Title: I Was Afraid That Would Happen
Disclaimer: Give them to me. Give them to me now.
A/N: Oneshot. This is a scene I missed in "Democracy" (when Charlie's dead-crazy college female friend turns out to be more dead than crazy). I confess I have not watched any of the Don-shrink episodes, but I have checked episode guides and cast lists and made an attempt at following plotline…
Dr. Bradford looked pointedly at the clock on his desk. Many psychiatrists subscribed to the theory that a clock should not be so obviously displayed. Patients were often uncomfortable, and therapists were sometimes tempted to watch the clock instead of the patient. So, many of his colleagues used other methods to indicate the end of a 50-minute hour. An intercom buzz from a receptionist, or an obscure hourglass, whose dripping sand was only in the doctor's view.
Bradford thought that was so much bunk, himself. For one thing, he only accepted patients who wanted to pursue therapy. They were paying for results. He found the clock – and his occasional glance toward it – a good kick in the pants, when silence had gone on too long. This wasn't the first time he'd used this tactic with Don Eppes.
The FBI agent was as tightly wound as the clock, most of the time. He bounced from taciturn to angry to crinkly-eyed grins so quickly a less experienced man – a not-quite-so-alert therapist – might have trouble keeping up.
Bradford was less familiar with today's persona. He had seen the Eppes Brood, and this seemed to be a variation of that. There was less sulkiness to the silence, and more actual angst. Dr. Bradford cleared his throat. "Perhaps there's a case you'd like to discuss? Some team interaction that concerns you?"
Don, who was slumping in a chair, one foot resting on the other knee, stopped fiddling with his sock and looked at the doctor. He appeared a little startled, as if he had forgotten where he was, for a moment. "Oh. No…it's nothing like that…" Dr. Bradford held his tongue and waited. Almost a full minute later, the federal agent sighed. "I was thinking about something Charlie said, last night."
Don rearranged himself in the chair, uncrossing his legs and leaning over them a little. He looked intently at his psychiatrist. "Someone he knew from college…or maybe it was a grad school somewhere…anyway, this woman…. Basically, she ended up dead. We're still trying to figure out if there's a case here, or if she offed herself. Charlie ID'd the body, in the morgue. He was understandably a little shaken, there. But he really wasn't all that far off what passes for normal, for him, the rest of the day. I went by the house for dinner last night, and we got there at the same time. Apparently, at some point Charlie was upset enough to call Dad, because he already knew." Don frowned, and stopped speaking.
"What?", the doctor encouraged.
Eppes ran a hand through his short-cropped hair; always a dead give-away to some internal distress. "Well, that bugs me, too. I mean, I was with him almost all day. If he was upset, why didn't he say so? Am I completely…unsympathetic?"
"You were together in the context of working the case?"
Don's frown grew deeper. "Well, yeah, but Charlie should know that I'm his brother, first. Besides, I've tried to show interest in the personal lives of all my team members!"
The doctor lifted an eyebrow. "So. Is he your brother, or a team member? Does either one of you really know when he falls into which category?"
Don sat back in the chair. "That's not fair," he protested.
Dr. Bradford defended himself. "Isn't it? Charlie doesn't 'consult' for your father on a professional basis. 'Dad' is always 'Dad'. There are no mixed messages, or shared roles. At least that's how you've described these relationships in the past." Don scowled and didn't comment. Dr. Bradford twisted the knife. "I don't find it at all unusual that in your professional relationship, Charlie felt the need to turn elsewhere for a level of comfort you were not at liberty to provide. This could even have been something he did for you; did you consider that? He may not want to place you in the position of having to compromise your leadership in the office." Don was starting to look seriously angry, so Bradford backed off. "Besides," he added, with a detached air, "we don't know that comfort was involved at all. Your only verifiable information, at this point, is that your father already knew."
Don let out a puff of air and leaned forward again, elbows on his knees. He shook his head. "Why does everything have to be such a freakin' circle with you guys?"
The doctor smiled. "Speaking of which. You changed the subject. Originally you indicated that Charlie said something."
Don nodded slowly, looking at the ground. "Yeah. My Dad asked him if he was okay, and Charlie said he was a little surprised by exactly how okay he was. Long story short, consulting on FBI cases has hardened him." Before the doctor could protest, Don looked at him quickly. "And yes, that is what he said. He even said his lack of reaction to something so horrible happening to someone he knew worried him a little."
"How did you respond?"
"My Dad made a joke about both of his sons being hardened crime-fighters now. I made some stupid comment about shrinks, and escaped to the kitchen as soon as I could. By the time I got back out to the living room, Charlie had gone out to the garage to work."
The doctor picked a pencil up off his desk and began to tap it lightly on the glass top. "So. Not a great deal of comfort was offered on the homefront, either."
Now it was Don's turn to get a little defensive. "Not a great deal seemed to be required! Charlie didn't need either one of us!"
"Does that disturb you? He may be a grown man of 33, but he will always be your younger brother, and your father's youngest son. Do you feel that he should have the courtesy to be the weakest, in some way?"
Don straightened in the chair again and tapped one hand on a knee in time with the pencil on the desk. "Don't put words in my mouth! Aren't you guys supposed to shut-up and listen every now-and-then?"
The doctor laid the pencil carefully down before he lifted his head, and out-stared Don Eppes. The loss unnerved him, as Bradford had known it would. Don's hand crept through his hair, again. "What I started to say, what I meant to say," Agent Eppes finally continued, "was that I never intended for that to happen. He's a sensitive guy, and I was never comfortable with Charlie seeing certain photos, victims, crime scenes. He's a data hog, though," Eppes added, a little proudly, "he wants to see it all." He sighed again, and looked sadly at Dr. Bradford. "I was always afraid this would happen. I didn't want Charlie to develop a body armor that would keep him from feeling anything – that's how people end up alone." He grinned. "Or here."
Dr. Bradford allowed a thin smile. "And that fate bothers you? Even though you and your father are both dating, you are still seriously alone, as you have made no commitments to these women. As for ending up here…you'll understand if I reserve comment on that."
Don shook his head. "It's not the same. Charlie needs Amita – or somebody – to take care of him. He needs that more than we do, maybe…and I never wanted to kill that vulnerability, that innocence!"
"Did you kill his college friend?"
"Don't be ridiculous. What I'm saying is that I never should have let him consult with the FBI at all."
"Again. You can't know that… Perhaps he would have found another way to grow up. Most of us do. Even when we are saddled with genius and overprotective brothers and doting fathers."
This time Dr. Bradford was more obvious when he looked at the clock. Time was running short, and he wasn't finished yet. "Why do you think you did?"
Don looked a little surprised. "Allow Charlie to consult?" The doctor nodded, but Don just looked at him.
The psychiatrist prodded. He spoke gently. This one was going to hurt; at least one of them. Given Eppes' anger issues, it might turn out to be the doctor. "Is it possible your solve rate won out over your family instincts?"
As expected, the patient's face darkened, a storm cloud of rage settling over his features. The movement of his body closer to the doctor was imperceptible, but not for the first time, Bradford found himself thankful he had never encountered this Agent in an interrogation situation. "You asshole." Don pulled no punches. "After all I've shared in this place, how can you say that to me? When Charlie works a case, it's usually solved, yeah…and it's solved a lot faster than it would be with any other consultant, or even our in-house experts. That often equates to lives, dammit. Do you understand that? Actual, living, breathing, human beings. You friggin' asshole. My solve rate means nothing next to that!"
Dr. Bradford held up a hand – both as a peace gesture, and so he wouldn't be totally defenseless if Eppes came off the chair. His voice did not betray his apprehension. "That places you in a very difficult situation. Knowing that his assistance is so valuable, you no doubt push him, at least occasionally. Watching the natural consequences of his involvement in these cases, on the other hand, disturbs and saddens you as a brother."
Don was still angry, but his expression added wariness as he settled back a little. "Well, yeah. That's what I was saying." Confusion entered the mix. "No, wait, it wasn't either. This isn't about me right now. It's about Charlie. I'm just sorry to see this happening to Charlie, and I feel badly about it." He was working his way back to anger. "Can't I just feel badly about it?"
Dr. Bradford laid his pencil down, an indication that the hour was completed. With both hands free, he rested his elbows on the desk and formed his fingers into a "V" in front of his face. He peered over them at Agent Eppes. "Yes. Yes, you're allowed to feel, Agent. You're allowed to feel everything."
Don stood to leave, "Okay, then," he acknowledged awkwardly.
He half-turned to approach the door of the office, but paused when the doctor spoke again. "If I might make a suggestion?"
The hesitancy in his voice surprised Don more than anything. He looked back. "What? You want me to recommend you to him?"
The psychiatrist smiled. "Only if you feel you should. Actually, I would be glad to provide you with some referrals, since that could cause a conflict of interest on my part." When Don didn't answer, the doctor went on. "What I was going to say was that you are also allowed to impact the people around you in a positive way. Perhaps Charlie would benefit from some interaction with his brother. His brother is an insightful, extraordinary man."
……………………………………………………………………………………………… Charlie stood at one of the chalkboards in the garage, chalk gripped in his still-raised hand, and regarded Don lounging against the door frame. "What did you say?"
Don grinned. "You heard me. Come on, Chuck. We haven't done anything together in…a while."
"We have dinner together almost every night," Charlie pointed out.
Don rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean. Don't be such a…such a…pedantist."
Charlie raised an eyebrow, slowly lowering the chalk. "You want to go bowling," he confirmed. "With me. At…" – he glanced at his watch – "11:48 p.m. on a Tuesday night. And stop calling me 'Chuck' – Donnie."
Don grinned. "Not up for it? Too old for late-night activity? I'll have to tell Amita that. Chuckles."
Charlie slammed the chalk in the tray and strode for the desk, where his jacket lay in a messy heap on top. He shrugged into it, and made a promise. "You are so going to live to regret saying that! Donald Duck."
Don grinned wider, and danced just out of Charlie's reach all the way to the SUV. "Bring it on, Chuckie-boy. Bring it on!"