Title: Shadows

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: I would hope that you each understand, at this point, that despite occasional "interventions". all things "numb3rs" began and remain as the property of Those Other People.

Summary: You think you've got your grip back on life, and it turns out you're an idiot. This is a Oneshot, because I don't have the stamina to drag this whump out any further.

Four years of college.

Four years of medical school.

One transitional, rotating-specialty, year of internship; and two, separate five-year residencies.

Dr. Samuel W. McClintock the Third, sitting in his expensive leather chair behind an enormous cherry desk in a tastefully-decorated 800-square-foot office, still hated this part. With an absolute passion, he hated this part.

His demeanor was professional, yet sympathetic, and his own issues stayed successfully in the box where he kept them. "I'm truly very sorry," he assured the man before him. The doctor was a little surprised at how well the news had been received, and he thumbed through a few pages in the thick chart before him. "Ah...", he murmured, at length. "I remember, now. We discussed this when we removed the melanoma five years ago. You understood then that it was of the metastatic variety, and already a Stage IV cancer. Survival rate..."

The man nodded and finished the sentence for him. "Nine to fifteen percent, yes. I'm very good with numbers." A proud grin flashed across his features. "I've always liked to believe my youngest gets at least part of that from me."

Dr. McClintock, was still reading some old notes. Eventually, he quietly closed the folder and regarded Alan sadly. "Did you ever tell them?"

Alan's face finally showed some expression, and he swallowed thickly. "No. No. It was too soon after my...after Margaret's death. Charlie -- he's my youngest -- he was still almost a ghost himself. He was hardly ever in the house, and he never even noticed the small bandage on my arm. It wasn't there long enough for Donnie to see it. He didn't come over much for a while. He was so angry. So angry. Much of that was aimed at his younger brother." He leaned forward a little in his chair, and seemed pensive, remembering. "I think having a target for his emotions may have helped him in some way. God knows, I was a little angry at Charlie myself...so for the most part, I let the two of them work it out."

"If I remember correctly, your youngest was a gifted child?"

"A genius," Alan interrupted proudly. "He's a well-known mathematician now, a professor at CalSci..."

It was the doctor's turn to interrupt. "And he was quite incapable of dealing emotionally with his mother's illness."

Alan actually looked a little embarassed. "Yes. Yes."

"It's been five years. How are things now?"

Alan sighed, and leaned back in the chair. "Good, I think," he answered. "Charlie has been working with his brother a lot the last few years, and I think they've rediscovered their brotherhood, to a certain extent." He actually laughed, a little. "Doen't hurt that Don started therapy, this year! Charlie has come a long way in the last five years. He even has a lovely girlfriend, now." Unexpected tears pressed at the back of Alan's eyes as he began to understand he never would meet any of his grandchildren, from either son.

Dr. McClintock's voice was soft. "Will they..." He shifted in his chair. "Well. No-one handles this kind of news easily. But are they ready to pull together, do you think? You'll need their support. Emotionally, physically."

Alan looked wistful. "I don't suppose I can hide it for very long. Both the lungs and the liver, you say?"

The doctor nodded silently and Alan shook his head. "Margaret always tried to get me to use sunblock." His voice finally wavered. "I can't believe this started out as a skin cancer. Even when you told me that it was malignant five years ago, I really didn't think this could happen!"

"People never do," said the young physician in an old, world-weary voice. "People never do."

Alan stood, and brushed imaginary dirt off his jeans. "Well," he said, not-quite meeting the doctor's eyes. "Well. Donnie is stopping by this evening for dinner. Tri-tip on the grill, I'm thinking. The boys like that."

Dr McClintock watched him leave, granting Alan the respect to let him go on his own terms.

Three to six months.

He would always hate this part.