Title: The Demise of the Beautiful
Author: Me. :)
Rating: PG
Summary: If only time could reappear…
Disclaimer: Not mine! The title is from "In Other Words" by Ben Kweller. I was inspired by the beautiful wallpaper Corellian Jedi made, of the same title. :)
Warning: This contains spoilers from the synopsis of "Homecoming." So don't read if you're trying to remain completely spoiler free.

The Demise of the Beautiful

In his eyes I see the fear
That only time could re-appear
If only time could re-appear
Now's the time

- Ben Kweller's "In Other Words"

Charlie's watching her again.

Despite his efforts to be stealthy about it, she has caught him countless times since her return to the caves, a chilly barren place that apparently is her home on this island. She doesn't mean to catch him but it's hard when he always seems to be staring.

At first, Claire had been disturbed by his attention. He had held her to him for what felt like forever upon first seeing her and she had had the distinct displeasure of watching the reality of the situation dawn on him; of seeing the light in his eyes flicker and die. She feels guilty about him and frustrated too, because obviously they had meant something to each other. It breaks her heart that she can't remember it; crushes her because, no matter how much it hurts her, she knows it hurts him more simply because he does. She has spent hours- days- trying. She doesn't want to think she's capable of forgetting all of this but all the time she's spent watching him watch her hasn't brought back a thing.

He was the first one to mention her baby to her on the night of her return. She can remember the panic everybody else had emoted after that statement (and what were they going to do? Not tell her?). Eyes flooding, her hands fall to her stomach in order to rub at its emptiness. She is confused and scared because her baby is out there somewhere and she doesn't know where. She can't recall even seeing her child; doesn't know if it's a boy or girl. She knows it's still alive with an eerie sort of certainty but they won't let her go and search for it. Ethan wants her back, according to the doctor whose name she can't currently draw to mind, and they can't let him have her. She doesn't want to be here. Her baby is with this Ethan, whoever he is. Let her go, she thinks.

She tries to sneak off a few times but it seems that everybody is watching her. She doesn't trust any of them. They all seem to have their own agendas and Claire is happy to have nothing to do with them. From her nook, she huddles in the corner and simply stares, always ready for… something. The only one she might let get close to her is Charlie and only because that seems like the residue of some long ago memory that she's clinging to. He seems to be avoiding getting too close to her. He's always somewhere on the outside but it is almost as if talking with her is too painful.

She wonders if he would have loved her baby too.

Claire catches Charlie crying on her fifth day back. She doesn't mean to- all she wants is a quiet place to sit to think about her lost life- but when she comes across him a little ways into the jungle she can't help but watch. She is careful not to make a sound since it's obvious he believes he's alone and is in a very private moment of mourning. He's holding a floppy bucket hat tightly to his chest and she wonders who he's crying for.

Her own eyes flood and she hates the fact that she has no idea.

He comes to her on her seventh night back.

Claire is sitting by the fire, staring aimlessly at the flames, and is trying her hardest to remain inconspicuous. She thinks this time she's achieving her goal. Her eyes stray to the jungle and she wonders if they'll see it if she makes a run for her baby. The muscles in her legs start to twitch and she is about to stand when Charlie clears his throat.

She looks up, surprised and caught. He is silhouetted against the night sky, arms laden with items she can't make out, and she has to blink a few times to get a good look at him. He is smiling at her, tentatively, and she tries so hard to recall his face that her head hurts. She senses that all of her memories are there, hovering just beyond her reach, and maybe if she was just a little bit stronger…

She wants to know him. There is something so tragically beautiful about him that it hurts her heart; makes her want to hold him and not let go until the world is right again. She is lost in his eyes. What she sees causes her pain.

She tries to smile at him while moving over so that he can join her. His own attempt falls flat but the effort is there all the same. Shifting his weight distractedly, he seats himself beside her and holds out the objects in his arms. She sees a journal and an empty jar.

"Here you go," he says, blushing, "I've been watching these for you. Keeping them safe. Don't want any of these old buggers flipping through your journal now, do you?"

He looks guilty at the last line but she chooses to ignore it as the joy at discovering her journal floods through her. Greedily, she snatches at it and pauses to stroke the covers reverently. She wonders if she wrote in it much here and is almost scared to find out. When she looks up at Charlie, her smile is genuine.

"Thank you, Charlie," she whispers. She wants to put her hand on his arm but she is nervous. "For watching this and giving it back. It means a lot."

He offers her the jar again and she takes it, confused. There is such a hopeful expectant look on his face that she feels bad when she can only regard it in bewilderment. The glass is cool under her fingers and Claire wonders why she bothered keeping it. She looks away when the smile on his face falters.

"No worries, love," he murmurs softly. His voice sounds odd, far away and detached. He doesn't seem to share the same reservations as her because his hand finds his way to rest against her wrist. "Baby steps, right? It'll all come back to you."

She has nothing to say to that. She is too caught up in the sight of his taped fingers against her sun browned skin. She finds it curious that he writes on the tape and then it's there again, that nagging feeling of something hovering on the peripheral of her mind. Claire concentrates on it until the familiar frustration sets in.

She wants to remember Charlie.

He clears his throat again, obviously uncomfortable, before handing her one last item. It is the bucket hat that she had seen him with before. Her vision grows misty as she stares at it.

"That's mine?" Such a small voice, tiny and broken.

"Used it for the sun when you were too bloody stubborn to move up here." With me, he adds silently.

Tentatively, she pulls it from his hands and strokes the fabric with her fingers. There is a pause, made gigantic and awkward by his eyes on her, before she smiles sadly at him.

"I wish I knew you," she breathes, fixing him in her gaze.

"I wish you did too." He is proud when his voice doesn't break. Shaking his head, he perks up for her sake. "But you will, right? Baby steps like I said. Shall I start then?"

"Start what?" she asks and out of nowhere she has the urge to giggle. He looks so earnest and eager to please that she can't help it.

"Start over," he amends, offering her a hand, "I'm Charlie Pace. Originally from Manchester. I'm a musician."

She takes his hand and smiles when he squeezes. This she can do. If she can't remember, she can damn well learn.

With a new strength in her tone, she replies, "Pleased to meet you, Charlie. I'm Claire Littleton, from Sydney. I'm a waitress."

He smiles back and makes a joke about her job. She responds in kind and then it's there. Nothing but a fleeting glimmer but she finds it tangible all the same.

Sitting beside him, Claire feels hope.