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13 December 2009 @ 11:59 pm
Numb3rs Fic: The Bitter Cold  
Posted to numb3rs_slash
Crossposted to eppescest


Title: The Bitter Cold
Pairing/Characters: Don/Charlie
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Seasons 1-5
Summary: Charlie goes to a mountain cabin to think but winds up missing in a snowstorm
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


"If anyone's going to get hurt, it's going to be me. Everyone else needs to be careful, stay safe. You hear me?"

"Enough with all this macho bullshit, Don! Stop trying to be a god damned martyr all the time!"


Don gripped the steering wheel of his SUV as he turned onto Angeles Crest Highway, forcing himself to slow down even though his annoyance at David's words earlier in the day boosted not only his blood pressure but his need for speed. David worked for him, where did he get off talking to his boss like that?

He reached over to snap the radio off, knowing reception would be lost soon enough; he was too irritated already to let static piss him off any more. Only the weather report came on and he paused to check it - more to confirm he was right than anything else.

"I need to think - about all of this: about me and Amita, about you and me… I'm only going up to the cabin for the weekend."

"Don't be an idiot, Charlie. They're calling for a big snowstorm in the mountains."


Snow was normal in the Southern California mountains in winter, once you got high up enough, but heavy snow wasn't. The weather report confirmed what Don had stressed and Charlie had pooh-poohed: a big storm was settling in. At best Charlie would wind up snowed in and miss his Monday classes, at worst he'd catch pneumonia trying to hike in that mess.

The sky loomed ugly in Don's windshield and not for the first time was he glad he had good tires and snow chains in the back. Rain preceded the snow at about 2,000 feet and Don turned on his windshield wipers, their steady back and forth swipes oddly soothing.

"You should marry Amita, buddy. She's good for you, she gets you and you know this thing between you and I… It's not just wrong, it's bad for you. I don't want you stuck hiding away from life with me when you should be happy, normal."

"Are you seriously breaking things off between us because Amita and I look good on paper? Because seriously, Don, since when have I ever been normal? And who are you to decide what makes me happy or not?"


The rain turned into snow about 5,000 feet - far lower than even the weather report predicted. The road was harder to maneuver now so Don had to slow down and take the curves a lot more carefully to not risk going off the edge.

The math cabin, as Don had dubbed it, was at about 7,000 feet. Charlie had nicknamed it Nash, which Don felt was appropriate. He'd seen Charlie act almost crazed during his math fugues so naming it after Nash - who was both a brilliant mathematician and afflicted with mental illness - was spot on.

"I'm trying, can't you see that I'm trying? I take you out, I make time for you on the weekends, I even call to let you know I'm okay after an op. What more do you want, Robin?"

"Don, you read that off like a checklist of things to do when you've got a significant other. Come on, both of us know your heart's not in it. We gave it a second chance, but it didn't work out. You know it and I know it."


Don pulled his cell phone out of his jacket pocket: no reception. Unsurprising, but he'd hoped there would have been a message from Charlie. Don had regretted leaving him a pissy voicemail once he'd hung up, but it was too late to do anything about it past coming up in person.

Charlie had wanted to be alone, but Don needed Charlie to understand, he needed to explain because Charlie should have been smart enough to see that he was right about this, but he was just pigheaded enough to not get it through his skull that Don was doing this for Charlie's sake.

"You can't seriously mean that was our last time? That you're just turning me away with no warning? Don, I need you. No one else makes me feel safe like you do."

"We're still brothers, Charlie. You know I'll always be here. But you need to get on with your life and that means standing up on your own two feet."


The sick feeling that had taken up residence since he sent Charlie away - all but kicked him out of his apartment after indulging in one last moment of weakness by dragging him into his bed - started to make itself more known. The further he got up the mountain, the more his gut churned.

Don had learned to pay attention to his instincts and a niggling voice in the back of his head had lured him up here saying Charlie was distracted, upset and sure to do something stupid. Don knew his brother; he'd never take his own life. But he'd seen people do a million senseless things that changed their lives, sometimes as simple as walking down the wrong alley at the wrong time of night, and he wasn't about to let Charlie mess things up for himself over their unfortunate relationship.

"Did you and your brother get into a fight again?"

"No, Dad, we just… Charlie's just got to grow up and accept some things, you know?"


Don pulled into the lonely driveway that marked the entrance to Charlie's little cabin in the woods. No building was allowed in the national forest land, but a few properties had been grandfathered in when the park first was created. Charlie had been able to afford to snatch up a rare one when it went on the market.

As he parked his SUV next to his brother's snow-covered Prius he spotted a new wooden sign, probably a gift from Amita. It read, 'Nash Villa, Population:' and then the symbol for pi had been carved into the place where the number would normally go. Math humor… Yet another reason why Charlie and Amita belonged together and why Don shouldn't get in their way.

"You really care about him, don't you? This is the real deal for you."

"I love Charlie, Don. So yes, it's the real thing. I don't care what anyone else says about my career or his career or any of that gossip. I fell in love with the man, not just his mind, and all I want is to make him happy."


Don lingered on the front porch. He'd bought Charlie those Adirondack chairs and they'd sat in them watching the sun set the first weekend Charlie came up after buying the property. They'd slept contentedly entwined in the cabin's only bed, waking with the rosy peaceful dawn only to kiss and sleep again. It had been the best sleep Don had had in months. Tired, dragged down by the weight of his responsibilities, he missed that easy peace now.

Using his key he let himself in, tuning his ear to the sound of chalk clacking against the blackboard walls. Nothing. He looked around, surprised, but the small cabin was empty. Wandering about, he found a pad of paper on the kitchen counter. 'Just in case,' it read, 'I went hiking on the Devil's Canyon trail at 1PM.' Don glanced at his watch. It was almost five.

"So where the hell are you now, Charlie?"

+

The first twenty minutes of tromping through the woods Don was just plain pissed off, but after the better part of an hour with no sign of his brother - and the daylight fading fast - he started feeling the adrenaline rush of panic surge up in him.

The snow was heavy up here in Devil's Canyon and it had been long enough that any footprints were long gone. He tried to think like Ian and check for signs other than footprints: a broken branch, an area with less snow than those around it… Someone had been on that trail since it started snowing and while Don had no proof it was his brother, he figured few other people would brave the trail on a day like today.

Brave… He almost laughed out loud at that word. More like stupid. But Charlie could be like that when he had his head wrapped around a problem - oblivious to the outside world even outside.

Calling out his name hadn't helped. Don had bellowed until his voice echoed through the mountains with nothing but an errant squawking bird call in response.

If night came… Don didn't even want to think about that. Deciding Charlie would have stayed on the trail, Don stopped looking for tiny signs and sped up, looking for bigger signs: a glove, Charlie's parka, his dark curls because he'd for sure be senseless enough to go out in the snow without a hat…

Don hit the bottom of the trail where it dead ended in a pond. Charlie was nowhere to be seen and he would not have gone off trail or waded through the frigid pond to get to the other side.

The snow was coming down hard now and the only thing keeping Don from becoming dangerously cold was the body heat he'd generated all but jogging his way down the trail, but now even that was dissipating along with the last rays of the sun.

Examining the area, he tried to remember when he and Charlie had hiked there together in happier times. It hit him that there was one rock that Charlie liked to sit on to watch the waterfall. Don hurried over there and found that indeed the amount of snow on top of the rock was far less than anywhere else, in fact there was only a scant inch or so on the top part where it had obviously been cleared away at some point.

Charlie had probably sat there to think things out and gotten too cold, waited too long to return. But where was he now? Don did a sweep of the whole area and while he found signs Charlie had been there at some point, he hadn't been there for a while.

He needed help. If Charlie had gotten disoriented, wandered off, fallen… Don headed back up the trail. If he had to call in every favor he had to get people and lights on the mountain tonight that's what he'd do. There was no way he was going to let Charlie freeze to death because a search party had to wait until first light.

Walking up the hill, he started doing the math to try to figure out how many people he needed to cover the area. If he had teams of two take an eighth of a mile each to search thoroughly… He'd have to get Ian on the phone as well; he could be of assistance with his mountain expertise... And perhaps a helicopter if he could bribe one to go up in a storm…

Mentally checking off all he had to do once he got back, Don almost didn't keep his eyes sweeping the area fast enough as he walked. Coming up on a fallen tree he knew he had to crawl over to continue on the trail, he noticed a mound of snow covered leaves along the side of it on the side he was approaching. The snow was uneven there, drastically so. The area surrounding the mound had far less snow on it compared to the rest of the forest floor like it had been moved around to clear a space or something.

He couldn't see well in the dying light, so he pulled out the flashlight he'd plucked from the SUV before heading out and shined it at the pile.

It was then he realized the trees above it wouldn't have dropped so many leaves in that area. Someone had to have piled them up, probably after it started snowing.

It made little sense, hiding like that, but if there was a chance Charlie had covered himself up to try to stay warm…

Don shoved the flashlight back in his pocket as he careened down the hill to where the pile of leaves rested against the tree, weighted down by the rapidly falling snow.

Don scooped the leaves and snow away finding it to be deeper than he thought, heavier, more snow and less leaves, but only snow and leaves. Still, he kept digging, needing to be sure.

Then his glove scraped against something slick and solid. Digging faster, he saw a hint of blue: Charlie's parka.

Scrabbling now, heart racing, he guessed at where Charlie's head might be and dug through a frightening amount of snow, breathless with terror at what he might find.

His hand met flesh, uncovering a pale cheek tinged with blue in the graying twilight.

Frantic, Don carved out a gap in the snow to reveal his brother's face, Charlie deathly still and silent.

A chill hand clutched Don's heart even as it tried to beat out of his chest.

"No… God, no…"

Flailing, he dug Charlie out the rest of the way, gathering up his disturbingly limp body in his arms as he knelt in the snow beside him, trying to shake him awake.

"Come on, buddy! Wake up! I need you to wake up!"

Charlie's head lolled, eyelashes dusted with fine ice crystals, lips pale, almost no longer pink.

A sob of grief was wrenched from Don and echoed through the empty woods. Hot tears fell down his frost-reddened cheeks as he rocked his brother in his arms, unable to accept the horror of this reality. Clutching him tight, Don sent a prayer up that he wasn't too late, that he hadn't just lost everything because he'd been the one who was a stupid idiot, sending Charlie away, sending Charlie to his death had he not come after him.

As he held Charlie close his face fell into the crook of his neck by his scarf. Don could feel the tiniest of exhalations against his skin and felt a rush of relief course through him. He wasn't too late - there was still hope, but he had to move fast. He had to get Charlie back to the cabin and warm him up before irreversible damage took its toll.

Tearing his own hat from his head, Don put it on Charlie. He wrapped his brother up in his scarf as well - almost immediately missing both in the freezing weather. Thankfully Charlie had put gloves on, but they weren't as good as Don's so Don took off his good ones and quickly put them on Charlie. He almost wasn't able to get Charlie's gloves on him, his frozen fingers were failing at fine motor skills, but he knew he had to do it.

Despite the cold sapping his strength, Don knew he had to get them both out of there and fast. Gazing down at Charlie, beautiful and placid with snowflakes in his hair, he slipped his arms under him and lifted him up carefully. Charlie's body molded against his in its liquid state and his head lay against Don's shoulder.

Don pressed a kiss to his forehead. "I'm going to get you out of here, buddy. I promise. I'm going to take care of you."

The entire rest of the trail was uphill. Don's legs felt afire with strain even as the rest of him felt freezing cold, his arm muscles twitching, revolting against carrying so much weight so far. The light was long gone so he held the flashlight in his teeth, huffing hard around it as he tromped up the snow laden trail, step by laborious step.

More than once he faltered, unable to see errant rocks hiding under the snow on the trail, and almost dropped Charlie. Tightening his hold, he soldiered on, allowing himself no breaks, no chance to possibly lose his hold on his brother.

With only a few hundred yards to go, Don felt a branch break beneath his boot and then there was nothing under him. Instinctively wrapping his body around Charlie they tumbled down an embankment, slamming into a large tree there.

Don cried out as his leg twisted beneath him, his knee going the wrong way. He righted it, gritting his teeth hard, and checked on Charlie. He seemed to be the same, still unconscious. His limpness probably helped him avoid injury in the fall.

The flashlight had come to a rest a short distance away. Don tried to rise to get it, but once he put weight on his left leg it folded under him and he swore viciously at the shard of pain that sliced through him.

Crawling, he retrieved the flashlight and tucked it into his shirt to keep it close. Glancing back up he figured he had about eight to ten feet to climb with Charlie to even get back to the trail.

Grabbing hold of the back of Charlie's parka, Don began to climb on his belly, the frozen earth sinking cold deep into his bones. He was shivering so hard he could barely grab handholds on the saplings and rocks as he went, but he forced himself up, pulling Charlie along inch by inch.

By the time they reached the trail again Don was panting hard, teeth chattering and his flashlight sputtering. Bracing himself against a rock, he pulled Charlie into his arms, having trouble now that he was losing feeling in his hands in Charlie's thinner gloves. Putting his good leg under him, he rose, grinding his teeth hard as he was forced to put weight on his injured leg.

Keeping his left leg locked since he couldn't rely on his knee not to give out if bent, Don hobbled the remaining yards to the trail head where he'd parked his car rather than walk the extra distance from the cabin as Charlie had clearly done.

He'd never been so grateful to see his car and he opened the doors with the remote and managed to bundle Charlie into the backseat before pulling himself and his bum leg up behind the wheel.

When the car didn't turn over on the first try Don felt panic swamp him. He'd come so far, gotten Charlie this close to safety… They couldn't freeze to death now. Leaning his forehead against the wheel, he prayed silently again and turned the key in the ignition.

The car started.

"Hold on, buddy," Don said, cranking up the heat and using the wipers to shake most of the fresh powder loose from his windshield. "I'm going to get you out of here."

He started driving out of the parking area only to realize the tree branches over the trailhead had kept it fairly free of snow. The road had no such protection. Even his SUV was barely able to get more than a few feet before it started to stick. Don had to use every technique he'd learned from Billy about driving in snow just to get them the quarter mile downhill to the cabin. There was no way they were getting down the mountain in the storm. They were on their own.

Don pulled into the cabin's small parking area, almost unable to distinguish Charlie's Prius, it was so buried in the snow. Shutting off the engine, he braced himself to walk the final steps he needed to get Charlie inside.

"Just a little bit further," he said, more to the heavens than himself. "Please…"

He pulled the back door open and tugged Charlie into his arms, gasping as the extra weight made the pain in his leg flare even more strongly.

He fumbled with the key in the door, but got it open, barely getting it shut behind them as he headed over to the room's bed, laying Charlie on it.

He stripped him quickly and efficiently, pulling off all the wet outerwear until he was naked and dry. Then Don ripped all the sheets and blankets off the bed and cocooned them around Charlie, lifting him and carrying him to the fireplace across the room. He'd helped Charlie pick it out, arguing in favor of the motorized hopper of wood pellets that fed it instead of logs. The fact that he'd turned it up before he left meant the room was very warm now and hopefully Charlie would recover fast enough to not need hospitalization.

As Don laid him right in front of the flames, he felt loathe to let him leave his arms, setting him down gently with a brief yet emotional kiss to his motionless lips.

"I'm so sorry, buddy. I'm sorry. This is all my fault. I was ready to take the pain of letting you go, but it never occurred to me it would hurt you too."

Knowing he was in bad shape as well, Don finally took a moment to strip off his own damp gear, crawling over to the bed for his bathrobe and an ace bandage from his duffle bag to wrap up his knee until he could get to a doctor.

Once he was settled he set to work on rubbing Charlie's hands and feet vigorously, trying to stimulate his circulation and warm them as best he could.

Finally, when he felt exhaustion seep in and muscle failure hit him, he leaned up against the wall and pulled Charlie and all his blankets into his lap, setting his brother's head against his shoulder so he could feel his breath against his neck and know he was still alive.

Then Don let his failing arms go lax and his legs give out, a bone deep weariness claiming him, body and soul, as he let a few salty tears fall.

He wasn't sure if he passed out or just lost time in his severely exhausted state, but when he realized Charlie was breathing a little deeper, he cupped Charlie's face in his hand to find it much warmer than before.

"That's it… Come back to me," Don whispered.

Charlie's dark eyelashes fluttered and he shifted, wincing, in Don's arms.

His first word was more air than sound, lips barely moving, but to Don it was a gift: his name once more on his brother's lips.

"Don?"

"I'm here, buddy," Don told him, holding him close, watching in relief as Charlie's eyes finally opened. "I'm right here."

Charlie's gaze was so open and loving it stole Don's breath from his chest.

"You came for me." Charlie's voice was shaky, but the conviction was undeniable. "I knew you'd come."

A tiny gasp of anguish escaped Don and he pressed fevered kisses to his brother's upturned face in relief.

"Always," he swore, a rush of love he couldn't deny filling him. Charlie's hand grasped the front of his robe like he needed something to hold onto to ground him there, to comfort him. Don fought not to hold him too tight, unsure if he was injured. "Are you okay? I mean, are you hurt?" He pulled Charlie's hands away to inspect them, but they looked normal, well-bitten fingernails and all.

"I can move everything," Charlie assured him, wiggling his fingers and sticking his toes out of the blankets to flex them, making Don pause briefly to inspect them as well. "And I'm warm again, thanks to you."

"We should probably get a doctor to check you out when we get back anyway," Don said, his attention turning back when he felt Charlie's hand by the bandage on his knee.

"What happened?" he breathed, a look of concern on his face.

Don bit his lip. "I fell. We fell actually. When I was carrying you out of the woods we slipped down an embankment. I think I tore something in my knee."

"God, Don…" Charlie all but threw himself at him, a mass of quilts coming with him, enveloping Don in both his brother's arms and fire-warmed blankets. "I'm so sorry!" Charlie's voice hitched as he buried his face in Don's neck. "You went your whole baseball career, your whole FBI career without messing up your knees and I had to blow it for you just because I was being an idiot!"

"Shh…" Don slipped his hands beneath the covers, arms molding around skin he was so grateful to feel warm under his touch, embracing his brother. "All that matters is that you're alive, you're safe and you're not hurt. I couldn't live with myself if something had happened to you out there because of me."

As he buried a hand in Charlie's curls, Don let himself sink into the sensation of having Charlie back in his arms again and just as importantly, being in Charlie's arms himself.

+

Long after they'd warmed back up, after Charlie had assured him he didn't have frostbite, after Don put the bed back together and bundled Charlie into it with a hot water bottle, Don still sat up watching his brother sleep.

Charlie's head was buried into his pillow, but his arm was thrown casually in sleep over Don's right leg since Don was sitting up against the pillows propped up against the headboard.

His left knee still throbbed mercilessly, but there was no way they were getting to a hospital any time soon, so he tried to shut it out of his thoughts. Even so, his body rebelled against sleep, mind still racing with all that might have been.

He glanced over to the nightstand. Charlie had left him a partial bottle of pain pills from his private stash and a glass of water, but Don had turned them down.

"Enough with all this macho bullshit, Don! Stop trying to be a god damned martyr all the time!

David's words haunted him now. Bradford had said the same thing to him, that Don took all the misery for himself - even misery no one needed to take. The therapist had tried to figure out why Don did it, but to no avail, but he'd warned Don to watch for that kind of behavior and ask himself why he did it.

In truth, Don wasn't sure, but getting the short end of the stick had seemed like a birthright to him. He'd identified with the burdens he'd carried his entire life; if he wasn't the one who was in charge of bearing them, who was he?

He carried the burdens for his team, his family and for his loved ones. He'd taken the blame when he and Kim had failed, he'd beaten himself up for not doing more to save Nikki Davis and now he'd decided it was on him to end this illicit relationship with Charlie because someone had to. He was the big brother; he had to do what was right, to take care of Charlie.

But Charlie hadn't asked for this, hadn't asked Don to choose between him and Robin - and Don was going to have to admit at some point that they'd split up again - and he hadn't told Don he was planning to end things between them in favor of Amita. Don had just decided it must be so and let the hurt begin because he knew it was coming anyway.

A martyr… Was it true? Could he really be denying himself happiness purely out of habit or some misguided belief that all he deserved was pain?

Glancing at the pills again, he tried to think of why he hadn't taken them. He was in pain, he had a good reason to be in pain, so why not take the simple step of swallowing a pill or two to alleviate it? He wasn't a masochist - that he knew of - but perhaps he was using the pain to hide something far more hurtful.

The idea that he'd broken things off with Charlie just to avoid the hurt of Charlie breaking things off with him when he decided he wanted Amita more… It rang a little too true. Sabotaging his relationship with Robin because he felt he didn't deserve her, going behind her back to sleep with his brother because Charlie could give him something she never could - a love so deep it ran in their blood. First through the door, taking the kill shot so no one else would have it on their conscience… Don's life just played out in front of his eyes, a series of actions all designed to make things easier on those around him yet harder on him. Don hadn't just taken the road less traveled, he'd gone off trail, all uphill and bloodied his hands climbing up the jagged rock face.

Don picked up the pill bottle and shook a pill out into his palm then, after a hesitation, a second one. He swallowed them down with the water and put the bottle and glass aside.

After about twenty minutes of staring at the wall the drugs started to seriously kick in and Don finally decided to try sleeping. Carefully he slid down into the bed. It was really warm in the cabin since he'd left the heat jacked up and Charlie's body heat had kept the bed warm as well, but it felt good, cozy almost.

Charlie adjusted to him in his sleep, wrapping an arm around his waist, tugging him in close so their naked bodies were all but pressed against each other, small slivers of heated air the only thing between them in some places.

He'd given this up. But now that Don had Charlie back in his arms he realized how wrong he'd been. This was what he wanted, wrong or not, what he needed. He never felt at rest unless he was with Charlie. He never felt like he'd done enough until Charlie convinced him he'd earned his respite. He never felt loved until the words were breathed reverently from his brother's lips. Charlie knew every one of his faults, every mistake he'd ever made, and he loved him anyway. The blessing of that stunned Don. How could he ever imagine he'd find that elsewhere?

Charlie murmured in his sleep, lips ghosting against Don's shoulder.

"Don…"

Don gazed down at him. Even in sleep Charlie loved him, thought of him, and he'd tried to send him away. No wonder Charlie had been upset. He'd always taken things too seriously, too hard, and if Don had sent him away he likely questioned if Don ever loved him.

A memory hit him of their high school years. His mother had bribed him to be nice to Charlie for one day and take him somewhere, promising him the full tank of gas he needed for a road trip with his friends the next weekend.

He'd played the part to the hilt, inviting Charlie to the batting cages with him, giving him pointers on his swing and taking him out for ice cream later. Charlie had had a great time and Don had let go and had fun himself. As long as he didn't worry about his friends seeing them together he really did have a good time with his brother. Only a week later Charlie had caught their mother paying him off for his good deed. The look of betrayal on his little brother's face broke his heart. He never forgot it.

Charlie had been better about hiding it this time. He'd run away to the cabin to indulge in his grief, but it had to feel like an even bigger betrayal. Don had shared his life, his love, his bed with Charlie, holding nothing back. Then he'd pushed him away.

Despite the drugs, Don felt a pang of pain flare in his chest. He'd been a bad brother, a bad lover, a bad person. But Charlie was still with him; it wasn't too late to make it up to him.

He had to have tightened his arm around Charlie unconsciously because when he stirred Don realized he was almost clutching him.

Charlie's eyes opened sleepily, his face golden in the dim firelight, and he furrowed his brow at his brother, frowning a little.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah," Don scoffed, giving him a good-natured grin to reassure him. "I'm good."

"Good." Charlie nestled his face in Don's neck, running a hand down his hip under the covers. "How does your leg feel?"

"The pills helped," Don admitted. "So thanks for them."

"I can't believe you actually took them," Charlie muttered, sounding surprised and a little bemused even though his voice was muffled against Don's skin. "Big bad Don Eppes - he laughs in the face of pain!"

Don pulled Charlie back at little, his expression questioning. "Do I really come off like that?"

Charlie huffed out a laugh, his thumb rubbing little circles against Don's hipbone. "Are you kidding? When I was four you told me crying was for sissies when I skinned my knee. I was four! And how many times did a coach or a trainer have to ban you from the field to keep you from playing through an injury in high school? In college? In Stockton? So yeah, that's who you are Don."

"I could change," Don countered.

Something about his tone had to have caught Charlie's attention, because Charlie propped himself up on his elbow to examine Don closely.

"This isn't about your knee anymore, is it?" His hand skated up Don's stomach to come to rest on his chest over his heart. "This is about this thing you have when it comes to us."

"Charlie…" Don closed his eyes against the words he had to force out. "What I said before, about this being bad for you…"

Charlie pressed a kiss to Don's lips abruptly and after an initial split-second of shock he responded avidly, wrapping his arms around Charlie and diving into the kiss completely. He'd missed this more than he'd been willing to admit, missed being able to give himself over to someone and being given the gift of them in return.

"I don't care about that," Charlie stressed between fervent kisses. "I can't give you up, I won't. You're a part of me, you always have been. Losing you would be like losing an aspect of myself. You can't just…"

Don silenced him with a kiss. "I won't." He pressed a finger to Charlie's lips to keep him from talking. "I was wrong, okay? I admit it. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I didn't take you or what you wanted into consideration. I should have asked you how you wanted to handle things rather than just making a decision that hurt both of us for no reason. I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry, more sorry than you can imagine because I almost lost you over it." His voice hitched a little at the end and Charlie reached up to move his hand away and embrace him tightly.

They lay like that for a while, entwined, holding each other close in a mix of relief and desperation. Don let his eyes close as he sunk a hand into Charlie's familiar curls, giving thanks he hadn't lost all this to the snow or to his own pigheadedness.

Charlie pulled back to capture his lips, pouring so much emotion into the kiss Don was overwhelmed with the amount of love Charlie had for him. All was forgiven. Charlie was back in his arms, back in his life, in his future - to stay.

"I made my choice," Charlie whispered in his ear. "Down by the pond, in the cold, I decided I wanted you. And I was willing to fight for you too."

"There's no need," Don told him. "I'm yours, no questions asked, no more protests. Whatever you want, I'm here for you."

"Right now," Charlie murmured, lips brushing his brother's as Don inhaled the air shared between their lungs, "I just want to be with you and warm."

Don's hands skimmed over Charlie's bare back before tightening, never wanting to let go.

"You've got it."

+

Don's key barely hit the apartment lock when the door opened to reveal Charlie standing there giving him a look of surprise.

"Why didn't you text me from the parking lot! I'd have come down to carry this for you!" He quickly took the heavy laptop bag from Don's shoulder and held the door so Don could limp in, leaning heavily on his cane. "You need to get that leg up."

"I know," Don told him. "I'm headed for the couch, I promise." Don hadn't been off crutches that long, but his doctor told him he was recovering quickly from the surgery he'd needed to repair the torn cartilage in his knee.

Charlie had set up what he said was a scientifically optimized foot rest in front of the couch for him after taking detailed measurements of his height and leg length and the height of the couch - with Don off and on it, because when Charlie set his mind to taking care of Don he didn't do so half-heartedly.

Don had to admit that it felt really good to put his leg up in the contraption, even if he originally had jokingly complained it affected his view of the TV set. Charlie, ever the applied mathematician, had solved that problem by going out and buying him a new TV armoire to raise it higher up.

As he settled in to his spot on the couch, Charlie came and helped him lift his leg up, stripping off the knee brace he wore to walk in so he could completely relax.

Gun, badge, cuffs and wallet went into the side table drawer to be dealt with later and Don let his head sink back against the couch as he set his cane aside.

He felt the couch dip then Charlie's fingers carding through his hair. He sank into the soothing touch, letting his breathing slow as he calmed from his workday. Even on modified desk duty stress still reigned at the Bureau, but Charlie had become a haven for him in a way Don had never allowed himself to have before.

"Dinner's going to be a little bit longer," Charlie said. "I got tied up in Curriculum Committee meetings this afternoon. Do you want something to drink?"

"A beer?" Don cracked an eye at him.

"You know I'm not giving you any beer until you're off your prescriptions," Charlie chastened.

"Just as long as you're not mean enough to give me that crappy non-alcoholic beer pretending it's the real thing."

"I'm not that mean," Charlie joshed, chuckling. "Though the next time you go to the doctor you are not hiding your cholesterol count from me."

This time it was Don's turn to chuckle. Charlie had learned to mother hen from their father apparently and even though it had been hard for Don to allow not just someone to take care of him, but to allow that he should be taken care of. Bradford had helped in that department. Charlie had been surprised when Don asked Charlie to go to sessions with him, but once he saw the breakthrough and got over the shock he'd been supportive about helping Don get over his martyr complex and accept more help and support and even love, even if they didn't share the extent of that love in Bradford's office.

"I'm good," Don said and truly he was content. Charlie curled into his side, laying his head on Don's shoulder, an arm around his waist. They sat in peaceful silence for a while, just letting the day fall away.

Letting out a long breath, Don opened his eyes and his gaze fell on the cane Charlie had bought for him - a walking stick he'd called it, making a joke about how the well dressed gentlemen all had fancy ones. It was a nice one: a polished stained wood that broke down into sections in case he wanted to eventually carry it in his laptop bag for bad days once he transitioned off it. The handle and fittings were brass, antiqued so it wasn't too shiny. The handle was in the design of a wooden log; the first sight of it had thrown Don back so violently to the fallen tree he'd found Charlie by he'd been speechless for a long moment before he was able to thank his brother for the gift.

Seeing it helped him to remember what had happened, what he'd almost lost, what he'd almost given away for no good reason other than his own stubborn desire to own his misery.

He pressed a kiss to Charlie's curls and it made Charlie look up at him, cocking his head as he tried to suss out the expression on Don's face.

"Everything all right up there?" he asked, tapping Don's temple.

"Isn't that my line?" Don countered with a smile, his eyes crinkling up at the sides as he tugged Charlie in closer, enjoying the feel of his warmth beside him, the feel of him in his arms, the knowledge Charlie was his now and he didn't have to worry about anyone else taking him away.

"Turnabout is fair play, bro," Charlie teased.

Don huffed, smirking. He'd always been the one to take care of Charlie. Now Charlie was taking care of him. He hadn't seen it coming, but he liked what he saw in his future - for once in his life.

"Fair enough," he agreed, nodding. "I can handle that."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 14th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)
Confession Part 1
I wrote this fic (which ended up WAY longer than planned!) as a holiday gift for supremely sweet t_vo0810 because she decided to give me a seriously kick ass present which I must remain mum about for a while longer. /zips lip/ Suffice to say despite this fic turning out to be far more epic than intended, I'm still coming out with the better end of the deal. (Which is okay, because T still has a birthday/first reader thank you fic coming. /grins/)

Tis the season for craving winter themed fic and around this time of year I go back and read Flurries (Don/Charlie snowy cabin H/C fic) and Backcountry (Don/Billy snowy skiing H/C fic). This request from T was to ping that craving for snowy goodness along with the carry kink we share. Sadly, the carrying doesn't work for me, but I think that's because I wrote it, which really sucks. But T assures me she likes it (and Mel backs her up and they are the Braintwins ™ so I cannot mount a rebuttal Hehehe) so I am releasing it as is hoping it pings someone else's carry kink. If not, you can join the 'face nestled in crook of the neck' kink club with us. /big grin/ Regardless, there's naked cuddling so no bad there, right?

I confess I did not have a good experience writing this fic. I will hold my tongue about it (well to some extent), but mostly I felt like it was a retread of what I or someone else perhaps had already done. I can't put a finger on it, other than to say it was inspired by Flurries on purpose, but Mel and T have assured me it's not tired and actually does offer a reasonably fresh perspective on the cest compared to other fic in the fandom. I am endeavoring to believe them, wary as I am, but on their advice I'm publishing the fic as is without making major changes, hoping readers find value and enjoyment in the tale. (Oh and hoping they don't scratch their heads at the very structured first section and the fact that structure is summarily abandoned past that. /shakes head at muse/)

Not that it matters, but the original title of the fic was The Bitter Cold of Being Alone. It felt too long and too pretentious so I cut it back, figuring people would get the idea that while Charlie had left himself out in the cold (literally) to ill effect, Don had left himself out in the bitter cold (figuratively speaking, and his was indeed bitter) of his own accord as well, anticipating misery as a result.

Please read Confession Part 2 for more random comments on the fic.

Very special thanks to betas melissima and t_vo0810 for their assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais

Edited at 2009-12-14 10:52 am (UTC)
t_vo0810: don's a happy campert_vo0810 on December 14th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Confession Part 1
seriously kick ass present /giggles maniacally/ :D:D:D

T still has a birthday/first reader thank you fic coming SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But T assures me she likes it (and Mel backs her up and they are the Braintwins ™ so I cannot mount a rebuttal Hehehe) so I am releasing it as is hoping it pings someone else's carry kink. If not, you can join the 'face nestled in crook of the neck' kink club with us. /big grin/ Regardless, there's naked cuddling so no bad there, right?
Braintwins are always right. You would do well to listen to us. :) why does this statement make me feel like Mel and I are from the Village of the Damned?
a carry kink and face in neck kink all wrapped up in one lovely sweet fic?! i am in heaven! and there is NEVER any bad with nekked cuddling. NEVER. :)

It is an homage to Flurries, not a retread. What amazes me the most is how you had an endless ability to make fic new and fresh, even an eppescest hurt/comfort fic. This particular perspective on Don (post and ongoing therapy!don) feels quite new and different to me. like the fic happens in season 5 but ends in season 6- and i have seen very little cest fic that is season 5 or 6 with that new don perspective, so kudos to you. trust us already, it's awesome.

ok off to actually read it now! I read ur confession first and it cracked me up so i just had to comment. :D :D :D
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 14th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
Confession Part 2
Some random comments about the fic...

There is some truth to this premise, in case anyone was wondering. Yes, there is snow in them there hills. Yes, there is hiking in the snow at 7,000 feet. Yes, Devil's Canyon exists in the Angeles National Forest and it is all uphill on the way back. (Ow.) Yes, it can be dangerous. (This I know from experience. OW.) And yes, there are some properties that were allowed to remain private property despite the fact they are essentially surrounded by national forest. I heard a rumor once Kevin Costner owned one of them. Not too shabby. That area is very near Pasadena so it would not be a long way as the crow flies from the Eppes house, just a long drive with all the mountain switchbacks as the road climbs.

FWIW, if anyone remembers the bit in Pandora's Box where Charlie hears about the plane crash and says he could be there by dawn? Ha! What a joke. It's practically in his own backyard. He'd have a hard time making the drive last 3 hours much less all night. Compare that to Don sending Colby and David down by the Mexican border to pick up a suspect and telling local law to wait for them to get there. Um. That's going to be a minimum 3 hour drive on a *good* day. So wait for them to get there? Yeah, why don't you just drive him across the border because you're giving him plenty of time to get away. /rolls eyes/ I tell you, it's almost a curse to know California well enough that when you watch shows set there you keep pointing out the inconsistencies. (15 minutes from Pasadena to the Federal Building on Wilshire? ROFL Not even with sirens going and an empty freeway!) Okay, okay, I'll stop now, but seriously. At least in my story I tried to make it fairly correct. (I did fudge some things, like the length of the trail and the amount of snow at the trailhead, but nothing crucial.)

An interesting point: the action Charlie takes when he has hypothermia, however ill-advised, has a name. It's called terminal burrowing. Score another one for Wikipedia! ;-)

Edited at 2009-12-14 10:54 am (UTC)
uld_numb3rsuld_numb3rs on December 14th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
The Bitter Cold
Ah!

*Hugs*

I love those two! Really, Don needs a serious kick in his ass sometimes and learn that he can let his brother takes care of him!

Tamanna: don sunshineswingandswirl on December 14th, 2009 12:53 pm (UTC)
Aww!

You know I'm not a huge fan of incest but given that this was one of your stories I thought I'd give it a whirl... and I'm glad I did!

What always strikes me about your work is how real the characters are- this is so totally in character for Don, wanting Charlie to be happy, finding a perverse sort of satisfaction in misery until something jolts him out of it. And your Charlie is lovely as well, not wanting to give Don up, wanting to fight for him. You even made me feel a little bad for Amita- unlike in many other stories, here she's just a good person in a bad situation. I hope she finds someone in any sequels you might write... *cough*hinthint*cough*

And your ending, with Charlie taking care of Don, and Don letting him, was just the perfect finish to an already stellar fic. Brava!
riverotter1951riverotter1951 on December 14th, 2009 03:04 pm (UTC)
You wrote: tell you, it's almost a curse to know California well enough that when you watch shows set there you keep pointing out the inconsistencies.

I have the exact same problem. The one I remember most is in The Graduate. The gal is coming down the stairs on a college campus that supposed to be UC Berkeley. They are the steps of Royce Hall at USC where my husband got his Masters.

Excellent story with Don and Charlie realizing how much they love each other.
t_vo0810: Imp Charliet_vo0810 on December 14th, 2009 05:46 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I am in totally agreement with swingandswirl. Ur penchant for character voices and behaviors is so authentic with this one, it strangely feels canon. As I told you before, your Don evokes Arrow of Time end of season 5, your Charlie feels of the same canon period, very much like the Charlie in Disturbed where he buried his feelings by burying himself in that serial killer case. So I adore the metaphor of him being buried in the snow. David being the one to stand up to Don was spot on as he has come into his own on the show. And Amita is very sympathetic here as she really does love Charlie, which only serves to wratched up the stress and hurt and angst. And I already told you how much i love your portrayal of Robin here- so the strong, capable woman who is not going to be satisfied with Don if his heart is really with Charlie. Brava! Emma, brava!

Charlie's head lolled, eyelashes dusted with fine ice crystals, lips pale, almost no longer pink......Don pressed a kiss to his forehead. "I'm going to get you out of here, buddy. I promise. I'm going to take care of you.".......Don cried out as his leg twisted beneath him, his knee going the wrong way. He righted it, gritting his teeth hard, and checked on Charlie............Leaning his forehead against the wheel, he prayed silently again and turned the key in the ignition...

That whole passage just had me tense and upset and biting my nails in sympathy. You could FEEL Don's panic and worry and guilt just pouring off the page. Sooooo fricking goooooooooood.

Don had to use every technique he'd learned from Billy about driving in snow just to get them the quarter mile downhill to the cabin. Squeeeeee! billy reference ftmfw!!!!!! see the canon writers could take lessons from you- little cookies of referring to past canon characters is made of nothing but win!

ok, I can already tell this is gonna be a two parter so i am stopping now and posting a second comment before lj cuts me off. :D
t_vo0810: don's a happy campert_vo0810 on December 14th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Charlie's voice hitched as he buried his face in Don's neck. GUH. First carrying him and then this? God you give great kink. :)

Charlie adjusted to him in his sleep, wrapping an arm around his waist, tugging him in close so their naked bodies were all but pressed against each other, small slivers of heated air the only thing between them in some places.
GUH UNF HUMMINA I loved this. yummeh warm cozy nekkid cuddling. guh.

The idea that he'd broken things off with Charlie just to avoid the hurt of Charlie breaking things off with him when he decided he wanted Amita more… It rang a little too true. Sabotaging his relationship with Robin because he felt he didn't deserve her, going behind her back to sleep with his brother because Charlie could give him something she never could - a love so deep it ran in their blood. First through the door, taking the kill shot so no one else would have it on their conscience… Don's life just played out in front of his eyes, a series of actions all designed to make things easier on those around him yet harder on him. Don hadn't just taken the road less traveled, he'd gone off trail, all uphill and bloodied his hands climbing up the jagged rock face.
That whole paragraph is nothing but WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Charlie had been better about hiding it this time. He'd run away to the cabin to indulge in his grief, but it had to feel like an even bigger betrayal. Don had shared his life, his love, his bed with Charlie, holding nothing back. Then he'd pushed him away.
poor woobie!charlie with the sad face and now don gets that he just put him thru the same thing as an adult with bigger and badder consequences. I love this. If there is anything I could point to and say 'that is why distraught Charlie got lost in the snow' it would be this paragraph right here. It explains it beautifully.

"Right now," Charlie murmured, lips brushing his brother's as Don inhaled the air shared between their lungs, "I just want to be with you and warm."

Don's hands skimmed over Charlie's bare back before tightening, never wanting to let go.

"You've got it."


So quiet and lovely and sweet. and wonderfully satisfying. I loved the feelings this part evoked. The whole cozy warm love bubble in the middle of a blizzard, isolated from everything except each other. guh.

because when Charlie set his mind to taking care of Don he didn't do so half-heartedly. I loved this. and the mother hen bit too.

Don huffed, smirking. He'd always been the one to take care of Charlie. Now Charlie was taking care of him. He hadn't seen it coming, but he liked what he saw in his future - for once in his life.

God I adore this happy fluffy domesticky ending. It's like really good pillow talk in post-coital glow, when all u can see is happiness stretching out from your feet into the future. A lovely cap to all the angst and drama.

Thank you for my giftie, Emms! I really appreciate you working to make it so delish and hit my kinks even tho you weren't exactly feeling it while u were writing. U really are so good to me. I feel very grateful not just for this lovely fic, but for such a lovely wonderful talented friend. :D Expect more of your present today! Happy Holidays.
rubynye: Back to Back (Numb3rs)rubynye on December 14th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
This was a blast from the past! Like 2006 all over again.

*burrows into this story*
devon99 on December 14th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
*draws hearts all around this fic*

You knew I'd love this right? And I do.

"You came for me." Charlie's voice was shaky, but the conviction was undeniable. "I knew you'd come."

Charlie knew every one of his faults, every mistake he'd ever made, and he loved him anyway.

Even in sleep Charlie loved him, thought of him, and he'd tried to send him away

Totally squeeworthy ♥

boymommytotwo: eppes brosboymommytotwo on December 18th, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC)
ok miss emma...
i've been gone a while, and what a treat to start my journey back through fic i've missed the last six+ months with _this_... what i LOVED about this fic was the ornate way you told the story without dialogue! it seemed a really unique opportunity you created. it just struck me as an impressive use of description and flashback and imagery and analogy all rolled into one... it was amazing.

and of COURSE the whole d/c thing was flawless. you made me feel these feelings so deeply, as they were, so immediately. you are a queen!

~a
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 18th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: ok miss emma...
Hey! Welcome back! Nice to see you!

And thanks for this lovely comment. /gives you cookies/ This fic kind of came out of nowhere and was rather unusual for me so I'm glad it worked for you.

I'm sure you've figured this out by now, but Irena's back too! Yay! So it's a nice time to come back and read fic. Enjoy!
Leahprairie_city on January 17th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
Silly Don. I'm glad he learned and let himself be human, and when he took the pills! I don't know why, but the way you wrote that bit...gave me chills. *hugs Don*

And Charlie at the end!! *hugs Charlie too*
Leahprairie_city on January 17th, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
Good chills, I mean. Hehe.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on January 17th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Oh good! There are times I try for creepy chills and such, but this one was more about the emotional development Don goes through about his martyr complex and such.

And hey, if something called The Bitter Cold doesn't give you any chills then I haven't done my job right! /grins/