My shiny new fandom: let me show you it!
The writers' strike went and made a liar out of me. I swore I'd never write anything but Supernatural, but then, weeks went by with no new eps,and I found myself in need of something fun to watch. Somehow, I stumbled across Numb3rs. Which, you may or may not have noticed, has BROTHERS! Which is apparently all I need to get hooked.
Three abnormally extravagant purchases of season box sets later, I think it's fair to say the new show's made an impression.
What's below is just a little character study, based as a tag from 1x07. It's certainly dated for this fandom, since I am so late to the party, but I hope it comes across as strong appreciation for both Eppes boys--what we call being "bi-bro" in SN-land. In fact, I was so anal about wanting to give the boys equal shrift that their sections are exactly the same in word length: 928.
This will probably be my only foray here, although at this point, never say never.
Thanks for letting me play in your sandbox. And thanks, Faye, for the beta. (Standard disclaimers apply).
It's so easy to wound him.
Don never realized before. Charlie's always taken up so much space. The center of attention throughout their childhoods; the way he commands the room now, with the agents, with his students. Awards and accolades and the spotlight since he was three years old. And Charlie revels in it: loves to explain, to teach, to show. He's big hand gestures, straight eye contact, a tone that ranges from confident to smug—understandable even when it's kind of annoying, since he's nearly always right.
When it's the two of them, when it's about family, when it's about brothers, everything changes. Charlie hovers in doorways and lurks in shadows, two steps behind and quiet, watchful. He's tentative and nervous, even shy; fisted hands, hunched shoulders, eyes darting in and away like he doubts his welcome. It makes him seem so…small. Vulnerable. And a simple word, a criticism, even a joke...
Don notices now. Maybe he's never paid attention or maybe they're just around each other more. But there are things it'd be impossible to miss. The muted strains of despair when Charlie asks about Mom: guilt and the acceptance of it, like Charlie deserves condemnation. The barriers Charlie puts up when they—so rarely—talk about Don's time away: like the prospect of them being close, being friends, not just by duty but choice, is untenable.
Don never thought he had any influence over Charlie, always felt like some tiny planet orbiting a giant sun, not even visible, much less important. And that was fine. They'd gone their separate ways and had their separate lives, and neither of them seemed the poorer for it. He'd never missed Charlie. He'd barely even known him.
But coming home meant more than simply moving to L.A.
They spend more time together now than they ever did as kids, and while work is the impetus, it's not just the job. It's Dad and the house and memories of Mom; it's Larry and Amita and Terry and David and being part of the same team.
With familiarity comes revelation: Charlie kind of amazes him. And not just because of his sometimes overwhelming intelligence. It's the way Charlie draws connections, creates relationships, melds the worlds of mathematics and law enforcement so seamlessly. His patient explanations, his memory, his eye for detail...the way he sees what no one else does, what no one else can.
What's even more surprising isCharlie puts in as much effort as any other member of the team—throws himself into every case full-force, loses sleep, skips meals, works feverishly and doesn't give up. Does not give up. All that passion and energy Don thought could only be directed at blackboards and notebooks now spent on finding real life solutions. Preventing crimes. Saving people.
It makes Don a little ashamed to know he never thought Charlie had it in him.
The whole time Mom was dying, Charlie'd locked himself in the garage, alone with his theoreticals. Mom, who'd done everything for him, and he wouldn't take the time to comfort her when she was in pain and afraid, didn't give her one scrap of compassion or solace or help. Had left Don and Dad to do everything. Had left her alone.
He'd seemed nothing but childish then. Selfish. Cold.
History seemed to repeat itself after the bank bust gone so horribly wrong. Charlie, withdrawing when things got tough, putting his own needs above those of people in far worse circumstances. Abandoning his post.
It was easy to be angry with him, disappointed, disillusioned, to wonder why he'd ever trusted Charlie to begin with. But when Don took a step back and actually watched his brother, listened to the meaning instead of just the words, he knew better. What seemed like dismissal was fear in Charlie's eyes, honest-to-God panic he wouldn't be enough, would let them down. Would fail.
Charlie takes the deaths so personally, wears each victim like a scar. Blames himself when things go wrong.
And worries—so much—for his brother.
Another revelation. A much bigger one.
Even so, Charlie's the last person Don expects on his doorstep at two in the morning. He's shocked to see the missing box in Charlie's hands, annoyed Charlie'd seen fit to rifle through it, like he had some kind of claim.
But then, Don sits and opens it himself. Holds the pictures and the ring and breathes the memories and sees the naked need in Charlie's eyes. To know his brother. To be let in.
The hurt when it seems like Don doesn't want the same.
Dad told him how much Charlie craved his approval, but it had been so hard to believe. Since when did Charlie need anything from him?
Except maybe, Charlie's needed him all along.
Charlie's sleeping now, sprawled in the chair, flickering black and white images ghosting over his face with gauzy fingers. For the first time—maybe ever—they'd watched something without Charlie analyzing or compiling or quantifying. They'd sat, mostly silent, and simply been with each other, Charlie looking over every now and then like he couldn't quite believe he was there—relieved and grateful and maybe a little awed.
Things have changed, that's for sure. But in good ways. Ways Don never expected. He hadn't thought this was a possibility, because this had never been. They're completely new, he and Charlie. Starting over, from a better place this time. It makes him feel.
Protective. Proud. Loved.
Like a brother.
It's a feeling he vows to never lose.
It's so easy to think he doesn't care.
Don always seems invincible. Impervious. Nothing ever gets to him: he's never lonely, never scared, never anything less than completely capable, unflappable, and he never needs anybody's help.
Confident and level-headed, the go-to guy who keeps things running smoothly even—especially—when they're falling apart. Don takes the risks and gets hurt, gets shot, and it never even slows him down. He never worries. Never doubts himself. Never compromises. Never wavers.
And he's never needed anything Charlie could give him. At least, not until it had to do with the job.
Detached, Charlie called him, and he'd believed it at the time. A suicide that maybe wasn't and Don didn't seem to care about anything but data and probability, and wasn't that Charlie's job?
Except Don does care. Far more than Charlie ever realized. All that distance—arm's length and then some—to keep himself safe and functioning and maybe even sane in a world that definitely wasn't.
Charlie never understood, not until he saw the pictures of those women who'd been raped. Murdered. Until he saw the shoot-out on TV and realized, this is no movie. Real guns with real bullets and real bad guys who weren't afraid to use them. And on the flip side, real victims: men, women, kids Don fights for every single day.
Charlie's spent years idolizing his brother, but he's never paid this close attention, never picked up on Don's tells. The weighted slump of his shoulders, the constant shadows in his eyes. The way he pinches his nose, head bowed, when things aren't going well. The weariness in his voice when they have to talk to the families, tell them nothing's been solved yet. Or worse, when it's solved but tragically.
Definitely not detached then, but layers of emotions. And every one a new revelation.
Funny how none of it diminishes Don in Charlie's eyes. Not even a little.
Don used to be this larger-than-life, unapproachable, unknowable thing, like a robot and a superhero combined, and Charlie was pretty sure, most of his life, Don didn't really like him very much. Understandable really: what guy wants his younger brother—much younger—joining him in high school, graduating from the same class, overshadowing his every accomplishment with some new application of genius? Who wants a brother who takes up all of the attention, nearly all their parents' time, and to top it off, isn't interested in much of anything that doesn't come out of a text book or academic treatise?
Who could blame Don for leaving and never looking back until he had to, when half the time, the family forgot he was around in the first place?
So much of Don's life is a mystery, things Charlie knows of, but not about. Stockton and Quantico, the years in Fugitive Recovery, even the inner sanctum of his seldom-used apartment. Don's never offered many pieces of any of it, and what he parcels out is spare and reluctant.
It's a shock to learn that Kim's a tie to Albuquerque. Less of one to realize she and Don were more than just work partners. Presented with such a prime opportunity, Charlie takes careful note of body language and eye contact, listens to what Don doesn't say even more than what he does.
Don's a lot more fluent with his silences than his words, these days.
The conclusion Charlie reaches is evident, though there's need for more investigation: whatever's in that box Don's looking for is definitely more than just a memento or two.
And Charlie's pretty sure he knows just where to find it.
He's always gotten into Don things. Older brother's stuff is cooler; it's the law. And he'd wanted so much, as a kid, to be like Don, to be with Don.
This time, though, it's not about what Charlie wants. It's who he's trying to know. It's getting inside that tight perimeter Don's drawn to...to protect himself. Charlie's finally starting to understand how much Don's always needed to do that, how much he's been forced to hold close, because there was no one else to share it with.
But maybe—maybe now, there is.
Charlie's not sure what possesses him to grab his bike and head to Don's apartment in the middle of the night. The box could keep another day; it's waited this long. And he's not sure what makes him think Don will be awake, what makes him hope. But he does.
At first, he's pretty sure he's messed up, big time. Not because Don's mad at him but because...well, the memories obviously aren't all good ones. Photos and the glint of a ring and that familiar tilt of Don's shoulders that means there's loss in the box, things Don will never get back again. And Don, Charlie's thinking, has had a lot of that lately. Too much.
He's not really sure what to do, but he doesn't want to leave. Can't, not without giving...something.
"I've learned a lot from you, actually."
The words are out before he can think about them. Not that they're insincere, but he doesn't know what Don's reaction will be. All he can do is hope he hasn't crossed a line, made things worse.
And then, Don smiles. Really smiles, in a way that makes some of those constant shadows fade to nothing. Asks Charlie to stay. Means it.
It's maybe one of the best things that's happened, ever.
Don's not a superhero, and he's most definitely not a robot. He's so much more.
He's Charlie's brother.