"Charlie! Buddy, come on." I said as I patted him on the cheek.
When he didn't respond, I lifted him into my arms and carried him to the living room.
"What happened!" Dad exclaimed when I carried Charlie in.
"He passed out." I answered, laying Charlie on the couch where Dad had been sitting.
"Passed out? Is he okay?"
"Should we take him to the hospital?"
"I don't think so. He's just drained."
We sat around for a few minutes before Charlie woke up.
I opened my eyes And the first thing I saw was the off-white color of our living room ceiling.
"Charlie! Are you all right?" Dad asked from beside me.
I sat up, but Don pushed me back down.
"What happened?" I asked.
"You just passed out is all. You're all right." Dad answered, patting my knee comfortingly.
We sat there in a silence for a few minutes before Dad spoke.
"Charlie, what's going on?"
I groaned inwardly. I'd been asked that question too many times now.
"Nothing is going on. I'm fine."
I sat up this time, brushing off Don's hands.
"Charlie, people don't just pass out for no reason. Something's been bothering you for days now."
"Come on, Buddy. Talk to us," Don pleaded.
I shook my head and stood.
"I'm going to bed." I brushed by them and walked toward the stairs.
"Charlie! Come on! Talk to us!" Dad called.
I only went faster. I stepped into my room, locked the door, and fell onto my bed.
"What was that all about?" I asked Don.
"I don't know, Pop."
We sat back on the couch.
"What could be bothering him?" Don asked me.
"I don't know, but whatever it is is scaring the hell out of your brother."
"I wish he'd just talk to us so we could help him."
I chuckled without humor.
"You're one to talk."
"Dad, I don't want to start and argument. This is about Charlie, not me."
"You're right. I'm sorry. He'll come to us when he's ready."
"I hope so. So, what all do you know about all this?"
"Charlie's been having these nightmares for several days now. He wakes up screaming, then can't fall asleep again. Last night, I think he tried to stay up all night since his lights were on all night. It must not have worked, though, since I heard him scream."
"What could the dream be about? I don't get it."
"I don't either. I just hope they stop soon."
After a few more minutes, I stood.
"I think I'm going to go to bed."
"Okay. 'Night, Pop."
"Good night, Son."
There it was again. The same event played out in my dreams. I had already lived it once. I didn't need to be reminded of the fear by the nightmares.
Every time I had the dream, I was a different person. It was strange seeing others' angles, but this last one scared me out of mind. It was the worst of the five.
I sat in bed, shaking all over. I clasped my hands together, trying to control my shaking. It didn't work.
I had screamed when I woke up again, but Dad must not have heard me. I was glad. I didn't want to burden him anymore than I had this past week.
I was staring out my window, still shaking and terrified, when my door opened.
I opened the door to Charlie's room quietly. I had spent the night in my old room and had heard him scream.
Charlie was sitting at his window seat staring out into the night.
"Hey, Buddy. You all right?" I asked as I stepped closer.
"I'm fine," he said, his voice shaking, telling me he was anything but fine.
I looked closely at his face. There was a fear there that I had never seen before. I saw his tightly clasped hands, knowing he was fighting for control.
"Did you have one of those dreams again?"
"So Dad told you?"
"Of course he told me. He's been really worried about you, man."
"He shouldn't be," Charlie said quietly, turning back to the window.
"How long has this been going on?"
I thought back five days. That was the day we had finished the last case. The case where...
"Oh, Charlie. Have you been having dreams about the shooting in the FBI offices?"
Still not looking at me, he nodded.
"Oh, Charlie. I'm so sorry. That must be awful."
He nodded again and I saw him shiver with fear.
I reached out and squeezed his shoulder comfortingly.
He turned to me then and I saw the haunted fear in his eyes.
"It's worse each time, but this last one-" His voice trailed off as he began shaking harder.
"Come sit over here." I suggested, motioning to his bed where I sat.
"No. I like it over here."
"Okay. So what was so different about this dream?"
"I was the shooter."
I gasped. That must be torture for Charlie! He was a nonviolent person and his gentle nature would break under the strain of seeing others killed.
"Each dream I'm a different person. I had been me the first time, then you, then the man held at gunpoint, then Colby, and now..." He closed his eyes tightly.
"I saw them. I saw them all. I willed myself not to shoot, but I failed to stop myself each time. I could see the look of fear on their faces. I saw how close that bullet came to hitting me. It was horrifying."
He leaned his head on the glass window.
"I watched a lot of people die, Don. And I don't want to have to ever again." He looked over at me and I saw a tear spill down his face.
I stood and walked over to the window seat and sat down beside Charlie.
I took his chin in my hand when he refused to look at me. I tilted his chin up, forcing him to look me in the eye.
"You won't have to, okay? You're safe now, you hear me?"
He nodded and another tear slipped down his face.
"Come here, Buddy." I took him in my arms and wrapped him in a hug. His body trembled beneath my arms, and I tightened my hold.
When he stopped shaking, he leaned back and I let go.
"You know I'd never let anything happen to you, right?" I asked.
"I saw your point of view, remember? You kept looking over at me and you never stayed very far away from me. You were the one who got me down, too." He smiled, the first I'd seen in days.
"What did you think I'd do? You're my brother."
"I know. You've always protected me. I guess I was wrong. I still need you and Dad to take care of me."
He leaned over and hugged me. I wrapped my arms around him protectively.
"You going to be okay now?" I asked.
"I think so. Besides, if I'm not, I've got you and Dad to take care of me."
"You know it." I said, punching him lightly on the shoulder.
"Thanks, Don." He called when I got to the door.
"You're welcome, Buddy."