Time Out

Note: For the "5 year plan" challenge. Mild spoilers for the show so far. Claire-centric, various pairings implied.

The rain hit the tin roof with a metallic pit-pat that was quite soothing and relaxing after a day spent running around after a hyperactive five-year-old, who was now in the expert care of Charlie, her favorite uncle and playmate.

Claire allowed herself a happy sigh and let her tired head fall back onto her pallet. It felt good to be alone every now and then, and she knew better than to expect the peace and quiet to last. But right now everyone was outside, harvesting as long as the rain allowed it. Claire had only returned to the cave to get another one of Sun's woven baskets, yet she found herself oddly reluctant to leave home again.

Home. It still felt slightly strange to refer to the cave as that. No matter how many improvements Michael and Sayid came up with, it was still a cave, not a proper house, and they were still on the island, lost in the vastness of the ocean. Yet the cave had proven a safe haven for them all after the attack on the beach four years ago, and since they had extended it using scrap-metal from the plane and then divided it into rooms, it even offered the castaways at least the illusion of privacy, for which Claire was grateful.

Especially now during the rainy season, when they spent more time inside than usual, since all paths had been turned into mud slides that only Locke and Kate braced when they checked the traps for animals. But although Claire moaned about being cooped up as much as the next person -- mainly when Sandy was being a brat because she couldn't go fishing with Hurley -- Claire actually quite liked the rain. She liked how it made everyone come together and reform bonds that might have loosened in the dry season, when everybody went about their separate ways.

After all the people they had lost in the attack and during the long time when they tried to find a way to fight back, Claire valued each and every one of them. Even Shannon, who now poked her head through the door curtain: "Ah, there you are – I wasn't sure where you had disappeared to. Should have known!"

Claire smiled and padded the ground next to her. "Yep, we all need a bit of peace and quiet sometimes… And since Sawyer and Sayid are your neighbours, this especially goes for you!"

Shannon sat down where Claire had indicated, rolling her eyes expressively: "Seriously, I still don't get those two – and one would think that by now the honeymoon would be over. But no, Sayid still wears that smug smile every damn morning and Sawyer has completely stopped hitting on Kate. Which in turn makes Jack so happy it's disgusting!"

Claire giggled. The island had produced many strange couplings – but this was definitely one of the most bizarre. And it felt so good to gossip with a girlfriend, to forget about all the bad stuff that had happened for just a little while. Shannon probably felt the same, because Claire was sure that the other woman still woke up shivering from nightmares of Boone's death. They all had nightmares like that. Claire closed her eyes, trying to will her mind away from memories that had resurfaced about a after Sandy's birth and were still raw and painful.

The cool touch of Shannon's hand brought her away from Ethan, back to the present. "Come on, let's go get back to the others. Jin is probably waiting impatiently for the fishing net I promised him – and I'm sure Charlie will be grateful for the company while he's on beach duty..."

Smiling still a bit shakily, Claire accepted the offered hand. The rain was still drumming its soothing rhythm against the makeshift roof of the cave extension, but Claire's time out was over. Her life was waiting for her outside.

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