Don and Charlie, in the interest of rounding out my set from the Pressure universe. This one is for everyone who said that Don and Alan wouldn't be negative about Charlie coming out. They're not, really, Charlie's just neurotic and scared of rejection. Poor thing.

The title is taken from one of my favorite movies, Courage Under Fire (the fact that it stars Lou Diamond Phillips is totally irrelevant here), and it refers to mistaking one's own soldiers as enemies and blowing them up. Something Charlie's doing left and right here, I feel.

Disclaimer: Numb3rs isn't mine.

Lighting Up Friendlies


Steadfastly, Charlie ignored the man who had spoken. He feigned absorption in his chalkboard, tried to pretend he hadn't heard, but ignoring the hand on his upper arm was significantly more difficult. "Charlie," Don repeated, turning him away from the blackboard.

"What," Charlie exploded, already defensive, preparing to be hit. His shoulders tensed, his back almost touching the blackboard.

"Dad called," Don said, sliding his hands into his pockets in a deliberate show of peaceful intentions. "Something you'd like to tell me?"

"What's the point, you already know," Charlie muttered, turning back to his equation. "Hit me if you're going to, I really don't have time-"

Don squinted in disbelief. "What? Hit you? God, Charlie, why would I do that?"

Charlie rolled his eyes, but said nothing. If nothing else, he could at least claim innocence if he didn't goad Don into a physical confrontation.

"Charlie," Don repeated forcefully, turning Charlie back to face him. "Buddy. Come on, talk to me."

"About what, Don? You know everything you need to know," Charlie said, frustration driving the pitch of his voice upward.

"Yeah, and I would rather hear it from you, jackass," Don snapped back, his grip tightening as Charlie tried to turn back to the blackboard.

"No, you wouldn't," Charlie said, trying to tug his arm back. "Let go, Don!"

Don abruptly released his grip and exhaled slowly. "Charlie, I just want to talk."

"Why," Charlie demanded, his nerves frayed. His mind started playing every nightmare he'd ever had about Don finding out, about him coming out and Don never speaking to him again, about Don beating him up for "not being normal." Unconsciously, he cringed back into the blackboards, trying to find a defensible position.

Don reached out to touch Charlie's shoulder, and dropped his hand when Charlie flinched away. "Charlie, I really don't care. You're still a pain in the ass, and you're still my brother. Who makes you happy isn't going to change that. Now, the fact that it's Ian, we might have an issue with, but I don't have a problem with you being gay. Really. Promise. You're freaking out over nothing."

Charlie stared at him warily, trying to squelch the hope that his nightmares were unfounded. "You're not going to freak out about it?"

"Why would I," Don asked, shaking his head. "It's not like you're doing anything illegal. It just...threw me for a loop. You and Amita, and all."

Charlie cringed. "Yeah. She, um. She said she'd help me throw you guys off until I could make myself tell you."

Don rolled his eyes. "I know coming out is a big deal and everything, but are we really that hard to just talk to?"

"Sometimes," Charlie muttered, arms folded protectively across his chest. "I just...want you to still like me when I die, I guess."

"Oh my god, Charlie," Don groaned. "You are so fucking melodramatic, you know that?" He grinned fondly and pulled his brother into a headlock.

"Hey," Charlie protested, laughing despite himself. "Lemme go, jackass!"

Don released his hold and watched Charlie stand upright again, shaking his wild mass of curls out of his face. "You need a haircut in the worst way."

"Do not," Charlie said. "My hair is just fine."

"It's hanging in your face, Charlie. I'm amazed you haven't walked into something because of it."

"Ian likes it like this," Charlie said, testing out a novel way to end an argument. Whether or not it would work, however...

"Ian can get over it," Don shot back, leaning against the desk. "I'm still going to kidnap you and shave your head one of these days for your own good."

"Do, and die," Charlie promised, poising a piece of chalk to be thrown should the discussion go any further.

Don grinned, but let it drop. "So. You and Ian. How did that happen."

Charlie all but blushed. "Classified."

"I have clearance," Don said, leaning forward a little.

"Not that high," Charlie laughed. "Some doors are really better left unopened, Don."

"Whatever," Don scoffed. "Tell him to expect a full-scale interrogation when he gets back to town."

Charlie groaned. "If you scare off my boyfriend, I will never speak to you again. Ever. For the rest of your life."

"Hey, I just want to make sure my brother's taken care of," Don said defensively. "I'd be doing the same thing with any girl you brought home."

"Yeah, well, I haven't brought Ian home," Charlie muttered, clearly uncomfortable with the idea. "For good reasons."

"Dad doesn't care either, Charlie," Don sighed. "You just...sprung it on him, is all. He wasn't ready, and then you left. He's okay with it."

"You sure," Charlie asked weakly.

"Yes, I'm positive. Like I said, you're still a pain in the ass, and you're still his son. That's not going to change, no matter who you're involved with."

Charlie shrugged. "I just... The thought of him not being okay with it kinda freaks me out. And then I didn't handle it right, and... I don't know. Is he pissed at me?"

"More about the fact that you haven't been home in two days," Don said. "Where have you been, by the way?"

"Amita's place or here," Charlie muttered sheepishly. "I keep a bunch of stuff in my desk."

Don shook his head. "Chuck, you are a piece of work," he said. "C'mon, let's go."

"Where," Charlie asked suspiciously.

"Home. Dad's got a roast in the oven and there's a game on tonight. Get your stuff, let's go."

Charlie hesitated. "I, um..."

"You gotta face the music sooner or later," Don said, his patience wearing a little thin.

Charlie sighed. "Okay."

"Thank you," Don exhaled, watching Charlie pack his laptop and a spare notebook into his bag. "I'll drive."

"I have my own car, Don."

"Yeah, and I'll lose you between here and home if I let you drive on your own."

Charlie grinned tiredly. "You don't know that for sure."

"Not a chance in hell, Chuck."

"Don't do that."

"Do what?"

"Call me Chuck," Charlie grumbled, slinging his bag over his shoulder and following Don to the door.

Don laughed. "I rest my case."

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