In his own defense, Sawyer had been minding his own business. Sitting, smoking, alone. It could not have been his fault.
But then, he’d never had the heart to deny any man or woman who asked so nicely, so desperately, for his assistance with such a thing, when it was so easily his to give. And a pleasure, sometimes, to share. It could make friends out of enemies, even for a brief span, which was all kinds of entertaining.
“Can I...” Jack cleared his throat and muttered something profane. “Sawyer, could I bum one of those off of you?”
Sawyer tilted his head a bit, glanced up at Jack in the near darkness of dusk. Clearly the doc was agitated, and in need of some kind of relief. And Sawyer had the nicotine. One corner of his mouth kicked up.
“Last one.” He took a drag, and the red glow flared to illuminate the small clearing close to the beach where he’d gone to be alone. Jack eyed the newly lit cigarette, his eyes narrowing. Sawyer exhaled upward in Jack’s direction, watched as Jack breathed in a little too deeply to be subtle, then he flipped the cigarette around and offered it to Jack, hilt first. “Could share this one though.”
After a moment Jack reached out and took the cigarette, irritation clearly twisting his features. He took a long drag and held it, eyes closed, and Sawyer could see his broad shoulders flex and then ease down as he exhaled, tension draining out of him like sand through a sieve. Sawyer took the cigarette back and patted the ground beside him. “Thought you sat in the non-smoking section.”
Jack ignored the invitation to join him. “Quit. Two years ago.”
“Something happen to get you fallin’ off the wagon?” Sawyer took another drag.
“Have you seen this island at all?” Jack replied, giving him a look.
“That’s fair.” Sawyer noted the lines of stress around Jack’s eyes, the way his hands shook, just a little. Doctors’ hands shouldn’t shake. He handed the cigarette back to Jack, watched him inhale. Sawyer, never one to ask twice, put out a hand and patted the ground again anyway.
With a sigh Jack finally sat down, leaning his back against the same broad tree trunk as Sawyer. The cigarette passed between them. Night insects trilled softly into the night air. There were voices in the near distance, bonfires on the beach being lit.
“Something in particular happen?” Sawyer asked again when the cigarette was nearly burned down to a wet-tipped filter, which he handed to Jack.
“You care?” Jack’s question was mild. He took the last of the smoke and then flipped the filter away.
Sawyer shrugged, his voice just as mild. “Ain’t no daytime TV here to entertain me, so I’m all ears for any gossip.”
Jack was silent for long enough to make Sawyer think he wouldn’t answer. Then his fist clenched and unclenched once, and he spread his fingers as though to contemplate them. “Kate.”
“Ah,” Sawyer said, amusement in his voice.
“She’s just...she said some...”
“That was your first mistake, lettin’ Freckles talk at you. There are things you could do to prevent that.” Sawyer waited for Jack to fire back at him about disrespecting women, but surprisingly he didn’t engage.
“I just can’t get a read on her.” Jack looked unsettled, as though he didn’t want to be talking about this, or didn’t want to be talking about it with Sawyer. Heart-to-heart talks were not exactly their modus operandi.
Sawyer shook his head. “She’s not a book, doc.”
“I know. At least, she’s not a book in any language I know. One minute she’s a woman, she’s Kate, and the next she does or says something, and I remember she’s...”
Jack actually smiled, if only briefly, on a huff of air. “And I’m no Clyde.”
Sawyer contemplated that. “No, I can’t see you in that role, doc. That’s my job.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is.”
They were quiet for another minute, sitting in vaguely uncomfortable silence. Sawyer thought about getting up, finding some dinner and a fire, but couldn’t find the energy to put his feet in motion. Jack’s body emanated heat beside him into the cooling air, and Sawyer decided his basic creature comforts were met. He wasn’t that hungry.
“So why haven’t you tried for her? Clyde to her Bonnie?”
Sawyer was actually startled by the question. Or perhaps he was startled by the answer that sprang to mind, only to be derailed. “You forget all about our little torture session with Abdul? My terms of surrender?” he asked, evading the truth only slightly.
“Sawyer, that was weeks ago. I know you haven’t tried since.”
“Yeah? And how do you know that, doc?”
Jack turned to pin him with an unreadable but heavy look. “I know.”
Sawyer swallowed, his throat tight. “Look, doc...if you’re asking me for permission...first off, I can’t think why when we’ve never bothered with minding each others’ turf before. But if you’re askin’, I’ve got no claim. She’s all yours, with my blessing.”
Jack looked shocked. “She kisses that badly?”
Sawyer jostled him roughly with his shoulder. “Nah, she’s great. Kisses like an angel.” After a moment he realized his own contradiction, and conceded, “Just not my type.”
“Then...why the kiss?”
“I was addressing the itch of curiosity, I guess. I like to leave no possibility untested.” He grinned lazily at Jack, who was still staring at him as though he never seen him before, eyes slightly narrowed.
“How did she kiss you?”
Sawyer shifted slightly, his grin fading. “What?”
“I said, how did she kiss you?” Jack’s gaze was unwavering, piercing enough to unravel Sawyer’s composure a bit. Challenging.
“What, you want me to describe it to you? Looking for a verbal peep show? I’m no good with words, doc,” he sneered defensively, entirely put off his guard by the question.
Jack finally broke the stare, looking embarrassed.
“Kiss her yourself, if you’re so keen to know,” Sawyer said, his voice a little too loud.
“I will then,” Jack replied, his voice hushed in comparison.
Neither man moved. Sawyer’s nerves stretched thin enough to break, and he could feel Jack’s own tension radiating out as greater heat. Maybe he’d get pummeled for this, but maybe it would be worth it. After all, he liked to leave no possibility untested.
Giving the matter no further thought, Sawyer leaned into Jack’s personal space to breathe against his mouth, inhaling the warmth of Jack’s lips, not touching them. He felt Jack go still as a stone, waited for him to move away. It didn’t happen, yet another surprise for the evening, and Sawyer moved in to brush his mouth against Jack’s in a parody of Kate’s kiss, gently, supple lips clinging and tasting. The flavor of tobacco clung to Jack’s mouth, and Sawyer nudged it away with his tongue as Kate had done with the subtle tang of Sawyer’s blood.
Jack began to kiss him back, stiffly at first, clearly unsure as to what they were playing at, and then suddenly he was kissing Sawyer in earnest, tongue tangling with his at only the slightest of prompting. Sawyer’s mouth burned at the friction of Jack’s stubble, at the heat of his tongue, and he reached up to grip Jack’s neck hard, and Jack made a restless sound in his throat that could have been need.
The energy that Sawyer had been missing earlier found its way into his limbs, and soon he was straddling Jack’s lap, shoving him back into the tree trunk, hearing Jack’s head connect with the wood and feeling perverse satisfaction when Jack hissed in pain. This interaction wasn’t all that different from their usual ones, he thought, just taken to another playing field. He wondered, not for the first time, if any of this was actually about Kate at all. Maybe this was something entirely other, something unlabeled and uncategorized.
Then he felt the bulge in Jack’s jeans pressing hard against his own and forgot all about Kate.
Jack’s eyes glittered in the dark as he held Sawyer’s gaze, both challenging and uncertain, and Sawyer leaned down to resume the hard kiss, no more gentleness to be found. His fingers tested the strength of Jack’s biceps, the stiff nub of a nipple. He explored Jack’s mouth roughly, tasting him, stroking with his tongue, his blood humming when Jack’s hands came up to grip painfully at his hips, grinding them together.
They both groaned and Sawyer rocked once against him, and it was in that moment that it fell apart. Jack’s eyes flew open and he shoved bodily against Sawyer, unseating him and leaving him to sprawl on the jungle floor.
Sawyer, ever on guard from aggression of some kind from Jack, sprang to his feet and waited to meet a blow that never came. Jack moved to stand against the tree unsteadily, the look in his eyes confused and shell-shocked, as though his brain hadn’t caught up with his body just yet. The back of Jack’s hand went to his mouth but then aborted the wiping motion, dropping to his side.
They were both still breathing hard, each watching the other warily. When it became clear that whatever Jack’s mood he wasn’t inclining toward violence, Sawyer down-shifted gears and adopted a casual lean against a different tree, swallowing the rejection with an air of indifference. “So there you have it, doc.”
The look in Jack’s eyes was so bewildered and vulnerable, so unlike him, that Sawyer’s own composure wavered for a moment. “Have what?” Jack asked hoarsely, looking ill at ease in his own skin, and unsure of the direction of true north.
“How she kissed me,” Sawyer explained, finding his own footing, willing his erection to subside. Admitting to himself that he’d been wrong, despite evidence to the contrary. “There you go. Told you I was no good at words.”
Jack blinked at him a few times.
“Come on, doc, what did you think I was doing?” Sawyer asked with a laugh, a shadow of his usual mockery.
“That...was how Kate kissed you? Just like that?” He seemed a little less uncomfortable, if no less tense. There was something in his eyes, something awful and cowardly, that said he would rather take Sawyer’s words at face value than search for some more honest truth.
“Just like that. Every bit. An angel, like I said. Well worth the effort.” Sawyer began to fidget, thinking of a fire and some food, of anywhere but here. And he’d come here to mind his own business, which was the damnable irony of it all.
Finally Jack nodded, raised his eyebrows in an expression that probably should have included an awkward smile but lost it somewhere along the way. “Well. Thanks. I guess I did ask for it. Educational.”
Sawyer grunted, lost for words, and nodded in Jack’s general direction as he headed toward the beach. He waited until he heard Jack move away toward the caves, and pulled a beaten pack of Marlboro’s and a book of matches out of his shirt pocket. He lit one with shaking fingers, inhaling deeply and embracing the nicotine, letting it fill the hollow places in his chest. He turned reluctantly when he heard Jack say his name.
Jack was a dim shape in the darkness, some distance away, his voice disproportionately accusing. “I thought you said that was your last smoke.”
“Yeah, well. I’m a liar, doc. I lie about a lot of things.” Sawyer turned away again, frowning, not waiting for a reply. He took another drag and adjusted his jeans. “And that’s the truth.”