Ballando con il Diavolo (Dancing with the Devil)
A Charlie episode
RATED PG-45 for extremely adult things like amnesia and vampires.
In this episode, Charlie's joy that Claire is back is marred by a threat to the survivors. The island is set into a battle against a dangerous opponent and Charlie wants more than anything to protect his newly returned love.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in this story, nor do I own any rights to the television show "Lost". They were created by JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof and they belong to them, Touchstone, and ABC. I just do this for fun.

Deep in the jungle in the middle of the night, Claire was screaming as loud as she could. But the man wouldn't let go of her. She thrashed around, trying to get free, but he didn't let go and she had no idea what was going on.

She didn't remember how she'd gotten here; she was tired, sore all over, and her hair was a tangled mess. Her back hurt because she was pregnant and she wasn't in much of a mood to be attacked. She didn't even know where she was. She just felt like screaming, and luckily, she could to that. She had lots of practice.

"AAAAAH!" she screeched, the man's hands locked onto her arms; he had a grip of iron. "AAAAAH! AAAAH! Bugger! LET– ME– GOOOOOOO!"

"Claire," he was saying, "you're okay! It's me, John. You're safe now, Claire."

How did he know her name? Claire took a deep breath and stopped screaming. This "John" person kept holding onto her but she stopped trying to escape too. It was impossible. Her eyes gradually adjusted to the dark and she became aware that there was someone else with them too. A young guy with dark hair, who was watching them both with huge, frightened eyes.

"Claire," he whispered. "How are you still alive? I thought Ethan got you?"

Claire stared at them. Who in the world were they? Why did they think they knew her? How did they know her name? And where was she?!

"Whoever you are..." she began, but the guy holding her– he was bald and quite a lot bigger than Claire– interrupted her.

"It's me, John Locke. Remember? And Boone's with me."

Claire was shaking her head frantically, not believing this. No, she was dreaming, she convinced herself, and she dug her nails into her palm, trying to wake up. Wake up. "Look, I don't know you, please, just–" She broke down into tears. "What's going on!?"

"She doesn't remember," said John in a hushed voice. "Do you know what this means, Boone?"

The young guy thought for a while. Claire thought dazedly that he looked as confused as she was but didn't care all that much right now. Finally, he answered. "Amnesia?"

"No," John said impatiently. "It means that the island took away her memories to let her start over. Now she can help us with the hatch. That we found her out here all alone means she's been chosen."

The guy and Claire stared at each other for a moment in shared disbelief. Obviously he thought that it was ridiculous too. Also, was she really on an island? That was too much.

"Of course that's why," the guy said slowly. "Of course." John smiled approvingly at him. Then he turned to Claire, looking incredibly excited.

"Claire, you can help Boone and I with a little project now if you want. And Walt, too, I think he's ready."

"Walt?" Boone– that was just such a weird name– said. "Why him? That's no fun..."

John took a deep breath but otherwise ignored him. "So, Claire," he told her in a hushed voice. "What happened to you? Do you remember that?" Claire was suddenly shocked back into what was really going. She was in a jungle, with two strangers, hugely pregnant, and the last thing she could remember was... was...

Riding on a plane to LA to give her baby up for adoption. Okay, that was a start... but after that...

Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by someone coming running out of the nearby trees, flat out like a lizard drinking. He was completely winded, but even in just the moonlight Claire could see that he was gorgeous.

"Is... everyone okay?" he asked. He had, has far as Claire knew, a Western American accent. He sounded like a cowboy from a John Wayne movie. "I heard... some screamin'..." Then his eyes fell onto Claire. He gasped.

"Yes, we found Claire," John said, sounding irritated. "You can't have her." Have me? Claire thought, rather offended. No one's going to have me, thank you very much.

"But... don't you see?" the new guy said, sounding very, very happy to see her. "We have to go tell Charlie!" She wondered again what was going on. Who was this Charlie? And who was this new guy? Claire didn't care who he was really. Forget about not ever having a boyfriend. He was very, very attractive, which made her rule seem kind of stupid and futile. This new guy didn't seem to want to take her off somewhere to work with "Walt", who sounded quite bad, judging from Boone's reaction.

"Okay, who are you?" she asked, just to be safe. The guy stared at her.

"You mean, you don't remember?" he asked. "I'm Sawyer. You know that."

Claire shook her head, feeling horrible now. Everyone here seemed to know her, but she didn't know them. She still had no idea what was going on. All of a sudden she was very tired.

"Look," Claire said to Sawyer, who was still staring at her. "You can take me wherever you want. I just need... I don't know, answers?"

"Answers," Sawyer repeated under his breath. Then, regaining his volume he said, "Okay, follow me, Claire."

"Sawyer," muttered John, "Why are you doing this? Disobeying me?"

With a significant look at Boone, Sawyer replied, "Since when do people have to obey you, Locke? I'm bringing Claire with me back to the caves. Maybe Jack can help with her... amnesia, and Charlie will be overjoyed to see her." Sawyer smiled nervously at Claire then. "Do you remember Charlie?"

"Who would remember Charlie?" John said angrily. "I mean, really, Sawyer, she doesn't even remember me."

No one answered him. Instead, Sawyer grabbed Claire's hand gently and pulled her away from John, who glared at them both. He turned his gaze onto Boone next and said crisply, "Come. We're going with them."

Boone shrugged and said, "I was going to anyway."

John's hands twitched in anger.

"Come on," Sawyer was saying soothingly to Claire. "Let's go get you some help, alright? We'll help you remember this stuff... you probably just blocked it out or something..."

"Okay," Claire said softly, and she began following him through the jungle.

…...

Back at the caves, Jack and Kate were smiling at each other across their bed of straw in a secluded part of the caves. Jack was slipping back into his shirt with difficulty because he was holding Kate. She grinned at him even more, her eyes droopy with sleep and pleasure.

"Oh, Jack," she sighed. "I love you..."

"I love you," Jack replied simply. He kissed her once more on the cheek. "I love you so very very much. You're my little Crunchy Flake..."

"That makes no sense!" Kate giggled drowsily. "But I'll take it."

"You'd better," Jack mumbled, and he held her closer as they drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile, still in the caves, Charlie was curled up in to a little ball on his pile of blankets, reading Claire's journal with a flashlight. It made his heart throb with renewed sorrow as he thought about what Claire had been to him. Claire had been... someone to protect. To take care of. Charlie had never had anyone to take care of before. Claire had been so beautiful. She had also been a symbol of maturity to Charlie, too. She was going to have that baby, which they could have raised together. So much that could have been...

And then Ethan had ruined it all. He'd kidnapped Claire. Charlie's eyes welled up with tears again. He shouldn't be thinking of this. He had stopped really paying attention to the diary. He didn't like reading it anyway. It felt invasive. She still deserved privacy, even if she wasn't here.

Charlie shuddered to think of where she might be right now.

…...

Ethan was angry. And not just normally angry. Murderously angry.

How had she gotten away? He'd taken such precautions... only been away for five minutes... he had disposed of his useless guards by now but was also upset with himself. Trusting humans obviously didn't work very well.

He needed to get her back. The project wasn't complete. Also, now he was missing a steady, willing donor of blood. He would need to take by force now, or, horribly, need to feed from animals. No way did he want to do that. So he needed to find Claire. Soon. He'd devise a plan and be after her by tomorrow, he decided. She couldn't get too far away in such a short time.

Rolling up his sleeves to get ready for work, Ethan crept back into his lair.

…...

"Just relax," Sawyer told Claire as they slowly made their way through the jungle. He squeezed her hand. "I'm sure that when we get back to the caves, you'll remember everything."

"You guys live in caves?" Claire asked shakily. They had been walking for so long that she was starting to worry. What if Sawyer was working with Locke or something and they were taking her off somewhere to be killed? What if they were going to hypnotize her or something? Claire didn't know what to expect and she had decided that she should be more cautious with Sawyer and everyone else.

"Yeah, unfortunately," Boone said. "But it's better than nowhere, I guess."

"At the beach we have houses," Sawyer told Claire, "and there's my library, too. Do you remember that?" Mutely, Claire shook her head.

"Sorry," she said after a long stretch of silence. "I don't really remember anything. Are we... in Hawaii or something?" She didn't really have any idea why people live in the caves when there were houses on the beach, but if there was a doctor in the caves it was fine with Claire. She was beginning to feel sick.

"Not Hawaii," John said. "We're on an island."

"Hawaii is an island," Boone pointed out. "We don't know if we're not in Hawaii. We could be." He looked really hopeful, but Sawyer was smiling at him gently and shaking his head.

"They would have found us by now. And I'm pretty sure Hawaii doesn't have pine trees growing everywhere."

They walked on for a couple more minutes. Claire was walking really slowly now, hugging her stomach, feeling ill. She really wanted to stop, and finally, after almost twenty more minutes, they did. Right outside "The Caves" there was a small stream of clear water which Boone immediately dunked his head into for a drink. Slowly, Claire followed Sawyer inside. Locke stayed behind to have a talk with Boone.

"Okay, where's the doctor?" Claire whispered, looking around at the few people sleeping on blankets and straw beds. Sawyer smiled at her.

"Over here," he said, and he pulled her into what was almost like a side room, but made out of rock. In the corner there was a bed of leaves and straw and on top of it lay a man and a woman. They were holding hands.

Sawyer suddenly looked very upset. Claire really didn't understand why. Probably none of her business, so she ignored it.

"Which one's the doctor?" she asked him. He blinked.

"Oh, uh, the guy." He walked slowly over to the couple and stood there for a moment, staring at them pensively. "His name's JACK!"

"What about me?" Jack mumbled, rolling over onto his back and rubbing his eyes sleepily. "Am I needed somewhere again? Oh, being so amazing sure is tough." Then he opened his eyes and saw Sawyer. In less than a second his face was contorted into a look of pure loathing, and he sat up, his fists curled into balls.

"What is it, Sawyer?" he said angrily. "I thought you were at the beach?"

Sawyer gazed at Jack for a moment, looking disappointed, then said, in long, laboring tones, "I came back. I have something to tell you."

"What!?" Jack snapped, keeping his voice low so as to not wake up the woman beside him. "Just spit it out, okay? I need some more sleep!"

Sawyer's mouth curved up into a secret smile that showed off his dimples even in the dim light. "I– well not really me, but Boone and Locke, we–"

"No, no, no," Jack said, looking bored now. "I don't want to hear it if it's about Locke! Go away."

Claire was beginning to really hate this guy. Was he really the only doctor? That was just awful. She'd known him a minute and was already completely jack of Jack. Sawyer continued, somehow completely ignoring his attitude.

"We found Claire."

Jack's face fell immediately. He looked very sad now. Claire was insulted. "Sawyer," Jack said in a voice that was exhausted and ancient, "not now. I don't have time for jokes. Losing Claire was a tragedy that I blame myself for, and I–" he stopped, his gaze having moved on to behind Sawyer. To Claire. "Claire!? Dang it, is that CLAIRE!?"

Sawyer smiled again, this time wider, and his dimples seemed to be reflecting the little light there was, shining somehow. "Yes, Jack, it's Claire!"

Jack leaped up onto his feet and stared at Claire with a look of awe. This expression lasted about two seconds before he closed his eyes, shook his head, and opened his eyes again, with his face now elegant and composed. Cool as a cucumber, Claire thought.

"Ah, Claire," he said, taking long strides towards her. The woman was beginning to wake up over in the bed now because everyone was talking so loudly. No one payed her any attention. "How do you feel?"

The woman in the bed sat bolt upright just then, staring with huge hazel eyes. She was very beautiful, even with her hair mussed up and her clothes all wrinkled. "Did you just say Claire!?" she asked excitedly. "Because–" she saw Claire– "CLAIRE! You're... ALIVE!"

She ran over to her and gave her a huge bear hug. "Claire, I'm so... oh my God, does Charlie know? Who found you? Are you okay? Oh my God, I missed you so much..."

"Er, Sawyer found me," Claire said, prying herself out of the woman's arms. It was hard. She was very strong. "And... I'm really tired. Can I lie down?"

The woman let go of her right away and pulled her over to the straw bed. "Sorry! Are you hurt? Sawyer! Sawyer, you found her! Where did you find her?"

Claire squirmed around on the bed, getting comfortable, trying to relax, watching as the woman ran up and hugged Sawyer, her brown curls flying every which way. Jack squinted at them meanly.

"Yeah, Sawyer, where was she?" he asked in a strained voice. "I looked everywhere I could..."

"She was just in the jungle," Sawyer said, shaking the woman off of him. "She's tired, Kate, and..."

"And what?" Kate asked still holding onto Sawyer's hand. Jack glared at them and Kate slowly let go with a rather unsubtle look of longing directed at Sawyer.

"She doesn't remember anything," said Sawyer sadly. "Not any of this island stuff, at least."

Kate looked horrified. "You mean, you don't remember me?" she asked in a hushed voice after a moment of processing it. "Or Charlie? You have to remember Charlie..."

Claire shook her head, feeling horrible. How could she have forgotten all these people? Who was this Charlie? Was he her... boyfriend? Claire didn't like the idea of not remembering a boyfriend or something... that would be so awkward.

"I'm sorry, I don't remember Charlie..." Claire said, tears welling up in her eyes. She couldn't stop them. "Geez, I feel crook..."

"You feel what?" Jack said. "No, whatever. Well, Claire, my guess is that you've got amnesia, either from a head injury or you just blocked things out because they were too overwhelming." He squinted at her. "You don't really look injured."

"Okay." Claire took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "Maybe if I get some sleep, I'll remember what happened."

"Yeah!" said Kate enthusiastically, while Sawyer nodded, a spark in his blue eyes. "Maybe!"

"Probably not," Jack said in a depressed voice. He rubbed his stubble, thinking. "Yeah, probably not. Normally, I would give you a CAT scan or prescribe you a shrink or something, but seeing where we are..." He trailed off sadly, gesturing around the caves with his hands.

"Well then, I guess I'll get some sleep now, then," Claire said tiredly. Jack and Kate looked at each other, and then Kate looked at Sawyer, and they nodded.

"We'll tell everyone else in the morning," Sawyer decided. "You get some rest."

They walked away to talk in the corner and Claire fell asleep almost immediately.

…...

Charlie opened his eyes slowly and stared outside. He shivered as a light breeze passed through the caves. It was very early morning. He walked outside, clutching his acorn protectively, and sat down to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful. So orange and yummy looking, almost the color of ice cream or something. Charlie licked his lips in hunger.

As he sat there he made a very final decision that he would not forget about Claire. Ever. But he wouldn't be depressed anymore, either. He wouldn't dwell on sad things.

"Ah," he said whimsically. "This wonderful, good day just takes my pains all away."

Tears welled up in his eyes and he quickly discarded his stupid plan not to be depressed. He had temporarily forgotten his bloody rhyming!

"Why must I rhyme all of the time?" he moaned to himself. "It's really very bad for my system, frankly, and I can not stand a minute more of this–"

But he was cut off. His eyes had rolled back into his head and his head slumped onto his shoulder as he fell into a flashback.

"Hey, mister knickbocker bobbity-bop

I like the way that you bobbity-bop.

I like the way that you bobbity-bop

With your hands

Yea!" Charlie skipped down the British street happily, jumping over the cracks in the street and sliding around in puddles while wearing his brand-new rhinestone studded camouflage boots. He clapped his hands to the rhythm of the song, ignoring the stares from the few other pedestrians on the street that night.

"Hey mister knickerbocker bobbity-bop

I like the way that you bobbity-bop.

I like the way that you bobbity-bop

With your mouth

Yea!" Charlie ran across the street, sliding out of the way of a very angry car, and dashed madly down a side-street, now singing at the top of his lungs.

"HEY MISTER KNICKERBOCKER BOBBITY-BOP

I LIKE THE WAY THAT YOU BOBBITY-BOP!" He slowed down his running and took a deep breath. Looking around to make sure no one was watching him, he pushed open a hidden door on the wall and slipped inside.

"Charlie! There's m' main man!" Charlie's latest friend Tommy greeted him with a slap on the back and a cheesy smile that glowed bright and pale in the dim light. Charlie beamed right back at him, flipping on the lights.

"So, what's up Tommy? How's the family?"

Tommy glared at him, lighting a couple candles that were on a tall wooden table. "How many times must I remind you that I have none? I live all alone!" He waved his hands around the empty room, his long baggy shirt sleeves waving the cobwebs around in the air. "I mean, really, Charlie, this is my house."

Charlie shrugged, looking around the almost empty room appraisingly. "It's an alright house," he said, sitting down on the table that was the only furniture inside. "Better than living on the streets."

"Watch it! You'll bump the candles!" Tommy scolded him. He turned the lights back off. Charlie blinked, his eyes adjusting to the flickering candle light. Tommy walked over to him with a frown on his white face.

"Let's get down to business," he said, and he reached into his pocket.

"Alrighty," Charlie said, still smiling. "What do you got today?" He rubbed his hands together eagerly, wondering now if maybe he should have brought money to pay Tommy.

"Drugs," Tommy replied. "Obviously. I'm a dealer." He wagged the bag in front of Charlie's nose. "Look at them."

"So druggie," Charlie sighed. "We're so wicked."

"Yeah." Tommy handed the bag over to Charlie with a small smile, his cold, small hand bumping against Charlie's warm, calloused fingers. "You ever consider changing your name to Tom?"

"No, actually. Never," Charlie replied happily.

Tommy wrinkled his nose at him in frustration and handed him the bag of drugs. Charlie grinned at it for a second, then slipped it into the pocket of his dark green boot-cut jeans. It felt snug in there. Secure. Then Charlie remembered that it was drugs he was smiling about and he felt bad. But maybe this would be the last time he came to Tommy. Maybe he'd quit soon.

Maybe.

"So, Tommy, sorry I can't pay you today," he said to distract himself. Tommy's eyes widened in shock and he tumbled backwards in surprise so sincere that he nearly fell to the ground. Looking around the room like a wild dog, he rasped at Charlie, "You're joking?"

Charlie blushed a dull pink in the dim light. He ran a hand through his blonde hair, fluffing it up, and slid off the table, careful not to bump the candles. He didn't meet Tommy's eyes as he explained. "Yeah, I don't have a very big income right now, and er, I spent my drug money on new shoes." He wiggled around awkwardly in his combat boots.

"You really can't pay me?" Tommy said, still staring at Charlie broken-heartedly. "You realize that I need the money."

"Maybe this is a good thing," Charlie said. "I mean, now you can pursue an honest career. And I can, uhm, quit?"

Tommy threw back his head and barked like a seal. It might be considered laughing, but Charlie really didn't think that's what it was. It sounded very much like a seal. Charlie wondered why Tommy didn't try to take the drugs back, but maybe he didn't have anyone else to sell them to. This was quite a secluded area.

"Tommy, I have to go now," he said anxiously. "I've got a date tonight and–"

"A date?" Tommy stopped barking and stepped closer to Charlie. "You have money for that?" Charlie blushed a deeper shade of pink.

"Yeah, maybe."

"Give it to me!" Tommy grabbed Charlie's shoulders and shook him. "You don't understand how much I need money. I NEED it. Give it to me!"

"Tommy," Charlie said, trying to extract his hands. "It's only two pounds. It's for my date. I can't pay you."

Tommy breathed hard in Charlie's face. His breath smelled like wet dogs and his eyes were dark and manic. He let go of Charlie and said in a rush, "Who's your date? She rich?"

"Why?" Charlie took a step away from him nervously.

"WHO'S YOUR DATE IS SHE RICH!"

"Lucy Heatherton! And yeah, she's loaded, but that's not important." Charlie took a deep breath and gathered all his courage. "I have to go now."

Tommy smiled at him. "I'm going with you."

Charlie stepped around him slowly, watching him closely. "No, Tommy, you're staying right here." He backed up against the door and groped for the handle in the dark.

Tommy barked again, only once this time. "Yes, I am, Charlie. I'm going to punish you." Charlie got the door open and fell backwards out of it, down onto the street. He landed in a puddle on the ground and Tommy stepped out in front of him. "You and I, Charlie, are going to make some money."

"How?" Charlie whispered, crawling backwards away from him. He didn't really want to know. It was probably not good. Not at all. He didn't want Tommy to tell him the plan, but he did anyway.

"We're gonna rob your girlfriend."

"CHARLIE!"

"Gee!" Charlie rubbed his eyes and sat up straight. He looked up and his face broke into a smile. It was Locke! Locke, who had helped him overcome his drug addiction!

I'm clean now, he told himself joyfully, so that memory doesn't matter. It was all in the past.

"Hi, Locke!" he chirped, hopping onto his feet spryly. "You're... bach?" Locke frowned at him grimly, shaking his head, and pulled Boone, who was always at his side these days, closer to him.

"Charlie, we need to talk," Locke explained sourly.

"Hey, are you gonna tell him that–" Boone started saying, but Locke cut him off.

"No, Boone, SHUT UP!" he shouted. Boone gaped at him and his parted lips started trembling hard. He burst into his tears, looking very surprised. Charlie was a bit surprised too. How could a man like Locke, who was so good as to free Charlie from his addiction, possibly be so mean? But then Charlie remembered when Locke had attempted to murder Jack, and then Joe the Moth Man, and then when he had really murdered Bob, the most annoying person in the world. Maybe he just had a bad temper? Or maybe Charlie was viewing the Bald through rose-tinted glasses, as the expression goes.

"What are we going to talk about?" Charlie asked. "Can you please just, er, spit it out?" He didn't feel much like having a conversation with Locke right now, not when he was in such a bad mood and Charlie had just proved to himself that he was kind of dangerous. Plus Charlie hated talking. Bloody rhymes.

"Okay, Charlie, listen up," Locke said, ignoring Boone completely. "I hate you."

Charlie raised an eyebrow at him, assuming he had misheard the man. But Locke looked deadly as a cobra as he repeated,

"I hate you."

"What?" Charlie stared at him. "What do you mean, you hate me, what I do?" He walked over to loook into the Bald's old face, horrified. "What did I, Charlie, ever do to you?"

"Nothing!" Boone sniffled. "You're just there." He glared at Locke with his lower-lip stuck out. "You big bully!" Locke gasped.

"Boone, that's enough for now!" he shouted. He got right up in Boone's face. "You hear me!?"

Charlie decided that he should go get Jack to defuse the situation. He sprang to his feet, and making sure that Locke didn't notice, ran silently into the caves.

People were beginning to wake up at the moment, because Locke's yelling was getting loud. Charlie passed by Shannon and Sayid, who were eating a breakfast of mangoes, and informed them quietly that Boone appeared to be in trouble at the moment. They ran outside.

Charlie continued through the caves until he reached Jack's section. Jack was sitting down on a rock, glaring at his feet. Someone was asleep in his bed. Charlie assumed it was Kate. He slinked up to Jack.

"Uh, hey Jack, John Locke's back." Jack stared at him. "He's acting like a buffoon, shouting bad things at poor Boone."

Jack raised a single eyebrow at him, stared a little more, then started laughing a creepy, exclusive laugh. He kept staring at Charlie like he had a secret that Charlie would be dying to learn, but frankly it just worried Charlie. Had Jack lost his sanity? What was wrong with him?

"Hey, Jack, are you okay? Are you sane, I might say?"

"Oh, Charlie," Jack sighed, rubbing tears of laughter from his eyes. He walked over and put his hands on Charlie's shoulders. "You're gonna be so happy."

Charlie gently stepped away from Jack, looking a question at him.

"Claire's back," Jack said.

Charlie gasped, trying to wrap his mind around this. Claire– back– YES this is awesome, where is she?– nowhere, Jack's just messing with you– CLAIRE CLAIRE CLAIRE.

"Where!?" Charlie wailed. "Where is Claire!?" Jack's grin twitched into a disapproving frown and his hazel eyes glowered down at Charlie.

"Shut it, you're gonna wake her up, Pace. And stop that... rhyming." Charlie didn't even hear the last part. He was to busy looking around for Claire. And– there she was. Lying down in Jack's bed, awake. Charlie had assumed that she was Kate. Charlie began hyperventilating, too afraid to go near her. She didn't look hurt. Was she going to be rhyming, too? Was she okay? Did she remember–

"She doesn't remember you, though," Jack interrupted, and Charlie gasped again. What? How? Why? When where who? She had to remember him, he'd been obsessing over her for a week! For forever! Her eyes were such a brilliant shade of blue-green. Almost true turquoise.

"Claire, my Claire, that's not fair," he moaned, stepping closer her. She looked confused.

"You're Charlie?" she asked. But she didn't say it CHAR-lee, like everyone else. She made it sound much more beautiful. Chaa-lee.

He nodded.

"I– I'm sorry I don't remember you. I want to." She squinted at him with a frown of concentration, like she was willing herself to remember him, but she couldn't and Charlie wanted to go over and comfort her. But it seemed like he couldn't move any closer. Claire was still frowning at him. "Why are you rhyming?"

Charlie moaned. He didn't want to explain that. It would involve even more rhyming. Thank Heavens, Kate heard the question on her way into the room and answered for him.

"He was cursed by a vampire." Claire's jaw-dropped and Jack made a small noise of protest, but Kate went on. "He has to rhyme until we find a cure for it. It's awful."

"Vampires?" Claire asked. Kate nodded, but Jack shook his head forcefully.

"No, girls, there's just something wrong with his brain. Lack of oxygen." Charlie was highly offended by this remark. Jack, you know nothing, he thought forcefully. But he wasn't a telepath and Jack didn't receive the thought.

Darn.

"Look, Jack," Kate said angrily, "I know that's not true, got it? You're just going to have to trust me here." Jack looked surprised.

"Kate... are you mad about something?" he asked her, not sounding confused, really (Jack could never sound confused), but curious. Kate frowned.

"No!" she said. "It's just, he's cursed, okay? Not brain-damaged." Charlie loved her for defending him, and the rush of love he felt reminded him of Claire, so he turned back to her. She was staring at him, her mouth curved down in the corners, dark circles under her eyes. Charlie was very worried about her. Seeing what he'd been put through from a day with Ethan, what had happened to her in over a week? Maybe Ethan had sucked her blood. :O

"Oh, Claire, please, have you been, and are you okay? My love for you is so strong that I cannot say." He moved closer to her and she grimaced.

"I'm fine," she said, sounding pained. "I'm sorry, really sorry, that I don't remember you, Charlie." Charlie felt guilty now.

"Don't be sorry, don't be sad. Be calm, peaceful, please, be glad," he told her tearfully. She looked away from him quickly, letting some of her golden hair fall into her face.

"Okay, Charlie," she said. "Can I get some more sleep, please? I'm not...ready for this... right now." She lay back down, her lower lip poking out in pain.

"Of course, oh, please, you can rest," Charlie said. "I want you to feel your best." He backed up and smiled at her helplessly. She was safe, and that was all the mattered. He turned to Jack, who was smirking at them. "I'll be back, okay, Jack?"

"If you must," Jack said, rolling his eyes. Kate cleared her throat.

"I have to go back to the beach to get some of my clothes and stuff," she announced. "Want to come with me, Charlie?" Charlie nodded happily, and they set off. As they left the caves, though, Charlie looked back and he caught one more glance of gold glistening on the leaves of Jack's bed and worried about Claire.

…...

"Sun, please. Why have you been so secretive lately?" Jin had her cornered against a wall in the caves. He didn't look angry, exactly, just confused. And worried. Ha. Like he was concerned about their marriage.

"Jin," Sun said, trying to sound as confused as he was, "I haven't been secretive. It's you who's been keeping secrets." She looked up at him innocently. Jin rolled his eyes.

"I have not, Sun. I hardly see you anymore. Where have you been? Who are your... friends?"

"I have none," Sun lied. "I only need you." She didn't mention Kate to him. Or Scott. No, he didn't need to know about Scott.

"Oh, Sun." Jin smiled at her. "I love you. But go ahead and make some friends."

"Really?" Sun was surprised. Jin normally was very strict and selfish with her. That's why Sun had cheated on him in the past, and why she was... almost doing it again now. Now she felt bad about. Thanks, Jin. Really.

"Yes, of course," he said. "I'm in a generous mood right now." Sun forced a smile at him.

"Thank you," she said to him. He smiled back at her.

"You're welcome," he said. "Now, I have to go to the beach and catch some fish. Please feel free to relax. I know I've been uptight these past few years, but I want to make it up to you now."

"Oh!" Sun exclaimed. "Okay. Have fun fishing, Jin."

"I will," he said, and he strolled off.

…...

Charlie and Kate skipped down the well-trod jungle trail, and Charlie wished he had his guitar with him so he could play them some music as they walked. He'd always wanted to be a strolling minstrel. He would love entertaining people as he wandered down the streets of Manchester, maybe even getting some money for it. The island would have to do for now, though.

"You know what, Kate? I feel so great."

Kate smiled back at him, her excitement clearly expressed on her face. "I know, me too! I really didn't think she would come back... I'm so glad she'd alive."

Charlie nodded fervently, glancing up at the overcast sky as he thought. The sun was barely shining through, but that didn't dampen his spirits. He would have to tell Sawyer Claire was back, and Locke and Boone and Shannon and Sayid would want to know too. Maybe even Michael and Walt would care.

Charlie was feeling so happy about Claire's return that he didn't even care that she didn't remember him. She would get to meet him all over again. She'd get reintroduced to jelly. She'd make friends with Kate. It would all work out perfectly and eventually they'd all forget she'd ever been missing at all. Even Claire. Even Charlie. And by then they'd be off the island and they'd all be friends.

"Kate, I think I love Claire. That's how strongly I care," Charlie confided. Kate laughed.

"I know, it's obvious, Charlie," she said. "I think everyone knows you're in love with her. What's really funny about you, Charlie, is you can't control your emotions."

"But... what?" Charlie said, feeling a little defensive. Kate giggled at him.

A twig snapped behind them then and they both turned around very quickly. It was Jin. Charlie had always thought that Jin was a grumpy man who was never happy, and was therefore very impressed to see that today he was smiling broadly. Kate waved him over to their group.

"Hi, Jin!" she said. He nodded at her. He was carrying a large net and a fishing rod. Charlie's stomach rumbled with hunger. He wanted breakfast now– smoked fish and fruit, which, on the island, was also lunch and dinner, but that didn't matter. It was food.

They continued on there way silently for a little while, each wrapped up in their own personal thoughts. Charlie was day-dreaming about Claire again, of course. There was one thing bothering him, though. Claire didn't seem to appreciate the rhyming very much. Charlie wanted nothing more then to impress her on her first few returned days.

"Um, Kate, do you think that– er– Sawyer should... return my normal speech? I think he could."

Kate considered the request for a moment, then nodded at Charlie. "Yeah, I was going to visit Sawyer anyway. I'm sure he could decipher enough words in one of those books to cure the rhyming."

Charlie beamed at her, appreciating the permission. She knew Sawyer better than Charlie, and since they also seemed to be in some sort of relationship, he had wanted her opinion.

"Thanks Kate. You're great!" he told her. She grinned at him beatifically, and so did Jin, although he couldn't understand them. Jumping on his impulse, Charlie pulled both of them in to a hug. In retrospect, that put them at a slight disadvantage.

Ethan was the one to pull them out of the hug. Charlie's whole body went rigid with shock-fear when he saw him. Ethan, with his merciless brown eyes, his neat dark hair, and his bone-chilling smile– he had returned.

Charlie was freaking out inside now. Last time Charlie had seen Ethan, he'd been trying to escape from his henchman, Apikai. Charlie had regained consciousness a few minutes earlier to find himself covered with mud and tied up. Ethan had stood back and watched as Apikai and picked Charlie up and pulled a ladder out of some bushes. It had been raining. Then Charlie had tried to sneak away, but Ethan had grabbed him, pressed some spot on his neck, and he'd been unconscious.

Charlie didn't want to remember this. He didn't want see Ethan now. Ethan had completely slipped his mind, and now he was probably going to kidnap Claire all over again. And Charlie. And Jack would be so ticked off by this that he wouldn't search for them and this time Charlie would really die.

Dying was not what Charlie wanted to do anytime soon, but he couldn't seem to make his legs move. Ethan's eyes bore into his and he wasn't sure how much time passed as they just stared at each other. To Charlie's relief, they were interrupted by Kate, who threw herself at Ethan, hard enough to knock someone to the ground. But Ethan didn't fall over. He didn't even move. Instead, as soon as Kate touched him, he grabbed Kate's waist and threw her to the ground several feet away. Kate was shrieking in pain.

Turning back to Charlie, Ethan started laughing. This time, though, instead of a cheap rip-off of Voldemort's laugh, his laughter was low and rhythmic. He picked Charlie up by his neck and Charlie gagged, immediately trying to breathe even though he really should have been trying to hold his breath. Ethan moved him over to a tree and pushed him against it with his super human strength. Charlie gasped and chocked, because surely this was going to kill him.

Luckily, though, Jin saved the day by coming in with some fancy kung fu kick or something, taking two long steps before jumping in the air, swinging his hips around, and knocking Ethan slightly to the side with the heel of his foot. Ethan's hands slipped just enough for Charlie to slide to the ground, breathing once more.

Jin was shouting at Ethan in Korean, and Kate was shouting at him in English, but Ethan didn't seem to care much, brushing off the insults with a wave of his hand. To Kate he said, "Would you like to lose the ability to speak, Austen? I have a curse for that." Charlie shuddered. So Ethan really was a vampire who could curse people. It was really true.

Kate stopped yelling and glared at him. "What do you want, Ethan?!" she demanded. Ethan smiled again, showing off his long fangs.

"What do I want? Just your lives!" he chuckled.

"Well," Kate spluttered indignantly, "you can't have them! Go away!" She scrambled to her feet. Charlie marveled at how brave she was. "We don't want you here!"

"Okay, okay, I don't want your lives. I want Claire."

Charlie stood up now too. No, Ethan was not getting Claire no matter if he wanted her or not. He could take Charlie's life, Charlie's friends, anything, but not Claire. He stepped closer to Ethan, trembling with rage now. He felt like slugging Ethan across the face, but he knew that that would be pointless. Ethan's smile grew broader.

"Oh, you don't like that Charlie? That's too bad. Because if you and your friends don't bring her to this very spot tonight, some of you are going to die. A lot of you are going to die. Each night you fail to bring her, more and more of you are going to turn up dead.

"And Charlie? You'll be last."

With one last terrifying laugh, Ethan ran through the jungle away from them, so fast he was a blur to the human eye.

…...

Sun made it to the beach, her feet sinking lightly into the sand, her head full of conflicting emotions. All because of Jin. Jin-Soo Kwon. Sun couldn't live with him, but she couldn't live without him. And she didn't know what to do.

When she and Jin had gotten lost in the jungle, Sun had thought she was going to die. They'd been missing for two days, surviving on fruit and nuts alone. Jin had been terrified then, and Sun had thought that it was for himself only. Sun now thought that maybe it was for her too. Maybe all this time, he'd been trying to keep her safe.

But that didn't make sense, because sometimes he'd been downright cruel to Sun, yelling at her for running off and blowing up over nothing. Over the last week, though, his attitude had been improving. He'd been growing nicer towards Sun. More like he used to be.

But that was where the problem was. Sun had been getting closer to another man on this island, and now she felt horrible about it. She loved Jin, but couldn't forgive how he'd been treating her in the past, and at the same time, if he wanted to renew there marriage, she was all for it. She didn't know what to do.

"Hey, Sun!" Scott called out to her. Her heart rate picked up and she felt very nervous now. She didn't know what she'd do.

"Hello, Scott," she replied, walking slowly over to his cabin. She shyly avoided his blue eyes and pushed open the wooden door. He followed her inside.

She sat on one of the two recycled plane seats and reclined, still ignoring him. He was staring at her, and she squirmed under his gaze.

"Sun," he began, at the same time she said,

"Scott..."

The both sighed and Sin finally looked him full in the face. His thick blond hair needed trimming and he had toothpaste on his mouth. He looked just as anxious as she was.

"We can't keep doing this," Sun exclaimed. "Jin–"

"I have a wife back home," Scott said. "I can't, either." Sun frowned at him.

"What's her name?" she asked politely.

"Mary," Scott replied. "She's wonderful. God, she must be so upset. I wonder how she and the kids are dealing with this..."

"You have kids?" Sun asked, jealous. She had always wanted children. "How many?"

"Three," Scott said quietly. "Tyler, Tristen, and Samantha. They're beautiful." He stared at her and sighed again. "So well-behaved."

"I'm sorry," Sun said. "You must miss them." She didn't have much family back at home, but she did miss her mother, and she had a lot of friends who she wanted badly, so she was able to easily sympathize with his pain. She stood up and moved closer to him.

"I'm so sorry, Scott, but I can't keep seeing you," she said softly. He looked at her and nodded silently, seeming to be reminiscing about something. Probably his family.

"Neither can I," he said. "You're a great woman, though, Sun." Sun smiled at him.

"You're a great man," she said, then, without a backwards glance, she left the cabin and went to go find Jin. To tell him about her new friends.

…...

"Charlie," Kate was saying hysterically, "we have to go tell Jack. We have to go find him and make a plan. Let's go."

Charlie silently shook his head and sat down.

"Why not?" Kate screamed at him. "Why can't we tell him? We need to prepare for tonight. Come on, Charlie."

Charlie squinted at her. The sun was coming out from behind the clouds and was shining right in his eyes. He blinked. "Kate, I don't want Claire to worry. So we're really in no hurry." They were not going to tell Claire about what Ethan said. He didn't want her running off to Ethan to save them or anything stupid and heroic like that. He wanted her safe and sound and blissfully ignorant.

Kate seemed annoyed with him. "Charlie, I said Jack, not Claire. Now let's go." Charlie shook his head, not wanting to explain because of the rhyming. But he had to suck it up and explain anyway.

"If we go tell Jack, he will make a plan, and the knowledge will be with all of the clan," he told her, looking earnestly into her hazel eyes. "I can't have Claire put herself at risk." She rolled her eyes and Charlie's temper flared. "Don't look at me like that! Don't huff and tisk!"

Kate crossed her arms at him stubbornly. "She won't. I won't let her. Now let's go tell Jack!" She stomped her foot. Charlie watched as it dug into the mud she was standing on, getting her sneaker grimy, when all of a sudden, he felt kind of faint.

He fell to the side in a flashback.

"This the place?"

Tommy was staring at Charlie with his horrible bloodshot eyes. Charlie nodded curtly, looking away. He had no idea how he hadn't found Tommy creepy before. He was covered with dust and dirt and ketchup, and he had a really weird, loud way of breathing, like there was something stuck in his throat constantly. Charlie wasn't exactly the best judge of character.

They were standing outside a packed pub. Charlie pushed the door open, eager to be with people other than Tommy, who was no longer his friend.

He walked ahead of Tommy, searching for Lucy in the crowd. There was a football game on TV and he was pleased to see that England was winning.

"Charlie," Tommy breathed onto his neck, "we're gonna rob your girlfriend."

Charlie sped up, glancing behind himself, very disturbed. "No we're not," he hissed behind him. "Got it? We'll work out something else lat–"

"Charlie, there you are! You're late!" Lucy was waving at him from a table to his right. Charlie quickly walked over, slipping a little on something wet on the floor.

"Hey Lucy! Sorry about that, I got caught up in some... er, business." He grinned at her. She grinned back. She was a pretty girl, with thick brown hair and a round, cherubic face that Charlie absolutely adored. She batted her long eye-lashes at him as he sat down across from her.

At the bar, Tommy pulled out a stool, sat down, then turned around and stared directly at Charlie.

Charlie shuddered.

"What's the matter?" Lucy asked, her expression changing quickly to concern for him. She looked around nervously, as if feeling eyes on the back of her neck. "Are you okay, Charlie?"

"Oh, yeah," Charlie said, wishing Tommy would looking at him. "How are you? Er, what'd you do today?" He drummed his fingers on the table, wanting drugs. Then he remembered he was carrying them in his pocket.

Could anyone tell? Charlie looked around at all the tables near them, but no one looked like they were suspicious of him. He took a deep breath, and involuntarily caught Tommy's eye.

Why didn't Tommy just take the drugs back? Charlie wondered. He could sell them to someone else. That would solve everything. Then they wouldn't have to "Rob your girlfriend, Charlie," as Tommy was mouthing at him now.

"Charlie, I can tell somethings bothering you," Lucy said. Charlie looked back at her, his eyes wide and frightened. Lucy didn't know he was a druggie. She couldn't learn about Tommy, because Charlie was kind of breaking the law in this situation too. He shivered, trying to think of a lie to tell her.

"Lucy," he said, "I need a job." Hey, that's actually true! he thought triumphantly. Great! "I'm barely making by as it is."

Their conversation paused as a waitress stopped by to take their orders. She left without becoming suspicious of Charlie. Charlie turned back to Lucy's worried face.

"Charlie, I can pay for this tonight. You don't have to," she said. Charlie sighed, scratched his neck, and looked away from Lucy. He was watching the soccer game for a moment when suddenly, Tommy's head popped up and smiled at Charlie as he mouthed once again, "We're gonna rob your girlfriend, Charlie."

"Gaa!" Charlie said, recoiling away from the frightening sight. Lucy looked to see what it was but Tommy was gone. Charlie rushed to cover it up. "I– um, sure, you can pay, Lucy, but I'll need to pay you back. Soon. If I just had work."

"Hey!" Lucy said. "Maybe you could get a job at my father's museum. I can ask if he's got any spots open. Would that... be okay?"

Charlie grinned at her. "Yeah, sure!" he said, just as a waiter stopped at their table to give them their drinks. Charlie gasped when he looked up and saw who it was. It was Tommy.

As he handed Charlie his German beer, he whispered in a voice only audible to Charlie, "We're gonna rob your girlfriend, Charlie."

Charlie refused to look at him.

"Lucy, your a lifesaver," Charlie said when Tommy had left. Lucy beamed at him, and Charlie just wanted to stick his finger into her dimples. He satisfied himself with pushing her hair behind her ear instead. She looked down shyly.

"You are too, Charlie," she said, and Charlie blushed pale pink.

"Ah, shucks," he chuckled, waving his hand dismissively. "Er, how's your wine?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Sour," she replied. "Is wine supposed to taste sour?" Charlie shrugged.

"I dunno," he said, "I'm more of a beer guy myself." He took a long drink, savoring the taste. He did realize that beer and other drugs were a deadly combo, but he didn't really care at the moment. Besides, he hadn't used the drugs for awhile and didn't plan on using them anytime soon.

"We're gonna rob your girlfriend, Charlie," came Tommy's voice to Charlie's right. He turned around immediately but Tommy wasn't there anymore. "We're gonna rob your girlfriend, Charlie." This time it came from the left. Starting to sweat as he freaked out, Charlie found that Tommy wasn't there either.

"Charlie!" Lucy said. "What's wrong?"

"I'm gonna ro– I mean, I'm fine," he said.

"Oh really?" Lucy asked skeptically. She had her worried look on again, and Charlie realized he couldn't handle this right now.

"Lucy, I'm really sorry, but I feel pretty terrible right now," he admitted. She raised her eyebrows. "I think– I've gotta go. I'm really sorry."

"Oh, Charlie," Lucy sighed. "Fine. I'll handle the bill."

Charlie gave her his two pounds anyway, feeling horrible for ditching her. "Maybe I'll swing by tomorrow, Luce. I'm really, really sorry, I'm just–"

"It's okay, Charlie," Lucy said sweetly. Charlie was glad that she was so infinitely patient, but it made him feel so infinitely guilty.

"Bye," he said, leaving the table. He made his way through the crowd quickly, looking around in paranoia, and pulled open the door. He let it swing shut behind him. Then began jogging down the street as fast as he could, but something caught him on the shoulder.

It was Tommy.

"We're gonna rob your girlfriend, Charlie."

...

"Char–lie!" Kate slapped him awake. "This is not the time to have a flashback! Jeez!" Charlie blinked at her, trying to push Tommy out of his mind. He was a terrible person.

So was Ethan.

Charlie jumped up to a standing position, brushing dirt and leaves off his bright red jeans. Kate and Jin were staring at him, Kate looking disgruntled, Jin confused. Charlie blushed sheepishly and followed after Kate when she turned towards the caves. He would just have to face it if Claire found out about Ethan's horrible threats.

When they got to the caves, Jack was there talking to Claire. They both looked stressed out. Charlie figured that was because Jack was a jerk and no one could get along with him, not even someone as sweet and polite as Claire.

Claire looked up from her conversation, and met eyes with Charlie. He smiled at her, and she looked away. Kate marched up to Jack.

"Jack, we need to talk," she said. Jack grinned at her, showing lots of teeth.

"Talk away, honey," he said. Kate shook her head, glancing subtly at Claire, who was playing with a strand of fabric from her shirt.

"Not here," she said. "It's... private."

Jack's eyebrows shot up on his face as his smile fell suspiciously. "Really? Okay, follow me. I need to get some fish from the beach. We can talk on the way there."

"Okay," Kate said seriously, and Jack stood up to go. As they started walking away, Kate looked back at Claire. "Will you be okay here by yourself?" she asked her in a concerned voice. Claire shook her head.

"I won't be by myself. I'll be with Charlie," she said, and Charlie's heart leaped with joy. She was so nice to him, even though she didn't remember him. They really were meant to be together.

…...

"So, this is the situation," Kate began. Jack gazed at her expectantly, stroking his beard a little to show he was interested. "Ethan's back."

Jacks scowled at the ground, shaking his head in an effort to contain his rage.

"Ethan, Jack," Kate said. "And he wants Claire."

Jack stomped very hard on a stick that was in his way. It snapped. "Kate, tell me what he did." He phrased the need for information not as a question, but as a command, because he was so upset. Kate's nose wrinkled as she remembered the incident.

"He attacked Charlie," she said, "and me. He said that if we didn't... bring Claire back to that spot tonight, he would kill a lot of us survivors." She stared at Jack for help.

"This is a problem," Jack said coldly. Kate nodded slowly.

"Yeah, it is," she agreed.

"How do we solve it..." Jack wondered. "We can't exactly just hand her over to him. There's gotta be some way around this..." He was wondering if there were any unimportant blonde people to use as a replacement for Claire, but that wouldn't work. Ethan would see through the ruse in a second and besides, Jack was the de facto leader, and in charge of the safety of all the survivors, not just the few he didn't hate.

"I don't want him to kill me, Jack," Kate said. Jack stared at her. Was she suggesting giving Claire to Ethan? Jack was unimpressed. He'd always thought of Kate as a brave, selfless person that cared about her friends more than anything, and he was disappointed in her for even implying that they should surrender to Ethan.

"Kate, I don't believe this!" Jack said explosively. Her eyes widened at him.

"What? You didn't let me finish!" She grabbed his shoulder and turned him towards her to look in her eyes. "We can't let Ethan get Claire. And we can't let him kill us. So... we've got to kill him."

Jack smiled.

"Yes, Kate, that's a fantastic idea." She gave him a nervous grin and he pulled her into a kiss. Afterwards he hugged her very tightly. "We'll get it done."

"Jack." Kate wiggled away from him. "I'm sorry, but... we should keep going."

"Where?"

"To the beach." Kate took a step further into the jungle. "It's not very safe in here. Let's go to the beach."

"Sure thing, Kate," Jack said, not telling Kate that nowhere on the island was safe.

Not with Ethan on the loose.

…...

Locke was very angry at Boone. In fact, "very angry" didn't even come close to describing his feelings towards the boy at the moment. He was experiencing pure rage.

"Do you want me to be your mentor?" he demanded as they stared at each other across the un-openable hatch door. "Do you want to open the hatch with me and find the answers!?"

Boone shifted uncomfortably on the log he was slouching on and Locke was upset even more. Why couldn't the kid get a [expletive] backbone?! Locke didn't have the patience for this.

"ANSWER ME! Do you want to open the hatch, Boone, or not!?"

Boone pouted. "Yeah, I guess."

"You GUESS?" Locke said. He shook his head at Boone warningly. "Guessing is not enough. If we are to open this then we've got to really want to."

"I do, I do! I just don't like how you treat everyone!" Boone whined. Locke shook his head.

"I treat them how they deserve to be treated. If they shape up and act like respectable human beings, then I'll be polite, but right now, they're not worth my time."

Boone looked away from Locke's piercing eyes, and blushed. Locke wondered if he understood yet or not. Because if Boone was going to be complaining about everything that Locke did, then Locke was going to have to give him up and he really didn't want to have to do that. Boone was so fresh and new to the world, Locke could mold him like clay into exactly the kind of person he needed.

"John," Boone said, "fine. I won't comment on how you treat everyone else. I guess... you're pretty cool and stuff, so you... must have lots of life experience. I don't really. So, I'll listen to you?"

"Will you?" Locke snapped. "Is that a question or a commitment!?"

"A commitment?"

"WHAT IS IT!?"

"It's a freaking commitment, not a question, okay?" Boone said, his voice now strong, if a little defensive. "Do you need me to repeat that again? Or did I say it right this time!? Jeez Louise!" Locke's anger lessened slightly. Funny how he was more satisfied when Boone actually held his own then when he backed away from him like an injured dog. Which was what Locke wanted from Charlie. Locke sighed. His anger with Boone was gone now that he remember that Brit.

"You said it right," Locke moaned, running a tired hand over his head, wishing he had hair.

"Oh!"

"Let's just keep trying to open this thing, okay?" Locke said, and with only one confused look Boone set to work.

…...

"What." Jack stared down at the beach, not believing his eyes. "What have they done!?"

Kate looked at Jack like she was confused. Could she not see all the cabins that were down there? A swimming pool and library Jack might accept. But if everyone down here had their own house, did that mean that they didn't care if they got off the island or not? Did that mean that they thought they could live normal lives here in this place of doom and misery!? And why hadn't they told the cave dwellers about their obvious surplus of resources? Didn't Jack's people deserve to live in comfort too!?

"What has who done, Jack?" Kate asked, sounding slightly concerned. "What's the matter?" She lightly touched his arm but her jerked it away. Kate lived at the beach. He was imagining Kate and Sawyer sharing their own little cottage here, enjoying time alone together while Jack was healing people in the primitive caves.

"Look at this, Kate," Jack glared down at the beach. "Why didn't you tell me you guys had houses here!?"

Kate blinked at him. "Oh. I thought you knew that. And– is this really important right now? With Ethan running loose and all?"

Jack sighed. "You're right, I guess." He shook his head, regaining his calm. "What should we do now that we're here? Visit Sawyer?" That last statement was a joke, but it excited Kate.

"Yeah! Let's tell him about Ethan. He has a right to know."

"He has a right to be destroyed," Jack muttered grumpily, but he followed Kate anyway. He wasn't going to leave those two alone together.

"Jack," Kate said as they tramped down the sand, "you need to take a chill pill. Seriously. You can't always be so... explosive."

"Kate, I'm chill. I'm cool as a cucumber," Jack said. Kate raised her eyebrows at him in mock dismay.

"You also need to stop saying that, Jack," she laughed. "'Cool as a cucumber' is not a very... normal thing to say."

"My dad used to say it," Jack explained. "He said he was cool as a cucumber and I was as cold as an ice cube. I think it was supposed to be an insult. "

Kate laughed again, but Jack didn't think it was very funny.

They reached the library and Kate pushed open the door eager. Jack thought that it being closed was unusual. Sawyer like people to feel welcome, invited. He was the sort who would have never locked his car doors, trusting that no one would break in.

Inside, Walt was ripping pages out of books angrily and Hurley was drinking a large glass of coffee. Scott and Steve were also there, having a political debate in the arm chairs in the corner.

Sawyer wasn't there.

"Huh," Jack said happily. "Maybe he's dead." Kate ignored him and went straight to Hurley.

"Hey, Hurley," she said cheerfully, "have you seen Sawyer?" Hurley frowned at her. Jack noticed that it was very unflattering.

"No, dude," said Hurley. "He's not here."

"Really?" Kate said, sounding annoyed. "I know. Where is he?"

"No idea," Hurley shrugged. "Ask Jack, he might know."

Jack guffawed from the doorway, enjoying Hurley's un-observance. He liked to feel superior to other people almost more than he liked his darling Kate.

"Thanks, Hurley," Kate said dully. She walked back to Jack with a look of irritation on her freckled face and grabbed his muscular arm to pull him out. Once outside Jack blinked a lot, his eyes having trouble taking in what he saw walking towards him for a second.

She had never paid Jack any attention before.

"Doctor?" Nikki asked, and Jack blushed, because she knew his profession. She was wearing a bikini top and jean shorts, so tan all over. She was so pretty Jack forgot to respond to her.

"Jack?" Kate said. "I think that woman would like to talk to you." Jack glanced at Kate, now annoyed at her presence. How dare she be his fiancé instead of Nikki?!

"Hello, dear," Jack said with a bow, "how can I help you?"

Kate's face fell into an expression of disgust.

"Doctor," Nikki repeated shrilly, "is Sawyer really telling the truth? Are we really in danger from a–" she blushed, seeming embarrassed to say it– "vampire?"

"You're not in danger!" Jack said tenderly. "I'll keep you safe, Nikki."

Kate loudly cleared her throat. "Actually, Sawyer's right. We kind of are in danger right now. And Ethan is a vampire."

Nikki glared at Kate. "But, doctor, vampires don't exist, do they?" Jack shook his head, staring into her hypnotic gray eyes, and Kate slapped him.

"YES THEY DO!" she yelled at him. "Snap out of it!" She turned her rage towards Nikki. "When did Sawyer tell you this?"

"Just now," she replied. "In the jungle."

Jack was frightened. Not only did Sawyer steal Kate, but now he was caught up in a jungle romance with Nikki too? How did she know his name?

"Nikki," Jack whispered, "did Sawyer... touch you?"

"What!?" exclaimed Nikki and Kate at the same time. Jack shook himself. Now they were mad at him. Why had he let his imagination get the better of him? Besides, Nikki wasn't Jack's girlfriend. She was just a movie star that Jack deeply admired. He couldn't leave Kate for a stranger.

"Sorry," Jack said briskly. "We are in danger. But I have a plan now."

Kate stared at Jack, looking very angry. Nikki shuffled around uncomfortably. Jack smiled to win them back.

"I say that everyone hides in the caves," he said. "A few of the more competent survivors can stand guard for us around every entrance."

"That's a horrible idea," said a bald voice from behind them. "I'm ashamed of you, Jack. Aren't you, Boone?"

"Yes?"

Jack turned around, distressed, to see terrible Locke and Sawyer, and mediocre, injured Boone, clumped together apprehensively as they stared at Jack.

"Sawyer!" Kate squealed. "I couldn't find you. Where were you?"

"Looking for you," Sawyer said. "Ethan's–"

"Back!" Kate finished. "I know! Charlie, Jin and I were attacked by him!" Sawyer looked very concerned.

"Really? Me, too. Are you okay?" Jack felt that it wasn't Sawyer's place to be asking this. Jack was her boyfriend, and Sawyer was a nobody. But it was normal that someone would worry about the beautiful Kate's health.

"Who cares?" Locke interrupted, in equal parts infuriating and pleasing Jack. "We need a plan on how to deal with this, and I have a pretty good one made up."

"John," Jack said, "I already came up with the plan." He and Locke locked eyes with each other, each trying to convey their anger more aggressively. But Boone ruined the moment by suddenly shrieking in terror.

"Guys, look!" he said, and they followed his gaze.

Ethan was watching them from the roof of the library.

…...