A/N: My medical knowledge comes from TV and Internet searches so if it screams you don't know what you're doing…most likely you're right. Send me a PM and I'll try to improve it…on with the story.
Don wanted to say something, he knew something wasn't right but he couldn't remember anything. Something important had happened but at least he was safe for now. A cough left him gasping for air and his whole body hurt. He could feel his father's grip but he could barely stay conscious. He would figure it out but first he would just take a short nap, then he would tackle this latest obstacle.
"I'm concerned about the amount of smoke he inhaled. Shouldn't he have woken up by now?" Alan rubbed the back of his neck and couldn't seem to settle on crossing his arms or waving his arms in the air.
"Alan, he is being carefully monitored. At this time I don't think we need to intubate him. However if he doesn't wake up soon, I may have to form a different strategy."
Don of course being Don, chose that exact moment to make the doctor eat her words. He started having trouble breathing and in a flash the staff had placed him on a ventilator. Alan stood in horror as his worse nightmare flashed in front of his eyes. It didn't register that someone had led him out of his son's room and into a waiting room. He sat heavily in the chair as he prayed that no further complications would occur. Although he did try to pay attention, time slipped by and finally Don's doctor stood in front of him.
"Look, I was hoping to avoid this because of the complications to the lungs, but it is obvious that he now needs this kind of support. He won't wake up while the machine is breathing for him, so you might as well go get something to eat. Think about when Donny wakes up and needs your support, by taking care of yourself now, you'll be able to keep him calm if we can't take him off the ventilator."
Alan nodded but hesitated as he didn't really want to leave his son alone, although the doctor's words made sense. With a heavy heart he walked to the cafeteria.
Don woke up with his hands strapped down and a strange sensation of air being forced into his lungs. He tried to resist it the first few times but it hurt and a female voice actually helped calm him down. The Asian nurse smiled and left.
The man who entered didn't look that friendly and Don tensed.
"Now, you don't want to do that, youngun' as it will only make you feel more uncomfortable, unless of course, you enjoy being strapped down." He smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. "You're going to listen and follow my directions. If you don't your family will pay the price. I will make sure you're taken away and placed in a home. You'll be drugged and complacent. You won't have any ability to fight it, but most importantly your family will find themselves fighting so many little court cases, they won't be able to rescue you. They'll be drained of all of their resources and you'll be left twisting in the wind. You'll be drugged so much that you won't even know your own name."
He patted the Don's cheek and then rubbed his hand over his heart. "Now if you back off trying to investigate this case and accept your new position, I won't have to harm your family." He pulled a four by six photo out of his shirt pocket. "You're vulnerable at this moment and let this picture help you to make the right decision. The judge will never reverse the order Don Eppes and you'll never be allowed to become a FBI agent again. Of course, if you try to go against me, no one will believe you as you were totally unconscious and could only imagine my visit. I of course, will not leave any incriminating evidence behind." He whipped out a syringe and flicked the needle to remove any air bubbles. "By the time you wake up, they will believe any yarn I care to spin. You can't control the eyes and ears that surround you. Now say good night, the next time you awake, you won't even be sure I was really here."
Don fought to stay awake; to carefully store any information about the stranger but he just couldn't fight the drug. By the time he jerked awake, everyone thought he was just reacting to being on a ventilator. Once again everyone treated him special. He couldn't communicate since they kept his arms strapped down for his own good, they told him.
Charlie strode in all excited about introducing the fireman that had saved him. The man had a stocky built with brown eyes and graying hair at the temples. Don recognized him in a heartbeat, the stranger. His chest hurt, as he couldn't relax enough to get any air.
The fireman quickly opened the door and yelled "Donny Eppes needs a sedative stat."
Don struggled which only made everything worse as he needed to explain but everyone thought he was reacting to being hooked up to the ventilator. Don got the message loud and clear when the guy put his hand around the back of Charlie's neck. No one in the room was aware of the danger this man presented and Don couldn't even protect his brother, so he pretended to fall asleep so the nurse wouldn't drug him unconscious. Everyone left but in a bit the fireman came back.
"I know you're awake, if you want your family to live, you'll keep your mouth shut. I have a present waiting for you when you're more mobile. Even if you could take me out of the picture or the judge, there are many more waiting in the wings. Charlie's too trusting for his own good, isn't he? I like things just the way they are, so cooperate and Charlie will have a long life. Who knows maybe someday you'll even find some small measure of happiness…I know how much you love your family. I think you'd rather live with them than an institution."
Don opened his eyes and stared the man down as best as he could under the circumstances. The man laughed and added insult by patting him on the cheek.
"I'm almost ashamed we won't get a chance to go toe to toe. I'd like to take you down, boy, but if you do decide to challenge me, you know what's at stake. You're alive because I allowed it, next time I might not feel so generous." He strode out of the room and left Don fuming.
Finally he had recovered enough that he was just on an oxygen mask.
With his fingertips clasped behind his head, Don tried to relax and figure out his next step. Continue the investigation or accept his fate. His top priority was figuring out a way to protect his family. Had the first visit been his only warning, he could easily have pretended the whole thing was a dream. It still sent chills up and down his spine that his family was threatened while he was incapacitated. Worse that Charlie trusted the man. Charlie would back him up but he just wasn't sure if it was worth the risk. Would it really be such a bad life living under his father's thumb if it meant he kept his family alive?
Then, he couldn't allow the bastard to win. First he needed a way to insure that his home wasn't bugged. He could ask Colby for help, but that was a risky equation as well. Until his health improved enough, he couldn't risk anything. A young college student that volunteered at the hospital entered the room.
"Hey, Donny, this package arrived and they asked me to deliver it to you." She handed him the small box, smiled and quickly left before he could say anything.
Ripping the package open, Don stared at the small folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and stared at the image. Damn, who snapped this photo of me sleeping on a couch holding a teddy bear? Someone is really twisted, who enjoys dressing a grown man in a child's outfit. Almost looked like something young infants wore. On the side was a notation:
'This is your future if you don't cooperate. Show it to anyone and Charlie dies. The ball is in your court. Sweet dreams, Donny.'
Don crushed the photo and stuffed it under his pillow, just in time as Colby entered the room.
"Donny what's wrong, are you having trouble breathing?"
"No, I'm just mad, I want out of here." Frustration didn't even begin to describe his feelings and he worried about any listening devices. The bastards had carefully isolated him and a small part of him felt as if he should solve it on his own. Asking for help increased the risk to his family and maybe pretending to go along with the situation would allow an opportunity to present itself. So Don reacted the only way he felt he could shield his family, "Just want to go home, it's really annoying how they treat me. Why hasn't Gertrude come by? When does Crystal get back from vacation?" Don deliberately distracted Colby from discovering the truth. For now he wasn't prepared to chance it yet.
"Sorry but visiting hours are almost over, and little Donny needs his rest."
Colby laughed as Don rolled his eyes. "Guess I'll deliver the good news, you're going home in a few days as long as you don't have any setbacks. The judge believes that Mrs. Cox invented some of the problems for your family so Charlie can now visit you without any supervision. However, he still isn't allowed to be your guardian. Also he wants to meet with you in a few days to see how you're progressing. Maybe he'll even back off on a few restrictions. I just wanted you to know I'm still trying to find a way to get everything reversed. I know you've had more setbacks than necessary, but keep your chin up. Things are improving."
The nurse entered with a syringe.
"You just poked me thirty minutes ago," he mumbled into the oxygen mask.
"Doctor's orders, he unhappy with some test results. Hopefully this will help with the insomnia."
"That's because you keep waking me up and poking me every time I get to sleep."
"Don don't make waves now," Colby warned Don.
"Fine, I'm your pin cushion anyway. It's early isn't it?" His question made both of his visitors uncomfortable.
"Sorry, Don, but your doctor wants you to have a set schedule." The nurse looked uncomfortable but continued, "The head nurse tried to extend the hours, but he wouldn't hear of it. Lights out in a thirty minutes."
"I see, just in case I wasn't aware I was being treated as a child. Message received."
Nurse Bennett ignored the comment and quickly cleaned the area and gave a quick pinch. "Now relax, you'll be sleeping in no time."
Colby squeezed Don's leg. "I think I can spare a few more minutes don't you agree, nurse Bennett?"
"He does need special supervision, he's a trouble magnet, that one." Bennett agreed to conspire against the Doctor; none of the nurses liked him anyway. "I trust you'll both keep this our secret. You can stay until he falls asleep."
"Thanks, I appreciate your generosity. Donny, why don't you get comfortable and I'll turn on the game."
For a while neither talked but just let the game be the only communication. It took some time for Don to drift off and Colby noticed the little non-verbal cues, which pointed out Don's agitation. For one thing, he kept picking at the sheet blanket and kept looking at the door.
Colby spotted the signs of a secret, luckily he understood this Don Eppes better. "Don't worry, I'll figure it out. The import thing is that you're alive," he whispered. Colby had passed the point of no return; their relationship would never revert back before the kidnapping. His boss's personality would forever be defined by the abduction. Then it hit him, Don was vulnerable, and scared. That was it; Don was scared. Something had happened recently. The insight put a heavier weight on his shoulders.
Don curled up on his side and wrestled with his covers, "No! Stop, I'll keep my mouth shut, don't hurt him."
"Hey, Donny it's okay, you're safe and your family is safe."
Instead of the words calming him, Don got more upset. "You hurt him and I'll find a way to kill you, I promise."
Colby found himself feeling over protective. He doubted he could ever reverse these feelings because for him Don had become his little brother in his heart. It took some time, but he managed to calm Donny down. Damn, now I think of him as Donny. It's time to take the offense. He's a grown man not a child. Think, damn it, what can you do to help?
Nurse Bennett popped back in, "Look I need to check his vitals but you have to walk out with me before Angie comes on duty. I've given you as much leeway as I can but Angie is a whistle-blower and…"
"Say no more. Sometimes I just can't wrap my brain around all the changes. He's lucky to be alive."
"And lucky to have such a good friend. He seems so capable, hard to believe he's mentally challenged. I know better than to question it, had a patient last year that all of us believed was normal. Then he had one of his spells and now he just sits in a corner staring at the wall. I hope that never happens to Donny."
"Won't let that happen."
"I hope not. Found out the guy had someone scare him so much that he just shut down. How could someone be that cruel?"
"Well, Donny's not alone, he's got lots of friends and family members watching out for him. Just have to get him to sleep through the night."
"Well, that won't be a problem tonight. Tomorrow night we'll try sleeping pills." The Nurse smiled as she hooked up a new bag.
"I'll be out in a few minutes, I promise. Gathering up my things now."
"I'll be back if you aren't."
Colby waited until she left, "Technically you're older, but I don't think I'll ever see you that way again. Just have to get you to spill the beans, who has you running scared Don? Luckily you're not as skilled as you once were at masking your feelings. I think I like this Don better, but I'll never say that to your face. Sleep well, Donny." He picked up his bag and walked out the door.
Fifteen minutes later, a woman entered the room. She pulled back the covers and watched to see if there was any reaction from the patient. Satisfied that he was sleeping soundly, she attached a small dot to the monitor and carefully pulled the pillow out from under Don. He didn't even stir. She removed the dot from the back of the pillow and carefully slipped the pillow back into place. Then she reposition the patient, so to the trained eye nothing looked out-of-place before finishing with the covers. "Big brother is watching, smile your on candid camera. Can't wait to test the live video feed when you get back home. I bet you've got a cute tush." She snapped some photos and left.
One lone figure punched a number and waited while the phone dialed the correct number. "It failed just as I suspected. Don turned due to the manipulation of being held by his so called older brother. Unless Sunny recovers, I suspect this was a one-time fluke and not something we can duplicate, again. Since Sunny is in a coma, it's a moot point anyway. For now the real question is what do we do about Don Eppes, looks like he's recovering and he hasn't said anything at this point. So far he doesn't remember and can't identify you. Colby Granger may have an accident though, he suspects something, but nothing's been revealed yet."
"Use the surveillance to our advantage for now. As long as Don is unable to be declared competent, I have nothing to worry about. Your idea worked, keeping them unbalanced by having Don survive the fire was a brilliant move. Crystal Jones air travel problems should resolve in a few days. But if anything changes, kill them all. Make sure it looks like a freak accident."
"I suspect that everyone will be united soon, Gertrude's minor accident wasn't as serious as it could have been. Tomorrow Don will get the pictures of the fire. I believe any idea to rebel will be destroyed at that point especially when he sees Charlie's photo."
"I like how you think. Good job. No one's seen you have they?"
"Not at all, I blend in easily. Andy Brown's accident has been arranged, so even if Don talks about the stranger or a fireman visiting him, Brown will take the fall and everyone will think it's over. He should have never taken that picture of Don dressed up in the child's outfit. I hate people who go rogue."
"Agreed. Just make sure the accident can't be traced back to us."
"I'm afraid, it will look like an ordinary day at the office. You know how unpredictable fires are." They laughed together and then she hung up.
A/N: Not sure I want to be a member of this bad guy's crew; he sure enjoys killing people off.
To be honest this chapter just didn't want to get done. First draft just sucked. So I left it and hoped distance would help me figure it out. I think I got the mix right, but some feedback would really help. I'm afraid my biggest obstacle, I started out energized about this story, then some major health issues happened and now I'm not as enthusiastic about it any more. My stubborn pride is keeping me writing to the finish line and I think the story is better than what I first tried to create it but it may feel really predictable.
So for every review, Poor Don gets a beer. Of course if you would rather give him a sponge bath…you just have to tell me your choice. Don and I are waiting. I'm the one chewing my fingernails, and Don has a big smile on his face for some reason? ;)
Enjoy and thanks for reading even if you don't leave a review. :)