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Title: sail fair to the far fields of fortune
Author: [ profile] chicafrom3
Rating: PG
Characters: Aaron (Littleton) Austen, with guest appearances from Walt Lloyd-Dawson, Clementine Ford, Kwon Ji Yeon, and Charlie Hume.
Summary: Aaron doesn't know where he's going. Aaron doesn't know where he's been.
Word Count: 1248 words
Spoilers: Anything through "Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" is fair game, but I don't think there's any concrete spoilers.
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. LOST belongs to a ton of different people, but I think ABC owns the overall rights. Title comes from "Sleep Song" by Secret Garden. Further disclaimers at the end.
Warnings: A little language.
Author's Notes: Written in one sitting, and then lovingly beaten into shape by the fantastic [ profile] riviyan_questa, who bravely fought through run-on sentences, obscure syntax, and sentence fragments, to make this thing make sense. Much love, and any remaining mistakes are entirely my fault. Feedback of all kinds adored.

Aaron doesn't dream in comic-book frames, like Walt; he doesn't dream in poetry, like Ji Yeon; he doesn't even dream in Clementine's blunt black-and-white text.

Aaron dreams in fleeting images, still frames, and each photograph is unconnected to the last.

Aaron dreams, sometimes, in music.

He doesn't remember meeting Clementine.

She turns up on the front steps of his dormitory without warning, sitting on a duffel bag, studying a book intently and looking for all the world like she belongs in this place. Like she's always been here.

Some of his friends check her out with more interest than strictly necessary. When they ask, he just says that he's always known her.

She stays in his dorm room for three days, and this earns him more mockery, mixed with a little -- is it awe? Yes, he thinks; his friends are awed by Clementine, who saunters through the campus like she owns it, who sits in the quad while he's in class and scribbles in notebooks, who can put down anyone with no more than a word.

When his friends tease him, Aaron just says that it isn't like that, and it's not.

Clementine reminds him of the woman he used to believe was his mother. He loves her, and he's afraid of her. He wants to protect her, and he knows she can protect herself. He's never tried to stop her. He's never even tried to slow her down.

Clementine vanishes after three days. She doesn't tell him where she's going, or where she came from. She doesn't offer a goodbye.

He never expected one.

After she's gone, he finds a folded-up scrap of paper jammed awkwardly in his math textbook. It's ripped out of Joyce:
I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself home, my fatherland or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use, silence, exile, and cunning.

He folds it back up and puts it in his bag.

He didn't meet Walt until he was twelve.

Walt told him stories about planes, and islands, and polar bears. Walt told him stories about the woman he used to believe was his mother, and about Uncle Jack. Walt told him stories about the woman who bore him, and about the man who was almost his father. Aaron closed his eyes and listened to the words from a born storyteller. He used to pretend that they were just stories, well-crafted fiction that had nothing to do with him or the people he loved.

He still pretends sometimes.

When he leaves school, he sleeps on the couch of Walt's apartment in Brooklyn while he tries to figure out what happens next.

Walt doesn't ask him what he's doing there. Walt doesn't ask why he left school. Walt doesn't ask him how long he'll be staying.

Aaron doesn't offer any answers. He lies on that couch every night under a thin blanket and listens to Walt's dreams, but Walt's dreams are disturbing and unsettling in a way both of them wish they weren't.

Aaron leaves after a week. He doesn't know what he's looking for, but he knows he won't find it there. He says goodbye to Walt, and thanks him, and leaves.

When he's gone, he finds a page from a comic-book in his hand.

It's a simple drawing of a castle perched on some kind of glass dome in an arctic ocean.

He folds the Joyce scrap into the comic, tells himself he should throw them away, and doesn't.

He met Ji Yeon when he was still too young to think girls were different than boys, and he's never questioned her on anything before.

She meets him in Los Angeles, and he asks how she found him.

She just shrugs.

They go for a walk.

Ji Yeon shouldn't fit into this city, he thinks; she's too natural, too beautiful, too untouched for the smog and commercialism and plasticity of Los Angeles. But they go for a walk, and she looks like she's always lived here, like she belongs here. He feels awkward and out of place beside her.

They talk, but they say nothing. When they come back to where they began he knows nothing more than he did before he started.

She kisses him, quickly, shyly, on the cheek, and says goodbye.

He asks why she came to find him.

She shrugs and is gone.

When he goes back to his room and takes off his jacket, he finds a note card in the pocket, with a line of Korean written neatly in black ink. He struggles to translate it, drawing on a limited knowledge of the language learned a long time ago.

It says, That tree is not rotten.

On the back of the card, in English, are a name and an address.

The address takes him to a marina, and the name takes him to Charlie Hume.

Charlie is even younger than Ji Yeon, but Charlie owns a boat, and Charlie offers to take him anywhere he needs to go.

Aaron admits that he doesn't know where he needs to go.

Charlie doesn't seem to think that's a problem.

They don't talk about payment.

They talk about other things. Aaron lies, makes up a history that doesn't include the things he wishes weren't true. Charlie nods and accepts it and quite obviously doesn't believe a word of it.

Charlie tells him a story about a man and a woman whose love defeated everything that ever tried to stop them. It's a simple story, about waiting, and searching, and faith, and discovery. Charlie loves his parents without question, because his parents have never disappointed or lied to him. Charlie loves the oceans, and his boat.

Aaron shows him the note card, and the comic, and the torn page, and he hopes.

Charlie examines them closely, and then gives them back without comment.

They part ways, amiably, in Britain. Aaron still doesn't know where he's going or why.

He asks Charlie if he has anything to give him.

Charlie says that he has everything he needs already.

Aaron walks into a record store on a whim, buys the first CD he pulls out of the bargain bin, and doesn't look at it until he's safely in his hotel room.

He's somehow unsurprised to discover that he's bought The Best of DriveShaft.

Aaron doesn't know where he's going.

Aaron doesn't know where he's been.

Aaron buys a notebook, and writes his name over and over, trying to make it look right. Aaron Austen. Aaron Shephard. Aaron Littleton. Aaron Pace. Nothing he writes fits. Nothing he writes resonates.

He listens to the CD, but it just sounds like cheap 90s bubblegum rock.

He reads Korean poetry, but it just seems like so many pretty words.

He pages through comic books, but the drawings just seem flat and fake.

He struggles through Joyce, but fuck if he can understand the man.

Nothing fits. Nothing resonates.

He sleeps, and his dreams flicker from image to image with no connection or story. He wanders London, and finds it fake and shallow as Los Angeles or New York or any number of cities. He buys a plane ticket to Australia.

Aaron doesn't know where he's going, but he won't stop until he gets there.

Further disclaimers: the quote that Clementine leaves is from "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce. Walt gives a page from "The Green Lantern". Ji Yeon contributes a line from "Tree", a poem by Ch'ŏn Sang-Pyŏng taken from "Back to Heaven". I own none of it and claim no rights.
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