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Nalowale

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Nalowale


1. Mähoe (Scott and Steve)


Pili 'olua e


They’ve always been brothers, but this is the first time that people can’t tell them apart.

They aren’t twins, not technically, but they might as well be: born eleven months apart and nearly inseparable, at least when they were younger. Their parents, naturally, expected great things. And, growing up, nearly everybody in town knew the Reynolds brothers: smart, athletic and such nice boys. They held doors open for their mother, played basketball with underprivileged kids and went to church every Sunday.

Mostly, that image was the truth, too.

But there was another side, one that people didn’t seem to see. One that Steve wondered, still wonders, how everyone could have missed. But that’s just how things were, always were. And now they aren’t.

It’s curious.

Back then, Steve had been student body vice-president. So, the next year, Scott ran for president. Scott landed a lacrosse scholarship, so Steve walked-on to the football team. He shattered the school’s field goal record that year. Steve chaired the Greek Philanthropy committee, so Scott became president of the Intrafraternity Council. Scott got into Stanford Law, so Steve got his MBA at Pepperdine… and so on.

They really should have outgrown that sort of thing by now, but it still crops up occasionally and at the least expected moments. Steve loves his brother, but sometimes he wishes that they could just stop for a moment. Just stop and be, without any expectations, without any competition.

Ironically, he reflects, it looks like he may have gotten his wish.

They’re stuck on this island for who knows how long, and, as usual, it’s all Erin’s fault. Steve has never liked Erin much, not since Scott brought her home one Thanksgiving to meet the family. It’s not that Erin is a bad person. In fact, if she heard him say that, her eyes would probably well up with tears behind her artfully tinted blue contact lenses. Erin’s biggest fault is that she’s a bit of a princess, which would be fairly harmless under normal circumstances. But Erin is rich and blonde and beautiful and all the validation that Scott has been looking for for way too long. That’s why Steve doesn’t like her. She’s all Scott’s insecurities dressed up, tanned, glossed and tottering around on Manolo Blahnik sandals.

The trip to Sydney was Erin’s idea. One last hurrah, she said, punching Steve on the arm like she was one of his drinking buddies. Scott and Erin are supposed to be getting married next month in Santa Barbara. It’s not going to be much of a wedding now -- minus the groom, the best man and one of the bridesmaids. Three hundred and fifty miniature wedding cake truffles, Steve reflects with grim humor, are going to go to terrible waste. He hopes Erin’s parents can get a bereavement refund, but, knowing the fascist nature of wedding planners, he doesn’t hold out much hope.

Sydney, though, turned out better than Steve had hoped. They rented a condo downtown, and drank and explored their way through the city and down the beaches. On the last night, there was dinner at a seafood restaurant at the very top of one of the hotels. Steve bought a bottle of wine, made a speech and everyone toasted the couple. Erin cried and gave him a little gift basket, complete with an engraved, sterling silver pocket flask and a hard-bound copy of Charlotte Rutherford’s A Complete Guide to Wedding Party Etiquette.

After dinner there were more hugs and tears, and, finally, pictures on the opera house steps. Erin stood, smiling, in the midst of her bridesmaids: two blonde, two brunette, balanced perfectly on either side. Steve had wondered, not for the first time, whether girls were taught to do that in some sort of class in college: to line up with perfect military precision, choosing the appropriate pose, not just for the occasion but also to show off designer dresses and personal trainer-sculpted figures to maximum effect.

The next morning they all packed up and headed to the airport, ducking and weaving through baggage checks and security, only to get to the gate and find their flight oversold. Steve was bumped outright, because he’d bought his ticket from one of those cheap-o internet portals. Scott volunteered to stay and catch the next flight with him, much to Erin’s dismay. She didn’t like traveling alone, but Scott told her she would be just fine without him. The gate agent was appreciative and promised them all free domestic tickets for their trouble if one more person from their party would agree to switch flights as well. So they stayed behind and waited for Flight 815, guaranteed to get them to L.A. bright and early the next morning: Scott, Steve and Caridad Vasquez -- Erin’s old roommate from the DG house back in college.

“I couldn’t pay for my ticket, you know.”

It’s the first thing Caridad says to them after the crash. Steve is sitting between her and Scott on the beach. The sun is setting and they’ve been moving all afternoon in stunned silence, helping where they can, gathering up bottled water and stray baggage. And then, as one, without a word, they sit down. She’s the first of them to speak.

“I couldn’t afford this trip, so Erin paid for me. She’s always doing things like that.” She shakes her head. “That’s why I gave up my seat. You know, paying it forward.“ Just then, she looks like she really, really wishes she hadn’t.

Later, Jack says that Caridad’s shoulder may never heal quite right and Steve is going to have an ugly scar on his stomach, but all three of them made it -- which is amazing if you think about it. Mostly, though, they don’t. Steve, at least, doesn’t think about it because thinking about it means thinking about how glad he is to be alive. And being glad to be alive means, in some small way, that he’s glad all those other people are dead instead of him. He won’t do that, he really can’t.

Instead, he thinks about the past. His past, Scott’s past and how entwined they are with each other. He thinks about how odd it is that the past doesn’t mean a whole lot now. Neither of them stand out here, they’re just two among many. They’re equal in a way they haven’t been in years. Things are different here. Scott isn’t Scott, and Steve isn’t Steve, and sometimes they're each other. The only one who really knows the distinction is Caridad and even she didn’t know them all that well to begin with.

Caridad surfs and prefers IPA to porter, but that’s about all Steve really knows about her. Sometimes she sits with that girl Shannon, sharing her suntan lotion and talking about nothing. It makes sense, he thinks, because Shannon reminds him a lot of Erin -- not that he would ever mention that to Scott.

“I pledged Kappas,” Shannon is saying on one of these occasions as Steve walks by, “but I never moved back in after I got back from Paris. They always wanted me to do stuff, you know?” She makes a face. “Stuff is really not my thing.”

Caridad just nods, and grins knowingly at Steve over Shannon’s shoulder. Suddenly, he’s overcome by the feeling that he’s very glad she’s there. That someone, anyone, on this island knows the difference between him and Scott. That there’s someone around to keep them honest, to keep them true, to remind them of who they were before.

After the pregnant girl gets attacked, Steve starts sleeping right next to Caridad. After Claire gets taken, so does Scott. And when Shannon’s brother and the hunter, Locke, finally come back to round up another search party, Scott and Steve go with them. So does that black guy, Michael -- the one with the kid.

They don’t find Claire by the time Locke and Boone decide they should go back, even though they spend the better part of an entire day in the jungle. It doesn’t seem to bother those two particularly. Scott thinks it’s weird, and Steve just thinks that Locke is weird in general. They split from the others at the caves and they’re not exactly sad to be rid of those guys. They head down to the beach to find Caridad. On the way, they walk into a stand of palm trees and right into the middle of a fight: Jack and Sawyer are pummeling the holy hell out of each other, kicking up sand as they wrestle each other to the ground. Scott and Steve just stand there gaping for a minute before they try to break things up. Scott gets an elbow in his face for the trouble. Jack apologizes, once he’s calmed down, but Sawyer just spits blood onto the sand and walks away. Later, though, he comes to find them and offers a cold-pack scavenged from one of the plane’s first aid kits. He still doesn’t say he’s sorry, but they get the idea.

So they sit. Scott holds the (not very) cold pack to his bruised face and they watch Caridad standing hip-deep in the water, net-fishing with some hippie chick from Eugene

They aren’t, the two of them then decide as one, going to be taking any chances. Blood and family and brotherhood are the only things they can truly rely on here if they want to survive. They have to take care of each other and watch out for one another and take care of Caridad in the bargain. She’s family now, by extension and by circumstance. There’s no arguing about who’s older or younger or better or in charge. There’s simply what has to be done and the knowledge that they can only depend on each other to do it.


2. Ho'onanā (Jack and Sawyer)


'O nei, 'o nakolo, 'o 'u'ina


By the time they bring Charlie back, Sawyer has already taken all of Claire’s things.

“She’s sure as hell not using it,” he says, raising his voice slightly, just loud enough for Charlie to hear, and Jack really, really wants to punch Sawyer right in his self-satisfied mouth.

He doesn’t, though. He even manages to wait an entire day before he goes down to the beach.

“Give it back.”

Sawyer doesn’t even look up. “What?”

“Claire’s bag. Give it back.”

“Why? So your little English buddy can have himself a real good cry over it? Fuck off, doc.”

“Just give the bag back, Sawyer. It’s important.”

“No way,” Sawyer says, laying aside the magazine he’d been reading. “Not unless you’ve got something equally valuable to trade.” He pulls Claire’s bag out of a pile of things and takes out a little book, a writing journal. He waves it at Jack. “Looks like I’ve got her diary here, too. That ought to be worth something.”

“This isn’t going to get you anything. If you won’t give it back, I’ll just take it.”

“Oh, my,” Sawyer says, replacing the book and putting the bag back in the pile, “threats of violence.” He gets to his feet. “I can’t imagine that’s going to work out very well for you.”

“You are unbelievable. When we find Claire, are you going to explain to her what you’re doing with her things?”

“Find Claire? You going to raise the dead, Dr. Do-good?” Sawyer laughs. “Good luck with that.”

“Claire is not dead,” he snaps back, but all he can think about is the feel of Charlie’s pulse fluttering back to life under his fingertips.

“Sure she is. You know and I know it, even if no one else wants to admit it.” He pauses. “She’s been gone a day? Two days? Charlie would be dead if you hadn’t found him. What do you think the odds are that they let her live this long?”

“Charlie survived,” Jack replies, unsure exactly why he feels so strongly about this. Common sense tells him that Sawyer is right, that Claire has almost no chance of coming back alive. But something else tells him that she’s going to. “So will Claire. She’ll come back.”

“Dead,” Sawyer says, “is dead. No two ways about it. Dead is waking up on a Sunday morning to find someone stiff and splattered in the bathtub.” He pauses. “But, hey, you ought to know that already. Huh, doc?”

He doesn’t take the bait. Instead, he says, “Not always. People come back, people beat the odds.”

“And you’re the one who can save them all, right?”

“Maybe, but things are different here, too.”

“Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“You couldn’t possibly understand,” Jack says and turns to walk away.

That’s when Sawyer punches him. It’s a sucker-punch, it’s unworthy of them. They ought to fight face to face, man to man, over this. Jack spins around, regains his balance and hits back.

It feels better than it should.

Sawyer stumbles back, looking a little stunned, and for a moment Jack thinks he might go down after one punch. He doesn’t, though. He staggers, but keeps his feet. He shakes it off and rushes at Jack, pushing him against the trunk of one of the palms.

“You asshole,” Jack says, through lips that are already beginning to swell a little on one side. “What is your problem?”

“Right now?” Sawyer says. “You. Dumbass,” he adds, almost as an afterthought. He’s enjoying this – or, at least, he wants Jack to think that he is.

“I don’t get you. You took Claire’s things just because you knew it would piss people off. I thought you’d learned by now…”

“Learned what? How to be a better guy?” Sawyer lays a hand across his chest in mock penitence. “Get real.”

“You keep doing this, and I just don’t get why. What the hell are you afraid of, Sawyer?” He hits home with that one. He hadn’t expected to, really, but Sawyer’s face drains of color. “You are afraid. Of what?” A sudden thought occurs to him. “What did you see?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, you do,” Jack knows that he’s on the right track now. “This place, it does things to your head.”

“Not mine, doc. Maybe you’ve got a case of the crazies, but not me.”

“Charlie was dead when we found him, but he came back. And there are other things, other people. You know what I’m talking about, Sawyer. I can tell you’ve seen someone, too.”

“Shut up,” is all Sawyer can seem to find to say.

“Who is it? Your mother? Your father? An old girlfriend?”

“I told you to shut up.” Sawyer digs an elbow into Jack’s chest.

“What if it was true?” Jack says, thinking again of Charlie, thinking of his father. “What if it is?”

Sawyer stares at him for a long moment, his face unreadable.

“Well?” Jack says.

“You’re messing with my head.” Sawyer’s getting angry again. “You think you can play me.”

“Who is it, Sawyer?” Jack asks instead. “Who do you want back? What is it you want to undo?”

There’s a moment, a half-moment, of hesitation when Jack thinks maybe he’s gotten through -- which is, of course, when Sawyer shifts his weight back and punches him right in the gut. Jack doubles over and Sawyer punches him in the side of the head. By the time Jack can stop the ringing in his ears, they’re both on the ground, struggling in the sand. But then there are strong hands pulling at them both, and the echo of voices that somehow sound far away.

“What the hell, you two!”

“Hey, cut it out!”

Scott and Steve are pulling them apart, then, and having a tough time of it.

“Ouch. Motherfucker!” Jack and Scott go tumbling away from the other two and wind up sitting hard on the ground beneath a palm tree. When Jack looks up, Scott is holding a hand to his bloody nose.

“Oh, Jesus. I’m sorry,” Jack says, scrambling to his knees even though he’s still a little woozy himself. “Here. Tip your head forward. Over the sand, not your feet. Pinch your nose, like this.”

Steve has Sawyer by the armpits, his arms pinned back in a wrestling hold and Jack vaguely recalls that Steve once said he’d been an athlete of some sort.

“Are you all right?” he asks.

Steve nods curtly. “What the hell are you guys fighting over?”

“Sawyer took something that doesn’t belong to him,” Jack says, avoiding Sawyer’s eyes.

Scott grunts, the closest thing he can manage to a laugh through his swollen nose, and Steve says, “Yeah, what else is new?” Sawyer struggles against him a little, but Steve just tightens his hold. “What? Are you gonna try and act like it’s not true? Look, dude. Whatever is it? Just give it back already.” And with that, he lets Sawyer go.

Sawyer wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and stomps over to his stash of things. He yanks out Claire’s bag and throws it at Jack’s feet.

“See, now. All you had to do was ask nicely.”

Jack snatches it up and leaves before he’s tempted to hit Sawyer again. Scott and Steve stand there to make sure that they go their separate ways.

He limps back into camp with Claire’s bag slung over one shoulder. His eye is swelling shut and he can tell that Sawyer got in a couple good shots to the kidneys. He drops the bag in front of Charlie, spilling the contents onto the floor of the cave. Jack eases himself down into a sitting position. Charlie leans over and picks Claire’s journal up without a word to anyone.

“You’re welcome,” Jack mutters, but Charlie doesn’t hear him at all. He’s got his arms crossed and his eyes closed, with Claire’s diary pressed against his chest.

Someone hears, though. There’s movement off to Jack’s left and if his head didn’t hurt so much he might even turn to see who it is.

“Let me see to that,” Rose says, sitting down and pushing a cold cloth against his eye with all the bedside manner of a harried mother. “Really, Dr. Jack,” she makes a noise in the back of her throat that tells him a lecture is coming, “what are we going to do with you?”

“I, uh, don’t know?” he offers helpfully.

She pushes the cloth a little harder against his bruised cheekbone and he winces. “How can you keep running off after danger? Don’t you think about what would happen if you got hurt? Or worse?” She looks him in the eye and he’s powerfully reminded of Mrs. Williamson, his fifth grade teacher. “How many lives have you saved since we got here? Who else do you think would take care of us all, Jack? Do you think about that?”

“Not really,” he says, looking away.

“Well,” she takes his hand and places it on the cloth, removing her own. “Maybe you ought to.”


3. 'Ohana (Rose)


A wawa ‘ia no he hale kanaka, Na wai e wawa ka hale ‘alaneo


Rose used to sing. Not in the choir, though, like everyone always imagines. She blames that on the way Hollywood portrays black people on television.

Rose sang.

Not gospels, not the blues. Rose sang her heart, bright and bold and full of glitter and electric light. It was, Bernard would say years later, the thing that made him fall in love with her.

Rose doesn’t doubt it.

She remembers those days, when, after sunset in New York, it felt like everyone in the world was dancing. She’d stand there, in shocking pink Halston couture with platform sandals and glitter in her hair, the lights would come up and it was like being born all over again every night. She met Bernard on the dance floor and fell in love equally with his beautiful eyes and bright mind. The world was so full of possibilities then and they were both so very alive. Even after they were settled, married with a house full of babies, those dreams and possibilities never went away. They changed, both the dreams and Rose and Bernard, but were never abandoned. They never abandoned each other, and Rose still sang.

She still believes that Bernard is alive, no matter what Dr. Jack says. It’s not rational, but it’s also more than just a feeling. It’s knowledge. She doesn’t know where it comes from, but she doesn’t question it. It tells her something that she wants to believe anyway, so why would she?

She’s still singing, for Bernard, for herself, her children, for hope. She is going to get back to them; she is going to get them back. But in the meantime… Dr. Jack is right about one thing, at least: they all need each other. They’re family here on this island, and like any family they didn’t chose each other. Like any family, there’s some who need more caring for than others. Rose is good at that, both the caring and the knowing which ones to care for.

Those Rutherford children, for example, are about the same age as her own Marcus and Ginny. If their situations were reversed, Rose would hope that someone would watch after them. Walt needs to mind his father more, and not always be looking elsewhere for his examples. And that poor boy with the guitar looks a half-step from collapse. She’s going to have to do something about that -- and the sooner, the better for all of them.

Rose thinks she can help them, while they all wait.

The young ones, especially, need hope, they need guidance, they need love. It would be so easy to lose sight here, of what’s right and how to treat each other. Rose worries about that. They need to remember who they are, they can’t forget, and, most importantly, they need to remember that they all want to go back home.


4. Huaka (Charlie)


Na ke aloha i kono e hui 'olua e


He can still hear her, even after she’s gone.

He doesn’t talk to anyone that first week if he doesn’t have to, and if anyone asks he tells them he’s listening. For what, they don’t ask, and after awhile, they stop asking all together.

For a week after she disappears he doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, doesn’t care, and on the seventh day, when he finally lays down and rests his eyes, he’s pulled out of his thin, sweaty sleep because he hears her again. It’s early in the morning, the sun just lighting the edges of the cloudless sky, and Claire is screaming. She’s screaming for Charlie, her voice bouncing off the rocks, faint and faraway, and just before he hears the last echo of her, he thinks he hears the tinkle of breaking glass.

That’s the moment, the first moment, when he thinks that maybe this place is driving him mad.

He doesn’t tell the others he can hear her. None of them seem to, and Jack is already watching him far too closely. Rose, who’s decided that she’s everybody’s mum all of a sudden, watches him, too. He wakes up to find her standing over him on the morning of the tenth day, her hands firmly on her hips.

“Child,” she says, “I think you’ve had about enough, don’t you?”

She holds out a cup of hot tea, sweetened with a packet of Splenda from one of the refreshment carts lined up incongruously in the third cave from the left, and stands there till he drinks it all. It’s tough love, he thinks, but it’s a nice change from Locke’s Obi-bloody-wan Kenobi bollocks. And for the first time in a very long time, Charlie realizes that he misses his own mum.

So he writes her a letter.

He thinks about putting it in a bottle and throwing it out to sea, but at the last minute, bottle in hand, he takes it to Rose and tells her she can read it if she wants. After that he sits for days and writes, to Liam, to his dad, to Father Daniel.

He gives the letter meant for his priest to Locke. He isn’t sure why.

Locke comes to find him afterward. He hands the bottle back to Charlie, but keeps the letter, tucking it into a pocket. “You have to try harder,” he says, his eyes going the color of flint. “Claire is counting on you, Charlie. You have to remember what happened. It’s important.”

Charlie just shakes his head and goes to find his guitar. He’s curled up with it by the caves, where Hurley is tending the fire and making sure that everyone is cared for and Charlie wonders idly when exactly Hurley got put in charge of them all. He’s good at it, though.

Charlie notices that Locke has gone to stand at the mouth of one of the paths, next to Rose. Locke is speaking softly and seriously, and Charlie knows that it can’t mean anything good. They look over at him once or twice as they speak. Rose shakes her head at something Locke is saying and Charlie suddenly has a memory of his parents, trying to decide how to punish him and Liam after they’d done something particularly stupid.

“Let me try it my way,” he hears Rose tell Locke. “Bullying the boy isn’t going to get you what you’re after, John. He needs caring for. He’ll come around in time.”

“We haven’t got time,” Locke mutters, but he waves Rose in Charlie’s direction anyway.

“Subtle,” Charlie says as she walks over.

“We haven’t exactly got the luxury of privacy, have we?” she says, not looking the least bit guilty at being caught talking about him. “Can you play that thing?” She inclines her head toward the guitar.

“A bit,” he says, trying not to take the bait. He still doesn’t want to talk to anyone, not really.

“They tell me you were something of a musician.”

“Still am.” He concentrates on the strings of the guitar and doesn’t look up.

“I know a thing or two about music,” Rose says, sizing up both him and the guitar in one glance. “Why don’t you play me something and we’ll see what you know.”

“Look, Rose, you’re a nice lady but-“

“Charlie,” she says, cocking her head to one side, “I was singing onstage in New York City before your mama met your daddy. You could, at least, pretend to humor me.”

“Singing? Really?” He’s interested in spite of himself.

“That’s right. I sang. Then I got married and had babies. But, oh, it was fun while it lasted.” She pauses. “I don’t suppose you know Don’t Leave Me This Way?”

“Disco is evil,” is all he says in reply.

Rose doesn’t seem fazed. “All right, but I’ll bet you know this one,” she says, and starts to sing.

He does know it and, even though he doesn’t quite know why, picks up in the right key after the first measure or two.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again, it’s so far and out of sight
I really need someone to talk to, and nobody else knows how to comfort me tonight
Snow is cold, and rain is wet
Chills my soul right to the marrow
I won’t be happy till I see you alone again
Till I’m home again and feeling right
I wanna be home again and feeling right

When they finish, Hurley, who’s sitting off to one side helping Scott and Steve (or is it Steve and Scott?) mend a makeshift fishing net, begins to applaud. “Dude, that was sweet.”

A few of the others clap or smile, too. Sun has tears in her eyes, though Charlie can’t imagine she understands any of the words.

Rose looks a little choked up, too, but she smiles at him and says, softly, “You’ve got to let it out, Charlie. The music can help, you know that. Maybe it can help you remember, too.”

“Maybe I don’t want to remember,” he says, staring fiercely down at his guitar.

“Maybe you don’t,” is all Rose says in reply. The extended silence afterward unnerves him.

“It’s stupid,” he says finally, looking down again and picking at the tape on one hand. “I barely even knew her…”

“That doesn’t matter much and you know it.” She stands up, reaching a hand down to him. “Why don’t you leave that here, and we’ll go for a walk, you and I?”

And for some reason, he does it.

“Did you know,” she says as they walk, “that my husband was on the plane with me? We’ve been married for twenty-five years.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. I haven’t given up hope and I’m not going to. Missing doesn’t mean gone for good. Not necessarily.” She puts a hand on his arm. “Now tell me about this girl.”

“I told you. I barely knew her…”

“You are mighty broken up over someone you didn’t even know, then.”

He is. He misses her, he aches with it, he hates himself for it. He hates himself for not being able to help her. It’s a tangible hurt, real as the welts on his skin, as his bruised and swollen throat. “There was just something there, you know. Maybe nothing, but maybe something. I wanted to see whether it was something, anyway.”

Rose leans in close to him and smiles. She moves her hand to his shoulder and he can see that she’s wearing a wedding band on a chain around her neck. The ache in his throat gets worse and his eyes are burning all of a sudden.

“You’ll get your chance, Charlie,” she says. “They aren’t gone, either of them, not really. We just have to keep hoping, we have to keep trying. You have to try and remember that.”

*