Angela Hansen had told her son many stories over the years. His favourites were always those about soulmates.
About your perfect other half, so perfect that in times of great peril or danger they could take the strain, take your injuries, take your pain and share that burden with you.
She told him of great knights who had almost died in battle, taken a nearly fatal wound but survived as their soulmate had taken the damage, sometimes just enough that the hero would live, other times had sacrificed themselves in their place.
Chuck knew all of this, had loved the stories but he had never seen it happen, not until one day his mother accidentally sliced through her finger instead of the pepper she had been chopping.
Instead of blood pooling and a gasp of pain, there was simply nothing, almost as if the knife had just simply glanced off.
His father had returned from base that evening with his hand bandaged and a soft smile on his face, as he brushed away his wife’s concerns, and Chuck knew right then that he would never hesitate to shoulder the burden for his soulmate if he ever had the option.
Chuck knew he should be injured, should have cuts and bruises littering his body, probably a few broken bones as well.
The earthquake had brought half the school down, Chuck’s classroom hadn’t been one of the worst hit by any means but half the ceiling had come in and Chuck had no idea how the falling debris hadn’t caused any damage.
Except he did know because looking around at his classmates who all had various levels of injury, there was only one way he wasn’t injured, and that meant that someone out there was, and had taken all of that damage for him.
Thoughts of his soulmate quickly disappeared as Herc arrived outside the destroyed school, looking like his world had just shattered and far more haggard than he probably had any reason to be.
Chuck knew then and there that his mom was dead, and that while Herc had clearly tried to take some of the load, he hadn’t taken enough.
Yancy hadn’t even asked when Raleigh had called him to pick him up from school, just knew that his baby brother needed him and was there.
When he saw Raleigh looking for all the world like he’d been squashed by a building, he hadn’t panicked, hadn’t even batted an eyelid, because of course, Raleigh hadn’t thought twice about pulling his soulmates injuries.
Richard Becket had been more than pissed when Yancy had practically carried Raleigh through the door, covered in a myriad of injuries and unable to support his weight using his right leg.
He’d been furious when Raleigh had to go to the ER because his leg was very much broken, and in two places nonetheless.
When Raleigh’s leg had been set and the kid was still high on morphine, Yancy had taken a seat next to the bed and given him a look that had Dominique rolling her eyes at her boys' antics.
“Rals, you gonna tell us what happened kid?”
Raleigh’s eyes were half focused and he gazed into the distance for a while before responding.
“They were hurting Yancy, I had to stop them hurting.”
Yancy was tempted to respond but Raleigh had already moved onto another topic and was trying to remove his oxygen monitor and Dominique was having to try and wrestle his hand away.
Raleigh had plenty of downtime on his hands, what with him not being able to move without considerable difficulty and the meds they had him on weren’t exactly conducive to concentrating.
The moment he could focus enough to maintain attention for more than 5 minutes, he started searching for news reports of accidents.
It didn’t take long for him to find information on the Sydney earthquake, and before he could consider what he was doing, or wait long enough for that voice in his head that always sounded like Yancy to talk him out of it, he was posting in a chat board.
Chuck hadn’t known what came over him when he’d gone searching the chat boards.
Sure he’d felt lost and alone and needed something, someone but he never expected to find someone looking for him.
He found GipsyDanger’s post without even really trying, but it practically screamed at him, and he didn’t hesitate before sending a message directly back to them.
Raleigh had never questioned StrikerEureka’s story, for some reason he believed them from the very first message.
Yancy had been less sure, always giving Raleigh worried looks when he didn’t think he was paying attention.
But Raleigh hadn’t cared, because he knew, without a doubt that this was his soulmate.
It became Raleigh&Chuck, sure they couldn’t meet up, and Chuck was 5 years younger than Raleigh, but they were close, they were best friends.
Raleigh helped Chuck heal after Angela’s death and to not hate his father, and Chuck helped Raleigh through Dominique’s treatment and Richard leaving.
But then Raleigh decided to join the army with Yancy.
Chuck was angry because they’d agreed that once Chuck was 18 they were going to meet up, going to give whatever this was, a shot.
Instead, Raleigh had decided to follow his brother to war and Chuck couldn’t contemplate losing him.
Losing the one sure thing in his life aside from Max
Yancy had been tempted to call the kid and read him the riot act because Raleigh was distraught.
He felt guilty for upsetting Chuck but there was no way he wasn’t going to follow Yancy to the ends of the Earth.
Yancy knew Raleigh was putting a brave face on, pretending that it didn’t hurt, pretending that Chuck didn’t matter that much.
His brave face was good, but it wasn’t good enough to fool him.
Basic was hard, but Raleigh worked harder.
Sure Yancy was the natural but Raleigh made sure he was just as good even if he had to work 3 times as hard because he wasn’t going to be split up from his brother, not for anything.
Iraq was awful, sure Raleigh had known war wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but he didn’t expect it to be this awful.
And the worst of it was the entire time he was away there was only one person he wanted to talk to, wanted to see, and he couldn’t and it broke his heart.
Chuck had jolted awake.
At first, he couldn’t figure out what had woken him but then he felt it, the all-encompassing pressure that pushed far more into pain than he was comfortable with.
It thrummed through his whole body, and while Raleigh had hurt himself before and it had felt similar to this, it was always localised.
Always in the place where the injury occurred, he was terrified because this meant Raleigh must be in serious danger if it was this bad.
Chuck didn’t think, didn’t even stop to consider how much damage he could be taking on himself, he just took it.
The pain was excruciating, he felt like he was on fire, his left side screamed and he wished that he could just pass out from it, to make it stop.
Chuck knew he couldn’t take much more, couldn’t take all the pain, but he had to try.
Give Raleigh the best chance he could.
The room was too clean, too white, everything was too numb, too far away.
It took him a long time to get his thoughts straight and to remember what had happened.
He’d been driving the humvee, Yancy had asked a question, he’d turned to answer and as he looked at his brother the world turned upside down.
He knew that he’d hit an IED, there was no question about that.
The driver’s side wheel had been the one to make contact and Raleigh took the brunt of the force.
But he knew, he knew as the world was engulfed by fire and noise and pain that he wasn’t taking anywhere near as much damage as he should have been.
He should have been dead.
All he could think about as he blacked out was red hair, dimples and green eyes.
Looking around the room he saw the bed next to him was occupied, and the sight of that familiar blonde hair and a notable lack of tubes and machines was almost enough to make him sob in relief.
His attention was turned to his other side at a light clearing of someone's throat.
He couldn’t believe his eyes, because there looking at him was Chuck.
Sure he looked like he’d been to hell and back, but it was Chuck and he was here.
Raleigh tried to swallow around the lump in his throat and while searching for the words he reached out his good arm to hold the younger man’s hand.
“You saved me.”
Raleigh’s voice was hoarse and Chuck just smiled gently back.
“You saved me first, Ray.”
And while Raleigh knew there was a long way to go to get back to some semblance of normal, he was pretty sure things were going to be ok.