Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just borrowed them. Numb3rs and its characters are the property of those that created them. No copyright infringement intended. No financial reward gained. All real places and organisations are used in a fictional sense. Original characters and the storyline are mine however.
When Charlie drove Don to the Wilshire Boulevard Temple for Hanukkah the last thing he expected to see was a genuine miracle.
A/N: Written for Clue Challenge #6, December 2009, at hurt_don on LiveJournal. Prompts: Who? – Don. What? – Menorah. Where? – Synagogue. Contains some religious themes due to the prompts but I have attempted to keep that to a minimum.
"There's really no need for you to come in with me." Don said for about the fifth time since Charlie had picked him up.
"It's my heritage as well, even if I haven't embraced it."
"I wouldn't say embraced, Charlie. More like exploring."
"Well, whatever you call it, I'm happy to be here." Charlie insisted as his elder brother sighed and pushed open his door.
After his Suburban had been damaged in a rather spectacular crash just two days before the FBI agent had been left without transport and even worse, from his perspective, he'd been placed on a week's medical leave. Charlie was surprised that Don had been able to stick it out this long before calling him up last night asking for a lift. Charlie knew his brother was so well respected that any one of his team or even anyone at the office would have driven him anywhere at his merest suggestion but Don had called and asked him. Personal favours were not things that his older brother asked for easily. Even though Don may have no trouble pulling him out of a lecture at a moment's notice to work a case the same could not be said for anything that directly benefited him. Charlie had immediately jumped at the offer, collecting Don from his apartment late afternoon to bring him here, the synagogue he'd been spending so much time visiting lately.
Gathering up his keys he followed his brother across the parking lot and out onto the sidewalk. Despite himself he had to stop and stare up at the building and the inscription over the door. It truly was impressive, something religious architecture excelled at. Realising that Don had continued walking being far more familiar with the structure of the building Charlie hurried to catch up. Don had reached the door well before him and stopped, holding it open for him. Favouring Don with a frown for using his injured left arm to hold the door Charlie scooted through.
"I'm fine, Charlie." His brother said around an exasperated sigh.
"That's why they made you stay home for the week." Charlie retorted.
"It's just a scratch."
"Twenty-three stitches is not a scratch." He pointed out. "Nor is a dislocated shoulder something to take lightly." He left out the point that his stubborn brother had refused to wear the sling the hospital had provided him, they had already covered that ground on the drive over here.
"They put the arm back in place and the stitches and bandage have fixed the rest. There's no reason why I can't be at work, even if I have to drive a desk, I've got more than enough work to go on with."
"I think that's why they want you to take the week off, you need to recover from the impact properly."
True to form Don had placed himself in harms way, driving his SUV in front of a delivery truck in an effort to stop it escaping. The offender had a better grip of basic physics than the FBI agent, continuing to accelerate before ploughing into the much lighter vehicle, shoving it out of the way. Don had been out of the subsequent pursuit and eventual capture, it had been the driver's side that had taken the brunt of the impact, trapping him in the vehicle for a short time. It was a miracle he'd come out of it so lightly, even if Don didn't seem to realise it. Knowing he was a workaholic the ADIC had insisted he take the full time ordered by the doctor, forcing him into a week of inaction. Inaction and Don Eppes were not words that tended to go together.
Don had already complained to him that David had been around and borrowed, confiscated had been Don's actual term, his work laptop. The frustrated agent couldn't even work from home, which Charlie knew had been David's point. With Robin out of town at a conference Don was left at home alone after refusing to stay at his place for the week, choosing his apartment instead. He had nothing to do except watch TV, something Don Eppes was not accustomed to doing for more than a few hours at a time. With today being the first day of Hanukkah Don had swallowed his pride and called him for a lift in to attend the ceremony.
They were an hour or so early, perhaps Don had figured he would get bored and wait elsewhere for him until the ceremony was over but Charlie found the dimness of the synagogue to be surprisingly calming and was determined to stay. Time with Don outside of FBI work was precious and he wasn't going to give it away if he had the chance.
They had moved down the aisle and reached the raised dais. Charlie looked on as Don seemed to be lost in contemplation of the special nine branch Menorah sitting in pride of place. Behind it was the Menorah Charlie was more accustomed to seeing associated with their faith. He knew the reason for the difference and the importance of Hanukkah even if he found himself no longer believing.
The door was suddenly smashed open, the noise intrusive and completely shattering the peace. Charlie barely noted his brother's reaction as his own head had twisted towards the sound. There were a few other faithful already seated who also turned annoyed eyes towards the sound and the intruder who was now making his way rapidly down the central aisle.
"Charlie, get down!"
At a loss for the reason behind his brother's tensely hissed order Charlie hesitated only to find himself being shoved down to the floor an instant later. "What?"
Charlie felt like he'd just been dunked in a vat of ice water. He stared at the intruder just as the man started yelling. There was no way he could miss the gun now, the ominously black weapon jerked wildly around as the man turned on the spot.
"Get down. Everybody down!"
At the sight of the madly waving gun a woman let out a short scream causing the man to swing towards her just as the door opened again. Reaching out quickly the gunman reacted, grabbing hold of the older woman and pulling her to him before turning so that she was between him and the two LAPD officers that had pushed their way in.
"Drop the gun!"
"Let the woman go!" Both orders came at the same time.
"Back off!" The gunman shouted in response as he dragged the woman down the aisle, backing away from the officers.
Charlie suddenly understood what was going on. The man was a fugitive being pursued by the local police. He couldn't begin to guess what he'd done but from the way he was reacting it had to be serious.
As the armed man approached with his hostage Charlie felt his brother shift in his crouch that made him seem like nothing so much as a coiled spring. The man was armed and clearly on edge, Don was injured and unarmed but he obviously wasn't going to let that get in his way if Charlie was reading his intention clearly. Unfortunately he knew exactly what his brother was thinking of doing. Keeping his voice low he called his name in warning. "Don!"
Don ignored him, his full attention focused on the approaching gunman, still backing away from the two officers.
"Don't come any closer!" The man yelled as the officers followed his retreat, weapons up and aimed at him. "I'll waste her."
At the desperate tone in the man's voice the officers suddenly stopped. One reached for his radio handset as the other held up a soothing hand but still kept his firearm steadily on target.
"You don't want to do that." The first officer said. His partner was talking urgently to dispatch behind him.
"Then get outta my face!" The gunman pressed his weapon harder against the head of the woman in his arms eliciting another half-scream.
Behind the officer the other early worshippers saw their opportunity and quietly made for the door, escaping to safety. Trapped behind the gunman Charlie and his brother were forced to remain. He was glancing around for an alternate exit whilst Don remained fixated on the gunman, holding himself in place as the man was too far away. Even Don could calculate the odds of failure if he were to attempt a move at this point. Charlie's gaze lit upon a door not all that far away but it was firmly closed and for all he knew it could be locked. If he tried for the door and found it secured he didn't know what would happen, the gunman sure to spot the movement as he would have to cross to the side into the man's peripheral vision. Overriding everything he didn't want to abandon his brother. Charlie stayed put.
The gunman took a suddenly aggressive pace towards the officers causing their weapons to snap up as they retreated. Encouraged by his success the gunman took another step, forcing his hostage ahead of him.
"You got nowhere to go." The first officer said. "Let her go."
"I said, out!"
"Get out, damnit."
Charlie started at the soft voice beside him, Don was adding his own encouragement. Glancing over at his older brother it seemed as if Don hadn't realised he'd even spoken out loud. It had been said quietly enough that even he wouldn't have heard it if he'd been any further away. He could understand where Don was coming from, the gunman was becoming increasingly agitated at the officers' reluctance to give him the space he was demanding. The woman's life was in serious danger, a fact even Charlie could see.
Finally the officers gave away their attempted arrest, continuing to back away before they finally were out, the door swinging shut behind them.
"Stay out!" The man yelled at the closed door. He gave it a moment before he backed away down the aisle, still tightly holding the woman to him. He suddenly spun and abruptly jerked to a stop as he saw the two men on the dais for the first time.
Charlie remained in the crouch his brother had pushed him into as the gunman's badly bloodshot eyes first tracked across him. Drawing the man's attention Don slowly rose to his feet, hands held up with the palms outwards.
Don stood very still. "Let the woman go."
"She's not going anywhere. Neither are you."
Charlie's breath caught in his throat as he saw the man point his gun at his brother. He decided it was far worse to witness it for himself rather than hear it from Don after a case was over which was plenty bad enough. With the gunman being incredibly agitated Charlie was sure his brother was about to get himself shot.
Don didn't flinch or show any outward reaction to the threat, his voice calm and controlled. "Easy. Not going anywhere. Just let her come and sit with us." Now Don's right hand moved in a slow wave, an encouraging 'come here' gesture.
The gunman stared at Don for a long moment, the arm holding the gun starting to shake violently. For the first time Charlie saw the sweat that beaded on his face, the trembling that periodically wracked his entire body. Charlie put it together concluding that the man was on something, or even worse, coming off something. He'd seen the signs before in the occasional student or two at CalSci over the years and knew what he was looking at. Don's barely vocalised encouragement for the officers to back off now made even more sense, the agent had already seen the signs. Desperation and withdrawal were an incredibly volatile combination.
The woman was suddenly and violently shoved forward. Don automatically stepped forward, catching her in his arms before she could fall as her feet tangled. Charlie heard Don's grunt of pain as his injured left shoulder took her weight but he wasn't surprised when his brother showed no other reaction, turning slowly and helping to ease the woman to the floor.
It seemed that Don remained on his feet a moment too long for the man's liking. Before Charlie could utter a sound in warning the man suddenly lunged forward and with a shove sent Don crashing to the floor. Lighting reflexes had Don rolling over ready to sit back up but he suddenly froze as the man stepped in to stand over him, gun pointed down at him from a few feet away. Don's right hand was clamped over the left shoulder that had taken the brunt of his fall. After a long moment his left came up in surrender as he remained still, lying flat on his back. Charlie saw the calculations going on behind his brother's dark eyes assessing whether the gunman was within range for him to attempt to take him on even though it was clear he had aggravated his shoulder and was in pain. Charlie was relieved when he saw the slight shift in Don's body as he decided not to strike, the gunman still just that too far away for him to be guaranteed success.
The moment stretched impossibly long, Charlie only too aware that the man had two other hostages and had no need to keep Don alive. He managed to keep quiet knowing that any sound now could trigger the man into action. His grip tightened in unconscious warning around the woman he'd gathered into his arms but she seemed to be in shock, trembling and wide eyed and remained silent.
"Get back with them. Stay down." The man finally ordered.
"Anything you want. It's cool." Don soothed. Moving very slowly, the man's gun tracking his every move, Don sat up before inching his way over to join Charlie and the cowering woman.
Charlie's arm tightened even further when she cringed against him as the man stepped closer following Don. Charlie stared upwards but the man's attention was still on his older brother.
"Try anything else and I'll waste you."
Don's jaw muscles clenched as he ground his teeth together with the effort of holding himself back. Both hands came up this time, the left not as high, as he bowed his head in submission. Charlie saw the tense muscles, the effort it was taking his brother to give the man what he needed, control.
Flicking his glance back up Charlie saw the gunman's lip curl into a sneer of contempt despite getting what he wanted. He was thankful the man didn't note the signs of Don's true feelings that were all too clear to him. The gunman was holding a dangerous man at his feet and seemingly didn't realise it, a fact for which Charlie was thankful having no doubt that he would carry out his threat.
Finally the gunman backed away but he didn't go far as he started to pace back and forth with sharp, tight steps. His attention never wandered away from his three hostages for very long.