by Valerie Vancollie
valeriev84 at hotmail dot com
Characters: Alan, Megan, David, Colby, Charlie, Amita, Larry, Don
Notes: 1) This fic was written to table 1 of the Episodes and Incidents Live Journal community. Therefore it will be written in 50 parts (one part per word prompt), each of which will be a single complete 'scene/segment/incident/whatever.' I chose Don as my claim and Table 1 (see my Numb3rs website) as my prompt table.
2) This is an experimental fic in that it is a fantasy/sci-fi Numb3rs fic. It was partially inspired by the Stargate universe, though you need not have seen the movie and/or TV shows to follow it as it is NOT a crossover.
3) This story is in no way connected to the movie Stardust. I had the title for this fic decided before the movie came out and before I'd heard of it. When I did learn of it, I considered altering the title, but decided not too as I liked it too much as it really ties in with the plot itself.
4) This fic will, in all likelihood, become AU pretty quickly. It was first posted after Power.
5) I'm pinning Don's age as 38, as Charlie was coming up on 30 in the pilot and Don is five years old. 30 + 5 35, and another 3 for each year since season 1.
Spoilers: Pilot, Vector, Counterfeit Reality, Identity Crisis, Man Hunt, Protest, Longshot, Blackout, Money for Nothing, The Janus List, Trust Metric
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Numb3rs characters, items or situations. I only lay claim to the original aspects of the fic.
Present: Day 0
"Megan," Alan said in surprise as he opened the door. "David, Colby."
"Did we get the time wrong?" Megan asked, confused. "I could have sworn Don said five o'clock."
"No, no, I did tell him five," Alan replied, motioning for them to enter. "But when he called an hour ago, he said something had come up and you'd be late. At least I thought he was speaking for all of you."
"No," David said. "We were lucky and haven't been called in today."
"Do you think something came up?" Colby inquired with a frown. "I'd hate to be called away now; I'm starving."
"No, I'm sure Don would have let us know by now if we were needed," Megan responded, her brow furrowing.
"It could have been something else," Alan stated as he closed the door. "Now that I think about it, he didn't mention any of you, I just assumed it applied to the entire team. Anyway, come out back, Charlie and Larry were just talking about firing up the barbeque."
"Uh, oh," Colby intoned, following Alan into the kitchen. "Is it a good idea to leave that to them?"
"No," Alan declared simply with a smile. "I take it Don told you about the last time?"
"Yes, he did," David replied, placing the bottle of wine he'd brought on a counter before stepping outside. "Hey guys."
"You're here," Charlie blinked. "I thought you were going to be late."
"They have no idea what the phone call was about," Alan informed his youngest, inspecting his setup of the barbeque.
"I hate it when he does that!" Charlie declared fiercely as he put the barbeque tongs down with more force than necessary.
"When he does what?" Megan asked, turning away from Larry whom she'd greeted.
"When he doesn't explain what he's doing or merely gives us the most basic facts. He's always doing it!"
"I'm sure it wasn't intentional," David said.
"I'm not," Charlie retorted. "Did you know that I never knew Don worked Fugitive Recovery until Cooper showed up here? Or that he'd ever lived together with one of his girlfriends, let alone that he was engaged at one point, until Kim told me during the counterfeiting case?"
"That was before, Charlie," Alan stated. "Back when the two of you weren't as close."
"He didn't tell us that he and Robin broke up until over a week after it happened," Charlie countered. "And the only reason he did that was because we were asking him about his behavior with Liz. How do we know he won't be selective in what he tells us now? Besides, close or not, an engagement is something important enough to tell a brother about!"
"It's true that Don doesn't talk much about himself or what he's done," David agreed, hoping to calm Charlie. "I worked with him for over two years before I learned that he'd been an instructor at the Academy."
"Wait, Don taught?" Amita questioned even as Charlie seemed at a loss for words, caught between shock and anger.
"Yes, he was a tactical instructor," Colby confirmed. "Liz was one of his students."
"It was just after Fugitive Recovery, Charlie," Alan quickly supplied. "About ten years ago, back when you two weren't communicating unless you were both home at the same time."
"Back when," David echoed, puzzled as he put down the beer he'd started. "No... I don't mean to sound rude, but, well, Liz told me she'd only been with the FBI for four years and since Don was her teacher, he couldn't have taught that long ago."
"He probably had Liz during his second teaching stint," Megan replied.
"Second teaching stint?" Alan repeated. "Don never went back to teaching. He did it just the once, right after Fugitive Recovery and before New Mexico."
"What? But Don told me he'd taught again during the time he wasn't at Albuquerque."
"What do you mean, the time he wasn't at Albuquerque?"
"One of my friends from Quantico was stationed in New Mexico for a few years during the time Don was there and she told me about him when I told her he was going to be my boss," Megan explained. "One of the things she said was that, about a year after he arrived, he left for a while before he suddenly reappeared and began his rapid climb through the ranks."
"No, that's wrong," Alan stated. "She must have been mistaken. Don was in Albuquerque for five full years."
"He lied," Charlie whispered, his voice a maelstrom of emotions.
"Maybe not," Amita said, hesitantly.
"Either he lied or he didn't," Charlie replied forcefully. "Megan and Dad can't both be right."
"Only if Don ever told your father that he spent five years in Albuquerque," Amita explained. "From what you said earlier, a lot of the confusion about Don's past comes from the fact that he doesn't always mention things to people. Perhaps he simply never told your father that he left Albuquerque for a while?"
"No, that's not possible," Alan countered. "Although Don wasn't always good with keeping in touch with us even after he left Fugitive Recovery, his phone number never changed except when he and Kim moved to a new place together and his letters always came from New Mexico during that period."
"That issue aside, Liz told me that when Don was her teacher, he was fresh from Fugitive Recovery," Colby interjected. "So things wouldn't add up even if what Don told Megan was true."
"Not to mention the fact that Liz's statement of being with the FBI for four years doesn't make sense either," David added.
"Why can't Don ever just speak to us? Let us know what is going on in his life?" Charlie demanded angrily. "Why am I always finding out things about my brother from other people or by accident?"
"Don is a very private person," Larry stated thoughtfully, having merely watched the growing frustration for a while. "He is a lot like a black hole in many aspects."
"A black hole?" Colby demanded incredulously. "Don't those things simply suck in everything around them?"
"No, that is a common misconception," Larry corrected, the closed fist that had been resting against his temple moving away so that he could make his point clearer with his forefinger. "A black hole merely sucks up material that has passed its event horizon. It only manages to do that for half of the material gravitating towards it. The other half gets jettisoned away from it. Anyway, that was not the point I was trying to make. What I meant was that although we know of the existence of black holes, we cannot directly observe them. They are invisible to us as they trap light itself at the event horizon. Hence we can only know a black hole is present by observing the effect it has on its surroundings."
"Don's actions speak far louder than anything he normally says," Megan agreed, nodding and smiling at her boyfriend. "Especially when he doesn't want you to know what he's thinking."
"Don, a black hole?" Colby merely reiterated.
"It's a metaphor, man," David stated.
"I don't believe this," Alan declared, his face thunderous. "I thought we were past all of these secrets and deliberate omissions! This is starting to feel like Don's Fugitive Recovery days all over again."
"Huh," Larry commented. "Don even manages to imitate a form of gravitational time dilation, only with reality. Instead of time distorting when it gets near him, the very fabric of what is seems to waver and distort, leaving different people with different interpretations of what is."
"Perhaps we should start at the beginning?" Amita suggested, seeing how the agents' postures had stiffened slightly. Don was their boss. "See if we can't work this out? What did Don do right after college?"
"He joined the Stockton Rangers," Charlie replied tersely. "He was with them for two and a half years. At least as far as I know."
"It was two and half years," Alan confirmed. "Then he went to Quantico, after which he was assigned to Fugitive Recovery for two years."
"Though I suppose it is a good thing Don doesn't cause spaghettification in people," Larry continued.
"What?" Colby uttered, confusion written all over his face. "Spaghetti-fication?"
"Mmm, it's what happens to objects near a black hole."
"Which isn't relevant right now," Amita stated. "What happened next? Teaching?"
"Yes," Alan replied. "He did that for another two years before New Mexico."
"And he came to LA from there," Charlie finished.
"He's been back for nearly four and half years, right?" David asked.
"Does that fit with what everyone else knew?" Amita inquired.
"I've never heard it put in that order, but aside from Liz's claim, yes," David said.
"So it seems the confusion centers on Albuquerque," Megan concluded.
"Maybe we should leave this alone," Colby stated suddenly.
"Leave it alone?" Charlie demanded incredulously. "Give me one reason why we should."
"It's clear that there is something Don doesn't want us to know," Colby began. "And he's gone to some lengths to ensure that no one realizes it. He did it quite masterfully too, telling everyone little bits and pieces of information out of context, but no actual lies except for what happened in those five years before he came back to LA. He's just been letting people draw their own conclusions about what he has said."
"And that makes it okay, how?"
"I didn't say that it would make it any easier to accept, but given the effort he's put into the deception, my guess is that he's done it for some important reason," Colby explained. "It might not even be a voluntary decision. He might have been ordered to keep it quiet."
"Ordered?" Alan thundered, his expression growing even darker. "You're saying the FBI can order it's agents to lie to their family?"
"Alan," Megan began uncomfortably, glancing at her colleagues. "Colby wasn't allowed to inform his family of the truth when his cover was blown. Some operations require secrecy to be successful."
"Even after they're done?"
"Sounds like those operations involve violations of our laws and that you just don't want the people to know about it!" Alan retorted, ignoring the hurt expression on Megan's face. "Why else would you need to keep it quiet after the fact?"
"So that the tactic can be used in the future or to protect those involved," David replied.
"Some criminals have far reaching contacts."
"Which is no excuse not to tell us about what happened," Charlie stated. "We're not going to let that information get out. Besides, I have clearance, Don should have told me."
"Just because you have high-level security clearance doesn't mean you can know everything," Colby responded.
"True, but since I have higher clearance than Don, I can be told about anything he has worked on," Charlie persisted.
"Charlie," Amita began, placing a soothing hand on his arm. "There may be a good reason why Don didn't tell you."
"I don't know. You'd have to ask him."
"Oh, I definitely will be asking him."
"As will I," Alan declared.
"Perhaps you should wait a little before confronting Don," Megan suggested, attempting to defuse the situation. "Think it over a bit?"
"No, I think this situation has gone on long enough," Alan stated.
"Perhaps we should be going?" Larry asked, touching Megan's elbow. "I think this is something best left between the three of them."
"I'm not so sure," Colby whispered, not wanting to leave his boss alone to face his two infuriated relatives.
"What do you thi-" David began.
"What's this?" Don asked, inadvertently cutting the younger agent off as he rounded the corner of the house and walked into the backyard. "Here I thought you'd have eaten all the steaks and it looks like you haven't even started."
Please check out the Master List for this fic on my Numb3rs website for the complete details about this story. I'd also love to know what you thought of this part, thanks!