Title: Intervention Version 4.0: The Upgrade

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: Characters from the wildly popular CBS drama "numb3rs" are respectfully, and without personal profit, borrowed.


The night was cold. She stood shivering at the entrance to the alley. Her short hair was just long enough to lift in the slight breeze and blow into her eyes. She shook her head impatiently, and glanced nervously back toward the street as she continued to advance. There was no full moon to lend light to the dark night, and she was loathe to leave the comfort of the street lights behind her. She had no choice, however, and continued to advance toward the shadowy hulk of the dumpster located mid-alley.

It angered her that she had no choice, for she had long suffered from control issues. She was a professional, by now, at avoiding situations in which she was backed against the wall. Her options had to be clear, and the decision always had to be hers; it was that simple. She snorted in disgust, realizing how much alike they actually were.

A dilapidated shutter hanging half off a window on one of the buildings creaked and banged against the brick, and she jumped. Her hand shook as she trained her Mini Mag toward the sound, and when she deduced its cause, she stamped her foot in a day-old rain puddle and swore. "Freakin' idiots," she fumed. "Who the hell puts a window on the back of a building facing an alley, anyway!"

The muddy water splashed up her jeans almost to the knee, and she worried again that he had forced them to sleep outside, last night. Her boys were too delicate for that, and the freezing rain might have…dampened…them. Her stomach churned, and she felt the familiar heaviness in her chest. Over the last week, it had become part of her, this feeling. It was as if a boulder had been surgically implanted between her lungs, and it often threatened to take her breath away.

She desperately wanted it to be over. It had to end now, her heart cried. She knew that she would not survive another night without them. She smiled, tremulously, as she inched forward through the alley, remembering. Oh, to have The Talker draped over her feet just one more time! To feel him kneading and massaging her aching legs through the blankets! She swallowed around the lump in her throat and imagined that she could hear The Rotund One, purring richly into her left ear after commandeering her pillow. She emitted a plaintive sob, seeing in her mind's eye the shy dipping of his head into her waiting hand. Her memory played his whispered meow, and she recalled how it had taken him weeks, after she had rescued him, to understand that there were expressions of happiness that could escape him. She laughed, seeing him frighten himself nearly unconscious the first time he purred.

Talker had never had that problem, although he too was rescued. He was made of sterner stuff. He was not so much a "survivor" as an "adapter". For him, moving from the blackberry bush to having long conversations with her had been easy. It was as if he had always expected her to save him.

Yet, despite their origins, they grew old and comfortable, now. She frowned, knowing that they could not go back out there. Talker would be speechless; and The Rotund One would drag his stomach along the ground and look about in confusion as the bus ran over him.

She was crying in earnest now, and stumbling through the alley, and very nearly walked right past the rendezvous point. Regaining her wits at the last second, she halted at the dumpster and wiped her nose on her sleeve. She couldn't wait for him to give her final instructions. "Please!", she wailed. "Don! I did everything you asked! I let you have a nice vacation with your Dad, and Charlie, and I didn't hurt anybody!" She was begging, now. "Please, please, give them back to Mama!"

A head popped out the dumpster beside her, and she took an involuntary step back. Although she couldn't see who it was in the darkness, she recognized his voice. "You dumped Charlie in the river," he accused, "and put a shotgun in his chest. You made him seasick for two days. You…you…you MINI WHUMPED!!!"

She reached frantically into the pocket of her jacket and withdrew a handful of bills. She offered them to him. "I did the best I could," she swore. "I even brought you this!"

A much more powerful flashlight than her Mini Mag focused its beam on her hand. She heard genuine confusion in his voice. "What the hell?"

She looked at her own hand and saw the sewer, gas and electric bills. She tossed them on the ground and reached in her other pocket. "Sorry, sorry," she rushed out. "Wrong bills." When she was sure she had the fistful of twenties, she tried again. "Here. Take this. Take it all. Just let me have them!"

A knife stabbed through her heart when she heard Talker respond to her voice with a question. "Charlie! I told you to keep them quiet," Don said into the dumpster.

A curly head appeared just below his and sneezed. "U doe U'm 'lerjig," he sniffed, and he struggled to lift a large cat carrier over the lid of the dumpster. "Grab da bunny," he ordered. "Uh need sum tissoo."

FraidyCat's heart and feet leapt simultaneously, and she lurched forward to drag the carrier to her, throwing the twenties in the general direction of Don's face. It was unfortunate that The Rotund One was crammed in the carrier along with Talker, as this made the contraption weigh more than the author herself. The carrier sunk solidly into her bosom and toppled her over backwards. "Uubbs," whispered Charlie. "Sowwy."

As the two heads disappeared below the edge of the dumpster, FraidyCat struggled with frozen fingers to release the hinged door. At length, it sprang open, and she jammed both arms inside, not even noticing the skin that rolled off her wrists as she connected with the edges of the carrier. Talker described their ordeal, massaging the raw flesh, while The Rotund One shyly dipped his head into her waiting hand.

She lay on the ground and felt a more welcome weight on her chest than the one she had entered the alley with. "I know," she promised Talker, when she could get in a word. "I am so sorry this happened." In the dark, her eyes narrowed. "Those dudes will be sorry, too, believe me! I have not yet begun to whump."