Chapter 15

After Charlie said good-night to Don around 9, he headed back to the ICU. He knew he should go home and get the house ready to possibly bring Don home the next day, but he wanted to be close to his father. He wished they would let him sleep in Alan's room. He wouldn't disturb him. He just wanted to listen to him breathe.

At midnight, they insisted this was his last visit for the night. They were hooking Alan up to dialysis as soon as Charlie left this time anyway. Alan stirred while Charlie sat beside his bed, and he reached out to touch his hand. "Hey, Dad," he said softly, and his father opened his eyes. He blinked wearily several times, and it seemed to take a great effort. It looked like he was preparing to speak, and Charlie waited to see who he would be this time, in Alan's world.

"How's your brother?", Alan whispered.

Charlie straightened, not quite ready to believe Alan was referring to recent events. "He's doing well," he finally offered.

One corner of Alan's mouth turned up. "I knew he'd be all right. Hard head."

Charlie smiled so brightly the room lit up. This was Dad, talking about now. "You will be too," he assured him.

Charlie was sure he saw a nearly imperceptible nod of Alan's head. His father closed his eyes. "You're both good sons. Been blessed."

Charlie's brand new relief started to sour. "Dad…just rest now. You'll have plenty of time to tell us how wonderful we are later."

"Won't want to, then. Have my senses back."

Charlie's relief flooded back in. "I'll remind you," he promised, and Alan opened his eyes again. They crinkled in a smile, although only one corner of his mouth moved up again.

The door opened and a nurse came in to make Charlie leave. He almost backhanded her with his cast. Couldn't she see that Dad was back? They had just started talking!

"He needs his rest," she said quietly.

"So do you," Alan said to him. "Look like crap."

Charlie smiled again.

"That's better," Alan said.

Charlie stood to leave, leaned over and kissed his father's forehead. "We'll see you in the morning, Dad. I'll bring Donnie."

With tremendous effort, Alan managed to lift his hand high enough to barely touch Charlie's longest curls. "Good. Miss him."

Charlie kissed his forehead again. "One from the Donster," he said, and straightened up to smile at Alan again before he left.

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Charlie slept hard between 1 and 5 a.m., and had difficulty coming awake when he heard his cell ringing. Groggily, he answered. "Yeah?"

He snapped to full consciousness when the nurse identified herself, and by the time she said "cardiac arrest", he was sitting up on the edge of the bed.

"As you know," she continued gently, "your father had a medical directive on file at this hospital…"

Charlie started screaming, then. "HAD? My father HAD?"

She continued. "I'm so sorry, Dr. Eppes. The directive was just updated a few months ago, and your father did not wish to be resuscitated under these circumstances."

Charlie could barely hear over the rush of blood in his ears. "Circumstances? What circumstances?"

"In the event of multiple organ failure, Dr. Eppes."

Charlie was rocking on the edge of the bed and didn't even realize it. "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God," he chanted, thinking of his midnight conversation with Alan. "What are you saying? I didn't even tell him I love him!"

She was infinitely tender, infinitely gentle.

"Dr. Eppes, I am sorry. The doctor pronounced your father deceased 17 minutes ago."

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Around 4:45 in the morning, Don started awake, more alert than he had been — well, in years. Something moved in the shadows near his bed, and he turned toward the movement with an odd lack of apprehension. "How are you, son?"

Don recognized his father's voice and smiled. Charlie had been right. These people didn't know anything about Alan. "Dad! I'm so glad you're better!" There was more movement in the shadows, but Don still couldn't make out a face. "I'm very well, now, Donnie. You close your eyes again, and rest. Everything is all right now son. I'll stay until you fall asleep."

"Thanks, Dad," Don answered, and relieved, content...happy...he snuggled into the pillow, certain he could feel Alan's hand on his face for a moment -- or maybe it was a quick kiss. Don sighed, and drifted back to sleep.……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

FINIS, Part 1

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A/N: Damn. Sorry about that – betcha didn't see that right hook coming. Frankly, neither did I. As things moved along, though, I decided to tie it in with another story already in progress. (Also, my mood darkened, somewhat – in case you didn't notice.) Anyway, be watching for:

Fighting Chaos, Part II: Unfinished Business