A/N: So, it's been a while, huh? I figured I owed myself a break, and I kind of lost interest in the story for a while, which didn't help with the writers block. But you know what? - and this is completely honest. After six or seven months of being totally uninterested in continuing this fic, it was reading through all the awesome reviews you guys left me on the previous chapters which suddenly got me inspired to start writing again. How about that, huh? So anyway, you should be seeing pretty regular updates from now on, and I hope I haven't lost any of my readers by taking such a huge break. And thanks to everyone that ever left me a review, because if it weren't for you guys, I would have given up on writing a long time ago. You guys rock!
Orlando-crazy: Thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it.
DownwiththeSupernatural: Yeah, it's sweet, isn't it? Sawyer's such a softie in the inside :p Thanks for reading and I hope you and the other readers enjoy this chapter, too.
dancingirl87: Thanks for your review! Even if it is your first, it's great that you've been reading and enjoying this fic I really appreciate your feedback.
hottietom: Lol, you have to wait to read this like everyone else coz as soon as I'm finished a chapter and proofread it, I post it! I'd give it to ya to read first, but there's not much time in between :p
Amber85: Ooh, thank you! I hope you enjoy this one just as much!
xXx-Destinys-Angel-xXx: Oh wow, that's some major respect, thank you so much! The best story ever? Wow. Just… thanks.
October Sky: Hehe, thank you! I've been told I have a skill for Sawyer one-liners, but I don't know if it's one of the best :p Thanks anyway, though!
It was morning; the troubles and worries of the night before washing away with the clear stream water that Sayid splashed against his face. The thin shafts of light casting through the jungle canopy made the scene appear tranquil, quiet, untouched. The Iraqi man smiled as an exotic bird flitted past him from tree to tree.
He dried his face off with the rag he had brought with him, and stood up.
"Why not use the water from the beach?" A voice with a heavy French accent spoke. It came from behind him, and Sayid jumped and spun around.
It was a woman, with long dark hair. She was dressed scruffily, in a singlet and baggy pants, an old sweater tied around her waist and knotted at the front. She had an equally scruffy backpack slung over one bare shoulder, a dirty hand clutching the strap tightly. She was smiling.
For a few seconds, Sayid just stood there in shock. He wasn't sure what to say or do, the visitor had been unexpected, but - Sayid realized - nevertheless, welcome. He smiled too.
"Salt water dries the skin." He replied, offering his hand for her to shake. "It is good to see you again, Danielle."
"Et vous, mon ami" She replied, accepting the gesture. "And you."
"I have not seen you in this part of the jungle before." The Iraqi man commented. "Do you often stray so far from your home?"
An odd, slightly pained and distant expression appeared on her face at these words.
"Yes, I suppose it is my home now." She let out a bitter, ironic laugh. "My maison. I had never thought of it that way before." She gazed at Sayid, as if she had only just remembered he was there.
The uncomfortable silence between them lasted only a few seconds, before Danielle broke it.
"How have you been?" She asked. "And your people?"
"Not well, I'm afraid." Sayid replied with a heavy sigh.
"Oh?" Danielle asked, a concerned expression on her dirty face.
Sayid paused, wondering exactly how to put this. Danielle had spoken before of a 'sickness'. Perhaps she would know what he was talking about.
"There has been a …disease." Sayid spoke, choosing his words carefully. "Very contagious. We believe it is being spread by blood contact with the infected. Already two of our people have it, and a third may, too, be infected."
Danielle's eyes were wide, and her voice shook with fear. "Th… the sickness!" She stammered.
Sayid didn't know whether to be worried or relieved. "So you know of it?" He asked.
"It wiped out everyone…" Danielle's eyes were distant. "My team. My… my family. No one stood a chance, it just spread so quickly."
"And why did you not get it?" Sayid arched an eyebrow. "What made you the only survivor?"
Danielle met his eyes, but did not answer him.
"Danielle, you must tell me anything you know about this sickness." Sayid begged. "Anything at all. I do not know how much time my friends have left."
"Your friends are already dead, Sayid." Danielle barked. "They are no longer the people you thought you knew… do not make the mistake of trusting them." She paused, noting the shock on Sayid's face. "Give up on them now because there is nothing you can do for them."
Sayid was speechless. The certainty in Rousseau's voice was unnerving. He didn't want to believe that there was no hope left for Jack and Boone, but Danielle had been through this before. If anyone knew what effects this disease had, she would.
"Listen to me, Sayid." Danielle continued, taking a few steps toward the Iraqi. "You must make absolutely sure that these men are not a danger to the rest of your community."
Sayid nodded. "They are chained up at the beach as we speak. The security on them couldn't be higher."
Danielle's thin lips stretched into a grim smile which didn't reach her eyes. Something in the way she looked at him troubled Sayid, and as she reached around for something she was carrying over her shoulder, he grew even more uneasy.
"Sayid." She said, producing her rifle and holding it out to Sayid. "You misunderstand me."
The lack of proper curtains on the island had been hell for Sawyers sleeping schedule. Since landing, he had never been able to sleep much past seven, not that time mattered on an island. Even so, it was something else he had to adjust to, especially when his usual rising time has been well after they stopped serving breakfast at his favorite café. And on this particular morning, his early awakening didn't do much to improve his mood.
His back and neck ached from the awkward slouching position he had slept in. His arms were numb from being tied up, and there were rope burns on his wrists.
Sawyer cast a wary glance over at Jack and Boone, who were swaying from side to side, only meters away. They were awake, too, it seemed. Honestly, Sawyer doubted if they'd even been asleep at all.
"Mornin' fellas." Sawyer drawled with fake cheerfulness. In reality, he was feeling anything but cheerful. He was awake much too early, he ached and he was chained to a hunk of metal with two escapees from the loony bin. That was the makings of a terrific morning right there.
He wondered how long they were gonna leave him here. The suspense was driving him nuts. He was no stranger to having his hands tied behind his back, nor escaping from it, and he's be out of here in an instant if it wasn't for the nagging fear that he might actually have the sickness, and if he did, he might hurt Kate… or worse.
Kate. She was the only one he was worried about. The rest of the castaways? Screw 'em. They'd done nothing but hate him since day one of landing here, and Sawyer had never cared. And he sure as hell wasn't gonna start caring now. Just so long as Kate remained safe, he wouldn't bat an eyelid if the whole goddamn island got infected with this disease… him included, he realized with a start. Him included. Just so long as Kate was okay.
He knew that now. And there was only one person he needed to tell.
"Morning, Shannon." Kate took a seat beside her friend in the warm sand. "It was good to see you at breakfast."
"Of course." Shannon replied dryly. "How could I miss out on yet another serving of the island's finest?"
Kate smiled. She wasn't the only one getting sick of the taste of mango and coconut.
"I saw you and Sayid dragging Sawyer away yesterday." Shannon said casually, after a pause. "You wanna tell me what that's about?"
Kate paused. Obviously, she had known that Sawyer's 'capture' wouldn't go unnoticed. She just didn't know if she was ready to talk about it yet, especially considering the possibility of Sawyer catching the disease, too.
"Kate?" Shannon pressed.
"Uh, yeah." Kate snapped out of her thoughts, facing Shannon again. "It was… nothing, really. We just need to keep an eye on him."
"Why?" Shannon asked. Kate sighed; there was no pleasing this girl.
"There's a possibility that he might have the same… sickness that Boone and Jack have." Kate revealed. She saw Shannon flinch at the mention of her brother's name, as if she'd been jabbed in the ribs. "We need to keep him tied up until we're sure."
Shannon was silent for a while, her eyes fixed firmly on the white sea spray crashing onto the shore. Her best defense mechanism was to avoid her problems, and just pretend they weren't there at all. The only problem with that, however, was that everyone kept bringing them up. How was she supposed to pretend that everything was fine if people kept reminding her that it wasn't? She heaved a sigh, running her hand over the sand and letting the grains sift through her fingers.
"Well, good." Shannon finally said, facing Kate. "You know, it's about time something bad happened to someone who actually deserves it, for a change."
Kate's brows knitted tight in disbelief. "You don't mean that." She said. "I know you're hurting, Shannon, but no one deserves this sickness. Not even Sawyer." She paused. Especially not Sawyer.
This time, it was Shannon's turn to frown. "Why are you standing up for him?"
Kate was silent as she pushed a stray curl behind her ear. She wasn't sure what to say. She knew what she wanted to say; at least that much was finally clear. The fluttering in her chest, the tug on her heartstrings. Because I love him. Nothing could be clearer, and yet she wasn't quite ready to admit it.
Kate smiled slightly, a small, private smile meant only for her and one other person, and she turned back to Shannon.
"I don't know."