Well, so begins another story, hopefully a good one. To my Protect Me reviewers, as you can see, I got a majority of votes for this one, rather than the sequel. Sorry to those who said sequel first! The plot did change a little, but the main point of the story will be about Charlie hiding his blindness from Don.

Disclaimer: I do not own Numb3rs and do not think I do. I'm not that far in denial.

A very, very special thanks to FraidyCat for all her wonderful help with this. I couldn't have done it without her! So go thank her, too! She deserves it!

And thank you to my dear friend Maureen(better known on here as maurbil) for convincing me to keep this one for myself, rather than give it away.

Anyway, on with the story! I've stuck with third person. It's kinda grown on me...

Charlie Eppes couldn't contain his excitement. Few times did he and his brother Don get to spend time together, outside of work at least. That's what made this outing all the more special to him. They usually focused on work. Now was one-on-one time, just being brothers. Charlie was supposed to wait in the car. Don was inside a large two-story house getting the statement from a witness. Though he only left minutes before, Charlie was already outside the car.

Charlie and Don had planned a day at the batting cages. Don was better at baseball than his younger brother. But Charlie was intelligent and Don was a good teacher. Besides, Charlie was happy enough just being with his older brother.

Don had bought his younger brother his own bat. Charlie felt like a child who had just received an important heirloom from his or her parent. It was special to him since Don went to the trouble of buying it for him, an unspoken promise that today wasn't their last day spent together. Sure, Charlie could easily have bought his own, but it wasn't as special as it was coming from his idolized brother.

Charlie was outside by the car taking several practice swings. Something was off. He could feel it. He fought to remember the things Don had taught him many years before. Charlie looked down at his hands. He realized he'd forgotten the "knuckle line." Moving his hand along the bat, it felt better now. The bat still felt awkward and heavy in his hands, but he hoped after more practice swings it'd feel more natural. Until then, he imitated how he'd seen Don bat for years.

Charlie was too wrapped up in practicing to see the man at the back of the house. He did, however, notice when he came charging at him.

Startled, Charlie was unprepared for the man running full force at him. Frightened, he took a step back toward the car. The man stopped in front of him and looked inside the car to the ignition. There weren't any keys inside, like he'd hoped Charlie had taken them out when he left the air conditioned car to practice. The man turned to him with a glare in his eyes.

"Give me the keys," he said, threateningly, as he took a step closer to Charlie. Involuntarily, Charlie touched the outside of the pocket that held the keys. He gripped the bat, afraid he'd have to use it soon, but meanwhile he prayed he wouldn't.

Charlie shook his head. "N-no."

"Give me the keys!" The man demanded louder.

"No!" Charlie gathered more courage than he knew he had and swung the bat at the man. However, he was surprised when the man grabbed the bat with both hands and shoved, knocking Charlie into the side of the car. Charlie held onto the bat with all his strength, but it was not enough when he was hit hard in the shins. Yelping, Charlie let go and fell to his knees.

"Don!" he screamed, hoping his brother could hear him.

When he saw the man heading to the driver's seat, Charlie stood and hit the man on the side of his face.

"You son of a bitch!" The man pulled the bat back and swung as hard as he could, hitting Charlie in the back of the head. He immediately lost consciousness.


Don searched the house after he received no response from Melissa Thomas, a witness to a thrift store robberies. It was one of a chain of six robberies, each involving some sort of shooting. The woman had said she'd gotten a good look at the man, though facial features were hidden beneath a mask. She had been too traumatized immediately after to give them any straight answers. Don hoped this would be the lead that would help get to the bottom of this case.

The door had been open, slightly cracked, so he let himself in, keeping his weapon drawn. He made his way up the steps. Moving to a closed door at the top, he pushed it open with his foot. Don was surprised by what he found inside.

Melissa Thomas lay tied up at the wrists on the floor. A bag was tied tightly around her head, cutting off all air supply. Don checked for a pulse he knew wasn't there. So begins a new crime scene. He flipped open his cell phone and called one of the agents under his command.

"Hey, David, it's Don. Look, the witness to the thrift store robbery? She's been murdered. I need a team out here. Do you have the address?"

"Yeah, I've got it right here. Will you be there?"

"I'll wait around until the team arrives. I hope that's okay with Charlie," Don spoke while walking.

"We'll be there as soon as we can."

"All right."

Don stepped to a window and looked out toward the driveway. A normal sight wasn't what he found.

Don wasn't prepared to see an unfamiliar man swinging a bat at his brother's head.

"Charlie!" he shouted as he rushed to the steps.

"Don, what's going on?" David asked.

"I need an ambulance here, too!" With that, Don hung up.

The man was speeding out of the driveway, in his car. Don fired off several shots, aiming at the tires. The car was too far gone, though, and he wasn't able to stop it.

He turned his attention back to his brother's limp body. Leaning down, he checked for a pulse, fearing how limp his brother was. Don was relieved to find a steady pulse. Knowing the seriousness of a head injury, he didn't move his brother, though he lay face-down in the gravel. It would be painful, but he wouldn't dare move him.

"You're going to be okay, Buddy. I'm right here." Don tried to encourage his brother as he took his brother's hand in his.

Taking much too long for Don's taste, the CSU arrived, along with David and Colby.

Don turned his attention to the paramedics.

"He was hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat," he informed them when they came up to Charlie.

The medics proceeded to put a neck brace on Charlie, then they gingerly turned him over, placing a cushion beneath his injured head. Don knelt down with them after seeing Charlie's face. He wiped the gravel off his little brother's face and picked some out of Charlie's mouth. When a stretcher was placed on the ground beside Charlie, Don stood while the paramedics laid him gently on top.

He followed close behind, ready as soon as they were to leave. He ignored his friends, his fellow agents. They knew Charlie, too, and they cared about him. But Don had hardly processed it himself. How was he supposed to explain it to them?

Don did turn as the paramedics lifted Charlie into the back of the ambulance.

"I... I'll tell you all I know later. I...I can't right now, though." He looked pleadingly at David and Colby.

"It's all right, Don. Charlie will be okay," Colby assured his boss and friend.

Don nodded, not truly believing it, and got into the ambulance.

"How am I supposed to tell Dad about this?" Don asked himself, not knowing the answer.


Don didn't need to worry, though. As soon as the ambulance pulled out of the drive, Colby opened his cell and called Alan.

Alan was at home, smiling to himself with the knowledge that his two sons were going to be spending time together. He knew how much it meant to Charlie and hoped it meant a lot to Don, too. Charlie was unable to hide his enthusiasm this morning, reminding Alan of his son's childhood.

He was startled when the phone rang. He stood, walking to the phone.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Mr. Eppes? This is Colby."

"Oh, hi, Colby. Don and Charlie aren't here right now. They're going to the batting cages."

"Um, about that... Mr. Eppes, there's been some sort of incident."

Alan sank into the chair, fearing the line "there's been an incident."

"What happened?"

"We're not entirely sure. Don wasn't able to tell us much."

"Is he okay?"

"As far as we could tell. It's more about Charlie."

"Charlie? What could have happened to him? They were just going to the batting cages!" He felt the panic rising in him at the thought of his son hurt.

"Don made a stop. He was supposed to get a statement from a witness, but found her murdered in her home. Charlie was with him and someone hit him with a baseball bat in the back of the head. That's all I know. They're taking him to the hospital right now. Don's with him."

"I'll be there, too."

"Do you need a ride?"

"No thank you." Alan hung up the phone without another word.

What kind of mess was this all about? He feared the worst, though the injury didn't seem as bad as it could have been.

Alan sped to the hospital. He found his oldest son in the ER waiting room with his head in his hands, looking more miserable than Alan had ever seen him. He felt his heart soften and go out to his oldest son.

He walked up to Don, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Donnie?" Alan said softly, waiting for his son to look up at him.

When he did, Alan was surprised at the tears in his son's eyes. He wasn't expecting that.

"They... they think he may lose his eye sight... and it's all my fault."

Don dropped his head back to his hands and his shoulders shook. Alan sank down in the seat next to him, too stunned for words.

Success! I finally got this chapter up! I thought I never would. I know what you're thinking, "And it was still THAT short?" LOL So sorry! I've been busy and it's taken a while to get everything planned and ready. THANK YOU FRAIDYCAT!