TITLE: Beggars for Roses
AUTHOR: Mnemosyne

Disclaimer: ils ne sont pas à moi (God I hope I have that right, LOL!) SUMMARY: Charlie and Claire pause to gather flowers.
SPOILERS: Possible up to and including "Outlaws"
CHARACTERS: Charlie/Claire
This was inspired while I was reading Robert Frost's beautiful poem "Asking for Roses." I've always been a fan of Frost's work; he's able to capture so effortlessly the beauty of the natural world. His verse is so descriptive it can't help but conjure pictures in the reader's head. When that reader is likewise a diehard Lostaway, there's nothing for it but to give in and follow the bunnies where they lead. LOL! Please enjoy! And read the poem when you get the chance - it will do you good. -D

"So we must join hands in the dew coming coldly
There in the hush of the wood that reposes,
And turn and go up to the open door boldly,
And knock to the echoes as beggars for roses."

-Robert Frost, "Asking for Roses"-

"Oh, Charlie, aren't they beautiful? Do you think we should pick some, to bring back to the others? Oh, look at this one! It's so big!"

Charlie watched with lighthearted amusement as Claire waddled across the clearing to bury her face in an enormous indigo blossom. Her head seemed to disappear into the petals as she inhaled the flower's sweet fragrance.

"That's a big blooming flower," he said with a chuckle, fully aware of the pun and not caring.

Claire raised her head to grin over her shoulder at him. "It's an orchid," she clarified. "And it's absolutely gorgeous." She stood up straighter, one hand on the small of her back to support her bulging tummy as she stared around the glade. "They all are! And they're not just orchids, either. Look, those are oleanders. And those pretty white ones on the vine are known as the Hawaiian Wedding Flower. And look at all the plumeria!" She duck-walked over to a bush of frosted pink flowers that looked like something out of a painting and inhaled deeply. Charlie watched her eyes close and heard her hum contentedly. "Mmmm, don't they smell beautiful?"

"You know an awful lot about all this, luv," he mused, watching her run her fingers over the delicate plumeria blossoms as if they were some kind of fragile dream. "Have you been here before?"

Claire giggled, turning around to look at him as he came to join her across the flower-strewn glade. "I worked in a florist's for a while before I moved to the Fish and Fry. I might not know what they're called in Latin, but I know enough to call an orchid an orchid."

Charlie's foot connected with something beneath the bush. Frowning, he knelt down and fished around underneath the shrub until his hand closed around a mossy handle. "And a spade a spade," he mused, drawing the implement out of the shadows and holding it up for Claire's inspection. It was indeed a spade - a small one, like something used by archaeologists. It was also very old. The metal was all but rusted away - all that held it together was the lichen that had grown over it like a skin.

Claire's eyes widened. "Whose do you think it is?" she asked, running her fingers over the soft, mossy outline as he stood straight again.

Charlie stared at it, feeling a chill work down his spine as he thought about the last person who might have held this handle. What had become of them? Where had they gone? Had they somehow been rescued? Had they died on this island, alone with their flowers? Were they still here?

"I don't know," he said softly, his fingers flexing on the green grip. "Maybe Adam and Eve."

Her tinkling laugh made him look up in confusion. "I suppose this is a bit like Eden, isn't it?" she said with a twinkle in her eye, looking around at the flowering bushes.

It was with a start that Charlie realized Claire didn't remember the mummified bodies they'd found in the caves. Had he even told her about them to start with? "Yeah," he said noncommittally, dropping his hand to the side, still clutching the spade. "If Eden were just a nest of vipers dressed up in pretty clothing."

"Well, that's what it was, wasn't it?" she said. "More or less." Turning away, she moved slowly back to the large, midnight blue orchid and traced the blossom with her fingers.

"This was somebody's garden," she murmured, running her thumb over the silky petals. "They must have cared for it an awful lot. Look how they've thrived with no one here to look after them." She bit her lip, running one hand over a curtain of flowering vines. "It's sad, don't you think?"

"I think it's a might creepy, to be honest."

"Don't say that." Claire turned her blue eyes on him full force, and he was surprised to see there were tears on her lashes. "Don't say that, Charlie, it's not nice. Whoever made this garden wasn't evil or cruel. They cared enough for living things to want to help them grow." She turned back to the flowers, her face a quiet maze of sorrow. "It must have taken them ages to master. They must have transplanted these from all over the island! Look how everything's so neatly arranged. You can't really tell because it's so overgrown, but if you look close you can see how they're planted in levels, with short shrubs at the base and trees stretching upward, and the vines linking them all together." Her hands danced over the flowers, pointing out the details as she named them.

I wonder what happened to the gardener to make them leave their spade behind, Charlie thought. THAT, luv, is fairly creepy. But he didn't say it aloud. "I think whoever it was would be pleased to know you're enjoying them," he said, wandering closer to her so he could feel the warmth of her shoulder through the cotton of his t-shirt. There was something about being in a glade full of flowers that made him want to stand close to a girl. "That's what gardens are for, after all."

Claire smiled at him over her shoulder. "Do you think they'd mind if I stole a few?"

He grinned. "We could ask," he said.

"Ask who? There's no one here."

"Still, no harm in asking. A by-your-leave, so to speak." Clearing his throat, he called out to the jungle around them, "Does anyone mind if we pick a few of your flowers? Just a few, mind, not the lot of them. No objections? We'll just help ourselves then, shall we? Right, thank you very much!" He turned sparkling eyes in Claire's direction, to see her giggling helplessly behind her hand. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," he said, making a sweeping gesture to encompass the clearing.

"Charlie, you're too much," Claire said, beaming, and toddled up on her tiptoes to drop a kiss on his jaw before padding away to start plucking blossoms. Charlie felt his face flush with heat and resisted the urge to put a hand over the place she'd kissed.

It was silly, tempting the island to talk back to them. After all, it had proven on more than one occasion that it was happy to oblige. Charlie decided it was worth the risk as he watched Claire moving amongst the bushes, talking quietly to the flowers like Alice in the Looking Glass garden. He helped as best he could, plucking flowers that were too high up or too low to the ground for her to reach with her limited mobility. Claire showed him the best way to twist them off their respective branches, and tucked them neatly into her growing bouquet.

"Not that one," she said, as he reached out to pluck the indigo orchid.

"Are you sure, luv?" he asked.

Claire nodded. "I'm sure. It took a lot of time and effort for that flower to grow so big. Some things are better admired on the vine."

Charlie bowed his head in agreement. "True enough," he said. Deftly, his fingers twisted a smaller orchid from amongst the leaves, and he turned to tuck it tenderly behind her ear. "Others," he murmured, stroking her hair over her ear to hold the flower in place, "benefit from the beauty of their surroundings."

This time it was Claire's turn to blush, a soft pink that perfectly matched the blossom behind her ear. "You're sweet, Charlie," she said, leaning unconsciously into his touch.

"The ocean water's made me quite salty, actually," he teased with a grin.

She poked him in the stomach and he laughed. "You know what I mean," she said, her blue eyes sparkling.

They stood in comfortable silence for a few minutes, enjoying the tranquility of the glade and each other's company. Charlie realized after a bit that he felt as though he were in a church. The sunlight glowed on the multihued petals of the flowers and lit the hollow like stained glass. The air was still - remarkably so - and the trees reared up around them like the towering spires of a gothic cathedral. Claire stood in front of him, bouquet clutched in her hands, and the symbolism wasn't lost on him of a man and a woman in a church with flowers.


He shook himself out of his daydream. "Yes, Claire?"

"What do you think happened to the people who tended this garden?"

That was the question, wasn't it? And it had no easy answer. "I'm sure they were rescued, luv," he murmured, reaching up to comb his fingers idly through her hair. "And in all the excitement they forgot their spade and left their garden to grow."

"You don't really think that, do you." It wasn't a question.

Charlie sighed. "Luv, I don't know what I believe. But it's as good an explanation as any. And at least it has a happy ending."

Claire looked around, eyes soft as she took in the flowering shrubs. "That would be nice," she murmured. "But even Eden didn't have a happy ending."

He watched curiously as she peeled a small handful of flowers away from her bouquet and dropped them on the lush green grass beneath their feet. "What's that for, luv?" he asked.

She looked up into his eyes. "In case they weren't rescued," she answered. "Everyone deserves a memorial." She clutched the rest of the bouquet to her rounded belly. "And a way to be remembered."

Charlie cocked his head to look at her through appraising eyes. "You really are quite remarkable, aren't you?" he observed, his voice low and gravelly.

She smiled at him. "We should get back before it gets dark," she said quietly. Turning away, she began walking through the glade in the direction of the caves.

Charlie watched her for a few seconds, then slowly knelt down and placed the mossy spade atop the heap of flowers. Reciting a quick Hail Mary, he stood and looked down at the makeshift memorial. I wonder, he thought, who will drop flowers on my grave? The survivors of another plane crash? A shipwreck? The rest of the castaways from Flight 815?

Would it be Liam?

Or would it be a pretty blonde young mother with a child by her side, eyes bright with tears as she placed an indigo orchid on the soil beneath his cross and told him she'd remember. Maybe there'd be another child in her womb - a way to be remembered.

Or maybe they'd both grow old and die together, here in this perfumed natural grotto.

He shivered, and decided a forest of flowers was no kind of place to meditate on death.

Claire's bright blonde hair was disappearing into the dark greenery of the surrounding jungle, and he jogged to catch up with her. She smiled up at him as he drew up to her shoulder, and he returned the smile with an easy grin. As she turned back to the study of her flowers, he decided that Adam and Eve might not have had a happy ending, but they'd had a good beginning. As far as he could see it, his situation was reversed. His beginning with Claire had been downright awful - a plane crash in the middle of nowhere.

It could only go up from there.