Characters/Pairings: Claire, Hurley, Kate, Sawyer, Jack, Sayid, Jin, and Sun. Many pairings within, especially Claire/Sawyer.
Word Count: 2,239
Timeline: Same on as off-island 3x22 - Through The Looking Glass. Spoilers for that, plus some spec.
Awards: First Place Winner in Challenge #47 - Family at lostfichallenge
Summary: As the years go by they just seem more and more broken down.
“Can I stay with you for a few days?”
Over the past couple of years Claire has heard a dozen variations of that sentence from just as many mouths.
They’re never there at the same time, usually spread out with a few weeks in between their visits, but rarely does a month go by when she doesn’t hear those words, crackling out over the phone, or mumbled on her doorstep.
It’s not to say that she minds it (she doesn’t) just that she hasn’t figured out why it’s her house that everyone makes the pilgrimage to. What makes her so special?
Hurley was the first to show up.
Since Charlie died Hurley seemed to appoint himself as Charlie’s replacement. Not in the romantic sense of course, but he helped her with Aaron in much the same way as the other man had. They shared a common bond as the two people hit hardest by Charlie’s death. The girlfriend and the best friend.
Aaron got used to him, called him Uncle Hurley, and ended up spoiled rotten by the man who had more money than he knew what to do with.
“You don’t have to do this you know.” Claire told him. Aaron was upstairs getting washed up; Hurley was leaning on the counter, watching her make sandwiches. “I mean I’m glad you’re here, and Aaron loves spending time with you, but sometimes I feel like you think that you’re obligated to…and you’re not.”
Hurley was silent for a long moment, and she was sure she’d said the wrong thing. She was about to try and make light of her statement, but Hurley spoke first. “You know how when someone dies and you like keeping things around that remind you of them. Kind of like a connection to them or something, but then you sort of get used to it. To having that around.” He glanced up, and then back down, nervously.
Slowly she reached a hand out to rest over his, locking eyes with him and giving him a slight nod.
They are each others sole connection to the one they’ve lost, in this world where the name Charlie Pace is synonymous with heroin-addicted rock star, and not hero.
Kate showed up with a little boy in her arms and Claire let her in without a second thought on the merit of curiosity alone.
The boy’s name is Sam, after her father she told Claire. Their sons take to each other and they were on Claire’s deck drinking iced tea, watching the kids play when Kate finally addressed what Claire’s been wanting to know all day. “I don’t know.”
“How can you not know?”
Kate shifts, “I…it was right around the time when we got off the island and I didn’t know what I was doing. They were both—“ she looked to her son, who remained oblivious as he chased after Aaron. “He reminds me of both of them so much and I don’t know if it’s me trying to look for it or just that they were both so alike in the end.” Her hands wouldn’t keep still in her lap, and Claire could tell there was more she wasn’t saying. “I’ve thought about trying to find out who the father is, but then I think what’s the point.”
Claire put a hand on her arm reassuringly when she heard Kate’s voice crack. “Does either of them know?”
“I tried telling Jack but he’s such a mess I’m not even sure he hears me anymore. And Sawyer’s just disappeared.” Claire chose not to correct her. She too knew more than she let on.
“Maybe it’s better that way.”
Aaron didn’t remember the man who played daddy to him those first two months, and he will never meet his real father if she has any say, after he pointed out that since she had all the money from the Oceanic settlement so surely she wouldn’t need child support. No, she didn’t, she’d decided, just like Aaron didn’t need a father.
She made no attempts at dating, found the whole idea uninteresting and more effort than it was worth. They wouldn’t understand, not who she was nor who she is. She told herself that was all it was, and it had nothing to do with the fear of getting so close to someone only to have it all get destroyed by fate or whatever it was she had thought she’d believed in (he had too, she remembers, and she thinks of dirty bandages and black marker, and it’s enough to make her nauseous).
Aaron’s first day at school she came home at eight in the morning from dropping him off to find a pickup truck in her driveway and a man sitting on her front step.
“I thought you said you wouldn’t be coming back for a while.” She said, key in the lock, opening the door. She put her purse down and the next thing she knew he was backing her into the kitchen, his lips on hers, the same greeting she’d received in times before.
She didn’t date which is not to say that she didn’t have sex.
The walk up the stairs and into the bedroom would be too long and she he laid her out on the kitchen counter, and she spread her legs for him because it’s been a month and a half and this was her reprieve.
“I lied,” Sawyer muttered, right before he thrust into her.
Sun and Jin show up once. Of all of them, this small group of people whose lives have crumbled, these were the two that escaped relatively unharmed. Almost anyway.
Because every time she saw Sun watching Aaron there was such sadness in her eyes, a longing for something she’ll never have.
Juliet had told her it was either this or death, and Sun had chosen the one that involved medical equipment and the words “successful termination” and never looked back.
Her and Jin were happy. They’d forgiven each other of their pasts and their faults and they’d moved on. But there would always be that missing piece, that hole.
Claire wasn’t surprised that their visit was a one time thing.
The ironic thing in all of this was that the one person who actually was family – legally, by blood – was the one who showed up the least.
Hurley offered to take Aaron for the three days Jack stayed with her and she was grateful for it. He really was a mess; Aaron didn’t need to be around him.
“What happened to you Jack?” She asked.
“You were there,” he told her, eyes dark and tired. “You know what happened.”
She looked away, to where she had all his pill bottles lined up in a row on the counter after she dug them all out of his suitcase. Claire didn’t bother reminding him that there was no going back. “Where did you get all of this?”
“Dad. He wrote me the prescriptions.” Jack replied, like it was perfectly logical.
Her eyes widened and she felt her chest tighten. “Jack, he’s dead.”
“No he’s not,” he insisted, and she knew that he believed the words he spoke.
On the third day he left, to where she didn’t know, and she sat with her head in her hands and cried for the only one of them who might just be lost forever.
And they only had themselves to blame.
She ran into Sayid on the street one day. He was in town, briefly, on his way elsewhere. They exchanged pleasantries, the standard ‘how are you’ and ‘what have you been up to’ but really it was awkward because their lives barely crossed on the island.
It didn’t stop her from offering him a place to stay because it was what she did to everyone. She was beginning to need the contact as much as they did. But he politely declined the offer, saying he really had better be going but to give his best to everyone.
She wondered if the place he was so eager to get to represented the salvation and the happiness that had made him fight so hard to stay alive on the island.
“What about a reunion?” She asked one day, a bright smile on her face.
It looked like it physically pained Sawyer to say it, to break her façade, but he had to do it because there was no one else who would. “You know I think we’d all just prefer to move on.”
Then why did they keep coming back to her, she thought.
For the first time in forever the caller ID turns up a number she doesn’t recognize.
“Claire?” This is Michael. Michael Dawson. From the island.” As if she needed clarification. “I’ve tried everyone else but no one’s listed and I just need for someone to –“
She hung up on him mid-sentence and had the number blocked the next day.
He may be one of them but his voice sounded like betrayal and so she cut him out of this fucked up family tree.
“I’m sleeping with Sawyer.”
Her brother remained silent, distant. She was invisible to him.
She now knew what happened when family stopped being the people who were there for you no matter what.
Kate called her in the middle of the night, crying so hard Claire couldn’t understand a word that she said, so she just told the other woman to come there.
“He keeps saying we need to go back to the island, and then he gave me this,” she handed Claire a slip of paper, ripped from the newspaper. Claire didn’t recognize the name. “It’s Michael.”
She scanned the article, read about this man who hung himself at four in the morning somewhere in
“I don’t know what to do anymore, I don’t even think there’s anything I can do.” She shook her head through the tears. “He flies every week, hoping the plane crashes. And it’s not going to, we know that, but I’m scared that he’s going to figure that out and I’m scared of what he’ll do when he does.”
And as she watched the woman convulse with sobs she decided it was up to her to try to fix this. They couldn’t lose anyone else.
It’s her who made the call this time around.
She had to find the spare key and let herself in, only to find him passed out among a sea of maps and Oceanic vouchers. She got him in to bed and spent the night cleaning his apartment, hiding some of the maps, trashing others.
Claire fell asleep on the couch and awoke to the crash of metal on the tile floor of his bathroom. She practically flew into the bathroom, only to find him standing in front of the mirror, a razor in one hand, the other braced against the sink. It took her a moment to realize this had nothing to do with his wrists and more to do with his unruly beard.
“I can’t look at myself,” he said, by way of explanation.
She sat him down, kneeling in front of him, forcing him to meet her gaze. “It’s not your fault, Jack. It was a long time ago and there’s nothing we can do about it now.” She leaned her head against his chest, whispering, “If you’re looking for forgiveness maybe you should stop looking for it from the dead and start looking at the people that are still here. We don’t blame you.”
When she felt his arms come around her, the first bit of contact she’d received from him since the island she thought maybe some of what she’d said had gotten through to him. Some of it had made sense.
Minutes later, she picked up that razor and when she was done he had nowhere left to hide, to mask to cower behind, and she thought it was something like a rebirth.
“If all everyone wants to do is forget then why do they come here?” It was out of nowhere and it was silly considering this was Sawyer she was asking, but he seemed to be the only one she could answers from anymore.
“Easy. Everyone wants to believe it’s possible to move on, to keep on going and that maybe, just maybe that smile on your face might be real.” He began, lying on his back on white linens she just washed yesterday. Nothing stays clean here anyway. “You’ve got Aaron, your own little thing going here. It’s damn near the closest thing to a family any of us have ever seen.”
“So I’m…” she left it open ended on purpose.
In the end Oceanic Flight 815 achieved two things:
One, it broke them all into tiny pieces that seemed impossible to put back together, though she had faith that in time they’d be whole again.
Two, it connected them in ways that they never would be to anyone else. They say family isn’t necessarily the one you’re born into. It’s who will be there for you after everyone else has run for cover. It’s what you make it.
And they may be far from nuclear, but they’re family all the same.