When the sun goes down, Claire seeks out Charlie.
Michael tells her that he last saw Charlie and his guitar on the beach, so that’s where she heads.
The precious guitar is stored away carefully under a tarp and that gives her a moment of worry until she sees the Brit farther down the beach, standing in the surf and watching the sun sink under the horizon.
She sighs softly and goes to join him.
For a long moment they both watch the sunset silently.
Then she reaches out and catches his hand in hers.
He looks at her in surprise…and she just smiles.
“The sunset,” he says softly. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. It is.”
“Sun’s watching him. She said something about Michael wanting her to help him improve Jin’s English…” She trails off. “It’s kind of nice without him, though, isn’t it?” She says that hesitantly, scared to death of what his answer might be.
But she is rewarded with a small, genuine smile. “It’s wonderful, luv.”
She smiles back, relieved to be able to put to rest the small voice that keeps asking if he only hangs around her to be able to take care of the Island baby. “It’s been a long time since I could just watch the sun set.”
“You should always take time out to watch the sunset,” he admonishes, pauses, and then adds almost shyly, “We should always take time out to watch the sunset.”
She squeezes his hand gently. “We will.”
The next evening Claire convinces Rose and Bernard to watch Aaron, and returns to the beach.
Charlie is waiting for her.
“I used to watch the sun go down with my mum,” he says when the sky is mostly navy blue and there’s only a fringe of red and gold and purple shining at the horizon.
He nods. “It was our time, just for us. She’d time it just right and we’d go out and watch the sunset, just her and me.”
There’s a small, comfortable silence between them for a moment, before he speaks again, his voice distant.
“It’s one of the few happy memories I have of my childhood.”
He blinks and looks at her. He seems embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Claire, I didn’t mean to go all angsty teenage melodrama on you. I didn’t mean to say that…”
She shakes her head.
The sun is gone now, and it’s too dark for her to make out more than the most vague details of his face.
“It’s fine, Charlie. I’m glad you did,” she says, and means it.
The next evening it’s Sawyer who watches Aaron, grumbling about it but looking thrilled to have the opportunity, and Claire meets Charlie on the beach again.
She finds the courage to cuddle close to him, telling herself that it’s for body warmth but not really believing it, and letting herself rest against the warmth of his chest while they watch the sky.
He smells of vanilla and spice, and if she keeps her eyes on the sky she can imagine that they’re a thousand miles away on an Australian beach with civilization just a phone call away.
When the sun is almost gone, she doesn’t raise her head from his chest, but speaks anyway. “When I was six years old my dad took me out to watch the sunset.”
“Yeah?” His chest moves with his voice. It feels good.
She nods, still not moving to look at him. “My mum got upset with him, because there was some work he supposed to be doing. I remember he told her, ‘The work will wait while I show Claire the sunset. The sunset won’t wait while I do the work.’ And we sat on the porch swing together and watched the sun go down.”
“Very sweet of him.” She can feel him smile but refuses to look at it.
“The next morning he was gone,” she says. “I didn’t see him ever again.”
He tangles his fingers in hers and doesn’t say anything. The waves keep crashing against their knees and farther down the beach, someone has lit the signal fire and the sun is all gone now and she can see stars in the sky.
Finally she extricates herself from him. Her chest feels tight like it always does when she talks about her father and she feels the need to get away from the memory.
And then Charlie catches her around the waist and kisses her softly in the dark.
All thoughts of getting away flee her mind and she sees stars again, but she wishes she could see his face instead.
The next evening almost everyone is busy and it takes Claire almost an hour to screw up the courage to beg Libby to watch Aaron for her.
She’s not even sure why. She and Charlie haven’t talked about the kiss and she’s not even really sure how she feels about it and even if she was sure, what if he’s regretting it now?
But she coaxes Libby into watching Aaron and goes down to the beach and sure enough, there’s Charlie waiting for her in the surf.
This time she kisses him, and this time she can see his face.
The next evening it rains, and there’s no way they’ll be able to see the sunset.
But Claire charms Hurley into watching Aaron and races Vincent down the path to the beach.
Charlie is soaking wet and shivering from the rain when she gets there, his hoodie sticking tightly to him.
“No sunset,” he says ruefully. “Hidden behind the rain.”
“No sunset,” she agrees sadly, and then slips her hand into his. “So let’s make our own.”
Vincent barks and the rain comes down and someone whispers in the jungle, but neither of them notice.
They’re too focused on the setting sun.
The next evening Tracy volunteers to watch Aaron, and from the smile on her face Claire knows she knows why they need the time away from the baby.
But Tracy has Steve (or is it Scott?) to keep her warm, and Claire has fallen in love with the sunset.
They sit on the beach tonight and she curls in on herself, nestled against him.
When the sun sets she doesn’t feel like someone’s mother stranded on an Island populated by monsters, polar bears, and insane kidnappers. She feels like a twenty-three-year-old girl in love with a boy slipped off for a stolen moment on the beach.
The sky is pink and purple and gold and blue and red and orange and yellow and he weaves his fingers into her hair and whispers her name.
She looks up at him. “Yes, Charlie?”
“Your eyes are green tonight.”
That earns a slight frown. “My eyes are blue.”
“Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes they’re blue and sometimes they’re green and tonight they’re green.”
She doesn’t know how to respond to that.
“Sometimes they’re blue,” he repeats softly, “And sometimes they’re green, and they’re always beautiful.”
And as the sun sinks down over the water he leans down and kisses her gently.
The next evening Sayid watches Aaron, and a light rain produces a shimmering rainbow.
Claire’s in a bouncy mood and can’t stop herself from dancing on the sand and Charlie looks amused.
“Dance with me,” she teases.
“Luv, I’m a rocker, no one ever taught me classic dance.”
“It doesn’t have to be classic dance, it’s a…” She pauses. “It’s a sun dance.”
“A sun dance, eh? And how does one dance a sun dance?”
So she shows him how to sun dance while bright ribbons of color and light are thrown across the sky and the sand.
They continue their sun dance even when the sun is long gone and the signal fire has been lit.
And she thinks this is what peace must be.
Claire stands on the beach and digs her bare toes into the sand. It feels strange and rough and gritty.
The ocean is smoother and gentler and quieter.
“Mum, what are we doing here?”
But the air smells of vanilla and spice, and if she keeps her eyes on the sky she can imagine that they’re a thousand miles away on a deserted beach with civilization a distant memory.
“We’re watching the sunset, Aaron,” she says, and focuses on the ribbons of light and color dancing across the sky.
If she pretends hard enough, the smell of vanilla and spice surrounds her and she can feel body warmth seeping out through a battered rock ’n’ roll T-shirt and she can feel a callused hand slide into her own.
If she pretends hard enough, Charlie is with her again, and they’re dancing on the Island.
If she pretends hard enough, the sun is setting, and the past eight years never happened.
If she pretends hard enough, there was never a hand-carved cross in the sand, and a stilted funeral while the sun sank over the horizon.
But the sun is gone now, vanished into the night, and Aaron is shifting uncomfortably next to her, not understanding why they’re here, and she can’t pretend anymore.
She’s in the real world now.
And all she wants is a sunset on the beach.