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Ghost of Boyfriends Not Quite Past

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Oh, and how she was going to kill Miles.

It was three-fourteen am, and for some ridiculous reason it was actually somewhat chilly in LA. She was standing outside, a safe distance from the apartment building she'd just left, in nothing but a little black dress, praying she wasn't mistaken for a hooker. The taxi was late- "Five minutes!" the driver assured her when 411 patched her through to a cab company- and, all in all, it was a miserable end to a night that had actually been decent when compared to the rest of her dating fiascoes. All thanks to Pierre Chang's son and his somewhat misguided attempts at matchmaking.

Her mother had warned her about dating Americans.

Where had this evening gone wrong?

Jim was handsome, intelligent. Miles had mentioned he'd been a lady's man back in his early days on the force, and Charlotte could definitely see vestiges of that smooth operator. Flirting was easy for him, and good lord, that boyish grin could charm the pants (or little black dress, in a manner of speaking) right off a girl.

She wasn't a woman who went for chivalry, but when he pulled out her chair at dinner, Charlotte wasn't about to stop him. The conversation was easy and open, once she'd pushed him to just be himself and say what he thought. Jim had made her feel special, in a way she hadn't felt in such a very long time

And the sex? Bloody fantastic. Really, were anymore words than that necessary? Sure, it was their only first date. But Charlotte had every indication that a second would be coming. And a third.

For a moment she was actually ready to thank Dr. Chang's miracle matchmaking son.

Then it had all gone awry, and over what? A sodding t-shirt (He had said top right drawer, hadn't he?). She was an archaeologist, inquisitive by nature. Of course she was going to open the notebook when she saw it amidst the mess of boxers and trinkets. It had been a hell of a shock, seeing the little blonde haired boy in the crinkled picture smiling with his parents contrasted against the newspaper article reporting the murder-suicide.

She wouldn't have expected him to bring it up. Really, it wasn't first date conversation material.

("So tell me about your childhood?" - "Oh my dad killed my mom, then killed himself.") But his reaction had been bad- almost terrifying, if she was being honest.

Leaving her here, on a street corner in LA, waiting for a taxi that was twenty two minutes late.

Well, she certainly hadn't foreseen the evening ending this way.

And yet… maybe she had?

Charlotte had this feeling when she first met Jim at the bar. She could quite explain it. Almost like déjà vu. They'd met before. Thoughts of guns and bullet proof vests, and a punch that sent her reeling flashed through her mind.

Only… she knew they hadn't met before today, because she'd never heard the name James Ford prior to Miles telling her they'd be meeting at one of the trendy restaurants downtown. Besides, he worked for the LAPD. Clearly, that was where she got the silly word associations.

But the image of his fist swinging back to punch, a man on the ground… how to explain that?

Thirty-six minutes, and it was nearing four AM. She was tempted to call Miles and wake his sorry arse up to drive her home, but that would mean more waiting. It wasn't far to the flat she was renting anyway. She'd suck it up and walk.

OOO

It occurred to her, somewhere between her flat and his, that despite her initial disappointment that it didn't work out, and despite the fact that Jim was a total arse, she wasn't all that upset.

Of course, at the very moment she realized this, the heel of her open toed shoes got caught in a deceptively large sidewalk crack, sending her careening to the ground.

And now she was upset.

Charlotte didn't cry often, and when she did, it was only a trickle or two before she had herself back under control. Spending months in the world's most dangerous nations didn't lend much time to weakness.

Was it Jim that had her crying?

Or another man?

'Cause it certainly wasn't Jim's face she was picturing in her mind.

The image was piecemeal, hardly complete. Like a thousand different puzzle pieces arranged across a table, waiting to be put together. If only she could reach out, touch it, put it together…

She wasn't crying for Jim. She was crying because she couldn't reach out and reassemble the pieces.

And how would she ever find him, if he was in a thousand little pieces?

"Are you alright? That looked like a nasty fall."

His brown hair was falling in his eyes, unkempt and shaggy, and his tie was knotted low and loose around his neck. It was in stark contrast to how neatly pressed his Oxford shirt was, and the stack of music books she saw that he held in his arms, obsessively arranged by size. He offered her his free hand, and though something told her she shouldn't trust strange men who offered her help at almost four in the morning, she took it.

There was something familiar about him

"I'm fine, thanks," she muttered, wiping the last of the tears from her face. She felt foolish, crying in front of a stranger like this.

He smiled, a sweet, crooked smile. There was something endearing about him, comforting. "Can I call you a cab or something?"

She let out an inadvertent sigh. "No… No I spent the last hour waiting for a bloody taxi. I was just going to walk home. No thanks to that sodding bastard…" She sighed again, feeling bad for dumping her emotional baggage on this stranger. "Thanks for your help."

Straightening her shoulders, she continued walking, even though a corner of her brain was screaming: Don't leave. Stay with him.

And she couldn't figure out why.

"You… I mean… If you want…" the man stuttered. "What I mean is, you seem really upset. I know it's ridiculously late, and I know this probably makes me seem like some sort of crazed psycho, but can I buy you a coffee? There's a diner around the corner, and it looks like you could use an ear."

She stopped in her tracks. Was he asking her out?

And should she really go? Really, why was this guy just walking the streets at four in the morning? No normal human did that. Yet here she was, considering it. She trusted him, and he wouldn't harm her. Charlotte didn't know where the feeling came from, but she never doubted her gut. It had never been wrong before.

"I just got kicked out of the apartment of my once blind date, now one night stand. I've made stupider decisions tonight," Charlotte replied, turning around. As he stepped further into the street light, she swore, just for a moment, that not only had she met him before, but that she'd known him well.

"If it makes you feel any better, I broke it off with my now-ex-girlfriend Theresa tonight. We can wallow together. What happened to you?" He smiled, and Charlotte knew she'd seen him before.

But where?

"I was looking for a T-shirt. Found a family photo I apparently shouldn't have seen."

He laughed, and she frowned. "I'm not laughing at you; I just wish I had it that easy. Theresa's a scientist. Wanted to use me as her human guinea pig."

Charlotte knew her jaw had dropped. "What kind of guinea pig?"

"Time travel. She's researching time travel."

Time travel. She'd done that.

Where the hell did that thought come from? Charlotte started to wonder if this man wasn't the crazy one- if it was actually her.

Still, she laughed at the absurdity of the stranger's ex-girlfriend's research. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Nope. Knew it was time for me to break it off. Though I'd kill to meet Wagner if she gets her time machine working. Warn him that Hitler's going to tarnish his legacy by playing his music at the death camps." He nodded towards the music books in his arms. "I'm Daniel Faraday. Piano instructor extraordinaire."

"Charlotte Lewis. Archaeologist." She took his hand, shaking it. "Coffee?"

"Absolutely. Back this way," he said, pointing down the street. It was a hesitating, jerked movement, sending a sensation of déjà vu through her again.

Walking close beside him- for some reason, she just felt calmer the closer she got to him- she examined his face. "Have we met before, Daniel?"

"You know, I was going to ask you that… I don't think so. I would remember someone like you."

"Likewise."

And she meant it. Daniel Faraday and the feelings he'd sent through her in the first five minutes she knew him left her reeling. Certainly, Charlotte would have remembered meeting him before.

This déjà vu was just a figment of her imagination.

But then again… maybe it wasn't.