“Clay? Clay, I think you need to get back from that edge.” As calm as Tony pretended to be, Clay could hear the panic in his voice clear as day. It was the same panic he’d felt upon witnessing Jeff’s last breaths in his car the night of Jess’s party–that same feeling of helplessness, knowing that he was about to lose a friend.
But, unlike Clay, Tony still had a chance–or at least he believed so. Clay saw as he stretched out his hand, his eyes pleading with Clay to step back.
But… “Why?” He demanded, his voice cracking with all the survivor’s guilt that he could possibly feel in that moment. “Why shouldn’t I just jump, just…let go? Wouldn’t that be easier?”
“What, so you can die?” Tony’s voice turned bitter, his pitch fluctuating as he forced out the insensitive comment on the tip of his tongue: “Reunite with Hannah forever?”
“Oh, fuck you, Tony!” Clay snapped.
“You think you could’ve changed anything?” Tony demanded, tears in his eyes as he let anger take him over–how dare Clay try to end his life like Hannah did? Didn’t he see how much destruction, pain, heartbreak a suicide could cause? And he wanted to do that again? When his own mother was trying to defend the school’s ignorance of Hannah’s deteriorating mental state? “What does that make you, huh? God?”
“I should’ve stayed with Hannah,” Clay whispered. “Maybe if I…if I hadn’t just up and left her…she might still be alive.”
“How could you possibly know that? Clay, she told you to go!”
“Well, I should’ve stayed, I should’ve…”
“What? You think you could’ve said or done anything to change any of this?” He reached for Clay again, but the other boy barely saw his best friend’s plea, caught up instead in thoughts of the past.
“I should’ve…I should’ve made her tell me what was wrong. I should’ve told her that I love her. I…I should never have left her alone!” Clay screamed, tears welling in his own eyes and bursting forth with sniffles.
Tony was at his side at a moment’s notice, embracing Clay tightly. Salty tears ran down the back of his hoodie, but they ran down his cheeks, too, so what did it matter? “Clay…you can’t repeat the past.”
“You can try,” Clay whispered brokenly, wincing slightly as Tony’s grip on him tightened, as though to hold him back from the cliff. “Tony, you’re hurting me.”
The grip loosened immediately, though its firmness remained. “Sorry, sorry. I just…”
“I know. I just…I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” Clay confessed softly. “I mean…I-I killed Hannah Baker! How-how am I supposed to live with that?” He cried.
Tony pulled away, took one look at his friend’s distraught expression, and squeezed his shoulder. “Any way you can, Clay. And I hope you know…you aren’t alone.”
Clay chuckled dryly. “Aren’t I, though?”
“No.” Such conviction came through in Tony’s voice that Clay was taken aback, but Tony wasn’t done. “You’re not alone, Clay. You never were, and you never will be.”
“You promise?” He whispered, eyes welling up with tears once more at the prospect of another broken promise. He’d promised Hannah a bike ride and never followed through–he didn’t want Tony to break this promise. Not now, when any wrong move could be the end of him.
“I promise. God, Clay, I swear I’ll never let you feel alone.” He smiled slightly. “How’s that?”
And to his immense relief, Clay cracked a grin. “Could use some work.”
“Come on, then; you can give me some tips as I drive you home,” Tony urged, looping an arm around his best friend and leading him to the car, away from the cliff. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Clay’s head turn to look back, and he deflated slightly. Maybe Clay was more damaged than he’d originally thought…
“You’re not gonna do anything stupid tonight, are you?” Because Tony had to know, right now, that Clay wouldn’t try to…kill himself again. Tony wouldn’t be able to take it, and neither would his parents, or the Bakers…or even some of the kids on those tapes, as much as they pretended not to care. Clay Jensen’s suicide would ruin everyone, Tony knew. And he couldn’t let that happen.
“No,” Clay reassured, picking up on Tony’s mindset immediately. “I won’t.”
“Promise me?” Tony needed the verbal confirmation. He wouldn’t leave until he had it–he couldn’t.
Clay looked him right in the eyes, mustering all the conviction he possessed. “I promise.” And, in that moment, he believed it. He had people to fight for–his parents, Tony, the posthumous memory of Hannah and Jeff…even Skye, irritable though she was. He couldn’t leave them, especially not now.
And as he waved goodbye to his friend, proceeding up the steps, he could’ve sworn he heard Hannah’s voice, whispering, “Good for you, Helmet,” before disappearing once more.
Clay turned, looked out into the night, and after a moment’s pause, walked into his brightly-lit house, where his parents and life awaited him.