Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and I don't make any money off of them.
A/N: Thanks as always to ritt, the world's best beta and sounding board!
If I didn't know better, I'd swear this wasn't the home I grew up in.
Never once have I found a very skimpy negligee stuffed between the couch cushions… until today. Sure, I know my mom must have had something like that, but she had the common sense to keep it hidden away in a drawer somewhere. I mean, I'm happy for Chuck and Amita, but still… isn't that what the bedroom is for?
Never once had I walked in on Dad and Charlie having a heated discussion about math and its practical applications in mechanical engineering… until today. And never have they told me to make myself at home because they were both headed for class. Class. I guess a retiree's got to have something to pass the time, but schoolwork?
I lean back in Charlie's arm chair (no way am I sitting on that couch with the discovery I just made) and turn on the television. I jab the remote as I scroll through the channels, disappointed when I can't find any game that appeals to me. There are a couple of college football games on, but the baseball playoffs aren't until tonight and hockey's not in season. Besides, USC's loss kind of killed my college interest – not that it was overwhelming to begin with.
What to do about Colby.
Well shoot, that idea sure came out of nowhere. That reminds me, Dad gave me some sort of weird, halfway disappointed look earlier when he was asking about our spy-turned-hero. And he keeps harping on that hero bit. Sure Colby is a hero, but that doesn't change the fact that he was spying on me and my team for two years. How am I supposed to trust him now that I know he was never telling the truth in the first place? Besides, the team would have to want him back and I'm not so sure David does.
I take a swallow of beer and let the warm sensation in my throat push the burdensome thoughts to the back of my mind. Colby later. This is me time.
So… me time. Well let's see, I'm sitting here watching… What the heck am I watching? An infomercial? Geez, Eppes, you've really lost your marbles now. I turn the television off and toss the remote onto the couch.
There, out of reach. No more scrolling mindlessly through the channels.
Mindless… Yep, that's me. Dad and Charlie are off at college – one teaching and one increasing his already enormous levels of knowledge and wisdom – while I sit here and sulk in front of a dark television screen. Nice accomplishment there, Eppes. Then again, I never was the smart one in the family. Mom was a lawyer, Dad a city planner, and Charlie… well he's about to add 'self-help author' to his lengthy list. Sometimes I wonder if I was adopted. Still, I play the role of black sheep pretty darn well.
And with that thought, I've drained the last of my beer. Time for a refill. I push myself up and wander into the kitchen and grab a cold beer from the fridge. It's the last of the six pack so I grab the empty cardboard, too. I can't help but grin when I see another six pack hiding in the back. Dad and Charlie don't really care for this brand but it always seems to be in the fridge when I come over. Knowing that Dad does ninety-eight percent of the grocery shopping, I smile and silently thank him for making sure that he keeps it stocked just for me.
I toss the cardboard package and empty bottle in the trash as I exit the kitchen through the swinging door. The gust of air knocks a piece of paper off the dining table and I wearily bend over to retrieve it. I don't mean to spy – really, I don't – but can I help it that my name jumped off the page at me? I study it closer and realize it's a rough draft of a forward for Charlie's new book. As I read the short paragraph I see several words that have been scratched out. Words like 'brave', 'heroic', 'selfless', 'smart', 'just'…
A frown creases my face. Why would he scratch out all of those words? I'm not egotistical, but… those words do describe me, right? Did I make him mad or something?
Still reeling from the hurt the words – or lack thereof – have caused, I place the paper back on the table. It's then that a second sheet catches my eye, also with my name on it. This time the paragraph is even shorter and nothing is scratched out. I read it to myself…
This book is dedicated to my wonderful big brother. I'd describe him to you, but no words can convey how truly great and admirable a person he is. Thanks, Don, for being my rock.
"Aw man, Chuck," I whisper emotionally. "I could say the same thing about you."
"And you'd better when you write all about your law enforcement exploits."
I whirl around and find my little brother smirking at me from the doorway. "How long…?"
"Long enough." He smiles and walks to the table, gently taking the piece of paper from my hand. "I was going to surprise you…"
I force a contrite look on my face. "Sorry about that."
He studies me quietly and I swear I see concern flash in his eyes before being replaced by that mischievous twinkle. "I'll forgive you… if…"
I raise my eyebrows while waiting for him to continue.
"You promise not to call me Chuck in your forward."
I laugh and hold out my hand. "Deal." We shake on it and I drape an arm around his shoulders. "There will, however, be an entire chapter devoted to harassing my little brother."
"Long chapter," he quips as he tries to twist out of my grip.
Before I know it, we're wrestling around the dining room and trying to pin each other without breaking any of the furniture – something we got in trouble for a lot when we were growing up.
Hmm… Maybe this is still home after all.