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03 May 2010 @ 06:43 pm
sparks fly from her fingertips  
Title: sparks fly from her fingertips
Fandom: LOST
Characters: Claire, ensemble
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2,442
Summary: "There are strangers in the shadow of the family tree," she said. "Come, my son, let us burn it down." (apocalyptic au)


Something that is not her brother grasps at her arm, whispering mysteries in the faded starlight. "Tell me, Claire," he asks again, "tell me why you left."

And like father like daughter, she leans in her wooden chair, back and forth, creaking, cracking. She giggles, drunk on her own laughter.

"Once a Shephard, always a Shephard," she mimics. "Remember that, kiddo."

-

This happens in the before.

Near-panic hangs in the air, pulls at the hair on the back of his neck. Without a doctor to guide them the children scamper across the beach, shouting orders to prepare for the impending catastrophe.

The man who watches them, he is not so old himself that he cannot remember what happens next.

In the commotion, no one hears the stone scraping across a rusted blade.

-

The old pew creaks under Eko's weight. "I have had a dream," he confides.

His friend raises a hand. Eko spots blood on the pointing finger. "Your answer is in the statue."

Faded blue paint hits the altar, and Eko brushes away pieces of pottery to reveal a scrap of paper decorated in ancient symbols. "What is the meaning of this?"

But John can only offer riddles.

-

Aaron doesn't have to know, Kate tells her, she loves him and that's all he'll remember.

Claire grinds teeth against teeth and fingernails in Charlie's palm. He whispers comforts in her ear (breathe, Claire, breathe), but she knows, and the baby knows, the words she meant to write.

I hereby leave my son to a total stranger,
and she doesn't need paper and pen, the ink still stains and it never fades.

"This baby is all of ours," says the first person to hold the boy in soft hands, to smile down with tears on her cheek.

They won't think to question the sharp cry that escapes Claire's mouth.

-

Aaron absently scratches Vincent behind the ear. "When's Mum coming back?"

Charlie hears the real lyrics to the song the boy pretends not to sing. Why does she always leave?

He smiles too wide. "Soon, Turnip Head."

-

In the hatch is everything sweet and tempting: peanut butter and chocolate and honey and a man who doesn't watch her out of the corner of his eye.

Out there is a growing boy who loves his mother, worships her. He is unaware of the dreamworld that pulls at her in the darkest hours of the night, a world where he sits alone in the trees, watching for any signs of life in a colorless jungle. They pass each other in the mud, smile like strangers.

"You should go back to the beach, love. You'll never get any real sleep here."

Claire shoves mouth against mouth and fists in Desmond's hair. "Exactly."

(the ink, it stains)

-

The cries fall silent, the panic in the wind shifts to hope.

He tests the sharpened blade on his thumb. Blood drips down his hand and he smiles.

The before becomes soon.

-

Eko pounds a fist in the blue dust. "What is the meaning of this?"

John sighs and scratches at the scar on his cheek. They are a pair, the two of them, unable to speak and unable to listen. "You need to go on a walkabout."

On the map is a drawing of a foot. Eko nods.

This is the clearest conversation they've had in twenty years.

-

"Want down, Charlie."

He sets the boy on the sand, watches Claire stare after him with red-rimmed eyes. "You alright?' he asks, slipping an arm around her waist.

"I'm fine." She leans her head on his shoulder. "Just tired. I haven't been sleeping well."

He offers to watch Aaron while she gets some rest. Her gaze flickers to the edge of the jungle. "Yeah, okay."

(soon Charlie will learn to pay closer attention)

-

There is a thing that lives deep in the jungle. It is not Claire's brother, and it is not his brother.

He cannot speak the thing's name. To speak its name is to weaken himself, for they are cut from the same fabric, the same piece of the universe.

They are born of the same, but make no mistake, they are different. This is the only way he is able to sleep at night (with a knife in one hand and a lie in the other).

A twig snaps, and the man turns to see. The woman standing between the trees fidgets, tucks a blond curl behind her ear. "Are you him? The man from my dreams?"

"Yes, Claire." He smiles and she takes the outstretched hand. "I'm Jacob."

-

The room is carved from stone, ancient, cold. An opening in the roof lets in starlight.

It also lets in smoke.

A boy sits in a chair, yellow-haired and afraid. Help.

The black cloud swirls, envelops. He cries a name, but it is lost in the roar, the crackle of the fire.

Hurry-


An eye opens to a wooden roof, a metal bunk, a dripping tarp. It doesn't matter who dreams.

The vision is the same.

-

Dark hair, green eyes, these things ring false. Almost as false as his little family entering through the rickety door, with Jacob squeezing her hand for protection.

He stands from the chair and nods a silent greeting. The girl falters, pulls tighter on the arm. "Jack?"

Jacob leans down to whisper in her ear. This man, who wears Jack's face, his white shirt and black jacket, he is not what he seems, Claire. He must be stopped before he hurts your friends, before he hurts Aaron.

Jack rubs his forehead. Locked behind rotting wood, he has had nothing but time to think. He is not surprised to see Jacob, to see her.

He is not so young that he cannot guess what happens next.

"I'm not Jack," he admits. "But whatever he's told you about me-"

"Did you kill him?" Her chin tilts upward, eyes meeting his, unwavering. He does not answer.

Jacob drops her hand and takes a knife from his pocket. The metal is too wide in her slim fingers. "Can you do as I asked?"

Claire breathes in.

-

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know, he won't stop crying."

There was another night, two years ago, when Kate had to become Aaron's mother. She moves past Charlie to pat the toddler's back, rising and falling heavily with each sob. "Shh, it's okay. Did you have a bad dream?" To Charlie she asks, "Where's Claire?"

Did she leave again?


His arms cross with a huff. "She probably just went to the hatch."

Kate shakes her head. The little boy deserves better than to be caught between an insecure man pretending to be his father and a woman who runs into the jungle on an angry search for someone to understand her.

Aaron quiets as she sings him sweet words.

-

Her grip loosens, uncertainty twisting inside her belly. Jack's hands hang limply at his sides, gentle hands that bandage skinned knees or pat blond hair when she cries on his shoulder. "I can't-"

"You have to," Jacob hisses, grabbing a fistful of her dirty sleeve. "It's the only way to keep your son away from her."

Claire can still remember stumbling onto the beach, cuts on her cheek and twigs in her hair. The morning sun stung at her eyes, but not enough to blind her to the desperation in her baby's eyes.

Jacob's face mirrors Aaron's. "He is protecting her. Please, Claire-"

Aaron had clung to Kate, burying his face in dark curls. Mommy, Claire still hears him whimper in her nightmares.

"Aaron-" she croaks, and the doubt in her empty womb unknots itself and twists into something else, something hot.

"Aaron," she begins again, as it burns its way through her stomach and into her chest, up her throat as it spills out halfway between a shriek and a sob. Her hand flies, fire flashing on the blade.

"Aaron is my son."

-

Eko bids farewell to John and heads for the ocean. In his dream the black cloud chokes, suffocates.

Help, the boy pleads. Water-

Eko fills his canteen. The statue still stands.

-

"You know what comes next," their brother says.

And then he dies.

The knife clatters, and Claire runs away. She takes back her son, and smiles at Kate, sickly sweet. Aaron squirms, and no one sees the blood on his mother's hands.

Alone in the cabin, Jacob picks up a handful of ash, watching by lantern light as it floats in the stale air. "And then everybody died," he sighs wistfully.

(this is what always comes next)

-

This is what happens in the before-

Before she is lost to the dreams and the knives and the hatch, John gathers wood for a cradle.

He catches sight of another new mother looking after her piglets. A good omen, he thinks. He does not see the edge of the cliff.

He jars to a sudden stop. His legs dangling in mid-air, John looks up to see the hand that catches him. "Jack?"

The dead man does not pull him back up. He smiles sadly. "I'm sorry, John."

The fingers release.

-

Claire trails a hand along the dusty pew for the first time in twenty years. It's too quiet here.

"I have a confession to make," she whispers. Eko sits beside her, waits.

Specks of light and dust pour through the open windows. It's harder to forget, here, the night she wandered off, settled in a creaky cabin as her brother offered questions and answers.

There were ugly things he'd shown her, visions of blood and fire, of crumbling stone and falling stars.

Claire brushes shoulder against shoulder and palm on Eko's knee. "We're all going to die," she remembers.

Eko gives a smile, comforting, confused. (Jack's eyes watered. Claire, why did you leave?)

"-and it's my fault."

-

"Women troubles?" Sawyer observes, cracking open a can of beer.

Aaron lifts his eyes to the sky and shrugs. Black storm clouds are brewing. "My mother is way too overprotective. And possibly crazy."

Sawyer laughs. "Which one?"

Aaron nods at the blond that passes them.

She pauses in her humming to smile at him, a mischievous gleam in her eye that grows increasingly familiar as days blur into years. "Who are you talking to, sweetheart?"

"I wasn't talking to anybody, Mom."

"That hurts," drawls the dead man.

Claire winks at him and continues her eerie tune. Aaron almost doesn't notice the rusted knife sticking out of her pocket.

-

Kate holds them all together, offers them hope. Forcing a smile, she reminds them it's been twenty years since anyone got sick.

Why then, they don't ask, does she sleep with her fingers curled around a gun?

She wakes from a dream to find Eko standing at the door of her tent. "There is something evil on this island," he warns, and she nods wordlessly. Aaron later murmurs the same fear.

Kate hears the soft thud of small feet on sand, and she doesn't need to turn and see. "Good morning, Kate," Claire says. Thunder rumbles outside.

"Mornin'," she mumbles around a mouthful of oatmeal. The gun lies buried under the thrown-aside blankets.

There are, after all, some people she still trusts.

-

Ink drips from his hands, black blood that runs down, down. Dear Mother, it reads, save me. Love, Aaron.

(it stains, just the way Jack said it would)

Claire breathes out, a slow sigh that deafens in the silence. "Mother, please-"

"Hush, dear," she sings, and somewhere a star falls and drowns in the ocean, twisting and churning until it's nothing but smoke. Her hand comes to rest above his heart. She smiles sweetly, and it burns.

"Hush."

-

What happens next is over before Aaron can blink.

If he had not wasted time trading banter with ghosts, if he had told his dreams to Claire, if Charlie and Desmond had not gotten sick, it might not have happened at all. (this is a lie)

He stops her because he is the only one who can.

Kate wraps him in a trembling hug, cries and cries on his shoulder as if this is not her fault. (it isn't)

Blue eyes stare up at him silently. Blood pools around the knife that never reached Kate's chest. "I'm sorry, Aaron, I'm so sorry," Kate sobs.

Claire says nothing. Her mouth is frozen at the beginning of his name, lips cold and grey.

"You didn't mean it," Kate lies to the boy and his mother.

Aaron will never get the red off his fingers. "I hate you," he whispers.

No one asks who?

-

Eko watches John watching the tiny statue resting on the shelf, tears sliding down his scar.

"I tried to stop her, but it always happens the same."

Eko sighs and joins the dead man on the pew. "I have had a dream," he confesses.

-

Speak his name once, twice-


Claire leans in the chair until it breaks, slivers of wood littering the floor.

"Tell me, Claire, tell me why you left."

She laughs and laughs.

-

Aaron lurks outside the church door. "Where are you going?"

Eko walks by without an answer, and the boy grips his arm, fear in ocean-blue eyes and loneliness entangled in sandy hair. Aaron is too young for this, he always will be. Endlessly the child of the island.

And however they try, his mother will always protect abandon destroy him.

Eko pulls away gently. "Where I was told to go."

-

Jacob looks up into the starless sky as he waits for her. The stone door does not creak when she enters the statue.

"You don't have to do this," he greets.

"Silly boy," she says.

She pulls the knife from her heart.

-

Eko enters to find a wisp of a woman rocking in an old chair, gold hair spilling down her shoulders like a crooked halo. Her eyes twinkle as she lifts a fist in the air. Opening it, she blows ash from her scarlet fingers. "You're too late. He's beyond saving now."

Smoke pours from the firepit, and she coughs. Eko raises the canteen, letting the ocean rain down her cheeks. "I am not here to save him."

Her all-knowing smirk falters.

The statue crumbles.

-

It ends where it always ends, with one man sitting in front of a button, alone.

The countdown ticks toward zero. Aaron will not save the world, not this time.

"Claire, Claire, Claire," he summons, his face wet. "Tell me why you left."

A cold hand brushes away his tears. "Because, Aaron, Aaron, Aaron." She laughs, a tiny giggle that echoes through the hatch. The alarm begins to wail.

"Once a Shephard, always a Shephard."

 
 
Current Mood: quixoticquixotic
 
 
 
and i'm absolutely flawlessweatheredlaw on May 4th, 2010 07:45 am (UTC)
I'm going to need to read this again. Probably a few times, actually. It's really beautiful, I just need to take it in. But wow. &hearts
flaky_artist: LOST prettyflaky_artist on May 5th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked it. :)
she ran up to the light surprisedscornedsaint on May 5th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
Oh wow. This is really creepy but absolutely wonderful.

The knife clatters, and Claire runs away. She takes back her son, and smiles at Kate, sickly sweet. Aaron squirms, and no one sees the blood on his mother's hands.

That gave me chills.
flaky_artist: LOST shipflaky_artist on May 5th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. :)