I wrote this after I had my own dream about Lost. Of course, I don't own any of the characters or any ideas stemming from this television show. I just like to play in their sandbox. Review if you feel so inclined. :)

(x)

The plane flew steadily above the Pacific Ocean. The constant rush of air created a soft, dull vacuum that assured its passengers that all was well and they would arrive safely to their destination. Jack turned to Kate. She sat in the seat beside him in First Class, wearing a button down flowered shirt, khakis, and her seatbelt. They smiled at each other like two long lost friends who had just happened upon each other in the unlikeliest of places. Jack caught a whiff, the faint scent of lavender and fresh strawberries.

A muted beep sent their eyes gazing upwards. "May I have your attention please? Flight 423 to LA is arriving on schedule. We anticipate our arrival time to be 11:15, Pacific Standard Time."

Jack smiled widely, so hard that his face hurt. "We did it," he said.

Kate smiled back. "It won't be long now."

Kate barely had a chance to get the words out of her mouth, before a sudden jolt shook the plane. Kate gasped and clutched onto the armrests of her seat. She swung her line of vision to Jack, her eyes wide and uncomprehending. "Jack?"

"It's okay," Jack said. "It's just turbu-"

The plane jerked and men and women alike let off cries of surprise and terror. The plane jerked again, even harder this time. An alarm started 'beeping' incessantly. Jack looked to Kate, and they jumped as bright yellow air-masked dropped down between them.

The plane began to dip forward and Kate fumbled with the strap of her facemask. Jack sat in place, staring forward as the lights flashed on and off. "No," he gasped out. "Not again."

Jack awoke with a start. Music blared from an intercom system.

Make your own kind of music… Sing your own special song…

He stared up into white corkboard ceiling tiles and piercing fluorescent lighting. He shook and shivered out gasps of air until he slowly sat up from where he lay on green linoleum. A nurse approached him from an operating table. Behind her, an old man lay on the surgery table. A ventilator pushed oxygen into his body and his chest rose up and down with each breath.

"Sir?" the nurse asked.

Jack looked around. He was back at the hospital, or at least… at least he'd thought that he was. When Jack looked back at the nurse now, it was Juliet, and instead of an old man, it was Benjamin Linus. Juliet's smock and gloves were covered with bright red blood. She blinked and said again, "Sir?"

Jack snapped to attention. "Yes."

Juliet turned around, pivoting military style and walked back through the double-doors of the hospital.

Jack broke into a dead run, his feet pounding against the tiles. "Hey!Hey!!" No matter how fast her ran he couldn't keep up with Juliet. It appeared the hallway was stretching, growing longer and longer.

All of a sudden, Juliet opened a door and stepped aside. Jack saw a conveyor belt, bringing luggage to Claim Aisle 4. She pointed to a cherry-wood coffin next to seven body bags and then looked to Jack expectantly, "Sir, your baggage."

Jack looked down to find the corresponding ticket in his hand. Cold fear gripped him. He was overwhelmed, frightened, and terribly aware of just whose bodies were in the bags. Jack stood up and in slow mechanic steps walked to Baggage Claim. Instead of his baggage being on a conveyer belt through the claim system, now Jack was on a conveyer belt going throughout the airport.

Jack rode past a screen showing all flights coming into and out of LAX. All flights were delayed. A familiar clicking sound, like the shuffling of cards, sounded and he saw the numbers at the top of the screen: 108. It clicked down to 107 and Jack continued on.

"Jack."

Charlie stood there, looking him dead in the eye. "Charlie," Jack said. "What are you doing here?"

Charlie smiled, a knowing impish smile. He was wearing a black and grey striped shirt, a black hoodie, jeans, and his checkered Vans. "Looks like somebody's been taking too many cheap drugs. I oughtta know, Jack. If anybody knows anything about withdrawal, it's me."

Jack looked on, his mouth gaping open.

"You know you'll catch flies like that, mate."

Jack's mouth clamped shut, but his heart pounded against his chest.

"I know," Charlie said. "It's weird, right? I'm sodding dead. I'm not supposed to be running around like the sugarplum fairy, telling you to change your ways like a character in a some child's Christmas play."

Jack looked beyond Charlie. He saw people waiting in line in the terminal for their next flight. Kate stood, leafing through Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Hurley opened and bit down into an Apollo bar. Sayid looked down at his feet, appearing to be lost in the midst of his own thoughts. Sun and Jin stood together. Sun was dressed all in black up to her neck. She cried hard, hot tears that shook her body, and Jin comforted her. A baby's cries cut through the silence. An old, antique black baby stroller was behind them. Jack stretched to look into the carriage, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't look inside of it.

"He can't see you." Jack shot his attention back and Charlie leveled his eyes at him. "I am here to tell you to change your ways, Jack. If you don't, only more bloody bad things will keep happening to you and the people you care about." Then he added more softly. "The people we care about."

The conveyer belt continued on a slow, grueling pace. Boone, Shannon, Analucia, Libby, Eko, and someone with a black hoodie shielding their face stood with their hands tied back with thick rope. They all stood in line at the gallows, staring up at six hanging nooses. The person with the hoodie looked up and it was Charlie.

Jack gasped and jerked back. He was all alone on the conveyer belt. It continued forward, and Charlie's voice spoke to him ghostly and disjointed. "They're still on the island, Jack."

Further up, an executioner stood beside the Guillotine, holding a large, shiny, sharp axe in hand. Locke, Sawyer, Claire, Danielle, and Carl all stood in line. Jack could feel sweat running down his back. His arms and legs prickled with goosebumps.

Charlie addressed him once more, "You have to change your ways, Jack.It's not too late. You have to go back!!"

When Jack blinked his eyes, he was back in his seat aboard flight 423 bound for Los Angeles. Powerful wind blew past him and a loud explosion clapped just behind him. The plane began beeping more and more incessantly, and the plane nosedived down. Jack couldn't open his eyes, but he could feel the wind, stirring his hair, touching his face, pulling at him…

Jack awoke sometime before midnight, gasping for breath, bathed in sweat, afraid he had screamed. Everything was picked out in the moonlight so bright that it was surreal. Jack lowered himself back to the damp sheet and put an arm over his eyes, not wanting to remember the dream but helpless to avoid it.

Jack gazed down at the dresser next to his bed. It was covered with empty bottles of Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Pergusets, along with an empty bottle of Jim Bean.

Looks like somebody's been taking too many cheap drugs.

Jack flinched and stared around the room, eyes wide with fright. He knew it was impossible, as a doctor he knew it was impossible, but still… it was as if he'd heard Charlie's words speaking again this time outside of the dream.

Jack's shoulders slumped. He ran a hand over his sweaty face.

A dream. It was all just a dream.

He tried to go back to sleep, but sleep would not take him. He tossed and turned until the sheets were a battlefield and he could stand it no longer. Then he stood up from his bed in a sort of daze.

Jack felt tired and he had a queasy, thumping headache. Apparently, he hadn't slept quite long enough to nurse his last hangover. Though it was hard to tell if he even truly had a hangover. The drinks, the pills, and the hangovers all melded together until it was difficult to determine exactly what time it was and then what day and then what month. Jack meandered into the livingroom of his apartment. Or at least, at one point it had been an apartment. Now it was a landfill with nothing but world maps, dirty dishes, flight stubs, and empty beer and liquor bottles. Jack kicked out of the bottles of out his way. It gave a good satisfying 'crack' and ricocheted across the floor until it hit the opposite wall.

Jack looked down at the array of bottles. He blinked and stared down at a fifth of Christian Brothers. It was still half full. Jack sauntered over, scooped it up off the floor, unscrewed the cap, and tipped back the bottle in one foul swoop. But his body wasn't ready for that kind of damage to be done. Jack staggered backwards and slammed against the wall. He flailed his arms a little, swinging some brandy out of the bottle. Then he slumped slowly down the wall until his bottom hit the floor.

Jack sat, drinking his booze, with each swing feeling a little more overcome. He sat there for a half hour or better. Finally, he felt the booze working its way to his brain. Jack took out his Razor cell phone. He flipped it open. He flipped it shut. Jack wasn't certain how long he had been sitting there like that. He only knew that he saw Kate's name in his list of numbers, and he pushed the button to call her.

The phone rang once…twice…

"Hello?"

It was her home phone, not her cell phone. It was a dirty trick, but it had worked and that had been the point.

"It's me." Jack heard Kate sigh, and he quickly scrambled to keep her on the phone. "Whoa, whoa, wait… wait. Don't hang up the phone. I know what you said. I just… I just need to see you."

(He can't see you.)

Then Jack said, "Please." Relief flood through him as he sat slumped on the floor. "Yeah. Yeah, out at the airport. You know where."

(It's not too late.)

"Thank you."

(x)

Jack drove his jeep to a fenced off area just outside the airport parking lot. The planes flew just overhead here. Sometimes their engines were so loud that he couldn't hear himself breathe. He couldn't hear himself think. It was one of the only escapes he had left these days.

Kate met him not a minute after he parked and got out of the car. She drove a compact car… a Honda or a Hyundai… one of those. It was too dark to see under the dim light of the street lamp, and it was just as well. Jack couldn't really focus on details in his current state anyway.

Kate exited the car and walked up to him. She was wearing dress pants and a blue shirt and fit her figure well. She was wearing makeup, and he smelled that scent. Lavender and strawberries. Kate kept an arms length distance. She looked to him with those cold dark eyes, like a deer who could disappear back into the forest at any given second. "Hey."

Jack tried to smile, but wasn't sure if he had or not. "Hey."

An uncomfortable silence grew between them until Kate said, "I saw you on the news. Still pulling people out of burning wreckage, huh?"

"Old habits."

Kate appraised him. "You look terrible."

Jack laughed. It was a cold unhappy sound with no humor to it. "Thanks."

A flash of memory clouded his mind. He could see her sitting next to him on the plane, the plane in his dream. She was smiling at him. Kate brought him back to reality, "Why did you call me, Jack?"

Jack reached into his pocket and produced a dog-eared clipped cut-out from a newspaper. "I was hoping that you'd heard. That maybe you'd go to the funeral."

Kate sent him an uncomprehending gaze. "Why would I go to the funeral?"

Jack nodded and said, "I've been flying a lot."

"What?"

"The golden pass that they gave us. I've been using it. Every Friday night I fly from LA to Tokyo or Singapore…or Sydney." He laughed that same unhappy laugh. "I get off and I have a drink and I fly back home."

Jack could hear the beeping now as the plane nosedived, taking him and the entirety of the crew and passengers down with him. He felt uneasy, hot, and uncomfortable at having to relive it again.

Kate asked, "Why?"

Jack stared at her. The lines were drawn deeply into his face and he looked haggard. He remembered the lies, the cover story. The more he thought about the cover – the thinner it seemed. "Because I wait to crash, Kate." When he said it out loud he felt better. It became easier to tell the truth, and truth-telling was the most important thing. "I don't care about anybody else on board. Every little bump we hit or turbulence, I mean. I actually close my eyes and I pray that I can get back."

A tear trickled out of the side of Kate's eye. She hurried to brush it away.

Watching her, Jack could feel warm tears building in the back of his throat. He cried because the truth pained him and also because he loved her.

"This is not going to change."

(I am here to tell you to change your ways, Jack.)

"No," Jack burst out. "I am sick of lying. We made a mistake."

Kate blinked back her tears and folded back into herself. She began to back away. "I have to go. He's going to be wondering where I am."

(He can't see you.)

Jack's voice cracked. "We were not supposed to leave."

(They're still on the island, Jack.)

Kate spoke quietly but with great firmness. "Yes. We were." She retreated back to her car, whispering, "Bye, Jack."

"We have to back, Kate."

Kate climbed back into her compact car and started up the engine. As the car rolled backward, Jack could hear Charlie's voice clearly even as the next plane took off from the runway.

"You have to change your ways, Jack. It's not too late."

Jack rose his voice and shouted at the top of his lungs. "We have to go back!"

Jack stood outside even as Kate's car sped away from the airport and onto the highway. He stood outside until a light rain began to drip down from the heavens, and then drizzle, and then pour. Jack climbed into his Jeep and shivered ever so slightly.

When he looked up into the rear view mirror, he saw Charlie staring at him from the backseat.

Jack gasped, but when he turned around, there was only an empty seat staring him back.

Jack slowly turned back around, checked the mirror, and breathed a sigh out like steam between his teeth. He sat there at the airport listening to the steady rustle of the rain. Thunder muttered far away, back over Los Angeles and perhaps further. Jack stared forward in his car under the dim light of streetlamp, and outside the rain continued to fall, slow and ceaseless.