Synopsis: Set after the ends of season six, shortly after Charlie returns from England. Don and Charlie are in accident on a remote rain-slicked road. The story revolves around Don and Charlie, but it is written entirely from Don's POV.
A/N: This plot bunny has been after me for a while now, and it's a relatively short story, so I decided to end its pestering before I did anything else. I started writing it toward the end of season six, before we received the news of Numb3rs' cancellation, with the idea that it would fit in with the start of a season seven. Regrettably, there will be no season seven, except in our imaginations, but here on the page at least, our beloved Numb3rs characters can live on. The story is ten chapters, some short, some longer (the breaks in this piece are purposely placed to coincide with Don's perceptions) and I will try to post every other day, or every three days until it is complete.
Disclaimer: I do not own Numb3rs or any of the characters, although I do claim rights to the story concept.
Don Eppes sat in his SUV, peering out the driver's door window through sheets of pouring rain. Due to the darkness – not to mention the sheet of water on his window – it was hard to see, but he spotted the slight form silhouetted in the entranceway of the country club's grand pavilion. He suspected it might be Charlie, although his view was further obscured by the suit jacket collar the figure had pulled over its head – but when his brother dashed down the marble steps, he knew. It had been over six months since he'd seen that loping gait, but he'd know it anywhere. He grinned as Charlie dashed past the front of the SUV and wrenched open the passenger side door, let his jacket fall back on his shoulders and nearly leapt inside, breathlessly, and grinning from ear to ear. He wiped the water from his face and shook his dark curls. "Wow," he said unnecessarily, "it's pouring out there."
"Just a little," conceded Don, grinning back at him. "Welcome back."
"Sorry to drag you out of there like this. What about Amita?" Don put the SUV into gear and pulled out slowly from the entrance. Glenmark Country Club was posh, brand new, and on a just as new golf course, out in the middle of nowhere. Away from the lighted entrance of the pavilion, it was pitch black, and the rain made it nearly impossible to see the road. Don kept his speed down as he maneuvered around the edge of the parking lot.
"That's okay, it was almost over, and it was pretty stuffy, anyway. We took Amita's car, so she can drive home, and Larry will ride back with her."
"Cal Sci made you go to that thing? You were barely off the plane from London."
Charlie sighed. "Yeah. We just had time to get home, drop our luggage off, and change. It's a big event for Cal Sci, though – they only hold it once a year and it's a chance for them to lobby for funds from the Los Angeles area and local community leaders. They wanted to show me and Amita off, I guess, with us just fresh from our assignments at Cambridge. It was hard to turn them down – but I have to admit, I'm sure glad to be out of there." He smiled at Don. "So, how are the wedding plans coming?"
Don grinned sheepishly, and rubbed the back of his neck. "Uh, okay, I guess. Robin and I are still trying to set a date. I can see what you guys went through – and we don't have an optimization program to help us out."
Charlie shrugged. "It'll fall into place. It did for us."
Don sent him a sly sideways glance. "And what about you? Dad's dying to know if there are any grandkids on the way."
He could sense Charlie's flush, even in the darkness. "Uh – um, well - Amita wants to make sure we time it, um -," He broke off abruptly, as if aware he'd already said too much, and cleared his throat, hastily changing the subject. "So, what's this case you're on? Dad says you've been living at the office."
"Yeah – it's a tough one, and we're running out of time. I never would have pulled you out on it if we weren't desperate. I gotta tell you, buddy, I'm glad you're here – we sure can use the help. We've been working this for 54 hours straight." Don swung his SUV out of the country club gate, and peered through the windshield as he turned onto the two-lane road that led back to the city outskirts. It would be twenty miles of pitch-blackness in the rain, but at least it was relatively straight road. It was good thing; although he'd caught a few naps here and there over the past two days, he was tired. As he drove, he began to fill Charlie in on the case – a weapons smuggling operation. Based on work they had done so far, they suspected that a large shipment of illegal automatic weapons was going to ship out of the area soon, and they needed to find it – or identify the smugglers - before the shipment left the area.
He did feel a little guilty about dragging Charlie out late at night, after he had just arrived in town from six months overseas, but he had to admit, he was enjoying this, too. He'd missed his younger brother, and putting their heads together on a case felt good. No, more than good. He'd worried a bit about them growing apart during Charlie's absence, but now that Charlie was here with him, he knew his concerns had been groundless. He felt closer to his brother than he ever had as he glanced across the dark cab and caught Charlie's smile, and the glint of affection and enthusiasm in his dark eyes. Charlie was glad to see him too, excited to be working a case again together; it was obvious. They exchanged a grin that spoke volumes, as Charlie began talking. He had a habit of thinking out loud – talking through mathematical theory as it applied to the case. Don suspected that the process of explaining it to a layman actually helped Charlie solidify the facts in his own mind. So he let him talk, as they sped down the dark wet road.
The road ran through a few acres of orchard, and then through a relatively rural area. On Don's trip in to the country club the rain had let up for a stretch, and he had seen an occasional house on one side of the road. On the other side, there was a deep drainage canal, the width and depth of a small river. In the city, such a culvert would be lined with concrete, but out here, it was simply filled with rock, the large boulders unearthed from the process of digging. Ordinarily, it would be nearly dry – perhaps a trickle of water creeping through the rocks. The ditch was built to shunt off water from the nearby hills for storms such as this, however, and Don knew that tonight, it would be at least half-full – the trickle burgeoning into a fast, swollen stream. In fact, as they came up on a house, Don got another the look. The owner of the house had installed a bright mercury light on a post for security reasons, and in the light Don caught a quick glimpse of the canal on the other side of the road. The stream was now more than swollen; it was a raging muddy torrent cascading over the rocks and apparently was continuing to rise. It was still below the banks, however, and Don put it out of his mind as he focused on what Charlie was saying.
"So you're saying it will take you two steps, then?"
Charlie nodded. "At least. We can bounce one search off the other. One algorithm will factor in possible locations for the shipment. We'll use that information to narrow our search for people involved in the smuggling operations. Then we can further narrow the list of suspects by other means – motive, opportunity. Then we'll take that new list and bounce it back off the possible locations, narrowing those even further. It's an iterative process. We should be able to get your list of locations and/or suspects down to a manageable number."
Don could picture the process in his mind, and the anticipation of starting it made him press harder on the gas. He glanced at the clock – ten minutes after eight. They were a good twenty or thirty minutes away from the office. Charlie looked at him, still grinning, and shook his head. "Slow down there, ace. You're hydroplaning."
"Am not," retorted Don, with an answering grin. In spite of his denial, he had felt it too, the slightest hint that the vehicle had started to fishtail, but it had disappeared as quickly as it came. Even so, he began to lift his foot from the gas – better to be conservative, as his reaction time was likely to be slowed by fatigue. "You just spent the last several months driving on the wrong side of the road," he teased. "Don't tell me how to drive -," He was about to add, "– and buckle your seat belt;" but he never got the chance.
The words stopped abruptly in his throat as the sickening sense of G-forces pressed on his body. The SUV was sliding, slipping sideways. He immediately worked the wheel, frantically steering into the slide as the vehicle turned, and caught a quick glimpse of Charlie's face, white in the darkness, his eyes wide. Then there was a lurch and a bone-jarring jolt, and the world turned upside down. Don had a brief sensation of weightlessness, then of his body pressing hard against his seat and shoulder belt. The last thing he remembered was a loud crunching sound, and a sharp blow to the left side of his head.
End Chapter 1