Disclaimer: "LOST" is the property of ABC. Title from "Signal Fire" by Snow Patrol.

but the sound was trapped deep in me

Dan leans on the rail and stares at the horizon. This is supposed to help with seasickness? It's moving. The horizon, that is. Kind of independently of the rest of the world, actually. Once he went to London for a weekend and did one of those Thames cruises and it made him think that he liked boats. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Pacific Ocean, it turned out, didn't have much in common with the River Thames. Really, he'd prefer to be below decks, but...well, that's where everyone else is, and he can't help feeling out of place. And like everyone's staring at him. Crazy Daniel Faraday, fried his brain so bad he can't even be left alone in his own home for too long--

"It's a bit weird, isn't it?"

He starts at the voice and grips the rail, a sickening image of himself plummeting into the slate grey waves flashing through his mind. "Er, weird?" he asks, wondering if he's been talking out loud -- wouldn't be the first time -- and turning to see...damn. The woman on the team with him. What's her name? Sharon, Sherry...Shhh...something. No no wait, not s-h, c-h...Charlotte, that's it. Charlotte.

"Was I...was I talking to myself?" he asks, flicking his eyes from her face to the superstructure to the sky to -- well, anywhere but back to her face. She's freckly and fair-skinned and her red hair falls onto her shoulders in waves, and her accent reminds him of Oxford, and she's pretty enough to be intimidating. Definitely pretty enough.

"No." She sounds amused. "I meant it's weird, the two of us on this ship."

He can think of things that are much weirder. "What specifically?" It sounds awkward and he puts a hand up to his face. Sometimes he wishes he wore glasses. It'd be something to fiddle with, something to keep his hands occupied when they're feeling big and in the way.

Charlotte leans next to him but looks at him instead of the ocean, and he's not ready for that. Her eyes are disconcertingly gorgeous and he has to look somewhere else. "We're academics. With all these people. You've noticed they carry guns on board? We've only just left Los Angeles, what could they possibly need guns for?"

Does she expect him to have an answer to this? "Well, I think...they might not've told us...everything."

She arches an eyebrow. "You think?" But she says it like it's endearing, not idiotic. "I thought Naomi and I might get on, but..." She trails off, shrugs. Dan knows the feeling. He used to have high hopes that he'd get along with people. Of course he doubts Charlotte has the same problem he does.

"Yeah," he finally agrees with her, "I don't exactly have much in common with...well, anyone here."

She elbows him. "Me, remember? Naomi says you taught at Oxford -- I did my PhD there."

"Maybe we met," he says, wishing he could say he would remember her. Eight years ago he would've remembered her. Not now. Now he can barely remember what he ate for breakfast, or what she told him her degree is in. Something in the social sciences...cultural anthropology? That sounds right.

"Maybe we did," she replies, studying him with those blue eyes of hers. There's something she's not saying. After a second, she stands on her toes and leans over the rail, peering down at the water, and his arm twitches out involuntarily to pull her back before he can stop it. Like she's going to fall in. Why would she fall in? He hopes she didn't see that.

She did. She glances at him out of the corner of her eye, a bemused smile on her face and he puts his hand to his neck, wondering how rude she'll think he is if he just walks away, because that's really the only way to save the situation. Well of course it won'tsave it, it will put his relationship with Charlotte on the same level as his relationships with Frank and Miles, which is to say uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing for everyone involved, like why are we all stuck together and supposedly working together when we can barely have a conversation, and...maybe he should say something before he goes.

Swinging an arm a bit wildly to point behind him, he stammers, "I'm -- uh -- I'm going to go. Notes -- I have to take some notes, and -- um --"

Charlotte turns to face him and tilts her head. "Do you prefer Daniel or Dan?"

He almost loses his balance as his legs start to walk and his brain sends the message to stop, wait, she's still talking. Sea legs. He doesn't have his sea legs yet. That's what it is. "Um...either. Either's fine. Dan, Daniel...whatever you prefer."

There's somehow still a smile on her face. "Okay. Dan it is, then."

He gives her a quick smile, fidgeting a little. "Sounds good."

"So then, Dan." She crosses her arms over her chest and studies him for a moment and he thinks he knows what's coming. They all get the same look in their eyes; they don't want to offend, but they want to know, and then they wonder how crazy is crazy, does he have anything sharp on him? Pursing her lips, Charlotte says, "Everyone told me you're...not all there."

With a snort of self-derisive laughter and a glance down at the deck, he says, "Yeah. Yeah, they would. That's true. I guess I am. Or...I'm not, I mean. A bit. Can't blame them, really, I mean...yeah, you've...you've seen." He wishes he could get through a sentence without stumbling over nearly every word.

She shrugs. "I don't think it's right. Them saying that."

"Ah, well, they're in good company, most of the staff at Oxford said the same thing--"

"Well, I don't think you're crazy," she interrupts, her eyebrows raised, and he doesn't know what to say to that. So he just doesn't say anything, furrowing his brow at her instead and some unknown response on his lips. "Is that so shocking?" she asks, sounding...outraged. No one has ever sounded like that before. Not about this. In Essex all anyone was interested in doing was labeling him, pigeon-holing him. And then they'd be understanding and sympathetic and he was well enough to live on his own, that was great, right? Oh he's psychotic but not too psychotic just take these pills every day and we'll send a caretaker is that all right? Two three five seven days a week? You need this, really you do.

"Uh, yeah," he says. "Yeah, it's a little shocking. But nice. Definitely nice." He gives her a doubtful look. "You might change your mind once you get to know me."

"Mm." It's a noncommittal noise, but he hears within it no-I-won't and it makes him feel something he hasn't felt in a long time, which he doesn't really have a name for because he's never been good at emotions and feelings. Too intangible, too unpredictable. No equation to describe love and pain and loneliness, and he is all equations, at least he tries to be and it's probably part of the problem.

She's smiling at him and after a moment, she reaches out and touches his elbow lightly. "Want to get a bite to eat with me in the canteen?" she offers.

Funny, but fifteen minutes ago the last thing he wanted to do was eat. "Yeah," he says, running a hand through his hair. "I'd like that." And then, just to make sure, he says, "Charlotte," testing it out, seeing how it feels rolling off his tongue. She gives him a curious look, but he just shakes his head with a, "Thanks."

Suddenly it comes to him -- what he's feeling. That sort-of warmth that eats away at the clenched knot of ice in him, that's the feeling of finally having someone accept him as he is and look at him like he's a normal man; of someone taking the time to talk to him in this unfamiliar place where he'll never fit in. It's the feeling of...well, friendship.