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29 August 2009 @ 04:42 pm
Rowing against a Stream of Hurt...* DE, RB, CE, DS, BC, OFCs, D/R, C/A, B/OFC; R/M*  
Title: Rowing against a Stream of Hurt *Team Angst: Future*
Author: loozy
Pairing/Characters: Don/Robin, mention of Charlie/Amita, Billy/Paul *OMC*; Don Eppes, Robin Brooks, Charlie Eppes, David Sinclair, Billy Cooper, Helen Eppes *OFC*, Paul *OMC*, mention of others
Rating/Category: R/ M, angst, whump, teensy bit of slash
Spoilers: set in the future of Odyssey
Summary: She slowly steps towards the edge and looks down, sees tiny dots, people, walkingalong the pavement, cars passing by, their headlights drawing idle patterns onthe road and she just screams.
Notes/Warnings: valeriev84 did the beta as usual and I am very thankful for it :D
I used to row, but due to my job, I am unable to do so, which makes me yearn for it even more, so I just had to use it in a fic, to take a bit off the edge, and this is the result :D
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters mentioned in this fic. Numb3rs and everybody associated with it belong to Cheryl Heuton & Nick Fallucci and CBS.
Feedback: Yes, please. I love every kind of review, even the bad ones, as long as they are helpful and constructive.



She used to row when she was in college.

Her father had rowed for Harvard, as had her sisters, so who was she to defy tradition? Besides, she loved, still loves, the sport, and tries to get down to Boston for the Head of the Charles every year.

Granted, she has not really managed to do that for the last ten years, but it is the effort that counts, right? It is not her fault that the criminal minds of Los Angeles pool their resources and try to drive her mental at the end of every October.

When they went down to Boston the first time, during the Head, she took Don to the boathouse of the Harvard Ladies Rowing Club, took him to the little house her father has beside the Charles with the shed where all Brooks – family members have stored their sculls. Don, while a keen sportsman, had never rowed and he was impressed and even sat down in her father’s old scull while she had a firm hold. Who would have thought that Don Eppes was afraid of capsizing and falling into the river?

She had thought it very amusing but had also been glad that aside from her two nieces, the twins Shauna and Ria, no- one had been there to see it. Her family are not Don’s biggest fans.

Rowing taught her concentration, focus, determination, teamwork, how to break the pain threshold and work through the burning of the muscles, how to push yourself to the brink of exhaustion, and most of all, rowing taught her how to fight for the win.

She still feels the urge to get into a boat and go for a row when the day at work has been hard, people have been bothersome and all she wants to do it escape the madness that is her job.

Or when she is faced with moments like this, sitting in the waiting room of the ER of Cedars Sinai, clutching her daughter’s tattered donkey in her hands, while the little girl is curled up beside her, head resting in her lap. The rhythmic stroking of the dark head has lulled Helen into a light sleep which is a good thing. Before, she was crying and sobbing and clutching at Robin who had to fight to keep her composure, had to try and be reassuring when all she really wants to do is fly apart at the seams, crawl into a corner of the room and just bang her head against the wall.

Or sit down in her scull and just row away from everything.

“Mommy?”

Helen is awake again, her blue eyes blinking owlishly up at her.

“Where’s Daddy?”

She hands her the stuffed toy and the girl clutches at it before Robin drags her into her lap.

“He’s still with the doctors.”

Who will not tell her a damned thing. She is so frustrated she wants to scream, wants to read the riot act to them but they are doing all they can for her husband, so who is she to divert their attention? Besides, she has been through labour, she has sat at Don’s side more times than she wants to count, she can do this.

“He was so red.”

That he was. Blood had been everywhere, and their little girl had to see it. Had to see her father lying in a pool of his own blood, trying to get to her, to protect her.

It is no wonder that Helen is crying, that she in clingy and really, Robin just wants to cling to her, too. This is her grasp on reality this is what is grounding her; the warm feeling of her four- year- old daughter’s solid body wrapped around her, small fingers playing with her necklace, touching the pendant. It is a gesture that has not changed since she was a baby and grabbing at everything within her grasp, but the necklace has always had a special appeal to her.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, baby?”

“He’s going to be okay, right?”

For a four- year- old, their daughter is very articulate which both her parents put down to the fact that she has inherited her father’s curiosity. Like Don, she started reading just shortly after her third birthday and thus has a vocabulary that makes her sound like an older child sometimes.

Or that may be due to the magazines she keep leafing through or that she always spies on her cousins and imitates their speech patterns.

Don always says that she will make an excellent investigator one day.

“Yes, he is.”

He has to.

Robin has always prided herself on her independence, until Don Eppes came around and reeled her in. She has maintained her freedom, Don would not have wanted it any other way, but she cannot imagine her life without him now. He is the father of her child, her husband.

He cannot just leave.

He will not just leave. He will fight. Oh God, please let him fight.

“Robin! Oh my God, Robin. Are you okay? Are you and Helen alright?”

Charlie storms through the filled room towards her, his hair even wilder than usual, the fly of his jeans undone, his shirt askew. He skids to a halt beside her.

“We’re alright, Charlie.”

Helen has burrowed her head into her shirt, turning away from Charlie, hiding from the world. Robin can relate, there is nothing she wants to do more.

The need to go down to Los Angeles Rowing Club, to grab her boat, even if it is in the dead of the night, is strong. Don has always smiled indulgently at her when she would tell him she needed to get away from it all and would always wait for her back at the club when she came back from releasing all her frustrations on the water, with food, drink and clean clothes. And Helen.

“Have they said anything about Don?”

“No, not yet. They just took him, the doctor told me that they probably had to take him up to emergency surgery.”

She shudders.

“I called David. He said he’d check on the scene and then come here.”

“Good, that’s good, thanks.”

David is now the SAC of the Criminal D Division to Don’s AD, she trusts him, always has, to handle things the right way.

“He called Colby and Liz. They’re coming in with the next flights.”

Colby has been in San Diego for the last couple of years, leading his own team, and is probably going to make SAC in the next twelve months, when the current one retires and Liz is with the Washington branch now. Right now, though, he is teaching a month- long seminar on interrogation techniques ar Quantico.

“Billy?”

“On his way.”

Billy Cooper nearly lost his legs five years ago when a bomb blew up his car. Luckily he was not actually in it, but the injury left him with a permanent limp and unable to remain a field agent. Don offered him a position as an analyst for cybercrimes in the LA- office.

Charlie stretches out in the chair next to hers and yawns.

“Amita and the boys are at home. We didn’t want to wake Dad.”

He rubs his hands over his eyes.

“This is gonna... I don’t want to tell him.”

“He will not take it well.”

Three years ago, Alan had a stroke which left him bed- ridden and easily agitated. Don is the only one who knows how to handle him.

Now that they need Don the most, he is not there. He is the reason they need him.

The irony makes her eyes sting.

“Mrs Eppes?”

She kept her name professionally so that there would be no confusion or smack- talking about Don and her being married, though why she bothered she is still wondering. Pretty much everyone knows they are husband and wife, that they have a kid, but she never got around to it, and Don never complained.

In life outside of work, she is using ‘Eppes’.

There is a doctor standing close to the swinging doors they took Don through nearly an hour ago, dressed in scrubs that are splattered with blood, a weary expression on her face. Robin is glad that Helen’s face is turned away from her so that she will not see the blood.

“We had to take your husband up to the OR. He has severe internal bleeding and we might have to remove the spleen. The head injury also looks nasty and we’ll have to watch for swelling of the brain. Chances are he will make it because the emergency response was quick but we never know, not with the amount of injuries he received.”

The doctor looks at her with no emotions on her face or in her eyes as she keeps on droning and Robin tunes her out, she cannot take it anymore. All she wants to do is to rip the woman’s eyes out. Sudden rage is rising inside her, and was it not for Helen, she would have a fit.

How dare she just talk about him like he is a piece of meat!

“Mrs Eppes?”

The doctor looks impatiently at her as though she has said her name more than once already. Charlie has risen from his chair and come to sit at her side, his hands compulsively rubbing his jeans- clad legs.

“Your husband is up on the third floor. They are prepping him right now, but someone should be able to talk to you before he goes in.”

“Thank you.”

It is a mechanical response, instilled from birth, but she does not mean it. For a moment the doctor’s eyes soften sympathetically before the veil falls down over them.

“Good luck.”

She feels as if she is going to be sick and just has time to hand Helen over to Charlie who holds her rather awkwardly before rushing into the restroom she noticed earlier.

Inside, the tiles are cool against her flushed face and her heavy breathing is resounding in the room. She catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and finds she looks like a ghost right about now. All colour has drained from her face, leaving her ashen with sweat beading her forehead and upper lip. Her hands shake as she brushes her hair out of her face and splashes water on her cheeks.

Despite the flush she is shivering, almost violently so, and her knees are shaking.

Good luck.

The doctor actually said ‘Good luck’. That his injuries were severe, she already knew, she saw the blood. She saw her husband lying on the floor, his hand stretched out towards the dining room table where his cell phone lay. She saw her little daughter sitting beside her father, her hands shaking his still body, hands and clothes turning red from the blood coating his shoulders, his whole upper chest.

Oh God. Her baby girl saw her father bleeding.

Her baby girl saw her father being assaulted.

She just about makes it into the nearest stall before everything erupts from her, and she is shaking and crying and moaning.

Pain.

Distress.

Fear.

Mind- numbing fear.

She rests her head on the toilet ring, tries to control her breathing, tries to summon a yoga- chant that will bring her back down to earth, but the fear and panic have a firm grip at her now, and all she can do is sob and moan and cry and shake.

She can feel cold sweat running down the back of her shirt and she shivers before a second round of vomiting is induced by the stench of what is already in the toilet.

Vile.

Vicious.

She wipes a hand over her mouth, can see it shaking like a leaf and then heaves another big sob. She needs to centre herself, get a grip. She will do Don no favour by falling apart now. She will not help Helen by sitting in here, being weak.

But she just needs a moment to herself, she just needs...

She needs Don.

Then there are cool hands on her forehead and a cold cloth is pressed to her nape and she can feel strong arms embrace her and for a moment she thinks that everything was just a nightmare, that Don is with her, and that everything is alright.

Until she catches the scent of the aftershave, and it is not Don.

Billy.

He does not say a word, just calmly wipes the cold sweat off her face and neck and just breathes in and out, holding her tight to his chest so that she can feel the rising and falling of his chest, concentrate on it, calm herself down with the hypnotic motion.

How long they sit there, she does not know but it probably is not too long.

Billy just hugs her tightly from behind and she clings to his arms as they lean against each other.

“David’s outside, entertaining Helen. He brought her clothes.”

“Good, that’s good. I couldn’t... I didn’t think of it.”

“Hush. How could you?”

He presses a soft kiss into her hair and she can feel tears pooling in her eyes again.

“Did they find anything?”

Don’s best friend shrugs.

“I dunno. When I arrived Charlie was holding Helen with David and pointed towards here. I just came straight in.”

She chuckles, weak as it is, but it is a good sound to be heard.

“Typical. You didn’t even think there might be other women in here, did you?”

Billy sighs.

“Didn’t care.”

“Billy, what are we going to do?”

“Fight. Be strong. Live another day.”

“Highlander? Now?”

“Kinda appropriate, right? He will fight, he will live, he will be strong. Don’s not giving up. And neither should you.”

How dare he suggest that!

“I’m not giving up!”

“That’s my girl.”

“I just needed a moment.”

“Hey, you don’t need to justify yourself. I would’ve been surprised if you hadn’t.”

“Moment’s over.”

He draws her back into his embrace when she starts to get up.

“Take a moment longer.”

“But Helen-“

“Peanut’s gonna be just fine with David out there.”

“And Charlie?”

Billy smirks.

“Probably in the same place as you are right now, just with no handsome man to help. Or maybe he does.”

She slaps his chest and he pretends to be hurt.

Charlie and Billy still do not like each other, which sometimes makes it a bit exhausting to run interference between them when they are in the same room, even more so when both are consulting on cases.

“Stop it. Not the time nor the place.”

She makes to get up a second time and this time Billy does not try to stop her but instead follows her, albeit more stiffly and slowly. His cane is leaning against the wall outside the cubicle and before grabbing it he reaches over to flush the toilet.

“Wouldn’t want anyone to see that.”

“Thanks.”

She stares at herself in the mirror again and readjusts her ponytail. He comes up behind her and gives her a tight hug.

“Don’ll be fine. He has to be.”

Outside, David and Helen are waiting, the girl clinging to the lapels of his shirt. He has changed her clothes and instead of the bloody jeans and tee, she is now wearing clean ones. As soon as they are beside them, Helen reaches her arms out to Billy who takes her more than willingly and just hugs her so tight that she cannot breathe, which is the whole point.

Helen loves David’s and Billy’s embraces because they are as tight as her daddy’s and contrary to uncles Charlie and Colby, they do not handle her with the proverbial kid gloves. Experience has taught them that Helen is just as sturdy and stubborn as her parents, so hugs with David and Billy are always tight and giggle- inducing.

Only not tonight.

Tonight she just sags against Billy who shifts her onto his hip.

“What’s wrong, Peanut?”

“Daddy’s hurt.”

“Yeah, honey, I heard. But he’s gonna be all better.”

“But there was blood. Lots of it.”

Tears are slipping down her face and Robin feels as though she is losing the ground beneath her feet again. David rests a steady hand on her arm and she can feel the ground holding her up.

“Yes, there was, boo. I’m sorry you had to see that.”

She whimpers. Billy wraps both his arms around her so that his arms nearly shield her completely.

“It’s going to be okay, Boo. You’ll be okay. Your daddy’s gonna be okay.”

“Promise?”

“Pinkie promise.”

She looks at him through her long lashes and catches onto the finger he is presenting her.

“There you go. Now your daddy has to be okay because he wouldn’t want to make a liar out of me, right?”

“Daddy says that lying is bad.”

“There you go. No lying.”

The short moment of silence is broken by David.

“The doctor came up again while you were inside. They have Don up and ready to go. We’re to wait in the lounge upstairs.”

Billy looks around before handing Helen over to Robin. Walking with a cane and a four- year- old is not the easiest thing to do, and besides, Robin needs the contact. From the way her daughter clings to her, even tighter than to the two men, she needs it, too.

“Where’s Charlie?”

“He said he’d call Amita and the boys, say good night. He’ll meet us upstairs.”

Robin remembers that David is supposed to be the agent in charge of the crime scene.

“David, you don’t need to stay.”

“I’ll have Percotel work the scene and drive over there later and check it out myself. Right now, I’m here. Don’t worry about lack of enthusiasm or drive. From what I’ve heard, pretty much the whole of LA LEOs are on the warpath already. They can wait for me to join them in the man hunt.”

Normally Robin would protest against them accompanying her on what is going to be a long night, probably, but she does not have the energy.

“Do you need me for something later, you know, Fugitive Recovery and all...”

David sends Billy a grateful look as they make their way to the elevators.

“I’ll probably take you up on that. From what I’ve seen, it was violent, full of rage.”

That it was. Blood coated everything around Don, and the state of the man himself was enough to make Robin nauseous before she regained a hold on her emotions. Before she switched off her emotions until after she had called the paramedics and collected her daughter and driven to the hospital, making calls along the way to inform the necessary people.

“I’ll call my people to pull all of Don’s old files, find out who’s been released recently and has reasons to have a grudge.”

Robin leans against the elevator wall.

“Most of them have.”

The look Billy sends her is dirty but amused and then sardonic when he points towards his leg and clanks his cane against the brace that permanently needs to be wrapped around his knee.

“’Ya think, Brooks?”

They have reached the third floor and to their surprise, there are people already waiting for them, FBI- agents, LAPD officers.

“Any news on AD Eppes?”

“Is he okay?”

“Will he pull through?”

“Mrs Brooks, we have everyone on high alert. They won’t get away.”

It is a sea of voices overwhelming her but she also feels so grateful for the visible support that has turned up for her husband.

Luckily, David and Billy have a cooler head than she does at the moment and make sure that Helen and she are left alone for the most part while they start coordinating searches and road blocks that have not already been set in place.

There is a forensic sketch artist waiting and, logically, Robin knows that they should have Helen talk to her as soon as possible to get the best possible results, but she is not sure if she can do that to her daughter yet. If she can put this tiny little person through that Hell yet again.

Helen has stopped hiding and is watching all the LEOs in the waiting area with open curiosity.

“Mommy, who are all these people?”

“They’re going to help find the man who hurt Daddy.”

Helen looks at her, tears starting to form in her eyes again.

“But they don’t know what he looks like. How can they find him?”

David catches her eye, subtly nods his head towards Mandy who is already waiting with her pad.

“You want to tell Mandy what he looked like, Pea?”

Helen nods resolutely, and if there was ever any doubt that she was Don’s daughter, this gesture just wiped it away because only his offspring would do that. Robin might be pretty stubborn and determined, too, but this?

Just a plain Eppes- thing to do. She has never been more proud of her daughter.

Mandy comes over, and together they sit down. Robin does not listen to Helen’s description of the guy, she just cannot. So instead she listens to David work his men and liaise with the other law agencies and watches as Coop talks on his phone, doing his part of the search, in complete disregard of the big sign forbidding cell phones right beside him.

Her gaze drifts over to the doors that lead to the surgery ward and every time a nurse or a doctor comes close, she tenses up and then has to force herself to relax. What do they say about no news being good news?

Whoever thought up that crap line?

She would rather know about the state of her husband from someone other than that unsympathetic doctor than having to wait agonizing minutes, wondering if he is going to survive or not.

What would she and Helen do if he died?

What would she do?

She does not want to think about it, cannot think about it without feeling another panic attack coming on, and even though no- one would fault her for it, there is just no way. She needs to be here, she needs to be present when news might come.

“Here, take my hand.”

Billy has taken a seat beside her and grabs the hand with her wedding ring and tears spring to her eyes.

“You can squeeze as hard as you want, I won’t mind.”

It is his right hand.

“Sure you won’t, but what about Paul?”

“Ah, he’ll get over it... Besides, it’s Don, I don’t think he’ll mind too much.”

“He knows?”

“On his way. Just has to finish his shift over at St Loren’s.”

“That’s nice.”

Billy nudges her, gives her a wink that can only lead to something saucy coming out of his mouth in an attempt to lighten her mood.

“Otherwise he won’t get any for a month.”

Despite the pain inside her, she has to smile, even though it hurts to do so. The movement is more of a reflex as Billy’s and Paul’s actions are always wont to.

“You’re crazy.”

Billy softly thumps his head against the wall a couple of times.

“If, you know... I couldn’t... Not for a long time. No way.”

“Never for me.”

This is not in question, this is fact. Should the unthinkable happen, then she would abstain for the rest of her life. No amount of frustration would lead her to reconsider it again.

It is Don or no- one.

“But let’s not think of that. He’s gonna pull through.”

Billy’s response is so quiet that she can just about hear him.

“He has to.”

But Billy didn’t see him, didn’t see all the blood, didn’t see the pain etched into his features, the mixture of agony and despair. Don was aware of Helen seeing this, and the knowledge tears Robin up inside.

“He’s too thick- headed to give this up. To lose this life.”

They have built a good life for themselves. A comfy house in Pasadena, successful careers and a daughter that could not be more perfect. They work high pressure jobs, yes, but they always know that in the haven of their home they can forgot all the trouble, or at least attempt to, and this grounds both of them.

Helen, their beloved child, who could not have been more desired after years of trying and failing to conceive, is just the perfect mixture of their personalities, a little whirlwind, a devilish mischievous angel who is adored by her grandfather, uncle, aunt, and the others who dote on her.

There have been obstacles, of course there have been, but they always got over them, always managed to come out strong, and they will this time, too, if Don just manages to survive. Yes, he is stubborn, but how much can perseverance fight against losing too much blood, about having one too many bullets in one’s body?

The odds are stacked against him, of that she is sure, but Don has always liked to be one to defy statistics, as if he is consciously telling his younger brother that life just cannot be defined by numbers, as Charlie keeps insisting.

“Plus, there is always Charlie’s math to be defied.”

Billy knows them too well by now and from the smirk on his face he knew exactly what she was thinking.

“Mommy?”

Helen is done with Mandy who just looks at the little girl in awe. Robin picks her up to shift her onto her lap when Helen immediately curls up to face Billy who tweaks her nose at which she giggles before borrowing her head against his hand.

“That girl, Mrs Brooks, is awesome. I don’t know many children, much less four- year- olds, who could have done this.”

Robin grins at her, the first time in hours that the motion feels natural.

“She is awesome.”

Mandy shows her the sketch and yes, her daughter is amazing.

The face is more or less cleanly sketched out, Helen being a young child and traumatised after all, but the distinguishing features are still there. The bushy moustache, sagging cheeks and huge bags beneath the eyes, cold eyes and sideburns down to the jaw line, with the hair on top shaved close to the skull.

And then there is the scar that runs down the left side of his face.

“We’ll be able to use this. Even if he shaves off the hair, the scar is still there. The techs should be able to get something off that.”

Billy perks up at this.

“I’ll have my guys handle this. Make copies and distribute them among the LAPD- guys. They’re to hang them out at their stations and give the picture to patrol units.”

“We have a truck down in the lot with a portable copier, I’ll do it here so we can hand them out immediately.”

“Good idea.”

Billy loosens his hand from Helen’s hold and she moans.

“I’ll be back in a second, Peanut. I just need to make a call to help catch the bad guy.”

Helen just nods and turns to hide her face into Robin’s armpit and soon she can feel the thin fabric of her top being soaked with tears.

“If we find the guy, he’ll be lucky to make it to jail.”

David had sat down on Billy’s vacated seat.

Charlie, who is sitting on the other side of the room, perks up at that.

“You caught him?”

“No, I just meant that once we have him, chances are, he might just be the unfortunate victim of an unfortunate accident.”

“It might just be.”

Director Chaser has turned up at the hospital, dressed in clothes that were sloppily pulled on, a state that none of the people assembled has ever seen him in.

“Director!”

David stares at him indignantly, but the older man stares him down.

“Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to give that fucker a piece of your mind, Sinclair.”

Robin winces at the swear word. Don and her are working hard at getting Helen rid of all the swear words she picks up in kindergarten and to hear from someone like the head of the LAPD might just make a very lasting impression on Helen.

“You said a bad word. Sir.”

Sure, now all that they have drilled into her comes out. If the situation were not so dire, Robin would laugh, especially when Helen adds the ‘sir’ as an afterthought.

Helen has turned in her lap, her face tear- streaked and her nose running, and is now staring at Chaser who has the grace to look apologetic.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I just like your daddy, Helen, and sometimes when you like someone, you use bad words when you feel helpless.”

“I like him, too.”

With that, she turns back into Robin’s armpit and Chaser turns to the man who is now the acting AD as per Don’s standing orders.

“Any news?”

David gets up to update him and Robin relishes in the fact that she does not have to listen to him giving a report. She does not think she could have stood that.

“What if he doesn’t make it? How will I tell Dad?”

Charlie is standing in front of her and Robin will never cease to be amazed that a world- class mathematician, respected in his field, a pioneer and creator of two ground- breaking formulas, can still look like a grad student even though he is in his forties. The jeans and tee that he is wearing are not helping much to quell that assumption. His hair is messy as usual, but knowing from years- long experience what happens to Eppes- hair once it has passed a certain length, she cannot really fault him for that. The one time Charlie did cut his hair after all, Don had a good laugh at his expense and even gave him a toy lawnmower.

“What will I tell Dad? Surely he heard Amita crying when I told her, and the boys know, too, they overheard us... He’s probably wondering now where I went off to. Maybe Amita will tell him.”

The ‘Then I don’t have to’ is the unsaid end of the sentence.

“I don’t want to shed responsibility, but God, I can’t face Dad. If Don dies, then he wouldn’t survive that.”

Yes, chances are that Alan might just die if the unthinkable happens. His sons’ health and well- being has been crucial to how Alan is feeling ever since Margaret succumbed to cancer and with his more fragile state even more so. After the stroke had left him severely disabled, Don and Charlie had a lot of trouble coming to terms with the fact that their father, the until then vibrant strong fixture in their lives, was now an old man. It was the first time that Alan’s age shone through, and their whole extended family had trouble dealing with what had happened.

Robin would love to have Alan here because he would be able to help even though he is weak, the mere fact of his presence would be such great support.

“Charlie.”

Charlie clenches and releases his fists, a movement reminding Robin of Don when he compulsively checks his watch or runs his hand through his hair.

“Charlie.”

No reaction.

“Charlie! Sit down. Now!”

He stares at her for a moment as if she was a mother scolding a child and defiance flares up for just a second before he slumps into the chair to her left.

“I want to help. They could use my help.”

This reminds her of when Don was stabbed, and it hurts.

“I’ll talk to David, maybe he already has data that I can use.”

Charlie gets up again, restless energy coming off him in waves as he strides over to David. He is still a regular consultant for the FBI even though he toned down his engagement once the twins were born.

Why has nobody been out to talk to her yet?

“You know they might have an ergometer in the rehab- centre across the road?”

Paul is standing in front of her, still dressed in his scrubs, his bag slung across his chest, hair wind- blown from probably racing his bike at breakneck speed across the city. He is a reckless cyclist at the best of times, but now?

Probably deadly.

“How many accidents did you cause?”

Paul grins softly and plops down in the chair on her other side before running his hand through his messy hair.

“None. And lemme tell you, that was quite the feat.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“Because you know me.”

“Yeah. You do know that you’re going to give him grey hairs, right? And grey hairs on a redhead? Not pretty.”

“I’m trying to avoid it, believe you me, but at least this time, I had a reason.”

He pulls her towards him and she does not resist, badly needing a strong shoulder to lean on and with Billy and David both busy, he is the perfect choice.

“How’s Helen doing?”

Her daughter’s sniffling stopped a couple of minutes ago and from the even breaths that she can feel puffing against the inside of her left arm, she has cried herself to sleep.

“How do you think she’s doing?”

Carefully, she extricates her daughter from the mess of limbs that she has managed to fold herself into and is just about to position her in a more comfortable position on her lap when Pauls’ reaching over, taking her off her.

“Lemme cuddle her. I’m sure you can use the respite.”

As much as she wants to cling to Helen, she needs the break. She needs to get up and just disappear for a while. Not to have a breakdown like hours before it seems, when it has actually just been an hour, tops, but to catch a breath of fresh air.

“I’m sure the door to the roof is open. It usually is. Go on, I’ll take care of her.”

“But what-“

“Billy told me about his injuries. They won’t be out for hours.”

“But-“

“Just go. You don’t need to stay long. Just to regroup.”

Just a couple of minutes. She can do that.

“I won’t be long.”

“Go.”

After pressing a soft kiss to Helen’s forehead, she goes to the elevator and slowly finds her way to the rooftop.

It is quiet up there, the evening air cool on her skin.

She remembers that she once, after an argument with her parents, escaped into her boat and onto the river and then, in the middle of the course, not minding anyone passing by on the sides, screamed so loud and long she thought her vocal chords would rip and she would explode from lack of oxygen.

It held felt so good, to just let loose and not care about what others thought.

She had then done a hard piece over five kilometres at racing speed, leaving all her anger on the water, and had felt calm and refreshed when she had gotten off.

Darkness has fallen, so it would be impossible to even consider going out, no matter how well she knows the course, but the urge itches.

Well, if she cannot row, maybe she can still scream?

It is not like anyone can hear her this high up, and she is the only one on the roof.

She slowly steps towards the edge and looks down, sees tiny dots, people, walking along the pavement, cars passing by, their headlights drawing idle patterns on the road and she just screams.

Screams and screams and screams until she runs out of air and when she draws in a breath, the scream becomes a sob and she has to stop.

“Oh fuck.”

But it has felt good. Weirdly enough, she feels as if the band of steel around her chest has loosened just that tiny bit, enough for her to feel a bit better.

Paul was right, this was exactly what she needed and when she inhales, she finds she can breathe a bit easier. The worry is still there, the paralysing fear, but her frustration has lessened.

Now she can face the music again, or the lack of music, actually, if music is defined as the appearance of a doctor who will give them an update.

Or maybe, just maybe, there will be the doctor standing there when she goes back downstairs, or Paul or David or Billy will come running up to the roof, telling her good news. But this is not a movie, this is real life, and chances are, life does not imitate art.

So, when she returns to the waiting area, there is no news to report. Helen has made a home on Paul’s lap, Billy is still on the phone and David taken a seat opposite Paul’s. Charlie is staring off into nothing. He looks up when Robin slips into her old seat and then returns to his staring.

“Megan called.”

“Really?”

She stares at David, surprised. Megan has been in sporadic contact with the team, even consulting on a case once when Don and David went out to New York for a case.

“Larry called her.”

“Ah.”

That explains it. Even though they have not been together for years, the bond between Megan and Larry is still strong enough for him to obviously feel the need to call her, after Charlie apparently contacted him.

“She would like to come, but is up to her ears in work.”

“That’s fine.”

She does not know Megan well enough to care if she is here or not, and knows that while Don still holds affection and respect for her, she is out of his immediate radar. There are other people he has to concern himself with on a more regular basis, and besides
from what she knows and has heard of Megan Reeves over the years, she can hold her own and has really blossomed since changing careers.

“When are Colby and Liz arriving?”

“Not until later. Colby’s arriving around midnight, Liz around 2am. They got the quickest flights they could.”

Liz is only lent out to Washington, she will be back by the end of the year, and Colby should finish his course of teaching at Quantico soon enough, too, and then they will probably both return to California. There is a SAC position open in San Francisco and Don is rooting for Liz to take that one.

The ties are still strong to them, and Robin would not have wanted it any other way.

“That’s good.”

“Has anyone told Alan yet?”

Robin sends him a warning glance then nods over to Charlie who has peaked up slightly at the mention of his father’s name. His voice, when he answers, is distorted, as if he was speaking through fog, throaty and with a hush to it that unnerves Robin. Charlie might be introspective but he rarely talks quietly.

“I don’t know. Why?”

“Because you might want to tell him that his son was attacked in his own home... Did you get a squad car out to the Craftsman?”

“Why?”

“Because the AD was attacked at home, and you are associated with the AD, very closely... Could be if the perp was someone who you and Don both got into jail, you are also in danger...”

“I didn’t think of that.”

Charlie sags into himself, leans forward and roughly rubs his hands over his face.

“Oh no. I didn’t think of that. How come I didn’t think of that?”

David leans forward to pat his knee awkwardly.

“Because this is different from when Don got stabbed. There is nothing we can do at the moment. CSU are at the scene, Helen gave Mandy a sketch of the perp and until we have an idea who he might be, all we can do is wait.”

“I hate waiting.”

“We all do.”

Oh God, yes, she hates waiting so much.

The vibration of Charlie’s phone jerks him out of his chair and for a moment he looks at it as if it was a foreign object before answering it.

“Yes?... Dad.”

It is a moment in which all activity seems to cease.

Everyone’s head swivels towards Charlie who is standing in the middle of the waiting area. They all know Alan Eppes, and they all know how much he cares about his sons and their extended family.

“In the waiting room on the surgery ward... No, we haven’t heard anything... Robin, Helen, David, Paul, Billy... They are coming, yes... I don’t know, Dad, all I know is that they had to take him up immediately... Internal bleeding and bullet wounds... She’s okay, gave the sketch artist a description of the guy... Yeah, I’ll put her on...”

He comes over to Robin, holding out his Blackberry with slightly shaky hands.

“Dad wants to talk to you.”

This is not going to be fun.

“Alan, hi.”

Her voice is surprisingly shaky, and when she hears Alan’s voice, it mirrors her own.

“Robin... How are you holding up?”

“As well as can be expected.”

He laughs hollowly, a wheeze following.

“I just wanted to check in. Amita told me.”

Probably not voluntarily, but Alan can be just as stubborn as his sons and when he is determined to find something out, even more so. It is a trait that he handed down to both Don and Charlie which in turn makes them most excellent at their jobs.

“I’ll come by tomorrow.”

She swallows hard against the lump in her throat.

“Thanks.”

“You got everything you need?”

“No.”

She chokes back a laugh that would have turned into a sob.

“I need Don. I need to turn the time back and make this all unreal.”

She looks over at Helen, still sleeping.

“I need Helen to not have seen her father being shot and beaten with a baseball bat.”

“Oh God. Amita didn’t tell me specifics... I’m sorry, oh God, Robin...”

Alan sounds as run- down as she feels, and she honestly could really do with a hug from him. He might be paralyzed but the hugs?

Still great at reassuring.

“I’ll drop by first thing tomorrow. Already bullied Amita into promising to bring me.”

“Thanks. I... Thanks, Alan.”

“Please call as soon as you hear something, don’t care about the time. Just call me.”

“I will.”

“And if you see him, you know what to do...?”

“Sing Sgt Pepper?”

He laughs then coughs.

“Yes.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Short and not as painful as she had feared. And Alan is coming tomorrow, which is always good to know. He does not get out much, the experiences always draining him of his energy, but of course he would want to be there for his son.

He might not be as strong and full of life as he used to be, but he still provides a shoulder to lean on, something that she could use. The guys’ support is important and much needed, but there still is a connection to work that Alan cannot understand.

“Still could use a boat?”

She feels tired, bone- deep exhaustion pulling at her raw nerves and yet there is also a restless energy that just wants to go rampant inside of her.

“Yes.”

“You know that you could always go back to the roof...”

Charlie has become an observant man, which is mainly thanks to having rambunctious twins.

“Good place.”

He nods in acquiescence and nudges her with his right shoulder.

“Good for screaming.”

Helen lets out an impressive snore for such a tiny person and they all turn towards her, stare for a second and then catch each other’s eye.

“She definitely got that one from Don.”

Billy’s softly teasing tone breaks the accumulated tension and they all snicker in remembrance of the massive sounds of snoring that sometimes come out of Don.

Time passes, and Robin finds herself drifting, her attention perking up every time someone even comes close to the doors leading into the surgery ward.

Minutes pass that way, or maybe hours, she does not know, all sense of time has been taken from her.

“Mommy?”

Helen wakes up and Paul, who has been holding her on his lap all this time, stirs awake from the nap he was taking.

“Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s still with the doctors, baby.”

And then the swinging door opens and a man in scrubs comes out, exhaustion plain visible on his face.

“Mrs Eppes?”

And Robin wants to go for a row. Now.

This fic was written for the Angst vs Schmoop Challenge at numb3rswriteoff. After you’ve read the fic, please rate it by voting in the poll located here. (Your vote will be anonymous.) Rate the fic on a scale of 1 - 10 (10 being the best) using the following criteria: how well the fic fit the prompt, how angsty [or schmoopy] the fic was, and how well you enjoyed the fic. When you’re done, please check out the other challenge fic at numb3rswriteoff. Thank you!
 
 
this is where I am...: on my bed
this is how I feel...: mischievousmischievous
this is what I hear...: Allc McBeal s4 with RDJ
 
 
 
hear me roarmagisterequitum on August 29th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
You cannot leave it there!

But of course you can, it is your story.

This was great. I loved the whole ordeal and dynamic between the team because this is set in the future and they have gone on with their own lives, but they still are together.

Helen was adorable and everything a child of theirs would be. And the symbollism and repetition of the rowing with Robin was great.
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: rowing- scullloozy on August 30th, 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
I love rowing, and I have used it so many times to let off steam of get away from things and just concentrate on the rhythm and movements that in a situation like this, it is the only escape you can think of... Plus, I'm obsessed with the sport, so if I have the chance to include it in fics, I will do so, and Michelle Holden is tall enough to pass as a rower :D

Thank you so much for liking it, and for liking Helen... This is not the last time you will have seen her, so yay!

There will be either a sequel or a prequel, I have not decided yet.. :D
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 29th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
Just popping in to vote as promised and had a look at your header. In it you said Paul *OFC*, that should be OMC, no?

:P
rodlox: going to hugrodlox on August 30th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
I remember the days when it meant "Original Fictional Character".

wait, does that date me?
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 30th, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
Hmm, never heard that one before, but maybe that's what Loozy meant. In that case, I retract my statement.

As for dating, not sure, there are so many abbreviations out that that I don't have a clue of. So it could well just be me!
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: friends- yayloozy on August 30th, 2009 08:33 am (UTC)
Maybe it used to be OFC and then it was changed to the distinction between OFC and OMC and I never actually noticed it...

You're both right and I thank you for the assistance :)
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: numb3rs- flat2loozy on August 30th, 2009 08:32 am (UTC)
I thought so, too...

Well, then it does date me, too... *sigh* I'm getting older, I just wish that people would recognize my age *I was thought to be 16 when I was in the Alps this week*
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 30th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
Lol, most people would consider that to be a compliment!
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: friends- fingerloozy on August 30th, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
I'm sure I will think it is a compliment soon, when I've turned 30 but by now I've had it with being thought to be underage *whinge*

:P

I shall explain it to you later... The whole holiday, great fun as it was, turned me into a split personality :P

I cannot access gmail at the moment, so please don't think I'm ignoring your emails... Checked last night, or rather this morning, but was too wrecked to coherently respond... And now gmail is acting up :(
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 30th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
It all depends on who you are. Friday night someone was complaining about being old... she was two months younger than me! I don't feel old, yes I'm a quarter of a century, but I've no problem telling people that.

It's my age, it's as simple as that.

Okay, thanks for letting me know!
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: numb3rs- head scratchloozy on August 30th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
I'm proud of being 26, but 16? Urgh... Not so proud... More like embarrassed *headdesk*
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 30th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
ROFL
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: random- geekloozy on August 30th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
I might even have photos of me while hiking, so you can judge for yourself how old I look :P

*am currently deciding if I should do a picspam of the holidays *roughly 700 photos from me and about 700 from friends* or of RDJ... :D
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 30th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Hmm... difficult choice.

And, yeah, I always take far too many photos too. I just uploaded 65 of them from a day trip of a few hours! And that's not even all of the ones I took.
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: random- garden stateloozy on August 30th, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
I don't often people- photographs, am more of a landscape- person, so 90% of the pics I took with the digital cam and my proper one, with film :D, are of mountains... Amazing mountains, but still, not a lot of people...

I'm in the mood for a picspam, you pick :D

*gorgeous photos on facebook :D... You look so nice and relaxed and the skirt is goooorgeous!*
Valerie Vancollievaleriev84 on August 30th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
Me neither, to be honest. Most of what I take is landscape, architecture or anything else that I might want to mess around with on Photoshope at some point

Hmm... how about the holiay ones first?

Thanks! And I love that skirt and the way it flows and the subtle sequins in it. It's a bit too high at the waist for current fashion now, but I don't care and just wear long tops over it.
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: rdj- demonstrationloozy on August 30th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Okay, holiday- ones it is...

Just don't be afraid, if there are people, there might be a 16- year- old lurking *rofl* I was told that it was sometimes a scary sight *snicker*
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: fargate- facepalmloozy on August 30th, 2009 08:29 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for voting and pointing it out, and I've to admit, that I always though that OFC stood for Original Fictional Character, but now the OFC and OMC- things make sense... ;)

Oops.
rodlox: going to hugrodlox on August 30th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
oooh, quoting Methos! :D :D

Helen looks to be a good kid.

I'd offer to be a shoulder to comfort Robin, but Don would kill me.

very heart-moving story.
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: numb3rs- cooperloozy on August 30th, 2009 08:30 am (UTC)
Heh, I could not resist quoting that line :D

It is just too good to not be used in a situation like this and in addition, I like to thing it fits the character in a way :P

Thank you for the praise :)
(Deleted comment)
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: numb3rs- kissloozy on August 30th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC)
(oops)

And yay! Yay! Yay! *hugs*

This is what I wanted to achieve with this fic, and I am so glad it worked out :) My first heavily angsty piece and it is liked *squee*

And you favourited *I doubt that is a word, but I don't care* my fic... *happy sigh*

Now, I'm going to stare at your icon for a wee bit...
ALEOaleo_70 on September 2nd, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
Read it. Voted.

I don't normally read AU future fics but this was worth it.

Now I'd really like to know just who assaulted our AD so severely and why.

And I just have to agree with the sentiment that he might just be the unfortunate victim of an unfortunate accident. The unknown assailant taking out his anger on a man in his own home and even worse in front of a child deserves all that comes to him.
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: friends- yayloozy on September 2nd, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
*does the Dance of Joy*

Oh thank you so so so much :) I feel very honoured now that you read and voted even though it was AU :D

There will be a prequel, dealing with the actual attack, and a sequel, dealing with the repercussions of the attack :D
ALEOaleo_70 on September 2nd, 2009 08:33 am (UTC)
Excellent!

I can't wait to see why it happened and how it all pans out. I sure hope they get the guy.
she studied. she climbed. she wrote.: dr who- telephone boxloozy on September 2nd, 2009 09:00 am (UTC)
Like I already mentioned, unfortunate accidents can happen at any time ;) Maybe...

Why it happened? The past sometimes comes back to haunt you :D