Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Thanks to my wonderful beta, ritt!
Sent Away by 3rdgal
"You just can't stand for me to get any recognition for my work!"
"What?" Don Eppes yelled in disbelief.
"That's right," Charlie continued. "Every time I get an award you get that annoyed look on your face. And God forbid I should ever ask you to come to the presentation!"
"Something came up at work!"
"Right," the younger Eppes rolled his eyes.
"Fine, Charlie," Don's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Next time I'll ask the robbers to plan their job for a different day because my brother is getting an award. Think that'll work?"
"Whatever, man." Charlie turned away, intending to storm upstairs to his room - and ran smack into Alan Eppes' unyielding form. "Sorry, Dad," he apologized. "Your oldest son is being difficult. You might want to speak to him."
"I will," Alan assured Charlie, who cast an 'I-told-you-so' glare at Don and moved to step past his father, but was halted with a firm grip on his arm. "At the same time I have a talk with my youngest son. Both of you - couch, now." The two brothers reluctantly obeyed their father's command. He sighed as he walked to the mantle and lovingly looked at a picture of their mother. "She'd be so disappointed." He glanced at his sons. "You two have made so much progress in your relationship lately. I can't believe you're arguing over this."
"My award was important to me," Charlie protested. "But Don doesn't seem to care."
"It's always about you, isn't it?" Don growled. "Well I'm sorry I have a job - an important one - that comes first."
"So my work's not important? I'll remember that the next time you ask me for help."
Don laughed bitterly. "You know, genius, the FBI was solving cases before you started consulting. We're not a bunch of dumb idiots. We're highly trained, intelligent agents who are capable of logical thought."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't your solve rate go up when I started consulting?" Charlie's voice held a smug tone that seemed to set Don off. Before he could act on his anger, Alan decided to intervene.
"That's enough! You two are behaving like little kids. Both of you have important jobs and make contributions to your community but it always turns into some sort of contest between you." His own ire increased as he realized his words weren't penetrating through the two thick skulls in front of him. "You know what? I want you both out of my house!" He took a small bit of satisfaction from the shocked look on their faces.
"You're kicking me out?" Charlie questioned him.
"That's right." He looked at Don's smug expression and quickly walked to the front table, snatching up the two sets of keys lying there. He removed Charlie's house key and Don's apartment key and shoved them both into his pocket.
"Dad!" Don yelled. "What do you think you're doing?"
"You two need to work this out. I don't care how, but get it worked out." He took a key from his own keychain and tossed it and Don's car keys to his oldest son. "That's the key to Art's cabin. I'll give you directions."
"A cabin?" Charlie asked.
"Yes," their father answered. Then, in a gentler tone, he added, "Remember when we used to go camping and fishing when you were kids? All the fun we would have together - the whole family? Different cabin and different lake, but I'm hoping the environment will get you two in the right frame of mind." Both men opened their mouths to protest, ratcheting Alan's anger up another notch. "End of discussion. And I don't want to see either one of you until you've worked this out!" He angrily stormed up the stairs, leaving his two sons gaping after him.
Charlie tossed and turned, desperately trying to find a comfortable position on the old couch. Funny - his father had forgotten to mention Art's cabin only had one bedroom and one bed. Don had played the 'I'm older and bigger than you' card and wound up with the bed. "Ouch!" Charlie cried as he found yet another broken spring poking out of the couch. That's it, he thought. I'm going to make Don share that bed with me if it's the last thing I ever do. He got up, grabbed his pillow, and stalked into the bedroom.
He saw Don in the bed, curled into a tight ball on the edge of the mattress. It's not even like he's using the whole thing, Charlie thought angrily. He glared at his brother as he moved to the empty side of the bed, when something in the moonlight caught his eye. Don's undershirt had ridden up, exposing about six inches of flesh.
Charlie leaned closer, intently studying the area. He quickly sucked in a deep breath as a wave of concern washed over him. Don's side was bruised a deep, dark purple, and there was an angry red cut closed with eight stitches. Eight, his mind reflected. Two times four, two cubed, half of sixteen... Stop it! This isn't a number; this is your brother! Charlie found himself examining the injury even more closely with a morbid sense of curiosity - like passers-by ogling a car accident.
Was this the 'something that came up at work'? Why hadn't he just told him the truth? Because he wanted to protect you, the little voice in Charlie's head chimed in. Don knew his family worried about him - knew they weren't thrilled about him having such a dangerous job. He would keep something like this secret just to make their lives a little easier. Charlie had conflicting emotions swirling in his mind: frustration, respect, love and pride. He suddenly felt very petty about yelling at Don for missing his award ceremony.
"Charlie?" Don's sleepy voice came from the bed. He could vaguely make out the distraught look on his little brother's face. "What is it?"
Charlie panicked. Should he let Don know that he knew? Maybe he should just play along and find some way of expressing his remorse later. As he sought his answer, Don realized what Charlie was looking at. He sighed and carefully pulled his undershirt back down. "It's nothing, Charlie. Alright?"
"No," Charlie whispered sadly. "No, it's not alright."
"Charlie, it's..." Don paused to glance at his travel alarm clock, "...Three in the morning. Can we please talk about this later?"
The younger man was surprised to hear himself laugh. "We could, but we won't. You know that."
Don sighed and sat up in bed, flipping on the bedside lamp. Fixing his brother with a tired look, he asked, "What do you want from me?"
Charlie gingerly sat on the bed, afraid any jostling would cause his brother pain. "I don't know," He whispered. "But I don't like the fact that you kept this from me – from Dad." He paused for a moment as he carefully chose his words. "We're your family. We're here to support you."
"I know, Buddy - and I appreciate that. But Dad worries enough about me, and you... You don't handle stuff like this too well. Do you understand now why I couldn't come to your award ceremony?"
Charlie nodded. "I'm sorry about what I said."
"Don't be," Don sighed. "You weren't too far off on some of the things you said. I do sometimes get tired of you getting all those awards. Not because I don't think you deserve them - I do. It's just that Dad gets so excited and brags about you on and on..." He glanced down at his hands. "It reminds me of when we were kids. You got all the attention back then, too. No matter what I did, it was always 'Charlie this, Charlie that'... I guess it still hurts sometimes." He looked up and smiled. "But those thoughts are my problems to deal with - not yours. I'm sorry if I ever make them seem like they are. I am proud of you, Charlie." He reached over and affectionately squeezed his arm. "You've grown up to be a wonderful man, brilliant in your field, dedicated to helping others. Our solve rate has gone up because of you - you were right about that."
Charlie gestured to Don's injured side. "But you do all the work - take all the risks. I'm the one who's proud." The brothers stared at each other in silence until they both broke into laughter.
Don placed his hand on his brother's shoulder. "You still want to go fishing tomorrow?" Charlie nodded eagerly. "Then maybe we should get back to sleep." Charlie patted Don's hand and stood up to leave. "You can share the bed."
"But your side..."
"I'll stay out of your way. Besides, all I need is the edge here. The rest of it is all yours." The younger man still seemed hesitant. "I know that couch isn't comfortable - I sat in it when we first got here. Why do you think I was so quick to commandeer the bed?"
"Oh, you're just evil, aren't you?" Charlie teased as he carefully climbed in.
"Shut up and go to sleep." Don chuckled softly and turned off the lamp.
"So then, by figuring the exact water temperature-"
"And underwater geography-"
"Charlie!" Don's frustrated voice finally cut through his thoughts.
Charlie stopped talking and looked up at his brother. "What?"
"It's fishing, not math."
"But we can use math to find the optimal location to fish."
"Fish don't read math books."
"I'm telling you, it'll work." Charlie frowned as he realized the direction in which the boat was going. "There's a mathematically better chance of catching the fish at the other end of the lake."
"Yeah?" Don asked as he smiled. "Well, I think there's a better chance - period - of catching fish at this end."
"Really?" Charlie asked sarcastically. "And what empirical data do you base that assumption on?"
Don pointed ahead as he steered the boat around a bend in the shore. Charlie followed his brother's finger and saw a small group of kids throwing bread into the lake.
"Dad told me they feed the fish every day at this time." Don smiled at the unhappy expression on his younger brother's face.
"You didn't tell me this lake is rigged," he pouted.
Don laughed. "Stop whining and get your pole."