Title: This Year's Love
Author: Edie
Rating: R, but only because I had to use a few bad words. :)
Summary: Claire reflects on what she means to Charlie. Hints of Shayid, Shannon/Boone, and Jack/Kate.
Disclaimer: Oh, how I wish I owned Lost! But then I wouldn't be writing fan fiction. I'd be out throwing myself at Naveen, Josh, Daniel, Matthew Dom and we just can't have that… can we? Also, I borrowed the title from David Gray. What a haunting song! Go! Listen to it immediately!

ETA: Whoop, whoop me! Forgot the lj-cut. sheepish smile

This Year's Love

"This year's love had better last
Heaven knows it's high time
And I've been waiting on my own too long
But when you hold me like you do
It feels so right
I start to forget
How my heart gets torn…"

-David Gray's "This Year's Love"

Charlie is standing by the fire, back facing Claire. The glow of the flames casts a haunting orange shadow all around him, making his dark t-shirt seem somehow all the more black. His hair is scraggly, just like she likes it, and his posture is tired. He is trying- failing, she suspects, if his steady stream of irritated British babble means anything- to heat up the water in their matching cups. Wants to make her tea from some herbal concoction he'd requested from Sun. "Nothing like a cuppa before bedtime, love." The sentiment lifts the corners of her mouth into a ghost of a smile and she raises her hands to her rounded belly in an unconscious gesture of contentment, before looking away from him.

It is bedtime up at the caves. She thinks it's cute how everybody manages to clunk out at the same time, as if they were all nothing but kids in preschool settling down for naptime. As if she and Charlie are some sort of rebels for staying up later. She half expects to be scolded but of course she isn't.

Her eyes wander around her, taking everybody else in. Jack isn't asleep either. He is sitting on a rock by the path that leads to the beach staring aimlessly into the trees. He looks so expectant that she knows he's wishing that Kate would appear magically before him. There's something so poignant in his waiting that it makes her blush a little bit. Then she remembers that Kate is more than likely up as well, talking to Sawyer, and that that must weigh heavily on the doctor's heart. Claire wants to go to him herself and assure him that Kate truly does have feelings for him but she doesn't move because when push comes to shove she doesn't know at all. Maybe Kate isn't talking with Sawyer at all. That great big hooch! Maybe Claire should talk to her.

Or maybe Kate is on the beach, waiting for Jack to come to her. So many maybes.

Shannon and Sayid, however. Her smile returns when she looks at them, cuddled together in her nook. They are spooning and his hand is resting protectively against her middle. Shannon is smiling in her sleep and it is the realest Claire has ever seen her. She tells herself she is looking at perfection, that this is love and love done right. She ignores Boone, who is obviously pretending to be asleep. He is staring at the two of them with a look Claire can't- won't- define. She doesn't know the emotion behind it but there is something in his gaze that makes her feel a thousand different kinds of wretched. She pictures herself with that look of bitter confusion, outside the apartment she had shared with Thomas. She had been thinking of her stupid curtains and wondering if she had all of her clothes. She hadn't even thought of her pregnancy in that moment because all she knew was that that was her home and she didn't even have the key in anymore. He had taken it all away from her and there was something so belittling in the fact that if he had only come out at that second she would have forgiven him anything. Just love me and it won't matter.

Pathetic.

Scoffing a little at her own weaknesses, Claire looks back at the fire. Charlie must have burnt himself because he is swearing up a storm and sucking pitiably on his finger, tea cups on the ground beside him obviously forgotten. She wants to see perfection here as well but she isn't brave enough for that anymore. Isn't naïve enough. She sees what she knows and she knows that it won't last, even if she wants it to so bad it gives her tremors thinking on it. This is love in the perfect setting, polar bears aside, and she knows the real world will steal him right back.

Claire sees them when he kisses her. Hundreds of beautiful women with perfectly pert pouts and the rosiest lips imaginable. Girls with holes in their stockings shoved up against the wall and oh God, Charlie, just like that. High as a kite, all of them, and fucking their idol until the stars in the sky explode in a vast array of colour.

She doesn't expect him to stay with her, not really. She's a fun diversion, she gets that, but who wants the girl with the stretch marks and the crying baby when he can have all of them and all of them at the same time if he should want it that way? Even Thomas hadn't wanted her for the long haul and he had been nothing more than a shitty artist without a hope in hell of fame. His kisses had tasted like cigarettes and blind ambition and she'd been stupid enough to feel safe in that.

Claire isn't stupid now. She doesn't believe in true love, anymore. She believes in convenience and what is right at the time. She has to settle for being alright with that. But someday she'll be standing with her son watching Charlie leave and won't she be dead inside? Not surprised but oh so empty all the same. She wonders if the pill will fail on her then too and if she'll have another reminder of a man who once loved her. Claire and her little brood of illegitimate children. The thought makes her want to cry.

Charlie seems to have abandoned the idea of tea. He is walking towards her now and she has to blink a few times to look normal. Tells herself to give into the now. She offers him a tiny smile when he sits beside her.

"Tea is highly overrated," he announces, smiling rather sheepishly, "Just plain water for us, love. Nothing fancy, mind, but if you shut your eyes and think on it real hard…"

She shuts her eyes and accidentally pictures a baby girl with messy blonde hair and a whiplash grin, a beaming little daughter who would call for Daddy with a saucy almost British accent. A son swept up in his arms, laughing down at his little sister, and look how much Daddy loves us!

Claire wants to kick herself. Instead, she takes one cup from Charlie and clinks it amiably against his. Or almost amiably anyway. She thinks her smile falters.

"Claire, what is it?"

He places his cup down on the ground and she wonders why he has to say her name so much. It always makes her go a little weak in the knees and Claire hates to feel so foolish in the face of all of her cynical knowledge.

Slowly, she raises her hand to his cheek, tracing the contours and lines on his face with a sort of reverence that makes Charlie look at her rather strangely. He remains silent however so she is free to commit every nuance to memory. When he leaves she wants to be able to remember this moment; wants to always be able to draw upon this second when he does indeed love her.

"Charlie," she begins. Stops. His own hand closes around hers and pulls it away from his face. With a squeeze, he holds it in his lap and they stare at each other. She feels too open. She has never been good when faced head on and promptly chokes up a little. "Promise me… Charlie, promise me you're not going anywhere."

He wants to make a crack at that, she can see it. Where would I go, love? I'm surrounded by miles and miles of ocean! But he doesn't. Something darkens his gaze slightly and then he's looking at her with such an intensity that she almost wants to look away.

"I promise, Claire. Not going anywhere."

She nods and lets him hug her close. Cheek against the rough material of his shirt, she closes her eyes and basks in how nice this feels. She tells his great big bunch of mystery girls to shove off because this time she wants it to last.

This time some silly innocent part of her heart almost believes it will.

The End