A/N: This is a finished story. I will try to post on it at last twice a week, but I'm doing some of the editing as I go, and I still have to split it into sections. For those of you reading my other stories, this should have no impact on them. Please enjoy, and remember, reviews are the stuff of life.
For the first time in more than a month, all three of them had gathered for dinner. Charlie still had a few midterms to grade upstairs, but other than that, his classes were quiet. Don had just wrapped up a very complex case that had, for a wonder, not involved Charlie's math. It had however, involved their father's city planning knowledge, which made for an odd change. Don had been working late every night lately, getting all the loose ends tucked away neatly.
"So, is that Walters case finally wrapped up?" Charlie asked when his father and brother had paused in their colloquy about baseball.
Don nodded. "Tied up in a neat little bow," he said.
"Will I have to testify?" their father asked, and Don shook his head.
"He pled out," he said with evident satisfaction. "Case is over and done with, and he's going away for life."
"Glad to hear it," his dad said. "I didn't want to testify anyway." He stood up. "Anyone want pie?"
"Pie?" Don asked, sounding amused. "Who doesn't want pie?"
"Is there ice cream?" Charlie asked with a grin.
"Pie a la mode, coming up," their father said. He picked up all three plates and shouldered the swinging door to the kitchen open. "You want ice cream, too, Donnie?"
"Sure," Don called. "So, Charlie, I hear that the Naked Cannibals are in town next week, you going?"
"Amita got tickets," Charlie said, waggling his eyebrows. "I –" He broke off when he noticed that his father appeared to be moving backwards through the door. "Something wrong, Dad?"
"You could say that." He backed into the room followed by a silencer and the pistol it was attached to. Charlie stared in shock at the weapon trained on his father's head, barely able to register the black-clad man who held it. His dinner twisted sharply in his gut. Sick with fear, he sat frozen in his chair. Don made an abortive movement as though to grab his own gun, but that lay on the hall table as always. He froze, too, radiating helpless fury.
The man with the pistol spoke, his voice muffled by the mask he wore. "Agent Eppes, Dr. Eppes, please stand up slowly and step away from the table. Keep your hands where I can see them."
Charlie's gut twisted even more savagely, but he looked to Don for guidance. His brother nodded very slightly, then rose slowly and held his hands up and away from his body at about the level of his head. After a brief struggle to regain control of himself, Charlie followed his example. It felt very weird and awkward, standing there with his arms at odd angles to his body. "All right, Mr. Eppes, please put the plates down and drag your chair out from the table, then sit down."
Charlie saw his father glance at Don, and then he did what he was told.
"What's going on here?" Don asked.
"Agent Eppes, you pull your chair out, too, and sit down."
"Why don't you tell me what's going on?" he asked again, not moving.
Unbelievably, the man chuckled. "You don't honestly think I'm going to answer that question, do you, Agent Eppes?" he asked. Don glowered at him, but he didn't say anything. "Now, please, sit down."
Charlie could see the tension in Don's jaw as he sat down, and the man reached into a pocket and tossed a roll of duct table onto the dining table where it rolled briefly and then spiraled to a flat position in front of Charlie. "Dr. Eppes, please tie your brother up."
Outraged, Charlie glared at the intruder. "No!" he exclaimed, his hands lowering automatically. "Are you crazy? What do you want?"
The man cocked his pistol, barrel still pointing straight at Alan's head. Their father's eyes were wide, but his expression was otherwise blank, as if on overload. Charlie's heart lurched. The intruder spoke again, his voice still quiet and very calm. "Dr. Eppes, I want you to pick up that tape and tie your brother up, please."
"Do it, Charlie," Don said softly. Charlie turned to look at him, then reached out and picked up the tape. Panic hovered beneath the surface of his mind, but he walked over to where Don sat, painfully aware of the man threatening his father's life. He stared down at Don, not at all certain where to begin.
"Wrap it around his wrists, please." Charlie started slightly at the politely worded command. Taking a deep breath, he tore off a length of tape and wrapped it loosely around Don's wrists. "Tighter," the man added, and Charlie grimaced. He couldn't believe he was doing this, but a glance upward into Don's eyes reassured him that he was doing the right thing. He began to wrap the tape more tightly around Don's wrists, trying to make it look right without actually making it impossible for Don to get himself loose. He wanted his brother to be able to get away as soon as possible. "Now, Agent Eppes, sit back in your chair, and Dr. Eppes, wrap the tape around his torso and the chair back several times."
"It's okay, Charlie," Don muttered almost soundlessly. Charlie disagreed, but he didn't say so. He stood up and began wrapping the tape around Don's body, again trying to keep it from being too firmly attached without being obvious about it.
"Now, please tie your father up in the same way."
"I can't tie my father up!" Charlie protested. "No way!"
"Would you rather I shot him?" the man asked, his tone very polite and inquiring.
"I'd rather you left," Charlie snapped.
The man took in a breath and sighed deeply. "Dr. Eppes, all of this is merely a temporary inconvenience. The sooner you cooperate, the sooner it will all be over."
Gritting his teeth, Charlie knelt down in front of his father, who held out his arms in a peculiarly helpful gesture. "This is creepy," Charlie muttered, but he began to wrap the tape around his father's wrists. He noticed as he did so that his father was keeping his wrists very slightly bent, so that no matter how tightly Charlie appeared to wrap the tape, it wouldn't really be constricting. He then wrapped the tape around his father's torso till he, too, was bound to his chair. "My turn now?" he asked, tilting his head.
Standing behind his father's chair, Charlie was much closer to the intruder than he had been before. He saw a pleased smile enter the man's eyes, and it increased his alarm. "Now, Dr. Eppes," the man said, his voice rich with satisfaction, "now you will come quietly out of the house to my vehicle." Charlie felt a chill of fear settle in his gut. This was about him?
"What?" Don exclaimed, jerking forward against his bonds. "Like hell he will!"
The intruder turned towards Charlie expectantly. He still hadn't moved, stunned by the unexpected request, just staring at the man. They were less than three feet apart and the man still had his gun trained on Charlie's father's head. Rising panic had constricted Charlie's throat so much that he had to force himself to breathe. Blue eyes met and held Charlie's brown. "Dr. Eppes, I will shoot your father if you refuse. Is that what you want?"
Charlie took a reluctant step towards the man with the gun. "Charlie, do not go with him!" Don ordered, but how could Charlie refuse with his father's life under threat?
"Charlie, run!" his father exclaimed. Charlie felt himself start to shake as he looked back and forth between his father and his brother, torn and almost frozen by panic.
The intruder spoke, his voice a calm counterpoint to the anger in Don's and the fear in his father's, compelling Charlie to listen. "Let me lay it out for you, Dr. Eppes," he said. "I can shoot them both and take you, or I can leave them both alive and take you." Don was yelling, but the gun was as compelling to Charlie's attention as was the voice. Charlie's heart was beating very fast. His eyes met the man's again, serene pools of blue that trapped him. Almost sympathetically, the man said, "It's up to you, Dr. Eppes, but you have to decide now."
Charlie took a shuddering breath. "When you put it that way . . ."
"Charlie, no!" Don yelled.
Charlie was about to take another step when a loud crash shook the room. It was followed by a feminine shout. "Nobody move!"
Charlie turned to see Megan standing in the doorway, her gun held in a firm grip, pointing at the blue-eyed man. A second later, arms seized him around the neck and chest, then he felt the cold muzzle of the silencer pressing under his chin. "Stay right where you are, Agent Reeves," the man ordered, pulling Charlie backwards. He felt paralyzed. He'd nearly been shot twice now, but he'd never been this close to the person trying to shoot him. His feet moved backwards automatically, keeping him from falling down.
"Banana slug!" his brother shouted suddenly. Charlie reacted automatically, going entirely limp. His dead weight carried him right out of the man's arms, and he landed with a thump on the floor where he continued to lie still. There was an unsilenced gun shot, and then he heard footsteps running out the back door.