Call for Help
Disclaimer: Numb3rs characters respectfully borrowed from CBS et al. No claim of ownership comes from The Cat. Those who seek to bestow money or goods-in-kind in appreciation of these characters should contact CBS, as The Cat will refuse to profit from this story.
Summary: Here lies an Alternate Universe; what could have happened during the Season 5 epis "Greatest Hits" and "Angels and Devils", and a possible continuation of the storyline introduced there. Read at your own risk.
Review Policy: As of 5-19-08, the author adopts the following review policy: Please feel free to state your opinion, whether it be positive or negative. Anonymous Reviews have been disabled on this account, since the author does find it difficult to respect cowards. Any review submitted may generate a response from the author; even negative reviews will be accepted – although they may open a dialogue between the author and the reviewer.
Don had just completed the seven-minute walk from Charlie's new office to Visitor Parking Lot A. He grinned and shook his head a little as the SUV came into sight. Charlie's new status on campus had earned him something even more impressive and sought-after than his new office: reserved parking, complete with his name stenciled on the asphalt. Their father had purposely gone to the lot when he knew Charlie was not there, so he could take a picture of the stark-white "Dr. Eppes" with his cell phone, so even though Don had not seen the parking space live and up-close yet, he knew about it. He had teased his father about sneaking the photo, but in truth, Don found the whole thing rather momentous and awe-inspiring himself. He was proud of the little weasel, in spite of himself.
He had just opened the driver's door of the Suburban when his cell rang -- Charlie's ringtone. He paused in the pool of light offered by the vehicle's dome light and smirked as he answered the cell. "Come on, Chuck; there's a beautiful woman in your office and you just saw me a few minutes ago!" Unknowingly echoing Alan Eppes' recent advice to Charlie, Don added teasingly, "You need to work on your priorities!" He stopped talking abruptly when the ragged breathing registered. A tingle of alarm ran up and down his spine. "Charlie?"
"Too 'er," slurred his brother, shouting into the phone. " 'elp, Don!"
Don slammed the car door and started in a jog back towards his brother's office. "Charlie," he ordered in his best Big Brother voice -- his Team Leader voice was just a slight variation of it -- "calm down, Buddy! Where are you? Where's Amita?"
Charlie slurred something unintelligible, spiking Don's already significant alarm. A CalSci campus security truck zoomed past him, lights flashing, and Don felt himself begin to panic. "Charlie!" He was shouting, now. Instead of his brother's voice, the next sounds he heard were a cacophony of unknown voices, the clattering of a cell phone onto cement, an approaching siren that Don could be picking up over the cell, or could be hearing with his other ear. He increased the speed of his jog to a dead run. "Charlie!" he called again.
Within seconds that felt like hours, a female voice he did not recognize answered him. "Um...hello?"
"Who is this?" demanded Don. "Where's my brother? Where's Dr. Eppes?"
The girl's voice, already breathless, trembled a bit. "This is Dr. Eppes' brother? The F.B.I. agent?"
"Yes, yes," Don confirmed. "WHERE IS HE?" he repeated.
"I think you'd better come," she replied. "We found him on the sidewalk, in front of the Math & Sciences building. He was on his hands-and-knees, trying to get up and garbling into his cell; he's bleeding...we called campus security."
"I'm right around the corner," Don panted, his stomach dropping like a stone to his shoes. His free hand rubbed at his chest, and he felt as if someone was stabbing him again. "Where's Dr. Ramanujan?"
His contact was starting to sound increasingly freaked out. "She wasn't here, but I think he's been calling for her. It's hard to understand him....Oh, God, I think he may have passed out."
Don didn't even bother to answer as he sprinted around the corner of the building and spied the small group of students gathered in a huddle. One young woman had Charlie's phone to her ear, and several others were kneeling on the sidewalk, surrounding his brother's still body.
His brother's body.
What the hell had happened in the seven minutes it took Don to get to his car? Where was Amita? The approaching siren was louder now, and Don prayed that it was an ambulance as he tore threw the crowd, practically tossing a 200-pound male student half his age out of his way. He dropped to his knees, completely unaware of his still-healing body's protests to the jarring sensation. He hurriedly jammed his phone back into his pocket, withdrew his I.D. and literally threw it at the campus security personnel. "F.B.I., " he barked, feeling the own blood drain from his face as his eyes took in the trickle of blood running down Charlie's forehead, past closed eyes. "Dr. Eppes is my brother. What happened?"
The campus officer answered briskly. "He just lost consciousness. An ambulance is on the way. He kept repeating that 'they took Amita' -- Dr. Ramanujan."
Before Don could respond, another member of the CalSci security team stepped up behind the man kneeling on the ground. "Eric, we found a purse over by the bushes. Witness says it looks like Dr. Ramanujan's."
Don jerked his head up. "Don't touch it," he ordered. "Secure this scene, immediately. Call in more security if you have to. DO IT!" he screamed, and the officer scurried away. Don looked back down at his brother. With one hand he caressed the stubbled face and slid down to check the carotid pulse. His fear was tempered by relief when he found one; rapid, but strong. He placed his hand lightly on Charlie's chest and felt the regular inhale and exhale of his unconscious brother. Determination pushed the fear out of his voice when he leaned to speak into Charlie's ear. "We'll find her, Buddy," he promised, fiercely. "I'll take care of everything."
Charlie had remained unconscious throughout the ambulance ride to the hospital. Don tried to stay close to his brother's gurney and out of the way at the same time. His hands ensnared one of Charlie's cool, clammy ones between them, and he didn't let go until the hospital personnel who awaited them in the ambulance bay ripped Charlie away from him, leaving Don feeling more bereft and lost than he could ever remember feeling before. He stood dumbly for a while in the middle of the ER until a Pink Lady magically appeared and led him to a seat. She gently led him through paperwork, and before she left, reminded him that cell phone use was permitted in the ER waiting area. There was also a landline available, if he needed one. It was only then that Don thought to call his father, and Robin. He was on the phone will Colby, asking him to find out what he could from CalSci security and the Pasadena PD, when he heard Charlie yelling from somewhere behind Door Number One.
Don stood and staggered to the triage desk, begging for entry to the exam area. "That's my brother," he explained. "Maybe I can help calm him down." The harried ward clerk apparently agreed, and Don was granted access. He hurried through the automatic doors after she buzzed him in, just in time to witness Charlie exploding from a cubicle about twenty feet down the corridor. His clothing had been removed, and a hospital gown -- untied in the back -- flapped wildly around him, exposing other patients and staff alike to more of his anatomy than Don had seen in years. A square of white gauze peeked out from beneath a halo of out-of-control curls, and several feet of clear IV tubing snaked along the linoleum behind him. At least three women -- nurses, probably -- and one burly man squeezed through the door after him, shouting at him to stop. He made it only a few feet before the man caught up to him and grabbed an arm; Charlie skidded to a halt at the same time that he saw Don in the distance.
"Donny!" he yelled, eyes wide and terrified. "They took Amita! They took Amita!"
Don rushed forward and latched a hand onto one of Charlie's shoulders. "We're gonna fix it," he promised his brother. "Just let the docs patch you up."
Charlie shook his head and Don felt something moist on his forearm -- a tear had flown out of Charlie's eye. "I can't remember!" he cried. "I didn't see enough before they hit me!" He twisted a fist into Don't polo. "Hypnotize me! Make me remember! Oh, God, Amita!" Charlie's knees buckled, but Don and the orderly managed to keep him on his feet. One of the nurses stepped up to tie the gown behind Charlie, and after a few moments, Don and the orderly managed to get him turned around, and headed back to the exam room.
"Colby and I are all over this," Don soothed his now-quietly sobbing brother as he helped settle him back on the gurney. "Let's get your head examined -- God knows you've needed that for years, Buddy. Amita is going to want to find you healthy when we get her back."
Charlie, sitting on the edge of the gurney while a nurse reconnected his IV, let himself slump into Don' s chest. "Please," he begged plaintively. "Please. Donny, I need her. Please find her. Please..."
Don moved a hand up to support Charlie's neck, smoothing the curls there and murmuring promises he would keep -- or die trying. "I've gotcha," he whispered earnestly. "Just relax, Buddy; Donny's here. I'm here." Charlie took a deep, shuddering breath. "I'll fix it," he swore to his calming brother. "As God is my witness, Charlie, I'll fix it."
Charlie was eerily quiet when he returned from a CT scan. He had been at the hospital several hours by now; Alan had arrived long ago. Don had been pacing the waiting room, torn between being on the abduction scene himself and staying available to his brother. It was killing him to be reduced to trusting Colby explicitly. It wasn't a personal issue -- by now, David was involved as well, and even Nikki had been tapping into some of her old LAPD resources. One of them called him with an update every hour. Don still felt somewhat out of the loop, however, when he wasn't in the thick of things himself. After Robin arrived, and Don knew that his father wouldn't be alone, he came close to leaving before he got to see Charlie again. In fact, he was just turning to break the news to Alan when a doctor came to speak with them.
Afterwards, Alan and Don were allowed to visit Charlie, who was still in the ER exam cubicle. When Don took in his brother's completely changed demeanor, his almost bizarre stillness, he wondered if he had missed the part where Charlie's doctor said that they had sedated him. He allowed their father to rush forward to a position closest to the gurney and hung back by the sliding glass door. "Hey, Buddy," he greeted quietly.
Charlie sought him out with clear eyes over the back of a bending Alan, who was leaning to brush his hair gently away from his face, and Don could see that he was not sedated. "Get me out of here," he said to Don. "Take me to headquarters. The longer someone is missing..." -- he swallowed, painfully -- "I want to help."
Alan straightened and shot a glance over his shoulder at Don before he looked back at Charlie and smiled sadly. "The doctor wants to keep you overnight, son. The CT scan was clear, but you were unconscious, and...volatile. There could be complications, later. Everyone is already working very hard on Amita's abduction."
Charlie shook his head slightly, wincing a little, and Don agreed with his father. "Dad's right, Charlie. My team is on it, Pasadena PD is on it, LAPD is lending resources. I'm going to meet everyone at the office myself, soon."
Charlie closed his eyes briefly, and when he opened them they were moist and dark with pain when he looked at his father. "I'm fine. I have to do this, Dad. Amita...I didn't understand how much she means to me." He reached out and touched Alan's hand. "I can't live without her. I don't want to, and I won't."
Alan's own eyes welled with tears as he remembered losing Margaret, remembered clearly how he had felt exactly the same way. He had been blessed to still have Don and Charlie, their sons, pieces of her. Without them, he still wasn't sure he would have chosen to survive her loss. Charlie didn't have that kind of comfort. What he did have, was a remarkable and limitless mind, capable of amazing and astonishing things. Perhaps he really could help find Amita, in some way. No-one understood better than Alan himself how vital it was that Charlie at least try. He laid a hand on Charlie's head again as he half-turned to look Don in the eye. "You know what to watch for; keep an eye on your brother."
Don nodded seriously; it was a responsibility he did not take lightly -- never had. "I will," he promised.
Alan nodded once and his eyes strayed to a plastic bag of Charlie's personal belongings sitting on the floor near the wall. "You help him get dressed," he ordered. "I'll go sign him out AMA."