This is a one-shot about when Charlie asked Val to the prom, but she decided to go with Don ahead of time. Warning: Don is really mean. It's nothing personal. I love Don, but angst is good. I don't hold anything over Don or think he was that mean. Buuuuut, they did mention that they had a "wrestling match on the lawn" over Val. So, something was definitely up. I don't own Don, Charlie, Val, Alan, Margaret, and any other Numb3rs characters. I don't own the show Numb3rs. I don't claim to own them. So there.
There was no other girl like Val. Charlie had known that the moment he laid eyes on her. They were lab partners in their Chemistry class. From their first class together, he was hooked. At only 13, Charlie barely even liked girls. But he knew he liked Val, and he liked her a lot. That was why he was going to ask her to the senior prom. He had begged his mother that morning to let him take a couple of the roses from her beautiful rose bush. Having difficulty saying no to her little boy, Margaret let him take one.
Now, walking down the hall to his Chemistry class, he knew that this would be the best day of his life. Val was the nicest girl he'd met in his high school. She talked to him like they were the same age. She never made him feel like a little kid, and when he was with her, he felt like he really fit in. She made him feel like the luckiest boy in the world, and he'd feel better once she said yes.
Val was already sitting in her place at the table for two. She had been looking out the window, but she turned her head when Charlie walked in. She smiled at him and gave him a small wave, making Charlie's heart beat faster. Other students were in the class, but were too busy talking amongst themselves to notice him, not that they would anyway.
Charlie set his book bag beside the desk and sat down. He pulled out the red rose and handed it to her. He was glad his mother had trimmed the thorns. He wouldn't want her to get hurt.
"What's this?" Val asked with a bright smile as she took the rose from him. She pressed it against her nose, taking in the sweet fragrance.
"It's for you," he said, shyly. He usually wasn't shy around her, but he was nervous.
"What's the occasion?" Val gently placed the rose onto the desk and turned back to Charlie.
"I, um, I wanted to ask you something."
"Oh? What's that?"
"Um..." Charlie paused, looking at his hands. Val smiled patiently at him and waited for his question. "Would... would you go to the prom with me?" Charlie asked, finally brave enough to look up at her. He was expecting a smile, a glow. Something. He just wasn't expecting a frown.
"Oh. Didn't, uh, didn't Don tell you?"
Charlie's heart sped up. "Tell me what?"
"He asked me to the prom... I said yes."
Charlie turned so that he was facing forward and looked down at his hands. This couldn't be happening. Don had stolen her from him. Would she have said yes if he'd asked first? Who was he kidding? Of course she wouldn't have. No one wanted to go out with the dorky 13-year-old who didn't fit in with anyone... anyone except Val.
"Oh, Charlie, I'm sorry! If I had known he hadn't told you, I would have said something right away. Are you mad at me?"
She took Charlie's hand in both of hers and tried to get him to look at her.
He slowly raised his head and looked at her briefly. "No, I'm not mad at you."
"I'm glad. Honestly, Charlie, I didn't know. Thank you for asking, though. It was really sweet." Val gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then returned to reading her Chemistry book, preparing for the day's lessons.
Charlie could barely make it through the class without crying. It wasn't fair. Don got to be popular. He was the star of the baseball team. He fit in with everyone. All the girls wanted to date him. How come Charlie couldn't get just one girl? The only girl that really mattered to him, and Don had to steal her from him.
He considered calling his mother so she would bring him home, but his parents were going to some luncheon with their friends and probably wouldn't be back until shortly after school got out. So he had to tough it out. During the lunch break, Charlie hid outside in a remote corner of the brick wall surrounding the school. He usually ate lunch with Val, or at least near her. Now he could hardly look at her. It wasn't her fault, but he had made a fool of himself in front of her. He couldn't spend time with her without thinking about it, and it was probably the same for her.
He stayed hunkered down in the corner, hoping no one would be able to see him. As the tears began to fall, it became harder to eat. His stomach heaved and made him feel nauseous with every bite. He finally threw it at the garbage can, and, of course, missed. Knowing he'd feel guilty if he didn't pick it up, he walked over to it and put it in the trash can. He wiped his hand across his eyes, hoping there wasn't any trace of the tears. Since lunch period was almost over, Charlie headed toward the door to the cafeteria. At the entrance, Don and his friends stood there, talking about what was going to happen at prom and who they were taking.
Don gave his brother a short glance and saw the tears. He nudged his friend Harry.
"Look at the baby," he said, trying to look cool by making fun of his little brother. The guys all laughed. Charlie managed to glare at his brother for a split second before running away, the sound of Don and his friends laughing at him echoing from behind.
Charlie managed to make it to the bathroom. He bit his lip, fighting the tears. He could not cry. Don didn't deserve the ammunition. He wouldn't let his brother make fun of him.
"Charlie?" There was a knock at the door, and a female voice outside. Her voice.
Charlie slowly opened the door. "What?"
"Oh, Charlie. What happened?" Val asked, seeing the tears on Charlie's face.
"Nothing," Charlie sniffled. "Leave me alone." He started to go back into the bathroom, but Val stopped the door.
"Charlie. Come on. What happened?"
"I saw Don and his friends over there. Did they tease you or something?"
Charlie looked away, but slowly nodded.
"Oh, Charlie, come here." Val held her hands out and hugged Charlie. He felt like crying again, but he didn't want her to think he was a baby.
Charlie pushed away from her before she did. He walked past her, not wanting her to see him tear up.
"I'm sorry again, Charlie!" she called after him.
Charlie was more than happy when he got to go home. He practically ran the whole way there. When he got inside, he locked himself in his room until Don came home. He was only twenty minutes behind him, and when Don came through the front door, he was screaming his name. And he didn't sound happy.
Charlie came to the top of the stairs and looked down at his brother. Don looked as livid as he felt.
"What the hell did you do?" Don demanded, taking advantage of the fact that his parents weren't home yet. Charlie just stared at him, trying his best to work his anger into a glare.
"What did you do? Val backed out on going to the prom with me! Me! What did you do to her?"
Charlie smiled as he came down the stairs. "Good. You deserved it."
Charlie walked away from his brother and into the backyard.
He hoped Don wouldn't follow. He liked it by the koi pond. There he could think.
Don, who had been momentarily stunned, followed his brother outside. He slammed the door of the kitchen as he walked outside into the backyard. "In case you hadn't noticed, Charlie, it's not that often that a girl turns down an offer to go out with me, much less to the prom. She said something about you, so what's up?"
"Did you ever think it was something you did?"
"What the hell are you talking about? I didn't do anything!"
"Oh, yeah? What about at lunch?"
"What, when I teased you? That was nothing!"
"Val saw it! She didn't think it was nothing."
Don shook his head, throwing his hands up. "I don't see why you seem so mad. I'm the one who got dumped!"
Charlie couldn't believe how dense his brother could be.
"You knew I liked her! I was going to ask her to the prom! But, no, I had to hear from her that my big brother already asked! You didn't even have the guts to tell me you asked her!"
Don laughed. "She wouldn't have gone out with you anyway. Why would she want to go out with you? You're just a nerdy little kid who doesn't even hang out with the other nerds because you're just a baby and no one-" Don's words were cut off when Charlie charged at him, knocking him to the ground.
Charlie landed a few punches while his brother was stunned; it also helped that he was on top. Don finally got his bearings back and took over.
"She was going to go out with me! You ruined it!" Don punched his brother in the face.
"You could have asked anyone! She's the only girl who treats me like a human being! Unlike you!" Charlie screamed back as he blocked his brother's hands and fought to hit back.
"That's 'cause you're a freak! You're nothing but a nerd!"
"You're a jerk!"
Charlie took another blow to the face and felt tears sting his eyes. But he was mad. He wanted to hit his brother. Don deserved to get hit. He landed a hit across his brother's jaw, and Don was barely fazed by it.
"Boys! Boys! Break it up!" Alan screamed as he ran through the back door and pulled Don off of Charlie. Don fought him for a minute, wanting to get back at his little brother.
"Don! Donald Eppes! That's enough!" Alan yelled practically in Don's ear.
Charlie stayed on the ground wiping his bloody nose as the tears fell, too. Margaret stood in the doorway, shocked to see her sons fighting.
"Both of you, go to your rooms. Now!" Don went first and then Charlie followed, not wanting to be on the steps at the same time as his brother. Alan knew they were both to blame by Don's obvious signs of being hit.
Margaret watched her boys go up the steps and turned to her husband. "What was that all about?"
"I don't know, but they are in serious trouble."
Margaret nodded, though she worried about Charlie. She had seen the blood and the tears. When Alan went out to the garage, she slipped upstairs with a washcloth and some tissues.
Charlie went straight to his room and threw himself across the bed. Though his face hurt from Don's strong blows, he covered it with his hands as he sobbed. It hurt, but not as much as Don's words, and the fact that he stole the only nice girl in the whole school from him. Don had known how he felt. Charlie talked about her constantly. How could he not notice?
There was a soft knock on the door and Charlie turned his head. His mom slowly opened the door. A soft smile played across her face as she walked in the room. "Hey, baby."
Charlie turned away from her, pressing his face in the pillow. He felt his mom sit on the bed beside him and she rubbed his back as he cried. He let the sobs shake him. He could barely hear his mom's soothing words over his own cries.
She finally set him up and he looked away. "Oh, that looks awful."
Margaret hated seeing her son hurt. She knew Don was hurt, too, but he hadn't been bleeding. She'd check on him later. Blood from Charlie's broken nose had spilled down his chin and onto the front of his shirt. She wiped the wet washcloth along the blood and wiped it away. More tears came, though she could see that Charlie was trying his best to stop them. When Charlie's face was clean, Margaret took her son in her arms. Charlie leaned his head against her and she combed his hair with her fingers. "Sh, sh. It's okay, baby. It's okay."
Charlie stayed in his mother's arms, crying, for a long time. Alan eventually came up the stairs and slowly opened Charlie's door. Charlie didn't notice, but Margaret did. By the strict look on her husband's face, she shook her head no, warning him that now was not the time to yell at Charlie. Alan nodded in understanding, and, instead, went to hear Don's side of the story.
When Charlie's tears had finally ended, Margaret again wiped her son's face with a tissue and handed him one to blow his nose on. Charlie shyly looked up at his mother's eyes. "Are you mad at me?"
"I don't know. Should I be?"
Charlie's lips turned into a pout and he sniffled. "You know Val?"
Margaret smiled. Of course she knew about Val. Charlie only talked about her every day. "Yes."
"Well, I wanted the rose so I could give it to her. I did, and then I asked her to prom."
Oh, a rejection. Margaret understood that. "She said no?"
"Yes... but only because Don already asked her."
"Oh." Margaret was surprised. Don hadn't said anything about that. Apparently, he hadn't said anything to Charlie either.
"I was humiliated!" Charlie cried. "The one girl in the whole world who doesn't think I'm a little kid and Don had to choose her to ask to the prom! He could have any girl, Mom! They all adore him."
"Sh, I know, sweetheart."
"It isn't fair."
"I know, I know."
Charlie paused, trying to calm down. "Is Dad mad at me?"
"I think he's mad that you two were fighting. You know that's not okay, Charlie. I think he's talking to Don right now."
Charlie looked away from his mother, not wanting to see her face when he said it. "I started the fight."
"Charlie! What made you do that?"
"Don was mad at me, and I was mad at him. He was busy yelling at me, so I tackled him. Then I hit him. I didn't mean to, Mom, I swear. It was like someone else was making me do it. I was mad at Don, but not enough to hurt him."
Margaret nodded in understanding. "Sometimes our emotions get the best of us. Nevertheless, you can't hit your brother, understand? And he can't hit you, either. You're supposed to take care of each other."
Charlie nodded, knowing his mother was right. Don didn't always take care of him, but when he did, he did a good job.
Don was there when it really counted. If it hadn't been Don who was going to the prom with Val, Don would probably have made him feel better about it. Charlie felt guilty about hurting his brother.
"Well, your dad is going to want to come in here in a minute."
Charlie nodded, shivering. His dad didn't get angry often, but when he did, it upset Charlie.
Margaret laid a gentle hand on Charlie's shoulder and leaned down and kissed him on the top of the head. "I love you, sweetheart."
"I love you, too, Mom."
Margaret smiled as she stepped out of Charlie's room and passed Alan in the hall. He gave her a weak smile, showing her this had been a mess. She hoped Don was okay. Making sure, she went in to check on him after she brought an ice pack for Charlie's nose and cheeks. She brought two, just in case Don needed one.
"Hi, Donny," she said as she walked into the room. Don was staring out his window as he sat up on his bed. He didn't turn when Margaret came in, or when she sat on the bed.
Since he wouldn't, she turned his head with a gentle hand to the side of his face.
"Oh, Donny," Margaret said as she saw the ugly bruise on Don's face. She picked up the ice pack and was about to put it on Don's face. He stopped her, though, as he grabbed her hand in a gentle grip.
"I don't need that."
"Don, I know you're a big, strong man now. But, please, you need to put something on that."
"Fine." Don took the ice pack out of her hand and pressed it against his cheek, wincing at the cold.
"Are you okay?" she asked after the silence dragged on.
Margaret sighed. "What happened?"
Don refused to meet her eyes. His mother understood him. She understood everyone. If she took one look in his eyes, she'd know what he was thinking. "I should have told Charlie I asked Val out, but I knew he'd be mad. I didn't actually expect him to ask her out. You don't think that a 13 year old kid and an 18 year old girl will be going to prom together."
Margaret nodded in understanding as her son spoke.
"Then, today, she told me that she wasn't going with me, that she couldn't do it to Charlie. I didn't know what she meant, so I blamed him. I blew a fuse."
"I know. You realize you broke your brother's nose?"
A muscle in Don's jaw twitched. "I know." He had realized it the moment he did it. He regretted it since. Charlie was only 13. Don was a lot bigger and stronger than his puny little brother. He shouldn't have ever laid a hand on him.
He promised himself he wouldn't ever again, either.
"I know you didn't mean it. Charlie said he didn't mean to, either. You both let your emotions get the best of you. I expect you both to have more control from now on."
"I will." Don knew that was true. He would never let his emotions control him like that again. Not if his brother was going to pay the price.
Margaret hugged her stiff son. Don would never let on that he wanted a hug, that he enjoyed a hug from his mother. He wouldn't even hug her back. Margaret didn't care, though. No matter how old her sons got, she would still hug and kiss them. After planting a kiss on Don's cheek, she left her son to think.
Don could hardly believe he had hit his brother. No matter how much he resented his brother at times for stealing all the attention, he had vowed that he would protect his little brother. It was his job. Sure, he wasn't the best at it when he was with his friends, but at home, it was different. He tried to be there for his brother. He tried to protect him. He tried to be there for him. What had he done? How could Charlie look at him the same way?
Don's only explanation for what he'd done was that he'd blown a fuse. It was the only thing that made sense to him.
He knew if he had his wits about him he would never strike his brother. He never had in the past. Of course there had been the few playful punches but never anything serious like this. How was he supposed to face him at supper tonight?
Lucky for Don, he'd only been grounded for two weeks and wasn't allowed to drive. Though that bothered him, prom wasn't for another three weeks so he would have the use of his car back by then. If he found a date.
He honestly hadn't meant to upset Charlie. If he had been thinking, he would have asked Charlie first. But he hadn't been. He wanted Val for himself. She was a beautiful girl. Who wouldn't want to go with her? Somehow he had expect Charlie wouldn't have.
Don returned to staring out the window as he silently punished himself for ever laying a hand on Charlie. And he knew he never would again.
Charlie supposed there could have been worse punishments. He was grounded for two weeks. He didn't usually leave the house much anyway, but he was also supposed to do more chores than usual. That was the only real punishment he faced. He knew somehow his father understood what happened.
Charlie managed to make it through his discussion with his dad without crying. Afterward, though, he went back to the tears.
Alan knocked on the door an hour later and opened the door to poke his head in. "It's time to eat, Charlie."
Charlie didn't want to have to face his brother. Would Don still be mad? He didn't want to get hurt again. And what would he say to him anyway?
"I'm not hungry, Dad."
"Yes, you are. Get your butt down here in the next two minutes. You hear me?"
Charlie shivered when the door closed. He didn't want to make his father mad, but he also didn't want to see his brother... not yet anyway. Don might be mad. He didn't want to fight with his brother anymore. He loved Donny. How could he hit his brother again?
He went downstairs and Don was already sitting at the table. Charlie noticed that his brother made a point of not looking at him. He didn't mind, though. He wasn't sure he wanted to look at Don, either, once he saw the bruise he'd given his brother.
Alan and Margaret exchanged looks. Alan looked between his two boys and sighed. "Apologize, you two. I don't want you making this any harder on the rest of us. Your mother and I would like to have a pleasant meal."
Charlie managed to glance at his brother. "I'm sorry, Don."
"Yeah, I'm sorry, too, Buddy."
Charlie smiled a little. He always liked it when his brother called him "Buddy." It made him feel closer to his brother.
"There. Now that that's settled, let's eat."
Don and Charlie still didn't speak throughout the meal, but there was a silent agreement that they weren't going to fight anymore. They ended up going the whole night without talking, which, even for them, was odd.
The next day Charlie decided he was going to tell everyone that he got hit with a door. He couldn't tell anyone that Don had hit him. He didn't want Don to look bad. He wasn't a bad brother. They had both just had a bad moment together.
It wasn't like they intentionally hurt each other.
Val was the only one who actually asked him about it, though. When she came into their Chemistry room, she gasped and ran to him.
"Oh, my gosh! Charlie, what happened?"
"I got hit with a door."
"Oh, that looks awful. Does it hurt?"
Charlie shrugged. It hadn't been hurting as much today. "Not much."
"Your poor nose. I hope it gets better soon."
Charlie had to tell her something again. And the words came a little easier this time.
"Val, can I talk to you about something?"
"Of course, Charlie."
"It's about Don. You... you should still go to the prom with him."
"He's not a bad brother. He's always taking care of me and stuff. He doesn't mean anything by his teasing. He just is trying to fit in, like we all are. He's not like that at home. He's always there for me. Please, go with him to the prom. I know he likes you."
Val smiled. "You're a pretty good brother, too, Charlie."
Charlie shrugged as he bowed his head, feeling the blush spread across his face.
"Will you go with him?" Charlie asked when he thought the blush had faded.
Charlie smiled and felt good about what he'd done. He hoped Val would go to the prom. Though Charlie had wanted Val to be his date, he never would want Don not to get to go because of him. He wanted Don to be happy. Sometimes he thought that was hard for his brother to find. So if he could give his brother this one happiness, he would feel like he'd done something good.
Don and Charlie barely spoke again, but they did look at each other a few times that afternoon once they got home.
Their parents were home this time, so there wasn't going to be any fight between them. Charlie didn't think there would be anyway. He could see Don was sorry for hitting him, and he hoped Don knew that he was sorry, too. He would take it back if he could.
That night, Charlie had trouble sleeping. He missed his brother. He knew all it took was just one sentence, one start of a conversation to get his brother back, but he didn't know what to say anymore. It was like there was something between them, making it too hard for them to talk to each other. Apparently Don felt it, too, because Don hadn't exactly gone out of his way to talk to him. Just as he was thinking about going to his brother's room, Don walked into his.
"Buddy? You awake?" Don's eyes hadn't adjusted to the darkness yet, so he couldn't see his brother looking at him.
"Yeah, Donny. I'm awake."
"Good." Don came over and sat on the chair by Charlie's bed.
He scooted close to Charlie and looked him in the eye.
"Val's going with me to the prom." Don smiled, though he wasn't sure how his brother would react to the news.
"That's good," Charlie said quietly.
"And I know why."
Charlie blushed as he looked up at his brother. Don was staring at his brother's face, looking for his reaction.
What had made him do that? After what he'd done to Charlie, that was the last thing he deserved.
"Why did you do it, Charlie?"
Charlie turned away from his brother and fiddled with his blankets covering him. "I didn't want you to be mad at me. I was sorry for hitting you. I didn't mean for her to decide not to go with you. I only wanted to go with her because I didn't think she was going with anyone else. At least not my brother."
Don gave a small smile. "Look, Buddy, I should have told you. I'm sorry I didn't. I just didn't want to upset you. I knew you liked her, and I honestly wasn't expecting you to ask her."
"I know. I don't think she was either. I just thought... she's the only one who looks at me like I'm more than a genius 13 year old kid. She looks at me as if I fit in with everyone in the school. And she really listens to me, Don. It's not like anyone else would go with me anyway."
Don took Charlie's hand when his brother looked away from him, a small pout to his lips. "Hey. The girls in our school... they're shallow. They don't see you for who you really are. Val is special. She's not like the other girls. When you're older, you'll have so many girls going after you, you won't know what to do with them all."
Charlie smiled at his brother's words. He didn't think that would ever be true, but it was nice of his brother to say so.
"Donny, are you mad at me?"
"No, Buddy, of course not."
"Good." Charlie smiled again, burrowing into his pillows.
Don stood and moved to Charlie's bed. "Are you mad at me?"
Don chuckled and let his brother give him a big hug. "I'm glad. We good?"
"We're good." The two shook on it and laughed.
"Well, we'd better get to bed. Good night, Buddy."
Don stood and headed toward the door.
"I love you, Donny," Charlie whispered quietly. He wasn't sure if he wanted his brother to hear the words or not. It didn't matter though.
Don turned around when he placed his hand on the door knob.
"I love you, too, Buddy."