Rating: PG-13 for drug references
Summary: A short beach vignette. Sawyer and Charlie discuss their addictions. Set pre-House of the Rising Sun, or in other words before Charlie traded his drugs away.
The click of the lighter and the feel of the dial under his finger were comforting to Sawyer. Familiar. When the tiny flame appeared he held it up so it contrasted with the night sky. The flame was reflected in his eyes, in the pupils so that his irises became the blue part of the fire, the hottest part. If eyes truly were the window to the soul, Sawyer's soul was on fire, burning up, being eaten alive by the living flames.
He shook his hair out of his face with a practiced movement and lit the cigarette that dangled from his relaxed lips. He was the perfect image of the rebel, with smoke curling up over his head, the shadow of stubble on his chiseled jaw and cheekbones, and a glower so menacing it could have only been perfected after many years of practice. His entire demeanor yelled, "leave me alone!" and indeed he was alone. Sawyer sat beside a small fire of his own making while the other survivors were mostly gathered around the much larger signal fire. Sawyer didn't care. He didn't need any of them.
There was a lone figure stumbling along the shoreline with his head hung low and his arms dangling limply by his sides. With his own arms folded across his chest, Sawyer tracked the figure's progress with his eyes. Whoever it happened to be was farther down the beach than even Sawyer and was walking towards the fires. When he got closer it became obvious that the figure was that of Charlie, the short man who always seemed to be following Jack or Kate around. Sawyer frowned when he realized that Charlie was actually coming towards his own fire rather than continuing past him to stay beside the signal fire.
"Mind if I join you, mate?" Charlie asked. Without waiting for an answer he collapsed on the sand, his legs folded beneath himself. Sawyer shrugged and took another long drag on his cigarette. As long as Charlie wasn't about to start chatting him up, Sawyer really didn't give a rat's ass.
Charlie kept his hood up and tugged the jacket closer around himself. His glazed-over eyes gazed unseeingly into the fire and he shuddered slightly. The effects of the heroin, which he had snorted just a few moments ago while kneeling in the dirt of the jungle floor, were still in his system. Though he had only allowed himself a tiny bit in order to conserve his stash for as long as possible, he still felt it deep within him. A peaceful calm had come over him and his eyes saw everything in sharp clarity. This was the strange place, the blurry line where Charlie hung suspended in midair between high and sober. In this place everything felt good and everything felt bad.
His eyes rose, leaving the flames, and went to Sawyer's face. Charlie didn't know him very well, only that he seemed like a redneck without much sympathy for anyone but himself. Charlie's eyes narrowed as he studied the cigarette in Sawyer's mouth and he watched the smoke that the other man was puffing out. Sawyer noticed his gaze and plucked the cigarette from between his lips, leaning forward slightly as he appraised Charlie.
"You smoke, Charlie?"
Smoke? Cigarettes? No, never cigarettes. Charlie shook his head. Never smoked a cigarette, but he'd sure as hell done some pot in his life. It had been fun at first, the weed, but it hadn't been long before Charlie moved on. The gateway drug, they called it, and for Charlie it had opened the gate to a much bigger paradise. Drug of choice. The phrase popped into his head and a smile spread across his face that had nothing to do with happiness and everything to do with the heroin in his body. Everyone had a different drug of choice. For Charlie, weed, X, coke, acid, none of it compared to the big one.
"Yeah, I didn't think so," Sawyer said with the smallest hint of a sneer. He took a drag and blew it out so that the smoke formed a perfect O shape. It had taken him so long to learn how to do that and damn but it looked cool. Charlie watched the O disinterestedly and Sawyer frowned. He raised his voice just slightly when he said, "Yeah, I figured. You didn't look like the type."
"What type?" Charlie asked, a note of defensiveness entering his voice.
"The type to smoke. Little skinny thing like you probably couldn't take it," Sawyer answered. He folded his arms across his chest again and pressed on his arms so his biceps looked as though they were swelling with muscle. It was a trick Charlie had used too many times not to recognize and he had to fight the urge to roll his eyes. He had once thought it was cool, too, until he realized it was just stupid. Sawyer would realize it soon.
Charlie did allow himself to laugh a little, and the sound came from deep within his chest. He looked contemptuously at Sawyer, who looked so smug with his little filtered cigarette. "This skinny little thing's handled a lot more than fags in my life."
"What was that? Fag? You callin' me a queer, Mighty Mouse?" Sawyer asked angrily. He prepared to rise as if he were about to go beat Charlie into the ground for daring to insult his pride or challenge his manhood.
"Calm down, man," Charlie scoffed, more insulted about the
size jab rather than the physical affront. "It's a British thing. Slang, y'see.
Fag. Means cigarette. No need to get yourself worked all into a tizzy."
Sawyer relaxed slightly but still looked hard at Charlie, his eyes eyeing him doubtfully. "What are you talking about? What have you ever done?"
Charlie made no response. He was staring at the fire again as he felt the heroin began to leave him. It was draining out through his pores and diffusing through the air, disappearing as quickly as the smoke from Sawyer's cigarette disappeared into the sky. Already the first itches of craving entered Charlie's mind and began to tickle his nerves. It was small, but it was enough to make Charlie clench his fists so tightly his stubby nails dug painfully into his skin. His face muscles tensed so he wouldn't wince, so Sawyer wouldn't see his discomfort.
Sawyer snorted. "Yeah, that's what I thought." Charlie forced the prideful anger that rose quickly within him to calm down. Sawyer was just trying to get a rise out of him and he didn't want to give him the satisfaction. He began to draw random pictures in the sand with a pointer finger while Sawyer's eyes bore into the top of his head.
Charlie looked up when he heard Sawyer's voice again. "I started smoking when I was thirteen. My brother used to get me the cigs until I learned to steal them from the 7/11. They got those in England? I doubt it. They're like the corner grocery. Anyway, I'm lucky there was a good handful of smokers on that plane and that I could find some more smokes. Otherwise I'd be hard pressed right now. As it is I'm not looking forward to the day I run out. Guarantee you it aim's gonna be a pretty picture once that happens.
The cocky bastard was looking for sympathy, Charlie realized with a little shock. He was sniveling about his bloody cigarettes while the dwindling supply of heroin pressing against Charlie's right foot was leading him ever closer to a very hellish detox. Charlie was about the go through the most painful experience of his life while this sodding idiot was crying about missing his nicotine. With a scowl, Charlie dug into his shoe until his thumb and forefinger grasped the edge of the little baggie. He pulled it out and held it up for Sawyer to see.
"Do you know what this is, Sawyer?" Charlie asked. He looked at Sawyer through the clear but blurry, top part of the bag that was already close to being empty. Although his image was cloudy, it was clear that Sawyer's eyes were fixated on the bag. Charlie quickly snatched it up into the palm of his hand and looked expectantly at Sawyer. He wanted an answer. He wanted to wipe that smug little smile off Sawyer's face.
Sawyer shrugged, unimpressed thus far. "Brown sugar? You a diabetic or something?"
Charlie chuckled. "No, man. Not sugar. This is my friend Big Harry. You ever hear of Big Harry, Sawyer?" The redneck shook his head as he tapped some of the ashes off the end of the cigarette so they fell onto the sand. "It'll give your little fags quite the run for their money, and that's a fact. How long did it take until you became addicted? Before you couldn't go more'n a few hours without a smoke?"
Sawyer pursed his lips and considered. "I dunno. Two, maybe three months."
"This is heroin, Sawyer, and it took two, maybe three hits of it for me to become addicted. Now I'm nothing but a junkie, man. A useless sodding junkie. You wanna talk about pretty pictures, mate? You just wait till this stuff runs out," Charlie said. He cradled the bag in the palm of his hand, his thumb stroking the smooth plastic outside. Sawyer was quiet for a moment. After all, what could one say in response to such an admission?
Finally Sawyer opened his mouth. His words came out slowly, almost hesitantly. "How much do you have? I mean… how long will that last?"
Charlie didn't look up. His chest tightened so breathing was difficult and his heart began to beat faster. Thinking about how long he had left, how much longer he could rely on this fickle friend, scared him beyond comprehension, though he knew it was a reality he needed to face.
"Coupla days. Maybe more, maybe less. Unless a rescue plane materializes between now and then, I'm going to turn into a worse monster than whatever's running about out there," Charlie answered in a low voice with a nod at the jungle behind Sawyer. His tone of voice suggested that he was not holding his breath for the arrival of any rescue planes. Very carefully he tucked the baggie bag into his shoe. He had to conserve it. He had to keep the detox, the painful withdrawal, at bay for as long as possible. The heroin soothed all pain, assuaged all fears, and comforted all worries, but once it was gone… Charlie would be on his own. With a bitter smile he looked at Sawyer, who was still puffing away at his cigarette.
"My skinny little body can handle the heroin sure as yours can take the Marlboros. But the withdrawal, I'm not so sure."
Sawyer looked at Charlie's face; at his blank eyes, the half-hearted attempt at a cheeky smile, and the pale, gaunt skin. He knew he was looking at the strongest image of Charlie he might ever see, or at least for the next few weeks or so. While his own eyes still reflected the strong flames, Charlie's showed the smoke. When their gazes met it looked to Sawyer as though someone had just snuffed out the candle in Charlie's eyes, effectively killing the flames. Sawyer wondered briefly if souls could die. There was an awkward silence until he cleared his throat.
"I'm sorry." The words felt strange in his mouth and they hung in the air like two bits of rubbish that needed to be tossed.
Charlie laughed. There was no amusement in the sound. "No you're not, mate. But that's all right. I'm not sorry for you, either."
Sawyer stubbed the last bit of his cigarette into the ground before lighting up another one.