Chapter One

"Despair is vinegar from the wine of hope."

- Austin O' Malley

They all thought the boars had been exhausted, but one made its way into camp. Boars do not usually attack unless provoked, but when they do, they can be deadly. One had entered Rose and Bernard's makeshift shelter, and though the couple had frozen cautiously, it had still threatened to attack.

Sayid heard the screams first. He hadn't been sleeping well since Shannon's death, and he had been about to walk to her grave, but he changed direction when he heard Rose's cry for help.

Bernard had held off the boar long enough for Sayid to get there, and the couple was unharmed, but Sayid was gored slightly before he could succeed in chasing off the frantic beast. He now sat in the cave's infirmary, on a stone bench, while Sun dressed his wounds. Jack had left her alone to do the work; Sayid's injury was not life threatening, and Sun had become a kind of registered nurse.

Sun scraped an herbal paste from her bowl and smeared it liberally across the cuts on Sayid's chest with her warm hands. She could feel the tension in his muscles as he sat silently receiving her care. She had just walked to the left to begin rubbing the balm into a small wound on his shoulder when she noticed his back. The marks were quite mild and did not look like anything the boar had done. "You have some light scratches on your back," she said.

She saw him smile, and the she saw him grind his teeth and clutch his lips into a forced line. "It is fine. It is nothing."

She turned in order to avoid allowing him to see her embarrassment. She wrapped some bandages around his worst wounds, and the rest she left open to the air. She prepared to leave and had taken one step when his strong hand wrapped around her wrist to restrain her. "Sun," he said.

She turned back. "Yes?"

"Thank you…Thank you for not offering to help me dig her grave. I saw you watching me. Thank you for leaving me alone."

Sun just nodded and looked down at the hand that held her wrist. He let her go. "Do you want to be alone now?" she asked, sensing that perhaps he did not.

"Sit awhile."

She sat next to him on the stone bench, their arms just barely touching. Both stared ahead. Neither said anything. Sun wondered how long he wanted her to remain there. She thought she would sit until he asked her to leave.

After about eight or nine minutes of pure silence, he spoke. "You and Jin have reconciled."

"Yes," she said, the guilt vying with the happiness just enough to allow her to speak the word levelly.

"And Rose has her husband again."

"Yes," she replied.

"And Kate has Sawyer back, if ever she decides she wants him. If not, she has Jack."

Sun only nodded this time.

"Claire has Charlie, if and when she wishes. It seems everyone has someone."

Sun sorrowed for him, but if he expected her to apologize for her joy, she certainly could not do it.

When she said nothing, Sayid continued, "Jin should be grateful he has you. It is good to have someone who can make you forget what you were, who can make you hope that you have become something better." He moved slightly away, placed his palms down on either side against the bench, and clutched the stone. "I had that, but now they are both lost to me."

"Both?" she asked.

He seemed startled. Had he said both? "There was someone before the island," he muttered. "But she is lost to me, too."

"She is dead?"

"No, but I am not meant to find her."

"Why do you say that?" Sun asked gently.

"Because I looked for her for seven years, and I did not find her. And when I was finally on the verge of meeting her, the plane crashed. I was not meant to find her any more than I was meant to have a moment more with Shannon."

"You think you were fated to lose them both?" she asked.

"I do not believe in fate. It was the will of Allah."

"What is the difference?" Locke's obsession with destiny and his near-worship of the island, Sayid's god, Rose's god—it was all the same to Sun: childish religiosity, a jumble of false fears and false hopes.

"Fate is some impersonal, indifferent force that befalls you no matter what you do," he said. "I could have made different choices in my life. I did not. And so Allah has a very specific ax to grind with me."

"You think you deserve these losses? You think they are your god's punishment for your sins?"

He nodded. Cautiously, she placed a hand tenderly over his own. "You do not deserve them," she said.

He jerked his hand away from her. "You do not know what I deserve." His features hardened. "I deserve far worse than that. I will long be tortured in the fires of jahannamfor what I have been and done."

"I do not believe in hell," she said firmly.

"Well I do."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because I have seen it," he said, rising from the bench and swirling to face her. "Because I was the torturer there." His eyes were like some opaque glass, obscured with self-reproach. "Do you know what I did in Iraq?"

Of course she did not, he thought. Shannon had not known either. He had never told her. Would she have lain with him if he had? Would she have allowed him to forget his guilty past as he explored her faultless flesh, caressing her with gentle hands that had once done such brutal deeds?

"Sayid, whatever you once were, do not think you deserve--"

"Would you like to know, Sun?" he interrupted her. "Would you like to know how I once bound a man to a chair, a father of five? Would you like to know how I grasped his leg and took the edge of my knife to run it along his calf, until I had slowly flayed the skin off, piece by piece by piece?"

Sun looked down. She was horrified, but she was as adept at masking her emotions as he sometimes was. She said nothing.

"Would you like to know," he continued bitterly, "how I once interrogated a woman—a woman…she was pregnant, and I did not even know it until I beat her so hard that I murdered the child in her womb. Would you like to know, Sun? Would you like to know about the dozen others? Perhaps then you can tell me what I do and do not deserve."

He turned roughly and walked away. The earth ground loudly beneath his heels.

Sun felt a tremor wrack her body; and yet, it was not fear of what he had once been that caused her to shiver. It was the icy blast of his despair.