Don Could see the dining room from his place on the couch, he frowned as he imagined the short walk from dining room to kitchen , kitchen back to dining room and dining room back to couch.
It would take him but a minute.
He licked his dry lips thoughtfully while checking to see if Alan could see him. Alan at this moment in time had decided to trust his eldest to remain where he'd left him this morning.
The walk from Don's bedroom to the living room had clearly exhausted him, and as much as Alan knew he'd never admit it, Don was glad when he was laid out on the couch. The plan to have breakfast at the table together went slightly awry with Don's lack of energy. So the couch made a perfect substitute. Alan had made pancakes which Don had heartily tucked into. Half way through Alan had to make a dash to grab a bowl from the kitchen before the pancakes relocated themselves from Don's stomach to the living room floor.
Alan brushed away more leaves from the front porch. He loved his garden and loved the plumage but unfortunately this meant by autumn there were bags of leaves to collect and dispose of. He glanced through the window and smiled as he watched Don find a more comfortable position. As much as Alan had tried to come to terms with Don's career choice he still couldn't help but want to keep him inside and safe.
Alan grinned guiltily, he was enjoying being able to take care of his eldest. Something he felt he should have done better when Don was a boy. He was proud of his son and amazed he had turned out so well despite the neglect he had suffered when Alan and Margaret began devoting all their time to Charlie.
Don had arrived at the family home yesterday afternoon with Megan and David. David had driven Don's car while Megan had driven Don in hers. He'd walked in passed his father and carefully walked to the couch; his relief at being seated was audible to all. According to Don he had 'knocked' his head. Alan went to get Don a glass of water, Megan joined Alan in the kitchen to give him the painkillers provided by the hospital and a truthful run down of his injuries: concussion, bruises and a cracked rib. Don had been adamant about coming home and had discharged himself against the Doctors wishes , so Megan had promised that someone would wake him every two hours and rush him back to Memorial if needs be. The Doctor, satisfied he could trust Megan, had agreed seeing as Don wasn't in any immediate danger.
Once Megan and David had said their goodbyes Alan had simply raised his eyes to Don and gone to get his room ready. As Don had watched his father walk upstairs he felt instantly guilty. It would have been better if Alan had shouted (although not better for the marching band currently strutting their back catalogue through his head), but his Dad understood, they'd seen enough of hospitals.
Every movement Don made hurt. He eventually found himself sitting with his head in his hands praying with all his might for the spinning and pain to stop. He felt gentle hands on his shoulders, a cool sensation on the back of his neck. His father was speaking but Don couldn't make out the words. His skin had gone clammy and his lips numb. Black spots were dancing across his vision. Oblivion was kept at bay by Alan's hands on his neck and face, cooling him with a wet flannel. As the blackness receded Don started to make out the words.
"Just breath my boy, that's it, keep breathing, we'll have you upstairs in no time
Deep breath's Donnie, deep breaths"
Once Don was able, Alan slung his left arm around Don's waste. Don helpfully attempted to put his right arm over Alan's shoulders but managed to miss and hit the side of his head.
"It's ok Donnie, let me"
Alan slung Don's arm over his shoulders and they began the awkward walk upstairs. By the time Alan laid Don on his bed beads of sweat were already visible across his eldest's face, Don looked up at his father with eyes Alan hadn't seen since his boy was five.
"Dn't feel ssso g'd dad"
"It's ok Donnie, lay down"
Alan pulled Don's shoes off, followed by his dress shirt and belt. Everything else could wait. He retuned with another flannel from the bathroom and wiped Don's face, neck and chest. He watched as the pain decreased the further into slumber Don sank. His features softened and within minutes years of stress, worry and over work seemed to evaporate from his features.
Alan pulled a blanket over Don, smoothed his hair, kissed his forehead and left him to rest.
Don had been dreaming of riding in his Dad's old ford. Alan would sometimes let him sit in the front if his Mother was away with Charlie. They would drive for hours singing along to the radio or talking baseball. This time was different though. Margaret had gone away with Charlie to Princeton University to survey the facilities. At 14 Charlie was already too far advanced for regular schools. Alan had asked Don to come with him for one last drive. Don had wanted to go out in his own car to pick up some friends, but something in his father's voice had given him pause. His father had seemed…..lonely.
They had driven up the pacific coast highway a ways and back again. In silence.
A silence neither felt needed to be broken. A silence Don enjoyed not knowing….
Not knowing how reciprocated …
"Donnie! Wake up my boy"
A silence now being interrupted.
"DON , WAKE UP"
The gentle caresses on his cheek had become forceful slaps.
"ooooooooh" Don groaned as light forced its way into his eyes.
"I know Donnie, I know. You've got to talk to me though, come on Don, open your eyes all the way, good boy. Now. Where are you?"
"In hell "
"What day is it?"
"Ok, back to sleep"
Alan risked another kiss to Don's forehead while he was unable to prevent the affection.
Don tried to figure out the distance to step ratio from couch to kitchen, attempting to emulate Charlie's ability to see these distances in an instant. Except for Don, it literally made his head hurt.
Charlie had been the second one to wake him up yesterday. He'd been less gentle than Alan and had asked a whole load more questions than were necessary. In the end Don had pleaded with him to leave him alone, he pretty much fell instantly back to sleep.
Don had awoken in the early hours of the morning to find the pain had thankfully worn off somewhat. He had carefully rolled over onto his left side, mindful of the cracked rib and had settled his gaze on his little brother, slumped against the wall. Half marked papers in his lap. Charlie was sleeping so deeply that the sound of his breath's helped lull Don back to sleep.
Don had himself sitting upright as he carefully swung his legs from the couch to the floor. The slight spinning sensation dissipated quickly so Don carefully stood upright and promptly fell back down. After composing himself again, and giving another quick check for Alan, he stood up, more slowly this time and made a few steps towards the living room.
Alan understood Don's reticence to ask for help. It was something passed on to him from Margaret. If she had shown how truly ill she really was Alan doubted any of them would have been able to have been strong enough to carry her through all the Doctors visits , Hospital trips and many visits from well meaning family members who were really only saying goodbye.
He understood it, but he disliked it also. Don had been strong for so long that it caused him untold pain have to ask Charlie for help with the rape case, and again with the bank robbery case, but it seemed to be becoming easier for him. Now it seemed Charlie spent more time with Don at the FBI than he did teaching his students. But Alan was proud. Charlie was becoming a better man and that was thanks to Don. Alan also felt that Charlie's growing strength would be the catalyst to finally allow Don to let down some of his walls.
Alan could only hope. He was so proud of his sons, proud of the men they had become, were becoming, proud of how they were complimenting each others personalities so well, proud that he was their father, proud enough to kill that boy if he took one more step toward the dining table.
Don made another step. His first goal was in sight. The dining table glimmered like an oasis in a desert. Another step, slightly unsure but determined to ignore the ache in his side and pain in this head. Don took another unsteady step. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe he should have waited. Maybes couldn't help him now. He had decided to get water and damnit he was going to succeed.
He was halfway through another step when Alan appeared in front of him ….holding a glass of water.
"Back you go"
"I would have made it you know, I've survived snipers I can survive this"
Don slowly (too slowly for his liking) turned and began the trek back to the couch. He tried to not show the relief on his face. If his father knew (and Don suspected he did) he'd never be able to leave the couch again.
"And stay there this time"
Don smiled as he sank back down into the couch.
Alan smiled as he walked back outside to finish clearing the leaves. He knew his son, knew his character and he knew Don would never let him carry him.
But he was beginning to meet him halfway.