Title:It's A Long Haul
Disclaimer: Completely. Absolutely. With enthusiasm. Disclaim, disclaim, disclaim.
Summary: Oneshot. Ripped from the headlines and twisted to fit.
He was a long-haul trucker, Don knew.
He had expected him to be a little rough around the edges. He was a little taken aback by the neat, short hair and the studious glasses -- although he didn't really know why. Information about this guy -- details offered by him and then easily verified by LAPD -- indicated that he had been killing females across the country for at least 10 years. A serial killer who lost his enthusiasm for some reason, he had gotten sloppy on this last job. He had strangled the waitress, thrown her into the dumpster at the south-L.A. truck stop without bothering to sexually abuse her first, and then stayed. He hadn't even cleaned the rather copious amount of blood from his cab.
An off-duty deputy in the market for a really big breakfast had seen the roped-off crime scene, heard the hushed whisperings of murder, and retreated. The last thing he needed on his day off was another dose of crime, American-style. On the walk back to his pick-up, he had passed a rig that had blood seeping out from underneath the passenger door and pooling on the running board. Just my luck, he had thought, heading back for the closest on-site detective.
The driver, easily located in the small portion of the restaurant still open, had started spilling his guts before any questions were asked. Less than an hour later, Don's team provided an FBI presence. The body was removed while Don and David, who had responded to the early-morning call, inspected the crime scene and spoke to the LAPD detectives. Confident that both LAPD and FBI crime scene investigators were doing a thorough job, Don had okayed the victim's extraction. Alert eyes taking in the action along the perimeter, Don had seen the trucker sitting quietly in the back of an unmarked police unit. "Keep an eye on this," he had instructed David in a low voice, and then he had approached the suspect.
A uniformed officer standing outside the vehicle confirmed his ID and then let him climb into the back next to the handcuffed man. Once settled, he found himself in the unusual position of having nothing to say, right away. He was used to interrrogating the hell out of someone and pulling confessions out of them. For a moment, he racked his brain trying to remember if a serial killer had ever done all the work for him, before. He actually jumped a little when the long-haul driver spoke first, in a soft, tired voice almost devoid of emotion. "You don't think it will take long to kill me, do you? I'll provide all the locations I can remember, and give you all the evidence you need."
Don turned his head to stare at him, mouth gaping. "What?"
The trucker continued to study his own knees. If possible, his voice grew even more tired. "I just would like for this to be over. Although considering that I am The Bad Guy, I am hardly in a position to make demands, I understand."
Nothing in Don's career so far had prepared him for this well-spoken, normal ... killer. The man was obviously intelligent. He had gotten away with this for years, and could have gone on forever. He shook his head slightly. "Are you dying or something? I just don't understand."
The man finally looked up long enough to blink long lashes behind his glasses twice. Soon he looked back at his knees. "No-one ever did," he answered. "They all wanted too much from me, they didn't understand the pressure."
In spite of himself, Don was curious. "What pressure?"
"You probably have all this information already. IQ off the charts, college at 15, a teacher by 19... When I turned my back on all that and became a long-hauler, they all thought I was crazy anyway. My parents. Brother. Friends. Colleagues." Don noticed that the man's hands clenched in anger, although his soft voice did not alter. "No-one stood behind me or offered any support. Selfish. Ignorant. As if it was easy for me. As if anything has ever been easy for me."
Don swallowed thickly, unable to prevent the image of Charlie that hovered ghost-like in front of him. He spoke automatically and reflexively, and not like a hardened FBI agent at all. "Didn't they support you academically? I mean, you were a gifted child, right?"
The trucker snorted and grinned wickedly at the back of the seat in front of him. "Oh, yes. As long as I was always the best. Always the smartest. Gave them something new to brag about every day. The pressure was everywhere. Inescapable. Family should provide you a respite from the world sometimes, not constantly demand even more themselves." His voice was finally taking on some emotion. "They were all only interested in what I could do for them. Especially my brother. I started doing his homework when I was four, and the older we got, the more he wanted." He began to chant, his hands clenching again. "Want. Want. Want. Take. Take. Take. That's all those girls were good for, too."
Don was hit by a wave of claustrophobic dizziness and slapped blindly at the window. The uniformed officer opened the door and reached down a tentative hand to help him. "Agent? Are you ill?"
Don didn't answer and catapulted out of the car past him, staggering as far away from the trucker as he could. He was leaning against the SUV before he even really decided he was going there. Using his hand to steady himself against the warm metal, he moved around away from all activity, to the passenger side. He lowered himself to the ground and leaned against the tire, feeling as though his head was going to explode and his heart was going to burst. Trembling fingers reached for the cell phone clipped at his waist.
Charlie was surprised to recognize Don's ringtone. It was not yet 6 a.m., and he was still naked from the shower, dripping on his bedroom carpet. He snatched the phone off his desk before it woke his father. "Don?"
Two syllables proved to be enough to stop Charlie's heart. Something was horribly wrong with his brother. Shivering, he gripped the phone tighter and crossed the few feet to his unmade bed, crawling back inside and drawing the covers up completely over his head, for protection. "What is it?", he whispered from his cave. "What's wrong?"
There was a definite catch in Don's voice when he gasped, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Charlie squeezed his eyes shut even in the relative darkness under the blankets. "Oh, God. Donnie, are you hurt? Where are you?" His own voice was frantic.
It was the panicked edge to his brother's voice that finally got through to Don, and he drew in a ragged breath. "I'm fine," he croaked, and realizing that would not have convinced even him, he repeated himself. "I'm fine." He forced strength into his voice, concentrating so much on delivery that he completely blew the content. "I'm scared."
Charlie's eyes popped open. He had never heard those words from his brother in his life. Oddly, they served to calm him down a little, and bring out his own protective instincts. "Why, Donnie? How can I help you? Let me come over."
Don had started to breathe a little, and acually snorted out a nondescript sound Charlie's couldn't name. "I'm at a crime scene, Buddy."
Worry crept back into Charlie's voice. "I'll still come over. Are you sure you're not hurt?"
Don breathed into the cell. "Not hurt," he affirmed. "Case really got to me."
Charlie relaxed a little and uncovered his head before he had a claustrophobic episode himself. "Then it's good that you called," he offered. "I want to be able to support you."
Don sniffed suspiciously. "You, too," he barely managed to exhale, and hoped Charlie understood what he meant.
There was silence for a few heartbeats, and then Charlie spoke again. "Are you almost done there? I'll meet you for breakfast. We can talk. Or not. Whatever you need."
Don sighed into the phone, deciding he'd already blown his Big Brother cover anyway. "I love you, Charlie."
Charlie's heart siezed and a giant tear leaked out of the corner of one eye in a sneak attack. He wrestled one-handed with the bedcovers. "I'm getting dressed," he said over the rustle. "I'm on the way, Donnie. And...and for the record? I love you, too."
Don smiled into his hand. "Mac's Diner on Alameda. I'll meet you in 30."