Disclaimer; I do not own Numb3rs or any of the yummy people who work there.
Spoilers for all three seasons - specifically for; Sabotage, Counterfeit Reality, Prime Suspect, Manhunt, Protest, Guns and Roses, Judgment Call, Backscatter, Calculated Risk, Hot Shot, Hardball, Provenance, Pandora's Box and, of course, The Janus List.
And if you look closely, you'll see a nod for "Child of My Heart", an amazing fanfic by 2headsRbetter; and another one for one of my favorite oneshots - "Souvenir" by jessewrites.
A/N: I thought this might be a good lead in for the season 4 premier. It was suppose to be a oneshot, but it got away from me, so I will post it in two sections.
Summary: After Colby's arrest and a serious job related injury, Alan and Charlie struggle to convince Don of his effectiveness as an agent.
Body of Work
"What do you mean you're not going?"
Don Eppes looked incredulously at his younger brother, Charlie, the cold bottle of water he held in his hand stopping halfway to his mouth.
They were standing in the kitchen at Charlie's house and had just helped their father, Alan, put the finishing touches to an easy supper of soup and sandwiches.
Charlie shrugged off-handedly and said, "I have too much to do here." He cast his eyes downward, in an awkward attempt to avoid his brother's pale and gaunt face. He crossed in front of Don, toward the sink, staying clear of the sleek, black cane the agent held in other hand.
Don persisted. "They are giving you an award, for Pete's sake. You have to be there. Acceptance speech and everything, you know."
"No, I don't. They can mail it to me. Or Larry can accept it for me. He'll be there."
Don looked to their father for help. Alan was standing in the swinging doorway to the dining room, soup bowls and spoons in his hands. He shot his eldest son a look that clearly said; "Been there, done that, tried to talk sense into him already."
Don tried a different approach. "Come on, Charlie. This is one time I can actually go to the ceremony. I'm not chasing some dirt ball across two states with Coop, and I don't have 12 cases on my desk all screaming for top priority. I got nothing holding me back this time, buddy."
Charlie winced at what his brother wasn't saying.
Nothing holding me back.
Because he was still on medical leave. Still recovering, after nearly 6 weeks of hospitalization, therapy, and recuperative care at Charlie's. Still unable to go a whole day without a nap or exert himself for very long without becoming short of breath.
Charlie still had nightmares of those ten agonizing days he and Alan spent watching Don fight for his life. There had been days of raging fever, as the knife wound had become infected, when he and Alan and the nurses stood steadfastly on either side of his hospital bed, trying to sooth and cool Don's tortured body with cold cloths. Then the painful, racking pneumonia coughs began and that consumed his meager supply of strength and left him trembling and unable to even raise his head from the pillow. It nearly killed him. It nearly killed them all. For even as Alan and Charlie administered to Don day and night, their own bodies began to rebel from lack of nourishment and rest. Neither one could even comprehend leaving Don alone, so they stayed and continued their war on the massive infection that was threatening their family. For surly, if Don surrendered to it, their family was lost.
It took an intervention of love and single-minded determination by David, Megan, Amita and Larry to convince them they could wage the war in their stead while Alan and Charlie ate and slept. Charlie only agreed when he saw how utterly exhausted Alan was and knew he probably looked the same. He quietly handed his cloth to Larry and took Alan to the cafeteria. From then on, there were always two of them with Don, soothing, encouraging, easing him through his delirious rants.
But when the worst was over, when the fever finally subsided and Don, weak and needy was released and came home to the Craftsman, the real battle had begun.
Charlie knew the forced recuperation had been hard on his brother, both physically and emotionally. Don Eppes, was not, as some people may think, a loner. He naturally gravitated towards people, was always friendly and outgoing with his colleagues and fellow members of law enforcement. He still kept in contact with some of the players in the Stockton Rangers, the baseball team he played on after college. He also had a reputation as a lady's man. One that avoided any commitments. But, those who knew Don, knew that was not the case. His job made it hard to form attachments and was equally hard for a woman to cope with the ungodly hours he was called to a crime scene, and of course, the danger he faced on a daily basis. He just hadn't found the right woman yet.
No, Don was not a loner. But he didn't like having to rely on anyone to help him. He was more comfortable alone and independent.
Charlie knew that. Knew it went against his brother's grain to accept the sacrifice and supreme effort his family was willing to give him. And he understood it. But it was still hard when he would find Don staring at nothing, lost somewhere in his thoughts, despair evident on his face. Other times, Alan and Charlie would tip toe through the living room, trying to stay quiet so they wouldn't wake him up as he slept on the couch, only to find out he was not asleep, just laying there with his eyes closed, as if he was shutting out the world. Charlie worried about his frequent despondency, his lack of emotion and the fact that sometimes it seemed his brother was floundering, lost in one of Larry Fleinhart's black holes, unable, and unwilling to fight his way out.
And then they had received the notification that the International Foundation of Science and Math was giving him a special award for his body of work. He had nearly cried out at the injustice of it. His big brother was nearly drowning in a sea of despair, second guessing everything about his life and work. It was not fair that he was being honored and awarded for his life's work at this time. Charlie couldn't do that to him. So, he had decided not to go. No fanfare, no ceremony, no pictures and press. Simple.
Charlie forced his thoughts aside as he reached into the cabinet above the sink and removed three water glasses. Still avoiding Don, he crossed over to the refrigerator and picked up the pitcher of iced tea, then headed for the dining room.
Don followed, close on his heels, holding the door with one hand and limping through. "Charlie . . ." he began, but his brother cut him off.
"I'm sorry, Don. But I really do have a lot to do. I'm very busy."
They were all seated now and Don began to pass the plate of tuna sandwiches around. He was clearly upset. "With what?" he demanded harshly.
"What?" Charlie was shocked at his brother's tone.
"With what, Chuck? What are you so busy with that would keep you from accepting an award for . . ." he hesitated and looked to Alan, who quickly filled in with, "Significant, Influential and Impressive Body of Work."
"Yeah, that." Don said. "That sounds like a big deal to me. This is for your whole life's mathematical works, right? I mean, everything you have ever accomplished."
When Charlie reached for a sandwich without answering, Don blurted out. "How can you be so damn blasé about this?"
"I'm not being blasé." Charlie shot back, just as harshly. "I understand the significance of this. I really do. But I just have so much to . . ."
At Don's disbelieving and derisive snort, Charlie offered defensively. "I have mid term papers to grade."
"Even I know that's what you have TA's for."
Charlie shook his head. "No. At this point in the semester, I like to write comments and encouragements in the margins. TA's can't do that."
"The TA's can mark what's right or wrong. Your students will just have to live without your cute little misspelled analogies this time."
"Amita needs help with her compunatorics seminar." Charlie tried again.
"Are you kidding me? She'll be at the ceremony with Dad and I – in the front row – doing that whistle thing with her teeth."
"I need to complete a new segment in my Cognitive Emergence Work. I've been falling behind and . . ."
Charlie stopped as he saw Don's shoulders slumping, and he watched the sandwich fall out of his brother's hand onto the plate in front of him.
Don paused abruptly in their verbal battle and looked at his brother. He suddenly felt very tired and not just physically. Charlie caught the weary emotion in Don's eyes and his voice when he said quietly; "Charlie. Do you know what I need?"
"What?" he asked, his voice small and breathless, afraid of what his brother was going to say, knowing he couldn't refuse him.
"I need to see my little brother, standing in front of a room full of snooty, pompous, know-it-alls, accepting an award for the absolutely amazing things he does with numbers. None of them can do what you do, buddy, and they probably feel smarter, just by association. I know I do. It's not everyday I get to be a part of that, Charlie. I'd really like to go."
Charlie swallowed hard, staring at a spot on the floor in front of him, then, raising his eyes, he asked tentatively, "Really?"
"Really. Come on, Chuck."
Charlie glared at him, but a slow lopsided smile emerged and he looked at his brother with a teasing glint in his eyes. "It's a black tie affair, Donald. Do you have a black tie?"
Don's eyes twinkled and he returned his brother's smile. "Nope, but David will probably let me borrow that black tie with the yellow smiley faces his niece gave him last year for Christmas."
Charlie's smiled evened out across his face instantly and he said, "Well, if that's the case, I guess I could take a few days off."
"Great." Don looked at Alan, who nodded approvingly at his eldest and said, "Now that that is settled, let's eat."
It wasn't a dream or a nightmare. It never was, but he always woke up feeling the dread and fear that usually accompanied one. He was cold, again, and pulled the covers up to his neck, covering his shoulders. He didn't know why he was always cold when this happened. He laid still, trying to even out his breathing, to relax, but he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep anymore. After a few moments he threw the covers off and got out of bed. He limped painfully to the bathroom and splashed some water on his face. He had to go back to his room to retrieve his cane, then he maneuvered the darkened hallway thanks to the small night light Alan had installed when he was first released from the hospital.
Out of the habit of too many sleepless nights, Don headed for the kitchen and set about making himself a cup of herbal tea. Alan had insisted his large amount of caffeine intake was harmful to his recovery, so to avoid any arguments, he had switched to tea. Besides, he figured, who needed caffeine when all you did was sit around the house. Face it, he thought drearily, caffeine was no longer a necessary part of his life.
He opened the refrigerator to see if there was any leftover apple pie, telling himself he needed something on his stomach so he could take his pain medicine. He spied the lone bottle of beer, sitting in the back of the top shelf and his hand hovered over the pastry. He couldn't remember the last time he had enjoyed a cold beer. Physical therapy had been particularly grueling today and that beer could sure could help ease some of the soreness. But, he had promised Alan as long as he was taking pain medication he would not drink. And the honest to God truth was, it wasn't the beer itself, it was what it represented that kept Don's hand hovering in the cold. Control. He hadn't had much control over his life in the last 6 weeks and the urge to say the hell with it and grab the beer was strong.
In short time, he decided against both the beer and the pie, willing to risk the nausea and take the pain killers on an empty stomach. He took his tea and medication into the living room and sat down in the dark.
When had life become so tiring, he wondered. He could not remember ever being as bone tired and weary as he had felt the last few months, even before he had been injured.
He remembered very little of the incident that had initiated the series of events that led to him sitting in the dark at his brother's house. His teammates, Megan and David, had filled in the details he couldn't recall with any clarity and they had sharpened the memories that remained foggy and hazy.
ATF had requested assistance from the FBI in a raid on a warehouse that they suspected was being used by a ruthless gang of gun runners.
He had sent David and Megan in the back door first. He followed with their new trainee, Noah Blake, a young agent from Oklahoma. They burst through the door a split second after the front door was breached by a combined force of ATF and FBI agents. Several suspects were already running in their direction, attempting to escape through the rear door. Others had made the fatal decision to shoot it out with the agents in the front. Gunfire and adrenaline induced yells from both sides of the battle filled the air as he moved forward, with Blake at his side.
He saw the runner before Blake did. The man had stopped suddenly off to the right of the rookie and had him in his sights. He reacted instinctively and pushed Noah aside just as the gunman fired. The bullet hit him hard in the left shoulder, his Kevlar vest preventing actual penetration. But the impact swung him around violently and he lost his balance, falling gracelessly to the concrete floor. His injured shoulder hit the floor first, then his head bounced against the hard surface. Instinct and training got him to his feet quickly, but the assailant broadsided him and they went down together. As he grappled with the suspect, he heard more gunshots and loud shouts that seemed to be very near. He remembered seeing a blurry, sideways view of David and Megan running to him. What he didn't see was the knife. He remembered the feel of it, though, as it plunged into the back of his leg, six inches or so above his knee. Megan told him David Sinclair fired on the run, hitting the suspect three times, center mass.
They told him he remained conscious, had kept his eyes open, responded to them and the paramedics, had even been able to communicate with the ER doctors. He didn't remember any of it clearly, only in fragmented images that sometimes flashed before him like a slide show; Megan's and David's frantic voices as they tried to stop the bleeding; the feel of their hands as they fumbled with a tourniquet on his thigh;; the coppery smell of blood and the warm sticky sensation as it spread over his jeans and pooled around him; the touch of the paramedics as they started an IV and put an oxygen mask over his face. All of it was like a dream to him. The only image that remained sharp and embedded in his mind was the pale, shocked expression on Noah Blake's face as he stood by, wide eyes watching the desperate efforts to stop the blood that was pulsing out of his senior agent's leg at an alarming rate.
He didn't see Alan and Charlie until the next day when he woke up in his hospital room. He doesn't remember much of that day, either, between the drugs and sleeping, but Charlie told him he was actually pretty lucid and extremely vocal about not needing to be in a hospital.
There actually had not been much damage, other than a nicked femoral artery, which was repaired in surgery and some muscle trauma. But, nothing that rest, therapy and a few units of blood couldn't take care of. The doctor had been optimistic – as long as it didn't become infected. But, by nightfall of the second day, it was obvious that they had already lost that battle.
Fever, racing to it's deadly peak of 106, had reduced him to a weak, delirious shell of himself that dreamed of his mother and childhood baseball games. He begged Alan and Charlie to forgive him for past indiscretions that never happened or that they were not aware of. He cried for Nicki Davis and Kim Hall.
At times, he was aware of someone beside him. He remembered voices and cool, soothing touches on his fevered skin. Once he could swear he heard his father singing a Jewish lullaby to him.
The infection eventually cleared up, but it left him too weak to fight off the pneumonia that followed. It ravaged his already weakened system until it maxed out one night with what Megan cautiously described as a "death watch."
He had lived every day of the last four weeks imagining the heartbreaking fear of his father and Charlie, sitting beside his bed that night, watching him and praying that each breath he took would be followed by another and another.
Somehow, he made it through that night, and the next day and eventually his lungs cleared and the coughing subsided. He was finally released from the hospital ten days later and had been at Charlie's ever since.
He knew he needed their help. He had practically been too week to feed himself. But, after years of being on his own, he had trouble adjusting to Alan's and Charlie's constant presence.
Alan fussed over him. He knew his father had been, and probably still was, worried about him. And when Alan Eppes worried, he fussed and cleaned and cooked.
And Charlie pestered. His frantic, anxious energy had zeroed in on him as an object of concern and helplessness and Charlie, who always had a tendency to overdo and exaggerate situations, nearly smothered him with care.
But, against his grain, he had bitten his tongue and accepted the help. Helping him gave them something else to focus on besides the situation. It helped them deal. And it was sure better than that P vs. NP crap.
Don shifted in his chair and raised his hand to his mouth, popping the painkiller in, then washing it down with his now lukewarm tea.
He let his thoughts return to his overwhelming weariness. As much as he didn't want to admit it, Colby Granger's arrest as a spy for the Chinese, had a lot to do with it.
It had been 4 months now. The entire first month had been spent pulling the files on all the cases Colby had worked on or had access to. They, of course, had not been allowed to review the cases. That was for the Internal Affairs and the NSA. All they could do is turn them over and hope for the best.
Uppermost in his thoughts had been the disconcerting fact that somehow he had missed it. What kind of SAC could miss one of his own team members being a double spy? Surly, there had to be something. Some indication that Colby was stealing and selling confidential information. Even the situation with Dwayne Carter and the murder of the Chinese interpreter hadn't cast any serious doubts to Colby's allegiance to his country. Maybe a misguided attempt to help an army buddy and friend, but who hadn't been there before? The fact that he couldn't remember anything that stood out as suspicious or questionable in Granger's actions, gave him a small amount of hope. Could this all really be just a misunderstanding? A mistake? Stranger things had happened. And he knew all too well, from Charlie's work with the NSA that things involving the government can be deceiving.
Then there was the intern.
Five days or so after the pneumonia and fever had run it's course and he was awake more than he was asleep, Alan and Charlie, who had had enough of the hospital cafeteria food for a lifetime, had gone down the street to a popular diner for lunch. He had just finished his meager and less than appetizing lunch, when an intern had come into his room to check his IV's and monitors. He had been tired, but the pleasant young man, who he had never seen before, had engaged him in small talk. He remembered wishing he would just hurry up and finish so he could get some rest before the fussing started when his father and Charlie returned.
After jotting down the numbers on the monitors in his chart and rechecking the IV drip, the young intern had turned to leave. He stopped with his hand on the open door and had turned back slowly, looking at him. Without missing a beat, he said; "Granger said to tell you he is glad you're feeling better. It's important to him."
What the hell did that mean? How did Colby even know he was in the hospital or had been injured? Megan and David weren't permitted to visit him in the government maximum security prison. And , even if Charlie's security clearance had allowed him to see the suspected double agent, surely he would have said something to him.
It was all highly suspicious. He was getting the feeling that there was more to this than any of them knew.
And, now, his team, which just four months ago, had one of the highest solve rate in the bureau and the reputation that went with it, was split into pieces. Granger was in federal custody, awaiting a final decision on the charges of treason. The new trainee, Noah Blake, had been reassigned, after Don was injured, to another team in the field. And Megan and David had been pulled from field work and were wasting their considerable talents in the office.
How had things gotten so messed up?
Startled out of his thoughts by the sense of someone close by, Don looked up to see Alan standing beside him, the light from the street lamp outside illuminating his tired features.
"Hey, Dad. I didn't wake you up, did I?"
Alan sat on the couch facing his son. "No, Donnie. Actually, I got up to use the bathroom and I saw your door open. Is everything alright?"
Don almost laughed out loud, but hid it by rubbing his hand across his face. 'Yeah. I just came down to take my medicine. I forgot to take it up with me tonight."
"That's bull." Alan said sharply and Don's eyes widened at his father's outburst.
"If you and your brother ever get around to having a family of your own, you'd know a father can tell when something is bothering his children. Something has been eating at you for quite a while."
Don grew quiet, not quite sure how to explain his feelings, or even if he could. Alan spoke again in the silence.
"Let me guess. It has something to do with Colby Granger, doesn't it?"
Don was quiet for so long, Alan began to wonder if he was going to answer at all. Then, in a voice so low Alan had to strain to hear it, Don said, "I'm thinking maybe I made a mistake when I joined the FBI."
Alan hadn't expected that.
Don continued. "Do you remember when you and I were talking about Taylor Ashby?" At his father's silent nod, he went on. " I told you then I wondered whether any of us really makes a difference. The things I see Dad, the things I have to do, and for what? The guilty go free on some legal bullshit, and even if they do go to prison, there's two more to take their place on the streets. The politics, the red tape," he shook his head, despair showing in the shadows on his face. "It's hard, Dad, and I'm tired. I don't think I am as effective as I need to be. I think. . . I think I made a mistake."
Alan took a moment to collect his thoughts. "Don, there is an old saying, 'A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.' Or in your case, it's not the easy cases that has made you the excellent agent that you are. It's the hard ones, the ones that stretch you to your limits, and beyond, that help you develop the skills you need to make the difference you spoke of."
"Son," he continued. "When you told your mother and I that you had joined the FBI, we were. . . well, we were stunned. But do you know what? We knew that it was not something you did without giving it the serious thought it deserved. No trumpets or heralding angles appear when the important decisions of our life are made. We make our choices based on gut feeling, information and logic."
"Mistake, Don? No, I don't think you made a mistake. And besides that, anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried to do anything. And that's not you, son. You are very good at what you do. I can't believe you don't think you are effective."
"I should have seen something with Colby." Don muttered. "If he was a spy, how could I not see that?"
"Because you weren't looking for it. You trusted your instincts and you trusted him as a member of your team."
"I'm angry, Dad. I'm angry at him, and Dwayne Carter and the damn Chinese"
"Yes, well, for every minute you remain angry, all you accomplish is losing sixty seconds of peace of mind. And that is definitely not effective."
The room became silent, as both men considered what each of them had said. Then, Alan spoke again.
"Donnie, whatever happens with Colby will happen. Good or bad, it will happen, and you will move on. I've learned one important lesson about life, son, and I can sum it up in three words. It goes on. And so will you, whether it's with the FBI or somewhere else."
Alan took a deep breath. He reached across the space between them and touched Don's arm. "Donnie, I know you are feeling ineffective and useless right now, but I want you to consider something. Everyone has a place to fill in this world, and is important, in some respect, whether they choose to be or not. If you could only see how important you are to the lives of those you touch; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. And you leave something of yourself with those you meet, and those you help, and yes, even those who may have betrayed you."
On that ominous final note, Alan stood up. "Well, I don't know about you, kiddo, but I need my beauty sleep. I have to pick up Charlie's tux by 9, and go to the post office and have our mail held, and we all need to pack tomorrow. Try to get some sleep, Donnie."
"I will, Dad. Good night. And. . . thanks."
Alan smiled and headed for the stairs.
Why was it, Don wondered, that no matter how old he was or what was bothering him, his father always knew the right things to say. He felt that Alan had planted a seed of hope in him tonight. Maybe he should stay with the bureau. Maybe things with Colby will work themselves out. Maybe life could be good again.
At any rate, Charlie's award ceremony was only three, no, two days from now, and there was no way Don was going to mess that up with this damn depression. Besides, it may be fun. He had never been to a "math party" before. It could be interesting.
He rose slowly, using the ever faithful cane, and followed in his father's steps to the stairs.
The award ceremony, held at Princeton University, was just what Don expected. Pretentious, scholarly types, most of them older than Alan, huddled together in small groups discussing some obscure mathematical theory or parametric equation.
One thing he couldn't fault them on was the way they treated Charlie. It was obvious they were all fond of him and held him in great respect.
The actual presentation of the award didn't last long. After a few remarks from the president of the IFSA, Charlie was handed a large, elaborately engraved plaque. His acceptance speech and address was met with a standing ovation, one that Don felt was completely justified. Doctor Eppes had been gracious, humble, entertaining and humorous (although, Don and his father didn't quite understand some of the math jokes). The entire room of some of the best mathematical minds in the world rose to their feet in unison, applauding his little brother. Alan and Don looked at each other, both fighting the lumps in their throats.
The reception afterwards, was not what Don expected at all. A lavishly decorated ballroom, complete with an orchestra and highly polished dance floor was highlighted by a massive buffet table, filled with the largest display of exotic food he had ever seen. Black tie, indeed. For some reason Don couldn't comprehend, the stuffy, humorless members of the math elite relaxed after the ceremony and were actually enjoyable to be around.
Alan and Millie were on a mission to sample everything on the buffet table. Larry and Amita were each in deep conversations with fellow professors.
Don sat alone at the large table that had been designated for the man of the hour and his family and guest. Said man of the hour was currently posing for pictures with some old geezer and his young wife? (daughter?) (mistress?). Charlie laughed out loud at something someone said and Don smiled. It had been a while since he had seen Charlie this relaxed and enjoying himself.
He knew he was to blame for that. Things hadn't exactly been stress free at the house lately.
Don reached over and picked up the heavy plaque. He moved his water glass aside and laid the award carefully on the table in front of him.
". . .outstanding contributions in mathematical aspects of information sciences. . ." ". . .brilliant insights and wide-ranging interests. . ." "distinguished mathematician who has significantly contributed to the field. . ." " . . .whose teaching effectiveness has been shown to have had influence beyond his own institution. . ." ". . .qualities that include talent, discipline, and a lack of pretense. . ."
". . . existing work and the promise of future achievements."
Wow, Don thought. Were they really talking about the same guy who dresses like a Havana barber and couldn't balance his checkbook?"
But, he mused thoughtfully, one thing Charlie did know for certain, was his place in life. He knew where he belonged and was comfortable with it. Don wished he felt that way. He did at one time, he knew, but, now, he just wasn't as sure.
He watched his brother heading his way, maneuvering through several clusters of people. He was holding both hands in front of him, trying to balance two champaign glasses. He was stopped twice by well wishers and Don smiled as he watched Charlie interact with them, completely at ease and confident.
Finally reaching the table, Charlie placed one fluted glass in front of Don and sat down, putting the other one in front of himself.
"Hey, bro. How ya' doing?"
Don smiled, taking in his brother's flushed excited face and guessed this wasn't the first glass of champaign he had had.
"I'm good, Charlie." He pointed to the glass in front of him. "What's this for?"
Charlie beamed. "Celebrating!"
Donn glanced at Alan and Millie, who were still contemplating their various choices on the buffet. "I don't think Dad would approve. I'm still on medication." he said quietly.
Charlie snorted disapprovingly and Don laughed at him.
The honoree frowned, apparently deep in thought, then reached across the table and pushed the glass closer to Don. "Drink it fast. I won't tell."
This time Don snorted.
Charlie took offense to the snort and what it implied and said defensively, "Hey, contrary to popular belief, I am not a tattletale."
If Don had been wearing his sunglasses, he would have tucked his head down and peered over them, piercing Charlie with his best interrogation look. But, he wasn't, so he fixed his gaze on his brother and held it, peering intently, until Charlie began to squirm. "Alright." he whined. "Maybe there have been a few times – but, hey, I meant well."
Whether or not Charlie could have kept the secret became mute as Alan suddenly appeared, holding two plates loaded with food.
Don laughed at the sight of them. "Dad. You know you could have gone back. You didn't have to be a glutton and fill two plates."
As Alan sat down, he placed one plate in front of himself, and set the other plate to the side, where Millie had been sitting. "Don't be crude." he said. "Both of these do not belong to me. I was just helping Millie so she could . . ."
Don felt a hand on his shoulder. Millie reached around him and set a plate in front of him. "Here you are, Don." she smiled, holding her hands together in front of her. "I hope you like it. Your Dad told me what you liked, but I also threw in a few surprises."
Don swallowed his embarrassment and gazed hungrily at the array of meats, cheeses, fruits, seafood, and a few delicious and creative looking desserts.
Alan cleared his throat and Don took the hint. "Thank you, Millie. You didn't have to do that. But, it looks great." and then, "Sorry, Dad."
Millie opened her mouth to say something, but Alan's stern voice interrupted. "What's that?" he asked, pointing to the glass in front of Don.
Don and Charlie looked at each other, each one waiting for the other to explain the mysterious appearance of the intoxicating bubbly liquid. When it became apparent that Charlie was not about to say anything, Don sighed and answered simply, "Celebrating, Dad."
Alan looked pointedly at his youngest son, also noticing the flushed cheeks, heavy lidded eyes and semi-goofy grin. "Charlie . . ." he began.
"He made me do it, Dad."
Don sat up straight and shot a deadly glance at his younger brother. "Oooooh, Chuck. You are so dead."
Charlie laughed. "Yeah? What are you going to do about it? You have to catch me first." he taunted, nodding towards his brother's leg and the cane resting beside it.
Don leaned forward, pulling together every inch of intimidation he had ever used in the interrogation room. He narrowed his eyes and spoke in a low growl. "I won't need this cane forever, buddy. I can wait."
At the threat, Charlie's eyes dropped nervously to the floor, then back up to shift between Alan and Don. He swallowed, his Adam's apple moving with the effort. His expression suddenly brightened as he saw something behind his father, and he stood up, approaching one of the many waiters that were floating around the room carrying trays filled with champaign glasses. He flashed her a brilliant, slightly loopy smile and relieved her of two of them. With a great flourish, he handed one to Millie and the other one to Alan.
Alan Eppes smiled, accepting the peace offering and raised his glass in front of him. "Toast." he said.
Charlie scurried back to his place and joined his glass with Alan's, Don's and Millie's.
"To Charles Edward Eppes, mathematician extraordinaire." Alan announced. They carefully clinked their glasses together and Millie added, "Here, here."
As they sipped the bubbly liquid, Don Eppes leaned over closer to his brother and said in a deep, low voice that was filled with the promise of brotherly retribution, "May he rest in peace."
End of chapter one
A/N; The remark about Charlie dressing like a Havana barber was a direct quote from David Krumholtz, himself. During the commentary on the episode "In Plain Sight" from the second season DVD set, he tells Diane Farr that "wardrobe dresses me like a Havana barber."
Barring any unforeseen catastrophes chapter two will be posted tomorrow night, or Monday, at the latest.