|Long Road to Happiness
Author: LostInLost18 PM
AU. Tragedy strikes the happy family of Charlie, Claire and Aaron, leaving one of them heartbroken. Left with only Aaron, Charlie tries to get on with his life until something happens that threatens his happiness for good. Full summary inside.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Friendship - Charlie & Sawyer - Chapters: 5 - Words: 21,256 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 08-26-11 - Published: 12-05-10 - id: 6532567
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Long Road to Happiness
Summary: - Claire and Charlie get off the island and start to become a proper family. That is, until the unthinkable happens and Claire dies, leaving a heartbroken Charlie to pick up the pieces and raise Aaron alone. But things go from bad to worse when someone from Claire's life threatens to take Aaron away, until a mysterious knock on the door reunites him with an old friend, an old friend who might just have the right amount of cunning, logic and twisted sort of wisdom to help him.
A/n: Not sure if this will turn into a slash story. I personally don't mind slash, but it has to be written well and has to be more than just a rampant sex story, so for now it's going to be perfectly platonic.
Chapter 1: We Once Had the World
Charlie woke to the sound of Aaron crying, which wasn't so unusual except he woke with dry eyes for once. He sat up slowly, automatically reaching out for a presence that wasn't there, before remembering himself and peeling the covers off.
He wearily climbed out of the bed, and immediately walked into the bedside lamp Claire had invested in, after nights and nights of arguing over whose turn it was to turn off the light. Problem was, the lamp had caused even more arguments, as he'd found it tacky and bulky, not something which could slide neatly into a corner and no more would be said about it. She'd disagreed, of course, arguing that they couldn't afford to be picky about these things and that, if he hated it so much, he should go out and get a proper job so they could afford better things.
At the time, he'd resented the fact she'd implicated he wasn't doing enough to support them. Now, every argument made sense to him, in a way it hadn't before.
He was a single father, to a child who wasn't even biologically his, and he found that every day was a struggle, a fight to keep his sanity alive and intact. He wasn't going to pretend it was easy, that raising a child on his own, whose eyes were so much like hers it was unreal, was something he particularly relished. But he hadn't the time, or the effort, to complain about it. He loved Aaron, and that was all there was to it.
Charlie stumbled down the corridor in nothing but his boxers, still marvelling (and worrying) at the fact he'd woken up with dry eyes. It wasn't that he particularly missed waking up in tears, but he was worried that it meant he was getting over Claire and he didn't want to get over her. He didn't want to let this feeling, this love, escape from him, even though she had. It was the only thing, barring Aaron, of hers he had left.
He walked into Aaron's room - all the while trying to ignore the memory of him and Claire decorating this room - and picked up the infant, yawning loudly which, somehow, turned the infant's bawling into laughing.
"You're a weird little man," he informed the now giggling child. "But I love you. It's just you and me now, kiddo."
He rocked the infant gently, feeling a wave of crushing sadness washing over him. He wondered whether this would get any easier, whether her loss would stop physically tearing at him like claws of a beast. Aaron looked like her in so many ways already, and he was only an infant.
Aaron stared up into his eyes and he felt that small tug at his heartstrings, the sort of tug which seemed to be a strange blend of pride and sorrow. Sorrow, for the woman he'd loved and lost.
He glanced at his watch - it was three in the morning. What little sleep he seemed to be getting these days had been destroyed for the night. Once he was up, he usually couldn't get back to sleep, which was a habit he'd inherited from his mum. He remembered watching her, when he knew she wasn't looking, pacing up and down along the cold, wooden floor of the living room, and it was how he'd learned to tell when she was anxious or stressed, seeing how she rarely showed it in front of him and Liam.
"Let's get you some food," Charlie murmured to a now fidgety Aaron. "Suspect you didn't wake me up just for my company, eh?"
Aaron babbled some nonsense in his direction, which Charlie took as a no, and then carefully carried Aaron down the stairs, into the kitchen. His bare feet jumped a little at the contact with the cold, tiled floor but he was used to it. He'd grown up in an environment close to poverty, after all.
As he prepared the infant's bottle of milk, Charlie reflected on his and Claire's brief, but certainly real, relationship. He'd been surprised at her decision to allow him to stay in her life, having been certain that she would've abided by the "what happens on the island, stays on the island" rule everyone else seemed to have followed. Other relationships, like Jack and Kate's had disintegrated as soon as they'd stepped onto dry land, for one reason or another, and nobody seemed to have wanted to be reminded of the events which had dominated their lives for over three months.
He hadn't heard from any of them since the brief press conference they'd all had to attend, except he did receive the odd call from Hurley and, out of respect and love for his friends, he'd attended the memorial service for those who hadn't made it. Claire had been tending after a sick Aaron at the time, but had urged him to go. He'd said a few words about Ana, not just because no one else seemed to want to do it, but because he'd spent a few hours with her, admittedly only using the time to rile her up, and felt like he owed it to her to at least say something. Hurley had spoken about Libby, Jack about Boone, Sayid about Shannon and so on.
Charlie watched Aaron's lips fold around the teat of the bottle as it was presented to him, allowing a small smile to show as he watched the infant feed. The suckling noises almost made him chuckle - and, boy, could that child guzzle down his food! - and he relished the joy he felt, knowing that soon it would be dawn, and the dawn was the signal for the start of another lonely day.
When Aaron had finished, he stretched his arms out and snuggled into Charlie's chest, his little hands grasping at his shirt as if searching for comfort there. In reality, Charlie should've been proud of this moment, but he felt empty. Claire should be where I am, was all he could think. She should've been cherishing the moment, not him, and he just felt incredibly guilty; sometimes so much that he couldn't even look at the infant without feeling sick to his very stomach.
When Aaron started to fuss, Charlie began singing softly to him, silently willing him to fall back to sleep so that he could at least rest a bit longer. Being a full time parent was hard. He couldn't work, and had to rely on the Oceanic settlement, which was dwindling every day. Claire had been reluctant to take it at first, insisting that they didn't need it and that other people in her situation didn't get this kind of help so why should she, resulting him in gently reminding her that they, unlike other people, had been in a plane crash. He'd taken the money on her behalf, setting up two accounts and dividing the money before putting each bit into the accounts. One account was Aaron's, and therefore wasn't to be touched by either of them unless they were putting in more money. The other was for them, only to be used in dire emergencies.
To this effect, Charlie had been alternatively busking and playing in small, low-key clubs for simple cash. He wasn't looking to revive his music career again. Whilst Claire hadn't agreed with this, she did understand there was a personal element to him doing this and she loved him too much to make him quit.
"Oh, Aaron," Charlie sighed, gazing down at the infant with deep affection. "I do miss your mum."
Aaron grabbed his finger, as if to say I miss her too, and then curled up closer against his chest, gurgling quietly to himself.
When morning announced its presence, Charlie stared blearily around, his face haggard and worn by exhaustion and grief. He was a far cry from the cheerful, youthful, boisterous looking man he'd been on the island.
To be fair though, a lot had changed.
He bounced Aaron around for a bit, though the gesture felt and looked monotonous, and then allowed him to play with the vast amount of toys his grandmother had sent him, sticking the television on just for a break from the monotony of it all.
He'd thought about hiring a nanny, or a babysitter, just so he could get up off his arse and actually do something. But he quickly realized there was no one he trusted enough to look after him. He'd tried calling Jack a few times, once he knew he was in Australia of course, but had never managed to get through, and quickly realized Jack was either immersed with grief, or he just wanted to disassociate himself from everything that was even remotely connected to the island.
He couldn't, in good faith, entirely blame him for that.
Charlie watched Aaron pick up a teddy, gurgling happily as he pulled it into a hug, and pondered whether he was advanced enough to be able to do that. Claire would've known the answer, he thought to himself gloomily. She might've bickered and yelled at him for being a smart arse when it came to handling her son, but she knew him in ways Charlie could never understand. Mothers and infants always hold a connection that no one else can relate to, or understand, unless they're a parent themselves.
Not being a proper parent, he could only muse over why Aaron had bonded well with him.
Charlie changed channels as the programme he was watching - some dull Australian soap - finished, locating the news just in time to see Kate on it. Her long and arduous trial was over, and there had been a strange compromise on the sentence. She had to serve time in jail for her crime but, in light of recent circumstances - meaning the plane crash - the judge decreed she serve a maximum of seven years in prison. Any more would be considered too harsh, any less would be considered too lenient.
He leaned forward, eager to see her again. She looked as worn as he did, her face pale and haggard, every inch of her revealing her dread and fear of prison. He felt for her, because he too was suffering in a prison, albeit one that was much more comfortable than hers.
The doorbell rang, and this sudden change in routine startled him. Charlie's eyes flew to the door, and he scooped up Aaron quickly, before scurrying down the corridor to greet this mysterious stranger.
He opened the door - jumping slightly at the loud creaking noise it made, which had never been fixed despite the countless times Claire had asked him to do it - and stared with astonishment at who it was.
"Well, howdy, there Mr Mom," a familiar voice drawled.
Charlie blinked once, twice, and then a third time just to be sure. He searched his brain for any trace of logic which would explain this strange event. He then tried to conjure up any scenario, no matter how strange, which would bring this familiar person to his door, and failed.
Try as he did, he couldn't think of a single rational, or irrational, reason why Sawyer was at his door.
"S-Sawyer?" he stuttered, blinking rapidly. "What are you doing here? How did you find this address?"
"Ain't many Littletons listed in the phonebook," Sawyer replied, his familiar cocky grin taking centre stage on his face. "There were, however, two, C. Littletons and I just flipped to pick which one I was gonna harass. I got the mama, as it turns out, and she were kind enough to give me your address. You know, once I told her the charmin' story of how we met." The cocky grin, if possible, widened.
"Why are you here?" Charlie asked quietly. "Last I heard, you were in Mexico."
"That's right, Hosse," Sawyer replied, raising an eyebrow as if surprised by how much Charlie knew about his whereabouts. "Went there for a while to cool my heels. This good nation ain't too fond of me, you understand. Used my money from Oceanic to buy a nice little property out there. I'm just here on my holiday. While I was in the neighbourhood, thought I'd see how you and Mamacita were doin'."
"How touching," Charlie said sarcastically. "Suppose you better come in."
He allowed the southerner to saunter in, whispering an agitated apology to Aaron before following suit.
"Where is she anyway?" Sawyer asked, settling himself on the couch. "Claire? S'pose you best go and warn her I'm here."
"I could," Charlie said casually, sitting down on the neighbouring chair. "If she were alive."
It was almost worth reiterating that painful piece of news, if only to see the look on Sawyer's face. His expressions changed from shock to bewilderment to more shock. Charlie put Aaron in his playpen, folded his arms, and waited for words to come to his guest.
"She - She's dead?" Sawyer managed to get out.
Charlie nodded, his eyes tightening marginally.
"Just under a month," Charlie replied dully.
"How?" Sawyer looked bewildered, as if he couldn't comprehend it.
"Car crash," Charlie replied quietly. "She was driving to her mother's to pick up Aaron when she was hit head on by a truck. Her car flipped and that was it."
He suspected all Sawyer needed to know was how she'd died. He'd given more detail than was necessary, only to iterate that it wasn't Claire's fault. A car accident wasn't specific enough for people to know. There was, however, one bit of the story he'd deliberately left out, because it still hurt to think about it.
"I'm…I'm sorry," Sawyer muttered, still looking pretty shocked.
"I get that a lot," Charlie replied lightly, picking Aaron up for no other reason than the fact he just needed to have him inside his arms.
"So, you've jus' been livin' here with the squirt by yourself? Who looks after him when you go work?" were Sawyer's next questions.
"I don't work," Charlie admitted. "I don't trust anyone enough to look after him. What work I did before, I've had to put on hold so I can look after him."
"Doesn't his grandma do nothing?"
Charlie bit his lip. "She does what she can," he hedged. "But I don't want to disturb her too much. I might have lost the love of my life, but she lost a daughter. If I'm a pathetic mess, I don't wanna think about what she's going through."
Sawyer shook his head, evidently at a loss of words. He took time to study the room he was sitting in, noticing it seemed to reflect on its owner in the sense it was a mess. Coffee mugs and empty bottles littered the floor, as well as the odd tissue. There was a musty smell to the room, and the curtains were closed, so the whole area was dark. It was a depressing sight.
"Why are you really here, Sawyer?" Charlie suddenly asked, remembering the ex-conman didn't do courtesy calls. In fact, did he even do nice? Probably not.
"I wanted to know if you'd heard from her…" Sawyer seemed to hesitate, which was unlike him. "I've made a point of not watchin' the news. Has she - ?"
"She's in jail," Charlie replied heavily. "Seven years, from what I've heard. With good behaviour, she could be out sooner…"
"Good behaviour…" Sawyer shook his head. "She don't deserve to be there. It's not fair."
"A lot of things aren't fair," Charlie snapped, his voice wobbling. "If things were fair, do you think I'd be here, raising her son alone? He's a fantastic little boy, and I love him, but he needs his mum. Not me."
An awkward silence followed his short outburst. He wasn't sorry for it, although he was sorry Sawyer had to bear the brunt of it… Actually, he wasn't really sorry about that either. What he was sorry about was the future of this little boy, who would grow up never knowing his mother. Charlie's own mother had succumbed to death when he was barely into his teens, and he remembered how much it had physically crippled him, so maybe it was good that Aaron was too young to know that kind of pain.
"Lemme ask ya something, Chief," Sawyer suddenly began, leaning forward and looking unnervingly concerned. "You talked to anyone - anyone - since it happened?"
"Only her mother," he confessed. "And only when I have to give her Aaron."
He liked her mother, yet sensed she didn't entirely trust him. She always seemed relieved when he brought Aaron over, as if she half expected him to lose him. He was used to people having a lack of faith in him, so it didn't deter him from trying to connect to her. He was trying, if he was brutally honest with himself, to connect to the people in Claire's life, knowing he couldn't just 'get over her' like that.
"Does anyone of…them…know she's - ?"
"I told Hurley," Charlie said quietly. "He probably spread it around a bit. But no one really came, except Jack."
That was the main reason he no longer had any desire to speak to any of his former companions. The fact that none of them showed up, even after Hurley had informed him he'd told everyone, had hurt him a lot. He'd got the odd phone call afterwards, apologizing for not being able to come and expressing their deepest sympathies for his loss, but it wasn't good enough. He'd been sure they'd all been tighter than that, but evidently not.
That's when he'd really started cutting himself off from the world. He only accepted the odd call from Liam, or Hurley, and that was about it. Gradually, people stopped calling, stopped writing, stopped caring, it seemed. And he'd dealt with it, as best he'd could.
"So, you jus' been lookin' after baby Huey? All by yourself?" Sawyer asked critically. "Judgin' by the state of ya, I'd guess that's goin' real swell."
"It's not easy, no," Charlie said defensively. "But I love him and he loves me. I'm all he has now."
"Sure that ain't the other way round, Chief?" Sawyer enquired, pursing his lips together as he scrutinised the Briton carefully.
Charlie sighed loudly, pressing his lips together firmly to avoid shouting at him. He was messed up, true, but he knew that the bond he had with Aaron was not just one sided. Anyone who thought so had clearly not paid enough attention, for he was rarely without the little boy; even on the island, there'd rarely been a day when he'd not visited Claire and Aaron, the sight of the little tent causing his heart to explode with excitement and joy.
"You came here for selfish reasons, Sawyer - I get it," he said, shifting the baby slightly, so that they were both comfortable. "Don't pretend to be interested in me or the baby. What's done is done," he added.
Yet his mind couldn't help going back to the day they'd finally reached home, the day their troubles, it had seemed, were finally over.
The helicopters had come: one by one, they'd landed on the beach, escorting the survivors onto a nearby cargo ship which, they'd been shocked to learn, had only been a hundred miles away from civilisation. Where they'd come from, no one had known, but they were grateful for them all the same.
"Where's Charlie?" Claire screamed, the noise of the helicopter taking away the first group of survivors drowning out her voice.
"He'll be here, Claire," Jack yelled, searching the ocean for any signs of Desmond and Charlie's return. "But you're on the next helicopter out of here."
"I'm not leaving without him!" she insisted, clutching Aaron close to her chest, trying to cover his ears.
"Yes, you are!" Jack insisted, storming up to her. "I'll make sure he gets on."
She protested for a good few minutes - bringing up the point that that argument hadn't stopped Rose from staying with Jack in Titanic - before reluctantly - and somewhat despondently - allowing Sawyer and Sayid to escort her to the helicopter. She desperately tried to look for him before the helicopter had raised itself into the air, but there'd been no sign of him and, secretly, she'd allowed a few tears of worry and fear to escape.
Once the helicopter had landed, she watched every trip bring back survivors which hadn't included Charlie, and became increasingly frustrated and worried that he wasn't coming back. Everyone else was too involved in rejoicing and celebrating to notice their number was down by one - maybe for forever.
The last helicopter landed, and Jack jumped out, rushing straight to Kate's side to hug her. Following him, Sawyer and Sayid jumped out, presumably after making sure everyone else had boarded, and shook hands briefly, the former enemies sharing a weary smile which had seemed to say it's over at last.
Desmond jumped out next, suspiciously avoiding her eyes, before a soaking wet, but wrapped up, Charlie had joined him.
"Charlie!" she shrieked, bundling Aaron into Sun's arms before racing up and throwing her arms around his neck.
"Easy love," he chuckled, after the initial shock. "I told you I would see you soon. No need to overreact."
"Yes there is," she informed him, faintly annoyed at how easily he could dismiss things like this. "You could've been killed."
"You could've been killed. Yes or no?" she repeated, glaring at him.
"It was a possibility," he admitted. "But I'm alive, aren't I?"
"Not. The. Point!" she growled. "You are an idiot. Yes or no?"
"Yes or no?"
"Yes," he reluctantly admitted. "I'm the biggest idiot in the world for leaving you. But I had to do it, Claire. And wasn't it all worth it? Well?"
Claire fidgeted uncomfortably. "Well -"
"Yes or no?" he teased, leaning in to kiss her lips.
"Sort of," she conceded. "And that's the best you're gonna get," she added.
Charlie chuckled, throwing an arm around her.
"Oh, I missed you," he said, sighing heavily. "I don't want to do this."
"Do what?" she asked, looking suspicious at once.
"Leave you," he said sadly. "We are going our separate ways…aren't we?"
She stepped back, looking visibly alarmed.
"What?" she demanded. "Are you - Are you breaking up with me?"
"That depends on whether you're breaking up with me?" Charlie looked upset. "I thought after this, when we were rescued, you'd leave me." He shifted on the spot, avoiding her eyes. "I was preparing myself for the news all the way here."
"You're an even bigger idiot than I originally thought," Claire informed him, grinning softly at him. "What we had - have - was way more than just some jungle hook up. You mean a lot to me, Charlie," she added softly. "A lot."
He grinned. "Really?"
"Yes." She nodded, as if that affirmed it. "Whatever future I may have, I want you to be in it. So…yes or no?"
"Yes. Yes. Yes!" he laughed. "I could never refuse you, Claire."
They kissed to seal the deal, and, afterwards, they pulled back to laugh with joy at where they were, where they had been, and what the future now held for them.
Charlie awoke from the memory, just as disorientated as if the memory had been a dream. There were certainly days when his life with Claire felt like a dream. But he had in his arms living proof that they were real.
"Guess I better be off, then," Sawyer suddenly said, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable. "S'not my place to judge."
Charlie nodded wearily and didn't bother showing him out. When he'd heard the door close, he pressed his face against Aaron and sobbed weakly, wondering if this heavy weight on his heart would ever lighten, even just a fraction.
A/n: And that's chapter one! Review and read please! I know not a lot has happened really but this is just the opening chapter! God, I sound desperate. Ignore me, lol.