Alan came down the stairs and smiled at the scene that greeted him. His two sons had taken up residence on either side of the couch, feet carefully entwined in the middle. Charlie's right arm was resting on the floor while his left was slung over his head. Don's right arm was resting on his stomach; his left was resting on Charlie's right foot.
Alan smiled at the two of them, where was a camera when you needed one? He'd have to remember to buy some more film, moments like this needed to be captured.
Don spent the day keeping Charlie company in the garage, or rather keeping himself company. Charlie was lost in his numbers. The ache in Don's hand and ankle had greatly subsided; Alan would let Don leave for his apartment once he had his Doctors appointment out of the way tomorrow. Then he'd be back to work and could forget this whole experience. He hoped that Colby and David would do the same. He'd hate to think that anyone else would know about his dive from the hospital bed. It was bad enough that Megan had seen him pass out when they both went to donate blood. His attempt at proving to himself that he was over his reaction to needles had backfired much to the amusement of Agent Reeves. He'd have to find her weakness; it wasn't fair that she had the upper hand. There had to be something she was afraid of. He decided he'd try different things weekly until he found the one he could use against her. Now were could he get his hands on a mouse? Just for a loan.
A scream from the house returned both Charlie and Don to the present. They looked at each other for a second before hurrying back outside and into the kitchen. Charlie arrived first to find Alan standing in the corner holding a broom.
"Oh Charlie, erm, it's nothing, its ok, go back to the garage. Oh Don, you should be resting that ankle you know"
"Dad? What's going on? We heard you scream, that was you wasn't it? "Don moved further into the kitchen, Alan kept glancing toward the door to the living room. Whatever had spooked him had to be in that direction. As he rounded the counter Don spied a large, thick bodied spider, it was facing Alan. It advanced a step and Alan gasped.
"What it is Don?"
"Come here Charlie and see for yourself" Don tried hard to suppress his laughter, he opted instead for a very wide, full faced, shining eyes, ear to ear smile.
Charlie moved to Don's side and gazed down at the floor. He looked back at his father.
"You're not serious are you?"
"Charlie, did I mock your fear of dogs? No, I don't believe I did"
"Yeah but Pops, it's just a spider"
The spider advanced again another step and Alan let out another gasp.
"It's almost like it's herding you Dad"
"Donnie, remember how understanding I was about your needle phobia?"
"No you weren't, you went and told Charlie. Anyway it's not a phobia, it's a……thing"
"Yes Charlie, a thing"
"Is anyone going to get rid of that thing or do I have to move house?"
"I've got it Dad" Charlie moved past Don and trapped the spider between his palms and scooped it up. He cupped it in his hands and made a move toward his father.
"You do Charles Eppes and you'll be looking for a new house mate"
Charlie and Don both burst out laughing.
"Ok, Ok Dad, it's going outside see?"
"Make sure you walk down the street a bit, I don't want that thing coming back in the house"
"Don't worry Dad" Charlie could be heard laughing as he walked down the drive.
Don stood looking at his father.
"Guess that answers the question of what it is you're afraid of"
"Yes, well, as I said yesterday, everyone is afraid of something Don. Anyway," Alan raised his eyebrows to Don "It's not a phobia, it's a thing"
"Oh no dad, that most definitely is a phobia "Don laughed at his father. "So that's why Mum always got rid of the spiders then?"
"She never had a problem with anything like that; she would just walk right up to them, scoop them into her hands and put them outside." Alan shivered at the thought of a spider in his hands, he felt very strange, like he had something crawling all over him. It was the same feeling he always had anytime he found a spider in the house. After Margaret had died there'd been a spate of spiders to be dealt with. Alan guessed it was his wife's way of forcing him to deal with his phobia. 'Still quite a way to go' he chuckled to himself.
"Come on Don, off of that leg" Alan ushered his eldest to the couch.
"What was mum afraid of?"
Alan put a cushion under Don's foot; he left his hand resting on Don's leg as he thought about his wife's greatest fear.
"But we had Mickey, why would she have a bird if she was afraid?"
"Because your mother wanted to conquer her fear , although she never managed to clean his cage and would only allow me to let him fly about when she was out of the house" Alan smiled at the memory.
"Is that why you kept the cage?"
Alan squeezed Don's leg and went to sit in the chair. He picked up the paper and opened the page to the crossword.
"I could never bring myself to throw the cage away. It was your mother's way of trying to overcome her fear of birds, to me it was a reminder to overcome my fear of living without her"
Don told himself that the tears in his eyes were only there because he was still tired and in pain. Alan saw them too but knew Don would have them under control within seconds.
"Do you think Charlie went to another neighbourhood to get rid of that spider?"
"Oh I hope so "Alan smiled warmly at his son, the emotion that had threatened to brim over was now a fading memory on Don's face. If only he could let go, just for once. Alan knew it would happen, he just wasn't sure when.
"Ok Don, seven letter word for fast and lively music?"
Don sank further into the couch, he heard Charlie come back through the kitchen humming happily to himself.
"Where have you been Charlie?" Alan turned in his chair to look at his boy.
"Oh nowhere really, got rid of the spider, said hello to Mr Paterson, pet his dog"
"Really?" asked Alan and Don simultaneously.
"Really "Charlie sat down looking very pleased and proud of himself.
"Way to go brother Eppes" Don gave Charlie a very proud smile.
"Well done Charlie, I'm very proud of you"
"Your turn next Dad, you get rid of the next spider in the house"
"The day your brother takes a needle without passing out will be the day I deal with a spider in this house. Anyway, as it's not my house I don't have to deal with these things"
"Whatever you say father"
Alan and Charlie both looked at Don with confusion across their faces.
"Say again Donnie?"
"Your crossword Dad, the answer is allegro. It's not only Charlie with the smarts you know, I did pay attention sometimes."
"Mmm, we'll see about that, six letter word for 'deadly'?"
Charlie burst out laughing, once he managed to get himself under control he looked Don square in the face and said "P-O-O-D-L-E"
"Oh that's poor brother, very very poor "Don threw the previous day's paper at Charlie, who ducked the missile easily.
Alan looked at his sons, he was lost, they were in their own little world.