Thanks for your comments, everyone; I really appreciate them all. See ya next time around!
Still don't own 'em, still having only fun and not profit with 'em. Still grateful to Lady Shelley, Susan, Kiki, and ritt.
July 31, 2008
Huntington Memorial Hospital, Pasadena
It wasn't a very loud noise, but it was enough to make Don's eyes fly open and his head come up off the pillow. He blinked and looked around, disoriented. Information slowly filtered in: he was still in a hospital bed with his leg swathed in bandages, Charlie was still asleep on a cot at the far side of the room, and his sheepish-looking father was closing the slightly-squeaky door.
"Sorry," Alan rumbled in a low voice. "Didn't mean to wake you."
"S'okay," he said, leaning forward a bit. Alan stepped over and helped him raise the bed. "How long was I out this time?"
"No more than an hour. I spoke to your doctor out in the hallway. He says the best thing for you to do is get some rest." His father helped to prop him up with a few pillows before pulling the orange plastic chair up to the edge of the bed.
"Did he say how soon I can get out of here?" Not that he was ready to go jogging down the halls, but if all he had to do was rest, he could do that at home as easily as here.
"That's funny -- somehow I must have forgotten to ask him that question." Alan favored him with a stern look. "You shouldn't be worrying about that yet."
"I'm fine, Dad." He gestured down at his leg. "I remember that much of what the doctor said this morning."
"Actually, I seem to recall him saying that you were doing pretty good for someone with two holes in his leg, which you have to admit is an unusual condition."
Defeated, he dropped his head back against the pillow. "Yeah, can't say that I've experienced that one before."
"I suppose I should be grateful for that," Alan muttered.
When Don rolled his head to the side to look at him, he was surprised at the anger on his father's face. His eyebrows lowered as he lifted his head again. "What is it?"
Alan frowned. With a quick glance at Charlie, he said quietly, "You knew that I would be upset if I knew that you were chasing Shaun Gillis again. I remember you telling us about him way back on your very first assignment, and even then we were sure you weren't telling us the whole story. I would understand if it was all FBI business, but since Charlie apparently knew, it must not have been confidential."
He sighed. "I wasn't trying to keep anything from you. I just forgot." Mostly. "It's been a tough couple of weeks."
"Mm-hmm." Alan watched him for a moment longer, as if waiting for him to confess more. When he didn't, he went on, "I suppose I'm also upset that you took as big a risk as you did."
"What do you mean?" he asked, wondering how much his father knew of what had transpired with Gillis. His teammates better not have shared any details about what had happened in the driveway, or he'd have them on the most mind-numbing surveillance assignment he could find for the next month. It hadn't crossed his mind until later that if the automatic locks on the Suburban had been engaged, things would have turned out very differently.
"Trusting your old man like that." Alan's gaze was serious. "I'm not trained like a federal agent, Donnie. I don't know what I'm supposed to do when my son tells me there's a man lurking in my garage holding him hostage."
"Look, it's not like I had much choice," he replied darkly. "He said he'd leave you alone as long -- " He broke off and pressed his lips together instead of filling in the rest of the sentence.
"As long as you went along with him?" Alan filled in, his tone rising sharply. "You believed him?"
"It wasn't a question of believing him, Dad. I didn't have a choice," he repeated more stridently, looking the older man in the eye and tamping down the remembered fear at being literally the only thing standing between his father and a hired killer. Then he sighed and said quietly, "I'm sorry I had to put you through that."
"I think you're lucky I was there," Alan replied, his expression turning bleak. "Otherwise he'd have driven off with you and no one would have ever known what happened."
Don picked at the fraying edge of the hospital blanket before letting out a soft snort as something occurred to him. "You know, if you want to talk like that, it's a good thing you make such great carrot cake."
"Actually, that was my carrot cake," Charlie spoke up from across the room, and Don's head jerked up. "And what does it have to do with anything?"
He started to apologize for waking Charlie up but his brother was waving him off, yawning as he sat up and threw his legs over the side of the cot. "What time is it, three? If I sleep any more, I'll throw off my biorhythms completely." He rubbed his eyes and looked so much like a sleepy child that Don and Alan both smiled when he raised his head. "What?"
"Nothing, buddy." He shifted around a little, trying to sit up straighter.
"So what's this about Charlie's carrot cake?" Alan asked, turning back to him.
Damn, he didn't forget. He let out a short sigh. "If I hadn't gone back to the kitchen for a second piece, I wouldn't have seen Gillis getting in my car. Probably never would have known he was there."
"Damn," Charlie breathed out. He blinked a few times and then said, "See, I told you I could still be useful to you."
The corner of Don's mouth turned up. "Yeah, I guess you can."
There was a knock at the door, and it opened a few inches. "Are we interrupting?" Colby asked, poking his head inside.
"Nah, come on in," Don said, ignoring the look he was sure his father was giving him at this excuse for avoiding the current topic of conversation.
Colby pushed the door farther open and entered, David close on his heels. "Hi, Charlie. Hey, Alan," he said, David echoing the greeting.
Alan rose from his chair and firmly shook both of their hands. "Thank you," he said. "For responding so quickly and for getting Don out of there in one piece."
"No problem," David said with a slightly embarrassed smile.
Colby shrugged one shoulder. "It'd be too much work to break in a new boss, and we're basically lazy."
"Thanks, guys," Don drawled, and they grinned.
Silence fell for a moment. Then Charlie abruptly stood up. "Um, Dad, maybe we should go get some coffee or something."
Alan's brow furrowed for a moment, and then he looked back and forth between the three agents. "Right. You boys probably want to talk." He stopped and put a hand to his head. "'You boys.' Like you're teenagers and not grown men."
Don smiled. "Hey, see if you can find out from the doctor how much longer I'm stuck here, would you?"
Alan turned and gave him a sharp look. "You're stuck here as long as he says you are and not a moment less."
He held up his hands. "Whatever you say, Dad."
Charlie gave a snort, and the other four turned to look at him. It was his turn to put up his hands in surrender. "I'll just be out in the hall," he said, slipping past Colby and David and out the door. Alan followed and David closed the door behind him.
"So what's up?" Don asked, gesturing to the available seating.
David lowered himself into the olive green plastic chair against the wall. "We should be asking you that," he said, nodding at Don's leg.
He waved a hand. "Colby had it right at the scene: straight through, no big deal. I guess they're running some tests to make sure everything's kosher, but all I really need is some rest."
"I would imagine that rest is going to come with some hovering," David said, nodding back towards where Alan and Charlie had gone.
Don smiled ruefully. "Can't say that I blame them, you know?" When they both nodded, he went on, "So what brings you here?"
"Besides making sure we still have a boss?" Colby asked. At Don's mock glare, he went on, "We, uh, thought you might want to know what's been going on at the office."
He raised an eyebrow. "What does that mean?"
"It's just an update," David said. "For one, you'll be happy to know that Shaun Gillis has become surprisingly talkative. He's been naming a few of the people who've hired him over the years." He quirked up the corner of his mouth. "Guess he figured that if he was going down, he might as well take some others with him."
"Given some of these names, we'll be lucky if any of them are still alive to prosecute," Colby added.
"What about the one here in L.A.?" Don asked, trying to sound merely curious rather than scared to death at the prospect of someone having a price on his head.
The two agents exchanged a look. "Associates of Yuri Koverchenko," David reluctantly said. "Same ones we tangled with a couple of years ago."
"Oh man." Don let his head fall back against the pillow. He already felt bad about chewing them out for a murder victim who wasn't their fault and now it turned out they had both been right to worry about his safety -- if for completely different reasons. After a moment, he said, "So I guess that means both of you get a free 'I told you so' card."
Colby shook his head. "I jumped to conclusions on the three other agents, Don. Nothing to be proud of."
"And this group Gillis went to was not the same Russian mafia he'd been working for all along," David added. "Just like Amita said."
"Okay, so you put two and two together and came up with four and a half." He noticed the small smiles on their faces and went on, "Thing is, I'm more than willing to trust my own instincts on a case like this." He looked at both of them in turn, all levity gone. "I should be willing to trust yours as well. And I'm sorry I didn't."
There. Bradford would be really proud of him for making that statement. Even if it was a year late.
"Hey, no biggie." Colby sat down at the foot of the bed. "I mean, a year ago at this time you thought I was a spy."
"A year ago you were a spy," David tossed at him, but in a teasing tone.
"Potato, po-tah-to," Colby replied, a faint grin playing around the corners of his mouth. Don couldn't help but smile. It was good to see these two back to where they had been before Taylor Ashby and his Janus List came along.
David cocked his head to the side. "You know, when I first joined your team, Don, you thought I was a spy for Merrick. Remember that?"
"No kidding?" Colby said. "Guess some people just have a suspicious nature."
"Guess some people learn it on the job," Don retorted, thinking back over his encounters with Shaun Gillis and the colleagues who'd either deliberately or inadvertently made it impossible to catch him. Then he admitted reluctantly, "Some people aren't too good at relying on anyone but themselves."
"Eh, even an old dog can learn new tricks," Colby said, eyes twinkling.
"Hey, who are you calling old, Granger?" Don said, pretending to be insulted.
The younger man grinned. "Sure, he doesn't mind the 'dog' part…"
They were still chuckling when the door opened again. "Everything okay in here?" Alan asked.
"Yeah, Dad, c'mon back." He waved his family inside. "These guys have had enough of a break anyway."
"Jeez, Don, cracking the whip already?" Charlie plopped down on the cot and leaned back against the wall. "They don't get a day off for saving your life?"
"We don't really get days off," Colby said as he rose to his feet. "Unless we're lying around in bed, that is," he added as he gestured at Don.
"Believe me, I'd rather not be," Don replied. "There's plenty of work waiting for me already."
"That's for sure," David replied. He lightly clapped Don's shoulder and stood up. "And on that note, we'd better get back to it."
As the two agents said their farewells and Alan ushered them out, Don stared across the room for a moment, chewing over what had happened over the last few days. It had been a close thing, that was for sure. He thought of Shaun Gillis, now behind bars and almost certainly destined to be there the rest of his life. Then he thought of Yuri Koverchenko's colleagues, and how even if they weren't out for his blood, he was probably going to have to deal with them at some point.
Then something else occurred to him and a faint smile rose to his face. "Hey, Charlie, what would you do if you ever solved P vs. NP?"
Alan raised his eyebrows as he looked back and forth between the two brothers. Charlie grinned, clearly understanding the question. "You mean after I spent the million dollars?"
"Yeah, after that, wise guy."
He shrugged. "There's six other Millennium Problems. Well, five, now that Perelman's solved the Poincare conjecture, but that still should keep me busy for a while."
"So it just keeps going, huh?" That was an exhausting thought. Accurate, but exhausting.
"That's why you have to love your job," Charlie answered.
"I guess so," he sighed. And he did -- most days. The last few weeks had reminded him of the good and the bad parts of his job, and it would continue to be rough without Megan and Charlie until they all got their feet under them again.
But overall, he was right where he wanted to be.
"One thing's for sure," Alan said, looking at him meaningfully. "At least you have good relief pitching."
Charlie looked confused, but Don ignored him for the moment and gave his father a nod. "Yeah, that's for sure." Then he looked back and forth between the two of them, and a slow smile broke over his face. "At home and away."