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[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 13: Kiss Paradise Goodbye
Pair: Hurley/Claire
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 2979 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 Index


Chapter 13: Kiss Paradise Goodbye

Claire and Hurley kick up sprays of sand, trying to keep up with Kate as she runs to the beach camp. Tugged by Claire's hand, Hurley practically floats behind her like a great parade balloon, rendered almost weightless by sheer relief. Even after Claire heard his story about the Numbers, she didn't turn tail and run.

Baby steps, as Dr. Curtis used to say. First one foot, then the other. A thousand-mile journey begins with a single step, yadda yadda. Who knows, maybe all that fortune-cookie stuff has something behind it.

Something is grinding Kate's gears, for sure. What hoo-ha have Jack and Sayid gotten into now?

At the beach camp the two men argue. Sayid's low, calculating tones blend with Jack's higher-pitched, more urgent ones as Sawyer smokes and watches with a calculating eye.

Heads together, Shannon and Danielle talk in melodious French, ignoring the quarreling men. Danielle gives Hurley a cheeky, knowing glance as he passes, and his blushes bring him down to earth.

Sun has disappeared from the beach, and Jin fishes alone, a disgusted look on his face. Even though Jack and Sayid still debate, the show's pretty much over. Most of the survivors return to their fires to tend supper, or split coconuts, or tighten their tents against the inevitable evening rain.

“So if she wanted to find her child that badly,” Sayid says to Jack through gritted teeth, “why hasn't she done so already?”

“I don't know!” Jack says, his arms wheeling in frustration. “Maybe if you would just ask her, instead of accusing her—“

Danielle turns to Sayid and Jack. “I understand why you do not wish to help me—“

“We do want to help you,” Sayid says. “But certain aspects of your story don't hold together, and to be honest, you're less than forthcoming.”

“You ain't in Baghdad anymore, Abu,” Sawyer says, tossing down his cigarette butt. “When the lady's ready, she'll tell you.”

Sayid's shocked expression surprises Hurley, so much that he forgets his irritation over Sawyer littering up the beach. If Hurley had to guess, Sayid looks guilty, and Hurley knows guilt.

Jack appeals to the few onlookers who remain. “Don't you understand what's at stake here? There are other people on this Island, and if what Danielle says is true, they have food and weapons. Communications. Most important, they must have a way off. We can meet them, negotiate with them.” He pauses for dramatic effect. “We could get rescued.”

A few castaways look up from their fires, but no one wanders back to the central clearing where Jack stands.

Rose speaks up, a rarity at these gatherings. “Maybe some of us don't want to be rescued, Jack.”

A few onlookers nod, and Jack's irritation mounts. “Rose, please...”

Claire tucks herself under Hurley's arm, rubbing her belly in a way she hasn't for a long time, as if she's trying to massage out painful kinks. These days she says, “if we get rescued,” not “when.”

If it were up to him... He wants her safe and happy. That means rescue, right?

Sayid and Jack go on, Sayid arguing that they need to boost their perimeter defenses and build up the signal fire once more.

Jack points out, “Danielle said that there are military stations of some kind. If this Island is a government facility—”

“Oh, sure, the government.” Sawyer drawls out the words, long and sarcastic. “Well, ain't that reassuring. Might not be ours, Doc. Might be one you really don't wanna tangle with.”

Sayid rests chin on hand, considering. “An excellent point. For that matter, Jack, are you so sure that you even want to engage these people? Look how our first encounter turned out. I for one don't recommend that we repeat the experience.”

As he says this, Sayid stares straight at Claire. She starts to tremble, and tears well up in her eyes.

“We might not have a choice, Sayid,” Jack says. “You just want to sit here, wait for them to come—“

“Whereas you want to rush out into the unknown, fight them on their own turf—“

Kate charges to Jack's side. “Jack, you know I'll stand behind you. But in this case I think you're wrong.”

Jack's face shuts down into an impassive marble wall. “You do, Kate? You might have personal reasons to stay on this Island, but those don't apply to the rest of us.”

Kate draws back, white and shocked. “Personal reasons? What do you know about my personal reasons?”

Hurley thinks back to Kate's mug shot: the pinched, drawn face, the haunted eyes.

“All I'm asking, Jack,” Sayid says, trying to sound calm and reasonable, “is that we not rush into this. We all have the same strategic goal, which is to be rescued.” He avoids looking at Rose as he speaks. “We may differ as to tactics, but—”

“My strategy is not yours,” Danielle interrupts. “I want to find my child, even if she is grown. Even if she does not know me.”

“I thought you wanted to get rescued, Danielle,” Kate says. “I mean, you did set up a distress call.”

“When our ship got caught in the storm, we weren't the only ones in that region of French Polynesia. The Bésixdouze had become separated from the convoy.”

“What other ships?” Sayid's voice is harsh, urgent. “The French navy, am I correct?”

Danielle sags a bit, as if she has nowhere else to go. “Yes, you are right. I thought we might still be in their vicinity, and that they would hear me. That our sailors would comb the Island and find those who had taken my Alex. But it was not to be.”

Sayid's look says, I knew it. “So, Danielle, what was your rank?”

She can't face him. “Capitaine de corvette. We scientists were officers.”

“Well, aye-aye, mon capitan,” Sawyer smirks, giving Danielle a little salute. “At least the Frenchies are on our side, Sayid. Most times.”

“Shut up, Sawyer,” says Kate.

Sawyer chuckles and leans back against the curved metal of the fuselage, waiting to deliver his next salvo.

With a defeated air, Jack hunkers down on a driftwood log. “I don't know about the rest of you,” and here he looks at Kate. “But I have a life to get back to.”

“We all do,” Sayid says in a soothing voice, although Hurley wonders what kind of life awaits Sayid in the USA, given that he was an enemy soldier in a war that's still going on.

“Your life will still be there in the morning, Jack,” Sayid continues. “Perhaps we can make some plans, with Danielle's help.”

Danielle gives a little nod at his burst of courtesy.

Sayid's good at the persuasion game, but Hurley notices the covetous glance he sends towards Danielle's rifle. Probably more where that came from, and no doubt Sayid thinks so, too.

The thought pitches Hurley into a tailspin. Within the circle of his arm Claire has stopped shaking, although she's switched from belly-rubbing to massaging her lower back. That's all they need, a pile of guns and who knows what else military stuff. Grenades. Howitzers. Just great.

As if Sayid can read Hurley's thoughts, he says to Danielle, “I think it's a fair assumption that the people who took your child are armed as well.” When Sayid sends Claire a cold, appraising glance, it's Hurley's turn to shiver.

Nervous murmurs rise up among the listening people. Old hippie Brian says in a sarcastic voice, “Call someplace Paradise, kiss it goodbye.”

Claire looks up to Hurley. “So, they're not leaving right away after all?”

Hurley's mute shake of the head is enough for Claire. She pulls Danielle and Shannon to one side, just as Sawyer makes a bee-line for Danielle. “I'm going to boil some land-crab,” Claire tells the two women. “Come have some with us, okay?”

Sawyer's smirk is wide as the horizon. “You beat me to it, Mamacita. I was about to ask the lady to dine myself.”

Danielle can't quash her smile at his contrived courtly bow.

Shannon wears a smirk of her own. “Watch it, Sawyer. You might fall down a hole so deep, you'll never climb out.”

Self-possession restored, Danielle sounds like she might be strolling down a springtime boulevard in gay Paree. “Perhaps some other time, Sawyer. Tonight I must take, what do you Americans call it? A 'rain check.'”

Sawyer's still gaping as they leave him standing on the beach.


* * * * * * * *


No one heats their own water now. Instead, two large pots hammered out of fuselage bubble, one filled with fresh water and one with salt. People dip from the fresh one for tea, or for hot water to wash faces or clothes. They take turns cooking their seafood or eggs in the other.

Night has fallen by the time Claire has filled an airline tray with pieces of boiled land crab. The creatures swarm over every coconut grove, and no one tires of their meat, especially since Kate has found a grove of lemons. Sun has gathered fat garlicky cloves, something like cilantro, and a reddish plant with hot, peppery leaves. Cooking on the Island has become much less of a chore.

Everyone has settled into their groups. Jack and Kate form their customary duo near the water's edge, surrounded by an aura of peace. Whatever Kate's saying to him with her hand draped lightly on his forearm, it seems to be calming him down. Sawyer has clustered with Sayid and Jin, who roasts a large silvery fish on flat stones.

Danielle shoves crab meat into her mouth, all delicacy abandoned. After licking her fingers, she fixes Claire in the grey spotlight of her eyes and says, “I see so much of myself in you.”

Everyone around the fire stares at Danielle.

“What do you mean?” Claire sputters out.

“I thought that I would not be alone when my time came, that my Robert would be with me. But then...” Her haunted voice drifts away into the firelight.

“Claire's not gonna be alone.” Hurley folds his arms over his belly, which juts out like an impassable obstacle.

She hopes Danielle knows better than to argue with him.

“Please, it would be so much easier to say in French. I too thought I was surrounded by those whom I trusted, whom I loved. Then that thing came upon them, that darkness—“

“The thing that lives in the trees,” Claire interrupts.

Danielle's voice wavers like the flickering flames. “If only it had remained in the trees.”

A chill slides down Claire's spine, and the baby kicks in tune with her anxiety.

Frustration explodes from Shannon. “What about your camp? Did it ever come into your camp?”

Danielle tosses bits of crab shell into the fire, where they give off the smell of burning hair. “Never on the sea-coast. It was when we ventured into the jungle that it picked off poor Nadine. Later, when we came to the wall outside the ancient temple...“

Claire and Shannon share the same glance, the same thought. Locke, Boone and Charlie have just set out into the jungle for their walkabout. Out there, with that thing.

Danielle still stares into the fire. “It is a dark place, very dark. You do not want to go there. First the smoke took Montand and then...” Again she drifts away.

Hurley can't contain himself any longer. “Temple? What temple?” he practically shrieks. “Who the hell are these people? Where the hell are we?”

Sayid has heard Hurley's outcry. He breaks away from Sawyer's group and goes over to alert Jack.

“Uh, oh,” says Shannon.

“Have you told Sayid any of this?” Claire practically hisses at Danielle from sheer panic. Sayid tries to draw away a reluctant Jack, who shakes his head at first. Claire figures that Jack probably thinks Hurley is over-reacting to something.

“Dude, I think Sayid's already on the case,” Hurley says, calmer now. “He kind of didn't believe your story.”

“That one, he sees into the soul,” Danielle says in a hoarse whisper. “And there are parts of mine I choose to keep from view.”

“I tried that when we first crashed here,” Shannon says. “With Sayid, it doesn't work. I'm serious, Danielle, don't screw with him. Just don't. But if you tell him, I'll protect you.”

It's absurd that this slip of a girl could stop Sayid when he's hell-bent on discovering the truth. Then Claire's practiced eye roves over Shannon's flawless skin, her aquiline nose. Sayid has fallen in love with her, or is just about to, and Claire's pretty sure that Sayid would do anything for a woman whom he loves.

All at once, Sayid stands before them, the firelight from below casting his face into an unrecognizable mask. Behind him stand Jack and Kate, who send questioning looks in every direction.

Hurley uses his most relaxed voice, as if nothing unusual is going on. “Take a load off, dudes,”

Claire extends the tray. “There's still a fair amount of crab left.”

Sayid squats, and his gimlet eyes zero in on Hurley. “I thought I heard something about a temple.”

It's all going to come out now, and sudden relief washes over Claire, enough to chide Sayid a bit. “You know, Sayid, sometimes people don't tell you things, because they're afraid of how you might react.”

“She has a point,” Shannon adds.

Again shock flickers over his features, but this time he doesn't suppress it. Instead, a weight seems to fall from him, one which Claire recognizes. She's laid so many of her own burdens down: at Hurley's feet, at Kate's, at Rose's, at Jack's, even. Each time she's risen up a little lighter than before, a little more relieved.

“Danielle,” Kate says, “Please tell us what happened. All of it.”

So Danielle does.


* * * * * * * *


After supper, Hurley and Claire sit in their shelter, too full of questions and anxieties to sleep. Claire lifts the tarp-flap corner to reveal the moon-drenched beach, where Jack and Kate are still up, still talking. Danielle has Shannon's tent all to herself, because Shannon sleeps in front of Sayid's fire, curled up with her head on his thigh. He stares out at the ocean, occasionally stroking her hair.

He's calculating, making plans for their trip to find the Others.

Nothing else seems unusual. The same fires burn with the same people clustered around them. Over by Kathy and Shana's tent a woman starts up a folk song, and a few people join in. At the other end of the beach, a boar-hide drum taps out its quiet, relaxing rhythm. Jin and Sun converse in front of their shelter, as private as if they were behind sound-proofed glass, since no one else understands Korean. But Jin's still sleeping on the beach, it looks like, because afterwards Sun doesn't invite him in. He curls up in a bed-roll near his favorite fishing spot on the rocky coast.

The familiar sights and sounds don't quiet the turmoil inside Claire. She shot them, the three that the dark thing didn't get. She shot them all. Including her baby's father.

Hurley senses her mood. From behind her he asks, “All quiet on the western front?”

Claire doesn't answer at first. Finally she mutters, “I'm not like her.” But perhaps she was. She killed Ethan, didn't she?

Oh, sweet Hurley, it's as if he can read her thoughts. “Claire, it was like, self-defense. Come on, you heard what Danielle said. Robert shot first. It was only 'cause she broke his gun ahead of time that he didn't kill her.”

“Robert would have killed their baby, too.”

“Yeah, Claire, he would have.”

A cold spear goes through Claire's middle. Years ago, Ethan had offered to kill Danielle if Ben couldn't do it, whoever Ben was. Danielle's words drip through Claire like ice water, Let me do it, Ben. I can do it if you want me to, Ben.

Who was Ben, and worse yet, was he still on this Island? She runs her hand protectively over her stomach, trying not to sink under waves of fear.

Hurley must feel the change in her mood. “What's wrong?”

“Just thinking about something Brian said. 'Kiss paradise goodbye.'”

“If this is paradise, paradise kinda sucks.”

She doesn't see it that way. The waters teem with fish, and sometimes when she forages for eggs, tiny gull chicks squawk at her and open their bills, demanding to be fed. Every night, the sunset explodes into a riot of oranges and purples, painting everything with a golden edge. She hasn't ventured much into the jungle, but even the palm groves close to the shore are filled with whispers like song. The white sand, the blue sea, never have colors shone so pure.

The Island is the most beautiful place she has ever seen.

Eventually she finds the words. “If it sucks, it's because people have made it that way. Like the islands Kenneth talked about, covered with garbage.”

“Aw, Claire, I shouldn't of said that.” Pulling her onto his lap, Hurley buries his face in her neck, sending his purring words all through her. “I met you here, didn't I?”

Never has she been so grateful for his warmth, his size, his pliant softness. She lifts curly masses of hair and whispers into his ear, “I met you, too.”

“Listen. You're not gonna be like Danielle, because I'm not Robert. And nobody's gonna steal this baby, either.”

They haven't kissed since that first time a few nights ago, but it's as easy as if they had never stopped. They fall together onto their sides, bellies close, letting their kisses weave a strong, silken fabric which cocoons them in tenderness and desire.

(continued)


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