Title: Careful What You Ask For

Author: FraidyCat

Genre: Drama, Angst; heavily Charles

Time line: Present

Summary: For anyone out there who has ever had a brother.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em – but wanna cuddle 'em.

Chapter 1

The brothers glared at each other over the table.

Charlie's voice was low, angry. "Take that back."

A beer slammed to the table. "Take it back? Charlie, we're not kids anymore, there are no 'do-overs'." Don picked the beer back up, drained it. "Besides, I don't wanna take it back."

Alan decided it was time to play the father card. "Don, it was a little harsh…"

"Sometimes the truth is harsh, Dad! Charlie has been a pampered intellectual his entire life."

"I am not pampered," Charlie began, but Alan interrupted him.

"Seems to me that intellecualism you so disparage serves you well when you want your solve rate to go up."

Don stood. "Great, take his side. You always take his side."

Alan held his hands up, refused to say more. He was washing his hands of this.

Charlie was standing too, now, and advanced on his brother. "I am not pampered," he said again.

"Oh, come on, Charlie. You went away to college at 13, and you've never left. You're a tenured professor whose job can't be threatened. You're so afraid to leave the house you grew up in, you bought it yourself — and you make Dad stay here to take care of you. Cook and clean for you like live-in help."

Charlie was nose-to-nose with his brother, now. "I do not! Dad is here because he wants to be here! He does not do all my cooking and cleaning!" He started to turn, then thought of something else. "And you're sure here a lot yourself, for someone who doesn't pay rent."

"I come here to visit my father! I'd be more than happy to visit him at the condo he wanted to buy last year until you guilted him into staying here!" Don ripped his wallet from his pocket, picked a $10 out of it and threw it on the table. "Is that enough for dinner? Who made it, by the way?"

"Dad likes cooking. I don't ask him to do it."

"Nah, you just wander around here in your head-case daze, looking and acting like the things that concern mere mortals are not good enough for you."

Charlie actually poked his brother in the chest, a move that surprised them both. "I don't know what you're talking about. And I do NOT guilt Dad into anything."

"Be a man, Charlie!" Don said disgustedly. "At least admit the truth. Or would that entail actual feelings? I know you're not comfortable with those."

Charlie shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans, so that he would not put them where he wanted to. "You," he said lowly, "you are not allowed to tell me how to feel, how to act. You are not even allowed to tell me whether or not I am a man."

Don poked him back, then. Turn-about is fair play. "You use Dad. You play both ends. You remind him of times you think he wasn't there for you, when you were growing up. When that doesn't work, you use the memory of Mom. She's not here anymore to coddle you, like she always did. She even went to Princeton with you. You took my mother, and now you're taking my father. You consume people Charlie, you need them to death!"

Charlie staggered back as if Don's blow had been physical, and the color drained out of his face. At the same time, Alan's stood and walked between them, with an astonished "Donald Alan! THAT IS ENOUGH."

The three men stood in silence, save for the sound of heavy breathing. Charlie was the first to speak. His color was still pale, but his voice…his voice was harder, angrier, more solid than Alan had ever heard. "Get out of my house."

Don had to push it. "Are you dictating who your live-in help can have over to dinner, now? Dad invited me here."

The youngest Eppes glanced at his father. "Fine. I'll be the bigger man here, Don. Dad is entitled to see you." He looked back at his brother. "But I never want to see you again."

He turned on his heel, and left.