Title: The Pilgrimage
Author: Counter Spark
Disclaimer: I don't own Lost...if I did I would probably be bathing in liquid gold...er something.
Summary: With no where to turn, Charlie decides to trek into the forest with absolutely no intentions of going back. But, what happens when he falls into the hands of the enemy, and any chance of survival is unlikely at best? CC fic, pretty angst-ridden but romantic at heart.
A/N: This is post Fire and Water, so it's as up to date as possible. With that said, on with the literature!
The wind bit him with it's sharp, cruel teeth as he ducked into the undergrowth. Charlie Pace was shaking all over, but it seemed almost like nothing compared to the sinking, desolate feeling in his heart.
Oh God, she hated him.
He had never been one with 'friendship' and the like- he hadn't really come into himself until Shaft made it big, and then...well...you know. But he had had a friend; real, whole, and absolutely beautiful. He could remember those days when she was taken with him. She had been so full of life, and there was nothing like the lifting sensation in his stomach when she would laugh at all of his corny jokes. He had been so high, and this time it was completely natural. No side effects except complete elation.
Then Ethan came along, and put a right stop to that. Looking back, the whole Ethan fiasco seemed like a big, dark, painful blur...all he could remember was the hopelessness as they brought him back to camp with nothing to show of 'bravery' or 'courage'. Just a necklace of bruises.
He would've died for her. He realized this as he lay restless on the salty ground the night they brought him back from the gallows of the jungle. When Jack was pounding on his chest, literally beating away the death, he wondered, were he given the chance, would he have come back? What was your existence without the lady-love you let down? Without her, what was he? The ghost of a man? God himself (whose existence at the moment was heavily doubted) could have held out both hands to Charlie, the left containing his life, the right containing hers.
It wouldn't have taken a sodding second to make that decision. In fact, he would've scolded Mr. Universe for actually believing that he would have to think about it.
Thinking intensely in his haze of sorrow, he tripped over a broken log jutting out into the mass of shrubbery and leaves, falling clumsily into the soft, wet dirt. Grimacing, he pulled his fractured knee close to him and shut his eyes tight. He wouldn't stop. He couldn't stop. Desperately he grabbed hold of a loose tree branch and hoisted himself back up, walking blindly into the green mass of nowhere. How long had it been? How long since he left camp? Five days? To him it seemed like an endless nightmare he couldn't escape.
The night of Claire's return had been etched clearly in his mind and his dreams ever since she had indeed returned to him. There was commotion- endless commotion- and suddenly out of the corner of his eye he saw a vibrant flash of bright, blonde hair swinging left to right in the black of the night. Slowly, heart pounding and breath caught in his throat, he turned around to this possible figment of his tortured dreams. But it was no figment, and from then on he dedicated his entire being to protecting her.
Too bad she wouldn't have that.
And now he was quite sure that he was going mad. Bonkers. Completely schizo. He was walking blindly into the green abyss, for no apparent reason whatsoever. How long had it been since he had taken a rest? How long had it been since he had actually eaten? Days?
But, oddly enough, he felt no hunger and no need for rest. All he felt was the blind desire to flee into the forest and never return, and he had no idea to what he could accredit that reckless desire to. He dedicated his entire being to this mad flight, and he took no notice of whether or not he needed to rest or eat. He had transcended hunger and pain, or so he thought. That's why collapsing in a tired heap on the grass took him completely off guard.
He felt like a limp balloon. 'Damnit', he cursed himself lightly for his lack of strength. After all, wasn't that what landed him here in the first place? He pushed off his endless, self-abusing thoughts and tried to get up, but his arms felt like rubber. Defeated, and hating himself more than ever, he rested his head on a damp pile of leaves.
Almost instantly, he passed out in the hazy coolness of the undergrowth.
'Shhhh...," she said, wiping the hot tears from his soft cheek. "Your mummy loves yoooou!" This didn't seem to help at all, as Aaron looked up at her with deep-seated confusion in his shiny blue eyes. "Tell mummy what's wrong?"
"Gahhh!" Aaron screamed desperately into the fierce wind, reaching his small, stubby arms into the air.
Sighing, Claire looked into the edgings of the jungle. He'd been a crying mess for the past couple of days, and she knew exactly why. Of course, knowing something in the back of your mind doesn't always mean you're going to acknowledge it's there. So she didn't, and continued to act like she was clueless to Aaron's hissy fits.
But, truth was, she did know, full well if she'd stop being a pushover and admit it. One word, a word she'd been trying to chase from her mind for the past 5 days or so, was the answer to her crying child as well as the nightmares.
Charlie. Good old lying, drug-using, baby-stealing Charlie. "Damn you," she muttered lightly in the wind, eyes fixated on the forest. Even as the words escaped her mouth, her heart sunk with guilt, and she knew she didn't mean it. But, what was she to do? He was a liar; he was a drug-addict, and damn it all to hell, he did snatch Aaron out of his crib in the middle of the night, stark-raving mad with all his insane baptism rantings.
But, somewhere in the chasms of her old, worn heart, she felt two things. Firstly there was the guilt, and then came the pity. She would awake in the middle of the night with him on her thoughts, wondering silently: 'Back at home, I would've helped him. I would've reached out a helping hand. Why did I turn him away?' After all, in this modern age, drug-abusers are usually sympathized with- told gently that 'they have a problem' and then (with the support of friends and family) sent to a friendly rehabilitation center. That's what friends do...they support friends. Driving him away was like driving away a time bomb. And when he imploded, or, more frankly, when she would most likely find him OD'd and dead in his tent, what on earth would she think then, hmm?
And then we approach the prophetic-dream state. What if he was truly having dreams about Aaron dying? If that happened to her, she would hover over her son like a hawk until she was absolutely assured that there wasn't any real danger. How simple would it have been to sit down with Charlie and just...talk? To just ask him about the dreams, and listen to what he had to say? But, no, she drove him away, and now he could just as well be buzzard food in the middle of the jungle.
How does that feel on the conscience, Claire old gal?
Balancing the wailing Aaron on her hip, she looked once more to the green mass of the jungle, frowning. Outwardly, she wanted it known that she had no part in pitying him. That she could really care less about the man who snatched her baby. But, deep in her heart one solitary sentence was beating frantically over and over; a cry of desperation:
Oh Dear God, please let him be okay.
He awoke to the sound of a snort, approaching his ears with echoing horror. Opening his bleary eyes slowly, he was met with one of the most terrifying images he'd ever witnessed.
Kicking up dirt wildly, the hairy adversary snorted into the air, eying Charlie with growing violence. His small, black eyes radiated malice, and Charlie's heart nearly stopped dead in his tracks.
Run, you crazy fool, he thought, fear pounding his mashed brain. What are you doing...RUN!
But he knew full well what he was doing. He could hardly even move, and he felt an overwhelming swoop of nausea and fear that seemed to cement him to his spot.
The boar began to approach, sniffing angrily and somehow looking disappointed at Charlie's lack of action. His tusks glinted in the fading sunlight- his heavy hooves pounding the soft dirt.
Now, he thought manically as he shifted in the wet leaves. Charlie, with all his fading strength, managed to propel himself to his wobbling feet. You have to run now. Truth was, running wasn't going to bode so well on an injured leg and an empty, exhausted body, and he knew it. But he had to try.
He could've sworn the boar smiled at him as he swiftly turned his head and started to bolt.
Immediately he was struck with a thunderclap of sheer, excruciating pain in his knee every time his foot fell on the jungle floor. He felt the sudden, overwhelming urge to fall into a heap on the soft, inviting ground, but the huffed, stressed breathing of the boar right behind him urged him otherwise.
His legs were like rubber- hollow and non-existent. All he knew was that he was still moving...and...well...that was at least something. The boar cried wildly behind but he still flew through the trees with such dumb-luck that it had to be magic.
Of course, he should've known that the odds of escape were miniscule, but hope flared like a wildfire in his heart, and for a few bright moments, he thought he might be free.
This was foolishness, though.
Suddenly he felt something hard and cold ram into his back and sent him flying feet into the air. He had failed.
Gut instincts told him to scream- to shout for help be it all far, far away. But then he would have to chose between rescue and pure, hard shame. What if they did hear him? Would he rather face their questioning, never-understanding stares, or death by slaughter?
Downtrodden and more angry with himself than he had ever been, he was silent as the roaring boar ran at him and drove his tusk into his side. He did not cry out.
This is it, he thought in agonized pain. So ends the life of Charlie Pace- the man who's life made everyone feel better about their own. He closed his eyes and braced for the final 'squish' as the boar would drive his tusks into his still-beating heart.
But oddly enough, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Charlie could hear the sounds of the boars labored breaths retreating, trotting away into the undergrowth. Amazed, he shot open his eyes and craned his neck to look at the boar. Their eyes met for a moment, and the boar regarded his crumpled, bloody figure with disinterest as it walked away.
He didn't have time to rejoice, because the pain was overpowering. Glancing down at his pierced side, he watched with numbed horror as blood slowly streamed from his body onto the wet grass, like thin, red ribbons. Alright, he thought, strangely amused, now ends the slightly delayed life of Charlie Pace, the man who was killed by a bloody wild boar. His eyes fluttered shut.
Charlie Pace's body wouldn't be found for two hours.
Next time: Is Charlie dead? And, since you mentioned it, who found his body? And dangit, what is up with Claire? You will surely find out in the next installment of 'The Pilgrimage'.
A/N: Hello, lovely readers. Might I say you all look dashing today. Okay, I won't use compliments to grovel for reviews...instead I'll just...grovel. (?) Anyway, any reviews or questions or comments would seriously be greatly appreciated, and I can't wait to deliver the next chapter! Trust me, I got some good ideas brewing in this head of mine.