Disclaimer: Not mine!
SUMMARY: Charlie's got The Itch, and Claire's the only one who can help him scratch it; but he needs a little help from his friends to make it happen. Enter Hurley.
RATING: PG-13/R, for a little language and some sexual situations
CHARACTERS: Charlie/Claire, Hurley, Shannon
Okay, I'd posted this story here previously and it was taken down because the rating wasn't high enough. So I am reposting with an R-rating. I still think this isn't any higher than your average PG-13 romantic comedy, but disagrees with me, and I'm not going to argue. LOL! It's unabashed fun fluff, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Oh, and I blame 80s power ballads for the schmoopiness of this story. Damn you, Cinderella!
"These are my hands,
These are my faults,
These are my plans,
And these are my nasty little thoughts…"
Stroke 9, "Washin' Wonderin'"
"Hurley, I need a coconut, a fish filet, some bananas and a palm leaf."
"Any particular reason, MacGyver?"
"I'm going to make Claire something for dinner, and I want to impress."
"Dude, are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Yeah. Why wouldn't it be?"
"Do you remember the LAST time you tried to cook anything?"
"It wasn't THAT bad."
"Let me paint you a picture. You, a fish, and a fire pit. You, a fish, and a fire. You, a burnt charred thing on a stick, and no eyebrows. Do you get me?"
"Oh." Charlie looked truly crestfallen as he sat next to his portly contemporary on the beach. "You think it's a bad idea then?"
Hurley clapped the other man on the back. "Dude, this is you." He gestured to his foot. "This is food." He held up a small piece of driftwood. "This is food made by you." Heaving himself to his feet, he dropped the driftwood on the sand and began stomping on it viciously, crying out in a high-pitched, effeminate voice, "NO! NO! SHIT, HE'S GOT SOME KIND OF SAUCE! OH SWEET JESUS! NOOOOO…!"
After a good minute of that, he plopped down on the beach next to Charlie again and dropped the broken remains of the driftwood into the bassist's hand. "Any questions?" he asked.
Charlie sighed and chucked the splinters over his shoulder. "Well dammit, Hurley, what am I supposed to do?" He pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on his crossed arms. "It's not like I can take her to the bloody Ritz Carlton. I've got to improvise."
"What makes you think you've got to impress her, dude? I mean, you've been sleeping together since before Emma was born. I'm pretty sure the impressing is supposed to happen BEFORE that."
Charlie blushed. "Yeah, well, it's not that easy, right? I mean, it's all well and good to snuggle with her and know all her ticklish bits -- she's got this really sensitive spot just behind her right knee-"
"Yeah, dude? Don't need to know about her erogenous zones."
"Right. Sorry. Anyway, like I was saying, it's all right to have the PRACTICE, but when it comes right down to it, it doesn't really DO anything until you've had to… you know… use it in the real world. It's like calculus."
Hurley blinked at him. "What?"
Charlie looked at him. He'd obviously thought this through. "Calculus. You know, all that fiddly math the rocket scientists use."
"I know what calculus is, man. I just don't see what it has to do with Claire."
"Well, you learn about calculus in school, right? But what good does it do you until you actually have to apply it in life? Answer : it does NOTHING. You keep it all bundled up in your brain, ready to let it crack out at a moment's notice the INSTANT anyone needs to know the definition of Abel's Theorem for Second Order Linear Differential Equations. But until then it just sort of sits and… ferments."
"Are you trying to tell me you've got calculus equations turning into beer in your head?"
"Hurley, I think you're missing the point."
"You had one?"
"What WAS it?"
"Claire and I haven't…" He made suggestive gestures with his hands. "Plumbed the carnal depths, so to speak."
"You're trying to say you haven't had sex yet?"
"Well, yes. Only I was trying to say it with more aplomb and innuendo."
"Because I didn't want to come across looking like a sex crazed wanker? A bit redundant, I'll admit, but true nonetheless."
Hurley snorted. "Charlie, you've been sleeping with Claire for months now. Frankly, if you WEREN'T going a little sex crazy, I'd start to worry.
Charlie sighed with frustration. "Oh, I'm not just going crazy," he said dejectedly, tunneling his fingers violently through his hair. "I'm going absolutely MAD." The Brit turned wild eyes in Hurley's direction. "Did you know she makes adorable chipmunk faces when she's sleeping? She goes all apple-cheeked and plump-lipped, and even makes little eeping noises while she dreams. And I get that image stuck in my head, and the next thing I know, I'm having erotic dreams where I invite a passel of squirrels 'round the flat for a game of whist, and they make all kinds of squeaky jokes about my nuts! And I'll be damned if I don't want to just shag their bushy little bottoms off!"
Hurley frowned at him. "Uh… You have this dream a lot, dude?"
"Every. FRIGGING. NIGHT!"
"You're right. You need to get laid. Like, yesterday."
"Why don't you just… I dunno, DO it?"
"Come on, Hurley, give a man a break. There's no privacy in those sodding caves -- everyone's stacked on everyone else like sardines in a bloody tin."
"Isn't that sort of the way it works?"
Hurley chuckled. "Sorry, dude, couldn't resist. Look, are you sure Claire WANTS to… well, go plumbing? It's not the same here as it is on the mainland, and she's already had one baby in this place. Much as we'd all like to hear what new and creative expletives she can come up with to describe the male half of the population -- again -- I don't know if she'd be up for the job."
"See, I'd thought of that, so I checked, and the answer is yes." Charlie grinned proudly.
Hurley grinned as well. "I'm proud of you, man. That's really mature. What did she say?"
Charlie's smile faltered. "What?"
"What did she say? When you asked her?"
"What did who say when I asked what?"
"What did CLAIRE say when you asked her about having sex?"
Charlie stared at him for a second, then burst out laughing. "Oh, good one, mate!" He slapped his knee. "I needed that!"
Hurley tapped his foot irritably on the sand. "Dude, if you didn't ask Claire, what DID you do?"
"Easy. I asked Shannon, o'course."
Hurley buried his face in his palm.
"What?" Charlie asked, seeming genuinely flummoxed.
"Dude, why would SHANNON know if Claire wants to have sex with you?"
"Well, they're gal pals, right? They're always chumming around, chatting, doing each other's hair, swapping underwear. Girls always tell each other stuff like that. It's like some kind of Slumber Party secret."
"A wh-- Swapping underwear? The hell are you talking about?"
"I dunno. Don't girls do that kind of thing?"
Hurley resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He was proud of his willpower. "Anyway, what's a Sleepover whassitcalled?"
"Slumber Party secret. It's like in all those college movies where the girls sit around at night in their skivvies and talk about the Big O." He had a faraway, dreamy look in his eyes.
"Dude, do you even know what that MEANS?" Hurley asked, skeptical.
Charlie gave him a withering stare. "I was in a BAND, Hurley, of COURSE I know what that means. My life wasn't always a sexual desert. There was a time when I was a virtual RAINFOREST of sexual activity. They called me Charlie Choo Choo Pace."
"I'm so gonna regret asking this, but why?"
"Because I go like a freight train and make the ladies scream like a steam whistle."
"Okay, so I was right." Hurley shook his head. "Look, dude, you can't go by what Shannon tells you. Shannon is not Claire, and never will be. You couldn't have two more different peas in a pod. What did she tell you, anyway?"
"That Claire told her she wanted to slather me in peanut butter and suck me like a Tootsie Roll pop until she found my gooey center."
Hurley was silent for a second. "I'm… so going to have to watch Locke slaughter some more boars to get that image out of my head. Thanks, dude."
Charlie shrugged. "Direct quote. Can I help it if I exude sexuality like a baboon's bottom?"
"Worst possible simile you could've used there, man."
Hurley shook his head again. "Okay, dude, look. Monkeys and slumber parties and other weirdness aside, what's really important is that you love Claire and she loves you. So… do you love her?"
Charlie gave him an affronted look. "Yes!"
"Have you told her lately?"
"Dude, how is it that I know more about women than you, and I'm not the one who's been hooked up with the same girl since day one on this island?"
Charlie shrugged helplessly. "You're gifted?"
Hurley snorted. "I'm something all right. I should just find a clipboard, set up a couch and start charging by the hour."
Claire's entire world had been turned upside down when Emma Hope was born, and the proud mother wouldn't have it any other way. There was something empowering about bringing new life into the world. It was nice to have those same people who had been terrified of her during the pregnancy coming up to her now to Oooh and Aaaah over her four-month old daughter's pudgy cheeks and sparkling blue eyes. Some of the other women even seemed a little jealous. Claire knew it was wrong, but a small piece of her enjoyed their envy; especially when it came to how they stared at Charlie.
Without a doubt, the British bassist had been her closest companion since the initial crash, and their relationship had only deepened since then. Claire didn't remember when they'd officially begun sleeping together, but she remembered that at first that was all it had been: SLEEPING together. She'd been suffering a bout of insomnia, he'd offered to be her "teddy bear" (done in the most ridiculous Elvis voice), and they'd never looked back. At the time she'd been pregnant, so he slept behind her, one arm wrapped around her waist, hand cupping her belly protectively. A few days after Emma's birth, with the baby sleeping nearby in a handmade bamboo cradle, Claire had done the unthinkable and turned over in his arms. He smelled like salt water and aloe, and looked thoroughly surprised to find her facing him after almost a month of spooning. Claire had simply given him an impish grin, snuggled close to his chest -- hands pulled up under her chin as if in prayer -- and had fallen into the best night's sleep of her life.
Ever since then, he'd been her lap dog. It was flattering -- almost overwhelming. He tried so hard to impress her, to make her proud. There were times Claire wanted to take him by the hand, sit him down on the nearest chair substitute, and tell him that he didn't HAVE to try and impress her; he'd had her at You don't scare me. At the same time it was incredibly sweet, watching him run around, catering to her every whim, playing with Emma, even changing the baby girl's diaper rags. Claire didn't want to stop him, because quite frankly she enjoyed it too much. But it made her wonder how she could possibly pay him back.
"What do you think they're doing?"
Claire looked up from where she was playing with Emma's toes. "Who?" she asked, grinning as she listened to her daughter's gleeful gurgling.
Shannon was lying on her stomach nearby out of the shade, sunglasses on, chin propped on her folded hands as the tropical sun beat down on her oiled back. Claire's figure had come back quickly after the birth, but she still felt inadequate in a bikini next to the other girl's immaculate, supermodel body. "Those two," Shannon said, indicating a direction with her nose.
Claire followed the other young woman's gaze, and saw Charlie and Hurley doing… SOMETHING further down the beach, near the edge of the jungle. "I don't know," she mused, furrowing her brow slightly as she watched the hustle and bustle of their activity. The two men seemed to be gathering something that looked like… coconuts…
Her eyes widened. "Oh dear."
"Hmm?" Shannon looked at her, sunlight glinting on her mirrored sunglasses. "What's up?"
Claire turned distressed eyes in her friend's direction. "I just thought of something."
"You don't think Charlie's going to try… COOKING again, do you?"
Shannon shuddered. "Do you think Hurley would let him?"
They shared a look.
"NO," they said in unison.
"So if he's not cooking, what are they DOING?" Claire mused aloud, turning back to the scene across the clearing…
"Oh dear," Claire echoed herself aloud.
"Hmm?" Shannon sounded half asleep.
"I think he's trying to impress me again."
"I wish he'd stop. He doesn't NEED to impress me. I'm sold. Aren't I, Emmy?" She leaned down and nuzzled Emma's belly, making the baby girl laugh. "Isn't mummy already head over heels for daddy, hmm? Isn't she?" She grinned.
"Mummy'd better be head over heels for him if she's calling him daddy," Shannon interjected dryly.
Claire giggled and hoisted the little girl into her arms. "Aunty Shannon's just being a sour puss, isn't she?" she cooed, nuzzling the baby's nose. Emma laughed and batted her hand lightly against her mother's hair, making Claire laugh in turn.
"You're both so damn cute, it makes me ill," Shannon said, and Claire reached over to poke the other girl's arm, eyes twinkling.
"Don't stay out in the sun too long, your highness," she teased, hefting herself to her feet and stepping off the blanket, Emma crooked on her hip. "You'll crisp like bacon."
Shannon looked up, pushing her sunglasses onto her forehead. "Where are you going?" she asked, waving surreptitiously to Emma.
Claire took her daughter's hand and made the little girl "wave" in return. "Well, if Charlie IS trying to impress me again, I thought I'd best be prepared."
"How so? Lingerie?"
"No. Bucket brigade."
LATER THAT DAY, AT DUSK
Charlie had never been so nervous in his life. His palms were sweating, his muscles were twitching, and his fingers kept snapping of their own accord. It was as if he were jonesing on heroin again, without the benefit of actually taking the drug. The camp used this grove as a lookout post, to guard against any encroaching wildlife or big, invisible monsters. The caves and all their activity were just out of earshot through the trees behind him, but he might as well have been alone in the middle of the desert for all the panic that was building in his stomach.
"Dude, calm down," Hurley said evenly as he sat next to him on their fallen log, watching the lookout fire crackle. "You're having dinner, not committing a ritual sacrifice. People eat together all the time."
"Yeah, but not Claire!"
"I'm pretty sure she does, dude."
Charlie rolled his eyes and glared at his friend. "You know what I mean, Hurley! Claire's DIFFERENT. She's special. It's not like eating with you."
Hurley gave him an affronted look. "You trying to tell me I'm not special, dude?"
Charlie blushed. "I… Look, no, of course you are-"
"Because I'll take my spicy coconut dipping sauce somewhere else, don't think I won't."
"No! Hurley… Look, I'm sorry. You're special. You're the specialest special person since Spec first met Ial and decided to pop the question. Just… don't take the dipping sauce. I NEED that sauce. The whole bloody plan rests on it! I- Are you laughing at me?"
Hurley's shoulders were shaking with suppressed mirth. "Dude, you are taking this WAY too seriously. All you're doing is giving Claire some fish and engaging her in conversation. You do this EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK. Forget the coconut dipping sauce -- you're the most important piece of the puzzle."
Charlie groaned. "Oh, God, why'd you have to go and say that? Now I'm doomed."
"Dude. Confidence. It's your friend."
"Really? Where can I get some?"
"I don't know. Thin air? Here, I'll give it to you. Everything's going to be FINE. Claire's going to eat the fish, giggle at your jokes, and before you know it, the pair of you are going to be making like bunnies in the bushes." He raised his hand. "Scout's honor."
Charlie sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. "Thanks, Hurley. Really."
"Not a problem."
They sat together in silence for a while, until Charlie caught sight of Claire meandering through the jungle toward them, her blonde hair seeming to glow in the silver light of early dusk. Emma was resting on her shoulder, and Claire was pointing out things like trees and flowers for the sleepy little girl. For a minute Charlie let himself watch them, a goofy grin on his face.
Then, the panic struck.
"Oh… God, I can't do this," he stammered, eyes glazing over. "I… I don't know what to say! Shit, what if I forget her name? I'm going to call her Estelle! I just know I'm going to call her Estelle!"
"Why would you call her ESTELLE?" Hurley asked.
"I don't know! But I am! I can sense it!" Charlie jumped to his feet and turned his back on Claire's approach. "Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God," he murmured, running his fingers anxiously through his hair. "What am I gonna do, Hurley!"
The other man sighed. "Dude, relax," he said. "Were you always this twitchy, or did it just come on lately? Here." He sighed heavily. "Do you want ME to ask her for you?"
It was as if a weight had been lifted off Charlie's shoulders. He turned wide, luminous eyes in Hurley's direction. "Would you?" It was almost too good to be true.
Hurley nodded. "If it'll calm you down, sure thing. You're giving off so much nervous energy, I'M starting to get nervous, and that ain't cool. How are you supposed to pitch the woo when you're pitching a fit, right? So…" He stood up and dusted himself off. "You, shoo."
Charlie gave him a puzzled look. "Why?"
"Okay, don't shoo. But dude, don't you think it's going to be a bit weird if I say Hey, Claire, Charlie was wondering if you'd have dinner with him and you're standing RIGHT THERE?"
"Oh." Charlie blushed a little. "Right. Sorry."
"No problem. Love does crazy things to a man. Now shoo."
Claire grinned as she drew up to Hurley. "Hi, Hurley. How're you today?"
"Oh, just fine and dandy. Tending the signal fires and all that fun stuff. How about you and Daisy Duke?" Claire giggled as Hurley stuck his tongue out at Emma. The little girl laughed with delight and mimicked the gesture, stretching out both arms toward the man she had adopted as a favorite uncle.
"We're doing great," Claire answered. Her eyes swept the clearing, and she frowned. "Where's Charlie? I thought I saw him here when I was walking up?"
"Oh, he's knocking around. Yeah, speaking about that, he was wondering if you'd have dinner with him tonight."
Claire blinked, and gave Hurley a perplexed smile. "But… I eat with him every night."
"Yeah, I know. But he's kind of got something special planned for tonight. No, don't worry," he broke in at her glazed stare of terror, "I helped him cook it. It's safe."
"Oh. Well…" She blushed a little and smiled, rubbing her cheek against Emma's downy hair. "I… suppose I can do that. Where should I go?"
"Just stay right here."
Claire frowned and looked around. "What, here?"
"Yep." Hurley grinned and waggled his fingers at Emma, who laughed in return. "Have fun, kiddies."
"You're going?" Claire asked as he turned and started to walk away.
Hurley turned around and kept walking backward. "Dude, third wheel doesn't even BEGIN to cover it." He winked, gave her a wave, and disappeared into the trees.
Claire stood there for a second in silence. "Huh," she said, rubbing Emma's back as the little girl played with the sleeve of her t-shirt. "Well, Emmy, what do we do now?"
"Just standing there is good. It makes the view that much better."
Claire craned her neck around and grinned at Charlie, who was emerging sheepishly from out of the trees. He was wearing an untucked white buttondown and a pair of gray khakis. "There you are!" she laughed. "Look, Emmy. Daddy's here!"
The little girl cooed and reached toward Charlie, who grinned and crossed the clearing to gently take the little girl's hand. "Hey, little one." He kissed Emma's fingers. "Have you and mummy been exploring the island?"
"She likes lying on her blanket and watching the leaves," Claire said with a tender smile, watching Charlie's eyes. They were glowing with pride.
"Is that right, sweetheart?" he asked softly, running his thumb across the back of Emma's hand. "Aren't you just the smartest little girl in the universe?"
Emma cooed again, soothed by Charlie's gentle touch, and snuggled closer to her mother's shoulder. "She just ate," Claire explained quietly, kissing the top of her daughter's head. "She's a little sleepy now."
Charlie looked up and grinned. "Well, then, we should put her to bed." He turned away and scurried to the other side of the clearing.
Claire laughed when he came back, bearing Emma's handmade cradle. "What's this?" she asked as he set the baby's bed down near the fire -- but not TOO near.
"This is our babysitter," he said, straightening up and smiling at her. "Dinner, remember? Why don't you put the baby to bed, while I get everything else ready."
Claire giggled and crossed to the cradle. Kneeling down, she tucked Emma into the soft bedding, and watched as the little girl immediately closed her eyes. "Sweet dreams," Claire whispered, kissing her forehead and humming quietly.
Looking up, her eyes widened when she saw Charlie standing on the other side of the fire, holding what looked suspiciously like a sequined party dress. A blanket was spread on the ground, and two plates of food were warming on the edge of the flames at his feet. "Charlie!" she exclaimed, quietly so as not to wake the baby, clasping her hands in surprised delight.
"Hurley told you I wanted to do something special, right?" Charlie grinned at her. "So here, you go slip into this, and when you get back, the food should be warmed up enough." He held out the dress for her.
Claire took it carefully. It was slithery silver with a behind-the-neck clasp, and would come to mid-thigh when she put it on. "Where did you get this?" she asked.
"Oh, it's just something I carry around with me. You know, for when I want to look pretty."
Claire laughed. "Idiot!"
Charlie grinned. "That's why you love me."
Standing up, Claire tiptoed around the fire and kissed his cheek. "Yes it is," she murmured near his ear, before giggling and scampering into the jungle to change.
Well, everything seemed to be going fine so far. The food was heating up nicely, Emma was sleeping peacefully, and Claire hadn't thrown the dress in his face and called him an idiot. It was amazing how many nice clothes women seemed to pack compared to men. His outfit felt strange and unkempt compared to his usual torn denims and t-shirt, but he wanted to look nice for her. It was important to him.
"Well? How do I look?"
Charlie turned away from the fish, and his jaw dropped.
She was an absolute vision. The dress was a little snug, but it only worked to highlight her curves, which had become all the more voluptuous since Emma's birth. Her long blonde hair hung in effortless waves over her shoulders and down her back, and reminded Charlie of paintings he'd seen of Aphrodite rising from the sea foam. But perhaps most alluring of all were her bare feet. From the top of her head to the hem of the dress, she could have been any rock star's trophy wife. But the bare feet… Those made her his Claire.
She shuffled her feet embarrassedly under his wide-eyed scrutiny. "I hope that's a positive stare, not a negative one," she teased.
Charlie's mouth worked for a second, but no sound came out. "You look gorgeous," he finally managed.
Claire smiled. "You look pretty good yourself."
Charlie blushed bright red.
"I think the fish is burning."
"Hmm?" He smiled at her.
Claire nodded to the fire behind him. "The fish. I think it's burning."
Charlie stared at her for a second, then his eyes widened and he spun around. Sure enough, the edges of the fish -- which had been a perfect poached pink -- were beginning to crisp and blacken. "Oh… bollocks!" he cursed, grabbing for the plates -- aluminum airplane dishes -- and pulling them away from the flames, burning his fingers at the same time. Yanking his hands away, he stuck his fingers in his mouth, half to ease the sting, half to muffle his yowl of pain.
Claire's laugh made him look up to see her sinking down on the blanket in front of him. "Oh Charlie," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "Here, let me have a look."
She gently pried his hands away from his mouth, but he wiped them off on his pants before letting her look any closer. "Those look painful," she said with real sympathy, looking at him with a wince before turning back to his red fingers.
"Oh, it's not so bad," he said, bravely he thought, trying not to flinch as she gently touched each finger in turn. "I've had worse. Look, they're not even blistered."
"Still, let me go get some bandages from Jack."
"No!" He caught her arm before she could stand up and sighed as she looked at him. "Look, if you go get bandages, Jack will wonder why. When you tell him, he'll probably want to come check it out for himself. Boone will tag along, because he'll want to be useful, and Shannon will come too, because she goes where the gossip is. Next thing you know, everybody in the whole bloody camp will be here, Emma will wake up, Vincent will eat our dinner, and Hurley will start asking me how I could POSSIBLY BURN the dinner he ALREADY cooked for us. And the whole night will be ruined. So… please? Don't go?" He put on his most pitiful puppy dog face.
It must have worked, because her face softened and her body relaxed. "You're a piece of work, Charlie Pace," she said with a smile, reaching up to cup his cheek. "I'll stay if it's THAT important to you."
He grinned. "Great. Now, you've got to try the dipping sauce. It's a little slice of heaven."
Charlie was right. The dipping sauce WAS heaven.
"I never knew coconut could TASTE like that!" Claire exclaimed, licking her fingers free of the last of the fish as Charlie tidied up the dishes and set them aside.
"Coconut ala Chez Hurley," he said, turning back to her. "Good, eh?"
He stood up. "Well, the night's not over yet." He held out his hand to her. "Care for a dance, ma'am?"
Claire looked around. "Charlie…" She blushed.
"What, you think the trees are going to grow eyes and start gossiping about the yokels dancing in the firelight?" He grinned. "And if you're worried about there being no music, never fear." He tapped his temple. "It's all in here. Come on. Don't make me dance alone, because if I do I'm liable to break into the Macarena, and that could only end in tears."
Claire giggled. "We don't want that, I suppose." After a second's pause she reached up and took his hand.
Charlie grinned wider. "Excellent." He pulled her easily to her feet, and Claire couldn't resist a squeal when he wrapped an arm around her waist and drew her close against his chest. "Do you know this one?" he murmured near her ear, and began swaying gently back and forth, quietly singing, "My love must be a kind of blind love… I can't see anyone but you…"
Claire closed her eyes, leaning her head on Charlie's shoulder as he crooned oldie goldies in her ear and they swayed in time with their own private music. He still smelled like salt water and aloe, but there was a faint trace of cologne there as well, and she began to wonder how many people he'd involved in this little scheme of his if he was willing to go out of his way to get cologne. Perhaps it was just residue left on the shirt from its last owner. She nestled closer, pressing her face into his neck and breathing deeply. Nope, the scent was definitely on his skin.
"Mmm…" she moaned softly.
"You like?" Charlie asked, breaking off his singing and nuzzling her ear.
"Where did you get it?" she asked.
"Sawyer's not the only one with a stash."
"Mmm…" For the first time, she realized how warm he was. They'd slept close together for months now, and he'd held her when she cried, hugged her when she needed a hug, and tickled her when she needed a laugh; but she'd never felt THIS close to him. His leg pressed along her own, and the cotton was smooth against her skin. Claire blushed, suddenly thankful Shannon had given her a razor. She could feel Charlie's body pressed against her, his chest rubbing ever so slightly over her sensitive breasts, guitar-calloused fingers grazing up and down her arms, trance-like.
She called him Emma's daddy, but she'd never really thought about how TRUE that was until now.
"I love you," she murmured against the pulse that fluttered just beneath his ear.
The warmth she felt against her cheek told her he was blushing. "I love you, too," he replied softly.
Claire smiled against his neck. She loved the way his voice sounded against her skin when he said I love you; loved the pattern of his breath as it coasted over her shoulder and down her throat. "Charlie?" she murmured, as they continued to sway despite the lack of music.
"Why did you do all this? The food, the clothes, the dancing…" She drew back a little, nuzzling his jaw. "It feels a bit like a first date to me."
"I was shooting more for an anniversary, actually." He kissed her temple and she sighed happily.
"Anniversary of what?"
"Nothing. That was just the feeling I wanted to convey."
"Any reason why?"
She saw him blush this time, and sure enough, there was the characteristic stammering. "Well… Claire, it's just… We've been on this island over five months now, and I… I care about you, very much… I love you, but I've said that, so that's… Anyway, I just… Bloody hell, I sound like an idiot."
Claire laughed at his dejected look. "Charlie." She tilted his chin up so he was looking her in the eye. "Were you going to ask me to sleep with you?"
His eyes widened. "Yeah," he said, obviously surprised. Then, just as quickly, his smile faded. "I blew it, didn't I? I overdid it. Bloody… Sodding buttons and fish-"
Claire kissed him gently, bringing his babble to a stop. "First off," she said against his lips, "You did NOT overdo it. Secondly, the fish was excellent. And third, if you don't like the shirt-" she slid her hands up his chest and began methodically undoing the buttons, one by one, "-then you should take it off." With a flourish, she pushed the shirt off his shoulders, pulling it down his arms and letting it settle on the ground in a white cotton puddle at their feet.
Charlie was watching her with huge eyes. "So… This is okay?" he asked, tentative but hopeful.
Claire grinned wickedly. "Charlie, if it weren't okay, would I be undressing you?" To punctuate her point, she slid her hands down his bare torso and began working at the button of his pants.
A light flared in Charlie's eyes then. "God, I love you," he breathed before wrapping his arms around her like a vice and crushing their lips together in a blinding kiss. Claire moaned into his mouth, moving her hands around his body and dragging her nails up his bare back. She felt him shudder against her, and when his lips pulled away from her own, he was moaning.
"Do you want to lie down?" she whispered breathlessly.
He nodded quickly. Without waiting, he sank to his knees on the ground in front of her, pressing a kiss to her belly before tugging her down onto the blanket and scrambling on with her. "Comfortable?" he asked.
"Like a feather bed."
"Do you want anything? A drink? Something more to eat? A quick shower?"
Claire laughed. "Charlie!"
His smile was brilliant. "Sorry. Just want to make sure we don't have any distractions."
"I'm fine," she assured him. "You?"
"Couldn't be better."
"Then this would be where we stop talking, right?"
He smiled like a Cheshire Cat and nodded before leaning in and burying his face in her shoulder. Claire moaned, arching her back away from the blanket and running her fingers through his hair, holding him close. The scruffy growth of his beard was an enticing rasp against her sensitized skin, and she whimpered as his hand slid up her thigh. Reaching behind her neck, she undid the clasp that held up the dress.
"Let me do that," Charlie whispered against her cheek. Claire let her hands fall away and closed her eyes as Charlie pushed up on one elbow. Taking the collar of the dress carefully in one hand, he slowly peeled it down her torso. Claire let her body ripple as the slippery material moved over her curves, giving it unrestricted passage down her slender frame. When she felt it glide off over her toes, she opened her eyes to find him gazing at her with unrestricted lust. It had been SO LONG since anyone had looked at her like that; Thomas hadn't even eyed her with such ardency. For the first time in a long time, Claire felt truly beautiful.
"Still glad you picked me?" she asked, voice trembling slightly.
Charlie looked up then, and his eyes were clear. The nervous anxiety was gone; the playfulness that defined him was missing. This was Charlie, unfettered and uncensored, and he was burning.
"Do you want to know what I'm going to do to you?" he asked, sliding a hand up her leg and over her hip. Claire nodded, transfixed by his eyes. "I am going to make love to you for hours and hours and hours, and when you think it's done, I'm going to keep going. I am going to make your toes curl and your hair straighten and you're going to learn new languages because you're going to forget how to speak. That's how good I'm going to make you feel. Why? Because this…" He ran his hand down her body, then up again, making her jump and moan. "This is more than ANY man should be blessed with. I owe you so much more than I can give, but I'm going to bloody well try."
Claire felt a blush working down her body, warming her throat, then her chest. Charlie must have noticed it, too, because he leaned down to kiss the trail it left behind, starting at her jaw and working downwards. She watched his head move further down her body and bit her lip when his tongue circled her navel. Five months of waiting; that's what he'd been through. She could feel all that pent-up longing passing from his fingers to her skin, and it crackled like electricity down her bones.
She'd been waiting over a year for this; for a man like him. If he thought she was going to learn new languages, he was going to be the one who needed the interpreter when she was through with him.
THE NEXT DAY
"You're looking pretty proud of yourself, dude," Hurley observed as Charlie flopped down next to him in the cave. The rocker was wearing a pair of sunglasses and a lazy smile on top of his usual t-shirt and jeans ensemble. "Mission accomplished?"
Charlie turned his mirrored gaze towards his friend, and slowly made a thumbs up. "Mission accomplished, signed, sealed, delivered, and filed away in a cabinet labeled TOP SECRET: Sex Is Good." His arm flopped back to the ground again and he slouched even further. "Bloody, bloody hell… I feel like a rung out dishrag that's had a really, REALLY good shag."
"Anymore squirrel dreams?"
"Not a one. Didn't dream much of anything, actually. Didn't SLEEP much, if you know what I mean."
Hurley chuckled. "Dude, I'll have to remember this. Next time you're hyperventilating, I'll ask Claire to screw you senseless. It seems to mellow you out."
"In that case, I'll be having a panic attack later this evening, around seven, behind the storage shed." Hurley laughed and clapped his friend on the shoulder. Charlie moaned. "Hurl, could you not do that? When I say I feel like a rung out dishrag, I mean it."
Hurley pulled his hand away. "Acrobatic, huh?"
"You have no idea. I didn't think I could bend that way. I'm still not sure I can, to be honest."
"So, I take it the impressing worked?" Both men looked up to see Shannon hovering over them, arms crossed over her stomach. "Claire's glowing like a nightlight."
"Um… Yeah," Charlie said, shifting uncomfortably. "Yeah, it worked."
"Dude, calm down," Hurley said. "I told her."
Charlie turned on him. "You TOLD her?"
"Well what was I supposed to do?"
"You took my dress," Shannon said.
"Oh. Was that yours?"
"Oh. Um… Sorry?"
"I guess if it was in a good cause, I can let it slip. You didn't get it… dirty, did you?"
"Well, maybe a little."
"No!" Charlie raised his hands, trying to keep her quiet before she drew the attention of the rest of the cave. "Not like THAT," he said under his breath. "It might have gotten a little dirt on it, that's all. JUST DIRT. Sheesh."
Shannon gave him a skeptical look. "Well… Whatever. Keep it."
Charlie perked up. "Hey, yeah?"
"Yeah. Claire's looking pretty happy today, and she IS my friend, so that's all right. I don't mind her having it. Just… don't get it DIRTY, all right? Because ew."
Charlie blushed bright red. "Right. Thanks."
"No problem." Then, much to Charlie's dismay, she flopped down next to him. "So, I hear you wonder if girls swap underwear."
Charlie turned his gaze once more on Hurley, who was looking very interested in the nearby waterfall. "Just how MUCH did you tell her, man?" he demanded.
Hurley turned back to him. "Dude, come on," he said. "You're like a Bruckheimer film. Pure popcorn. You expect me to keep that stuff to myself?"
Before Charlie could protest, a familiar voice broke into the conversation. "Excuse me," said Claire, wandering over to join their little enclave, Emma on her hip. "May I borrow Charlie?"
Charlie didn't need anymore prompting than that. With a balletic movement, he was on his feet and by her side. "Yes! Right! What do you need, Claire?"
She smiled at him. "I was going to head to the beach with Emma, and I thought you'd like to come."
Charlie felt his bones going weak looking at her smile. "Yeah," he heard himself say. "That'd be nice."
"Okay." She waggled her fingers at Hurley and Shannon. "See you later!"
Charlie managed a little wave, too, and followed her away from the cave, towards the jungle. "Thank you," he said when they were out of earshot.
"You looked like you needed rescuing," she teased over her shoulder. "Was Shannon grilling you yet?"
"No," he said. "But she was about to. You?"
"This morning, after I'd fed Emma. What about Hurley?"
"Not going to get a word out of me, the Quisling. You know he blabbed about my entire plan to Shannon?"
Claire turned sparkling eyes on him. "I'm glad he did," she said, grinning. "It was kind of nice to have someone coming to ME for juicy details for once, rather than vice versa."
"Oh." Charlie blushed, scratching the back of his head. "So… were they? Juicy, I mean?"
"Like a peach."
He grinned. "Brilliant."
They walked in silence for a minute.
"So, what's this Shannon tells me about you having squirrel dreams?"