One of our Own
Authors Note: Of all the Lostie leaders, I have always like the way Sayid handles Charlie. He won't put up with any of his crap, but at the same time Sayid does not belittle and patronise Charlie like Jack and Locke do. I think Sayid has respect for Charlie. He is one of the few people who recognises Charlie's fierce need to protect Claire and Aaron. You can see this in the scene where Charlie shoots Ethan. Everyone else has their faces screwed up in shock and confusion, but Sayid is staring at Charlie with an expression of solemn understanding. Afterwards Sayid councils Charlie and utters one of the most intimate lines of the show; "You are not alone. Don't pretend to be." In all their scenes together I love that Sayid doesn't talk down to Charlie like most characters do. This last chapter was a joy to write – a meaty bit of interaction between my two favourite characters.
Chapter 3: Sayid Jarrah
It was late in the day when word reached Sayid of the kidnap attempt on Sun. At first he had been consumed by vengeful desires. He had been pacing the sand, considering what should be done and forming vague strategies in his mind. Then he had been met by Jack and Locke, who had taken him aside and explained that it wasn't the Others who had attacked the Korean women in her garden. Sayid could hardly believe it when they named the real perpetrator.
It didn't make any sense. Charlie was one of the people who had been most victimised by the Others. Now he was pretending to be one of them? For what purpose? It all seemed terribly twisted. Sayid felt the same sick feeling in his stomach as he had upon learning that his old friend Essam had been drawn into a terrorist cell. And just like the American CIA agents, Jack and Locke were asking him to do something about it. Once again Sayid felt caught between a sense of friendship and a sense of duty. He was struggling to decide where his loyalties should lie.
Sayid was now standing in the main corridor of the hatch. Locke was at his side, motioning him towards the door of the store room.
"He's been in there for over an hour now," Locke explained. "I don't think he'll give you much trouble. But we can't let him out until we know why he did this. He's becoming a danger to the camp."
Sayid nodded, understanding the gravity of the situation.
"Is there anything you need?" asked Locke.
Sayid frowned, confused by the question. Locke's tone was so pleasant you would think he was offering him a cup of tea, but there was a hint of something darker in his voice. Something manipulative. Sayid remembered the day that Locke had given him one of his knives. How later that same knife had ended up buried in Sawyer's arm. Was Locke trying to force his hand again?
"I'm not sure what you mean, John," Sayid answered, dryly.
"Never mind," said Locke, dismissively. "I'll be out here manning the computer for the rest of the afternoon. Call me if you need me."
Sayid nodded acceptingly as Locke opened the pantry door and ushered him inside. The first thing Sayid did was reach for the light switch for the store room was in total darkness. As the bulb flickered to life, it revealed the metal shelves and wooden crates that crammed the tightly-walled pantry. Charlie was sitting on top of one of the larger boxes with his knees drawn up to his chest. He was grimacing with discomfort as he struggled against the rope binding his wrists together. As the light came on, Charlie raised his head and squinted at Sayid, his eyes stung by the brightness. After a moment, his face hardened and he went back to twisting his hands.
"It's been a while since we last talked," Sayid began, pleasantly. "I'm sorry that it is under these circumstances that we are speaking to each other again. I always enjoyed our chats, Charlie."
Sayid felt himself slipping into his old routine. At the beginning of an interrogation he would always speak softly. He found it lulled his subjects into a false sense of security and encouraged them to relax their tongues.
"I've been very withdrawn from the camp lately," Sayid went on. "I've found it necessary to focus on menial tasks in order to take my mind off things. I was not aware you were having problemsuntil recently."
Sayid winced over the word 'problems'. It was only four days ago that he had first learned that Charlie was a recovering heroin addict. They had been living separately (Charlie in the caves and Sayid at the beach) when the musician had gone through his initial withdrawal. It was only now that Sayid realised his mistake in leading Charlie by the Nigerian plane and informing him of its cargo. He felt like he had contributed to this downward spiral that Charlie was taking – and not only by revealing the drugs to him. Sayid had also confessed to Claire that Charlie knew about the contents of the statues. She had a right to know, of course, but it was partly because of his admission that Charlie had lost the person he loved most on the island.
"Locke told me what you did this morning," Sayid stated, bluntly, though his tone remained gentle and coaxing. "He also told me about the statues he took away from you. I thought at first that the heroin might explain your behaviour of late, but despite the abundant supply of your drug, Jack seems certain that you have not relapsed. I find that very curious indeed."
"Sayid…" said Charlie in a voice that was hollow and weary. "If you've come here to torture me then why don't you just get on with it? There's no need for all this small talk. Just go ahead…I deserve it..."
Sayid was taken aback by Charlie's abruptness and his lack of concern for himself. At the same time he felt ashamed to be so readily associated with the act of torture. But then he supposed he only had himself to blame for that.
"You seriously believe I would torture you, Charlie?"
Charlie shrugged. "You tortured Sawyer."
Sayid had to confess it was always a temptation to use torture in situations like this. Such methods were admittedly brutal, but regularly effective. But still the prospect of torturing Charlie unnerved him. Only a few weeks ago, Charlie had allowed Sayid to pour gunpowder into a bleeding gash on his forehead and set it alight in order to close the wound. Sayid had held him down as he writhed in agony, but he had been shocked at how quickly Charlie had recovered himself. In less than a minute he had shoved Sayid's hands away and climbed to his feet with a blazing look of determination in his eyes. It seemed the small wiry man had a high threshold for pain. Sayid imagined he would hold out much longer than Sawyer.
He forced these thoughts to the back of his mind. He reminded himself that there were other ways a good interrogator might break down a person's barriers. It could be said that those ways were the more painful.
"Sawyer taught me a valuable lesson," Sayid replied after a pause. "He taught me that torture tends to be ineffective when it is used on someone who wants to be punished. I don't make the same mistake twice."
"Well, if you're not here to torture me then why did they send you in?"
"Charlie, I am not a hired thug! Nor am I taking orders from Jack and Locke."
Charlie raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure about that, Sayid? Seems like they've got everyone under their thumb these days. Don't you see it? They've taken over. They treat the rest of us like peasants…"
Sayid bit his tongue as he realised what Charlie was doing. He was trying to deflect from his own questioning. This was a familiar tactic. He predicted that Charlie would try to distract him by changing the subject, going off on tangents and stalling for time to avoid having to tell the truth.
"Is that what this is about, Charlie?" asked Sayid, shifting the focus back to him. "Are you trying to make yourself feel important?"
Charlie rolled his eyes. "You wouldn't understand, Sayid…"
"Do not insult me. Understanding the complexities of human behaviour has always been an integral part of my profession. Pardon my immodesty, but it is something that I excel at. I always felt I understood you well, Charlie. But I do not understand what you did today. I'm asking you to explain."
"Look, I wasn't going to hurt her, okay?" he answered, sheepishly. "I wouldn't do that. I only wanted to scare her. That was all."
"So this was an attempt to frighten Sun and the rest of the camp into thinking that the Others were attacking us again? Is that correct?"
"Yes…but I only wanted to…"
Before Charlie could finish, Sayid grabbed him and threw him down on the pantry floor. Charlie yelped in alarm and struggled to roll over onto his back. He raised his bound wrists to his face. Sayid loomed over him. His muscles twitched with fury, yet he had no intention of beating Charlie. Pain was not compulsory. Interrogation is all in the voice, the timing and the sharp sense of danger. Sayid wanted to be sure he was getting the truth from Charlie. And besides he had his own reasons for being angry at him over what he had done.
"Do you see no harm in frightening people, Charlie?" Sayid did not allow him to answer, but proceed to bombard him. "You yourself have experienced this fear of being taken against your will. You've been abducted and dragged away through the jungle. Now you would inflict that same fear on Sun? You would make Jin fear for his wife's safety after all the fretting you did when Ethan took Claire? Now you would make a mockery of that fear?!"
Charlie squirmed as though Sayid's very words were needling him. Charlie rarely spoke about the ordeal he had suffered at the hands of Ethan. Most of the time people were considerate enough not to mention it to him. But Sayid wasn't holding back. He needed to impress upon Charlie what he had done.
"Do not underestimate fear, Charlie. It was fear of the Others that led to Ana Lucia opening fire on Shannon. An innocent young girl was shot dead and the only motive of her killer was fear. If you start using fear as a weapon then you are becoming like them, Charlie. You are becoming one of the worst things that I have ever encountered in this world. You are becoming a terrorist…I do not wish to see another one of my friends becoming a terrorist, Charlie…"
Sayid took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. His voice had become thick and strained at the mention of Shannon's death. An interrogator isn't meant to show his own emotions, yet the grief in his voice seemed to have a powerful effect on Charlie. It appeared to have shaken him to his very core.
"I…I'm so sorry, Sayid…" he stammered.
Sayid pulled Charlie off the floor and sat him with his back against the wall. He crouched by his side, his eyes burrowing into him.
"I'm not interested in your apologies, Charlie," he said. "I want to know why you attacked her. I want the truth."
"It wasn't anything personal against Sun!" he babbled. "I promise you! She was just part of the plan…it wouldn't have worked without her!"
Sayid eyed him critically. Charlie seemed to be far more compliant now, but he was still talking in excuses rather than confessions.
"What was the aim of this plan?" he probed.
Charlie frowned, his face twitching, as though he were contriving an explanation his mind. Sayid couldn't allow him to delay his answers. He grasped a clump of his blonde hair and yanked it roughly.
"Tell me!" he growled. "Tell me why you did it!"
Charlie gasped in fear and surprise. He answered hurriedly. "I wanted to get back at Locke, okay! I wanted him to look like a fool!"
"How does attacking Sun make Locke look like a fool?"
"I…I don't know…I can't remember…it was just part of the plan!!"
Charlie seemed genuinely confused. Sayid wondered why he couldn't comprehend the workings of his own plan. Then he realised.
"Charlie…did someone put you up to this?"
He flinched. "No! How could they? Nobody even speaks to me anymore! I did this all by myself. It was my idea! My plan!"
"A plan that you can no longer make sense of? You're lying to me."
"I'm not lying! If you'd just give me a minute…"
"Tell me whose plan it was, Charlie! Give me a name!"
"I'm not giving you anything!" Charlie yelled, defiantly. "It was my plan! I'm taking the blame for it. Nobody else."
Sayid knew that he was lying, but Charlie wasn't giving an inch. He decided to drop this line of questioning. With a little consideration, it was obvious whose plan it was. There was only one person in their camp who would conceive of a plan like this and would manipulate a desperate outcast into being his accomplice. Sayid wondered why Charlie was protecting Sawyer who by rights should be locked in this store room with him. But he decided to leave the matter for now.
"Why did you want revenge on Locke?"
Charlie's eyes filled with bitter tears. "Why do you think?"
"Because he hit you?" he ventured.
"Because he took them away from me!!"
"Took what away? The Virgin Mary statues?"
"NO!" he screamed, hysterically. "Claire…and Aaron." He could barely bring himself to speak their names. His voice was wracked with sobs. His face was creased with despair and exasperation.
"He…he turned her against me! He's got her thinking that I'm dangerous…that I'm gonna hurt the baby. I would NEVER do anything to hurt him! I thought that this was my test…I thought it was my destiny to…to save him! Locke was the one who got me believing in those things! I thought he was my friend! He was the one who helped me to quit and now he…he doesn't even believe me when I tell him I'm not using. He's got Claire thinking the same thing. He's ruined everything for me! Claire and Aaron were all I cared about and he's taken them!"
Sayid loosened his hold on Charlie. Another thing that he had learned in his career as an interrogator was that once your subject begins to break down and speak the truth, it is better to offer them a little comfort. At this stage, comfort is more of an incentive to them than continued threats and intimidation. Sayid released his hair and laid his hand flat upon his head in a soothing gesture.
"It's so bloody easy for him!" said Charlie, weeping openly now. "Saint Locke! He's so perfect. He can go hunting for them, he can find them water, he can make cribs and he knows how to swaddle. He's got all those knives to protect them with! They don't need me anymore. They've got him. He's their bloody hero!"
Charlie's words were overtaken by his tears once again. Sayid sat back and allowed him to cry for a while. He felt he understood now why Charlie had lashed out. In truth he was relieved to find that his actions were borne out of his love for Claire and his resentment towards Locke for driving them apart. It could have been worse. If Charlie had done it for power or for drugs, Sayid would have felt less pity for him. In a dark corner of his mind (a part of himself that Sayid loathed) it occurred to him that if he ever did need to force information out of Charlie, threatening Claire would be the way to get it. He tried to banish such thoughts from his head.
Sayid turned back to Charlie, who was still sniffling and twitching as he sat huddled against the pantry wall. As his sobs died down, Sayid decided to offer the broken young man a little perspective.
"Charlie…in the week after we crashed on this island I was alone in the hills trying to find the source of the French woman's distress signal. A man crept up behind me and struck me a blow to the head. This man then destroyed all my equipment and left me bleeding and unconscious in the grass." He paused for a moment and then added; "I later discovered this man was John Locke."
Charlie lifted his head, blinking in astonishment. Sayid got the impression he might have just shattered his entire belief system.
"Bloody hypocrite!" Charlie exclaimed.
Sayid nodded, carefully resisting the urge to smile.
"Take this as a warning, Charlie. Locke is not to be trusted. But I ask that you keep this information to yourself. To his credit, Locke did confess this to me and we have settled the matter. I would strongly recommend that sometime soon you do the same thing with Sun. Take her aside and tell her all that you have told me. She is a gentle and compassionate woman. My guess is she will forgive you. Then maybe you can start to forgive yourself."
Sayid began to untie his hands. His movements were slow and delicate for he was aware that Charlie's skin was raw beneath the cord.
"You're…you're letting me go?" Charlie spluttered in amazement. It seemed that he had been preparing himself for a much longer period of incarceration. "You don't think I'm…mentally disturbed?"
Sayid shrugged. "No more so than the rest of us."
With his hands free, Charlie began rubbing the feeling back into his wrists. Sayid took hold of his elbow and raised him to his feet.
"So what happens now?" Charlie asked.
Sayid sighed. "I know it pains you to be without Claire and Aaron…but I think you must give her some space for now. You need to clear your head, Charlie. I'm building some new structures on the beach. It's helping to take my mind off what happened to Shannon. I think you might benefit from a similar distraction."
He nodded. "I guess this means you'll be keeping an eye on me, right?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," he admitted.
"Fair enough." Charlie actually smiled. "Thank you, Sayid..."
The Iraqi felt his heart clench inside his chest. It was the first time that he had ever heard those words at the end of an interrogation.