Author: sapphire-child PM
AU post-F W. No When Charlie is attacked by another castaway in his own tent he begins to fear for his life. But who would be willing to keep him safe when the entire camp seems set against him? Not for the squeamish - you have been warned.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst - Charlie - Chapters: 2 - Words: 11,842 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 2 - Published: 01-11-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4784992
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: No Sanctuary 1/2
Characters: Charlie, redshirts, Eko, Locke, Jack, Claire
Warnings: strong R. Non-con, slash, violence, coarse language. And horror of horrors – FLANGST.
Summary: AU post-F+W. When Charlie is attacked by another castaway in his own tent he begins to fear for his life. But who would be willing to keep him safe when the entire camp seems set against him? Written for my 50_darkfics prompt of "fear"
Disclaimer: don't own Lost or William Goldings "The Lord of the Flies" which I have referenced within. Original idea by falafel_fiction
"Maybe there is a beast....maybe it's only us."
The stitches in Charlie's cheek were itching like crazy – had been all day in fact – and he was forcibly trying to restrain himself from just scratching them right out of his face.
It had been a couple of days now since Claire had kicked him out but it was barely a day from the time that he had come to realise that he wasn't going to be moving back into the tent they had once shared at any point in the near future. Even after that first debacle with the statues he had been sure that after she'd had a few days to cool off she would let him come home again.
It hadn't happened. And after the events of the other night he was beginning to accept that he was going to have to make his own way now – he'd hurt her too deeply to be forgiven now. And so he had begun to erect a tentative shelter down the beach, away from everyone else so that he didn't have to deal with their scornful, fearful – or worst of all – pitying glances.
The resulting tent come lean-to wasn't exactly all that sturdy – or big for that matter. But at least now he had somewhere to hide away, a dark corner of the world to store his meagre possessions and to nurse his shattered ego back to health. He had a home again.
"Bloody stitches," he grunted out loud, scraping a tentative fingernail back and forth along the edges of the wound to try and alleviate the burning, itching sensation.
On one hand he might have been glad of the isolation, but in his heart Charlie was homesick. He yearned for the sounds of Aaron burbling away from his cradle and Claire bustling about folding and tidying. Hell, he'd prefer Aaron's midnight screaming to the yawning silence that surrounded him now. The wind was pushing and pulling at his tent, groaning and moaning at him as the waves grumbled against the shore but apart from that…nothing.
Which is why he was so surprised when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching his tent.
Assuming that it was just Jack making one final house call, Charlie simply lay there and pretended that he hadn't been scratching at his stitches. But when the blanket that served as a door flap was opened he was surprised to see a round, quizzical face peering in on him.
"Are you lost?" he rasped.
"Well um..." the man looked unaccountably nervous. "I was pretty sure this was your tent but I wasn't really sure..."
Charlie sat up, intrigued. He knew the man by face but not by name – just another random survivor he hadn't really spoken to all that much. He was middle aged – probably in his late forties – with a thinning crop of dark hair and a portly build.
"I was kind of...looking for you." the man finished in a mumble.
"Looking for me?" said Charlie, non-plussed. "Why?"
The man hesitated for a moment, gesturing helplessly at the inside of the cramped tent. "C-can I come in?"
Charlie raised an eyebrow but nodded his assent and the man crawled in. Charlie sat up properly then and the two of them sat and stared at each other for a moment.
"I'm Joe," the man said eventually, holding out a pudgy hand. Charlie shook it.
"Oh I know who you are," Joe waved a dismissive hand. "My daughter Macy used to listen to your band. She even had a poster up on her wall. That's where I recognised you from."
Instead of feeling elated by this revelation like he once would have, Charlie merely felt a grim sense of despair. He shrugged and then muttered, "Good for her."
"You know," Joe said eyeing him concernedly. "That cut on your cheek looks pretty nasty…" Charlie's hand automatically jumped up to worry the tender skin as the older man spoke. "…that was Locke did that wasn't it?"
"Yeah," Charlie muttered, then added bitterly. "Like one punch wasn't enough."
"He shouldn't have punched you at all," Joe said disapprovingly. "You didn't hurt anyone. You were just a bit confused is all – he was the one who was out of line."
A fierce spark of hope flared in Charlie's chest at his words. Could it be that somebody in this camp was still on his side?
"Really?" he said, hardly daring to believe.
"Absolutely," Joe said. "He shouldn't have punched you – or threatened you for that matter. And that Claire girl wasn't much better."
"I did steal Aaron from her," Charlie said guiltily then added, "Twice."
"It's not like you were actually going to hurt him," Joe snorted. "I've seen what you're like with that baby. I thought he might've actually been yours for a while."
"Really?" Charlie said, clinging onto these small words of comfort like a man drowning and clinging to a lifeline. "You thought he was mine?"
Joe eyed him sympathetically. "You're really messed up about all of this aren't you?"
"It's okay Charlie," Joe smiled and put a comforting hand on his knee. "You don't have to go through this alone. I could help you."
"I think it's a bit late for help now," Charlie said miserably. "I'm already alone."
"I know exactly what you mean," Joe's face pinched and then to Charlie's great surprise, the other man reached out and pulled him into a hug.
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, Charlie found himself hugging Joe back, if nothing else than for the comforting feel of having someone's arms around him. It seemed that lately people had only been touching him in fits of anger – lashing our violently with punches or slaps. It was certainly a welcome change to have someone reaching out to him like this. He shut his eyes momentarily to revel in the sensation before pulling back, suddenly remembering that this man was almost a complete stranger to him.
"Um…thanks Joe," he muttered, embarrassed, but Joe hadn't taken his arms from around his neck and he was gazing at him softly.
"You're a beautiful man," Joe said serenely and Charlie shifted uncomfortably in the older mans arms. "You've got a beautiful soul."
"My face is practically falling apart except for the stitches and I probably smell like dead fish," Charlie said uncomfortably, still trying to wriggle discreetly out of his grasp. "There's nothing much that's beautiful about me at the moment mate."
But before he could even comprehend what was happening, Joe's lips were pressing against his own and Charlie was falling backwards onto the blankets. In shock, Charlie tried to push him back, to push him off, but his arms felt weak and feeble and all the fight had gone out of him. The other man had at least twenty pounds on Charlie – it was almost too easy for Joe to overpower him.
Turning his head sideways to try and escape Joe's rubbery lips Charlie desperately contemplated calling out for help but then realised just how far he was from the main camp and how futile his gesture would actually be. Would anyone from the beach camp hear him even if he screamed? And more importantly would anyone actually come to his aid?
Devastated by this revelation, Charlie resigned himself to his fate for now while his mind raced, trying to figure out what the hell he should do. He felt Joe shifted his weight, effectively trapping Charlie beneath him as he continued to kiss his neck, his collarbone, the corner of his lips.
Charlie shuddered at the feel of lips cold and wet against his skin but then somehow the daft thought entered his head that it he reciprocated then maybe his assailant would stop. When he returned the kiss however, all that happened was that Joe let out a surprised gasp and pushed his tongue into Charlie's mouth, his hands moving to cradle the younger mans face.
Gagging, Charlie pushed him back with a surprising new strength, gasping for air. Joe chased after him again with his lips but Charlie pushed him back again.
"No," he croaked. "Stop Joe. I don't want…"
"But I'm so lonely," Joe whimpered, nudging his face up close to him again and pinning Charlie's arms to his sides with his knees as he stroked his hair. "Please…I'm not going to hurt you…and you're so beautiful…"
And as Joe's lips pressed against his own again and again, as two pudgy hands began to steal underneath the fabric of his shirt and onto his skin, Charlie shut his eyes and wished desperately for death, the apocalypse, anything that would make this nightmare disappear forever.
At first he had wondered if he hadn't just dreamt the whole thing from last night but then he'd seen the leftover detritus littering the inside of his tent he'd quickly scrambled outside to get some fresh air before he went into a fit of hysteria. When Jack arrived he was sitting out the front of his tent in his hoodie, staring out at the ocean and contemplating throwing himself face first into the waves and just floating around like that until he drowned.
"Morning Charlie," Jack said as he knelt down in front of him.
"Morning," Charlie returned blandly.
"Can I have a look at those stitches?"
Charlie turned his cheek automatically towards him and Jack's fingers probed the inflamed skin gently as he peered at the wound. Charlie repressed a shudder as he remembered how Joe's fingers had felt against his cheek last night as he...
"The stitches are holding okay," Jack said critically, bringing Charlie back to reality before his memories of last night could overtake him completely. "But the skins a bit inflamed around the edges of the wound. Have you been scratching it?"
"I've been trying not to," Charlie admitted and Jack pursed his lips as he pulled out a rag and some alcohol to clean and disinfect the area again.
"You'll have to be careful with this cut Charlie," Jack instructed him. "It's quite close to your eye and if it gets infected it could easily turn gangrenous and spread through the rest of the soft tissues on your face. I don't have the resources to treat an infection like that anymore."
"I know," Charlie hissed in pain as the alcohol stung the sensitive skin. "I'm trying not to touch it but it's hard."
"You'll be fine," Jack said, every confidence evident in his voice and Charlie felt relieved at the shift in the doctors attitude from yesterday. He was in what Charlie called his 'doctor mode' at the moment but he didn't seem angry or upset like he had before. As Jack continued to clean his wound, Charlie considered his old friend thoughtfully. He really should tell him about what had happened last night. He didn't really want to incriminate Joe but if he was honest with himself, Charlie was more than a little worried that it might happen again.
Just as he was opening his mouth to say something however, Jack cut him off.
"By the way," he said. "I just wanted to tell you that it'd be a good idea if you stayed up this end of the beach for a while. I've been hearing a lot of talk from people back at the main camp who aren't all that happy with the idea of you camping nearby and I think they'd all feel safer if they knew that you were as far away from them as possible."
Charlie's words shrivelled and died on his tongue as Jack continued brusquely.
"I can't say I really blame them though after that stupid prank you pulled the other night with the fire," he packed his supplies up deftly and then paused. "You know Sayid told me that it could have burned all the way through the camp if he hadn't gotten it contained?"
Charlie was silent, his tongue swollen with guilt before Jack pushed himself to his feet to deliver his parting blows.
"To be honest I can't blame anyone who doesn't want you near them. If I didn't know you any better I'd be worried about you doing it again. And it's probably a good idea if you don't come near the hatch either," he interrupted himself thoughtfully. "Someone else can take your button pushing duty – I think Locke might just kill you if you go in there."
Charlie laughed mirthlessly but Jack wasn't quite finished yet.
"You know I don't understand…why didn't you think Charlie?" he wondered out loud. "Was a bunch of dreams so important that you just abandoned all sense of reason?"
The bitter smile on Charlie's lips drooped and fell.
"It doesn't matter anymore anyway," Charlie said in a small voice and Jack sighed before setting off down the beach, leaving his old friend sitting there in abject misery and with a steadily mounting fear that with the way things were going he was never going to be able to walk through the camp again without eliciting a round of angry hissing and spitting.
Telling anybody about Joe definitely seemed to be out of the question. Who would believe him anyway? They'd all think he was just lying to try and get some attention – or sympathy.
Morose, he huddled down deeper into his hoodie and bowed his head against the growing burn of the sun.
"I'm sorry about the way I acted last night," Joe apologised over and over again, stumbling on his words as he repeated himself again and again from his vantage point on the opposite side of the flames. "I just miss my wife – I miss her so much. And I don't really have any friends here – I don't have anybody I can talk to. Dr Arzt got himself blown up and nobody else really wants to give me the time of day – they're too busy with their own friends. I thought that maybe…maybe you'd understand how I…?"
"Listen, Joe," Charlie said, wondering how to say this without being too harsh. "What happened last night…it was a mistake. I don't know why you came to me of all people but what we did – what you did – it's not going to fix your problems."
"I know it's not," Joe shook his head. "I honestly don't know what came over me. I've never done anything like that before…"
"Yeah well," Charlie said uncomfortably.
"I promise I won't ever do it again," Joe said, practically grovelling in the sand in front of Charlie. "I'll swear it on my mother's grave. And I mean, maybe we could just talk?" his eyes were wide and pleading. Charlie tensed, waiting for Joe to reach up and grab him desperately by the shoulders the way people did in the movies but he just stared up at him tremulously and eventually, Charlie sighed.
"I guess," Charlie admitted grudgingly but before he could say anything further Joe had taken over the conversation, all but pouring his soul out onto the sand. Charlie just sat and listened in silent disbelief. The guy was pleasant enough to talk to but the combination of his fawning and his brazen honesty made Charlie's skin crawl. Nobody should know so much about one person – especially someone who was essentially a stranger. And then of course there was the matter of what he'd done to Charlie last night…
I promise I won't ever do it again, he had said. Charlie made him promise again before he left for the evening and Joe repeated it fervently before promising that he would catch up with him later. Charlie gave a grimace that Joe obviously thought was a smile and he left.
As much as Charlie didn't like the idea of this guy coming to hang out with him every night he couldn't think of any way to get rid of him that didn't involve him becoming the bad guy. He'd had enough of being the villain – and despite himself he felt bad for Joe, for his loneliness and lack of friends. It was a situation he could relate to all too well – he knew from first hand experience just how much it stung to try and seek retribution for your shortcomings only to be knocked back time and again.
Joe came by the next night, and the night after that and he started to come by during the day sometimes as well. Charlie battled his way through brainless conversation after brainless conversation with him but always in the back of his mind was the terrifying thought that Joe would break his promise and try something again. Joe spoke constantly of the loneliness and once or twice he even admitted to performing lewd acts on himself in the privacy of the jungle.
Charlie had heard his fair share of sex stories when he had been on the road – hell, he had his own fair share of them – but he really didn't want to hear all about this guys sexual exploits. Whenever the subject shifted over to those sort of conversations he found himself growing increasingly anxious. He already knew that he didn't have the strength to overpower him and the idea of Joe losing control and reaching out to him again had him utterly paralysed with terror.
Before he quite knew what had happened he stopped eating. He was so sick with worry that the only thing he could stomach was the occasional mouthful of water and even that made him feel bloated and nauseous. Almost instantly he began to lose weight.
Joe stopped talking so much about himself then. He seemed genuinely worried about Charlie's wellbeing, telling him that he needed to keep eating or he'd get really sick. He tried to encourage Charlie to talk about his problems, to tell him why he wasn't eating. Charlie merely clammed up even more, scared that if he started opening up that Joe would try and comfort him again and that it would lead to...
He was so paranoid and sickly that Joe finally offered to ask Jack to come and check on him. Charlie vehemently refused but Joe was not deterred. He brought him a platter of fruit, beautifully arranged with all of Charlie's favourites. He took one look at it and nearly cried.
"Joe," he said weakly. "Mate you're scaring me a bit with all of this. I don't want you to be waiting on me hand and foot."
"I'm just trying to look out for you," Joe said, surprised. "I'm worried about you – you seem really stressed out at the moment and..."
"The only thing I'm stressed out about is that you seem to be becoming rapidly obsessed with me and my wellbeing," Charlie blurted unthinkingly and Joe's face fell. "Not that I don't appreciate that you're taking the time to check up on me," he said hastily. "But I just can't help but worry. I still haven't forgotten what you did to me that first night."
Joe dropped his eyes, ashamed.
"I didn't know that you were still worried about that," he said miserably. "I promised you that I wouldn't ever do it again Charlie. I thought you believed me."
"I do," Charlie said, still feeling guilty. "I'm sorry Joe. I don't mean to be paranoid but…"
"No it's okay," Joe waved a dismissive hand but he still looked upset. "I'm the one who should be saying sorry. What I did was inexcusable. It's hardly surprising that you don't really want to talk to me…"
"It's not that," Charlie said, wincing. He didn't want to give Joe the idea that he wanted him to just sod off and leave him, but at the same time he really didn't want to encourage him to stay. "You're a nice enough bloke but…you're just a bit intense is all and it kind of…scares me a bit."
Joe left shortly after this, claiming that he was tired but the next day when Charlie returned from a walk down the beach (in the opposite direction to the camp of course) he found a beautiful conch shell perched on the sand just outside his shelter along with a note scribbled on a piece of paper torn from the edge of a book.
Sorry I scared you. Consider this a peace offering. I was going to give it to my wife when we got rescued but I think you'll appreciate it more.
Charlie crumpled the paper into his palm and then scooped the cool weight of the shell into his other hand feeling sicker than ever.
He was restless all day and he couldn't get to sleep that night. Joe hadn't arrived for his usual fireside chat and even though it was getting late, Charlie was too wound up to relax into sleep. He had been so sure that Joe would have come by to make sure that he had found the shell and his absence scared Charlie far more than if he had actually been there. He tossed and turned in his flimsy shelter feeling very exposed and utterly alone.
After several hours had passed he gave up on sleep and instead pushed his way outside, the shell gripped in one hand like it might bring him some form of clarity or comfort. Further down the beach, the main camp was still and silent. It must have been at least two in the morning and the night breeze was cool on his skin. Charlie's heart felt a little lighter as he watched the tents and lean-to's fluttering gently down the beach.
He had been avoiding the main camp for few days now and he honestly missed the scent of cooking fires and the companionable murmur of living in a community. At this time nobody would be awake he reasoned. He'd be able to walk through unscathed and hopefully the familiarity would be enough to make him relax and he could finally get some sleep.
The camp murmured and swayed quietly, familiarly, as Charlie wandered through the tents, his feet drawn automatically to his old home. The tent he had shared with Claire and Aaron was ramshackle but homely. It was the shelter that he had built for her, shared with her and now he had been kicked out of it. Despite everything that had happened lately, it still felt more like home than most of the other places he'd ever lived in.
Claire was fast asleep on the bed, her lips puckered as she rested her cheek on folded hands, a blanket draped loosely over her slim frame. Aaron was similarly quiet in his crib, swaddled tight in his blue blanket. Charlie watched them for a moment, aching, and then he became suddenly very aware of the pretty shell that he still held in his hand. Holding it up in the dim light, he admired it for a moment and he smiled nostalgically.
Way back when they had first crashed, he and Claire had collected shells down on the shoreline together. Because she had been so pregnant he had chased around in the surf for hours, collecting them for her in her hat. After they had filled it to the brim they had retreated to her shelter and made patterns with them in the sand before Charlie had thrown them all back into the ocean.
Claire had laughed at him then – but not unkindly – and she had asked him why he would throw them all away after he'd spent so long collecting them.
"Shells are meant to be in the ocean luv," he had told her with a shrug. "It's where they came from and it's where they belong."
Bending down, he placed the conch shell gently in the sand next to Aaron's crib. Maybe it could be his own small peace offering – a sign for Claire that he was still thinking about her and Aaron, that he hadn't quite given up on them yet. He still cared for them both after all, he just wished that Claire could see that his intentions had never been anything more than honourable. All he'd ever wanted was to keep Aaron safe.
He'd never wanted to hurt anybody.
"I'm sorry I scared you," he whispered to them both and with one final rueful gaze over his old home, Charlie turned away.
Charlie returned to his tent and flopped down on his blankets feeling lighter than he had in days. He was so relaxed that he actually fell into a light doze and was well on his way to completely crashing out when he heard the footsteps crunching through the sand towards him. Assuming it was just Joe he sighed and waited for him to call him outside but to Charlie's surprise, his visitor said nothing, just hovered in the doorway.
"Joe?" he said uncertainly, sitting up. The hulking figure in the doorway said nothing for a moment and a spike of fear shot through Charlie's stomach. "Joe?" he repeated. "Is that you?"
"You wish," they growled. The voice was unfamiliar, cold and deep. Charlie reached out in a panic, searching blindly for his piece of driftwood but not fast enough. The intruder barged their way into his tent and rolled him roughly onto his stomach, planting one hand on the back of his neck and the other working to pin his arms. His knee followed shortly, pressing against the small of Charlie's back even as he bucked wildly, trying to break free. This man – whoever he was – was stronger, more violent than Joe had ever been and Charlie was incredibly weak from malnutrition.
"Get off!" he yelled but it was hardly worth the effort, he could hardly get a full breath into his lungs let alone scream for help – his voice was so weak and raspy. "Get off me!"
"Don't even bother," the man said, shoving his face roughly into the sand. "You know they won't hear you from here."
"Please," Charlie gasped. "You're hurting me..."
"Shut up," the man hissed, pressing harder against the back of his neck until Charlie was half suffocating in the sand. "Or I'll hit you so hard you'll see stars. Got it?"
Charlie nodded, trying desperately to roll his eyes far enough back that he could catch a glimpse of his assailant but it was too dark inside his tent.
"If you tell anyone that I came here," one hand pushed between Charlie's body and the blanket to undo his jeans. "Then I'll kill you."
Charlie's breath caught and he nearly choked on his own words. "Jack won't let…"
"Jack doesn't give a rat's ass about you," Charlie shut his eyes hurriedly as he felt the denim whipping over his bare skin. "None of them do. They'd thank me for doing them a huge favour. Trust me," the voice sneered. "You wouldn't even be missed Pace."
"Why are you doing this?" Charlie asked, his voice shaking.
"Because you need to be taught a lesson," and then there were hard fingers against his skin and without any further warning, Charlie felt his assailant pushing into him.
Charlie gritted his teeth and tried not to scream as he felt the agonising sensation of delicate skin ripping and tearing. His whole body tensed and he threw his head back in a sudden paroxysm of utter agony, whimpering inanely. His body trembled momentarily from the overwhelming pain and then, as the man behind him began to move in earnest he shuddered and then his body went completely limp, too numb with shock and pain to even fight it anymore.
Really it was probably for the better – it didn't hurt so much when he relaxed, even though his body was still screaming at him to fight back, to stop this monster from doing this to him. It wasn't like he hadn't had sex with a bloke before – when he had been touring he had actually enjoyed himself quite thoroughly with a variety of other men. But this? This was beyond demeaning, beyond the threshold of pain that he could cope with – and not just physically.
Charlie could take a lot of crap. He could cope with being belittled and condescended and laughed at. He was used to being at someone's beck and call, to not getting any recognition for the things that he had worked his ass off for, to having people ignore him and his opinion like he didn't matter one jot.
But for somebody to just come out like this and deliberately hurt him for no apparent reason? That just fucking hurt. What the hell had he done to deserve this? Was he really that bad a person that he deserved to be kicked around like a dog? Did he truly deserve to have someone force themselves upon him just to satisfy their own sick pleasures or to exact some kind of personal revenge?
The latter revelation made him go suddenly cold – had he accidentally burnt down this guy's shelter the other night? Had he been waiting for Charlie to be alone just so that he could do this? He felt a sudden wave of nausea and barely managed to stop himself from vomiting.
He could feel the grains of sand digging into his face, filling up his nostrils, his mouth, sticking to the blood from the freshly pulled wound on his cheek, to the tears that he hadn't even noticed were falling. He realised after a moment that he was actually sobbing quietly, uncontrollably as his attacker slammed into him again and again, ripping and tearing, grinding and thrusting, gripping tight to his hips and grunting rhythmically like some kind of sick metronome behind him.
Charlie's one saving grace was that the other man was quick to tire and when he was finished with him, he didn't linger. He left Charlie sobbing quietly into the sand, so weak and shaky that he couldn't even muster the energy to pull his jeans back on again. In the end he just inched his blanket up to his chin and lay there on his side, shaking and crying spasmodically.
He knew he wasn't going to be getting to sleep again any time soon.
He rose with the sun – alive but utterly exhausted and in so much pain he couldn't even roll over without wincing. There had been a fair bit of damage done to his body last night – between the lack of lubrication and his attackers apparent penchant for rough play. In the darkness Charlie had only been able to guess at how much he was bleeding and when the sun came up he had been shocked at just how badly his blanket had actually been stained. When he carefully investigated however, he found that the bleeding had now stopped.
Well, he thought bitterly. At least he wasn't damaged irreparably.
Relieved, he cleaned himself up as best he could and then stood up carefully. The pain was exquisite as he pulled his jeans back on, trying his hardest not to cry out in pain as he took his first tentative steps out into the world and towards tide line. He didn't feel comfortable out amongst everyone else in daylight hours but he sure as hell wasn't going to stay in his tent all by himself. If he was going to be attacked again then he wanted there to be witnesses.
He hadn't limped all that far however before he heard the sound of quick footsteps from behind him. Panicked, he whirled around but when he saw who it was he let go of his breath, relieved. It wasn't Joe or his late night visitor – it was only Claire, marching purposefully up to him from the collection of tents up at the tree line.
After his initial relief however, her sudden appearance had him frowning in confusion – why would Claire be coming to talk to him? – but then with a small flare of hope he saw that she was holding the conch shell he had left beside Aaron's cradle. After the unexpected turn of events the previous evening he had all but forgotten about his gift to her. Had she liked it, he wondered? Was she coming to talk to him at long last?
"Hi," he said quietly when she was close enough, offering her a small welcoming smile.
"Charlie," she said, stumping one hand on her hip and then holding out the shell towards him like it was one of Aaron's used nappies. "What is this?"
"Um…it's a shell?" he explained meekly, confused at her reaction.
"You brought it to my shelter?" she demanded, still pointing it at him.
"Yeah well I thought you might like it," Charlie shrugged helplessly. "It's just a shell Claire."
"You came into my tent?" Claire snapped. "After I expressly told you to stay away from me and Aaron? And you must have done it last night while I was asleep because I only found it this morning. What exactly did you think you were doing?" when he didn't answer she came up with her own instead. "What, were you spying on us or something?"
"Geez Claire," he said weakly. "I'm sorry. I found a pretty shell and I thought that you might like it. Is that a crime?"
"I told you to stay away from me," she snarled. "And I don't want your stupid bloody shell!" she pressed it insistently against his closed hand. "Take it back."
"Claire," Charlie said pleadingly. It was a gift – didn't she understand what he meant by giving it to her?
"Take it back or I'll throw it in the ocean," Claire threatened.
"Oh yeah you'd like that wouldn't you?" Charlie found himself yelling as he snatched it from her, his anger boiling up to the surface faster than he could stop it. "Well you know what? I wish I hadn't bothered with trying to do something nice for you to try and let you know that I'm sorry. I should've just thrown the shell away and kept on pretending that I don't feel guilty as all hell. Yeah that would've been a really good idea wouldn't it?!
"Well here you go then!" Charlie whirled and in a fit of anger, he threw the conch shell into the waves. It sank and disappeared instantly and then he turned back to her, his chest heaving and his throat tight. "It's gone. Now you don't have to sit and stare at it and think about how much you hate me all the time – aren't you lucky?"
"Charlie..." Claire took an alarmed step back from him but Charlie merely spread his arms out.
"What?" he mocked. "You think I don't know? You've made your feelings for me pretty clear."
And as much as it hurts him to say it, it hurts even more when Claire shakes her head, tears brimming in her eyes and says, "God…I don't…I don't hate you Charlie."
For a moment her response stumps him but then he scoffs, guffaws and then goes back to his old standby – sarcasm.
"Oh really?" he asks, his voice dripping with scorn. "So the reason that you're still trying to hurt me now is because you're secretly in love with me?" Claire's jaw dropped and Charlie took a step forwards. Claire shrank back from him as he threw his hands up in the air. "Well is it?!"
"Hey!" and suddenly Kate was at Claire's side, Jin following close behind. "What's goin' on?"
Kate pushed in between the two of them, using her own body as a shield. Jin meanwhile touched a protective hand to Claire's arm and glared at Charlie who cringed back into his shell, suddenly worried that he'd made too much of a scene.
"Well?" Kate said angrily, waiting for an answer and Charlie stumbled backwards away from her anger, a sudden fear rising within him.
What if the guy last night wasn't the only one who wanted revenge on him for the fire? Maybe there were a whole bunch of people from the camp who wanted to see him get his comeuppance and they'd used Claire as a way to get him upset again. They'd used her as bait before, why not now?
"Don't worry I'm leaving," he whispered and then he turned his back hastily on the beach camp and limped off as fast as he could leaving Claire shaking and trembling behind.