By Delia Lavender

I do NOT own LOST, John Locke or anything else pertaining to the T.V. series.

"Oh, Ignast!" mourned Ilona, her tears dripping onto Vincent's pale, furry neck.

"Oh, shit." muttered Locke, wondering how any woman could respect a husband

dorky enough to wear jester's motley at a medieval festival.

John Locke turned away from Ilona and resumed his swim. The water was

colder in this part of the stream, which was just what he needed. Perhaps if he

left her alone she would master herself.

God knew Locke wasn't mastering himself very well.

Behind him, the former Ilona Nadine Keaveney wept and reminisced about

her husband, Ignast Neville Keegan "We were married for seventeen years, and

we always knew we were meant for each other," she sobbed "Why, both of us

had intitials that spelled out the word 'ink'! Ignast proposed to me in the second

grade, on my very first day at St. Mary Ever-a-Virgin Academy. He got down

on one knee and slipped a lemon lifesaver on my finger..."

She then related how she'd eaten the lifesaver later, when she got hungry. Ilona

still felt a lot of guilt about that.

Locke glanced back as his grieving companion. Bird Brain wasn't slowing down.

Vincent was starting to whine and the hovering parrots to squawk. Two of

Ilona's favorites flew down onto the midstream boulder adjacent to the one she

and Vincent occupied.

Damn birds. thought Locke, Colorful, flying shit-houses - that's all those parrots

are. I'll have to grow wings before she listens to me.

With that doleful thought, Locke turned his back again and swam downstream.

* * * * *

The Island had sent him to find something - but what it was, he didn't know. He

had left Richard and Bernard in charge of the Barracks, telling the 815 Survivors

he wanted to hunt boar...and telling the Delinquents he wanted to meditate...

Jacob's Delinquents. He'd better not slip and call them that in public. They were

Jacob's Children he reminded himself - and he was their leader. Never mind that

they sometimes acted like delinquents. He would have to stop the 815

Survivors from referring to Jacob's Children as the "Others". He would have

to stop the Delinquents from referring to the Survivors as the "815 Chicken

Chokers". Where that nickname had originated Locke didn't know. He didn't

think he wanted to know...

Now they were ALL his people - the whole mangy lot of them - but their

conflicts never ended. He knew that many of the 815 Survivors distrusted and

feared him - as they did anyone connected with Jacob's Children. He needed to

complete this business quickly, before the Chickens and the Delinquents came

into open conflict. Although Delinquent Richard would do well, Locke

doubted that Chicken Bernard could handle an insurrection...that endlessly

clucking gentleman was simply not ruthless enough.

Only big, bad John - Jungle John - as Sawyer had dubbed him, could scare

everybody into line.

He was several hours out when the bear attacked. It had broken cover directly

in front of him...he'd barely had time enough to aim his rifle and shoot. The

beast had dropped dead right at his feet, splattering his shirt front and cargo

pants with blood.

Locke had looked down at himself in disgust. He was really going to reek.

Still...he was alive. He wouldn't have been, had his reflexes been a bit slower.

He wondered if he was getting soft.

He gave his kill a cursory examination. It was a big male, with dense white fur.

He would have liked to skin the carcass. A few weeks earlier, he could have

given the fur to Claire: it would have made a nice rug for baby Aaron to crawl

on. But Claire was gone and Aaron was with Kate, who'd taken him with her

when she fled the Island.

Locke shook his head, scolding himself. He knew he couldn't afford to think

about Alex, the missing, or the events of the Freighter War. Not now. He

couldn't afford to contemplate the treachery, or the defections. It was up to him,

John Locke, to lead all of his people. It was essential he keep a clear mind.

They needed to rebuild the Barracks. They needed to learn how to farm. They

needed to be prepared in case Widmore, that bastard, found them again...

Enough. There was something he had to find. Something the Island wanted

him to take care of. He couldn't spare the time - but he couldn't refuse, either.

The Island had disapproved when he stabbed Naomi...but, since he'd done it on

the Island's behalf, forgiveness was possible. He would have to prove himself

again. He was always having to prove himself...

He was getting close - he could feel it. He knew he was on the right track

when he heard Vincent bark.

* * * * *

Vincent's bark was as welcome as it was unexpected. Locke hadn't seen the

yellow lab since the Freighters attacked, and he thought the dog had likely been

killed. Relieved, Locke followed the sound. Vincent, too, served the Island;

maybe he was barking to guide him.

He traveled quickly for a few more minutes until he came to a thicket of

flowering hibiscus. He could hear a stream beyond, and the persistant sound of

Vincent's bark just up ahead. Locke, habitually cautious, moved some branches

aside. He wanted to sight the area.

The clearing ahead of him contained many fruit trees. The stream was a wide

one, swiftly flowing, but the presence of several large, flat topped boulders

made crossing easy. Beyond were many more boulders, piled high to

create cliffs.

Vincent was sitting on the flat boulder mid-stream. He was staring in Locke's

direction and barking, but he was not alone...

There was a woman sitting beside Vincent. A woman whose appearance

stunned Locke, absorbing all his attention.

He leaned forward, hoping for a better look at her. He was pretty sure of his

cover, but Locke couldn't risk exposure. The woman, he noticed, sensed

something amiss - she was looking around nervously. She was crinkling

her nose...

Oh damn...she could already smell the bear blood!

Locke considered his options. If she were a Freighter, he could burst out of

hiding, aiming his weapon at her. He had taken prisoners before, and she was

definitely what the Island had sent him to find. But she wasn't a Freighter...no,

he recognized this woman...

She'd been a passenger on Flight 815 and she was supposed to be dead. No

doubt her name had been among those recited during their make-shift

memorial service.

He'd seen her for a moment, just before the flight attendants had carried him

on board. She'd had a good two feet of red hair braided and hanging down her

back. She'd been short of stature and much overweight. She'd been wearing a

long black skirt printed with garish macaws. Her black tee-shirt, equally

memorable, had advertised "INK & INK'S EXOTIC BIRDS - SAN DIEGO,

CALIFORNIA" in blazing letters. She'd had a black fanny pack strapped

against her wide behind. He'd judged her to be about thirty-five years old.

But she had changed drastically. She looked as though she'd dropped ten years

and forty pounds. Her long red hair was wavy and unrestrained, hanging freely

around her. She had converted her skirt, now mercifully faded, into a sort

of sarong.

The Island had done this for her. The Island had preserved her. For him, for

Locke. Of course. He was the leader...he was entitled. She was a gift...

And he wanted her. Her face wasn't just familiar from Flight 815. She

reminded him of Helene Lipinsky, the unknowing star of his congested,

overwrought adolescence. Helene Lipinsky - the object of all his daydreams.

Helene Lipinsky...whose brother Bruno had once beaten Locke up for stealing

his sister's bra off the family's backyard clothesline.

Helene Lipinsky. She had broken his heart - moving away before Locke ever

developed nerve enough to talk to her. He had been devastated. He had felt

useless and abandoned. And Helene wasn't the last "Helen" to abandon him...

In a nearby tree, the parrots took their shrieking up a notch. This painfully

ended Locke's flashback and recalled his mind to the present. The redhead was

on her feet, preparing to run. Locke calculated the distance between himself

and the stream. If she ran he would catch her: he had longer legs than she did.

And her hair...it would trail behind her, easy to grab. He preferred to approach

her gently, but he knew his appearance was against him: he was big and bald,

blood-soaked and fully armed. She might panic at the very sight of him. Maybe,

he thought, if I stash the rifle first...

His line of thought was interrupted by an abrupt, booming roar from the east.

As it grew closer, Locke heard the crash of uprooted trees. The Black Smoke

was coming and he no longer had a choice. He ripped through the bushes and

started running. Ahead of him, the woman stood frozen, momentarily too

startled to move. She was staring east and didn't see him.

The Smoke was coming into view when Locke reached the stream. The woman

had turned to run just as Vincent streaked by her, knocking her to her knees.

Locke was able to scoop her up without missing a stride. He was over the

stream and running for the rocks before she had time or breathe enough to react.

* * * * *

It was Vincent, running ahead, who led him to a shallow cave. He barked until

Locke caught up with him. To her credit the redhead had only screamed once;

she was quiet when he reluctantly put her down. The cave was well concealed

by boulders, but Locke found a narrow crevice he could look through. He

watched the Smoke as it doubled back, turned east and moved away from them.

He waited, collecting himself while he listened for the last boom and thud

to die away. Then he turned to her...

"I'm sorry I frightened you, Miss, but I thought you were in danger. I'm John

Locke, from Flight 815." he spoke carefully, keeping his voice as soothing

as possible.

"What is that thing? What on earth is it?!" the woman's eyes were immense

with shock. Locke could see, even in the dim light, that they were green. Her

voice sounded a bit raspy from disuse.

"I don't know what it is. But I've seen it hurt people."

"Is it alive?"


The redhead stared up at Locke for a moment. He was glad to see she was

calming down. He smiled a little and tried to remain patient. There was so

much he needed to ask her, but he held himself in check. In this case pressure,

he thought, could prove counter-productive.

"I thought I was the only survivor," she said "I haven't seen anyone else."

"There are...about thirty-two of us. We live in an old scientific compound. It

was deserted when we found it. Before that, we camped on the beach. What

happened to you?"

"I drifted ashore somehow, after the plane crashed. I made it to the beach, but

no one else was around. I must have been delusional, because I thought I

heard Ignast...my husband... calling me from the jungle. But when I looked

for him..." the woman put her hands to her face and sobbed.

Locke let her cry for a moment. He wanted to comfort her, but thought it best to

keep a respectful distance - at first.

"I'm sorry for your loss. Your husband died when the plane crashed?"

"No...he died three months before the flight. He was run over by the bird cage

delivery truck in front of our pet store."

For a moment Locke was speechless, but he quickly regained his composure.

"I'm...I'm truly sorry. Did you and...Ignast have children?"

"No...we had birds and monkeys!"

Locke didn't know how to respond to this. Still, the lady was upset. She

needed some distraction, so he changed the subject.

"Have you seen the Black Smoke before?"

"Oh, yes," she said, wiping her eyes "But never as close as I saw it today.

Several times I tried to walk back to the beach, but that...smoke...would always

be in the way."

Locke nodded grimly. The Black Smoke had been herding her toward these

rocks, away from the beach and the other survivors.

"What have you been living on?" he watched her attentively, drawing unspoken

information from the changing expressions of her face.

"I've eaten fruit, but I'm not hungry anymore. I've lost a lot of weight, but

then, I was never fat until after Ignast died. Emotional reaction, I guess.

Actually, I've been feeling very healthy. My allergies are completely gone. All

these plants - and I haven't sneezed once."

"This Island is an amazing place, Mrs...what is your name?"

"Mrs. Ignast Neville Keegan."

"But I can't call you 'Mrs. Ignast' all the time," said Locke, keeping his

expression carefully dead pan "You don't look like an 'Ignast' to me."

"Mrs. Ignast" almost giggled. She smiled up at Locke, who stopped breathing

for a moment.

"I'm Ilona, Ilona Keegan. My full name is Ilona Nadine Keegan...my initials

spell out the word 'ink'...so did Ignast's." her smile faltered.

Locke was already tired of "Ignast", but he remembered his manners and

smiled nicely.

"Well, nice to meet you, Ilona. I haven't met someone with that name before.

It's pretty. Where does it come from?"

"Ilona means 'light'. It was my grandmother's name...a Hungarian form

of 'Helen'."

Locke's smile froze, giving him a hardened, calculating expression that -

fortunately - Ilona missed. Her attention had been distracted by Vincent,

who had apparently decided he'd been ignored long enough.

There is no such thing as coincidence. There is only Fate. Locke

reminded himself.

"You know what, Ilona?" he said, his voice at its smoothest and most

reassuring, "It's late in the afternoon, and you know how quickly it gets dark.

Show me where you sleep."

* * * * *

Locke was a bit alarmed when he saw how Ilona lived.

He was glad she'd found such amenities, but he didn't know where the cushions,

the blankets, the candles and matches could have come from. Were the Children

of Jacob aware of her presence? Surely not. They would have told him

immediately. She was an 815 Survivor after all, and therefore Locke's


Locke was even more puzzled when Ilona showed him the eyeliner pencil she'd

found, just outside the cave entrance.

There was only one source of eyeliner on the Island...Richard Alpert.

Locke picked the thing up. It was old...he remembered his foster mother owned

one like it in the mid 1960's. Whoever had been here had dropped it a long, long

time ago. But Richard had been young a long, long time. Locke visualized him

at the cave door, smiling at Ilona, offering her Eternal Youth plus three shades

of green eye-shadow. Locke chuckled uneasily to himself. What a silly idea.

No...Locke had a strong hunch that the Island alone was responsible. The Island

and Jacob. But why?

Ilona, who had never gone camping before, was innocently surprised by her

ability to provide for herself.

"Someone else used this cave before me," she explained "Maybe there was

a family emergency. They left so many things behind them - it's been like a

scavenger, or an easter egg hunt. I've been dashing around, looking for things

I can use. Someday the people will come back, and then we'll be rescued!"

Ilona's naivete saddened Locke, but he couldn't say it surprised him...he knew her

entire history within an hour, and there wasn't much to it.

There was a photo of herself and Ignast that she proudly showed Locke.

Normally she kept it on a natural shelf in the cave, with a candle illuminating it.

There was Ilona: smiling and curvaceous, dressed as a medieval nun. Standing

next to her was that jerk, Ignast, dressed up in jester's costume...complete with

cap, rattle and bells. He looked ridiculous.

Well - she'd get over her grief someday. Maybe sooner than she expected. Six

months mourning Ignast was long enough.

After listening to Ilona, it was Locke's opinion that she hadn't had a marriage so

much as a long, extended play-date. Although the kids had loved each other,

the marriage had been largely arranged by their well-to-do, old-fashioned,

deeply religious families. Ignast's family had disapproved of their youngest son

attending university as a bachelor. Better he married Ilona Keaveney, his

childhood sweetheart, than take the chance of falling for someone unsuitable.

As for Ilona...a couple of years at the junior college would be good enough.

She could learn to cook. She could work part-time at her Aunt Batty's bird

store - it would give her good management skills.

So Ilona and Ignast had been married as soon as they turned eighteen.

Ignast had become an accountant in due course. He had worked diligently until

the deaths of several family members had left him and Ilona financially

independent. Ilona inherited Aunt Batty's store and they had expanded it,

renaming the larger business "Ink & Ink's". As their business prospered, they'd

had time to travel: they followed the medieval and renaissance faires all over

America and the British Isles.

When Ilona had boarded Flight 815, she'd been returning home after visiting

a cousin in Sidney.

"Oh, John...you wouldn't believe the birds! Great flocks of rose-breasted

cockatoos...like dawn over the fields! Did you know that a black palm

cockatoo, in order to attract a mate, will find a twig and drum on a tree


No, Locke didn't know about the mating habits of the black palm cockatoo.

But he hoped he would not be reduced to such tactics...

But his optimism was high. After all, he'd done a romantic thing. He, Jungle

John Locke, had rescued a pretty girl - just like the super-heroes in his

childhood comic books! He felt like Superman...or at least Lex Luthor. Secretly,

he now suspected that the Black Smoke had come mostly to impress Ilona. It

hadn't seemed particularly intent on catching them. And the bear...could it have

been a guard? In all the heroic epics, the hero had to kill something before

saving the maiden...

The Island would send him a sign. But already he knew he had to get Ilona

out of the cave and back to the Barracks just as soon as possible.

* * * * *

The first night he'd spent with her, she had arranged his bed roll for him: placing

it about twenty feet away from her own bed of oversized pillows.

"His name is Vincent? Really? I've been calling him Byron." said Ilona.

She patted Vincent's head and he licked her arm.

"He belonged to a boy named Walt. Walt is...gone now." Locke didn't want

to tell Ilona more than that. He was afraid of encouraging her rescue fantasy.

"He died? Oh, that's terrible! I'm so sorry."

Locke shrugged and looked away.

"I've seen By-...I mean Vincent...come and go for ages. He finally seemed to

settle down. For a long time I thought he had a wild girlfriend in the jungle."

"He's stayed because he likes you, Ilona. And I'm sure he doesn't mind if you

call him 'Byron'."

"Well, I like him too. He can stay as long as he wants," she looked at Locke

and blushed "You can visit too, John. It's lovely to have company."

Their relationship had seemed very promising.

He was determined to be a gentleman, that first night. After all, he needed her

to trust him. But it was hard to watch her go to bed with Vincent beside her.

She fell asleep with one arm thrown over the dog, and Locke could have sworn

that the filthy mutt had smirked at him.

The next day he had talked to her. He swam leisurely while Ilona knelt on her

rock, trying to rinse the blood from his clothes. He didn't think he'd have trouble

enticing her back to the Barracks. Probably all he'd have to do was describe his

laundry room.

But Ilona wasn't that easy.

"What sort of blood is this, John?"

"I know it's hard to believe - but I killed a polar bear."

"A...a...polar bear?"

"Yes," Locke said, smiling proudly "Apparently the scientists experimented

with animals, who later escaped or were released. Their group was called

'DHARMA'. Later, when the plane crashed..."

"Polar bears are endangered!"

"In this case, I was endangered. It..."

"Oh...I hope it wasn't Snowball!"

"I didn't ask his name, Ilona!"

It had taken her a while to get past Snowball. Locke had had to chase his clothes

down the stream when Ilona accidently dropped them. Locke was just grateful

that the cave entrance was too narrow for the bear - and that Ilona hadn't tried

to adopt him. The damn beast had come to the stream sometimes, while she

watched from the rocks above...

If he allowed what remained of his hair to grow in, Locke thought, it would

definitely be grey.

* * * * *

It was his second evening with Ilona. She had apologized for her attitude

about Snowball. She realized, she said, that the island was not San Diego.

She hugged Locke and told him she was glad Snowball hadn't eaten him.

Locke had graciously accepted her apology...but inside he was a seething mess.

Desire, resentment, tenderness and frustration raced like horses over the

landscape of his emotions...

She refused to go to the Barracks with him. She refused to explain her

reluctance. She became absent-minded during his long lectures on Island

History and Perils Of The Jungle. It drove him crazy...she'd seen the Black

Smoke, so why wouldn't she listen to him?

He couldn't drag a scantily clad, 815 Survivor back to the Barracks by force

...people might misunderstand. They might question his motives. Someone

was bound to remember her. If he treated a Survivor the way he would a

Freighter, he might very well lose the 815 group.

"Well, whadda we have here...Jungle John finds a mate? How many times ya

have to hit her, Locke?" Sawyer's voice taunted in Locke's imagination.

Perhaps the first thing he should do, once he got back, was order Sawyer's

slow execution.

But he was clever, and he knew of something that might work...if Vincent spent

the night outside. Ilona was subject to nightmares, as many of the 815 Survivors

were. At the beach and in the caves, Locke had comforted several women who

had screamed in the night. He had never taken advantage of their fear, although

sometimes he'd been tempted to. They were so very receptive when frightened...

Ilona had cried out last night. He'd almost gone to her - but she'd clutched

Vincent and gone right back to sleep. He could only imagine what her nights had

been like, before Vincent had decided to stay.

Locke knew what he was contemplating was unscrupulous - but he was becoming

desperate. He couldn't stay much longer, yet he couldn't leave Ilona behind. He

had a terrible feeling she'd disappear, should he turn his back. The woman was

lacking in both caution and common sense. By the time he returned she'd be

over a cliff...or inside a bear's belly...or maybe the bride of freaking


Anything at all was possible on the Island. Anything.

His blood turned cold. He hated where his imagination was taking him.

But Locke was tough-minded and he could ignore his conscience when necessary.

After all, he was trying to save Ilona's life. In this one case, didn't the end justify

the means? But...just how far was he prepared to go, to secure her cooperation?

Oh, hell. He hadn't had a girlfriend in ten years.

Well, first things first. He would have to have a little talk with Vincent...

* * * * *

Locke grinned. How could he have doubted the Island? The Island had forgiven

him, the Island was with him...

Vincent had brought Locke a dusty hip-flask full of brandy. He had dropped it at

Locke's feet before loping back into the jungle.

Ah...there was nothing like an intelligent dog. Man's best friend.

Of course Locke tested the brandy. It was excellent...as good as the brandy Ben

had kept in his study. He took a small swig. He would, he decided, give Ilona

a couple of drops...but very carefully. He didn't know how brandy would effect

someone who'd been on a fruitarian diet for several months. The night before,

he had tried to feed her some of his beef jerky, but it had just made her sick.

Locke had held Ilona's hair back until it was over. He remembered the softness

of her hair. He wondered if her skin was as soft...

He was determined to find out.

* * * * *

Locke watched Ilona all evening, trying not to be too obvious. He knew that he

intrigued her. He would sometimes catch her looking at him, then blushing and

looking away. Her reaction was much the same whenever she caught him

looking at her. There was chemistry between them. But would it be enough?

When she fell asleep, Locke surreptitiously extinquished the candles nearest her

bed. He kept some by his sleeping area, but he wanted Ilona to wake up in the

dark. He then lay back on his bed roll and waited.

Sure enough. Screams in the night.

"Ignast!" Ilona shrieked. She sat up violently on her cushions.

Locke went right over with his candle and his flask.

For a moment, guilt made him hesitate. He was planning to take advantage of

this poor, helpless, stacked little widow - but then he pushed guilt aside. He

wanted her...and her life was at stake. She was no Danielle - she couldn't survive

on her own. But she was very old-fashioned. She would accept his authority...

but only if he was strong enough to claim her. He needed to be her knight...


"Ilona...Ilona, what happened? Did your candle go out? Were you having a

bad dream?"


"Here, Ilona, let me help you. I'll relight the candles. Lean back against me...

what happened?"


"Put your head on my shoulder, dear...John's here. It's okay...tell me about your


"Gasp...sob...sob...whimper...sob...bi...bi...bird cage...gasp...delivery truck!...


"You're trembling, Ilona...and the front of your tee-shirt is all wet. Let me feel

your forehead...why, it's hot! Here, honey...I found some brandy in my

backback. Just take a tiny bit - it will help settle you down. That's a good girl.

Now, Ilona...I'm going to take your shirt off. No, no...don't shove me away!

I promise not to look. Don't worry...I'm only doing it because you're so hot.

Here...I'll pull your blanket up. Is that better?"

"Yes, John. (whimper) You're very nice. (snivel). You remind me of my big

brother (sigh)...he's a doctor."

Locke, thinking about Boone and Shannon, smiled - but did not reply.

* * * * *

Locke woke up later than usual. Ilona's flying rats were shrieking at the cave

door, wondering why she wasn't there to shove fruit up their lazy beaks. Locke

wondered why they didn't just fly their feathered butts out to the trees. Damn

birds were old enough to find their own food...

Locke moved his head and winced. How much brandy had he had...and what had

happened last night? All he could think of was a wringer washer and an apache


Ilona? Where was she? Oh...right beside him. And she seemed to be breathing.

Good. He rolled over abruptly, reaching out for her, but she was too quick for

him. She sprang up from the bed roll, grabbing her tee-shirt while evading his

groping hand. She was half-way across the cave before Locke could protest.

"Ilona...get back here!"

"Take care of yourself...you overheated geezer. My babies need me!"

Dammit, thought Locke, something had gone wrong. But what, exactly, had

happened? He couldn't remember. He had only images as clues...the apache

dance. He hadn't...he hadn't dragged her by the hair, had he? Oh, shit...he had.

But he had wanted to be considerate...why had he lost control? And what must

Ilona think of him now?

He grabbed his pants and followed her to the stream.

* * * * *


Locke swam downstream, until he couldn't see her anymore. He finally stopped,

resting his back against a rock. He could still hear Ilona, but her voice was

muted by the swift babbling of the jungle stream...

And then Crumpet, Ilona's favorite macaw, flew downstream and over him,

relieving herself on Locke's head.

He was quite sure that Ilona could hear him swearing, so he lowered his voice.

He dunked his head and washed up.

Locke felt slightly better when he resurfaced: as if the water had cleansed the

inside of his head as well as his scalp. And he thought he had an explanation for

Ilona's anger and his own befuddlement.

He pushed away from the rock, changed direction and swam rapidly back

upstream. He finally knew what he must ask Ilona the Bird Brain.

* * * * *

"Ilona!" Locke barked as he swam up to her rock.

"What do you want now, John?" she asked morosely. She had stopped crying,

but now looked exhausted and forlorn.

"You were tired of Ignast...weren't you?"

"What...what...what...do you mean?" Ilona's eyes widened and she stared at

Locke, her face blanched with guilt and surprise.

"It's why you can't stop grieving, isn't it? You were bored and then he died. You

feel guilty, don't you? You're still trying to make it up to him...you've recreated

your pet store. How long have you been seeing his ghost, Ilona?"

Her face crumpled and she burst into tears. For once, Locke was glad to see it.

The sooner she told him what was really the matter, the sooner he could help her.

"I do see him...it's why I can't leave here!"

"Why not? What does he do? Where do you see Ignast?"

"He just appears...he walks out of the jungle. He stares sadly and shakes his

bells at me!" Ilona sobbed.

Locke nodded. Dear, dead Ignast still in his medieval clown suit. It was

frightening, all right.

"I don't know where he'll show up next," confessed Ilona "And now...now...

I've betrayed him. With you. I've betrayed Ignast and...you've betrayed Helene."

"No, we haven't. But how do you know about Helene?"

"You called me 'Helene'...during....er..."

"Probably about the time you called me 'Ignast'. Listen, Ilona - I've never been

married. Helene was a boyhood crush of mine...my very first. You resemble her.

And Ignast is dead. You're not guilty of adultery, betrayal or anything else.

Except in your own mind."

"But even if you're right, I must be crazy. Why else would I see dead people?"

"No, Ilona, you're not crazy. I told you the Island is a special place, but I haven't

told you everything I know about it. Many people have seen the dead. I've

known someone who stepped off a cliff, trying to follow his dead father. If

you were with other people, you'd see I'm right. You could join our

"Seeing Dead People" Support Group at the Barracks."

Locke was glad to see he could still make Ilona smile. He grinned back.

"The Island...selects people, Ilona. The Island has a use for you - and so do I."

Ilona stopped smiling and glowered at him.

"I've never experienced anything like last night...and I know you haven't, either.

How much brandy did you have, Ilona?"

She was blushing a delicate, peachy-red. She stared at the ground as she

answered him "I don't like the taste of brandy. I had maybe enough to put in

a thimble."

"I had about an ounce. Not much for a man my size. Certainly not enough to

produce such an effect."

"There's no excuse for what happened. It's true we hadn't much to eat, but..."

"We behaved like a couple of animals. What do you remember?"

Ilona blushed furiously and looked away from him.

"I tried to love you, Ilona...and you slapped me. Normally I'd never persist

after that, but I couldn't help myself. I went after you and you kicked me. It

was a good kick, too. And that wasn't the end of it..."

"Well, if you'd backed off when I told you to..."

"But I didn't. I flung you to the ground and grabbed your hair..."

"...Let's just forget it ever..."

"...I dragged you to my bedroll where..."

"...Stop it, John...!"

"...we suddenly got interested in different activities."

Locke hadn't thought it possible for a human being's skin to turn so red.

"I don't want to think about it! Can't we just..."

"Haven't you noticed anything unusual, Ilona? We should be half dead...but

we aren't even bruised!"

Ilona instinctively looked at her wrists. John had grabbed them the night

before - and he had not been particularly gentle.

"See...your wrists should be purple, Ilona...and I should have a nasty bruise on

my stomach. I should have your claw marks all over my back! AND you

bit me...but it's not even red!"

"Simmer down, John...your eyes are bulging!"

"I was a slavering brute and you were a wild cat! Yet here we both sit with our

unmarked, undamaged, baby-soft skins!"

"Well, what of it? I don't know why..."

"It's the Island, Ilona! It protected us from each other! It's telling you what it

wants...it wants you to move on. Ignast is dead and it's time to let go of him.

You're coming back to the Barracks with me. Now! Today!"

Ilona looked down sullenly "I wore out my sandals..."

"I'll carry you."

"You're joking, John. You can't carry me all the way to..."

"Don't tell me what I can't do. You'd be surprised what I can carry. Now come

on - let's go back to the cave. We've got to pack up our gear."

* * * * *

The next day Jacob and his helpers watched as John and Ilona finally started

their trek back to the Barracks. John had one of Ilona's birds on his shoulder.

He had repaired Ilona's sandals.

"Byron....uh, Vincent! Here, boy!"

"Come on, Ilona, he'll catch up."


"He's a very smart dog...you'll see. Now walk behind me, in case there's


"Well, if you see one, don't kill it..."

"...I know...I know...it might be endangered."

It was about time, thought Jacob. John's people were beginning to wonder

what had happened to him.

Jacob's helpers, who no longer needed to communicate audibly, were

attentive when Vincent formed a thought...

They saw a mental image of John and Ilona on all fours, howling at the moon.

Claire and Christian chortled.

Jacob didn't think it funny. He was embarrassed by the whole affair. It was

disordered and excessive...they should never have "blessed" the brandy...

Claire disagreed. In her mind she saw Ilona, frightened and inhibited, holding

John off forever. She also saw John, frustrated and despairing, giving up his

claim to normal human affection...

They had both needed something to push them beyond themselves.

Christian agreed. Love was humanizing, so Ilona was needed. With no

one to love, John would gradually substitute power...he would develop into

another Ben.

And the Island had wanted to rid itself of Ben.

John had been well on his way to becoming a despot. His character was

altering, warping under the challenge of unaccustomed power. Just as

Ben's had.

Still, the Island had chosen John as Protector.

It had not been easy for Jacob...trying to guide John, trying to cloak Ilona's

presence from Ben and his followers. Ben had stolen much power from Jacob,

but still he had wanted more - always more. He would gladly have used

anything - or anyone - he could.

John, thankfully, had replaced Ben - but the Island required a new, resocialized

John. The Island wanted a leader who could claim the affections of his people.

Someone who would consolidate the two groups into one, so they could work


Ilona's task was to anchor John's humanity.

If only they weren't so...impetuous in their affections, thought Jacob. He was

glad to be human no longer...

Claire and Christian smiled inwardly, much amused.

Vincent, barking, ran down the jungle trail, hurrying to catch up with John

and Ilona.

Several parrots flew overhead, heading in the direction of the Barracks.