In The Glow Of Your Smile
A Daniel & Charlotte fic
for Dr. Giggles
Christmas is a foreign concept to him.
Not in the literal sense – by its very definition, there are aspects of it he understands. The ones he doesn't, however, remain a mystery to him, something he attempts to figure out until people around him usually tell him to stop over-analysing every little detail, and to start enjoying himself.
Until now, he's never had anyone to enjoy it with.
The usual routine for Christmas, he knows, from the general commercialisation of the holiday, is that it involves you spending time with your family and friends. Year after year he recalls sitting around a table, exchanging looks with his half sister, Penelope – Penny, to those who know her better – as her father and his mother exchange frosty words, before one of them gets the courage to try and divert the argument into something pleasant, a task which is never easy.
He can't honestly recall a Christmas which hasn't been tense, something, the people he works with assure him, is completely normal.
Daniel struggles to grip his head around that, how the human race can accept that a holiday meant to be fraught with joy and good tidings actually sustains itself on tension, family feuds, and alcohol fuelled chaos. He cannot fathom how families survive the holiday period, let alone the rest of the entire year, knowing words they've left until this particular moment to bellow at a relative they've secretly hated, at best maintained a level of wariness around them, loiter in the air, loiter in their minds like a stain you cannot remove, even with the use of the best products around.
So when his girlfriend – and even saying that word causes a flood of butterflies to explode in the pit of his stomach – Charlotte invites him to her place, for a quiet, private dinner, he accepts.
Truthfully, he enjoys her company a lot more than he dares to admit to himself, and there's something about her so familiar that he spends endless nights scratching the surface of his mind, trying to search for that memory of her he's sure he has collected at some point in time.
But a part of him is afraid.
Afraid of what he'll remember.
Afraid of what he knows.
Afraid he'll remember how and why that particular memory was taken from him.
"You're a budding physicist, and yet you can't operate an oven?" Charlotte laughs, watching him attempt to figure out how to turn the oven off to retrieve the turkey she has spent all day preparing.
"Domestic related chores aren't really my area of expertise," he confesses, indulging her with a wry, awkward grin. "And budding physicist might be too technical a term for what I am. I don't even fully understand half of what I've written down."
She gently nudges him aside, her eyes glistening with mischief, as she retrieves the star of the meal. He watches, preparing to help any way he can, although the kitchen itself is a foreign area for him.
Back home, especially as of late, his comfort zone is his room which, recently, has been littered with paper filled with mathematical equations, theories and sums he is almost completely sure hold no relevance to anything in his life.
He confessed this once to Charlotte, expecting her to laugh, even to mock him, but instead she'd told him even though archaeology had always been her first choice of career, she'd had many dreams of this one particular place, which she wasn't sure was even a real place, and she'd told him it'd felt so real to her, but whenever she'd tried searching for it – bearing in mind she hadn't had much to go on – nothing had come up.
"I know what it's like to be connected to something you have no understanding of," had been her exact words, and in that moment, he'd never felt more connected to a human being.
"So, why are you avoiding the family this Christmas?" Charlotte asks, as she plates up their food.
He silently helps her, trying to come up with a good enough answer without him coming across as a complete loser.
"Um...family drama," is the answer he comes up with. "Didn't want it this year."
She smiles at him, and it's such a moving gesture, he finds himself reciprocating it.
He also can't resist the fact when she smiles, her freckles are more clearly defined, and although he's known her to claim to hating them, it's the most beautiful part of her.
"Did you ever find out what happened to that man? The one you couldn't figure out where he'd disappeared to?" she enquires, looking genuinely curious.
"Desmond Hume?" he asks, the curiosity over that particular mystery resurfacing. "No. My sister disappeared with him you know, so I presume they eloped together. He did seem rather determined to find her." He gives a nervous chuckle. "I don't blame them, not with the family I've got."
"So, your parents are, what, having dinner just the two of them?"
He shifts uncomfortably. There is no accusation there, but he understands she's trying to work out why he's avoiding his family like they are the plague.
"I get the feeling they still don't know how to act around me," he confesses. "About a few years ago, I had this...illness. I'd have moments where I'd forget the simplest things – a recent memory, a birthday, simple things like that – and on more than one occasion, I found myself emotionally crippled."
"What happened?" Charlotte murmurs, resting her hand on top of his.
"My father..." he winces at the term, which is effectively still a foreign term to him. "Well, he is a very important man. Invests in a lot of major companies, signs important contracts for existing ones. He heard about this line of treatment funded by this company... the Dharma Initiative..." He notices her eyes flicker with interest at that point, and makes a mental note to ask her about it, whether she knows about it. "The treatment was a trial, but because of my father's influence in the business world, they agreed to give it to me."
"And...?" Charlotte prompts.
"And it worked. At first it didn't." He frowns, remembering it. "My dreams were so...vivid. I began hallucinating, convinced I was on an island. The dreams always ended – always ended – with me getting shot, which led to me being paranoid. I guess the trigger in getting better was my music."
She smiles softly. "You really love music, huh?"
He nods, returning the smile.
"You have a piano? I want to show you something."
To anyone else, asking the question regarding the possession of a piano might've been regarded as impertinent, presuming. But he's getting to the point where nothing seems to surprise her, although everything surprises him about her.
"My grandmother left me this piano, hoping I'd learn to play," she says, softly stroking the top of the grand piano resting in the corner of her apartment. "I never learned to play but I've never had the heart to throw it out." She rests her gaze on him. "I sometimes think in another life I did know how to play. Is that silly to think?"
"No." He coughs. "There's a theory – more a concept, really. It seems to be based on the idea of multiple universes, in which all the little decisions we could've possibly have made did happen." He levels his gaze with hers. "S-So based on that, I'm sure in another universe, you did learn how to play."
"And in another universe, you spent all your time writing down equations and changing the world," she counters, raising her glass to connect with his. "It's a lovely idea, Daniel."
He sits down on the piano, stroking the keys with a loving look in his eyes. It's strange, but despite the theory he's just informed her about, he feels like this has never been his calling. Music, although his passion, just doesn't seem to be something destiny – fate, call it what you will – had in store for him, and that puzzles him.
"This is my own composition," he informs her, beginning to play.
He plays softly at first, the music building to a crescendo around about a minute in, but most of the time, the notes fall softly, almost resembling a lullaby. He remembers the dream which inspired this particular composition. In the dream, he held someone very closely to him, the feeling of intimacy new and fresh, and his lips lightly brushed against her cheek. The dream had almost been distorted, because he doesn't recall the woman's face, only the feelings she'd stirred up in him.
After he finishes his song, he turns his head, gazing up at Charlotte who, to his astonishment, actually seems to have tears in her eyes.
"I – I didn't mean to - " he begins, instantly trying to claw his way to a position which isn't tainted with awkwardness.
"That was beautiful, Daniel," she whispers, waving away his half formed apologies. "What do you call it?"
"That's the thing..." He grins bashfully. "It doesn't have one."
"I know little of music," she confesses. "But that was absolutely beautiful."
He inclines his head, unable to suppress a grin.
"Thank you," he responds, fidgeting awkwardly. "I've never played that for anyone before." He shrugs. "It's certainly my favourite piece I've ever composed."
He casts a glance around her apartment, mostly to avoid her intense stare which is stirring some sort of indescribable feeling inside him. There seems to be a deep red theme going on because everything, from the curtains to the carpets, seems to be dipped in that colour.
He has been here a few times but only really noticed everything now. He notices the display of photographs along the mantelpiece, the odd decoration displayed here and there, and feels like this place is another of Charlotte's treasures – something she takes time and care to keep intact.
"I love the colour red," she tells him, noticing the way he studies everything with a mixture of curiosity and fascination. "I used to hate it – the other kids would bully me for having red hair. Ginger, they called it. But my mother taught me to look at things another way. She told me I was a redhead, and should be proud of it. Look at all the things red stands for – strength, passion, love." Her lips curl into the most tender of smiles. "I guess my mother taught me to see the silver lining in every dark cloud."
His stare becomes one filled with awe.
He only recalls his mother telling him that one day he'd grow up to be a great man, that destiny had a plan for him, something which would elevate him into the highest of positions in life. He can't really recall her feeding him little titbits of advice like this. In fact, he doesn't really remember her showing any affection whatsoever. Sure, sometimes, even now, she would look at him like he's the only star in her sky, but sometimes he gets the feeling maybe she only really allows herself to feel like and be a mother when she feels like she's losing him.
"I need to tell you something," he says slowly, staring at her, something falling into place.
She tilts her head to the side, looking curious.
He grips her hand, startled by this burst of confidence which seemingly comes from nowhere. The thing is, he's sure he knows this woman, so much more than just mere acquaintance, and he's sure her face has haunted his subconsciousness on more than one occasion, but to try and articulate this thought would be crazy.
But somehow, restraining his own thoughts from blurting their way out has never been a particular skill of his.
"Do you think someone can know someone...without really knowing them?" he asks, genuinely curious.
She stays still, her face expressionless. For a moment, he fears he's offended her, fears he's crossed that line which no sane person ever dares cross.
Then she nods – it's almost imperceptible, but he catches it.
"I know that feeling," she sighs, twisting a curl of her hair around her finger. "It haunts you, doesn't it? It's a sort of deja-vu, isn't it?"
The ding of the microwave startles them, invading their conversation and putting an immediate halt on it.
"I don't even remember what I put in there," she muses, as she walks back to the kitchen, prompting him to laugh softly before following her.
Dinner is a quiet affair, mostly filled with awkward smiles and intense stares. He alternates between eating and trying to figure out where he knows her from.
The word constant enters his consciousness a few times, although it seems a fairly random word to think about. The connotations of such a word, however, aren't so random – connotations, for example, like consistency, faith, endurance.
Several times, he opens his mouth to bring up a question, but he loses the nerve to ask it, aware despite the connection he has to this woman – some unexplainable connection he has yet to fathom out – there are still lines he cannot cross. They have been dating – if that's even the word to use – for a few months, yet it feels like they've known each other longer.
As soon as they finishes, Charlotte rises, collects their empty plates, and takes them to the sink, his eyes following her all the way. She looks particularly beautiful tonight, wearing a knee-length backless dress, her hair cascading down it like a waterfall, curls falling every which way. Even when she turns, her expression puzzled, he sees past the general picture, noticing little things – habits – which make her so unusual, so unlike anybody else he's ever noticed before.
For one thing, her teeth gently graze her bottom lip whenever she's thinking about something. They linger there only for the briefest of moments, but he makes a mental note of it all the same. Also, he notices her legs – an area he is unaccustomed to looking at, if he is brutally honest with himself – cross and uncross when she sits down, not quite frequently enough to be a habit, but enough that he knows it's a sign she's uncomfortable.
"Daniel," she speaks slowly, meaningfully. "You know what you were saying earlier? About knowing someone without really knowing how you know them?"
"Um... yes," he confirms, unsure where this is really going.
Tears spring to her eyes, which she frantically tries to remove evidence of.
"Are you – Are you okay?" he asks, wondering if he's made a social faux pas of some sort.
"Yes," she sniffs, gathering up her strength. "I'm fine." She hesitates, her front teeth lightly grazing her bottom lip. "Honestly, I'm trying to figure out why I invited you here when we've only been seeing each other three months." She smiles. "I just have this feeling maybe we've known each a lot longer than that amount of time."
He stiffens, his eyes linking with hers.
Something passes between them – a secret, of some sort – but he blinks, and he misses it. But there's something in her smile – some sort of longing, buried deep for a long time – that just gets to him.
"I'm in love with the woman sitting next to me... And I'd never do anything to hurt her."
Almost as one, they move forward, both sets of lips hesitant. Awkward doesn't even begin to describe it. His hand darts about frantically, trying to find somewhere to settle before this kiss happens.
The actually kiss itself is unspectacular in terms of physics. It's just two sets of lips connecting, the mistletoe strangely absent from this Yuletide occasion, which makes him believe something bigger is going on here.
In terms of emotions, however, the kiss is momentous, something no number or equation could possibly describe. Inside his own mind, fireworks explode into being. Little images emerge and spill out into his consciousness, some which make no sense at all.
He's not really experienced kissing before, other than the obligatory kiss goodnight from his own mother. Oh, and there'd been the matter of his first kiss, he supposes. That had been even more awkward, and he can't honestly even describe it as a kiss. It'd been more two lips bumping clumsily together, and even then it'd only lasted a second.
When they pull away, she's holding mistletoe, grinning from ear to ear as though she's played the most perfect of practical jokes.
"Somehow I get the feeling Christmas makes you nervous, Daniel," she explains, noticing his eyebrows have sky-rocketed into his hair. "So I thought I'd keep the most traditional element of it a surprise." She smiles. "Turns out you needed no persuasion anyway."
And she leans in to plant another soft kiss on his still surprised lips.
The end of the night draws to a close.
The first soft flakes of snow of the day – veering away from the traditional white Christmas everyone comes to hope for – somersault into view, each overtaking the other so he's essentially viewing a snow parade.
She comes to stand next to him, slipping her hand into his.
A perfect fit, he notes quietly to himself.
"A perfect Christmas," she sighs. "No drama. No feuds. Just...two people enjoying Christmas in each other's company."
It's rather an odd moment to think about this, but he loves her accent. Every word rolls of her tongue in such a unique way – and he's always loved the British accent anyway – that he catches himself staring even when he hadn't planned on staring.
"Do you miss it?" he finds himself asking. "England."
"Partly," she admits. "I came to America for a fresh start. And though I've had a string of bad luck and one night stands I'd rather forget, I'd say I've finally got one."
She stares dreamily out of the window, her eyes following the individual snowflakes as they fall.
"It's exciting isn't it? The prospect of a new year?"
He shifts uncomfortably.
"It scares me," he admits. "I don't particularly like thinking about the future. I prefer to dwell on the present. My mind as of lately seems to reject the future, reject the plans I've made for myself. Even my past..." He struggles to formulate his opinion. "Well, my past seems wrong somehow, as though there's been some serious altercation I've yet to be made aware of."
"In English?" she prompts, chuckling.
"I feel as though there's a part of my life I've experienced but don't remember," he translates. "It's why I haven't been able to get Desmond Hume out of my mind. I feel like, in some other life, some other universe, we knew each other, and perhaps he was even a critical person in that universe, at least for me." He shrugs. "Call me crazy, but sometimes I think this wasn't the life I was meant to have."
She tightens her grip on his hand.
"I don't think you're crazy, Daniel," she says quietly. "Sometimes you talk like you're from a different time, and you throw words in I can't make heads or tails of, but I don't think you're crazy."
His eyes widen fractionally.
"No. I think there's an element of sense to what you're saying." She hesitates. "Do you believe in some other life we met? Or is that too crazy?"
"The multi-universe theory seems to suggest that all the little decisions we could've made – all the alternate choices we could've taken – have happened so, theoretically, there's a possibility something else in my life brought you to me," he replies slowly. "I can't imagine what though. It'd have to be something quite crazy."
"Earlier... You mentioned seeing an island, after you'd taken this experimental treatment? Maybe we met there," she suggests.
"You do realize this type of conversation wouldn't have occurred in other normal relationships between people who have known each other less than six months, right?"
She grins back, pressing a pair of soft, crimson lips against his cheeks, provoking a deep blush to emerge.
"We're not exactly normal people though, right?"
"Right," he echoes, contemplating that briefly before adding, "I know I didn't get you anything for Christmas, Charlotte. I'm not too big on...giving gifts. Can never decide what to buy people, and then when I do buy something, I worry they're not going to like it and I get all stressed and freak out..."
"Daniel," she soothes, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Breathe."
He obeys, grinning sheepishly.
"Sorry. But I think what I'm trying to tell you is that I've thought of a name for my song."
"Oh, yeah?" Her eyes light up with interest. "What have you decided on?"
"Charlotte," he says simply. "I know it's not exactly original, naming a song after a woman but..."
He makes a startled noise when she throws her arms around him, unused to such forwardness.
"Thank you, Daniel," she says, releasing him so he can lay eyes on her smile. "Happy Christmas."
"Happy Christmas, Charlotte."
A/n: Okay, I know that was a lame way to finish this off, but I couldn't think of a better way to tie this up. :) I think a Daniel/Charlotte fic was definitely needed as the site is lacking decent ones these days. Not many people still lurk in the Lost fandom these days so here's hoping new fans will come along, or more people will start returning as there are some fantastic writers here. Happy New Year everyone. :) This is a secret santa fic for Dr. Giggles so I hope you enjoy this hun! :)