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!
What a crappy ending to a crappy day, Don thought as he maneuvered his SUV through the rain slicked streets of downtown Los Angeles. I'm not even sure I have the energy to make it home. Dad's out of town for the weekend so maybe Charlie wouldn't mind some company… I'd better be careful though or he'll start charging me rent.
His decision made, Don turned his vehicle in the direction of Pasadena and drove into the sheets of rain that made the world outside a blurry mess. The closer he got to sanctuary, the more his eyelids started to droop and the louder and fiercer his yawns became. Stay awake, Eppes. Just a few more minutes.
He nearly cheered out loud as his brother's house became visible through the wall of rain. Don carefully turned into the driveway, frowning as he noticed the conspicuous absence of his brothers little blue car. Maybe he's at Amita's. Surely he won't mind if I crash here tonight. Don fingered his keys as he debated what to do, suddenly groaning and rolling his eyes as a familiar shape brushed against his fingers. Of course he doesn't mind – that's why he gave you a key!
Deciding that he'd better lie down somewhere before his brain abandoned him entirely, Don slipped out of the SUV, flipped the automatic lock on the door handle and pushed it close. Right as the door clicked shut he realized his keys weren't in his hand… or his pocket. Don cupped his hands against the window to block the rain and peered inside, growling in frustration as he saw them still hanging from the ignition. Damn, he thought as he let his head bang against the glass. He wearily rested against the vehicle, shivering slightly as his clothes became soaked.
Get it together, Eppes! he snapped, pushing himself away from the vehicle and reachling for his cell. Don't just stand around in the rain – call someone! His wet fingers fumbled clumsily against his belt, finding only wet leather where his phone should have rested. He glanced down in disbelief and felt his frustration grow as he remembered making a call before he left the office and setting his phone down while he turned in a report. I never forget my cell…
Another wave of exhaustion washed over him and Don began to suspect that his tiredness and uncharacteristic forgetfulness were a sign that something was seriously wrong with him. He glanced around the neighborhood houses, disappointed but not surprised to find them dark and locked up for the night. I guess I'd better find somewhere dry to curl up and hope Charlie comes home soon.
The weary agent stumbled up the walkway and onto his brother's front porch where he moved a patio chair to sit next to the front door. Don curled his long, lean frame up as well as he could and pulled his jacket collar up to try and keep his face dry. His new position was marginally better than standing out in the open and getting drenched, but the occasional strong gust of wind blew rain onto the patio, further soaking Don's clothes and making him long for his brother's speedy return.
The agent awoke with a start, unsure if the wind had made some sort of noise or if someone had actually said his name. It didn't matter though, as he discovered that all he wanted to do was curl up some place warm and dry and sleep until the aches and pains coursing through his body were gone. A violent shiver assaulted him and Don curled his upper body even tighter, trying to retain what little warmth he had left.
Okay, definitely a voice, he deduced. And it sounds worried. Maybe I should tell it I'm okay…
"Hey, bro," the voice whispered and Don's sluggish mind finally put a name to it.
"Charlie," he whispered through chattering teeth.
"That's right," the younger man crooned as he rested a hand on his brother's forehead. "What are you doing out here?"
"Keys… in car," Don shakily mumbled.
"You should have called me."
"Phone's at… office." Stop with the interrogation, Buddy – I'm too tired to think right now.
"You're soaked," Charlie observed, his voice both scolding and compassionate. "Let's get you inside."
"…'Kay," Don agreed although he made no move to get up. He heard a key scraping in a lock and the sound of the front door opening and then his brother was standing next to him again. Two warm hands wormed their way under his arms and he was gently tugged forward, out of the chair and into a surprisingly strong, supportive grip. "Can walk..."
"I know," Charlie said in a placating tone. "But it would make me very happy if you'd let me help."
Don decided not to waste his breath arguing and allowed his little brother to guide him inside and straight to the couch where he settled him against the cushions. The agent let his head loll on the welcoming softness as his brother's voice whispered "Sit tight for me, okay?"
Couldn't move if I wanted to, he thought as he succumbed to another round of shivering. As his brother walked away, Don thought about just how wonderful it would feel to lie down and get some proper sleep. Before he realized he was doing it, he had listed to the side and was pressing his face against the seat of the couch, begging for a revitalizing sleep to claim him.
Charlie's soothing praise brought Don out of the haze clouding his mind and he was shocked to find his brother sliding a tee shirt over his head. His limbs felt leaden and useless but somehow he was keeping them out of Charlie's way, hence the encouraging praise. As the younger man rolled the shirt down and straightened out the wrinkles, Don's arms dropped and landed in his lap, where he discovered he was wearing a dry pair of sweatpants. Charlie managed to change my clothes without me waking up? God, I must be more out of it than I thought.
"Let's lay you back down," the professor whispered as he held his brother's shoulders and guided him onto his back – a large, soft pillow in the perfect position to cradle his aching head. Charlie's tender care and thoughtfulness touched Don deeply and he felt an immediate urge to express his gratitude.
"Thanks," he croaked, shocked at how rough his voice sounded.
"You're welcome," the younger man said with a smile. He lifted a digital thermometer up where Don could see it and gestured to his mouth. "Open up."
Don obeyed without hesitation, a move that seemed to set off alarm bells in Charlie's head. I guess he's not used to me being so agreeable. Neither am I, for that matter. His brow furrowed as he again wondered what was wrong with him but then his brother's hand made a repeat appearance on his forehead, smoothing the wrinkles and worry away. A high pitched beeping sounded and Charlie carefully withdrew the thermometer from his brother's mouth, frowning as he read the temperature. "What?" Don croaked.
"You've definitely got a fever."
The younger man smiled at him as he tenderly pulled a blanket over his brother's shivering form. "You don't worry about that," Charlie quietly ordered. "Just rest and let me take care of things."
Don suspected 'things' meant him and his first instinct was to resist, not wanting to feel dependent on someone else. Common sense quickly won out as he realized he didn't have an ounce of strength left in his body. "…'Kay, Buddy."
The professor disappeared from his side, reappearing moments later with a glass of cool water which he ordered Don to use to down two Tylenol. The agent was too weak to sit up so Charlie gently lifted his head and held the glass to his lips as his brother washed down the pills and took a couple of extra swallows. He lowered the older man's head back to the pillow, quickly and carefully wiping the excess moisture from his lips. Don closed his eyes in embarrassment, wishing he would feel better soon so he wouldn't need help with such simple tasks.
"Shh, you're okay."
Okay? Don wondered as he swam up from a fiery darkness. No – I'm burning up. Every inch of my body is on fire. A blessedly cool cloth suddenly trailed across his forehead and down his cheeks, smothering the burning heat and easing his discomfort. The cloth disappeared as quickly as it had come and an involuntary moan slipped from Don's mouth.
"I'm rewetting it," Charlie explained in a feather light voice. "It'll only be a second."
Sure enough the cloth returned to his skin, this time calming the flames licking at his neck and chest. He sighed at the welcome relief and muttered what he hoped sounded like a 'thank you'.
"No talking, Don. Just rest and get better for me."
The agent nodded weakly and relaxed as the cloth continued to soothe his feverish skin, his brother's arm never seeming to grow tired from his ministrations. Don soon began to feel better and when sleep held out its inviting embrace, he gave in without a second thought.
The sound of a familiar voice pulled Don from his peaceful slumber. Still sleepy and content, he chose not to open his eyes as he listened to the voices beside him.
"Yeah." he heard Charlie answer.
"How high was his fever?" Don recognized his father's voice.
"103 at its peak. Right now – ninety-nine. Still slightly feverish but definitely better than he was."
"You stayed up with him the whole weekend?"
Weekend? Don thought with alarm. I've been on Charlie's couch the whole time?
"He needed me," he heard Charlie say. "I have to admit – it was nice to be able to be there for him. I don't get to do that nearly enough."
"I know what you mean," Don heard his father say with a sad sigh. Then, in a much lighter tone, his father inquired "Was he a good patient?"
"He was too sick and exhausted to be anything but."
The older man snorted "Lucky you."
"Heard that," Don rasped, opening his eyes and making his presence known.
"Good morning, Sleepyhead," Alan greeted warmly, moving to sit on the couch next to his son's hip. He placed a gentle hand on Don's forehead and nodded his approval. "Your fever's almost gone."
"…'S good," the agent mumbled around a yawn.
"Are you up for some breakfast?" Charlie inquired.
"Sure," Don smiled. His wandering gaze fell on the coffee table and his eyes widened in surprise as he saw his keys lying on the worn wood. "You…?"
"I made some calls while you were resting," Charlie smiled.
"I'll pay you back for the locksmith."
"No need," the professor replied mysteriously.
"You shouldn't have to pay-"
"I didn't." Charlie laughed at the baffled expression on his brother's face and decided to take pity on him. "I called Colby." Don raised an eyebrow in query. "Let's just say he's very… experienced when it comes to getting past a lock."
Don was left to ponder that statement as his little brother disappeared into the kitchen. He then looked over at his father who was grinning ear-to-ear. "What?"
"I'm just glad to see you're doing better. Charlie did a heck of a job taking care of you."
"I know. Be honest though – how much advice did you have to give him?"
"None." Alan saw the skeptical look on his oldest son's face and nodded firmly. "He didn't even call me to tell me you were sick. I found out when I got home this morning."
"So he… all of that… on his own?"
"Yes, Donny." Alan leaned forward and – much to Don's chagrin – pressed a tender kiss to his forehead. "And I think he enjoyed being able to take care of you."
"So I heard."
"You might want to address that, you know."
"I've got it, Dad," Don said as he rolled his eyes.
"Just making sure. I'm going to go upstairs and unpack from my trip."
A few minutes after his father had left, Charlie appeared carrying a tray with toast, cereal and orange juice. "Don't think you have to eat it all," the professor said as he read his brother's thoughts. "I just wanted you to have some choices."
Don nodded with relief as he took a piece of toast and bit off the corner. "Thanks, Buddy."
"No big deal." Charlie blushed at his brother's words. "I'm planning to eat whatever you don't."
Don set down his toast and pushed himself to sit up straight. "I meant thanks for everything."
"You're my brother, Don. What, did you think I'd leave you on the front porch?"
"Of course not, but you could have called a doctor or just given me some medicine and let me be. It means a lot that you stayed with me the whole time. I'm sorry for ruining your weekend, though."
"I didn't have any plans." Don gave him a doubtful look and Charlie shrugged. "Okay, I didn't have any plans that were more important to me than my big brother's well-being."
"That really does mean a lot to me," the agent emphasized. He lifted his arms and shook his head. "If I was sure I wasn't contagious, I'd hug-" His words were cut off as Charlie leaned forward and enveloped him in a tight embrace. "Charlie," Don said, clearly upset. "I don't want to get you sick, too."
"I, my dear big brother, did something that you should have done and will do in the future."
"What's that?" Don asked, tentatively returning the embrace.
"Got a flu shot."
"No," the agent said as he shook his head. "There's a major drawback to that."
"What on earth could that be?" Charlie asked as he pulled away from the older man.
"I wouldn't get to spend the weekend with my little brother looking out for me."
A huge, radiant smile lit up the professor's face and he wrapped his arms around Don for a second hug. "You know, Don – you don't have to be sick for us to spend time together or for me to help you out whenever you need it."
"I know that now, Buddy," Don whispered in the younger man's ear. "Thanks."