Characters: Shannon, Claire [sort of Shannon/Claire if you squint really hard]
Challenge/Prompt: 5_roses, 04. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?
Genre: Gen [pre-femslash]
Copyright: Title is from “Digital Ghost” by Tori Amos.
Summary: If there are any other options, she is desperate for them.
Author’s Notes: Oh, the slightlycrazy!angst. I’ve really enjoyed writing this so it seems illogical I didn’t get it finished sooner… ah well. Another view of the future (that will probably go nicely with my Jack/Sawyer version) where the islanders now don’t know how to cope, obviously set in a future where season 2 didn’t happen, due to the existence of Shannon. With yay broken!Claire.
Now it seems you’re slipping out of the land of the living,
Just take a closer look at what it is that’s really haunting you.
Aaron is asleep in his very own bedroom, walls painted blue with the Winnie-The-Pooh pictures on the walls she always knew she’d put up, in the days when having a child was something she still wanted. Now she’s got a fierce protectiveness towards him, because he came so close to not being hers at all, they both came so close to dying, but that came from a situation she could never have foreseen and she’s still got the scars.
She leans back into her couch with a glass of white wine, feet tucked up underneath her. It’s too quiet here, funny how she got accustomed to the sound of waves in the background. She thinks she hears a police siren pass, or maybe not, the glass clinks when she sets it down on the floor. She could turn on the television, listen to explosions and lies and the way the world is contentedly falling apart around them all. It’s never comforting and sometimes she wonders if it was her separation from society over the course of an increasingly dangerous year that made her despise the human race, or if she always had the potential for hatred within her, under that veneer of blonde sweetness, smiles and naiveté. Or should that be gullibility?
He sings on MTV these days. Aaron laughs whenever his voice comes over the radio, caught up with melodies that she thinks she heard him playing at night, when the stars were his audience. Charlie Pace. The man who almost was. In the end, she was the one who told him to go. To take his dream and tie it up prettily and take advantage of his newfound fame. There’s a song about her on his album, it makes her smile when she hears it, except that sometimes it doesn’t and she finds herself crying irrationally, because he didn’t break her heart.
Charlie needs to be needed and she doesn’t need anyone anymore. She sometimes recalls his mouth pressed against hers with a detached coolness that she wishes could be more passionate. She was desperate and he was in withdrawal. It was never going to be permanent. Last she heard, he was dating a fan or maybe he really did meet someone worth his time and energy. She knows she could never have been what he wanted from a lover and she doesn’t mind.
She tells herself she doesn’t mind.
And she never replies to the emails that Jack sends her because she’s got nothing to say to him. She hasn’t got anything to say to any of them, now that she’s a different person and she’s got to keep her son safe, got to make sure that he’s safe, because even though they’re in the world that doesn’t mean that everything is going to be ok. She knows that. She reminds herself of this every time she double-locks the door, goes around at night and makes sure that all the windows are firmly closed. It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.
Sawyer called her once. She didn’t pick up, listened to that honeyed drawl on the answering machine, deleted the message once she’d listened all the way through four times in a row. Aaron was smiling as though remembering something loved and long gone, and he was too young to be smiling like that, and Claire tells herself that she’s protecting him from a past he should never have had. He should have been born in a sparkling white hospital, not in the mud with two terrified women and two even more terrified men. Maybe she wouldn’t have kept him but things might have been right. Who knows? She never got the chance to find out.
She can’t sleep any more. There’s a chance it’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe she’s just going out of her mind. There are flowers on her bathrobe – blue, forget-me-nots? Oh, the irony, all she wants to do is forget. Forget forget forget so that none of it means a thing and she can just pretend that that year in her life never happened. The sand and the people and the dark shapes in the forest and the time she can’t recall at all except in blurry flashes at midnight, shaky reality and even shakier hallucinations and her eyes feel tired and gritty when they close.
All of this is too much and she doesn’t know how to make it stop being too much and start being manageable.
And there’s a memorial, all modern glass and hideous, in its own way, at the airport. Etched neatly on the glass, the names of everyone on the flight, though it’s become established that at least some of them survived, and then, of course, there are the other names, people who died and who weren’t on the plane. Is it ok for them to be overlooked? Ethan, who did something to her that he shouldn’t have done, shot dead and buried somewhere unmarked and unspoken of by Charlie, all in her name. And Danielle, mad and alone with no child, murdering her teammates and screaming for her baby girl, until she had to start stealing other people’s children in the vain hope of seeing her own again. Who commemorates them?
The memorial’s still there. After all, it’s still a tragedy. Of course, there are those who lived to tell the tale, to sit in front of the flashing, glaring lights of press-conferences in order to explain living on fruit and sleeping under makeshift tents and to gloss over all the truthful details – because who really wants to hear about black smoke tearing up the forest? – but this isn’t living. This is being in stasis and playing the part because what else can she do. Really. If there are any other options, she is desperate for them.
There’s a sound at the door, it could be a knock, she gets up warily, bare feet padding on the floor. She recognises who is on the other side, peering through the spyhole, but really, is this another elaborate hallucination, because her eyes cannot be right, they just can’t. She pulls the door open anyway, there’s a rush of cold air from the hall outside, and she remembers that she is just in her robe.
“Hello,” she says, quietly, because there isn’t anything else to say. Nothing at all.
“I brought you roses.”
They’re pink, the pale, pretty shade that Claire thinks she has come to despise because it seems to represent all the things she doesn’t want to be any more. Soft, smooth, easily destroyed. Claire is getting hardened, day by day, by necessity and exhaustion and a past that she refuses to acknowledge.
“Thank you,” she says, and doesn’t want to do this. She wants Shannon to magically not be here because she is a huge part of that piece of history that Did Not Happen. The cellophane encasing the flowers crinkles when she takes them, the cloying, sweet scent goes straight to her head. She doesn’t need flowers and she doesn’t want a consolation prize, and the urge to slam the door and shut all this out is almost overwhelming. Maybe Shannon senses this; she walks into the apartment immediately, before Claire can take control and close it all away.
“Everyone’s worried about you,” Shannon says. She’s wearing shoes with high heels that must be hurting her feet, she’s taller than Claire and all grace and elegance and Claire just looks at the floor. These people have no claim on her, they don’t have to tug her around, make her play their game. And they shouldn’t try to cheat by sending her the wrong people. It ought to be Jack, here, hands outstretched and asking her to connect. It could even be Sawyer, a smirk and a drawl and a nickname to make her feel better. Or Kate, if she’s out of jail yet. Not Shannon, who doesn’t give a damn what happens to Claire. Who never has.
“Would you like a drink?” she asks, an automatic hostess, ignoring Shannon’s opening plea just as she intends to ignore every word the woman says to her. There are pink roses held in her arms and forget-me-nots on her bathrobe and things make even less sense than they did to begin with. She’s just so tired.
“I want you to talk to me,” Shannon tells her, easing her shoes from her feet and staring at Claire with earnest eyes.
“I don’t have anything to say,” Claire murmurs, clutching her cellophane-wrapped flowers to her chest like a shield, from Shannon, from what she represents. Now they’re both barefoot in her hallway and Claire wants to sit down and stop because she tried so hard to stop this from happening and it’s going to happen anyway, now, isn’t it? She’ll never be able to pretend that what happened didn’t.
“Why have you tried to shut us all out?” Shannon asks, half-desperate, and Claire wants to point out that she didn’t give a damn about her when she was anxiously waiting for her potentially dead baby to kick on a beach in the heat a year or more ago, but she can’t because that’s remembering too many things she can’t let herself remember.
Shannon lost Boone. Claire wonders if she can live in the real world without him, since she certainly couldn’t live alone on the island. She doesn’t ask.
“It happened, and now it’s over,” Claire says, her voice is dull and heavy like concrete in her mouth. “I don’t see why I have to keep clinging onto past trauma. It’s time to move on.”
“This isn’t moving on,” Shannon points out calmly, and Claire could tell her a thing or two about not moving on, but she won’t, because that would imply that she recalls all that, and she doesn’t. She’s let it all go; why hold onto pieces of people she never intends to speak to again? Even if Shannon’s face was a blank for weeks and if this a new plan of Jack’s then it’s stupid because what the hell does Shannon know about fixing anyone?
“Please, go,” Claire tells her and that wasn’t supposed to come out. It sounds weak, lost, all the things she can’t be any more because naïveté is a luxury she can’t afford any more. The one-way street: when you lose your innocence it’s impossible to get it back again.
Shannon’s dressed in pink like the roses and Claire drops them with an awful sound of rustling cellophane that doesn’t seem to be able to stop.
“I’m not leaving,” Shannon tells her, her voice is calm and steady which is hilarious because she never used to be anything like this and maybe she grew up a little while Claire was doing her best just to exist. “I’m not leaving you like this.”
“I’m fine,” Claire says, as though her hands aren’t shaking. As though she really means it. She looks at Shannon, who’s all wide eyes and cashmere and completely uncharacteristic empathy. “Why did they send you?” she demands suddenly, tired of lying and tired of the company. It’s so much easier to be on her own and this is the longest conversation she’s had in months, regardless of its fractures and unspoken words.
“I volunteered,” Shannon replies, mouth twisted in a strangely awkward little smile, her lipgloss matches her manicure and Claire notices this because she can’t bring herself to look her directly in the eye. Can barely look at Shannon at all, actually, it’s like trying to stare at the sun and Claire attempted that once or twice, ankle-deep in the tide and wondering if she stared long enough she’d be able to open her eyes and find herself somewhere else entirely. Green-tinged from sunblindness but home again pretending to be an adult while inside she trembled because she didn’t plan any of this.
“You don’t care about me,” Claire tells Shannon, statement of fact and without a shred of petulance, “You never have. I don’t need sympathy and I don’t need pity.”
“You need something,” Shannon replies, and now the frustration is entering her tone she sounds the way she always did; a little annoyed, a little disdainful, the spoilt little rich girl whose barely-there bikini cost more than Claire’s plane ticket did. “Because shutting yourself in your apartment and not answering the phone isn’t helping anything. You need to think about what happened and accept it and talk to people so you can understand. That’s why I’m here.”
Claire thinks she’s lying but in all honesty she might not be. She’s been away from people so long that reading them is no longer second-nature, it’s something to be worked at and lost and she feels physically sick because if she’d thought that they – the ones she was stranded with and now assume that means she has to like them and pay attention to them – would send someone to tear her carefully-built equilibrium to pieces then she would not have thought in a million years that they would send Shannon. Not the queen bitch, who could barely bring herself to care about anyone but herself and only cried for her brother when he was actually dead. And Claire is willing to bet that she’s never called Sayid now they’re back on solid certainty again.
It’s ridiculous and this needs to stop because it’s making things worse.
“Send Jack,” Claire all but spits, “Send Jack with his conciliatory tranquillisers and his smiles and his empty promises. Or Charlie with his imaginary peanut butter and his vows of protection that are actually more about him than they ever are about me. Or Sawyer, who didn’t give a damn if I lived or died but at least he was upfront about it.”
“Because they let you down,” Shannon says, tone patient but a flush is spreading up her cheeks, “Because they couldn’t help you then so why should they help you now?”
“You could have sent Locke,” Claire says, remembering him helping her build a cradle when it seemed like her world was crashing into pieces. She’d forgotten that, now Aaron has a proper cot with bars and blankets and a mobile made of cloth birds. She wonders if the cradle is still there on the beach, listening to the cracks and breakages from the jungle.
“Yes.” A ghost of a smile twitches on Shannon’s lips, “He could have brought you a box of knives and left you to your own devices. Really helpful.”
“And you think that bringing me roses and telling me to get over myself is going to achieve anything?” Claire snarls, she feels unsteady on her feet and her head aches as though it could explode any second, her throat closing up, “I don’t want help, and I don’t want it from you.”
“I haven’t let you down yet,” Shannon tells her, “That’s a start.”
“Leave me alone,” Claire murmurs, looking down at her bare feet cold on the floor. They’re too far away and it’s going to take weeks to repair the damage this ridiculous conversation is inflicting on her mind. Days and days and days of waking up screaming and trying to fit the bricks back in place. Shutting it all out because she doesn’t want to live with it any more. She can’t live with what she remembers and, worse, what she doesn’t remember – those missing days when Ethan took her into the dark and no one knows the truth.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Shannon says, like she’s used to winning arguments – and she must be. Always gets what she wants and this time Claire is not going to give it to her because she can’t lose any more.
“What do you want from me?” Claire asks, afraid of the answer. Shannon will want too much and Claire won’t. She doesn’t know how to.
“I want you to be ok again,” Shannon replies. As though it’s that simple and who knows what ‘ok’ really means anymore, if anything at all.
“You don’t know the first thing about fixing anyone,” Claire lashes out, “You’re so self-absorbed you think that bringing some roses and going on about confronting things will smooth this all over!”
But her eyes catch the roses, dejected on the floor with their too-shiny cellophane and Shannon must have found out from somewhere that they’re her favourite flower, because they are. They still are. The one thing about her the island couldn’t change. Shannon bought her flowers like she cares and maybe, maybe she does.
Claire thinks she is crying, mouth open, undignified and desperate and she didn’t want this to happen so she shut it all away because how could she survive it? This overwhelming wave of horror and realisation and it was almost like a game then, the bodies weren’t quite real and the situation was always going to be remedied and it’s only now looking back that she realises quite how bad it all was and how bad it could have been. Safety now means next to nothing and another sob rips out of her lungs leaving her chest feeling raw, breath tearing at her lungs and leaving her feel like her head is going to fall to shards of glass.
Shannon has moved to holding her, a hand in Claire’s hair, the warmth from her skin bleeding into Claire, who is cold, so cold, who hasn’t really stopped shivering since the rescue boat arrived, and she’s ruining the cashmere with tears and mucus and it’s strange because if Claire had ever allowed herself to imagine a breakdown it wouldn’t have been anything like this.
“It’s never going to go away, is it?” she murmurs, words slipping together because she has no control over her mouth, her lips trembling so hard she can hardly move them, “It’s always going to be there, isn’t it?”
Shannon’s arms tighten which Claire assumes is a confirmation and she wishes that she could stop and pull away but she still has no idea how to.