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The End of the Beginning

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“I carry a lot of scars. I like the way that sounds. I carry a lot of scars.”
-The Beach by Alex Garland

 

The light is blinding.

Even through closed eyes it pierces and there is a fleeting fear that it will burn his corneas to a crisp, blown wide open, leaving only stones of coal behind.

Only momentarily does the light distract. But even it is no match for the physical force that slams into his body and throws him—into the air, upside down, twisted limbs, over and over, tumbling to stop.

The air is knocked out of his lungs, leaving him gasping for more. His heart pounds furiously in his chest and he wouldn’t be surprised if it is bruising his ribs or vice versa. There is an ache along his jaw from clenching his teeth and he stretches out his arms, to the front and side, and tries to dig his knees into the ground to help push himself forward.

Where?

He tries to remember what it all looked like before in an attempt to find an anchor, something to move towards and fix himself to until he can see again—

Panic bubbles.

Who is to say it’s all still there?

A groan escapes his parted lips and he runs his tongue along the corner, tasting the faint coppery taint of blood. Slowly he crawls forward, tiling his head this way and that to pick up any telltale sounds.

There’s nothing but a persistent buzz and no matter how often or roughly he shakes his head it doesn’t go away.

Deaf, dumb and blind.

Is this how it ends?

It seems a fitting, if not a pathetically tragic ending. In all his wild imaginings, this one never figured. It’s too confused and bizarre. It relays a certain endlessness and at this moment if there’s one thing he wouldn’t be opposed to, it’s a definitive final curtain.

Suddenly something grips his left leg, tight and undeterred. Instinctively he jerks to shrug it off but the hold only becomes more pronounced. The white screen projected in front of his eyes starts to blur and a sharp pain shoots through his shoulders.

He bows his head.

This is death, Sayid thinks.

 

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

“Will this be a problem, Sayid?” Farid Mohammad asks with only the barest hint of concern. His gaze stays focused and with one eyebrow slightly raised it is obvious what answer he insists be given.

“No sir,” Sayid lies, hoping the trepidation he feels does not unveil itself in his tone. He keeps his head high and eyes straight ahead, shoulders squared, all to present the image of power and professionalism demanded.

“Good.” Farid begins a slow and commanding walk around Sayid’s still frame. When he is behind him he says, “We are only doing what Allah wills as necessary to protect our country and our people.”

Sayid remains silent.

“There are those who would undermine our cause for traitorous reasons,” Farid continues. “Anything that weakens our ranks is…”

He comes around Sayid’s right side. “A problem that needs to be handled efficiently and with a level of precision.”

“I am not exactly an expert in—,” Sayid begins but quiets at the sight of the stern glare that orders him to not make excuses.

After a moment Farid says, “Being able to collect pertinent information is a remarkable skill and potentially lucrative. You’ve been chosen for a reason. Consider it a higher calling.” He raises his arms, palms upwards.

His dark eyes pierce Sayid’s. “You have been a notable communications expert. Think of this as the next step, a promotion.”

His condescending smile sends a shiver of disgust down Sayid’s back and he has to fight against grimacing, at least until he is given the order to leave. He walks the halls of the compound slowly, aimlessly, trying to delay reaching his final destination.

This is not what he wants to do and that he is apparently good at it makes him sick, but if he hopes to survive…

Allah knows the difference between actions and intention; they are not always the same. Sayid takes no pleasure in inflicting pain on others, but being able to note the difference between the innocent and the traitors gives him some peace of mind that he is doing something right.

Or wrong.

Sayid sighs.

Allah will be his judge.

 

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

 

He is supposed to be better than this.

Excruciating pain traded for information is a part of his past. He has tried hard to insist it is a trace remnant of his old life, one he has no desire to revisit, except for—

Part of Sayid would like to blame Jack, as acting leader, for consenting to it. He would love to blame Sawyer for being so uncaring about a young woman’s health that dismantling his body and mind was a necessary evil for a greater good. He could blame—

No one but himself. It was his own idea and the uncertainty he saw in Jack’s eyes makes him wonder when he himself lost that innocence, that humanity to want to help rather than hurt.

In Sawyer he sees a selfish being, driven by personal wants and entitlement, no matter what the consequences. No matter who died.

Once a murderer, always…

Sayid takes what comfort he can in Kate’s concerned goodbye before he set out on a self-proclaimed journey of isolated punishment. He deserves no such sympathy and certainly no forgiveness. It should have been hard to draw Sawyer’s blood so deliberately, slowly and painfully.

But it was easy. Too easy.

He can still hear Sawyer’s groans as he slipped sharpened points under his fingernails, imbedding them in his skin, inducing immeasurable pain.

Saving Nadia should have been the turning point.

Instead, purgatory is an island in the middle of nowhere with a past that refuses to release him and the temptation to turn to the dark side ripe at every turn.

The sand labours his steps, forcing him to be mindful of why he is setting out on this trek alone, with each struggle to move forward. It is a pilgrimage of self-realization and he has a long way to go. He has spun out of control and the only end in sight is of his own doing.

He wonders if the island is big enough to house him and all his demons. Those specters are huge and maddening, they swallow the light whole.

To his right the dark blue water stretches out infinitely. It should be purifying.

All Sayid can think about is drowning.

 

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

 

“You hold onto things you’d do best to let go of,” Desmond says from the single bed against the far wall.

Sayid, sitting on his own bed in the quarters they’ve been assigned to—imprisoned in upon arriving at the freighter—stretches his left leg out and bends the right one, resting his back against the wall. He looks over pensively.

“There are things I cannot—should not—let go of,” Sayid replies reverently. “They are my punishment to bear, to remember.”

“And have they helped you up to now?” Desmond questions while shifting to the side of the bed and lowering his feet to the floor. “Was this—,” He gestures to the locked room. “All part of the plan?”

Sayid feels undone in Desmond’s unblinking gaze. It is a fair question and the answer that should instinctively fall from his lips no longer stings of a tragic truth. Admitting that, however, requires acknowledging his lack of control over the situation.

“Of course not,” Sayid admits and ruminates on how much he wants to share. Where he would subscribe to the ‘it’s no one’s business but my own’ creed, Desmond seems to penetrate his defensive walls and for a moment Sayid imagines himself in the company of a good friend, a trusted confidante. The very thought twists his stomach in a way that brings a small hopeful smile to his face.

Sayid scoots to the side of his bed and mimics Desmond’s posture. “There are things I have done that I am not proud of, from a time I thought I had left behind. But they are very much with me, whether I like it or not.”

“And letting these things fester? Are they making you a better person?”

Sayid considers his answer. “No. But they make me want to be.”

Desmond regards him for a few seconds then stands up and heads to the door. Pressing his left ear against it, he listens, then turns around and leans back, folding his arms across his chest. “For ages I’ve been holding onto things too, things I did wrong, choices I made that put me here. I became complacent until you all showed up and forced my hand.”

Sayid looks up at him. “And are you a better person for it?” he muses with a smile.

Desmond grins. “One day. But not yet, brother.”

 

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

“What is it?” Sayid asks with a smile that aches, wonderfully, on his face. He doesn’t remember the last time he felt this happy.

He is lying on the sofa with his back propped up against the armrest, reading a book, while Nadia sits across from him with her back against the other side. She has been watching him instead of the documentary special playing on the television, while rubbing her right hand softly across his leg.

“Nothing,” she replies with a sly smile.

He closes his book, tossing it to the coffee table, and leans forward, gently placing his hand over hers. “Nadia,” he rumbles in a low voice.

She turns her hand in his and interlocks their fingers. “I still have to convince myself from time-to-time that you’re really here. It seems so…too good to be true.”

“But I am here.” He drops his right foot to the floor and shifts closer to her. With their hands still intertwined he cups her cheek with his free one. “I had to come a very long way for you.”

“A worthy journey I hope.” She leans into his touch.

Lowering his face to hers he presses their foreheads together. “The most worthy,” he whispers.

He hears her murmur affectionately before nuzzling her nose against his and coaxing him into a slow, deep kiss. It is a heady mix—happiness and contentment. It makes him feel reborn and forgiven, something he never thought possible or felt deserving of.

Nadia pulls back, leaving a few millimeters of space between their mouths. “I knew if I just waited, I would see you again,” she whispers and trails ticklish fingers along his jaw line.

“And you were prepared to wait?” he jokes, turning his lips to her fingers and kissing them softly.

She presses her fingertips to his lips and leans backwards to meet his gaze easier. Serious lines wrinkle across her forehead and detail her narrowed eyes. “When I was held by them, I thought my life was over. I was waiting for the beginning of the end. But then you, of all people, were sent. It was a sign, Sayid.”

She pulls her one hand free from his and runs both hands through his hair, finally framing his face with her hands. Between light kisses she says, “I don’t easily forget.”

Sayid smiles and wraps his arms around her body, making her laugh as he bends her further back. “Neither do I.”

 

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

“Do you honestly believe this will reset everything?” Sayid is insistent, pulling Jack aside.

“What choice do we have?” Jack replies, not so much confident as resigned to the mission at hand. “This might be our last chance make everything right.”

“I am not saying I disbelieve you. However, this is extreme and not to be entered into lightly. Are you sure?” Sayid grabs Jack’s arm to halt his distracted steps away.

Jack sighs, looking off to the side before meeting Sayid’s questioning gaze. “I don’t know. I wish there was a definitive answer, something black and white that we could measure with certainty. I don’t know—maybe this is a leap of faith.”

“It is a rather large leap.” Sayid feels stuck in a no man’s land. It is not the first time he has been put in a difficult position that demands taking a risk. But so many of those have backfired, with dire consequences, and taking another one seems only worth it if it’s the final straw.

“More than shooting a kid so he doesn’t grow up to become a killer?” Jack snaps rudely.

Sayid drops his hold and looks away. Although he would do it again—(try to) kill Ben, knowing the cruelty the man would one day inflict on so many others—it is not an act he entered into lightly or chooses to remember fondly.

“I’m sorry,” Jack says quietly.

Sayid meets his gaze and thinks upon the predicament they find themselves in. “I did it and now I have to live with it. I thought it might be the answer we needed but no one wanted to actually give.”

“Maybe this will be it.”

“You want to set off what amounts to a nuclear explosion.” Sayid is simultaneously incredulous and nervous about the precipice—the cliff—at which they stand.

“Everything has brought us to this moment, this chance. If we don’t do this who hell knows what will happen?”

“And if it does not work?”

“Then we’re already dead,” Jack argues. “But if it does work, we can rewrite all of it.”

Sayid thinks on that and takes a deep breath filled with resignation and acceptance. “Not much more to lose it would seem.”

They exchanged sad smiles.

“So I can count on you?” Jack asks.

“Yes,” Sayid nods.

 

********** ********** ********** ********** **********

Shadows appear in gray splotches across the bright white background.

The buzzing lessens—or else he is going deaf—and then suddenly there is sound again—indescribable—and he is pulled back by the grip on his leg.

What feels like an arm wraps around his chest and Sayid imagines the hounds of hell nipping at his heels while the ghosts of every person he wronged sink their claws into his skin.

“Damnit, Sayid! You wanna help?”

The familiar voice flashes a series of faces through his mind.

“Miles?” he groans.

“You don’t have amnesia do you?” Miles asks in typically snappy retort.

Sayid feels himself helped to his feet and stumbles forward. Throwing his head back to stare at the sky, he asks, “What h-happened?”

“You got shot and passed out.” Miles encourages him to keep moving, his breathing hard and steps awkward and stuttered.

“Explosion?” Sayid manages to say.

“Wha—uh, yeah sure,” is Miles placating reply.

Confusion rocks Sayid’s core and he wishes he could push Miles away, clear his mind and demand answers without having to put up with cryptic replies. Willing strength into his limbs and tying to think straight, Sayid pulls himself free from Miles and holds his left arm up to keep him at a decent distance. “Where’s Jack?”

It is the last thing Sayid remembers saying out loud.

Miles looks confused.

The sky swirls.

The smell of smoke fills the air.

Though the buzzing is gone, everything sounds as if it is in an echo chamber.

Sayid’s head is pounding and he clutches at his shoulder when another stab of pain races up it. He thinks he hears someone call his name in the distance, or maybe the person is right next to him.

A weird feeling of calm floods over his entire body.

Now light headed, he stumbles back on his feet and thinks he hears his name said again in another voice that seems very familiar.

“Nadia.” He smiles.

The world goes black.