Charlie had managed to survive the first week back at CalSci. The memorial for the twenty-one students and faculty lost almost killed him. He stood strong, though, trying to be brave for the students who survived. It was the least he could do.
It was his second week back when something inside him snapped. Worried about him, Larry called Don to come see Charlie.
Hearing the urgency in Larry's voice, Don hurried to CalSci. When he arrived, he was met immediately by Larry Fleindhart.
"Larry! What's going on? Where's Charlie?"
"He...he was in his office, but he left. Don, he's on the roof of the science building."
Taking off at a run, Don hurried to the science building. He didn't bother to look up when he made it to the front of the building, just went inside and took the stairs two, sometimes three, at a time. Reaching the top, he stopped suddenly when he got out on the roof and found his little brother standing on the edge.
"Charlie! Buddy, what are you doing?" Don asked calmly. He didn't want to scare his brother.
"I know why they did it, Don. They wanted to be remembered. People don't remember you if you're the quiet kid, who no one likes. People forget you if you never stood out in the first place. Everyone deserves to be remembered, right, Don?"
"Sure, sure, Buddy. Why don't we talk about this in your office?"
"Okay. Okay, we'll talk here." Don took a step back, so not to appear threatening.
Charlie turned back to staring down at the small people below. He could understand not wanting to be forgotten. If he had committed suicide when he was younger, no one would have remembered him either.
"It doesn't seem right that they should be forgotten. SO they decided to be remembered the only way they knew how. Even if it was the wrong way, Don, they still will be remembered now."
"Buddy, why are we talking about this? Please, come down." Don had been trained to deal with these situations, but it changed entirely when it was his brother. The book was thrown out the window, and he was ready to beg if he needed to.
"I understand, Don. I know what it feels like to want to let go. It would be so much easier, you know?"
Don gasped as Charlie's foot took a dangerous step closer to the edge. Covering his mouth with his hand, he started to cry. "Please, Buddy. Don't."
"It seems like it should be so simple, you know? Just one step and you're gone. That's all it takes, really. But they had to be more complicated, because people only remember for a short while someone who jumped off a building. I'd want to be remembered. I want my death to mean something."
Don took a cautious step forward, coming ever so closer to his brother. He couldn't let his brother go without trying to stop him. He had to bring him back to safety. Just a couple steps would do the trick.
Flinching dangerously away as Don came closer, Charlie turned to his brother. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing, just come over here. Step away from the edge, Buddy. Please."
"Don't worry. I'm not going to do anything."
Don frowned, confused. He hoped it was true, but if it was, why were they up there?
"I just wish I had helped them more, you know? Maybe if I had talked to them more, paid more attention to them. Maybe then they wouldn't be dead. Maybe then 21 students and faculty members wouldn't be dead either." Subconsciously, Charlie rubbed the spot where he'd been shot. Guilt still gnawed at him over the fact that he had survived, leaving with just a gunshot wound, when so many others had lost their lives. He didn't understand the logic in that.
"Buddy, you can't put this on yourself. You had no way of knowing they were suicidal. You're only one man, Charlie. Remember that. You can't fix all the world's problems."
"But I didn't even try!"
Don slowly stepped toward his brother. "Buddy, listen to me. You are not responsible for their deaths, or for the deaths of the people they killed. And you are certainly don't deserve to be punished because you survived. Hell, Charlie, you should be happy! You survived, Buddy. No one can blame you for that."
Standing behind his brother, Don grasped Charlie's shoulders. Charlie stood there silently for a moment as he took his brother's words in. It was true that he shouldn't be blamed, but he still felt guilty. Why him? Why did he survive when so many others hadn't? What made him so special?
"Come on, Buddy. Let's go home."
Charlie backed up, bumping into his brother. He turned and looked up at his brother with tear-filled eyes. Other people may not remember him if he was gone, but he knew one person would for sure: his big brother.
Don smiled in spite of the tears in his own eyes. He was so relieved that his brother had finally stopped. Charlie stepped back onto the main landing and hugged his brother. "Thanks, Don."
Sighing with relief, Don hugged his little buddy back. Charlie was safe. That was all that mattered.
With a protective arm across Charlie's shoulders, Don walked with his brother down the stairs and outside to his car. He had Larry cover for Charlie's remaining class, and the two headed home. That's where they needed to be.
"I was so scared, Dad. I thought for sure I was about to lose him. He looked so... detached. I thought he was really going to do it."
Alan shook his head. He found it hard to believe what had happened wit his sons. He was so glad Charlie was safe. He worried, though, about why Charlie had done it.
"Where's Charlie now?" Alan asked, looking around Don at the kitchen table, to the living room.
"He's upstairs. I wanted him to get some sleep. He looked worn out."
"Yeah, he hasn't slept well since the shooting."
"Really? Why not?"
"Don, he got shot at. I know you don't think twice about it, but this is Charlie we're talking about."
"All right, all right. I'm just saying."
Alan sighed. "I know, Donny. Why don't you go check on him?"
"Okay." Don stood from the table, trying to shake the fear of losing his brother. He figured the best way to calm his fear was to go see his little brother.
Don quietly opened the door enough for him to stick his head in to see if Charlie was sleeping. He didn't want to bother his brother, but when he saw that his brother was sleeping fitfully, he stepped inside.
Sweat left trails on Charlie's face as he trembled under the covers. Groaning, Charlie fought the covers on him. Don sat down beside his brother, looking down at him worriedly.
Charlie was dreaming of his death, surprised to find it was a suicide. He was standing on the edge of a bridge, while staring down at the ground below. He fought, trying to back up, but as he tried to back up, he moved forward. His heart raced at the idea of stepping off. Sure, it would be so much simpler if he did, but he wasn't ready to die. Charlie would endure life's sufferings. He didn't want to die yet.
Trying to hold on to the bridge's railing, Charlie reached out for something to hold onto. In reality, he had grabbed his brother's arm. He clung to the railing with both hands, tighter than he ever had, and Don quietly winced. Even though he fought to stay up, Charlie's body betrayed him and took a step, a step that took him over the edge.
Heart pumping out of his chest, Charlie watched with horror as the ground came up to meet him faster than he'd expected. Upon impact, he opened his eyes.
Shooting up in bed, Charlie woke up. His breath came fast as he looked around, making sure it really had been just a dream. He found his railing sitting beside him.
"Buddy, calm down," Don soothed as he grabbed his brother by the shoulders. Shaking, Charlie reached up and grasped Don's forearms. Gulping in each breath, Charlie focused on his brother's form. Falling forward, he fell into his older brother's arms and began to cry.
"Sh. It's okay, Buddy. I'm right here. I've got you." Don held his brother tightly. Charlie pressed his face into Don's chest, his tears wetting the front of Don's button-down shirt.
"I don't want to die, Don. I don't want to die!"
Don closed his eyes in relief. He hadn't been sure what to think since he had found his brother on the roof of the science building at CalSci. Now he knew for sure his brother hadn't been suicidal. Sometimes it was hard for Don to understand how his brother's mind worked.
"It's okay, Buddy. You're not going to die. Not on my watch."
Charlie sniffled, giving a small smile at his brother's statement.
Pushing out of his brother's arms, Charlie ran a hand under his eyes, wiping away the tears. "Thanks, Don."
Don smiled in reply, glad to be there for his brother.
"I... I think I'm okay now."
"You are?" Don asked, wondering what had changed.
"Before, I... I didn't think I deserved to survive the shooting. I didn't understand it. But I don't want to die. I want to live."
Don smiled. "I'm very glad to hear that, Buddy."
He hugged Charlie, thankful that he had his brother back again, for a moment you can't change can't be undone. You just have to learn to live with the outcomes.
Hey, guys! I am officially free from school for a month. Yay! Sorry it still took a while to update. I've still been busy, surprisingly. I hope you all enjoyed this story. I need to find a medical beta for my next long story. If anyone is willing to do that for me, or knows of one who might, let me know. 'TIl next time, see you later!