stefanie_bean: (lost people)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Title: Come the New Moon, We are Gone
Length: 3570 words
Characters: James "Sawyer" Ford, Libby Smith, multiple original female characters, mention of Charlie Pace, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Claire Littleton
Rating: T
Notes: Set immediately after “Fire+Water,” 2x12. Canon character death; bitchy gossip; supernatural & fantasy elements.
Status: Complete.

Summary: Sawyer calls the castaways who live on the fringe of beach camp life "The Girl Scouts." This is their story.


Chapter 2: Come the New Moon, We are Gone

Sawyer was seriously wounded when he came back with Ana Lucia and her tiny band, but now he's got some of his old swagger back. He ambles up to the circle, keeping a respectful distance. “Afternoon, ladies.”

The group's all thinking the same thing: Ho, ho, he said 'ladies,' so he must want something.

Kathy gives him a cool and collected smile. “Howdy, Sawyer. How's the arm?”

“Right as rain," he answers with a broad grin.

“Fast recovery.”

“I take my vitamins.”

“So what can we do for you?”

“Well, you gals have quite a reputation as soap makers, and I was wondering if your potion worked as well on clothes as your dewy-fresh faces.” He ignores the few sniggers at his stab at flattery.

“We can make you some that'll work better on clothing."

“It'll be worth the wait."

Sawyer says, “Well, you're the bosses. Unless you want to go ahead and sell that recipe for your secret sauce." Met with silence, he adds, “Didn't think so.”

Kathy is ready to bargain. “Five sewing needles, and a pair of scissors. Doesn't matter what kind. In exchange for two coconut bowls' worth of laundry soap.”

“Two needles,” Sawyer retorts.

“I hear sea-water's good for washing clothes, especially boxers,” Kathy says with a mild expression. “Until the sea-water dries, and the salt gets into your skin. In all the tender spots.”

“Three.” He folds his arms.

“Hey, Sawyer,” Shana says. “Why don't you just get some laundry soap from that Hatch? They probably have ten years' worth down there.”

“Well, if you fine ladies at the back of the beach here haven't noticed, Dr. Giggles and his bald sidekick have kind of taken over the Hatch. And I'm not exactly in their club.”

Kathy nods. “We noticed."

“So what's it going to be, gals?”

“Five needles, and a pair of scissors.”

“Four.”

“Done.”

“OK, then,” Sawyer drawls out, satisfied. “I'll bring 'em by right now.”

“Ooh, speedy delivery,” Jane pipes up.

Kathy silences her with a look not hostile, but firm. To Sawyer, she says, “No need. I won't have your soap till tomorrow, anyway.”

“Yeah, well, I know y'all are good for it." His tone is grumbling, but still friendly.

“Hey, Sawyer,” Shana says as he turns to go. “You bunk down there by Claire, right? Could you, like, keep an eye on her?”

Sawyer raises an eyebrow in a way that makes Kathy's heart sink. “Yeah? Now what makes you think Missy Claire needs me to squire her around the cotillion? Last I heard, Colonel Kurtz was moving in.”

“Oh, Christ on a velocipede." Jane's voice is low, but Sawyer hears.

He half-turns around, his face hard. “Delivery's just been canceled, ladies. You can bring my soap down to the beach when it's ready, and get your sewing circle kit then.” He turns and strides back to the sandy, open area of the beach.

“Jane,” Kathy says with a sigh. “You just got yourself a job. You can pick up the needles. And check on Claire, OK?”

“What a tosser," Jane says in disgust, but she nods her head.

“Somebody remind me, we need him why?”

“I thought we talked about not trading with him.”

“Come on, you want him as an enemy?”

“Hey, Kathy, why'd you settle for four needles instead of five?”

“Because he's the kind of man who likes to think he's winning."


* * * * * * * *


The women shift and stretch. Morning is over. It is time to get on with the afternoon's work.

“Man, I'm stiff.”

“Me too, but you know, it's not so bad, sitting on the ground.”

“Don't miss chairs that much anymore.”

“Time to cut some fruit.”

They look over at Libby. With her back still turned towards them, she seems to be asleep, but you never can tell.

“Do you think she'll--”

“She's never followed us before.”

“We should bring more mango this time.”

“I think that what we brought last time was a hit. The old woman looked pleased.”

“Who doesn't like mango?”

“How about more dragon fruit?”

“Dragon fruit is so pretty. The basket should look nice. I think she'd like that.”

“Did you see her smile last time? I mean, she looks a hundred years old, but still--”

“Yeah, that's some smile. Hope I look that good when I'm her age.”

They all fall quiet now. A little old woman lives somewhere out there in the jungle, a mile or so away from the sea, in that part of the forest where the vines are so thick on the trees that you can't even see the trunks. Or maybe the old woman just visits there, because they've never seen a shelter or hut of any kind. There's nothing in the clearing but a pile of flat stones about four feet high, obviously stacked on purpose. The stone pile is surrounded by thick red foliage.

The women first saw her about three weeks ago, as they roamed farther inland than they'd ever strayed before, as they searched for dead-fall. They have agreed to cut no living trees, and dead wood has become increasingly hard to find. The old woman didn't say anything at first, just stood next to the piled-up stones, and smiled at them. She was naked to the waist, with a skirt made of glossy green leaves, and her hair fell in thick ringlets of white-streaked grey.

When the women saw her, the old woman raised her finger to her lips in an unmistakable gesture. Ssshhhh. Don't tell anyone.

So they didn't, and just crept back to the beach camp in stunned silence. No one remembered who first suggested that they go back the next day and bring her some food. After all, she wasn't just old. She was ancient. Maybe she'd been shipwrecked a long time ago. It had to be hard for her to provide for herself.

A few days later, the women went collecting wood again, and a few of them brought along some mangoes, bananas, and a beautiful pinkish-red sea bream which they would have loved to roast for their own lunch. But the old woman probably needed it more than they did.

The old woman wasn't there, though, so they left the fish and fruit at the base of the stone pile. Shana remarked that the old woman had better get that fish pretty soon, or it was going to go over fast, in this heat.

A few days later, the women came back with one of their carved bowls filled with banana-mango salad tossed with coconut cream. This time, the old woman was waiting for them.

She came over to the group, and the top of her head barely came up to the shortest woman's shoulder. Then she began to speak in a language none of them knew, a language more like song than speech. The same cadences rang in the water which flowed in the jungle streams, or resonated in the melodious chatter of birds. Then the old woman stuck her wrinkled finger into the salad and took a taste. Grinning with approval, she sat down and started to eat it right as the women left.

The next time the women came, Shannon went along too. Boone had just died, and they didn't want to leave Shannon alone for too long. Sitting atop the stones were their bowls, scrubbed shiny and clean. The women left their offering and turned to go, when all of a sudden, the old woman glided out of the forest shadows towards them, making no sound at all. She came right up to Shannon and took the food from Shannon's hands, setting it on the ground.

Then to everyone's surprise, the old woman took Shannon's face into her hands and not so much kissed her, as breathed on her, rubbing her wrinkled old nose against Shannon's smooth forehead. What was that about? Shannon didn't know, but she said later that the old woman's breath smelled like roses. The most beautiful roses ever, better than any perfume.

So today the women are here, all of them, and the high afternoon sun beats down on the old woman's clearing. They've arranged dragon fruit, mango, and a few small oranges in a basket, then garnished it with ferns and something that smells like parsley.

Once again, the old woman's waiting for them. After accepting their gift with a small nod, she raises her finger and says something in her waterfall of a language. Her stern expression shows they'd better pay attention.

She clears a spot on the ground, using a fallen palm leaf as a broom. With her wooden walking stick she makes a long, curved line in the sandy soil, then adds wiggly lines like waves.

“The beach,” a few women murmur.

The old woman nods, then draws a few trees with a fire in the center. She points her stick at the women, then at the fire, and then at the women again, getting her point across.

“Our camp.”

As the old woman continues to draw, landmarks become clear.

“Look, there's the edge of that cliff. The steep one.”

“The flat valley. What Hurley calls the Mesa.”

“Yeah, where Dr. Jack plays golf.”

“Hey, that looks like bamboo.”

“The bamboo forest.”

“It's a map.”

“Oh, my goddess, a map.”

The map grows several feet wide on the reddish ground.

“Look at that spot where she's marked.”

“That's the part of the jungle we're not supposed to go.”

“What's it called, the Dark Zone or something?”

“The Dark Territory.”

“Who says we're not supposed to go there?”

“Jack.”

“Screw Jack.”

“Does anybody have any paper?”

No one does. Kathy pulls out a Sharpie marker. “Who's willing to give up her shirt?”

Shana takes off her outer camisole, leaving the one underneath to cover her bra. Kathy copies the map carefully onto the peach cotton. On the ground, the old woman draws a circle right in the center of the Dark Territory, and points to it several times for emphasis.

“What's it for?”

“It's obvious,” Faith declares. “We're supposed to go there.”

“When?”

“How will we know?”

“What are we supposed to do there?”

“Sshhh,” the old woman says, finger to her lips.

“We'll go when the time comes,” Kathy says, and the old woman nods.

“Does she understand us?”

“I don't think--”

"She must."

“Well, then, why--”

Kathy breaks through the chatter and says to the old woman, “When? When do we go?”

The old woman points up to the sky with her stick, then draws a thin crescent moon. She points to the moon, then once more to the sky.

At first the women are befuddled, before they understand. “The moon! The new moon's just come into the sky!” A few of them have started watching the moon, although they haven't paid as much attention to the stars. Sayid told Shannon that the stars were strange, that he didn't recognize them. But the moon, now the moon is the same as she's always been.

The old woman nods, with strength. She draws more moons which grow fatter as she scratches them across the ground. Then they grow thinner again, and thinner still, until there's no moon left at all. That's the one. She points to it three times, to make sure they understand.

Faith is the first to get it. “The dark moon. That's when we're supposed to leave.”

“Makes sense,” Kathy answers. “It'll be easier to slip away.”

The old woman hits the dark moon so hard that sandy dirt flies up.

“Right. At the next dark moon, we're supposed to leave for the spot you showed us on the map. And then stay there. Live there. Until it's safe.”

Yes, the old woman nods. Yes. She places her own hands broadly across her flat old breasts as if to suggest that she will be there too. Waiting for them. Then she gives them a final once-over glance, like a housewife regarding her freshly-scrubbed floor, and turns to go.

Before she can leave, Kathy says, "Wait. What's your name? Who are you?"

"Haumea."

"Haumea?"

"Her name's Haumea?"

"I'm Kathy."

Haumea waves her hand in a gesture of dismissal, as if she already knows all this. Then she hands her stick to Kathy.

“You want me to keep this?”

Haumea nods.

Kathy gives a little bow. It seems the right thing to do. "Thank you."

The rest of the women pick up the chorus. "Thank you." "Thank you.”

But Haumea, the old woman of the forest, has already melted into the deep green shadows, and is gone.

For some strange reason, the thicket is full of dead-fall today, and they gather as much as they can carry.

The stick is a beautiful thing, covered with circular designs carved into the dark reddish wood. As they walk back to camp, Shana asks Kathy, “Do you think she made this?”

“I dunno. Look at the polish on the surface. It's like glass. If you like it, take it.”

“Hey, she gave it to you.”

“We can share.”

As they walk back to the beach camp, the rest of the women can hardly suppress their excitement.

“Not a word of this. To anyone.”

“The guys can come. Craig. Brian.”

“Kenneth. He's helped us a lot.”

“Yeah, he's a good guy.”

"Jerome, too."

"Don't forget Doug."

"Sylvie, I know you can't forget him."

Sylvie blushes.

“Rose and Bernard?”

“Nah, Rose likes Charlie. It's like he's her pet or something. He goes sniffling to her about Claire, and she tells him Claire doesn't really mean it, yadda yadda.”

“Ugh.”

“What about Sayid? Shannon would have wanted him to come.”

“Sayid's changed.”

“Look, I know he's sad over Shannon, but--”

“Yeah, can you blame him?”

“No, but he's changed. Watch him. You'll see what I mean.”

“What about Hurley?”

Everyone waits for Kathy to speak, but she just marches on through the green jungle, her shoulders rigid. Finally she says, “No." The word tears out of her like a fish hook stuck in your hand, one you have to push all the way through to release it from the tender flesh.

“Why?”

“I mean, he's so not an asshole.”

"He's the anti-asshole."

“And strong. Did you see him lift those food pallets? When he gave all that food away, from that Hatch thing?”

“No!” Kathy repeats, a little too loudly.

Everyone stops.

“Oh, I get it. Libby.”

“She has a point. Hurley can't keep a secret to save his neck.”

“Libby can get anything out of him.”

“All she has to do is drop a bra-strap.”

Another game of theirs is to bet how long it will take for two people at the beach camp to wind up sleeping together under the same tarp. The women are remarkably good at it, and their guesses are usually on the mark. But this time they don't do it, out of respect for Kathy's feelings.

This isn't the reason Kathy said no, not really, but Kathy doesn't say anything at first. She can't explain why she thinks asking Hurley along would place at the top of the stack of very bad ideas. “Look, trust me on this, OK? In the short run it would be great. In the long run--” She stops, defeated by her inability to explain this new way of knowing. Of seeing.

No matter, they've already started moving on again, laden with wood but with spirits lighter than they've been since the crash, and their thoughts turn to preparations. Now that they have something to do, they focus on the tasks like light through a magnifying glass.

“We need to get ready.”

“Get our stuff packed. Dry some fish.”

“A lot of fish. And those calamari things. They last forever.”

“But on the sly.”

“Let's build fish-drying stands. We can say that it's for trade.”

“Nobody is going to notice,” and it is true. They all feel it at once, how un-noticed they are by most of the people at the beach.

“We could walk out of there tomorrow, and no one would miss us,” Shana says, finally.

They're quiet for a moment, as the weight of it settles on them.

“Well, not no one.”

“Yeah. But for all practical purposes--”

As they come in sight of the beach camp, Sylvie remarks, “I'm going to miss seafood."

“Maybe we won't be out there in the Dark Territory for very long.”

If they knew their stay would extend for three years, perhaps their hearts would not be so light.


* * * * * * * *


In the remaining daylight hours, the women work quietly, sharing their anticipation only through little glances or touches on the shoulder. Each is like a woman newly pregnant with a baby long expected and prepared for, but who doesn't want to tell anyone yet. Jane and Faith tell the men about their encounter with the old woman in the clearing. The others lash together bamboo poles for drying racks, stopping occasionally to stir their dinner of taro root stew.

As twilight approaches, it's too late to collect soap plants, and the drying racks are done. Shana and Jane, Meredith and Sirrah take their nets and head down to the tide pools, to fish for squid and octopus.

Before they go, Kathy hands the old woman's stick to Shana. "It might come in handy."

"Hey, I'm not that old. I think I can make it to the tide-pools and back without a cane."

Shana takes it anyway, though, and it balances light and strong in her hand. Once they cast their nets, it takes almost no effort to fill their baskets to overflowing. They have to stop when they run out of room. Never before has anyone had such a catch, not even the Korean fisherman, Jin. It's almost as if the soft little creatures are swimming directly into their nets.

Evening clothes the sea in a purple robe fringed with sea-foam lace. The women build a small fire, and over the coals they roast a late supper of octopus. Soon Hurley thumps along, kicking up sand in a half-jog. Recently he's been power-walking up and down the beach, pacing like some huge beast in its cage. Meredith and Sirrah don't get why he's doing it, but Jane and Shana do, and hot anger burns inside them.

“Hey, Hurley."

He stops in front of Shana. She squeezes a lemon over the rows of boneless little bodies browning on their bamboo slivers. “Look at all the octopus we caught. Come over and have some.”

“Hey, Shana. Love to, but I gotta exercise.” He bends down to sniff the fragrance, though. “Hi, Meredith. Hi, Sirrah. Yo, Jane.”

“Oh, come on, Hurley, sit down. We don't see you around much anymore.”

He laughs the weak laugh of a man with secret preoccupations.

Shana pulls an octopus shish-kebab off the fire. As she hands it to him, she thinks, What a damn shame we can't bring him with us.

Hurley praises the food, and Shana gladly gives him more without being asked. He eats like a man tired of his own cooking, but it's more than that. Every bite seems to represent some great struggle between shame and desire. For an instant, Shana gets a glimpse of two armies locked in mortal struggle on a vast battle plain.

Then the vision passes, and all she's left with is the sense that Hurley has a bitter journey ahead of him, one which leads through deep woods mired in darkness, and not the ones to which they go. But some kind of enormous promise surrounds him, too. A huge one. If she were more old-fashioned, she might even call it destiny.

All at once, Shana understands that Kathy was right to not ask Hurley to join them.

He thanks them, and there's that smile again, fainter than it used to be, but still shining like a lighthouse in the harbor.

Jane wraps a half-a-dozen skewers of roasted octopus in a rag, to keep out the sand. "Be a love and take these down to Claire, would you now?"

He grins, and takes off down the beach to where Claire lives. This time he doesn't jog, but rambles along at his usual pace, whistling some short, tuneless bars.

Meredith puts out the fire while Shana and Sirrah gather up the catch.

Jane scans the beach, up and down, back and forth, an old habit formed in the days when they still thought a ship or plane might rescue them. When she spies Charlie sitting alone by a sputtering fire, she gives Shana a nudge. They watch with shrewd calculation as Sawyer joins him. The two men soon put their heads together, deep in conversation.

“Looky there,” Shana says.

“Isn't that cozy."

"Wonder what that's all about."

"What's Charlie doing down at this end of the beach?"

"Dunno, maybe he's slumming."

"Those two are thick as thieves, aren't they?"

"Whatever they're talking about, Sawyer's pretty adamant."

"I don't like it."

Sirrah just sighs. “I'm so ready to get out of here.”

Shana agrees. “It's going to be a long month."

Above them, the crescent moon flickers, thin as the worn edge of an old coin left in a drawer, long forgotten.

(The End)


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