Genre: Humor/Hinted Romance
Summary: Claire repays Charlie for the peanut butter by offering him some of the banoffee pie he's been craving. Their little game extends to the other survivors.
Disclaimer: Lost and all related characters, settings, plots, etc. belong to J.J. Abrams and ABC. I claim no ownership and make no money from this venture.
"There we are, Claire. A nice little place for you to set up camp," Charlie said as he dropped the last of Claire's stuff onto the ground of the cave. She was currently setting up an improvised bed out of a few airplane blankets and some clothes. Charlie knelt beside her and held out the jar he had given her earlier that day. "Still hungry for some peanut butter?"
Claire giggled and took the jar from him. "Well, yes, but Charlie, we have to conserve it! I'd hate to run out."
"Oh, didn't I tell you? This jar is magical," Charlie said, sounding completely serious despite the glint in his eye. "It refills by itself. See? You can't even tell we've had any."
Charlie undid the jar and Claire peered inside. "Well I suppose you're right. How bout it then? Care to share with me?"
"I'd love to," Charlie grinned as he dug his finger into the imaginary peanut butter. As he licked his finger clean Claire did the same, giggling to herself at the silliness of it all. When they had both eaten their fill of peanut butter Claire put the top back on the jar and stored it safely beside her bag of toiletries.
"Where do you sleep, Charlie?" Claire asked curiously. Charlie jerked his thumb over his shoulder to point at another makeshift bed only a few feet away from Claire." Just there. You ever need anything, you know, borrow a cup of sugar or whatnot, just give a holler, yeah?" Charlie said.
"You're very nice, Charlie. Thank you for the peanut butter. And for helping me move here," Claire said, her eyes softening as she smiled warmly at Charlie. He smiled back at her as he stood up.
"Any time, Claire. Like I said, I'm right here when you need me. You go on and take a rest. You're looking a bit tired." Claire watched him walk away with a smile on her face. He picked up his guitar case and walked out of the caves, sitting with his back to her on a log that had been dragged to be used as a seat beside the fire. She could faintly hear the music he played over the sound of running water as she leaned back on her bed. The walk had not been easy despite Charlie's enthusiastic helpfulness. He had carried almost everything for her and let her stop often to catch her breath. The heat and the mostly uphill walk had taxed her, though, and she was quite content to stay where she was and just rest her tired body.
Her eyelids drooped but did not close completely. She wasn't asleep, nor was she entirely awake. Her mind began to wander until it landed on a certain British rock star with a penchant for kind acts. Claire didn't know why Charlie was so nice to her. She appreciated it, of course, especially since her first few days on the island had been very, very lonely. The fear when the baby stopped moving had eaten at her, and with no one to confide in or to lean on for support she had felt as though despite all the people around her, she was very much alone on this deserted island.
At first Claire had not known what to make of Charlie. He seemed… Claire was tempted to call him twitchy, though that seemed a little harsh. Nice enough, of course, but a little nervous and fidgety. Then she got to know him a little better, after he seemed to calm down a little. Although there was still something behind his eyes that was tormenting him, a peace had come over him. He helped Claire by bringing her water and doing her laundry, and then he did the ultimate service.
When Charlie first pulled out the empty jar and offered it to her, Claire's thought was that the sun had finally gotten to him and messed his head up. Then she realized that while he was playing with her about the peanut butter, he was very serious about her moving to the caves. This was worry on a deeper level than Jack warning her about contractions on the day of the crash. This was even deeper than Hurley's touching, "Any more, you know, baby stuff?" on that night. This was compassionate worry from someone who was looking at Claire as more than the pregnant lady. Charlie was looking at Claire as a real person.
Claire was used to people fretting about her. Prior to her flight to LA everyone she knew called her to warn her of what a bad idea it was and how it could only have a bad ending. Her mother tried to stop her, and Thomas especially didn't want her to go. Claire, being proud and too stubborn for her own good, did not heed their warnings and marched onto the plane anyway. She saw the strange looks she got from other passengers, especially those who were mothers themselves. The flight attendants seemed concerned, but Claire ignored them all. Then when she realized that the plane was crashing and she was about to die, all she could hear was I told you so I told you so I told you so I told you so. Even when she survived she heard their voices telling her she shouldn't have gone on the flight and she was crazy for doing so, which really did not help her feel any better at all.
Rather than making her feel defensive, Charlie's concern made her feel good. Maybe it was because he was a new face rather than someone she saw everyday and who was constantly trying to give her advice. Maybe it was because Charlie was more subtle about his concern.
Maybe it was because Charlie had given her peanut butter.
Claire smiled as she finally drifted off to sleep. She felt like she could taste the peanut butter, as ridiculous as it was, and she wished she could think of some way to repay Charlie.
When Claire woke up, night had fallen. It couldn't have been too late, though, since almost everyone was still awake. She looked around and saw that Charlie was sitting up in his sleeping area. When he saw her move he stood up and came over to her.
"All right then, Claire?" he asked in a low voice.
"Mmm-hmm," she said, her voice still somewhat sleepy.
"Hungry? They've got some food cooked. Real food, I mean, that you can see," Charlie smiled.
Claire laughed. "I suppose a girl can't live on peanut butter alone."
Charlie helped Claire up and walked with her out to the fire. She ate a little before going back inside the cave. As she ate she had gotten an idea. After warning Charlie to stay outside for a little while she planned her surprise, she went into the caves and looked around until she found an empty box. It was square and not very deep. Inside of it Claire put one of the plates they had recovered from the plane wreckage that were used to serve meals to first class passengers. Then she returned to Charlie.
"I've a little something for you," she said. Her grin was uncontainable and spread across her whole face, lighting her features up. Charlie smiled back as he took the box.
"What's this?" he asked with a little laugh. He shook the box like a little boy on Christmas morning.
"Go on, open it!" Claire urged. Charlie undid the flaps of the box and peered inside. He glanced curiously at Claire before slipping the flimsy plastic plate out of the box. Claire's smile increased when he seemed utterly confused by this.
"Claire, I don't know what…"
"Banoffee pie!" Claire exclaimed giddily. Realization dawned on Charlie's face and he grinned. Eagerly he dug his whole hand into the imaginary pie and stuffed his mouth.
"Oh, Claire, this is excellent," he said, sounding muffled, as if his mouth were crammed with banoffee pie. "Honestly, the best banoffee pie I've ever had. Better than me mum's, it is."
Claire giggled. "Can I have a taste?" Charlie held the plate towards her and she dipped her finger into the pie. "Mmm! That is good, if I do say so myself."
"Go on, have a bit more. There's plenty," Charlie urged. Claire laughed and helped herself to a handful of pie. Charlie seemed to be stuffing himself on it, and as Jack walked past he gave him an odd look. After all, it just wasn't normal for someone to be sitting with an empty plate, scooping handfuls of nothing off the plate and into his mouth. Charlie looked up and smiled. Claire imagined banoffee pie filling dripping from his chin onto his shirt and laughed harder.
"Charlie, dare I ask…?" Jack seemed hesitant, as if he really didn't care to know the answer but was worried enough to ask anyway.
"Care for a bit of banoffee pie?" Charlie asked.
"A bit of what?" Jack asked. His tone was halfway between incredulous and amused.
"Banoffee pie." Jack still didn't seem to understand. Charlie rolled his eyes. "Ban-off-ee pie. You know, banana toffee pie." Charlie looked at Claire and sighed exasperatedly. "Honestly, these Yanks wouldn't know culture if it danced stark naked in front of them."
"You can't blame them. It's not their fault," Claire said sympathetically.
"Go on, Jack, have a taste," Charlie said, shoving the empty plate in Jack's face. Jack laughed and pushed it away.
"No, thanks, Charlie. I think I'll pass. I've had my fill for tonight," he said before walking away.
"You know what your problem is, Jack?" Charlie asked. Jack stopped walking and turned around with raised eyebrows.
"Enlighten me, Charlie."
"You're too logical. You need to stop acting like a walking medical textbook and start exercising your imagination muscles. You look at me like I'm crazy, but there are plenty of people around here who could appreciate it." Charlie glanced around until his eyes fell on the young boy and his father. He wracked his brain to come up with a name. "Hey, Walt, isn't it?"
Both Walt and Michael glanced up. Walt nodded slowly, looking at Charlie strangely. Charlie beckoned to him. He glanced at his father for approval, and when he nodded he walked over to Charlie and Claire, his dog's leash in hand.
Charlie bent down and picked up his water bottle. "What's your favorite flavor for a milkshake, Walt?"
"Chocolate," Walt answered.
"Have you ever tried thinking so hard about making something happen that it actually happened?" Charlie asked.
"I've tried it, but it's never really worked," Walt answered sadly. He was thinking of all the nights he spent wishing his mother got better, and very recently wishing she could come back to life. Charlie put the water bottle in his hand and he stared down at it. Jack folded his arms across his chest and watched Charlie intently.
"I want you to take a drink of this, and when you feel the water hit your lips, think very, very hard about it turning into a chocolate milkshake. See if you can't taste that milkshake," Charlie instructed. Walt looked warily from Charlie, who was staring very seriously at him, to Claire, who was laughing. He raised the water bottle to his lips and tipped it back. When the water touched his mouth he imagined the taste of a chocolate milkshake. He parted his lips and felt the thick liquid run in. The taste melted over his tongue and his eyes opened wide in surprise.
"I taste it!" he exclaimed after swallowing. Charlie and Claire both let out a cheer while Jack laughed. Charlie looked at Michael and motioned for him to come.
"What's your favorite food, man?" Charlie asked.
Michael thought for a minute. "I've got a thing for mashed potatoes."
"Here you are. One plate of freshly mashed potatoes from the finest crop on the island. With or without gravy, sir?" Charlie asked with the air of a waiter in a fancy restaurant. He held up the plate that had until very, very recently held his banoffee pie. Michael took it.
"With, please," he said. Charlie took the water bottle from Walt and poured a little bit of water onto the plate before giving the boy his milkshake again. Michael laughed and used his hand as a fork as he took a bite of his potatoes.
"Those are some damn fine potatoes," he proclaimed. He, Claire, and Charlie laughed.
"See, Jack? You just have to open your mind a little," Claire said. Jack came over and sat beside Charlie.
"Can you pull out a steak dinner from your magical imagination?" Jack asked. Charlie held his hand toward Michael, who returned the plate to him. Charlie waved his hand over the plate a few times and hummed as if he were meditating. Then he gave the plate over to Jack. The doctor grasped an invisible fork and knife and sliced into the steak. Everyone stared at him expectantly as he put the bite into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. He looked to Charlie and broke into a grin.
"The best cut of meat I've tasted in my life," Jack said. All five of them began to laugh, and Vincent offered an excited bark. Charlie dug into his pocket and tossed a dog biscuit to Vincent. The dog didn't understand the game, but Walt pretended to pick up the biscuit and opened Vincent's mouth so he could put the treat inside.
"Vincent likes it. Thanks, Charlie!" Walt said.
"No problem, man."
Boone and Shannon, who was breathing easy now thanks to Sun's miracle cure, wandered over to see what the fuss was about. The idea was quickly explained to them, and immediately Shannon looked as though she doubted the sanity of everyone sitting there. Boone looked mildly bemused but made no offer to join in the game.
"Why don't you give these Yanks a taste of your culture, Charlie?" Claire suggested, nudging him with her shoulder. Jack handed the plate over to Charlie, who held it up to Boone and Shannon.
"Banoffee pie. The greatest dessert ever created. It's a mixture of toffee and cream with some bananas thrown in, too, all in a graham-cracker crust. Knock yourselves out," Charlie said. Claire reached up and dipped a finger in. "Better hurry before this one eats it all, though." She laughed.
Boone glanced at Shannon, who was pulling a face. With a shrug he reached out towards the plate. Shannon looked at him in amazement as he licked his fingers clean. He looked at her and smiled.
"Hey, it's not half-bad," he said. Shannon cracked a smile.
"I'm not really hungry, but if you had some asthma medicine I might be interested," she joked. Charlie jumped up and stepped over the log. Beside the entrance to the cave was a large bush, which he went to and plucked a leaf from. As he walked back towards Shannon he rolled it into a little tube, then handed it to her.
"Give that a try," he suggested. Shannon put the leaf to her lips and breathed through it a few times.
"Would you look at that! Charlie, you did it!" Jack said. Shannon laughed.
"Thanks, Charlie," she said.
"Charlie's a pretty creative guy. He started this today when I told him about my peanut butter craving," Claire said. Charlie shrugged and brushed off her compliment, but when he looked at her there was a touch of warm pride in his eyes.
Other survivors came to join in the game. For much of the night they sat around the fire thinking of new comfort foods to pretend to eat. It was a ridiculous game for adults to be playing, yet somehow it made everyone feel somewhat better about their situation. Walt eventually fell asleep, curled up beside Vincent, while the others still continued to play around. For a short time a food fight broke out between Boone, Charlie, and Hurley until someone threw a handful of chocolate pudding at Jack and he put a stop to it.
Despite the silliness of the entire situation, it was an easy way to mask worry, fear, and anxiety. It let Jack forget about what he had witnessed that day in the jungle, of Sayid sharpening bamboo reeds for the purpose of hurting Sawyer, of the knife sinking into Sawyer's bicep, and of Sawyer telling him he wanted to watch him die. He stopped thinking about Sawyer "making out" with Kate and of where Sayid might be. Claire stopped, for a few minutes, thinking about her baby and of what she would do when it came time to deliver him. Charlie's mind was not on the withdrawal, which was fading slowly but still persisting in some ways. Shannon's anxiety about her missing inhalers disappeared.
For the group of strangers, the plates that were passed around became their way of connection. It was the first time since the crash they had come together for anything other than talking about the crash or how to survive. They were starting to develop relationships with each other and actually get to know each other on deeper levels than, "Hey, didn't you sit a few rows behind me on the plane?"
Despite the fact that the food was all imaginary, Charlie hoped that the bonds he was forging with everyone, but especially with Claire, were not just figments of his imagination.