Title: Another Yellow Flower
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to someone else.
Summary: It's another test, another routine, something else she must endure. Rescue came and nothing changed. (Claire post-island.)
"Date of birth?"
She tells him in terms of months and years with a rusty tongue not used to the words. The questions go on as the man with the yellow clipboard scratches down her medical history, her parents' names, her injuries after the crash. He writes as though the story can be contained in those thin, short lines; as if that's all there is to say. The questions continue with her height and weight and just how she got that scar underneath her chin. It's another test, another routine, something else she must endure before she'll be free. Rescue came and nothing changed.
She's still waiting.
The exam goes on while he pokes and prods with fingers that seem too sharp and draws her blood with a gleaming needle. The routine only stops when he turns to her son.
"Aaron Littleton." She spells it without being asked.
"The father's name?"
She tells him; answers another part of this test thinking of time; time wasted then and time wasted now and time slipping away from her like the sands. She should be doing something; she should be somewhere. (Not here.)
There's nowhere else for her to be.
"He's um, he's about two years."
The man's eyebrows rise while the detail is recorded. "Date of birth?"
She watches her son with downcast eyes.
"Date of birth?" the man repeats; enunciates as though she couldn't hear.
One month in with a steaming green jungle pressing at her all around. Kate was scared; she could see it in her eyes. Pain and her son's cry; one life began while another choked its last breath. She remembers leaving bright yellow flowers on Boone's grave. She remembers watching Shannon cry and Jack filling in dirt over the one he couldn't save. She remembers it all.
She swallows and fails her son again. "I don't...I don't remember the date."
This can't be rescue. This can't be how everything ends.
The screen door opens after too long of a pause, and immediately Claire knows she's made a mistake.
Her mother looks older, worn by the years and frightened by the appearance of her only daughter and grandchild on the doorstep before her. Creases have deepened in her skin and etched across her face the same expression of disapproval Claire remembers most. Despite all the papers, all the news, her mother looks through her like she's a ghost. Looks at her child like he's a sin.
"I didn't think you'd come here, Claire."
There's nowhere else to go, no more boats or rafts or helicopters high overhead. "I thought you'd like to see your grandson."
(There's nowhere else to go.)
They stay for a time in Claire's old bedroom with Aaron snuggled in Claire's old crib so different from the rough wooden cradle left rocking empty by the shore. It's small and it's cramped and her mother watches both of them with an uneasy eye. The nights are silent and the walls close in and Claire finds she can't sleep with the windows shut. Her mother never asks her of the island.
"Have you thought about what you're going to do next, Claire?" The question comes late one afternoon as she balances her son on her lap and watches the sky. "You can't stay here forever, not with him."
Claire searches the clouds in absentminded habit and listens for the sound of a plane.
"You don't have a job, you don't have money, you haven't even seen the father," her mother continues with a series of pinpricks she barely feels. "You're not prepared for this. Maybe you should look into an adoption."
Claire just nods with a faint, silent smile and continues searching the endless sky. When the light fades and the day's watch is done, she cooks Aaron dinner and washes their clothes. She wipes the table and turns out the light. She takes her son and is gone by morning.
They travel for a time until what little money she has is nearly gone. The others returned to what they owned before the crash; Claire realized she never had anything at all. It was easier on the island somehow; there were fish in the sea and water to drink and she wasn't the only one stranded alone.
She finds a job, knowing all the while it's more due to long blonde hair and a shirt that's too tight than any real talent her resume lists. But the man writes her name in the files and shows her how to use the machine with its buttons and chemicals and plastic parts.
It's repetitive day after day in the cramped photo shop. She develops pictures of birthdays and children and happy endings so unlike her own. She bundles packages of vacations on tropical islands with people too tanned and happy and never wanting to come back home.
She remembers the island.
She remembers hope.
She didn't want to come back home.
She still hears the ocean.
The surf roars in her ears when she wakes in the middle of the night, its push and pull echoing until it jars her from a dreamless world. If she fights, she can sleep, but she's too tired to fight tonight and the rush continues, propelling her forward and up in her bed. She's dizzy and soaked in sweat and still it continues, loud and rushing until she thinks it is the blood in her own veins.
The thought makes her stomach turn and she fights with the blankets twisted like vines around her legs. She's spinning and sick and the tears fall unnoticed while she retches over the toilet; the light of the bathroom too harsh and yellow and she grips the sink to stay upright.
The roaring stops and her ears ring with silence broken only by her own ragged breath. She flushes the toilet with its dingy porcelain rim and straightens herself slowly, back aching and legs weak. It's been happening more and more.
Shaking fingers hit the light as she turns to leave and crawl back into bed. Before the room darkens, she catches her reflection in the mirror before her.
She's not alone.
His eyes are blue and he needs to shave. His face his pale, but his hair is the same and his lips are turned to a cocky half-smile. Boone is behind her and she knows it's real even as darkness overtakes his form.
Her breath catches and she whirls to turn the light back on revealing only the dull yellow wall. The roar is back and she hears the ocean again even as she tells herself it's all in her head. There's nothing there, but her spine crawls from being watched.
She returns to bed but doesn't sleep.
It happens again night after night. She drifts off in silence and wakes to the sea. She tries, she prays, she can't make it stop and in the morning her eyes are dark and her cheeks too hollow.
She buys medicine at the shops - something to make her sleep, something to take away the sound of the waves and the taste of salt in her mouth. She takes more than she should but wakes just the same, stifling her cries and hearing the surf. She jumps when Aaron comes into her room with a cup full of water in the middle of the night. His eyes shine from the moon.
"I brought you water, mummy." His pajamas are rumpled and his hair is a mess and there's no reason on earth why he'd bring her a glass.
She remembers the bottles, the heat, and Boone beside her. Aaron's eyes are startlingly blue and she drinks his water with a shaking hand.
She works extra shifts whenever she can, and on weekends takes Aaron to a park nearby. There are flowers and trees and a sandbox he adores. She wonders sometimes if he remembers making castles in the surf; if he remembers the feel of the sand in his chubby little hands.
Her nose is burnt when they head home, but she feels like a mother again behind her dark-rimmed eyes. She misses the sun and the wind and still can't sleep with windows closed. Aaron sings to himself inside the car, happily tearing petals from a carefully plucked yellow flower. She watches him for a moment in the rearview mirror before putting the car into gear. It's old and it's rusty but it's all they have, and at least for now it seems to run.
She leaves the park behind and approaches the highway, eyes darting back to catch Aaron blowing flower petals across the seat. She almost laughs and hits the gas, but when she sneaks one more glance in the mirror, he's not alone.
Boone sits beside him, blowing petals back at her son's smiling face; laughing as they're blown into his. Her foot hits the brake and they stop with a jolt. In the mirror, Boone's still there and he turns to her with an even smile.
The trucker's horn blares in her ear and even Aaron looks up with a cry. The car shakes as the truck passes - so close she sees the driver's red face. So close she could touch the metal and chrome. She hadn't seen him, wouldn't have seen him until much too late. Heart pounding, she whirls around, but Boone is gone.
There's a second yellow flower, one she never saw Aaron take, sitting on the seat next to her son.
The house is still there, freshly painted with plants neatly trimmed. It seems she was here so long ago. A woman answers the door and when Claire asks for Richard Malkin, she shakes her head.
"I'm sorry, dear. I don't know him. My husband and I bought this place nearly two years ago. I can't help you."
Claire sets Aaron down and lets him wander around the porch while she thanks the woman for her time.
"Did you know him well?" the woman asks.
Claire watches her son and shakes her head, never meeting the woman's eyes. "No. But he knew me."
She's not surprised when she reads of how Richard Malkin put a bullet through his brain one month after the crash. She's not surprised to learn how his blood spattered the very room where she stood pregnant and scared.
One birth, one death, one suicide.
The days run together here, blurred and smudged as they were on the island, and Claire realizes she's not used to keeping track, to watching the clock, to marking off days. Time on the island was measured in crosses and graves. Here there are bills without money and days without hope, and yet the crosses and graves never faded away. She thinks maybe nothing has changed.
She's giving up on rescue.
She's giving up on hope.
She takes more pills and tries to sleep.
He comes to her in the middle of the night, appearing next to her bed illuminated only by the slivers of moonlight that twist in through thin curtains. She can't speak. Her legs are frozen beneath the blankets and though she wants to hide her eyes, she can only wait in wonder. Boone died on the island, and yet it's his breath falling warm against her cheek.
"Don't be scared. I'm not here to frighten you."
Still, no words will come.
"Your son," he nods in the direction of Aaron's room. "What'd you name him?"
"Aaron." Her voice sounds so far away.
"The brother of Moses," he says, but it's Eko's voice. She remembers dark skin and a brilliant smile.
"Why are you here?" It's hard for her to speak. Everything is thick and heavy and Boone moves so slowly.
He walks to the window before giving his answer. Piercing eyes seem to examine the curtains; seem to see through them. "Rescue came, Claire. Everyone gets a new life now," and for a moment she see's John's face in the haze before her.
She wants to scream, but it's barely a whisper, "I can't."
"I can't do this by myself. It wasn't supposed to be this way." She's said this all before and she's just so tired.
"Why do you want to go back?" Her eyes widen, and he raises a hand. "I know your secret, Claire. Why do you want to go back?"
She takes a breath, then two. "Because there…There was hope. There was rescue."
His image swims in her tears and she lowers her head. His hand comes to cover hers.
"There's always hope, Claire." He raises her chin and catches her eye. "There's always rescue." He stands and seems to waver in the dim moonlight.
It's the last thing she remembers before he fades away.
The bottle is empty, and the pills she doesn't remember swallowing are gone. The room is still and the sea is silent in her ears. The sun peeks in through curtains that dance in the breeze. Aaron laughs in the next room, happily playing with his toys.
She steps outside with her son's hand tucked in hers and watches while his bare feet dance in the grass. She doesn't search the sky; doesn't listen for a plane.
Sometimes she's sure it was a dream. Sometimes she thinks it was real. Sometimes she still sees Boone in the corner of her eye.
At the edge of their house, just under her window, yellow flowers bloom where before there was sand. Aaron picks them for her and holds them out in chubby hands. His eyes are just like Boone's.
Maybe this is rescue.