Hello! This story is about the latest episode of Numb3rs from season five, titled Arrow of Time. It's the one about Don and Buck Winters. There are some spoilers, but not a whole lot because I am changing the ending. I pick up my story from when Charlie said that he had predicted Buck's next move in the episode. The rest is my take, not the episode's take. Minimal spoilers, but I would feel better if you had seen the episode, so you can follow along easily. I send my apologies to my Cry Because It Happened readers, but I HAD to write something on that episode. I wasn't exactly disappointed, just thought it could have been better if it was done a little different. Anyway, I have no rights to Numb3rs, I don't own it, and make no profit!

NOTE: I did start this before I read anyone else's version of this episode. I see that it's become a "fad" on our fanfic site. I know mine and FraidyCat's have some similar dialogue or thoughts blooming, but luckily no two people have done the exact same thing. Hope I don't steal anyone's idea. I'd hate to be the one to break that. I love everyone else's take so far! Great job, guys!

Larry Fleinhart walked into Charlie Eppes' office, hoping to check in on his friend and colleague. They were working on a particularly hard case, if for no other reason than the personal connection to it. They were dealing with three escaped prisoners, but only one of them held any real meaning to them: Buck Winters. The young man had been through a lot in his 19 years. He had run off and married a woman almost twice his age and the two turned into the modern day Bonnie and Clyde. During their killing and stealing spree, the FBI had caught Buck Winters, and in turn, Buck's wife, Crystal, kidnapped Agent Megan Reeves. Don and Agent Ian Edgerton worked together, pushing the lines, to get information out of Buck. In the end, it worked and they were able to get Megan back. Later, Don had killed Crystal as the fugitive drove straight at a line of agents, determined not to get caught.

Now, Buck had escaped, and Charlie was working with the FBI to bring him and the other prisoners back. Charlie was sitting in front of a dry erase board, staring at the equation in front of him and the results it brought.

"I trust your math is going well?" Larry questioned, sensing his friend was not satisfied with his work.

"I ran Buck's motives through an equation, and I... I predicted his next move."

"Is there a problem with that?" Larry frowned. His friend's voice held strain.

"Yeah, you could say that." Charlie pushed back, making room for his friend to see the board in front of him.

Larry stared at the board a moment, following along with the equation, and found the circled area that marked the predicted location. He had to hold in a gasp.

"Charles, have you told Don what you found?"

"Not yet," Charlie said as he stood. He patted his friend's arm, leaving the room before there could be any argument between them.

Larry's stomach suddenly hurt, and he feared his friend's safety was in jeopardy.


Charlie made it to the FBI office shortly after talking to his friend. He had stared at the equation for twenty minute, hoping and praying he had done something wrong, that his outcome wasn't right. But he knew it made sense. It was a logical move for Buck Winters to make. Why was it so hard for him to believe?

Don was sitting in one of the conference rooms, the TV on with footage from when he had shot Crystal Hoyle flashing on the screen. Charlie swallowed hard, afraid to tell his brother the news he had. Instead, he said something else.

"Why didn't you tell me Buck Winters escaped?" Charlie asked without another word of greeting.

Don looked up and away from the TV, surprised to find his brother there. "What?"

"You heard me. Why didn't you tell me Buck Winters escaped?"

"Look, Charlie, it's just another case. The bad guy is on the loose, we'll go get him, and throw him back in prison again."

"It isn't just another case, Don. This is serious. Buck is looking for revenge, and you know it. How could you not tell me? You talk about me being in my own little world, but, damn it, Don, you have been this entire case. You have to snap out of it! He's going to strike against you, and when that happens, you won't know what hit you."

Don looked up at his brother tiredly. "I didn't tell you because it didn't concern you. David was going to fill you in anyway."

"David shouldn't have had to tell me! You're my brother. You should have told me yourself. Did you ever think Buck could come after one of us to get to you?"

Don's heart jumped at the question. He had thought of it, but he didn't expect it to happen, so he didn't hang onto it. "Of course, I have, Charlie. Just... he's after me, and he's going to come after me alone. It's not a big deal. I can handle him."

Charlie sighed. "You might not be worried, but Dad and I are. You haven't seen how scared Dad is. He knows what Buck has done and he knows what he's capable of doing. You need to stop thinking about you, and start thinking about your family and friends. We're out here doing our bests, and you're sitting here all stony faced with nothing to say. Don, we need you to give us a little hope that you're okay and that we're all going to be okay." Charlie paused. "I need you to tell me it's going to be okay."

Don looked to his brother, heard the fear in his voice, and realized he'd been selfish. Though he knew in his heart he could handle the situation by himself, he wasn't allowing his friends and family to take care of him, and he wasn't giving them much reassurance. Don reached out and squeezed his brother's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Buddy. I promise you, we're going to catch this guy. It's going to be all right, really. You'll see."

Charlie managed a weak smile. "I know."

Don smiled for the first time since the investigation started. He stood from his chair and started to leave the room, but his brother's voice stopped him.

"Don?" Charlie said quietly, his voice timid and unsure.

"Yeah, Buddy?"

"Just... just watch out for yourself."

Don nodded. "You, too."

Charlie felt sick to his stomach, anything but reassured. He should have told Don, but seeing his brother being put in direct danger, and remembering the way his father had been so scared the past couple days, Charlie knew he had to do this on his own.

For his family.


Don sat at his desk, his head in his hands. He wished Megan were there, because he had a feeling she would somehow reassure him. He should feel fine, safe. His team, girlfriend, and brother were all fighting for him. He had seen the way Robin had questioned one of the escaped prisoners. He had never seen her so angry and determined. It was a lot for her to deal with, he knew. He hated what it did to his friends and family. If it were just him, he'd be fine. But this was different. There were a lot more people involved than just him. Don felt his heart ache when his father admitted his fear. He never wanted that for him. Robin was distraught with worry. David, Liz, Colby, and Nikki were working harder than ever to catch them. And Charlie... he didn't really know what his brother was doing, but he had a feeling Charlie was putting in more hours than usual on this case.

Don, however, found it hard to do anything. He didn't feel safe going out. He didn't want to risk going to his family home, for fear Buck would follow him there. He didn't want to go to Robin's for the same reason. He didn't want to go to his apartment, because Robin was often there. So he spent most of his time at the office, even sleeping at his desk a few nights. He was fine being targeted. He had no fear when it came to facing Buck. He didn't care if he got hurt. But this was different than Albuquerque. He had family and friends who counted on him. He had a personal stake in his team. He couldn't be as careless as he would have been there. Don knew his family were worried and his friends and fellow agents just wanted this one to be over. So Don was going to be careful, for them.

For his family.


Charlie was working late at CalSci. He was scared to go home. His father had been through so much. He knew he'd be worried. Alan had barely slept lately, his fears keeping him up late at night. Charlie understood that fear. It was the same fear that sliced through his heart the moment he heard the name Buck Winters again. David had thought he knew, but once again, Don had kept him out. Don hadn't told him about going to Temple. Don hadn't told him about him and Liz getting together, or him and Robin breaking up, or getting back together. It was like after high school. Don just started cutting Charlie out of his life, one step at a time, until they weren't talking at all. Charlie hoped that wouldn't happen this time. He understood his brother was going through a lot in his life, but he still didn't see that as an excuse to cut ties with his family.

Charlie was getting ready to leave when it happened. He was locking up his office. No one else was there, even the janitors had left by that point. So Charlie was surprised when he heard footsteps down the hall. He took a deep breath, his gut telling him who it was before the figure came into the hallway light. From a distance, he could make out the shape of Buck Winters, knowing without doubt it was him.

"Do you have any idea what your brother did to me?" Buck asked. He gave no word of introduction, knowing the professor recognized him.

"Yes, Buck, I do."

"I bet you don't. Your brother took me into a room, closed the curtains, and beat information out of me. He broke my fingers, twisted my wrists. He and that other guy in there tortured me until I told them where Crystal was. Do you know what it feels like to give up the woman you love? To know you were the cause of her death?"

Charlie shook his head, his stomach lurching as the light shone off of Buck's gun at his side.

"I didn't think so. He killed her. He took her from me. Crys was the only thing that mattered to me anymore. I didn't have anyone else to go to. She took care of me, and I threw her to the wolves! I was weak, and it was all your brother's fault. He shot her. He did this. It's his fault."

"Cr-Crystal was a criminal. She was going to kill those agents if he hadn't fired. She was going to run them down with her car."

"I don't care! Crystal was good, and you don't understand that. She jut had a lot of bad things happen to her."

"It was either that, or she was going to go to prison, just like you. I don't think she wanted that. She knew if she surrendered they would have taken her into custody."

"You're lying! She just wanted to live! She wanted to get away from them! She never would have given up like that! Don killed her!"

"Maybe, but she wanted it, Buck. You can't deny that."

Buck quickly grabbed the gun at his side and pointed it at Charlie. "Shut up! Just shut the hell up!"

Charlie raised his hands, trying to show he wasn't a threat. He kept his mouth shut, afraid to say anything more.

Buck kept the gun pointed at Charlie while he reached down and grabbed his cell phone from his pocket. "Get over here."

Charlie closed his eyes, giving a silent prayer, as he moved the rest of the way to Buck, closing the space between them.

Buck quickly punched in a few numbers in his phone and then held it up to his ear. "Do you know who this is?" he asked after hearing the voice of the man who killed his wife.

"Then you know why I'm here, why I escaped. You killed the woman I loved, now I'm going to kill someone you love."

On the other end, Don's heart stopped beating. He didn't think Buck had that mindset. He thought the young man would go straight to him. How could he have underestimated him?

"I'll give you what you gave me... one last phone call."

Buck thrust the phone into Charlie's hands. Don held his breath, afraid of whose voice he'd hear. He hadn't seen Robin in hours. She was supposed to have gone home. His heart lurched, afraid he'd hear her voice.


Don's breath caught. "Charlie?"

"Listen, I'm sorry, okay? I love you, Don. It's going to be okay. Take care of Dad, all right? Tell him I love him. It's not your fault, okay?"

Don had to swallow hard to make his throat start working. "I love you, too, Buddy. You're going to be all right. I'm going to come get you. Fight, Charlie. Don't let him hurt you."


"All right. That's long enough. Now you'll know what it feels like to have everything taken away. Now you'll know what it feels like to be the cause of the death of someone you love. Maybe that'll show you. Maybe then you'll hurt like me."

"Buck, listen to me. I'm the one you want. Don't hurt my brother, please. You can hurt me all you want, just... leave him alone. Please." Don actually heard his voice break, along with his heart. He never wanted this. How could he have been so blind?

"No, Eppes. You didn't let me take the fall, so I won't let you. Your brother is dead, Eppes. And it's all your fault."

"Buck, no!"

Buck hung up the phone before Don could say another word. He turned to Charlie, who was surprisingly calm.

"I'm sorry it's gotta be this way, but your brother never should have messed with me. It's only fair."

"Buck, you don't want to do this. If you do this, you're no better than Don. You won't have accomplished anything. You'll just keep up the chain of violence."

"I don't care! I just want him to hurt the way he made me hurt! I'm 19 years old and I'm stuck in prison! They gave me 250 years! I don't even have death row to look forward to! I'm stuck in there, and I'm never getting out. Do you know what that's like? To have your whole life ahead of you and have it decided for you? That you're never going to be anymore than a prisoner because of a few bad choices along the way?" Buck screamed.

Charlie felt tears come to his eyes. "Yeah, I do. I had my future decided for me when I was four years old. I was going to be a mathematician, a genius. I was going to go to the best schools and do the best work. I was going to be somebody, but nobody ever asked if I wanted it. As I went along, I started to enjoy it. But I could have been anything else. But my parents chose that for me. I don't regret what I've become, but I can't help but wonder what could have been."

"Shut up! You're nothing like me! We're nothing alike!"

"You're right. I didn't throw my life away. I didn't seek revenge on someone who was just doing his job. I didn't risk everything for a woman twice my age."

"SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!" Buck was about to swing the gun at Charlie's head, striking the professor, but Charlie was faster. He took Don's childhood advice, grabbed Buck's hand, and kicked him hard in between his legs. As Buck dropped to the floor, Charlie let go and ran off. Buck moaned as he doubled over. It took him a moment to recover, and when he did and looked up, Charlie was already out of sight.

"Get the hell back here!" Buck screamed, raising his gun in front of him.

Charlie could hear Buck shouting behind him, but he continued to run. There were enough hiding places he could find in the building, but the adrenaline kept him from stopping. He had to keep running, keep moving. Soon he had made it to the cafeteria, and was about to cut through it to make a loop around the building when Buck caught up with him.

"You piece of shit!" Buck shouted right as he pulled the trigger.

Charlie heard the shot before he felt it. He looked down and saw the blood on his side. Charlie couldn't tell if Buck knew where he had hit him, so he dropped to the floor like it had been much worse.

Buck watched Charlie drop, satisfied that he had done it. He moved closer to the body and knelt beside it. It felt good to be back in the game. He had already taken out his cellmate, now Don Eppes' brother. It felt good. Real good.

Charlie listened to Buck's movements beside him. He tried to judge where the young man would be, and used it to strike. When he felt the time was right, Charlie opened his eyes and lunged for Buck. He could have tried to run again, but he couldn't this time. This man had come after his brother. Whether Don was supposed to be the protective one or not, Charlie felt a need to protect his own as well. Never one to feel hate or even violence toward another person, the feelings were new to him as he began to punch and hit Buck over and over again.

"Don't you ever come after my brother again! He was only doing his job! Don Eppes is the bravest man I know! He would never intentionally hurt someone without a reason! Don't you ever come near him again!"

Buck was stunned by the professor's actions. He was so taken aback that he lost his gun and was so blinded by Charlie's attacks he couldn't defend himself.

"Buck Winters! We know you're in here!" Charlie heard someone call, and he recognized the voice as that of David Sinclair's.

"We're here, David! It's okay!" Charlie shouted as he stood, giving Buck a hard kick to the stomach to effectively disable the man for the time being.

"Charlie?" Don called when he heard his brother's voice. He lowered his weapon and took off at a run, heading toward the sound.

"In the cafeteria! I've got Buck!"

David and Don shared a look as Nikki and Colby followed behind. The team ran forward. Liz and a few other agents were coming around the back, taking a different path to try to find Buck. When they walked into the cafeteria, they found Charlie standing over Buck. Buck was laying on the ground face down. Don looked from Buck to his brother and gave a relieved sigh. "You are something else."

Charlie began to shake, realizing what all he had just done and gone through. He managed a weak smile and took a step toward his brother.

"It's okay, Don. I'm all right."

Don smiled in return and took a mirrored step toward his brother. But before his foot hit the ground, Buck grabbed the gun, shot Charlie, and then Colby shot Buck.

Charlie and Don stared at each other a brief moment. Don's mouth hung open in surprise and fear. Charlie's eyes were wide with fear as the pain began to register. His legs started to buckle and he collapsed onto the floor. Don ran to him, ignoring Buck as he reached his brother.

"Charlie!" Don fell to his knees beside his brother, looking at the gunshot wound. Charlie's hand already covered the spot on his stomach, breathing haggardly. Don searched his brother's face, terrified at what he saw. Blood began to slip through Charlie's fingers as he applied pressure to his own wound.

Don and Charlie were still staring at each other when Buck's laugh sounded behind them, as the escapee was being handcuffed by David and Colby. "See Eppes? That's how I felt. That's how you're going to feel when he dies. It's all your fault! You killed Crystal and now you killed your brother!" Buck laughed again, the laugh of a sinister villain. Don's concern for Charlie was forgotten a moment as he stood. Liz watched Don's face, knew what he wanted to do. She stepped in between Don and Buck and held her hands out in front of her, stopping Don. "Don, no. You don't want to do that. Think about it."

Don's anger remained, but he knew the agent was right. Not so long ago, he was ready to give Buck the benefit of the doubt. He was willing to be the bigger man. But once Buck directly attacked his family, all bets were off. Now, though, he knew he couldn't attack Buck like that. He was still just a kid, and he would regret it years later.

With one last glance toward Buck, Don turned and rushed to his brother once more. Charlie was staring up at him with a look of desperation on his face. He was putting all faith in his brother, looking to Don for the answer, for comfort, for strength. Don could hardly stand to look into his brown eyes' depths for the look of trust in them. Charlie was able to put total faith in his brother. With Don, he knew he was safe. Don wasn't sure if he could handle that feeling, though he had spent his whole life wanting and trying to make his brother safe with him. However, he knew he had failed to do that many times.

"Don..." Charlie grunted out, as if he was being strangled. "It... hurts."

The statement alone was enough to worry Don. His brother rarely complained about a cold, headache, migraine, or anything else. He hadn't even said a word when he broke his leg as child. Don had been worried sick, but Charlie never complained, though the pain was still evident.

"I know, Buddy. It'll be better soon, okay? You're going to be fine."

Charlie nodded in agreement. As long as Don was there, he knew that was a fact. He weakly laid his head back down as he continued to apply pressure with his hands.

Don quickly tore off his hooded sweatshirt upon seeing his brother's struggle to clot the wound. He pressed the dark navy material into Charlie's stomach, laying Charlie's fingers atop that instead. Don, too, kept a hand on it to make sure there was enough pressure.

"I'm so-sorry," Charlie said, closing his eyes.

"Don't be sorry, Buddy. This isn't your fault."

Charlie closed his eyes tighter and shook his head from side to side. "No... It is. I didn't tell you."

"Didn't tell me what?" Don asked, confused.

"Factored... equation. Knew Buck... was coming."

Don's eyes flared red. Charlie knew? He had known Buck would come after him?

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"It was just an equation.... I could have been wrong."

Don gave Charlie a hard look. "When have you ever been wrong?"

Charlie closed his eyes against a memory he'd rather not remember. "You got shot."

Don shook his head fiercely. "You weren't wrong then. You led us to the right bank. You just didn't know they were violent."

"Should have known."

Charlie opened his eyes long enough to look in Don's, hoping to convey more through a look than he could through words. It felt harder to breathe and his strength was surely waning. Don looked up to Liz who was hovering a few steps behind.

"How far away is the ambulance?"

"They should be here any minute, Don."

Don nodded. It already felt like it'd been far too long. When he turned back to Charlie, his brother had a tight grimace on his face, his eyes shut, and perspire coating his forehead. Don moved closer toward his brother and reached out to push the messy curls off Charlie's forehead. "Help is coming soon. You'll be fine, okay?"

Charlie nodded against the pain. He dared to move his right hand from his stomach and reached up, blindly holding it out for Don to take. His brother did, and he could feel Charlie's fight through the strength in that hand grip. Charlie was in a world of pain he'd never experienced, and it was hard to stay awake.

Soon, they heard the ambulance and it took Don and Charlie away to the hospital. Then Don had to face the hardest part of waiting to hear about his brother's condition, and, to tell his father what had happened.

More to come ASAP. It should only be one or two more chapters, since I have another story to complete. I just had to stop or this was going to be one looooong chapter.