Chuck went into the living-room, thinking over his crossword puzzle. Jenny came in, with a cup of coffee for him. She sat down on the sofa next to him.
"It seems as if he is a tough nut to crack." she said.
"Yes, and I don't know how to cure him from his fantasy that he is responsibility for everything." he sighed and nipped from the coffee.
"Did you tell him that this is bullshit?" she asked him.
"Not in this words, but I did."
They stayed in silence. "Did you ever think that you maybe shouldn't kid-glove him?"
Chuck looked questioning at his sister.
"Don't look at me like a car where the lights are being switched on. I meant that the sensitive way doesn't work. You must force him to see his problem and not always let him draw back into his shell."
Chuck had thought about this but hasn't dared to do so. "I'm not sure. I can't lose him likewise. I mean he was the one who brought me back to normal, when he said I can't go on like this, although it took me a few weeks to realize. He had always been there and with his behaviour he not only put me into rage, he also made me see clearer often. I can't risk losing him and the feeling of confidence." he whispered that last three words. In somehow it was embarrassing. Neil gave him, what he never had gotten from him, love, confidence, support and the most important after Paige's death, comfort.
"Can't you risk losing him because of him or because of you?"
What? What was this question supposed to mean? Because of his son or of him? Didn't he want to lose him, because he wouldn't be able to deal with it, or didn't he want to lose him, because Neil deserved it to life? Chuck had no idea how to answer this question. He took Neil's presence as granted, in somehow. Did he all this because of Neil or because he was afraid of remaining lonely in a house, too huge for one person; and useless because he wasn't able to help his wife and maybe his youngest and because he had forced his oldest son to fight against him.
"Chuck, you only can help Neil, if you know what he means to you." Jenny dragged him out of his thought.
"I don't know." he answered, ashamed that he couldn't answer one of the easiest questions of the world. Jenny didn't keep on with her way of asking him. She gave him time to think.
Did Neil only mean a helping hand to him or was there more? Was Neil just the genius without whom they probably wouldn't be able to save the world, or did he mean something to him more than that? He had to think of Neil who couldn't wait to see the world and thus decided to come into the world a few months earlier than planned, this little boy, who couldn't have been happier, when his Dad or his Mum spent a few minutes with him, to explain or show him something new. He had to think of these big, brown eyes, which had been curious about every little secret the world had hid for him to explore, and how this gift made him and Paige learn, to see the world as a huge treasure. This little boy, who was always laughing, it was for sure that Neil always had been a little cheeky-monkey, but a loving one. With this bright memory came those of the nights when he and Paige set in their bed, thinking about a plan how they could offer more time to this boy, because again they had neglect him. They never had found one. But in somehow Neil didn't need them. He always was occupied with something. He was able to watch a frog for hours and if the weather had been bad he found enough interesting things in the house. He never made trouble, neither in school nor at home. Maybe this impression made them blind about the urgency of such a plan. But when Neil turned form a quiet boy, eager to learn into a rebel, who was against everything, it had been too late. But still this time wasn't only bad, despite alcohol, drugs, long parties and skipping school, there had been moments in which the warm-hearted and smart boy was able to force his way through this shell. When he comforted his Mum after she got to know that her mother had been ill. And even after Neil had turned into a much too adult and calculating man, he never had been able to hide his warm-hearted soul. Was it that what Neil meant to him? That this boy, no matter how hard he tried to hide it sometimes, was the most warm-hearted and undemanding person he knew? Was it this little boy what Chuck tried to save? This little boy who, no matter how hard days were, always found a way through it? Always found a solution and always showed him that there were not only rainy days? Yes it was. Chuck wasn't able to think of a life without this cheeky-monkey, who cares more of everyone else then for himself. He wasn't able to think of a life without him, as he hasn't been able to think of a life without Paige. This cheeky-monkey, who was too afraid to show his feelings because he was frightened that someone could hurt him again, like they always did. This little boy, who was too afraid to show his feelings because he was afraid, one could see through his shell. He never let someone look through it because he must have the feeling of never being right. Not for them, not for his former friends, for anybody. No, he didn't want to save Neil just because of himself. Neil was more for him than just a helping hand, as he had to recognize now. The only question remaining was why he hadn't thought about that before, why hadn't he recognized that Neil was more for him before? Maybe he belonged to those persons who must be faced with the fact that something they took as granted might not be there for ever, to realize the real value they had for him. The only problem was how he could make it clear to Neil that he was not only a burden, a liar and a good for nothing for him? He began to feely lousy. If he had known earlier what Neil meant to him, maybe Neil never had gotten the feeling being responsible for every shit. He wouldn't blame himself for other people hurting him and maybe he wouldn't try everything to hide himself.
"Why don't we appreciate the presence of people until it's too late?" he asked his sister.
"It's not too late!" she answered up set.
"Yeah, maybe. But he's rejecting me and I have no idea how I can reach him. Probably I thought wrong when I felt I knew him better, than those shrinks."
"You can't throw in the sponge now! You have to help him I know you can."
Chuck just sat there. He had the feeling as if the whole thing had been one of the biggest mistakes he could have done. He had the feeling as if he had already lost Neil for ever. He had to think about the scenes, when he had tried to talk to Neil. Neil had behaved as if he had been one of his biggest enemies and he was right. In somehow Chuck ever had been an enemy for Neil. He had hurt him, he had threatened him and he had called him a liar. He gave him a lot of reason which forbid him to trust his father.
"Chuck, listen. Neil still is here, in this house. He could have run through the front door and never come back. But he is still here. Don't you think that this is a sign? Don't you ever think that his behaviour might be a cry for help? A cry for your attention, like his rebel-behaviour had been?" she asked him intensely.
"And why doesn't he let me help, if it this is what he wants?" he yelled at his sister. It wasn't because of what she had said. It was, because he had no idea how to help his son and it was because he was angry of himself, because he hasn't seen his son's despair earlier, he hasn't been able to prevent this, although he knew what demons lived inside of Neil.
"Chuck you can't chicken out only because it's going to be more complicated than you've thought before." she looked into his eyes, to show him the importance of what he had to do.
She was right. He had to fight for his son, for what he was. He had to save him from a change he would regret later. Neil needed him he just wasn't able to tell him this. The demon inside hindered him. He stood up.
"What are you going to do?" Jenny asked.
"I go and tell him that he has to stop this bullshit and that he has to start trusting me."
"That's exactly what I tried to tell you the whole time."
"Yes and maybe he has more in common with me I would wish he had." with these words he went back to Neil. Chuck was sure about what he had to do and how he wanted to do it. He had to tear down the brick wall Neil had build around him over years, also when it meant being rude.
He went into Neil's room, but what he found was a shock. Neil sat on his bed. Blood pouring out of cuts he inflicted upon himself a few seconds ago.
"What the hell are you doing?" he screamed at his son while he took the razorblade lying on the bed.
"Neil, tell me what are you thinking while you're doing this?" he didn't stop screaming. He was up set. He had thought that Neil might have learned a little, but he still was in the same bad condition he had been before he was send to hospital.
Neil was shocked, when his father entered the room. Panic arose inside of him, when he began to scream and than hate. Hate for what his Dad had done to him, hate because he was thinking he could treat him like nothing.
Chuck got closer to Neil, who got up from his bed. Neil tried to avoid him, but Chuck didn't give him a chance to run away. He grabbed his arms. Neil jostled him back. Chuck wondered how much strength still was left in this mistreated body. He was sure that he was going to carry away some bruises form this.
"Don't touch me!" Neil hissed. His voice was ice cold. He wouldn't allow his father to treat him like puppet.
Chuck noticed that Neil was looking for a way to escape out of this situation. He started a new attempt to catch a grab at Neil's arm, but it wasn't that easy. Neil defended himself with all his force he had left.
"Neil, damn it, I don't want to hurt you." Finally Chuck prevailed Neil. He held him tight, so that he wasn't able to defend himself. Neil turned his head away. He didn't want to see his father's face.
"Tell me, why are you doing this?" Chuck still screamed and foreboded at the cuts in his son's arms. He wanted to make clear to Neil that he was in a dangerous situation, but he had no other method to do so, than screaming.
Neil still didn't answer. He had no answer to this question. He had no idea, why he was doing all this.
"What leads you to something like this?" Chuck still had raised his voice, as if he thought Neil wouldn't understand him otherwise.
Neil wasn't able to answer.
"Why do you still think you're to blame for all this?" Chuck asked him intensely. He bombarded his son not with questions, but with facts.
"Why have you to hurt yourself so bad?"
Neil tried to get out of his father's grip. But the more he fought, the tighter became the grip.
Chuck felt that Neil wanted to run away, but he wouldn't allow him doing so.
"Why do you do this?"
He turned his head away. He felt how his father's grip became tighter and tighter.
Chuck tried to make Neil aware of his presence, of the fact that he had a problem. Only when Neil saw that his behaviour wasn't right, he was able to see his problem.
"Why do you do this?" No, he wouldn't stop asking until he got an answer.
All of a sudden fury arose inside of Neil. What was his father thinking? He always hurt him without regrets, but if Neil tried to prevent his father from hurting him, he was blamed for that? He didn't understand his father. No, he understood him. His father wanted to hurt him on his own and now he had no chance to do so, because Neil had forestalled him.
"Why do you do this?" Chuck wanted an answer. He had to prevent Neil committing suicide a second time. It would be his end. If he allowed him to do it again there would be no chance to win him back and there would be no chance for his son, to live again. He had to save Neil from himself.
"Neil, I don't want to have to treat you, like those from the hospital, so you'd better talk to me now!"
Neil lost patience. He wanted his father leaving him alone, as he usually did. He didn't want these questions and he didn't want to talk.
"Where is your problem?" Neil screamed back to his father. "You were all allowed to hurt me after I've messed it up, but I'm not? This is my body, so YOU shouldn't be allowed to hurt me, but you were!" He screamed. With every word he screamed he felt how his feelings found their way out of the depth of his soul onto the surface. He tried to keep them inside, but it was hard to do so. He didn't want to scream, but his feelings forced him to do so. He had no control over them anymore. His head wasn't working for him as usual. His feelings had the control over him, his body, his behaviour.
"We weren't allowed to do so." Chuck answered in a calm voice. He had the feeling as if he had reached the edge from which it was about Neil to do the rest of the work. He had shown him the way how to let out, what he had buried over years, deep down in his soul. Now it was Neil's job to let it go.
"But you all did. Again and again, no matter how I felt!" The strain left his body. He had screamed out all his feelings, which had torn and gnawed on his soul over years. The burden he had carried over years dropped down. These few words brought to surface, what he had buried deep down inside year after year. Feelings he never wanted to show anyone, because he had been afraid of them. Feelings he just wanted to forget. These feelings, which had made him suffering that much over years, because he hasn't allowed them, were out now. He began to feel weak. He wasn't able to keep up the shell he had built up to save himself from being hurt. Why? What he was most afraid of had happened, why should he keep on holding upright his shell? Now it didn't matter anymore what was going to happen. Again he had lain himself open to an attack. He would submit to it.
Chuck felt how the tension left his son's body. "You're right, but we were all not allowed to do so." he had to calm his son down, to give him security.
"But you did." Neil whispered now. He had no strength left. His knees gave way and he slumped down.
Chuck still held Neil's arms to prevent him from hitting the floor. Neil's body now was all of a shake.
"We weren't allowed to do so." Chuck answered again.
Neil felt that the shell he had built around himself was torn down, but with the exhaustion a huge relief spread through his body. After he had said those words it seemed as if the burden he carried on his heart was gone in somehow. He wasn't afraid of his father or about that he might hurt him. He didn't even felt hate for him. In the moment there was nothing what he felt despite sadness. Sadness about his father who had lost so much over the last year, sadness about his mother who had to die much too early, sadness about his brother and what this time travel forced him to do, sadness about everything Sarah, Angela and Kurt who had to suffer from so much over the last year, sadness about more or less everything.
"And why did you do so?" he asked and looked into his father's eyes. They weren't cold or full of hate. They were inspiring confidence, a feeling he had missed much too long over years.
"We didn't know it better?" Chuck tried to find an explanation, but he had none. None which could apologize what they had done. He looked back into his son's eyes, reflecting sadness, but they had reached their warmth back. He saw how they were filling with tears.
He took him into a tough embrace. He wanted to save him. Save him from getting hurt again. He wanted to save him from the demons which had followed him for so long. He wanted to show him, to let him feel that he was okay the way he was and that nobody would hurt him again that he would never hurt him again, that Neil hasn't to be afraid of his father hurting him again.
"It wasn't your fault. I should have realized that we were wrong. We should have realized that." Chuck tried to let Neil know that all this hadn't been his fault. He wasn't the one to be blamed for. No, it had been his own fault that everything turned out that way and the worse thing of all; he couldn't acquit Paige from this fault. They should have cared more for this little boy, to see that he wasn't a normal child, to see that he was special. They could have prevent all this if they had seen all this, if they had seen who Neil was in reality, if they had seen all this, they could have helped him, Chuck was sure about that.
"Neil, can you promise me one thing?" again he looked into his son's eyes. "Never try again to hurt yourself okay!? Nobody is worth for something like that."
Neil didn't answer.
"Promise me." Chuck kept on. Then he looked in his son's eyes and again met with this helpless look that reminded him of the little boy he had been.
"I can't." Neil answered, not sure how to explain his Dad, what goes on inside of him, when he reacted like this. "I mean…I wouldn't do this if it was just a kind of decision…it's not…I can't control this, so how can I promise something?" He felt ashamed of how he had behaved the last days. He felt as if he had acted liked a little child. He felt uncomfortable because of that. He wasn't a teenager anymore he should have found another way.
"Then you have to control it." Chuck wanted to encourage Neil, but soon he had to figure out that this wasn't working.
"If it was that easy, I already would have done so." he tried to explain his father, "I mean… I…" He nearly whispered these words. He had no idea how to express what he wanted to tell his father.
Chuck noticed his son struggling for the right words. "You can't switch off year head."
Neil nodded. "It's helpful for your work at university, if reading a book doesn't take you longer than two or three hours and being able to understand, and reminding the whole stuff is not that bad as well and knowing how to handle figures and all that is really helpful for saving the world, but if your head never gives you a time out?" It was the first time Neil talked to his Dad about that. He wanted his father to understand that living with his so called "gift" wasn't as easy as all thought it was. "Pot, alcohol and what ever drugs I've taken only to get a break."
"Or your parent's help." Chuck added thoughtful. He had to admit that he never had thought about such a gift as an agony. "Can I ask a question?" Chuck asked when he realized that Neil had steadied himself again. He still was shivering, but Chuck figured that it was because of the medication, they had given to Neil. Added to that he must have been tiered, he still hasn't been able to eat a real meal or to sleep.
"Yapp." he looked at his Dad.
"I…How…?" Chuck had no clue how to ask this question without hurting his son.
Neil looked at his father and knew what he wanted to know, so he helped him by answering the question before it was asked.
"Inversion." when he saw that his father wasn't sure what he meant he went on, "Rational and logical thinking: If you get ignored when you don't make any trouble, than you have to make trouble to stop that."
"But that's such a complicated thought. I would never come to something like that on my own." Chuck stated.
"That's what I wanted to explain to you."
"I guess I understand what you mean." For a while they sat on the floor of Neil's room.
Chuck got up "I think we should clean this and put a bandage on. An inflammation is the last thing you need right now." Chuck helped Neil onto his feet. It was visible for him that this boy had not much strength left.
"I'm sorry for the trouble I'm making." again Neil felt ashamed for his behaviour, ashamed because his Dad, who had enough up to his mind, was bothered by him, who should be able to deal with his life on his own.
Chuck sighed. "Neil, you don't have to be sorry." Chuck said in a quiet, but determining voice. It felt like a striking pain through his heart, when Neil said those words. "If we had seen, what is going on in your head, we…could have found a help or something like that. We could have cared more." Chuck became sad by the thought what a little bit more attention could have prevent.
"How?" Neil asked. Chuck didn't understood what Neil meant, until he went on.
"Mum did everything in her hand to support Marc and me. It wasn't her fault that she didn't reach me. And you…you had your job, I mean NASA is not like going to work in the morning and finish work in the evening, it's not only a way to earn a living and this time I know what I'm talking about."
Again Neil was able to surprise his father with his maturity. And in one point he was right. Only with the right passion one was able to bare this heavy training, and the hard work later. Neil must have had this passion otherwise he never would have been able to go through it as if it wasn't more than a high school project. No, he knew exactly what all this meant to Neil, his first trip to space and as it seemed his last one. Watching this vocation shattering made him sad. He would have given his own health for his son's that he could live his dream. He wasn't able to imagine how hard it must have been for Neil to realize that he never would be able to enter NASA. He only knew that he had to help him to cope with this and maybe he would find something else which satisfied him, but Chuck didn't count on that. He looked at Neil. After he had talked about NASA his look had changed and Chuck understood that he wasn't able to cope with the idea to find another vocation.
"Hey, what about your studies?" Chuck began to change the topic when he saw that Neil began to feel uncomfortable.
"Ahm…" Neil was confused by this topic change but he was pleased about that. He didn't want to think about his Mum, because it hurt him too much, not about NASA, because it was hard to deal with the fact that he never would get where he once had bee and where he was contented. "It had been a child's play the first time, so it's going to be worse this time." he answered.
Chuck had to smile. He still was this cheeky-monkey.
"Would you like to come downstairs? Jenny would like to see you." he asked, maybe a little bit family comfort could help him, although there wasn't much family left.
Neil just nodded and then they both got down stairs.
Neil didn't know how long they just set in the living-room and talked about this and that, about his Mum, about the old days which seemed as if everything had been so easy then. And yes, later that day, when Jenny went to get some sleep, Neil talked about what had happened in those horrible three weeks. His father just listened, sometimes he asked him how he felt about these three weeks now and Neil told him. He told him about the horrible nightmares and his problem to understand that human beings could be cruel like that, that his brother was able to do so.
Later Chuck wanted to know if there was a difference between his attempt to cause as much pain as possible to himself this time and the time before. Yes, there was. The first time he wasn't sure, if he wanted to die. This time it seemed as if this had been the only solution. Yes, this time he really had appreciated death. Chuck told him that they would find a way to deal with what has happened and that he, from now on, would hinder his son from hurting himself. And then Neil told him what it meant, having a mind working as fast as a machine. He saw his father's astonishment when he told him that he could read sentient codes, but also his worry when he told him how this mind was able to control his whole life. Neil didn't even try to hide anything and his father listened and that was a good feeling, because in somehow his father gave him to understand that he was there now.
When he went to bed this day, it was the first time that he wasn't afraid of sleeping and it was the first night of restful and peaceful sleep since the last months.
- End -