The Disclaimer Continues. Ad Infinitum.

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Chapter 15

About ten days after the koi pond discussion, Alan dropped Charlie off for his second day of physical therapy and went on to volunteer at a soup kitchen. Don picked Charlie up and the brothers went to lunch together. Charlie still leaned heavily on his crutches, but Don noticed as they approached the restaurant that he was putting some weight on his ankle, now.

The restaurant was busy, and after they placed their orders, Don watched Charlie down an entire glass of water and hoped the wait would not be as long as he was afraid it might be. He still had to get Charlie to the soup kitchen to meet Alan before he could go back to work. He tried not to worry about it, and reminded himself to be supportive.

Don tried to make conversation. "So…Megan and Larry are pretty much a done deal, now. I don't know why that's so hard for me to wrap my head around."

He waited for a comment from Charlie, but he just looked distractedly at a point somewhere over Don's shoulder. Don cleared his throat and reached across the table to bump his brother's hand. "Chuck. Pay attention."

Charlie started and focused his eyes on Don. "What? I'm sorry, did you say something?"

Don smiled a little. "Having a little trouble with the ocean, today?"

To his relief, Charlie smiled back. "No. Actually, I found something that makes more noise."

Don found that interesting. He lifted an eyebrow. "What?"

Charlie leaned forward a little and spoke in a stage whisper. "Bro. My ankle. Therapy's a bitch – and so am I for the rest of the day after it's over."

Don laughed so loudly that other diners turned to look at him. He ignored them. "Sorry. I don't mean to laugh at your pain. Think about something else. Tell me about the alphabet."

Charlie looked momentarily confused. "The alpha…Oh." He grinned. "You mean my ABCs." Don nodded. "I actually have some news on that front," Charlie started.

"Do tell."

"I've been thinking. The more I push myself intellectually, the better I can balance everything, and fall into bed tired enough to sleep without pushing myself too far physically."

Don nodded. "Makes sense."

Charlie shifted in his chair. "So. I've been thinking about teaching." He saw the look on Don's face and hastened to clarify himself. "I love it, I do. I would never give it up entirely. But as a full-time, tenured professor, I'm required to teach certain classes – over, and over, and over. I think I could be doing more challenging things with my time." He inhaled deeply and sat back in his chair. "I won't be returning to CalSci full-time. I'll be talking with Dr. Sorenson in a few weeks about serving as an adjunct professor. I would teach one class a semester, almost exclusively upper division and graduate-level courses. I might also enter such an arrangement with one of the other local universities – UCLA, USC and CalTech have pretty much standing offers – but no more than one more class." He stopped to sip the water a waitress had refilled.

"What would you do instead?"

Charlie put down the glass. "My own research, of course; and, I would like to spend more time consulting; with several different agencies. Some of that would involve some travel. The CDC likes everything done on-site in their labs in Atlanta, for instance. Bob has been after me to spend some time in D.C. on a joint project with Homeland Security."

Don shook his head a little. Bob. He would never get used to hearing Charlie call the Director of the NSA 'Bob'.

"Of course I would still be available to the FBI," Charlie continued. "More so, in fact. Locally, and other offices. Even when I travel, I'd always be available to you via telephone, internet and video conference. Larry's been a big help on several cases, also. He can always pinch hit when necessary…"

Don smiled. "I'm not worried about that, Charlie."

Charlie looked at him earnestly. "I've thought about the house. Dad says he's decided not to move, but I don't want him to be stuck taking care of everything. That's why he sold to me in the first place." He looked a little embarrassed. "Consulting…provides a generous income. I thought I could hire a house manager or something, to act sort-of like a landlord. If something needs attention while I'm out of town, Dad could just call and report it, and the manager would deal with the details. He – or she – could just keep a general eye on things, too. There are people who do that, now. Insured, and everything."

Don was impressed at how far Charlie had thought this through already. "Still," he offered. "I could help you interview potential managers, if you'd like my cop instinct working mojo for you."

"That would be great," Charlie answered, leaning back a little as a chicken salad appeared in front of him. When the waitress had finished serving them both, he looked a little warily at Don. "What do you think?"

Don contemplated his cheeseburger. Just the way he liked it – he could see the pink juices flowing onto the plate and soaking into some fries. He almost salivated. He looked over at Charlie. "I think it sounds great. I'd miss you, so I hope you don't travel too much."

"I told you, Larry can help," reiterated Charlie.

Don corrected the genius. "I don't mean we'd miss you at the office. That too, of course – but I mean that I would miss you, as a brother." Charlie reddened and Don grinned at him fondly. "Face it, Chuck. You are as rare as this cheeseburger."

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END

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A/N: Thanks to Tanager36 for this story idea, and to my loyal and generous readers.(And for the record: I hate rare meat.)