Disclaimer: Belongs to many other people, not me
Warnings/Squicks: School Days
Summary: What moments mark a friendship, a love, a marriage, a lifetime?
Previous chapters: Cleansing
Notes: A little family moment. Feedback puts joy in my heart.
Beta(s): The amazing irena_adler long may she write.
Esther practically skipped down the long echoing hall while Charlie and Colby moved with a little more trepidation. Colby had even tried to weasel out of this but Don had insisted on giving him the afternoon off. The bastard.
They reached Door 103 per the summons. It was dark and imposing. Charlie reached out and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. They took a deep breath and opened the door. On the other side was a strange world of bright colors and tiny chairs. The walls were covered in letters and numbers worked out in bold primary colors. Mottos like ‘You are Special’ graced the walls as well.
Colby really wanted to shoot something except his main gun was back at the house, his ankle holster was in the car and Don had confiscated the one he kept at the small of his back before he even left the office.
In the room were three middle aged women who put out auras of calm, wisdom, peace, and understanding. Colby knew torturers who could do the same thing. Introductions were made all around. A teacher, a counselor and the principal. The head boss herself.
Charlie had sent Esther’s IQ test in when they registered her for kindergarten. A week later, a call came from the school. They wanted to meet her; test her in their own way.
“Now, Esther, we just want to see how well you know your letters.” The most pleasant of the three women said. Esther gave her a look. Colby tried not to laugh. It was the exact same look Charlie gave when people asked him if he could solve a math problem.
Colby gave a silent victory cheer when Esther raced through the flash cards without a hitch. They moved on to Dolch words and finally the principal pulled out some thick legal reports from the district which Esther read with only a couple of pronunciation slip-ups. Then she read the copy of the report that was written in Spanish on the back. When she was done, she slipped her hand around the back of her chair and got a secret low-down high five from her daddy.
The three women conferred amongst themselves then decided to try math. This was harder and Esther petered out around long division and had to do some of the multiplication on her fingers. She looked at Charlie when it got too hard, visibly upset.
“It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay. You did very, very well.”
“You did very well indeed, Esther,” said the councilor. “I was wondering, could you tell me about your family and where you live?” Charlie and Colby gave the councilor and hard look, but she only said, “We just want to get an idea of her vocabulary use as well as her environmental awareness.”
Esther took a deep breath. Colby knew she liked talking about her family.
“I live in a big house with Daddy an' Daddy an' Grandpa an' Schrödinger my cat who is very much alive and doesn’t like boxes an' Uncle Don is there a lot too an' he works at the FBI Los Angeles Field Office with Daddy catching criminals an' sometimes Daddy helps too but Daddy is a mathematician at CalSci an' he works with Uncle Larry who’s a theoretical physicist an' cosmologist an' an astronaut an' is teaching me Greek an' Latin so I can look at the stars with him an’ he’s married to Aunty Megan who’s a criminal psychologist an’ catches criminals with Daddy an’ Uncle Don an’ on Saturday, Grandpa takes me to Temple so I can learn Hebrew an’ if there’s not a big case on, Grandpa cooks a big dinner an’ everyone comes over, even Becca sometimes who’s a teacher too but not all the time because Grandpa says she’s only sometimes talking with Uncle Don an’ other times she’s mad at him cause he’s married to his work and not her, but he’s been trying not to marry her for four years now an’ they should just get on with it or over it.” Esther finished with a firm nod.
Colby leaned over and whispered in Charlie’s ear. “Tell me that didn’t sound like a sitcom pitch.”
The three women looked at Charlie and Colby, once Esther had run out of breath. Colby had never realized just how odd his life sounded until it came eagerly from the mouth of a five-year-old.
“Esther, honey,” The teacher said sweetly, “Would you like to go outside and play while we talk to your daddies?” The teacher pointed to an open door with an enclosed play area beyond.
Esther looked at her fathers. “Can I have my book?”
“Sure.” Colby handed over a battered paperback copy of The Two Towers. Esther snatched it and ran outside. The women gave Colby an almost disbelieving look.
“Well, she finished Narnia a month ago. If she doesn’t have anything to read, she starts reading the dictionary and that’s just a little weird, even for our house.” Colby said defensively.
” We’re kinda hoping the Silmarillion will slow her down a bit. But her Elvish is getting good.” Charlie added.
“Along with the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew?” The principal asked.
Charlie shrugged. “You’d have to ask my Dad and Larry.”
The councilor rubbed her temples a bit. She had probably hoped this was a case of over eager parents seeing more that what was really there.
“When she calls you both ‘Daddy’, how do you know who she’s addressing?” the teacher asked.
“She uses a longer a sound when she’s talking about me and makes a slight t sound when she’s talking about Charlie,” Colby said. “You get used to it.”
“Well, obviously she’s going to need some sort of advanced program…”
“No.” Charlie cut in firmly. “She’s five. She needs to be in kindergarten with other five year olds.”
“Mr. Eppes, what she could learn here is marginal. In more advanced classes…”
“She’ll get bullied, or...or ignored by the teacher, and kids twice her size will make her do her their homework and...And when important people come to the school, she’ll be treated like some circus freak and she’s only five and…”
Colby could usually see a Charlie meltdown coming at least twenty minutes away but this was out of left field. “Charlie.” Colby cut in. “Why don’t you go outside and see how Esther is doing?”
Charlie looked at the startled faces of the women and then at Colby. Colby tried to plead with his eyes.
“I’ll…I’ll go check on Esther.” Charlie hurried outside.
Colby cleared his throat. “I’m sorry about that. Charlie is a little sensitive about Esther’s education.”
“Well, all parents…”
“No.” Colby said firmly. “Look, Charlie’s a genius, child prodigy, and I’m talking big-league, top 100 on earth, maybe top 20 in math. I don’t know how they do it now but with Charlie, they sent him to school where he was skipped five grades and sent to Princeton at thirteen, graduated at sixteen. It makes for smart but not necessarily…”
“Properly emotionally developed?” The counselor volunteered.
Colby shrugged. “Charlie is a great human, a good father and loves Esther more than anything, but he just wants her to be happy. If he gets one whiff that she’s uncomfortable or is being treated like a show pony, he will pull her from school so fast you won’t have a chance to say goodbye. I have no legal parental rights here, so there’s not much I could do to stop it. I know she needs to be challenged but she also needs to be around other kids. However this works, it’s going to have to be handled delicately.”
The women nodded. They might have other children from single gender households in the school but an FBI Agent and a math genius who was obviously still semi-closeted must add a little extra flavor.
“And Esther’s mother?” the teacher asked.
“Left her in a box on our door step with a birth certificate and a cruel note. If she hits town again, Charlie’s brother, my boss, will bust her for child abandonment and endangerment. Esther doesn’t know.”
The women all nodded again.
Colby looked out the door. Charlie was sitting on the bottom of a slide with Esther on his lap. He had his arms wrapped around her with his chin resting on top of her head as Esther read her book. Colby wished he had a camera. The women turned around to see what Colby was looking at. The frozen moment of parental love could melt anyone.
“Mr. Granger,” the counselor finally said. “We are very aware of the emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of our gifted students these days. Esther’s emotional and social development is just as important as her academic one. I’m sure we can work something out. Perhaps half-days here, and reading groups with discussion with older students. She has more advanced language abilities then I’m willing to bet her father had at the same age and an obviously outgoing personality, so her chances of being ignored or bullied should be greatly decreased. We may also be able to find a willing older student to act as sort of a mentor for her, to help her integrate in with older students.”
Colby nodded. “All right. I’m sure I can talk Charlie around to it, it’ll just take a little time. If you can write up something, that would be great, and if it has lots of numbers in it, all the better.”
“Is he really that smart?” The principal asked.
Colby looked at Charlie who appeared almost a child himself in sneakers with messy hair.
“Yeah, he really is that smart. He can look at a hundred pages of equations at a glance and tell you what’s wrong or what the answer should be. Uncle Larry, of no real relation, is just as smart. Uncle Don, her real uncle, is the FBI’s super agent ‘cause he can look at a crime scene the same way Charlie can look at a wall of equations. Sees things no one else does. Sweet, old, semi-retired Grandpa Alan can still read blueprints the way Esther reads books and tell you a month later if a wing nut was out of place. Then fact that Esther is fluent in two languages and working on another five is impressive but not necessarily extraordinary in that family.”
“And what about you?”
“Me? I’m the guy who stands around and tries to keep all these geniuses from acting like idiots.”