stefanie_bean: (Hurley and Claire)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 39: Memento Mori
Pairings: Hurley/Claire, Kate/Sawyer
Characters: Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Benjamin Linus, Desmond Hume, Claire Littleton, Kate Austen, James "Sawyer" Ford, Rose Nadler, Bernard Nadler, Carole Littleton, Aaron Littleton, Background & Cameo Characters, Original Non-Human Characters
Rating: M
Length: 3639 words
Status: Complete
Notes: Fantasy and supernatural elements. Think American Gods on the Island.

Summary: Hurley is now Protector of the Island, while Claire, Kate, and Sawyer head back to our world. But when it comes to love, the Island has ways to get you where you need to be.


Chapter 39: Memento Mori

Kate navigated the remnants of Des Moine's morning rush-hour as Sawyer fumbled with the map, while spits of snow turned to water as soon as they touched the windshield. She didn't need his directions, though, because her memories of the city carried her onward. Although strip malls and industrial parks had sprung up in the fields of a decade ago, the underlying shapes of the land were the same.

A fist of anxiety balled in her stomach. She pulled into a parking space near the industrial-style brick building with the Mother of Mercy Care Center sign, and rested her head on the steering wheel. “I don't think I can do this.”

“Sure you can, Freckles. 'Cause the other alternative is I carry you in. I didn't drive eighteen hundred miles to sit in a parking lot.” While his words were harsh, his tone was warm.

“You didn't drive eighteen hundred miles. Maybe a little more than half.” Then apprehension punched her again. “What if she's drugged or something, and doesn't remember that she asked for me?”

She didn't have to look at him to feel his shrug. “Then we leave.”

That wasn't enough. “What if she starts screaming at me, like she did before?”

“Same answer, Kate.”

The fist inside her opened into a hand sharp with ragged claws, slicing her insides, and she pounded the steering wheel in frustration and fear. “What if they call the cops, and you get killed?

She felt his hand on her face before he even touched her. He pulled her chin around, and while his face was sober, his eyes were warm. “Kate, I survived prison, polar bears, time travel, a nuclear bomb, and Ben Linus. You think I'm gonna die in Iowa?

The laugh crackled out of her before she even knew it.

* * * * * * * *

The hospice nurse held the door for Kate as she and Sawyer entered Diane Janssen's room. Her mother lay sleeping beneath a blue-checked quilt in the quiet, sage-scented space, and she wasn't alone. A rugged, grey-haired man sitting at her bedside dropped her hand when he saw Kate and Sawyer, then rose to his feet.

He was the last person Kate would have expected to see here. “Daddy,” she whispered as she fell into his bear-hug. It wasn't until Sam Austen had met Sawyer and shook hands that Kate turned towards the woman on the bed. “Can she... Is she... awake?”

“Mostly,” Sam said. “Hey, Di, look who's here.”

Diane opened her eyes and tracked the room, finally landing on Kate. She didn't look drugged, only frail and far away. When she finally spoke, her voice came out scratchy, like rustling paper. “Katherine.”

Kate drew close to the bed, not believing her ears. Every line in her mother's face lay loose and relaxed, like untied strings. Other than a small oxygen tube resting in her nostrils, there was no other medical equipment: no tubes, no wires, nothing beeping.

“Come on, son,” Sam said to Sawyer. “Let's you and me grab a donut. You want one, Katie?”

“No thanks, I'm good.”

Behind her, she could hear Sawyer as the two men walked out. “I'll get her one anyway, else-wise she'll eat half of mine.”

Kate didn't pick up her mother's hand. Instead, she stared at the wall across from the bed, its pale-blue paint almost greenish in the snow-flecked morning light. Diane gazed at her as if from a great distance.

What do you say to someone who's dying? I've seen enough death, so you think I'd know. You'd think I'd have the hang of it by now.

Before Kate could stutter something out, Diane cleared her throat. “Didn't think you'd make it.”

“We drove, Mom. Don't know if you saw the news, but I was in another plane crash. I'm kind of spooked on flying now.”

Diane nodded, but her expression was vacant, as if she hadn't quite understood. “I don't have much time, Katherine.”

“I know.”

She seemed to sink back into sleep. Sawyer and Sam hadn't returned yet. Probably having a smoke, although Kate couldn't imagine where. There was no smoking on the nursing home grounds, and Kate had already put her foot down about smoking in the car.

Even with the men gone, the room didn't feel empty. Morning light had moved away from the window by the time Diane opened her eyes again. “I didn't do it for you.”

What was she talking about? Kate pulled her chair closer, although Diane's words had come through loudly enough. “Didn't do what, Mom?”

“At the trial. Didn't testify. That was for me, not you.”

“Mom, sorry. I don't understand.”

Diane sucked in a few breaths, as if there wasn't enough air in the room. When she spoke again, her words came out with terrible clarity, as if she drew on every last bit of energy for the final battle. “They came to me... that drug company.”

Kate's heart skipped a beat. She knew exactly which one. “Mittelos?”

Diane shook her head, as if she couldn't remember. “Their lawyer... made a deal. If I wouldn't testify. They had a drug. Experimental.”

Kate didn't say anything. She'd seen how the scattered light in Claire's eyes had focused to a single, coherent beam after Hugo's first touch, when they had picked him up wet and stinking from the Santa Monica beach during his first visit back from the Island.

She'd heard Carole's story, how a mysterious sandy-haired man stood at her bedside when she awoke from the coma, who disappeared through the door of her hospital room, whom no one even remembered seeing.

She'd seen that man herself on the Island, when Jack had made his final, fatal promise.

Jacob.

There was no drug. Kate would bet any money on it. All she said was, “Sounds like it was a good deal to take.”

Diane's weak smile flickered across her mouth. “It bought me... a little time. And no pain.” The laugh which followed sounded like a small, dry cough, and she had to take a few long breaths before speaking again. “Dying of cancer, and no morphine.”

At the words “dying of cancer,” Kate flinched. Diane must have seen it, because she gasped out, “We talk about that here. We don't dance around it.”

Kate swallowed, hard. “I'm so sorry, Mom.”

“Those drug people... they kept their promise.” Speaking had taken so much out of Diane that Kate had to put her ear almost to her mother's lips, in order to hear her at all. “It was all for me. I couldn't let go.”

“But now you can.”

Again that flicker of a smile before Diane drifted away again. It was easy to see how her dad had fallen in love with her. And Wayne, too, as much as Kate hated to admit it.

Sawyer slipped back into the room, and took Kate's hand. Instead of cigarettes, he smelled of clean, bright air laced with snow, and Kate gave him a questioning look.

“There's a park down the road a spell. I took a walk to clear my head.” Under her sharp gaze he said, “I tossed the smokes, okay?”

“Good for you. Where's my donut? And where's Dad?”

From his jacket pocket, Sawyer handed her a half-squashed jelly donut. “He's been hangin' about here most of the past two days. Gone back to his hotel to catch some shut-eye.”

“Hotel? He's got a condo over in Urbandale.”

“Not any more, sugar. Your daddy lives in Texas now, right outside Dallas. Got himself a little ranch, couple thousand acres. Told him we'd meet up with him for supper, if that suited you. He can give you the 411 then.”

As Kate licked the donut's chemical-red jelly from her fingers, Sawyer studied the resting Diane. “You tell her yet?”

“Tell her?” Even so, she knew exactly what Sawyer was talking about. What the hell, why not? Everything in her life seemed to converge to this point: the blue room, the dying woman, seeing her real father once more. Yes, damn it, her real father. Not her mother's boyfriend, who happened to catch the egg cell which became Kate at the right time of the cycle. Wayne might have engendered her, but he had never been her father.

She wanted so much to be done with lies, with evasions. Well, in a perfect world, maybe. Here, in this one, it was time for a few more lies, just small ones. Here goes nothing. “Mom?”

Diane's lids fluttered open. It was as if she had only enough energy to move her lids, her lips, and her rusty voice-box. “What, sugarplum?”

Tears sprang to Kate's eyes, and she fought them back as she fumbled in her bag for a small, 5x7 photo album. Mom hadn't called her “sugarplum” since she'd been a small child. “I've got a few pictures here of Aaron.”

“My grandson. Aaron.” The sigh drew itself out, and for the first time Diane looked as if she might be in pain.

Kate smiled at her mother. “That's right, Mom, your grandson.” As she ruffled through the album pages, she sent a sharp, surreptitious look to Sawyer, thinking hard at him, Please be quiet. Please.

Sawyer gave her a little nod, Message received.

The claws which gripped Kate inside loosened a little, and she brought the album closer, so Diane could see it. “Here he is, on his last birthday. He wouldn't blow out all his candles at once. Instead, he blew out each one, one at a time.” Kate had been careful to pick photos which didn't show Hurley or the Reyeses. “In this one, he's playing trains.” The most recent photo showed Claire painting her Island wall, and Aaron in his smock, covered with paints.

“Who's that? Friend of yours?”

It doesn't matter, Kate told herself. Mom's almost gone. She'll never know. Let her die with a few consolations, at least. “A good friend. Her name's Claire.”

“From that island.”

“No, Mom. From LA.”

“Your friend... she teaches him?”

“Yes. He's talented, Mom. He paints beautifully for his age.”

Kate didn't think Diane had the strength, but she reached for the photo with a scrawny hand. Kate brought it closer, so Diane coud stroke the surface of the image with her fingers, as if touching Aaron's own face.

“Something else, Mom. I'm going to have another baby, in August.”

Diane glanced over at Sawyer, who ran his hand over his face as if embarrassed.

“No, Mom. Do you remember Jack, from the trial?”

“The one... the one who said he didn't love you.”

Kate hated how Sawyer's eyes widened in surprise. She had never told him anything about her trial except for the bare bones. He had been back in the 1970s when tabloid headlines screamed, “Crash Doc Spurns Ex-Gal on Stand.” He didn't know about the reporters who had followed her to the filling station, yelling out, “What happened, Ms. Austen? Why did he fall out of love with you?” as she pumped gas. How she couldn't join play-groups, or enroll Aaron in nursery school because the paparazzi would swarm them like flies.

The look she gave Sawyer was full of apology, but it had to be said. “Jack lied, Mom.”

Once more, Diane gave that flash of what used to be a smile, then fell back, exhausted. Her hand went limp, and Kate laid it gently across her chest. There was no sound except the low-pitched, irregular snore of Diane's breathing, and the faint hiss of oxygen.

* * * * * * * *


The three of them had chowed down on prime rib and twice-mashed potatoes at a roadhouse outside Des Moines, where Sergeant Major Austen put away the brewskis like there was no tomorrow. Sawyer had given up trying to keep pace with him.

Sawyer had to admit that Kate's old man was a stand-up guy, too, even if he shied away from telling the battle tales Sawyer would have loved to hear. Said he put it all behind him when he retired, and besides, he didn't want to upset Kate.

It wasn't Sawyer's place to tell Sam that his little girl had put a bullet through the chest of something as scary as the Norcs, at least if you were trapped with it on the Island. Since Kate didn't share that tale, neither did Sawyer. Instead, she regaled Daddy-O with stories of tropical survival, of trapping and butchering boar, of tracking and exploring the rivers and vales of the Island. Her dad didn't bring up how Aaron came into the world, and neither did Sawyer.

Sergeant Major Sam had taken the news of Kate's pregnancy pretty well, too. He just gave Sawyer that long silent look Sawyer had come to know so well from Kate. It wasn't just blood that passed along when two people were as close as Kate and Sam. These two were peas-in-a-pod, regardless of who had gotten Kate started in the fast-fading Diane.

Fortunately for Kate, Sam hadn't mentioned a word about Kate's probation. Maybe he didn't know. Sam did seem to be more about the hunting and fishing than surfing the Internet waves. Anyway, once you passed out of the news cycle, it was like you didn't exist. Weirdly, Sam didn't seem to have heard about the Ajira plane crash either, or hadn't put two and two together.

Either way, if Sam suspected his little girl was on the lam again, he hadn't let it show.

Now Sam had gone back to his hotel, and Sawyer swayed a little as he followed Kate into Diane's room, which save for a few night-lights was buried in blue darkness. He settled himself down into the stiff recliner, whose wooden arm-rests dug into his sides, while Kate took up vigil near Diane's bedside.

Sawyer hated to admit it, but he was getting too old to sleep on car seats and hospital recliners. A man got to the point where he needed his own bed. Just gonna close my eyes for a few minutes. Kate won't even notice.

A flash of light, a noise, who knows, but something made Sawyer jerk forward with a start. Kate wasn't sitting at Diane's bedside any longer. Instead, wrapped in a blanket, she lay curled up on the small couch with her feet dangling over the arm rest.

From where he was sitting, Sawyer couldn't see the room clock. Even though it was the dead of night, and old Diane over there wasn't going to last much longer, the room itself felt full of life. He gazed at Kate for a few more moments, wishing he could run his hands through her loose hair spread out like an inky storm cloud.

Every hospital room he'd ever been in, no matter how clean, still carried faint, underlying whiffs of residual urine, sweat, fear. Not here, though. Not now. Something fresh blew through the room, a scent which Sawyer couldn't place at first. Summer rose to mind, the kind only found in central Alabama, where the gardenia bushes around Granny Tidwell's front door grew taller than twelve-year old Sawyer, their smell hanging thick in the moist July air.

Sawyer shook his sleep-fogged head, trying to clear it. Did somebody bring in flowers while we were napping?

A white flash near Diane's bed caught his eye, and he craned his head around to look. Then Sawyer almost stopped breathing from shock. There by Diane's bed stood Jack, dressed in some kind of white hippie-guru shirt and loose pants.

I'm dreaming, Sawyer told himself. This can't be happening. He tried to get up, but his leaden arms and legs stayed still. No sound came out of his open mouth. All he could do was follow Jack with astonished eyes as Jack rested a pale hand on Diane's forehead.

There was no telling how long Jack stood there, because time had stopped for Sawyer. He wasn't even sure if his own heart was beating. In that timeless interval, Jack didn't so much walk as glide over to where Kate slept.

Please don't let her wake up. Not 'cause I don't want her to see him. But she might not be able to take the shock.

Jack watched Kate for a spell, his face full of love and sympathy. After the clock of Sawyer's heart started ticking away the seconds once more, Jack caught Sawyer's eye. He gave Sawyer the kind of radiant smile Sawyer had never in life seen on the Doc's face.

It's like he knows about the baby. 'Course he does. I bet Hugo knew, too.

As if Jack could read his thoughts, he did something Sawyer thought he'd never see the Doc do. As Jack knelt down between Sawyer's chair and the window, he gave Sawyer a thumbs-up, ignoring Sawyer's titanic yet paralyzed struggle to move, speak, anything. His heart pounded out a terrified bass line as the two-by-four of reality struck him up-side the head.

This is no dream. Jack's dead, but he's here.

Still wearing an expression of tenderness, Jack's presence drained from the room. His body faded, leaving only a faint glow at the window from the parking-lot street lamps, while Diane let out ragged breaths and Kate slept on.

As if released, Sawyer stretched a few times. The gardenia scent and the warm sensation of room-filling life were both gone. The smells of antiseptic, sage incense, and dying all returned.

Kate had told him about Hugo's sabbatical in the funny farm, his “regular conversations with dead people,” as she put it. Now everyone knew better, didn't they? Jacob had made Jack the new Moses after Jacob was already dead, which Sawyer had seen with his own eyes. He himself had forced Miles to tell him of Juliet's fleeting last thoughts.

That was on the Island of Mystery, though. You didn't expect to see things like that in Des Moines. He was still trying to puzzle it out as his eyes drooped shut.

* * * * * * * *


The next Sawyer knew, Kate was shaking his shoulder gently, her sleep-tousled hair falling into his face. A heavy-set nurse in lilac scrubs and a thin Indian woman in a white doctor coat stood at either side of Diane's bed, where the motionless woman lay. The doc was writing something into a chart.

“Mornin', Freckles.” He struggled to pull himself out of the chair, fighting the pins and needles which stabbed his legs and feet. It was only then that he noticed Kate's tear-splashed eyes.

“It happened in the middle of the night. We slept right through it.”

One of us slept through it, Sawyer thought. No point, though, in telling her what he'd seen in the “hour of the wolf.”

“Would you like some time alone with her?” the lilac-scrubbed nurse asked Kate.

Kate didn't answer as she leaned on his shoulder. He put his arm around her, pulling her close. “I'm real sorry, sweetheart.”

She nodded into his shirt-sleeve, and her tears soaked through the fabric, down to his skin. To the nurse he said, “You'd be doin' us a courtesy if you went ahead and informed her daddy.” The doctor had already disappeared.

When Kate finally spoke, it was into Sawyer's upper arm. “She never saw Aaron.”

“You had every reason not to let that happen, Kate.”

“Did I, really? She was so sick, they brought her into the courtroom in a wheelchair.”

Sawyer thought back to his own preliminary hearing and plea-bargaining sessions with the DA. Appearance is everything, his lawyer had stressed. Back then, Sawyer had thought of his guilty plea as another form of con. He'd hung his head and looked mighty sorry, all gussied up as he was in a suit and silk tie, hair cut short. He'd landed seven in medium security, with a parole hearing in one, depending on good behavior. Not too shabby, either, especially when he'd managed to walk out of there in under a year with a big nest egg besides. Not that he was going to tell Kate at this moment that the sicker her mother had looked, the more likely she was to get what she wanted.

Gently he said, “Kate, you were a good mother.” At the hurt in her eyes, he course-corrected, fast. “You are a good mother. From what you said, that trial was a circus, and no one can fault you for not tossing Aaron into the center ring. Diane made her choices, sweetheart, and she had to live with them.”

“A good mother, right. I stole Claire's baby.”

“And now you and Missy Claire are gonna have another one to raise.” He paused a moment, cleared his throat. “Me too, if you want. And you know Sir Hugo's gonna shoehorn himself into the act.”

Gratitude flashed across her face. Then something inside took hold of her, one of those periodic collapses of confidence which Sawyer never could understand. In a small voice she said, “I'm going to stink at it.”

“Sure, like you stunk with Aaron. He's a pistol, that kid. Spunky, happy, with a heart of gold. Look, even Carole don't hold it against you none.”

“Thanks, James. Really.”

He tried not to stare, but couldn't help himself. She hardly ever called him James unless she was pissed as hell at him. When he lifted her chin and lightly brushed a tear-streaked cheek with a brief kiss, just a scrape of the lips, her smile broke like morning.

A few aides stuck their heads in the door, then quickly withdrew when they saw Sawyer and Kate. He gently turned her around, towards the bed. “Come on, Kate, let's say good-bye. They're gonna come take her soon.”

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-13 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh, that's lovely. This is me, Desdemona, reading from the library and not logged into LJ, so I look Anonymous. I love how accurately you capture hospice, and I am SO VERY GLAD that Kate and her mother reconciled. The wee hours visit from Jack was eerie yet joyful. (Hospice can be a joyful place, oddly.)

I love the gathering-together of everyone who needs to be pulled in: Sawyer, Kate's dad. It's all coming together beautifully.

I did notice one small HTML error. You need to lose the first slash in this sentence:

This can't be happening.

Otherwise, perfect as usual. Thank you for messaging me. I moved and when I get wifi, I'll be around more. Thanks, Stefanie.

Melissa

(no subject)

Date: 2015-10-13 11:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Hi, Melissa: thanks so much for reading! I was glad to message you, and I hope you have a good move, and do get wi-fi soon.

As I see things with Kate and her mom, Kate's issues with Diane were a severe impediment to her finding happiness in life. Hopefully I will be able (when this arc is complete) to show that Kate does obtain some closure.

Fixed the HTML error; thanks for the heads-up.

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