Title: The Eleventh Hour
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just borrowing.
Summary: The world is burning, falling, flaming, swallowed in the purple sky that roars its anger down onto the innocent. She should have known. She should have known. The island would never let them leave.
Spoilers: Already-aired season 4.
When the sky over Los Angeles turns purple, Aaron screams, a high-pitched wail that chills Kate to her very bones. This isn't supposed to happen here, is what she thinks, clutching him to her chest and running. She runs like she'd run in the jungle, for her life and for his, and he screams louder and louder; people on the street would be staring if they weren't all transfixed by the ominous purple dome.
How did the island find them here?
When the fire starts raining from the same purple sky, everyone screams, and Aaron's wails are drowned in the sea of panic. She runs home, and her lungs are filled with the searing smoke; the fire is still falling and the city is burning and it's not long before this house, this fortress of opulence and lies, burns too.
On the television, there's talk of evacuation, but there's nowhere to go. This is not just Los Angeles. The sky is purple everywhere. The world is burning, falling, flaming, swallowed in the purple sky that roars its anger down onto the innocent. She should have known. She should have known. The island would never let them leave.
Hurley calls. Crying, like he hadn't even cried when Charlie had been snatched into the ocean's clutches. "We should have gone back! We weren't supposed to leave!"
"This is not our fault," she tells him firmly, over Aaron's cries and her own trembling, but she doesn't believe herself and neither does Hurley and their connection is cut short as the winds pick up and throw fire and branches through her living room windows.
The sky over the island doesn't turn purple. The sun is bright and the sky a brilliant blue the day the helicopters arrive. The new invaders make no pretense about their primary objective, this time. They greet the island with showers of bullets and indiscriminate massacre.
Those that survive the first day huddle in what Ben calls The Temple, and they're too tired and too afraid and too beaten down to care about sides and prisoners and primary objectives anymore. Sawyer helps Claire find a few blankets to lay down on but he can't rest; he's pacing, caged, angry. He searches his pockets for cigarettes that haven't been there for months.
Eventually he falls asleep sitting up, propped against a stone wall. He thinks, vaguely, before the exhaustion takes over, that he'll regret this position in the morning (if the morning comes).
But in the morning, there's a strange smell and billows of ugly black smoke and balls of fire ripping through the jungle, and he recalls footage from Vietnam: panicked screams and fire and smoke and some of his earliest memories.
"Don't you just love the smell of napalm in the morning?" he asks Jin, who looks at him, wide-eyed and panicked, and gives an emphatic no. They huddle further into the Temple, but soon people start suggesting the ocean and water and maybe we'll be saved.
(He knows better. They're caught and he knows it and he's not even surprised, anymore.)
"Damn," he gripes as they set off, refugees at a sprinter's pace. "Didn't even have time to make coffee."
It's a strange thing to complain about, as if it's merely inconvenient, impending death.
She knows what it's like to die (her plane fell from the sky, after all). She sits huddled in the hall closet, toddler to her chest, waiting. She knows what it's like. She remembers. The sudden loss of air, the panic, the screaming. The falling, falling, falling.
She remembers. She knows death.
The difference is, this time, she'll be waiting for it. There's no escape (he once told her, I ain't running, 'cause there ain't no place to go) and she knows. She knows and she can't run, this time, and she clutches Aaron to her tighter and hopes the little boy doesn't feel it, death.
And now she knows, Hurley and Jack had been right. They weren't supposed to leave. They were supposed to go back. But it's too late, much too late, and she can only hope that their demise is their salvation.
In a fit of uncharacteristic benevolence (she thinks, as the air grows thicker and hotter), Ben or Jacob or the Island or someone must be cocooning those they'd left behind in a curtain of safety. They weren't supposed to leave and now the world must pay but surely – surely, those that stayed will be spared.
She closes her eyes and presses her face to Aaron's hair and she can see him, him. The last thing she knows is his dimpled smirk as he hands her a glass of Dharma box wine.
He is playing house and she smiles.
He knows what it's like to die (his plane fell from the sky, after all). He stands on the beach, watching the fire move from the jungle towards the shore. Turns to watch those in front of him running into the ocean. Death by fire, death by drowning. He'd contemplated the two possibilities months earlier. Plane falls to the ocean. Plane falls to the ground. Now, he can't recall which he'd decided, then, would be the better option.
He watches them run, ducking under the water, away from the heat that's pressing in on them. I ain't running, 'cause there ain't no place to go, he'd told her, once.
He'd wanted her to believe they had a damn chance, and well, wouldn't you know it – she'd taken her damn chance and flew away on a helicopter with it. He's never been so glad for her hardheadedness. Her need to run. At least she's spared this, now, today.
He can feel the heat, the wind, the ash at his back. He steps into the ocean and the last thing he knows is her lips on his cheek, their morning in the barracks.
Somewhere, she's still running. And he smiles.