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Title: Choices
Author: [info]aleo_70
Rating: PG 13+
Genre: Gen
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.
Warnings: violence
Word count this chapter: ~3160
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 EIGHT

As the escapee stalked closer Don moved.

He pivoted and brought his hands up, clenching his fists together to add power behind his strike.  Luck was with him in that moment as the goon behind him was just a fraction too slow and took the blow to his chin.  Don dove after the man as he staggered back, swinging again and getting in a second solid hit.  This was not the time to fight fair so he followed up with a vicious kick between the man’s legs, dropping him in a wheezing heap.  He heard yelling behind him and had no time to waste, bending quickly he tugged at the large revolver in the man’s waistband and pulled the weapon free.  In the same move he took off running, trying for the driveway and the roadway beyond, escape his best option.  Footsteps pounded all too close behind him.

“No!”  Brad shouted.

Two close shots forced Don to jink left, close enough to the back wall of one of the sheds that he bounced off it.  He rolled and made it back to his feet, dodging as Brad again brought up his gun and took off running again, now back towards the shipping containers as the other man herded him away from the driveway. The dark shadows on offer between them his new goal and, if he could dare to hope, a hole in the fence beyond.  The other option, taking on, or even worse, taking down Brad was not workable.

Glancing back to check his pursuer’s location he wasn’t careful of his own path and found his leg caught.  He fell, tumbling over Brad’s accomplice.  Kicking he broke free from the grasping hand as the man reared up and saw only a brief flash of silver before fire lanced through his left leg.  The knife was pulled free from his thigh and lifted again ready to plunge downwards somewhere a bit higher up.  He was so not doing that again.  Bringing up the gun Don fired at almost point blank range into man.  Three shots and the man collapsed but not before the knife once again drove into his flesh, fortunately lower than it had been aimed.

Despite the knife being buried deep into his upper thigh a second time he barely felt the pain as he kicked the body off him.  He scrambled back and pulled the knife free, tossing the blade aside in the same motion, all the while keeping a firm grip on the gun he’d stolen.  He ignored the sudden warmth that spread down the outside of his leg in favour of the more urgent need to find Brad.

Brad was scuffling with his father and younger brother less than ten yards away.  Time in prison had clearly taught him how to fight however.  A swift punch and a shoving kick sent Paul sprawling and his father staggering back.  The fugitive turned to find his target.

“You’re mine, Fed.”

Don ignored the shout, already moving away towards the shadows and hopefully concealment.  He’d barely made two yards before he felt the punch to his right shoulder and the blaze across his ribs.  For an instant he’d thought Brad had caught him but then he registered the gunshots.  He staggered and spun about, automatically raising his gun to return fire when the next round took him high in his right chest.  He went down hard and landed on his back, his shout of pain lost as the wind was knocked out of him.

As Don struggled to get air back into his lungs Brad paused a few yards away to admire his handiwork.

“I was going to start with your arm, but I guess we can get to that.”

“Bradley, stop!” Nelson ordered, putting as much fatherly command into the word that he could.  He moved in quickly but was still too far away.

Brad turned briefly and Don used the distraction to try to regain his feet, managing somehow to get vertical.  His balance was off but he moved, shifting the gun from his almost senseless right hand to his left as he staggered away.  Another shot rang out and he was shocked when he felt no new pain, Brad had missed.  His flinch though, was his undoing causing him to stumble over his own feet.  He crashed back to the ground and knew he couldn’t get up again.  Twisting his head to find Brad closing in he reacted purely on instinct, his left arm dragging the gun up against the dead weight of his right.

With no time for thought he fired.

The moment the bullet left his gun Don knew.  For that instant he almost wished he could take it back, almost, if it wasn’t a black or white case of Brad or him.  But it was already too late.  The echo of the shot seemed to linger in the air as the front of Brad’s shirt flooded with red after the bullet struck home in his heart.

From his prone position Don could only watch as time slowed to a crawl and events followed their natural course.  He didn’t notice when his arms sank to the ground in front of him as the effort of holding up his gun became all too much.

First, Brad’s gun slipped from his hand to fall with a dull thud to the dirt.  His mouth worked but only blood came out in a small trickle that ran down his chin and dripped to join the blood on his now sodden shirt.  His eyes turned to seek out his father as his knees slowly buckled beneath him.  Nelson appeared from nowhere at Brad’s side and caught his dying son as he tipped sideways off his knees, easing him to the ground and trying to soothe him as he convulsed.

Nelson was shouting but Don couldn’t hear the words, his attention drawn and captured by the younger man’s eyes that now sought him out.  Don no longer felt his own wounds, his own pain, as he watched Brad’s life drain away.  Brad gave one last jerk before his body relaxed totally, the now empty eyes still fixed on the agent who had killed him.

The world returned to normal speed with Nelson giving out a wordless cry of pain and rage as he tightened his grip, cradling his dead son.  Moments passed before, with infinite care, he relaxed and eased the body gently to the ground.  He knelt a moment longer, his hand resting lightly on his son’s hair before he raised his head.

Now Don found himself caught in the older man’s gaze, the anguish all too raw and strong.  Then it happened in a blink of an eye, Nelson was up and moving and Don struggled to bring up his gun but he was too slow.  The weapon was kicked from his hands and Nelson was kneeling on him, left knee almost over his chest wound.  The muzzle of the older man’s gun pressed hard over his heart, right where his bullet had struck home to kill Brad.

“You,” Nelson started, his voice rough and shaking.  “You...”

Don tried to swallow and opened his mouth to speak but the gun and Nelson’s knee on his chest shoved even harder and the words were lost in a gasp as his own injuries were aggravated.

“No!” Nelson growled.  “You don’t get to say anything!”

Helpless, Don could only lay there, struggling to breathe around the pain and the pressure.

“You killed my son!”

“Nelson,” Don forced the word out.  “Scott-”

“No!”  Nelson shouted as he shifted, moving his gun so his aim was now centred on the injured agent’s forehead.

From a few inches away Don couldn’t help but try to focus on the muzzle.  He forced his eyes shut and broke the stare, reopening them to seek out the man’s face.  Ignoring the order to stay quiet he got the words out, his voice raspy, “I had no choice.”

The response was harsh, “You could have died.”

“No.”

“You could have let him kill you.”

“No,” Don repeated, stronger this time.

“Now I have the choice,” Nelson said quietly, dangerously.  The hard angles from the single spotlight only added emphasis to the threat, casting half his face into darkness.

The anger and tension in Nelson’s body had Don convinced he was about to die.  He was on borrowed time but he would take every extra moment he had.  He coughed to clear his throat and it whilst it was still hard to breathe properly it was certainly easier without the man’s weight on his chest.  “Yes.  Yes, you can choose whether I live or not.  My choice was him or me, I chose to live.  Your choice is murder,” he explained, pausing to get a breath.  “You are not a murderer.  You are not your son.”

“My son!”  Nelson repeated.  His gun shook as it dipped closer.  “My.  Son.”

“Your son was a murderer.  He chose his path, his fate,” Don continued.  He fought to ignore the gun so threateningly close and continued to look at the face over him, not sure which was the more frightening.

Everything that had happened since he’d met the once reluctant witness all came down to choices, his choice to escort Nelson for the chance of an early trip home just as Nelson chose to pull him from the wreckage of the plane after the crash rather than simply escaping.  Don had made another choice tonight, taking the accomplice’s weapon in order to give himself the best chance of surviving the encounter with the murderous escapee.  He’d done everything he could to avoid taking Brad on knowing that Nelson’s reaction now was the likely outcome.  He’d tried to flee rather than fight, but in the end he’d had no other option.

“I had a choice and I made it.  Now you have to make yours.  You have my life in your hands.”

“In my hands,” Nelson repeated.  “Just like you had my son’s.”

Don was sure it was over but the older man just continued to stare downwards.  It was almost as if Nelson didn’t know what was going to do next even if Don was sure he knew the older man’s path.  He could hope though and could try to talk the man down.  He wasn’t sure if Nelson was hearing him clearly but he needed to make the distinction, “No, not like that.  He was armed and trying to kill me.  I acted in self defence.  This is murder.  I’m not a threat to you.”

Nelson didn’t respond, his almost point blank aim still true despite the tremors in his hand.

He pushed, “After you kill me then what?  What of your life?”

“My life is gone, my son is dead!”  Nelson shouted.  The gun moved away for a moment as he gestured to the still body that Paul was bending over but soon returned.  Nelson’s next words had even more menace than before, “You killed my son.”

“But what about Paul?” Don demanded in desperation as his words backfired.  He tried to continue but as the gun touched his forehead his voice failed him.  Nelson’s face twisted in grief, rage and effort, the weapon shaking as the pressure increased.

“Dad, no!”

Nelson’s head jerked up and Don somehow managed to follow his gaze to see the younger son stop a yard away.  “Paul,” Nelson’s voice choked on the word.

“Please, Dad. You can’t.”

“He killed Brad.”

Paul stared at Don for a long moment.  He wrung his bloodied hands, glancing back at the body he’d just checked for life.  “I know but you can’t kill him.  You saw what happened, he tried to run but Brad chased him, made him shoot...” his voice broke on the word but he cleared his throat and continued, “You can see he tried his best to kill him.  He wanted to live.”

Nelson misunderstood, repeating the words as an accusation to the man under his gun, “Brad wanted to live.”

“Brad wanted to kill,” Don corrected.  “I didn’t.  I’m sorry, but I had to.”

“Don’t shoot him,” Paul pleaded.  “This is not who you are, Dad.  Please.”

Nelson started breathing hard, his gaze flickering from his youngest son to the body and then back to the agent.  He held the agent’s eyes for a few long moments before he abruptly pulled his gun away and stood.

“Dad,” Paul started, his voice filled with relief.  “Come on, we -“

Nelson suddenly let out another cry of grief but there was also frustration in the sound.

Don had started to relax but suddenly froze as the gun came up.  He jerked in reaction as Nelson pulled the trigger.

He drew a shuddering breath and then another as he saw the mark on the ground all too close beside his head.  He looked up to Nelson but the older man was ignoring him in favour of hugging his youngest son to him.  Don realised the shot had not been intended to kill him but an attempt to take the pressure off his angst.  It took some more painful breaths before he dared to move to assess his injuries, it hurt but he couldn’t bear to keep lying so helplessly on his back.  Taking more effort than it should he only managed to raise himself enough to lean on his left elbow.  He looked down at himself and saw his shirt was soaked in blood down his right side from the chest wound and the graze across his side.  The shoulder wound he couldn’t see even as he felt the pain of it.  Moving his gaze lower saw the left leg of his jeans was likewise soaked from the knife wounds.  It wasn’t good, he’d lost and was still losing a fair amount of blood and he knew that any chest wound was potentially life threatening, but for now he was still alive.  He shifted again, gasping in pain but needed to try to find an escape route even as he knew there was no way he was capable of getting himself out of there.

A figure suddenly appeared over him and he started, falling back as he recognised Nelson.  As he hit the ground he couldn’t help the grunt of pain even as he bit it short.  He also couldn’t help the flinch as Nelson reached out a hand.

“Get up,” Nelson ordered.

Don looked to the empty hand in confusion, it was Nelson’s right but his check showed the gun still in the man’s other hand.

“Up!” Nelson repeated as he bent.

Don tried to avoid the reaching hand but with his injured right shoulder he didn’t have the strength and Nelson was able to take his upper left arm in a firm grip, the cuffs jerking his right painfully.  Nelson didn’t react to Don’s gasp, just pulled steadily forcing him to struggle to get his right leg under him, finding his left now barely able to support any weight.  He was finally pulled mostly upright, leaning heavily on the older man and baffled as to Nelson’s intention.  “What are you doing?”

“Dad?”  Paul queried at the same time, clearly just as puzzled.  “He’s badly hurt, leave him.”

“We have to go,” Nelson explained, ignoring his youngest son’s words.

Hearing the approaching sirens Don understood Nelson’s need to go but didn’t understand why he was once again the man’s focus.  He wasn’t really sure what he’d expected the other man to do but abandoning his dead son in favour of taking him made no sense.  It was all over.  There was time for Nelson to take his youngest son, even his oldest if he so wished and escape, the sirens were far enough away for that.

Nelson pulled at him and Don was too seriously injured to do anything other than move as best he could.  He was half dragged over to the car as Paul moved in and took hold of the waistband of his jeans and lifted to help support him.  They reached the car and Nelson adjusted his hold preparatory to shoving him in the back, forcing Paul to move out of the way.

“Leave me,” Don said repeating Paul’s suggestion.

Nelson ignored him and forced him roughly into the car and onto the seat.

“Nelson,” Don tried again, gasping against the pain, but stopped as the gun came up.

“You don’t get to ask me for anything,” the older man said in a low, tight voice.  “Clear?”

The agent swallowed in a suddenly dry throat and used the remaining strength in his left arm and right leg to get himself far enough into the car that the door could be closed.  Exhausted he recognised the signs of blood loss.  Unable to do anything else he lay back across the seat and allowed his eyes to close.

The wheels spun in the dirt as Paul got the car moving.  They bumped over the curb causing Don to groan in pain and sped off.  He braced himself as they swung around the corners until Nelson instructed his son to slow and the ride became smoother.  He shifted in an effort to make himself more comfortable but wasn’t successful.

He suddenly understood what Nelson was doing.  There was a reason to take him away with them and it wasn’t for protection against the approaching police, there was time enough to get away clean.  Nelson had warned the FBI what would happen if Brad was killed.  The situation now was worse than Nelson had feared.  He’d witnessed his son’s death and had the man responsible for that in his hands.  Nelson may have spared him a few minutes ago but he was giving himself another chance at revenge.

After that first call to David he had asked Nelson if he could murder in cold blood.  Now he began to fear Nelson could. 


.
Next chapter - here

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