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Title: Xanadu
Chapter 5 Title: Dark Soul of the Night
Chapter 5 Length: 1384 words
Characters: Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Claire Littleton, Kate Austen, James "Sawyer" Ford, John Locke
Pairing: Hurley/Claire
Rating: T
Notes: Takes place during "Eggtown," 4x04. Complete.

Hurley and Claire get to know each other better as they watch the cult favorite, "Xanadu."


Chapter 5: Dark Soul of the Night

The porch light went on, and the front door to Claire's house opened. Claire's house, it was now and would so be for the rest of its short life, because Kate would never again sleep there, until that time when a whizzing shell would blow it to pieces with Claire inside.

Carrying the wet shirt, Hugo made his way to the clothesline, fumbling for wooden pins in the dark. He didn't see the shadowy figure of the man who watched him intently from the shadows, half-hiding behind a clump of beech trees. Nor did Hugo see the glint of hatred in Locke's eyes, nor the clenched set of his jaw.

A bird chirped directly overhead, almost mocking. In its wake rose a faint feathery rustle, too light to be wind, too quiet to be heard except within the dim recesses of the heart.

"Disgusting," Locke whispered as he watched Hugo's shirtless figure, although the words weren't entirely his own. He could barely discern anymore which thoughts were his and which came from that inner presence which he called "the voice of the Island."

He tried to puzzle out how this had happened without him even seeing it. Hugo and Claire, how impossible. Ridiculous, even. And she had seemed like such a nice girl, too, devoted to Charlie Pace, even though that sullen little lout hadn't been worth it. Not that he, John Locke, could be worth it either.

More faint echoes of that inner voice formed in his mind. Perhaps she sails with the sisters of Lesbos, it whispered.

At first Locke didn't know what that was supposed to mean. He also knew better than to ask, because the voice never answered. Lesbos? Lesbian? Then he got it. Why else would a woman pick a man whose breasts were bigger than hers?

"Well, that explains a lot," Locke dryly whispered to himself.

A response snickered in Locke's mind, unpleasant like the too-close buzz of an insinuating, suggesting wasp. You watch, but do not act. If you want the woman, take her.

Locke said nothing. Amazing how the Island seemed to know so much about him, but not everything. And especially not that. "All in good time," Locke whispered.

Like a bolt out of nowhere, the old bitterness hit again, because there was Claire standing in the doorway now, framed by an aureole of yellow light. Her smile hurt because it wasn't directed at him.

Hugo thumped back up onto the porch, where he and Claire stood talking in the fresh night breeze, while scraps of words not his own flew through Locke's mind. She's fair, flashed one phrase, with the taste of golden hair about it, of pearly-pale skin and delicate beauty. Her hips have been duly tried flickered by, too, and he puzzled that one out for a second before blushing red in the dark.

Some jerk running around in Australia had a son, one he neither knew nor cared about, and good men like him, John Locke, men who respected women when they didn't act like tramps, well, he went without. She could bear for you, came the final unbidden thought, which made Locke clench his jaw even harder.

He stopped himself at once. One thing you could say about anger management class was that it sure taught you how to loosen that jaw. The last thing he needed was a cracked tooth. The Island could do a lot; that he was even walking around was proof of that. But fixing a tooth, well, the only dentist was down at the beach camp on the other side of the Island.

While Locke didn't think Bernard would refuse help even to the likes of him, his wife Rose was another story. When the two groups had parted ways at what remained of Oceanic 815's fuselage, Rose had looked right through him with icy hatred and contempt. It was almost as if she knew.

Rose had been healed by the Island. Locke had been, too, but not completely. Yes, he could walk, which was a miracle in and of itself. Other things had been set right, small things, each one of which by itself wasn't all that serious. But time and age took a toll on a body, and every new ache, every minor infirmity arrived never to depart, until each day was made up of a whole host of tiny pains, each more annoying and ultimately depressing than the last.

Those pains, though, had mostly vanished. The throbbing around his old kidney-donation scar, the sluggish digestion, the pounding morning headaches: all gone.

All except for one affliction, the one that had arrived with his paralysis. The rehabilitation center doctor had told him the news in tones of syrupy, professional kindness. Sometimes it wasn't permanent. Sometimes function did return. If not, there were methods. Surgery. Devices. That was when Locke had started to shout, and his angry cries had driven the doctor out of the room.

Shortly after the crash, as soon as Locke could be decently alone, he had found a shadowed place deep in the forest. There, observed only by the mocking birds, he called forth every memory, every fantasy, every image from every pornographic movie, every lewd conversation he'd had on multiple 1-900 calls. Nothing happened. Nothing. He chalked it up to anxiety over the crash, and the odd sense of never being completely alone.

Then he had tried again when he went to live down in the Swan Station, but nothing ever happened, not in the morning before he rose to make water, not even in sleep, or dreams. He was dead down there, as dead and paralyzed as his legs had been.

So on that day a month ago, when Claire in a timid but friendly voice had asked Locke if she and the baby could sleep down in the Swan Hatch with him, he had frozen in panic, and fumbled for some hasty excuse. No, he said, it was too noisy. There was an alarm. It might wake the baby. But that wasn't it at all. What terrified him more than anything was what she would think if she were to slide into his bunk one night, as he knew she would, and find him not to be a man at all.

Locke had watched the women survivors who clustered at the beach, how they sat in groups and talked while they worked, their voices rising and falling like the calls of birds. How could women talk so much? What could they possibly have to say, hour after hour? The women chirped merrily until Locke, or Charlie, or James would walk by, and then they fell silent until the man in question had passed. Then the prattle picked up again.

Locke had envisioned how all those chattering voices would talk about him, were they to learn of his failure. Back then he thought, not for the first time, I'd have to kill them. Whoever told the secret, whoever exposed his shame. I'll kill them all, if necessary.

Then Claire retreated into the house, covered by Hugo's huge silhouette as he followed. As he pulled the door shut behind him, the lock gave an audible click. Peering through the living room window, Locke could see the two of them still talking, and at one point their heads came so close they almost touched.

Locke ran his hand over his own pate, wiping away clammy sweat. Shameless she was, and with a baby in the house, too. Inside he groaned a little, torn between disgust and desire.

The strange presence in Locke's mind delivered its final salvo. Your loss, the voice said before fading away. "Wait," Locke called out, aloud this time. "You said I could meet you again, at the cabin. That you would tell me what to do." But no one, nothing answered.

Overhead the birds cawed. If John Locke had not been so desperately clinging to his last few rags of sanity, he would have said they called out in triumph. Then the lights from inside Claire's cabin went out, plunging the whole of the Barracks into darkness. Alone in the pit of the night, John Locke stared into that black hole where Xanadu would never be.

(continued)


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