A/N: And so we have come to the end, my friends. This story has been an absolute blast, and thanks so much to everyone who sent reviews, encouragement and advice. You guys are the best. I do hope you like how I ended this. It's always nerve racking ending a story, and trying to round everything up in a way that people will like. So I hope I succeeded......
An hour and a half later found Charlie and Don at the hospital. The rest of the team were taking care of the finer details, having been into the brothers' room to say goodbye. Charlie was recovering quickly from the shock of being held at gunpoint by an FBI agent, and was almost back to his usual self. The professor looked at his big brother.
"Did you know Jasper was a crack shot?"
Don looked up from where he was fiddling with the sling that held his left arm immobilised. He grinned, totally over the fact that there was a hole in his shoulder, "Yeah, course I did. Whyd' you think I put him on you?"
Charlie just sighed as he leaned back in his chair, pulled up beside Don's bed. It had all happened very quickly. Douglas had pointed the gun at Don and fired, Charlie had jerked, putting off his aim, and Jasper had taken advantage of the chaos to put a bullet between Douglas' eyes. By the end of it, both Eppes' brothers and Douglas were on the floor, though Don had been everyone's main concern, as he had been the one bleeding onto the carpet. Well, everyone's main concern except Don himself of course, who had dragged himself across the intervening space to attempt to haul Douglas, one handed, off Charlie and check if his little brother was alright. He probably would have done permanent damage to his arm if Colby, David and Jasper hadn't stepped in.
Now they were sitting in the hospital, Don's shoulder – a through and through with no complications – had been dressed and he now simply had to stay under observation for the night. Charlie was just glad it was all over, but he still had trouble believing his brother had baited Douglas like that, just to get him to shoot him.
"Thanks, by the way"
Don looked up again, not needing to ask what for, and smiled, "Any time, buddy, any time. Though I'm not suggesting you make it into a habit" he quickly added, making Charlie laugh. "But hey, there is something you can do for me"
Charlie sat forward, "Anything. What is it?"
"Don't tell dad about this"
Charlie actually looked totally shocked for a moment before laughing again, "Don, much as I would love to take my revenge for you telling him about the bullet, I don't really think I need to tell him. He's going to notice the sling, and that's only when you get out of here. Don't forget they're keeping you for 24hrs"
Don did some thinking, "It's not like I sleep in the house any more, it's no big deal if he doesn't hear from me tonight. And I can take the sling off" He went to do just that, but Charlie grabbed his arm.
"Don't you dare, Don! Doc said you have to wear it for at least a fortnight, and that's exactly what you're going to do. And as for sleeping in the house, that's also exactly what you're going to be doing 'til you're back on your feet"
Don just looked mutinous, then he smiled, "Fine, you tyrant. I give in. But you're so my slave for the whole time I'm there"
Charlie thought of all the things Don had done for him, all though his life, culminating in the hole now in his left shoulder. He knew he owed him big time. He smiled, placing a hand carefully on his brother's arm, "Sure thing, Don. You got it"
Don saw the smile on his brother's face become sadder, his voice becoming soft. He knew that look – Charlie was feeling guilty. It was a feeling Don was more than familiar with after all. Which led him to the decision he had come to while watching Douglas threaten his baby brother. And now was as good a time as any.......
"Charlie" Don's own smile was gone, and the professor looked up at the serious tone, "I was thinking – about what happened; and what could have happened. And I was thinking that I really don't think you should work with me any more – no listen to me" As Charlie tried to protest, "It could have been so much worse, you could have been badly hurt, you could have died. I've seen it more times then I care to remember. And that never would have happened if I hadn't dragged you into this life, into my life. But I won't risk it happening again" Don looked up from where he'd been once more fiddling with the edge of the sling, "I just can't run the risk of you working for me Charlie, and so it has to stop"
Charlie just looked at him, then said the last thing Don would have expected, "Are you finished?" he asked, a slight smile playing on his lips. Now it was Don's turn to stare stupidly. His brother sighed, "Don, you have got to stop guilt tripping yourself over every little thing that happens to me. I am a responsible adult you know – no you listen" At Don's attempted interruption, "Number one – you didn't drag me into anything, I make my own choices, and I chose to work for the FBI. I like the work, and this was not the kind of thing that happens all the time, you know, a statistical improbability, in fact. Besides, I need this work" Here his voice became very quiet, and he looked down at his hands.
Don almost didn't hear the admission, but just caught it, and tried to catch Charlie's eye, "What do you mean, buddy? You've got loads to do, always have. You don't need this work. Often enough you're giving out to me that you don't have time for everything"
Charlie chuckled a little, looking his brother straight in the eye, "You don't get it Don. Yeah, I know I give you a hard time about it sometimes, but I wouldn't give this work up for anything. Everything I do in my life is theoretical. All my work just goes into some books and papers, for other people to read. I know I teach, and I really love that, but you don't know what it's like to use my maths to help people. You don't know what it's like to know that all that work in the garage, all the equations scribbled on chalkboards, is actually out there helping people, making a difference. It something I never thought I'd get to do in my line of work, but you gave me that chance. And like I said – I won't give it up" Charlie's eyes were lit with a fire Don rarely saw in them.
But his baby brother was wrong, Don did understand, maybe it wasn't quite the same, but making his life mean something, even if it was just in helping one person, was the reason Don had signed up for the FBI in the first place. So he did get it, he felt the same. He just hadn't realised that Charlie felt like that about his work. From the time he was three all the brothers had ever heard was that Charlie was going to do great things, Don had never thought that Charlie didn't view it that way. Maybe he could keep working for Don, he was very good after all, but only on some new conditions.
"Fine, buddy. We'll see" Charlie smiled, knowing full well that he'd won the argument, "But" Don continued, "From now on you deal with my team only, and you don't spend any more time in the office than you need to. And I'm personally picking who else works on cases that we're on"
Charlie just laughed, "Weren't you doing that already, bro? Colby said something about you scaring some woman who got put on one case and you weren't told about. Said you're getting a reputation as the office ogre – not that that's any different to the side of you I always get!" Don laughed as Charlie quickly ducked, avoiding the pillow he had lobbed at the younger man. Charlie picked the pillow off the floor, just as Don grabbed another. The pillow fight that ensued, with Charlie being careful to avoid Don's arm, only ended when a nurse turned up, giving both of them a tongue lashing for being noisy and immature. The two brothers just waited for her to leave before bursting out laughing.
A/N: *nervous laugh* Soooo? Heehee, what do you guys think? I know a lot of you, an awful lot, in fact, wanted me to shoot Charlie, or at least beat him up a little. I hope that the brotherly fluff made up for that little change. But you see it really was Don that Douglas was mad at – well, him and you know, that fact that Douglas was just unhinged anyway.
And what I had Charlie say about seeing his work out helping people is something I often feel myself, though in a different context I suppose. I'm an artist, well technically I'm training to be a Graphic Designer, that's a lot of work done in empty studios, locked away from everyone. After doing that for a few months, I love my volunteer work that lets me use my talents in art to teach kids. There's nothing like watching your work touch someone else's life. Well, okay, I think that's enough cheesiness from me, I just thought Charlie might feel that same.
Don't forget to review – it's the last chapter!!