|Nothing on the Inside - Lost - Charlie/Desmond
||[Sep. 17th, 2009|11:19 am]
where the daydreams reign
Title: Nothing on the Inside
Word Count: 2930
A/N: This is a fusion with Dollhouse, using the concept of programmable people but not the characters of the show (and playing around with what the Dollhouse technology can actually do).Desmond is rather morally grey here.
Summary: His life has been going downhill since leaving the island. When Desmond hears of an organisation that may be able to reunite him with Charlie for one day, he can't resist temptation.
It had been painful, Desmond would admit, when he'd seen the huge dip in his bank account. Even with a healthy amount in there after Hurley had donated his share of the Oceanic pay-out, the fees of the Dollhouse weren't something that could go unnoticed. When his balance had taken such a drastic cut, Desmond had swallowed hard and asked himself if he'd done the right thing. It had been impossible to resist the curiosity when he'd first heard of the service that was provided by a certain facility in New York. Programmable people: blank slates waiting to be filled with any personality you wanted, waiting to be anyone you wanted.
An urban legend, he'd thought even as his mind played with the possibilities. A fantasy and nothing more - but then the business card somehow ended up in the pocket of his jacket.
Now, two months later, there was a beautiful young woman sat in front of him. Her dark hair was tied back from her face in a way that showed off her dark, soulful eyes. She looked down, focusing on the guitar in her lap and music she was playing. It was a tune Desmond could remember well, bringing back sun-soaked memories of the island. Charlie's music. Charlie's talent.
She sat on a set of stone steps outside the building where they had decided to meet. The sun shone upon her, making her tanned skin look gold.
He walked forward, hands shifting nervously as he approached. They ended up crossed in front of him as if shielding his crotch once he was close enough that his shadow fell over the young woman. She looked up at him with the flicker of a familiar grin on her face. "Took you long enough to come over here, Des. I was beginning to think you were gonna chicken out."
And that voice... It was his voice in every single syllable. His voice and his words and his essence, all sitting right in front of him as if returning from the dead was an every day occurance.
"I'm not a coward," Desmond said, once he regained control of his mouth.
"Yeah, I seem to remember you beating that particular lesson into me," Charlie said. She - no, it was Charlie, it was 'he' - got to his feet, holding his guitar by the neck. The body he was in looked awkward now, like a child trying on its parents' clothes. "Taller than I'm used to," Charlie confessed. The woman's face lifted in a sheepish smile that Desmond remembered perfectly. "Can't fault you on the body, mate. Look at these."
He prodded one of his breasts with an amused laugh, and Desmond couldn't help grinning even as his throat felt tight. There was no denying that it wasn't a woman behind the steering wheel of this particular body. "I thought you'd like it, brother," he said, as if that were the sole reason for his decision.
There was something else there, though. He chose a body he was attracted to for a personality he missed so much he couldn't think of anything else. Charlie's preference had been secondary - and judging from the knowing glint of amusement in his brown eyes, Charlie knew it.
"You're taking it rather well," Desmond observed. They were standing far apart, a metre or more separating them. "I was expecting you to panic a little more."
"Panic about the 'hey, you're alive for today but you're actually dead for real' bit, or the 'hey, you're a woman' stuff? 'cos, honestly, you should have seen me an hour ago. I had something of a tantrum."
All the same, he was taking it in his stride. Desmond wasn't sure if it was part of the programming or if it was Charlie himself, but it made everything easier. It made it easier to be around him: he didn't think he could stand seeing Charlie panic.
"Well, are you going to take me out for lunch or not? I'm bloody starving. Don't know what they feet these bodies but I feel like I haven't eaten in forever. C'mon - there's got to be somewhere around here that sells bacon rolls."
Charlie's arm, slim and tanned, landed around Desmond's shoulders and they started walking together. Desmond felt like they were on the island again and he was caught in the rip tide of Charlie's adventures, but that was alright: this experience was worth every penny.
It was odd watching Charlie. The body he was in was full and female, but with Charlie pulling the strings her movements were fidget-filled and short with a distinct lack of grace. He brushed at his face, behind his neck, under his nose, always moving. Desmond would wonder if he was checking that the body was real, but remembered those same gestures from when Charlie was alive.
"You're staring at me again, mate," Charlie pointed out gleefully. He leaned back on the park bench they had landed upon and he stretched, long arms far above his head.
"You're the walking dead. It'd be odd if I wasn't staring."
He looked away all the same, staring up at the dimming sky above them. He'd had Charlie at his side all afternoon, talking about nothing as they both avoided that big, fat elephant following them around. Through pure force of will, neither had mentioned the underwater hatch and the events that led up to it.
"I'm a piece of fancy-pants programming, not a zombie. And it wasn't even a 'oh god, there's a ghost, I'm freaking out' kind of stare anyway, 'cos that I wouldn't bother commenting on. I mean you've been staring at me. Staring-staring. It's fine. You picked out this doll for a reason, right?"
Desmond's mouth was dry and his head was light. He wanted to confirm that Charlie was completely right. He picked an attractive body because he thought it might make it easier to come to terms with what he wanted from Charlie, what he'd always wanted from him. It hadn't, though, not at all, and he was left looking stubbornly up at the sky as he tried not to notice when Charlie slid along the park bench, closer to him.
"D'you want to touch me?" Charlie offered, and it was so blunt that Desmond almost choked. "You can, y'know. If you want."
"What?" Too fast, too defensive. Desmond shifted away. "Charlie, that's not what ..."
When he trailed off, shaking his head, Charlie responded with a crooked smile and knowing eyes. "It's okay, mate. I want it too. If I'd known you were up for it I would've tried something on the island."
He could have tried it and Desmond would have said no, would have backed away and felt uncomfortable because - no - he was not gay, not at all. Before Charlie, he had never considered anything of the sort, but ever since meeting him he hadn't been able to stop these images, forbidden ideas, from dancing through his head. It was wrong. Disturbing.
He stopped thinking altogether when Charlie's hand touched his jaw, coaxing him around to look at him. It was a woman's hand but a man's touch, Charlie's touch. Desmond didn't resist. He looked over the face of the woman in front of him and found that he wished more than anything that it was Charlie for real that was here, small, wiry and blond.
Charlie's mouth quirked confidently and then his eyes closed as he leant in. His lips, ridiculously soft and plump, pressed against Desmond's mouth. Desmond's eyes stayed open, watching Charlie even though he was too-close and out of focus. He was barely responding, but his hand reached out to clutch that the front of Charlie's t-shirt. He didn't let go, couldn't convince himself to do so, and when Charlie coaxed his mouth open he was happy to allow it. Charlie was unhappily self-confident at this, a state of mind that Desmond wished for. He couldn't remain calm and in control, not like that.
He couldn't stop himself from wondering if it was real, if that had really been a part of the Charlie he'd known, or if it had been added for his benefit. He wondered if he really cared.
Fluidly, Charlie moved onto Desmond's lap, sitting in the same way that one would ride side-saddle on a horse. His hand splayed against Desmond's jaw, coaxing and leading. Desmond tried to stop thinking about what they were doing and the implications of it. He stopped worrying and started feeling instead. It was good. It was better than he would have dared to imagine.
The park bench was uncomfortable and the sun had almost disappeared below the horizon. Charlie was a comfortable weight in his lap; it was as if he belonged there, perfectly. Desmond's hand stayed firmly on his hip to stop him from getting any ideas about wriggling away. Things were kept surprisingly chaste considering how long he had been waiting for this and daydreaming about it. They were in public, even though the park was nearly empty.
Charlie rested their foreheads together once they had parted. His big, brown eyes were so close that it was hard to focus. "Why don't we go somewhere a little more private? I'm looking forward to giving this body a test-drive, but I'm not particularly up for giving the whole world a peep show. Plus, y'know, you don't strike me as the exhibitionist type."
Desmond smiled. "My flat's nearby."
"Perfect." Charlie jumped off of his lap and offered his hand to Desmond. Taking it, holding it, felt natural and normal, as if he had - they had - been doing this forever. Desmond held on tightly and allowed Charlie to drag him from the park, both of them pretending that there really was a future here.
Charlie wanted to explore everything about the body he had been given: it was difficult to keep up with him, truth be told. There was nothing Charlie didn't want to try and he didn't seem willing to take even a tiny break.
"Jesus Christ," Charlie panted, cheeks flushed pink while Desmond was still crouched between his open thighs. "Why do women ever stop?"
He answered that for himself, really, when he flinched as Desmond's tongue flashed one more time over his clit, red and tender. Desmond was spent as well, but he couldn't stop touching Charlie, exploring the body that was only really on loan: it didn't belong to either of them.
"I wish we'd done this before..." he admitted, mournfully.
Looking down at him, Charlie's eyes - dark and soulful, not blue and full of mirth - widened in surprise. "Really?"
"Aye," Desmond said. He kissed the ridge of Charlie's belly, feeling smooth skin there instead of the trail of hair that he would find with a man. "Think of all the time we've missed out on."
"I never knew," Charlie said. "I always thought you were as straight as they come - all that stuff with Penny, y'know?"
Her name made him wince with still fresh pain in a way he couldn't stop. Charlie reached down to stroke his hand through Desmond's hair to soothe him; he was almost embarrassed that it worked. He sighed and felt some of the tension leaving him with that long breath. After that, it wasn't hard for the truth to follow. "I am. With you, Charlie, I'm thinking I'll make an exception."
"Yet here I am with a pair of breasts and a vagina. Interesting." Charlie gave a wry grin that looked so familiar and yet so new on his fresh face. "Speaking personally, I was always pretty fluid when it came to sex. When you're off your face it doesn't occur to you to stop and compare bits, y'know?"
"Can't say I do, actually." He wriggled a little until he was resting his cheek against Charlie's firm belly, near his navel. "Whisky's always been my poison. Nothing stronger."
"I wish I could say the same. If it weren't for that bloody stuff... Well, I probably wouldn't be dead, for a start."
"No drugs; Driveshaft doesn't go belly-up; I don't need to go to Australia to talk my brother into an extremely pathetic reunion gig; I never get on Flight 815; I live. Hooray for Charlie sodding Pace, right?"
"I've never been much for asking 'what if'," Desmond said, though that was little more than a lie and he thought that this time they both knew it. "No point in it."
"There doesn't have to be a 'point' to everything, Des."
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"Aye, I know."
Charlie's hand stroked through his hair, calm and gentle, and he said, "Go to sleep. I'll still be here when you wake up."
He wasn't lying, but his presence didn't last long. They shared breakfast together and through their smiles Desmond could see and feel the first pricklings of fear. Their time was running out; they both knew the end was coming.
"You should get back in touch with Penny," Charlie said thoughtfully between sips of tea. "She's good for you. I think maybe you need each other."
Desmond didn't know what to say to that so he ended up saying nothing at all. Sun streamed in through the cafe window, unnaturally bright and clear. Desmond's breakfast remained uneaten on his plate in front of him. He couldn't stomach a single bite.
There was no make-up on Charlie's face and he hadn't pulled his long brown hair behind his head. He weared the same kind of clothing that he had while alive and in his own body, but the loose t-shirt didn't disguise what lay beneath. Charlie caught him looking and held his gaze, but the look on his face was not flirtatious now: it was pitying and nothing more.
"I mean it," he said. "Pull yourself together. If you're not going to do it for yourself, do it for me. You think I like seeing you like this?"
Desmond held back the twitch of a bitter smile as he thought, You like whatever you're programmed to like. It wasn't a nice thought and part of him felt guilty for it. Another part - a darker part - thought that he'd make sure that the programmers left out any futile desire to rescue him next time. That wasn't what this was about: it wasn't what he wanted.
Across the table, Charlie's eyes were brown and unfamiliar, but there was an aggressively curious glint to them that was eerily recognisable. "I'm serious, mate."
"I know you are, brother. I know." And yet how could he listen to a word that Charlie said when it didn't even come out of the mouth of Charlie himself? It made it easier, somehow. It made it better that he didn't have to see Charlie in his own flesh. The eyes that watched him with open disapproval are the wrong colour, the wrong size, the wrong shape. The body was the wrong sex. The body was wrong.
"I wish you had let me take your place," he said, the words bubbling up as if they had been brewing since the moment the oar had hit his head years ago. "It would have been better that way."
"'The universe will course-correct'," Charlie quoted with a sad smile, though Desmond knew it didn't come from any genuine memories.
If it talks like Charlie, thinks lik Charlie, acts like Charlie, is it Charlie? he thought, but it was the kind of question he didn't want to linger upon: it made his conscience ache and throb. It didn't matter. After all he'd been through, nothing he did now should matter.
"I should go soon," Charlie said, glancing at the clock that was counting away their expensive seconds, hung up high on the cafe's wall. Beneath it, there were photographs of so-called celebrities that had had their coffees here. Soapstars and ex-footballers, Desmond didn't recognise a single one.
"I wish you could stay," Desmond said; his voice was huskier than usual with the strain of desperation. "I don't know how to say goodbye."
"Goodbyes suck anyway," Charlie said. He stood up, long legs unfolding even though Desmond desperately wanted to feel them wrapped tight around his waist once more as he had last night, urging him deeper and closer. "I'll stick with 'I hope I never see you again'."
Desmond knew that he meant well. Charlie wanted him to get his life back ontrack, to stop dreaming of expensive ghosts and remember that life was for the living, not the dead.
He wished that he could promise Charlie all that he needed to hear. Nothing more came out than a strained, "Charlie, I..."
"Shh," he murmured. He stepped forward and pushed Desmond's hair back from his face. Soft, full lips kissed his forehead. "It's okay. I promise you, mate: everything will be okay."
It was bullshit, it was all bullshit, but Desmond felt as if he had been gargling with battery acid. If he tried to talk, his words would fail him.
"Take care of yourself," Charlie urged, pulling Desmond forward by his shoulders into a tight hug; he clung on numbly and Desmond knew that this was the same sort of hug that Hurley had received before Charlie had left him behind completely. It said goodbye more than any words could manage to do.
Yet when Desmond watched Charlie leave the cafe, the bell above the door chiming as he exited, he sat back down in his seat and leant back. Although he knew it was bad for him, he also knew that it was only a matter of time before his bank account took another sharp dip.