Disclaimer: They ain't mine.
Summary: The flu runs rampant through the Eppes household.
Author's Notes: After recovering from a bout of the flu myself, along with several of my coworkers, this little story popped into my head. Just a teeny little H/C that I wanted to explore. Enjoy!
Charlie glanced up from his laptop and frowned, concerned, at his father. "Dad, are you sure you're all right? You've been sneezing for the last hour."
Alan sniffed, cleared his throat, and shook out his newspaper. "I told you, I'm fine. Am I bothering you?"
"No, no," Charlie replied. "I'm just worried, is all."
"Well, don't be," Alan told him. "Probably some dust or something."
Charlie returned his eyes to his computer screen, his mind already whirring through the equations in front of him. He was seated on the floor in front of the coffee table in the living room, hoping that the change in scenery from his office would clear his mind and help him concentrate. All he'd managed to do, however, was fret over his father.
Charlie was just about to add another string of numbers to his equation when Alan suddenly erupted into a fit of violent coughs. Charlie turned his eyes back to Alan, watching him with worry plain on his expressive face.
Alan caught the look around his fit and cleared his throat. "Don't look at me like that. I'm fine."
"Yeah, you sound fine." Charlie stood and headed into the kitchen. Finding a glass, he filled it with cool tap water, and returned to the living room. He handed the glass to Alan, who accepted it grudgingly and sipped.
"See?" Alan asked after swallowing half the glass' contents. "All better." He set the glass on the coffee table and returned to his paper.
Charlie continued to watch Alan, eyes cataloguing the older man's features. He knew Alan had been spending more time downtown at the shelter, covering for some other volunteers who had fallen ill. Despite Alan's assurances each year that he never caught the flu, Charlie was wondering if perhaps fate was catching up to him.
There were dark circles under Alan's eyes, and his face was pale. Along with the couching fits and the sneezing, Charlie knew Alan's appetite had dwindled. It certainly looked to him as though Alan was coming down with something.
The door opened, interrupting Charlie's stream of thoughts. He turned to watch as his older brother entered the loving room, shedding his suit jacket as he approached. Don offered them a weary grin and sank onto the couch with a huff of air.
"Long week at the office?" Alan asked, setting his paper down.
"Half our department has been out with the flu, and the rest of us have been trying to pick up their slack," Don answered. "I'll be so glad when flu season is over. It's always murder this time of year."
"Hopefully not literally," Alan stated.
Don tossed a grin at his father and turned to Charlie. "How about you? Flu season knocking on your door?"
Charlie nodded, sinking back to the floor in front of his laptop. "A lot of my students have missed class, and several professors have called in sick. Though, I'm wondering if they're not just using the flu as an excuse to get out of school for awhile. Some of these people make miraculous recoveries in just twenty-four hours."
Don chuckled. "Yeah, that twenty-four hour bug was pretty contagious when I was in college."
Their conversation was interrupted by Alan suddenly bursting into a long fit of sneezing. Don sat up straighter, tossing Charlie a questioning look. Charlie merely shrugged.
"You all right, Dad?" Don asked, once Alan had finished. "That doesn't sound too good."
"Don't you start, too," Alan said, lifting his glass of water to his lips.
Don stood and crossed over to Alan. He lifted a hand and pressed it against his father's forehead and sucked in a sharp breath. "Dad, you're burning up!"
Charlie was on his feet at that announcement. "Okay, Dad, you're definitely not okay. Come on, you're going to the doctor's."
"Absolutely not," Alan responded, batting Don's hand away. "It's just a little bug. I'm more than capable of taking care of myself."
Charlie and Don exchanged looks.
"I can't believe you two dragged me down here."
Don folded his arms and stood before Alan. "What did you expect, Dad? You were running a fever of a hundred and two, and couldn't keep anything down!"
Charlie sat in a chair and began to swing his legs impatiently. "I told you that you were getting sick. You didn't listen to me."
"All right, that's enough," Alan stated. "It's bad enough you made me go to the doctor's office. I'm not going to listen to the 'I told you so' comments, too."
The doctor chose that moment to enter the room. His nose was buried in a clipboard as he reached towards the tools on one wall, retrieving an aural scope.
"Okay, how are we feeling today?" he asked, finally setting the clipboard down and approaching Alan.
"'We' are feeling just fine, thank you," Alan replied. "Now if you don't mind, I'll be on my way."
He started to rise, but Don pushed him back down. "Why don't you let the doctor be the judge of that?"
Alan fixed his eldest son with a hard stare.
The doctor peered into Alan's ears, then retrieved a cotton swab and swiped at the back of Alan's throat. He didn't say much during his exam, much to the consternation of his patient. By the time he had finished and was scribbling some notes on Alan's chart, Alan had had enough.
"So you gonna share with the rest of us what you found?" he demanded.
Don jumped in quickly. "Sorry. He's hardly ever sick."
The doctor didn't seem to mind Alan's irritability one way or the other. "It's the flu, Mr. Eppes. I'm going to prescribe a Z-pac for you, along with another antibiotic. Take them, get plenty of rest, and drink plenty of fluids."
"That's it?" Alan asked as the doctor scratched out the prescription and handed it to Alan.
The doctor smiled- his first sign of emotion since walking into the exam room. "Believe me, Mr. Eppes, it's enough. You'll see."
Charlie hit the save button on his laptop, then shut the computer down. Closing the monitor, he packed it into his carrying case and stretched the kinks out of his back.
A loud bout of coughing coming from his father's room down the hall drew his attention. They had brought Alan home from the doctor's two days ago, and the flu had just begun to sink its teeth into the older man. Charlie couldn't believe how violent a strain Alan had caught. For someone who had never gotten the flu before, he was certainly having a tough time of it now.
Don had decided to move into the guest room for the next few days to help Charlie take care of their father. Charlie was glad Don was there. He wasn't sure that he would be able to handle a cranky, ailing Alan by himself.
Charlie emerged from his bedroom and crept down the hall to his father's room. He peeked around the door cautiously, checking to see how Alan was doing.
"How's it going?"
Charlie jumped and whirled around, glaring at his brother. "Don! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
Don held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry. Habit."
Charlie calmed his racing heart, then took a closer look at Don. Don looked tired- more so than usual. "Hey, Don, you okay?"
"Yeah, just exhausted," Don replied dismissively. "I think working all that overtime is catching up to me."
Charlie nodded, but didn't seem entirely convinced. Don ignored the curious look and reached around Charlie to gently knock on Alan's door. "Dad?"
"Yeah?" came Alan's voice.
"Everything okay?" Don asked, moving into the room.
Alan hid several coughs behind his fist. "Just fine. I should have this thing licked in no time."
Charlie leaned around Don. "You need anything, Dad?"
Alan favored them with a small smile. "No, boys, I'm fine. It's late; you two go on to bed. I'll be okay."
"Call if you need anything," Don told him, steering Charlie back out into the hall.
They had just shut the door to their father's room when Don erupted into a fit of coughing. He covered his mouth with his fist until it passed, then straightened.
Charlie was frowning at him, worried. "Don, that doesn't sound too good. Maybe you should go lie down. Take it easy."
Don patted Charlie on the shoulder. "Nah, I'm fine, buddy. Don't worry about me."
The sound of the phone ringing shook Charlie out of his stupor. Turning away from the movie he had been watching, he lifted the receiver. "Hello?"
"Hey, Charlie," Terry's voice greeted. "Is Don there? I tried his apartment and his cell, and got no answer."
Charlie stood and headed up the stairs where his brother was resting. "Yeah, Terry, he's here. Let me go get him for you."
He paused outside the guest room door and knocked lightly. Receiving no answer, Charlie knocked a little harder. "Don? Phone."
The door opened, and Charlie nearly dropped the phone in shock. Don stood before him, his face haggard. Dark circles ringed his eyes, and his shoulders were slumped. He reached out for the phone, but Charlie backed away.
"Sorry, Terry, but Don can't come to the phone right now," he said. "He just came down with the flu." He hung up before Terry could respond.
"What the hell did you do that for?" Don demanded, grabbing for the phone. Charlie dodged Don's clumsy attempt.
"Don, you're sick," he stated. "You can't deny it anymore. I'm taking you to the doctor, so let's go."
Don folded his arms. "And just how are you going to get me there? You don't have a driver's license, remember?"
Charlie looked down at the phone in his hand. "No, but Terry does."
Don dropped his arms and advanced on his brother. "Oh no you don't. Give me that phone."
Charlie darted around Don, dialing Terry's number as he dodged Don's outstretched hands. Usually his brother was much quicker and able to beat him, but with Don at the mercy of the flu, Charlie was having no problems gaining the upper hand.
"Terry, it's Charlie," Charlie said once he heard the agent answer. "I got a favor to ask you."
"Charlie, hang up, now," Don ordered, snagging a piece of Charlie's shirt.
Charlie easily dislodged the grip and headed down the stairs. He heard Don follow as he rattled off his request to Terry. By the time he reached the phone's handset, he hung up and dropped the receiver into the cradle. He turned around and grinned triumphantly at his big brother. "All done. She's on her way."
Don pointed a finger at his brother. "You're going to pay for that."
"Fine," Charlie conceded. "Tell me about it when we get to the doctor's."
He brushed by Don, heading up the stairs to tell his father what was going on. Don watched him go, then shook his head ruefully.
Charlie rubbed his tired eyes as he stood before the stove, stirring a pot of chicken noodle soup. His body felt achy, as though he'd slept the wrong way on his bed somehow. He felt exhausted, but then he hadn't gotten much sleep that week either. Alan's flu had just about run its course, leaving him weak and tired. Don's flu was nearing its end as well, but both men still spent their days sleeping. At least they had stopped throwing up everything they ate; Charlie was grateful for that much.
Between making sure both Alan and Don received their medication, drank their water, and managed to eat something each day, Charlie was feeling run down himself. He only hoped that, once his father and brother had recovered, he would be able to crash for a few days.
Charlie switched the stove to a lower setting and spooned soup into two bowls. Setting the bowls on a bed tray with two bottles of water and packets of medication, he lifted the tray and headed upstairs.
His first stop was Alan's room, as was his routine. Alan was stirring from his slumber- right on time. Charlie set the tray aside and gently shook his father's shoulder.
"Dad!" he said softly. "Dad, wake up. Time for lunch."
Alan grunted and opened his eyes. "Already?"
Charlie smiled at him and brought a bowl over to him. "Yeah, Dad, already. You feel up to eating some?"
Alan sat up and accepted the bowl. "Just try and stop me. Thanks, Charlie."
"No problem, Dad." Charlie set the water bottle on the nightstand beside his father's bed, along with his medication. "Don't forget to take your pills, Dad. I'll be back after a bit to collect your bowl."
He didn't wait for an answer, hefting the tray and heading for the guest room where Don was staying.
Don was awake, reading an old paperback novel. Upon Charlie's entrance, he book-
marked his page and set the book aside. He sat up and grinned at his brother.
"You know, I could get used to you waiting on me hand and foot," he commented, reaching for the tray as Charlie set it down in front of him.
Charlie gave him a playful glare. "Only you would find an upside to being sick."
"Not much else to do around here, now is there?" Don pointed out, starting into his soup.
"You could, oh I don't know, sleep?" Charlie suggested.
"I've been doing that," Don stated. "I don't know if it's possible to be tired of being tired, but I think I am."
"I gotta go straighten up the mess downstairs, but I'm going to be back for you bowl," Charlie told him. "Try and eat everything, okay?"
"Yes, Mom," Don called after his retreating back. Charlie only grinned and shook his head.
Alan awoke later the next morning and took a deep breath. Something was different today.
It took a full minute for him to figure out what it was.
Don appeared in his doorway, a bathrobe wrapped around him. His dark hair stuck up in several places, but color had returned to his cheeks. "Morning, Dad. You're looking much better."
"So are you," Alan replied, sitting up. He tossed his blankets aside and took another deep breath. It felt good to do that. "I think we're past the worst of it."
"I'm glad," Don commented as Alan pulled on his own bathrobe. "I hate the flu."
"I can see why now," Alan replied. "It certainly isn't anything I'm anxious to experience again."
Together, the two of them headed downstairs and into the kitchen. They poked around the cupboards, finally deciding not to tempt fate by sticking to bowls of oatmeal for breakfast. As the oatmeal was warming up, Alan glanced at the clock.
"I hadn't realized how late it was!" he exclaimed. "The morning's half gone! Where's your brother?"
Don frowned. "I don't know. I guess he's still in his room. He's been sleeping at odd hours, trying to take care of us at all hours of the day."
"Your brother has been a big help this week," Alan stated. "I don't know if we would have managed this thing without him. Maybe we should let him sleep for awhile."
The two men sat down together and ate their breakfast, both glad to be somewhere other than their bedrooms. Once they were finished and had cleared their dishes, they settled into the living room to watch some television.
It was nearly two in the afternoon by the time Alan switched the television off. "I'm worried," he confessed. "It's not like Charlie to sleep this late. I'm going to go check on him."
Alan stood and headed up the stairs. After a moment, Don decided to join him.
They paused outside of Charlie's door. "Charlie?" Alan called gently, tapping on the door. "Charlie, are you awake?"
Frowning, Alan pushed the door open and stepped inside, Don right behind him.
Charlie was lying on his stomach, fully clothed on his bed. His dark curls were a mess, partially obscuring his pale complexion. Alan moved to Charlie's side and laid a hand on his back, only to draw it back sharply.
"Dad?" Don asked.
"He's burning up!" Alan replied. "Get me a change of clothes and a washcloth with lukewarm water."
Don fetched the washcloth first, then hunted for pajamas for his brother while Alan turned Charlie onto his back. He lightly dabbed Charlie's face with the cloth, sweeping his hair back from his forehead. Charlie didn't so much as stir.
"He must have worked himself sick taking care of us," Alan surmised, taking the clothes Don offered him. "Help me change him, then let's get him tucked into bed."
Together, they managed to wrestle Charlie's sweat-soaked clothes off and changed him into his pajamas. Once Charlie was settled beneath the covers, Alan continued to dab Charlie's face.
Alan turned his head as Don entered Charlie's room, carrying a bowl of something that smelled wonderful. Don set the bowl on Charlie's dresser and leaned over his brother, his hand settling on Charlie's forehead.
"The fever's gone down a bit," Alan told his eldest son. "Charlie's woken up a couple times, but he went right back to sleep after a minute."
"Well, I brought you some dinner," Don told him, retreating to Charlie's dresser. "There's more for Charlie, if he can wake up long enough to eat."
"Let's let him sleep," Alan decided. "He kept down lunch from this afternoon. We'll try again a little later."
Don handed Alan the bowl. "Why don't you go downstairs and eat? Take a break? I'll keep your spot warm till you get back."
Alan sighed. "I think I'll do that. Call me if his fever spikes again, you hear?"
"I got it, Dad," Don assured him. "Go eat."
Don settled in the seat Alan had vacated and leaned back, letting out a long breath. His eyes traced his brother's face, cataloguing the lines on his young face. It had been a couple days since Charlie had come down with the flu, but it looked as if the worst had come and gone. Today was the first day they were able to keep food in Charlie's stomach without it rebelling, and Don took that as a good sign. It wouldn't be much longer before the fever finally broke.
Charlie stirred in his sleep, turning his head away from Don. He mumbled something that Don couldn't quite hear, then fell silent. Don leaned forward and felt his brother's forehead again, then brushed his brother's hair back.
"Just hang in there, buddy," he whispered. "You're doing great."
Alan emerged from his bedroom and yawned, blinking furiously at the bright light that spilled into the hall from the windows. It looked as if another beautiful day had dawned, and Alan made a resolution to go outside and enjoy it for a little while. He had stayed cooped up in the house since his bout of flu, then Charlie's. Charlie was slowly recovering after nearly a week at the mercy of the virus, much to the relief of his father and brother.
Before heading downstairs to start breakfast, Alan detoured into Charlie's room to check up on his son. He found Don already there, taking Charlie's temperature.
"Good news?" Alan asked, approaching.
Don read the LED display on the aural thermometer. "Great news," he answered, grinning. "His temp's back to normal."
Alan grinned broadly and looked at the display himself. "That's a relief. I was getting ready to take him back to the doctor's if it hadn't cleared soon."
A slight moan from the still figure in the bed caused both men to jump in surprise. Eagerly, they leaned over Charlie, watching to see if he was finally rousing from his slumber.
Charlie sighed heavily and opened heavy eyelids. His vision was blurred; he blinked several times until the images swimming before him came into focus. He frowned at what he saw.
"Dad?" he rasped. "Don? What are you guys doing up? You should be in bed."
Alan laid a hand on Charlie's forehead, relieved to feel that the heat he had grown to expect was gone. "We're better, Charlie, thanks to you. We've been better for a few days now."
Charlie didn't understand. "A few days? You were still sick just yesterday."
Don smiled. "That was five days ago, buddy. You've been out cold all that time, down with the flu yourself."
Charlie still didn't understand. Five days? He fought to sit up, only to have four hands push him back down. "The flu? I don't have the flu."
Alan chuckled. "Well, there's not much of it left in you, but you most certainly did a couple days ago."
"We were worried about you there for awhile," Don chimed in. "It hit you pretty hard, but it looks like the worst is over now."
Charlie rubbed his face, trying to make sense of their words. Alan must have understood his confusion, because he began to thread his fingers through Charlie's hair.
"Go back to sleep for now, Charlie," Alan said softly. "It'll make more sense after you get some more rest."
Charlie fought against the rising currents of slumber, but his father's gentle strokes lulled him back into a deep sleep. As soon as he saw Charlie's breathing even out, Alan sighed and withdrew, straightening.
"Thank God," he breathed, rubbing his face wearily. "I thought this thing was never going to leave us alone."
Don patted Alan on the back. "Flu season's pretty rough. We should be good till next year, though."
Alan looked at Don sharply. "Next year? I don't think so. I'm going down to that clinic on the corner and getting my flu shot, and I'm taking you and your brother with me. We are not doing this again."
He started to head out of the room and down the stairs with Don following after him. "But Dad, you can still get the flu, even with the shot! I don't think it's really necessary."
Alan waved his hand dismissively. "I have had enough of the flu to last me a lifetime. We are not getting sick again. You mark my words."
"Dad," Don protested. "Dad, come on, you know how much I hate needles . . . Dad . . . come on, Dad!"