Characters: Charlie, Desmond, Bonnie, Greta and Mikhail.
Authors Notes: Phew! Finished this one in a rush. I just had to get it out of my system. So this last chapter is made of the awesomeness of Charlie Pace. A tribute to his angst, snark and courage which just reflects the love and admiration that I felt for him in the end.
"Sorry?" said Mikhail, putting a finger to his ear. "What?"
Something snapped inside Charlie. He felt like he remembered this gloating voice. It felt like he had heard it before. He couldn't be sure, but he felt it. He thought this man might be one of the people that had taken him and Claire. One of the kidnappers who had held him down and drugged him while Claire had wept and screamed. One of the laughing men who had strung him up and left him for dead.
Charlie lunged at the Russian, fully intending to scratch out his one remaining eye. Suddenly Desmond's arms were around him, restraining him and thrusting him back. Mikhail watched their scuffle with quiet amusement.
"It's a mistake!" Charlie protested. "We can't keep letting these people go!"
"We gave him our word!" Desmond barked, his eyes wide and stern.
What's all this WE business? thought Charlie. Brother, you gave me your word that I wasn't going to die at any point on your little camping trip. Turns out you were gonna let me take an arrow in the throat. Now you won't even do away with this shifty bastard?! Suddenly you're all honourable and giving me lectures...
Charlie swallowed and bowed his head. A familiar feeling of worthlessness was creeping into his bones. Even the enemy was treated with more respect than he was. For a moment he thought he would have to witness his life saver shaking hands with his possible hangman. But Desmond just ordered him to leave. Before he went the Russian smiled at Charlie. A dark little smile that seemed to say I killed you once before, I can kill you again and there's nothing you can do about it.
Desmond didn't take much notice of the smile. He turned his attention to Jin, clapping him on the shoulder and commending him for retrieving the satellite phone. He gestured that Jin should return to Hurley and the parachutist. Desmond then turned to Charlie, his expression quickly changing to the stern countenance of a scolding parent.
"Charlie, what the hell were you thinking taking on a guy like that?!" Desmond asked in perplexed irritation. "I hate to tell you this, brother, but you're no Hercules. A man like that could break you in two. If you don't mind, I've got other things to worry about right now besides saving you..."
Charlie swallowed. He hadn't felt so powerless and humiliated since the night that Locke hit him. What could he possibly say to Desmond? Whatever they argued about Desmond could always pull the old I'm the guy who's saving your life, so you can just lick my boots, squire line.Charlie knew that he was in his debt, but it hurt that Desmond insisted on rubbing it in.
"You don't know what they're like…" Charlie muttered, struggling to keep his voice steady. "They hung me from a tree…they blew up the raft that Jin was on and left him to drown…that one-eyed freak is gonna round up his mates and they'll come back to kill us! Just you wait…"
Charlie didn't think he could feel much worse. But now his voice was cracking and tears were burning his eyes. He tried to look away. He didn't want Desmond to see him crying. But already Desmond's hand was on his shoulder and his expression was softening. Charlie bit his lip, trying desperately to hold himself together. He didn't want Desmond's sympathy. With his time on this earth running rapidly short all he wanted from Desmond was his respect.
"Hey…just take it easy, mate…" Desmond said, gently, his brow creasing with concern. "Don't let it get to you…"
Charlie sniffed, forcing a smile. "Oh, I don't let any of it get to me, Des. I just take it all on the chin, you know…"
Charlie wished his voice would stop wavering. He wished that Desmond would stop looking at him like he was some pitiful child in need of protection. He would like to punch him in the face for ever barging into his life with his horrible bloody flashes. But he knew this situation wasn't Desmond's fault. Indeed Charlie was grateful for every new day that Desmond had afforded him. But he wasn't going to beg for more borrowed time. If saving his life was becoming too tiresome for Desmond, he didn't have to trouble himself. Charlie never asked Desmond to save him in the first place. He just didn't like being betrayed with these lies and scathing remarks that Desmond had been throwing at him all through their trek.
He knew this couldn't be easy for Desmond either…having all those morbid visions. But at least when this was over Desmond could put it behind him and carry on with his life. Charlie's life would be over. He would be gone. It didn't matter that he didn't want to die. Nobody in their right mind wants to die. But if there was no stopping it then the last thing he wanted was some dignity.
"You're tired," Desmond told him, finding a convenient excuse for Charlie's minor breakdown. "You should take some rest. We won't be setting off for camp until its light. Have yourself a few hours kip, yeah?"
Desmond smiled at him, kindly, and steered him back to the clearing. Charlie wanted to tell Desmond that it was a hard getting to sleep when the universe was trying to kill him and he feared that he would never wake up. But he didn't want to start crying again. It would just make Hurley worry.
As they walked back to the clearing Charlie decided. Next time it happened…next time Desmond came to him with one of his flashes…Charlie would just accept it. Whatever it was he would tell Desmond not to intervene. He would face up to it like a man and deal with it himself. When they got back to camp he would spend time with Claire and Hurley. He would play with Aaron. He would think and he would write. He would prepare himself for the worst. Maybe he could beat fate. Maybe he couldn't. But he wasn't going to be Desmond's burden anymore...
Greta pulled the chair forwards and dropped a length of rope on the floor. Bonnie had ordered their prisoner to lace his hands behind his head and rise to his feet. Now she was marching him round the side of the moon pool with her gun pressed into his back. Greta frowned when he came into the light. They had been prepared for intruders, but this wasn't what they were expecting.
The guy was short, slim and boyish looking with blonde hair and a hapless grin. He was also barefoot, wearing only jeans and a t-shirt. There were bangles looping his wrists. He didn't look like a soldier or an assassin. He didn't seem dangerous at all. Bonnie had announced that she had found no concealed weapons on him. Greta shook her head. Was this some kind of trick? It didn't make any sense that this guy was down here. It seemed like a ridiculous mistake.
Bonnie ordered him to sit in the chair and lay his hands flat on the arm rests. The guy shrugged and did as she asked. Bonnie grabbed the rope and started binding him fast. Her prisoner simply sat still and goggled around the chamber, his eyes bright and bewildered. Greta noticed that his teeth were chattering. He was dripping wet and shivering with cold.
"Maybe we should get him a towel?" she suggested.
"Are you kidding me?!" Bonnie hissed, her face twitching with disbelief. "Just keep your gun pointed at his head!"
Greta hadn't realised that she had lowered her weapon. She sighed and raised it again. It didn't really seem necessary. The guy had surrendered to them immediately. He was unarmed and seemed relatively harmless. Greta almost felt sorry for him. He didn't seem to belong in his situation.
"Don't move!" Bonnie growled at him, yanking the ropes tightly around his chest. "One false move and we kill you!"
"No worries, love," the guy said, breezily. "I'd be obliged. I'm knackered after that swim. I could do with a good sit down."
Greta frowned. He sounded as pedestrian as he looked. He had an English accent and his speech was colloquial. He just seemed like an ordinary guy. But surely an ordinary person would be terrified over being tied up and held at gunpoint. This guy was bizarrely calm. He actually seemed pleased with himself.
"Why are you smiling?" Greta asked him, curiously.
"Oh, it's just a private joke…" he answered, vaguely. "It would take me a long time to explain." He giggled manically, shaking his head and slapping the arms of the chair. "So…what are two pretty girls like you doing in a dirty great underwater station like this?"
Bonnie grasped a fistful of his hair and pulled his head back.
"If you don't shut up we're gonna blow your brains out!" she snarled.
The guy screwed his face up, considering her threat.
"No, you're not," he said with a confident smirk.
Bonnie's eyes widened with indignation. She leaned closer.
"Read my lips, you little bastard. We'll shoot you!"
He raised his eyebrows. "Wanna bet?"
Bonnie blinked several times. Then she punched him hard across the mouth, splitting his lip and sending a spurt of blood over his chin. It must have made Bonnie feel good to hit him, because she immediately swung again with her other fist. The guy didn't look tough, but took the blows without whimpering.
Greta sighed and shook her head. They had been alone in this station for months now. They were under orders to block all transmissions and guard the equipment until Ben radioed them with further instructions. It was tedious work. Nothing for them to do but patrol a big empty space. Secretly they had both been waiting for something to happen. Waiting for somebody to come. In Bonnie's case she had been waiting for somebody to punch and take her frustrations out on. Greta thought she would simply appreciate somebody to talk to who wasn't Bonnie. Peculiar as their visitor was at least he had a sense of humour, something her friend was sorely lacking.
Bonnie wiped the blood from her knuckles on her trouser leg.
"I'm gonna get more rope..." she announced.
She glared at their prisoner and marched over to the storage lockers. The guy blew air from the corners of his lips. He smiled at Greta as though trying to make friends with her. Then he inclined his head in Bonnie's direction.
"Time of the month?" he asked.
Desmond shuddered when he learned the equipment had been programmed by a musician. It felt as though he really had brought Charlie to his destiny. Nobody else could have inputted this code. The two of them fell silent for a moment, sensing the hand of fate hanging over them. Then Bonnie's head dropped onto her chest and her body slumped sideways. Charlie caught her in his arms, cradling her to his chest.
"Okay Bonnie, I got you…" he whispered. "I got you…"
Desmond watched as Charlie gently lowered Bonnie onto the floor. A few moments earlier this woman had been beating him and threatening to harpoon him with a spear gun. Now Charlie was tenderly smoothing the hair away from her brow and wiping the blood from her cracked lips. He folded her arms into a cross shape over her chest. Then he bowed his head.
"What are you doing, brother?" Desmond asked, following a silence.
Charlie blinked and startled like one woken from a sleep.
"I was just…you know…paying my respects," he murmured, faintly.
Desmond shook his head. "From what I heard in the closet she wasn't showing you much respect, brother. Why do you even want to bother?"
Charlie shrugged, frowning a little. "Because she's dead…" he answered simply. "Because she was murdered."
Desmond fell silent and swallowed. He sensed that Charlie was speaking as one who knew what it was to be murdered.
"We have to pull Greta out of the water," Charlie added.
Desmond nodded. They moved around to the other side of the pool and lifted her bloodied corpse from the ocean. Once again Charlie folded her arms over her chest and carefully smoothed back her hair. Desmond remembered that this one hadn't been hitting Charlie. She had been asking her friend to stop. Charlie remained kneeling by her side, staring over her wet body and its still face in rapt contemplation. It was as though he felt a strange solidarity with these dead girls.
"Maybe we should cover them up," Desmond suggested.
Charlie nodded. "See if you can find some blankets."
"Right." Desmond glanced across the chamber, his eyes settling on the man with the spear jutting from his chest. "What about him?"
Charlie lifted his head and looked over the pool. For a moment his face tensed up with anger, hatred and a lingering fear. Then he let it all go.
"You killed him," he replied with a shrug. "You deal with it."
Desmond blinked. It seemed to be Charlie's policy that since Desmond had shot this man it was his responsibility to decide what happened to his body.
"Maybe I should take his other eye?" Desmond suggested, wryly.
Desmond knew he would do no such thing. He hadn't drifted that far from the monastery. But he wanted to let Charlie know that he was on his side. This was his first taste of the Others. It turned out they were as cruel and tretcherous as Charlie had warned him. Yet strangely Charlie did not respond to his jibe. It seemed like the malice and bitterness he had felt towards these people had left him now. He just sat quietly staring over the watery corpse of the dark-haired girl.
"Desmond…" he murmured, his voice eerily calm. "After I've drowned…just leave me here, okay? Don't try to take me back to the beach or anything. I don't want Claire or Hurley to see me this way…"
Desmond felt his heart tighten. He didn't know how to answer. He wasn't going to refuse Charlie any last wishes, but to accept would be giving into the inevitability of his death. Desmond was still struggling with that.
"Charlie, have you considered that…maybe you're not going to drown? I mean…we were expecting this station to be flooded and…and it wasn't! Now the hostiles are dead and…and there is nothing stopping you from typing in the code and then swimming back to the boat…yeah? I can't see that there is any danger, brother. Maybe we've beaten it. Maybe we've changed it!"
Desmond fell silent as he realised that Charlie wasn't listening to him. It seemed like his friend was already drifting away to another place and it was too late for Desmond to pull him back. There was something ephemeral about him. Desmond had the feeling he no longer held any sway over this man's destiny. He suspected he would only be a bystander in whatever was to come.
This was between Charlie and fate.
Mikhail could hardly suppress a smile as he lay on his back listening to Charlie and Desmond's conversation. Apparently the Scotsman had experienced some prophetic vision of Charlie drowning in this very station. It amused Mikhail to think that fate too had a vendetta against Charlie's life. He decided that if it was the last thing he did he wanted to act as an agent of fate and make sure that Charlie met his appointment with death. He felt like he had found his match in Charlie Pace. It appeared that he was the one man on the island proving more unkillable than Mikhail was himself.
He waited until Charlie had entered the comms room and Desmond had wandered over to lockers. Then he pulled on his goggles and lowered himself into the pool, taking care not to splash. His chest wound had missed his major organs, but it still sang out with pain when he made contact with the saltwater. Mikhail embraced the pain, letting it feed his adrenaline and his lust for murder. He kicked his legs in a steady rhythm and swam around to the porthole window.
At first he was mortified to discover that Charlie had already disabled the jamming device and was talking with some woman over the communications system. Mikhail had to concede that he had failed in his task to keep the transmissions blocked. He hated to leave jobs half-finished, but the least he could do now was assassinate the two men responsible for this breech of the island's security.
He took the grenade from his belt and tapped it against the window, alerting Charlie to the mortal peril that he was in. He smiled as he watched Charlie springing up from his chair and running towards the door to escape into the main chamber. His smile lengthened when he saw Charlie's friend, the Scotsman, running towards the comms room. Mikhail could already picture the two of them colliding in the doorway and falling down like the clowns they were. They wouldn't even have time to stand up again before the ocean came pouring in over their heads.
But Charlie did not flee the room. He locked the door to protect his friend from the impending flood. Mikhail laughed. He couldn't believe this. Charlie was letting him kill him! This was too easy! Mikhail's laughter was cut short. Indeed, this was too easy. Too easy take satisfaction from the kill. Mikhail had wanted to see Charlie squirm. He had wanted revenge on that cursed Scotsman who had harpooned him through the chest, preventing him from inflicting a slow torturous death on Charlie when he had him bound to a chair. That was an opportunity he was grieved to have lost.
Charlie turned to look him in face. To his disappointment, Mikhail saw that Charlie didn't look shocked or frightened or miserable. He looked prepared, undaunted and strangely determined. It was almost as though he was achieving some private victory by drowning in this room. Mikhail resented him for it considering that he had been robbed of his own sense of victory. He could kill Charlie, but for some maddening reason it felt like he wouldn't be beating him.
It wasn't until Mikhail triggered the grenade that it really occurred to him that the explosion would kill him along with Charlie. He had been so caught up in taunting his victim that he hadn't allowed himself a moment to prepare for his own annihilation. Now there was no time.
Mikhail watched as his hand was blown apart by the bomb, his fingers shooting through the water in tiny torpedoes of blood and bone. As the force of the explosion drove him into oblivion, Mikhail only had the chance to form one last coherent thought in his mind. Ironically it was the same thought that had gone through Ethan's mind when he met his end.
The thought was this...
I can't believe that little junkie has been the death of me!