Title: The Sacrifice
Summary: Charlie must relinquish his life to save his friends.
Disclaimer: I don't own Lost.
Characters: Charlie and Desmond.
Word Count: 1205
Warnings: This fic was loosely based on spoilers and speculation for the final two episodes of Lost S3. Mostly it was a reaction to the GHs trailer where we see Desmond telling Charlie "This time you have to die" like a reluctant executioner. Very AUish in retrospect.
Author's Notes: So I let the depression and foreboding get to me. I decided to prepare myself for the very worst by writing this fic. This really reflects how gut-wrenching his death would be for me. So angsty you might want to slit your wrists when you've finished reading it. Hide all sharp objects now.
The cable ran from the jungle, slipped beneath the sand and disappeared into the ocean. Charlie and Desmond stood on either side of it, scanning its grey tract with solemn eyes. They knew the purpose of the cable now. They knew it tapered down to the sonar beacon. Their one chance at rescue. Their last hope of avoiding this bloody skirmish with the Others. If they could bring the ship…many lives would be spared.
But first one life would need to be sacrificed.
Desmond lifted the wire and strode down to the sea, stepping tentatively into the tide. He felt stone beneath his feet. The wire was laid across a rock flat a few inches below the water. From there it led straight into the ocean.
“The cable, Charlie…” he said flatly. “…it stretches over the rock here…”
Desmond turned reluctantly and peered over his shoulder. Charlie stood dazed and mesmerised, looking over the vast watery expanse. He nodded faintly to show that he had heard. Desmond waited patiently for Charlie to follow him into the water and across the rock flat. When he failed to move, Desmond went over to him, took him gently by the elbow and guided him to the sea. Charlie didn’t resist. His head was bowed. His eyes were settled on the path of the cable.
As they walked, the tide sloshed over their ankles. Desmond tightened his grip on Charlie’s arm as he began to falter on the slippery rock. He was wearing a heavy pair of Naomi’s boots, three sizes too big for him. He had crammed them with stones. His pockets were filled too. Charlie wasn’t a strong swimmer. He thought it would be easier to sink to the bottom. He had made the necessary preparations before they left the camp. He knew he wouldn’t resurface.
Desmond halted them as he spied the edge of the rock shelf. From here the cable plummeted down to the depths of the ocean. All the way down to the sonar beacon that Charlie was destined to repair. Desmond crouched low and squinted through the rippling water. He could vaguely discern its shadowy shape on the seabed.
“I can see the beacon, Charlie…it's right down there…”
Desmond raised his head and winced. Charlie was standing with his eyes closed and his breath coming in rapid gasps. He shivered and swayed as the colour drained away from his cheeks. He looked like he was close to fainting. Desmond rose to his feet and put his arm around Charlie’s back, steadying him.
“I’ve got you, brother…” he said, hopelessly. “I’m here…”
Charlie leaned against him and nodded once more. Desmond wanted badly to show some compassion for Charlie. He wanted to embrace him and tell him he was a hero. But he knew it would make matters worse. The only way they could get through this was by numbing themselves to the task.
Desmond feared that Charlie was about to lose it. Any moment now he would break down and beg Desmond to let him go. He would sob and wail that he didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to die. And what could Desmond possibly do? He didn’t have the stomach to force a young man to go unwillingly to his death. He could barely do this with Charlie’s consent. Desmond’s instincts were telling him to run from this cable and drag Charlie away with him.
Charlie’s skin was trembling gooseflesh under Desmond’s hands, but he still wasn’t crying or struggling. Desmond realised that Charlie was a braver man than he was. If their roles had been exchanged, Desmond would have been pleading for his life by now. And Charlie was younger than him. He was healthy and sound. He had years in him. Desmond was amazed that he hadn’t fled.
Charlie released a shuddering sigh.
“I’m scared of water…” he confessed, wretchedly.
Desmond flinched, his blood running cold. He hadn’t imagined their situation could become any more dark and painful than it already was. But somehow it had. To learn that Charlie was confronting his phobia together with his death cut Desmond deep into his heart. He wanted to weep, but he knew he must retain his composure.
“But you…you said you could swim,” Desmond stammered, nervously. “On the list you wrote…you said your dad taught you at holiday camp.”
“He threw me in,” Charlie answered bluntly.
Desmond frowned. When he had seen Charlie’s list earlier that day he had presumed he was reflecting on some fond family memory. Maybe there weren’t too many fond memories to be listed from Charlie’s childhood so he had to settle for the closest thing to nurture. Desmond hoped and prayed there was some precious memory of sincere happiness that would comfort Charlie in the end.
“I need you to help me, Des…” he whispered, urgently.
It suddenly occurred to Desmond what Charlie was asking him to do. Charlie could not bring himself to take the plunge. He was willing to make this courageous sacrifice, but he was paralysed by his fear. He needed for Desmond to force him into the water just like his father had done when he was a kid. Desmond was shaken to his core, sickened by the prospect.
“I…I can’t do that, brother…”
Charlie looked at him sharply. His eyes were blazing now. He seemed maddened that Desmond should dare to refuse this request.
“You have to…” he hissed.
Have to. If Charlie had to die this way then Desmond had to be the one to kill him. Those were the roles that fate had chosen for them. Abraham and Isaac. Except that there was no God on this island who would spare them from this sacrifice.
“Okay…” he said, weakly, “...I’ll help you…”
Charlie nodded. Steeling himself and summoning his nerve, he thrust Desmond away from his chest and moved to stand on the verge of the rock. He placed his legs astride the cable. His arms hung loosely by his sides as he locked his eyes on his target; the beacon on the ocean bed.
Desmond stood a few steps behind Charlie. His teeth were gritted and he was fighting down waves of nausea. He glanced at Charlie’s reflection where it floated like ghost on the surface of the water. He was a waifish little guy, slight and boyish with a careless mop of dirty blonde hair. If Desmond squinted he could almost see Charlie as a child standing on the edge of a swimming pool, just wanting a little help so that he could conquer his fear and prove his worth.
Desmond realised that Charlie's lips were moving. He was singing very softly under his breath. A little murmured song to cloud the horror of this moment as he stood like a condemned man on the scaffold waiting to be dropped. Yet to Desmond he seemed more like an angel ready to ascend.
He noticed that Charlie’s fingers were shaking. They were twitching frantically by his sides as though a current were passing through them. It was then that Desmond realised this calm was only an illusion. Charlie was in torment and he was prolonging it.
Desmond stopped thinking. He rushed up behind Charlie, grasped him by his waist and lifted him off his feet…and then…
Then a splash…a cascade of salt water…the waves rising to his thighs…tiny little bubbles rising to the surface…the stillness that followed…
…and then the silence.