Title: An Unending Quiet
Author: Edith
Part: 5/7
Rating: R
Pairing: Charlie/Claire, with implied Shannon/Sawyer and Jack/Kate
Summary: Claire comes back broken and Charlie will do anything to keep her and the baby safe... even if it means leaving the island.
Spoilers: Up to "All The Best..." and then it's just speculation.
Disclaimer: Sadly, not mine. Otherwise, Lost would have a lot more sex. ;) Also borrowed the song "I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me" by The Masterless Men

Part Five: Meet Me Tonight All Alone

Their camp looked like a war zone.

Clutching onto Boone's arm for support, Claire made her way out of her nook, baby swaddled tightly to her. She realized in dismay that everything they'd worked so hard to build had been destroyed in that one horrible hour. Their beds- each and every one of their sleeping spaces- had been kicked about and random pieces of clothing littered the area, caught up in branches and made dirty on the ground. People were injured, limping in a line towards Jack, who was sporting a fairly nasty gash on the forehead himself.

"Are They gone?" Claire asked, looking searchingly at Boone.

He nodded. "Every last one of them. I think some of them were pretty banged up too but, then, who can tell?"

Who could tell, indeed. Eyes wide, she searched frantically around the area for Charlie. She didn't see him waiting for Jack's help. She didn't see him by the trees. Feeling panic well up inside of her, she tightened her grip on Boone's arm.

"Where's Charlie?"

Boone opened his mouth to reply but another voice beat him to it.

"I'm right here, love."

She whipped around and cried out upon seeing him well and alive. Disentangling herself from Boone, she flung herself at him, falling into the embrace he offered. Being careful not to squish her son, she pressed her cheek against the rough fabric of his t-shirt and inhaled over and over the unique smell that was Charlie.

"Oh, Charlie!" she gasped, clinging to him.

He swallowed hard and looked over her head off at nothing. Separating from her a little, he leaned forward so that they were nose to nose and whispered past the undeniable lump in his throat, "Say it again, Claire."

She smiled at him, just a hint of upturned lips but there all the same.

"Charlie," she said, and then she was up against him again.

He closed his eyes, lost in the moment. Everything around him disappeared. The shouting, the crying, and the danger they all knew they were still in fell away until there was nothing left but a warm hand on his back, damp tears against his shoulder, and the gentle softness of a baby pressed against his chest. He savored it tentatively, pressing his cheek to her hair and adding his own hand to her son. His knuckles brushed hers and then both of them were feeling the miracle of James's breathing.

Then it was over.

Moving away from him but not breaking contact entirely, Claire asked, "How did you get away? I saw Ethan and I-"

He cut her off, holding up an already bandaged hand with a boyish look of pride. "Smashed him a facer. Bloody teeth went right in. It was pretty gruesome."

She snatched at his wounded appendage and placed it to her lips. "Thank God you're alright."

"Thank God you're alright! Leave me out of this! And the little whippersnapper too. We were so damn lucky, Claire. And what's this, eh? You with the vocal chords?"

She smirked a little and was about to reply when a shout from behind them interrupted her. Out of instinct, Charlie moved closer and wrapped his arm protectively around Claire and the baby. As a group, they whipped around to face the commotion.

Sun was standing with her husband, shouting in frantic Korean and very obviously bordering on hysteria. Jin seemed to be yelling at everybody else and was trying to move his wife behind him. For a brief second, Claire thought that Jin had finally snapped but it would have been impossible to miss the panic etched across his features.

Breaking free of Charlie, Claire rushed over to Sun and tried to hold onto her hand in comfort. This seemed to agitate Sun further as the other woman slapped at her hands before screaming and pointing at her repeatedly. Taken aback, Claire moved away and sent Charlie a confused look.

It was Jack who joined them next. "Sun!" he said firmly, "Are you hurt? Show me what's the matter!" When she continued to wail, he turned his gaze to Jin almost desperately. "Is she hurt? What's wrong?"

Then Kate was there as well and between the two of them, they managed to get Sun to sit down, although Jin refused to leave her side.

Through the pandemonium, the pieces began to fall together in Claire's head. She watched as Kate stroked Sun's arm; as Jack tried with gestures to communicate with Jin. She looked at the faces of the rest of the onlookers as they hovered around, obviously curious about what had happened despite any real desire to know.

Claire was one step ahead of them. She already knew. Snippets of images flew through her mind: Charlie's calloused fingers being torn from her grip, Ethan's sardonic laugh at her panic, and the Whispers of procreation she had heard while in captivity. Something she had always suspected was thrust to the forefront of her mind and she gasped.

"I thought They wanted James," she murmured, so quietly that Charlie barely heard her, "I thought that was all They wanted."

"What's this, then, Claire?" Charlie asked.

He moved to stand in front of her and placed his hands on her arms. She blinked up at him, looking as though she had just woken up from a very deep sleep. Shaking her head a little to clear it, she shifted the weight of her baby and stepped away from Charlie to stand within Jack's line of vision.

Apparently there was a lot to be said about being a quiet presence. Something about the look on her face must have caught Sun's attention because she had stopped crying and was all out staring at the woman who had become one of her best friends. Sayid and Locke stopped shifting through the remains of their camp, Boone and Shannon ceased their bickering, and even Sawyer, caught up at the caves in a foiled attempt to get water, exchanged his look of casual indifference to one of cautious curiosity.

"Good to see you're speaking again," Jack said, with an encouraging smile, "Have you remembered something?"

Claire glanced at Charlie for reassurance, which he offered with a supportive smile.

"Not exactly," she began, fixing her gaze on Sun's terrified features, "I didn't remember so much as… put it together. Somebody told me something in Australia about my baby and when Ethan took me, I thought that he… knew about it somehow. It never occurred to me that They wanted something other than my baby. But that obviously isn't it. Or the whole of it anyway."

Carefully, so as not to frighten the other woman farther, she passed her son to Charlie and squatted before Sun. Gently, she took her hands in hers and said, "They tried to take you, didn't They?"

Whether it was her time spent among so many English speaking people or if there was more to Sun than met the eye, Claire didn't know. She did know, however, that she seemed to understand. Gasping, Sun looked away, turning her face into Jin's shoulder. He held onto her tightly and looked for all the world like he might cry.

"They want women," Kate summed up, covering her mouth with her hand. "Those sick bastards need to introduce new genes. They want to breed us."

"And with the Virgin Mary ready to pop at the time, why bother with those pesky nine months?" Sawyer put in, moving to stand closer to the crowd.

Claire looked away in disgust and returned to Charlie. When he put his arm around her, she didn't make an attempt to move away. Instead, she snuggled in closer, wrapping her own arms around him and the baby. Part of her felt that if she just shut her eyes and clung to the two people that mattered the most to her, everything else would just magically go away.

"So then They've declared war," Jack announced, standing, "We've got some of the best minds on the island. A Republican guard, a doctor, a warrior, enough brawn to put up a real fight, and well… Locke." He paused, eyes locked on Kate. "They didn't get what they wanted today. I say They can bring it on."

Sawyer was a creature of habit. He had made himself a home and a business on the beach and he had no real inclination to share it with anybody, until the morning when they had almost lost everything. He was a smart man, as a con man he'd had to be, so it wasn't too hard for him to put two and two together in order to realize that if all the women were snatched, his business might suffer, let alone the fact that another fight like the one he'd just endured would put his own well being at risk.

He told himself that those were the only two reasons he was about to do what he planned on. It wasn't hard to convince himself of that- he'd made a real practice of being calculated and self-serving- but he would be lying if Shannon's screams hadn't played a part. Whenever he closed his eyes the image of her, surrounded by violence and yelling her fool head off, haunted him. He could tell himself he wasn't worried about her until hell froze over but that wouldn't change a damn thing.

Kate had called him an outcast but Shannon didn't treat him like one. She made a point of visiting him every time occasion brought her to the beach and, while he might act like it irritated the hell out of him, Sawyer knew he would miss her more than he should if They got her.

He had been worried about Claire, he felt for Sun, but if They dared to threaten his woman, there would be hell to pay.

Which was why he had promptly returned to his shelter after the little sharing session up at the caves to dig through his stash.

If memory served him correctly (and it did, because Sawyer remembered everything), Sayid had been planning on doing another sweep of the island before their own personal battle had begun. It had been Charlie who had put the idea in his head. He hadn't been eavesdropping exactly but it would have been nearly impossible to miss his casual remark of, "What are we supposed to do? Leave the island?" Sawyer had thought the idea beyond stupid until he really started to think on it.

Fingers lighting on a smooth case at the bottom of his pile, Sawyer pulled out his prized possession and rose. He paused to grab a pack of cigarettes- his third last- and then started back to the caves, telescope held firmly under his arm.

A Republican guard, a doctor, a warrior, enough brawn to put a real fight… Well, they were going to get the con man too and they could all line up to kiss his ass if they had a problem with it. If Sayid was going to go scouting, he'd need him.