the aftermath.

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shawn had the bomb squad in the basement within twenty minutes.  for safety, charlie and i were kept across the street.  after fifteen minutes, the bomb squad guys were walking out of the building.  peter and his accomplice were being rushed off in a cop car.

two officers from the royal service escorted nora from the building.  the second she was visible, charlie darted towards her.

"nora!" he screamed.

they met in the middle of the street, embracing each other.  he stroked her hair as she cried into his t-shirt.

"are you okay? you're okay, you're fine, you're safe," my brother said, pressing his face into my best friend's hair.

paramedics surrounded them.  charlie held onto nora through every step of her evaluations in the ambulance.  at some point in it all, my mother and sister made an appearance.  shawn and arabella were inseparable as the media appeared to question us all on the events.  i took in the whole scene from the hood of a cop car.

"so, how's it make you feel?" my mother asked as she sat next to me.

"what? finding nora safely?"

she wrinkled her nose.  "well, that, and the fact that both of your siblings are loving up on their significant others and you have yet to tell me about julio," she said, giving me her all knowing look.

my mouth fell open.  "how did you-"

"i told you guys," she widened her eyes, "i know everything."

i looked around.  nora was sitting on the end of the back of the ambulance.  charlie and shawn were talking with the fbi.  i hugged my mother and the wandered over to the ambulance.

"hi," nora said, quietly.

"how ya doin', kid?" i asked.

she nodded, and then the tears came.  "i was so scared."

i pulled her into a hug.  "me too, kiddo, me too."

charlie wandered over and wrapped an arm around nora's waist.  "listen, uh, i need to take care of some more stuff," he said, nuzzling up against nora, "why don't you and d.j. go home?  i'll be back later tonight."

"fbi up your ass?" i asked.

charlie nodded.  "and i'm giving chad brinkman the exclusive story."

i nodded.  "tell 'em thanks for me."

* * *

"do i look bad?" nora asked as she turned around from my vanity mirror.

i laughed.  "the whole country is watching what happened to you today.  i don't think anyone is judging you."

she shifted from one foot to the other.  "yeah, but..." she paused. "if i- charlie and i... the engagement-"

then it clicked for me.  "come here," i said, patting my bed.

nora stomped over and sat next to me.  we had been back at the palace for nearly two hours.  she slept and showered while julio came to check on me.  now, it was feeling like old times.  just me and nora, locked up in my room with no one in the way.

i sighed.  "my brother," i shook my head, laughing at the realization of what i was about to say, "my brother adores you, okay?  if we confirm you in, he's not going to care what you look like.  he's just going to want you."

she didn't respond for a few minutes, but then she said, "i'm sorry i didn't tell you before-"

"hey, wait! chad's on royal news," i said, turning up the t.v.

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