Chamberlain knew who was at his tent before he'd voiced his permission of them to enter. He glanced up once at his younger sibling before returning to the letter he was writing, the family would read of Gettysburg in the papers, and he hoped the letter would reach them fast enough so as to ease their minds. In the letter he expressed that both the siblings were in fine health and had not come to any harm during the last engagement. Though, a voice in his head taunted him, playing with things he couldn't go back and change. The deeds had been done, and he'd live with the consequences for the rest of his life. A few of those things had turned out all right, much to his relief. On that note, his eyes traveled back to the Lieutenant, and he imagined the heart stopping moments on Round Top.
He could very well be in a hospital because of you, or in a shallow grave.
He shook himself mentally, "Why don't you sit down Tom?" He knew the boy wouldn't do so unless instructed to, or invited.
There was something else the army had done. Only last year he was swatting the younger man's shoulder with a newspaper to get him away from his desk at Bowdoin. The memory made him smile slightly, gaze distant as he watched movement through the tent opening. He'd left the room, for what he couldn't remember for the life of him, but he'd returned to find a very cheeky and smug looking Thomas Chamberlain sitting behind his work space. Much to the delight of the students in the room.
He couldn't even remember why Tom had been there, maybe there hadn't been a reason. Maybe he'd just wanted to cause the older man grief. Chamberlain had never really asked. Though, he'd put up a front to the class, the serious teacher and role model he should be, the incident had amused him. None of the other siblings would dream of doing such. Yet there was Tom, happy as a little clam sitting there in a professor's chair.
That's when the deadly force of the newspaper came into play.
It was the youngest brother's youth and sense of adventure that had made the months easier for Chamberlain. He was afraid the events both of them lived through would rip that from Tom, that one day he'd look into blue eyes like his own and see nothing.
His conversation with Kilrain suddenly came back to him, if there was one thing he ever hoped to learn from the Irishman it would have to be from that conversation. His own words echoed in his mind.
A divine spark, as my mother used to call it.
His head shot up to look at the Lieutenant, that's why he'd never really reprimanded Thomas for what he'd done in that class room. Why he kept him close, when he should be pushing him away. Tom's energy was an embodiment of that spark.
He stood quickly, which startled the younger man so that he stood as well. Grabbing his brother's shoulders roughly, Chamberlain turned in a way that light from the outside would fall onto the junior officer. Tom stood rigid, didn't understand what Chamberlain was doing at all, and only looked back at him with a slightly confused interest.
The Colonel studied him for a long moment, took in every detail. The Lieutenant was leaning away from him, stiff as a board. The uniform wasn't immaculate, but it was much more presentable than even some of the Generals Chamberlain had seen in the past seventy two hours. He was pale from lack of sleep, circles under his eyes contrasting heavily with his complexion. The kepi was still not on straight, he doubted it ever would be. Finally he gauged the boy's expression, tired, that was to be expected but he was looking for something else.
When looking into one's eyes, there is literally a spark of light staring back at you. The way an eye catches light shows you the essence behind. A single candle can reflect a thousand fold in live eyes, the spirit shining and lighting up the darkness around him, with a brilliance like no other. For others, the brightest of days can not ignite that ember, and while that person lives, they are dead, with no depth or meaning to that existence.
Chamberlain feared for that spark, he feared one day he would no longer see it. In himself, in Tom, in any of them. So he searched his brother's eyes, the younger man holding his gaze but still unsure of the Colonel's reasoning in all this.
He was about to say something when Chamberlain found what he was looking for. Though the Lieutenant was exhausted on most accounts, he'd snapped to attention when Chamberlain had felt the need to inspect him. Sunlight fell through the tent flaps, hitting the Colonel's tin cup, and then bouncing up into the young officer's countenance. Though he was no longer the cheeky troublemaker, Chamberlain could see it lying dormant. Tom took his job seriously, was most likely in shock over the last days events, but the Colonel could see it. He could see the impetuous youth, waiting for the Lieutenant to digest what had taken place there in Gettysburg. It would return, but not in such an inappropriate time. They were grieving, but Chamberlain took comfort in what he'd seen.
Before parting, he pulled the younger man towards him and embraced him tightly. Standing back once more he let his arms fall to his sides and smiled slightly at his brother's expression.
Tom raised a brow, "Lawrence, next time you go rhetorical college professor on me, let me know in advance."
Ahh, there was that impetuous speech. A teasing gleam showing through the solemn expression.
"Rhetorical college professor?"
Tom blinked a few times. "You get this look-" He gestured helplessly, "When you think about certain things."
"Like on the hill-" The Lieutenant looked up, that gleam receding slightly, which only added to Chamberlain's interest. It was like a new challenge, judge his brother's mood by gauging his eyes. He realized what Tom had said, the conversation taking a turn he wasn't sure he was ready to take.
"I didn't realize you were so perceptive Tom."
The Lieutenant met his gaze seriously, "I pay attention."
He raised a hand slowly, resting it on the younger man's shoulder. It was hard to think that Tom was no longer the eighteen year old that gave him a hard time on their hunting expeditions. They'd both seen things that would change their views of the world and fellow men forever.
As long as he saw that spark, he knew everything would be alright. He knew, though, that when the war ended, there wouldn't be a full return to what they'd been before. If nothing else, he hoped they did see this war to the end. He couldn't imagine any other outcome, and he'd watch, he'd continue to watch out for the younger man. He pushed back any taunting thoughts at that, he didn't feel like grappling with his own conscience at the moment. What's done is done, and he decided at that moment that for the rest of the war he'd be more careful. He only hoped in the heat of battle he would remember that vow.
Because he couldn't imagine seeing that spark die.