Summary: Post-rescue. Desmond is living in London with Penny, but he is still haunted by the island and Charlie's death. After being knocked unconscious Desmond travels back in time to relive the events of the Looking Glass mission. He realises he has been given the opportunity to change the timeline.
Characters: Desmond, Penny and Charlie.
Author's Notes: I had originally intended to post this as one long story, but it got rather too long so I'm breaking it down into chapters. So I have found yet another possible way of saving our dear little rockstar...time travel! More of that in the next part. First lets have some tormented Desmond (just for a change...)
Desmond stood before the window, resting his hand against the cold glass and staring over the dark London streets. He had been back in this city for three months now, but he seldom ventured out onto those roads. He closed his eyes and went over the words again, singing them softly under his breath. If he could just get the words memorised then he could focus better on the chords…
Desmond lifted the acoustic guitar from its stand and wandered back to the couch. Charlie's notebooks were lying open on the coffee table before him, their pages filled with the lyrics and tablatures of the songs he had been writing during the long months he was stranded on the island. Beside these jotters was a book called 'How To Teach Yourself Guitar' which Desmond had to keep turning back to. Learning an instrument was harder than he thought. Charlie had always made it look so easy. Desmond was really struggling to find the rhythms and match them with his singing. He wished he knew how Charlie wanted these words to be sung.
Desmond persevered for a little longer, but he could feel his frustration mounting. His fingers hurt from pressing down so hard on the strings that they threatened to cut into his skin. His eyes blurred as he stared down at the notes which Charlie had penned in thick black ink. He tried not to picture the same black ink on Charlie's palm when he had pressed his hand to the glass. He rubbed his face and took a slung from the cup of black coffee and whisky sitting by his elbow. The liquid had grown cold and bitter as Desmond had himself in the last hour.
He couldn't get the chords to flow. Desmond put the guitar down and paced the room singing the words over and over. These lyrics felt almost like incantations that could bring Charlie back into the world if Desmond could only find the right way to sing them. But he could never get it right. He knew that very soon he would wander over to the CD player and start playing 'Good Vibrations' on repeat. Desmond would listen to this song for hours. It would have him in tears. He knew The Beach Boys intended it to be a feel-good number, but for Desmond nothing made him more depressed than this song which had killed Charlie.
He heard a shuffling behind him and turned to see Penny standing in the doorway, wrapped in her dressing gown. Her misty blue eyes were heavy with sadness as well as sleep loss. She tilted her head at him.
"Des, its 4am…aren't you coming to bed at all?"
Desmond retreated to the couch and sat before his music books. He held the acoustic guitar in front of him like a shield.
"I'm busy," he muttered. "I'm practising..."
Penny lowered herself into an armchair, pinching her temples.
"Desmond, why are you doing this? You've no talent for music. Your singing is flat and you're a bloody awful guitarist."
Desmond hissed through his teeth. Pen was never one to mince her words. He knew that she was growing exasperated with him. She thought that this was another of his whims. That he was blundering off on another career path. He had tried his hand at being a soldier, a monk, a doctor, a sailor and a builder…now he fancied himself a musician. He was a jack of all trades and a master of none. If you added it all up, Desmond knew she must consider him a failure.
"I just need practise…" he said, quietly. "Then once I'm good enough I'm booking myself into a studio to record them. We'll see what comes of it. If nothing else I want these songs taped so Aaron can hear them. Charlie was the nearest thing that kid had to a father. He doesn't have the chance to get to know him now…but he can listen to his songs and get an idea of who he was."
Penny smiled faintly, touched by the sweetness of this gesture.
"In that case, darling, why don't you let me hire a professional who can make a decent job of performing Charlie's music?"
Desmond's jaw tightened. Penny never stopped offering to buy him things. Her constant charity angered and shamed him.
"Because I want to do this myself, Pen!" he snapped, letting his temper flare. "I owe it to him. Charlie died saving my life!"
Penny's face hardened, her hurt only showing in her eyes.
"Yes, he did Desmond," he returned, bluntly. "And I'm sure Charlie would just be thrilled if he knew that you're now choosing to spend your life locked indoors every day, drinking yourself stupid and murdering his songs. What a wonderful way of repaying his sacrifice!"
Desmond scowled and turned away, peering over the notebooks.
"Go to bed, Pen," he said, coldly. "Let me practise."
But Penny did not leave. Desmond listened as she began to cry. For some reason he couldn't bring himself to get up and comfort her.
"Des…when is our life together going to start? I…I spent three years searching for you. I have finally got you back and I…I thought we would be getting married…I thought we would be starting a family. We've lost so much time already, love. But even now you're….you're still on that bloody island, Des! You're still down in that hatch…you're still standing outside that door watching Charlie drown!" She took a slow shuddering breath. "You can't keep brooding over this forever. He wouldn't want you to. You're not to blame!"
Desmond's head shot back, his eyes flashing with rage. Penny flinched as he rose to his feet, his fists bunched by his sides.
"Not to blame?!" he spat. "I saw his death coming! I told him that it had to happen. I took him on that boat over the ocean. I made a belt of stones to sink him…I might as well have been his bloody executioner!"
Desmond snatched up his coffee mug and hurled it against the wall. It smashed in a spray of dark liquid. Penny shook her head, ignoring the mess that he was making. She looked at him with a fierce concern.
"Charlie made a choice, Des…" she whispered, soothingly. "He chose to lay down his life to help the people that he loved. Including you."
Desmond squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.
"Charlie never thought he had a choice…" he murmured. "I never gave him any hope at all…I made him believe that he had to…"
Penny approached Desmond, tentatively, reaching out her hands to cup his face. He jerked away from her, raising his palms and recoiling from her touches. He lifted his guitar and gathered up the songbooks.
"I'll go practise in the cellar so I don't disturb your sleep…"
Penny's sighed dejectedly and turned to the stairs.
Once in the cellar, Desmond didn't start playing again. He took a wine bottle from the rack, uncorked it with his teeth and drunk it down in heavy gulps. Desmond had been sorely offended by Pen saying that he was murdering Charlie's songs. The last thing he wanted was any more murdering of that young Englishman. So he kept drinking, hugging the guitar tightly to his chest.
Desmond stared vacantly around the room. He let his eyes fill with tears. He did not blink. Gazing through his tears, Desmond felt like the cellar was filling up with water. He crossed himself and held his breath. He held his breath until his chest ached and his heart was almost bursting. It hurt. He couldn't deny that it hurt. When the pressure become too much, Desmond spluttered and gasped. The tears tumbled from his eyes. He tasted their saltiness on his lips.
A fit of rage took him. Desmond let the bottle fall from his hands and smash on the floor. The wine spread before him like a puddle of blood. He seized the guitar by its neck and slammed into the wall. The body cracked and the strings broke as he kept beating the instrument against the bricks. It made a terrible sound. Desmond smacked it into the hinges of the shelves. The wood swung down to hit him in the face with a harsh slap. He staggered and collapsed.
Visions flashed before his eyes. The timer in the hatch running down to zero. The words 'System Failure' filling on the monitor. The failsafe key turning in its lock. Desmond realised it was happening again.
He was going back…