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!

He looked down at the hand in his as he slowly brushed his fingers across the bruised and scraped knuckles. Memories of those same two hands – though much smaller – flooded through his mind. Two hands entwined as two boys went to get ice cream, the larger boy carrying the younger on his shoulders. Two hands holding a bat, the older boy's carefully on top of the younger boy's as he taught him the basics of hitting a ball. Two hands side by side as the younger brother carefully wrote out equations, stopping his frantic scribble only long enough to make sure that his older brother understood the numbers.

The memories overwhelmed his emotions and he felt his eyes filling with tears. The weary man sank into the uncomfortable plastic hospital chair, never releasing the injured man's hand from his grip. Blinking back tears, he reached out and tenderly stroked his brother's brown hair. His heart skipped a beat as his fingers encountered a large knot on his brother's head. Someone really did a number on you, the man in the chair thought to himself.

His eyes trailed down to the injured man's chest, heavily bandaged under the clean, white hospital sheets. He hadn't read the chart at the foot of the bed, but he had committed the list of injuries to memory as the doctor had rattled them off earlier. Each injury had driven home just how many times the injured man must have been struck with the metal pipe that had been found next to his body.

Out of the corner of his eye, he observed his brother's left knee, propped up on a pile of cushions. 'Torn ACL,' the doctor had said. 'It will require surgery if he makes it through the next twenty-four hours.'

If he makes it...

The man sagged in the chair and gave into the tears that had been threatening to fall, his breath hitching in his chest as he fought back a gut-wrenching sob. He couldn't believe this was happening. After the years spent apart and estranged, they had finally started to come together and now he might lose his brother forever because a worhtless junkie wanted some quick cash. A fresh wave of tears blurred his vision, but he quickly blinked them away as the man on the bed moaned.

The injured man's brown eyes slowly opened and he focused on his brother. "What happened?" he whispered.

"You were mugged," his brother told him.

"Don't... remember."

"Don't worry about that," the man in the chair soothed. "You just rest, okay?"

The man on the bed nodded and tightened squeezed the hand holding his. "Stay?"

"They couldn't drag me away, Buddy," Don promised. "I'll be here when you wake up."

Charlie squeezed his brother's hand again as he slipped back into sleep. Don smiled and looked down at their hands – still entwined – and silently vowed never to let go again.

The End