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Title: Girl Scout Camp
Length: 4198 words
Chapter 1 Title: The Fire at the Edge of the Forest
Characters: James "Sawyer" Ford, Libby Smith, multiple original female characters, mention of Charlie Pace, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Claire Littleton
Rating: T
Notes: Set immediately after “Fire+Water,” 2x12. Canon character death; bitchy gossip; supernatural & fantasy elements.
Status: Two-shot, Complete.

Summary: Sawyer calls the castaways who live on the fringe of beach camp life "The Girl Scouts." This is their story.


Chapter 1: The Fire at the Edge of the Forest

In the center of the campsite, under a stand of tall, thin trees, eight women sit around a fire. The crackle of burning wood almost drowns out their soft voices. They have learned not to speak too loudly. Under other circumstances, that might have bothered them. But here, on this beach on an unknown Island somewhere in the vast blue of the South Pacific, they don't mind. Quiet is their shield. Quiet means survival.

The smell of burning hangs over the beach, and not just from camp-fires. Late last night, Charlie Pace set a blaze in the bushes right outside the beach camp, and for a few terrifying moments, it seemed that the camp might have caught fire too.

Charlie did this because he has had another fight with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Claire, the young mother from Australia who lives on the other side of the beach, up by Sawyer. Claire has thrown Charlie out, but he isn't taking no for an answer. He's pitched a crude pup tent as close to Claire's shelter as he possibly can, where he sits just out of earshot, staring and glaring at her as she goes about her business.

So far, he seems to be staying up on the beach's east end, and doesn't veer west near the women's group, so the women don't make a fuss. But they are keeping their eyes open for him, in case he comes around.


* * * * * * * *


There's always work for hands that want it. One woman shows another how to scoop out a coconut shell without cracking it, and then how to smooth the edges so that it forms a useful, durable bowl. A few others grind up thick, sticky leaves from what they call the “soap plant." No one knows the names of most of the vegetation on this Island, except for a few obvious ones like ferns, cycads, or philodendron.

The Korean woman Sun sometimes joins their circle, but she doesn't know most of their names, either. Maybe just a few, in Korean. Someone once asked Sun how she knew so much about plants and growing things. Had she had worked in a greenhouse, or nursery? But in the serious voice Sun used around the women, with no demure smile or drop of the eyes, Sun said no, she didn't know anything about plants before she came here. There weren't any in her apartment in Seoul. She liked cut flowers, but what woman didn't?

Sun went on to tell how right after they had all crashed here (or more accurately, woken up here, as the women around the campfire put it), she had stood in the clearing which eventually would become her garden, and she knew. She just knew what to plants to put in, and how to care for them. She couldn't explain it.

The women looked at each other when they heard this story, nodding. Knowing.

When you squished up the soap plant and mixed the paste with some wood ashes, coconut cream, and a few other things, you had a pretty passable soap. It didn't lather up, but it got the dirt and sweat off, and you smelled delicious besides. The men liked to shave with it because it was soft on the face, and made the razor just glide.

Soap was money, too. Half a coconut shell of soap would net you two large fish, especially after the beach camp men decided that Sawyer's prices for the rapidly diminishing supply of shaving cream had climbed too high. Especially when the men cut their faces when shaving without soap, and then got salt water in the abrasions.

Two women weave rugs made from scraps of tattered Oceanic Airlines blankets. The youngest of the group, an Indonesian girl in her late teens named Sirrah, was once a university student in Sydney. Now she twists the rags and knots them into strips, while an older woman called Kathy loops the strips together. The resulting thick rug will be stronger and more durable than the original pieces from which it is made.

Just like them.


* * * * * * * *


On this late morning, the women talk about last night's fire, and the reasons behind it.

“Charlie's not going to let her leave him.”

“Not surprising.”

“She should have sent him packing long ago.”

“They always take them back, don't they?”

“I know I did. Until I got smart.”

“Claire hasn't been right since she disappeared. Since before the baby came.”

“Do you believe him when he said that there was danger?”

“The only danger to that baby is him.”

“Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!” Kathy drops her work to wave her hands around for effect, rolling her eyes.

The women laugh with low, knowing chuckles.

“Yeah, there's always a danger when they don't get what they want.”

A lean, dark woman named Shana sands the edge of a coconut shell with a piece of dark grey stone. “She was really all right, until she started taking up with him.”

“You were friends at first, weren't you?”

“Before we lost the fuselage, yeah.”

“I remember,” says the willowy blonde called Faith, in her soft middle-South drawl. “You and Kate and her. You sorted through the luggage.” Faith doesn't live in the women's camp. She and her boyfriend Craig share a tent, right at the edge of the clearing where the beach forest trees yield to jungle. But she comes to sit with them every day to join in with the busy hands and tongues, while Craig goes out to fish or check his snares.

The women have talked about asking Claire over to their camp. Several times, in fact. But nothing has ever come of it.

Before Shannon Rutherford was cut down by a bullet no one believes was delivered by accident, she told them the story of Charlie and the fish. Shortly after the crash, while Charlie was checking her out, he bragged about what a good fisherman he was. Shannon had gotten him to go fishing for her, but instead Charlie sucked up to Hurley, who back then missed more than he hit with those crude spears he'd fashioned out of bamboo and bits of cut-up soda can.

Shannon told them what had happened. What an idiot Charlie was, because he didn't even know that she sat on her beach towel and watched him the whole time, and he could no more fish than she could cook a Christmas turkey. Then, you wouldn't believe it, Hurley threw his spear into the water in disgust, frustrated at all the times he'd failed. It stuck straight up in the water, and when Hurley pulled the spear up, there on the end wriggled a red fish. Hurley pulled it off the spear and tossed it to Charlie as if he himself didn't need or want it.

That was the fish which a grinning Charlie had brought to Shannon. Back when Shannon first told her tale, the women laughed until their sides ached, some screaming with laughter, until a few of the guys yelled at them to keep it down. That was when Sawyer gave them the name that stuck. Girl Scout Camp. Worse than a bunch of damn Girl Scouts, Sawyer said, with their yapping and hooting and hollering.

Nobody in the women's camp really held it against Sawyer, though. Kathy said it was a compliment.

Now Sawyer comes by their fire once in awhile, to trade pins or buttons, or just genteel insults. Mostly the women are ignored by the rest of the beach camp, unless somebody wants something.

One odd contribution they've made to beach life, though, is coming up with names for things, names that sometimes stick. Not just "soap plant," either. Kathy has made up names for the directions you take as you walk up and down the coastline. “Sea-left” is when you walk forward and the sea is on your left. “Sea-right” is the opposite. The terms have caught on, and the survivors outside the women's circle use them too.

It's been a week exactly since Shannon has been dead and buried. Her lover Sayid refused their offer to prepare Shannon's body, although he did accept a blanket for a shroud. Shannon's killer Ana Lucia lives due sea-left of them, a little closer to the ocean, and that is another reason they keep their voices down.

Ana Lucia has enough sense not to come anywhere near their fire. Her friend Libby didn't taken the hint for the first few days, though. At first Libby seemed oblivious to the cold stares, the conversations which stopped whenever Libby strolled up to the women's camp as if nothing was wrong. As if nothing had happened. Then she finally got the message, and avoided them, getting to her shelter by going the long way around, instead of crossing by.

The loss of Shannon is bitter. Shannon and Boone had shared a tent until Boone died up at the "rape caves" under weird, suspicious circumstances. Shannon always blamed John Locke, and the women still look askance at Locke, who never comes near them.

Even after Shannon had started sleeping with Sayid, she would come up and stay with them during most of the day, and not just when she and Sayid had a fight, either. The women at the camp told Shannon the same thing they'd told Faith, when Faith had hooked up with Craig. You always have a seat at our fire. You're always welcome. As long as the guy's not an asshole.

So back and forth Shannon went, sometimes staying with Sayid, other times sleeping in her old shelter. But sometimes she'd visit the women's fire, bringing her rolled-up blanket and her little green faux-alligator overnight bag filled with what was left of her cosmetics. Then, the laughter and talk would go on far into the night. Until Ana Lucia shot her. By accident, as she claimed. But some of the talk on the beach goes in the other direction.

Now, on this morning, the talk still surrounds the topic of Charlie Pace.

“Shannon conned him into getting her a fish.”

“He never saw through it.”

“Boone had to tell him.”

“That was righteously funny.”

“He was a dick to Shannon, though.”

“Who, Boone or Charlie?”

“Yes,” and they snicker.

“I'd say Charlie's definitely being a dick to Claire.”

The mood sobers at once. As a group, they look down to the sea-strand where Claire stands ankle-deep in the surf, bouncing her baby, talking to Hurley. There's an air of peace about them which always rises up whenever they are together. From the look of it, Hurley's telling her a story, illustrating it with his hands, and she looks on, rapt with interest. But it's not a funny story, from the look of it, even though they both wear wide smiles. Yet not a downer of a story, either.

“Wish I was a clam in the sand down on that beach. Wonder what they're talking about.”

“Ha, not a week ago, you could do a count-down. Five, four, three, two ... and before you'd hit nought, Charlie would tear-ass across the beach, trying to bust up that little convo.”

“Not today. Did you see his face this morning?”

“Locke popped him pretty good.”

"Never thought I'd say anything in Locke's favor."

“Wanker deserved it.”

“Jack stitched him up. Then Charlie had the nerve to ask me for some salve. I told him to piss off.”

“I dunno, ladies. Claire's cozying up to Old Baldy. From Charlie to Locke, that seems like going from the frying pan to the fire.”

“He's creepy.” Other voices murmur in assent.

“Good thing we didn't take him up on those knives.”

More agreement. Locke had given some of his vast cache of knives away to certain people. But not without a price. Locke liked it when people owed him. Just like Sawyer. In those terrible early days, the women had watched, bitter, as other people cut fruit or cord with no effort.

Then, two miles sea-left along the beach, one of the women had found obsidian. Nearby, Craig's friend Brian found the thick heavy stone called basalt. They broke off chunks of the volcanic glass with basalt, and fashioned the fragments into knives and small axes. The obsidian was so sharp, you could use it to cut hair.

How did you know where it was? Brian had asked the woman who found it, a middle-aged Aussie named Janice.

She didn't know. It just seemed like a good idea to look there.

Now the women owe nothing to John Locke.

A few of the women look over at Libby, who's seated under her tarp with her hands wrapped around her knees. Libby hasn't bothered to put up walls, or maybe she doesn't know how. Ana Lucia certainly hasn't helped her. In fact, Ana Lucia hasn't spoken five words to Libby since the two women from the tail section joined the beach camp. Well, if Ana Lucia wasn't going to help her, the women's camp certainly wasn't.

“Looks like someone else isn't too happy with Claire's tête-à-tête.

For Libby is staring at Hurley and Claire, her eyes narrowed, a sour expression on her face.

“Sorry, Kathy,” someone murmurs to the heavy-set blonde woman. Everyone knows how Kathy feels, and everyone is also well aware that Hurley doesn't know Kathy's alive. No, that's not right. Hurley pays attention to everyone on the beach, and if even one person is missing, he never forgets it. But that's not the kind of feeling Kathy wants.

“I never should have brought that up,” she says.

A chorus rises, first objecting, then trying to soothe. "No, no, it's OK, we were just playing a silly game."

"You had already told us you liked women, so we assumed."

"No one wanted to see you hurt."

Kathy brushes it all away. "Oh, don't think anything of it."

Their circle had formed in the first week after the crash, right before that weird wind from the sea had carried the pieces of the fuselage away, forcing everyone to move to a new camp sea-left down the beach. All day long, the women had dragged luggage and chunks of metal down to their new camp-site, which left them too exhausted to sleep. So instead, they played a game called, “Who Would You Shack Up With on a Desert Island?” If you didn't want to answer, your penalty was to gather an armload of fruit or firewood the next day.

Back then, Kathy had said that she'd rather go get two armloads of wood than answer. So everyone went ahead of her. Shana had said, Sawyer. Faith had said, Craig, because she had her eye on him from the start. A couple women said, Sayid, which gave rise to a small chorus of agreement.

Then the Indonesian girl, Sirrah, said, No one. Because when they were rescued, if her father found out she wasn't a virgin, he'd probably kill her. Even if she had been stranded on a deserted island.

All at once the game didn't seem so much fun anymore. You don't have to go get fruit, Kathy said to Sirrah. Then Kathy announced she was going to take her turn after all. To everyone's surprise, she picked Hurley. They all looked at her with quizzical expressions, not because anyone disliked him, or anything. But rather because Kathy had already told them how she'd spent her past twelve or so summer vacations in the American Midwest, at a festival where only women were allowed. That was where she'd learned to make camp, to cook outdoors, to build fires, and use what was lying around instead of always relying on stuff from the plane.

One other thing, Kathy had told them, so casually that it didn't sink in right away. Pretty much everyone at the festival - everyone Kathy had met, at least - was a woman who liked other women. And so was she. By now, of course, no one thought twice about it. But at the time, when the women played their game, Kathy had surprised them by naming Hurley.


* * * * * * * *


The sun moves towards its zenith, leaving the women's camp in shadow. Anyone standing on the beach who happens to look in their direction will see only dim figures in partial darkness. The women turn once more to the work spread out before them on the grassy sand.

Down on the beach, Hurley and Claire are still talking.

“She'd have done better to stick with him,” a small blonde woman named Sylvie says, gesturing towards Claire. Sylvie is so small and slight in build, she looks like a teenager, even though she is almost Kathy's age. Her grey hat is cut from a piece of fleece, twisted up into little rabbit ears.

“What happened, do you think?”

“Dunno. Remember the memorial service? It was Hurley and Claire's idea.”

“Boone's, too."

"But Claire pitched it to Jack."

"Jack doesn't listen to Hurley."

"Yes, he does. Sometimes."

"They did a great job with it, all three of them.”

“I cried for a whole day afterwards.”

“I wanted to kick that jackass who said that it was as interesting as listening to somebody read the telephone book.”

“Remember that prick next to us? The one who said, 'Hey, she's got nice legs, what's she doing up there with Fatso?'”

The talk subsides to a lull of murmurs and disgusted looks.

“You know, if Claire would have shacked up with Hurley, most of this shit wouldn't have happened.”

“This shit with Charlie, you mean.”

“He would have just moved on down the line, to someone else.”

“Someone who would have fallen for his line of crap.”

Meredith hasn't said much up till now. She looks around with a nervous expression, as if she expects to be contradicted, twisting a short lock of dyed-black hair as she speaks. “You know, maybe we should have--”

They know where she's going with this.

“Are you kidding?”

“We couldn't--”

“Charlie would have been hanging around here all the time, then. Because he never leaves her alone.”

“You saw how Kate had to chase him away from Claire's tent.”

"That was pretty awesome, when his guitar case wound up right out there on the sand."

“Yeah, and none of those big strapping men stepped in, did they?”

“We know what that's about.”

“Locke.”

“He thinks he's next in line.”

“Screw him.”

“No thanks!” Laughter rises like a wave, drawing Libby's attention. They stare back at her until she gets up and heads for the beach.

“Five... four... three... two...”

“Cock-block!”

“You called it.”

Libby joins Claire and Hurley at the surf-line.

“Look at his face.”

“No more sweet Hurley smile.”

“Hey, Kathy. Back then, in our game. Why'd you pick him?”

“Besides the obvious? Because I figured that if I had half a chance of surviving, it'd be with him. Hey, cut me some slack. I didn't know you ladies then.”

Their laughter passes over like small, light birds crossing the noon sky.

“Not the great white hunter, or the witch doctor, or the Marlboro Man?”

“Sheesh, Faith, you're as bad as Sawyer.”

“I'm a Southern gal. It comes naturally.”

“Thought you said you were a quarter Cherokee.”

“There are still Cherokee in the middle South.”

“So, Kathy, why him? I mean, for surviving?”

Kathy has to ponder this before answering. "I dunno. He watches out for people, is all."

“I know what you mean,” Sirrah says. “His eyes are kind.”

Claire walks off, leaving Hurley alone with Libby on the beach.

“Someone's not happy.”

“What happened to those two, anyway? For awhile, it seemed like--”

“My opinion, it started when Claire got heat-sick.”

“Heat-sick?”

“Remember, we had that heat wave where the clouds just sat there overhead, but it didn't rain?”

“I thought I was going to collapse, and I wasn't nine months pregnant, either.”

“They put her in that infirmary tent, the one Dr. Jack rigged up. He got the idea that she should sleep on a cot, not the ground.”

“Like that's going to help heat stroke?”

“Something about sleeping on the ground being bad for the baby.”

A middle-aged woman named Jane with a stern expression and a British accent breaks in. “Oh, bollocks. Like babies never got born before there were beds."

"Seriously."

“So, anyway, Claire's stuck in that tent.”

“A target-rich environment, in other words.”

“In Charlie swoops.”

“Claiming his territory.”

“Then Hurley moves up to the caves with Jack. And Claire stays here.”

“Big mistake.”

“What, Claire staying here? Shannon nailed it. Rape caves.”

“No, why did Hurley split? I mean, if he liked her and all that.”

“Maybe he wanted to leave it up to her.”

“Maybe.”

"Jack probably told him to go."

"Yeah, Jack sure likes Hurley around to do the fetching and carrying."

"Hurley shouldn't have gone up there."

Silence falls over the group for a few seconds, until it's broken by Meredith's nervous voice. “That was when we should have, you know, asked her.”

“We didn't have to ask Shannon.”

“There's a big difference. Shannon knew Boone was being a jerk.”

“Yeah, she didn't need to have it spelled out for her either, did she."

Voices of objection and agreement rise and fall. Kathy lets it go on for awhile and then breaks in. “No, Meredith is right. That was when we should have asked her. But now...” She lets her voice trail off.

“It was that stupid trick with the empty jar that did it.”

A disgusted groan rises in chorus.

“Could you believe that?”

“Christ.” This is said in real contempt.

“Imaginary peanut butter.”

“Sometimes you don't have to construct the metaphors. Reality provides them all on its own.”

“Well, it worked. It got her off the beach.”

“Up to the rape caves.”

“With him.”

“Hurley was at the caves too, right?”

"Yup."

“So why didn't Hurley--”

“I don't know.”

“I wasn't up there, myself. No way.”

“We could, you know, walk down now and pay her a visit.”

“Go ahead, if you want.”

“But Pace, he's not welcome here.”

“Come on, we all agree about that. This is about Claire, though. And the baby.”

“It's up to her.”

“Well, yeah, of course. But if we were back home, would you just dump her? Hell, you'd be giving her the number of the local women's shelter.”

“If you haven't noticed, we're not at home. No shelters. There are no cops.”

“Not that they were ever worth a damn in a situation like this.”

“Be that as it may. I'm glad you all don't feel that way about Craig.”

“Or Brian.”

Shana sets down her basalt sanding block, and her voice has a sharp edge. "We're not in Kansas anymore, girls. We have to take care of ourselves. Because nobody else is going to. So yeah. Remember what we agreed. If a woman shares our fire, and she's with a guy, he better not be an asshole.”

“You know, it was interesting with Sayid. He never gave us any crap when Shannon hung around up here.”

“I guess he was used to it.”

“Used to what?”

“Women having their own circles. Their own space.”

They ponder that for a moment as they watch Hurley and Libby part ways, him walking sea-right and Libby sea-left.

“Now with him, that'd be different.”

“Women scare him, though.”

“Not all women. Kate doesn't scare him, not any more. They're tight now. Not like boyfriend-girlfriend, but tight.”

“I helped him a bit with the manifest. He's cool, as long as you don't make goo-goo eyes at him.”

“Think he's gay?”

A few murmurs show that the subject has come up more than once. Finally Sylvie says, “Nah. You've seen how he looks at Claire.”

"Libby, too."

Once more, looks of sympathy dart towards Kathy, and a few women say that they're sorry.

“Hey, I'm over it.”

“Oh, please.”

“Don't kid a kidder.”

“No, really," Kathy says. "Besides, I saw his date of birth on the flight list. If I'd gotten an early enough start, I'd be old enough to be his mom. So no, it's OK. Really.”

“So what is it?”

“Huh?”

“His birthday.”

“Something in December. 1978.”

“Yeah, too young for you, for sure." A few women laugh, but not unkindly.

“See, I told you,” Kathy says.

“Somebody else is a bit old for Hurley, too," Jane says, as Libby walks back from the beach to her shelter.

“Sshhh, she's coming over here. She'll hear you.”

“Doesn't she have anything to do around here? I mean, really. When she's not chasing him around, she's--”

“Sitting on her ass, sulking.”

“Have you seen that look she gives people when their heads are turned?”

“Yeah, like a bad smell.”

“Quiet."

Libby goes into her shelter and lies down, her back towards the women's camp. They soon forget her, though, as a tall, rangy figure saunters in their direction.

“Oh, joy,” says Kathy. “Here comes Sawyer.”
(continued)



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