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Weight of the World

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Weight of the World
by nancy
the_tenth_muse1@yahoo.com

Don stared through the window at the doctors and nurses as they rushed to save a life. He didn't feel the blood dripping down his arm and the throbbing pain of broken ribs came from very far away.

"Sir? Sir, why don't you come with me?"

Don blinked at the blond woman beside him, a doctor from the look of her, and then shook his head. "I need to stay, to make sure he's okay."

"There's nothing you can do now," she said softly. "Let the doctors do their job."

He let her pull him away then, swaying a little as they walked to a nearby exam bed. He sat down with a groan, his own injuries suddenly making themselves felt. His head ached, his ribs scraped together, and the knife cut on his shoulder burned.

"Strachey!"

Don glanced over at Bailey's irritated growl and his lips twisted into a brief grin. "Hey, Bub."

"What the hell happened?" Bailey demanded, scowling at him.

The doctor held up a finger and told him, "You can talk to him, but step back while I work."

Bailey stepped back as ordered and the doctor unbuttoned Don's bloody shirt and began cutting through the t-shirt below.

Bailey prompted, "So what happened?"

Don sighed and explained, "I was watching Sandra Wilks. Her husband thought she was having an affair. She was. With a woman."

Bailey winced. "Okay. So how's that turn into a man on the operating table with a gunshot wound and you stabbed to ribbons?"

Hissing when the doctor cleaned out the long cut on his shoulder, Don took a breath and held it a moment before answering, "I was meeting with a coworker of hers tonight at Gregson's. He called me this morning and set the time. He didn't have much to say, really, just confirming that Sandra and Beth met a lot on the account, a lot of late nights. We were in the parking lot after and Stan Wilks comes barreling at us, yelling at the top of his lungs. He thought Jake was the one she was having an affair with."

"So wait, he followed you?" Bailey asked.

Gritting his teeth as the doctor stitched up the cut, Don nodded. "Yeah, he did. He must've used a friend's car, which is why I missed him. Thought I saw a gray sedan a couple times on the way there, but there was no reason to think I was being followed."

Bailey gave him a sympathetic nod. "Sure. The guy hires you, you figure he's going to want proof."

"Yeah. Anyhow. He's got a knife, not a gun, and went at Jake. I got between them and managed to get the knife away from Wilks. Next I know, Jake's got a gun and they're fighting for it. It goes off and Wilks is on the ground. I put pressure on the wound and had Jake call 9-1-1."

"That's the kid in my holding cell," Bailey guessed.

Don nodded. "That's the one."

"Arms out," the doctor ordered.

Don held his arms up a little so she could wrap his ribs, grimacing at the tight fit.

Bailey grunted and then said, "So it's self-defense."

"I would say, yeah," Don replied. It killed him that things had gone down the way they had. He should've seen that Wilks was more unstable than he presented, should have been able to anticipate the man would go off the edge.

"Hey, ah, Strachey."

Don regrouped and looked at Bailey, questioning.

A little awkward, Bailey continued, "Don't beat yourself up about this. No way you could have known this would happen."

Shaking his head, Don said, "I should've been paying more attention."

Bailey opened his mouth again, but Tim's voice stridently overrode whatever he might have said with, "I'm looking for Donald Strachey!"

Don half-grinned at Bailey and called out, "Over here, Tim."

"I mean it," Bailey said, poking a finger at him. "Don't take this one to heart. It's not on you."

Tim appeared, rushing over at a near run to stop short at the exam bed. He didn't even acknowledge Bailey or the doctor who had shifted to looking at Donald's head. "Oh my God, Donald, what happened? Are you all right?"

Don took Tim's hand and pulled him in for a one-sided hug. Kissing his cheek, Don promised, "I'm fine."

"You don't look fine!" Tim exclaimed, pulling away.

Don asked, "Doc, you want to lay it out for us?"

"Three broken ribs, fifteen stitches in the shoulder, and a mild concussion with five more stitches, which I'm about to start," she answered. "Nothing life threatening or even needing an overnight stay. He'll be fine."

"See? I'm fine," Don repeated.

Tim's mouth thinned into a straight line and he retorted primly, "I highly doubt that."

Bailey spoke up with, "I'm heading out. Callahan, keep him off the streets for a few days, wouldja? I'd like not to end up back here for a while."

Tim nodded and stated almost grimly, "Oh I will."

Don glared at Bailey. "Gee, thanks, Bailey."

"My pleasure, Strachey," Bailey answered cheerfully.

Tim held Don's hand as the doctor finished up the stitches, strangely quiet. Not that Don was going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He was sure that Tim would let him have it as soon as they were either in the car or back home. Either way, he'd enjoy the peace and quiet as long as he could.

It was another hour before the paperwork was done and they were in Tim's car heading home. The continued silence had taken on an ominous tone in Don's mind; he couldn't remember the last time Tim had been so quiet. By then, though, it felt weird enough that words wouldn't come. He had no idea what to say because he didn't know what Tim was thinking.

Tim pulled into the driveway and ordered, "Stay. I'll help you out."

Don decided discretion was the better part of valor and stayed put. Tim hurried around to the passenger's side and opened the door. He helped Don to his feet, which was actually a good thing, since Don's sense of balance had apparently decided to disappear during the ride home. Leaning on his husband, Don walked to the front door and then they were inside.

The house was lit and the fire was going, so was music. And that was when Don remembered that they were supposed to have had movie night. It was Tuesday. "Oh honey, I'm sorry. I forgot movie night again."

"I know," Tim agreed, helping him towards the stairs.

Don sighed. "I don't deserve you."

Tim huffed and confirmed, "No, no you don't."

Don didn't say anything else as they went into the bedroom. Not only was he responsible for the shooting of one man and the ruination of another, he'd hurt Tim yet again.

"Okay. Let's get you comfortable for the night."

He let Tim lower him onto the bed, hissing at the pain from his broken ribs. It was almost a routine, letting Tim prop him with pillows so the pressure was off his ribs. He felt Tim pull off his socks and shoes and then heard him move around the bedroom before leaving quietly. Breathing as deep as his ribs allowed, Don let it out in a shaky breath. He'd really fucked up tonight, there was no doubt about that. All he could do was try to make it up to Tim when he could stand up straight.

*  *  *  *

Getting the call from Bailey that Don was in the hospital had nearly given him a heart attack. There'd been something different in the man's voice from the other times that he'd called Tim. It had been a kind of undertone that had caused Tim's gut to clench with worry. Seeing Don bandaged and on the exam table hadn't done anything for his nerves, nor had the catalog of injuries the doctor had so blithely rattled off. Still, he bundled Don up in his jacket and helped him to the car.

The ride home was spent trying to figure out how to deal with what had happened. He would need to call in to work at least for tomorrow, possibly the day after. Don would hate that he was taking time off to look after him, but Tim wouldn't let him just flounder around with those injuries. The ribs alone would be too painful to get around well with, even though Don would protest any kind of `babying.'

He heard every soft groan that Don made on the walk up the stairs to their bedroom, every muffled hiss of breath used to try and negate the pain. He had taken pain medication at the hospital, but obviously they hadn't kicked in yet. Or maybe they had, given Don's lack of balance, but weren't strong enough to counteract all the injuries.

Leaving Don in the bedroom, Tim took a few minutes to collect himself. He went back downstairs and turned off all the lights as well as banked the fire. Stopping in the kitchen, he poured a glass of water and drank some of it before dumping it and setting it in the dishwasher. He leaned on the kitchen island and said to the empty room, "This could be a problem."

Because Don had been far too quiet on the ride home. The few times he'd glanced over at his lover had shown a drawn expression filled with recriminations. Tim didn't have the details of what had happened, but he didn't really need them. Don took things far more deeply to heart than anyone would expect, even things that weren't his fault.

His cell rang and he grimaced on seeing Bailey's ID. Sighing, he answered, "Yes?"

"Hello to you, too," Bailey replied, dry. "You should tell Strachey that Wilks is out of surgery and he's going to be fine. And that kid Jake's been released, no charges filed since it was self-defense."

It was information that would definitely come in handy and the detective hadn't needed to call and let them know. Tim didn't have to force the grateful tone as he said, "Thank you, Detective."

"No problem. Good night, Callahan."

"Good night, Detective."

Tim headed back upstairs after that, stopping at the bathroom first to relieve himself and get ready for bed. When he got back to the bedroom, he took one look at Don and knew he wasn't asleep despite the closed eyes. Smiling fondly, he walked over to the bed and got in on his side, turning off the bedside lamp to curl up behind Don.

Kissing the back of his neck, Tim asked quietly, "You want to talk about it?"

"It went bad very, very fast," Don answered, voice muffled.

Tim rubbed his hand slowly back and forth over Don's stomach. "I heard Bailey say it wasn't your fault."

"Bailey wasn't there."

"No, you were. Was it really your fault? And don't lie to me."

Don paused for a few minutes before sighing and admitting, "I guess not, but it still feels like I should have been able to do something. I should've been able to see Wilks was on the edge."

"How? Are you psychic and didn't tell me?" Tim prompted.

Don snorted, lacing his fingers with Tim's. "No. I'm not."

Tim kissed the back of his neck again and said, "Well there you go. Now I want you to close your eyes and sleep."

Don squeezed his hand as he said, "I don't think I can."

"It should help that Bailey called," Tim told him. "He said that Wilks is out of surgery and expected to make a full recovery, and that Jake was released with no charges pending."

"It does help, thanks, Timmy."

Sliding his other arm under the pillow, Tim repeated, "I want you to close your eyes now and sleep. Nothing that happened tonight was your fault. Let it all go, okay, baby? The weight of the world is not on your shoulders. Not tonight."

Don didn't reply, but he did relax back against Tim.

It was a victory of sorts and one that he would take without hesitation. The next couple of days would be spent on an emotional roller coaster, thanks to the way Don internalized unnecessary guilt. Tim would just keep reminding him that he was only human and what had happened wasn't his fault. It would likely need to be said multiple times, but Tim was nothing if not persistent; especially when it came to the most important person in his life.

Smiling to himself at the thought, Tim yawned and let himself drift to sleep to the soft sound of his husband's breathing and the feel of Don, warm and trusting, in his arms.


end