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Chapter 14: Bamboo and Water
Pair: Hurley/Claire
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 3273 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 14: Bamboo and Water

Claire wakes up before Hurley, and in the faint dawn light reaches for her diary-turned-sketchbook. He lies before her shirtless, eyes closed, a sprawling and monumental form. Her pencil flies across the paper in sketchy circles, two small ones for breasts, one great one for belly, a medium one for his sleeping face. So much roundness, each graphite stroke like the caress of a loving hand.

The night before, both of them sank under the weight of humid air. So hot, she had complained, as one skinny little shirt fell to the blanket, then the other.

Could you? she had asked, showing him her back. Who would have thought he'd struggle so hard with two tiny hooks? Finally she chuckled and undid the bra herself.

He shed his own shirt like a burden, and together they lay skin to skin throughout the night. Her bare breasts tingle at the memory of his hands, of how her own palms flew over his wide chest. As she draws, she wishes he could sit for her in a proper studio in full light, that her arm could race across the paper in broad strokes, playing over all the flesh of him.

Her pencil squiggles furiously as she tries to capture fluffy corkscrews of hair. Just light lines, one twisting after another, an electric mass which seems to float upwards with buoyant energy. Then, after one long sliding stroke down the curve of his back, she's finished. She knows not to over-work a sketch. Just suggest, like warm breath over skin.

Something's going on in the camp, as voices hum in loud conversation. His skin is like velvet under her palms as she strokes him to wakefulness. He reaches for his t-shirt and grabs her discarded bra by mistake. His blush is so delightful that she could kiss him right there. She pulls on just enough to satisfy decency, while he twists himself into his own shirt before opening the tarp flap.

Jack and Kate stand surrounded by Sayid, Sawyer, and a few others in front of the cooking shelter. Danielle leans nearby, resting on the rifle that's like a third arm, surrounded by a glow that might be a trick of the morning sun. Or not.

Everyone's helping themselves to boiled jackfruit seeds, boiled up by Rose and an Indonesian student from Sydney University named Sirrah. For weeks people had been cutting out the flesh of the enormous fruits and tossing the seeds. Then, one morning Sirrah quietly placed a bowl of boiled ones on the food-shelter table. Just as we would serve them at home, she had said.

Now Sirrah stands listening with her arms folded, her long black hair tucked in a bun, face serious. Shannon sits back on her haunches, watching Sayid with an intent expression.

“You were telling us about that temple, Sirrah,” Kate says.

“I'm from Jakarta, and what Danielle described sounds Indonesian. Central Java, maybe. Or Sulawesi.”

Kate turns to Jack. “Maybe that's where we are, somewhere in Indonesia.”

In between bites of jackfruit seed, Hurley puts in, “Yeah, but this is an island.”

Claire says, “Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands. It's not all Bali or Java.”

Sirrah nods, and in her soft voice adds, “Many Indonesian islands are small, with only a few villages. Or none at all, like Membata and Siroktabe.”

Sayid's clearly not convinced. “Indonesia or not, I've been up most of the night thinking this over. Anyone resident on this Island will sooner or later circumnavigate it. When they do, they'll see our signal fire. I see no reason to confront unknown forces from a position of vulnerability.”

His words must encourage Kate, because she adds, “Besides, Jack, you have responsibilities here. What if someone else gets sick, like Shannon did? Or injured? And Claire's going to have a baby.”

Everyone's eyes train on Claire. Normally she hates being the linchpin for other peoples' decisions, but not this time. She doesn't want Jack to leave, either.

“Kate's got a point, Doc,” Sawyer says, squeezing a jackfruit seed out of its hull. “Me and Xena here can pull together a little posse of our own.”

Jack scrutinizes Claire's stomach, then asks in a casual voice, “So, when are you due?”

“What's today, do you know?”

With a dripping spoon, Rose points to the flat, painted piece of fuselage behind her. “You know where the calendar is.” She updates it daily, writing the large rounded numbers with pieces of burnt charcoal.

Thursday, October 14. They've only been here a little over three weeks. It seems far longer, like one of those epic, adventure-filled dreams which gets squeezed into the extra ten minutes between the snooze alarm and the real one. “October 26,” Claire says, feeling suddenly cold and sweaty.

Full of sympathy, Sirrah says, “Don't worry, Claire. They'll send someone before then, I'm sure.”

Jack's still contemplating. “The rule of thumb is two weeks from the due date in either direction.” His heavy sigh is laced with relief as much as defeat. “Danielle, I'm sorry.”

Her deep, polite nod forgives all. “Pas de souci. It is quite all right.”

Sawyer laughs. “You know what that Frog-speak does to me, Sheena.”

Danielle's answering smile is cool and mysterious as a spring hidden in the forest. By morning's end, they've recruited Scott, Steve and surprisingly, Jane, the gruff Englishwoman who won't discuss her midwife sister with Claire.

Sayid spends the morning enlarging his shelter, then drags over Shannon's heavy suitcases and helps her arrange things. The space that she and Boone used to share sits forlorn, awaiting Boone's return.


* * * * * * * *


Sawyer and Danielle haven't been gone an hour when Kathy and Shana descend on his tent, emerging laden with sunscreen, laxatives, vitamins, salves, paracetamol. Even though Jack has taken all the script medications with him to the caves, he grins in agreement.

Claire gets it: Jack wants plausible deniability. Besides, Claire knows by now how Kathy and Shana play the game. When Sawyer gets back (not if, never if), any complaints will be met by messy, personal details about their monthlies or other bodily functions.

They do leave Sawyer a reasonable selection for his own use, as well as some for Danielle.

While Rose and Kathy play chemist and dispense over-the-counter supplies to the rest of the camp, Jack, Kate, Hurley and a few others head north to play golf. Jack needs the relaxation, Hurley insists, and Jack doesn't argue.

Hurley asks Sirrah to fetch him from the golf course if Claire needs anything. Of course she will. Claire can tell that Hurley's been struck by Jack's remark about the “delivery window.”

“I'm fine,” Claire says. “Go have fun.”

With so many people gone, the beach seems quiet, even restful. Claire parks herself under an ironwood tree and starts to re-read her diary, barely recognizing herself in the jagged words. She thinks about tearing the pages out, but that would mean walking over to the nearest fire, and she's finally gotten comfortable. So many angry words, so remote, as if they weren't born in just another country, but another world. Anyway, ripping out pages might spoil the book.

She's almost finished when Michael staggers past, weighted down by Oceanic Airlines jugs filled with a good ten kilos of water each. Walt drags behind, kicking up arcs of sand with his trainers.

“Cut that out, Walt,” Michael says. “You're gonna hit Claire.”

“No, I'm not.” Walt keeps kicking, seeing how high he can make the sand clumps fly, then whines that he's bored. Vincent has run off again, and why does he always do that? “Can't I go find him, Dad?”

Michael tells him in rough tones, “You've got to make your own fun, Walt. And no, you can't go into the jungle to look for your dog.”

“Maybe you could go, Dad. Mr. Locke always knew how to find Vincent.”

“Well, Mr. Locke isn't here, so Vincent's just gonna have to come back on his own.”

“Whatever.” Walt dashes off towards the shoreline without looking back.

Claire waves her hand. “You want to take a load off?”

His exhausted face clearly says, At last, another adult to talk to.

A little qualm stabs Claire as she marks her place with a page corner. Is this what being a parent is like, to be so desperate for a few moments away from a child's demands?

Michael drops the water jugs with a thump, then plunks himself next to Claire and wipes his drenched face. “This water hauling business is getting old.” As he raises his eyes skyward, she does the same. The usual afternoon rain hasn't appeared. “What we need is water down here, at the beach.”

“Too bad it can't walk the route on its own.”

He fixes her with a mischievous glance. Beneath the gruff exterior there's warmth and even a flash of humor. “Oh, but it can.”

“Be serious, now.”

Grinning, he offers her his own notebook. “Take a look.”

The pages are covered with architectural sketches of bamboo scaffolding. “What's this?”

“It's an aqueduct, like the Romans used. Since the spring at the cave is at a higher gradient than the beach, we won't even have to build a reservoir.” Seeing her blank look, he explains, “You know, since water flows downhill. Voila, guaranteed fresh.”

“That's brilliant, Michael.” He beams at her praise, so she goes on. “Your drawings have nice, tight lines. Good perspective, too.”

It's as if she's handed him a gift. Then his bright smile topples under the weight of doubt. “I guess you must have gone to art school.”

She shakes her head. “I just did a lot of set design and painting. Mostly self-taught.” Not entirely, she reminds herself. A baby wasn't the only thing she got from Thomas, with his MFA in Visual Arts. Sometimes he'd sit for her, gracile as a deer, wispy blond hair shooting upward. He never liked her sketches of him, though, and sneered that they were “too representational.” She had sat for him exactly once, naked and shivering for three hours. The resulting explosion of drips and ragged brush strokes didn't look like a person at all. She never offered again.

Michael fills the silence with, “I taught myself too. So, you draw?”

“Yup. Want to see?”

He does. She quickly flips past the written parts of her journal, not wanting him to catch a single glimpse of the bitter words. While she may not burn them, she isn't in the mood to share.

As Michael murmurs in approval at the sketches, Claire sees them through his eyes: a gull just taking off in flight, the swirl of a wave around a dark, barnacled rock, the massive spreading tree which presides over the beach like a queen over her court. Finally, Michael flips to a figure sketch of Hurley toasting something over a fire. Pencil lines pass like loving hands over his round body and wild hair.

When Michael gets to her drawing from that morning, he gives her a knowing look. “Hey, not bad.”

To Claire's relief, Hurley shows up, back from golfing. Walt follows him, Vincent trotting alongside. Walt calls out, “Dad, he came back, just like you said.”

“Guess he missed you, little man.”

“He needs a bath, too,” Hurley adds. “Whatever he got into out there, it really stinks.”

“Well, that'd be something for you to do, Walt,” Michael says.

After Walt runs off with Vincent, Claire says, “Michael, can Hurley look at your sketches?”

“Sure.”

Hurley turns the pages sideways one way, then the other, as if unsure about what he's seeing. “Nice drawings, dude. Um, what are they?”

As Michael explains, Hurley breaks into a broad smile. “That would be awesome. Hey, let me help you out with that water.” As he lifts one of the jugs, another idea flickers across his face. “After your aqua-duct, you think we could also, you know, set up a shower?”

A few people at the beach have talked about it already. They've even salvaged the perfect cylinder from the fuselage for a tank. The biggest obstacle so far has been lack of water.

Michael's eyes light up as his work comes to life before him. “Sure, we could make a solar-heated shower. Everyone would love that.”


* * * * * * * *


The next day, Michael gets more volunteers for the aqueduct than he knows how to organize. Jin is one of the first to step forward, even if he's not exactly clear about what's going on. Hurley guesses that Jin wants something to do that doesn't involve exchanging hard stares with Sun across the beach.

Brian and Kenneth have been making basalt axes with wickedly sharp blades lashed to stout wooden handles. There are plenty of tools to go around, and nobody has to jockey for turns with the airplane ax.

This loud, stocky man named Leslie wants to know why they're wasting time on water-works when they could be building a raft. In a mild voice, Michael tells him that it's a big jungle with plenty of bamboo. In short, go ahead, be his guest.

Leslie pouts and says,“I'm a scientist, not an engineer,” which draws a snicker from Rose.

She says aside to Hurley, “My husband is a DMD, but that doesn't make him a surgeon like Jack. Leslie Arzt is a middle-school science teacher who thinks he's the next Darwin.”

Hurley gives a noncommittal grunt. Rose's faith that her husband is still alive is rock-solid.

“Leslie better watch himself with those spiders he's always collecting,” she goes on. “I got bit by a spider once, and even with anti-venom it was nasty.”

When Rose gets revved up like this, she really reminds Hurley of his mom. It would be fun, in a terrifying way, to stick the two of them in a room together. Maybe when they all get rescued he could arrange that.


* * * * * * * *

Work on the aqueduct moves along quickly. Each morning Michael, Jin, and Hurley lead a troop to the bamboo grove just northwest of the camp. They sing off-key Disney songs which echo through the tree tops, followed by the thud of bamboo hitting the forest floor. The axes slice through the slender trunks like kitchen knives dicing carrots. Even so, they work quickly, because the trees whisper uncanny chants at times. Nobody wants to mess around in the grove any more than they have to.

Hurley hauls bamboo poles until his arms and shoulders ache. Michael has tallied up long columns of numbers, down to the last pole, and there are a lot of them. The crew lays poles along the path to the caves, each cluster labeled with brightly-colored electrical wire from the plane.

Jin still sleeps in a bedroll on the beach, and doesn't fish for his wife. In fact, he doesn't speak to her at all. If they both cast their nets into the sea at the same time, it's on opposite ends of the camp. They look like two small dark figures separated by a long crescent of ocean.

On the day when the bamboo poles have all been cut and sorted, when the laborious process of lashing the scaffolding begins, Jin slips away from the work site and heads towards Sun's garden.

Hurley tells Michael that he's got to check on something, and follows Jin. Alert for trouble, Brian and Craig come along too.

Jin's hard to keep up with, and by the time the three men make it to the garden, he's already talking to Sun. The three men wait behind a copse of trees, out of sight.

Sun squats in the taro patch while Jin crouches beside her. His words come out anguished, strangled. At first Sun ignores him, but then she gives him cool, distant answers.

To Hurley, it feels less like spying because they're speaking in their own language. But he and the guys would be there anyway, even if Sun and Jin were using English.

It's simple. There's a strict rule in camp, that no one gets to use fists to solve their differences. Jack has only used the word “banishment” once. Since then, people divide up what they're fighting over, or just spend a day cooling off at opposite ends of the beach.

Here in Sun's garden, no one is shouting or tussling, even though Jin sheds a few tears. Sun is the one who raises her voice. When she picks up her garden tools, Jin offers to carry them back to camp, and she lets him.

This husband-wife stuff is complicated, Hurley thinks. Bamboo-lashing is simpler.

That evening Jin asks Sun to join him by the rocky shore. There, the beach camp watches in amazement as Jin places his gold Rolex on a flat rock. Sun presides as if witnessing a solemn ritual.

Everyone remembers how Jin had beaten Michael over that watch, even though Michael found it abandoned in the jungle. Jin pauses as if deciding something very difficult. Then, as if afraid of changing his mind, he smashes the watch to smithereens with a chunk of basalt. As he sweeps every fragment into a cloth bag, a small smile plays on Sun's lips.

Hurley whispers to Claire, “Man, that's a new Daytona. Jin just threw $15,000 straight into the camp fire. He could of given it to Michael if he didn't want it.”

Claire's voice is equally soft. “Some things have too much psychic residue to give away.”

Hurley doesn't know what that means, but it's clear she thinks it would have been a bad idea.

Kate, Jack, and a few others arrive from the caves. Everyone's laden down with prescription medications, supplies and what little medical equipment there is.

Jack surveys the crowd, already starting to disperse. “What's going on, Hurley?”

“Nothin' much. Jin just busted up a Rolex.”

Jack turns to Kate, almost laughing. “Never a dull moment around here, is there?”

“No, there isn't.” Rarely has Hurley seen such a beautiful smile on a face not Claire's.

That night Kate moves her shelter right next to Jack's, both of them adjacent to the new medical tent.


* * * * * * * *


Whatever the ritual smashing of the watch means, it seems to solidify Sun and Jin's reunion. Jin moves back into their shelter, starting up a night-time chorus of small but unmistakable noises.

At first Hurley pretends he doesn't hear, but when Claire starts making a different silly face for each sound, he can't help but play along. The game ends with their bare chests pressed against each other as they plunge into the pool of each others' kisses, diving as deep as they can.

Over these eight days since the aqueduct work started, he's come to know every furrow of her warm, wet tongue, every curve of her breasts, every crinkle of her nipples, every tiny grooved stretch mark etched into her belly. From the way her mouth roves across his chest, from her stroking hands, he's pretty sure it's the same for her.

Lines of moonlight fall through cracks in the tarp, their silver stripes curving like fingers around her big stomach. He has no idea why some people think that pregnant women aren't beautiful. Or why he's never told her that she's the loveliest girl he's ever seen.

So he does. Her answer is to undo the string of his board shorts, and after that, not even a small atomic bomb going off would distract him.

(continued)


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