Sharing the Night

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Desmond and Charlie are both restless with fear and despair. They decide to spend the night together. Set after the events of 'Par Avion'.

Warning: This fic could be interpreted as friendship, mild slash or bromance. Take your pick.

Disclaimer: For the last time…I don't own Lost!!

Authors Note: This is my last fanfic. The practical reasons are that I am beginning a new original novel and feel that I must sacrifice all my other writing ventures to focus my energies on this project. My other (more emotional) reason is that this hobby is no longer giving me the pleasure that it once did. I feel like I have already written the best of my stories and am now just clinging to ficcing out of old habit. As most of you will know my enthusiasm for Lost has been severely deflated by the death of Charlie Pace. For me this is not only the death of my favourite character, but a death of hope within the story and as my dear Sayid once said "...hope is a very dangerous thing to lose". If by some miracle Charlie is brought back to life then I may return to Lost fanfic. But for now I feel like my work here is done. I hope my fellow fanficcers will continue to carry the flame without me.

Dedication: I would like to dedicate my closing story firstly to every person who has read and commented on my stories and secondly to Desmond Hume and Charlie Pace; the true heroes of Lost and the characters that inspired me to write.

Desmond was always loneliest during the nights. These blue black stretches of time where he lay in quiet solitude as the wind swirled the empty space inside his shelter, its chill pimpling his arms which were empty too. Arms that had once held a woman's body to his chest…in those nights long ago.

It wasn't urges of the flesh that made him yearn for Penny. His term in the monastery, his prison sentence and his long isolation in the hatch had conditioned him to a life of celibacy. No, it wasn't base desires that stirred him. What he missed was her golden head resting upon his shoulder and her honeyed breath warming his cheeks. When he had slept with Penny all of his daylight insecurities had melted from his limbs like a frost exposed to the sunshine. Desmond would lay awake treasuring her closeness, their togetherness…a fading memory of contentment that still haunted him through these restless hours when he ached over her loss.

Desmond jerked upright in his tent, rearranging his blanket and shifting his position in a feeble attempt to cure his insomnia. His eyes were snared by a figure sitting outside his shelter. Charlie's knees were drawn into his chest. His nervous stare was set on the lapping waves. He watched the ocean with a keen suspicion, as though he imagined that its tides might suddenly rear up and drag him away to their salty depths. Charlie turned his head reluctantly as he heard Desmond shuffling behind him. The whites of his eyes were clear and stark in the evening shadows. His hand jerked up to rub the back of his neck, a self-comforting gesture to soothe his embarrassment over being caught huddling before Desmond's tent.

"I…I can't sleep…" Charlie muttered, sheepishly. "I haven't really been sleeping too well since…" His sentence trailed away. For a moment he looked at a loss. Then he closed his eyes and swallowed hard.

"I don't feel…safe," Charlie confessed.

The moonlight painted a white mask over the blush on his face. Charlie looked very young in this light, his features made soft and childlike by its pearly glow. Desmond had noticed that Charlie had been taking more care over his appearance of late. He was shaving every morning, running a comb through his hair and washing his clothes more often than he used to. Charlie didn't want to die scruffy. He was tidying up his manners too. There was less sarcasm and waspishness peppering his speech. He was on his best behaviour now. He was papering up his cracks and still carrying himself with the much bruised sense of dignity that Desmond had perceived in him early on. Charlie didn't want to believe he was vulnerable. He didn't wish to accept that the universe had made him its perpetual victim.

Desmond shifted, uncomfortably. Charlie's presence did nothing to relieve his tension or his sorrows. The young Englishman, whose death haunted his waking visions, had become a spectre of all his unstoppable failures and futile hopes. He was the albatross around Desmond's neck which he could neither save, nor shake off. Desmond could never sleep with Charlie so close.

He cleared his throat. "Does Claire know you're here?"

"She's sleeping…" Charlie murmured.

Desmond swallowed, catching the hint of bitterness in his voice. When he had seen Charlie and Claire holding hands on the beach that afternoon, he had felt relieved. He had believed that Charlie was no longer suffering alone. Yet here he was…still sitting in fearful isolation. Desmond remembered the look on Claire's face when he had broken the news to her earlier in the day. Her expression had been sullen and remorseful; the look of a little girl who has just been deprived of her favourite toy. And maybe that's all that Charlie was to Claire. A little novelty that she could pick up and then put aside as it suited her. Desmond remembered how easily the girl had become distracted and deserted the picnic that Charlie had spent a whole morning preparing for her; a vain attempt to seize and cherish the fleeting time that remained to him. Those new fruits had been left uneaten and forgotten…

Desmond knew how deeply Charlie cared for his girl. This girl who he had shielded from a lightning bolt. This girl who he had swum out to rescue from the ocean. This girl who he had crawled over treacherous rocks for…trying to bring her yet another token of his affection. It seemed Charlie would die a thousand times for Claire. If she didn't realise it before she most certainly did now. Yet even with this knowledge she was still sleeping soundly this night.

Desmond felt his sympathy for Charlie exceeding his own miseries. Here was a good man, who didn't deserve this fate. If Desmond couldn't prevent it, the least he could do was not leave Charlie comfortless.

"Would you feel safer if you slept with me?" he asked.

Desmond ought to have felt awkward making this suggestion, but his offer came without a ripple of embarrassment. He watched Charlie's face closely as the mask of his bravado slipped, revealing a young man who didn't want to die, who wasn't ready to disappear and who couldn't understand this endless cycle of assassinations that the universe had launched upon him.

He met Desmond's eyes and nodded.

It was in this moment that it occurred to Desmond that…that Charlie looked like Penny. Well, not like her exactly, but there was some uncanny similarity. Something like a family resemblance perhaps. He could have been her younger brother. They had the same tarnished shade of blonde hair, the same pale blue eyes that pierced through his disguises and defence mechanisms…

Then Desmond realised. It wasn't how Charlie looked…it was the way that Charlie looked at him. The way that Charlie needed him, depended on him. The way Charlie respected and understood him. The way Charlie, in his brighter moments, was one of the few people who could still make Desmond smile. And yet this was the one person on the island who he was certain to lose. He knew in his heart that destiny wouldn't relent or be swayed from its course.

So yes…in many ways Charlie was like Penny.

The two men shared no more words. They crawled beneath the blue tarpaulin and lay down together on the same blanket. At first they simply rested side by side. Desmond felt Charlie give way to his exhaustion; sleep overtaking him like a wave and holding him beneath its current. After a moment he rolled onto his hip and rested his head on Desmond's shoulder, unconsciously drawing closer to the one person who might offer him some frail sense of security.

Charlie was not an easy bedfellow. He flinched and muttered in his sleep. He was ceaseless and aggravated as an itch that needed to be scratched. It was as though his body knew that it was living out of time – that he was lost and lingering in a world where he no longer belonged. Charlie wasn't a part of the picture anymore. He ought to have been rubbed out. The lad wouldn't be here this night were it not for Desmond's attempts to preserve him.

Desmond wrapped his arms around Charlie's twitching form, trying to soothe and still him. He held Charlie as if he was trying to contain something, as though at any given moment, Charlie might fracture and break apart, the life force spilling out of him like yolk. If Desmond wasn't careful…he would be left with the mess on his hands. But in truth he wasn't gentle with Charlie. He was always shoving him and exploding at him in his frustration. He could still remember his temper the night that he had slammed Charlie to the ground, pinning him to the sand and shaking him roughly by the throat. He might have killed Charlie with his own hands that night if Hurley hadn't been there to pull him off. At the time Desmond had been so drunk and so terribly desperate to make Charlie and the flashes…just…stop.

Maybe this was only a momentary respite, but Desmond was determined to stay awake and keep Charlie safe if only for a few darkened hours. Charlie had come to him like a child woken by a nightmare who couldn't shake his fears amidst these oppressive shadows. He needed Desmond to hold off his terrors, so he could rest a while inside his withering cocoon of peace. At the same time Desmond needed to feel he was still capable of protecting someone. If it had been Penny lying with him now he would have leaned down and kissed her brow. But he wasn't going to insult either his lover or his friend by substituting one for the other. Charlie wasn't Penny and yet the two had become inextricably linked in Desmond's mind. Charlie was the last straw he was clutching in the shaky belief that fate would not hold power over him. That some day…he would be with Penny again…

Desmond's eyes were raw and heavy by the time that sunrise invaded his tent. As the light grew Charlie slipped from his arms and crawled from the shelter without a word - just an apologetic glance over his shoulder. Desmond raised himself on his elbow and watched as Charlie returned to the patch of sand beside Claire's bed, where he slept in the manner of a servant more so than a boyfriend. Charlie wouldn't let anyone know he had slept in Desmond's tent…in his arms. They would avoid the mocking remarks that the likes of Sawyer and Nikki would no doubt cast upon two men sharing a bed. The others wouldn't understand what was happening to them, so they would not know of it. This was something that Desmond and Charlie would keep to themselves. The secret burden that they shared…just as they had shared this night…just as they would share the final parting that was still to come.

The End