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!
Red. So much of it.
Charlie stared mutely at his brother and tried to comprehend how all of the red staining Don's face and chest had gotten there. It had just been a simple robbery. Cliché, if you really thought about it. Some stupid idiot with a get rich quick idea decided to visit his local branch and slide the teller a handwritten note that read, 'This is a robbery'.
"Don, hold still." Charlie heard Megan's words but his thoughts were still drifting through the past.
The teller had been working for the bank for over fifteen years and had not been a stranger to robberies. She'd remained calm and cool as she pressed the silent alarm before emptying her till into the thief's gym bag as requested. He'd been none the wiser as he took the bag from her and calmly strolled toward the front door.
"Don," Megan's voice again and Charlie dared to glance at his brother and winced as he saw Don reaching up to his face, trying to wipe the red away. "Careful… your eyes. Let me."
It had been pure luck – at least Charlie assumed that's would the average citizen off the street would say – that Don had been on his way to talk to the branch manager about a cybercrimes case. Pure coincidence that Don, wearing his FBI windbreaker, had strolled into the bank at the exact same moment the robber was strolling out.
"Don!" Megan's sharp yell pierced Charlie's thoughts. He watched as she tried to grip Don's hands, slippery and red, as he tugged at his shirt. "I'm trying to help you."
The thief had frozen when he saw the lettering on Don's jacket which had, of course, attracted Don's attention. From all of the accounts he had heard, Charlie knew the robber had made a frantic move, turning toward the agent and…
"Don!" Megan exclaimed in exasperation. "I swear, you just don't want anyone's help, do you?" She turned and saw Charlie standing in the doorway. "You think you can convince him that he needs help?"
Charlie looked at his brother and was again struck by just how much red coated his face and chest. It looked so unnatural and almost… Charlie couldn't help it; his shoulders began to shake and tears formed in his eyes. Don just looked so…
"What's so funny, Chuck?" Don growled.
Charlie wiped the tears from his eyes and shook his head. "I always wondered what you would look like as a redhead."
"Ha ha," Don snapped. "Laugh it up, Chucky, but this stuff doesn't wash off too easily."
"It wouldn't be a very good security measure if it did," Megan calmly pointed out, though she had to fight back her own laughter.
Charlie nodded. "Unfortunately they're indiscriminate about who they choose to mark. Occupational hazard, bro."
"I can't believe he threw the bag at me." Don sighed and rolled his eyes. "This was a brand new shirt," he groused.
"Now it's tie-dyed," the professor said sweetly. "You can bring a dying trend back to life."
Seeing her boss's face darken, Megan patted him on the shoulder. "I'll leave you two alone. Just try not to get that stuff all over the floor. I'm sure the bank doesn't want to have to pay to clean the entire lobby."
Charlie waved good-bye to her and then watched as his brother turned to the closest window and studied his ghastly appearance. "My hair," Don sighed.
Something about seeing the transparent image of his brother in the glass made Charlie think of ghosts. His thoughts immediately sobered as it occurred to him that Don very well could be in that situation right now, were it not for the incompetence of the robber. "It could be worse," Charlie said quietly. "He could have really had a gun. All that red… it could be something else."
Don looked over his shoulder and frowned. "God, Buddy, I'm sorry. I didn't…" He made a conscious effort to stop rubbing at his new red locks and nodded. "You're right. I hadn't thought of it like that."
Charlie wasn't fooled. "Yes, you had. That's why you and Megan struck up the comedy routine. It was for my benefit." The professor moved to stand closer to his brother and mustered up a confident smile. "I thought we established that you don't have to protect me anymore. Don, I know what you do, the risks you take and why you do it."
Don studied him for a moment, seeming to peer through him, right into his soul. He finally grinned. "Old habits, Buddy."
"I understand. Just… try to remember, okay?"
"I will," Don promised as he slung an arm around Charlie, hugging him close.
"Hey!" Charlie protested as he tried to wriggle out of Don's embrace. "You're going to get that stuff all over me!"
"What was it a wise FBI math consultant once told me?" Don grinned and rubbed a red-stained hand in Charlie's curls. "Oh yeah – occupational hazard."