Standard Disclaimer Applies
Listening to: Take That - Patience.
Warning: Character Death, Not Graphic, Just there.
AN: Follow up piece to Time to Wait. Thanks to all of you that left a little note, it's nice to know people have read my work and like it. Makes me feel…shiny on the inside.
Was it morose to admit that he had imagined for many years how the death of his son would be played out? That he had been imagining it since his baseball playing son had phoned home excited because he had joined the feds? A phone call from Coop? "Sorry Mr. E. I tried to go in first." Terry turning up on his doorstep, covered in blood " Alan, Alan you need to sit down.". But then she had left and that had created a conundrum for awhile. Would David come because he had known Alan longer or would it be the gentler, more qualified Megan?
In the end it had been neither and he was grateful, if he could ever use the word again, grateful that he'd never turned around and seen Don's co-workers standing on his doorstep, blood still staining their hands the horrible news on their lips, trying to find a way for it to come out and not break Alan's heart. Grateful he was spared the sudden heart wrenching realisation that his son was dead. Grateful yet hateful because watching his son die had been so much worse.
It was ironic in a way, the blaze of glory he'd always pictured taking his son had never arrived. He'd always seen Don's last moments brought around by a bullet. In his nightmares it was usually quick and unexpected, taking his son off guard because he was too good at his job to make a mistake. So in his dreams his son was smiling and then dead. How many times had he had that dream and woken in a cold sweat. How many times had he resisted the urge to get in his car and drive to Donnie's apartment just to be sure that it had been in fact a nightmare. How many times had he tried to go back to sleep, but unable because he was haunted by the sight of his son's blood when his eyes shut.
Don had stood watching the whiteboard, no wrong turn of words, he wasn't watching the whiteboard he was just staring and in the direction of the whiteboard. Megan had watched him watch nothing, and observed him rub absently at his chest. Again wrong and probably because the man was such a closed book, he wasn't absently rubbing at his chest he was intently massaging the skin over his heart, the frown lines across his forehead startlingly prominent. Something wrong and at this realisation, Megan had gone to his side.
Charlie and Alan had come to take him to dinner and had found him sitting, being observed at this stage by Colby and Megan. Still rubbing at his chest and Alan had told his son that dinner was cancelled and instead they were going straight to the ER. This decision because of the way his eldest's face tightened in pain when he took a breath. And they had driven to the hospital, no lights no sirens. Just a drive, not particularly fast, but not slow. Don had wanted to wait in the triage area and not make a fuss but Alan had grabbed his badge and pushed his way to the front of the line.
Later as Alan sat in the waiting area of the hospital he had told himself that the moment his son had agreed to go to a doctor he had known that something was very wrong. After all the man had received a near lethal dose of Morphine, been given the antidote with moments to spare and despite doctor's warnings had checked himself out of hospital and gone home.
After the beginning it all just went one way. South and Fast. There was medical jargon which basically boiled down to Don had managed to catch an infection in the tissue of his heart. That the infection was preventing his son's heart from working properly and if it wasn't cleared then Don's heart would fail. Alan had thought that last part ludicrous because this was his Don they were talking about. The man had a heart the size of china and it never failed him, he always did the right thing. Always followed his heart and it never let him down.
Charlie had followed the conversation and then immersed himself in the numbers, sitting by his brother's bed scribbling in a series of notebooks until he had looked up and smiled. Apparently the numbers were on his big brother's side and Alan had felt his heart lift. Is that why he felt inexplicably angry at Charlie now? Because Charlie couldn't have known that sometimes despite every statistic and every drug and every treatment, sometimes the medicine just didn't work. Sometimes a persons heart would just stop.
At the hospital the doctors had talked to him about putting Don on a waiting list for a heart transplant, god how that had upset him. That his son could have his big heart removed and somebody else's put in it's place. And even though Megan had countered that his heart had nothing to do with the way Don was, it had still upset him. Now he wished that he could go back and change his attitude. Not that it would change much, a feeling of being angry for half an hour in a corridor. Maybe that was it? He was angry that he had missed thirty minutes of time left with his son. His son who was so ill that he had let his Father stroke his hair and kiss his cheek with no teasing. Never pulling away.
And they had all remained absurdly optimistically happy for him. Despite the fear that had grabbed a hold of him and wouldn't let him go. A fear that would appear suddenly just beneath his breast bone and rise until it was wedged in his throat. A feeling of despair that made him want to turn and run. But he knew this feeling, it was a familiar foe and he knew that if he bowed to it, if he ran and sobbed then later he would be angry at himself. So he pushed it away by plumping pillows and reading Peter Pan out loud because Don had always wanted to be a Lost Boy.
They'd never reached the end of the story though. He'd been reading it aloud, holding the book with one hand, holding his son's hand with the other, his thumb stroking the calloused skin of the palm. Hook was defeated, eaten by a crocodile he'd announced enthusiastically and Don's hand went limp in his own and when he'd looked up his son was quiet and still and Alan had known he was dead and the story was forgotten and the Lost boys never went home.
The doctors had let him sit in the quiet hospital room with Don after. Charlie had tried to get him to move but Alan had explained, all too calmly, that he had just needed to sit and say goodbye, even though he hadn't said anything at all. Just sat and watched the bed and the body in it as it had grown cold and lost colour. Sat and watched until he came to realise that it was just a body and not his son and that he didn't need to sit and watch it anymore at all. That had taken some time.
He'd once heard of a family who went to the hospital to have a new baby, but the baby died during birth and the family were allowed to take the baby home. Even though she was dead they were allowed to take the baby home for one night and put her in the cot they had prepared. He thought he could never imagine wanting to take a dead baby home until his son had died and he'd sat for hours next to his body, wanting more then anything in the world to take him home. To take him to his own bed, away from the harsh antiseptic smell and intrusive intercom calls. Away from others coming to appease their own grief. Just away.
If he took Don away he wouldn't have to leave him behind in a box deep in the ground. Don who loved Baseball over Hockey, who had grinned when he ran and ran when he was a child. Don who had accepted a demotion to come home and look after his dying Mother, who had always kept the injuries he received at work a secret. Don who loved his family. Don who was going to be only a memory and a pain in his Father's chest. Don who was gone.
He looks up because a man is handing him a flag folded into a triangle and he accepts it with a nod of his head and tries not to blame the FBI for stealing away time with his son. The gun shots of the twenty one gun salute are loud but expected and he had been warned about them so he doesn't jump. Charlie does next to him and Amita lays a hand on his arm and Alan wonders if they'll marry and the tears fall as he thinks of what Don's children would have looked like. What kind of Father he would have been.
" You tell him, you tell Charlie, that if he starts that P vs. NP crap I'm gonna come back and haunt him. You tell him?" Breathless and unsteady, in a near whisper with his eyes closed, just as Wendy and Pan had flown from the nursery. And Alan had nearly countered that Don could tell his Brother that disturbing fact himself, but Charlie had been sent back to the house to fetch some clean clothes by Don and Alan didn't know when he would be back and Don was fading and Alan could see that but had kept reading.
" Yes I'll tell him." He had all but snapped because this was his child and you shouldn't have to talk about what you're going to do when your child is dead, with that child.
" Dad," Don had started but Alan had silenced him immediately sitting forward, reaching out for Don his hand coming to rest on his chest, above his failing heart.
" No Donald. We're not doing it. I am not listening to any farewell speeches. There will be no goodbye. Do you understand me? There will not be a goodbye."
Don had tried to sit up and Alan had pushed him down and continued.
" I need to believe that I'm going to see you again. Can you understand that? I need to believe that I can see you again, or …" his eyes had locked with his son's and he had taken a deep shaky breath "I love you and I know that you love me but please don't say goodbye to me because I need to be able to see you again. No goodbyes. " He had begged.
" Ok Dad. " Don had murmured and settled back against the pillow and Alan had composed himself, wiping away the tears from his face and picked up the book and Wendy and Peter had arrived to battle pirates in Never Never Land.
An hour later Don was dead and Charlie had arrived back with clean pyjamas to find his Father sitting silently next to the body of his brother.
" He said no P vs. NP." Alan had relayed and Charlie had started forward towards the bed, then stopped, turned and run.
When the ceremony is over Alan stays seated. He wants to move to stand by the grave and tell his son all the things he didn't say during those last moments at the hospital, but the words won't come. He wants to look to the sky and ask his wife to look after their child but the words won't come. He wants to comfort his remaining son and tell him everything will be all right. That they still have each other and Don wouldn't want them to be Sad, but the words won't come.
He won't say goodbye so in the end he stands and turns and leaves and says nothing at all, because he can't say goodbye.
So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.
- J.M Barrie. Peter Pan.