Claire didn't mean to find it.
Granted, that wasn't to say if she had had any idea it was on the island she would have simply ignored it. More like she would have wasted hours and hours turning over every stone to find it.
But that wasn't how it happened and so, therefore, she wasn't guilty of prying. She had only been innocently taking a stroll with Logan, pointing out things of interest as they came across them. They'd found butterflies, flowers, and the oddest caterpillar Claire had ever seen, saved from Logan's eager clutches at the last minute, but they'd also found something entirely different. Something glossy. Something from the "real world." Something Claire hadn't seen in almost a year.
She supposed it was the tree that had saved it, for it had landed amongst the roots of the trees and was relatively well protected from the rain by the overhanging foliage. How it had gotten there wasn't clear to her, past a vague guess that it had gotten blasted from the plane in the crash. And how didn't matter.
"Do you see that!" she asked her son, pointing her hand in its direction.
In her arms, Logan swiveled in the direction she indicated and clapped his hands together happily. Claire was tempted to do so as well. Hurriedly, she moved towards its position and then simply stared at it for a moment. This bored her son, who promptly began to squirm to get down. She obliged, setting him directly beside it. He stared at it with interest before squatting down beside it.
Face lit up with excitement, he flapped his hands in its direction and cried, "Mama!"
She smiled, heart expanding as it did every time Logan directly communicated with her, and nodded. She joined him on the ground, letting him help her as she pushed decaying leaves out of the way.
Then it was there. In reach. It was slightly water stained and the cover was ripped but…
With a squeal, Claire leaned forward and snatched the issue of Cosmopolitan out from under the tree.
"Do you see this, Logan?" she asked, moving so that he could, "It's a magazine, isn't it? Yes, it is. It's a book for Mummies."
"Mummy," he imitated, reaching at the pages.
She let him flip for a little while before a fear of him
damaging it claimed her. Standing, she scooped him and the magazine
up and said cheerfully, "Do you want to play in the sand, sweetie?
Do you want to build Mummy a great big castle? Yes, you do, don't
you? That's Mummy's favourite little man!"
He giggled at her tone, nuzzling his cheek into her chest. Grubby baby hands twisted in her hair and pressed at her face. She showered them with loud kisses, making him laugh harder. She was laughing too as she stepped out of the jungle and made her way back to the beach. By the time she'd found a semi-private area, she was dying of anticipation.
"Does this spot look good?" she asked, planting one last kiss on top of his hand, "Shall we play here?"
Her son didn't protest the idea of sand so she made them both comfortable in an area that was both in the shade and away from the water. Sitting directly across from him, she watched him out of the corner of her eye as she opened the magazine and began to read the pages reverently.
Claire had always been a Cosmo girl. She could remember afternoons spent with her girlfriends when they were younger, pouring over the pages only to squeal in mock disgust over some of the more racy articles. She smiled thinking on the fact that each and every one of them had snuck back to memorize all of the more juicy details. It made her feel a little ridiculous now but her mother had always been old fashioned and it was Cosmo that had really been her sex education.
She was out of touch, true, but in twenty minutes she had discovered one hundred things her man really wanted, had a pretty good idea on how to locate her G-spot, and had read an article about two women who had survived five days stranded in a blizzard.
She thought with a snicker that five days had nothing on her experience, snow or not. As for her G-spot, she was entirely too busy to find time to do that, and well… one hundred things her man really wanted only worked if she had a man.
The last thought made her feel sour and bitter and hurt all at the same time. Sighing, she looked up from the glossy pages and handed her son a pretty seashell to look at, smiling cheerily for his benefit alone since it was the absolute last thing she felt like doing now. Curling up into a hole and dying seemed entirely more like it.
It was his fault she had gone on a walk in the first place. If he hadn't been such a… such a… bastard to her, she might have played with Logan at the caves. There were plenty of pretty things to see there but she really didn't want to even be in his vicinity. Her pride was still stinging and she didn't think being within fifty feet of Charlie would help it.
This line of thought made her eyes water and she had to work hard to hide it from Logan. She decided then and there that she hated Charlie with ever fibre in her being. It had been a year, almost to the day. A year that had begun with tragedy and heartbreak had recovered itself nicely… or so she thought. Apparently where Charlie was concerned it had all been for naught.
She was still confused. She didn't think it was possible to misread somebody so terribly. She was normally good at that. And he had given her all the signals! He had taught Logan to call him Dada and she knew without a doubt that he loved her son; was probably the best bloody thing to happen to him, really. The fact that she was thinking in Charlie-isms only upset her further and she had to use all of her willpower not to throw an outright tantrum in front of her son.
It was important that nobody ever knew how much it hurt to be excluded from that little family picture. How devastating it had been to lay beside him, laid open and bare in the face of his rejection. She loved him, stupid idiot that he was, and it had seemed like a marvelous idea to act upon it like an adult. She wasn't a virgin; he wasn't a virgin; and he had been sleeping beside her for months, teasing her with that annoyingly endearing way he would cuddle up to her when he was in his deepest sleep, holding on like she'd vanish if he let go. And it wasn't like they hadn't done anything. He had been all about that. It only seemed natural that he'd want to progress their relationship, especially when she did. Instead, he'd looked at her like she'd sprouted a second head and had all but fled their cave. "I can't, Claire. We can't. Not after all this time."
And what did that mean? Not after all this time, like she'd become some sort of sister figure to him. Not after all the innuendos and the teasing. Not after the way he would plant a trail of kisses along the back of her neck. Not after the way his fingers would stroke softly at her thigh before delving deliciously further. Not at all if he saw her like that. She had spent enough time around Shannon and Boone to pick up on weird sibling chemistry and she was not about to sign up for that.
But especially not at all if what she really expected was true. He'd probably grown tired of her. She knew how it was. It had happened to her before. He had likely spent entirely too much time with her and had discovered something absolutely unbearable about her personality. Or maybe it was the weight she hadn't lost after her pregnancy, rounding her out and pushing her away from the Paris Hilton ideal he probably had. She couldn't help it. She was curvy now and if he didn't like that then…
It was like a dagger to her heart.
Leaning forward, she ruffled her son's blond locks to make herself feel better. He smiled up at her, like a tiny burst of sunshine, and she couldn't help pulling him up onto her lap. He snuggled in, apparently tired from all of his playing, and watched dozily as she continued to flip, not really seeing the pages. She would have missed it entirely if a chubby baby fist hadn't abruptly pounded the paper and a high pitched squeal of, "Dada!" hadn't nearly made her jump out of her skin. Swearing mentally, she looked around the beach, trying to spot him. He was nowhere to be found. In fact, no one was.
Frowning, she said gently, "Dada's not here, sweetie."
He frowned back, obviously confused. She was preparing herself to repeat her statement when he nudged the magazine again. She looked down and there, staring up at her, was Charlie.
The first thing Claire felt was a sense of surrealism. She knew he had been famous in England and had a bit of a cult following overseas. She knew Kate loved his band (insert jealous eye roll here, she thought bitterly). He had told her they were about to make a comeback when he had gotten on the plane. Apparently, however, it was one thing to know this and another entirely to have it plastered down in print right before her eyes.
"'The Bad Boys of Britain: Is Drive Shaft Prepared For A Come-Back?'" she read out loud of her son's benefit.
Quickly, she skimmed the article and checked the date on the magazine for the first time. It hadn't been printed long before the crash, a month or two if memory served her. Chewing on her lip, her eyes devoured the print. She read about the attention their first albums had garnered; felt a tiny burst of pride despite herself at the recognition Cosmopolitan gave Charlie's song writing ability.
"Look here, Logan," she said, proud that her tone wasn't as acidic as it was in her head, "Says Dada's the real talent behind the songs."
It also said things Charlie had related to her, over the year they'd spent together, in the second half of the article. She read about Liam's descent into drugs and the rehabilitation he'd gone through for his daughter. It was obvious to her that Liam was Drive Shaft's sweetheart, in the eyes of the public. Seeing a picture of him now for the first time, she could see why. He had a sort of confidence to him that made her think of a play boy, but there was danger in him too.
The bits about Charlie's own private life were harder for her to read. She skimmed over the parts outlining his lifestyle, frowning at the excess of women.
"Hello, ladies," she mimicked, irritably, "I'm Charlie Pace. I'm in Drive Shaft. I could rock your socks off."
Logan blinked up at her in confusion and she sighed, quickly reading over their coverage of Charlie's own heroin addiction. It made her cringe to see it in print; to take in the almost flighty tone they used. All so salacious and full of scandal. It disgusted her how they almost completely failed to recognize the person behind the addiction.
The article ended with a brief note on the band's comeback, closing on a question: would Liam return? Sighing to herself, she was just about to push it aside entirely when a picture in the bottom left hand corner caught her eye.
She gasped. She gawked. She stared at it with the same morbid interest people regarded car accidents with. Sluts, she thought angrily and wasn't even sure which one of the three- three!- people she was addressing.
The picture was obviously of Charlie at the height of his fame. He was almost clean shaven and was all done up in eyeliner, two factors that might have effected her if she wasn't suddenly filled with the desire to throttle him. It wasn't even Charlie who interested her. It was the two groupies who were obviously making complete idiots out of themselves hanging off of him, all thin and gorgeous and fake tanned. One was kissing him (and she wasn't jealous, really she wasn't) and he had had the gall to put his arm around the other. She wanted to hurt them all. She hoped the silicon in their enormously fake breasts burst and did funny things to them. She hoped Charlie choked on that little hussy's tongue.
She hated all three of them but she hated herself all the more for even caring. Despised herself for comparing. Stealthily she peaked down at her own breasts, larger than normal due to breastfeeding but nowhere near as high and perky as theirs. Her hands went to her hair, which hadn't been so nicely coifed in forever and probably didn't feel as nice because of all of her ocean swims. She thought those two women might wear nice perfume and Claire couldn't even remember the last time she had had an actual shower.
So this was what Charlie wanted, she realized. He wanted fake perfection and, God help her, she wanted to give it to him. She wanted to show him with every fibre in her being that she was prettier and better; that she was most certainly not a surrogate sister or somebody you could simply grow tired of. God dammit, she was Claire Littleton and he would be a fool to say no to her!
Scooping her son up off the ground, she marched off in the direction of the caves, intent on seeing Shannon.
"Dude, please tell me I did not hear you right," Hurley said, barely resisting the urge to roll his eyes as his friend bounced around in front of him, "Because if I did, you are beyond help. Only one of the prettiest women here all but offers herself up to you and you said no? Issues, man, you have issues."
"I didn't say no," Charlie protested, readjusting the blankets he and Claire called their bed for what felt like the hundredth time, "I said not now. You think I'd say no to that? I'm not a bloody idiot, Hurley. I know what I'm doing. Claire doesn't deserve a quick spur of the moment rough and tumble. Claire deserves to be wooed. I'm wooing."
"You're wooing with rejection?" was the skeptical question. "No offense, dude, but that is stupidest thing I've ever heard. You've probably crushed her. She's probably off with Shannon right now making Charlie shaped voodoo dolls. You're a doomed man."
This earned Hurley a withering stare. Straightening up, he pointed at the pile of flowers laying at the larger man's feet.
"Make yourself useful, would you?" Charlie requested a little bit sourly. Pushing his fingers against the bridge of his nose, he softened his tone and added, "Obviously I'm a bloody prat. Can't do anything right and all that. I know she's mad at me. I know it came out wrong, alright? I just panicked. Do you know it's almost one year since we've met? I just wanted to do it right. Is that so much to ask? No, no it isn't. Which is why I'm seducing her."
"With flower petals," Hurley summed up, picking up a clump of them with a sigh, "Which is really clichéd, even for you."
"It's not clichéd," Charlie contradicted, grabbing a handful himself. Carefully, he stripped the flowers of their petals and sprinkled them over their bed in what he hoped was an artful and alluring way. "It's pure genius. Pure genius which now unfortunately has to start with a huge apology but it'll be easy as pie once that's out of the way. You'll see."
"Whatever you say."
For the first time, doubt filtered into Charlie's mind and he had to concentrate hard to push it out of the way. As much for his benefit as for Hurley's, he said, "I love her, Hurl, and that's going to have to be good enough."
Claire looked like a two bit whore. She had known once Shannon had pulled a pair of burgundy fish net stockings out of her suitcase that she was in over her head. She was glad Logan had fallen asleep because she quite simply didn't want him to see his mother looking like this.
"Shannon, I look stupid," she half whined, peering at her legs.
"Shut up, you do not!" Shannon protested, moving to rummage in her things further, "We just have to find you the perfect dress and bam! Charlie'll never know what hit him."
Claire scoffed and crossed her arms, watching the other girl with a bit of distress. Shannon didn't seem to notice, only huffing indignantly when she couldn't find whatever it was she was looking for.
"What are you doing?" she risked asking.
"Trying to find something better for you to wear on top. Didn't you pack anything that wasn't a maternity outfit? It's hard even finding inspiration looking at you there in that sundress. Why don't you just get rid of it? It's way too big. It's ruining the power of the stockings. Off with it!"
Sighing, Claire made sure that nobody could see into the nook Shannon was sharing with Sayid before obliging. She imagined what she must look like sitting there in such tempting nylons and the black lacy bra that had once been her favourite. The nylons didn't sit right and her bra was long since too small. The urge to cry was almost overwhelming.
"I have a skirt that's not maternity with my things," she offered up weakly, "In my cave."
Shannon nodded and smiled down at her friend. "How about I go get it? I'll take Junior too. Maybe Sun'll watch him. Don't think you want him kicking around later on, do you?"
"Logan doesn't kick around," Claire protested, but Shannon had already swept him up and was walking away, leaving her to sit alone. Sighing, she pulled her knees to her chest and waited.
When Shannon returned, she was without Logan but had found the skirt and a beige button up sweater to match. Claire eyed it warily, wondering why on earth she would wear something that hot here. It was then she noticed the twinkle in her friend's eyes.
"What's wrong?" she asked, hugging her legs harder to her chest.
The twinkle increased tenfold. "Nothing's the matter. I ran into Hurley. I think Charlie's really going to like this whole idea of yours."
"You told Hurley! Shannon, I told you not-"
"I didn't tell him anything," Shannon scoffed at her, thrusting the skirt and the sweater in her direction. Claire took them and frowned when the skirt fit a little tighter than she remembered. She gave it a tiny tug, trying to get it to cover her knees. She had trouble pulling the buttons on the sweater closed across her chest and sighed irritably when she realized her black bra was very visible through the lighter material.
"I'm not wearing this," she said, crossing her arms self-consciously.
"Yes you are but not like that. You look like a librarian, and not the trampy oh-please-do-me-in-the-stacks kind."
Smiling evilly, Shannon brandished a pair of scissors and stepped towards the woman who was gaping in abject horror. She ignored her, choosing instead to attack the skirt. Claire shut her eyes as large black chunks of cloth pooled around her feet. It was the outfit she had planned on wearing to meet Logan's prospective parents while naively hoping that all of her pregnancy weight would vanish instantly, conservative without being frumpy, and it had taken her awhile to be able to afford it. Its entire destruction was almost too painful. She did start, however, when she felt hands fiddling with buttons on her sweater.
"Shannon!" she cried, trying to bat her hands away.
The look Shannon sent her silenced her and she stood still for the indignation of having the first three buttons of her sweater undone. When Shannon was finished, she stepped back and let out a low whistle.
Claire risked a glance down and gasped in surprise. Her skirt was so short it might as well have been gone and that wasn't even to mention her sweater. Partly undone as it was, her bra was more than a little visible and she thought she looked ready to pop right out of it. She looked ridiculous and, to make it worse, Shannon had begun teasing her hair with a comb. At last, she stepped back with a low whistle.
"All done!" Shannon exclaimed. Then, with a wink, "Damn, Claire, you look so hot I'd do you myself!"
That produced a doubtful giggle. Before Claire knew what was what, Shannon was pushing her out of her nook with a playful, "Go get him!" and she was off, Cosmo securely under her arm.
Claire made the walk back to her nook more like a run, bashful dressed as she was. She dodged Jack without making eye contact and slipped into her dark corner relatively unnoticed.
"Charlie?" she questioned, as her eyes adjusted to the change in light.
Silence greeted her. She blinked for a moment, wishing her vision would hurry up and return. When it did, she blinked again. Then, she pressed her palm against her mouth and sank slowly to her bed, placing her magazine beside her.
Her cave was done up fantastically, in a dramatic show of seduction. Her fingers fell to the blankets to lightly trace the flower petals that lay there and her heart thudded jerkily in her chest.
It was impossible to misinterpret the scene before her. Charlie had obviously put a lot of time and effort into this- obviously, she had misunderstood him horribly- and there she was, dressed all up like a great big hooch. A blush stained her cheeks but she was smiling, grinning actually, and wasn't she ridiculous to think that he hadn't cared about her when-
Behind her, somebody sucked in a quick breath and she turned her head to see Charlie framed by the sunlight in the entrance. Her smile was radiant.
"Charlie, you did all of this?" she half whispered, "For me?"
He nodded and she thought he was blushing too. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he came and sat down beside her, looking for all the world like a timid little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"It was supposed to be a surprise," he admitted, shrugging somewhat awkwardly, "You know, to make it special and… good Lord, Claire, what are you wearing?"
Their eyes dropped simultaneously, hers to rest on her damn stockings and his to fall upon her barely hidden black bra. He sucked in another breath, harder this time, and she suddenly felt incredibly stupid.
"I thought… I mean, I found this stupid magazine and it had a picture of you in it with some girls and… I was afraid you didn't want me because I wasn't like them."
The last was admitted on a quiet gust of air and Charlie looked up, obviously surprised by her statement.
"Don't want you?" he asked, reaching forward to run a hand along her cheek and down her neck. She leaned into his touch and smiled when he dropped his hand to her shoulder, letting it fall tentatively over the curve of her breast to rest against her waist. "Are you bloody mad, woman? Is this about last night?"
A timid nod as shy blue eyes looked anywhere but at him. He caught her chin in his other hand and made her look at him. She did, even if she did look slightly ashamed.
"Well, you are entirely wrong. Do you know what it's been like sleeping with you but not with you? And to see you out and about with Shannon, all happy and absolutely glowing? You are the most extraordinary woman I've ever met, Claire, and when I said that last night I just wanted for it to be… different, you know? It's been almost a year since we've met, did you realize that? You're better than a quick tumble, better than any girl in any sodding magazine, and I just wanted… I love you, Claire."
Happiness welled up within her and she was nodding without realizing it. Smiling, she brought her hands up to trace his face and then she was giggling.
"I'm sorry, Charlie. I feel silly, if it makes you feel any better. What you've done here… wow!" Her smile turned teasing as her hand fell to rest against his. "Kind of gives a girl an idea that you might be about to try something with her."
"What a smart girl she is," he mumbled, and then his lips were on hers, searching and delightful.
When he pulled back, she grinned at him cheekily. "The magazine was Cosmo, you know. I now know one hundred ways to please my man."
As he lowered her down and allowed himself to explore the textured fabric of her stockings, he couldn't help but add, "One hundred and one if you count this outfit."