Disclaimer: There is no infringement intended. I claim no ownership of anything other than the storyline and all original characters. CBS stills gets all the money involved with anything to do with Numb3rs. This disclaimer applies to all chapters of this story.
There are no warnings.
Spoilers for "Backscatter", "Breaking Point", "Fifth Man" and the quote at the beginning from "Guns and Roses".
A/Ns: All named organizations, state parks and forests, California cities, (except L.A., of course), and Carrigan Memorial Hospital are fictional and were created solely for this story. They are not meant to resemble or represent any true or real establishments and this author humbly apologizes for any implied representation.
Takes place somewhere between seasons three and mid-season six.
Throughout the story, both Don's previously spoken words and Alan's thoughts are italicized. Don's words, however, are set apart with quotations marks.
Please read the A/N at the end of this chapter. You can read it before or after you read the chapter – it doesn't matter – it's completely up to you.
This first chapter is a little longer than the others. There are seven in all. Please enjoy.
Summary: Don's cursory tale of his and Charlie's survival after a helicopter crash in the wilderness leaves a frustrated Alan to piece together the truth on his own.
Don; "I mean, I...I tell you stuff, but you don't know the half of it, trust me."
Alan; "How come I don't find that comforting?" 2.20 "Guns and Roses"
- Chapter one -
Carrigan Memorial Hospital sat nestled within a lush grove of Western Sycamore trees, just a mile north of the town it was named for. Both the city and hospital, named after founders Edward and Madge Carrigan, sat serenely at the southwestern edge of scenic Black Rock State Park, a protected area with over five hundred thousand acres of untamed wilderness. The medical facility was small compared to the giant edifices that served the ill and injured just five hours away in Los Angeles. Despite it's size – just 15 beds and a staff of less than 70 - the hospital boasted a top notch emergency/trauma unit that rivaled UCLA in relationship to specific injuries. The doctors and nurses at Carrigan excelled in treating the head injuries and broken bones of seasonal visitors to the park: the spring and summer water rafters who braved the Rufus Rapids, or the hikers who trekked along Rivergrove Pass, or the skiers who challenged the slopes of Mt. Kripke.
The hospital did have one thing in common, though, with the larger facilities, and if truth be told, it had the same thing in common with countless hospitals across the country; color scheme. As Alan Eppes stepped into one of Carrigan's hallways, quietly closing the door behind him, he silently cursed the repetition of the nauseating green tile that covered the lower section of the walls along the hallway as far as he could see.
As an architect himself, Alan realized the soft green was supposed to induce soothing, calm feelings - often a commodity in short supply in a hospital - but, he was tired of it. Actually, he was tired of pretty much everything. Standing in the pristine hallway, he gazed around. The hallway he stood in had patient rooms on one side and several small waiting areas on the other. It was bisected by the nurses station, where another hallway of patient rooms and the elevator bay fanned out. Each hallway, every doorway, the raised barrier around the nurse's station, the elevator doors – everything in his sight – was green and white. At another time, he might have suggested a contrasting shade, one with more life in it, but the last few days had drained him and he found himself reluctantly agreeing with the unknown decorator. Seriously, he thought, what other color would be appropriate; certainly not red – it was too bold and discordant, and, Alan swallowed, it too closely resembled the blood that continued to seep through the bandage on Charlie's forehead. And, yellow wouldn't work – it was too bright, too sunny for the suffering that went on behind these doors – and yet, a watered down version of it was similar to the pus that constantly oozed out of the infected puncture wounds in Don's ankle. There was blue, Alan guessed – numerous shades to choose from, from soft robin egg blue to a deep indigo – but he shuddered at the image of both of his sons with countless, immeasurable dark blue bruises that seemed to cover them from head to foot, a constant and painful reminder of why they were there.
Don had been asked by a college friend, Michael Adams, who was now a board member of the state forestry service, to check into the recent heavy concentration of poaching in the state park. Don and Colby Granger had arrived nearly a week ago and had been following several promising leads. The state had also asked Charlie to calculate the damage done to the forest's delicate eco system by the loss of an uneven number of both predators and prey.
Despite the continuing and tireless efforts of PETA and other animal rights groups, fur and animal hides were still a large commodity, both in overseas and domestic fashion circles, and by the large numbers of animals this group of poachers were suspected of taking, they were making a killing in more ways than one. The poachers were ruthless; from two separate base camps on opposite sides of the government land, they were taking the animals any way they could – hunting rifles, crossbows and various types of traps, from the smaller spring loaders for fox and raccoon to the larger leg hold traps with pointed teeth for bear. When Don and Colby made significant progress in the investigation, the criminals closed down the operation and set fire to both camps, destroying the evidence.
In comparison to other cases, other felons his sons have hunted, this one had seemed tame enough, although in retrospect, Alan knew one should never judge how desperate a criminal could be, how willing they were to cross the line from just someone who breaks the law to someone who would kill the officers or agents sent to bring them in. Alan sighed with relief, knowing all the poachers had been arrested, and even though Don had told him there had been a few shots fired, no one had been injured during the arrest.
With his right hand still on the door knob, Alan stood a moment, beyond weary, and moved his left hand up to the back of his neck, slowly massaging the tense, stiff muscles there. He thought ruefully of Meg, the pretty young nurse who suggested he return to the motel for a good night's sleep. Instead of taking her sage advise, he had opted for a nap, once again, in the green! vinyl chair beside Charlie's bed. He admitted to himself, and only to himself, that he was too old for his body to rest completely in an upright position.
Both Don and Charlie were sleeping now, helped along by the pain killers and antibiotics they had been receiving for two days now and Alan decided he needed a break from the small hospital room, with it's relentless, beeping reminders of his sons' mortality. Since receiving the call from Colby Granger four days ago telling him both of his sons and a young pilot were missing after a helicopter crash in the middle of a wildfire zone in the dense wilderness of Black Rock, he had been on an emotional roller coaster ride from hell.
Alan knew the young man who had piloted the helicopter, Dean Hunter, was also occupying a room on this floor, just a few doors past the nurses station, and he had been meaning to stop in and see how he was doing. He just hadn't been able to find the time, yet. At first, he admitted, he just couldn't bring himself to leave his sons' room. The first day he literally spent hours just watching them sleep. As they began to recover and spend more time awake and uncomfortable, he found himself occupied in other ways.
Charlie was scheduled for traction several times a day for his neck injury and was finding it hard to remain still that long. It often took Alan and Don both to distract him long enough to allow the procedure to be effective. Then, last night, Don was given a pair of crutches and encouraged to use them for short trips to the bathroom. Still a little weak and unsteady, he had quietly accepted Alan's help.
Simply put, his sons needed him; so he had stayed there, in the room with them, reading, talking, fluffing, playing referee, soothing – loving.
Through the night, as is often the case, Don's fever had spiked again and he had been restless and unable to sleep. With Charlie snoring soundly nearby, Alan had finally asked Don for details – what exactly had happened. Don had given his statement to the Black Rock authorities and to David Sinclair, who, along with Colby Granger had been part of the joint team that had eventually rescued them, but that had been done in private and Alan hadn't pushed Don for information.
"We found signs right away, Dad, that confirmed Mike's belief that the poaching was being done by a highly organized unit. We got a lead on how they were transporting the animals out of state and I sent Colby to run that down while I took Chuck out to do his number thing. He was running some equations on the projected eco effect when I stepped in that damn bear trap. I figured I could make it back on my own, you know, just wrap it up tight to stop the bleeding, maybe a little help from Charlie or a walking stick, but he insisted on calling for help."
Alan had held his breath as Don told him how the rescue helicopter had crashed and their subsequent fight for survival as the three of them made their way out of the forest, chased by both a raging fire and desperate poachers.
"Dean knew the trails, he got us through. We wouldn't have made it without him, Dad."
Rubbing his neck again, Alan sighed and told himself before he returned to his sons' room he would slip down the hall and see how the young man was doing.
Arching his back to stretch out the kinks that seemed to have taken up a permanent residency in his spine, he turned down the hall and headed for the elevator. The hospital cafeteria had passable food, but he had found their coffee outstanding; a special blend from the cooks' father, who owned and operated the popular Harvell Roadhouse, north of town. The coffee was strong without being bitter and he was told it had a secret ingredient that attracted an eclectic group of travelers and locals to the roadhouse.
As he approached the public elevators that would take him down a level to the cafeteria, he noticed a woman standing in front of them. She was arching her back as he had done, her small hands splayed across her lower spine. Instantly, he sympathized with her, knowing her aches were not due to age and a foolish sleeping position, but to her advanced pregnancy.
She was a petite woman, despite the basketball size bulge riding high in her abdomen. Her wavy, shoulder length brown hair was pulled back on both sides and clipped at the back of her head in a loose, careless containment that said she didn't have time to do much else with it that morning. She was dressed in a well-worn, navy maternity outfit with an over-sized tan sweater, whose front zipper almost met over her stomach. He remembered his late wife, Margaret, carrying their two sons and mentally comparing the memory with the young woman in front of him, he judged her to be between seven and a half to eight months along.
Without knowing exactly how, he knew without a doubt that she was the pilot's wife. He approached her carefully, not wanting to startle her. "Mrs. Hunter?"
She turned to him, smiling instantly, as though he were an old friend. Her hazel eyes appeared tired and her face drawn and lined with fatigue, but she thrust her hand forward warmly and said, "Please, call be Ruby. You're Mr. Eppes, aren't you?" Alan managed a quick nod before she said quickly "I've been meaning to come by and see you and your sons, but Dean's been awake more today and I've tried to spend some time with him. I should be at home," she rushed on. "Bobby has a cold and so far Momma's been able to handle things, but God help us all if Lilith comes down with it. I love that girl dearly, but when she doesn't feel good she can be the devil incarnate, a holy terror, ya know, and I don't think Momma will be able to handle both of them. I'm afraid I ..."
Alan knew if he wanted to be part of this conversation he would have to just jump in. "Bobby and Lilith – your children?"
Slightly mollified, Roby took a calming breath and nodded. "Bobby's five and Lilith is three." She rubbed her burgeoning stomach affectionately. "This one's a girl too. Dean likes Anna for a name, but I'm kind of partial to Ava, after my grandmother."
"All of this," Alan waved vaguely behind him, his gesture taking in the hospital as a whole and the two rooms that held their loved ones, "must be hard on you, especially now."
She laughed, easily, but Alan could hear the exhaustion in her voice. "I'm stronger than I look, Mr. Eppes. I come from sturdy stock. Besides, Dean's parents, Joe and Ellen, are coming in from Lawrence, Kansas sometime tomorrow. They'll be a big help with him and the kids both."
Alan smiled, knowingly, with a slight nod of his head. Over the years, when he and Margaret were raising their sons, there had been many times when they had had to rely on the help of family and friends.
"How're your sons doing, Mr. Eppes?" Ruby asked.
"First of all, call me Alan. Well, Dr. Colt is telling me Donnie's going to be on crutches for at least a month or more. Amazingly, there was only minor nerve and muscle damage from that awful animal trap he stepped in, but the wound did become infected – God knows how dirty that thing was – and that's setting the healing back a little. And Charlie's head and neck injury, along with the concussion, will keep him down for a while, too." Alan chuckled slightly, in spite of the seriousness of the situation – or maybe because of it. "Both of them, however, are telling me they are fine. So, weighing what the doctor says and knowing both of my sons propensity for being still for very long, I suspect it is somewhere in between. How's your husband?"
She sighed, deeply, and pulled the sweater tighter around her shoulders. "He'll be laid up for quite a while." She smiled a little and rubbed her stomach, absently. "Not a bad thing, considering. He'll be home to bond with the new one when she arrives next month."
The emotional impact of the last few days had, admittedly, caused Alan a few restless nights and his control of his thoughts and feelings was less sharp than usual. He couldn't help himself. Coming so close to losing both of his sons at the same time and standing before this glowingly pregnant woman, he experienced a floodgate of memories of his boys and their childhood. It didn't last long – not nearly long enough. Her voice was there, cutting through his thoughts and what she was saying dragged him back, confused and alert.
"...his left leg was broken. The doctors were able to set it and they say it should heal just fine. It's his right knee they're concerned about. It's messed up pretty bad and they are talking about having to replace it, but they have to wait until the swelling goes down before they can operate and repair all the damage."
"He hurt both of his legs?" An uneasy feeling settled deep in Alan's stomach when she nodded her head.
"Yes. That's why I'm so grateful to your sons. He certainly wouldn't have been able to walk away from the crash site without their help."
Alan was still frowning. "Funny," he mused, "I thought Donnie told me your husband only broke one of his legs. When he told me they helped the pilot, I guess I just pictured Don fashioning a crutch of some sort for Dean to use. He can be pretty resourceful."
"I'll say." Ruby said, quickly. "Dean told me they splinted his leg by using parts of the helicopter's rudder and tied it together with strips of Charlie's flannel shirt. They used the seat cushions to stabilize his injured knee, then he says they made a stretcher out of a section of the rotors and carried him."
Alan digested this new bit of information silently. Don had never mentioned the fact that he and Charlie had been forced to carry the injured pilot out of the wilderness.
"After the crash we called for help, again, and they told us we had to get to another site for pickup. We patched up what injuries we could quickly – Dean's left leg was broken and Charlie, well, you know, his head and neck... We were really lucky that Dean is a tough one. He was in a lot of pain and Charlie and I had to help him some, but he stayed alert and was able to guide us to the next pick-up point."
"Why would Don tell me he only broke one leg. I'm sure he told me Dean only broke one leg."
"Well, technically," she said in a soft voice that contrasted Alan's sharp tone, "he did only break one leg."
His eyes narrowed and with a pronounced emphasis on the last word, Alan muttered, "Yes, technically." He saw the loophole for what it was.
Alan had listened with silent trepidation as the doctors had described his sons' injuries; both of them suffering from smoke inhalation, Charlie's concussion and the damage to the nerves and muscles in his neck, the long gashes on the back of both of his hands and forearms that required stitches and what seemed like yards of white gauze bandages. He had seen for himself the vast multitude of cuts, scrapes and dark angry bruises that covered his youngest son's body. He had sat beside Don's bed and watched while the nurses changed the dressing on his ankle, had seen the infected punctures, the pale yellow-colored pus oozing from them; had seen the pain in his son's eyes as the nurse gently wrapped the bandage around his ankle once more. He had watched his oldest, trying to shift to a more comfortable position in bed, grimacing and holding his left side, which was also wrapped in white gauze. Injuries, painful and incapacitating for both of his boys, yet, they had struggled through dark, uneven, treacherous terrain, carrying nearly two hundred pounds between them. A myriad of emotions fought for dominance in Alan's mind; pride, confusion, anger.
Why did Don see the need to keep that from him? Did he think he couldn't handle a little blood, a little drama? He raised two sons, for crying out loud; two boys who were as different as they were alike. He and Margaret had endured their share of black eyes, split lips, skinned elbows, scraped knees, broken arms, dislocated shoulders and scary high fevers, and, not all of that, as one might assume, was from Don. Granted, he was always more adventurous and physical than his younger brother, but Charlie had his own way of testing their patience.
Now, as adults, they both continued to push the envelope, so to speak, and frequently faced situations more intense than skinned elbows and scraped knees. So far, though, he thought he had handled things well. He hadn't fallen apart through that awful case with the Russian Mafia or when Charlie was run off the road and shot at, or even when Don had been stabbed and almost died. Unless his son had held back details on any of those instances, he wondered why he felt the need to do so now.
Alan knew he didn't always get the complete story from Don and he knew it was partially his own fault – well, his and Margaret's. It had been so easy when Don established a pattern of taking care of himself early on to just let it happen. Alan knew his son's cavalier and often reticent attitude concerning the dangers he faces on his job was simply a throwback to his childhood and the amount of attention young Charlie had gotten. "I'm fine. You don't need to worry about me, Dad."
The irony of the situation did not escape Alan, either. Don, injured to the point of needing rescued himself, had limped painfully over perilous terrain, becoming the rescuer, and, if Alan knew anything at all about his oldest son, probably more concerned with Charlie's injuries than his own.
During a heated protest in 1973 a policeman had lobbed his night stick along side of Alan's head and he had suffered a concussion from it. He still remembered the dizziness, the headaches, the nausea, and he thought of Charlie, concussed, probably stumbling along behind Don, carrying his share of the weight. It was certainly disturbing to imagine his sons in that condition – in that situation – but, why did Don feel it was necessary to lie about it? Well, Alan grudgingly admitted, it wasn't really lying, was it – unless you count lying by omission – and damn it, he did count it.
"Are you okay?"
Alan startled at the sound of Ruby's voice. Embarrassed that he had forgotten his manners and had let his thoughts wander once again he cleared his throat. Hoping to put her at ease, he smiled and said, "Yes, dear, I'm fine." Trying to sound reassuring he added, "Really, it all worked out fine and we both have a great deal to be thankful for. Donnie didn't mention it, of course, but Ranger Castiel told me the fire was just minutes behind the rescue team that pulled them out of there. I know you must have been relieved when Dean told you that."
Her entire body stiffened at his words, her eyes suddenly growing dark and wide as one hand flew to her mouth and the other in a protective arch around her stomach. It was obvious it was the first time she had heard that bit of information.
Alan sighed. Visibly annoyed and frustrated, he stood straight and wearily arched his back again. "Mrs. Hunter – Ruby – it would appear we have more in common than family members with IVs." At her puzzled look, he elaborated. "Clearly, neither of us have the whole story."
She nodded her head, seeing his point. "It is startin' to look like a piece of swiss cheese, isn't it? There's definitely a few holes."
They both turned, then, as a soft ding announced the arrival of the elevator. As the double doors opened, Alan gestured towards the opening. "What would you say to a little full disclosure over a cup of coffee?"
She smiled and nodded her head eagerly. "Make that a jumbo chocolate milkshake," she said with enthusiasm, "and it's a deal."
A/N #2: For those of you who watch Supernatural, I'm sure you have noticed the play on names and references I've used. Purely for fun, I challenged myself to use as many names and/or references from the television program Supernatural as I could in this story. Please note – this is NOT a crossover. These are NOT the same characters; I simply borrowed some of the names. When writing a story with original characters, I often have trouble coming up with new names, so I had some fun and used some of the same names in Supernatural. For those of you who are interested, I have listed the references to Supernatural that I used in the chapter at the end of each one. If the name or reference appears in more than one chapter, it will only be listed the first time it appears. (ie; Ruby is in several chapters, but I'll only list her in chapter one.) For those who don't watch Supernatural, it won't affect your enjoyment of the story at all. They are just names.
Supernatural names/references for chapter one;
Carrigan (Edward and Madge) - "A Very Supernatural Christmas" - 3.08
Black Rock - "Bad Day at Black Rock" – 3.03
Rufus - fellow hunter
Rivergrove - "Croatoan" – 2.9
Kripke (Eric) - Creator of Supernatural
Michael - Archangel – multiple episodes seasons 5 & 6
Adam (Milligan) - Dean and Sam's half brother – recurring character since season 4
Meg (Masters) - Recurring character throughout series
Dean (Winchester) - Main character - oldest Winchester brother
hunter - those who hunt demons and monsters; the Winchester's occupation
Harvell Roadhouse - roadhouse frequented by hunters – season two
Ruby - Recurring character from seasons three and four
Bobby (Singer) - Friend and father figure to Dean and Sam Winchester
Lilith - demon, also the final seal of the Apocalypse
Anna (Milton) - Fallen angel – 4th season
Ava - psychic from season two
Jo (Harvelle) - hunter
Ellen (Harvelle) - hunter
Lawrence, Kansas - the Winchester's home town. Where it all started.
colt - revolver made by Samuel Colt with the ability to kill any creature
Castiel - angel, recurring character since season four