NB: - This story reflects the secular views of the Eppes family towards the holiday season. Yes, they are Jewish, but like many secular Jews they choose not to boycott the season or their non-Jewish friends, and even have a Christmas/Hanukkah tree. This foible was also true of my Yiddish-speaking Grandparents who always threw a massive party around Christmas/Hanukkah time for all their friends of every religious persuasion.

Author - Lisa Paris - 2006

Disclaimer - I own no fractions, atoms or particles of Numb3rs. I really wish I owned Don.

Category K - Nothing here should really offend. Written from Alan's POV

The Rising of the Sun . . .

"Oh, the holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown . . ." Alan sang happily under his breath as he finished draping greenery around the fireplace. In spite of his Jewish background, he loved all the old Yuletide songs.

Part of the beauty of a house like this was that it leant itself perfectly to Christmas. He stood back and admired his handiwork with an engineer's critical eye. Perfect. The place looked perfect. And it didn't smell too bad either. The scent of pine and candle wax gave him a marvellous festive feeling; as did the wondrous combination of roasting turkey and warm eggnog which wafted tantalisingly out from the kitchen.

All he needed now was some special people to share this Christmas Eve with. As if on cue, the doorbell rang, and the first of his guests arrived.

"Merry Christmas!" It was his old friend Art Stanley and his wife. Of course, they were always the first to appear.

Alan ushered them in and hung up their coats, listening to their exclamations with pleasure. Even though he no longer owned the house, he was still proud of its artistic elegance. He and Margaret had furnished it so carefully. He recalled all the happy hours they'd spent scouring flea-markets and more expensive antique stores, searching for authentic, Arts and Crafts pieces, in-keeping with the house's décor. Oak framed pictures and Tiffany lamps, early 20th Century china from England. William Morris patterns and prints - their home had become an expensive hobby. But then birthdays and Christmases had never been a problem; he had always known exactly what to buy.

Alan sighed as he thought about Margaret. How he wished she could be here to share this. To witness how far Don and Charlie had come. How well their precious boys were now bonding together.

"Hey Dad."

Talking of his precious boys, here was one of them at least. It was Charlie. He peered around the door like a bright-eyed bird. "Won't be a minute, just got to take some work out to the garage." There were mysterious packages under his arm as he sidled out into the yard.

Alan smiled to himself. 'Work, my ass.' Charlie was no good at keeping secrets. He did the same thing every year. Hiding last minute Christmas presents out in the garage and forgetting to buy wrapping paper.

'Lucky I saw that two for one special, down at the store today.' Alan ladled out some more glasses of eggnog and went in search of Larry and Amita.

Amita was looking beautiful in a crimson velvet dress. She smiled a greeting at him and Alan shook his head. Sometimes he had to wonder what the heck was wrong with his youngest. Here she was, sweet and ripe for the picking, like a luscious, dark red cherry. She was even standing underneath the mistletoe he had hung more in hope than expectation. And where was Charlie? Where was his son? He was out there all alone in the garage. Probably surrounded by the inevitable numbers and fiddling with a little piece of chalk.

Alan heaved a sigh of frustration. Oh well, there was no point letting centuries of tradition go to waste. If his son was too busy to do the ritual honours, he would just have to act as Charlie's proxy. Folk had been kissing underneath the mistletoe since long before the birth of Christ. He might be getting on a bit, but he certainly wasn't dead. And besides – that really was a knockout red dress. Shame his errant son hadn't noticed.

He leaned forward and gave Amita a paternal kiss on the cheek. "Maybe when Charlie returns from whichever black hole appears to have swallowed him up out in the garage, he'll notice the mistletoe and do that again. With a little more Christmas spirit." He patted her fondly on the arm. "You're looking lovely, if I may say so."

"Thank you." Amita gave him an appreciative grin. She was used by now, to his sardonic sense of humour. "I may have to go fish him out of there. He probably got side-tracked by his boards."

"Mistletoe," said Larry, ruminatively, gazing up at the delicate white berries. "The magical plant of the Druids. The old Gaelic name was Uile-ice, which effectively means all-heal. It's a curious fact that even today, we're only just re-learning about it. Some of our most hopeful medical research is now focused on this ancient plant."

"Humpf," Alan snorted, as he watched Amita walk away. "Magical, you say? Too bad Charlie didn't get to focus on its mystical properties instead of heading straight for the garage. He just wasted a great opportunity to do some biological research of his own."

Larry's forehead creased for a moment as he pondered Alan's words. Enlightenment came after moment or two, and he permitted himself a small, puckish smile. "Ah, yes, I see exactly what you mean. The observation of which, leads one to the anticipatory deduction this would be an advantageous place to be standing. Especially when the FBI contingency walk through the front door."

"Advantageous is right," Alan answered him, gruffly. "So long as you don't try and kiss Don. If you do, you'll be spending the rest of the holidays in search of some all-heal of your own!"

"Hem," Larry cleared his throat, somewhat embarrassedly. "Not that I'm planning to um . . . kiss him, you understand, but I take it Don and the rest of his august team are coming?"

"Megan's coming," said Alan, a tad wickedly, enjoying the other man's discomfiture. "Actually, all of Don's august team are supposed to be coming. As a matter of fact, they're an hour late."

"Alan, is it okay if we watch the sports scores?" Art called him from the living room. "I promise we'll turn the TV off once we catch up on all the latest."

"May as well," Alan settled down on the couch and reached for the remote control. "Seeing as my older son hasn't seen fit to grace us with his presence yet."

He listened with half an ear to the scores and took pleasure in the ambience around him. It was Christmas Eve, he had a house full of friends, and more importantly, the precious gift of family. Or rather, half the precious gift of family. Alan amended the thought, somewhat, as there was still no sign of Don.

Charlie and Amita wandered back in from the garage. Was it his imagination, or had they been holding hands?

"D-Dad - " It was Charlie's voice, stuttering with fear. "On the TV . . ."

Alan looked up sharply and stared at the screen, unprepared for what he was seeing. He'd been dreaming of weddings and rose-covered arbours out in the back yard.

"We're bringing you some breaking news just in from our Spy in the Sky. An FBI vehicle and a stolen truck have been involved in a fatal pile-up. Eye witness reports state the truck hit the barrier and flipped over onto its side. The pursuing FBI vehicle was forced to swerve in an effort to avoid it. Two other vehicles were damaged in the incident which occurred on the Hollywood Freeway, at just after five pm, this evening. Early reports indicate at least two people have been confirmed dead at the scene, but it's unknown yet, whether the victims were law enforcement officers. Stay tuned for more updates as they keep coming in . . ."

"I'm sure it's got nothing to do with Don," Art sounded horribly uneasy. He didn't sound very convinced.

"Wouldn't we have heard by now?" Larry left his station under the mistletoe, his face alight with concern. "If by some chance, this terrible calamity was to involve our loved ones?"

Alan couldn't answer, he felt petrified. He just sat there, motionless with fear. Too frozen and heavy to get up from the couch. It was Don, somehow he knew it. He just knew it in his bones. His boy, his eldest boy was out there, tangled up in the wreckage. It was Christmas Eve and Donnie was out there. Bleeding, perhaps even dead. He willed himself to look over at the phone.

'Where would they take him . . . who should I call? Why haven't they contacted me yet?"

"Dad?" It was Charlie's voice again. He was trembling and uncertain. "I think we should try Don's cell."

"There's no point. He won't pick-up." Alan responded, bleakly. "Don't ask me how, I just know it. Donnie won't answer his phone."

The ring at the doorbell made them all jump. It was Amita who got up to answer it. Alan forced himself to his feet as David Sinclair walked dejectedly into the room. The agent's face was unusually grave and Alan's heart sank even further. He saw the dreadful confirmation he sought written in the other man's eyes.

"How bad is it?"

David cleared his throat awkwardly. "We don't know yet, Mister Eppes. He was unconscious when they took him to UCLA and I haven't heard anything since."

"I'll get my coat," Alan stumbled up heavily. He turned back, as if remembering his guests. "There's food. Probably better not to waste it . . ."

"It's all right." Amita took brisk charge of things. "Don't worry, I'll see to all that. Alan, you and Charlie go with David. Larry and I will take care of the house. Won't we, Larry?"

"Yes. Yes, of course." Larry seemed even more vague than usual. He ran his hand through his hair and looked distractedly at David. "I'm sorry, but I – um - have to ask, was anyone else on Don's team hurt?"

"Colby has a few bumps and bruises, but he got up and walked away from the wreck. Megan accompanied them both to the hospital, but don't worry, Larry, she's fine." David's tone was gentle. "We were following in the vehicle behind."

Larry watched as Alan and Charlie left, his thoughts at odds with one another. On one hand, he was filled with relief. On the other, he was concerned for his friends. He looked sadly up at the mistletoe which hung forlornly over the doorway. When it came to magical properties, they could certainly use a few now.


Lisa Paris – 2005