DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything related to Lost. No copyright infringement intended. Quotes in italics are directly from the show.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to: calliopes_muse for betaing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"I'm not ready for this. I'm not... I'm so scared. I'm scared."
"I'm, I'm scared, too. But we're going to get through this together, okay?"
You were supposed to be giving birth in a nice clean hospital with doctors and beds. And then you were supposed to be giving him over to nice adult parents who knew what they were doing, who were capable of taking care of a baby.
At the very least, you were supposed to be in the caves with Jack. You are not supposed to be here in the middle of the forest with Kate, who you are certain is as clueless as you are when it comes to giving birth. The panic rises; it is thick in your throat. Then Kate matches her breathing with yours, rubs her hands over skin that is sweaty and trembling with effort, repeats reassuring words. You start to feel like you can do this.
The intensity and pain are overwhelming. You force your eyes away from Kate, focusing on a flower. It looks like a lily but not quite; like everything on this island, something about it is just a little bit off. You're trying to figure out what's different about it when the white of the petals becomes so bright in your vision that it is nearly blinding. You turn your eyes back to Kate and she is in soft focus. Everything but her face is a blur. Your eyes don't have room for anything else.
"It's not going to want me."
"It knows I don't want itthat I was going to give it away. Babies know that stuff."
"Do you want this baby now? Hmm? Do you want it to be healthy and safe? Okay, then the baby knows that, too. You are not alone in this. We are all here for you. This baby is all of ours, but I need you to push, okay? Okay?"
She was right. In those hours with Kate, as she helped you deliver your son, you felt more connected than you'd ever felt to anyone or anything else. When she placed Aaron in your arms, you knew this was how it was meant to be. You were a mother. He was your son. You couldn't imagine ever letting him out of your arms, and you couldn't imagine sharing his birth with anyone but her.
Weeks later, it's raining and she's sitting outside your shelter in the middle of the night. She's been sitting outside your shelter a lot since Charlie took Aaron. Her guilt is thick. You don't know where it comes from, but you can see the weight of it surrounding her and, somehow, she's focused it on you and your son. She's become Aaron's protector, your protector. You don't know what she's trying to make amends for. It wasn't her job to protect you and Aaron then, and you don't expect it from her now but you also don't want her to stop.
"Come in," you say.
"Come in," you repeat. "It's raining and, if you're going to insist on keeping watch all night, you might as well come under the shelter where it's dry." You offer a soft smile and hold out your hand. After a moment of hesitation she takes your hand and allows you to pull her up and inside.
You invite her in the next few nights. She keeps you company while you feed Aaron, while you put him to sleep. You talk about Aaron, the plane, the other passengers. You learn quickly that her smile turns forced and her whole body tenses if you ask about her life pre-crash so you stop asking. She never asks you either. You like the idea of being just two people in the present, no past to speak of. You are inventing the new Claire as you go, and you have a feeling Kate is doing the same for herself. The two of you are endless possibility.
After a few weeks, you don't have to invite her inside anymore. She shows up most nights, usually with a bottle of water or some fruit for you and Aaron. When you've exhausted all the island gossip, she teaches you to play poker with a deck of cards she salvaged from someone's carry-on. You bet rocks and shells and her pile is considerably larger than yours at the end of the night. When she leaves the next morning, you tuck a few of the shells you won in your bag and toss the rest of your winnings back on the beach. You wonder if she kept any of hers.
Two weeks later, she finally lets you do her charts. Her sun is in Capricorn meaning she is honorable and strong-willed. She laughs when you say that's just how you think of her. That night, she moves from her usual spot at the corner of the shelter and lies down next to you. Every time you wake up to feed Aaron, her eyes are wide open - watching you, watching Aaron, or watching the darkness outside the tent warily. You hope she sleeps sometime.
The nights she doesn't show up, you miss her but you don't ask where she's been. You know, even when she's not right there with you, she's watching. One day you are having an argument with Charlie when suddenly you feel her hand on your back. You wish you could see the look she gave Charlie because she doesn't say a word but he stops mid-sentence and stammers an apology then backs away from your shelter quickly.
You want to be angry with her for playing the protector. You want to tell her you're a big girl and you can take care of yourself but instead you lean into her touch. You are relieved at her presence, not because you need protecting, but because her touch warms your skin and gives you that flutter deep in your stomach that makes you think you might be falling for her. You promise yourself you won't let it happen but you know you won't be able to stop it.
Apart from her occasional absences, nights together become a comfortable routine. You realize you've grown to crave the feeling of her next to you. She is gone for two nights and you are almost dizzy with relief when she shows up on the third.
That night, when her hand wanders under your shirt for the first time, you gasp. Her hand stills and you can feel her body tense behind you. A soft laugh bubbles up from your throat. You arch slightly, pushing your body closer to hers and whisper, "No, don't stop."
Apparently, that was all she needed to hear. You feel her breath on your neck and seconds later her mouth finds your throat. You tilt your head and find her lips with your own. Her hand traces gentle patterns on your stomach.
You break the kiss and turn your body fully so you are facing her. You reach out and brush a hand against her face, tracing the line of her jaw. Her lips twitch and she smiles, her eyes crinkling at the corners. You're transfixed; you lose track of what you're doing for a second and she takes full advantage. Her smile turns predatory and suddenly your fingers are in her mouth, her teeth biting down gently.
Whatever you expected making love to Kate to be like, the reality is better than you could have imagined. She is slow and playful, then fast and passionate. The taste of her mingles with the salty taste of the island air and it's intoxicating.
The next morning, you wake up with your head resting on her chest. You look up to see her wide awake, eyes open but not focused on anything in the shelter. You want to ask what she's thinking. Instead, you lean in and kiss a freckle on her right shoulder. She focuses on you then and gives you a bright smile.
"Good morning, sunshine," she says quietly. She tousles your hair then pulls you to her and presses her lips to yours.
Then, Aaron is crying and you pull yourself from Kate's embrace to stand up and check on him. She stands with you and leans into the crib to give Aaron a quick kiss on the forehead before she turns and walks out of your shelter.
You didn't expect her to stay but that doesn't lessen the ache as she walks away.
You hear from Hurley that afternoon that she's headed off on a hunting expedition with Locke. Even when she returns, you don't see much of her. You wake up one night and see her leaning against a tree, eyes firmly on your shelter. She's still keeping watch but she's keeping her distance. It's nearly a week before she finds her way to the entrance of your shelter again.
She pauses just outside. You don't know how to tell her you understand, that you don't feel jealous even when you see her with Jack or Sawyer. Everyday you see the desire to run in her eyes. You feel it in every tense muscle of her body when she lies beside you at night. You can't imagine what torture this island must be for her. You are steady, still, one person. If she can't get away from you physically, she has to run somehow. As she stands there looking at you, hesitating, you can't find the words to tell her all of that. All you can do is offer what you hope is a reassuring smile and say, "Come in."
That night, as your head rests on her stomach, you listen to the gentle in and out of her breathing as it combines with the rhythm of the waves you can hear hitting the shore. You know if she weren't trapped on this island, you wouldn't have her at all. You wouldn't know what her skin felt like against yours, wouldn't know the salty taste of her skin, the slight hitch of her breathing as your tongue traced the swell of her breast. So you don't like seeing her with Sawyer or Jack, but you're not jealous. In a way you're thankful to them for giving her somewhere to run so she feels free enough to come back.
Your eyes wander to the crib across the shelter; your son is sleeping peacefully inside. For Aaron's sake, you hope you get off this island. You want him to grow up somewhere his life won't be in danger every moment. For your sake, you hope the rescue doesn't come too soon. You want to breathe in as much of Kate as you can before she's gone.
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