stefanie_bean: (Hurley and Claire)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 43: The Dance of Venus
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: 4365 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 43: The Dance of Venus

From Claire's Diary:

Kate and Sawyer got back two days ago, with Kate crouched behind the wheel of an enormous Ford SUV with bright silver tyres. When I asked her where the Yukon was, she said she'd gotten tired of it and traded it in for this. Then she remarked casually that they'd flown in and picked up the new SUV at the airport.

Mum didn't say anything, just tightened her mouth into that long line I know all too well. She's not mad at Kate so much as worried about what this might mean for all of us.

Aaron practically cart-wheeled over to her. It's not like she's been displaced by me, not at all. He genuinely has two mums now. Then Sawyer hoisted him onto his shoulders and Aaron complained that Sawyer didn't have a 'mane' to hang on to like Hurley did.

Oh, out of the mouths of babes.


* * * * * * * *


Yesterday we went to visit Hurley's house, where Carmen caught me looking despondent. Nothing gets past her, so I fessed up that I missed Hurley, and Kate darted me a look of surprise. Carmen pulled me aside and wanted to know if Hurley done anything to upset me. If he had, when she got through with him so help him etc. I told her no, it was just that my tourist visa was due to expire soon.

Before you know it Carmen was inviting us all to live with her and David in that big empty mansion. She's so like Hurley in that regard; she wants to draw everyone into her sphere.

Carmen says their house is 'protected.' I don't know what she means by that. Perhaps Hurley did something to it before he left? I jokingly asked if it was anti-immigration police-proofed, but Carmen and David got very quiet and didn't say anything at first.

Then David said that he'd done it to our house, too. Couldn't we tell? Kate and I gave each other the side-eye: Kate because she probably didn't believe it, me because I did.

Maybe it would be better if we were all under one roof, Carmen said. Kate thanked her nicely, but said she'd rather live up in Topanga.

Then Kate cornered me in the kitchen, which was a surprise. Other than talking a bit about her mum, we've barely spoken twenty words since she and Sawyer got back a few weeks ago. She's not cold to me, just always somewhere else in mind or body.

Everything in Carmen's kitchen is decorated with chili peppers, from the biscuit tins down to the red and orange lights strung around the window. Sawyer and David kept Carmen and Carole occupied while Kate and I made chicken salad.

Kate fixed me with a sly look and said that was fast work for a weekend, with Hurley and me. My face grew bright red and I wanted to know if she was psychic. Not psychic, just Carmen bending Kate's ear about how Hurley and I spent two nights at his house. Carmen's world is a fish-bowl and we are all guppies swimming around in it, with her face pressed up to the glass.

When I got my wits back, I joked that she and Sawyer seemed to have taken it to another level or three themselves. Now it was her turn to flush, although for her it's complicated in quite a different way.


* * * * * * * *


There are men watching our house at both the front and rear entrances. They've been there for a week now, just sitting stone-faced behind their tinted windows. They don't look at us when we drive by, even when Sawyer smirks and waves at them. Mum says Sawyer is foolish to provoke them, 'protection' or not.

Today while Aaron was napping, I asked Mum what she thought they wanted. Instead of answering, from her bag she pulled a tabloid she'd bought at the grocers. Ruffling through it, she showed me Kate glaring at the photographer with an annoyed expression.

It seems that someone recognised her in Iowa.

I'm ashamed to say that I fell right back into an old habit with Mum: never show weakness. I tried to sound casual but just came off as flippant, remarking that this was old news, not even on the front page.

Well, that did it. Mum lit into me, growling that if Kate was hauled in, the worst the Yanks could do was deport us. But Aaron would disappear into the Los Angeles foster care system and never be seen again.

When she saw how upset I was, she held me and wiped the tears like I was ten.

That wasn't all, though. As comforting as Mum was, I couldn't bring myself to tell her that I'm almost two weeks late, and I'm never late.


* * * * * * * *


On Mum's urging, I finally saw Dan Norton. We spoke today, and he was surprisingly sympathetic, not his usual sarcastic self. He counselled me to keep a low profile, and to ignore the men watching our house.

Dan had already sent someone by to run their number plates, but he still can't figure out which agency they're from. He's pretty sure they're not Immigration and Naturalisation (for Mum or me), or LA County Sheriff (for Kate.)

He sounded worried, a first for him.

He says I have a few choices. Mum and I can go back to Sydney, hang there for a while, then re-enter the States under new tourist visas. Or (and here Dan gave me this oblique look) while Mum and I were back in Sydney, someone from the States who wanted to marry me could apply for this other kind of visa. After we were married, we could bring Mum to the States.

It would take months, though, and Hurley and I would have to be investigated, interviewed etc.

When Dan saw my face fall, he dropped it.

Besides, both of those options would mean leaving Aaron in California. Here's where it gets tricky: Through channels, Dan has found out that there will soon be a warrant out for Kate. Something about how that woman prosecutor who hated her is going to get elected after all. Dan said frankly that if Kate takes Aaron and runs, it will go badly for her.

Of course, when Mum got through with her, jail might be a safe haven.

Needless to say, it was a dispiriting visit.

When I got home, Kate was taking an afternoon nap. Then she slipped out to Sawyer's cabin before I could catch her. Sawyer spends his days tap-tapping away on his typewriter, doubling down on the writing ever since their return. He only stops to eat and Mum swears he barely sleeps. Kate says he's writing what he knows, a novel about being in prison.

At least Kate's speaking more now, although she's still dreadfully quiet. Sometimes when Sawyer comes up to the house for a break, she snaps at him not to hover. Then a few hours later she'll bring him a beer and their supper, which they share on his deck.

What a coincidence, there's Kate now, right outside Sawyer's cottage. Here we go, then.


* * * * * * * *


Claire capped her pen and hastily slammed her journal shut, although she needn't have hurried. Barely visible behind the sparse pines, Kate and Sawyer stood talking on the bridge outside his cabin. Deep orange sunset lined the roof, while twilight crouched in the blue shadows.

Go ahead, talk, Claire thought. I need a few minutes to pull it together anyway.

By the time Kate let herself in the back door, Claire had already microwaved two mugs of apple-spice tea. “Want some?”

“Sure.”

They headed for the deck which overlooked thick pines, scrub oaks, and the distant Santa Monica Mountains. Maybe it was the sunset, or maybe Kate's cheeks were a little flushed for another reason. In any case, Kate's relaxed expression told Claire how long it had been since Kate had looked that way.

No assault like a frontal assault. Claire smiled, trying to generate a calm she didn't feel. “Hey, you know your three-pack of preggo-tests? There were two left, as I recall.”

Kate stopped her mug halfway to her mouth. “It's in my dock kit, but I used one on the road.”

Claire squeezed her tea-bag, stalling for time. “I trust the result was no surprise.”

Kate gave a low chuckle. “Nope.”

“Does this mean I can officially congratulate you? After all, it isn't every day I find out I'm going to be an aunt.”

As Claire leaned over to hug her, emotion welled up in Kate's eyes. “Thanks. And for, you know, recognizing the aunt part.”

“People are going to assume Sawyer's the daddy, you know. But now that you're 'out' about it, you can tell everyone that this is Jack's child.”

“I already had a bit of practice. It wasn't as hard as I thought.”

Kate sipped her tea quietly and Claire knew at once it wasn't the sunset, or even a good-bye kiss from Sawyer which had put the roses in her cheeks. “You've got that four-month glow.”

“I do, don't I?” Over the rim of her blue china mug, Kate gave Claire a piercing glance, although her tone was half-joking. “So why would you be needing a pregnancy test?”

Claire's words caught in her throat. In the few seconds of silence, the laughter in Kate's eyes changed to astonishment as she lowered her mug and gave Claire “that look.”

The one Aunt Lindsey gave me when she found out. The 'How could you be so irresponsible?' look.

Kate took a sip of tea, then cleared her throat. “I know Hurley's Catholic and all, but I'll admit I'm surprised.”

Claire flared up, defensive. “Surprised? Why?” No no no wrong thing to say, can't you control your tongue?

“Oh, no, that's not what I meant—”

“Look, I know in the beach-body department he's not to everyone's taste—”

“Claire!”

“—But he's certainly mine.”

“Oh, Claire sweetie, it's been obvious from the night we drove down to the Santa Monica beach and picked him up. It's just, well, it's Hurley. Did I tell you about how we met, a few days after the crash? He was carrying an armful of water bottles and practically spilled them all over the beach, just because I introduced myself to him.”

If Claire had been a cat, her back fur would have lowered a bit. “He told me about that. Sure, he thought you were cute, but he'd seen your mug shot in the medical tent. Not to mention the marshal's pistol. Hurley's nervous around guns.”

Kate's eyes dimmed, as if from a sad memory. “He saw that, did he. That explains a lot.”

“Kate, he thinks the world of you.”

A hint of a grin edged Kate's voice. “So, do you want to share? How'd things move along so fast?”

“We marathoned Star Wars. All three movies.” It sounded silly when it came out, so Claire added, “Everything just... felt right.”

“Except for the 'you might be pregnant' part.”

Something settled across Claire like a large arm, or a heavy shield. “Come on, Kate. You told me that you didn't use anything when you went to Jack's apartment before the Ajira flight. I'm not judging, OK? Sometimes that's the right thing to do.”

“Sorry, I just assumed—”

“That I wanted it to happen?”

“Something like that.”

Only half of a red sun remained over the purplish-blue mountains. Warm twilight breezes blew over Claire, or maybe it was simply the feel of the life sheltered within her. “Look, when I got pregnant with Aaron, I was taking the pill like clockwork. I didn't get the flu, didn't use any antibiotics, but I got pregnant anyway.”

“It happens.”

“Aaron's father thought I tricked him, did something to trap him. Looking back on it, I think that Aaron was just meant to be. Kate, Hurley didn't want to sleep with me at first, because we didn't have anything at hand. This is going to sound crazy, but something came over me—”

Kate laughed. “Yeah, that's called wanting someone so much you just can't wait. Or don't want to.”

“Oh, I'm bollocking this up. It wasn't like that. I just knew, can't say how, that if Hurley and I went to bed together, I was going to fall pregnant, even if you stuffed a whole clinic's arsenal into every orifice. I'd have to wait for menopause to be safe.”

Something mysterious flitted across Kate's features. “Don't be so sure. Sarah, Anne, Elizabeth, it all happened to them, and they were old.”

Claire stopped for a second, confused. “Relatives of yours?”

“Stories from Sunday school. They stick with you.”

Claire shrugged. “I never went. Didn't even know what baptism was until the day it happened.” Then she smiled despite herself, because even mentioning Hurley's name seemed to fill the room with his almond and wood-smoke smell, his warm presence. “Of course I wanted him. He's kind and caring. I don't love him despite his body, either.”

“You don't have to explain it,” Kate said. “Sometimes love just is.”

“I feel the Island in and around him, the good parts, the beautiful ones. More than that, I felt the Island through him, telling me not in words but through feelings, that if we did this there was going to be a child. The choice was ours, although when you're in that moment, well, you know.”

Kate's nod implied that she most certainly did. “I guess I'd better go get that pee-stick.”

Claire didn't get up at first. “Um... would you, you know, sit with me while I wait? For the results, I mean.”

“Don't you want to take it in the morning? What are you, a week late?”

“Two weeks and a few days. Look, if it's what I think it'll be, night or morning won't matter. If I'm wrong, I owe you a PG test.”

“What for? I think I'm out of the market. Come on, let's do this.”

Kate's laugh, her generous smile brought Claire back to old beach days, when she had so badly wanted Kate to like her, to become her friend. “OK, back in a flash.”

After using the bathroom, Claire wrapped the test stick in a tissue and carried it back to her bedroom, where Kate lay stretched across Claire's bed.

“I'm not going to stare at it, waiting for it to turn,” Claire said as she held it out of sight.

“I can't resist staring. How can you not?”

Claire didn't feel like explaining the anguish and chaos of her last pregnancy test, with Thomas practically knocking it out of her hand, complaining that she couldn't be. Anything to evade responsibility, to foist it off on her, make it her problem and not his. With a little sigh, Claire said, “Let's leave the lights off and just watch the evening instead. Look, there's Venus all in green, right above the tree line there.”

Kate's voice came softly through the dusk. “I waited with Sun, too, on the Island. Sawyer was such a shit back then, but he didn't even dicker, just gave it to her.”

Claire chuckled at Sawyer's discomfort around “girly” things. “Remember how embarrassed he was to even pick up a box of tampons, much less hoard them? It was like they had some magical power to un-man him right there.”

Both of them laughed, long peals which rang off the walls. Then Kate grew quiet and serious. “That was Ji Yeon. A sign of her, I mean.”

“Hurley saw her once, when she was a little baby. He visited them in Seoul.”

“I know.” Kate sighed at a small but sad memory. “He never said much about it. Just that the baby was awesome, and that Sun wasn't the same as he remembered.”

“Poor Sun,” Claire said. “Look, could you switch on that light by the bed-side? I'm so nervous I can barely get up.”

A pinkish glow filled the room, and Claire gripped Kate's hand with her free one as she brought the test into view. She stared for a few seconds, not saying anything.

“Two pink lines,” Kate said. “I guess you don't owe me a replacement stick after all.”

The tears began to leak before Claire even knew it. Dropping the test stick on the bed, she clung to Kate and sobbed. Not out of surprise, because she'd known what the stick would show. Not out of fear, even if using the Door was out of the question now, and she had no idea how she'd get to the Island. Pure happiness welled out of Claire, the kind which finds its voice only in tears.

Kate held Claire close to her cheek, and Claire could feel as well as hear her words. “Congratulations, sweetheart. Have you said anything to your mom yet?”

Claire untangled herself from Kate. The easy part was over. “I haven't.”

“Well, no offense to Carole, but I can understand.”

“It's more than that. Mum found your picture in a newspaper.”

“I know. She handed it to me with nothing but a grim expression.”

“She's worried about Aaron. Of what could happen if—“

“Don't say it. Don't even think it.”

“Kate, I have to, and so do you. We have to talk about Australia.”

“Australia? Why Australia?”

“Because it was my home, and I still have a passport,” Claire said. “Mum isn't even supposed to be here, and I'm soon to follow. I don't know who's watching our house, but sooner or later we're going to get exposed. Aaron's not legally related to Mum and I, but the magistrate could make us all take blood tests, and while that's going on, Aaron will be in child protective services. And Aaron's getting old enough to understand what's going on.”

It tore at Claire a little inside when Kate pulled back, stiff and cool. “I would think that you'd want to go back to the Island with Hurley. Or am I misunderstanding how things are between you two?”

“You're not misunderstanding anything. But how am I supposed to get there, fly? No more plane crashes for me, thank you. Nor can I risk the Door, not after what Mrs. Hawking told us about Daniel.”

Kate frowned. “Don't forget, Claire, I was there when Daniel died. It wasn't the Door that screwed him up.”

“So would you take that risk, then?” Claire said with a challenge in her tone.

“Of course not,” Kate said, her head lowered, surrounded by a halo of sadness. “If Australia's in the picture, I notice you haven't said anything about me going with you.”

“Kate, Dan Norton is good, really good. But you'll never get into the country, not legally. It's not like here, where I'm just a girl with a funny accent. Yanks stick out in Oz. Also, entry’s gotten tighter. Sure, you could get a fake passport, dye your hair, but what about Aaron?”

“You can't take him out of the country without me.”

“That's right, I can't. But you can give me the papers I'd need, if worse came to worst.”

“Why?” Kate said. “Didn't we all come here to live quietly, all together?”

Claire stared, unable to believe her ears. “Kate, you know what Deirdre said. Sooner or later they're going to show up to serve you, or Dan is going to have to take you in. Look, you've kept up your end, helped me be a mother to Aaron. Now I'm letting you off the hook. I want to take Aaron to the Island, even though I don't know how that'd work. Maybe I'll have to have the baby first. But sooner or later I'm going, and you could come too. You and Sawyer.”

“No, I can't.”

“Can't, or don't want to?”

Sadness fell over Kate like a grey mantle. “It's where Jack died.”

“It's where I died, too.”

That got the reaction Claire had been trying for. Kate's expression turned pale, even in the pink-shaded light, and her voice shook. “What?”

“No, I'm not a zombie, even though I probably looked like one when you first saw me.” And acted like one, too. “But the Claire you knew from the crash, that sweet girl who put up with everything, who believed anything no matter how stupid, that girl died the night Samael came to me and took my son. We all lost something or someone on the Island, Kate. We all died, in a way. Only some of us haven't yet left a corpse.”

“I had a life here, Claire. I had a shot with Jack. We came so close, but I had to get Aaron back to you. It was Jack's last wish.”

“Look, I know my loss doesn't measure up to yours. But Samael robbed us both.” She handed Kate a tissue and let her sniffle for a few moments.

Finally Kate said, “Why go back to the Island? Why?”

“Kate, I'll be honest. It's where Hurley is. I love him, Kate, and I'm carrying his child. But that's only part of it.” She placed her hand across her flat lower stomach and said, “This is your niece or nephew. And here,” she laid her other hand on Kate's curved belly, “This is mine. They're family, Kate, and so are we.”

Kate sat quietly, her attention fully on Claire now.

“I never had much family,” Claire went on. “I want our babies to grow up together, play together, get to know their aunts and uncles and grandparents.”

“How's that supposed to happen on the Island?”

“I don't know. But if Dan Norton is right, it's not going to happen here.”

Kate leaned back against the headboard and closed her eyes. “Claire, it wasn't until I felt those first little baby flutters that this all got real. Hell, it is real. Then there's Sawyer—“

All at once ferocity flamed up in Claire. “He's not pressuring you, is he? Trying to talk you into something you're not ready for? Because I'll skin him if he does.”

Kate broke into her signature smile, the broad one where her eyes crinkled at the corners and flashed green even in the dim light. “Oh, Claire, no way. I'm the one who tripped him and beat him to the floor.”

It took Claire a second to parse that, and when she got it, she blushed.

“Better yet,” Kate went on, “When we were on the road, Hurley phoned and read him the riot act. He told Sawyer to stay with me, but only so far as I was willing. At worst, if I told Sawyer to go jump in the ocean and never bother me again, that's what Sawyer was going to do, according to Hurley.”

“Like I said, Hurley thinks the world of you. And he loved Jack. Of course he's going to want you and your child provided for.”

Kate gave a small laugh before continuing. “Sawyer said it was like listening to the voice of God, if God was a four hundred pound Hispanic man who could pound him into the carpet. Are you sure you know what you're getting into, Claire? Hurley's pretty old-fashioned.”

“Old-fashioned?” Now that Kate mentioned it, Claire supposed that he was. On the other hand, if being a rock of stability, tender, devoted, a man whose desire was focused on her like a searchlight and whom she was pretty sure would never, ever stray — well, then she'd take old-fashioned any day. “I suppose I am, too.”

“It's just that I learned pretty early on that I couldn't rely on a man. Then, when I finally decided I could...” Kate's voice faded like the last remnants of dusk. It was night now, and other stars had joined Venus in her dance across the western horizon.

“Listen to me. You know why I got on that Ajira plane with you and Sawyer? Because you broke through to me. I don't know how, but you did. What did my brother say, Kate? Nobody does it alone. It's not a choice between one man or nothing. You're my sister, did you realize that? And that makes Hurley your brother.”

“I guess it does.”

“So let's raise these babies together, Kate. Let's give them the families that for all sorts of reason we never had.”

“Claire, I'm in terrible trouble.”

“I know. That's why we have to do this together.”

From the depths of the house came the click of an opening door, followed by footsteps on the threshold. A small piercing voice rang out, “Mummy Claire! Mummy Kate! We're back!”

Claire called out, “Mum, is that you?”

Carole poked her head in Claire's bedroom door. “Am I interrupting something?” Claire counted her heartbeats, one, two, three, as Carole stared at the pregnancy test resting on the coverlet, but Carole didn't say anything.

“Just some girl talk,” Kate answered.

“Right,” Carole said in a neutral voice.

Claire watched a collage of feelings play over her mother's face: sadness, elation, love, pity. Pretending a calm she didn't feel, Claire tossed the test stick into the trash can just as Aaron darted into the room and bounced onto the bed. Gesturing towards Aaron, Claire said, “Mum, we'll talk later, OK?”

“Talk?” Aaron piped up. “What are you talking about? I want to talk, too!”

“Aaron, Gran will make you some warm Ovaltine in a minute, then it's hop-skip and into bed with you.” Carole had pulled her face together and now gazed at Claire and Kate as if something had been decided, without speaking. “We certainly do have to talk. You'll never guess who rang up when we were at Carmen and David's this afternoon.”

“Oh, no,” Kate murmured, her voice edged with dread.

“Nothing bad, love,” Carole said, smiling. “Nothing bad at all. Kate, would you mind fetching Sawyer? He can tear himself away from that manuscript long enough to hear this.”

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-21 02:42 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
Evil cliff-hanging ending!

First, I love the communal marriage that wants to happen, and I know you can't just slide into the happily-ever-after, because good fiction needs conflict to keep the reader interested (although I would be happy just to see these dear people happy too).

I love that Claire and Kate are pregnant at the same time, and that their babies will be born close to one another. I like the thought of them being raised communally.

I hate that they can't go to the island right away, but I trust that you'll make it all right in the end.

This sentence: a rock of stability, tender, devoted, a man whose desire was focused on her like a searchlight and whom she was pretty sure would never, ever stray is my Frank to a T.

I love that Aaron really has two mums, and that Claire is really and truly past her jealously of Kate.

I like that James is writing a book! He doesn't seemlike an intellectual, but he has great depths.

Hurry with that cliff-hanger, would you please?

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-21 12:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
I guess a cliff-hanger once in awhile is OK.

Thanks so much for sticking with this story despite my terrible update schedule. I'm with you: I just want to see these beloved characters *finally* get some happiness not just in the afterlife but when they're walking around breathing, too.

Aw, I'm really glad you can feel your husband's spirit through this story. I'm glad that part of the story is working for you.

Sawyer as a writer feels pretty natural to me. In-story he was a voracious reader, and of some challenging material, too. Then there's that scene in "Namaste" (5x09) when Jack was jumping out of his skin, wanting Sawyer to help the Ajira time-travelers:

JACK: So where do we go from here?

SAWYER: I'm working on it.

JACK: Really? Because it looked to me like you were reading a book.

SAWYER: [Chuckles] I heard once Winston Churchill read a book every night, even during the Blitz. He said it made him think better. It's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you, 'cause back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn't think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead.

JACK: I got us off the Island.

SAWYER: But here you are... [sighs] right back where you started. So I'm gonna go back to reading my book, and I'm gonna think, 'cause that's how I saved your ass today. And that's how I'm gonna save Sayid's tomorrow. All you gotta do is go home, get a good night's rest. Let me do what I do.

I wish we would have seen more of the three years Sawyer spent on-Island with the Dharma Initiative; in my head his reading and thinking led him to finally write something himself when he got back to the mainland.

Again, thanks so much for sticking with this story, and leaving such thoughtful comments.

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