Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: I'd like to thank my wonderful, tireless beta and part time muse, ritt, for all of her help. Thanks to Z for helping me with the locations around LA and southern California.
Latent Reckoning by 3rdgal
"How're you holding up?"
Don looked up from the kitchen sink at his brother. "Well enough."
"Any word on when you'll get a new apartment?"
Don shrugged. "No vacancies right now. I may have to wait for them to repair my old one." He turned his attention back to washing the dishes.
Charlie watched him as he methodically scrubbed every one before rinsing it and placing it into the drainer. Such a simple, mundane chore, and yet he was relieved to be able to watch Don doing it. He knew that he'd come very close to losing his brother tonight. If that explosion had happened a few minutes earlier... Thankfully it hadn't, and Don had been safely getting into his car when his apartment had burst into flames. Don had shown up at Charlie's house, giving a brief explanation of the night's events and assuring them both that he was fine, before requesting to stay over. Their father had bought Don's story that the explosion, although being looked into, was almost certainly accidental. Charlie knew better though, based on the information Megan had let slip earlier that day. Might as well address it now, he thought to himself. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?" Don cast him a glance, as he scrubbed a particularly dirty pot.
"About the letters."
At this Don did look up, and Charlie saw the blazing anger in his eyes. "Who the hell told you about those?"
"I have top security clearance, remember? Although I would like to think you would have told me yourself."
"I didn't – I don't – want you getting involved, and I don't want Dad to worry. Wait – you didn't tell him, did you?" Charlie shook his head and Don nodded as he returned his attention to the sink full of dishes. "Charlie, these things happen from time to time, and they usually turn out to be bogus."
"You're brushing off a series of death threats because they might be bogus?" Charlie asked incredulously.
"I'm not brushing them off," Don countered. "The letters are at the crime lab being analyzed and there's a team looking into them. But Charlie, I can't stop living my life because someone says they want to kill me."
"And the explosion at your apartment?" he demanded. "You think that's just a coincidence? Don, wake up – someone is trying to kill you!"
"There's no proof the explosion was set, and the letters never mentioned a bomb, so we're treating it like an accident until we get more information."
"I should go down there and lend them a hand."
"No!" Don looked up at Charlie, who caught a brief glimmer of fear in his eyes. "I told you – I don't want you involved!"
"But I can help," Charlie argued. "I can create a Bayesian Filter like I did on that case with the judge. Maybe help narrow down suspects from the list of people you've arrested."
"No," Don repeated firmly. "I do not want you involved in this case. Do you understand?"
"Honestly? No. You're my brother and if I can help stop these threats, then I will." Charlie met his steely gaze and then gently questioned, "Don't these threats bother you?"
Don sighed. "Of course they do, Charlie, but I don't let them affect me - I can't if I expect to do my job." He gave up on the dishes and dried his hands before grabbing a beer out of the fridge. He took a deep swallow and turned to face Charlie. "You know what does affect me? The thought of you or Dad being hurt, and I'm afraid that would be a real possibility if you work on this case."
"But I want to help," Charlie insisted, trying for all the world to sound like a grown man instead of a frightened little brother.
"Please, Charlie, for once just do what I ask you to," Don pleaded. Seeing the conviction in his eyes, he added, "I can have your clearance temporarily suspended if need be." They both knew it was a hollow threat, given Charlie's close relationship with NSA Director Thompkins, but Don was desperate.
"You do what you need to," Charlie said as he turned to leave the kitchen. Glancing back over his shoulder, he added, "But I'm going to work on this case." He left the room, missing the terrified expression that crossed Don's face.
Don angrily threw his beer bottle in the trash. Why couldn't Charlie ever listen to him? Don knew his job was dangerous, but he accepted the risks – it was part of being an agent. As he'd once told Colby though, that didn't make it open season on their families. He wouldn't even be at Charlie's house right now, except that he'd had nowhere else to spend the night on such short notice. He knew he would never be able to live with himself if he put his family in harm's way, so he wracked his brain, trying to think of a way to protect them. He finally thought of something – drastic and unpleasant – but he knew it would work. He switched off the light in the kitchen and made his way upstairs to his room, where he would spend the next few hours mapping out his idea.