Characters: Alan, Don, Charlie
Spoilers: Up to 4.10
Written For: mari4212 at the family ficathon on LJ.
Prompt: A guys' night in at the house that doesn't involve Don sleeping over because he's too tired to go back to his house because of a case.
Author's Notes: Huge thank you to jennukes, Cha Oseye Tempest Thrain and lostandalone22 for betaing.
Summary: A family night with Don, Charlie and Alan…or how your children never really grow up.
"Mmm, that smells good."
"Don't even think about it," Alan said as Charlie tried to inch a finger into the mixing bowl. He brandished the wooden spoon in his hand mock-threateningly, an eyebrow raised.
Charlie laughed and held his hands up in surrender, slowly backing up. "Okay, Dad, I know when I've been defeated."
The spoon was dipped back into the mix and moved again in steady circles. Charlie picked up a carrot stick from the vegetables piled on the breadboard and started munching.
"I should think so," Alan replied wryly. "Why don't you take another beer into your brother, if you're at a loss for something to do."
"What, he doesn't have legs?" Despite his words, Charlie stuck the carrot stick in between his teeth and moved to the fridge. He grabbed two beers and popped them open with a bottle opener out of the drawer.
"He'd get one for you, if I asked him to."
Charlie transferred the two bottles to one hand and pulled the carrot stick out of his mouth. "That's because he's scared of you." He gestured in Alan's direction with the carrot, before taking another bite of it.
"Oh, ha ha ha."
The volume of baseball replays on the TV increased as Charlie made his way into the living room. He silently wound around the furniture to stand beside Don's chair and offered him one of the beers, keeping half his attention on the scores. After he stuck the bottle out, he realised that Don's eyes were closed and he was breathing in soft half snores. The ability to sleep anytime or anywhere at the drop of a hat seemed to be a skill that Don had picked up over his time in the FBI. There were a few times Charlie could swear that he'd even fallen asleep standing up.
He turned around and put the beer bottles down on a nearby coffee table, next to Don's empty bottle, and in a couple of bites finished the carrot stick while watching a player run from third to home base. There wasn't really a good reason to wake Don up yet; it was still at least half an hour to dinner. Reaching for his own beer, Charlie spotted a whiteboard marker that would have been abandoned the last time he'd taken over the room with a project. His hand hovered over it as a thought entered his head.
He looked at Don, still obliviously asleep and certain of his safety in the family home, and then back at the marker, hardly believing the idea that he was entertaining. Mathematical probabilities on just how Don would react – badly, it seemed – whirled through his head at light speed and his hand made up his mind for him, resolutely gripping the marker and picking it up off the table.
He was sure that Don would hear and wake up as his heart rate tripled, pounding in his ears like a bongo drum played by an over-enthusiastic Larry. The marker was uncapped in one smooth move; he shuffled over to Don's chair and paused over him, the pen poised to do its job. A moment of indecision stretched before him as his brain re-debated the merits of his course of action. The numbers gave the same result, and, for one of the few times in his life, Charlie ignored the math.
A quick and decisive sideways stroke and the dye was cast. Don's eyes flew open; one hand reached for his non-existent gun and the other moved to his mouth. His fingers brushed across the top of his lip, trying to find what woke him.
Charlie was still holding the pen. This was where he'd always failed as a kid – hiding the evidence. The eyes focussed on his hand as two and two came together to, correctly, equal four in Don's brain. The blue on Don's fingertips – non-permanent pens always smudged nicely – sealed the deal.
"Charlie, wha-what the-?"
There was clear annoyance, possibly even a little anger, in Don's rising voice as he continued to look at Charlie, flabbergasted.
"Um," Charlie said, his brain defaulting into a mode it hadn't seen in years. He'd never been able to make up convincing lies to tell Don or his parents. "Ahhhh…" He ran out of monosyllables. The brothers stared at each other for a moment more, frozen in place.
"Don, Charlie, what's going on?"
Alan's voice from the doorway broke the tableau as they both bolted, Charlie three steps ahead of Don. They ran past Alan, who wisely stepped out of the doorway.
"Don't break anything!"
They sprinted through the house, expertly avoiding furniture – except for the dining room table which seemed to have it in for both of them – and burst out the back door, Don not quite able to grab hold of Charlie's shoulders. Sensing that he didn't have very far left where he could run, Charlie stopped and whirled around. He held the marker up in front of him, the gauntlet metaphorically tossed.
"I'm not afraid to use it," Charlie panted, raising his eyebrows and pointing the pen at Don.
Don bent his knees, dropping into a fighting stance. Gestured for him to bring it on. "Think you can take me, Chuck?" He put the emphasis that always managed to push Charlie's buttons on the name.
"Oh, I know I can," Charlie retorted, circling around Don. He feinted to Don's left, Don swayed to the right. Charlie right, Don left. To the left and then the middle, and Don didn't move quickly enough. Charlie grinned in triumph at the blue stripe on Don's arm.
"Oh, you're going to get it now," Don promised. He moved on the offensive, trying to grab Charlie's arm and end the tussle through sheer strength and body weight. Charlie twisted wildly, taking every opportunity to strike on any body part he could reach. One last twist was all it took for Charlie to lose his balance. He fell backwards, grabbing Don's hand to stop the fall, but his momentum was too great. The ground crumbled away from under Don's feet and he was pulled forward, landing over Charlie with a splash.
"I think I squashed a Koi."
Don looked down into the pond that had been their undoing, trying to see whether there was a tail or head poking out from under Charlie. There was nothing obvious and the Koi seemed to still be swimming happily around them, ignoring the intruders in their pond.
"Nah, I think they're all okay," Don replied, attempting to crawl to a standing position. His foot slipped and he ended up back on hands and knees. "They move pretty quickly."
"Either of you hurt?"
Don turned his head to see their father standing at the door, a grin hiding in the corners of his mouth despite the serious words.
"Charlie?" Don asked, looking back at his brother.
"Nothing hurt but our dignity," Don called back, ending with a snigger that Charlie repeated.
"I don't think I've ever fallen into the pond before," Charlie commented, tracing circles in the water with his left hand. The ripples spread out, decreasing in amplitude until they hit the side of the pond and were reflected back, interfering constructively and destructively to produce a new pattern.
"I have." Don shrugged, attempting to stand up again. "But I was pre-pretty drunk and, man, Mom was pissed at me."
"Before or after you fell in?"
Having finally made it vertical and not slipped, Don grinned. "Both. I was seventeen."
Charlie shook his head, a bemused expression on his face. "See, how did I not know this? I never find out any of the interesting stuff." He accepted the hand held out to him and pushed off the rocks with the other. "I think the Koi are a little hungry."
They both looked down at the fish, swimming close to their ankles and popping up to the surface with mouths wide open in 'O's.
"Dad fed them, like, an hour ago, so they can't be."
"And yet, they're still looking for food."
Don leant down towards the water. "Well, you're not getting any. You hear that, Alvin?" A point for emphasis and a head disappeared back below the surface.
"Which one's Alvin?"
"Tha-" Don waited until one came into view. "That one."
Charlie followed the finger to a red and black spotted fish and shook his head. "That's Johan, not Alvin."
Don crinkled his forehead in disbelief and shook his head slowly. "Charlie, you actually named the fish? Come on…" Turning, he climbed the few steps needed to get out of the pond, the mud at the edge trying to bring him back down.
"What?" Charlie called to Don's retreating back. "Dogs get names. Cats get names. Even some hypotheses get names. Why not the Koi?"
The answer was a raised hand and an increase in Don's pace.
"He's going to get the first shower," Charlie muttered to himself in realisation, before springing into action. "Hey, hey!" The water splashed around his feet as he hurried to the edge of the pond, slipping and sliding. "It's my house! Don, it's my house! I get the first shower."
"And drier," Don said wryly, leaning wearily on the kitchen bench. He'd changed into a t-shirt with '2 + 2 equals 5 (for extremely large values of 2)' on the front and a pair of black tracksuit pants that were an inch too short in the leg. A pair of socks met the pants above the ankle. "I've only got office gear here, so…" He gestured to his apparel and took a sip of the beer he'd picked up from the living room. "Man, I can't believe that Charlie did that." A grin creased his lips as he shook his head in fond remembrance.
"I always thought that you boys missed out on an important part of being brothers," Alan replied, giving the pot one last stir and replacing the lid.
"Oh, yeah? Beating the crap out of each other, you mean?"
Having opened one of the cabinets, Alan started pulling out plates and glasses in threes. "Well, to put it crudely, yes. When other people were complaining about their boys not being able to be in a room together without hitting or annoying each other, you and Charlie were in different parts of the country."
Don turned around and opened the drawer that had been behind him. Three forks, knives, spoons. "How many?" He held up a serving ladle.
"Two will do. And some tongs."
"I mean, there was the whole Val Eng thing," Don said, picking up the silverware and following Alan out into the dining room. He shadowed him around the table, setting the placings.
"That was a bit more brutal than normal brotherly interaction. Charlie was trying to kill you."
Don snorted. "He was just a kid – wasn't like he could have done any real damage."
An eyebrow rose. "I seem to remember that that didn't stop you from doing some damage to him."
"Yeah, well, he was still trying to steal my date," Don joked. He slid one of the chairs out and sat down, pulled at the label on the beer bottle. "I dunno, I… I guess it just seemed like it was another thing he was taking away from me." He laughed, self-mocking, and took a drink. "Good thing I've gotten over that, huh?"
"So, I can try and steal your next date, then?"
The light words came from behind. Don turned to face Charlie, smile firmly in place, and pointed for emphasis. "You do and I'll kick your ass. No mercy this time."
"What, like you did outside?"
A swallow of beer and a snort later, Don replied, "I would have, if the pond hadn't gotten in the way."
"The Koi were out to get you," Alan quipped dryly, walking through the swinging door into the kitchen.
"I was winning," Charlie reminded him, settling down into the chair opposite and moving the items around on his place setting.
"Ptth, in some alternate dimension… maybe," Don derided.
Alan bustled back through the door, carrying one bowl of salad and another of bread rolls. "Don't make me send you both to bed without any dinner."
"He started it," Charlie accused.
"No… no way. Uh uh," Don denied. "Who drew on my face?"
"Who was conveniently asleep? Why are you so tired anyway? You go on a date?"
"Dad, Donnie went on a date."
"Was she cute?"
"Charlie, for the last time…"