How to cross over "Alias" and "Lost"? This is the first answer I came up with -- and probably the only one I ever will. Spoilers are included through the early second season of "Alias" and the pilot of "Lost." Don't own either show or either character, though Avi
is as much my invention as anyone else's, I guess. All thanks to my beta,
RJ Anderson. Feedback is very welcome at email@example.com
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
Avi had thought it would be hot.
If it ever happened, he'd thought - and every pilot thinks
about it, from time to time -- it would be a searing conflagration, heat beyond
heat, killing him in an instant. The heat of such an explosion could evaporate
a human body, turn it into pure air. He'd always found that comforting, in
a way - the quickness and absoluteness of it all.
But instead it's desperately cold. Superchilled stratospheric
air whips around Avi so that he shivers. Ice crystals are forming in his nose
and throat as the plane bucks and shudders around him.
It turns out it's cold after all, he imagines saying to
Eric. I was wrong all along.
They were born 15 minutes apart. According to their mother,
Avi was first, a quiet, blinking infant who didn't cry when he was spanked,
thus frightening all the nurses. Eric yelled loud enough for both of them,
once he got there, and made them all smile with relief. Avi doesn't know if
this is true or not -- his mother is more fond of a good story than she is
of facts -- but it feels true. It fits the pattern he and Eric have fallen
into their whole lives.
Avi is the quiet one. Eric is the funny one. Avi is the
one who joined the honor society and got elected class president; Eric's grades
were just as good as Avi's, but he ignored the honor society and was elected
class clown. Avi found a nice Jewish girl and married her; Eric seems to be
locked in a holding pattern of crushes on gorgeous, unobtainable shiksas and,
at age 36, is no closer to taking a wife than he was at 16.
"You shouldn't waste time," Avi said to him
a hundred times. "You only live once."
"You know, the only way you could make my love life
more disturbing is to tie it to my fears of mortality." Eric said this
once, and made Avi laugh. Most of Eric's responses are like that - funny and
true and yet not exactly answers to the question he was asked.
Avi went through college on a ROTC scholarship, Air Force,
so he wouldn't be a burden to their parents and so he wouldn't have any debt.
Eric took on the debt. Avi studied practical, useful fields: engineering,
physics, accounting. Eric took any damned course in the college catalog: Lasting
Political Impact of the Medieval Crusades, Codebreaking Methods in World War
II, and every obscure language he could find a professor for. At the end of
the day, he had a degree in economics, though Avi was sure that was more by
accident than by design.
The fact that Eric finally got a good job serving his
country in the State Department was a nice surprise. Avi did his tour of duty
in the Air Force, married Rachel, settled down and waited for Eric to do the
same. It would be a relief - fun, even -- for him and his twin to finally
be on the same page.
He's still waiting.
Avi had thought it would be quick. Statistics said that
a crash was most likely on takeoff or at landing, so he had envisioned the
earth slamming up toward him, a hammerblow of asphalt and dirt, almost too
quick to see.
Instead, he cannot even glimpse the earth that will eventually
stop the plane's fall. The clouds shifting ahead of them look almost as they
ought to look. If he could take a picture of this, the scene would look entirely
normal, except for the wildly spiraling readings on the controls.
And it's not quick. It just keeps happening and happening
and happening, an ending that won't end.
G-forces crush Avi back against his chair, and it feels
as though something is trying to press his ribs back into his spine. He gasps,
taking in air so cold it hurts his nose and throat, and he wishes that breath
could be his last.
It seems impossible that this is the end - really, the
very idea of an ending seems impossible. But Avi tells himself he can face
dying. He learned that from his brother.
The call came in the early evening, just as Rachel was
calling the girls in for dinner. Avi had still been in his Oceanic uniform,
exhausted after a long flight in from Tokyo, when he heard the voice on the
other end of the line explaining coolly that Eric had been shot in the neck.
"He must have gotten into a fight," Avi said,
over and over, as Rachel drove him to the hospital. "In a bar or something."
Not that Eric was ever much the getting-into-fights type, but it was the only
scenario Avi could imagine. Eric still led the kind of life that allowed for
nights out in bars. People drank, and sometimes things got out of hand, and
It was unthinkable that anybody would want to hurt Eric
for any other reason.
Avi's always felt more than 15 minutes older than his
twin, but he never felt as old as he did the moment he looked down at Eric
in his hospital bed. Tubes twined around him, to do his breathing for him.
A heart monitor beeped too rapidly. He tried to listen as Eric's coworker
- a tired, rumpled-looking guy called Matthew or Michael or something - explained
that they'd been mugged, and Eric hadn't wanted to give up his wallet.
He'd always known his brother was brave, but he'd never
thought he was so goddamned stupid.
For the next couple of months, Eric came back to himself
slowly. Avi had to help walk him to the bathroom, helped feed him in the weeks
before he could eat on his own again. This embarrassed neither of them - however
spacey his brother could be, Avi knew, he'd do the same if the positions were
reversed. But it made Avi think about old age, the inevitability of breakdown
and weakness, and the ways he and his brother had always needed each other.
They always would need each other, no matter how different the paths they
However, it made Eric think no such thing. Approximately
four days after Eric was first able to walk across the hospital room and back
with no help, Avi found the hang-gliding brochures.
"It's the one cool thing I've always meant to do
and never done," Eric said, as though this were an explanation. "There's
nothing waiting afterward but darkness, man - sorry to be a downer, but I've
gotta tell it straight. And that means we need to live now."
"Hang-gliding is your idea of living?" Avi folded
his arms. "Tell me, what are marriage and a family? A ball and chain?"
Eric's face had fallen. His voice had never sounded as
serious as when he replied, "They're people you can leave behind."
Avi had always thought it would be loud. Explosions, certainly.
Probably the shriek and tear of metal, too, grating and terrible.
Instead, it's quiet in the cockpit. Avi can hear nothing
but the thick fluttering of wind against his eardrums. Until a few seconds
ago, there was screaming -- not the passengers, though probably they are screaming,
oh God, waiting on Avi to save them and he can't, he can't. The only screaming
he ever heard was B.D., his copilot. But B.D. was shaken out of his seat a
moment ago, and his screams stopped short with the sick wet thud against the
cockpit door. Now there's only the wind.
Show me the ground, he prays to a deity who is clearly
not listening today. Show me the earth. Let me see that this is going to end.
But he is still trapped, falling forever, at a velocity
so great it erases time.
Avi had talked to national-security guys before. After
September 11, it wasn't unusual; pilot scrutiny was at an all-time high. And
it hadn't struck him as being all that strange the first time they asked him
about his brother. An identical twin could pretend to be you better than anyone
He can't say why this particular security screen tipped
him off. Maybe it was the way they kept coming back to Eric - just a little
too often, a little too insistently. Maybe it was the fact that they asked
about Eric's State Department job, when you'd think government people could
tap a few words in the computer and get the job description for themselves
in about five seconds flat.
As he drove home afterward, Avi began wondering why they'd
want to know about Eric. He remembered all the postcards the girls got in
the mail from their uncle, postmarked from exotic countries, and all the jokes
they'd shared about his amazing amounts of vacation time. He remembered his
annoyance at Eric's unwillingness to describe a day at the office. He remembered
the gunshot wound.
Finally he realized: The security people didn't want to
know about Eric. They wanted to know what Avi knew about Eric.
Three weeks later, when Rachel asked Eric over for burgers
in the backyard with the kids, Avi managed to get him alone for a moment and
said, simply, "Do you work for the CIA?"
If he hadn't been so sick at the confirmation in Eric's
eyes, Avi might have been gratified that once, just once, he managed to surprise
his brother, instead of the other way around.
Eric didn't insult him with a denial. "I don't want
to know how you know. And you don't need to learn anything else about this,
ever. You got it?"
"How could you do this?" Avi could have strangled
him with his bare hands.
"Do what? Serve my country? You were pretty damn
self-righteous about that when you joined the Air Force."
Avi closed his eyes. "That's why you got shot, isn't
it? Do you realize - if you hadn't made it - do you know what that would have
done to Mom and Dad?" And to Avi too, though there was no point in saying
"Everyone takes risks! Jesus, Avi, even planes crash,
For a few minutes, they were silent, watching the girls
playing at the far end of the yard. They had made a sort of teepee out of
an old comforter and lawn chairs and were trying to persuade the dog to stay
inside it, with little success.
Finally, Eric said, "I shouldn't have said that."
"Flying is the safest method of transportation."
"I know. But that's not why I shouldn't have said
A lot of things that never made sense before came together:
Eric's frequent absences, his eclectic interests, even his reluctance to marry.
But Avi couldn't understand how Eric could do it - so carelessly risk his
life, all the time, even for a good cause. "How long are you going to
be a - to do that?"
Eric shrugged. "I'm gonna retire fully vested. Wait
He said it so confidently that Avi might have believed
him, if he hadn't seen Eric in that hospital bed, surrounded by tubes that
had to breathe for him.
Avi had thought he would be glad to see the ground - to
see the end. He had thought there could be no greater horror, no greater fear,
than this endless waiting. But when the clouds part and reveal the stark,
brilliant blue of water and the tufted green island below, he realizes he
His life doesn't flash before his eyes, so Avi does that
on his own, remembering the ones he loves in turn: Rachel, his daughters,
his parents, his first girlfriend, his golfing buddies, the dog, and Eric,
always Eric, laughing and joking his way through life.
I was wrong all along, Avi thought. Playing it safe is
a lie. There's no such thing as safe.
But Eric was wrong too. At least Avi had people to remember,
faces in his mind that could obscure everything else, even the sure death
zooming up toward him at a hundred miles a minute, larger and larger, blue
Avi thinks that he'll have to tell Eric that they were
both wrong about all of this. And he wonders what Eric will say.
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