Getting used to it

Summery: What happens when Charlie gets abducted? How do the Eppes men deal with the psychological and physical ramifications?

AN: I've read a lot of fics where Charlie gets abducted. I wanted to explore how each character handles the situation in the long run. I would love to hear what you think - so feedback is very very welcomed.

For those of you who are waiting for me to finish "Discoveries" – I'm still working on it, but this fic has taken more of my time lately.

In the development of the human brain, evolution has really overshot the mark

0

October 27th

Charlie rarely felt lonely. He had an amazing ability to work on matters in his own mind and, because of that, he rarely noticed things around him. Today was no exception. It was past seven and the house was empty. Alan was out with Art, and Don was working on a big case and so hadn't had time to stop by for a while. Charlie's only acknowledgement of the world around him ocurred a few hours ago when it had started to get dark outside and he'd had to turn on the living room light. Hunger was starting to wear at his insides and Charlie knew he would soon have to get up to fix himself a meal. But, for now, he was deep in his work.

Charlie was shaken from his concentrated state when he heard something break. Unable to tell where the noise came from he paused, lifting his eyes from the paper in front of him and listening carefully.

When Charlie didn't hear anything more he rose quietly, setting the pages aside, and walked though the house. As he entered the kitchen he stopped abruptly. The first thing he noticed was that something wasn't right with the back door. The second thing was the gun pointed at him.

"Don't say a word." The man holding the weapon spoke harshly. He was a little taller than Charlie. Charlie couldn't judge his expression because of the ski mask he was wearing, but it sounded like he was smiling.

He stared at the gun, too stunned to respond.

"Good. Now turn around Charlie."

Charlie did as he was told and turned his back on the threatening visitor.

"You have the right to remain silent," the man whispered into Charlie's ear as he roughly pulled Charlie's hands behind his back.

"Anything you say can and will be used against you." Charlie felt some kind of thin, strong wire digging into his wrists as they were tied together.

"Unfortunately, you don't have the right to a lawyer." The man sneered.

The stranger's warm breath against the back of his neck made Charlie's skin crawl. He could almost feel his brain kick-starting itself out of a state of shock and into one of fear.

The wire was now digging deep into Charlie's tightly bound wrists.

"What do you want?" Absently, Charlie noticed that his voice sounded a lot more confident than he felt.

"I said don't speak." The man didn't sound too angry. It was as if he had been waiting for the question.

Charlie was suddenly being spun around to face his masked assailant. Before he could find his balance the gun was smashed into his face, hitting him over his left eye. Charlie saw the floor coming his way as he lost his footing and fell. He instinctively tried to use his hands to break the fall but was, of course, unable to. His right shoulder struck the floor first, followed by his face, which hit the tile with a load thud.

His head was spinning. During his landing, he'd bitten down on his tongue rather forcibly and was assaulted with the strong taste of blood. Charlie tried to spit it out before choking on it. Every inch of his face, as well as his shoulder, began to throb.

He felt himself being turned and a bright flash of light sent another wave of pain through his head.

He was soon pulled to his feet and shoved out of the house. Charlie knew he was too dazed to put up a fight, and once he saw the empty street he realized there was no chance of getting away at the moment. Charlie was taken to the back of a black car; a car he hadn't even noticed was there. When he saw the man open the trunk, he flinched, knowing what was coming. Charlie wasn't claustrophobic but that didn't mean he liked being confined in small spaces.

"Get in."

Charlie did as he was told, sitting on the edge of the trunk and clumsily maneuvering inside. Trying to keep the weight off his sore shoulder, Charlie felt the wire dig even deeper into his wrists. He was pretty sure that they were either bleeding or going to very soon.

As the lid of closed, Charlie's world became dark and sore. He just hoped his father would come home soon and call for help.

1

Alan was tired. He had fun going out with Art, but it really wore on him. He didn't like days like this, when Don was so busy he didn't even have time for a phone call. He hated it when Don and Charlie weren't hanging around the house together as they had recently started to do.

He sighed as he entered the house and found all of Charlie's work scattered on the sitting room table. Charlie's leaving his work so cluttered annoyed Alan to no end; however, Charlie owned the house now, and he had the right to put his work wherever he wanted. Still, it was an incredible mess. Alan settled for promising himself to have a talk with Charlie about it the next day; he Alan couldn't stop being a father.

He climbed into bed, exhausted, never noticing the mess in the kitchen or that Charlie wasn't asleep in his room.

10

October 28th

Alan woke up late. He didn't usually sleep in on Sundays and was surprised that Charlie hadn't awakened him. The young energetic man rarely slept in or stood still for too long, and the house was abnormally quiet for a Sunday morning.

He showered and then checked Charlie's room just to be sure there was nothing wrong, was disturbed when he realized that Charlie wasn't there.

'Could he have left early? He didn't mention any plans,' Alan thought to himself.

Alan decided to get some coffee and then check on both of his sons. He knew that Don and his team were on an ongoing stakeout, but he still hoped he might be able to talk with him for a few minutes.

He entered the kitchen half asleep. It took only a fraction of a second to notice the broken door. It didn't look like anything else was damaged and nothing seemed to be missing. A terrible feeling swept through Alan's body. Something was very wrong.

Taking a few steps back he examined the kitchen carefully. He tried to put himself at ease, telling himself that whatever had happened to the door was an accident. Unfortunately, it wasn't working. Alan kept scanning the room until he noticed a spot of scarlet on the floor not too far from where he stood. His mind told him what it was as he moved in for a closer look. Blood.

Something inside – borne of a father's instincts, sharpened through the years – told him the house was too quiet, that his son's work was too scattered, something told him it was Charlie's blood.

Wide awake now, and slightly scared, Alan stepped out of the kitchen and reached for the phone. He decided to try Charlie's cell first, hoping he'd answer, but was disappointed when he heard it ring a few feet away. Alan looked in Charlie's discarded bag and found the phone as well as his son's wallet and keys. The bad feeling was getting worse by the second. At times like these, he was happy to have a son in law enforcement. He dialed Don's office number a little shakily, hoping the sound of his voice would calm him down.

"Hello." A woman answered. It took Alan a second to register that it was Megan.

"Megan?"

"Mr. Eppes," she replied, surprised, "Don's not here right now. He's getting some rest after being up all night. Anything I can tell him?"

"Charlie's missing," Alan said a little more abruptly than he'd intended. He didn't have time for pleasantries but knew Megan would understand.

"What?" Megan sounded.

Years of knowing Don helped Alan tell her the facts as succinctly as possible. "I got back late last night and figured he was asleep. This morning I noticed he's not home but his cell phone and house keys are here." Alan paused before continuing, slightly more shaken. "The back door is broken off its hinges, and I found some… blood." Alan swallowed hard.

"Okay, don't move. I'm on my way."

Alan hung up the phone and lowered himself onto the couch. He didn't think he'd be able to move even he'd wanted.

'How long has it been, Charlie? Were you gone the whole night?'

11

Charlie fell asleep in the trunk. He wasn't sure how long he'd been out, but it felt like several hours. His shoulder was really throbbing now, and he was pretty sure that the constant pressure on his wrists had caused them to bleed. The cut above his eye had stopped bleeding but now felt swollen. His tongue felt swollen as well, and he could still taste the blood.

When the trunk finally opened, Charlie saw the morning sun rising over some buildings in what looked to be a deserted industrial area.

"Get out."

Charlie's body was numb from the cramped position he'd been in. He had difficulty climbing out and he had a feeling it'd been left in there for so long on purpose.

The man motioned Charlie with the gun and directed him into a old building.

They walked into a small room containing what Charlie could only describe as a dentist's chair from hell. It was metallic, strong and obviously not built for comfort. Special metal bands designed to restrain the ankles, wrists, and neck, were fashioned on it, and from the looks of them, they were capable of rendering a man completely immobile. After seeing this, Charlie wished for the trunk back. He slowed down, his every instinct telling him he should stay away from the chair, because he knew that once he was restrained in it; he would be there for a while.

Charlie's reluctance seemed to annoy his assailant, who decided to let Charlie know it. He gave a hard shove forward which sent the young mathematician to his knees. The man yanked Charlie back to his feet and steered him to the chair.

"Tell me about growing up with Don."

The question was so unexpected that Charlie had to pause for a few seconds to formulate an answer.

His speech a little slurred due to his swollen tongue, he replied, "Same as growing up with any other guy, I guess."

"That's because you don't know any differently."

Charlie paused again to consider. He realized this man must have some issues with Don and that he had to work the situation to his advantage somehow. "I guess. I wouldn't know."

"Turn around."

Charlie turned with his back to the chair.

"Sit down."

Charlie did as he was told while trying to figure a way out, but even a brilliant mind like his couldn't find it.

The man grabbed Charlie's ankles forcefully, and turned him around, placing Charlie's legs in their designated location. He took Charlie's shoes off with one hand while the other continued pointing the gun at the helpless mathematician. As he pulled his socks down to expose Charlie's ankle, he spoke. "Tell me about it."

Charlie did his best to concentrate on the conversation at hand and not on his abductor's actions. "Not much to tell. We were never very close." The man sealed the restraint around Charlie's bare right ankle. "I guess it didn't help that I annoyed the hell out of him."

The masked man looked Charlie in the eye as he secured his left ankle into place.

"Because you're so smart?"

He walked to Charlie's right, putting the gun in a holster and retrieving a large hunting knife.

"Yeah, well... I guess," Charlie stammered as the armed man approached him, knife in hand.

The blade cut through the wires that bound Charlie's wrists. He removed them, causing the cuts to bleed again as the wires were pulled from deep in Charlie's flesh.

"Lie down."

Charlie leaned back in the chair, which had been set to an almost horizontal position. His hands felt incredibly numb while his shoulders throbbed, an interesting contrast for his analytical mind. The mathematician kept talking while his right arm was pulled painfully to the side of his body. "I don't think Don and I were ever meant to understand each other." He gasped slightly as the metal ring closed on his raw flesh. His eyes followed as the masked man moved to Charlie's left side. Finally, he dared to ask a question.

"Why do you want to know about Don?"

The man looked at Charlie with an unreadable expression. "I don't like him."

The ring around Charlie's left wrist clicked, and Charlie had to force down an overwhelming feeling of panic over being trapped like this. Suddenly, he really wanted to stretch his muscles. "You know him?" Charlie voice sounded surprised yet oddly calm under the circumstance.

"No." The man moved to stand over Charlie's head, saying nothing more.

Charlie looked up nervously. When he first saw the chair he had seen there was some sort of neck restraint and he knew what was coming. Suddenly, Charlie had a need to attach a name or a face to the harsh voice. "What's your name; Who are you?" He was almost pleading, the terrible feeling of being trapped washing over him in waves. He tried to force himself to calm down and breathe evenly.

"You can call me John."

John put his hands on either side of Charlie's head and twisted so he could only see the ceiling above him.

"Okay," Charlie swallowed hard as John fastened the band around his neck. Once he heard the metal lock into place he tested the restraint. He could still move his head, though it was uncomfortable, as the band was set against his lower jaw. Every inch of his body was successfully secured to the chair. "Why am I here?"

"Don took my brother away from me," John replied. "So I took his."

Charlie did not expect this. He would've looked at John if he could, but the man had left his line of sight. The statement was said as if John were talking about a toy taken in grade school, not a human being.

"What are you going to do to me?"

John leaned over the chair, his face now directly in front of Charlie. "I guess we'll find out." With that, John left the room, leaving Charlie alone and immobile.

100

"David," Megan approached the young agent sitting at his desk. "I just talked with Alan Eppes and he says Charlie's missing. You busy right now?" she watched as he scanned through his e-mail.

"You're sure he didn't just fall asleep in his office or something?' Colby answered instead. "He does tend to do that sometimes."

"Yeah, but I don't like the sound of this. Alan wouldn't have called if it was something as simple as that."

"We should wake Don," David finally said without looking up from his computer.

"David, come on. He's got to get some-" Colby didn't finish his sentence as David interrupted.

"We just got an e-mail, all of us." He finally looked up at the two agents. "A picture of Charlie."

Both agents stepped closer so they could see the computer screen.

It was a picture of Charlie, looked to have been taken somewhere at his house. His face was cut and bleeding, though where the blood was from was not obvious. He looked somewhat dazed and unpleasantly surprised. Under the picture was typed "840".

The silence seemed to linger before Colby spoke.

"We should wake Don."

"David, go and get Don, and bring him to the house; Colby and I'll go to there now and see what Alan found."

Everyone agreed silently and walked to their respective tasks, a sense of urgency in their movements.

101

Don woke up in a bad mood, easily attributed to the fact that someone was banging at his door.

"I'm coming," he yelled to silence the banging. The stakeout he had been running for the past several days had left him sleep deprived and both physically and mentally exhausted.

He dragged himself out of bed, barely able to do even that simple task. "Who is it?" he called while walking towards the door.

"David."

The familiar voice woke Don partially. He knew David wouldn't have awakened him unless something urgent was happening. He opened the door, feeling groggy yet somewhat alert at the same time. Seeing the miserable look on his friend's face, he asked, "What's wrong?"

David stepped into Don's apartment, closing the door behind him. His every movement unnerved Don.

"David…" David put his hand up, affectively stopping Don from saying whatever it was he was going to say.

David walked into Don's living room. "Your father called the office today to tell you Charlie's missing."

"What do you mean 'missing'?" Don spoke slowly, his brain not completely awake.

"We all got an e-mail," David paused before taking a folded piece of paper from his pocket and handing it to Don.

"Oh, God," Don swallowed hard. He never ordered his knees to fold, yet he suddenly found himself sitting on the couch, staring at a nauseating picture of his little brother. More than anything else, he noticed the scared expression on his brother's face. He looked like the frightened little boy Don knew a long time ago, a boy who was way too smart, a boy who grew up too fast yet never grew up at all. He'd had that same look on his face when he and their mom left for his first year at Princeton. He'd been so scared to leave home and move to the other side of the country, to go to college without his big brother. Don always thought that the fact Charlie had to leave home, his dad, and his brother at such a young age was the reason he didn't want to move out now. Don had hoped he'd never have to see that expression again.

"It appears that he was taken from your dad's house sometimes between last night and this morning. Megan and Colby are there now."

For a split second, Don felt oddly amused, "Charlie's house."

"Right."

Don stood abruptly and headed into the shower. Sleep was the last thing on his mind.

110