Eye of the Storm
Disclaimer - Don't own Thunderbirds or, since they are a major player in this story, the Brothers Eppes of Numb3rs.
Kate Eppes finished helping her mother set down food, having pushed her brothers and fiancé out into the backyard.
Re-entering the kitchen, Kate leaned out the back door to call to the three men. "Danny – see if you can see Uncle Charlie and Company coming yet."
"Uncle Charlie is here," a new voice said from behind her.
With a squeal of delight, Kate turned around and hugged her uncle fiercely. "Uncle Charlie," Kate grinned, giving the older man a kiss on the cheek before turning to greet her Aunt Amita.
"Everyone else is here," Amita said, gesturing to where her oldest son, Ben, his wife and baby daughter were already in the yard, joining the group out back. Soon, they had been joined by the only other Eppes granddaughter, Maggie, her husband and two year old son.
"You must be glad to have Maggie and Jacob back in LA," Robin Eppes said as she took the wine Charlie had brought over.
"Yes," Amita laughed. "Charlie was starting to sound like his father, being denied access to his grandson."
"You know if you retired, you could have visited them all you wanted," Kate teased, knowing the math professor would prefer growing old in his classroom and would probably pass in the middle of a lecture, if only to see if the students would notice.
"Pfft," Charlie said, heading out the door. "Only old people retire."
"And now he sounds like his brother," Robin grumbled. She had retired from the attorney general's office several years before, and Don had planned on doing the same from the FBI. Then he had been asked to temporarily fill the head office for the FBI when the current director had died suddenly two years earlier.
He was still in the same role.
Watching her husband manage to take hold of both his grandson and granddaughter, Amita smiled. "Don will be just as bad when it comes to grandkids. But at least you have one of your kids getting married, right, Robin?"
Kate smiled tightly. The last she had said anything to her family, she and Scott were planning on marrying around Valentine's Day. But the wedding was getting moved up – big time.
"Kate, are you alright, Baby?"
Kate turned and smiled tightly at her mother. "I'm fine, Mom." Looking at Amita, she shook her head. "Is Edward coming, Aunt Amita?"
"Do I hear my name being taken in vain?"
Kate's smile grew more relaxed as she turned to see her favorite cousin. "Hey Ed-ster!"
"Dork," the doctor laughed as he hugged her close. Leaning back, he looked at her oddly when she pulled away. "Kate, you feeling ok?"
"I'm fine," Kate argued. "Just not crazy about your new cologne." Turning to her mother, she was about to say something when her father called out from the front door.
"Daddy!" Kate said excitedly, running to the front door, Robin close on her heels.
Edward stayed where he was, staring at the path his only younger cousin had taken.
"What's wrong?" Amita asked. When Edward just shrugged, Amita shook her head. "Charles Edward Eppes Jr., don't you lie – or not tell the whole truth – to me."
Edward sighed and looked at his mother. "Mom, I don't wear colognes and I haven't changed aftershaves since college. And I first got the aftershave from Kate, who said it was a scent she liked." Frowning, he went to call in the rest of the family as he muttered, "It better not be the same reason Maggie didn't like my aftershave or Scott is in trouble."
"Not that I am objecting to a free meal on a weekday," Ben joked to his aunt as he passed his wife the salad. "But what's the deal with a clan gathering before the weekend?"
"My fault, I'm afraid," Scott smiled lightly. "I have to be in a meeting in Auckland tomorrow afternoon. Not all of us are unemployed."
"Jerk," Kate mumbled as she took a sip of water, having declined the wine her father had poured to go with dinner. "You know I will be going to work for your father in three weeks."
"It does sound exciting," Maggie admitted. "A Cyber Security Division? Sounds like a job that was tailor made for you, Kate."
"Actually," Scott allowed, "Dad has wanted to start that as a separate division of Tracy Enterprises for years, but he never found the right person until Kate."
"Nice sign-on bonus," Lila, Ben's wife, teased.
"Well, while we are in town and since Kate is here," Robin smiled, "we should start looking for Kate's dress."
"I have my dress, Mom," Kate said. "I found it in a consignment shop in Boston. Sarah told me about the place, they have some amazing clothing there. And the dress I found is a circa 1950's. It has some incredible handmade lace that should go great with Grandma's veil." Kate's maternal grandmother's gown had been handed down to another granddaughter but the veil had been put aside for Kate, who had always planned to find a gown to go with it.
Robin did look slightly disappointed but quickly continued. "Well, there is still plenty to organize. Venue, flowers, meal, talking to the rabbi – Scott, your family is ok with Kate and you getting married in Temple, aren't they?" Robin wasn't Jewish but she had been fine with the children being raised as such.
"We've already talked to Rabbi Greenblatt, Mom," Kate said.
"And Ann-Marie is taking care of all the details," Scott offered. "She helped Emily and Sarah Jane – well, Sarah and Virgil are getting married next month."
"Ann-Marie?" Amita asked.
"My Dad's PA," Scott explained. "She's amazing." He turned to Robin with a smile. "Ann-Marie figured that with you being in DC so much, it would help to have her take care of the wedding."
"Isn't she in New York?" Don asked, a bit annoyed that his daughter's wedding was being usurped by the future in-laws.
"She'll be here tomorrow," Kate said, as she quickly took a bite, knowing she might not get to eat much once her father heard the whole story.
"That's soon," Charlie joked. "Considering you two are planning – what? A Valentine's Day wedding?"
"We decided to move it up a bit," Scott allowed, considering how this could best be approached…Nah, there was no good way.
"Oh?" Don mused. "Going for a Christmas wedding?" That could be easier on his schedule. Business in the Capital slowed down for the holidays and it would be easier to come to the west coast. Not to mention, Charlie, Amita and Ben were all professors at Cal-Sci so it would be better for their schedule.
"Bit sooner than that," Kate mumbled around her food. Ignoring her mother's glare for talking with her mouth full, Kate shrugged. "Before Christmas, Dad."
"November, then?" Maggie smiled. "I got married in November. Our husbands can remind each other of our anniversaries."
"Earlier than that," Scott said as he took a sip of wine. He didn't often drink, but it did seem to give him a touch of false courage. Or at least make it impossible to speak for a moment.
"October? Well, that doesn't give us much time," Robin mused.
"Actually," Scott allowed, "Emily is due in October. It wouldn't be fair to have her at a wedding when she is so close to her due date. We wouldn't want her going into labor during the ceremony, would we?"
Edward frowned in confusion but before he could say anything his sister spoke up.
"Well that makes the wedding in September!" Maggie exclaimed. "Well, that hardly leaves me any time to – Kate, why are you shaking your head?"
"Virgil and Sarah are getting married in September, so Scott and I are getting married a week from Saturday," Kate shrugged. "Luckily Rabbi Greenblatt had a cancellation. Sheila Rubenstein caught her fiancée in bed with another woman."
"Could have been worse," Scott offered. "She could have caught him in bed with another man."
"It was her mother," Kate argued.
"Oh," Scott said. "Yeah – that would be worse."
Kate's entire gathered family stared at the couple in shock. Only the two babies seemed to have anything to say but soon even they were still in the face of the family's stunned silence.
"Why on earth -" Maggie started before her youngest brother choked then blurted out what he was thinking.
"Kate, you're pregnant, aren't you?" Edward gasped.
Now the total silence sat heavily upon the gathered clan. Finally, Don set down his fork – which had still been in his hand – and spoke in a controlled voice that had Scott understanding his fiancée's whispered assurance that her mother didn't allow weapons at the dinner table.
"Katherine Louise Eppes," Don stated slowly, ignoring his twin sons whispered "ooh – all three names". "Answer just one thing – are you or are you not pregnant?"
"Kinda," Kate mumbled, as she played with her food.
"You can't be kinda pregnant," Don asserted. "That would be like being kinda shot – you either are or you aren't."
"Well," Kate said in false bravado. "Now I can say I have been both."
Don looked ready to explode when Robin interceded. "OK, before you go ballistic Don, boys – you and your cousins carry everything to the patio. We'll continue this outside. Charlie and Amita, please make sure they stay out there until I give the all-clear. Kate – you will stay in this room and we are having a talk. Don – you can go talk to Scott in the living room but remember two things. One – Kate loves him, they are getting married and having a baby – your first grandchild. And two, Kate is a better shot than you."
Don was about to say he didn't care when he caught a glance of his daughter. Kate was his only daughter, his baby, and he hadn't seen her cry since her beloved Grandpa Eppes had died. The sight of fat tears gathering in her dark brown eyes melted his heart as always.
"Scott – living room, now."
Recognizing an order when he heard one, Scott hurried to the other room while Don turned to his baby.
"Katie, baby – I love you. I just – I just always wanted the best for you."
Kate bit her lower lip before she turned from her father but not before she whispered, "But he is what's best for me."
Scott wandered around the living room, his nervous energy not allowing him to sit. Kate had grown up in this house. Her brothers still lived here, mainly, Kate had said with a grin, because her parents spent most of their time in Washington. But for the most part, the twins recognized that it was their parents' house and not changed anything.
Scattered around the room were pictures of the family at different stages, everything from a picture of Kate's grandparents with their sons when both boys graduated high school – on the same day. Pictures of weddings, other graduations and formal studio poses were mixed in with ones that his grandma had always described as "slices of life". Scott found himself drawn to these the most, especially the ones with Kate.
Here was a one of Kate dressed up as a princess – Cinderella? - and another of her riding a bike, pigtails flying and her tongue sticking from the corner of her mouth as she focused. Scott chuckled at one of Kate swinging a pillow at the twins as she bounced on a bed. "That's my girl," he muttered. "Take no prisoners."
He recognized the formal portrait in an accordion frame, as one taken when Kate had graduated high school – it was her entire family; Kate had one like it at her apartment. But the one in the opposite frame had Scott smiling, seeing a young Kate running through a sprinkler, her cousins and brothers also there, signs of having recently consumed popsicles clearly on several children's faces.
"Fourth of July," Don said as he made his presence known, making Scott wonder how long the older man had been there. "My dad took it. That's Charlie's back yard. Dad lived in a converted garage out back – Amita called it the Man Cave and justified its existence as the reason why Charlie and I were never to be allowed to have a room like that in our houses."
Scott nodded. "Yes, sir. Kate mentioned that your brother had purchased the house from your father. It's that Craftsman two doors down, right?"
Now it was Don's turn to nod. "Yep. And when the house between us came up for sale just as Maggie and her husband were looking at moving home, Charlie bought it as well."
Scott's eyebrows raised at that. Houses in this neck of the wood didn't come cheap. "Being a professor must pay well."
"Being a tenured professor and department head pays well," Don admitted. "Being an author, as well as a consultant to multiple government agencies and private businesses pays better. Charlie bought this house as well and sold it to me after the owner defaulted on the mortgage. I couldn't afford even that outright but Charlie had his accountant set up a 15 year mortgage and insisted on writing off the "down payment" as a wedding present."
Scott smiled as he picked up one of Professor Eppes' books. "I think Alan mentioned he has all of your brother's books, didn't he?"
"He did," Don agreed. He walked around Scott, looking at the pictures. He pointed to the one of Kate bouncing on the bed. "Katie's brothers thought they would slam her in a pillow fight. But my baby was a fighter even then."
Then he moved to the two with the costume and the bike. "That bike was the first time Katie ever told me to let go. It's not an easy thing for a father to do." Don glanced at the younger man. His daughter had told her about Scott's relationship with his youngest brother and figured the oldest Tracy son would understand that. From the expression on his face, it was clear he did.
"And this," Don sighed as he held the picture of Kate in a princess costume.
"Was that Halloween?" Scott asked, only for Don to shake his head.
"First grade school play. Katie was picked to be Cinderella but came home in tears after she was selected."
Scott smirked, "I can't see Katie as being shy."
"She wasn't," Don said sadly. "She was upset at Pammy Walker having pitched a fit saying Katie Eppes couldn't be Cinderella because no princess would ever be a Jew." Looking over at Scott's shocked face, he shrugged. "People sadly teach their children more than ABC's before school starts. They teach them their prejudices. Charlie and I got them growing up, not to the degree we would have in the past. It hurts the first time you realize there are some things you simply can't protect your children from. Hell, it hurts every time it happens."
Don looked annoyed. "No, you don't. You don't have children. You were never told that the child you thought you and your wife would never have was going to be. You never held that baby after she was born and knew you'd been blessed with a miracle. You never watched her be hurt in all the small ways children have been for years and have your heart break a little every time." Don drew in a shaky breath before he continued, picking up a picture of him dancing with a teenage Kate, her black hair gathered in a red bow at the nape of her neck. He handed it to Scott.
"Katie hasn't worn her hair up since she was nine."
"After she was shot," Scott injected before giving a half smile. "Well, the first time."
Don glared at his future son-in-law, his wife's admonishment of how he couldn't shoot the young man running through his head. "Yes. She was only nine that time."
Scott nodded. "She told me about it."
Shrugging, Scott put the picture back on the shelf. "The night we met. Actually, we met in the afternoon. She told me about the scar that night."
Don's glare had now become an appraising look. He could count on one hand – hell, on one finger – the number of people Kate had willingly told about the scar.
Turning, it was now Scott's turn. "You tell me sir, that I couldn't possibly understand. Legally, biologically, I am not a parent. But in my heart, I have been for years."
"Yes, Alan," Scott confirmed. "I held him before any of my siblings. He had respiratory problems and spent the first week of his life in the NICU. I was the only one old enough to go in there. Alan – Alan grabbed hold of my finger and he may as well have grabbed hold of my heart. It was my hand he held when he learned how to walk."
Scott rolled up a sleeve, showing a faint scar on his arm. "I got that when Alan was eighteen months. I was just shy of thirteen. Some bastards tried to kidnap Alan from our yard. I stopped them."
Pulling his sleeve back down, Scott raised his chin defensively. "I'm the one who pulled Alan from the snow after the avalanche. I'm the one who sat by his side in the hospital. I'm the one who had to tell him when he woke up that his mommy was -"
Scott froze, remembering those big blue eyes filling with tears, making the pain of those days feel fresh. He took several deep breaths before he could continue.
"My dad is a good man. But it was some time after Mom's death before Dad could deal with all of his life again. During that time, I was the closest thing Alan had to a parent. Even later, well, Dad eventually moved us to the island but he realized Alan couldn't live in near isolation. He needed a chance to be a kid. Unfortunately, Alan just saw it as being sent away. It caused a distance to develop."
Playing with one of the picture frames, Scott worried his lip for a moment. "Then a couple of years ago, there was a home invasion. Alan was there, with some of our employees and their kids. They could have killed him."
"After that, we were rebuilding our relationship with Alan. We couldn't believe how much distance we had allowed to come between us and our baby. Do you have any idea how that felt?"
Don did but said nothing. He remembered how he and Charlie had rebuilt their relationship once Charlie had begun working with Don on a regular basis. They had become more than brothers – they had become friends. Don had come to quickly realize that as much as he sometimes didn't understand Charlie, he admired and loved Charlie more than anything. He didn't think he had ever loved someone as much until his own children were born.
"About two months later, came the hit and run," Scott said quietly.
Don nodded in understanding. It had made major headlines when Alan Tracy had initially disappeared from his elite boarding school only to be found having been run down by another student who was driving drunk on the grounds of his prep school.
"We found him," Scott continued. "My brothers and I. Our little broken bird."
Turning on Don, it was now Scott's turn to glare. "He lived. He recovered. But since then? Let's see – hostage in a bank robbery, poisoned by a nut job, caught in a bomb blast – blinded in that temporarily, held hostage in Dad's office – oh, and that was with a freakin' sex offender," Scott finished.
"Yeah, I remember that guy," Don grimaced. The man had been a serial rapist/murderer who had tried to target Kate. The guy regretted that and ended up in jail after Kate clobbered him – repeatedly. Now he was dead.
Oddly enough, not by Kate but by someone else who had worked in the Tracy Towers and apparently blamed the escaped convict for her brother's death. Then Don realized Scott was still talking and refocused on the younger man.
"So yes, I understand trying to protect your baby," Scott snapped.
"You never had to worry about Alan getting pregnant," Don snapped back.
Scott was still before he started to laugh. "God, I hope not. And if he and Tin-Tin keep wearing those purity rings, I won't have to worry about his girlfriend making him a daddy before he's ready."
"Before he's ready or you?"
Smiling, Scott shrugged. "Him – I won't ever be ready."
"Now that I can relate to," Don muttered.
Stepping closer, Scott looked Don directly in the eye. "Sir, with all due respect – yes, this baby is sooner than Kate and I had planned. But we had decided to try for a child as soon as we were married. I love your daughter and have since the day I met her. The men in my family are like that – once and forever. This child is not planned but he will never be able to say he was unwanted."
"It could be a girl," Don argued, although it was obviously a last attempt at being contentious.
Now Scott smiled again. "Actually, there hasn't been a girl born into the Tracy family in over two hundred years. The odds of girl are astronomical. Actually," he mused, "Alan says John and Emily's baby will be a girl and claims it's that it's because John is a blonde he has a chance of producing a girl when even Dad failed with five tries. John and Alan are the first blonde Tracys that we know of, so the kid could be right."
Don nodded before he stepped even closer. "OK, this is not how I would have wanted this to happen. But I won't go all macho and threaten you if you ever hurt my baby. Because I know you love Kate and respect her and would never do that."
"That and frankly Mr. Eppes," Scott said cheerfully – and clearly not intimidated by the older man, "I've seen Kate mad and I've seen Kate shoot. She's scarier than you are."
Don shrugged before he called out. "OK, Kate – get in here."
When Kate peeked around the corner, she smiled and ran into her father's open arms. Don embraced his only daughter and kissed her hair. Robin came into the room, smiling at the sight…
And Scott watched the pair, knowing that in one way Don was right. It wasn't that Scott couldn't understand how a parent felt to some degree. But he certainly didn't know how he felt to be the father of a daughter.
Scott silently spoke to his unborn child, "OK, kid – do your old man a favor. Be a boy."
A/N - Review and I could be pursuaded to update by the weekend...CC
BTW - Thank sammygirl1963 for me posting before Labor Day - I was going to wait. Oh - and convos start next chapter.