He did tell the kid to call if there was ever something he needed to talk about (to which he got a scoff, an eye roll and a "Cabe, don't be an imbecile") but nevertheless, he offered.
He just didn't really want that call to be at two thirty two A.M. on a Thursday, that's all.
Drowsily Cabe reaches towards his nightstand, burying his face in his pillow even as he grabs it and blearily looks at the caller ID. For a second he thinks it's work or maybe a punk call, some kids somehow getting his cell, but the startlingly familiar number makes him bolt upright.
"Walter?" He asks, and usually the young man would scowl at him for the use of his first name, but there's only raspy breathing, the unsteady inhale of breath. Immediately concerned, he sits up further and sticks his feet into his slippers, standing up and heading to the kitchen for some coffee. He'll call his department after he gauges what's going on and if it's serious, but seeing as Walter is too proud to actually admit he needs help, much less call, so it probably is.
There are more panting breaths. "C-C-C-C-Cabe?" It's stuttered and Walter's teeth are undoubtedly chattering, and Cabe's concern spikes to worry.
"Walter," Cabe asks, his voice steady, "what's going on?" More shuddering breaths and shifting sounds, like Walter is squirming. "Walter," he repeats, but it's a bark now, "answer me!"
Heavy puffs. "I...I don' 'member," he chokes, and it sounds like he's shivering. "'M," there's a pause and a loud swallow, "'m cold, C-C-C-Cabe."
Cabe's mouth goes dry as he listens to Walter cough brutally into the phone. It's February, and although they don't get a lot of snow where they are tonight there are heavy snowflakes tumbling down, coating the ground in what looks to be at least eight inches already, and it had only started at eleven P.M. It's this confession that really alarms Cabe, though, because Walter wouldn't admit he was weak even if he'd been shot. "Walter, where are you?!"
More wheezing fills the silence. "I'm," and it's a gasp, "I'm...really...in trouble, Cabe."
"Where are you O'Brien?! Answer me goddammit!"
The kid's only fifteen and he's Cabe's responsibility, and if anything's happened to him Cabe swears to God-
"'M off Main Street I think," comes the strained reply, "an' I managed to make a couple people-" his voice pitches like he's in pain, and Cabe doesn't doubt that he is and won't say, "and I...I think I'm…" A pause for coughing. "Hurt, Cabe."
And Cabe's heart plummets straight out of his chest. "There are a lot of streets off of Main, kid." His voice is the stern tone he uses at work as he grabs his coat and his car keys, saying, "you need to give me more than that. Use that one hundred and eighty seven intellect on me kid; give me something to work with."
Coughing and a weak groan. "Hundred and...ninety seven," he corrects, and Cabe feels a fleeting smirk cross his lips because even when he's potentially dying, Walter's still a smartass.
"Okay, hundred and ninety seven," Cabe concedes. "But come on O'Brien; give me something!" There, that's the voice he uses in the field, the voice he uses when shit needs to get done and it hasn't been done yet so it better be getting done. Now.
"I-I-" Walter's stuttering and it might be the most unnerving sound Cabe's ever heard from the fifteen year old, "I'm-" coughing- "I'm b-b-b-by the- the b-b-b-b-bar called the- the Eagle Spread-" positive hacking and gasping for breath, and Cabe's tires screech as he pulls out of his driveway.
"How do you know?" Cabe demands. "Tell me!" He doesn't exactly care how the genius knows because his mind has always worked in ways that Cabe can never possibly hope to understand, but he realizes the danger of frostbite and hypothermia, and if this describing helps keep him awake then Cabe's all for it.
"Th-there's a glowing s-s-sign r-r-right 'cross where I am," Walter explains in shaky tones, clearing his throat. "C-C-C-Cabe?"
He has to swallow down a lump to respond. "I'm coming, Walter," he assures, because that's all that the tone can possibly ask in such a way. "I'm coming. Hang on."
"I-I-I-" he takes a deep, trembling breath, "I don't know why I d-d-d-didn't stop t-t-t-talking. Y-you were r-r-right," he says quietly. "I should've jus' kept my mouth sh-shut."
And now Cabe feels sickened. When was the last time Walter admitted someone else was right? "Just hold on," he says gruffly anyways, because damn it all to hell if Cabe's going to tell his young friend how he feels.
"Th-they said they w-w-w-weren't going to listen to a little smartass like me," he murmurs, but there's a grin in his voice. "Th-their mistake...They're gonna b-b-b-be arrested an-ny-nyways…"
"Oh? Why's that?" Cabe asks, pulling onto Main Street and probably breaking the speed limit, but it doesn't really matter because there aren't any drivers out on the road at two A.M. anyway.
"B-b-because," he says, and coughs sound like they rattle his frame, "they just robbed tha-tha-that b-b-bar...'n they were b-busted on public intoxi-c-ation anyway…"
And Cabe can't help his small, breathy laugh because trust Walter to notice things like that even when he's getting the shit beaten out of him. "All right," Cabe says, paying attention to street signs now in the dark, "I'm looking for- what- a twenty four hour bar off of Main? There aren't many around here but there are a helluva lot of streets off of main. Which one are you on?"
Hesitation. "Uh," Walter says, and now it's slurred, "I'm...I don't feel so great, Cabe…"
"Hey, hey!" Cabe shouts, and Walter seems to shake himself because he coughs again and there's more shifting. "Don't you dare," he threatens, because he can't see what Walter's doing but it's either falling asleep or bleeding out, and Cabe's not sure which is worse in this situation. "What street are you off of?!"
"I- uh," he says, "I'm off of-of- Main, a-and then I'm on- uh- Bunsen."
Cabe's shoulders slump in relief and he quickly flashes his blinker before jerking his wheel onto Bunsen, which shows up out of nowhere. His eyes flit to both sides of the street and at the end on the left are bright, pink glowing lights that cast awkward hot pink shadows into the street, and Cabe figures Walter has to be there.
He pulls up and jumps out of his car, pulling out his gun because he's wandering around alone in the dark outside a bar at two A.M., and although he's an agent he has no idea who else might be out here and he has no idea if those robbers who mugged Walter are still about. He circles the building and gets around back, where he finds a dumpster, and-
He swears his heart stutters because there are two very familiar, gangly fifteen year old legs poking around that same dumpster.
"Shit," he whispers, and in the relative silence out back it sounds like a shout. "Shit," he repeats when he gets closer as he tucks his gun into his pajama pants. "Walter?" He cautions, and the legs shift.
His heart stops completely.
Walter's face is a mesh of yellow, blue and green and purple, and there's blood running from his nose, a cut on his forehead, and his lip, which is split in two places. His eyes are swollen shut and his neck holds very defined, round shaped bruises, like someone had been strangling him. His body is twisted awkwardly too; he's on his stomach but his knees are facing the dark, starless sky.
Cabe shrugs off his jacket and folds it around Walter, brushing off some snow that's collected on top of him. Walter's eyes have finally given in and fallen shut but he stirs at his friend's touch. "Cabe?" He mutters, his eyes making a valiant effort to rise, but Cabe shushes him and they remain closed.
"It's me," he says as he takes in more of Walter's appearance. "Good god kid, did they run you over?"
"Mm," Walter murmurs, sounding sleepier. "I think they wanted to."
Cabe sighs and brushes some wayward curls away from Walter's forehead, inspecting the cut. "You better not have a concussion," Cabe warns. "It'll make carrying you hard as hell."
Walter's eyes struggle half-open and Cabe curses under his breath. His pupils are uneven. "S-s-sorry," Walter mumbles, but it doesn't sound genuine. "'N I got some bruised ribs, too, and a strained…" He trails off.
Cabe sighs again. "So much for shrugging you over my shoulder," he tells the young man, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'll just have to carry you bridal style."
Walter's eyes fly open and he looks comically mortified. In any other situation, it would have Cabe laughing, but as it is, he's more concerned about Walter's health than his pride at the moment. "Y-you can't," he chatters, and Cabe's feeling the cold without his jacket too. "I- I can walk!"
"Okay," Cabe agrees, sarcastically. "And I'm sure your parents know you're here on a Thursday too, don't they?"
Walter has the good grace to look abashed and look down, and Cabe wants to make a point, so he adds in a softer but no less stern tone: "It's two A.M. Do you know where your children are?"
"She thinks I'm in bed!" He snaps, then takes a deep breath and ends up coughing. "S' not my fault. I remembered the two men you w-w-were looking for and figured it out- f-figured out that they'd be here tonight b-b-because there's a p-p-pattern; they r-r-rob bars off of Main Street b-b-because they're homeless and they live b-behind the b-bars they rob. They're so p-p-pathetic and seen there so often that no one thinks that they're sc-scoping anything out."
Cabe wants to roll his eyes, and if he weren't so impressed he'd do so. Walter's ego is already big enough though so instead he says, "congratulations Sherlock. Now come on. I need to get you home, if not to a hospital."
"No hospitals," Walter insists feebly. "N-no hospi-spitals."
Cabe rolls his eyes again but secretly agrees. He likes hospitals just about as much as the next guy, but something in Walter really truly hates the place, and Cabe would rather avoid that temper tantrum if he can. "Fine," he says, "No hospitals, as long as I get to carry you to the car."
Walter thinks it over, but it takes considerably less time than it usually would. Cabe isn't sure if it's the concussion or the real desire to never go near a hospital, but unsurprisingly Walter concedes. "All right," he says quietly, his eyes shutting again. "Okay."
"No sleeping," Cabe says, and Walter hums.
"Y'know," he slurs as Cabe slips one arm under his knees and another around his shoulders, making sure Walter's head is tucked flush against his neck before moving, "tha's a myth, that if you fall 'sleep y'never wake up again…"
"Is it now?" Cabe says softly, somehow managing to open the passenger door, "well, you'd know, wouldn't you mister I-Have-An-IQ-Of-One-Eighty-Seven?"
"One ninety seven," Walter amends faintly, but as Cabe climbs into the driver's seat he can tell that Walter's already dozing.
"Okay," he all but whispers, and Walter's head bobs to the side, facing Cabe. "Okay."
And the steady thrum of the car engine lulls Walter the rest of the way to sleep.
"Walter? O'Brien, wake up."
He hurts. All over.
"Ow," he says blatantly.
"Yeah, they did a number on you kid," a gruff voice says from somewhere to his left, "but I'm patchin' you up. Just making sure you're not dead."
That's when he realizes he's not in his bed, in his house, and his eyes shoot open as he bolts upright. That's a mistake because it's in that moment he realizes his whole body doesn't just ache, it's on fire.
"You're an idiot," Cabe says, and hands are on his shoulders and supporting him as he's lowered back down. "I called your parents and they know you're here. I told 'em not to come because we had some security issues. You've got probably until around five P.M. until they're barging through my door."
Walter coughs and something in his chest rattles. "Right." There's another bout of coughing in which he's hacking, and Cabe actually has to physically support him as he leans forward. "Ugh," he chokes and a pounding so ferocious he feels sick to his stomach starts behind his eyes. "My head…"
"You've a nice concussion," Cabe agreed. "You'll feel a little sick for a few days."
"Ugh," he groans and doesn't care at the moment if Cabe is there because holy shit he's in pain, "I'm gonna throw up."
"There's a garbage can next to you," Cabe says, and there are footsteps and for a second Walter feels actual fear because where is Cabe going?!
"I'm here," Cabe says, and it suddenly strikes Walter that his eyes are closed again. "I'm here and I'm not leaving, so just close your eyes and go the hell to sleep because I don't want to have to deal with you."
As he says this he lays a cloth across Walter's brow, and it's as close to affection Cabe is ever going to express, so Walter accepts it and quips back, "well, I'd rather be asleep than listen to you yammer on" and Cabe's chuckles are the last thing he hears as he drifts off.
Then something strikes him, and he mutters, "hey Cabe?" A grunt is his acknowledgement, so he continues. "You're going to show me a right hook. Just in case."
"Am I now?"
And Walter can't help his smirk. "Yeah, you are," he says. "If you really don't want to deal with my again."
And he can almost see, even with his eyes closed, the shake of the agent's head.
Thanks for reading, please leave me a comment on your thoughts, and I hope you enjoyed!