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Title: Clock Keeps Sticking
Author: voleuse
Fandom: Dead Like Me
Character: Charlie
Rating: R for language
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: This is your childhood.
Notes: Pre-series

It's the fall that kills him.

His older brother's been bragging about the 360 he pulled at the half pipe in the park. Charlie's been begging to tag along for weeks, to borrow his board and try something, anything. But his brother won't even teach him how to pull an ollie.

So the night his brother goes out to the movies with his girlfriend, Charlie steals his board and sneaks out to the park.

He knows he isn't ready for the ramp, but there's a set of cement stairs leading down the hill, and Charlie figures he can do a simple grind.

It's steep. For a second, Charlie's stomach turns to water, and he almost heads back home. But then a jogger bumps into him, startles him.

"Hey, kid." The woman stares at him. "What're you doing?"

Charlie scuffs his foot on the pavement. "Nothing. Going home."

The woman looks sad, glances to the side. "Sure." She pats Charlie on the shoulder. "Just be careful, okay?"

"Whatever." Charlie watches her start to jog off, then plants the board firmly against the railing.

He can do this.


He's bleeding. A lot.

Charlie watches himself die. He wants to hurl, but nothing comes up when he gags.

"It's fucking tragic, is what it is."

Charlie turns to the man beside him. "Am I dead?"

"Yeah, kid. You are." The man looks sad, like the girl did, before she disappeared.

Charlie blinks. Nods. "What happens now? Do I go to heaven?"

The man shakes his head. "No."


"No." The man smiles, just a little. "Fate has something different in mind for you, my young friend."

"Yeah?" Charlie picks up his board. "Okay."

He follows the man out of the park.

A siren starts to wail in the distance.


The man takes him to a diner, buys him a plate of pancakes and a mug of hot chocolate.

Suddenly, Charlie feels hungry, so he digs in.

The man watches him for a minute. "Too damn young."

"What?" Charlie wipes his mouth against his sleeve.

The man sighs. "I had hoped someone older would replace..." He smiles tightly. "I have to reassign you."

"What does that mean?"

The door slams open, its bell tinkling loud. A girl walks in, scans the room until she spots them.

She slides into the booth beside Charlie, barely glancing at him. "Rube," she greets the man.

"Sandy." He nods. "This is Charlie. He's new. I heard your division has an opening."

She snaps her gum. "Yeah." She looks at Charlie again, more carefully. "Think he'll be any good?"

Rube shrugs. "He'll learn. We all did." He digs out his wallet, tosses some money on the table. Before he walks away, though, he shakes Charlie's hand. "Welcome to the fold, kid."

Charlie doesn't know what that means, exactly, but he says thanks anyway.


Sandy is fourteen and a half.

Was fourteen and a half. When he finally meets the others--Danny, Charlotte, and Josh--he asks them how long ago Sandy died. None of them know, but Charlotte guesses 1972. When Charlie asks Charlotte when she died, she purses her lips and looks away.

It takes him a few weeks to get the hang of everything. They meet outside the public library every morning, one hour before it opens. Sometimes Sandy brings donuts, or a paper sack filled with breakfast burritos.

Charlie's usually the first to get there, because they haven't gotten him tapped into the foster care system yet. Josh is last to arrive, because his latest guardians think he should go to school, so he has sneak out of homeroom in order to make the meetings. Sandy's trying to get Josh moved. She hates it when he fucks up her schedule.

After they eat, she makes a big deal out of the assignments. Pulls an old composition notebook out of her backpack, shuffles the post-its in her hands.

She makes sure they all still have their watches, and tells them not to fuck things up today.

Sandy likes to swear. Charlie gets used to that, too.


If Charlie's lucky, he gets a job at a birthday party, or maybe a school field trip. Those are easy. No one keeps track of whose kids are whose, really, and there's always food to eat. Sometimes even pizza.

On bad days, he has to sneak into classrooms, or waiting rooms. Sometimes he has to hop fences, break into houses. Those are tough, but he gets the job done. Besides, he likes animals. Even the ugly ones.

He never had any pets, himself. His mom was allergic to dogs, and his dad had this weird thing about germs.

He thinks the animals know why he's there, his hand stroking quick against fur, scale, feather, and skin. Like, maybe they know they're going to die. Maybe animals are smart like that, to make up for not being able to talk or play video games.

Sometimes he follows them to the light. They always get excited when they run to it. The dogs bark, the birds squawk. They always seem so happy.

He wonders why he never got to see what's in the light. He wonders if he ever will.


"Why don't we grow up?" he asks Sandy. He doesn't have a job until after lunch, and he thinks maybe Sandy will let him go with her to the circus.

She's smoking today. He thinks she's just started, because she twists her wrist too hard when she flicks off the ashes. His mom didn't make a show of it, when she smoked.

Sandy scowls. "Fuck if I know," she says. "Maybe someday we will."

A school bus stops for a red light on the corner. It's filled with cheerleaders and football players. A guy leans out a window and wolf whistles at Sandy.

"Jerk," Charlie says as the light turns green and the bus drives away.

"Yeah," Sandy replies. She looks kind of sad when she says it, but he doesn't understand why.


A/N: Title and summary adapted from Ronn Morris' Nothing Is Diminished by Distance. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.

Originally linked here.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2005 09:08 am (UTC)
Ouch. Man, what a punch of an ending. I don't know if it's sadder for Sandy, who understands what she's missing, or for Charlie, who doesn't. Yet, I guess.

Not too miffed that this isn't Mason fic because this was a treat. I always liked Charlie.

(also: just bough season 2 on amazon! eee!)
Aug. 4th, 2005 04:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Charlie kind of haunts me.

Thanks for the comment!
Aug. 17th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. This was awesome. Poor Charlie.

I'm so glad you memed it and brought it to my attention. :->
Aug. 20th, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Dec. 16th, 2005 01:59 am (UTC)
Oh, this was so good.

Charlie was one of those characters that we saw so briefly, but he still made an impact. I've always wondered about him and now I don't have to because here he is in his entirety. And all the other kid reapers and them all being in foster care. This was so perfect.

"Yeah," Sandy replies. She looks kind of sad when she says it, but he doesn't understand why.

This is so exact for the fandom, because eventually he will 'grow up' mentally and realize everything he's missing.
Dec. 22nd, 2005 12:47 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for the comment. Charlie's character kind of haunted me, ever since his first appearance, and it always saddened me we didn't get more of him.
Jan. 20th, 2010 09:48 am (UTC)
I liked Charlie a lot. Just like the series, there's something more that you want to know about him (and Sandy). Whenever he pops up (or that other pet reaper in the DLM movie), I always wonder about him, where he goes...he always looks dirty so my heart always breaks a little when I see him sicne I figure that he sleeps on the streets.

And this fic answers the questions but really doesn't alleviate my concern for him. This just makes me want to cry and hug him. A lot.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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