An epilogue that's just pure fluff. What could possibly be better, right? Right, guys? ...Guys?
Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own Numb3rs. If I was, it would still be on air. And we'd see more Ian. All the time.
Epilogue: Six months later
Ian paused in the doorway of the office, setting his duffel bag just inside the room. For several minutes he was content to lean against the door frame, watching Charlie scribble incomprehensible formulas across the clear expanse of Plexiglas in front of him with multicolored markers. The photos taped to the edges of the board denoted an FBI case, something very time-sensitive if his frantic movements were anything to judge by. Ian watched him cap his marker and take a step back, cocking his head as he rechecked his work. The felt tip emerged again as he erased a piece of his formula, and he scribbled something else in its place, glancing at the photographs.
One hand reached out for the frame, gripping it with as close to white-knuckles as was entirely comfortable. Ian counted five seconds-Charlie didn't move-before exhaling quietly and moving forward.
Charlie jumped a little bit as two arms wound around his waist, startling him out of the numbers on the board. "Ian," he protested in a breathy, nervous laugh. "I didn't... Do I have to say it anymore?"
"No," Ian laughed, pulling Charlie down on top of him as he sank into the desk chair. "You feel okay?"
Charlie opened his mouth thoughtlessly to assure him everything was fine, before catching himself on Ian's decidedly not-amused look. "My head hurts," he sighed reluctantly, resisting the impulse to lay his head on Ian's shoulder. "Just stress, I'll be fine."
"Have you taken anything for it," Ian asked, looking around for any sign that Charlie had left sometime today. A packed laptop case, a food wrapper in the trash can, anything... And there was no evidence to be had.
"No, my prescription is still at the apartment," Charlie said, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off the pain.
Ian nodded absently. Charlie had insisted on keeping the apartment near campus, but the only time he was there-to Ian's knowledge-was when he was in town. It was nice to have somewhere to come home to, or even just the illusion thereof. Ian had started leaving his stuff there, first by accident, and then on purpose, like he was testing the limits of what he was and wasn't allowed to do. Maybe one day I'll finally move in, he thought, the idea intriguing. Maybe he'd ask Charlie what he thought.
When he wasn't quite so dazed, of course.
"Come on," he said, and helped Charlie stand from his place on Ian's lap. His arm slid around the professor's back as he followed, and guided them both to the door. As he went, he slid Charlie's laptop into it's case and collected his duffel bag from by the door, slinging them both over his shoulder. The contrast of the elegant leather and the worn, dirty canvas was fitting, in a way. Indicative of something.
"Ian, where are you taking me," Charlie chuckled tiredly, having long since despaired of ever getting a straight answer. Ian did what he wanted, both with work and with Charlie. After the past year, Charlie had gotten to a place where he could just shake his head and smile.
"Home," Ian said, his hand still on Charlie's back. A couple female students smiled at the pair, giggling appreciatively. He rolled his eyes and led the way to the parking lot, bypassing Charlie's Prius for his own Toyota, left in the parking lot for a week while he was on a quick run for the woefully over-extended Marshals. "You can finish that up later."
"No," Ian said, tossing his duffel bag in the bed and sliding Charlie's bag under the glove box. "Which would Don prefer? You catching a killer, or you killing yourself with a migraine?"
Charlie huffed, but allowed Ian to help him into the truck without further protest. "You're never going to let that go, are you," he muttered as Ian moved to close the door.
Ian smiled and leaned over to catch Charlie's lips in some marginally sincere apology. "You don't really expect me to, do you," he asked before closing the door on Charlie's answer.
"I'd say I'd prefer if you didn't hover, but truth be told, I like the attention," he said as Ian climbed behind the wheel.
The engine thrummed to life as Ian slipped it into reverse and reached over for Charlie's hand. "Good," he said, pulling out of the parking space. The unspoken Because you know I won't quit fell around them like a perfect blanket.
"So, how's Montana this time of year," Charlie asked, leaning back against the headrest and closing his eyes. The movement of the street was becoming painful to watch, and Ian's hand in his was a good enough anchor.
"Cold," Ian said with a short laugh. "I got to see a couple old friends of mine, which was nice. Good times all around."
"No one died?"
"No one that wasn't supposed to," Ian said. "Why do people think that running to Montana is a good idea after they've killed someone? It's like Florida for cops. Everyone retires there."
Charlie exhaled a breathy laugh, feeling Ian's thumb shift around his wrist to caress the heel of his hand. The callous near the joint rubbed against his skin, like untreated leather. Charlie offered a small squeeze and smiled. "You should ask for a transfer," he said, off-hand like it was nothing more than a passing thought. He and Ian had discussed the possibility before, and the outcome was always the same: I have to talk to a few people before I make a decision.
"You know, I've been thinking about actually retiring," Ian said, startling Charlie into opening his eyes. "Come on, don't look so surprised. We've talked about it before."
"You said you'd transfer, not retire, and I thought you had to talk to people before you made a decision?"
"What do you think I do when I'm not with you?"
"Chase bad guys?"
Ian grinned. "Besides chasing bad guys."
Charlie smiled back and concentrated on the warm skin curled around his hand. "So, hypothetically. What would you do if you retired? Just hang around CalSci and bug me?"
"Maybe," Ian said, and chuckled at the look Charlie shot him. "I actually have some friends out here that do firearm training courses. They're always looking for new teachers."
"That'd be cool," Charlie muttered, exhaling slowly. His migraine was getting worse by the second.
Ian glanced at him, worry spiking again. "Bad?"
"Getting there," he said weakly.
"Five minutes, and then you can sleep, okay?"
"Yeah, he's fine, just a stress migraine... No, he was working on something for you, and I made him quit. ...Yeah, you're welcome. I'll have him back to CalSci- Okay, that works too. Good luck with that. ...Yeah, see you tomorrow, Don." Ian hung up and set his phone on the coffee table, sock-clad feet stretched out on the couch. He took a sip of his beer and set it back on the carpet by the arm of the couch, his hand returning to the keyboard on the laptop open on his legs.
The sniper sat up and closed his laptop as Charlie wandered out down the hallway. "Hey, babe. Right here."
Charlie offered a sleepy smile and padded over, curling up against Ian's side when he made it to the couch. "Anything interesting happen while I was out," he asked, his bare feet tucked under Ian's jeans.
"The president was assassinated, and Sesame Street was cancelled," Ian said casually, wrapping his arm around Charlie's shoulders.
"Sounds like anarchy," Charlie commented. "But all the satellites are still in orbit, right?"
"See, this is the difference between you and me. I tell you that we have no leader and one of the greatest television institutions of all time has bit the dust, and you're worried about objects in space. What's wrong with you," Ian laughed.
"Much," Charlie chuckled, resting his head against the side of Ian's neck. "Who were you talking to?"
"Don," Ian said, shifting Charlie to a slightly more comfortable position. "He said to keep you home for a few days, and he'll have one of your students copy down your formulas and bring them over if you feel like you have to work on them."
"Did he sound mad?"
"Not a bit," Ian assured, absently combing his fingers through the tangled bedhead. "I told you, he doesn't want you killing yourself with stress here."
"Mm," Charlie hummed, eyes falling shut again.
"You feel better?"
"Much, thanks. We staying in for dinner?"
"We can," Ian said. "What sounds good?"
"I don't know, you pick," Charlie sighed. "I'm good with anything right now."
"Chinese it is, then," he said. "You get the menu, I'll call?"
Charlie unwound himself and ambled to the refrigerator, where all manner of takeout menus were held hostage by an army of magnets. "Do we want South China Garden, or that one place on Fourteenth?"
"Doesn't the place on Fourteenth have the really good egg rolls?"
"But South China Garden is closer, and therefore delivers faster," Charlie said. "So good food, or fast food?"
"Good food, every time. Waiting won't kill anyone," Ian said, extending his arm in an invitation as Charlie shuffled back.
Charlie curled up against Ian's side again and opened the menu on his knees, laying his head on Ian's shoulder. "Yeah, I might just go to sleep right here again," he said, the warm body behind him moving as Ian laughed.
"How about we eat and call it a night, then," he suggested, squeezing Charlie's shoulders. "You think you need another dose?"
"Think we caught it," Charlie said. "You gonna stick around for a while?"
"For as long as I can get away with it. ...Hey, Charlie?"
"Hm," Charlie exhaled comfortably.
"What would you say if I moved in?"
Ian rested his cheek on the top of Charlie's head. "Yeah. Like, permanently."
"I would be thrilled," Charlie murmured. "You have no idea. Are you serious?"
"No, I'm screwing with you." Ian grinned. "Of course I'm serious."
"Isn't your apartment in Oklahoma or something?"
"So it is," Ian muttered. "I've got a friend in Denver with a box trailer."
Charlie grinned. "Road trip?"
The end! Hopefully to be followed by a couple oneshots from this same universe in the next few days. We'll see how busy I get.