Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Thanks as always to ritt, the world's best beta and sounding board!
The one word was enough to bring a smile to Don's face. It was his secret love – any and everything chocolate. From the time he'd started dating through his current less-than-glamorous love life, Don's girlfriends had always been amazed at his ability to provide them with the finest chocolate candies in the world. They assumed he did research or just bought the most expensive variety he could find, but in truth, he was a connoisseur of chocolate. He'd always been afraid that little fact would tarnish his macho man exterior, so he'd kept it a closely guarded secret from everyone – even the curly haired snoop who always seemed to know his business.
And now, Don thought with a smile. With four full days of downtime ahead of me and no Dad or Charlie in town – thank you Aunt Irene – I can finally indulge my passion. He bit off a small piece of the rich candy he held in his hand, savoring the perfect caramel and milk chocolate mixture. He slowly moved it around in his mouth, loathe to deny even a single taste bud the succulent sweetness he'd been saving for this occasion. Satisfied that the bite had been fully appreciated, he began chewing the candy when a sudden pain assaulted his tooth.
"Ow!" He pulled the chocolate and caramel from his mouth and – in his haste to determine the source of his discomfort – threw it into the nearby trash can. He quickly chastised himself for wasting such delicious and expensive candy, but the deep throbbing in his jaw reminded him there was a more pressing issue. Don clamped a hand to his cheek and made a beeline for his bathroom mirror. Once there, he flipped on the lights and opened his mouth, immediately discovering the source of his pain. Don had always been religious about oral hygiene and, as a result, had only experienced a problem with one tooth. Unfortunately, that problem had led to a root canal and porcelain crown which – much to his dismay – was now missing. Probably in the trash can with my chocolate.
Don stood in front of the mirror and sighed, knowing that the throbbing – not as severe now but definitely still present – wouldn't go away until he'd been to see his dentist. So much for my four days off. He found his cell phone and placed a call to his dentist, offering up a silent prayer of thanks when he was told the doctor could see him that afternoon.
"One o'clock?" Don clarified as he glanced at his watch. It would be tight but he really wanted to get his tooth fixed so he could begin enjoying what was left of his off days. "Sure, no problem. See you then."
Don had disconnected the call, grabbed his keys and headed out the front door when the first clap of thunder shook the windows of his apartment building. "Great," he muttered as he made his way to the stairwell. "Traffic's going to be wonderful, now."
He raced down the stairs to the parking garage where he slipped behind the wheel of his government-issued SUV. It cranked to life and Don quickly exited the garage directly into what had to be the worst storm since Noah's time. He flipped on the wipers and turned on the radio, wanting musical encouragement as he made record time to his dentist's office. After a miraculously quick ride on the Ten, Don exited and maneuvered through the surprisingly deserted side streets. I guess everyone else decided to stay home out of the rain. As he drove through a puddle, splashing buckets of water onto his windshield, he scowled. Lucky them.
Don looked at his watch and felt his mood brighten. He was, indeed, going to arrive at his destination in time for his appointment. Then he heard a loud, high-pitched squeak as his vehicle shuddered to a stop. "What the…?"
He put the SUV in park as he scanned the warning lights on the dashboard, all of which remained unlit. Don slammed his fist against the steering wheel as he realized he'd have to venture into the downpour to further look over his truck. "Murphy's Law," he groused as he stepped out in to the pouring rain and gusting wind. He was by no means a mechanic but he'd tinkered around with cars in high school and college. Don performed a quick, cursory exam and could find no obvious problems which meant he'd best have the vehicle towed into the FBI's garage.
He climbed back inside the shelter of his vehicle and pulled out his cell phone, frowning when he couldn't get a dial tone. Don examined the screen and saw there was some sort of SIM error message. For lack of knowing what else to do, he powered off the phone, removed the SIM card, waited a couple of minutes, replaced the card and turned the phone back on. He glared at the electronic device as it mocked him with the same error message.
Letting his head fall back against the seat, Don closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. I'm going to have to flag down a motorist. He looked up and scanned the empty street for a full five minutes without seeing another car or pedestrian. Get real – this is LA. Someone has to be out. The streets remained deserted, leaving Don with one last option.
The frustrated agent exited the vehicle and locked it behind him before setting off down the sidewalk. He'd gone no more than fifteen feet when a flash of lightning blinded him. The resulting clap of thunder was instantaneous and deafening, as was a secondary noise that sounded a lot like glass and metal being crushed. Don paused for a brief second as he summoned up his courage, then turned around and discovered his SUV had fallen victim to a mid-sized tree.
Don was a rational man, a consummate professional, but he suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to sit on the sidewalk, in the middle of a raging storm, and just see what else fate had to throw at him. He was still battling the urge when a car horn sounded behind him and a familiar voice rang out.
Don turned and found a patrol car idling nearby, from which a very concerned Gary Walker peered at him.
Walker cast a glance at the wrecked vehicle. "You all right?"
"Yeah," Don assured him as his old friend opened the passenger door and beckoned him inside. "Just a run of bad luck."
The detective let out a low whistle as he surveyed the wreckage before them. "I'll say." Gary looked at Don and raised an eyebrow. "May I ask what you're doing out in this weather?"
"Long story," Don wearily sighed. "But if I can borrow your cell phone, I need to cancel an appointment at my dentist's office."
Walker chuckled as he handed his phone to the agent. "I'd have cancelled when I saw the severity of this storm."
"It was an emergency," Don informed him as he punched in the number. He frowned as the detective snatched the device back.
"Why didn't you say so?" Gary growled as he pointed to the SUV. "You're all locked up and secure?"
"Tell me where your dentist's office is." Don relayed the information and smiled as his friend flipped on the cruiser's lights and sirens. "Hang on to your seat."
At twelve fifty-nine Don was signing the patient log as the receptionist he'd spoken to earlier greeted him with a smile. "Glad to see you made it here okay, Mister Eppes. I hope the weather didn't give you too much trouble."
Don couldn't help it – he started laughing and couldn't stop. Tears formed in his eyes and he could just make out the receptionist's blurry image as she gave him a bemused look.
"Are you okay, Mister Eppes?"
He quickly wiped away his tears and managed to compose himself, only letting the occasional chuckle escape. "Let's just say I made it here in one piece and leave it at that."
She gave him a polite smile. "Sure. Just have a seat and Doctor Herd will be with you in a few minutes."
Don thanked her and took a seat next to Walker in the waiting room.
"I've got to hand it to you, Eppes," the older man said with a shake of his head. "Not too many men I know could laugh about anything after a day like the one you've had. What gives?"
Don shrugged. "Stress of the day, I suppose."
"Right." The detective leaned over and peered at the agent's face. "Tell me, Eppes…" He paused until Don started to grow uncomfortable under his scrutiny. "Is that chocolate on your chin?"