stefanie_bean: (Hurley and Claire)
[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 44: The Path of the Beam
Pairings: Hurley/Claire, Kate/Sawyer
Characters: Hugo "Hurley" Reyes, Benjamin Linus, Desmond Hume, Claire Littleton, Kate Austen, James "Sawyer" Ford, Rose Nadler, Bernard Nadler, Carole Littleton, Aaron Littleton, Background & Cameo Characters, Original Non-Human Characters
Rating: M
Length: 4288 words
Status: Complete
Notes: Fantasy and supernatural elements. Think American Gods on the Island.

Summary: Hurley is now Protector of the Island, while Claire, Kate, and Sawyer head back to our world. But when it comes to love, the Island has ways to get you where you need to be.


Chapter 44: The Path of the Beam

Hugo beached his outrigger canoe on the white sands of the old Oceanic 815 beach camp site, proud of himself for paddling solo all the way around the eastern Island coast. Since he had last returned from the mainland, he made it a point to get out and about the Island every week or so. Just to keep an eye on things, as he put it to himself.

Last week he and Ben had trekked to the Temple. That had been kind of depressing, although Otis and Deanna had warned him that there would be nothing left. Ben had looked over piles of rubble already half-covered with thick jungle vines and pronounced, “Vintage ninth-century Indonesian,” whatever that meant.

So much for Jacob's “monastery,” which was Ben's other name for it.

Hugo hadn't circumnavigated the Island since he and Ben had met the fisher-people on the Island's north-eastern shores. Ben had wanted to come along on Hugo's rounds this time, but Hugo had talked him into staying in Fishertown and doing what Ben did best: working out deals for Fishertown trade with New Otherton.

Even Hugo could use some down-time now and then.

Since the trade with Fishertown had started, New Otherton hummed with activity. The old Dharma kitchen was full of round wheels of cheese wrapped in salt-crusted burlap, ready to be loaded into Fishertown boats. Sacks of dried squid and octopus lined the pantry shelves, waiting for the stew-pot. Bernard had remarked that it wasn't till they'd gotten a steady supply of salt again did they noticed how they'd missed it.

Other than the relentless sea, only the flapping tarps of their old shelters made any sound. In his mind's eye Hugo saw the long expanse of white sand as he remembered it from their settlement days, when fires had dotted the beach, Vincent ran up and down on the strand as he chased Frisbees or seagulls. Sawyer had lounged in the shade with a book in hand while Claire did the baby-dance as she walked Aaron along the beach, singing to him.

As he dragged his canoe to a spot above the tide line it struck him that of all the places on the Island, this was the one which felt most like “home.”

Ingrained habits were hard to break, so upon landing the first thing Hugo did was to light a fire. After he set water on to boil, he studied the remains of Claire and Sawyer's old shelters, toppled by wind and rain.

His mom had been talking about a wedding before he and Claire had to part. Whatever his mom wanted them to do he had no idea, only that it was likely to involve Father Aguillar. Not that his mom was going to get Claire to do a single thing Claire didn't want to.

At least Claire would have rings. Sure, while marriage wasn't rings or dresses or bouquets but in the promise, he still wanted to give her something more than the New Otherton house made ready for her and Aaron. That was ordinary, because they had to have some place to live along with everyone else. This should be special.

A summer house, he thought. Never mind that it was always summer on the Island, at least when it wasn't raining. A special place for them to go with a reminder of old happiness. Sure, bad things had happened at the beach. But other than tearing up a few trees, Smokey had never come there. Yeah, Ethan had murdered someone right under their noses. And Desmond had once fished Claire out of a rip-tide. But compared to the Barracks or the Temple, their old beach camp was paradise.

Further, Hugo didn't even want to think of Claire's sad pile of sticks and old Dharma debris where she had lived during her years in the bush. He and Ben had come across it on their trek to the Temple. In a rare open display of power, Hugo had made the whole stinking mess burst into high white flames which almost licked the tree-tops. Nothing was left but small heaps of light-grey ash soon blown away by the wind.

He could make a summer house, though. There were more than enough slabs of fuselage lying about, and plenty of wire to tie everything together. At first Hugo eyed Sawyer's shelter for spare parts, then paused. Someday, maybe (try not to think it, you can't make him, you don't want to, it has to be his idea, he has to want it) Sawyer might stand beside Hugo on this very shore. Sawyer would be pretty pissed if his shelter wasn't here, even though nothing of his stash was left except for a few girlie magazines.

Hugo took a quick peek or two, then tossed them into the fire, where the shiny paper rose into blue and red sparks. Long ago Hugo had teased Sawyer about being the kind of guy who “needed stuff,” but that wasn't Sawyer anymore. He wouldn't miss them.

Sun and Jin weren't using their tent, that was for sure. Months ago, Hugo had felt guilty even taking Sun's packets of seeds, overcome by the sense that she would simply appear at the doorway and politely ask why he was rummaging around her tent. A strange feeling stole over Hugo, warm and sad at the same time. Sun and Jin both would want this. They would be glad to give up what they no longer needed.

So Hugo raised the long metal slab which had served as Claire's eastern wall, then supported it with Sun and Jin's old walls. Across the new shelter frame he wove long palm fronds into a thick thatched roof, snug and dry.

Sleeping on sand kind of sucked, so he dragged out Sun and Jin's narrow bed, smiling to himself at how the two of them had managed to fit into it. That wouldn't work for him, though.

From his old shelter Hugo lugged his own cot made of economy-class seat frames. Early in their beach-camp days, Sayid had helped him lash cross-braces beneath it, to support his weight. After placing the two beds side by side and securing them with cables, he tested his creation by lying in the middle, bracing himself for the crash, the plop to the sand below. But the bed held.

The shelter needed a few more touches, so from Sun's tent he gathered a large cloth of navy blue decorated with Korean characters in bright white. As Hugo hung the fabric across the middle span of the new shelter, he found himself lip-reading phrases like “Celestial happiness” and “Ocean calm.”

Hugo froze. Back in the early days in the Swan Hatch, Jin had fought one too many times with Sun and had sailed away from her on Michael's doomed raft. Shortly after, Hugo had dreamed about a friendly and smiling Jin, not at all like the frightened and angry man he had been. In his dream, he and Jin had talked a little in Korean, which was crazy.

Crazy, right. Not as crazy as him reading Korean right now, though.

Still shaking his head, Hugo hung the curtain so that it divided the big shelter into two parts, like rooms. Still, something bothered him about the arrangement. Maybe it was the flimsiness of the cloth, or how embarrassed he had been when his dad moved back home. How his mom and dad had made the walls vibrate, so to speak. But Faith and Craig, and Sirrah and Chen too had lived in huts out on the Mesa, yet had managed to find enough privacy to make a few babies.

How, though? He gave a heavy sigh, wondering who he could ask about how this married-life stuff worked when kids were involved.

He put the question aside when he spied John Locke's old hammock. Poor Locke, who had always liked Aaron. Even old-bachelor Locke had managed to make Claire feel better about handling a frazzled baby.

If Locke could see them now, he'd probably be smiling as Hugo hung the hammock in the smaller of the two “rooms.” He didn't dare test it like he had the bed-frame, for fear of bringing the whole structure to the ground. But for a smaller person it would do just fine.

Kids loved hammocks.

He hung a few other cloths as a “front door,” silently asking them to stay fresh and unfaded in the sun and wind, feeling a faint electric tingle beneath his fingertips.

Then he stepped outside, glad that the new shelter opened to a clear vista of the sea. Cool breezes played about his sweat-soaked hair and shirt. But wait, Claire's summer house wasn't done yet. One final item remained on the list.

Between a pole and a thick tree branch he stretched a taut section of wire. Claire had always loved the look and smell of fresh laundry drying in the wind. Now, with the addition of the clothesline, the summer house was done. Perfect.

The water in the pot was steaming, so Hugo surveyed the landscape like someone going down the line in a cafeteria. In the years since the beach camp had been abandoned, fish once more teemed in the shallow tide pools. Snails and crabs dotted the shore, enough even for the greedy seagulls. The thick coconut groves had put on a whole new crop of green fruits.

Eastward and a bit inland, a salt marsh played host to dozens of ground-nesting gulls' nests hidden among the spiky vegetation. The nests were full, but Hugo didn't take a single egg at first.

Something remarkable had happened to the marshy flat land. From a nearby cliff face so steep that even Kate had refused to climb it, a thin waterfall now bubbled. Hugo strode over and stuck his hands into the tinkling stream. Cold underground water cascaded over rocks and tumbled down the slight incline to the flat beach land, where it spread out and watered the coarse green shore plants on its way to the sea.

Fresh water, with no need to hike to the caves or wait for rain. Hugo could have sworn it wasn't here at his last visit. He filled his hands again and again, splashing liquid ice into his mouth, over his sweat-soaked hair and sticky shirt. One of Grandma Titi's old songs came back to him, something about “streams of living waters.” A sharp mineral tang came alive in his mouth.

“It would have been nice if you could of showed up after the crash,” he said to the water, which ignored him as it gurgled its way over stones.

Sighing, Hugo filled his shirt with brown-speckled gulls' eggs, eleven in all, smaller and more pointed than chicken eggs. Claire used to eat them “warm from the bird,” as she put it, but he never could get into that. As he lowered the eggs carefully into boiling water, Claire's absence went through his body like a dull pain, and the beach all at once felt very lonely.

Before, he hadn't understood why Jacob had brought people to the Island. Now he did. Was it possible to want something so much that you made it happen? He hoped not, because so help him, that was a promise he intended to keep. No one would come to the Island unwillingly because of him.

After eating, he crumpled the eggshells in his hands and tossed them into the churning waves. Immersed up to his knees, Hugo faced the ever-present bass drumline of the pounding sea. Relentless noon sun beat down on him, and even the light winds which lifted his hair didn't cool him off.

The gulls, the sea, the surf all rolled in tune with one another. He wished Claire were here to see her gift of a new shelter, how tidy the others looked all blue and brown against the white sand and green ironwood trees. How she would smile at the pots, spoons, knives tied neatly under tarp scraps, sheltered by the food tent's great orange parachute. Once more his solitude turned into a burden.

He forded up to the spot where long ago he had plunged into the surf, drenching Bernard with spray. Here the waves stretched out blue and inviting, and he would have given in to their call but for a small sadness which held him back.

Just because the last cannonball ended badly doesn't mean this one has to, he told himself. OK, here goes nothing, then.

As he ran across the flat rock-spread towards the welcoming sea, it seemed for an instant that if he left the ground, he would keep soaring over the white foam.

That was an illusion, though. The cold water hit him with a hard smack across the bottom and down he went, ten, then twenty feet. Then alarm shocked him as much as the water, because he was sinking, not bobbing to the surface as he usually did.

Weird, too, that he had no urge to breathe. He paddled a bit forward and opened his eyes to a stunning blue ocean-scape. Mottled light sparkled across a sandy ocean floor dotted with yellow and green corals. Schools of bright orange and red fish darted to and fro, as if he wasn't there at all. Sea snails the size of his fists crawled along the bottom, where thickets of green seaweed floated upwards like hair.

Hugo held his breath, taking it all in, until a silver flash caught his eye. Porpoise, or shark?

If it was a shark, he was sunk. He dog-paddled around for a better look, and stared right into the laughing face of Pele's sister Nāmaka, she who ruled the Island seas from the coast to the line of the horizon. Her long black hair floated upward, mingling with the ocean grasses.

The urge to breathe came upon Hugo strong and fast. As he started to struggle, Nāmaka seized him and pulled him to the surface, where he took one gasping lungful after another.

Nāmaka flipped back her wet mane and grinned. “What are you doing down here?”

“Cannonball,” he gasped.

She looked around the churning waters, her face suddenly feral. “If an armed ship entered these waters, I'd know it. And so would you.”

He paddled clumsily to his rocky launch pad and pulled himself up, still breathing heavily. “You never did a cannonball? You should try it sometime.”

Nāmaka floated before him in the tide pool. “You saved me the trouble of looking for you, Protector.”

Clouds had blown across the sun in preparation for the approaching afternoon rain, covering the beach in grey coolness. Hugo dangled his feet in the water, delightfully refreshed. “Uh, just plain Hugo is fine.”

She caught a small silver fish in her long fingers. When she squirted it into the air, it fell into the waves with a plop, then swam off. “I've got some news for you, courtesy of the gulls. And from Pallas.”

“The gulls?”

“They overheard a few of the birds who live near your old home. New Port, they called it, something like that.”

“Newport Beach?”

“Sounds right, although with gulls you never can tell. Half the time they scream at you, then when they finally calm down, they sound like they're drunk. Everything comes out all garbled.”

“Yeah, I saw that movie. Scuttle never could tell a story straight.”

She obviously didn't know who Scuttle was, but didn't seem to care. Her black hair streamed over her shoulders in a wet mantle as she bobbed lazily on the surface. “Supposedly these gulls spied the Wanderer with his woman and child at this New Port place working on a sailing vessel. A big one.”

Hope flickered in Hugo. “You mean Desmond?”

Her smile broke bright as a dashing wave. “The very same.”

“So what's old Desmondo up to? Last I heard he was in London.”

“Apparently not any longer.”

Anticipation surged through Hugo, so much that he didn't want to jinx it with too much hope. Desmond was in LA. Maybe he'd still be hanging around there next week, when Hugo was due to return. Probably, because Hugo knew from experience that it took Desmond awhile to get underway, no matter where he was going.

He was so lost in the prospect that he didn't hear Nāmaka at first.

“...So I told Pallas, 'I'm not your messenger service. Don't you have owls or something? Or spiders?' Well, you know Pallas, nobody can say anything to her without her getting all—“

“Nāmaka, I'm sorry. What was it you said Pallas wanted?”

“Oh, her. She said she wants you to fix the Lighthouse.”

Fix the Lighthouse? Hugo could solder and weld, and with help could drop an engine or rebuild a transmission. But the Lighthouse, what the hell? “I don't even know how it works, Nāmaka.”

She fixed him with a glance as silvery as her fish-scale dress. “You don't need to know how it works. Just replace the mirrors that the old Protector broke.”

“You mean Jack?”

When Nāmaka shrugged, her whole body shivered in disdain. “I don't know why Pallas couldn't have told you herself. I mean, I know just where to hit a ship below the waterline to make it drop like a stone, but the Lighthouse was Jacob's sorcery. With her help, of course. Anyway, that's it. Replace the mirrors. Simple, right?”

Sure, Hugo said to himself as Nāmaka dived beneath the dark blue waves. Real simple.


* * * * * * * *


Hugo needn't have worried about recruiting a crew from New Otherton to work on the Lighthouse. By evening, it became clear that their greatest limitation would be finding enough boats to transport everyone who volunteered, as well as all the tools and supplies they needed.

It was Ben's idea to send a few people to Fishertown to borrow a boat larger than an outrigger canoe. Rose and Kathy had rounded up three full-length mirrors from various New Otherton houses. No one knew what the Lighthouse would do once it started working again, but that didn't matter, as Ben and Hugo drew everyone into the circle of enthusiasm.

The next day, the mirrors were wrapped securely in blankets, along with metal saws and a rivet gun salvaged from the motor pool wreckage. To set the mirrors in their frames, Kathy and Shana had made a kind of putty from rubbery tree sap. Franz of Fishertown lent them his boat, which he insisted on captaining. Stolid and silent, Franz and his first mate Rodriguez loaded everything into the wide-bottomed craft. Ben, Hugo, Craig and Brian followed in two outrigger canoes.

At Lighthouse Point, everyone marveled at the tall, elegant structure, then took their turn climbing the narrow winding stairs. While the men gazed out at the Island and ocean from all directions, Franz looked over the bent and broken theodolite.

“I could turn this into a telescope,” he remarked.

“Sure,” said Hugo. “Go ahead. Fix anything you want, Franz.”

The big blond German cracked a rare smile.

Ben added, “Think of it as a rental fee for your boat.”

Cool white light still rose from the fire-pit mounted in the brass wheel's center. Craig said, “Hey, man, how are we supposed to work on this with the lights on?”

Hugo placed his hand in the middle of the glowing column, and at once the light vanished.

“Things are going to take awhile to cool down,” Brian said.

Hugo shook his head. “It's fine now. Go ahead and take your measurements.”

While Franz and Brian argued about the best way to mount the mirrors on the wrecked frame, Ben carefully recorded in his blue leather book all the names and their corresponding numbers written around the circumference of the brass gear wheel.

When Hugo picked up a rag and started to polish the lighthouse wheel clean, Ben cleared his throat. “Hugo, are you sure you want to do that? I thought this was how you set the Door.”

Hugo studied the penciled-in names, then placed his hand across the smooth brass surface. As it faintly vibrated under his palm, the answer came to him. Jacob had used the gear wheel's position to “set” the Door to wherever he wanted to go: LA, Seoul, Alabama, Iowa. But it didn't have to work that way. He, Hugo, could pick the Door's outlet, not the Lighthouse. Now the gear wheel position was for something else.

What, though? He had no use for “candidates,” and didn't want unwilling visitors. And there were one hell of a lot of willing visitors he'd rather not see either. Like any Widmore leftovers. Or Sun's gangster father Paik Woo-Jung, who had been Widmore's business partner. Or for that matter, the US Navy.

Maybe it would be easier to just write down who he wanted to let in, rather than all those known and unknown that he wanted to keep out. “Nah, Ben, don't worry about it. You got all the info you wanted?”

“I'm done.”

After Hugo had polished the gear wheel clean, he leaned over to Craig, who was busy sorting screws from the pile. “Hey, Craig, where's that red tool-box?”

“Here you go, man.”

In stubby grease-pencil Hugo scrawled out “Desmond Hume” at position #1 on the brass wheel.


* * * * * * * *


It took two days, but eventually the mirrors were screwed into their shiny new frames and positioned around the gear wheel. Everyone crowded in close to admire the work, even Ben, who had spent most of his time sketching the Lighthouse and surrounding point, down to the multiple gears beneath the table-like structure.

Slowly, ceremoniously, Hugo pulled the chains which rotated the gear wheel to position #1. He reached out his hand and once more a column of clear bright light blazed up from the pit, glancing off the mirrors with sun-like brilliance. Out to sea, an approaching flock of gulls careened towards the beam of light, then broke to the right and left as they swirled to avoid it.

Ben sidled up close to Hugo. “If Desmond's headed this way, he can't miss it.”

All Hugo could do was smile.

Down on the narrow strip of beach below Lighthouse Point, the crew was dividing up for the return home. Hugo spied Craig lashing some bedrolls into an outrigger canoe. “Hey, Craig, can I hitch a ride?”

Craig looked up, as if quizzical. “Sure.”

“Bow or stern?”

“Surprise me.”

Hugo climbed into the stern because it would be easier to have this conversation staring at the back of the other man's head. Even so, Hugo didn't say anything until they had cleared the tricky waters which ringed Lighthouse Point and worked their way into calmer seas. Also, Craig was normally a quiet guy, which only made this worse. He cleared his throat. “So, looks like the cattle are doing well.”

Craig turned around, smiling. “They're calving like crazy. Kevin's talking about penning up the bull and castrating some of the calves, or we'll have to open up some new pasture.”

Ouch, Hugo thought. Not the direction I wanted to go in. “You and Faith, you doing OK in New Otherton? I mean, compared to living out on the North Mesa.”

After paddling a few strokes, Craig said, “It's fine, although sometimes I miss the open air.” He continued to paddle on, leaving the ball in Hugo's court.

“You know, Claire's gonna come to the Island sometime. Maybe even in the next couple of weeks.” Maybe. But the other possibility's awesome, too. Just more complicated.

This time Craig's smile was warmer, more sympathetic. “You did a great job on the house, man. Those tree-houses in the commons, too, that was genius. The kids love them, and so will her boy.”

The thin cloth dividing the beach shelter with “ocean happiness” fluttered through Hugo's mind. “Dude, I got something to ask you, um, if it's not...” He gulped, self-conscious now. “Too personal.” This really sucks. I'm going to blow it for sure. “Because, uh, you're the only guy with, you know, experience.”

Craig didn't turn around. “Shoot.”

“When you and Faith were out in the jungle and then on the Mesa with Kiya, and, you wanted some, you know, alone time, um...” Hugo's voice trailed off, helpless. “But you know little kids, they bounce around and everything—“

“Hurley, it's OK, man.”

“It is?”

“Really.” Craig laughed, but not in a mean way, and not at Hugo himself. “Believe it or not, little kids sleep. You can still have your moments, but you just have to pick them a little more carefully.”

“I guess.” Despite the cool salt spray, Hugo flushed with embarrassment.

Turning half-way, Craig set his paddle on his knees. “You and Claire, it sounds serious, man.”

Hugo nodded. The fullness of the whole situation came down on him at once, as big a responsibility as protecting the Island.

“You know, kids sleep more soundly when they know their parents love each other.” Craig turned around, his face full of sympathy. “Chill, Hurley. You're going to be a great dad.”

“Thanks, man.”

“No prob.” Craig dug his paddle into the water, hard, and the canoe lurched forward. As he shouted, the wind carried his words back to Hugo. “Dinner in Fishertown tonight, and it's on Franz. I'd say we've earned it.”

Behind them, the Lighthouse glowed like a white jewel. As afternoon clouds surrounded Lighthouse Point, the path of its brilliant beam shone out across the open sea.

(continued)

(A/N: The expression “the path of the Beam” comes from Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.)


(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-30 04:46 pm (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
I saw that you'd messaged me last night, but I wanted to be "fresh" to read this.

I love Hugo, making plans, lonely for Claire but determined to get it right. His building of the beach house, his cannonball into the ocean. Nāmaka! The touches of magic here and there, nothing overt, and used sparingly and with wisdom. He's such an admirable man, and not a bit different from canon. Just ... enhanced. He's grown into the position.

The Lighthouse worries me a bit. Hugo is a better protector than Jacob was. I like the fact that he doesn't want anyone compelled to come. I love that he wants to keep the baddies out. I don't understand the function of the Lighthouse or all it's capable of doing, but I imagine "more will be revealed." I trust you to make it all right in the end.

I'm really looking forward to rereading, so I get the full sweep of the story. Some of the minor characters escape me. I'm glad Rose and Bernard are in your story -- I want them to live forever, (which is not surprising, as I'm their age, so it's pardonable, I suppose.)

Last, how DO people have sex in close quarters? It's lovely how private Hugo is about the expression of his love for Claire.

Another great chapter, Stefanie.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-30 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
>how DO people have sex in close quarters?

Ha, carefully and quietly!

I'm glad that the level of magic is working out. I'm trying to follow JRR Tolkien's lead, in that magic does appear but it's usually done by the supernatural beings like Gandalf or Sauron. Someone like JKRowling for instance has magic being used constantly; that can be fun in a story but not the approach I wanted.

Re: the minor characters: I think I should sometime make some notes on the minor characters. Most of them are based on canon background characters who appear at various times and who struck my fancy.

Some were named in-show, like Craig, Sullivan, and Nancy. Others like Kathy, Shana, the big blond German man Franz appear as extras but were not named.

So in a sense they're OCs, in that I gave many of them names and all of them characterizations and back-stories, but in another sense they're not, because they are almost all based on people who were actually cast and physically appeared in-show.

About the only genuine OC is Dan Norton's legal assistant Deirdre.

I try not to use them too much, but since the show decided to kill off so many people, I had to scavenge some for this little Island society.

Again, thanks so much for reading!



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