Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Thanks as always to ritt, the world's best beta and sounding board!
Charlie! Don yelled silently. Where was Charlie? He tried to lift his head from its position on the cold, hard floor, but his body was refusing his commands. He was hit – I saw him fall. Charlie!
"Move the bodies into the back," barked a strange voice from a few feet away. "I don't want them knowing we killed anybody."
Charlie! With a renewed sense of urgency, Don managed to raise his head all of an inch before it crashed back onto the unforgiving floor. He nearly let out a sob as he wondered if his brother was one of the bodies being moved. No, he told himself. He can't be. But… I saw him get shot. Charlie!
"Right here," the younger man whispered as he appeared by Don's side. "I'm right here with you."
"Charlie?" Don croaked, his voice full of relief. "…Okay?"
"I'm fine," his brother assured him. "You need to rest and lie still for me. Can you do that?"
You bet, Don thought. I think I'd be okay if I never moved again. "Thought… shot?"
"You were," Charlie whispered sadly. "And you're bleeding pretty badly so I need you to stay calm and very still for me, alright?"
"You," Don tried to clarify. "Hurt?"
"I told you I'm fine," the professor soothed. "It's you we need to worry about."
"Be fine," the agent whispered, trying to be the strong big brother Charlie looked up to.
"You got that right," Charlie smiled as he held a hand over Don's stomach. "I need to slow the bleeding. It's going to hurt, but I need you to hang in there." Don had just managed a nod when Charlie pressed his hands over the gunshot wound in his brother's abdomen. Despite his best efforts, Don let out a strangled cry as his eyes filled with tears. "I know," Charlie whispered. "I know it hurts but you're doing great."
"Who else?" Don panted, trying to keep his mind off the pain and get a handle on the situation.
"Was hurt?" Charlie finished. At his brother's nod, he looked around with a frown. "A cashier and a bag boy were both shot. I think the manager, too. One of the customers has a head wound, but I think everyone else is okay."
Charlie swallowed nervously and shrugged. "I saw them moving two bodies into the back area, but I couldn't see who they were."
"I need… do… something."
"You need to let me help you," the professor insisted. "You're not in any kind of shape to do anything else but lie here and rest. Besides, I think I saw the police outside when I came over here."
"I couldn't tell," the younger man replied. "Maybe." He frowned as he studied Don's pain filled face, gently sweeping his hand through his brother's damp hair. "You're doing good, bro. Just keep hanging on for me and we'll be out of here soon."
"…Do," Don nodded.
"Hey!" an angry voice yelled as footsteps grew close. "No talking!"
Don couldn't help but flinch as a shadowy figure threateningly hovered over him. He was both grateful and terrified when Charlie leaned forward, covering his prone form as much as possible to protect him from any attack that might be forthcoming.
"Next time I'm not going to warn you," the voice hissed. "I'll just shoot."
The footsteps faded away and Don smiled appreciatively at his little brother. "Thanks," he mouthed.
Charlie nodded and smiled as he maintained the pressure on Don's wound. He suddenly looked up, fear creeping onto his face as he peered toward the front of the store. "I think the cavalry's coming," he breathed, his voice barely audible over a series of loud noises. "Hang on, Don."
The agent lifted an arm and weakly grabbed onto Charlie's wrist. No matter what happened, he wanted to know that Charlie was with him and vice versa. He clenched his eyes shut as his hearing was assaulted by the sounds of breaking glass, men yelling and running, gunshots, sirens, and squawking radios. There was a sudden lull in the noise, only to be replaced by frantic calls for medical teams and ambulances. The agony in his stomach increased a hundred-fold as unfamiliar hands replaced his brother's. Strange voices began asking him questions that he was too tired and disoriented to answer. He didn't worry, though, because he knew Charlie was there; he'd answer the medics' questions.
His world turned into a dizzying swirl of colors as he was strapped onto a gurney and hurriedly wheeled through the store. He fought the urge to give into the darkness looming around him, but Charlie's face was next to his, telling him it was okay to let go – that he would soon wake up in the hospital, ready to give the doctors and nurses a hard time.
"You… won't go?" the agent pleaded.
"I'm not leaving your side," Charlie swore. "So close your eyes and rest."
Don nodded and squeezed his little brother's wrist which had somehow stayed within his grasp despite all of the jostling and positioning done by the medics. He let his eyes drift shut and slipped into a peaceful darkness where there was no pain.
I'm sleeping, Don silently groaned.
"Donny? Son, open your eyes for me. Please?"
Go 'way, Dad. Five more minutes.
"Donny?" A light pat on his cheek. "Donny?" This time there was a nervous tremble in the familiar voice and Don begrudgingly opened his eyes. "Hey there, son."
"Dad," the injured man whispered.
"How are you feeling?"
"I bet," Alan agreed as he rested a hand over Don's heart. "Are you in pain?"
"No. 'M good."
"That's good, Donny. Very good." A muffled voice – also familiar – spoke from the distance and Alan heaved a heavy sigh. "Donny, do you remember what happened?"
"Got shot." He looked at his father who nodded in confirmation. "Robbery?"
"That's right," the older man replied. "You stopped at the store and three idiots decided to rob it. What else?"
"Two people… dead?"
Alan's face lost all color and he weakly sank onto the mattress by Don's side.
What? Charlie had told him two people had died… hadn't he? Were there more? "Dad?"
"I know, Donny. They told me already."
Told him what? Don wondered. Where was Charlie? He could clear this up for him in no time. "Charlie?"
His father's eyes grew wet with tears as he bowed his head.
"Right here, bro," the professor whispered as he stepped to his brother's bedside.
"I thought you knew," Alan said as he sandwiched Don's hand in his own. "When you said two people… I'm so sorry, Donny."
"Charlie?" Don asked, hoping his brother could explain what their father was so upset about.
"I'll always be there," Charlie smiled warmly as he leaned his forehead against his brother's. "Whenever you need me, Don. Do you understand?"
A sickening realization started to worm its way into Don's mind. "No," he breathed.
"I'm so sorry, Donny," Alan whispered brokenly.
"I have to go now, bro."
"You said you were okay," Don stated accusingly.
"I am okay. I'm in a good place now – one where I get to see Mom again and I can watch over you and Dad when you need me."
"We'll both be okay," Alan soothed his oldest son, misunderstanding his words. "It'll take time, but we'll both be okay. That's what Charlie would want."
"He's right," the professor nodded. "That is what I want."
"No," Don whispered, his voice breaking on the word.
"Yes, Don. You need to be strong for Dad now. I promise that you're both going to get through this, but he's going to need you." Charlie pulled away and rested his hand on Don's cheek. "You can do it, bro – I know you can."
Don held his brother's gaze and finally nodded, a growing confidence rising in his heart. "I'll be there for Dad."
"I know you'll be there for me, Donny," Alan shushed him. "But you need to get some rest now and we'll talk later."
"I love you both, Don. Make sure Dad knows that."
"I will," the agent promised his brother.
"Good," Alan whispered as he stroked his oldest son's hair, unaware he was answering Charlie's apparition instead of him. "Things will get better, Donny. They have to."
"I know," Don responded to his father as he watched Charlie fade away. Just before sleep claimed him, Don found his father's hand and gripped it in his own. "Charlie promised."