Disclaimer: "LOST" is the property of ABC. Title from "Soil, Soil" by Tegan and Sara. This is my 100th story on yo!
In Creeps the Morning and Another Day's Lost
Sunrise on the island is not exactly romantic. Nothing romantic about a giant, burning red ball of heat and harsh light, climbing over the horizon to reflect on the mirrored surface of the ocean and searing pale skin and pale eyes. Nothing romantic about steamy, hot days, the humidity so thick it can be cut, or swum through, or drunk right out of the air; feeling breathless with the strain of sucking such moisture-laden air into one's lungs. Nothing romantic about sweating, all the time, and being constantly sticky with sand and insects, and feeling one's hair glued on her forehead and neck.
No, no matter how inspiring sunrise is on the island to some people, Charlotte cannot find it romantic. But she still makes sure to be awake every morning for it, sitting quietly at the shore in the pastel-grey pre-dawn with the waves just barely slithering up against her toes, waiting for the first red fingers of light to come streaking across the ocean. It's a tradition, of sorts, almost a ritual, and Charlotte can be more ritualistic than she cares, as an anthropologist, to admit.
"You're here early today."
Charlotte smiles slightly to herself. She doesn't need to turn around to know who is standing behind her. "Maybe you're here late."
Dan drops unceremoniously to the ground next to her, gangly and awkward. "Well, the days are getting shorter. We can sleep in a little."
She knows that the smile she gives him is shot through with amused disbelief, but the reciprocating one from him is full of the understanding that she's not laughing at him.
This quiet moment for both of them -- she isn't quite certain when it started. Or how and why, for that matter. But it's comforting. It's constant, knowing she'll have Dan at her side in the morning, just like she did the morning before and just like she will the morning after. Nothing else feels quite so constant. Not on the island.
"Hey, Char," he begins, and she glances at him, her heart skipping a little because he omits the second syllable. "Do you think about the future much?"
She's about to say 'no'. Because in one way it's true, she doesn't. But there's another side to that truth, which is that the future is always in the back of her mind, cordoned off so she won't think about it, and that takes just as much effort as it would to just let it into her thoughts. "I wonder if anyone's coming for us," she finally answers noncommittally.
Dan nods, glances around, takes in the world in snapshots without looking at her. "Do you want them to?"
Red light gilds the horizon at that moment, giving Charlotte an excuse to remain silent. The sunrise can't last long enough to give her time to formulate an answer to that question, though.
As the bloody light reaches their faces, she turns to Dan, tucking away in her memory the way the dawn light catches in his hair, in case something happens and she never sees it again. One never knew. "I had a very promising career," she offers finally. A non-answer, which sometimes Dan accepts and leaves.
"Yeah," he agrees. "You probably wouldn't want to waste that."
She doesn't think, for some reason, that he really feels it would be a waste if she couldn't pursue it because she's here.
"Dan." It's a second before he looks at her. "You're not leaving, are you? The island. You'll stay."
His shoulders twitch upwards in a shrug, and he laughs in that way that suggests he's been told the only way to deal with some things is by having a sense of humour about them.
"I'm a -- um. I've got issues, remember?"
A head-case, Naomi called him, when they first met, and both of them being English and female made for instant -- though fleeting -- camaraderie. Charlotte presses her lips together and drops her eyes away from his gaze, and he adds, "I just think...this place is special, you know? And maybe -- I don't know. Maybe things are better for me here."
Charlotte raises her eyebrows, though she doesn't look back at him. "Well, are they or aren't they? You should know by now, yeah?"
He laughs, softly this time and in genuine amusement. "Pretty sure they are."
"Oh." Something is twisting, more and more tightly, in her chest. "Then what you're saying is, even if a boat came over the horizon right now, and we knew it was perfectly fine to get on it -- you wouldn't?"
"Not in a million years," Dan replies quietly and without hesitation.
Whatever it is inside her that's twisting suddenly snaps, leaving her with a cellular hum that for a long, painful moment she doesn't know what to do about. But then she makes a decision, and she sinks a hand into the damp sand and leans towards him. She braces herself on his knee with her other hand, and then she kisses him and the thrumming inside her fades away.
The thought of doing this has intrigued her for a long time, but Dan can be hard to read and she can be a coward.
She feels him put his hand on her back and return the kiss, though, and she considers deepening it, but maybe not; there will be plenty of time for that. There's that, and the fact that Dan doesn't pull away, but rather holds her carefully, as if he's afraid she might change her mind if he pulls her any closer -- that gives her the willpower to draw back just a little. Just enough to tell him softly, "That's part of the future I've been thinking about, if you must know."
For a minute, he seems at a loss for words, or maybe he's just making sure he chooses exactly the correct ones -- something that Charlotte has always been rubbish at. He keeps his hand on her back. "Me too, actually," is what he eventually settles on. "Coincidence, I guess." His smile is endearingly awkward and unsure, and she doesn't doubt for a second that hers looks precisely the same.
A wave suddenly crashes on the shore inches from their feet, and their legs get drenched by the foam before they can scramble up. While Charlotte curses and wonders how long it will take her trousers to dry, Dan takes her hand and she stills, looking at him.
"Don't feel like you should stay if you don't want to, Char," Dan says seriously. "Not because of that. Of this, I mean. It's not really worth it."
So maybe sunrises aren't romantic. Maybe to her they are an anchor to reality, an assurance that there is a sun here, and it rises and sets, and whatever happens that day it started out normal, following the laws of physics like any other place on the planet. But sunrise has given her...well, this; Dan by her side every day, no questions asked, no promises given, and now no demands made, and this...well, she likes it.
Charlotte gives him a wide smile. "Oh, Dan. It's worth it."
The red dawn grows gold and yellow as the sun climbs in the sky, and despite the fact that it is autumn, it is still going to be a stifling day; Charlotte knows this. Her hand, gripped in Dan's, is already slippery with sweat and his hair is plastered to his forehead. She wonders how long it will be before she's accustomed to this heat; if she'll ever be. And then Dan smiles at her, and it doesn't matter.