A/N: Charlie Amos is not my character; he is the property of CP Coulter, authoress of Dalton, the best Glee fic ever written. I have merely used him in the creative sense and claim no rights to him at all (unfortunately!) but do claim the Finnigan twins and other unrecognizable characters.
Summary: Charlie Amos had to have been doing something while stuck in traction at the hospital. Who knew that something would be finding a new friend in a boy dying of cancer and kind of, sort of, not really, but maybe falling for his sister? Why does life always have to be the hardest thing to try to and figure out?
Channel surfing got boring after speeding through it the first twenty times. Frowning, Charlie Amos gave the remote an unceremonious drop onto his bedside table and gazed unseeingly at Food Network.
What he'd give to have some actual food.
He licked his lips as he realized Emeril was putting the finishing garnishes on a plate of true Italian spaghetti; his stomach growled.
"Hungry?" An amused voice rasped out from his left, clearly enjoying his pain. Charlie patted at his gut and rolled his head to the side to fix his roommate with a mock glare.
"Unlike some people I just can't eat through a tube every few hours." The other boy laughed as much as his shortness of breath would allow before promptly breaking into a coughing fit. Charlie stiffened slightly, his finger inching closer and closer to the emergency help button close at hand.
"You alright?" He asked, clearly concerned by the coughing.
"Yeah…I'm good." Charlie frowned at the answer, but accepted it nonetheless. Still wary, he moved his fingers from the brightly colored buttons of his bed's remote, but still maintained a safe distance in case of another almost emergency. He watched his roommate for a few more seconds before turning away so as to hide the slowly rising pity he felt inside before it could show on his face.
Donnie Finnigan was dying.
The boy only a year younger than Charlie had told him so upon his arrival.
He thought he was joking at first.
Charlie had been sure seeing how they were on the general emergency floor of the Ohio State University Medical Center. It wasn't until he asked his nurse to prove him right that he found out he was wrong; apparently the monkey pox had broken out again and rather than expose him to the virus down on the general patient floors, they had stuck him anywhere available…which just so happened to be the oncology floor.
And that was how he met Donnie.
It had freaked him out at first because of his grandfather's death years before due to the disease, but after the first few nights he found himself quite liking the quiet atmosphere.
And his roomie.
Donnie had thought it was hilarious that his roommate had been hit by a paintball cannon by the crazy boys in his dorm, something Charlie sarcastically said he'd pass along to them. From there they bonded over their mutual love of pranks and jokes to pass the time.
It was kind of cool, really.
Then Donnie got worse.
Charlie would never forget the morning he had been jolted awake by frantic voices and an annoying beeping. He remembered blinking into consciousness and vaguely registering the fact that it was only four in the morning. At first he didn't have the slightest clue as to what was happening, but quickly got the picture when he turned to ask Donnie only to find the boy surrounded by a flurry of nurses and doctors. From what he could see through the cracks in the wall of bodies wasn't a pretty sight; one that lasted with him for the remainder of the morning and well into the evening.
Donnie was having a seizure.
Charlie had been given barely any time to panic as a nurse, finally noticing him awake, snapped the curtain down its track and effectively shut off the scene from his view. He remembered listening to the frantic voices of the doctors as they threw around words like collapsed and ICU and ineffective. The next thing he knew they were wheeling his roomie out into the hall and Charlie didn't see him again until dinner time the next day.
Since then neither boy had acknowledged what had happened, but rather eased themselves back into their daily banter as though nothing had ever took place.
"Lost comes on tonight, right?" Charlie broke himself from his thoughts and only managed to pick up the tail end of the question.
"Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure it's a re-run." Charlie smiled and watched as Donnie shrugged the best he could before settling down deeper into his bed. It was things like the other boy's obsession with the TV show that made the Windsor House prefect forget he was even on the verge of death.
It was amazing how seemingly simple, yet infuriatingly complex life really was.
Charlie watched in silence as his nurse checked his charts and probed at his head.
"How are you feeling today? Any pain or other problems?"
"No ma'am." Charlie replied as he ignored the slight tingling sensation that ran through his spine as Lorrie fingered at the healing gash and stitches on his scalp; thankfully the only source of bloodshed that had resulted in his fall down two flights of stairs and impact with a potted plant.
"Great, seems like you're healing up quite nicely!" She smiled genuinely, a stark contrast to the other nurse's fake smile that usually checked him at night. "Any questions?" Charlie stared at her for a few seconds, internally debating about whether or not he should ask what had been bothering him for a better part of the morning.
Curiosity eventually won out.
"Where's Donnie?" Lorrie's smile faltered slightly as she glanced over her shoulder at the empty bed, immediately causing the teen to think the worse.
"Holy shit! He's gone?" Charlie cursed in panic, immediately causing his nurse to snap her attention back to him, her face one of surprise.
"No, no, no, nothing like that!" She assured him with a strained smile and anxious laugh as Charlie blew out a sigh of relief he didn't realize he had been holding.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have done that!" Lorrie shook her head as she offered him a pat on the shoulder and smiled again.
"Don't worry about it," Charlie waved her off gently, "and sorry about the language." He apologized, ever a Dalton boy through and through. Lorrie simply rolled her eyes and gave a slight snort, clearly implying she had heard worse in the hallowed halls of the hospital.
"Donnie's been put on a new chemo regime, so he'll be gone most of the morning, but he should be back by lunch though. Your lil' buddy will be back in no time!" She smirked, knowing full well of the budding bromance between the two boys. Charlie rolled his eyes and bit back a smile as Lorrie laughed and left the room, his chart tucked firmly beneath her arm. He settled down into the silence of the room and took up the remote to start another onslaught of channel surfing that would entertain him for twenty minutes or so. Minutes passed before the strange feeling of being watched set in and he looked towards the door to find a familiar face hovering just inside.
At least he thought the person looked familiar; strangely like Donnie.
He cocked his head to the side slightly only to find this similarity strengthened by the angling.
"Sorry to bother you, but I was looking for Donnie? This was the room number he gave me."
"Donnie?" He asked, still trying to figure out the resemblance. "Donnie Finnigan?"
"Yes, he's my brother." She smiled before biting her lip and also cocking her head so as to match Charlie's gaze. "My twin, actually."
Ah…there it was; the uncanny resemblance.
Donnie's sister had the same up turned nose and high cheekbones set into a heart shaped face. The feature that had probably thrown him off most, though, was the wheat hued hair that glinted a few shades lighter in the fluorescent lighting. Donnie himself had no hair, so really Charlie could only guess at what color he had once had.
"Yeah," He nodded, finally snapping out of his observations with a shake of his head, "he's getting chemo."
"Oh, they didn't tell me that."
"No worries, you're welcomed to stay until he gets back, though the nurse told me that probably wouldn't be until lunch time." He shrugged as he looked around the room at the beige walls and beige curtains and beige furniture and just overall beige-ness.
It really was boring as hell in there; who would willingly want to sit in it?
"That'd be great if you don't mind." She-Donnie smiled as she fully entered the room and took up occupation in the padded arm chair placed between the two beds.
"You must be Charlie." She smiled as she settled herself and crossed her legs daintily across one another.
"Charles Amos." He nodded as he formally introduced himself and reached over to shake her hand with his un-fractured arm. It was slightly awkward, but she accepted it gratefully as she looked at him with a cerulean gaze.
"Sawyer Finnigan, pleasure to finally meet you; I've heard good things." She smiled again as Charlie let go her hand and shook his head, his face scrunched up as he began to wonder just what the girl already knew about him.
"What do you mean by 'good things'?" He asked somewhat sheepishly as Sawyer smirked gently and shook her head.
"Let's just say it must be a twist of fate you ended up in here with Donnie. I don't think I've ever known of anyone else as destructive as him." She shook her head as though she still couldn't believe it, something that caused him to wince slightly.
"I'm going to take that as a compliment." He sighed, cheeks slightly pink as he thought back over all the things he had told Donnie about Dalton and Windsor in general.
"Don't worry; Donnie's not as innocent as he may seem. He keeps the really juicy antics we've done to himself."
"Thanks." And he really did appreciate it. Sawyer nodded in agreement and together their gazes drifted towards the muted TV screen, neither quite sure as to where to take the conversation. Charlie had just been mulling over what to say next when Lorrie thankfully popped her head into the room.
"Miss Finnigan?" She asked, eyeing the teen girl with a smile.
"Yes?" Charlie watched as Sawyer rose from her seat and grabbed at her bag. "Is something wrong?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that. Donnie just asked me to see if you were here yet; he'd like you to sit with him during his chemo."
"Oh!" Sawyer smiled as she took off for the door only to stop half way and turn back to the patient in the bed.
"Guess I'll be seeing you around, Charlie." The boy in question merely nodded with a smile and waved her off, all while trying to convince himself that he didn't really like the way she said his name with some more than usual emphasis on the –ar.
Who was he kidding?
"So I met your sister." Donnie looked up from the BMX magazine he was paging through to stare at Charlie with a blank expression.
"Really?" He asked with an equally blank tone.
"Yeah," Charlie nodded, "yesterday. She seems cool."
"Oh." Well that was unexpected; how were you supposed to interpret that? Charlie watched his roommate closely as he continued to stare at him. Was it just him or was Donnie actually at a loss for words?
"You alright, man?"
"Oh, yeah, you just surprised me."
"I didn't know Sawyer actually came to the room."
"Was that a problem?"
"No, I just…" Just what? Charlie asked himself, his curiosity now peaking dangerously high as Donnie shifted and returned to his magazine though not really looking at it. It was as he was sitting there, observing the pale faced boy across the room, that Charlie realized he knew next to nothing about the other boy despite his name and the pranks he had committed.
He didn't know his birthday, his favorite color or food or even about his family.
He didn't know he had a sister.
"It was alright that I met Sawyer, right? You two get along?" Donnie shrugged and idly flipped a page.
"This and that." Charlie frowned. After having been prefect for Windsor for so long he had just grown accustom to receiving answers every time he asked a question. Granted, he was usually interrogating people about whatever had just been damaged, but still; he always got his answers.
He needed to go about this a different way.
"Well she seemed nice, but then again I don't live with her, huh?" He attempted, hoping the bait seemed tempting enough.
"Neither do I."
Well this was going to be harder than he thought.
Charlie awoke to the smell of what he thought was Viva la Juicy, but couldn't be sure.
He was pretty sure his cousin had the same stuff.
Blinking into consciousness he stared at the ceiling for a few seconds to gather his bearings. He had long since stopped wondering where he was when he started waking up in the mornings; the strong scent of bleach and constant beeping of monitors were practically natural to him now. He watched the fluorescent bulb flicker slightly before rolling his head to the side as much as his neck brace would allow. He honestly didn't know why they insisted on him wearing one – nothing was broken, just slightly misaligned from the tumble down the stairs.
Yawning, he blinked the figure in the visitor seat into focus and smiled slightly as the blonde hair came into view, followed by the silhouette and eventual features. Sawyer looked up from whatever it was she was reading and smiled at him in greeting. He smiled back before smacking his lips to disperse the nasty taste that had formed in his sleep.
"Nice nap?" He nodded, still dreary, and turned to look back at the ceiling. Ever since they met Charlie had pretty much seen the girl every day ever since their first initial meeting. They made small talk and chatted, but more often than not she would be reading a book or typing away on her laptop while he either dozed or watched TV, the silence comfortable.
"Do you mind if I ask you something?" He glanced at her from the side to find himself with her full attention.
"Donnie…he told me you've been asking him a lot of questions. About himself. Have you?" Charlie stared at her for a few seconds, his brain frantically trying to come up with some sort of response.
He'd been found out.
It was true that he had been pelting the other boy with questions about himself and all his favorite things and what not. It had practically become a game for him: Find Out The Most You Can About Donnie In A Day. He was pretty sure he was losing, but seeing as there was no one else playing he wasn't sure how he was, just that he was…if that even made sense. He tried not to be annoying about it, but he just couldn't help himself; he was so bored and curious and it just fascinated him that someone like Donnie, a boy pretty near death, could be so elusive.
"Yeah," He swallowed in what he hoped was a casual manner, "I have."
He was pleasantly shocked when Sawyer smiled, albeit slightly bitterly.
"I know you're just trying to be friendly, I get that, and I'm sorry if Donnie's been snappy about it." Okay, he'd take this; run with it and see where it goes. Sure. Why not?
"It's fine. He's just not a big talker." He shrugged nonchalantly.
"Oh no, he's a talker," Sawyer gave a small laugh, "it's just he's a really private person, always has been. It's one if his faults." She frowned, clearly getting lost in thought as she stared at the pattern on the bed sheets.
"Being private isn't a bad thing." Charlie said lightly, hoping this little chat would somehow be a gateway opener.
"I guess, but you have to open up a little, right? You just can't hide in a shell forever." She frowned. "He was never this bad before, you know? He used to be really open when we were little."
"People change," Charlie waved his hand in emphasis, "I used to be a remotely good kid before living in Windsor." At this Sawyer smiled slightly as she finally broke her gaze from the sheets; Charlie had told her a few select tales from his old days.
"Donnie was supposed to go there…to Dalton, I mean." She added at Charlie's confused look that quickly shifted to surprise.
"Yeah. That's why he's here in Ohio; he came to live with my dad after middle school."
"And he got sick?" Whoops; he hadn't meant to ask, but seeing as the topic was so conveniently being played out before him how could he resist?
"No, actually," Sawyer surprised him again, "he got sick in sixth grade and did two years of chemo. They thought the cancer had gone into remission, so we figured he'd be good to go to boarding school. Right before the semester started, though, it came back, bad, and he's been here ever since."
"Here in the hospital?" Charlie asked incredulously as he tried to imagine living in the beige hell hole he was forced into.
"Not actually here, but here in Columbus. My dad has a house just outside of the city, so when Donnie's not in here he's there. He's taking online classes for school, so hopefully he'll actually graduate before…yeah..." Charlie didn't need her to finish the sentence; he knew where it led.
"So what's your dad do?" He asked, hopeful that this change in topic would be positive.
"He's, uh, an international lawyer."
"What's that mean?" He'd never heard of one of them before.
"I'm not completely sure, but it's like when two businesses are fighting with each other and they're in different countries, he goes in between them to settle things. It's all very fancy and what not; he's never really home." She shrugged as she fell back further in her chair and maneuvered so as to face Charlie as though she was planning on talking a lot more.
"Bet he gets paid good, though."
"Definitely," she confirmed, "hospital bills don't pay themselves. Of course mom helps out when she feels like it." She snapped slightly, disdain evident on her face. Charlie stared in slight shock; never had he seen the girl as expressive as she was now.
And he was picking up on a mom complex.
"That's too bad." He said, not quite sure what else to say even though he knew whatever he did manage to bite out would be awkward anyways. Sawyer picked up on this and smiled slightly with a shake of her head.
"Has anyone ever told you you're easy to read?" She asked with a quirked brow. "I know you have to be curious about all of this." She added with a sweeping gesture to the room around them. Charlie grinned sheepishly and dragged a hand through his unruly hair with slight embarrassment.
"Must be girl's intuition…"He mumbled. No one in Windsor had ever told him that, in fact they never really paid attention to him unless they were bored and needed a subject for their pranks, were in trouble, or needed instructions and/or assistance.
"No, I've just seen so many people do the same thing." She shrugged, nonplussed by his flushed cheeks. "You're just different from the others; you actually seem to care enough to get to know Donnie."
"Well he's really cool."
"And that's why he talks about you all the time." At this he looked up to find Sawyer with a grin on her face, her right hand toying with something around her opposite wrist. He didn't want to be rude and openly stare, but could make out brightly colored beads and some glints of silver; a bracelet of sorts.
"Really?" He asked, matching the teen girl's grin.
"Really really." She confirmed. "I'm glad you're here Charlie; he's been in need of someone other than me to talk to. He's going to explode from all the things he's keeping inside!" At this Charlie laughed and interpreted this as her permission for him to continue questioning Donnie when the timing was appropriate.
Now guilt free.
"You never told me you were going to go to Dalton." Bluntness was just one of Charlie's many loveable qualities; it's what had kept Windsor in check for so long, after all.
"How'd you know that?" Donnie was surprised; it clearly showed on his face.
"Sawyer just mentioned it the other day. Thought it was cool."
"Were you going to go there for anything particular? A lot of people like the sports or art programs and stuff." Charlie thought of his own varsity sports with a pang of longing. Laying around in a hospital all day stuck in traction was something he wouldn't even wish on his most hated enemy.
"Singing." Donnie said, much to his surprise. He had already come up with a back-up question in case he deflected like usual.
"Really?" Charlie asked; for some reason he just couldn't pin Donnie down as the musical type.
"Yeah. I…I was really good. I was going to join the…the…that one group…"
"Yeah." The other boy nodded in recognition. "I just never made it through the front doors."
And there was one of Donnie's infamous traits: saying something in which Charlie had no idea how to respond to. He lived in Windsor for crying out loud – the place where paintball fights were the norm as well as exploding things and destruction – how could he possibly not know how to handle this.
"Never know, it could still happen." The prefect shrugged, hoping he had somehow managed to say something fitting.
"Never took you for the wishful thinking type." Donnie laughed weakly, only managing to croak out a chuckle or two before launching into a fit of coughing.
"What can I say, I'm a man of many things." There went his fingers again; inching increasingly closer to the emergency button in case Lorrie was needed. He watched as Donnie heaved with the dry coughs for a few seconds before settling down, weakly wiping at his mouth. It took a bit for him to catch his breath and when he finally did he didn't say anything more to Charlie's displeasure. Assuming the conversation was over, the older boy turned his gaze to the TV, not really watching the X-Men movie that was playing on FX.
"Sawyer was pissed." It took Charlie a few seconds to realize it was Donnie who had spoken. Looking over he saw his roomie toying with his wrist, the same bright flashes of color that he had seen when Sawyer last visited playing in his mind.
"What do you mean?" Did this mean they were still talking?
"When Sawyer found out I was going away to a special school for singing she got mad – furious even."
"Does she sing too?"
"No, not really. She can, just not very good."
"So why was she mad?" Donnie paused in his movements and looked up to meet Charlie's inquisitive gaze, clearly fighting some internal debate.
"Sawyer…did she tell you much about our family?" Charlie frowned, thinking back over their conversation from the other day.
"Not really." He admitted. "Just that your dad's some fancy kind of lawyer."
"Yeah…good ole dad." Donnie huffed with a rattling breath. "He was against me going to Dalton; he didn't approve."
"Why not?" Charlie felt his brows burrow.
"He wanted to groom me into the family business, take over for him someday."
"Ah…" Charlie nodded as he thought back to the boys he had left behind at Dalton who would also someday enter their family's business, "I know what you mean."
"Yeah, well, mom was the one who pushed for me to go. She's really big in the arts industry."
"Mostly PR stuff. She's never around much…" And there was that thing again: how do you respond?
"Oh…so what happened with you and Sawyer? About Dalton I mean?" Donnie shrugged, his face the dead giveaway that he was choosing what he said very carefully.
"Our parents split when we were in elementary school. We never really saw each other again until I was diagnosed in middle school, but we had kept in touch." At this he smiled fondly while raising his arm to give Charlie a view of what he had been messing with. "Sawyer made this for me in fourth grade and mailed it to me; matching name bracelets. It's weird, but we still wear 'em everywhere."
"Well it sounds like you two get along fine." Charlie reasoned, not seeing where the problem was.
"Now we do. Growing up separated like that messed with us. I was being raised the best ways possible since I was the only male heir. Sawyer was being put through the ringer with our mother who's still pure debutante at heart. We were never really given equal chances at anything." At these words Charlie realized the flaw in the story. Donnie was basically given anything he wanted and was obviously well educated even in his current state. If the debutantes he knew were anything to go by, Charlie reasoned that Sawyer was most likely taught to be seen and not heard growing up.
"I get what you're saying." He admitted with a nod of his head.
"When Sawyer learned I was going to go to Dalton for singing even though our father didn't approve she threw a fit." Donnie smiled bitterly at this before continuing. "She wants to be an architect, so of course our parents thought it was completely unreasonable. They enrolled her in so many girly things it was crazy!" Charlie smiled at this and shook his head.
"Ballet, pottery classes, sewing classes, tea time training courses; all that fancy stuff."
"Ew." Charlie made a face, causing Donnie to laugh even though it sounded more like a dog barking.
"Never ask her about proper table manners. She'll recite an encyclopedia for you."
"Great; Windsor could use some tips!" At this Donnie laughed again and for once Charlie felt as though he had really connected with the other boy since first arriving.
It made him wonder just what the hell Sawyer had said to get the other boy to open up.
She must have been the miracle worker reincarnated.
Charlie watched as the clock ticked a few more times before finally declaring it a quarter past twelve. Looking towards the door he saw it creak open and Sawyer step in, her cheeks flushed from the cold outside and hair mussed from the wind.
Always right on time.
He watched as she pulled off her mittens and adjusted her bag before finally looking up, freezing in her actions. Her eyes widened at the view before her and Charlie sympathized; he'd been the same exact way.
"Wha…" She began to question before slapping a shaky hand across her mouth.
"Last night." Charlie supplied, guilty for knowing more than the actual blood relative of the patient. Sawyer continued to just stand there and stare before promptly exploding into action as she pivoted sharply on her heel and charged for the door, wrenching it open and bursting out into the hallway.
He could hear her calling for Lorrie.
Charlie sighed and looked over at the unconscious Donnie. Last night the boy had seized once before slipping quietly into a coma, something the doctors weren't sure if he'd come out of. Beyond that he didn't know much else about it, only that Sawyer had apparently been left out of the news circuit. He looked up as said girl re-entered the room with a harried looking nurse.
"I don't understand why I wasn't informed. Just a few days ago I changed the emergency contact number to my own, so why wasn't I notified? I'm pretty sure a coma is an emergency, don't you?" She snapped, her face furious as she jabbed her finger out to point at her brother.
"Miss Finnigan I know you're upset, but we're unsure as to how serious this is, so we felt no need to worry you."
"No need?" Sawyer asked incredulously, "My brother is dying and you think any small thing that happens to him is nothing to worry about?"
"We'll let you know more after we perform a few tests an—"
"Forget the tests! I demand to know everything right now – I have the legal right." Charlie refrained from releasing a low whistle as he watched the two women have a glare off, though Lorrie's was much more tired than fierce. The nurse gave him a small glance of acknowledgement before looking back to her current battle.
"If you step outsi—"
"I don't care if Charlie hears it, just tell me." Sawyer persisted, crossing her across her chest and glancing worriedly at Donnie's lump of a body. Lorrie looked conflicted for a few fleeting moments and Charlie perked considerably at the prospect of finding out what was really wrong with his roommate.
"The chemo hasn't been working," The nurse stated with more bluntness than the prefect could ever manage, "the cancer has spread past his lungs and into his pancreas and kidneys. There was a brief neutral period where we weren't sure what would happen, but yesterday afternoon his right lung fully collapsed and is no longer functioning." At this the mood of the room dipped dangerously as both Charlie and Sawyer processed this. The latter bit her lip and backed up until coming into contact with the end of Donnie's bed, where she sank slowly into a sitting position. Charlie swallowed the rising lump in his throat as he began to slowly come to terms with what was happening.
"Last night, about midnight, Donnie had a mild seizure and went into a coma. We have him on oxygen and have been monitoring his brain activity since then. If there's no change by tonight we're going to run some scans and see what's going on, but until then that's where we stand." Lorrie finished as she stepped forwards to lay a hand on Sawyer's shoulder, the girl's breaths shaky from where she was trying not to cry.
"So…so how long? How much longer." Charlie decided there and then he didn't want to know.
He didn't want to know at all.
"Doctor Adams has given him a week, though we're not one hundred percent sure until we run those tests, so no giving up right now. You hear me?" Lorrie demanded as she bent down slightly to look up into the younger girl's face.
Charlie had to look away to keep his own eyes from watering.
That was it.
It'd been so long since he had seen the actual outside world that he realized how much he had missed it. Granted, his hospital room offered a nice view of the tops of some buildings, but seeing as he could never actually get up to look out the window, the only thing he ever saw was the sky.
The never ending expanse of ever changing shades of blue.
He watched with bottled up excitement as cars flew up and down the street below, how people walked to where ever it was they were going.
He even enjoyed the sight of a dog peeing on a hydrant.
Two days ago, after hearing Lorrie tell Sawyer everything she wanted to know about her brother's condition, Charlie had practically begged to get out of his room; the lack of life in there was the equivalent of torture. Lorrie had been reluctant at first, but the boy's distress eventually got through to her and she relented, loading him into a wheel chair and rolling him out to the lobby of the oncology floor. It wasn't the main one where family and friends of other patients would ogle at him, but the atrium of sorts, for the people who needed an escape from it all.
People like him.
It was nice; it'd been forever since he had left the room.
His broken ankle lay stretched out before him, propped up by the metal supporters of the chair. It was only a matter of time before they'd take it off, something he looked forward to with a childish enthusiasm. Unlike most patients, he had opted for staying in the hospital for the duration of his six week recovery rather than going back to school with the cast. He could only imagine the things the boys would do to him while he wobbled around on crutches and clunked through the halls. The Tweedles could be just downright evil when they wanted to though he was pretty sure they might have taken pity on him, but still: he sure as hell wasn't taking any chances. And also his borderline fractured wrist; that was another injury he didn't want to flaunt at them almost as much as his stitches, which had thankfully been taken out the day before.
The casts would be off in a matter of days.
Sighing in contentment, Charlie watched as life continued on outside of the hospital and tried to ignore the various noises going on behind him. Even though he was out of his room, the constant beeping of machines and sullen voices stuck with him.
Off to his left he could hear someone crying.
It was things like this that made him wish the doctors would have just stuck him down on the general patient floor – he'd gladly take his chances with the monkey pox. He was tired of the depressing atmosphere of the oncology floor with the blank faced nurses and bearers-of-bad-news doctors.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Charlie jumped at the voice and twisted in his chair to see Sawyer approaching him from the direction of the elevators. She hadn't been back since her show down with Lorrie three days ago.
"They're pretty boring." He tried to joke even though his heart wasn't completely in it.
"I don't care, anything's got to be better than mine right now." She sighed as she sank into one of the waiting room's stained seats, the navy blue looking more like a grungy black. He tried to smile sympathetically.
"Haven't seen you in a while." She looked at him for a few seconds, seemingly contemplating her thoughts before bowing her head in defeat.
"I was preparing myself for a phone call." She admitted guiltily as she propped her elbows on her knees and leaned forwards to stare down at her shoes. Charlie watched for a few seconds, noticing for the first time that she actually looked defeated rather than hopeful and optimistic like normal.
"I'm sorry." He offered quietly, not quite sure what else to say. He was never a good one when it came to dealing with things like this – he hated death and pretty much anything depressing in general.
"Oh Charlie," Sawyer sighed as she glanced up at him through bangs that had fallen out of her ponytail, "you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for. If anything I should be the one apologizing."
"Don't say tha–"
"It's true though," she cut him off, "I've been a horrible sister. This is my first time actually coming to see him since he got sick again – the only one who's come to see him."
"What about your mom and dad?" She huffed at this and sat up, fixing him with a watery blue gaze.
"Do you honestly think they'd come to visit their only son who's sick and completely bed ridden? Donnie was dead to them the moment he relapsed before going to Dalton; in their eyes they no longer have a son."
"That's horrible!" He felt himself staring at her in shock, not quite believing what he had just heard. Who would treat their own child that way; leave them to die alone with no comfort or love or support of any kind?
"That's how our family works, Charlie, my parents are the kind of people who push away anything that makes them appear weak or uncomfortable. Donnie used to beg them to come see him, but they never did."
"But you're here now." He reminded her, trying his hardest to sift the good out from the bad.
"Yeah, just now," She gave a small humorless laugh, "it's taken what – three years? – to finally stand up to my mother and tell her where to shove it? Look where it's gotten me. I'm too late."
"You don't know that for sure, Sawyer," Charlie shook his head, "they're still doing tests and stuff."
"Don't give me that," the girl sighed in defeat, "you know just as well as I do there isn't a thing they can do for him. You've been around him longer than I have Charlie," She looked at him through a sheen of tears, "tell me you haven't noticed him getting worse." He swallowed hard and forced himself to look her dead in the eye as he thought back over all the times he had been a centimeter away from pressing the emergency button.
"He's…he's…it's been bad." He finally ground out, his chest tightening painfully as the first of the many tears to come tracked down the flushed cheeks of Donnie's twin. She did her best to give him a small smile, but it didn't even come close; it appeared to be almost painful. Before he could stop himself, Charlie was reaching over with his good hand to grab at one of hers, the fingers slim and shaking in his. She gripped back with as much strength as she could muster and used her free hand to continue wiping at her eyes.
"If it makes you feel any better, Donnie was really opening up. He was really talking…about everything. I don't know what you said to him, but whatever it was, it worked." He tried to comfort her only to find that the hold she had on his hand tightened considerably to the point it became a death grip.
He didn't know what that meant.
"I'm such a horrible person," She managed to mumble out from behind her hand, her gaze not meeting his, "I…I told him if he didn't start talking to you he was going to die lonely with no one really knowing him…without any friends." Sawyer's tears exploded full force at this as she slapped her hand over her mouth to keep in any sobs that might have threatened to escape. Charlie just watched her and continued to hold her hand, his grip tightening to match hers, hoping he could convey his sympathy through the simple gesture. It was then that he took notice of the bracelet, almost identical to Donnie's with the few exceptions being the type of string used and the color and amount of beads.
Sawyer's name was spelt out in silver cube beads, a letter on each face.
She was going to lose her twin soon.
It was weird having the free movement of his wrist and ankle back.
After each having been in a cast for six weeks they both appeared an ugly pale color, the skin damp and wrinkled like that of an old person's.
It was kind of nasty.
He stared up at the ceiling through the darkness, idly working his newly liberated joints and thinking about how tomorrow – or that morning, really – he'd be free to go back to school. The doctors wanted him to wear a brace around his ankle as a precaution so as not to stress it too much, and he had willingly accepted, desperate to get out of there.
The last three days had been a nightmare.
Donnie appeared to not have changed at all, but if the tests were anything to go by, he was pretty much a goner, a fact not lost on himself, Sawyer, or Lorrie.
Charlie held his breath and listened to the stillness of the room, something he had been doing since midnight to pass the time. Besides his own breathing and the whirring of the machines monitoring his roommate, there was nothing else to be heard.
It was unsettling to say the least.
Never before in his life had he questioned life and death as much as he had – and still was – during his time in traction. Of course he had seen the TV drama shows with the doctors and heart wrenching cases, but what did those people really know about spending time with someone who was legitimately dying? There was no narrator to talk about their last thoughts and moments together, no background music that fit the mood perfectly and no witty words of parting wisdom.
Life wasn't a TV show.
It wasn't something that could be written out with words or storyboards.
You couldn't erase what you didn't like and elaborate on what you did; it was too fleeting for that.
Life was just life: you entered it one way and left another.
Simple as that.
"…Char…lee…" Charlie reached up and rubbed at his eyes; he really had to get some sleep if he was going to make it back to Dalton tomorrow.
"…Char…Charlie…" He frowned in confusion as a noise that wasn't mechanical reached his ears, the sound light and whispery in the stillness of the room.
Was he starting to hear things?
"Charlie." No; he was pretty sure he had just heard his name. Sitting upright in bed he squinted in the darkness, looking left and right to see if anyone else was in the room, but found no one.
That only meant…
"Donnie?" He asked aloud, his voice husky from its infrequent use.
"Charlie." His eyes widened as he scrambled for the light on his bedside table, sheets tangling in his legs and making everything that much more complicated. When he finally managed to switch it on he looked over to find Donnie staring at him, his eyes half lidded and his arm hanging off the bed at a weird angle. He kicked and pulled at the sheets until he was freed and limped across the small distance to the other bed, grabbing the other boy's hand in his.
"Donnie, dude, you're awake!" Charlie couldn't help but freak out slightly; his friend had just woken up from a week long a coma. "Do you need anything? I can get you water or Lorrie or the doctor; tell me what you need, man!" He practically begged as he watched the other boy's eyelids drop even further over his eyes, hiding the bright baby blues from view. Charlie panicked at this and lightly tapped him on the cheek, trying to get him to open his eyes again.
"Donnie…" He said loudly with some more taps, "Donnie, stay with me, man, c'mon! Donnie!" Without even hesitating Charlie jabbed at the emergency call button on the bed's remote, the dot lighting up red so as to signal the call had been sent.
"Wake up, Donnie, wake up!" He continued tapping at the boy's face, his heart rate picking up considerably as it didn't work.
"S…saw…Sawyer…" Charlie ceased his actions to lean in closer, the words too soft for him to hear.
"Huh? What'd you say? C'mon, man, talk to me." He urged, tugging on the hand his gently so as to get some sort of response.
"Sawyer…" Donnie wheezed, his voice barely above a whisper, "…sorry…" Charlie felt his blood run cold at the words – this was not happening. He frantically jabbed at the emergency button again; where the hell were the nurses?
"Not yet, Donnie, you're not done yet!" Charlie exclaimed firmly as Donnie's head dropped forwards slightly, a sure sign he was starting to go.
"No, no, no, no, NO!" Charlie flustered while shaking his head frantically and leaning away to yell at the door. "HELP! LORRIE!" He called, hoping with all his might that his voice somehow managed to penetrate through to hall and down to the nurse's station. "LORRIE!" He turned back to Donnie and once again pressed the button as many times as he could.
"You're not done yet!" He exclaimed to the boy in the bed with the strictest voice he could muster, feeling as though he was already back in Windsor issuing commands.
"Charlie…" He stopped his frantic button pushing and leaned back down, straining beyond belief to hear the words from the other boy's lips. "…Sawyer…"
"What about her man? She's coming to visit today! She'll be here!" He gushed, trying to put as much enthusiasm into his voice as he could muster while trying desperately to fight back the tears that were beginning to blur his gaze.
"Another what, Donnie, another what?" He prompted as he jabbed once again at the button, but found he didn't need to as the door suddenly burst open and nurses exploded into action, Lorrie leading the charge.
Charlie stared blankly at the empty bed across from him.
Donnie was gone.
He wasn't coming back.
He couldn't bring himself to say the words yet and every time left the thought hanging there over the edge of his mind, seemingly suspended in air, not knowing what to do with it.
He wiped at his eyes for what felt like the hundredth time that morning and wasn't surprised to find wetness still there. He knew his eyes were red and swollen, partly due to lack of sleep and partly (mostly) due to crying. He found himself not caring if anyone else saw – he was grieving dammit.
His friend had just…left.
He sighed in frustration at his own childishness and slid from the bed as his phone vibrated more than the usual amount of times for an incoming text; his ride must be downstairs. Grabbing his bag that contained all the clothes and necessities that had gotten him through the past month spent in the hospital, he made a step towards the door, only to stop as his foot crunched something on the floor. Looking down and removing his foot he felt his breath hitch in his throat. Leaning down he reached out hesitantly, not entirely sure he wanted to touch it for fear it might disappear if he did. Grasping it lightly between the tips of his pointer finger and thumb, Charlie straightened himself up and stared down at the bracelet in his hand.
Donnie glinted up feebly at him.
He felt tears once again burn in his eyes as he laid the bracelet out flat in his open palm, and traced the multicolored beads with his eyes. How had it ended up on the floor? Donnie always wore it so shouldn't it have been with him where ever he was?
It wasn't until he was halfway through tracing the first N that he realized it.
How it had ended up where it was.
He clenched the small piece of jewelry in his hand as he thought back to last night; to the weird way Donnie's arm had been hanging from the bed, almost as though he had just tried to toss something across the room.
Donnie had given him the one thing that still connected him to his sister – his twin.
Charlie didn't need to think any further past what he already had; he knew what was being asked of him and would most definitely see it through as a true Dalton boy would.
He had to admit he was slightly surprised when the car pulled up outside a house that was relatively normal in size. He had honestly been expecting a mansion or a miniature castle, not a seemingly innocent cottage-style house.
But this was the address he had bugged Lorrie for until she relented and wrote it down for him, grumbling the whole time about breaching patient confidentiality.
She blew her whole ruse by smiling afterwards and sending her best wishes.
She wasn't a very good actress.
Charlie motioned for the driver to wait for him – he really was only planning on being a few minutes – as he started up the front walk, taking note of the clean cut flower beds and immaculate lawn. Climbing the steps he rang the doorbell and waited for only a few seconds before it opened, a small gray haired woman smiling up at him.
"Good afternoon, ma'am, I was wondering if there was a Sawyer Finnigan here?" The lady nodded in silence and motioned for him to come inside. She shut the door behind him and shuffled past with even saying a word in which Charlie just assumed he was supposed to follow. He took in the ornate furnishings as they trekked down a hall and passed through the kitchen until once again coming outside via a pair of double French doors. The lady pointed out across the yard and Charlie followed her finger to a gazebo where he could see a bright yellow blob sticking out like a sore thumb in the winter deadness.
"Thank you very much." He smiled politely as his guide turned to leave, a ghost of a smile on her face that left Charlie wondering just what the hell had happened.
That was certainly weird.
He cut across the yard and slowed as he approached the gazebo, stopping just shy of the first step on the set of stairs.
Sawyer was a mess.
Her eyes were red and puffy and her hair was ratty and frizzed from where it sat atop her head in a sad excuse for a bun. Her yellow sweatshirt had the logo of some university Charlie couldn't read on it and her plaid pajama bottoms were stained brown at the ankles, most likely mud from where she had walked around the yard.
"Aren't your toes cold?" He asked with a sad smile as she jumped and looked up at him, a tissue clenched firmly with both hands. She stared at him miserably for a few seconds before promptly breaking out into tears and trying to shield herself from him. He was up the steps in no time and sitting next to her, an arm slung around her shoulders as she shook from her sobs, letting her get it out of her system.
"Lor…Lorrie said…you were there…with him…" Sawyer managed to breathe out in between her heaving breaths as she rubbed roughly at her eyes with the heels of her hands.
"Yeah, I was." He stated gently while unconsciously pulling her a bit closer.
"Thank you." She nodded with a side long glance at him, sincerity evident in her voice.
"He said…" Charlie started only to stop, not quite sure if Sawyer was ready for her brother's parting words.
"What'd he say, Charlie?" He stared back into the cerulean gaze that was boring into him and swallowed.
"He said your name a lot, and that he was sorry, and…" He bit his lip to keep the last words from spilling out; he still didn't know what to make of them.
"And 'another life'. That was it. After that he…he…yeah…" He watched as Sawyer's face shifted through the various emotions that he himself had gone through last night, confusion being the most prominent.
"I don't know what he meant by that."
"Knowing Donnie it could mean anything." Sawyer sighed as she slumped against his side, her head falling unceremoniously onto his shoulder. He stared down at her for a few seconds, briefly wondering what was going through her mind. He couldn't deny he was attracted to her, but right then and there it didn't feel appropriate, but who knew when he'd next see her?
"You're probably right," he nodded, "and there's something else." Sawyer lifted her head at this to look at him.
"What do you mean?" She frowned, her voice raspy from all the crying.
"When I went to leave this morning, I stepped on this." Charlie jostled her slightly as he fished around in his pocket before pulling out the bracelet.
The effect was almost instantaneous.
"How…how…?" Sawyer questioned through a new wave of tears as he held it out for her; she wouldn't take it.
"I think he tossed it over to me last night; I think he wanted me to give it to you rather than having it handed over in a box or bag or something." He was only slightly familiar with the customs of hospitals, but he did know personal items were often bagged or boxed up before being given to the family.
Sawyer continued to stare at it in silence and Charlie was almost sure she wasn't ever going to take it until she tentatively reached forward and plucked it from his grasp. She ran her fingers over it a few times before surprising him by tossing aside her tissue and taking his hand in hers. She bit her lip as though to keep herself from crying and gently laid the bracelet in his open palm before curling his fingers around it, forming a small shelter of safety.
"I know this seems crazy and weird," She mumbled in a thick voice as she continued to cup his hand in hers, "but I want you to keep this." He stared at her in slight shock and went to open his mouth, but stopped at the shaking of her head.
"You were the last person to see the real Donnie; the last real friend he had. I can't ever thank you enough for that Charlie, I really can't." She smiled weakly up at him, her eyes once again filled to the brim with tears. "I was meant to walk this world with a brother – a twin – and right now I don't think I can, so if you could just hold onto this for me, I'd just be…it'd be…" She trailed off as he nodded in understanding; she didn't need to speak the words for him to know he'd be doing her the favor of a lifetime.
"I'll have it until whenever you want it back." He promised gently as she released his hand and surprised him by pulling him into a large hug. He wasted no time in hugging back, his fingers getting lost in the folds of her overly large sweatshirt. They stayed like that for a few moments, relishing in the support the other offered, before pulling away. Charlie rose from his seat, taking one her hands with him as he tugged her from the bench and together they trekked back across the yard, their fingers twined loosely between them. Sawyer stopped as they reached the patio doors and drew a quick breath before looking up into his face.
"He…he wanted to be cremated, so they said he won't be back until next week at the latest," Charlie bit his lip in understanding, "I'll be staying here until I figure out what I'm going to do, so if you want to come…you know…visit him…you're…you're more than welcomed." She nodded, apparently reassuring herself more than she was him. He smiled down at her before pulling her into another gentle hug. He breathed her in and began to pull away, stopping halfway to give her light peck on the cheek, before fully straightening up. She smiled back shyly and together they entered the house and trailed back through the kitchen and down the hall towards the front door. Sawyer twisted it open and Charlie stepped out into the front porch, her hand trailing along his as they pulled apart.
"I'll be down over the weekend." He promised, smiling as her blush deepened even further and she nodded.
"I'll hold you to it." She smiled, albeit watery, but a smile nonetheless. He took one last look at her before turning on his heel and heading back to the car, his whole heart in a flutter of rapid beating. He glanced over his shoulder as he lowered himself in and she waved him off before closing the door softly and disappearing from view.
Life was definitely full of surprises.
A/N: I honestly don't know that much about Charlie, so sorry if he seemed kind of weird; I really was just winging it. This is my first ever fic based off of a fic, but it just goes to show that great writing is great writing if other people are inspired by it, so if you're reading this, thanks CP for creating 'Dalton'!