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.



Don turned down the dinner invitation when his father phoned around lunch time. It almost descended into an argument but Alan finally let it go, accepting Don's assertion that they needed to try to return to normality which wasn't his spending every single night at the house. He didn't let on what he had planned. This was something between himself and his brother.

Against doctor's orders he drove himself to the parking lot at CalSci locating his brother's Prius in its usual spot. Parking beside a concealing van he found a bench under a tree nearby where he settled back to wait until his brother showed up. The call from their father had indicated that Charlie was going to be home early, around mid-afternoon so he hoped he wouldn't have to wait too long. It was around three when he spotted Charlie coming out from the building. Don got up from his seat and headed across on an angle out of his brother's sight, he needed to get close enough that Charlie couldn't dodge away. Charlie's avoidance of him had been rapidly approaching the point that he felt it highly likely, especially here where their father couldn't see.

"Don!" Charlie said in surprise when he stepped out from around the van parked beside the Prius. "I, uh, I forgot something. I'll see you at home?"

"No, Charlie. Hold it right there." Don ordered as Charlie started to turn to hurry back to the building. He stepped up and took his brother's arm in a firm grip. "You're coming back to my place."

"Don, I can't."

"Yes, you can. Let's go."

"But your shoulder, you can't drive. I'll drive." Charlie offered with every intention of driving them to his place no matter what Don might say.

"I can drive just fine." It hurt like hell with the bone finally starting to knit but this was important. The automatic transmission on the Suburban made it possible for him to drive almost safely.

Charlie started babbling about papers to grade and classes to prepare for now that he was about to resume teaching but Don kept moving, getting Charlie up and into the Suburban. He was in the driver's seat and pulling out before Charlie got the nerve up to disobey his brother and try to get out of the vehicle. Charlie sat in sullen silence the whole way, still refusing to speak as they rode the elevator up to Don's apartment. He only reacted when Don turned the lock on his door after pushing Charlie inside.

"Let me go."

Don ignored the demand. "Sit. We need to talk."

"Don, please. It's not safe, I'm not safe." Forced into the position he'd been avoiding all week, Charlie put words to the fear he'd been hiding.

"Sit down, Charlie." Don ordered in the same voice he would have used on a suspect, a voice that demanded compliance. In reinforcement he grabbed at his brother's arm and took him across to the table. He pulled out a chair with his foot and got Charlie settled before taking his own seat opposite. "This can't go on. You're avoiding me, what they did shouldn't come between us."

"Don, I'm sorry." Charlie started to explain. "I remember it all. I nearly killed you. I wanted to kill you."

"I know, Charlie." Don answered, honesty was what was needed here if they were to resolve this. "The drugs were making you feel that way but you didn't pull the trigger when you had the chance."

Charlie remembered the slight movement of the trigger, the elation he'd felt that he was winning the fight against himself and would soon end his brother's life. "I almost did! If your team hadn't arrived when they did you would be dead now. How can I trust myself now, Don?"

"You have no reason not to, Charlie. It was the drugs, it was them getting into your head as the drugs took effect that led to that. It wasn't you, it was them."

"I don't know Don, I can still remember everything so clearly."

"But you're not afraid of me now are you?"

"No." He could remember the fear but he certainly didn't feel that way now. Instead his fear was completely turned around, Don should be afraid of him.

Don pushed. "You don't feel that I'm going to hurt you now either, do you?"

"No." Charlie admitted again. "But how can I be sure that I-, how can I know I won't be like that again? That I won't try to-"

Don heard the cut off words and knew he was on the right path, a potentially dangerous one but he was confident he was right. Having figured out a way that Charlie could prove to himself that he was safe and know that his brother trusted him implicitly at the same time he was determined to play it out. To that end he'd prepared before he'd left to collect Charlie, placing a locked box on the chair seat beside him. He reached down and unlocked it, pulling out his service firearm that David had delivered back to him just yesterday, a fact for which he was glad as this would work so much better with the actual gun involved rather than one of his others. As he brought the Glock above the table top he saw the fear bloom in Charlie's eyes but he didn't hesitate, putting the weapon down and sliding it across the table so it bumped his brother's fingers.

Charlie jerked back. "Don, what?"

"I trust you Charlie, I trust you with my life." He stated putting all the honest sincerity he could muster into his tone. He believed in what he was saying, but he had to make Charlie believe it too. He sat back, putting his hands in his lap making it impossible for him to reach his gun or defend himself. "It's loaded. Pick it up."

Charlie started to push his chair back. "Please Don, don't make me do this."

"Pick. It. Up." Don ordered firmly and saw his brother's hands jerk until they rested on the weapon but he still refused to take it up. "Now, Charlie."

Charlie reacted to the tone and obediently picked the gun up. Once it was in his hands he didn't immediately drop it but instead he handled it gingerly, running his fingers over the slide with his left hand as if familiarising himself with the weapon. His right hand slowly tightened on the grip as he gained confidence. Don waited, giving Charlie time to process his feelings and decide what he wanted to do. After a few long minutes Charlie looked up, looked across the table at him and stared deeply into his eyes. Don stared back openly without any protective mask in place and allowed Charlie to see him, to read his feelings.

"You're not afraid."

"No, I'm not." Don nodded at the gun still in his brother's hands. "You could kill me right now and my team isn't here to stop you. But I know you won't. I trust you. You should trust yourself."

Charlie held the gun for a while longer as if testing himself. Finally he remembered his lessons on gun etiquette and dropped out the magazine before racking the slide back to eject the chambered round. While he had hoped his brother had been lying when he'd said the weapon was loaded he had just proven otherwise. All he'd needed to do was aim and pull the trigger if he'd really wanted his brother dead. Don really did trust him with his life. He gently laid the unloaded gun on the table in front of him, toying for a moment with the round that had been waiting in the chamber before sliding it into his pocket.

"A reminder." Charlie explained at his brother's raised eyebrow. Don was right, Charlie should trust himself. If ever he forgot that he had the bullet to remind him.

Don nodded in understanding before his face broke into a smile. "What say I order us some pizza and we watch the game?"


A/N: Thank-you all for reading and reviewing. Your comments as always are much appreciated and keep me writing. Cheers!