stefanie_bean: (hugo claire blue)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 17: The Red Tent
Pair: Hurley/Claire
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 3622 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 17: The Red Tent

When Claire gets up that morning, she jokes that Jack's advice probably won't get labor going after all. Then she steals Hurley's favorite t-shirt, the green one with butter-soft fabric, and heads off to breakfast.

He figures the shirt looks better on her than him. As he struggles with another one, he reddens at the memory of their flesh exploding into rosy chaos. Guys on the block would brag about making it to home base in one hit. Hurley wouldn't blab like that, but on the other hand, there are few secrets in this camp.

As he makes his way to breakfast, he swears he sees a few grins and knowing nods. At the food tent, Claire sips from a steaming cup while morning breezes make the oversized shirt flutter about her knees. It seems forever ago that he worried about her second-guessing him, or that she might be revolted by his desire and her own. Or that she might simply change her mind.

The worry's gone now. He draws her into a hug and kisses the top of her head, astonished at how easy it is to make the simple, casual gesture.

Claire nestles against his side. “Careful, love, it's hot.”

He sniffs the fragrant brown liquid. “What's that?”

“Sun found some wild raspberry bushes. I don't know how she does it.”

Sun is about to speak when Jin says, “No fruit yet. But good tea.”

“Hey, dude, excellent English,” says Hurley. Since Sun has taken Jin back, the rest of the beach camp accepts him too. Everyone speaks English to him now, and Sun only uses Korean to get his attention fast. For once, those late-night TV infomercials didn't lie. The immersion method really does work.

“The fruits are not yet ripe,” Sun says. “In a month or so we will have a bounty.”

Over Claire's head, Hurley spies Kate pulling aside the flap of Jack's tent. She squints in the morning sunlight, her hair all tousled about her shoulders. Jack emerges after her, shirtless.

So Claire and I weren't the only ones taking it to another level last night. A weird certainty shoots through Hurley that things are going to change, and soon.

Suddenly Claire drops her cup onto the sand. At first Hurley thinks that it's tea which stains Claire's shirt hem. Not tea, though. The river which flows down her legs and puddles in the sand is rainwater-clear.

She sends Hurley a single panicked look, then scans the beach wildly. “Jack! Jack!”

Jack dashes up, kicking sand, while Kate gives Hurley's arm a hard yank. “What happened?”

Movie scenes flash through Hurley's mind: women crying out in agony as taxi-cabs rush them to the hospital and background music pounds like a heart-attack.

Jack says to Claire in a calm voice, “Looks like your water just broke.”

Kate smiles as Sun relays something to Jin in Korean. No one else but Hurley catches the tiny sparks of panic which flicker around Jack, despite his chill demeanor.

Claire clutches her belly, then gives a gasp which ratchets up to a small shriek. Hurley's brain is shrieking inside, too, because Jack stands still as a deer in the headlights of a truck barreling down at eighty miles an hour.

Kate takes the situation in hand. “Come on, honey, let's go someplace quiet.”

This wakes Jack up, and he waves towards the infirmary tent. “I'll be along in a minute.”

Shannon and Sun tag along behind Kate and Claire. Hurley wants to follow too, but Jack steers him to a shaded copse of ironwood trees. “You still have my watch?”

Hurley rummages through his cargo pockets, but it must be in the tent. What if he's lost it? He could buy Jack a replacement ten times as nice if they ever get back to civilization. That doesn't do a damn bit of good for right now, though. “I'll go get it.”

Jack grips Hurley's shoulder as if he needs the stability. “What the hell am I thinking? I've got nothing for a delivery here. No monitors, not even a stethoscope. The alcohol's all gone, as well as the peroxide. I don't even have a scalpel.”

A scalpel? For what? Oh, sweet Mary, no. “Jack, listen. Women have babies all the time. My second cousin Juana, she had hers in the car on the 405. The firemen just stood around and waited till she was done.”

“No firemen here, Hurley. At least I'm up on my CPR.” Jack gives a heavy sigh. “Come on, let's check her out.”

Now it's Hurley who stays planted. “Jack, this have anything to do with, you know, Claire being your sister? Like, you'd be delivering your own nephew?” Hurley doesn't get why that would freak Jack out, but he figures doctors have weird rules, so who knows.

Jack's about to say something when a sharp cry rings across the beach.

The new medical tent is twice the size of the old one, but it's full of women and there's barely room to maneuver. Its bright orange and red beach towel walls flutter in the breeze. Jack maneuvers past Rose and Faith, while Hurley hangs outside, unsure. Claire stands flanked by Kate and Shannon, then screws up her face as if deeply concentrating.

“Don't hold your breath, honey,” Kate says. “It's nowhere near time for that.”

“Painful contractions?” Jack asks.

Claire nods, her face still twisted.

“In and out,” Kate says. “Count to five.”

“The baby needs you to breathe,” Rose adds.

Jack takes Claire's wrist, measuring. “Pulse is good. How long between, about?”

“She's had two since we got here,” Kate says.

Holy crap, Hurley thinks. He and Jack hadn't talked for more than ten minutes, tops.

“Maybe we should give Claire some room—” Jack starts to say.

She interrupts, loud and intense. “No! Nobody leaves!”

“Are you going to examine her or something?” says Shannon.

Claire gives a little whimper and shakes her head, No, no, no.

At first Hurley doesn't get it. Then Jack says, “In the hospital, I would. But here—“

Someone brushes Hurley from behind. It's Danielle, cool and composed as usual. He tries to let her pass, but she hangs back as if the scene brings back too many memories. She says to Jack, “Do not make her lie down. If I had done so, my Alex would have died.”

Luckily Claire doesn't hear that, as she's too busy having another contraction.

Jack and Hurley both escort Danielle away from the medical tent, and Jack's eyes are blazing. “What the hell do you think you're doing? Do you want to scare her to death?”

She lifts her chin and meets him full-face. “My Alex came out feet-first. Une présentation du siège.

Jack fights down a shriek. “Breech? Your baby was breech?”

“I felt her tiny feet at l'ouverture vaginale, squatted against a tree, and pushed for dear life. The rest of her soon followed.”

Jack's white face tells Hurley how really bad-ass Danielle is. When Jack recovers his power of speech, he says, “That gives you one hundred percent more experience than every OB/Gyn at St. Sebastian's, because I don't think a single one has delivered a vaginal breech. Believe me, I would have heard about it.”

From inside the tent, Claire's cries blend with the women's soft, reassuring voices.

Sawyer ambles up, rifle slung over his shoulder, and gives Danielle a faux hat-tip. “Mornin', all. Sounds like we got a woman in childbed here.” As Danielle whirls to go, he says, “Where you off to, Sheena? You don't have to leave on my account.”

Danielle sends Sawyer a cool expression. “Off to hunt. For everyday, fish is fine. When it is over, though, Claire will need iron. Bouillon d'os, restoratifs...” When Sawyer doesn't say anything, she adds, “You are welcome to join me. Two pairs of eyes are better than one.”

“Well, alrighty then.”

When they pass out of earshot, Jack says, “What the hell happened with those two, do you think?” When Hurley just shrugs, he goes on, “I've got an idea. Let's grab some dried sea urchins, a couple of irons, and drive those little bastards into the ocean.”

“Yeah, I could use the practice.” That's sort of a joke, because even after a decade's worth of tee shots, Jack would still kick his ass at golf.

Jack tells Kate where they're going, and her “Good idea” sounds like a dismissal. Old TV images of fathers banished to waiting rooms to smoke cigars appear in Hurley's mind. No cigars on this Island, though. Not that he would light one up anyway.

As Hurley and Jack head towards the shoreline, Hurley swallows his shyness, even though he knows Jack won't take this wrong. He just doesn't want to be the guy with the blabby mouth. “I think this must be my fault.”

Jack chuckles. “Pretty difficult, considering Claire was almost eight months pregnant when you met her.”

“No, not that. You know, um, getting labor started. Doctor's advice, remember?”

Now Jack does laugh, and the whole beach seems to brighten. “I know what you mean. It changes everything, doesn't it?”

Did Hurley just hear that right? “So, uh, you and Kate?”

The whirr of Jack's #2 iron and the ping of the sea urchin aren't a denial, not by a long shot. The small purple sphere travels so far that its plop is lost in the crash of waves. “Awesome,” Hurley says, and means it. On both accounts.


* * * * * * * *


Inside the medical tent, Claire hears most of Jack and Hurley's conversation. Then crashing waves of pain smash her with such force that she can barely resurface. From far away Kate repeats, “Breathe, Claire, breathe.” Shannon dabs her forehead with a wet cloth. When Rose puts a cup to her lips, Claire slurps with greedy thirst.

Sometimes the pain leaves little islands of refuge. Those moments grow rarer, though. Down in the depths of a pain-filled sea, something has its eye on her, wants to drag her down with sharp jaws and bite her in half.

She could die. In the outback women did, back in the days when travel times between stations were counted in days or even weeks. Even in Sydney today, although it was rare, according to Aunt Lindsey.

I could die.

She starts to sniffle, because that would mean her baby would die, too. It's terrifying and unfair. That rat bastard Thomas put this baby in her, but she's the one who had planned to go through all this for nothing, just to give him up.

When the next contraction pulls her down, she yells, “I deserve this, it's my fault.” Or if she does live after all, the baby will die instead. “To punish me,” she chokes out, and now she's crying in earnest, great fat tears of self-pity and guilt.

She doesn't even know who's with her anymore. The woman who's praying must be Rose. Arms support her as she crouches, squats, stands, sits, then stands again. She paces like an animal whose body is twisted in every direction by slowly-turning bands of iron.

Claire pisses herself, but doesn't care. Shannon throws handfuls of fresh sand over the mess as Claire crests on the next blinding wave. She whimpers to Kate, “I'm going to die, aren't I?”

Kate's face answers with pure murder. Her rage isn't directed at Claire, but toward the unseen enemy that Kate is going to fight, no matter what. As Claire collapses into Kate's arms, Kate says, “I won't let you die, and Jack won't, either.”

Claire makes Kate's strength her own. One moment passes without pain, then another, a sweet span of relief. It's like there's no pain in the world anywhere. “I have to lie down,” she says, as Rose and Shannon lower her to the cot.

Kate's frowning, though. Thinking Claire can't hear her, Kate whispers to Sun, “If she were a horse, I'd be worried about now.”

“We should get Jack.” Sun's trying to keep the tension out of her voice, but Claire's jyper-sharp senses pick up on everything nearby.

Faith speaks up in her soft drawl. “My mother's an old hippie, had me out on a farm in the backwoods of Tennessee. She said sometimes women rest awhile in between acts.”

“Like an intermission,” says Shannon.

“I will speak with Jack anyway,” Sun says.

Sun has barely left the tent when another pain smacks Claire, different from the others. This one squeezes hard enough to break her in half, and for the first time she lets out a genuine scream. She scrabbles off the cot and collapses into a squat, clutching her stomach and crying out.

Kate's bending down, stroking her face, holding her chin, trying to get her attention. “Honey, remember, breathe. Breathe the baby out.”

“I can't I can't I can't,” Claire says, with almost no break now between the pains.

“Yes, you can. I know you can do this. You can have this baby.”

“No, no, no, it won't come out, this is forever, it'll never stop, I know it—“

“Claire.”

She knows that voice. It fills the tent as much as he fills the doorway. His face is free of every scrap of fear.

“Hurley. Oh, God, Hurley.”

He lifts her from the squat. Supported by his arms, she half-stands with her chin resting on the shelf of his belly. They waltz like that back and forth, how the hell long she has no idea, because time has vanished. Jack floats into her view, talking to Kate, and she doesn't smell any fear on him, so she lets him fade out.

All at once, Claire has to take what feels like the biggest dump in the world, and she doesn't want Hurley to see or smell it. There's no way she'll make ten steps to the edge of the woods, much less the latrine, though. She whimpers, “Hurley, I can't hold it.”

Kate grabs the pan for that purpose and steers Hurley to the cot. He lands with a plop, and Claire falls in front of him, head still pressed into his belly.

Kate lifts Claire's skirt, leaving her bottom bare.

“Woo, hoo, all the bad girls go commando,” Shannon says.

On another world, one not shot through with pain, Claire might have laughed.

“Okay, Claire.” As an afterthought, Kate says, “Jack, did you want to—“

“You're doing fine, Kate.”

“What about me?” Claire's words barely come out, still muffled in Hurley's belly.

“You're doing fantastic,” says Jack.

“Yeah, Claire,” Faith says. “You're gonna show Sun and me how to do it.”

Claire has just enough brains left to wonder at that, until an unbelievable urge takes hold of her. It's like no other normal function she's ever had, and whatever she's pushing out burns like fire. One earthquake goes through her, then another, as she gulps long drafts of air in between.

Hurley's still holding her. She raises her eyes to him, and his strength pours into her.

“Nice and slow, Kate,” Jack says. “Right there, that's right. Use some pressure.”

Everyone falls silent. Nobody has to yell, “Push!” because Claire's body gives in to each flash of fire, followed by sudden relief, only to burn again. Her eyes never leave Hurley's, not until one final contraction that she swears will tear her apart. All the breath leaves her body in a long, deep cry. Then something warm and wet slithers between her legs, followed by a gush of fluid.

Kate's voice is full of wonder. “Oh, my God.”

Claire tries to heave herself off Hurley's lap, but can't. “I want to see. Let me see.” As Hurley flips her over, the long cord slaps against her legs.

Kate holds a wet child dotted with a few flecks of blood, the thick blue cord still pulsing.

The baby is larded with fat rolls and conspicuously male. All at once, the most wonderful thing happens as he turns from bluish to pink, right before Claire's eyes. He blooms like a rose with his first breath, then fills his lungs again and again, letting out one shrill cry after another.

Claire sags like a balloon with the air let out, so Hurley eases her back onto the cot. The surrounding women coo and flutter like doves in the cote, smiling at Claire, murmuring how brave she was, how beautiful he is.

Kate says, “Come on, honey, let's get him on the breast.”

Hurley crouches on the floor by Claire's side, stroking her hair and whispering, “You were awesome.”

The baby roots around on her breast. “Was there a lot of blood?” Claire asks Hurley.

“I dunno. Wasn't looking at the business end.”

When she laughs, her belly seizes in a sharp contraction. It's not so bad as labor, but enough to make her gasp.

Jack stands before her. “Okay, Claire, now I do need to take a look.” His voice rings with authority, so she parts her knees. Something squelches out of her, and the flood makes her head spin.

“Keep that baby nursing,” Jack says in that same no-argument tone. “Hurley, start pinching Claire's other nipple, and keep going until I say to stop.”

Claire's too exhausted to fight the rising panic. “What's wrong? What's going on?”

“You're fine,” says Jack. “I just want to make sure you stay that way. Hurley, please. Now's not the time to be shy.”

The baby finally figures out what her nipple is for, and slides it all the way into his eager little mouth. Jack is pressing into her floppy stomach with both fists, hard. He keeps squeezing and pushing almost to her backbone while Hurley pulls on the nipple not occupied by the baby.

When the flow between her legs slows down, Jack sits back, wiping sweat from his forehead. “Okay, Hurley, you can quit.”

Claire clings to Hurley's arm, because the last thing she wants is to be left alone with her baby in the medical tent. “Don't make him leave.”

“I'm staying,” Hurley says, as stubborn as Jack.

Claire looks the baby over carefully, even though Jack's already done that. When the infant fusses a little, she puts him back on her breast, amazed at how strong he is, at how he knows exactly what to do. Through the hanging towels she can hear Kate and Jack's muted conversation.

“What was that with the fist massage?” Kate says.

“Everybody talks about the first two stages of labor, not the third. Massage makes the uterus clamp down.”

“Right.”

“If she were in the hospital, she'd just get a shot of pitocin.”

“Does she need one?” says Kate, worry in her tone.

“I don't think so,” Jack replies. “Her blood loss was good for a birth. But we need to watch her closely over the next seventy-two hours...” Their voices trails off, probably because they're walking away.

Claire closes her eyes, too full of well-being to make Jack's worries her own. When she wakes up, the baby sleeps cuddled at her side. Hurley's gone, but she's not alone, because Sun and Faith sit in the corner, watching. Early evening sunlight fills the medical tent with orange-red light.

“I brought you some tea,” says Sun.

“Diapers, too,” Faith adds.

The baby stirs a little as Claire ties one onto him, then settles back into sleep. Sun's tea goes down like liquid gold. “What's in this?”

Sun smiles, proud of her craft. “Nettle, raspberry, lemon, boiled sugar-cane, and a dash of sea water.”

“Electrolytes, right.”

“Jack has left instructions. For the next three days, you are to always have someone with you.”

“Why? I feel fine. I mean, for just having had a baby.”

“Claire, if you were in the hospital, nurses would watch you. There are none here, but we will all help you rest.”

Faith's earlier remarks come back to Claire. “You're pregnant, aren't you? Both of you.”

“I am not sure,” Sun answers. “But I suspect.”

Faith laughs. “I don't suspect, I know. By my calendar, I caught the first week after the crash.”

Craig and Faith, holding hands in the wreckage, sneaking off to the forest's edge at night. Claire remembers her grandmother telling her that after the London Blitz, there was a rash of babies. Danger didn't make people careful; it led them to cast caution to the wind.

Like me, she thinks.

Faith has also brought taro porridge. Claire devours it, all the while staring at her beautiful son, pearly and glowing in sleep.

“Have you thought of a name?” Sun says.

Before Claire can answer, Hurley sticks his head into the tent. “Hey, you're awake. Danielle and Sawyer just got back from hunting.”

“They catch anything?” Faith says.

“A boar, and a whole lot else.” Hurley frowns, as if he's not sure of this new development.

“I want to get up anyway,” Claire says.

Hurley helps her wrap the child in an Oceanic Airlines blanket. “So, what are you going to call him?”

She says the first name which pops into her mind. “Aaron. His name is Aaron.”

“Cool,” Hurley says.

Claire leaves the medical tent, infant in arms. In the center of camp, Locke and Boone struggle as they get ready to gut an enormous black-haired boar. Sawyer guards a lanky man in khaki overalls, who sits cross-legged on the ground before him. Even though Sawyer isn't holding the man at bay, it's clear the man isn't going anywhere. Setting sunlight glints off Sawyer's rifle.

“Like I said,” Hurley deadpans. “They sure caught a lot.”

(continued)

(A/N: The chapter title is a hat-tip to Anita Diamant's 1997 novel, The Red Tent.)


(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-04 04:10 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
My first thought was "raspberries"? Since they're found in northern Minnesota, I was surprised to hear they're found on the Island, too. But who knows who's planted what there, over the years.

Then whoa. This chapter riveted me. I've never had a baby, and this was both scary and uplifting. If I had to go through childbirth, I'd want Frank with me. Your dear Hugo seemed such a rock and a comfort to Claire.

Did I say scary? Really scary. Liked all the women around - almost tribal. No, actually tribal. And Hugo, dear man.

Very well done, Stefanie.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-09-06 12:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Sorry it took me so long to thank you for reading this chapter. (I blame Labor Day weekend.) So... thank you!

I'm pretty much basing my flora on Polynesian islands, and Hawai'i does have native raspberries and blackberries.

In my stories, the Island has pretty much all the native Hawai'ian vegetation, as well as introduced plants like banana and taro. Generally if the indigenous people of Hawai'i brought it and/or made use of it, people on the Island do, too.

Glad you picked up on the tribal atmosphere among the women. Jack is largely peripheral, and Hurley wouldn't be there at all if it weren't for Claire. It's something I've been doing with the women (kind of on the sly) from the beginning.

Again, thanks so much for reading! <3

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