Summary: Sawyer’s nightmares get stranger, Kate makes a play for Jack
Rating: PG-13 for disturbing dream imagery.
Note: Someday there will be slash smut in this fic. This is not that day. This day is all about wallowing in angst. And Sawyer’s strange psyche. Just in time for Valentine's Day!
Warning: Het smut! It's just to set the stage for the real stuff, rest assured. Also, very long chapter. And once again I've taken a weird left turn into strangeness. But don't worry. No one's getting strangled in this fic.
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** If the dream image of a dying cat is too upsetting, you can just skip all the dream sequences, which are the italicized bits. **
The yowling was driving him nuts. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere and nowhere. It was the sound of a creature in excruciating pain. Just when he thought it had stopped, it would start up again, a long, drawn-out howl that echoed inside his head.
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He got up and walked outside. The sound grew louder. It seemed to be coming from behind a garbage can in the alley. He squatted down and then he saw it. It was a cat, badly injured, its ribcage crushed. His stomach twisted as it looked at him, mewing piteously.
It shouldn’t still be alive. He didn’t know what to do for it. It was the middle of the night and no one was around. It was just him and the dying animal. He stared at it, afraid to touch it and yet unable to move, feeling that the world was telescoping in on them, collapsing with each pained breath the cat took.
“Come on, son. It’s OK. Come with us.”
Sawyer woke up in a sweat, his heart racing. He was in the cave. There was no cat. Jack was lying next to him. Again. He still had that feeling of the universe collapsing on him. His chest was tight, his ribs a now-familiar band of pain.
He had to get out of there. The trick was getting up. Lying down was tolerable and standing up was OK, it was just getting from one position to the other that was the killer. He glanced at Jack. That damn idiot sure took his doctor duties seriously. Getting up without waking him would be tough.
He felt hollow and so damn heavy, like he hadn’t slept at all. He would get up soon, but first he just had to close his eyes for a minute.
Sawyer was keeping watch around the camp, trying hard to stay awake. It was the dead of night and everyone else was asleep. A loud gunshot sounded, and then came the low, eerie yowling. He sat up, wide awake, every nerve tingling. He cautiously crept to where he knew the cat would be and stood over it, his heart beating loudly. This time it was as big as a tiger. It lay there, bleeding and making that godawful noise that made him want to run away. As he leaned over to touch it, it lashed out at him, swiping his chest with its claws, a crazed look in its amber eyes.
His eyes flew open, his heart pounding. There was no getting away from the dream and now it was taking on aspects of the island. He felt like it was closing in on him ... becoming real somehow. And then he shook his head and realized how crazy that sounded.
Never an early riser, Sawyer was still up and out of the cave just after sunrise. He missed the stream of people who stopped in to see Jack for one thing or another, missed those who asked, “Where’s Sawyer?” like they actually cared.
Sawyer was uncharacteristically quiet all that day. He just sat under a tree and smoked. If he was good at anything, it was putting up a “don’t mess with me” front and he had it up today. If anyone saw him and thought, “Hey, I’ll just go say hi,” they took one look at the dark expression on his face and the way he looked right through them without seeing them, and then they changed their mind and kept walking.
Kate wasn’t scared off, though, and she marched right over and asked him how he was doing. He gave her short, noncommittal answers, barely even looking at her. After a while, she got the hint and gave up, shaking her head as she left.
Jack kept a careful eye on Sawyer. Saw him off brooding under the tree. Noticed him chase Kate off in short order.
Of course, Jack couldn’t be dissuaded from checking on Sawyer either. He left him alone for most of the day, only traipsing over to inspect his many stitches and change his bandages. Sawyer was silent as Jack went about his work. He wasn’t going to give the doc an opening.
He knew Jack was itching to ask him how he was feeling today and all that other touchy-feely crap, but Jack didn’t say anything either, just patted him on the shoulder as he turned to go.
“I’m moving back to my tent,” Sawyer said suddenly.
“Oh?” Jack said, his voice neutral as he turned back around.
“No offense, doc,” Sawyer drawled. “It’s been swell. That ole cave of your is just a mite too cramped.”
“Have you thought this through?” Jack asked, squatting down and gazing at Sawyer seriously. “I still have to change your bandages, give you your meds. That will be a lot harder if you’re at the beach.”
Sawyer shrugged. “Boo hoo for you, then. Guess you’ll have to make house calls.”
Jack was going to protest how selfish that was of Sawyer, what with Jack’s bad foot and all, but he decided to drop it. “What about the nightmares, Sawyer?” Jack asked, looking out past Sawyer as if he knew direct eye contact would make him clam up.
“Nothin’ I can’t handle,” Sawyer said, immediately wishing he’d lied and said they had gone away. “Me and nightmares go way back.”
Jack leaned in, drawn by the pain in Sawyer’s expression. “What was it before the polar bear?” he asked.
Sawyer shrugged, his face clouding up. “I don’t remember.”
Jack knew Sawyer was lying, but he didn’t want to press him any more just now. He just studied his face, noting how drawn and tired Sawyer looked. He nodded and hobbled away.
Jack had been out checking on Sullivan’s rash when he finally made it back to the cave.
He didn’t realize Sawyer was sitting in the corner until he smelled cigarette smoke.
“Sawyer,” Jack sighed. “I asked you not to smoke in here.”
“Not stayin’,” Sawyer said quietly. “Just came for my meds and then I’ll be out of your hair.” If he’d known what Jack was giving him, he would have just grabbed it already and been long gone.
“OK,” Jack said, realizing they’d have to continue their discussion about Sawyer’s move. He still was going to try to talk him out of it, somehow.
Jack handed Sawyer a painkiller. “Only one?” Sawyer said in disbelief. “Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? Hand over the bottle, will ya?”
“No,” Jack said firmly. Then he relented. “It’s not because I don’t trust you. It’s just that anyone in pain will take too many pills. It’s human nature.”
“So you’re blackmailin’ me to keep me comin’ back here?” Sawyer snorted. “You that fond of my company, doc?”
“You’re not exactly a ray of sunshine.” Jack said with a tentative smile.
Sawyer scowled back. And then he changed tactics. His voice turned pleading. “C’mon, doc, you’ve got to help me. You’ve got to give me something to sleep. I can’t sleep nights, anymore. It’s either these ribs or it’s .... it’s these dreams I’m havin.’”
He noted Sawyer’s hand was shaking as he took a drag off his cigarette.
“Why don’t you tell me about them?” Jack said gently as he rummaged for the bottle of sedatives and Sawyer realized he’d have to tell him if he wanted the meds. It’s not like he could wrestle Jack for them in his current condition, although he had certainly thought about it.
“OK,” he said reluctantly, his embarrassment plain to see. “I keep dreaming about this cat.”
Jack looked surprised, but just nodded for him to continue.
Sawyer didn't look at him, just at the bottle Jack had set aside. “It’s howling in pain. It’s dying. Everything else changes, except for the cat. It’s injured so bad it shouldn’t even be alive anymore. I don’t know whether I should put it out of its misery or not. And it just won’t shut up. OK, it sounds stupid. But it’s fuckin’ creepy. I’m tellin' you, I think I’m gonna go crazy if I don’t get some real sleep.”
“Is this the first time you’ve had these dreams?” Jack asked and Sawyer paused.
“No,” he said, his jaw clenched. He was damned if he was going to tell Jack his pathetic, sadass life story. The doc already felt sorry enough for him. He couldn’t stand that look he’d give him if he knew.
“Well?” Jack prodded. “When did they start?”
“When I was a kid,” Sawyer admitted, his voice so low Jack could barely hear him. “After my parents died,” he added, hanging his head, hoping Jack would leave it at that.
“Wow. Well, that might explain it,” Jack said softly. He felt an overwhelming wave of sympathy for Sawyer. “How did they die?” he asked with a vague premonition that this was the million-dollar question.
Sawyer glared at him. Then he closed his eyes and leaned his head back. It seemed like too much effort not to answer, suddenly. “They were murdered,” he said, his voice sounding distant and far away to his own ears.
“Sawyer, I’m so sorry,” Jack said making a movement towards him.
Sawyer stiffened. “I don’t need your sympathy,” he said in a near growl.
He suddenly kicked Jack's walking stick away, knocking him to the ground. While he was down, Sawyer pocketed the pills before Jack could notice, and ran out.
“Sawyer!” Jack yelled. He scrambled for his stick and went after him as fast as he could.
Outside, Charlie was strumming his guitar while Hurley sat next to him, and Sawyer stormed past them both.
Jack hobbled after him, trying to catch up. “Sawyer! Come back here,” Jack yelled.
Charlie stopped playing and he and Hurley looked up, openly curious.
“Fuck off, doc,” Sawyer said. “I don’t need you. Find someone else to feel sorry for.”
Sawyer nearly ran into Walt and Michael. “Hey, Mr. Sawyer,” Walt started to say, before seeing the angry expression on Sawyer’s face.
The delay let Jack catch up with Sawyer. He grabbed him by the arm. “Sawyer,” he said, “Let’s talk about this.”
Sawyer shrugged him off but Jack pulled him back again. “Sawyer, it’s OK,” Jack said as if he were talking down a jumper from the ledge of a high-rise building. “Whatever’s going on, we can fix it.”
“No, you can’t. You can’t fix everything, doc,” Sawyer said bitterly.
Jack put his arm on Sawyer’s shoulder and Sawyer lost it. “Will you just leave me the fuck alone?” he said. His heart was racing and his chest tight. He drew his knife and held it out. “Just let me go, will you?” he pleaded.
He whipped around to leave, but in his haste, accidentally caught Jack’s arm with the knife. They both stood frozen for a second as Walt gasped and Michael pulled him out of harm’s way.
Jack looked stunned as he saw the blood spread out and start to stain his white shirt. A flash of remorse crossed Sawyer’s face and then he set his jaw. “I told you to leave me alone,” he said in a low voice. Still holding out the knife, he backed away and no one followed him.
“Jack, are you OK?” Charlie asked, rushing over to him.
Jack just kept looking at where Sawyer had stood. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said finally, shaking his head. “It’s just a scratch, really.”
“He’s right. You can’t help him,” Charlie said with disgust. “He’s just too far gone.”
“I don’t understand,” Jack said sadly. “Yesterday he was happy, telling stories. Today he ..." He stopped and took a deep breath. “I hoped he was finally becoming part of the group, you know?”
“Him?” Charlie said with a snort. “You’re wasting your time. He only saved your life because he’s too stupid or self-destructive to get out of the way of a fucking polar bear. Bastard’s just got a death wish. Forget about him.”
And in the next instant Charlie lay sprawled out on the ground and Jack stood over him, his fist still balled up while his other hand clenched his walking stick.
“Dude!” Hurley said. “Why the hell did you do that?”
Charlie rubbed his jaw and glared at Jack who blinked and then ran his hand nervously through his close-cropped hair. “I’m so sorry, Charlie. I’m just upset. I ... I didn’t mean it.”
“You’ve lost it, Jack! He cuts you and you hit me!” Charlie said, glaring at him.
As Jack limped away with a rueful little smile, Hurley helped Charlie up.
“Well, good riddance to Sawyer,” Hurley said. “Maybe he’ll meet another polar bear out there.”
“We can only hope,” Charlie said grimly.
Kate found Jack sitting on his bed, dabbing hydrogen peroxide on the cut on his arm.
“Need any help with that?” she asked, walking over slowly.
“No, it’s not that bad,” he said. He didn’t want to meet her eyes.
“Jack,” she said softly, putting her hand on his arm.
“I don’t want to hear it,” he said gruffly, shaking her hand off.
“Hear what?” she said. “You think I’m going to chew you out for trying to help Sawyer? I used to be the only one sticking up for him, if you recall. Now, suddenly you’re the only one who understands him.”
Jack shot her an aggravated look that didn’t quite evolve into an eyeroll. “I’m not in the mood to argue about it, OK?” he said.
“I didn’t come here to fight,” she insisted. “I came to see how you are. I knew you’d be upset.”
“Yeah, I’m just great,” he said, leaning his head back. He blew out a big breath. “I think I just pushed him too hard. I was only trying to help, but it all blew up in my face.”
“Don’t beat yourself up,” Kate said, sitting down next to Jack. “You can’t solve 30-some years of Sawyer in a few days.”
“No, I guess not,” he sighed.
She leaned her head on his shoulder. “I haven’t seen you much lately,” she said, running her hand down his arm.
“So is that ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ or..."
“I’d say it’s more like ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’" she finished, leaning up to kiss him. He hesitated, and then met her lips. She was surprisingly tentative, until she felt him responding. He turned to her, taking her in his arms, trying to block all thoughts of Sawyer from his mind.
He was surprised how fragile she felt, how fast her breathing was, and that she sounded so girlish when she sighed between kisses.
“Do you want me to stay?” she asked him, looking deep into his eyes.
He nodded, still not quite believing that she was there, that she wanted him and not ... damn it, he was thinking of Sawyer again. He closed his eyes, giving himself up to the sensation of kissing her, holding her, making her sigh and moan.
Kate had to admit it wasn’t what she’d expected. Maybe it was because she’d thrown herself at Jack, instead of letting him take the lead, that he seemed somewhat ... distant. He’d been good, tender, even thorough, just not particularly passionate or romantic. She thought somehow he’d be declaring his love for her, or that at the very least that he’d be knocked out by the thrill of their first time together.
There was no swapping of scars stories or warm afterglow or any of the intimacy that happened when two people who’d been flirting forever finally gave in and fell into bed. They were just two people spent with the act of making love. Scratch that, she thought, having sex. It was just sex, something she never thought would be the case with Jack.
She lay cradled on his chest, something she had fantasized about every time he’d had his shirt off. It felt good to be there, but the scenario was so far from her dreams that she felt curiously empty.
He couldn’t get his mind off Sawyer, she realized. He was either the biggest bleeding heart she had ever met or ... she swallowed hard as the realization struck her. He was in love with Sawyer. Or at least infatuated with him. She knew all the signs because at various points since landing on the island, she had been too. That infuriating blend of charm and woundedness had drawn her in, made her feel she could help him, that she could save him. And now Jack was caught in Sawyer’s net, without Sawyer even trying.
She admitted to herself that it stung her ego more than a bit. Here she finally had Jack and yet she didn’t have him at all. And then she realized that’s why she had been so forward. She had sensed Jack pulling away, transferring his affections, but she hadn’t put it into so many words.
“He’s going to break your heart, Jack,” Kate said, sitting up.
“What?” Jack said, looking extremely confused.
“Sawyer,” she said flatly. “It isn’t me you wanted tonight.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” he said, flustered.
“Maybe you don’t realize it, yet,” she said, reaching around for her panties. “But since you two got back it’s been Sawyer, Sawyer, Sawyer. I know. I’ve been there. He’s a fascinating guy. So complicated. So fucked-up. So in need of a savior. And you’ve got the biggest savior complex I’ve ever seen. You two are a natural match.”
“You think ... you think I’m in love with Sawyer?” Jack spluttered, looking at her like he thought she was crazy.
“Oh, dear, sweet, Jack,” said, putting her hand on his cheek. “You don’t even know it.” She kissed him, a long, lingering kiss that tasted of her tears. She threw on her clothes as he just stared at her, trying to process what she had said.
“Listen, I’m just worried about him,” he said, starting to get angry. “Since when does friendly concern mean I want to jump his bones? I’m not even gay!”
She had finished dressing by now. “I’m sorry,” she said, giving him a regretful little smile, and then she was gone.
He laid back. Sorry? Who or what was she sorry for? She was nuts. So he hadn’t made her see stars, or she simply regretted jumping into bed and was just lashing out.
“Jesus, what a day!” he groaned. For the first time since the crash, Jack felt completely alone. The one-two punch of Sawyer and Kate storming away from him -- but not before doing some damage each -- made him feel like he'd been sucker-punched. He laid there, trying in vain to get some sleep, and then finally he gave in and decided to take a sedative.
It was only after looking for 20 minutes that he realized where the pills had to be. “Oh no, Sawyer!” Jack said, sinking to his knees. He reached for his clothes and his walking stick. He fervently hoped that for once in his life, Sawyer had listened to him.
Sawyer swore as he walked. He wasn’t walking back to the beach, necessarily, just taking a long overdue stroll in the jungle. Because he had never felt so cooped up in his life, even the few times he’d been in stir. At least then no one was yakking his ear off or trying to spoon with him, for Christ’s sake. And if they did, well, Sawyer had put them in their place fast enough. It’s just now he felt so damn weak, so weirdly messed up.
It was the doctor’s own fault he’d cut him. He was always meddling, always hovering like he was Sawyer’s goddamn mother. Except even his own mother hadn’t been that annoying. She’d left Sawyer pretty much to his own devices.
Except when he’d been sick, he let himself remember. Then she’d been lovingly attentive, feeling his forehead to see if he had a fever, kissing him on the cheek, drawing up the blankets. It was all so blurry, his memories of her, except for a few moments forever crystallized in his mind. Mostly, it was the bad memories that were the sharp ones. Figured, he sighed.
The truth was, he felt almost as constricted by the attention and company of the last few days as he was by these damn ribs. He just wanted to be able to draw a breath and not have someone ask how he felt. How did they think he goddamn felt?
He stopped, figuring it was time for a pill. It sure beat relying on Saint Jack to dole the pills out like communion wafers. He popped six or seven and swallowed them dry. Sure, he’d heard Jack’s warning, but Jack was a careful, law-abiding kind of guy who would follow instructions to a T and Sawyer ... well, Sawyer merely took the rules under advisement.
He walked for another half an hour before admitting he needed to rest. He’d left without any food or water, and now he also had to admit he was lost. He sat down, grunting as that movement compressed his ribs. He just wanted to take a little nap maybe. Out here, in the open air, he wouldn’t be bothered by those bad dreams. His eyelids were heavy and he laid down and was out almost instantly.
The cat was lying on top of him, big as a bear, and howling in his ears, kneading his chest with its sharp claws as it fixed him with a malevolent stare. It retched blood on his face, and he choked. He looked up and Jack was standing over him. Jack petted the cat gently, and then he put a gun to its head and blew the trigger. Blood spattered everywhere, but at least the cat was quiet now. Jack looked at him, but his eyes were dead, his face cold. He turned the gun on Sawyer...
Sawyer woke up feeling sick. He needed to throw up. He thought belatedly that he’d taken too many pills, that Jack was right, that he should have just stayed and listened to the damn doctor. He tried to make himself throw up, but contracting his stomach muscles hurt too much.
Why did he take all those pills? “Do you want to die, Sawyer?” Kilo had asked him. Jack had asked him that too. Sawyer didn’t know. He just knew he wanted the pain to stop, the nightmares to stop, wanted feeling raw and bruised and aching his whole life to stop.
He lay on his stomach, pawing at the earth with his left hand, the one that didn’t smart from those bear teeth.
On so many nights of his life before that plane crash, whenever he couldn’t sleep, he’d lain on his mattress, fighting it, hating it. His bed was a barrier, an obstacle keeping him from sleeping. If he could get through it, just sink inside, he would be mercifully asleep, instead it kept him afloat on an ocean of sleepless anxiety, his nights spent staring at the ceiling.
Now he needed to claw through the dirt, get through the other side, and he could sleep. The ground would swallow him up, if he let it. His fingers dug into the dirt, and as he drifted off, he wondered if he was trying to break through it or to reassure himself how solid it was. Finally, his fingers stilled.
Note: Well, by announcing this originally as a smut fic I have killed any suspense, haven’t I? Oh well! And the very noisy cat in this story -- lives within earshot of my apartment. I don’t know *what* its problem is.