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11 December 2008 @ 11:51 am
Numb3rs Fic: Addiction Part 2  
Posted to numb3rs_slash
Crossposted to eppescest


Title: Addiction
Pairing/Characters: Don/Charlie, Alan, OCs
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Season 1
Summary: A summer visit leads to twisted addiction tearing the brothers apart
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


By the time Charlie moved back home he was numb to the loss. It never left. It was just a dull ache that left him melancholy when he sat through sex scenes in movies.

He had no shortage of women around interested in him and while he longed to scratch his itch with a man therein lay madness, so he abstained, sneaking away to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting whenever he felt himself weakening.

Usually after one of Don's infrequent visits back home.

And then the dread announcement: cancer. The tearful admission after dinner left him staring at his hands in shock as his father comforted his mother. He wanted to be the one to tell Don, but they said he should hear it from them. Later he stared at the walls of his room wondering if he'd thought that would be a way to hurt Don as badly as his brother had hurt him by leaving like that, by abandoning him.

The house was filled with flitting ghosts for days. Family members he barely recognized came and went, brought food and flowers.

His mother tried to stay cheerful, hopeful, upbeat.

Charlie didn't even bother to try.

His pessimism was born out. In no time she took a turn for the worse and the doctor told them to brace themselves for the worst.

Then the worst happened.

Don moved home.

+

Charlie did the only thing he could do under the circumstances: he hid in the garage.

Don, now even more enticing with gun and kevlar - and didn't that make squeezing him out of his dreams harder - was a constant visitor whenever he wasn't at work.

His mother, ever brave, just wasted away slowly until it was hard to look at her and remember the once hale woman she had been.

The millennium problems were perfect, chosen because of their resistance to solving. He'd already had kind of a thing for P vs. NP so he dove in with gusto, filling board after board with equations in pursuit of something he knew - and hoped - he'd never find.

After a while it helped; it felt more like running towards math and less like running away from Don.

He skipped dinner, claiming it was his most productive time, and spent late breakfasts with his mother instead. When his father finally corralled him for answers, he swore it was only so Don could have her to himself in his free time without Charlie getting in the way.

His father had just hugged him and said he was a good brother.

Charlie fought down bile and tried to return the embrace.

He may not be a good brother, but he was doing all he could manage to not be the worst kind.

+

The days after the funeral were devoid of math.

No numbers came. None.

He sat in the solarium alone, just staring out the window, watching the leaves on the trees blow in the crisp winter wind.

No one bothered him, but food appeared from time to time.

Sometimes he ate it, mostly he ignored it until it went away.

He slept there too, somehow feeling too confined in his bedroom, needing the air and the greenery to remind him of life continuing.

He heard Don's voice in the house sometimes, knew the sound of his SUV in the driveway, but didn't care.

There was nothing there for him.

Soon Don would move away again and it would be another decade perhaps before they'd get another chance to put the past behind them - maybe at their father's funeral.

Mostly Charlie missed having family.

They'd been so happy - revisionist history, he knew - when they were all living together in the Craftsman during their school years.

It all went wrong in Princeton.

Finally able to grieve, Charlie let himself sob for all he lost: his mother, his brother, the sense of having a family who would always be there for him no matter what.

He'd never felt more alone.

+

"I'm staying in LA."

Charlie blinked at his brother across the dinner table, catching his father's delighted smile in his peripheral vision.

His brain, in all its genius ability, could not process what he was hearing.

Don wasn't running away from him the first chance he got.

He was staying - he wanted to stay.

Charlie lay in bed that night questioning endlessly, losing sleep as he went through every permutation of reason as to why Don would choose to stay.

By dawn he had no answer so he got up and went to the garage to throw some equations at the problem.

Three days into it, he had to admit he was just fishing for anything. Nothing was solid, all was conjecture. He had no real data to base the equations on, so they were just an exercise. Moot.

So he decided to gather more data.

Watching Don was a dangerous proposition, like indulging in the aroma of freshly baked cookies to a diabetic. Too much temptation could lead to an overdose and he'd worked too hard to kick this habit to fall now. Don had made it crystal clear he'd been sickened by what they did - what Charlie did, he reminded himself - by running out on him, abandoning him first in New Jersey and then by joining the FBI so he'd have a reason to stay away.

But still, once he started paying attention the data came in easily. Don wasn't sleeping, he was exhausted all the time, catching little catnaps on the couch while Charlie graded papers with the TV on as background noise. Normally upbeat, he was clearly feigning a good mood when his father walked into the room, forcing himself to be artificially cheerful so their dad wouldn't feel blue. He'd taken to hugging their father in greeting more often and had even begun little shows of affection towards Charlie at the same time, mostly just tapping the back of his chair or faking a punch to his upper arm.

So what added up was that Don wasn't okay. Don needed something. And if Don stayed he must think what he needed was here.

A wild rush of delusional hope made Charlie's head spin before he sobered up. Don wanted family, the comforts of home, not sick twisted sex with his obsessed freak of a little brother.

The question was, could Charlie be that for Don, be the good brother his father thought he was?

Could he be what Don needed despite the fact that Don was all he needed himself?

+

Another Friday night, another brisket Don was late for.

As their father reheated a plate for him, Don collapsed into the chair across the table from Charlie.

Charlie appraised him in one glance: dark circles under the eyes, slovenly clothing, slumped posture.

"You look like crap."

"I haven't been sleeping."

Don met his eyes as he spoke the words - so easy to add a layer of meaning to - and the shock of it left Charlie speechless.

Their father showed up with a beer for Don and Charlie excused himself to the garage.

The boards were full of equations for Larry, but it didn't matter. He just needed distraction - any distraction.

He'd stopped carrying around his Narcotics Anonymous medallion - a sure sign he wanted to fall off the wagon: fall off it, fall under it, let it tear him apart limb from limb until it devoured his soul.

He waited to hear Don's SUV leave, almost begging for him to go before this went too far and it would be Charlie who had to leave, who had to deliver himself from temptation.

Instead the garage door creaked open.

"I'm headed home, Buddy," he heard Don say, unable to turn around. "I'm beat. Haven't been able to get a decent night's sleep in forever." There was the minutest of pauses before he continued. "Been having nightmares."

"I know how that can be." Charlie said, closing his eyes.

+

Don didn't come by the next day even though it was Saturday and hanging out at the house on weekends had become his norm.

Charlie listened as their father left messages on Don's house and cell phones, listened to his father pace and finally took his laptop up to the solarium to try to keep his father's worry from infecting him.

No luck.

No matter how hard he stared at the equations, thoughts of Don lingered around the edges of his concentration.

Sunday came and still no Don, no word.

He called the Bureau on Monday, ostensibly to ask Don about something - what he'd have had to make up on the spot if Don actually answered - and ended up getting Terry on the line.

"He called me last Friday night to let me know he was taking some sick time. Said he'd probably be out a few days, maybe the whole week. He sounded like hell, so I told the brass to not expect him for the rest of the week."

Charlie managed an agreement of some sort and mumbled his way off the phone.

Don had sounded and looked horrible, but he'd always been annoyingly healthy, never catching the colds that sidelined Charlie for weeks each winter. For him to be sick enough to preemptively take off from work? Charlie reached deep down inside, drawing on everything he knew about his brother, and couldn't imagine him ever doing such a thing. He was far more likely to go to work anyway and get sent home by pissed off co-workers than decide three days in advance he needed to take sick days.

His father finally broke down and went over to Don's apartment with matzo ball soup.

When he got home Charlie tried not to grill him, desperate for answers. His father only said Don had looked ill, was sleeping and he didn't want to wake him since he clearly needed the rest. He'd left the soup and a note and came home.

By Friday Charlie was pacing his bedroom, unable to think of anything besides Don, each handful of steps in the crowded room making him more and more frustrated.

At a little after eleven that night a text message came into his cell.

From Don.

He stared at it far longer than it took to read the brief words on the screen.

'I'm sorry.'

+

The cab dropped him off at Don's apartment building and drove away, leaving him in the heavy dark silence. The night was palpable and each step felt like moving through mud, moving through a surreal landscape where air was thick, blood was thin and death instead of time cleansed sins of the past.

He didn't knock.

He had a key.

He'd just never thought he'd use it.

He walked, ears buzzing, each step of the way into Don's bedroom - a cacophony of voices in his head yelling at him to run, turn around, leave as fast as he could - until he came to a stop standing beside the bed as Don rolled over to face him.

"I'm here," he said quietly.

Don's features were unreadable in the shadows.

"You didn't have to come."

"Do you want me to go?" Charlie asked, using all his control to keep his voice level, impassive. He closed his eyes against the answer he feared and the answer he feared more.

"No."

Don moved aside to make room for Charlie to sit down. The voices crescendoed in his head, but he sat anyway.

He took a labored breath as Don reached for him, fingers brushing tentatively against the seam of Charlie's sweatpants. Every part of him ached at that minuscule contact, the sickness calling to him, strong as if Princeton had been yesterday.

"I... I was wrong," Don started hesitantly. "I used you. I was sick and I sucked you into that sickness and ruined you." His whisper was barely above a breath. "God, Charlie... I am so sorry."

"So you knew, then." It was more a statement than a question. "You were awake, same as me."

Don nodded. "For all of it."

"I never knew for sure," Charlie said. "I'm not sure I wanted to know - either way." He huffed, shaking his head. "And all these years I was so sure it was me who was the sick and twisted one, who'd done all this to you. Apparently you thought the same thing."

"You didn't do this to me," Don stated firmly. "I'm the one who started it. I'm the one who kept coming back. I was the big brother. I shouldn't have..." His voice trailed off just as it was starting to rise in volume and he paused to take a deep breath. "I should have protected you - from me." Don's hand closed around Charlie's wrist, the gesture an anchor for his words. "It had to end. It was wrong. We were wrong: to want it, to give into it, to let it get that far."

Charlie just nodded. Don's thumb swiped back and forth with hypnotizing regularity over his pulse point and he lost himself in that simple motion in the otherwise still room.

"I can't fix this," Don confessed, lost. "I can't leave and it's killing me to stay."

"I don't have any answers," Charlie admitted mournfully. "I'm sorry." As he watched, Don's eyes glazed over and fluttered. "Don?"

"Drugs just kicked in," Don muttered.

"What did you take?" Charlie asked, worried.

Don just waved a weak hand towards his nightstand.

Charlie got up and walked around to the other side, inspecting the still open prescription bottle there.

"How many did you take?" he asked.

"Four."

"Four? Don! It says here you're supposed to start with a half a pill and work up to one!"

Don laid his head back carefully against his pillow. "One never works. I just really wanted to sleep."

"We should call a doctor, take you to the ER," Charlie said.

Don shook his head. "I'm fine. Just wanted to shut off for a while... Sleep."

Charlie picked up the nearly empty container. "Have you been doing this all week? Don? Don?" Scared, he shook his brother until he opened his eyes. "Have you been overdosing on pills all week?"

"Just wanted to sleep," Don mumbled, eyes at half-mast. "Be fine. Just... Rest..." His eyes closed and he fell silent.

Charlie dragged in a chair from the living room and set it up beside the bed.

The voices were still there, but he was staying the night regardless.

+

Charlie woke with a crick in his neck and a sore back.

He stumbled out to the kitchen to make coffee and Don didn't wake up even after he stubbed his toe on the dresser and dropped a mug in the sink.

He tried to sit in the living room, but found himself unable to sit peacefully unless Don was in his sight, so he took his coffee back into the bedroom.

The dregs of his second cup were stone cold by the time Don roused even slightly, but Charlie still let out a deep breath of relief.

"Charlie?" Don's raspy morning voice still managed more than a hint of incredulity.

"I was just leaving," Charlie said hastily, rising. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Don grabbed his hand with a speed unexpected of someone just waking.

"Don't go. Please?"

He drew Charlie down to the bed and he came as if hypnotized, Don's hand a trap from which he could not escape. He first knelt, then sat on the bed, then finally caved to Don's pull and lay down beside him.

Don enfolded him in his arms, holding him tightly.

"I'm so sorry, Buddy." One hand buried in his curls as another stroked his back so soothingly it crumbled his already shaky defenses. "I never wanted to hurt you. I swear."

Part of Charlie sank into the embrace, seeking the bliss of oblivion, and the other screamed at him to bolt while he still could.

"I... I can't do this," he stammered, pulling Don's hands off him, his voice foreign in his own ears.

"Charlie?" Don looked at him, confused.

"It almost killed me when... Before..." Charlie struggled to rise, to extract himself so he was out of Don's reach. "I don't think I'm strong enough... I'm sorry."

Before Don could get up and come after him, he ran from the room and out the front door.

He was all the way out to Verdugo Boulevard before it occurred to him he could stop running.

As luck would have it, a pay phone with yellow pages was at the corner.

Even though it was Saturday there had to be a Narcotics Anonymous meeting he could go to somewhere.

Maybe two.

+

This time it was Charlie who ran away.

He had one of his T.A.s scour the calendar and find some conference - any conference - out of town that he could go to just to get away.

The best he could do was Pittsburgh, but Charlie took it anyway, wrangling a last minute speaking engagement knowing there were always cancellations and most conferences considered it a coup to get him to show up at all.

From Pittsburgh he put out feelers to the NSA and wrangled a short project out of them, overinflating its importance to Cal Sci and his father. National security was a great excuse to stay away from home and since his work with them was always classified, it meant no questions.

He checked his cell for messages constantly despite himself, sometimes with his phone in one hand and his Narcotics Anonymous chip in the other.

He knew he had to go home eventually, but a meeting a day was helping him hang onto his sanity - just barely. Home meant Don and Don meant temptation of the worst kind.

He'd always known Don would never love him. Even in his fantasies where Don wanted him, it was still only about sex, but to Charlie he could live with that. It wasn't as if they could ever have a white picket fence, so that most crude level of intimacy was more than enough to hope for, dream about, obsess over.

The NSA had said the project would take two and a half weeks.

Charlie got it done in six days.

As badly as he wanted to stall, his duty overshadowed his personal desires. At least throwing himself into his work meant not thinking about his troubles, save the breaks he took to go to his daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

By the time he flew back he thought - he hoped - he was ready to be home again. Seeing Don? That was a whole other story.

+

The airport shuttle dropped him off at the house - no sense risking his father suggesting Don pick him up - and he made it to his room without being accosted by his father.

When he came downstairs, the silence was deafening so he searched the house, perplexed. His father's car was outside, but he wasn't.

Flipping open his cell he dialed, only to get his father's voicemail.

"Dad, it's me. Just got home from the airport. Wondering what's up. Bye."

He looked longingly at Don's name on the cell's contact list once he hung up, but then snapped the phone shut, putting it in his pocket.

The refrigerator was mostly empty - unusual since his father normally kept it well stocked. He chalked it up to having been away, but once he shut the door he noticed a scrap of paper held by a magnet on the front. It had Terry's name and a phone number Charlie recognized as being part of the FBI's exchange.

Terry's brisk business-like manner meant the call was short, but still enough to rattle him.

"Don's on medical leave. He's been off work since I talked to you the last time. Didn't you know?"

Charlie mumbled something in response and hung up on autopilot. He sat staring at his phone a while. What had Don done? Had he taken too many pills? Hurt himself? Charlie felt a wave of guilt wash over him. Don had been in a bad place: the 'I'm sorry' text message, the sleeping pills, his desperate plea for Charlie not to leave him... Charlie buried his head in his hands, fisting his hair and pulling it in exasperation. He'd known all that and he'd still abandoned his brother. He didn't even warn their father before he left.

He stood, putting the phone in his pocket where his hand brushed up against his Narcotics Anonymous medallion. Angry, he tore it out of his pocket and threw it forcefully in the trash. Being self-centered got him into this mess and now it had gotten Don hurt or worse.

He pulled the phone back out and dialed a local cab company as he ran to get his keys and jacket.

"Yes, I need a taxi right away! It's urgent."

+

Alan met him at the door just as Charlie's key opened it.

He raised a finger to his lips to indicate silence then pointed to where Don slept on the couch: covered by an afghan with a pillow under his head. The television was on low, but Alan gestured for them to go back outside to talk.

"What's going on?" Charlie asked frantically.

"Your brother's not well," Alan said tersely. "This was not a time for you to run off to a conference."

"I thought he just had a cold or something," Charlie lied lamely. "He wasn't that bad when I left. Besides, the NSA needed me."

"Your family needed you," Alan scolded.

Charlie patiently endured his father's lecture, but when his father asked him to watch Don while he went for groceries, the voices in his head surged up in disapproval.

"Of course," he agreed, barely able to hear his words above the internal protests.

It took just a minute for Alan to grab his keys and list and leave, but once Charlie closed and locked the door behind his father, he went over to get his first real look at his brother.

If he thought Don looked like hell before, he was sorely mistaken.

This was what hell really looked like.

His face was gaunt, his complexion ashen. Even in sleep, his forehead bore tiny creases of strain.

Charlie pulled up a chair as silently as he could and gazed down at his sleeping brother.

He could do this. If he loved Don as much as he always believed he did, he could put his own sickness aside to see Don through his.

+

Ten minutes in the nightmare hit.

Charlie watched as Don mumbled, disturbed, in his sleep - eyes racing behind his closed eyelids.

When it got worse instead of fading away, Charlie moved his chair closer and laid his hand on Don's forehead.

"Shh..." he whispered. "Don, it's okay. Everything's okay..." Don turned into his hand as if chasing its warmth and Charlie winced at the kick in the chest the tiny gesture felt like to him. Still, Don only calmed partway.

Charlie lowered himself down to speak in his brother's ear. "I forgive you." Don's mutterings devolved into a single anguished cry and then silence. "I forgive you," Charlie repeated. "I forgive you. I forgive you." With each repetition Don relaxed more, sinking into the hand Charlie slipped down to cup his face. "I love you."

After a brief moment of peace Don suddenly turned on his side, tucking Charlie's hand under his head like a pillow and slept on, the tension and worry gone from his face.

Charlie didn't even try to extract his hand until he heard his father's key in the lock.

+

After his father returned and put away the groceries Charlie sent him home to rest since he was clearly worn out.

He took a deep breath as he turned the deadbolt behind him. He could do this, he kept repeating to himself. He could be whatever Don needed and put his own feelings aside. Don's health was what was important.

"Dad?" Don's voice was sleep weary and weaker than Charlie had ever heard it. "That you?"

Charlie cautiously walked over to where Don could see him from the couch.

"It's me." Don blinked up at him disbelieving. "I... I came home."

Don gaped for a few seconds, staring at him. "I'm sorry!" he finally blurted out. "I'm so sorry. I was stupid and weak and I caved for a minute. I didn't mean to scare you away. I fucked up. I promise I won't come near you anymore - just don't leave again."

Charlie dropped down beside the couch and pulled Don into his arms, rubbing his back consolingly.

"You don't have to apologize to me anymore. We're going to put this behind us. We're going to be brothers again and I'm going to make sure you get well enough to get back on your feet."

Don clung to him, burying his face in Charlie's neck. "Can you forgive me?" he pleaded, desperate.

Charlie closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, fighting against his natural reaction to contact with Don. He could do this. He had to. There was no other way.

"I forgive you."

+

Charlie essentially moved in after that, sleeping on the couch each night and making sure Don ate and went to his doctor's appointments during the day.

Clearly Don wasn't faking since despite his rapid turn around of attitude his body still failed to obey him and return to full strength. He cursed himself, but Charlie was eternally patient, making sure he rested and slept plenty.

Their father visited too, but since Don tired quickly with the extra stimulation, he tried to stay away except for short visits.

Charlie made a good mother hen, keeping his distance from Don by claiming to need to do cleaning and taking a long time cooking meals, talking to Don from the safe confines of the kitchen to keep him company.

Don was good about not initiating contact, though he clearly relished the times Charlie sat close by or laid a hand on his shoulder.

Despite what Charlie had told him, he still randomly apologized from time to time. Each instance made Charlie want to scream that it wasn't his fault, but going there would open up a discussion he wasn't able to handle, barely holding himself together as it was.

His body, for the most part, obeyed him, but he found waiting for Don to get out of the shower excruciating: visuals of him naked with water sluicing down his body too much for his shredded control. He'd arrange to have his shower right after Don's: convenient both as a way to masturbate away his urges and ensure the apartment's supply of hot water would run out at the end.

T.A.s came to the house to exchange paperwork which he'd work on when Don slept, which was still often even without sleeping pills. After a few days his father would come sit with Don for the classes and graduate seminars he really had to teach himself, but he always came back right after and always slept at the apartment.

He woke one morning to the siren aroma of coffee and still half asleep opened his eyes to catch Don walking around in nothing save his boxer briefs. He gazed rapt: the clinging underwear hugging the curve of Don's perfectly round ass. Then Don turned around.

Charlie leaped up off the couch. "Shit! I'm late for a class! I have to go!" He was dressed in twenty seconds, had his shoes on and bag in hand within another twenty. "I'll call Dad and tell him to come by!" he yelled as he rushed for the door. "Sorry! Got to run!"

He called for a cab to pick him up at the nearest restaurant, walked there at a trot, ordered a coffee and danish to go and ducked into their bathroom.

The mirror reflected his panic back at him.

He thought he could do this.

He was wrong.

+

The human mind is expert at rationalizations and a dysfunctional mind can certainly twist logic to its own devices.

Charlie chose to ignore these thoughts as he formulated his course of action.

His addiction was to sex with Don.

He wanted sex with Don.

He couldn't have sex with Don.

He needed to function without it.

But he needed something.

He wasn't addicted to sex in general.

Sex with women didn't cut it.

Sex with men might.

He'd avoided it like the plague before, afraid it would remind him of Don, but at this point Don was all around him. He hardly needed reminders. What he needed was an outlet.

If it really just was about sex then getting that need met elsewhere might allow him to return to just being a brother to Don.

The voices screamed, but he just ignored them. It wasn't hard to find a chat room where he could get recommendations for where to go. He got propositioned plenty online, but this was something he needed to get his nerve up for in person.

Plus he needed to make sure they looked nothing like Don ahead of time.

+

The Continental Men's Club had a reputation for being a place where nice boys could meet up with the bad boys of their dreams, take a walk on the wild side.

Charlie wove his way through the main lounge and found himself the target of quite a few stares as he passed. He found himself a small table with two empty barstools and put in a drink order with the waiter he flagged down.

Prepped on etiquette from his chat room session, he was careful to look but not show any interest unless he was ready. Mostly he stared into his drink, silently trying to convince himself this wasn't his worst idea ever.

He needed this. Don needed him to be there for him. This would make it possible.

All the reasons muddled in his head after a second drink, but the liquid courage failed to get him to the point where he could accept any of the wordless queries in the glances of interest thrown his way.

A big man with a shaved head wearing leather pants and a sleeveless biker t-shirt passed by twice and Charlie looked up both times unintentionally.

The man stopped on the second pass and stared him down.

Charlie reflexively turned his gaze back to his drink.

"I know your kind." The man spoke as he approached Charlie's table. "I know exactly what you're thinking."

"Oh, I doubt that," Charlie mumbled.

The man buried a hand in Charlie's hair at the nape of his neck, fisting it taut.

"I think you want someone to take charge," he growled in Charlie's ear. "So you don't have to think." Charlie's mouth moved, but the words wouldn't come. "Thought so," the man huffed. "Come with me."

He tugged hard on Charlie's arm and Charlie followed, mind going at breakneck speeds with arguments for and against as his feet stumbled against the tall man's much longer strides.

The private rooms in the back were dimly lit; the rooms further back were almost completely dark.

All the way at the back, the man kicked open a door and all but tossed Charlie inside.

After he closed the door behind them, he grabbed Charlie by the jaw in one massive hand, rubbing a grubby finger across his lower lip.

"Pretty mouth, little boy. It'll look prettier still sucking my cock."

He pushed Charlie up against the wall, pressing him against the dingy paint with his body, grinding his crotch against him.

Charlie could feel the man's cock harden against him as he rubbed and he felt nauseous - far from turned on.

"I... I can't do this. I'm sorry."

"You want to play it like that? Fine, we can do that." He grabbed Charlie's hands and pinned them to the wall. "I like it when guys resist. It's hot."

"No, please..." Charlie wriggled, but could barely move.

"I'm going to fuck your tight little ass so hard... Going to make you my little bitch."

"Stop! I want you to stop!" Charlie shouted, struggling.

In one quick move, the man stepped back and flung Charlie to the floor.

"What if I don't want to stop?" the man said, sneering.

The music overhead was loud and if no one had heard Charlie shout no one was going to hear him if he screamed.

"I'll press charges! You'll go to jail!"

The man scoffed, laughing. "Hardly. Your kind is never out of the closet. Just look at you. You'd never admit it in a million years. A public trial? Where my lawyers would get to drag you through the mud and show pictures of every part of your body? I don't think so."

Charlie pulled himself to his feet, standing up as straight as he could.

"I'm walking out of here right now."

The man blocked the door.

"I came here to get off and you're going to make sure that happens."

"No."

The first punch came out of nowhere. Charlie was knocked to the floor and his eye closed up automatically from the blunt force of the impact.

Before he could come to his senses, the man's boot connected with his gut and he doubled over in pain, crying out helplessly as the man kept kicking him. He tried to shield himself with his hands, but they were little help against the onslaught of the man's rage.

Finally he lay there, hurting all over, unable to move without shards of pain shooting through his body. The man crouched down over him, his malicious sneer barely visible through Charlie's one remaining good eye.

"You won't testify. I can guarantee that..."

His hands closed around Charlie's throat and tightened.

Panicked, Charlie reached out, trying to scratch and gouge, but the man kept his face out of reach. Desperate, he tried to pry the man's fingers loose, but quickly found his strength failing as the oxygen deprivation silently stole his last moments of consciousness from him.

His arms fell to his sides as the image of the man's sadistic face faded, turned to grey, then disappeared into the blackness.

+

"Buddy, wake up!"

The harsh smell of an ammonia inhalant made Charlie cringe and the wince brought a bloom of pain to his face.

He coughed and overwhelming pain spiked through his body.

"Easy there. Just lay back. You're okay."

His uninjured eye opened to a slit to find a nicely dressed and well-groomed man hovering over him.

"Don't try to move. There's an ambulance coming."

Memory flooded back to Charlie and he looked down to find himself still fully dressed.

"It's okay, we stopped him in time, me and the bouncers," the man explained. "We came in just as he was choking you. They're holding him in Security right now and the police are on their way."

Charlie opened his mouth to speak, but the man interrupted him.

"We're all on board. We're telling the police it was just a bar fight. He didn't like the looks of you and dragged you back here to kick the crap out of you. We were just slow to notice you were gone, but still got here before he... Well, we're just going to say he must have picked a fight with you and you were just an innocent bystander who got hurt. Okay?"

Charlie tried to nod, but it hurt too much.

"Okay." He swallowed hard, trying just to breath without pain. "Thank you," he managed.

"I'm sorry this happened," the man apologized. "Normally this is a safe club. I don't know what that guy was on, but we don't usually have troublemakers like that here."

A second man, dressed just as nicely, popped his head into the room. "Police are here," he said in a low voice.

"Stay with him." The man patted his arm lightly and departed. After a minute a uniformed police officer entered, flanked by two paramedics.

"Sir, can you tell me what happened."

"Big guy... Took offense to me or something," Charlie mumbled. "Punched me. Kicked me. Choked me until I passed out."

"If we have him brought over - in handcuffs, you'd be safe - could you ID him right here and now?"

Charlie nodded, just barely.

"Okay then, let the paramedics have a look at you, okay?"

He withdrew and the paramedics swarmed over Charlie, checking his injuries.

The officer returned with his partner, both holding an arm of his assailant.

"That's him," Charlie said. "I want to press charges."

Once they took him away, Charlie let his eye close, the questions from the paramedics fading into the background as he finally just let go.

+

If heaven was made of beautiful dreams, this was heaven.

Everywhere he hurt Don kissed it away: bruises disappearing at the touch of his lips, pain erased by the passing of his fingertips, his sight restored as Don cupped his face with his palm.

He leaned into its warmth, seeking comfort and love there, love without anguish or shame.

When Don enveloped him in his arms, all wounds healed, all sins were forgiven and he knew perfect bliss, eternal and all encompassing.

And then he woke up.

A drugged haze greeted him, his mental faculties dulled with morphine as tiny sparks of protest still traveled along his nerve endings reminding him of every inch of his battered body.

He tried to shift position, but it hurt too much and a tiny noise of complaint escaped his lips.

A hand, warm and solid, came to rest on his cheek - soothing him, warm as his dream.

"It's okay," came a familiar voice. "You're safe."

Charlie tried to open his eyes only to find his left didn't respond. He felt an odd sort of pressure there and lifted his arm clumsily to discover a bandage over it.

His right eye opened to find it was indeed Don whose hand was cupping his jaw.

"Hey, Buddy..." he said gently. "You gave us quite a scare."

Charlie opened his mouth to speak, but only a raspy noise came out.

"Don't try to talk," Don chided him, retrieving his hand. Charlie immediately missed it. Don reached over to the nearby table and grabbed a small notepad and pencil, which he placed in Charlie's hands.

For expediency's sake, Charlie just drew a question mark and showed it to Don.

"I got a phone call," Don explained. "Law enforcement... Our family members are marked in the system. If anything happens to someone we love," he paused just barely, "then we get contacted immediately."

Charlie made a show of looking around at his surroundings before pointedly looking back at Don.

"UCLA Medical Center. It's a little after 3AM. The doctors said nothing was broken, but they were worried about the damage to your eye. They should check you out now that you're awake."

Don reached for the nurse call button, but Charlie put out a hand to stop him, his finger brushing Don's skin more than enough to halt him. He shook his head then scribbled 'not yet' on the pad. He pointed to the question mark again and Don continued.

"They only told me you got into a bar fight, but Charlie..." Don's voice dropped and became sorrowful. "Everyone in law enforcement knows what kind of place that is. I know why you went there. I just..." His expression was pained, distraught. "It just made me so angry and so sad that you were out trying to hook up with some asshole jerk who only wanted to hurt you, when I'd have given anything - anything - just to love you and give you everything you ever wanted." Don's eyes teared up as he took Charlie's banged up face tenderly into his hands. "I love you so much. It's tearing me up inside to imagine this bastard hurting you like that. I should have protected you, should have kept you safe from predators. Instead I let you take care of me like a selfish bastard while you were vulnerable." He withdrew to wipe at his eyes, suddenly embarrassed. "God, I'm just rambling on, aren't I? Talking enough for both of us."

Charlie just stared at him in both wonder and disbelief.

"You..." The voice that came out of him was broken and crackling. Clearing his throat only made it hurt worse, but some things had to be said aloud. "You love me?"

Don stared back at him in near equal disbelief. "Of course I love you! Why do you think I've been so messed up? I tried and tried - almost wound up in the hospital trying - to not love you, but I just can't stop." His voice quieted. "I don't want to stop."

"But..." Charlie wrote shorthand on the pad: 'Princeton', 'you left', 'you said', 'and now?'

Don glanced at the scribblings.

"Charlie, I was a mess in Princeton! I show up to find you're suddenly this entirely different person: you're not a little kid anymore, you're going to grad school, you were grown up! I saw you with new eyes: how smart you were, how funny, how much in tune we were. I'd never seen you as a man before, but suddenly I saw you: all of you. And I couldn't stop thinking about it, about you. I started obsessing and we both know how that went horribly wrong. I took advantage of you..." At Charlie's nonverbal protest, Don waved him off. "I'm sorry, but no matter how much you want to take the blame, it falls squarely on my shoulders. Mom and Dad sent me there to take care of you. I broke their trust and I completely obliterated your trust in me. So I ran. I'm ashamed of what I did, but I can't undo it."

Charlie pointed to 'you said' next.

"I know I told you it was wrong and it is. I felt like if we let ourselves fall into this it would destroy us. But look at us! Fighting how I felt devastated me and it almost got you killed! How are we better off denying this?"

Charlie scribbled 'society' and 'law' next, pointing to them adamantly with the pencil.

"I don't care anymore," Don stated firmly. "I want you to stay alive, stay safe. I don't care about anything more than that."

Charlie looked at him sadly. 'Thought it was just' he wrote on the pad before writing in the air S-E-X before completing the sentence on paper: 'to you'.

"Buddy, no...." Don grasped his hand in his and held it up to his face, brushing his cheek against it. "I may have not been able to show it, but it wasn't about sex. I just wanted you - all of you - all to myself in every way and that was the only way I could think of to get away with being together when we weren't supposed to."

Charlie's droopy eye looked up to see the drugs dripping into his saline bag.

"This isn't real."

"Charlie..."

Don's voice faded away into oblivion as Charlie drifted away again.

+
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on December 11th, 2008 07:53 pm (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 3 for Confession post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
Devo79devo79 on December 11th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC)
This is really good and believable, unlike so many of the Don/Charlie fics out there.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 11th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you! I feel bad about not posting that much Don/Charlie this year, but this little epic soaked up so much of my time it kind of took the place of about a dozen shorter fic! I wanted this one to have quite a bit of harsh reality in it, but I also wanted there to be something for people to look forward to. Unfortunately that comes in Part 3. ;-) Thank you for taking the time to comment! Not many people do and I hope you know it's appreciated.
Buggy: Numb3rs Don and Charlie 02toomuchfandom on December 12th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
Sorry I didn't comment on the first part...

You're just drawing me in, can't wait for part 3!
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 12th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Thank you! I appreciate you commenting at all. So many people don't bother.

Part 3 will be up tomorrow, which reminds me I need to go write my Confession up! Oddly that's often the hardest part of getting these long fic up - I have so much to say about them that I'm constantly afraid that I'm going to forget something I wanted to include! (Yes, I'm weird enough to angst over my author notes, but the practice of putting them in a comment means I can't just go back and edit them whenever I want. The price I pay for getting them out of the way of readers who probably don't give a shit and don't want a post clogged with them.)
One Part Exuberance; Two Parts Obsession: eppes boyspenguingal on December 12th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
MEEP! Woman! /makes grabby hands/

Want part 3 now! Because... you... and Don... and I just want to cuddle them to bits. Poor poor dysfunctional boys.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 12th, 2008 05:43 am (UTC)
HEE! OMG these are possibly my most dysfunctional Eppes boys ever. I went for fucked up on a grand scale. LOL It's not kitchen sink fic - there is one single plot and all - but it's an action packed 60 pages to be sure. I think you'll like Part 3 though. It's up tomorrow so never fear. I'm not going to be evil and make people wait until next week. Or 2009. ;-)

Anyway, thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I've been in the dumps lately feeling like my fic is being ignored even when I know comments trail off in December. /kicks stupid self/ /tries to force ego reboot/

(And yay for that icon! That's just before the eyefucking begins in that episode!)
meluvstony: EppesChallangeIconmeluvstony on December 12th, 2008 09:47 am (UTC)
I'm always thrilled when I see you've written something. I'm addicted to addicted :) Thank you so much for comming back and writting more DC fic. Can't wait to see Part three later today
redhedlvrredhedlvr on December 12th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)
I love your Don/Charlie fics. You write so beautifully and the stories are filled with just the right amount of angst and hot sex.

Can't wait for more.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 13th, 2008 08:10 am (UTC)
Hi and thank you so much for delurking to comment! I really appreciate it and your kind words. I feel bad that I didn't do as much Don/Charlie this year (I kind of burned out on it after doing 12 good sized fic for Eppescest's ficathon last year), but I figured between this and the new Devolution series I came back with a bang, right? ;-)

I got tied up today so Part 3 didn't go up as quickly as I'd hoped, but it's up now! I hope you like the ending!

P.S. Based on your username are you a Max Martini fan? Because I've written him in more than one fandom. (My slashwife adores him.)
redhedlvrredhedlvr on December 15th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
Actually, I don't know who Max Martini is. sorry about that.

When I first discovered fan fic, I was heavily into anime. All my favorite characters had read hair. Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin. Kurama from Yu Yu Hakusho and Aya from Weiss Kruez (possibly Kreuz, I'm a terrible speller.) Someone had refered me over to LiveJournal as a place to find good fic and I couldn't think up a good name...And that's the rest of the story.
devon99 on December 12th, 2008 10:57 pm (UTC)
Aargghhh - where's part three? WHERES PART THREE!!!!!

Holy christ girl - what have you done to then *strokes them* - They're a mess, an absolute gloriously dysfunctional mess.

Wonderfully sad and complex and hurty and WHERES PART THREE? *makes grabby hands*
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on December 13th, 2008 08:24 am (UTC)
I'M SORRY!

My Friday did SO not go as planned! /growls at it/ I did finally put up Part 3 so you can read it when you get a chance. I feel really bad for making you wait. /hangs head/

Thank you for a truly wonderful comment though! I was so happy when I saw this I read it out loud to Mel. /huge smile/ It does my heart good to think someone was actually looking forward to this fic.

And yes "an absolute gloriously dysfunctional mess" is the perfect description for this fic's portrayal of the Eppes brothers!
jayceepatjayceepat on May 18th, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)
I am so grateful that I'm just now reading this story. If I'd been a numb3rs fan when you first wrote this I would be a basket case right now waiting for the final part. The first part was almost like easedropping on someone's dream. I wasn't sure whether Don was or was not awake. But all I could think of was how sad it was that they could not talk to each other.

Now, they are talking. For two very smart men, they certainly don't seem to have a clue about their feelings and emotions. I am going to read part 3 now and then I'm going back and re-read all three parts. This story is that good.