Title: What Lies Beneath the Surface

Rating: PG/K+

Summary: Sayid sees things in Charlie that no one else sees. Set during Whatever the Case May Be.

Characters: Sayid, Charlie, mention of Claire

Disclaimer: You know the mantra. Say it with me. I do not own Lost.

He hadn't spoken a word in four days, not since Jack had brought him back to life, if you could call it that. All evidence to the contrary, Charlie certainly did not appear to be alive. In fact, Sayid had never seen anyone so lifeless -- a thin, fragile shell with nothing on the inside to shore it up. Bright, angry bruises bore witness to his trauma. It was as if the soul had departed but neglected to inform the body.

Watching Charlie brood from the sand hill, elbows resting absently on his drawn up knees, staring out towards the ocean, Sayid thought back to the first time that they had met. From the moment he had boarded the plane, Sayid had felt the weight of his fellow passengers' stares, the sting of their mistrust. And fear. There was always fear. Fear of the stranger, the other. That fear did not dissipate with the crash of flight 815. Rather, on this island, fed and nurtured by the fear of death and the unknown, it took root and grew. Sayid had known prejudice, but he had never felt fear like this. Some leered at him; others gave him a wide berth. One particularly insulting ignoramus accused Sayid of single-handedly crashing the very plane that he himself had been on. How was he to convince them that he was not their enemy?

In the end he had decided that he would earn their trust one castaway at a time. Here, he need no longer be known as a military communications officer for the Republican Guard. No more would he be known as the Iraqi or the Arab. Here he would simply be Sayid, and he would work side by side with anyone who desired rescue.

Not everyone had been blinded by ignorance. There had been some that were as eager to prove themselves as he was, some who had seemed as grateful as he for a chance at a new life, however unfortunate the circumstances.

Sayid had met Charlie on the very first night.

While passengers had collected chairs and blankets and prepared to bed down for the night, Sayid had begun to build a large signal fire, one that he was determined to keep alight. He would have appreciated help, but a few curious onlookers aside, none was forthcoming. Then Sayid had spotted a strange young man.

He was small and blonde and was sitting by himself, legs crossed, head bent low over his lap. At first Sayid thought he was asleep, but then he noticed his fingers drumming against his faded jeans, as though he were either bored or impatient. At any rate, he was sitting barely a meter from the fire and Sayid had no one else to ask.

"Hey you," he had tried. "What's your name?"

At his voice the man had lifted his head. He had been awake after all but still seemed somewhat sleepy and slow to respond.

He had paused to focus before answering, "Me? Charlie."

"Charlie," said Sayid, "we need help with the fire. No one will see us if it isn't big."

Sayid had been surprised when, despite the man's dulled initial reaction, he sprang right up on command.

"Okay, I'm on it. What's your name?" asked Charlie.

"Sayid," he replied.

"Sayid," repeated Charlie, as if concerned about getting it right. "I'm on it, Sayid."

Sayid had walked off to collect more firewood, marveling to himself over how easy it was to misjudge a person. He hadn't expected much from this odd stranger, and yet he was somehow confident that Charlie would not let him down. Sayid had felt humbled; even he was not immune to fear.

The next day Sayid had found Charlie alone and fidgeting again and suggested that he help the others collect the stray luggage from the beach. When Sayid had checked back on him a short while later, he saw Charlie talking to Claire, the young pregnant girl. She was laughing, her face lighting up the beach, brighter than the sunshine. For the first time, Charlie didn't seem quite so small.

Sayid had long suspected that beneath the eagerness to help lay a fierce loyalty. Others may have underestimated Charlie, but Sayid had known his kind before and was not surprised that Charlie would one day defend Claire to his near death. Sayid had known such men in war; they were the quiet ones from whom no one expected any particular acts of valour, yet would throw themselves on a landmine in an instant to save a friend. They were the ones for whom Sayid had the highest respect, far more than for the most decorated soldiers. Had he been a commander, Sayid would have taken an entire platoon of Charlies over overconfident fighters pumped up on their own bravado and a lust for glory like steroids.

He strode across the sand and approached him now, but Charlie made not the slightest reaction. It was as if he either didn't notice or didn't care. Sayid guessed the latter, most likely. He ignored him right back and spoke anyway.

"I was wondering if you could help me with a project," said Sayid.

No response. Charlie continued to stare off into space as if he hadn't heard. Sayid pressed on.

"The French woman's maps," he explained. "Shannon has agreed to help me with the translations but there are notes and what appears to be musical notation as well. I thought maybe you could interpret it."

For a moment, Sayid thought he would be met by more silence and considered turning away. Just before he did, Charlie spoke, though his eyes remained fixed.

"What good would that do," he muttered. "You said she was a nutter."

It would give you a sense of purpose and perhaps some peace, he thought, but instead he responded, "Her maps may help us to locate Claire."

Her name had the effect of smelling salts. Charlie blinked and looked at Sayid for the first time with a quizzical expression, as if wondering what he was doing there.

"We will find her," Sayid told him.

For a fleeting instant, the Charlie that Sayid first met flared to life behind the man's eyes before retreating again into shadow.

It was a start.