Well, I guess you guys are bored with this story or something, since I didn't get any ideas for this chapter. Oh, well. I can't wait for my new story anyway. I'm leaving this as incomplete until I get reviews for this chapter. If you think I missed something or need to add something else, I will post a new chapter. If not, I'll change it to complete. Okay? Enjoy.
Don and Charlie went to three sessions with Dr. Bradford. However, they felt that everything was resolved after the first one. Though there was still some blame they put on themselves, Charlie had forgiven Don for his involvement. He knew his brother well enough to know that Don had done everything he could to save Amita. He truly believed that.
Don was thankful to learn he hadn't had a reason to worry. Rather than learning how much Charlie hated him, he found out how much his brother loved him in the sessions. He was thankful for the open air between them, and he felt better knowing Charlie had forgiven him. He still found it hard to forgive himself, though.
Charlie had started working with Don again. It scared him to death, but he was doing it. He was waling inside of Don's office when his brother and his team came charging out.
"Don!" Charlie called when the team passed him without even noticing.
Don paused and turned around. Seeing his brother, he ran back over to him.
"What, what's going on?" Charlie asked, fear in his voice.
"We just got a call about Gardner. He's been spotted. We gotta go. I'll let you know how it goes."
"NO!" Charlie screamed, louder and angrier than Don had ever heard him. He latched onto Don's arm in a painfully tight grasp.
Don turned to his team and held up one finger, so they knew to give them a minute. He reached out and changed positions with Charlie. He took his brother's elbow in a tight grasp and led him a few steps away to a nearby bench.
"Charlie, what's going on? I have to go."
"No! You can't, Don. Please. I can't lose you, too." Charlie wrapped his arms around his brother tightly, to both give him a hug, and somehow keep him there.
"Charlie, I have to. This is my job." Don rubbed his brother's back, but it wasn't exactly heartfelt. He wanted to go. If they didn't move soon, Gardner would get away.
"No, Don. Let your team handle it." Charlie's eyes widened. He pushed out of Don's arms. "No! Let another team handle it!" Charlie started to stand to stop Don's team from going as well.
"Charlie! Stop it!"
Charlie managed to stop, but he longed to protect them.
Don pulled his brother back down and made Charlie face him. "Charlie, listen to me. This is my job. This is my team's job, too. We know the risks. We're okay with that. We're going to do our best, and make sure nothing bad happens to each other. That's why we're a team, not just one of us going in there. We're going to be okay. You have to let us go, Buddy."
"No buts, Charlie. This is my job. I have to do it."
Don squeezed Charlie's shoulder as he stood up to leave. Charlie looked up at his brother with terror in his eyes, but then Don ran off to the van and the team was gone.
In all his years working with his brother, Charlie had never used his higher clearance at the FBI office. He didn't want to make Don feel inferior by doing it, or look like he was showing off. However, when the operator refused to disclose the location that Don and his team were going, Charlie used it.
Driving like a maniac, Charlie drove to a block away from the area that Don's team were. He recognized the small gas station, and started walking toward it after he parked his car. As he walked down the sidewalk, he could see the FBI van, and see his brother's team standing around it.
Don had just gotten done putting on his vest when Gardner made his appearance. The man was wanted for holding up multiple banks, and for murdering multiple bank tellers and customers. Gardner was stepping outside of the gas station, not noticing the FBI team waiting. Don's team moved in, and caught Gardner's attention.
"FBI!" they screamed as they advanced on the man.
"Stand back!" Gardner called as he took out a gun.
"No!" Charlie screamed as he started running toward them.
Luckily for Don, his focus was on Gardner, or he would have surely gotten hurt when he heard Charlie's voice.
Gardner pointed the gun back and forth between the agents erratically. The team stopped when the gun was drawn, but kept their guns trained on Gardner.
"Give it up, Gardner. It's over," Don called to the man.
"No! No, it's not over. I'm not going with you!"
"Mr. Gardner, you don't have anywhere to go. Just give it up peacefully, and drop your weapon," Megan said to him.
"Get down!" David cried, knowing what was coming. The agents ducked, but the gun was aimed right at them. Charlie ran and dove, the bullet grazing his leg.
Don's eyes widened in surprise and horror. While he was distracted by Charlie's sudden appearance, Colby took out Gardner with one shot to the leg. The three agents ran to the man, disarmed him, and cuffed him.
"Charlie!" Don hurriedly grabbed his brother and covered him with his body. When he looked toward Gardner, he saw his team taking care of the man, so he knew his brother was safe.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Don demanded as he propped Charlie up against the van. Don ran his hands over his brother's body, searching for injury. Charlie pushed him away before he got to his legs.
"I'm fine, Don. Are you okay?" He looked to his brother and then over Don's shoulder at Megan, David, and Colby. They were all standing, all breathing. Charlie supposed it was the most he could ask for.
"Charlie, you shouldn't be here! You could have gotten killed!"
"So could you!" Charlie screamed angrily.
"This is my job! I thought you understood that. It's my job, it's Megan's job, and it's David and Colby's job, too! We're bound to get hurt every once in a while. You're a professor, a mathematician, and a consultant! You're not supposed to be here!"
"You shouldn't be here either. I don't want you getting hurt!"
"Charlie, you can't stop that from happening. I'm going to get hurt! It happens. Either I live or I don't. Those are my only choices, and I'm going to do my damnedest to live!"
Immediately, Don knew he had said the wrong thing. Though what he said was true, Charlie was not ready to hear it.
"Oh my God," Charlie breathed.
Charlie stood and ran away, back to his car.
"Charlie! Buddy, come back!"
Don watched Charlie run away and quickly get in his car. He heard the tires squeal as Charlie sped away when he stood from his crouch position on the sidewalk. It wasn't until then that he looked down and saw the spot of blood on the ground, where Charlie had been sitting.
"Damn it," Don cursed.
"Don, is he okay?" Colby asked as he jogged back to the van. Megan and David had Gardner, waiting on the ambulance to arrive.
"No, I don't think so. Damn it."
"What the hell was he doing here?" Colby felt his own stomach knot at the remembrance. He cared about Charlie, and seeing him fly out of nowhere and into the line of a bullet scared him.
"I think he's scared after Amita that he's going to lose someone else he loves. I hate him thinking like that. I mean, I can't guarantee it won't happen, but he shouldn't be constantly terrified. He didn't want me to go. He said for you guys to handle it, but then he wanted another team to handle it."
Colby smiled proudly. "He was worried about us?"
"I said he's scared of losing someone else he loves, didn't I?" Don smiled at the agent, knowing what Colby was thinking. It was true. Charlie had come to love the whole team, and didn't want to lose any of them.
"Here comes the ambulance." Colby nodded toward the street.
"Let's get this over with."
After Don finished up with Gardner an hour later, he called Charlie's house. Alan answered on the second ring.
"Hey, Dad. It's me. Is Charlie there?"
"No, I haven't seen him since this morning. Why?"
"Shit," Don cursed.
"Donny? What's going on?"
"Nothing, Dad. I'll explain later. Bye."
Don quickly hung up and dialed Charlie's cell phone. His brother didn't answer, so he called Charlie's office as well. When he still didn't get an answer, he called Larry's office.
"Hello?" Larry answered cheerfully.
"Hi, Larry. It's Don. Is Charlie at CalSci?"
"Well, I'm not sure. I can check. Will you hold for me, please?"
"Sure. Just make it quick, please. It's urgent."
"Yes, of course."
Larry left the phone and walked the short distance from his office to Charlie's. He didn't see his friend inside, so he returned to the phone.
"No, Don. I'm sorry, but Charlie isn't here that I know of. I haven't seen him since this morning. I'll let him know you're looking for him, though."
Don knew he didn't sound truly grateful, but he was getting worried. He even called the local hospitals to see if Charlie was there. When he knew Charlie wasn't there either, he didn't know what he could do.
"Damn it, Buddy, where are you?"
What if Charlie was seriously hurt? What if he was lost, bleeding to death somewhere? What if he couldn't move because of the pain? What if he lost his cell phone, so he couldn't call for help as he lay in a ditch somewhere?
Don's heart raced at his own imagination. He called Megan, having the last plan he could think of.
"Reeves," Megan answered stiffly. She was getting ready to go home, and was hoping a new case had not already arrived for her.
"Megan, it's me. I need a favor."
"Sure, Don, what's up? Is Charlie okay?"
"That's the problem. I don't know where he is. Could you put an APB out on his car?"
"Don, are you sure he's not at school or something?"
"I've called his cell phone, his office, his house, and every hospital in the area. He was hurt this afternoon, and then he just ran away. He could be bleeding to death for all I know. Don't you think I checked all the places he usually goes before I made this decision?"
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to check." Megan's voice was tight. She knew Don was upset, but she hadn't done anything.
Don sighed. "I'm sorry. I just... I want to know where he is, okay?"
"It's okay, Don. I'll let you know if I see him, and I'll put that APB out. I'll let the boys know, too, okay?"
Don went to Charlie's house to tell his father what was going on. Maybe Alan would know where Charlie was.
"Donny! Where's Charlie? I thought he'd be with you." Alan stood and opened the door for his son when he saw Don coming.
"Dad, I've got to tell you something."
Alan paled and sat down quickly. That never sounded good, coming from either of his sons.
"What happened?" Alan asked hoarsely, afraid of what he'd hear. Why wasn't Charlie with him?
"Today, my team and I were able to catch Gardner, but not before he shot at us. I don't know how, but Charlie was there when it happened. He drove himself to the scene, and when Gardner shot at us, he got in the way. I think he's hurt, Dad, and I can't find him. I got mad, and he ran off and drove away. He's not in any of his usual places."
"What? He got shot?"
"I'm not sure, Dad. I was trying to look him over, but he pushed me away and said he was fine. I think he was just more worried about me and the team. It couldn't have been too bad, but I don't know."
"Find him, Donny."
"I'm trying, Dad. Let me know if you hear anything or see him. Try calling his cell, too."
"I will. Take care of your brother."
"You know I will."
Don went back to his car, and barely sat down when his cell phone went off. Seeing it was Colby, he answered.
"Yeah, Don. I found Charlie's car. It's at your apartment."
"What? Why would he be there?"
"I don't know. I just thought you should know. I tried to get him to open the door, but he never answered. Should I break down the door?"
"No, I'll be there in five minutes. Thanks, Colby."
"Okay, I'll wait here until you arrive."
Don sped away and soon he was at his apartment. He waved to Colby, who was waiting in his car in the parking lot. Colby waved in return and backed out of the parking space and drove away when Don made it to his door. He quickly unlocked the door and entered the apartment.
Don didn't see Charlie immediately, so he rushed to his room. Charlie wasn't in there either. He checked the adjoining bathroom, and found Charlie there on the floor.
"Charlie!" Don quickly dropped to the floor beside his brother. Charlie was sitting up, his back against the siding of the bathtub. His legs were stretched out in front of him, and Don saw the makeshift bandage made of toilet paper wrapped around Charlie's leg.
"Buddy, you need to go the hospital. Come on." Don took his brother's arm to lift him up. Charlie shrugged Don's hand off, though.
"I was scared. I'm sorry I came, but I was so scared. I didn't want to work with you again because I hated what had happened to Amita. I thought by not coming back, I'd prevent it. But now that I'm back, I see that I could lose someone I love again, so easily. I... I don't know how I'm going to do it. I can't be there every time you get in harm's way. I can't protect you. But I can't lose someone I love again. It was so hard with Mom, and then Amita..." Charlie sobbed.
Don reached out and rubbed Charlie's arm comfortingly.
"I can't lose you, Donny. Never you, okay? Please. I... I don't know how to keep it from happening, but I can't lose you. I couldn't stand it. I'll never make it if I lose you."
Charlie leaned heavily against Don's shoulder. He let the tears slip down his face as he wrapped his arms around Don's biceps, hugging his arm tightly.
"Sh, I'm not going anywhere." Don used his other arm to reach around and rub Charlie's shoulder.
"I promise, Buddy."
As Charlie quieted, Don reclaimed his arm and moved toward Charlie's leg. He removed the useless toilet paper and inspected the wound beneath. It wasn't as bad as he feared, but it was still deep enough to cause concern. Don stood and reached for his brother.
"Come on, Charlie. We need to go to the hospital."
Charlie's eyes widened, and Don heard him whimper. "What? Why? Did someone get hurt? Did I not guard you guys from the bullet? Damn it, if I had been running .47 seconds faster, I would have..."
When Charlie finally stopped talking, Don continued. "Buddy, we need to go to the hospital for you. That graze looks pretty bad."
Charlie squinted his eyes, trying to figure out what Don was talking about. He started when he remembered the pain in his leg. "I'm sorry. I got blood on your floor, didn't I? I, I'll clean it up."
"Buddy, just come with me, please. Can you walk?" Don asked as he reached his hand out for his brother to take.
"I think so." Charlie took his brother's offered hand and stood quickly. The movement in his leg stung, but not so badly he couldn't walk. He kept a hand on Don's arm, in case he needed support. Don never acknowledged the touch, showing that it didn't bother him.
After they arrived at the hospital and Charlie was taken back, Don called their father. Alan was a nervous wreck by that time, and was at the hospital in half the time it would usually take.
Don also called Larry and his team to let them know what had happened. Though he assured them all they could stay where they were, they all decided to come in. By the time they all got there, Charlie was almost done.
When the team arrived, Don explained his brother's fear. He could see in their eyes how they all loved Charlie the same as Charlie loved them. They all softened as they heard Charlie's fears, and Don set up a small plan.
"Charlie Eppes?" a nurse called. Don and Alan stood and went to the nurse to go back to see Charlie, who was almost ready to be released. When they realized the others hadn't followed, Alan turned to them.
"Family only, so come on." Alan motioned with his hands for everyone to follow. Smiling, they did.
Charlie was lying on a hospital bed, his injured leg propped up. He was surprised when a large group of people came inside. He knew them all, and they were the people he loved most.
"Hey, guys," he said quietly as they came inside. He didn't enjoy too much attention, but he was comfortable with them.
"Hey, Buddy. How you feel?" Don asked as he sat on the edge of the bed beside his brother. He put a protective arm across Charlie's shoulders and left it there. Alan came to Charlie's other side and held his son's hand.
"I'm okay. Just needed a good bandage. I'll be fine."
There was an awkward silence, until Megan took a step forward from the group huddled together.
"Charlie, Don told us about what you did today. We know why you did it, and I just wanted to thank you. I appreciate what you did. It takes a lot of courage to move in front of a bullet, not away from one. I just wanted you to know that I love you, too. And I promise to take care of myself and my team, so you won't have to worry about us." Megan took another step forward until she reached Charlie. She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead and gave his hand a squeeze before she stepped away.
Larry followed, and moved to Charlie's side. "Charles, I just wanted to let you know I will try my best to keep from getting in harm's way, and do whatever I can to prevent any of your other loved ones from getting hurt as well. I care deeply for you, Charles, and you're my best friend." Larry shook Charlie's hand and moved beside Megan.
"Hey, man. I understand what you did today, and I appreciate it. I'll try my best to make sure the four of us stay out of trouble, so nothing bad will happen. I hate that something bad happened to you, so I'll make a point of taking care of you, too." Colby smiled and shook Charlie's hand and gave him a one-armed hug at the same time.
"I'm sorry about what happened today, but I appreciate what you did. Thank you, man. I'll take care of this team as best I can. I wouldn't want you to get hurt, and I know I'd never do anything to hurt you or the team. We'll take care of each other. I promise." David did the same as Colby, and then stepped back.
By this time, Charlie's eyes were full of tears. He looked up at his older brother, who he found smiling back at him.
"See, Buddy? My job may be dangerous, but this is why nothing has happened yet. We're a team. A team who takes care of each other. As long as we got each other's backs, we'll be fine. You're a part of the team, too, so we're watching your back. We're in this together. You got nothing to worry about."
Charlie swallowed hard. He blinked rapidly, trying to hide the tears in his eyes. He looked among all the faces watching him. This was his family. The people he belonged with. How could he worry with them around to take care of him and each other?
"Thank you. I appreciate all you've said. I love all of you. You're the best family I could ask for... Thank you."
They all smiled and looked at each other. Charlie leaned against his brother and felt himself smile. He knew he was going to be okay now. Even though Amita was not there to be a part of their family, he knew with the family he had, he'd make it through anything. It's what his family was best at.
Okay, if you think I need something else, let me know. If not, I'll move on to my new story. Oh, it's going to be angsty! And it's going to show off just how dark and twisty I am. Can't wait to see you there. See you soon. I hope you enjoyed this little tale. I MADE NO PROFIT!! I DON'T OWN NUMB3RS!!