This story is just a what-if scenario, where Don's actions seem suicidal. This is about how Charlie reacts to Don's actions and how he deals with it. As always, I own nothing. Enjoy the angst!
Charlie couldn't remember ever feeling so exhausted, or seeing his brother look so helpless. They had spent four weeks trying to catch a serial killer, who was targeting young women. Don had known one of the victims, and it had driven him to work harder. As a result, he spent several days without sleep, affecting his judgment. The team finally forced him to sleep, but the haunted look in his eyes never left. Each team member was pushed to their limits. With each week, at least one new victim emerged, and a piece of their hope chipped away.
Around the third week, the victims had risen to six. Don was about to lose all hope when Charlie managed to find a pattern among the places the killer had performed his crimes. With a lot of luck and the skill of their math consultant, the FBI team managed to track the serial killer, but not before he took the life of another victim.
Assistant Director Merrick ordered the team – including Charlie – to take a week off, giving them time to cope with what they had gone through. Surprisingly, Don took the biggest hit of what had happened, and immediately locked himself away in his apartment. Charlie feared for his brother, for Don's haggard appearance and pessimistic attitude was starting to scare him.
Once the week off was over, Don still didn't return to work. Concerned for his brother, he asked the team if they knew what was going on. Megan informed him that Don had asked for another couple weeks off, but he would be in the area if he was needed. Charlie's concern grew after that.
To try to ease his fears, Charlie went to Don's apartment that day. He knew his brother had been beating himself up over the death of the woman he had known, Maggie Breyer. She was a doctor in the LA region who had helped Don before on some of his cases. Though nothing had ever happened between the two, Charlie suspected there was an underlying attraction between the two. After hearing about the serial killer, Maggie had come to Don, scared. Don had promised her he would protect her and nothing would happen to her. When he failed, Don took it upon himself to be the one to punish himself.
When Charlie went to Don's apartment, his brother didn't answer right away. That worried Charlie. He was about to get his spare key out when Don opened the door, or someone who just looked a lot like his brother did.
Don's eyes were hollow in a way that seemed inhuman. A long growth of beard stretched across his jaw line and his hair was disheveled. The clothes he wore looked dirty, like they'd seen better days. To top off his look, Don held an almost empty bottle of beer in one hand. When Charlie saw him, he had to take a step back. He hardly recognized the person in front of him.
"Charlie? What are you doing here?"
Charlie took a step forward. "I... I was worried about you. Are you okay?"
The hollowness in Don's eyes seemed to echo through his words. "Yeah, Charlie, I'm terrific." The sarcasm rang loudly in Charlie's ears.
"When are you coming back to work?" Charlie asked as he tried to come closer to his brother.
Don sighed heavily. "I don't know." His voice became a whisper. "I don't know if I can come back."
Charlie's eyes widened in surprise. The FBI had been Don's life for years. How could he leave?
"Charlie, I don't really feel like company, okay? Come back some other time." Before Charlie could even respond, Don had shut the door, and shut away his true feelings from his brother.
Charlie stood, staring at the door a moment. Finally, he turned and walked away, feeling more worry than he had before.
As the days went by, Charlie called his brother every day to see if then was a better time to come back. After the first two days, Don stopped answering the phone. Charlie went to his apartment, and Don never answered. When Charlie went to the FBI offices, David told him that Don called in, saying he was taking a month off, if he was coming back. Feeling sick to his stomach and fearful for his brother, Charlie tried again to contact his brother. When Don didn't answer again, Charlie went back to Don's apartment.
Charlie pounded on the door, begging to be let in. He called to Don, telling his brother he knew he was there, since Don's SUV was still in the parking lot. When Don still didn't answer, Charlie sifted through his key chain until he found the spare key to Don's apartment. He forced the key into the lock, only to find that the key no longer opened the door.
Charlie visibly shook as he stepped away from Don's door. Pressing his fist to his mouth to silence his strangled breathing, Charlie paced the floor in front of Don's apartment. Sensing movement out of the corner of his eye, he realized it was Don. Charlie could barely see him through the glass wall of separation. He stared inside, trying to get a good look at his brother. He watched Don move to a cupboard on a wall and reach for something on the top shelf. As Don pulled it down, Charlie recognized it as a gun.
As panic seized him, Charlie banged on the window, startling Don. Seeing his little brother looking in at him, Don came to the window. Charlie's pleading eyes stared through him, something Don couldn't take. So he closed the curtains and went back to what he was doing.
"Oh my God," Charlie breathed, feeling the panic deep in his heart as it beat out of his chest.
Helpless to reaching his brother, Charlie quickly left, returning home. Alan was waiting for him, sensing his son's distress.
Charlie's distressed demeanor caused him to flinch, just at his father's gentle voice.
"Did you see Donny? Is he okay?"
Charlie's stomach dropped. "I... I don't know. I don't think he is."
Alan's frown deepened. He had been just as worried about his son, but Charlie wore it plainly on his face. Trying to soothe his son's fears, Alan stepped up to Charlie and drew him into a hug.
"Don is going to be fine, okay? Your brother always comes through."
Hiding the tears that shined in his eyes, Charlie pressed his face in his father's shirt a moment, giving himself a moment to regain his composure. He wasn't sure he believed his father, but he hated to worry Alan more than he had to.
"Thanks, Dad. You're probably right," Charlie said as he pushed out of his father's embrace.
Alan smiled down at his son, cupping Charlie's cheek in his large hand. "I know."
Charlie forced a smile for his father. "Thanks."
Charlie walked away, going upstairs.
As Charlie laid down that night to sleep, his mind played tricks on him. He could see Don in his apartment again, the gun in his hand. He saw the curtains close right before his eyes as his brother shut him out. Charlie's heart beat irregularly fast as he buried his face in his pillow, hiding from the images. But as he slipped into dreams, he wasn't greeted by a better image.
Charlie was sitting on Don's couch, surprised to find his brother not there. Standing, he walked toward his brother's bedroom. As he slowly opened the door, Charlie gradually saw his brother's feet extending past the bedpost on the floor. Wondering why his brother was lying beside his bed, Charlie stepped closer, so that he was at Don's feet.
When Charlie's eyes met Don's face, he took a startled step back. His brother's eyes were glazed over with the tears that spilled down his face. As Charlie's eyes traveled over his brother, he focused on Don's hands.
"D-Don?" Charlie stuttered as he stared at the gun in Don's hands, the gun Charlie had seen him get earlier that day.
"What?" Don slowly responded, his mouth dry.
"Why do you have a gun out?" Charlie's heart stopped as he waited for his brother's response.
Don thought a moment and ran his tongue across his lower lip before he looked up at his brother. "I... I just can't do it anymore, Charlie. It's too much. I always thought I was in control, that I'd get out before it got this far. But, I was too late. It's gotten to me, and, now, I can't stop it... except with this." He raised the gun a little to show what he was talking about.
Charlie's eyes got wide and he quickly dropped down in front of his brother.
"No! No, Don! There's a better way. Please, I'll help. We'll get you all the help you need. Please, Don, this is not the way to do it."
Don met his brother's fear-filled eyes. Don's eyes just pleaded with his brother to understand. He just couldn't do it.
"Yes, it is, Charlie. It's the only way." Don raised the gun and pressed it against his temple.
"No! Don! Stop! Put it down!" Charlie reached for the gun, but Don pushed him back as he quickly stood.
"It's the only way, Charlie! You have to understand! It's the only way I can make this stop. I'm a failure, Charlie. I failed Maggie! Now it's too late. I have to do this!"
Don closed his eyes as the barrel of the gun dug into his skin. As Charlie lunged for the gun once more, the sound of a gunshot rang out.
At the sound of Don's deadweight hitting the floor, Charlie bolted into bed, his pulse racing, his adrenaline rushing. He had to get up. Still in his sweatpants and t-shirt, Charlie ran downstairs, grabbed the keys to his car, and quickly drove off toward his brother's apartment.
Breaking every speeding limit along the way, Charlie finally came to a screeching halt in the parking lot of his brother's apartment. Not even realizing it, Charlie parked at the furthest point from his brother's apartment. It didn't matter, though, because the adrenaline still pumped through him, forcing him to run faster than ever.
As Charlie bounded up the stairs leading to his brother's apartment, his breathing grew rapid. He reached his brother's door and banged loudly on Don's door with both his fists, unaware that it was four o'clock in the morning.
"Don! Open the door! Don! Don!" Charlie screamed, desperate.
Don had been lying on his floor asleep, having fallen out of his bed in the night. He hadn't cared enough to get up and back in bed. Hearing the incessant pounding on his door, he forced himself up. When he heard his brother's voice, concern pushed him forward.
As soon as Charlie heard the door knob turn, he pushed his way inside and into his brother's arms. Wrapping his arms tightly around his brother's back, Charlie held on, convincing himself that Don was still alive. It was then that the full force of his dream caught up with him and he let out a strangled cry.
Don's arms awkwardly surrounded his brother slowly. When he heard his brother's cry, his concern grew until his stomach twisted in knots. It was the first time he had really felt anything in a long time, besides guilt and helplessness.
Charlie finally pushed back, only to grab fistfuls of the front of his brother's shirt in his hand. Desperate, he stared up at his brother as the tears came.
"Please, Don. Don't do it. Don't kill yourself! I need you! Please, it wasn't your fault. You couldn't help it Maggie died. Don't kill yourself. I'll help you. Please, Donny! Don't leave me!" His words came out fast as he pulled at his brother's shirt, putting emphasis on his words. As he stopped talking, once again he threw himself into his brother's arms and held on with all his strength. He had to hold onto his brother. He couldn't let Don go.
Don felt his little brother's words hit home, breaking his desolate shell. Although suicide had come across his mind briefly, he had never held onto the thought. But he could understand how his brother could imagine that's how he was feeling. Don had hit an all-time low with this last case, the reason he had taken so much time off.
The weight of what he had been doing struck Don, and he realized what all he'd been doing to his family. Feeling guilt once more, but in a better way; Don held his brother tightly in his arms.
"Sh, Buddy. It's okay. I'm here," Don soothed as he managed to lead his brother to his couch. Don pushed Charlie down onto the cushions, trying to get him comfortable. As his younger brother cried in his arms, Don closed his eyes and lowered his head to his brother's curls. Tears came for the first time in months. He had not allowed himself to cry over Maggie's death. He had put all the blame on himself, so he didn't get to mourn her. It was all his fault. So he just sleepwalked through the days, unaware of his surroundings, only of the pain and emptiness that swallowed him whole. Until now, now, when his brother broke through to him.
Charlie managed to pull himself together when he felt his brother's tears dampen his hair. He pushed out of Don's arms and stared up at him, seeing the tears there on his brother's face. Reaching out he wiped them off with the back of his hand, as if to prove to himself that they were real. The brothers stared at each other in an understanding silence. Don's eyes continued to fill with tears, and Charlie's were forever filled with concern.
"I'm so... so sorry, Buddy. I never meant to do this to you," Don cried, feeling badly for causing his brother such fear.
"I know." Charlie smiled sadly and reached down to grasp his brother's hand in his.
Don gripped his brother's hand tightly in return, gaining strength from it. "I never... I never thought... I just-"
Understanding what his brother was trying to say, Charlie felt some of the concern lift off his shoulders. "It's okay, Don."
"I was just so mad at myself. Maggie was a wonderful person. I never should have-"
Interrupting his brother, Charlie reached out and framed his brother's face with his hand, forcing Don's eyes on him.
"Don, listen to me. It was not your fault that she died. Understand? I know it's horrible and you feel to blame, but you're not. Don, none of us could stop that guy. It took all of us together to stop him. Please, Don, believe me. You are not to blame for Maggie's death."
Sniffling, Don never looked more vulnerable when he looked at his brother then, as if Charlie's words were the only truth. "Really?"
Charlie managed a smile for his brother. "Yes, Don. Really."
Don quickly ran a hand over his eyes, wiping away the tears. "God, I'm a mess."
Charlie smiled. "You're fine."
Don gave a humorless chuckle. "You think?"
Serious, Don looked over at his brother. Turning so that they faced each other fully, Don leaned close to his brother.
"I just want you to know that I never, ever, would have done it, Buddy. I couldn't. No matter how bad I get, no matter how hard my job is, I couldn't do that to you and Dad. I love you both too much."
Charlie's eyes glowed with tears at his brother's words. "I know that, deep down. I just... I had this dream, and it was so horrible..."
"What dream, Buddy?" Don asked, concerned as he saw the play of emotion on his brother's face.
Charlie met his brother's gaze with fear-filled eyes as he remembered his nightmare. "You killed yourself... right in front of me. You told me it had gone too far, become too much for you. I tried to take the gun away from you, but I..."
Charlie closed his eyes tightly as the gunshot resounded in his head. Seeing his brother's reaction, Don reached out and squeezed his brother's shoulder.
"I was too late." Charlie's voice shook at his statement as he looked back up at Don's face.
"Oh, Buddy. I'm so sorry. Come here." Don opened his arms wide for his brother, and, once again, Charlie found comfort there. His brother was alive. It had just been a nightmare. Don was still safe, still alive. Charlie could feel it by the rise and fall of his brother's chest as he hugged Don.
"I'm not going anywhere, Buddy. I'm right here."
Charlie smiled. If having a nightmare was what it took to get his brother back, Charlie would have twenty a night if it would keep Don happy. He cared so much about his brother. He just couldn't let Don do something like that to himself.
"I love you, Donny."
Don smiled, the first true smile that reached his mouth in what seemed like a long time. "I love you, too, Buddy."
Aw! Isn't that better? Yeah, I know that's a scary situation, but it's very real. Remember Charlie's research on suicide in the police or FBI? It's a lot. But, Don doesn't have to worry because of his "strong ties to his family." That's why he didn't go through with it, and he never will on my watch! I hope you liked it. See you soon!