Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Thanks as always to ritt, the world's best beta and sounding board! I swore I wouldn't write a postep for 'The Janus List' and I didn't really, but there is a slight spoiler for it.
Don was going to kill him.
Charlie stared across the growing chasm separating him from his brother.
Yep, he is absolutely, one hundred percent going to kill me, he thought as he read the agent's expression. He quickly looked away as the jagged piece of metal on which he was standing shifted sharply to the left. Assuming I don't die in the next few minutes.
The young man looked up, anguish pouring over him as he read the desperation in Don's eyes – a desperation that he alone had caused. No, not just him – the suicidal bomber who had blown up the bridge he had been standing on had contributed, too. What is it with madmen and bridges? he wondered.
Oops, must have zoned out. I really shouldn't do that- His thoughts were cut off as the metal beneath his feet groaned and swayed to the right.
"Charlie, listen to me!"
The young man tightened his death grip on the piece of steel, wincing as it sliced into his palm. Got other things on my mind right now, bro.
"You have to jump!"
He looked up sharply as he let out a near-hysterical laugh. "I can't fly!" he shot back.
Don frowned at him, perhaps thinking he had a severe head wound on top of everything else. He shook his head and reached out his hands. "Jump, Charlie!"
Nope, no way, not a chance. He'd already run through the calculations in his head. Distance, wind speed, the unsteady nature of his launching platform, that pesky thing called gravity… He'd be dead for sure.
"I'll catch you!"
I have to get there first, he countered silently. Tightening his grip on the jagged metal, he shook his head. "It's too far!"
"Charlie." Don's voice had dropped in volume but grown in intensity. "You can do it, Buddy. Trust me."
I do trust you, Don, but I also trust the law of gravity. "You're sure?"
"More than anything else in my life."
Good lord, pouring it on a little thick aren't we? "On three?" The remnants of the bridge shifted again, severely enough that he was almost bucked off of his perch. Or now, he thought, bending his knees and flinging himself from the steel beam. He forced himself not to look down, focusing instead on the tremendous amount of faith he had in his brother.
The five year old boy nervously eyed the swimming pool before him, completely uncertain about the bright blue water that seemed eager to swallow him whole.
"You can do it!"
The only reason he'd even gone this close to the edge was standing chest-high in the water in front of him, his wet hair plastered to his head and a huge smile on his face. Charlie was terrified of disappointing his big brother but he was so scared of the water. What if it went over his head and he couldn't get up?
"I'll catch you, Buddy."
Don's voice had grown softer but the conviction in his voice was still present. "It's… it looks deep."
"Nah," Don promised. "See? I'm standing up just fine. And I'll keep your head up, too."
A burst of loud laughter rang out from the end of the pool and Charlie was dismayed to see a group of Don's friends entering the community pool. He fought back tears as he realized his brother would be leaving him any second to go hang out with them.
"Charlie! Jump already!"
"But what about…?"
"Today is our day, Buddy."
That was all he needed to hear to give him the confidence to jump. He flew through the air, gasping as the cold water splashed up around him. It crawled up his feet, then his legs, hips, stomach, shoulders… A pair of arms, already growing strong from hours of baseball practice, wrapped around him just as his chin touched the water and held his head up high. "I did it!" he exclaimed happily.
"You sure did," Don beamed at him.
"Can I do it again, Don?"
The older boy nodded happily. "As much as you want."
The air rushed from his lungs as something hard slammed into his stomach, bringing the home movie to a sudden stop. He expected to feel gravity tugging him to his death, but a pair arms, strong and determined, hauled him away from the edge and onto terra firma.
"You okay?" he heard Don pant.
Charlie remained silent, fighting to catch his breath as he inventoried his injuries. "Uh, yeah. I think so. You?"
"Other than having a few years scared off my life, I'm fine."
"Sorry about that."
Don's voice grew harsh. "What in the hell did you think you were doing? He had a bomb strapped to him!"
"No one else was here yet," Charlie countered. "No police, no FBI… I didn't want all of those innocent people to die."
Don sighed but there was a hint of pride in his eyes. "So you decided to talk him out of it? You, with the years of training in math?"
"I got him to let everyone else get off the bridge."
Don outright smiled at his younger brother. "Yes you did. And that was excellent work. Just… don't be so heroic next time? I don't think my heart can take it."
"Now you know how I feel when you go racing off after some insane madman."
The agent laughed out loud and clapped Charlie on the back. "There's got to be a better way for us to learn to understand each other besides nearly getting killed."
"Nowhere near as exciting though."
The two brothers lay on the ground, both laughing as the stress and tension fled their bodies. After a while Don grabbed Charlie's hand and hauled him to his feet. "Let's go home. And not a word to Dad, okay?"
"Agreed. I don't want to have two near-death experiences in one day."