stefanie_bean: (Hurley and Claire)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 41: Motel 8
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: 4130 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 41: Motel 8

Kate stood in front of her mother's death-bed and drew the sheet up over the face of the silent form. At first she didn't hear Sawyer's words coming from behind, for her mind was as empty as the body in front of her. What had he said, something about how they were going to come take Diane away soon?

Slowly she came back to herself. “I'm not ready yet. Why don't you find my dad, do some manly things together for awhile? You can pick me up later.”

When he winced a little, she knew that she'd hurt him. It couldn't be helped. There was something here, though, something she wanted to just sit and bask in, before it vanished like smoke and was gone for good.

On the way out the door, she let him kiss her forehead as she clung to his arm for a few seconds. “Tell Dad he should take you to the Cimmaron Grill for breakfast. You'll love it. They have all these Remington pictures of cowboys.”

“You want anything, Short-cake?”

“I'm good, James. Thanks anyway.”

The door was one of those designed to make as little noise as possible, and it barely made a click as it closed. Kate didn't take her mother's hand, or cry. The bedside clock read 7:15, in universal block numbers.

The same digits everywhere. The same sun coming up every morning. The same death, waiting for us all.

Maybe if she sat here quietly, she could go back into last night's dream, one of the sweetest she'd ever had. She walked over to where she remembered him standing, right there at her mother's bed-side. He had leaned over and rested his hand on her mother's head.

Then he had floated over to the couch where she lay, and stood there for the longest time. When he finally spoke, his voice was full of tenderness, as if all the sorrow had been smoothed out of it. “I've got to go now, Kate.”

Maybe she had answered him, or maybe she just dreamed that she had. “When am I going to see you again?”

Jack hadn't answered. Then, all at once, she had felt his hands inside her, wrapping them around the pit of her belly, even though he hadn't moved. Her insides had glowed, full of warmth.

“It's going to be all right, Kate.” That's what he had said. If she stood in this spot, staring at the woman-shaped form under the sheet, maybe she wouldn't lose it. Maybe she wouldn't forget. Already, though, it was slipping away, like snow on a warm morning.

“What do I do?” she said out loud to the empty room. “What do I do now?”


* * * * * * * *


Diane's passing might have been quiet, but for Kate, the rest of the day flew by in a hectic blur. A plump woman in pink scrubs came into the room and stood quietly by the door, her broad face unreadable and her tone professionally calm. Was this a good time? If so, Diane had signed some paperwork, willing her body to the University of Iowa medical school. But they liked to get the next-of-kin's signature as well, if Kate wouldn't mind.

Kate groaned a bit inside as she scrawled her John Hancock on the form. Just another nail in the coffin. Another brick in the wall. Ever since that day on the jetty on that wild beach, when Sawyer had stopped her from throwing Jack's ring into the surf, she hadn't been able to shake the feeling that her days here were numbered.

Here? Where's "here?"

From deep inside, a voice seemed to say, "Here" is anyplace not the Island.

Oh, hell no, Kate said to herself. Not that. But there was no energy in the argument.

The woman in pink scrubs studied Kate's signature far longer than Kate would have liked, then gave her a penetrating glance. Something flickered through Kate that she had almost begun to miss, the sense of being tracked. Hunted.

Kate tried to get a glimpse of the woman's badge, but all she could make out was the “CNA” in big letters. “Is everything all right?”

The woman smiled broadly. “Everything's fine, Ms. Austen. If you like, I'll call the main office about a memorial service in our chapel. Just to make things a little easier on you.”

Once more that nagging anxiety pricked her. Kate, you're getting paranoid. They just want to help. Not that anyone will probably show up anyway. The nurse's assistant had warm brown eyes, and suddenly a wave of tiredness washed over Kate. Even if her mother's body wasn't there, it was still fitting to say the words, right?

The woman must have sensed Kate's surrender. “I'm sure we can schedule something for this afternoon.”

“That'd be great. We... James and I, we have to get back.”

“Leave it to me, Ms. Austen. Just let me have a contact number.”

As she wrote down Kate's cell number, Kate tried to numb herself to the chill running up and down her backbone, the twitching at the back of her neck. Maybe it was the woman's broad mouth, or did it seem like she was positively grinning?


* * * * * * * *


The tall, faded chaplain closed his black, cloth-bound book and turned away from the few people scattered around the bare paneled room which served as a chapel.

Not much of a funeral, Sawyer thought, his metal folding chair scraping on the linoleum as he got up. That didn't set right by him, but it wasn't his family, was it? Practically everybody in Jasper had come to see his own momma off.

Not his daddy, though. His body had laid on a slab in the Alabama State Police morgue in Montgomery for the longest time, and whatever happened to it after that, nobody had bothered to tell young James Ford.

Kate looked damn good, though. Her black dress hugged her figure like she'd been poured into it, especially with her new “baby bump.” You couldn't tell from behind, but when she turned to the side, it was pretty damned obvious.

Sawyer scanned the room with its cheap paneling and flickering fluorescent lights. The few people shuffling out stopped to talk to Sam and the chaplain. How the hell did anybody know to show up on such short notice? Maybe Des Moines's like Birmingham, just a big small town.

One old couple brushed past Kate like they didn't even see her. They must be from Wayne's side, he thought. He put a hand on her arm, the slick nylon of the dress cool under his touch, and she gave him a small smile. He wished she'd put her hair up, though, instead of leaving it all tumbled down in a brown tumult that made you just want to run your hands right through it, even if it was a funeral. She was attracting stares, which was the last thing they wanted, wasn't it? And not just his.

A man in his forties in a shiny sports jacket that had seen better days sidled up to them. He was Diane's cousin, he said. Well, not really. Their mothers had been second cousins, it seemed. But just by marriage. They'd gone to high school together, out at the R-9 campus.

“Wouldn't even be here, if I hadn't seen the sign outside,” he said in a flat Midwestern twang.

Before Sawyer knew it, the guy had pulled a 35mm camera from his brown bag. “Family reunion come June. Mind if I get a shot or two?”

Kate shook her head in refusal Even so, the man snapped off as many as he could in the few seconds before Sawyer growled, “Wait a minute, here,” and lunged for the man.

“James, what's going on?” Kate said.

Quick as a snake at an August picnic, the man spun out of Sawyer's reach. He darted for a side door Sawyer hadn't even seen, with Sawyer close at his heels. The door had one of those fire-door bars across it instead of a doorknob, but it was no use. The man, whoever he was (second cousin, my ass) had locked the door from the outside.

Sam had broken away from his conversation and charged to Kate's side, as Sawyer sprinted out the main chapel door and headed up the half-flight of stairs. Even as he pushed his way through the double glass doors to the parking lot, he knew it was too late. A silver sedan peeled out of the parking lot and turned left across the oncoming traffic, barely avoiding getting hit.

“Son of a bitch,” Sawyer swore, wiping his forehead.

Sam and Kate caught up to him, and Kate's eyes were wild. “What the hell was that about?”

Sawyer badly wished he had a smoke, but things were bad enough as it was. “Paparazzi.”

“In Des Moines?”

“You're still a celebrity, Katie?” Sam asked. “I thought that was over.”

“Apparently not, Dad.”

Sam pulled out his phone. “You want me to call the cops?”

“No!” Sawyer and Kate said in unison.

Damn it, Sawyer thought. That's all we need are cops.

"So, back to sunny California, I guess,” Sam said. “Not going to stick around and see the sights of Des Moines."

"I have to get back, Dad," said Kate. "I'll visit again when it's a... better time."

No, you won't, Sawyer said to himself.

Sam hugged his daughter, then gripped Sawyer's hand, hard. “Look after her, son.”

Kate tossed her head. Despite the scare and the annoyance, Sawyer wanted to kiss the top of it, just because he knew it would irritate her, and she'd toss her head again. To Sam she said, "Oh, Dad, come on."

All at once it felt critical to Sawyer that he not disappoint the older man. “You got it, Sarge.”


* * * * * * * *


On the way to Kansas City, Sawyer kept watch over a silent Kate out of the corner of his eye, trying to stifle his own yawns. Two nights of sleeping in cars and uncomfortable hospice chairs had just about worn him to a frazzle. He didn't like it how she moped, even if it was understandable. Also, he badly needed a distraction.

"Talk to me, Freckles."

"Hmm?" She came back from staring out at the flat grey landscape of snow-dusted fields and overturned earth ready for spring planting. "Okay, I'll talk to you. Tell me what your book's about."

That stopped him cold. All at once he froze, feeling exposed and naked. Might as well stall for time. "How'd you know I was writing a book?"

"What else would you be doing? And we always hear you typing." Her tone grew serious, maybe even a little afraid. "Is it about the Island?"

The frozen feeling swept away. "Hell, no. It's called Big House, about some guy in the joint who runs a con on the warden."

"Sounds like that movie with the weird name, what was it? Shawshack-something."

"Shawshank Redemption, and with all due respect to Stephen King, he ain't ever been in the joint, and he never ran a con, that I know of. 'Sides, I ain't aimin' that high." He fell silent, waiting for Kate to ask if it was autobiographical, not knowing what he'd say if she did. She knew he'd been in prison and exactly what for. Cassidy had made sure of that. But what had happened inside, even Cassidy didn't know, and things were going to stay that way. Anyway, he was changing enough stuff around that nobody would recognize it. Hopefully.

As he mused, he drifted into the next lane, so close to a car that it tooted a few angry honks.

"Okay, that's it," Kate said. "We've got to stop."

"Any suggestions?"

She rummaged through the glove compartment for the pocket road atlas. "Looks like the KC airport's coming up in two exits."

"The airport? What the hell?"

She tossed the atlas back in the glove compartment with a slam. "Sawyer, I'm exhausted. Luckily the morning sickness stopped, but I feel like a wrung-out washrag. The lease on the Yukon's almost up. Let's turn it in at the airport car-rental place, and grab a flight back to Los Angeles."

"I thought you loved this car."

"It's just a car. There are more where this came from."

"Freckles, you've already left a trail of breadcrumbs 'cross the USA. But you get on a plane, that's gonna be it."

She scrunched down in her seat, looking miserable. "I'm just so tired."

"'Course you are, sweetheart. Look, there's a Motel 8 right up ahead. How 'bout we sleep on it, figure out what's next in the morning."


* * * * * * * *


Sawyer hardly had enough time to lay his credit card on the counter, much less open his mouth, before Kate spoke out clear as a bell. "One room, please."

He tried to catch her eye, give her a raise of the eyebrow, a skeptical turn of the mouth, anything to make sure that this was really what she wanted. She kept her gaze firmly on the desk clerk, though.

The middle-aged man with a comb-over didn't even look up as he pushed the registration form towards her. "We got one with a king on the first floor. Normally fifty-nine ninety-five, but I'll give it to you for five dollars off, 'cause the TV's busted."

"No problem," Sawyer said. "Nothin' on anyway."

Now she did look at him, and something stirred deep down, pleasure mixed with sadness, too, because of Diane's death, and how well he knew Kate, knew how like her it was to reach out in sorrow and desperation.

She didn't speak all the way to the room. When she got inside, she tossed her duffel bag down on the single chair, uncomfortably like one in the hospital room. He took in the broken television, the cheap particle-board dresser, and a king-sized bed covered with a plaid-polyester coverlet, then poked his head into the small bathroom. At least it was clean. Even though it was starting to spit snow again outside, the room air conditioner was blowing, and he turned it off.

The narrow, suffocating intimacy of the room embarrassed and excited him at the same time. He closed the vinyl blinds and heavy brocade draperies. Now the room held them fully in its embrace, warm and stuffy like the inside of a body.

When he got back from the bathroom, freshly showered, wearing only a t-shirt and pajama bottoms, she had already pulled the covers up past her neck. She clicked off the light as soon as he slid into his side, leaving him to arrange his musty-smelling pillows in darkness.

He was so painfully aware of her that it hurt. The space between them felt wide and deep as a canyon. He could smell coconut on her clean hair, and the covers rose and fell with her breathing. When she shifted her feet to and fro, they made little sliding noises on the cheap cotton-poly sheets.

Before he could decide whether to say good-night, or just try to drop off (Good luck with that, soon enough I'm gonna do a bang-up imitation of a tent-pole), her voice breached the distance. "I've got a confession to make."

His heart, already pounding out a drum solo, picked up the pace. "Do tell."

"I stole one of your t-shirts. I was cold."

"Thought you were gonna really lay something on me." He rolled over, facing her, wondering if she could feel the heat that poured off him in waves.

She must have, because she scooted a bit closer. "You're like a furnace."

A dozen snappy comebacks jostled for position at the starting gate of his mouth, but he kept it shut.

"My feet are cold," she went on.

"That's probably 'cause you got no socks."

A few more scoots, and she was closer still. Why do they make these beds so goddamn big?

"It's like you're glowing in the dark."

"My feet ain't a bit cold," he said.

"Mind if I just lay mine across them?"

Instead of answering, he scooted a bit closer. Now they met halfway in the middle of the bed, where she slid her feet over and around his.

Damn, they really were like ice. Her face was so close now that little puffs of breath landed on his cheeks and lips when she spoke. “I've got another confession.”

“I was a good Baptist boy, Kate. Got no practice with this confession stuff.”

She didn't laugh, though. When she spoke, her tone chilled him as much as her feet had. “I had a dream about Jack. Last night, at the hospice.”

God damn. “Me too.” It tumbled out before he could even think about it.

Her breath drew in like a snake hissing in the dark. “He was standing—“

“Next to your mom.”

“In some kind of white caftan.”

“'And white robes were given unto every one of them.' Revelations, 6:11.”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“He looked... happy, James.”

“I know.”

She snuggled closer, tucking her head under his chin to bury her face on his chest. She shook a little, and he touched her cheeks to see if she was crying, but her face was dry. He ran his hand through her damp hair, murmuring, “Comin' to bed with a wet head, no wonder you're shivering.”

“I want you to warm me up.”

He thought about getting a towel from the bathroom, but instead pulled off his t-shirt and wrapped it around her hair, blotting the damp spots while her hair slid beneath his hands. It took everything in him to keep from pulling her close to his body, because if he did that, the jig was up. He'd get stiff as a pole, and he didn't want her to yell at him, or toss him out of bed.

Not that he'd ever let her sleep on the floor.

He sighed from the tenderness and desire which ran up and down through his body like an electric current. She whispered, "What's wrong?"

"Nothin. Toast your tootsies a bit, and then I'm back over to my corner of the ring."

She shook a little, almost like laughing. "Don't do that." Before he could answer, she raised her mouth to his and spoke, so that he not only heard her, but shared her breath, felt her lips move against his own. "Warm me up. All over."

"I ain't made of stone, Freckles. If we're gonna share a bed—"

“I don't want to just 'share a bed.'”

“Kate, you just lost your momma. You're sad. And...” His voice trailed off. Years ago he'd told her, You ain't gotta use me, Freckles, all you gotta do is ask. Tonight, though, while he wasn't insisting on a wedding in Vegas, he wasn't in the mood to use anybody. Or be used, beyond getting her warmed up.

Too damned old for this.

When she slid her hand across his bare chest, he didn't draw her to him right away, and he tried to keep his tone light. “You gonna respect me in the morning?”

“I'll even buy you breakfast.”

The warmth in her voice brushed away his hesitation, and he pulled her towards him, hard. She crushed her mouth up against his, wrapping not just her feet around him, but her legs as well, pulling his hips close.

All up and down the length of her he ran his hands, from her sweet, swan-like neck, across her strong, graceful shoulders, down to breasts softer and with more weight than he remembered.

When his hands came to rest on her plump little belly, he hesitated.

"That felt so good, why'd you stop?" She took advantage of the change of momentum to pull off a few clothes.

He knew how Kate liked it: strong, pounding, intense. When he hesitated again, she thrust his hand between her legs, so that slippery wetness streaked his fingers. He brought his hand back up to her belly, leaving a wet little trail along her skin.

It was as if she could read his mind. "You're not going to hurt the baby."

"You sure?" Even as he asked, he knew the answer. Back on the Island, back in a rapidly-fading past, Amy had confided to Juliet that she and Horace used to go at it like minks in heat during Amy's pregnancy. Even when Amy was eight months gone, it turned out. Juliet said there wasn't a thing wrong with it, neither. You just had to go slower and more gentle.

"I'm sure."

No rough stuff, he told himself. Time to dial it down a few notches.

From the feel of her, she'd shed everything, and lay underneath him, open and ready. In the past he would have held her shoulders down and taken her without thinking. Maybe she still wanted that. But she didn't act like it. She gripped his hip with one hand and guided him in slowly with the other, and it was like diving into a fountain, she was so wet.

Slippery as a fish, she pulled him in farther, farther, but he held back, letting her draw him in only as far as she wanted to go.

"Stop treating me like I'm going to break," she said into his ear.

Into her he fell. He let her do everything that she wanted, from pulling him in up to the hilt, to withdrawing and teasing him until he thought he'd go crazy. When she came, she raked her nails down his back, and lucky for him they were short. Still, he held back, because it felt so damn good to just watch her head flung back, the lightning in her eyes, her thunderstorm of hair.

When he did pour himself into her, sadness shot through him along with pleasure. She clung to him, saying his name over and over, “James, James.” Like a rat that anticipates the electric shock which it knows will come, he rolled over and clung to her side as tightly as he could, without squeezing her, before she had time to run away.

He knew the drill, or so he thought. Long ago she'd told him that she slept better in her own tent, but here there was nowhere to retreat to, except for that Naugahyde chair. Of course he'd let her go, if that's what she wanted, but for now, all he wanted to do was drown himself in the sweetness of her flesh, the soft up-and-down rhythm of her breasts, his name like a hymn on her breath.

His last thought before sleep dragged him down was that she still lay nestled in his arms.


* * * * * * * *


When Kate opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was the cheap plastic clock face. Eleven-thirty-three. We slept the whole morning away. Buried under an avalanche of bed-clothes and Sawyer's warm limbs, she started to extricate herself one arm and leg at a time. It's like Pik-Up Stiks. Only if I get the wrong one, he'll just wake up, rather than everything tumbling down.

Too late. Behind her Sawyer stretched, yawned, deposited a kiss on her left shoulder. “Guess you're not gonna buy me breakfast after all, Short-stack.”

She rolled over onto his lean, hard torso. He smelled a little stale, like morning after a long night, but she didn't care. “There's a waffle house on the other side of the parking lot. Depending on how fast you are in the shower, we could make it by noon.”

He didn't stir, though. All he did was pull her head down onto his chest, in a warm, deep hug. “Thanks, Kate.”

She pulled up to look at him, curious. “For what?”

“For... staying. Afterwards.”

“No problem. I was glad to.” She tossed one pillow at him, then another, until they fell back onto the bed, laughing. Maybe it would have to be lunch, after all.

To her surprise, though, Sawyer pulled on his pajama bottoms, his face serious. “You still lookin' to catch a jet plane out of here?”

“It doesn't matter, Sawyer. That horse is already out of the barn. No use putting it off.” Tonight, she told herself. We could be home by tonight. “At least if we get back soon, Carole and Claire won't have to deal with it.”

He sat on the bed's edge, a golden panther ready to spring. “Deal with what, Kate?”

“I have a feeling they're going to arrest me. I at least want a chance to say good-bye to Aaron.”

(continued)


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