Requested by rittenden.
Don, Alan, Charlie and some team members
location- The FBI office
situation- Don is at work after an injury he hasn't reported to his superiors
reference (this is the word)- Compromise
required- Angst, and an argument
Don very carefully shifted in his chair in an attempt to ease the throbbing ache in his ribs. Much to his dismay, the chair let out a loud squeak at the same moment he winced from the movement.
"I thought I told you to take a pain pill."
Damn chair, Don thought silently. "I did, Dad."
"Then explain that look on your face," Alan angrily countered.
"I have a broken rib, Dad," Don snapped in frustration. "It's going to hurt."
"You're lucky that's all you have," his father said in a tone filled with both relief and frustration. "I mean honestly, Donny-"
"Not right now," Don growled. "I've had enough lecturing today to last me a lifetime, okay? I've apologized to more people than I can count, including you. And I'm just not up to doing the whole round over again."
"Don Eppes, that is no way to speak to your father."
"Then drop it, Dad. Maybe I'd be a little more respectful if you would stop harping on your thirty-six year old, grown up son at his place of employment."
As Alan opened his mouth to argue, another voice chimed in.
"Enough, you two!" Charlie looked back and forth between his brother and his father. "Don's okay, so can't we just be happy for now?"
Don shook his head and slowly leaned back in his desk chair. "Talk to Dad, Charlie. I'd be fine if he'd drop it."
Alan glared at Don from his spot at Megan's desk. "And I'd be fine if your pig-headed older brother would realize exactly what he put us through today." He lowered his voice and softened his glare. "Or what he almost put us through."
Don sighed as he studied his father's weary expression. Okay, maybe I did put them through a lot, he thought to himself. But I've already apologized, and it's not like I can go back and change it. Besides, the least he could do is be supportive. Once Merrick finally calls me in his office...
"Don." He looked up and saw David nodding toward the director's office. "Merrick wants to see you now."
"Right." The injured agent managed to stand without grimacing and quickly gave his father an I-told-you-so look. Don slid his gaze from his father to his little brother and gave Charlie what he hoped was a reassuring smile. Judging by the younger man's response, Don had missed reassuring by a mile and wound up somewhere in the vicinity of nervous. He looked at David again, hoping to draw strength from his team mate's normally calm and cool demeanor, but was shocked by the tension in his friend's body as he avoided Don's gaze. Man, I really am doomed, here. "Later," he spat bitterly as he left the bullpen and headed for his boss's office.
Alan felt slightly guilty as he watched his eldest son's retreating back, but quickly quashed the emotion. He knows better, he reminded himself. He knew he was injured and he chose to ignore it. Sometimes he can be so-
Alan looked up at Charlie's comment. "What?"
"I was just thinking of how stubborn he can be."
"You and me both," Alan told him.
"He could have been..." Charlie swallowed and picked up a pen from Don's desk.
"I know," the older man agreed, not wanting to say the word either. "He should have been more responsible."
"This one got under his skin," Megan spoke as she joined David and the two Eppes men. "Missing kid, sexual predator... those are hard to let go of."
"I understand that," Alan responded. "But he went in with the Hostage Rescue Team, knowing he had a couple of cracked ribs, and knowing what could happen if he got shot..." Alan's face paled at the word, "...In the vest. He's lucky that rib didn't puncture his lung."
"Well, let me assure you that Director Merrick is going to be telling Don all about that himself." Megan smiled. "Although I'm sure nothing is more powerful than hearing it from your father."
Alan smiled warmly. "Remind me to take you out to dinner again sometime." She grinned and he winked. "Maybe we can even ask Don to join us. If we go after I've grounded him, of course."
Don sighed and rested his head on the bathroom sink. Mandatory physicals on a monthly basis for the next year? Merrick couldn't possibly be serious. He looked at the object in his hand – a single white paper filled with black print and made official by his reluctant signature at the bottom. I guess he is serious. Better than that report he'd threatened to file. A least he agreed to keep this off the record as long as I follow his orders.
The exhausted agent ran the tap and splashed a handful of cold water on his face, relishing the increased alertness it brought. He idly wondered what Charlie and his father were talking about before realizing that he probably didn't want to know. Nothing good as far as you're concerned, Eppes. Probably devising a way to keep you locked in your old childhood bedroom until you're all better. Actually, probably longer than that.
Okay, so it hadn't been his finest moment, but that poor child was only six years old. He'd spent the past forty-eight hours straight, without sleeping or eating – better not mention that to his father – making sure they ran down every lead they'd gotten. So when he'd heard they had her location, of course he was going to be there. He was the Special Agent in Charge on this case, wasn't he? He knew he should have been more careful knowing that he'd cracked two ribs in a raid the week before, but he had sunk his teeth into this case, determined to see it through.
Megan had coolly pointed out – while they were waiting on the paramedics to come pick his sorry ass up off the ground – that field work should have been restricted with him reporting such an injury. Her anger had been something to behold as he'd calmly replied that that was exactly why he hadn't reported his injury the week before. Of course Megan's fury was a mere warm up for what he knew his father's reaction would be.
Startled, Don quickly stood upright, hissing as his rib screamed in protest. "Dammit, Charlie! Don't sneak up on me like that."
"Sorry," his brother responded without a trace of sorrow in his voice. "We were worried about you, so I decided to come check."
"How'd you get to be the lucky one?" Don bitterly inquired.
"David's in with Merrick, Megan can't come into the men's room, and Dad – well, we didn't want him around you right now without a witness present."
"Good thinking," Don snorted. He slowly met Charlie's eyes, and his heart broke at the worry he saw there – worry he knew he was responsible for. "How're you holding up, Buddy?"
"You're fine so I'm getting there. I just wish you wouldn't do these things to yourself. You have a great team, you know. You don't have to solve the world's problems single handedly."
"This girl," he started, moving his gaze to the floor. "She had a ratty, brown and white stuffed bear she carried everywhere with her. His name was Martin."
"Martin the Mathematician," Charlie whispered in shock. "My God, Don. I had no idea."
"What are the odds? I mean, he wasn't 'the Mathematician', but still... The memories were there."
"I understand now, Don." Charlie stood next to his brother's side and rubbed his arm. "I really do."
"I knew you would," Don nodded. "Dad wouldn't because I never told him."
"You didn't?" Charlie asked in disbelief.
"You told me not to, Buddy," the weary agent reminded him. "Once you promised me not to talk to strangers any more, I promised you I wouldn't tell. You never broke your promise, so neither did I."
"Wow," Charlie breathed.
The two men lapsed into silence, both remembering the day when Charlie had almost been taken from his family. He has been six years old at the time, and had a stuffed bear he carried everywhere with him. One day on the way home from school, walking a little ways behind Don, he had realized that Martin had fallen out of his backpack. Not wanting to interrupt Don's conversation with his friend's, he had quietly turned around and went back to retrieve his beloved stuffed bear.
Don had turned around and seen Charlie talking to a strange man driving a black van. Don's alarm had skyrocketed when he had seen that the man was holding Martin out of the van's window and motioning his brother closer. He'd run as fast as he could, managing to snatch Charlie out of harm's way as the van had roared off into the distance. Martin had been lost, but both boys had learned an important lesson, each one making a promise to each other about the events of that day.
"You're going to have to face Dad sooner or later."
Don looked up from the floor as the unpleasant memory faded away. "I guess sooner is good," he sighed, gesturing for Charlie to lead the way.
"Dad, it's not that bad," Don protested as he tried to sneak his car keys from his dad's jacket pocket.
"So you say," Alan answered as he moved his jacket out of his son's reach. "But this isn't about how badly you're hurt. This is a trust issue, Donny."
The agent cringed under his father's penetrating gaze and nervously bit his lip. "I'm a grown man," he rather meekly pointed out.
"How about a compromise?" Alan suggested. "You stay at Charlie's for the next week while you're on leave from work, and when you're back to work, you can go back to your apartment."
"How is that a compromise?" Don demanded.
"Because when you go back to your apartment, I won't call you every fifteen minutes to make sure that you're okay. In fact, I'll limit my calls to once every other day."
Don chuckled at the look of forced patience on his father's face. "As long as you agree that you'll still call whenever you're cooking supper."
"Donny," Alan drawled with a big grin. "I believe we have a deal."