"Wow. Sleeping Beauty finally arises."
Blinking his eyes open, Don needed a moment to gather his surroundings. Ah. Charlie's office. Stretching, his eyes fell onto his brother, slouched into one of the visitor chairs on the other side of his desk, going through a stack of papers, regarding him with a highly amused smirk. "Hey," he croaked.
"I thought you'd awake soon," Charlie said, nodding to a cup of coffee standing in front of Don. "The smell of that brew has awoken everyone so far, to my knowledge."
Don raised his eyebrow. "Is that for me?"
Charlie nodded, turning his attention back to his papers. "Surely not for me. One sip of that thing and I'm spinning for three days straight. For you it might just be strong enough though."
Sitting up, Don moved his head from side to side to loosen the stiff muscles there and then helped himself to a large sip of the coffee.
"Told you," Charlie remarked dryly, unfazed by his brother's sputtering.
"What is this brew?" Don wanted to know, making a face, the bitter taste still strong on his tongue and burning down his throat.
"The self brewed coffee of our chemistry department." Charlie looked up. "It tastes awful. But it sure wakes you up. They're trying to make it taste better. For five years now I think. You ask me, nothing can make this brew tasting good."
Don eyed the cup mistrustfully. "But it's safe to drink it?"
"The only risk is being on high power for eighteen to seventy-nine hours, depending on your tolerance level and how much you drink of it," Charlie told him matter-of-factly.
Eying it some more, Don finally shrugged and took another sip - a tiny one - and looked around. The office door was closed, but Don could hear people passing by in the corridor and judging by the noise coming from the outside through the slightly open window, he guessed that morning had arrived and taken its course. His eyes fell onto the board, now wiped clean. "You finished?" he asked, nodding towards it.
"Hmm," Charlie nodded absentmindedly. "Already sent it off. It wasn't that hard to do - it was just urgent."
"Then what are you working on now?" Don asked curiously.
"Have you slept at all?" Don asked with a slight shake of his head, resigned. Not that he could say much. Heaven knew he had had his own worked through nights, many of them.
Charlie looked up to grin at him. "Hey, you took the only chair a halfway decent sleep is possible in. But relax, I've only got one lecture today, in about forty minutes, then I'll head home to catch up on the missed sleep."
Don was glad to hear that but something irked him at his brother's words. "What time is it anyway?" he asked, already looking at his watch. His eyes widened and he jumped up. "Shit! Why the hell didn't you wake me up! I'm way late for work!"
"Och, you were sleeping so cutely, I just couldn't wake you up," Charlie replied with a mocking grin. "So I called in that you'll be at the office later today."
Don stopped in his tracks on his way out. "You what?"
His grin widening, Charlie nodded. "Megan didn't seem all that upset about it. Quite the contrary. I quote: 'Tell him to take his time'. And I think I definitely heard Colby and David cheering in the background."
"Damn, Charlie, what the hell were you thinking!" Don growled, looking for his gun, growing nervous when he couldn't see it. "Where's my gun?"
Putting away the papers, Charlie got up to round the desk. Taking out his key ring, he opened the left top drawer. "I locked it away before I left you to go to the super computer. I didn't want it laying around with you sleeping. And before you ask, yeah, I locked the office as well."
Sighing with relief, Don took his holster and checked the weapon out of habit. It was good thinking of Charlie - on the other hand, should have there been an intruder, he would have cursed to not be able to have his gun ready. What surprised him more though was the fact that he had slept through all that. Charlie moving around, leaving and coming back and who knew what else. He wasn't a heavy sleeper, not with his job. The faintest noise could wake him up usually and now he had slept through for almost nine hours, sleeping in when he had to work for the first time that he could remember? And, thinking of it, it had even been a calm sleep, not disturbed by any nightmares like the little sleep he had had in the past almost three months. Glancing at Charlie, he wondered if it was thanks to his exhaustion finally catching up with him that he had been able to sleep that well (on a chair even) or if his brother's presence and Don's late new insight about this whole business with Charlie's attack had to be rather credited for that. He had a hunch it was the later.
Perhaps he was really finally letting go of it.
"I need to get to the office. You've got a way home?" Don wanted to know, grabbing his jacket.
Charlie rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Don't worry about that."
Remembering his decision to lighten up on Charlie and his security, Don nodded. He would make sure to call though, just for case. He couldn't switch off his worry just like that. "Okay, Buddy, see you in the evening."
Sitting down into his own chair, Charlie just waved him away, already engrossed in his grading again. Turning, Don headed out, stopped at the door again though, remembering a silent promise he had made himself at Charlie's hospital bed. "Hey, Charlie?"
Curious as to what Don wanted now, Charlie looked up, raising an eyebrow.
"You free this weekend?" Don asked.
Now truly intrigued, Charlie nodded, raising his eyebrow a bit higher.
"Want to go for a trip? I thought sailing perhaps. Or a hike, if you want and think you're up to that," Don suggested.
Charlie's injuries had healed already for a while now - but he wasn't back to his usual stamina and Don thought a hike was perhaps a bit too much for him yet.
His brother's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, but Don noted with some amusement that otherwise, Charlie tried to keep his excitement down. "Sure," he simply agreed with a shrug.
"Good. We'll work out the details tonight then," Don in turn answered casually himself and with a last wink, left.
Sometimes it really amazed him how easy he could make his brother a pleasure, with how little Charlie could get so excited. But it for sure was one of the perks of being a big brother, though he had to admit, that when it was so easy to please Charlie, he really could make more of an effort to actually do it, spend more time with him, just the two of them.
Not just for Charlie. For him as well. He had realized that if he had lost Charlie with this attack, he would have had a lot to regret, not spending enough one-on-one-time with his little brother being at the top of that list.
Well, the first step was done now. And it wouldn't just remain at one step, he swore that to himself with a last glance at the building that housed Charlie's office.
As soon as the door closed behind Don, Charlie looked up and shook his head, smiling warmly though. A trip! Don hadn't suggested actively doing more with each other other than spending a night or lunch here and there or watching a game and hanging out at Charlie's over the weekend since - well, since a long time. So naturally, he was thrilled at the prospect.
Still, that wasn't what pleased him the most at the moment. He had the feeling that finally, his brother had realized that he had way overdone it with his over protectiveness. This would be the first time that Charlie would be able to go home on his own since the attack and to him, that was a big step. Not that Charlie hadn't appreciated the thought. But God, Don had simply gone nuts in the past few months, barely letting Charlie go anywhere alone, always around, always on edge, expecting another attack any moment.
It wasn't that Charlie hadn't worried about that either. But somehow, Don's - overreaction to the attack had shown Charlie very fast that he couldn't allow himself to live in fear now. It was unlikely that this happened again. And even if he hadn't had the statistical proof of that, he still had to enjoy life and not spending it in fear of what might or might not happen.
He was glad that Don seemed to slowly snap out of it, guaranteeing that Charlie could truly finish up with the attack and close the door on that one once and for all now.
Also, he was glad that Don had finally allowed himself to catch up on some much needed sleep and, from what Charlie could tell and what was more important, a sleep without any nightmares. Sure, Don hadn't spoken openly about them but Charlie was no fool - and no stranger to nightmares. He knew the signs and by the reassurance he had seen Don make after waking up from time to time it wasn't hard to guess what the nightmares had been about. He had worried about Don, looking more and more exhausted by each passing day, and he hadn't been alone in that worry. His team had really been relieved to hear that their boss had finally been able to sleep, Megan even daring Charlie to wake him up when he had called to see if he could let his brother sleep in or if he was needed at the office.
That Don had gotten a small taste of how he had dictated Charlie's life in the past hadn't hurt either. Actually, that was a pretty big plus point after the last months. For months Don had expected of Charlie to leave home or work whenever it was convenient for his brother rather than for him, never listening to any protests. And now, just for once, he had decided when Don left for work and yeah, that really had served him well.
And of course, there was this other little private revenge Charlie had taken the liberty to take against his brother, for all the harassment Don had imposed on him, Charlie remembered with a wide grin. He wondered how long it would take for Don to realize that Charlie had sent a MMS to his team, of their peacefully sleeping boss. Knowing Colby, it wouldn't take Don long.
Thinking about it, perhaps, he should rather make a little trip to Larry's monastery, instead of going home, just for case. And only go home when he knew it was relatively safe with their father being home to play referee. Even though that would mean to go without sleep even longer.
Oh well, sleep was overrated. Especially as Don would kill him for that picture anyway. He'd get enough sleep then.
But it so had been worth it, Don looking so damn comical with his head and limps hanging over the chair, his mouth wide open. He wasn't drooling at least. Charlie would definitely be dead if he had drooled as well.
As it was, there was only a chance of seventy-nine per cent that Don would kill him for that picture.
But God, that twenty-one per cent were so worth living for!
(Author's Note: Finally! I hope you all enjoyed it. Even though I know some of you are disappointed that they didn't catch the bad guys for once. But to be realistic, sometimes you just can't solve the case and I did want to see for a change how our favorite brothers dealt with that. Many, many thanks for all the wonderful reviews! I hope to have a new story (I'm working on two) or a new chapter for Roles Reversed ready for you soon.)