Schroeder was pissed. Charlie could tell this by the particular piece drifting through the home.
Schroeder only ever played Mozart when he was pissed.
The older teen braced himself as he reached the familiar music room, the door open just enough to let the music out. Peeking inside, he saw the blond at his grand piano; a beautiful white instrument his father had bought him for getting onto the football team. He hadn’t noticed his visitor yet, his eyes closed as his fingers flew across the keys, as if on instinct.
The music was beautiful and, almost, angelic. But the player’s face was screwed up in a troubling expression.
Carefully sliding the door open, Charlie Brown slipped inside as quietly as possible. He was betrayed, though, by an audible click as he shut the door behind him.
Schroeder opened his eyes and turned on him.
Charlie winced when he noticed the black eye he was sporting.
“Hey,” he greeted, leaning against the door and suddenly feeling unsure.
“Hey,” Schroeder shot back, turning back to continue playing.
After a few moments, Charlie Brown pushed himself off the door and approached the piano. He mentally debated leaning against the side or sitting on the floor, until Schroeder scooted over to give him room on the bench.
He placed himself there, facing the opposite direction.
“So.” Charlie Brown started twiddling his thumbs, figuring he had to do this eventually. “How’s suspension?”
“Not bad.” Schroeder shrugged, not taking his eyes off of the piano. “More time to play.”
“How’d your parents take it?”
“Mom was disappointed. My dad was proud.” At Charlie’s questioning look he shrugged again. “He said he’s glad to see I’ve got some ‘backbone’.” He stopped playing to make air quotes. “He’s of the opinion that there’s nothing wrong with boys trading blows. He thinks it’s healthy.” Charlie Brown snorted at that. That did seem like something Schroeder’s dad would believe.
The blond didn’t continue playing, rather, he put his hands in his lap and looked down, his bangs covering his eyes.
“What do the others know?” His voice sounded shaky, making a lump form in Charlie’s throat.
“They know you guys got into a fight. That’s all.” Hesitantly, Charlie put a hand on his shoulder. “Schroeder, they don’t know. Your secret is safe.”
“But for how long?” He looked back up with anger in his eyes. “He may be suspended from school, but he talks to people on his own time. And you know how he talks.” Standing up from the bench, Schroeder began pacing back and forth across the room, leaving Charlie to watch him from his seated position. “It won’t be long, that’s for sure.”
“Might be longer than you think.” Schroeder gave him a questioning look. “ Lucy would be here too, but she went to make sure he keeps his mouth shut.”
“Oh.” Schroeder stopped for a moment to process that before continuing his pacing.
Charlie brown watched him for a few moments more before letting out a heavy sigh.
“Look, Schroeder.” He ran a hand over his short crop hair; he did not want to be the one doing this. “I know why you did it, I completely understand. But, honestly, you really shouldn’t have.”
That got the musician to stop. He stared right at Charlie, fuming.
“What?” he hissed, narrowing his eyes and balling his hands into fists.
In return Charlie Brown steeled himself. Schroeder needed to hear this, whether he liked it or not.
“I said you shouldn’t have punched him.” Crossing his arms over his chest, Charlie found a strange sense of courage. “You’ve only given him exactly what he wants.”
“And what’s that?” Schroeder was very clearly pissed and trying not to blow up.
“Validation. You’ve given him a reason to hate you.”
“As if he needed another.” At the steely look he was receiving, Charlie Brown realized he needed to turn this conversation around, fast.
“Look, I told you, I understand. But now the others are gonna ask questions. They’re gonna prod at it until they find out, without him even having to say a word. All because you punched him.”
As Charlie brown said this, all of the fight seemed to leave Schroeder. He lowered his head and wrapped his arms around himself, seeming to shrink where he stood.
“I’m just so scared,” he whispered, his voice trembling as though he were on the verge of tears.
Feeling horrendously guilty, Charlie Brown stood up and approached Schroeder, noticing how his body was shaking. Steeling himself again, Charlie Brown reached up and placed his hands on Schroeder’s shoulders.
“Hey, no matter what happens, you’ve still got me. You’ve still got Lucy. And, I’ll bet you anything that you’ll even have Linus.” Schroeder flinched at the mention of their younger friend but Charlie Brown just rolled on, “Pig-Pen can say whatever the hell he wants, no one listens to him anyways. But, even if the whole school turns on you, we’ll still be behind you.”
“But, my parents.” Looking back up, Charlie Brown could see that Schroeder really was on the edge of breaking, his eyes glassy with held back tears. “Charlie, if my dad found out, I-I don’t know….he’d kill me.”
“Then you’ll come stay with me. My parents wouldn’t mind, they adore you.” Charlie smiled, in an attempt to brighten the mood. “It’ll be fine. Ideally, no one will find out, but if they do, then it won’t be the end of the world.”
Schroeder stared at him for a few moments before a wobbly smile broke out over his face and he moved a hand up to scrub at his damp eyes.
“Oh Charlie Brown, what a mystery you are,” he laughed. “You’re bad at so many things, yet you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
Charlie Brown smiled even brighter at the admittance and wrapped his arms around the other to pull him into a hug, laughing along as Schroeder laughed even more and hugged him back.