Author's Note: AU. The navy officers never showed up at the end, but Ralph got away anyway and has been hiding from Jack's tribe for two years. Cliched? Of course. Oh well.

Warnings: AU, J/R slash, just a shade dark

Disclaimer: William Golding's. Not mine.

The Difference

"Hello, Ralph," Jack greeted with a sort of twisted smile.

"Jack," Ralph answered, the name falling from his lips bitterly, voice harsh with disuse.

"You've been lurking here the whole time, haven't you?" Jack asked with an odd tone of cheer. "Living in the ashes of your precious fire, cowering in the shadow of the beast... One of the few places on the island you knew my tribe prefers to avoid. Very clever."

Ralph's eyes darted sideways, searching frantically for a way out, but there wasn't one. Jack's eyes trailed Ralph's line of vision lazily. "Stop that. There's no way out and you know it." Jack gestured with his spear. "Go on, sit."

Ralph obeyed warily. "What do you want from me?" he demanded.

Jack stretched the sinewy muscles of his arms luxuriously. "I've got what I wanted. You know that."

"Too well," Ralph agreed waspishly, "but there has to be something you want from me or you wouldn't be here."

Jack's eyes roved over Ralph's body with a wild savagery that reminded Ralph horribly of that stormy night's death dance. Involuntarily, Ralph scooted backwards a bit.

"Ralph, dear, dear Ralph," Jack chuckled, placing a warm, deceptively friendly hand onto Ralph's bare shoulder. Ralph resisted the urge to shove it off. "Don't you want to hear about all your old friends?" he paused, then added maliciously. "The ones who aren't dead, I mean."

Ralph held his head high. "I don't have to listen to this," he informed Jack angrily.

"You don't," Jack agreed mockingly. "After all, you could stand up and I could run you through with my spear, right? The dead can't hear." Ralph's only reply was a hard glare, so Jack continued with previous topic. "Lessee, how long has it been since you got exiled?" Jack's voice was toned with feigned ignorance. "A year? No, that can't be right. Oh! I remember now. Two years, wasn't it?"

Ralph nodded crisply, looking away from Jack's teasing, beautiful smile.

"I bet you want to hear about Samneric, hm?"

Ralph continued staring at a spot of empty air that was deliberately not Jack.

"They're insane," Jack announced delightedly, as if saying they were married and expecting their first child. It was the tone of informing someone who'd been left out of the gossip chain for a long time about all happiest news.

Ralph shifted uncomfortably. "Insane?" he pressed, curious against his will.

"Well, we're all insane, aren't we?" asked Jack idly, almost dreamily. "It was bound to happen."

Ralph eyed Jack with renewed caution, wondering what had happened to the likable boy Jack had been when they'd first met on the beach. When had he changed into this? Jack was staring intently at Ralph. "What are you thinking?" he demanded with a sort of superiority that made Ralph long more for those days when Jack's only fault had been that insufferable arrogance and he had certainly not been deadly dangerous or insane.

"I was thinking about those first days on the island. You were different then," Ralph admitted after a pause.

"It's called losing my sanity. Haven't we already been through that? We're all different; we're all insane." Jack replied shortly. Then he grinned indulgently. "I remember those first days. It didn't last long, did it? I remember you standing there with that damned conch and playing leader. I liked you. I figured we could be friends or partners or something." There was a strange emphasis on the word "something" that took the vagueness from it.

Ralph allowed himself a rueful smile. "We made horrible co-chiefs if that's ever what we were."

Jack shared the smile with Ralph, then said. "You're really beautiful."

Ralph's eyes went wide, and he scooted another few inches away from the redheaded boy. "What?"

Still smiling that same lazy smile, Jack repeated his statement with an elaboration: "You're beautiful. Really. I've never seen boys so beautiful. Of course, that can't be saying too much because the only boys I see are the ones in my tribe."

Ralph tried to swallow through the lump in his throat, looking around to see if a new exit had appeared for him. There was no way out and Jack knew it, so he moved closer, kneeling beside the fair-haired boy. "Are you insane yet? I am," came the former choir boy's whisper as he leaned close to Ralph's face. Ralph could feel his breathy words kissing his chapped lips.

"I don't know, " Ralph answered honestly, fully conscious of the close proximity.

Jack pressed closer and both sets lips touched with a bruising force. Ralph tried to pull away, but Jack's hand was there, tangling in his hair and blocking escape. Eventually, though, Jack was forced to break the kiss, breathless.

"That wasn't..." Ralph looked utterly confused. "That wasn't bad.

Jack placed a deliberate hand on Ralph's inner thigh with a calculated smile. "Well, it wasn't supposed to be bad." He looked thoughtful, gazing into Ralph's wide yes. "I was going to kill you," he stated plainly, tracing a light finger around Ralph's protruding hip bone. "I was going to put your head on a stake.

Ralph shivered, but not even he was sure whether it was from Jack's words or his touch. "You didn't," he reminded quietly.

Jack's eyes seemed to flash oddly in the sun's setting rays. "I didn't feel like it after a while. Roger wanted me to keep trying. He wanted to see you dead." Jack snickered. "No, he'd prefer to see you tortured, wouldn't he? He's want to see your pain, long and drawn out..." Jack laughed aloud. "Wait! I'm wrong again. Roger'd want to torture you himself, I bet." As he talked, Jack trailed his hand lightly over Ralph's malnourished body. Sometimes, when Jack's hand passed over a particularly sensitive place, Ralph's body would jerk or shudder or shiver, all of which Jack took in with eager eyes.

"Stop!" Ralph protested, moving to push Jack's hand away from him.

Jack quietly pushed the fire-hardened tip of his spear under Ralph's neck. "I don't have to stop. You don't want me to stop, anyway."

Ralph squirmed. "It's nearly dark. Don't you need to leave?" he questioned.

"Probably," Jack agreed absently, but most of his attention was on the tanned hand he touched Ralph with. "I should take you with me.

Ralph's body jerked violently in surprise and the spear at his throat jumped to nick his shoulder, drawing blood. Jack eyed the blood hungrily, watching it as it pooled, then dropped from the small, yet uncomfortably deep wound. "What did you mean by that?" Ralph demanded. "You can't take me!"

"I could if I wanted. If you wanted. I could paint you up like the rest of them and they'd never notice you. They're insane anyway. It would work." Jack's expression was one of delight. He stood and began to pace restlessly.

To Ralph's horror, his body still tingled with Jack's feather light caress. Worse, before he could suppress the thought, Ralph mentally wished that Jack would touch him again.

Jack studied Ralph. "You're considering it, aren't you?" he asked, licking his lips eagerly.

"I don't trust you," Ralph protested once he was sure his voice wouldn't fail.

"You don't have to."

"What if someone found out?"

"They won't."

"But if they do?"

"You're wondering if I'll protect you?" A confident smile spread over Jack's mouth. "And if I say I will protect you, you'll come with me."

"You'd protect me, then?"

"You wouldn't need protecting from anyone but Roger," Jack reminded him. "The rest are too far gone into insanity to actually remember you."

"Fine," Ralph snapped, irritated. "Would you protect me from Roger?"

"Of course not. Hell, I'd probably pay just to see you tortured."

Ralph backed away again, the last time, because there was now a fair sized rock just behind him, blocking further movement. "Why?"

Jack smiled horribly at Ralph. "Because I'm a hunter and you're my prey. I want to see..." Jack struggled for words. "I want to watch you twist and scream and writhe and hurt. It's just what I want."

"Get away from me. I didn't want to join your tribe two years ago and I don't want to now," Ralph spit furiously.

Jack just laughed again, and closed all the remaining distance between himself and the other boy. "You don't get it, do you? You may have had all the control when this power struggle began, but I've got it all now. I'm in control in ways you never were." Jack's hot breath was no longer a kiss to Ralph's skin, but an angry slap.

"Fine," Ralph answered once he was sure there was no other reply. "Fine, you're in control."

Jack's body was suddenly against him, pulling him up into a standing position. "I am, aren't I? Come on. Let's go. I'd like to reintroduce to Roger now. He'll be happy to see you."

Ralph tensed at this, then sprung away, but not before Jack had grabbed his hand, sending him sprawling to the ground. Bloody scrapes sprung to his knees. Jack pulled his back up and kissed him contentedly. "I won't let Roger kill you. I promise."

That was not a comforting reassurance for Ralph, but he followed Jack down the mountain anyway, willingly marching to his doom for no reason except Jack Merridew.

If Jack asked him now if he felt insane, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Author's Note: I'm really not sure if I got their characters right... Input on that would be hugely appreciated. Actually, input on anything would really, really appretiated. I'm just not sure about this whole fic. Was the dialouge alright? Did I make some giant canon mistake? Grammar errors? Awful typos? Comments and critisism will be greeted by giant hugs and gratefulness!