Finally completed this one. Sorry for the delay and thanks to everyone for the reviews and alerts it kept me writing. :) To notsing : I completely agree with your review. You don't know how much I wrestled with that part of the story. In the end I realized Don wouldn't leave Terry with her being that close to death.
Title: Fragile Balance
author: Cindy Ryan
The next few days passed slowly for Terry. She was more than ready to go home. Wanted nothing more than real food and her own bed. The doctors insisted they weren't being overly cautious. The endless tests were necessary to make sure there wasn't any prolonged damage from the poison. Another day they promised. If the tests came back negative Terry would be free and clear.
It was now early afternoon and Terry turned the tv off in frustration. Don was at work but had promised to leave as soon as he could. Terry stared out the window as she thought of her partner. He tried to hide it but she still saw the self blame and guilt in his dark eyes when Don came to visit. He blamed himself for putting her in danger.
Terry couldn't help but wonder if they would survive this. She thought of the ATF job she'd never officially turned down. It might just save her and Don's future. It would alleviate Don's guilt and responsibility not being his partner any longer. Not wearing the same badge. Reaching for her cell phone on the bedside table Terry picked it up. She found the number she needed and dialed.
Alan had just put the last of the lunch dishes in the dishwasher when he heard the front door open and shut. He glanced at the clock above the small table with a puzzled frown. Charlie said he wouldn't be home until late. Which left the only other person with a key but then it was unlike Don to drop by in the middle of the day. On the other hand things had been far from normal lately.
"Dad?"Don called from the living room.
"Kitchen."Alan responded as he shut the dishwasher and turned away from the sink.
"Hi."Don greeted as he stepped in to the kitchen.
"Hi yourself."Alan replied as he hugged his eldest. "Not that I'm complaining but what brings you by before office hours are over?"
"FBI doesn't have office hours."Don muttered as he sank into one of the wooden chairs. "Just thought I'd see how you were doing."
Alan sat down in the chair at the head of the table. "Fine By the way Charlie's doing enough mothering for both of you."
"Sorry."Don apologized."I tried so hard to protect everybody from Kuznetov ..."
"You did good, Donnie."Alan responded quietly. "Everybody's alive and safe "
"Yeah."The FBI agent replied. "Almost had too high of a cost."
"How's Terry doing?"Alan inquired gently.
Don smiled. "Better every day. She's driving the doctors nuts; wants to go home."
"That's good to hear."Alan commented.
Don leaned forward. "That's another reason I'm here. Need your opinion."
Alan smiled remembering how the boys had come to him when they were younger for advice. Time passed too quickly.
"You can always come to me about anything."Alan stated. "This a conversation for coffee or beer?"
Don grinned. "Beer but better have coffee. Need a clear head."
As the coffee brewed Don began to tell his father of his plans for the future. Of his fears and uncertainties. By the time the coffee was ready Don was feeling somewhat better about things. He just wished he could make a decision and told his father as much.
Alan smiled as he set two black mugs on the table and sat down. "Donnie, I think you already have."
Don blinked in surprise. "How so?"
"You bought the girl a ring."The elder Eppes replied as he took a sip of coffee."What I'm about to say is probably corny and old fashioned but some things don't change. You love her enough to buy the ring. Trust your heart, son, the rest will work itself out. "
Don returned his father's smile. "In other words life's always a gamble but the rewards are worth the risks?"
"Exactly."Alan confirmed. "I've never seen you as happy as you are with Terry. You two are good for each other."
"Speaking of."Don replied as he glanced at his watch and stood. "I better go. I promised Terry I'd stop by after work. "
"Keep me posted."Alan said as he rose to his feet and enveloped Don in a hug.
"I will."Don promised as he left.
Terry smiled as she saw Don walk into her hospital room a bouquet of red roses in his left hand. The hospital staff had just delivered Terry's dinner but the meal on the tray in front of her was quickly forgotten as she saw the brown bag in her partner's right hand.
"Roses and dinner?"Terry asked as Don leaned in to kiss her. "Wow."
"Sorry I'm late."Don replied as he handed the bouquet to Terry and sat down in the visitor's chair. "You know rush hour traffic and I had to pick up a few things."
"They're beautiful, Don, thank you."Terry stated as she set them on the bedside table. "I'll have one of the nurses find a vase to put them in after we eat. That smells heavenly."
"Doc said you weren't up to cheeseburgers yet but I thought you'd like your favorite soup and sandwich from that cafe you enjoy."Eppes stated as he began to pull items out of the bag and place them on Terry's bed tray.
"Thank you."Terry replied.
"You're welcome."Don acknowledged as he handed Terry a bottled water before unwrapping his own sandwich.
After a few moments of companionable silence Terry spoke. "Did the doctors tell you when they're letting me out of here? They keep telling me the same thing...one more day becomes one more day..."
"Just that your tests look good."Eppes stated as he took a sip of water. "They're just being cautious that was a potent poison."
Terry's felt her face sober and she nodded. "Yeah, I know...and I appreciate them dotting all the i's and crossing the t's but I just...want my life back."
"We do have a lot to talk about, Terry."Don began quietly as he set his food on the floor.. "The Bureau officially cleared you...you're back to full status. I know us being together and working together won't be easy but..."
Don shook his head. "Let me finish. I know it won't be easy but I don't want anybody else as my partner personally or professionally."
Terry felt tears begin and she blinked them away. She'd been so sure taking the ATF job would be the easiest thing for her and Don. Now she wasn't so sure. Terry reached out and took Don's right hand in hers.
"Do you really think our relationship is strong enough?"Lake inquired.
Don squeezed Terry's hand before releasing it He stood and then lowered himself to his left knee. Terry couldn't stop the tears when she realized what was happening. Don took a small dark blue velvet jewelry box out of the right pocket of his jacket and opened it so Terry could see the diamond ring inside.
"I think we're strong enough."Don replied his voice catching slightly. "I know I'm doing this wrong. You deserve a candlelight dinner in a fancy restaurant but I couldn't wait. The past six months have taught me how precious and short life is. We take too much for granted. I don't want to do that with us. I love you Terry and want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
Terry had seen it a hundred times in movies and on television shows. She'd never understood why women were too emotional to answer. It was just a single simple word yes or no. Now that she was in that spot Terry completely understood. Her heart was so full she couldn't speak. The tears ran freely. The road ahead would be tough. The Bureau had rules for married agents. Something they could work around if they still wanted to be partners. As Terry looked at Don through blurry eyes she couldn't picture anyone else as her partner in work or in life. She'd fight the good fight with him if that's what he wanted.
"Yes."Terry answered finally finding her voice. "Yes I'll marry you."
Laughing Don rose to his feet and leaned in and kissed Terry. "I was so afraid you'd say no."
Terry shook her head as she wiped away tears. "You're stuck with me."
"Wouldn't have it any other way."Don stated huskily as he slipped the engagement ring on Terry's finger.
"I love you."Terry whispered.
"I love you too."Don replied as he sat down on the bed with Terry and drew her into an embrace.
Four months later Charlie scanned the downtown hotel ballroom for Amita. The room was filled with wedding guests dancing the night away. Part of Charlie couldn't believe his big brother had finally tied the knot. Don had always been so committed to his job that being an FBI agent seemed to interfere. So Charlie was happy that his brother's career and marriage were compatible. In Terry Don had found a partner in the truest sense of the word.
Lost in his thoughts a hand on Charlie's left arm caused him to jump. He turned to find Amita smiling at him.
"I was looking for you."The mathematician explained with a smile.
Amita laughed. "Looked like you were a million miles away."
Charlie wrapped an arm around Amita's waist pulling her close. "Was thinking about Don and Terry."
Amita motioned to where the happy couple was dancing on the right side of the dance floor. "They're on cloud nine...so much in love."
Charlie watched his brother for a long moment before turning to face Amita. He rested his right hand on her right cheek.
"I know the feeling."Charlie said quietly. "I love you."
"I love you too."Amita replied.
Charlie kissed Amita knowing how lucky he was to even be standing in this room. He had his life back and the people he loved were safe and happy. It didn't get much better.
"You know what I've been looking forward to most about tonight?"Amita asked when they broke apart.
"Dancing."Amita replied with a wide smile. "I've had my cast off for almost two months."
"If the lady wishes."Charlie replied as he took her right hand gallantly and kissed it.
Amita gripped Charlie's right hand tightly before he lead her out onto the dance floor and into his arms.