Title: If You Don't Know Me By Now
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.
A/N: The Tribe Has Spoken. My Oneshot is now a story; no promises regarding length. (First chapter basically the same, but I want to keep it all together.)
Don looked up when he heard a book drop on David Sinclair's desk, then glanced at his watch. His voice reflected his surprise. "David, I didn't expect you to come in until tomorrow morning. It's already almost 3."
David wandered toward Don's desk, still going through a fistful of phone messages. "I was sort of hoping you wouldn't see me." He looked up and smiled. "Haven't even been home, yet. Came straight here from the airport."
Don raised an eyebrow. "Why? Megan and I have just been catching up on paperwork for the last week. I even sent her home early, today. No new assignments with half the team gone." He made a show of looking behind David. "I see Colby doesn't share your sense of dedication."
David laughed. "Colby didn't leave his house keys in his desk, either. I haven't been home because I can't get in."
Don leaned back in his chair and smiled. "So…how was Quantico? You guys learn anything?"
David sat on the edge of Don's desk. "Can't spend a week at the Academy and not learn something — I picked up some things in Investigative Training I'm anxious to put into practice. I even started a written report for you on the flight back."
Don was impressed. "That's great, David. I need another report."
David grinned. "Don't worry. I think all Colby learned was which entrees to avoid at the cafeteria."
Don laughed and David thought he saw a curly head pop out of a conference room. "Is Charlie here? I thought you said there were no new cases."
Don shrugged and looked at his watch again. "I dunno. Is he still here? He's on Spring Break this week, so he's been spending the week helping Admin implement some new cataloguing system. It's supposed to streamline cross-referencing between cases. Solitary bits of information will be pulled from case files and filtered through some really scary program Charlie developed that will find potential patterns where no one is even looking."
David caught Charlie's attention and lifted a hand in greeting. "So when I enter data that my embezzler just happened to have seven Jack Russell terriers, six months down the road, when Martin is investigating some dog breeder's murder, that fact would pop up?"
Don shrugged again. "Something like that. Not quite that obscure, I hope. Every case would be popping patterns off the map. I don't really understand it, myself. Charlie tried to explain it…"
"Explain what? Hey, David, good to see you. Don said you and Colby wouldn't be back until tomorrow."
Don looked up at his brother. "I was just trying to tell David why you're here this week."
Charlie shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He looked at David. "Don't worry. Admin is beta testing for me, on a limited basis, and they will be responsible for all the data input. I still have quite a bit of R&D to do on this before Agents are using it on a daily basis."
"You got the FBI to serve as a beta tester?" David wasn't sure he heard correctly.
Charlie smiled serenely. "Someday I may share my secrets."
David laughed, then quickly snapped his fingers. "Hey, Charlie, I'm glad I ran into you. I got something in Washington." He stood and walked to his desk, picked up the book Don heard drop earlier, and rejoined the brothers at Don's desk.
Charlie was nonplussed. "You got me a present?"
David smiled. "Not exactly. More like I want you to give me one."
Don and Charlie both looked at him silently, waiting for him to explain.
"We had a few hour to kill, after we drove into Washington to catch our flight at Dulles," started David. We went to a sidewalk café for coffee, and there was this bookstore in half the building."
"I don't get that," interrupted Charlie. "This mixture of liquid and books, the last few years. Liquid that stains, yet. Why would you want someone dripping coffee all over your books?"
Don sighed in frustration. "Charlie…"
Charlie shrugged, looked at David. "I'm just saying. Anyway. Please, go on."
David grinned. "It's okay, Charlie, we drank the coffee first. Anyway, I was browsing the store, and I found this." He held the book out to Charlie. "I probably could have found one here, if I'd known about it, but I grabbed it when I saw it. I was hoping you'd sign it, for my niece? The one who's going to major in math at UCLA next fall?" He turned his attention proudly to Don. "I'll give it to her for graduation. She'll be floored."
Charlie looked at the book in his hand and reddened slightly. "Uh…geez…sure, David…" He looked at Don. "Can I borrow a pen?"
Instead, Don reached out and took the book. He looked intently at the cover:
Falling Victim to the Math Wars
By Dr. Charles E. Eppes
Stunned, he opened the book and looked at the title page, a brief introduction:
Mathematician Dr. Charles Eppes explores the tragic fall-out resulting
from the debate that originated in California and now boils throughout
the country. Should children be taught, in the traditionalist view,
to master basic math skills before they attempt to grasp at concepts?
Or should they, as the reformists claim, concentrate on the application
and "real use" of mathematics?
Dr. Eppes explores the hypothesis that the Math Wars, raging now
for the last decade, have succeeded only in a generation
ill-prepared for either avenue.
Don saw the publication data on the opposite page. This book was published last year. Last year?
He didn't know what to say. He closed the book and handed it back to Charlie, along with a pen. Charlie tried to catch his eye, but Don looked at his desk.
"Sharelle, right?", Charlie asked David, and Sinclair nodded and then spelled the name for him. After Charlie had inscribed a note on the flyleaf, he signed it and gave the book back to David. "Can't say I've ever been asked to do that before…except by other mathematicians."
David smiled. "Thanks, Charlie. This is great." He looked down at Don. "I'm heading home, unless?"
Don waved a hand. "No, fine, go…bright and early, right?"
"Right," David agreed. He crossed again to his desk, opened a drawer and withdrew his keys. He pocketed them and headed for the elevator. "Thanks again, Charlie!"
"No problem." Charlie watched him board the elevator and waited for the doors to close before he looked back at Don, who was boring a hole in his desk. "Um…is there a problem?"
Don finally looked at him and glared. Charlie involuntarily took a step back.
"You published a book. Not one of your doctoral theses, but a whole, friggin' book. How could you do that?"
Charlie looked at him, confused. "What? You know that university professors are expected to publish…"
"Articles in trade journals, Charlie! I knew about those. How could you not tell us you were having a book published? It was just last year, I thought you and I were doing okay by then…"
Charlie looked at him silently for a moment, then sighed. "If by 'okay' you mean that I was helping you on your cases."
Don stood up and stepped closer to Charlie, who only took another step back. "What does that mean?"
Charlie looked him directly in the eyes and Don was struck by his brother's openness as well as the depth of pain he saw in those eyes. "That's what we talk about, Don. Your cases. How anything I may or may not be working on might relate to your cases."
Don felt his anger burning. "That's not true."
"No? Maybe you're counting the evenings you come for dinner, and do Dad and I the favor of letting us try to encourage you when things aren't going as well as you'd like. On a case, of course."
Don crossed his arms. "Don't be an ass."
Charlie crossed his arms.
They stared at each other.
"Do you remember the case, probably almost two years ago now…black market organ harvesting. Turned out a whole syndicate was involved, operating in five states." Charlie broke the silence first.
Don frowned. "Of course I do. It was one of the first cases you helped us on, and it took forever to solve. Three homeless men died, just carved up and left in alleys…"
Charlie nodded. "You needed a lot of encouragement, during that case. Came over for dinner a lot, even if you were going back to the office later."
Don's anger rose another notch. "Dammit, Charlie, what's the point?"
It was not possible, but it seemed like his eyes got even sadder. "It was one of those dinners when I told you. You even said 'Congratulations', but I could tell you weren't really listening. Asked me something about the case and the patterns I was searching right after."
Don defended himself. "It was a horrible case, Charlie. I remember your being upset by it too, and you don't see everything I do. Why didn't you tell me again, later?"
"I may have mentioned it."
"You came to watch a ball game, that night. Just put the Reynolds' kidnapping file in 'Cold Cases', and that made you crazy. You were not happy that Dad was going to a faculty dinner with me."
Don nodded, remembering. "And he didn't, after he saw me. Dad understood that I needed some down time, some family time. He stayed home and watched the game with me." He was angry enough to throw in a cheap shot. "Which is more than you did. It was only a dinner."
Charlie looked at him.
"In my honor," he finally said softly. "For the book."
Don looked stunned again.
"I called, and asked if you'd like to go. Had to leave you a voice mail. Which you never answered."
Don raised one of his crossed arms and ran a hand nervously through his hair. "That can't be true," he said, but looked at Charlie and knew that it was. He tried to find his anger, again. "Sometimes…sometimes you need to yell louder than the job, Charlie. How was I supposed to know?"
Charlie lowered his own arms, put his hands back in his pockets. He still looked sad — but the resignation in his eyes frightened Don even more. "Don't worry about it, Don. If you don't know me by now — you probably don't want to. But that's okay." Charlie looked away. "Well. It's not okay. But I'm accepting it."
Charlie sighed and turned to leave. He looked back over his shoulder and saw a speechless Don staring at him. "Really, don't worry. We're doing okay."