Story: Unasked questions
Main characters: Charlie and Don
Warnings: death fic.
Summary: Charlie has an annoying habit of ignoring phone calls and disappearing. He also works for more than one agency. Before anyone knows two cases collide in a brutal way.
It had been raining all night. Even now it was drizzling. It almost seemed like the Earth was mourning the Mathematics professor who loved it so much.
Everybody deep down was glad that Jewish traditions required a closed casket ceremony, not that other options would have been logical.
The night of the day when Charlie was taken to the funeral home for people to say their goodbyes Don's team stayed with their leader for as long as they could leaving only well past twilight. On their way out they saw five men quietly entering the room where Charlie was. When the team returned the following morning, the men were still there, scattered around the room. Their clothes reminded Colby of days past, the clothes he had worn on several occasions: a long-sleeved midnight blue coat with a standing collar and midnight blue belt with a gold M-buckle, plain white shirt, sky blue trousers; one of them was wearing midnight blue trousers as general officers only do; they also had white gloves, and black dress shoes, numerous ribbons were consolidated on the left sides of their chests. Little was left for imagination: these men were marines and had come to stand guard by Charlie's side one last time.
Many people came and went the entire day. Unconsciously Colby sorted them all into two groups. The first group consisted of young people, obviously still students or just-graduated, Charlie's colleagues, other professors and people who must have met Charlie only on a few occasions. They were whispering among themselves, dabbing at their eyes now and then, and generally wearing their emotions on their sleeves. The second group of people was different. Every time one of them entered the funeral home, the person would take notice of all the windows and doors, positions of other people in the room. Habits that Colby still sometimes had trouble suppressing, especially being as emotionally drained as he was now. The group consisted mostly of men and only a few females. They stood still, their backs straight, shoulders drawn back and chins held up. Faces were blank, carefully blank. Trained stoic. Only several of them would close their eyes every now and then for more than a few moments, as if their emotions were too much to hold back. Strangely neither group could have been easily named to be the bigger one.
It had been a surprise for everybody that the young Mathematics professor had a living will, written when he was in his early twenties no less. The mild mannered man had asked for no eulogies during his burial, or if any for them to be short stating nothing specific about him. For some strange reason the lad had said that he was only as much as people around him. The meaning was lost even on Alan; the distraught man could only remember his son's extensive work, studies and lots of traveling all around the world at that period of Charlie's life.
The burial ceremony was mostly quiet. Colby was standing with Megan and David not far from where Don was sitting by his father. The two men were barely holding themselves in one piece.
Glancing around, the team noticed their Assistant Director standing not far away with three more FBI agents, someone they recognized to be working in Washington D.C. rather than L.A. Further inspection of the crowd around them provided even more surprises.
"Is that Robert Tompkins, Director of the NSA?" David muttered to his teammates.
Megan looked around noting the man flanked by two other men in black suits. "Seems so. I never thought he knew Charlie personally."
David looked on. "Is it just me, or is the guy behind Penfield an actual general? Can't say for sure but I think those are four stars on his shoulders."
Colby nodded trying to remain surreptitious in his own inspections. "And those two accompanying him are colonels. When did Charlie have so much to do with the military?"
"We knew he consulted with the NSA..." David reminded his partner not really being satisfied with his own answer and wishing somebody else would explain so many military personnel and men-in-black.
"But for all of them to come here personally..? And did you notice that most of the men in suits are wearing badges from one agency or another with black stripes across." Megan couldn't hold in the surprise about the shear number of federal, and obviously not only, agents in their dear friend's funerals.
It wasn't long before the service was over, most of the people going their ways and only a select few returning to Charlie's house for dinner.
The team was waiting for the crowd to dissipate when they overheard a conversation between two marines.
"It's not fair. We protected him in Iraq and even in Iran." A young twentish-looking marine was fuming. "We kept him safe in Afghanistan. And then they managed to lose him in L.A. of all places!"
The older man, maybe in his late forties, silently watched the kid in front of him. "You're a good marine. Your father and Charlie are proud of you. Don't throw that away." He quietly observed the young man. "Take a walk. Neither you nor I are supposed to be on this continent, let alone here. Don't forget that."
The lad took a breath, saluted his superior, turned on his heels and stalked off obviously still mad at the world around him and the unfairness of life.
The older marine took a breath and glanced in the direction of his young friend's fresh grave. He had never, not even in his nightmares, imagined to outlive the mild mannered constantly chattering civilian.
"Excuse me. You knew Charlie?" The man turned to see a female FBI agent standing in front of him. Most of the people in black suits had their agencies' badges with black strips across them visible on their clothes.
"He was like a younger brother for me for over a decade." The man got a faraway look in his eyes for a few moments. "I'm sorry, Charlie was a family in everything but blood to most of us."
The team was stunned. Colby was the first one to recover. "It's just that he never mentioned any of you. Or even knowing anyone from anywhere in the military. Or most of the other agencies, except for a few. Charlie definitely had a good heart, but he couldn't keep a secret no matter what."
The man smiled, "oh, but if only you knew the hundredth of what he omitted." The smile grew into a smirk. "I suppose unlike you, I am on first name basis with every single person who came here today. Or at least the higher ups." The team's jaws were ready to drop. The man shrugged. "Time goes and times change. And Charlie was with us every single step of the journey." David clearly wanted to ask something, but the man was not to be interrupted. Deep sadness, regret and pain briefly flashed in his eyes. "You spent half a decade working with Charlie. But after today, seeing these men and women here, not somebody else but them personally. I give you a question, answer it for yourselves: how much, honestly, do you know about Charlie, the person he was and the life he lived?"
The man took a step backwards, nodded with a grim smile on his face, saluted his young friend's grave, turned around and disappeared in the drizzle.