Wow, a challenge fic. My friend Haley told me to write it, under the following restrictions:
There must be two alternate endings
There must be as many logical incomplete sentences as possible
Hurley must find his way into the story, or one of the endings
It must resemble the ending of "The Butterfly Effect"
And, of course,
It must be Charlie/Claire sweetness.

START HERE:

Three years.

It had been three long years since he'd seen her. Three years since they had been rescued. Three years since his life ended.

It was funny, he thought, that his life ended when they were saved. He'd survived an impossible plane crash, a painful detox with no rehabilitation centre, and even near death-by-hanging. They'd hung him, but he'd survived. For her. For the small chance that he could help find her.

It was all for her.

They had arrived at the airport in late July, normally a busy month, but the crowds around their terminal weren't getting on any planes any time soon. Liam had even been there, though he hadn't expected it. Liam had missed him. Liam had blamed himself for everything that had happened to him. LIAM HAD MISSED HIM.

He supposed he understood why, now. Four years on that island, and Liam had missed him all that time because at the moment before he had left to catch the plane, the only person in the world that mattered to his brother was himself.

Three years since they left the island, and the last time he had seen her, that last moment before Thomas came wanting to make it right again, that last moment before his heart died, she was all that mattered to him. Hell, he thought, she's still all that matters to me.

His depression ate away at him every day. Once, he had considered going back to the drugs; the false sense of happiness that could cloud everything wrong in the world. Once he went to a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist had prescribed him pills to make him sleep and eat; feel better. Placebo. Just like the drugs. Once he went to Hurley. Sage advice from the fat comic:

"Dude, you need to see her again. Just tell her you were passing by. She won't mind. She'll probably be thankful."

Hurley was right. He did need to see her again. But he couldn't. What if she hated him? What if Thomas wanted to kill him for leaving her, just as he'd always wanted to kill Thomas? What if, what if?

And so he walked down a busy street in Melbourne, head hung in shame because he couldn't do anything right. Addicted again. Not to drugs. Not to anything harmful, in fact.

Just Claire.

A shrill voice a little way down the street made him look up, against his will.

"Mama, look, that's just like what Sawyer had!"

He located the source of the voice quickly. A small boy, no more, and possibly less, than seven pointed at a window excitedly. The child's abnormally frail finger swiftly changed its focus point, and he spoke again.

"Mama, there's Shannon's hairbrush!"

There was something piercingly familiar about the child, but so far gone was Charlie that he couldn't place it. Missing her was all he knew. Depression ate everything away.

"Mama, see there, that's a shirt Boone wore!"

He should recognize these names, he knew. Sawyer, Shannon, Boone. How did they connect? He continued walking, and so did the little boy and his mama. They were walking towards him, they were going to walk past him. His eyes were lifted just enough to see the top of the little boys head. At the last second, he snapped his head up, knowing somehow that he just had to see this kids mother.

Their eyes connected for only a brief moment, and neither knew what to make of it. She didn't recognize him at first; his hair was cut and his beard was gone, and he was sickly and thin. Not just small framed, not just flat stomached. His backbones were visible through his old grey t-shirt. Here was a man starving to death in a world of plenty. And in her subconscious, she knew why.

He didn't fully connect the wide blue eyes and flawless smile he had seen to the round-bellied sweet Australian that had haunted his dreams for three long years. He kept walking. He had not gone far, though, when it set in.

Claire.

His Claire.

His last lifeline.

Now he was paralysed with a feeling too strong to describe. Was it hope? Ecstasy? Or perhaps, fear?

"Mama, look, it's Charlie's guitar! Why doesn't he come to play me songs anymore, mama?"

Mama wasn't looking at Charlie's guitar. She stopped in the middle of very busy, very angry pedestrians, and let Josh wander off to look at whatever knickknack he had spotted. He'd come back to her. He had an amazing memory for one so young; he would be able to retrace the few steps from the shop window back to his mother.

She turned slowly, half excited and half afraid to see what she expected. Could it be? After all these years? Thomas had left her again, and this time, there was no Charlie to take away her sadness. Sometimes she had longed to hop on another Oceanic plane heading for L.A., dreaming that it would crash on the island and Charlie would come to rescue her again.

She faced the back of the emaciated young man's head. She didn't recognize it; if it was Charlie, his hair had been cut short. A tear slipped out of her eye and she turned away again, knowing that going up to this man who might be Charlie would be futile, that even if it was her rugged rock god, he would want nothing to do with her.

"Come to Mama, Josh. We've got to get going. I'll buy you anything you want at the grocers, ok?"

"Peanut butter?"

"That's my boy."

"Jelly, too. Grape. No, strawberry. No, grape."

She smiled through the empty feeling that had invaded her small stomach. At least she still had Josh.

Placebo.

She needed Charlie.

Reality.

He turned as she walked away, wanting to see her radiant smile once more. Hell, the whole of her was radiant, not just her smile. . . not just her eyes. What he saw instead was her blonde hair bouncing on her shoulders as she led Josh away, disappearing into the crowds. At that moment, he was more alone then he ever had been before. She didn't want to talk to him. She hated him. Tears poured like waterfalls from his eyes, and his heart. She was almost gone now, three seconds, and she'd disappear forever.

He turned again, and kept walking.

ALTERNATE ENDING! (preferred, less depressing, but still leaves the ending open. This one starts right after: Placebo. She needed Charlie. Reality)

He turned as she walked away, wanting to see her beautiful smile once more, at least. His heart shattered to see her disappearing into the crowds. Tears fell from his eyes and he felt even more alone than he had before. He brushed them away furiously; the only thought inside his mind was that he MUST NOT LOOSE SIGHT OF HER. Her blonde hair stood out like a beacon in the ocean of brunettes.

He followed her.

ALTERNATE ENDING! (Least depressing, but this one doesn't let you imagine so much. Starts right after: He had an amazing memory for one so young; he would be able to retrace the few steps from the shop window back to his mother.)

She turned slowly, unsure of whether she wanted to see what she expected. He was so thin, so. . .dead looking. Was is because of her? She pushed the selfish thought out of her mind, and stared at the man before her. He had stopped too, turned around. His skin was stretched tightly over his rib cage, and the black circles around his eyes were unbelievable large. But he smiled his cheeky smile, and she knew.

Charlie.

"Well. I think the island sun favoured your complexion more, but beggars can't be choosers." His roguish voice hadn't changed, and neither had his (sometimes weak) attempts to make her smile. She stared at him in wonder.

"What's wrong? Too good to talk to Charlie now that you don't need rescuing every other day?"

She wanted to say something, anything, but her mouth was too dry now to form the words. All she had longed for, for three long years, now stood before her. No more placebo. He was real.

"On the bloody island you couldn't stop talking. Not that I minded. Why the silence now?"

Still she said nothing. But now, she stepped forward, as a large man pushed past her gently. She didn't see him stop to glance at them, didn't see his goofy smile. For at that moment, she closed the distance between herself and Charlie, and their lips met in a kiss that was full of the longing of three years.

"Yay!" said the big man happily, "the island love-birds are finally together!"

They broke their kiss upon hearing the voice, though both were still wrapped up in their own little world.

"Way to kill a moment, Hurley."

"'S what I'm here for, little dude."

"Mama, look, it's Hurley! He has funny hair!" Hurley had, in fact, cut off most of his triangular "do", and now his brown hair was relatively normal looking. Almost respectable. Almost.

"Mama! It's Charlie, mama!"

"Hey, kiddo, lets go see what's in the shops," said Hurley quickly, realizing his friends needed a moment to themselves. "Like peanut-butter?"

"Mmmhmm!"

Hurley took Josh off to get peanut butter, without even thinking to ask Claire. Hell, they'd spent three years on an island together, and he'd helped with Josh on many occasions before. Asking was no longer necessary.

"So. . ." said Charlie, trying to fill up the silence that his old friends comment had created between them. Nothing. But, unlike the silence that had come upon him when he went through withdrawal, this was bearable. This was perfection. He could spend eternity like this. No drugs. Not false happiness.

Just Claire.

Three years later, they were married.

Three years later, Josh's little brother was born. He had Charlie's smile, even while he was still in the cradle.

Three years later, they had a detached house of their own, out in the country, that always smelled of campfires and forest rain.

Three years.