Disclaimer: If it isn't mine yet, it never will be

There will be spoilers for the beginning of NCIS season 6, and beginning of Numb3rs season 5, but they are a bit vague, not overly specific.


One year later

Tim fidgeted slightly with his carry-on bag as he walked through the gate at LAX. He had hoped to visit Charlie before now, but it hadn't been possible. It wasn't long after they had closed Charlie's case that Jenny had been killed, which was hard on all of them. Then Vance had taken over and split the team, and then they all were able to come together again. So much had happened over the past year that he still found it hard to believe that it was only a year before that everything with Charlie and the LA team happened.

"Are you alright, Timothy?" Ducky asked, holding his bag over his shoulder. The team had debated who would go with him on the trip, and Ducky won, much to everyone's surprise. Abby had been upset, but she had used the last of her days off a few weeks prior to the trip.

"I'm alright, Ducky. Do you see him?" the agent asked, scanning the crowd for the familiar face.

"I don't know… oh, he's right there!"

McGee looked over and smiled when he saw the professor, and the two walked over. He was pleased to see that, other than the fact that he was leaning on a cane, his friend looked much better than the last time they had seen each other. "Hey, Charlie," he said.

"Hey, McGee," Charlie greeted. He had started calling him by the last name after his trip and hearing everyone refer to him that way. "It's good to see you, Dr. Mallard. My father is looking forward to seeing you again."

"I am, as well. And please, call me Ducky. How have you been healing?" he asked as they made their way to Charlie's hybrid. McGee loaded the bags, and they all got in the car.

"I'm doing a lot better," Charlie answered. "I still have physical therapy for my leg; there's some muscle damage from the bullet, but everything else is pretty much healed. I only use the cane when I'm out of the house." Then he laughed. "Though, my students have said that it makes me look more 'scholarly'."

The other two laughed, and they made their way to the hotel that they were staying at. "So, do you have plans for dinner?" McGee asked.

"Actually, I was hoping you would come over to the house. My father already invited the team, so it's a bit of a party tonight."

"That sounds wonderful," Ducky said with a smile. "It'll be nice to see everyone again."

"Actually," Charlie said with a sad smile, "not everyone is going to be there. Megan moved up your way a few months ago, so we have a new agent: Nikki, and sometimes Liz is there, but you haven't met them yet." He really did miss the profiler, but he understood the toll that the job took on everyone, and didn't begrudge her the chance to do something new with her life. "On the plus side, Edgerton is back in town, he's helping us out with another case."

McGee and Ducky nodded in understanding as Charlie parked the car. He gave them a paper with his address on it, and told them the time for them to be there, and left.

As he drove, he thought about how much had changed since his kidnapping. Megan had left, he had lost his clearance, and then gotten it back. He hadn't been cleared by the physical therapist to start at the dojo, but Colby had volunteered two hours a week to help train him. The agent had said that the understood and respected Charlie's desire to learn self defense, so they worked on blocks, punches, a couple different kicks that didn't strain his right leg too much. He would never be as proficient as Colby was at Jujitsu, but he was better able to defend himself. David had even started taking him to the shooting range a couple times a month, and Charlie learned how to shoot different types of guns.

Charlie knew that all the training worried Alan, but he couldn't help it. DC had changed him, and he knew that he would learn and grow; it was just part of who he was as a person. The therapist that Megan had helped him get was helpful. He was still going to sessions, but they were less frequent now that his nightmares had been decreasing in frequency. The doctor had suggested medication, both for depression and for sleeping, but Charlie refused them, as the pain pills were bad enough. He had never liked the idea of taking medication, as it interfered with his ability to think; which would be a bad thing, as he was back at CalSci and teaching his normal schedule, plus helping with Don's cases.

Don had tried to get him to stop with the cases, but Charlie had fought him on that. Still, it was a bit different than before, especially right after they had gotten home. Don hadn't let him go to any crime scenes, even if they weren't active at the time. If the professor left the building, he had at least one agent, usually either Colby or David, with him at all times. Charlie understood, and didn't argue. No matter how much he didn't blame his brother, Don did. It was a work in progress, and they were all trying.

Without realizing it, he had been parked in the driveway for a few minutes. Shaking his head slightly at himself, he got out of the car and went into the garage, his favorite thinking place. When he started walking in, he smiled.

Amita was there, working on her own research on her laptop. She had officially moved in a few months after their return, and he couldn't have been happier about it. She wasn't clingy, as that wasn't her, but she still liked it better when they were in the same room, even if they were just working on their own work.

He walked up behind her and pecked her on her cheek. She turned with a smile, and gave him a fuller kiss. They both jumped when they heard Don clear his throat. He was smirking at them.

"Dad wants your help getting things ready for tonight," he said, unable to hide the laughter from his voice.

Charlie glared, but his brother didn't back down. Finally, he sighed, gave Amita a last quick kiss, and went into the kitchen to help out a bit. There would be a lot of people over, so he wanted things to be great. In a way, it was his thanks to everyone.


At six exactly, the doorbell rang, and Robin went to answer it, smiling at the team. Colby, David, Nikki, and Liz walked in. The women had brought wine, and the men had brought beer; they quickly set the drinks on the table, and started talking. The bell rang a few minutes later, bringing Ian, who just grinned at everyone. Finally, Tim and Ducky arrived, and they had brought a dessert for everyone.

David drew McGee into a conversation about the new director of NCIS, being slightly curious about it, and Alan spoke warmly with Ducky, who he'd grown a soft spot for. It was nice to find someone so similar, but quite different at the same time. Edgerton and Charlie talked about his practice with David at the range and his training with Colby, who was talking with Amita, and Liz and Nikki were laughing at something that he'd said.

Alan announced that he had set up a table in the backyard, since there were too many people for them to be comfortable inside. They all filed outside, still conversing, and made themselves comfortable, passing the dishes around the table.

When everyone was ready to start eating, Charlie stood and clinked his glass to get their attention. Everyone quieted, and looked at their host.

"I'm glad that all of you were able to come over for dinner," he started, and felt Amita squeeze his hand in support. He looked at Liz and Nikki. "I know that you guys weren't on the team last year, but I just wanted to take a moment and thank all of you. Not many people can say that they have so many people who are willing to be there for the rescue of a friend, but also for the recovery. I know that it hasn't been smooth sailing for all of us this year." He suppressed a shudder as he thought of all the times he had blown up at Colby during training because he felt physically weak, or when he would get upset during a case that reminded him too much of his time in DC, and have to leave the building. "No matter what happened, you were all there for me, and that means more than I can say. So," he reached down and picked up his wine glass, holding it up high, "to friends, both at home and in our hearts, who are willing to be there for the good, the bad, and the ugly." He raised his glass another inch, then took a sip.

Everyone followed suit, and there was silence for a moment, then Amita clapped softly. She knew that he could be romantic when he wanted to, but his toast was so heartfelt that she could feel tears gather in her eyes. Everyone else at the table joined the clapping, but only briefly, as very few of them were the 'wear your heart on your sleeve,' type people.

"That was well said," Ducky said warmly.

With that out of the way, everyone dug into the meal, which was more of a feast. Alan never could control himself in the kitchen, especially when it came to thanking people. Liz and Nikki knew about what happened, having heard everything in full detail from the rest of the team. Nikki was surprised at how well Charlie was doing, considering what he'd been through, but Liz wasn't. She knew Charlie a bit better, and wasn't shocked in the slightest, knowing that he was the 'go all or go home' type person. So she wasn't surprised, but she was pleased, having long since – like the rest of the team – considered the professor a younger brother.

They all listened to Robin, who had chosen that moment to mention that the trial was scheduled to start the following week, and gave a tentative schedule to the various people that would have to testify. Charlie was the obvious one, as was Alan; Don, Matt, Ziva, Gibbs, Fornell, Abby, and Ducky were lined up for their work on the physical evidence gathered, though some of them might not have to, as some of it overlapped. Terry and Megan would both be there, but they were already in DC, so they had it easier in terms of travel.

Charlie nodded as he listened to his brother's girlfriend. He was a bit worried about the trial, but there was more than enough evidence to put the main players away for a very long time. He knew that everything with finding the dirty agents was going well. He had subscribed to a DC paper to keep up on the news, and was pleased to see that it was going well.

With all the serious talk finished, Colby cracked a joke to break the tension, and it worked as everyone laughed and continued eating. They were all loud, and messy, but that's what made it home. At the end of the day, that was all that mattered.

Fin


I'll start by saying thank you to EVERYONE! You guys were great, especially since this was my longest story to date. The reviews, subscriptions, favorites, and views were always there to brighten my day, and eventually helped me finish Past Come Back to Haunt. Charlie's speech was meant to be towards all of you as well.

In honor of Numb3rs, I figured I would share some stats of this story for you all:

Words: 84,382

Chapters: 42

Followers:72

Favorites: 40

Reviews (for now *wink*): 82

And a million virtual cookies for everyone!

P.S. I have a much shorter Numb3rs story going up, so check it out!