She Tells Him That His Name Was Charlie

Rating: PG
Warning: Spoilers for S4.
Disclaimer: I ask. And they say no.
Summary: I always get inspirations for random stories like this when I'm in the shower. It's weird.

His Greatest Hits are framed and nailed to a white, plaster wall above Aaron's bed.

He has a full blonde head now - just like Charlie did. And she wonders if that means something. Even the blue eyes are similar. So whenever she sees him…she can't help but think of him.

The ring is kept in small, black box so it won't be damaged. Aaron has to wait until he can wear it. Although, she sees that he's so eager. Sometimes she finds him secretly opening the box and trying to slip it onto his finger. It slides off and falls hard on the wood floor. Aaron looks up at her guiltily when he notices her in the doorway. He sees the sad expression in her eyes and he feels like he's done something wrong.

Aaron often turns to her and points up at the framed list. The writing is still quite bold, but the paper has been torn and water stained. If she took it out now, she's nearly positive it'll crumble in her hands. Aaron can't read yet. He asks her what it says, but she never answers. She doesn't feel that it's right for those words to be uttered into the clear open space. Maybe it should've just stayed inside him all along.

"Did he write that for you, mommy?"

She answers yes, but she never elaborates. The strange thing is…she's told him who Charlie was. Aaron is very well aware that he's dead. He doesn't remember the young British man that adored him for only a few mere months, only to die for him later. But she's never told him what Charlie looked like. She can't do that yet.

Aaron has never asked about his father. She begins to think maybe he doesn't know he's supposed to have a father. Or, maybe, he just thinks it was Charlie.

Years pass, and Aaron is still distraught that he can't wear Charlie's ring. Aaron doesn't know why he wants to wear it…but he knows it's for him. Finally, she has the strength to tell him that it was probably an heirloom in Charlie's family. She lets Aaron keep it on a chain. He's old enough to keep it safe now.

He's also old enough to finally read the list.

She walks in on him, standing on his bed so he's eye-level with the frame.

" 'The night I met you,' " he reads slowly. He looks at her over his shoulder. "He was talking about you, mom?"

She nods. Aaron asks what that night was like.

She doesn't tell him.

Aaron easily gets distracted and he hops off the bed and runs into the kitchen. She stares up at the frame and sighs. Soon he'll ask her more questions, and she's not sure if she can answer them.

Aaron comes to her crying one afternoon. He tells her that he's lost Charlie's ring. She starts crying too and they both search the house until they find it stuck in one of the air vents. It's a little scratched, but other than that it appears fine. Aaron promises to keep it safe. They put it in his bedside drawer.

A year passes and Aaron turns ten. So she tells him that Charlie was in a band and was famous. Aaron seems rather proud, and he announces - "I'm going to tell all my friends at school my dad was famous!"

She winces when she realizes she's never told him that Charlie isn't his real father. She should tell him. And yet, she doesn't.

Aaron is convinced he's having a growth spurt, so he tries the ring on everyday. And everyday, it slips off his slender fingers. She keeps telling him it probably won't fit until he's at least in high school. But Aaron is convinced. He asks her if Charlie was tall and strong. She laughs and tells him no.

Aaron asks her what he looked like. The smile on her face freezes and diminishes into a frown. She won't answer.

Aaron has made his own theories and stories about the Greatest Hits list. She wonders if they're accurate. He says that Charlie must've done something really amazing for the woman he mentions to call him a hero. Aaron comes up with outlandish stories and it's all she can do to stop herself from laughing.

She wonders what the real stories were.

A few months later, she finds a picture of Charlie on the internet and she prints it out. Aaron is sitting at the kitchen table, doing homework and trying to perfect his handwriting. She glances over his shoulder and sees he's writing his own list. She winces and sits down next to him.

He's listed "when daddy saved me from the Island" as number one. He looks up at her, his thin lips curved in a frown.

"I can't think of anything else!"

"Maybe you have to wait until you get a little older," she tells him quietly. She pushes the list of scratchy, hardly readable handwriting away and places the picture of Charlie in it's place.

"This is Charlie, Aaron."

Aaron picks it up and holds it in front of his face, studying it. He puts it back down and looks up at her.

"Mom, I know him."

She blinks and looks around the kitchen as if expecting Charlie to be standing there with them. But all she sees is the tiled floors and the refrigerator. "You don't know him, Aaron. He died."

"No!" Aaron protests. "Sometimes he comes and visits me before I fall asleep. He walks me to the bus stop in the mornings and he's there to pick me up and walk me home. We talk…and…he's funny, mom. Haven't you seen him around?"

Her breath catches in her throat. She's not exactly sure how to respond to this. She waits for Aaron to ask her why she told him that Charlie was dead. But he doesn't. Instead, he glances down at the picture one last time before bolting from the kitchen table to go turn on his after-school cartoons.

Kate never was able to get a hold of a picture of Claire.

She wonders if maybe she found one and showed it to Aaron, he'd tell her that he'd seen her around, too. Maybe she was holding hands with Charlie again.

Maybe Kate will ask someday.