Title: Five things that never happened to Charlie and Bartleby, and one that did
Fandom: Crossover (Lost/Dogma)
Pairing: Charlie Pace/Bartleby
Warning: No spoilers.
Summary: “I had a dream last night . . . Lots of them, actually, odd ones, about you and me knowing each other before.”
Notes: For . Thanks to for beta.
1. They all looked the same to Bartleby, the little pre-birth souls. It was too soon for most of them to know how genetics would eventually form them, and even for the ones who would be be born in a millenia or two there was still always the gamble, the chance, the exercise of free will that would give a soul blue eyes down one road and brown down another.
So they all were simply beings of light, some who shone so brightly it would burn mortal eyes to look upon them. Curious, all of them, about this place they’d all eventually go, and so little groups were assigned to the Watchers so they could also observe and learn and maybe carry some wisdom with them once they were clothed in flesh.
Bartleby liked his little groups, liked answering their questions and trying to explain why humanity acted the way that it did, and smiling indulgently when a new soul declared, as was inevitable, “I’ll never do that!”
Except they would, and did, and Bartleby would point to them too and say, “See? That’s what happens when you think you know everything.”
Funny, how you could watch and watch and feel so superior, and still learn nothing.
After the colossal mistake of refusing God’s command, after convincing Loki to lay down his sword, after the Metatron said the words and Michael was escorting Bartleby and Loki Out, all the Host and the souls turned their faces away as if ashamed. Loki trudged in front of Michael, still scowling and hungover, looking like he wanted to shake the dust of this place from his shoes. Bartleby walked with his head high, as if the scores of friends and students didn’t bite at him like a cold wind.
They were at the gates when one stood up. A bright little soul, slated for existence many centuries in the future, a soul who sang with joy as hesheit flitted around the Heavens, one with whom Bartleby had spent many pleasant afternoons answering question after question. Bartleby Knew, as he Knew many things, that life for this soul would probably not be easy or even always pleasant, but hesheit was so eager to live it was hard to convince himherit that there was just a little longer to wait.
This soul, this friend, this person-to-be, did not turn away. Eyes that were young and wise followed every footstep to the Gates, and Bartleby thought leaving hisherits presence was almost as bad as leaving the One.
I will miss you.
I will find you again, hesheit answered, and every head turned as if hesheit had shouted it from a hilltop. Unwavering, the bright little soul continued watching. You are my friend. And I will see you again.
2. Sir Bartleby gracing one’s table was always an honor—and a pleasure too, for there were few things he demanded in return for his company: a bit of amusement, games of riddles, songs to help wash down his food. He was not like some knights, who would use your herds for target practice and terrorize the serving maids with his leers and wandering hands.
De Brabant had a good court jester, one of the drollest and most amusing in the land: an Irishman—mad, some said; a fool, said others; wicked, said some. He would caper and prance and play little tunes on his flute and say the most scandalous and outrageous things about the King and the Pope and the Crusades, but he said them with such charm and merriment that he would set the table on a roar.
Sir Bartleby watched the jester, and De Brabant watched Sir Bartleby, and wondered if some of the tales told about him were true.
“You like my trained monkey,” he said at last.
“He is a charming fellow,” Bartleby answered.
“He is young, no more than a boy. I will not have you pouncing him like a hungry cat on a mouse, even if you are a guest in my home.” De Brabant voice was perfectly pleasant, and Bartleby looked at him with utter surprise.
“Pounce? I wouldn’t dream of it.” He sipped his wine, eyes back on the jester, and De Brabant caught the look that passed between them even as the boy climbed on a table to dance.
“He’s showing off for you.”
“I feel as if I’ve seen him before,” Bartleby murmured.
“He is happy here. He is too precious to me to be otherwise.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
There was more, but the jester had thrown himself into Bartleby’s lap, mouing his lips and batting his eyelashes like a maiden, and the entire hall was laughing at the sudden blush on Bartleby’s cheek.
De Brabant was not.
3. How they’d ever let Charlie into the army was a draft board mystery: he was small enough to be 4-F, but that also meant he was small enough to fit into the lower ball turret of a bomber. He’d become the good luck charm of the Mother and Country by the simple facts of being Irish and merry and small enough for the other crew members to rub his head as each mission began, but he never ducked away from it and would sing songs of the Auld Country when they were in the air—particularly when the flak was heavy and the other crew members began to fear they’d never see home.
Bartleby was navigation, in the rear of the bomber near the lower ball turret, and he and Charlie often filled the long hours of flying to their bombing sites and back with talk. It was not, in fact, uncommon to land back in England and find Bartleby asleep with his head in Charlie’s lap, or vice versa—and Bartleby was particularly protective of Charlie, not letting anyone wake him until they were once again safely on the ground. Bartleby told him about Wisconsin—at first he told him there was nothing to the place but cows and cheese, but he found more to talk about as time went on—and Charlie told him about living in Ireland as a boy and moving to Boston after the death of his father. He had played in a small swing band before the War, and his jazz records were carefully stored in his footlocker, brought out when the boys needed a little aural joy.
“When this is over I want you to visit me,” Charlie told Bartleby. “I want you to come out to Boston. I think you’d like it.”
“Then you have to come out to Wisconsin, too. I’ll teach you how to milk a cow. Introduce you to some nice girls.”
Charlie laughed. “It’s not the nice girls that I’m interested in, B.”
Charlie had a guitar which he also played—jazz sometimes, or old songs they all could sing, and sometimes something else, songs of his own that he would quit abruptly and say, shaking his head, “It’s just not there.” Bartleby listened to him with his eyes closed, thinking about Home and the girl he’d left behind—who had kissed him so ardently before he left for boot camp and then wrote six months later that she was marrying the local veterinarian—and wondered if maybe, just maybe, Boston might be home for him after all.
Bartleby always knew where Charlie was. The crew joked about it—he was Nav, of course he knew, it was some freaky inner sonar tuned to the little Irishman—and Charlie would just smile.
“You make the fear bearable,” Charlie told him one night, when the fog was heavy over the airfield and they should have been sleeping.
“That’s what friends do, Charlie.” He pulled the smaller man close a moment, holding him in a fierce grip, and then let him go.
“Say you’ll come out to Boston. When the war’s over. Come with me.”
Bartleby looked at him—all eager blue eyes and blond hair that never held the regulation haircut no matter what the base barber did and hands that were never quite still—and knew he couldn’t leave him forever, even for the nice girls at home.
He said, “I’ll come with you,” and laughed as Charlie whooped and tackled him.
Normality is finding him using your toothbrush again and not really caring. Normality is Sunday afternoons, bringing an impromptu picnic to the park and playing Frisbee until it’s too dark to see. Normality is his fingers digging into your sides as you fuck, and his groaning voice unable to hold back a startled “Charlie!” that will probably wake the neighbors.
Normality is this li
fe, of each other, of the gym and the deli and the apartment, of the pride parades and the red ribbons and the too many funerals, of your couplehood accepted and expected and your friends saying sometimes, “You two together . . . it gives me hope.”
It’s an ugly world sometimes, a lot of hate, a lot of pain, but in this little home you’ve made something beautiful.
And when you realize that beauty is normality and happiness is his smiling face in the mornings, you count yourself lucky and blessed.
5. All the muffins are gone from the basket and Charlie feels like throwing something. Liam is still yelling in the next room—something about the insipid DJs they had interviewed with earlier, though Charlie knows it is more about his stash running low—and Charlie just closes the door. And then locks it. And then lies down on the starchy bed and begins his nightly exercise of How the Hell Did I End Up Here.
“You trusted a little too well,” someone says, and Charlie lifts his head.
“Who the fuck are you?”
He is handsome, dark-haired, American. It iss enough to put Charlie on edge. He smiles at Charlie and crosses his legs, fussing with a non-existent wrinkle in his jeans. “I’m a fan.”
Charlie is up at once. “Security—”
“Oh, chill out. I’m not here to hurt you or even sleep with you. Relax. Sit.”
Charlie does not want to sit. Liam’s not the only one in need of a fix right now.
“Okay. Here’s the deal. I want to do something for you, since I’m a fan, and I have a little mojo I can work in order to make it happen. But that requires a little something from you, too.”
Charlie’s tone is dry. “I’ve not reached the blowjobs for drugs stage yet, thank God.”
The man smiles at him. It is also a little dry. “A, would be pointless, and B, I’m not trying to sell you drugs. I want to take you off them, Charlie.”
“Bloody hell.” Charlie rubs his face with his hands. “You’re a fucking intervention?”
“No, I’m just a fan. Like I said. But I’m a fan with a little extra zing.” He looks at Charlie almost sorrowfully. “I hate what’s happening to you.”
“Nothing’s happening to me.” Except for the spiraling out of control bits, but he can handle those. He can. It’s not denial. See how not in denial he is.
“Charlie . . . you know what this band can become. You’re not really destined to be another throwaway pop group. You could be the next U2, if you’d just stop running away from the real problems.” He holds out a hand. “Trust me.”
“Who are you?” He does not reach for his hand. He’s not Charlie’s type. He’s probably a psychopathic stalker and just using this patter to get whatever it is that he came here for.
“Name’s Bartleby. Former angel. And now a Driveshaft fan.” His hand is still out. “Charlie. I know about the heroin in the coffeepot. I know about the little baggie you keep under your belt during the show. I know about a lot of things. I know the first boy you kissed was named Rupert and I know that you think Liam was a fool for marrying that girl because you don’t believe the baby’s his. It is, by the way, but that’s another issue altogether. Please. Trust me. I don’t want anything except to help you.”
Charlie stares at the work boots on the other man’s feet and says, “I always thought angels wore white and had wings, and I certainly can’t see them being into rock’n’roll.”
“We’re full of surprises. Charlie. Please.”
Everyone I’ve trusted has hurt me, Charlie thinks, scowling.
“I know,” the angel says. “I’m here to end that.”
“How did you—never mind. Go away. I don’t need help. I don’t know who the fuck you are. Go away. I don’t believe you’re an angel for a second. Just go away.” He turns over, clutching a pillow and starting to sweat. Go away so I can do this in peace, where no one’s watching me. I can’t do it if you’re watching me.
He hears the other man stand, sighing. “All right. I’ll go. But if you change your mind I’ll be back. I do want to help you, Charlie. You’re . . . we were friends once. More than once. You and I, we’ve known each other before.”
“Get OUT!” Charlie throws the nearest object at him—the pillow, in this case, which lands on the floor with a soft whump because there’s no one there.
6. Happiness, contrary to popular belief, comes in infinite forms. What the storybooks mean when they say “and they lived happily ever after” could mean something as simple as “they didn’t fight much, the children were healthy and death, when it came, was bearable.”
Or it could mean days like this, the former angel and the former rock star out by the lake in the sun. The former rock star is playing guitar, barefoot, the music meandering like the clouds across the sky. The former angel is sleeping, weary from long illness, his first day in the sun in many weeks.
“What do you fancy for lunch?” Charlie says quietly, not pausing the music.
Bartleby gets nudged by a grubby toe for that. Charlie has not been wearing shoes much lately. It shows. “Seriously. Make your request or you’re getting oatmeal.”
“Seriously. I don’t care.”
“Git,” Charlie says affectionately and puts the guitar aside to swoop Bartleby into a hug. “Wake up. Talk to me.”
Bartleby makes a complaining noise. “‘m awake. Go back to your music. Not hungry. Want to listen to you play.”
Charlie strokes Bartleby’s hair for a moment, then pounces, tickling him. Bartleby yelps—he’s never been ticklish before, what the fuck?—and pushes him onto his back, trapping his hands. “Assault and battery, boy!” he says and then kisses him.
“Woke you up, didn’t I?” Charlie says, expression smug, and his arms go around Bartleby’s neck and he exhales happily. Bartleby tries to be stern—he doesn’t like being tickled, dammit—but kissing’s so nice. Kissing Charlie is nice. He’s missed it.
Eventually he rolls onto his side and pulls Charlie to him, tucking his head beneath his chin. “Let’s stay out a bit longer.”
“Mm.” Charlie’s hand on his chest, a knee bent over his hip, mouth just right to press kisses to his neck and chin. “I had a dream last night.”
“Lots of them, actually, odd ones, about you and me knowing each other before.”
“Before . . . everything.” He yawns and settles himself in more comfortably. “I was a monkey in one, I think. Or someone called me a monkey. And Loki was in it. And Nick. And other people. And you were always there.”
Bartleby smiles. Charlie’s hair is soft beneath his fingertips. “I always have been.” And maybe—it certainly feels this way when the sun is soft and the music sweet and Charlie smells like rain and French toast—maybe he always will be.