Title: Bad Timing

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. They do occasionally visit from time to time.


Chapter 1

When the bomb went off, Don and Charlie were not even together.

Don was in the driver's seat of the SUV half a block away, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, and he felt it before he heard it.

Both ears popped, and the SUV was picked up several feet off the ground, then dropped back on the pavement, as if some gigantic monster had considered playing with it, but changed his mind. The airbags had deployed, the one on the driver's side hitting Don so hard in the face he saw stars.

The passenger air bag hit nothing, because Charlie had been almost directly in front of the bank's glass exterior, squatting down on the sidewalk, tying his shoe. As he began to straighten, there was a deafening explosion, and he was catapulted backwards several feet, bouncing off other bodies and various debris. He was knocked unconscious while still rag dolling through the air, when he collided with someone else's head and pinballed the other direction, back toward the bank. Mercifully, when he finally settled back to earth, passing a jagged pane of glass on the way, he didn't even feel it. He landed almost softly, head cushioned on the overweight stomach of a woman who already lay there dead.

Back in the SUV, Don was beginning to hear the screams and distant sirens, and he was trapped in his seat by the air bag. Fighting a sense of panic, he pushed his right hand below it, until he could feel his leg. He worked his way up to the holster on his hip, and managed to grasp his gun. He was fighting to bring his arm back to the surface, so he could shoot the air out of this suffocating marshmallow, when something in his head asked why he didn't just try the door.

He plunged his other arm out of sight, felt around until he had a handle, and was stunned when the door actually opened. He leaned toward the street and fumbled with the seat belt, not ready when he hit the latch and he was released. He tumbled hard onto the pavement, bruising a knee, skinning an elbow and almost discharging the weapon he still clutched in his right hand.

He lay there stunned for a moment, the screaming louder now and accompanied by running feet. Shakily, he holstered his gun again and used the open door to pull himself up to stand in the street. He looked toward the bank, his view unencumbered now by the airbags, and he could see the devastation. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs, and knew that there must have been a bomb.

Then his heart actually thudded to his feet and threatened to leak out his toes. Charlie had made him pull over so he could run back to the ATM. Dear God. Charlie was somewhere in that.

Without making the decision to do it, Don was running toward the bank, pushing against the people running away from it. The closer he got, the more clearly he could see destruction, and scattered bodies. He was mumbling, "No, no, no, no, no", but he wasn't aware of it. He reached the impact zone and searched the ground, feeling as if he stood in war-torn Israel.

Ambulances and EMT units began to screech to a halt in the street, and still Don wandered amongst the cash that had been blown out of the bank, the glass, the twisted metal and the chunks of concreteÉuntil he saw it. A curly head. A dark, curly head.

Don must have teleported himself to Charlie, he had no memory of negotiating his way to him. His brother lay on top of another personÉa body. A quick look told Don all he needed to know about Charlie's mattress. A large goose egg was purpling and swelling on his forehead, and there were oozing cuts from who knows what on every surface that Don could see. He grasped Charlie's face between his hands, then lowered one, shaking, to his neck.

A pulse. God in heaven, a pulse.

"Medic!" He screamed for the EMTs he could see triaging bodies. "Medic! Medic!"

He wanted with every fiber of his being to lift Charlie up and cradle him, but he knew he shouldn't do that.

He heard movement behind him, saw an EMT's kit materialize beside him, followed by a woman in a bulky coat who shoved him unceremoniously aside and began assessing Charlie. Before Don could speak, she tossed an urgent "Mike! I need you on this one!" over her shoulder, and Don looked up to see who she was calling. A second EMT abandoned the body he was leaning over – Don saw him gently close the eyes, first, and was oddly touched, in the middle of this nightmare – and headed their direction.

Mike stopped suddenly, eyes on the ground. "I've got a hand!" he yelled, to no one in particular, and Charlie's EMT yelled back.

"Bring it! Maybe it's this guy's!"

Don, still kneeling as close to Charlie as she would let him, heard the words and turned his head away from Charlie's face. Unwilling, unhappy, unbelieving, he traced the rest of Charlie's still body.

He saw the stump that was the end of Charlie's left arm, bone glistening in the late afternoon sun, not bleeding nearly as much as you would thinkÉ

Don leaned tenderly away from his brother, carefully away from the two EMTs working on him, and threw up in the street.