Rational Fears—

"I'd love to know what Don said," Charlie said that evening as he and Colby sat outside.

"We all would," Colby replied. "But whatever he said, it was very effective."

"Oh, yeah," Charlie said gleefully. He wished he'd been there, but watching the video of Don's interrogation had been almost as good. Penfield had gone from smug to shaking in the space of five minutes. Don's expression had changed very little, but the memory of that calm, factual, brutal voice still made Charlie shiver.

"Could I have that video?" he asked. "Put it online and Penfield wouldn't come out of his hole for years. Plus, it would make Don a star."

"You know you can't," Colby laughed. "But I'll get you a copy so you can watch it whenever Penfield is being annoying."

"He'll be even worse when he recovers," Charlie said. "But I think he'll keep it to the usual journal attacks, which I can handle."

Colby smiled. "So no more phobia?"


"That 'sudden irrational fear of set theorists from Princeton'?"

"Oh," Charlie said sheepishly. "No, I don't think I'll ever be afraid of Penfield again."

"Good! And him? Think he might have some new fears?"

"Yeah," Charlie grinned. "Hopefully strong enough to keep him away from LA for good. Maybe even never leave Princeton."

"Or jump when he sees a guy in a suit."

"Or have nightmares about all those bad things that Don said would happen."

"Yeah," Colby said wistfully. "There were things I'd have liked to tell him, too, but it couldn't just be your boyfriend threatening him."

"Nope, my friends and big brother, too."

Colby put his arm around Charlie. "For you."

"A 'crucial national asset'?"

"That," Colby grinned. "And our favorite fluffy mathematician."

Charlie's shout of protest could be heard across the neighborhood.