free time he had during the day for extra help, advise and tutoring. With having different teachers during the case, the extra help that Dr. Eppes was normally very generous with was not shared by all of the teachers, especially fill-ins who had their own classes to worry about.

Every night Charlie would get home late and every morning he was out the door before the sun was even up. The professor was looking forward to the time when the finals were finished, and have some down time.