TITLE: See Me in the Dark
AUTHOR: Mnemosyne

Disclaimer: Not mine! The characters and concept of the show Lost are the property of ABC, J.J. Abrams, et al. I'm just having fun with them. :-D
SUMMARY: Charlie's jonesing, the rain's pouring down, and Claire thinks he's a good guy. But Charlie's not so sure.
RATING: PG-13, for language and mild descriptions of drug use
I'll admit it. I'm a Claire/Charlie 'shipper, and proud of it. I've actually 'shipped them since before the show BEGAN, because of pre-existing connections to Emilie de Ravin (from Roswell) and Dominic Monaghan (from LotR, among other things). The scene between the two of them on the beach in "Tabula Rasa" (episode #3) was gravy to me. I'm thrilled to see others have been writing 'ship fic about them, and am more than happy to add my own little ramblings to the mix. I hope you enjoy! Please tell me if you do!
ADDENDUM: I'm not entirely sure what drug Charlie's been using, but from what I've read on the nature and effects of heroin, and what they've shown on the series itself, I THINK it's heroin. So I'm running with that. I did try to do some research before writing this, but we'll have to see if I'm proved right or wrong by the show itself! If my info changes, I'll alter the story to match canon. :-D

I never meant to cause you any sorrow,
I never meant to cause you any pain.
I only wanted to one time see you laughing -
I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain…

Prince, "Purple Rain"


The rain was sheeting down again, as it did so often in this climate, and Charlie needed a fix. It was unbearable. The rain brought humidity but little relief from the heat, and his clothes stuck to his body like cellophane. His fingers tapped out a frantic drumbeat on his leg as he tried to focus on watching the water sluice down from the heavens outside his makeshift plastic tent. Better that than letting his mind wander inward to where his cells were each screaming bloody murder for a dose.

Through the downpour, Charlie could make out the shadowy shapes of the ruined fuselage and a variety of makeshift shelters. His fellow castaways were huddled in small groups, trying to keep dry and not panic. It was easy to panic, when the sky opened and let loose with all its pounding fury. A paranoid voice in the back of Charlie's mind kept asking if they'd put out enough tarps to collect the flood of water. Wouldn't that be ironic: to survive the plane crash, only to die of dehydration. On a bloody tropical island, no less.

Shit. He really needed a hit. But not here. The bag of heroin tucked into his shoe pressed comfortingly against the arch of his foot, but it was as bad as an itch in a place he couldn't scratch. Someone would surely see him if he pulled it out now and snorted the gritty powder up his raw nostrils. He would have preferred a toot, but there wasn't a hell of a lot of foil on this island, and he figured people would be suspicious if he went hunting for any. Besides, he had to conserve his supply of the drug, because there was no escaping the truth.

One day, the heroin would be gone. And rescue was getting more and more unlikely with every passing minute.

The skin on the back of his neck was crawling. How was it possible to be this hot and this cold all at once? He couldn't stop shivering, and his stomach was churning like a Whirlpool washer. God, wouldn't the rain ever STOP?

"Woo! It's wet out there! Mind if I join you?"

Looking up sharply, Charlie saw the familiar silhouette of Claire duck under the edge of the plastic tarp that served as his tent. One arm was cradling her swollen belly, the other was raised over her head in a hopeless attempt to shield her from the rain. But the ever-present smile was still in full-force on her heart-shaped face, and she looked like she was laughing despite the situation.

"May I sit down?" she asked, gesturing to the patch of grass next to him. Rain residue was running down her face, and her blonde hair was already beginning to curl despite the heaviness of the moisture.

"What? Oh. Yeah, sure!" Glad to have something else to focus on, Charlie quickly stood up. "Here, sit on this." He'd been sitting on his black hoodie, and quickly moved it over so she could settle down on it instead.

"Thanks," she said, sounding like she'd never meant anything as sincerely in her life. She moaned softly as he helped her to sit, then looked at him as he sat beside her. "You don't mind…?" She patted his hoodie.

Charlie shook his head. "Nah," he told her. "Share the wealth, that's what I say."

"A nice philosophy." She gave him another bright smile, then turned back to the rain.

"What were you doing out in that?" Charlie asked, sitting down and nodding to the deluge, which still hadn't let up. "I thought you would have been holed up with the others nearer the plane."

Claire nodded absently. "I'd just ducked into the forest to answer the call of nature." She chuckled, and rested back on one hand, using the other to rub her belly. "It happens a lot," she said, looking at Charlie with sparkling eyes. "I was coming back when the heavens cracked open. Your tarp was the closest I could reach." She looked down at herself, clothes plastered to her body by water. "Wasn't fast enough, though. It's hard to run when you waddle like a duck."

They shared a laugh, and Charlie was again thankful for the distraction she provided. His skin was still prickling with withdrawal, and he felt like he was going to vomit any second, but if he focused on the pretty young woman sitting next to him, the discomfort faded to the background. After all, he was still a red-blooded male, and she was still gorgeous. And she knew how to smile -- everyone else on this island seemed to have forgotten how to do that.

"I know all about you, you know."

Charlie's gaze snapped back into focus, and he saw that she was staring at him. "What do you mean?" he asked, trying not to sound nervous. His fingers started twitching anew, and he curled his hands into fists to hide the action.

"You're a musician, right?" she asked, her mouth hitching up into an easy smile. "With that group. What's the name? Drive Shaft. Am I right?"

Charlie was so relieved, he almost wilted. "Yeah." He nodded. "Yeah, I am. Bass player."

"Oh my God, no way!" Claire laughed and pushed herself into a more upright position, half-turning on her hip to face him head on. "I thought I was blowing smoke! My best friend in college, she was OBSESSED with you guys. Had your poster up over her bed and everything. That's where I recognized you from. You've lost weight, or I would have gotten it sooner." She tucked an errant tendril of wet hair behind her ear. "What ever happened to you guys? You had that one song then it was like you fell off the face of the planet." She blushed. "Sorry. I didn't mean it to come out like that."

Charlie chuckled. "It's all right," he assured her, feeling a pleasant warm sensation roll through him at the knowledge that someone had recognized him. "We're about to have a comeback, actually. What's your friend's name? I can get her tickets. You could come, too, if you'd like."

She grinned at him. "Thanks, but that's all right. Not really my taste, I'm afraid. Not that I don't like it!" she hurried to amend, then bit her lip. "I'm stepping all over my tongue today. Sorry."

She was adorable. Not for the first time, Charlie was reminded why he was attracted to her. She was extremely pregnant, and as a general rule, he swore off pregnant women. Partly for absolute asshole aesthetic reasons, but more often because there was usually a jealous boyfriend or husband hanging around on the fringes, and that was more trouble than he was willing to handle. Then there was the fact that whenever children entered into the mix, he could be counted on to bolt in the opposite direction. Or he would have, if anyone had ever come forward with any kind of paternity case against him. The fact that no one had done so left him with a hollow sense of underachievement. But maybe it was a good thing. What kind of dipshit role model would he make for a child?

But Claire was different, perhaps because she was the only pregnant woman he'd ever gotten to know on more than a surface level. She was… sweet. He hadn't known a lot of sweet women in his life. It was refreshing. And he liked the way she said his name: "Chahlie." He'd always hated the "R" anyway.

"I'll give you some tickets anyway," he told her, settling down on his elbow and looking up at her. "Then you can scalp them and make a bit of money off the arrangement."

She nodded. "It's a deal." She held out a hand and they shook, sealing the transaction.

"So, you know my secret," he said, hoping to steer the conversation away from him. "What's yours?"

Claire blushed and looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "What makes you think I have any secrets?" she asked.

"Eight months pregnant and on a plane to Los Angeles? All alone? Sounds a bit fishy to me. What were you leaving behind in Sydney?"

Claire sighed and rubbed her belly. "Nothing, really. Nothing bad. I was going to Los Angeles to be with my sister. I suppose you could say that's my secret." She looked at him again. "The baby's not mine. I'm a surrogate, for my sister and her husband. They live in Los Angeles." Her eyes went distant and drifted back to her stomach. Charlie followed her gaze and watched as she rubbed a palm over her navel.

"They were so excited when I said I'd be their surrogate," she explained softly. "Marjorie said she couldn't bear to trust anyone else. I'm enrolled at the University of Sydney, though -- Masters in Architectural Design," she explained at his quizzical look. "I didn't want to take any time off, and I figured, since the due date would fall during our holidays, I'd just go to school then fly up to the States to deliver. Margie wanted me to stay with them the whole time, but she knows how stubborn I can be. She didn't fight for long." She sighed, and Charlie was surprised to see tears floating in her eyes.

"They wanted this baby so much, Margie and Paul," she murmured. "And what do I do? Crash on a deserted island. They probably think we're dead. Oh, God…" She raised a hand to scrub at her wet cheek, tears mingling with the rain. "Sorry," she apologized again. "Hormones, you know? I get too emotional."

"Hey, no, don't worry." Charlie sat up and put a hand on her back, rubbing soothingly. Claire leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder, and for a second he was paralyzed. He hadn't expected that. "They'll just be all that much happier when we get rescued," he managed, forcing his hand to start working again. "You'll see."

"We're not going to get rescued, are we?" she mumbled, then looked up at him. Her teary eyes were red-rimmed, and the smile was gone from her face. "It's been almost a week now. The south Pacific is big. They'll have to stop searching soon, if they're still searching at all. They've probably already written us off for dead."

Charlie wanted to kick himself for making her so morose. What had he been thinking, asking her about her "secrets?" Could he be more of a screw up? "I haven't given up hope yet," he said firmly, and rubbed her back extra hard, as if he actually MEANT it. "You shouldn't either." He paused, then added. "It's not good for the baby, I bet, all this grimfaced stuff. Here, you want to hear a joke?"

Claire sniffed and rubbed an arm across her eyes before nodding. "Yeah, all right."

Oh, good. He could do this. "All right. What do you call a country where everyone drives a pink car?"

Claire arched an eyebrow while one corner of her mouth crooked up in a tentative smile. "I don't know. What do you call a country like that?"

"A pink carnation."

There was silence for a moment, then Claire burst out laughing. Charlie grinned as she pressed her forehead against his shoulder, shoulders shaking. "Oh, good lord, that was horrible!" she laughed.

"You think that was? Try this one. What do you call a country where everyone LIVES in their cars?"

"I don't know."

"An INcarnation."

More laughter, and this time she lifted her head away from his shoulder and laughed at the tarp over their heads. "Oh…! Oh God…! That's just as bad!"

Charlie grinned wider. It was nice watching her laugh. It was nice watching someone laugh at something he said, when he actually MEANT them to laugh. "I've got plenty of them," he assured her. "Just ask, and ye shall receive."

When she looked at him this time, all evidence of her tears was gone, and that megawatt smile was back in full force. "Maybe I will," she said with a nod. "And if we're still here when this little package is born," she patted her belly, "you can help me sing lullabies."

Charlie scrubbed a hand through his hair, embarrassed. "I don't know many lullabies," he said uncomfortably. "I'm more of a back-up vocalist, really. Not much of a frontman--"

"You haven't heard me sing," she interrupted him. "Trust me, even a back-up vocalist is better than me. The baby would thank you. EVERYONE would thank you." Her eyes softened, and she laid a hand on the ground between them. "I'd appreciate it, too," she said softly.

Charlie was quiet for a minute. Then, slowly, he let himself smile again. "Well… Maybe," he agreed. "If we're still here, which I'm sure we won't be. And if no one else volunteers first."

She beamed at him. "Thanks."

"No problem."

As if on cue, the downpour beyond the edge of their shelter came to a stop. Charlie leaned forward and held a hand out into the clear air. "Finally," he said. "I thought that would never end."

"Don't worry, another one will be along soon to replace it." Claire struggled to push herself up off the ground, grunting in frustration when she couldn't manage it.

"Hey, whoa, lemme help," Charlie said hurriedly, scrambling to his feet and cupping her elbow, tucking the other hand under her opposite arm and easing her to her feet. Or heaving her to her feet, which was a bit more accurate.

"Woo… Thanks," Claire exhaled as he steadied her.

He smiled. "You're welcome."

Claire tipped her head to the side and considered him quietly. "You're a good guy, Charlie," she mused. "I've known plenty of the other sort in my life. Thank you for breaking the mold."

Her hands were on his shoulders, his hands were on her hips; it was the cover of a romance novel, silhouetted against the tropical backdrop of this island. In any other place, at any other time, Charlie might have tried a line or two, just to gauge her reaction. Were he on home ground back in Manchester, he would have asked her back to his place. If this were a concert, he would have been drunk, or high, or crazed with adrenaline, and he would have kissed her like a pile driver up against a wall. With the look Claire was giving him now, it seemed like she would be amenable to any or all of the above.

As it was, all Charlie's mind could focus on now was the familiar bump in his shoe, and the insane prickles running up and down his spine like centipedes. Pretty soon, she was going to figure out that the sweat on his upper lip was just that -- sweat, not rain. And she would see that he was squinting against the newfound sun, his pupils dilated beyond the norm. And she'd start to wonder if he was always this twitchy, or if it was just related to the phases of the moon. And eventually she'd figure it out. And then she'd realize that her radar was off, and he wasn't such a good guy after all.

The silence was stretching into uncomfortable territory. Charlie forced himself not to clear his throat, and let his hands fall away from her waist. "I've got to go," he said, looking away from her face and out into the main encampment, as if scanning the beach for storm damage.

"Oh." She sounded disappointed. "Why?"

"Call of nature," he answered, trying to make it into a joke using her phrase from earlier. He glanced at her in time to see her respond with a small smile, but it was obviously forced. Damn. "Are you okay here?"

"Oh… yes. I think I'll go lay out on the beach for a bit. Try to dry out." Her hands slipped off his shoulders to come to rest on her stomach. "I'll see you later?"

"Not if I see you first," he quipped, being as puckish as he could muster despite the screaming in his nerves.

Claire chuckled a little. "Well… Okay then. Until later." She gave him a little wave and turned to waddle out of the tent.

Charlie returned the wave, and watched her shuffle away towards the beach. It took all his effort not to sprint out from under the awning and make a beeline for the woods. He realized he'd just shot himself in the foot with her; if he ever wanted to get anywhere with Claire, he'd have to treat her better than that. But he already had a steady date, and she was a demanding bitch. After all, wasn't this why he'd gotten involved with the drugs in the first place? Precisely for moments like this one, when he stood alone in the shadows, watching all the good things in his life meander away. It was a self-perpetuating cycle, and he was powerless to stop it.

At least, until the drugs ran out. Then all bets were off, and she'd get to see what a bastard he really was when he didn't have a security blanket to fall back on.

Casting his eyes left, then right, then left again, he sauntered out from under the tent, made his way to the edge of the forest, and let it swallow him whole.