A/N (by 3rdgal): This is a co-operative effort between 3rdgal and rittenden (waves) to celebrate posting milestones. Through considerable effort and an unbelievable amount of emails, we've finally managed to pull this off. Here's hoping people enjoy it!
Disclaimer (by rittenden): The characters depicted in this work of fiction belong to CBS, Cheryl Heu… It was all 3rdgal's idea! I swear! I didn't want to touch them – she made me do it! I'll put them back! I promise! Please don't sue me! (Just kidding – they're only borrowed, folks.)
Don Eppes watched as the baseball flew up into the air and landed a mere ten feet in front of him. Pop fly.
Sighing in frustration, he assumed his stance and waited for the next pitch. He couldn't seem to focus tonight, and it was all Charlie's fault. Why hadn't his little brother said yes? Don's thoughts were cut short as the next pitch arrived.
Same pitch, same swing, same result.
"Dammit," Don swore. Normally he could relieve stress in the batting cage, but tonight was different. "Dropping your back shoulder," he muttered to himself. "Keep your back shoulder up and swing level." Charlie had said he was too busy grading papers. Too busy to spend time with his brother.
Crack! This time the ball traveled a little further, landing just in front of third base.
"All arms," Don scolded himself. "Rotate your hips and swing through the ball." So he hadn't said "I want to spend time with you" in so many words, but he thought his intentions had been obvious. Charlie, little brother super genius, but a dunce when it came to subtlety. Don supposed he hadn't been that good with subtlety either when they were growing up. He could hear his father's voice in his head, "You're the oldest, Donnie. You have to set an example for Charlie." He laughed bitterly. Guess he'd failed to teach that particular lesson.
Don swung at the next pitch and missed. The light on the pitching machine went out, indicating that Don was out of throws. Knowing it was late and he had no more tokens for the machine, Don gathered his stuff and exited the cage. He knew he was the last customer remaining, and smiled apologetically at the night manager when he left.
As he reached the parking lot his cell phone began to ring. He unclipped it from his belt and checked the caller ID. Recognizing Charlie's number, but not wanting to deal with his brother right now, Don silenced the ringer and replaced it in its holder. He wearily climbed into his vehicle and frowned as the phone rang again. He looked - Charlie's number again. Sighing in defeat, he answered. "Eppes."
His heart froze at the panic in his younger brother's voice. "Charlie? What is it?"
"Please," Charlie begged desperately. "I need you." His voice cracked. "Please, Don."
"Okay," Don tried to soothe him. "I'm on my way."
"Hurry," Charlie whispered brokenly as the phone went dead.
"Charlie? Charlie!" Don gunned the engine and sped toward Charlie's house. His stomach knotted with worry as he raced down the streets, wishing the SUV could go faster.