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22 December 2009 @ 11:59 pm
Numb3rs Fic: No Good Here  
Posted to numb3rs_slash
Crossposted to eppescest


Title: No Good Here
Pairing/Characters: Don/Charlie, David, William Bradford, Philip Wright
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Seasons 1-5, Friendly Fire
Summary: After the shooting house incident Charlie consoles his brother (Post-Ep for Friendly Fire)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


"Let me through, damn it! Let me through!"

Charlie all but fought his way through the crowd of FBI agents swarming around the shooting house, frantic eyes scanning for the familiar head of his brother amidst the anonymous bodies milling around a place that was never intended to be a crime scene.

He made his way up the stairs to find Don sitting on the top step, head in his hands. Even though he couldn't see his brother's face, Charlie could feel the grief come off him in waves so powerful they rocked him back on his feet. Don's body was curled in on itself in pain: shoulders slumped, head hung low, all of his wonderful strength washed away, leaving behind a man small and weak where his untouchable big brother once was.

It hurt Charlie - physically - to see Don like this. He'd seen Don through losing an agent in the line of duty. He'd kept him safe the nights he ploughed through the Scotch after a kill shot. But this time Don had taken the life of a fellow agent - one he knew, liked, respected, what's worse, one he identified with. This had to feel something like suicide, killing the man who seemed like his future self. He didn't know how to salve a wound that cut this deep, but he had to do something; he had to try.

"Don?" His voice came out more of a choked out whisper as he stood a few steps down from his brother, empathy already tight in his chest.

When Don raised his head, Charlie's breath caught. His brother's eyes were red, anguish cutting deep lines into his face, and the light sheen of hastily wiped away tears still marred both his cheeks.

"Charlie…"

They were supposed to be careful in public, to be mindful of how and how much they touched, but when Charlie sat down beside him his arm went around him and he pulled Don in close, caring only to offer what comfort he could.

"He made me shoot him," Don mumbled, distraught, clutching at the edge of Charlie's jacket as if he needed something to hold on to to ground him. The agonizing decision he'd had to make had clearly shaken him to the core. "He didn't give me any choice."

"I know, I know," Charlie soothed, unable to keep the emotion from cracking his voice. "I'm so sorry." Whatever sorrow he'd felt when he broke the news to Don in the locker room about Pete's involvement in the deaths of his fellow agents was nothing compared to how it felt to see Don like this. His math hadn't predicted this outcome and it certainly didn't prepare Charlie for it either.

He kept his arm tight around Don, listening to his haggard breathing, not expecting him to speak. After a few minutes Don's hand relaxed and let go, his breathing deepening as he regained control.

With a startling revelation, Charlie realized his brother's ever steady hands were actually shaking. More scared than he wanted to let on, he just held on, hoping his presence would help Don find the calm he needed to recover from his shock.

+

"Agent Eppes?"

Don stood up so fast Charlie was jostled, but he stood up as well at the sight of the assistant director coming up the stairs to meet them.

"Yes, sir," Don answered, standing up straight.

Charlie faded into the background, allowing Don some space, but staying near enough to overhear.

"I understand you surrendered your service weapon to Agent Collins?"

"I did. Agent Collins took both Agent Fox's gun and mine into evidence."

"Good," Philip said with a nod. "I know you've made a statement already, but you're going to need to come back to the office and make a formal one - tonight."

"Yes, sir."

Philip softened a little. "I've seen the surveillance footage already. It's a good shoot, Don. But you know we have to go through an investigation whenever any agent shoots another agent."

"Yes, sir. I understand completely. The Bureau has my full and complete cooperation."

"Good man." Philip patted him on the shoulder. "I'll see you in my office in twenty minutes then."

"I'll be there."

Once Philip descended the stairs and was out of sight, Don sank back down on to the stair as if that small amount of effort had drained whatever he had left in him.

Charlie rushed back to his side, putting his arm around him again, only to have Don feel stiff in his arms - his shields back in position again.

"I heard the A.D. He said it was a good shoot," Charlie said, trying to sound encouraging.

Don let out a long huff of a breath, dragging a hand through his hair. "Don't you get it, Charlie?" He raised himself back to standing with great difficulty as if gravity had been tripled, pulling him down. He took a wooden step or two down the stairs, shaking his head before pausing to look back at his brother. "There's no good here."

He clomped down the stairs and Charlie went after him, following him out of the shooting house.

As they passed all eyes were on Don, all conversation ended. He walked past, acknowledging none of them, and Charlie followed silently in his wake.

Once they got outside Don fished out his car keys but only got as far as watching his hand shake as he held them. He shoved them back in his pocket and turned to Charlie, waiting expectantly by his side.

"Can you drive me back to the office?"

"Of course."

This wasn't a time to talk about Charlie's driving skills, or lack of them, so he just shut his mouth and unlocked the Prius doors with his remote.

Don got in and immediately shifted the seat back all the way, putting on his seatbelt as Charlie got in the car and did the same before starting it up.

However small a task, at least this was something he could do to help.

+

The drive was brief. Don spent it staring out the window and Charlie spent it driving as careful as possible and glancing over at Don at red lights.

Knowing Don had little time to get to his meeting with the A.D., Charlie dropped him off at the entrance.

"I'll be waiting in your office - for however long it takes," Charlie told him sincerely. "I'm taking you home when this is all over. No questions."

Don just nodded, mind elsewhere, and shut the car door.

Charlie watched him walk into the Federal building. It felt strange to think of Don walking in without a gun on his hip, but at least they'd let him keep his badge. Suddenly Charlie felt a rush of fear. Don had many enemies and here he was, unarmed and unprotected. He'd never asked Don if he had a gun of his own, but now he actually hoped he did.

Pulling into the parking garage, he turned off the car and sat in it for a moment. He had no plan for later, feeling completely ill equipped to get Don through a trauma of this magnitude. Even the death of their mother didn't compare.

An idea hit him and he bolted from the car, almost forgetting to lock it in his rush to get upstairs.

At Don's desk he knew where he kept his phone book, flipping it open to the Bs. Sure enough there was an office line and an emergency line for William Bradford.

Using his cell phone so he'd have the number in his memory just in case, Charlie dialed the emergency line.

"Bradford."

"Hi, this is Charlie Eppes, Don Eppes' brother?"

"Charlie!" He could tell from William's voice he remembered him. "Is everything okay? Is Don all right?"

"No, he's not." Charlie sunk into Don's chair, burying a hand in his hair as he talked. "There was a shooting tonight. Don killed someone."

"Don's taken a life in the line of duty before, Charlie," William said patiently. "That's not new to him."

"This wasn't a normal shooting," Charlie protested. "It was someone he knew, a fellow FBI agent. This man was his mentor and he made Don shoot him."

There was a quiet curse then a few seconds of silence. "Is Don at the Bureau offices now?"

"Yes. He's in with A.D. Wright," Charlie answered.

"I'll be right there. Sit tight for now and don't let him leave until I get to talk to him, okay?"

"Okay. And thank you."

"Charlie?" William said before he hung up. "I'm glad you called."

"I just want to help him," Charlie lamented.

"Me too. I'll see you there."

Charlie snapped the phone closed and made himself take a long breath. He didn't know how long they'd be there, but he was prepared to wait as long as it took.

+

David, as second in command for Don, had been called in, but he'd been sure to keep the rest of the team away, somehow knowing this was a time to give Don space instead of crowding him in a show of support.

He made sure food and coffee got put down in front of Charlie, but Charlie couldn't seem to stomach much of it, nerves churning his stomach in worry for Don.

When David got the call to come upstairs, Charlie knew it was probably coming to a close. It was coming up on midnight at that point and there was only so much that could be done that same night.

He was almost taken aback when Don emerged solo from the elevator, walking slowly as if completely exhausted.

"I have to grab my stuff from the locker room," Don said, bypassing him by walking down another aisle. "I'll be ready to go in a minute or two."

"Did you talk to Bradford?" Charlie called after him.

Don didn't miss a step, answering over his shoulder. "Yeah, I did."

As if on cue, William emerged from another elevator just as Don disappeared.

He spotted Charlie and came over, glancing around.

"Don's in the locker room getting his stuff," Charlie explained. "So what's going on?"

"Don's definitely in a bad place right now," William admitted. "But he's got his head on straight; he knows he did what he had to do and he accepts that. It's just going to hurt like hell for a while and he has to go through that pain to come out on the other side."

"What can I do to help?" Charlie asked.

"Don't leave him alone," William suggested. "At least not for the first 24 hours. Try to keep him from drinking too much. Don't try to stop him from drinking entirely - that will probably just set him off. And call me if his behavior gets irrational or violent." He gave Charlie his business card. "Use the emergency number even if it's during my office hours. This is important."

Charlie nodded solemnly, pocketing the card. "I will. Thank you."

"He's off duty for at least a couple of days," William told him. "This sort of shooting is always followed up with administrative leave. So keep close, keep an eye on him and don't try to get him to talk if he's not up for it."

"Got it."

They both frowned when they heard the sound of a hammer pounding nearby and walked over to see what it was.

Don stood at the Wall of Martyrs with two framed photographs. As he hung the first one on the wall, William leaned over and spoke quietly in his ear. "He's going to be okay."

As William withdrew, heading for the elevators to leave, Charlie watched Don hang the second framed photograph, adjusting it so it was straight.

Charlie watched Don scrub his face as he gazed at the wall of agents who had died in the line of duty. A sharp pang sliced through his chest as he watched his rock solid big brother hold out a hand and watch it visibly shake before him.

Unable to bear it any longer, Charlie came up behind him, laying a hand on his shoulder and his forehead against Don's back.

"Please. Let me take you home."

A long moment passed and finally Don shifted, moving to face him. His expression was drawn, his skin pale, almost ashen. Charlie had never seen him look so old.

"Okay. Let's go."

+

Charlie was unsurprised when Don walked through the door of his apartment and headed for the Scotch. What was a surprise was that he brought the bottle and a glass to the coffee table, set them down, then just stared at them.

Charlie stood watching a moment, unsure how to react, afraid to interfere in what clearly was an ongoing decision.

"I don't want to go there," Don said eventually. "I know if I do…" He pushed them away at which Charlie stepped in, removing the bottle and glass and putting them away for him. "It's just not going to help."

"Nothing will, except time," Charlie said softly. "But for what it's worth I'm here with you. You won't be alone."

He moved closer, only to have Don stand up and move away.

"I'm going to go take a shower," he told Charlie, heading for the bathroom without looking back.

"Okay."

In a matter of seconds the shower turned on and Charlie hovered outside, waiting for the telltale shift in the frequency of water droplets hitting tile versus the water droplets hitting a human body.

It didn't come.

Charlie sank down outside the bathroom door, leaning against the frame, wanting desperately to go in there and console Don knowing what he was going through, but needing to honor that privacy Don felt he needed to really let go.

From time to time he heard a hitching breath in there, echoes of a broken sob, and it strained his resolve to remain outside, impotent to help. His own eyes prickled with sadness, but he fought them back, needing to stay strong for his brother in repayment for all the times he'd been there for him.

Eventually he did hear Don get in the shower and he finally moved away then, trying to find something to do so it didn't look like he'd waited.

He belatedly remembered to call his father's voicemail and leave a message letting him know he'd be at Don's for the next day or two and not to worry. He'd already subtly taken over a drawer and a corner of the closet so he had plenty of clothes to keep him for the short term. A second call took care of his responsibilities at Cal Sci for the near future.

Futzing around the kitchen he noticed the dishwasher hadn't been emptied and set himself to doing that, following it up by prepping the coffee machine for the next morning. Business as usual felt like the right thing to do; pretend all was normal.

Don came out dressed only in his pajama bottoms and plopped down on a kitchen chair. His hair was damp and askew and his eyes were bloodshot red as he stared at his hands.

Charlie poured him a glass of water and put it down in front of him, nudging it into his hands. Don drank it all at once, as if ordered to, then held it between his fingers, turning it in a circle as he stared at it.

"Do you want anything to eat before bed?" Charlie asked, finishing up.

Don shook his head. "But if you want something, go ahead."

"I'm good. David made me eat at the office." It wasn't a complete lie. He had managed a few bites. He shifted behind Don, wrapping his arms around his brother's neck as he enjoyed the warmth of Don's back against him. Don didn't fight him, but he didn't mold to Charlie's body either. Eventually he gave Don a kiss to the side of his neck and let him go. "I'm going to go get ready for bed, okay?"

He hesitated, hoping for some sort of response, but Don just kept turning the empty glass in his hands. Charlie could hear him doing it even after he was gone.

+

When he got out of the bathroom, dressed in his boxers, he found Don gazing out the bedroom window to the street below. They normally kept the blinds shut tight for obvious reasons, so it was a little alarming to see them wide open and Don standing shirtless right in plain sight.

"Everything okay out there?" Charlie asked, taking care to stay clear.

"Huh?" Don turned away from the window, shutting the blinds again. "There's nothing going on out there."

He turned and plopped down on the edge of the bed and Charlie crawled across the bed to sit behind him, rubbing his shoulders.

At first Don was stiff, but in time began to melt under Charlie's hands. Shifting closer, Charlie wrapped his legs around Don, putting his arms around his middle as he laid his head against Don's bare back. He could feel each intake of breath, each expansion of his rib cage - each one precious to him.

"You could have died today." Charlie hadn't intended on saying the words aloud, but they came.

"The Pete I knew," Don murmured, his voice resonating in his body to Charlie's ear, "would never have been able to shoot me."

"That wasn't the Pete you knew," Charlie reminded him quietly.

"No," Don admitted. "It wasn't."

Charlie drew his hands up Don's chest, rubbing them across the brush of chest hair there, slow and soothing. He lifted his head and kissed the back of Don's neck.

"Come to bed."

He withdrew, tugging at Don to come along and he finally relented, letting Charlie draw back the covers and settle him in bed.

Their normal pattern was for Don to lay on his back and stare at the ceiling while Charlie laid his head on Don's chest, but this time Charlie pulled him to lay his head on Charlie's stomach.

Threading his fingers through Don's hair, Charlie spoke, his voice quiet yet firm.

"What happened today was not your fault. There was nothing you could have done differently. You know what suicide by cop is and you know it's not fair to the person who has to pull that trigger. It's a coward's way out and you shouldn't have to pay the price for it. He was your friend a long time ago. He wasn't your friend anymore. I'm sorry that the man you respected is gone, but he's not you. You're not him. You're not going to follow in his footsteps. You're a good man and I swear to you, I swear…" Charlie paused to make his point. "I will never ever let you go astray, do you hear me?" Never."

There was a long bout of silence, but Charlie was certain Don wasn't asleep. He just waited him out, resting a hand on his back to let him know he was there.

Eventually Don shifted, muttering, "I have to turn off the alarm clock." He sat up, reaching for it, and shut it off. "No sense waking up early if I don't have anywhere to go."

"It's late," Charlie said when he failed to get back into bed. "We should try to get some rest even if you don't have to get up early."

His fingers trailed along Don's arm and that was enough to get him to move. He turned off the lamp by the side of the bed and wordlessly took his place staring at the ceiling.

With a sigh of resignation, Charlie took his place as well, figuring at least this way he could physically console Don with his presence.

"Try to sleep," he soothed, wrapping an arm around Don as he pillowed his head on his brother's chest. "Things will be better in the morning."

+

Don's sleep was fitful, almost violently so, and he woke Charlie up repeatedly leaving him worried - watching helplessly knowing whatever nightmare he was going through it was probably better than waking to the reality of what he'd done. Nightmares were easily forgotten in the light of day - facts, not so much.

Just before dawn he got up for a drink of water, bringing a glass for Don's nightstand in case he wanted some when he woke, hoping to encourage him back to sleep as quickly as possible. Every hour he slept was an hour passed without the pain of knowledge and that was a gift Charlie could give him, half tempted to bring him sleeping pills as well.

Though Don had shown no interest at all in sex before bed, Charlie knew that was another tool in his arsenal when it came to his battle to keep Don from losing himself in his head. He prepared himself, slipping out of his boxers as well in case Don should wake early and need distracting.

He had to have dozed off for a while because when he looked again Don's water glass was half empty and Don was back in the throes of another nightmare, this one particularly violent.

Against his better judgment, Charlie reached for a flailing arm as it came at him and grabbed hold, activating Don's rapid-fire reflexes. Don had him pinned to the mattress, blinking at him in the dim light of dawn sneaking around the blinds before he came to his senses.

As he watched Don's expression start to shift into awareness Charlie knew he had to act fast. Catching Don still off guard he put all his strength into flipping them, pinning Don to the mattress - counting on those reflexes to keep kicking in.

Don countered a split second after it hit him and the struggle was on. Charlie held nothing back, knowing he had to make it convincing, knowing he had to in order to be any match for Don's superior strength and speed.

Even though Don had him pinned again right away, Charlie kept fighting, only now his goal was more arousal than getting free. The more he rubbed his body against Don's the more he led him down the brainless path he wanted him to head towards.

Don's gaze took in his naked state hungrily and Charlie knew he'd won. If Don was thinking about sex he wasn't thinking about killing Pete, so he kept it up, needing Don to keep reacting, reacting without thinking, without pausing.

How Don managed to keep him pinned while he tore his own pajama pants off Charlie wasn't sure, but when his brother threw his legs over his shoulders, Charlie relaxed his body enough to admit him while still keeping his hands and arms engaged in the struggle for show.

Finally Don pinned both wrists to the mattress, wildly pummeling his ass with coarse grunts and gut-wrenching force, slamming in so hard Charlie had the breath all but knocked out of him with each thrust.

Charlie filled the air with his own harsh pants twinned in time with the headboard banging against the wall, straining against Don's grip to keep him engaged even as he watched him start to fall apart.

As Don finally stiffened, going taut above him with a wail, Charlie quickly weaseled an arm free and took his own cock in hand - taking care of that final nudge over the edge he needed for his own completion - then collapsed with Don as they gasped in their utter exhaustion.

"Go back to sleep," Charlie whispered as Don rolled off him. "Sleep…"

He watched as Don's head sank into his pillow and he drifted off again, Charlie letting out a silent sigh of relief. He'd dodged a bullet, but the next one was loaded and waiting for Don to wake for good.

+

Charlie had hoped he'd be the first to wake in the morning, but Don was always the early riser between them: programmed with military precision to get up early because the FBI doesn't do slackers. Charlie, on the other hand, had years of few or later morning classes and many late nights on top of his rock star ability to blow off obligations and escape all but the most finger wagging of criticisms from the administration.

So when Charlie opened his eyes to find Don still he hoped it was from sleep. Then he looked closer to find Don staring at the ceiling, no way of knowing how long he'd been awake.

Charlie squinted at the clock: 9AM. That was definitely sleeping late for Don, more normal for him, though he felt completely unrested after such a fitful night. He'd had trouble falling asleep after their adrenaline fueled sex, worried Don wouldn't fall asleep then worried about what he'd do when Don woke. Now that Don was awake he felt totally ill-prepared to do anything to help.

Acting purely on instinct, he slipped into his place curled up against Don's side, pressing a kiss to his neck before settling his head on his brother's chest.

"I love you."

Apart from a slight tightening of Don's arm as it slipped into place around him, there was no reaction.

Charlie let his hand caress Don's chest, traveling in soothing circles over his ribs then his stomach, his arm, roaming anywhere there was skin aiming to calm not to seduce. He could feel the muscles beneath his hand go from tense to relaxed so he shifted after a while to give himself better access to his body, finally nudging Don to roll over so he could do a proper job rubbing his back.

Surprisingly Don obeyed, letting Charlie straddle him and get to work on his back. Charlie had learned early on Don stored his emotion in his body, but never said anything for fear of alerting Don to that tiny Achilles' heel of information. His work stress got to him around the neck and shoulders. Grief was in his chest and rib cage. Worry was in his low back and temples. Anger tightened his arms and jaw. Whenever Don winced as Charlie worked a spot or told him to back off a little Charlie knew that was where his trouble lay.

Today it felt like every part of Don's body was tense and it made sense in a way. He was grieving the loss of his friend, he was in trouble at work for the shooting, he was angry at Pete for putting him in that position and on top of it worried about his own future, given how badly his mentor's career had turned out in the end.

It drained Charlie, but he put all his energy into his hands kneading out every knot, loosening every tight spot, even flipping him back over to do a more thorough job on his chest.

When he finally couldn't do any more, he pulled back, doing his best to hide his aching limbs.

"I'm going to draw you a hot bath. You should soak these muscles out now that I've worked on them."

"Okay." Don's response was rote, but at least he'd agreed.

Charlie left to go start the tub filling, glancing back from the bathroom to see Don was back exactly where he'd found him upon waking: staring at the ceiling.

+

Don liked the water wicked hot, hotter than his apartment building's water heater could manage, so once he was in the tub Charlie went and put a kettle on to boil water to add. It wouldn't get it as hot as the trainer's hot tub he had during baseball, but he hoped Don would appreciate the extra effort.

The steam rising off the water had already clouded the mirrors near opaque in his absence and Charlie pulled up the low stool from the corner to sit on as he poured the boiling water in with a potholder over his hand. As long as he added the water slowly, away from Don's body and in different areas it wouldn't scald him.

Don's eyes went to the water flowing, watching it pour, seeming almost transfixed by the sight and sound - unsurprising since it was the only thing moving or making noise in the room save the fan overhead choking on the steam as it tried to suck it out of the small room.

Once done, Charlie returned the kettle to the kitchen and came back, moving the stool to sit beside Don. Unsure how to touch him, he reached out offering his palm to Don's cheek, grateful when he turned into it - his morning beard rough against Charlie's hand.

"I'm here." Charlie's voice almost caught on the words so he focused on returning some strength to his tone, wanting to reassure Don. "I'm not leaving you. So whatever you need, whatever you want? I'm here to help."

Don nodded slightly into his hand, eyes closed amidst the rising steam.

"I keep replaying it in my mind." Charlie bit his lip at the anguish in Don's voice. "I keep analyzing every step. What could I have done differently? And the answer is a thousand things. But it all comes back to the simple fact that I didn't. I did what I did and it led somewhere I didn't expect."

"You aren't to blame," Charlie whispered. "Not for any of this."

Don pulled away, sinking down so he was up to his neck in the tub, opening his eyes to stare at the opposite wall.

"Unfortunately that doesn't help."

Charlie sat with his hands in his lap for a while, watching Don watch nothing at all before he finally stood and went to fetch supplies. He returned with a washcloth, razor and shaving cream, setting them on the side of the tub before dunking the washcloth in the water to get it wet.

"You haven't let me do this for a while," Charlie murmured, pressing the hot cloth to Don's face. "I kind of miss it."

He worked the washcloth around until Don's beard was softened then put the washcloth aside and slathered his face with shave cream. Short careful strokes he made, rinsing the blade in the sink after each pass to avoid getting the bathwater dirty. Once he was done he wiped off the last of the shaving cream with the washcloth and carried the supplies away. At the sink he went ahead and shaved his own face as well. He didn't do it often, preferring just to use a beard trimmer and keep his stubble, but something told him it was going to take a lot of kisses to soothe the hurt and while rough was good for last night, that time was over.

+

Charlie was afraid Don wouldn't eat breakfast, but when he put a plate of scrambled eggs on the kitchen table Don slid it in front of himself and dug in, apparently not realizing Charlie had thought that would be enough for the both of them.

He went about making a second plate for himself, passing over toast as it popped up and watching, pleased, as Don ate three slices. He didn't seem to look up from eating in fact until he ran out of coffee and had to rise to pour himself a new cup.

"Thanks for making breakfast," Don said, his voice quiet.

"My pleasure." Charlie took a bite of toast to give himself a moment to come up with more to say. "I don't get to cook for you that often. Not that scrambled eggs is really cooking or anything."

"It counts," Don said, slipping back into his seat once he'd doctored his coffee. Rather than drinking his new cup, Don stared into it a while, drumming his fingers silently along the outside of the mug. "You don't have to stay with me," he said finally. "I'm fine."

"It's not a 'have to' thing," Charlie told him. "I want to be here." After a long silence, he floundered for an idea. "We have a few movies saved up on the DVR," he suggested. "And we can definitely check the pay per view for new releases. That is, if TV sounds okay."

Don shrugged. "Might as well. They said not to expect me to have to come in at all for a day or two."

Charlie rose, taking his coffee cup into the living room and Don followed suit. He stalled with the remotes so Don would sit first, settling against his side once he was seated and working his way through the menu to select a movie. "This one okay?" he asked.

"Sure," Don answered, though Charlie was fairly certain he'd agree to anything he picked.

Charlie started the movie and fast forwarded through the opening credits, setting the remote aside as the film began.

Five minutes in, Don reached for the remote and stopped the movie.

"I can't do this," he said abruptly.

"What? What's wrong?" Charlie asked, bewildered. When Don tossed the remote on the coffee table and walked away, Charlie turned off the TV entirely and followed him into the bedroom to find Don slipping into a pair of shorts and pulling out his running shoes.

"I'm going for a jog," he said, lacing up his shoes.

"Don't go," Charlie pleaded, William's voice ringing in his head telling him not to leave Don alone. "Please."

"I won't be gone long. Maybe a half hour, hour…"

"We can watch a different movie," he said. "You don't have to leave." When Don stood, Charlie grabbed him by the arm. "What is it?"

"That actress…" Don let his head hang down. "She looked like Tina Gordon. I'm going to have to face her at her trial. I'm going to have to face her with her knowing I'm the one who killed the man she loved, the man she ruined her career over, the man she's going to jail for." He tugged his arm out of Charlie's grasp. "I'll be back in a while…"

Charlie could only watch him go helplessly, knowing Don had chosen the one place he couldn't follow for a reason.

+

After a half hour passed, Charlie had started fidgeting.

After an hour, he had started pacing.

By the time Don came back two hours later he was positively frantic, almost ready to call David and tell him he needed the team to come help look for him.

Don staggered in, all but collapsing on the edge of a chair, breathing rough and hard, covered in sweat.

"Did you run all this time?" Charlie asked, aghast.

"I don't know. I guess so. I don't really remember."

Charlie crouched down and took off Don's shoes for him, able to see his muscles visibly twitching with fatigue.

"Do you think you can stand long enough for a shower?"

"I'm taking a shower no matter what," Don grumbled. "And then I'm going to be horizontal for a long time."

Charlie helped Don to the bathroom and turned on the shower for him, good and hot, as he stripped.

Almost as soon as he got in, Don leaned against the wall then sank to the bottom of the tub, sitting and staring at his legs as the shower rained down on him.

"I can't believe you did this to yourself," Charlie mumbled.

"I just kept running," Don murmured, not really an explanation. "I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I realized I might not make it home and then I ran some more and then came home."

"I shouldn't have let you go running," Charlie said, frowning. He pulled off his shirt to keep it from getting wet then leaned in, picking up the soap to start washing Don's legs for him, massaging them as he went. Don took the soap from him and washed the rest of his body as Charlie - arms barely recovered from the last massage - worked the beleaguered muscles as long as he was able.

"So tired…" Don's voice was little more than breath as he spoke and Charlie barely heard it beneath the white noise of the shower. "I'm just so tired…"

It hit Charlie all at once that Don wasn't talking about his body at all. He was talking about his career, his life, his soul.

Done cleaning up, Charlie ignored the spray and just wrapped his arms around his brother, prepared for his affections to be met with more stony reticence, but instead he felt Don's arms go around him, clutching at him to hold him close as Don buried his face in Charlie's neck.

"So tired…" Don repeated and this time his voice hitched, breaking and then the floodgates opened. Charlie was stunned as Don began to shake in his arms, huge sobs wracking his body as the agony of guilt and loss overwhelmed him.

Charlie held on tight, ignoring the tears streaming down his own face, the shower water slowly growing cool and the strain of being half in and out of the tub.

All that mattered was that Don had opened up to him, let him see him weak, let him be there for him, let him help.

"I'm here," Charlie told him, keeping his voice strong even as his insides felt torn apart. "I'm going to get you through this. I promise."

+

"I can come in with you if you want."

The receptionist wasn't there at William's office so Charlie slipped his hand in Don's, interlacing their fingers together and giving it an encouraging squeeze. Don had set his appointment for after the workday ended and William had agreed to it, probably knowing Don wanted the most privacy possible for his first session after the shooting. It was a two hour session, but Charlie was determined to be there the whole time whether Don wanted him to stay or not.

"It's okay. I think I need to work through this on my own. Well," Don managed a little smile. "On my own with a trained therapist that is."

"Bradford's good," Charlie stressed. "And he really cares. When I called him that night he came right away - no questions asked."

Don nodded. "He's a good guy. And he gets it. Maybe not exactly what I'm going through right now. But he knows what it's like out there and it helps, you know, to talk to him." He looked up at Charlie, a softness to his expression he hadn't seen his brother's face for a long time. "And you helped too. It made a big difference."

"You know I'm always here for you," Charlie told him. "In every way, for whatever you need, any time."

Don squeezed his hand then let it go.

"I'm going to be okay," he told him. "You know that right?"

Charlie pulled him into a hug, letting out a long breath as he held his brother tight in his arms. The memory of how close he'd come to losing him, how it could have been Don's funeral instead of Pete's, still haunted him and he felt like every moment they had together was a gift.

"I know," he whispered and in that moment he really did know. He would be okay, they both would.

At the sound of a door opening they separated, taking a moment to share one last meaningful glance: Don's of gratitude and Charlie's of love and support. The days since the shooting had been difficult, the nights worse, but they'd come out the other side stronger for having gone through them together.

"Don?" William stood waiting at the door to his office. "Are you ready?"

Don took a deep breath and let it out, eyes still locked with his brother's.

"Yes. I'm ready."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 23rd, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
Confession
Oh, this fic was a bad idea all around. /hides/ I got it into my head just after watching Friendly Fire air that I wanted to write a post-ep cest version of the ending. All that juicy Don angst couldn't be wasted!

So I started the fic. And didn't finish it. And didn't finish it. Ugh. I'd gotten cocky. Having started ficfinishing and gotten a 100% completion rate for Numb3rs fic in 2008 I figured I could finish anything I started right away. Sadly, no.

This fic ended up taking from early October to the 22nd of December to complete. And I still have two other Numb3rs partials for 2009: My NaNo novel Homicide (in the Viceworld universe so you know it's going to be longer than the 50K I have already) and the next Jet Black sequel, Merlot Red.

So this is me, getting taught some humility. I probably won't get Homicide done in 2009 as planned, but I'm still hopeful I'll get Merlot Red finished even if I wait to publish it until January. Plus the fact that after writing over 6K of this supposedly quick bunny it's not really that good. I kept fighting it to put a second sex scene in, but apparently it didn't need it. I never captured that urgency I wanted, mostly because of that stupid coda where Don hung the pictures up on the wall in the same clothes (which meant it had to be the same night) so I couldn't just have Don and Charlie leave from the shooting house and go directly home to enjoy all that lovely angst. Grr.

Oh well. It's fic, it's done, it's out for anyone who's actually paying attention to LJ this time of year to read. Normally I rue the fact that I publish really good fic in December and no one reads it. This fic? I won't be upset if it glides under the radar unnoticed.

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

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
Jestana: #s: Don/Charliejestana on December 23rd, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
*smirk* It's been noticed. I think you did a really good job with it, actually. I like how Charlie took care of Don for once. That he did everything he could think of to keep Don from getting too deep into his head. Yay for an understanding brother! And, of course, the fact that they're lovers helped, too.
rubynye: Don (by weirdkid624)rubynye on December 24th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)
Oh, but I love this! In the crying over my computer way! What a beautiful juicy slice of angst! Poor DON! And Charlie, taking care of him!

"Don't you get it, Charlie?" He raised himself back to standing with great difficulty as if gravity had been tripled, pulling him down. He took a wooden step or two down the stairs, shaking his head before pausing to look back at his brother. "There's no good here."

That is such Don-dialogue I could HEAR and SEE it.

I hear you, as a writer, on being disappointed with a story. But as a reader and a fangirl I love this.
t_vo0810: peek-a-boo oglet_vo0810 on December 24th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
"The Pete I knew," Don murmured, his voice resonating in his body to Charlie's ear, "would never have been able to shoot me."

"That wasn't the Pete you knew," Charlie reminded him quietly.


GUH. my heart. my heart. poor donnie. these lines were powerful

"So tired…" Don repeated and this time his voice hitched, breaking and then the floodgates opened. Charlie was stunned as Don began to shake in his arms, huge sobs wracking his body as the agony of guilt and loss overwhelmed him.
good lord. picturing this in my head, don in the tub under the spray with charlie embracing him- it made me misty. very very moving. kudos to u.

wow. ur portrayal of grief in ur fics is stunning. so visceral but never overkill or big dramatics. just very real. /applauds/ i know this one was hard to write but it's tribute to the ep and to poor don and his need to grieve.