Okay, I'm warning you guys now. This one's pretty intense. Rated for drug/alcohol use and suicide. I tried to make it realistic... it seemed Charlie-ish, so I hope you understand. I felt it was a side of Charlie that we have yet to see, and in sharing it with Claire it would change & solidfy their relationship. Enjoy!


Charlie sat stone-still, his stiff and aching back against the cave wall. His eyes were half open but still alert. He dared not take his eyes off Claire. It was the second night of Claire having these disturbing dreams at night. He couldn't bear the look in her eyes and the desperation in her voice when she awoke, so he took it upon himself to make sure that it didn't happen again. He hadn't been sleeping much anyway. Besides, he quite enjoyed just watching Claire sleep less than two feet away from him. Her soft lips had a gentle, vague half-smile playing on them, and the contours of her full cheeks contrasted beautifully with the smooth curves of her nose. The curled eyelashes on her delicate eyelids twitched slightly as she dreamt what seemed now to be peaceful dreams. Her blonde waves fell half across her face and fanned slightly around her head. One of her hands rested palm up near her head, on her hair. Her other hand sat protectively on her bulging tummy. He grinned down at her in his crooked, undignified sort of way. Most things he did lately seemed to be with a lack of dignity, but he guessed he had used up all his dignity long ago.

With some detachment, Charlie allowed his mind to wander back to a night two years ago that he had long since pushed out of his mind, refusing to relive it. He could remember it all so clearly, and as the images played behind his eyes, a cold shiver coursed through his tired body.

It was two in the morning on August 15th, and he was in the bathroom of his old apartment. He had just come off of a bad trip, and his stash was now once again drained. He was lying fully clothed in his empty bathtub. His right hand glided upon the edge of the tub while his left hand was busy kneading his forehead with his knuckles. He had a pounding headache, he could have sworn that his brain was swelling, or his skull was shrinking. But more than that, his whole body burned with bitterness, sorrow, and self-loathing. He was sick of feeling this way. He was sick of having to turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary redemption. He was sick of life. He couldn't take it anymore. His left hand slid up his forehead and his fingers closed on his hair, and he yanked it in frustration. In a sudden fit of rage, Charlie jumped up and threw himself against the bathroom wall. His head collided with the drywall painfully, and he fell backwards into the tub. He got back up and did it again, his raw fury emerging from his mouth in an anguished yell as his head connected with the wall again. He sunk back down into the tub, and with another shout, he lunged forward, purposely bashed himself as hard as he could against the porcelain of the tub. This time as he flew backward, the back of his head caught the faucet with such force that he jerked back forward, bringing his knees up to his chest and resting his head in them. He squeezed his eyes shut as his hands ran through his hair and lingered on the back of his head, his chipped black fingernails digging into the back of his neck. He sensed his body shudder and he felt sobs dragging from his throat, but he had lost complete control. He heard his voice crying out to a God he wasn't even sure he still believed in.

"Oh God, please, God, stop it, please, just make it stop, please, please, make it stop…"

Putting an end to his pleading with disgust and attempting to regain control of himself, Charlie opened his eyes and picked his head up, bringing his hands down. As he looked into his palms, he found something he had not been expecting: blood. His hands were covering in blood, and as he felt the back of his head, he could tell that his hair was matted with it. As he stared at his hands, he felt something strange... something that was oddly similar to relief. He studied the blood as the world spun around him and he thought about something. This was his life, and he should get to decide when it was over. If there was one thing he could control, it was his death right now. He got out of the tub, a look of cold resolution on his face while he searched the bathroom drawers for something he could use to end it now. He came across something in the second drawer: Liam's old pocketknife. Liam had always carried it around with him, he was paranoid like that. Presently, Charlie picked it up and took it with him as he sat back in the tub. He unfolded the blade and examined it carefully. So this was it. It was going to be all over soon… with a sigh, he drew a long line down each of his inner arms, from the curve of his elbow to the end of his wrist. He gasped from the pain as he stared down at the gashes on his arms, and a curse escaped his lips. This is what it had come to. This is what he had been pushed to. This is all he had left. Filled with anger and anguish, he leapt up once more and pounded his fists against the wall, screaming out to God once again.

"WHY, GOD, WHY!"

With his hands against the wall, he leaned forward and took a few deep, gasping breaths an attempt to steady himself. His eyes slid in and out of focus, and when he looked up, he saw blood smeared on the wall from his wrists. Blood was now all over his jeans, his T-shirt, and his Vans. Suddenly it seemed much more real. As he closed his eyes, it occurred to him to leave some sort of message forever whoever should happen to find him. He fished into his pocket and came up with a Sharpie. Opening his eyes, he scrawled five words on the wall:

LOVE ME WHEN I'M DEAD

Dropping the Sharpie into the drain, he ambled out of the bathtub and stumbled over to the sink. The pain was searing into him, and he had to lessen it somehow. He leaned over, opened the cabinet under the sink, and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. Charlie pulled the cap off and took a swig, groaning at the burn he felt in the back of his throat. It seemed fitting to him that his relief should be painful as well. But as he lifted the bottle up to his mouth again, he suddenly felt himself getting dizzy. The bottle slipped from his grasp and shattered on the floor. His knees buckled under him, and he fell onto the broken glass on the hard tile. The last thing he remembered was one of his mates, Zap, opening the bathroom door, calling his name in horror. But then the room swirled into darkness, and there was nothing more.

Charlie blinked a few times, clearing the memories from his head. Presently, Claire began moaning in her sleep. This wasn't the first time that night, and he knew exactly what to do. He took the hand that was on her hair in his, squeezing it gently. With his other hand, he ran his fingertips slowly, soothingly up and down her forearm. But something different happened this time. As Claire's moaning subsided, she rolled onto her side and closed her other hand around his. She awoke slowly, and when she looked up at him she had innocence in her pale blue eyes. She sat up and removed her hands from his to tuck her hair behind her ears. Charlie seemed slightly disappointed.

"Charlie… have you been here all night?" Claire asked him, the grogginess clearing from her voice.

"You bet, love," he said with a yawn. He hadn't meant to add the "love" part, it had just slipped. Claire didn't seem to mind, anyway. She smiled.

"You should sleep."

"Ah, it's not important. I have a promise to keep," he reassured her with a grin.

"Thanks, Charlie," she said gratefully. Charlie nodded. "I know I shouldn't be, but I'm still scared. I feel better with you here."

"Well, don't worry, you," he fussed playfully. "Nothing's going to get you. You're perfectly safe here."

"How can you be so hopeful at a time like this?" she said softly, tilting her head so that it rested on his shoulder. A rare cold breeze wafted in from the beach, and he felt her shiver against him. He shivered too, but not from the cold.

"I happen to be a strong believer in fate. That gives me hope," Charlie answered her. He looked down at his hands lying palm up in his lap. "Two years ago, I tried to kill myself. Fractured my skull, slit my wrists, fell on a broken whiskey bottle. I lost so much blood, I almost died. I should have died. But… something bigger than just me pulled me through. I remember waking up in that hospital bed and being alive and… looking down and seeing the stitches on my wrists. That's when I started believing in fate." He shut his mouth. He didn't have the vaguest idea why he had just told Claire something that he had been hiding from even himself for two years. There was just something about her that made him want to spill his soul to her. When he finally forced himself to meet her eyes, they were wide and sparkling. She looked down at his arms, noticing the faint scars on his wrists for the first time.

"I'm so sorry…"

"No, Claire, don't be. It's not you're fault. Quite the contrary." At this, Claire looked up at him, confused.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean…" he paused and took a deep breath. "Being here with you, for you, it's helped me get out of that place in my life. You little catalyst, you."

"Not quite," she said with a clever half smile.

"How so?"

"Well… A catalyst is something that changes without itself being changed. You've changed me too, Charlie... I don't feel alone anymore."

They both shivered again. As they sat in silence for a few moments, Charlie noticed Claire's eyelids begin to droop. He smoothed her hair around her face and put his arm around her.

"You, my friend, need to sleep," he told her. She nodded slowly, but instead of moving back to where she had been sleeping, she closed her eyes right there on Charlie's shoulder. He smiled. Silently he considered how much he had changed. Two years ago he just wanted his life to be over. Now he wanted nothing more than another day, because he knew he could spend it with the woman he had grown to love.