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Shephards;

the stories of jack claire &


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DISCLAIMER;

The stories and art held within are produced solely as a labor of love by and for fans. They are not meant to infringe on copyrights held by anyone, anywhere.

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ABOUT; this book

This book has been put together to serve as a collection of stories about Jack Shephard and Claire Littleton, including claire/jack, claire/ sawyer, claire/jack/sawyer, jack/sawyer, as well as any other general fiction about these two characters.

THE; collector

The stories and graphics within this book have been collected and arranged with permission by crickets.

COPY; editor

This entire text has been copy edited by kmousie.

TIPS; embedded links, etc.

Each title page will contain the link to any previously published story within the title text itself. If reading a PDF file, you can simply click on the title to be directed to the appropriate webpage. Feedback is appreciated by all of our authors and artists! You can find the URL to all stories in the index found in the back of the book.

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ABOUT; our authors You can learn more about each of our authors by visiting their individual websites.

angela weber; http://angela-weber.livejournal.com crickets; http://crickets.livejournal.com gigglemonster; http://gigglemonster.livejournal.com hesperia; http://hesperia.livejournal.com hitlikehammers; http://hitlikehammers.livejournal.com holycitygirl; http://holycitygirl.livejournal.com lenina20; http://lenina20.livejournal.com missy useless; http://missy-useless.livejournal.com ozmissage; http://ozmissage.livejournal.com slybrunette; http://slybrunette.livejournal.com toestastegood; http://toestastegood.livejournal.com

ABOUT; our artists You can learn more about each of our artists and their resources by visiting their individual websites. colourmayfade; http://colourmayfade.livejournal.com crickets; http://crickets.livejournal.com gigglemonster; http://gigglemonster.livejournal.com hitlikehammers; http://hitlikehammers.livejournal.com navras rheya; http://navras-rheya.livejournal.com prettybutt; http://prettybutt.livejournal.com

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TABLE; of contents serious;

disclaimer about this book about the authors and artists story index art index

stories about;

pg 003 pg 004 pg 005 pg 126 pg 127

claire/jack

the second time around; by gigglemonster* shadows and heat; by hitlikehammers in any other world; by angela weber here is the tabernacle reconstructed; by ozmissage the hole in the universe; by crickets* love, lost; by holycitygirl* birds are singing to calm us down; by missy useless reflections; by hitlikehammers* the blood of prophets; by hesperia* until we bleed; by angela weber who is the lamb?; by crickets vacation; by toestastegood* fall apart again; by hitlikehammers love rescue me; by holycitygirl maybe you’ll always be just a little out of reach; by slybrunette* eden; by ozmissage le temps à l’envers; by crickets sunset soon forgotten; by angela weber* childproof world; by missy useless oh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore; by slybrunette ghosts in flesh and blood; by lenina20 love in a fallen city; by holycitygirl we’ve been recycled; by missy useless* every road takes us farther from home; by crickets

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business

pg 009 pg 012 pg 012 pg 012 pg 013 pg 018 pg 020 pg 022 pg 025 pg 026 pg 027 pg 031 pg 031 pg 032 pg 036 pg 038 pg 040 pg 044 pg 047 pg 049 pg 057 pg 059 pg 066 pg 070


CONTENTS; continued stories about; claire/jack/sawyer you wrote our names down on the sidewalk but the rain came and washed ‘em off; by slybrunette pg 075 i’ll slay all our dragons, win all our wars; by ozmissage pg 078 we swallow the shine of the sun; by gigglemonster pg 082 the birds won’t sing; by crickets pg 085 unfinished business; by ozmissage* pg 088 so you’re gone and i’m haunted; by hesperia pg 095 when you’re dead; by slybrunette pg 096 dust in our lungs; by missy useless pg 100 goodbye and keep cold; by hesperia pg 104 and life is wine; by crickets pg 106

stories about;

claire/sawyer

stories about;

jack/sawyer

stories about;

claire

at night we fly above this town; by gigglemonster

ignition; by gigglemonster oversoul; by hitlikehammers

pixie dust; by hitlikehammers

pg 0114

pg 117 pg 119

pg 124

[* = previously unpublished fic]

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Claire & Jack

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the second time around; claire/jack; pg13; new!

by gigglemonster

[One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.] -French proverb Jack’s hands shake even though he knows they shouldn’t. He’s never been as sure about any other decision. Faraday had come to him, soft-spoken and cautious, with the theory that all of it could be reversed. Time and circumstance could be reset and put on their proper course. There’s been too much of both that it seems impossible to go back. One hell of a long shot. Yet he stands with the bomb in his hands, ready to wipe the slate clean and start over. Jack hesitates for only a second. He considers a clean slate where he will likely pass by Claire without a glance on his way to bury their father. He won’t remember the feeling of her lips against his or the smell of the beach on her skin. It’s almost enough to stop him, but he pushes the doubt from his mind. He lets the cold metal slip from his hands and closes his eyes. [this is the first time] +++ Claire sees a psychic who warns her first of one danger, then tells her the opposite. He gives her a plane ticket and tells her it must be this flight. The crash happens so fast that she barely has time to be afraid. She wakes to the sound of people screaming. She can feel blood on her elbows and sand clinging to her legs. She can taste the smoke and burning metal and it makes her gag. Jack falls to his knees in front of her and she recognizes him immediately, the man with troubled eyes and a tired smile that helped her with her luggage. His voice is calm despite the chaos. Claire never understood people who so effortlessly kept a cool head. Her mind runs wild with worst-case scenarios. Her friends would tell her it makes her a natural mother. When the contractions subside and the initial shock is over, Claire stands at the edge of the water and watches the sunset. The shape of the shoreline looks familiar and she thinks maybe she’s seen it on a postcard somewhere. * There’s a scar on Claire’s hip. Jack runs his thumb over it without looking, just knows it’s there. He moves his lips over the curve of her breasts and the rise of her ribs, the dip of her stomach and the inside of her thighs. He maps every inch of her skin like a road he has traveled dozens of times yet can’t remember where it leads. An involuntary motion. There’s a twinge of fear and doubt at the intimacy he feels with Claire, but she pulls him closer and the feeling is lost. * There’s a storm worse than any Jack can remember. The same night, Claire goes missing.

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the second time around

Of her own free will or not, Jack’s unsure. Kidnapped, perhaps. Or maybe lured out into the night by some figment of her past. Jack recalls chasing after a skeleton from his own closet when they first got here. He searches for her amongst dense leaves and thin hope. He calls out and waits for her voice. He remembers the way she said his name, a low whisper at the shell of his ear while she tangled her limbs with his. Jack listens for her whisper now. If it’s there, it is drowned by all of the other disembodied sounds that plague this jungle at night. * Jack holds the bomb and his hands don’t shake. He wonders if it’s really this easy for paths to be uncrossed, if it’s all as simple and juvenile as calling a do-over. He closes his eyes and thinks of Claire. [this is the second time] * Jack starts having nightmares and when he wakes he confuses them with memories. Claire kisses his closed eyelids like she’s banishing the horrors that lay behind them and settles her head on his chest. Despite the heat during the day, there’s a chill that runs through the island at night. He holds her close and his bones ache with something akin to fear. The fear that he can’t stop whatever is waiting to destroy them. -fin

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shadows and heat; claire/jack; pg13

by hitlikehammers

The world consists of shadows and heat, the whispers of hell on earth as they hold each other close, desperate – as he lets her fit against him, the swell of her chest pressed close until he knows before she breathes, before her heart skips a beat; he will protect her until it passes. If it ever passes. The sky is blue again, above them – miraculous; there are tears in his eyes as he stares, and he cannot help but kiss her, taste the last remnants of the darkness on her teeth, her tongue: the last of all they’ve ever known.

in any other world; claire/jack; pg

by angela weber

You don’t know where you are going, but you know that you have to get there. You are in a car with a beautiful girl and you won’t tell her that you love her but you do, you love her more than anything. You are going to save her. There is no one sitting beside you as your car spins into flames. There is a beautiful girl and you want nothing more than to save her. She’s so small and you pull her out of the wreckage fast. “You’re gonna be okay, you understand me?” The girl’s hand moves to cradle her stomach. You never had a sister.

here is the tabernacle reconstructed; by ozmissage claire/jack; r

She doesn’t tell him about the time they shot her or the first time he came to her or anything, anything but: I know you’re my brother. This whispered against his lips right before she slips her tongue into his mouth. He doesn’t pull away, but she feels hot tears against her cheek, isn’t sure if they’re his or hers, knows it’s all the same anyway. They don’t have a history, no ties but the blood coursing through their veins and Aaron– You helped her raise him? Jack looks at his hands, laughs bitterly. I just read him stories. She smiles, twines their fingers together. Everyone needs stories, Jack.

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the hole in the universe; claire/jack; r; new!

by crickets

[commemini] Wake up. She’s warm in her bed and the memories hit her like bullets, but she doesn’t cry out. She doesn’t cry out and she’s not sure why until she feels the sensation of teeth digging into flesh, her own hand over her mouth. She draws blood. [effluo] The thought barely occurs to her. But it does occur. “What about Jack?” “Claire...” The sound of her name tells her he won’t be coming. She makes a choice. She doesn’t get on the plane. That seems important. She doesn’t get on the plane and somehow she makes it across the water in time. This is the most important thing of all. [commemini] I had the strangest dream. She remembers those words from Jack’s lips the day before. He says it between coffee and discussing David coming back from his summer music program. He says it between toast and Claire pretending not to notice that the calendar marks six months since she gave birth to the son she gave away. “Oh?” she asks him. “What about?” Claire is fond of dreams. Jack gives her a serious look, his hand on her bare knee going still. “Nothing,” he tells her, looks deep into his empty mug. “I don’t really remember.” She recalls a chill when he moves his hand from her skin. Claire knows a lie when she sees one. [effluo] “So that’s it, then?” Claire calls from the trees. Jack stands in front of the mouth of a cave. He’s injured and not arriving at his full height, and Claire

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the hole in the universe

almost laughs as she emerges from the green. Leave it to Jack to try and do the stupid thing, the heroic thing. “Going to abandon me again, were you?” There is anger in her voice, and Claire doesn’t even mind it when he flinches. Serves him right. But then, after a beat, “You’re hurt.” “Claire,” Jack reaches for her hand, eyes wet with sincerity and shame, sweat dripping from his nose. “You have to get on that plane.” “It’s too late, Jack,” she says, knows it’s true. She can tell from the way he grips her hand that he does too. “So, what happens now?” [commemini] Moon’s still out, and there is no light coming from Jack’s room. Claire runs a bath, sinks into cold water. Remembers. [effluo] This is after. Long after. The word “hero” has been erased from both their lips, and it rains on the island far more than it used to. Neither of them seems to notice either instance. Jack picks fruit and Claire insists that she can fix the air conditioning at the barracks, holds up the manual she’s been studying for weeks. “That thing’s at least a hundred years old.” Jack teases, but he’s right. It is. It’s more. “Tired of sleeping under the stars, too humid to sleep inside,” Claire mumbles, flipping through the pages. And then: “Leave me to my dreams.” Jack, drops another mango into his pack, pulls her close. “I know what you dream about,” he whispers, gruff into her ear. Claire laughs. [commemini] Water’s running. Claire’s lips are blue and her fingers pruned. She skims a hand across the water, stopping once at her taut nipple. When she closes her eyes she can still feel him on top of her, inside her. She can feel his hand in hers, can feel his last kiss. Her eyes open. Her eyes are open. She hovers over Jack as he sleeps, soundly and yet fitfully at the same time. “Jack,” she whispers his name, lets wet hair drop over her shoulders, tickling his neck.

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the hole in the universe

Jack’s eyes blink open, his reaction to finding his sister on top of him slow and unconcerned. “What is it, Claire?” “I had the strangest dream,” she tells him. [effluo] “Aren’t you ever angry with me?” Jack is next to her in bed, and Claire can’t sleep she’s so excited that the air is working. “Angry?” She asks, turns to him, slides one thigh between his legs. “Why?” “For leaving you,” he tells her, rests a hand on her neck, thumb at her collarbone. “Oh,” she says. “That.” “That,” he echoes. Claire kisses him. He’s warm against her body, and she can feel a chill at her exposed back when the fans kick on again. She smiles against his lips. “No,” she shakes her head. It’s only half of a lie. “That’s over now.” [commemini] There is a moment of recognition, another life lived, another life shared. Jack moves into a sitting position as best he can, makes no attempt to move Claire from her spot, straddled over his middle, towel hiked up to her thighs. “A dream,” he says, insists. Claire reaches for his arm, traces a scar along the underside of his elbow, tiny and barely noticeable. “Where did you get that?” “I don’t know,” Jack pulls his arm from her, drops his gaze. Claire leans in, centers herself on top of him, can feel him hard against her through the bedsheet. “I do,” she whispers. In that moment, his mouth is on hers. It’s assured, hard, thirsty. There’s nothing about this that they haven’t done before, and Claire pulls at sheets to expose him to her completely. In another moment, she’s on her back and he’s wedged between her thighs. There’s no moment taken to appreciate the gravity of their sin. There is no sin, only a rejoining of two souls. Claire closes her eyes and feels forever in each thrust of his hips, tastes it in his kiss, hears it in her name on his lips. She whispers the word out loud, only it comes out wrong, syllables strung together endlessly without pattern or meaning, a language only Jack will ever understand. [effluo] They stand in front of a jungle pool, and Claire is naked as she wades into the water. “How long have we been here?” She asks the question. It is not a new one. “I’m not sure,” he’ll tell her, skips a stone across the surface, starts unbuttoning his shirt. “A long time, I suppose.” This answer is not a new one. “We could always ask,” she nods to the south, towards the beach, but Jack just shakes his head, smiles

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the hole in the universe

our story continues at her. It has been so long since their old friend has given them any answers. Since there have been any answers to give. They both know that.

title

“I know,” she agrees. “I just wonder sometimes, is all.” [commemini] The phone rings. Nobody picks up. Claire, covered in one of Jack’s t-shirts, brings a plate of fruit into the room. It isn’t quite like what they had on the island, but it seems fitting anyway. Jack is naked on the bed, and he slides up to meet her, takes the plate from her hands. “So hungry,” he manages between bites. Claire steals a piece of cantaloupe from his fingers, pops it into her mouth, laughs. They eat until their bellies are full, until they could almost fall asleep, Jack’s head resting on her lap, Claire’s fingers twining through his hair. “Jack,” Claire whispers, her voice full of hope. “What happens now?” [effluo] One day, it starts to storm. The flood comes down and it doesn’t stop, their island growing smaller and smaller. “What happens now?” Claire asks, their hands clasped tight. Jack kisses her through the rainfall. “Now we wake up.”

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love, lost; by holycitygirl claire/jack; pg; new!

He says, “I want to go to Uncle Jack’s.” And what is she supposed to say to that? No, I don’t want to see him. Is that lie worse than the truth that she does? “Maybe later.” She reaches over to the end table beside the bed- a badly stained, oak, eye sore that one of her neighbors was going to throw out. On it are half a dozen pill bottles and a pack of cigarettes. “Where’s my lighter?” Aaron sighs, turns around in the doorway, and walks out. + The sound of a car in the driveway an hour later wakes her up. Just the same she doesn’t move. Doesn’t so much as run her fingers through her hair. He’s seen her in worse shape. He’s...Jack. He’ll forever be the type of man who holds on to the memory of better. She can’t forgive, can’t forget. He doesn’t seem to blame her for it. “I’m going to take him to a ballgame. I’ll bring him back later.” She almost – almost – tells him not to. + Swallowing her pills requires water she no longer has -in any of the many dirty glasses circling her bed like a castle moat. With Aaron gone she has to stumble to the bathroom, remember how to turn on the faucet, look herself in the mirror. She would avert her eyes, but the image isn’t familiar enough to cause regret. It’s somebody else. Not her. Deep down, she still feels like the girl who fell out of the sky and into his arms. That girl who lost her way and found a new life, a new family. A hopeful little thing that thought her luck had changed. This woman with madness in her eyes, with surrender snapping at her heals, is the thing that took over when he left. When she realized who he was -who he is. And what they could never be again. +

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love, lost

He comes back and finds her sitting in the bathtub. “Claire -”

Sometimes just the way he says it hurts, like a friend, like a lover. “Yeah-” She answers, the four letters tripping over her tongue like a drunk down stairs. “I think maybe it’s time to see the doctor again. This isn’t healthy. You need to get out of the house. Aaron is worried.” Her eyes closing is the only response she has, the only one she will give. + She loves the way his arms feel when he lifts her up and carries her back to bed. It’s not enough, but it’s all she has. He slides in beside her and it doesn’t matter if it is pity or love, thick blood or the thinnest of water left trickling under the bridges they’ve burned. For a second, she gets to feel like nothing ever changed. Like nothing ever will.

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birds are singing to calm us down; by missy useless claire/jack; pg13

“You killed them,” she says. “You killed them all.” His voice is soft, compassionate. He’s the only friend she’s had for years. “They left without you, Claire,” and “Shoot him in the head. Put him out of his misery; you’d be doing him a favor,” and “We can leave as soon as he’s dead.” It’s not a matter of choosing sides. Or maybe it is. “Go away,” she says. There is too much blood beneath and around and above her fingers on Jack’s chest. She’ll have to find something to stitch him up. She says, “Go away.” If he replies, she doesn’t hear him anymore. He goes. Jack doesn’t stop breathing, but he doesn’t open his eyes, either. That’s okay. “I’ll save you.” she tells him. “I’ll save you.” She will. She carries him home. He’s too big and she’s too small and it takes longer than it should, night and day and night again. She washes his wounds in a stream, forces him to swallow water and mashed fruit. The stitches look good, but he lost a lot of blood and he’s too pale, too weak. She’s not scared. She sees his eyelids flutter; his hand tangles in her hair, pulls her down and closer to him. “Claire,” he says, mutters, sing-songs, “Claire Claire Claire Claire.” It makes her laugh. She kisses him, whispers against his temple, against his nose, against his lips, “We’re almost there,” and “You’re doing good.” Night and day and night and day and night again, and it’s not yet dawn when they arrive at her tent. Her heart swells with something that isn’t joy. She thinks she greets the place with, “Didn’t think I’d see you again.” On the other side of the ocean, her baby lives. Jack’s shivering, pale and feverish, and she strips his clothes off, covers him with torn blankets and fur and animal skin. “You’re okay now,” she tells him, and it’s not important that he can’t hear her, passed out from exhaustion or pain. “I have medical supplies.” She murmurs the lyrics of a song she made up herself against his neck, almost wants to shake him awake to get his attention, You like it? but doesn’t. She watches him instead. He’s beautiful maybe she says that out loud, but it doesn’t matter because he’s asleep and can’t hear her―and his eyes are glazed over when he looks at her, when he grips her forearm, her hip, her little finger. Perhaps she was wrong: perhaps he’s not asleep right now. He chokes on his words. She shakes her head, presses her hand against his mouth. She sleeps curled up against him, fist closed tightly around her rifle. She’ll protect him. He cries these first few days after, eyes screwed shut, and she strains forward, cries with him. His hands cradle her face, clammy and shaking and stiff. His voice is hoarse around the “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Claire,” and she hides her frown at the base of his neck, digs her fingernails into his shoulder blades. She knows she holds on too tightly, shouldn’t, shouldn’t, there are too many stitches and he’s too close to bleeding out. He throws up one evening, only a small amount of half-digested food, mostly bile and blood. He lets her cling to him afterwards, lets her sob into his back. He doesn’t wake up the morning after.

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She doesn’t let him die.

birds are signing to calm us down

It gets worse. For two weeks, it’s almost like being alone again, except that she can feel him lurking at the outer corner of her eye. There are still whispers of how she’ll be able to see her child if her brother dies. She chooses not to understand any of this. Jack wakes up on the fifteenth day. The jungle roars. She cocks her gun. He’s her family; she won’t let anything happen to him. Jack makes plans. How to live on an island for the rest of your life. How to find your way back home. How to get revenge. Jack makes plans. His knees still give out under him whenever he tries to stand on his own. “I won’t leave you,” she says.

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reflections; by hitlikehammers claire/jack; nc17; new!

It starts slowly, guiltlessly; there is no shame in the way she trembles, the way she shakes until he wraps his arms around her shoulders, the freckles on her bare skin like sand, as scattered and small as she makes herself in his embrace, and she folds herself against his body and lets her tears soak through his sleep-shirt, warm and heart-wrenching as she bows her head, listens to the rush of air as his inhales, exhales; synchs her lungs inside his own. The stray tangles of her hair dance along the still-healing gash at his neckline; she’s lost to the world, and doesn’t notice when he tenses, seizes at the touch. He spend the rest of the night watching her, wondering why the cadence of her breath reminds him of the tides – he hates the sea. Come morning, she’s still dreaming; rubbing his wrist idly, looking for an absent weight against the bone, he studies his image in the mirror: the scratch below his jaw is gone. Having a woman in the house is different; strange. She’s not Juliet, never could be – the coloring works, but that’s where the similarities end. They walk differently, don’t hold themselves in the same way; they smile differently, at different things, and where Juliet had smelled of spice and allure, Claire carries a strangely homey scent about her, like flowers and warmth. He doesn’t remember all that well, anymore, but he’s fairly sure that he looks at Claire more than he’d looked at Juliet – studies her like a masterpiece, a work of art he doesn’t understand but feels connected to, like the artist who forgets his work: there’s something he lost somewhere, elusive, and she might have it; she feels like the closest fit he’s even known, and so he watches her, notices her details – tries to find the jagged edge that matches his own. Sometimes, there are reflections: moments where he knows what she’s thinking just because he, too, bites his lip when he’s anxious; because David always brushes his hair behind his left ear when he’s lying to be polite. She likes her coffee black, and chocolate milk with her cheerios, and she rolls her ankles with nervous energy, just like he does. It’s bizarre, really, except for the way that it settles warm in the pit of his stomach, the way it spreads around him like a touch of the familiar, the promise of something real, something safe. Other times, though, she’s unreadable, inscrutable, and he doesn’t know her; a half, after all, can never be a whole, and she’s all stranger to him, in the end. It takes him a while – too long – to realize that it’s far from a detriment, a shortcoming: it’s a gift, really, a joy; because when he gives up looking, that’s when he sees the shape of her eyes, the shade of her skin, the curve of her neck – he sees the things that are uniquely her, that no one can claim, can subsume. Just her. It takes less time than it should before the far side of his bed is indented, curved to the shape of her hips, the exaggerated curve of her silhouette as she wobbles, fit to bursting, her due date looming in the back of his mind – he remembers his ex, swollen with their son, the way her breaths were heavier at night, her sleep either fleeting, fragile, or sound like the dead: Claire, though – she’s different. Her breath comes in little puffs, sighs – she sleeps soundly, a hand on her belly at all times: protective, almost afraid. It doesn’t escape him that when he drifts close enough to her that they share warmth, space – air, as he breathes out and catches her curls in the stream – that she calms, that her body melts and her lips curve in the moonlight, the reddish glow from the clock at his bedside; he soothes her. It doesn’t escape his notice that it’s becoming harder – every moment, every day – to write whatever pulls, stretches in the space between them off as something platonic; as a familial bond, something genetic or bequeathed. This is something different, something strange and shocking and scandalous and sure, and he can’t avoid it or ignore it, can’t wish it away. He can’t ignore that, when she smiles in her sleep as he hovers, exhales against the shell of her ear, that

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reflections title; by author his own heart trembles, the stomach plummets, and he feels both fearful and certain in ways he’s never known before; in ways he doesn’t want to lose. pairing; rating

Our story begins... When he kisses her at her temple, lets the bridge of his nose trail the soft cup of her jaw as the purse of his lips draws breath off of the corner of her mouth; when his lashes brush the pillow of her cheekbones, she doesn’t wake. When he lets his mouth press soft against her own, he barely notices whether there’s any resistance, any response in kind; wonders whether she can feel the pounding, the throbbing beat that resonates in his lips, rails against the pressure of his kiss; when he pulls back, though, her eyes are open. Things become clear, after that – oddly black and white; and for the first time in his life, Jack knows exactly what he wants. He understands, suddenly, what it all means: why, when the nausea spikes at the back of his throat, he drinks her in deeper instead of pulling away; why he can’t distinguish between her panting and his own moans – why it feels somehow significant, the way his right hand threads hers in his own and holds her palm against his beating heart, as he measures her pulse at the center of her heat as he slides a finger between her thighs and strokes fast; can’t outstrip the wild rhythm of her blood thrumming, her muscles shivering around him until everything stops and he wonders, mourns for a world where he never knew her, never felt her touch. He understands, in the way that he catches his breath in the middle of the night: with his head tipped low against her stomach, the stretch of her skin against the life inside warm, sweat-slick as her breasts heave, slung low with the anticipation of motherhood as she fights for air, as he sucks in the taste of them: him sticky against the sheets near her knees where he’d finished himself, while her wetness clings musky, strong below his chin. Wrong, so fucking wrong; but Christ, he can’t own it, can’t deny it – she’s half of him, and it’s the half that he’s been missing: wrapped up and hidden away in her. Because the things that separate them make her beautiful; and the things they share – the things that are ugly, that are broken in him – those are the things she makes right. It’s not a question; there are no considerations to be made. He waits for her in bed, and the darkness of night isn’t a shroud, anymore; isn’t made of shadows in which to hide. She comes into his room; and if he thinks about it hard enough, closes his eyes, he can feel the trembling, the little earthquakes of her steps that shake him to the core as she approaches; the shudder of his pulse like her footfalls on the floorboards, and he breathes, breathes – she’s all sunshine and stale air, still: the salt of the coastline and the smog of the city, sweet and coarse and innocent, debauched with her lost eyes at sea, the swell of her belly. She’s the best and worst of all the things in the world, and Jack doesn’t quite love her for it, but he thinks that maybe, someday, he could. He’s pretty fucking sure that he could. She stretches out beside him, and he rolls into her on instinct – so soon, it has to mean something, has to. And sometimes, when they’re staring nose to nose, half-cross eyed and sucking in each other’s air – sometimes he thinks he sees himself in her, really sees: not a reflection of heredity, but something deeper, fuller. Sometimes, he thinks he sees what he could be, in her; sometimes, he thinks he can tell when she sees the same in him. And all the rest, the fragments that remain; they’re memories, all the things he’s forgotten, but he doesn’t need them anymore. Because this is more than they will ever be, than anyone will ever understand. He inhales, lingers in the scent of her, and tries to sleep – and there’s nowhere else he needs to be, needs to go; there’s nothing he needs to do anymore. Just be. And it seems absurd, really, but the fact remains: looking back upon it all, the world hadn’t felt quite real, until she’d found him; made him whole.

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the blood of prophets; by hesperia

Our story continues...

title

claire/jack; pg; new!

in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth He stays because he cannot leave her. “It’s not too late, Jack,” Sawyer says, and Jack knows better than to ask him to stay. He wants to, but he doesn’t, he knows Sawyer’s lost too much here to ever find peace. Jack claps him on the shoulder, “Go, you should go.” His body aches, can feel his muscles deteriorating from an unknown force, and this island’s determined to get what it wants. The island always needs a sacrifice. He watches the last of the boats push off from the sandy beaches they have come to know as home, as hell, as all of the above, and still he cannot leave. She meets him at the edge of the jungle, her hair knotted at the base of her neck, This is how it was always supposed to be. She no longer speaks, for he hears her as clearly as though she had opened her mouth. She takes his hands, her fingers small in his, and leads him deeper into the dark of the island’s heart. We were chosen for this, she leads him along familiar paths, through familiar trees. This is it, Jack. The beginning and the end. It’s us. It’s how he wanted it. She kisses him then, her hands on his face and her mouth against his, and he gathers her up in his arms, kisses her back for the first time without fear. When he falters, she catches him, tucks her arms under his and helps him to the small alcove. Don’t be scared, she says, her voice is soft and scratchy. I’m here, I’m right here. I’ll meet you there. She kisses him one last time, brushes her lips over his own weathered mouth, and slips the small velvet bag into the pocket of his shirt. One black. One white. The beginning. The end.

25


title we bleed; by angela weber until Our story continues... claire/jack; pg13

The autumn breeze is cold, dry, harsh, a warning of imminent sundown. Her hair flies into her mouth and she giggles, smoothing her white loose skirt down over her hips. The ocean roars behind them, eating up the remnants of the last tide. He breathes shallowly, through his nose, lets the salt coat his lungs, thickening his voice. “You need some help with that?” She sticks out her tongue. “Shut up, Jack.” He smiles. She is happy. This is all he wanted. Her voice is high on the wind, her mouth a ribbon of red laughter. “Aaron. Sweetheart. Let’s make a sandcastle, Aaron!” Her voice rasps a little, sometimes, when she sings and when she cries. She smoked, before, before she got pregnant, before she left Australia, before she ran into him on the sidewalk and he asked for her name, not her number, before he hopped on a plane and followed her home, before she had the baby three years ago, before everything changed. She never told him this, but he knows–he recognizes the signs. Aaron toddles from Jack’s arms to hers, windswept big blue eyes blinking. Claire laughs again. She is beautiful–blond, and breakable. (She looks nothing like her, you know. Nothing like her.) She is too young for him. (His father is dead. She reminds him of himself. He has always wanted a sister.) It feels like hiding, like a secret, like something too good to be true, too terrible to be spoken of. They make love in corners and beneath the stairs and sometimes on the floor, but never in bed, even when the curtains are shut tight and Aaron is fast asleep in his crib two doors down the hall, a storybook tucked beneath his arm. They don’t question it because it’s a habit and it’s a habit because they don’t question it. She always reaches for the light switch, first. He’ll never ask why. She still reads her horoscope, every evening with her tea. Sometimes she reads his, too. It worries him, and he wonders, but he knows better than to say what he means. The night comes more quickly on the other side of the world. She stands inert at the window, two fingers pattering on the glass, a nonsense rhythm, her favorite song. It’s a song about stars and rainy days and it suits her perfectly, Jack thinks. White traffic lights make her hair glow neon, ultraviolet, her lashes dark against her cheek. The radio hums quietly on the countertop and he puts the last dish away, shutting the cupboard. A murderer has been caught, somewhere in the States–sentenced to death. He doesn’t want to know. He turns the volume down and walks up behind Claire, leaning down, his hands on her abdomen, her head falling back against his chest, a reflex. Something has changed in her eyes. Her skin is cold. “Hey,” he says, quiet, afraid of something he doesn’t understand. “What’s going on?” What the hell is going on here? She smiles absently, exhausted. He bites his lower lip and rubs her arms. She sighs, and moves back a little, her heels atop his toes, grounding him there, the city’s eyes wide and blank on them both. “I don’t want to die,” she whispers, her tapping fingers stilling against the glass. She has never sounded more far away.

26


who is the lamb?; by crickets claire/jack, esau/jacob; r

Jack understands it will be the two of them in the end – that there is some reason Claire never left the island in the first place, why he knew he had to return. He’s not sure he will ever truly understand the reasons, but at the end, when the rest are buried in the ground, it’s he and Claire who are left standing. They hold services for every soul, every friend, every enemy. Jack chokes on his words as he speaks over Sawyer’s grave, loses the ability to make a sound. His sister reaches for his hand. Nothing’s really changed for Claire. She’s been left alone too long in this place, has even learned to call it her home. Jack seems confused, angry, tired – all of the things she remembers feeling when he left her there so long ago. “Don’t worry, Jack,” she tells him. “Just follow the trees, that’s what I do.” Jack looks at her a moment, allows himself to smile. He doesn’t get it, she knows. Not yet. Jack wonders if she’s still all there. She says things he doesn’t understand, kisses him on the lips too long, walks around with the same dirt marks on her face for days until the rain washes her clean. He stops asking questions and follows her lead. She knows this place better than anyone alive, and for once that’s a truth he understands with complete clarity. One night they sit by the fire, bellies full, and Claire reaches for a blade. Jack watches her as she pulls her hair tight and begins to shear it off, throwing the bits into the flames until her locks are shoulder length at most. The stench of burning strands is unbearable, and Jack brings a hand to his face. Claire takes him by the arm and leads him to a nearby pool, wades in, hands him a little tin containing a tiny bar of soap, a seldom-used luxury stolen from the barracks, no doubt. Claire lets him wash her hair, peels off wet clothes and urges him to tend to the rest of her. Jack traces soapy hands along her body, stopping at every bruise, every scratch, every scar. When they’re finished, they scrub her clothes too, wring them out, lay them on a rock to let them dry. She sleeps curled next to him that night, wrapped in a threadbare blanket underneath her shelter and the stars. In the morning, she’s calm again, she starts to make sense. Jack kisses her this time, his tongue tasting the salt from her lips, pressing further on, unafraid of what it means. He’s sure now that nothing has meaning anymore. Not even this. -

27


28


who is the lamb?

Jack gathers wood for their fire, walks alone in the jungle. It startles him when he sees the image of Jacob, a few yards away and watching him from between the leaves. It startles him, and then again it doesn’t. “I thought you were dead,” Jack tells him. “I am,” Jacob says, offering no further explanation. “Then why are you here?” Jack doesn’t bother asking how. “I wanted to give you a message,” Jacob says. “I wanted to tell you to love her. Love her while you can.” “What does that mean?” he asks. But Jacob is already gone. During the next rainy season, Claire teases him, tells him she’s been waiting for the perfect canvas. She undresses him and leads him to the ground, has him lie upon his belly. She straddles his back, uses fingertips and twigs to draw a muddy image onto bare flesh. Jack laughs when it tickles, asks her what she’s doing. Her painting is of stars and moons, of the two of them together. She describes the scene, whispers it into his ear. Jack rolls her over, careful not to ruin the image, not just yet, and pins her to the ground, covers her mouth with his. Claire helps him find the right place on top of her, her hands going to his ass, her thighs opening just so. When they start to move, and when the sounds they make fade into the jungle, as if two animals, the sky darkens and opens up. Heavy raindrops slide down Jack’s shoulders and back, leaving a glistening wake and forever erasing Claire’s handiwork. She reaches for him, her hands going to his spine, wants to feel it wash away. She calls out his name. Claire often dreams of Esau. He comes to her, a tall, lanky man with kind eyes and salt-and-pepper hair. He tells her things she doesn’t want to hear – things that make her angry. “I understand,” he tells her. “Jacob was my brother too. I loved him as much as you love Jack, the same way that you love Jack.” Claire pictures the two of them in her mind, Jacob and Esau, naked by a campfire, not unlike the one she shares with Jack. She refuses to look at him, crosses her arms. “You can still be together, take care of each other. You’ll still be you. Essentially,” he says. The unspoken truth rings so clear that even Claire can hear it. After a while you just won’t want to anymore. “I don’t care,” she tells him. “I don’t care.” “Someone has to do it,” he reasons. “There’s a balance.” “You haven’t told me why,” she begs. “Why us?” But Esau is already gone. -

29


who is the lamb?

This is after – after they no longer have any choice.

Jack watches Claire skinning a rabbit under a heavy leafy branch on the boulder next to his, her hands and wrists covered in blood, a calm, blank look on her face. “No one’s coming,” he tells her, shakes his head. “Not yet.” “Haven’t you figured it out?” she laughs, rinses the fresh meat in a bowl of water. “Esau told me it might take you a while.” “I will,” he says. “Eventually.” Claire scoffs. “Do you have any idea how badly I’d like to kill you?” she tells him, tosses the bloody leftovers, head and all, into the trees at her side. “I do,” he says. “I’m sorry.” Claire meets his eyes. “Hungry?” she asks. “There’s plenty.” “Maybe another time,” he tells her. “Maybe another time.” -fin

30


title

vacation;

by Our story continues...

toestastegood claire/jack; pg; new!

She falls asleep on his shoulder when they have only been travelling for thirty minutes. The train rattles on while her breath puffs in and out of her slightly parted lips. She isn’t snoring. Not exactly. Jack smiles and stares out of the window as the countryside rushes past, green and luscious with no sign of any humans or buildings for miles. It’s like being on the island again, being somewhere that is untouched. It makes him glad that Claire is asleep: she likes the city, now. Halfway through their journey she stirs as the refreshments trolley rattles through the carriage. Her blue eyes, glazed with sleep, glance up at him and she asks, “Are we there yet?” That question is the sound of a thousand family vacations they were never able to take together. His grin is shaky; he doesn’t let her in on the joke. “Not yet,” he says. His lips linger on her forehead, her cheek, her mouth. Her lips curve to fit against him and they stay suitably chaste for public. It isn’t wrong, what they’re doing. It’s remembering.

fall apart again; by hitlikehammers claire/jack; pg

She doesn’t know, sometimes (most of the time) why he puts up with her. He could have anyone, could trade her in for a newer (less broken) model, but he never does. Never seems to even want to. Sometimes, when she catches his eyes on her, he’s looking at her like she’s the ocean and the shore; his beginning and his end, all wrapped up into one. And she’s never felt that way before; never flushed so deep. She knows she looks like a lobster when she blushes, but he says she looks like the sunrise, the halo of her hair like the beams that got away. It’s terribly unbelievable, but she doesn’t think he knows how to lie. And she thinks she knows why it had to hurt the way it did, thinks she understands why Thomas loved her (never loved her), left her (with a child more his than hers, she’d always felt); why she boarded a plane bound for the other side of the world – she came here to find a man named Jack, with eyes like a sky that her sun can rise up against. If the baby had been his, she would have kept it.

31


love rescue me;

Our story continues...

claire/jack; pg13

title

by holycitygirl

A lot of little girls put their fathers on pedestals. They dream of princes and kings, and imagine a night’s fitful sleep the product of peas. They want proof, shoes that fit just right, and they wait for Godmothers to turn their pumpkins into stage coaches. The day Claire hears her mother whispering in the dark, anger coming through just the same, clipped words that form sentences like “she’s your daughter” and “I could tell your wife” and “wouldn’t want to ruin your perfect family”, she slips into the bathroom to find the scissors. Cuts off her hair in great swipes of thumb and forefinger. Watches with fascination as the old pipes refuse to swallow the clumps of blonde curls and the water overflows unto the floor. She’s seven, and when her mother finds her she thinks she is playing, foolish, stupid enough to think that hair grows back overnight. The woman’s eyes are red-rimmed, her fingers hard around Claire’s wrist when she snatches Claire off the stool needed to see the mirror. Tomorrow there will be bruises the size of robin’s eggs, impressions of fingerprint swirls topped off with half crescent fingernail tips. Claire doesn’t cry. + Mysterious checks fill in the gaps where her mother’s job doesn’t necessarily reach. For years they are kept high, behind stacks of bills on the top of the fridge waiting to be taken to the bank. By the time she’s fifteen a secret pact has been made between them. Don’t ask, don’t tell, and what neither of them knows hurts all involved – but that’s not the point. Claire doesn’t want the details, just his name. She doesn’t need the past, just the future. There is no return address, just postmarks that let her know the journey, overseas, his no-nonsense envelopes have traveled more than she has, farther, touched the hands of a father who has never touched her. The year she turns sixteen she uses the library’s internet connection to look him up. He’s a wallet-sized photo beside a bullshit bio on a big hospital’s webpage. Doctor, surgeon, family man. She memorizes his credentials, the names of the school’s he attended. She goes home numb, but thinking, thinking of why she cares and what she’s going to do about it. Her mother’s garden is in full bloom, exotic petals in every hue cultivated with love and bought with his cold hard cash. Claire pauses to find the most beautiful, walks over to crush it in her fist, kicking at the roots with her steel-toed boot. + His name is Randy, Daniel, Robert, Kip. He calls himself “Slasher”, “Demon”, “Nine ball”, “Killer”. She laughs at their jokes, and puckers for their kiss, but secretly thinks they all look and sound like Pitbulls. Her mother hates her clothes, hates her dyed dark hair, but Claire can’t seem to care. She hates her mother. They promise to take her to America, so she lets them spread her legs. They come and go, and she never gets anywhere. +

32


love rescue me by author Thomas is different. pairing; rating He makes Claire forget for a time, forget her goals, her dreams, the anger, the

title;

need for revenge as heady as a thirst in the back of her parched throat.

Our story begins... The stick turns blue.

Thomas is exactly the same. + Eight months go by in a blur of conversations, hospital rooms, roads both metaphoric and horribly literal, nightmares and reality. Her belly grows with her uneasiness, and by the time someone says “United States,” she’s past feeling relieved or scared, beyond dread or hope. It’s a long drive to the airport. Claire sits in silence for wherever this trip takes her. She almost laughs when they crash. When she feels them fall from the sky, she stupidly thinks it’s over. + Jack doesn’t know, he can’t be blamed, but she feels all the same things when he first touches her. All the same pain like an infected wound, throbbing and tender, poisoning the rest. “I’m a doctor,” and Claire stops just short of saying “I know.” Stops just short of repeating his personal press release to him on the hot beach as he supports her weight and asks with genuine concern if she’s okay. He doesn’t look like their father except in those eyes that watch her like a stranger. She’s no one, nothing but a girl to pity. He never looked her up on the world wide web. Never guessed she existed. In the middle of disaster she wants to refuse his help, push him away and do it on her own. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t because his voice is soothing, his touch confident, and so close to being more than she ever thought she would get, of someone she isn’t supposed to know. + He notices her freckles, and she notices his. He’s not as fair as she is, but they are there. Three weeks in the sun and they cover the bridge of his nose like a school of fish fighting a current. She smiles, even though she shouldn’t when he barters with Sawyer to bring her sunscreen. Acts more meek than she really is to draw him in, holds him close once he’s there with the weight of her need. Jack isn’t the check-writing type. Claire figured that out quick. He’s not like Thomas, not the kind of man who walks away. She asks him to stay because she realizes he’s not the kind that lets go easily. He’s not the kind that lets go at all. It’s another thing they have in common. +

33


love rescue me At night he talks to ghosts, to the dead man she spent her whole life wanting to hate, the man he spent his whole life trying not to love. She gets chills listening to the sound of his cries so she kisses him, clings to him when he responds like there is no reason he shouldn’t. She’s addicted to the way he fits around her, the careful way he has of taking everything she has like it’s something worth keeping. She doesn’t feel damaged above him, his body within her –even though she is, even though this surely proves she’s broken. Jack’s voice is a promise, not a curse. A gift of twisted fate. + A lot of little girls dream of happily ever after. They put all their belief in an end that makes all the shit they have to survive until that point worth it. Claire only wants a beginning.

35


maybe you’ll always be just a little out of reach; by slybrunette claire/jack; pg13; new!

She came back a little uneven, rough around the edges. That’s what they say, anyways, when she bothers to listen. Claire also came back with a newfound sense of independence, forced upon her instead of slowly gained, and a distaste for convention. The combination strikes those around her as strange. She strikes them as strange. It’s why Claire stays in her apartment when she can and paints, while Kate goes to parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings like it’s second nature, the way a gun in her hand might have once felt. Time has made her different in a way that others have often confused with crazy. The man who she often finds sitting on the edge of her bed, on the terrace overlooking the busy streets below, on the bench outside of the art supply shop two streets over – he does his best to prove their point. For two days it rains – (unseasonable, as out of place as she is when she stands outside in it, on her terrace with a cigarette in her hand, damp and curling at the end but still lit, butts drowning in an ashtray; the rain soaks through her clothes, rinses her hands of the red and green that’s stained them, dripping down her fingertips in rivulets that pool and wash away) – and for two days she keeps to her apartment. (Kate is five minutes away, Aaron safe inside the same four walls he grew up under. It had been Claire’s decision; she was fine on her own, yes, but she had so many memory gaps, drew so many blanks, and had so many unhealthy habits, that she wouldn’t have been fine with the life of another in her hands.) “It’s good,” he tells her, and inexplicably there is paint splattered on his jeans, red but artificial. A vague stripe of yellow on his arm, half-washed off. It’s all a trick of the light. (It’s all a trick of her mind that allows her hands on him, sharp nails that dig, his hands in her still-toowild hair when she presses her body along his.) She doesn’t beam in the face of her work; she can’t bear to look at it anymore, in fact. His remarks garner a smile from her that isn’t half as pleasant as it is crooked and off. Jack never seems to mind. “Yeah,” she decides and when she washes her hands in the sink his reflection is behind hers in the mirror. She blinks and it blurs but does not leave. He does not leave. Whether he’s a ghost or a figment of her imagination, she hasn’t figured out yet, but that she knows he’s not real remains as a check of her sanity. Even if she acts otherwise.

36


maybe you’ll always be just a little out of reach

Her shoulders are red and sore in the mirror, leftover sunburn, and his hands are cold on them. Always cold. “You know what today is?” He asks, even though they both already know the answer. Her painting is a vivid testament to it. Claire nods anyway. (A helicopter disappears into the blue, blue sky over a fiery mess of debris that turns the ocean red, orange, bright and blaring. This is when they – you, she’ll try to whisper, but the word gets stuck in her throat along with the ash she can inhale from nowhere – left. This is what it is to be left behind. This is what it is to have your fate sealed. She thinks he might understand that now.)

37


title

eden;

by ozmissage Our story continues... claire/jack; r

The sky opens up with rain, lightning slicing through the atmosphere, sending sparks of light across the night. Claire slips her hand in his. “It’s alright big brother, he’ll keep us safe.” Jack shivers and she moves closer, wraps her arms around his waist. She’s humming, but he can’t place the song. *** She calls him brother now as if he might forget. She calls him brother when he wants to forget. When her tiny hands are sliding up his chest, her lips pressing against his throat; when he slips inside her, thrusts his hips roughly and makes her breath catch in her throat–she whispers it in his ear. “You’re my brother.” He kisses her then, always. Swallows her words, pretends he doesn’t hear. *** The thing that’s not John Locke watches them with satisfaction, a glint of triumph in his eyes. It calls them its children and Claire laughs; the sound is still lilting, still beautiful. Jack promised himself he would save her. She races down the beach leaving nothing but footprints behind in the sand. She turns and beckons for him to follow. He’s beginning to wonder if she ever needed saving at all. *** The world beyond the island is gone; at least that’s what the thing tells them. Jack didn’t believe it at first, but then the sky went white and now sometimes when he stares out at the ocean he thinks he can see where it stops, where it fades into nothing. They’re the last of a dying breed. Brother and sister. Adam and Eve. Beginning and end. *** “Jack!” she calls. He turns to find her watching him, her blue eyes glinting in the light, one hand reaching out for his.

38


eden by author He takes it, rating threads their fingers together and tugs her towards the caves. pairing;

title;

Our story begins... “Come on Claire, there’s a storm coming.” *** He shivers against the cold, but she’s curled against him now, her legs draped over his, her head nestled in the crook of his arm. They watch the rain fall in silence, just the two of them as if they’re the last two people on earth. Jack laughs, remembering suddenly that they are. “What is it?” she asks. He shakes his head and pulls her closer, lets his lips find her pulse point so he can feel the steady flutter of her heartbeat. “Nothing little sister, it’s nothing.”

39


le temps à l’envers; by crickets claire/jack; r

This is time in reverse. They get off the plane in Los Angeles, and Claire can feel him slipping away already. Like lifting a glass only to find there’s no milk, or taking a step when there is none, she reaches for his hand. [It isn’t there.] – Jack helps her find a place outside of the city, someplace that’s close, but not near enough to be tempting. The drive to the house is a long brushstroke of silence, too long, and Claire understands all too well what that means. “You’re going to need a washer and dryer,” he tells her on the day she moves in, hands her a blank check. “For anything else,” he says, like it’s not coming from the same pool of hush money anyway. Airline’s got a reputation to protect, a bottom line to watch. She follows him to the door, grabs his hand. He lets her, stills, but doesn’t turn around. She presses her weight into his, stands on tiptoe to kiss the back of his neck, her fingers searching for more. “I have to go, Claire.” She burns the check after he’s gone. – Sixty days. Sixty days without a word, and she could almost fool herself into forgetting, moving on. She subscribes to magazines, tries new recipes, gets a job at a florist shop to keep busy. And then he shows up, tells her to pack some things, says something about an uncle, about always chasing after dead men, kisses her full on the lips. If she is angry, she doesn’t say. This is not to spare him. [She’s not quite sure he deserves her mercy.] It is because she understands. Truth is, if he hadn’t sent her away, she might have just disappeared on her own, slipped away in the night, left no word. He only got to it first. Can’t exactly blame him for that. She packs what little she needs in a canvas backpack, no more. She hasn’t quite gotten the minimalistic lifestyle of the island out of her system. She thinks it’s for the best, losing that all-too-human attachment to things. It’s people, now, she wants to hold on to. People who are always either dying or running away. – They’re in a dark basement somewhere in rural France going through the life of someone she’s never met. [Jack’s uncle’s life. Her uncle’s life.] Claire hasn’t asked about family connections, why Jack never told her Christian had any other family, or why Great Uncle Felix wasn’t stateside. She only follows him from room to room as they separate items into piles and lists, things the family will keep, things they’ll sell, things they’ll throw away.

40


title; byThrow author Keep. Sell. away.

le temps à l’envers

pairing; rating

Claire feels like the last. Our story begins... [There are freshly baked crusty rolls in the mornings and they don’t sleep in the same bed at night.] One early evening, she finds a cache of vintage dresses tucked away in one of the upstairs closets. She tries one on, the perfect fit, and the next day she starts to wear them regularly. They’re modest and humble, the soft fabrics falling just below the knee in floral prints and dark colors, blacks, tans, deep reds, and dark blues. If Jack notices, he doesn’t mention it. “I remember this,” Jack says, and Claire is almost startled. She swears it’s the first time she’s heard his voice in days. [But no, she remembers, he’d asked her if she wanted milk in her tea over breakfast, talked about getting started downstairs.] She goes to where he is, in a low-lit corner of the basement, standing over an old hand-crank record player. Jack slides the record he’s holding out of the sleeve, places it on the turntable, and begins to crank. Nothing’s dusty, except maybe the music, like old Felix was down here just a few weeks ago, listening to the same record, the same song. Claire smiles, feeling appropriately dressed, like she’s just closed her eyes and been transported to some bygone era. Jack pulls her close. She stands, her bare feet on top of his, as they dance. The man in the song talks of eyes and lips and belonging, of dreams and all the simple things about love that Jack and Claire know nothing about. But in this moment, it doesn’t seem to matter. He bends low, his hands at her waist. Claire presses her cheek to his. Jack kisses her shoulder. She closes her eyes. The song ends. There’s a brief suspension of time, nothing but silence passing between them, body temperature, a quiet intake of breath. Jack clears his throat, drops his hands to his side, and they resume their places as if the moment never happened. [And maybe it never did. Maybe it was just a dream.] – That night, Jack finds his way into Claire’s bed for the first time since they came to France. She hears the groan of rusty hinges and meets him halfway, his knee already balanced on the edge of the bed, her blankets tossed askew. His lips on hers are rough and clumsy, his resolve not yet in tune with his body. She pulls at the fabric at his back, drags him down into the soft nest of linens. “Something’s changed?” Claire half-asks as he hikes up her nightgown, his cool fingers finding the edges of her panties, slipping them down. Jack kisses her again in answer, whispers, “I’m sorry” what seems like a thousand times until she’s pressing his boxers over his hips, sliding her heels over his ass. “Shut up,” she tells him, bites at his neck, tasting the salty flesh she finds there. Jack groans, pressing his weight into her, finding the right leverage to gain entry. Claire closes her eyes and bites her bottom lip, the sounds of the song from the record player filling her mind, the feel of Jack moving inside her overwhelming. Jack sweeps the hair from her face. She meets his eye, connects in a kiss. He smooths a hand down her torso and over the rise of her thigh at his side, grips her bent knee, presses it forward.

42


le temps à l’envers by author His lips against hers, she cries out. pairing; rating

title;

Our story begins... – “We should just stay here,” she says in Jack’s arms that night. “I like it here.” Jack laughs, kisses her jaw. “Well, you can keep the dresses at least,” he tells her. “I like those too.” “And the record player,” she says. “And the record player,” he agrees. It’s not an answer, and Claire knows they can’t possibly stay in that house, but she knows that this is no dream. She reaches for him. This time, he reaches back. The glass is full. -fin

43


sunset soon forgotten;

Our story continues...

claire/jack; pg13; new!

by angela weber

title

god, there are guns growing out of our bones god, every road takes us farther from home On Your Wings (Iron and Wine) Jack usually insists on driving all night, wasting no time, but today he insists they call it a day once they hit Indianapolis at four, because (he says) she needs to rest and it looks like it’s going to rain. “What, afraid of a little thunder and lightning?” Claire keeps her voice as light and carefree as possible. Jack’s losing it, probably. She knows because she’s been there—she recognizes all the signs. And it’s so hard to blame him when he looks at her the way he does, not like he blames her, more like she’s sucking all the oxygen from his lungs and he doesn’t want to breathe. He hasn’t shaved in a few days now and likely hasn’t slept in weeks (he says he does, always, but he isn’t as good at lying as he thinks he is) and even now his hands are trembling on the wheel. He shrugs like it’s a joke and turns on the radio, settles on a song she doesn’t recognize. His dark eyes flicker from the heat-hazy blacktop stretching before them to her bare, dirty, band-aid-covered legs curled up close to her chest, denim cut-offs getting more run-down with every day she doesn’t wash them. Her back aches after hours and hours in the same position, and she stretches, deliberately, arching back against the seat with a sigh. Her hand settles on his knee and he doesn’t tense up. He used to, but not anymore. The muscles in his face shift and settle a little, but that’s all. “It’s okay,” she soothes, and he smiles in that way of his that looks like crying. Aaron is awake in the back, and that’s the only thing that stops her from kissing him like they both want her to. Jack will bluff and tell her that he doesn’t want her, and how could he want her?—but of course he does. He could tell her to stop. That’s still within his power. At any moment he could leave them— end it for good. But of course he never will. Aaron is why they’re here. They’re on a road trip across the states because Aaron is five and he’s never been out of California (really, never) and well, something just had to be done about that. They’re a real family on a real family vacation in the real world. The real world. She never had much in the way of family before, and now that she’s found them she isn’t going to waste a moment of it. He looks away because the traffic light is turning green. He looks away because he has to, not because the sight of her face makes him feel so guilty he thinks he could die. It’s a lie and it isn’t. She makes a noise in the back of her throat, rifles through the glove compartment in search of a map because she needs to do something with her hands. This is all familiar territory. She likes the way his eyes shine at her across the room in the darkness, black with something like shame, something like exhaustion, something like the shadow of love. The light in his eyes isn’t peaceful anymore—maybe it never was. She likes to think that one day it will be peaceful again, and it will be because she put it there. He’s got it in him to be happy, she knows. If only he’d try. And he is trying, trying so hard to be all things to all of them that sometimes she thinks it might be killing him. He really is trying. Maybe that’s the problem. “I wanna go to the pool,” Aaron whines, and she smiles secretively, patiently, says “Jack, make sure he wears his goggles,” and “I’m too tired tonight. Take some pictures for me, yeah?” Jack is so good with him. He really is. Sometimes (most of the time) people mistake him for Aaron’s father, and she only corrects them when she sees Jack listening. She and Aaron are all that Jack has left and she knows that’s why he’s here at all. It would be a shame to ruin it. They come back at ten, squeaking in their splashy sandals, and Claire rolls over, pretends she’s asleep. She hears the bathroom light click on, the door sliding shut, and five minutes later the bedsprings squeak and she catches the taste of chlorine and sunblock in the back of her throat as Aaron settles in next to her. Jack leaves then, and she wonders how long he’ll be gone, how long he’ll try to ignore them, how long he’ll be able to convince himself that they don’t exist. But he’ll come back. He always comes back. She screws her eyes shut, bites the downy soft inside-skin of her forearm. She’s just started to drift off to sleep as the door opens and the

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sunset soon forgotten title; byshut author locks swivel and he settles down in the armchair to sleep, or maybe just to watch them. She feels a weight liftrating and then settle slowly across her heart. pairing;

Our story begins... In the morning he brings her tea because he knows she hates coffee. Aaron flips through a picture book Jack bought for him in Utah instead of watching cartoons and Jack flops back on the bed, places his palms flat across his forehead like he’s trying to keep the migraine in. “Disney World next,” he suggests, and she tilts her chin, looks up at him through her eyelashes. Her fingers trace the seam of his cotton t-shirt and she tugs a little at the hem. Red Sox, scream the bright Technicolor letters across his chest. Birthday present. Aaron helped her pick it out. “Where?” “In Florida.” He says it like it’s obvious. She raises her eyebrows and shakes her head, trying to swallow down her giggle. He’s so American. Sometimes she forgets how different they really are, despite any bond of blood. He looks nervous, though, like he really thinks she might disapprove, rip his plan to pieces and his heart with it, like he’s afraid of a weapon she doesn’t even think she possesses. This is new. She puts down her Styrofoam cup and rests her chin on his chest, so she can see his eyes. There’s love there, she knows. She knows more about him than he’ll ever know about her. His mouth opens, and she can tell that he wants to say something, but she doesn’t know if it’ll be something good and so she gets up quickly, spills her tea accidentally-on-purpose just to give Jack something else to worry about, herds them all into the car. Much much later, when it’s four in the afternoon again and her sunburn has started to peel and his arms have probably been cramping for several hours already and Aaron is fast asleep, he chances another glance at her. His eyes are soft and as tired as the rest of him. So he didn’t sleep again, she notes. One of these days he’s going to have to let her have a turn at the wheel and then maybe he’ll finally get some rest. “Where do you want to go next?” She shrugs, smiles without her teeth. Maybe she doesn’t want to go anywhere. Maybe she just wants to keep driving and driving and driving until they’re out of money and gas and then there will really be no place left to go. “I’m not sure yet.” He sighs, okay, and when they stop at a light he reaches for her hand first. His fingers are cold, but she can feel his pulse beating steady beneath the smooth skin of his wrist. She smiles again, and so does he, and when he lets go she presses her face against cool glass and stares out the window, watching fences fly by.

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childproof world; by missy useless

Our story continues...

title

claire/jack; pg13

Jack’s mouth catches her earlobe and loose strands of hair. She sighs, moans, and he tenses under her touch, panicking. This still happens: guilt is the monster hiding under their bed, and sometimes it creeps beneath the covers and pulls him away from her, sharp teeth and nails scratching its way under his skin until he rolls onto his back or pushes her away, whispers, “We can’t.” He always tries to make that decision for her, still self-righteous and arrogant and patronizing. “Claire,” he says, voice wavering in another faltering attempt to resist her. “We can’t.” She grabs his forearm, “Jack,” and it sounds impatient, annoyed. She can’t muster up the strength to comfort him, to convince him that it’s okay, really. She doesn’t feel like crying over the death of a father or long-lost friends on islands, doesn’t feel like fighting that horrified look of I’m fucking my little sister from his eyes. Instead she grips the headboard, kneeling above him. She says, “Shut up,” laughs, laughs and laughs till her insides hurt, doesn’t care whether he will spend the rest of the night afterwards―in the bathroom. His hips buck up. It’s almost ridiculous and more than a little hypocritical. Somewhere along the way he became a murderer (she catches him counting: impersonal numbers whispered like prayers into the darkness while he tries to recall frantic actions and fallen men in Dharma jumpsuits; the number changes, never quite correct, his memory betraying him), tried to detonate a hydrogen bomb, buried the shattered bodies of ex- and almost-lovers (he has no one but her now and it makes her feel powerful), and she withered away under the command of maybe-gods in the jungle, no one at her side, and now their―his, always his―biggest problem is blood relationship. Jack thinks he will burn in hell. Or maybe he would think that if he believed in anything; he doesn’t, she knows he doesn’t: nothing but self-punishment, and it becomes or already is his religion. It’s mirthless, bleak, and more often than not that makes her laugh. He never laughs. He smiles occasionally, but every little sound catches in his throat, dies away, lies stillborn on his lips; she sees it on his face and squeezes his hand, her fingers tiny and weak around his. Her friends, colleagues―she’s a kindergarten teacher now; Jack had chuckled soundlessly, fake documents on his desk―are even more ridiculous. Gossip about improper age differences would make her roll her eyes and smile if Jack didn’t take it seriously. It fades away as time goes by. They are unblemished, holy family and ideal world, all too perfect and boring to attract attention for more than a few weeks. He always waits at the car after work, overly protective, and behaves, every once in a while, like the big brother she never had but used to fantasize about when she was a child. No one suspects them of being sinful. Her hair is short and brown. They don’t look alike: she blinks, tries to see Christian in his face, tries to see herself, fails. No one knows them. Fake identities give her the feeling of being honest-toGod outlaws, make her heart jolt, excitement and happiness fluttering inside her stomach. He never takes sleeping pills or painkillers, not once. Money and a son (a nephew), this is all they keep as evidence of their former lives. Aaron is happy, calls them Mommy and Daddy, stops asking about Kate eventually. She visits her mother once or twice a year, has to rent an apartment in a foreign city when she insists on coming to see her. It works surprisingly well. Jack just shakes his head, frowning. He still waits for everything to crumble or blow up in his face, another plan gone wrong, another dirty not-so-little secret revealed for everyone to see. But that’s okay. She is confident, fearless enough for both of them. Their house is small and cozy and cliché. Jack paints the white picket fence blue and she hangs drapes on the windows. She knows he won’t leave her. She suggests getting married just to shock him: he turns pale and she giggles, wraps her legs around his waist, arches her back. “Don’t worry,” she says. “I’m joking.” Sometimes, despite his best efforts to hide it, he’s happy too. She can tell the difference. Sometimes his heartbeat is steady. Sometimes he looks like a man in love, and it’s honest when he smiles and buys her

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childproof world title; by author flowers, makes dinner and reads bedtime stories to Aaron, holds her hand, kisses her in public. pairing; rating

She curls fingers around his neck, her mouth hovering over his jaw. He sighs as if he’s in pain, but Our story her begins... his hand sneaks under her shirt, cold against her skin. He always gives in. She shivers.

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oh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore; by slybrunettetitle

Our story continues...

claire/jack; r

They’re on I-70, just past Junction City, when he tries again. “We could stop.” The sun’s high in the sky and he left his sunglasses somewhere in Nevada; the glare is getting to him and his eyes are bloodshot from all the hours he didn’t sleep last night. He’s not tired. Or he is and he’s just forgotten what it feels like to not be. “For lunch. Or something.” There’s been exit signs, brightly colored blocks advertising food, gas, and lodging, for miles now – not to mention various landmarks and places of interest spelled out in bold white letters – and she hasn’t so much as shown evidence that she can still read. Twice he’s touched her, first a heavy hand on her shoulder, next his fingers intertwining with hers, and the only response he’s gotten out of her is wide blue eyes fixed on him in a way that made him wish he’d never made the move in the first place. “Do you think we’ll get to Missouri today?” Claire asks the window. A handful of words, and whether they’re a response to his own or not, it’s still progress. There’s a map he purchased in his visor, worn out at the folds already, but he’s got a truck a few car lengths in front of him that’s driving is fairly erratically and he isn’t willing to take the risk. Jack answers honestly, “I don’t know.” “I’ve never been there,” she exhales; the window fogs. He knows. She’s never been east of where they are now, or north, or south. This is her very own tour of the continental US outside of California. Except he doesn’t know why. “What’s on the East Coast?” “Hmm?” “The East Coast. You told me to drive east.” Blue eyes are back on him again, and he supposes it’s only fitting considering her next words are, “the ocean.” The truck in front of them takes the next exit, leaving them with open road, and it takes exactly that long for him to finally say, “There’s an ocean in California.” “I know,” she replies, her voice coming to life in the worst way. It sounds like she’s in on some joke that he’s missing, has been missing from the start, and it bothers him just enough that he doesn’t ask. They don’t make it to Missouri. “I always wanted to travel,” she said, day five in a hotel room that had too many windows and not enough furniture. Airy was the best way he could think to describe it. The shirt she wore wasn’t hers, and it wasn’t his, and it didn’t fit her either. Too long, too loose, and too garish against pale skin. Her eyes had lit up and he would’ve done anything to keep them that way. So he said, “The airport – ” “No,” she grimaced. He wondered if it was the prospect of planes. He wondered if it mattered. “We should drive. Do it the right way.” He doesn’t think that there’s really a right way but he holds his tongue. “All the way to the Carolinas or New Jersey. The other side of the country. We could do it.” Usually, when people talked about the East Coast, it was big cities – New York City, D.C., Boston – but there wasn’t any common denominator between the states she’d mentioned other than latitudinal similarity.

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title; by authoroh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore

That neitherrating here nor there. Jack had finally surfaced from two and a half days spent in some variation pairing;

of a drunken haze a week ago and his irritation with the bright lights and the constant breeze from the Our story begins... windows was something he was trying to pass off as a kind of detoxing. Maybe the travel, the feeling of progress, of having purpose and an objective, might make it all easier. He nodded. “Yeah. Yeah we could.” They don’t talk about it. They say “back there”, if they absolutely have to. Words like ‘island’ are off limits. There’s a list somewhere, that exists in both of their minds if nowhere else. She spread her legs on the powder-blue bedspread, with him in between them and her skirt hiked up along her hips. His hands drifted to rest on her thighs, thumbs brushing against the inside of them in a way that might’ve made her shiver. Claire kissed his jaw, day-old stubble, and then asked, “Do you think about them?” The faces that flash behind his eyelids act as the equivalent to a cold shower. He pulls his hands away like he’s been burned. “I dream about them,” she adds, as if nothing has changed, kisses the corner of his mouth and he stiffens. The sound of church bells floats in through the damn open windows, except there’s no church for miles and it’s late afternoon. She exhales, forehead against him and his hand still slips absentmindedly through her hair. In Tennessee, she goes for a walk while he’s in the shower and doesn’t come back for over an hour. Her knees are scratched and bloody; she says she found some woods, caught on the brush. There is no emotion in her voice, nor in her face, when she says it, but that’s been par for the course for a long while now. She perches on the edge of the bathtub in their motel room, and he grabs antiseptic and some bandages and cleans them off with a washcloth. If it stings, she doesn’t wince. “What were you doing?” He asks; she watches the clock on the wall from underneath thick eyelashes. “I told you. I went for a walk.” Jack means for an explanation, of course, but pushing her just ends with him coming up against a brick wall each and every time, so he only nods. She switches topics anyways. “He was from here, you know.” He thinks, simple inference, deduction, but he comes up empty. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.” It’s the first time her eyes really fix on his all day. (Jack lives for these moments, you know, the moments where her eyes are clear and there’s some

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oh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore

substance to her voice. The moments where she’s more than just tangible. She’s there. There’s someone in there who bears more than just a passing resemblance to a woman he used to know.) “Sawyer.” Her lips pull up at the corners. It’s not something to be smiling about. He doesn’t frown in spite of that. “How could you forget that?” “I don’t know.” There really aren’t a lot of excuses; it was a well-known fact. “I guess it’s just easier that way.” Now there’s a laugh that escapes. “When have you ever been about what’s easier?” He has no answer for that either. Later: “I thought I saw him.” This time, the him in question needs no explanation. “Out there, I thought I saw him.” Her eyes are vacant when he looks over at her. He kisses her forehead and tells her to go to sleep. In the morning, they stop at the drugstore next to the 7-Eleven (the coffee is cheap, never mind the consistency.) He grabs Excedrin and comes out of aisle six to find her toying with a pair of sunglasses. “They look just like your old ones,” she replies, before he can even ask the question, handing them to him before venturing down the next aisle. (The skies open midafternoon and it pours for the rest of the day.) It wasn’t just the drinking. It wasn’t just a two-day binge either. It was pills, it was constant, one after the other – or along with the other. It was whole days that he lost, and whole nights that he wished he had. But he got clean for her, you know. It was all for her. They’re in Nag’s Head the following day. It’s the middle of spring but the temperatures have cooled and she wraps herself in a thin sweater when she steps out into the sand. The wind whips through her hair, sending a whirl of blonde waves flowing out behind her like a cape. The ocean looks cerulean from a distance, footprints in the sand

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oh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore

disappearing towards the shore, where the water has erased them.

There’s no one else out here. It’s the plunging temperatures, the ever-present threat of rain. His car is parked a few miles back and there are umbrellas somewhere, shoved under the seat, under suitcases and various bags. She’d shaken her head when he mentioned them, and then started off without him. “It’s beautiful,” he says, but doesn’t so much mean it. You can only spend so much time on an island before the beauty of the ocean, nothing but blue water and blue sky, begins to be lost on you completely. Other people would say it’s beautiful, much in the way that other people would remark on how they should make a trip to Kill Devil Hills while they’re there, talk about the miracle of flight and its origins. Eleven miles of oceanfront in this place alone, and she turns – barefoot in the sand as the wind dies down momentarily – and says, “This isn’t it.” He frowns. “What?” Claire heard him. He can tell by the way her arms cross over her chest as she walks past him, back the way they came. “This isn’t it,” she repeats. “What did you mean?” She butterflies the spine of the book she’s been flipping through, left here by whoever had the room last. He sits on the bed across from her. Two doubles. It was intentional, though he isn’t sure why he’s climbing atop that particular moral high ground now. “What did you mean back there?” “It doesn’t all have to mean something,” she replies, sounding as irritated as he could remember her ever being this whole trip, “this isn’t the island. Not everything a puzzle for you to solve.” There’s a hurried quality to her movements as she abandons her book and shuts herself in the bathroom, leaving him stunned and alone in the silent room, listening to the water run through the wall. (“Get a clue,” someone wiser than him might’ve said, “get a clue, Jack.” But most of those people were buried in the dirt thousands of miles away, without even the crosses that used to mark their graves – they’d burned it all down, metaphorically, literally, every sense. It’s following her advice that got him in the end, anyways.) They eat lunch in somewhere in Old Town. Virginia. King St. is full of pedestrians, lunch rush, and the second story offers them a view that neither of them bothers much with. “We’ll be in New Jersey tomorrow,” he tells her. The tines of her fork clang against her plate but she hasn’t let go. “Probably before sunset.” He thinks it might make her smile. She’s been relatively cold since the hotel room in Nag’s Head. Claire just chews her food quietly and looks at the painting on the wall behind him, eyes above his head and not at all trying to give the impression that she’s looking at him. “Point Pleasant’s nice,” Jack continues, for lack of anything else to fill the dead air, “I went there once with some college buddies of mine. When I was at Columbia.”

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oh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore

She crosses her legs underneath the table and her foot brushes his leg in the process. He tenses. “That’s nice,” she says, but it sounds like nothing more than an echo. It’s late when they get there. Traffic jam on I-95, back in Maryland, and the radio played more commercials then they did music and kept cutting in with traffic reports to let them know both what they could see with their own eyes and what they didn’t care about. He still didn’t turn it off. They stay in one of those rentals almost right on the beach but don’t venture out to it. She lays tomorrow’s clothes out on her bed with a strange precision while he heads out, tells her he’s going to the drugstore, but goes to the nearest liquor store instead. She’s already in bed when he comes back, the displacement of the sheets from her tossing and turning letting him know that she’s naked underneath clean linen. He climbs in with her and her eyes flutter open the second the bed shifts. (When she comes, it’s with his name whispered, close enough to his ear that it seems to vibrate through him – it’s the first and the last time.) It happens in the morning. He makes coffee in the small kitchen, windows facing out to the beach, and he hears the door close. Jack doesn’t make anything of it, tries to find the coffee filters instead, and by the time he’s pressed ‘on’ and the machine gurgles, she’s down to where the water meets the sand, just dipping her toes in. Her white skirt billows at her ankles. It’s the same scene from North Carolina, reproduced on a different beach, and he leaves the coffee to percolate and follows the same path she took. The sun has just risen and there’s no one else on this particular part of the beach, and so he thinks nothing of calling out, “Everything okay?” When she turns to him, this time, there’s a smile stretched across her face. “This is it,” she says, with bright eyes, full of life. “This is it.” Other men than him, smarter ones, would’ve known to shut up and enjoy the view. But Jack still has questions. Always had. “Why is this place different, Claire? Why here?” Her smile doesn’t fade. “The ocean, silly,” she replies, and whatever else she might have said gets lost to the crashing waves. He goes back inside. She doesn’t. He’s pouring coffee into a mug, chances a glance out the window again, and that’s when he sees it. Claire, chest-deep in the water, sinking further in with each deliberate, measured step. Jack tears out of the house, shouting her name all the way, but by the time he hits the water, she’s already gone. -

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title; by authoroh sister, oh sister, let’s walk the seashore Her clothesrating are still on the bed. pairing;

Our story begins... The white skirt is fanned out over her pillows. (This is where it all starts to sink in.) Jack Shephard dies in a head-on collision on I-70, just past Junction City, KS. He is believed to be the last survivor of the downed Oceanic Flight 815. There were no other passengers. (They never made it to Missouri.)

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ghosts in flesh and blood; by lenina20

Our story continues...

title

claire/jack; pg13

She pushes him against the wall. He doesn’t see her—only a weak blue spark and a mass of wild blond curls. Her body leans against his, pinning him between her flesh and the wall; her small hand burns against his naked chest, so hard that he believes she will leave her mark on his skin, red and hot and painful. [God – how he wishes]. “I know what you are trying to do.” Blond hair, blue eyes and warm skin—nothing more than that. Memories always blur after a bottle of bourbon and a few too many pills and it’s not his fault if he doesn’t remember her voice at all. He doesn’t recognize her until five seconds too late, when his body is already hard and tingling drunkenly against hers, his mouth only inches away from hers. Claire. “Don’t even think about it, Jack. You are not coming back.” Her breath brushes his lips gently while her words scratch his throat hard, furious. His desire rises and sharpens against her stomach and he doesn’t try to stop it. She is warm and alive and right here. “You are not bringing him back, Jack.” His thoughts drift back to reality for a second and she turns around and away from him. The warmth of her hand lingers on his chest for a second afterwards; it reminds him of her touch, of her heart beating alive inside her chest, pumping out the same red blood that creeps through his veins, thick and heavy and drugged-up. He stands there immobile—her figure fades away before his eyes. “No…” He grabs her wrist and pulls her to his chest, grabbing her hips with one hand. She is real again. His fingers dig into the flesh of her inner arm and his beard caresses her neck. He has never been this close to her before and it feels wrong and right and real, much more real than it should, her flesh against his flesh, her back against his chest, her ass against his crotch. “He is your son… your blood.” The word hangs between his tongue and her skin and she smiles mysteriously, pressing herself closer to him for an instant before turning around and facing him again. “He is your blood too.” She is still smiling when her lips land softly upon his, so softly that he can barely feel them. His tongue darts out to grab her mouth but she pulls away, teasing. She is not real, he thinks. He is going to wake up any minute now, lying in a pool of vomit on the carpet. “Don’t come back, Jack.” Her tone is softer now, sweeter. She looks like a little girl again, the delicate pregnant girl he met a

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ghosts in flesh and blood title; by the author lifetime ago, little girl he remembers, his little sister. pairing; rating

His whole body burns and aches for her. He leans on again to kiss her mouth but when his cracked lips Our story begins... catch her shadow she has already vanished into the dirty, loaded air of his living room.

...she has already vanished...

58


love in a fallen city; claire/jack; r

by holycitygirl

Somewhere underneath what he knows and what he pretends doesn’t matter is a voice that says “do it anyway”, a powerful compelling force that sneaks up to take over at the most unlikely of times. It’s usually on days like this, followed by yesterdays like the one Jack had – it’s always when he’s not too tired. When nightmares didn’t interrupt his sleep. When the morning dawns slowly and somberly, without a single memory of the past. The good days are the ones when he gives in. The breakfast table is calm without Aaron to feed, or fight to feed. There’s nothing but the sound of snow falling, which is nothing at all. Nothing but the rustle of the paper he isn’t reading, the words they aren’t saying. There’s nowhere to go, nothing else to do, and he’s too addicted to the way she tilts her head and looks down when she catches him catch her. Watching him like she sees the same thing, feels the same way. On bad days they both hide behind duty and distraction. They both lie like the truth is something that can be watered down, drowned by resistance. The rare times when everything is silent he follows her. + There are still places to get lost. The world is full of them. They once lived in one big nightmare wonderland – here her rabbit hole is one hundred steps past what was once a working well, around a rough and rugged rock. Like a ragged rascal he runs. She’s waiting in the cabin she calls home, four rooms that sit on the back forty of the property he bought to disappear from the world he could no longer find a place in. Waiting for him. He’s never sure why he really invited her along. If his intentions were good, or this from the very start. Then – she was a woman he couldn’t understand, a fatherless child, the sister he never knew he had. Today – she’s a childless mother, the sister he doesn’t want, the one he still reaches out to claim. Claire blushes at the first touch, every time. “I don’t know why we do this.” Is her only accusation, shared, halved. “I have to.” Is Jack’s way of accepting every bit of the blame, the only thing characteristic of who he is, and will always be. Her hair is soft like the feathers of a pampered bird, a King’s nightingale bathed in the daylight shadows caused by the trees so close to her bedroom window. Displaced here, and so unexpected, Jack has to hold – cradle in fear of losing. He is so sure – so sure – the slightest movement will remind her that freedom is far better than this trap they’ve both found and walked into. + Guilt is like a paralyzed limb, something Jack has dragged around for so many years he barely notices

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love in a fallen city

the weight he carries. What they are is just a few more pounds.

He walks in and she looks so pleased to see him, relieved like she really thought he wouldn’t come. The sound of her sigh almost makes it worth it. If he could really believe her pleasure was worth their pain, Jack wouldn’t mind at all. Sacrifices, too many, had to be made for this. The Gods ask for more than a fatted calf or willing virgin. They want her heart and his will, breaking both with glee while they turn a blind eye to the sins their victims need to keep going. “You think one of us, one day, will find the strength to walk away?” Claire asks, before, always. And his line is “Yes,” even if he doubts her desire to be saved. She’s always the one who throws his boots in the corner, the one who removes his coat. The door is always open when he gets there and locks turned once he’s fully inside. Claire clings, wraps herself tight when he steps close enough, and it still feels like his fault. He should be strong enough to let go, to make her, but all he finds when he tries is this damning weakness.

+ There are only so many jagged edges a man can be pushed against before the alternative becomes a craving. He feels bruised and battered, her touch is contrast – comfort. She’s not big enough to hurt him. Claire urges him down on to the colorful mattress of her ancient looking bed and if Jack closes his eyes he barely notices her climb on top. He doesn’t close his eyes though, he can’t. There is something inside him that needs pain enough to watch her fingers shake as she unbuttons his jeans. There’s something that has to see her eyes tear before he can pull off his thick fleece pullover and get to work on hers. They are a train, moving along a pre-set track, knowing it is wrong, that they shouldn’t. They can’t stop the collection of cars as it rumbles to its unknown destination. Like so many other parts of their destiny – this feels like something that happened to them, not something they are making happen. As equally out of control, Jack knows that whatever he sees on Claire’s face is reflected on his own. Somehow her hesitation makes him feel better about both of them. Just the same he always gives in. Lifts whatever thick cotton sweater she’s slipped on to fight the cold, sinks fingers that cause goosebumps underneath skirt and tights to tug down. He always expects her skin to be warm from the sun, pink-tinged in spots where pilfered sunscreen missed its mark. He always thinks they are there, that she’s the girl he didn’t know better than to want. The reality of milk white, flat stomach and icy spread thighs snaps him back to the here and now.

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love in a fallen city +

They flip. The scene reverses. He looks down and she, as ill-advised as it comes, is compelled to look up to him. The feel of her wet and quivering underneath is man’s age-old addiction, a drug as dangerous as heroin, one Jack got hooked on the first time. It’s easy to take power from the weak, that’s something Jack learned from more than one person on that island. It’s something else to derive your strength from someone with it to give, someone willing to let you gorge yourself full. The longer he knows her, the tougher Claire gets. She knows how empty he is. It’s not a case of looking at the glass and placing a positive spin. There is no half, just a container. Most days Jack is bone dry. Most days he’s prefers it that way. Claire is as smooth as the whiskey he still consumes when she runs errands, goes into town to see the women that have adopted her as some lost lamb in the Northern Colorado wilderness. She is a temporary fix, like that liquor, a stolen bloom of color to his cheeks, a burn in his belly. Being inside her would be homecoming, if he’d ever really had one this welcoming and devoid of expectation. He kisses her to keep from crying, to stop himself from professing a love that’s not good enough to offer someone who deserves so much more. His fingers reach to add pressure, to make her come undone and he swallows her response greedily. Jack would give his life for her. He’d die happily if it meant keeping that smile on her face. Sometimes it feels like that is what he’s doing. + Life, the rest of it, is more boring than this. “Mrs. Dancy said she’d bring Aaron back tomorrow around two. I told her that we could meet her at the Feed store but she said she wouldn’t ‘drop a child off like a broken saddle’.” Jack pulls her closer because tomorrow is a long way away. “She’s a character.” If this, day in and day out, were a play – Jack knows they would fit right in as characters too. Claire pokes the edges of the quilt under his back, scoots close enough to lay her head on his chest, in an attempt to keep the heat they just created. A fire would be easier to maintain once it got going but that would require one of them to abandon the bed, or each other. “We have all night.” Is a whisper, a promise, a gift. It’s an invitation to sleep a few hours, but Jack would rather watch Claire’s eyes close. He’d rather hold her close and wait, just in case she has nightmares. Often enough she does. The smell of pine trees and hay, the sound of the wind knocking the barn door against its frame, doesn’t pervade the power of sleep. In her mind’s eye she could hear Charlie’s guitar playing, or smell the Ocean.

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love in a fallen city The past is always present. This future hasn’t erased it. He’s the too-loving brother. She’s both temptress and the tempted. Given costumes, masks, props they could be anyone. Naked, covered by each other, they are just them. + Somewhere beyond what he wishes were true and what is, in fact, their reality – is a lie that insists he would have it any other way. Jack wakes her up by going for that fire after all. She protests as he tucks her in, making sure she’s comfortable. In hastily pulled-on boxer shorts and bare feet, the room is unbearable. He’s just grateful the wood is waiting on the hearth. Her yawn is wrapped around the question – “You weren’t tired?” His answer is inherent in their current situation. He wouldn’t be here otherwise. The still-unread paper is balled up and added amongst the logs. The long match struck leads to snap, crackle, pop. He pauses long enough to make sure the flames take hold, long enough to make sure he won’t have to go back any time soon. Then he climbs back in bed with Claire, laughing like he only can in moments like this – when she squeals as his now-cold hands find her now-warm skin. “Don’t.” She pulls away, only stopping when his grip goes slack and he lets her. “Don’t what?” Is a genuine need for clarification, required permission Jack will always seek. Then Claire is the one laughing, crawling back to make his shivers disappear. “Don’t ever leave me.” + There was a point where he wanted nothing but another chance to do it differently. Nights when sleep was foregone in attempts to solve riddles, to rewind time. Back then Aaron was still with Kate, and Claire was missing in action. Back then Jack had failed on every level possible. Giving Claire, giving himself, a place to hide still feels like a step off the ledge, the only way he could think of then – and has now – to survive. Getting her back turned his life around. Again. “I’m not going anywhere.” Is both Jack’s promise and a fact. Nothing short of a natural disaster, or another unnatural one, could move him now. This is where he belongs. Safe, miles away from all they’ve left behind. Claire has made friends in Colorado, but Jack stays withdrawn. He no longer practices medicine. He no longer has a cell phone. Detachment from all but this immediate family worked to keep him sane. He doesn’t know if she still talks to Kate. He knows she wouldn’t contact Sun. It’s not that he doesn’t care what she misses, what she feels their current existence lacks. There’s just nothing he can do about it.

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title; by author +

love in a fallen city

pairing; rating

Our story begins... Her hips are so small, making his hands feel impossibly large when he rests against them. Her wrists are fragile beneath his fingers when she trails the pad of her thumb along his tattoo. He stops her because it’s too slow, too methodical, and that’s not what he wants. The first time was lazy, deliberate. The first time always is. Once the mistake is made there is no need for regret. The damage is done. It could be months before they have this again. So Jack takes control, yanks her closer, hard enough to make her resulting moan ambiguous and this kiss is hard, passionate, demanding. It sets a pace that Jack hopes leaves little room for thought on both of their parts. Claire’s legs wrapping around him, rocking into him, are strong, willing. She bites his lip when he pulls away to take a breath and he wouldn’t be surprised if a lick would offer the taste of blood. Neither needs words, and there doesn’t seem to be any that match the emotions inside them. They just need connection, something too real to resist. + Then he sleeps, once exhaustion makes it no longer his decision. Spent, sticky with sweat, half starving from fulfilling another kind of hunger he falls into dreamless oblivion with Claire around him like walls, a shelter from the storm. She asked him not to leave but the reason he never will is because he knows she won’t leave him. Unlike everyone else in Jack’s life, Claire feels like a guarantee. He trusts she’ll be there when he wakes up. The last thing he hears is her voice, incomprehensible like the hum of a tune he doesn’t know. The last thing he smells is her hair, the sharp lemon scent she seems to prefer in everything from candles to laundry detergent. The last sensation is the delicate almost nonexistent touch of her fingernail following the line of his jaw. + Jack wakes up to the sight of dying embers, to the smell of tomato soup and grilled cheese. His mother used to order fancy hot brie sandwiches from restaurants with uncomfortable seating and frightening waiters. Hers used to make homemade stews with fresh ingredients from their backyard garden. They grew up in two different worlds – it’s pretty amazing that they fit so well together in this one. “You had a good sleep.” She states, knowing she’ll get no argument, understanding him in a way that seemed to happen overnight. He slowly rolls up and out, taking the quilt with him to get more wood from the front porch. The night air bites but he barely feels it, so focused on the task, and ready to get to dinner.

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love in a fallen city by author They sit on rating the floor by the fireplace and eat, Jack still in the bedsheets and Claire in a hot pink silk pairing;

title;

robe and hideous over-loved UGGs, enjoying the quiet like some might enjoy a party.

Our story begins...

This is a reward they might not have earned, but something they take just the same. + A gas-guzzling Suburban pulls into the drive way at exactly 1:59 the next day and Aaron’s little-boy screams of “I’m home, I’m home Mama, Uncle Jack” is like someone pushing play on a paused tape. Everything starts again, just the way it was. Jack is back in his house, like he never left. Claire is doing a wash in the laundry room they share, wiping the slate clean as she washes everything they’ve touched in the last twenty-four hours. Jack catches Aaron as the boy runs past, the kid missing his presence in the excitement. “Hey buddy, I’m right here. Were you good for Mrs. Dancy?” “Uncle Jack, I fed the horses. Isn’t that cool?” It’s nothing short of miraculous the way Aaron adapts to every situation, the way even his saddest moments seem forgotten, dropped the second he finds a bit of joy. It’s a blessing, Aaron’s ability to overcome, something Jack is jealous of. “Cool. Go tell your mom. But watch out, she’s on a cleaning rampage. if you tell her you’ve been playing with livestock she might run you a bath.” Aaron kicks free, screaming as he goes – “I took a bath already!” Jack goes to see Mrs. Dancy off, collecting book bag and Legos his nephew seems to carry everywhere. Breathing in the fresh mountain air he tries to reset his heart. Get everything shoved back down, behind the thickest walls. The sound of Claire and Aaron excitedly talking in the other room becomes white noise, communication just a fraction out of reach, the steady soundtrack for his breaking heart. He could join them, but today is a bad day. Jack could act like this is enough, but he’s so worn out he has to resist.

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we’ve been recycled; by missy useless claire/jack; pg13; new!

It’s not when he comes to with someone leaning over him—“Rose,” he thinks he hears, “Rose, he’s awake”—that he figures it out, not yet. It happens later, with Hurley and Ben and Rose and Bernard and stories of how they found him and a campfire in the middle of the night while they sit over Dharma red cabbage and fresh boar and water. Turns out he’s been a coma patient for the past three and a half months. Yes, the plane landed safely, everyone’s fine, don’t worry. Desmond is with Penny and their child. Hurley shrugs, claps him on the shoulder. “I don’t know how this works. I don’t care. I make the rules now, and I’m taking you home.” He should have been dead, and maybe he is or maybe he isn’t. He will never know for sure. Either way, he’s changed. He feels different and so does she, she will tell him later. He doesn’t know that yet, of course, but he’s only a few weeks—or a few months, what does it matter?—away from it: her hair on too-soft and toowhite pillows, not short, but shorter than it used to be, her skin already so much paler than before, confessions and whispered secrets and stifled moans in an uneasy alliance with the kitchen knife in the top left drawer. The world slips to the side. He’s going home. He’s going home, and he’s alive or alive again or maybe neither. “Dude,” Hurley tells him, big smile on his face. “There is no such thing as zombies or infections or whatever. I’m just glad you’re okay, man.” Things look a little less, a little more bizarre after he has said his goodbyes and sits in a coffee shop a half-hour away from Kate’s old house. It’s empty, of course it’s empty, the ‘for sale’ sign glaring at him from the front lawn. He doesn’t break in. He breaks into his own house, though, after nightfall. It’s only been a few months, and it still looks the same, no change whatsoever, and he packs a suitcase and doesn’t contact his mother, won’t contact her for weeks. He sleeps on the small couch in the spare room. It’s easy, all of it. He calls Australia. Listen to me, their father says. Don’t do this, Jack. He calls anyway. She says, “Hello?” She sounds normal; he doesn’t know what he expected. He breathes in, breathes out, says, “Claire. Hi. It’s Jack.” It’s a good way to start a conversation. Well done, kiddo, well done. There’s music playing in the background; he doesn’t recognize the song. She asks, “How is it? The other side?” She laughs. He doesn’t. She laughs—it means: wonderful, I’m talking to a dead person— and still sounds normal, sane. He closes his eyes, tries to remember what she looks like; it’s harder than it should be. She’s fragile, blonde hair and blue eyes, bones and blood. There’s something off in this picture. He hears her moving at the other end of the line. “Jack? Do you—” and she’s whispering now. Sharing secrets. “Are you still there?” “Can I come see you?” “Yes,” she says, a bit too fast. “Yes, please.” He takes his time, or at least that’s what he plans to do. He lingers a little at the airports, Los Angeles and Sydney separated only by an uneventful plane ride. The woman sitting next to him gives him her phone number, dark hair and dark eyes and he has already forgotten her name. He spends a few days locked into his hotel room, ‘do not disturb’ sign on the handle, TV off, minibar untouched. It’s dark outside when he walks to her house the first time. He doesn’t ring, doesn’t knock. There are no lamplit windows. He sees them on his way back, pure coincidence: the toddler tugging at his grandmother’s hand, behind them the tiny girl with the gray shirt and black shoulder bag and shopping cart. Take a deep breath. Meet your sister. He doesn’t enter the supermarket. She slides into the booth in the corner of the bar he escaped into about half an hour later. There is a glass

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we’ve been recycled title; bytheauthor of water on table. She orders mango juice, and her knee knocks against his, a brief warning before she presses rating closer, her thigh warm against his, denim on denim. He puts his hand against the small of pairing; her back. Our story Neither begins...of them speaks. Her eyes are very, very bright.

There’s something that feels like a pocket knife tucked into the waistline of her jeans—her shirt rides up, skin under his fingertips, but he doesn’t take his hand away—and he’s glad. She can defend herself. She shivers, her hand between his knees, and he presses his lips against her hairline. Maybe he’s halfdrunk just from being in a bar. There’s a silver watch wrapped around her wrist. She asks, “Do you want to come home with me?” She looks at him, waits. She’s just a girl. She’s just a girl and his sister and he doesn’t know her at all. She kisses him, kisses him on the mouth, soft press of her lips, tip of her tongue barely there before he pulls back. Her upper arms fit into his palms, too small but not as breakable as it might seem. He digs his fingers in, too hard maybe, holds her away from him; she looks unimpressed and young and a little dangerous. She says, “I don’t want to do it in some back alley or—” He shakes his head or shakes her, one or the other, perhaps both. “Claire,” he says, and she smiles. She isn’t embarrassed, doesn’t avert her eyes. “Will you be here tomorrow?” and “Can you—in the morning? When there’s sunlight?” He says, “Yes.” Her head falls against his shoulder, “Promise? You promise?” He does. He will. He watches her leave. He rings the doorbell at ten o’clock in the morning. She opens the window and he looks up, tells her, “I think I died.” It ranks pretty high on the list of the stupidest things he ever said. She wears a white towel, her hair dark and wet, says, “Yes. I think I died, too.” She laughs. Later, if there was someone to ask him, he would say that he fell in love with her in that moment. Her mother opens the door, more surprise than hostility, “Dr. Shephard.” Claire laughs harder. None of it is simple. It works anyway, more or less. Carole doesn’t trust him—he can’t say he blames her—but they make do. Claire tells the neighbors and old friends that stop by from time to time, “This is my brother.” He likes her astrology posters and CD collection and thin, flowery nightgown. Claire tells him, Aaron tucked into bed, “You’re a better parent than I’ll ever be.” Aaron is happy. It is—or should be—the most important thing. They both hate looking at photographs. “She said she couldn’t.” Claire leaves out the details, but it sounds like Kate ran off with Sawyer. That’s okay. He saw that one coming. Claire says, “I’m so sorry,” looks unsure, almost afraid even. Tells him she doesn’t know where Kate is or how to contact her. “Are you going to search for her?” He shakes his head, “No, not right now,” and “I’m not going anywhere, Claire, okay?” “Right here,” she whispers at night, warm breath against his shoulder. “I’m not leaving.” Also, a few times: “We have to be quiet. My mother’s downstairs.” They are alone more often than not. Carole works at the library, goes out from time to time, stays with her sister. Aaron is in kindergarten, with a friend, asleep. It’s not right. It happens anyway, a gradual giving-in. She climbs on top of him. He presses her against a wall, a door, the couch cushions. She pants into his mouth. She eats muesli at night, sometimes, curled up with a blanket and a book in front of the TV when they can’t sleep. “I thought you were dead. They told me you were—” He thinks about it. Thinks about someone—something—that wasn’t John Locke, tries to tell her, “I’m me. I’m not—” She nods, “I know, Jack. I can tell the difference, I’m not stupid. I just. I dreamed about you. And that was okay, but then you were here and I. I thought I was going crazy.” She isn’t, despite everything. He isn’t, either. She slips into the bathroom, locks the door behind her. “I could cut you open. Tear you apart. See if it hurts you. See if you’re gone for good then. See if you’re just a hallucination.” There’s an edge to her, every now and then. He lets her take the toothbrush out of his hand, lets her slip her tongue into his mouth, toothpaste and all. She presses up against him, tiptoeing, only a moment. She says, “How about

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our story continues it, Jack?”

we’ve been recycled

title

She turns on the water faucet of the bathtub, unbuttons her blouse. He watches her in the mirror. “We should get our own house,” she says a while later. “I don’t want to be living with my mother forever. Or my aunt. Or—” None of this is even real. There are words catching on his tongue, barbed, drawing blood. She bites down, harder than necessary, pushes against his chest with small, strong hands. He tells her, “I’ll screw this up.” More than it already is. Fair warning. She looks at him over Aaron’s lunch box, “That’s okay. Everybody does.” Her toes bump against his lower leg beneath the table. “You’ll try, though, right?” He will. He always does. That’s not the point. There are too many things to feel guilty about. He pins her onto the mattress, and she arches up against him, digs her fingernails into his skin. He groans. “Fuck.” Their fingers twist together, vow or threat. He could snap her bones. She could stab him with one of the multiple knives he knows she keeps close to her. “We’ll make it through the night,” she says.

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every road takes us farther from home; by crickets claire/jack; r

“Do you remember when we met?” Claire asks him, her voice sounding so far away, like the question is coming from somewhere else, some other time or place. Jack laughs, he laughs and he just looks at her and he’s not really surprised at all because it’s just one of those things she says, but he laughs anyway because he can’t help it. Absurd. This whole thing is absurd. [The truthful answer would be: barely. Or perhaps: how could I forget? And even still: which time?] Claire sighs, slides an arm across his belly, stares at the ceiling fan going round and round and round. “I know what you mean,” she tells him. Jack follows her gaze, wonders what kind of motel has ceiling fans anymore, tries to remember the name of the place. There have been so many. It’s hard to keep track. “Wayward, Way Lake...” “Wayfare,” she tells him. “The Wayfare Inn.” “That’s right,” he says, turning to face her. “Wayfare.” “Fitting,” she muses, presses lips to his, “for once.” She’s naked against him, and though he had told himself an hour ago they were just stopping to get some rest, they haven’t quite made it that far. “I don’t know,” Jack looks at his sister, his voice sounding grave. “Maybe the first guess would have worked better,” he tells her. “For us.” “You’re probably right,” she agrees, but her voice is cutting, hurt, and she turns away from him on the bed, tells him she’s tired. “I’m going to take a shower,” he says. To wash the stink off, he doesn’t say. Later, he’ll apologize. [For reminding her.] Later, he’ll kiss her eyelids and tell her he loves her. [She’ll forget. She always does.] They travel east, and Claire wears these white flip flops that collect dust and dirt from the road. Whenever they stop for gas or to get something to eat, to stretch their legs, they just get dirtier and dirtier. Jack keeps telling her to buy different shoes, but she persists. She tells them they’re comfortable, tells him she’ll get something else when it gets colder. Sometimes they sleep in the front cab of the old pick-up truck they found cheap in a no-name town. When he sleeps, Jack almost always dreams of Claire’s dirty feet, ankles hooked together around his waist. He wakes hard, aching, and his moving around is enough to wake Claire, to alert her of his condition. She only smiles, reaches for him.

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every road takes us farther from home

He fucks her in the front seat of that old truck, up against the passenger door, he fucks her until the only thing behind his eyes is stars and tears. This is a familiar scenario. This is nothing new. But it never feels less like he’s going to hell, and that only makes him come harder. Claire never asks him what he dreams about. She never asks him when they’re going to go home. She just reads maps, points to towns she thinks might be interesting, steers their course, drives during the day, helps him slow down when he’s going too fast. Claire insists they stop at any fruit and vegetable stands they see. And one afternoon she begs him to let her take a puppy from the litter being given away beside the tomatoes and the melons. “They’re just mutts,” he tells her. “Farm mutts.” “In that case,” she says, “I’ll have two. A boy and a girl. Brother and sister.” Jack takes her hand, kisses her knuckles. “Okay,” he says. “You’ve convinced me.” The tiny, spotted dogs sleep between them in the truck most of the day, and they make it harder to find a place to stay at night, but Jack doesn’t mind. It makes Claire happy. And in a way it feels like their own little family – one that they don’t have to be ashamed of. Sometimes he catches her eye when she’s watching them play, and he sees in her face the girl he used to know. The girl who was just a girl, and not someone who’s experienced all that they have. “Have you decided on names yet?” he asks. “Not yet.” And she smiles when one of them knocks the other over, “Not just yet.” One afternoon, they pull off in an empty field. They eat in the truck bed, watch the puppies playing in the waning sunlight, racing through the grass. “Days are getting shorter,” Jack tells her, takes a grape from her plate. Claire stretches her leg out and wiggles her flip flop in his direction. “You’ll be rid of these soon.” Jack laughs, lies back against the hard metal. “I think I’ll miss them,” he tells her. She makes a face and rolls her eyes, but he reaches for her wrist and pulls her into his lap. They’re far enough from the road that when Claire undoes his pants, and he slides her white skirt up, pushing her cotton panties aside to expose her enough to allow him to thrust his cock inside, that no one will see them, no one will witness this. Luckily their frantic movements go unnoticed, and Jack slides a callused thumb over her clit, not wanting to prolong the risk for much longer. The sound she makes in response is worth the rush, and after a moment or two, Claire bites down on his neck as she comes, tearing at the material at the back of his t-shirt. Jack calls out something that sounds like her name, joins her, spills into her when she clenches around him. After, there’s a calm, a silence neither of them had noticed before. Just the earth, and sky, and the two of them. Empty and full at the same time. Later, just after the sun’s gone down, Claire helps the puppies back into the cab of the truck. “Zeus and Hera,” she says, after she climbs into the passenger seat. “That’s what I’ll call them.”

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by authorevery road takes us farther from home Jack nods, considering pairing; rating the names, but Claire can tell he doesn’t understand.

title;

Our storymythology begins... they were brother and sister,” she explains. “And husband and wife.” “In Greek A slow crooked smile tugs at the corners of Jack’s mouth. “I like that,” he tells her. “I like that a lot.” Claire doesn’t bother mentioning that, in the stories, Hera didn’t seem to like Zeus all that much. And it doesn’t really matter anyway. For Claire, it’s a symbolic, quiet way of remembering who they are – of remembering a truth she no longer wants to forget. “Me too,” she says, ruffling Zeus behind the ears. “The perfect fit.” They’re driving through a mountain pass one night after a full day of sleeping and fucking, and Claire reaches across, her fingers resting at the back of Jack’s neck, twisting in his short hair. “What are your dreams of?” he asks her, after a beat. It is Claire’s turn to laugh this time. “You,” she says simply. “Only you.” -fin

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Claire, Jack & Sawyer

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you wrote our names down on the sidewalk but the rain came and washed ‘em off; by slybrunette claire/jack/sawyer; pg13

There was an old abandoned house, the shutters closed and cobwebbed and the grass too tall and a shade somewhere between healthy green and sunbaked brown, and this was somehow what they ended up calling home. It was her idea. Back when it was just her and Jack and it didn’t take all that much to get to him once she was already under his skin. “We could fix it up,” she’d said and bit her lip to keep the reflexive ‘you like fixing things’ from coming out. It was a project, it was a thing to do with a purpose that kept him occupied, kept him from thinking too much, and so he’d said “yes” with very little fight. There was very little fight left in Jack. Claire planted a garden in the back, vegetables and herbs, things she’d learned back on the island, and wore this ridiculous wide-brimmed hat to keep from burning underneath the afternoon sun. In the evenings she’d cook and talk and run her fingers over whatever bruise or cut he’d gotten that day and wonder if it would scar (they never did). In the summer, there was an old beat-up truck parked out front and then there was Sawyer. “Well ain’t this cozy,” he’d remarked and she kissed him quiet in lieu of calling him a hypocrite first (for the comment in the face of their past) and an asshole second (for leaving the last time). The house had smelled like paint then, open windows and gauzy white curtains moving with the slow breeze (she feels all grown up again, with her curtains, and she thinks of her mother and thinks of Thomas, and hopes history is done repeating itself). There was splattered paint where it wasn’t supposed to be, just to the right of where she’d stopped for the day, blurring the line where the powder blue she’d chosen met the sunny yellow that was left behind. At night, the three of them fit together like puzzle pieces and Claire tried to shake off the feeling that she couldn’t quite see the big picture from down here. – There is an old abandoned house, the shutters closed and cobwebbed and the grass too tall and a shade somewhere between healthy green and sunbaked brown, and this is somehow what they end up calling home. She left Australia behind on a sixteen hour flight. She left California too, along with the son she’d never know, and found some place quiet and landlocked and new. Some place to start over. The place badly needs sprucing up, which she does, and the gutters need cleaning and there might be something wrong with the pipes, which she hasn’t figured out how to do, but she manages. In the afternoons, she gardens, and that’s how she meets him. His name is Jack, he tells her with a proffered hand and something like a smile, and he just moved here a month ago, right before she did. “I used to live in California.”

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you wrote our names down on the sidewalk but the rain came and washed ‘em off

title; byyou author “What made leave?” pairing; rating

He isn’t looking at her when he replies, “Too close to the coast. The ocean.”

Our story begins...

Claire smiles and doesn’t tell him that the ocean makes her feel uneasy nowadays. She doesn’t tell him because it doesn’t make sense to her yet. Eventually, he offers to clean the gutters and take a look at the pipes. She offers to make dinner. One night he brings alcohol and they stumble into bed. Things move in the natural sort of way that these things do. In July, she buys paint and unloads her car while a pick-up truck pulls up alongside the curb. A man with a southern drawl and shaggy blonde hair tells her he’s got car trouble. He’s looking for a place to get it checked out, on his way elsewhere. She directs him, ends up having him follow her. The mechanics say three days and she offers up the spare bedroom in her house. When she gets home, Jack’s moved the paint she left in the driveway, in her haste, into her house, and she learns the man’s name, Sawyer, right before Jack does. It takes the car four days to be fixed; he parks it on the street and doesn’t seem in any hurry to leave. She isn’t in any hurry to make him. He asks about her and Jack, once. She ducks her head and says “we’re just friends.” The next time it comes up, he doesn’t ask, just slips inside the bedroom and shuts the door, fitting alongside them with ease. In the morning, she paints over the powder-blue walls with the bright sunny yellow she bought.

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i’ll slay all our dragons, win all our wars;

Our story continues...

claire/jack/sawyer; pg

by ozmissage title

Sawyer teaches her how to shoot the gun. He presses the cold metal into her tiny hands and smiles, flashes his dimples at her, his way of telling her to relax. She points the pistol at an old tin can, some bit of garbage Sawyer found on the side of the road. Jack’s sitting in the passenger’s seat of the truck, the door open, his feet dangling against the side, just watching. Claire squares her shoulders and lets her finger hover over the trigger. “Easy there, Annie Oakley, you don’t want to shoot until you aim,” Sawyer chuckles. He moves to stand behind her, his body pressed along her back as he maneuvers her into place. “There’s gonna be a kick—” “I know,” Claire sighs. She hates when they talk to her as if she’s a child, as if they haven’t all been through the same hell. She pulls the trigger and hits the can, but just barely. She feels the force of the shot reverberate through her arm and then Sawyer’s hand at her elbow, steadying her. “Not bad,” he says. “Could be better.” That’s as close to a compliment as Sawyer comes, she nods; she learned a long time ago to take what she can get from him. Sawyer leaves her to go reset the can, and just like that Jack’s standing beside her. “You did good.” “I still don’t know why I need to be able to shoot,” she says. “Just in case.” “In case of what?” “We might not always be here, Sunshine. Big bad wolf comes knocking, we need to know you can put a bullet in him,” Sawyer cuts in. She knows they still worry, still dream of monsters—she doesn’t dream at all anymore. If she does she doesn’t remember. She likes to believe that they’ll always be together, the three of them safe in their own little world of hotel rooms and bad diner food. A life in constant motion, they prefer it that way after so much time wasted trapped in one place. “I can take care of myself, with or without a gun. But I’d rather not have to, if it’s all the same to you.” She ducks her head; the truth of what she’s saying lingers between them. The request she can’t quite bring herself to make—Don’t leave me. It sounds too clingy, even in her head, but she doesn’t want to be alone anymore, she suspects (hopes) they feel the same way. Jack brings a hand up to her cheek and she leans into his touch, presses a fleeting kiss to his thumb as it ghosts across her lips. “We’re not going anywhere, Claire.”

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i’ll slay all our dragons, win all our wars title; “Not if weby canauthor help it,” Sawyer mutters, his gaze trained on his dirty boots. pairing; rating

Clairestory turnsbegins... the gun over in her hand, pretends to understand. Our “Alright then, I’ll try again.” *** They sleep in a dank trucker’s motel that night. It’s just off the interstate, and Claire lies awake watching as the lights of passing cars briefly illuminate the room, casting shadows across the walls. The boys are sprawled on either side of her. Sawyer sleeps with his back pressed to her side, his knees pulled up so he’s curled protectively into himself. Jack tries to wrap himself around the both of them at once, one arm stretched out across the pillows so his hand can tangle in Sawyer’s hair, the other draped across her waist. She knows the rhythm of their breathing by now, can always tell when they’re sleeping or faking. Jack’s dead to the world, his face relaxed and content. Sawyer’s tense though, there’s no shallowness to his breath, no ease in the slope of his back. He’s wide awake. She turns carefully so as not to disturb Jack and brings her lips up next to Sawyer’s ear. “Faker,” she whispers. He laughs softly. “How do you do that?” “It’s a gift. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” “Shouldn’t you?” he shoots back. He’s always so defensive, it drives her crazy sometimes. They’ve all got their walls, ghosts they’d rather not talk about, but Sawyer’s got more than Jack and Claire put together and he keeps them close. As much as she tires of him treating her like a child, she can’t help but think of him as a little boy himself. He’s afraid. She gets that; they all are—she just wishes she could convince him there’s no shame in it. “You won’t have to go back. I promise.” She feels his back stiffen and she moves closer, forces her leg between his knees and slips her arm around his chest, lets her hand come to rest over his heart. They’re twisted together now, so close she can feel his heart beating beneath her fingertips. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Always so damn stubborn. “I’ll protect you,” she says. And she means it. No monster, no island, no man will get near them. She’ll keep them moving, keep them running. They won’t ever stop. She doesn’t need any gun to keep the wolves at bay; she just needs a full tank of gas and her boys by her side. “We’ll be okay.” “We’ll be okay,” he echoes in the dark, disbelief tainting his words.

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i’ll slay all our dragons, win all our wars title; She buriesby herauthor face against his back to block out the lights from the highway and smiles when she feels his hand come to rest over hers. It doesn’t matter if he believes, she’ll believe enough for all of them. pairing; rating Our story begins... “Go to sleep, Sawyer.”

80


we swallow the shine of the sun; by gigglemonster claire/jack/sawyer; pg Claire likes Arizona. It’s dry heat here. It warms her skin and colors her cheeks. She can breathe here. But they never stay anywhere for long. They’re on their way out of town when the car breaks down. The backseat of the old brown station wagon houses piles of boxes and bags. It was on its last leg and about to die any minute, but Claire takes it as a sign that they should stay anyway. She pays attention to these kinds of things after all. Sawyer’s the first one out of the car. He’s met with a cloud of smoke when he opens the hood. He and Jack flip a coin for flat tires, but Sawyer always fixes the real mechanical stuff. Jack’s hands are steady and sure but they know blood and bones, not gears and oil. Jack props himself against the back of the car, fishes out a cigarette from the pack in his breast pocket. Claire stands in front of him, her thin limbs casting a shadow over part of him. She listens to the electric buzz of power lines and cicadas. When she was little she used to think it was the sound of the sun, shining so hot that it was actually sizzling by the time it got to Earth. Claire drinks the last sip of Jack’s Diet Coke. It’s warm and flat, but it feels good on her dry throat. She lifts her blonde curls off the back of her neck. (She makes a mental note that she really should get it cut one of these days.) She holds it on top of her head, letting the breeze dry the sweat there until her arm tires and she lets it fall again. Jack tosses a half-gone cigarette on the ground, kicks it away with his boot. He holds out a hand to Claire, and she takes it without hesitation. She leans against his strong frame and smells the smoke on his breath when he kisses her temple. His body is warm, too warm in this kind of heat and she kisses him back once before stepping away. She hears Sawyer curse at the car and it makes her smile. She enjoys that kind of talk even more when it’s being pulled from him by her or Jack at night in their bed. But something about him is suited for the mouth of a sailor, the way he’s suited for the sun. He has his t-shirt tucked under his belt and she watches the tan muscles of his back shift and strain. Jack is less settled in the sun. After too many hours, he starts to burn and the faintest layer of freckles will scatter itself across his cheeks and the backs of his shoulders. Claire ghosts her fingernails across them at night when he’s asleep. Sawyer does the same to her, with the freckles on her nose. She and Jack, they’re a bit alike in that way. Sawyer kicks the car one last time but it’s all for naught. The problem is worse than cussing and simple know-how can fix. So they call a tow and catch a lift to the nearest garage. There’s a lake about a mile down the road where they wait for the car. Claire has already made up her mind that they’re driving it right back home once it’s fixed. She knows a sign when she sees one. They stare at the water and Claire tells them all she knows about fishing. This, as it turns out, doesn’t amount to much. Her favorite part was always digging for worms. She’d have grime and dirt under her nails and her Granddad would laugh. Claire Littleton, never afraid to get messy. That’s my girl.

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we swallow the shine of the sun She lies back, squinting her eyes against the light. She can feel dry grass prickling her back and knows her hair must be getting full of dirt. Claire feels Sawyer run a hand up the inside of her leg, pushing aside the fabric of her dress. He stops to rub his thumb over the scar on her knee. Claire is proud of it, says it looks like a star and Sawyer kisses it in agreement. He darts a tongue out to lick over the same spot and she laughs as nudges him away. Claire stands up, sudden, pulling them with her by the collars of their shirts. She runs toward the water, lifting her dress over her shoulders as she goes. Her modesty is fleeting, a split second before she’s diving into the water. She surfaces to see Jack and Sawyer wading in after her. The water washes the dirt and sweat off of them. Washes the mess off. Claire kisses them again, each once on the lips. Playful. They’re not afraid to get a little messy. Theirs is the good kind, like the Arizona heat. She can breathe this way.

83


the birds won’t sing; by crickets

Our story continues...

title

claire/jack/sawyer; r

They spend a day in the mountains, the three of them. Claire carries the old Polaroid she found around her neck, her last dozen packets of film in her knapsack, and she snaps photos of random things: a strangely placed pile of rocks, Jack with his fingers laced through Sawyer’s, a hand-painted message in the middle of the trail of some long-forgotten beacon. FOOD AND WATER. FORTY MILES DUE NORTH. The old wooden slat is hanging askew where it’s nailed to the tree, the red paint weathered and peeling, a visible reminder of how long it’s been since the world fell apart. Sawyer comes up behind her, wraps his arms around her waist, his chin on her shoulder, watches as the photo’s colors become clear. Jack stands a few feet away, eyes squinting towards the waning light of the sun. “Do you think anyone’s still alive?” Claire asks. Nobody answers. They don’t have to. The three of them have managed to find shelter, a still-standing farm house with supplies and equipment enough for them to make a home, plant some vegetables, try to make the most of it. Nights, they spend in each other’s beds. Things were different at the start, and Claire teases them both for waiting so long to make it a threesome. And they tease her for how easy it is to get her going. “It’s the end of the world,” she tells them. “What else is there to do?” She watches them when they’re together, hips roughly finding each other’s underneath a starry sky, another night outdoors, her favorite place to sleep. She watches them, Jack’s teeth on Sawyer’s shoulder, Sawyer’s hand searching Jack’s skin. Claire makes a noise and Sawyer starts to laugh. “Little sister’s awake,” he informs Jack, who pulls her into their embrace. Second nature. This is how they are. This is how they work. This is how they keep from going crazy. Claire takes snapshots of their bodies – close-up shots, the bottoms of their bare feet, their erect penises brushing together in a moment of passion – hands Jack or Sawyer the camera when she’s otherwise occupied. “Is this really the way we want to be remembered?” Jack asks, afterward, the explicit photos spread out across the bed.

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the birds won’t sing title; by one author Claire hands to him across a sleeping, naked Sawyer. It’s a sloppy self-portrait, of her and Jack, lips and tongues and love – that, most of all. “Of course,” she tells him. “No one will ever see them pairing; rating anyway.” Our story begins...

Jack reaches for her hand. When the sun turns an orange-brown, Claire knows that it is over. Time to move underground, if they can find a way. So they pack their things, as many essentials as they can carry, and set out to an uncertain future. Claire turns back into the light of the sun, only a sunset by illusion, for a final look at the place they called their home. She stands for several minutes, silhouetted in the dirty, poisoned light, the farm house in the distance, until she hears the mechanical click of her camera, turns to see Sawyer having just snapped her photo. “To remember,” he tells her. Jack crosses to her side, a hand at her waist, with Sawyer close behind. “We have to keep moving, Claire. There’s no time.” And there, standing on that familiar gravel road, Claire begins to cry. -fin.

86


unfinished business;

by ozmissage claire/jack, claire/sawyer; r; new!

Our story continues...

title

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be like this. I think you were supposed to move on.” Claire whispers this as she traces the outline of foreign symbols etched on her dead brother’s arm. Jack laughs. He always laughs. “Do you want me to go, Claire?” She straddles him in one easy movement and he feels real beneath her, solid and alive and she’s gotten used to the company of dead men by now anyway. “Shut up, Jack,” she mutters. * He tells her about dying, about heaven and a son that never was, a half-life where they were all happy and nothing hurt. “There was a light,” he says. “It was beautiful.” “And then what?” This always stops him. He doesn’t know what happened next. There was light and then there was this. “Maybe you’re not really here,” she says. “Maybe I’m not really here.” “We’re here,” he insists. She’s not so sure. * If this is heaven, she’s not sure what all the fuss was about. She spends her days trying to understand a little boy who calls her Claire instead of Mum. Kate’s there, always hovering, always pained. Claire feels like a thief. This life isn’t hers anymore. Maybe it was never supposed to be hers in the first place. She fights with her mother and feels like she’s sixteen again. Except this time she has bullet wounds and three years of hell under her belt. She’s too old to feel this young. There are too many people in the house. Her mother, Kate, Aaron, and then there’s Sawyer drifting in and out, always so lost these days. He carries his ghosts, she fucks hers. No one knows about Jack. They wouldn’t understand. They’d think she was losing it again, poor, crazy Claire. She doesn’t want their sympathy. She doesn’t want them at all. * “What do you think it would have been like growing up together?” she asks.

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unfinished business title; by atauthor He’s nipping her thigh, leaving her skin raised and red. Proof, she thinks. pairing; rating

“We wouldn’t have grown up together, Claire. I was already grown.” Our story begins... “Yeah, but it would have been nice, wouldn’t it? To have a little sister?” He pauses and she knows he’s staring at her, but she doesn’t let herself meet his eyes. She isn’t sure she wants to know the answer. “I would have liked that,” he says finally. She decides to believe he’s telling the truth as he eases his hand under the waistband of her cotton panties. “I always wanted a brother,” she lies. The truth is she never really thought about it until he happened. He slips one finger inside her, makes her breath hitch. “You had one, Claire.” * It occurs to her that he might not be Jack. She’s not stupid; she’s done this all before. But he knows things. He knows everything. And she likes to think she knows him. They are family after all. “I hate it here,” she says. She’s watching Aaron sleep, his little chest rising and falling in a perfect rhythm. She brushes a strand of hair away from his face. She loves him. She’s always loved him. But she has nothing to offer him. Nothing to offer anyone. Not yet, anyway. “He needs you.” He says the words like they’re a promise. “He needed you too, Jack.” Jack shakes his head, his expression suddenly far away. “I wasn’t much of a father. Not here or there. David…I missed so much.” Claire laughs and it sounds cruel. She doesn’t mean for it to. “You don’t have a son, Jack.” “I did,” he says sadly. * Sawyer’s the one who catches her. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

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unfinished business

title

He walks in and Jack’s looming above her, his name slipping off her tongue before she can stop it, our story continues louder than she meant for it to be. “Son of a bitch,” Sawyer hisses. Jack rolls off of her and he’s grinning, easy, unconcerned. “Claire, what the hell are you doing?” She swallows looks sideways at Jack and he just shrugs. You’re no help, she thinks. “Why are you barging into to my room?” “Because you were screaming your damn dead brother’s name,” Sawyer counters. “I was having a dream.” Sawyer smirks, eyeing the sweat drenching her skin. “Must have been a hell of a dream.” “Did you want something, Sawyer?”

His smirk fades into a look of concern. He almost looks bashful. She forgets he’s as uncomfortable here as she is, just plain forgets about him at all to be honest. “Just checking in,” Sawyer mutters. Jack leans into her, presses a kiss against the hard line of her jaw. “Ask him to stay,” he whispers against her skin. She ignores him, sits up a little straighter, suddenly painfully aware of how thin her sheet is. “I’m fine,” she says. Sawyer looks doubtful, but he leaves anyway. She waits until she hears the sound of his boots echoing down the hall before she speaks. “Why’d you tell me to ask him to stay?” She tries not to sound as bitter as she feels. “He needs somebody, Claire. And so do you.” “I have someone,” she says. “At least I thought I did.” “I won’t always be here,” Jack says. Claire shivers. She doesn’t want him to go, isn’t sure what she would do if he did. “He was going to leave me, you know.” She doesn’t blame him. She would have left her too. “I did leave you.”

90


our story continues Claire smiles.

unfinished business

title

“But you came back…” She reaches for his hand, finds nothing but an empty space. * “I dream about her. Wake up in the middle of the night thinking she’ll be there. It fuckin’ hurts every single time.” Claire takes a long draw off her beer; watches Kate chase Aaron around the yard. He’s squealing happily, not a care in the world. She wonders if it’s normal to envy your son. “Why are you telling me this, Sawyer?” He leans his back against the post, his hands rubbing against the worn material of his jeans. She realizes for the first time that they’re the ones he was wearing when they came back. “Just wanted you to know you’re not the only one is all,” he says. She nods, takes another drink. * Jack is gone for a week. It’s the longest week of her life. She’s always looking for him, but he’s never there and Sawyer’s taken to watching her. He knows something’s going on; he’s like a dog that’s caught the scent of blood on the air. He becomes her shadow and she can’t seem to shake him. She’s in the bathroom leaning against the sink, cold water spilling over her hands when she looks up and finds Jack behind her. She gasps and he snakes an arm around her waist. “Did you miss me?” Tears are stinging her eyes and she hates how much she did. “Where the hell did you go, Jack?” He pulls her to his chest, doesn’t bother with answers. He’s shaking, so she holds on tighter, her anger already slipping away. “You’re home now,” she says. “No, I’m not,” he mutters. There’s a knock on the door and then Sawyer’s voice. “You alright in there, Mamacita?” When she looks back, Jack’s already gone again. *

91


unfinished business

Sawyer starts keeping her company at night. Helps her tuck Aaron into bed, even reads him a story every now and then. Aaron likes him. Claire thinks maybe he likes Sawyer more than he likes her. Afterwards they talk about all the things no one else wants to hear. She tells him about living with a monster and he tells her about fucking up the only good thing he ever had. It’s sad as hell and it gets them nowhere, remembering, regretting. But it feels good just to say the words, just to know someone’s hearing them. “I think I see Jack sometimes,” she says. What she means is I see him all the time. “Thought I saw the Doc myself a time or two. It’s never him though, always some wiseass Australian with a baseball cap.” “Do you think he could have survived?” Sawyer doesn’t stop to think about his answer, doesn’t even hesitate. “No. I think he went down with the ship. The bastard. He left us with the hard part.” “It doesn’t seem fair.” Sawyer nods his agreement. * They fuck for the first time on a Wednesday afternoon. Kate took Aaron out for ice cream, her mother’s at work. She tells herself she’s doing it because it might bring Jack back. Because he seemed to want her too. It was inevitable though. They’re the only two people in this house not interested in moving on. It seems right even as she knows it’s wrong. He’s rough and it’s sloppy, over too soon, leaves them both sweating and far, far too aware of each other. “Sorry about that,” he says. “It’s been a while.” “For me too,” she offers. He eases himself off of her, shimmies into his jeans. “I need some air,” he mutters, already padding barefooted towards the front porch. She relaxes when she hears the slam of the screen door. She tries to imagine Jack beside her, can’t quite conjure up an image of his face. Only sees red stars and black characters he won’t explain to her. He can’t, she thinks before she can stop herself. He can’t because he’s not real. Sighing, she tugs her summer dress over her head and joins Sawyer on the porch. He’s smoking, always is these days. She stands on her tiptoes and kisses him, lets her tongue slip into his mouth. After a moment he kisses

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her back.

unfinished business

“Let’s try again,” she says. “Maybe we’re just out of practice.” * She sees Jack one more time. She’s at the park with Aaron. It’s just the two of them for once and he’s actually happy to be with her. She’s happy to be with him too. She’s pushing him on the swing and Jack’s just there leaning against a tree, watching them. He waves and Claire isn’t sure if his expression is sad or pleased. Maybe it’s a little of both. She looks down and Aaron’s waving. Claire slows his swing to a stop. “Who are waving at, sweetheart?” “Jack, silly,” he says. Claire smiles and kisses his temple. “Wave for me too, alright, Aaron?” He does.

94


so you’re gone and i’m haunted; claire/jack/sawyer; pg

by hesperia

Play. There is a plane crash. She is pregnant and scared, and the baby she wanted to give away is the only thing she has in this world anymore. There is a doctor who tries to lead them. She watches him, she listens to him, and when he says he’s going to save them, she believes. There is a man who she shouldn’t love. She knows that this is a man who may not return her affection, who will break her heart, and yet she gravitates towards him by an unknown force. Fast Forward.

There is still a plane crash. She is a mother now, she is not the same woman whose plane crashed on this island, and she is changed in ways she cannot explain. There is still a doctor, but he’s failed to lead them anywhere except deeper into the heart of darkness. She still watches him, she listens, she loves him now – regardless of who tells her she shouldn’t, but she no longer believes. There is a man who is slowly learning to love her back. He cannot break her heart now, not when it’s already broken, but she still loves him, and so she leaves him with her most precious possession. Pause.

Time stops. Time moves forward. Times moves backward. She disappears. Rewind. Stop. Play.

There is a plane crash...

95


when you’re dead; by slybrunette claire/jack/sawyer; r

There was never a question posed as to where she would go once her feet hit the ground and they became two nameless faces in a crowd full of aspire-to-be’s and never-will-be’s. The apartment has two bedrooms and bare white walls and she won’t open the second bedroom door at the end of the hall for fear of what was left behind (a mobile spins on for a baby long ago).   She gets lost in IKEA, trying to buy furniture with money that can’t have come from anything good, and he puts together the television stand long after the horizon has swallowed the sun and before her tears have dried (she lost track of how many faces passed and echoed familiarity).   Creature comforts, he’ll say, but he can only utter “quit your damn crying” for so long before he’s pulling her to his chest and that, she wants to say, is what that phrase really means.   –   She circles wanted ads until her highlighter bleeds smudgy black but they never pan out.   She’s just a pretty blonde who spent a year working at a fish fry before disappearing two years ago (they don’t know that part, but it’s tough to explain whereabouts). And she won’t be working on Wall Street or designating buildings, but the diner down the street seems to see something in her and she’s long ago learned to let go of dreams or preconceptions.   Besides, she’s learned how to mold herself into any role, even if that role works six-hour shifts Mondays through Thursdays, and sometimes Saturdays, and usually ends up with someone’s hand on her ass before midday.   –   Claire thinks this might be what it’s like to be dead, and she says as much, one night when she can’t sleep and all the ceiling fan is doing is redistributing stale air.   He isn’t asleep either. He never is. “It ain’t a palace but it certainly is bigger than a coffin.”   And he’s only joking, making light of what she really means, but she feels the need to go on anyways, if just to fill the void left behind by too many words that are merely mouthed and then swallowed. “No, I mean...isolated. Everyone thinks we’re dead. It’s just us.”   She doesn’t long for the outside world, not really. She doesn’t miss her family or her home or any of it. She would be perfectly fine curled up on this bed in this small apartment with him for the rest of her life, because it’s more than what she had back home or on the island. It’s free of heartbreak and hardship, and it isn’t everything she ever wanted but it’s a way to settle and it’s a life. She could live this life.   Even if she couldn’t, it’s all she has. It’s all he can give her. It’s all she can give herself.   “Death is easier.” Sawyer rolls onto his side, away from her, and she can feel that void again.   –   There’s a hospital (bad things happen here, will happen here), a car crash, and “i’m just a little banged up” turns into “long time no see” and her feet don’t quite touch the ground from where she’s sitting and there’s a couple of reasons for why she feels all of five years old.   Jack doesn’t ask and she doesn’t answer and he goes through the motions while she fixates on the gray that’s found its way into his temples and it’s only been two years since she’s seen him but she wouldn’t know that from his face.

96


title; by author

when you’re dead

He smoothes a bandage over her forehead and mumbles something about being more careful and then, pairing; rating

“He’sstory fine,begins... you know.” Our She nods but doesn’t ask anything else. She knows. Her son will be fine, this she knows, and she will find him again, but it isn’t going to be now. She can’t take care of him now. Can’t keep him safe.   There’s more, in his eyes, on his lips, on his mind, but something, some better judgment, keeps him from saying it, instead there’s, “Make sure you leave from the back parking lot if you don’t want to be seen.” Because where the Oceanic Six go, the media is never far away, is the unsaid.   Claire gets her purse and runs a hand through her hair, a few stray strands caught underneath the bandage and they hurt when she pulls but she keeps quiet about that too (he doesn’t ask how she’s back or if there’s anyone else).   He forgoes the paperwork (this is their little secret; he’s gotten good at lying) but writes down something that looks like a prescription but ends up as an address and folds it into her hand and she nods and leaves and crumbles it up in her purse which, really, is just short of the trash can.   Two days later he shows up at their door and Claire gets to find out just how much Sawyer doesn’t like unexpected houseguests.   –   Sawyer starts talking Mexico as soon as Jack is out the door and Claire slams him with a palm against his chest and “I’ve had it with this” that couldn’t have had more meanings behind it if she tried.   Because she’s fine here, she’s fine isolated, most of the time, but all the lies are wearing thin on her, and he’s one of them for Christ’s sake, now they have to hide from him too?   Some French avant-garde picture plays on that television he was so damn concerned about and the shadows play on their faces as they yell over words that get lost in translation.   “We just got here,” she tells him, like that makes a difference, like just that simple fact will cause him to rethink it all. “We just got here and now you want to leave. Over Jack of all people. If there’s anyone who’s good at keeping secrets it’s him.”   “It’s a risk,” says the man who years ago was about nothing but risks, who lived them daily, and there’s something more, bubbling just below the surface, but thinking about it, trying to find it, takes up time better spent proving a point.   “So is living.” She tells him, dropping her hand, and backing off. “So is everything else. And I’m not going to Mexico. I’m not going anywhere.”   She stays in their bedroom with leftover Chinese food and a copy of the latest Allure that tries to tell her how to perfect a tan (spend a few years on the island, that should do it), and when he finally opens the door at eleven she knows he isn’t going anywhere either.   –   It’s a dress shirt Sawyer wears, the next time they see Jack, clean and white and she thinks she understands the significance of it. I’m doing just fine, it says, like it isn’t obvious that this is all an act. That all they are is actors, left behind by their troupe.   There’s lunch and conversation that feels stiff and unfamiliar and a few too many awkward glances, and she’s almost glad she has to go to work. She can’t get out of there fast enough.   Six hours later she walks through the front door and walks right back out when she sees that dress shirt on the floor upstairs and Jack’s car still in the parking lot.

98


title;

by author pairing; rating

when you’re dead

Our story begins... “So this is why you didn’t want to see him.”

The bowl clatters against the sink, and he doesn’t even acknowledge her.   –   She still sleeps with him, or at least in the same bed as him, and when his hand snakes around, lingers between her legs, she can’t help the way her thighs tighten around his hand, pressing into him.   “This isn’t what you think.” He says, and right now she doesn’t care what she thinks (but it is, it always is) because she isn’t thinking about anything other than his hand and him and her own needs.   –   “She’s my sister.”   She hears it. She hears it, because she eavesdrops, she can’t trust them now, and he’s got his hand on Sawyer’s arm, and Sawyer looks – well, she can’t tell if that’s amusement or something else.   Claire drinks that night. Empties the rest of the whiskey (she doesn’t like whiskey) until the world feels unsteady and then she wraps her hand around the knob of the door to the bedroom, interrupting the melody of groans, because when you’re this drunk, it seems like the perfect thing to do.   When Jack pulls back, it’s a mumbled “whatever” he hears, as her lips find his, and her hand wraps around something else, and Sawyer can’t take his eyes off of them (that’s what this is about right?).   –   In the morning, she regrets her hangover more than her actions and if there’s something wrong with that she doesn’t acknowledge it.   –   “Why Los Angeles?” Jack asks, valid question. There is nothing that tethers them there, or at least not until him.   It’s a black hole, something for them to fall into. The flashbulbs are too busy to be on them, and they can continue on with their lives, and no one will ever know. Except for Jack, now, and she finds they both mind that less and less.   Their hands trail her body at night, slipping under her t-shirt and beneath her bra, and eventually inside of her, and laid out on the bed, between them she finally feels part of something and she isn’t scared anymore and she certainly isn’t lost.

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dust in our lungs; by missy useless claire/jack/sawyer; pg13

This kind of thing is always never―too easy. He finds her between piles of clothes and half-empty (half-full) cardboard boxes. It’s a makeshift home, a temporary solution, most of their things still packed. They are nothing but refugees these days, prepared to run if they have to (this is important: if they have to). They have lived here for two years now. From time to time, Sawyer disappears with the SUV, never calls, always comes back sooner rather than later, and maybe this is not surprising when you have nowhere else to go. The world feels smaller to them now. They talk about it during poker matches in their sparse kitchen or drowsy post-coital gloom between rumpled sheets. Cigarette smoke makes his eyes water. Sawyer laughs. Claire’s fingers travel across the tiny plastic globe; she says things like I don’t want to see the Great Wall of China and I’m not interested in the pyramids and Let’s not go to Athens this summer, okay? Sawyer cares about Claire, he really does. It’s probably psychologically explainable: they’ve been through hell together and need to take care of each other now that everyone else is gone. Maybe it’s more than this, maybe not. They are the last of a dying species because fate or coincidence (whichever one; they don’t give a shit anymore) made a random selection of you and you and you, you can keep your life. Congratulations, have a good time, see you soon. Sawyer cares about her, and Jack nods in agreement, gives his permission (they don’t need it, and Sawyer rolls his eyes, Whatever makes you feel better, Doc). In the end, it’s better than being alone. It doesn’t matter that they don’t deserve this. Or maybe they do. It’s all about perspective. Her hair spills in blonde waves over the linoleum-covered floor. She meets his eyes, puts a finger over his mouth, teasing, unafraid. They are alone today. This makes a difference: she knew before he told her. They only talk about it now―talk, they talk, the tip of her tongue against the corner of his mouth, the heel of her foot pressing down into the small of his back while she shifts under him―years later, when guilt has become familiar enough to be more thrilling than shameful, an almost-welcome excitement. She laughs and draws blood with short fingernails, Bored? His hands shake, grab her too hard. She doesn’t flinch, smiling, This is our little secret, right? She wants milk and peanut butter and a Christmas tree. He keeps his head down, neck bowed against the wind and rain and supermarket lights. Her cheeks are pale or pink or almost-blue (maybe he’s colorblind all of a sudden), frostbitten, and she never lets go of his hand, their wet gloves linked together. She sighs in exaggerated delight, little-girl smile spread all over her face. She doesn’t look older than when he first met her. He says, Shouldn’t it be snowing? They don’t talk much, outside. Complain about the weather. Complain about the price of butter. Complain about the wasted time spent fixing the heating. Claire pulls her woolen hat over her eyes, Let’s play a game. He wants to make her happy. (He can’t. It’s the thought that counts.) Shouldn’t it be snowing? and she sounds too sure, too composed, Just wait. Maybe she’d announce everything like this, voice firm and omniscient: snow or the mailman or the apocalypse, and what’s the

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dust in our lungs

difference, really? It’s not as if they care either way. Be patient. -

He changes the locks every time Sawyer leaves. Claire lets him inside when he knocks. He finds his way through an open window. He breaks down the door. He grins, Gonna come down the chimney next time. Jack mutters, Fuck you. Claire doesn’t look up, Don’t mumble, bored or amused, he can’t tell. His fist connects with Sawyer’s jaw, more theatrics than anything else. They don’t fight anymore, not really, not about the things that matter, not about anything that goes further than doing housework or choosing a television program. They don’t mention dead children and dead lovers and dead friends. No one hands out accusations as fingers close around throats and knees push into aching guts and hips move restlessly. Sawyer’s nose breaks once; they are more careful after that. She is the kind of girl who leaves messages on fogged mirrors and takes her coffee with too much sugar and reads astrology books. She has temporary jobs at the local library and a small tattoo parlor. This is Hey, baby, let’s get back to the life we had before. No one ever calls Sawyer “James.” Jack works long hours at the hospital. Sawyer slides his hands into the pockets of his jeans, defensive, People change. Claire pats his arm, looks unimpressed. (No, they don’t.) It’s an inside joke. (It’s not funny, but there you go.) She crawls under his covers, drops her teddy bear next to his head, presses against him, There is a monster hiding under my bed. She doesn’t sound scared at all, and he nods, lips touching her forehead. She’s naked under her almost-transparent nightgown. He murmurs, ―just wanna sleep, voice rough, drowsy. She grins against his throat, whispers, Of course. I’m sorry. She knows this always works: she turns towards an empty chair, casts down her eyes, fiddles with her sleeve, pouting, Daddy, Jack is being mean, voice child-like, playful. He inhales sharply, digs half moons into his palms. She grins. Sawyer doesn’t know. Jack steps aside, sometimes, watches them, wonders whether they have their own shared secrets. Jealousy still stings, hypocritical and pointless, while Sawyer leans in and whispers something against Claire’s neck. She arches her back, giggles. They sleep like the dead. They don’t wake up gasping and screaming in the middle of the night. Pillows are never soaked with tears. If they dream, they don’t remember. The bottle of sleeping pills sits untouched in the mirrored cabinet above the sink. It’s their own little miracle. The universe is kind. Say hallelujah. Claire lies sprawled out across the couch, bare feet up on the coffee table. She groans exasperatedly, Stop it, Jack, you’re making me nervous, and He will come. (Be patient.) He taps rigid fingers against the windowpane, watching sleet turn into snow. It’s already dark outside. It’s been two months, and this is long when you’re made out of nothing but borrowed time, maybe even more so than everyone else. (He wonders whether he’s always been this presumptuous.) The cup of tea burns his palm. He isn’t angry. He isn’t worried, either.

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title;

by author It’s another rating lie. pairing;

dust in our lungs

Our story begins... He watches blue and green and red lights from the TV flicker across her face. She lies on top of him, smiling, already half-asleep, Do you want to go to church tomorrow? He chuckles. (That’s a good one.) Sawyer throws pebbles and damp snow against their living room window.

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goodbye and keep cold;

Our story continues...

claire/jack/sawyer; pg

by hesperia

title

In the winter Claire watches the geese fly south. She envies them, the freedom they have, the direction – a steady unwavering course. It didn’t always used to be like this, but freedom has its price. They learned that the hard way, like they learn all those lessons, and more often than not, Claire’s grateful for a place to come home to. She knows she’s not the only one who’s restless. She sees it in Sawyer, hidden, but it’s there, bubbling under the surface. She hates it, but she fully expects to wake one morning to find him gone. The only thing remaining would be a note with half-written sentences reflecting the parts of her still intact. Jack is better in one place. He’s calmer, worries less, is easier to live with. She supposes that’s the draw to the both of them, how different they are. They’re similar too, though not in ways she could ever express aloud. The way their fingers ghost along her hips, one hand trailing after the other. The way they kiss her mouth, her skin, they’re both demanding, needy; she’d be lying if she said sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. The geese fly south, and Claire is jealous of them. For five years they’ve avoided the sand and sun, because no matter how far they fade, the memories are still there. What they lost, who they lost, and how painfully they lost it. Goodbye, the note will say, in messy blue ink, smudged by his left-handed writing. And keep cold. * After Sawyer leaves everything is that much colder. For the first few days they blame each other, only bitter and biting words make up their days, alternating with slammed doors. Eventually the storm calms, and they’ve hit acceptance in stride. Claire’s still cold though, waking up to find her back bare and exposed. She pulls the blankets tight around her, curls into Jack’s side. It’s not the same, it’s never the same as it once was. “He’ll be back.” Jack says, and Claire nods but she knows him well enough to see through his false promises, his good intentions. “You couldn’t keep him here forever,” she counters, because she’s in a particular mood, and she doesn’t feel like placating him anymore. “At least I tried,” he scoffs, and slams the fridge, the empty vases on top rattle, clinking together in diminuendo. “We can’t just be your perfect little family.” “You know where the door is.” “Jack...”

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goodbye and keep cold title; author She’s nextby to him now, her hands on his chest. She’ll never leave, they both know that, because

pairing; rating regardless of how fucked up this all is, and it is – they’re drawn together, always, by blood at the very least.story begins... Our

She presses her lips against his, tastes the Merlot in his mouth when she pushes her tongue in. “I won’t leave you,” she says, her hands gripping his shirt as he kisses her back, harder, deeper. “I couldn’t handle it if you did,” he replies; his hands now push her skirt up high, panties pulled low enough to kick off with one foot. It’s not right or wrong, this reaction, it just is, and they’ll live it until Sawyer finds them again.

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and life is wine;

Our story continues...

claire/jack/sawyer; r

title

by crickets

It isn’t hard to find Jack. But maybe that’s not as accurate as it seems. If she carried a watch, a cell phone, or ever glanced at a calendar, she could point a finger and draw lines through weeks and months and say, “This is how long it took. This is how long I’ve been waiting.” But she doesn’t. Doesn’t even wonder about it. Time doesn’t weigh on her as it might others. If there’s one thing Claire took from the island, it’s patience. She stands outside a bar in Kansas, along some dusty highway, leaning against the car with a map in one hand and a water bottle tucked under her other arm. She traces the route with her finger. Almost there. It’s dark now, and Claire thinks she just might wait ‘til morning. (She wants to see him in the sun, the way she remembers him best.) In the bar, a woman with a twisting tattoo on her neck laughs, her head thrown back, and then she says the name Jack, waving at someone to come and join her. Claire starts, following the woman’s gaze, only to be disappointed. Not him. She doesn’t sleep at all that night. – The next afternoon, she pulls the rattling red station wagon to the entrance of his drive, slows, stares down the half-mile stretch of dirt road, and curls her fingers tightly around the steering wheel before parking along the shoulder. She gets out, her boots kicking pebbles as she walks. – She stands at the foot of the old house, takes in the overgrown vegetation in the yard, the jagged and broken stone pathway to the porch, the screen door, wonders if this is some mistake. She closes her eyes a minute, swallows whatever anxiety has stopped her from pushing open the gate, and hears the unmistakable creak and bounce of a screen door. He sees her. Clearly. Unmistakably. But he keeps walking, a toolbox in one hand, a shovel in the other, his bearded face turned toward the ground, as if she were an apparition. She says his name. Next, the sounds of the heavy metal box crashing to the wooden planks of the porch, tools clanking inside, her name. – He makes food, a salad and some steak, avoids any questions. They eat in comfortable silence. Afterward, he shows her the garden out back. “I had to get away,” he explains, gesturing to the house. “Strange, isn’t it?” “No,” she says. “Not at all.” Here, his island amongst the fields, closed off from the world, not unlike the place where they first met. It makes sense, she thinks. It’s the real world that traps you, of course. He shows her to a room upstairs, just a bed and a dresser, bare walls, nothing fancy. Every room in the house is like this. “Why did you come here?” he finally asks when they’re making the bed together. “I had nowhere else to go,” she says simply, and that seems to settle the matter. She’ll stay here. He’s

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title; byHe’ll author her brother. take care of her.

and life is wine

pairing; rating –

Our story begins... They take trips into town during the week. Groceries, sundries, supplies he needs for his work around the house. One Thursday in the book shop, she spots him with a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in his hand. His fingers trace over the letters of the name, one at a time. “Jack,” she says, slipping from behind the bookcase where she was watching him, lacing her fingers through his. “He didn’t come back, you know?” He knows. She’d already said as much with her silence. “I know,” he says and puts the book down, almost carelessly. Caught. “Did you get what you needed?” She nods and squeezes his hand. “I did.” – He can’t stop touching her, smoothing her hair out of her face when he’s close enough, pressing his fingers at the back of her neck when he drives, a hand lightly at her waist when he comes into a room, to prove that she’s real, that she’s alive, that she’s here. Not some vision. He tells her this one night after dinner while she sits on the top step of the porch and he stands behind her in the open doorway. He tells her that he used to see her everywhere, like a ghost, haunting him. She sits motionless, taking it in, doesn’t look at him. He tells her that sometimes she was angry. And sometimes she... he doesn’t finish the thought, just disappears back inside the house and up the stairs. Claire knows better than to ask. – Some nights she dreams of Sawyer, the way he looked at her with kind eyes, the nights he let her slip into his tent and curl against him, the feel of his hands against her skin, the last time she saw him. She’s sure that Jack is dreaming of him too. Knew it that day in the book shop, the sadness in his eyes as he felt Sawyer’s name under his fingertips, the weight of his loss. (Some nights she dreams of Jack, too.) – Summer ends and Claire is shocked how much time has passed, how used to this she’s become, the gentle hum and sway of their days together. One morning, she wakes up to find him gone and a note in the kitchen, “I’ll be back. Have some breakfast.” She realizes it’s her first day alone since she’s arrived, and it strikes her how odd that is. She takes a long bath, eats the pancakes he left warming in the oven, and finds herself whiling away the hours looking through his things. She rifles through the desk drawers in the office and discovers articles about the six, the survivors. A miracle, they say. (Lies. It is anything but.) She thumbs through the stack and stops on a date. September 22nd. That’s today. The anniversary of their crash. Her throat closes up, a choked sob, memories surfacing, and she wonders for the first time where he is, her eyes scanning the hallway outside the office as though he’ll suddenly appear there simply because she needs him now. (And how often she had wished that, before she too escaped, leaving others behind just the same.) –

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and life is wine Claire falls asleep downstairs on the couch. When she wakes, it’s dark. At the top of the stairs she pauses, sees the light coming from under his closed door. She knocks once. Twice. The door swings open, and Jack stands in a t-shirt and boxers, an urgent, concerned look on his face, his eyes searching hers. She reaches out, grasping at the grey fabric of his t-shirt somewhere near the center, pulls at the material purposelessly, unsure and yet somehow determined. Jack’s hands smooth up her arms, shoulders, her neck, one sliding under her chin to make her look at him. “What?” he asks. “Did something happen?” Claire slides her hands across his chest and around to the back of his neck, stands on tip-toe, licks her lips. He leans down, allows their foreheads to meet, and she’s aware that his hands are beginning to shake. “Claire.” The word is full of warning, hot on her cheek. It is not a name. It is stop, we can’t, don’t and somewhere buried underneath all of that, please and now. She presses her lips to his. He lets her. – It’s too easy, the way they do this, fall into each other’s arms and onto the bed. How quickly and without reservation she allows him to unbutton her jeans and slide them down her legs. How eagerly her hand travels down past his stomach to wrap her fingers around the full length of him. There is no hesitation. (And she thinks maybe that’s all that they were doing this whole time, waiting, holding back.) Jack flicks his tongue at the roof of her mouth and she keens, her legs falling open almost in reflex, allowing his hand to find the wet cotton of her panties. She lets him take them off, feels the weight of him on top of her, wedged between her thighs, hovering just a moment before finding her lips again and capturing her fully in one swift motion, stifling her moan. Somewhere in the back of her mind she is aware of just how wrong this is. – She tiptoes back to her room in the morning before he wakes, and it’s days before they speak again. Their own way of avoiding each other, denying what happened. She watches him from the window, working in the yard, rubs the place on her neck where he left his mark. She washes dishes, takes her car into town on her own, reads a lot. They almost run into each other on the stairwell one evening, and the proximity is too much and she reaches out, grabs his upper arm. Suddenly she’s wrapped around him again and his tongue flicks against the spot on her neck. She arches into him and knows this won’t stop. Things are normal again, after that. (And yet so very not normal.) – The phone rings.

109


and life is wine It’s late. Past midnight. Claire fumbles in the dark for the phone. “Hullo?” she manages. The voice at the other end, rough and tired-sounding, surprised. “Mamacita?” Sawyer. After a moment of listening, she hands Jack the phone, and he scribbles down an address. “We’ll be there,” he promises. “Sit tight.” – An hour and a half later, Claire is surprised to find them pulling up to the very bar she had stopped at the night before she arrived. (And yet not at all surprised, they always were following in each other’s footsteps.) A figure, shadowed in the dark, leans against the wall next to the pay phone. Jack pulls the truck to a stop, and Claire can faintly see his face, illuminated by the neon signs in the bar’s windows. She’s out of the truck in moments and in his arms. She kisses him, can’t help herself, pushes his hair out of his eyes and looks at him. “What took you so long?” she asks, almost laughs. Jack leans against the hood, watching them, Sawyer limping towards the car with Claire holding him up. “Doc,” he says, and Jack blinks back tears, his eyes falling to the ground a moment before looking back at Sawyer. “It’s good to see you,” Jack nods. – They ride in silence. And if Sawyer finds it odd that they have found each other, he doesn’t mention it. Claire sits, wedged between them in the front seat, one hand intertwined with Sawyer’s, the other on Jack’s knee. By the time the truck pulls up to the front of the house, the sun is beginning to rise. – Things are different after that, between them. Jack spends his time out, or in the back, working. They don’t talk. They don’t fuck. They don’t anything. She confronts him in the barn one afternoon, tells him she misses him. Tells him that Sawyer does too. He says it’s not as simple as that. “It is,” she insists, kissing him messily, angrily. He pushes her against the wall, and his fingers scorch her with their urgency. He pulls at her shirt, nips at her neck. She smiles against his kiss. “See?” He leaves her then, half-dressed and shamed. But she knows she’s gotten to him, that it’s only a matter of time. –

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and life is wine Sawyer doesn’t say much these days. He’s changed. It pains her, but all she cares about is that he’s safe, that he’s here with her, with Jack. She whispers their secrets to him at night, his head resting on her chest, both of them sweat-slick and sticky with sex. He kisses her, tells her he understands. Tells her things will get better. Two nights later, she hears the two of them from Jack’s room. The rustle of sheets, their low whispering voices. She finds herself coming along with them, her hand at her middle, her teeth biting back the sound. – It’s Thanksgiving, and Sawyer builds a fire out back. Claire cooks, and they eat off paper plates in the dim light of the flames, the three of them. Sawyer talks. For the first time, he seems like himself again, and Claire is sure that it’s all the red wine. Jack laughs, openly, without reservation. Claire smiles, slips into his lap, kisses his cheek, his lips. Once again, he lets her. Sawyer leaves them, collects their plates and glasses, heads back into the house. Waits. – In the morning, things are different, better. They take the truck into town, Claire between them like the night Sawyer came back, came home. They trade looks, soft eyes and understanding, silent acknowledgment of the secret they share. The three of them. Together. -fin

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Claire & Sawyer

112


at night we fly above this town;

Our story continues...

claire/sawyer; r

by gigglemonster

title

symbols are more meaningful than the things themselves When they come back from the island, the infamous Oceanic 6 for the second time, she and Sawyer for the first, no one knows. They are, for all intents and purposes, still ghosts of an unfortunate turn of events. There are no cameras, no press, no questions or suspicions and for that Claire’s grateful. She doesn’t try to find her mother and Aaron. Jack says it’s probably for the best and she agrees. Knowing that they have each other is enough for her. Jack promises that he’s always only a call away. Anything you need and she nods, knows he means it. Sawyer finds a house for rent, the color of blood and rust, more space then the two of them could ever need but it’s oddly perfect. There are dozens of trees in the backyard and a birdhouse left behind by the previous owners. Nearly all her life she’d lived in apartment complexes, several stories above any trees, no place for a birdhouse. After the second week Claire buys curtains for the windows in the living room. Sawyer hangs them up. repetition is the best way to learn There’s a small flower shop a couple blocks away from the house. Every other week Claire buys a bouquet, something different each time because the old woman who owns the shop says there’s no point in picking favorites; each one is unique and will brighten her day just the same. Her name is Elenore and her eyes are the kindest Claire’s ever seen. They make her think of Rose. Eventually Elenore starts giving the flowers to Claire for free. She smiles and calls her honey, says Claire reminds her of her own daughter and she wouldn’t dream of charging her a single dime more. It makes Claire feel clever to recite the little-known facts she picks up about the flowers to Sawyer later. He steps up behind her while she stands at the sink one morning doing dishes. The tips of her fingers are wrinkled and the sleeve of her shirt keeps sliding back down into the water. Sawyer wraps his arms around her waist and she can smell the mint of toothpaste when he rests his chin on her shoulder. Peruvian lilies, she says, nodding her head toward the vase. Peruvian lilies, he repeats, learning, memorizing. He kisses the side of her neck and moves his hips against her. Her hands are soapy slick and she struggles to find purchase when Sawyer reaches down to the fabric beneath her skirt. raise boys and girls the same way The blond hair and blue eyes fool people. They fool people into thinking she’s soft and delicate, that her bones are fragile and she’s easily broken. But her skin is thick and her will is thicker. The latter being a more recent discovery. Her mother didn’t raise her to be a damsel in distress. Rely on people and they’ll only let you down. Claire finally experienced the truth in that when she met Thomas; she was reminded of it when she met her father. (Realized why her mother told her that in the first place) She doubted it for the first time when she met Sawyer. He doesn’t treat her like she’ll break, but rather that she might disintegrate and disappear right before his eyes. She thinks maybe he was taught the same lesson. The only difference was that he had to teach himself because there was no one there to do it for him. words tend to be inadequate There’s a scar on the inside of Sawyer’s left elbow. A long pink line that serves as a reminder of stitches

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at night we fly above this town title; by author and bad choices. Sawyer tells her how he fell off his bike when he was ten. It had been his first

attempt at riding with no hands, meant to impress a girl. His aunt threw a fit. He needed 15 stitches, pairing; rating

but a kiss on the cheek from the girl of his dreams was his consolation, and he admits that in the end

Our story begins... he was pretty pleased with himself.

There are others he’s more ashamed of. They exist like a permanent brand of regret, better kept locked away. She understands. She’s got plenty of the same. Claire plants a kiss of her own on his cheek before moving to trace the line of his scar with her fingers and then her mouth. The feel of her lips is the same against both good scars and bad. She slides a hand beneath the sheets, finding him already hard, and grips him in her small fist. Claire’s fingernails are painted pink like the color of her lips and the flush of her chest. Her palm is warm, her strokes practiced and firm and Sawyer arches up into her hand. He comes over her fingers and almost forgets how to breathe. it’s not good to hold too many absolutes The attic of the house is musty and empty and the floorboards creak so loudly that sometimes Claire’s afraid they’re rotted through so far that they won’t hold her weight. But there’s a window that leads to a spot on the roof with a perfect view of the moon. Claire brings an old quilt up one night and they watch the stars. She knows the names of all the constellations by heart. She can point out Orion, the Big Dipper, and the North Star if she’s lost. She still reads her horoscope every morning while she drinks her coffee. She reads Sawyer’s too but never tells him what they say because she knows he wouldn’t want to hear it. I’ll decide my own destiny from now on, Mamacita. But the crash wasn’t their decision and neither was having to bury their friends. Claire wonders if they were fated to end up here too, together shoulder to shoulder on the shingles of this ugly red house. But the thought is fleeting because even if they weren’t, this is where she’d choose to be anyway.

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Jack & Sawyer

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ignition;

by gigglemonster jack/sawyer, r Jack doesn’t do it on purpose. It just happens. He pushes too hard or says something Sawyer doesn’t want to hear. Either way, it happens and he can feel it the second it does. He sees Sawyer’s eyes flicker from their cool sharp blue into flames, burning a path across the beach until they’re inches away from Jack’s own eyes, wide with worry and anticipation. Sawyer shoves Jack inside the tent with one hand, the other going to his zipper, pulling Jack’s cock out of his jeans with a hard tug before they’re inside. Jack is immediately enveloped in the dark shadow of the tent, his eyes unable to adjust to anything but a single ray of sunlight igniting the already scorching fire in Sawyer’s eyes. He feels the sparks tingle all the way up his spine with every hard angry thrust as Sawyer fucks him into the sand, nothing but spit and rough fists. He feels the beads of sweat trickle down his cheek onto his neck where Sawyer latches on, sucking wetly before he sinks his teeth in, making Jack cry out, come, a white-hot flash behind his eyelids. Hell, maybe he does do it on purpose.

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oversoul;

by hitlikehammers jack/sawyer; r From the moment their paths cross, shoulders brushing at the end of the concourse as Jack stops for a bottle of Fiji; from that single point in time, Jack feels like he knows this man. He swallows down a couple of Motrin from the magazine counter in hopes of curbing the ache in his lower back before heading down to baggage claim, and somehow that curtain of blonde bent just so over the suitcases–somehow it drips of salt water, shakes sweat under the setting sun, and as tan hands reach out to grab at the luggage and pull a duffel off the conveyor, Jack knows that those fingers know the feel of a trigger, knows how that hand looks molded around a gun. He blinks, and thinks the pills may have stuck in his throat for a brief moment in which breathing becomes something of a chore; when he looks up again the man is gone, and there are only three pieces of luggage still snaking around the carousel, each of them painfully familiar. He reaches for his keys, stuffed in the pocket of his Dockers, and he has to stop before remembering that he didn’t leave his car in long-term parking–he hadn’t exactly been thinking clearly when he’d left, and his mother had been the one to drop him off at Departures. He hails a cab, and the driver’s licensure information stares him in the face as he slides across the sterile leather–Dawson. Last name: Dawson. Jack doesn’t know why that feels heavy, significant in his gut. He checks his voice mail from the backseat–one from the hospital, one from his mother, and one from the woman his scrub nurse set him up with last week and he’d had to cancel on. He doesn’t return any of them–not yet; he feels strangely certain that it wouldn’t matter all that much if he never called them back at all. Life would go on, the record would keep playing, singing without his voice–his absence merely a skip in the end-groove. They come up on his street just as the song on the radio shifts–and Jack feels oddly nostalgic as the sound seeps through the cracked windows as he unloads his luggage and pays his fare; funny, though, because he’d never much cared for Cass Elliot. It isn’t until he’s unpacking that he realizes he’s grabbed the wrong bag–the goddamn duffel slung across his shoulders, the one Sarah left behind–it isn’t his. And he knows he should be more agitated by the inconvenience of losing half of the clothes he’d brought with him (the dirty half, but still), but he isn’t, not really–instead he trails his fingers across the precarious lines of a razor, sniffs the scent of the aftershave tucked in between shirts because he knows the angle of the cut, knows the tang of the smell, and remembers it in time with the beat of his heart, the crash of the waves. But he’s never been one for the beach, and when he finds the luggage tag, bent against the inside of the bag and ripped from its lacing, he thinks about the blonde man from the back of his mind–the edges of his thoughts and the echoes of his memories; his bag looked kind of the same. It’s during rounds three days later that he decides to call the number on the tag, punches the digits out against his cell just outside his office, head bowed like he has something to hide, and when the line connects and the rings turn to a low timbre in greeting, Jack freezes, because he knows that sound, that voice. He knows what that voice sounds like in pain, in joy–he knows the subtle scratch of it when it confesses its sins and promises to watch him suffer and die, knows the strain of it when it screams. He knows, and he knows that he shouldn’t. “James?” That’s the name on the tag, scrawled in a slant that looks almost uncomfortable, unsuited for the lines on which it balances so precariously, almost ready to run before eyes can find it, understand it for everything it never spells out, and the fact that, incidentally, Jack’s luggage ID was tucked between the zippers–just as unseen, just as unknowable–is something that’s far too coordinated for chance, but not dressed up enough to merit fate. Not in Jack’s book, at least. Not yet. He’s staying in a hotel just outside the city proper, and Jack agrees to drop by–Room 712–as soon as his shift’s over. Jack spends the rest of his day handing his charts over to lesser mortals and trying to figure

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oversoul

out why the name “James” doesn’t seem to fit the man he doesn’t, shouldn’t know. It’s odd, because driving out to switch the bags, Jack feels the absence of his wedding ring, empty space where his finger rubs against the wheel, for the first time in months. They exchange pleasantries just inside the door of James’s room, and Jack feels a little lightheaded watching him, listening to that drawl that he knows, knows drops like honey off of sardonic nicknames like “Jacko” and “Doc,” and he’s wracking his brain to figure out what movie, what television show he knows those words from, drawn out with such a twang, when James narrows his eyes in Jack’s direction and thanks him for swinging by with his stuff. “See you around, James,” Jack says, letting regret slide innocently into the lie; he has a feeling this exchange, this farewell has happened before. He moves to walk away, but James is just standing there, silent, and Jack finds it difficult to tear his eyes from the lines of his shoulder blades, stretched full and firm inside the doorframe. “People call me Sawyer,” he says finally, eyes on the short, clinical carpeting that promises this home is temporary; and that’s it, that’s the name that’s been eluding him. And for reasons Jack doesn’t understand, he smiles to know it, and he meets those baby blues with a realization of things he’ll never fully grasp; “It suits you.” He doesn’t know if it’s the smile in return, and the dimples that frame it, or if it’s the fleeting idea that both are rare things, meant to be treasured, that convinces him to ask this man, this Sawyer, if he’d like to get a drink. All he knows is that the question is met with a calculating stare and another soft grin, and whatever the reason, he’s glad that he asked. ___________________ The first time they fall into bed together, nothing happens. They simply exist in one another’s company, and Jack thinks he should be able to trace the line of a scar along the veins of Sawyer’s arm; when he finds that he can’t, he follows the flush of blue to the wrist and traces the beat of his heart instead. The second time is rougher, breathless, and Jack feels like he’s drowning beneath the waves because this wasn’t planned, only it was–it was written in the stars the same way dippers and belts and life and death could be picked out of the sky at will. He breathes, and he knows the body above him, knows how it cuts through water and beats through the underbrush, knows that while the chest on top of him is heaving desperately against him, it can breathe harder. It’s a knowledge that stirs in his bones, and it’s what keeps him from trembling, keeps him from moaning–keeping him arching up to meet the hips that roll against his own. The third time, they don’t make it to the bedroom, but Jack counts it because he’s never come inside a woman so hard as he spills down Sawyer’s throat–not once; he’s caught against the wall, and the texture of the wallpaper digs into his shoulders, pliant but harsh, like the bark of a tree. The fourth time is slow, deep and soul-searing, though never quite tender, never quite still; and Jack feels something break between them, something that neither of them knows exists but that Jack feels, like the ghost of another life, bearing down upon them–the shattered glass of the fourth wall slicing through the shallow pretenses that this is just fucking, but obscuring the revelation of exactly what it is, all things considered. The fifth time, Jack tastes like gin and licks the scotch from the tongue sucking on his teeth as he clenches down, muscles tense against the heat that spills inside him, angry and violent and real, his pulse racing, his eyes open, and all he can see is green. The sixth time, Sawyer stays until morning, and Jack doesn’t remember anything in it–all he knows is that he’s missed feeling warmth from that side of his bed. ___________________

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oversoul For an admittedly jaded divorcé from L.A., Jack finds that slipping back into a relationship really isn’t all that difficult. Sawyer, he learns, makes one hell of a spinach alfredo, talks with his mouth full of toothpaste, and wears the same briefs that Jack does, only in black. And while sometimes Jack sees strange octagons on the cereal boxes in the morning, like floaters burned against his eyes from the sun; sometimes asks after the breed of a dog being walked on the street if it looks lean and yellow–while he’s picked up an inexplicable fondness for playing backgammon (which Sawyer refuses to indulge without copious amounts of alcohol or sex in exchange), the déjà vu doesn’t plague him like it used to, only settles sometimes like the pre-dawn fog, like morning dew or the dregs of dreams. Jack doesn’t miss them. They make it a year, to the day, with Jack insisting enthusiastically on dinner to mark the occasion– and Sawyer, in his own way, agrees by notably withholding protest and deigning to wear a tie. They share an appetizer made with ingredients they can’t pronounce from countries they can’t point out on a map, and they order wine more expensive than their monthly lease on the Lexus parked outside, and Jack doesn’t see blood when the Merlot spills, saturates the bright white of the tablecloth–instead, he sees the cream of Sawyer’s skin, luscious and teased beneath his attentions as he runs hands and tongue and teeth across his flesh, leaving trails of red in his wake; he doesn’t see blood, but he thinks somehow that he should. And the shiver that shoots down his spine is so similar to the one he knows by heart, the one prompted by the hand between his thighs and the tongue in his mouth–it’s so similar, and yet so different, and for a moment he loses his appetite, loses all sense of balance and self as he floats, untethered, in the nameless sea of “what-ifs.” He’s falling, soaring, stranded until that shock of blue reaches out to touch, his ocean and his sky and his home and his future without a past–until those painfully blue eyes catch his own and anchor him, weathering out the storm and beating back the whispers, bringing the here and now back to the fore and calming the throb of his heart against his ribs, catching him in a softer rhythm, one that rocks between them like the ebb of the tides, steady and sure and deeper than the tendrils of dreams can ever reach. And this, Jack knows, is the pulse of a different word, a real world; the only world that matters.

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Claire Littleton

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pixie dust; by hitlikehammers claire; pg13

She rolls the bullets across her knuckles, across her fingers before she loads them; lets herself feel how smooth they are, how cool against the sweltering heat. These are nothing to fear. These are essential; requisite. Necessary. She cups her palm and sweeps the ash — a little shaky, a little frantic — into the pouch at the edge of the table, black pixie dust to fly away with; fly away from. “Aaron,” she hisses, coos into the nothing, brushing the hair from her face, letting the blood beneath her nails cling against the strands. “Quiet, honey. Mommy’s busy.” In Los Angeles, a little blond boy screams in his bed.

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INDEX; stories ANGELA WEBER In Any Other World: http://community.livejournal. com/unsteady_ground/8220.html Sunset Soon Forgotten: NEW! Until We Bleed: http://community.livejournal.com/ unsteady_ground/5476.html CRICKETS And Life is Wine: http://crickets.livejournal. com/242284.html The Birds Won’t Sing: http://crickets.livejournal. com/339008.html#cutid3 Every Road Takes Us Farther from Home: http:// crickets.livejournal.com/337155.html Le Temps à L’envers: http://crickets.livejournal. com/291445.html The Hole in the Universe: NEW! Who is the Lamb?: http://crickets.livejournal. com/340929.html GIGGLEMONSTER At Night We Fly Above This Town: http://gigglemonster.livejournal.com/124180.html Ignition: http://gigglemonster.livejournal. com/21886.html The Second Time Around: NEW! We Swallow the Shine of the Sun: http://gigglemonster.livejournal.com/186296.html HESPERIA The Blood of Prophets: NEW! Goodbye and Keep Cold: http://hesperia.livejournal.com/216945.html So You’re Gone and I’m Haunted: http://hesperia. livejournal.com/192378.html HITLIKEHAMMERS Fall Apart Again: http://hitlikehammers.livejournal. com/46326.html Oversoul: http://hitlikehammers.livejournal. com/29963.html Pixie Dust: http://hitlikehammers.livejournal. com/55268.html Reflections: NEW! Shadows and Heat: http://hitlikehammers.livejournal. com/60128.html HOLYCITYGIRL Love in a Fallen City: http://holycitygirl.livejournal. com/340376.html Love, Lost: NEW! Love Rescue Me: http://holycitygirl.livejournal.

com/370276.html LENINA20 Ghosts in Flesh and Blood: http://lenina20.livejournal.com/99469.html MISSY USELESS Birds Are Singing to Calm Us Down: http://missyuseless.livejournal.com/83264.html Dust in Our Lungs: http://missy-useless.livejournal. com/55517.html ‘Til Stars Above Set the Woods Afire: http://missyuseless.livejournal.com/48357.html We’ve Been Recycled: NEW! OZMISSAGE Eden: http://ozmissage.livejournal.com/55261.html Here is the Tabernacle Reconstructed: http:// ozmissage.livejournal.com/51787.html I’ll Slay All Our Dragons, Win All Our Wars: http:// ozmissage.livejournal.com/62103.html Unfinished Business: NEW! SLYBRUNETTE Maybe You’ll Always Be Just a Little Out of Reach: NEW! Oh Sister, Oh Sister, Let’s Walk the Seashore: http://slybrunette.livejournal.com/363147.html When You’re Dead: http://slybrunette.livejournal. com/234914.html You Wrote Our Names Down on the Sidewalk But the Rain Came and Washed ‘Em Off: http://slybrunette.livejournal.com/346121. html?thread=4383497#t4383497 TOESTASTEGOOD Vacation: NEW!

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INDEX; art GIGGLEMONSTER page 001, claire/jack cover art page 028, claire/jack jungle art page 063, claire/jack brown art page 076, jawyercita art page 087, jawyercita polaroids collage page 092, jawyercita greyscale page 102, jawyercita “we rob banks” collage page 113, claire/sawyer art COLOURMAYFADE page 016, claire/jack beaches page 034, claire/jack family tree page 046, claire/jack blue silhouettes page 051, claire/jack fireside page 067, claire/jack views page 081, jawyercita blue highways CRICKETS page 011, claire/jack pink art page 041, shephards portrait page 055, claire/jack blue pilot page 084, jawyercita polaroids collage page 097, jawyercita rescue me art page 108, jawyercita collage page 118, jack/sawyer art page 123, claire “who am I?” art? HITLIKEHAMMERS page 058, claire/jack manip/blend NAVRAS RHEYA page 023, claire/jack black & white pilot collage PRETTYBUTT page 072, claire/jack black & white art

127


-fin.

The Shephards; Stories of Jack & Claire  

Lost fanzine. This book has been put together to serve as a collection of stories about Jack Shephard and Claire Littleton, including claire...

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