Don sighed as consciousness returned to him, and he opened his eyes. He knew almost instantly that he was no longer in the basement of Charlie's building. A quick glance at his surroundings told him that he was in the hospital.
Alan hurried into the room, carrying a cup of coffee. Setting the cup on the nearby nightstand, he leaned over his eldest and gently brushed a hand through Don's hair. "Donnie, how are you feeling?"
"A lot better than before," Don answered truthfully. "How long has it been?"
"Near as we can figure, you were stuck in that room for nearly six hours," Alan told him. "You dislocated your shoulder and ended up with a serious concussion. We pulled the two of you out of there about four hours ago."
Don suddenly bolted upright in bed, startling his father. "Charlie! Where is he? Is he okay? Is he hurt?"
Alan gently eased Don back into bed. "Your brother is just fine. See? He's right over here." He moved off to the side and pointed at a bed to Don's left. Lying there was Charlie, fast asleep. A cast was wrapped securely around his right arm, and there were a couple bruises on his face, but other than that, he looked all right.
"What happened?" Don asked. "All I remember is Charlie telling me that rescue crews were on their way. He tried to keep me awake, but I just couldn't."
Alan smiled softly and settled in a chair between his sons' beds. "You'll have to forgive my lack of information. I got what I could out of him before the doctor gave him his sedative. From what I understand, Charlie tried to clear a path out of the storage room, but couldn't. Instead, he decided to create a little shelter out of the debris to protect the two of you until we came to find you."
"Wait . . . you mean . . . he didn't call for help?" Don asked, confused.
"How could he?" Alan countered. "His cell phone was in his office, and yours was destroyed."
Don stared up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Well, it could have been worse, I suppose. We're lucky that the whole damn ceiling didn't collapse on us."
Alan looked at him strangely, and Don wondered if he had suddenly grown two heads. "Donnie . . . it did." At Don's shocked expression, he hurried to add, "I thought you knew. Charlie certainly did . . . it was the reason he made that shelter. It caved in on you just as we were trying to pull you out."
Don was stunned. He was suddenly struck with the memory of a loud metallic groan and realized what it was. "Then why . . . why would he keep that from me?"
Alan shrugged. "I suppose he figured that since there was nothing you could do about it, there was no reason to worry you with it." He leaned forward. "Enough talking. You need your rest. Go on back to sleep."
Don tried, but he felt as though he had been sleeping for days. He lay awake, staring at the ceiling, lost in thought. After several hours, he managed to shoo his father home for a good meal and some sleep. After Alan had gone, Don's eyes had turned to study Charlie as his little brother slept.
It was nearly eight o'clock at night when Charlie finally began to stir. Pushing himself up into a sitting position, Don slid out of bed and sank into the chair near Charlie's bed and gripped his brother's fingers that were peeking out of his cast. "Charlie?"
Charlie's eyes fluttered open, and he frowned in confusion at his brother. "Don?"
Don grinned. "Yeah, Buddy, it's me. How're you feeling?"
Charlie's eyes opened wider, and he sat up in bed. "How am I feeling? How are you feeling? I'm not the one who got his head cracked open."
"I'm fine," Don assured him. "They've got me on the good stuff."
Charlie nodded at that, then looked down at his lap. "I was really worried about you."
Don squeezed the fingers that he held. "Thanks to you, I'll be just fine. I just wish I had been able to help you more down there."
Charlie's expression revealed bewilderment. "Help me more? Don, you saved my life, and nearly at the cost of your own! How much more help could you possibly have given me?"
"A lot, from what I understand," Don replied cryptically. "Are you gonna tell me everything that happened down there, or am I going to have to work it out of you?"
"You were there," Charlie pointed out, deliberately misunderstanding him. "You know what happened."
"You know what I mean," Don stated.
Charlie looked away, his fingers twitching in Don's grasp. "I'm glad we got out okay. For awhile there . . ."
Don saw remnants of fear flicker across Charlie's face. "Hey," he said softly. "We're okay, thanks to you."
Charlie scoffed. "Thanks to me? I didn't do anything. You saved my life down there. I couldn't even keep you awake to help you."
"Is that what you think?" Don asked, incredulous. "Charlie . . . look at me, Buddy." Once he had Charlie's eyes, he continued. "Sure, I saved your life, but you saved mine. Dad told me that the ceiling caved in on us, and that we would have died if you hadn't pulled us into that little shelter you made. How can you say you did nothing to help me?"
Charlie's eyes searched Don's face. "I don't know . . . I guess I thought I should have been able to find a way out of that storage room. You needed a doctor, and I couldn't even get out of that room to get one."
Don shook his head. "Charlie, you're being too hard on yourself. You saved my life. You kept me alive, and you did all that work even though you had a broken arm. So thank you, Buddy. For saving my life."
Charlie stared at Don for a moment before a slow smile blossomed on his face. "Yeah, well . . ." He ducked his head bashfully.
Don reached up and playfully ruffled Charlie's hair. "Well, you're stuck with me now, Buddy."
"I can think of worse things," Charlie replied softly.
A nurse chose to enter the room at that moment, pausing in the doorway and staring at the scene before her. A frown of displeasure marred her wrinkled face, and she folded her arms. "Agent Eppes, I don't believe you were given permission to leave your bed. Come on now, in you get."
Don winked at Charlie and returned to his bed as the nurse checked the monitors surrounding his bed. Charlie watched as his older brother smiled beatifically at the nurse, noting his slow movements that were growing steadier with each passing moment. The tight fist that had clenched around his heart down in the basement storage room finally began to ease as he began to accept that Don was all right.
Tossing a comment at the nurse that Charlie missed, Don glanced at his brother and smirked again. Charlie returned the smile and took a deep breath.
They were okay.