Rating: PG 13+
Characters: Don Eppes, David Sinclair, Colby Granger, Charlie Eppes, Alan Eppes, OMCs - Scott Nelson and Paul Nelson
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. Anything you don't recognise is a product of my imagination.
Spoilers: Arrow of Time, Fifth Man, Pilot.
Word count this chapter: ~3050
Word count total: ~44,000
Summary: Making a choice is one thing, surviving the consequences that follow is something else altogether. Third instalment of Nelson series following Flight and Crosshairs - Brad escapes but danger for Don comes from an unexpected quarter.CHAPTER FOURTEENIt wasn’t until he woke up in recovery that Don finally saw his father and brother. His memory was more than a little patchy due to the drugs but every moment he did remember he was simply hanging on to one or the other’s hands, their reassuring company what he needed more than anything else. At some point he was moved to a private room and he spent more time awake, finally able to tell them some of what had happened to him. They were in turns shocked and horrified even though he’d left out the worst moments.“You shot Brad?” Charlie had demanded incredulously when he got to that part.“And the man he was with,” Don confirmed. “And they knew that?” Alan asked.“The FBI? Yes, I told David during the call the next morning,” Don explained. He understood why they were upset as he figured out what must have happened. He’d obviously not had any part in David withholding such information but he fully supported him for doing so. “David did the right thing in not telling you that.”“No, he didn’t,” Alan said angrily. He continued in an unknowing echo of something Nelson had said, “You are my son, I had the right to know what was happening to you.”“He also never told us how badly hurt you were, not until you called us yesterday,” Charlie added.“Good,” Don said firmly. They both shot him a less than pleased look. “What if he had told you? You would have spent those days convinced I was dead. You know I’m right just as you know he was right not to tell you. Look, I’m here now, it doesn’t matter.”They were both unconvinced but encouraged him to continue his tale, which he did with a glaring omission. He simply couldn’t talk about it yet.His doctor saw him a little later in the morning and ran down what they’d done in the late night surgery. X-rays had shown some bullet fragments in his shoulder that Paul’s rough efforts had missed. They were quickly removed and the doctor had then turned her attention to his other injuries.“Arteries in both your chest and leg had been damaged which would have made those wounds bleed quite badly.”Don nodded, they had.The doctor continued outlining the work they’d done on the arteries to ‘support the healing’ that had already taken place. Further x-rays had also cleared the stab wounds of any metal fragments and she explained how it was not uncommon for a knife tip to break off during such attacks. The wounds had been stitched both internally and externally to keep them closed. He’d also been given a large dose of antibiotics even though he was showing no signs of infection. The painkillers he was on were most welcome, the pain he’d been living with the last few days was reduced to a mere discomfort that he could dismiss.“Those wounds were life threatening,” Dr Blackmore summarised. She knew the very bare bones of his case, that he’d been held against his will for a number of days, injured and treated during that time. “Whoever was looking after you did a good job.”“Advanced care paramedic,” Don supplied.“A good one,” the doctor announced. She made a few more notations on the chart. “He or she should consider taking their career further.”Don shook his head and was reminded of his assessment the night before; Paul had no future other than being on the run. “Offender,” Don finally said.“That’s too bad,” she said sadly. The agent that had come in with her patient last night had not mentioned that. She hung the chart back in its place and put her pen away. “Well, I think you’ll need to stay with us for a few more days. Depending on how things are going after that we should be able to send you home.”“Thanks, Doc,” Don said as the woman finished, more than pleased with that news.The rest of the day he spent resting, lulled to sleep more than once by the painkillers. In between the naps he filled in a few more blanks for his family but still shied away from telling them about the previous morning as well as Nelson’s immediate reaction after he’d shot Brad. ***Don saw David appear at the door to his hospital room. It was the afternoon of the second day after his release and first time he’d seen David after being loaded into the ambulance.“Hey, Don,” David started. He saw how Charlie and Alan looked at him and hesitated. “Should I come back?”“No,” Don said, motioning for David to come in. “They aren’t happy you didn’t tell them about what happened with Brad.”“Oh,” David said, turning to the other two Eppes men. “Sorry, Mr Eppes, Charlie, but I didn’t want you to lose hope.”They’d had time to think on it but were still far from happy, hence the look as David came in. Charlie spoke up, “We understand, David, but I think we would have preferred to know.”“That’s hindsight talking,” Don said. “David, thank-you.”David relaxed at the acknowledgement that he’d been right and moved closer, “How are you doing?”“Better,” he said in summary before giving David a run down on what the doctor had said the day before.“So it’s lucky, in a way, that Paul was there,” David said when his boss finished with the update from the doctor today. He’d had to add the qualifier, from what little he knew from his quick debrief with Don after Nelson had let them go he figured if Paul hadn’t been helping his father Don might not been taken in the first place.“Yes, he saved my life.”“It might go some way to reducing his sentence.”“Any sign of them?” Don asked. David shook his head, “By the time we got enough crews into the area we figure they were already long gone.”Don knew what was eating at David, “You did the right thing.”David had not intentionally acceded to Paul’s request to delay calling it in but they had ended up with a five or so minute head start before the alarm was raised. The moment Nelson and Paul had driven off he’d collected the bag containing Don’s effects and had helped Don to his car. Driving quickly he’d taken random turns until about a mile or so was behind them and they were parked in a vacant carport beside a random house. Only then had he got his phone switched on and contacted Control. It had been a concern for them both that Nelson could come back; moving to where they couldn’t be found had ensured their safety while they waited for help to arrive. That Nelson and his son were afforded a head start was an unfortunate consequence. “I know,” David finally acknowledged. “We found the car yesterday morning in Moreno Valley and we’re running down all the reported thefts in that area.”Don wasn’t so sure investigating the thefts would lead anywhere. Nelson had planned his kidnapping too well to have not had an exit strategy. The specific trip to Corona left him suspecting Nelson had stashed a third car somewhere nearby. Corona also offered easy escape routes in four totally different directions making it that much harder to lock down, no matter how quickly reinforcements could be called in. “The cabin?” Don asked. Whilst waiting for back-up that night he’d told David where it was, more for the preservation of evidence rather than any suspicion the Nelsons would return there.“We had people there within a few hours but there was no sign they’d been back. We had a team set up watching for them in case they returned but as of about midday today we’ve called it. Forensics is going over it all now.”Don interpreted the slightly guilty look David was shooting him. They needed his statement or at the very least a detailed briefing on what had happened so they could better assess the evidence they turned up. It was going to be hard, harder than telling his family as he would have to go into things he still didn’t feel up to talking about yet, “I’ll give a statement tomorrow afternoon, David.”“Are you sure you’re up to that so soon?” Alan asked, leaning forward in concern. He knew there was something big that his son had left out of his tale the day before. “It has to be done,” Don said. His family knew he’d made the call but he added for David’s benefit, “I’ll talk to Bradford in the morning first.”The next morning when Bradford arrived his family reluctantly left him alone. They weren’t happy with his insistence that they stay away for the rest of the day, but he didn’t want them walking in during his statement. Afterwards he expected he was going to need his space.As Don had expected his session with Bradford was draining. First there was the fact he’d been stabbed again and how he’d killed the accomplice. Bradford had already heard about the manner of the accomplice’s death, the shots to the face rather than centre mass as agents were trained and what that meant psychologically. Don had reacted not as a LEO but as a victim and that distressed him. Bradford told him his reaction was totally understandable and reasonable under the circumstances but he knew it would take time to process.He then went over Brad’s shooting and found that whilst he’d not consciously been thinking on it after pushing it away the day afterwards he’d already come to accept he’d done the right thing. It was still difficult to detail and the killing of both men was still a weight on his soul but Bradford provided support. Going over what had happened with Bradford cemented that he’d been justified in both cases. He had no doubts that the review by the shooting team as well as the required re-enactment were going to be traumatic but he was at least going to be able to go into it without doubt or second guessing himself.Moving on to Nelson’s reaction immediately after the shooting and the long days that followed, culminating in the aborted execution that final morning was what drained him the most. It was going to take more than a couple of hours to clear his emotions on that. Since his release he’d been mostly numb, but he knew needed to work through the anxiety of those days waiting under threat, the fear and acceptance he’d felt when he’d been taken outside to the anger that burned at him afterwards. Instead he ended up spending more time talking on his reactions to being handcuffed that final time than on the real issues but Bradford was as understanding as ever and didn’t push him at this early stage. There would be time enough to sort everything out in future sessions, for now Bradford helped him prepare for the afternoon. After Bradford left he managed an hour’s sleep before David arrived with a second agent he identified as the lead investigator for the case. Given their close working relationship and their friendship, as well as his own involvement as negotiator and briefly as a hostage himself David was not able to run this stage of the investigation as he would have otherwise.Once they were ready with the recorder Don started from the moment he had entered the basement of his building and took them through to David’s interception of their car at Highland. The time with Bradford enabled him to go through the shootings but he still struggled to give enough detail about the final morning for them to work with. It was finally done as darkness fell. He would have to go through it all again several times he knew, expanding on the detail to get a formal statement completed for the case file but it could wait.Agent Tomlinson left first, giving David some time alone with Don.“Are you okay, Don?”Don looked up at him and gave an honest answer, “No. Not yet, but I will be.”“Give yourself time, you’ve been through a lot. I can’t imagine what that was like, what he did. No, sorry!” David cut himself off at the look that crossed Don’s face. “I didn’t mean to-“Don held up his hand, “I know. It’s just hard, okay?”“Man, I’m so sorry.”“David, he wasn’t exactly kind to you either,” Don pointed out remembering David’s distress during the phone call the morning after Brad’s death.David waved his hand across in front of him, “That hardly compares. I think I should go and you need to rest. Will you be okay or should I call Charlie or your father?”“Will I do?”Don and David looked to the door. David stepped back as Robin rushed in.“Hey, sweetie,” Don breathed.David waved his goodbye from behind Robin and quickly headed out, pulling the door mostly to. Robin didn’t notice the other agent’s departure, stopping at Don’s side and taking his right hand. “Don, I’m so sorry.”He reached up with his left hand, pulling a lock of hair away from the side of her face. She leaned into his palm a moment. “It’s okay. I was glad you were there, safe.”“I should have been here,” Robin insisted. She hitched herself up onto the side of the bed and leaned over carefully to kiss him. He returned the kiss with interest, pulling her down to him with his good arm. When they finally broke apart he was smiling for the first time in what felt like forever, “Thank-you.”She returned his gesture from earlier, brushing at the hair at his temples as she sat back. “For what? Staying at some stupid conference when I should have been here?”“Yes. For that, and this,” he added, pulling her down again. Her touch could almost make him forget the last week, something he needed after having just gone through it all for David and Agent Tomlinson. He’d thought he’d want to be left alone but now that Robin was here he couldn’t imagine anything else.An orderly interrupted them bringing in Don’s dinner but they waved off his stammered apologies. He ducked out to return with a second cup and another small pot of coffee as an unnecessary further apology. “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight, Ms Brooks?” Don asked politely. “Well, I don’t know, Mr Eppes. Can we afford to eat here?”“For a special occasion like this? I’ll mortgage my apartment,” he joked, realising at that moment how badly he needed this. “In that case, I can hardly refuse,” she said, manoeuvring the table across to where they could both reach what it held. “I hear they do the best jelly cups.”***It was six months later when Don got the call. He didn’t recognise the voice or the male caller’s name at first, “Paul who?” “Paul Nelson,” the man responded. He hesitated a while as if expecting to be hung up on, “Are you still there, Agent?”Don dropped his voice, he was in the office and didn’t want the call interrupted. “What do you want?”“We wanted to know how you were doing.”It had taken a fair few sessions with Bradford, the initial ones daily, but Don had regained his composure and control relatively quickly. The understanding that he’d been swinging between both the Stockholm and London Syndromes explained why his emotions had rollercoastered so badly. Given the circumstances Bradford had insisted it had been perfectly reasonable for the two conflicting syndromes to exist at the same time, particularly given the differences in the way Nelson and his son had treated him after Brad’s death. Some research and he’d had to accept it made sense. He was cleared to return to desk duties after the first month as his physical wounds were almost healed and was back doing what he did best after a little over two. He still had the occasional flashback but the image he’d cultivated that final morning, the pre-sunrise sky, worked wonders to calm him. Answering Paul’s question was too personal so he asked one of his own, “How is your father?”“Much better,” Paul reported. “It shouldn’t hurt to tell you this now but we visited Brad’s grave a while back. That helped.”The surveillance at the graveyard had been pulled after the first two weeks as a waste of manpower. It had been considered likely the Nelsons would visit the grave but they couldn’t afford to maintain the watch indefinitely even given the seriousness of the case. There was a time-lapse surveillance camera and Don made a note for Agent Tomlinson to pull the images. It was meant to be checked regularly which suggested the gravesite visit may have been more recent than Paul was suggesting. Whilst the images probably wouldn’t really help them to track down the two fugitives it was worth getting a recent look at their appearances.“Good,” Don finally said, and found somewhat to his surprise he meant it. “Is your father there?”“He’s listening, but doesn’t want to talk to you,” Paul answered.“I understand,” he said. He didn’t want to talk to the man either and wasn’t entirely sure why he’d asked the question. He was still more than happy to never see the man again.“Thank-you for not hanging up,” Paul said quickly. “I don’t mean to be rude but it’s time to go. We won’t call again, we just wanted to be sure you were okay. Good-bye.”Don was left looking at his cell as the call disconnected. He took a moment before he started the process to have the call traced even though he didn’t expect any useable result. He then typed up a statement with the conversation as best he recalled it and uploaded it to the electronic file. Finally he sent an email to Agent Tomlinson with the update. That done he shut everything down and after a brief explanation to a somewhat alarmed David he took an early mark. Without quite understanding why, he felt surprisingly good.END.A/N - all done. Thank-you all for reading.