A/N: This was supposed to be a short little piece that somehow got long . Many thanks to the group of women I write with (do you realize it's been years now?) for encouraging me and reading along. And apologies to purehalo. This was written long before she posted her story "A Hole in the Wall", and any similarities are purely coincidental. Though, boy, a couple of them were freakishly close! Gave me a start!
He started awake with a jump, right hand automatically going to his hip, but his fingers brushed empty air where a holster should be. His heart rebounded in his chest, but that was mostly reaction, because awareness was already seeping in at the edges of consciousness and he half-knew, almost without rational thought…
"Don't shoot me." His father's wry voice was as unmistakable as his presence, even in the gloom of the dimly lit room
"Dad." He unwrapped his numb left arm from its cramped position, clutching an open file to his chest, and rubbed futilely at his eyes. "I fell asleep," he mumbled dully, trying to push himself into a more erect position and falling back with a groan. "How long have I been…?" He slanted a glance at his watch and groaned again. "Why didn't you wake me?"
Alan smiled slightly. "That's what I was just doing. Waking you."
"I meant sooner." Don managed to lever himself into sitting position and propped his elbows on his knees to cradle his face in his hands, trying to rub it back into awareness. "It's been - I was supposed to be reading that file."
"Looks like your body had other ideas. Come on - it's time you moved from the sofa to a bed so you can sleep like a normal person."
"Yeah." A yawn split his jaw before he could stop it and he sank against the sofa back and closed his eyes again for a minute. "I'd better head home. Charlie in bed?"
"Hours ago. And what's this heading home? Don't drive when you're tired - your bed is all ready for you. I'll lend you a shirt and you can leave from here in the morning."
"Hm." Don opened his eyes, squinting to blink the sleep from them. "Can't believe I fell asleep."
"Yeah, well, I know this is a novel concept for you, but that's what tired people do - sleep. You should try it more often."
Don pushed himself forward again and sniffed, leafing idly through the file. "Plenty of time for that once we catch this guy. Right now I'm in the middle of a case."
Alan frowned, climbing to his feet. "You're always in the middle of a case. And you can't put sleep off indefinitely. You come in here looking like the walking dead and then you're surprised when you drop off without warning. Get a real night's sleep and that file will make a lot more sense to you in the morning - I guarantee it. I'll even make you breakfast - you'll feel like a new man." He slipped a hand under Don's arm and guided him to his feet.
"Walking dead. Nice. Thanks." Don rose without protest, shifting his shoulders to work the kinks out. "Maybe you're right. The new man thing sounds tempting, since the old one doesn't seem to be doing so great just now."
"That's the spirit." Alan splayed a hand between his shoulder blades and steered him deftly toward the stairs. "I'll even make French toast. Since you barely picked at your dinner tonight. Was the pot roast tough? I was afraid I left it to simmer too long."
Don missed the first stair with his foot and caught at the banister to steady himself. "Naw, no - nothing like that. It was great. We sent out for Chinese for lunch today and somebody must have left it under the heat lamp too long. Didn't sit well with anybody. But hey, I was lucky - had to send Colby home blowing chunks."
"Humph. All the more reason to substitute takeout on the fly with an occasional home cooked meal."
"Hey, I'm here, right?" Don pushed the bedroom door inward and flicked on the light. Alan didn't seem inclined to leave and he eyed him uneasily. "You didn't have any ideas about tucking me in or something."
Alan raised his brows. "Just making sure you actually go to bed and don't decide to take another run at the file. In fact, why don't you give me that and I'll give it back in the morning?"
Don blinked, then laughed. "Dad, I'm a grown man - this isn't like taking away my Batman comics so I can't read them under the covers with a flashlight."
Alan lifted his hands. "Just trying to stand between you and temptation. Besides, I'm pretty sure there's no flashlight in here."
"Hilarious. Look, don't worry about it - you're right - I'm tired. I'm just going back to sleep." Alan looked hard at him and he raised one hand. "Cross my heart."
"All right. Sleep well. You need me to wake you up at a certain time?"
"I should be up. But if I'm not moving around by six…"
"I'll send Charlie in to wake you."
Don chuckled. "Gee, thanks. Something to look forward to."
"Want something for your stomach? There's stuff in the medicine cabinet."
Don scrubbed at his eyes again. "I might take you up on that. Thanks, Dad."
"Hmph." Alan eyed him suspiciously. "Is it bad?"
Don looked surprised. "Bad? No - just a little off is all." And, when Alan showed no sign of leaving, "What?"
"Nothing," Alan leaned a shoulder into the door lintel. "It's just with you, I'm never sure if 'just a little off' means 'just a little off' or 'I should be rushing to the emergency room'."
"It means 'just a little off'." Don moved into the bedroom and tugged the covers down the bed, unbuttoning his shirt. "Man. Where do you get this stuff?"
Alan smiled faintly. "I can't imagine."
Don shook his head. "Me either. Night, Dad."
"All right - sleep well. See you in the morning. There are toothbrushes in the medicine cabinet too."
"Yeah, I'll take the hint. Maybe you should get some sleep before the sun comes up. I can take care of myself."
Alan's answering harrumph was full of skepticism, but he peeled away from the door lintel and closed the door carefully behind him.
It was the unfamiliar sounds that woke him this time, or, more accurately, the absence of familiar sounds - no footsteps overhead, no intermittent voices from the hallway, no street noises far below the window - and he lay quiet, still caught in the tug of sleep, trying to place himself. The muted rush of running water sounded nearby, and birds, and further off, a faint clatter of metal on metal. Oh, yeah. Now he remembered. Time to get up.
He rolled onto his back and contemplated the effort involved in rising. Somehow, his childhood room always had a somnolent effect on him. He heard the water stop and forced himself to sit up. Okay, come on. Shower. Shave. Work. He swung his legs over the side of the bed.
An icy thrust cut across his abdomen as his feet touched the floor, sucking the air from his lungs, and he clutched at the edges of the bed in surprise to keep from tumbling forward.
"Whoa," he whispered when he could catch his breath, waiting for it to ebb away. "That was some Chinese." He'd have to find out where they'd ordered from, because they were never going there again. "Wonder how the rest of the team is doing this morning." The pain faded as suddenly as it had come, until he could almost believe he had imagined it, except for the clammy layer of sweat left clinging to him. He wiped an arm across his forehead to blot the worst of it and then scrubbed his hands on the sheets, shivered uncomfortably. Now he could really use a shower. And maybe something from that medicine cabinet.
A practiced ear told him the bathroom was now free and he resignedly stood. At his own place, he rose blindly and made his way through his routine almost before he realized what he was doing. Here it took a little more focus to get himself moving, and today he seemed to be moving unusually slow.
His stomach didn't place any objections to him standing and he shuffled his way to the bathroom located between his old room and what was still Charlie's room, batting at the cloud of steam puffing out the door.
Been a long time since he'd shared a bathroom with his brother. He smiled a little as he found a clean towel, remembering years of fighting for dominance in front of the mirror, both trying to tame the unruly curls they had inherited from their father - without any notable success. These days Don kept his cut ruthlessly regulation short with no opportunity to curl and Charlie just let his go. Don shook his head as he opened the medicine cabinet, searching for something for his stomach and a spare razor he could use. He wasn't sure if that said something about their individual personalities or just their jobs.
He found an unused package of disposable razors and tore it open. Figured. Charlie often skipped shaving, but the Bureau frowned on the Don-Johnson-Miami-Vice look. He made a mental note to bring a new package next time he came.
Twenty minutes and a lot of hot water and Pepto-Bismol later, he felt almost like that new man his father had promised. He padded back to his bedroom, toweling his hair into place, and stopped dead at the sight of a clean shirt and socks and shorts laid out on the bed, an unexpected lump swelling in his throat. He knew his mother was gone, but just for a minute…He took a careful breath, closing the door gently behind him. This house was full of so many memories, so many complicated feelings - sometimes they waylaid him without warning.
He was sliding his arms into the shirt when he heard a familiar brief rap on the door and called, without looking up, "I'm awake, so don't even think about it."
Charlie peered around the door. "I know you're awake. And I haven't done that since I was a kid."
Don focused on buttoning his cuffs. "You haven't had the chance."
"Very funny. I come unarmed. I actually stopped in to tell you breakfast is ready and to see if you could drop me off on your way in."
Don glanced at the clock, then scanned the floor for his shoes. "Sure."
Charlie came further into the room. "So, I was surprised you actually made it upstairs last night. Thought you'd be zoned on the couch with your files for company until morning."
Don chuckled. "Probably would have been, if Dad hadn't gotten me up. I thought you didn't have a class until ten this morning?"
"I don't, but I wanted to go in early and work on some papers. If you drive me it will save me some time. Larry can give me a lift home."
"Yeah, okay. Oh - and I borrowed one of your razors. I'll bring you a new one."
"No big deal." Charlie nudged a shoe from half under the bed with one foot. "This what you're looking for?"
"Yeah. Thanks." Don bent down a little cautiously to retrieve it, maneuvered his foot into it.
Charlie gave a low whistle as he rose. "Wow. You look like hell."
Don gave him a look. "You know, you and Dad don't have to go to all the trouble to butter me up. I'll just show up more often."
"Sorry." Charlie shrugged. "Tough case?"
"Anything I can do?"
Don shook his head. "Naw - think we've got him. He's under surveillance - we're just waiting for some DNA results to come in so we can issue a warrant. He's slippery, though - we've been after him for twenty years." He saw Charlie's look and grinned. "Okay, not me, obviously, but the LAPD. This is the closest we've ever gotten."
"How'd you get close enough to get his DNA then?"
"We didn't." Don eyed yesterday's tie speculatively, then slung it around his collar. "We did a reverse DNA trace through his kids. If we can prove that they're related to the DNA left at the crime scenes, then that's a pretty direct trail to him. Problem is, there's not a lot of DNA left at most of the scenes, since he tends to torch his victims."
There was a silence, then Charlie swallowed. "You mean he kills them and then sets fire to the bodies?" he asked in a small voice.
Don glanced at him as if just hearing his own words back, then lowered his eyes to the tie. "Something like that," he said evasively at last.
Charlie and Don's eyes met and they both grinned involuntarily.
Charlie leaned out the door. "We're on our way!" he hollered down the stairs.
Don gave a final adjustment to his tie. "That's nice. The yelling will be a big hit." Charlie took a swipe at him and he blocked it neatly. "Hey - watch the hair. I can't get away with the artfully disheveled look where I work." He gripped Charlie's shoulder lightly and moved him ahead of him to the door. "So what's for breakfast?"
"French toast. Dad said he promised you."
"Yeah. He did." Don remembered his stomach and winced. "Sounds good," he lied.