A/N: Serialgal may put a contract out on me, as our Rabid Raccoons story is currently awaiting my input and I am choosing to write this, instead. However, the 01-09-09 epi "Arrow of Time" must be tagged before I can get my head back in the game. (Besides that, she is snowed in at the moment, so I feel relatively safe.)

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Arrow of Time Taglet

Brought to you courtesy of FraidyCat, who hereby disavows ownership of the Mother Ship

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Charlie pushed open the glass door to the conference room and walked almost casually toward his brother, hands in the front pockets of his jeans. The team was spread around the table, in the middle of a debriefing. Charlie seemed oblivious to their mild surprise at his arrival, and ignored the greetings of David and Colby, as well as the blatantly curious appraisal of newest team member Nikki. His focus was only on his brother as he approached the head of the table.

Don was as surprised to see Charlie as everyone else was. Buck Winters was safely back in prison, and as far as he knew, Charle's help hadn't been requested on any other case. It wasn't completely unheard of for Charlie to barge his way into a meeting – but there usually had to be an active case involved. He lifted an eyebrow and started to ask Charlie to wait for him in the bullpen. "Hey, Buddy…"

Charlie interrupted, his voice calm and modulated. "We're never going to be close, are we?"

Don's mouth gaped open. "What?" Further down the table, Colby and David exchanged a look and stood to leave. On their way out they paused at Nikki's chair and waited for her to join them. The young agent seemed quite content to stay and watch the show, however, and tried to lean so that she could peer around Colby's bulk.

He gripped her upper arm firmly, leaning over slightly to hiss into her ear. "Come on," he urged. Nikki glared at him and Colby dangled a bribe. "I'll give you my sister's e-mail address. She doesn't have a recent photo of me, anyway."

A smile played over her face and Nikki allowed herself to be led from the room – twisting her head as the group left for one last look. Don was standing now, facing his brother.

"Charlie, what the hell are you talking about?" Don was aware of the rest of the team slipping out of the conference room and he frowned. "And where do you get off bringing whatever it is to the office, anyway?"

Charlie responded only to the first question, still speaking in a normal tone of voice. "It's just that I've decided I'd like to know if I should…cut my losses."

Don ran a hand over his head. "Charlie, I don't know what you're…"

His brother interrupted again. "You didn't tell me about Buck Winters escaping. You knew your agents were bringing me the dental floss rope for evaluation and that I would find out anyway, but how I found out didn't seem to matter to you." Don opened his mouth to speak but Charlie would not allow him into the monologue. "You didn't tell me about going to Temple. You talked to Dad, you talked to Larry – my best friend – you had to realize that I would hear about that, as well. Again, how was not really an issue."

Don managed an exasperated "Charlie…" before the professor continued.

"I didn't know you and Liz stopped seeing each other until I saw her carrying a box of her stuff out of the office and asked Colby what was going on. I further did not realize that you were seeing Robin again, until you brought her to the house for a barbecue last summer. Dad didn't seem surprised."

"I can't tell you everything," Don said defensively, crossing his arms over his chest.

Charlie left his hands in his pocket and shrugged. His voice took on a tinge of sadness. "You don't tell me anything, Don. I come into the office and get more from Colby and David than I do from you. During the four years I've been consulting for the F.B.I., I've grown closer to them – but you and I have drifted even further apart."

Don shook his head slightly. "That's not true, Charlie. I…I hold my cards close to the chest, you know that."

Charlie's own head shook, his recently-cropped curls bouncing a little. "Then why tell Dad? Larry? Colby? No, Don…it's me." He actually grinned a little and arched an eyebrow. "I intimidate you."

Don tried unsuccessfully to suppress a flush. Charlie noticed and nodded once, as if to himself, and took a step back. "I guess I just wanted you to know – I can't wait, anymore. I don't know what else I can do…frankly, I'm not even sure how much more I'm willing to do. I've been chasing you all my life, Don. All my life. If this is it, if there's always going to be this distance between us…" He shrugged again. "I need to concentrate on the relationships that go two ways, Don. I'm getting too old for this shit."

Don started, a little shocked at Charlie's vocabularly. "What are you saying? You want to quit consulting?"

Charlie shook his head. "No. As you know, I consult for several different agencies, and your team can call me whenever it's appropriate." His eyes moistened and he blinked a few times, looked away, then squared his shoulders and looked back at Don. "I don't wish you ill, Don. I love you. I pray for your safety, and I always will. I just can't wait anymore for you to see me; to understand that I have things to offer. At the very least, a set of ears to listen, a shoulder on which to lean…" He took another step back, preparing to turn. "I'm sorry we couldn't make a genuine connection, Donny. I guess there's just too much space between us."

Don reached out and barely managed to snag the edge of Charlie's jacket sleeve. "Charlie, wait. Wait." He spoke gruffly. "I love you too – is that what you want to hear?"

Charlie smiled sadly. "I believe that, Don." He shook his brother's hand off his arm. "It's just clear that you don't like me very much." He turned and started to walk away from his speechless brother. He paused at the door and looked over his shoulder. "I apologize for interrupting. It won't happen again."

With that, he pushed through the door and vanished, leaving a stunned Don in his wake. What the hell? Don thought. What just happened?

What have I thrown away?

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Finis

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