A/N: I am so sorry about yesterday's chapter eight disaster. I accidentally uploaded a working draft of chapter eight – so if you read it, and there were a lot of empty spaces and X's, and it didn't make sense – that was it. I noticed it right away and tried to delete it and replace it with the good one, but by that time 30 or 40 people had read it. You will also notice that the first section of chapter nine was included in that working draft of eight. If it sounds familiar that is why. If you were one of those early readers, please check it out again. Trust me, it will make more sense.
This is the last chapter of Necessary Action. I sincerely appreciate the amount of people who read it and especially those who reviewed. Feedback on any story is great – on a multi chaptered story it's the only way to gauge the reader's response to the direction the story is going.
So, thanks again and on with the show.
Charlie was waiting just inside the doors that connected the heliport to the hospital, his face white, his eyes wide and woeful. He had tried to meet the helicopter when it arrived, but hospital security had held him back. He had paced, anxiously, watching the activity at the chopper until he saw them approach the building. His eyes went to the figure on the gurney as it burst through the automatic doors. He froze at the sight of his brother, bloody and still, his skin translucent, his eyes closed and his features slack and unresponsive. He barely had time to adjust to the sight when he heard Amita's sharp intake of breath. "Charlie!"
At the sight of her, Charlie cried out and stepped forward. The gurney, propelled by the well trained hospital staff, rushed on and he felt inextricably torn between her and Don. He hesitated an instant. She didn't. Maintaining her hold on the metal bar at the foot of the mobile cot, as well as the pace set by the emergency workers, she reached for Charlie's hand, covering it with her own over the cold metal, effectively fusing him into the drama. They moved together, through the sterile hallways with Colby a step behind them.
The three of them ran along with the gurney until they were stopped by a grim faced intern at a set of double doors. They watched as Don and the medical team disappeared through them.
As the doors closed, an eerie silence descended on them, and their harsh, labored breathing seemed to echo in the hallways. They stood as if they were lost, unsure what to do next, when a nurse suddenly appeared beside them.
"Come with me dear," she said to Amita. "We have a room set up for you."
Charlie glanced at Colby and the agent said quickly, "Go ahead, Charlie, go with her. I'll find out what's going on with Don and let you know."
Charlie still hesitated and Colby reached forward, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder. "He'll be okay, Charlie." His voice was low and reassuring. "She kept him alive."
The nurse ushered them to a small examination room, motioning for Amita to sit on the small bed. She took Amita's blood pressure and pulse, writing them on a piece of paper and sliding it into the pocket of the colorful Disney character smock she wore. Smiling, she told them the doctor would be in soon and pulled the curtain closed.
Charlie hovered close to Amita, rubbing her shoulder, touching her hand, tucking a bit of stray hair behind her ear and tried not to look at her discolored and swollen face or the bruises on her upper arms where Lovett had grabbed her. He was filled with anger and rage and fear; feelings so foreign and opposite to his normal disposition that he was struggling to assimilate them. Even as he rubbed soothingly on Amia's back, his eyes clouded with the image of his brother's appearance and he swallowed again, trying to hold back the horror.
He heard the uncertainty in Amita's voice and turned to her quickly. "You okay? Do you need something? I could find the nurse."
She shook her head, smiling at his over eagerness. "No. I'm fine. Well, . . ." she laughed, curtly, at the ridiculous statement, then looked at him, her dark eyes suddenly becoming moist and sad. "Charlie, before the doctor comes in, there's something I want to tell you."
Her sudden apprehension sent another bolt of fear through him and he took both of her hands in his. "Oh God," he gasped. "you weren't . . . he didn't r. . ."
She shook her head, quickly, reassuring him. "No, I'm alright." she told him again, then blurted out, "I shot a man."
Stunned, he tightened his hold on her hands. "You . . . you killed him? The man who . . . did this?"
Shaking her head she replied, "No. Agent Cooper killed him - after I shot him. But, I meant to kill him. I would have." Her voice, when she spoke, was firm and matter of fact, but, suddenly her dark eyes misted and she looked at him, unsure and afraid. "Are you disappointed in me?"
Of all the emotions Charlie was experiencing at that moment, disappointment was certainly not one of them. He looked at her eyes; the usual spark and energy he loved was clouded over with the reality of their ordeal and he understood. The physical wounds, even Don's, were superficial compared to the mental anguish, the desperation and fear they had endured at Lovett's hands. He knew, with certainty, that those were the wounds that needed healing and that it wouldn't be easy.
"Are you okay?" He shook his head, quickly and dismissively, indicating that wasn't what he meant and she understood. She knew he wasn't asking if she was hurt. He tried again. "I mean, mentally – emotionally, with what you did or almost did."
She nodded, her expression sure and strong again. "He would have killed us all. Don knew it. He had some trouble convincing me that we had no other options, but he finally got through. He told me how to defend myself, how to use his gun and what to expect the man to do."
Overcome with emotion, Charlie stepped forward. His hands trembled as he gently framed her face in them and the expression in his dark eyes conveyed the immense love and pride he had for her. "Then I thank God you had the fortitude to listen to him."
Charlie turned his head towards the door, a deep pensive expression she recognized clouding his features.
"What is it, Charlie?"
He moved, sitting beside her on the bed. "I was just thinking about what Colby said; that you kept Don alive." He turned to her. "Sounds to me," his voice was thick with emotion, "that you kept each other alive."
She leaned into him and touched his forehead with hers. He brought a hand up to cup the back of her head and his fingers gently moved through her hair. He drew her close, kissing her, then wrapped his arm around her and held her tightly against him. She relaxed in his embrace, her head resting between his neck and shoulder, and when the doctor arrived Charlie had to wake her.
Don woke several times in the next two days, floating into awareness as a nurse adjusted his IV, or the doctor checked the drainage on his chest wound, or to the comfort of the hushed somber voices of his father and Charlie beside him. Each time he tried to claw his way out of the drugged stupor and each time he quickly succumbed again to a soft hand on his brow and soothing voices or his weakened body's need for rest.
Fifty some hours after he arrived at the hospital his eyelids fluttered open, closed again briefly, then opened once more and his senses returned in a rush. It was dark, but there was a small muted light above and behind his head, subtly illuminating the white sheet that covered his body. A glance at the window told him it was nighttime. A quiet beep kept time with his heartbeat and he felt the pressure on the back of his hand that told him he was connected to an IV. The hushed sounds and disinfectant odors beyond the door completed the picture and he knew he was in a hospital.
He noticed another scent – a very familiar one – and he closed his eyes, breathing deeply and savoring it. How many times had his allowance purchased that after shave for Christmas or Father's Day or as a birthday gift?
"Dad." he smiled.
"Hush, Donnie. It's alright."
Don turned towards the voice and saw Alan in the shadows, sitting in a chair next to the bed. His father looked haggard and tired but he smiled back - warm, gentle and affectionate and brushed his fingers over Don's forehead. "You just rest, son."
Alan moved then, and an instant later Don found a spoonful of ice in front of him and he opened his mouth, gratefully.
Don could feel the pull of sleep again already, but there was something he needed that was more urgent. "Dad, how's Amita? Is she alright?"
Alan nodded, expecting this question from his son. "Yeah, Donnie, she's fine. She's bruised." Alan shook his head sadly, "Her face and arms . . ." He sighed, remembering the sight of her beautiful face, multi-colored and swollen. "but she's going to be fine."
Don shook his head, his voice taking on an imploring tone. "No, Dad. How is she? Really."
Alan took a deep breath and settled back in the chair. He knew what Don meant. Wearily, he answered, "She seems to be doing alright. David arranged for her to speak with a doctor at the bureau. Charlie took her this afternoon. She said it helped to talk about it." Alan reached forward and touched his son's uninjured arm. "We always knew she was a strong woman, Donnie." He gently squeezed the arm under the blanket. "But, she's stronger than any of us thought."
Don knew, logically, that it had happened days ago, but to him, it seemed like only hours. He could still see her hysterics at the lake and feel her trembling hands as she pressed down on the wound in his chest. He remembered her tender care and the way she analyzed their situation. He also recalled her refusal, then reluctant acceptance in using the gun and her quick thinking when Lovett turned irrational. Yes, it was clear she was definitely stronger than any of them had thought and Don was certain she had learned something about herself, as well.
His eyelids were drooping and he knew he wouldn't be able to fight the drugs much longer. He looked at Alan and smiled. "Knew she could do it . . . stubborn, . . . like Charlie said." His face muscles relaxed as he lost the battle to stay awake, but just before he went completely under, his tongue slipped out between his lips to wet them and a soft smile heralded him to sleep.
When the darkness lifted again several hours later and Don slowly blinked the room into focus, he saw Charlie and Amita sitting together across the room, their heads together over something on the screen of a laptop, talking in muted tones. He smiled, seeing them like that – as he had hundreds of time before. It felt good; it felt normal; it felt right.
"Hey." he murmured.
They looked up quickly and Charlie closed the laptop. Together, they hurried to his bedside. Charlie pulled a chair over and motioned for her to sit. "Hey, Don. How are you feeling?" he asked.
Don smiled, looking at both of them and said, "Good. Alright. Drugs are good."
They laughed. "You two alright?" he asked.
Both heads nodded as one and he stifled a laugh he was sure would hurt somewhere. He looked around the room. "Where's Dad?"
"Alan just left. Went to get some coffee." Amita answered. She glanced at Charlie and Don saw the question asked and answered between them, in that way they had of communicating without words. She moved closer to him and Charlie stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder in an obvious show of support. Don was intrigued and worried at the same time.
"Don," she began. "Colby and David took my statement the other day."
He nodded slowly, knowing Amita had just asked Charlie if this was a good time to bring it up - with Alan gone – and Charlie had agreed.
"I told them how we utilized ACT." she said in a soft voice.
"Yeah?" he asked, quietly, shifting uncomfortably in his bed.
She nodded. "Yeah, and it's funny, Don, they had never heard of it."
Don studied a snag on the hem of his sheet, fingering it, rubbing it between his first finger and thumb. "Amita . . ." he started.
"It's alright, Don, I understand." She placed her hand over his. "I was. . ." she stopped, searching for the right word. ". . .looney. I wasn't helping the situation. You had to do something."
Shaking his head, he said, "That's not it at all. You were great. You just needed something to focus on."
"You mean besides you bleeding to death in front of me?" She reached up, covering Charlie's hand with hers when his fingers clenched at her words.
Don dropped his head, studying the snag again. "Yeah."
She nodded, a half smile crossing her features. "So you made it up." she clarified.
He looked back at her, judging her reaction to the lie. She was smiling. Behind her Charlie was grinning, his eyes wide and excited.
Don frowned. They were up to something. Charlie came around and sat on the bottom of Don's bed.
"It worked, didn't it? I mean, it helped Amita quantify the variables and different data points. There's a whole range of scenarios where it could come into play. It's like Game Theory, but more defined and case orientated."
Amita joined in. "Charlie and I were just putting together a possible presentation. We think you should present it to Quantico. They can implement it into their current training with very little modification. I can even give first hand testimonial for it."
Don laughed. He was right. It hurt, but the pain had never felt so good.
Six days later -
Charlie stepped from the hospital's elevator and turned to the right. After eight days of moving through these halls towards his brother's room he knew the way by heart – knew most of the nurses on the floor, as well, and offered greetings to some as he passed. Don was being released tomorrow and he knew his brother would be happy to finally get home and put all of this behind him.
He had had a luncheon meeting scheduled at CalSci that was canceled at the last minute. With the afternoon free, he thought he would pick Amita up and they could have lunch before going to the hospital to see Don. He hadn't been able to reach her on her cell phone so he decided to skip lunch and visit his brother. He reached the room and pushed the door open.
Don was sitting up in bed. He was wearing the pajama bottoms Alan had bought for him. They, along with a loose fitting t-shirt, provided a level of security and humility the open backed hospital gowns lacked. The bed was still in the prone position and he was sitting at the top, where the pillow usually laid. The pillow was propped against the wall, as a cushioned barrier between him and the hard painted surface, but he wasn't leaning against it. He was sitting away from the wall, on his own, and Charlie was delighted to see that his brother's strength was returning. What he saw next, though, made him stop in the doorway. Amita was sitting, cross legged, on the bottom of Don's bed, facing him. Between them, on a colorful cloth that had been draped across the mattress, was what Charlie could only describe as the remains of a picnic.
"Hey." he announced himself. They turned as one, smiling at him. "Hey, Charlie. Come on in. Join us" Don waved his hand towards the food on the bed in front of him. "Amita brought lunch."
She scooted off the bed and greeted Charlie with a kiss. "I thought you had a meeting. I would have waited . . ."
Charlie, delighted to see her, waved away her explanation - which wasn't necessary and was beginning to sound like an apology, which really wasn't necessary – and walked to the bed, helping himself to an apple. "Canceled. I looked for you but . . . What's all this?" he asked.
"Since Don was finally on an unrestricted diet I thought he might enjoy something different than hospital food. And since our last picnic ended kind of badly, I thought. . . you don't mind, do you?"
"Don't be silly. I'm sure Don loved it and if he's happy, we're all happy. We don't have to listen to him grumble about the hospital food."
Don opened his mouth to protest the brotherly slam when the door opened again and Alan and Larry walked in. They had just had lunch together, but Don laughed with the others when Alan couldn't resist, "just half a piece of that cake. It looks delicious."
The room suddenly became a little more crowded when David and Colby arrived. There wasn't much of the picnic left, but Colby found the other half of Alan's piece of cake and finished it with two bites, licking the icing off his fingers.
Amita and Charlie cleaned the mess up and Don allowed Alan to settle him back into the bed. He wouldn't admit it, but he was looking forward to a little afternoon nap. Right now, though, he was looking at his two team members.
"Did you bring it?" he asked.
David nodded, smiling conspiratorially, and produced a colorful paper bag from behind his back. At a nod from his team leader, he handed it to Amita.
"What's this?" she asked. She peeked in the sack, smiling and curious as Don answered, "Just a little something from me and the guys." Her eyes were dancing, lively and he enjoyed her excitement at the unexpected present.
She put the sack on the bed where she had been sitting and reached in, pushing aside the tissue paper. "Oh!" She looked up at him, her eyes wide and excited. "Oh, Don! Wow, this is great!"
Charlie stepped around and watched as she removed an official FBI jacket and cap from the sack. She held the jacket up, admiring the three large yellow letters on the back. Laughing, she slipped into it, wrapping it around her, then placed the cap on her head.
Charlie's eyes darted from her to his brother and he couldn't quite stop the whine in his voice as he said, "Hey, I don't have that. I mean, I took the training course and everything, and I...I don't have an FBI jacket." The petulant, childish tone of his voice brought a round of laughter, and he turned to Don sounding all of five years old. "Can I have one, too?"
Everyone was watching Amita as she danced around the room and Charlie found himself forgetting what he was saying.
He had to admit she looked awfully cute, in a dangerous sort of way, wearing the jacket and cap. She was laughing at something Colby said when Charlie and Don glanced at each other. Charlie was reminded again how close he had come to losing her, to losing both of them; two of the most important people in his life. His eyes found Don's. Thank you – for helping her, for being strong, for being you.
Don could always tell what his brother was thinking. His expressive dark eyes were dead give aways – always had been. He understood and smiled, giving Charlie his best big brother look. It's alright, Charlie. Everything's going to be alright.
"I know how you can get one, Charlie." She said, breaking their thoughts.
Charlie turned back to her, not exactly sure what she was talking about. Seeing her standing before him in the FBI jacket jarred his memory and he asked, "How?"
Don watched the light in her eyes as she teased his brother. She preened, turning around to display the FBI on the back of the jacket, looking over her shoulder at him, demurely batting her eyelashes under the rim of the cap. She changed poses, her eyes on Charlie as she turned sideways, her chin resting on her raised shoulder, her luxurious dark hair pulled to one side, her eyes smoldering with heat and desire. Don laughed with the others in the room at Charlie's discomfort. It was obvious her display was affecting him and he smiled sheepishly.
"We can share this one," she said in a husky, tantalizing voice. "What's mine is yours. After all, California is still a community property state."
The laughter in the room escalated to a level Don was sure was going to bring the nurses in to complain. Charlie dropped his head, embarrassed but laughing with the others. He smiled and wrapped his arm around Amita's shoulder and kissed her.
They belong together, Don thought to himself, watching them. She grounds him. He inspires her.
He looked around the room, at his family and friends, and marveled at the many different aspects there was to Amita Ramanajan. To Charlie, she was his soul mate, his lover and friend; to Alan, she was the daughter he never had and Don could see the dark eyed, curly headed grandchildren in his father's eyes as he watched Charlie and Amita. As a colleague and teacher, she was brilliant, quick and always willing to help. Don knew David and Colby would certainly never look at Amita the same again and he, himself, felt a certain connection to her. It was common, he knew, when people shared a life threatening experience to become closer on a different level. There was an unbreakable bond between him and Amita now, fused through pain and terror and sacrifice. Whatever she has with Charlie and the others, this connection was theirs alone.
He looked up, watching Charlie try to zip the jacket that was obviously too small for him and laughed with the others again. He settled back in bed, happy, content and drifted off to sleep to the laughter of his family and friends.