Day was coming. Again. Already.

The camp was asleep, and the jungle beyond it. Water waved, in and out, on and off his doorstep, a metronome marking off another minute when Jack didn't tromp into camp, thumping and thunking and sighing his frustrated sigh.

If he stayed here, lying still and staring at the tented sky, he would only know she was back when Jack announced his presence with his usual...expressiveness.

Kate was a cat, never heard to come or go. He'd have to watch to see when she returned, and hell if he was waiting for her to come home.




The shock. The affront. The moment the power goes out. The moment the impact of the other car shatters the glass.

He who sneaks up on you while you aren't paying attention, and suddenly, there, in your space and you can defend yourself with nothing but the startle. Someone's been watching. You, unawares, have permitted it.

Kate and him. They were connected. They had been since the beginning. They were playing tug-o-war, tied together, straining against each other. Then Jack. Stepping between then. Slicing the cord. The recoil. The jolt. The strange feeling that bondage was the better option. The fear that the knot untied could not find its way back around and under and through. The everything wish, to be left alone together endlessly, competing with an urge to take the time punish the trespasser, the transgressor. Wipe him out of the way.

If the path were clear, the gates open, the bolts refixed, then they might have a chance to make their way back to each other.

Damn her.

No, never mind her.

She was wasted energy, scattering in every directed.

The guns. The guns were good. Politics was a parlor game, but their enemies were not interested in the why of it all.

"Do or do not. There is no try."

Governments and armies go hand in hand. Some governments run armies, some armies run governments, but they are an inseparable pair, like Siamese twins sharing a lung or a liver.

Speeches and rhetoric were useless without the guns. Guns were good. These people needed the guns.

Same way armed robbers take banks...

If she had any decency at all, she at least wouldn't smile at him. Jack could have the sharp points of her hipbones jutting out from under her skin and her belly button and the curl of her hair over her shoulder, but if there were any mercy or justice...If he got any portion of her at all, he wanted that stupid, goofy grin. The Doc couldn't know how to love her ridiculously big front teeth. She looked like a rabbit when she was happy. Those absurd front teeth. Those were his.

Would he fuck her in the jungle? Was that Jack's style? Did the Doc even have a style? Would she curl up next to him and wait for his hand on her hip, under her shirt, his thumb on her jaw, his palm and fingers on her neck...

Same way armed robbers take banks-because that's where the money is-they would come here. This is where the victims were. Freckles. Moonbeam and Sunshine. Kanga and Roo, with all her cooing and all his gurgling babble. This is where they kept the schoolteacher, and that one that cried a lot, and the skinny one with the this is where they would come.

Mister Eko knew. He was building that temple to his gods because he knew. He was calling them down, calling in a favor.

None of what they'd built would matter. The neighbors sought flesh and bone. They would come and they would kill what they could, and carry off the rest. They didn't want to make friends or borrow a cup of sugar, they wanted to take all they could reach and burn what remained.

The problem with Freckles, stubborn girl, was that she wouldn't-

Would she fall asleep with him inside her?

Would she fall asleep beside Jack, trusting him to watch the dark?

Would she fall asleep when he told her to, or would she fight for the night's last word, and fall asleep when she merely could stay awake no longer?

Damn them both and their sticky marshmallow goop of a relationship. It made no sense. It had no structure, no form.

This place that he'd come back to after that grim trek through their exile-this place now felt like a beautiful old mansion where a bloody murder-suicide had once taken place. It was gorgeous and haunted, ghosts clung to it, and every corner pointed to the very risk of living. She walked around in here like it was safe, and yet fires raced through it, toothy fish circled it, and the barbarians were coming to sack it.

Ana-Lucia could be thanked, at least, for her true crime tales. She'd lived through the invasions, she'd survived to tell about it. So now they knew. Now they knew.

The guns were there for her. He was the thug, the mercenary. Jack was the purple-hemmed Senator. Locke was the augur, reading the entrails. He was merely the fist of the state, but that was the first thing these people needed. To fight and survive. Civilization was extra credit.

The guns were there for her, because someday, some night, when she was not next to him, not naked and warm and wrapped in a blanket like a bug in a rug...some night they would come.

They would take one look at Freckles, and she would be gone.

The vanity of kings was only another weapon the barbarians could turn against them. The self-proclaimed masters of this universe, this tiny village, they had no privilege to that metal. The right of it came from the taking.

She could walk away. She would walk away. She always did.

But she was going on her own, like a cat, on silent feet, not bruised and frightened, dragged into some foreign city full of vandals and predators, barbarians who would slaver and drool and feast on her flesh.

She would leave him, surely, but at least, above all else, she would not be taken. Not from here. Not from him.

He's almost broken her.

He'd become her friend-someone who knew what she was really like and wanted to know her anyway-and then he was just...leaving.

She'd been near to him, close even, and it only put her in easy reach as a tool to be used in his operation for the guns.


He'd told her, told everyone, that his stranding with their lot was merely unhappy chance. He'd been perfectly clear, all along. Stupid.

She knew, she'd known, he told her. And yet, suddenly, he was going, leaving on the raft. Even the flimiest of pretexts, the flimiest of vessels was good enough to carry him away. She afraid to leave him, and he made that the trick of it all, and when he took the guns he told her what she already knew: She was stupid.

She could barely stand to look at him.


She turned her back. Still, she wanted. Wanted to go where he was going, see what he saw, at least watch him as he walked away.

For all her attraction to him, he could so easily cast her off, with a flick of his wrist, like iron filings shaken from a magnet.

She'd wanted to ask him to stay. She wanted to be someone he was leaving behind.

He'd almost broken her. If they'd crossed paths that last day before the raft, she would have given in.


The ticking clock had broken her down. She was more scared of the alarm than of his disregard. So muddled was she by her unexpected lust that she imagined their time together was notable for him, too, and not just a way to pass otherwise unoccupied hours on an island with no amusements.


Chance and circumstance had saved her before the raft sailed. She wouldn't be so lucky again.

Luck is for the weak.


And yet. His actions, his body, his eyes. Did they put the lie to his words? The bullet in his shoulder. His knee that day in the jungle, when he wasn't stalking her. The look on his face as the Sig Sauer was drilled into her throat. The human being that she knew was in there somewhere-was he closer than she imagined? Could she touch him? Would he let her?

That person was the one she wanted, the hand she imagined holding hers, that strong back, that steady gaze-that was enough, and plenty, too. If he was there, if he was real, if he was someone she could know, then...then they would both survive.

Michael wasn't moving. Jack wasn't speaking. Michael was like a clock with the guts ripped out of it. Just the face and the hands, but no works inside. The works were Walt, and without it-there was nothing.

Sawyer was alive. She could always feel that, no matter where he was. Maybe that was what drew her to him. Maybe she was dead, and he was alive, and if she kept close enough, if she trailed behind him long enough, maybe he would share a little of devil that made him so wicked and wonderful. Maybe her pathetic desire was a message, someone telling her that Sawyer was someone with something to spare, something to share, that a portion could be hers for the taking.


His name never stopped bouncing around her skull. It was a permanent echo. His name, his face. It was asynchronous, sometimes a steady strum, other times a wild rattle crashing in every direction at once, taking up every other idea she had.


It wasn't even any one thing she loved about the bastard. It was the everything of him. Not loved, no. Appreciated. Celebrated. Enjoyed.


What did he want with her anyway? How long would he wait, how long would it take, until her frigid refusals chilled his heat? Sooner was better than later, otherwise someday she would give in, and she would be that stupid girl. The devil would be inside her, and she would never be able to cast him out.

She would be alive again, and soon abandoned. Better to stay dead.

Pour salt water on the gears and springs, beckon rust and stains, break it down.

Walk away from the smell of him, and the taste, or spread your legs, open your heart, wait to be stabbed, and scream.

If she trusted him, she would have to trust herself, and that, above all, must not be permitted.

She would keep walking, running, fleeing, from him,

She could still get away.

There was still time.

She could still make a break for it.

Every man for himself, and devil take the hindmost.