Title: What He Left Behind
Original Post Date: 07/08/2007
Word Count:
1177
Spoilers: Up to and including Through The Looking Glass with speculation for season four
Summary:
Claire had never needed a lot to remind her of Charlie.
Authors Note: written for the prompt of "present" over on 50darkfics


Claire had never needed a lot to remind her of Charlie.

His mere presence, constant and comforting, was usually enough. Whether he was just off down the beach, fussing over Aaron just across the shelter, or sitting beside her, Claire felt safe when she was with him.

There were his belongings too of course. His suitcases, his clothes, his guitar. When she had kicked him out, she had taken continual notice on just how bare and empty her shelter had seemed without his things – let alone Charlie himself. But he was always there in any case - off down the beach, helping Eko with the church…

When he moved back in, Claire's shelter become homely and cluttered again and she revelled in the sensation of sharing her space with somebody else.

Now however…

Call it premonition, call it women's intuition, call it whatever you want. Before Claire even walked into camp, Aaron bawling in her arms, she already knew. The world just felt...empty. The beach settlement felt empty, devoid of all laughter and life. The church that Charlie had helped Eko build stood half finished, a skeleton that would never gain an outer layer of flesh. When she found Desmond in her shelter, sobbing into his hands she knew beyond all doubt but she still had to make him tell her what had happened – if only to confirm that she was right.

Knowing – or rather, suspecting that she knew – didn't stop her from bursting into tears and crying all over Desmond. It didn't stop her from screaming at him until her throat almost tore. It didn't stop her from crying all night, rocking backwards and forwards with a squalling Aaron in her arms until at daybreak, he had fallen into an exhausted sleep and soon after she had followed.

She woke much later only to Aaron's pathetic yowls for food and she was surprised at how weak she felt as she reached down to pick him up. He felt much heavier than usual as she gathered him into her arms and set about nursing him. And then, the moment he finished feeding, he began to cry again.

Both of them cried all afternoon, mother and son, until Jack finally came and took Aaron out of her arms and put him back into the wicker cradle that John had made. As he did so however, Claire saw something shiny fall out of the bottom of the cradle and onto the sand. She darted forward, startling Jack so much that he raised his hands in defence.

And Claire picked up Charlie's DriveShaft ring.

Jack looked positively terrified as she burst into renewed sobs of such force that she almost started to choke. He sat her down and tried to calm her but it was a long time before she stopped crying and even longer before he finally discovered what it was that had set her off.

'It was Charlie's!' she sobbed helplessly, clutching the ring and pressing it against her lips in between sobs. 'It was Charlie's...'

Jack sat by helplessly until her sobs had ebbed away enough for him to make her lie down and let him pull a blanket over her shivering frame, still shuddering every so often with a particularly violent paroxysm of grief.

'I'll be here when you wake up,' he promised her, smoothing the blankets down unnecessarily. 'We're all looking out for you Claire.'

Claire shuddered once more, closed her eyes and slept.

When she woke the sky was grey and she had no idea what day it was or how long had passed since she had gone to sleep.

And Jack wasn't there.

Don't worry. If you want to close your eyes, I'll be here all night. I won't let anyone get to you. I won't leave you, Claire. Promise.

Claire looked into the palm of her hand where Charlie's ring sat, glinting dully in the early morning light and felt the cold sting of new tears sliding down her face.It took the better part of ten minutes to find her old necklace amongst her bags and belongings. She worked at the knot on the black cord insistently with bitten down fingernails – there were no scissors fine enough to cut them properly anymore – and finally it came free.

The necklace swung low as she leant over Aaron who was finally sleeping, his tiny face scrunched up into a frown. Claire touched his downy head and as his eyes opened, startlingly blue, he reached one pudgy hand up and caught the necklace in his fist as though by reflex.Claire felt the tears come again as Aaron murmured to himself, still holding tight to the ring that was now hanging on the familiar black cord.

'Look Aaron,' she whispered. 'Charlie left us a present.'

Aaron snuffled quietly and Claire bent to lift him into her arms. He didn't feel quite so heavy now, and she stood for a long moment and watched as Aaron toyed with the ring. She reached out to take it off him before he did something silly – like put it in his mouth – but then she paused, her hand curled around his, one finger barely touching the cool metal.

Aaron gazed up at her, suddenly silent, and the two of them stayed there for a long moment, both of them holding Charlie's ring.

'You're going to miss him aren't you?' Claire murmured. Her breath hitched suddenly and her sobs renewed themselves as she looked out towards the ocean where somewhere, Charlie's body was floating peacefully within the flooded control room of the Looking Glass station…

Claire had thought she had been alone before, that she had felt true loneliness. When her mother had gone into a coma, when her boyfriend had run away scared, when she had crash landed on an island, when the one person she had trusted beyond all others had lied to her…

If that was what being lonely felt like then she didn't know what this new feeling was. The sensation, the knowledge that Charlie was gone was ten times worse than any loneliness she had ever felt. A hundred times worse. His presence had vanished from the world as easily as somebody wiping the chalk off a blackboard and his belongings…well his suitcases were just suitcases now. They were cluttering up her space again.

She wanted Charlie to be cluttering up her space.

'I'm going to miss him too.' She stuttered out between sobs, and then she pressed her face into her sons blanket and cried.