Disclaimer: "LOST" is the property of ABC. Title from "You're All I Have" by Snow Patrol.

Strain This Chaos, Turn It Into Light

It's awhile before Charlotte says anything, and Dan has to fight the urge to break the silence between them. He's not really sure why she's gotten so quiet -- she was talking to him back at the Tempest; she hugged him after he assured her that it definitely was safe, he definitely shut off the gas release. He guesses she'll talk when she's ready and he'll save his questions for then. No problem. Much better to just let her talk when she wants to talk.

He glances at her out of the corner of his eye and grimaces a little at the scowl on her face, though he knows it doesn't have anything to do with him. She's glaring at Kate, who glances over her shoulder every so often at the two of them (plus Juliet, who is trailing behind them).

"I wish they'd piss off," she finally mutters. "It's not as though we need a bloody escort."

Dan looks at Kate and Jack, who either didn't hear her or don't care, before leaning closer to her and saying placatingly, "They're suspicious. I mean, look at some of the stuff they've gone through on this island."

"Well, they know we just saved all their arses." She sighs loudly and rolls her eyes and lapses back into silence, and Dan is left mulling over it, until a few minutes later they come to a stream. More of a trickle, really, but as they're tromping through it, Charlotte declares, "I'd like to stop."

Kate rests her hand on her hip, where her gun is tucked into her waistband. "What for?"

"I could use a break, too," Juliet speaks up quietly, and Dan is grateful for that. Jack shrugs and gets out a water bottle to refill and Kate looks annoyed. Annoyed, but outvoted, and she doesn't have much choice about letting Charlotte jerk her head towards Dan and leading him a few meters downstream.

"Are you all right?" he asks, because he's been desperately needing to know since they got the Tempest secured. He's noticed some bruises darkening on her face and a scattering of cuts.

She looks, for a second, like she's trying to master barely suppressed rage, but then her expression grows a little less heavy and she drops her eyes to the stream. When she kneels down, she doesn't answer for a second, instead splashing water on her face. "Yeah," she finally replies, wincing as the water touches the worst cut and dribbles down her cheek clouded with rusty red blood.

"Maybe you should have Jack or Juliet take a look at that," he suggests.

In response, she sniffs. "No thanks. I'll manage."

For a moment, he watches her scrub her face clean of dirt and blood. She is bleeding again, though, and seems intent on ignoring it. "Well, maybe...I could, if you want."

"Honestly Daniel, it's just a scratch," she snaps. He furrows his brow and nods, looking away from her, taking the hint, but she sighs almost immediately and reaches out to touch his arm. "Dan -- sorry. I didn't -- that was unfair."

It's not like he can hold it against her, though, or anything, for that matter. "Don't worry about it."

She settles onto her knees and takes a bottle out of her pack to fill it. Raising her eyebrows, she asks, "Is it really that bad?"

"Er -- sorry?"

She motions to her face without even a flicker of annoyance at his lapse. "This mess."

He figures that's the closest thing to acceptance he's going to get, so he rummages around in his pack for the first aid kit that he's sure he threw in here before they left the beach, and upon finding it (thank God), he shuffles closer to her, sinking his leg into the stream up to his ankle in the process. Charlotte makes a sympathetic noise and starts to help him out, but he waves away the assistance and takes out iodine wipes and gauze. First aid isn't exactly his strong point -- his hands shake, but he's pretty sure he can handle this.

Her hair is falling over her face so he lifts it gently away, his fingers brushing against her freckled skin, and he swallows and is glad for the icy water flowing around his ankle. Charlotte meets his eyes and he wonders if he looks like he's in shock (he sort of feels like he might be), because there's a twitch of a smile on her face. As he wipes at the worst of the cuts with the iodine, he can tell she's holding herself as still as she can from pain -- her breath comes in sharp puffs and her hands are clenched into tight fists. Dan can't help but think that that's what she's like generally, and he also can't help wanting to be the one to be able to make her unclench, to put a hand on hers and make her fingers loosen and open.

Her face relaxes a little when he picks up the gauze, and she asks, "What would I do without you, Dan?"

He laughs. Not hard, because...well, he's really close to her, and no doubt she can see every minute change in his expression, and she'll know how to read what he's thinking -- hopefully not all of what he's thinking, but enough to know that he gets she's not serious; she doesn't really need him.

"It's a good thing you were there earlier," he says, more to make conversation than anything else. "Where'd you learn to fight like that, anyway?"

She snorts. "It actually comes very naturally in the right situation. You had to work, and I had to make sure you were able to." With a wry half smile, she adds, "One works out how to throw a punch when faced with certain death."

"You've got a point," he says, though he can't really imagine a situation that he'd be able to throw a punch, definitely not effectively. He applies a final piece of tape to the gauze covering her cut and for a minute he doesn't move, making a great show of checking the other, much smaller scratches. He wishes he could do something about the bruise. Just as he thinks he can't keep up the pretense much longer, Charlotte puts a hand on his leg and looks at him steadily. "Dan, you were brilliant earlier."

It's very hard to hold her gaze. Probably everything that he's found himself feeling about her is laid bare in his eyes. At the same time he knows he should just look her in the eye. She's the only person -- let alone woman -- he's met in years who doesn't think he's completely nuts. "I was just...doing what they hired me for."

She really genuinely looks like she's impressed with him. "That doesn't mean you're not incredible."

"Well, it's..." And...yeah, no clue where he's going with that. He thinks he might be flushing; his neck definitely feels hot.

Unexpectedly, Charlotte closes the gap between them and kisses him on the cheek, a scratch on her lip accentuating how otherwise soft they are. He has to close his eyes and hope she doesn't hear how hard he swallows, and you know, it sure seems like she knows his feelings for her aren't entirely platonic.

"Thanks for patching me up," she says quietly, and she's still so close that her nose is touching his face lightly.

"Yeah, no problem," he forces out, trying to sound casual.

When she finally moves away, he's not sure if he's grateful or disappointed. Her face grows a little stony, her eyes, normally the color of clear blue water, become a little icy, and she remarks, "I suppose we'd better be off, then."

Dan follows her gaze to Jack, Kate, and Juliet, who appear to be growing impatient in varying degrees. "Yeah, I guess so." When he stands up, he forgets for a second that he's half-standing in the stream and stumbles a little; Charlotte gets quickly to her feet and steadies him.

"Thanks," he says.

She holds his arm for a second too long before letting go with a light, "No probs."

After that, Charlotte's in a better mood, enough so that he can tease her that her swelling cheek is starting to make her look like a chipmunk, and she laughs. He's got more questions now than he did ten minutes ago but no way to ask, no inkling, really, of how to ask.

The trip back to the beach takes most of the day and by the time they get there, the sun is low in the sky and there are a few pinprick fires burning in front of tents. There are going to be questions, probably. It depends on what Jack and Juliet told them all. So just before they delve into the fray of the survivors' camp, Dan grabs her hand to stop her. "Hey, Charlotte, wait a second." She tilts her head, obviously exhausted from the hike to and from the Tempest and the stress of what happened there but willing to hear him out. He's been trying to figure out if what he's about to say is a good idea or not or if he's just going to sound stupid. "I was wondering if...uh, if you want to eat dinner one of these nights. Just us, I mean. Somewhere..." He waves a hand vaguely towards the rest of the beach. "Somewhere sort of nice. And out-of-the-way."

Charlotte's face remains blank. "Dinner?"

"Er...I mean, if you don't want to, that's fine too --" He's babbling; letting his vocal cords unhook from his brain and run wild. "It's just that it gets a little loud sometimes, you know, with everyone here, it's -- it's hard to talk--"

"Daniel." Her no-nonsense tone stops him short. Or maybe it's the fact that she's put her hand on his shoulder and is staring at him, eyebrows raised.

For a second he thinks she's annoyed, but then he notices the hint of a smile on her face and he exhales in a rush. He squints at her and puts a hand to the back of his neck -- nervous habit -- and says, "I -- um -- it's...like I said, if you don't want to..."

"I want to. All right?" She's smiling, sort of hesitantly, and he begins to worry that she finally thinks he's a little too strange, a bit too much of a...a head-case. "It'll be fun, yeah? And we'll be back on the freighter soon; a little privacy here will be nice."

He mirrors her smile. "Yeah, yeah, exactly."

Charlotte clasps her hands in front of her and he's surprised by the warmth in her eyes and her smile. "I suppose this is how it starts, right? Long walks on the beach? Moonlit dinners?"

Without really thinking, he responds, "Oh no, there's no moon for a few days..." When he notices her mouth twitching with amusement, he stops and realizes aloud, "Joke. Right. Got it."

There's a glint in her eyes that he doesn't think he's meant to see but he doesn't stare, and after that he tries to answer everyone's questions as best he can so she can duck away to her tent and get some rest.

He's looking forward to talking to her in the morning. And he thinks she's right -- this is how it starts.