I sat in the garage, staring straight ahead. I shouldn't be here. I knew that, but I couldn't bring myself to leave.
Bringing me out of my barely conscious state, my father rushed into the room.
"Charlie! I just got a phone call from Megan. What's going on? She said they were worried about you. I didn't even know you were here."
"They shouldn't be worried about me." I said quietly, still staring straight ahead.
"Come on. Let's go to the hospital." Dad said, as he gently dragged me to my feet.
Dad drove us in silence to the hospital. I stared out the window. It was all I could do to keep images of what had just happened from flooding through my mind.
Megan and I were in the FBI van, prepared to help if we were needed. Megan would go in, but I would stay behind if something came up. I was just there to help if they needed my mathematical skills.
I watched Don carefully. I had brought the team here. This was where they were supposed to find an illegal meth lab.
Don, David, and Colby, along with their team, moved along the side of the house.
It was then that things got bad.
An explosion went off inside the house. The men all ran away as fast as they could. I nearly screamed out, but Megan put a hand across my mouth to silence me.
Slowly, I saw Don and the rest of them come into view. They all looked okay, thankfully.
They came rushing toward the vans, knowing they had been spotted.
That's when I heard the sound of shots being fired.
Megan pushed me down to the floor of the van. She took out a bullet proof vest from behind one of the seats and threw it on me.
She took out her walkie-talkie.
"We need back up. We're on Walnut Street. Back up! Now!" She screamed.
Suddenly, as I looked up from my spot on the floor, I saw Don run out into the yard, shooting as he did so. It was then that he was shot down.
I bit the sleeve of my shirt to keep from screaming and crying.
The firing stopped. David and Colby ran and got Don and put him in the van in front of us.
"He'll be okay, Charlie." Megan reassured me.
Knowing how stupid I was, I opened the door to the van and ran the five miles to our house.
End of flash back
Dad got out of the car, and slowly, I followed.
We sat in the waiting room. I couldn't tell my father was speaking, and I knew he was talking to me. But I couldn't hear him.
A doctor came out. He said somethings, too, but I didn't hear a word of it.
Dad grabbed me by the arm and led me down a hallway.
We went inside a room and Don was inside. He had a cast on his arm. He looked pale and lifeless.
I couldn't bear to see this again. No one understood how I can't take this.
So I turned, and I ran once more until I got home.
I threw myself into the garage and I started doing the only thing I could do in a time like this.
I worked on math.
I watched as Charlie ran out of the hospital room.
"Charlie!" I called after him from the hallway, but he was gone.
Megan had said he ran away from the crime scene where Don was shot at. He hadn't spoken a word since I found him in the garage, and I didn't think he listened to what I was saying to him.
I walked back into Don's room. I sat by his side for an hour, and then he woke up.
"Dad?" He said groggily as he blinked a few times before focusing on me.
"I'm here, Donnie." I said, taking his right hand in mine, since his left arm was broken.
"I don't know all the details, but Megan said you were shot at, but the bullet proof vest protected you. You took a nasty fall, though, and broke your left arm. Other than that, and a few burns from an explosion, you should be fine."
"Where's Charlie? He was there! Is he okay?" Don said anxiously.
"I don't know where he is. He ran off about an hour ago."
"I don't know. He ran away from the crime scene, too. It scared Megan to death, but she knew he was okay since David had shot down the shooter. She didn't know that at the time, though."
"Damn it Charlie. He's going to get himself killed one of these times!" Don cursed.
"Donnie, listen to me. Your brother was there when you got shot down. He's traumatized right now. You would be the same way if you saw him get shot down, wouldn't you?"
"Do you think he'll be okay?" Don asked after a few minutes.
"I think so... if you're there to help him."
The equations spilled from my brain and onto the chalkboards. Everything I was thinking about I wrote down, math wise that is. I heard nothing. I saw nothing else. This was all there was.
I had stayed awake the whole night long. I didn't have classes, since it was spring break, so I didn't bother leaving the garage for anything. I had all I needed right at my fingertips: chalkboards.
I wrote, I erased, and I solved. I worked through equations I'd done a thousand times before. I found 243 digits to pi. And most of all, I didn't think about Don and Dad.
On what I believed to be the third day I had been in the garage, Dad stepped into the garage.
"Charlie? Are you all right?" He asked gently as he stepped into the room.
"Don't touch anything." I barked when he reached out to one of the chalkboards. He flinched back.
"Charlie. . . what's gotten into you? Don's been asking for you. He's getting out of the hospital tomorrow morning. You should go see him."
"Can't stop." I muttered as I wrote furiously.
"I brought you a sandwich." Dad said as he set it on the table.
"Can't stop." I repeated.
Dad left the room and I continued my work. No one could stop me. Not even Don.
I sat lazily on the hospital bed, waiting on Dad to pick me up.
Just as I thought I'd go crazy waiting, Dad stepped into the room.
"Hey, Pop! You ready to go?" I asked, but I noticed how bad he looked.
"Pop? What's wrong?"
"Charlie's locked himself into the garage. He won't come out. I went in to see him last night and he barely spoke to me. He's doing it again." Both of us knew what "it" was. It was what he had done when our mother was dying. It's what he always did during troubling situations. It was math.
"Well, come on. Maybe I can talk some sense into him. Maybe all he needs is to see me up and about."
"I hope so, Donnie."
We drove back to Charlie and Dad's house. Dad went inside to make some lunch, and I went to the garage.
I hadn't realized how bad it was until I went into the garage. Writing was all over the place. I was surprised Charlie hadn't written on himself by Don.
"Hey, buddy. What're you doing?" I asked as I got closer.
"Can't stop." He mumbled, his back to me.
I walked closer to him.
"Charlie, come on, man. Talk to me. What's going on?"
This time Charlie didn't even acknowledge me.
I walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. I was surprised when he screamed out.
"Stay away!" He screamed, backing himself into a corner of the garage.
"Charlie, I'm not going to hurt you." I tried touching him again, but he sank down to the floor and curled into a ball.
I backed away from him. His behavior reminded me of a caged animal.
I got out of the garage as fast as I could.
Dad turned when I walked into the kitchen.
"How'd it go?" He asked, looking hopeful.
"Dad... there's something wrong with Charlie."
No one understood. No one ever understood. They think I'm going crazy, but this is my way of dealing with stress.
I had covered the room twice by now and I had to erase once more so I could get a third covering in.
People stepped into the room. People talked to me. But I didn't even know it half the time.
A week after Don was hurt, I had a nervous breakdown.
I was in the middle of an equation. I had done it countless times before, but for some reason, I couldn't solve it this time.
Frustrated not just by the equation, but by what had happened, I kicked a table over. I screamed out in anger. I punched the chalkboard with my fist. I threw papers around the room. I ripped some to pieces. Then, I ended with the wall. I forced it to break, but when it wouldn't move against my pounding, I collapsed to the floor and cried.
Charlie was starting to scare me.
He hadn't eaten or drank anything in a week. He hadn't spoken for five days. It was really starting to worry me and Dad.
I came to the garage bringing a plate with some fruit, a sandwich, and a glass of orange juice. I doubted Charlie would even notice.
When I opened the garage door, I was scared by what I saw. The whole room was a mess. Papers were scattered all around, a chalkboard was knocked over, and a table was on its side. What scared me was the smeared blood on the wall.
"Charlie!" I exclaimed when I saw him collapsed on the floor.
I rushed over to his side after setting his plate and glass down.
I stooped beside him.
"Charlie? Charlie, are you okay?" I asked as I lifted his limp body to a sitting position.
"Why me, Don?" He asked, looking up with haunting eyes at me. His cheeks were sunken in and his eyes were blood shot from lack of sleep.
"Why what, buddy?" I asked, thankful he was speaking. His voice was hoarse from lack of use.
"I can't do this." He said quietly, backing away from me and hugging himself.
"Charlie, I'm right here. We're fine. Nothing happened to me."
"Nothing happened to you. But what about me?"
He stared up at me again with those frighteningly haunting eyes.
"Everyone has reassured me that you're okay. I know that. But I don't think I am."
"It's okay. I don't expect you to understand. I saw you get shot down. I thought that you were dead. I don't want to have to see someone else I love die, Don."
"Charlie, I'm right here. Nothing's going to happen to me."
"You don't know that! I wish people could see that not everyone is going to be fine! Mom said she would! Look what happened to her!" Charlie screamed from the standing position above me. I stood, too.
"Charlie, listen to me. I know what I'm doing. I'll be okay."
"No you won't! I'm the youngest, remember? Meaning I have a higher chance of living to see you and Dad die! What will I do then? Who will take care of me then? I'll be alone, Don. Alone!"
Charlie started shaking. He backed up, into the corner of the garage.
"I can't do this, Don." He said as he began to sway.
I started for him, but it was too late. He fell to the ground with a loud thud.
"Charlie!" I exclaimed as I reached his side.
I picked him up and leaned him against my shoulder.
He looked up at me. I was thankful he was conscious.
"I can't go through it again, Don. Please, don't make me go through it again." He begged as he buried his face in my shirt.
I wrapped my arms around him. My left arm was awkwardly thrown around his shoulder because of the cast.
Dad came walking in the room.
"What happened?" He asked as he rushed to our side.
"Let's go to the hospital, Dad." I said as I lifted Charlie's limp body into my arms.
Charlie continued to hide his face in my shirt. Dad opened the car door for us and he got in behind the wheel and drove us to the hospital.
They took Charlie back as soon as we got there, for in that time Charlie had lost all consciousness.
It didn't take long for a doctor to come out though.
"Charlie is doing fine. We put him on some floods and a feeding tube just to make things go quicker. He suffers from dehydration and exhaustion, along with lack of proper nutrition."
"We figured as much." Dad muttered.
"He can go home tomorrow, provided he get the proper nutrition in him."
"Thank you, doctor." I said.
We followed him to Charlie's room.
When Dad and I entered the room, Charlie looked at us, really looked at us for the first time in about a week.
He reached out his arm to us, and broke down in tears.
Dad sat on the bed beside Charlie and took him in his arms. Dad rocked Charlie back and forth as Charlie cried. Dad kissed the top of Charlie's head.
I sat on the other side of Charlie and rubbed his back.
Charlie finally leaned back and looked at me.
"I was so scared, Don." He said quietly before hugging me tightly.
I hugged him back.
Charlie explained to Dad what was wrong and Dad hugged Charlie once more.
"We're here for you, son. We're not going anywhere anytime soon."
"You don't know that." Charlie cried.
"Yes, I do."
"Because I know that your mother is protecting the three of us. She'll make sure we don't go before any of us are ready. So I'll be here for a while."
Then Charlie looked to me for reassurance.
"I'll be here, too, buddy. I promise you."
Charlie leaned back on the bed and closed his eyes.
"Get some rest, kiddo. We'll be here in the morning."
Charlie was asleep in no time. Dad and I stood back and watched him sleep.
"I never would have thought Charlie would break down over me."
"Why not? He's your brother. He loves you, Don."
"I know. I love him, too."