stefanie_bean: (hugo claire blue)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 12: Numerology
Pair: Hurley/Claire
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 3362 words
Rating: M
Notes: WIP, canon-divergent

After the Oceanic 815 crash, Jack told Hurley to stay with Claire. In this retelling, Hurley does just that, and they fall in love. Also, people talk to each another more. And a lot less people die.


Chapter 12: Numerology

Morning noises tell Claire that there's something different about the beach, even if the tarp flap is still lowered from the night before, when Hurley closed the two of them in a protective cocoon. More foot-steps move to and fro. People's voices buzz louder than the usual dawn chatter.

The night before. Even if Claire had wanted to forget that dreadful grip from behind, the blood, the lone shot ringing out in the night, her sore muscles won't let her. Wincing, she struggles into a pair of jeans, then emerges into a cool, overcast morning.

Hurley's at her side at once, looking her over as if something might be bent or even broken. But she doesn't feel broken.

His tone is full of warmth. "I thought you'd wanna sleep in."

"I did. Thanks."

All at once it hits her that one missed step, one wrong slice of the blade, and she might not even be here, shivering in Hurley's green shirt. A long shudder goes through Claire, what her grandmother used to call "a goose walking over your grave."

Hurley drapes a blanket over her, and she snuggles close to his warm body as tears sting her eyes. People pass by to the gathering by the central fire, but they give Hurley and Claire space to breathe. The moment passes, and she feels a little stronger.

"Come on," he says in a gentle voice. "Rose boiled some breadfruit. Kinda mushy, but not bad."


* * * * * * * *


Kathy, Shana, and Kate hover as Claire eats the soggy breadfruit. Kate says, “Danielle buried him this morning.”

Shana's dark eyes gleam in her bronze face. “You did good, Claire. Kate, what did Jack call it? The femoral vein?”

“Shana, I don't think—” Kate doesn't want Claire to hear.

In her firm teacher-voice, Kathy says, “Kate, keeping it from Claire won't help. Claire, you sliced his femoral vein clean through, and nicked the artery as well. Even if Danielle hadn't shot him, he would have been dead in ten minutes.”

For a few seconds Claire reels, woozy. The blade, the resistance. Her angry, terrified push. The hot spurt of blood.

“There was nothing Jack could have done,” Shana said. “Right, Kate?”

“Claire, are you okay?” Kate says. “Kathy, this is why—”

Claire takes a few deep breaths. “I'm fine, guys. Really.”

Kate leans in to Claire, face full of concern. “You did what you had to do.”

“Amen,” Shana says.

They're interrupted by Jack. “Everybody from the caves who's coming is here. We might as well get started.” Before he moves to the center of the crowd, he shoots Kate a cool look across the bow, like they've recently disagreed about something.

Kate helps Claire to her feet. “Jack wanted it to be just a few of us, when Danielle told her story. I talked him into including everyone.”

“Live together, or we die alone,” Claire says.

Kate laughs, her mood lightening a little. “Sometimes he needs a reminder.” She dashes off to join Jack at the center of the crowd.

People move aside to let Claire pass. Hurley flanks her on one side, Shannon on the other.

The two women survey each other for damages, and Shannon speaks first. "That creepazoid. I knew it. You okay?"

“Just sore. I got yanked around a bit. How about you?"

Shannon shrugs, as if turning blue from an asthma attack is nothing. "Like it didn't even happen."

Claire wishes she could say the same.

Rose puts in her two cents. "You two girls need to take it easy today. You've been through a lot.”

“Yes, Mom.” For once, Shannon's not even sarcastic.

Except for Locke, Boone, and Charlie, everyone who has moved to the caves or spent a lot of time there is now back on the beach. Walt runs up and down in the swash like he's been let out of a cage, his dog bounding behind him.

Claire whispers to Shannon, “So Boone left after all?”

“Straight from the caves. Didn't even pass by the beach to pass 'Go' and collect his two hundred dollars.”

Sayid sidles next to Shannon, not displeased at all by Boone's absence. “He'll be fine. He's in good hands.”

Shannon just rolls her eyes. Eventually the murmuring stops, and all eyes rest on Jack.

"Here we go," Hurley says. “It's showtime."


* * * * * * * *


Danielle's story is horrifying from the very beginning. Sixteen years ago, her scientific team washed up onshore, while she was late in pregnancy.

"Science team? You mean, like Jacques Cousteau?" Brian asks. At the mention of the famous French oceanographer, a little laughter ripples through the group.

Rose is full of indignation. “Who takes a pregnant woman on a scientific expedition?”

Claire doesn't say anything. For that matter, who takes a trans-Pacific flight in her eighth month?

Danielle's words come out so softly that Jack has to repeat them. "Non, not Jacques Cousteau. Le Centre d'expérimentation du Pacifique."

"His pronunciation sucks," Shannon remarks.

Claire leans across Shannon to Sayid. "Have you ever heard of that?"

Sayid frowns. "If I'm not mistaken, it was the French military's nuclear weapons test program.”

Shannon clearly doesn't approve of Danielle's camouflage. "That explains her fashion statement."

“And the rifle,” Sayid adds.

Jack's losing momentum, at a loss to keep the crowd's attention, so Sayid moves up to join him. "Please, Jack, allow me." Jack yields with a look of relief.

Sayid approaches Danielle until he is very close. "Who are these other people on the Island, Danielle? How long have they been here?"

He's just getting warmed up.

Danielle struggles to answer Sayid's barrage of questions. "No, I don't know how long they've been here... Perhaps since World War II, or slightly after... No, I flee when they approach. I don't engage them... Yes, they have avant-postes militaires all over the Island. You might call them 'stations...' Some are in use, but not all. Those I scavenge from, to stay alive.”

Sayid pauses for a few breaths, considering. “You said you were pregnant when your team was shipwrecked. Where is your child now?”

White, trembling, Danielle's composure starts to crumble. "Shortly after I had given birth, two young men came to my tent. Others, both armed. They took her, and told me they would kill me if I pursued them. One of those men I buried this morning."

“Where's the other one?” Shannon murmurs.

Sawyer says, "One down, one to go.”

Danielle ignores this. "I believe the Others still have her, that she is a hostage."

Claire can't stifle a surge of panic. The greed in Ethan's eyes. His hands roving over her stomach. Took her soon after birth, Danielle said.

It sinks into Hurley, too. “No way, Claire. No way that's gonna happen.”

The stunned crowd falls silent as Sayid digests this, chin in hand.

In the pause, Danielle collects herself and changes the subject. She and her team found the source of the signal which brought them to the Island, emanating from a radio tower high in the mountains. How difficult it was to override the original signal, so that they could send out their distress call.

"What original signal?" Sayid says, suddenly fierce. “What was it that you heard?”

Danielle lapses into vagueness. Numbers, an endless sequence of six numbers, meaningless. “Absurdité folle qui n'avait aucun sens...” Eventually she defeated the overrides. Not that it did her any good, because no one ever came.

At “Numbers, endless numbers," Hurley starts to tremble. He's pale, his mouth slack with surprise.

Sayid isn't satisfied. "What numbers? Some kind of encoded transmission?"

Danielle begins to recite, "Four, eight, fifteen, sixteen..."

Hurley picks up the chant, as if he knows it by heart. "Twenty-three, forty-two," and then repeats it under his breath, lost in the sequence.

"Do those mean anything to you?" Jack asks Sayid.

Sayid gazes off, as if internally calculating. "It's not a Fibonacci sequence, not a triangular progression, either. Offhand, I don't recognize it."

"I think we've got more to worry about than some old code," Jack says, his voice tinged with frustration.

Kate shrugs, clearly impatient, and raises her voice over the murmuring crowd. "Danielle, I'm sorry if this sounds harsh. But there's something I have to know."

Everyone is quiet, even Hurley. Claire takes his hand, which is clammy and cold as ice. At least he's stopped that eerie chant.

Danielle nods, Go on.

Kate says, "Where's the rest of your team?"

A guarded mask drops over Danielle like a veil. "Dead. All of them dead, killed by the security system."

Sayid's stare would bore holes in Danielle, if it could. It's clear that he doesn't believe her.

"Security system?" Jack says, his voice rising. "That's what we're calling it?"

Kate gives Jack one regretful look before speaking. "On the second day that we were here, Jack, Charlie and I found the front section of the plane.”

Murmurs rise up from the group, growing louder.

“There's something we didn't tell you." Kate pauses, as if for strength. “After the crash, the pilot was still alive.”

Sayid strides over to Kate's side, his voice ringing with warning. "Kate, I thought we said—"

"No, Sayid, you said to keep it under wraps. You and Jack."

Sawyer's been pacing back and forth through all of this. Now he calls out, "Sounds like Freckles is leaking some classified documents. What else did y'all not tell us?"

Kate flinches under the sting of Sawyer's words. "That thing out in the jungle, whatever it was, it dragged the pilot out of the plane. It carried him up into a tree and..." She's choking up now, barely able to go on. "It ripped him to pieces. His guts were hanging from the tree like party streamers."

Someone gasps. It's Sun, the Korean woman who isn't supposed to understand English. Jin gives her a fierce, amazed look, and grabs her by the arm. She shakes him off, rattles something at him in Korean. Everyone's silent now, watching this not-so-surprising development. Whatever she's said to her husband has left him as slack-jawed as Hurley. Then she tells him in accented but clear English, "Leave me alone.”

"Hoo boy," Sawyer says. "Tokyo Rose got a few surprises up her cashmere sleeve."

Jin looks about ready to strike his wife. Kathy and Shana elbow through the crowd, full of purpose, until they reach Sun and Jin. Jane, Sylvie and a few other women follow, along with Michael. If Jin lays a hand on Sun, he'll have a mob of angry people to deal with. Everyone knows how tough Jin is; they've seen him in action when he fought with Michael weeks ago. But no one is going to let him hurt Sun.

Jin looks at the crowd, cornered. Sun says something else to him, and he snaps back at her.

To Danielle, Sun says, "My husband does not believe something could do that. So tell us, please. What was that? What is it?"

When Danielle doesn't answer at once, Sawyer bellows, "Let me put it more clearly for you, No No Nanette. What the hell kind of security system rips a man apart?"

Claire can't hear Danielle's answer, because Hurley has started to chant the sequence of numbers again. Anxiety pours over Claire like ice-water.

Jack, Kate, and Sayid are all talking at once, while Jin shouts incomprehensibly at Sun. She yells right back, and now he does grab her arm. Michael and the rest of the women move in to form a wedge between Sun and her husband.

But Claire can't worry about Sun, because Hurley starts to hyperventilate. His ragged breathing almost sounds like Shannon's did. When he clutches his chest, Claire thinks of his heart line, that jagged streak across his mysterious palm.

Claire grabs Sawyer by the arm. "Help me get Hurley out of here."

Sawyer hesitates, and Claire can almost hear the wheels turn in his mind, calculating what's in it for him.

The sum must be weighted in Claire's favor, because Sawyer says to Hurley, "Come on, Gordo, we're gettin' some air."

Hurley doesn't even look at Sawyer. He starts to rock a little in place, repeating the string of numbers.

"I sure as hell can't drag him," Sawyer hisses to Claire. "Got any ideas?"

Claire stretches up on tiptoe, brushes Hurley's curls aside in order to bring her lips close to his ear. "Listen, Hurley, let's take a walk, okay?"

When he faces her, tears well up in his eyes.

"Claire, are you sure this is a good idea?” Sawyer says. “The man looks cra—"

"Sawyer, I swear to God— Please, Hurley. Please come on."

Amazingly, it works. With Sawyer on one side, Claire on the other, it doesn't take much to get Hurley to move. They lead him down to the sea-strand, where the tide comes in with blind, endless repetition. Maybe the sound of waves will calm Hurley down.

"We're just going to talk, Sawyer," Claire says. "Thanks."

"You sure you can handle Papa Bear, Goldilocks?" Sawyer gives Hurley a dubious side-eye, as if he's not sure he wants to leave Claire alone with him. "You need anything, just holler." As he heads back to the melee, he glances over his shoulder before disappearing into the crowd.


* * * * * * * *


As Claire walks Hurley out of earshot, the movement seems to still his frantic breathing. When they reach a tide-pool surrounded by rocks and driftwood, she sits and he mechanically follows.

"Hurley, look at me." There's enough of Aunt Lindsey in her tone to get his attention.

Before Claire fell pregnant, she took a few yoga classes to help with flexibility for dancing, and for the meditation, too. She breathes in slowly and deeply, keeping him fixed in her gaze.

In, deep into the belly. Out, count to five, feel the air as it leaves the lungs, cleansing them. In and out, rise and fall. Gradually, his breathing slows down. He clutches her hands in his fish-cold grip, those baffling tears still clinging to his eyelids and refusing to fall.

The faint clamor of the beach fades away. All at once, Hurley pitches forward onto Claire's lap.

Was he collapsing or something? No, nothing like that. He's just resting his head on her thigh, face pressed into her belly, his arms wrapped around her waist. The baby kicks a few times, then settles down. Claire strokes Hurley's hair in time with his breath.

After awhile he pulls himself up, but won't look at her.

"What happened back there? You can tell me."

"When I was at the hospital... Oh, crap, Claire, I didn't tell you even the half of it."

In a voice dry as beach sand he rasps out his extraordinary tale. He first heard the numbers from a fellow patient named Lennie Sims. Who heard them in the US Navy almost twenty years ago. Whose buddy Sam Toomey in the Royal Australian Navy heard them too, and that's who Hurley had gone to see in Kalgoorlie.

The numbers, Hurley tells her, it all comes back to the numbers. But when people use the numbers, it wrecks their lives. When he used them to play the lottery, he won big.

“You won the lottery?”

“Yeah. I went to talk to Lennie afterwards. He told me I 'opened the box,' whatever that meant.”

"Pandora's box, it sounds like.”

Hurley's never heard of that.

“Pandora wasn't supposed to open it, but she did. Then all the troubles of the world poured out."

"That's the numbers all right. You use them, you're cursed. I thought when we crashed, I'd gotten away from them, far as I could. Until today.”

"Curse? What curse?"

Hurley springs to his feet and paces under a white sky that washes everything to bleached paleness. Wind makes his shirt billow like a sail. "Here we are, stuck on this Island just like Danielle."

Claire can't follow all this. She pulls herself to her feet, stiff and unsteady. "What's Danielle got to do with this?"

"Don't you get it? Danielle's team heard the numbers. They brought her here, just like my curse brought us. Because I think I crashed our plane."

Claire's had enough. "Stop it," she says, low and urgent. "How could you have been responsible for that?"

“Claire, you got to get away from me. Death follows me. Bad things happen to people when they're around me.”

The sand seems to collapse under her feet, but rising anger props her up. “Get away from you? Or maybe you want to get away from me, but don't have the stones to say it.”

Before he can see her cry, she turns away. Of all the bloody ridiculous excuses, worse than Thomas, even. Cursed? Bloody hell, she was so stupid, what was she thinking?

When he touches her arm, his hand is no longer cold. “Claire, I don't want to get away from you. Ever.”

“Then what's all this tosh, that I can't be near you?” She can't look at him yet, as she's still too furious.

"I just don't want anything bad to happen to you."

She whirls around. "Pushing me away because of some stupid curse is a very bad thing."

"It would mega-suck for me, too. Really." He ponders for a second, thinking. "So, those numbers... You think they're, like you say, tosh?"

“I don't know what they are. But if you want to leave me, say it to my face.”

Oh, sweet relief, Hurley's back from wherever he's been for the past hour. His words come out strong and firm, so that Claire can't help but believe him. “I don't want to leave you. It's just that these numbers... they're bad.”

“Look over there, Hurley.” She points to the water-line, where a gull dive-bombs a crab. They watch as the bird rips off crab-legs like a kid tearing into a package of gummy snakes, then pecks the shell apart with its beak. "Is that crab cursed?"

"Uh, no. That's just what seagulls do."

"So the crab wasn't under a curse."

"It's part of life, I guess."

"And that polar bear which Sawyer shot, what if it had eaten him instead? Would Sawyer have been cursed?"

Hurley frowns, not liking where this is going, but not able to argue with her, either. "Nah, prob'ly not."

"Like you said, it's all part of life."

"That's exactly what Sam's widow told me in Kalgoorlie. Things happen, people die."

"Kalgoorlie's a mining town, Hurley. The old-timers there are tough, because they had to be." Her anger has washed away in the tide along with the crab carcass. "I don't know why things happen the way they do. But out of all of this, I did meet you. If you don't regret it, that is.”

Some huge certainty fills her, a soaring, immense revelation. The surface of the world seems to crack, and light pours in, just like broad beams of sun burn off the fog, melting the pearl-gray overcast.

He opens his arms to her, his face full of warmth and appeal. "Claire, I'm so sorry. Panic attacks, they suck."

"You heard something that scares you. I've been scared, too."

He looks her full in the face, his words rich with weight. "We can do this."

"Yes, Hurley, I think we can. But you've got to let me know what's going on."

"It's kinda like Truth or Dare, I guess. Without the Dare part." His tender smile draws her into his warm, pliant embrace. Beneath the flesh, his heart beats with slow reliability.

From across the beach, the group still looks and sounds as if it's in a furor. Claire couldn't care less, lost as she is in those hazel-brown eyes which twinkle, but no longer with tears.

Kate runs up, giving a little cough before she speaks. "Guys, I'm sorry, but could you come back? Danielle's leaving, and Jack says he's going with her." Kate's frown shows that she's not pleased with this, not one bit. "He says he's going to find the Others."

(continued)


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