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[personal profile] stefanie_bean
Chapter 49: Into the Mystic
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: 2960 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 gets you where you need to be.

Chapter Index


Chapter 49: The Road to Shambhala

Fifteen years have passed.

If you and Rima the bird-girl could sweep skyward on this beautiful Island morning, rising and falling from one thermal column to the next, this is what you would see.

The large volcano on the northwest coast has never fully settled down since Jack replaced the great cork-stone of the Heart. Over the years, lava has formed into a new peninsula which thrusts out as far as Seal Island. Leathery volcanic plants cover the black surface of the new land, as the sea diligently grinds it into black sand beaches.

Beneath Window Rock, the Door sleeps, firmly fixed to its exit on Moloka'i.

Fish-ponds like burnished silver coins dot the marshes of Pascal Flats. Far below, tiny figures go to and from New Otherton, carrying their nets and poles. The North Mesa spreads out like a counterpane embroidered with ripening gold barley and cornflower-blue flax. The coastal waters burgeon twenty, thirty feet high, and surfers slide the waves on their hand-carved boards.

Rima would take you on a heart-stopping thrill ride down the sides of steep green mountains, and screams of pure joy pour from her eagle's throat. Fifteen years haven't touched the mountains, nor will fifteen hundred.

After that wild ride, you would see below you the wooden yurts of Fishertown. Salt flats like pink tiles alternate with the scaffolds of the ship-builders, busy at their canoes and outriggers, dories and sailboats.

Rima returns to the central plains through passages so narrow that they almost scrape her wide-spread wings. Finally, the Mesa lies all open before you, miles of broad greensward where cattle roam and herds of wild horses thunder.

The Island has roads now. Foot-paths, actually, but feet and hooves keep the sedge grass at bay, and some even bear names. The Dharma Road leads from New Otherton to Boathouse Dock. Surfer Road takes the field workers to their flax harvest, and the wave-seekers to the northern beaches.

Last but not least, Shambhala Road stretches all the way from South Pylon Gate down to Beach Camp itself. Long ago, Hugo had ridden a runaway VW microbus down part of it, traveling along the path of least resistance to the clang of Three Dog Night. After squawking in terror, the birds had talked about it for weeks.

Rima follows the Big River which divides the Island in two, until she reaches the great carcass of a long-dead volcano. In its center you can barely make out a town. Its green roofs are covered with grass and flowers, and the houses themselves seem like afterthoughts planted among the vast spreading gardens.

If Rima grazed the tree-tops of New Otherton, you might see the elaborate network of blinds, platforms and bridges which link one tree to the next. Only the children are small and light enough to enter this tree-top fairyland, and they run back and forth, shouting with laughter, scaling up and down ladders which lead to the ground.

Since Rima is a creature of the air and the wilds, New Otherton is somewhere she prefers not to linger. So she rises once again, circling to the outskirts of the Mesa, where a ranch called The Flame Station long ago met its fiery death. In the same spot a new house stands, surrounded by a paddock of split-rail. A solitary figure, round and wild-haired, laden down with a backpack and the weight of responsibility, ambles towards it.

Here Rima leaves you, before soaring off to rejoin her flock in their endless cyclic journey around the steep mountains.


* * * * * * * *


Hugo's long walk ended at a wooden archway decorated with rusted-metal letters, which spelled out “Bar None Ranch.” Every time he crossed this threshold he chuckled at the name. He might as well have, seeing as it had been his idea in the first place. Kate had looked at him cross-wise at the time, but Sawyer had gotten the joke right away.

“I used to watch Hey, Dude, too,” Sawyer had said, while sending Kate a leer. “The girls were cute.”

Kate had just rolled her eyes.

Now, as Hugo approached Kate and Sawyer's cabin, he noticed at once that the paddock was empty. The bay thoroughbred, the pinto, and the rest of the horses were gone.

Everybody must be out with Kate. For ordinary riding and teaching horsemanship to the Bar None's apprentices, Kate took the bay. Only when she rode out alone, sometimes for days at a time, did she mount the coal-black mare who came and went as she pleased.

The cabin's porch with its wide overhang wrapped around three sides of the house. Sawyer had started building it before even raising the crossbeams for the roof. Years ago, he and Hugo had sawed and nailed, while Kate chased Baby David as he practiced the skill of running away as fast as possible.

Sawyer had wiped away sweat and said to Hugo,“Three things a man needs in this world: a front porch rail, a rocker so's you can put your feet up on the same, and a good woman to bring you a tall glass of lemonade.”

Kate had laughed and swatted at him, saying, “Get your own lemonade.” Then she tucked David under her arm like a squirming football, and brought Sawyer and Hugo some lemonade anyway.

It seemed like forever ago. “Sawyer, you there?”

“Round the side, hoss,” came the answer.

Sawyer sat with propped-up feet, reading a fat, dog-eared paperback. On the cover, a knight in a white tunic fought a dark, bird-headed creature with razor-sharp teeth in its beak.

As Sawyer untangled himself from Hugo's bear hug, Hugo said, “How many times have you read that?”

“This'll be my fourth. It's givin' me an idea for a new book.”

“Based on... that?”

“I'm gonna write a sequel. Change the names, gussie it up a bit, fix a few things.”

Hugo knew the story of The Stand. He also knew from his visits to Moloka'i that its plot was closer to reality than he liked. “Sawyer, that book's really depressing. Why don't you write something, you know, happier?”

Ese, this is how I make myself happy. And there won't be no movie, neither. Never have forgiven that damn studio for what they did to Big House.”

Almost at once, Big House had gotten optioned for the screen. When it finally made it to Honolulu in 2010, Kate and Sawyer had taken their only trip through The Door, armed with fake ID and brave faces. The film had ended with a pardon and a Hollywood-style wedding. As the credits rolled, Sawyer stormed out of the theater, swearing to God that it was only Clementine's expanding trust fund and the fear of going back to jail that kept him from burning the damn studio to the ground.

Clementine hadn't seen the movie when it came out. Years later, as a graduate anthropology student at the University of Nevada, she had texted to Sawyer what he called his best review. “ITA dad it sucked. book was way better.”

Her summers were spent on the Island. She put together demographic tables of the growing population and explored the remaining ruins with Zach, six feet tall and obviously in love with her. Sawyer didn't admit it outright, but he counted every month till her next visit.

Sawyer's offer of rose-hip tea brought Hugo back to the present. “David settling in OK?” Sawyer asked.

“He's doing great. We love having him. Don't even notice the piano practice anymore.”

Hugo knew all too well how long Sawyer had worried over the withdrawn and preoccupied boy. When David was two, Kate had suggested rebuilding the Flame. She had liked New Otherton well enough, but it wasn't suited for horses. Thundering hooves and the open plain were her real elements. Grudgingly Sawyer agreed.

At the age of four, during a visit to Auntie Claire, Uncle Hugo, and Cousin Leia, the child had walked into the New Otherton community room and stood before the upright piano, staring. “What is that?” he whispered.

By the end of the afternoon, he had begun to pick out chords. From that moment on, he tolerated the ranch, did his chores, cared for the horses diligently but without real affection. It was clear that his heart was elsewhere, and he begged to visit New Otherton whenever he could. Meanwhile, Leia loved the herd almost as much as Kate did.

“Just so he don't keep Baby Lucas up none,” Sawyer said.

“Nah, he's not working on any new teeth right now.” Hugo chuckled. “When he does, whew. He gets one, he sure knows how to use it.”

“Yeah, I remember that stage. Kate'd yelp a blue streak when she got nipped.” A sigh rumbled beneath Sawyer's words. “Been awhile since little feet pattered up and down the porch steps.”

“So, I guess Simon's out riding with Kate.”

“That kid was born in the saddle. Exact opposite of David.” He poured more tea for Hugo, his thoughts far away. Eventually Sawyer said, “I wouldn't be averse to another one, even if Kate's forty-five now. Not that her age matters, if you know what I mean.”

Hugo knew exactly. In fifteen years Sawyer had barely changed. Claire didn't look forty, either. The children, though, progressed at a normal rate. Emma for instance had grown to a graceful woman, married to a Temple survivor and now a mother of two. Zach and Raffi were in their mid-twenties and looked it.

Charlie and Aaron, inseparable since childhood, now apprenticed together at boat-building under Franz, Vanessa, and their brood of ten children.

Ben, Rose and Bernard... unchanged. So were Desmond and Penny, for that matter. His dad, well, that was another story.

Hugo himself hadn't changed, either, although he hadn't told anyone but Claire that aging was a process he could control. If he wanted to let himself age up a bit, he could. Maybe if Claire grew old faster than him, he would.

Only once had he offered her the same burden which Jacob had given Richard Alpert, but she shot that down faster than skeet. “I don't want to be younger than my grandchildren,” she'd snapped.

Maybe there was a middle ground. It was Bernard who had come up with the idea, actually. “Middle age isn't the worst time of life. In fact, it's not bad at all. Yes, you slow down. But that also gives you time to reflect.”

Well, that was a long way off.

Out on the Mesa, dark shapes on horseback came into view. There was Kate, hair flying in the wind. Alongside his mother rode Simon, nine years old, tawny-haired and reddened from almost constant living outdoors. Horses were in his blood. When Kate had gentled the foals, even as a small child Simon had sat on their backs to get them used to people.

Now Simon had already gentled two yearlings himself.

Behind Kate and Simon trotted the other love of Hugo's life, besides Claire and baby Lucas: Leia Lindsey Reyes, fourteen years old, whose mane of light-brown curls tumbled to her waist. Broad in flesh and muscle, she bore his stocky frame, but some of her mother's delicacy showed in the curve of her arm as she waved, and in her bright smile.

Beside her rode the blonde, slender Jenn, daughter of Sullivan and Meredith.

“Dad!” Leia shouted as she dismounted. When she and her father collided in a hug, it was a marvel that the ground didn't shake.

Then it was Kate's turn for a hug, but not until after she had removed the light rope halter from the bay, and the other riders did the same. Freed, the animals trotted off to the water trough to drink.

Leia leaned against the porch rail, giving her father a cock-eyed grin. “You really didn't have to come all the way out here to fetch us.”

It was true. But he'd missed her during her six-week stint at the Bar None, and Sawyer and Kate besides.

“It's almost noon,” Sawyer remarked. “Surely you're going to stay for dinner 'fore you head back?”

It was an offer Hugo couldn't refuse.


* * * * * * * *


Back in New Otherton, Claire weeded the garden, with Lucas tied fast to her back. She heard the girls' chatter before she saw them, as Hugo plodded along behind.

The burned wreckage of her old house had turned to a mound of the finest earth that anyone had seen on the Island. Trellises groaned under the weight of long purple string beans. Tomato plants heavy with red and orange fruits snaked up trellises of wattle, and sandboxes scavenged from the old playground made fine raised beds for onions and herbs.

Over everything arched the flowering vine, its stems thick and woody, its heavy white blossoms golden at the center and rich with fragrance.

Five cottages made up the compound, with Hugo and Claire's at the center; each building joined to one another by bamboo breezeways covered with flower-laden vines. Aaron's and Charlie's stood silent and empty. Carmen and David took up the third, while Carole and Lindsey Littleton lived in the fourth. From the last came the droning repetition of a piano being tuned.

Hidden as Claire was by the vines and tall garden plants, Hugo passed by her and went directly into his parents' cabin.

Claire sighed as she picked up the heavy basket of vegetables, aching for her husband. His father's illness was so hard on him, and it wasn't going to get better.

Ten years before, David Reyes had a heart attack in Moloka'i, and by the time he'd gotten to the hospital, the damage was extensive. It wasn't clear he would survive even a flight to Honolulu, much less Los Angeles.

Claire had never understood why Hugo couldn't just pull a Jedi trick and make his father better. Instead, Hugo had brought both his parents through the Door, to the Island. Now, time was catching up with David Reyes.

As she washed vegetables under the outside tap, Leia and Jenn giggled with their heads together, in front David's cabin. Finally Leia gave the door a few kicks, and the piano sounds stopped. “Hey, slug-face, come on out,” she shouted through the door. When it didn't open, she raised the volume. “Jenn's here. Crab boil at her house tonight.”

The door swung open, and Claire could have sworn David had grown an inch since that morning. At fourteen he was well on his gangly way to his father's full height. His hair gleamed midnight-black, and his eyes shone bright blue, especially when he looked at Jenn.

“Maybe I'll catch you there later,” he said to the girls, who were still grinning and poking each other. “If I'm not too busy.”

That set off a new round of giggles. “Oh, you're always too busy,” Leia said, while Jenn flushed deep pink.

Claire looked away quickly, pretending not to have noticed any of this. Leia had been gone six weeks, and already she was off to the next event. They grew so fast.

As Jenn chatted with David, Leia bounded over to her mother's side, anxious to fill her mother in on every horsey event at the ranch. In between breathless sentences she washed onions and kept up a patter with Baby Lucas. “You little mugwort, you treating everybody all right?”

The baby squawked and gurgled at the bursts of attention.

“Hey, Mom, I'm going up to Jenn's early. Dad already said it was OK.”

Across the compound, Hugo gently shut the door of his parents' cabin, his face shadowed.

“Sure, you can go early, sweetheart,” Claire said. “Take these carrots and onions along for Meredith.”

“Thanks. And Mom, make sure that slug-breath cousin of mine shows up.”

“No promises,” Claire said.

After a hug and a quick kiss, Leia was gone, running to catch up with her friend.

David was as stubborn as his father Jack. Jenn had certainly caught David's eye, but at the tender age of fourteen some boys would die a thousand deaths rather than admit they liked a girl.

All at once, a flood of rhythmic, beautiful sounds burst from David's cabin. Claire never could remember the names of the composers or the pieces he played, although each time Desmond and Penny went to the mainland, they returned with boxes of sheet music. Or maybe it was something David had made up himself, as he often did.

Hugo slid over to her side and buried his face in her hair, rubbing the baby's curly head, lost in the music and sadness. After a time, she murmured, “Let's go inside.”

He finally looked ready to reveal what weighed him down. “I wasn't sure, but now I am.”

“Sure about what?” Claire almost feared the answer.

“A shipwreck.”

“What?” Claire stared up at him, astonished. Over the years they had talked about new castaways, but no ships had come anywhere near the Island. Never had a plane's contrail marred the sky's purity since Oceanic 815.

“You know how we talked about it for a long time, but it never happened? Well, looks like it did.”

“When?” Claire whispered. “When will they get here?”

“Tomorrow evening.”

The unspoken fear popped out before she could stop it. “Do you think they're... good?”

He smiled, full of sun and warm assurance. “Pretty sure. Tomorrow I'm gonna paddle down to the beach camp, make sure everything's in top shape."

As suddenly as it had started, the music from next door fell silent. A few moments later a cabin door clicked open, then shut. David must have decided to go to the party after all.

(continued)


(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-12 09:53 pm (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
Baby David, eh? It was thoughtful of Kate not to name him Jack, not that Sawyer seems to have any residual jealousy. (So very happy he's reconciled to Clementine!)

You painted such an idyllic picture of Island life fifteen years down the road, I was afraid that you were winding it up. But another shipwreck! Intriguing and exciting.

I am possessed of a very real grief for Hugo's dad. Interesting that he won't pull a "Jedi trick" and heal him, as you put it. Your Hugo is resisting playing God, and I respect him for it.

Life on the Island is so very lovely. I wish we could all live in harmony.

I know, I know, I'm a sap.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-12 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Actually, the story *is* winding up. One more chapter to go.

Not only has Clementine gotten together with her father, the Island seems to be getting another anthropologist... ;-)

Re David Reyes: sadly, the protector can't entirely solve the problem of death. For one thing, it would lead to jealousy and resentment. (Imagine how Kate would feel if Hugo saved David Reyes after he had "let" her own mother die.)

You're not a sap at all...

Thanks, too, for sticking with this story as it approaches the end. I appreciate it very much.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-14 01:40 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
No, matters of life and death are best left to God. There's a very strong Catholic thread in this story, I feel.

Lovely, lovely story. I'll be sad to see it end, but I want to binge-read it in one long satisfying draught.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-15 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stefanie-bean.livejournal.com
Re: the Catholic thread. LOST to me has a lot of Catholic themes, especially the visual imagery. It's also interesting that the two Island protectors are Catholic, as are their families (the Shephards and the Reyeses.) Other characters include Charlie, Desmond, as well as Mr. Eko.

Sure, some of it is a trope ("Christianity is Catholic" (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ChristianityIsCatholic)) but LOST is going for universalism in its spirituality, so it's not surprising that it involves mostly Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholicism.

That's great, that you want to do a re-read. I hope it holds up on the 2nd read! ;-)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-06-15 02:17 am (UTC)
desdemonaspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] desdemonaspace
I look forward to it!

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