A few weeks later
Don and Terry walked inside to the distinct smell of steak cooking. Don looked into the kitchen but didn't see the eldest Eppes. Looking back at Terry he shrugged.
" Dad!" he called out, walking down the hallway.
Hearing his eldest son, Alan stuck his head indoors.
" Donnie, over here," he called out.
He waited as the two agents approached. He watched Don look around, disappointment on his face.
" Charlie isn't out here," Alan said, seemingly reading his son's mind.
" Still in his room?" Terry ventured, her face full of worry.
Alan nodded and went back to the magazine laying on his lap. He heard Don sigh in frustration. This was followed by the pounding of footsteps that had become so familiar after thirty or so years.
Looking up at Terry he said, " Your welcome to sit down."
Don stood facing Charlie's bedroom door. Childhood memories flashed through his mind as he reached down and pulled on the handle. Charlie had locked him out. Impatiently Don pounded on the door.
" Charlie!" he called out, " Unlock the door."
" No, Don, I need to get this done," came the muffled answer.
" Charlie!" Don yelled in frustration, " Charlie, if you don't let me in I will bust down this door!"
" You can if you want," came back the reply.
" Charlie, I'm being serious," Don said.
He stared at the door for a few seconds. When nothing happened Don lifted his hands in defeat.
" Fine, Charlie, you can just...just stay in there," he said angrily.
As he stalked off he heard the click of an unlocked door. Turning back Don saw the door had been pulled back slightly. Don smiled. After years of having Charlie for a brother the same trick worked every time. Putting on a serious face he walked into the room.
No matter how common it was to see Charlie's room messy, Don still was shocked every time he came in. It wasn't as though he was the neatest person in the world or anything, but his apartment looked liked the inside of a clean room compared to Charlie's. Books, pens, pencils, and paper were carelessly thrown all over the place. Likewise shirts, pants, and what looked suspiciously like boxer shorts covered the remaining surfaces. Don closed his eyes in a pained look and shook his head. If their mom was alive Charlie probably wouldn't have been.
" What's wrong?" Charlie's voice called from a corner of the room.
Don opened his eyes and looked at his brother. The younger man sat crouched, seemingly comfortable in the corner. A book, paper, and pencil lay on his lap.
" Charlie, you really could use a maid," Don joked.
Charlie shrugged and began writing again. Don stood watching him for a few seconds before carefully making his way to the bed. After shoving a few books and papers onto the floor he sat down to face Charlie. The two stayed that way for a few minutes.
Finally Don said, " Want to tell me what's going on?"
Charlie looked up innocently.
" Why would anything be wrong?" he asked, " I just need to get this project done."
" Come on, Charlie," Don replied, " I've known you, well, all your life. I know when something is bothering you."
Charlie sighed. Putting the pencil, book and paper down, he stretched out his legs.
" Am I that obvious?" he said simply, looking at the opposite wall.
" Normally?" Don replied, " No, your not. But since we closed the case..."
" Don, could we not talk about that?" Charlie interrupted.
" Maybe we need to."
Silence filled the room again. Don waited for his brother to answer. Charlie continued to stare at the opposite wall. Impatience began to pull on Don. Finally he stood up and started to walk out.
" When she...," Charlie started, afraid that he wouldn't have the chance to talk again.
Don paused. Looking back at his younger brother he saw the look Charlie gave him when they were younger. The look that he gave whenever Don finally got him to give up the names of the guys who gave him a hard time just because he was younger. Don walked back and sat on the bed. He gave Charlie his full attention.
" When that woman, um, Dr. Greban. When she shot at me, the first time, it...it scared the crap out of me. I mean for the first time in my life, I couldn't think, couldn't act, I didn't know what to do. When I tried to think of something I just kept getting old memories flashing past me. I guess deep in the back of my mind I remembered that old saying. You know the one about how your life flashes right before your eyes when you die. I guess when she shot the second bullet. It was so close. I swear I felt the dirt hit the back of my neck. I don't know, I just felt...I thought that was it.That was the end."
"But then I started seeing things. Numbers and equations just flew past me. It was incredible. I started piecing together the information in a way I never thoughtwas possible.I remember checking and rechecking the equation, over and over again.When I knew it was true, I guess I woke up," Charlie paused.
" Is that why you've been hiding in your room?" Don asked, " To piece all this together?"
"No," Charlie said, " I've been...I've been working. You see the same thing happened when she held the gun at me the second time. I couldn't think or react. I started having the flashbacks again. This time it was different though. This time...," Charlie paused again.
" What?" Don asked. He felt a twinge of apprehension in his gut.
"When mom died... Before she died, I went to see her," Charlie answered, " You and dad weren't in the room at the time and I never told you. I, um, I wanted to see her. I had to see her. I don't know why. She was awake when I came in. She didn't seem that way to me at first, though. I talked to her for a few minutes. I tried to say how sorry I was, but I couldn't. I started to get up to leave when she...she."
" She what, Charlie?" Don said feelingthe pains of guilt.
" She told me to...she made me promise that no matter what...I would...I would try to finish the equation.I would try to solve it. She told meshe understood, but I didn't see how," Charlie's eyes glimmered with tears, " I didn't understand why she wanted me to finish it. I mean I stupidly, selfishly was using it to get away from her... I...The night she died. That last look she gave me. I guess she tried to tell me why, but I still don't understand. I remembered that look when she placed the gun to my throat. I remembered that I still had to finish the equation...for mom."
Charlie stopped. Bending his head down he began to shake with silent tears. Don felt his heart rip in two. He had always given Charlie grief for having to drag him to see their mother on her last night on Earth. He had always been furious because he couldn't understand why Charlie would spend so much time on that stupid problem. He still couldn't understand it, but now. Now he realized Charlie didn't either. It seemed only their mom truly understood, and she thought one day they would, too.
" Charlie," Don said, " Charlie, I don't know what to say. I guess," Don paused unsure how to express what he wanted to say, " I guess you just found something to fight for."
Charlie looked up at his brother.
Sighing he replied, " Yeah, I guess so."
An uncomfortable silence followed. Neither brother wanted to break it though.
Suddenly from downstairs they heard their dad yell, " Are you two coming down? Or do we have to eat this dinner without you?"
Both Eppes brothers looked at the door. Turning back they smiled at each other.
" Come on, Charlie," Don said, " Let's get something to eat."
Charlie nodded and stood up. Apprehensively he looked back at the paper and pencil on the floor.
" Don," he started.
" Listen, buddy," Don stopped him, " You may have made the promise to finish it. But she didn't mean you have to take away from the rest of your life. You have plenty of time ahead of you. Use that."
" I would think I would have less considering..."
" Charlie," Don started with a warning tone, " Trust me. It's what she would have wanted."
" I guess your right."
" Of course I am," Don said guiding his brother out the door.
Closing it behind him he guided Charlie down the stairs.
" You won't tell dad will you?" Charlie paused at the bottom.
" Wouldn't dream of it," Don answered truthfully.
Charlie nodded. Both brothers walked into the kitchen to enjoy a meal with their dad and Terry. Both thankful that they had time ahead of them.
pheww! I finished. Thanks to all of you who reviewed. You definitely helped pushed this story to completion. I'd like to especially thank those who told me when I needed to proofread. Thank you so much! I hope you all enjoyed this story. Thanks again.