Stars & Atoms

"Donny, Donny, c'mon, let's go!" A very excited four-year-old Charlie Eppes tugged on the sweatshirt sleeve of his nine-year-old brother, urging him to somehow quicken his pace.

"Charlie, calm down. The fireworks aren't for another hour, besides I just got to level 34 on Alien Shooter. And stop pulling on me, you're messing me up." Don motioned with his chin towards the small devise in his hands without taking his eyes off the screen. He had gotten the Game Boy for his birthday two months ago and he was now glued to the thing.

"But Donnnnn," he whined, "Dad said we could go now." He continued to pull on Don's sleeve.

"What?" He objected, then yelled louder, "Dad! They don't start for another hour! It's only 8:00!" Don paused his Game Boy and looked up, protest evident on his face.

"We've got to get good seats," Alan smiled, appearing from the kitchen.

Every year, the park in downtown Los Angeles held it's annual fireworks show. It was a very big event; everyone in town went. Charlie ad only gone for his first time the year before because his mother was convinced the noise might hurt the toddler's ears. So instead, Don and Alan went to the show while Charlie and Margaret stayed home and played a board game or something.

"Besides," their father continued," you could you a break from that little Game Boy thing."

"But Dad," he began to protest again but this time his mother interrupted.

"Donald," she scolded. "Do as your father says. You know you love the fireworks anyway. I don't know why you're not more excited."

Don grumbled some unintelligible words and half-stomped, half-trudged up to his room to pull on some sweatpants to replace his shorts and a pull-over sweatshirt to replace his hoodie.

"Don?" a soft, quiet voice nearly made Don fall over.

"Charlie," he hissed. "Don't sneak up on me like that."

"I- I just wanted to say sorry," he replied in a little voice.

Don's anger quickly faded as it turned into confusion. He turned around to face Charlie and almost laughed out loud. He was clad in an oversized hoodie, a pair of way-too-big sweatpants, and a hat, along with the hood pulled up and the strings tied tight, barely allowing his little face to show and only a few curls to stray above his eyes.

"Sorry for what, buddy?" Don asked, choking back his laughter.

"For making you mad. About the fireworks," he explained quietly.

"Aw, buddy, you didn't make me mad. I was just…"

"Exasperated?" the four-year-old genius guessed.

"Dude, I dont even know that word," Don laughed, once again baffled by his younger brother's advanced vocabulary. "but sure, that word. Now let's go get you into some better clothes."

"But Don, the probability of me getting bit by a mosquito is very high, considering…"

Don cut him off mid-sentence and took his hand, leading him down the hall and turning into Charlie's room. He helped him pick out clothes similar to what he was wearing.

"This okay, buddy? Then we'll just bring some blankets." Don stood behind Charlie in a full-length mirror on the wall with his hands on his shoulders.

"Yeah, it's okay. So does this mean you forgive me?"

Instead of answering, Don charged at his younger brother, scooping him up, turning him upside down, and tossing him over his shoulder. Charlie squealed and demanded Don put him down while rambling something about too much blood getting to his head but to no avail.

"Ah, it seems the children have made up," Alan joked in a funny voice. "Ready to go boys? We already have blankets." Charlie had already charged for the door, bursting with four-year-old energy. "I guess that's a yes," Alan chuckled.

The family of four piled into the car and set off for the park.

"Charlie dude, calm down. It looks like you're gonna wet your pants."

Charlie was bouncing up and down with such excitement, it looked like his face might tear from his huge grin.

"We're almost there, son," Margaret told the boy in the back seat.

Soon enough, the Eppes family drove into the parking lot of the public park, grabbed the blankets and headed for a spot in the grass. They ended up choosing a spot where they could lean up against a tree but close enough to see the fireworks up close. They laid out a blanket and gave one to the brothers to share while each parent took one.

Don leaned up against the three and before he could get comfortable, Charlie was squished up against him, kind of using his body as a human rock-climbing wall. The squirmy child finally settled on planting himself on Don's leg right after shoving his hand on his brother's face.

"Come on, man, that's my leg," Don complained about the extra weight on him.

"Come on, man, deal with it," Charlie countered.

"Come on, man, seriously, that hurts."

"Come on, man, I only weigh 34.2 pounds."

"Come on, man, just sit here." Don took his brother by the waist and planted him next to him.

"I guess that's okay," Charlie sighed dramatically.

It was silent for a little while before Charlie spoke again. "This is such an anomaly. The insects should be biting at everyone by now. That pond next to us…"

"Charlie, who cares? Be glad they're not biting us," Don told him.

"But it's an anomaly! It doesn't made sense!"

Their parents rolled their eyes at the boy's argument but then shushed them.

"Guys," Alan prodded Don's arm. "I think it's starting."

Sure enough, the sky began to erupt in a series of bright colors of all different patterns. Don didn't realize it, but through his amazement, he had brought his hands up to cover each side of Charlie's head, protecting his young ears from the harsh booms.

Charlie's face was about as bright as the lights in front of them but through his childish astonishment, out came his genius.

"Ooh, that one looked like a dandelion," Don pointed at the now fading ball of light.

"Really? I thought it was a little more like a clump of stars from far away. Like the Milky Way. You know, there are over…"

"Charlie, shut up little dude. Just enjoy the…"

"Ooh, that looked like an atom. It had a little red circle inside a blue one. Did you see it Donny? The red is the nucleus, you know? And the blue…"

"Charlie," Don said more firmly. "Hush."

The four-year-old next to him shrunk down and was silent for the rest of the show with the acceptance of the occasional "Woah!" or "Cooool!"

By the end, Don was ready to move since his leg had fallen asleep but the small lump beside him stopped him.

A mess of brown curls was pressed against Don's arm, obviously asleep. Since it was 9:45 now, he realized it was way past his brother's bedtime. With his brotherly instincts taking over, he scooped up Charlie who he wrapped in the blanket. He held him so Charlie's arms were around his neck, his legs dangling around Don's waist.

"Let's go, baby brother," Don grunted to the unconscious lump as he stood.

Their parents watched their sons fondly as Don slightly struggled with their youngest's weight.

Don stuffed the small body inside the car beside him and kept his arm around Charlie's shoulders. When they drove up to the house, his parents didn't protest when Don carried the still-wrapped-in-a-blanket Charlie up to his room. Don set his baby brother in his bed and pulled the sheet up to his chin, ignoring his pajamas on the floor since he was already in comfy sweats.

Don moved to go to his own room but just as he flicked off the lights, a small, tired voice halted him.

"Donny?" Charlie asked tiredly, still groggy with sleep.

"Yeah buddy?"

"Could you…?"

Don rolled his eyes but made his way back to the bed. "Aren't we getting a little old for this?" Don asked, jumping into Charlie's bed and pulling up the covers.

"No," he stated simply and made himself comfortable.

Don chuckled. "Night, bro."

~ 10987654321 ~

Okay, hi. This isn't my first Numb3rs fic but it's the first one I'm posting. It just kinda came to me in the spirit of the fourth.

I'm really sorry if the kids are kinda OOC, especially Charlie. I think he was a little mature for 4 but I needed him to be all smart! Lol, so what're you waiting for? Press that review button!