Genre: Drama, Angst
Time line: Sequel to "The Eyes Have It", "Windows of the Soul"
Summary: Charlie's eyes are opened — will his heart be closed?
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em – but wanna cuddle 'em.
Larry stood in the doorway of Charlie's office and smiled fondly at his friend. "I must say, Charles, I was rather surprised at your choice of vacation, but it seems to have agreed with you. You're looking much more relaxed. In such a short time, as well."
Charlie, who had been tilted back in his desk chair, thinking about Amy, crashed back to the floor. "Larry! You startled me."
The older man laughed. "I see that. Perhaps you are not quite ready to return to work?"
Charlie grinned. "I'm fine. Slept several consecutive hours, last night, I actually feel pretty good."
Larry entered the room and took the chair opposite Charlie's desk, frowned a little. "Am I to assume from this that your sleeping pattern as of late has been disruptive?"
Charlie considered. This could be part of his homework, to be completed before he could call Amy again. Start talking to people. "Since the shooting, yes. I've had a lot of nightmares. Well, just one recurring one, actually."
"That long? Charles, I'm disturbed to hear that. It goes a long way toward explaining your uncharacteristic terseness, since you returned to work."
Had he been that bad? "I'm sorry about that, Larry. I didn't realize how much it all affected me, I guess."
Larry waved a hand. "Not at all, my friend. I just regret that we have been unable to help in this matter."
Charlie decided to change the subject. There had been no agreement about how long he would talk. "So. How was your holiday hike?"
Larry smiled again. "Quite pleasant, I think. Megan is a joy to be around, and Amita's Mark seems very attentive to her. I did wish that you could have joined us, however. I look forward to the day your leg is strong enough for another of our hikes."
"How about my Dad? He didn't say a lot about it…not that he's had much time. Don and I pretty much monopolized the conversation, and then crashed." He grinned. "Don was up half of the night before winning the ship poker tournament. He fell asleep on the couch right after dinner, and he was still there when I got up this morning."
"Indeed? I'm sure he'll feel the effects of that."
"No doubt. So Dad and the picnic?"
"I'm reasonably certain that Alan enjoyed himself…although Donna did seem a tad put off by the concept of an outdoor experience."
Donna? "Who's Donna?"
Larry raised an eyebrow. "I believe you and Don refer to her as 'The Caterer'."
She had a name? Who knew? Charlie was still trying to envision The Caterer with a name when there was a brief rap on the open door, and he looked up to see Amita.
"You look rested," she observed. "Nice cruise?"
Charlie smiled. "Surprisingly so. Larry was just telling me about your hike."
She dimpled. "I enjoyed that, and the picnic after. Your father's friend is an incredible cook. She brought some very exotic dishes."
"Well, she is The Caterer…"
Amita laughed. "She has a name, Charlie."
"So Larry was just informing me."
She looked at the clock over his head. "I have a class, but I want to hear all about the cruise. Can we have lunch?"
"We all have class. This is a university." Charlie stood and grabbed his backpack off the floor behind him, and his two friends smiled at the light tone they had missed. "Yes on lunch." He guided them all out the door. "Join us, Larry?"
"I'm afraid that I can't, today. I promised a student some extra preparation time, and my office hours are already full."
"Finals," they all said at once, and continued down the corridor. .
Amita carefully replaced her glass of water on the table. "You're kidding."
She wasn't smiling. Her face did not reflect pleasure at all. Just disbelief…and something else Charlie couldn't quite name. As always, things he didn't understand made him nervous, and he felt his own smile slip.
She looked at the glass, turned it around in a circle. Looked back at him. "You understand that this is crazy, right?"
Okay, not nervous anymore. Angry, now. "Why? Because I just met her? How long was the physics convention where you met Mark?"
She lowered her voice, hoping it would make him lower his. "We talked for hours — there, on the phone, e-mail — all before our first date. It's not the same."
"Why not? Amy and I talked for hours, too. Face-to-face."
He speared another piece of chicken, looked at it awhile and then laid the fork down on the edge of the plate. "I don't understand what you're so upset about. It's not like I married her on the ship. We're not even going to see each other for at least a week."
She tore at the pita almost viciously, refused to look at him. "I'm not upset. I'm just surprised one of the most brilliant men I know is acting…acting on a whim, off a cruise high, or something…"
He stared at her. "Amita, you haven't even met her."
"And you ran off on a cruise you didn't want to go on, just to keep from meeting Mark."
How did she know that? Maybe it was a stab in the dark. Maybe it was a stab to his back. "I needed a vacation, I know you've noticed that as much as everybody else."
"But a cruise? G-d Charlie, did you have to check your brain at the pier? I know if Mark and I hadn't been there, you would have gone hiking with Larry. You love hiking."
That was enough. Charlie stood up. He looked down at her. "You know, Amita, if you ever got your head away from your physics lab and Mark anymore, you might have noticed that I was shot a few weeks ago. I love sleeping at night, too, but that doesn't mean I've been able to do much of it lately."
She stood up to face him, oblivious of the diners staring in their direction. She opened her mouth, closed it again, finally reached into her pocket and threw a $10 on the table. "Don't bother to walk me back to campus," she said, turning to leave the restaurant.