Hello! Sorry this chapter took awhile to get out but…it's here now! :D

IMPORTANT!

Trigger warning for suicide. Also cutting.

Italics is a flashback. Regular is just regular.

Chapter 23: How to Save a Life

"What's up with you today?" Jane slid into the seat opposite Bryce in the empty table. She smoothed her skirt down and picked up her milk to open as she watched him. He was staring at his untouched pizza as though it was a gravestone and not food. His eyes were tired and he looked as though he might fall into his plate at any second.

"Hello?" She waved a hand in front of his face to get his attention. He lifted his head up from where he was studying his food and stared at her, as though he didn't really have the energy to deal with anything.

"What?" he snapped, setting his mouth into a straight line. "Nothing's up with me."

Jane rolled her eyes, bringing both her hands up in surrender.

"Okay, whatever, I just don't know what's so interesting about your pizza," she began, taking a sip of her milk, "-and you look like you got ran over by a truck, but minor details."

He lifted his head again, mouth slightly agape. Why did she always have to be so rude to him? He was not in the mood today, of all days. Especially not today. She was always making some sort of snide comment and he was sick of it.

"Do you have to be so fucking annoying all of the time?"

If Bryce's tone of voice fazed her, Jane didn't show it. She shrugged, pushing a brunette curl behind her ear.

"I'm just saying. You looked upset."

"Well I'm not."

He pushed at the sleeves of his shirt, making the fabric wrinkled and put both of his elbows on the table. He rested his head in his hands and let out a deep breath. Did he really seem all that upset? It had been three years now since it had happened. He shouldn't be so upset about it anymore. Three years was a long time. But he was.

He didn't want anyone to find out that he was still upset. He hated feeling vulnerable in front of them. He hated the way that everyone acted like they knew what he was going through, but they didn't. No one really knew at all, and that made him even angrier.

Jane's eyes widened a little bit, but her gaze remained unaffected.

"You know, the reason no one's nice to you is because you're an ass to everyone who tries to be." Her voice was dry, as though she were reading a line out of a history book verbatim. She rested her head against her hand on the table, nearly mimicking Bryce's stance.

"I don't want to talk to you," Bryce bit as his bottom lip, as though even though he wasn't actually that upset about what she had just told him, the word's still hit home. "And plenty of people are nice to me."

Jane raised an eyebrow.

"I'm sure they are." Her voice dripped with sarcasm, and Bryce was not in the mood.

"They are!"

"Look," Jane leaned forward, catching Bryce's gaze with her own, "I'm not trying to be rude here or anything-"

"Too late."

"Shutup," Jane sat up straighter in her seat, crossing her legs, "This is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm just trying to be your friend. And this is exactly why you don't have any."

Bryce pushed his lips together.

"I have friends," he whispered, so soft that she could hardly hear the words. They sounded more like a stubborn child that was defending his decision to kick sand in their sibling's face.

Jane raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. The air stiffened and Bryce turned his head away.

"Look, I'm just not in the mood today, okay?" He stared at the cafeteria line blankly, as though seeing something else entirely. Jane followed his gaze.

"Okay," she replied carefully, stealing a glance in his direction. Something was definitely upsetting Bryce. He was normally an asshole to everyone at the table, but he always was eager to dish back what he got. Today he barely fought at all. "Are you sure you're alright?"

He didn't respond, but kept his gaze on the cafeteria line. He pulled at the sleeves to his blazer, unbuttoning and re-buttoning the cuffs.

Jane continued to watch him, wracking her brain for something to say, anything to say. She was never very good with the comforting thing. She felt as though a million words flooded through her mind like a waterfall, but came out as tumbleweeds from her lips.

"I'm sorry," she blurted out. Bryce looked toward her, almost amused for a second, and she licked her lips for lack of anything better to do. "I shouldn't have said the thing about having no friends."

He raised an eyebrow and for a moment, he seemed like his normal self.

"I didn't really care," He shrugged, mouth turning into a smug smile, "-But thanks."

Jane sighed in relief, returning his smile.

"Right," she began, leaning slightly forward in her chair as though telling a secret, "But if you ever do need a friend," She trailed off, looking down shyly, "I'm always around." She shrugged lamely and twirled the apple she was about to eat in her fingers.

Both of Bryce's eyebrows raised, disbelieving.

"Right," He echoed her tone, unsure of what else to say, "Right, sure."

The lunch table was silent. Bryce pulled out his iPod from his pocket and began locking and unlocking the screen. Jane took a bite of her apple and chewed slowly.

"Well this is a great friendship," she commented sarcastically, placing her apple back on the tray and nodding as though discussing a new cell phone plan.

Bryce looked up and laughed, relieved that the awkward silence was broken.


Alex blew on his hands and stamped his feet. He looked around at the students leaving their houses and walking toward the school, and he wondered if this would be another day where Damien came out the door of Stuart House and told him that Dane wasn't coming.

But he didn't think it would be. They were leaving that evening to go home for the holidays, so Dane had to come to class.

Still, Alex bit his lip and tried to conjure up enough body heat to not freeze to death. But it was very cold on the front doorstep of Stuart. And everywhere else, for that matter… Except in his bed, so if Dane was still in his bed Alex did not blame him. In fact, he'd like to join him…

At this thought Alex started to blush. His cheeks were already red from the cold and now they grew redder. He thought about how Dane was staying at his house for New Year's…

"Hey." Arms wrapped around him from behind. "You cold?"

Alex turned around and hugged his boyfriend back. "Hell yes. Please let's go into the heated school?"

"Sure." Dane took his hands from Alex's middle and allowed his hand to brush softly against Alex's. Alex took his hand and glanced at him sideways.

"How are you?" he asked, concerned. Because he felt weird about the way Dane had been acting lately. He knew that being worried wouldn't do anything, and Dane was going to a therapist, and over break his dad was going to talk to the therapist about getting medication… So there was nothing for him to do.

But the way that Dane always pulled at his sleeves, and now he was acting so happy only with a strange edge…

"I'm good," Dane said, giving him a smile. "How are you?"

"I'm great," Alex said, squeezing Dane's hand. There was nothing he could do but act normal for Dane. And be there if Dane needed him. Right?

"Sad about going home?" Dane asked, and Alex became aware that Dane was walking very slowly, as if savoring their daily walk to the school building.

"Yeah," Alex replied. "I'll miss you a lot. And I'll miss your birthday. Two days!"

Dane laughed softly. "Yep, two days. Good old December 18th." He rolled his eyes, not really all that excited about his 17th birthday. "Well, you'll have Lucers with you in the city to keep you company. And you can take lots of pictures and things. And there's the New Year's party."

"Will you come? You're coming, right?"

"If plans don't change, yes." Dane laughed a little and then said, "I love you."

"I know you do," Alex replied, "and I love you too."


Dane sighed and slipped his hand into Alex's, then changed his mind and wrapped his arm around Alex instead, then changed his mind again and just stopped right in the middle of the hallway and hugged Alex.

"I love you," he whispered into Alex's ear. "I love you so much."

Alex nodded and hugged Dane back. "You know it's only been 42 minutes since I saw you last…" he said, putting a light tone into his voice.

Dane nodded. "I know." He hugged tighter.

"We're in a crowded hallway…" Alex said, "Not that I care but I'm just saying PDA is frowned upon at this school…"

"Right." Dane coughed and cleared his throat, pulling away and taking Alex's hand. "Right, let's go."

"I love you too, Daners," Alex said as they walked. "Very very much."

Dane didn't respond, just looked around at the people surrounding them. "It's almost Christmas," he said in a very neutral tone.

"Yep," Alex responded in an equally neutral tone.

"You're excited about that, right?" Dane asked, looking up at him with a nervous look in his eyes.

"Mhmm." Alex nodded and laughed a little. "Are you?"

"Not really." Dane rubbed his neck and adjusted the straps of his backpack with his free hand. "Not a fan of Christmastime."

Alex nodded slowly and watched as a bird flew overhead. The day was overcast with a very bitter chill in the air. "It's cold."

"Yeah. Do you want my coat?" Dane stopped walking and started taking off his coat but Alex stopped him.

"No, no, I'm fine." His cheeks were red from the cold and he smiled a little. "It's fine, we'll be back at Stuart soon."

"You have to pack though," Dane said quickly, resuming walking.

"Yeah, well I thought I could hang with you for awhile before I have to pack, if that's okay…"

"No!" Dane exclaimed, his voice breaking. "I mean I don't…well you don't need to. Damien will be there and we have to pack too, and I won't really be any fun, and you have to pack and then we can hang out okay? Unless you have other stuff to do. Maybe you should hang with Lucie or somebody, she really misses you I think…"

"She sees me every day," Alex said, stopping. They were in the middle of a grass area about halfway between Stuart and the school building. "Are you okay? Don't you want me to come hang out with you?"

"Of course I do!" Dane said, and he looked like he was going to cry. He let his backpack fall off his shoulders and to the ground with a thud. "I do."

"Okay, okay, shh," Alex wrapped him into a hug. "I get it, okay, I know you do."

"I'm sorry." Dane pulled away and wiped at his eyes. "I'm sorry Alex. I'm really sorry for anything that might happen to me, or…something. It's not your fault though. I really love you."

Alex's eyes widened. "Dane…" he said slowly, reaching out to take Dane's hand. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, I was just saying, I mean like, something could happen over break or something and I just wanted you to know how much I love you and that it's not because of you in any way." Dane looked so small and fragile and his eyes were red and there were dark circles under them, and his cheeks were sunken because he hadn't been eating much, and Alex bit his lip.

"I'm coming with you," he said firmly. "To your dorm room. And I'll stay with you while you pack and then you have to come with me to my dorm room and I'll pack and then we'll wait for our parents to come get us and then you'll go home and…and you'll be fine."

Dane was shaking his head. "No, Damien's there."

"I…are you sure? I mean you're kind of scaring me, Daners…" Alex looked at him with concern in his eyes as Dane violently fought to hold himself together.

"Yeah I know, I'm sorry I'm just saying…dammit Alex I'm not going to…I mean Damien's there, I couldn't…and I wouldn't want to or…" And he threw himself into Alex's arms, sobbing against his chest as Alex rubbed his back, surprised.

"I'm just worried. You're scaring me Dane and I don't want you to hurt yourself."

"Damien's there," Dane sobbed, clutching at Alex's jacket. "Damien wouldn't let me do anything."

"I know but…I want to be there for you. When you're upset which you very clearly are."

"I'm not upset," Dane mumbled.

"I'm sorry, what?" Alex cocked his head to the side. "It sounded like you just lied to me, Daners."

This only made Dane sob harder. He held onto Alex's coat like it was his everything, and Alex held onto Dane like he was his everything. He buried his face in Dane's hair.

"Sorry, Dane," he said softly. "I've got you. I've got you. I'll never let go of you."

Dane was now being held up by Alex and Alex just rubbed his back and kissed his hair. "I'm here," he said, "I'll always be here."

Alex became aware that people were staring and he glared at them until they turned and scurried away. "Shhhh," he whispered to Dane, "it's okay. It's alright."

"Damien's waiting," Dane said after a few minutes. "We do this, this game thing, when we pack, it's kind of like a racing thing…" He sniffled and straightened up, drawing a hand under his nose and blinking repeatedly to clear his eyes. "Yeah, I uh, I better go…"

"Okay I'm coming with you," Alex said, picking up Dane's bookbag and starting to walk.

"No, you can't! Me and Damien have this tradition thing. You can't come."

"Dane, I'm coming."

"You can't."

"I can."

"I'm not going to let you."

"I'm going to make you let me."

"Come on." Dane looked desperate. "What am I gonna do? With Damien there? What would I do? He's wrestled me to the ground before, there's nothing I could do."

"Maybe you're lying, maybe he's not there."

"You think I'm lying?"

"No."

"So."

"I just don't feel comfortable leaving you…"

"I don't want you there," Dane said firmly, and this time he was the one to start walking toward Stuart. "Okay? I want to be alone with my best friend. That is what would make me feel better today."

"You don't even want to tell me what in particular is wrong?" Alex asked, feeling a little hurt though aware that he shouldn't.

"No," Dane said.

"Okay well…I'm coming as soon as I'm done packing. I'll be fast. I swear."

"Okay."

"And call me if you need me," Alex said, and they walked in silence until they reached the doorstep of Stuart House. "Here." Alex handed Dane his backpack and then made one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

He walked away.


Bryce was packing in his room when he found one of Dane's socks. He knew it was Dane's sock because all of Dane's socks had little D's on them because their mother was bad at sorting laundry so all of their clothes were labeled. He wasn't sure why, but he decided to take it to Dane's room.

Bryce swung the sock from his fingertips, knocking on the door with the other hand. There was no response, so he shrugged and let himself in.

Probably sleeping, he thought, walking into the dark room. The shades were pulled shut, that was how Damien and Dane liked it, apparently. No natural light. Weirdos.

And yes, he was sleeping. Bryce rolled his eyes and flicked on the light to annoy Dane, who was lying still on the bed.

As he crossed the room toward his brother, trying to think of the most annoying way to wake him up, he saw that Dane's arm dangled off the bed, his fingers curled around…

"Fuck," Bryce whispered, dropping to his knees to pry the pill bottle from his big brother's grasp. He looked at it for a second, and dully realized that he'd dropped the sock on the floor, but he didn't care.

"Dane?" he asked, a little louder, and Dane didn't move. "Dane?" Louder, louder, but still nothing. He reached out a hand and shook him, but Dane didn't wake up. "Dane!" he screamed. "DANE SEIGERSON!" Nothing nothing nothing. "DANE FUCKING WAKE UP! Dane!"

He didn't wake up.

Bryce took his cell phone from his pocket and, fingers shaking, dialed Alex's number.

Alex was in his room, packing, humming along to a Christmas song that was playing from his iHome. He was alone when his phone rang.

He saw the caller ID and immediately his heart started beating faster. "Hello?" he asked, putting it up to his ear.

"Alex shit you have to get over here."

The tone in Bryce's voice made Alex drop the pants he was folding and run to the door. He pulled it open as he said, "Don't tell me."

"He won't wake up." Bryce sounded panicked. Alex sprinted down the stairs and out into the cold December afternoon wearing just a Killers t-shirt and jeans.

"I said don't tell me!" Alex's voice was all high and barely there, and he felt like someone had dropped an anvil on his chest. "Is he breathing?"

"What?"

"Is he breathing?" Alex practically screamed, and several people walking nearby turned to look at him.

"Yeah," Bryce said. "I think I'm going to vomit, excuse me." And he hung up.

Alex ran faster than he'd ever run before and faster than he ever would again. He didn't even notice the bitter air as it whipped at his body, lashing him for not noticing, for not stopping this…

"He's breathing," he told himself again and again, and he wasn't sure if he was speaking out loud or not. "He's breathing."

Stuart House seemed so far away, had it always been this far away?

He couldn't even think, his thoughts were so jumbled, but it occurred to him distantly that wherever Damien was, he wasn't in his dorm room. So he pulled out his phone. He tried to dial the number about five times before he could, and he burst through the doors of Stuart House just as he put it up to his ear. He heard the calm ringing and cursed at it in his mind (or out loud).

"Hello?" Damien asked, answering on the second ring, thank goodness.

"You have to get back to your room," Alex said, out of breath.

"Why?" Damien asked quickly, sounding like he already knew, and Alex could hear the scraping of a chair in the background meaning he had stood up and was already on his way.

"You know why."

"Is he-"

"I don't know, just come. And call 911 on your way." He hung up and almost ran into Dane's door before he could work the doorknob right to open it.

"Dane?" Alex asked, just as Bryce came out of the bathroom and closed the door.

They looked at each other and then at Dane on the bed and Alex didn't remember later even crossing the room, only that he was suddenly there at Dane's bedside, and he was picking up the pill bottle from the floor, and then looking at Dane and trying to wake him up, but he wouldn't…

"Daners, Dane baby come on, please don't do this, don't die, please wake up, come on honey, Dane, love, I love you so much Daney please wake up, don't die, you can't die, come on Dane you can't kill yourself, don't die, oh God Dane don't die, I love you so fucking much don't die, holy shit don't die, please…"

This went on for who knew how long, with Bryce on Dane's other side saying, "Dane, come on, wake up, come on bro, please wake up, don't die, you can't die, fuck shit you can't die, come on Dane, wake up, you can't just kill yourself, you can't do that to us, please, we can't lose you too, we all love you, come on don't die."

Damien came in then and just stopped in his tracks when he saw Dane. "Fuck," he whispered, just as Bryce had. "The ambulance is on its way," he said, stepping forward hesitantly, not taking his eyes off Dane.

Alex had his forehead resting against Dane's side, and Bryce was holding Dane's hand in a very unexpected showcase of caring.

"He's breathing," Damien said, coming to kneel next to Alex. He brushed a hair out of Dane's face but there was nothing more he could do. Alex and Bryce were both holding one of his hands. So he settled on watching the rise and fall of his best friend's chest, slower than it was supposed to be.

"Someone should wait for the ambulance," Alex mumbled into the comforter, and none of them moved.

"I'll go," Damien said, reaching out to straighten Dane's sleeve cuff because he knew Dane always liked them straight, and as he did so he saw fresh scars on his arm. He froze, his hand hovering over them.

Alex raised his head and looked, and Bryce peered over Dane's body to see. No one said anything because no one could think of anything to say. Finally Damien couldn't look any more and he stood up and left the room to go handle everything.


"I don't like this." Damien dropped the magazine on the table in front of him and it made a loud smacking noise. Everyone in the ER waiting room looked up. "I hate that this has happened before and now it's happening again and it's my fault. It's still my fault."

He was talking to Lucie because Bryce and Alex had left the waiting room to go outside because neither of them could stand being inside the hospital, so stuffy and claustrophobic. And Derek and Casey were in Dane's room with him, waiting. His stomach had been pumped and he still hadn't woken up and it had been a long time and…

"Sit down," Lucie said softly, and Damien realized he was standing up. He sunk down to his seat, slightly embarrassed. He felt Lucie's arm around him, unexpected because he hadn't expected her to want to have anything to do with him, not even now. Especially not now.

"This isn't your fault," Lucie said, speaking in low tones, and she sounded perfectly calm but if you looked at her you could see the tears on her cheeks.

"It is," Damien said. "It's my fault. I should have noticed, I should have guessed, I'm so stupid, I've been so focused on my own problems I haven't even noticed him and his problems. I shouldn't have expected Alex to just deal with it. He doesn't know Dane as well as I do and…" He choked out a sob. "And if he dies…"

"He won't die," Lucie said firmly. "He won't. They pumped his stomach. He'll be fine."

"But he OD'd, he went unconscious, he…"

"He'll wake up any minute."

"What if he's in a coma?"

"They got the shit out of him."

Damien was shaking and Lucie took his hand in her free one, the one that wasn't wrapped around him.

"Calm down, Damien," she said, rubbing his back. "It's okay."

"It's not okay," he said, and then he buried his face in her shoulder. "It's not. He's my best friend, he's always been there my whole life, and if he dies… It's all my fault, all of it…"

"No, it's not. It's not your fault. Any of us could have done something different. It's not just on your shoulders only."

"I feel like it is. He needs me to notice him and I didn't, I've always let this happen. I live with him, I shouldn't be such an idiot all the time…"

"You aren't an idiot," Lucie said, and she made Damien raise his head to look at her. "You aren't. You didn't know this would happen. You thought he was getting help because he's seeing a therapist. You thought you didn't have to watch out so carefully. You were distracted, by all the other stuff that's happening…" She bit her lip as more tears sprung to her eyes. "None of us noticed."

"But it goes further than that," Damien said, still shaking, trying to take deep breaths but it wasn't working, he couldn't breathe right.

"What do you mean?" Lucie asked. "It's simple. None of us noticed, it's not just you that-"

"I mean…well…maybe he wouldn't want me to tell you but…when we were younger, three years ago exactly…"


Alex was leaning against the wall with his head resting against the cold bricks. Bryce was sitting in the little garden outside the Emergency Room that was oddly out of place. It's like, Hey! We realize that someone in there may be seriously injured or dying, but we're going to try to cheer you up with dying flowers anyway!

Waiting is one of the worst things you can ever do. You know that from this point, something is going to happen. You know it's going to have a lot of impact on your life. You know it's going to be very important. But you don't know what it is.

Dane could either wake up or he could not. It could either be a failed suicide attempt or suicide.

Bryce picked at a few of the dead flowers.

"I can't believe he did this," he said, an edge in his voice that was like armor, keeping Alex from seeing that he was upset.

It didn't work, of course.

"Neither can I," Alex said, fingers running along the goosebumps on his arms. The wind whipped at his t-shirt.

"I can't believe he did this today, goddammit." Bryce picked the tops off the dead flowers and threw them on the ground and began breaking the stems.

"Why especially today?" Alex asked, looking down at Bryce.

Bryce closed his eyes. "He didn't tell you," he said, a comment, because he figured that Dane wouldn't have.

"Tell me what?" Alex slid slowly down the wall so he was sitting on the ground but then he wished he was standing again. He felt restless.

"Nothing." But Bryce was crying now. He hadn't cried yet, not when they were in Dane's room or when the EMTs came or when they came to the hospital or when they were told to wait in the waiting room or when he read a Better Homes and Gardens to occupy himself or when his parents arrived and they were both crying and they hugged him for about ten minutes each or when the doctor came out to say that Dane hadn't woken up yet but they still had hope that he would.

"Are you…" Alex had been about to say 'Are you okay?' but he realized that was a stupid thing to ask.

"No," Bryce said, looking at him with these eyes that looked so much like Dane's that Alex's own eyes widened. He'd never noticed before that they had the same eyes.

"Do you want to tell me about it?" Alex asked, partly for his own selfish reasons because he wanted to know what it was that his boyfriend hadn't told him, and partly because it seemed like Bryce needed someone to talk to.

"No," Bryce said again, but then he ran his hand under his nose and sniffed. "We had a little sister."

Alex didn't know what to say to this. He felt mostly numb, emotionally worn out, so he wasn't sure how he even felt. He didn't say anything, just watched as Bryce cough-laughed in that way people do when they feel like they're showing too much emotion.

"Anna," Bryce added. "Anna Rose Seigerson." He ran a hand through his hair and looked up at the sky, gray clouds above, nothing to break the monotony of the gray. "She was 9 when Dane killed her."

"What?" Alex said this a little too loud and his voice was a little too high-pitched and he would have been embarrassed any other time.

"He didn't do it on purpose," Bryce said, tasting salty tears in his mouth. He wiped violently at his cheeks with his palms.

"You three will be alright for tonight?" Casey asked, digging in her purse for her keys.

"Yeah, sure," Dane said, waving a hand and leaning against the kitchen counter. "I'll be fourteen in two days, and Damien's already fourteen." He jerked a thumb at Damien, who stood next to Anna next to the kitchen island.

"We'll be back by nine," Casey said, and she took Bryce's hand.

"Why can't Anna come with us?" Bryce whined, tugging his hand out of his mother's grasp and taking Anna's hand instead.

"We're picking up some of her Christmas presents while we go for Dane's birthday presents," Derek said as he walked through the doorway from the living room. "Come on, they'll be fine, Case."

"But they're so young…" Casey bit her lip, looking at Dane and Damien, who shrugged innocently.

"They'll be fine," Derek repeated firmly, and he had to tug Anna's hand out of Bryce's and pull the ten-year-old Bryce along out the door, Casey following.

"Don't go anywhere!" she called over her shoulder.

"We won't!" Dane called back.

"They were babysitting her. Dane and Damien," Bryce said, and he threw one of the dead petals at the ground, but instead of it flying toward the dirt, it floated softly on the wind. "And the dumbass decided to go into my parents' liquor cabinet."

"No, you can't," Dane said, holding the bottle in his hand and looking at it. "You can't have any, Anna, sorry. When you're older you can." He took a nice big swig and immediately started coughing, but once he was done he grinned at Damien and handed him the bottle.

"But we're babysitting," Damien said in a hushed voice, looking at the bottle in his hands.

"It's fine," Dane said. "It's just a little bottle of wine, we won't have that much. Mom and Dad always have glasses of wine at dinner, don't they, An?"

Anna nodded slowly, her big brown eyes looking amazed.

"And then once they were thoroughly drunk because their little bodies couldn't hold liquor at all, they went bike riding." Bryce sat against the wall and banged his head onto the bricks, hoping it would hurt.

Alex watched him with wide eyes, hardly believing what Bryce was saying.

"It's dark," Damien said, biting his lip and looking at the bike Dane was holding.

"So? It's not that dark," Dane said, hopping up onto the bike. "We'll be back, Anna!" he called as he started to pedal away, knowing that Damien would follow him.

"I want to come!" Anna exclaimed indignantly, just as Damien said, "We can't just leave her here, Dane!"

Dane waved a hand and as he did so, the bike wobbled dangerously. He tried to gain control again but it clattered onto the driveway and he fell off. But he was laughing.

Anna was laughing too and Damien was giggling a little, then he burped and decided to get on a bike because Dane was so he should too.

Anna found her own bike in the garage and started to get her helmet, but Dane called out, "Don't get your helmet, Anna! That'll take time, I just want to go!"

He was getting back on his bike and starting to ride off, and Damien was already on the street, so Anna got on her bike and followed them.

She'd just gotten her training wheels taken off, so she was a little wobbly and uncertain, but she found that she could get along just fine if she wiggled the handlebar just enough for the bike to stay up every time it dipped to the side.

"Were you and she close?" Alex asked, shivering, but not from the cold anymore.

"Yes," Bryce said, and the only way Alex knew that this was what he said was because he could see his lips forming the words. No sound came out.

Bryce was six and Anna was four, and Bryce pushed her down the slide at the playground and she screamed while she went down, and he apologized profusely, but then she turned on him and said, "You better do that again." And so he did. He pushed her down the slide until it got dark out and they had to go home.

Bryce was seven and Anna was five, and Bryce licked Anna's ice cream cone while she was turned around, but she felt it and cried until he ended up giving her his own cone so that she had two and all he'd gotten was a measly lick.

Bryce was eight and Anna was six, and Bryce pulled her sled around in the snow-covered yard. There was nothing else to do, since Damien and Dane had stolen all the snow to make a snowman, so Bryce told Anna to get in the sled while he pulled her in circles again and again and she laughed and his arms and legs started to hurt but she was laughing so he kept going.

Bryce was nine and Anna was seven, and Bryce sat with her at the kitchen table explaining addition for half an hour until she finally understood the concept. He walked around the house to find as many paperclips as he could to demonstrate to her the concept of if you have three paperclips and you add five then you get eight.

"There was a drunk driver and she never stood a chance," Bryce said with his eyes closed, and Alex didn't know what to do. Should he wrap his arm around Bryce…?

But no, there were some times when you just couldn't comfort someone. No matter how much you wanted to, there was nothing you could do to make it any better.

"ANNA!"

But it was too late and the car didn't even swerve, it hit her head on, and she died instantly, the doctors said later.

The driver didn't even stop, but Damien and Dane did, they jumped off their bikes and ran to her, the form on the pavement, mangled now, limbs bent at the wrong angles, blood spilling from somewhere…

"Holy shit," Dane said, as it dawned on him distantly that something really bad had happened.

"I'll…" Damien didn't even say anything, he just ran off to get help, and Dane stood in the middle of the road next to his little sister and her bike, both of which were ruined. He watched as the puddle of blood grew and hit his shoe, and he bent down and put his ear on her heart. He heard nothing. He started to shake and he felt a sob being ripped through his throat and he knew that this was his fault.

"We were in the store when the police called us and I'll never forget my parents' faces." Bryce was rocking himself back and forth and Alex didn't have to prompt him anymore. It almost seemed like he wanted to say these things, he wanted to tell someone.

Derek picked up the phone, the muzak playing calmly in the background.

"Hello?" he asked, showing Casey a stuffed bear he thought Anna might like.

Then he dropped the bear and Casey and Bryce looked at him. "What?" he asked loudly. There was a voice on the other end of the phone that sounded monotonous and calm. "Is she…" He trailed off and the person on the other end said something. Derek fell against the shelves of stuffed bears and baby dolls.

"What is it?" Casey asked, taking the phone and putting it up to her own ear. She paled as she listened and remained still as a statue.

"Daddy?" Bryce waved a hand in front of Derek's face but he did not respond. "Daddy?"

"Come on," Derek said suddenly, grabbing Bryce up into his arms and carrying him out of the aisle.

"And I never got to see her body but…but everyone always said that was best. I don't know why, it's not like it would have been any worse than it already was," Bryce said, and then a sob escaped him. He gasped for air and Alex put a comforting hand on his knee which was pulled up to his chin now.

Derek jumped out of the car and rushed to his oldest child, standing next to an EMT who was squatting next to him, apparently trying to comfort him. Dane looked up at his father with empty eyes, and Derek wrapped him into a long hug. Then Casey came over and hugged him, and then some EMTs came over and said that she was dead but they were taking her to the hospital anyway just in case.

"So…" Bryce sniffed again and looked up at Alex, then realized that Alex's hand was on his knee. Bryce pulled his knees away and Alex let his hand fall to the dirt. "So that's the problem. That's what's wrong with him. It's been four years exactly now and he still wants to take another one of my parents' kids away." He let his forehead rest on his knees and didn't move for a long time.

Alex knew that it wasn't the time to talk Bryce out of blaming Dane, it wasn't the time to say that it was a mistake and that no one could have known that would happen…

So after Bryce had been still for a long time, and Alex had sat there next to him, Alex stood up and said, "I'm going to go in now and see how things are. Will you be okay out here?"

"I'm not suicidal," Bryce said with malice in his voice, and Alex bit his lip. It was only once he was inside the hospital again that he realized he was crying.


Alex listened to the heart monitor beep slowly, he watched Dane's chest, and he couldn't tell whether he was breathing or not. His eyes were shut, and his face was expressionless. He almost looked peaceful, Alex thought with a jolt.

He wasn't dead.

He repeated the thought over and over again in his head.

He wasn't dead. He couldn't be dead. They said he would wake up. He had to wake up. Dane couldn't leave him. He couldn't leave him. Not now. He was so young. So young. He had so much life ahead of him.

There were so many things they didn't do together. There were so many pictures that were yet to be taken, so many kisses to happen, so many laughs to hear, so many conversations to have. He couldn't die now!

Alex felt tears sting his eyes again, and he did nothing to stop them. He had stopped trying to hold himself together the moment he saw Dane unconscious in his bed. He felt his eyelids droop heavily. He was so tired, but he didn't want to sleep. He didn't want to do much of anything.

He squeezed Dane's hand in his own. He had been holding it for the last ten minutes in hopes that he would feel something back, anything back.

He let his head fall, slowly counting the beeps of the heart monitor in his head and praying to whatever spiritual figure that was beyond this world that Dane would wake up.

There were so many things he could have done. How could he be so stupid? He should have known that Dane wasn't getting better. He should have known when he didn't come to school as often that he was far from okay. He should have known when he practically told him goodbye earlier in the day that he might never come back. He should have suspected that he was lying when he said Damien would be with him.

And still Alex let him go.

He let the boy he loved more than anything in the world hurt himself, and he could do nothing about it now but watch the IV drip slowly and to listen to the beep of the heart monitor.

"Dane, it's me, Alex," he whispered softly, looking at the boy in the bed and biting his lip. He had to hear him. He had to. It was all he had to hope for. "I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm here." He bit his lip, feeling his voice shake. He took a deep breath, looking down and swallowing a few times before trying to speak again.

"I'm so sorry." His voice cracked again but he continued to speak. He had to get out what he wanted to say. He owed Dane that. "I'm so sorry I didn't notice. I'm sorry I didn't stay with you and make everything better." Alex wiped at his eyes from under his glasses which were already fogged up from his earlier tears. He hadn't bothered to clean them.

"I should have been there, but I thought you were better and I should have known." He tried to keep his voice to a whisper, but the last sentence came out as more of a broken sob than anything. "I love you so much, Dane. You just can't die. You can't. So many other people love you too. Not just me. You're so loved, Dane. You mean so much to so many people."

He placed both hands on Dane's, leaning forward in his chair.

"And I would do anything to have you back," he whispered, leaning down to kiss Dane's palm. "Whatever you wanted. I would make sure that you never felt that bad again. I would do anything..."

He imagined that Dane was listening to him. He imagined the way he would smile, the way he would hug him and tell him that he didn't have to do anything for him. But Alex always knew that he did.

"You once said you liked it when I sang to you," he continued, as though urging a nervous actor to perform, doing anything to make Dane wake up, as though one magic word would cause his heart to speed up and his eyes to open. "I would sing to you every day if you wanted me to. Whatever you wanted me to. I would-"

Alex paused. Dane liked it when he sang to them. He remembered the nights when they would stay up talking on the phone when Dane couldn't sleep. He sang to him until the phone line went silent and he heard the soft snores of his boyfriend from the other end of the line.

Alex smiled sadly at the memory, sniffling and keeping his eyes on Dane's closed ones.

"I could sing to you now if you wanted me to." Alex didn't know why he was asking Dane's permission when there was no way he could answer, but part of him wished that he would. The room was silent. Alex breathed in deeply, scanning the room for signs of anyone.

Dane's parents had left to talk to the doctor in a room down the hall 15 minutes ago, and no one had come into the room since. He felt his throat constrict, dry as sandpaper. He swallowed hard, clearing the cobwebs that had made their homes in his voice box.

"Alright, I'll sing." He pushed his lips together, unsure of how to proceed. He ran a thumb along Dane's hand. He shivered slightly himself before opening his mouth to sing softly, a whisper in the air.

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks, you say sit down it's just a talk

Alex's voice wavered. It was more whispering than singing, but he hoped Dane wouldn't mind. He shut his eyes and ground his teeth together before continuing.

Smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through.

He wished that he would have been with Dane when it was about to happen. He would have held him to the bed, thrown the pill bottle out the window, anything. He would have done anything to save him. He was always pretending that he was okay, but Alex should have known. He should have seen right through his smile and into the deeper problems that Dane was having.

Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

He was always trying to make Dane feel better, but he never could. He felt as though there was always something just out of reach that would magically make him happy. But Dane was always on another spectrum entirely from where he was. He couldn't understand how much he meant to him no matter how hard he tried.

Alex felt his heart twist in his chest, but instead of stopping, the feeling propelled him onwards. He didn't notice the tears anymore. He had to finish this song. He had to finish it for Dane.

Where did I go wrong?
I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known
How to save a life

He grabbed onto Dane's hand so tightly that his fingers began to lose all their feeling. He felt a million different emotions spin around at once. He didn't hear the heart monitor anymore. He didn't see anything other than Dane, but not how he was. He saw him happier. He saw all the good times they'd had together, and it was all so much that he thought he might faint.

Alex would do anything to change the way things were. There had to be something he had done wrong. If only there was some way for Dane to let him know. He had to know what he did wrong.

It was killing him from the inside, he could hardly sing anymore, he was gasping the words now so that they were hardly audible. If there was one thing he had to do for Dane, it was to finish this.

Finish.

He commanded himself, gasping for air.

Let him know that you know best
'Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense without granting innocence.
Lay down a list of what is wrong the things you told him all along
Pray to God he hears you, and pray to God he hears you.

Alex was practically shouting the last lines, as though he was shouting to the man upstairs himself. He shut his eyes again, trying to make the tears stop. His whole body shook with energy, blinding his vision entirely.

It was as though the song was his lifeline to Dane, as though he was able to tell him all the things he should have told him before all of this happened just by singing louder.

If Dane woke up, he would try harder.

Where did I go wrong?
I lost a friend.
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all nightmares
Had I known how to save a life.

The song came to its close, and Alex's voice returned to a whisper. He opened his eyes, and looked at Dane's face and sobbed. He fell onto his still form and stayed that way as the heart monitor continued to beep in the background.


Casey fell onto Derek's chest, shutting her eyes and knotting her fingers into the fabric of his t-shirt.

"He'll wake up," Derek whispered into her ear, kissing the top of her head and running a hand through her hair. She shook her head, though in what direction, Derek couldn't tell. He felt as though he was going to throw up, but he kept his expression even.

He had to be brave for Casey, especially to make up for last time.

"It won't happen again." He said it for both of them. It wouldn't happen again. They couldn't lose two children on the same day. They couldn't.

He shut his eyes and made a face as though tasting cough syrup.

Casey pulled back and looked up at him. Mascara stained her cheeks, which were matted with tears. She pushed her lips together and opened them again, trying to form words. They came out strangled and she fell back into Derek's chest again.

"Why does this have to happen to us again?" she sobbed. Derek felt the tears soak his shirt, but he didn't care. He felt his chest constrict as Casey's words echoed in his ears. They were the words that he had been thinking for the entire time they had been at the hospital.

Why did this always have to happen to them? Were they that horrible of parents? Maybe that was why Dane was how he was. Maybe it was because they weren't meant to be parents.

Was this whatever cosmic being existed's way of telling them that? Derek ran a hand along Casey's back, pulling her as close to him as he possibly could.

"I don't know," he replied truthfully. His voice broke on the last word and he cleared his throat to cover it. He would not fall apart. "I've been asking myself that same question."

"First Anna now Dane-" She cut off again, stopping herself from sobbing any harder than she already was.

"Dane won't-" Die. Derek couldn't finish the word. He let the sentence hang in the air, but they both knew what he was going to say.

"Derek," Casey whispered, running circles along his chest. He could feel her hand shake and he reached up to steady it. He felt her breath still against him as he tried to stop his own hand from shaking. He looked down at her expectantly, urging her to continue. "I love you." She sighed, kissing his cheek. "No matter what happens we have each other." She whispered into his ear softly, and at that moment Derek lost it. He let out a dry sob.

It seemed as though hours passed, but it was merely minutes. Derek pulled back and dragged Casey with him to sit beside Dane's bed.

Their crying had slowed and they just stared at their son, holding hands, unable to say anything.

"The last time we were here I swore it would be our last," Casey said. Her voice was hollow, lifeless. "Looks like I was wrong."

"This will be the last time," Derek said with certainty. "We'll get him help. More help. We'll do whatever it takes." He squeezed Casey's hand, and she squeezed back.

"I'm worried about Bryce," Casey admitted, speaking her thoughts out loud. "I-I can't lose him too. We can't. I-" She trailed off.

"I don't care! I want to talk to Anna!" Bryce wailed in Casey's arms as she tried to restrain him. He kicked and thrashed to free himself from her grasp, but she held on tighter.

"You can't talk to Anna-" Her voice shook, and tears began to form in her eyes again. "She's in a better place, Bryce. She's happy she's-"

"She's dead, isn't she?" Bryce stopped twisting in her grasp and looked up at her with big brown eyes.

"Oh Bryce...Sweetie...it's going to be-"

"She is!" He buried his head in Casey's chest. "She is! I knew it! I knew it!" He balled his hands into fists.

He had cried for hours that night, and Casey remembered crying right along with him. She hated that she couldn't keep it together for him. She hated that he had to deal with that at such a young age, and most of all, she hated the fact that even though she had one of her children in her arms, she still wanted her daughter back.

"We won't lose Bryce." Derek said with certainty. He stared at Dane, as though by doing so, he would wake up any minute. "And we won't lose Dane either."

Casey looked over at him, and for a moment, she believed the statements to be true. Dane would be alright.


Bryce wiped his eyes, sniffling as the air whistled around him. He shivered, pulling his arms tighter around himself. Goosebumps rose up on his arms, but he couldn't be bothered to go inside. The cold was somehow comforting, numbing. It made him feel somewhat sedated, when all he wanted to do was scream and cry.

He was done crying now. He hated it. He hated how he had to cry on this day every year. He couldn't just go on like a normal person should be able to. It was three years ago since Anna had died and he was still crying.

He grabbed for a strand of grass that swayed in the wind. He ran it through his fingers, tearing it in two and throwing it back to the garden floor.

He closed his eyes and leaned against the cool brick wall, pulling his legs into himself.

Sometimes he liked to imagine that Anna was sitting next to him. She would spread her pink flowered skirt that she always liked to wear and talk about whatever the hell was on her mind. Boy that kid could talk.

Bryce smiled to himself at the memory. She would tell him about the boy in her kindergarten class that always pulled her hair, and how she pulled his hair back and got in trouble for it. He laughed under his breath remembering the way her face had looked. Her little cheeks flushed with anger, her lips turned into a pout, arms crossed over her chest.

He remembered the time they had played spy and used walkie-talkies to investigate what Dane and Damien were talking about in Dane's room. Anna always blew their cover because she would end up giggling, and Bryce would pretend to be mad, but would end up laughing himself.

Most of all he remembered the nights that one of them couldn't sleep and they crawled into bed with the other and talked about a million other things. Everything would just seem less scary with the other one there. Anna used to sing silly songs that she would make up on the spot and would pause for Bryce to join in. He always felt stupid doing it, but now he would give anything to sing to Anna again. She deserved every note.

Bryce leaned his head back, looking up to the gray sky. The sun was rolling into the clouds, but he couldn't be bothered to move.

"Why did this have to happen today?" he asked, a whisper in the wind. He let his eyes flutter closed again, swallowing a few times before speaking again. "I miss you, Anna." He didn't know why, but it made him feel better to talk to her. He liked to think she was listening from whatever Heaven she lived in now. She had to be in a Heaven. If there wasn't one, there had to be something for her. He hated to think that as perfect a little girl as her would be forced to live in an eternity of nothingness.

"We all miss you. And now Dane's in the hospital and I just don't know what to do, Anna." He readjusted himself against the wall, running a hand through his hair. He watched the flowers shuffle in the wind, as though waiting for a sign that she was actually listening to him. "I'm really going downhill. I'm so angry all the time and you always knew how to make me feel better."

He felt his chest constrict, as though a very heavy weight had been placed down on him. He gasped, the cold air filling his lungs and making it harder to breath.

"I don't know how to make things better."

He dropped his head in his hands. Dane was still unconscious, his parents were practically ready to plan his funeral, and worst of all, today was the day that Anna died. It wasn't fair. Why would Dane do this to him again? He had to know that Bryce loved him, right? They never exactly got along, but surely he didn't think killing himself would make anything better.

Losing another sibling wouldn't make anything better.

"I'm so scared, Anna. I'm scared he's going to die." His voice cracked, and he felt salty tears prickle under his eyelids, but he couldn't be bothered with that, not right now. "Don't let him die, Anna. Please. If you can do anything..."

He fell onto his knees, letting the sobs wrack his body like a ship in a storm. Why was everything so awful? Why did she have to die? Why did he have to be all alone all the time? The silence filled his ears like static, causing him to shake harder. It was too silent. It was always too silent.

"D-do you remember that one song you used to love?" he asked his knees, not bothering to lift his head up. "Drop in the Ocean, right?" He remembered Anna singing quietly in her soft angelic soprano in her room as he stood in the doorway. She had been so proud that she learned how to play the main melody on her little keyboard. She asked him to join in with her, but he had never really been much of a singer. Still, she had always wanted him to sing it with her.

"Come on, Bryce!" Anna groaned in annoyance, crossing her arms over her chest and pursing her lips like she always did when she wanted someone to do something for her. "Just sing it once!"

Bryce shook his head and laughed a little under his breath, leaning against the door frame and watching his sister in amusement.

"I like to hear you sing!" he explained, grinning. She didn't buy it for a second, and sat down on the chair next to the keyboard, turning away from Bryce. "Come on!" Bryce continued. "I can't sing anyway. I'd probably mess you up!"

"You just don't want to sing." She humphed, turning her head over her shoulder and looking back at Bryce for a second before turning her nose up. Bryce tried his hardest not to laugh, because she was so adorable when she was trying to act angry. He moved across the room and kneeled down next to her.

"You just sound so beautiful that I couldn't compete."

She kept her nose turned up for a second more, but Bryce could see the smile forming on her lips. She finally turned back toward the keyboard and began singing without another word.

He should have sung it with her. He regretted every moment that he didn't do something to make Anna happy. But there was no way to make up for it now.

He cleared his throat, scanning the area for signs that anyone was around.

They weren't.

"Do you want me to sing it for you now, Anna?" he whispered, his mouth barely opening. He waited for a moment, as though listening for her reply. "Okay." He could practically hear her clapping her hands like she always used to when she was excited.

It's just a drop in the ocean, a change in the weather
I was praying that you and me might end up together
It's like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert
But I'm holding you closer than most
'Cause you are my heaven.

Bryce tried to keep his voice steady. Anna deserved for him to sound as good as he possibly could. His voice was already shit, but the least he could do was to keep it steady. He bunched his hands into the grass and ground his teeth together, trying to keep himself from losing it altogether.

He imagined her sitting in front of him, cross legged, with those big brown eyes trained on him. He imagined her angelic smile urging him forward, and for a moment, he felt that he could continue. He had to continue, for her.

I don't wanna face the weekend
If you don't love me, pretend
A few more hours then it's time to go

Anna's gaze never left him in his mind. She was singing along with him, her tiny voice blending with his tenor in perfect harmony. She giggled happily and picked up a flower from the garden, twirling it in her fingers.

As my train rolls down the East coast
I wonder how you keep warm
It's too late to cry, to broken to move on.

Sometimes he couldn't believe that it had been three years since Anna had left him. He still felt her with him every single day of his life. He was with her in the music he listened to, the movies he watched, and at every family gathering he ever attended. She never left him. It was both a blessing and a curse.

Sometimes all he wanted to do was stay in bed and cry, but he knew Anna wouldn't want that. She wanted him to live, to get up. Sometimes she was the only reason to keep trying.

Still I can't let you be
Most nights I hardly sleep
Don't take what you don't need
From me

Some nights he would lie awake and wonder what Anna was doing. Was she happy where she was now? Was she watching him? Was she singing? He liked to think she was.

That was why he joined the Warblers. Everyone thought it was just to show Dane up or to be with Lucie, and it was, but deep down he knew that Anna would want him to. That was most important.

He looked up and still saw Anna sitting in front of him, singing, and he could finally allow a small smile to trace his lips.

It's just a drop in the ocean, a change in the weather
I was praying that you and me might end up together
It's like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert
But I'm holding you closer than most
'Cause you are my heaven.

He remembered the way that Anna's little fingers used to stumble over the keyboard as she played her own version of the piano interlude. She used to blush when she made a mistake, but Bryce always told her that he never noticed.

Misplaced trust and old friends
Never counting regrets
By the grace of God I do not rest at all
In New England as the leaves change
The last excuse that I'll claim
I was a boy that loved a woman like a little girl

He was always remembering all the things he should have done, all the missed opportunities they had. If only they had more time! He would have taken Anna to all the places she wanted to go. They could have gone to the movies to see that Disney movie she wanted to see, but he had been putting off taking her to because he was too old for that stuff.

Anna always came before anyone else now, and that's how it always should have been.

Still I can't let you leave
Most nights I hardly sleep
Don't take what you don't need
From me
It's just a drop in the ocean
A change in the weather
I was praying that you and me might end up together
It's like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert
But I'm holding you closer than most
'Cause you are my heaven.

He shut his eyes letting the music completely take control of him. He heard Anna's voice ring out loud and clear in his ears and his heart beat sped up like a drum beat to the music. He could practically hear the keyboard playing the simple melody as though it was right next to him.

It was as though he was back in Anna's room at the side of the keyboard, singing with her. He could imagine her smile growing as the music reached its crescendo.

Heaven doesn't seem far away any more now
Heaven doesn't seem far away

He knew Anna was in Heaven watching right now. She had to be. And maybe, just maybe, she wasn't really gone. Not really. She was there with him right now. She was always with him. She was singing with him. He knew it. He felt it.

Heaven doesn't seem far away anymore
Heaven doesn't seem far away
Just a drop in the ocean
A change in the weather
I was praying that you and me might end up together
It's like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert,
But I'm holding closer than most
'Cause you are my Heaven.
You are my Heaven.

The song ended and Bryce opened his eyes again. Anna was gone. The courtyard was empty. And he was left alone again.

He sat down and cried, his body shaking with the adrenaline that the song had pumped through his veins. Once again she had slipped through his fingers.


Dear Damien,

'I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.' –Henry David Thoreau.

Do you remember when we were four years old and my dad was filming you, me, Bryce, and Anna in ballet skirts? Or when we were seven and we went to Disneyland with your dads, just the two of us and we got pictures with all our favorite characters and you threw up on my shoes in Space Mountain? Or when we were thirteen and we got drunk and drove your dads' car down the road at top speed laughing so we wouldn't cry? It's that kind of thing that I remember best, the times with you and me being best friend with nothing between us, none of the shit that I've brought to the table recently.

I know you don't think I should blame myself for what happened last night, but I don't know how to stop. No one could help, and you saved my life so many times. Because of you I was there to meet Alex, and Lucie, and make new friends and have some more good memories before it was my time to go.

I know you're probably thinking I don't know that it's my time but I just know. It wasn't her time to go when she died, but it's my time now. I know.

You helped me live, Damien, against all odds, you wrestled knives out of my hands and took me to the hospital, you waited in the waiting room while they stitched me up, all nice and new except they can't replace my mind, can they? So what could you do? Nothing. You couldn't have done anything, I'm telling you that.

But that's just existing. You helped me to exist. And then I lived. I lived so much with you, I laughed and smiled around you, and you're the best friend in the whole entire world. Don't let yourself tell you otherwise. It's not true.

I want you to hold yourself together, okay? You don't need to do shit for anyone else. Don't comfort them, don't wrestle knives out of their hands (though I doubt anyone but me would make you do this), don't do anything. Just focus on yourself. You're too strong for other people and not strong enough for yourself, Damien.

I love you.

Dear Mom,

I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry to take another child from you. But I have to. I just can't be here anymore. I've tried – not very hard because I can't do that either. I've tried to find happiness and it's nowhere. I've tried to lift the guilt that I drag around everyone but I can't do that either. I can't do anything.

I don't want to hurt you. I want you to have all three children and be perfectly happy. I want that for you because you're the best mom ever. You always know what to do for me, and whenever I had those random maladies I used to have as a kid, you'd be there to fix it. When I got those earaches you knew just what to do. When I got those migraines you took me to the doctor's and held my hand.

It's not your fault. It isn't. Please don't try to find a way that it is because it really, really isn't. You've been nothing short of the most amazing, perfect mother ever.

I can't thank you enough for all that you've done for me. I'm sorry to take myself away from you like I took her. But I really think you'd all be better off, and if I didn't think that I wouldn't do it. Please just don't dwell on me. It would be best for you to just forget.

If I go to Heaven I'll try to exchange my life for hers and maybe she can come back. It's worth a shot. And if not, remember that she and I are together.

I love you.

Dear Lucie,

We'd only just started to be friends and you'd changed me so much already. It's like that one song you like, For Good from Wicked. 'Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.' I've been a better person, or I've tried my very best to be. You're so beautiful and friendly to everyone and you go out of your way to do things for people. You're like the moral compass of everybody's lives.

We've had so many good times and I wish we could have more but I hope you can understand why we can't. Don't find some way to blame yourself. Everyone does that and it's not your fault. It really, really, really isn't.

Please do something for me, though. Make sure Damien dumps Alice and make sure you and he get together. You need each other I think. And you both love each other. I promise you do. And you're so good together. You might need each other even more now…

And your brother… Please please try to get him to move on. I don't want to ruin his life with this. And we've only known each other a year so it shouldn't be too hard. I know he has the best sister ever to help him through this though.

I love you.

Dear Alex,

I want you to know that this isn't your fault. You aren't going to believe me when I say that, but you have to know that the moments I spent with you were some of my happiest. I never was upset because of you. You did everything that you could have possibly done to make me happy.

I always brought you down. You always had to worry about me and that wasn't fair. I ruined your Christmas because I'm so damn selfish, but I just can't do this anymore. You'll be so much happier when I'm gone. You don't think you will be now, but you will. I don't want you to think this was your fault. I don't want you to look back and think what you could have down to help me, because no one can help me. You need to go on with your life and forget about this whole year. It's for the best. I just wasn't strong enough to deal with life, and I know you don't understand that, but I'm happier now. I couldn't even tell you about what a terrible person I really am.

I want you to remember all the good times we had together, but don't dwell on them too much. Just think of them as memories that are long gone. I want you to remember me that way. I want you to remember the time that we danced around my dorm to 'Pocketful of Sunshine' and didn't care how stupid we looked. And the time that we went to the zoo and you took a million pictures and I acted all annoyed, but really I thought you were the most adorable thing ever. I want you to remember the time we watched Zombieland and ate Twinkies and drank Code Red and laughed our asses off. I want you to remember the time we kissed after regionals and everything was perfect. Most of all, I just want you to know that all the times we spent together were the happiest in my life.

If you're reading this, someone probably told you what today is. I killed her, Alex. I know everyone says that I didn't, but I know that I did. I killed my little sister. It was all my fault. I was so fucking stupid. And now you know that Bryce has a reason to hate me just as much as everyone else in my family should. I put their lives on hold too many times and I'm ending it.

Please go on with your life. I want you to go out and become a photographer and meet a nice guy and get married and have a bunch of kids and be happy as you deserve to be. If there's anyone in this world that deserves to be happy, it's you, Alex. And I won't let me get in the way of that. I love you too much for that.

Please don't be upset.

I love you.

Dear Bryce,

You were right, I'm not strong enough to handle anything. And now I'm taking another child away from Mom and Dad because I'm so weak. You were right to hate me when I killed Anna. You were the only one that believed it was completely my fault, and you had every right to hate me for that.

You need to stop bringing yourself down. I see you Bryce. You aren't happy. You snap at Mom and Dad and you hate everyone around you. I know it's hard without Anna, and wherever I go when I die, I would do anything to exchange my life for her. I really would.

You have so much to offer Bryce. You're amazing at baseball and math. I could never even hit a ball to save my life. I was always so jealous of that. You were always everything that dad ever wanted in a son. Don't take that for granted. You're smarter and more capable than you think. Maybe now that I'm gone you'll finally be able to be happy. I won't be there to make everyone worry about me anymore. You'll get all the attention that you deserve from Mom and Dad and you'll all be happy. Don't think it's your fault.

I know we never were really friends, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry that we always fought and I was never there for you when you were upset because I was so caught up in my own problems.

Remember when we were kids and we used to all go sledding together? You, me, Damien and Anna? I wish things could be like that. But they can't. I fucked things up too much for that.

I really hope that you'll try to get along better with Damien when I'm gone. I think you both need someone. He's a really good guy and I know you guys never got along, but I think things would be better if you tried. I want you to try.

Maybe if I wasn't around everyone else could have been happy.

Despite everything you think, I do love you, Bryce. You're my brother, and I always have.

I love you.

Dear Dad,

I don't know what to say except that it's not your fault. What I did was for me. I just couldn't do it anymore, Dad! I can't. I hate how everyone watches me constantly. I can't even go to the bathroom without someone thinking I'm going to stab myself. Everyone walks on pins and needles with me and nothing is getting any better.

I just can't get better, Dad. I know you think that's not true, but it is. Every day is a battle for me. Just getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world.

The therapy doesn't help, Uncle Julian doesn't help, even Alex doesn't completely help. No one can make me better because I'm too screwed up.

It's not your fault, Dad. I know you always think it is, but it isn't. I lied to you about being gay, I gave you so much to worry about, I killed my sister. I've done so much to make your life harder, and now I'm ending it. Now you and mom and Bryce can all be happy and you won't have anything to worry about anymore. You can all just have a normal family.

I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment, Dad. You've always been everything I've needed. You played baseball with me when I was little, and even though I was total shit, you told me I was good. You watched all the zombie movies I liked even though you don't really like them at all, and you actually listened when I rambled on about plotlines to stories that I made up. You were a good dad, Dad. I just don't want you to think that this is your fault.

Please make sure that Mom's okay. I'm sorry I took another child away from you. I just can't do this.

I love you.

IT DOESN'T END HERE. Will Dane wake up? Maybe, maybe not. You'll just have to wait and see…