Title: Charlie and the Hamsters

Author: FraidyCat

Genre: Humor, Oneshot

Time line: A Little Bit Later

Summary: Answer to challenge; someone asked me to stop hurting Charlie

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em – but wanna cuddle 'em; will put 'em back when I'm through with 'em

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Don sensed a shadow over him, and looked up from the report. "Hey, Charlie! How did you know I'd still be here?"

His brother looked nervous. "I…I didn't." He glanced at Colby, the only other person in the bullpen. "I need to talk to you."

Don's eyes were back on the report. "Sure. We'll go to dinner as soon as I sign off on Colby's report." He glanced at Charlie again. "Pull up a chair."

"How long will this take?"

Don looked at his watch. "Gee, I don't know, Charlie. Colby and I have only got three hours overtime, today, we were kind-of hoping for at least seven. Just sit down." He looked across the room. "Colby! Come and explain this to me."

Charlie dragged a chair over to Don's desk and perched on the edge while the agents bent their heads over the report. He gripped his hands together, tapped one foot in a constant rhythm on the floor.

Don looked at him. "Charlie. Maybe you should wait in the car."

"I'm sorry." He stood up. He sat down again, and now both men were looking at him.

Charlie couldn't control the hamsters in his head a second longer. They were spinning the wheel so hard it was about to come off its tracks. "It's just that I think I'm in love."

Colby laughed, and Don carefully laid down the report. He looked at Colby, his gaze silencing him. "I know you've been waiting an hour already for me to sign off on this. Can we finish up Monday morning?"

Colby's laugh faded, but only to a smile. "Sure. I'll still get paid." He reached in a pocket for his keys and started for the elevator. He tried not to laugh again. "Congratulations, Whiz Kid."

Don wasn't even sure Charlie had heard him. He was just looking at Don in desperation. He stood and grabbed his coat off the back of the chair. "Come on. Let's hit the bar down the street. I think one of us needs a drink for this conversation." By the time they were halfway to the ground floor, and he had watched Charlie pace the elevator enough times to make him dizzy, he changed his mind. "We'll stop at a liquor store instead. Take a bottle to my place and order pizza. There may be more than one drink involved."

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Don stood in his tiny kitchen, and placed a tumbler in front of Charlie, sitting on the other side of the counter. "Are you sure you want this? It's Scotch."

Charlie nodded and Don poured him two fingers. He sipped his own while Charlie contemplated it. "So what happened? It's Debbie, right?"

Charlie frowned. "Deborah. Don't call her that." He took a mouthful of the Scotch and choked, half of it falling back into the glass. Don tried not to laugh.

"So you've been seeing Debbie for six months. What inspired this sudden revelation?"

"I don't know, that's just it. When I woke up this morning, she was still sleeping. I just looked at her, and…and…it was there." He looked at Don, who was hiding his mouth behind his tumbler of Scotch. "Can that happen?" Charlie raised his own glass again, this time successfully downing half of it.

Don placed his on the counter. "Charlie, you're not really supposed to gulp Scotch." His brother didn't answer, just took another drink. "Look, the first time can really mess with your head, if you're not ready for it."

That got Charlie to look up. "It wasn't our first time," he spat. "We've been going out for six months, Don — do you think I'm a monk?"

He tried to cover his surprise with another sip, lowered the glass again. "Well…okay…the first woman, then."

Charlie glared at him. "You do think I'm a monk." He looked at his empty glass. "This is terrible." He held the glass out to Don. "Can I have some more?"

Don used the excuse to turn his back on his brother and smile, poured him two more fingers and returned the tumbler. "Okay. So, in your vast experience, have you felt like this before? Been in love?"

Charlie accepted the Scotch, sighed. "I've been thinking about that, all day. It was different, but I think if it hadn't…ended like it did, I would still be with her." He looked up at Don again. "Is that love?"

Don shrugged. "You may not have noticed this, Charlie", he arced an arm to indicate the apartment. "but I live alone, here. May not be the best source for your research."

Charlie raised his glass, took another gulp. He really had to learn to drink. "Oh, come on. You've been in love, I know you have. I know we're supposed to pretend that Kim and Terry and countless others never happened, but give me a break, here."

Don bristled. "Okay, hot shot, so tell me about this other woman. How long ago?"

Charlie held out the glass. When did he empty that again? "College."

Don was glad he didn't have a mouthful of Scotch. "College? Charlie, you were only 13 when you went to college!"

"No, no, not Princeton. I was 17, studying for my first doctorate at UCLA. Living in that crummy little studio near campus…" Abruptly, he stood up, then sat down again, seeming to remember something. "Oh, that's right. You never saw that apartment. Still playing baseball. She was older."

Don tried to follow his brother, never easy, definitely harder when they were both drinking. "So, how much older?"

Charlie drank, thought. "34? No, 36. Yeah, 36."

Don's eyes widened. "Shit. Was she your first?"

"Why does that matter? Not that it's any business of yours, but no. That was at Princeton."

"Charlie! You were living with Mom!"

Charlie drained his glass again. "I can be very resourceful."

Don didn't give him any more to drink. Maybe he wouldn't notice. He tried to track. "Okay. Another story. Or two. What about this woman at UCLA? What happened?"

Charlie blushed, looked into his glass. "Thish…I mean, this, this is empty."

"Staying that way, too. So what happened?"

"I found out she was married."

Don winced. "Ouch."

Charlie started laughing. "Wait, wait, this is the good part. She was married to one of my professors. That's why I don't have a doctorate from UCLA. I finished it at Cal Sci, at the same time I was working on my second one."

Don stared at his brother. Who was this guy? He lifted the bottle of Scotch. "I'd say you earned yourself another one of these."

Charlie smiled as if Don had given him the puppy he begged for as a child, eagerly lifted the glass to his mouth. After another gulp, he lowered it again. "What were we talking about?"

Don laughed. Charlie was going to be a fun drunk. "Debbie."

His brother frowned again. "Deborah. Yes. So if the two situations feel different, they can still both be love?"

Don was getting tired. He was still standing in the kitchen. He grabbed the bottle and joined his brother on the other side of the counter, sitting on the remaining barstool. "Sure. It's been a long time, they're different women, you're a much different man than you were at 17." Don shook his head, spoke under his breath. "Married. To a professor, yet."

The two sat in companionable silence for a while. Charlie's hand snuck over for the bottle, and Don let him have it. It was empty anyway. He stood and wandered around behind his brother. "Let's go into the living room." On the way Charlie weaved and stumbled against him. Don guided him to the couch and fell into the chair facing it. "Did we forget to order pizza?"

Charlie just looked at him blankly.

"So," Don tried to track, again. "We've established that you're in love with Debbie. What do you want to do about it?"

Charlie looked around for his glass, which he wasn't going to find, since he'd left it on the counter. "I think I may want to marry her."

Don wished they had remembered that pizza. He'd had a lot less to drink than Charlie, was a lot more experienced, and it had still gone to his head. "What? Who?"

"Debbie," Charlie answered.

"Deborah," Don corrected. "Wait a minute. Maybe you should live together, first."

Charlie grimaced. "That's so…1980s…" He tried to stand up so he could look for his drink, but someone had replaced his legs with rubber. "Help me up."

Don was too comfortable to move. "Why?"

Charlie blinked at him. "I don't know."

"Oky." Don leaned over and extended a hand to Charlie, then leaned back after his brother grabbed it, and hauled him to his feet. He watched as Charlie strolled off, heard the bathroom door shut. He closed his eyes, and must have fallen asleep in the chair. His eyes jerked open when he heard a crash.

"Charlie?"

"Sorry…I don't think it's broken."

Don groaned, knew he should get up to check, but he was just too tired, and happy, and drunk. "Whatever it is, just leave it!" he yelled. "Don't touch any broken glass. I'm too drunk to drive you to the ER."

Before he was finished speaking, Charlie was back in front of him, hand wrapped around a beer. "Shudda got you one," he mumbled, but Don held up his hand.

"That's okay. Charlie, you're not supposed to mix drinks. Unless they're mixed drinks."

Charlie giggled. "Is there a book on this I could read?"

Don laughed easily. "Write one. And sit down."

Charlie sat on the couch again. Don looked full at him, then sat up a little. "Are you wearing my clothes?"

Charlie looked down at the borrowed sweats and t-shirt. "Yesh. I mean, yes. I don't think your bathroom works right."

A sound burst from Don's lungs that he did not even recognize, at first. It was beyond laughter, it was hysterical joy. He loved it when Charlie fell in love.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

FINIS

A/N: I know this story could go on, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to refrain from hurting Charlie for more than one chapter…