Title: Beyond the Sea
Pairing: Charlie/Claire, Hurley/Shannon (just for mnemosyne23)
Summary: Here comes the bride...
Rating: PG, for mild swearing.
"We'll meet beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
and never again I'll go sailing."
Bobby Darrin's "Beyond the Sea"
"Isn't she beautiful?"
Charlie looked up from the leaf he had been meticulously shredding and glanced at Boone, who was in turn staring steadfastly at his sister standing in the shade on the beach, lovely in a pale blue sundress.
"That she is, mate," he agreed, flinging the remains of his leaf away, "Big day today."
Boone shifted positions on the mound of sand and sparse bits of grass (weeds, in Charlie's opinion) so that he was leaning back on his palms. For a moment, the two men sat in silence, Boone's reflective and Charlie's mildly resentful. Try as he might, he couldn't bring himself to be entirely happy about the events that would unfold in the late afternoon, not without feeling a pang of envy. He had convinced himself he had everything: Claire had been returned to him, complete with a healthy son who thus far hadn't shown even the slightest inclination towards evil, he had his guitar, he was in love, but as per usual the pieces refused to align just so.
Boone interrupted his brooding. "She never wanted it like this, you know. God, when she was little it was all she'd talk about. Was going to marry some handsome prince and all that shit. Throw herself one big fancy wedding, spend lots of money. That whole deal. She was really pissed off when Mom let me run the company. Part of the reason she ran off to Australia, I think." A shrug and then he turned the whole of his gaze to the other man. "But do you know what? She's here now. There isn't anything fancy about this wedding, if you can even call it that, but do you know what the funny thing is? I don't think I've ever seen her so friggin' happy."
Charlie laughed a little at that. "Makes her much easier to be around. Don't mind her happy!"
Boone shared his chuckle and nodded before prodding a bit on his own. "Claire's been a big help. I don't think Shannon's ever had a friend like that before."
"I don't think Claire's ever had a friend like that before," he replied, cautiously, "They're around the same bloody age though. Bound to happen, really."
"I guess," Boone shrugged. Then, teasingly, "When are you going to make a decent woman of her? I happen to know a couple of really good wedding planners."
There was the proverbial salt in the wound, Charlie thought, fingers twitching as they still sometimes did. It didn't seem to matter that it had been over a year since he had used. Didn't seem to matter that he hardly even wanted it anymore. He reckoned sometimes that he'd made a bloody mess of his brain and that those were the consequences. It hardly seemed relevant but it was a more comfortable subject than why he had been hesitant to propose to Claire island style.
And what could he tell Boone now? That he was too much of a nancy to pop the question because he knew the answer would be no? That night after night once Billy was asleep, Charlie would whisper his love to her and she would remain silent or, even worse, thank him? He had tried to understand. He knew about Thomas. He knew how Ethan had treated her. Claire was more than welcome to have man issues. It just didn't sit right when she seemed to have those same ridiculous trust issues with him.
So he forced a smile to be brave and what all. "When the moment's right, of course." Off Boone's look, he was quick to amend his statement. "Which isn't now."
It was that moment that Claire, patiently helping Billy toddle over the sand, joined Shannon, stepping seamlessly into their line of vision. Boone smiled at the group and Charlie bit his lip, filled up with wanting and frustration.
He wasn't being fair, he got that. She wanted time and he had all the time in the bloody world. She was one of those newfangled independent women and he thought that that was just brilliant. He wasn't going anywhere and he could wait… or so he thought. He wasn't much for ultimatums but it aggravated him beyond belief to always feel on the outside of the perfect little family she was nurturing; broke his heart every time she gently corrected Billy's proud exclamations of "Dada!" as though he just wasn't good enough. Sick, he was, of being treated like he was going to up and leave at the drop of a hat.
Sighing, he stood and said, "Guess I should go get ready, eh? No point in the both of us sitting here all willy-nilly."
"So, are you nervous?" Shannon asked, straining to fluff out the back of her dress.
Claire, who was settling Billy down in the sand, looked up with a twinkle in her eye.
"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" she laughed.
Shannon smiled at her and gestured at the back of her dress. "I got sand on the damn thing. Can you believe that? I've been so careful ever since I put it on and that stuff just has to go and get everywhere. And, to answer your question, I'm not even slightly nervous. As dumb as it sounds, I just know."
She didn't think it sounded dumb at all. Herself aside, when Shannon had come stomping over to her sleeping area six months ago declaring angrily that Hurley had told her she was just as pretty as Princess Leia (and how dare he compare her to some wannabe Jedi warrior girl like she was a big enough loser to be complimented by that?) that Shannon was done. Claire had never seen Shannon worked up so much over anything but Hurley continually got under her skin with his compliments and attention. When Hurley had broken his leg helping Jack make hut like shelters on the beach, Shannon had surprised everybody by being his own personal Florence Nightingale… only bitchier. It had been an ongoing joke for quite awhile that she had bullied him into recovery, a joke that she had furthered by being pigheaded about the whole ordeal.
But Claire knew the truth. She saw how Shannon would blush after each spat was over; how she would go out of her way to provoke them. In the end, Hurley had pretended a huge affection for Kate, who played along agreeably. Shannon had ignored the situation for the first three days, acting the part of the ice queen admirably, but on the fourth day she had come to see Claire and had broken down, confessing everything. When Hurley had gone so far as to place a kiss on Kate's cheek at supper that night, Shannon had stood up and all but screamed, "You were supposed to be my Hans Solo!" in front of everyone.
Once her humiliation over her "geek outburst" was over, things had progressed naturally. The two of them had more in common than either had been willing to admit at first. The cheerleader had left high school behind and Shannon was happy- almost unbearably so.
"I'm happy for you, Shan," Claire said, obligingly brushing off the back of her friend's dress, "I think you and Hurley will have a good life together."
Shannon laughed at that. "This is all so weird! It must be the island, Claire. Who would have thought that I…" She stopped with a self-deprecating chuckle.
"Do you have your present all set?"
She nodded, gesturing at the neat stack of paper that was resting on top of her blanket. She and Claire had worked on it for days, perfecting it again and again.
"All set. I kind of wish the whole camp didn't have to be around for that. Feels like the last bit of my pride slipping away!"
"Billy, don't eat the sand!" Claire exclaimed, squatting by her son and emptying his palm. He looked up at her in confusion but, when she offered the sock Charlie had stuffed with bits of cloth, he was appeased. Snatching it from her, he began to babble at his toy, fiddling with its button eyes. "And you don't mean that."
She smiled and looked incredibly freed. "You're right. I don't! But enough about me. What about you? Are you ready?"
Claire looked over her shoulder to where Boone and Charlie were sitting, surprised to see Charlie wandering away. She'd been horrible to him, she thought, and enough was enough. It had occurred to her all of a sudden that she was going to lose him if she didn't get over any petty problem she might have had in the past. It was time to "pull a Shannon" and just let go.
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be!"
When the sun was setting, the survivors gathered on the beach for the quasi-lawful union of their friends. All pretenses of religion were dropped out of necessity. Nobody, it seemed, knew how to throw a proper wedding when it came to the actual vows. So it had been decided that a simple public profession of love would do with a supper and a dance to follow for tradition's sake.
Hurley arrived first, nervous and jittery. Not that anybody could tell. Hurley wore scared shitless just like he wore extreme excitement- behind a careful façade of calm. It had gotten him that far and he couldn't seem to find a reason to jinx it.
Charlie joined him soon after, calling out, "Looking good, man! Might have to marry you myself, if Shannon comes to her senses and bails."
Hurley suppressed a shudder, running a finger under the collar of his dress shirt. "Please, dude. Spare me the visuals. I'm sure you're more than adequate in bed and everything but just… no."
"Adequate?" Charlie scoffed, moving to stand beside him as his best man, "Somebody's been telling you stories! I surpassed adequate years ago! Bloody amazing, have you begging for more, keep you screaming all sodding night long- now that's more like it!"
This time Hurley didn't bother halting his disgust, much to Charlie's amusement.
"What?!" laughed Charlie, "It's true. You want some pointers for the big night?"
Hurley didn't dignify that with a comment, choosing instead to scan the steadily forming crowd. He was happy to be among so many of his friends on such a big occasion, even if sometimes he still felt in awe of the whole thing. He and Shannon? He wasn't an idiot. He knew the idea was laughable but he knew it to be plausible to, mainly because he was living it. He couldn't wait to get off the damn island, even if it was just to show her off at his high school reunion.
"Did you bring your guitar?" Hurley asked, noticing a skirmish near the jungle. He sensed Shannon's imminent arrival and suddenly felt like a great big idiot. There was no way she was going to go through with this! She was going to get there, take one look at him, declare herself entirely too good and beautiful and above him, and take off. Probably would throw herself at Sawyer, just to put him in his place. He was a dumbass if he thought this was going to work. Shifting his weight, his eyed the path to the caves.
"Easy there, mate," Charlie said, stepping forward to place a hand on his friend's arm, "She loves you. She wouldn't have gone along with all this if she didn't. Breathe. You're getting kind of red in the face. Not a good look for you."
With one last squeeze on his arm, Charlie moved to open his guitar case. He just had gotten it settled comfortably when Shannon emerged, arm in arm with Boone. He heard Hurley suck in a breath and sucked in one of his own when he saw Claire, walking slowly behind the bride, clasping onto Billy's hands as he toddled in front of her. Apparently, he watched them for too long because Hurley cleared his throat.
"Oh, right," Charlie muttered to himself, fingers finding the strings on his guitar. Gently, almost reverently, he began to play a slowed down, more sentimental version of "Beyond the Sea", the song Shannon had requested, cheeks aglow with happy embarrassment.
As she walked towards him, it occurred to Hurley all at once that Shannon wasn't running away. He looked down at himself, checking to make sure he hadn't lost weight and suddenly morphed into Brad Pitt, and then had to smile ruefully. His heart expanded almost painfully and this was it, he thought. This was the moment the underdog got what he'd always wanted: somebody to love him inside and out, even if that somebody was the last person he ever would have expected.
Then she was before him. Smiling softly, she held out her hands and he barely remembered to take them. He was sure his hands were damp. Swallowing hard, he gazed down into her eyes, made all the more pretty by the shade of her dress. The rest he barely noticed. The rest barely mattered. Looking up at him, all he saw in her eyes was love.
He was the luckiest bastard alive.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he noticed that Charlie had stopped playing, the song having ended. He knew this was his moment to shine. To profess his love in front of everyone and claim this vision as his bride.
"Shannon," he began, ashamed to find that his voice broke. This wouldn't do at all, he thought, clearing his throat to try again. "Listen. I've never been good at words so this is probably really going to suck."
She smiled at that but squeezed his hand in encouragement.
"Sometimes life throws crap at you," he started again, deciding to ignore the other survivors and focus solely on her, "And this island seemed like the biggest load of crap ever… until I got to spend time with you. I'm sorry if I'm not what you've always wanted. I know I'm no knight in shining armor. But I'm kind of funny and I have good ideas… Not important. I'm rambling. Been hanging around Charlie too much."
There was a shared snicker amongst the onlookers at this but Hurley ignored them.
"Yeah. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love you, Shannon. Spending the rest of my life with you will be an honour. And, married to you, it won't be predictable but, hey, I never liked that anyway. I promise to always love you and be with you, as long as you'll have me."
He finished on a whoosh of breath, proud of himself. He had even refrained from using dude, at Charlie's suggestion. He shot a quick glance at his friend, who was alternating between smiling at him and sending looks at Claire, and then looked back at his… bride.
Shannon's eyes had watered at his speech, which he thought was a good sign.
And then she was speaking, all rushed and hurried.
"I love you too, Hurley. I'm sorry if I wasn't a very good nurse. I'm never going to be a good nurse. I hate sick people. But I'm glad that I was there anyway, since I got to get to know you. I knew I wanted to be with you then, if only because you're the only one brave enough to make a Star Wars reference to my face." She smiled at him, in jest. "I know you're afraid that I don't love you but you are the only one who has ever bothered to see me and… thanks, I guess. Hurley, I'm going to be very pleased to be your wife."
At the finish of her speech, a cheer went up through the crowd. Hurley beamed down at her, and she up at him, and then somebody was saying, "You may kiss the bride!" He thought it was in good humour but he took advantage of it anyway. Happily, he placed his mouth against hers, surprised and warmed by the fact that hers were shaking. Putting his arms around her, he lifted her off the ground and spun her, laughing at her giggles.
When she was settled on her feet, she leaned up and whispered in his ear, "Claire and I wrote you a story as a wedding present. It's about Star Trek. Boone helped a bit."
He couldn't stop his laugh; couldn't refrain from kissing her again.
"Where did I find you?!" he said, chuckling warmly against her cheek.
This time, he thought, the princess had dared to kiss the frog and she hadn't found him lacking.
On that note, he turned to his friends and shouted, "Let the festivities begin!"
It was some time later that he allowed himself to be separated from his new bride, making his way through the well wishers to Charlie, who was patiently feeding Billy bits of boar while Claire chatted with Shannon. Upon seeing him, Charlie stood up and smiled.
"Hi!" Billy announced, excitedly.
"Hello, kiddo," Hurley returned, ruffling his white blond hair. The boy squealed in delight, trying to latch onto his uncle's hand.
"Congratulations!" Charlie announced, standing to hug the other man, "How does it feel to have acquired the ol' ball and chain?"
Hurley chuckled. "Dude, it is like the scariest thing ever."
"But she is a very attractive ball and chain, eh?"
"Don't make me kick your ass, man, for ogling my wife that way." Then, "Shit, I said wife."
"That you did, mate, that you did." And again Charlie's eyes strayed to Claire.
Hurley sighed. "Shannon and I really appreciated you playing tonight. I think it's standard procedure for me to give you a tip."
This caught his attention. "Huh? A tip? You know money's no good here."
"Exactly. So, here it is in the form of advice. Go get the girl, dude. You're acting like a jackass standing around here doing nothing. And, hey, if I can do it, so can you."
Charlie looked at him, bewildered and plainly nervous.
"But, Hurley," he protested, "I've told you about this. She doesn't-"
"Blah blah blah," mocked Hurley, pushing Charlie in her direction, "Go."
Claire had just made up her mind to go and find Charlie when he appeared before her, clutching nervously at her son, sleepy and safe in his arms. She smiled at them both and wasted no time in going to him.
"Wasn't that just lovely, Charlie?" she asked, wanting to talk to cover her own nerves. Shannon had just given her the pep talk of her life and she knew it had to be said. She knew the time had come to let Thomas go, before she lost Charlie as a result.
"Almost as lovely as you," he replied, dropping a quick kiss on her nose.
The awkward silence was unavoidable as each tried to figure out just what to say. For something to do, Claire reached for Billy, who clung to her dozily. Rubbing at his back, she found her courage.
"Claire, there's something-"
They shared an uncomfortable laugh and then Claire rushed ahead, before Charlie could say anything else.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, looking at her feet.
He caught her chin with his finger, forcing her to look up. When she did, she saw that he looked utterly taken aback.
"What for, love?" he asked, moving his hand to her cheek. She leaned into his palm and sighed.
"For everything. I know I've put you through an emotional rollercoaster and I really am sorry for being so horrible after everything you've done. You've been so wonderful to Billy and to me and I…" A quick glance into his eyes bolstered her. "I really do love you, Charlie."
Elation couldn't begin to cover what he felt. He gawked at her for a moment, afraid he'd misheard her. Stammering a little, he risked asking, "Do you mean that?"
Claire didn't have to answer. Stirring in her hold, Billy smiled up at Charlie and, arms flailing to return to him, murmured, "Dada!"
Her lack of correction was enough. Reaching for the both of them, Charlie knew another island wedding wouldn't be far off.