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 finally managed to get something written, which is amazing in and of itself. Hopefully the muse will stick around for a while, but again, no promises. It was hard enough getting this much out of her.
"Good game, Don."
"Way to go, Eppes."
Charlie patiently waited outside the dugout as Don's softball team filed out past him. He smiled and nodded as the men passed by him, until it was just him and his brother left. He quietly observed as Don untied his cleats and pounded them together to remove the caked on mud. As he slipped them into his softball bag, Charlie spoke.
"That was a great game, bro. That triple you had was awesome, as was the slide into third base."
Don looked up at him with a radiant smile. "Yeah, that felt good. No, make that incredible. I had started to forget what a rush it was to play."
A rush indeed, Charlie thought with a smile as he took in his brother's flushed, sweaty face. After all, it had only been a few short months ago when Don's face had looked the same, only the cause had not been nearly so pleasant. He had been shot in his right leg and his short hospital stay had turned into a marathon event when a massive infection – due to hospital negligence – attacked his injured limb. Charlie's smile faltered as he remembered the weeks that he and his father had practically lived in the tiny hospital room, praying they wouldn't lose Don forever.
"You okay, Buddy?"
Don's voice jarred him from his thoughts and he quickly nodded. "Just thinking how much the left fielder underestimated you. I mean, he played so close in and then when you hit the ball over his head, he seemed to think he had all the time in the world."
"I did that so your brother would feel good," an angry voice snarled from behind him.
Charlie whipped around and found himself face to face with said left fielder, a DEA agent named Watkins or Wilson or something along those lines.
"Hey, Wallace," Don greeted in a neutral tone. "It was a good game. No hard feelings, okay?"
"You think you actually could have made all the way to third if I hadn't let you?" the agent scoffed. "That's funny, Eppes. Say, you want to get out here and race me? I'll show you who's really the better athlete."
"You know," Don drawled. "I have nothing to prove to you. Why don't we both go home and call it a day?"
"Scared I'll show you up in front of your little brother?" Wallace taunted.
"I know what Don's capable of," Charlie – much to his surprise – growled at the larger man. He instantly regretted his words and tone as the DEA agent stepped closer, his posture dangerous and threatening. And then – like all of those years as a child – Don was there, standing defiantly between Charlie and the bully.
"Like I said, Wallace, go home."
"You going to make me, Eppes?" Charlie watched as the agent's fists clenched in anger.
"You really want to start something?" Don asked as he gestured to the stands where there were still a few of his teammates standing around and chatting. "In front of all of these law enforcement witnesses, you really want to take a swing at me? That's fine, man. Go ahead and take your shot."
Wallace seemed to reconsider his threat, finally taking a step backward and spitting into the dirt beside Don's foot. "Nah, you ain't worth it, Fed."
Charlie watched as the agent stormed off, not able to hold back a victorious smile. "Wow, Don, you haven't lost a step."
His brother shrugged modestly as he took a seat in the dugout. "The joke's really going to be on him in a couple of weeks."
Charlie joined his brother on the bench. "Oh?"
"Yeah," Don nodded as he began fiddling with his right leg. "When they put me in charge of firing range qualifications, it wasn't just for the FBI. I'm responsible for qualifying any federal agent who is based in LA. That includes FBI, Homeland Security, ATF…"
"DEA," Charlie finished with a laugh. "Man I wish I could be there when he finds out."
"Me too," Don chuckled. Then, with a hearty laugh, "Oh wait… I will. I knew there was something about my new assignment I was looking forward to. It's going to be a lot more boring than field work, but life is full of changes."
Charlie nodded as he watched Don remove the prosthetic from his right knee and clean mud out of the connection. "You've adapted quite well to this change, Don, and it was a huge one."
"Hey, the way I look at it, I'm alive, you and Dad are okay, and I still have a job with the Bureau. So all in all, I'm doing fine."
"And thanks to the hospital's settlement, you have enough money to keep yourself outfitted with the latest and greatest in the world of prosthetics."
"With enough left over to invest that I might one day put your income to shame."
Charlie gasped in mock offense. "As if…"
Don shook his head and reattached the limb, standing up and slinging his bag over his shoulder. "Dad said he'd have supper waiting, right?"
"Yeah, as long as his meeting with Stan didn't run late."
"Let's hurry home then because I could sure use some of his lasagna."
Charlie nodded and grinned mischievously. "Race you to the car?"
Don didn't even respond, just took off across the field, leaving Charlie in his dust. When he finally made it to the car, panting for air, Don was leaning against the passenger door and checking his watch.
"Wow, I beat you by a good thirty seconds more that I normally do."
Between breaths, Charlie managed a playful, "I let you win." He didn't even have time to move as his brother grabbed him and proceeded to ruffle his curly hair. He started to complain but quickly stopped, giving in instead to a round of hearty laughter.
It was good to have things back to normal.