Disclaimer: I don't own Numb3rs
Beta: a big thank you to ALEO for her help. I made several changes after her comments. So any English mistakes are entirely my fault.
I wrote this One-shot in May but wasn't very happy with it and forgot all about it until a few weeks ago. I'm still not sure what to think of it but since it's been written and beta-ed, I thought I could just as well post it.
Feds and Hippies
Alan spread the glue meticulously on the piece of broken glass and, with even more caution, placed it on the lampshade and held it there for a few seconds to let the glue set. Then slowly and carefully he released the piece and stepped back to admire his handiwork.
He nodded, pleased with the result. Alright, he could see where it had been repaired but only because he knew where to look. The lampshade was made of pale green glass with brown borders, a very fashionable style in the early 70s. He smiled tenderly at the fond memories associated to it: Margaret had bought it a week before Don was born. Alan had installed it in the baby's room and it stayed there until a seven years old Don stated that "it didn't look cool" and wanted a shade with baseball motives instead. Alan never had the heart to throw it away and placed it in a box in the attic. How did it get broken? He wasn't too sure but suspected Charlie. He knew that, back then, the youngest Eppes was always after his brother's stuff, whether Don was using it or not.
But today, he felt he needed the lamp back. After the difficult times he had gone through due to Don's stabbing, it was like a reassurance, a confirmation that his son was still alive and in one piece. Don had taken his time to come to this world, long labour, difficult delivery, just like he took his time to wake up after the assault: a whole day and an half - the longest of Alan's and Charlie's lives. He had been upset and worried of course but for some strange reason, Alan had also known deep inside that Don would make it: his boy was much too stubborn to give up without a fight, and much too strong physically and mentally to lose the battle. That was why he had remained constantly by his side at the hospital, not because he was afraid to lose him but because he wanted to be there when he would finally wake up.
Just like he expected, Don had made it and just like he feared, the agent had gone back to work, acting as if nothing had ever happened. Alan snorted unhappily. As if he couldn't notice that Don winced in pain each time he made a brisk movement, his hand pressing onto his left side as he breathed deeply to subdue the pain? It was both a blessing and a curse to have a son who thought he had to be strong all the time – a blessing because this willpower probably saved his life more than once including this time – a curse because he didn't know when to stop and let others help him. Of course it wasn't new. Don had always felt compelled to protect people, starting with his younger brother, often forgetting his own safety in the process. And working with the FBI surely didn't help.
The elder man sighed and shook his head, annoyed: why did he – Alan Eppes, ex-hippy - have to have a Fed as a son! Of all the jobs in the world, his eldest had to choose THAT one! Trust Don to make the most surprising and controversial decisions. Although it was the thought of having a "G man" in the family that had infuriated Alan in the first place, he had soon put his political views aside when he realised the danger his eldest would have to face every day. If Don had this desperate need to help people, why not choose to be a doctor or a lawyer like his mother? That would have saved him and Margaret many sleepless nights, worrying that their son had been hurt or worse, killed.
But then again, when he came to think of it, they weren't so different after all. As a hippy, all he wanted was peace on Earth. It was utopian of course. He knew it and so did Don. That was probably why his son took a more direct approach to the problem. Since there would always be criminals, he would go to war against them. Instead of choosing the non-violent way like his parents, he decided to fight to protect and defend people. Alan frowned slightly. They aimed at the same thing in a way: a happier and safer world - they just chose two very opposite paths to reach it.
He was finishing fixing the shade on top of a floor lamp when a knock on the door broke his train of thoughts. He went to open and found himself face to face with... a gun.
Don leaned back in his chair and stretched carefully, making sure not to put any strain on his ribs as he worked his neck to get rid of the cricks. He had been working on his reports all morning and had had more than enough. Since he was forced to desk duty, he had thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with all the paperwork, except that he hated paperwork! He yawned widely and got up. Time for a coffee break!
"Hey Don! Weren't you supposed to have lunch with Alan today?" Liz asked as she suddenly realised her boss was still in the office.
Don turned to look at the young woman before glancing at his watch: 1pm. "Damn! He's gonna kill me! I said I'd be there at 12.30"
He quickly put his things away, logged off and grabbed his jacket before rushing to the elevators, under the amused looks of his entire team. Don was still working half time and had promised his father he would stop at the Craftsman house that afternoon. Truth was he was hungry and looking forward to a real meal. He was also starting to feel a little tired. It was amazing, and irritating, how quickly his energy was running out these days, "You have to give your body time to recover, take it easy", both Charlie and Alan kept telling him. But patience was not his strongest point. The whole situation was really starting to get to him and he couldn't wait to be his old self again. He took out his cell phone to call his father as he stepped inside the lift. Strange he hasn't called yet, thought Don as he pressed the speed dial key. No response. He tried the landline and found it busy. Never mind, I'll be there soon enough to be told off for being late, anyway. He sighed.
The agent reached Pasadena in a record time and was about to turn into the driveway when he noticed a grey van parked right in front of the house. For no apparent reason, he suddenly felt a tightening in his chest and he knew it had nothing to do with his wound, his instincts were telling him that something was amiss.
He drove by without slowing down and glanced discreetly at the van. No driver. He stopped his car a little further up the road and walked back to the house. He carefully approached the window of the living-room to peer between the semi-closed blinds. His blood froze at what he saw: Alan was gagged and restrained to a chair while two men were rummaging the place. For a moment, Don felt a little dizzy and short of breath. Strong emotions were not your best friends when you were recovering from a near fatal accident. He leaned against the wall and took a couple of deep breaths. So much for taking it easy, he thought as he called his team for back-up.
"A break-in?" David shouted louder than he meant to, leaping to his feet. His words alerted the rest of the team who looked at him worriedly. The memories of what had happened a few weeks ago were still very vivid in everybody's mind and David tried not to panic.
"Don, do not intervene alright? We're on our way. Don't do anything stupid, you wait for us... " He ordered in his most authoritarian tone. "You hear me?"
"Yeah, yeah... Be quick!" Don replied before flipping his cell phone shut
The whole team was already heading towards the elevators before David even hung up.
"Home invasion?" Colby asked, his voice betraying his concern.
David nodded briefly. "At Charlie's. And we'd better hurry: they've got Alan."
Don really meant to wait for his team, really, but when he saw one of the perps stand in front of his father and slap him brutally, all his good intentions vanished in a second.
He drew his gun and ran round the house to enter through the back door. Once inside, he paused briefly to listen: footsteps upstairs told him that one of the men was searching the bedrooms. He moved silently towards the living-room and caught sight of the other intruder busy emptying the contents of the dresser in the living room.
A furtive movement to his right attracted Alan's attention. He turned his head, expecting the second man, but when he saw his son approaching silently, a mixture of relief and terror seized him. Don was going to save him... no no that was wrong, his son was wounded and could get hurt again. Alan, eyes widened in anguish, shook his head frantically to tell his son not to intervene.
Don gave his father a quick once-over while putting his index finger on his lips to order the elder Eppes to stay still, and he cautiously approached the burglar from behind. He noticed a small pistol slid in the man's belt on his right hip and swore internally. He knew what he was about to do was dangerous but he wanted to disable the man, not shoot him, certainly not in front of his father anyway. He raised his gun he was now holding by the barrel to hit the man. Unfortunately, the perp saw Don's reflection in the glass of the dresser's door and whipped his head in his direction, his hand already reaching for his pistol. But the agent reacted before the man could turn and face him, and knocked him unconscious with the butt of his gun.
It was now Don's turn to feel a presence behind him. Well actually, it was his instincts and the desperate sounds his father was making to try and alert him of the danger. The agent was still holding his gun by the barrel and knew he wouldn't have time to turn it the right way to shoot, so he dropped it and grabbed the first thing he could use as a weapon, namely the floor lamp. Holding it horizontally with both hands in front of him at waist level, he spun around to face his attacker.
For a second, Don's heart stopped: the man was holding a knife, not as long as the one he had been stabbed with but it was still a fair size. The fear caused a flow of adrenaline to rush into his system and he stepped back to be at a safer distance from the knife. In the corner of his eye he caught the terrified look on his father's face but immediately refocused on his assailant. He swiftly swung the floor lamp in an arc to hit the perp first in the right arm then in the left shoulder. The force of the blows made the man let the knife go with a cry of pain and take a couple of steps to regain his balance, his left hand reaching up to support his right arm. Don rapidly moved his right leg back, turning his body to stand perpendicularly to the man and with a surprising dexterity, rotated the floor lamp by 90 degrees to block it under his arm like a combat baton, the part holding the shade in front of him. Then stepping forward,hestruck his aggressor forcefully in the chest.
Winded and surprised, the man desperately clutched at the lampshade to prevent his fall. But the odds were definitely against him today. He groped precisely at the bit that Alan had just glued and he watched helplessly as the piece yielded under his weight before he felt heavily backwards, head banging painfully on the floor.
Don discarded his improvised weapon to rush and handcuff the man before tying his still unconscious accomplice with the electric cable from the floor lamp. Once he was sure the two men were not a threat any more, he got up to his feet and went to free his father. He was about to ask him if he was alright when he suddenly felt lightheaded and out of breath as the adrenaline drained out of his system. He turned towards the couch to sit down but his legs buckled beneath him before he could reach it and he ended up on the floor on his hands and knees. Alan rushed to his side, alarmed.
"Donny! Are you hurt?" He asked as he helped his son get up and sit down on the sofa.
Hearing the panic in his father's voice, Don forgot the pain and tried to sound reassuring. "No. But that kind of exercise is not recommended during convalescence... or so I've been told". He said jokingly holding his left side. Looking up at his father, he frowned in worry. "And you, you're okay? I saw the man hit you."
"Slap me." Alan corrected. "It's nothing, don't worry. Stay still, I'll ring your team." He said picking up the phone.
Don raised a hand to stop him. "They already know." Then he changed his mind. "But you can tell David everything's under control."
Alan nodded. "Alright, but first things first, I'll call an ambulance" He pointed a finger at Don to interrupt him before he could protest. "And don't tell me you don't need one, because you do!"
After placing his calls, he sat silently next to Don, a hand on his eldest's forearm. After such a fright, he needed this physical contact with his son. Don understood and didn't object. Instead he pointed his chin in the direction of the two burglars.
"What were they after?"
"The usual: money. They wanted to know where we kept our valuables"
Don snorted slightly before resting his head against the back of the couch and closing his eyes. He wrapped his arm around his ribs and hardly contained a moan. His father looked at him intently and didn't even try to hide his concern when he noticed the paleness, the thin layer of sweat covering his son's brow and the shallow breathing.
"You hurt yourself." Alain said. It was a statement, not a question.
"I'll survive." Don replied. "I must've strained a muscle, that's all" He forced himself to reopen his eyes to check on his prisoners then noticed the lamp on the floor and its broken lampshade. He looked apologetically at his father. "Oh Dad, I'm so sorry about the shade. I know it means a lot to you... because of Mum."
Alan leaned forward to look squarely at his son. "Because of you, Donnie". He rectified softly but firmly. He smiled and glanced at the lamp "Don't worry about it. Once it's repaired, it'll be as good as new, just like..." Alan stopped short and made a face.
Don's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Like me? Is that what you were going to say?" Don sat up a little straighter to look at his father in the eyes, pretending to be offended. "Are you comparing me to a broken old-fashioned lampshade?"
Alan took his most innocent look. "I would never dare do that, Don. Especially since I saw what you can do with a floor lamp. I didn't know we had a kung-fu fighter in the family by the way."
"Ha, ha very funny. Next time, I'll use a broom. It's lighter."
Alan didn't find it amusing and stared at Don, concerned. "I hope there won't be a next time, Don. What you did was really dangerous. You should've waited for your team instead of tackling these two guys on your own, especially since you have NOT completely recovered. "
Don chewed his lower lip and shook his head slightly, his eyes becoming darker. "I know but I couldn't let that guy hurt you, Dad. When I saw him hit you, I... I kind of reacted by instinct."
"I'm aware of that and that's what frightens me Don. You're always so worried about others' wellbeing that you disregard your own safety." Alan sighed heavily, frustrated. "I know that's the way you are and I don't mean to change you, but please, be more careful... You've been shot, drugged, stabbed... what next? I understand it's your job, your life but think of Charlie, and Robin, and me. We love you, you're important to us and we don't want to lose you."
Don stared at his father, taken aback and slightly shocked. He looked away then back at his father and shook his head several times slowly, searching for words "I... Dad, it's unfair! You know I'm careful." He protested in a low tone."I do my best but those things happen. They could happen to anyone, anywhere, not just in my job."
Alan was about to retort that FBI agents and policemen were more likely to get hurt when he noticed the weariness on his son's face and decided to let him be... For now. Besides, he could hear the sirens approaching and he didn't want his son's team to find them arguing. "Alright, it's neither the time nor the place to discuss this, anyway. Truce?"
Don nodded faintly and relaxed a little, letting his head rest once more against the back of the couch. He looked again at the lampshade and pursed his lips thoughtfully. Then the corners of his mouth curled up slowly in a mischievous way.
"You know, my shade with the baseball motives is still somewhere in the attic. It's a bit worn but you can have it, if you wish." He said with a smirk, looking sideways at his father. He heard the sound of car doors being slammed shut and footsteps rushing towards the house. His team had arrived.
"Hmm, thanks for the offer but no offense Don, I'd rather keep this one, even if it's broken."
He shrugged. "Alright. Well you know where to find it if you change your mind." He closed his eyes and smiled widely with one of his rare and cheeky grins.
At that sight, Alan shook his head affectionately. "Actually Donnie, all I need to light up my day is to see your smile. No lamp in the world could ever compete with that. Never." He gently patted Don's arm as he stood up to go and open the door to his son's team.
One thing that surprised me in "the fifth man" was the reaction (or rather the lack of reaction) from Alan. He didn't seem that worried about Don being stabbed and it puzzled me. That's why I tried to explain it in the third paragraph of this story. Don't know if you agree.