stefanie_bean: (hugo and sun)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 2: Budai, Budai
Pairing: Hurley/Sun
Characters: Hugo Reyes, Sun Kwon, Carmen Reyes, David Reyes, Kate Austen
Rating: M
Length: 2269 words
Notes: Complete

A sensual, bittersweet tale of what happened when Hurley went to visit Sun in Seoul.

Chapter 2: Budai, Budai

Your faith was strong, but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to the kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

- L. Cohen, “Hallelujah”

Hugo found a tailor over in Culver City who claimed that he could run up a suit in a few days. “Those award ceremonies,” the wrinkled old man said with a grin as he wrapped his tape measure around Hugo's middle, not even commenting about the inchage. “They're my bread and butter.”

The price was staggering, with payment in full in advance. Hugo counted out the hundred-dollar bills in front of the tailor, who seemed completely unflapped at the size of the pile on the counter. It occurred to Hugo that one reason rich people acted like gods was because of the freedom which money brought. He could walk into any airport and fly anywhere the planes went. If he needed clothes (and it was hard enough to find clothes, he knew that from long experience), and had a little time, there they were.

It almost became too easy after awhile. It went to your head.

The suit displeased Hugo, although he had to admit the fit was good, better than any he had before. Its wide lapels and pinstripes of glittering thread made him look like an enforcer for the Mob. It was too late to have another one made, though.

Because of that suit, security at the LAX international terminal was a bit more thorough with him than they needed to be. That, and the cash he'd never gotten out of the habit of carrying.

Hugo couldn't sleep on the long flight to Seoul, and found himself thinking more of Sun's late husband Jin-Soo Kwon than of Sun herself. It seemed so long ago that the Oceanic 815 survivors had first come to live on the beach, on the Island. Sun's husband Jin could only speak Korean, it seemed, but not everyone thought so. The talk around the beach camp was that he was just faking it, to have an excuse to go off with his wife so that they could live by themselves, so that they wouldn't have to chip in with the increasing amounts of work required for basic survival.

One day shortly after the crash, Hugo decided to test Jin. It was a dangerous experiment, because Jin had quite a temper, and was intensely jealous besides. Hugo sidled up to Jin while Jin was cleaning fish, and said in a conversational tone, “Your wife is hot.” If Jin took a swing at him, Hugo was prepared to roll on the sand in a fetal position, hoping and praying that someone would come quickly enough to pull Jin off before Jin broke something critical in Hugo's face.

Jin had just looked puzzled, and had gone on cutting out fish guts for chum, throwing occasional tidbits to the gulls which waited at a respectful distance.

Hugo wasn't lying about Sun. He and practically every other man on the beach had been watching her, especially Michael Dawson. Jin's fierce hatred of Michael had prompted Hugo's cautious yet perverse desire to test the limits of Jin's understanding.

Sun had a way about her, that was for sure. She moved with demure, restrained grace, but something smoldered in her eyes when she thought no one was looking.

At first, Sun and Jin had fought so much that Hugo thought they might break up. Not that he'd have a snowball's chance with her if that happened. For one thing, there was Michael, and how she looked at him, and how it seemed that whenever Michael wasn't around on the beachfront, Sun wasn't either.

For another, every time Hugo talked to Sun, either his tongue froze in his mouth, or he said something really stupid. That didn't stop her from setting his imagination on fire, though.

His shelter sat right next to theirs, where more often than not, their high-pitched quarrels in Korean ended in soft cries and whispers, followed by the long quiet breathing which follows love-making.

Sun, in short, was out of his world, out of his league, and not just because of that giant glittering rock on her left hand.

When the taxi dropped Hugo off at the Seoul Gateway Hotel, he gaped for a moment like the tourist he was, taking it all in. But the tall, steep mountains which ringed the city reminded him too much of the Island, so he turned away and headed for the green-marbled hotel entrance.

A bellman in a top hat opened a brass-trimmed door, letting loose a bevy of girls wearing University of Seoul sweatshirts.

The girls clustered around him at the base of the marble steps, blocking his path. Chattering in Korean, they poked and prodded each other, until one reached out and patted his stomach. Then two more did the same, saying “Budai, Budai,” in between small laughs.

Another one said, “Snorlax.” That he did understand, but he couldn't frown, because they were so amusingly birdlike, so obviously not meaning to hurt his feelings, and anyway, he'd been called worse things.

When a small young woman wearing a Hello Kitty headband exclaimed, “Totoro,” it sent the whole group into gales of laughter. Suddenly, as if a wind pushed them on their way, the little flock fluttered down the sidewalk on a course all of their own, leaving him smiling and a little embarrassed at the same time.

* * * * * * * *

Sun had sent a driver to take Hugo to her apartment, which was just as well. The silent chauffeur wound his way through snarled streets hung with more neon than Hugo had ever seen in his life. Sun's gleaming high-rise stood in the midst of a tangle of small streets all crammed with tall thin buildings, a vertical neighborhood which rested at the base of the mountain's encircling arms.

“Paik Sun-Hwa,” he told the doorman, who nodded and made him wait for a minute in the lobby until she was ready. Then, when confronted with her closed apartment door, he barely had the nerve to knock, dreading and desiring whatever might happen next.

When the door opened, the last thing Hugo expected was to get pulled into the circle of Sun's slender arms. She stood on tip-toe, and he bent over so she could reach him better. He let his face rest in her hair, as he breathed in the scent of her delicate perfume. Everything about her was luxurious, from her cashmere dress to the spacious apartment which gleamed of dark polished wood and pale upholstery.

“You made it,” Sun said. “I still can't believe you came all this way.”

“Are you kidding?” There didn't seem to be anyone else in the apartment, although from the other room came faint, cooing baby noises. “Is anyone else coming?”

She shook her head, but didn't look all that disappointed. “Kate didn't want to leave Aaron. Sayid was afraid he wouldn't be able to get into the country. And Jack...” Her voice trailed off.

“Yeah, I know about Jack,” Hugo said. “So it's just us.” A swelling wave of hope and fear passed over him. This was excellent. Before he could stop himself, the long glad syllable left his mouth and hung in the air between them. “Good.”

Under her pale porcelain makeup she flushed faintly pink. “The nanny has gone out for some formula, but she'll be back soon. Would you like to see the baby?”

In the bedroom, a little bundle of coral and white squirmed in her crib, cooing at some unseen presence up in the far corner of the ceiling. When Sun picked the baby up, she gave a little squeak, as if her mother had interrupted something important.

“Would you like to hold her?”

“I dunno. My grandpa always said I had two left hands, and needed to grow a right one.”

Sun smiled and handed him the baby. “I trust you. I saw you with Aaron, remember. Her name is Ji Yeon.”

“How old is she?”

“Almost four months.”

“She's so tiny,” Hugo remarked as he gathered the baby into his arms. He started to sway back and forth, not even aware he was making soothing, rocking movements. Little Ji Yeon curled up against him. “Aaron was almost twice her size when he was way younger.”

“Boys are often bigger than girls,” Sun answered, but a look passed between them. Even someone who knew nothing about babies would have noticed how huge Aaron was.

“Island mojo, I guess,” Hugo said. Sun gave a little formal smile, not like the bright wide grins of the girls outside the hotel. He thought he'd better change the subject. “Hey, Sun. What's 'Budai' mean?”

Sun hesitated a moment. “Budai,” she repeated, correcting his pronunciation. “Where did you hear that?”

“Oh, just around the hotel.”

“He's the god of prosperity and good luck.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

The front door opened. “Excuse me,” Sun said, and spoke in Korean to the nanny, as the woman put away formula in the kitchen.

When Sun came back, Hugo looked at the baby and said, “She's so awesome. And she looks just like Jin.”

Sun's smile this time was even smaller and sadder. “Yes, she does,” she said, her face a cool, composed mask which shut out the world. She avoided Hugo's eyes and focused instead on the tiny girl nestled on his chest. “She's so comfortable there. It's a shame to disturb her.”

It was Hugo's turn to flush now. With a hint of a tremor he said, “I guess we should, like, go see him.”

“Of course,” she answered, blank-faced again as she took the baby from his arms.

They rode all the way to the cemetery without saying anything, the sleeping baby in her car seat between them like a barricade.

Sun cried as she knelt before the brightly-polished new tombstone, and said a lot in Korean which she didn't share with him. Ji Yeon woke up during the drive to his hotel, so Sun busied herself soothing the fussing baby while Hugo stared out at the rolling scenery.

All too soon, the driver pulled up to the Seoul Gateway's entrance. Sun turned to Hugo and said in an uneven voice full of suppressed feeling, “There was another reason I asked you to come. It's something I haven't been able to do yet. I don't think I can, not by myself.”

“Sure,” said Hugo, mystified. “Anything, Sun.”

“I want to go see Jin-Soo's father. Will you come with me? It will take a few days to arrange. I've tried to contact him by phone, but he hasn't returned my calls. So I'm going to send someone to tell him that we are coming.”

“Sun, are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, if he hasn't called you back.”

“He lives in a fishing village over by Incheon. He may be out on his boat. He's an old-fashioned man, and I remember Jin-Soo telling me that he didn't carry a phone.”

The driver was waiting, and cars were backing up behind them. “OK,” Hugo said. “You know where to find me.” He got out and waited for her to do the same so that he could hug her good-bye, but she stayed in the car. She didn't look at him or wave as the car drove off.

The hospitality staff at the Seoul Gateway were more than happy to book Mr. Reyes for an extended visit. Hugo canceled his flight back to Los Angeles, and didn't reserve another one. He wasn't much of a tourist, though, and the prospect of spending three or four more days in Seoul made his midsection churn with anxiety.

That evening, he watched an incomprehensible Japanese television show with Korean subtitles called Kaiju Big Battel. It was supposed to be funny, but he wasn't laughing. In fact, his own situation was too close to the victims in the show, buffeted about by big foam mallets of circumstance.

He ordered nachos with cheese and diet Coke from room service, wincing at the $55.00 price in American dollars. When the chips came, he pushed them idly around the tray, not hungry, pulled here and there by frustration and indecision.

His room faced westward, and he got up to pull the drapes against the rapidly fading twilight. In the near view sprawled the city, whose jeweled spread of lights stopped abruptly at the foot of dark mountains. Their hulking shapes crouched like giants, back-lit by the orange and purple of the setting sun.

As he closed the drapes, his heart sank. He couldn't stay here. He would call Sun and beg off. She would have to understand.

Hugo knew only too well the calling cards of his internal demons. The longer he had lived on the Island, the more they had faded, until they were a dim bad memory, seldom thought of. He remembered how Rose hadn't wanted to return to “the real world,” as she had put it, because she was afraid her cancer would come back. It was like that.

He'd felt pretty good when he first had returned to Los Angeles. Well, good except for all the lies, and his parents' incomprehension and nagging. But now his demons danced on the horizon of his thoughts, the way the setting sun flickered on the tops of the Korean mountains, and he couldn't risk it. Not again.

Just as Hugo reached for his phone, it rang. He answered it without looking at the caller ID, and his heart raced at Sun's little voice. She was at the hotel right now, in the lobby. What was his room number? She would like to come up.



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