stefanie_bean: (lost people)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Title: Shipwreck
Pairing: Desmond/Libby
Characters: Desmond Hume, Libby Smith
Rating: M
Words: 1949
Notes: Angsty one-shot, complete.

Summary: The good ship Elizabeth wasn't all that Libby Smith gave Desmond Hume on a summer's evening in Newport Beach.


Shipwreck

Desmond Hume entered the too-clean and shiny Newport Beach coffee shop, knowing that he couldn't afford the shabbiest hotel in the area. Early evening breezes blew warm across the marina, with only a faint fishy stink, and it was too late in the day to exchange his pounds sterling for dollars. If worst came to worst, he could always roll his jacket into a pillow and join the ranks of the homeless who dotted the small parks around the marina.

As if by magic she appeared behind him in line, bright and chipper like so many Yank women, yet with a fragility around the eyes and mouth that he liked. She bought him the typical American sludge which passed for coffee, its chalky bitterness impossible to disguise with sugar and ersatz cream. Desmond was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, though. As the coffee took hold and he grew more alert, she began to look more interesting by the minute.

The first part of their conversation went by like a blur, and before Desmond knew it, he was the putative possessor of a sailing yacht. It had happened so fast that it seemed unreal, and now he didn't know what to do next. He didn't want to ask where the boat was docked, and she didn't volunteer. He had a maxed-out credit card, no local currency, no phone, no place to sleep, and if he just got up and pretended to have somewhere else to go, he might never see her or this opportunity again.

So Desmond, normally so self-possessed, sat fiddling with his paper coffee cup, pouring sugar into refill after refill, thrown off-balance by this mysterious woman. This was the time to laugh, crack jokes, wonder silently if her hair was really red or just a good dye job, and how long it would take to find out for sure. Normally he led women on, not the other way around, but it was only when Elizabeth rummaged for her car keys that he realized how desperate he was.

Even so, when she invited him to have supper with her he hesitated. The invitation wasn't exactly a surprise. She'd already given him more than one of those long looks which he knew so well through his wandering life, before he had hitched his wagon to Penny Widmore's star.

You couldn't say Elizabeth was buying him or anything, either. She'd offered to give him the yacht even before she made her move. Maybe there was a boat, maybe there wasn't. Maybe it would make its way into his hands, or not. The old sensation ran up his spine, the flare of excitement at the onset of an adventure.

When Desmond agreed, smiling broadly, Elizabeth remarked, “You know, restaurants around here are always so crowded, and rush hour goes on till seven or eight.”

“Umm, hmm,” Desmond murmured. Letting her lead wasn't his normal style, but he could be flexible. That way if Elizabeth decided to sit this one out, nobody would get their feelings hurt. And there were always more in port, weren't there?

“My condo's only a few minutes' drive away.”

When Desmond didn't answer, only gave another broad, welcoming smile, she did exactly as he expected, and started to prattle. Would he like to go there? There might even be something in the fridge. If not, there was a new restaurant down on Balboa which the tourists hadn't found out about yet. That meant a lot of traffic, though. Then again, there was always carry-out.

She gave Desmond that certain downward glance which he had never misinterpreted so far. “We could order in.”

Something in him still wasn't sure. Her smile was bright but her laugh was brittle, and her eyes darted about like agitated mice trying to escape their cage. It was almost dark, though, and the thought of sleeping on the beach with the rummies didn't appeal to him at all. So he gave her the warmest of grins and said that while carry-out was grand, ordering in suited him just fine.

She drove her silver BMW convertible through tangled traffic with casual precision. They pulled up to a peach-toned building with a Spanish tile roof, and Desmond gave a low whistle of appreciation. This was the kind of place where rich Americans lived, houses that you saw in movies, places you only dreamed of.

Inside the huge flat, he had never seen anyplace so white, from the carpets and the overstuffed couches down to the paintings on the walls. He and Elizabeth were the only things with color. Even the martinis were garnished with onions pale as eyeballs, rather than gray-green olives.

“The onion makes it a Gibson,” she said as she handed Desmond his icy cocktail. After two or three of them, he wasn't thinking any longer about how white the flat was, or Elizabeth's scurrying eyes, or even of Penny.

Finally the food came. In a moment of paranoia Desmond thought that the deliveryman wore too familiar a smile, and Elizabeth's tone was a shade too warm and welcoming as she handed him two twenties for a tip. She'd done this before, hadn't she? And not that long ago, either.

He pushed the apprehension out of his mind as they drank, ate spicy Mongolian barbecue, and drank some more. She mostly just pushed the rib tips around on her plate, and halfway through the meal excused herself to go to the lav. That gave Desmond time to make another shaker of Gibsons, and finish off two more besides. When she came back she looked pale and drawn enough to give him pause, even through the alcoholic fog. Then she said that eating wasn't really what was on her mind, anyway.

Elizabeth wasn't much in bed. Diligently he pumped away as she lay still and unresponsive beneath him. He knew he could inspire women to wild cries, their arms clinging to his back, legs wrapped tightly around his hips. With Penny, for instance—

Best not to think about that right now.

At least he wasn't sleeping under an overpass, or worse yet, on a concrete bunk in some LA gaol. Instead, he was afloat on a sea of Hendricks gin with a quite passable woman in bed with him. No matter that she was approaching a certain age and was definitely not a natural redhead. Even if the boat never materialized, he was having a pretty fine time.

Only once did he wonder what exactly he was doing there. He woke right before dawn and eased his pounding hangover with the warm martinis left over in the shaker. He swept the styrofoam dishes with their congealed sauce and rib bones into the trash, afraid that if he looked at them any longer he'd be sick on Elizabeth's pristine white rug.

He headed for the loo, thinking to borrow a bit of her toothpaste to scrub the bird-cage liner out of his mouth, and came upon her by surprise.

At first she didn't hear him pad into the gleaming granite and tile room. She stood at the mirror, staring in despair at her own image. When she saw him, the unrestrained disgust on her face shocked him into a vestige of sobriety. He backed off and returned to bed, while guilt and anxiety systematically shredded the cloak of alcohol in which he'd wrapped himself.

He pretended to be asleep when she slid under the covers, her body miles apart from his on the far side of the king-sized bed. She never touched him again.

Hot, white sunlight filled the windows and made it impossible to ignore the start of the day. As Desmond dressed, she announced in a cold voice that they were going to the bank to pick up the Elizabeth's title. She would sign it over to him, then drop him off at the marina. After that, the Elizabeth was his to do with as he pleased. No doubt the bank would also exchange his currency.

"I don't expect breakfast," she said in a voice tight with restrained hysteria.

Desmond shrugged; he couldn't have eaten anything anyway. In aglassed-in lounge for “select customers,” away from the lines and the hoi polloi, a beautifully-dressed banker in her forties witnessed the title transfer. Desmond and Elizabeth sat tight-lipped on far ends of a stiff Danish-modern couch, not looking at one other.

Their silence unnerved the woman. “I've been there with the property settlement, believe me. Dividing up the assets part is the worst, isn't it?”

Elizabeth just stared at the banker as if she'd started babbling in a foreign language. The look of loathing which she gave Desmond made him think he would melt into the coarse orange upholstery.

Outside on the sidewalk, Desmond patted the title resting securely in his jacket breast pocket, then his wallet with a thousand pounds sterling in Yankee dollars. In a fit of sarcastic pique he said, “I don't think you got your money's worth, lady.”

Elizabeth Smith said nothing, just climbed into her silver Beamer. With a wave and a rigid, wide-eyed smile, she drove off.

* * * * * * * *


Later, after the Elizabeth had shipwrecked on the rocky coast of the Island coast, during his imprisonment in the Swan Station, Desmond had a lot of time to think things over. It had been far too easy. She must have worked for Widmore. Who else? Penny's father knew that Desmond had no resources of his own to spend on that wild goose chase of a round-the-world yacht expedition. Elizabeth Smith had probably followed him to the coffee shop from the LAX international terminal, then made up that sob story about a husband. Dead just a month? What had she taken him for, an idiot? There probably had been no husband at all.

If she thought him an idiot, she was right. No doubt Elizabeth was jaunting her way around the world right now, enjoying her life of leisure while he rotted underground. Best to forget her, and the supposedly chance encounter which brought him to this bloody damned Island.

So he did.

Three years later, Desmond stained his hands with the blood of his fellow button-pusher Kelvin, then sat alone for forty days in a living tomb. He came to that fateful hour when he held a gun in one hand and a near-empty bottle of J. Darby's in the other, thinking that he'd hashed things up pretty badly, and that Penny was going to be way better off without him.

He stared into the barrel, took a swig, then stared again, and after all these years thought of Elizabeth Smith. No conspirator she, only a sad, broken woman who like him, had been sailing blind through an ink-black night with no lighthouse in view, and had careened into the same rocks. Who, like him, had probably spent far too much time staring into a future blank as a concrete wall, one which no amount of cheerful psychedelic paint could rehabilitate. Writing one note after another, then tearing it up. Giving expensive things away. Making plans. Tying up loose ends. All the warning signs, in other words.

Sometimes you had stare down into that shiny carbon-steel tunnel to infinity before you could recognie when someone else was doing the same.

A loud, persistent banging on the Swan Station hatch broke his gloomy concentration. As he put the gun away and went to investigate who was trying to break down his front door, Desmond understood that the look of contempt which Elizabeth Smith had shot him across the bow was directed not at him, but at herself.

(the end)


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