||[May. 2nd, 2008|10:26 pm]
The Universal Constant
TITLE: The Universal Constant, Part 4
AUTHORS: infinitenesmith & hauntermooneyes
RATING: Mostly PG-13 with occasional spurts of R-rated language
PAIRINGS: Desmond/Penny (pre-established), Dan/Charlotte (hints of)
DESCRIPTION: A post-Island Lost/Discworld crossover fic. It's been a little less than a year since all the problems have been sorted out with the survivors of Oceanic 815, the mysterious island on which they were marooned, and its other inhabitants. But Desmond Hume is finding it difficult to re-adjust to life. He's plagued by nightmares and disturbing visions. He always feels as if he's being watched. Is it paranoia, or something far more sinister? Only Ms. Hawking and the History Monks know for sure...
NOTES: No spoilers in this one that we've noticed, but tread carefully if you're not up-to-date on Season 4...
Donovan turned, pressing against the flow of people in the hall, and grinned. "Desmond!"
Desmond elbowed his way through the students. "Can I talk to you?"
"We're talking now!"
"I mean at the pub!"
"I think I'm seeing things!"
"Oh, I see! Yeah! Come on, this way--"
It took a little doing, but the two men made their way out of the crowd of the university campus and into the relatively smaller crowd in the pub up the street. Once they had full glasses in front of them, Donovan settled back and gave Desmond a curious look.
“So…seeing things, Des?”
Desmond took a pull at his beer. “Aye.”
“Should I ask what sorts of things, or just wait for you to start at the beginning?”
“This isn’t funny, Donovan. I really think I’m going crazy.”
The edge in his voice gave Donovan pause. It was more worried than sharp, as if Desmond was on edge and truly upset.
“No flashes of the future this time?”
“Donovan,” Desmond warned.
“Right, sorry, just making sure.” Donovan drummed his fingers against his glass thoughtfully. “Then I think you’d better tell it from the start.”
"I've been doing a lot of that lately."
"Does it help?"
"No. Where am I supposed to start?"
"Let's go with right before the hallucinations started."
Desmond sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "That means telling the whole thing. Again. Damn it."
"Sorry, mate. I can't help if I don't know what's happening."
"Penny said something like that, too," he remarked ruefully. He leaned his elbows on the table. "All right, all right..."
He tried his best to explain without going into too much detail. Whatever Donovan didn’t need to know, he left out; there was no sense in making his best friend look at him the way Penny had been for the past couple of days.
“So you ran into this man in the pub,” Donovan said slowly when Desmond had finished, “and then you started seeing things?”
“Started seeing things again,” Desmond clarified. He ran his finger around the rim of his glass, making it hum. “It means I’m going crazy, doesn’t it.”
“It means you’ve been through a lot.”
"And I'm going crazy."
"I--no, I don't think you're going crazy." Donovan hesitated. "But uh...you could. I mean, if this keeps up."
"I don't know how to stop it, brother! Do you understand? I can't--" He stopped, staring at something over Donovan's shoulder. "Christ."
"What?" As he began to turn in his seat, Desmond seized his arm urgently.
"Don't--it's that man from the bar--"
"Really?" Donovan’s voice took on the high, silken quality of a curious scientist. "Where?"
“He’ll notice!” Desmond hissed. “Stop trying to look.”
“For God’s sake, Des, I’m just—”
“Listen,” said Desmond, “even if he’s just some guy, I did hit him and I’d rather he not notice I’m here and decide to get even, all right?”
Donovan gave the man another cursory glance over his shoulder before shrugging and turning back to his beer. “All right.”
Desmond seized his own glass and drained it. “I think we’d better get out of here.”
"You're that scared of this guy? It was just a bar punch, Des; I'm sure--"
But Desmond was staring past him again. The man was just standing in the doorway, scanning the room, eyes moving slowly from face to face to face. Desmond didn't want them landing on him. He had a sneaking suspicion that the man was there specifically to find him...
"Donovan," he repeated, "I think we'd better get out of here."
Donovan stopped, mouth still open, and frowned. "How? We'd have to go past him."
"Not if we go out through the kitchen."
"They only let you do that in movies."
"Not the way I do it, brother. Come on," he added, urgency sharp and bitter in his voice. His friend stared at him, cast another look over his shoulder, and got to his feet.
They somehow made it to the street without being stopped, but Desmond didn’t relax until they were several blocks away from the pub.
“Where are we going?” Donovan asked at last.
Desmond risked a look over his shoulder. Nobody following…yet. “Anywhere. Let’s just walk.”
“Okay,” Donovan agreed slowly, eyeing his friend. “Desmond…”
Desmond didn’t seem to hear him. “Donovan, have you ever heard of Daniel Faraday?”
Donovan blinked. “Faraday? Faraday…oh, Faraday. Yeah. I read one of his papers, years ago.”
“It was complete rubbish. Nobody took it seriously.”
“What was it about, Donovan?” Desmond pressed, taking an arbitrary turn down the next street.
“Funny you should ask. He seemed to think people could bypass all the potential problems with faster-than-light travel and just move their minds through time.”
Desmond looked at him in surprise. “He wrote a paper on that?”
“Yes. Why is that so important?”
“I met Faraday.”
This caught Donovan off-guard. “What?”
“I met him. Years ago. And…and again sort of recently.” Desmond looked away, running a hand through his hair.
His friend laughed, half in disbelief and half in something Desmond couldn't quite figure out. "You met him? Did he try to explain his theory to you? You didn't buy it, did you? It was all complete tripe."
"I don't know about tripe." He still wasn't meeting Donovan's gaze.
Frowning, Donovan replied, "Well, why wouldn't it be? It doesn't make any scientific sense, after all. How can the consciousness move without the body?"
"Haven't you heard of souls, brother?"
"Again, from a scientific view, it makes no sense. It was rubbish. Just rubbish."
“All right, but if it could happen—”
“Humor me, Donovan,” Desmond pleaded. Donovan gave an exasperated nod and let him continue. “If it could happen, I mean, if it happened to someone, even just once, could it…could it, you know, unhinge you? Like, would you ever recover?”
“Why are you asking me this?”
“Because I couldn’t find Faraday.”
Donovan stared at him. “You went looking for—”
“Aye. Wasted an hour in Oxford.”
“You’re really serious about this.” Donovan sounded more surprised than worried.
“I’m afraid I’m losing my mind, brother. Of course I’m serious.”
“All right, all right.” Donovan held up his hands. “Then let me ask you this: eight or nine years ago, you asked me if it was possible to remember the future. Why weren’t you worried then?”
Desmond thought about this. “I was. But I just thought…I don’t know. I wasn’t seeing things. They were just memories.”
Donovan was silent for a moment. “I brushed you off.”
"Yeah. You did."
"Maybe I shouldn't have."
"Maybe you shouldn't have," Desmond agreed severely. "But that's not the point, brother. Would it unhinge you? Me?"
"I don't know. I never gave it much thought. I suppose it could..."
Desmond breathed out. At least now he could try to explain why his brain tried to crawl out his ear on a regular basis.
"So how do I stop it?" he muttered, more or less to himself.
"I don't know how to stop it."
"Stop what? Going mad? I don't think that's technically possible."
Desmond rolled his eyes. “You’re a great help, Donovan, you know that?”
“What do you want me to say, Des?” Donovan exclaimed in exasperation. “Obviously I hope you’re not going mad, but I can’t tell you anything more than I already have, especially when it comes to things that most people think don’t exist.” He sighed. “Look, if you really think Faraday could help, I could get you a copy of his paper.”
Relief came over Desmond’s face like a wave. “Could you?”
Donovan nodded. “Give me a couple of days and I’ll drop it off at your flat, all right?”
“Thanks, Donovan.” Desmond gave his friend a crooked smile.
"Don't mention it. Listen--be careful. Even if you're going crazy--" He allowed himself a grin-- "don't make it too obvious."
"Well thanks, brother, I'll keep that in mind."
Penny was sitting outside a corner coffee shop, books spread out on the table in front of her.
She was worried about Desmond, far more worried than she wanted to admit, and so she was trying to be reasonable about it. After he had disappeared earlier that morning, muttering something about taking the train to Oxford, she had gone to the library and checked out a few pertinent books.
She didn’t believe he was going crazy. There had to be a better explanation. And since he wouldn’t tell her what was going on, she was going to have to figure it out for herself.
She sipped her coffee and turned a page. Post-traumatic stress disorder seemed to fit the bill.
The problem she had with his self-diagnosis, after all, was that he wasn't her definition of crazy. Crazy didn't mean being terrified of things he saw, it meant...well, it was different. Besides, she never would have believed him unhinged even with a chorus of angels and a message written in the sky. She had never thought badly of him (not really, anyway; she had tried like hell to after he played the noble card) and she didn't intend to start now.
Post-traumatic stress disorder matched his definition of crazy, and she latched onto it like a drowning cat latches on to a human arm. She didn't notice the shadow fall over the table, and wouldn't have looked up if the man hadn't said, "May I sit?"
Now she looked up, into an amicable, fresh face above a finely-pressed suit. "I'm...sorry, do I know you?"
"I don't think so." He pulled the chair out and sat down. Penny felt her hackles rise. "Are you Penelope Widmore?"
"No," she lied.
"Ah. I apologize, you do look so much like her...do you know her?"
He smiled once, briefly, and leaned forward. "Miss Widmore, I have a couple of questions to ask you about the man you're staying with. Desmond Hume?"
"I'm not Miss Widmore," she snapped. Alarm bells clanged in the back of her head.
"Of course not."
She remembered what Desmond had said happened in the pub the day before. A strange man asking about her…could this be the same man?
No sense in sitting around long enough to find out.
“I’m sorry, you really do have the wrong person,” Penny said, sounding sincerely apologetic as she gathered up her books. She rose, innocently enough, but when she swung her purse onto her shoulder, she made very sure that it knocked her coffee over and into the lap of the grey-suited man.
The man leapt to his feet, screaming in shock so loudly that every other patron of the coffee shop turned to stare at him. But by that time, Penny was around the corner and out of sight.
She strode double-time down the sidewalk, aware that her back was trying to run and her feet were getting in its way, and listened intently for any movement behind her over the hum of the crowd. The man was still screaming. O-kay, then.
Time to take stock. She was still breathing. She was still walking. No one had leapt out from the shadows and grabbed her. No one seemed to be following her. So why the hell did she still feel like she was being watched?
Penny stopped abruptly, was almost trampled by tourists, and retreated to the wall of the nearest shop instead. She looked up, scanning the sky, and then searched the crowd. Nothing. No one was there. The screams had stopped, but the man wasn't flying around the corner in a rage. She adjusted her grip on the books. They'd make a good weapon for a time, but once she ran out...
Why was she thinking like this? No one was coming. There was no reason to think--aha, there was that prickly feeling again! Penny's head turned of its own accord, like a scenthound seeking a rabbit, and fixed her eyes on the dark-skinned man standing a few doors down.
He was looking at her. Not just in her direction but at her, just her out of everyone on the crowded street. Fear flickered briefly in her chest before being replaced by anger. She had half a mind to stride across the street and demand to know what was going on—
And then he was gone. Quick as the blink of an eye: there one second, nothing but an empty doorway the next.
Enough was enough.
The man in the suit had come around the corner, face twisted. She slipped into the crowd and continued on, head low, indignation burning in her throat. Was that what Desmond meant by hallucinations? People standing around staring in dramatic ways? What nerve--
Then again, they couldn't do it two storeys up, could they? Not without help.
Who was trying to screw with their heads?
"Excuse you!" someone snapped, skittering aside. Penny looked up.
"Sorry--" She shook herself out of her angry daze and tried to focus. Where was she going? Home. She had to drop off the books. And then…
And then what?
She was going to sort this out. Whatever was going on, it had to stop before something happened to Desmond. Or to her.
Several days later, Desmond was sure he was going insane.
Faraday's paper had briefly touched on the idea of insanity, sort of skated around it, and warned that time travel could lead to a full meltdown. If he remembered right, though, full meltdown only took a short while. It had been days. By that logic, then, he was just jumping off his rocker.
Well, that was fine. He was at peace with that.
What he wasn't at peace with was the people that he kept seeing. Locke, Sayid, Charlie, Mikhail, even Kelvin once or twice...he was reduced to sitting in the flat with the doors locked and the blinds drawn, terrified out of his mind.
He was really starting to wish he’d bought a gun.
It was hard to sleep, hard to concentrate long enough to eat. Even showers had lost their appeal; he kept hearing whispers in the sound of the running water and could never be sure that his reflection was going to be the only one in the mirror when he went to shave.
That, at least, was easy. He’d stopped shaving two days ago.
Penny was getting more and more concerned. He could see it when she looked at him: that dark, shaded sort of stare that she used when she didn't want him to think she was worried. She had always been bad at hiding it, even back before there was anything to worry about.
On this day, she had gone out to the library or something and he was sitting on the couch, just staring at the wall with the fewest shadows. Shadows shaped themselves into people nowadays too. He would have kept all the lights out, but the dark was the worst, so he learned to deal with the shadows, learned their angles and shapes so that he wouldn’t jump every time he caught sight of one out of the corner of his eye.
He didn’t like being alone. Despite the way Penny looked at him when they were together, it was better when she was there. She was warm, real; an anchor in the choppy waters of his sanity. Without her, the flat became as cold and intimidating as the hatch had been.
It would be nice to just…shut everything out for a while, but sleep was out of the question. Desmond had tried taking a nap once before when Penny wasn’t home, and had ended up jerking himself awake with his own screaming. He couldn’t go through that again.
A drink would be nice. A long, relaxing, strong drink. But there was nothing in the flat; Penny had made sure of that. Desmond knew she meant well in that regard, but he couldn’t help resenting it a little.
He could go out and get something. Not to the pub. Too many people, too much of a chance that someone could sneak up on him without him noticing. No, there was a liquor store…somewhere. Somewhere close. It wouldn’t take long, and if anyone tried to follow him back to the flat, he’d have a nice, heavy bottle on hand. Bottles were good. They were easy to swing.
Ten minutes later, Desmond returned to the flat with a bottle of MacCutcheon's. After all, he reasoned, why not go all out? It might even be strong enough to block out the hallucinations. Or it could just delude him more.
Opening the bottle took some doing, but after a good swig he began to feel better. A hell of a lot better.
After a couple more, he even fancied he was starting to think straight again. With all the little fears that had been driving his paranoia subdued by the haze of whiskey, he had the space in his brain to wonder why. Why were strange men seeking him out in pubs? Why was he seeing people who couldn’t possibly be there? Why was his life being disrupted?
Who was responsible?
Now that was a good question. Desmond congratulated himself on thinking of it and took another pull at the bottle. Who was behind the things that were rapidly turning his life into hell on Earth? Someone had to be accountable. It certainly wasn’t him. Nobody could be that insane, not even Desmond Hume.
He chuckled to himself. There was one person who hated him enough…
Ten more minutes later, the secretary in the Widmore Corporations building was trying unsuccessfully to make the strange, disheveled Scotsman with alcohol on his breath see sense and go away because no, Charles Widmore was not taking any appointments. In fact, he was out for lunch, and would the man like to come back later?
"I'm not comin' back later, miss," he replied, leaning against the desk. She leaned away from him, looking frankly terrified. "I wan' to see your boss, an' I wan' to see him now."
"But he's not here, sir! Really, sir! I--please put the bottle down, sir--"
"Bottle?" Desmond looked at the MacCutcheon's clutched in his hand and snorted. "This is my weapon."
"I--what?" People were staring.
"See, see, the shadows an'--they're all alive, see. An'. This is my weapon. Scares 'em away."
"I'm sorry, sir, but he's not--"
"Damn it!" Desmond snapped, and she stopped. He took a deep breath. "S'not hard. Okay? Just call him. Please."
"I don't know where he is," she replied desperately, almost in tears. "If you'll give me your number--"
Desmond turned around, too fast, and caught himself on the desk. "You! Widmore! M'here to see you!"
"I'm sorry, sir, I tried to tell him you were out, but he just wouldn't--"
"That's all right, Claudia, quite all right," Charles Widmore said smoothly, taking Desmond by the shoulder and steering him toward the nearest elevator. "Walk with me, Hume."
"Where're you takin' me?"
"To my office, where we can talk in private."
“We can bloody well talk right now.”
“You’re drunk.” Widmore stated the obvious with amused contempt as the elevator doors closed.
“Damn right I am.” Desmond brandished the half-empty bottle. “Wouldn’t’ve figured it out if I was sober. Too worried when I’m sober. Too bloody scared.”
The elevator stopped and Widmore led Desmond to his office with a sort of false kindness that meant the only reason he was being patient at all was because he thought he was about to get a very good show.
“Why don’t you tell me all about it,” he suggested, shutting the door behind them and gesturing to a chair.
Desmond shook his head. “Oh no. You’re not gettin’ me all comfortable an’—an’ secure just so you can do somethin’ else to me.”
Widmore raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry?”
“I don’t know how you’re doin’ it,” Desmond slurred, tottering forward and leaning his free hand on Widmore’s polished desk, "but I know s'you.”
Widmore took in Desmond’s half-buttoned shirt, two-day beard, and frantic expression and allowed himself a small smile.
“From where I’m sitting, Hume, it looks as though you haven’t been taking very good care of yourself,” he observed. “I fail to see how that is my fault.”
“You’re bloody well runinin’ my life!” Desmond shouted, slamming his hand down on the desk so hard that his own teeth rattled. “I know it’s you! You hate me! You want Penny to hate me! You always have! And you’re—you’re doin’ somethin’, tryin’ t’make me…t’make me think…”
"What on earth are you talking about?" he replied, still smiling. Desmond felt a sudden, primal urge to punch his teeth down his throat. "My daughter can make her own decisions. I harbor no ill will toward you."
"Bullshit! You're doin' it, it's your fault, an'--stop smiling!"
"Perhaps I should call you a cab home."
"Don' need a cab--"
Charles picked up his phone. Desmond lunged across the desk, seized it, and slammed it back onto the receiver. "You listen t'me," he snarled, almost nose to nose with the man. "You listen t'me. I know what you're doin'. Tryin' to drive me nuts. Righ'?"
"I don't know what you're--"
"Shut up! Now you need to--fuck off. All righ'? Jus' fuck off an' leave me alone."
Charles' expression twisted. "What did you just say to me?"
“You heard me. Leave me alone or I'll—”
“Hume, I suggest you leave my office before I have you arrested.” All the humor had gone from Widmore’s face, leaving a stony mask of contempt.
“That’s jus’ like you, y’know? Jus’ like. Smile, deny, threaten. Like—like a rich, pompous bastard…” Desmond hauled himself to his feet and pointed an accusatory finger in Charles’ face with the hand that still clutched the whiskey bottle. “But I know now. You can try an’ pretend you’re not inv—invol—part of it, but I know.”
With that, he turned to go, too sharply. The room spun. Desmond staggered backwards and collapsed heavily against the wall. His flailing hand caught a shelf somewhere above his head and he stumbled, but only succeeded in pulling it—and the model boat that was on it—off the wall. Then he hit the ground himself, losing his hold of the bottle and sending expensive whiskey cascading down the front of his shirt before the bottle shattered on the floor.
Behind him, Charles made a sound like a polar bear and seized the back of his shirt. Hauling him upright with unusual strength for such an old man, he hissed, "Get the hell out of my office or I will have you arrested and you will not get out!"
He gave Desmond a hard shove toward the door. Desmond grunted, slid in the puddle of whiskey, and bit his tongue when his chin connected with the floor. Dazed and tasting blood, he dragged himself to his feet and rubbed his face. There is nothing more sobering than creating a huge mess, nor than being pushed around by some old economist.
The Scotsman looked around at Charles, who was already making the way to his phone. "What're you--"
"I am calling the police."
"What? No! Don't you bloody dare--"
But he wasn't listening. He was picking up the phone again and starting to push buttons--
Desmond lurched across the desk, seized Widmore by one lapel, and swung his fist solidly into the man’s face. There was an odd noise, his fingers crunched, and familiar pain shot up his arm again. But it was worth it, because Charles staggered and blood dripped down his mouth. He reached up and felt it, looking mildly puzzled.
"Hah, take that," said Desmond, swaying on his feet.
The old man studied the blood on his fingers, still with that same curious expression. Then, without any apparent effort, he swung his fist sideways into Desmond's temple. Desmond heard the crash of his body hitting the floor but didn't register the pain, and then it was over.
When he woke up, there was pain. A lot of pain. His entire head, face included, throbbed with the ache of a hangover and the aftereffects of the fight. But there was something else, too, something warm and wet…
Desmond forced his eyes open and winced against the light. He was lying on the couch in the flat, and Penny was perched next to him, gently pressing a damp washcloth to his forehead.
“Oh Des, thank God.” Relief flooded Penny’s face. “How are you feeling?”
“I—I thought he was calling the police—”
“Well, he called me instead,” she replied, knowing what he meant. “Apparently he thought seeing you in that state would appall me. Des, what were you thinking?”
What had he been thinking? The pain in his head and in his jaw made it hard to remember. His hand hurt, too. And his arm.
“How come you didn’t take me to a hospital?”
Penny gave him a strange look. “With the way you’ve been acting, I didn’t think you’d want me to.”
Oh. Well, that made sense. Hospitals were too bright and too noisy, and anyway, it would have been humiliating. Not that lying on the couch with Penny looking at him as though he was about as bright as dirt wasn’t.
"Can I sit up?" he muttered, mostly asking his muscles.
She answered for him with a sharp, "No. Desmond, why did you go after him?"
It was hard to think through the ache. He shut his eyes and sank deep into the couch cushions.
"I was drunk," he mumbled as memories trickled back like droplets of white-hot lead.
"Yes, he mentioned that."
Desmond ignored the unspoken accusation in her voice. "And I thought he was--behind--everything."
"What do you mean?"
There was a pause. After a moment, he felt the rag on his forehead shift a little and her fingertips brushed against his hair. "Why would you think that?"
He shrugged and didn't tell her that the man had already gone out of his way to make his life a living hell before. It was her father, after all.
The silence stretched out for a bit longer and cracked its knuckles in preparation.
"Try to get some sleep," Penny said at length. The cushions shifted as she got up.
Right, sleep. Desmond turned onto his side—carefully, because it hurt to move—and wished he could pass out again. At least in that state, there were no dreams.
He fell asleep anyway, despite his best efforts to avoid it. The confrontation with Widmore had taken a lot out of him, and a drunken stupor did nothing to give the body real rest.
Penny came back into the room after a while with a mug of coffee and watched him sleep. Her research hadn’t prepared her for this kind of…outburst. Meltdown, almost. Perhaps it was possible that her father was behind the strange men at the pub and coffee shop, but to accuse him of physically causing hallucinations…
Maybe Desmond needed someone to blame. Penny couldn’t imagine being in a state where she couldn’t trust her own mind. It must be terrifying. And if Des didn’t want to believe or didn’t want to admit something was wrong, it made sense that he was reaching out in the darkness for a different explanation to latch onto, something that would tie everything together and make it make sense.
But if she found out that her father was behind whatever was triggering Desmond’s problems, there was going to be hell to pay. And her father may have had a lot of money, but he didn't have that much.
She sank down next to him and stared into space, thinking.
Desmond woke up with a dull, thudding headache and fire in his shoulders. He opened his eyes, hissed, and tried to haul himself upright.
Penny turned from the window. "Don't move!"
"Ow." He slumped against the arm of the couch and grimaced.
"I swear he must have body slammed you...stay still." She crossed the room and leaned over him, touching his face and hair and neck. "Do you need me to get you aspirin?"
“Aye.” Desmond winced. “One the size of a bus.”
She gave him a small, worried smile. “Well, we only have the regular sort, but I’ll see what I can do.”
Desmond shut his eyes again as she vanished from the room. The curtains were open and it was far too bright. He wanted to get up and shut them, but every time he moved it was a new experience in pain.
Damn drunken logic. He’d be much better off right now if it weren’t for that. There wouldn’t be any pain, anyway.
Oh, and damn Charles Widmore, too.
He lifted his head slowly, half-squinting in the evening light, when Penny returned with the aspirin.
“Here you go, Des,” she murmured, handing him two pills and a glass of water. “Careful when you sit up…”
“Thanks.” He took the pills and was reaching for the water when he realized they weren’t alone in the room. There was someone standing a few paces behind Penny, watching. Grinning.
It was that damn Russian again! That one-eyed bastard who had killed Charlie!
Who Desmond should have been keeping an eye on.
Even though he had been dead.
He was waving now! First the hungry, self-satisfied grin, and now an impish little wave!
“Des? Desmond, what’s wrong?” Penny’s urgent voice was muffled, as if he was hearing it from a long way off.
He stared in horror as Mikhail made a little motion toward Penny and then drew his index finger across his throat in a very pointed way. Forgetting the pain, Desmond scrambled off the couch and half-threw her behind him, as if the bastard couldn't have punched right through him to get to her anyway-- the water hit the floor--
There was no one there.
"Desmond, what the hell is going on?" snapped Penny over the roar in his ears.
He stumbled. She caught his arm. "I--saw--"
"What did you see?" she demanded. She was...angry. She had a right to be angry. But--but her hands were shaking, so maybe scared, too...
There was no one there--now. But there had been, and this time it had only been to warn. Next time--next time he would have to protect her, and fists, as reliable as they were, would do nothing to Mikhail. Harpoon guns didn't even do much to that rat. He would have to settle for a normal gun and hope it gave them time to get out.
"Answer me, Desmond: what the hell is going on?"
Agony lanced through his head. Grunting, he slumped down again and put his face in his hands.
“Could you close the curtains, Pen?” he mumbled at last.
“Des, don’t you dare start moping around in the dark again…”
“Please. My head hurts.”
Penny let out a breath through her nose and pulled the curtains shut, shrouding the room in dimness. Then she perched herself on the couch next to Desmond and gave him a chilly look, frowning.
“Now. You’re going to tell me what’s wrong.”
Desmond kept his face in his hands despite the merciful lack of light. “They’re after you now.”
“I don’t know! Whoever’s been after me.” He shuddered. “I’m scared, Pen.”
She opened her mouth, thought about it, and closed it again. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Scared of what?"
"I'm--seeing things--people--that I shouldn't be seeing, Pen!" he exclaimed. "I'm going insane!"
"No you're not."
"Someone wants me to!"
"No they don't. You're being paranoid," she murmured, laying a hand on his shoulder. "I think it's just post-traumatic stress disorder--"
"It's not a disorder." Desmond shrugged her off and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes to stave off the tears. "It's not. I can't--I can't think..."
He felt her lean against him. "It'll be okay, Des."
"No it won't," he mumbled. "No it won't."
“Ah, Mr. Widmore.” Abaddon rose when Charles entered his office. “What can I do for you?”
Widmore waved a hand, indicating that Abaddon should sit. “I wanted to talk to you about the situation with Hume.”
Abaddon gave the other man’s swollen nose a cursory glance. “Is anything wrong?”
“No. As a matter of fact, things are much better than I expected at this stage. What are you doing to him?”
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Ah.” Charles nodded as one businessman to another. “Well, whatever it is, Abaddon, keep doing it.”
Abaddon allowed himself a small, private smile. “Yes, sir. Sir, if I may ask...what happened to your nose?"
"Hume did. If he keeps this up, I could have him arrested for assault. Make sure he keeps it up."
"Very good, sir."
Widmore turned to go, but paused in the doorway. “Oh, and Abaddon?”
“Yes, Mr. Widmore?”
“If for some reason my daughter doesn’t come to her senses, the problem will nevertheless…resolve itself?” He raised his eyebrows, questioning.
Abaddon nodded. “Of course, Mr. Widmore.”
(Crossposted to discworld, lost_fanfic, desmond_fans, des_pen, desmond_penny, infinitenesmith, and hauntermooneyes)