Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with the show Numb3rs.
A/N - This is set a few seasons ago, before Charlie had gotten his driver's license back. Keep that in mind. Other than that, it might be kind of mushy, but I hope y'all enjoy reading! I also haven't decided whether or not to continue it yet, or leave it as is. Please let me know what you think.
Charlie smiled just a little as he finished up the last of the paper work he had to do for this evening. It had been a very long day, and he couldn't wait to get home. Glancing at the clock, he noted it was about twenty minutes to nine. Time had gone by so fast. Stretching, he stood from his desk and filed away the papers he had just completed, also packing what he wanted to take home in his own bag.
It was at this time that a sound from outside caught his attention. He walked over to the window, opened the blinds, and sighed. Just what he needed to end the day – it was pouring rain. A flash of bright light followed by a deep rumble; yes, even better. It was a thunderstorm. Charlie closed the blinds and walked back over to his things. He made sure his bag was zipped up tight, slung it over his shoulder, turned out the lights and locked the door. He had no umbrella and besides that, no way to attach it to his bike. It was going to be a wet ride home.
Professor Eppes finally made it outside and dashed over to his bike. Even in the drenching rain, as he was unchaining it, he noticed something, something that caused him to curse out loud. His bike had a flat tire. Charlie got down on the wet pavement and studied the damage for a moment. He couldn't ride it home like this, more so with this weather. So, instead of riding his bike home, he and the bike would walk.
Charlie hung his head low as he steered his bike off the school grounds and towards the street and walkways that led home. The sudden, bright glow of sheet lightning caused Charlie to look up. The deft rumble of thunder, plus the fat raindrop that made a point of landing in his eye, made Charlie furiously shake his head; and from then after, he kept his head down.
Suddenly, in the middle of the sidewalk, Charlie's foot came into contact with something slippery and of a mushy texture. This, accompanied by a particularly bright flash of lightning and a loud snap of thunder, sent the young mathematician on a backward fall. He was able to catch himself with his right elbow, but in the process of falling, he had lost his grip on his bike. It fell right on top of him.
On his back, thoroughly soaked in all the pouring rain, Charlie made a small, mournful sound. It just was not his day. He lay there a few moments, staring up at the clouds, wondering what else could go wrong in the usually short time it took to get to his house. Carefully, Charlie disentangled himself from the bike and stood up. He sucked in a small breath as his right arm grabbed for the corresponding handlebar. His elbow protested the movement, meaning Charlie had probably bruised it in the fall. Oh well, there was nothing currently to be done about it, and what much can one do about a bruise, anyway? Charlie continued on.
Not five minutes later, Charlie heard a yell from somewhere up ahead. He looked up to see another bicyclist coming straight at him, and fast. Charlie dragged his bike with him as he jumped to the side, only then noticing there were about three other bicyclists after the initial one. Charlie moved aside even more to allow them an easier pass – he was now standing off to the side, in the grass. The last bicyclist, the one furthest back, looked up at Charlie and grinned.
"Hey man, one little rainstorm too much for you? What did you do, crash on a drain?" The person called out, as they went racing past. Charlie stared after them for a few moments, wondering first why they were out in pouring rain and going so fast...and second if that person had really expected him to understand what had been said.
Charlie was just about to move back on the path and continue home, when a shout from behind him caused him to turn around.
"Hey, you! Get off'a my grass!" It was an elderly woman almost hanging out her window; which, yes, had an overhang. She shook her hand at Charlie. "Yes, you! Go on, get!"
"S-sorry," Charlie muttered, scrambling to get back on the sidewalk and out of this area. People around here weren't too nice.
Charlie let out a small sigh of relief. He had made it to the curb without further interference. Now, he just needed to cross the street. Charlie looked left, right, then left again and, seeing no traffic, stepped out onto the road. At that moment, a van cam barreling past from the right, laying on the horn. Charlie jumped and nearly dropped his bicycle for the second time as he made a mad dash for the curb that was not even five inches behind him.
Charlie heaved a sigh and willed his heart to resume a normal pace, now that he and his bike were safely back on the curb. Okay, let's try this again...
Charlie looked both ways; it was clear, so he stepped out.
Again, a vehicle came out of no where, also laying on the horn as it sped past. This one, though, came from the other direction and therefore, Charlie was hit with a wall of water. Charlie blinked a few times, shook himself off and growled.
"Is this a cross walk, or a death trap?" Charlie muttered to himself, shaking as much water as he could from his hands and face. Not that it helped any; the rain was literally coming down in sheets.
This time, Charlie looked left, then right, and sprinted towards the curb on the other side. He gave a small, satisfied snort as he made it safely up the curb and down the sidewalk. Now, as he was walking the final stretch, thankful there were no more streets to cross, the discomfort of his current situation was finally getting to him. He was soaked to the bone and shivering.
Charlie stopped here a moment, for parked right in front of his house, was his big brother's black SUV. What was Don doing here? Charlie chose to ignore that thought for the moment, for he so badly desired to be in a warm and cozy place, inside, away from the rain. Charlie propped his bike up against the house, then turned and ran in the back door. Charlie paused just inside, shivering and dripping with water. Charlie shut and locked the door, and looked around for something to dry off with.
"Is that Charlie?" He heard Alan call from inside, probably sitting on the couch. At that moment the door opened.
"Hey, Chuck!" Don looked as if he were going to say something more, but wisely stopped there. Don found it very hard to keep a smile off his face. His little brother currently looked very much akin to a drowned rat. Charlie was glaring at Don in-amidst a tangle of drenched curls. Charlie's clothes were completely soaked through, making Don briefly wonder how many buckets of water would be made in wringing those out. The thing he couldn't laugh at, though, was the way his younger brother was shivering.
"Don't call me Chuck." Charlie responded shortly, wanting nothing more than to go up stairs, change clothes, and spend the rest of the night under the comfort of his covers; curled up with a math book, blank notebook, and plenty of pencils and pens, of course.
Charlie brushed past Don and headed for the stairs.
"Is everything all right, Charlie?" Alan's next call made him pause, however briefly, until Don came up and grabbed Charlie's elbow to stop him from ascending the stairs. Unfortunately, Don grabbed Charlie's right elbow. Surely he had caught the fleeting look of pain that crossed Charlie face, because Don let him go only a second later, acting as if he had been burned.
"Yeah, buddy, it looks like you walked home. What happened?" Don asked, trying not to make his brother any angrier than he obviously already was.
"Actually, I did walk home. And in case you hadn't noticed, it is pouring rain outside." Charlie shot back, turning again to go upstairs.
"What happened to your bike?" Alan asked, watching as his youngest son paused on the stairs.
"It has another flat, dad. The second in less than one month!" Charlie huffed, closing his eyes briefly as he shook his head.
"How long have you had that bike – a decade? Maybe two?"
"Eight years. Almost eight years, Don." Charlie couldn't help responding, but his voice was growing softer. Now that he was inside, away from the cold rain, it felt like someone had just taken a vacuum and sucked out all his energy. Alan and Don watched carefully as Charlie's hand wavered over the banister, and certain emotions played out over his face. Scaring the two of them into silence were the looks of both pain and defeat.
"What exactly happened out there, Charlie?" Don asked gently, level with Charlie on the other side of the banister.
Charlie's hand clamped down # the banister, and when he spoke again his voice was much stronger, a fire in his eyes. He was determined not to let his father and brother see him like this. How was he to explain exactly what had happened just a few moments ago, anyway? Don dealt with much worse things on a day-to-day basis; who was Charlie to get upset about one silly walk through the rain?
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing." Charlie said no more, ignoring both his father and brother as he continued up the stairs and out of sight.
"Something's definitely bothering him." Don observed, his eyes still on the top of the stairs.
"Mmhm, why don't you go ask him?" Alan suggested, throwing his oldest son a pointed glance up the stairs when Don turned to stare at him.
Don sighed, "Fine, fine. I'm goin'." Don mumbled as he reluctantly climbed the stairs and headed for his brother's room.
Charlie collapsed on the bed upon entering his room, having used up about 97 of his remaining energy in just getting up the steps. Charlie had just repositioned himself to a sitting position when Don's form appeared in his doorway. Charlie looked up and gave him a skeptical look. Don caught and held Charlie's gaze, until Charlie broke it by looking down less than a minute later. Don had seen the look of anguish in his little brother's eyes, and he very much wanted to know why it was there. He knew there was no way Charlie was just going to tell his brother, Don would have to find some way around it. Squaring his shoulders, Don stepped inside and sat next to his brother.
"I heard it'll be raining again tomorrow." Don said; whatever reaction he had been expecting from Charlie, it wasn't quite the one he received. Charlie moaned and covered his face with his hands.
"Hey, you know I could come pick you up tomorrow, since your bike has a flat and all. 'Round what time are you finished with classes?"
Charlie was silent for a few moments, not moving at all. Don was beginning to wonder if he'd said the wrong thing, and was about to open his mouth to counteract his previous words, when Charlie finally moved. Charlie took his hands away from his face and smiled slightly, turning to look up at Don.
"Yeah, that'd be fine. Come around 7:30."
"I'll be there." Don smiled back, gripping Charlie's shoulder lightly. "I promise. You won't have to walk home in the rain again. Plus, dad wouldn't like it if I let you get sick."
Charlie managed to crack a feeble smile, though he wasn't feeling much inside. "Thanks, Don. I really appreciate it." he paused, then, "But, if you don't mind...I'd really like to change." Charlie explained, weakly tugging at the still wet collar of his shirt. Don laughed and nodded.
"I'll take that as my cue to leave," he said as he stood up. Then his cell phone rang. Laughing sheepishly, he walked to the doorway, paused, and turned briefly to say, "See you tomorrow, Charlie." then answered his phone as he shut Charlie's door.
"Yeah. See you then, Don." Charlie whispered to the empty room. He only hoped his brother would remember, for he knew Don could sometimes get distracted due to his work and forget. Oh well, Larry or Amita could probably drop him off if – or when – Don didn't show.