Don sat on the couch staring at the TV. He didn't actually see the TV, Charlie knew. Instead he was seeing what Charlie saw when he closed his eyes, heard what Charlie heard - the FBI office, shattered by gunshots. A black hole appearing like a void in the white board where Charlie had been standing. The crack of guns. Yelling. The splash of glass hitting the floor. The smell in the air of gunpowder, mixed with the stink of Charlie's fear.
Charlie sat in a nearby chair and watched as Don sucked down yet another beer. His brother didn't usually drink this heavily, did he? Or would Charlie even have noticed?
He could really use a beer right now too. Damn knowing exactly how many brain cells an ounce of beer killed. At this rate, Don would be vegetable before he was 50. Or maybe earlier, if you accounted for the fact that his usual beer of choice had a higher than average alcohol content... So that would mean if Don started drinking when he was 21 - choosing that year just for simplicity's sake though he doubted Don had waited until it was legal - and then factoring in increased consumption during periods of high job stress. Where should the stress of fugitive retrieval rate in comparison to his current work? Maybe it needed to be broken down even farther, on a case-by-case basis and figuring in --
Don had said something. Charlie looked up.
"I ssaid, come here." Don was patting a spot next to him.
Charlie frowned. "Don, you're drunk."
"Not drunk enough, 'cause I'm shhtill awake. Come here."
Charlie hesitated. Drunk people made Charlie uneasy. He had a hard enough time dealing with people normally, but drunk people were unpredictable, operated outside their usual behavior parameters.
Don snorted a laugh. "God, you goofball! Nothing weird." His smile faded and he shrugged. "Just come here. … Please?"
It was the please, and the pleading tone behind it, that got Charlie up from his chair. He walked over to the couch and sat down gingerly. As he sat back, Don slipped his arm around him and pulled him close.
Charlie stiffened, then his head was resting on Don's shoulder and he was five again.
He had suffered lots of nightmares as a kid – something about his brain being too overloaded for his chronological age. Since he could walk, it hadn't been Mom and Dad's bed he went to when he woke up shaking - it was Don's.
Don would grumble but then he would move over and let Charlie curl up besides him. Charlie would lay with his head just here on Don's shoulder and he would feel so safe. Sometime around Don's thirteenth birthday, Don had shoved him out of his bed and onto the floor. After that, Charlie dealt with his nightmares himself. Not that he was ever as good at it.
Don's arm tightened around him and he rested his cheek against Charlie's hair. "You are the most annnnoying, frusterating, bratty, amazing little brother evver."
"That's a sweeping generalization," Charlie said. "Since you can't have—"
"Shuddup," Don said. "I'm being mmeaningful here."
Charlie closed his mouth then realized that Don had indeed said something meaningful, even nice. He must be really drunk.
"I'm never gonna let anyone hurt you, you unnersttand?" Don said. "Nobody. If anybody hurts you, I'm not gonna let them."
Charlie bit his lip rather than point out the logical error of that last statement.
"And you evver die on me, I'll kill you myself."
Charlie smiled and snuggled deeper into Don's shoulder. There was nowhere in the world he had ever felt safer.
"Kill you mmyshelf …" Don repeated. "And …"
Charlie waited, listening to Don's heartbeat, until he realized that Don had fallen asleep.
Without disturbing Don's arm around his shoulders, Charlie reached over and removed the mostly empty beer bottle from Don's hands. He set the bottle on the floor then reached behind him and pulled a throw over both of them.
Heaving a contented sigh, he settled into Don's arms. He wasn't going to worry about tomorrow, when the memory of fear and gunshots would come back full force.
Tonight he would be safe, nothing could harm him here.
He whispered, "I love you too, big brother."