Pairing/Characters: Don Eppes, Charlie Eppes, season 5 team
Rating/Category: PG-13, gen
Spoilers: Nothing specific, except inclusion of new season 5 character
Summary: He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. He has work to do, a goal to accomplish, he can’t let this get to him. Can’t let her get to him. (Prompt: ruby.)
Notes/Warnings: Implied death of a major character. Dark, considering what I usually write.
ETA: This was beta'd excellently and quickly by thewhiteowl.
The Wavelength of Ruby
The gunshot echoes behind you. The team was supposed to hold fire. You turn to give them a piece of your mind.
Droplets on window glass glitter like rubies.
Red streaks the door, the handle, the pavement.
You don’t recognize your own voice, or feel the asphalt under your stumbling feet. "Charlie!"
Colby scrubs a hand through his short hair. "Suspect slipped out the back while we were distracted. The Jeep pulled up just close enough to fire at our cars. It was absolutely deliberate, and means they’ve probably been watching us while we watch them."
"But we did get a lead on the shooter." David’s voice is warm, and he offers the sheaf of papers with confidence. "A red Jeep with the partial plate Nikki wrote down comes back registered to Jonathan Petrarca."
Don flips through the sheets. The driver’s license photo looks startlingly similar to their main suspect: dark, thick hair, and narrow, close-set eyes. "What, is he Aaron’s brother?"
"Nah. Cousin." David points to the typed address. "We’ll try the house first, but I’d bet you he knows better than to head back there."
"Good." Don waves them both away. "Let me know when you’re ready to go."
Colby heads off at once.
David leans on the desk and looks at Don, brown eyes steady and compassionate. "How you doing?"
"Fine." Don meets his gaze, meets the challenge there.
His eyes are wide, white ringing rich brown. They roll, jerking from side to side. Looking for something to fix on, something to tell him what’s happening.
You try to get his attention. Snap your fingers in front of his face. "Charlie, it’s okay, look at me."
His gaze just slides past yours. Like he can’t find your face. Like you don’t exist.
Don roots through a pile of papers on his desk, cursing under his breath. The warrant is here, it has to be, it can’t have been put anywhere else.
Slender fingers close around his wrist. He looks up, and Robin is there. He knows the look on her face, the one that says how badly she wants to hold him, but only the touch of her hand connects them.
Robin searches his face. "How’s Charlie?"
Don looks at her. There are no words, yet, and that’s not the question she’s asking anyway.
Robin sighs, and takes a breath to try again.
From across the room, Nikki shouts. "Don! Warrant’s right here!" She’s waving the folded paper high.
"I have to go," he says, and Robin nods. The warm skin of her palm slides from his wrist as he turns away.
Unshaven bristles rasp against your fingers as you turn his face towards you. Your hand curls under the jaw where the pulsing jugular thuds against the heel of your palm. Strong. Frantic. Faltering.
Don steps softly through the hallway, gun up and ready, heading for the suspect’s bedroom.
Behind him, someone shouts "Clear!" That’s Colby.
One swift kick and the door thumps back against the wall. Quick check in the closet, under the bed, through the window.
Someone leans against the doorway. Liz. "Time to call in the math geeks?" she suggests.
Don shakes his head. He understands why she’s asking, even if it’s the stupidest question he’s heard in a while. "We have to do this on our own. Give me some good solid police work."
A shallow, gasping breath. "Hu-huh.”
There are voices all around, some louder, some soft. The crackle of radio static from those who stormed the apartment. "Empty, completely . . . looks like he went out . . . cleared the stash . . . get techs in here . . ."
Nikki cursing fluidly, she’s got one of the dirtiest mouths you’ve ever heard. Colby and David overlapping each other, calling for an ambulance, for additional backup. Something about a red Jeep.
Everything else continues, but the next breath is less than a gasp, and you have to strain to hear it.
The phone on his desk rings twice, before Don reaches over to pick it up. "Eppes."
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. He has work to do, a goal to accomplish, he can’t let this get to him. Can’t let her get to him. "Megan. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
She doesn’t speak for several moments. "Larry called me. He said they won’t know anything until Charlie’s out of surgery." She pauses, maybe hoping for information that he doesn’t have. "I’m on the next flight to L.A. I just . . . I wanted to let you know."
"I’m fine," Don tells her. He can’t be anything but fine right now. No matter what her tone of voice suggests, no matter what slack she would be willing to cut him.
"Don . . ."
"I’m fine. Even the brass hasn’t put any moves on me, they’re letting me run the case."
Her silence says as much as one of Charlie’s analogies. You’ve got some stupid, careless idiots in charge of you, then. "I’ll see you this evening," she adds. "Take care. Please."
"You too." Don sits with the receiver at his ear until the dial tone buzzes.
There’s no cry, no other sound. But that one ripples through the people at your side, turning them all as you turn, as you see the effect of the shot:
Liquid ruby in shining threads trail down the blue metal of the door. Soak into the tan jacket and white T-shirt on the crumpled figure by the tire.
"Don?" The soft voice almost doesn’t reach him, engrossed as he is in a discussion of search grids with Liz and David.
Amita stands in the doorway of the war room, clutching her purse. Her hair’s pulled back from her face in a sloppy ponytail, her eyes puffy and bloodshot.
Don can’t imagine why she’s here. "Why aren’t you with Larry and Dad at . . . ?"
"I’m here to get the Prius." She gets the words out as fast as she can. "He left some papers in there that someone will need to cover his classes, I know because I, because. . . ." Her voice trails off and her eyes wander to the diagrams on the monitor.
Of course. The car stayed here in the FBI lot. Don nods. "Keys are in my desk drawer." Jerking a thumb at the screens, he dares to ask, Any thoughts on this? We’re trying to find the most likely hideout for these guys."
Before he’s finished the sentence Amita is backing out of the room, shaking her head like he asked her to handle a cobra. "I have to go, I have to get back . . ."
Colby’s voice crackles through the speaker phone. "Don, we’ve got a hit. That private storage place on Fulton? Aaron just went inside."
Quiet humming tension in the air. This is what you live for, most days, even those made of paperwork and computer tracking. This sense of imminent action. Of righting wrongs.
Of melding with your team.
Of working with your brother, whose numbers pointed out the pattern in these thefts. Pointed you to this house at this time with this gun in your hand.
You pop your gum. Gesture right, and then left. "Nobody moves till I give the signal. Hold your fire; if we can take this guy without a fight, I want to."
Still. Quiet. Ready.
Don adjusts the focus on his binoculars. The door, the sweep of gravel approaching the storage area. That’s all they can see from here, and it doesn’t feel like enough. He keeps reminding himself that there are other teams surrounding the building, that Colby and David have an eye on the main drag, that Liz is bossing sound-surveillance techs around in the warehouse next door.
Nikki shifts in the passenger’s seat. "We’ve got night scopes, right?"
It’s not dusk yet, and she’s the one who packed them, what’s she asking him for? Don stays focused, keeps watching. "Nothing moving. Yet."
She shifts again. Sighs.
"Have you ever done surveillance before?" Don asks before he can stop himself.
He can practically feel the waves of screw you defensiveness rolling off her. But when she speaks, her voice is light and deprecating. "More than my share."
She falls quiet, then, and he’s grateful for that. The last thing in the world he wants right now is anything that might distract him from spotting this guy.
It’s several minutes before she speaks again and he’s not sure whether it’s meant to be comforting or just a statement of fact. "We’ll catch him, Don."
Her hand rests on his shoulder. He ignores it.
Dead air left behind silenced sirens. Rich light spinning, dyeing the car garnet, your white sleeves ruby. Tinting everything the color of those shining drops.
Pale, clammy skin shades into red. Blue lips gasping for air deepen to purple. Stains on shirt, on pavement, on cuffs fade under the pulse of light. It echoes the pulse of arterial blood under your palm.
Other hands are on your shoulders, some in gloves, some familiar and bare. Shaking you, trying to move you. No. No. You can’t leave. You should never have turned your back.
The radio snaps to life. "Don!" Colby sounds as focused as Don himself. "We’ve got him moving down Fulton. He’s rounding your corner any second."
There. That dark hair and beard, the stooping shoulders Nikki had described. "That’s definitely him," she says, not a shred of doubt in her voice.
Don thumbs his radio. "I’ve got him. Get ready to move," he tells the team. "I want him inside the house before we go in. Do not move till I give the signal."
Jonathan Petrarca shuffles along, unaware that he’s about to answer for the blood he’s spilled.
Don’s cell phone vibrates against his waist. For a moment he tries to ignore it, because that can’t be his team, can’t be anyone Bureau. And he can’t afford to hear anything else right now.
He drops the binoculars. Points to Nikki and the street, and snatches the phone to his free ear. "Yeah, Eppes."
The voice on the other end is quiet. Broken. It grabs at his insides in a way he hasn’t felt for over five years. "Donnie."
His father doesn’t have to say the rest. The fragile hope they’ve all been clinging to just snapped. "I’ll call you back," Don tells him, and closes the phone on the best years of his life.
Nikki raises her eyebrows at him, but doesn’t ask. "Petrarca’s gone in," she tells him instead.
Don reaches for his radio.
A hand finds your wrist, clinging weakly, insistently. You look up, and those wide eyes are open and fixed on yours.
He chokes on the breath he draws in, but you recognize the mangled word he pushes out. "Don."
You wrap your free hand around his in return. "I’m here, buddy. I’m right here."
Bang. The recoil is natural in Don’s grip, and he lowers his weapon slowly.
Red droplets cling to the white wall, glittering like gems under a bare fluorescent bulb. Trailing down to a crumpled body and the ruin of a face.
Reluctant hands pry away his gun. Colby’s hands, and Colby’s voice. "Fuck, Don. The guy wasn’t even armed."
Doesn’t matter. That never mattered.
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