stefanie_bean: (hugo claire blue)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 27: The Man in the High Cabin
Pairs: Hurley/Claire, Jack/Kate, Sayid/Shannon
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Claire Littleton, Jack Shephard, Kate Austen, ensemble
Genre: Slow-build Romance
Length: 3814 words
Rating: M
Notes: WIP, canon-divergent

After the Oceanic 815 crash, Jack told Hurley to stay with Claire. Hurley does just that, and they fall in love. In this "LOST in three seasons," people talk to each other more, and most of them actually get to live.


Chapter 27: The Man in the High Cabin

Noonday sun burns Hurley's eyes. He's been walking since before dawn, and he doesn't have much water left. After draining his Oceanic bottle in one long swallow, he unwraps Danielle's map.

Of course it's written in French.

Green glittering insects flit by, take a few sips of sweat, then buzz off. He stares at the map, trying to make sense of it while his stomach rumbles.

Pictures are the same in any language, right? As he runs an imaginary line from the “X” which marks the radio tower up to the Temple sketch, he admits that he should have found the tower by now. How the hell could he have gotten lost, when he has just been up there three days before?

There's no wind, and thus no smell of the sea. Maybe he should wait for the sun to cross the sky towards the west, the direction he has to go. Eventually.

For now, it's too hot to go any further. Hurley crawls under the shade of a broad-leafed tree, curls up, and in minutes is deeply asleep.


* * * * * * * *


When he wakes up, things have gotten worse, because the sun has hidden itself beneath the western tree-line. Worse, his mouth tastes like bird-cage liner, and the big river which runs down the Island's center is on the other side of a steep ridge.

He's got to be the world's biggest idiot. He doesn't want to think about how angry Claire probably is, or that the smell of dinner is rising over the beach camp right about now. Maybe he hasn't gone far enough, and the radio tower will be just up ahead.

On he walks as the unseen sun sinks lower, and a small worm of panic starts to gnaw at his insides. As he snakes around the western cliffs, loneliness washes over him. Other than the cheeping birds and the buzzing insects, he's completely alone.

Again he fumbles with the map, and this time the panic-worm takes a bite, a big one. Hurley doesn't have to know French to understand “Plus dangereux” and “Phenomene etranges.

Oh, great. Strange, very dangerous phenomena. Just what he needs right now.

He has no clue where the radio tower is. For all he knows, he's already passed it. For the first time he wonders what the hell he is even doing out here. So what if there are kids at the Temple? Maybe they washed up just like he did. Maybe the Temple people will lie, just to get rid of him. If they let him go back at all.

If they let him live. Didn't Sawyer say they were hard cases, worse even than the convicts in the Florida state pen?

Oh, Claire, I am so sorry.

He could turn around, try to find his way back to the beach. That won't help Sun and Faith, though. He mops his dripping brow, then decides.

Anything he can find out will be better than nothing.

Long ago, some big rocks rolled down the jungle hillside, leaving enough clearance to maybe get to the top. If he can get high enough, he can look around, maybe see the radio tower. Or the ocean. Anything except this endless green forest.

Even though it's not a hard climb, precious water drips from his face, soaks his neck and back. The panic-worm turns again, telling him that he hasn't peed since mid-morning, and you know what Jack said about that. Besides, who has ever heard of water on top of a hill?

On he pushes, legs seizing with cramps. He wipes his eyes but the blurriness won't go away.

The best part about the hilltop is the cool breeze which washes over him. The low-hanging sun has almost sunk into the sea, although a steep cliff blocks his view of the ocean. To the south he sees a familiar plateau, the radio tower in its midst like a red-and-white toy.

He missed it by a mile. What an idiot he is.

Blue dusk sweeps across the hill, plunging the western cliffs into darkness. He stops, held breathless by a wide vista glowing with evening gold. It's so perfect and peaceful that Hurley almost forgets his stomach, too hungry now to growl, or his sandpaper thirst.

Maybe if he climbs higher still, he can catch a glimpse of the Temple.

Steep volcanic rock formations bar his way, so he flanks them to the north, always north, then picks his way up the dark green hill. Eventually the sun disappears behind the western cliffs, plunging him into blue darkness.

Inside Hurley, something gives way under waves of panic and despair. There's nothing up here, what was he thinking? He trips over a root and sinks to his knees.

Mother of God, at least let me do what I came to do, and get back to tell everybody. Get back to Claire.

Stumbling along, he looks for a banyan tree, or a crevice between two rocks, anyplace to huddle for the night. He's so lost in concentration that he almost walks right into the cabin.

A cabin? He stares, dumbstruck.

It almost grows out of the hillside, covered with vines whose flowers have shut tight for the evening. Even in the dim light its plank boards gleam, freshly oiled and glossy. Warm candle-glow appears through the small front windows. The porch step creaks as he steps onto it.

He takes a deep breath, hesitating. They won't have to put him up or anything. All he really wants is some water. He tries to wet his tongue to speak, but his mouth is completely dry.

Here goes nothing. He raises his hand to knock, but before his knuckles touch wood, the door slowly opens.

Warm light surrounds the silhouette of a man, who gestures for him to come in. “I've been waiting for you, Hugo,” he says. “I'm Jacob.”

Hurley stumbles inside, drawn by the thought of water, as well as the spicy smell of whatever simmers on the wood stove. As he dodges a spinning wheel, all he can think of is the three fairies' cottage from Sleeping Beauty. Gauzy curtains cover the windows, and baskets of colored threads cover the table. Against one wall, a hanging loom supports a half-finished tapestry bright as a rainbow.

Jacob hands Hurley a brimming clay mug, and as his fingers brush Hurley's, Hurley's skin glows with momentary warmth.

Hurley tries hard not to gulp the water which flows through him like living rain and brings his parched tongue to life. He's being washed from the inside. His feet don't hurt anymore; his head lightens like a balloon pulling against its string, and some of his raging hunger subsides.

“Thanks,” he whispers.

Jacob clears the baskets off the table, then fills two bowls from the pot. “Have a seat.” He waits for Hurley to start.

Amazingly, it's chili, red-pepper hot and laden with plump beans. After a few succulent bites, Hurley asks, “How'd you manage this?”

Jacob smiles. “Long ago, some visitors from the Canary Islands brought dried beans. The cumin and cilantro, peppers and tomatoes, they grow everywhere.”

Hurley stops the spoon to his mouth. Something long-forgotten comes to mind, a story he once heard from Grandma Titi. Something about eating magic food, and how you weren't supposed to.

Hopefully Jacob won't take this the wrong way. “Dude, are you... a god? Because Juliet said people thought you were.”

Jacob doesn't laugh, which is a relief. What's not a relief is how downcast he looks. “What is a god, after all?” he says, half to himself. “Most days I just think of myself as the caretaker.” He picks at his food and goes silent.

“Caretaker?”

“Of this place. The Island.”

The water has cleared Hurley's head like nothing ever before. Every line in the woven tablecloth stands out in sharp focus. Flickering candlelight makes the tiny figures on the tapestry appear to move. Energy surges through Hurley, his hunger and thirst forgotten.

His tongue becomes unstuck, almost as if it has a mind of its own. “Are you gonna keep me here? Not let me leave?”

“Not against your will.”

“So you're like, in charge.”

“Yes.”

Hurley rises. “Thanks for the food, Jacob. I don't think I've ever had anything better.” He knows he's enchanted, he has to be. It's not like being drugged, though. In fact, it's the opposite. Best yet, he couldn't lie if he wanted to. It's as if the words flow straight from his brain to his mouth. “Let me give you a hand cleaning up.”

A spring near the cabin flows out of a rocky cleft, its small pool surrounded by moss and ferns. After the dishes are clean, Hurley splashes his face and hair. The cabin appears tiny on the outside, barely big enough for a table and two chairs, nothing like the enormous light-filled room inside.

Jacob doesn't move to go back in, so Hurley doesn't either. For awhile they gaze up at the broad white band of stars, until Hurley says, “So, what about the women?”

“The women?”

“Juliet said they get pregnant and die. You had to know about that, right?”

Starlight floods the clearing, almost as bright as a full moon. Jacob says, “I broke my resolution not to get involved, but the Dharma Initiative didn't listen. They drilled anyway.”

The accident Juliet mentioned, that had to be it. No babies born since 1977. “So those Dharma dudes, like, broke the Island.”

“That's one way to put it.”

“And you just let them.” It's out before Hurley knows it. Oh, great, now he's gone and insulted the Island god.

Jacob doesn't argue, though. He doesn't even look angry, just sad again.

At least Jacob hasn't turned him into a lizard or something, so Hurley takes heart. “Well, you're in charge. Why don't you fix it?”

“I don't need to.”

Even though Jacob has probably saved his life, Hurley can no more control the red rage which flares up, than he can control his blurting mouth. “You sure as hell do need to fix it. My friends, two of them are pregnant, and I don't want to see them die. They may not be the only ones either. Then there's Claire, and even though she and I—“

“Ah, Claire.” Jacob looks even sadder. “I didn't foresee Claire.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Hurley almost shouts.

Jacob stands silent for a few heartbeats, as if deliberating. Decision made, he lays a hand on Hurley's bare forearm. Even though Hurley's still mad as a cut snake, as Claire would say, he starts to calm down.

“I don't have to fix anything,” Jacob says. “Because your people already did.”

“What?” Hurley sinks down on a rock, almost unable to take it in.

Jacob crouches down to join him. “The accident we're talking about took place underneath the Dharma station called the Swan.”

“The one Sayid blew up.”

“That's right,” says Jacob. “I've done this job for a very long time, and I've made mistakes. Allowing the Dharma Initiative to come to the Island was one of two very bad ones.”

“Dude, what is your deal?” A horrific thought comes to Hurley, and he almost springs to his feet, but if he's right, it won't matter. “Do you have some kind of... prime directive?” He can see himself beamed up to the mother ship, probed for ninety years, then let go after everyone he knows and loves is dead. Please, not aliens. Anything but aliens.

Jacob's mood lightens a little. “I didn't come on a spaceship, Hugo. I was born right here on this Island.”

Just as Hurley can't speak an untruth in this strange place, he can also see untruths for what they are. Jacob isn't lying, so Hurley relaxes a little. “You're saying that whatever those scientists did at the Swan, it made the women sick. And we undid it.”

“That's right.” Then, out of the blue Jacob says, “Hugo, were you happy back in Los Angeles? Genuinely happy?”

Hurley doesn't even hesitate. “Not really. But a lot of people have it way worse.” A fierce hunger for Santa Monica washes over him as he sees the joy in his mother's face when she finds him alive. How his dad might be a dumb-ass, but he's been one too. He won't even mind if his mom snarks about him not having to drop a hundred pounds to snag a girl.

A lifetime ago, before he got into the cab to catch his Sydney flight, he gave one look back. Then, the mansion seemed like a barren hotel, empty of guests. Now it feels like home, one he very much wants to get back to.

“Never mind,” Jacob says, as if Hurley has confessed all this out loud. “To answer your question, since the Swan is gone now, your friends will be all right. So will their children.”

“What about those kids Sawyer saw at the Temple?”

“Five years ago, the family escaped East Timor by boat.”

Hurley knows the rest. “And they wound up here instead.” There's no point in going to the Temple now, or hanging around here for that matter. The beach calls, Claire's arms, their soft bed, the apologies he's already rehearsed more than once. Anyway, every scrap of fatigue is gone. He feels like he could walk a hundred miles.

“Like I said, man, thanks for dinner. Guess I'll push on.”

Jacob doesn't press the issue, just collects the plates and cups.

One last thing comes to Hurley's mind, before he goes. “Jacob, you said you made two bad mistakes, and Dharma was one of them. What was the other one?”

Jacob sighs. “It's a long story.”

Something in Jacob's tone makes Hurley say, “I've got time.”

Inside, they settle themselves in front of the pot-bellied stove. As Jacob spins, he begins to speak.

Years from now, Hurley will remember that story only as broken pieces of a long, strange dream: of twins at war from the day of their birth; how one stole the other's birth-right; of the strange magic which binds them in seemingly eternal struggle. How Jacob in a moment of blinding rage turned his brother into a monster.

When Jacob finishes, an entire burlap bag of flax has been spun into thread.

Hurley rises to his feet. “Dude, it's been real.” He knows exactly what he is going to do.

Jacob must as well, because he nods in agreement. “Good luck.”

It doesn't surprise Hurley to see bright morning outside the cabin, instead of moonlight. Before he turns to leave he says, “Can you, um, do something so that he can't just kill me?”

Jacob smiles. “I already did.”


* * * * * * * *


The ground seems to roll beneath Hurley's feet as he speeds along the boar path. Whatever was in the water from Jacob's spring, it hasn't worn off yet. The rising heat doesn't trouble him, and he barely breaks a sweat.

Soon, sooner than he should have, he stands in the midst of a banyan grove. That's not the tree he's looking for, though. The one he wants stands spiky and without foliage, its white branches like bones against all that green. At its base he finds the small metal lapel pin, a heart with wings.

He swallows hard before he looks up, hoping he won't live up to his nickname and hurl.

The dead pilot's body high in the tree doesn't revolt him. He feels only pity, even though the guy looks way fresher than he should have after three months. The birds haven't even picked at him. Sunlight glints off the gold ring on the corpse's left hand.

Hurley is still wondering how he's going to get the body down, when behind him he hears a small cough.

A man leans against a tree, wearing a little smirk and clothing dyed a blue so deep it's almost black. “So my brother sent you.” It isn't a question.

“You can't hurt me,” Hurley says, hoping it's true.

“Why should I want to?”

“You hurt the pilot.”

The man rubs his iron-streaked hair. “I made him an offer he shouldn't have been able to refuse. But he did, so I lost my temper.”

“That happen a lot, dude?”

The dark man shrugs. “Did my brother send you here to lecture me?”

“He didn't send me anywhere. It was my idea.”

“I suppose he tried to sell you on a job. The one he's been trying to get out of for almost two hundred years.”

All at once, Hurley knows why Jacob looked so sad. “Nope. Not that I would have taken it.”

“Smart man. Because as protector of this Island, Jacob's been pretty damned useless.”

“Look, I don't wanna get into family squabbles. I'm just here to make you an offer.”

Hurley and the man look up at the pilot's body at the same time, but the man speaks first. “He already said no.”

“Dude, he's dead. Jacob said that you could do this if it was someone who you spoke with in life, and who was dead but not buried.”

“That's right.”

“So, what's the prob?”

The man squirms, as if caught in a lie. “He didn't tell you all of it. No surprise there. Watch.”

It happens quick as the pause between two breaths. The man swirls, darkens, then twists into a tornado-like form. The grove echoes with clacks, like a train ready to derail. Dead leaves fly about, and even the pilot's body shakes in its perch.

Hurley forces Claire's sweet face to the forefront of his mind, because he wants her to be the last thing he sees before he dies. Even if she's going to kill him dead when he gets back to the beach.

Just to show off, the smoke-thing pulls a bush out of the ground and tosses it like it was a stalk of broccoli. Then, as if bored, the churning mass congeals once more into the shape of a man.

He slouches again, arms folded. “Sure, I could take the pilot's form. But since his will in life didn't bend completely to mine, I won't be able to do that any longer.”

“So?”

The dark man stares, as if in shock.

“So what if you can't turn into smoke and tear up trees. Big deal. You get to be him. You'll know everything he knew, do everything did. You want to get off this Island, right? Dude's a pilot, he flies all over the world.”

“He had a wife and two children,” the dark man muses. “They were the last thing in his mind before he died.”

Maybe this wasn't the best idea after all. “Forget it, man. Sorry I bothered you. Because I can't risk letting you hurt somebody's family.”

The dark man looks shocked. “I saw them too, you know. A strong son and a charming daughter, their mother a buxom, wide-hipped woman still young enough to bear. What do you take me for?”

“Somebody who killed a man 'cause he lost his temper.”

“You don't understand. I'll become him, become buried in him, to the point where I won't even remember myself. Or if I do, it will be only in dreams. He loved them and would never hurt them. Neither will I.”

Living water still courses through Hurley, and he knows the man speaks truth. “Jacob could have, you know, filled me in a little more. He's kinda worse than Yoda.”

“Yoda?”

“Never mind. Your kids'll tell you all about Yoda.”

“It's not so simple as that.”

“Look, I know Jacob told you that you couldn't leave. But that was with your superpowers, man. All you have to do is give them up.”

“That's not what I mean. People haven't changed in two thousand years, Hugo. Given some that I've met since, I'd say they've gotten worse.”

Hurley can't believe what he's hearing. “I think you're afraid. A coward.”

“A what?” The man goes dark around the edges, like an approaching storm cloud.

For the first time Hurley's knees go weak with fear. If Smokey goes all tornado on his ass, he's had it. “Yeah, a coward. Because if you're right, and you really do become this guy—“

“Seth,” the dark man says. “Seth Norris.”

“Things will still suck. People will still die. But at least you won't have to go through the bad stuff alone.”

The man turns away from Hurley, eyes glistening. “Go into that tree over there, and don't come out until I call you. You don't want to see this.”

Hurley crouches inside the biggest banyan tree for what feels like a long time, trying not to listen to the rumbling locomotive noises, the creaking of the trees, the thump of a body hitting the hard ground. Small explosions make the banyan shake, followed by what sounds like earth being gathered and then dumped.

He pushes his fingers in his ears, so that when a hand shakes his shoulder, he jumps, ready to punch. Instead of the dark man, there stands the round-faced Captain Norris, dressed in a filthy and ragged Oceanic uniform.

Norris backs out into the grove, sputtering, “Are you... from the plane?”

“You don't remember me? The talk we had?”

Norris shakes his head. “When we crashed, I blacked out. When I came to, all I remembered was a green blur, and being pulled upward. After that, nothing.”

“That's all?”

“I've got to find the rest of the plane, the radio. Check for survivors. Signal for help.”

It's true. Norris genuinely doesn't remember, and Hurley makes a momentous decision. If they get out of here, a DNA test will show that this man is the captain of Oceanic 815. Although keeping silent is a form of lying, in this case it seems the lesser of two evils.

Hurley has to be sure, though, so he calls for help upon every power on the Island and above it. He prays for clarity, for sight, for truth as he stares deeply into Norris's blue eyes.

It's as he thought. There's nothing of the dark man there; just the pilot, torn by baffled anxiety. “Dude, you had one hell of a head injury,” Hurley says softly. “It's been three months.”

Norris reels, as if Hurley has pushed him over. He stares slack-mouthed, then throws himself onto Hurley's chest and begins to weep.

Hurley pats Norris awkwardly, not sure where to put his hands, embarrassed by the flood of emotion. When Norris steps back, wiping his eyes, Hurley says, “Come on, man. Let's go meet everybody. They're gonna be really glad to see you.”

(continued)

(A/N: The title is borrowed from Philip K. Dick's novel, The Man in the High Castle.)


(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-08 12:46 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Quetzal)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
I love Hurley. He's smart, he reasons, and he curls up to sleep like an animal. Your Hurley SO reminds me of Frank.

Eeek, Jacob. The real Jacob, or his brother? Oh, he's real.

Oh, Hurley - "Prime Directive"! Now, did Jacob pull an eternal life thing on Hurley like he did (I've forgotten his name, the eyeliner guy). Hurley's exhibiting supernatural insight. He won't be happy if he's got eternal life and Claire doesn't.

What a slick way to get rid of the dark man! Although reanimated dead pilot is slightly creepy. Your Dark Man as reanimated dead pilot is way less creepy than Dark Man as Locke, who was WAY creepy and evil. Your reanimated dead pilot seems fairly benign.

Think I'll let this marinate a while and reread later (I'm getting over pneumonia). Another excellent chapter!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-10 10:45 pm (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Quetzal)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
I had never heard of Fridge Horror! I will be reading that for the rest of the evening now.

I agree that when Locke looked into the eye of the Island and found it beautiful, he sold his soul. How can that terrifying smoke monster be beautiful? Insane.

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