Run With Me

by Dreamality

Summary: Claire runs.

Rating: PG

Please note: Spoilers through "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues."

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.

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In high school, Claire had not been the sporty type. She did not like to run, throw, catch, shoot a hoop, try for a goal, defend, offend, or tackle. Physical education class was a nightmare, because she knew she could do the stuff they were asking her to do, she just didn't want to, and teachers generally did not accept that excuse. Being stubborn was not always (okay, was rarely) a virtue, and she got sent to the headmaster's office on more than one occasion for refusing to play a certain sport.

The physical fitness exam at the end of the year was the absolute worst. Push ups, sit ups, chin ups, and running. Years later, Claire shuddered to think of the running part.

Three miles. Honestly! Who runs three miles? It was obscene. She hated it, and she was slow and usually came in last, even after the big people and the freshmen and, once, after the kids from special education.

Claire just hated running. Her legs didn't like it, either, nor her lungs. It was painful and once she left high school, she vowed not to do it again.

But the island changed things. It changed everything. So when her mind told her to run, she ran, through the jungle, faster than she could have ever believed her little legs would carry her, and pregnant no less.

What led up to her sudden marathon was pretty fuzzy to Claire. The only image her mind could find in the tangles of her memories and thoughts was the picture of Charlie, Charlie hanging from the tree, dead and lifeless and gone forever, and the thought tore through her chest, erupting in broken sobs that slowed her down.

Keep going, love, said Charlie voice, and she sped up, her hands clutching her stomach, ignoring the sharp pain in her side and the ache in her legs and the cramp starting in her stomach that could not mean good things for the baby.

"I'm going, Charlie!" she shouted. "I'm going, I won't stop, I promise!"

Ethan had taken her somewhere, she didn't know where, and she had been put underground in a dark room at the end of a dank tunnel. The walls were dirt, the floor mud, and it was cold. She was left there, alone, all day, and it was the most effective form of torture Claire could imagine.

All day, all night, maybe all week, Claire had nothing to do but think, and whenever she started thinking all she could see was Charlie.

Dead.

It couldn't be, yet she had seen it, since Ethan had ripped off her blindfold just as Charlie went over the edge, just as the noose stole his breath and took him away from her. It took her three seconds for the initial shock to melt away into anger, and then with a strength she did not know she possessed she scrabbled with Ethan. Her nails dug into his face, her feet lashed out at his legs, and for all of five seconds she had her revenge. Then Ethan, working like a programmed robot, stopped her and had her arms twisted behind her back and was forcing her to walk in front of him, away from Charlie, through the rain to her own personal hell.

When Ethan finally returned to her jail cell, Claire's mind had been made up. She was going to get out of there. She would not succumb to Ethan. Whether she made it out alive or not didn't matter. She was not going to sit around and wait for death, though. Her life, the life of her baby, was worth fighting for, or so Charlie had told her, and Claire believed her Charlie.

Charlie had been murmuring in her ear the whole time, frantic, desperate whispers of encouragement, as if Charlie knew he was going to die and wanted Claire to have these final gifts before he left. "You'll make it out alive, Claire. He can't touch you. He can't touch you. Don't listen to him, Claire, he's crazy, you're worth fighting for, I'll fight for you until I die, I won't let him get you, and if he gets me, you have to promise me, Claire, promise me that you'll keep fighting, you won't let him win, promise me, damn it!"

Claire had promised. And she was not going to break a promise to Charlie.

So when Ethan arrived, Claire acted on instinct, using all her strength, all her ferocity, to get past him. Somehow he ended up on the floor, unconscious, and she found her way out, though what she did to him was lost in her mind. Then, she ran.

And she was still running.

She wasn't breathing anymore. Her heart had long stopped beating. Nothing touched her, and her feet literally flew over the floor of the jungle. Roots and weeds and plants that threatened to trip her were bypassed with graceful ease, and the pain was somehow gone, numbed or muted or just plain gone. Claire was no longer frightened, yet nor was she calm.

"I'm fighting, Charlie!" she screamed, but no sound came out of her mouth. "I'm fighting, for you!"

The island was big, and her sense of direction was gone. The jungle swallowed her whole and she was nothing but an ant crawling in the sand. There was no longer a beach to find, no ocean, no caves to feel safe in, because Claire was lost and gone and she was going to find Charlie, somehow, she was going to find him and tell him how she had fought, and he would smile proudly and hug her and kiss her and make everything okay.

"CLAIRE!"

It was Charlie, wonderful Charlie, reincarnate. From the shadows he appeared and came to her, grabbing her to him so tightly she couldn't breathe, but breathing was no longer a necessity because she had Charlie. He looked alive, he looked bright and solid and he felt warm when she collapsed against him, her bones having disintegrated, but she knew he was just a ghost. She had seen him die. She had seen Ethan hang him. She had seen him there, limp and breathless, the rain washing away the mud and dirt and sweat and the wind making him sway gently on the vine.

"Claire, Claire, my Claire, you're alive, thank God you're alive!" Charlie was screaming into her ear, only the scream was a whisper and he didn't speak. She just heard it.

"Charlie," she sobbed, her chest tearing open and her heart beating frantically. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't see, she could just hear his breath and feel his arms around her, and that was all she needed. Somehow, his lips found hers and breathed life into her, gave her his own breath even though Ethan had taken his.

"Claire, how… oh, God, Claire, I was so worried!" Charlie said as they both sank to the ground, Claire on top of Charlie and planning not to budge, ever.

Claire felt like she was cracking up, because everything was abstract and surreal. Charlie was alive, she had escaped, Ethan was gone, and none of it made sense. Her mind, what was left of it, whatever hadn't been destroyed by the island and its dark secrets, was slowly fading, and she knew her time was short.

"Charlie, I love you. Charlie, don't leave me. Charlie, please, let me go with you, please don't make me stay here, I want to go with you, I'm not afraid, Charlie, I promise, please," she was pleading, her face buried in his chest, and then Charlie was pleading, too, and their words mixed until it was just one person speaking, just one person pleading to someone, anyone, not to take it away, not to let it happen, not to let it fly away.

Three days later Locke found them there, exactly as they had been, locked together in an eternal hold.

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The End. You decide: Was it all real, or unreal? Did it make sense, or was it just another fruitless chase after the white rabbit?