AN: One-Shot. Some point post-movie. Charlie attempts suicide, Nathan intervenes.

And yes, I'm continuing my trend of naming my Charlie Bartlett fics after Cat Steven lyrics.

…X…

…Did it Take Long to Find Me?...

…X…

It takes one phone call, one startled gasp from his daughter, one look at her suddenly pale face as she drops the phone, one word from her lips as she meets his eyes…

...and then his jacket is in his hand and he's scrambling for his keys and forcing a promise from her that she'll stay as he runs for the door.

Because the one-sided conversation he'd heard as Susan paced the house had been enough for him to realize what was at stake, and his name "Charlie" falling from her lips had been the motivation, and as he forces the keys into the ignition and starts down the road too fast, not fast enough all he can think about is how—how he's going to do it, how he's going to find him, how late he might be—and then he realizes he hasn't even thought about why and he's pretty sure there's something wrong with that.

He's at the house—the mansion—before his mind can catch up with his body, and he's scaling the fucking fence like some idiot seventeen-year-old because there is no time and when Marilyn finally opens the damn door he half-shoves past her, explanations falling haphazardly from his mouth because she doesn't matter, all that matters is the ticking hand of the clock and the boy that must be somewhere in this house.

"Charlie!" he yells, running up the staircase, Marilyn trailing behind, finally replacing some of that confusion for worry, "Charlie, where the hell are you?"

And she points, her hand shaking, to the door at the end of the hall, the door that's still closed for all the yelling, all the pounding.

"Charlie," he whispers, and now he's running down the hallway, and trying the handle that he already knows is locked.

"Break it," she breathes before he even can finish turning to look at her, and he nods, because he knows, now, that the sudden all-consuming fear is catching, and perhaps more importantly, the possibility is so very real despite the way everyone's so steadfastly ignored it. The wood hurts when he runs his shoulder into it, but by now his mind has run away with his body and he's already inches from it again before he's even properly processed the pain of the first time.

"Charlie!" he shouts, and the door slams inwards and he barely catches his balance as he stumbles through the door. The lights are off and the room is dark and it takes him a breathless moment of searching before he finds and flips the switch, bathing the room in light that is too harsh.

The door on the other side is shut.

One minute later his shoulder is continuing its purple decorations and it's swinging open, and he drops to his knees beside the boy, grabbing the towels hanging from the side of the shower and pressing them tightly against the gashes.

There's blood on the floor, a handprint of it on the edge of the bathtub.

Marilyn stumbles backwards and he yells for her to call an ambulance. Her answer is mostly incoherent, but he's a bit too busy at the moment to worry about her.

Charlie's eyelashes flutter, and finally they lift open to look him in the eye.

"M'ster Gar'ner," he half-slurs, the corner of his mouth tugging up.

"Charlie," Nathan manages, his voice level, his eyes furious.

"Why're you here?" Charlie frowns, and then looking down seems to realize that the older man is holding him tightly, and the red-tinged towels that are snug against his wrist. "Get out," he whispers, eyes shutting again.

"Look at me," Nathan orders, and his voice is firm and hard and edging towards rage and reluctantly Charlie's eyes open, blinking repeatedly in an attempt to focus on the man above him. "What were you thinking?" he asks, and his voice is more bitter than he was expecting it to be.

"I don't…" Charlie starts, but trails off, trying and failing to suppress the tears that are starting to escape from his eyes.

"That's not good enough," Nathan growls, and can't stop himself from giving the boy a little shake. "What were you thinking?"

"I…di'nt have a gun," Charlie whispers, eyes darting up to meet Nathan's now-furious ones.

"No," Nathan says, and he's not sure if it's meant to be a question or a statement or a command and all he really does know for certain is that this is not only completely unacceptable, he's not going to allow it. Any of it. "No," he repeats.

Charlie's eyelids are getting heavier and his tongue isn't working how it's supposed to, but he still manages to look up at Nathan and whisper, "Why?"

But Nathan doesn't have a why, and really, why doesn't matter, only how, and he's not sure if that's how it's supposed to be but that's how it is, and that's all he really cares about right now.

Dimly he can hear sirens, and then Charlie is being pulled out of his arms and he's following them all downstairs, and while Marilyn is the one in the ambulance and the one by his bed and the one who's waiting, and while Susan goes from devastated to furious and determined, Nathan is pacing the hallway and making calls and figuring out how—how he's going to fix this, how's he going to fix the boy, how it's all going to be better.

He doesn't question why—why this boy, this family, why someone else can't help, why this is so important to him—because the answer is too simple and too complex and too easily explained by Charlie's dark, anguished eyes looking up at him from a smiling face.

And he can feel the echo of the boy's weight against his outstretched arm, and the rattle of the diving board that has too often haunted his dreams, and the hopeless persistence in the boys words, and really, there never was any question that it would be him, Nathan, standing outside the door with the bruised shoulder and the battered heart.

"Charlie?" he asks softly, cracking open the hospital door, and Marilyn looks between the two of them and with a silent nod leaves them alone with the white walls and the harsh white light.

"Mr. Gardner," Charlie acknowledges, eyes glancing up before returning to the bandages that are wrapped around his wrists.

"Not pills," Nathan says thoughtfully, and unwillingly Charlie looks up, the barest trace of a smile on his lips.

"I'm not so much into the poetic death scene," he says. "And before you ask, I'd had a few too many nightmares to try a gun."

Nathan meets Charlie's eyes squarely despite the sting of the statement.

"Well," he says, "I guess you'll understand when I start growing a beard in lieu of touching a razor."

Charlie looks away.

"You weren't supposed to be there," he explains, except it isn't really an explanation at all, and they both know it.

"We've kind of gotten into the habit of interrupting each other at inopportune times, haven't we?" Nathan offers, this time bringing up the past on his own, eyes pinning Charlie in place.

"But…you weren't going to kill yourself," Charlie frowns, and Nathan's nods solemnly.

"And why not?" he asks, as if they're both in school and a grade no doubt rests as the end of the answer.

"You have too many responsibilities," Charlie finally responds, giving every indication of rolling eyes without actually rolling them. Nathan sits there, considering, before finally leaning in.

"You're one of them," Nathan tells him, watching for the exact moment that Charlie's eyes widen, for that slight intake of breath that he knows is coming. "And I'm going to get you through this," he finishes.

And Charlie starts to open his mouth to ask why, but then he realizes, distractedly, that why doesn't really matter. Why doesn't really mean anything at all. So instead, half-stuttering, half-fearing the answer, Charlie looks up at the man that's finally sitting down beside him, and offers up his fear and his hope in one breathless whisper.

"How?"

Finis


AN: Oh, my two broken boys...lol. Hope you enjoyed! Love, Wolfie!