This story is just a quick look into what would happen if there was a school shooting at CalSci, and Don couldn't be there to stop it. I don't own Numb3rs, and don't claim to. It's not mine, this is just my idea for a story.
Enjoy the angst!
Charlie stepped out into the hallway on a late Wednesday afternoon. The sunshine scattered across the hall floor from the open doorway of his office. Students passed by with quiet greetings, and Charlie smiled in return. These details didn't seem important to him, but he never realized that within a few minutes, he'd stop taking little things like that for granted.
Charlie was on his way to his next class when Larry called his name out from behind him.
Charlie turned and smiled, already knowing the voice was from his former professor, and, now, best friend, Larry Fleindhart. He watched as the professor came rushing forward, seeming to be flustered by something. Larry's hands were full of papers, papers he was about to drop.
"Larry, what do you need?" Charlie asked with a pleasant smile, only half laughing at his friend's disheveled appearance.
"Charles, I don't know what to do. My aunt called and says she's feeling under the weather and no one is there to help her. She tried to guilt me into coming to tend to her needs, but I told her I couldn't. I have three tests to give out, but now I'm afraid she's really ill and I need to be there to-"
"Larry, Larry! It's okay. I'll give out the tests for you, okay?"
"Oh, would you? I will be eternally indebted to you. Thank you, Charles."
"Hey, don't mention it. Go home. Go take care of your aunt."
"Thank you. Here are the tests." Larry handed over the bundle of papers he had had in his arms. Charlie took them, and smiled. He hoped that he could help Larry out. His friend had done plenty of stuff for him in the past, especially since he'd been doing so much work with his brother Don for the FBI.
Knowing that he couldn't carry all of his papers as well as Larry's, Charlie headed to his office to set down the tests for Larry's classes. He had just set them down when his day got considerably worse.
The first thing he heard was the stomping of feet as students stampeded down the hall past his office. Wondering what the fuss was, Charlie walked to the door to see what was going on. He found terror on the faces of the students who seemed to fly past him. Then the screams came, screams that seemed to echo down the halls. And, as Charlie looked farther down the hallway, he could see the reason for their fear.
A gunman in a black ski mask held a gun in his hand and fired rounds off into the air above him. But soon he changed his target, and started aiming at students. In the distance, Charlie could also hear fires being shot from outside.
His first reaction was fear. Charlie wanted to run, hide. His heart began pumping at an irregular speed. His hands were covered in a layer of sweat. But then Charlie's mind changed tracks. He knew he had to help.
Charlie couldn't hear himself think as he ran across the hall. The sound of gunshots, frightened students, and the racing of his own heart seemed ti fill his ears. The gunman began to get too close for comfort. Charlie entered a side hallway that connected two main hallways, and as he was covered by the wall, a student running behind him was shot. The young woman's body fell forward by the impact of the bullet and her limp form stretched into the hallway Charlie was in. Fearing for the woman, Charlie kept his back against the wall, to try to remain hidden from the gunmen, and quickly bent and searched for a pulse. As he should have expected, he found none.
"Oh, God," Charlie covered his mouth to keep from screaming, so the gunman wouldn't hear. For a moment he stared in shock at the young woman's body. Blood slowly seeped from the bullet hole, which had hit at the back of the girls neck. Charlie couldn't remember seeing so much blood, and he thought he was going to be sick.
He quickly went into a janitor's closet and hunkered down low in a corner. His mind screamed at him to call for help. But, rather than logically calling 9-1-1, he called the only person who he could think of: his brother Don. Don would help. Don would save him. He was his big brother. That's what big brothers do, right? They protect their younger siblings.
"Please, pick up. Please," Charlie was begging, near tears, when someone answered. However, it was not his brother.
"Don Eppes' office. This is Agent Reeves."
"Megan! Where's Don?"
"Charlie, is that you? What's going on?" Megan asked, hearing the fear in her friend's voice.
"I have to talk to Don. Please, put him on!" Charlie clenched and unclenched his fists. Adrenaline was rushing through his body, making his hands shake. He felt the urge to run, run far away, but he couldn't.
"He's not here right now. He's at a crime scene. What's going on, Charlie?"
"Please, please, help, Megan. There's... there's a gunman at CalSci, I think two. At least one student has already been shot. He's still here. Please, help."
Fearing for her friend, Megan got out her cell phone and dialed the three numbers needed.
"Okay, Charlie, I'm calling 9-1-1 right now. You just hang in there, okay? We'll take care of it, all right?"
"If... if I don't make it, please, tell Donny that I love him. Tell Dad, too. Tell everyone."
"Charlie, listen to me. You are not going to die. The police are coming. You're going to be fine."
"I hope so. Hurry, please." Charlie couldn't believe the whimpering tone his voice had become. He didn't feel any better when Megan promised he'd make it out and that she would call Don.
Looking around the small closet space for some form of a weapon, Charlie found a broken broomstick handle and picked it up. Shaking all over, Charlie brought himself to leave the janitor's closet, taking his makeshift weapon with him. If he had been smart, he would have stayed there, waited it out. He would have stayed and kept safe. If he'd been thinking... but he wasn't.
All Charlie knew was that he couldn't just sit by and let his students die. He had to do something to help, like Don would. Planning his course of action as he went, Charlie ran down the hall, toward one of the shooters. He wielded his wooden broomstick handle like a baseball bat, and snuck toward the shooter, trying to go unnoticed. It took all his strength to keep from shouting or crying as he passed dead, or dying students along the way. All he knew was that he had to get to the gunmen, he had to stop him before there were more victims.
When he saw the masked man turn a corner down a hallway, Charlie went the back way. The hall the man was going down was empty, but he made his way toward Charlie. Listening carefully, Charlie tried to judge where the man was and how soon he'd get to him. Charlie kept his broomstick in his hands, holding it like Don had taught him to hold a baseball bat. When he was sure the man was close, he stepped to the edge of the corner, and waited.
The man took one step and Charlie saw the tip of his shoes. With the man's next step, Charlie swung the handle as hard as he could and hit the man in the face, startling and momentarily blinding him as stars danced in front of his eyes. Charlie reached for the gun, and got a hold of it momentarily. Realizing what Charlie was doing, the man pulled back. Charlie fought to aim the gun away from them, but mainly himself. As the two struggled, Charlie got a good kick in, as his foot connected with the man's left shin. Bending, the man went down to the ground, his hand still on the gun. With a hard tug, Charlie got complete control of the gun. And then, in an act that was completely against his way of life, Charlie struck the man against the head with the barrel of the gun. He could have shot him, but he refused.
Standing over the man's limp form, Charlie breathed heavily. His legs shook, and he wasn't sure how much longer he could remain standing. His stomach heaved, and Charlie feared he'd throw up. Before he could turn from the shooter, a single shot rang out. But Charlie didn't even hear it at first. The first thing he noticed was the heat in his right side, just above his hip. He slowly reached down to touch the spot that now began to hurt. When he looked at his hand, it was already covered in red.
Charlie lifted his head and saw the other masked man in the distance, who had shot him with surprisingly good aim. Realizing what he had to do, Charlie stood for a few seconds, and then, he fell forward, not even catching himself when he fell.
His plan was to stay limp, so maybe the shooters would think he was dead. He laid face down on the floor, his hands laying limply at his sides. He kept his eyes lightly closed as he heard footsteps heading toward him. Shaking in fear, he heard the man's steps right by his head. Charlie fought to remain still, limp, so the man wouldn't suspect he was alive.
When Charlie heard another shot go off, he had to hold him breath to keep from screaming. He prayed the shooter hadn't seen his body jerk in reaction to the shot. Then he heard shots in the distance, and realized that there had been three shooters, or maybe the police had arrived.
Quickly the man's feet stepped away. Then there was another stampede of people running toward him, screaming and crying as they ran through the path of the latest victims. Going unnoticed, one man lay, still alive. Because if he moved, he feared he'd surely die.
Don wasn't expecting the call he got. Megan called to tell him that there was a shooting at CalSci and that the police were on their way. Don's heart stopped beating, and when it started up again, it threatened to pound out of his chest. Before telling Colby where he was going, Don ran to his car and drove to CalSci.
Police cars were already there when Don arrived, and he realized that the shooting was over. He rushed toward the main building, but an officer held him back.
"I'm sorry, sir. No one is allowed past the yellow tape."
"FBI." Don flashed his badge at the man, and, without waiting for a response, he ran past the man and inside the building.
"Charlie!" Don called, disturbing police officers at work. He ran through the halls, looking for some sign of his brother.
"He's fine. You haven't seen him. He must have gotten out, gone home, run away. He must be safe and sound at home, with Dad..." Don was telling himself those things when he went through the majority of the building without seeing his brother. But, as if jinxing it, within a minute of thinking that, Don found the head of curls. His heart stopped beating once again.
"No." Don wanted to scream, but all that came out was a whisper. His brother's body lay face down on the floor, a small puddle of blood seeping out of his side, and a body lay beside him. His eyes immediately glazed over with tears as he knelt on the floor by his brother.
"Damn it." He reached out and turned his brother over. He had to blink a few times, to see if his eyes were deceiving him from the tears, because he could have sworn he saw tears on his brother's face.
Charlie had heard the footsteps. He thought for sure he had been found. A gunman had returned, looking for last minute victims. He had seen him breathe, heard his tears. Somehow the man knew he was still alive. He wasn't the actor he thought he was. And so his tears fell faster now, as he waited for the bullet that would end his life.
But then something else happened. The man turned him over and touched his neck. He managed to hold back a flinch, but how could he hide the tears?
Reaching out, Don felt his brother's neck, searching for any sign of a pulse. And, to his surprise and delight, he found one.
"Buddy? Charlie? Can you hear me?"
Slowly Charlie opened his eyes. With his eyes opened to tiny slits, he could barely make out the form of his brother's body, or so he hoped. Taking a risk, he opened his eyes all the way, and found that he was right. It wasn't a gunmen. It was his brother.
Charlie jumped up and into his brother's arms. He latched himself onto Don, gripping him tightly.
"Tell me it's over. Please," Charlie said as he began to cry. He buried his face in his brother's shoulder, hiding from the hell his school had become. Charlie's body began to shake violently as his fear washed over him. Realizing that his brother needed some sort of safeguard, Don held his little brother tightly, trying to support him. Now, Don also let his own tears come. His brother was safe. He wasn't dead.
But he did get shot.
Remembering the blood, Don only gave Charlie a few more seconds of comfort before he pushed his brother back. "Are you hurt? What happened?"
As if the pain decided to return, Charlie winced. He pointed to his side, and lifted his shirt. He hadn't seen the wound, yet, and when he did, he had to look away.
"I need a medic over here!" Don screamed down the hallway, where he saw a group of police officers and EMTs.
"It's okay, Buddy. You'll be all right."
The graze was deep, but it could have been much worse. It was bleeding heavily, but it didn't appear to be life-threatening.
As he caught sight of the nearing EMTs, Charlie reached out for his brother's hand.
"You're okay," Don reassured his brother again. Charlie gave his brother one last pleading look before the EMTs swarmed in.
Still holding to his brother's hand, Don squeezed tightly. Charlie was okay. Nothing worse than a bullet wound. Nothing fatal. Charlie would be okay. He'd survive.
Don told himself these things, but then he remembered how Charlie had gotten there. A school shooting wasn't something you got over in a day. Don remembered the case he had worked over a year ago. The students had all been shaken, fragile, scared. Though his brother was older, how could Don expect Charlie to be so different? Charlie had been a victim of the three shooters. He had gone so far that he had faked his death, just to keep from being victimized again. That wasn't something to take lightly, and it definitely wasn't something that Charlie would recover from right away.
So for now, Don contented himself to just holding his brother's hand. He would be there for Charlie, as long as his brother needed him.
By the next morning Charlie was back at home. The bullet had passed clean through without hitting any vital organs or arteries. After being stitched and patched up, he was able to go home the next morning, after spending the night for observation. Alan had come to him immediately, demanding Don to tell him what was going on and if Charlie was okay. He didn't stop bothering Don until he saw Charlie for himself.
And now all three Eppes men were at Charlie's house, moving around in silence. Charlie was upstairs in his room, trying to get some sleep after a restless night. The doctor had suggested sleeping pills, especially after such a traumatizing experience. However, Charlie remained adamant about not taking sleeping pills.
Don and Alan were in the living room, quietly letting their own thoughts take over, rather than making pleasant conversation. Don knew he had to get to work soon. He was thinking about how to work his schedule around Charlie. He wanted to be able to comfort his brother, and support Charlie if he needed it. So he would have Megan cover for him later this evening, and just call if anything happened and he was needed. He couldn't leave Charlie all day. But he couldn't ignore his job. So where was the comfortable line between right and wrong, where there seemed to be a perfect medium?
Alan wondered how his sons seemed to enter this world of guns and violence. Why couldn't they just go back to that young age where their world was still protected from everything else? He wished they could back before the dangers of adulthood broke them down. Before the outside universe got in, before it ever even touched them. Maybe then he could protect them from this present hour. But Alan truly doubted it.
Upstairs, in the darkened area under the covers, Charlie's mind whirled. He felt as though he were back on the floor at CalSci, faking death to prevent that same thing. He could hear his heart beat, so what was to stop the gunmen from hearing it, too? Charlie tried to stop breathing, afraid that the rise and fall of each breath would alert the gunmen to his living form. All he could do was remain limp, as still as possible. As he heard the footsteps approaching, he felt the urge to run. But running would mean death. And death was not an option, when there was still life to live.
Stomp, stomp. The footsteps came closer, until they stopped. Charlie wondered is the gunmen was gone, but he could feel his presence linger. He wanted to look up, but he knew he couldn't. For then he'd know for sure that he's alive.
In a moment that seemed too torturous to be real, a hand reached out and touched him. The adrenaline rushed. He couldn't ignore it now. He turned, and screamed.
Chest heaving with every strangled breath, Charlie stared up at his brother. The fear remained, but he recognized Don, and he knew he was safe. But that was not how he felt.
"Whoa, whoa!" Don said loudly, holding both hands up, showing he was not a threat. He looked at his little brother, seeing the fear written there. He was just coming up to say he was about to leave for work. But it's obvious he wouldn't be leaving for a while.
Don eased onto Charlie's bed. Charlie swallowed hard, his breathing beginning to slow. He pushed at the covers that stretched across his body, leaving him feeling exposed to the world. Tentatively, he changed his mind and reached out to grab his comforter and covered up. He waited for Don to say something, knowing there were questions on his brother's mind.
"Charlie? Buddy, are you all right?" Don asked when he finally felt Charlie was calm enough. Charlie looked away, feeling weak and scared.
"It's okay, Buddy. I'm here," Don said, touching his brother's hand. Charlie flinched, but allowed the touch this time. He still wouldn't look at his brother, but he began to open up.
"It just seemed to happen. Students went running by my office. I heard their screams, and then the gunshots. I wanted to know what was going on, so I stepped out. It seemed like everything sped up. I crossed the hallway and a student behind me got shot and killed. I watched her die. I... I went into a closet and hid while I tried to call you. I couldn't think of anyone else to call, not even 9-1-1. And then I knew that if you weren't coming right away, I had to do something." Charlie chuckled, lacking humor in his voice. Don watched, trying to understand what Charlie had gone through. He didn't want to speak, for fear that Charlie would stop talking.
"I... I wanted to help. I wanted to be more like you. So I hit one of them with a broomstick handle. I managed to knock him out, but then there was another. When he shot me, I just went limp. I had to stop, look dead. And then I heard everyone. They screamed. People died by me. Their faces... they're everywhere. I didn't help. I should have done more, but I didn't. I just became a stupid, useless coward when I faked being dead. I should have fought harder. But I didn't."
Charlie began shaking and he clenched his fists in front of him as he brought his knees up to his chest. He bent his head down, hiding his face in his knees. He shook, the fear still their, the faces of his dead students were there. And always, always the face of the gunmen seemed to stare at him. He should have fought harder. But he didn't.
"No... no, Charlie. You did the right thing. You were so brave. You know, I don't know if I could have done what you did. It took a lot of guts. I fight, but I have a gun in my hands. You had a broomstick handle." Don chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. But it was obvious his brother didn't feel the same way about it.
"Charlie, if you hadn't done what you did, you'd probably be dead right now. You can't blame yourself for living. You did what you had to do to survive. And I'm proud of you for what you did."
For a moment Charlie raised his head and looked at his brother. He didn't bother trying to hide the tears that wet his cheeks. "Really?" he asked quietly.
Don smiled before his brother bent his head again. "Really."
Charlie nodded, lowering his face to his knees again. Soon Don could hear the quiet sobs coming from his brother. Briefly Don just sat, letting his brother cry. But Don soon realized that he should do more than that. He moved on the bed so that he was sitting beside his brother. Wrapping an arm around his brother's shoulder, he left it there as Charlie cried. Then Charlie looked up at Don, misery shining in his eyes. Don just looked back, then took his brother fully in his arms, holding him tightly. Charlie sobbed out his fears, leaning on his brother for the support he needed to fully recover. Only then could he move on.
Hey, guys! Sorry it's been forever since I've posted anything. School is a mess. I'm ready for it to be over. There is another chapter to this about when Charlie finds out about the gunmen and who they were. That sorta thing. So, be on the lookout for that, but not too soon. I doubt it'll coming soon, though. Sorry! I'll see you later, though. Reviews are highly welcomed! Thanks!