By Auburn Red
Disclaimer: I do not own some of these characters. The cast of Four Weddings and a Funeral belong to Richard Curtis. Robin Anderson, John, Laura McFarland, and the characters’ families belong to me as do many of the ideas presented.
This is yet another in my ongoing “Before the Wedding” series that explore this gang in their youthful wedding-less years. This is a direct sequel to the happenings in “Best & Worst Holiday” so it would enhance your understanding of the story to read that one first. There are also many references to my other 4WF fanfic, “Sound Mind & Sound Body” so you may want to read that one as well. I also wish to state that I am American and am portraying British schools and universities based on research from the Internet and from other sources, so if I get something wrong, I do apologize.
Chapter One: Midnight Anxieties
The explosion rocked through Charles’ entire body as he ran towards the smoking building. The street seemed endless as he forced his feet to run as fast as they could towards the scene of the wreckage. Breathless, he could only plead, “No, no,” as he ran towards the smoke and fire.
The young man looked at the destroyed building in shock as his knees shook and heart clenched in fear. Rubble and smoke remained where there was once a busy hospital emergency room. Rescue workers and police wandered through the scene taking notes and carrying bodies to safety. With as much superhuman strength that he could muster, Charles ran through the rubble pushing his way through rocks and debris to find any signs of his brother or his father.
He didn’t have to look far for his father. As Charles pushed through a particularly stubborn piece of rubble, he saw a very recognizable hand: a hand with a black digital wrist watch that Charles gave its owner for his birthday the previous year, a finger that still wore a wedding ring that should have long been discarded but love kept him from removing it, a hand that held Charles’ when he learned to walk, practiced sign language to communicate with his younger brother, whose owner was never afraid to hug or comfort Charles when he was sad. Charles reached for the hand in his own and whispered, “I’m sorry, Dad,” he said in shock wanting the scene to disappear.
A moan that sounded like it came from a child broke through Charles’ thoughts. The young man ran towards the other body, wiping his tears. He could see his younger brother, David buried underneath the rubble. Unlike their father, David’s face was visible but was bleeding and dirty from the blast. David coughed and moaned. Charles struggled to remove the debris to rescue his little brother. David’s eyes were open, but they began to close.
“No, no, David,” Charles begged.”Don’t fall asleep. Come on wake up, mate. Wake up, you little brat, come on!” He slapped his brother lightly in the face and rubbed his shoulders. He knew it was useless trying to speak to his younger brother since he couldn’t hear him in normal circumstances and certainly couldn’t now but reason flew out the window in panic. Charles continued to beg his brother both verbally and through touch to wake up. Charles held his brother close as he could practically feel the life slipping from him. “David, I’m sorry,” Charles said as he kissed his little brother on the cheek. Tears rolled down Charles’ cheeks as he looked at the remains of his brother and father in shock and denial.
“They’re dead, Charles,” a sharp familiar female voice replied. Charles turned around and saw his mother, Emma looking at him. Charles wanted to smile and greet his mother since it had been almost ten years since he had seen her last, since she had walked out on her family with no word, no note, and no hints to her current whereabouts. Emma walked closer to her older son. She crossed her arms around her plain black dress. She had a look that froze Charles in his spot, a look that he remembered as a child when his mother was about go into one of her manic angry tirades. “Do you know why they’re dead, Charles?”
Charles took a deep breath and glanced at his surroundings. “Mum, I don’t know, a bomb I think,” was all he could manage. Emma then silenced her son with a slap.
“They’re dead because of you, you little shit,” Emma accused as she hit her son again this time harder with a sharp blow across Charles’ cheek. Charles fell backward from the shock of losing his family and his mother’s abuse. Emma then yanked her son by the hair pulling him upwards and grabbed him by the arm digging her sharp fingernails into him. “You can’t do anything right! It’s your fault that your brother became such a freak! You were supposed to keep me from drinking that stuff and look what happened, he couldn’t hear! It’s your fault that I left! I should have had aborted you when I had the chance! It could have saved me from the years I spent chained to that house and you, you whiny little ungrateful brat! It’s your fault that they’re dead! Look!” She pushed his face forward to look at his brother and father. Charles winced and sobbed. “Why weren’t you there? It should have been you that died, not them!” She pushed her son to the ground and Charles collapsed on the rubble.
Charles pushed himself to a seated position. His mother had disappeared, but the words still rang in Charles’ ears and heart. It’s your fault! It should have been you that died, not them! Charles curled himself into a ball and sobbed hugging himself across the knees. All he could say was “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over.
Charles awoke with a start. He glanced over at the alarm clock by his bedside. 12:30 a.m. He was no longer overlooking the wreckage of the hospital instead he was in his bedroom waking up from another nightmare. An anxious thought entered Charles’ head as he sprang from his bed wrapping a bathrobe around his half undressed body. He darted through the small dark hallway to his brother’s bedroom.
Charles gingerly opened the door as the light flickered upon the open door. David was so used to it that he slept through it. When David and Charles moved in together, Charles spent a lot of time and money that he didn’t have getting his new flat accessible for his hearing impaired brother including putting a TTY system on the telephone, getting his bedroom, the front door, and emergency alarms connected to strobe lights. (For Charles’ own peace and sanity, he vetoed putting sirens around the flat), and including a closed caption device on the television. After all it was David who was moving from the home that he was born and grew up in to live in Charles’ small flat. The least his older brother could do was make the transition easier and more comfortable by accommodating the flat just like their old home. How he was going to adjust to the rest remained to be seen of course.
Charles sighed with relief to see his brother was sleeping peacefully and unharmed. He was unaware of his older brother’s presence so caught up in his deep slumber. Charles smiled and lightly brushed a few curls away from David’s eyes. He leaned forward and whispered knowing full well that he couldn’t hear him, “What would I do without you?” Charles rubbed the small boy’s back more for his own comfort needs that David was alright than really his. He then walked to the bathroom.
Charles flipped on the light as the bright light aggravated him sending a slight pain through his temples and the back of his neck. He could feel a migraine headache coming. As if that wasn’t enough, he felt the burning sensation near his stomach that an ulcer was soon forthcoming. He opened the medicine cabinet and reached for the migraine headache pills, Pepcid, and just to be sure he could get back to sleep, he reached for some PM nighttime pills. He swallowed the medicine and waited a few minutes for them to go into effect. He was prone to very few headaches and as for ulcers, well they were practically nonexistent. But they have been more common in the past two months than they had been in the past nineteen years.
While he waited, Charles looked at his reflection in the mirror. His hair had shagged over in a complete rumpled mess. His eyes had dark circles and were bloodshot from many sleepless nights that he was already having and the many that would still come. Many women still thought of him as handsome and he was still considered friendly and charming, a mask that every so often was threatening to slip under the pressure of his current difficulties. I’m too young for this, Charles mentally cursed. I’m too young to have ulcers. I’m too young to stay up nights worrying about finances. I’m too young to consider dropping out of uni to find extra work on top of the job I already have. He rubbed his hands through his hair as he said aloud to his reflection, “I’m too young to be Daddy.”
But really what choice did he have? There was no one else in his life to take the job from him. David was just a kid two weeks from turning ten years old. Charles couldn’t burden him with his problems. He knew first-hand what it was like when parents forced adult responsibilities on a kid making them grow up too fast. He wanted David to be sheltered as long as he needed to be. He had no other family members that could help, no aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. His grandparents died either before he was born or when he was barely old enough to remember them. His mother was an only child and while his father had a younger sister, she died when she was still a child herself. And as for his and David’s parents, their mother walked out on their lives a long time ago when David was still an infant and their father had died two months ago, from a bomb created by an angry patient who took himself with it.
Charles rubbed his forehead and ran his fingers through his hair as he returned to the present. His father had been dead for two months and occasionally the loss still hit him as powerfully as it did the day he died. Sometimes it almost knocked him over when he was alone and soared through his body in a deep anxiety pain as it was doing right that moment. Part of Charles still hoped that this wasn’t real that it was like when he was younger and his dad had to work the night shift or was attending a medical conference. The door would open and Dr. Will Carton telling Charles that he was taking the next day off, so his son could rest. Of course that would never be true. Charles remembered reading about the stages of grief and wondered when exactly he was finally going to reach Acceptance. I’m stagnating somewhere between Denial, Depression, and Anger, he thought.
Of course Charles was used to raising his brother since their devoted, but constantly busy single father had a very difficult schedule as a surgeon and couldn’t always be home. Even as a child, Charles was often used to cooking meals, cleaning the house, and caring for his small brother. But the difference between then and now was Dad was sure to be home as soon as he could and would make sure that he could alternate his schedule or take days off so his older son didn’t have to be constantly managing the household. Sometimes he even hired housekeepers or babysitters to help relieve some of the burdens. But that was all over, it was just Charles and David.
So that was it for family. As for romance, Charles was currently single. He had friends, but many of them could not understand the difficulties that he was going through. Though over the holiday, he bonded closely with his fellow students, Matthew Stewart, and Fiona and Tom Earnshaw, and their professor and Matthew’s secret boyfriend, Gareth Wotton. They seemed a fairly decent bunch. They even attended his father’s funeral though none knew him and aided Charles when his brother, who was also injured in the same explosion, still lay in the hospital hovering between life and death as Charles watched over his bedside. Gareth was even helpful by pulling strings to give Charles the current job that he was going to be starting the next morning, a receptionist at the BBC studios as Matthew was working as an assistant director. Charles liked them and felt a bond with his friends, but raising David was his problem, his responsibility now. He had to face the mounting financial issues himself.
The two brothers had planned to get by with Charles' earnings from his job and the trust funds that had been granted from their late father's will. Charles was going to work part-time to pad funds that admittedly weren't as wealthy as some, but were certainly well enough for the two to live off comfortably for some time. He was also going to finish his University studies as well and continue to let David attend Alexander Graham Bell’s School for Hearing Impaired Students near the family's former home outside of London. However, the fantasy that Charles had imagined was very different from the reality that his father's attorney, Mr. James Carstone had demonstrated near a month ago.
Charles looked at the solicitor's stricken pale face. "How bad is it?" he asked.
"Charles I've been your father's solicitor for years," he said. "He was a good friend and a wonderful doctor but unfortunately, I don't see any way out of this. The funds that were left to you were placed from a joint account from both your parents as many of their assets were."
"Yes," Charles replied rather testily. "But I can withdraw them myself anytime."
“Well your mother left behind an enormous amount of credit and financial debt that your father as the other holder of their account was forced to repay, so he-“
"-He withdrew into his assets including our trust funds," Charles guessed. "So do we still owe for her shopping excursions?"
"Thankfully, no," Carstone said. Charles sighed with relief. "But your funds were eaten up by costs. You weren't left with very much." He slid the paper over. "In fact because of the debt, your father’s assets have been frozen.”
Charles read the paper not believing what it said. The amount was hardly enough for one person to live on let alone two. "I just hope that Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children didn't spend those checks my father left them." He quipped remembering the charitable donations that Will Carton had left in his will.
“None of his will has been placed,” Carstone said. “I hope you weren’t planning on living off of it.”
You have no idea, Charles thought sourly. For a brief moment he cursed his mother for leaving the family in such a lurch, his father for thinking that it was more important to support his wife’s excesses than prepare for his sons’ future and most of all himself for not seeing this sooner and failing in his responsibility in caring for his younger brother.
Charles felt the medicine finally beginning to take effect as his brain started to feel fogged from the influence. He swayed and slowly staggered back to his bedroom flipping off the lights. He knew from past experiences despite the medicine, it was going to take awhile for him to fall back to sleep, but he had a busy day tomorrow beginning his job at the BBC and he had to look presentable. He lay back in bed wrapping the covers over him as he felt the drug induced sleep fill him. “For better or worse, I’m Daddy now,” he said with a yawn.