Over the course of the day, Don got to meet his surgeon, ER doc and the consultant who had been responsible for him during his time in the ICU. He dozed between visits, rather overwhelmed by all the attention and greatly moved by how pleased all the staff seemed to be to see him recovering.
He had always assumed that hospital staff were hardened to the human side of their jobs and felt a little ashamed of himself for thinking it. It was no different than his job and he still cared about the victims and the desperate cases he dealt with day to day.
Lying in the afternoon sun, he pondered about it until a light touch on his arm roused him.
Colby stood awkwardly beside his bed and he grinned broadly in welcome.
'Hey,' he whispered. 'It's good to see you.'
Colby let out a deep breath in relief. 'Not half as good as it is to see you,' he exclaimed. 'Man, you scared me!'
Don grimaced. 'I'm sorry. I know I've put you all through hell this week.'
'Just don't do it again,' Colby said with feeling, giving his boss's arm a squeeze. 'Are you in any pain? You had a really weird expression on when I came in.'
'I'm all right. A bit sore but the drugs are keeping in a bay. I was having an introspective moment.'
Colby laughed and pulled up a chair. 'Nothing like a brush with death to have you pondering the meaning of life. Care to share?'
Don sighed and glanced out of the window to where the nurses were rushing about.
'I've just been a little awed at how much the staff seem to care about their patients. The ER doc actually had tears in his eyes when he came to see me today. I think I've always thought you would have to be a hardened bastard to have this kind of job and it made me wonder if...well if that's what people think about us?'
'...that we're all hardened bastards?' Colby asked with a laugh, looking up as Megan, Liz and David came into the room. The team grinned as they saw Don awake and lucid.
There was a moment of emotional charged silence before Colby coughed and turned to the others.
'What do you think guys? Don was just wondering if the general public think we are all cold and uncaring?'
Megan smiled and laid her hand on Don's arm. 'I can guarantee that no one ever thinks that of you Don. You are incredible empathetic towards our victims, and even the perps sometimes. What brought this on?'
He explained about his many visitors today and the team grinned at him. Wait until he saw all the cards and gifts!
Don lay back and listened to his team chattering and laughing, letting their relief and good humour wash over him. He must of drifted to sleep because when he next woke, it was to find Charlie sitting beside him pottering on his laptop.
Don immediately went for his morphine control and pressed it, unable to stop the slight groan that escaped him at the movement. Bloody hell, that hurt!
Charlie's hand came to rest on his arm, the thumb rubbing his wrist gently. Don shifted his position so he could lightly grasp his brothers fingers, not quite holding hands but the end of each finger entwined.
That was how Alan found them when he arrived an hour later. Don was dozing fitfully and his cheeks were flushed. Alan gave his youngest a sharp look.
'Is something wrong?'
Charlie shook his head. 'It's OK dad, his temperature spiked again but it came back down really quickly. The nurse thinks it was a stress response to pain.'
Alan frowned, hardly reassured. 'I knew I shouldn't have left,' he muttered and Charlie sighed but didn't reply. He knew better than to take on his father when he was in full papa bear mode.
The Eppes men watched Don sleep as the nurses pottered around him, preparing his bed to be moved down two floors to the cardiac surgical unit. He didn't even stir when the porters arrived and moved him, machines and all to his new room.
Alan smiled as several bits of equipment stayed behind and his sons monitoring was cut back to ECG leads and a Sats monitor on his ear. He was down to three I.V's as well. One the Morphine pump, one keeping him hydrated and one that was some sort of blood thinning drug.
The new room was a four bedded unit and had one other patient. A man about Alan's age was reclining in an armchair next to his bed, reading a book. He watched curiously as the young agent was settled across from him, frowning as he saw the man didn't wake despite all the movement.
Alan gave him a friendly nod, before drawing up a chair near his son and wiping Don's forehead with a wet cloth. He had seen the other patients worried expression and realised again how sick Don was and looked. The relief of him being awake and out of danger had made it easy to forget what a long road the man had before him to recovery.
The thought was enough to have Alan planning to stay the night again. He hoped the staff on the new ward would allow it.
To say it was reorienting to go to sleep in one room and wake in another was the understatement of the century. Don had a moments panic that something had happened and he had been really ill again, but Charlie soon reassured him.
The medical staff had decided to increase the morphine level he was receiving on top of the self controlled dose so he was left feeling much sleepier, but a great deal more comfortable.
He spent the evening dozing and listening to Robin, Charlie and his Dad chatting. Robins parents popped their head around the door and he finally got the chance to formally meet them.
Malcolm gripped his hand tightly between his and gave him a warm smile.
'It's very good to meet you Don. You have an impressive number of people who care for you.'
Don felt his cheeks flame and glowered at his brother as Charlie chuckled.
Lea had given him a kiss on the cheek and a half hug, careful to avoid all the wires and bandages.
'It's lovely to see you awake dear. When you are better, you must let us take you out to dinner so we can get to know each other properly.'
'I'd like that ma'am,' Don croaked and she laughed. 'It's Lea dear. You're practically family now.'
It was Robins turn to look away and blush at that and Don found her fingers and gave them a squeeze. Family! He liked the sound of that.
The nurse brought in a tray with some sort of gloop on it that she claimed was rice pudding and he allowed her to help him sit up to eat it.
It was Alan who spoon fed him the meal. Don thought afterwards that he really should have been embarrassed to be fed in front of his brother, girlfriend and what would hopefully one day be his in-laws. In truth he was too exhausted to care.
He and Charlie listened with amusement as their father had an enormous row in the corridor with the head nurse who resolutely refused to let Alan stay the night. He accepted hugs and kisses from everyone before they reluctantly left him at 8pm on the dot. The nurse hovered in the door scowling at them before they left and then turned back and gave him a friendly wink.
He exchanged an amused look with the older man he was sharing a room with and closed his eyes with a tired sigh. He listened to the sounds of the ward settling down for the night and pondered just how lucky he had been. It was a miracle he was alive. He now had an artificial graft holding together one of his main blood vessels. That was a creepy thought and one he couldn't get used to.
What he was determined to do was not waste the opportunity he had been given. He had Robin back and great friends and family. He wasn't ever going to take any of them for granted again. He had been given another shot at life and he was going to take full advantage of it.
It was three weeks before the doctors were happy enough to let him go and Don sighed in pleasure as David pushed his wheelchair out into the pickup bay where Colby had parked the SUV. His team had volunteered to take him home so that Charlie and Alan could get the house ready.
Don stood and pulled himself easily into the passenger seat of the SUV. He was moving about normally now, the only real evidence of what had happened, the angry red line than ran from his throat and down under his shirt to just above his heart.
The other telling factor was the constant exhaustion that plagued him. The physio had had him walking a mile on a treadmill twice a day for the last week, a heart monitor observing how he did. They were happy for him to start exercising again and in his hand he held a packet of papers with a fitness regime designed to get him back in the field in eight weeks.
He grimaced at the thought as the rest of his team climbed into the car. Eight weeks before he could even attempt to re qualify.
'So,' he said casually to Megan, who had commandeered the driving seat. 'Exactly how big is this surprise party you're taking me too?'
There was a moments silence before the three agents burst out laughing.
'How did you know boss?' Colby asked and Don grinned.
'Apart from my decade of experience as a Field Agent,' Don said wryly before continuing. 'There is no way my Dad would not insist on being here when I was discharged, unless he was suitably distracted with some other plot.'
There was no answer to that argument so the younger Agents made no comment.
Don sighed with pleasure as they pulled up in the drive of the Craftsman. God it was good to be home. Robin waited for him on the curb with a cold bottle of beer and a smile.
He climbed out of the car and pulled her into his arms.
'Welcome home sweetheart,' she said tearfully and he squeezed her tighter.
He allowed himself to be led into the garden where an enormous number of people were waiting for him. They all cheered loudly as he came into view and he grinned happily.
Half a dozen LAPD officers hovered, some still in uniform and Don made a point of greeting all of them before his family began the round of welcome home hugs. He let his Dad push him into the armchair they had dragged out specially and watched the chaos as the food appeared and was distributed.
There were about fifteen people from the LA Field Office and Don grinned as he spotted some of the men and women who worked security at the front door. Amita and Larry were there, Robins parents and several of their neighbours.
Don ate his burger and watched happily as all the important people in his life, ate, chatted and celebrated his homecoming.
He thought back briefly to that moment he had lain on the hot concrete floor and waited for death to take him. He had made it!
Robin sat on the arm of the chair and laid her arm across his shoulders and Alan pulled up a stool on the other side. Don gave his Dad's arm a squeeze.
'Thanks Dad,' he whispered and his father nodded, too chocked up to answer.
His boy was home. His boy was finally home.
A/N - I hope you enjoyed that. My first none HP fanfic. Reviews, as ever as gratefully recieved; especially as I have uploaded this story in one go. Kendra.