Title: Hidden Talent
Author: Mooncat 99
Summary: It shouldn't surprise Don anymore and still he's floored to find out about yet another talent his little brother has - and masters. Don's POV.
Warnings: None though there are a few deep emotions involved.
Disclaimer: I do not owe the characters of 'Numb3rs'.
Copyright: 2007, Sarah Diaz
He didn't know anymore how exactly he had ended up in a bar, taking some much needed R&R with his team. Well, that in itself wasn't what was so surreal at the situation. What made it a bit strange though was that his little brother sat between him and Granger, even nursing some mixed drink - and not looking as if he was already three sheets into the wind after a couple of sips.
It had been a spontaneous thing, really. Their last case had been long and - displeasing to name it lightly. But they've gotten the bad guys, thanks to a large part to Charlie's help - again. They've been in the bullpen, rounding the case up. There was still some paperwork to do, but the worst of it was over. Granger had suggested to go celebrate, Megan had found it an excellent and therapeutic idea, David didn't need much convincing and Don had sensed that they wanted their team-leader with them this time. And hell, a quiet beer among friends and teammates really had sounded like something good.
Then they had remembered that Charlie was still there as well, adding some last finesses to the equation he had used to help them catch the sick bastard they had been after this time for further references. Immediately, Don felt catapulted into his life-long dilemma: Forget that he was the big brother for once and just go and have some fun - or be the big brother and even talk his friends into taking his baby brother along or go without having fun and instead hang out with his brother.
To be fair though, things between him and Charlie were much better than how they had been when they've gone to high school. They were also a lot better than in the time he had been in Fugitive Retrieval and then Albuquerque. And definitely better than in the three last months their mother had had or the following months after her death.
Over the past two years, he and Charlie had managed to work on their relationship big time, getting to know each other better, the men they've become. Don could honestly say that his brother was a large part of his life nowadays. Hell, he was ready to admit that somehow, Charlie managed to become his friend along on the way - fast moving to actually take over the empty spot of best friend.
Sometimes though, like right then, the past few years were forgotten and Don felt like they were back being kids - him wanting to hang out with his friends and ever-annoying Charlie always wanting to tag along with his big brother and the guys.
This time he was saved from making a decision though as Charlie simply wished them fun, saying he had to catch up on a ton of his own work. Reminding Don of course that his little brother actually had a job himself and each time he consulted for the FBI, for him, Charlie took away time from the work he was supposed to do. Teaching at CalSci, working on his own math and whatever else he did as a mathematician. Keeping that in mind, Don was already about to change his mind and go with Charlie instead of his team when Granger took care of the dilemma and told Charlie straight out that he shouldn't be such an idiot and of course he'd come with them. After all, he was as a part of the team as the rest of them.
The look on Charlie's face had been priceless and he was pretty sure that at least one of his team members had taken a quick picture with the camera in his cell phone.
At the same time though, Don felt another pang of guilt. Colby was right. Charlie was a part of the team, perhaps not officially, but in any other sense of the word. He worked as a consultant on most of their cases now, though that had a lot to do with him in the first place. With Charlie's math, Don's team had quickly risen to become one of the teams with the best success rate. Not just in LA, but nation-wide. Which meant that naturally, they got more and more delicate and complicated cases handed, the simpler ones going to other teams who couldn't regularly profit of one of the world's top mathematicians consulting for them.
Still a few years ago, Don would probably had been bothered that once again, Charlie managed to best him with his genius. This time even in the one thing Don was good at. Not anymore though. He knew that while Charlie and him worked on the same cases, they still worked on two very different aspects of the same task. He had the training and instinct necessary to track down criminals and bring them down while Charlie saw patterns and worked them to his advantages to link crimes, give them the pointers where to look instinct couldn't give you, enable them to find a perp faster and more of them. One alone didn't get the bad guy - combined though... Hence the extraordinary success rate. No, if anything, Don was just damn proud of his little brother.
Problem was just that Don never told Charlie all that. He seldom praised him, not in front of him, he obviously had neglected to give Charlie the feeling that he indeed was a member of their team and, if he wanted to be brutally honest, he somehow even came to think of his brother's help in his cases as a matter of course, forgetting all too often that Charlie wasn't working full-time for the FBI actually. Or wasn't just consulting for the FBI for that matter. Though Don really wondered how much more consulting Charlie actually did at the moment - from how he saw it, Charlie was either working with them, or over at campus teaching or at home working on his own studies.
Anyway, here he sat now, joking around with his team - and like initially feared, Charlie may sit among them, but he was still an outsider at the bottom line. Yeah, he was part of the team. Yeah, his agents came to be Charlie's friends as well. But there were still worlds between a mathematician and an FBI-Agent and by Charlie's unusual quietness, Don guessed his little brother was well aware of the differences between him and them.
With Charlie, it always had been him and them. And it hadn't taken long for either Don or Charlie to realize that, Don as being one of 'them' but at the same time also being Charlie's big brother and having the need to protect him from them and their cruel haunts. And Charlie... Charlie being him, his head filled with numbers and seeing patterns everywhere, making him oh so different from anyone else.
Sometimes, Don wondered how his little brother could live like that. He was in law enforcement. He may not know numbers the way Charlie did, but he did know his own statistics. Especially the one of suicides among the small percentage of people who were considered to be a genius. If your brother is among that small group, you automatically wonder. And whenever you think about the unusually high suicide rate you feel that cold dread that one day, your brother would become himself a number in that statistic.
Each time there was a call of a possible suicide at CalSci, Don's stomach would turn. He had put in a request to get notified of them after Charlie had asked him to look into the suicide of one of their students, Finn Montgomery. Well, actually almost begging him to prove that it hadn't been a suicide. His brother's insistence and ferocity then hadn't sit well with Don. Making him wonder if Charlie ever had considered to take his own life. And just how close he had been to actually doing it.
He never had asked.
To be frank, Don didn't really want to know. For once, he preferred to pretend that he had no idea that there may have been shadows lurking in Charlie's past that could have taken his lively little brother away from him. For all he knew, Charlie loved and enjoyed life more than anyone else he had ever met and would never even think about taking his own life.
Colby was telling some tale from boot camp in Quantico, causing all of them to laugh, remembering a similar embarrassing but no doubt funny incident while their training. Well, all of them except Charlie. Sighing inwardly, he glanced at the profile of his brother, seeing immediately that Charlie had spaced out on them, his mind probably lost in some mathematical problem or something. Not fully, he had smiled at Colby's story, at least a little, but Don knew that look in his eyes and knew from experience that the more time would pass, the more distant Charlie would became.
Perhaps it was time to go home.
Before he could make a suggestion into that direction, Charlie was startled out of whatever he was thinking about by Colby giving him a hard slap onto the back that sent the unsuspecting man jerking forward.
"Hey!" Charlie protested, glaring at Colby.
"No spacing out on us, Whiz Kid!" Colby just shrugged.
"I wasn't spacing out," Charlie protested.
Colby wasn't the only one who snorted at that statement, Don noticed, grinning himself.
Charlie frowned. "I really wasn't," he emphasized.
"Sure, that why you got that look you always get when your mind jumps to some problem or seeing a new pattern," David laughed.
Shaking his head, Charlie leaned back in his chair, taking another sip. "You can think what you want. I was just watching the dance floor."
Again the FBI-Agents let out a disbelieving snort.
"Sure you did," Colby snickered.
Charlie's only response was an eyeroll, causing the others at the table to chuckle. Relaxing, Don settled back comfortably into his chair, nipping at his beer. Perhaps he had a bit overdone it with his worry there for a moment. Something that happened on a regular basis when his little brother was involved, Don knew that. Theoretically. Practically, he just couldn't help it. It was in the job description of being a big brother, ingrained in his very nature.
"Yeah, come on - I may even believe that you've watched the dance floor - I'm sure there were lots and lots of patterns to watch, huh, Charlie?" Megan joined the picking and Don grinned.
No matter how old he'd grew, he would never tire on picking on his little brother - or enjoy good-naturedly picking of his brother's part by friends. That too was a part of being the big brother. An extremely fun-part he always had enjoyed very much.
"Actually Megan, you're right. Dancing is one of the most beautiful forms of repeated but differential patterns you can find in human activities," Charlie nodded and that light went on in his eyes like every time he started to talk about math. "And I'm sure you'd marvel at the information you get on a person simply by watching what pattern a dancer chooses, which one he uses the most, what set of patterns he uses to gain outmost success."
"I'm sure, Charlie," Megan nodded, smiling. "Still it's more fun to actually do it yourself than just watch though."
"Well yeah, naturally," Charlie grinned and suddenly something glinted there in his eyes that Don couldn't quite place. "But you've got to stake out the premises first before you make a bust, don't you?"
His comparison brought the FBI-Agents to give him a curious look.
"Whiz Kid, you not thinking of going down there, don't you? Go dancing?" Colby asked, shaking his head. "You probably had a sip too much there. I've seen geeks dance. Trust me. It's not a pretty sight. Listen to your buddy here: Save yourself that embarrassment."
"I'm touched by your concern, Granger," Charlie replied dryly. "But I think I'll take my chances. Trust me - they're in my favor, tonight."
And to everyone's surprise, he actually stood up, removing his jacket to hang it over his chair.
Colby sighed sadly. "It's your downfall. Tried to warn you." He made a face. "Better hope the ladies don't watch too closely, Whiz Kid. You may never get laid again otherwise."
For that remark Colby earned himself a smack upside the head by Megan and a warning kick into his shine from Don.
Charlie paused briefly to look at him and instead of getting that wounded look Don had expected, Charlie just laughed. "Au contraire, mon ami. I very much plan to get laid tonight. Watch and learn, Granger."
Thus said he sauntered over to the stairs that led down to the dance floor, leaving four slacked jaws staring after him behind.
No, no, no, his kid brother had not just said that. He must have misheard him. Charlie had not indicated that he...
Don caught a glimpse of Megan's wide eyes, David's open mouth and Colby's flabbergasted expression on his face.
Oh yeah, he had.
"Wait - did Whiz Kid just say..." Colby stammered and despite his own trouble to process Charlie's parting comment, he had to grin.
Too bad they were all too startled to think of taking a picture of Colby's face.
"He sure did," David nodded, more calmly.
"Guys, look," Megan called out softly and the men followed her gaze - to find Charlie who securely walked through the moving bodies across the dance floor, approaching a woman in a black short mini and white shoulder-free top with long black hair.
Colby let out a low whistle. "That's some hot babe. Jeez, Whiz Kid will go so down."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," Megan murmured and sure enough, not even after barely two minutes talking to the girl, Charlie led her onto the dance floor by her hand, just as the current song began to die down.
Part of Don was with Colby - Charlie's mind was amazing but his physical abilities... he never had been that good at sports, thank God, though he wasn't that bad either, especially in basket ball. And let's face it - his body was slender, missed muscles. He couldn't imagine that his little brother would give a good dancer, really not... Charlie probably had just wanted to prove himself to Colby. Something he seldom did, but from time to time, his ingenious brother felt the need to. He was a guy after all, genius or not. So Don wasn't sure if he really wanted to watch his brother make a fool out of himself. But his eyes were glued to the smaller figure of his little brother anyway and he sighed when Charlie just stood there as the first beats of the next song were ringing through the boxes. He recognized the song and winced in sympathy. Great - a fast one. Poor Charlie. Then again, Charlie had gotten himself into this one all on his own. Besides, if anything, he was pretty damn sure that it would give excellent stuff to use for blackmailing and serious mocking.
Down on the floor, Charlie chose that moment to start moving - in a way. His fingers of the right hand ran up the woman's arms to her head where his hand vanished beneath the dark hair to the base of her neck while his left arm circled her waist. And then, in a quick, smooth move, he dipped the woman back. Ever so slowly, Charlie brought her up again, his left hand moving to take the lady's right hand into his, the right hand stroking down her back. The moment his fingers clasped around the hand, the slow intro changed to a fast beat and with that first beat, Charlie began to move in earnest, circling with his partner clockwise. Only for a few seconds though because already, his left arm raised and the lady spun out and spun back again, though this time, they were in an open position. What followed next was too fast for Don to track in detail, he just knew that Charlie was whirling the women across the dance floor in a rapid series of complicated figures that gave him more and more space to move into even more complex figures that needed space.
No, correction: he danced her across the dance floor.
"Why did you never tell us just what a great dancer Charlie is?"
It took a moment for Megan's words to register with Don. He shrugged, not wanting to admit that he honestly had had no idea that Charlie didn't just know how to dance but that he was actually moving like a pro down there. He didn't know much about dancing but he knew how it looked when someone performed something he had yearlong practice in. Training. The way Charlie danced down there - every movement in total control, every gesture performed with conviction and calculation, totally in tune not only with his partner but with the music as well - oh yeah, that was definitely not the first time Charlie danced.
Suddenly, the fast beat slowed abruptly and with it, Charlie whirled his lady around and then she fell backwards so rapidly that Don was convinced that she'd crash with the back of her head hard onto the floor. But only a foot away from the floor, she stopped, seemingly floating in the air there for a moment until Don took notice that her neck rested on the back of Charlie's forearm and in that position he kept her for a few beats, apparently not having any problems to support her entire weight with only one arm. He could see Charlie's face, the way he smiled down at the woman and it was so male that Don actually sat up a bit.
When exactly had Charlie grown up so much to give a woman such an expression?
Okay, Don knew that Charlie was no monk. He had dated, had had girlfriends but still - when he watched him with Amita or other woman that tried to flirt with him Charlie always acted so clumsily that Don somehow had come to the conclusion that Charlie wasn't that experienced with women after all, perhaps even intimidated by them. But that look he had just given his dance partner was anything but clumsy or inexperienced or shy for that matter. It was pure male. It was pure sex.
"Jeez," David muttered somewhere beside him and from the corner of his eyes, he could see Megan lick her lips.
The music built up again and slowly, Charlie rose, his lady still dipped back and held up solely by his right arm. Just as the fast beat took over once again, Charlie had her on her own two feet again and spun her into a series of spins. By now, a small circle had formed around them, the other dancers on the floor recognizing that they had a pro among them and giving him space. Not quite stopping their own dance but Don could see that they watched Charlie and his partner closely. He couldn't blame them. Charlie was giving quite a show down there.
Where the hell had his little brother learned to dance like that? And when had he learned that, gotten all the experience and practice to now be able to dance like that? And most importantly - why the heck had he had no idea that his brother could dance at all and dance like that on top of it?
Okay, so yeah, after they both had left home to go for college, they sure had lost contact a bit, only talking occasionally on the phone and usually not for very long. And yeah, Don admitted that he still had little idea just what Charlie had done in all the years they had been apart. But still... He was an FBI-Agent, wasn't he? Shouldn't he know more about his own brother than he did about the actual perp of the week?
Sure, Charlie in return didn't know that much about Don's life before his return to LA either, but he knew by now the most important parts. Of course, Charlie had actually bothered to ask Don about that time. Whereas Don...
Shit. He had never bothered to ask, hadn't he? While he had made an effort to get to know Charlie better again after his return to LA and especially after Charlie started to work so often as a consultant for the FBI he had never even thought about learning more of Charlie's past. Somehow he had thought it wasn't that important.
Silently, he watched his little brother dance, took in how relaxed and at ease he suddenly seemed, something Charlie was almost never. The numbers in his head wouldn't let him. And, relaying more on the agent in him as the brother, he even forced himself to acknowledge the ease with which Charlie used his skills as a dancer to seduce the woman in his arms. The agent knew without doubt that Charlie hadn't been kidding earlier - if he wanted, he'd definitely get lucky tonight. The brother in him chose to rather not think about it, having trouble to wrap his mind around the fact that his little brother actually had the talent and will to be so suave and seducing.
The music finished with a boom and found Charlie frozen, slightly leaning back, the woman flush against his body, her arms around his neck and their faces only inches apart, staring intently into their eyes. It was a look that had nothing to do with dancing anymore but everything with sex.
"Oh man - looks like Whiz Kid needs a room and that real fast," Colby muttered, complete awe in his voice. "Can't believe it."
"Wouldn't have thought the kid had it in him," David nodded, similarly stunned.
Megan chuckled, said nothing though and Don got the impression that she, though also surprised at Charlie's dancing skills, wasn't actually that surprised about him scoring tonight.
"Charlie's not a kid anymore," Don said quietly, more to himself than anyone else.
No, he wasn't. He was thirty, a man in every sense of the word and it was high time that Don got his head around that fact.
The music changed to something slow and straightening, Charlie brought himself and his partner into position again and they continued to dance - not just a simply swaying like most would do, but again real moves, figures.
On the balcony, the FBI-Agents resumed their own conversation but Don tuned most of it out, watching Charlie. The rhythm of the music changed several times but each time, Charlie changed his rhythm with ease as well, proving that Charlie wasn't just good in one dance - he was good in them all. After perhaps half an hour he led the woman off the dance floor, over to the bar where he quickly ordered something for her. They exchanged a few words and laughing, Charlie backed away and headed back to the stairs leading up to the balcony.
Three minutes later he was back at their table, sweaty, thirsty and grinning like a fool.
"That were some pretty hot moves, Whiz Kid," Colby commented, eyeing the slender curly head. "Respect."
Charlie grinned and reached for his drink, gulping the rest of it down. "It's called dancing, Granger. You should try it once. I guarantee you: you can dance, you get the ladies," he easily said and grabbed his jackets. "Now, gentlemen, lady," he nodded at Megan. "I'm out of here. Thanks for the drink, David."
"Wait, how you'll get home?" Don asked automatically, feeling like an idiot as soon as the words had left his mouth.
His brother gave him a strange look. "Don't worry. I'll just take a cab. Or the metro." He shrugged. "See you."
And already, Charlie was gone. They watched how he made his way back to the woman he had danced with and then they left together.
"Charlie was right - you could learn something from him, Granger," David chuckled, earning himself a punch into his arm from Colby.
It took a moment for Don to realize, that Megan had talked to him. Pulling himself together, he gave her a lopsided grin. "Sure. I'm going for another beer. Anyone else want something?"
With the order for two more beers and a coke he soon left to go for the bar, aware that Megan was following him with his eyes. He really liked her and the profiler definitely was a big asset to the team - but it could get to be a bit annoying when you ended up being analyzed all the time.
He didn't need a profiler to tell him that there's still a lot of things that he didn't knew about his little brother. And that it was on him to change that fact.
Something, Don had every intention to do. After thirty years, he figured it was about time to get to know his little brother.
Once he had come to the decision, he didn't waste much more time. The next day was slow, thankfully no new case coming in and so Don used the opportunity to leave the office a bit early the next day, driving straight out to CalSci.
Half an hour later, Don was standing in front of his brother's closed office door, contemplating if he should knock or not. Usually, the door was open and only closed if Charlie either had a student with him or was working on something he needed extra concentration for. Before he came to a solution though, the matter was taken out of his hand by the door opening and a student backing out of Charlie's office, almost bumping right into Don.
"Thank you so much, Professor Eppes. I think I've got it finally now," the young guy rambled.
Charlie came into Don's view, smiling. "I think so too, Gerald. You weren't that far off. Read the texts I pointed out to you and make the exercises and I'm sure the next exam will prove to be a lot better."
"I hope so. Okay, by Professor!" Gerald nodded enthusiastically and turned, this time indeed bumping right into Don. "Oh sorry," he mumbled an excuse but already, he had hurried away, vanishing around a corner, leaving Don slightly scowling after him.
Charlie chuckled. "Gerald is always in quite a hurry, I fear. Hey Don," he greeted his brother and turned to go back to his desk.
"Hey Buddy." Entering the office, Don moved over to the chair in front of Charlie's desk and plopped down. "You expecting more students or was that the last one?"
Leaning against the window board, Charlie shook his head. "Nah, Gerald was the last one. Why? Already got a new case you need my help for?"
"Nope, it's been quiet all day," Don replied.
Charlie raised an eyebrow and gave him an expectant look.
"What?" Don asked, frowning.
His brother's eyebrow rose a bit higher. "Uh - then what are you doing here?"
Don shrugged. "Thought I'd come by, see what you're up to. Any plans for tonight?"
The other eyebrow went up as well. "No, nothing specifically." He narrowed his eyes. "Why?"
Giving another shrug, Don sent his brother a crooked smile. "No special reason. Just thought maybe we could go grab a bite, have a beer, hang out a little."
"Hang out," Charlie repeated, laying his head to the side.
"Yup," Don nodded.
"You and me?" Charlie asked, his fingers starting to tap nervously onto the board.
"Just you and me," Don nodded, rolling his eyes. "So, you in?"
Charlie was quiet so long that he frowned. "Hey, everything all right?"
"Uh sure," Charlie finally said something as he pushed away from the window to ruffle through his hair with his hands. "Hang out. You and me. Sure."
Don's frown was still in place. "You act as if we never hang out together."
"Well - we don't," Charlie replied and bend down to pick up his back-pack.
The frown deepened. "Sure we do. We see us all the time," Don pointed out.
Starting to shove books, paper and discs into the bag, Charlie glanced at him. "Mostly work related. Or you come over to the house to hang out with me and Dad. And sometimes the three of us meet at Rick's. But just you and me?" He shook his head and shoved some more things into the bag, the size of it quickly growing. "When was the last time it was just you and me?"
A bit uncomfortable, Don plowed through his memory, trying to come up with something. He was a bit ashamed that he didn't remember an occasion immediately.
"It was four months ago. It was a slow Sunday, you came over, Dad was out, it was rainy and we decided on a whim to go see a movie together, grabbed a beer afterwards," Charlie said softly, then frowned. "Is everything ok? Are you in trouble? Did something happen?"
"No, nothing," Don brusquely waved his brother's concern away and stood up. "I told you - I just thought we could hang out a little," he assured Charlie with a grin, but inside, he felt guilt start nagging at him. If Charlie got so intense over a little invitation from his big brother to come hang out, then he had done something wrong.
Had they really not met occasionally, just them, in four months? And the worst of it all - he couldn't even remember that time Charlie had mentioned.
And here he was, wondering why he knew so little about his own brother.
Still eyeing him uncertainly, Charlie packed his laptop into the front bag of his heavy looking back-pack and shouldered it. "Okay... then let's go. I've got my bike with me. You mind if we put it into the back of your SUV?"
"No problem," Don answered as they left Charlie's office. They walked quietly side by side for a while. "You need to call Dad and leave him a quick note?" Don eventually broke the silence.
Charlie shook his head. "Dad's out tonight with Stan and Artie."
"I guess that won't be the book club then," Don grinned.
Charlie's face split up into a grin as well. "No, don't think so. Perhaps they went bowling."
"Sure," Don laughed, rolling his eyes. They've reached Charlie's bike and he watched slightly amused how his little brother expertedly balanced the heavy bag on his shoulder while he unlocked the security chain. Other people would have just put the bag down beside them.
But then, when had Charlie ever been simple?
Thirty seconds later Charlie straightened once again and started to push his bike towards the parking lot.
"Here, let me," Don offered and took the bike, steering it for Charlie. "Buddy, when are you finally going to get yourself a car?"
Charlie shrugged. "Sometime. Don't have time right now."
"That's what you've been telling for ages," Don muttered, shaking his head. "You know, you having a car would really make it a lot easier for all of us. Look at the positive side: with a car you could drag even more books and discs with you than you already do. Perhaps even a second laptop."
"I doubt that I need two laptops, Don," Charlie chuckled.
Don just snorted. He knew Charlie. He had seen it with his own eyes how Charlie had arrived at the Bureau carrying two laptops and not just once. They've reached his SUV and Don beeped it open.
"Go on ahead, I'll be right in as well," he told Charlie as he opened the trunk to put Charlie's bike inside.
The bike securely stashed away, Don brushed off his hands and climbed into the driver's seat. He pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards the city. Only then realizing that he actually had no idea where to go.
"So - where are we going to go hang out?"
And typically Charlie, he had picked up right on that little flaw in his plan. Well, if Don was anything, then a master of improvisation. He shrugged. "Dunno. I thought maybe you've got a suggestion. Or, David mentioned a place in Downtown who makes amazing Spanish food apparently. We could try it out, what do you say?"
"Sure, sounds interesting. And real Spanish food? Not Mexican?" Charlie agreed with a lazy nod.
"At least that's what David said. If he's wrong - well, I think I might have to send him on a few extra runs in that case," Don said, grinning evilly.
"Exploiting your position as team-leader - tz, tz, tz, Don, how nasty of you," Charlie chastised him, but his eyes were gleaming mischievously as well.
"Hey, what good would being the boss be otherwise?" Don defended himself, relaxing more and more.
Sure, Charlie always had had a knack of irritating the heck out of his big brother, being able to make him furious like few other people could - but at the same time, he often also had the ability to calm down Don on a level that went beyond words. Just his presence was soothing for Don, despite all the almost frenetic energy Charlie constantly emanated.
Talking about paradox.
Another reason why Don really should make an effort to spend more one-on-one-time with his little brother.
Well, the first step was taken now, wasn't it? Getting his brother to come out with him had been the easy part. Now he just had to work up the nerve to talk to Charlie about what all he didn't knew about him. Don supposed that would be a much harder part. While Charlie was no doubt a chatter he was seldom talking about himself, at least not if it hadn't to do with his math. But his emotions and deepest thoughts? No. In that regard he was too much like Don himself. Or their father for that matter even though their dad was constantly on his sons for them to talk more about what was going on with them.
Yet, that was just what Don was after. Probably he'd have to lighten up on his own tightlipped-ness as well to get Charlie to talk at all.
Nope, that wouldn't be an easy mission at all. Hell, he wasn't even sure yet where or how to begin. But hey, he was a FBI-Agent.
How hard could it really be?
They found the place and, as it turned out, they even got lucky to get a table. It turned out that David hadn't exaggerated. The place was cozy, the food great and yeah, it actually was Spanish food through and through. Don and Charlie had decided to try out the seafood-trip-menu that was only available for two persons and offered several courses of different seafood. Delicious gambas, navajes, percebes, mejillones and pulpo filled their stomach and left them more than satiated. Drinking beer along the food the brothers spent several hours with each other, talking sport, work, or remembering some funny anecdotes from their childhood, only leaving when the place closed up.
Not once did Don even try to steer their conversation to the topic he initially had wanted to talk about, hell, was the reason for this dinner with his brother in the first place. But when he had been there, facing Charlie and see just how much his little brother seemed to enjoy their dinner, he just couldn't bring himself to bring up this possibly testy topic. Besides, he too was having a great time and didn't want to ruin the good mood he had gotten ever since he had gone to go pick up Charlie.
So it came that they were back in Don's SUV and Don's mission was almost forgotten.
"That's definitely something that we have to do again," Don sighed contentedly as he drove towards Pasadena.
"Hmm, that would be nice," Charlie nodded and then was overwhelmed by a big yawn.
Don glanced at him. "Tired?"
Charlie shrugged. "Long day. And all that food, as good as it had been, doesn't exactly help."
"Plus," Don grinned dirtily, "I bet you didn't get much sleep last night."
It was too dark in the car to see if his brother had blushed but he did grin back. "And that too, yeah."
Waiting a beat, Don contemplated if he should say something after all. Now was a perfect opportunity - and if Charlie was tired then perhaps he wouldn't get too defensive or would clam up too fast.
"I had no idea you can do moves like that," Don mentioned casually, keeping his eyes on the road.
"I'm hardly a monk," Charlie replied, good-naturedly.
"No, you're not," Don agreed. "But you're not exactly Don Juan either," he added as an afterthought. "It was a bit atypical of you to pick up a girl like that, so suave - you've got to admit that."
Beside him, he felt Charlie give him a look. "How on Earth would you know that, Don?"
Don laughed, looking over at him. "Come on, Charlie."
But Charlie shook his head, frowning. "No Don. How would you know? We've been in different parts of the country if not even the world for the better part of ten years. We usually don't go out together. We don't live together. I have no idea what ways you use to pick up girls or how often you do that. I assume you do though as I can't really see you going without sex for a long period of time. And for the record - neither do I. So I hardly think you can name my habits concerning my sex life."
"But..." Don tried to protest, all sense of comfort lost. Hearing his little brother talk about sex would do that to you.
"But what, Don?" Charlie interrupted him. "There's no use to deny this, it is how it is. It's okay though," he added with a shrug. But then his eyes narrowed and when he continued, there was a touch of anger in his voice. "Wait - is this what this is all about? The sudden need to hang out, the dinner - just so you can give me a lecture about last night? Interrogate me?"
"No! Nothing like that." Don protested vehemently. Shit, this wasn't going well, was it? "No lecture, no interrogation," he emphasized.
Spotting a parking lot to his left, Don turned the car abruptly to the left to pull into it, causing Charlie to yelp in surprise at the harsh maneuver. But Don couldn't continue this conversation while driving or there would be no guarantee that the both of them would get safely to Charlie's house. He'd need his concentration on Charlie. And who knew, perhaps, if they did this there and then in the car, Charlie would have no opportunity to walk away from their conversation. Or Don for that matter. He too liked to rather walk out on a conversation if it got too personal than to actually talk.
Turning off the motor, he turned to face Charlie. "It's not okay," he told his brother with a firm voice.
Charlie's forehead wrinkled with confusion. "What?"
Don took a deep breath. "It's not okay, Charlie. That I know so little of you. I thought the two of us were good but then yesterday, when I saw you dancing like that, seducing that woman with such an ease, it hit me that I may be your brother and know you as that, the childhood and the basics and all that - but I hardly know much about your life, your past - the man you've become in the years we were apart."
The way Charlie stared at him wide-eyed and with a slightly open mouth would have been comically under normal circumstances. Now, it only saddened Don. His confession shouldn't have shocked Charlie into speechlessness.
When another minute went by without Charlie giving any indication to find back his speech anytime soon, Don sighed. "See? That's what I mean. It's not okay when you look at me as if you're contemplating if aliens replaced me just for me saying those things. It's not okay that you fall out of all clouds when I simply ask you to spend some time with me. And it's definitely not okay that I had no idea that my brother is a little dancing king."
Again silence stretched between the two brothers. And this time, Don wouldn't be the one to break it. It was Charlie's turn.
More silent moments passed.
When Charlie still didn't offer any response, Don shook his head and started to turn away, frustrated.
"Don - I..." Charlie finally spoke up, sighing. "Look, you pretty much just floored me here. Turned my world upside-down. Catapulted me into the Twilight Zone. Left me in the bedlams. Sent me..."
"Charlie!" Don interrupted his brother, looking back at him. "You coming to the point anytime soon?"
Charlie let out his breath with a rush to take another deep one. "The point is that I'm sorry, but you've got to give me some time to proceed all this. You coming out and say all this - it's not especially you, isn't it? I mean, you've never..." he stopped himself and looked away.
"I never - what?" Don immediately sprung on that.
But Don sensed that this was important. So he insisted once again. "I have never what, Charlie?"
"Never showed much interest in my life," Charlie eventually answered barely audible, still refusing to meet his big brother's intense gaze.
Don flinched, his little brother's cutting deep. Unfortunately, he couldn't deny them. "No, I guess I haven't," he admitted regretfully.
His quiet admittance made Charlie snap up his head to look at Don, flabbergasted. "What?"
"I've never bothered to learn more about you, Buddy." Don shrugged, uncertainly. "To be honest, I thought I knew everything important. I mean, I know your résumé, more or less, when you've been where. And as far as I know I know of all the serious relationships you had. But - I dunno..." He shrugged again, a bit helplessly this time. "I guess it's true when they say it's the little things that count. And I know nothing of them. Hell, I probably don't even know all of the big things. I mean, when and how did you meet Larry for example? I know he was your teacher, but when, at which university?" He offered a smile. "I never asked."
"But you ask now," Charlie said softly after a moment.
Don nodded. "I ask now. I just hope it's not too late. Is it, Charlie?"
Charlie frowned. "Don't be ridiculous."
But Don shook his head. "No Charlie. I'm serious here. I know I usually don't show it, but you and Dad, you are the most important thing in my life."
"Don..." Charlie stopped him from saying anything more. "You may not know all about me, but don't think for a second that I doubt your love for me. You're my big brother. I guess we have our issues and yeah, it does sometimes bother me that you don't seem to see me completely, how I am nowadays - but you know, I think you really exaggerate here a little."
"Yeah right," Don snorted.
Charlie held up a hand, giving him a hard look. "No Don - so you didn't know I can dance. Or that I actually have a sex-life. And I really appreciate that you want to make an effort now to fill those blanks, I really do. But come on - how important is it really to know this? Apart of Dad you're still the one who knows me best." His eyes gentled. "And no one can come through to me like you can. Without you I probably would still be in the garage working on P vs. NP right now. And do you honestly think we could work so well together, be such a good team, if you make us out to be so bad like you just have?"
It was Don's turn to give no answer.
"Well, we wouldn't. If you want I can even prove that to you mathematically," Charlie assured him in the end, smiling. "And math never lies, even you should know that by now."
Slowly giving in, Don allowed a small smile. "Yeah, I might have heard that a few times - like a few million times."
Charlie's smile widened to a grin. "Glad this ultimate truth managed to get through that thick head of yours."
"No need to be so smug, Chuck," Don growled playfully.
"If a bonehead like you gets something mathematical? Hell yeah I'm smug!" Charlie fired back, grinning from ear to ear now.
Dun huffed and decided to change topic - fast. "You know, I'm surprised Dad never mentioned your dancing skills. I could have bet that he would have exploited that special talent of yours by now in order to find you a proper wife in spe that starts producing grandchildren ASAP."
The big grin on his brother's face faltered. "Ah, that would be because he has no idea about it. And I swear Don, if you rat me out then I'll tell Dad that you think about joining a cooking class."
Don passed him a deadly glare. "Not if you want to continue to live," he threatened.
Charlie held up his hands. "Hey, you keep silent about my dancing and the words cooking class will never pass my lips again - at least not in relation to you."
"Deal," Don gave a grumbling nod then glanced at Charlie as he turned back to the steering wheel. "And Dad really has no idea?"
For a moment a shadow flickered over Charlie's face. "No," he answered softly.
Don felt a surge of ridiculous pleasure at that little tidbit of information. While he had been away, Charlie and their Dad had grown a lot closer than they had been when he and Don had still been kids. Back then, Don had always been closer to their father, sharing many interests and hobbies while Charlie in turn was much more in tune with their mother than Don. Nowadays though he often doubted that Don was still closer to their father than Charlie, especially seeing as they've lived together for the past few years. It was probably petty of him to take pleasure of knowing something about Charlie now that their father didn't - still, he couldn't help but feel that way.
"How did you learn to dance like that anyway?" he asked, curious and hoping to learn a bit more about Charlie.
There was the shadow again and Don, who had been about to start driving again, quickly changed his mind and turned back to Charlie, sensing that there was much more to it than he had initially thought.
"Charlie?" he asked gently.
His brother let out a deep sigh and briefly met Don's eyes before averting them to gaze out the window on his side. "I took dance lessons," he replied hesitantly.
Don frowned, failing to see what had his little brother so wrung out over this. "Okay."
Charlie glanced back at him. "With Mom."
"Really? Mom never mentioned it either," Don finally said after a long moment.
Charlie smiled sadly. "I know. She... She said it would be our little secret."
She had? Don had to admit that he was surprised about that. As far as he had known, his mother never had kept secrets from her husband. And like Charlie, she never had been that good to keep a secret for long or hide the fact that she knew a secret for that matter.
Then again, his little tattle-tail of a brother had a who knew how high security level of the NSA - and had worked for other agencies and groups on sensitive missions and data as well. So what did he really know?
"When was this?" Don asked, giving his brother a quizzical look.
Charlie shifted uneasily, his eyes flying around and looking at anything but his brother. "When we were in Boston." He sighed and looked down into his lap. "She didn't want me to notice, but she was unhappy. Lonely. She missed Dad and you so much and I hated it. But for her sake I pretended I had no idea." He swallowed. "After three months or so I suggested to her though to attend one of those dance classes Princeton offered. You know how she always had begged Dad to go with her to a dance course and I thought perhaps it would lift up her spirits a bit."
Don took that all in. Charlie almost never talked about his time at college. And since their mother had died he barely mentioned her either. Neither of them to be frank. Though they had resolved a lot of their issues with each other over Charlie's absence in their mother's last three months, it was still a bit of a sore spot for both of them. So it was quite a surprise that here Charlie was, talking freely about their mother and his time at Princeton all of a sudden.
"And?" he probed carefully when Charlie had been silent for too long, hoping to not jinx his brother's sudden willingness to talk about these specific topics.
Charlie shrugged. "And it worked. She still missed you guys a lot but with the dancing she slowly started to enjoy herself again a bit. Naturally, she was really good at it, the rhythms being in her blood. She loved the music and to learn to move correctly to the tunes and she was a fast student, let me tell you. I had to work hard to keep up with her. And with the lessons and occasional participation at dance events she started to meet people again, make friends so she wasn't so lonely anymore."
Now that was something Don had no trouble to believe. Their mother was very musical and she always had made easy friends. "Sounds like her."
"So you and Mom took classes together... hehe, must have been quite a sight, the lanky little boy with the beautiful woman in his arms," Don teased, trying to lighten up the mood a bit.
His comment did steal a small smile from Charlie. "I have you informed that there was no such thing as lanky involved. I was very graceful, right from the beginning." Then he even chuckled. "And Mom and I had agreed that we wouldn't tell everyone that she was my mother so I actually had the envy of all the other guys in our classes."
Don groaned at that mental image. "Man, that's just sick."
"Still better than to be known as a mother-son," Charlie remarked dryly. "It was bad enough to be a thirteen years old boy among all the grown-ups."
There was a trace of bitterness in his brother's voice and Don took a closer look at him. Eventually he decided to tackle that one at another time. Especially as it was pretty obvious that Charlie wasn't prone to elaborate on that one. "So... for how long did you take those classes?"
"All the time the two of us were in Boston," Charlie answered quietly, making a brief pause. "And when I moved back to LA, we took them up again. Dancing really had become something the two of us enjoyed very much doing together," he added.
Sensing that there was still more to come, Don was silent, waiting for Charlie to find the courage to continue. It had occurred to him that his brother had probably never talked about all this, not when he and Mom had obviously kept their little hobby secret all this time.
"Then the diagnosis came," Charlie finally continued, barely audible. He was back at staring away from Don while his fingers were fumbling nervously together in his lap. "She still wanted to go, you know, so we went, took it easy, skipped when the chemo had been too hard on her. But it did her good, she always felt a lot better afterwards. More exhausted perhaps, but mentally it really gave her a new boot of energy." His head sank back against the headrest, his eyes closed. "By then I wanted to tell Dad, but she wouldn't let me. I guess she probably knew that he would never have let her continue, too afraid for her. Hell, I was unsure if it really was that good for her, but her doctor said it's a good thing as long as we wouldn't overdo it and when I took her home afterwards, she was always that more relaxed, you know?"
Once more, silence fell over them, Don's throat suddenly too tight to say anything. Not that he would have known what to say anyway.
"But eventually she just hadn't the strength for it anymore. She was so depressed then, Don." Charlie shook his head, clenching his jaw, his hands. "So I did some research and on one of her better days, I took her to wheelchair dancing. At first she didn't want to, but together with our dance teacher we talked her into trying it out." The ghost of a smile softened his features. "Guess what? She grew to like it as well. It wasn't the same of course, but it was still dancing, still able to give her the joy our previous dancing had given her. And we had some more good days together."
Don's throat grew even tighter and now he was the one who looked away as well. His eyes burnt but he refused to let any tears fall. He rarely allowed himself to think about the long way of sickness his mother had had to go through. He hadn't been there at that time, had only come back when all hope was gone and they knew that his mother was going to die. He hadn't seen the strong, lively and healthy woman that had been his mother wither to the weak, sick and dying woman he had met when he had come back. Yeah, he had been there for those last three months and that had been bad enough. And he had conveniently forgotten that the horror had started long before his return, one that his father and brother had to go through.
"And then, even the wheelchair dancing grew too much for Mom," Charlie all but whispered. Don looked back at him and was a little thrown back at the amount of pain and loss that was evident on his little brother's face. "Ten days later they told us about the remission. Gave us her death sentence. I... I took her there for a last dance, a waltz because she didn't have to do anything for this one but to hold on to me and because she always loved to waltz. The next day you came back."
And Charlie had already holed himself up in the garage with P vs. NP. Leaving Don to be the only son at his mother's deathbed and with a growing anger towards his little brother just because of that. It had left their relationship strained for quite some time. He wished Charlie would have told him all this sooner but then, he wasn't really certain if it would really have made a difference back then. Their mother had been dying and Don was far from being rational. No one of them had been. Hell, even now he found himself sometimes holding a grudge at Charlie for not having been there and that despite the fact that basically, he had forgiven Charlie and even had started to understand his reaction a little. And now he understood him even better.
"You've said goodbye," Don managed to say after a few times, it not being a question but a realization.
At last, Charlie met his eyes, still filled with unnamable pain, and simply nodded, looking away again.
Don gazed outside, forcing himself to remember the three worst months of his life. "You know, she never asked to see you or why you never came to see her again. She always asked about you, how you were doing, worried about you - but never did she ask us to bring you to see her. Not... not even when she knew she wouldn't live another day," he said in slow comprehension, his voice thick with emotions.
Back then he had interpreted his mother's questions about Charlie as a plea to see him, but now, knowing this background...
"She knew," Charlie said tonelessly. "We both knew it, that last day when I brought her home and tugged her back into her bed. She... she hugged me, as strong as she could, she smiled and I... I smiled back, gave her a kiss and then..." He stopped, shuddered and pressed the palm of his hands against his eyes. "I... I went down the stairs and straight into the garage."
But neither of them said that out loud.
Don swallowed a few times, trying to get a grip on himself. When he had set out for this mission he had no idea that it would end in such a deep confession about their worst time in life. He had just wanted to know how Charlie had become such a good dancer, damn it! Looking over to his brother, he finally found back at least some control. No matter what happened - he was the big brother and it was his job to look after him, just like he had promised to his father as a child when Charlie had been born and again to his mother the day she had died. It was the one constant in his life.
"Charlie," he murmured and reached out to lay a hand onto Charlie's shoulder. The Eppes men were not people who showed much affection. For them, a brief touch on the arm, the shoulder or the back were their way to show their affection and Don was glad to admit that over the past year, those short pads had frequented between him and Charlie.
Charlie took a shuddering breath and let his hands sank back down into his lap. His eyes were dry but then, Don hadn't expected anything else. The pain in them was enough.
Don squeezed Charlie's shoulder, hard. "I don't think I've ever told you - but I'm sorry for how angry I've been at you back then."
Charlie blinked. "Sorry?" he repeated confused, his eyes focusing on Don's.
Don nodded. "I... I took it out on you. I needed someone to blame but there was really no one to blame. But there were you, refusing to come out of that damn garage to come see Mom while you still could and - and you were an easy target. That was wrong. I know that now. And I'm sorry for that."
Frowning, Charlie shook his head once. "Don - you've got nothing to be sorry for. Hell, I'm sorry that I wasn't strong enough to stay with Mom 'til the end. But believe me - nothing you did or said to me back then was something you've got to be sorry for. The little I remember is that despite your anger towards me you were still the one who made sure that I wasn't so lost in my equations that I didn't die along with Mom. And you made sure that I came up enough to go to Mom's funeral." He gave a weak, trembling smile. "I never thanked you for that. But I should have. I - I wouldn't have wanted to miss it in hindsight."
Taking a deep breath, Don let it out again into a deep sigh and shook his head as well. Charlie... "You've always got to be the saint, huh, Chuck?"
Perplexed, Charlie stared at him, raising an eyebrow.
With a nod, Don drew back. "Here I am, trying to apologize and what do you do? Twist it around and thank me for being a jerk. You did that as a child all the time too, you know. God, was that annoying." His words held no bitterness and were only intended to teasing his brother, dragging them out of this deep emotions. He didn't think they could do any more soul baring.
Much like his big brother, Charlie too took a deep breath and let it out with a squish. "Yeah well, I had to somehow win an argument, hadn't I? I never stood a chance in a fight with you after all."
"Still don't," Don pointed out with a grin as he straightened in his seat and turned the motor on.
"I guess not. Don't need to though nowadays as I win anyway. Especially the ladies. Either with my brain or with my dancing skills," Charlie gave back.
"Yeah? Then why has Dad no grandchildren yet?" Don smirked.
Charlie shrugged. "'cause I would never steal you your right as the firstborn to also produce the next heir to the Eppes family as the first."
"Sure, now you want to stand back and remember that you're only the little brother," Don grumbled, shooting him a glare.
"Hey, I am too young to think about starting a family yet. You however, old guy..." Charlie grinned.
"I show you old!" Don growled and his right hand shot sideward to punch his annoying brother into the arm.
Rubbing his arm, Charlie shot him a look. "You can be glad you're driving right now."
"Or what? You gonna twirl me around?" Don taunted.
"Nah, I had more a dip in mind - in which I let you fall down onto your ass - really hard," Charlie countered.
Don snickered. "Yeah sure. In your dreams perhaps - if you're really very, very deluded."
Charlie tittered. "Oh believe me, I have much more important things to dream about than you."
"Let me guess," Don grinned, shooting another glance at him. "Solving one of those millennia things." When Charlie didn't answer, he laughed. "You know, normal men dream about hot women."
They were pulling into Charlie's driveway and Don turned off the motor.
"Don really - why would I dream about that when I can have the real deal anytime?" Charlie asked smugly before getting out.
For a moment, Don was too taken aback by Charlie's unusual comeback to react - until he heard his little brother's laughter as he unloaded his bike from the back of his car. Chuckling amused, Don got out and leaned against the car, arms crossed over his chest.
"You're ego's awfully big today, Chuck," he commented dryly as Charlie stopped in front of him.
"Correction, it just got confirmed," Charlie retorted easily and shifted his heavy bag to gain a better balance. "Want to stay here for the night?"
Don glanced at his childhood home and was tempted to took Charlie up on his offer. It was a long drive back to his apartment. But while he and Charlie had found back to their usual banter he would bet his monthly salary that in the morning, they both would feel pretty awkward about all that has been said this evening. Better to give them a day or so to get over that. He knew he sure would need a little time alone to process all of it.
So he shook his head. "Naw, thanks. I'm good to go home."
Charlie nodded and took a few steps towards his house. Suddenly, he turned back to Don though. "Hey Don - don't tell Dad, okay?"
Raising an eyebrow, Don regarded his brother for a moment before giving a slow nod. "You got that," he assured Charlie, hesitating before continuing. "Why though? I think Dad would like to hear about all that." Actually, he was sure that their father would love to know that Charlie and Mom had said their goodbyes after all.
Charlie shrugged. "Yeah, perhaps. But - I think even if he understands it he would still be a little hurt that Mom never told him about the dancing in over ten years. It's not that important."
Don took that in, never letting Charlie out of his eyes. Oh yeah, his little brother was definitely grown up. And had become a damn fine man too.
With a sigh, he nodded again and pushed away from his car. "Okay. Think about it though, will you?"
"I will," Charlie said with the smallest incline of his head.
Climbing back into his SUV, Charlie once again called his name. "Don!"
Glancing back at him, Don waited for his brother to continue.
His gaze directed at his shuffling feet he suddenly didn't look all that grown up anymore after all. The thought brought Don to smile.
Finally though, Charlie looked back up, meeting his eyes. "Thanks for tonight. It had been - nice," he said quietly.
Holding his brother's eyes, Don grinned back. "Yeah, it's been nice," he agreed as quietly. "If nothing comes up I'm free this weekend. Wanna hang out some more with me?"
Charlie beamed. "Sure, that would be great," he replied enthusiastically, even though he tried to hide his excitement.
Oh yeah, not so grown up at all.
Don laughed. "Okay, I'll call tomorrow and we hammer out the details. 'Night, Buddy."
"'Night, Don," Charlie wished back and turned to go inside.
Still smiling, Don pulled away, thinking about the last two nights. Charlie was right, this evening, despite all the soul baring, had been nice. Good. And long overdue. He really hoped that nothing would come between him and Charlie to spend some more time together this weekend.
Because if he had learned one thing tonight, then that there was still a lot to learn about the man his little brother had become.
And he'd bet it would turn out to be an interesting journey to get to know that man better.
Plus, he'd have some more time to mock his little brother about his dancing skills.
Oh yeah, that would definitely be fun.
(Author's Note: So - this is actually my first Numb3rs story. There are two things you should know perhaps: First, English's not my mother tongue and I've got no beta yet for this fandom, so I hope the language was more or less okay. Second, it also means that today they're only going to show the episode with the Russians I think and I've missed the few first episodes of the second season. That means I have no idea if all of this is in tune with what may have been showed afterwards. But hey, it's fanfiction, isn't it? Thus said, I really hope you enjoyed this one.)