Proven Worth

by Dreamality

Rated PG for alcohol and drug references.

Charlie and Claire have a pre-crash connection that draws them together on the island.

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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Charlie's never been a big fan of flying, so to ease his fears before stepping onto the plane that will take him to LA he sneaks a snort in the bathroom and spends some time bonding with the bartender in the airport bar.

He orders himself a glass of whiskey and drinks it in a few large gulps, liking the way the alcohol burns him on its way down. It distracts him from the other hurt, the one so fresh he can't bear to touch it, not even with something as soft as thought. He nods at the bartender and gets a new glass, hoping that if he gets himself drunk that he'll neither have to remember the pain or feel the hurt of the absence of heroin he'll have to endure on the long flight.

Through the heroin haze he notices a bird take a seat on the barstool next to him. He appraises her, as he does to all women he sees in bars, and likes what he sees. Nice long blonde hair, big blue eyes, cute face. Perhaps a bit too innocent for him. Probably wouldn't know what heroin is. To better gauge this he listens to what she orders.

"Just water, please, with lemon," she says.

Yes, far too innocent.

The woman turns slightly and suddenly Charlie realizes why she might be choosing straight water. Her stomach is huge, just like Liam's wife's had been the last time Charlie'd seen her. She's preggers and there's no denying it at this point. Vaguely Charlie wonders whether it's safe to fly like that, then decides he's certainly not one to judge when it comes to treating one's body right.

"Hi," she says politely when she notices his stare. He nods back and quickly turns away. No need to taint her with his presence. He's too dirty for this clean mother, too full of dark secrets and unburied skeletons.

An image flashes in his mind. Liam, disappointed and worried. Liam, pitying the poor soul before him. Looking down on Charlie because Charlie still uses.

Charlie still couldn't believe that Liam had said no. This was the chance of a lifetime, and Liam was too busy with his quant little family. He was afraid to stray beyond the safe border of their cute little picket fence. What had happened to the Liam that had convinced Charlie to sign the record contract in the first place? What had happened to the Liam who set the pace for DriveShaft? What had happened to the Liam who used to hook Charlie up with the best drugs and gave him the sweetest highs?

That Liam was dead. He had left behind only a shadow of a man, someone Charlie didn't recognize. Charlie loathed the man Liam had become. An upstanding citizen, was he? Had Liam forgotten the woman, the drugs, the drinking, the partying? Had Liam forgotten his old life completely?

Apparently so, as he now had the gall to sit in his backyard, sip his nice iced tea, and actually pity Charlie.

It hurt. Oh God, did it ever hurt. To think that Liam could choose to walk away from this. To think that Liam was strong enough to quit while Charlie was too weak to admit he even needed help. To think that Liam had effectively killed DriveShaft.

As DriveShaft was Charlie's life, Liam had also effectively killed his baby brother.

"Excuse me."

Charlie jumps when a gentle touch grazes his arm. It's the bird, the pregnant lady beside him. She looks concerned and asks him if anything is the matter. Charlie realizes that there are tears on his face and he wipes them away quickly.

"I'm fine," he mutters, hiding his shamed blush behind his hand.

"It's just, you look quite upset. If there's anything I can do…"

Can you bring back DriveShaft? Can you make Liam stop pitying me and start loving me again? Can you cure me of this addiction? Charlie doubts it. This woman is too innocent. Too nice. She probably has a nice, respectable husband waiting for her at home. The kind who wears expensive suits and carries briefcases of fine Italian leather.

Charlie still remembers the way he looked in the mirror after Lucy gave him the suit. He remembers feeling the handle of the briefcase in his palm and he remembers thinking, I can do this. He was wrong, of course. He'd screwed that up just like he'd screwed up DriveShaft, just like he'd screwed everything in his life up.

He'd disappointed Liam. He'd failed Lucy. He doesn't want to repeat those experiences. He doesn't want to cast his dark shadow over this woman and steal away whatever happiness she might have. He digs some cash out of a pocket and throws it over the bar, leaving behind his half-empty glass. Just before he steps out of the bar he glances back at the woman. Her eyes are wide with pity, and at that moment Charlie hates himself.

"Poor sod," the bartender mutters.

Claire turns away, forces herself to rip her eyes away from the tortured soul who had just fled the bar so quickly. "Did you know him?"

"No. Just came in today. Junkie if I ever saw one. Had that look, you know?" The bartender appraises the woman as she sips her water and sighs. "No, you probably don't know. That's best then, love. Can I get you anything else?"

Claire shakes her head and pays for her water, leaving the bar to find her gate. The man from the bar is there; they're on the same flight. He doesn't notice her as he's got his headphones on and seems like he's in a world of his own.

After the plane crashes, Charlie doesn't seem to remember Claire. If the bartender's word is to be taken as truth, Claire understands why. He was too high or drunk or both at the time to commit her face to memory. Still, she wonders if perhaps there is a reason he seems to keen on helping her. Why he seems so automatically drawn to her.

Charlie knows the reason. He knows that the plane crash was all part of a bigger plan. The island had given them all second chances. It was like starting life anew. All of the survivors had a chance to redefine who they were to become someone else, to become who they are now.

Charlie doesn't want to be a failure anymore. He wants his life to have worth. He wants to be one of those respectable men who seem to have life completely under control. He wants to be a provider, and the island gave him that chance when it gave him Claire.

Claire was Charlie's opportunity to prove, to himself, the island, and everyone else, that he was capable of loving something besides the heroin. She was his chance to succeed.

When Claire comes back from Ethan with empty, haunted eyes, Charlie recognizes her feelings because he's been there. He felt that way when DriveShaft died. He felt that way when he himself died. He felt that way when Claire was gone. Each time, the island brought him back and raised him up.

Now, it's Charlie's turn. He will raise Claire up from the hell she's in and prove to the island that he is worthy of her.

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The End.