Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: CHARACTER DEATH! You have been warned. And, contrary to what you might think, I was in a really good mood when I wrote this one.
Alan Eppes looked in the mirror and straightened his tie. Once he was satisfied that it looked as good as he was going to get it, he turned to the living room. He was about to call out for his sons, but stopped himself at the last minute. That's right – they weren't going to be standing by his side today, but he was certain they would be there with him in spirit.
He sighed and glanced back at the mirror, smoothing his graying hair and frowning at the bags under his eyes. He supposed he didn't look too bad, all things considered. The fact that he was up and out of bed was a testament to his strength of character. At least that was what Stan had told him.
Alan headed through the front door, switching off the lights and locking up behind himself. He glanced nervously at the curb where a black limousine awaited him, compliments of Aunt Irene. For once, he felt gratitude toward the elderly woman, knowing that she was the only other person in this world that fully understood what he was going through. Alan slipped inside and returned the sad smile the driver gave him before raising the tinted partition between them. The older man closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep as the vehicle began its journey.
"Sir," a polite voice spoke into his ear.
Alan opened his eyes and saw the driver leaning inside the open door.
"We're here, sir."
"Thank you," Alan whispered as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked out the door at the intimidating building in front of him. He'd only been here once before, and he wasn't glad to be back by any means. As he slipped out of the limo, he frowned at the driver. "I, um, I don't have any cash. Am I supposed to tip you?"
The well dressed driver shook his head and held out a hand. "No sir," he told him. "It's all taken care of. Besides, it was my honor to be able to drive you tonight. I heard what happened. I know why you're here, today."
"Thank you," Alan said as tears threatened to form in his eyes. "I appreciate that."
"Shall I escort you to the door?"
"That won't be necessary," Alan assured him as he recognized Aunt Irene's petite form waving to him from the doorway. He shook the driver's hand and wearily climbed the steps. "Aunt Irene," he whispered as she enveloped him in a hug. "How are you doing?"
"Me?" she asked in shock. "I'm distraught. But you my dear nephew, you must be devastated."
"It's hard," he confessed. "Unbearable at times. But I try to take it one day at a time."
"Yes," she nodded. "Yes, of course." She quietly led him inside the large building, through a maze of hallways, and into a large reception area packed full of people. "I'm so pleased by the turnout. Not surprised in the least, but pleased. Many loved ones."
"Yes," Alan nodded as he recognized several faces in the crowd. He was even more surprised at the number of faces he didn't recognize. "It looks wonderful, Aunt Irene. You did an excellent job with the arrangements."
"A job that I certainly never thought I would have to do." The elderly woman wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.
"I know," Alan patted her arm. "I didn't see it coming, either."
"Here," she said as she composed herself. "We need to be up front. All of these people will want to speak to you. So many loved ones," Irene repeated herself as she let out a small sob.
Alan took the position Irene indicated and looked out over the sea of faces again. So many loved ones, he thought to himself. She's right. There were people of all ages – as young as eighteen all the way up to his age. And from all walks of life, too – young, eager students to grizzled, hardened law enforcement officers. His emotions threatened to overwhelm him and quickly searched the room for something to latch onto. A ghost of a smile crossed his face as his gaze landed on two photographs on display, sitting side by side.
You boys always did look so handsome in a suit, he thought as he smiled at the pictures of Don and Charlie. It's a shame these people can't see just how nice you look.
Alan looked up, his heart warming as he saw Megan standing in front of him. "Megan," he said warmly. "I appreciate your coming here, today."
"Nothing could have kept me away," she told him sincerely. "Don was a good friend. And Charlie was like a little brother to all of us at the office."
"Thank you for telling me that," Alan said as he kissed her on the cheek. "You don't know how important it is for me to hear that."
"I want you to know that we caught him," she said, her voice turning to stone. "He will pay for what he did. Although, it will never be enough..."
"To bring them back?" Alan offered. "I know. I still can't understand how someone makes a decision like that. There's no excuse."
"There never is," she agreed. "He's trying to say being drunk is his excuse, but I promise you, that's not going to fly. Not after what he took away from the community... from you." Megan hugged him and left him alone with his thoughts.
Alan's heart tensed as the realization that his two boys were never coming home again hit him full force. They had been killed by a drunk driver, and were lying in closed caskets, their bodies so damaged that Alan hadn't been allowed to see them one last time. His heart ached and he found himself again looking at the two photographs that rested on top of the caskets. As his sons' smiling faces looked back, Alan felt the tension in his body begin to fade away. No, they weren't there by his side today, but he could feel their spirits wrapped around him and surrounding him with love, and he knew he would be okay.