stefanie_bean: (lost people)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Title: Briars Round the Heart
Chapter 2: Interlude
Pairing: Ana Lucia/Libby
Characters: Ana Lucia Cortez, Libby Smith, Cindy Chandler, Mr. Eko, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes
Rating: M
Length: 3137 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 2: Interlude

Libby clings to Bernard's hand as they enter the settlement. Soon Bernard leaves her standing, though, because his wife grabs him, sobbing, crying, kissing and hugging him. For a moment, Libby wonders if she'll find someone like that to grow old with.

Far across the beach camp, the tall, dark man with the volcanic expression cradles the dead girl in his arms.


* * * * * * * *


Libby makes a bedroll by the fire in front of Rose's tent. Bernard and Rose are giving each other distinctive married looks, so Libby makes a big show of bedding down for the night.

Bernard goes into the tent, but Rose hangs back for a moment. “Did you get to meet Hurley?”

Most people have said their names to Libby in passing, but that one doesn't stick out. “Was he here when we came in?”

“Tell you the truth, honey, I didn't notice. But if you'd met him, you wouldn't forget him.”

“Is that so?” Libby says, polite.

A strange tone comes into Rose's voice, but Libby doesn't know Rose well enough to decipher it. “Now that I think of it, that boy's been spending a lot of time out in the jungle. I'm sure we'll see him tomorrow, though.”

Libby doesn't say anything. She thinks of mentioning what happened to Cindy, but doesn't. To do so would open a whole line of speculation, and Libby's tired, tired to the bone. She and Ana are already in enough trouble as it is.

Rose finishes with, “Guess it's just as well. When he finds out about Shannon, it's gonna really hit him. Hurley takes things hard.”


* * * * * * * *


At Shannon's funeral, Libby keeps peeking around Rose and Bernard to get a better look at Hurley. He's pure endomorph, a 7-1-1 on the somatotype scale if there ever was one, which is probably why Rose said he's unforgettable. That, and his wild hair. But there's something terribly familiar about him, something which Libby can't place, and a deep-seated anxiety rides shotgun alongside that familiarity.

Afterwards, a smiling girl named Sirrah shows Libby where the extra clothes are kept. Maybe she'd like to change? At once Libby notices how clean these people are. Sure, they're sweat-soaked and their jean hems are ringed with mud, but Libby's been covered in thick grime for so long that everyone here looks freshly-scrubbed.

The beach camp people have suitcases, so many suitcases, and Libby has to fight back envy as she sorts through the clothing. When Ana and she crashed, they had nothing. Their few suitcases floated out to sea, carried away by the tide.


* * * * * * * *


Ana collects thick fallen branches, then ties them together with cordage. She doesn't look in Libby's direction. All she says is, “Better get your shelter made.”

Libby knows a dismissal when she hears one. But she tries anyway. “Listen, Ana, I know you want some space right now. If you want to talk, I just want you to know that--”

“Libby, I'm gonna say this once. Do not pull that headshrinker shit on me.”

It's like being slapped. Libby's mouth is still hanging open when a big woman with gray-blonde hair and a long hippie dress approaches them, carrying a tarp. Her name is Kathy, and her dark-skinned, long-haired friend is Shana.

When Kathy holds out the tarp, it's clear that she's not sure who to hand it to. She's trying to figure out if we're a couple, Libby thinks in the midst of the deafening silence which surrounds her and Ana. Finally Ana directs a curt nod towards Libby. “Give it to her.”

Shana hands Libby a ball of twine to tie her tent-frame together. Libby almost can't say thanks, because her eyes sting so sharply with tears.

Then Ana walks away, over to where Eko is camped. Her half-finished tent sits mute, unoccupied.

After staring at the tarp for awhile, Libby starts to gather long, straight branches for a tent frame, just like Ana did. Ten minutes later, it's clear how rough this is going to be, for Libby's never camped a day in her life. The closest was when David took her to Egg Harbor, where the “rustic cabin” was more luxurious than their Newport Beach condo.

She misses how easy it was at day's end to just roll into a leaf-nest with Ana. Here there are limits, customs, unspoken rules, alliances. A settlement, in other words. A society. And she's completely alone within it.


* * * * * * * *


A midnight rain convinces Libby she has to finish her tent, which is easier said than done. The tarp-roof has fallen down for the third time, and if a single person can tie it up securely, Libby doesn't know the secret. Inside, tears build up again. It's crazy, she never cried once during the past month and a half, yet she's almost collapsed into a blubbering heap twice in as many days.

She knows why, intellectually. Clients in therapy would break down in front of Libby all the time, simply because they felt safe to do so. Even though Libby feels secure in this camp, she doesn't want to cry in front of new people.

One more try, then.

Libby stretches the tarp, and the other corner slides down again. Numb with fatigue, racked by frustration, she doesn't see the man until he's almost upon her. He strides over with a goofy smile on his round face, then silently picks up the runaway tarp corner. Automatically, she supports it from the other side.

Hurley. He looks like a great boy in his surfer shorts and sloppy t-shirt, his sneakers big as canoes. She can feel his size, even from six feet away. When he bends over, his body squeezes into shapeless folds.

How does someone that young get so big? Libby has always prided herself on her control, her discipline, on keeping her weight down to what it was in high school.

She can't help being warmed by his smile, though. No one else in this camp has acted as glad to see her, and the urge to cry fades.

He finishes tying off the tarp, still beaming. She can smell the virginity on him, sweet and fresh as new-mown grass.


* * * * * * * *


A few days go by, but Hurley hasn't come around again. Out of the corner of her eye, though, Libby catches him watching her.

She goes to collect crabs in a tide pool out of sight of the beach camp.

Picking her way silently across the sand, Ana comes up and puts her arms around Libby from behind. At first Libby's too shocked to speak, then she falls into the embrace. Ana nuzzles her neck, murmuring things like, “I'm sorry” and “I know it's been rough on you.”

Libby wants to believe her, for she's been crushed by the weight of missing Ana. She can't hold in the questions any longer, and the words flood out. “Why? Why are you doing this, Ana? We don't have to be apart. There are already two women who might be a couple--”

Ana cuts her off. “I'm doing this for you. They hate me here. I killed one of their people, did you forget that? At least if I'm not with you, they won't hate you too.”

Now Ana's shaking, and Libby pulls her in close. She rubs Ana's back, makes soft murmuring noises. “They won't. You'll see. You just have to give them a chance, Ana.”

For once, amazingly, Ana doesn't argue. “You know, they got a bunker here of their own.”

“I know. They call it 'the Hatch.'”

Then Ana smiles and says, “You wanna go explore it?”

It sounds almost too good to be true.


* * * * * * * *


All the way to the Hatch, Ana tries to get Libby to see things her way. The people here are weak. They've been coddled. They're complacent, soft. Against her will, Libby's reminded of Hurley's oleaginous body.

“Jack's the only one that sees it,” Ana goes on. “But I've got a plan.” A red flush spreads over Ana's cheeks, then down her chest, to cover the tops of her breasts. Ana's pink, excited. She looks the most alive she has, since they've come here.

Only once does Libby say, “Ana, this is crazy.”

Ana stops in the middle of the path. “Really? They killed our people. They took the kids. Don't you want them back, Libby? Don't you want Cindy back?”

Of course Libby does.


* * * * * * * *


At the back door to the Swan Hatch, Ana yells, “Ana Lucia, with one.”

John Locke shouts back, “Come on in.”

Ana takes Libby's hand. They pass through a dim concrete corridor to what looks like someone's finished basement. “Look, a clothes washer,” Ana says. “And a shower. I could use both.”

“Why not just get some clothes from the suitcases?”

It's the wrong thing to say. Ana's face grows dark, but not with excitement. “What if I grabbed something of hers, Libby? Besides, I don't need their stuff. I just need to clean up.”

Libby nods. Ana leads her to a small room off the main one, a kind of store-room, although it has a cot in it as well. One shelf is stacked with coarse wool army blankets. Tossing one to Libby, Ana says, “You look like you could use a shower, too.”

“What about Locke?”

“That old coot's all wrapped up in his computer.” Ana strips, giving Libby a long view of her golden skin, round breasts, strong shoulders. Naked, draped in blankets, Libby and Ana tiptoe past Locke. After loading up the washing machine, they head for the shower.


* * * * * * * *


If there's anything Libby wants to thank some non-existent god for, it's hot water. The shower stall is compact, so they stand plastered together in the soapy stream.

Libby makes the first move. “Want me to wash your back?” She's prepared for rejection, but to her surprise, Ana nods. Libby's hands travel across Ana's strong, broad shoulders, over her tightly-muscled back, down to the soft curves of her bottom.

It's almost too much to take. Libby lays her face against Ana's back, wraps her arms around Ana's slippery middle, not wanting to move or let go. Ana swings around, so that their bodies slide over each other like fish.

“My turn,” Ana says. As Ana's hands wander over her, Libby's never been prouder of her body. Forty-plus days of starvation and forced marches have made the bones protrude sharply from her hips. There's no flesh between her thighs, where Ana's hand works its way up the lean, hard arc of Libby's groin.

Her breasts hang a little, not like Ana's fuller, heavier ones, but Libby doesn't care. She hasn't been this slender since eighth grade. She feels beautiful, confident. When Ana turns off the water, Libby's heart leaps at Ana's wicked smirk.

Dripping, they toss the laundry into the dryer, then sneak back to the little room and towel each other off. They've never had genuine privacy, never had a closed door to shut out the world, and for an instant they just stare at each other, not sure of what's coming next.

In a heartbeat, they fall into each other's arms at the same time. Their hungry mouths merge. Libby kisses Ana open-mouthed, tasting Ana's tongue. Ana gently bites Libby's lower lip, bringing it to a peak of swollen sensitivity.

The kiss goes on for a long time. Sometimes they draw in little puffs of air from between each others' mouths, or breathe through their noses, not wanting to break contact. Sometimes they just lick each others' lips, reveling in the taste, the sensitive skin just on the inside.

Before Libby knows it, Ana's thrown the bolt on the door and they're lying together on the cot. They pick up where they left off with more kisses, but Libby isn't content with kisses alone. Not any longer.

The room is hot and soon they're slick with sweat. Libby's mouth wanders down, always farther down, past Ana's beautiful soft breasts, over her ridged stomach, lower still, until Ana shudders with pleasure.

Libby takes her time. She's good at this, she's been told, and she believes it. It's all a matter of timing, of alternating feather-like flicks with slow, long strokes, of not going too fast, of letting the tension build right up to the very last instant.

Ah, that's it. Libby hasn't lost her touch at all. The walls of that small room ring out with Ana's cries, ones she's never made before. Then her breathing slows, her eyes open, and the warm, welcoming smile Ana sends her way is for Libby alone.

Soon Ana can speak again. “I bet those clothes are dry by now.”

Libby laughs, full of delight. Finally, she's been able to make Ana Lucia happy.


* * * * * * * *


Libby starts doing laundry for people, in exchange for fish. It makes her feel useful and wanted. It also gives her an excuse to spend time in the Hatch, where she and Ana catch their stolen hours here and there.

So one morning, while doing laundry, Libby's heart leaps when she hears the familiar “click” of the Hatch's back door. It's not Ana, though. Instead, Hurley has followed her in.

She's used to men eyeing her. She catches his side-looks, but they're not the usual kind. Instead, he seems to search for something, yet won't come right out with it.

At first, she doesn't know what to say to him. His shy awkwardness unnerves her. By the time she starts prattling about the washing machine, she's flailing inside like a drowning woman. He's just a kid, he has to be twenty-five at the most. Maybe younger. He makes every one of her thirty-six years weigh on her.

Her sense of desperation grows. For the first time in a long while she wants some Xanax, very badly. She can almost taste the tablets dissolving into bitterness under her tongue, followed by the rush of calm, immediate as throwing a switch. It's as if she hasn't learned a thing from her stint in the hospital, or in rehab.

There's no Xanax here, though, so she's on her own. At first flirting derails him, keeps him staring at her breasts instead of her face. Now, though, he's not side-eyeing her anymore. Instead, he scrutinizes her openly under the harsh fluorescent lights.

“Don't I... know you?”

It's true. He does, she does, from somewhere, but she can't make it out, doesn't want to. It has to be the hospital. Not rehab, that was all women. He's big enough to have been an orderly, though she can't picture him in an orderly's whites. A visitor, maybe...

Something inside her shuts down the speculation. Instead she babbles, teases him about not peeking while she undresses. She changes into an ugly sequined top grabbed at random from the clothes pile, and lies about him stepping on her foot when they were on the plane.

It works. She can't see his face, but his whole body flinches. He's forgotten his question. When he turns around, he stares at her breasts again, but she has to drag the compliments out of him.

Hastily, he stuffs his unfolded laundry into a back-pack and leaves.


* * * * * * * *


Later that night, Ana and Libby lie wrapped in each others arms, snug in the Hatch.

Ana's half-asleep, limp with relaxation, so Libby dares to bring something up.

“Ana, we could leave.”

“Hmm?”

“Grab some gear, take off. The people in those tents behind me, they've been talking about it. They don't think I can hear them, but I do. They're going to leave, sometime soon. We could do that, too. Go look for Cindy and the kids.”

“Sure, Libby. Walk right into the jaws of those animals out there. Brilliant.”

She swallows, hard. “Ana, I could work something out with them. Negotiate. I'm good at that.”

Ana laughs, cold and without humor. She's fully awake now. “You shrinks, you talk somebody down off a ledge, you think you can do anything.”

“I've done it before. Only it wasn't a ledge. It was a pier.” It's true. She still has the commendation from the Orange County sheriff's department on the wall in her office.

It's clear Ana's thinking about it. She doesn't argue anymore, just rolls over and starts nuzzling Libby's breasts. Before Libby loses herself in soft, rolling sensation, she tells herself that at least Ana didn't say no.


* * * * * * * *


Beach camp gossip says that Ana and Jack are having an affair, which makes Libby chuckle. Since the fire, Claire's scraggly-haired ex has been sleeping down at Mr. Eko's camp, which sets off another round of speculation, equally untrue. Probably.

Ana's right, too, about the two of them avoiding being seen together. Most in the beach camp either glare at Ana or cut her dead, but that's not the case with Libby. People sometimes invite her to sit at their fire now, mostly Rose and Bernard, or Sun when Jin isn't around. Not Kate, though, nor Claire.

Kathy and Shana invite her too, but Libby hangs back, hesitant. Jack she can fool. Locke's oblivious. Charlie's obsessed with Mr. Eko. These two, though, seem to see everything.

After Libby's second refusal, Shana says, “You don't have to hide, you know. Kathy and I, we're out. Mostly everybody here's cool with that.”

Kathy laughs, rich and deep from the belly. “And if they're not, too bad.”

Flushing, Libby pretends she doesn't know what they're talking about.


* * * * * * * *


It's late at night, the night before the prisoner Henry Gale is taken, the night before the Hatch becomes off-limits to all but a favored few. The night before everything changes.

Ana and Libby walk back to the beach camp from the Hatch. Bold, drunk with love, they're looped in each others' arms. They step from the jungle onto a deserted stretch of beach, but someone's built a fire there, in a spot where no one usually does.

They stop dead. They've almost tripped over Hurley, who's crouched over, trying to read in the firelight. Deeply immersed in his big paper manuscript, he doesn't stir, doesn't seem to know they've crept up behind him.

Slowly, silently, Ana and Libby back up. When they're clear, Ana makes a wry face. Suppressing their giggles, they slip back into the darkness.

(continued)



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