Revenge is Such Sweet Sorrow
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some disturbing imagery
Summary: Getting revenge on Ethan and finding Claire doesn't add up to a happy ending, Charlie quickly learns.
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.
Ethan was dead.
Charlie's body, his entire world, had to shut down for a few seconds in order to gather the strength needed to process that information. After a few double takes, he had to believe it and accept it as unquestionable fact, because he really was dead. It was all laid out before Charlie's haunted, empty eyes that stared out from sunken sockets.
Ethan, splayed out on the floor of the jungle, something metallic glinting in his chest, a pool of warm crimson already spreading through his shirt and soaking his skin and even now being absorbed back into the dirt.
Locke and Sayid and Jack were all there, looking nearly as astounded as Charlie. Any of the three could have been the culprit, because even though it was Locke's knife, he had loaned so many out during the hunt for Ethan that it could have been Sayid, could have been Jack, could have been any number of people. Charlie's wide, shocked eyes rose from Ethan's body to the three men, who looked back at him with something like fear.
"Ethan is mine!" Charlie had proclaimed at the exact moment that the blood-red sun rose above the horizon on the first day of the search party. His voice had been found for long enough to voice these words, to warn the others that Ethan was not to be touched by anyone but Charlie. "I'm going to rip that son of a bitch to shreds, and if any of you get to him before me, leave enough breath in him for me to show him his guts!"
His raw, intense ferocity had put more fear into the souls of those watching him than any faceless monster. This was a man out for blood, and no one was ready to step in that kind of twisted path. At first, Charlie had stayed with his search team (Jack and Kate) that had been assigned to him by Sayid, the taskmaster. After the first day, he set out on his own before anyone else awoke, and sometimes he didn't come back at night.
He hunted for Ethan as if he were a little furry animal he couldn't wait to turn into a stew. Somehow his senses were sharper; his smell heightened so he could sniff out Ethan's sick odor; his hearing picking out twigs snapping from the depths of the jungle, his tongue tasting Ethan's fear on the air. Maybe it was death that did it to him, those few brief moments when he was somewhere between completely dead and alive, in that frightening place of stark white and shimmering, disembodied voices that spoke to him in a language unheard in any of the corners of the Earth.
Yet he was not the first to find Ethan.
It was these three, already kings of the jungle in so many ways, not little lost Charlie with his broken heart and tormented mind and pitiable, pathetic desperation. He was too late, as he was always too late or too weak or too inadequate, and the job had already been done. Ethan was dead.
"Who?" Charlie asked, the first word he had spoken since his speech about finding Ethan.
After some exchanging of glances and shifting of weight from one foot to the other, Sayid cleared his throat.
"Locke threw the knife. Ethan dodged it. He didn't see me coming. I picked up the knife, and just as he turned around, I got him," he said, in a flat voice that Charlie thought was meant to be soothing but fell just short.
"Charlie, we had no choice. He was going to kill one of us, and very soon," Jack explained.
"With what? He was unarmed, wasn't he?" Charlie asked.
"You don't understand, Charlie," Locke said, and Charlie burned with fury. Didn't understand, did he? Didn't get it, was that it? He was too young, too messed up, too much of a burned our rock star to understand? Locke was an idiot. He knew nothing, and Charlie briefly considered whether he could get away with killing all three of them and making it look like Ethan did it.
"He was a professionally trained soldier. A highly trained combat artist whose only objective was to kill us in any way possible. He didn't play by any predetermined rules. If Sayid hadn't gotten the knife, Ethan would have, and it would have been the three of us on the ground, with him hiding in the bushes just waiting for you to approach," Locke said as he walked forward and reached for the knife.
Charlie beat him to it and ripped it out of Ethan's body, finding satisfaction in the sudden surge of fresh blood that poured out of the deep wound. The knife was covered in blood to the hilt. It had been a solid stab.
Locke, Jack, and Sayid were fearful when they looked at Charlie, who was staring almost fondly at the knife, the tiniest of smiles playing at the corners of his lips.
"Charlie, please, just think about what you're doing," Jack whispered.
Locke was logical. Jack was practical. Sayid was cool-headed. Charlie, with his uncontrolled rage and too-strong emotions and brash actions, couldn't argue with them. Yes, they were right, his mind told them, but his heart wasn't about to admit that. They had stolen his prize, and he was mad, but he knew that there was still one very large piece to this puzzle that needed to be fit, and they might help him. So instead of turning on them, the only semblance of friends he had left, he turned to Ethan.
Slowly, he lowered the blade to his face. Identical scars, one on each cheek, and the death was so fresh that blood still poured and dripped into his hair and his ears. Then, one long scar running along his neck, just above the collarbone, to mirror the scar he had given Charlie.
After wiping the blade carefully on the grass, he handed it hilt first to Locke, who tucked it neatly into a holster.
"I do regret that we had to kill him," Locke said to no one in particular. "Questioning him might have brought us to Claire quicker."
"We should move on before dark. Will you come with us, Charlie?" Sayid invited.
"To find Claire?" Charlie asked, heart beating faster than a jackrabbit's. The three men nodded and Charlie set off at a jog in front of them.
They fell into a rhythm, working together without having to speak much, communicating with signals and whispers in case there were more of Ethan's kind around. They searched the area where Ethan had been stumbled across carefully, digging around each bush and tree and beneath every stone that was moveable.
It was Charlie who found it, the little hole that was the entrance to the pits of doom.
"Let me go first," he begged, but ended up going last because Locke had pointed out that if there were guards waiting, the three others could be sacrificed, but Charlie was the one who would be able to bring back Claire. Locke understood, he saw in Charlie what Claire needed, and Charlie regretted his initial selfish anger towards the kind old man.
Sayid went first, being trained in these kinds of things, or so Charlie had gathered. Then Locke, silent as a ghost, and Jack, looking grim and determined as though he was ready for death.
No guards were posted. All four men made it safely down the ladder that led into the pitch black corridor.
The first thing that hit them was the cold, such a contrast to the sticky jungle heat above ground. Then, a horrendous smell hit them and almost sent the tiny contents of Charlie's stomach pouring onto the floor.
He didn't know what the smell was. Jack knew. Locke knew. Sayid knew. Charlie was blissfully unaware that what he smelled was the smell of death, of decaying things left unattended, unburied, and exposed to the oxygen and already well into the process of decomposition.
Sayid continued to lead, but Locke walked side-by-side with Charlie behind Jack. He wanted to warn Charlie, to give him something to brace against in case what they found was horribly tragic, and could find nothing to give. If the smell was… if they found… Locke knew it would be the end of Charlie. His fate, as determined by this island that had taken them in, was tied to Claire's.
Claire was a little more complicated. Her fate was, of course, tied to her baby's in many ways. There was another link leading from her, though, straight to Charlie, and as long as one link stayed whole, there was hope for her. Charlie, though, there was no other option. It was Claire and only Claire for him, and there was nothing for Locke, even with all the insight he possessed, to do.
There were a few rooms on either side of the long, dark hallway. Sayid and Jack looked into the first two and found shotguns and machine guns and ammunition, but nothing that could be the source of the smell nor the source of Claire. They searched five rooms total, now holding guns, before coming to the last room, from the corner of which a faint light glowed that was only visible after stepping through the doorway.
The feeble light brought into view everything within a three foot radius of it, and everything they needed to see was, luckily, within it.
A bundle, a tiny little bundle, was beside the dying lantern, and instantly Locke knew it was the source of the smell.
Another bundle, larger but still alarmingly small, was huddled in the corner just behind the light, her back to the men, her shoulders hunched around her, arms wrapped tightly, legs tucked beneath her. A threadbare blanket, little more than a Kleenex for all the warmth it probably provided, was the bundle's only covering.
It took Locke, Jack, and Sayid a moment to recognize it, but Charlie knew instantly and had crossed the small room in less than a second, and even though the smell was unbearable and breathing was painful, he knelt down and took the bundle, the larger one, into his arms and began rocking back and forth. The bundle began to make a noise, a noise none in the room had ever heard.
It started very, very small, so small that at first only Charlie heard it, and only very faintly. It grew incrementally until it was ear-piercingly loud, and so chilling that Locke, unmovable, rock-like Locke, was chilled to the bone. There were tears in every eye in the room. It was a wail of grief. It was a mother's cry for her dead child. It was Claire saying goodbye to the child she was not ready to let go.
Charlie continued to rock her as she screamed and screamed and screamed without pause for breath. It was a supernatural howl, worse than a banshee, and Charlie imagined that Mary had done something similar outside of her Lord's tomb. As Charlie clutched her to him, he felt bones poking out of her everywhere, and patches of her hair were missing. Bruises marred her creamy skin, and dried blood covered whatever wasn't bruised.
"Locke," Sayid said quietly, and the older man looked at him. "We need to leave."
Charlie heard him. Claire didn't, but Charlie was pretty sure she wasn't hearing anything anymore. Her hands, the skin stretched across them paper-thin, were clenched in his shirt, and her fragile body was shaking when he lifted her up. Her weight was like a blade of grass or a ray of sunshine. There was practically nothing there, even though he could see her. There was just nothing to feel.
Five days. For five days she had been alone here, in the darkness and the filth and the fear. For five days Charlie had failed her and she was still merciful. She didn't blame him, didn't hate him, didn't want to kill him. She just wanted him to save her.
God, I'm sorry, he thought, directing these thoughts both to her and to God Himself. God, please, let her be okay. I'm sorry. Forgive me, Father, for my sins, for my evil thoughts, and help me to keep the demons that take me over out of Claire. Oh, God, don't take her from me, don't take her from me, You can't take her from me, not yet, just not yet…
The sun made Claire cringe when it hit her body. Sayid helped pull her and Claire up out of the whole, the gun on the floor at his side until they were up. Immediately he grasped it again, holding it at the ready, his perceptive eyes scanning the area for danger or threats. Whether he had once been part of the "enemy" or not, Charlie was glad Sayid was there.
Jack was next, with Locke and the smaller bundle last. Just before leaving the room Claire has gasped out in a raspy voice to bring her, please bring her, please don't leave her alone, and Locke had gathered the baby wrapped in the thin blanket to bring above the surface.
Claire didn't see Ethan's body. Her head was on Charlie's shoulder, her face in the crook of his neck. Jack and Sayid quickly lifted it and dropped it in the hole, then threw a few large stones on top of him to cover the body before recovering the whole with brush.
It was a solemn march back to camp. They met Kate and Boone along the way, who ran ahead to get water, a comfortable bed, and food prepared for Claire. She bypassed the refreshments and instead took the clothes Shannon offered and curled up on the bed, Charlie beside her as per her request, his protective hold clearly telling everyone that no one was to disturb her. She slept for hours while Charlie's eyes never closed and while almost every eye in the camp remained on them, as though afraid one or the other of them might disappear.
Days later, when Claire was finally able to stand and wash and walk without assistance, they burned the body of the baby. Claire kept the ashes in the peanut butter jar, which had lost its fun. Her smile never lit up the caves again, her laughter never lifted Charlie's heart even though it desperately needed it, and even though he tried so hard he nearly killed himself for her, the dead, haunted look never left her eyes.
Ethan had been killed by Sayid and marked by Charlie and buried by Sayid and Jack, but his presence never left the island. His shadow had darkened Claire forever.