Disclaimer and Author's Note: I do not own the rights to Lost. This was written for the monthly challenge at the Livejournal Lost fanfiction community. "Hello Tomorrow" is the title of a song by Karen O. and Squeak E. Clean.
It was raining the day the ships came. Not a short, violent burst of torrential wind and water, but a drizzley, grey mist that refused to clear.
None of them thought it would end this way. Alex could tell -- could see it on their faces, in the way their glances slid off each other so that they wouldn't have to smile and pretend everything was all right. She could tell by their silences, not just towards her (the outsider), but towards each other. And of course it wasn't just because of the rain (though of course they'd all dreamed of rescue on a sparkling blue-white-gold day).
She sat under a tarp, watching them all gather the things that they couldn't leave behind (a ring, a book that hadn't fallen prey to the rain and the beating sun, clothing that could still be salvaged with a good wash). There was nothing for her to collect, though. Everything she owned was crammed into one pocket of her jeans. Just several old, creased photographs, each with a very different meaning to it. To her.
That morning, when she'd seen the ships on the horizon and watched them as they came closer and lowered inflatable rafts over their sides, Alex had known that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 would be struck by a mix of emotions that they wouldn't be able to deal with. The first shock of joy at being rescued would give way quickly to grief at the thought of all the graves up the beach, then perhaps guilt. And there were those who had hoped so desperately to be saved but who now were dreading their return to life (because in a way, crashing on this island was like death -- dying to the outside world -- and did ghosts really want to come back to life?).
She couldn't bring herself to care about their traumas and heartache and happiness and whatever else was in that jumble of feelings. Because as soon as she'd seen the ships, her mind had stuck on one thing. If she went back -- no, when. When she went back, what would she call herself? Would she be Alex Rousseau or Alex Linus?
The others would laugh. On more than one level, it was a stupid question. There wasn't a drop of Linus blood in her, and her father had been a kidnapper and a manipulator and probably a murderer (even if he'd never gotten his hands bloody). He'd stopped her from being with Karl, and now Karl was just one of the faded photos in her back pocket, too painful to pull out and look at.
He'd lied to her about her mother.
Her mother -- was she any better? There had been a time (only a few short months ago, but it felt like a lifetime) when all she'd wanted was to live with her mother. To survive out in the jungle, to prove to everyone (to Ben) that she wasn't a little girl who couldn't make decisions or take care of herself. But Danielle Rousseau was a murderer -- she'd killed Alex's real father and her entire team (if Juliet was to be believed, but Juliet hadn't had reason to lie to her, not then) and she hadn't been able to come to grips with the fact that Alex was seventeen years old, not the helpless infant who had been taken from a new mother (Juliet had told her that Danielle hadn't wanted her, hadn't been taking care of her, had been so wracked by loneliness and insanity that she barely cared what happened to her baby, but Alex knew that her mother had cared and that Juliet couldn't understand what it was like alone out there in the jungle with nothing but whispers to keep you company).
And Ben had cared, too. He'd raised her. Loved her despite her rebellion against him, despite her near hatred of him at times. So it wasn't so easy to decide.
She fingered the cuff on her sweatshirt, watching two figures -- Kate and Claire -- slowly making their way across the beach. Claire looked to be sobbing. She'd never gotten over Charlie's death, and Alex supposed that the reality of leaving him here (even as nothing more than a grave) was too much for her. Sometimes Alex wanted to shake her, make her understand that they'd all seen so much death and lost people they'd loved. She didn't sob over her parents or Juliet or Karl. Kate didn't cry about Jack. Nor Jin over Sun, despite her leaving him with their newborn baby.
Suddenly, Kate veered away from Claire and made her way towards Alex. When she reached her, she stood for a moment (feet sinking into the sand, arms crossed awkwardly), then asked, "Are you ready to go?"
Already? Alex felt a burst of panic that was gone almost as quickly as it had come. "Yeah," she answered. "I just wanted to --" She hesitated and decided she didn't need to share even that much of herself with Kate (even with Kate being the only person on this beach that she could talk to without feeling completely alien and separate). "There's something I have to do first," she amended.
For a second, Kate didn't say a word. She just met Alex's eyes, her dark gaze a mixture of sympathy and understanding. Somehow she knew, or at least had some idea, of what Alex needed to do. "Sure," she finally said. "Just keep the time in mind." A ghost of a smile passed across her face. "I don't think boats find this place too often."
Alex shook her head, agreeing. They didn't. At least those that still had the capacity for flotation didn't. Soon she'd be on one and she'd never come back here. She'd never find her way, even if she wanted to. Her stomach lurched a little at the thought; at the strangeness of it. She had barely been able to consider what it would be like once she'd left the island because everything else kept getting in the way (no matter how many times she went over it in her head, she couldn't choose between Rousseau and Linus).
The jungle dripped around her as she trudged through it (dark; green and black and brown; the colors of a childhood spent playing under the trees), mind drifting, flitting from her destination to her destiny, wondering if there was any difference between the two besides a few names and other details.
Finally, she reached a jumble of trees, more tangled than the rest of the jungle. As she stood there, staring at it, her fingers idly found the scars on her arms that the branches and thorns had left last time she'd been there. When she'd forced her way inside the thicket (ignoring the pain, not even seeing the blood), dragging the body behind her. She'd had to; they had buried the others themselves on the beach, and she'd been able visit her mother's and Juliet's graves often. But this one had been left alone, untouched, for months, because Alex couldn't bring herself to go near it.
She hadn't been able to forgive her father and see him again, even in death. But she couldn't just leave without stopping here.
For several minutes, she considered saying something. There were a million possibilities. A billion. As many as there were stars in the sky (the stars she had named with Karl). Nothing seemed right, though; nothing would come out, even if she tried to speak.
Ben would be so disappointed in her, to know she was leaving the island. It was her home and he'd raised her to love it as much as he had. And it was stupid of her, but she felt like she was betraying him, and it made her sick. Made her feel like cold steel had been plunged into her gut and slowly twisted. How many times had he betrayed her, in so many little (and big) ways, under the aegis of doing "what was best for her" or, even better, "what was best for all of them?" But it still made her ill, the thought of this one final betrayal that she would never be able to face up to or explain.
Was this running away? All of her problems and ghosts were here, but they would follow her wherever she went in the world. Alex Rousseau or Alex Linus, it wouldn't matter.
Sometimes, in the night, under a thick cover of darkness and haze of sleeplessness (and firelight flickering eerily on the side of her tent, reminding her of being nine and making forts of blankets and chairs and reading inside with a flashlight), she missed her father. She could never tell him that, of course, not anymore. He was gone; cold in the ground, embraced by roots and trees arching overhead. Despite his many faults and delusions of grandeur, he'd always been there for her, whether she was afraid of the dark or a thunderstorm or a monster in a book.
She opened her mouth to say...something, anything, but all that came out was a strangled sob. Then she was crying, for her father and mother and Karl and Juliet and all the friends she'd lost, and the fact that she was leaving everything and everyone she knew, everything she loved, for nothing more than a phantom of a reason. She was leaving her home in the company of strangers and only now, sinking to the wet ground, did she realize that there was no reason She'd wanted to run, but there was nowhere to run, nothing to run from but herself.
The rain came down harder and Alex lifted her face to it, let her tears mix with the raindrops and be washed away. Ben would laugh, tease her that such a cleansing was cheap and cliché, but the fact that she could think of that and smile allowed her to get to her feet resolutely and wipe the tears away.
She needed to get back to the beach. She would tell Kate that she was staying on the island after all.