Stardust: Temper

by Valerie Vancollie

valeriev84 at hotmail dot com


Characters: Alan, Charlie, Don

Notes: 1) Please see my website for more details of this fic.
2) I was stunned by the response the first part of this fic got. Wow. I'm glad you guys liked it so much and I hope you continue to enjoy it as the story progresses. Thank you very much your responses, they are greatly appreciated!

Spoilers: Vector, Protest, 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


Don waited on the front step and watched with trepidation as Colby got into his car.

Unlike the others, it had been difficult to convince the younger man to leave. Colby had wanted to stay and support him in the upcoming confrontation with his father and brother, but he had insisted he'd be okay. That he needed to handle this himself.

He was seriously reconsidering that assertion now.

It would be a lot easier with someone backing him up, even if Colby was probably dying to know the answers himself. Don sighed and checked the time as the car finally started and Colby pulled away from the house. He had been dreading this day since he had moved back to LA and grown closer to his family. In some ways it had been inevitable and he was surprised at how long he'd gotten away with keeping not only his family but his friends and colleagues in the dark.

Now that Granger was gone, Don knew that to linger on the doorstep would only increase the anger Charlie and his father already felt. Steeling himself, he turned around, entered the house and gently closed the door before facing his family.

Now that they finally had Don to themselves, it seemed Alan and Charlie didn't know where to begin. They simply stood there, glaring at him. The enraged accusations and demands from earlier that had alerted him to their discovery were conspicuously absent.

"Well, that barbeque went well," Don stated, wanting to get the whole confrontation over with as soon as possible. "We should do it again sometime."

"Went well?!" Charlie sputtered, his hands clenching into fists. "What... How...!"

"What was this Megan mentioned about you being in Albuquerque twice? Did you leave to go work somewhere else?" Alan demanded stalking towards his eldest and staring at him.

"Yes."

"Yes? Yes! You admit it, just like that?"

"Yes."

"What, no more lies?" Charlie snapped from where he stood.

"I never lied to you about this," Don declared as he turned his attention towards his younger brother.

"Then what did you do?"

"I merely omitted certain things. Never mentioned them to begin with."

"Oh, I see, 'omitted,'" Charlie fumed, pacing closer to stand beside their father. "Is that an official term?"

"Charlie," Don sighed. "You of all people should know that there are things I can't talk about."

"I have clearance!"

"Which I didn't know at the time."

"But you do now and have known for over three years. You could have told me since then."

"There are different types of clearance."

"I know that! There's low-level clearance like yours and high-level clearance like mine," Charlie shot back, for once throwing his superior government access into his brother's face.

"Just because you have high-level clearance doesn't mean that you can know about every project with that clearance level just because you want to," Don replied, doing his best to reign in his rising own temper.

This situation would go from bad to worse real fast if he started getting angry too.

"What did you do when you weren't in Albuquerque?" Alan cut in.

"Dad," Don began, closing his eyes briefly. "I can't tell you."

"Why not?"

"Because it's classified."

"Did you break any laws?"

"What? No!" Don exclaimed, stunned. "What makes you think that?"

"The secrecy. If you weren't embarrassed about the damage it could do to your precious Bureau, why not be honest about what you were doing?"

"There are a lot of reasons why certain operations are kept secret."

"Yeah, like the public outcry over those methods the CIA used to 'question' people," Alan retorted, the sarcasm fairly dripping from the words.

Don could only stare at his father, hurt at both his views and the apparent ease with which his father seemed to be able to accuse him of being involved in something both so blatantly illegal and against everything he stood for.

"Not to mention the fact that you refuse to tell your brother what you did."

"I can't," Don said, forcing down his feelings to ensure that his voice came out steady. He faced down hardened criminals almost daily, he could maintain a calm faade now. While he was at it, he made his face obey him and settled it into an indifferent expression. Or at least as close to indifferent as he could achieve; he knew it wasn't perfect.

"Why not?" Charlie demanded, his eyes shooting sparks. "I am an official FBI consultant!"

Briefly Don looked at his brother, absently realizing that he had never seen him quite so angry before, at least not at him. Although even when he included the times he'd been infuriated at other people, it was still a close call.

What to say?

Don closed his eyes as he pondered the answer. He could either give a vague answer and allow them to draw their own conclusions from it, thus continuing the cycle that had started seven and a half years ago when he had not told his parents about his new assignment, or he could come clean. The problem with the latter choice was the same one that had kept him quiet all those years ago. Only it wasn't the same problem as back then. Then he had been able to keep quiet about it with no ill effects. Now, now his father was already beyond furious with him, it wasn't like he could really get any more furious... was it?

In for a penny, in for-

"What, no excuse?" Charlie practically snarled.

"It wasn't the FBI," Don whispered almost reluctantly, thinking as the words left his lips that he was going to regret this.

"What?" Alan commanded, eyes narrowing suspiciously.

"I wasn't working for the FBI at that time," Don reiterated, closely observing the two of them.

"Not working for the FBI," Charlie repeated dumbly, clearly thrown.

"And who exactly were you working for then?" Alan inquired, his tone taking on a dangerous edge.

"The- the military," Don confessed.

"What?!" Alan thundered after a moment of stunned silence. "You JOINED the MILITARY?!"

"No, I-"

"You just said you did."

"No, I said I-"

"What branch?" Charlie questioned, his face still shocked though some anger was clearly leaking back into his voice.

"I don't care what branch it was!" Alan shouted, his face turning an alarming red hue. "After everything your mother and I taught you and raised you to stand for, you went and joined the military?"

"I didn't join the military," Don stated, his voice raised so as to be heard.

"You said-"

"That I was working for the military, not that I joined them. My official status was that of a consultant."

"Consultant?" Charlie asked in disbelief. "You? Consulting on what?"

"What did you do for them?" Alan demanded, stepping forwards and grabbing his eldest's arms. "What did you work on?"

"I can't tell you," Don repeated, pulling his arms free, stunned at his father's actions even as his own anger rose at the treatment.

"Your mother would be rolling in her grave if she knew! How dare you disrespect us so?"

"Hey! That's not fair!" Don exclaimed, hurt lancing through him even as his mask crumbled and his own anger escaped his control. "You know nothing of what I did or whether or not I did anything you would disapprove of."

"Because you won't tell me! And knowing you worked for the military is all I need to know!"

"How long did you work for them?" Charlie cut in.

"What? About a year and a half."

"About?"

"It was probably a little longer. Besides, there was some overlap between my work for them and my rejoining the FBI."

"Where were you at that time?"

"I can't say."

"Your letters came from Albuquerque," Alan snapped.

"Yes, the Navy redirected them for me."

"Redirected them. And you claim to not have lied to anyone."

"No, I said I hadn't lied to you about what I did then. And I never did."

"But you lied to Megan," Charlie declared. "You told her you were teaching when you were with the Navy."

"Yes," Don agreed regretfully. "She, unfortunately, knew that I hadn't been in Albuquerque and asked me what I had done. There was no way I could avoid the question, not without making her suspicious."

"So you can't tell them what you did either?"

"Charlie, what part of classified do you not understand?" Don snapped, finally at the end of his patience. Besides, it was easier to hide his hurt if he released his anger.

Couldn't they simply understand that he wasn't allowed to talk about it? That he was forbidden from discussing what he did during that time? Did they trust him so little that they couldn't take his word for it? That they had to assume the worst of him? Yes, he knew Charlie felt left out of most of his life and that his father distrusted all aspects of the government dealing with law enforcement or military, but he was family. They knew him and what he stood for if not everything that he had done. Wasn't that enough? It had been for Fitzgerald's family.

And for Colby's.

Despite the fact that the younger agent had been unable to tell his family the truth about his assignment, they had stuck with him. At least in spirit. They'd acted upset, angry and betrayed, but they had secretly believed in him and hoped that what they'd been told about him wasn't true. The Grangers understood duty and responsibility; understood what it meant to serve their country and all the sacrifices that went with it. They understood classified and need-to-know. They'd hoped Colby was involved in some top-secret project which they weren't authorized to know about.

They were steeped in the knowledge and experience of five generations of duty and honor.

"I have higher clearance than you!" Charlie persisted, his voice hardly more than an angry hiss.

'No, you don't!' Don snarked back mentally though he kept the knowledge to himself. It was obvious he had already revealed too much. No need to add more fuel to the fire.


If you like some of my other fics, please check out my site as 7 of my Numb3rs fics have been nominated and voting is taking place until the 15th of April (2008)! Thank you to anyone who nominated me, I'm honored.