Title: Shadows Forever

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: I would hope that you each understand, at this point, that 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. We can officially stop pretending this is a Oneshot.

As experiences went, it turned out that death was not so bad.

Certainly better than the four months leading up to it.

His body had betrayed him, in several places at once. Consumed with previously unknown levels of pain coming from a myriad of directions, the damn thing seemed completely incapable of dealing with any of them. For the boys, even though he himself had always understood that the odds were definitely not in his favor, he had endured treatments. Some of them were experimental, many of them were aimed only at slowing the process of the disease (not even pretending that they could cure it), and an occasional treatment was ridiculous.

Like that time early on, when Charlie had insisted that he drink nothing but a pure juice extracted from some rare, South American jungle fruit, for 36 hours. He had found it quite distateful at the time, but he smiled fondly at his son now, who was finally sleeping somewhat fitfully on the couch. When his second parent was faced with the same horrible death as his first, dear Charlie had abandoned his numbers. He refused to talk odds -- with anyone. The genius with three doctorates had latched onto obscure cure-alls Googled on remote and seldom-visited websites bearing absolutely no scientific proof, and begged. He had literally begged, that first time, on his knees, making Alan feel like... well, he still wasn't sure what that made him feel like. All he really knew was that Charlie spent two months' salary on two gallons of this ridiculous "juice" that was probably colored water from an East-L.A. tap in somebody's house, and Alan had done it.

He had done it because he already wasn't that hungry, anyway. He didn't mind giving up food for 36 hours. Mostly, he had done it because it had only been five years, after all, and he could still clearly recall some of the things he had asked Margaret to try. It was somewhat gratifying, at this late date, to find out that Charlie was his father's son after all, and given to the same flights of fancy.

Alan hovered over him, studying a stubbled face streak with tears and exhausted even in sleep, and tried again to touch him. So far, this was the only thing he found disturbing. His hand passed through Charlie's face as if the solid flesh-and-bone was not even there. Alan couldn't feel the warmth, or dry the tears. All the motion of his hand did was stir the long curls slightly as if a breeze had passed through the living room, and his son shivered and curled in on himself a little further.

Hands on his hips, Alan frowned. This place, this new existence would be fine, if he could just let them know that he was all-right, now. He felt absolutely no pain, which was a relief, but it was far more exciting what he did feel. His entire being seemed to brim and radiate with love, and peace. Although he had not seen Margaret yet, he knew that he would, as surely as he knew his own name.

He felt a slight urge to leave, but ignored it and looked across the living room at Don. His oldest son was also sleeping, a haggard lump reclined in Alan's old easy chair. He looked older than a child ever had the right to look, to a parent. It was that look that Alan wished he could somehow erase, as he suddenly found himself standing over him. He was a little surprised, since he couldn't recall actually moving there, but then he remembered that he was dead, and shrugged. Must be a cool new transportation system, on this side. He nodded, satisfied with that explanation. Larry probably suspected as much, especially after his months in space.

Alan looked back at Don, and wished very hard, since he could not speak, or touch. I promise you happiness, he thought, and love. I promise to check in and watch your babies born. I promise to laugh when they are teenagers driving you crazy. I promise to bring your mother with me. I promise to shadow you and your brother forever, and I promise to meet you here. Somehow, Alan knew, he would be able to do all of those things. He was not in the habit of making empty promises, and he would not start now.

He felt the tugging urge, again, then found himself dead-center in the middle of the room, between Don and Charlie. He was so proud of the way they had drawn together during his illness. It had been nothing like the last months with Margaret, and he knew at least part of the peace he felt was because the boys would have each other, now. During the difficult first days, and later, as the pain faded and was replaced by new loves, new lives, new memories -- they would maintain their link to each other.

They would be all right.

Of that, Alan was sure.

The four of them -- Margaret, Alan, Don and Charlie -- would always be part of each other.

Of that, Alan was certain.

His head lifted, inexplicably drawn to a shimmering light in the distance.

He smiled broadly, and went to meet Margaret.