Author's Note: If you've come across any of my past Desmond fics, you know I like poking around with what might have been going on in his head at any given time. This is the same concept, based around the episodes of season 3 that have already aired in the US. I had my own ideas about what I wanted to see in season 3, so I ended up taking a sort of pick-and-choose approach to the canon with this fic, using what fit and tweaking what didn't. I'm afraid this won't make much sense unless you're familiar with what actually went on, as it's written in a somewhat stream-of-consciousness fashion.
Anyway, let me know how I did. Please review if you read!
"When you care about someone more than you care about yourself, you do weird things."
Desmond had told Kelvin this one evening in the hatch, when they were both drunk out of their minds on Dharma wine and making a pathetic attempt to play ping-pong.
Kelvin's reply had been something like, "Hell, Des, I didn't know you were a romantic!" and they'd laughed about it like it was normal and didn't matter much. But Desmond thought about it a lot afterward, wondering what had made him say it.
It was true, he supposed, and maybe that was what bothered him about it. He knew in his heart that he loved Penny dearly, that he cared about her safety and her happiness, and that she loved him in return. But somehow, all of that hadn't been enough to stop his ridiculous quest to prove himself. He had never truly figured out whether he was trying to convince himself or Charles Widmore that he was worthy of Penny's love but, whatever the case, the result was the same. He hadn't let himself trust the love that he and Penny shared, and now all chance for it ever working out was gone.
Perhaps everything that had happened over the last three years was his punishment.
All this ran through Desmond's head as he lay on the jungle floor, staring up at the sky and wondering vaguely where his clothes had gotten off to. It would be some time before he had the energy to get up and find out.
When he finally did manage to go have a look, it seemed like clothing was about the only thing not close at hand. The nearby jungle was littered with junk: the twisted remains of an exercise bike, a ruined Mama Cass record, a singed photograph.
Desmond picked up the photo and stared at it, just stared at Penny's smiling face next to his, and wanted to cry. The island was taunting him; he could feel it. All the garbage around him, the flotsam and jetsam from the hatch, represented the only life he'd known for the last three years, and now that, too, was gone.
The island kept taking things away from him. Sure, the hatch had been hell, but at least he'd had a roof over his head and a decent place to sleep. At least he'd been able to cook his meals, listen to music, shower, and exercise. He'd had the privacy to spend time in his head with his own thoughts, Penny, and the ghost of Kelvin.
And he'd had pants. Desmond shivered despite the damp heat of the jungle. It figured that this place would have a sarcastic sense of humor. If his privacy was gone, why not make it literal, down to the most embarrassing personal level?
He ran. He didn't know why he was doing it, other than the fact that there didn't seem to be much else to do. The beach camp was around somewhere, and surely with everything else that Locke had told him went on in this place, a naked Scotsman turning up and asking for a decent set of clothes would be low on the list when it came to weird.
He didn't count on running into Hurley, but it turned out not to be such a bad thing. Hurley didn't ask too many personal questions, and he had an extra shirt in his pack, so Desmond was spared the humiliation of appearing at the beach camp completely nude.
The questions Hurley did ask, Desmond answered, although he was preoccupied. He was still thinking about the hatch and the island, about Penny and the engagement ring.
Hurley's mind, it seemed, was also elsewhere. He was going on about noises and the sky changing color. Desmond had no idea what he was talking about.
"I'm afraid I missed that, brother."
"Well, FYI, the whole island vibrated," Hurley said urgently. "And Kate and Jack and Sawyer saw it, too, right before they got bags pulled over their heads."
"Don't worry. Locke's going to go after them. He said so in his speech." Desmond said this with confidence, meaning to be reassuring, but Hurley was giving him a very strange look.
"What? What speech? All he said was he was going to go save Eko and kill bears."
Desmond cocked his head to one side, confused. He was sure he'd heard Locke make a speech earlier, on the beach, declaring that he was going to find Jack, Kate, and Sawyer and bring them back from…somewhere. But Desmond hadn't been on the beach since before he and Locke went down into the hatch, and they'd both spent at least the next hour and a half there. Afterwards…Desmond still wasn't sure what had happened, but it certainly hadn't happened on the beach.
So when had Locke made that speech? And why hadn't Hurley heard it?
"Right. Right, of course. I'm sorry," Desmond shook his head a bit, trying to act as thought he'd misspoken. "I'm just a bit shook up."
Desmond didn't sleep that night. His mind wouldn't stop running through the bizarre repeat performance of Locke's speech that apparently only he had known was coming. There were other things, too, things that grated on the edge of his consciousness every time he tried to doze off. The sound of the hatch alarm, the disembodied voice declaring a system failure, an old lady with piercing blue eyes, the sting on his cheek after Penny had slapped him…
In the darkness, he couldn't be sure how much of it was real.
He walked on the beach. The smell of the sea filled his nostrils, the salt wind blew his hair back, and he could almost believe that he was sailing again, going home, getting a second chance.
Or a third chance. Whatever.
By the time he made his way back to the beach, his newfound pants soaked with seawater, dawn was breaking. Desmond sat down in the sand, wrapped his arms around his sodden knees, and watched the sun come up.
And suddenly, it was raining. The sky was charcoal gray despite a glimpse of bright sunlight a moment before. There was a tent in front of him—no, more like a hut with open sides. People inside. A baby. A young man and a woman—Charlie and Claire. Lighting striking out of nowhere. Screams. Someone dying.
Someone dead. Charlie.
Desmond shook his head sharply. All that was in front of him was sand, ocean, and the brightening horizon. So what had just…?
He was losing his mind. There was no other explanation for it. After everything he'd been through, he was finally cracking. It wasn't raining; nobody was dying. It was just him and the sunrise and his own decaying sanity.
Later that day, he built a lightning rod. Just in case. It probably wasn't necessary, but there was no harm in taking the precaution, right?
He nonchalantly borrowed a golf club from someone whose name he didn't know and gave the man lighthearted golfing tips so as not to appear as unsettled as he felt. He talked to Hurley. He ate some fruit. He threw stones in the ocean for a while.
And he nearly had a heart attack when a storm blew in and lightning struck the lightning rod.
That made twice. Twice he'd seen something happening before it happened, and twice it had turned out to be true. The creepy old lady with blue eyes was starting to make some sense.
Kelvin talked to him later, after the sun had gone down. It had happened before, back when he was alone in the hatch; Kelvin would show up out of nowhere, make himself comfortable, and start talking as if nothing had happened. Desmond was never able to tell if it was a dream or just another facet of his cracking grip on reality. He tried to ignore it this time, but Kelvin insisted on talking.
"Hell of a thing, Des," he remarked, plopping himself down in one corner of the makeshift tent that Desmond had begun building. "Spent all that time saving the world and it turned out to be for nothing."
Desmond remained silent, keeping his gaze fixed on the distant waves.
"Oh, I see how it is," Kelvin chuckled. "Now that you're free of our little hell and you've got this fancy beach real estate, I'm beneath you, is that it?"
Desmond refused to let himself be baited by a hallucination. "Leave me alone, Kelvin. You're not even really here."
"Are you still sore because I'm dead?" Kelvin exclaimed, his voice tinted with amused incredulity. "I've got news for you, Des: dead or not, I'm always right here"—he tapped a finger against his temple—"in your head. And me being there doesn't bug you because you killed me, but because you know I'd have done the same thing if our places were reversed. That's what's got you disgusted with yourself."
"But you'd have done it on purpose," Desmond murmured before he could stop the words.
"I invited you to come with me," Kelvin pointed out. "I know you, Des. You definitely wouldn't have done that if you'd been in my place."
Desmond shot Kelvin a dangerous glare. "And just what do you think it is you know about me?"
"Everything," Kelvin answered, chuckling again. "I'm in your head, remember?"
As Kelvin continued to laugh, Desmond felt rage boiling up inside him. But it was hard to tell who it was directed at, or who he wanted to hurt more.
Sayid came back a day or so later with Sun and Jin. They arrived on foot and gave no explanation as to what had happened to Desmond's sailboat. At least, if they did, Desmond didn't hear it.
He wanted to ask, but it wasn't really his business. He'd pretty much given the boat to Sayid. He had no use for it; there was nothing to sail to. If Sayid's plans had gone wrong, there was nothing Desmond could do about it.
He felt equally helpless when Mr. Eko's tent caught fire in the middle of the night. He wondered why he hadn't seen it coming, like the lightning. What good was knowing about things before they happened if the information was patchy and inconsistent?
Eko went missing; Locke wanted to find him. He also wanted to talk to the elusive group that Desmond knew as the hostiles, but everyone else called the Others. He came over to Desmond's tent midmorning with a mango and a lot of questions about the computer that had been in the hatch.
Desmond ate the mango and answered the questions, if only because it was something to do, someone to talk to. Locke was the closest thing he had to a friend on the island, though since the destruction of the hatch, Locke barely talked to him and hadn't so much as asked how he was doing.
Still, Desmond relayed what little he could about the hatch computer. Locke wanted to know if it could have been used to communicate with other stations. Desmond supposed it could, but wasn't sure. He'd taken what there was of the orientation film more seriously than he'd like to admit, and had gone out of his way to be as far from the computer and the timer as possible unless the button needed pushing.
Locke seemed happy enough with what Desmond told him, and went off to relay the information to Sayid. Then the two of them went trekking off into the jungle with some young blonde and the guy Desmond had borrowed the golf club from. Desmond almost went with them, but he couldn't see the point. Even if they were going to the mysterious Pearl hatch, and even if they did make contact with these Others, what did that have to do with him? What help could he possibly be to people he barely knew, in a situation that he didn't really understand?
Eko died. Locke insisted that the island killed him, but when Charlie relayed this, Desmond felt like he was somehow at fault. All right, he hadn't foreseen Eko's tent catching fire or Eko going missing, but another death was something he felt should have come to his attention. What use was seeing the future if he missed the important things? What use was he to anyone now that there was no button to push?
"You may not like your path, Desmond, but pushing that button is the only truly great thing that you will ever do."
The old lady with blue eyes again. Desmond never saw her the way he saw Kelvin, but ever since what had happened after he turned the failsafe key in the hatch, her voice turned up in his head from time to time, unbidden, reminding him how truly worthless he was.
When it got to be too much, he jumped at the chance to get drunk on some whiskey that Charlie had unearthed. Charlie and Hurley weren't bad drinking buddies, considering, but Charlie was nosy and Hurley couldn't sing. Eventually, they both got loud and Charlie got obnoxious, so Desmond left them for the relative solitude of his tent, where he wasted his drunken stupor staring at the photograph of himself and Penny as tears streamed down his cheeks.
Why didn't he ever hear her voice in his head or see her sitting next to him in the tent? Even if it wasn't real, he would have much preferred Penny to Kelvin or strange half-memories of some crazy old woman who probably hadn't even existed.
But who was he kidding? All of that had been years ago. Three years and who knew how many months. If anything, Penny probably thought he was dead, or that he was still a terrible coward and had run away for good.
But he had, hadn't he? He'd listened to that blue-eyed old lady and blown his chance to be with the woman he loved, and for what? So he could push some damn button, all the while believing, like an absolute fool, that he was doing something worthwhile?
Desmond shook his head a bit and wiped away some of the tears with the back of his hand. Why did he keep thinking about that old woman? She was part of what had happened after the hatch was destroyed, not his life before the island. But try as he might, it was getting harder and harder to differentiate between the two.
Being drunk probably didn't help.
Despite his attempts to reason with himself, he spent the next several hours staring at the photograph, eventually crying himself into a fitful, useless sleep.
He foresaw a few more things and did his best to set them right if need be. A sudden rainstorm washed out someone's tent, Claire got pulled out into the ocean by an undertow, a couple of people got in a fight over food…big things and little things, all unrelated.
Desmond tried to hide the fact that he knew about these things beforehand. He was already somewhat of an outsider by design; no point in giving everyone a concrete reason to ignore him. He contented himself with keeping busy doing small jobs: taking stock of the makeshift kitchen, making sure the tarps that collected water were secure, helping people repair their tents.
By the time Sawyer and Kate came back, Desmond had at least tried to get to know some other people. He'd had a few conversations with the guy everyone called Scott, but whose name was actually Steve. Scott, it seemed, was dead, but nobody was keen to talk about it, least of all Steve, which was just fine with Desmond. Talk of death reminded him of Kelvin, and Kelvin was someone he wanted to think about as little as possible.
Sawyer got angry when he discovered that the whiskey Charlie had shared with Desmond and Hurley came from his stash. Desmond and Charlie were able to deter him from reacting too harshly, but Desmond was still a bit wary when Sawyer stopped by his tent the next day.
"This yours?" he asked, tossing something heavy and rectangular onto the sand.
"No offense, brother, but what do you care?" Desmond asked in return. He picked the thing up anyway, just to see what it was, and was astonished to find himself looking at his copy of Dickens' Our Mutual Friend. The spine was broken, the pages were singed, and the back cover was nearly torn off, but it was intact. Somehow, this one book had survived the destruction of the hatch. Desmond's breath caught in his throat. "Where did you get this?"
Sawyer shrugged. "Found it in the jungle. A bit too much heavy reading for my taste, and besides, it's got your name in it."
"Thank you," Desmond nearly whispered, not taking his eyes off the book. He waited until Sawyer had walked away before taking a deep breath and opening the front cover. There was no way it was still there, but he had to check, he had to know…
A familiar envelope dropped into his lap. It, too, was singed, but in one piece, and it did indeed have his name on it. With shaking fingers, Desmond opened it and carefully extracted the single sheet of paper inside.
It was still there. She was still with him, even after all this time.
All we really need to survive is one person who truly loves us, and you have her. I will wait for you always. I love you.
He read it over and over, crying in broad daylight, for once not caring if anyone saw.
He couldn't believe he had doubted this. It didn't matter when the letter had been written; Penny wouldn't lie. Three weeks, three months, three years…it was immaterial. She would wait for him. She was waiting for him.
Through his tears, Desmond glanced down at the book in the sand. It occurred to him that now he might actually know when it would be time to read it. But, for the first time in a long time, he hoped that day was a long way off.