stefanie_bean: (hugo claire blue)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 20: Close Encounters
Pairs: Hurley/Claire, Jack/Kate, Sayid/Shannon
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 4330 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 20: Close Encounters

Every time Hurley drops off to sleep, the baby's whimpers shove him back to wakefulness. Through a grey fog of exhaustion he hears Claire chuckle to herself, “Well, looks like the milk's finally come in.” He's too tired to ask what that means, and by morning he's forgotten about it. When the sun rises, Claire is propped up in bed nursing Aaron, for what seems like the hundredth time since last night.

Only three days old, Hurley thinks to himself as he pulls himself to his feet. He can't imagine weeks of this, months maybe. With a grateful sigh, Claire lays the baby down in Hurley's spot and closes her eyes, asleep almost at once.

He staggers out of the tent and heads for the sea, the Island's own breakfast buffet.

Jin smiles and waves as Hurley passes. “You look tired.”

“Dude, you have no idea.” Hurley doesn't want to crowd into Jin's fishing space, so he turns to move down the shoreline, when Jin gestures him to stay.

Hurley swishes his net half-heartedly through choppy waves, with no idea of how Jin does it. His net seems to fill by itself, like the dude's a fish whisperer or something.

After Jin empties a couple of filled nets, he gives Hurley a look both scrutinizing and compassionate. “Sun and I, we watch you. For when our baby comes.”

The morning suddenly seems brighter. “Man, that's fantastic. It's like a baby epidemic.”

Jin frowns in confusion. “Epi... dem-ic?”

“Never mind. That's great, man. Really great.” Hurley swipes his own net a few more times, but the fish are ignoring him this morning. Jin notices, and hands Hurley three fat pink sea bream. Jin's English is coming along crazy fast, but behind his eyes lurk a thousand stories, if he could only tell them. All Hurley knows is what Sun has told Claire, that Jin was a businessman in Seoul. Businessman, right. One who knows the sea the way Hurley can navigate a Camaro LM-1 350 V-8 engine. Like it was second nature.

Hurley helps Jin gut and string the generous catch. As gulls scream and cluster around the growing pile of guts, pinkish blood stains their white feathers. It's all good, because more fish guts means more gulls' eggs.

Claire will like that.

The load is so big, it takes both Jin and Hurley to carry it back to camp. When Sun sees the size of the catch, she grins and says to her husband, “You should take Hurley with you every morning. Clearly, he is good luck.”

People gather round while Jin and Hurley pass out gutted fish. Kevin and old-hippie Brian linger to chat, as does Michael. When Walt shoves his fish into his cargo pocket, Michael winces. “You're the one who's gonna wash out those pants, buddy.”

Walt shrugs. “I'm going down the beach to where Vincent is, okay?” The dog has discovered the gut pile, and chases away the remaining gulls with loud barks, his tail wagging so hard that his whole body shakes. Michael waves for Walt to go on, but he is already gone.

Vincent then shoves his muzzle into the red pile. No need for dog food on Mystery Island.

In front of his tent, a solitary Boone hunches over a small fire and stirs the ashes, so Jin picks up a few of the remaining fish and heads towards him. At the same instant, Sayid and Shannon emerge from their own shelter, both dusted with a pink-gold glow which has hovered over them for the past few weeks.

With an angry scowl, Boone waves Jin's offer away. As Shannon passes, she snaps, “Now who's the anorexic?”

Sayid stifles a chuckle and steers her clear of Boone. “When he's hungry enough, he'll eat,” he says, as if Boone is a stubborn toddler.

Michael points out to sea, where a distant thundercloud approaches on the wind. "You see that out there? Me, I'm still holding out for rescue. But these tarps aren't gonna do much if there's a big storm, much less monsoon season. People might want to start building houses." 

“It's early November,” Brian remarks. “Should be monsoon season already.”

Kevin muses, rubbing his bald head. “There's a reason people all over the South Pacific construct thatch houses. We have tons of ironwood, and pili grass is everywhere. You tie it onto the roof, braid it like hair to keep out the water.”

Hurley nods. Sayid has showed everyone how to put watersheds on their shelter roofs, to direct the flow of rain away from the insides. But keeping the tents free from leaks is often a losing battle.

“When do we start?” Brian says, giving Kevin a warm look. “I'd like a house.”

“I'm game,” Michael says. “You in, Hurley?”

Yes hangs on the tip of Hurley's tongue, yet won't dislodge. Something about a house feels awfully, well, permanent. It's not just that his parents are probably out of their minds with grief. Yeah, even Dad, although six weeks ago Hurley wouldn't have admitted it.

Sure, his parents are taken care of. The trust that the lawyer set up sees to it, whether Hurley's in the picture or not. Sure, he wants his parents to know he's alive. That's not all of it, though. Hurley wants to bring both Claire and Aaron into his house, to give them a place to shelter. To introduce Claire to Uncle Emil, Aunt Rosalita, his mob of cousins and second cousins. Even to Diego, who will probably snark about how both Reyes brothers have a weakness for cute blondes, even if that didn't work out too well for Diego himself.

If Claire would want to, that is. Hurley chokes a little inside, because with the baby coming and everything else, he's never asked her. Time to remedy that. All he says to Michael is, “I'll give you guys a hand. But I'm kinda holding out for rescue, too.”

“Understandable,” Kevin says with a nod.

Brian adds, “You got a baby to worry about.”

“No kidding,” Michael says. “Myself, I can't wait to get my boy to New York. The look on his grandma's face when she sees—“ His voice goes dead as a radio being switched off when he gazes down in Walt's direction.

Hurley stares, too. “Guys, tell me that I'm not crazy. That you see what I'm seeing.”

Walt isn't the only one playing with a wriggling, barking Vincent. Two blond, ragged children skip and laugh with Walt at the water's edge. The smaller one, a boy, holds out a piece of driftwood to Vincent like a lure, then tosses it into the surf. Vincent bounds in after it, but the stick has sunk into the water. He lopes back, panting, his head lowered in doggie disappointment.

As the four men approach Walt and the children, the older one says to the younger, “Silly, don't throw the stick into the water.” She then says to Walt, “You're so lucky. We could never have a dog, so my idiot brother doesn't know how to play fetch.”

“Do too,” the boy says. He sticks out his tongue at her, then darts away as the ever-hopeful Vincent follows, yipping with excitement.

“Holy crap,” Hurley says.

“Dad!” Walt shouts through his wide grin. “Dad, look!”

Michael's terrified gaze darts right and left. “Walt, get over here right now!”

At Michael's tone, the new children freeze, eyes wide and astonished. Vincent goes to lie at their feet as a reluctant Walt sidles over to Michael.

“Take it easy, Mike,” Kevin says. “They're just kids. And you remember what Sawyer and Sayid said, that there likely were more of us.”

“They could be Others,” Michael mutters in a voice which makes Hurley very glad that none of them are armed.

Brian kneels down and holds an outstretched hand to the two children. “Hey, man, we come in peace. Name's Brian.”

The girl is just about to shake when a woman's voice echoes from the jungle's edge. “Zack! Emma! Are you there?” She pushes her way through the copse towards the shore, her heavy Australian accent ringing with authority. “Children, please come here at once.”

Obediently the kids trot over to the woman, who wraps them protectively in her arms. She eyes Hurley and the others with calm, cool appraisal.

Could they be Others?” Kevin whispers to Hurley.

“Dude, no way. Look at her.”

The woman's dark skirt and light blue blouse are torn and streaked with grime, but there's no mistaking the Oceanic Airlines wings pinned to her front pocket.

Michael sputters, “You're one of the stewardesses. From the plane.”

She almost smiles. “Flight attendant, sir, if you don't mind. I remember you and your son. A charming boy.”

This makes Michael dial it down a few notches. He starts to say, “Are there any more—“ but is interrupted by loud rustles from the bushes.

The foliage parts to reveal an enormously tall and ripped dark-skinned man, followed by a tough-looking woman in a tank top as black as her hair, who rests on her long, shrapnel-tipped spear. “Cindy, you all right? We ran as fast as we could.”

“I told you, Ana,” the big man says in a lilting accent. “Sooner or later we would find the others.”

“Okay, Eko,” Ana says. “Power of prayer, yadda yadda, don't rub it in.”

Everybody's still clutching their fish, which gives Hurley an idea. Over by what's left of the gut pile stands a mound of driftwood. “Kevin, you got your flint starter?”

“Never leave home without it.”

“We were just gonna make a fire,” Hurley says to the newcomers. It's untrue, but Ana's not hostile, he realizes. Just hungry. “You guys, um, want some breakfast?”

“I do!” Zack pipes up, tugging on Cindy's hand.

Once more Cindy gives everyone that scrutinizing look. Flight attendants don't just strut around in heels and mini-skirts like in the movies. They watch passengers, see who's going to freak or who might even be a terrorist. If there's an emergency, they keep passengers calm, even help save their asses if a plane goes down. No stilettos here, either. Cindy's sensible black oxfords are wiped clean and neatly laced, strangely normal and reassuring against the white beach sand.

“You're all from Oceanic 815, out of Sydney on September 22, 2004?” Cindy asks.

The men nod, and Walt blurts out, “We crashed! We've been here for months! My dog, that's Vincent, he made it too, and there's still a big chunk of the plane on the beach, and—“

“Easy, Walt,” Michael says. “Time enough for all that.”

“Did you crash, too?” Walt says.

“Yes, we did,” Eko answers.

“Let me give you a hand,” Hurley says to Kevin, who's already put together a nest of tinder for a fire.

“It's almost unbelievable,” Kevin says in a low voice, in between puffs on tiny sparks which flare into flame almost at once. “Don't know if you looked behind you, but the tail section broke clean off. I was staring directly into sky. And that was the best of it.”

As Hurley skewers one fish after another on long sticks, he says a silent Salve Regina for the living people who blew out of that great, gaping hole into the beyond.

“So, is that all of you?” Brian asks Cindy, but she averts her eyes.

Eko fills in the silence a little too hastily and calls out behind him, “Libby, Bernard, over here. Everything is fine. These people are from the plane.”

Libby, tall and lean, pushes through the branches. That must be Bernard after her, a pale, chunky man with grey hair.

Bernard squints both from bright beach sunlight and eyes full of tears. “Oh, my God. There are more of us.”

“Hey,” Hurley says. “Pull up a log. Breakfast is almost ready.”

Libby clusters close to the women, threading her arm through Ana's, and rests her head on Ana's shoulder in exhausted relief. Something in the way her eyes droop shut, the way her head inclines in profile, nags at Hurley. Maybe he saw her asleep on the plane. People sleep on planes all the time, right? Inside he knows that's not the case. Hurley's good with faces, but he didn't notice this woman on the plane.

“Is this it?” Bernard says, and now the tears spill freely onto his cheeks.

“Relax, man,” Brian says. “There's a lot more of us where we came from.”

“Is one of you an African-American woman?”

The small hairs on Hurley's arms start to rise, and he almost forgets to turn the fish before it starts to smoke. “Yeah. That'd be Rose. She's great.”

“Oh, God,” Bernard repeats. Squatting by the fire, he buries his face in his hands and begins to weep.


* * * * * * * *


Claire sits at the easternmost edge of the camp with Sun and a few other women, wolfing down fish sizzling with fat and tart with lemon. Hurley gave her the bream, a quick kiss, then disappeared with Michael and the guys down the beach again. His own cooked breakfast sits untouched. What's keeping him?

Half a klick down the beach, Hurley stands out against the group as a large dark figure with a frizzy halo. Then Claire notices two small forms cavorting around Walt. When she gasps, other women crowd around to look. They stare in horrified fascination as more figures emerge from the jungle.

Claire springs to her feet for a better view, which makes Aaron cry a bit in protest. She darts over to Jack and Kate's fire, where they're just cleaning up. “You've got to see this,” Claire says.

Jack doesn't need to ask what's wrong. He shoulders his rifle, and the three of them head to Sawyer's tent. He sits under a tarp reading that thick book about the end of the world, oblivious to the developing situation.

As Claire approaches, Sawyer says, “Hey, Mamacita. That there baby's pink as a posy now. Not so red anymore.” When he sees Jack and Kate at her side, he lowers the book with a frown.

"We've got company," Jack says.

Sawyer seizes his Winchester rifle, Danielle's parting gift from their eye-blink of an affair, and springs to his feet.

“Get Boone, take covered positions, and wait for my signal,” Jack says between gritted teeth. “Claire, tell everyone to get inside their tents and stay there until they hear otherwise.”

“Jack, is this necessary?” Kate says.

“If this is the other shoe waiting to drop, it's not going to land on our heads. Not on my watch. Claire, please. And Kate, maybe you should—“

Kate draws her handgun from the back of her jeans. “I'm going with you.”

The beach camp scatters for cover, all but Rose, who refuses to budge from her seat around the main camp-fire. Once more Claire wonders if Jack is right about her mental fragility. Sawyer has taken a position behind the shower, while Boone crouches behind a tree trunk.

Claire appeals to Rose. “Please, there's plenty of room in my tent. I don't want to be by myself.”

“You go on, honey. You're not by yourself.”

It's maddening, but Claire has no choice. Inside her shelter, she lowers the tarp flap and puts Aaron on the breast to keep him quiet.

The wait seems to go on for a long time. At least there is no gunfire, just a rising buzz of conversation. What brings her out of her tent are the sounds of sobbing.

Rose and this older man are hugging amid their tears. He touches her face, her hair, strokes her cheek, then pulls her head down to his chest, where he cradles her and points his open, anguished face skyward. They seem oblivious to everyone else, the newcomers, the beach camp survivors who've emerged from cover, at Walt who's practically leaping with happiness.

The only one of the new arrivals who seems at all unhappy is the intense-looking dark-haired woman, who stares at the rifles as if she badly wants one for herself. She looks like she'd know how to use one, too. The dark-skinned man towers over everyone else, peaceful and benign.

There, oh my God, is that kind flight attendant from Melbourne, the one who let Claire move to two side-by-side empty seats so she could stretch out to ease the pressure of her pregnant stomach.

Everyone clusters around Rose and her husband, greeting Bernard as if they know him already, which in a way they do.

Maddie told her, Claire reminds herself. Rose's dead daughter said she'd see Bernard soon. And here he is. It sends a shiver up her spine.

As Hurley rushes to her side, Claire's knees almost buckle from sheer relief. She clings to him as he says, “Isn't this awesome? They're from the plane.”

“It's marvelous,” she answers, exulting in his warm fleshiness inside the circle of her arm, rejoicing that no one got trigger-happy or paranoid over fellow Oceanic 815 survivors.

At the same time, Claire stifles her despair as she silently counts noses. Their flight upon departure was almost full, which meant upwards of 300 passengers. With the people in their own camp and these survivors, that's still under fifty left. For an instant the loss overwhelms her again, as it did the night of the memorial service. So many people on their way to weddings or conferences or back to their jobs after vacations, got on a plane in Sydney not knowing they had about six hours to live.

Life can be that short, Claire thinks. That fragile.

Hurley doesn't pick up on her mood, as he's too busy beaming at Rose and Bernard. The tall woman in the brown halter dress keeps glancing at Hurley in a way which makes Claire nervous, so she gives Hurley a see-you-later squeeze and goes over to introduce herself.

Libby is her name, Libby Smith. Her anxious expression melts when she peers down at Aaron, snug in his podegai. “You must have had your baby on the Island, right?”

“That's right. This is Aaron.”

As Libby muses over the sleeping child, Claire sizes her up. Her wide green eyes are ringed with fatigue, and her dress isn't brown after all, but beige under the layers of Island dirt. It makes sense, since none of the new people have packs or suitcases of any kind. Claire can't even begin to imagine two months in the bush with literally nothing save what's on their backs. No wonder Libby wears a haunted expression.

“That shirt looks good on you, by the way.”

What is Libby talking about? Shirt? Claire points to her embroidered blue cotton blouse. “This? I found it in some luggage.” Then embarrassment washes over her. “Was it yours? I'm afraid I've altered it a bit.”

Libby's brittle smile doesn't reach her eyes. “I bought it at the duty-free shop in the Sydney airport.”

This is really getting awkward. “You know, after the crash we all just sorted through the luggage, passed things out. A lot's left over. We could look for more of your stuff later. Or if you really want it back, I could sew up the nursing slits—”

“It's all right,” Libby says. “It's more your color than mine, anyway.”

Claire breaks the stiff silence with, “Well, when you've had some time to settle, I'll show you where we keep things. And there's a shower, too. Not just the bush shower over there, but a real one.” As soon as she says it, Claire kicks herself inside, not wanting to imply Libby smells bad or anything, which she doesn't. Libby's not looking at her, though. She's off staring at Hurley, which unsettles Claire all over again, because she's pretty sure there's no desire in Libby's covert glances. That would almost be easier to deal with than this odd, ambivalent scrutiny.

They're interrupted by the young girl, who looks about ten, and suddenly Libby is all smoothness and smiles. “Emma, meet Claire and Aaron.”

“Aw, so cute,” Emma says. “Zack, come here and look.”

Zack won't break away from Walt, though. With a grin full of mischief he says, “Ooh, a little diaper baby.”

Walt laughs too, then says, “Hey, Aaron's all right. He almost never cries.”

“Baby, baby, diaper baby,” Zack chants as the two boys dart off.

“Don't go far,” Cindy says, at same time Michael calls out, “Stick, around, Walt.” They look at each other and smile, ice broken.

“Zack's a good kid,” Libby says, almost apologetically. “Seven is an energetic age. They're still learning what's socially appropriate.”

“Can I hold him?” Emma says.

Claire doesn't want to refuse the girl outright, but luckily Libby steps in. “Not right now, Emma. Why don't you see if Cindy needs some help gathering supplies?” Across the circle, Kathy, Shana, and Cindy are rounding up tarps for the new people. The thunderhead's a few hours away, and they'll need someplace dry to go.

“You're good with kids,” Claire says when Emma's out of earshot. “Do you have any?” Too late she realizes that Libby could have lost a child in the crash, or have left one bereft at home. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she tells herself.

To Claire's relief, Libby shakes her head. “I'm a child psychologist in Los Angeles. Emotional difficulties, adjustment issues, oppositional defiant disorder, that sort of thing.”

“Well, looks like you're good at it.”

“Thanks.” As Libby speaks, she's studying Hurley from afar once more. “I imagine it was a great comfort to be with your husband afterwards. It was very hard on Bernard. I don't think a day went by when he didn't mention his wife.”

Claire hasn't felt this flustered since high school. “We're not married. We, uh, met after the crash.”

Libby's breath is long and indrawn, full of unspoken calculations. “Ahh. My apologies.” She deliberates for a heartbeat, as if deciding something. “Ana Lucia and I met after the crash, too.”

Claire tries not to look surprised, or relieved, for that matter. “Kathy and Shana, they're out. So are Brian and Kevin. They didn't know each other beforehand, either.” She leaves out Locke and Boone, even though she and Shannon have suspected for a good month now. “So much better when everyone can be open, wouldn't you say?”

“That's definitely true for my adolescent patients.” The quality of Libby's sadness shifts, making her seem fragile and vulnerable. “It wasn't my experience growing up.”

Before Claire can murmur something sympathetic, Libby says, “Thanks for letting me know. I wasn't sure if we'd have to set up separate tents.” With a small wave and even smaller smile she's gone, off to join Ana and Cindy as they settle in.


* * * * * * * *


That night Aaron goes to sleep at once, much to Hurley's relief. The rain has come and gone, just enough to cool things off, and with no leaks. He stretches out in bed, head reeling from the newcomers' non-stop saga of adventures in seven weeks roaming the Island's eastern region. Claire snuggles up to him, arm draped over his chest, her face pressed into his neck. She's as tired as he is, probably more, but in their first moments alone all day, the need to talk presses on him.

She must feel the same, because her eyes spring open at once when he whispers, “Claire?”

“Really, you don't have to hush for Aaron. What a day, eh?”

“Man, that really must have sucked, burying eight people with no shovels. And not all of them died quick, either, it sounded like.”

“Not to mention, not having any luggage except a few scraps of what washed up on the beach.”

“They did find that knife in the woods, though,” Hurley points out. “Not a Swiss Army one, either. US Army, probably Korea vintage, like Ana Lucia said. She knows guns and knives.”

Hurley lies silent for a time, the pressure in his chest growing as Claire's hand roves over his chest and upper belly.

“Ana and Libby did feel bad, though, when Sawyer brought up that business about running into Goodwin Stanhope in the bush,” Claire goes on. “When Bernard was stuck in that tree, he saw Goodwin poke around a bit, then run away. Bernard told them, but when they searched and didn't turn up anything, Ana and Libby just wrote it off as shock.”

“I have the feeling they dodged a bullet with that guy.”

“And it was so weird, that seven of their people just took off like that, leaving them.”

“At least they found another one of those military stations to stay in for awhile.” Hurley frowns, because this part of the story doesn't sit well with him at all.

Of the fourteen survivors who made it, nine were dudes and three were chicks, not counting the kids. Nathan and Ana Lucia started fighting almost from the start. Finally, after a couple weeks, he and six other guys said that they were going off on their own.

Women, kids, and old men were slowing them down, Nathan had said. He and his pals tried to pressure Eko into going with them, but Eko refused. A priest stays with his flock, Eko told them.

Some flock, Nathan had scoffed. All the weaklings. Well, not Ana Lucia, he added. Not that they were extending any invitations to a bitch like her.

“They couldn't stay in that Arrow Station forever,” Claire remarks. “Sounds like they had hunted and foraged out the whole area. I'm glad they're here, though. And it's wonderful for Walt to have playmates.”

“How weird is it, too, that Eko's a priest?” Hurley hopes she'll pick up on the veiled hint, but she just snuggles in close and closes her eyes. As her relaxed body drapes against his, desire pounds him, leavened by the pain of not telling her why he wants a priest in the first place.

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-05 01:57 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
Finally got to read this. I like that Hurley's Jin's good luck. He's so used to thinking himself the reverse.

The Tailies appear, and Libby and Ana Lucia are an item. Interesting! So glad to see Rose and Bernard reunited. This is a lovely fic,where "a lot less people die." Hopefully Ana won't get her hands on guns anything soon, or ever.

Think I'll reread this when my brain is less fogged with anaesthesia.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-08 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
I hope you are feeling better, and making a good recovery.

LOL, Hurley is this walking fountain of good luck. ;-)

I fancy an Ana/Libby ship; wrote about it here (http://stefanie-bean.livejournal.com/354015.html#comments).

Again, thanks so much for reading.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-08 02:43 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
I am better, thanks. I got a cold on top of the procedure, but hid it with massive doses of gan mao ling, so I could have the procedure anyway and get it out of the way. The cold revisited me the very next day.

Alas, I lack the slash appreciation gene. I am practically the only person on LJ who doesn't read Spike\Xander. I should give femslash a chance. Trouble is, I don't buy it. In canon Libby likes Hurley, and Ana Lucia... likes herself? She is macha enough to be anyone's seducer, I imagine.

I never would have pictured Claire and Hugo together, before your two lovely fics. Thank you for messaging me that this was up.

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