Title: Dialogues, Take Two
Author: N'kala
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: It's Charlie's turn to eavesdrop!
Author's Notes: Sorry it took so long to post, but I found a new obsession in Stargate SG-1, and have been trying to write for that fandom. However, it's been so long since I posted a story that I thought I would upload some of my old stuff.

I was so surprised to see so many reviews on my last story, and starvingArtist's comment about a sequel sent the muse burning through my brain, so this one's for you :) Set in season 2.

Dialogues, Take Two
By: N'kala

Charlie strode into the federal building that housed the FBI's Los Angeles field office with a confidence that hadn't been there a year ago. Back when he had first started to consult with Don on a regular basis, he had been nervous; part of his mind that wasn't swirling with numbers (and Don would be the first to point out that that part was very small- not that Charlie would disagree) was constantly worried that Don would snap out of whatever trance he was in and would simply pull the plug on this consulting thing. Don had always hated it whenever Charlie had gotten involved in his life, using his math when it was most unwelcome with the older man.

If truth were told, Charlie was amazed that he not only still worked with Don on a regular basis, but he had actually grown a lot closer with his brother over that time. He had known Don his whole life, and his big brother never wanted much to do with him.

That's not to say that Don didn't love him. Charlie knew that family was very important to the older man. However, Charlie knew a lot of his tolerance was born out of genetics than actual affection. Hopefully, that was changing.

He thoroughly enjoyed their regular lunches now, too. Charlie had been unable to conceal his shock when Don had first asked him to lunch, 'just because'. It had been his heart's greatest desire to have a more active relationship with his older brother, but there had been too much distance between them for Charlie to cross it alone. Now, it seemed, Don was willing to meet him halfway. It was like a dream come true for a young man still nursing a serious case of hero worship of his older brother.

Charlie smiled and nodded at a few of the agents as he headed for the elevators on the other side of the lobby. His presence had been a curiosity at best when he had first started consulting for Don, and several agents had been resentful of Charlie's abilities. Now that Charlie had proven himself time and again, some of the animosity was melting into a grudging respect.

The young mathematician reached the elevators and reached out to press the button when he noticed that the arrow pointing up was already glowing red. Realizing that a car was already on its way, he shoved his hands into his pockets and moved back a few steps to wait.

A conversation being held by a few agents nearby passed over him. Charlie was just reviewing the calculations of speed versus time, noting the variables of possible stops and added lengths to predict when one of the elevator doors would open, when his brother's name cut through his concentration and drew his attention.

" . . . from that last bust," one of the agents, an older man with graying hair was saying. "I swear, he and his team have the highest solve rate in the office."

Another agent, a younger man with red hair, snorted. "What do you expect? There's a reason Eppes is team leader, you know. I mean, the guy just gets these leaps of intuition that are right on the money."

Charlie quickly looked away from the agents before they caught him eavesdropping, but he couldn't hide the sudden grin that spread across his face. They were talking about his brother with an all-too familiar admiration that Charlie could appreciate. He pretended to be occupied with his own thoughts as he listened closer to the conversation.

"What do you mean?" the older man asked.

The elevator doors chose that moment to open, and the two agents stepped inside. Charlie managed to skirt around the two men without earning himself even half a glance. Charlie retreated to a corner of the elevator, remaining as inconspicuous as possible while hoping to catch more of the conversation.

The red-haired agent resumed the conversation. "There was this one case a couple weeks back, with that serial killer that preyed on homeless people. Remember? No one had really noticed anything, since there were no next of kin to notify the local police."

"Yeah, I remember that one," the older agent replied thoughtfully. "Didn't they make that connection from homeless people to that shelter worker?"

"Not quite," the red-haired agent answered. "See, everyone was convinced it was Adams. He worked for that shelter, past history of violence, cousin ending up in the streets only to be killed by transients; it all fit. Then Eppes suddenly gets this epiphany or something, and said everyone was looking in the wrong direction. Turns out, it was some psychopath wanting to 'cleanse' the streets of supposed 'filth'. Kept a real low profile, too. But Eppes figured it out- gut instinct, really good hunch, I don't know, but turns out he was right."

Charlie remembered that case well. While Don had not needed his help on that one, he was still well aware of how much time Don and his team had put into solving it. There were many nights where Don would turn up at Charlie's house instead of his own apartment, exhausted and seeking escape. When Don and his team had finally closed the case, Don had crashed at Charlie's house for a solid weekend. He had never brought up the specifics of the case, hoping to leave the details behind at the office. Now, hearing the agents talk made Charlie wonder just how truly gifted his brother was at his job.

The older agent shook his head. "I always thought his team's solve rate was credited to Eppes' genius kid brother."

At that, Charlie shrank back against the wall of the elevator, trying to make himself smaller. He hated it when people credited him for Don's hard work, mostly because that very act was at the center of the rift that had grown between the two brothers ever since they were younger. Charlie prayed that no one else thought that; not now, after all the hard work he and Don had done to bridge that gap.

The younger agent innocuously came to his rescue. He shook his head. "Are you kidding? What, did you think Eppes' brother went to Quantico for him? And got Eppes his status as field agent? He helps, sure, but I'm telling you; Eppes is the real deal."

The elevator doors opened, and the two walked out, their conversation drifting to other topics. Charlie straightened and heaved a sigh of relief. He was glad that Don was being recognized as a brilliant agent in his own right. No one deserved it more, in Charlie's opinion.

Charlie rode the elevator to Don's floor and stepped off, excusing himself around a group of agents trying to get on. He had just entered the bullpen when Don's name reached his ears once more, this time from one corner of the room.

He recognized Larson, deep in discussion with an agent Charlie didn't know. The two looked like they were trying to resolve a problem but weren't having much luck. If anything, their 'discussion' seemed to be escalating into a heated argument that was attracting looks from other agents in the bullpen.

"I'm telling you, you don't know what you're talking about!" the agent insisted.

"Look, if you don't believe me, then you need to take it up with Eppes," Larson snapped back.

The object of their argument all but materialized beside the unnamed agent. "Are my ears burning?" Don asked calmly. He ran an assessing look over both men, silently gauging the situation. Charlie watched the scene, taking the opportunity to observe Don in his element.

"We're just having a disagreement over the evidence we collected from Bransen's place," Larson told Don. "I think that the lack of signs of a struggle is relevant. Birch doesn't."

Don nodded and picked up a file from the agent-Birch's- desk. He flipped it open and gazed at the files. "Okay, walk me through it. What do you think happened to her?"

Charlie let Larson and Birch's words wash over him, his attention fully focused on his older brother. While it seemed to the casual observer that Don was deeply engrossed in the discussion over evidence, Charlie knew there was more involved. He was giving both men the impression that they were right, but enabling them to open their minds to the other side of the story. Neither man seemed to notice that, by the end of the discussion, they were more or less agreed about their conclusions.

A heavy sigh sounded behind Charlie. The young man turned and found Megan watching the scene with him.

"It's about time," she said. "They've been at each other all morning. People have been taking bets to see who would cave first."

"So who won?" Charlie asked, curious.

Megan smiled. "We all did. Your brother's really good about getting people to compromise without making them feel like they're losing face."

Charlie's smile grew. "Yeah, he's always been a people person."

Don's voice drew their attention again. "All right, guys, I think you've got something solid here. Why don't you both head out and see what you can find out? Then go ahead and take the rest of the day off. You've worked hard. See you later."

He turned and caught sight of Charlie and Megan and headed over to them. "Hey, Charlie, you made it. Everyone's in the conference room." He glanced over his brother's shoulder at Megan. "Well, almost everyone."

Megan smirked. "What, and miss the show? I've been waiting all day for someone to defuse that ticking bomb"

Don shrugged his shoulders and began to steer his brother towards the conference room. "Well, I'm glad you could help us out with this one, buddy. I know we had to pull you away from one of your classes for this."

"That's all right, Don," Charlie replied. "Amita's covering for me. That argument .just now . . . looked like it was about to get out of hand."

"Saw that, huh?" Don guided him through the sea of desks, snagging a folder off of one of them before continuing on. "Nah, they just needed to blow off some steam. I figured I'd help ease some of the pressure while they were at it. Hope you didn't have to wait too long."

Charlie gave his brother a sideways glance, smiling faintly. "Actually, Don, it was just long enough."

END