I'm Your Brother
Rated: PG-13 for reference to violence
Summary: The brothers must deal with the psychological repercussions of a severely traumatic experience.
one-shot is linked to a challenge thread that FraidyCat started at
the writer's forum Calling All Authors. That's a forum here on this
site under the general category.
The challenge has to do with writing a story based on a line from something. Well Dream Brother wrote a Supernatural story based on a Smiths song called "I Know It's Over" which begins "Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head". I mentioned that the story was great but it killed my idea that had been rolling around in my brain for a while about writing a story with Don in the same vein. Dream Brother challenged me to do it anyway so I took that line and ... URGHH never used it in my story! Ha as I'm typing this I realize that I never did! Good grief! I can't even get a challenge right! In any case the story is still inspired by the line so check it out and let me know what you think.
I just removed an unsigned review that accused me of taking this plot
from an episode of CSI. The reviewer didn't mention which CSI
program it supposedly came from. If I understand correctly there are
three or four of them on the air. Nor did the reviewer state what
episode this story was supposed to be taken from.
I am here to state that this story came from the challenge as stated above. It was not a rip off of any TV show. The entire plot came from inside my twisted little mind. If anyone would like to open a dialogue with me about one of my stories it would be a whole lot easier if it were not done anonymously. If you wish to make an accusation in the form of a review, have the courage to leave a signed review so that I can reply.
I'm Your Brother
When Charlie got the call he wasn't prepared for the emotional tide that would run through him. Relief that Don was finally ready to talk to someone did battle in his heart with fear of what his brother would finally say. Don had refused to talk to anyone about his ordeal, not Dr. Bradford, his family, his closest friends, nor his team. As a matter of fact Don hadn't been back to work since the abduction. Charlie knew that he hadn't been sleeping and was barely eating. The change in his physical appearance was dramatic and disturbing and the young professor silently wondered if that was one of the motivating reasons for his refusal to go into the office even to see Doctor Bradford.
Don rarely left his apartment and after the first week of being home from the hospital he had stopped answering the door or the phone. The only reason Charlie knew that he was there was when he banged on the door threatening to break it down his brother would reply in a wooden voice, "Go away, Charlie. I'll call you when I'm ready."
That was four days ago and Charlie had been considering going back to the apartment so when the phone rang at nearly ten o'clock at night and Don was on the other end Charlie's stomach did a flip flop.
Charlie sat up straight with a startled expression which got the attention of Amita and Alan who were playing a game of chess while he graded papers. "Don?"
"Can you... I need to... talk to me."
Don sounded defeated, and scared. He had never heard fear like this in his older brother's voice and it unnerved him, while at the same time bringing his senses into sharp focus.
"Stay put, I'll be there in ten minutes."
That is all he heard before Don hung up the phone. Something about that click of the phone disconnecting sounded so ominous that a deep sense of dread and foreboding washed over Charlie giving him a visible chill. Alan stood up, the game forgotten.
"Charlie, what is it? Is Donnie all right?"
It was obvious that his father had picked up on his apprehensiveness and Charlie carefully schooled his features. "He's ready to talk. He needs me to come over."
Alan immediately headed for the foyer saying, "I'll get my coat."
"No! Dad, he asked for me. Look, he hasn't spoken to anyone since... since they pulled him out of that crypt. He didn't even give a full statement to Megan, just that he didn't see anyone and woke up... inside that coffin. He finally wants to talk to someone, to me, so lets not push it all right?"
Alan dropped his head to his chest and sighed. He had been beside himself with worry ever since his eldest son had gone missing. As the hours stretched into days he began to loose hope that they would find him alive. No ransom demands had been made, no threats or gloating by his abductors, he was just... gone. If it hadn't been for that autistic boy at the cemetery, Alan knew with absolute certainty that they would never have seen Don again and that still frightened him.
"I'll call you, okay?" Looking past his father to Amita Charlie said, "I'm sorry..."
"Go, Charlie. I'm fine."
When Charlie arrived at Don's apartment he wasn't sure that his brother was awake. There was no light showing under the crack of his front door and he wondered if he had fallen asleep since his call. Don had sounded like he was on the edge of tears which was also one of things that had thrown Charlie. In all of the years that he had known his brother as an adult, he had never seen him cry; not even at their mother's funeral. Tears were not Don's way. Charlie knew all too well that his older brother experienced emotions just as powerfully as anyone else, it was just his methods of expression that were so tightly controlled. He reached out to knock, but hesitated for a moment before reaching down and turning the knob. The door wasn't locked as it had been every other time he had come by. Even his key hadn't worked because Don had used the chain lock as well as the dead bolt.
Charlie swung the door open and stepped in, giving his eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting. The front door opened to a short hallway that connected the bedroom and bathroom to the kitchen and living room. From the vantage point of the front door one could look to the right and see the brick wall alongside the far bedroom wall or look in the left and see the near corner of the living room that butted up against the kitchen area. What Charlie saw when he looked toward the living room brought him into the apartment quickly. There was a lamp on but it was laying on the floor around the corner and out of sight where it looked to have been thrown. As a matter of fact the apartment looked like someone had tossed it.
"Don! Don where are you?" Charlie called out in alarm as he raced into the living room.
Books and CD cases were strewn across the floor, the standing lamp in the corner was leaning precariously against the wall but was still essentially upright. There were bottle fragments against the far wall along with a large discoloration that gave proof that a bottle of beer had been thrown against the wall with some serious force. The cushions of the couch were all over the place and there on the floor with his back leaning up against the frame was Don. He was sitting cross legged with his hands resting face down on the coffee table. Between his palms was a half full rock glass, a bottle of Bourbon and his FBI issued Glock. The sight was spine-chilling and the sense of foreboding that he had when Don hung up the phone increased ten fold and nearly took his breath away.
Charlie carefully picked his way around the wreckage in the living room and squatted down in front of the coffee table opposite his brother. He looked into Don's eyes and felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end because for a glimmer of a second he had the sensation of looking into the soulless eyes of the dead. Tears wet Don's cheeks and still glistened in bloodshot eyes that looked lifeless like the way they had the day they found him.
Charlie remembered that day with stunning clarity and was sure that he would for the rest of his life. He had run what seemed like hundreds of equations to help try and find Don, but the bottom line was they had no data, they had no idea who had taken him or where. He had vanished off the face of the earth with no leads until three days after his disappearance. The FBI got a call from one Henry Portsmith, the custodian of Briarwood Cemetery in La Habra Heights just inside the Orange County border. He had seen the news footage of a missing FBI agent and suspected that his grave digger may have some information. Charlie had been at the FBI office when that call came in and insisted on accompanying the team out to La Habra Heights.
As it turned out Jeramey Shepherd, the graver digger, was a young autistic man with severe communication issues but he had been repeating the same phrase over and over for the past couple of days. It was a catch phrase from the Die Hard movies and Mr. Portsmith had heard him say it before whenever a police officer or other law enforcement officer was buried. The custodian suspected that Jeramey may have seen or heard something because he just wouldn't stop repeating the phrase which ended in a rather colorful term. What gave Mr. Portsmith the idea that Jeramey's repetition might have to do with the missing agent is the fact that as soon as the man's picture was shown on the television, Jeramey became very agitated and started screaming the phrase. He grabbed the main key ring and when Henry wouldn't let him outside the office he started rocking and banging the keys against his head saying, "YippieKiAye-YippieKiAye YIPPIE KI AYE..."
By the time the team had driven the nearly thirty-five miles from the office out to the cemetery, Mr. Portsmith had finally calmed Jeramey down to a point where he was only rocking back and forth and repeating the entire phrase complete with profanity at the end. Once Henry explained what had happened that prompted him to call, Charlie pulled Megan aside and spoke to her quietly. He wanted to show the young man Don's picture and let him go where ever he wanted, and they would follow. This proved to be the thing that saved Don's life. Jeramey led them right to the crypt on the back edge of the cemetery. He started shouting again as he unlocked the iron grate and unsealed the crypt entrance. He hurried over to what looked like an extra coffin just sitting on the floor next to the crypt's only other occupant that sat on a raised pedestal. Jeramey began fiddling with the latch on the coffin on the floor and swung open the lid revealing the contents. He stood proudly and pointed shouting the phrase in a triumphant voice.
When Jeramey opened the coffin that Don was in, Charlie thought for a moment that they were too late. Don's eyes were open, sunken, and vacant without any residual moisture. His face was parched looking and his deathly pale skin had no elasticity to it. The only thing that gave evidence of life were the rapid breaths and the fact that his hand was wrapped around the handle of his Glock in a white knuckled grip.
The only difference that Charlie could see now, looking into Don's eyes were the presence of the tears. Don had allowed himself to become somewhat dehydrated again as evidenced by the sunken appearance of his cheeks, but it was not nearly as severe as when he was found or else he wouldn't have been able to cry. Charlie was painfully aware of the gun laying on the table between his brother's hands but he didn't want to reach for it and draw Don's attention to it.
"Hey, bro. When did you remodel the place?"
Charlie spoke softly as he carefully sat down cross-legged facing Don. The weak attempt at humor had no effect. The table separated them, but Charlie's right knee was right up against Don's left knee and he could feel quivering in the muscles. He hoped that it was tension and not a return of the convulsion that had wracked his brother's body when they had first gotten him out of the coffin. His blood pressure had become dangerously low due to the dehydration and that set off convulsions which in turn sent his heart into arrhythmia. The ambulance arrived within four minutes of Megan's call and luckily the heart arrhythmia was mild. It took getting a vein in Don's neck and some fluids pumped into him to stop the muscle spasms that intermittently struck his arms, legs, and torso. Don spent two days in the hospital getting fluids and supplements to re-balance his electrolytes. He made no sense at all when Megan first tried to talk to him and get his statement, but the doctor had explained that was due to the severe dehydration. His electrolytes were so far out of whack that he would be incapable of coherent reason until they were brought back into balance.
Charlie was mildly concerned that this entire scene, the trashed apartment, the Bourbon, the gun, the sunken facial features all represented a dangerous downhill slide. He was tempted to try and distract Don long enough to call Megan on his cell, but that thought went right out the window when Don started speaking. His breath smelled like the Bourbon on the table but it was not overly strong and he didn't speak with any kind of slur.
"I don't know how to reconcile this, Charlie."
"Don, you have to talk to me, to Bradford, to someone. How much have you had to drink?"
Don glanced down at the rock glass half filled with the amber colored liquid. "That's my first, you want one?" The words were delivered with dry sarcasm which actually took an edge off the apprehension Charlie was feeling. If Don could crack sarcastic jokes then he may not be as bad off as he looked.
"Don, that's not what I meant. You look dehydrated again. How much water have you been drinking? Have you eaten anything today? Do I need to call Megan... or Dad?"
That got a reaction and Don's head shot up with an almost pleading look in his eyes before the veil came crashing down rendering his features devoid of emotion.
Charlie had kept in daily contact with Megan and was aware that his brother had mailed in his resignation from the FBI; a resignation that Assistant Director Wright refused to accept until Don had gone to the department psychologist and discussed what had happened to him. Don's refusal to talk to Doctor Bradford surprised Megan and the rest of the team because he had been seeing the man for almost a year without complaint.
"I know, Megan told me. Why Don? You love being an Agent. It's who you are. Why're you resigning?"
Don looked down at the gun, staring at it as if it held some secret concealed within it's black surface. "I can't... My judgment is compromised, I can't lead a team if I can't trust myself."
"Why don't you trust your own judgment? You had no way of preventing any of this, Don. You were drugged, it's not bad judgment, it could have happened to any of the others, and you know that."
Don had no actual recollection of his abduction. He had gone out after work with the team and somewhere along the line someone slipped Rohypnol into his drink. Don began to feel odd and chalked it up to a long day and decided to call it a night fairly early. The Rohypnol took effect quickly and by the time he made it out to his vehicle and got it open it was easy to push him in, overpower him, and drive off with no one the wiser.
"It isn't that, Charlie. I know that I couldn't have stopped them. Reggie and Rickie swore that they would get me when I least expected it, and they did."
Charlie's mind traveled back to the afternoon that Jeramey looked at mug shots and became agitated when he saw the pictures of Reginald and Richardo Tornins. Megan was able to use the fact that Jeramey led them to Don before it was too late as sufficient cause for a search warrant for the Tornins home after Jeramey reacted to their mug shots. There they found Don's FBI identification and his wallet both of which were missing when he was rescued although his badge was pinned to his chest. This is what Henry Portsmith thought had caused Jeramey to fixate on Don. The young man probably looked into the coffin when they placed it in the crypt. He was obsessed with law enforcement and was able to recognize a real badge better than most experts.
"It's not..." Don sighed heavily and his right hand slid a little closer to the gun. "It's me... or really it's not me. I'm gone. This person, this shell sitting here is nothing, just a walking corpse going through the motions. I can't sleep; I wake up shaking, the sheets soaking wet. What I feel; it's debilitating. I can't use the elevator, I don't even like getting in my truck. I never know when it will hit, just that it will, and when it does I can't breathe, I can't think, I can't even move. Charlie, I lost it... I lost me."
Don was still staring at the gun which was making Charlie extremely uncomfortable.
"Don, you know you aren't superman. Of course you are having nightmares, and claustrophobia. God! You were buried alive! I would have done more than loose it, anyone would have."
Charlie wouldn't have thought that Don could move so quickly in his emotional state but he took a hold of that gun in a flash of movement and Charlie tried to stop him.
Don moved his hands back toward his chest keeping the gun out of Charlie's reach but he didn't raise it or point it anywhere. He was simply holding it. Charlie felt cold fear rush through him and his voice shook.
"Don, please give me the gun. You don't want to do this."
Don didn't seem to hear him and he gazed at the object in his hand. "I have felt fear, everyone does, but this was different. This is different, it's unlike anything I've ever felt or imagined, and believe me, Buddy, I can imagine more than you will ever want to know. I'm gone, Charlie, it's just that no one realizes it yet. Don't you see; I died in that coffin."
Don was seriously scaring Charlie now. "What are you talking about? You didn't die, Don. You have been through hell, you need help to come to terms with what was done to you, but you survived, you beat the odds, just like you've done hundreds of times. Look if you want to quit then quit, but please for the love of your family don't take your life for granted. You're scaring me, Don. Please I am begging you to give me that gun."
Charlie held out a trembling hand hoping that his words had broken through the morose veil of post traumatic stress that enveloped his brother, but Don just looked up at Charlie with such deep sadness reflected back that Charlie felt his heart drop along with his arm. The look in Don's eyes terrified him and made him angry.
"God damn it, Don! Is this why you asked me to come over here, to watch you blow your head off?" He sat back preparing to get up. "Well I won't do it, and what's more, I don't believe that you will either."
Charlie was so frightened and angry that he almost missed Don's whispered reply.
"I already did."
With his heart hammering in his chest Charlie shook his head but sat forward. What Don just said could only mean one thing; he had tried to kill himself and failed. Is that when he had trashed his apartment? Is that when he had called Charlie? Would his brother actually do this to his family, to himself? Charlie continued to shake his head more vigorously.
"No! I don't believe you."
Don flipped the release and pulled the magazine out of the gun and handed it to Charlie who took it with shaking hands. There was one bullet in the clip. Then Don pulled back the slide and allowed the bullet in the chamber to fall out onto the table between them.
"They put this gun in the coffin with me; laid it right on my chest along with my badge. There was one round in the clip and there was supposed to be one in the chamber but when they removed the other bullets from the clip they chambered the weapon incorrectly."
Charlie started to get a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach and wasn't sure he wanted to hear the rest of this but he sat quietly and allowed Don to continue at his own pace.
"I tried so hard to keep the panic at bay, to believe that the team would find me, that you would find me, that who ever had done this had made a mistake, but time went by and nothing happened. Finally, I knew it was over, I knew that no one would ever come for me. I convinced myself that if I was going to die it was going to be on my terms. Don't you understand, Charlie? I'm still in that box, I never left because that is where my soul died."
Don raised the gun to his temple and looked Charlie straight in the eye as tears began to drop down his face again. He pulled the trigger and the sound of the click was deafening and it actually made Charlie flinch. "When I did this."
For what seemed like an eternity the two brother's stared at each other. Charlie's eyes reflected terror, Don's defeat. Charlie came shakily up to his knees and reached a trembling hand over the table and took the gun from Don. Seeing his brother pulling that trigger had nearly stopped his own heart. He laid the gun down on the floor and pushed it away so that it slid under a cushion and neither of them could see it, then stood up and moved around the table so that he was sitting on the floor next to Don. When he spoke it was with a soft voice. He tried to keep the stark terror of what he had just seen out of his voice and failed miserably.
"Did it ever occur to you that everything happens for a reason? Don, you were out of your mind after four days without water. You didn't try to kill yourself when you first woke up in that box, it was right before we found you, because you were gripping that gun so tightly that it took two people to pry it out of your hand. By that time, you were experiencing convulsions and delirium. You can't hold yourself responsible."
"But I do, Charlie. I remember it, I was aware, I... Charlie if that round had been chambered properly..."
The vision of his brother's brains splattered along the inside of that coffin nearly undid Charlie's composure. "Stop it! It doesn't matter because it wasn't. Don't you get it? Fate or karma or what ever you want to call it has other plans for you."
For the first time since before the abduction Don looked over at Charlie with the barest hint of a smile. "Fate? Karma? Who are you, and what have you done with Charlie?"
The relief that Charlie felt even at that nearly imperceptible smile was like a breath of fresh air. "I'm the guy who will always be standing at your side no matter what burden you have to bear or what demons you need to face. We'll confront them together because I'm your brother."
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