Summary: Lindsey's brother has been different since he came back from the war. Lindsey, Eliot with PTSD. Very pre-series for both shows. "McDonald Boys" verse, but may stand alone.

Warning: If you're looking for cute and fluffy hurt/comfort, turn back now. This is a lot darker and angstier than my usual "McDonald Boys" fare. It does have hurt/comfort though…and okay, it's very fluffy at the end. But super-angsty in the beginning and middle. So warning…I warned you. I could say more, but that would spoil the story.

Personal quibbles: this probably isn't a realistic portrayal of PTSD - just what I've gathered from the internet and thought up out of my own head. But I did try…And I know, I know, Lindsey is too wimpy and whiny. I just couldn't stop him from crying. *shrug* But then again, give him a break because he's like nineteen, and dude, I would cry like this in his situation, and I'm a couple of years past that age. Anyway, that's my explanation for the way he acts.

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Battle Fatigue

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Chapter One

Eliot has been different since he came back from the war. Everyone can tell, Uncle Randy and the Martins, Willie and his wife Tina and his daughter Aimee, who's Eliot's on-again off-again girlfriend. Lindsey. They can all tell that he's different, but everyone seems to want to skirt around the issue because he's fine, he's just fine (or so he says).

"Boy's come back a man," Randy rumbles around the mouth of his beer bottle, the cigarette in his other hand spiraling smoke upwards as he speaks. "Ain't a kid no more."

Willie merely frowns, sighs, and lets Eliot work off the excess anger and bouts of restless energy interspersed with fits of ennui that he's come home with on breaking a horse in.

Tina tuts and fusses and asks him to help her make cookies for the church bake sale to keep his mind off of whatever's worrying him. Helping others is good for the soul, she says. (Though no one says a word when Eliot refuses point blank to set foot inside of that church.)

Aimee…well, Lindsey's pretty sure he doesn't want to know what Aimee does with Eliot, but he does see that there are a lot of gentle words and soft touches that Eliot either completely ignores or merely shrugs off.

"He's different," she tells Lindsey, tears glistening in her eyes, "It almost scares me."

Lindsey can understand that. His brother's home, but not really.

Eliot startles easily and reacts violently, doesn't sleep most nights, and when he does, he wakes up thrashing and screaming, only to shove Lindsey roughly away when he scrambles over from the next bed to comfort him, hold him, hell, anything to stop his twin's pain. And then there are the long stretches of time when Eliot just sits there, hands limp in his lap, staring off into the distance with empty eyes.

"Thousand-yard stare," Uncle Randy calls it, adding on darkly, "Whatever it is he's seein', you don't wanna see fer yerself."

Except Lindsey does. He wants to know what the hell is going on inside of his twin's head. He wants to know how he can make it better, how he can fix it so that he can have his brother back.

For the thousandth time, he wonders why Eliot had to go off to friggin' Somalia in the first place. Why couldn't he have been satisfied with going to college and becoming somebody, like Lindsey's doing, or at least just stay home and work with Willie as a horse trainer? Eliot loves horses, and he can tame the wildest of them just like Daniel did the lions in the Good Book. Horse training isn't a bad job.

Hell, if he'd gone and joined the army just because he wanted to be a hero, he didn't even have to leave home in the first place - Eliot has always been a hero to Lindsey. No need to go to war and come back a cold, grim stranger to become one.

Still, he'd gone, and now he's back, and Eliot's not the brother who'd left. He doesn't smile, doesn't laugh, he doesn't know how to have a good time anymore - He functions, but that's all. Eliot's broken. And Lindsey doesn't know how to fix him.

He looks it up, spending hours in the library, taking copied pages from medical journals home to devour, instead of trying to get ahead in his classes for fall semester. PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, formerly called battle fatigue, shell shock, dozens of different names, all adding up to the same thing: A broken brother whom Lindsey isn't equipped to fix. He ponders changing his major to psychology, but a dark "I know what you're thinkin' so don't even" glower from Eliot changes his mind right back again. Pre-law it is.

Eliot's here, but he isn't, but he is, and Lindsey's never really thought that maybe one day he might not be.

Until now.

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