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Fic: My Brother's Keeper [Eli Stone]

Title: My Brother's Keeper
Fandom: Eli Stone
Spoilers: The pilot, some familial details from other episodes
Summary: The events of the pilot revisited from Nate's perspective.





Nathan Stone had never been more frightened in his life than the night he watched his brother standing on the edge of his penthouse balcony. In an instant he saw it happen – the fall, Eli's body lying twenty stories below, their mother's grief... the hole that would be left in the world if he were gone. Then he was screaming at Eli to step down off the railing. Nate saw the recognition in his eyes as, panicking, he fell backwards onto the balcony tiles.

Taylor quietly and efficiently sent her parents home. Nate was less successful with his mother, who adamantly refused to leave her youngest son. So he played the doctor card and banished everyone from the bedroom while he examined Eli. He was cold and clammy, clearly in shock, and unable to explain what he'd been doing on the balcony edge. He murmured something about a mountain, and that he wasn't trying to jump. Other than that he had no explanation. Nate did not want to push him. He checked his vitals and decided it was best to let him rest for now.

He told himself it was probably just stress. Eli was working on a big case, not that that was an unusual situation. But there was also the wedding plans, and the engagement party was only a couple of weeks away. Nate decided the incident, as he had already dubbed it, was caused by that combination and not the other possibility... the one that brought up long-buried memories of hallucinations and erratic behavior. The memory of their father.

Taylor only allowed him to be alone with Eli for a short time. She wanted to be with him, even when Nate told her he was already asleep. The exhaustion hit Eli quickly, and Nate was relieved. It was probably the best thing for him. He left the couple in their bedroom and went in search for the largest glass of wine he could possibly find. Eli was always out of bourbon.

Linda Stone was sitting at the kitchen counter making short work of her own glass of merlot. He placed his hand on her shoulder.

"He's sleeping," Nate said. "I've given him the once over, and tomorrow we'll do more tests. But he's okay, Mom. It's probably just stress with all the wedding stuff."

"It's not stress," Linda said, and drained her glass.

Nate looked away, an involuntary reaction to the sight of his mother drinking. For a moment he was a teenager again, locking himself in his room while his father was on another bender. That's when he had gone through his heavy metal phase. Perfect for drowning out the sounds of a grown man self destructing.

He sighed tiredly. "He'll be fine. It's Eli."

"It's your father," she countered, pouring herself another glass.

Nate didn't know how to respond. He pushed another glass towards her so she could fill it too.

"I've seen this before, Nathan. He was somewhere else, wasn't he? In his mind?"

Nate nodded slightly, unable to tear his eyes away from his mother's fearful gaze. "Your father lived his whole life with visions like that."

"What are you talking about, Mom? Dad was an alcoholic. He was so far removed from reality he didn't know what day it was, let alone what was going on around him."

"Is that really your only memory of him?" she asked, not hiding the disappointment in her voice. "Your father was a good man, Nate. At least he tried to be. But he was troubled – he had to deal with an affliction that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."

Nate scoffed. "What affliction? He abused alcohol all his adult life. He was the one who refused to get help."

"The alcohol didn't cause his behavior – he used to drink to try and block them out."

"Block what out?"

"The voices. The things he would see," she said vehemently.

"Mom, that's crazy."

"I thought so too. God knows I didn't understand it. But sometimes he was right about things he couldn't possibly have known. Things neither of us could explain. Like you – he knew you were going to be a doctor."

"I wanted to be one since I was six years old playing doctors and nurses with Suzie Baker. I wasn't shy about telling people."

Linda shook her head. "He knew."

Nate pondered this as he stared at his still full wine glass. "The things he saw and heard... all of that can be caused by the drinking."

"You're wrong."

"Listen, whatever Dad had going on has nothing to do with Eli. He probably just needs some anti-anxiety meds. He's got a high pressured job and he's never been great at handling stress. When he was studying for exams in college he used to forget to eat. And when he started working at the firm he couldn't remember anyone's phone number for six months."

"I'm telling you, this is different."

"So, what, Mom?" Nate's voice rose in anger. "What is it I'm supposed to believe? Dad was tested for everything. He wasn't schizophrenic. He didn't have a brain tumor. He was just a lousy drunk, and you've been covering for him for 40 years! You can stop now, he's gone. And I thank God he is."

Linda looked like she had been slapped. Nate regretted his words as soon as they were spoken, but when he tried to apologize she rose up and clutched her purse to her chest.

"When did you become so bitter, Nathan? Why can't you stop hating him for something he couldn't control?"

"Mom..."

She brushed past him towards the door.

"Tell Taylor I'll call in the morning to see how Eli is."

After she was gone, Nate sighed again. He lifted the wine to his lips, then caught himself. The glass was returned to the counter untouched. He got up and wandered aimlessly around the penthouse living room, lost in thought. He tried to remember his father's episodes, to see if he could recollect any similarities with what had happened to Eli. He thought about his brother's insistence that he had seen George Michael singing in this very room a couple of days ago. He had been so insistent but Nate had just fobbed him off, thinking nothing of it. Nate regretted his lack of attention. If it had been a cry for help he had ignored it, which made him a bad doctor but an even worse brother.

Resolved to do better by Eli, he settled on the couch. Nate would spend the night – he didn't want Taylor to have to deal with everything alone. She found him there some time later, not bothering to hide her tear stained face. She slumped beside him and he hugged her while she cried some more. But Taylor was strong. She forced herself to stop and set about questioning Nate on what they would do at the hospital the next morning.

Nate explained the round of tests he would order, reminding her that Eli had just had an MRI which was clear. That was a good sign. He didn't bother to tell her that he'd decided to ask the neurology chief to double check the scan, just in case.

They didn't stay up talking too late. Neither of them had the energy for it. Taylor gave him pillows and a blanket and bade him goodnight. With a final squeeze of his hand she thanked him for staying.

* * *

Nate was waiting outside the conference room at St. Vincent's Hospital, glancing impatiently at his watch every few minutes. Eli and Taylor were due in his office soon and he wanted to have the chief check over the MRI results before they arrived. He had been trying to see Dr. McKenna all morning, but the man was impossible to get a hold of. His assistant had told him his best bet would be to catch him between meetings. Nate could have sent his own staff, but he wanted to handle this one personally. Something told him it was the only way he was going to get his answer.

He was staring off into space at the other end of the hallway when the conference room door suddenly opened and Dr. McKenna emerged mid conversation with a couple of residents. Nate had to run to catch up with them.

"Dr. McKenna, do you have a moment?" he asked quickly, darting in between the other doctors.

"No, I don't," came the gruff reply before he even looked over to see who was speaking to him.

"Ah, Stone. I read the paper you're submitting for the Journal. It was interesting. Simplistic in its assumptions, but interesting nonetheless."

"Thank you, sir," replied Nate, only momentarily distracted.

"What do you want?"

"I have an MRI I'd like you to look at."

"Why, what does it show?"

"Nothing. At least, I think it's nothing."

"And why would I waste my time on nothing, Dr. Stone?"

"I'd like a second opinion. Yours."

"Leave it with my assistant," the chief said with a wave of his hand.

"Please, Dr. McKenna, I would appreciate it if you would look at it now."

"I'm a busy man, Dr. Stone."

"I know, sir, but it's important."

"Why?"

"It's my brother."

McKenna finally stopped.

"What's the problem?"

Nate took a deep breath. "He's had a couple of sensory hallucinations. I had the MRI done a couple of days ago after he received a slight concussion."

"Pre or post hallucination?" asked McKenna, narrowing his eyes.

"Post. And then it happened again last night."

"Hmph. What are you thinking?"

"Honestly? I don't know."

"Leave it with me." McKenna took the file and was halfway down the corridor before Nate could shout a thank-you.

* * *

He ran a series of other tests on Eli that morning, and they all waited as the results came back, fast-tracked by Nate. Everything was normal, Nate was pleased to report. He could see the tension lift from Taylor's shoulders as they went through them, though Eli stayed quiet. There was only one test left to go. Nate had rung Dr. McKenna's office several times already in the hopes he'd had a chance to look at the MRI results, but each time he was told the chief was still unavailable.

Nate ended up sending Eli and Taylor to the cafeteria for some lunch while he went to Dr. McKenna's office himself. Ignoring the petulant sigh of his assistant, Nate took a seat and insisted he'd wait. Within a few minutes Dr. McKenna returned to his office, talking on his cell phone. Nate jumped to his feet, expecting to be rebuffed, but he was waved into the inner sanctum.

He had been inside the neurology chief's office many times before, but he had never felt so anxious. He barely had time to ready himself before Dr. McKenna abruptly ended his call and handed back Eli's file. Then he perfunctorily explained what he had found.

"An aneurysm?" Nate repeated, bewildered. "I don't understand... the MRI was clear."

"Not if you know what you're looking for." He saw the stunned disbelief on the younger doctor's face and felt a twinge of empathy. "Don't be too hard on yourself, son. I was diagnosing these bastards while you were still in grade school. It's small, 3mm. But it's in the right cerebral artery."

Nate swallowed hard, trying to study the file in his hands but finding that he couldn’t make out the words. "Chances for removal?"

"Slim. I wouldn't do it. Chances are it won't get any worse. It may make no difference to his quality of life."

"He's already having hallucinations. I'd say it's a little late for that." Nate let out a shaky breath. "An aneurysm like this… it can be hereditary, can't it?"

"Absolutely. Is there a family history?"

"I think so. Our father."

"Still alive?"

"No," said Nate dully. "He drank himself to an early grave, although technically it was his heart that gave out. My mother maintains he only drank to stop the hallucinations."

"Then I suggest we don't delay. It's your turn next, Dr. Stone."

"What?"

"If it is hereditary then we should schedule you for an MRI just to rule it out."

"I'm not symptomatic."

"No, but you're a practicing physician," said Dr. McKenna, giving Nate a stern glare. "It's not worth the risk to your patients or this hospital's liability cover. My assistant will set it up."

"Thank you, sir," said Nate dumbly. "I'd better go give my brother the news."

"Would you like me to talk to him?"

"No, this is something I have to do."

"Alright, Dr. Stone."

He watched passively as the younger man left, then buzzed his assistant for his next patient file.

* * *

Nate barely held it together when he told Eli and Taylor the news. He tried to keep it uncomplicated – the facts, straight up. Just the right mixture of compassion and clinical detail. He didn't do a very good job of it. This wasn't just another patient. This was his family.

At first all Nate could think about was their father, and the realization that he'd probably been afflicted by the same condition. Then thoughts of Eli's future consumed him, and he feared a similar fate for his little brother. He didn't think of himself. When he left Eli and Taylor to talk in his office, he ignored the message from Dr. McKenna's assistant that the MRI suite had been booked for 5:00PM for his own scan. He contemplated calling his mother to explain what they'd found, and to apologize for his behavior of the previous night, but he couldn't bring himself to do it just yet. He wasn't ready to devastate her too. He was still shaken by the haunted look in Eli's eyes.

Later, much later that night, Nate lay slumped on his sofa unable to move. He had stopped drinking an hour earlier, but the warm buzz from the scotch still softened the edges. He had stayed back for the MRI results, and so did Dr. McKenna. The results were clear, as Nate knew they would be. He didn't feel any better for it. He had called Eli to check on him but they had little to say. It was all too soon. Nate closed his eyes and surrendered to the darkness.

* * *

He dreamed of his father. Nate was yelling at him, spewing forth one vicious barb after the other, but there was no reaction. No excuses. Nate awoke to find tears on his cheeks, his head pounding from the tension. He stumbled into the bathroom to find some aspirin, and caught sight of himself in the mirror. His face was haggard, dark smudges under both eyes. He felt like an old man. He could see none of his father in himself. Nate had always favored his mother while Eli and the old man looked alike. It was something Nate had been grateful for his whole life.

He told himself he felt nothing for his father. Eli had been his favorite. They'd always shared a bond, crazy escapades and all, that Nate had been excluded from. The final betrayal had been his death, of course. Nate had been the one by his side when he died. Eli had missed it. But it was still his little brother's name his father had said with his dying breath. Nate wished it hadn't affected him as much as it did, but he still resented it.

He had made plenty of mistakes when it came to his father. He didn't kid himself that much of it had been on his father's side too. But at some point he had to let it go. If an aneurysm had indeed been the cause of his hallucinations, Nate knew he had to come to terms with it.

However the irony of the whole situation was not lost on him. His mother had said his father always knew Nate would be a doctor. He laughed bitterly to himself. They'd never been especially close, particularly the last few years. He was still finishing his residency when his father died. The fact Nate had chosen to go into neurology suddenly took on new meaning.

Nate laughed out loud at his own reflection. "I became a fucking neurologist, Dad!"

But his choice of specialization was a few years too late, as it turned out. Nate wondered if there had been a vision about that too.

And if Eli was heading down that same path… No, that was something Nate was not ready to face. For all his teasing and one-upmanship, Nate loved his brother. He was his best friend. Above all else he wanted to protect Eli, to make sure he wasn't taken down by this condition as their father had been. Thus was Nathan Stone's vow as he stood in the harsh fluorescent light of his bathroom, staring at his reflection.

He would go to the hospital early. Track down the latest research. Talk to colleagues. Arm himself with all the knowledge he would need to see Eli through this. On his way to the bedroom, he eyed the half empty bottle of scotch on the coffee table. After a brief pause he snatched it up and drained it in the sink.

He had to start somewhere. There would be no repetition of the past.

Not for Nate. And not for Eli.

* * *

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
les342
Jun. 11th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
Wow, this was really good! Have you been reading my mind or something? I recently re-watched the pilot episode again and it made me wish for more with Eli and Nate, and Nate's reaction to the news of Eli's aneurysm. This fit the bill nicely.

I know that the show is called Eli Stone, that's it more about Eli, and that there's probably never going to be as many Eli and Nate scenes as I would like, but that doesn't stop me from wishing. I guess I'll just have to keep reading your fic to make up for it. :-)
broedym
Jun. 12th, 2008 11:14 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks. I heart Nate. I hope to do a couple for fics from his perspective, especially one about what happened when he met Beth. We so got cheated out of that!

More Nate and more Matt, that's what's needed. And if I don't get it I'll just have to do something about it myself... ;-)
les342
Jun. 12th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
Great! As long as you keep writing Eli Stone fic, I'll keep reading it. I'm working on one myself, but I don't know if I'll ever put it up anywhere. I like reading fanfic, but unfortunately I'm a lot better at reading than writing.
broedym
Jun. 12th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
Go for it!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )