Crossing the Line

by Dira Sudis

Disclaimer: Charlie, Don, and Numb3rs belong to Cheryl Heuton, Nicolas Falacci, and some people at CBS who aren't me.

Beta thanks to Iulia!

He and Don kept playing for a while after their father gave up and went to bed, taking turns more or less equitably. Don's instructions got quieter and less emphatic as Charlie worked his way down the virtual back nine, though, and the next time he turned to offer Don the controller, Don shook his head. He was still sitting Indian style, leaning against the rocking chair with his head tilted back against the seat. He didn't look away from the tv to Charlie, even though there was just a menu on the screen. "Go on," Don said, "you're doing fine."

Charlie's last three drives had consisted of two bad slices and one ridiculous overshoot.

He studied Don for another second--Don had been growing quieter as the hour grew later, but his enthusiasm seemed to have dropped sharply in their father's absence, and now he clearly wasn't paying attention at all--and then turned back to the game. "Okay," he said, and frowned intently at the screen, focusing on remembering all the reasoning his father and Don used during successful assaults on the game's courses. Charlie's luck had not improved after hours of sometimes-better examples (his father and Don were both better at golf than he was, but worse at video games; it seemed to balance out so far). It didn't take long before he was thinking guiltily of switching games and spending a little time playing something he was good at. Surely he'd made enough of an effort tonight with golf. He wasn't giving up, he was trying; but he wasn't going to become a master overnight. He turned his head to challenge Don to a round of SSX and stopped short. Don was sitting perfectly still--hadn't moved since Charlie resumed playing--and looked almost asleep until the light from the TV glinted on his not-quite-closed eyes.

"Don?" Charlie said, abruptly recalling that Don had been upset before, about the--the arrest? But they must have caught her, they'd sent in the roadblock so quickly, and Don had said when he came in that they got her.

Don had said that it was bad.

"I got her," Don said, barely more than a whisper, and a chill ran down the back of Charlie's neck. "It was me." Don didn't say more, didn't move, but Charlie could see motion in his peripheral vision, something bouncing on the screen. Charlie turned away, leaning forward to shut off the tv, and without it the room was dark. Don's hand landed on Charlie's back, warm and heavy, and Don said, "I killed her, Charlie."

It was the touch that made Charlie freeze: he and Don only touched each other under two discrete sets of circumstances, neither of which ought to have applied here and now. It was only a couple of seconds later that he parsed what Don had said, and by then Don had already taken his rigidity for rejection and pulled his hand away.

Charlie turned quickly, over onto his knees and reaching out in the dark for Don, letting his hand settle where it fell--on Don's inner thigh, which made Don take a quick breath, but Charlie wouldn't make the mistake of pulling away again now that he understood the stakes. "Don?"

"Right here, Charlie," Don said, his voice a little shaky. Don had told Charlie he was worried about this, about going too far, about crossing lines, and still Charlie had let himself be distracted when Don asked him about the video game. He should have found out how the arrest turned out, should have called someone before Don came home--he opened his mouth to apologize for not knowing, even though Don probably hadn't wanted him to know, and thought suddenly of Amita.

The crux of the problem was right there: when he focused on Don's problems, he neglected Amita, and when he tried to prioritize his relationship with Amita he missed important things with Don. The people Charlie loved were an embarrassment of riches, and he was painfully conscious of squandering them.

"Don," Charlie said, sliding his hand a little toward Don's knee, toward safer ground, and squeezed. "Tell me about it. Tell me what happened." He needed data if he was going to be any help to Don.

Don didn't say anything, and Charlie wondered if Don would try to deflect him--but Don had spoken first. Don needed to tell someone. "We caught her on the highway, got her trapped at a roadblock," Don said. His voice was quiet and almost clinical, but the muscle of his thigh was tensed hard under Charlie's hand. "Megan tried to talk her down, but she wasn't going for it, and then Megan said she was going to try and run through the roadblock. We were all in position there, behind the cars. She wasn't going to get away, but she was trying to take some of us with her. Megan was right there, in the middle of it, David, Colby--my whole team, Ian and a dozen state cops, everybody had a rifle on her. I took the shot before anyone else had a chance to. I killed her."

"You did what you had to do," Charlie translated, a little optimistically. He knew Don had shot and even killed people before in the line of duty, but Don had been conscious of being out of control the last few days. This was more than a shooting to Don.

"No," Don said, his voice low. "Charlie, I didn't have to. I killed her because I wanted to."

Charlie frowned, replaying the scenario Don had just laid out, "I don't under--"

"You don't--" Don said, and it should have been an irritated half-shout but it was barely more than a whisper, defeated.

"I understand wanting to," Charlie said. "Crystal Hoyle was a murderer, she took Megan hostage and almost killed her, and she was in the act of threatening you and your whole team all over again. I know why you would want to." Some small sequestered part of Charlie's brain was surprised to find that he meant what he said, but it was true. The memory of Don's voice when he told Charlie that Crystal had Megan--the memory of Don's frantic shouts over the dispatch channel when he found Megan--the thought of the woman threatening Don, threatening Megan again, and David and Colby and Ian Edgerton and a dozen cops--that all bothered him a hell of a lot more than the thought of her dead, or the thought of Don's finger on the trigger. But it was Don's finger on the trigger that was bothering Don. Charlie stroked his hand down to Don's knee and back up. "I don't understand why you think your wanting to kill her made a difference."

Charlie heard something that he thought was Don picking his head up off the chair, and Don's hand caught his shoulder, squeezing painfully hard. Charlie let himself wince in the dark, where Don wouldn't see. "How can it not make a difference, Charlie? I can't go around killing people because I want to, that's--"

"Don, could her death have been prevented? She was threatening you, seventeen officers were aiming guns at her, and she was refusing to cooperate or negotiate."

Don's hand released, dropping away from Charlie's shoulder, and Charlie leaned in after him, sliding his hand up to Don's ribs, feeling him breathe. "I could have aimed for the tires," Don said quietly. "I didn't have to pull the trigger at all, Ian was right there--but I wanted to kill her, Charlie. She was still thirty yards away and I shot her in the head."

Charlie scooted closer, until his thighs were up against Don's knees. "That may have been your conscious thought process, Don, but you knew what the situation was. You knew she was going to die no matter what you did. You knew she meant to. You knew it didn't make a difference whether you pulled the trigger yourself or left it for Agent Edgerton to do." Don twitched at that, and Charlie knew that had struck home. "I know you, Don. You don't give in to what you want if you don't know it's okay."

He didn't realize how close his face was to Don's until he felt Don's exhalation, a dry weary ghost of a laugh. "I don't, huh?"

Charlie bit his lip, his cheeks heating, but that was exactly what he'd meant, after all. Don had touched him here, alone in the dark. Charlie had touched him back, had all but crawled into his lap. They both knew what this was. "You don't, Don. You didn't today. You didn't fifteen years ago."

"I didn't?" Don whispered, and Charlie felt the words against his mouth, Don's breath and then Don's lips. Charlie gave it one last second's thought--they'd said last time was the last time, months ago, when Don was starting to get serious about Robin and things between Charlie and Amita began to seem possible--but that had been their fifth last time since Charlie was sixteen. They got from the last time to the next time faster with each repetition, from most of a decade to years to months. Charlie never let himself think about it, during the time after each last time--he tried to sincerely believe that it was over--but it was as neat and regular a progression as any natural number sequence. The Eppes Sequence. He calculated the new data in the time it took his mouth to seal against Don's, and as his tongue pushed into Don's mouth he realized they were right on schedule.

Don's fingers hooked in Charlie's belt loops, on either side of his fly. Charlie yielded to the weight of Don's hands, leaning forward into Don until they had to rearrange in a quick scramble of legs that left Charlie straddling Don's lap, hunching down to kiss him as Don leaned back against the chair, resting his head on the seat. They were quiet, if not quite silent, their breath coming fast and their lips making small wet sounds every time they parted. Don's hands cupped Charlie's ass, sliding restlessly up his back sometimes, and Charlie raised his hands to Don's head, sliding his fingers between the back of his skull and the leather of the chair.

They hadn't kissed since Don had gotten his hair cut so short, and touching Don's hair didn't fit into the parameters of the permissible ways they could touch each other at other times (in well-lighted areas, with other people around, fully clothed, fleetingly, on the arm or shoulder or back; or as necessary in an emergency) so Charlie was startled by the feel of it against his palms. It reminded him viscerally--a tensing of muscles, a jerk of his hips as his dick got suddenly harder--of the very first time, which had happened during the same baseball season that Don's whole team got buzz cuts in bizarre superstitious solidarity. Don's hair had been short and soft as velvet under Charlie's palms, and they had thought that this was the very worst thing they would ever do.

It was strange to think of that furtive, half-crazed summer as innocent, but fifteen years ago Don had never killed anyone and never imagined he would. Fifteen years ago Charlie would never have dreamed of sitting on the living room floor and telling Don in all sincerity that he'd been right to kill a woman and shouldn't be so hard on himself about it. Charlie pulled his mouth from Don's with an effort, straightened up enough to be out of range of kisses and whispered, "You know you had to, don't you?"

Don kissed his chin, his throat, and Charlie had to slide one hand from Don's hair down to his face, hook two fingers into Don's mouth and tug to get him to stop. "Don," Charlie repeated, struggling to string the words together as Don sucked hard and tight and hot on his fingers. "Tell me you believe me. Tell me you're going to be all right with this."

Don nearly spit Charlie's fingers out, he pulled away so fast. "I crossed a line, Charlie," Don said, ducking his head to put his mouth against Charlie's shirt, breathing hot and wet on a nipple through the thin, soft cloth. Charlie's hand settled on Don's head again, and he focused on not making a sound as Don pressed his tongue flat to the hard flesh beneath, then closed his teeth on it. His eyes slid shut as Don whispered, "You tell me how good I am at crossing back."

Charlie winced at that--they'd never been able to stop this, couldn't even stay away as long as they used to, and it wasn't just Don but it wasn't not Don--but Don's hand was already sliding up under his shirt, bare gun-callused fingers on sensitive skin. Charlie shuddered as Don's other hand unbuttoned his jeans. "Kneel up," Don whispered. "I want you just like this."

"Fuck," Charlie whispered, and, "Yeah," and he pushed up on his knees and braced his hands behind Don's head on the rocking chair as Don eased the zipper down. Don's hand slid into Charlie's boxers, and Charlie forced himself to keep his chin up, looking over the back of the chair in the direction of the stairs, keeping still so he wouldn't rock the chair back while Don leaned against it. There was a faint light from upstairs--his dad had left the light on in the bathroom, Charlie thought, so he and Don could get to bed--and then Don pulled Charlie's cock out, closing his hand around the shaft and licking the head all at once. Charlie squeezed his eyes shut and let his head hang, reminding himself to be quiet, so quiet. They'd never been this reckless before; they'd found another line to cross.

Don's mouth closed around the head of Charlie's cock, and Charlie bit back a moan and arched his back, tilting his hips to get the angle right. Don's free hand was shoving his pants and boxers down, exposing Charlie's ass, and he twitched instinctively away from the cool air, into the heat of Don's mouth. Don made a low sound at that, one Charlie recognized as encouraging from half a lifetime of experience, and he pulled out a little and pushed back in as Don's hand closed on his ass, tugging him in deeper, encouraging him. Charlie gave Don what he wanted, moving fast and rough, and Don sucked him hard, took him deep, his hand on Charlie's ass constantly pulling Charlie in, constantly asking for more. He was fucking his brother's mouth on the living room floor while his father slept upstairs, and it had been too long, he wanted it too badly, to last more than a few minutes. Don pressed a knuckle to the spot behind his balls, a last wild gratuitous spike of pleasure, and Charlie was coming, biting down hard on his lip to keep silent.

Charlie dropped nearly back into Don's lap, and Don grabbed his head and held him still for fast breathless sloppy kisses as Charlie's hand reached down. Don's pants were already unzipped, and Charlie got Don's cock out as Don licked Charlie's lip where he'd bitten it. Don's cock was hard, already wet at the tip, but he was holding on tight, kissing Charlie desperately. Charlie had to brace a hand on Don's chest to push away, and Don's breath was loud as they parted. He let Charlie move away, but his hands were still tangled in Charlie's hair, and Charlie didn't argue, just yanked up his own pants and slid down to lie half across Don's legs, jerking Don's cock even as he lowered his mouth to it.

Don's hands tightened and quickly relaxed as Charlie swirled his tongue over the head of Don's cock, tasting him, teasing a little. Charlie had cut his hair off a time or two, when he got sick of people pulling it, but he always grew it back, and he always came back to Don. He let his tongue trail lower, brushing his lips down hot silky skin, felt Don's cock twitch at the contact. Don's legs parted slightly under Charlie, his fingers curled against Charlie's scalp, but Charlie went on licking until Don finally whispered, "please."

Charlie grinned and breathed, "Thank you," against Don's cock. He licked a fast stripe to the crown and took him in slowly, slowly, backing off to breathe while Don tensed under him and then sliding down again. Don didn't push him, didn't make a sound, but one hand detached itself from Charlie's hair and slid down to his face, Don's rough-skinned thumb sweeping over Charlie's closed eye, along his cheekbone and down. Charlie sucked hard on Don's cock, hard enough to hollow his cheek, and Don's thumb slid into that spot, pressing down, his fingers trailing against Charlie's throat. Charlie groaned and Don gasped, arching up under him and coming in quick pulses, flooding Charlie's mouth.

Charlie pushed up a little, far enough to breathe, to move away if Don wanted him to. Don slid down beneath him, flat on the floor, and tugged Charlie back down to rest half on top of him. They kissed again, slower now, and Charlie's mouth felt raw, tingling at every light touch. He slid one hand over Don's hair as Don's hands settled on Charlie's hip and back. "Don," Charlie whispered, "tell me what happens next." Charlie could see where tonight fit the pattern of the past, but he couldn't extend the pattern into the future--there were too many wild cards in the equation, and the one lying under him on the rug might be the wildest.

Charlie's eyes had adjusted a little, but he still couldn't make out Don's expression; just a familiarly shaped shadow, a faint reflected light on his open eyes, staring up past Charlie at the ceiling. "I don't know," Don whispered, his voice small and hollow. That was honest, at least; Charlie didn't know either. He didn't want to give up what he might have with Amita for this, any more than he'd wanted to when he and Don had agreed to end it. He was also running out of room for the belief that he could give up Don for anything, or that Don could give him up. And all that was to say nothing of the real problem.

Charlie kissed Don's cheek, his temple, the rim of his ear. "Stay tonight?"

Don nodded.

Charlie brushed his lips across Don's hair. "Work tomorrow?"

Don shook his head. "Monday," he said, and Charlie could hear the abused rasp in his voice. "Paperwork, shooting review, bureau psychologist."

Charlie rested his forehead against Don's. "And then?"

Don blew out a long slow breath against Charlie's mouth. "I have to trust them to be able to tell if I've lost it completely," he said finally. "Trust my team to have an eye on me."

Charlie nodded, and Don lifted his head and kissed him. "Have to trust you," Don said, so softly Charlie felt the words as much as heard them, the motion of Don's chest against his, Don's lips against his.

It was a terrifying responsibility--so much more dangerous than being Amita's boyfriend, so much more scope to screw it all up--but it had been fifteen years since there hadn't been something terrifying between him and Don. Charlie was getting used to it. He laid his head down beside Don's, resting one hand on Don's chest. The beating of his brother's heart under his hand was everything Charlie had always wanted and worth every terrifying second. "Yeah," Charlie whispered. "You can."