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04 February 2009 @ 12:38 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Five Walls Part 1  
Written for numb3rs_newyear 2009
Crossposted to numb3rs_slash

Title: Five Walls
Pairing/Characters: Don/Ian, Charlie, Colby, David
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Seasons 1-4, Arrow of Time
Summary: Don and Charlie find themselves trapped in a concrete basement cell with little memory of how they might have gotten there
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ

When Don was eleven, he was bedridden for a week with mono. Achy, miserable and horribly bored, he'd lain in his bed pretending he was a prisoner of war rotting in a dungeon - able to withstand the torture of solitary confinement only due to his bravery and courage as a soldier.

So when six-year-old Charlie poked his head in to check on him, Don would send him away with a bark of a cough and a coarse word because he effectively ruined his little fantasy of self-sacrifice with every appearance. Whenever Charlie showed up it meant he was just a boy, stuck in a sick bed, not a hero, tall and strong.

Inevitably he'd regret it later, wishing for the company, but he'd always have that thought too late - long after Charlie had slunk away chastened, rubbing at his eyes pretending there was something in them even though Don knew by now that meant the early prickling of tears for his sensitive baby brother. Don would feel guilty at rejecting him, but then he'd get lost in his fantasy again and he'd wile away the hours dreaming of dramatic escapes and brilliant prison break plans where he was always the leader and everyone looked to him to get them to safety.

That was the great thing about that fantasy. He never let them down.


"Don... Don..."

A voice cut through the mind-clogging haze that surrounded his head like a blanket. Don recognized his name - far away as it sounded - but it took him a while to place the voice.


"Don, please! Please wake up!"

Don tried to see, but there was only black. He tried to move, but his body didn't respond like he'd asked.

As he began to come to his senses, he felt something: cold, hard... The floor beneath him.

With a shiver he realized his shirt was off and his bare back met the concrete under him unprotected.

He automatically went to push himself off the floor, but his wrists were apparently bound together in front of him. He tugged on them to test and felt the burn of rough-hewn rope against his skin. Testing his legs met with a similar feeling: his bare feet were bound at the ankles as well.

"Charlie?" he managed, calling out wildly, not knowing which direction he might be in.

"Don! Are you okay?"

"I don't know. Are you okay?"

"I don't know either..."

Don tried to lift his joined hands to his face, only to discover there was apparently a connection between his hands and feet: hog-tied.

Bending as far as he could, he was able to reach a finger to his face and slip aside the blindfold covering his eyes enough to see.

A single bare light bulb dangled low over a windowless cement cell, just four gray blank walls, and on the other side of the room...


Charlie lifted his head from where he knelt on the stone gray floor - like Don wearing only jeans - his hands dangling weakly from thick antique style shackles, his arms raised above his head by two chains apparently hooked into the ceiling.

"Feel weird," Charlie mumbled. "Drugged..."

"Hold on, buddy... I'll get you out of there."

A flush of adrenaline fueled Don now, rousting him, preparing him with a rush of determination and strength.

He bent over - back muscles screaming in protest - to pick at the knot binding his wrists with his teeth.

"What are we doing here?"

"I'm not sure," Don said. "I must have been drugged too. I don't really remember much."

"So, since you're in town anyway, how about sticking around for the weekend?"

Ian looked Don over, head to toe, with the gaze of a predator who'd had a recent meal yet was sizing up their next one.

"Sure. I can stick around."

"I don't remember much either," Charlie admitted. "I know I left Cal Sci early Friday evening, but that's it. So I guess it might still be Friday?"

Don could feel the rope loosening and tugged harder for a few seconds before taking a break, uncurling to rest his back muscles briefly.

"I left work relatively early on Friday too," Don said. "Did you have plans?"

"I-I did." Charlie's voice was hesitant. "But they fell through."

"My place?"

Ian brushed up against him in the locker room, ostensibly trying to get past as they shed their kevlar and thigh holsters.

"I have something a little different in mind."

"Yeah, so did mine. I think." He leaned down and tore viciously at the knot with his teeth, finally feeling it give. "Got it!" He wriggled one hand loose then the other, tore the blindfold the rest of the way off, then set to work on unbinding his ankles. Once he was free, he rushed over to Charlie. "Are you hurt?" His hands ran over Charlie's torso and arms in a brief triage, searching for injury. "Are you in pain?"

"I don't think so." Charlie's head lolled back to look up at Don standing over him, inspecting the shackles on his wrists. "I feel kind of numb mostly. My arms ache though. Knees are sore from kneeling."

Don crouched down to Charlie's eye level. "I'm going to get you out of this. I promise." When Charlie's eyes drooped closed, Don took Charlie's face in his hands. "Stay with me!"

Charlie just nodded, but when Don let go, his head fell forward again.

After a brief inspection of the old-fashioned locks, Don cast his eyes about the room to see what they had to work with. His eyes alighted on a small toilet and a large metal trunk. After he'd done a full circuit, he realized the room wasn't just missing windows, it was missing a door.

Shielding his eyes against the glare of the light bulb, he looked up to the ceiling. Higher than normal, which meant the low hanging bulb illuminated less up there, he could see the outline of a square wooden trap door over the corner he'd woken up in. That explained the hog-tie: he could have easily been lowered down, hung by the ropes. That might explain the achiness in his body, but not how Charlie became shackled. Whoever did this had to have come down for that and if they had a way in, there was a way out.

"Just want to lie down... So tired..." Charlie's voice was so plaintive Don nearly winced hearing it, feeling that awful kick in the chest of failure, that sense that he'd been supposed to protect his brother and now? It was very likely it was Don's fault they were stuck here.

Looking up again he could see the chains were actually a single chain that had been looped at the top meaning someone had tightened it to ensure Charlie was forced to kneel and not rest.

"I think I can climb up there and loosen the chain, maybe even pull it down entirely!" He forced Charlie's attention on him. "I have to climb up over your head. I'll try to be careful, but you have to be ready to move out of the way if I fall - if the chain gives or something."

Charlie nodded. "I'll try."

"Can you stand?" At Charlie's nod, Don slipped an arm around his waist and helped him struggle to his feet - keeping hold of him until he seemed reasonably steady. "Me climbing is going to jostle the chain - a lot - so be prepared."

Rubbing his hands on his jeans, he prepared himself for the climb. A rope ladder he'd done plenty of times barehanded. He'd never tried to climb a chain. The lowest part of the slightly longer of the two lengths of chain - where it attached to Charlie's wrist - was still about five feet off the ground so Don wasn't quite sure how to attack it.

"Climb on me," Charlie said plainly. When Don met his eyes in surprise, a little of his genius spark had worked its way though the drug induced stupor. "You need to close the distance between the starting point and the first viable access point."

"Physics?" Don asked, trying to lighten things up a little with a playful tone.

"Rock climbing." Charlie managed a little quirk of lips in a semi-smile. "Step up on my knee and then my shoulder." He lowered into a lunge position, jutting his right knee out for Don to step on. "And move fast. I don't think I can hold this position very long."

Once Charlie had cut off all argument with that statement, Don did as directed, stepping onto Charlie's knee - bracing himself with his hands on the chain - then taking a big step to climb onto his shoulder. He could feel Charlie waver under the strain, but he held his ground as Don reached up to one of the chains and lifted himself onto it, beginning to climb.

"BDSM? What, like whips and chains and all those kinky toys?"

Ian just poured the rest of his beer into his glass, an enigmatic little smile on his face as he looked across the table at Don.

"Oh, trust me. Domination and submission is so much more than mere toys. It's about power."

The metal links hurt his hands and offered little to grip. He lost distance repeatedly, slipping down almost as fast as he climbed up. Wrapping the chain around his leg helped, but was awkward and one good slip had him biting his lip to choke back an exclamation of pain.

Once he got to the top he was able to loose the extra links hooked there - first one side, then climbing over to the now longer chain to loosen the extra links for the one he'd originally climbed up. Unfortunately the chain wasn't hanging on the hook itself - just the extra links. The base of the hook - where it was embedded in the concrete ceiling - was where the middle of the chain originated. The only way to get the chain out was to rip the hook from the ceiling.

"I'm coming down!" Don slid down the chain, hissing at the discomfort, finally dropping the final feet, tucking and rolling to avoid injury.

By the time he got up, Charlie had slumped to the floor - the chains finally loose enough to allow him that distance, but not much more than that.

"C-cold..." Charlie had his arms wrapped around himself, curled in a ball on the floor.

Don went over and rubbed his arms for him, hoping the friction would warm him at least a little. "I'm going to go have a look in that trunk - see if there's anything we can use."

When Charlie nodded his understanding, Don left him - albeit reluctantly.

The trunk opened easily and contained dusty MREs, bottles of dark beer with labels written in German and a couple of threadbare blankets. Balled up in one corner was a pair of thick socks: floppy and clearly hand-knitted by an amateur, not anything that could be worn with shoes, but enough to keep Charlie's feet warm.

Don brought the blankets and socks over, quickly putting the socks on Charlie's feet.


"Don't look a gift trunk in the mouth," Don said. "If you lift up a second I can put one of the blankets on the floor under you. It should help keep you off the concrete."

Charlie shifted and let Don fold the blanket in half to make it thicker and place it where he had been laying near the wall. Once he got settled on top of it, Don placed the second blanket over him, tucking it close around him.

"What about you?" Charlie asked. "Aren't you cold?"

"I have work to do," Don said. "You stay warm. I'm going to work on figuring out how to pick the lock on those shackles so we can get out of here." He went back to the trunk and emptied it completely, searching each item in it and then the trunk itself. "I think I might be able to tear off some of this metal trim to use as a lock pick."

"Check the toilet," Charlie suggested. "Older style plumbing uses a metal coil tension spring."

Don perked up at the idea and rushed over to the small toilet, lifting the cover off the tank and setting it aside on the floor. "Yeah, it has that!" He reached inside and in just a few seconds he had the spring in his hand and was working to uncoil enough of the stiff metal to work it into the lock. "Great idea!"

He knelt down beside Charlie, only to have Charlie sit up and pull to the side of the blanket. "You get in here too. It's cold out there."


"Come on..." He pulled the blanket to drape over his shoulders and placed the other half around Don's, tugging him closer as best he could chained up. "We both need to conserve body heat. For all we know it could get colder."

Don moved in close, grateful for the warmth, his feet starting to feel like icicles from walking on the frigid floor.

"That's cold!" Don complained.

Ian just licked the ice cube tantalizingly before bringing it back to Don's skin.

"It's supposed to make you feel. So don't think, just shut up and feel..."

Huddled together, Don set to work on one of the shackles.

"So, are you remembering any more?" Don asked.

"Not much. I remember telling Larry I'd see him Monday. I remember telling one of my students, Angelique, when she showed up to ask me a question about her thesis that I was on my way out and we'd talk next week. I remember starting my car and then turning it off because my phone rang and I didn't have my Bluetooth headset on to answer it."

"Who was on the phone?"

Charlie didn't answer at first. "I... I really don't remember."

"Well, clearly we have nothing on us. Don patted his empty pockets for effect. "No cell phones, no badge, no gun..."

"Don, your gun!" Charlie's eyes widened.

"I can't think about that right now," Don said, focusing on the lock. "First things first: we need to get you out of these." He put his head down and concentrated, feeling the metal slip again and again as he tried to pop the mechanism inside. "Damn it!"

Don threw back his head and let out a long frustrated breath before bending to his task once more.

With no warning, the light bulb was turned off.

Don felt Charlie jump beside him at the sudden blackness.

"It's probably on a timer, right?" Charlie's voice was tiny, uncertain in the dark.

"I can't see you. Where are you?" Don asked, turning his head all around.

Ian's footsteps were almost silent as he stalked around the chair in the middle of the pitch-black room Don was sitting in.

"I'm everywhere. I'm in your head, taking you apart piece by piece. I'm inside you."

"Yeah, on a timer," Don agreed automatically, working the lock more aggressively. Pressing hard, trying to make the lock give, he felt the spring recoil and jump from his hand, landing with a soft ping somewhere on the floor. "Damn it! I lost the spring!"

When Don went to rise, Charlie grabbed him and pulled him back down. "No!"

"Charlie, I need that spring to get you out of these cuffs!"

"You're never going to find that tiny spring in the dark!" Charlie cried. "Be smart about this! If it's nighttime it's about to get even colder and the only way we're going to stay warm at all is to stay together, share our body heat." His voice lowered, a note of begging in it. "Don't leave me. I need you."

Don let out a breath, closing his eyes for a moment to calm himself. "You're right. It's too cold to let the warmth we've built up go to waste. I'll look when the lights come back on."

"Until then stay close. We can keep each other warm." Charlie lay down and Don curled up behind him, arranging the blanket over the both of them. He just barely fit on the folded blanket on the floor, but as long as they stayed close, they both were on it.

"I'm not sure about this."

Ian's hand skated down the length of Don's thigh as he nestled behind him, his body radiating a heat Don sensed even before their skin met.

"You're the one who asked for this in the first place. Now trust that I know what I'm doing, that I'll give you what you need."

There was a muffled clanking as Charlie settled into a position, keeping his bound hands under the blanket. Don wrapped an arm around his middle - just like how they'd slept when they were little kids - and pillowed his head on his other arm, determined to watch over Charlie as he slept.

His feet were like ice, but Charlie moved his sock-covered ones back to meet his, tangling them together - the memory of his baby brother in footie pajamas warming him even more than the fuzzy socks ever could.


The light came back on and Don blinked at it, realizing he'd fallen asleep - snapping fully awake with the horror that it wasn't just a bad dream.

The drug had to be out of his system because he felt clear-headed now and oddly enough fairly well rested despite sleeping on the hard floor. How long he'd slept in the drug induced state he had no idea.

Charlie had the blanket over his head, still sleeping, so Don got up carefully to use the toilet before coming back to join him. It wasn't as cold, but there was still a chill in the room and the floor remained bracingly cold to the soles of his feet.

Before Don could lie back down, Charlie tried to roll over only to be awakened by the noisy chains.

"What the..." Charlie's eyes flew open and a gasp escaped him as he experienced the same shock of reality as Don had upon waking. "God, it's not a dream, is it?"

"I'm sorry, buddy." Don laid a hand on his brother's shoulder as he looked at him, torn up at seeing him so distraught. "But I'm going to keep working on getting us out, okay? Have faith." Don looked around the room, spotted the spring near the opposite wall and went to pick it up. "I can start working on the locks again now that we have light."

"Before you do that..." Charlie sat up, keeping the blanket over his shoulders, glancing over at the toilet. "I should see if the chains reach."

Don frowned, trying to gauge them visually. "I think they should now."

Charlie rose and as soon as he stepped off the blanket, he made a face. "Man, that's cold even with socks on!" Once he made it to the toilet - just barely, the chains almost taut - Don turned around to give him some privacy, bending his head over the spring.

"I'm thinking if I unwind the other end of the spring," he said, "I can use the ends in concert to try to pick the lock." He bent the taut end with first his fingernails then his fingers, finally drawing it out so he had something a little like a set of tweezers.

As Charlie hurried back to the blanket on the floor, Don joined him, allowing Charlie to put the other blanket over both their shoulders again. Once they were situated, he pulled Charlie's right hand into his lap and set to work on the lock.

"I dreamed we were camping," Charlie said quietly. "The fire had gone out and I was cold, but you kept me warm."

Don's fingers faltered for a second. "Been a long time since we went camping."

"Or hiking."


"How much further? We've got to be miles from civilization already."

Ian stepped to the rim of the rocky bluff at the edge of the trail, surveying the wilderness in the valley below.

"This should do," he mused. "Your voice might carry, but no one will come interfere if you scream."

"We should go," Charlie said. "I mean, sometime. You know what I mean."

"I know, buddy." With a click, the shackle lock sprang open. "Got one!" He broke the two sides apart, releasing Charlie's wrist.

Charlie rubbed his wrist with his other hand. "That feels so much better."

"Give me the other one," Don said, putting out his hand for it. "Now that I know what it takes I should be able to get you out of the other one faster." It took a few minutes to adjust to the awkwardness of working on the left side, but soon there was a second click and the shackles fell away.

"Yes!" Once Don released him, Charlie shoved the chains away with a huff of disgust. "I'll be happy to never see a pair of cuffs again." He turned his attention back to Don, offering him an encouraging smile. "Thanks."

Don just nodded, not content with this small victory.

"Next up, I need to figure out how to get up to that trap door."

"Um..." Charlie looked at him, newly released hands already fidgeting in his lap. "Not that I don't trust that you can get us out of here? But I'm starving. I didn't eat dinner Friday night so if it's Saturday morning?"

"Sure, we can give the MREs a try. They're sealed so the odds are decent they're not tampered with."

Charlie recoiled slightly, frowning. "Well, that's a good way to kill my appetite."

"I'll eat some first and if I don't keel over, you're good."

"Heartening," Charlie said, sarcasm clear in his tone. "And is there really only beer to drink?"

"Yeah, sorry. I know alcohol dehydrates..."

"But we won't be here long enough to worry about that, right?" Charlie said, putting on a hopeful face. "And they're sealed too, so probably safe?"

"Probably." Don headed over to the trunk, kneeling beside it to get his feet off the icy floor. He fished inside and pulled out one bottle of beer and two MRE packages. "Beef stew it is." He brought them back over and huddled under the blanket again as Charlie opened one of the packages.

"Hey, it's got a flameless ration heater!" He held up one of the items from inside the package. "This is like those café latte to go things: an exothermic reaction triggered by the addition of water! It's magnesium and iron oxide..."

"I'll take your word for it," Don said with a little chortle. "I tell you what, since you understand this stuff I'll let you cook for both of us while I try to get the top off the beer bottle."

"I need water." Charlie glanced over at the toilet. "Well, at least it's just to fuel the heater. We don't have to drink it out of the tank or anything."

Charlie took the two meal heaters, opened them up and carried them and the empty bag over to the toilet. He dipped the empty bag into the tank and poured water into both the heater bags, quickly closing them back up and returning.

As Don tried to use part of the shackles to open the bottle, Charlie tucked the entrees and the heaters together in the supplied containers.

The cap popped free of the bottle and flew in the air. "Got it!" Don gave the beer a sniff then took a tentative sip. "Wow, that's some strong stuff," he said, whistling. "I guess that's proof it's proper European bear and not fake."

Charlie held out his hand for it and took a sip then a longer drink.

"Okay, that helped. My mouth was totally dry." He gestured to the MREs as he handed the bottle back. "Ten minutes and they'll be heated up. I suppose we can try the rest of this stuff while we're waiting."

They ripped open packages to find crackers and cheese spread, nutrition bars and instant drink mixes, which they put aside. They ate the crackers and bars, waiting until it seemed ten minutes had passed.

Pulling out the enclosed spoons, they broke into the heated entrees and ate in silence until they were almost done.

"I bet Colby has some good MRE stories," Don mused. "These things are pretty weird."

"What was it like in the military? Colby doesn't talk much about his Army days."

Ian gestured to the waitress for another beer as his eyes flicked to where Colby and David were tossing back shots at the bar.

"It's different for snipers. Nothing like what Granger experienced. Two different worlds..."

"At least they're pretty high in calories," Charlie said, looking at the nutrition information on some of the packages. "We could survive on one a day just fine."

"Don't think like that," Don said, his face darkening.

"No! I didn't mean..." Charlie floundered, flustered. "I was just looking at it from a strictly scientific point of view." His voice lowered, became more serious. "I have every faith that we'll get out of here very soon."

Don nodded in tacit acknowledgment of his apology.

"Which means it's time for me to get back to work." He shoved his refuse back into the MRE bag and shrugged off the blanket, handing his end to Charlie. As he was about to walk away, Charlie stopped him.

"Wait!" He tugged off the socks and handed them to Don. "I'm warm enough in the blankets. You need these more than I do if you're going to be up and walking around."

"Thanks." Don stooped to put them on, instantly grateful for the protection from the cold floor. "Now what I need to do is see if there's a way to get this chain out of the ceiling so we can use it to get to the trap door."

"What are you going to do?" Charlie asked.

"I'm going to try to chip away at the cement with one of the shackles - see if I can break it loose."

"Hold on." Charlie stared at the chains where they met at the ceiling and Don instantly recognized that face. "I've got it!" He got up on his knees and his hands went to his waist. "I still have my belt and so do you! We can use them to make a harness for you to sit in while you chip!"


"Give me your belt!"

Don wove his belt off and handed it to Charlie.

"The leather fits between the links of the chain like so..." He put his belt through one of the chain links as an example and then fastened it, making a loop. "And the other..." He took Don's belt, slid the leather through the other chain, slipped the end through the loop of his own belt, then closed it - making something like a number eight out of the belts. "Just make sure the buckles are on the outside and you can sit on the looped leather. It should be strong enough to hold you for a while at least." He undid both the belts and handed them to Don.

"Okay then. The hard part's just going to be getting them looped ten feet off the ground." He slung both belts around his neck and tossed one of the shackles over his shoulder before preparing to climb the other chain. He took a deep breath and let it out, staring up. "Here I go..."

"I'm not afraid. Do it."

Don felt the belt slide against his skin and his body tensed despite Ian's warm voice in his ear.

"This isn't about fear. This isn't about how much pain you can bear. It's about control, about trust."

He climbed up, hands rebelling at the feel of the chain pressing into them. Once he got to the top, he tangled his legs in the chain, biting back pain as he struggled to get Charlie's belt through the other chain. Once he had it looped he gauged about where he needed to match it on his chain and allowed himself to slide down a little to reach it. He slid more than planned and almost lost his grip.


"It's okay!" He grasped the chain, hands burning. "Just slid a little."

"Be careful!" Charlie called up to him.

He clambered back up and quickly looped his belt through, attaching it to Charlie's. Switching his grip to the leather, he tensed - in case they might break - and shifted his weight to the makeshift swing seat.

It held.

He let out a breath in relief before hoisting himself up to sit on top of the belts. He'd gauged correctly: the links he put the belts through put him just within reach of the hook when he sat on them.

Pulling the shackle he'd tossed over his shoulder earlier into his hands, he aimed the sharpest corner against the ceiling, turned his face and eyes away from falling debris and hit the ceiling hard with the iron.

A little shower of cement dust and bits fell on him and he peeked out to check the damage.

"This may take a while..."


After several breaks throughout the day, two bottles of beer split between them and another round of MREs, Don was pounding away at the now good-sized hole in the ceiling when the lights went out again.

"Damn it!" he swore, carefully lowering the shackle end to hang from one of the belt loops.

"Can you make it down okay?"

"Yeah, I just... I was so close," he complained as he climbed down, glad Charlie couldn't see him slip and almost fall in the dark. "I can't believe it took all day and it still wouldn't come out! At least it's not as cold tonight."

"It is cold," Charlie said, huddled under the blanket. "You've just been exerting yourself so you feel warmer. That and in terms of thermodynamics heat rises and cold falls and even though there's not a lot of heat in this room the temperature differential of approximately twelve feet..."

"How about I just share all this heat with you and we skip the science lecture?" Don made his way carefully over to their makeshift bed, clumsily meeting Charlie's outstretched seeking hand in the dark with one of his own before sitting down. He pulled off his socks and put them on Charlie by feel. "You should have told me you were cold. I'd have given you these back."

"You were outside of the blankets. I didn't want you to be cold," Charlie said. They curled up again, same at the night before, only Charlie nestled back closer to him. "Wow, you really are warm! Feels good."

Don tucked him in close, trying to maximize their contact so Charlie could have as much heat as possible.

"Enjoy it while it lasts. Even though I'm not sleepy it's bound to cool down once I've been lying around a while."

"It's really warm in here - almost seems too warm."

Ian's hot breath on the back of his neck gave him a shiver despite how overheated he was starting to feel.

"Yeah... I can have that effect on people..."


"Yeah, buddy?"

"Can I ask you something?"


Charlie shifted uncomfortably as he hesitated.

"It seems like... It's hard to express this, I guess. But it seems like you should be more scared than you are. You know, with us being captive here and all."

"I could say the same about you. You should be freaking out and you're not."

"Well..." Charlie paused again. "What if I said I have a tiny idea of who might have done this and that they meant no harm - it's more like a prank?"

Don was taken aback and he took a few seconds before replying. "I'd say I have an idea of who could have done this - prank as you called it. And yeah, they wouldn't do it to harm us at all. It would be more like... I don't know, a lesson?" Don waited a few seconds before continuing, the silence heavy in the blackness of the room. "Charlie, I need to know who you think is behind this."

He steeled himself for the answer, even though he knew deep down what it was.

"No wife? No significant other at least?"

Ian huffed out a little laugh at that innocuous query, sitting back in his chair watching Don with his eagle sharp eyes.

"I like to play the field - enjoy a lot of people in different ways. Don't worry, no one's misled. I never tell anyone I'm theirs alone."


Don leaned his forehead against Charlie's bare back, feeling the coolness of his skin almost as soothing were it not so disturbing.

"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie..."

"I'm sorry."

"What did you get yourself into?"

Don could feel Charlie's breathing growing labored.

"I... I needed something. And he got it. He gave me what I needed." Charlie's voice sounded hollow in the empty space, his normal emotion suppressed as if he were choking it back on purpose. "You don't understand what it's like to be in my head. I get trapped sometimes, a prisoner of my own mind, and I need a way to wipe it out, forget it all for a while. Ian does that for me."

Don felt the word, poison on his lips, but it spilled out despite him really not wanting to know.


Charlie's small frame stiffened in his arms.

"Don't be mad." This time it was Don stiffening. "I let him hurt me." Don's hands curled into fists. "It's with my full permission," Charlie added hastily. "No real damage. He only does what I want, nothing more. Well, I guess... But anyway, nothing he does is illegal or abusive. I go into it willingly." Don just focused on his breathing: inhale, exhale, don't lose it... "Don, please! Say something!"

"What is this, some kind of game to you?"

Ian stopped his laughing and talking and turned around to where Don was fuming behind him. The men he was talking to withdrew at Ian's gesture, giving them some privacy.

"Yes, that's exactly what it is to me. And tonight I'm taking either one or both of those men back to my hotel to play with. Care to join in?"

"It's fine," he said, trying to keep the anger out of his voice. "I just wish it wasn't Ian. I wish you'd come to me. You know you can talk to me about anything."

Charlie abruptly rolled over to face him, even though they couldn't see each other.

"You know what, Don? You say that and you say that and I think maybe having said it so many times you might actually have convinced yourself that it's true, but it's not. Maybe you have good intentions deep down, but it's all talk. When have we ever seriously discussed what was going on with us as adults?"

"Hey, I offer and you don't come talk to me," Don countered, suddenly defensive. "I'm here for you and if you don't take advantage of it, it's not my fault."

"See, that's exactly it, I try to come talk to you and you just shut me out, so why would you remember all the times I tried?"

"Name one," Don challenged.

"Fine. When Buck Winters escaped from prison."

"I was kind of busy trying to catch a killer!" Don argued. "Sorry if I didn't want to take time out to babysit you."

Charlie made a growling frustrated noise, so loud Don could feel the puff of air from it on his face.

"And after you caught him? You were just an open book with all sorts of time for me? Sorry, Don. The 'I was busy saving the world' excuse is fine, but you can't have that and the 'I'm always here for you' line at the same time." The air was heavy with charged emotion between them and there was a brief silence when only harsh breathing was heard. When Charlie spoke again his voice was softer, calmer. "There's a wall between us, Don. A wall you put up. And I'm beginning to think it's not a wall to keep me out, it's a wall you built to keep you in."

Don blinked into the darkness at his brother's words. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying," Charlie continued, "that I think the reason you're not really there for me is that in order to be there - really there - you have to open up yourself in return and that, for some reason, is not an option for you. Think about it... Who do you really talk to about your life? Who do you share all your secrets and insecurities with? I know it's not Robin. When I bitch about how you never talk to me, she chimes in. I don't think it's Bradford because you're too smart to tell your therapist anything you wouldn't want the Bureau to know. So when it comes down to it, who do you share your deepest innermost thoughts, worries, fears with?" Charlie shifted closer, their hands brushing at the sides as they lay facing each other. "I think it's no one. And I think you're not going to be there for me as long as that's true."

"So this is your idea of the kind of therapy I need?"

Ian slipped his belt off and coiled it on top of the hotel dresser, every movement he made precise, measured, as perfectly executed as one of his shots.

"Yes, it is. And it has one distinct advantage over your current therapy..." He loomed over where Don sat uncertain. "No talking."

Getting no response from Don, Charlie finally rolled over, turning away from him with a huff of resignation.

The heat Don had built up had dissipated and now the space between them was cool... Empty...

"I would help..." Charlie's voice was tiny, an echoless whisper in the small room. "If only you would let me."

Don opened his mouth, but had no words. Nothing came.

After a while he rolled over, facing away from Charlie. Doing so took him off the blanket a little and the floor was bitter cold, but he bore it anyway, suffering without a sound as he struggled to make his mind shut up long enough so he could sleep.


The light snapped on and Don greeted it with a scowl.

Before he could get up, Charlie rose and went to use the toilet, returning to the bed wordlessly. Don got up and took his turn then opened up the trunk, pulling out a bottle of beer.

"Beer for breakfast?" Charlie's tone held neither accusation nor mirth - more dead than anything.

"I'm thirsty. Besides, it wipes out this awful taste in my mouth." Don took a long swig and offered it to Charlie who shook his head. He just sat, huddled in the blankets, staring at the floor as Don drank.

Once he'd drunk half the bottle, Don put it aside and headed for the chain, climbing up and getting himself situated in place to start chipping away at the concrete again.

His body ached from the repetitive motion of the day before, but it was the ache of hard labor - the kind he was used to, the kind he endured as a sort of badge of honor, as if it was proof of his worthiness.

"I feel like I got run over by a Mack truck."

Ian pushed Don back down onto the mattress and started to massage his back, strong hands seeking aching muscles, working the kinks out.

"This is the good kind of ache - the kind you want to feel for a while afterwards. It's a reminder and you want to be reminded of this, believe me."

Between blows he glanced down, noticing Charlie hadn't gone to get any food or drink from the trunk. He sat with his knees pulled up to his chest, blanket wrapped tight around him, head down so Don couldn't see his face.

As much as Don wanted to forget what had been said the night before, Charlie's body language made it clear he hadn't - and likely wouldn't.

Twisting on the belts to try another angle for his blows, Don almost lost his balance - the strong beer hitting him harder than normal on an empty stomach. He recovered quickly and looked over to make sure Charlie hadn't noticed.

He took a moment to switch the way he was facing, wanting to work more on the side with less chipped away even if it was more awkward of an angle.

He gave it a few solid hits and a decent amount of debris fell to the floor: progress.

"I'm going to need your help in a little bit," Don called down, trying to keep his manner neutral, focused on his task. "Once I get it loose we'll probably need both our body weight combined to break it..."

And then he was falling, the floor rushing up to meet him.


Don blinked amidst the pile of debris that surrounded him on the floor as he stared up into Charlie's panicked face.

"I'm okay, I think..."

"You were out cold! I couldn't wake you up!" When Don started to move, Charlie put his hands on his shoulders to keep him down. "Don't try to move! You fell on the shackles and you might have injured something."

"What happened?" Don asked, grimacing as he tried to sit up.

Ian was fully dressed again and halfway across the room, packing up his equipment, as he euphemistically called the tools of his so called trade - his other trade, not the one he practiced for the Bureau.

"You blacked out. Everyone's got a pain threshold. Go too far and the mind just shuts down, which - in my opinion at least - is a good thing. Everyone needs to shut down every once in a while."

Don could indeed feel the uneven surface under his back and even just a tiny movement brought a sharp shard of pain slashing across his back.

"Okay," Don said, trying to stay calm. "Basic triage. Let's start with getting me rolled onto my side. That way you can pull the chains out and check my back for injury."

"Just tell me what to do," Charlie said, waiting anxiously above him.

"Push me onto my left side since most of the stuff seems to be under my right side. Keep me on my side until you move the stuff out of the way and check my ribs - just press gently on each one in turn."

"How will I know which are hurt by pressing on them?" Charlie asked, getting into position.

"Oh, I'm thinking me screaming in pain will be a valid indicator," Don drawled, humorless. Charlie put his hands on him and waited. "Okay, now!"

Charlie pushed him onto his side and rapidly cleared the floor of chains and shackles. He moved his hands next to Don's back, swiftly but carefully pressing his way down first the right side then the left side of his back. "You didn't scream, that's a good sign, right?"

Don stopped biting his lip. "So nothing broken, but based on how much it hurt? I've probably got about four bruised ribs on the right side. Go ahead and lower me back down."

"Hold on a sec!" Charlie ran over, fetched one of the blankets, and laid it out under Don before rolling him back.

Don hissed at the pain, but breathed easier once he was lying down on his back again. "Okay, I just need a break, then I can get back to getting us out of here."

"Don, are you nuts? You just fell like twelve feet! You probably have a concussion and you may even have cracked ribs. You're not doing anything."

"If I don't get us out..." Don began.

"Then I will," Charlie said, adamant. "Sorry, big brother, but you don't get to be boss of this room just because you're older. It's our job to get us out, not your job to get me out."


"You want to argue? Get up and stop me," Charlie taunted. He headed away to gather up the now fallen chains and hook. Don tried to rise, but the pain cut into him - stealing his breath with its sharpness - and he had to give up the idea of getting up, at least for a while. "There's a ring in the trap door," Charlie said. "If I can catch the hook on it..."

"That was my idea too. If I can climb up there..."

"If I can climb up there," Charlie interrupted, "I can figure out a way to get it open or maybe even break a hole in it." The hook still had a little concrete attached to it, so Charlie busted it off, clearing the hook of debris. He stared at the ring over twelve feet above him, swung the hook tentatively around a few times then launched the hook into the air.

It didn't even make it halfway there.

"You can't do it."

Charlie just glared at Don. "Do you seriously want to judge me on my very first try? Is that your idea of being a supportive big brother?"

Don closed his eyes and turned away at the spiteful barb.

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Yes, you did." A clanging noise rang out in the room and Don whipped his head around to see the hook falling down from hitting the trap door. "See? Physics. The more data I amass in trials, the better my experiments progress."

"Charlie? You've got to understand, my brother's one of those sheltered academic types."

Ian raised an eyebrow at Don and cast his eyes back to where Charlie was animatedly explaining something to Colby and David in the conference room.

"I don't think you're giving your brother enough credit. There's more to him than you realize because you only see the brother, not the man."

As Don watched him Charlie had a few near misses and even though a few of his swings still ran a little wild, Don found himself almost catching his breath each time the hook hit the ring.

Breathless from exertion, Charlie took a break, sinking down by the wall beneath the door.

He glanced up at the trap door wistfully. "I guess we really did fall down the rabbit hole."

Don almost bolted straight up out of shock, only his back protesting kept him from doing so. "What did you say?"

"I'm here. So what is this special session all about, the one you seem to think I need?"

Ian pulled a bottled water from his bag, opened it and added a splash of something from a metal flask to it before handing it to Don.

"If you trust me, really trust me, drink this and don't ask any questions. Tonight you go down the rabbit hole."

"It's from Alice in Wonderland... Oh god..." Charlie's face showed he'd had the same kind of revelation as Don. "It's what Ian said to me. He called me and had me meet him somewhere. He gave me a drink of something and told me I was going down the rabbit hole. I remember now..."

"So Ian drugged both of us, tossed us down here together. For what? To piss me off? If so, good job. And if I'm hurt bad enough I have to miss work? He's in for it. I could press charges at this point - end his damn career."

"You won't." When Don just stared at him, Charlie shrugged. "Ian knows your skeletons and mine and technically we both - if your experience is like mine - gave our permission for this in some way, shape or form. We both drank the kool-aid. We both wanted to see Wonderland."

"Some wonderland," Don scoffed. "I've seen nicer prison cells."

"Prison..." Charlie stood up abruptly, doing a circuit of the small room as if seeing it anew. "That's it. I get it now."


"Ian kept chiding me each time I likened being wrapped up in the numbers in my head to being a prisoner. He told me I didn't know what prison was like. He said if I knew I wouldn't say that. He also said what would really be prison for me would be to be denied my gifts."

"As pissed as I am at the guy," Don said. "He has a point. You without your math? You'd go nuts within a day or so, guaranteed. And being stuck in your head? Try being held prisoner, tortured and almost killed by Chinese spies. I'm sure Colby will tell you it's a cakewalk compared to the math parade in your head - as continuous as it may be."

Charlie stood looking pensive for a while, not speaking. "I won't even compare anything I've been through to Colby's experiences," he said carefully. "So let's not even go there. But being tortured and being trapped are two different experiences. I never really considered the concept that neither of those really applied to how I feel about what goes on in my head. I'm not tortured: it's not physically painful, just aggravating and at times overwhelming, but we're not talking waterboarding here."

"Waterboarding?" Don scoffed.

Charlie held up a hand. "Let me finish. It's not really trapped, although that's probably the closest word. My mind really does take over at times, but that doesn’t mean there aren't ways to pull me out of my head. Mom could always do it and once in a while you and Dad can, but I don't think you know for sure when you do since it's not always immediate."

"Got an example?" Don asked.

"'Snap out of your precious bubble?'" Charlie quoted. "I did. It was hard, but I did - in time. Not that I like you yelling at me and pushing me around, but I think I needed something extreme to counteract the trauma of seeing you get shot."

Don's expression softened. "I never wanted you to see me like that."

"What? Vulnerable? Human?" Charlie tossed out. "Mortal?"

"Is it so bad that I wanted to be bigger than life for the little brother who looked up to me?" Don asked.

"You goddamn motherfucker! When I get out of this I'm going to kick your ass!"

Ian hit him one more time with the flogger across the back, making Don hiss. The leather straps didn't break the skin, but the initial sting of the first blow had given way to excruciating pain as the blows rained down.

"Damn it, Eppes! I think you like suffering too much to ever yield. I've never met anymore more obstinate and less willing to just fucking let go..."

"If that's what's keeping the wall between us?" Charlie said. "Then yeah." He rose, taking a deep breath as he swung the chain and hook. "I need to get back to work."

Don closed his eyes, willing his back muscles to relax despite the cold seeping into them, concentrating on the sound of metal meeting metal each time Charlie swung the hook and it almost caught, knowing he should be wishing for his brother to succeed, but increasingly sinking into depression that their places weren't reversed.

Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on February 4th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
Please see Part 2 for Confession post.


Emma DeMarais
hear me roar: Not Okaymagisterequitum on February 4th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
Oooh... Ian, just what are you doing, lovely? Playing the Chesire Cat as you pull everyone along?

This is great, Emma. I love the idea of both Don and Charlie with Ian for the same thing but for different reasons. And the flash backs to times with Ian and just... oh boy.

I cannot wait for more. =)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 4th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)

I figure I'm only implying the Charlie and Ian relationship so while it's gen to me it could be read as Charlie/Ian if people want to see it that way. (And not like people can't decided to read this gen as Don/Charlie preslash too. Hehehe)

Technically you don't have to wait, you know, seeing as how this is a repost.
hear me roarmagisterequitum on February 4th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
Yes. It's a relationship but can also not be one.

Ah. I shall hunt for them.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on February 4th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
It's a relationship, just not a sexual one, since not all BDSM relationships have sex in them.

Link to the N3NY comm is at the top of the post. Fic's not hard to find there - only 8 people participated this year. :-(

Part 2 will be up tomorrow anyway.
ladygray99ladygray99 on February 5th, 2009 07:42 am (UTC)
I have to say when I saw this one on N3NY I didn't think it was one of yours. Don't take this weird, it's a good story, it just didn't feel like one of yours if I had to take a guess on it. Maybe I should say this doesn't feel like your current work. Maybe more old school Emma. A much darker, Sniper Zero, Ian before we really knew him. And maybe a more pre-therapy Don. Still good work, just different.
amandajane: No's - hot legalellisonbabe on February 5th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC)
I came on Lj today desperately needing a fic fix, and you just hit the mark with this one. In fact you blew the mark away. Thank you!! I'm going to make myself wait and read part 2 tomorrow, somwething to look forward to. (and in return all I have is this icon ;P )
amandajaneellisonbabe on February 5th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
hey you got this twice *smacks lj*
Tori Lovelostandalone22 on February 8th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
Great story!