Epilogue

" . . . there you have it. A hidden signal within our own satellite system, which was used to relay sensitive information to an outside source for illicit purposes. Such an act could have proved disastrous to homeland security, had it not been for the vigilance of several notable men and women working for NASA, the CIA, and several outside sources. We now take you to some of the highlights from the press conference given just this afternoon-."

Don turned the television off and sighed. "Old news. Wonder how long it'll last."

"Probably until the next major scandal or something," Charlie replied from a nearby chair. He had his laptop out, and was currently playing a game of Minesweeper.

Don tipped his head back to look at his brother. "Hey, Charlie, I've been meaning to talk to you."

Charlie didn't look up from his screen. "Oh yeah? What about? You got a new case or something?"

"No, nothing like that." Don sat up on the couch and faced his younger brother. "It's about what you said to Reed. Just before . . . you know."

Charlie froze ever so imperceptibly, but Don caught it plain as day. "Yeah?"

Don reached out and gently pushed the screen of Charlie's laptop down. "You tried to bargain with Reed to save my life."

Charlie continued to avoid Don's eyes. "Yeah?"

Don rolled his eyes. "Charlie! Is that all you're going to say? You were willing to let me go free in exchange for your life! I want to talk about it!"

"What's there to talk about?" Charlie asked. "You're my brother, and despite what you said in the workroom, it was really me they wanted. You were just caught up in all of it. I didn't want you to die for something that was my doing. And even if it was you they wanted . . . I couldn't stand the thought of you dying."

Don stared at his brother, surprise once more claiming him. "Charlie . . ."

Charlie looked at him suddenly. "It's the same with you, right? I mean, when all the shooting started, you protected me. How's that different from me wanting to protect you?"

Don worked his jaw several times before words made it past his lips. "That's different . . . I mean, you . . . I'm older than you, and I'm trained for this sort of thing, so that . . ."

Charlie raised his eyebrows. "Not your usual articulate self, huh? Are you getting senile in your old age?"

Don's eyebrows lifted. "Old age?" he echoed.

Charlie set his computer down on the coffee table. "Yeah, I mean, you're getting pretty close to the big 4-0, right? I don't think you're thinking straight right now."

"I'll give you old man!" Don jumped up, but Charlie had been ready for it. The younger man dashed around the coffee table and circle around the couch, with Don hot on his heels. He ran past his father, who had just come into the room to see what the commotion was about.

Alan watched Don race after Charlie through the house, shaking his head. A slight smile graced his lips as he followed after his sons. It seemed that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

THE END