"I don't understand bees."
Claire looked across at Charlie from her spot on the patch of dead grass that stretched out beneath a twisty, lifeless tree. The two of them sometimes came to this spot after taking walks along the shore or when they just felt like getting away from everyone else. It was quite nice and relaxing if you were in the mood for it.
"What do you mean you don't understand them?" She certainly wasn't surprised by his random remarks and thoughts anymore. In fact, she kind of liked them. They were welcome breaks which took her mind off all the important things. You know, like being a single mother stranded on an island full of stranded strangers in the middle of nowhere.
"I mean," he said, plucking a few strings on his guitar, "I don't get why people make such a fuss about them, why they're disappearing and all."
Claire chuckled softly, admiring the fiery sun as it sank into the cool blue ocean before them. It was a weird sight, she had to admit. "They're pollinators, that's why." She brought her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them, blonde hair twitching in the faint breeze. The night was cool and calm and she really felt like falling asleep at the moment but decided that it would be rather rude in the presence of company.
Charlie's brows knitted in apparent confusion, his palm resting flat against the guitar strings in an effort to mute the resonating sound. "Yeah, I know that much. But you would have figured that they'd find a way around that by now. It seems so.... you know, primitive. Do it all in a lab or something like that."
Claire glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, sitting a mere few feet away. "Well, you know," she said with a philosophical air, "some people have thought of bees as a model of human society, like, from Plato to Shakespeare."
Charlie spun around, guitar pick placed behind a protruding ear, obviously interested.
"You don't say! And I thought nothing good ever came of fancy book learnin'."
Claire grinned and shrugged her bare shoulders, which were now getting a little cold as the sun finally dipped all the way into the sea. "I'm glad my university education has enlightened you a little."
Charlie placed his guitar up against the thick tree trunk, placing some rocks near the base to make sure it didn't tip over. From their spot on the grass, they could see people back on the beach starting a fire. Day after day, this place was feeling more like home... a warm fire had now taken the place of a kitchen table, a place where everyone could gather round and feel okay. Oddly enough, neither of them felt like joining the dinnertime conversation tonight.
"So what you're saying is that people are scared that we'll start disappearing sometime soon?" Charlie now had his chin rested on the palm of his hand, an interested expression on his face, sitting next to Claire. She realized that he was smarter than this current train of thought was depicting him to be so she played along. It passed the time, at least.
"Maybe. Who knows. I'm more worried about the whole lack of pollination though, myself." Claire leaned back into the hard tree trunk, the harsh bark scraping against her skin. "No more fruit, no more trees... it's scary."
"Well, at least humans don't have to worry about that. I mean, you know, we don't have to worry about another species' survival in addition to our own." Charlie's gaze drifted upwards, taking in the thin, black branches silhouetted by the sky. "For example, see this tree? It's pretty much dead. It's got no more pollen left. And we're off the hook! It's great, really. We may have fucked up the rest of the world, but this," he said, excitedly, motioning to the branches above, "this is entirely out of our hands."
Claire arched an eyebrow and shot him a 'what the hell are you talking about?' glance. Really, she wondered, where did he come up with these things?
"You're not seriously comparing humans to bees are you? Don't you get all deep on me, Charlie." She was half joking, of course. The sound of his nonsensical conversations usually helped her drift off to sleep. And of course, she meant that in the nicest way possible. He never shut up.
"Not seriously, love. I mean, we've got a Queen too! England has a queen, rather. Hah, who do you reckon would be the queen of Mystery Island? My vote would go to Kate."
Claire shoved him hard, his back scraping against the bark. A sly grin spread across his face as she let out a small chuckle. "Thanks a lot, jerk."
Always the dramatic, Charlie started rubbing the spot on his shoulder blade that had brushed against the tree. "You've wounded me! See? You'd make a horrible Queen. No compassion at all. You should be ashamed of yourself Ms. Littleton."
Claire narrowed her eyes playfully and waggled an index finger close to his face. "I'll have you know that I was class president in my senior year. I had a lot of responsibilities and I handled them quite well."
Charlie snorted and brought his hands up to rest behind his head, leaning back into the tree. "That doesn't exactly qualify you to be a Queen, love. Kate's a fugitive! She knows stuff! All of us here are like sheep while her and Jack are like.... umm... sheep herders or something."
Claire shook her head slowly, tucking some hair behind her ear. "I can't see her being a decent queen though. What about Sun?"
Charlie turned his head to face her, his eyes wide in surprise. "Sun? Yeah, okay. And let's make Jin the King while we're at it, yeah? You can kiss democracy goodbye. Oh, and no more of these flimsy tank-tops for you, no sirree."
Claire looked down at her sleeveless v-neck shirt and frowned. "What, this? Come on, it's not even that bad."
"I wasn't complaining at all, love." Charlie gave her the once over, his hands still resting behind his head. She suddenly felt her cheeks burning up and was thankful that it dark now. The others at the camp were walking around the fire, roasting what could only be boar that had been caught a few days previous.
"Yup, I'm still standing by my choice," Charlie said quietly but yet excitedly at the same time, "Kate would make an excellent Queen because you know what? No one really likes the Queen. Hell, I don't. But she's one of those figureheads that you kind of have to like, at least a little bit, right? Probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to you, but... ah, hell. What was I even going on about?"
Claire let out a familiar laugh and positioned herself so she could rest her head against his shoulder. "You don't understand bees... and something about humans as bees? I don't know. I do the old 'smile and nod' in case you haven't noticed," she said through a grin into the fabric of his sweater.
"Oh. Right then. Well, let's leave it at that shall we? I bloody hate bees, though."
A small gust of wind came in off the water sending a shiver down her spine. She snaked her right arm behind his back and her left arm across his waist, both hands clasping together on the side of Charlie opposite her. She closed her eyes and pressed her face into his shoulder. "Mhmm, I know you do. You've only told me approximately one trillion times."
"Only a trillion? Consider yourself lucky." Charlie flipped up the hood on his sweater, careful not to disturb Claire while doing so. She yawned and pressed her palms into his waist as her hold on him tightened... not that he minded much, though. "I know I'm lucky," she said dreamily, moving her head slightly as a drawstring tickled her ear.
He looked down at the top of her head, blonde hair twitching ever so slightly in the breeze. Without too much difficulty, he managed to free his left hand and smooth it back down. "Hey Charlie," she said through a sleepy haze, "wanna do me a favor?"
He smiled even though she couldn't see it... a smile all for himself. "Anything for you, love."
Claire looked up at him through heavy eyelids, her face barely visible in the darkening night. "Will you tell me a story?"
He knew the favor even before she asked. It was almost like a ritual now. "Okay, do you want to hear the one about the incredibly handsome rock star or the one about the incredibly talented rock star?"
She laughed lazily and dug her fingers into his side, half attempting to tickle him. He could have seen that move coming as well. Claire was terribly predictable, but always in a good way. "How about the one about the incredibly tired single mom? I'd really like to hear that one." She yawned again and began tugging at the hem of his shirt, running it through her thumb and index finger over and over again. He decided that he liked this odd habit of hers. He decided that he liked it a lot.
Charlie cleared his throat in a slightly obnoxious manner before placing an arm around her shoulders.
"Once upon a time, in a land far, far away..."
He could already feel her drifting off. Boy, it sure didn't take much.
"...In a magnificent palace, there lived a princess. She was the most beautiful princess in all the world. Blokes from all over would come just to serenade her outside her window.. you know, kind of like John Cusack in Say Anything."
She laughed at this part and nodded, a silent encouragement to continue.
"But the truth was, she didn't think any of those guys were there to court her. Nope, she figured all the attention was for the Queen because she ruled the kingdom and all that stuff. You know, power's supposedly sexy or whatever. Well, I'm not sure if it was in the middle ages... what do you reckon?"
He looked down at her and realized that she was fast asleep, a smile slowly fading from her lips. He sighed quietly, brushing a few wayward strands of hair out of her face. He had the best job on the island, he was sure of it.
"Everyone knows how these stories end," he whispered into her hair as crickets chirped off in the distance, "the princess is always more important than the Queen."