Chapter Twenty Three

"Who wants coffee?"

Charlie poked his head around the kitchen door and raised his eyes to the people ignoring him, sat around the table , deep in conversation.

"Coffee?"

A choruses of yes sent him back into the kitchen. He didn't want the evening to end. Larry and Amita had joined Don and him for dinner. Charlie had risked cooking lamb, his skills in the kitchen growing with his confidence with a cook book. The meal had been enjoyed by all. It felt so good to have everyone around his house, to have his brother doing so well, not quite a hundred percent, but so close. Since Don's return to work he'd progressed further and further. Even opening up to Charlie when he felt overwhelmed by all that had happened.

"I don't think I could have made it through without you and Dad"

Charlie had sat next to his brother at the table, they had been waiting for Alan to return from another dinner date with Sandy. Their third that week.

"It's what brothers do remember?"

"I know, but, it's all so blurred in my mind. When you found me. Yet I remember your voice, remembering feeling you there"

"My heart broke when I saw you Don"

Charlie had kept his head lowered.

"Mine mended when you arrived"

"I was so scared, so scared that we'd find you too late"

"You and Dad are what got me out of that basement brother. I can still feel the cold in there you know"

"Just remember how warm it is here bro, just keep that in mind"

Charlie placed the four mugs of coffee on a tray and walked into the living room. As he placed the mugs in front of each guest he heard the front door open.

"Well, isn't this nice, coming home to a full house"

"Hey Dad, Sandy. Do you want coffee?"

"Oh yes Charlie that would be great"

"Seeing as you never make it my boy I certainly won't be saying no"

Alan stood behind Don with his hand on his shoulder. He squeezed as Don looked up at him.

"Nice dinner Sandy?"

"Oh yes"

Sandy sat next to Don. Alan placed his free hand on the back of her neck.

"Alan took me to a lovely restaurant in Santa Monica. Gorgeous food by the beach "

"Dad you old romantic"

"Donnie, when you finally see yourself free to date, you come to me first for advice, you hear?"

Charlie brought in the two extra mugs of coffee and sat himself down opposite Don. It was only then that he noticed his brother's smug expression.

"What?"

"I solved it"

"Solved what?"

Don held his arm up, with the blue cast on his hand, the white writing running along the side.

"No way"

"Yes way brother, guess you weren't as smart as you thought you were"

Charlie leaned forward for a better look at his brother's hand.

"Well Charles, seems Don here has a gift for math also"

"He can't have solved it Larry, there isn't any way"

"Charlie, give Don some credit, check before you claim otherwise"

Charlie looked at Amita and smiled, admitting she had a point, he stood and walked around to get a better look at the writing underneath the equation he'd written on Don's hand.

Charlie re-read his equation, written in white around Don's cast.

Solve this proportion for 'P'

(3.5)(7.8) 15.8 P

136.4 9.3

Written in black ink beneath, Charlie couldn't believe his eyes as he read over the answer. His spirits sinking as he realised Don was correct.

(3.5)(7.8)(9.3) P so P .12

(136.4)(15.8)

"How did you do this?"

Charlie frowned at his brother, still unable to believe that Don had solved the equation.

"What's my reward?"

"Oh no bro, not until you tell me how you solved it"

"Can't tell you Charlie"

Charlie looked from his father, back to Don. Still unable to believe.

"Well Charlie, seems that Donnie can do math and spell correctly, so I'd say he's deserving of that reward wouldn't you?"

Charlie gazed at his father open mouthed.

"Charles"

"Not now Larry"

"Ok, but Charles?"

"What!"

"I think your dessert is burning"

Charlie turned as the smell of the crisp apple pie made it's way into his nasal cavity. He regarded his brother with one more annoyed look and ran back into the kitchen.

Alan looked at Don, his parental instinct had already whispered the answer but he still wanted to be sure.

"Who told you Donnie?"

"No one Dad, believe it or not I did actually pay attention in class"

"Really?"

"Sometimes"

Don smiled at his father as he stood to help Charlie in the kitchen, as he walked past, Larry caught Don winking to Amita.

"Oh I see"

"Shhh Larry"

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Alan turned the lights off downstairs and made his way to his bedroom. His boys were safely under the same roof, just how he liked to have them. He stood looking down on Charlie. His youngest had surprised him so many times with his intellect, but recently, it was his insight into his family which had really surprised Alan. He was so proud, so proud of the responsibility Charlie had taken when it came to Don. He took the book from under Charlie's arm and pulled the covers over his boy. Running his hand over his hair . Alan made his way to Don's room. He pulled the covers further around his son and sat on the edge of the bed. He'd taken to doing this every evening for the past few nights. Sitting and watching for a few minutes as he slept. Hs eldest boys face looked so peaceful. So relaxed. He was finally able to sleep without pain, without nightmares. Alan caressed Don's forehead. Smiling as his son pressed his face further into the soothing hand helping him sleep. Leaning forward, Alan kissed Don's head and left the room.

Don sighed and rolled in his sleep. He felt so safe, felt so warm. He was dreaming of an open field. A playground in the middle, he was pushing a swing. The laughter escaping the little girl was so void of hurt, so void of pain. Full of innocence and youth. Full of love. As the two played in the park, enjoying each other's company, the sound of a gate swinging back and forth in the distance was ignored by the two.

The gate led to an abandoned cell block. Decayed and broken, over growing with grass and flowers of every colour.

No blood in sight.

No pain in sight.

As the little girl was pushed higher into the sky she sang at the top of her voice, soaking up the man's laughter as her feet touched the heavens above.

There's a little bird that somebody sends
Down to the earth to live on the wind.
He flies so high up in the sky
Out of reach of human eye.

He's light and fragile and feathered sky blue,
So thin and graceful the sun shines through.
This little bird who lives on the wind,
This little bird that somebody sends.

The End.

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Thank you to everyone who kept reading this story, to everyone for their encouragement and kind words. I really can't say enough thank you's to you all. From the bottom of my heart to the tip of my toes, THANK YOU!