?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
19 August 2009 @ 02:24 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Virtue - Parts 23 and 24  


Title: Virtue - Parts 23 and 24
Series/Universe: Vice / Virtue
Pairing/Characters: See Series Post
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4
Summary: Don and Charlie spend the anniversary of their parents' death grieving (AU)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ



Sunday, 7/22/07 - Day

Kim woke to find the bed empty.

She rose, showered and dressed then made her way downstairs to find Susan curled up in a corner of one of the sofas, staring distractedly out the window, a cup of tea nearly forgotten in her hands.

"Hello."

"Oh!" Susan was startled slightly and seemed to suddenly notice the cup in her hand, putting it down. "Good morning."

"Let me guess. You woke up and Charlie was gone?" She slipped into an oversized chair near Susan, unsurprised when she nodded.

"I knew he and Don... Well, they always spend this day alone together."

"You know..." Kim started hesitantly. "Him and Don..."

"What they do? Yes, I know," Susan said, a bit tersely.

"Well, they don't. Not for a while. Not anymore. That's over between them." Susan blinked at her, surprised. "Charlie didn't tell you?"

"No, he didn't. So when you and Don got back together..."

"No," Kim told her. "It wasn't Don. It was Charlie's decision - while Don and I were still broken up actually."

"Oh." Susan rediscovered her teacup and took a drink, seemingly lost in thought.

Kim got up and made herself a cup of coffee from the service set up on the sideboard.

"I know it's not my place to say anything," Kim ventured as she sat down again. "But Charlie? He's changed. He's different around you. Different from how I've ever seen him. He really cares about you."

"Yes, I believe he does." Susan was only able to manage to meet Kim's eyes for a flash before she lowered them to her cup again.

"And do you feel the same?" Kim asked, feeling a bit brazen.

Susan paused, lingering over a sip of tea, then finally put her cup back down.

"I can think of a dozen good reasons not to, but..." A wan smile came to her face as she finally faced Kim. "But the thing is, I do. Despite what's good for me. Despite knowing his history. I can't let him go."

"I hear that," Kim said, finger tracing the rim of her coffee cup thoughtfully. "I think that's the way you know who to be with: the one you can't imagine living without."

"Yes, quite..."

As they sat curled up with their morning beverages, lost in twin reveries, William came in from outside, shedding his coat as he entered.

"Morning, ladies."

"Morning," they echoed back.

William went about making himself a cup of coffee and settled into a chair as well.

"Let me guess. Topic of conversation: the Brothers Eppes?"

"It is what we have in common," Kim offered.

"William," Susan said. "You know this side of them better than we do. They've never let us get close before when it came to the anniversary of their parents' death. Where do they go? What do they do?"

"What they do only they know," William said. "But I can tell you where they go." He pointed up. "The chalet has a finished attic. It's kept locked and the 22nd of each July is the only time anyone goes up there. Some years they come out just after midnight. Some years they sleep up there and don't come out until Monday."

"How do they look when they come out?" Kim asked, the empathy making her ache again.

"Like they've been through the ringer," William admitted. "Society tells men they can't cry, can't grieve, can't show weakness. So if this is the one day a year they feel they can let their guard down? Feel every emotion? Be vulnerable? Then yeah, they pack it all into one day."

"That must be awful," Susan breathed.

"If they didn't have each other?" William said, shaking his head. "They'd never have made it through. But they do and they did." He cocked his head towards the two of them. "And now they have you..."

+

"Kindergarten graduation?"

Don looked at the photo album Charlie had open on his lap.

"I felt very important that day," Charlie said, almost mocking his pride. "My first of many graduations." His voice softened as his fingers drew across the plastic covered photographs. "I never seem to look at my college graduation photographs back at home. Mom and Dad aren't in them."

"And I can't seem to look at our high school ones," Don said. "It just hurts too much - too close in time, you know?''

"Yeah," Charlie said. "You know I do. But you put up with me dragging out those pictures myself every summer we come here. Thank you."

"Whatever you need, buddy." Don put his arm around his brother and pulled him closer as they sat together on the couch.

Charlie flipped the page. "I told Susan last night that I thought Mom and Dad would have liked her."

Don managed a smile. "You think so, huh? Think they would have liked Kim?"

"Yeah," Charlie said, following each photo with his fingertip. "Mom would have said she works too hard and her job was too dangerous. Dad would have gotten into some heated debates with her over governmental policy, but he would have respected her point of view."

Charlie stopped at a photograph of himself in his kindergarten graduation dressy clothes and Don, equally dressed up but messier, like he'd been running around in them and escaped their mother's pre-photo scrutiny and cleanup. "I always liked this picture."

Don leaned over to look. He was standing behind Charlie with his arms slung across his brother's chest in an awkward sort of childish embrace. Matching beaming grins shone from both their faces and nearly the same thick curls sprouted from both their heads.

"Do you think our kids will look like us?"

"Generations of Eppes genes cannot be denied," Charlie stated in his best fake pompous tone before chuckling at himself. "They'll look at least somewhat like us. But if they don't?" He turned to look up at Don. "Where's the bad? Kim's beautiful."

"Susan's gorgeous herself," Don said. "So yeah, no worries, unless we're talking worried about us actually getting around to having kids. I mean, kind of helps if you've got the wife part squared away first, you know?"

Charlie's gaze drifted to the window and he fell silent for a few seconds. "I felt that," he said, his tone pensive.

"Felt what?" Don asked, perplexed.

"I never thought I would feel it," Charlie continued. "That sense of believing, beyond reason, that there was something greater, larger at work - that even though it scientifically goes against a man's biological imperative, I felt like I could spend the rest of my life with one person. And what's more, I wanted to. I do want to."

"Buddy, you're kidding me? Don't tell me you asked Susan..."

"No!" Charlie said quickly. "There wasn't a chance in hell she'd have said yes, so definitely not."

"But you two have spent this whole week together."

"She gave me an opening," Charlie tried to explain. "She's always said no to the idea, but this week? I impressed upon her that I was worthy for her to at least give me a chance to convince her to consider it."

Don rubbed his temples. "You scientists and your doubletalk give me a headache," he joshed.

"I have a shot," Charlie translated. "Before I didn't. Now I have."

Don's face softened. "Well then, good luck. I hope it works out."

"Me too," Charlie said. He returned his gaze to the photo album. "I don't want to turn the page," he said when he saw the album was almost at the end.

"You say that every year." Don tightened his arm around his brother. "Just do it. It will help to get it over with."

Charlie took a breath and Don could feel the shudder in the small body next to him as he did.

Turning the page, Charlie revealed the one shot his parents had had blown up to 8x10 size for the end of the album.

It was a family portrait, taken the same day. Charlie's arms were around his mother's neck as Don sat on their father's lap. They were laughing and smiling and their parents' arms were around them and each other - one big happy family entwined.

Charlie finally broke, turning his face into Don's chest as he wept.

"Let it out," Don said, arms around his brother as tears fell freely from his own face. "I'm right here with you..."

+

Amita tapped lightly on Alex's office door at Code.

"You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, Amita. Come in." Alex was her usual brisk and efficient self, juggling paperwork even as Amita settled herself into a guest chair. "I wanted to talk to you about the hostessing duties."

"Have you made a decision about E then?" Amita asked, trying to keep the note of hope out of her voice.

"Yes. Since Liz is going to be running the club Millie gave her final choice after we gave her our recommendations."

"And?" Amita prompted.

"Hostessing duties at E are going to be handled by split staffing. It's a bigger club so we need two hostesses on the weekend and one during the week so it's a job for two people: two people who work well together." Alex put the paperwork aside and looked at Amita frankly. "Robin and Kelly are being assigned to E. You're going to remain at Code."

Amita blinked back tears, angry and stunned.

"So my seniority meant nothing?"

"I'm not at liberty to discuss the decision-making process," Alex told her. "But it's moot. The choice has been made and it's going to be announced at the next staff meeting. I just wanted you to be able to hear about it first from me."

"I see."

"Liz wants the two of them available as of the first of August so I need to know if you're going to be willing and able to go back to working your regular schedule at Code as of July 31st."

"Do I have any choice?" Amita asked, a bit coldly.

"You always have a choice," Alex stressed. "This is not indentured servitude. If you don't want to be here? I don't want you."

"I didn't say that," Amita retorted. She stood and headed for the door.

"What about the 31st?"

"I'll let you know," Amita told her, leaving abruptly. She barely made it to the ladies room before an eruption of hot tears burst from her. Anger and resentment welled up inside her, fueling her sobs until she finally caved in and let herself go.

It took a while to work her way through the emotional outburst, but once she was done she fixed her make-up, put on her sunglasses and walked out of the empty club, head held high.

She made it out to her convertible and found a small box on the seat of her car. The note attached translated with a basic substitution cipher to 'Romeo.'

The box contained a gorgeous orchid attached to a pin for her hair. She pulled her hair back on one side and pinned the flower to her hair. She looked at herself in the mirror, admiring the beautiful blossom.

A fresh flare of tears came out of nowhere and she took off her sunglasses and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue for a few seconds before hiding them away again behind the dark lenses.

She put the top up on the car - the better to hide her face and the better to save her fragile flower.

+

"Zoom in... Yes, right there!"

Marshall watched the video recording, triumphant, as Amita opened the box Ivy had left on his behalf and put the flower in her hair.

"I can't believe you didn't let me put a bug in that," Ivy grumbled.

"Can't risk her finding it or anyone else for that matter," Marshall said, distracted by his rewinding and rewatching. "The end game is worth so much more than anything she might blather on about in the interim. No, in this endeavor patience and trust are key."

"Funny, one wouldn't think you're talking about the enemy," Ivy drawled, sitting on the edge of Marshall's desk.

"'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,'" Marshall quoted offhand.

"Yeah, yeah," Ivy said with a dismissive gesture. "I know as much Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as anyone in this organization. I just think this is taking too damn long and for what?"

Marshall looked up, annoyed as usual with Ivy's prattle. "Then I guess it's a good thing you're not our strategist, isn't it?" he said, smug as ever.

"Hey, I'm here for Tuttle, not you." Ivy examined her fingernails, making her boredom clear. "You're just part of the package deal, baby."

"As are you," Marshall said, rising. "And don't call me baby." He picked her helmet up off his desk and handed it to her, distaste clear on his face. "Go run some more rivals off the road or something and leave me in peace. I've got work to do."

"More math I couldn't possibly understand?" Ivy mocked, jumping down from the desk edge.

"No," Marshall said, a snide and entirely fake smile appearing on his face. "I have to go online and console a weepy woman." He huffed out a little laugh. "But I'm pretty sure you can't understand that either."

+


Sunday, 7/22/07 - Night

"It's different this year."

Charlie sat surrounded by the mementos they'd carefully unpacked from boxes sealed and hidden away the other 364 days of the year.

"Because this is our last trip?" Don asked, his high school baseball mitt in his lap.

"Maybe," Charlie mused. "But more that I find myself wishing I could show some of this stuff to Susan, tell her the stories you and I both know."

Don nodded, fingers still running over well-worn leather. "I think that way too. I kind of felt like that last year, but it's different now that Kim's actually here with me."

"Did you ever think about bringing anyone else here?" Charlie asked, starting to put some of the framed photographs away in their box.

"Never. You?"

Charlie shook his head. "I didn't need them. I had you."

Don managed an encouraging smile. "You'll always have me, buddy. But you and I both know there's more." He cocked his head for a second, thoughtful. "Though I kind of thought you'd end up with a guy."

"Gender really doesn't matter to me," Charlie said, shrugging. "I like who I like and I'm attracted to both, so it's kind of moot. It just seemed easier for the public to categorize me as gay since people are, for some reason, still hinky about bisexual men."

"Doesn't hurt that Susan's hot," Don offered.

Charlie let out a little chortle. "No, it certainly doesn't. But you know we've got access to incredibly hot women - professionals and not. It's just... Her mind..." He stopped packing and let his hands naturally float into his unique expressive gestures. "It's like solving the world's most interesting puzzle, testing your limits on a rock climb with no rope, going all in in poker... I love the challenge she offers. I love that I don't have to explain my thinking to her. And I love that she's a peer to me in so many ways. I don't ever have to worry that she's with me because she's a groupie. If anything I almost feel like I want to be hers - she's just fascinating."

Don watched him, smirking. "Oh yeah, buddy. You've got it bad. But not that I didn't figure that out years ago."

"This is one of those times where knowing doesn't help. For once in my life, the decision to start a real relationship isn't mine. I'm tired of always getting my way and wondering if the other person is really into me as a person or as a checklist: rich, smart, handsome..."

"Vain..." Don jokingly checked off for him.

"Speak for yourself Mr. Ginormous Ego," Charlie scoffed playfully. The smile on his face faded, but only slightly, replaced with a more serene, content one. "We're all right, aren't we?"

"Yeah," Don said, nodding. "We are."

Charlie looked around at all the boxes. "Are we taking this all with us? To the island?"

"Of course," Don said. "This is our family history. There's no reason to leave it behind."

"Because I was thinking... I don't want to risk losing any of it. It's priceless - irreplaceable."

Don nodded, understanding his meaning. "I'll arrange for Yves Darien to transport it for us. I don't care what it costs; we're using the one guy who's never lost a shipment."

"Thanks." Charlie went back to packing. "I was thinking... If it's okay with you? Maybe we could have dinner with Kim and Susan - the four of us."

Don blinked, surprised. "You want to go down before the day is over?"

Charlie pulled the family recipe book into his lap, ran his fingers over the well worn cover for a second or two, then put it away in a box.

"I think I'm ready for Susan to be part of this day for me and I think," he looked over at his brother with a meaningful expression, "that you're ready for Kim to be as well."

+

Kim came downstairs after one of the servants came to fetch her for dinner and stopped short of the table just as Susan walked up behind her.

"The table's set for four."

"Well, you don't have to be a maths professor to figure out that that doesn't add up." She turned to Kim. "The rest of us normally go out for dinner so we're out of the house on the anniversary, but I checked - the other four are gone. They left without saying anything apparently."

Footsteps on the stairs made them both turn around in surprise. Don and Charlie were walking down the stairs, looking worn, but not as bad as William had implied.

"Don?" Kim blinked up at them, stunned.

"Charlie?" Susan echoed.

"I hope you don't mind, we asked the staff to prepare dinner for the four of us," Charlie said as he went to Susan, kissing her cheek.

Don slid his arm around Kim's slender waist and she impulsively hugged him around the neck.

"It's okay," he murmured in her ear, low enough that only she could hear.

"May I bring out the first course?"

"Yes, please," Charlie answered the servant. "We're ready."

Don led Kim to the table and Charlie and Susan sat across from them. The table was set simply yet romantically, with fresh flowers and lit tapers.

"I didn't think I'd see you today," Kim whispered.

"I couldn't stop missing you. And better yet? Charlie missed Susan."

They both glanced across the candlelit table to find Charlie and Susan, heads bent together in intimate conversation then sharing a delicate kiss.

"I'm glad," Kim said, still keeping her voice low. "She's good for him, I think."

"But is he good for her?" Don mused.

"Probably not," Kim said. "But she loves him anyway."

"Is that how you see me?" Don asked, turning her by the jaw to face him. "I'm not good for you?"

"I can forgive your past and you made a promise to me for the future. That's all I need," Kim told him.

"I kept my promise; I'm keeping my promise," Don said solemnly. "You don't have to worry."

"There are a lot of things I worry about." Kim leaned in and kissed him. "But you loving me? You keeping your promise? Those I don't worry about at all."

+

Don took one last look around the attic, hand on the door.

He might not have spent many days in this room, but the idea that he'd never see it again threw him. He'd known the plan was to sell the chalet once they retired since they'd never come back again, but this was his first instance of really saying goodbye to an important part of his old life.

In a flash he felt a horrible homesickness for the Craftsman, wishing there was some way to not have to leave it behind.

Yet Kim had already taken care of that for him. Her gift - the painting - so knowing, it gave him something he desperately wanted: the assurance that no matter how many years passed, he'd never forget.

His eyes scanned the room: the sofa where he and Charlie had curled up together, given in to their tears; the bed where he'd spent such rough nights - taking care of his brother and being taken care of in return; the boxes which he knew he'd have with him, no matter what. It was both hard to leave and freeing as well. Leaving this place of grief behind was like a fresh chance to redefine how this day affected him.

With a loud click, the door shut. Don let his fingertips linger on the knob for just a second then headed down the stairs to the second floor.

Kim was pacing when he opened his bedroom door and she came to him immediately.

"You were gone a while. I was worried."

"I'm fine. I just..." He couldn't find the words, so he just waved her off. "I'm fine." He accepted a heartfelt hug from her then went about his nightly routine, distracted but not horribly so.

By the time he slipped into bed he almost didn't notice the time.

"I told you 24 hours ago it would all be over in about a day," Kim said, wrapping herself around him. "Just a little bit left to go." There was silence for a moment then Kim shifted to lie on her back, tugging him with her. "Come over here."

Once they settled again his head was on her stomach and her fingers carded through his short hair, soothing him.

"I miss that," he admitted.

"You miss what?" Kim asked, her tone light and sweet.

"Having someone try to calm me down like my Mom used to. She was really good at it."

"She must have loved you very much."

"Yeah." Don bit his lip to fight down the emotion.

Her hand moved to his now hunched shoulders, her soft touch in contrast to his tense muscles.

"Don't hold it in," she whispered. "You're safe with me. You can let go."

His hand fisted in the loose folds of her nightgown.

He fought, even though he knew he shouldn't.

But she was patient.

In the end he caved, tears staining the fabric beneath his cheek, Kim's hand soothing him until midnight came and passed and sleep finally claimed him.

+

"I don't know how to do this."

Charlie's admission in bed in the dark was heartfelt and Susan responded, slipping an arm around his waist and moving closer.

"There is no right or wrong way," she told him.

"But there is." Charlie stared up at the ceiling, sounding plaintive, lost. "I'm worried if I cry you'll think I'm weak or pathetic. I'm worried that if I don't you won't think I've let you in, that I trust that I can be fully open with you. I'm worried if I lean on you too much I'll drive you away. I... I can't risk losing you. I can't."

A desperate ache flared in Susan's chest, his pain hers.

"Is that what you think? That you have to be the perfect man for me? That I'll reject you if you ask too much of me? That I'd be so petty to think less of you for not opening up to me? Charlie..." She held him tighter. "I'm not here to be impressed or entertained or even to have you prove anything to me. I'm here because you're hurting and you need someone, because for the first time ever that person is not Don and that was your choice."

"You're right. My choice. Not yours."

"It may have been your choice to let Don go, but it's my choice to be here," Susan said, adamant. "And a very poor lover I'd be if I let you suffer because your grief didn't match some preconceived specifications." She took a deep breath to calm herself then let it out slowly. "I shall make you an offer. If you accept it, the terms are agreed upon and there will be no more discussion about any of this nonsense."

"Elaborate."

Susan almost smiled. Charlie was indeed the only person who would use that word in this situation.

"An exchange. I offer you carte blanche to say or do anything between now and tomorrow at lunchtime. Ask of me whatever you will, have me help in any way I can be useful with the knowledge I will not judge you in any way."

"And what do you ask in return?"

"A boon of my own. There's a little fantasy I've always wanted to indulge in so in return you allow me to have my way with you in bed for one session."

"There's something we haven't already done in bed?" Charlie asked, a hint of his normal humor surfacing.

"Yes, but only for lack of opportunity and equipment," she said. "And I happen to have said equipment now." She paused, listening to him breathe. "Do we have a deal?"

"I agree to your terms."

"Excellent."

There was a long silence before Charlie spoke again.

"I still don't know how to do this."

Susan sighed. "Come here, you silly man." She shifted so they were lying on their sides facing each other then pulled Charlie close so his head was against her chest.

She enfolded him in her arms, holding him tightly.

"This is as good a place as any to start."

His arm snaked around her waist as he settled himself in and she felt his body tense, fighting the oncoming swell of grief. His shoulders began to shake as he finally let go.

She kissed his curls and whispered to him as she rocked him gently in her arms, each heartwrenching sob tearing into her as she held herself strong for him.

"There's a good boy. Just let it all out..."

+
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on August 19th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
Confession
Please see the Virtue Series Post for information on this Series and for the Parts 23/24 Confession.

Information on the Viceworld universe can be found in the Vice Series Post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
t_vo0810: eppes brost_vo0810 on August 20th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
I didn't get the chance to leave a comment yesterday but I remember thinking how much I liked the main women characters in your pieces- how fleshed out they are as people with their own unique set of personality traits, quirks, and peccadillos just as much as the main male characters. and how this seems to be unusual for a lot of fanfics. for some reason, a lot of the women in other fics seem 2 dimensional or rigid or created in such a way as to fulfill a plot device rather than a realized personality. Today's part just reinforces a lot of that. I like both Kim and Susan but more importantly, they seem as real and as imperfect but likable as Don and Charlie, which makes their love stories all the more enjoyable. So brava! /claps enthusiatically/

Now, oddly enough, my favorite part of your fic today is your....confession! how funny is that?! I really liked how you explained why Don and Charlie were stuck so long in the grieving process because, I will sheepishly admit, I found myself wondering if Bradford et al were really that good of professions if after all these years, Don and Charlie were still so grief-stricken (even if only on the anniversary). I knew it was a traumatic loss but to for it still to be so overwhelming to them, well, I found that curious and wondered if they were a bit emotionally stunted by it all. But your confession really did such a good job of putting it all in perspective for me that it helped me enjoy this piece even more (although i already loved it for all its angsty goodness and brotherly support).

ok- so now i am ready for some action, right? I wanna see Edgerton being the bad bad bad bad man that he is, and I am definitely ready for some ultra-intense ready-to-kill Don. That seen in Vice where Don yelled "I will end you!" at Edgerton made such an impact on me that it gave me chills. I want some more of that! :)

Also, am I wrong to be a little scared for Charlie? So far things are going well for him and Susan but I am still detecting reluctance on her part- which is understandable but i wonder- are you hinting at what's to come?

Last thing: This part actually made me mist up a little- even more so than those adorable little tidbits about their childhood and the pained grief in the attic-

"But there is." Charlie stared up at the ceiling, sounding plaintive, lost. "I'm worried if I cry you'll think I'm weak or pathetic. I'm worried that if I don't you won't think I've let you in, that I trust that I can be fully open with you. I'm worried if I lean on you too much I'll drive you away. I... I can't risk losing you. I can't."

/sigh/ his vulnerability is so evident i just wanna smish him.

Brilliant chapters! My favs so far in Virtue :)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on August 20th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
I'm over my head overwhelmed and I know I owe you a slew of HEE!ful responses, but I'm at least dropping an note here to let you know I am going to get to all of the lovely commentary you've blessed me with.

For now, a tiny bit more patience I ask of you. Next week's Virtue (25/26/27/28) is Don and Charlie's retreat ending and them going back home so the story needs some time to settle back into the swing of things in LA. The week past that? During 31/32 is when the grand opening of E is. Those parts, and all the parts following? You'll get your promised action and so much more. 31 on? Climax time. /bounces/

/♥s you for your support of Virtue and all my fic/

ladygray99ladygray99 on August 20th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
*sniff*
(Seriously that was the primary feeling I got out of the whole thing.)
(that and Amita is stupid)