|the record you used to play, for ozmissage
||[Dec. 24th, 2011|10:25 am]
Title: the record you used to play
Summary: Hurley and Sayid keep planning trips to save other people, but it turns out they’re the ones who need saving. Charlie and Shannon to the rescue… sort of.
Author notes: A crossover cameo wrote itself in here before I even realized it.
Hurley spots Sayid sitting by himself at the far end of the beach, doing his solitary alpha male thing. It’s always something—digging holes, spearing coconuts, loading shotguns. Something that results in a lot of sweat and grunts and chicks swooning in the bushes as they watch.
Hurley wishes some of that could rub off on him.
“Hey, Sayid,” he says, shielding his eyes from the splinters that fly up from the axe. Chopping wood is the activity of the day.
Sayid puts the weapon down and turns around. “Yes, Hurley?”
“You busy this weekend?”
Sayid raises an eyebrow and wipes his hands on his already-filthy shirt. “If I remember correctly, today is only Monday. Why do you ask?”
“Really? Dude, I thought it was Friday.”
Sayid gestures around them, at the sea, at the cliffs. “Does it matter?”
“I guess not.” That was sort of depressing and now Hurley’s lost his momentum. This happens a lot when he’s talking to Sayid. It’s weird how someone can be his friend, and so totally nice and polite and stuff, but still shut a conversation down like that, without meaning to. And Sayid definitely doesn’t mean to or even realize he’s doing it, because now he’s looking at Hurley expectantly, with a patient expression on his sweaty face.
“Hurley?” he asks. “Is everything all right?”
Hurley takes a deep breath and it all comes tumbling out. “It’s Charlie. You know how I asked you to talk to him about his, you know, his wartime thing?”
“His post traumatic stress disorder? Yes. I spoke with him yesterday.”
“Well, I don’t know if it was enough. Not your fault or anything. It’s just that he’s still all traumatized and stuff. So I was thinking, maybe we need to crank this up to phase two.”
“And phase two consists of what, exactly?”
“Well, back in high school when one of my friends was really down because his dog died, we took him on a road trip. It was my mom’s idea. It’s like, the all-American cure for the blues.”
Sayid’s brow wrinkles in confusion. “But Charlie is English.”
“Yeah, and we’re on an island with no roads. So we gotta improvise. That’s why I’m thinking we should go on a camping trip.”
** ** **
The sound of the phone ringing interrupts Sayid’s dream and prevents him from discerning whether or not it counts as a nightmare.
Even without the interruption, he should have figured it out by now; it’s the same dream he has every night, and recently, he’s started having a version of it during the day, too.
(The logical part of him, the part that is comforted by the daily lies he tells, knows that clutching the rotting corpses of one’s lost loved ones counts as a nightmare. The honest part of him considers seeing them alive and beautiful during the day even more terrifying.)
Groggily, he casts about for his cell phone, and his hand catches it on the night-table. Emblazoned upon the face is a smiling photograph of Hurley. Sayid groans. “Hurley? It’s…” He looks at the clock on the night-table. “It’s 7am.”
Instead of Hurley’s soothing drawl, a woman’s voice booms at him, wholly unapologetic.
“Sayid? This is Carmen. Hugo’s mother.”
Sayid sits up, panicked. “What has happened?”
“Nothing has happened,” she yells, not seeming to realize that his phone might be set at an audible volume.
Sayid takes that as a signal to relax and settles back down into his pillows again. He’s only been awake for 30 seconds, but he’s already cycled through three modes. This is par for the course with Carmen.
“How can I help you?” he asks.
“It’s about Hugo,” she says, as though she would be calling him from Hurley’s phone about anyone else. “I’m worried about him.”
“He has been acting strangely. I don’t think he is well. He wants to go back to Santa Rosa. He won’t tell me why. He won’t talk to his own mother, but maybe he will talk to you. Will you try?”
Sayid blinks ten times in rapid succession and hangs his head into his chest, still grasping at wakefulness. He’s never been a morning person. “Yes, of course,” he answers automatically, not because he has a plan, but rather because for the first time since leaving the island, someone is asking him to help, and he’s been aching for such an opportunity. And maybe also a little bit because he needs someone to talk to as well. There’s something wrong with him, but he doesn’t have anyone who knows him well enough to notice the way Hurley’s mother does. “I will come by this morning.”
“Thank you, Sayid. I knew I could count on you. You’ve always been a good man.”
Compliments hurt more than insults; what he considers misapprehensions hurt more than the truths he’s come to believe.
“I will see you soon.”
** ** **
“In case you haven’t noticed, we live on a sodding beach. We eat boar that Locke uses his bare hands to kill. I wiped my arse with a fern this morning. We are camping.”
Charlie’s at the other end of the beach, sitting under his tarp and exuding the opposite of Sayid’s politely accommodating attitude.
Hurley all but shoves his friend to his feet. “Aw, come on, it’ll be fun.”
“What, you and me alone in the jungle of death and despair? No thanks, mate. Sounds like a suicide mission.”
“Sayid’s coming. He’s the most hardcore person on this island. Nothing bad’ll happen to us if he’s around.”
Charlie thinks about it for a minute. “What’s this about?”
“Nothing, dude. Just wanna explore the island a little. Take a couple of days away from all this.” Hurley waves at the glorious beach, and realizes that he might have just weakened his argument. Between the beach and the jungle, well, there isn’t really much of a question. Beach wins, every time.
Thankfully, Charlie’s PTSD works in Hurley’s favor, because Charlie simply shrugs, doesn’t seem to notice. “Fine. Just to get you off my back. Can I take my guitar?”
“Yeah. Definitely, dude.”
Just then, Sayid strolls up with a pack on his back and a gun sticking out of his back pocket. Any doubts Charlie may still have about them not being in good hands have to disappear right now, because Sayid looks even more badass than usual.
“Did you have a destination in mind?” he asks, going straight to business.
“I dunno. I was thinking maybe we explore the island that way?” Hurley points in the opposite direction to the one Sayid took on his solitary alpha-male trip a couple of weeks before.
They’re on their way when a shrill voice stops them. “Hey, where are you going?”
Hurley turns around to see Shannon stomping down the beach after them, decked out in hiking equipment. Well, the closest thing to hiking equipment Hurley’s ever seen her wear. She gets points for trying.
“We’re going camping,” Charlie says.
“I’m coming, too.”
The three men glance nervously at one another. “I don’t know. I mean… your asthma. And stuff,” Hurley says weakly.
She pulls a ziploc of green goop out of her pack. “I have extra rations from Sun. I’m good.” She pokes Sayid accusingly in the stomach. “You could have invited me.”
“It was not my invitation to extend,” he apologizes. “Also, I never imagined you would be interested.”
Shannon shields her eyes from the sun and glances behind her. “Yeah, well, it beats sticking around here. All the wood chopping for the raft is giving me a headache.”
Hurley shrugs, and looks at Sayid, who catches his eye and apologetically juts his chin out.
“If Sayid is Superman,” Charlie whispers in Hurley’s ear as they set out with Shannon in tow, “then she’s Kryptonite.”
** ** **
Sayid doesn’t stop for breakfast or a cup of coffee or to read the newspaper. This life of leisure does not suit him, so he jumps at this, the first assignment he’s been given in months. He’s at Hurley’s mansion within the hour, bag packed and ready in the back seat. He shouldn’t be this excited, but he is, giddiness warming the tips of his toes (he’s trained himself never to let such sentiments rise any further; it isn’t safe).
Mrs. Reyes answers the doorbell and kisses him firmly on both cheeks. Sayid closes his eyes and breathes the contact in. His own mother died many years ago. In longer than he can remember, Hurley’s mother is the only person who has kissed him like that, looked at him like that, pinched his cheeks like that—like he’s a good boy who actually deserves it. He hopes he never has to disabuse her of this misapprehension.
“Hello, Mrs. Reyes,” he says. He’s still awkward with hugs.
“How many times have I told you to call me Carmen?”
“Not enough, I’m afraid.”
The house is the usual whirlwind of activity that it should be improbable for a massive residence of only three people to create. Both the wide-screen television and the news radio station are on. Hurley’s father scurries about, packing a bag and dangling a half-eaten bagel between his teeth. He waves distractedly and mumbles an inarticulate hello at Sayid as he passes between rooms. Mrs. Reyes chastises him about something, and they conduct an odd argument—half mumbling, half yelling, half English, half Spanish—that is intensified when Hurley blunders out of his bedroom with his hands over his ears, singing, “Lalalala I can’t hear you.”
It’s raucous and ridiculous and the most beautiful din Sayid has ever heard.
Hurley looks even more of a mess than usual, with his hair wild and his clothes unkempt. Sayid may not know him as well as his mother does, but he knows him well enough to see that the worry occasioning this morning’s call was warranted. There’s something scared behind Hurley’s eyes, even as he sees Sayid and comes running to engulf him in a bear hug.
“Hey, man. What are you doing here?” Hurley asks as Sayid loses his balance and they both tip over the back of the couch and onto the cushions.
Now on the floor and tangled in a fuchsia afghan, Sayid smiles; he’s officially part of the household.
He doesn’t look at Mrs. Reyes as he replies, “I came to see you. I thought we could do something this weekend.”
“Dude, it’s Tuesday.”
Sayid represses a smile, and continues a conversation that began long ago. “Does it matter?”
Hurley narrows his eyes; he’s always been sharper than almost anyone except Sayid gives him credit for. His gaze slides over to his mother. “Ma?” he bleats, the extension of the vowel filling in the rest of the question, and the answer as well.
There are very few lies in this house, and even fewer pretenses. Mrs. Reyes immediately confesses. “Yes, I called him. Hugo, go with him. Please.”
Hurley glares at his mother and then turns his attention to Sayid, and there’s real hurt in his eyes. “You’re hanging out with me because my mom told you to?”
“Hurley. We see each other every week. I probably would have called you tomorrow, regardless.”
Still suspicious, Hurley says, “Let me guess: road trip?”
“We should take your car.”
Within a few minutes, Sayid is helping Hurley haul luggage through the garage and into the Hummer. “Where shall we go?” Sayid asks.
“In what way is that obvious?”
“It’s where all guys who want to cheer up their buddies go. Haven’t you ever seen Swingers?”
** ** **
Hurley couldn’t have picked a better day for this. The sun’s shining, but since it rained yesterday, there’s plenty of water and the sand isn’t too hot. Sayid’s quite a few paces ahead of the rest of them. He’s being quiet, but then again, he’s always quiet.
Surprisingly, Shannon’s doing most of the heavy lifting, Charlie-wise. He’s never thought about it before, but now that they’re hanging out, he realizes she’s been more, well, friendly, in the past week or so.
“Your brother’s super hot,” he hears her say behind him.
“How do you know?”
“I went to one of your concerts once.”
“Oh yeah, where?” Charlie asks, immediately chirpier.
“When you were in LA a few years back. My friend Angie was, like, obsessed with you guys. Her dad was this big music producer, so we got backstage tickets.”
“You came backstage? Maybe we met!”
“Angie hooked up with your brother. I don’t remember what I did. I was so wasted.”
“I probably was, too,” Charlie says. “Maybe you and I… ships that pass in the night.”
“In your dreams.”
Hurley realizes he’s all by himself, walking between the two of them in the back and Sayid up front. Shannon and Charlie seem to be doing okay, so he scurries to catch up with Sayid, who’s been walking way too quickly for what’s supposed to be a relaxing hike.
“So, uh, what’s all this about? I mean, with her?” he whispers. “I knew you were working on those translations, but… Is there something going on I should know about?”
“We are only friends. I was as surprised as you to find out she wanted to come today,” Sayid says, but there’s a pleased twinkle in his eye and a hopeful twitch in his lips and Hurley knows what that means even though the guy’s obviously trying to be modest and/or not jinx it.
“You mean there’s nothing yet. Hey, that’s awesome, dude. Random, but still awesome. I mean, we’re stuck on this island. Somebody should be doing it. And you guys are, like, the hottest people we’ve got. It’s classic. Like the prom queen and the… the… you know, I’m not sure which high school romantic comedy hero you are.”
Instead of replying, Sayid hands Hurley his water bottle. “Are you thirsty?”
Hurley turns around and sees that Shannon and Charlie are approaching earshot range (Sayid apparently has eyes in the back of his head), so he takes the hint and drinks.
“Hey, Hurley. Sayid. Did you hear this? It turns out Shannon and I shagged after one of my concerts.”
Sayid’s eyes subtly bug out of his head and he looks up at Shannon with such sad puppy eyes that make Hurley think maybe it’s not a high school flick at all. Maybe the movie he was looking for was Lady and the Tramp.
“Shut up!” Shannon says and punches Charlie in the shoulder. She turns bright red. “We did not!”
“You don’t know that. You just told me so.”
“Charlie,” Hurley says firmly, trying hard to play it cool and not look at Sayid. “Not now.”
“Cool it, dude.”
“We should break for lunch,” Sayid chokes out. It’s a good thing his accent is so smooth, because Hurley can tell otherwise, he’d be stuttering.
If this keeps up, Hurley thinks Sayid’s the one who’ll need cheering up, not Charlie.
** ** **
Once they get past the traffic of the city, the road opens out and the smog disappears. Sayid knows it’s about four hours to Las Vegas. He’s never been there before and had never had any interest in going. Gambling and bright lights have never appealed to him.
Hurley has been quiet so far—quiet and scared—which is wholly out of character for him. Usually when they spend time together, Hurley devises their activities and drives most of the conversation, which Sayid finds comforting. Carmen was right to propose this; something is wrong, though Sayid isn’t confident he can do anything useful. This is an unprecedented role reversal. He has little practice in cheering up his friends. Before Hurley, he had little practice having friends at all.
“What happens in Swingers when the heroes arrive in Las Vegas?” he asks, trying to make the kind of easy conversation at which Hurley has always been so adept.
“They go out. Pick up waitresses. But the main guy is too hung up on his ex to go through with it.”
Sayid is confused as to how this relates to their current situation. “Is that what you would like to happen today?” he asks cautiously.
“No, dude. We don’t have to live out the movie. We just have to go. We can just, like, hang out by the pool. You won’t judge me if I order drinks with those little umbrellas, right?”
“Of course not,” Sayid says, relieved.
“Speaking of chicks, where’s Nadia?”
“She went to Iraq to visit friends.”
“Why didn’t you go with her?”
Hurley has a habit of asking questions Sayid doesn’t want to answer, but in a way that doesn’t come across as intrusive. In his own way, Hurley is as efficient an interrogator as Sayid is; he finds himself divulging information he would prefer not to. “The person I was when I was there... I’m afraid if I ever go back, I’ll become that person again. She still thinks of it as home, though.” He changes the subject. “Happily, her departure has left me free to spend time with you.”
Hurley takes his eyes off the empty road and glances over at Sayid. “Hey, are you okay? You seem kinda off.”
“I haven’t been sleeping very well.”
“You and me both, dude.”
There’s a flash, the usual understanding between them, and Sayid wonders if they have more in common as of late than they have divulged so far.
“Is there a reason for your sleeplessness?” he asks.
Hurley reaches for some Combos that Sayid bought on his way to Hurley’s house (after spending so much time together, they’ve become a guilty pleasure of Sayid’s, too).
“Dude, if I told you, you’d think I was crazy.”
“Nothing you could say would ever make me think you were crazy.”
Hurley munches, turning this over in his mind. Finally, he blurts out, “I keep seeing Charlie. That’s what’s wrong with me. That’s why my mom called you. I keep seeing Charlie, and that’s crazy. Because, you know, he’s dead.”
They drive in silence for a minute as Sayid drinks this in. Hurley isn’t crazy, even though Sayid wishes he were. He wishes they both were. It would be easier to handle than sanity.
“You think I’m nuts, don’t you?” Hurley says after time has passed without a response from Sayid. “And you’re trying to think of a nice way of telling me so.”
“Not at all.”
Sayid sits upright, and tries to approach this as rationally as such a topic can be treated, without giving too much away. “When you see Charlie, does he look bloated, like the corpse of a drowned man would, or does he appear to you alive and healthy?”
“Usually alive. And, like, dressed like he would be if he were here with us. I mean, not in anything I ever saw him wear. And he’s gotten a haircut.”
“I see.” It’s confirmation, of a sort. Sayid feels a chill run down his back. This day is too sunny, too beautiful and open to also include such disturbing revelations.
Hurley looks searchingly at Sayid. “What, have you been seeing Charlie, too?”
“No. I have not seen Charlie since the day he sailed off with Desmond.”
“Oh,” Hurley says, disappointed. “Well, he says ‘hey’.”
Sayid doesn’t know how to respond to this. “Tell him I say ‘hey’, too.”
“Sure thing, man.”
Sayid has a feeling this isn’t what Mrs. Reyes had in mind when she asked him to help her son.
** ** **
By the time they make camp for the night, the uncomfortable moment has blown over. Charlie keeps winking at Shannon, who flips him the bird whenever Sayid isn’t looking, but both smile like they’re joking, not serious. It’s the most Hurley’s ever seen these two talk before; it’s more than he’s seen anyone talk to her, other than her brother and Sayid. She and Charlie are actually, sort of, kind of, getting along. But still, Shannon makes a point of helping Sayid set up the tents and trying to talk about world events and stuff. Sayid looks at her quizzically, but seems to appreciate the effort.
“So about earlier…” he hears her whisper to Sayid.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Hurley feels like he’s back in high school. But a more fun version of high school, with people he actually likes. The island’s okay in that way, though most people don’t seem to have realized it yet.
“Having fun yet?” he asks Charlie.
Charlie swings his body sideways, body-checking Hurley in a friendly way. He’s almost back to his old self. Or at least, the self he was a couple of weeks ago. Hurley can’t say for sure what anyone’s ‘old self’ was like. “Yeah. Thanks, mate.”
It’s a great night. They roast fruit (there isn’t much else) under the stars and tell spooky stories. Hurley knows all the ones Shannon tells, but Sayid and Charlie seem to have grown up with some different ones.
It takes some prodding to get Sayid to tell stories, but it’s worth it; and after awhile he loosens up a little (not much, but hey, it’s something) and sort of gets into it. It turns out everything sounds kind of spooky in Sayid’s accent. In a good way.
Later, Charlie gets out his guitar and Shannon sings along. Sayid sits there, whittling something and listening quietly, but he radiates a kind happy peace that’s better than most people’s laughter.
“Hurley,” Sayid whispers just before they go to sleep.
“Thank you. I needed this.”
Hurley pats himself on the back.
Well, not literally. That would be kind of hard.
** ** **
Sayid hadn’t had time to make reservations, but Hurley has it all figured out. They’re to stay at the Bellagio, he says. Sayid doesn’t know any of the casinos, so he is happy to follow Hurley’s lead in this instance. They check into a penthouse suite that overlooks The Strip. It’s garish and loud and full of prostitutes, and Sayid doesn’t like it one bit, but he tolerates it, for his friend’s sake.
The only problem is that Hurley seems just as out of place here.
“Pool?” Hurley awkwardly suggests after they’ve watched the fountains from their balcony for a few minutes.
“If you wish.”
They walk downstairs in silence. Sayid has been lost in himself ever since Hurley’s confession, unsure whether or not to make his own.
They rent an expensive cabana, usually intended either for parties or celebrity couples. But this one is just for the two of them, and Sayid knows they look ridiculous, especially when they both keep their shirts on. Neither of them is an exhibitionist. And they may be wealthy now, but neither of them has the temperament for this kind of life.
Sayid orders a scotch with his lunch, and Hurley sips a mojito (‘they’re delicious’ he insists). Together, they sit under their canopy and watch the throngs of fashionable, mostly naked people cavort in the water. Sayid tries not to ogle, and to be honest, he isn’t at all interested, but one girl in particular catches his eye. Her hair is longer, but her perfectly tanned back and legs are familiar. Before he knows it, he’s stood up and walked to the edge of the water in an effort to get a closer look at her. She turns and winks at him as she climbs up the far steps of the pool, and maybe he’s crazy, but he follows because it’s her and because he sometimes forgets (or rather, he doesn’t want to remember) that this shouldn’t be happening.
He’s halfway to the other end of the pool when she slips between two drunken men and disappears into the bar room. He searches, but she’s gone.
Sayid spins around in a circle, trying to see where she went. The only thing near him is a giant jukebox. The page of songs that is currently open prominently features ‘The Best of Driveshaft’.
Sayid slowly walks backwards, away from it, shaking his head in horror. His back collides into someone. “I’m so sorry,” he says, turning around to find himself nose to nose with Hurley, who has come looking for him.
“You just ran off. What the hell? Are you okay?”
“I thought I saw…” Sayid holds his forehead. He feels dizzy.
Hurley steadies him with strong arms and forces him to look up. “It’s her, isn’t it? You see her. That’s why you believe me about Charlie. Right?”
Sayid nods. “It was only occasionally at first. But recently, it’s been almost every day. She’s beckoning me somewhere. I don’t understand it.”
At this moment, one of the drunken young things comes up to them (ever since leaving the island, Sayid has felt old, so old). He has curly brown locks, expressive eyebrows and a lanky frame. He looks inordinately pleased to see them.
“You’re those guys, yeah?” he says in an Irish accent.
Both Sayid and Hurley cringe. They lack Kate and Jack’s ability to weather fame.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Sayid attempts to bluff.
“From that plane crash. I remember you.” He points from one to the other. “The fat one and the sad one. And now you’re on a date. That’s so cute.” He waggles his eyebrows at them suggestively.
“We’re not on a date,” Hurley mumbles.
“Yeah, and I’m not shagging that beautiful girl over there rotten.” He points at a young woman holding a baby. “I know. Nice one.” He winks.
Both Sayid and Hurley simply stare, speechless.
“Speaking of beautiful girls, did you see that blonde bint who just went by? I lost sight of her. Short skirt, bouncy ponytail. Bouncy other things…”
She may be dead, she may be impossible, but the fact that someone else has seen her means that she’s real enough to avenge. He grabs this kid by the throat and lifts him into the air. “Do not speak of her in that way.”
“What, is she your girlfriend or something? Are you going to kill me? Go ahead. I don’t mind.” His voice is too naturally high to sound threatening, and the boredom is oddly real.
“Sayid, Sayid, put him down,” Hurley pleads.
“Leave us alone,” Sayid says, giving one last squeeze before setting him on the ground again.
The kid massages his neck. “You people are touchy. Anyway, if you see her…”
Sayid all but growls, and Hurley drags him away. As they begin to walk away, they hear him say, “Oooh, Driveshaft. God, I love those annoying cunts.” Hurley’s in mid-turn, just as furious as Sayid was a moment ago, but the boy must not mean anything by it, because within seconds, Charlie’s voice can be heard over the din of the bar. It sounds even eerier for being so cheerful.
“Let’s get outta here,” Hurley says. “I can’t handle this right now.”
“He saw her,” Sayid murmurs on the way back to their cabana. Everything is breaking—his heart, his mind, his grasp on reality. “Hurley, he saw her. Did you see her?”
“No. I’ve never seen her. I’m sorry. Only Charlie so far.”
Sayid clings to Hurley’s shirt, but feels so alone, despite knowing Hurley is going through the same thing.
When they collapse on their cabana, Sayid reaches for his scotch, now warm from the hot sun. “Why is this happening to us?”
“I don’t know, dude. But I wish it would stop.”
“For me, the worst part is that I’m not that sure I do.”
** ** **
The plan the next morning is to head a bit further down the beach and then, since Sayid says they’re on a sort of peninsula, they’ll take a shortcut across a strip of jungle and back home.
Charlie and Hurley swap stories on learning how to swim (Hurley’s shoched to find out there are no Y’s in England). Shannon and Sayid walk a few steps ahead, whispering just out of earshot. Hurley has no idea what they’re finding to talk about, but they’re in their own little world.
Charlie happens to look up at them, and Hurley can almost see the light-bulb going off over his head. “Is that what’s going on? I had no idea.”
“You are, like, the least observant person on this island. It’s totally obvious.”
“I’m observant, mate.” He casts his eyes around for something to point out. He shouts, “Like that. Over there, what’s that? Looks like a ladder. See, I’m observant.”
Sayid overhears and looks, too. “It is a ladder.”
Carefully, they make their way to the edge of the cliff-face that before now they’d been avoiding. Charlie’s right. There’s a ladder leading down the side of the cliff. The top of it sticks out just a foot above the ground.
“Did you see anything like this when you went on your trip?” Hurley asks.
“I saw a thick electrical wire buried in the sand, but nothing like this. This looks like the work of pre-industrial groups. Look at how the wood has been cut with a knife, not with modern tools.”
“I think there’s something down there,” Shannon says, leaning over the edge and pointing at where the ladder ends.
“Hold the top for me,” Sayid tells Charlie.
“You aren’t going down there, are you? That’s madness.”
Something about this place calls to Hurley, even though he couldn’t say why if you asked him. “I’m coming with you.”
Sayid’s already started climbing down, but he stops and looks up at Hurley. “I don’t think you should. We don’t know what’s down here.”
“I don’t care.”
“Hurley, listen to the man,” Charlie pleads.
Shannon’s folds her arms. “I don’t see why anyone has to go. Why’s everyone always trying to be a hero? Whatever’s down there isn’t going to get us rescued, so who even cares?”
Hurley ignores the naysayers and focuses on Sayid. He’s learned by now that Sayid doesn’t really knock people down; he’ll respond if you make it clear that something’s really important to you. “I mean it. I can do this.”
As predicted, Sayid listens carefully, and bites his lip while he thinks. He jumps gently on the ladder. “It is sturdy. But you’d have to be careful.”
He grins. “Careful’s my middle name.”
“You told me it was Jesus,” Charlie snaps as Sayid starts climbing down. He and Shannon hold the top of the ladder and watch him, and then grab it tighter when Hurley places his feet on the rungs.
It’s really not that bad, as long as Hurley keeps looking up. And he’s spryer than he looks, so it only takes a minute to get down. Sayid’s already explored the main part of the landing by the time Hurley gets there. There isn’t much there: just some sort of old-fashioned scale with a rock on each side. He picks up the dark one and turns it over in his hands. “How strange.”
“Dude, this place is creepy.”
Sayid ignores him and keeps waking. “There’s another cave in here. Do we have any more torches?” he asks.
“We used them all last night.”
Sayid disappears into a dark cave entrance at the right. Hurley hangs back until Sayid reappears, and plays with the scale. The whole thing is kind of a let-down.
“I walked around,” Sayid says when he reemerges, “but there is nothing in here. I think the bears must have been in here at one point, because there are scratches all along the walls.”
“What do you see?” Shannon’s voice wafts down from above.
“Nothing of import,” Sayid shouts back. “We’re coming back up.”
Hurley waits while Sayid goes up first, but near the top, the ladder rung breaks and he falls a few feet before catching himself. Shannon and Charlie above, and Hurley below, all freak out.
Man, Shannon can really scream.
Even though he’s basically dangling on a piece of wood, and he’s one second from plummeting to his death, Sayid’s still calm and able to bark out orders. He tells Hurley to climb up as far as he can behind him, while the ladder still holds, and wait for him to get to the top so the three of them can use their combined strength to drag Hurley the rest of the way.
“What if it breaks while I’m still on it?” Hurley looks down at the steep drop and the rocks in the water.
“It won’t if you keep your movements calm and controlled.”
“Not very reassuring.”
Once he gets into range, Shannon and Charlie both grab hold of Sayid’s uppermost arm and pull, heaving him up the last few feet and back to the top of the cliff. As soon as he’s up, he bends down and grabs hold of Hurley’s hand. It’s a long, shaky, awful process, but soon, he joins them on firm ground.
He rolls over and catches his breath on the bare rocks. Sayid, who’s held it together just long enough to help him, finally lets it all out, too.
Hurley looks up at Shannon and Charlie, who are standing over them with their arms crossed, grinning.
“You saved us. Thanks, guys,” Hurley says.
“No problem. You two owe us, though. Remember that.” Shannon smiles as she says it, and Hurley knows she’s only joking… maybe. In her own way, she’s just as hardcore as Sayid.
** ** **
As Hurley says, they’re here, so they might as well gamble.
All Sayid wants is to play a couple of hands and then head to bed. Tomorrow, he’ll suggest leaving this godforsaken place and visiting the big dam, of which he’s heard so much about. That would be more to his (and probably Hurley’s) liking.
It hasn’t even been a full day, but it comes as no surprise that neither of them are very good at ‘swinging’.
They set themselves up at a medium-stakes poker table. A couple of other players join them, but the table isn’t full. Sayid is staring at his cards when out of the corner of his eye, he sees blonde hair swoosh across from him. Reflexively, he looks up and sees Shannon sliding into one of the two empty seats at the table. She smiles fondly at him, then checks out his outfit and shakes her head, disappointed. Sayid gazes at her wordlessly, breath held, hoping that if he stays still, she’ll stay longer than she usually does.
“The loser in the suit is bluffing,” she says, even though she is in no position to see his cards. “Nothing but a pair of threes.”
“Thank you,” he says, ostensibly to the dealer. He knows it makes no sense, but he hopes she understands that his remarks are really directed to her.
Sayid reaches into his pocket for a handkerchief and mops his brow. He begins sweating from the effort—the effort of keeping her here and keeping the secret from everyone else. He wants to reach out and touch her, talk to her, but other than that one young man earlier, he doesn’t think anyone else can see her. No one else has acknowledged her arrival, at least.
He glances over at Hurley, who is similarly sweating.
“She’s here,” he whispers.
“So’s Charlie,” Hurley mutters. He nods in the direction of the other empty seat at the table.
“Charlie’s here? Where?” she asks excitedly, and looks around. Given where Hurley says Charlie is sitting, she must be looking right through him in the same way everyone else is looking right through her.
“You sure she’s here? Charlie says he doesn’t see her.”
“No whispering, please, gentlemen,” the dealer says.
But it’s too late, because Shannon’s face has already fallen. “He’s here and I can’t even see him? I may look fabulous, but being dead sucks. There’s no one to talk to. By the way, you should fold. That other guy has a full house.”
“I miss you,” he says. He’d meant to think it only, in the hope that perhaps she’s a telepathic ghost, which would be logical, since apparently all this is in his head, but it comes out anyway.
“I know. Why the hell else do you think you can see me?”
It’s logical, and Sayid nods to himself in agreement. On one of the upswings, he happens to look up and sees that everyone is staring at him. Everyone, that is, except Hurley, who is currently shaking his head and putting his fingers in his ears.
“Sirs?” The voice of the frightened dealer goes unheeded.
“You don’t have to,” she says, ignoring them and leaning forward to touch his hand; she’s warm and soft, not icy like he would have expected. “We can all be together again. You can fix this. Make it so Charlie and I can hang out while we wait for the rest of you. Boone, too. And my dad. You know what you need to do.”
“I don’t know. What is that?” he whispers, ceasing to care if anyone else can hear.
Just then, Hurley blows up at one of the players. “You’re cheating! You have two queens of clubs. That’s not even possible, dude! And… and you’re wearing a toupée.”
“How the hell do you know that?” the toupéed one says.
“I have my ways.”
“I think you two are the cheaters, with your whispering and your code talk. Either that or you’re crazy.”
A few minutes later, after more embarrassment, Hurley and Sayid are dragged unceremoniously out of the casino by security. They pass by their Irish friend from earlier in the day, who is also being roughed up dragged out. He waves. “You, too? Cheers!”
They’re told to wait while their luggage is brought down to the garage. Hurley sits on the cold concrete floor while Sayid paces.
“They are alone,” he says, hopeless and devastated. This is so much worse than he’d anticipated.
“That can’t be what it’s supposed to be like. Something’s wrong. It’s gotta, be, right? I don’t wanna die if I’m just going to be stuck all alone like that, haunting my friends and getting them kicked out of casinos.”
“She said we can fix it. But we were thrown out before she could tell me.”
Hurley looks up. “I think they want us to go back, dude.”
“But why? Shouldn’t they be happy we were rescued?”
“Do you really feel like we were rescued? I mean, we’re all pretty messed up. Desmond and Penny are on the run. Sun’s super pissed off. I’m lying to my mom. You’re lying to Nadia. Kate’s lying to Aaron. Jack’s…”
Sayid nods. “…Lying to himself.”
“We weren’t supposed to leave. We weren’t supposed to leave any of them. And now they’re all trapped and alone. Maybe if we go back, they can see each other again, you know? We can save them. We owe them. That’s what Charlie just told me. Remember?”
“I remember. But how do you propose we go back? Jack and I have both tried to find a way but have found nothing.”
“There’s always a way, dude.”
Sayid knows he’s right, but he also knows some things are beyond their understanding. “If there is, perhaps it will find us. Until then…”
The men arrive with their luggage, and Sayid packs it away.
Hurley starts the car. “Back home?”
Sayid nods. “I’m sorry. This wasn’t a particularly successful roadtrip.”
“No man, it was good. At least now we know we’re not alone, right? We’re not crazy.”
“Yes, that is something. For now, at least.”