The faint beeping noise was the first thing he noticed. Then the slightly antiseptic smell and finally that he was warm and lying on something comfortable. He drifted for some time breathing in the cool dry air as he simply let himself be. He woke several more times before his mind started ticking over and analysed his surroundings. The beeping he recognised as a heart monitor and the funny smell of the air he was breathing indicated that it was oxygen, the press on his face came from the mask. That meant hospital.
A little curious as to why he was in hospital he carefully started moving each individual part of his body. Legs, fine. Right arm, fine. Left arm, not so good, the movement had sent pain searing across his upper left chest. Now he discovered it also hurt to breathe. His eyes snapped open as he remembered, forgetting for the instant that if he was in hospital, he was safe.
"Easy, Don. We're here." Alan's voice sounded from beside him. A second later his father was leaning over him, his thumb pressing down on the call button in his hand. Charlie hovered behind him. "You're in hospital and had surgery late last night."
"Surgery?" He repeated, throat very dry. He hated how anaesthetic always did that. It also explained why he'd drifted in and out a few times.
"Donny, do you remember what happened?"
As if he could forget? But he simply nodded, wondering if he could get some water for his throat. He opened his mouth to ask but Alan had started speaking.
"They took the spear out and repaired the damage to your left lung. They said it came very close to your heart and that you were lucky."
He swallowed trying to moisten his mouth and throat. "Where's the spear?" He wanted to see what had caused him so much pain.
"They've taken it as evidence." Alan explained and saw his son nod.
Alan had heard the roughness in his son's voice and dug into a jug on the stand and gently moving the mask aside he slid an ice chip between Don's lips. His son took it greedily, sucking on the melting ice with obvious pleasure. He'd been moved up from recovery a few hours ago and had been sleeping ever since. The nurses had only just brought in the ice chips expecting him to be awake enough to manage them before too much longer. Due to the injury to his lung he was still being given oxygen through a mask rather than a cannula as the delivered concentration was higher.
After a second ice chip Don's throat felt much better. He pushed the mask aside himself this time to make it easier to speak. "Time?"
"Early Monday evening, its half past five."
That long? "I guess I was in pretty bad shape, huh?" His father didn't immediately answer him, casting his eyes downwards away from his own.
"The doctors told us you nearly bled out, son." Alan said hesitantly after the silence had started to become uncomfortable. They hadn't been able to see Don before he'd been wheeled into this room; he had been taken straight from the helipad on the roof to surgery. For those long hours they'd only had what a doctor had briefly told them to go by as Alan signed the consent forms, Don had lost a significant amount of blood. "They said the Coast Guard medic saved you, got enough fluids into your veins to keep you alive until they could transfuse you."
After the surgery the doctors had given them their prognosis of Don's expected full recovery. They'd listed Don's hurts and what they'd done to fix them before dropping a bombshell. The wound had showed all the hallmarks of being exacerbated by deliberate manipulation of the spear whilst it was impaled in his son's chest. Alan could not imagine anyone doing such a thing to his boy which upset him all the more.
Don could see that his father was relieving the moment, feeling again the distress that his son might not survive this one. He'd been there, he'd known he was getting close, that his blood loss was dangerous and had made his peace with that. It was always harder for those who would have been left behind. "Dad. Dad! I'm okay. I made it."
Alan looked up, eyes glistening with tears he was fighting not to shed, tears that no longer needed to be shed. "I know." He wiped the back of his hand across his eyes. "When I see the Coast Guard I'm going to thank them."
"Yeah." He had no memory of that part of it, the last he remembered was being pulled to his feet by Colby on the back deck of the cruiser then nothing more until he woke up here. Colby had put himself in significant danger to try to save him, without the other agent he wouldn't be here. "And Colby … he got me out."
"Most definitely Colby." Alan agreed. While they didn't know the whole story yet, he knew that much. He remembered Sarah Dylan from the last time Donny had been on her boat, rather he remembered her at the dinner they'd had at the house the next evening. The lieutenant had visited the hospital a short time ago to check on Don and told them a little of what had happened. It was enough to tell him that he owed Colby his son's life.
A nurse had since arrived and had immediately started taking observations effectively halting their conversation. Don was then put through a neurological exam and by the time the nurse had finished, so was Don, drifting off to sleep again.
When he woke up again he could tell that it was several hours later, the window which had earlier shown a deepening orange glow of the early stages of sunset was now fully black. He also realised the mask was gone to be replaced by a nasal cannula. His mouth wasn't as dry and the pain less than it was before.
"Hey, Chuck." Don turned his head towards the soft voice.
"Bro'. How're you feeling?"
"Better than earlier." He answered.
A hesitant tapping at the door interrupted. Alan went to greet the visitor who'd remained at the door out of Don's sight. "Colby!"
"Hey, Mr. Eppes. I just wanted to see how he was." His voice was quiet as if he didn't want to disturb a recovering Don.
"Come on in, he's awake."
Don could hear the sheer happiness in Alan's voice at being able to make that simple statement. Considering the alternative, Don could understand how he felt.
"Thought you'd like to know, the Coast Guard got them all." Colby leapt straight in with what he felt his boss most wanted to know.
"Don, can you tell us what happened?" Charlie finally asked. "Lieutenant Dylan told us a little, and there's been some stuff on the evening news about a shootout between a Coast Guard cutter and another boat. Sarah mentioned a DEA search warrant?" He prompted.
"Colb?" Don asked. At the younger agent's questioning look Don nodded, confirming that this could be discussed in front of Charlie. Due to the close watch that had been put on his own work after Charlie had lost his clearance Don had kept his brother at arms length whenever it came to the FBI. Instructions he'd passed on to Colby and David. Until now he wasn't sharing anything, even unclassified stuff. Now he figured his family were owed a reasonable explanation of what had happened to him. Being hampered by not knowing the full story himself however, Colby was the only one able to answer Charlie's question.
Colby started on the tale, leaving out the Russian's names and some of the more serious aspects of the assault on Don but covered the rest. As Charlie had said, a fair amount of media coverage had been already given, it wasn't everyday that there was a shoot out in such a pubic area like the anchorage.
When Colby reached the part about his injury the smirk on Tolya's face after he'd first been shot suddenly flashed through Don's mind. Kamenev's eyes and the expression in them as he had forced the spear in deeper shortly afterwards was also all too fresh in his memory. Involuntarily he shuddered, having those men in custody sounded like a damn good idea. They had enjoyed dealing out pain far too much to be allowed to walk around in civilised society. Mentally he shook himself, he didn't really want to dwell on that now. He knew he would have to relive it all during his statement and again in court but that could wait for then, for when his chest didn't hurt so much.
Don turned his attention back outwards, seeing an odd expression on Colby's face as he finished telling of their rescue from the sea. "You okay?"
"I'm not the one that got shot." Colby said. "Don if I could have, I-"
"Nah, uh." Don didn't want the other agent going down that track. He'd done more than enough in the situation without taking the spear shot as well. The team had rescued Colby most of a year ago now from his own near death experience. "I think its Don-season now, Colby-season closed out months ago." Don saw two sets of jaws, belonging to his father and brother, drop at the same time.
"Don-season?" Alan blustered. Charlie looked incapable of speech. The humour obviously fell a little flat for them.
"Nah, I think Colby-season has a little more in it yet." Colby added. He held up left his hand showing off the bandages and splints. "See, I got a war wound too." The bruise on his cheek was also colouring nicely.
"And so you should." Don saw that the mood had successfully lightened as he'd intended. Now was the best time to raise and immediately kill the other issue. "Disobeying a direct order deserves some punishment after all."
"He gives you any trouble, Colby, you let me know. I'll sort him out." Alan interrupted sharply, sounding more than a little annoyed. He'd recognised the duck-season, rabbit-season cartoon reference and whilst he hardly found it funny he recognised it as a form of dark humour. His son's sudden change of tack surprised him. A reprimand for Colby? He wasn't having that.
Colby opened his mouth to reply but Alan beat him to it.
"I mean it. You are like a son to me, a member of this family. If there is a problem between my boys, any of my boys, I'll sort it." Alan turned a stern look on his eldest. "Clear?"
"Clear." Don managed a warm smile. He owed Colby his life, something he would not forget in a hurry. He glanced over at Charlie who had stepped forward to stand almost protectively next to Colby, closing up ranks. He'd been teasing but both his father and brother had thought he was serious. No more teasing. "You're off the hook, Colb. That's official."
"Don, I-" Colby started to protest. He had disobeyed a direct order after all and deserved a rebuke. He had deliberately let himself be taken putting two agents at risk instead of one. Sheer luck and timing had allowed him to pull them both out. A raised hand stopped him.
"I'll be putting in a recommendation for a bravery award. You went above and beyond." The injured agent took a deep breath. He was tiring rapidly but he wanted to get the words out. "Thanks."
Colby took Don's offered hand in a firm grasp. "Boss, anytime."
A/N: And we come once again to the end. I may have hurt Don a bit more than usual but he is on the mend and back in one piece for next time…
A big thank-you to all those who read along and especially to those who reviewed. Your comments have been inspiring. Cheers!