stefanie_bean: (hugo claire blue)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 15: Garden of Earthy Delights
Pair: Hurley/Claire
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 3344 words
Rating: M
Notes: WIP, canon-divergent

After the Oceanic 815 crash, Jack told Hurley to stay with Claire. Hurley does just that, and they fall in love. In this "LOST in three seasons," people talk to each other more, and most of them actually get to live.

Chapter Index

Chapter 15: Garden of Earthy Delights

Claire awakens to pale dawn light, not ready to start the day. Instead, still glowing from last night's chaotic collisions of flesh, she wraps herself around Hurley's wide expanse. His endless territory is a land she might finally come home to, claim for her own.

Face buried in his back, she grows warm at the memory of wanting so well answered. Fingers that were clumsy at first proved themselves oh so patient, so willing to learn, so diligent. Even in pitch dark she could feel his attention fixed on her, his breath alert, his whole body listening to hers until she rocked back and forth with pleasure.

Afterward, she apologized for not taking him inside her body, worried about the baby, wondering if she was really ready. She hoped he understood. He murmured, No, no worries, it was so awesome, she was so beautiful, even as he pressed against her leg, straining and full.

All resistance inside her collapsed. She pillowed her head on his belly and learned why plump sides were called “love-handles.” He smelled like sea-water and clean sweat, and tasted even better. When he lay limp and exhausted, she rested on the sweet pillow of his thigh. The last thing she remembered was his whispered, “Oh, Claire, thank you.”

Hurley rolls over and grins like it's Christmas morning, and she's the best present under the tree. “Claire, about last night, I don't want you to think, um, that I. Was just after, you know, one thing.”

Safe and comforting, he fills her arms. “I wasn't after 'one thing,' either.”

“Didn't think you were.”

Oh, bother, he doesn't understand. “Hurley, it's that, well, you're rich. And I couldn't even pay for my own plane ticket. I've got nothing.” Her hand circles her belly protectively. “Except him. Who, let's face it, is a cuckoo in the nest.”

His whole body shudders as if all of it wants to prove her wrong. In the golden light of dawn he becomes a creature larger than life: one with the radiant mane of a lion, the bulk and strength of a bear, yet every inch a man.

The sun shifts, the golden light pales, and once more he's Hurley, full of concern and love. “You've got me, long as you want. You and the baby both.”

Christmas has come early for her, too.

* * * * * * * *

The day starts, as days always do. A dozen people have massed around Michael to finish the aqueduct. Light as a soap-bubble, Hurley bounds off to join them, mane ruffled by the stiff ocean breeze.

Claire doesn't even notice Kate at her side until Kate says, “You up for helping Sun in the garden?”

They carry basalt-blade hoes with long bamboo handles. As they pass by Sayid's tent, now Shannon's too, Kate rustles the tarp flap. “Hey, sleepy-head.”

Shannon emerges, hair frowzled. “Oh, it's just you two.”

Claire laces an arm in hers. “Come on, Shannon.” Neither Claire nor Kate want Shannon to spend another morning sighing over Sayid's absence.

Surprisingly, Shannon doesn't protest. “Why the hell not?”

The garden path winds through trees laced together like Gothic arches. A wide-open clearing appears, its neatly-turned red dirt dotted with rows of tiny green specks. One side is edged in banana plants already several feet tall. Well-established clusters of guava and papaya stand on the other. The high, thin trees rustle in the wind, and morning sun fills the glade with gold.

Sun has planted the bananas, but the fruit trees were already there. She picked this place because it was already cultivated. It must have taken years for guava and papaya to grow to that size.

People once lived here long enough for the trees to mature. Long enough to settle in.

Sun crouches on her knees, a pile of long green shoots at her side. “Good morning. You are just in time to plant taro.”

No one wonders anymore how Sun came to know this. When she started her garden, it was the first question Jack asked her. Had she studied horticulture? Worked in a greenhouse?

She had taken her degree in art history. Then she handed him a bamboo shovel so he could help turn over the red earth.

“So, what do we do?” Shannon says.

Taro shoots are easy enough to plant, and if Claire squats deep like a frog, she can manage pretty comfortably. She asks Sun, “How long till the harvest?”

“Seven months,” Sun says. “The bananas will take about a year.”

Shannon draws in a long breath, and Kate looks up, worried. “Do you think we'll be here that long?”

Sun scoops handfuls of dirt, pats them around the newborn shoot, scoops again. "I plan for the future. It was what my father taught me."

Kate remarks, "He sounds like a wise man."

“He is a monster.”

Sun's words are chilling, even in the bright morning. No one knows what to say at first.

“I cannot live my life ashamed any more,” Sun goes on. “When we first crashed, all of you hated Jin-Soo and so did I.”

Kate starts to say, “I think 'hate' is a little strong,” but her voice trails off.

“It is all right, Kate. You don't have to spare my feelings. But my father made him that way, and I contributed as well. I am willing to admit it.”

“What does he do, your father?” Shannon asks. “Mine was a businessman in New York. Real estate.”

“I don't even know the extent of his companies. He sold the first Korean automobiles in the American market. Australian, too.”

“Paik autos are famous in Oz,” Claire agrees. “You see them everywhere. Couldn't afford one myself.”

“That is his public business. He has another, in the shadows,” and the women know exactly what Sun means. “My father claims that everything he does is for me. For love of me.”

“Love,” Shannon repeats with a snort. “My father couldn't even figure out how to make a goddamn will, so my stepmother got it all. I was left with suitcases full of designer clothes, maxed-out credit cards, and an overdrawn checking account.”

“I am sorry,” Sun says.

They turn to Kate, waiting for some revelation, but she doesn't say anything.

Hurley has told Claire about Kate's mug shot, so Claire quickly fills the silence. “My dad wouldn't marry my mum. She didn't plan me, I can tell you. Now look at me, following in her footsteps.”

Shannon stops planting, and drops words like bombs into the conversation. “Speaking of planning, let's be honest, ladies. What in the hell are we going to do?”

“Do?” Kate says. “Do about what?”

“You haven't thought about doing it with Jack?” Shannon says.

Kate flushes almost as red as the furrowed earth. “Of course I have. We have.”

Shannon won't let Kate off the hook that easily. “Done it, or thought about it?”

“Just thought, so far. As for birth control, I've never used it.”

“Never? Really? My God, when I got to Sydney, the first thing my boyfriend did was take me to this clinic, paid cash for a shot." Shannon challenges the others to judge her, but no one does. "They only last three months, so I've got a little while left. Which I'm wasting."

“I don't think I can get pregnant,” Kate says. “Nothing's ever happened.”

Claire almost remarks that Kate is lucky, but the heavy weight of the child inside stops her. Instead she says, “Some of us are fertile as a turtles. I got pregnant on the pill.”

“I know someone that happened to,” Shannon says. “Her boyfriend blamed her.”

Claire grits her teeth against the flicker of anger. “Tell me about it.”

“Do you know this for certain?” Sun asks Kate. “Did you consult with a doctor?”

“I just know.”

“I was told that I could not have children, but it turned out to not be true.”

Kate smiles for the first time in this conversation. “You have something to share, Sun?”

Sun doesn't answer at first. "Not yet."

Silence falls as everyone ponders that, until Claire says, “I wonder what other people are doing. Faith and Craig don't seem to care.” Everyone laughs, because those two are noisy, besides. “And Kathy and Shana, they're not in the market at all.”

Shannon says, “So for you, Claire, it's party time, right?”

This is far harder to talk about than Claire expects. "We're kind of, um, holding back. Because of the baby."

“Stuck on third base, huh? When I was au-pairing in Saint-Tropez, the wife was past her due date. She and her husband practically broke the bed. Her doctor told her it would get labor going, and it did."

Sun's eyes twinkle with mischief. “So, Claire, if you are tired of being pregnant...”

Heat flows through Claire at the thought of Hurley up inside her, all that flesh under her, how good it would be to welcome him in. "You really think it's okay?"

"You can always ask Jack if you're not sure," Kate remarks.

Before Claire can point out that it won't do much good after the baby comes, everyone falls silent at the crackle of dried leaves underfoot. It's Jack, pushing his way through the screen of bushes which surround the garden.

“Hey,” he says to everyone. Then, to Kate, “There you are. I've been looking for you.”

Her smile breaks radiant like the dawn. “Well, here I am.”

Jack basks in her good regard. “Thought you'd all like to know that Michael's ready to test the aqueduct.” Gazing around the garden, he adds, “Sun, this is remarkable.”

She accepts the praise with quiet equanimity. “It is not much. Just some bananas and taro shoots.”

He chuckles. “Every few years my mother would take a stab at gardening. All my dad would say was, 'Margo, you're watering a dry stick.'”

“I believe it is an art,” Sun says politely.

At the words “watering a dry stick,” everything stops for Claire, as if someone turned off the switch of the world. She's eleven again, spying on Mum and Aunt Lindsey from behind the kitchen door. They thought she was in bed. Her mum spread out a pile of letters on the red-and-white checked oilcloth.

“Good God, Carole, you still have those?” Aunt Lindsey said.

Mum's eyes welled up with tears, the little sister caught out by the big one.

“What was that stupid thing he always used to say, Carole? You might as well take it to heart, because all you're doing is watering a dry stick. One that's never going to bloom.”

Claire and her mum sobbed at the same time. Lindsey called out, “Claire, is that you?”

Running was out of the question. Lindsey marched Claire down the hall to her room, then slammed the door on her. In that sleepless night, Claire turned the ugly phrase over in her mind, seeing a dead tree branch stuck in hard-pan, the dirty water trickling down over it.

That's what her mother was doing as she waited for Claire's father to come back to them. Watering a dry stick.

Claire stares at Jack as he chatters away. Years ago her father had dared to show his face in the hospital, hovering over her mother's bed. He had the gall to drop by where Claire worked, too, inviting her for coffee as if he was some Pom from Surry Hill slumming in Westside. To convince her to pull the plug on her mum, even though Lindsey was the one whom the doctors talked to, not Claire.

“... Also, Kate, Michael wants to recover the lavatory from the nose of the plane, try out a composting toilet.” Jack wipes sweat from his face. It's getting to the siesta time of day, when it's too hot to work.

“One stall's not much,” Kate remarks.

“He said it was a prototype. We'll get a crew together soon, head up there. You should come along.”

“Sure, I'd love to.” Kate looks like someone who's just gotten asked to her school's Year 12 ball, and her eyes never leave Jack's face.

Claire can't tear her gaze away from Jack either. What was his last name? Shep-something.

No, no, no. This can't be. Shephard. Jack's last name is Shephard.

Her birth registration form bore mute testimony to her mum's faith. In stark typeface the name Christian Shephard appeared in the box marked “Father.” Christian, husband of Margo, who was the reason he no longer visited. Until he did.

Not just after the accident, either. A few nights before the Oceanic flight he had banged on Aunt Lindsey's door, drunkenly bellowing that he wanted to see his daughter. Claire had peered at him through the rear window, his tall lean form barely visible behind a curtain of driving rain.

Out front, a woman sat in a rain-fogged car with the headlamps on, waiting. Probably another one of his slags. Then Claire hated herself, because that meant her mum had been one, too. No way was Lindsey going to let him in, though. For once, Claire felt a rush of relief at her aunt's harsh sternness.

The next day, Claire got on that plane, and was gone. Not gone, though. Here. Things like this didn't really happen outside of stories on the telly, did they?

She sits transfixed while Jack rattles on about sanitation, measuring with practiced gaze the sharp cut of his jaw, his deep-set eyes, his face a reflection of her father's. In Jack's words she hears echoes of her father's crisp American diction.

Jack finally finishes. “So, what do you think, Kate?”

Kate murmurs something approving. Jack must feel Claire's fixed stare, because he clears his throat, confused. She can't stop telling herself that she's gone two bites short of a biscuit, knowing that she hasn't.

“You ready?” Jack says, but Kate has already picked up her hoe and back-pack. Her face says that she would follow him anywhere.

* * * * * * * *

Over by the aqueduct, Michael and Hurley jostle and josh as men do with their mates. Hurley positions a great square of wood into some slats at the very end of the aqueduct, his round shoulders and wide back straining.

All at once, it isn't enough for Claire to see him only with her hands in the dark. She wants him visible in the sun, hair blown by the wind, bathing in the lagoon freely the way Sawyer or Jack do. He has as much right to the sun and wind as everyone else.

Walt practically jumps from side to side, while Vincent runs about in circles, yapping. The beach camp gathers, charged with expectation.

Beside her, Kate speaks. “Looks like they're almost done.”

Jack breaks into a rare, uncomplicated smile. Once more Claire studies the line of his jaw, the way he tilts his head to one side, trying to place it.

Walt grabs Claire's hand. “Dad said we had to wait for you. Come on, hurry up.”

No one can pull like an energetic ten-year old. Walt drags her over to Hurley's beaming face, Michael's electric smile.

“Okay, everybody,” Michael says. “Here goes nothing. You want to do the honors, Walt?”

Walt pushes down on a wooden lever, raising the sluice gate. As water slowly trickles into the receiving pool, Michael fills a coconut shell. He hands it to Claire and says, “Go on. For making such a great muse.”

She can feel everyone's eyes on her, but the only ones she's looking into are Hurley's. The water goes down cold and sweet, not tepid like tarp-tasting rainwater.

Walt refills the coconut shell and hands it brimming to Hurley, who waves it away. “Give it to the architect.”

Michael wipes his mouth. “Gonna be a nuisance, lifting that sluice all the time. We need to put in some kind of tap.”

Hurley pulls Claire close to his side, then empties the contents of his shell over his head. On the same silly impulse she pours water onto her own. In a stroke of boldness, he gives her a very public smack on the lips. The crowd around her, the laughing people, the hum of congratulations to Michael, the smell of fresh, flowing water: all fade under Hurley's smile.

What started life as a sketch in a notebook has now become solid and real. By its very existence, this great bamboo-lashed structure seems to commit them to a course of action. She's willing to surrender to it, just as Hurley has surrendered to her mouth, to her hand, just as she's surrendered to his promise to look after her and the coming child.

Even that crabby man with the girl's name, Leslie, looks pleased as he wraps a soaked handkerchief around his neck. “I always knew this would work. Even my ninth-grade class built one.”

Michael rolls his eyes, so elated that even Leslie can't irk him.

The cave's spring waters come from deep inside the earth and won't give out for a very long time. As the afternoon winds on, people fill their pots, soak their heads, bathe their necks and hands in coolness.

Jin doesn't drink, just dunks his head for a few seconds under the stream and comes up dripping, eyes shining. “Water. Good water.”

“You got it,” Michael says.

Kate splashes Jack, Jack splashes back, and other people get into the act. Even Rose doesn't complain about the waste. They've had six weeks of instruction in the hard school of saving every drop, every scrap, every piece of trash, and those habits die hard. Even so, it's like a party, all that water, and soon everyone is soaked and laughing.

Kate's words are directed towards Michael, but her shining eyes are fixed on Jack. “So, if you want some help with your next projects—“

“That's right,” Jack says. “I haven't forgotten about that shower, either.”

“Neither have I,” Michael answers. “Showers use a lot more water. Sure, we've got it, but it's going to take some design.”

“Save water, shower with a friend,” Brian quotes, long grey hair plastered to his shoulders.

Kate side-angles a glance at Claire, who stifles a giggle. The two of them are thinking the same thing.

Hurley chuckles. “That dude's like some kinda hippie fortune cookie.”

Everyone has been so busy with the water-fight, no one expects the familiar, twanging voice which rings out from behind.

“Well, lookie here, we go on a bush expedition and y'all turn this place into the Ritz-Carlton.” It's Sawyer, shaggy and streaked with grimy sweat. Beside him, Danielle looks cool and bemused as usual.

Jane drops her back-pack with a thud. At once Kathy and Shana enfold her, the three of them chatting excitedly.

Hurley scowls, and Claire knows why. When Sayid's group left, only Danielle bore a rifle. Now Sawyer and Sayid both carry one, as well as belts of ammunition.

An unsmiling Sayid scans the camp site, until he catches sight of Shannon. The crowd parts to let her pass. Never has Claire seen a face so naked with longing, eyes welling with tears, her hair red-gold in the waning sun. Oblivious to the crowd, Sayid cradles her in his arms as if he never wants to let her go.

Jack comes alongside, bursting with unstated questions, but Sayid says only one word, “Tomorrow.” He leads Shannon away, joined hip to hip.

Jack turns to Sawyer, who waves him off. “Big Island out there, Doc. We're bushed.”

It's not lost on Claire that Sawyer heads for his own shelter, while Danielle retreats to Boone's. “What happened?” she says to Jane when Sawyer is out of earshot.

“They had a row, something about how Yank men always put themselves first, that the woman was an afterthought. Most of it was in French. My guess is that someone couldn't hit the sweet spot, if you take my meaning.”

Claire certainly does. Not all Yank men put themselves first. Not at all.


(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-05 01:17 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
This is so much fun. I've said before how your Hugo makes me miss my Frank. Just lovely. Your love scenes hit all the right notes.

I like how the building of the aqueduct seems to underline that rescue might not come, and they might as well see to their comforts now. Love the Shannon\Sayid relationship. I ship them only a little less than Clair\Hugo.

Interesting that Claire figures out that she and Jack are related. She's no dummy, for all that she's a blonde.

Your Hugo is just adorable. He's filled with goodness and there is no bad in him.

Thank you for writing this.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-05 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Aw that's a great compliment, one that I take to heart: that SWH is *fun.* 'Cause I'm sure having fun writing it.

Thanks so much for reading!


stefanie_bean: (Default)

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