Numb3rs: Paranoia

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.


They had been right.

Charlie couldn't believe it but Don really was after him. Peering down from his perch atop a set of industrial storage shelves he watched as the man he'd thought was his brother, a man he'd thought cared for him, moved slowly by. The exposed gun in his hand was ugly and black and added to the sheer menace. Charlie shifted slightly, careful not to make any noise as he kept Don in view until he disappeared around the end of the section. In relief he lay flat, heart hammering in his chest as he struggled to reconcile what he had always thought to be the truth with this new reality.

He wants to kill you.

He's going to hunt you down like a dog.

It was all true. He'd railed against the voices, had fought when he'd been held down, had fought against the pain in his arm but their voices had been insistent, deafening. His world had crashed around him as fire raced through his veins. They were gone now but their voices remained, reminding him of this new truth. Reminding him of the horror that came with it.

He'll get you unless you get him first.

Charlie finally moved. He knew no hiding spot was good enough, no one place would protect him from Don but he had to try to find a place of safety. Perched on top of the shelves he'd as good as treed himself but he'd had no option when he'd first heard Don calling for him. To anyone else it would have seemed like he was trying to save him but Charlie knew the truth now, knew it for what it really was. Don was taunting him, hiding his intention as he tried to lull him into a false sense of security. But Charlie could hear it now, could hear the way that somehow he even twisted his younger brother's name. The previously deeply hidden and disguised hatred was boiling over and staining the air around him as he called. It even followed him like a roiling black cloud as he moved.

"Charlie?" Don's hate filled voice floated towards him from all too close. "Where are you?"

Freezing again, Charlie was hidden now behind some boxes. He heard a scrape of feet and saw his supposedly protective older brother appear at the end of the row. Moving forward he continued to call out, saying one thing but meaning another, the gun up and ready to take him out.

"Charlie? They're gone, you can come out. It's safe."

Charlie couldn't believe the gall, the sheer barefaced lies his brother was using to get him to reveal himself. The others may have gone, the ones that had hurt him even as they told him the truth, but he was far from safe. They had left him here to be hunted, refusing to take him with them. He shrank back even further behind the concealing boxes. He wished he could be a mouse, could scurry away to safety into a safe, dark hole. He brushed his hands over his twitching whiskers and felt them melt away as the voices returned.

He resents you.

He hates you.

Don's feet rang against the concrete, each step sounding like a nail in a coffin. A coffin his brother wanted to put him into.

"Come on, Buddy. Where are you?"

He's got a gun.

He's going to use it. On you.

He's not really your brother.

Some part of him still refused to accept the truth, years of habit insisting this wasn't right. Something wasn't right but his thoughts were confused and the voices too loud and insistent to be ignored. As Charlie moved out from behind the boxes and started working his way to the open roller door and possible safety away from his stalker he tried to figure how he was going to escape. Don was too well trained, would surely find him no matter where he went. Perhaps he could make it to India? Amita's family could hide him. They would have contacts. There were a lot of people in India. Don would never find him there, not amongst those millions.

"Charlie!" Don suddenly shouted in elation. "There you are. What? Hey!"

Startled out of his plans Charlie looked up to see Don only a few yards away staring at him. As the other took a threatening pace forward and started to reach out a clawed hand he bolted, terror lending his feet speed he'd never had before. Don continued to shout but he made it around the next corner and then the next, driven away from the roller door and the beckoning sunlight. Panting harshly he went to ground again even as he knew it for a mistake.

He's going to find you.

You can't escape him.

Don found the right aisle and started making his way down it, gun swinging from side to side as he searched for his quarry. Holding his breath Charlie once again became the mouse, silent in concealment as the cat moved by, tail swishing in agitation. The air was still black with hatred, an aura that revealed Don's feelings for him.

Unable to hold still as the darkness rolled over him Charlie broke and ran. By some miracle Don didn't hear him but Charlie knew his luck wouldn't hold. Don had earned his reputation as always able to get his man. Whether it was back in his shadowy Fugitive Recovery days or now in Los Angeles, the FBI agent was always able to make the arrest and bring the offender down. This was different though, he knew Don wasn't going to arrest him. Don was going to kill him.

You know what you have to do.

Finding a new place to hole up he worked to control his breathing. He had to think, he couldn't do that when he couldn't even breathe. Despite the irony he had to control himself, had to remember the lessons learnt over the years at the FBI via osmosis, had to remember how to protect himself.

You have to get him first.

He replayed the voice in his mind, repeating the sensible advice. It was the only option he was starting to realise, an option he'd been trying to avoid as some lingering doubt had remained. The doubt was gone now, the voices proven right. As he struggled to think a memory rose, there had been a lecture on basic tactics during that two day FBI course, it hadn't all been hands on training. If an opponent knew where you were and was set on taking you out, if you were unarmed and the options of fleeing or hiding were negated there was nothing left but to take the offensive. He was in that position now, he would have to fight. Several times now he'd hidden only to have Don find him all too easily. It was just a matter of time before it would be all over, his brilliant mind stilled forever by a slug of metal. There really was no choice. Looking up he started to climb, he needed every advantage he could get if this was going to work.

Take him out before he kills you.

It's the only way, kill him first.

This time as he shifted in concealment it was in anticipation. He had once again gone up, countless hours analysing data had given him the knowledge that a hunter rarely remembered to search for prey overhead. An attack from above would give him the best chance of negating his brother's years of training and skill. No longer the mouse he would be like a hawk, his talons soon to tear into the cat. His hands flexed as he imagined the feel of his talons sinking into flesh, drawing blood as his prey struggled. He settled his feathers, the pinions lying neatly in place ready to spread and carry him out above his prey before snapping back against his body and directing him downwards in his deadly stoop.

As he'd both hoped and, in truth, feared, Don all too quickly appeared in the passage beneath him. The hunter was moving slowly, no longer calling out as he went, the now stealthy approach final confirmation of his dark intentions. The black cloud around him was denser than ever but not so dense that Charlie couldn't see when his time had come. Don had moved by directly beneath him, was now moving away and would not see the danger descending from both above and behind him.

The impact was terrific. He thought he heard a snap as his arm connected with Don's right shoulder but felt no pain, he was not the one hurt. Charlie's dangerous prey was driven downwards beneath his falling body. There was a surge of elation as Don's cry of pain and surprise gave way to a breathless grunt as the air was driven from his lungs as they both hit the ground. The elation was replaced with deadly focus an instant later as there was the sound of a gunshot. Don had tried to shoot him, it could mean nothing else. Charlie reached forwards for the outstretched arm holding the weapon but changed tactics as he felt Don buck beneath him. Balling up both of his hands into fists he ruthlessly drove them time and again into the body beneath him. The struggles only increased until one blow struck the back of Don's head driving it forward into the concrete with a satisfying crack. Don stilled and Charlie slumped over him, panting after the exertion.

The faint groan had him moving again, he wasn't safe yet. Scrambling up he saw Don start to move, drawing his arms and legs in as if to rise onto all fours. After all that he had just done he still hadn't subdued his murderous brother.

He's going to kill you.

"No!" Charlie shouted at the voice. He wouldn't let it happen, he didn't want to die. Don had totally flipped out, he had no choice but to fight for his life, to take the fight to the ultimate conclusion. Whatever advantage he gave, Don would take. Moving in quickly he drew back his right foot and kicked with all his strength. The toe of his shoe struck Don squarely on the ribs causing his arms and legs to skitter out from under him on the smooth concrete. Knowing he had to be sure Charlie drew his leg back and let fly again. He heard another crack this time and the accompanying shout of pain allowed him to understand he'd done some damage. The shout also told him that Don was still awake, still aware. He was also still armed.

Reaching out quickly Charlie got his hands around the gun and wrenched upwards, roughly twisting Don's hand backwards eliciting another cry of pain. Staggering back he took a firm hold of his prize and pointed the weapon that had been intended for use on him back at his treacherous brother.

You have to do it.

Pull the trigger.

Kill him.

He almost gave in, the trigger was firm under his finger and he knew it wouldn't take much. Charlie didn't know why he hesitated, why he let the man who wanted to kill him continue breathing. As he stood frozen he watched as Don moved, slowly rolling to his side and then his back before drawing his right arm back against his body to cradle the injured wrist and support the shoulder. Finally his brother looked up and the momentary concern Charlie had felt at Don's obvious pain disappeared the moment he saw the face twist to hate. The mouth opened and Charlie heard the false words but knew their true meaning.

"Charlie?" Don sounded surprised but it was all an illusion. "What are you doing?"

I'm going to kill you. Take the gun away and put a bullet in your brain.

"No. I won't let you." Charlie responded. There was no choice, he had to shoot . He brought the gun up slightly to improve his aim but his finger still wouldn't tighten on the trigger.

"Charlie, it's me." The voice continued, the calming tone an attempt to lull him into a false sense of security. "Please Buddy, what's wrong?"

Runt. You've held me back my whole life. I'm going to kill you.

"I'll shoot. I will!" Charlie threatened. Why his finger wouldn't cooperate he didn't know. He had to do this, it was the only way.

"Easy, Buddy. Take it easy." Don's hands shifted, the right only slightly but he now held both palm upwards as if in surrender. "Stay calm. Let me help you."

Going to get up and splatter your brains all over the ground.

"No! Stay down, don't move!" Charlie ordered, stepping forward and pointing the gun downwards at Don's face. He felt a kind of satisfaction as he saw his brother subside, saw the pain on the face and heard the gasping breath. He'd done that, he'd hurt his brother before his brother could hurt him. Now he just had to finish it.

"Oh, Charlie. What have they done to you?"

I can't let you live now that you know.

He knows you know. Kill him.

"I know the truth, Don. I know what you want. I'm not going to let you do it." Charlie didn't know why he was explaining this, why he was letting him know that the truth was out. The voices were back and all too clear, the words that Don himself was saying removed all disbelief. He grit his teeth and set his finger to squeeze.

"Do what, Buddy? Talk to me, please. Tell me how I can help you."

That's it fool, keep talking. I'll get you yet. You're going to bleed all over this floor.

Sweat beaded on his skin as he willed his finger to move but still nothing happened, the trigger remained firm and motionless. He knew it wasn't the gun, there was no safety that was preventing it from firing and he'd already taken up the trigger slack, it was him that was failing. Despite his efforts his finger refused to move, would not move that final fraction of an inch that would finish this.

"Please, Charlie. Don't do this, you don't want to do this."

Weak! You have to die, Charlie. Too weak to let live.

Charlie thought he felt movement at long last, the battle of wills between his finger and his need to survive seemed to be turning. The trigger moved ever so slightly, just a little more and it would be done. He would be safe.