This is a changed storyline to the episode Sniper Zero, from season one. You should have watched the episode first, but it won't be confusing if you didn't. It would just be a good idea. Don is weaker than usual in this one, which I would imagine would happen if this situation were real. I wanted to make something clear, not that I think there was any confusion about it. I love Numb3rs and the episodes that I've changed around are actually my favorites. That's why I want to make them even better. That's why I write Numb3rs stories because I love it so much, not that I want to change it. So, with that settled, I do not own Numb3rs, nor the episode Sniper Zero, the characters, actors, writers, creators, etc. You get the point. I also am not an expert when it comes to math, medical issues, or the FBI. So, when something doesn't make sense, bear with me, unless you know better, then help me. LOL I hope you enjoy this one-shot! Sorry that the title isn't very good. I've been trying to get a story for each letter of the alphabet.
"Please, David. This is important! If we don't catch him now, who knows when we will?" Charlie pleaded with the agent. He was referring to Nathan Crane, who had started a sniper epidemic. They were trying to break his cycle by catching him today, before he killed someone else. He had already taken four lives, not including those he was indirectly responsible for due to the outbreak of snipers. They had found where his next location would likely be, but they didn't know from where he would be shooting. If David would take him to the site, Charlie was sure he could find him.
"Charlie, I can't do that. I can't risk putting you in danger. Do you have any idea what your brother would do to me if I did?" David argued, thinking the professor crazy for even considering it.
"It's not Don's decision. It's mine. Look, do you want someone else to be killed today and let Crane get away? When will we find him next? This is our chance, man. We have to find him. And I can help."
David sighed, shaking his head in disbelief. "Fine. But you stay by me, all right? No wandering around. I can't have you getting shot."
Charlie smiled. "Thank you, David! You won't regret it."
David walked ahead of him to his car. "I already regret it," he muttered to himself.
As they drove silently to Banitek Tower, Charlie took out his note pad and began writing. When they pulled up, Charlie quickly got out and stood by the car, jotting down likely locations for Crane's position. Just looking at the surrounding buildings got his mind whirling in numbers. The higher windows held more probability, since if Crane positioned himself lower, it would be more likely that he'd be seen or caught. Writing down a few equations, Charlie paced in front of the car.
Don was on his way back from inspecting Nathan Crane's car when he saw his worst nightmare. Charlie was standing in front of David's black sedan, in plain view. He would be a perfect target. Don's heart began racing faster than his legs, so he had to call out to Charlie to make sure he knew to get down. Running toward his brother, Don called to Charlie to get down. But before Charlie had time to comprehend who was calling his name and why he should get down, Don watched his little brother get shot in the left arm and tossed to the grown roughly from the impact of the bullet.
"Charlie!" His scream went on for an endless note.Don wasn't sure his legs would continue holding him, since his heart had stopped beating and his breathing had become so shallow it was pointless to bother. Another shot rang out, but then no more, and Don prayed that it meant Crane was down. He didn't care that he was a moving target as he ran to his brother. He would take ten bullets if it would keep Crane from shooting Charlie again.
One step: Charlie was on the ground.
Two steps: he was crying out for Don.
Three steps: he found the blood.
Four steps: Charlie looked around frantically for Don.
FIve steps: he gripped his wound, clotting the bleeding with his hand.
Six steps: he began to panic.
Seven steps: Charlie found Don.
An achingly long amount of time seemed to pass between point a to point b. Don had felt like he was stuck in a slow-motion video and the space between him and his brother just kept getting longer instead of shorter. Finally reaching Charlie, he pushed away all the other emotions racing through him at the moment, and held onto concern.
"Let me see it. Are you all right?"
"Donny... It hurts," Charlie cried, pressing his hand against the wound. Blood seeped from between Charlie's fingers and across his hand, spreading down to his wrist.
"Let me look at it," Don said, forcing Charlie's hand away. The bullet appeared to have gone through, but the amount of blood he was losing was dangerous. Don assumed an artery was hit and he worried more.
"Someone call an ambulance?" Don called, half in question, half in order.
"They're on their way, Don."
Don looked up at David, a glare in his eyes. He had seen Charlie come out of the agent's sedan. It was obvious David had brought Charlie. Though Don felt enough anger toward him to do some real damage, he ignored his feelings toward David and focused solely on his brother.
Don tore off his jacket and quickly used it as a bandage for his brother's arm, hoping to clot the bleeding until the ambulance arrived. Charlie's wide, panicked eyes took in everything around him and his breathing took on a different rhythm. Fearing his brother's anxiety, Don tried to get Charlie to calm down.
"Hey, Buddy. It's going to be okay, all right? You'll be fine."
Don gently hoisted Charlie's upper body so that he was propped against Don's legs. Charlie finally focused on Don's face, and tears came to his eyes. He was scared, and he didn't know what to do.
"Am... am I going to d-die?" Charlie asked, his body shaking as he fought the urge to scream.
Don's eyes widened. He didn't even want to consider that. It wasn't a possibility. It couldn't be.
"No, Buddy. Not on my watch, you're not. I won't let that happen, okay?" Don's voice got hoarse from emotion and he coughed to remedy that.
Charlie lifted his blood-streaked hand and touched the side of Don's face. "I love you."
Don's eyes watered over and he shook his head, determined. "No! You do not get to do this to me, understand? You don't get to die on me. Not you, Charlie. Never you, okay?"
Charlie twisted in his arms and moaned, pressing his tear-streaked face into Don's leg. "It hurts, Don... It hurts so much. Make it stop," Charlie cried, gripping a fistful of Don's jeans. The pain was overwhelming, the wound feeling hot.
"It'll be okay, Buddy. It'll stop soon. We'll get you all better, okay?" Don forgot any anger he felt toward his brother. He could never blame him for this, not when something so bad had happened to him. Tears stung his eyes as he looked down at his baby brother, covered in blood and full of pain.
"Tell Dad... I love him."
"No! Charlie, listen to me. You're not going to die. You hear me? I won't let you."
"I'm sorry." Charlie's lower lip quivered as he looked up at his brother. He knew he had really messed up this time.
"Don't... don't apologize, Buddy. You're going to be okay."
Charlie closed his eyes against the tears and pain, tightening his hold on his brother's jeans, near Don's left knee. He tossed his head from side to side, gritting his teeth against the sharp pain. He reached his right hand over to the wound and pressed Don's jacket tighter against it.
"I want Mom," Charlie whispered weakly.
Don's heart began to beat faster than normal, fear running through his veins. "No... Stay with me. Stay with me, Charlie."
Don's tears finally escaped his eyes. "Damn it," he muttered, angry that his strength wavered.
Charlie opened his eyes when he felt one of his brother's tears land on his face, mixing with his own tears. "Don't cry, Don... Mom will take care of me."
"NO! I'm going to take care of you, understand? No one else! You're not going to leave me! I won't let you!" Don's words were determined, but he was beginning to wonder how much longer he'd have his brother with him.
"That's not your choice." Charlie closed his eyes, this time because his strength was fading and he was getting too tired to keep his eyes open.
When Don finally heard the ambulance siren, he breathed a little easier. Charlie was still conscious, muttering about his mother and when he was going to see her. Don rode to the hospital with him, fighting away the tears as he watched his brother in pain. Mercifully, Charlie lost consciousness by the time they arrived at the hospital. When they took Charlie back, Don couldn't remember when he had felt so alone before.
Realizing how to remedy that moments later, Don called Charlie's house. He was surprised when the answering machine picked up, and wondered how he would leave a message like the one he had for his father.
"Come to the hospital, Dad." That was all Don could get out.
Alan had been cleaning and decided to let the answering machine get it. But when he heard his oldest son's voice telling him to go to the hospital, he picked up the phone in an instant.
"Donny? What's going on?"
When his only response was a strangled sob, Alan spoke, "I'm on my way."
Don put his cell phone away and went back to the E.R. waiting room. He wiped his tears and took a deep breath. He was stronger than this. He wouldn't break in front of all these people, these strangers. He would try his best to keep his image. When Alan didn't arrive in five minutes, Don had to put his feet to use and walked out to the parking lot to meet his father.
When his father's familiar figure came rushing toward him, Don felt the tears prick his eyes once more. He blinked rapidly, pushing them away for another time.
"What's going on?"Alan asked, seeing the blood on his son's face and jeans.
Don followed his father's gaze to his legs and shook his head. "It's not mine."
Alan's eyes widened in horror. "Charlie's?"
Don's throat tightened with emotion. He couldn't tell Alan if he wanted to, so he nodded his answer.
"Oh, God." Alan's legs weakened and he hurried inside to a chair in the waiting room. Don followed close behind. When he felt he could speak, he explained what happened to Charlie. Barely making it to the end without a tear, Don finished the story, and feared his father's response.
Though Alan wanted to be mad at Don, since it was exactly what he had warned his son about before, he couldn't yell at Don. It was obvious how much turmoil Don had already been put through. To yell at him now would be heartless of him. So Alan pushed down his anger, to save for later.
"He'll be okay, Donny." Alan gave a weak smile and patted his son's knee.
Don nodded, though he honestly didn't think it was true. He had to get away for a moment, so he stood and walked to the bathroom. He walked to the sink to splash some cold water on his face when he caught a glimpse of his reflection. Getting a better look, Don stared at the three, vertical smudged lines of blood on his face where Charlie had touched his left cheek. Seeing the blood made Don's stomach lurch as he thought about how much blood Charlie lost and how dangerous it was. Running into a stall, Don emptied his stomach of all its contents. Sobs racked him, making him shake even more. Tears poured down his face as he hovered over the toilet.
Alan came in to check on Don when he was gone for several minutes. When he heard heaving sobs coming from the only occupied stall, he hurried over. The door was wide open and Don sat on the floor, leaning against one wall. His knees were pulled up to his chest and his arms were wrapped tightly around them. Tears created a waterfall down his face as he pressed his face into his knees.
Don looked up when he heard his father's voice. Seeing the concern on Alan's face, Don couldn't look at him anymore. He didn't deserve concern. Alan should be worried about Charlie, not him.
"Sh," Alan soothed as he scooted over to his son. He took Don in his arms and hugged him tightly. Don's whole body shook from the sobs. He held Don for several minutes before Don pulled away, knowing that Alan should go.
"Are you ready to go back?" Alan asked, looking in Don's tear-filled eyes.
Don's eyes widened. "No! No, I... I c-can't go back there. I can't do it!"
Alan's eyes assessed Don's panic. When Don shook his head back and forth, Alan reached out both his hands and cupped Don's face with his hands.
Don gulped in each breath as he continued on. "I can't wait around for them to tell me he's not going to make it... I can't listen to them say he's gone. I can't. Please, please don't make me!'
Alan's eyes filled with tears for his son's tortured soul. He knew that Don couldn't do it because he didn't want to relive Margaret's death when the two of them brought her to the hospital, only to later find that she was gone.
"Don't make me," Don cried, though now with more strength in his voice.
Alan waited a moment before responding, taking in the situation. "I won't make you do anything, Donny. You can leave if you want, but I know you'd regret it later. Charlie will want you here when he gets out, and he will get out. He's going to be okay, Don, and he's going to be looking for you. You can leave if you want. I'm going back to the waiting room so someone will be there when they come to give us the news. I trust you'll do the right thing."
Alan patted Don's shoulder before standing to leave. Don stayed, weighing his options. He couldn't take hearing his brother was dead, which he was sure he was after the way Charlie had talked before losing consciousness. It would be torture for him to go through it again. But if Charlie was okay, or if there was even the slightest chance that he would be, Don had to be there.
Wiping his face with a piece of toilet paper, Don stood and walked to the sink once more. He washed the blood off his face and splashed cold water over his eyes to help take away the redness. Feeling as ready as he could be, he walked out and sat beside his father, who smiled proudly at him.
Soon a nurse came out and said that Charlie was in surgery and the doctor wouldn't be out for a while. Though they had enough time to leave and come back, Don would not allow it. He stayed in the waiting room the entire time, waiting to hear about his baby brother.
When a doctor came out in bloody scrubs, Don felt his heart fall. He had that look, the look that meant it wasn't good news. The look that meant Charlie was dead.
"Oh, God," Don whispered before the doctor came up to them.
"Are you here for Charles Eppes?"
"Yes," Alan answered a little hoarsely.
"I'm Dr. Joseph Carter. I was Charlie's surgeon."
"What surgery did Charlie have?" Alan asked.
"When the bullet went through his arm, it nicked the brachial artery. It needed to be repaired and he had to be given a blood transfusion due to the excessive amount of blood loss. He's in the ICU at the moment, but we expect a full recovery."
"Thank you, doctor," Alan said, tears shining in his eyes at the news. Don, however, broke into tears.
"Easy, Donny. Easy." Alan rubbed Don's back comfortingly.
"I thought I lost him," Don cried.
"I know. But you didn't."
Dr. Carter looked down at them, sympathy shining in his eyes.
"May we see him?" Don asked tearfully.
"He's still under from the anesthesia. But you may see him."
Alan led the way to Charlie's hospital room and Don hung back, timid. When the door opened to reveal Charlie, lying helpless on the bed, Don felt his heart break. His brother's arm was heavily bandaged, and a tube stuck out of his other arm, giving him blood to make up for the blood he had already lost. Don walked slowly up to Charlie and touched his brother's face, smoothing the curls that covered his right eye.
"Hi, Buddy," he said quietly. Just that sentence was enough to bring tears to his eyes. Don never thought he would get to say that to Charlie again. And now that he could, he was overwhelmed with joy.
About an hour later, Charlie woke, with Don hovering close by. Alan was in the cafeteria, finding their supper for the night, when Charlie's brown eyes opened to look at his older brother.
Don's head came around to look at his brother's face. He smiled brightly when he saw his brother was awake. "Hey, Buddy."
Charlie looked from his brother to his arm and then back. Remembering what happened, his eyes filled with tears. "I'm sorry."
Don reached out and touched his brother's good shoulder. "No, Buddy. Don't even think about it, okay?"
Charlie's eyes closed, but tears still managed to slide down his face. Don stopped them with the back of his hand and soothingly touched Charlie cheek. Charlie turned his head and pressed into Don's warm hand.
"I thought I'd lost you," Don admitted hoarsely.
Charlie looked up at his brother and saw that Don had been through more than he knew. He gave a small smile and opened his arms. "I'm here, Don. I'm not going anywhere."
Don laughed, but his eyes were full of tears when he accepted his brother's embrace. He held on a little tighter than he should have and relished in knowing that his brother was alive.
"I love you, Buddy... so much."
Charlie smiled, having not heard that from his brother in so long. "I love you, too, Don."
Alan smiled when he saw his two sons hugging. He knew that one without the other would never survive. Which was exactly why he was so thankful that they still had each other. With any luck, his sons would outlive him. Together, they would get through anything, as long as they had each other.