stefanie_bean: (lost people)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 2: Deliberate Disguises (2962 words)
Pairing: Ben/Annie
Characters: Benjamin Linus, Annie, Roger Linus, Horace Goodspeed, Ethan Rom, Richard Alpert, Charles Widmore, Jacob
Rating: T
Status: Complete

Summary: She was the light of his dark childhood, until she disappeared. Then she returned, promising love in the midst of war.

Chapter 2: Deliberate Disguises

Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves...
Behaving as the wind behaves

- T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Annie went to work serving in the cafeteria where the Dharma scientists took their meals. Her father must have gotten his work assignment changed, because he spent more time working with the Goodspeeds, and didn't go up to the Tempest Station that much anymore. On most evenings and weekends Annie baby-sat Ethan, who at eight was a handful, his boundless energy unspent because there were no other children his age to play with.

Of all the Dharma Initiative children, Ethan Goodspeed was the last.

That marked the dawn of Ben's and Annie's days. He stole the security code, and the two of tehm slipped past the sonic fence into the jungle. Ben navigated the paths to the Good People as easily as he crept around his own dark house, trying not to wake Roger. Annie, though, had never left the Barracks, never wandered through the towering green jungle. Every indrawn breath of hers, every expression of wonder sent Ben's heart soaring.

Then one day, by the big river which split the Island in two, Ben and Annie ran into Richard.

At first Ben thought Richard would be angry that they explored the woods. Instead, Richard spoke so kindly to Annie that within fifteen minutes she was wiping away tears. She hated her parents, she told him. Her father had driven her mother away, and her mother had left without even looking back. Ben knew Richard well enough to know how interested he was in what Annie had to say, especially the parts about the Tempest Station and what the Dharma Initiative had going on up there.

At one point Richard put his arm around Annie, and drew the sniffling girl close to his chest. A flash of adult jealousy licked through Ben, so hot that he wanted to slit Richard's throat right then and there. When Richard caught the look in Ben's eye, he let the girl go at once. Ben pulled Annie to him so that she nestled in his arms, wiped her face on his shirt sleeve, as Richard told them about the next stage of the war.

For war was coming, they could bet on that.

As if it had been her idea all along, Annie wanted to help. Richard promised that someday she and Ben could leave the Dharma village, to live with Jacob's People out in the great jungle. For now, though, Annie was to work in the cafeteria and keep her ears open for anything about the Tempest. If her father had any papers or blueprints locked away at home, Richard could use those, too. Finally, Annie was to help Ben make lists of everyone who went in and out of the Barracks, as well as on and off the Galaga, the Dharma Initiative submarine.

So while Ben pushed his mop, Annie dished up macaroni salad and canned-beef Stroganoff in the Barracks cafeteria, and they both spied on the Dharma Initiative.

Roger, though, Roger never changed. He couldn't go back to Portland because of the debts he had racked up working for Dharma. Food, clothing, and a modest house were all provided, as well as a salary and a generous sign-on bonus. Nor did Roger pay any taxes; he never figured out how that worked. It had sounded pretty good at the time: all expenses paid, wages tax free.

In a rare fit of honor, Roger used his sign-on bonus to settle his many debts before leaving Oregon. It didn't stop there, either. Disoriented and lonely, Roger joined the poker games run by his new best buddies in the motor pool. Too late he discovered that underneath the beer and camaraderie, the smiling men weren't rookie players at all. Instead, they snookered him good.

Roger's new friends told him that non-payment meant a midnight ride outside the fence, and people usually didn't come back from those. Not in one piece, anyway.

Then there were all the little luxuries. Roger only drank sour Dharma beer or tannic wine when there was nothing else. Whiskey, cigarettes, the potato chips and beef jerky strips which he craved, all those things cost money.

Not just any normal amount of money either. All these treats had to be shipped to the Island at high cost, and the charges went onto Roger's account, with interest. The more Roger hated, the more he drank, and the more he drank, the more his debt slavery deepened. All Roger's hatred focused on Horace Goodspeed, whom he blamed for getting him into this mess in the first place.

Ben didn't hate Horace, and not just because Horace's office provided the choicest morsels for Richard's consumption. Annie spent many an evening babysitting Ethan while Horace and Amy went to meetings. Amy rifled through Amy and Horace's drawers, as well as the delectable contents of their refrigerator, stocked with delicacies like butter, whipped cream and chocolate.

Best of all, the Goodspeeds didn't mind if Ben visited when Annie was there. Ethan loved them both, too. He begged for Annie to watch him even when Horace and Amy didn't have meetings, and soon Annie watched Ethan almost every evening. Horace and Amy were fond of the quiet, self-possessed girl, even though they didn't feel as sorry for Ben as they should have, not with his staring eyes and stiff mannerisms.

After Ethan had gone to sleep, Ben and Annie would sit on the front porch, kissing and whispering softly. Once Annie asked, “They won't hurt Horace and Amy when they come, will they?”

“Of course not,” Ben answered. If he said that he really didn't know, Annie might pull her small hand out of his. He had tried to ask Richard that very question, but all Richard said was that in time of war, a man had to decide what side he was on. The Dharma people weren't good people, even the kind ones.

Once Ben and Annie fully joined the genuine Good People, they would understand. Until then, Ben would just have to trust Richard, because by trusting Richard, Ben and Annie were actually trusting Jacob. That's how you knew if you were one of the Good People: you trusted Jacob. Jacob knew what was right. He knew who was good, and who wasn't. And one day, the Dharma Initiative would have to go.

* * * * * * * *

At first Annie and Ben slept together in the forest, but stopped when they discovered how many eyes there were in the jungle, always spying, always watching the Dharma folk as they went to and fro. Her own house was out of the question, because Annie's father didn't go to work anymore. He spent his days inside in a darkened bedroom, lying on the bed or sitting in a chair with head in hands. The Goodspeed's house was fine for necking on the porch or raiding the refrigerator, but Ethan was watchful and sometimes walked in his sleep.

So they trysted in the abandoned houses which grew more dust-covered and musty with time. Annie had brought a year's worth of pills from Los Angeles, and Ben tried not to think of why she had them in the first place. Eventually she ran out, so she scrounged what few prophylactics she could find in the abandoned houses. One night she rummaged through the infirmary's sparsely-stocked shelves, but didn't find anything.

She asked around the cafeteria, or the community center where the remaining few women gathered to knit or dabble in water-colors. Those young enough to worry about pregnancy all had had operations, the women told her. One of the new requirements if you wanted to stay on the Island.

Annie was too embarrassed to ask what kind of operation.

“We're out of the market,” one older woman laughed.

Another woman fixed Annie with a stern look. “You'd better be careful, missy,” but clammed up after that.

The new Staff medical station was now operational. Its symbol was the winged rod of Hermes entwined with two serpents. "MDG: Medical Group research, Fert." was all that Ben could find in Horace's papers. From the account ledgers, Ben could tell that it was expensive, even more costly than the Tempest which Annie's father had tried to keep so concealed. Or maybe Horace was just dipping into the funds. What was Horace spending all that money on, at a medical station?

Ben had dutifully passed the documents on to Richard. No pills were on the inventories, but Dharma was getting sloppy, so maybe there were some already down there.

It was only half a day's walk, so Ben and Annie left early the next morning.

When they arrived, they weren't alone. Richard would have been proud of how they blended right into the underbrush, as the Good People had taught them. Black-clad Dharma security men tromped down the path, followed by a researcher who had given Ben science books in his childhood years.

That wasn't all. Between them, the security men frog-marched a bound, struggling girl, blinded by a bag over her head. Even though Ben and Annie couldn't see her face, her ragged earth-colored clothes showed her to be one of Jacob's People.

The Dharma men thought they had cleverly concealed the Staff's entrance, but any one of the Good People could have found it on a night with no moon. The girl must have sensed the open door, because she gave a mighty kick to the right, then the left. One of the security men let her go, and she would have gotten away had not the other man clubbed her on the head, hard.

Down she went like a sack of flour.

“Sorry,” the security man said.

“That doesn't matter,” the researcher answered. “Her head's not the part of her that we need.”

Ben and Annie gaped from behind their leafy screen, eyes wide with horror. They slipped back into the forest, pills forgotten. Never before had they dared approach the Good People's camp, but now they did. Twenty of Jacob's People stared at them in stone-faced silence, along with Richard and Charles Widmore.

When Widmore heard what Ben and Annie's story, his face grew red down to the roots of his thinning hair. From the dark shadows where the firelight didn't reach, someone called out, “Ellie would have never put up with this.”

Another added, “She'd have stopped it in its tracks.”

“Nipped it in the bud,” came another voice.

This enraged Widmore even more. Without so much as a thank-you, he snarled that Ben and Annie had best get their disobedient little arses back to the Barracks before he horse-whipped them in front of everybody. He would take care of this situation himself.

The next day Ben and Annie sneaked out again, drawn as much by curiosity as the search for pills. The Staff station door stood wide open, and they almost tripped over a white medical lab coat soaked through with blood. Neither Ben nor Annie learned who the prisoner was, or what had happened to her. Nor did they ever see that particular Dharma researcher again.

All Ben and Annie knew was that the cold war had just turned hot.

* * * * * * * *

Over the next few months, Ben began meeting with alone with Richard and Widmore, behind Annie's back.

Annie sensed the change. Where did he go all the time? Why couldn't they move in together, live as a couple? She was tired of sleeping with him in other people's houses, on other people's stale sheets, looking at the abandoned pictures on their walls, then creep home and pretend to her father that nothing was going on. Not that her father noticed, anyway.

Ben put the question to Richard, who issued a short, sharp “No.” Ben was no longer a child, but there was something he and Annie needed to understand. They hadn't been ready to hear it before, but now they were. The Good People were like an army, because they fought for what was right. But they were like monks, too.

Yes, some of the Good People paired up, as Charles had with Ellie, even though those two hadn't stayed together. But the most dedicated among them didn't waste their time on marriage or families. Those were for people who weren't serious. Jacob had neither wife nor child, and the Good People were to emulate him as closely as possible. Their cause was to do Jacob's will, to devote themselves to Jacob entirely, body and soul.

If Ben and Annie were going to serve Jacob, they couldn't be selfish. They had to appear innocent as doves, yet be clever as serpents. They needed to look obedient to their parents, act above suspicion. Marriage and children distracted people from the full depth of service which Jacob required. Their first priority was to prepare for the upcoming battle, the righteous fight which would vindicate Jacob's name and secure the safety of the Island once and for all.

Ben kept silent through this lecture, not having the heart to tell Richard that Annie was already pregnant.

When Richard told Ben what was going to happen, he grew white with shock. For a few frantic seconds he thought about running away with Annie into the jungle, but just as quickly dropped that wild notion. The Good People could move silently through the forest with senses keen as an obsidian knife. They could blend into the brush and emerge invisibly to cut throats so swiftly that their victims felt no pain, just faded into unconsciousness and death.

If Ben took Annie into the woods, they wouldn't last till sunset.

Richard gave Ben a penetrating look and said, “You're not going soft on me now, are you?”

Widmore sat crouched near the fire. In blunt tones he said, "The time is now, boy, to shit or get off the pot."

Ben licked his dry lips, tried to swallow through a throat crammed with sand, and whispered that whatever Jacob wanted, he was ready to do.

“We're good to go, then,” Richard said. “And remember, Ben. This is strictly on a need-to-know basis.”

* * * * * * * *

On December 19, 1987, the day of that massacre later known as the Purge, Ben awoke with a sick, sinking feeling. Today he turned twenty-three, but birthdays were the last thing on his mind.

He felt no guilt or regret for the mayhem about to rain down on the Barracks. He had never told Annie exactly what was going to happen on this day, just that there was to be a raid on the Barracks itself, so that Ben and some others could join Jacob's People for good. That was all she knew.

Early that morning, Ben waylaid Annie on her way to the kitchen and walked her behind a shed, where hopefully no one would see them.

“Don't go to work today. Trust me.” She was to go to Horace and Amy's little cabin southeast of the Barracks. She knew the way, as she had taken Ethan there to play multiple times. Now she was to stay there until Ben came for her. Something in his voice told her that more than a simple raid was in the works.

She seemed to debate inside, fear mixed with excitement, then gave him a soft quick brush of lips across his mouth. She would wait for him there.

Then in afterthought, she asked, “What about Ethan? Shall I bring him with me?”

Ben shook his head. The few remaining children, including Ethan, were going to be taken to a swimming hole about two hours' walk from the Barracks. They would be safe there.

He handed her a gas-mask, and told her to put it on right when she got to Horace's cabin. As soon as he could, he'd join her.

It wasn't until late afternoon that Ben finally arrived. Annie had already made a fire, and set water on to boil for tea. He removed the gas-mask from her face, gathered her in his arms, and hoped she would ignore the acrid miasma of gas which clung to him. They drank strong dark tea and ate the goldfish crackers that the Dharma kids called “fish biscuits.”

It was such a unique pleasure to be alone together, really alone. They pulled the curtains shut and lay on the rickety iron cot, where Ben praised her eyes, her hair, the whole beautiful length of her, and especially the plump out-swell of her belly. They came on and around and inside of each other's flesh, until in the last long bout of lovemaking, her cries of pleasure filled the cabin.

The next day at dawn he brought her back to Richard and the others. Even though Annie never saw her father's body, she cried a little for him. Nor did she ask Ben where his own father had gone. The corpses at the Barracks had been cleared away, although the tangy, too-sweet smell of gas hung in the air.

Widmore and Richard talked to the remaining young Dharma survivors. They were chosen, special. They would remake the Island into something better, but before they could do that, the old elements had to be purged.

Everything would be different now, Widmore went on. Their parents were gone, and they weren't to think about them anymore. They had new parents who would look after them and teach them. No longer would they live behind wooden walls and fences. Instead, they would live wild and free in the jungle, as they were meant to. It would be magnificent. They would see.



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