Disclaimer: I have never owned any part of Numb3rs, but, I often and unabashedly use them for my own pleasure.
Spoilers; I think everyone has seen them by now and this spoiler alert is hardly necessary, but there are a few small spoilers for "Sniper Zero" and "Cause and Effect".
A/N: I have always thought there should be a story about the Eppes and the Tournament of Roses Parade since they live in Pasadena where it it held every year. This year, the parade's theme was "Just Imagine" and I thought it was the perfect one for the Eppes to participate in. I wanted to post it on Jan 2, the day of the parade, but real life had other ideas.
Please keep in mind, I know nothing about the buildings along Colorado Blvd. or the rest of the parade route, other than what I could see on Google maps, so I took full advantage of literary license and created my own. In fact, this entire story has as many real elements of the parade as it has ones I've created.
There are four chapters and I plan to post a new one every other day.
This takes place in present time. Charlie and Amita have been back from Cambridge for more than a year and happily resettled at home and at CalSci. Don and Robin have been married the same amount of time – having waited for the mathematician and his wife's return to have a surprisingly large ceremony ("I'm only doing this once, Eppes. May as well do it right."). David has already been promoted once in DC, Colby is heading his own team in LA and Don is kicking butt as Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles field office.
Summary: 5 ½ miles; 43 floats; 1 sniper; 2 brothers working together again.
Megan Reeves motioned to the prison guard through the window of the locked door that she was ready to leave the room where she had been counseling Angela Brant. The guard, Garrett Montgomery, looked at her, surprised. She was scheduled to work with Angela a full hour, as she did with all the other woman prisoners she worked with here at the federal prison, located some forty minutes outside the capital city, and she had only been with Angela less than 20 minutes. Ms. Reeves was, hands down, the most conscientious counselor they had ever had working with the female prisoners and it wasn't like her to short any of these women their time. One look at Reeves' grim face, though, told him something was up and it was more than just her wanting an early lunch break. He pulled the key from the holder on his belt, opened the door and Reeves slipped out quickly. He held the door for her as she turned and gave one last sympathetic look at the weeping, distraught woman still in the room, then he closed and locked the door again.
Something was wrong, Garrett was sure, although it didn't look like Brant was causing any trouble. Some of the female prisoners were hostile and unrepentant and didn't respond to counseling, often resorting to violence or misbehavior. Angela, on the other hand, had always seemed docile and eager to improve herself. Garrett had worked at the prison for eight years, though, and he knew enough not to underestimate any of them. He wasn't taking any chances. He had seen the fear in the counselor's eyes when she exited the room; fear and a genuine sense of panic. His hand went to the weapon on his hip. "Problem, Ms. Reeves?"
She was moving quickly, grabbing her jacket from the coat rack in the hall and her bag from the table beside it.
"Is there a problem?" he asked again.
"Problem?" she repeated, as she turned back to him. Her voice was breathless, her manner agitated and alarmed. She started for the door. "With a capital P and that stands for parade," she said cryptically over her shoulder, then hurried down the hallway towards the exit.
As she stepped outside, Megan opened her cell phone and looked at the time; 11:14am It would be 8:14am in California – Pasadena to be exact. There was no time to go through the channels. She had no choice. She would have to deal with the repercussions later, and so would the person she was going to call. Knowing him as she did, she knew he wouldn't have a problem with that. She waited until she was completely outside the prison walls, in the parking lot next to her car, before she dialed her former boss. His number, no longer on speed dial since she left the FBI and returned to the East Coast to finish her education and work with troubled women, was still familiar, and she dialed it quickly. It rang twice before she heard the familiar "Eppes", then Megan talked fast.
The sixty inch plasma television set, mounted on the wall in Alan Eppes' "man cave" was on, and it's proud owner was watching it from the comfort of a plush, overstuffed, tan-colored leather chair. He popped the last bite of a freshly baked bran muffin into his mouth then brushed the crumbs off his shirt onto the gleaming hardwood floor beneath his chair. He reached for the steaming cup of coffee sitting on the heavily polished side table next to his chair and held it between his hands, blowing gently on the top of it, dispersing the steam away from him and into the large open room. He sipped, carefully, then turned to an identical chair a few feet away and the man sitting there.
"Ah, now this is the way to enjoy the Rose Parade, huh, Stan?"
His friend and former consulting partner, Stan Carter, nodded his head, swallowing the last bite of his own muffin. He and Stan had decided to remain at the house this year and watch the parade from the comfort of the leather recliners. Charlie, Larry, Don and Robin would be in later to watch the Oregon Ducks and the Wisconsin Badgers play the Rose Bowl game and eat the mountains of food he had prepared. Amita would be home later in the evening, after a conference at the downtown convention center in Los Angeles.
"I'd say I feel sorry for all those saps standing out in the cold, stamping their feet to stay warm, just to enjoy a bunch of floats and marching bands, but ..." Stan stopped, his eyes becoming distant, longing and he sighed heavily. "I'd be lying. I don't feel sorry for 'em at all."
Knowing exactly what his friend meant, Alan turned to him, a little wistful himself now. "Margaret and I always took the boys to see the parade. We'd stand there along Colorado Blvd. layered in so much clothing we couldn't move." He smiled, shaking off the pensive mood. "They were great times and I think both Don and Charlie have some good memories." He paused, remembering. "When he was younger, Donnie always enjoyed the horses and later, those girls twirling their batons at the front of the marching bands. It was so cold and the poor things were always wearing those short skirts, you know, but Don seemed to like it." Both men laughed and Alan added, "I think he still does."
"Charlie, on the other hand ... well, someone who didn't know him might believe he wasn't enjoying himself as much as the other children were, but, Margaret and I would see his eyes light up, you know, as he'd tell us about the math that was used to design the floats. We knew that Charlie enjoyed those statistics as much as Don enjoyed the girls in the short skirts."
"It's always been that way with your sons, Alan." Having been a friend of the Eppes family for many years, Stan had an insider's view of the dynamics between the boys. "Don always had his feet planted firmly on the ground. Charlie, well, he soared above us all."
Alan nodded, agreeing with his friend's assessment, and raised his cup to his face, blowing once again on the hot liquid.
The picture on the tv screen changed to one that panned the sidewalks along the parade route. People were cheering, waving gloved hands at the camera, the air in front of their mouths turning to a fine mist.
Alan shuddered. "Don and Robin are there somewhere. They asked me to join them, but … " He shook a threatening finger at Stan, "If you tell this to anyone, I'll deny I ever said it." Another shudder went through him and he hunched his shoulders against the imaginary cold. "I'm too old to be out there in that weather, even if Charlie is riding on one of the floats."
"Is this the first float CalSci has entered?"
"No, no, I think they've had several entries before, but Charlie was never as involved as he's been this year. He and Larry Fleinhardt have been working closely with the students on this for the last nine months. I tell you a person has no idea how much work goes into one of those things. Every square inch of the float has to be covered with flowers or other natural material – you know, like leaves or seeds or bark. The amount of flowers used on one float is staggering, and because it's all perishable, they can't put the final touches on it until after Christmas. I told Charlie ..."
"Hey, look," Stan said excitedly, interrupting his friend and pointing to the large television screen. "Isn't that Charlie?"
The local news anchor was talking, but it was the small still picture of his youngest son, placed high in the right corner of the screen, that had Alan's attention.
"The floats are lined up and in position," the newsman said from the warmth and comfort of the television studio, "the marching band directors are praying everyone remembers their moves and the horses are decorated and practically prancing, ready to start that long 5½ mile trek down Colorado Blvd. The excitement and pageantry of the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade is just minutes away and volunteers have been working all night to double check all the details."
"Our reporter, Dani Lopez," he continued, "visited some of them early this morning as they put the final touches on their award winning entries. She spoke with Professor Charles Eppes of CalSci University about their amazing and creative answer to this year's theme."
The screen changed to a young attractive woman holding a microphone in front of her. Beside her stood Charlie Eppes. He was smiling a little self-consciously, obviously uncomfortable about being in front of the camera. His hands were in his pockets and he was shifting his weight from one leg to another.
The reporter, completely at ease knowing millions of people were watching her, looked directly into the camera lens and smiled. Her capped and polished teeth sparkled in stark contrast to her dark crimson lipstick. Her matching red tailored jacket was sharp and trim, and her dark hair was cut dramatically in a fashionable and trendy pixie style. "I'm Dani Lopez, reporting for KTLA where all the volunteers and workers are getting their entries ready for their inaugural appearance in the Rose Parade. This year, Pasadena's own CalSci University has submitted an entry and it is a winner – in more ways than one. It's taken not one, but two trophy's this year – the Founders' Trophy for Most Spectacular Built and Decorated by Volunteers From a Community or Organization and the coveted Grand Marshall's Trophy for Excellence in Creative Concept and Design.
"Here with me is Professor Charles Eppes, a math professor at CalSci and one of the driving forces behind the outstanding display of ingenuity, artistry and … well, imagination." A field reporter with an eye towards an anchor chair, Dani managed to turn slightly towards her guest, while never actually giving up her share of the screen. Still smiling for the camera she said, "You've been working all year on this float. Are you excited now that the big day has arrived?"
She moved the microphone in front of Charlie and he spoke, his voice at first shy and quiet, then more relaxed and energetic. "Yeah, well, we're sure excited about the response. We were thrilled when the tournament committee accepted our initial application last February, and, now, well we're really honored to have won two awards. But, I have to tell you, it's really been a group effort. The student volunteers have been amazing. They've put in an unbelievable amount of time on this project." He paused briefly, then added with a charming, crooked smile, "and most of them have even been able to keep up with their classwork, as well."
The newswoman's immaculately shaped eyebrows rose. "Considering the end result, professor," she prodded with a smile, "surely a little extra credit is in order."
"Can you share with us, professor, what was your inspiration?"
"Well, for us, the parade's theme this year, "Just Imagine", brought forth images of the remarkable scientists, physicists, scholars and mathematicians that came before us that had the insight and imagination to see the world differently than everyone else. I work in applied mathematics and we've tried, with this float, to show how their discoveries and inventions are used in our everyday life, decades and even centuries later."
"Some of the animation is amazing."
"Well, certainly, we might have benefited from a few students with outstanding computer skills."
"The Tournament of Roses Parade is an American tradition. I understand you have a personal history, Professor Eppes."
"It's Charlie and yes, I guess I do. I was chosen to ride on a float in the 1985 parade when I was nine years old. The theme was the Spirit of America and the float was pretty elaborate. It was titled Youth; the Bridge to Tomorrow and I got to stand on this flower covered bridge with several other child prodigies. It was pretty exciting. But, actually there's another bit of trivia you may not know and that's the fact that one of the original founders of the Tournament of Roses Parade, back in 1890, was Professor Charles Frederick Holder, who received a professorship emeritus from Throop College of Technology, which, in 1920, became CalSci."
Dani smiled thinly and tried to look interested.
"Wow, that's fascinating," she murmured, then, "We only have a few seconds left. Being a math professor, can you give our viewers some numbers pertaining to the parade?"
Charlie laughed again, delighted with her question.
"Well, it takes 60 volunteers working 10 hours a day for 10 days just to decorate one float. Twenty daises, thirty roses or 36 marigolds will cover one square foot of a float area. Over 600 tons of steel, 5,000 gallons of glue and 18 million flowers are used each year. Over 700,000 spectators watch the parade in person with over 60 million at home. And the estimated total dollar impact on Southern California is over $400 million."
"Those are certainly some amazing numbers, Profes … Charlie. But I'm afraid our numbers are up. Thank you for talking to us today, and once again, congratulations to you and your design team for your amazing contribution to this year's parade." With one more brilliant smile directed at the camera, she finished with, "I'm Dani Lopez, reporting for KTLA at the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade. And now, back to Clarke in the studio."
The scene changed back to the newsroom and the weather report for the parade.
"Two trophies!" Stan sat up in his chair and looked across at Alan. "I'm impressed, but not surprised. Neither one of your boys ever settled for second best at anything."
"Well, some things may come easier for Charlie, but neither one of them is afraid to work for what they want. They are so different in many ways, but that need to win, that desire to be the best … well, maybe that's why they worked so well together for those six years before Charlie left for England."
"Is Charlie still helping with the FBI cases?" Stan asked.
Alan lowered his cup to the table beside him and nodded. "It's not the same as it was before, though. Donnie's not in the field as much as he was, and," Alan's eyes suddenly sparkled and he beamed happily, "with Amita due in two months now, Charlie's attention is more focused at home and his Cognitive Emergence work. Colby does call on him now and then, but Charlie gave them a list of the other mathematicians at CalSci that can help."
Alan leaned across the arm of his chair, drawing closer to his friend, and added in an earnest, serious tone. "If Don asked him, though, he'd never refuse."
Don and Robin Eppes were standing just inside the blue line that's visible on the asphalt of Colorado Blvd. year 'round. Positioned three feet out from the curb it marked the farthest point into the street where spectators could safely watch the parade and not interfere with the floats and bands.
They had spent the night on the sidewalk with thousands of other hardy souls, ensuring they had a good vantage point for viewing the parade. It had been Robin's idea; an idea her and Don had turned into a full-fledged camping excursion. They had loaded Don's SUV with two long folding chairs, two heavy sleeping bags, snacks and four large thermoses of coffee and driven to within three blocks of Colorado Blvd. onto E. Del Mar, where they parked, then carried their bundles to an area just west of the second set of grandstand seating.
Night temperatures had dipped into the low 30's with a light fog coming in from the ocean. It had added a layer of dampness that went straight to their bones. They'd stayed warm, though, through the night and early morning hours by wearing several layers of clothing and snuggling together whenever possible.
Pre-parade activities of games and songs and eating hot dogs cooked over portable camping stoves had continued most of the night. Excited children had run up and down the street spraying everything in sight with silly string, while several small bands performed in the parking lots behind the fast-food restaurants.
The celebration had eased slightly before midnight when the "campers" were allowed to move their chairs and sleeping bags to the blue line. Don and Robin had finally burrowed under the sleeping bags around 2 am and slept side by side until the sun woke them. After a quick breakfast of protein bars and lukewarm coffee, they had bundled their belongings up and Don had returned them to the SUV while Robin kept his spot.
They stood now in a coveted first row position on the blue line. A family who had spent the night on the sidewalk, as well, was standing nearby, the young father trying to keep two excited boys in tow, while the mother held a smaller one wrapped in several blankets. The family was all wearing green and yellow jerseys with Donald Duck's image on the front, the mascot of the Oregon Ducks. Don, himself, had a small wager in the office pool on the Ducks for the win. He smiled at the father. "Looks like a good year for Oregon," he said with a nod towards their jerseys. The young man deftly separated the two boys who were arguing about something and replied, "If Darron's arm and De'Anthony's legs hold up, they stand a good chance."
The baby began to fuss and the father reached for him, taking him from the tired woman's arms. He held the child close, soothing it with soft murmurs and the child relaxed.
Don looked at Robin, who had her eyes on the baby, and his breath caught at a look he'd never seen on her before; maternal and nurturing. He didn't care if they were surrounded by thousands of people. He leaned in and kissed her, tenderly, his hand resting on her stomach. She hadn't been to the doctor yet, but the pregnancy test from the pharmacy last week had confirmed that Alan could expect another grandchild in late summer, just six months or so after Charlie and Amita's first born.
He drew back, his eyes locked with hers and Robin was both shocked and pleased to see the unmistakable hint of lust and desire radiating from him. She was even more shocked to discover she had similar feelings – in front of thousands of people! Then, suddenly, he laughed.
She shot him a fast, mock glare. "What's so funny?"
He reached up and she felt his fingers probing through her hair. She laughed herself when he extracted several long pieces of orange silly string.
Don wrapped his arms around Robin, drawing her close to him and she rested her head on his shoulder. At this tender, quasi-romantic moment, Don was surprised when Robin spoke – about his brother.
"Do you know what position Charlie's float is in the parade?"
The moment gone, he straightened up and answered, "Nope, no idea. He's been pretty secretive about it. We had a few beers a couple of weeks ago and he did tell me it has something to do with Einstein or something."
"Hmm," she chuckled, making a face. "Just what I want in a parade float."
He smiled with her, then looked at his watch; 7:58. The parade would start soon. Excitement stirred in the crowd around them as everyone started watching the sky, waiting for the overhead flight of the Air Force B2 Spirit that would announce the beginning of the parade.
Several Pasadena motorcycle policeman rode by and Don nodded his head towards them. Law enforcement officers had to deal with drunkenness and unruly behavior before and during the parade and each year they were forced to make several arrests. Officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department were also on duty, moving through the crowds, their eyes opened for any disturbance. This year, with the Occupy the Rose Parade protestors planning to march down Colorado Blvd. immediately behind the parade, three truckloads of sheriff's deputy's were on standby. Since 911, security was a top priority with such a large, well known and distinctly American event, and every branch of law enforcement took their job seriously.
The air above them vibrated with sudden intensity and the crowd roared as the flyover signaled the start of the parade.
The spectators around Don and Robin continued to cheer as the sound of the opening ceremony drifted to them from Orange Grove Blvd. It was some time before they actually saw the cavalcade of motorcycle police that preceded the parade. Dancers in bright red and green followed the motorcycles and behind them, the first band.
The first float, one of fanciful dreams featuring several sheep made completely of raw cotton, passed by, followed by a military band. Thankfully, the noise of the band was fading down Colorado when Don's phone vibrated in his pocket and he reached for it. "Eppes."
As he talked, Robin's gaze fell on a small girl down the line from where they stood. The child, probably three or four years old, was looking with wide enchanted eyes as a fanciful float with two smiling aliens operating a lemonade stand passed by. A little girl would be nice, she mused. Charlie and Amita were having a boy, and even though her heart did a flip at the thought of a little boy with Don's eyes and smile, she knew a little girl would be ...
"Any clue what he has planned?"
It wasn't what he said; the words could simply be referring to a family activity after the parade, but, she knew that tone in his voice and, it immediately drew her attention away from the girl. She saw his jaw muscles tighten, his lips press together, his whole body tense and alert.
"Brant. Yeah, I got it. Yeah," he said, nodding his head, "no problem. You did the right thing."
He snapped his phone shut and turned to Robin. Their eyes locked for an instant, and she nearly lost her breath at the intense, razor sharp look in her husband's eyes. Breaking the connection, he reached forward, took her by the elbow and dragged her back into the crowd, away from the blue line.
"Don ..." she started, but he raised a hand, silencing her until he drew her into an empty alcove between two buildings.
"Robin, that was Megan. She has reason to believe something's going down here today during the parade."
She drew in a sharp breath. She didn't know Megan Reeves that well, but she knew the former agent wouldn't have called Don unless she was pretty sure there would be trouble. Robin knew the potential for disaster. "What ..." she started, but he cut her off again, reaching into his pocket and handing her the keys to his SUV.
"Robin, I want you to go home."
She shook her head defiantly. "No way, Eppes. I'm staying with you."
His grip on her arms tightened. "I have to go, you understand? I'll have to contact parade security and set up a command…"
She was still shaking her head and he stopped talking. He lowered his hand to her stomach, his dark eyes never leaving hers. "I can't … I have a job to do and I can't do it if I'm worried about you. Please, just go home."
She was angry – pissed really, but she knew he was right; that if she, and by extension, their child were in danger, he would not be able to focus and do what he had to do. She hated that he needed to be free of her in order to work, that he needed her to go away when she so desperately wanted to stay. She thought of them staying warm through the night, snuggling close together, and the feel of his gun on his hip, but, even then she knew it was part of who he was and she understood – as she did now. She bit her lip and nodded her head, silently agreeing to go as he had asked.
She stepped into him and he wrapped his arms around her. He held her tight, his hand curling under her hair, caressing her scalp, pressing her head to his shoulder and softly kissing her forehead. Big bad FBI agent, she thought. He was good at his job and he had certainly faced the worse mankind could offer, but … that was before they had what they had now. She didn't want to lose that; she didn't want to lose him.
She pulled her head away from his shoulder and looked at his face – his eyes, his cheeks, his lips, memorizing them. His lips quirked up a little at her intense scrutiny. He leaned into her and they kissed, desperate and filled with emotion, then she pulled out of his embrace and hurried down the street without looking back.
There was a float called Youth; Bridge to Tomorrow in the the 1985 Rose Parade. I have no idea who rode on it, it just sounded like a perfect float to place a young Charlie on.
I don't know if it's possible to win two trophies, but, come on, it anyone can do it, it's Charlie.