stefanie_bean: (lost people)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Title: Briars Round the Heart
Chapter 3: Revelation
Pairing: Ana Lucia/Libby
Characters: Ana Lucia Cortez, Libby Smith, Cindy Chandler, Mr. Eko, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes
Rating: M
Length: 2711 words
Status: Complete
Notes: Drama, romance, canon-divergent

Summary: In Ana Lucia, Libby might have found the one she's been looking for. But Ana's preoccupation with revenge may drive them apart.

Chapter Index


Chapter 3: Revelation

Libby's still shaking from Claire's shrieks. Kate fires one long, regretful look at Libby before leading her friend away in a protective embrace.

It was stupid to try and hypnotize Claire like that. Stupid and unprofessional. But the girl was so insistent, so obviously troubled by something she probably would do better off forgetting. She has steel inside, though. Under the soft, kittenish exterior, there's something hard and unyielding. Libby admires that, because she knows she has so little of it inside herself.

Now both Kate and Claire have left the beach, and Libby wonders if they're out looking for stolen moments of their own. It wouldn't surprise her.

From her tent, Libby has a view of the seashore, where Sun does the baby-dance as she walks Aaron back and forth. Sometimes if he fusses, she stops to give him a little coconut-water, which he sucks off her finger.

Libby's already making plans for when she and Ana get out of here. They could live in LA. To hell with the condo in Newport Beach. Too many memories there, anyway. Her re-opened practice. Perhaps a child. She's not too old, herself. Lots of women have babies in their late thirties. Maybe Ana would want one, too.

Ana sticks her head in Libby's tent, breaking her speculations. “Take a walk?”

That pink flush of excitement covers Ana's cheeks again. She leans in to Libby and whispers, “We got one of them. Sayid caught one of those bastards.”


* * * * * * * *


The next morning, Libby runs hard up and down the shore, until she reaches a disembodied state of exhaustion. While she sits panting before one of the fires, Ana joins her. It's a first, and Libby basks in the moment. Then Ana announces, “No more fun in the Hatch.”

When Libby's face falls, Ana adds, “It's not that I don't want you there. But it's not safe.”

Lowering her voice, not wanting to be overheard, Libby leans in close to Ana. “We survived all those attacks after the crash. We caught one of their spies. You think I'm scared of them? I'm not. Look, Ana, let me talk to him. You know, good cop, bad cop.”

It's the wrong thing to say. Ana's eyes narrow. “Do I tell you how to shrink heads?”

“No, Ana, it's just—”

“I'm not gonna be around much. Locke, Jack, they're complete amateurs. At least Sayid needs me. But it's gonna take time. Gotta keep up the pressure.”

“Sure. I understand.”

Libby also understands why so many wives of cops seek therapy.


* * * * * * * *


Ana strides off, cocky and full of purpose. Alone, Libby pokes the camp fire, where a gull egg wrapped in a wet banana leaf slowly bakes. She surveys the cheerful beach camp, busy in the morning sunlight. Claire nurses Aaron while Kate cuts up fish and hands pieces to Claire, who eats them one-handed. Neither of them have spoken to her since that botched hypnotism.

Mr. Eko and Charlie are sawing away at newly-hewn trees. People are already asking them when the new Starbucks will open.

The girl with the funny fleece hat has her arm around the chubby guy with coke-bottle glasses. Rose laughs at one of Bernard's jokes. Libby can't see Kathy and Shana's camp from where she sits, but they've been acting weird these days, not talking to anyone except their close friends.

Sawyer catches her looking around, and gives her a crooked leer. Libby turns away quickly, glances up the other direction of the beach. Anything but that. Not even if she were starving. She'll walk into the ocean first.

Somebody's made a Frisbee out of cork. A few hundred feet up the beach, Hurley stands in the surf, tossing it to Vincent. The dog lopes after it as if he's not that interested, but does it anyway just to humor Hurley.

Libby throws her egg shells and banana-leaf wrapper into the fire, staring for a few seconds as it burns, deciding.


* * * * * * * *


Every day brings the same repetitious search for a diminishing supply of wild food. Libby reaches into the tide pool, already imagining the taste of fat mussels, when a lacerating pain shoots up her hand. It's a sea urchin. She pulls the spine from the tender skin between her thumb and wrist.

The wound starts to throb. She heads back to the beach and almost stumbles into Sun, who doesn't waste any time. With a small knife Sun cuts a neat slit right at the sting, then squeezes, hard. Greenish venom spurts out, but Sun keeps pressing until there's only thin, clear fluid.

“You're going to put Jack out of business,” Libby jokes.

Sun doesn't smile. “It needs some medicine.” She searches for the word, then finds it. “Antibiotic. You know, salve.”

Libby knows where to go, but dread licks her insides as she approaches Sawyer's tent.

“Well, Mrs. Robinson, what can I do you for?” Sawyer says through an impish grin.

Later, when she tells Jack of Sawyer's price for a tube of neosporin, Jack goes into action. The resulting poker game draws a crowd, especially when Kate brings out a pair of binoculars nabbed from the Hatch. Kate and Hurley pass them back and forth, while Jack devastates Sawyer at poker.

Libby sidles up to Hurley, who almost drops the binoculars in surprise. Then, before Kate can take them out of his hand, he hands them to Libby. She tries to ignore the steely glare Kate sends her way. His bare arm brushes Libby's, a brief glow against her skin. He tosses his head and laughs. Because he's so close to her, she can't ignore how good he smells, all warm salt and sunshine.


* * * * * * * *


In the dead of night, Ana sticks her head into Libby's tent and whispers, “You up for a moonlight ramble?”

They lie together in the tall grass at the outskirts of Sun's vegetable garden, holding hands, tender and affectionate now that passion's spent. It's uncomfortable here on the grassy jungle floor, nowhere near as congenial as their former love-nest in the Hatch. But the garden feels safe even in the dark, protected.

“Ana, do you believe in God?”

“What the hell you talking about, Libby? I'm Catholic.”

“So you do believe in God, then.”

“I didn't say that.” Ana's quiet, thinking. “You Catholic?”

“Episcopalian, high and hazy.”

“What's that?”

“Catholic-lite. No purgatory, no Real Presence, no Mary statues. It's all just symbols.”

Libby expects Ana to laugh, but the silence which follows is so uncomfortable, she rolls over to look Ana full in the face.

“What's the point, then?” Ana is deadly serious.

Libby tries another approach. “Ana, what do you think happens when we die?”

“Most of us, we go to hell.”

Something tears at Libby a little, from the inside.

Now the chuckle's back in Ana's voice. “Not Hurley, though.”

Libby flushes, hoping Ana won't see it in the moonlight.

Teasing, Ana goes on. “I bet he never did a mortal sin in his life. One porn pop-up on the screen and bang, he clicks that little red X hard as he can.” She leans over, and her tone gets serious again. “Libby, you remember what we talked about. You need a friend down here, for when I'm not around.”

Panic seizes Libby. Ana's words sound final, like she's making provisions for something. “What do you mean, when you're not around?”

“We got something on that bastard in the Hatch, something big. I know he's gonna break. He just needs a little more encouragement.”

A gut-wrenching sickness joins the panic in Libby's middle. “What do you mean, 'encouragement?'” But Libby already knows.

Ana pretends she didn't hear the question. “In the meantime, I want you taken care of. People here like Hurley, and he won't, you know, bother you.”

Libby decides to ask Hurley to go running with her on the beach.


* * * * * * * *


The next day unfolds like a long, slow nightmare. Night finally falls, covering the beach camp with darkness. Libby lies curled up in her tent, a blanket over her head. She hasn't had a day like this since she checked herself into the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute. At least the shaking's stopped.

She knows that she saved a life today, and that it was an even bigger deal than what happened at the Newport Beach pier. Then, Libby had the guy back on the sidewalk and calm by the time the rescue boats showed up. Today, if Hurley had gone through with it, actually stepped off that cliff into space, there would have been nothing left at the bottom for the gulls to nibble on.

She almost hadn't followed him into the jungle; that was the kicker. When he'd shouted at her, so loudly that she flinched, she had almost let him go back to the caves on his own.

She doesn't want to think about what would have happened if she had.

Ana was right, too. Hurley didn't even complain when she dodged that second kiss.


* * * * * * * *


For the next few days, Hurley acts like it never happened.

Rose and Libby chop fruit on a big table made out of a piece of fuselage. With a knowing expression, Rose wants to know when she and Hurley are “going on a picnic.” Her tone tells Libby that there's something more beneath the words, so Libby plays dumb.

“You know,” Rose says with that same sly suggestiveness. “A boy, a girl, alone on the beach, moonlight—”

“Well...” Libby says, stalling for time. She looks over to Sayid's shelter, where Hurley waves around the short-wave radio which Bernard took from the Arrow bunker. The flesh creeps on her arms, because she strongly suspects Sayid and Hurley are talking about her.

No man has put it inside her since her first husband, and that wasn't very often. The resulting messy divorce led to her dropping out of medical school. By the time she met David, surgery and hormone treatments had already made sex impossible for him.

What a relief. David didn't even mind that she liked women far more than men, and she never took him up on his suggestion that she have an affair or two. They were happy together, comfortable.

Until the cancer came back.

Libby has heard the beach women laugh quietly among themselves when people pair up and want some privacy. That's what they call it here, “going on a picnic.”


* * * * * * * *


No matter how Hurley tries, he can't keep up with Libby at running, so she slows her pace. She keeps darting glances over towards Ana's tent, though. Ana was supposed to come back from the Hatch this morning.

Suddenly, there she is, and what's that, blood on her face?

Polite, firm, Libby excuses herself and veers off, before Hurley even has a chance to say anything.

As she and Ana talk, Ana stitches up the wound on her forehead. “It won't be long now. I'm gonna find out where Cindy and the kids are. Then we're outta here.”

It must have just dawned on Ana what's troubling Libby. Ana looks over to the beach, where Hurley stands all at loose ends. “He'll get over you.”

Libby hopes so. But Hurley isn't the only thing troubling her. “Ana, let's just leave.”

“We can't right now. That bastard is almost gonna spill, I know it.”

“Could I at least try—”

“No. I don't want you around that animal. Look, Libby, let me do my job. Just let me do my fucking job.”


* * * * * * * *


Libby doesn't know why she's accepted Hurley's awkward, stumbling invitation to "go on a picnic." Some of it is that she really does trust him not to bother her. Some of it also involves spite towards Ana, who's so stubborn in refusing her help.

Deep down, Libby knows that Ana's wrong. No matter what the prisoner in the Hatch has done, he's still a human being. Sure, he hit Ana, but he's the one locked up, not her. Of course he's going to try to escape, to get back to his people.

It's just ridiculous. It has to stop, before somebody gets killed.

This all goes through her mind as she and Hurley walk in circles in the woods, looking for the path to what he promises is “this really awesome beach.”

It reminds her of something, of this stupid cartoon she used to watch at Santa Rosa when she was medded out of her skull. Round and round her thoughts go

like wheels within wheels

the rec room at Santa Rosa is open to everyone, but television is a privilege

if you eat, Libby, you can watch television

she sits on one of the big TV room couches wearing a jagged Haldol smile

Brooks has won on meds, but he hasn't yet won on making Libby eat

he just thinks he has

her chewed-up slice of toast sits in a paper cup, slid under a rec-room table

so she gets to watch TV

it's the Flintstones, running in circles, wheels turning without any motive power

endless repetition

like a perpetual motion machine in hell

then he comes in with two other guys, plops down on the other couch

so fat

belly bounces when he sits down

wears a plaid bathrobe over mismatched plaid pajamas

all three guys shriek with laughter

his hair shorter than now, but still wildly fuzzy

Fred Flintstone drives around over and over

she remembers a line from somewhere, can't think of where

hell is repetition

hell

she's in hell because that's him stumbling along up ahead of her, through the jungle

him from the hospital

He's lying about how he broke his hip. He's as bad as she is. At least the part about watching The Flintstones is true.

Libby remembers. And wishes she hadn't.


* * * * * * * *


She can't go through with it. He's sweet, so full of boyish anticipation (has he ever been kissed before her? ever even gone on a date?) but it's not going to work.

Sooner or later he'll recollect, just as she has. Then she'll see the same horror and shame in his eyes that she feels right now.

She smiles while he babbles. Anything to distract him, to buy some time.

The Hatch. She'll go to the Hatch. There are back-packs at the Hatch, supplies. She and Ana can just grab what they need, and go.

If she can send Hurley off to get some wine, Rose or Bernard will probably snag him in a conversation. That'll buy her at least 20 minutes, half an hour at most, in case he decides to follow her.

She's already thought this through. If Ana refuses to go, Libby will threaten to leave her. Sure, Ana might not back down. She could tell her to just go, then.

Ana thinks she's so smart, but Libby knows where the Line is, that invisible border set up by the other people who live on this Island. She overheard Jack talking about it with Kate, not knowing that he was being overheard.

If Ana refuses her, Libby will go out to the Line herself and plead with the prisoner's people. At least she might be able to find Cindy. Surely they won't deny her that.

All this flies through Libby's mind in a flash. She tells Hurley that she's going to the Hatch for blankets. He's to go get a bottle of wine.

Innocently, without guile, he delivers the final blow. “Maybe if I get drunk enough, I'll remember where I know you from.”

It takes all her will to plaster a false, reassuring smile on her face. She leaves him standing at the shoreline, and when she peeks behind her, he's talking to Jin, laughing.

As soon as Libby's out of sight of the beach, she begins to sprint up the well-worn path to the Swan Hatch.

(continued)


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