Genre: Coda. Family. Angst.
Word Count: 981
Pairings/Characters: Don Eppes, Charlie Eppes, past Charlie/Colby.
Synopsis: In which Don finds Charlie after Colby has been rescued in Trust Metric.
Comments: This is a follow up to my other Numb3rs fic, 'Reasonable Doubt,' and I think it will have one more part. Characters are not mine, please enjoy! Comments are awesome.
Don can't find his brother anywhere.
He's checked CalSci, where he often finds Charlie these days, buried in research into his friendship math. He's called Amita, who hasn't seen him all day. He's stopped by to see Larry at the monastery, but he had proven similarly unhelpful.
"He's out in the garage," his father tells him, when Don finds the old man cooking up something that smells delicious in the kitchen.
He's surprised to hear that, though. Charlie has been avoiding the garage as of late, as if it had done something to offend him, so Don hadn't thought to look there. The last time he'd found Charlie there had been the day Colby had confessed to treason, the day Charlie had told him of their involvement.
"Charlie?" He calls out, feeling a sense of déjà vu. "You out here?"
"Yeah," his brother calls out in response, and like before, he hears the sound of things falling, crashing about. He doesn't draw his gun this time, but he does wonder why Charlie is busting up his chalkboards again, and he hopes that P versus NP is not involved.
Turns out he is not destroying the chalkboards this time. He's trying to fix them. He's got one laid out flat on the floor, trying to jam it back into its frame. Some are beyond help, but this one seems salvageable. "Need a hand?"
Don moves to aid Charlie in the task, keeping the bottom of the board in line while Charlie works the top back into the edges of the frame. It gives, finally, settling into place with a loud thump that echoes in the otherwise silent garage.
"Yeah," Charlie says, frowning at him in confusion, "why wouldn't I be?"
"I just thought you might be at the hospital," Don answers, knowing that Colby's stuck there for a day or two while the drugs that bastard Lancer had dosed him with work their way out of his system. "Meghan was there all afternoon, David's still deciding if he's speaking to Colby again or not, and I've got about six miles of paperwork to finish before tomorrow, so..."
"So, you want me to go?"
"You don't want to?"
Charlie shrugs, sits back on the concrete floor and fiddles with a piece of broken chalk. "I don't know. I don't know if I can forgive him."
Don sighs, probably should have expected that. No one else is having an easy time dealing with this, why should Charlie? He certainly hasn't had the easiest time dealing with Colby's incarceration - he's lost himself in his work, barely slept, hardly ate, he's almost never home these days. Despite what the others think, Charlie was the closest to Colby - they'd been together nearly a year, he'd learned - and so arguably, he has the most to forgive. "You don't have to forgive him," Don assures him, "but maybe you should talk to him."
Charlie gets to his feet, rights the chalkboard they'd fixed and settles it back into place against the wall. "Why? Do you want me with Colby now?" He asks, looking rather incredulous at this line of questioning, "because the last time we talked about this, you had a vastly different opinion."
"The last time we talked about this, I'd just spent the afternoon interrogating Colby, listening to his confession and arranging his transport to prison," Don reminds him. "And now he's out. Now the higher-ups are talking about awards and commendations and giving him a position anywhere he wants."
"That doesn't change anything," Charlie scoffs, "He still lied about everything, he was lying about everything from the moment he got here. Just because he was lying about those lies doesn't make it okay. I mean, sure, he's not a traitor, but he's still not the person I thought he was."
Don sighs, doesn't know what to say to that because he can't argue with it. This wasn't what he'd come here for. He'd just wanted to make sure Charlie knew he was okay with it if he wanted to go back to Colby, he hadn't meant to be taking sides. "Do whatever you want. Forgive him, don't forgive him," he says, "I got clearance from the hospital to bypass visiting hours for anyone who wants to see him, and that includes you, so... See him, don't see him. Up to you."
"Thanks," Charlie answers, and motions to another board popped from its frame, "Think we can fix this one?"
"Yeah, sure," he agrees, and they lapse into a comfortable silence as they work to straighten up the chaotic mess.
It lasts until they drag one of the unfixable boards toward the trash pile, and Charlie freezes when he spots the nearly illegible scrawl on it, beneath a heading of 'Colby Granger,' and Don dimly recalls the early trust-metric work Charlie had been doing even back when this started. "Look... I know he couldn't tell," Charlie says, "Logically, I know that. There are things I can't tell you," NSA stuff, Don knows, understands, just like there are things he can't tell Charlie.
"It's different," Don agrees, "Not telling me about some classified project you worked on for the NSA last year that has no bearing on my life isn't even kind of the same thing, Charlie. You don't have to forgive him, you don't have to see him," he says again, because he needs Charlie to know that he is not pressing him to do either. "But," he gestures to the haphazard array of numbers on the board and Charlie frowns at the numbers that never made sense, the equations that wouldn't work out, no matter how many variables he accounted for, "maybe he was the person you thought he was."
"Maybe," Charlie concedes. He sets the board aside instead of throwing it away, "Maybe I'll try to fix that, too."