Epilogue

The door to the Eppes' house opened and laughter resounded inside, followed by Larry's voice. "I say to him: How can you seriously expect to get a good mark from me if you cannot distinguish the difference between a singularity and a nova? And he answers: There's a difference?"

Charlie closed the door, shaking his head in disbelief. "How did he even get through the aptitude tests?"

"I'd like to know that, too," Larry answered.

Alan joined them from the kitchen. "Well, just in time for dinner," he said, putting the lasagne on the table.

"I'm always on time when there's lasagne," Charlie answered.

Alan nodded with a smile. "That's true. Sit down." He got two more plates and cutlery for Larry and Amita and they sat down to eat.

"Where's Don?" Charlie asked. "Normally, he's able to smell your cooking from his office."

"He called," Alan answered, "He's coming by later. He wanted to visit Colby, first."

"We were there this afternoon," Charlie replied. Alan raised his eyebrows in question and Charlie continued, "He's fine. Just a bit bored since they released David."

"I didn't get that impression," Amita answered. "At least as long as that brunette nurse was in the room."

Larry shrugged. "Can you blame him?"

Charlie laughed. "You're into brunettes?" he asked.

Larry shrugged again, answering, "What shall I say? They exert a certain fascination over me."

"A fascination," Amita echoed questioningly.

"Brunettes like …" Charlie made a show of thinking about his sentence and then added, "… Megan?" Larry picked at his food.

Charlie stared at him waiting for a reply and Larry finally said, "Possibly. She at least made a very pleasant impression on me when we met recently."

Charlie grinned. "Go, Fleinhardt," he said.

"Hello? Anybody home?" Don asked, closing the door behind him. He joined them at the dinner table and answered his own question, "Everybody, I see."

"Get a plate," Alan said. "There's enough for everyone."

"Dad, I don't think we'll ever see the day when there's not enough," Don answered, sitting down at the table.

"It's your fault. You made him that way," Charlie answered. "Because you used to bring your friends home unannounced."

Don frowned. "I was six years old."

"And you didn't stop until you went off to college," Alan answered.

Don shook his head. "I'm not taking the blame. These are Charlie's friends." He became serious. "I talked to the public prosecutor's office. Wilder's going to do time, that's for sure. But we don't know if he'll be condemned for the kidnappings, too. Hill's going to prison for that. He's trying to pass the blame on to Steve, but … you can't talk bad about the dead. That's making a bad impression on the judge and the jury."

Charlie nodded slowly, before asking the one thing he was really interested in, "What about Kenny?"

"Well, he'll be condemned for hacking, that's for sure, but he got dragged into this whole deal by Hill and he helped to save you. That's going to help him."

Charlie ducked his head in concern. "He's so smart. He could do anything – be anything."

Don nodded. "Yeah."

XXX

When Don was alone with his brother in the kitchen doing the dishes, he said, "You know, Hailey believes that Kenny only became this way, because nobody was looking out for him." Charlie looked at him with a questioning look. "And that you would have become the same way under those circumstances."

Charlie dried a plate which hadn't fit into the dishwasher and asked, "What do you want me to say?"

Don sighed. "I don't know. I just kept thinking that I didn't really pay attention to your gift."

Charlie stopped his movements. "Mom and Dad were there for me."

"Yeah, but you didn't correct Dad's blueprints or help Mom with the housekeeping money. You did my math homework."

Charlie smiled. "At least until Mom found out."

"Charlie …" Don drained the sink and dried his hands. "I'm trying to apologize here."

"I know that. You don't have to," Charlie answered softly. Amita's laughter penetrated the kitchen door.

"Not only for that, but for everything that happened … after Mom's death."

"I think I was pretty annoying back then."

"No. You were just … I should have realized that you were grieving your own way because of Mom's death and … everything. And I shouldn't have thrown those words your way or …"

Charlie smiled. "The chalk?"

"What?" Don asked.

"You threw chalk at me," Charlie answered.

"See? I don't remember." He sighed. "I don't want to shut you out of my life, buddy. I didn't mean it that way at the time and I didn't a few days ago. And for all that … I'm sorry. You're not just a … abacus for me. This last year … was important to me. That we reconnected. And I want you to work for us."

"I know," Charlie answered. "Thanks."

"Great," Don said in relief, patting Charlie's shoulder and feeling as if he'd just ended a dangerous mission. He turned away and fetched a beer from the refrigerator. "So … when are you going to ask Amita out?" he asked.

Charlie shrugged. "Don't know yet."

Don rolled his eyes and draped an arm around Charlie's shoulders, leading him towards the kitchen door. "But you will, right?"

Charlie hesitated for a moment, and then he answered, "I will."

"Great," Don answered, opening the door. "Dad's still waiting for those grandkids, you know."

The door closed behind them.

END

JJ 06/09