Sorry for the long, long delay. Other fics, RL, everything got in the way. These two are always in my head though! So if you still care to read, I'll keep updating :)

Chapter 33: Screaming Infidelities

The scene that greeted Mia as she approached the gathering of survivors was certainly one she didn't expect. Claire was scooping baby Aaron out of a bewildered Charlie's arms at the ocean's edge. Furious, Claire smacked Charlie hard across the face before storming off with Sun hurrying behind her.

Mia pulled Kate aside. "What the hell happened?"

"Charlie took Aaron out of his crib and ran to the water." Kate answered, directing Mia away from Charlie. "I think he was sleepwalking, he didn't seem to know what was happening. Claire got freaked out."

As Kate and Mia parted ways across the beach, Mia went to join Claire and Sun by the young mother's tent. Aaron was crying as Claire unsuccessfully tried to soothe him by rocking him in his cradle. Sun shared a look of concern with Mia as she knelt down with them. "Is he okay?" Mia asked.

"Yeah, he's just scared." Claire replied not taking her eyes of her son. "It'll take me forever to get him back to sleep."

"I could-"

"No." Claire immediately cut Mia off. Then, she sighed and turned her crystal blue eyes to Mia, her expression calmer. "But thank you."

It took awhile, but Claire managed to get Aaron back to sleep and then curled up on her bed and tried to rest with her hand through the bamboo bars of Aaron's cradle gently holding his fingers. When Sun began having difficultly stifling her yawns, Mia sent her to bed and stayed with Claire. She didn't see Charlie come back from the beach, but she realized she wasn't sure where he was sleeping since Claire had told him to give her space after the heroin-filled-Mary-statue incident.

As the night grew darker, and the camp became quiet, Mia scooted back against a tree trunk and hugged her knees to herself. It wasn't exactly cold, but the breeze coming up from the water caused a chill in the air. She'd slept in worse places before, army training prepared soldiers to rest in tough conditions and yet to keep her senses alert. She heard footsteps, the sound of rubber soles squeaking as they plodded through the sand.

Opening one eye, she saw Charlie walking away from Claire's tent; as though he'd seen Claire sleeping and decided to leave her be. Mia could only feel sorry for him, in her heart she felt like he was a good man. He was just making ridiculously stupid mistakes right now. Mia's eyes followed Charlie until he disappeared out of her sight into the jungle. Did he have a stash out there, she wondered. Maybe he just liked the solitude. For that, she couldn't blame him.

The waves crashed to Mia's right and made her turn her head. Resting her cheek on her knee, her eyes drifted to the stray flap of Sawyer's tent rippling through the breeze. Their little escapade replayed in her mind, but she smothered the niggling part of her body that made her want to seek him out again. It wasn't a good idea.

xxx

The following morning after leaving Claire to feed Aaron, Mia was heading back to her own tent and rubbing at a knot in her neck caused by her awkward sleep when she wandered passed Hurley and Sawyer playing a game of cards in front of Sawyer's tent.

"Stick?" Hurley was saying. "I don't know, dude. Don't you need 21? I think you should hit."

"But I've got a 6; I'm going to bust." Sawyer argued.

"How do you know that?" Hurley asked.

"Well, I don't," Sawyer admitted. "But you've got to assume that I'm going to bust."

"Why?"

"Because he's a pessimist." Mia interjected.

Giving her a withering look, Sawyer caught sight of Libby with her arms loaded with clothes. "Well, well, look who's off to the laundromat? Well, go on. I'm sure you've got a load you need to drop in, don't you, Jethro?"

Hurley became intently focused on his hand of cards. "I'm kind of waiting for my moment."

"Well, your moment is now, Hoss." Reaching for Mia's arm to help pull him to his feet, Sawyer turned around. "Hey Libby!" He called out in a gruff voice, and then he quickly disappeared into his tent dragging Mia along with him.

Holding a finger to his lips, Sawyer smirked as he heard Hurley nervously ask Libby if she wanted help with the laundry, and then their easy chatter drifted off as they walked away.

"You playing matchmaker now?" Mia asked.

"I'm on a roll lately." Sawyer said with a suggestive grin playing on his lips.

Rolling her eyes, Mia started to leave but Sawyer didn't release his grip on her arm. And the mischievous look didn't leave his eyes. Mia took hold of his wrist and pulled him off her. It was easier to suppress the urges with the noise of the camp bustling around outside the tent. And once she got out into the sun, her brain refocused immediately as she saw a wild-eyed Charlie charging towards Claire's tent.

"Charlie?" Mia blocked his path and kept in step with him walking backwards.

"I have to talk to her." Charlie demanded.

Mia's heart was racing, the look in Charlie's eyes told her not to let him simply pass by her. "I don't think it's a good time."

"No, I have to talk to her." Charlie persisted. "She'll want to hear this."

Standing directly in Charlie's path, Mia held him back by his shoulders. "Okay, you know what, so tell me and I will tell her."

"Claire!" Charlie knocked Mia aside by the shoulder. "Listen to me. Aaron's in danger."

"What are you talking about?" Claire, standing in front of Aaron's crib, was visibly concerned.

"The baby's in danger!" Charlie's eyes darted from Aaron to Claire. "Look, I've been having these dreams. I know what they mean now."

Grabbing Charlie by his arm, Mia pulled him back. "Charlie, you have to leave."

Shrugging her off, Charlie continued like he couldn't hear Mia at all. "Claire, listen, we have to baptize Aaron."

Claire seemed bewildered. "What?"

"We can do this!" Charlie's voice was oddly confident. "Eko's a priest! We can do this!"

"It's time to go." Mia said giving him another firm push away.

"No, wait! I'm not finished!" Charlie kept yelling over Mia's shoulder. "Claire, look, we have to baptize Aaron!

"I said it's time to go." Mia gave him a heavy shove that almost knocked him off his feet. "Now!" Standing firm, Mia waited until Charlie was completely out of sight before she went back to Claire.

Her son awakened by the fighting, Claire was swaying back and forth on her feet with Aaron in her arms. "Baptized?" She said to Mia.

"Don't listen to him." Mia assured her with as a composed an expression as she could. "He's not..." She trailed off, unable to finish her sentence. "Do you want to take a walk or something? I could watch the baby?"

"No, it's okay." Claire smiled appreciatively. "But if you wanted to stay nearby..."

Mia gave her a wink and returned to her tent, which blocked the path Charlie had taken when he'd stormed away. And, if she pulled up the left hand piece of tarp, she had a clear view of Claire and Aaron. Curling up against her Oceanic Airlines chair pillows, Mia dug around in her bag and found her copy of Persuasion. It had dried from its drenching in the ocean, but it was warped and half the pages were smudged and unreadable.

It had been so long since she'd intended to read this damn thing, and it was still with her. Travelled with her, crashed with her, blew up on the raft with her, survived meeting the tail section survivors and now here it was, safe and resting on the beach with her. Maybe it was good luck, or maybe it was just hanging around until she finished it. Which seemed impossible now it was damaged.

Opening to one of the pages in the first half of the book that wasn't as damaged as the rest, Mia's eyes fell on a paragraph. Frederick Wentworth was musing about Anne Elliot, and how "altered" he perceived her to be.

...She had used him ill; deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.

The crash of the waves woke Mia in the early evening. She hadn't realized she'd fallen asleep with her book in her lap. From Mia's left, Claire smiled at her and waved. Aaron was quieter now and chewing on his mother's finger. Mia waved back then rubbed her eyes and stashed her book away.

Reading hadn't helped her mood, and hadn't given her what she wanted.

He could. He'd been her husband, dammit.

Mia got to her feet and dusted the sand of her backside as she made her way to Sawyer's tent. He was inside, lying down and reading by torchlight. He'd read a lot when they were married. A hobby he'd picked up during his stint in prison before they had met. Had he given her Persuasion? Suddenly, she couldn't remember.

"Evening." Sawyer looked up at her over the tip of his book.

Mia didn't speak, she was afraid if she did she'd lose her nerve. Instead she made sure the tent was closed and walked over to him placing a foot on either side of his body. She dropped her knees into the sand but he met her kiss before she'd fully leant down. He gripped her body tight and held her against him. She pulled at the buttons of his shirt and slid her arms around his back.

Sawyer rolled Mia over so he was on top of her and pulled off his shirt. Mia couldn't pull her lips from his, her lust was in total control. She let him unbutton her jeans and shrug them down then she unbuckled his belt. He pressed his body down on hers as she touched him and swept her hair off her face before kissing her even harder.

"Fire!"

It took a painful second or two for Mia to realize what she could hear.

"FIRE!" It was Sayid screaming, and the sounds of the rest of the rest of the camp panicking echoed across the beach.

Sawyer leant up off Mia and looked to the doorway of his tent. "Did he say fire?"

"Get up, get up, get up!" Mia quickly got to her feet and redressed herself. As soon as she got outside the tent the smell of burning leaves filled her nostrils. On the edge of the jungle she could see the orange haze of a firing blazing through the weeds. "Oh, hell."

Mia took off for the fire with Sawyer just behind her. Sayid was trying to stamp out the flames, Sawyer grabbed a blanket and started whipping it at the fire, and Mia helped Jin scoop sand to smother it. It was so hot Mia broke out into a sweat almost immediately. Her eyes stung from the smoke and she couldn't breathe.

Stepping away from the flames to get some oxygen into her lungs, she heard Claire's screams. "He's got my baby!"

"Claire!" Mia abandoned the fire and ran towards her friend.

Claire was at the water's edge with Charlie, who held Aaron tightly in his arms. "I just wanted to save him!" Charlie was breathless, his eyes wild.

Mia arrived by Claire. "Charlie! Give Claire the baby." She kept her distance from him, not knowing what he would do.

Half the camp began to gather around, Claire's cries alerting more than just Mia. Eko came striding slowly towards Charlie. "Eko, tell them!" Charlie begged him. "Tell them, Eko! Tell them what you told me - that the baby has to be baptized!"

Eko looked helpless and shook his head. "This is not the way."

Locke came around Eko and held his arms out to Charlie. "Come on, give him to me."

Charlie was having none of this. He was on the outside, his friends ganged up around him. His arms clasped tighter around Aaron. "Who the hell are you, John?! Aaron's not your responsibility! Where were you when he was born?! Where were you when he was taken?! You're not his father! You're not his family!"

Locke shook his head. "Neither are you, Charlie."

"I have to do this. I need to." Tears streaming down his face, Charlie turned to Claire. "I'm not going to hurt him."

A tearful Claire shook her head in disbelief. "You're hurting me, Charlie."

Locke edged closer to Charlie, arms still out, and Charlie allowed Locke to take Aaron from his arms. Locke transferred the baby back to his mother. Mia put her arm around Claire and lead her away from the water, the sound of Locke's heavy punches into Charlie deafened by the crash of the waves.

xxx