All the Best Cowboys have Daddy Issues
Disclaimer: I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer or LOST. Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon, and LOST belongs to J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof. I'm just a poor college student playing around with the characters. The plot pretty much belongs to J.J. and Damon, as I'm just taking existing LOST episodes and inserting Buffy into them. A large amount of dialog is taken from the episode itself. Episode transcripts taken from twiztv.
Alright, so I know I haven't posted a new chapter in MONTHS, and I don't even have a good excuse. I just sort of lost interest in writing fanfiction, and my new boyfriend has been taking up a lot of my time. But I'm out of school now, so hopefully I'll be able to pump out a few new chapters!
Thanks so much to AngelaMichelle, darkbear, CharmedSlayer, Shezzi, Demongirl, and Toniboo for your WONDERFUL reviews! Sorry I've made you wait so long for the next chapter! Anyways, enough of me rambling on and on and on with the story!
“Jack!” Buffy cracked an eye open to survey her surroundings, opening the other eye and sitting up when she saw Hurley running into the sunlit cave and up to Jack, pausing as soon as he reached him to catch his breath. Furrowing her eyebrows in confusion, she threw the covers off of her and stepped out of Jack's bed, slipping on her tennis shoes before walking over them to see what was going on. “We got a problem.” Reaching Hurley's side, she noticed a clipboard in his hand and gave him a small smile when he turned toward her.
“What's going on?” she asked, giving Jack and Kate a nod in greeting before gesturing to the clipboard in Hurley's hands. “What's that?”
“The manifest,” he said, handing it to her. Buffy rifled through the pages for a few minutes, before handing it back to him, not really finding anything interesting. “The census... the names of everyone who survived. All forty-six of us. I interviewed everyone... here... at the beach... I got their names.”
“And?” asked Jack, clearly not understanding what Hurley's point was. He looked about as lost as Buffy felt, and locking eyes with Kate, she saw that the brunette was just as confused as she was. She knew what he was talking about, but she had no idea where he was going with it.
“One of them isn't in the manifest! He wasn't on the plane!”
“What?” asked Kate, frowning.
“Who wasn't on the plane?” Buffy added, feeling a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. After all the things she had tried to protect them from, the thought that someone among them could cause them harm never even occurred to her.
“Ethan... the Canadian guy. He's not on the manifest!” Hurley tapped his finger against the clipboard, looking from Buffy to Jack and back.
“Shit,” Buffy muttered, dragging a hand over her face in realization. Looking around the cave, she noticed that both Claire and Charlie were gone, and her eyes widened, several versions of what could have happened to them running through her mind.
“Where the hell is he?” Jack was asking, and both Kate and Hurley shrugged.
“I don't know. I saw him yesterday, but-...” Hurley was cut off as Jack called out to her, wondering what was wrong, but Buffy ignored him, her eyes sweeping the area for any sign of Claire and Charlie.
“Has anyone seen Ethan?” She found nothing. Michael and Locke rushed over to the group, stopping when they reached Jack's side.
“Yeah, yeah, he went to get some wood,” informed Michael, gesturing toward the mouth of the cave. “Took off on the path to the beach. Is he okay? What happened?”
“Where's Claire?” asked Buffy, and everyone turned to look at her but no one answered. “Where's Claire!” Kate jumped at her outburst, but quickly answered.
“The beach. She went back to the beach.”
“And Charlie,” Buffy prompted and was met with the same answer. “Shit!” Without another word, she sprinted out of the cave and down the path toward the beach, ignoring Jack's cries for her to stop. Heart pounding in her chest and blood rushing through her veins, Buffy sprinted in the direction of the beach, barely paying any attention to the branches and underbrush that grabbed at her clothes and scratched at her leg. She could hear Jack and Locke running after her, but she didn't slow down, wanting to get to the beach as soon as possible.
“Buffy! Stop!” She came to a screeching halt at John's yell, and looked back, seeing that him and Jack had stopped to look at something. Fighting the urge to keep running, she jogged toward them, seeing that they were staring at a suitcase on the ground.
“What is it?” she asked, panting slightly from the exertion.
“She was moving back to the beach,” Jack answered, wheezing slightly, hunched over with his hands on his bent knees to catch his breath. “Claire... that's hers.” Standing upright and pointing to a battered suitcase, he started to walk around the area, looking for any other signs of their friends while Locke dropped to his knees to examine the bag. “What happened? Where are they?” he asked desperately, but John shook his head.
“I don't know.” Unable to stand still, Buffy started pacing around the small clearing as well, stopping when she saw three pairs of footprints.
“Guys! Look!” She gestured John over, and he knelt to the ground, his fingers tracing each imprint before standing back up. She felt Jack reach her side but didn't look up, keeping her eyes trained on Locke.
“At least three distinct sets all over the place.” He gestured toward the three different sets of footprints before pointing out a series of drag marks. “It looks like there might've been a struggle.” He got to his feet and walked a few paces to the right, pointing out more drag marks. “Drag marks here... and here.”
“Charlie and Claire, there were together,” Jack stated, and Buffy gave him an impatient 'duh' look. There was no time for obvious comments like that.
“I think they've been taken,” muttered Lock, and Buffy whirled around to look at him, watching him stare down at the ground.
“Shit!” she yelled before cocking back her arm and sending a punch to the tree to her left. Watching as the blood poured from her cracked knuckles and trickled down her arm, she fell back against the tree and slid to the floor, hardly noticing how the rough bark scratched at her back. Looking up, she watched as Jack continued to pace and look around wildly, not acknowledging her little outburst.
“Claire! Charlie!” Deciding that sitting there and screaming their names wasn't going to do them any good, Buffy got to her feet and walked over to a still pacing Jack, placing a hand on his shoulder to get his attention.
“I'm gonna go to the beach. See if anyone's seen them.”
“No, you can't go by yourself.” He gave her a look and grabbed her arm when she tried to walk away, pulling her toward him. “It's not safe.” She gave him a small smile at his concern before gently extracting her arm from his grasp.
“I'll be fine. Stay with John.” With that, she took off in the direction of the beach, not sparing him another glance. Arriving at the beach a short while later, Buffy headed over to a few people she didn't know all that well, she informed them of the situation, but, unfortunately, no one had seen either Charlie or Claire. After asking everyone on the beach if they had seen her two missing friends, she had learned nothing and was no more informed than she had been when she had arrived. However, she did her best to spread the word that they were forming a search party and told them to come to her if they heard anything. Seeing John and Kate emerge from the jungle, she walked over to them, stopping and greeting them with a half smile.
“Buffy,” greeted John, giving her a small nod. “Find out anything?”
“Nothing,” she answered, clearly frustrated. “No one's seen them all day. John, something's happened to them. I can feel it.” However, before Locke could respond, Boone and Shannon walked over to them, Boone giving her a smile and Shannon barely acknowledging her existence. Buffy had no idea what the girl's problem was, but it was getting extremely annoying.
“I heard you're forming a search party,” Boone stated, ignoring the roll of Shannon's eyes. “Can I help?”
“This is a deserted island,” his stepsister scoffed at him. “There's no choppers, no Amber alerts. How exactly are you gonna find them?”
“Does it matter?” Buffy snapped, clearly annoyed. Ignoring Shannon's taken aback look, she continued, attempting to calm her voice before she full-out yelled at the girl. “They're our friends. Shouldn't we be doing whatever it takes to find them?”
“By following Ethan's trail,” John supplied in response to Shannon's question, placing a hand on the Slayer's shoulder in an attempt to get her to calm down. “No one can walk through the wilderness without leaving signs, bending blades of grass, breaking twigs, especially with captives in tow.” He removed his hand from Buffy's shoulder and turned toward Boone, giving him a nod. “And yes, we could use another hand if you're up for it.”
“I'm up for it,” Boone responded, giving the older man a stiff nod.
“Then let's get moving.” Leaving Shannon behind, the four headed off into the jungle, Buffy gratefully accepting the knife John handed her and sliding it into the waistband of her jeans. Falling into step at John's side and leaving Kate and Boone to trail after them, she continued to follow his lead for about half an hour as he tracked Jack's path through the jungle. Keeping her Slayer senses at the forefront, she allowed John to lead, but would correct him if he made a wrong turn. Jack didn't seem to have gotten very far and appeared to have been running in circles the entire time. Finally finding him standing alone in a small clearing and staring off into the jungle in front of him, Buffy walked over to him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder when he made no move to acknowledge her presence.
“Hey,” he greeted softly, looking down at her hand before returning his gaze to her face.
“Are you alright?” she asked, her brow furrowing in concern for her friend.
“Yeah, I'm fine,” he answered, his gaze snapping to John when he, Kate, and Boone stopped next to them.
“It's a good thing you were going in a circle,” John said, and Buffy withdrew her hand from Jack's shoulder at a look from Kate to stand by Boone. “Not much of a search grid, but we never would have found you otherwise.”
“Did you find anything?” Kate asked quietly, tilting her head to the side and pinning Jack with her gaze.
“No,” he answered defeated, shaking his head. “Nothing.” Buffy looked between the two, feeling slightly uncomfortable at the tension that rolled off them in waves, but thankfully, John broke the silence a few seconds later.
“You should go back to the caves,” he said, addressing Jack and causing the younger man to turn his gaze toward him. “Sayid's leg."
“Sayid's fine,” Jack argued, shaking his head, unwilling to give up on the search. “He's fine. You found me. We can find Charlie and Clarie. Now, do we have a trail to follow or not?”
“Jack,” said John hesitantly. “This was my fault.”
“What?” asked Buffy, and looking around at the others, she saw that they were wondering what he was talking about as well. “What do you mean, John?”
“I hunted with Ethan, I spent time with him. I never sensed anything... off.”
“John, you couldn't have known...” Buffy started, but he interrupted her. You couldn't sense evil if a person was human. She had learned that years ago. You could never tell if a person was good or bad simply by feeling.
“No. For everything that I know about hunting and tracking, whoever he is, he knows more. If we catch up with him, I don't want anything to happen to the only trained physician on the island.” Jack listened silently and nodded after John had finished, seemingly understanding what he was saying.
“Can we go now?” It wasn't a promise to go back to the caves, but it was probably the best that they were going to get out of him.
“Yeah, come on,” Buffy said quietly, taking the lead and heading off to the left. Quickly picking up on Ethan's trail, being distinguished from Jack's by drag marks and multiple sets of footprints, she fought her way through the thick underbrush, over rocks, and around trees stopping briefly for the others to catch their breath whenever the needed it. She had no idea how long they had been searching, but she didn't stop, even when the muscles in her legs started screaming at her to rest. She wouldn't stop until she found Charlie and Clarie. Even if she had to search all night.
“Stop,” instructed John. So much for not stopping until she found Them. Buffy came to a sudden halt, pitching forward slightly when Boone walked right into her, but was instantly steadied by his hands on her waist. Giving him a grateful smile, she walked around him and back toward John, making her way around a panting and gasping Jack and Kate.
“We'll mark our progress by line of sight,” he said while extracting an old red shirt from his backpack and ripping it into strips. “Tie these off so we don't get lost.” Buffy nodded in agreement, knowing that she would be able to find her way back regardless but also knowing that the other's wouldn't be able to, especially since it would be getting dark soon. Thank God for Slayer senses.
“You can lead us back to camp, right?” asked Boone, and Buffy could sense the worry in his voice.
“If nothing happens to me,” John answered, pausing for a second for that information to sink in. Buffy watched as Boone's eyes widened slightly before taking the shirt out of the older man's hands.
“Maybe I'd better take marker detail.” Giving Boone a smile, John looked behind them to see Jack and Kate catching up to them.
“Anything?” asked Jack panting slightly, coming to a halt next to Buffy, who had walked over to nearby tree and leaned against it.
“Not yet,” answered John, shaking his head and glancing at her.
“If you can't find the trail-...”
“I'll pick it up again,” John cut him off, slightly insulted. Buffy looked back and forth between the two men, wondering how far they were going to take this testosterone contest. “We need to rest for a minute, to get our clarity back.”
“You're gonna take a break?” asked Jack, clearly annoyed. “It's gotta be almost four o'clock. When the sun sets, there's no way-...” Wanting to interrupt him before the argument turned into a full-out war, Buffy gently placed a hand on the older man's shoulder and shook her head slightly.
“It's 4:25,” snapped Locke, and pulled out his water bottle before sitting down on the large tree stump next to him. “And yes, I'm taking a break.”
“Can I talk to you for a sec?” Without waiting for an answer, Kate grabbed Jack's arm and pulled him away, rolling her eyes and smiling at Buffy. Watching as the two disappeared into the jungle, the blond sat down in the ground next to Locke and crossed her legs, leaning back against the moss-covered tree behind her. Sighing and rubbing her eyes in frustration, she opened her eyes, sitting up a little bit straighter when she noticed something white wrapped around a twig a few feet away. Hardly noticing when Boone sat down next to her, Buffy pushed herself off of the ground and walked over to the mystery object, snatching it out of the tangle of branches, her eyes widening in realization.
“Guys! Look!” she shouted, hurrying over to where Boone and Locke were sitting. She held up the piece of tape with the letter “L” written on it in Sharpie. “Jack! Get over here!” Dropping the small object into Locke's hand, she started to pace back and forth, keenly aware of Boone's eyes following her every movement.
“What is it?” asked Kate, curiously peering at the piece of tape.
“Look familiar?” asked Locke in response to her question, dropping it into Jack's outstretched palm.
“It's Charlie's,” he answered, nodding his head and handing it back to the older man.
“You think it just came off?”
“No.” Buffy shook her head in Boone's direction. “He's leaving us a trail. Come on, lets go.” Without another word, she started off in the direction of where she found the small piece of tape, hearing the others scramble to catch up with her. Never slowing her pace, she plowed through the trees and underbrush, fully concentrated on finding Charlie and Claire and ignoring the way her muscles burned and her lungs felt like they were going to explode. Noticing another piece of tape with the letter “A” written on it, she came to a halt, looking around and spotting a fresh set of footprints heading in the opposite direction.
“They went this way!” Jack called, grabbing the piece of tape and gesturing in that direction.
“Not necessarily,” Buffy stated, grabbing his arm when he tried to rush off and pointing to the sent of footprints. “There's another trail there.”
“What do you mean 'another?'” Jack asked, sighing and wiping the sweat off of his brow.
“These are footprints,” John explained as if he was speaking to a young child. “People moved off this way.”
“Charlie's leaving these for us to follow!” yelled Jack, clearly frustrated that no one was agreeing with him. “They went that way.”
“Yeah, but what if Charlie isn't the one leaving them?” Buffy saw all eyes turn in her direction, and she sighed, taking a second to catch her breath before continuing to explain. “Ethan's smart. He's not just gonna go running off into the jungle letting Charlie leave a bunch of clues for us to follow. He could have doubled back and put the clues there. There's no real way to know which one's the real trail without following them both.”
“Wait, now you're a tracker?” asked Boone, as everyone besides Locke continued to stare at her curiously.
“You're just full of surprises,” Locke said, smiling at her, being the only one that knew her secret.
“So, we've got two trails,” Jack stated, gesturing in the direction of each one. “Let's split up. I'll take that one.”
“Wait,” Buffy called as he started to wander off, not wanting him to get lost and/or killed.
“No, we should stay together, Jack,” Locke agreed, taking a step toward him.
“Why?” Jack took a step back from the older man, looking at him indignantly. “We've got two trails and apparently two trackers.”
“Alright. Fine. I'll go with Jack. Kate, you go with Locke and Boone.”
“But...” Kate protested, her eyes flitting from Buffy to Jack, clearly jealous of the attention Jack was giving the blond.
“Go on,” Buffy prodded gently, catching her jealousy and giving her a reassuring look in response. “We'll see you soon.” Giving her a hesitant nod, Kate turned and followed after Locke and Boone, leaving Buffy to deal with a frustrated and irritated Jack, only to see him already gone. Muttering a few choice swear words, she sprinted off into the jungle, quickly catching up with him and matching his speed. The two continued to run for what seemed like hours without finding another clue, and both were getting worried and frustrated Noticing that Jack looked like he was about to pass out from a lack of oxygen, Buffy grabbed his shoulder, effectively stopping him, and smiled at his confused look.
“What?” he managed through his gasps and pants, bending over and resting his arms on his knees with his head between his legs, trying to catch his breath.
“Jack,” Buffy said with a raised eyebrow, watching as he fished a water bottle out of his backpack and took a swig. “You need to take a break. You look like you took a swim the ocean,” she added, noticing the sweat pouring down his face and neck. “Rest a bit.”
“We can't stop!” he argued giving her an angry look, which was quite amusing since he was still gasping for breath. Spotting something on the tree behind him, Buffy walked over to it, only half listening to the man's angry rant. “Charlie and Claire could be hurt! Or dead! And you want me to take a break? How do you even know we're going the right way? We could have gotten lost somewhere! What if-...”
“Woah, easy there, tiger,” Buffy shushed him, walking back over to him with a small piece of tape wrapped around her finger. “Lookie what I found.”
“I guess you were right,” he relented after a beat, taking the tape from her. “Where to now?” Suddenly, a loud crack sounded, and rain started to pour, drenching them both from head to toe.
“Shit!” Buffy screamed, as the cold water soaked through her clothes. “Perfect. The trail's going to be washed away!” Watching curiously as Jack perked up and looked around wildly, the Slayer tilted her head to the side, wondering what had happened to cause the sudden change in his behavior. “Jack? What-?” But before she could get the question out, he turned and sprinted up the hill to her left, saying nothing in explanation. “Jack! What the hell are you doing? Get back here!” But her yelling was no use, he was already half way up the steep, and now muddy, hill. Sighing, she followed after him, her tennis shoes failing to maintain a steady grip on the slippery ground. Loosing her footing, she grabbed onto the nearest solid object, keeping her balance but slicing her hand open in the process. “Ow! Fuck!” Growling slightly, she forced herself to keep going, ignoring the way the cut on her hand stung and throbbed from all of the dirt and water sliding over it, nearly loosing her balance again when she saw Jack, who had almost reached the top, fall and slide all the way back down the hill. “Jack!” Carefully making her way toward him with slightly more grace than he had had, she broke into a run when she saw him lying in a large puddle with someone standing over him. Ethan. Fuck.
“No more warnings,” she heard Ethan, who had his foot pressed against Jack's neck, say before she tackled him to the ground from behind into a large tree. Letting out a small squeak as her back hit the hard wood, she crashed to the ground with Ethan next to her, wincing as she scraped her injured hand against a rock on the ground. Scrambling to her feet, a difficult task as she was standing in a few inches of thick mud, she sent a punch to his jaw, smiling as a satisfying crunch pierced the air. “You bitch!”
“Oooh, I'm scared now,” she taunted, dodging a punch aimed at her face. “No one's ever called me a bitch before!” Stupidly turning her head in the direction of Jack's pained groan, she was caught off guard as his foot made contact with her stomach, sending her stumbling backwards and smacking her head against a tree. “Ow.” As her vision swam with small, multi-colored stars, she saw Ethan turn and sprint off, giving her one last look before disappearing behind a clump of bushes. Ultimately deciding to tend to her injured friend instead of chasing after the bad guy, Buffy pushed herself away from the tree, wincing as a particularly sharp piece of bark impaled itself in her already wounded hand, she quickly made her way to Jack's side, dropping to her knees in the mud and gently placing his head on her lap, her hands gently cupping the sides of his face to make sure that he was alright. “Hey, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I'm fine,” he insisted, attempting to sit up, only to lay back down and bring a hand to his head as it started to pound and blood started dripping out of his nose and the corner of his mouth. “Ethan.”
“Hmm?” Buffy asked, ripping a small strip of fabric from her dirty t-shirt and wrapping it around her hand, gasping at the sudden pressure. Ripping off another small piece, she wiped the blood from Jack's face, her eyes sweeping up and down his body to make sure that he wasn't seriously hurt.
“Ethan was here.”
“I know,” Buffy answered, sighing. “He got away.”
“What do you mean, 'he got away?'” Jack yelled, scrambling to his feet and looking wildly around the clearing. “You let him go?!”
“Hey!” the Slayer answered indignantly. “I didn't *let* him do anything. He bolted, and I thought it would be better to check on the *one* doctor we have than run off after the psycho! So sue me!” Bringing a hand up to rake down his face, Jack sighed, giving her an apologetic look.
“It's fine.” She gave him a small smile and pushed a soaked strand of blond hair out of her face. “Now, the rain has definitely washed away any trail...”
“We have to go,” he interrupted, causing her to give him a startled look. “Which way did he go. We have to follow him. Charlie and Claire are in dang-...”
“I *know* Charlie and Claire are in danger, but you have to calm down,” she interrupted right back, grabbing his arm as he tried to rush off.
“No! We have to go! Now!” Wrenching his arm out of her grasp, Jack barely took another step before being stopped by Buffy grabbing the back of his shirt.
“No,” she ordered, giving him her version of Willow's resolve face. “You're going to stand here and wait until I figure out where he went unless you want me to break both of your legs and strap you to this tree with your own backpack.” That seemed to do the trick, and simply continued to stare at her, shutting his mouth and letting her think. Letting go of the back of his shirt, she dropped her hands to her sides and closed her eyes, opening them once she felt a familiar pull in her navel. “Alright, come on.” Without another word, she spun on her heel and sprinted off into the jungle at full speed, slowing down when she remembered that Jack would have trouble matching her pace. Flying through a cluster of bushes, ignoring how they tore and scratched at her skin and clothes, she stopped suddenly, causing Jack to barrel right into her, sending her pitching forward, though her Slayer balance kept her from falling.
“What? What is it?”
“No,” she whispered, rushing over to where Charlie was hanging from a tree, his hands tied behind his back and blindfolded, the dangling roots from the surrounding trees wrapped around his neck. “No! Charlie!” Heading straight for the tree he was tied to, she scaled it effortlessly, not even wincing as the sharp branches cut into her skin, wanting to get her friend down as quickly as possible. “Grab his legs! Relieve the pressure around his neck!” Apparently, Jack, being a doctor and all, had already thought of this and was currently holding onto Charlie's feet and pushing upwards. Swinging a leg over the branch from which Charlie was hanging, Buffy scooted closer, reaching him in no time and grabbed the roots, and completely forgetting about the knife hidden in the waistband of her jeans, snapping them easily and gently lowering the body into Jack's arms. Not bothering to climb back down, Buffy pushed herself off of the branch, landing gracefully on her feet right next to Jack.
“He's not breathing,” Jack informed her, his hands on Charlie's chest and his ear by his mouth. Collapsing to her knees, Buffy took the smaller man's hand in hers, wanting to stay out of the way so Jack could do his work. Sure, she knew how to fix some superficial injuries, but he was a doctor after all. Alternating between breathing into his mouth and compressions, Jack was getting increasingly frustrated. “Come on, breathe. Breathe, Charlie, come on. Breathe! Come on!” He continued his mantra, a wild look in his eyes and his breath erratic. Nothing.
“Jack,” Buffy whispered softly, her eyes filling with tears as she started into Charlie's lifeless eyes.
“Come on. Come on. Come on!” Still nothing.
“Jack,” she tried a little louder, but he continued to ignore her. Not able to watch any more, Buffy jumped to her feet and started to pace a few feet away, her hands over her ears and her eyes squeezed shut in an attempt to block out the image of Jack pounding on Charlie's chest and screaming.
“Come on! Come on! Come on!” Several tears managed to squeeze their way out of her closed eyelids at Jack's anguished sobs, and she walked back over to him, looking down at him in concern. As the Slayer, it was her duty to keep people alive and do whatever she could to save people, but this was just painful. How long could this go on for?
“Jack,” she tried again, placing a gently hand on his shoulder but quickly took it back as he jerked away from her and continued frantically pounding on Charlie's chest.
“Come on, Charlie, come on. Come on. Come on. Come on, Charlie!”
“Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on.” He continued to pound away, and Buffy finally snapped, unable to take it anymore.
“Jack! Stop!” Grabbing his arm, she jerked him back toward her, holding him against her chest and burying her face in the back of his neck. He immediately stiffened, but started to relax in her arms, leaning back against her and starting to sob. “Jack, I'm so sorry. I'm so-...” But he wasn't having any of it. Sniffling and pushing away from her, he resumed his work on Charlie's body, pounding on his chest and trying to get him to breathe.
“Come on. Come on. Come on,” he repeated over and over again, ignoring Buffy's protests. Yelling in frustration, she pushed herself to her feet, sending a punch to the nearest tree, feeling slightly calmer as she watched the blood pour from her battered knuckles.
“Jack! Stop it!” she screamed, the authority in her voice causing him to stop his actions and turn to look at her. Suddenly, Charlie took a deep, gasping breath for air, and both Buffy and Jack's attention snapped to him, their eyes wide in surprise. “Oh God.” Running over to him, she dropped to her knees behind Charlie and leaned him against her, rubbing his chest reassuringly as he continued to cough and gasp for breath. Looking up at Jack, she saw that his eyes had filled with tears, and he was staring at the smaller man in extreme relief.
“Yeah, just breath,” he soothed, taking Charlie's hand in his. “Breathe, that's it.” Ignoring the tears pouring down her own cheeks and into his hair, Buffy held her friend close to her, whispering soothing words as his breath returned to normal. Several minutes later, Buffy interrupted the silence, helping Charlie to his feet and watching as Jack followed her lead.
“Charlie?” He looked into her eyes, and she flinched when she saw the lack of emotion behind them. “We're not far from the caves. Are you ready to go back?” Nothing. He made no effort to communicate. Exchanging a worried glance with Jack, she gently grabbed his arm, leading him through the jungle in the direction of the caves. They arrived about twenty minutes later, the journey having been made in complete silence. Charlie had made no move to tell them what had happened, and they made no move to force it out of him. Buffy knew how trauma affected people; she had reacted in exactly the same way when Dawn had been captured by Glory. Walking into the caves, she was aware of everyone's eyes on them but ignored them, leading Charlie over to his bed and gently pushing him down to a sitting position, draping a blanket over his shoulders. Gratefully accepting a glass of water from Jack, she pressed it into Charlie's hands, watching out of the corner of her eye as the doctor took a seat in front of them. “Charlie? Sweetheart?” He continued to stare blankly in front of him, causing Buffy to furrow her brow in concern. She knew what he was going through, but they needed him to talk if they wanted to find Claire.
“Does that hurt?” Jack asked, lightly pressing his fingers against the bruise around Charlie's neck. Nothing. “How's your breathing?” Still nothing.
“Charlie? Sweetheart,” Buffy tried again without any response. “You have to talk to us. We're going back out to find Claire, and anything you can tell us would help. Do you remember anything?”
“What do you remember?” asked Jack gently, checking Charlie's pupils with a mini-flashlight, making sure that there was nothing wrong with him besides the shock. “Where you were going. Did you see or hear-...”
“I didn't see anything,” Charlie finally answered emotionlessly, his eyes locking with Buffy's. She could see the pain and guilt behind them, and she frowned, knowing that the only thing that would fix his was to find Claire and bring her back safely. “Hear anything. I don't remember. Anything.” There was a pause as Buffy and Jack shared a look before... “Claire.”
“What?” asked Jack, watching as Charlie's eyes never left Buffy's.
“That's all they wanted.”
“'They?'” he asked again, not knowing what Charlie was getting at. “I-I don't...”
“All they wanted was Claire.” Buffy's stomach dropped at his revelation, and for some reason, her brain was only able to think one thing: 'shit.'
Hope y'all liked it! Drop me a review on the way out!