He shouldn’t have been there that night. He shouldn’t have been at that party, at that house.
He shouldn’t have been lying on the street outside getting the life beaten out of him by the same boys who had tortured him all his life.
When Julius left his house that night he knew something bad was going to happen. He could feel it in the pit of his stomach, dread that grew with every step he took towards the party. He knew it was a bad idea to go.
Maybe that’s why he did it. It had been months since he had felt anything more than just numb, after all. Feeling anything, even dread and fear, was welcome.
He wasn’t sure who slipped something in his drink, not what it was nor when they did it, but Julius was sure there must have been something in there because otherwise the world would be like this. Everything wouldn’t be blurred, voices sounding as if they were miles away, underwater somewhere. The kicks and punches that hit his sides and legs, the cracks of his skull on the ground and the weight of something heavy landing across his chest would surely hurt if he hadn’t been drugged. His arms would be able to move when he told them too, he’d be able to fight back against his attackers.
The words “poison” and “he’s going to die” reached Julius ears just before the sounds of police sirens in the distance did, and vaguely it registered in his brain the sound of two pairs of footsteps as they ran off. Julius couldn’t move, and his eyes were drifting shut as blood leaked out of his body from the wounds that covered him, but even his hazy state could recognize the flashing red and blue lights of the police car. It was the last thing he noticed before everything faded around him.
Four years ago, Charlie Austin packed his bags and left the quiet town of Anchor Point for the bustling streets of New York City, and he hadn’t looked back since. Sure he had come back during holidays to see those he left behind, but his visits were always plagued with an overwhelming knowledge that soon he’d be leaving once again.
But three months ago, Charlie realized he couldn’t stay gone any longer. He may have hated the town, but his heart still lived there for another two years as he finished college, and Charlie couldn’t bear to be away from him any longer. So he packed up his bags and moved home, where he got a job on the local police department. No one knew he was back though, not even the man he loved.
There was a party scheduled for the end of the week to announce his homecoming, but first Charlie had to make it through his first week of work. Starting with the case that promised to keep him on his toes.
It was the case of Aiden Julius Dauer, a man who had been found just yesterday beat up and poisoned outside of a college house party. A man who had just under 36 hours to live unless whatever poisoned him was found and brought to the hospital.
36 hours. Charlie has 36 hours to solve this case before Julius was lost from this world forever.
Not wasting any time, he grabbed his jacket and the case file and took off out of the door. His first stop had to be the hospital. If anyone knew of any motives for the attack, it would be Julius family.
Charlie could only hope they’d be willing to cooperate.
Living in a small town had its advantages, Charlie had to admit, like everything being close enough that he could get to the hospital in a matter of minutes, something fairly important when you’re on a case with a time crunch like this one had. Small town life also meant that just about everybody knew everybody, even years after they left. Charlie knew this because when he approached the front desk at the hospital he didn’t even get a chance to speak before the nurse there was pointing him in the right direction of Julius’s room. “It’s just down the hall Charlie. Sixth door on the left, when you see the giant ego of Henry Dauer you’ll know you’ve arrived.”
“So the devil is here.” Charlie replied, causing the nurse to laugh and he sent her a brief smile to mask the nerves he felt. Even as an adult Henry Dauer scared the living daylights out of him, not that Charlie would ever admit that of course. “Got any holy water I can throw on him?”
The nurse chuckled again, reaching across the desk to squeeze Charlie’s shoulder comfortingly. “You can do this Charlie. Dauer’s got nothing on you, okay, you got this.”
“Right.” Charlie grimaced, standing up a little straighter and rolling his shoulders back in an effort to look taller. “Wish me luck.”
“Just go already.” The nurse rolled her eyes somewhat fondly, giving Charlie a shove down the hallway, earning herself a glare from the boy as he stumbled slightly before catching himself on the wall so he wouldn’t fall. “Time is of the essence.”
Charlie sighed, taking a deep breath before he started down the hallway, counting the doors as he did until he caught sight of the one that undoubtedly belonged to Julius. It was a private room, meaning it was slightly smaller than the other ones but it only had one bed, which was no doubt the work of Henry Dauer. The room was silent inside except the sound of someone rapidly tapping away at their phone, though that stopped too when Charlie knocked on the door.
“About time the police arrived.” Came an annoyed voice from the other side of the door, and a second later it flew open, revealing the scowling face of Henry Dauer, who only sneered when he saw Charlie in front of him. “Oh. It’s you.”
“Mr. Dauer,” Charlie said stiffly, tilting his head slightly towards the man. “I’m the officer in charge of your son’s case-”
“To hell you are,” Henry Dauer growled, glaring down at Charlie with a fiery hatred that a few years ago would have had the boy backing down in fear. Now though, he didn’t even flinch. “I told you to stay away from my son.”
“You can’t keep Julius away from me.” Charlie snapped, glaring back at the older man, struggling to keep his voice and temper level. Now was not the time for this argument. Julius was dying. He had to figure out why, before it was too late. Taking a deep breath, he tried again. “I am the only one who was available to take his case. So, unless you want him to die, I suggest that you cooperate.”
“How dare you-” Mr. Dauer started, about to take a step closer to Charlie when a hand landed on his shoulder, and beside him in the doorway appeared a beautiful young woman with long black hair what appeared to be dried tear tracks streaking her face.
“Dad, please. Let Charlie do his job.” The girl begged softly, giving her dad a pleading look. “For Julius.”
“You have 10 minutes. I’m going to call the office, don’t try anything funny.” Mr. Dauer muttered, shoving harshly past Charlie, dialing his phone before he even made it down the hallway.
“It’s good to see you Charlie.” The girl smile weakly, stepping forward to wrap her arms around him, kissing his cheek softly. “We thought dad had scared you away for good.”
“Are you kidding? I’ve dealt with people worse than your dad in New York, Jess.” Charlie replied, squeezing the girl tightly before she stepped back, only to be replaced by an identical girl who hugged Charlie even tighter than her sister. “How are you holding up Jade?”
“I’m okay. Better now that you’re here.” Jade replied, wiping the tears out of her soft brown eyes as she too stepped back from Charlie, allowing him to see Julius for the first time. He was covered all over in bandages, wires and tubes running across his body, hooking him up to various machines. One of them was projecting his heartbeat through the room, and it was that sound alone that kept Charlie calm as he gazed upon the lifeless body. Julius was still alive. For now, at least.
“Girls, I know this might be hard to talk about, but can you two tell me anything that you know about what happened at this party.” Charlie asked, tearing his eyes away from Julius to look at the twins, who were sitting in one of the chairs together at his bedside. “Do you know where it was, who was there, anything like that?”
“We told him not to go.” Jade said quickly, glancing at her sister who nodded in agreement. “We told him it was a bad idea because they were going to be there but he wouldn’t listen.”
“Who was there?” Charlie asked, frowning slightly as he looked between the twins and Julius. “Girls...”
“Jason Little and his goonies, Nate and Logan.” Jess replied, her voice small and quiet as she watched the shock and the anger flash over Charlie’s face. “The party was at Logan’s house. We tried to stop him, but Juls was determined to go. He knew it was a bad idea too, I think that’s why he did it.”
“He’s felt numb for so long; you know from the medicine they put him on to fight the depression. It makes him numb, and he told us before he left that he was finally feeling again.” Jade added, kicking her feet against the bottom of the chair, looking down at her lap. “I think he wanted them to hurt him Charlie. Dad and him have been fighting a lot lately, and we all thought you had left for good. He hasn’t been doing well.”
Charlie cursed under his breath, running a hand through his messy auburn hair as he stared at Julius, trying to process the information he had just received, and trying very hard not to blame himself. It wouldn’t help. Swallowing harshly, Charlie turned towards with what he hoped was a blank face and a level voice as he said “I’m so sorry. I’m going to fix this girls, I promise you. I’m going to find out who did this to your brother, we’re going to get him the treatment he needs, and when all this is over I’m going to make sure he’s happy again, okay? I promise.”
“Thank you Charlie.” The twins said, standing up together each wrapping half of Charlie in a hug.
“I won’t let you down.” Charlie promised, stepping back from the girls as heavy footsteps outside the room indicated the return of Henry Dauer. “Stay strong girls. Julius is going to be fine.”
Charlie was almost to the door before he turned back, looking at Julius one last time, whispering softly “Don’t die on me Julius. Keep holding on.”
Charlie took the long way back to the police station. He needed a chance to clear his mind, a chance to sort his emotions out from the facts so that by the time he got back he could be ready to work.
He already had a few suspects, namely the three boys the girls had mentioned: Jason Little, Nate Macintosh, and Logan Taylor. The same three boys that had tortured Julius his last two years of high school, and would have went after him their first two years of Charlie hadn’t been around to stop them. The same boys who regularly threw slurs and insults at Julius when they passed him, constantly wrote horrible things to him online and made any class they had at college with him hell. The ones who had repeatedly told Julius to “Do the world and favor and kill yourself already, faggot”, who had almost been charged their senior year when Julius had actually gone through with an attempt to take his own life, who had only gotten away because he survived and Jason was the son of the mayor.
And they were the same boys who threw the party in the first place.
It was motive, a good motive too, but he needed more. He needed, he needed proof. A witness, a video, something that could prove those boys were the ones that attacked Julius. There had to be something.
Charlie was just driving past Hallie’s Bakery when it hit him. Elizabeth. Logan’s girlfriend. If there was anybody who would be able to help him catch the boys it would be her. She always knew where they were, what they did, and she wasn’t willing to put up with their crap. She kept them in line.
Charlie made a sharp turn into the bakery’s parking lot, jumping out of the car as soon as he stopped, slamming the door behind him. He had to hurry, time was running out to save Julius, and he had to save him. He wasn’t going to lose him again.
Elizabeth’s mother owned the town bakery, and so often times the girl could be found there helping her mother out by manning the cash register and running the coffee machine. Today was no different.
The first thing Charlie saw when he entered the bakery was a head of shining blonde hair standing at the cash register, talking adamantly with one of the customers who sat at counter with his coffee. She looked up the second the bells went off as the door open, and a bright smile crossed her face when she saw Charlie walking towards her.
“Charlie! It’s so good to see you.” Elizabeth grinned, coming around the counter to hug him tightly. “We were hoping you’d stop by, mom is just finishing up an apple pie, I know they’re your favorite.”
“Oh no thank you Elizabeth, I can’t stay long I’m on business.” Charlie replied, shaking his head as he followed the girl back to the counter, taking a seat on one side as she walked back around to the other, starting to fix him a coffee before he could even ask.
“At least take this. It’s on the house, don’t worry. A little welcome back gift.” Elizabeth said firmly, setting the large coffee down in front of him before hopping up on the counter, studying Charlie curiously. “You got put on Julius’s case, didn’t you?”
“No one else wanted to take it.” Charlie sighed, taking a long sip of his coffee, thinking for a second. “I heard a couple of the officers saying it really wasn’t worth to try and save a fag, others believed it to be doomed from the start anyways. I was the only one who actually wanted to save him.”
“I anyone can save him it’s you Charlie.” Elizabeth smiled sadly, reaching over and grabbing one of Charlie’s hands with both of her own, squeezing it tightly. “Don’t let them get you down. Julius is going to be okay. He’s a fighter and so are you. You’ll figure this out.”
“I was hoping you could help me with that actually.” Charlie admitted, and Elizabeth perked up slightly, looking confusedly back at him. “It’s just, I know Logan was at the party last night and...”
“And you think he was involved with this.” Elizabeth finished, sighing heavily and looking down at her lap for a moment, thinking. “Jason was the one that wanted Julius to come. It was at Logan’s house, but Jason asked me to invite Julius anyways. Said he wanted to turn over a new leaf. Logan, he said he didn’t know of any, you know, alternate motive Jason had, so I invited Julius but resolved to keep an eye on him. For the most part Nate and Jason just ignored him, but Logan and Julius really seemed to hit it off. They really seemed to be getting along, it was the first time Julius had really smiled since you left.”
Elizabeth laughed humorlessly, wiping her eyes with the back of her and sniffling quietly. “Logan is a good man Charlie. He’s changed a lot since we were kids, and I know he had problems with Julius in the past, but I can promise you he did not do that to him.”
“How can you be so sure?” Charlie pressed, wincing when she gave him an icy glare, as if she was angry he dared question her. Swallowing harshly, he went on, “I know you want to see the best in him Elizabeth, but you can’t be positive he had nothing to do with it.”
“After Julius left, Logan became preoccupied with other things, if you catch my drift.” Elizabeth replied, hopping off the counter so she could properly face Charlie as she spoke. “Logan never touched Julius’s drink either because he already had it before Logan approached him.”
“I can’t speak for Jason and Nate, those two never grew up, and I wouldn’t put something like this past them, but Logan had nothing to do with it I can assure you of that.” Charlie raised his hands in surrender as Elizabeth slammed one of hers on the counter, looking mildly scared of the small girl in front of him.
“Do you think Logan would be willing to talk to me then? Even if he had nothing to do with it, maybe he’d be able to tell me if Jason or Nate did.” Charlie asked, and for a moment Elizabeth didn’t respond, instead fixing him with a cold, calculating look as if she wasn’t sure if she believed him or not. Finally, she replied
“Logan’s out god knows where with his family today, it’s his birthday. He’ll be at my house tonight, but until then I’m not sure. But if you want to talk to Jason, he just walked pass outside.” Elizabeth said, nodding towards out the window at the front of the store. Charlie spun around, jumping up the instant he got sight of the back of Jason’s head, not even grabbing his coffee before running out the door, throwing a quick “Thank you” over his shoulder before disappearing out the door.
Elizabeth watched him go shaking her head, grabbing the empty coffee cup he left behind and throwing it into the trash can, wiping at the counter where he had been sitting, trying to remember more about the party last night. There had to be something, some kind of proof...
Absently she looked up, catching sight of the camera across the street pointed towards the atm that sat there. That’s when it hit her. Of course! If there was a camera near Logan’s house, they’d have all the proof they needed.
“Mom, I’m going on break!” Elizabeth yelled towards the back of the store as she hastily untied her apron, exchanging it for her jacket and purse before taking off out the door and down the street at something very close to a run.
If she could get the evidence for Charlie, maybe they could save Julius before it was too late.
Talking to Jason was not a good idea. Not only did Charlie get nothing out of him beside a few snappy remarks, but by when he arrived back at the police station his boss was waiting for him, and he was not happy at all.
“I got a call from the mayor just a few minutes ago. Said you were harassing his son.” Charlie’s boss, a short man with squinty eyes named Jonathan McMillan, was waiting for Charlie as soon as he walked through the door, his arms crossed and a glare on his face.
Charlie scoffed, brushing past his boss with ease and rolling his eyes. “I was asking him a few questions about the party, if that’s what you mean by harassing. It is my job to figure out what happened there.”
“You were accusing him of attacking that kid.” Jonathan growled, following Charlie to his desk, his heavy footsteps attracting the attention of several curious officers and other personal on the building.
“That kid has a name. Julius Dauer.” Charlie said, trying his hardest to keep his voice level despite the anger he felt boiling very violently inside of him. “And it’s pretty obvious that he was the one that did it. He’s already almost got arrested once for charges against Julius, I have several witnesses that saw them leaving around the same time, and one that said she saw Jason give Julius a drink at the party, most likely. The evidence is stacked against him.”
“The evidence is circumstantial at best.” Jonathan replied, causing Charlie to scoff angrily in return, but the younger man didn’t turn around to face him, at least not until his boss reached in front of him and snatched the case file from his hands. “Leave Jason alone, Austin.”
“With all due respect sir, Jason is my prime suspect. I cannot give up on him just because he’s the mayor son.” Charlie snapped, spinning around quickly to face his boss, gritting his teeth to keep from screaming at his boss right then and there. “There isn’t time to sit around for days looking for evidence. Julius is dying in that hospital room, if I don’t find whatever is poisoning him and fast he is going to die.”
“So what? The world would be better with one less fag in it.” The few people that had been watching the exchange collectively gasped when Jonathan said this, and Charlie clenched his fist tightly at his sides, letting out a harsh breath that caused whispers to ripple through the crowd. “Let him die, who gives a crap?”
“I do. His sisters do. No world would ever be brighter without Julius Dauer in it.” Charlie spat, glaring back at his boss with such ferocity that if looks could kill Jonathan would most certainly be dead. “His sexuality has no correlation with his worth, and for you to even imply that it is is homophobic and degrading.”
Charlie snatched his file back from Jonathan, grabbing his keys back from his desk and stalking back towards the doors, pausing after a few steps to turn back to his boss, adding “Oh and Jonathan? You should really be careful with where you throw your insults before you say the wrong thing to the wrong person. Like saying ‘the world would be better with one less fag’ to the face of a very open and proud homosexual.”
And with that Charlie left, the doors slamming shut behind him leaving nothing but a stunned audience in his wake. Jonathan stared after Charlie in a mixture of shock and rage, not moving until chuckles started to ripple through the few people who were left watching. Jonathan turned his glare onto them, causing many of them to scurry off, except for one girl, who was still grinning as she stared evenly back at him, not at all intimidated by the older man.
“Charlie’s right you know. You really should watch what you say. Someone with less self-control would have decked you right then and there.” The girl replied, brushing her short auburn hair out of her face and smirking slightly. “I would have if I was him.”
It was directly across from Logan’s house, but at the end of the road there was a traffic light camera that recorded everything that passed it. People included. If Julius’s attackers went that way, there was a good chance they were caught on tape.
Elizabeth was sitting on the street corner when Charlie pulled up, the sound of his siren catching her attention before he even drove into her view. She jumped up the second his car stopped on the other side of the street, slipping her phone into her pocket as he made his way over to her.
“Elizabeth you’re a genius.” Was the first words out of Charlie’s mouth, as he walked past her to stand underneath the camera, walking around the pole in a slow circle as he examined it. “How on earth did you know there was a camera here?”
“I didn’t actually. I just kind of hoped there would be a camera around here. I figured I could look whilst you talked to Jason or whatever, you know to save some time, but I wasn’t actually sure if one was here until I got here and saw it.” Elizabeth explained, bouncing on the heels of feet anxiously as she watched Charlie inspect the camera the best he could from the ground. “Do you think it might have caught whoever it was on tape?”
“With the way it’s pointing? I’d say there’s a fair chance.” Charlie replied, giving Elizabeth a hopeful grin as he started walking back towards his car once again. “I’ll have to call to get permission to access the footage, but we should know if it did or not within a few hours.”
Elizabeth smiled back, following Charlie back to his car as he climbed inside, dialing a number on his phone the second he sat down. As the dial tone rang Charlie turned back to Elizabeth to thank her. “I would have never thought to look for traffic cameras. Thank you, Elizabeth.”
“Just let me know when you save Julius, okay?” Elizabeth responded, giving Charlie one last smile before turning and walking off down the sidewalk, back towards town and towards her job, leaving Charlie once again on his attempt to save Julius.
It was surprisingly easy to gain access to the traffic cameras, Charlie discovered, for all you had to do was say you were a police officer and needed to check them for a case and they’d release the video right over to you. Which in retrospect was probably something they needed to fix, but right now Charlie didn’t have time to care. The time Julius had left to live was dripping away far fast then he would have liked, 8 hours had already flown by, and had three days’ worth of footage that he needed to look through. He didn’t have time for trivial concerns like how badly protected traffic footage was.
He didn’t even have time to stop and eat. And he certainly did not have time to sleep.
Charlie was still going through footage that night as the other officers started to leave, night had fallen and pretty soon Charlie was the only left in the building, still staring at the computer screen 4 hours later, waiting, hoping for something to come up on the footage.
The sound of heels alerted him to the presence of somebody re-entering the office, but Charlie only looked up when that somebody dropped a takeout box on his desk and jumped up beside it, muting his computer as he did so to meet their gaze.
“Thought you could use something to eat. Judging by the spectacle you pulled earlier with Jonathan, and the fact that you haven’t moved from that spot for four hours, I’m pretty sure the last thing you put in yourself was breakfast this morning, which we both know just means you drank three cups of coffee and called it done.” The girl quipped, running a hand through her short auburn hair as she gave Charlie and amused looked, nudging the container towards him. “Liva and I went out to Olive Garden, got you some Fettuccine Alfredo and few breadsticks to go along with it. Figured it would hold you over at least until morning.”
“You’re a saint Rebecca, have I ever told you that?” Charlie replied, suddenly overwhelmed with hunger when he opened the box, and he moaned slightly as he took a bite of the breadstick. “I didn’t even realize how hungry I was.”
“I believe the words you’re looking for are ‘Best Big Sister Ever’.” Rebecca teased, messing up Charlie’s hair with a fond smirk, even as he swatted her hand away. “How long are you going to be working on this?”
“Until I get what I need.” Charlie answered, his words muffled by food as he stuffed his mouth. “I only have like a day to figure this out before Julius dies.”
“You’ll get it Charlie; I know you will.” Rebecca replied, messing up Charlie’s hair once more before jumping off his desk, sighing softly as she watched her brother stuff his face like he was running out of time. “Just don’t forget to take care of yourself, okay Charlie? You’re no good to anyone, not even Julius, if you’re falling apart.”
“I’ll be fine ’Becca.” Charlie assured her, the sound of a car horn outside of the station cutting Rebecca off before she could say anything more, and Charlie motioned her towards the door with a slight smile. “Go. Your girlfriend is waiting.”
“Call me if you need anything.” Rebecca called over her shoulder, walking out the before she could stop herself again. She may not have believed Charlie was going to be okay, but for now she could at least humor her little brother. There was no need to add the stress of her presence to all that he was dealing with already.
Besides, maybe if she left Charlie would get some rest. Hopefully.
Three am and the police station was silent. The only person left in the building was Charlie, slumped over his workstation sleeping in what had to be the most uncomfortable position in the world. The only light came from his computer screen, the footage from the traffic camera running across the screen, playing back everything it had caught in the last few days.
Suddenly the video stopped, and another screen popped up beside it. And across the top of that screen was two flashing words written in bright red: Match Found.
“This is not what I meant by taking care of yourself.” Rebecca remarked the next morning, jolting her brother awake as she set down a coffee cup beside him, tsking slightly as he sat up slowly, looking completely disheveled and confused for a moment. “Though I’m glad you got some sleep, even if you do look like a mess.”
“Rebecca? God what time is it?” Charlie groaned, rubbing his face with both hands in an attempt to wake himself up. His sister merely laughed in return, practically shoving his coffee cup into his hands.
“It’s only 9, don’t worry.” Rebecca replied, sipping her own coffee casually. “How you slept through everyone coming in I have no idea because they were very loud.”
“9?” Charlie exclaimed, standing up and looking at his watch in surprise. “No no no, that means I only have 23 hours left. And I still have all that footage to look through, and then I have to get the warrant and search the house and-”
“Well you already have a match.” Rebecca said, rolling her eyes at her brother as she nodded towards the screen. “Matches the time and the suspect.”
“What?” Charlie looked back towards his screen, crying out in amazement when he saw what was there. Underneath the flashing words was a picture of Jason Little, matching his face to that of one of the boys on the frozen camera. The footage was from minutes after the police arrived at Logan’s house. Jason had been running away from the crime scene.
Charlie almost laughed he was so excited, dropping back into his chair so that he could quickly transfer the information onto a flash drive that he could take with him when he went for a warrant. All he needed was his boss’s approval.
“Rebecca do you know where Jonathan is?” Charlie asked, stuffing the flash drive into his pocket as he hastily stood up again, downing half of his coffee as he did so.
“In his office probably, why?” Rebecca replied, rushing after Charlie who took off before she even finished.
“I need him to approve a warrant to search the mayor’s house.” Charlie muttered, coming to stop outside his boss’s office just as his phone rang, lighting up with the number of the hospital. “Hold on, I have to take this.”
Charlie walked a little way back down the hallway to answer his phone, leaving Rebecca alone outside of Jonathan’s door. She couldn’t hear what Charlie was saying, but whatever news he was getting could not be good, if the way his face fell almost as soon as he pressed the answer button, and not long after that he hung up, looking almost defeated as he walked back towards his sister.
“That was the hospital.” Charlie said hollowly, pausing a moment to collect himself, breathing in a long, shaky breath. “They said Julius has gotten worse, a lot faster than they thought he would. He’s not breathing on his own anymore, his heart stopped just before they called. They got it working again this time, but if it stops again, they don’t know if they’ll be able to a second time. They don’t think he’ll make it to the end of the night.”
“Oh Charlie,” Rebecca started, reaching out to pull her brother into a hug, but Charlie put his hand up to stop her before she could.
“No. No sympathy right now. I can’t be upset; we just have to push past this and move on if we ever want a chance of saving him.” Charlie replied, shaking his head, taking another deep breath before he stood up a little straighter, pulling out his flash drive. “If I can just get this warrant then everything will be okay.”
With one last look towards his sister, Charlie pushed open the door to Jonathan’s office, just praying that it would be enough evidence to sway his boss to his side.
It wasn’t. Jonathan still insisted that all the evidence Charlie had was circumstantial, that it wasn’t enough to build a case on no matter how urgent it was. Though he was at least smart enough to hold his tongue this time about Julius, it didn’t stop him from telling Charlie once again that he needed to drop the lead on the mayor’s son. “Leave Jason out of this Austin. The mayor is already not happy you talked to his son, you really want to see how he’s going to react when you accuse him of trying to murder a kid?”
Charlie stormed out of the room after that, Rebecca trailing behind him with a slightly exasperated but understandably sympathetic face, and so that’s how an hour later she wound up sat beside her brother at Hallie’s Bakery, listening as he retold the story to Elizabeth and Logan, both of whom seemed quite upset at the turn of events.
“So what are you going to do then?” Elizabeth asked when Charlie finally stopped speaking, raising an eyebrow at the boy who only shrugged helplessly, hiding his face in his coffee as he took a very long sip. “You can’t just give up. Julius needs you Charlie.”
“I’m not.” Charlie said sharply, frowning at Elizabeth for even suggesting that he would. “I promised a long time ago I would never give up on him. I’m not going to start just because things got a little difficult. I just, I don’t know what else I can do. I can’t question Jason anymore, I don’t have any other leads, and time is running out.”
A silence fell over the four as they all thought about what Charlie said, the reality of his words covering them like a blanket. Time was running out, Julius was dying in the hospital, and nobody knew what to do.
Suddenly Logan snapped his fingers, an idea lighting up in his head. “I know how to prove it was Jason.”
10 minutes later the four of them were gather around a computer screen at the public library, watching as Logan searched through Jason’s emails, which he explained on the way over was the most likely place to find evidence against the man. “Jason has this weird thing where he saves literally everything in emails: Texts, phone calls, homework, it all goes into his email one way or another. If he made plans with someone for the party, it would be in his emails.”
“That’s great and all, but how do you plan on accessing his emails?” Rebecca had asked, which may have seen like a snag in the plans to the others, but Logan already had an answer for this question too.
“Jason uses the same password for everything. He has since he was in 7th grade. In most cases I would say it’s stupid, but in this one it is actually very helpful.”
Getting into Jason’s email may have been easy, but searching through it to find what they needed proved to be a lot bigger of a task then Logan thought. He wasn’t kidding when he said Jason saved everything, and though it was all separated into neat folders, the stuff they were looking for was no doubt buried much further to keep from being detected.
“Dude, Jason is like an internet hoarder.” Elizabeth muttered, watching as her boyfriend scrolled through literally thousands upon thousands of emails. “How does he find anything in here?”
“You should see his bedroom. He’s a real-life hoarder too.” Logan murmured, not taking his eyes off the screen as he rapidly searched through the emails, looking for the one he needed. Hoping he would find it among the mess before it was too late.
“There! That one!” Elizabeth exclaimed after over an hour of searching, darting her hand out to take the mouse from her boyfriend, quickly clicking on the email she saw that looked as if it was the right one.
“Liza!” Logan cried in protest, leaning back as the girl slipped and fell into his lap, the mouse falling from her hand to the ground with a small crash that more than a few stares.
“She found it.” Rebecca whispered quietly, her eyes going wide as she stared at the screen. She turned towards her brother, who was just walking back in after getting another phone call from the hospital and grabbed his arm excitedly. “Elizabeth found the email, she found the proof!”
Charlie didn’t respond at first, staring blankly ahead, and it was then Rebecca noticed just how red his eyes looked, like he was trying desperately not to cry. “Charlie?”
Charlie closed his eyes, and told the three of them with an incredibly shaky voice “Julius’s heart stopped again. A-And they don’t think it’s going to start again.”
Charlie was shaking far too much, so Rebecca drove them to get the warrant. With the emails that Logan had printed off, combined with the flash drive and past altercations between the two, the judge easily signed off on one. Within the hour they were driving to the mayor’s house, meeting up with a few other officers to search the house as Jason stood between his parents, keeping a straight face even as one of the officers emerged from his room holding the poison in an evidence bag, he didn’t flinch even as Rebecca led him out the door and to the police car. Two of the officers drove away from Jason’s house to arrest Nate Macintosh, the boy with whom Jason had exchanged emails with over the plans to attack Julius.
It was over. Charlie had done all he could do, he had caught the boys responsible and they were facing a serious amount of jail time for the crimes they had committed, justice was going to be served. But as Charlie stared at the little bottle clutched tightly in his hand, he couldn’t help but think that maybe he should have done a little more.
The hospital room was silent besides the steady sound of a heartbeat being projected for all to hear, the synchronized sound of two boys steadily breathing as they laid face to face on the hospital bed, legs intertwined with each other despite the bruises that covered one of them, foreheads resting against one another as they stared into each other eyes, each memorizing the look of the other.
Slowly one of them reached up a hand, running it gently through the dark black hair of the other, smiling softly as he pulled his head closer so that their lips could meet in a seamless kiss, one of the many they had shared in the past two days. It was slow and sweet, full of all the love and care in the world, and when they pulled away, both boys were wearing a soft smile meant only for one another.
“I still can’t believe you’re here.” Julius admitted softly, lifting his iv-free hand to gently brush against the other boy’s cheek, as if waiting any moment for him to disappear.
“I am never going to leave you.” Charlie replied, placing his hand over Julius to reassure the younger boy more, squeezing it tightly. “So long as you want be, I will be by your side.”
Julius smiled a little wider this time, leaning in for another kiss that lasted for much less time than the first one did, whispering against the lips of his boyfriend “Then I guess you’ll be here a very long time.”
Charlie smiled and whispered in return “I guess I will.”
A week after he woke up, a week and two days after arriving at the hospital on the brink of death, Julius was released with the strict instructions that he needed to rest. Two of his ribs had been broken and a few more had been bruised under the attack from Jason and Nate, any more movement than necessary would only cause him additional pain and could cause more injuries.
Charlie couldn’t be there to take him home, he did still have work after all, but Jess and Jade were more than ready to step in take care of their older brother and get him back to Charlie’s apartment safely.
They were upset of course that he wasn’t going to come back home with them, things were always a little quieter when Julius wasn’t around, but they understood why he had chosen to move in with Charlie instead of their house. They knew that ever since the attack their brother had suffered from horrible nightmares, and they knew that Charlie was the only one who could ever make them better.
They knew that Julius felt safe with Charlie. And they were willing to give up their big brother for that.
3 months after the attack came the trials of Jason Little and Nate Macintosh. The trial only lasted a couple days considering that both Jason and Nate pleaded guilty to attempts to kill Julius, and the evidence was stacked pretty high up against them anyways, but the four days it did last were absolute torture for Julius. He had to appear in court every day as he was the victim and also a key witness, and although Charlie did his best to keep him separated from Jason and Nate, those four nights still resulted in the most violent nightmares Julius had had since directly after the attack.
Never had he felt more relief though then when the pair were finally sentenced to life in jail. Because finally, finally they would be out of his life.
That night was the first he had slept through peacefully in a long time.
Six months after the attack Charlie took Julius to New York City for summer break. They spent two months in Charlie’s old apartment, losing themselves in the bustle of the city and leaving behind everything that happened in past months. Julius had finally returned to his old self in the city, and both of them loved the freedom that came with being able to hold hands as they walked down the street without having to worry about what someone else would say. Anchor Point was full of hate and discrimination, but in the big city nothing could stop them.
Soon enough they knew they would have to return home. Charlie had a job to do, Julius had a finally year of college to finish up, but both of them knew that one day soon they would be returning to the first place they could finally be themselves.
And until then, Charlie gave Julius the best way to remember the city of bright lights and shining faces.
In the middle of Central Park, sun setting in the background and the gentle sound of a guitarist playing not too far away, Charlie got down on one knee and asked Julius to marry him.
The ring may have been beautiful, but if you asked Julius there was no sight more gorgeous than the smile that lit up Charlie’s face when he said yes.
If you had asked Charlie, he would have said the same thing about his wonderful new fiancé.
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