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Title: Xanadu
Chapter 6 Title: Acceptable Risk
Chapter 6 Length: 1818 words
Characters: Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Claire Littleton, Kate Austen, James "Sawyer" Ford, John Locke
Pairing: Hurley/Claire
Rating: T
Notes: Takes place during "Eggtown," 4x04. Complete.

Summary: Hurley and Claire get to know each other better as they watch the cult favorite, "Xanadu."


Chapter 6: Acceptable Risk

A few days later, Hugo juggled Aaron across his hip as he let himself into the Barracks house which he and Sawyer shared. He tried to be as quiet as possible, so as not to wake Sawyer. In this house, though, that wasn't much of an option. As he crossed the living room, he bumped some kind of little figurine that had been set too close to the edge of a table, and it clattered to the floor.

The house was full of stuff like that: plates that you couldn't eat off of, little glass animal statues, strings of beads roped around the corner of mirrors. A woman had lived there before Hugo and Sawyer, and although Hugo had stayed in the house a short time, he'd managed to knock over most everything.

Sawyer charged out of his bedroom, pistol in hand, his morning beard bristling in the bright gold of new daylight. When he saw Hugo and the baby, he lowered the gun and sighed in exasperation. “Daddy-O, what're you doing here? I thought you were over at Claire's.”

“I was,” Hugo said. “She's sleeping in.”

“So how come you got Aaron?”

“It was, uh, my idea. Kind of a Christmas present. That I'd watch Aaron for the day.”

“You gonna feed him too? Haven't seen any Dharma baby formula around here.”

“She already fed him. I'll take him back around lunchtime.”

“So Claire's tired, huh?”

“She's been busy. You see that big chicken run she put together? And now with Kate gone—”

Sawyer's look of concern turned to a sly grin. “Or maybe there's another reason she's tired, hey?”

Hugo motioned to the baby in his arms with a Watch your mouth expression. “It's not like that,” he said in a soft voice. His thick eyebrows formed a straight line of thunder across the horizon of his face.

Sawyer ignored the warning. “Oh, baby here can't understand me none. What is it like, then? You two been steppin' on each other's shadows ever since we got here. Then I saw you making eyes at each other at that meeting last night. And while I ain't doin' any bed checks, I haven't seen your covers messed up none.”

When Hugo glared, Sawyer hesitated. “What's the big deal? We're all grownups here. Well, most of us, I guess,” he said, thinking of Alex and Karl snug in a little house of their own across the common, at least until they'd high-tailed it out for the Temple, whatever that was. It had been fun to watch Ben's eyes bug out when Karl and Alex walked home to the same cottage together, and there wasn't a damn thing the owl-eyed little bastard could do about it. But kids grew up fast here on Mystery Island.

“She didn't want to be alone.”

“Well, Hugo, I got news for you. She wouldn't be the first woman in the world to ask a man to stay the night because she got a bit lonely.”

“Sawyer—”

“And you tired her out. That's a good sign. Nothing wrong with a gal riding the pony when she's free, legal, and over 21. Or in your case, riding the Clydesdale.”

Hugo didn't say anything, but the silence around him ticked like a bomb. He turned and shoved open the swinging kitchen door so hard that it smacked against the wall.

“What the hell?” Sawyer muttered.

After setting Aaron in a nest on the couch, Hugo strode back into the kitchen like a bear pushing through the forest in slow motion. He stood next to Sawyer, quite close, and Sawyer backed up a few inches.

“Hey, man, I didn't mean—” Sawyer began.

“Dude,” Hugo said, his voice getting softer as he spoke, so that Sawyer had to lean in to hear him, even though he really didn't want to get that close to those pawlike hands. Sawyer had felt Hugo's fists once before across his face and chest, and the memory wasn't pleasant. Good thing Hugo didn't have a clue how to fight, or Sawyer might not have crawled out from under the wreck of his own tent in one piece. What the man lacked in skill, he sure as hell made up for in sheer momentum.

“Claire is nice,” Hugo went on. “Really nice. I might even have a chance with her someday. But Charlie hasn't been gone a week.”

“Aw, come on,” Sawyer said. “You and I both know there was never much grass growing on that field to start with.”

“Yeah, whatever. And one more thing. Did you look through the drawers around here? The medicine cabinets? They got Dharma issue everything else. You ever see any Dharma condoms?”

Sawyer hated to admit it, but Hugo was right. Sawyer hadn't, and believe you me, he'd looked pretty damned carefully when Kate was still here. “Well, hoss, I guess their women were all on the Pill.”

“So, was Kate?”

“Was Kate what?”

“On the Pill.”

“How the hell would I know?”

“You slept with her, dude.”

“Yeah, I slept with her. So what are you, her big brother or something? Goddamn, Hugo, it's like the other day, when you looked like my old granny with a poker up her butt when I told you that Kate thought she was pregnant. What the hell is with you? We're adults. We have sex. Join the club.”

Hugo's face was set in stone now, and his voice was a whisper. “Don't you remember what Juliet told Sun? Pregnant women die on this island, Sawyer. They get pregnant, and then they die.”

“Bullshit. Claire didn't die. In fact, she got the perfect little Michelin Tire baby. Never seen one so chunky at that age.”

“Juliet's a doctor. She knows.”

“I still say bullshit. The Others make up all kinds of crap to play with your head.” Wild horses couldn't drag the story out of Sawyer, of waking up strapped to a table with what he thought was a bomb stuck in his chest. Being told by Ben that it was all a fake. That the only way to win the respect of a con-man was to successfully con him yourself. Well, he'd like to con that little son-of-a-bitch right now, with a two-by-four upside the head.

Hugo was unconvinced. “Yeah, but what if it's true?”

Sawyer's face screwed up, as something finally broke through the ice. “Wonder if anyone dropped the 411 on Karl and Missy Alex over in their little love shack?” Sawyer rubbed his chin, glad Hugo had backed off a bit, and now he was genuinely worried.

Hugo's face twisted up in concern, too. “Dunno. I figured Rousseau would have, you know, given them the talk. Her being the mom and all. Although my mom, no way.”

“That's obvious,” Sawyer said in a dry tone.

If Hugo heard the jibe, he didn't acknowledge it. “So yeah, I been staying the night in Kate's room. And don't talk about Claire that way, okay?” He leaned over into Sawyer, bringing his face quite close, and enunciated every word. “Dude. I. Am. Not. You.”

“Gotcha, amigo” Sawyer answered, rummaging around for coffee. Anything to avoid those dark brown eyes boring holes into him. The coffee can was empty, though. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered. Then something came back to him, something he'd overlooked. “You said Claire's been seeing something weird at night? Like what?”

“I dunno. She didn't really want to talk about it. Just a feeling, like something was watching her through the windows. Hanging around outside the house.”

Sawyer shuddered. He didn't want to tell Hugo that he had sensed the same thing, two nights in a row. “Damn it, Hugo, why didn't you tell me this before?” He left the kitchen, moving through the living room as if he wanted to go hunting right then and there. Hugo followed him, taking up Aaron into his arms along the way. Sawyer pulled his shirt on, tugging the fabric so hard that the buttons strained, and jammed the gun into his waistband.

“Whatever it was, it didn't come back last night,” Hugo said. “She thought it might have been Locke.”

“Locke, a peeping Tom?”

“She said he used to watch her on the beach. And then, for awhile, they. You know.”

Sawyer continued to scratch his beard. The woman whose house he lived in didn't have any razors or shaving cream. Just this wipe-on stuff that might be good for the peach fuzz on a woman's legs, but not his coarse stubbly growth. "Yeah, the two of them kept company for awhile."

Hugo shifted a bit, suddenly off-balance and unsure. "That's history. He scares her now."

“I never liked the thought of her over in that house across the yard, all by herself,” Sawyer said. Then half to himself he added, “Damn it, Kate, why'd you have to go and leave?” To Hugo, he said, “Well, if she'll have you, you go right ahead and keep doing what you're doing. And not just cause I like my privacy. I got your back, Hugo.”

“Hey, man, it was probably nothing.”

Sawyer shook his head as if to clear it. After Locke's Christmas dinner, Sawyer had stepped out onto the porch for a breath of air, watching Hugo and Claire as they walked back to Claire's house. Something had hung in the air over Claire's bungalow, or maybe it was drifting along the tree line. Something misty and dark had passed over the growing moon, a thin darkness blown in on a cool wind, but not a fresh one.

Sawyer's doorbell rang. “What now?” Sawyer grumbled as he opened the door.

On the porch stood John Locke, carrying an oblong box in his hand. “Anyone up for a game of Risk?”

“Maybe, if you got coffee,” Sawyer said. “We're fresh out here.”

“Indeed I do,” said Locke. “You in, Hugo?” Then Locke noticed Aaron. “You babysitting?”

“Something like that.”

“My place or yours?” Sawyer said to Locke, his face hard and sarcastic.

“Let's go back to Ben's, er, my house. There's that big table in the living room.”

“Whatever,” Hugo said. “Just give me a minute to get the baby's things.”

“Wait, I've seen this movie,” Sawyer said. “Four Men and a Baby. Hugo here counts for two.”

"Dude, bad form," said Hugo. "You used that joke already. Anyway, let me leave a note for Claire. I told her I'd bring Aaron over here. She'll freak if she comes by and we're gone.”

Out of Hugo's hearing, Sawyer said to Locke with a crooked smile, “Not even getting any, and he's whipped already.”

Locke said nothing, but his eyes narrowed. The morning sunlight seemed to chill for a few seconds. A cold, sour wind whispered through the trees, and a few birds took to the skies, shrieking in anger or fear.

(the end)


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