by symphonyflute
Fandom: LOST
Spoilers: current episode (Orientation)
Disclaimer: Sadly, Lost isn't mine
Author's Notes: this is my third fic for this challenge, and 3 is my lucky number, so maybe it'll bring me luck this time.

I can't stand it, any of it. The fact that we're still on this damn island; the "others" trying to kill us; I can't stand any of it. But most of all, I can't stand the look. The look that says everything's going to be all right, the one full of light and sweetness no mater what's going on. I love it more than almost anything, but I can't stand it. I don't deserve it.

"Charlie..." I heard my name being called. It was Claire. Normally, I loved talking to Claire, but now wasn't the best time. It didn't matter, though. She'd never find me this deep in the forest; I'd made sure of that. "Charlie," she called again, "where are you?"

I couldn't ignore her any longer. "I'm in the forest."

"Well I figured that," she replied, giggling. "Any particular reason?"

"Ummm...." I searched my brain frantically, trying to find an answer that would appease her. The problem was, my brain wasn't exactly up to thinking at that exact second, which made it pretty hard. Well, I reasoned, I could always tell her the truth. "Oh, I'm just getting stoned. Remember that Virgin Mary you found in my bag? Filled with heroin that I found on an old crashed plane." Yeah, that probably wouldn't be the wisest thing to do, even I knew that. "I was just using the loo. I'll be back in a minute." There, that was a good answer.

I stuffed my statue back in my backpack and headed back in the general direction of camp. After I had been walking for a few minutes, I noticed an annoying itch in my right nostril. This was nothing new, just a side effect of the drug. Of course, that didn't stop it from being irritating as hell. I kept walking, hoping the itch would just go away. No luck. Instead of not itching, it itched twice as bad. This had gone on long enough. I pulled my sweatshirt hood off, so my face wasn't covered, and glanced up at the sun, hoping it would make me sneeze and get rid of the stupid itch.

It worked. "Hachooo! Etchoo!". They were strong, making me bend over and hit my head on a tree, which would never happen to Jack, of course. The worst thing was that the itch was still there. Albeit less intense, but definitely still there.

"God bless you," a sweet Australian voice reached my ears. Claire was standing right in front of me, Aaron bundled up in her arms. Apparently, I'd made it back to camp.

"Thanks," I replied, gingerly rubbing my head where it had collided with the tree. This caused Claire to laugh. "Yeah, very fu...fuh..." I tried valiantly to finish the word, but the itch had sprung back up suddenly, and couldn't be denied. "ACHOO!!" Again, I bent over, but this time the only thing in front of me was Claire. She moved back as soon as she saw my breath hitch, cradling the baby closer to her body as he whimpered. I straightened and sniffed loudly. "Funny."

Claire gave me a worried look. "Are you ok?" I nodded, not deserving of her worry. "You're sure?" I nodded again, not quite sure what she wanted me to say. "cause you don't look ok. You're flushed, and your eyes are bloodshot."

I'm flushed and my eyes are bloodshot? Another wonderful side effect of my fun new hobby. I opened my mouth to reassure her, not quite sure of what I would say, but I couldn't say anything anyway. As soon as I opened my mouth, I was hit by another itch, strong enough to make my nose twitch and my mouth hang open, but not strong enough to make me sneeze.

As I stood there immobile, I began to grow worried. I never sneeze for this long after I take a hit. What if I overdosed? Was I going to dye? My ponderings were cut short when the sneeze finally came. "HETCHOO!!"

Claire shifted Aaron onto one arm, grabbing my elbow with the other. "come on," she commanded, "I'm taking you back to camp." Camp was about 50 feet away, I think she probably knew I could get there myself, but Claire was really worried. I felt horrible. I didn't deserve her worry, but I couldn't really tell her that, so I went along with it. We got back to camp, and she led me to her tent. Not my tent, mind you, although I tried to walk there before I knew where we were going, but her tent. She instructed me to lie down on her bed, and turned to put Aaron in his crib.

When she turned back to me, Aaron began to cry. He didn't want to be away from his mom. She sighed, picked him up again, and came back to me, where she let her hand rest on my forehead. "No fever," she noted, bouncing the still bawling baby up and down, "it's probably just a cold." She looked thoughtful for a minute, then concluded, "I'm going to make some soup."

"you found some chickens?" I tried joking, hoping to lighten the somber mood.

She just shook her head. "Pork," she replied. "Sorry, it's all we have." With that, she left the tent to go make some soup, calling back as she did, "stay there."

I felt horrible. She was making me soup, while busy with a hysterical infant. She was doing it because she thought I was sick. She thought I was sick because I was stoned. The 6 degrees of separation dictate that this was all my fault. No surprise there. Everything was my fault. Claire getting kidnapped was my fault, seeing as I was the one who got her to go to the caves. I'm the one who couldn't protect her from Ethan. I tried, though. I really tried, it just wasn't good enough.

I want to be her hero. She's my best friend. She's the woman I love. I want to save her, make everything ok. But I can't. I'm to busy sneaking around, getting high and lying about it. I'm no hero, and I'm not the person she needs. She needs a good guy, a father to her son, not a washed up one-hit-wonder with a drug addiction. I can't give her anything. I can't even make her baby stop crying, only Sawyer could. I was going to ruin her.

I got up to leave, so I wouldn't hurt her, but I was too late. I opened the flap only to come face to face with the source of all my thoughts. "and just where do you think you're going?" She cocked her hip, putting her free hand on it. The other, of course, was still holding the now sleeping form of Aaron. She pushed me gently, causing me to fall back on the bed. Normally it would have taken more than that, but I was unsteady anyway: My high was wearing off. It was a horrible feeling. My hands were shaking and my head was pounding. Every nerve ending was on fire, and I was sweating and twitching.

Claire noticed this and put her hand on my forehead again. "You're hot," she informed me. I shrugged, not that surprised. I suspected that that might happen, it wasn't a big deal. She placed Aaron in his crib, and moved back to me, studying me. I looked down, not meeting her eyes. I couldn't, it was too hard.

We stood there in silence for a few minutes. Finally, Claire broke it. "So, are you ready for some soup?" Not really, no.

"Sure, thanks," I replied

"I couldn't find any pork. Apparently, some guys are hunting right now. I did, however, make you some chicken noodle soup."

I gazed up at her in amazement. Had she really found chickens on the island?

"Here," she handed me a bowl. It was empty. I gave her a quizzical look, but she just giggled at me. When I still didn't get it, she sighed and rolled her eyes. "Maybe we could eat it with some peanut butter." Oh, now I got it.

"Dude, did you say peanut butter?" a voice just outside the tent asked. It was Hurley, who had a hungry glint in his eyes. "I think I heard peanut butter. I'd like some peanut butter."

"There is no peanut butter," I told him, watching his hopeful expression disappear. "WE have soup, though. Want some?" I held out the bowl, which Hurley took quickly.

"Dude, is this some kind of sick joke?"

"What are you talking about?" I feigned confusion. "Claire spent a lot of time on this and I think it's delicious. Don't you Claire?" There was no response. "Claire?"

She was back in the tent, trying to control Aaron. He had woken up in hysterics, and it seemed that nothing Claire did would make him be quiet. He heard footsteps behind him. Hurley was leaving, muttering under his breath. I caught the words lunatics and peanut butter.

This was my chance, I realized. I could sneak off to the forest for another hit and no one would know. I started tiptoeing to the forest when another itch hit out of the blue, to strong to even imagine holding it back. I stood perfectly still, my nose twitching as much as my hands, which is a lot, trust me. "Itchoo!!" I stood there, hoping Claire hadn't heard me.

"Charlie?" No such luck. I jogged back to her tent, peering in once I got there, she looked up at me with a haggard expression, holding the still screaming baby on her lap. "You really do look sick. Try to get some rest." And with that, she turned her attention back to the little one.

How was I supposed to get stoned after that. It was bloody unfair. I sighed, realizing I had to help her somehow. What could I do, though? I could offer to watch him, so she could sleep. That probably wouldn't be very safe in my current state.

Actually, there was one thing I could do. I ran back to my tent, grabbed my guitar, and ran back to Claire's. Ignoring her questioning look, I played Rock-a-bye baby. And I played hush little baby, and every other lullaby I knew, and a few I made up on the spot. Finally, they took effect: Aaron slowly grew quieter and fell asleep. Claire gave me a the look as she laid him down in his cradle and crawled into bed.

Why did she do that? Why did she give me the look. The look that says everything's going to be all right, the one full of light and sweetness no mater what's going on. I love it more than almost anything, but I can't stand it. I don't deserve it.

Actually, with the whole making Aaron sleep thing, maybe I did deserve it this time. Maybe I won't hurt her. I hope I won't. I looked at my bag with the heroin stashed in it, maybe I will. I took the bag and threw it in the ocean. As soon as it was gone, the withdrawal I was already in tripled. This was gonna suck. But I will deserve that look, no matter what it takes. No matter what pain I just guaranteed for myself, it was the one action I'd done in too long that I didn't feel guilty about.

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