Title: The Loss

Author: FraidyCat

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.

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"Stop waiting for me to break."

Charlie's voice was a mixture of anger and sadness. His erect posture spoke of the anger, but if you looked into his eyes, you could see the sadness just below the surface.

Don stood close to his brother, ready to lend physical support if it was needed. "We're not waiting for you to break, Buddy. We just want to be here for you."

"Why?" Charlie snorted a little. "It's not that big a deal, really."

Don worked at keeping his voice steady, soothing. "Of course it is. It was so unexpected. You had no warning, you weren't ready…"

Colby couldn't witness anymore, and he bolted from the room. Megan approached Charlie warily, as one would a wounded animal, and placed a gentle hand on his arm. "Charlie. Would you like to talk about this?"

He shook his head and looked away, at nothing. He refused to meet anyone's eyes.

Megan exchanged a glance with Don. "If there's anything I can do, please, don't hesitate to ask."

Charlie suddenly refocused on Don. "Why couldn't you stop this? Didn't you see this coming?"

The anguish in his voice tore at Don's heart. He crossed his arms in front of his chest to stop himself from gathering Charlie to him in a crushing embrace. He could tell Charlie couldn't deal with that right now. "I tried, Buddy," he said finally, helplessly. "Everything happened so quickly."

There was a noise at the door and David appeared. Megan moved to the side a little so that he could approach Charlie. He stopped in front of the mathematician awkwardly. "I know this isn't what you really want right now," he began, "but I thought it might help." He offered his open palm for Charlie's inspection.

Charlie studied David's hand for a moment, silently. He glanced angrily at the candy machine behind him and blinked back hot tears. He would not fall apart here. Not in front of Don, in front of the entire team. There would be time for that later, when he was alone. He drew himself up even straighter and met David's eye. "Thanks for trying, David," he said. "I appreciate it, really. But it just won't work for me. I hope you understand."

David nodded dejectedly, and Charlie tried to reassure him. "You keep them. I understand they can be excellent — and I see that they're the peanut variety. Peanuts make anything better, right?" He choked a little on his words toward the end, and pushed past David toward the door of the break room.

Don called after his brother. "Try the third floor lounge, Charlie. Maybe they still have Junior Mints in that candy machine."

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FINIS