stefanie_bean: (lost people)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Title: Briars Round the Heart
Chapter 1: Love
Pairing: Ana Lucia/Libby
Characters: Ana Lucia Cortez, Libby Smith, Cindy Chandler, Mr. Eko, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes
Rating: M
Length: 2863 words
Status: Complete
Notes: Drama, romance, canon-divergent

Summary: In Ana Lucia, Libby might have found the one she's been looking for. But Ana's preoccupation with revenge may drive them apart.

Chapter 1: Love

After the Oceanic 815 tail section disappears into the waves, after the screaming stops, while the man with the splinted fracture lies moaning under the ironwood tree, two women sit together on the sand, exhausted.

The dark-haired one points to the wounded man. “Good job.” The hint of a smile crosses her warm brown eyes.

“Just did what I could,” says the dark-blonde woman, brushing aside her windswept hair. Tired lines lace her green eyes. She's a little wary, because the other woman looks tough, maybe even mean. But there's a kindness about her, too.

The dark-haired woman offers a strong, calloused grip. “I'm Ana Lucia.”

“Libby.” It's hard to sound friendly, but Libby does her best. Ana Lucia must have some kind of physical job: truck driver, maybe, or prison guard. Perhaps orderly in a hospital, and Libby shivers despite the hot tropical sun.

“So, you're a shrink,” Ana Lucia says.

Just barely. With the CEUs from the Sydney conference, and a good report from her psychiatrist, Libby just might get her California license back. Not feeling like going into it, Libby just nods. “And you?”

“I'm a cop. LAPD. You from LA?”

“Newport Beach. How about yourself?”

“Ha, nowhere so nice. You probably never heard of it.”

So it begins.

* * * * * * * *

The first night, three of them are dragged from the fireside and swallowed by the darkness. Two of the attackers' luck ends on the sand, where they lie bludgeoned to death by Eko, the huge Nigerian priest. His blood-soaked shirt scares the children, Zack and Emma, so he removes it.

Normally, enormous muscle-bound men terrify Libby, but not Eko. After the attack, he hovers like a silent, protective cloud over all of them.

The next night, the tail section survivors bed down in clumps. Ana, Libby, and flight attendant Cindy put the children between them. The women joke about who's going to be the odd one on the outside.

Cindy doesn't mind being the bread of the sandwich, as long as she's next to the fire. So Libby forms one parenthesis with the children on the inside, and Ana Lucia closes it with the other, with Cindy huddled up against Libby.

That night, when Libby stretches out her arm over Zack's head, her hand collides with another one in the dark. Rough, strong fingers lace around her own. Neither Libby nor Ana let go until first light.

* * * * * * * *

They've never announced that they're together, but other people in the group look at them differently.

Horror breaks out again, even worse than the first night. This time Emma and Zack are taken, and seven others besides.

Cindy blames herself. She cries inconsolably, shaking off Libby's hand when Libby tries to comfort her. Libby stares at Eko when he isn't looking, wondering who these people are, how even a man of Eko's size and power can't stop them.

The group abandons the beach the next morning, and heads inland.

* * * * * * * *

With the children gone, Ana and Libby lie entwined all night under palm-frond covers, Ana's head pillowed on Libby's breast. Despite all that's happened, happiness rises in Libby's throat so hard and fast that she can scarcely breathe.

In the day, though, there's a price. There's this man in the group, a Canadian named Nathan, and Ana can do no right, as far as he's concerned. The air crackles between them like a lit fuse.

The group comes to a spot in the jungle where a clear stream flows, where the trees are covered with fruit, and there they settle. Libby is Ana's lieutenant now, and Ana has had some hard decisions to make.

“I need you behind me,” Ana says. “You know that everything I do is to keep you safe. You and everyone else.”

* * * * * * * *

Sometimes at night, Libby imagines that silent feet glide through the jungle, that rough hands snatch her out of Ana's arms before she even has time to scream. Then Libby leans in close to Ana, taking comfort in her presence. If Ana's awake, Libby presses her mouth up against hers, first lightly, then with more passion as Ana kisses her back.

They lie like that for hours under cover of darkness, tasting each others' mouths, sharing each others' breath. Three weeks have passed since the crash, and neither of them has had a shower or brushed their teeth. Everyone else is pretty rank too, so no one notices.

To Libby, Ana Lucia smells and tastes like heaven.

* * * * * * * *

It's hard not to leave Cindy out, but it can't be helped. Libby wonders if Cindy's jealous and just hiding it well.

Cindy has started sleeping alone, on the edge of the group. One night Libby spies a vague, shadowy figure squatting near Cindy, rolled up in a bed of dried leaves. Strange whispers rustle the dark until Cindy glances towards Libby. The dark shape seems to melt into the underbrush, and Cindy curls up in her leafy nest once more, her back turned.

Libby crawls in next to Ana, snuggling up to her warmth. She's about to tell Ana what she's just seen, then forgets about it when Ana places her hand on Libby's breast. She moves up to Libby's neck and unties her halter dress. She rolls Libby's nipple tenderly in her fingers until it crinkles up hard. So there's nothing else for Libby to do but slide up Ana's tank top and return the compliment.

Ana's flesh is firm just about everywhere, roped with muscle, although her soft breasts roll gently under Libby's hands. One thing leads to another as they loosen each other's pants, but they don't dare take them off, just as they always sleep with their shoes on. Who knows what might descend in the dead of night?

Libby slides her fingers inside Ana's low-rise jeans, taking her mouth off of Ana's breast just long enough to whisper, “Is this okay?”

Of course it is. Under their palm-leaf covers they rock to the slow drum-line of each other's touch, forgetting that they're on an Island in the middle of nowhere, and in more trouble than they could ever imagine.

* * * * * * * *

Things go from bad to worse with Nathan. One morning he strolls past Ana and Libby, and half-whispers, “Could you two be a little louder? Some of us need a bit more fantasy material for long and lonely nights.”

Ana's face grows dark with blood, and her eyes bright with murder. Libby lays a restraining arm on Ana's shoulder and looks to Eko for help. But Eko hasn't spoken since the night he killed those men. He just walks on by, glowering.

Ana Lucia begins digging a pit big enough to hold a man. Eventually Libby joins her.

* * * * * * * *

Later, Libby wonders why she did it, why she went along with Ana's fears, maybe even planted a few seeds of her own. “He creeps me out.” “I didn't see him on the plane.” When Cindy agrees, it seems so easy to fall in with Ana, to ignore Bernard and Goodwin's objections. To forget Eko's silent, hulking presence, and how he stares at Ana as if he can see right into her soul.

“Maybe we should let Nathan out.” Libby tries not to show fear, because Ana has become angry and short-tempered even with her. For a second, Libby imagines herself down in the pit, too. She knows she's taking a fatal, irreversible step, but she says it anyway. “They haven't come back. Maybe they've gone away.”

“Like you said, Libby, they haven't come back since he's been down there.”

Libby has no answer. That night, Ana doesn't crawl in next to her. Instead, she sleeps on the other side of their group, next to Goodwin.

* * * * * * * *

The next morning, Nathan is dead, his neck snapped. The murderous jungle strangers aren't done with them yet, it seems. So the camp moves again.

Nathan's death seems to release something inside Ana. She rejoins Libby at night, and their sweetness in the dark resumes. Ana seems insatiable now, manic. She clutches Libby to her breast and groans in release, not caring who hears them any more.

Their small band heads back downhill, downstream, always down, driven by Ana's relentless pace. By the third day, Libby is limp and exhausted.

Only seven of them cluster around the campfire now. To occupy herself, Ana begins sharpening a stick to a fine point, almost invisible.

Later on, after midnight, Ana whispers to Libby, “I think I was wrong.”

“Wrong about what?” Libby's final orgasm still pulses through her body as she slides down the slalom course to sleep.

“About Nathan. I won't make that mistake again.”

Libby closes her eyes. Maybe the jungle strangers didn't kill him after all. She pushes the dreadful possibility aside. Libby hasn't felt so helpless since the day she checked herself into the mental hospital.

* * * * * * * *

They've found new shelter, a concrete bunker carved into the hillside. There's a weird sign on the wall, an eight-sided sigil with an arrow in the center. Cindy says it's called a “bagua” in Chinese, but no one cares. They're too busy with the day-to-day elements of survival: resting their tired feet from the long forced march, foraging for fruit, or catching small fish from the rocky and fast-moving river.

No one questions Ana when Goodwin disappears, least of all Libby. Sometimes Libby and Cindy exchange furtive glances.

Ana must feel safe, because she doesn't monitor people's movements anymore. Even when Cindy vanishes into the jungle for half a morning, Ana doesn't say anything, as long as Cindy brings back something to eat. At first Libby thinks Cindy's looking for the children. But sometimes she's not so sure.

The only men left are Bernard and Eko. Ana doesn't care what they do, either.

For Libby, the days start to blur. It seems as if she's always been with Ana Lucia. Always been covered in sweat and jungle grime. Always played the calm and uncritical one while Ana simmers, thinks, calculates.

Something torments Ana in the long watches of the night, and Libby knows too well how that goes. One night Ana turns to her and whispers, “I did it for us, for you and me. All I want is for us to be safe.” Libby waits with leaping heart for Ana to take the next step, to say the next words.

Libby has fallen in love.

* * * * * * * *

When things falls apart, they tear fast as a seam ripping under the strain. Ana has gone to the river for water, but when she doesn't return, Libby goes after her. There, from behind a thick brake of fern, Libby watches as Eko and Ana talk at the river's edge.

It's shocking enough, Eko speaking after six weeks of silence. Worse, when Ana collapses into tears, Eko draws her into his arms. Jealousy hits Libby hard, like a surprise blow from behind. Eko has done nothing to deserve those tears which Ana refuses to shed for Libby, even in Libby's arms, even when Libby tries so hard to draw her out.

Ana cries on in Eko's embrace. He strokes her hair, croons to her in his lilting, musical accent as she clings to him like a life-raft. Libby slips back into the shadows, eyes stinging with tears.

* * * * * * * *

Libby spends most of her time with Cindy now. Even after seven weeks in this green hell, Cindy still keeps up a smiling, professional facade, as does Libby. Both of them have made their livings hiding their true feelings about passengers or clients. But their eyes say everything, especially when Ana and Eko go hunting, or sit closely together while rain beats on the bunker's steel door like a drum.

No one wants to know why the word “Quarantine” is stenciled across the inside.

Libby feels quarantined herself, locked outside of something vital between Ana and Eko. She moves through the days like a ghost, and occasionally the old feelings come back. Depersonalization. Derealization. Knowing their clinical names doesn't rob them of their power. Libby knows what has brought Eko and Ana together, but that doesn't help, either.

She's sure Ana and Eko aren't sleeping together. Something binds them, though, even more powerful than what Libby and Ana had.

Mutual guilt over shed blood.

* * * * * * * *

One day, Eko comes across three strange men with an outlandish story of having first been in the plane crash, then shipwrecked. They have a pistol, which Ana takes at once. Even though one man is wounded, Eko and Ana force them into to the pit once dug for Nathan. Libby has no voice in the matter.

It seems like years ago that Ana and Libby rocked in each others arms. Ana and Eko concoct their schemes and all Libby can do is suffer. She stops talking to Cindy or anyone else. The days roll by like scenes from a nightmarish horror film.

Libby starts cataloging her symptoms as if they were happening to someone else, and indeed it feels as if they are. She snaps in and out of it, especially when it's clear that the tall blond man, Sawyer, is getting progressively sicker and weaker. The sight of his pus-swollen, red-streaked bullet wound brings her back to herself, if only briefly.

She has enough mental clarity to lie to him, shamelessly. Despite what she tells him, his wound doesn't look fine at all. In fact, he may well die of it. But there's no point in telling him that. If he dies, it will be soon enough.

Ana wants to leave Sawyer behind, but when she looks to Eko for support, all he does is turn his face away.

Eko has become Ana's second-in-command now. Libby would resent him more if she weren't so busy trying to hold onto the remaining shreds of her sanity. They take turns carrying Sawyer now, because he can no longer walk. The closer they get to Sawyer's camp, the heavier an oppressive cloud weighs over all of them.

Libby begins to wonder once more what it would feel like to die.

* * * * * * * *

In the middle of dragging Sawyer's limp-as-a-corpse body uphill, Cindy disappears. The jungle answers their shouts of terror and frustration with a resounding rainstorm. They follow the direction they think Cindy's gone, slipping in mud, clawing at each other in the blinding fog.

When the thunder itself seem to clot into voices, Libby is convinced she's lost her mind for good. She can hear words in the tree-top whispers, words which mock and warn and insinuate.

Swiftly and without warning, a pale ghost streaks towards them from out of the black jungle. The flapping white shape shrieks something no one can understand.

Ana Lucia fires off a single shot. A thin, blonde woman falls to the ground, blood spurting in arterial surges from the hole in her mid-section. Right behind her, a rain-soaked dark-skinned man bellows curses as he charges at them.

Libby's mind clears. The dark-skinned man lies at Ana's feet, unconscious from a blow to the head. Ana orders Eko to tie him up, but he refuses.

Everyone gapes as Ana Lucia swings the pistol towards Libby. Long-standing practice forces Libby to control her breathing, still her trembling hands, count to five. The numbness of the past two days probably saves her life.

“Ana.” Libby doesn't feel the tenderness in her voice.

Ana can't even look her in the eye.

“Ana,” Libby says again.

Ana almost relents, but something hard and crazy snaps back into position inside her. Suddenly, Libby doesn't really want to die after all. Deep down, she knows that Ana will shoot her if she makes a false move.

So Libby does as Ana orders and ties the dark man up, while Ana trains her weapon on them both. Libby's anger at Eko overflows. At his fearlessness around death. Of the hold he has over Ana, while Libby has none.

Suddenly, Eko looms over Ana, drawing her into some titanic struggle which Libby doesn't understand. When Ana looks away first, Eko hoists Sawyer onto his shoulders.

“I am taking him to his people,” Eko announces.

The dark man wakes up. In the furor which follows, he says exactly what Libby is thinking. “She is alone with her guilt, and a gun.”

The next to put Ana to the test is Bernard. Libby's arm, he leads her toward the wide swath of broken foliage left in Eko's wake. Before Libby disappears into the forest, she turns to give Ana one drawn-out, hopeful look.

But Ana Lucia's eyes are flat and blank as stones at the river's edge.



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