The sun was shining, a perfect cliche of a day. People gathered under the warm California rays, the rich flowers perfumed the air, palm trees gorgeously green. A perfect day for baseball... Batter up, Donnie... Charlie adjusted his sunglasses, briefly closed his eyes, trying to block out the hangover, remenant from a night out with Don's teammates. He felt his father bump his arm, the two men uncharacteristically held hands. A sudden breeze lifted his curls, Charlie clamped his other hand down, trying to keep his yarmulke in place.
He could feel Amita shake against his chest. She reached in his coat pocket, feeling for more tissues. Her hair felt soft and sweet against his face. Any other time, he would be thanking his lucky stars to have her in his arms.
The cantor's voice raised and fell in a haunting rhythm. "Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu melech haolam, dayan ha'emet," Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, the true Judge. The words were so achingly familiar... Charlie had never wanted to hear them again. Not after losing his mother...
Larry, freshly back from space, stood silently besides Megan Reeves. Just earlier that week, Don had teased him... Still got space legs Fleinhardt? David Sinclair and Colby Granger stood on either side of the couple. Never thought that Granger or Sinclair knew where to find yarmulkes... Never knew a bald man could keep one on his head... They silently watched as a folded flag was presented to Alan. He took the flag, his breathing hitched. Alan thanked the young officer, then sat back heavily in the silver folding chair.
The quiet was shattered with the twenty one gun salute. Each crack caused a chill to run down Charlie's spine, each time Megan's sobs grew louder. A tear slid down his cheek. You will not cry, Eppes, you will not cry... Alan's hand sought out his once again and gripped it tighter, as if one pain could substitute another...
The cantor said his last "omain" and walked over to Alan and Charlie, gripping both in a hug. "Ha-Makom yenahem etkhem b'tokh sha ar aveilei Tzion vYerushalayim"-may the Omnipresent comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, he whispered fiercely in their ears.
Charlie found the contrast of the FBI agents and the Hebraic words strange. Any other time he would have thought it funny. He felt Colby lead him to a car, who's he wasn't sure. David lead Alan. Both took one last look, one headstone painfully familiar, accompanied by another, frustratingly brand new. God, Don, this wasn't the way it was suppose to go... You weren't suppose to leave this way...
The traditional period of shiva lasts seven days. It was day three and already there was more food in the kitchen than Charlie knew what to do with. Part of it was from people who would stop by, a deli tray from one of Charlie's students, casseroles from the neighbors, several bottles of scotch from law enforcement officers. A lot of it was from Alan, trying to keep busy, trying to cope with their loss. Don, can you really be gone?
Things had been going so well lately. Don had been making an effort to not work so much, spend more time with his brother and his father after the urgings of his shrink. He had met a girl, an ER nurse, Emily something or other. Don wouldn't say where he met her. Or that he even HAD met her... Charlie suspected it coincided with a suspicious limp Don had five or six months back. Charlie wouldn't have even known had not Megan asked him who was occupying all his brother's free time. Charlie had finally cornered Don two weeks ago, the latter guiltily confessing that there was someone that he wanted them to meet. All four of them were going to meet for dinner... Was that really suppose to be tonight?
He looked at the calander by the kitchen phone. There in Don's familiar scrawl was reservations for a little italian place down in Venice. Emily lived in Venice, down by the boardwalk, not too far from the ballarina clown statue. You know the one Chuck, that freaky nightmare thing... That's where Don had been when the incident happened. That's what David said when he had come to the house to break the news.
There was an explosion he said. Don and Emily were at the pier, they rented a boat and it blew up. There were no survivors... Charlie let a strangled laugh at the line. He had heard it in a movie once, a movie he had seen with Don, back when Don was still in junior high school during a brief moment when they had gotten along. Don had always reminded Charlie of the Dread Pirate Roberts, invincible and superhuman. Able to beat villians of incredible strength and surprising intellect and still come out on top.
David said there had been a contract taken out on Don. He had gone undercover in an arms, drug, and child porn case. His testimony was key to locking away several of the key players and securing the death penalty for the second in command. Protective custody had hid him away during and several weeks after the trial, but then Don came back, said everything was fine, nothing to worry about.
Someone had cleared Don's desk at the FBI, gave Alan and Charlie his personal things. There were several photos of the three of them together, golfing, hiking, in the garage. The other was of him and Emily. She's pretty Don. I wish you would have introduced us... They were standing in the ocean, Don in khakis cargo shorts and a navy polo, Stockton Rangers cap backwards, his arm wrapped around a short, thin girl with a wide smile and long red hair that easily fell midway down her back. Her green skirt wrapped around both their legs in the wind. You both look so happy...
Digging through the box, Alan and Charlie found several commendations, one from his fugitive recovery days and Albuquerque... Charlie, its Albuquerque, not Albaturkey, bro... And another from LA. Both men were surprised, both feeling guilty that Don never shared his awards with them. The other thing that surprised Charlie was Don had a copy of one of the books he had written. It was rumpled and dirty, must have taken it with him on stake-outs... The pages were dog-eared and there were a few passages underlined, with notes scrawled next to them. Charlie didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the idea of his big brother pondering the implications of the Eppes Convergence.
The kitchen was too cluttered not the right type of clutter... He wandered out to the garage. Give it up Chuckles and call it what it really is, your fortress of solitude... Charlie looked at his collection of chalkboards, no P vs NP this time around. He felt no draw to work on his Congnitive Emergence Theory either. He heard a shuffle and a cough behind him. An arm snaked around his shoulder.
"Amita..." He started.
She didn't say anything. Just looked at the chalkboards, then turned around and hugged him tightly. They both cried together.