Nights Like These
Rated G and wrapped in fluff.
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.
Charlie was sure he had been lying in the cave staring at the rock ceiling for hours, sweltering beneath a blanket of humidity and completely unable to close his eyes for more time than necessary to blink. Yet when his groping hands closed around the wristwatch he always kept close by and his eyes made out the position of the hands on the face, he found to his disappointment that it hadn't been more than twenty minutes since he'd first laid his head on a pillow of balled-up t-shirts.
It was that kind of night again. Charlie knew how nights like these played out, as his nights had been like this since his return from Ethan's clutches. He'd toss from side to side, convincing himself that if he just found the "right" spot then he'd drift into the best sleep of his life. But there was always something that prevented that. A sharp pebble, for instance, or a cramp in his neck.
When he finally succumbed to the truth, that he wouldn't be sleeping that night, he'd try to busy himself with pointless tasks. Last night he'd tried to count the number of hairs on his right forearm. The night before that it had been stargazing, trying to find as many constellations as he could identify. The Big Dipper and the Little one, too; Orion's belt, and was that Jupiter over there? Maybe it was just a star on steroids. It didn't matter anyway. He'd never paid attention during his science classes, except that one day his teacher'd fallen ill and that blonde substitute teacher with the perky breasts had taught Charlie all about puberty. Unintentionally, of course.
It was nights like these that brought back such memories, which didn't help Charlie's situation at all. Reminiscing about his life before the island only brought on pangs of remorse, guilt, and depression, as he'd long since accepted the fact that they would probably never be rescued and he'd never get a chance to remedy his past mistakes.
Charlie sat up in the darkness of the cave and glanced around. He had taken up sleeping closer to Claire since her return, and on nights like these he liked to watch her sleep. She tended to sleep on her side with her arms wrapped around that great belly of hers, her hair shining softly and begging to be touched.
Charlie crawled silently to Claire's side and reached for one strand of hair that had fallen across her face. He let his fingers trail across her smooth cheek and watched, awed, as she nuzzled her face into his rough hand.
She's asleep, Charlie had to remind himself. Doesn't know what she's doing.
Had she been awake, had she seen who she was snuggling up to, she'd have backed right off. No self-respecting girl, and especially no mother-to-be, wanted to get cozy with an ex-drug addict. She'd probably just been dreaming about her baby's father, anyway.
Charlie withdrew his hand and sat back on his heels, heaving a quiet sigh into the air. His eyes fell upon the little booklet lying so innocently on the floor near her head. It was her diary, which he'd given her in the hopes it would jar her memory. It hadn't, at least not much, to Charlie's great disappointment.
I really like Charlie, the diary had said.
Apparently not that much, since an awkward barrier had developed between Charlie and Claire since her return. Yes, she was still her sweet, polite self. And they talked, occasionally, but it wasn't the same. His attempts at humor felt forced, as did her laughter, and her smiles had dropped a few notches. She said she wanted to trust him but couldn't seem to let herself.
Charlie's hand reached for the diary and stopped halfway. That was her private diary. What right had he to browse it whenever he felt like it?
But. He'd already read it once. What harm was there in going over the parts he'd skipped?
He picked it up and glanced sharply at Claire, as though some deep intuition might warn her of this invasion on her privacy. Her eyes remained shut, her breathing stayed even. She was still asleep.
Charlie left the cave and went to sit by the dying embers of the fire. He flipped open to a random page and skimmed it, picking up words and phrases before turning to a different page. At any moment he expected Claire to come out of the cave, demanding to know what right he had to her diary. He wanted to learn as much as he could about her before that happened.
…can't believe I'm pregnant…
Thomas took it really well…
Mother's not going to be happy at all…
So, Thomas. Finally Charlie had learned the identity of the father-who-was-not-her-husband. He flipped ahead. He found a page dotted with fading splotches that might have been tearstains once.
The good-for-nothing bastard left me today…
I can't raise a baby by myself…
Going back to the psychic. Maybe he can tell me what to do…
A few pages later, the pieces really began coming together.
The psychic hasn't stopped calling me since the last time I went to see him…
…went to sign the adoption papers today. I broke down… I just couldn't do it. The people I was going to give my baby to were so crushed, and I felt horrible, but I just got this feeling…
…told me he knew a couple in Los Angeles who could take care of my baby. I'm flying there tomorrow. Something feels a little strange about all of this, but my horoscope this morning was positive. The psychic was so adamant, he must know what he's doing.
The next few pages he'd already seen. Charlie kept turning pages until he found a more recent entry.
…so scared right now…
…can't remember anything…
…memories coming to me in my dreams, but I can't make sense of them…
…Charlie killed Ethan today. This may sound strange, but I think he did it for me. Not just so Ethan wouldn't take me again, but because he felt like he owed it to me. I dreamed last night about Charlie promising me he'd take care of me…
…really wish I could remember why Charlie makes me feel this way. He told me we're friends but the feelings I keep getting when I'm around him are different. Sometimes he'll look at me or just touch me very briefly and something passes between us. He said we'd never met before the plane crash but sometimes I get these feelings, like déjà vu or something, and it seems like we've known each other forever.
There were only a few blank pages left in the diary. Charlie set the diary on the ground while he went back into the cave to find a pen. He sat by the fire until the first light of dawn brought a few castaways out of their caves to begin a new day, the pen scratching away at the paper, filling the diary with his own messy handwriting.
Charlie slipped the diary and the pen back in his pocket and went to get a bottle of and some fruit to take to Claire. She was already awake when he reached her and was digging around in her belongings, obviously looking for something. Charlie felt a twinge of guilt and the diary in his pocket suddenly felt like a boulder weighing him down.
"Morning, Claire. Hungry?" he asked, kneeling beside her and offering his goods. Claire glanced at him and smiled distractedly.
"Hi, Charlie. Thank you, I'll eat in a bit." Claire hesitated, lifting up a pile of dirty clothes to look beneath them, then looked at Charlie again. "Have you seen my diary, by any chance? A little blue book?"
"Oh, um, actually, well…" Charlie's hand fumbled inside his pocket until he had a good grasp on the diary. He tossed it to her harder than he'd meant and it hit her stomach. "Sorry, Claire. I saw it on the floor and didn't want anyone to trample it so I picked it up for safekeeping, and… well, there you go. I think I'm going to head down to the beach, see if Hurley wants any help fishing, so you take care of yourself, all right?"
He exited the cave quickly, leaving Claire to stare after him quizzically with the diary in her hand. He stayed away from the caves all day, busying himself at the beach. He tried to help Michael with the raft until he was chased away, his clumsy hands being more hindrance than help to the construction project. Then he and Hurley took their fishing spears and makeshift nets to the fishing hole Jin had first monopolized to try to catch some dinner. They managed to reel in a forgotten suitcase filled with useless evening wear but no fish or otherwise edible creatures.
While Charlie played around on the beach, Claire stayed in the cave studying the diary. When Charlie first left she hadn't thought much about it, just set it aside while she ate her breakfast alone. Later that afternoon she decided she might want to jot down a few of the dreams she'd had the previous night and found her diary completely filled. Unfamiliar handwriting had finished off the final pages. As she began to read she sat against the rough wall of the cave, one arm around her stomach, the diary mere centimeters away from her nose.
Hi. This is Charlie. I know this may label me as a villain for life, but I just got done reading your diary. Please don't put the diary down to come gouge my eyes out, at least read the rest of this before you hunt me down to extract your revenge.
Claire, there's something about you that I ju – ach, no.
I wish I could— that's crap.
Your eyes are like the— I need to start over.
Funny thing, this. See, Claire, you might not know this, but I used to be in a band called Driveshaft. I played bass, did a bit of singing and I wrote all the songs. Just put a pen in my hand and I could pour out the innermost workings of my soul and then go tell crowds of thousands about it. I'm not a shy person when it comes to those things, especially not with girls. I'm the kind of guy who'll tell you what he's feeling, and I like to think I can do it in a rather poetic way.
Then I ran into some trouble with a guy called Harry. That's the street term for heroine and Claire, I became a worthless junkie probably in less time than it took for you to get pregnant. Harry controlled my life, turned me into a monster that became a spineless worm when I went without my drugs for more than a day. It ruined my relationship with Liam, with my family, with my band, and with more than a few girls. Suddenly I wasn't Charlie Pace, Rock Star, I was Charlie Pace, bloody good-for-nothing loser.
After the plane crash, Locke helped me kick the habit and I threw the drugs in the fire. It felt liberating at the time, until withdrawal really set in. I was lost, alone in a manmade hell, and it felt like I was wandering around in a labyrinth that kept giving me dead ends instead of exits. There was only one source of light in my life then, and her name was Claire.
(Just so there's no confusion, you're the only Claire on the island.)
We didn't know each other all that well. There was just something about you that drew me in and I felt like somehow we were meant to know each other. You were a positive energy strong enough to fight off Harry. To repay you I felt like I needed to protect you, even though I knew you were fully capable of taking care of yourself.
When Ethan took you, I felt like I'd failed. I stopped sleeping, I stopped eating, I spent all day, every day thinking about you. I would think of Ethan doing things to you, hurting you, defiling your beautiful body or threatening your pure, good soul, and it made me angry enough to kill. So when the opportunity was given to me, I did it.
You wrote in your diary that you thought I killed Ethan for you. You were right. Even though you didn't remember what he did to you, I know what he did to me. When we were first captured he told me things, what he was planning to do with you and your child, and then he took you from me completely so I could no longer protect you.
Claire, that killed me. So I killed him. An eye for an eye, eh?
I don't know how to tell you what I want to say. Charlie Pace, legendary rock god who could write number one singles while completely sloshed, is at a loss for words right now.
I don't know how to put into words how complete you make me. I can't tell you how much I want to be worthy of your trust. I don't know how to tell you that even though we were just good friends before, I wanted more than that. I don't know how to say that it made me feel like a bad person, having such thoughts about a pregnant person, but I couldn't stop it.
Bugger all. I feel like a loon, and I'm sure you think I am one now.
Claire, I'm not going to flower this up with Shakespearian terms and flowing poetry and songs.
I love you. That's all there is to it.
Whether you decide to use this information for or against me is entirely your decision. Just know that I'm going to be by your side until the day the rescue plane takes us home, and even though Thomas couldn't see how beautiful you are, I do. You don't have to face this alone. I may not be in the running for world's best boyfriend or world's best father or even world's best friend, but you can bet you're not going to find anyone who will work harder at it than me.
Running out of room here. Sorry for taking up so much space. I'll hunt down more paper for you so you can write about my idiocy and call me all sorts of names.
Claire wiped at her moist eyes and hugged the little book to her chest.
Charlie didn't return to the caves until dark, hoping Claire would already be asleep so he wouldn't have to face her. It was cowardly, yes, but Charlie had never been a fan of rejection and he hoped to put off being kicked in the balls for as long as possible. He was sure his little confession wasn't going to go over well and was considering asking Locke if he couldn't go render some animal fat and mash up some pulp and make a time machine.
He considered moving his things out of Claire's cave, but he did have a few remaining shreds of pride left so decided against it. Claire was asleep when he came in, so he settled down in his own little nest and turned his back to her, shutting his eyes tightly and trying to ignore the ache that had begun in his chest.
The voice was so quiet Charlie was sure he had imagined it, so he burrowed his head further beneath his pillow and willed his mind to shut up.
"Charlie?" It was slightly louder this time, and plaintive, like a little child asking for forgiveness. Cautiously, Charlie lifted his head and listened intently, waiting for it to come again.
"Charlie, please. Are you already asleep?"
Charlie slowly rolled over. The fire was still burning outside of the cave, and the soft glow it cast made Claire's eyes glitter. She was awake and her hand was reaching for him.
"Please, come here."
There was no way for Charlie to resist her beckoning. He rose to his knees and went to her, stopping beside her. She was trying to sit up so he helped her, though putting his hands on her felt like he was defiling the Mona Lisa.
"I read it," she said simply, and Charlie winced. "Charlie." He looked up, meeting her eyes sheepishly.
She put her arms around him and pushed her face in the crook of his neck. He smelled like sweat and dirt and man, and she preferred it over the pompous colognes Thomas liked to douse himself in.
"I knew it," she said in a small voice. "I knew there had to be a reason I felt like this around you. At first I thought there was something you weren't telling me, only I was afraid to ask, and I guess you were afraid, too, until now. Thank you for telling me, Charlie."
Charlie was surprised, to say the least, to find his arms full of Claire. He had expected harsh words, stinging slaps, and maybe even tough little fists, not hugging and holding and thanking.
"Claire, love, are you saying you're not angry?" Charlie asked quietly, leaning back enough to see her face. She was crying. i This is it/i he thought, and braced himself for the berating he knew was coming.
She gave a watery laugh. "Charlie, I thought you said you'd read my diary! Didn't you get it? I didn't understand it until now, but it's so obvious. I love you too, you silly goose! I want you to be my baby's father and help me raise it and I want you to protect me and I want to help you with the withdrawal and I want you to be there even after the rescue boat takes us home!"
"You —Oh. Claire, you mean—" Charlie broke off, unsure what he wanted to say in the first place.
Claire looked at his bloodshot eyes and the dark circles beneath them. She wrapped her arms around him tighter and pulled him down to lay beside her.
"Charlie, please stay with me," she whispered. She felt his lips ghost over her forehead as his arms snaked around her waist, one of his hands resting on her stomach.
Lying there with Claire in his arms, Charlie was sure that on nights like these, there didn't exist a more content person than he, not on this island and not anywhere in the world.