Alan opened the oven door and basted the turkey, again. It was Thursday, Thanksgiving. Charlie had been home for a week, and had seen one of the counselors on Megan's list twice already. He was still very quiet, sometimes to be point of being withdrawn, but he was making efforts, now. Efforts to eat regularly, efforts to talk to the frequent visitors, efforts to sleep. Some efforts were more successful than others, though, and he still needed the assistance of sleeping pills to make it through a night. Several of those nights were interrupted by nightmares, waking Alan down the hall and sometimes even Don downstairs. Things were going to take time.
Don had been home five days. After the first one, he was itching almost as badly to escape this prison as he had been to escape the hospital. At least he had a cast and crutches now; 'no weight bearing' and 'no stairs' were his only restrictions, so he got out of the house as often as he could. When there, he did laundry, waited on Charlie — even made a pumpkin pie for this dinner, yesterday. Alan didn't see how he was going to keep Don down for another two weeks — but he would try. That was his job, after all.
The swinging door from the dining room opened and Megan stepped through, sniffing the air appreciatively. "It smells wonderful in here, Alan. Are you sure I can't do something?"
Alan had known she would ask — he had known they all would — so he had added a leaf to the dining room table yesterday, and had it set with the Thanksgiving dishes before 8 a.m. this morning. He was having this dinner for them, after all, and he didn't want them to work. "Everything is under control here," he said. "Go back in the living room." He had heard loud laughter coming from there when she had opened the door. "What are they doing in there, anyway?"
She rolled her eyes. "Colby is telling Charlie about Don's big date, and Cecile is hearing the details for the first time, too — you know, how we almost had to pick the lock of her apartment to find out what size shoes to get; how David shattered the first champagne glasses on the sidewalk on the way in and you had to make a mad dash out for more while she was in the shower; how Andrew didn't fit in the rented tux and almost came in his jeans; how Cecile wanted more dances with Colby than anyone else…"
Alan laughed. "I think he might be embellishing the story a little."
"It was nice of you to invite Agent Terrace and his wife. This is their first Thanksgiving here in L.A., and they're too far from either family to go home. They were going to spend it alone. Did you know all that?"
Alan stirred a sweet potato casserole. "No. I just felt bad about hitting him with a frying pan."
Megan laughed and placed rolls on a baking sheet. Alan pretended not to notice that she was helping. "It was very generous of you all to come today. I'm sure you'd like to be with your families, but I really wanted to use the day the way it was intended — to say thank you to all the people who have helped so much these last few weeks."
Megan, finished with the rolls, walked to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer, then leaned against a counter facing Alan. "Generous of us? Alan, you're saving us. With the exception of Charlie, Don and Larry, we all have to work tomorrow — no road trips in our immediate future. If it wasn't for you, we'd probably be having Thanksgiving at Denny's"
Alan was appalled, and shuddered, slivering almonds onto the green beans. "It's a shame Andrew couldn't make it, but he knew last week that he would be working the holiday; that's why he made such an effort to come to the dance-a-thon."
Megan smiled. "Speaking of which. I had that roll of film developed. I should go use the evidence to keep Colby's story in line."
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Don and Charlie had insisted that Alan's place was still at the head of the table, and he stood to carve the turkey. As he did, he watched the nine other people at the table, passing dishes. Don's team: Megan, Colby, and David. The lovely Cecile. Larry, seated between Megan and Charlie. Jim Terrace and his wife, Linda. And his sons. Both of his sons. A little worse for wear, at the moment, but surrounded by people like these, there was only hope, for these boys. Only hope.
Alan found he had to concentrate on freeing the turkey drumstick Colby had laid first claim to, so that he wouldn't do something embarrassing, like cry. His attention was diverted further when Jim Terrace spoke.
"Mr. Eppes, I can't believe you made Okra. I certainly didn't expect that."
Alan smiled. "Alan. You're at my Thanksgiving table, and my name is Alan."
Jim grinned. "Alan, then. I really appreciate it."
Alan finally wrested the leg off and rewarded it to a beaming Colby. "Well, Jim, I was happy to do it. I spoke to Linda and she told me how much you miss that, from your Thanksgivings in Oklahoma — and I wanted you to see that I have many uses for frying pans."
Everyone at the table laughed and Alan momentarily put down his carving tools and raised his glass of wine. "My sons and I welcome you all to our home," he said. "Everyone here is part of this family." He looked from face to face, speaking deliberately. "You are each dear to me." His gaze lingered for a moment on Megan. "And none of you," he finally intoned, "have permission to eat Thanksgiving at Denny's ever again."
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A/N: Well. That really took it out of me — and Charlie too. Imagine his dismay when I informed him that there will be a part III:
Does Don accept A.D.?
Will Charlie ever pull himself together?
Can Alan reconcile his frying pan back to mere kitchen duty?
Look for answers to these and many more questions soon, in a Triology near you.