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[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 46: Bride of Flowers
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: 3919 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 Index

Chapter 46: Bride of Flowers

Hugo woke to the sound of rain beating on the roof, then opened his eyes to the sign of the omega sculpted into the ceiling above his bed. Claire had fallen asleep sprawled across his belly, but sometime in the early morning she had slipped off, and now lay collapsed amid the crumpled covers. Deep in the cave of her body, the child glowed like a tiny red coal.

Claire's loose t-shirt had slid off of her shoulder, and he wanted nothing more than to run his lips over the pale skin, all down her breast and more besides. He didn't dare touch her, though, not even to brush a few stray blonde hairs away from her mouth. He knew that if he did, he'd fall on her and bury his face in her neck, drink her flesh like cold water on a hot afternoon.

He hated to wake her, because he knew how tired she had been the night before, how frantic, how hard she had worked to keep up a brave front. So instead of making love, they both collapsed into sleep under the sign of the omega.

Hugo only knew what that was because back on the Island, Ben was teaching the children Greek. “In English, we say from A to Z,” Hugo had overheard Ben say one day. “For the Greeks, it was alpha to omega. The beginning, and the end.”

Ben's words had haunted Hugo, although he couldn't say why. It had spurred in him a notion that he couldn't shake.

He lay quietly, not wanting to wake Claire, while the sheet draped over his lower body pointed up towards the ceiling like a tent-pole. Claire stirred a little in her sleep and snuggled in closer, wrapping her arm around his belly.

Why am I always so horny in the morning? It was pure agony of the sweetest kind, and that slender arm held him down more firmly than any restraint. To distract himself, he stared back at the great white letter which seemed to bear down on him.

A scrap of catechism floated up from the depths. Hugo had spent most of his time in Fr. Aguillar's confirmation class blowing spit-wads at his friends or making farting noises when the priest's back was turned. The priest had been way younger then, newly arrived from Nicaragua.

“The last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” the priest had droned over noisy boys chattering in English and Spanish. At something in his tone, though, they hushed.

Omega, the last.

Jacob had bled out in Ben's arms. A knife had torn Jack in the side. Who knows how many centuries protectors had died like this, like a VHS tape stuck in an endless loop?

He ran his hand over his own belly, wincing as he imagined a knife piercing the soft flesh, blood squirting out. He didn't want to get stabbed, or pushed off a cliff, or squashed under a rock, just so that the Island would get a new protector.

Maybe there's a better way, Ben had said.

Sure, the Island needed protection. That went without saying. But why did the mantle have to pass from one to the next stained in blood?

Omega. The end.

Whatever that better way might be, he wasn't going to puzzle it out this morning, because Claire turned towards him, wide blue eyes streaked with sleep and love. Grinning, she slid her hand down his body, pulling from his depths a low, soft groan.

The whole bed shook as he rolled over towards her. She stretched out her swan-like neck in invitation, and suddenly he wanted to devour her, cover all her flesh with his mouth, drink her into him.

Her neck tasted even better than he thought, but his beard must have tickled her, because she said, “Umm, fuzzy.”

“I guess I should shave it.”

“Don't,” she said, rubbing her face all over his beard. “It's fluffy. Like you.”

He made his way up to the pink tear-drop of her earlobe, until she took him full in hand and guided him into her body. Down he fell, drowning in her, his mouth full of her neck until he came up for air and breathed into her ear, “Claire, I love you so much, thanks, thank you,” over and over.

“Thanks? For what?”

For what? For everything. That was too big for words, though. All that came out was, “For having me.”

She gripped him with a gaze unmoving as her flesh. “I'll always have you. I love you too, Hurley.”

If sliding inside her had filled him with tortured delight, that was nothing compared to this complete stillness, broken only by the beating of blood through his flesh and hers.

Then with a grin of devilment she stopped his breath by pulling him down into the red dark with wild rocking movements, and the bed shook all the way into morning.

* * * * * * * *

Hugo had barely finished his scrambled eggs when his mother fixed him with “that look” and said, “All right, mister, we're waiting for an explanation.”

Everyone ringed the big kitchen table, and eight pairs of eyes scrutinized him. Claire hadn't asked why he'd been so late. She had just clung to him as if his presence was all that counted. Not his mom, though.

A small television screen mounted on the kitchen counter chattered in the background, as a weather commentator pointed to a Los Angeles map covered with images of thick storm clouds.

Carmen glared at the TV. “David, turn that thing off.”

The announcer said,“Threats of mud-slides and rising water levels have made the following streets impassable—“ until the sound shut off with a click.

After that reprieve, Hugo had his mother's full attention again. He shuddered, because this wasn't going to be easy. “I think, um, maybe the Door's broken.”

At first it didn't register with anyone but Claire. He hated the wild flash of pain and fear which crossed her face.

“So let me guess,” said Sawyer. “You don't have the repair manual, do you, hoss?”

Kate leaned forward, full of concern. “Hurley, what happened?”

“Ben didn't come with me to the Door this time, 'cause it makes him sick. But it was cool because Vanessa and Nancy, they come to fish up by where the old village used to be. You know, the fake one. Only it's not really fake anymore.”

Desmond looked puzzled. “Decoy village?”

“You didn't see it when you ran circles around the Island?”

Desmond shrugged, but Hugo didn't want to detour for an explanation. “I checked the sun, it was time to open the Door, but there was nothing but rock. Sometimes it would kind of glow, or the rock would get a little soft, but mostly nothing. Nada.”

It had been horrible, like getting stuck in a blind alley when you thought you knew the way out. Hugo had felt his way around the small chamber behind the rusted Dharma-logo door, then climbed up to the top of the hill to peer through Window Rock out at the glittering sea. Below, the women cast their nets and hung fish on racks, trying not to pay too much attention to him.

“Finally I sent Vanessa to go get Ben,” Hugo went on. “She took an outrigger, but it still took a couple hours. I guess by the time Ben got there I was kind of frantic.”

Frantic wasn't the word. He had practically been in tears, shaking. Night had fallen over the rocky beach, but instead of stopping for roasted fish or even water, Hugo kept prodding the cold and unresponsive stone.

“It got really dark, and the rocks turned kinda mushy. And glowed, so I could see streetlights through it. But I still couldn't get through. Finally the church appeared, but it looked wrong. Everything was dark. Not like the lights were out or anything, 'cause the parking lot was bright. But still dark, if you know what I mean.”

“Indeed I do, brother,” Desmond said. “Mrs. Hawking is gone.”

“So what?” said Carmen.

Claire and Kate started speaking at the same time. “Do you remember, those guys in the van—“ “It's not safe anymore—“ “She must have known—“ “Where did she go, anyway?”

Penny spoke up. “That part's easy. She's in London, settling my father's financial affairs.”

“That Door, though,” Sawyer said. “It can't just depend on Miz Hawking. After all, Jacob used it, Richard, a few of them Others, long before she was even an item.”

In the silence which fell, Penny said, “Consider this. Perhaps it's not so much a function of Eloise Hawking. Perhaps the Door wouldn't let you use it, if doing so would put you in danger.”

Claire squeezed Hugo's hand so tight that it pinched. Penny must have seen Claire's anxiety, because she dialed it back a notch or two. “Perhaps danger is too strong a word. Call it 'uncertainty.'”

As Sawyer leaned back and sipped coffee, he spoke to Hugo and Claire both. “Or perhaps your teleporter ain't broke at all. Seems like it put you right where you needed to be. You can lower your back fur, Mamacita, 'cause Hugo ain't goin' nowhere.”

“Except that he has to get back. We, I mean.”

“You're in the right place, brother,” Desmond said to Hugo. “Because we have a—“

He was interrupted by the loud ring of the rear doorbell.

“Well, looky who's here,” David said as he unlocked the back door. “Carmen, my love, you called for a priest, and one arrived.”

* * * * * * * *

The seventeen years since Hugo's catechism class hadn't been kind to Father Aguillar, although his eyes twinkled with kindness. Water pooled at his feet as he stood in the doorway.

Carmen took the priest's dripping wind-breaker. “Father, you're soaked.”

“How 'bout some coffee?” David asked, already reaching for a mug. “There's some strudel left, too. Not much, though.”

Hugo stood up to shake Fr. Aguillar's hand. He was smaller and greyer than Hugo remembered, not much taller than Kate and wiry besides. Out on the driveway was parked a large white panel van, its sides blazoned with gold and blue letters which read, “Our Lady of Lourdes Meal Services.”

As Hugo was about to offer Fr. Aguillar a seat, Sawyer pushed his own chair back. “Take a load off, padre. It can get a little crazy around here.”

The priest's scarred face twisted into a smile. “I had eight brothers and sisters. My mother deserved sainthood for simply getting meals onto the table.”

Lured by the doorbell, Aaron and Charlie padded into the kitchen. Charlie clambered up onto his mother's lap, while Aaron sidled up to Claire and stared at Fr. Aguillar. “What's wrong with your face?”

“Aaron, honey—“ Claire began.

Fr. Aguillar waved her off. “It's all right, dear. What happened, young man, was that I was hit by lightning.”

“Really?” Aaron said, studying him from within the circle of Claire's arms.

“Really.” Long strands of scar tissue covered the left side of Fr. Aguillar's face and ran down the neck of his open-collared shirt.

“Did it hurt?”

“I didn't even know it happened until I woke up in the hospital.”

Hugo glanced up at his mother, making sure she was doing all right. Fr. Aguillar had been struck during Grandpa Tito's funeral, when a sudden storm had broken out.

He had lived, but people in the parish said that he was never the same afterward. During prayer he would sit quietly as if listening to something beautiful, the edge of his ravaged mouth turned up in a small smile.

The old women of the parish said that he sometimes heard the singing of angels.

Jacob's words rang in Hugo's memory, from what seemed like a lifetime ago. What if you weren't cursed? What if you were blessed? Maybe Fr. Aguillar was blessed, too.

Curiosity satisfied, Aaron wandered into the living room to join Kate and Sawyer. Soon only Hugo, his parents, Claire, Desmond, and the priest remained around the kitchen table.

Fr. Aguillar beamed at Claire. “Carmen has told me what a lovely bride you are.”

Claire's cheeks flushed pink. “Thanks.”

The priest's next words chilled Hugo, though. “The coffee and pastry were lovely, but we don't have much time.”

“Much time?” Carmen squawked.

Fr. Aguillar fixed her with a calm expression. “Let me tell you how my brother priests and sister nuns survived in Nicaragua. We didn't sit and wait for the contras to show up. By the time they arrived, we were already long gone.”

To Hugo, it was like the solution to a troublesome puzzle. He was about to speak when Claire got there first. “Father, I don't know if Carmen or David told you, but Hurley has a way of coming to and from the Island, one which is... unusual. We were talking about it right before you got here. Even if it was working right, and we're not sure it is, I wouldn't be able to go to the Island that way anyway.”

She paused. Hugo's heart sang at her next words, even though they came as no surprise. “It's because I'm going to have a child.”

Carmen gasped and clutched the neckline of her blouse as if it had suddenly tried to strangle her, while both David and Fr. Aguillar broke out into wide grins.

“Well, well, son,” David said. “You been busy.”

Now Claire and Hugo both flushed beet-red. If it wasn't bad enough to be sitting at the breakfast table with your parents both speculating how and when you'd fathered a baby, his mom began to laugh and cry at the same time. “Oh, Mother Mary and the saints, now you have to get married.” Then she grabbed Claire's face in both her hands and covered it with kisses.

At the sound of Carmen's shrieks, everyone poured back into the kitchen. Fr. Aguillar suppressed a broad smile and said, “I thought that was why you asked me here, Carmen: for a wedding.” He pulled himself to his feet, crackling all over with bantam-weight energy. At once Hugo remembered how Fr. Aguillar had told his confirmation classes that as a young man, he had fought in prize-fights to earn money for seminary.

Maybe it was Carmen's energetic kissing, or that Claire had finally reached a tipping point. When she began to cry, Penny and Kate both headed for her.

“Come on, love,” Penny said. “Let's get you ready.”

* * * * * * * *

Claire wasn't accustomed to being fussed over. Sure, she and Rachel used to give each other perms, and once Rachel had let her pierce the cartilage of her upper ears. But from the moment when Carmen swept Claire away to her bedroom and dragged out a large trunk from the depths of the walk-in closet, four pairs of hands flew over her from every angle.

“This was my wedding dress,” Carmen said, holding up a yellowed garment which could have held two of Claire.

Kate cleared her throat. “Umm...”

Carmen shook her head, doubtful. “You're right. It is out of fashion.”

“But lovely,” Carole put in. “Is this the petticoat?”

Carmen nodded. “My mother embroidered it.” Her eyes took on a faraway look, and regret tinged her voice. “She wanted to make a traditional dress for me, but I said no, I wanted a modern one like in the magazines. So she made this instead, for me to wear underneath.”

Grey light poured into the bedroom through the closed French doors. Even though the rain had slowed to a drizzle, the day was still dark as evening. Claire held up the petticoat to the light, imagining the needle bringing birds and flowers to life out of thick, brightly colored thread. The once-white fabric had taken on the faint golden hue of heavy cream.

“I'd like to wear this,” Claire said. “If you don't mind.”

Carmen just started to sniffle again.

“Oh, look,” Kate exclaimed, lifting a silk piano shawl from the trunk.

Carmen said, “My mother cleaned for a lady who gave it to her. I never wanted to just throw it over the piano.” She held it up to Claire's face. “That blue is your color, isn't it?”

“Looks like we have everything except the 'something new,'” Carole remarked.

Carmen peered out the window at the flower gardens which ringed the pool, their blossoms beaten down by rain. “So much for that.”

Instead, she took a bunch of roses from an altar in the corner of her bedroom. The pale pink flowers' edges were tinged with dark red. “You have to have flowers, Claire,” she said.

“May I?” Penny said, reaching for the bouquet. “I've a notion, but it'll require nail trimmers and some tape.”

As the other women watched, Penny clipped the thorns from some of the roses, wrapped their stems in tape, then wove them together with a few ferns into a flower crown. “See, here's something new. These particular roses have never been made into a garland before.”

The women started their chattering anew, and Claire once more submitted to a flurry of hands and excited voices. Kate brought Claire's make-up case and painted her face with tender pinks and pale blues.

Claire stepped into the embroidered skirt and cinched the drawstring tight around her waist. Carole draped her in the blue piano shawl, then fluffed her hair into a golden halo.

She was ready for the crowning touch. Penny lowered the rose garland onto Claire's head, while Kate finished up with a few dabs on Claire's cheeks and chin.

Carmen wrapped the remaining roses in a lace kerchief, so the stems wouldn't prick Claire's hands. “Every marriage has some thorns, and a few always stick through,” Carmen said. “This reminds you.”

Carole whispered, “You look lovely.”

Claire's head spun a little as she looked around at the chorus of women. It was like playing dress-up, but bigger and more serious. “I suppose we're ready, then.”

“What about your shoes?” Kate said.

“I can't wear trainers, can I?” She had no others, though. “I'll just go barefoot, I guess.”

* * * * * * * *

Claire stood in the Reyes's red and gold living room, flanked by Kate and Penny, while David and Sawyer flanked Hugo. “Don't worry, Goldberry," Sawyer said. "I won't let Tom Bombadil here run out on you."

Claire stifled a giggle, embarrassed because Father Aguillar stood before them, waiting.

"James," Kate hissed. "The kids behave better than you."

From their position on the living room rug, the boys stared up at the grown-ups. Then Aaron crowed, "That's my mum, getting married!"

Fr. Aguillar placed one hand on Claire's shoulder and another on Hugo's. From up close, Claire could see how pale he was, how papery his skin, and how his eyes shone.

"Friends old and new, this man Hugo and this woman Claire have something to share with you. They have given me this great honor as well." He turned to the couple with a smile and continued.

"There was no Church to witness the marriage of our first parents. Now you may think, Ah, a wedding, some cake, music, a party. Or you think, the Mass, the exchange of rings, the lighting of a candle. But like clothing, these are garments which have been put on or taken off throughout the ages. They are part of the ceremony of marriage. They are not what marriage is.

"We priests are accused of using fancy language, but sometimes it is necessary to be precise. Hugo, perhaps you remember what I have told you in the past. Claire, perhaps this is new to you. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace. The reality of flesh, your flesh makes up the outward sign, the physical matter, so to speak. And the inward spirit? Ah, that comes from the one thing that will make your marriage real: the promise. Hugo, tell Claire yours."

When Hugo hesitated, Claire could feel the nervousness which radiated off of him as he spoke. "Claire, a long time ago, my friend Jack - your brother Jack - told me to stay with you. I didn't always do that. And we didn't get to know each other as well as we could. Then, we thought we might have a chance, bad stuff happened, and we were apart for a long time. Now, all of this, it's like a miracle. A second chance to do that now, to stay with you, forever. And to take care of you, and Aaron, and...”

Turning toward Sawyer, Hugo said, "Is it supposed to be this hard?"

"You're doin' fine," Sawyer answered. "At least it don't sound rehearsed."

"Now you, Claire," Father Aguillar said. "Your promise."

Claire paused a second, her hands tight in Hugo's grip. It felt a little bit like doing improv on stage, and all of a sudden she wasn't nervous at all. Instead, a column of happiness shot up through her, and her voice rang out in confidence. "Hurley, after my house on the Island got blown up, I asked you if we were dead. You said, 'Well, if this is heaven, then heaven sucks.'"

Aguillar smiled, a few people laughed, and Hugo chuckled. Claire went on, "Even though it was lost on me then, that was the beginning of heaven. Now I know that heaven is wherever I am, as long as it's with you. As your wife, forever, with no one else, no matter what happens." Her confidence wavered for a second, and she searched frantically for words, finding none except, "I promise."

Aguillar gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "That was fine, dear." He stepped back and said to Hugo, “The ring?”

“Oh, yeah. Almost forgot.”

He slid the wedding band onto her finger, and the metal grew warm as it had the first time, as the ring glowed with heat from within. The ring had formed into one unbroken whole, with no need for a jeweler to weld the two bands together.

Then she had no time to wonder about it, because Hugo bent down to cover her mouth with a wide, deep kiss, skewing her rose crown a bit.

Fr. Aguillar raised his arms, his voice surprisingly loud for a man his age and size. "Hugo and Claire: give them your blessing!"

In the midst of clapping and cheering, Carmen said in a dazed voice, "Was that the wedding?"

“Yes, Carmencita.” David then gave Hugo a wide, generous hug. "Congratulations, son. And you, Claire, you were beautiful. The second-most beautiful bride I've ever seen in my life."

His wife gave David a little push and rolled her eyes. "Hugo, next time give your mother some time for a little more planning.” Then she slammed her hand over her mouth, realizing what she just said.

"Let him get through this one first,” David said. “Before going on about the next one."

"Oh, you know what I mean," she said, flustered.

Aaron piped up, “Mummy, what about cake? I want cake!”

Before Claire could answer, Fr. Aguillar cleared his throat with a small sound which managed to silence the room. “Now, children, it's time. The contras are on their way.”

“That's what I started to say earlier,” Desmond burst out. “We've got a boat.”


(no subject)

Date: 2016-03-27 10:21 pm (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
No. No! The contras are on their way? They should ALL bug out. Kate is being hunted and if Hugo doesn't get back to the island tout de suite, bad will ensue.

It was a lovely wedding. I loved the bare feet part. It's my generation.

I have to read this whole thing, as I am losing the narrative thrust. And I see you have a new WIP? That's three. You're a better multi-tasker than I, Gunga Din.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-02 03:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sorry I didn't thank you sooner.

I know, hippie weddings. I'm a sucker for them. Rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters, etc.

Oh, no, if you're losing the narrative, that might be me, not you. I didn't think things were drifting too much, but I'll try to tighten up a bit in the next chapter.

Thanks so much for reading!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-04-03 01:49 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
Oh God, Leonard Cohen - I'd forgotten that song.

No, me losing the narrative flow is me, not you. I want to binge-read the whole thing, but I can't because it's a WIP. I'm just glad you message me when there's a new chapter, because I love this fic and these characters, in your hands.


stefanie_bean: (Default)

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