It was Friday evening and Charlie had just arrived home from work. He was looking forward to the weekend. Two days when he won't have to try and coral Blake into behaving. The last few weeks were hard for Charlie. He felt like being stuck between two rocks. On one side, there was Monroe. It was his superior officer who knew his father and was sure to remind Charlie of his own shortcomings. He was also the man who was sent to Ballarat to get rid of Lucien Blake. Charlie was sure of that if nothing else. Still, he couldn't make head and tail of the man. He was strict and by the book... all that Charlie stride towards to be when he arrived into Ballarat. But Blake had changed him. And maybe that was the problem.
Just a year ago, Charlie would be happy about Monroe's presence. Happy about meeting a man that worked with his father, whose goals were similar to his own. A man of integrity, who worked by the books. But that was before Blake. Before Blake worked himself straight into Charlie's heart. Before the man took over the missing father figure in Charlie's life. Now Ballarat felt like home and Blake and Jean were like family. A bit non-traditional one, but a family.
Although Charlie felt Jean still had her doubts about him and was trying to keep him at distance, he hoped she was warming up to him. If it took helping out around the house to gain her respect, Charlie would do just that. If it took trying to save Blake from making a mistake and fall into one of Monroe's little traps, Charlie would do his damned best to do just that. After all, Lucien Blake was one of a kind and the town needed him. So Charlie wrapped up all the stress of the previous weeks and tried to ignore it for a short moment. He needed a break and if no one went on a sudden murdering spree, he should achieve it. And what a better way to start his weekend relaxation than a good dinner with those he was starting to think of as family.
"Mattie, go tell Charlie and Lucien that dinner is ready," Charlie heard Jean's voice from the kitchen and quickly stepped out of Mattie's way as she headed towards the stairs.
"Ah, here you are. Not helping Jean out in the kitchen and trying to make me look lazy?" Mattie said, pausing in front of him with a smirk. Charlie blinked, a bit confused.
Mattie rolled her eyes.
"Come on, Charlie. I know you want her to like you, but try not make me look bad? Now I have to help out in the kitchen too if I want some dessert," Mattie said, trying to look put out, but Charlie saw the glint of amusement in her eyes and snorted.
"I can't help it if I know how to be a gentleman," Charlie said with what he hoped was an angelic smile. Mattie rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, right. Gentlemen don't boast or put innocent ladies into jail," she said and vanished up the stairs before Charlie could retort.
"Innocent lady my-" he uttered under his nose but cut himself off before entering the kitchen.
"Oh, Charlie, here you are. Be a dear and put the plates on the table," Jean pushed the plates into his hand and turned back towards the stove.
Charlie took in a whiff of garlic and something else. He saw the bottle of white wine on the counter but knew that Jean wasn't drinking unless there was an occasion.
"What's for dinner?" he asked even as he was placing the plates and some cutlery.
"Prawns!" Jean announced somehow proudly. "On garlic and wine, with potato salad."
"Prawns?" Charlie stepped near the stove to take a look. "I never had those," he admitted.
Jean looked at him with surprise.
"Really? I would've thought that being from Melbourne you would enjoy all the fresh seafood."
"We ate fish, but mum couldn't stand any other type of seafood. Dad also wasn't a fan, so we never really tried it."
Jean gave him a curious look.
"Well, no better dish to taste it first than my famous garlic prawns," she said with a smile.
"Did I hear garlic prawns? I know my father loved Jean's specialty! What's the occasion?" Lucien Blake walked into the kitchen, Mattie trotting alongside.
"Christopher Jr. left them as a parting gift," Jean said, beaming.
Charlie wondered what went down between the mother and the son during that night at the theatre. At first he sensed a lot of tension between them, but by the time they caught the killer, the air between Jean and Christopher had eased. Charlie watched them head home, feeling a twinge of jealousy about having to stay behind. When he returned home later that day, he wished Jean a happy birthday and gave her a small box of chocolates. Charlie knew Mattie was working on a cake the day before, but he didn't see a sign of it so he assumed the celebration was already over. It stung a bit, not to be included, but he convinced himself that was normal and he was just overreacting. After all, he was living at the house only for a few weeks. He wasn't family, only a pesky tenant. So he bit down the flush of regret, gave Jean a hug and wished her well, then departed to his room. That was a day ago and by now he managed to convince himself that things just needed a bit more time.
"Charlie? Be a lad and hand over the potato salad?" Blake spoke and pulled Charlie out of his musings. He put a scoop of the salad on his plate, then handed it over. The prawns smelled nice and Charlie's stomach growled in hunger. Mattie raised an eyebrow, her lips twitching in a smile.
"Were you too busy to get some lunch, Charlie?" she asked and Charlie was tempted to say no, but it was actually true, so he shrugged.
"It had been a busy day," he muttered, looking down at his plate. No sense in explaining how Monroe was riding his ass, needing everything down on paper as per protocol. Charlie was still finishing up with all the paperwork from the theatre murder. All the witness accounts had to be filed along with the new statement from their first suspect. After learning about how he was manipulated into getting the poison, the man folded like a pack of cards.
"Well, you should still have enough time for a bit of lunch," Blake protested, then half seriously added: "Maybe I should have a word with inspector Monroe about the importance of lunch."
"Please, don't!" Charlie uttered, his voice jumping up in panic at the idea of Blake talking to Monroe about him. He didn't need anything else to complement his misery really.
Mattie snickered at his reaction, while Jean rolled her eyes. Blake looked at her, curious.
"You're the one to tell people about importance of food. You... doctor Lucien Blake... who can go three days without even thinking of food if there's a mystery present."
This time it was Blake who rolled his eyes.
"I'm not that bad," he muttered, but the laughter from all the other occupants of the table spoke different. The talk had easily turned towards the doctor and his tendency to forget everything essential for life when confronted with a juicy mystery. Upon his protests, Jean proceeded to calm him down by mentioning that his father was just the same. Blake of course wasn't going to let that one lie.
It was to that easy atmosphere that Charlie took a bite of the prawn.
"Ooh, this is fantastic, Mrs. Beazley," he said after another bite, enjoying the taste as well as the texture. Jean turned away from Blake's recounting of a story and gave him a sheepish smile.
"Why, thank you, Charlie. It's nice to be appreciated nowadays," she said and her eyes turned back to Lucien for a second. Blake noticed, his eyebrow going up.
„I always appreciate you, Jean. And your wonderful cooking, of course."
Jean blushed a bit, eyes focused on the dish, but Charlie could see the slight smile tugging at her lips. He felt a sudden warmth running over his body as he took in the relaxed people around him. It took him a few more bites however to realize that the warmth wasn't just emotional. It was coming from his body, emanating through his skin. And it wasn't stopping.
Charlie reached for the glass of water, hoping the cool liquid would chase away the flush of heat. He took a few swallows, but must've done it too fast, because some of the water trickled down the wrong pipe. Charlie instinctively coughed, putting down the glass in lieu of covering his mouth.
Something just didn't feel right. His lips tingled and his tongue felt swollen, but what was worse was the fact he couldn't seem to catch his breath. It felt as if there was some obstruction. His cheeks were burning and unwittingly, tears sprung into Charlie's eyes in reaction to the strain.
By now everyone at the table noted his discomfort. Mattie was patting him on the back, saying some joke about learning to swallow that made Jean shush her with a horrified 'Mattie!'
Blake hid a snicker, but the amusement was quickly leaving his face. Charlie felt his gaze and raised his head, hoping to communicate his growing panic.
"Doc?" he choked out and was horrified at how hard that simple sound was, how weak it sounded. Now both Jean and Mattie were looking at him with confusion and concern, but Charlie didn't care. He was getting seriously worried about the trouble he had with each breath. Blake must've finally realized this wasn't just a simple coughing fit as Charlie clenched his fists on the tablecloth and made an effort to push back the chair and get up. Maybe if he was standing... maybe if he managed to get outside, he could breath.
"Charlie? What's wrong?" Blake was there, right next to him, and Charlie blinked. He didn't remember seeing Blake move, but that didn't mean much. His brain was getting foggy, the whole kitchen strangely out of place.
"Can't ... breathe," Charlie wanted to say, but he couldn't. There was not enough air to form the words. His whole body felt like on fire and his head was starting to ache, but that didn't matter, because Charlie knew that if the Doc didn't do something, he would suffocate, right then and there in the kitchen.
"It's alright, I've got you. Just calm down, Charlie, okay? Stay calm and keep breathing," Blake said and Charlie was hoping that the hint of panic in the doctor's voice was just his imagination.
What the hell was wrong with him?
Was he dying?
He tried to communicate the questions to Blake, but the man was ignoring him. Well, not really ignoring him, just a bit busy. First thing he did was unbutton the top of Charlie's shirt. It should have helped, Charlie thought. He felt the buttons near his neck were too tight. Everything was too tight. His clothes, his own skin. He felt heat spreading through his insides, but at the same time there was a strange chill.
"Pulse is too fast, trouble breathing, flushed skin. Mattie?" Blake recited Charlie's symptoms as if he was just one of his interesting cases.
"Allergy?" she asked and Blake leaned down, making eye contact with Charlie.
"Charlie, are you allergic to anything?"
The question sounded important, but Charlie couldn't really focus on it. He shook his head, because no, he didn't know if he was allergic. How the hell should he know? He never before felt like dying.
Blake was saying something to Mattie now and Charlie's eyes slid towards her, wide and pleading. He could hear his own rattling breaths, the wheezing attempt to take in some much needed oxygen. The doctor was feeling his neck and touching his face, but Charlie needed something else. He needed help, quickly.
"Please," he mouthed and Blake nodded.
"Come on, let's get you to my office. Mattie, help me."
Within a moment Charlie was hoisted up between Blake and Mattie. He wanted to protest, to tell them that he could walk, but in truth he couldn't. As soon as he was vertical, the blood seemed to rush from his head and his legs gave way to gravity. Blake and Mattie must've expected it though. They barely wavered as they half led, half carried him towards the doctor's office.
Jean was right behind them, worried and confused.
"Lucien, should I call an ambulance?" she asked and Charlie wanted to shout that yes, definitely, what was she still doing there? But Blake shook his head even as he lowered Charlie on the examination table.
"They won't make it in time. We need to fix this now."
Well, that definitely wasn't something Charlie wanted to hear. He jerked and grabbed at the Doc's hand, eyes wide.
'Please don't let me die, Doc!' his eyes screamed and Blake must've understood. He gently extricated his hand from Charlie's grasp and put it on his chest, while running the other one over his forehead in a soothing gesture.
"It's okay, Charlie. I'll help you. Trust me, okay? You'll be just fine."
Charlie blinked. He really wanted to believe that, but he could see the underlying fear in the Doctor's eyes. But what good would it do to doubt him? After all, Blake seemed to be his only chance. So he gave a shaky nod and let his arm fall down next to his side.
"Lucien? What do you need me to do?" Mattie asked and Charlie almost startled at her voice so near his head. For a moment he totally forgot she was there. But then, the whole situation was turning a bit surreal. His chest was in a vice, his mouth dry and full and his skin burning off... Charlie closed his eyes. Maybe this was all just a really bad nightmare.
"Stay awake, Charlie," Blake admonished him and Charlie opened his eyes.
"That's a good lad. Now Mattie, there's an oxygen bottle with a mask in that closet. You know how to set it up, right?"
Mattie just nodded and was already pulling the bottle out. Blake gave Charlie a look of encouragement, then turned towards the medicine cabinets. Charlie could hear him rummaging through, bottles clinking as Blake kept muttering something under his breath. Jean was still standing in the doorway, arms wrapped tight around her chest. She looked lost and Charlie felt guilty for being the cause of all this trouble. He wanted to apologize, but he wasn't even sure what for. His mind was becoming hazy, thoughts distorted. He was afraid, he knew that much. And there was something wrong with his throat.
Something plastic was put over his face and there was a rush of oxygen. He could smell it, could feel the stale smell. But try as he might, the vital air wasn't getting through his throat. His lungs were burning and Charlie reached up, fingers clawing at his neck, trying to pull the mask off.
Suddenly there was a pair of hands stopping him. He wanted to curse, to scream at them to let him go, he needed to breath and the mask didn't let him. The hands just held on and there was a familiar female voice talking to him soothingly.
„Stop it Charlie. Please, just try to breathe," Mattie repeated as a mantra and Charlie's face scrunched up in a grimace. What did she think he was trying to do all this time?
As if seeing his growing panic, or maybe it was just his lips turning blue from the lack of oxygen, Mattie called out.
"Doc? Hurry, please!"
Blake finally seemed to find what he was looking for and turned towards Charlie, wielding a syringe filled with some liquid.
„I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Charlie, I'm sure the ladies will understand."
Charlie had no idea what that meant, until Blake started undoing his belt. Without much fuss, Blake pulled down Charlie's pants almost to his knees.
Charlie would have protested, but at the moment he couldn't care less. His chest was in pain, his throat felt as if someone poured in cement and his head was short of an explosion. His vision was tunnelling and he was sure that in the next minute he would simply cease to exist.
Charlie didn't even feel the needle sliding into his upper thigh.
For a minute nothing really happened. Charlie's eyes were only half open now, the struggle for air clearly taking its toll. He was somehow still aware of Blake by his side, one hand holding his wrist, the other clutching the now empty syringe. Charlie could swear he heard fervent muttering coming from the doctor.
"Come on, let it work," Blake repeated, while Mattie looked on with wide eyes.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, the vice on Charlie's throat begin to lessen. The first breath he took in was shallow and it felt almost like a mistake. Like a fluke. But then there came the second and it was as if Charlie's lungs woke up from a long sleep. Charlie's eyes opened wide and he gulped down the air from the mask on his face like a drowning man. His chest was burning and his head was killing him, but never before was he so glad to feel the stale smell of plastic on his face.
"It's working!" Mattie said in pure disbelief, and Blake let out a sigh of relief.
"Yes, it seems so," he said with a tight smile on his lips. "Mattie, be a dear and grab those two bottles with the antihistamines and the corticosteroid from the table. We need to get the reaction down before the adrenaline wears off."
Mattie threw him a puzzled look, but did as she was told. In the meantime, Blake leaned over Charlie, checking his eyes and his breathing.
"Slow down, Charlie. Deep, even breaths," Blake said softly and Charlie almost snorted. Slowing down wasn't an option. Ever since this whole mess started, he didn't seem to be in command of his body. But he still nodded, trying to please Blake. Anything for the man that gave him back his ability to breath.
Charlie blinked, feeling something wet and warm trickle down his face. Only now did he realize there were tears in his eyes. He closed them, grimacing.
A gentle finger ran down his face, wiping off the tears and Charlie blinked up to see Blake with an understanding look on his face.
'Nothing to be ashamed of, Charlie,' said that look and Charlie felt his throat tightening up in a sudden onset of emotions. Which in turn caused him a mild panic attack that he would once again suffocate. But Blake was there, reassuring and seemingly calm and Charlie's throat still let the air through. And the more air he got, the easier it was to breath and the clearer the world around him become. This time when a needle pierced the skin on his arm he winced in surprise, but didn't protest.
"Just focus on breathing, Charlie," Blake was saying even as he fiddled with a bag of IV that was hung on a coat hanger pushed towards the bed. "If you feel your throat closing up, just let me know, okay? I have another dose of the medicine ready."
Charlie frowned in worry, but nodded. Was there a chance this wasn't over yet? He didn't want the repeat of the last few minutes... or hours?
"Lucien, how... how did you know adrenaline would help?" Mattie asked in a hushed voice, though Charlie could still hear the admiration and wonder in it. For a moment, Blake looked a bit uncomfortable as he turned towards the nurse.
"I've seen it used before... during the war."
"I've only ever seen it used for treating asthma," Mattie admitted sheepishly and Blake nodded.
"Yes. But I met a doctor in Singapore who had a patient, young soldier brought in in a respiratory arrest. The doctor assumed it was due a severe asthma attack so he used the adrenaline. Only once the patient started breathing did the doctor notice the bee sting on the back of the patient's neck."
"Did the patient survive?" Mattie asked, wide eyed. Charlie was looking at Blake too, expecting a positive answer.
"Yes, but it wasn't a happy ending. They brought him in too late, he was without oxygen for a prolonged time and suffered brain damage. Which..." Blake turned to Charlie, one hand patting his cheek gently, "won't happen to you. Understood?"
Charlie gave a shaky nod.
"Good. The antihistamines should take care of the allergic reaction soon. You'll be back on your feet before you know it, Charlie," Blake said, this time with a smile and Charlie felt the wild thumping inside his chest slow down just a bit.
There was movement at the door and Charlie saw Jean standing there, looking on the verge of tears and shaking. Charlie shot an imploring look at Blake, because the last thing he wanted right now was to watch Jean start crying. She was such a strong woman that even the thought of being the cause of her tears was making Charlie feeling all about two feet tall. He knew it was stupid, but nevertheless, he preferred her cheeky and no-nonsense self. Blake better fix that. Next to him, Mattie cleared her throat and pointedly pulled a chair next to the examination table, nodding at Blake.
"I'll keep an eye on him, Lucien. Why don't you go tell Jean that Charlie's going to be fine?" Mattie put an emphasis on the last word and Lucien seemed to understand.
"Of course, thank you, Mattie. But call me if his breathing changes, alright?"
Mattie nodded and Blake patted Charlie on the leg before heading towards Jean. Charlie watched as he put an arm around her shoulder and led her towards the living room, quietly talking to her. They heard a soft 'Thank God' before the two went out of sight.
"I must admit, you know how to scare the living hell out of us," Mattie said with a slight grin and Charlie raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
"Not my... fault," he muttered in between breaths. Even though his throat felt almost normal, Charlie still took in huge breaths in fear that they might be stolen from him once again. It made him feel a bit lightheaded, but he was lying down anyway, so he felt it was a low price to pay. Still, the mask on his face was starting to feel just a bit suffocating. Not to mention, his nose was itching. Charlie reached up to remove the mask, only to have his hand slapped away by Mattie.
"Hey!" he protested, though he was dismayed at the whiney tone of it.
"Leave it on."
Charlie frowned and managed to sneakily move one arm up and quickly scratch the tip of his nose before receiving a warning glare.
"Remind me... not to become a patient... when you're on duty," Charlie said grumpily and this time it was Mattie whose eyebrows went up.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" she asked, arms pointedly crossed over her chest.
"Your bedside manners suck," Charlie said bluntly. For a moment Mattie looked offended, but then she just rolled her eyes with a huff.
"Please. You haven't seen my bedside manners yet."
At this Charlie couldn't help, but point at the bed he was lying on. "Bed." Then he pointed at the space where Mattie was sitting. "Side," he added and finally he pointed at Mattie herself. "Manners." He finished with a smirk.
"Careful, or I'll grab the rest of the dinner and bring it over here," Mattie warned cheekily and despite knowing she was just joking to ease the stress of the last few minutes, Charlie went a bit pale. Mattie's face turned serious.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to-"
Charlie shook his head to stop her.
"S'okay. Joking. I'm just... it was scary," he admitted and if she wanted to make fun of that he would later blame the confession on the drugs and whatnot. But Mattie didn't start taunting him. Instead she reached out, her hand slipping into his own and squeezing gently. He wanted to return the squeeze and that's when Charlie realized just how shaky and weak he felt. How close he probably had been to dying. He swallowed and felt the horror of the situation coming back at him. If the doc wouldn't have had the drug he used or if he would've been out of the house... Charlie shuddered.
"I was scared too," Mattie admitted softly, pulling Charlie out of his dark thoughts.
He blinked. He remembered hearing Mattie's voice full of concern, but she seemed to have it all together. She didn't panic and was there when he needed her. Charlie didn't want to see her sad either.
"Worried some other copper would... arrest you next time?" he tried to joke, but it fell flat. Mattie gave him a look that spoke volumes.
"No, idiot. I was worried with you gone Jean would want me to help out in the kitchen instead of you."
Charlie snorted. He saw Mattie in the kitchen and he believed that it was the one place she definitely didn't belong to. He was about to tell her as much, when there was a tickle in his throat. Charlie cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak, maybe to ask for a glass of water, when the tickle returned. He coughed.
Mattie was watching him worriedly even as he made a move to sit up. The coughing wasn't letting up and his mouth was too dry, tongue too big. Eyes going wide, Charlie looked up at Mattie and his stare must've communicated his fear, because in the next moment he flinched at Mattie's loud voice calling the doctor's name.
True to his words, Blake came rushing back before she even finished. He took one look at Charlie and pulled another dose of the adrenaline into the syringe then quickly repeated the earlier process. Even though his throat wasn't so closed up as last time, Charlie's panic made it hard to breathe even once the adrenaline was in his system.
Blake was standing right beside him, once again uttering soothing words and telling Charlie to just relax and try to calm his breathing. It took a few more minutes but the calming tone did its job. Soon, Charlie was breathing freely. The coughing had stopped and even though his heart felt like it was trying to jump out of his chest, Charlie practically melted into the bed. All the energy left him and there was only the shakiness and the lingering nausea left.
"I don't want this... again," Charlie muttered, feeling like crying but even that would require too much energy.
"I know. I'm hoping this second dose might've done the trick," Blake said, checking Charlie over then sitting heavily on the chair Mattie had occupied before.
"What if it doesn't?" Mattie asked worriedly, arms around her chest. "Is it safe to repeat the dose?"
"We will cross that bridge when we get to it, right?" Blake said and gave Mattie a look of warning, at least that's how Charlie interpreted it. He didn't care for it. Mattie was asking all the right questions.
"Don't think I can... do this again," he muttered under breath but Blake caught it and gave him a reprimanding look.
"Stop thinking about the worst. I believe we just need to give the antihistamine a bit more time to work. Now Mattie, why don't you go and help Jean clean up the table?"
Mattie opened her mouth seemingly in protest, when Blake added: "I don't want any chance of cross contamination with other foods."
Mattie seemed to accept it as a genuine request and not just Blake's attempt to get her out of the room. She nodded, gave Charlie a reassuring smile and left.
"Is Miss Beazley... okay?" Charlie asked, trying to think of anything but the chance that his throat will close up again.
"She is alright, Charlie. Just feeling a bit guilty over cooking the food."
"She shouldn't-" Charlie started to protest and moved as if trying to get off the bed and convince her himself. Blake just put one hand on Charlie's chest and used a ridiculously small amount of force to push him back on the bed. Charlie huffed.
"I already told her that, and you can try to convince her again once you won't look like a ghost."
"Sorry," Charlie muttered, unsure what he was even apologizing for. Whether it was his attempt to get up or being the cause of all this excitement.
"What for?" Blake frowned, then stood up and fetched a blanket from one of the cabinets.
"Being a bother," Charlie said even as Blake was putting the blanket over his slightly shaking form.
"Nonsense. You can hardly help what happened and you definitely aren't a bother, Charlie. We take care of family, free of charge," Blake added with a hint of smile.
Charlie didn't know if he should weep or stare in disbelief. His emotions seemed to be all over the place. The safest thing to do seemed to be to close his eyes and wait this one out, while trying to ignore the feeling of warmth in his stomach that had nothing to do with drugs or allergies and all to do with the fact Lucien Blake thought of him as family.
"You okay there Charlie?"
Obviously, going silent and pretending to be asleep wasn't going to fly over that well with the perceptive doctor.
"Charlie." The tone of the voice forced him to open his eyes. Blake was looking at him worriedly. "We aren't exactly swimming in known waters right now, so I really need to know how you're doing."
Charlie let out a sigh, thanking God that he was able to do that without more than painful twitch in his chest.
"Just a headache," he muttered. Blake gave him an imploring look. "And bit sick... to my stomach," Charlie admitted a bit sheepishly.
"That's to be expected actually. Just let me know if you feel like getting sick, so I can get a bucket ready, okay?"
Charlie nodded, feeling too pitiful to even pretend being fine.
"Feel tired," he admitted, his eyes sliding shut off their own accord.
"That's okay, rest. I'll be there keeping watch."
Charlie nodded and his eyes opened to slits.
"Felt like dying," he admitted and Lucien squeezed his hand.
"Not on my watch, kid. Try and get some sleep."
Luckily, the medicine worked. It was several hours later that Charlie finally felt well enough to argue his way with Blake. He didn't have any strange side effects ever since that second dose, if he didn't count the unpleasant stomach cramps that hit him an hour in. That was fun to manoeuvre through... not. Especially not with Jean and Mattie trying to be at his back and call. It wasn't until Lucien sent both woman away that Charlie managed to give in to the feeling of misery and curled up into a tight ball, cursing all seafood to hell and back. He was never touching it again with a ten foot pole. The feeling of his stomach wanting to escape his body had passed quickly though and Charlie thanked God for that.
Once the bag of IV finished, and Charlie could argue that he would feel much more comfortable in his own bed, Blake seemingly gave up. He helped Charlie up the stairs, which to be frank, Charlie was admittedly grateful for. It wasn't until he was up on his feet and trying to manage the stairs that he realized just how much the episode had taken out of him. He begrudgingly accepted Blake's help upstairs, all the while feeling like an utter burden.
He wasn't used to be taken care of or to show so much weakness. Ever since he lost his father, Charlie felt like he needed to be strong one in the family. He couldn't afford to be sick, not with two younger brothers and a mother who had to work hard just keep roof over their head and give them food. He never let his brothers see him this weak and usually if he felt sick, he tried to tough it out until he was left alone in a room where he could just curl up and hope that whatever ailment he had was going to pass come morning. Maybe that's why when he finally collapsed into his own bed, it took him a second to notice that Blake wasn't leaving.
"Thanks for, you know... saving me, Doc," he said and watched as Blake waved him off with a smile.
"I could hardly let you die at my kitchen table. Just think of the bad press... and I'm sure Monroe would've managed to somehow blame it on me," Blake joked and Charlie gave him a half-assed smile. Just the thought of Monroe and their talk made his stomach twist. Better not think about it right now.
"Are you... planning on staying?" Charlie asked a bit startled when he saw Blake trying to make himself comfortable in one of the chairs.
Blake paused and looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, seeing as there is a possibility of another adverse reaction, at least until all the allergen is out of your system, yeah. I'm staying."
"Doc!" Charlie groaned, sitting up in bed. "I'm fine. Please... I just need to get some sleep."
"By all means, do so, Charlie. I won't be a bother at all."
Charlie didn't budge however. While he might still be shaky, his throat and chest didn't seize up once in the last three hours. He was fine, he didn't need a babysitter. He was already feeling ashamed by what had occurred, he wasn't going to let Blake spend the night on his chair unnecessarily.
"Doc, please. I... won't be able to sleep with you in the room."
"Should I pull the chair out into the hall?" Blake asked only half joking. Charlie blushed.
"I really don't want to be a bother. I'm fine. I swear."
Blake sighed, possibly seeing that neither of them would get the rest they needed this way.
"What if you'll have trouble breathing again? You won't be able to call for help," he tried to reason once more.
Charlie bit at his lip, then looked around the room. His eyes landed on an old decorative bell that was sitting on the shelf. It wasn't his, but part of the room. He pointed at it.
"That might work."
Blake followed his finger and barked a laugh.
"A cow bell? Well, it would definitely make some noise," he commented as he took it off the shelf and experimentally rung it. Both Blake and Charlie grimaced at the sound and were hardly surprised when both Mattie and Jean peaked into the door with confused looks.
"What was that?"
"Are you okay, Charlie?"
Blake huffed, but handed the bell over to Charlie.
"It's alright, ladies. We were just testing our new emergency system. Carry on, Charlie needs his sleep." He shooed them out of the room but hadn't yet left.
"I'll leave the door open... no arguments about that," he said with a raised hand when Charlie opened his mouth. "And you ring the moment something feels weird, is that clear?"
Blake waited until Charlie gave a serious nod.
"Okay. Now get some sleep. It was a... difficult day."
Charlie snorted and snuggled down into the covers, placing the bell on the bedside table. Blake turned off the light and just as he said, left the door open a bit. Charlie didn't care. The moment his head hit the pillow he gave in to the weariness of the day.
He had slept through the night. Charlie couldn't believe it. And he even felt mostly normal. True, his joints felt stiff and as he sat up he could feel his strength wasn't back one hundred percent. But a day off work, relaxing at home, should cure that. For now though he had more pressing matters... like bathroom.
With a yawn, Charlie stood up and rubbed at his half closed eyes. He headed towards the door, not really looking where he was stepping. After all, he knew the room well by now. There were no obstacles in the way. Still, his ankle caught on something and Charlie almost tumbled onto the floor. That is until a hand grabbed his arm and helped him find his balance.
„Bloody hell, Charlie! I should've put that bell on your neck last night," Blake exclaimed even as he was getting up from the chair. It was his outstretched legs that Charlie had tumbled over.
"Doc? What... what are you doing here?" Charlie asked a bit dumbly, running a hand over his uncombed hair. He looked at the vacated chair and noted the pillow on it and the blanket that had fallen to the floor.
"Did you spend the night here?" Charlie felt a bit horrified about the fact there was someone watching him sleep. Even though he knew Blake was no danger for him, hell, the man was just trying to make sure he was alright, it still creeped Charlie out. He was a police officer after all. He should be able to notice people in his room.
"Calm down, Charlie. It's not how it looks," Blake said in his defence. Charlie gave him a look of incredulity.
Blake noted the now discarded blanket and there was a momentary surprise on his own face, telling Charlie that maybe the man was telling the truth.
"I just came to check on you a few hours back. You seemed a bit restless so I stayed for a while, making sure it wasn't anything serious. Guess I've fallen asleep. Although if you weren't sleepwalking, I'm really not sure what that blanket is doing there."
As if coming to the same conclusion, Charlie and Blake exchanged a look.
"Jean." They both said in unison, then chuckled. Blake patted Charlie on the shoulder and the younger man sobered.
"I hate that I made you all so worried," Charlie admitted.
"Nonsense, Charlie. This wasn't your fault. It wasn't Jean's fault either," Blake added with a sigh. It was clear he thought the woman was blaming herself and Charlie cringed. He would have to talk to her and make sure to drive such ideas out of her head.
Charlie let out a sigh and tried to hide another yawn. Damn, but he was still tired.
"You're going to take it easy today, understood?" Blake said and Charlie looked at him with a frown. It wasn't like he was planning on going out running, even though maybe a bit of fresh air wouldn't be amiss... but nope. Just the thought of changing into his running attire made him feel tired. Still, the doc didn't have to be so bossy about it.
"I'm fine," Charlie protested stubbornly.
"Of course you are. But if Jean will want to make sure you're all better, you might want to indulge her today," Blake said and the meaning of his statement was clear. 'Let Jean mother-hen you, so she stops feeling guilty.' Charlie blinked. Then let a small smile touch his lips.
"If you say it like that, doc..."
"That's my boy," Blake patted him on the back, then stretched his stiff limbs, making a popping sound. "Now if you excuse me... I think I'll take a shower. That chair isn't fit for sleeping."
"I could've told you so, doc," Charlie said with a smile as Blake finally left his room. Once alone Charlie pulled the blanket off the floor, folding it gently. He would bring it to Jean and see whether it was her or Mattie who came for a late night visit. Charlie didn't even feel weird about the fact his room seemed to be visited by more than just one person last night. Instead there was the comforting warmth inside his belly. After a long time of being away from his family he was finally starting to feel like maybe he belonged in Ballarat too. All it took was a dinner and near-death experience thanks to a gift left by one Christopher Jr. Beazley. Charlie shook his head in amusement and made his way downstairs towards the kitchen, the fresh smell of coffee enticing more than anything.