Don waited rather impatiently in the waiting room of the ER. Alan had yet to arrive and his brother had been taken back twenty minutes ago. Charlie had pretty unwilling about being separated from his older brother, but it was a necessity that could be ignored. So Don was left alone in the waiting room, eager for some information.
"Donny!" Alan cried as he walked through the automatic doors and saw his son sitting alone. Don stood up quickly, meeting his father halfway.
Alan looked down at his son's blood-smeared shirt and his eyes widened in fear. "Is Charlie okay?"
"He was when they took him back. I haven't heard anything yet, though."
"What happened to him? Is he... going to be okay?" Alan was afraid that during Charlie's capture his son might have been traumatized in a way that would be hard to fix. He wasn't sure what the Russian Mafia was capable of, but he knew that they were ruthless and cruel. That wasn't a good mix for his Charlie's soft heart.
Don shook his head, remembering Charlie's fear toward Yuri, the many injuries to his brother's body. He wasn't sure what had went on mentally, but he couldn't imagine it was anything good. "I don't know, Dad... I really don't."
Don put his hand on his father's back and led him to where he had been sitting. When they sat down, Don leaned heavily back in the chair, slumping over. He rubbed his hand across his face, trying to wipe the stress off his face. Though Charlie had barely been gone two days, the thoughts that had gone through Don's head during his brother's absence was enough to scare the life out of him. It was those thoughts that would leave him lying awake for weeks, for fear that his thoughts would turn into horrendous nightmares. That he could not handle. It was hard enough living it. But when his worst fears became reality in his dreams, Don wasn't sure he would ever be able to sleep again.
"Are you okay, Donny?" Alan asked when his son remained silent for several minutes.
"Yeah, Dad... I'm fine." Don's words were clipped, free of emotion. It was for that reason that Alan didn't believe him. But he had to deal with that later, because a doctor came out, calling for Charlie's family.
"We're here for Charles Eppes," Alan said, standing. Don hadn't realized the doctor had shown up. When he did, he shot up quickly.
"I'm his brother," Don announced, as though that was the greatest honor in the world. Alan glanced at Don, giving him a look that said "calm down."
"And I'm his father."
"Hi, I'm Dr. Hazel," the tall, redheaded doctor said as he extended his hand to both of them. Done with introductions, Dr. Hazel wasted no time in informing Alan and Don of Charlie's condition.
"Charlie's doing well. The only cause for concern we saw was the stab wound on his thigh, which caused a high amount of blood loss. We stitched up his leg and wrapped it in gauze. We also gave him a blood transfusion, due to the blood loss. His other wounds were merely superficial. We bandaged his arms, but the other injuries will heal on their own. We gave him a prescription for pain killers for his leg. Other than that, he's doing quite well. It will probably be painful for him to walk on his injured leg. Try to keep it elevated and immobile as much as possible. Also, he needs to be rehydrated"
"Can we take him home?" Alan asked, always the first thought on his mind.
"Yes. I signed the release form already. You just have to go get him."
"Thank you, doctor," Alan said, taking over for manners when Don went down the hall without him in search of Charlie.
When Alan trailed close enough behind Don, he called out Charlie's room number, which he had taken the time to get from the doctor. Shaking his head as he jogged behind Don, Alan wondered about his son's thought process.
As soon as Don found the door that led to Charlie's room, he opened it wide and rushed inside. Charlie was sitting on the bed, head hung low and his gaze on the floor. He wondered what he'd do about his missing shoe. It was the least logical thought that went through his head, and he liked it. If he focused on something as senseless as a missing shoe, he wouldn't think about what just happened within the last 48 hours.
"Buddy?" Don said as soon as he was through the door, not even bothering to hold it open for his father. He went to the bed and sat by his brother. Don wasn't sure what had overcome him, but when he knew he could see his brother, there had been a panicked urgency to get to Charlie running through Don. Seeing that Charlie was okay now made him feel more relaxed, but he still knew that his brother wasn't himself yet. Don would be patient, and he'd keep away the LAPD and the FBI from questioning Charlie as long as he could.
"Hey, kiddo. How are you?" Alan asked once he stepped inside, after throwing a glare Don's way for leaving him behind.
"Fine," Charlie said quietly, proving his statement false to his family.
Don reached out and rested his hand on his little brother's shoulder, knowing that Charlie wasn't ready for questions or much else.
"Ready to go home?" Don asked softly.
Charlie nodded solemnly, standing painfully. He gritted his teeth. This pain was nothing compared to what he'd just been put through. Surely he could manage the walk to the car.
"Your foot's going to get all wet if you walk out. It's raining," Alan said, pointing at Charlie's sock-covered foot. Don and Charlie shared a look, and Don recognized his brother's determination to do it on his own.
"He can make it to the lobby. You can bring the car around after that, okay?"
Alan looked between his sons. He nodded in agreement, figuring there was some silent message spoken between them and that he should go along with it. So he led the way outside the hospital room and to the main entrance.
"I'll be right back."
When Alan's back was turned to them, Charlie reached out and leaned heavily on Don. He silently grabbed onto a fistful of Don's jacket, using it as a handhold. Don let his brother hold onto him. He wouldn't complain if it killed him. Don smiled to himself, thinking about how similar Charlie was to him because his brother had hid his true feelings and pain from someone he loved. He understood that Charlie was okay with showing it to Don because Don had seen the true pain his brother had dealt with. Maybe there was more to it than that, but that was the explanation Don told himself.
"Here he comes," Don said, never looking at Charlie's face, which he knew instinctively was scrunched up in pain. When Charlie released his hold on his jacket, Don looked over at his brother, admiring Charlie's strength. His brother's jaw was set, his teeth clenched. Don recognized that as a similar face he made when he refused to show pain, either physical or emotional. Before going out in the rain to get in the car, he wondered if Charlie had picked it up from him.
Charlie nearly fell into the back seat, but managed to keep his balance long enough to appease his father. When his sons were settled in, Alan drove off.
"The doctor said to keep your leg as immobile as possible, Charlie," Alan informed his son, hoping that he would get the point.
Alan looked up in his rearview mirror to see his son's face. He smiled sadly when he saw the grimace on Charlie's face. He hoped his son wasn't going to let himself be in pain just to look tough. Alan had to deal with enough of that from Don.
After filling Charlie's prescription, the Eppes men made it to Charlie's house. The rain having not let up, Alan got out and made a mad dash to the house to unlock it, after asking Charlie if he needed help. When Alan was inside the house, Don turned around to face his brother.
"Do you need help?" he asked softly, as though Alan might hear.
Charlie looked away, embarrassed, before nodding. Don silently got out and bent to scoop his brother into his arms. He closed the door with his bent knee and walked with Charlie to the front door. Knowing that Charlie would prefer it, Don set him down when they reached the door. Charlie walked inside on his own and looked miserably at the stairs.
"You want me to set you up a place on the couch?" Alan asked as he came in from putting his wet jacket away in his room.
Charlie turned to his father and shook his head. "No. I'll just go to bed."
"Charlie-" Alan's eyes widened in horror. He couldn't imagine Charlie going up those steps. But Don gave him a look that said not to talk about it and so he turned around.
"I'll go fix you something to eat," Alan said as he turned to walk to the kitchen.
Don watched his brother's back as Charlie took the first step and already paused. Leaving his brother momentarily, Don went into the kitchen and got a bottle of water and took out Charlie's prescribed pain killers.
When he returned, Charlie was almost to the top. Don noted the way that Charlie's hand gripped the staircase in an incredibly tight hold. But Don knew his brother would not accept help if it killed him. So he let Charlie go upstairs on his own and waited until he was done to follow. Charlie was already laying down on his bed when Don came into his room. Charlie had a grimace on his face and was breathing heavily, his eyes closed tightly.
"Buddy? Are you all right?" Don asked as he came up to Charlie's bed.
Charlie shook his head. "It just hurts."
"Here. You should take this." Don held out the pills for his brother to take, along with the bottle of water.
"Thanks." Charlie sat up and took the pills. He closed his eyes in pleasure when the water ran down his throat. He hadn't had anything to drink or eat since before his capture. Sleep would do him a lot of good, too, but he was used to staying up for days at a time before. That was nothing new.
"Damn it," Charlie muttered quietly when he moved his right leg.
"Stop it, Charlie."
Charlie looked up at his brother, who was standing beside his bed. "Stop what?"
"You don't have to be like me. You're allowed to show that you're in pain. You were just kidnapped by the Russian mob. I think you can show that you got hurt."
Charlie turned his head so he could look up at the ceiling. He didn't want to see his brother's face.
"I did my best not to show emotion in front of them... When I did, it just seemed to push them to do more. I don't want them to have the pleasure of knowing I'm hurting now."
Don frowned. "Charlie, they're not here now. You don't have to be tough because of those assholes."
"Then why are you still doing it?"
Charlie paused before answering. "Because I don't want to be helpless like I was with them again."
Charlie turned on his side to prepare for sleep. Understanding that that was his cue to leave, Don walked outside the room, shaking his head. He wanted Charlie to understand that he didn't have to be strong, and he wouldn't be helpless toward them. He and Alan would give him his space and let him be independent. But Charlie needed help with some things. He shouldn't have to do everything on his own just because he had been vulnerable because of his situation with the Russian Mafia. Don sometimes wished his brother wasn't so much like him.
Don stopped when he met his father halfway down the steps. "I don't know if Charlie wants that, Dad."
"I don't care. He hasn't eaten in who knows how long. He needs some food," Alan said determinedly as he passed his son. He carried a tray full of chicken noodle soup, lemon-flavored water, and a turkey sandwich. He would force his son to eat if he had to.
"Charlie, I brought you some food."
Charlie was unable to deny food as his stomach rumbled loudly. He sat back up, his legs stretched out straight in front of him. He accepted the bowl of soup his father handed him and held it with one hand against his chest and held the spoon with the other. He greedily ate the soup.
"Slow it down, kiddo," Alan said as he watched his son scarf down his food. Charlie blushed under his father's gaze and slowed down.
When Charlie finished, Alan took the tray from him and leaned over to give his son a hug. "I'm so glad you're okay."
Charlie hugged his father back, so happy for that single contact. But he still wanted to go to sleep, so he let go and let his father leave. Turning on his side carefully, so he wouldn't hurt his already aching leg, Charlie settled in for sleep. He wondered if he would sleep for days because then he felt like he could if he was given the chance. As it turned out, he only slept four hours before he woke to a terror-filled scream – his scream.
In his dream, Charlie saw Don and Alan as the other hostages. When Mike pressed him for information, he used Alan and Don as leverage. He pointed the gun at each of them, and even rested the barrel of the gun on Don's temple. It had been enough to make him talk, but when Don looked at him he knew he had done the wrong thing by telling them. Mike then aimed the gun at Don once more and fired, then to Alan... and then at him.
Charlie sat up in bed and hugged himself, rocking back and forth as he shook all over. Without him realizing it, Don rushed through the door and came to him on the bed.
"Charlie? Buddy, what happened?" Don asked as he gently sat on Charlie's bed.
"It... it was just a dream," Charlie said, partly to inform is brother and partly to convince himself that that was it had been.
"What kind of a dream?" Don doubled over so he could see his brother's face, hidden due to Charlie's bent position.
Charlie paused in his rocking, wondering how much he was going to tell his brother.
"Bad," Charlie answered before continuing to rock back and forth.
"What was it about?" Don could see that he was going to have to get the details out of Charlie one question at a time. If that's what it took, though, he'd do it.
"What happened yesterday?" Come on, Charlie. Enough with the one word answers. As though he heard him, Charlie started talking more.
"When... when they wanted to get information from me, they pointed a gun at Colleen to get me to talk. I did, I just didn't tell them the truth. But in my dream... I saw you and Dad in Lamont and Colleen's positions. And instead of telling them a lie, I told them the truth because they kept aiming a gun at you and Dad, even putting the gun against your head. So I told them the truth, and they shot you two, and then me. That's when I woke up." Charlie shivered, hating to remember it.
"What did they do to you?" Don asked, his eyes stormy when Charlie looked up into them.
Charlie turned away, as though he was ashamed of something he couldn't control. "They taunted me. They threatened to get Dad in the mix. They pointed the gun against Colleen's stomach... like they were going to kill her and her baby. Who would do something like that?" He looked up at his older brother, as though Don had the answer. Then he continued.
"They wanted me to talk again when they realized I was lying. I wouldn't tell them... It got so close, Don. If you hadn't... if you guys hadn't shown up then, I might have talked." Charlie's eyes filled with tears. "I would have failed you."
"No." Don's eyes widened. "No, Buddy. That... that would never happen. Charlie, if you told them everything you'd ever done for the FBI you wouldn't have failed me. As long as you made it out of there alive, you would have done exactly what I wanted. That's all that mattered to me, Charlie. I don't care if you jeopardized my whole FBI career. That doesn't matter. All that I cared about was you and making sure you came out of there alive. I'm sorry that you got hurt, and I would have liked you not to have been. But you're alive. That's what counts, Buddy."
Charlie gave his first true smile in days, even though there were tears running down his face. He moved into his brother's open arms and accepted the hug Don gave him, and also returned it. It had been that topic that had been weighing heavily on his mind. He knew that if Don hadn't shown up, he would have talked. The last thing he ever wanted was to fail his older brother. Don's opinion meant everything to him. If Don had thought he was weak, he wouldn't have known how to live with himself for making such a mistake.
"I... I wanted to talk to you about something," Don said, lightly pushing Charlie away.
"What?" Charlie asked, afraid of the seriousness in Don's tone.
"I don't think you should work with me anymore."
It was as though the bed gave out beneath him and he fell through the air, waiting until he hit the bottom... a bottom that would crush him. Charlie's breath caught and he wasn't sure how he managed to speak.
"Charlie! How can you ask that? You could have been killed! Did you really think I'd want you working with me after that?"
Charlie looked down, hurt. "Well, yeah. We... we've been so, so much closer than usual. I thought you liked working with me."
Don softened as he listened to his brother's words. He hadn't meant he didn't like working with Charlie. He actually enjoyed it very much. It was a highlight to his job. But he couldn't live with himself if he put his brother in danger like that again. After the sniper case, he thought about making Charlie quit. But he had convinced himself that it would never happen again, that he wouldn't let it. But it had, and now he nearly paid for that mistake with his brother's life. He couldn't do that.
"No, Buddy, I love working with you. It's just I can't have you in danger anymore, understand? If something were to happen to you, I'd never be able to live with myself."
"But... but, Don, you can't make me stop. You just can't. This was my choice, remember? I was the one who butted into your job. I knew what I was doing. If you remember, I worked with the NSA before I worked for the FBI. Don, it's a risk I already decided worth taking. If it means I get to work with you, I'd risk getting shot and killed. Please, Don... don't take this away from me. I don't want to go back to the way were."
"I'll still come around. It won't be that different-"
"Yes it will! Don, I can't go back. I want my brother. All the time."
Don sighed, conceding. "All right. You don't have to stop. But we're going to take more precautions, okay? I cannot have you getting kidnapped again. Understand?"
Charlie smiled. "I understand. Thanks."
Charlie hugged his brother, his spirits lifted. Don hugged Charlie back, thankful that he had made his brother smile. He just hoped he wouldn't regret letting Charlie continue working with him. He knew he wouldn't so long as Charlie was safe, because whether his little brother knew it or not, Don enjoyed working with Charlie as much as his brother liked working with him.
Aw, the end! It lasted a little longer than I expected. I was leaning toward another chapter, actually, but this is it! Sorry it took a while to update. I was going through a separation anxiety-induced depression because my sister moved to her dorm room Thursday. I hope you liked this story. If anyone knows more about the stab wound and how to treat it, please let me know! I tried to look it up, but I couldn't find anything about the treatment. I hope what I put made sense. Thank you all for your reviews and for reading! I'll see you with the next one-shot, which should be about Sniper Zero. See you then!