Hi everyone, it's been a while, and I have to apologize for not replying to some of the great reviews I've received since the last update. I've had a few who say that this is their favorite Numb3rs fiction, and that they can't find another with such writing and plot, and I just have to say THANK YOU, and that soon my ego won't fit in the door anymore, lol. I don't actually read or take part in the Numb3rs fandom, but I'm sure there are other great fictions out there, they're just always hard to find. But I'm also really glad you all enjoy this fiction. Some of you might know, but most probably don't, the long down time was in part due to my computer was infected with a virus and I'm still currently trying to recover the files. But I did manage to salvage what was the beginning part of this chapter and finish it. So I hope you all enjoy this update! =)
Charlie brushed his fingers over the name of the recipient on the outer envelope: Philip Anderson. The name of one he had loved in the penmanship of someone else he loved.
For the light in our lives.
Lead them as you see fit.
Find use of what I leave behind.
"How can you believe in me so much?" He whispered to the absent speakers. "I'm not deserving of this, of such faith." The silence of the room was becoming too familiar. He got up from the bed and walked to the window, the night sky glittering with sparse stars. "How can you expect me to do this?"
You amaze me. Every time. Always did… Always will.
His chest ached and his sight blurred. "Why aren't you here?"
. : - : .
"It's always easier to hide in plain sight." Vahn explained, "Let people see what they want to see. Let them assume what conclusions they want, as long as it's not the right one. Unless you want them to."
Charlie stood in the back of the room, sitting in on Vahn's lesson for the advanced class.
"Give pieces of yourself, but always to different people. So when you leave, no one would have known you at all."
"Entertained Charlie?" Krythan murmured, sliding up next to him.
"Just…watching." Charlie answered. "It sounds a bit lonely though, doesn't it Krythan?"
. : - : .
Keys twisted and the door was opened, morning light spilling in. "Hey, anybody awake?" Don called as he placed the briefcase down and locked up behind him.
"Don." Alan Eppes greeted, setting down a plate onto the dining table. "Don't tell me you spent the whole at working."
"Alright," Don said, slipping off his jacket, "I won't tell you that. Hey, is Charlie up yet?"
Alan sighed vexed, "You boys. I heard him shuffling around at all hours of the night, probably did the same thing as you. Question should be; has he gone to bed yet?"
"Oh," Don said unbuttoning his cuffs, "has he?"
The father sat himself down at the head of the table and stared at his oldest son. "Donny. I just told you that your brother hasn't slept all night. I know what you do is important but can you at least sit down and have some breakfast, wait until Charlie actually gets out of his room instead of rushing him?"
Don blinked, slowly bringing himself down to a chair. "Alright. Alright. Sure Dad. I can wait. What's…is something the problem?"
Alan released the anger in a breath. "I don't know. Charlie hasn't been sleeping right, or at all, in the past few weeks. He's always mumbling to himself and if he's not at the university or your office, he's in the garage or his room."
"But that's normal Charlie dad."
"He's not working on equations at home Don." Alan told him, "Not like he usually is. He's sitting there, staring at the chalkboard or looking off to this distance. He's gotten quieter and spends so much time inside himself."
"He's not working on that P vs. NP is he?" Don asked worried.
"No," Alan answered, "but that almost makes me worry more. Something happened, but I don't have any clues to what. At least that mathematic scribble would let us know what it could be. This…" The father trailed off and blinked.
"Dad?" Don asked, "Dad, what is it?"
"This…"Alan said with something like an epiphany, "This is like when he first came back from Cambridge. After Susan."
Don furrowed his brows. "What? I thought he just lost himself in the math all the time. You guys said that he was always writing something, and often forgot to take care of himself."
"Your mom made sure Charlie remembered to eat and sleep." Alan spoke of his late wife with only a small pang of loss, time helping to soften the pain. "But when he wasn't madly scribbling he was staring off into space. We couldn't always get him to respond. It was like he fell into a trance and sometimes all we could do was wait it out. The math helped, at least he was with us when he was solving questions. It was easier to interrupt him, just had to take his chalk away. Over time the periods of silence grew shorter and shorter as Charlie devoted more and more of his time to the math. I forgot about that."
"It was that bad?" Don demanded, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"It was about the same time you left Fugitive Recovery and begun leading the Albuquerque office. We didn't want anything to upset that." Alan explained. "Besides, your mother had it under control. Charlie was pulling out of it, until she got diagnosed."
Don hated talking about the time immediately before his mother's death. "Well, last time he broke up with Susan. What happened this time?"
Alan shook himself, coming back to the present. "I don't know. Charlie hasn't been in a relationship as far as I knew. Charlie wouldn't know an interested woman if she whacked him over the head."
"I'm pretty sure he'd notice then at least Dad." Don replied.
"You say that." Alan muttered, reaching for a sandwich.
"You have to give him some credit Dad. Charlie's not that oblivious." Don said, reaching for a sandwich of his own.
"We'll agree to disagree on that for now son." Alan finalized. "But what was it you wanted to see Charlie about? A new case?"
"Yeah," Don confirmed reluctantly. "I've actually been putting it off. This…might get a bit sensitive and I didn't want Charlie caught up in it, just in case it did."
"So why don't you?" Alan asked, "I'm sure the FBI has other mathematicians they can consult."
"Dad." Don said flatly. "I know you wish Charlie wasn't so involved in some of my work, but this is important. Charlie is the best there is, and we save lives."
"Alright, fine." Alan replied, standing up to walk to the kitchen for a drink. "I just want to say that saving lives shouldn't come at the expense of ruining your brother's."
"Dad!" Don bit off.
"Or yours. But I've said this many times before and neither of you listened to me."
"We listen." Don tried to explain patiently, "But sometimes it has to be done. Our few nights' peaceful rest shouldn't come at the cost of other people's lives."
"You tell yourself what lets you keep on Donny." Alan said, "But me, I'm not a law officer, just a father. And I will always see things differently when it comes to my boys."
"I know," Don replied, "I know Dad. But-"
Footsteps rushed down the stairs and the last missing Eppes male was across the hall and at the front door before anything could be said.
"Charlie!" Alan called out, "Have some breakfast before you go!"
"Can't!" Charlie shouted back, stuffing his feet into his shoes and trying to pull on his coat at the same time. "I'm going to be late for my lecture!"
"Charlie, wait!" Don shouted. "I have to talk to you!"
"Later Don!" Charlie promised stepping into the day, swinging the door closed behind him.
. : - : .
Charlie laughed, wrapping his arms around his stomach and turned away, to hide his shaking shoulders.
No one was fooled.
"Lovely wardrobe you got there boys." Krythan remarked from the entrance, smirking at the mud splattered and sand crusted soldiers.
"Anderson tripped over the water line." Helm said grimly, shaking off the desert.
"Anderson broke the water line." Moyne corrected.
"I thought you went," Charlie coughed, "to fix it?"
"You don't want to know." Anderson muttered to the ground.
"Actually, I do." Krythan remarked. "So why don't you boys head into my office. I'm going to have to write up the report. Charlie, why don't you get Vahn? He should be there for uh, in case I miss out on any details. And of course, you must sit in as well. Since I don't know, there might be some number analysis you need to run in case, this might be a hidden enemy attack. Since a few competent soldiers should have easily been able to fix a small leak. I'm going to need the odds of if this is just a cover for something, or, you know maybe, the number of reps I need to add to some of the unit for training."
All the soldiers cringed.
. : - : .
Standing in front of the classroom Charlie was hungry, tired, and didn't have time for this today. But he couldn't just skip out. He turned and wrote a question on the blackboard.
"Alright guys, for today: surprise quiz!" The students instantly protested. "But I'm not doing it to punish you; it's actually a reward for you being here; just listen. I'm not going to deduct marks from anyone, any marks that you get from this quiz will be bonus marks. I'm leaving a sheet up here for you to sign your name, you get one mark for being present, and you can hand in your work in a pile next to the attendance sheet by the end of the hour. You can talk to each other, just hand in your own individual paper at the end, and I will only give marks for work shown. So if you skip out on the process, that's your own fault. Alright, I'm leaving now, you're not allowed to ask me or any faculty members for help. You're allowed your own knowledge and the help of your classmates to show what you've learned so far in this course. Someone will be in at the end to collect the pile, so good luck everyone!" He left while they were still abuzz. A stop to one of his teaching assistants and then he was gone from the university.
The first destination was the shopping mall. He went to the dollar store and bought a small generic looking side bag, sunglasses, and two caps. Stopping off at the department store he bought a cheap black shirt, jeans, and jacket. He paid for everything in cash and changed in the washroom, took only what he needed with him, stuffing everything else into a rented locker. He exited from a different entrance than he came in through and followed he flow of pedestrians to the bus stop.
Boarding he bus, he rode until it was almost the end of its route and got off near a factory site. Most of the visible area was vacant, even cars were sparse, as the product of the items in the area fell. He head towards one of the many run down warehouses in a row. He was careful to stay out of sight from the main road and paused in front of a back door, knocking in a rhythmic pattern, waiting for a minute of silence before punching in the code on the keypad. The lock disengaged and he stepped into the darkness carefully. He had noticed earlier that the longer he was moving about the quieter his movements became; old training coming back.
He took a few more steps in, one hand migrating towards the small of his back, as the silence made him tense.
A fist came from the side – clumsy; redirect – flow past – duck beneath and behind – grab limb – turn, twist, pull, click off safety – and Charlie stared down at back of the man made to kneel in front of him, his arm locked in a painful reach as Charlie held his wrist in a firm hold and a gun to his head.
"I'm not going back." The man shouted. "I won't, you can't make me!"
Charlie had no clue what he was referring to.
"I won't go back!" The man repeated, this time almost pleading.
Charlie let go of him and stepped back, bringing both hands to steady the grip of his weapon. Spread your legs, Krythan said in his head, prepare for body to absorb the recoil. Charlie followed the figure up with the sight as the man stood. He was taller than Charlie and when he turned faced him the stranger wasn't much older than Charlie, skinny, and very pale. Charlie locked down on the part of that him that whispered he was going to misfire, he was going to let the gun slip, he was going to mess up. The man in front of him was scared, Charlie felt bad, felt sorry, but Krythan sent him here with very specific instructions and she had never failed him before, never let him down. Charlie wasn't going to let Krythan down either.
It's been some time but Charlie had been an operative and Frynd-Sign. He had his part, had missions and carried them out. It had been some time since but the training was coming back. He knew that behind the shades his eyes were too wide, too expressive, would have given away every insecurity he was feeling, but that was why he wore the sunglasses.
He stepped forward into a patch of light. The man was shaking and took a frightened step back. "Please." The man whispered.
"Are you the package?" Charlie questioned.
The man jerked, eyes wide in confusion. Tension slowly seeping from his shoulders and eyes still fixed on the barrel of the gun, but flicked up towards Charlie's face. "What?"
"Even cry babies need to grow up." Charlie told him, code phrase slipping in clear. "Are you ready to go?"
And the man's face shattered, eyes overflowing with tears. "Yes, yes. I promise, no heroics."
Charlie lowered the gun, tucking it back behind at the bottom of his spine, and opened his arms. The other man collapsed into him, crying grateful tears on his shoulder.
Charlie had specialized in retrieval. There is a precious cargo, Krythan had written beneath all the calculations and code.