Rating: PG (Adult language)
That night, Sawyer and Kate both slept in the caves. Kate stayed to keep Shannon’s spirits up, and Sayid and Kate both urged Sawyer to stay as well.
“It’ll be easier to set out first thing in the morning,” Kate said.
Kate slept in Boone’s usual bed, to be near Shannon. Sawyer, by default, took over Jack’s bed.
Sawyer woke before it was dark, unaccustomed to the caves, which seemed stifling after weeks spent on the beach. He saw that Kate was sitting up, looking out.
He got up carefully and tapped her on the shoulder and gestured outside. She nodded and followed him out of the caves.
“Did you get any sleep?” he asked her when they were out of earshot of the others.
“Not much,” she admitted, rubbing her stiff neck.
“Let me do that,” he said, putting his hands over hers. She didn’t say anything, just let him take over rubbing the knots out of her neck.
It was worry over Jack that was eating her up, he knew. If it were him, instead of Jack, who was lost in the jungle, she’d probably sleep as soundly as a baby. “Why do you care?” he asked himself, echoing Shannon’s question. Life would be so much simpler if he just stopped caring what other people thought. He’d come so close, but it had nearly gotten him killed. She had cared about him, then, hadn’t she?
“He’ll be OK,” he said, hoping the bitterness he felt wasn’t obvious in his voice. He took his hands from her neck and thrust them in his jean pockets.
She turned and smiled at him. “I know,” she said. “But what if he’s not? And Boone?”
“Hey, I was talking about Boone,” Sawyer teased her, a big grin showcasing his deep-set dimples. “Who’d you think I was talking about?”
“Sawyer!” she said indignantly, punching him in the arm. She smiled, but her eyes were still sad. Tears suddenly came to her eyes. “If I’d just been faster,” she said, “we wouldn’t have had to wait all night.”
“Hey now,” he said, pulling her in for a quick one-armed hug. “Don’t go beating yourself up. We’ll get out there and they’ll be as right as rain. After all, we’ll be escorting Boone back on the fabulous yellow surfboard. That’s traveling in style, right?”
She nodded, smiling, even though she was still crying. “You’re a fraud, Sawyer,” she said. “You’re just a big softy.” She leaned up on her tiptoes and kissed him on the lips. He held his breath as she pressed against him, her lips lingering on his. At last, she ducked her head and walked back into the cave.
He stood still after she had gone, just looking up at the stars and remembering the feel of her lips.
The next day dawned bright and clear, and they were ready as soon as the sun came up. Shannon sulkily acknowledged Sawyer’s presence as they started off, but she didn’t apologize. And she didn’t say anything about the surfboard he proudly hoisted single-handedly. Sayid watched them go reluctantly, clearly wishing he could go along. Instead, Michael accompanied them, the unspoken rationale being that two men were needed to guard two females in the jungle these days.
Kate walked on ahead, concentrating on retracing the group’s steps from the day before. She carried Jack’s medical bag, while Michael carried extra water and splints for Boone’s leg. Shannon carried a change of clothing for Jack and Boone. She had picked Boone’s outfit herself. He was already wearing his favorite shirt, the one with the Chinese symbol, so she picked his next favorite, a simple white T-shirt.
Kate had tried to talk her out of coming along, saying it wasn’t necessary, but Shannon wasn’t taking no for an answer, and Kate didn’t want to delay starting out, so she’d given in.
It was almost the same group that had hiked up to test the transceiver. Except for Sayid. And Charlie. No one said much on the hike. As the hill grew steeper, Michael helped Sawyer with the surfboard, the two men holding it above their heads.
After an hour and a half of steady progress, Kate paused. She didn’t want to say so, but she wasn’t sure which way to go. The rain had washed away much of the trail from the day before and they had gone half a mile without sight of a red marker.
Shannon immediately seized on her hesitation. “Are we lost?” she demanded angrily. “Don’t you know where they are? I don’t believe this!”
Sawyer put down his end of the surfboard and pulled Shannon aside, grabbing her by the arm. “That attitude’s not going to help any, Blondie,” he said, “Just give her a minute, will ya?”
“I’m not afraid of you,” she said, her brown eyes shooting daggers at him. “Just because you’re suddenly Mr. Helpful, don’t think you have everyone fooled. “
He just smiled at her, his eyes grim. “Whatever you say, sweetheart,” he said, letting go of her arm. “You go ahead and do a better job than Kate, if you can. Or you can shut the fuck up and pray we find your brother in one piece.”
Shannon’s chin quivered and her eyes threatened to spill over with tears, but she proudly blinked them away. “Fuck you, you stupid hick,” she said in a low voice and stalked off.
Michael watched their exchange worriedly, but Sawyer shrugged it off. “Got her panties on too tight,” Sawyer said, a crooked smile slapped on his handsome face.
“Guess so,” Michael said.
After a few minutes, Kate had picked a path. “It’s this way,” she said more confidently than she felt. And she was rewarded by the sight of red cloth tied around a tree. “Yes, this is it!” she said, smiling with relief.
The others picked up her mood and plunged on with new energy. “We should be close now,” Kate said. She began running, unable to wait any longer. Shannon sprinted after her, and the two men lagged behind, burdened with the surfboard.
“Jack!” Kate exclaimed happily, seeing him sprawled out in front of her. She was at his side in an instant.
“Boone!” Shannon yelled, right behind her.
Jack had been dozing, but at the sight of Kate, he was fully awake. He could barely believe his eyes as she knelt beside him. “How is he?” she asked, indicating Boone. But she barely looked at the boy, her eyes busy examining Jack’s weary face.
Shannon nearly pushed her aside to get to her brother. “Boone!” she said, throwing herself on him. “Careful!” Jack said, “Hey!”
Shannon’s loving assault had Boone cursing loudly. “Jesus Christ!” he yelled as she accidentally jostled his leg. “Shannon! Get the fuck off!”
“I’m so sorry, Boone,” she said, laughing and crying at the same time. “I’m just so happy to see you.”
“Yeah, it’s good to see you too,” Boone said. He was relieved beyond all measure to see them, and to know they were bringing him back, but he felt a pang that his night with Jack was over. “You sad, pathetic masochist,” he silently dubbed himself .
“Let’s get you some meds,” Kate said, eagerly tearing into Jack’s medical bag. Jack smiled ruefully to see the bag he had been wishing for all night. “Let me,” he said, digging in and choosing two different pills.
Michael offered a bottle of water to each of them, but first Jack gave Boone the sedatives, helping him hold the water bottle to swallow the pills.
Jack eased ownership of Boone over to Shannon, who gladly held her wounded brother. She whispered endearments no one else could hear in his ear.
Jack stood up and stretched, but his legs buckled underneath him. They had gone to sleep during his long night’s vigil. Kate put her arm around his waist and he gratefully leaned on her.
Sawyer looked down at the ground, trying to reason away the stab of jealousy he felt at Kate’s gesture.
Jack looked up, taking in Sawyer and the ridiculous yellow surfboard propped up next to him. “One stretcher, as ordered, doc,” Sawyer said with his best fake smile.
Jack returned the smile, but his was the real deal. “That’s great, Sawyer,” he said, making his way over to look at it. “This is perfect!” He looked at it approvingly, and then clapped Sawyer on the back. “Thanks,” he said, wrapping Sawyer in a surprise bear hug.
“Uh, glad to be of service,” Sawyer said, patting Jack awkwardly on the back. Sawyer caught Kate giving him a goofy grin, while Boone glared at him, as usual. As Jack let go, Sawyer looked down, embarrassed by the attention. Instead, he looked down at his shirt, now mud-stained from contact with Jack. "Thanks a lot, doc," he said, holding out the dirty shirt with disdain.
Shannon was helping Boone off with his mud-crusted shirt and on with the fresh one. She couldn’t stop hugging and kissing him and he was starting to blush. Boone snuck a glance over as Jack pulled his own filthy shirt over his head and put on the one Shannon had brought. Maybe it was just the sedatives that were starting to take effect, but he thought it was the most beautiful morning he had ever seen.
“Let’s go home,” he said to Shannon. In short order, they had fixed his leg with splints and had secured him on the surfboard. Sawyer and Michael hoisted him up and began the long trek back, while Shannon walked along, holding onto Boone’s hand. Jack lagged behind, leaning on Kate. “Sorry I’m late,” she whispered.
“Yeah, I’m going to have to talk to you about that,” he said, a sparkle in his eye. But he was looking at Boone. He had a long recovery ahead of him. The kid was tougher than he looked, though. And not a bad kisser, either.
(How's that for a twist ending? ;->)