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28 December 2010 @ 11:59 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Ashes Remain Part 1  
Posted to numb3rs_slash


Title: Ashes Remain Part 1
Pairing/Characters: Charlie/Billy, Don, Alan, David, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Man Hunt, the Fifth Man
Summary: A simple speech turns deadly and leads to a dangerous web of intrigue
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ



"Nervous?"

Charlie's eyes flicked quickly around him before returning to land on Billy's attentive face, full of concern.

"No."

He watched as Billy glanced around himself then pulled Charlie into an alcove backstage, farther from the podium where he'd be giving a keynote address in mere minutes. Billy folded Charlie into his familiar arms and Charlie immediately felt much of the tension melt away. This was where he felt safe, this was what he came home to every night; the rest - even the math speech - didn't matter.

"It's okay if you're a little nervous," Billy murmured, tucking Charlie's curly head under his chin. "It's been a while."

"That's the understatement of the year," Charlie huffed into Billy's shirt. Billy didn't dress up often, but Charlie was secretly pleased both that Billy had worn a suit and tie for this conference and that he looked as good as he did in them. It was all he could do to keep from loudly proclaiming Billy as his in front of the appreciative eyes following Billy around the hotel. "I've focused so much of my time in the past few years on working with the FBI it's been ages since I presented a math keynote that didn't have anything to do with law enforcement."

"You'll do great," Billy soothed. "Now - have you decided if it will help you or bother you for me to sit in the audience? Because I'm cool with hiding out in the back if you don't want to see me..."

"I want you there," Charlie interrupted, pulling back enough to smooth Billy's lapels. "I want you front and center where I can see you whenever I need you."

"You won't need me."

"Okay then, where I can picture you naked," Charlie teased, a playful smirk curling the corners of his lips.

"Sure," Billy agreed, primping the rumples out of Charlie's suit as well. "All in the name of science, right?"

"Dr. Eppes?" A young man with thick glasses, a 1940s era sweater vest and a clipboard appeared looking disturbingly efficient. "They've opened the doors to the hall. You have five minutes before Dr. Wu takes the stage to introduce you."

"Thank you, Evan." Charlie nodded his understanding and Evan disappeared as briskly as he'd come. Charlie took in a deep breath and then let it out. "I suppose you should go get a seat before the front row fills up."

As Charlie reluctantly stepped away from the safety of Billy's arms, Billy's hand caught his for a final squeeze.

"You'll be great. I know it. So go knock 'em dead."

Charlie meant to force a smile, but it came more easily than he imagined; Billy was like that to him.

"Love you," he murmured, with an echoing squeeze before letting go.

"Love you too." Billy leaned in for a quick kiss before departing with a little smile lingering on his lips.

"Dr. Eppes?" Celina Wu had changed so much in the seven years since Charlie had seen her he almost didn't recognize the woman extending her hand until after he shook it. "Are you ready?"

Charlie patted his pocket to ensure his notes were still in place and nodded his confirmation.

"Ready as I'll ever be."

+

Charlie felt like he was finally hitting his stride. They'd laughed at his joke, he'd gotten through his opening without having to rely on his note cards and now that the math was flowing the audience was attentive and engaged.

He'd stolen a few glances at Billy, who'd parked himself right in his sightline, as he began, but now that he was in full on teacher mode he didn't need any more support.

This, he remembered.

He flipped to the next image on the presentation screen just as an obnoxiously loud sound assaulted the entire hall.

"Uh, that's the fire alarm..." Evan appeared from the side of the stage with a handheld microphone. "So if everyone could just move to the emergency exits." He waved everyone towards the doors on either side of the stage that were a quicker exit to outside than going back through the hotel's conference center lobby.

People rose, seemingly begrudgingly, and shuffled in the direction of the doors marked Emergency Exit.

Billy came directly to Charlie, vaulting up onto the low stage to get right to him.

"Let's get you out of here in case this isn't a false alarm."

They barely made it a few feet before a cry went up at the double doors.

"Hey! This thing won't open!"

Charlie felt a twinge of fear as he turned back to head towards the other door.

Someone else was shaking the double doors there.

"Holy crap! The doors are chained shut - on the outside!"

At that Billy bolted from his side, racing through the crowd of bewildered academics. Charlie could barely make out him crouching by the doors to examine the small gap between them. Next he ran across to the other doors. Those seemed to open less if the slim sliver of light appearing when he pulled at them was any indication.

"The doors to the lobby won't budge either!"

Panic flared in Charlie's chest as he watched a handful of his colleagues at each back door tugging hard on them to no avail.

Celina Wu appeared next to him, looking stunned.

"I can't get a signal on my cell phone."

Charlie looked around and noticed many of the audience members had cell phones out but no one was talking on them.

"It must be a jammer." He grabbed Evan by the arm. "Evan! I want you to turn the volume up all the way on the speakers. The hotel might not know what's going on in here."

Evan nodded and ran off briefly then returned, microphone in hand.

"Hotel management! Whoever can hear me out there!" Charlie shouted into it, his voice almost painfully loud even over the blaring fire alarm. "The people in Hamilton Hall are trapped! The exits are all chained or locked! Please send help to get us out!"

Halfway through his final sentence the power cut out on the public address system and the alarms fell silent.

"That's not good..." Billy appeared at his side again, looking all around them. "This just got upgraded from very bad prank to premeditated felony."

"Which felony?" Charlie asked, his heart rate quickening.

Billy looked grim. "Let's hope it's not murder."

+

Billy had strode off so fast backstage Charlie had to run to catch up to him. He was at the stage manager's desk rifling through the drawers looking for something.

"You think someone trapped us in here on purpose." Just saying it gave Charlie a chill.

"I do," Billy muttered, clearly frustrated by the contents of the drawers. "And considering how soundproofed those back doors are? I don't think the hotel has any idea of what's going on in here."

"What about the alarms?"

Billy moved on to some nearby tables as he pulled off his coat and tie, skimming the surface and looking underneath. They contained extra audio-visual equipment only. "The person clearly had control over them, so it's possible they rigged them to go off audibly, but not trigger the main hotel security system."

Charlie swallowed hard. "So what should we do?"

Billy finally turned to face him, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. "I'm looking for something that might cut through chain link. I need you to find me a half dozen of the most athletic academics you can in this crowd. I need a hand and I need them to be in shape."

"Got it." Charlie turned to leave, but Billy reached for his arm to halt him.

"Pick ones that can stay cool in a crisis," he warned. "We need people with level heads more than muscled bodies."

Charlie nodded in understanding at the dire nature of the situation; lives could depend on this.

"I understand."

He sped off to center stage and gazed out across the bewildered and frightened masses, trying to recall who was younger and in good shape and then checking to see how agitated they were at the goings on.

"Dr. Abuja!" he called out, beckoning to a tall black man he'd met in Philadelphia. "Dr. Nayar! Dr. Rao!" Two Indian men from Chennai came at his call. "Dr. Washington!" The former basketball player he'd bonded with last year over coaching bounded up to him, at the ready. "Dr. Paranski!" He beckoned to the stout former wrestler and military man he'd introduced to Colby not long ago. "Dr. Carlton!" Billy hadn't specified men, so Charlie figured that Amy - as a marathon runner - would be a good choice, plus she always kept her temper in otherwise highly emotional proceedings.

"Yes?" Amy asked as she drew near.

Once they all approached, Charlie lowered his voice. "I'm working with an FBI agent on how to get us out of here. He asked for some help. Are you all willing?" Six heads nodded in response, all solemn, all aware of what was at stake.

+

Billy made short work of the assignments: four people were sent up each of the ladders to inspect the catwalks for access outside or to the roof. The other two were set to search backstage for tools that could be used to do enough damage to the doors to get them out.

Once dispersed, Billy handed Charlie one of the two fire extinguishers he'd located, grabbed a hammer and started walking - Charlie automatically in tow.

"What's your plan?" Charlie asked, trying to keep up.

"Remember when you told me about the liquid nitrogen pumpkin experiments at Cal Sci?" Billy glanced over his shoulder as he walked. "Same principle."

The crowd of academics at the lobby doors parted for Billy as he strode forward purposefully, withdrawing further when he started preparing the fire extinguisher for use.

"Point the spray at the lock," he ordered Charlie, who quickly prepped his extinguisher as well. "We're going to try to freeze it and crack it."

Billy started his up with Charlie right after him, spraying the lock until it was white. They stopped and Billy took the hammer and smashed it hard against the lock several times. Charlie had seen Billy in the gym hitting things like the heavy bag when he needed to blow off steam, but this went beyond that. Billy really was putting everything he had into this.

One of the blows sounded different so Billy paused to check and indeed there was a crack in the metal. It took a few more minutes, but Billy was finally able to reduce the locking mechanism to enough debris to clear a hole in the door.

Once he did, he tried opening the door, but it still wouldn't budge.

"Damn," he muttered. "What the hell are they keeping this closed with?" He knelt down next to the hole and bellowed in his loudest voice. "Help! We need help in Hamilton Hall! If you can hear me go get the management! Call 911!"

Cries of panic erupted nearby and both Charlie and Billy stepped back enough to look. Charlie gasped in alarm as he watched his peers run coughing away from the second set of double doors leading to the lobby as rapidly billowing smoke filled the area.

"Stay here!" Billy ordered, grabbing his extinguisher and running across.

"Billy!" Charlie called after him as he disappeared into the plumes of grayish smoke. He could hear the fire extinguisher going off, but after a short while it stopped and Billy emerged, coughing into his hand.

"There's no fire," he managed between coughs. "Whoever's doing this is just funneling smoke into the room - that's it." He waved his hand for attention, addressing the huddled groups of frightened people. "Stay low to the ground and keep close to the emergency exits! Make sure they stay cracked open to ensure we get some fresh air flow!"

He leaped onto the stage next where the people he'd assigned to the catwalks were assembled.

Charlie stood at the foot of the stage listening.

"We found roof doors, but they are all locked or blocked, just like these," Amy reported. "Though one of them was with a thinner chain link than the doors down here. It might be breakable or at least expandable, given the right torsion and tensile strength of the implement used against it."

Billy glanced back to where the smoke was rolling towards them as it started to fill the room.

"We don't have much time. You," he said, pointing to Amy, "show me where this door is. Charlie..." He turned back to him. "Find the other two who were looking for tools and have them leave anything they've found on the stage manager's desk. Then all of you get to the exits where there's fresh air. I don't want you up this high any longer than you have to be."

He and Amy turned, departing quickly, as the others headed off the stage to move towards the doors. Charlie jogged through the backstage area, finding both of the men rummaging through boxes in the prop room.

"We need whatever you've got now," he told them, almost breathless. "Smoke's filling the auditorium and you need to get lower to the ground to avoid breathing it."

"We've got some screwdrivers and a crowbar." They handed them to Charlie when he stretched out his hands for them.

"Thanks," he told them. "Now get to the emergency exits. There's air there to hold us for now."

Once they left he headed for the stage manager's desk, getting there just before he saw Billy and Amy coming down one of the ladders. He watched as Billy gestured Amy off with a grateful hand on the shoulder that she acknowledged with a nod before jogging off to join the others.

"Not much," Charlie told him, showing him the tools. "But it's what they found."

"I'll take them." Billy took Charlie by the arms and looked him in the eye. "Now I need you to go with the others, by the air, okay?"

"I don't want to leave you," Charlie protested. "I want to help."

Billy pressed a kiss to his forehead and pulled Charlie in close for a brief yet heartfelt embrace. "I can't risk you," he murmured. "There's going to be too much smoke up that high and I can't focus on breaking the lock if I have to worry about you not being able to breathe."

"What about you?"

"The faster you let me go the more oxygen I'll have," Billy countered, his tone almost matter of fact yet with an underlying concern to it that scared Charlie.

"Go," he told Billy. "But make sure you come back down - whether it works or not - before you run out of air."

Billy grabbed the screwdriver set and the crowbar.

"Don't worry," he said, heading for the ladder. "I don't plan on this being a suicide mission."

He was up the ladder in seconds, disappearing into the soft haze of smoke that had covered the ceiling throughout the hall, a haze that was slowly growing more opaque.

"It's not about your plan," Charlie whispered to himself. "It's the plan of whoever's doing this that's worrying me."

+

Charlie couldn't bring himself to leave, worried as he was for Billy, so he lay down on the stage, keeping his body as low as possible as the smoke levels lowered. He couldn't see much of the catwalk anymore, but he could hear the sound of metal against metal from time to time and it confirmed Billy was still conscious and working to get them out.

The heat levels had started rising so he pulled off his own coat and tie, rolling up his sleeves as Billy had done, but still felt uncomfortably warm.

A hopeful sounding murmur at the exit where the door cracked open the widest caught his attention just as someone called out.

"I see fire trucks!"

"Billy!" Charlie called up. "There are fire trucks outside."

"Good!" he called back, after which Charlie heard a violent coughing fit. "Keep me posted."

Charlie hopped down off the stage and all but fought his way through the throngs to the crack in the door.

"What are they doing?" he asked.

"Nothing so far. Just parked a ways away."

Charlie got close enough to get an eyeful and indeed found that the fire trucks, currently disgorging their complement of personnel, were quite a distance away from the hotel.

He saw one pull out a megaphone and begin to shout into it.

"People in Hamilton Hall! Please do not try to open the exit doors! They appear to all be rigged with explosive devices."

Whatever air was in Charlie's lungs left all at once; they'd been pushing and shoving at the doors the whole time, unaware of the danger involved. The people who'd previously been crowding next to the doors all withdrew at once, like a receding wave, eyeing the doors with even greater fear than before.

The man, who appeared to be the fire chief, continued.

"We're working on a way to get you out, but we need to work with the bomb squad so please be patient!"

He lowered his megaphone, signaling the end of his message, and Charlie turned to go relay it to Billy. This time his progress was unimpeded - the pathway away from the door clear as people retreated to the next lowest part of the hall: the orchestra pit in front of the stage.

Charlie forgot to duck his head as he ran up the stairs onto the stage and got a lungful of smoky air at the top. He gagged, choking briefly, then forced himself down - a rush of panic at the idea that whatever Billy was breathing it had to be far worse.

"Billy!" he called out, voice cracking from the after effects of the smoke. "The fire chief says the doors are all rigged with explosives!"

"Shit!" More coughing. "I've almost got this one open though. It's not a normal exit so it might not be rigged."

"Billy!" Charlie cried. "If you open it, it could blow!"

"If it blows, it'll be open and you all can get out!" Billy yelled back down. "If we don't do anything we'll all die of smoke inhalation in a matter of minutes." More harsh coughing. "Here I go!"

"No!" Charlie barely got the word out before a loud clang of metal rang out followed by an ear-splitting explosion.

Then silence.

+

Charlie's speed up the ladder seemed like the span of a single heartbeat and while he hadn't known for sure where the roof door was it wasn't hard to follow the flames even in the clogging smoke of the rafters.

Charlie spotted a fire extinguisher on the catwalk and grabbed it as he went. Prepping it, he started shooting off streams of dry chemicals at the small flaming debris around the main flame, working his way closer.

The door had been blown off its hinges and lay on the ground, flames still licking at the edges.

It took a second for Charlie to realize Billy was beneath it.

Frantic, he sprayed away all the flames and shoved the door over and off Billy.

Falling to his knees, he went to touch Billy's face but found the familiar freckles scorched red from the blast, ugly raw burns on his hands and arms.

"Oh god..." Charlie murmured under his breath, afraid to look for a pulse. Just then Billy stirred, eyelashes fluttering open. "Billy, please! Talk to me!"

"Got to..." Billy's voice was raspy from smoke inhalation, halting as his eyes seemed to be struggling to stay open. "Get everyone out..." He pointed to the now open doorway. "Need you to alert the firemen... Escape route... Go!"

"Not without you," Charlie countered.

Billy put out a hand to ward off Charlie's concerns and struggled to rise. "I'll get them out. Get the firemen! Go! I'm counting on you!"

Though it felt like the hardest thing he'd ever had to do, Charlie nodded and stood to depart. He used the extinguisher to put out the last of the lingering flames and left it behind, running out onto the rooftop to find his way to the edge where the firemen could see him.

He saw them below and waved his arms, yelling, so they'd see him.

"Up here! There's a roof door open now! We need to get everyone out through here!"

They had to have heard because they rushed into action, moving the hook and ladder fire truck up to the building's edge.

As they started to raise the ladder, the first of the people from inside the hall started coming out of the door.

"Over here! The fire truck's evacuating via ladder!"

He led the first few people to the edge where they could see the firemen working then headed back to the door, almost having to fight his way back inside - the flow of desperate humanity almost too strong to counter.

Once inside he could tell the smoke had thickened substantially and he gagged at his first breath, feeling lightheaded by the lack of oxygen in it. He found another ladder going down rather than try to slow the exodus and ran coughing across the stage, looking for Billy.

He was helping the older men and women up the stage stairs from the orchestra pit, half carrying some of them as they doubled over coughing.

Billy spotted him and a rare split second of panic crossed his face. "I told you to go!"

"I came back for you!" Charlie took an elderly woman's arm, helping her over to the ladder. "I'm not leaving you behind!"

The last few people were finally on the stage, queued up and waiting for their turn at the ladder as the slower people ascended, when a loud popping sound drew their attention. Charlie barely had time to turn to look as a shower of sparks barraged them from the chandelier exploding like a massive fireworks display.

"Charlie!"

Billy tackled him so fast he was on the ground before he felt the heat singing him. Pain flared as little flames burst out in his hair and on his arms where the larger sparks had hit him. Billy rolled him, patting him down frantically, and then finally stopped when he was completely out - bundling Charlie up in his arms and holding him tightly.

"You were too close... Too close..." Billy's voice sounded terrified and not for the first time did Charlie feel a sharp jab inside at seeing his ever stalwart lover truly afraid for the first time.

Charlie scrambled to his feet as Billy pulled away and found the others patting each other down. He'd been by far the closest to the sparks so the others had been spared the brunt of it, protected by being further back on the stage.

"You need to get up the ladder," Billy told him, amidst another coughing fit. It was getting hard to see at this point, the smoke thickening quicker now that the ceiling was aflame. The acrid stench filled Charlie's nostrils and coated his rebelling lungs, but he couldn't risk leaving Billy behind and having him not make it out.

"You can be the last one out," Charlie told him, pulling up every bit of stubbornness in the Eppes family line. "But that means I'm the second to last out. No arguments!"

He turned and helped one of the old men onto the ladder, urging him upwards between coughs. Three more left to go and he could feel himself starting to fade, the lack of oxygen making him dizzy.

"Please, hurry," he urged the last man to mount the ladder, but he almost had no voice left, no energy to speak with, all of it drained by the life-sapping smoke. He turned back to Billy, expecting him to be right behind him, but instead saw him splayed out on the floor. "Billy!"

He rushed to his side and shook him hard, rousting him slightly.

"Go," Billy muttered.

"Not without you," Charlie countered, grabbing hold of his torso and trying to drag him to the ladder. Billy stumbled to his feet with Charlie's help and they made it to the now clear ladder.

Billy obstinately pushed Charlie up before him and Charlie went - knowing Billy wouldn't go otherwise, but kept looking over his shoulder to make sure Billy was still following.

They got to the catwalk and Billy stumbled again, almost lost in the thick smoke. Charlie wanted to grab his arm to drag him, but couldn't see anywhere he wasn't burned. He finally ended up using an across the body hold Don had taught him for water rescue. It wasn't efficient on dry land, but it held Billy across his unburned chest and allowed Charlie to drag him inch by inch towards the open door and safety.

Once they cleared the door, Charlie all but collapsed, seeing a pair of firefighters approaching them.

"Please," he begged them, weakened, "He needs an ambulance..."

"We've got him," a firefighter assured him. "We've got you both."

An oxygen mask was strapped over his face and he felt hands lifting him onto a gurney as he watched them do the same with Billy. As they rapidly wheeled him away he finally let himself relax, inhaling the reviving effects of the oxygen, letting his smoke smarting dry eyes close as wheels moved them away from danger, away from the place that almost took both their lives.

+

Charlie had to have lost consciousness for a while because he came to in the emergency room as a doctor wrapped his arms in gauze.

"Hello there," he said kindly. "I'm Dr. Kritchfelt. How are you feeling?"

"Like my lungs got toasted like a marshmallow," Charlie croaked from behind his oxygen mask.

"Humor's a good sign." The doctor smiled down at him as he finished up. "You have some minor localized burns." He gestured to Charlie's gauzed hands and arms. "There are some areas where your scalp was burned as well, so we applied salve in those spots and a localized topical painkiller. We can bandage them if you want, but we'd have to shave parts of your hair to do so."

"That's okay," Charlie told him. "It doesn't hurt too bad." He swallowed hard. "How is Billy Cooper? He was brought in with me."

"I didn't work on him, but I can find out for you." He nodded to a nurse standing nearby who nodded in acknowledgment and departed. "Your burn injuries are minor enough that we could release you today, however I'm concerned about the smoke inhalation and would prefer you agree to spend 24 hours with us on oxygen to give your lungs a chance to heal. Is that all right?"

"I'll stay," Charlie told him. "But you have to let me see Billy."

The nurse had slipped in as the doctor was talking.

"You can see him, but only for a few minutes," she told him. "He's in the ICU."

A chill pervaded his system so strongly Charlie actually shivered. "Take me to him," he said slowly. "Now, please."

"You'll have to take your tank with you," the doctor told him. "But I can allow a short visit in a wheelchair." He turned to the nurse. "Have an orderly come with a chair."

"Yes, doctor."

The nurse departed and the doctor turned to face Charlie.

"Prepare yourself," he said solemnly. "Smoke inhalation does a great deal of damage and it's not damage doctors can easily undo after the fact. More people die from smoke inhalation than from burns and it's not just during the fire, so you need to brace yourself for the worst."

"He's not going to die." Charlie's voice was adamant. "He's not."

"Of course," the doctor said, clearly assuaging him. "We'll get you moved into a room after your visit. The nurse will make sure you get settled and I'll be back to check on you during my rounds."

"Thank you," Charlie croaked out.

"You're welcome."

For a few seconds he was alone in the room, but then a stout and sturdy orderly walked in pushing a wheelchair that had several things on the seat.

"You might want these." He picked up a robe and slippers and handed them to Charlie, who put the robe on over his hospital gown and put his bare feet into the slippers. As he did, the orderly moved his oxygen tank, attaching it to the back of the wheelchair. "Let me know when you're ready to transfer."

"I can handle it on my own," Charlie told him. He went to get off the bed and the orderly was quickly by his side, a good thing because the simple act of sitting up and standing left him lightheaded and woozy. The orderly carefully supported him without touching any of his bandaged parts.

"Low oxygen tends to make people unstable," he explained. "So for a little while at least? Let people help you."

He assisted Charlie into the chair where he took a deep breath once he was settled.

"Understood."

+

Regardless of how well he'd steeled himself on the way to the ICU, Charlie wasn't prepared for the sight of the man he loved laying still as death encased in a glass hyperbaric chamber.

Trembling, Charlie put out his hand and laid it on the glass, trying to get as close to Billy as he could, but all he felt was the cool surface.

"He needs this," the attending nurse said quietly, clearly trying to be kind. "The higher pressure oxygen will help his lungs and burns heal."

Charlie tried to respond, but words wouldn't come, so he just nodded - gazing at Billy through his spread fingers on the glass. His cheeks were still clearly reddened from the force of the blast, but it was his arms that finally made him look away.

Under the bright lights of the hospital the full extent of the damage was clear: Billy's arms and hands were littered with blisters, peeling and charred skin and rampant redness where his outer layers had been seared away.

Charlie fought the bile rising in his throat and suddenly felt glad Billy wasn't awake to see himself or, as it occurred to him, to feel the pain that had to come with so many nerve endings exposed.

He marveled that Billy had done all that he did after the blast with these injuries, not letting them stop him. But then he'd had a powerful motivator - getting Charlie, and all the other innocent people in the hall, out alive. To someone who devoted his life to saving others in law enforcement, Billy would have known no other way.

"He'll recover though, right?" he asked the nurse, his voice barely more than a hoarse whisper.

"The doctor said the first 24-48 hours are critical," she answered. "He's getting the best care. We just need to wait and see how he responds."

"He's strong," Charlie said, more to reassure himself than anything. "If he just needs to fight, he will. I know he will."

For all his faith, a single tear still slipped free of Charlie's watery eyes, blurring the glass in his vision so he didn't have to see the damage his desire to have Billy nearby for a stupid speaking engagement had wrought.

The nurse stepped away, leaving him alone briefly and Charlie moved his hand as if to caress Billy's face from a distance.

"I'm sorry," he choked out, his throat closing up with grief. "This wouldn't have happened to you if it wasn't for me." He folded in on himself, finally allowing his own pain and anguish to envelop him. "God, Billy... I'm so sorry..."

+

The orderly returned to install him in his own room and Charlie left reluctantly, glancing back over his shoulder until he could no longer see the clear glass cylinder that encased his lover's body.

Two floors up and one wing over, they wheeled through the doors of his room only to find his father and brother anxiously pacing in it, clearly awaiting his arrival.

Don was closest and the first to see him. "Charlie!" He took a step forward then halted, eyes clearly taking in the amount of gauze covered skin he couldn't touch.

"Charlie!" His father had no such hesitation. He crossed the room at a clip and threw his arms around him before he could stop him. Charlie almost winced preemptively, but his father's gentle touch went nowhere near his injuries yet surrounded him in a loving paternal embrace, one Charlie surrendered to, needing the comfort. "My baby boy," Alan whispered. "I was so scared when they called."

"I'm okay, Pop," Charlie told him. "I'll be fine anyway, it's all just superficial stuff."

Alan pulled back and Don stepped forward, laying a tentative hand on his shoulder.

"You had us worried, Chuck." The genuine concern in his voice wasn't hidden by the use of the childhood nickname and for once, Charlie let it slide.

"I was pretty worried too," he admitted. "We could have all died in there. Did they figure out what happened yet? Who was responsible for locking us in there and all?"

"Not yet," Don told him. "But I did manage to convince the Assistant Director that it was likely an act of domestic terrorism so he made sure the Bureau took over jurisdiction from LAPD. The price was that I don't get to work the case because you and Billy are involved..." He looked disgruntled. "But I'd rather have one of our teams working the case, so it's worth it. Forensics is going over the site now that the bomb squad's done disarming all the devices."

Charlie swallowed hard, his throat threatening to close up on him again. Even so, he pulled the oxygen mask off to make it easier to speak.

"Billy... He knew the roof door was rigged to blow, but he forced it open anyway. He said at least if it blew open we'd have a way out. He sacrificed himself to save us."

Don nodded, pensive. "Sounds like the Billy I know."

"He had the most important reason of all to make that sacrifice." Alan looked at Charlie gravely. "He needed to save the person he loved most in the world."

"I just wish..." A wheeze erupted out of his lungs leading to a coughing fit as his body protested the reduced oxygen. A stab of fear ran through him as he tried to get the mask back on. Don's hands were there in a split second, taking it from him and holding it to his face.

"Breathe... Just breathe," Don urged gently.

"And don't take that thing off again," his father chided, frowning in concern. "Clearly the doctors think you need it full time."

Charlie just nodded, letting Don fix the strap around his head again.

The orderly, who had likely stepped away during their greetings returned and gestured to Charlie.

"How about we work on getting you into that bed?" he suggested kindly.

Suddenly rest sounded like the best idea, his body sagging into the wheelchair as the full force of the day's events caught up to him.

Tired, he didn't even mind when his father answered for him.

"I think that would be a good idea."

+

Smoke. Smoke was everywhere. Charlie couldn't see which way to go. Choking, the thick blackness enveloped him and he felt himself fading away.

Then strong arms lifted him up, carried him away out into the fresh air.

A familiar mouth covered his own, breathing air into his blackened lungs until they cleared and he could breath again on his own.

Charlie gazed up into Billy's eyes lovingly. "You saved me," he whispered.

"I had to," Billy responded, withdrawing. "I only wish I'd been able to save myself." As he backed away he laid down and suddenly became encased in a glass tube.

"No!" Charlie pounded on the glass, but Billy's eyes closed and refused to open again. "No!"

"Charlie, wake up!" Charlie woke to Don shaking him gently. "You're having a nightmare."

Charlie blinked up at his brother, gaping, still caught between dream and wakefulness.

"There was smoke and I couldn't breath and Billy saved me..." he sputtered.

"That happened, Buddy." Don laid a consoling hand on his brother's shoulder. "It wasn't a dream."

"No, it was." Charlie waved a hand dismissively, forgetting it was still wrapped in gauze and immediately regretted the flash of pain that accompanied the gesture. "I mean, what I dreamed wasn't the same thing that happened in real life." He paused long enough for a deep breath, realizing his lungs weren't rebelling like they were before to such usage. "How is Billy?" he asked.

"No change," Don told him, his tone somber. "But the doctors say as long as he's not deteriorating, that's a good thing. They were worried about his lungs collapsing, but so far he's hanging in there."

"I want to see him," Charlie stated firmly.

"I'm sure you do," Don said with a patient smile. "But it's 4:30 in the morning so I'm pretty sure you're going to have to wait a while on that."

Charlie furrowed his brow. "What are you doing up at 4:30 then?"

Don gestured to their father, asleep on a nearby cot. "Dad didn't want you to wake up alone so I got him to agree to get some sleep by taking second shift sitting with you."

Charlie nodded, thoughtful. "But since I am up? Can we at least ask the night staff if there's been any change in Billy's condition lately?"

Don looked as if he might protest, but just nodded and picked up the phone, keeping his voice low so as to not wake Alan.

"This is Agent Don Eppes with the FBI. I need a status update on patient Agent William Cooper in the burn unit. Yes, I'll hold." There was a long pause of silence then Don turned his attention back to the phone. "Yes. Okay, thank you." He hung up the line and Charlie looked at him expectantly. "No change," Don told him, his demeanor apologetic.

"I need to know he's going to be all right."

"He's a fighter," Don reminded him. "So for now, sleep. Work on getting yourself well and we'll see about another visit in the morning. Maybe he'll be awake then too."

Charlie tried to block out the nightmare vision of Billy still as death, but all he could replace it with was the heroic and whole Billy from his dream - the one that wasn't real, as much as he wished it was.

"I hope so," Charlie whispered. "I need him to be okay. I need him back."

+

Part 2
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on January 1st, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 2 for Confession post.
ladygray99ladygray99 on January 1st, 2011 03:08 am (UTC)
Where's part 2? I NEED PART 2!!!!!
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on January 1st, 2011 07:36 am (UTC)
Sorry! I was so exhausted I went to lay down for a bit between posting Parts one and two and fell asleep for a couple of hours! /sheepish/ Mea culpa! It's up now!
Tamannaswingandswirl on January 1st, 2011 03:26 am (UTC)
Echoing LG. Where's Part 2? /whines/
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on January 1st, 2011 07:37 am (UTC)
Meep! Sorry! The body wanted a nap and the brain went along for the ride. It's up now!
Tamannaswingandswirl on January 1st, 2011 09:32 am (UTC)
/pets/ It happens to the best of us, hon. /runs to read/
shizukany on January 3rd, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
I love Charlie/Billy fic
I love Charlie/Billy fic.Because. They are the pairs who they are pretty, and must be really loved.and I love your numb3rs all fic.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on January 3rd, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
Re: I love Charlie/Billy fic
Thank you so much! That is very kind of you to say! /gives you cookies/

I am updating my Memories now to make it easier to find all of my Charlie/Billy fic. :-)