Author's Note: So... I sat down to write the next installment of "Bitten" and this is what came out instead. And it is so not Bitten-esque in any way. It's definitely darker than anything I've written previously; kind of experimental, I guess. Let me know what you think-- all feedback is appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own it, and I'm not makin' any money.
There was always possibility in the air between them.
The possibility of what, Jack wasn't sure. But he felt it, and it was the one constant for him on the island.
At first, he had tried to rationalize it as simply a product of this place they were in; something manufactured from the fact that they were so far removed from reality, from convention, from the rules and expectations that usually tempered his life. He told himself that it would be irresponsible and self-serving to act on it when they already had their hands full with merely surviving day to day. He reminded himself of the Marshal's vague warnings and of the secrets she would never tell.
In the end, though, he had been unable to deny it; the electricity, the kinetic attraction in the air.
After he'd kissed her for the first time, it remained. Stronger than before, even. It permeated his skin and teased his senses, and it didn't feel irresponsible or self-serving. It felt… right.
But the day they carried Sawyer back into camp, he felt it falter.
He didn't have to look at her to know things had changed; he didn't even have to consciously think about it, really. He just knew it instinctively by the unmistakable absence in the air where there had always been something before.
There was no time to address it now, of course. Sawyer was in a bad way. Cleaning his shoulder was the obvious first step, but the infection had entered his blood stream and it was equally important to lower his fever immediately. At first, Jack had prompted Kate to help him. His voice seemed not to register with her, though, and she sat still, seemingly transfixed. Her eyes were on Sawyer's pale face, both her hands clutching one of his as she knelt at his side. Sun, instead, assisted Jack in cooling Sawyer while he tended to the entrance wound, both of them skirting awkwardly around Kate. He didn't ask her to leave; he knew it wouldn't have mattered.
The crowd that had formed around the caves when Sawyer first arrived had dwindled. There was nothing more for them to see; Jack had done all he could for the time being. He assumed everyone had gone off to hear Michael's account of what had happened or to welcome the new survivors.
Everyone but Kate, anyway. She hadn't moved or spoken in hours. Sun had left the caves long ago for a happy reunion with Jin, and so Jack was left in the silence of the infirmary cave, watching Kate while she watched Sawyer. She seemed to be attempting to make him open his eyes by the sheer force of her will.
He wanted to tell her to get some rest, that he would call her if anything changed. But he didn't want to break the tenuous silence. Truthfully, although her silence bothered him, he knew he probably didn't want to hear any of the things that were on her mind right now. So instead he held his tongue, checking Sawyer's vitals every half hour and remembering other late nights he and Kate had spent in his cave; she had smiled then.
He was pretty sure he understood what was going on anyway; there was no need for her to explain. He knew she had never said goodbye because she had chosen to go after the dynamite instead, had chosen to go with him instead. He thought about how there had been so much left unsaid between he and his father, and he didn't want that for her. And so, Jack began to will Sawyer to open his eyes, too, for her sake. There was obviously something she needed to say, and if she never got the chance, whatever it was would linger in her eyes like a shadow forever. And Jack wasn't sure he would be able to look at it for very long.
He knew Sawyer was awake by the way Kate gasped. His eyes were open, glassy and red, and Jack tried to talk to him to ask him how he felt. He didn't answer, though, only looked at Kate expectantly, as if he knew she had been waiting to say something, too. She reached out and touched his face and Jack forced himself to look away. He stood and left the cave without looking back.
When he returned, he found Kate in nearly the same position she had been in before he left. Her posture was somewhat more relaxed now, though, and she looked up as he approached.
"He's unconscious again," she said, before refocusing her attention onto Sawyer's face once more. Jack knelt to examine him and was startled to find that his fever seemed higher now, his breathing slightly shallower. The infection had progressed past anything he could treat with his meager supplies and primitive equipment; he could only wait and see whether Sawyer's body could fight it off.
Kate's jaw was set and her resolve to stay by Sawyer's side through the night was apparent. Jack built up the fire, draped a blanket over her shoulders and sat down a few feet away.
Hours later Sawyer opened his eyes again, and relief broke over Kate's face for an instant. He began to speak, and Jack moved in closer to hear.
"You gotta burn it. Take it outta my pocket and burn it. I don't want to be buried with it." His eyes closed again abruptly, but he continued to whisper bits and pieces of this over and over again.
It was nonsense to Jack, and he looked over to Kate, offering an explanation. "It's the fever. He doesn't know what he's saying."
But instead of nodding like he thought she would, she whispered, "He knows exactly what he's saying. He knows he's dying."
His first inclination was to lie to her, to offer her hope like his father would have done. But he knew it would be false, and he couldn't bring himself to do that to her. Instead, he raised his hand to wipe a tear from her cheek, and then watched as she removed a yellowed envelope from Sawyer's back pocket and put it carefully into her own.
Jack appreciated the irony that more people showed up for Sawyer's funeral than for anyone else that had passed on so far. But he remembered the gift of his father's words that Sawyer had given to him just before the raft sailed, and he reasoned that maybe he had done similar kindnesses for others on the island, too. He mourned genuinely for Sawyer, but he also mourned the loss of something more because it seemed to him that they were burying a piece of Kate that day, too.
She stood quietly while the others paid their respects, a silver lighter clutched tightly in her right hand, while Jack held her left. And when everyone else had gone, she walked forward and knelt down beside the wooden cross Locke had erected. Jack followed, stopping just behind her, and he watched as she removed the envelope from her pocket. She unfolded the letter and carefully smoothed the worn creases then, wordlessly, she lit first the envelope and then the letter, watching them brown and dissipate as the flame made quick work of them. Jack knelt beside her then, reaching an arm around her to squeeze her shoulder, and she turned and buried her face in his chest. He held her there until the sun set, then they walked silently back to the caves.
He wondered sometimes if Sawyer had somehow been responsible for the connection he had felt between himself and Kate previously; wondered if his presence or his energy had fostered it. Had it been the product of something Sawyer brought out in Kate? Or had Sawyer's competition for her affection inspired something in Jack that he no longer had access to? Jack wasn't sure.
When he kissed her now it still felt right, but something was missing. It was an absence he couldn't articulate, but he felt it, and it was the one constant for him on the island.