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Three

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									Three She woke up to find herself resting on cold stone. Her head was throbbing madly, and the last thing she remembered was a pier before a bag was thrown over her head and she was shoved roughly… somewhere. Here, apparently. However, everything in-between was blank. How did she get here? Where was everyone else? What was going on? These questions had been crossing her mind so often over the last several months, she wondered if they‟d ever be answered. Pushing herself up from the stone platform she was lying upon, she surveyed the area and discovered she was in a high-ceilinged cage. Apart from a set of large, stone, stair-like structures on each side, there was nothing else there. Outside the cage seemed to be forest – not that she‟d expected anything else. Maybe an Other as a guard, but there was no one in sight. Suddenly, she noticed two fluffy white towels and a bar of soap stacked on top of each other, sitting on the stone stairs across from her. Wondering how she‟d missed them before, she got up and went over to investigate. The towels were warm and comforting to touch, and she held them to her face. As soon as they touched her skin, however, a calm, yet commanding, male voice said from nowhere, “Bring them with you. You will go and wash.” “Who‟s there?” she asked. “That‟s not important,” replied the voice, and the cage door swung open independently with a slight creak. “Please exit the cage. Do not make eye contact with your escort.” Confused, she did as she was asked, clutching the towels and the soap under her arm. As soon as she left the cage, the door swung shut again and she was met by a tall, slender man wearing cargo shorts and a plain, faded green shirt. Ashley Ford kept her eyes on the ground as the man grabbed her upper right arm and led her away. As Ashley stepped out of the shower and mechanically wrapped her hair in a towel, she noticed that her clothes were missing. Instead, draped over a chair, was a blue summer dress and, sitting on the seat, a pair of matching sandals. Ashley frowned at them as though this would cause them to transform back into her jeans, tank top and boots, and when this didn‟t work, she sighed and proceeded to pull them on. Once again out of nowhere, the same voice as before sounded in the room. “Present yourself as best as possible and wait for us to retrieve you,” it echoed. “Where the hell are my clothes?” Ashley commanded of the ceiling, and when she received no response, she frowned at the dress once more, then proceeded to dry her pastshoulder-length dirty blonde hair and make it look as tamed as possible.

Just as she finished, as though They were watching her (Ashley would bet money that they were), Tom entered the room. “Well, screw manners, then. Y‟ever heard of knockin‟?” Ashley sneered. “Well, settle down there, miss,” Tom chuckled, today without his fake beard. “I‟m about to take you to breakfast.” “What?” Ashley frowned. “Why so glum?” Tom remarked at her expression. “I don‟t do dresses.” Tom just smiled and led Ashley out of the room by her arm. Once outside the building, Tom headed straight through the jungle, en route to the beach, still with a firm grip on Ashley. When the beach was in view, she noticed decking laid out along the edge of the forest and a wooden patio in the middle, which was flanked by two or three Others. Underneath the patio was a large, round table, covered with an elaborate breakfast buffet. Ashley stared in awe – she hadn‟t seen this much food in years, and that included the Hatch‟s food drop a couple of weeks ago. She made to sit at the table, then remembered the company she was currently with, and decided there must be something sinister going on. “What‟s all this about?” she turned to Tom. “Henry wants to talk to you,” he replied vaguely, taking something out of his pocket. “Oh, don‟t give me that, I know Henry‟s not his real name.” “Well, I don‟t think you‟ve quite the authority to be telling me what to say and do…” Tom grinned. “Now, I‟m gonna need you to put these on.” He held out a pair of handcuffs. “What? Why?” “Just in case you try anything… funny.” Ashley stared at him, incredulous. They were having breakfast, for God‟s sake. Tom sighed, grabbed her wrists and put them on, muttering, “S‟always the hard way, isn‟t it?” When he let go, Ashley looked down at her hands and drew a shuddering breath. This brought back too many bad memories. Tom, apparently noticing this, taunted, “Those familiar to you?” Ashley didn‟t look up, but those words sent a chill down her spine. Who were these people? Tom allowed Ashley to take a seat at the table and smirked, “Now, if you need anything, I‟m just over here, okay?” then left to stand a good ten meters down the beach.

Ashley looked down at her hands again, which were blocked from the Others‟ view by the tablecloth. FLASHBACK “Wow… second-degree murder, isn‟t that what you Yanks call it? That‟s a lot for a pretty little girl like you – should put you away for a long time.” “Don‟t call me that,” Ashley snapped, jerking her head up from her handcuffed wrists. Ignoring her, the detective continued in his heavy Australian accent, “And your brother‟s on first-degree. You won‟t see him for a long time, even after you get out.” Ashley gave no response, and looked back down at her hands. “More than he deserves, really. We should probably just throw you both back into the gutter.” He saw a twitch from Ashley, and knew he almost had her. “The gutter‟s probably a palace compared to what you‟re used to, anyway-” Ashley cracked. She sprang out of her chair and, before the detective could react, kicked his desk over on top of him, spilling papers and office supplies everywhere. She made to lunge at him, but was seized from behind by two large policemen. She kicked and thrashed at them and tried to break free, but could not get away. Another police officer helped raise the desk off the detective‟s stomach and his hands went immediately to the shattered remains of a coffee mug that previously displayed a photo of a young woman and two smiling children. “My five-year-old son gave me that mug…” he muttered as the two policemen holding a still-struggling Ashley managed a firm grasp on both of her shoulders. The detective pointed a finger at her. “You‟re spending the night here, girl,” he snarled, “and I‟ll make sure you and your filthy brother are locked away for this, oh yes. For a long, long time.” END FLASHBACK “Hello, Ashley.” A soft, eerie voice broke her from her reverie. Ashley gasped in surprise and looked up into the face of the faux Henry Gale, peering at her from across the breakfast table. He was wearing a purple shirt, and had already poured himself some orange juice and served himself some Frankfurt sausages. Most of the injuries inflicted upon him by Sayid seemed to have healed. “How are you?” “How d‟you think I am?” Ashley glared at Henry, who just smiled and sipped his juice. “Hell,” Ashley continued, “I‟d wager you‟ve never been through all this…” she held up her wrists, indicative of her ordeal since leaving for the Others‟ camp with Michael and her friends. “I could prove you wrong,” he smiled, gently placing his glass down. “Why do you want us?” Ashley asked fiercely.

“Because you‟re special, Ashley. You all are.” Ashley laughed. “Don‟t patronize me. I may still be in my late teens, but I ain‟t stupid.” “Oh, I have no doubt about that.” He smiled again. “Please, eat.” Still watching Henry cautiously, Ashley hesitantly picked up a fork and loaded some scrambled eggs onto her plate as Henry poured her some apple juice. “How did you know-” she began. “…that you don‟t like orange juice?” He didn‟t answer Ashley‟s question, but, still smiling, again prompted her to eat. Ashley paused briefly, then picked up her fork and took a tiny bite of her breakfast. It was, without a doubt, the best food she‟d ever tasted. Ashley ate more, and it was almost heavenly. “I knew you‟d like it,” Henry remarked as she helped herself to some more scrambled eggs, as well as Frankfurt sausages, French toast, a pancake or two and a muffin, all of which she piled onto her plate. Ashley was half way through her second piece of toast when she became curious. She deposited the half-eaten food back onto her plate and asked, “Why do I get all this?” Henry hesitated, finished his mouthful of bagel and answered. “Why, so you get something nice to take your mind off the imminent hell you are facing, of course.” “What?” Henry stared blankly at her as though what he had just said was not of concern at all, and again, gave no answer. Ashley, assuming correctly that he was not going to divulge any further information on that subject, pressed, “And my friends – they get this too?” “Katherine, yes. I cannot confirm the situation with James and Jack, however.” “Why not? Where are they?” Ashley questioned loudly. “I‟m sorry?” Henry cocked his head. “WHERE ARE MY FRIENDS?” she shouted, fists on the table. “Well,” Henry began, dabbing his mouth with a napkin, “Katherine and James are in relatively the same position as you-” “You don‟t get to call him that,” Ashley growled, “ever.” Henry ignored her and continued, “And Jack, well… he‟s in a different situation entirely.”

It enraged Ashley how calm and placid Henry was whenever he spoke. “Let me see him,” she demanded. “James?” Ashley clenched her fists. “No… no, I don‟t think that will be possible.” “I wanna see my brother, dammit! Let me see him!” “I think we‟ve been here long enough. Tomorrow morning, then?” Henry motioned to Tom, who came and grasped Ashley by the arms, forcing her to stand. “What? No! No, please, let me see him!” Ashley pleaded shrilly and tried to pull away from Tom, who only held on tighter. “Get the hell off me!” Tom began to pull Ashley towards the path through the jungle which led to her cage, when tears began to leak from her eyes. “Please, he‟s all I‟ve got left! Let me see him, please…” No matter how futile her attempts were, she kept pulling against Tom, and eventually his shirt became stained with Ashley‟s tears. “Please…” she sobbed again, as Henry strode over with a slightly amused expression crossing his face. Henry lightly took Ashley‟s chin between his thumb and forefinger and turned her head to face him. “I think we‟ve found your greatest fear – losing your brother.” He looked at Tom, who nodded. “Good. He will be pleased. Very well, you may see James for one hour each day, immediately after breakfast.” Ashley, surprised yet relieved at this sudden change of heart, asked, “Can… can I see him now?” Henry smiled. “Yes, I think so.” Unable to keep from smiling, Ashley allowed herself to be led back into the jungle in the direction of Sawyer. Tom never relinquished his hold on Ashley until they arrived outside what was apparently Sawyer‟s cage, some fifteen minutes later. He ushered Ashley inside, locking the door firmly behind her, then said gruffly, “Hold your arms out through the bars and I‟ll remove your cuffs.” Ashley did as she was told and Tom complied. “You have one hour,” he reminded her, then disappeared behind the foliage. Ashley turned around – the enclosure was exactly the same as hers, except that there was a strange metal machine standing in one corner, hosting a red button with a picture of a fork and knife displayed on it. Ashley looked around, but could not see her brother anywhere. “…Sawyer?” she called tentatively, rubbing her wrists.

There was a rustle from behind the stone stairs across the room and a head with chinlength, dirty-blonde hair matching Ashley‟s appeared. “Who‟s there?” it squinted at her. Ashley stayed on the spot for a moment, deciding whether or not she should go over to him. “…Ashley?” Sawyer finally recognized his sister. He leapt up from his resting place, and the siblings ran to each other to share a warm and long overdue embrace. “Sawyer, I‟m here,” Ashley breathed. “Oh, God, Ash… I was so worried about you,” Sawyer said as he kissed her on top of her head and then held it in his hands, scanning her body for any injury. “Are you alright? Where have you been?” “Same place as you,” she replied. “They keep you in one of these too?” Ashley nodded. “Son of a bitch!” “Are you okay?” Ashley inquired, looking over him. “They didn‟t hurt you, did they?” “No, I just woke up this mornin‟ and I was all groggy.” “Me too.” “How did you get in here?” “They let me.” “What? Ash, what‟s been goin‟ on?” Ashley proceeded to relate her story since that morning, accompanied by plenty of confusion and inquiries on Sawyer‟s part. “And did he say why you got food?” Sawyer pressed Ashley. She paused. “He said… he said, „so you get something nice to take your mind off the imminent hell you are facing‟.” Sawyer stared at her for a long moment. All he could think of saying was, “Ash, be careful.” He took her over to the stairs and held her in his arms. A drop of moisture escaped Ashley‟s eye. “Sawyer… I‟m scared.” “I know.” They stayed in each other‟s arms for a long time, neither sibling saying anything, but simply enjoying each other‟s company while they had the opportunity. Ashley was about to drift off to sleep in Sawyer‟s lap when they heard a shout in the distance.

“Your hour‟s up!” Tom‟s voice filtered through the trees from some tens of meters away. “Ash,” Sawyer shook her gently and she sat up, “they‟re comin‟.” “What? No… no, it can‟t be time yet… Sawyer, don‟t leave me.” She grasped him in another tight hug, which he returned. “You‟ve gotta, Ash. I‟ve seen what they do…” Sawyer paused, then removed Ashley‟s arms from around his neck. “Wait here.” Puzzled, Ashley watched as her brother got up and moved over to the strange machine she had observed upon entry to the cage. He picked up a large rock, then simultaneously stood on a pedal at the base of the machine and pushed the red button. “Warning!” the machine buzzed. Sawyer promptly took the rock in both hands and tossed it at a lever on the other side of the cage. The rock hit its target exactly – there was a reason Sawyer was the captain of his under sevens‟ basketball team. Bells went off from within the machine and a fanfare started up as Sawyer celebrated by punching the air and giving off a “Yes!” causing Ashley to giggle solemnly. Like clockwork, a brown-pink object slid down a chute to land at Sawyer‟s feet, followed by what looked like several bowlfuls of dog biscuits, and Ashley heard water begin to run somewhere nearby. Sawyer retrieved the first object from the pile and brought it back over to Ashley, who discovered it to be a large fish biscuit. Ashley looked from the biscuit in Sawyer‟s hands to the pile of dog food in disgust. “This is what you get to eat?” “Yeah.” Sawyer sighed. “I want you to have it.” He held out the fish biscuit. Taken aback, Ashley gasped, “No, Sawyer, I… I get breakfast every morning, I can‟t-” “Not to eat,” Sawyer interrupted. “So you at least have somethin‟ of mine to keep close. I get one o‟ these every eight hours, I‟ll be fine.” “Sawyer…” “Take it. No questions.” He opened the pocket in Ashley‟s dress and shoved the fish biscuit inside as several Others entered the cage. Ashley stared at Sawyer‟s insistent yet sad expression for a moment before once again throwing herself at him in a desperate last hug. “Thank you,” she breathed into his ear as Tom approached from behind and attempted to detach the siblings from each other. It took a few good tugs but eventually their arms gave, and Ashley was dragged from Sawyer‟s cage and back towards her own without another word.

Ashley was treated in the same manner the next morning. She awoke feeling rather groggy, was escorted from her cage and told to shower, then taken to her seaside breakfast with Henry Gale. “What‟s the matter, Ashley?” he quizzed in his light, calm voice, biting the corner off a piece of toast. “You didn‟t enjoy your visit with James?” “There‟s nothing wrong,” Ashley shot back. “Oh, I think there is… We‟ve been here nearly an hour now and you‟ve yet to eat anything.” “Why do only Kate and I get food?” “I don‟t think I can divulge that information,” Henry murmured as he spooned some eggs onto his plate. “You feed Sawyer pet food!” Ashley raised her voice. “God knows what you‟re giving Jack-” “I think you‟ll find your so-called „pet food‟ is considerably more nutritional than the real thing,” Henry pointed out. “That‟s a lie.” Ashley crossed her arms over her chest. “I refuse to eat when all my brother gets is God damn fish biscuits!” Henry thought for a moment. “Very well… you may take one plate of food from this table to your brother every morning,” Ashley‟s face brightened, “on one condition.” “Which is?” “Ashley… what is your favourite food?” “…Sorry?” This was the last condition Ashley would have imagined from Henry. “What is your favourite food?” he repeated. “I, uh… I used to love my mom‟s toasted sandwiches…” Ashley replied. “Excellent. I shall ensure there are some here tomorrow. You may go and see James now.” “That‟s… that‟s it?” Ashley gaped. “Yes. Why? Is there something you wish to address?”

“N… no. No, it‟s nothing.” “Good. Select which plate you would like to provide for James, and I shall see you tomorrow.” As Ashley hesitated, then picked up a plate of scrambled eggs and a fork, Henry motioned to Tom, who came and once again took Ashley to Sawyer‟s cage. After Tom had left, Ashley skipped the formalities of greeting her brother and sat down immediately. “Ash, what‟s up?” “Here, this is for you,” Ashley offered Sawyer the plate of eggs. “I refused to eat until you got fed better, so Henry let me bring this.” Sawyer picked up the fork and took a large mouthful. “Wow, these… these are amazing. Thanks.” “It‟s fine. Sawyer, I need to tell you something.” “Uhhuh?” he mumbled through a mouthful of breakfast. “Sawyer… this whole having breakfast with Henry thing… it‟s freakin‟ me out.” Sawyer gave Ashley a quizzical look, so she continued, “Today, he said the only catch for me bringing you food was that I had to tell him what my favourite food is.” Sawyer swallowed. “And did ya?” Ashley nodded. “Well, it‟s not really much they can use against you, is it?” “That‟s what‟s worrying me. It‟s so simple, it just doesn‟t make sense.” “Yeah…” Sawyer set aside the eggs and shuffled closer to Ashley, putting his arms around her. “Just watch yourself, okay? I have no idea what they‟d wanna know that for, but we both know what they can do…” Sawyer squeezed Ashley‟s shoulders for reassurance. Suddenly, Ashley‟s eyes fluttered closed, and she slumped against her brother. “Ash. Hey, Ash!” Sawyer shook her shoulders, and her eyes opened again. “What? Oh, sorry, I guess I‟m just tired…” “Tired… right…” Sawyer muttered, a severely concerned expression crossing his features. “You sure you‟re okay?” “Yeah, yeah, I‟m fine,” Ashley replied, wiping her eyes. “I just need to rest; this whole thing‟s stressing me out.”

Slightly skeptical, Sawyer nevertheless allowed Ashley to rest her head against his chest, and within minutes she was sleeping soundly. This was not what disturbed him the most, however; when the Others came to retrieve Ashley an hour later, she still did not awaken, even when Tom picked her up and carried her from the cage. Sawyer didn‟t sleep that night. Nothing changed in Ashley‟s routine the next morning, and she once again found herself seated under the wooden patio beside the sea, opposite Henry Gale. For reasons Ashley did not know nor care about, the tension that usually hung between the two was missing. “I see you have rediscovered your appetite,” Henry smiled as he sipped his drink. It was true; Ashley had already eaten her way through two sausages, a muffin and three helpings of scrambled eggs. Through a mouthful of toast, Ashley mumbled, “Henry, can I ask you a question?” Henry, slightly taken aback, replied, “Yes, of course.” “What‟s your real name?” Henry smiled at her curiosity for a moment, considering whether or not he should tell her. Apparently deciding the positive, he replied, “My name is Ben.” “Ben,” Ashley repeated, and smiled also. “I like that name. My best friend‟s brother was called Ben… and that guy I had a crush on in junior high… It‟s a good name,” she concluded, devouring the remains of her toast. “Yes, it does seem to be popular.” Ben considered Ashley for a moment, then looked down at the table. “You haven‟t touched the sandwiches I organized especially for you.” “Oh!” Ashley scanned the table, her eyes finally resting on the sandwiches. “I‟m sorry,” she apologized, then seized one and took a large bite out of it. It tasted like heaven on bread. “This is exactly like my mom used to make!” she exclaimed, biting into it once more. “Well, I‟m glad you like them! I thought you might like to take that plate to your brother, to see what he thinks of them,” Ben suggested. “Oh, is it time?” Ashley asked as she finished the sandwich. “Only if you‟re ready.” “Sure,” Ashley replied, picking up the plate and waiting for Tom to come and escort her.

“Until tomorrow, then,” Ben finished with a sly grin. Missing this, Ashley waved vaguely in his direction as Tom took her lightly by the arm. Ten minutes later, Ashley entered Sawyer‟s cage for her third time to find him lying on one of the stone stairs. “Sawyer!” she called. “Breakfast‟s ready!” Sawyer came over from his resting place. “Geez, no need to be so loud,” he raised an eyebrow. “Try these!” Ashley held out the plate cheerfully. “They‟re just like mom used to make!” Sawyer raised his eyebrow even higher, then took a sandwich and tried it. “No way,” he breathed, then took another bite. “They are!” The siblings shared the rest of the sandwiches, chatting idly. Conversation suffered, however, as there was, of course, a lack of things to talk about. When the plate was finally finished, they once again shared an embrace, Ashley resting in Sawyer‟s lap with his arms around her shoulders. “Sawyer… d‟you think we‟ll ever get outta here?” Ashley looked up at her brother. “I dunno.” Suddenly, artificially, rain started pouring from the sky. “Wow!” Ashley exclaimed. Sawyer sat up in surprise as Ashley disentangled his arms from around her and began to walk around the cage, her arms spread wide, relishing the rainfall. “Ash, what‟s gotten into you?” “Nothing!” she turned around and grinned at him, then began walking again. However, just as she reached the middle of the cage, she stopped for a moment, breathed a slight “Oh,” then collapsed onto the ground. “ASH!” Sawyer bellowed as he ran to her, raising her limp body into his arms. “Ash, wake up! Jesus, c‟mon Ash…” he shook her shoulders, lightly slapped her cheeks, did everything he could think of, but Ashley still did not wake. He held her closer to him and brushed her soaking wet hair our of her face. Her lips were pale and cold. Sawyer could not let her go. Wouldn‟t. He squeezed her tightly to his chest. At that moment, Tom and the Others reentered the cage. Sawyer stood up and faced them, Ashley‟s unconscious body still hanging in his arms, the rain pouring down around them all. He stared at Tom for a long moment, hate and fear and confusion fighting each other for the right to display themselves on his face. “What did you do?”


								
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