Repercussions: Chapter 23
Disclaimer: Maybe. Probably not.
The day Don was released from the hospital, Megan had apologized all over herself to Alan for not being available to help him more – and then she had driven to the caves. Larry was incommunicado, and she had not been able to reach him since the incident. Arrangements to lodge in these caves had to be done through the mail – there was no-one anywhere actually answering a phone. Thank God he had at least told her exactly where he was going.
When she found him at the communal campfire, blinking owlishly in the sunlight as if he had not seen it for days, the first thing she did was stride up to him and slap him. Hard. Twice. Then she spun around and started to leave without saying a word. She had almost made her escape when a force beyond herself made her pivot again. He was right behind her. His mouth was open and he was talking, but she couldn't hear a thing. Instead, she leaned over and kissed him, shoving her tongue inside that mouth and tasting smoke from the campfire.
In the end, it had taken a few days to get back to L.A.
When they did, they went straight to the hospital, and up to Charlie's room. Alan was in full father mode when they quietly entered. "You were only released two days ago, son, and you're trying to do too much! You should be home resting. As soon as Amita gets here, you and I are going home!"
Don was sitting in chair near Charlie's bed, his father standing over him, and he looked up in protest. "Dad, I swear, I was not 'grimacing'. It was a smile. David was telling us…."
Megan had heard enough and made her presence known. "David's back?", she asked, entering the room further and looking around.
Alan whipped around and saw her, breaking into a grin and stretching out his arms to greet her as a daughter. "Megan! Come here, sweetheart! Help me talk some sense into this ox!"
Don groaned and Megan laughed into Alan's shoulder. "Good luck with that one," she said dryly, winking at Don as she pulled back. She wondered suddenly where Larry was, and turned back to the door. "I brought someone…"
Larry stood transfixed just inside the door, distraught eyes on Charlie. His friend had been in the hospital just shy of a week, and had yet to take a step. Charlie had been relieved – in more ways than one – to lose the catheter earlier that morning, although he was still recuperating from the exhausting and painful transfers that resulted. He was transported to the bathroom today in a wheelchair, but the therapists and nurses were making ominous noises about requiring his own legs to hold him up as soon as the next day. Frankly, wan and tired and silent in the bed, he was terrified. He was not sure his legs would ever hold him again. When David had unexpectedly shown up, relaxed and full of stories about airline food and turbulence, Charlie had welcomed the distraction.
Two surprises in rapid succession proved to be a bit much, though, and now he just blinked back at Larry. An awkward silence fell over the room. "Oh, Charles," the physicist finally said, finally approaching the bed with small tentative steps. "Oh, Charles. I was such an ass, to render myself unattainable. I so regret that I have not been here to assist, and provide Alan some additional resources. Please, old friend. Please forgive me."
A look of confusion crossed Charlie's face, and he glanced at Don, who was watching his brother for a reaction. "What is it?", he asked now, softly.
Charlie shook his head, slightly. "It's just… 'ass'…that's only one syllable."
Don snorted out a laugh. "I guess he really is upset, then," he teased.
Charlie smiled and looked back at Larry. "So you're back on terra firma now? All of you?"
Larry tugged at an ear. "As much as I ever was, Charles. I understand now that I had it backwards. Leaving my friends and loved ones and seeking seclusion never offered me the symbiosis I sought. Our salvation lies in each other."
Megan sidled up behind him and gently pulled his hand from his ear. It did not go unnoticed by anyone when she continued to hold that hand with her own. She looked questioningly at Alan. "David's here?", she repeated.
"After some decent coffee," he explained, and as if in proof the door swung open again.
"Ran into someone in the hall," came David's voice, quickly followed by "Megan!"
Amita pushed past him, shoving a coffee cup at Alan and flying at Megan and Larry. "Oh! You're both back!" she cried, hugging them each in turn.
Alan smiled indulgently and took a sip of coffee, but as the decibel level in the room rose he set it down carefully on Charlie's bedside table and cleared his throat. "Now, now…everybody's loved, and welcomed. Just not all at once." He glanced at Charlie, and saw a gray pallor of pain creeping onto his face. He offered a hand to Don. "Come. We need to get you home, and Charlie needs his rest." He sincerely hoped most of the others would take the hint and leave, and he was a little surprised when Amita was the one who protested.
"Wait, please," she begged, disengaging herself from Larry and heading for Charlie's bed. She crossed the space rapidly and leaned over to kiss him deeply, doing most of the work herself, since he was obviously fading fast. As she was straightening she held his eyes and spoke. "I talked with Millie," she assured him. "She agreed that it's a great idea, and she'll get started setting things up right away."
Much as he wanted the room cleared, Alan was intrigued. "Charlie?", he asked, curious.
Charlie looked a little nervously at David, then almost pleadingly at Don. "I want…that is…I'd like…"
Don frowned a little, getting concerned. "What, Chuck?"
Charlie took a deeper breath than normal and winced, latching onto Amita's hand. "For Colby," he finally said, not looking at anyone. "I want everyone in this room to know this is in honor of Colby. Amita suggested that we not use his name, because it will invite bad publicity every time a scholarship is awarded. Is that okay?"
Don glanced up at his father and then leaned a little closer to the bed. "What are you talking about, Charlie?"
Amita squeezed his hand and took over for him. "Charlie contacted his investment counselor", she started proudly. "He's cashing in a few CDs and starting an endowed scholarship fund at CalSci for students interested in forensic mathematics. We thought maybe if we named it 'The Whiz Kid Foundation', we could acknowledge Colby without subjecting his name to more bad press."
The only immediate reaction was a complete freezing of time and sound, and Charlie spoke worriedly. "Is that all right? I don't want to insult anyone...least of all Colby. I was hoping you would all serve on the advisory committee to set up the guidelines, initially."
Amita nodded and let go of Charlie's hand so that she could run her own through his hair in a gesture of comfort. She could hear the distress in his voice. "Of course," she cut in, a little too loudly and defensively. "And later, on the selection committee that chooses scholarship recipients."
Charlie looked up at her, grateful for her presence, but seeking to reassure her. " 'Mita, I'm all right," he said softly. "I'm not going to fall apart if they think this is a bad idea, honey."
Alan finally murmured a protest, the first one to break the spell. He smiled at Charlie, letting one hand rest on Don's shoulder. "Well, I, for one, think it's a lovely idea, Charlie. I know I'm not part of the Bureau..."
"...but you're family," interrupted Megan. "This is a family decision, and your opinion is always welcome, Alan." She clasped Larry's hand a little harder, and pushed the next words around a lump in her throat. "I think it's a marvelous idea. Forensic mathematics -- like what you do for us?"
"More or less, dear," Larry answered. "Charles certainly takes that specialty beyond its usual parameters. It might be more accurate to think of one your in-house experts." He looked at his friend with respect. "It's a fine thought, Charles."
Charlie couldn't stand it anymore and looked directly at David -- he was virtually terrified by his brother's silence, so he left him for last. "David? Please don't feel you have to agree with everyone. You were Colby's partner, and you knew him better than anybody. I know he respected your opinion, and trusted you -- you're the one he sent the information about Tompkins!"
David was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, his own cup of coffee clutched in one hand. His pose was relaxed, and the smile he flashed Charlie was genuine. "Charlie, I thought it was a great idea the second I heard it -- I just wanted to let someone else speak, first. Colby...Colby would love this." He chortled a little. "I know he thought a lot of you, Charlie --- eventually. He liked to tease you, but he really respected your work, man."
Amita had relaxed a little and grabbed Charlie's hand again, but while others voiced agreement with David she sensed Charlie turning his head toward Don, and she tensed up again. So help her God, she liked Don, but if he said something to break Charlie's heart right now she might have to take a laptop to him.
Don looked silently back at Charlie as he slowly stood. His face was impassive, impossible to read. "Dad's right," he finally said, "you need your rest and there are far too many of us here."
Charlie actually groaned and closed his eyes, and Amita started looking around for something she could throw. No comment at all would have been better than Don pretending the question had never been asked! She was still fuming when he surprised her by taking a step closer to the bed and leaning over as far as his own injury would let him. He placed one hand on each side of Charlie's face, tightening his grip a little when Charlie opened his eyes and started to see him so close. "Buddy," Don said quietly, still audible to everyone in the hush of the room, "you are the most incredible man I know. I would be proud to serve on the committee. Whiz Kid Foundation is the perfect name; and this is the perfect tribute. Thank-you. Thank-you."
Charlie's eyes moistened as Don slowly straightened back up, and Alan draped an arm over his eldest son's shoulders and squeezed gently. "I'm proud of you both," he informed them matter-of-factly. "Always have been." He cleared his own throat and surveyed the room around him. "Another broiler out there today," he noted happily, changing the subject. "Who wants ice cream?" Charlie and Amita both reddened furiously and choked simultaneously, and Alan tossed them an evil wink as he herded the rest of the visitors out of the room. "My treat. Anything but mint chocolate chip."
A/N: Yes, it's sad -- but console yourselves. This is my first 23-chapter "oneshot". Anyhoo, I have read rumors that the true ownership of "numb3rs" has spies who keep up on fanfic to see what fans are really wanting to see. In this case, I hope that the rumormill is correct. So far, I have received almost twice my "normal" amount of reviews on this story -- and less than one-in-100 people review, looking at the "hits" in my stats. Even disallowing the odd little people who have nothing better to do than harass me, the reviews have also been unique in their length and seeming investment in the story. (Aside: Constructive criticism is not a 'harassment'; it is a challenge. For instance, I now know that bull elks do not go into heat -- they respond to a "cow" elk in heat. This type of information will be useful in the future.) I believe that this story hit a sensitive chord out there -- if you are a spy, pay attention: People want some closure on the whole Colby issue, and most people want him to go out a hero in some way. We demand satisfaction.