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Huston Gault doesn't introduce himself to his crew until they've been at sea for two days. This wasn't a plan, but an accident after coming on board hungover and sick and not leaving his stateroom for 48 hours. He doesn't realize how long he's been out until he speaks to Minkowski.

"So who's been in charge?" he asks, trying to muster up some indignation, as if this is someone else's fault.

"That guy," Minkowski says, pointing across the deck. "Keamy."

Gault orders Minkowski back to the communications room and walks across the deck toward Keamy, who watches him come, just barely smiling, smug. Gault has met this son of a bitch before. Widmore introduced them a month ago in Adelaide.

"He's a good man to have around," Widmore said. Keamy shook Gault's hand and smirked, mostly with his eyes, as if he was working out how he'd steal Gault's wallet, slit his throat. That was what Widmore meant when he spoke of Keamy's usefulness. Gault didn't understand why they needed a man like Keamy around on a straightforward extraction mission, but he didn't understand a lot about where they were going, what they were doing. He needed the money. He imagined Keamy did, too.

"Anything I should know about?" Gault asks when he reaches Keamy. He's doing his best not to appear embarrassed. Keamy seems to look right through him anyway.

"No, sir," Keamy says. "Captain," he adds, mockingly.

Gault walks off, not knowing how to respond. He makes cursory checks of the engine and communications rooms, asks Minkowski about significant transmissions. There have been none. It's roughly ten days to their destination. He grunts hello to some of the scientists -- the sickly looking one, the redhead with the teeth. He's already forgotten their names, mentioned in passing by Widmore. He eats some jerky and half a can of soup, goes back to his stateroom.

*

There was a time when a trip like this would have thrilled him. A mysterious island, the whims of a billionaire. But Widmore threatened the safety of his family, should he tell anyone about the coordinates they're headed toward, or the black box from the plane that wasn't really found. When he was a young man, bored in the Royal Navy, he would have dropped everything just for the chance to find out what the hell all of this is about. Now he can't stop thinking of Vera and Sammy at home, under Widmore's watchful eye, good as gone if he should screw this up, which he feels is somehow inevitable.

Vera is as good as gone, anyway. It's another reason he left. The money won't fix everything, but if he comes home with some sense of accomplishment, bearing a dangerous man like Ben Linus, she might stop looking at him like his mother used to look at his father.

He spends more time navigating than he ever has on a planned course like this. Widmore warned him that these waters would be tricky, but Gault thought the old man just wanted to sound like he knew what he was talking about. He tries to familiarize himself with the crew, establish authority, and it works, to some extent. They all seem cautious, at least. The scientists are secretive and too polite, the helicopter pilot is obnoxiously curious, and he doesn't know what Naomi's business is exactly, because Widmore wouldn't tell him, but she's one of the few people on the ship who isn't dreary and quiet, as if they're sailing to the ends of the earth.

Keamy isn't especially somber either, but he's certainly not talkative. He spends most of his time in the armory with his men, cleaning weapons while they play cards.

"Is this all for Linus?" Gault asks one day as he's passing by. Keamy's men go silent, and he looks up from the gun he's holding in his lap. Standing in the doorway of the armory, Gault wonders now if he was cleaning or just admiring it.

"He's a very dangerous man," Keamy says, as if he'd been practicing that line. Gault can't tell if there's a hint of sarcasm to it, or if there's just something off about Keamy's accent.

"Could I get a word with you about that?" Gault asks. The actual capture of Linus has been left to Keamy, per Widmore's instructions. Widmore implied that Linus was behind the staging of Oceanic 815's recovery, that he was the one who came up with 324 dead bodies to stand in for the actual passengers.

Keamy doesn't answer, but puts the gun down and wipes his hand on his pants. When Gault walks up to the deck, Keamy follows. It's around six o'clock in the evening, and most of the crew members are having dinner below deck. Only Kevin Johnson is hanging around near the stern, and when he sees Gault he makes for the nearest mop.

"About Linus," Gault says, leaning on the railing. Keamy stands behind him, arms crossed. Gault gets the impression that he doesn't do much leaning.

"Has he got an army with him? I don't understand the need for all this manpower."

Keamy says nothing for a moment, and Gault turns back to him. Their eyes lock, and neither of them blinks, like boys in a staring contest.

"I don't see how there's a problem with you not understanding," Keamy finally says.

"I'm actually the Captain of this ship, you--"

"Widmore's ship. And he didn't seem to think you needed to know everything."

Gault scoffs and looks out at the horizon. This was what he was afraid of, agreeing to work for Charles Widmore. The secrecy, the complications. He avoided his first attempts to take command because he isn't really in control of anything here. It's the only sort of mission anyone would ask a man like him to lead.

"Relax, Captain," Keamy says. His tone is equally derisive and friendly, completely noncommittal. "We'll take care of Linus."

"What're those tattoos?" Gault mutters before Keamy can walk off. Keamy glances down at his shoulder like he doesn't know what Gault is talking about.

"They're not important," Keamy says. He fakes a stupid grin. "G'night, Captain."

*

On their fifth day at sea, there's a bad storm, and Gault is up all night, at the helm with Brandon. They both drink a lot of coffee, and around five o'clock in the morning, Brandon throws up a couple of times.

"Go see the doctor," Gault says.

"My stomach's just messed up from the storm," Brandon says, wiping his mouth.

"Take a break, anyway. Send Regina up here."

Gault likes being alone, hopes Regina will take her time. Outside, the distinction between sea and sky is nonexistent, everything a fuzzy dark wash. He hears footsteps behind him and turns to see Keamy coming into the steering room.

"Where's Regina?" Gault asks.

"How should I know?" Keamy walks to the windows and puts his hands on his hips, looking out at the storm as if he's shown up to stop it. The ship tilts, and Keamy stumbles, braces himself against the window. Gault snorts out a laugh.

"Maybe you should get below deck," he says. Keamy turns to look at him. With him, every gaze is a threat. Gault hates this macho bullshit. He got more than enough of it in the service.

"Where did Widmore find you, anyway?" Gault asks. He doesn't expect an honest answer. He's never trusted anyone with that inhumanly blue tint to their eyes.

"Maybe I found him," Keamy says.

"Right. He's a real accessible bloke."

"Oh, hello," someone says from the doorway, and they both turn to see the sickly looking scientist. He's especially green this evening, holding onto the door frame, his greasy brown hair pushed away from his forehead.

"Hello," Gault says. "You should get below deck."

"I was," the scientist says. "I was -- was down there, and I was just wondering if I could get, ah, an update on the, ah, weather conditions?"

"Take a look outside," Keamy says. He raps the window with his knuckles. "There's your update."

"We should be coming through the storm in the next couple of hours," Gault says. "You're -- Dan, right?"

"Yes, Daniel -- Dan." He smiles shakily. "Thank you for the update. Ah -- gentlemen." He sort of bows, and stumbles off.

Gault and Keamy glance at each other when he's gone. Gault bites back a grin.

"What's Widmore want with a guy like that?" he says, more to himself than to Keamy.

"I don't know," Keamy says. Strangely, Gault gets the feeling he's telling the truth.

Regina comes through the door behind him, gaping around the room with her usual startled expression. She's a strange, haunted girl, and Gault regrets asking Brandon to send her up.

"You wanted me?" she says.

"Could you give me a hand through the rest of this storm?" Gault says. She nods, and walks forward to the helm.

"Everybody alright downstairs?" Gault asks. He glances at Keamy, who is still standing at the window, like he's looking for something out there.

"Everybody's fine," Regina says. "So far as I know. Faraday seems like he might be a little seasick."

"Faraday?"

"Dan," Keamy says.

"Oh. Right." Gault is surprised that Keamy has bothered to learn anyone's names. He spends most of his time with his men, generally ignores the others. Gault opens his mouth to ask him why he's up here, but Keamy pushes away from the window before he can, and gives him a lingering look before walking out of the room.

"Ever get the feeling he's going to kill us all?" Regina asks when he's gone.

"He's harmless," Gault says, though he suspects the opposite is true. There's no sense in getting the girl worked up. "Anyway, why would he want to kill us? He's after Linus."

"I know what he's after," Regina says. "There's just something wrong about him. It's more than mean. Something -- flat."

Gault shrugs and goes to the window, where Keamy was standing. He looks out at the storm, squints, sees nothing.

*

After seven days at sea, Gault runs out of supplies in his stateroom, and goes to the ship's kitchen area to eat with the crew. There isn't much conversation at dinner, except for Faraday's incessant blathering and the occasional drop-in from Frank. Minkowski has the biggest mouth on the ship, but he's up in the communications room, manning the radio.

Keamy and his men appear halfway through the meal, serve themselves double portions and sit down nosily at the end of the long table. Gault eyes them, as if he has any hope of keeping them in line.

"Where are you from?" one of the brawnier ones asks Charlotte, the redhead.

"England," she says, giving him a distasteful look. "Essex."

"You're from sex?" the man says, pretending to misunderstand her. The other men laugh, except for Keamy, who hasn't looked up from his tin of microwaved lasagna since he sat down.

"Essex, you idiot," the Asian man snaps. He's sitting alone at the other end of the table. This is the first time Gault has heard him speak. He looks suspicious, and angry, not just now but always.

"You're calling me an idiot?" Keamy's man says, standing and rattling the silverware. Faraday makes a pathetic laughing noise. Keamy looks at Gault, as if giving him permission to step in. This annoys Gault so much that he almost doesn't.

"Yes, I believe idiot was the word I used," the Asian says, and Keamy's man starts for him, but Gault stands up, grabs his shirt and stops him.

"Sit down," he says, twisting his fist in the man's shirt. He's beady-eyed, his neck as thick as his head. He jerks out of Gault's grip and looks around him at the Asian man.

"Tell that gook to watch his mouth," he says. Gault expects to have to hold the Asian back now, but he only stares at Keamy's man, as if breaking eye contact would disturb whatever spell he's working on him.

"Harper," Keamy snaps, and the man sits, scoffs down at his plate.

"Just trying to make conversation," he mutters. "Bunch of fucking creeps."

It's the last time Gault eats with the crew. He asks Frank to let him know if Keamy's men make any more trouble. Beyond their occasional clumsy flirtations with the women, he doesn't hear of any more problems with them. He's surprised, but Keamy seems to have them well in order.

One afternoon he finds them skeet shooting with automatic weapons on the deck, and his first inclination is to tell them to stop, but then he thinks, what harm will it do? For all he knows, Widmore ordered them to have target practice. He was under the impression they would be bringing Linus back alive, but maybe he will be protected by some army, some cult. He might have hired goons of his own. Gault leans on the deck, elbows on the railing, and watches the men whoop and taunt each other, shooting and missing. Keamy is by far the best shot. He's laughing and hollering, much more animated than Gault has seen in the past eight days.

"Let me try," he shouts, walking to them. Keamy's men turn to him with scornful looks. Keamy is still out of breath with laughter, and when he holds a machine gun out for Gault to take, the others relax.

"You know how to fire that?" Keamy asks. Gault gives him an incredulous look and hoists the weapon to his shoulder, steadies the viewfinder.

"Pull!" Keamy shouts, and the volume of his voice, unlike anything Gault has heard since he left Fiji, makes his heart pound. The target goes sailing out over the ocean, and Gault blasts it to a powder with the gun. Some of the men laugh in surprise.

"Got it on your first try," Keamy says. He's beaming in what should be a disturbing fashion.

"Hasn't been that long since basic training," Gault says, though it has. He hands back the gun, misses the weight of it in his hand when Keamy takes it.

Gault's pulse is racing for the rest of the day. He never saw combat when he was in the service, spent a lot of time on the Vung Tau Ferry but never got close to shooting at anyone. He thinks about the killing that Keamy has done, as a Marine, and as whatever he is now. A hired gun. He hates him for that, jealously, stupidly.

When he can't sleep, he roams the deck. A few crew members are still up -- Faraday, staring at the stars with his hands in his pockets, and Minkowski, trying fruitlessly to pick up commercial radio stations. Gault goes to the prow and looks down at the black water that slices apart as the ship moves forward. Ahead, there is only mist out over the ocean, but they should reach their destination by tomorrow afternoon.

He doesn't hear the footsteps behind him until it's too late not to be startled, and he turns back, sucking in his breath. It's Keamy, of course.

"What?" he snaps, ashamed of himself for getting lost in the quiet of the sea. He's not romantic about this shit anymore, not like he was when he was a kid, glad to pull crab traps on a dingy because it meant he was out on the ocean all day.

Keamy, as is typical, takes a moment before responding. He walks to the prow and regards the fog with what looks like skepticism.

"What did Widmore tell you about the Island?" he asks. Gault sniffs in surprise. He thought Keamy would at least continue to act like he knew everything, including the entirety of Widmore's instructions.

"That Ben Linus was there. That the actual Oceanic 815 might have crashed there. That there might be survivors."

Keamy keeps his eyes on the horizon, licks his lips. He makes a sucking sound between his teeth, like he's trying to hold something in.

"That's all?"

"What else did you expect me to know?"

"Nothing," Keamy says. "I didn't even expect you to know about 815." He smiles strangely. "It could be a problem, actually, that you do."

"How's that?" Gault asks, glaring at him. This is probably a threat on his life. He knew that they would be coming, and very real, when he agreed to work for Widmore, to keep secrets for him.

Keamy shrugs. There's something boyish about him, not in the sense that he's innocent, though there is an obliviousness of sorts, but mostly in the cheerful cruelty of his posturing. He's a schoolyard bully who's been given a man's body and a considerable arsenal. Widmore might be a fool to try and use someone like this to suit his means, or brilliant.

"What did he tell you about the Island?" Gault tries.

"That it belongs to him."

"Well, of course. And Linus has stolen it. I think everyone here knows that."

Keamy grins.

"We'll be there tomorrow," he says.

"That's right."

"You won't try to interfere with what Mr. Widmore's asked me to do?" Keamy says. His eyes almost glow in the dark. Gault wouldn't be surprised to learn that he's some kind of robot, or at least that he has a few robotic parts.

"Why would I? You're capturing Linus."

Keamy stares at Gault, seems to be considering whether or not he should continue this conversation. The shabby, doomed feeling Gault has had since Fiji grows exponentially.

"Where did Widmore find you?" Keamy asks.

"In a bar," Gault says. He hadn't intended to be honest, but he feels like he's under interrogation, like Widmore is seeing this, Keamy's piercing eyes two cameras trained on him. "Funnily enough."

"I've never been drunk in my life," Keamy says, and it's so ridiculous that Gault laughs. He can't tell if Keamy is bragging or lamenting this. He could of course be lying, though for what purpose Gault can't imagine.

"That's hard to believe," Gault says.

"Why?"

"Why? Because you're a grown man. Don't tell me you're religious."

"No. I just don't see the point."

"Where are you from?"

"Las Vegas."

Gault laughs so hard it hurts. Keamy walks away, and Gault wonders if he actually managed to offend him, laughs harder.

*

When the engine dies, Gault is in his stateroom sleeping, dreaming about his son. The jolt of the new silence wakes him with a panic that throws him straight out of bed. He hears voices, boots clanging on metal stairways. It takes him a moment to remember where he is, and even when he does, he's not completely certain. It's not an unusual feeling, out in the middle of the ocean, but here, now, it makes him uneasy.

He dresses on the way out of his stateroom, pulling a shirt over his head, and goes up to the deck to blink in the harsh sunlight. He should be going to the engine room; he felt it in his chest, the engine's rattling death, but he wants to have a look round up top first, to see if they've made it, if they're in sight of the Island.

There is no Island ahead or behind them, nothing. People are walking anxiously about the deck, and they all converge on Gault as soon as they see him, chattering about the engine, and what should they do?

"I'll have a look," Gault says. He hears his stomach moan a complaint and tries to remember if he ate dinner the night before. On the way down to the engine room he passes the armory, where Keamy's men are gathered, all of them hanging in the doorway, watching him curiously. Keamy is nowhere to be found.

Gault knows that someone has fucked with the engine as soon as he lays eyes on it. It's not an expert job, but good enough to screw them. He immediately suspects Keamy, then realizes that doesn't make any sense.

"What's up, Captain?" Frank asks, poking his head into the engine room.

"Nothing. The engine is -- nothing. I'll fix it."

"Oh, geez, look at that. Good timing, though, huh?"

"What?"

"We're only about eighty miles from the Island. It's close enough to reach by helicopter."

Naomi appears behind Frank, and nudges him aside to make her way into the engine room. She's wearing a flight suit, strapping on a pack.

"Just got a message that we're to go ashore," she says. "I'll go first, and --"

"We?" Gault has sleep still in his eyes, can't process any of this. "Widmore contacted you? I thought the radios were malfunctioning? Did he have anything for me?"

"No," Naomi says, frowning slightly. "I'll go ashore and do some scouting, the scientists will follow me, and Keamy and his team will come for Linus when we give him the signal. That was always the plan."

Gault wants to laugh at the talk of plans. This is already going awry, and something he can't put his finger on is horribly off.

"Someone's sabotaged the engine," he says. Naomi looks at it without concern, nods.

"Linus has someone working for him on the ship," someone says from the doorway. They all turn to see Keamy standing there, arms crossed over his chest. He looks irritated.

"That might be true," Naomi says. "But soon it won't matter. You can patch this, can't you?" she asks Gault.

"With some help," he says. He looks back to the doorway, but Keamy has already disappeared. "You're going to the Island alone?" he says to Naomi.

"I can take care of myself," she says, giving him an insulted look before turning to go.

"I'll give you a hand with this if you want," Frank says, gesturing to the engine. Gault struggles not to roll his eyes.

"Just go," he says.

He works on the engine for the rest of the day, knowing that he should be more concerned with who did this than how quickly he can fix it. Crew members occasionally stop in to ask him if he needs help, and he does, but he sends them all away. He feels like he's still dreaming, doesn't know why he should be so disoriented.

Around five o'clock, he's close to passing out from hunger and thirst, and stumbles into the kitchen. Kevin is wiping down the table, and he gives Gault a nervous glance before finishing and hurrying out. Gault opens the refrigerator, sees that its power has gone out, and slams its door shut, cursing. He's feels close to understanding something, but loses his train of thought when Keamy walks into the kitchen.

"This is bullshit," Keamy says. Gault tries to ignore him, goes to the cabinets looking for anything edible. "Why should we wait here while that woman scouts the Island? I don't trust her. I don't think she's working for Widmore. That fucking helicopter pilot just took her at her word. Why didn't you try to stop her?"

"What did you want me to do?" Gault asks. "She's part of the crew, she's been getting communications from Widmore since we left port --"

"From someone she claims is Widmore."

"Minkowski claims the same. Is he part of your conspiracy theory? Did you want me to put a gun to her head and demand answers?"

"Yes."

Keamy is looking for a fight, and Gault almost wants him to throw a punch, though Keamy is younger and stronger and could probably hurt him badly. Still, he wants to hit someone. More than that, he wants a drink.

"Come with me," he says, throwing down a can of lima beans that he doesn't really want to eat. He expects Keamy to spit out some refusal or make him explain his intentions, but he follows him wordlessly down the hall to his stateroom.

When they're inside, Gault shuts the door behind him. By the time he's got his hands on the bottle of whiskey that he's stayed away from until now, he feels almost normal again. Keamy sits on his bed. Gault drinks two swallows like he's throwing back aspirin, then fumbles through his supplies until he comes up with a couple of aluminum mugs.

"Do you think it's Naomi who fucked with the engine?" he asks Keamy, handing him a mug full of whiskey. Keamy stares at him in something like disgust for a moment before taking it.

"No," he says. "I don't think she's working for Linus. I just don't get the impression she's working for Widmore."

"Why?"

"She avoids the rest of us."

"So do you."

Keamy scoffs, looks down into his cup.

"So do you," he says.

"Maybe we've all got something to hide. Go on and drink some."

"How do I know you haven't poisoned it?"

"Because I haven't got any reason to kill you."

"None that I know about."

"For God's fucking sake. Don't drink it, then."

Keamy swallows half the cup, to spite him, coughs with surprise and spits some of it up. Gault laughs and drains his own cup.

"That's horrible," Keamy says. He wipes his chin, drinks the rest and winces.

"It's an acquired taste." Gault refills both mugs. "So if it wasn't Naomi who did the job on the engine, who here's working for Linus?"

"Not the scientists," Keamy says, leaning back. "But maybe the doctor. Minkowski, maybe."

"You think it's more than one person?"

Keamy shrugs. Gault is glad for the dim light in the stateroom, and the whiskey that shines on Keamy's lips. He wants to forget the rest, should have bolted the door.

"I'm not one of your suspects?" he asks Keamy.

"You're not smart enough."

The serenity of the scene snaps away like a light switch flipped up, and Gault is out of his chair, reaching back too soon to hit Keamy's face, giving him too much warning. Keamy catches his hand and pushes him backward, and they both fall to the floor. Keamy of course has the upper hand. Gault struggles like a limp fish, spitting half-formed threats. Keamy holds his wrists to the floor, cocks his head and stares at him with benign curiosity, like a kid looking at a bug.

"I was only joking, Captain," he says. His grip is bruising and steady, and Gault lets out his breath, deflates beneath him. He feels as if he's the one who's been poisoned. He tries to avoid Keamy's eyes, can't.

"Get off of me."

Keamy doesn't move. Gault tries to knee him in the stomach, but Keamy has his legs clamped down tight around Gault's.

"Be still," Keamy says. He lets go of one of Gault's wrists, and Gault is going to start fighting for ground, but Keamy puts two fingers in the hollow of Gault's throat, presses firmly. Gault freezes, tries to remember if there is some way to kill a man like this. He feels like he would suffocate if Keamy applied just a bit more pressure. He's afraid to try and roll away.

"That's much better than whiskey," Keamy says while Gault's pulse pounds under his fingers. Gault stays completely still, tries to find some meaning in that.

"What?"

"Here," Keamy says. He pulls Gault's hand up from the floor, takes two of his fingers and puts them against the hollow of his own throat. His skin is sweaty, grimy, something. His heartbeat is slow and powerful.

"See?" Keamy says, and Gault doesn't want to tell him no, he has no fucking idea what he's on about, feels inches away from having his neck snapped. He thinks of Regina in the steering room: ever get the feeling he's going to kill us all?

"Yeah," he manages, just glad that Keamy has taken his hand off his throat, though he can still feel the shape of those fingers over his heartbeat, a threat left behind. Keamy's face is clear and friendly in a terrifying way, his mouth slightly open. He's breathing whiskey onto Gault's face, the rest of him smelling suspiciously of the ocean, as if he's been swimming in it, which is impossible. He's probably a serial killer back home. Widmore may have sprung him straight from prison. Gault tries moving a shoulder, and Keamy leans back, lets him up.

Gault pours himself another drink, tries to keep the shake out of his hands. This seems like an opportune time for Keamy to leave, but he's still standing behind Gault, near the bed.

"I might have some of the crew look at that engine," Gault says, unable to come up with anything else. He throws back half a mug full of whiskey, but it does nothing to calm his nerves.

"One of my men is a mechanic," Keamy says. "I could have him--"

"Fine."

Keamy walks up behind him, and when Gault can feel him close, he turns. He brings his eyes up to Keamy's reluctantly, like a girl waiting to be kissed. He almost laughs out loud, thinking that. Maybe he's already drunk.

"You should get some rest," Keamy says. Gault still can't place his accent. It's American, and something else, too. It occurs to him that he wants very much to know everything about Keamy, and only because Keamy will never volunteer anything. It also occurs to him that Keamy is the only person on this ship that he finds even vaguely interesting, which figures, since Keamy is the person most likely to kill him in his sleep.

"Rest," Gault says. "Yeah." He shouldn't have had whiskey on an empty stomach. He feels hypnotized.

Keamy ticks Gault's chin before leaving, and when he's gone Gault falls, very literally, into his chair.

*

Everyone is anxious while Naomi is away, no one more than Gault, though he tries not to let it show. He avoids Keamy, though for some reason he wants to trail him around the ship, only feels grounded when he's within view, because he's the only crew member who hasn't been jumpy and tense since they anchored. In bed at night, Gault stares at the ceiling and puts his fingers against the hollow of his throat, tries to understand what Keamy felt there.

He drinks, though not as much as he wants to. After Naomi has been gone for three days, Keamy's men discover fishing equipment in a supply closet and beg Keamy to let them take a boat down and catch something other than beans for dinner, but Keamy tells them no with a fierceness that Gault hasn't yet seen him use on them. Gault is surprised. He doesn't see what harm it would do.

After three days in the humid heat of the ship without a shower, he finally breaks down and goes to the locker rooms around three o'clock in the morning one night, when he figures they'll be empty. Glad to find the men's locker room silent when he arrives, he lets his guard down, and almost steps right into Keamy as he's going for the showers. He shuffles backward and thanks God that he waited to undress, though he still has to suffer Keamy wearing only a towel around his waist.

"What the hell are you doing here so late?" Gault asks, looking him straight in the eye to prove that this doesn't bother him. Keamy grins, probably knows better.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" He's dripping wet. Gault wants to curse himself for not noticing the extra level of humidity in here.

"Forget it," Gault mutters, walking around him. "Just get lost. I'd like some privacy if you don't mind."

"I don't mind." Keamy doesn't go anywhere. Gault keeps his back to him, unbuttons his shirt as slowly as possible. He doesn't know what the hell he's waiting for.

"I might come by your room later, if you'll be awake," Keamy says. "To talk to you about something."

"Fine," Gault says before he can think better of it.

He takes a long time in the shower, makes the water too hot to stand, even though he's been sweating all day. Keamy's name runs through his mind like a chant. This is what happens to men on ships, he knows, but he hasn't been on this one long enough to have much of an excuse. And anyway, there are women around, too.

On the way back to his stateroom, trying to knock himself into shape, he stops by the communications room. Minkowski is there, playing hearts with Brandon. All of the equipment is turned off.

"What's going on?" Gault asks, gesturing to the radio. "I thought I might try to call my wife."

"Good luck with that, man," Minkowski says. "I can't even get a goddamn walkie-talkie signal."

"Why not?"

Minkowski shrugs in an exaggerated way and Brandon laughs, a weird sort of giggle that makes Gault's skin crawl.

"Get it fixed, then."

"I've been trying all day!" Minkowski says. "It's all fucked up. Like the engine," he adds, giving Gault a meaningful look.

Gault walks away muttering about their incompetence, though really he feels that all of this is a reflection of his own leadership, if it could even be called that. He goes back to his stateroom, hoping to find Keamy there, and tells himself that he's relieved when it's empty, no one waiting outside.

He finishes off the whiskey, feels panicked when it's gone. Maybe someone else has brought something on board -- Frank, perhaps? He gets up to go and ask him, remembers that it's four o'clock in the morning, and sits back on his bed. There's a knock on the door.

Keamy is standing outside, reeking of the cheap soap they have on board. Gault steps aside and lets him in without saying anything. He's never done this before, if this is even what they're doing. He's never done anything with someone like Keamy. Once, he had a sense of self-preservation.

"You wanted to talk to me about something?" Gault says, shutting the door behind him.

"Bolt it," Keamy says, reading his mind. Gault sniffs as if this is overkill, does as he asked. He realizes as he struggles to fit the peg into the bolt that he's terrifically drunk.

"So what's on your mind?" Gault asks. Keamy is again sitting on his bed. This didn't strike him as particularly presumptuous last time he was in here. His thought process is changing at an alarming rate, and he's afraid he's not the only one on board experiencing this.

"Someone screwed with the communications equipment," Keamy says.

"I know. Or -- I knew it was broken."

"Minkowski might have had something to do with it."

"Widmore wouldn't have given him such an important position if he didn't trust him."

"He might have been trustworthy at some point. But he's been acting weird since we anchored."

"Who hasn't?"

"Me," Keamy says. Gault snorts.

"Sure, mate."

"Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm your mate, Captain."

Gault gives him an offended look. As if he meant that seriously.

"Yeah, why would I think that? It's not like you're in my room at half past four in the morning."

Keamy frowns. Gault is afraid for a moment that he'll leave.

"I was bored," Keamy says.

"Congratulations. We all are."

Keamy gets up, and Gault feels a pang of regret, something like panic. He backs into the wall, and Keamy stands two inches in front of him, leans forward and frames Gault's head with his arms.

"It makes me crazy to think of that bitch running around on the Island, doing whatever she pleases while we sit here letting her tip Linus off and God knows what else," Keamy says. He puts his hand over Gault's throat, and for a few seconds Gault fully expects to be strangled to death, blamed for Naomi's presence on the Island. But Keamy only has him in a light choke hold, his thumb and forefinger pressing in just slightly, until Gault is very aware of his pulse trembling under Keamy's grip.

"Tick tock," Keamy says, speaking low and straight into Gault's face. His other hand slides down Gault's side, and he palms Gault's cock through his trousers.

"Jesus," Gault breathes out. Relieved and horrified, he pushes against Keamy's hand, which covers him completely, hot even through two layers of cloth.

"You can feel it here, too, you know," Keamy says, stroking Gault with just his thumb.

"No shit." Gault laughs, is afraid he sounds like Brandon did earlier, a maniac giggling.

"The heartbeat, I mean," Keamy says. His expression is neutral, almost clinical, but Gault can feel his own hardon jammed against his thigh. "Here, I'll show you."

Keamy steps back and unbuttons his trousers, pushes them down along with his underwear, the clingy white sort that all of these military types probably wear. It occurs to Gault, numbly, that he was once a military type himself. But never like Keamy. Wearing only his tank, he looks like a machine, a statue. Gault realizes, in a rush that nearly blinds him, how long he's been wanting his mouth on someone else's skin.

"Come here," Keamy says. What he means to say is, get on your knees. Gault does, painfully hard inside his trousers.

"You can feel it here," Keamy says, tapping the base of his cock. Gault swallows a whine, looking up from the floor, realizing what he's gotten himself into. He wonders how tall Keamy is -- six foot five? No, taller. He breaks into a nervous sweat, and puts his thumb where Keamy has instructed. He can feel it, he's right, a pulse, a throb. Keamy smiles down at him.

"It's better on the inside of your mouth," Keamy promises, and Gault comes back to himself, snorts.

"I'm going to suck you off anyway, you crazy fuck. You don't have to talk me into it."

Keamy laughs, throaty, his eyes hooded. Gault licks his cock once, twice. He tastes like saltwater, which, again, is impossible. Gault takes as much as he can into his mouth and wraps his hand around the length that he can't cover, tries to pretend he knows what he's doing. Keamy doesn't seem to have any complaints, sighs like a sleepy dog and puts a hand in Gault's hair, squeezes it into his fingers and guides his head.

Gault puts his tongue against the underside of Keamy's cock, waits to feel his heartbeat, hopes it will be faster with every move he makes. It's hard to find -- there's a lot going on here -- but when he does track it down, the subtle throbbing seems to shake the whole room. He's not going to swallow this asshole's come, no fucking way, but he concentrates so hard on the rhythm that he gets blissed out and lost in the hard pulse of Keamy's orgasm, and the noise it brings out of Keamy, like someone has just punched him in the stomach. Gault nearly comes himself as his throat works to keep up.

He falls back on his ass and Keamy falls onto the bed. They both catch their breath for a moment, faces shining with sweat. Keamy must have ripped his tank off at some point, because he's got nothing on now.

"C'mere," he says, wiping the corner of his mouth. Gault gets up from the floor unsteadily, fussing with his belt. He walks to Keamy, who pushes his hands away and undoes the buckle himself, rips it from the loops on Gault's trousers.

"Wasn't that good?" Keamy asks, as if Gault is the one who came. Gault nods drowsily, puts his hands on Keamy's shoulders. He wants to fall onto him. He's so fucking big, solid. He's like a raft that could get Gault out of here.

Gault is unbelievably wasted, as if Keamy's come was the fourth drink he almost went hunting for. He grins at the ceiling when Keamy takes his cock into his mouth, flushes so hot that he's afraid the walls will melt. Vera hasn't bothered to suck his dick in ten years, and Keamy is a hundred times better at this than any woman he's ever begged it from. Maybe it takes one to know one. Maybe he's just extremely drunk. Definitely that. He tilts forward happily, his excuse for this already in hand.

*

Keamy falls asleep in his bed, which is unexpected, but so was everything that proceeded it. He sleeps like an animal: naked, on top of the sheets, curled up. The whiskey helps Gault sleep for awhile, but he wakes up soaked in sweat around eight AM, towels off and puts on shorts and trousers. He's astonished that Keamy hasn't left, wishes that he would.

"Hey," he calls, standing in the middle of the room. Keamy doesn't move. Gault has a staggering headache, brought on by the pressure of trying not to think about this more than anything else. He goes back to the bed, kneels on it and pushes Keamy's shoulder. Expecting Keamy to spring up in suspicious alarm and cold clock him, Gault can only continue to be surprised when Keamy just blinks and scowls, turns onto his back.

"What?" he moans, as if Gault has stormed into his room to wake him.

"Get up. I have things to do. I imagine you do, too."

Keamy rubs his face, yawns. Gault wishes he would at least cover up. His body is like something from a magazine, television, whatever. It's unreal. There is no one in the world who could keep themselves from staring. It must be the only thing he has time for, keeping himself this strong.

"That was bizarre, and I apologize for allowing it to happen," Gault says as Keamy dresses. He wants to put this to rest as soon as possible, to repent. "And I'll have you know that it was quite out of character for me. For you, too, I would think. It's just -- this place. Not that we're anyplace, really. It's this whole thing."

Keamy shrugs, takes his time fastening his pants.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he says, and Gault is afraid for a moment that he'll deny that anything happened, though he shouldn't be afraid of that at all.

"I've always fucked guys," Keamy says. He belches hugely, then moans as if doing so has exhausted him. "It's less complicated."

"Oh, really!" Gault tries to laugh. "How do you figure?"

"Women only fuck when they want something else. Men just want what they're getting. And otherwise, what's the goddamn difference?"

Keamy stares at him, blank and bored. He's not putting this on, and Gault realizes for the first time who he's really dealing with here. Someone so removed from humanity that he doesn't really see the point in differentiating based on gender. He thinks again of the people Keamy has killed. Women, maybe children.

"That's a brilliant philosophy," Gault says, glaring at him.

"You seemed to think so last night," Keamy says, and it comes out so practiced and even, like everything he says, that Gault feels like Keamy has finally figured out a way to rob him.

And he knows, sort of, already, what comes next.

Chapter Text

Naomi is gone for three days without any word. The scientists grow restless and pester Minkowski to fix the communications equipment as gossip about sabotage spreads quickly across the ship. Gault expects Keamy to go out of his mind with the waiting, but he's really got to stop expecting Keamy to do things, because his expectations almost never come to pass. Keamy walks about the ship with a look of serene satisfaction on his face, and it takes Gault a few days to realize why. Keamy is glad that Naomi's mission has probably failed, that something awful has almost certainly happened.

Gault feels trapped. He is trapped. There is no way to communicate with anyone outside of the ship, no way to pull up anchor and just leave this disaster behind. Nothing to drink.

He avoids Keamy when he can, which is not often, and even when he's not around, Gault can't get rid of his hateful curiosity. He dreams up every possible origin for such a person: jaded son of a prostitute, trying to make a living. Disturbed heir to some American family's fortune, trying to piss off his father. He can't imagine that someone like him has -- or had -- parents, people who fussed over him or even neglected him. More than anything, he wishes he could stop with all the fucking wondering. It doesn't make any difference, and Keamy would never fess up to coming from somewhere, anyway.

Though he did mention Las Vegas.

The problem is that Gault doesn't have anything else to think about. He's given up on the engines, left them to Jeff and Keamy's mechanic. Even Faraday has poked at them, doing God knows how much more damage.

He takes a walk across the deck around sun up and sun down every day, and otherwise tries to stick to a short course between his stateroom and the communications room, where Minkowski is laboring to repair the equipment. He thinks that if he could just speak to his wife, his son, anybody who is not on this ship, he could get his head back in the right place.

"Any progress?" he calls in to Minkowski for the third night in a row. Minkowski pokes his head out from beneath a split open phone board and frowns at him.

"Man, if people could quit asking me every three seconds, maybe there would be some," he says. He tosses a roll of electrical tape across the room. "Maybe your energy would be better spent figuring out who the hell did this."

"And how am I supposed to do that?" Gault snaps. "Do we have a lie detecting device on board that I'm unaware of? I'm not a fucking investigator. I didn't agree to a mystery cruise."

Minkowski's laugh is loud and unpleasant.

"That's funny," he says. "Mystery cruise. Ha."

Gault turns to leave, grumbling to himself like a defeated old man, and crashes into Keamy as he's coming into the room.

"Well?" Keamy says. Gault scoffs and stutters, feels as if he's just been dropped into the middle of a conversation he doesn't want to have.

"Well what?" He pushes around Keamy and heads quickly down the hall. Keamy of course follows. Gault hates the tremendous sound of his boots clomping along behind him, and hates that it's such a relief to hear something not quiet and guarded.

"He hasn't fixed anything yet?" Keamy asks when they're far enough from the communications room.

"He's working on it."

"I'll bet."

Gault turns to glare at him. He's tired of having ideas put into his head about who is trustworthy and who isn't by Keamy, who he wouldn't trust to clean the toilets without having some ulterior motive. Keamy seems amused by his indignation, and, actually, he should have expected that.

"Straume is up to something," Keamy says.

"Who the hell is Straume?"

"Miles. Miles Straume. That little Asian guy."

"Fine. Okay, the Asian guy. What's he doing?"

Keamy looks up and down the hall.

"We shouldn't have this conversation here."

Gault itches his throat self-consciously. The last thing he needs is to get himself alone in his stateroom again with Keamy. The thought of what he did with him makes his stomach turn, and he can taste the whiskey on the roof of his mouth when he remembers it.

"Meet me at the stern after dinner, then," Gault says. Keamy stares at him for a moment, smiles slow.

"Alright," he says. "Can I lock Straume in one of the bunkers until then?"

"Christ, Keamy, what are you afraid he's going to do? Kill you? Keep an eye on him if you want, but there's no reason to lock him up. We haven't got anything left for him to break."

"I don't think he's the one who's breaking things."

"Well, terrific. Leave him alone until we talk."

"We could talk now." Keamy looks at Gault like he's the one who isn't making any sense.

"I can't deal with you right now," Gault says, and it's true. "I haven't got time. Find me after dinner." He walks off, and feels Keamy's eyes on the back of his neck like a cold breath.

Gault goes back to his stateroom and sits on his bed, puts his hands on his knees. He gets up and bolts the door, sits down again. Knowing he should eat something, he thinks about wanking off instead, as if that will do him any good.

An hour passes, or maybe it doesn't. The clock in Gault's stateroom has stopped working along with everything else on the ship. But it feels like an hour, so Gault gets up, unbolts the door and heads for the deck. He's feeling optimistic on the way there, unperturbed by the prospect of hearing one of Keamy's half-formed theories about why some so and so on board is no good, weightless despite previous events. The air outside is light and breezy, the usual stolid humidity blown away, and the sky is perfectly black, clouded. The wind across the deck reminds him of his back porch at home, standing outside with a beer and listening to the steady sound of the tap running in the kitchen as Vera washes up.

He'd really love a beer right now.

At the back of the boat, he leans onto the railing and waits. Someone is talking, elsewhere on the deck, and someone else is laughing, a little too high pitched. Gault doesn't trust anyone's laughter, lately. He waits, watching the water, until the waiting starts to irritate him.

Keamy never comes. Gault curses him under his breath and scans the deck, which has gone silent now, whoever was out here tucked back into quarters, or someplace else where they shouldn't be. He thinks of Keamy locked up in a bunker with Miles, strong arming him into admitting to a crime he hasn't actually committed. Or maybe he's already stuffed a knife in the poor bloke's stomach and thrown him overboard, as a precaution.

Gault pounds on the door of Keamy's room and gets no answer. One of his men -- the small one, Omar -- walks by and gives him a suspicious look. Gault doesn't bother to make an excuse, just slides around him and heads toward the scientists' rooms. He knocks on every door, not knowing which one belongs to Miles. Charlotte tells him shortly that she's got no idea where Miles is, and Faraday scratches his head, hums with concern.

"Want me to help you look?" he offers.

"No," Gault says. He doesn't want Faraday to witness whatever the hell Keamy's up to, for his own sake. "Thanks," he adds before walking away. He tries two more doors, gets no answer at either of them.

He's about to head for the kitchen and take an inventory of the knives when he sees Frank sitting on the stairs that lead down to the engine room, frowning at a map.

"Have you seen Miles?" Gault asks. "Or Keamy?"

Frank folds up the map before Gault can see what it is. "Not Keamy," he says. "I saw Miles about an hour ago, at dinner."

"An hour ago? Do you know where he went?"

"I sure don't. Do you need him for something?"

"No -- just. He wasn't acting strange, was he?"

Frank grins. "Miles? Sure, but that's nothing out of the ordinary for him."

"What do you mean?"

"He's sort of a strange guy. Is something wrong, Captain?"

"No. Forget it. If you see Miles, tell him I'm looking for him."

"And Keamy?" Frank asks as Gault is walking off.

Gault jerks around. "What about Keamy?"

"You, uh, asked about Keamy, too?"

"Oh. No, I don't want to see Keamy."

That's a lie, and it makes him want to drive his head into a wall, knock himself out before this can get worse. He needs to know where Keamy is at all times, resents the size of the ship and the number of people on board who aren't losing their minds in this particular fashion. The engine room is empty, and so is the communications room. There's no one in the kitchen but Regina, who is holding the refrigerator door open and staring in at the dark, empty shelves.

"It's broken," Gault says, bothered by something he can't put words to: the slump of her posture, or her white-knuckled grip on the handle.

"I know," she says. "But I thought I heard something."

Gault doesn't bother to ask her if she's seen Miles, gets out of the kitchen as quickly as possible.

Back in his stateroom, he sits at his desk and puts his head in his hands. He has the nagging feeling that there are parts of this ship that he doesn't know about, secret passages people are slipping through. He feels like both a guard and a prisoner, slacking on his duty and holed up in his cell.

Someone pounds on the door, and it can only be Keamy, because no one else has the nerve to knock so loud.

"Yeah?" Gault calls, not even turning around. He hears the door open and shut, the slide of the bolt.

"I found something," Keamy says. Gault sighs and turns just in time to see a clear, cylindrical object flying through the air toward his face. He gasps stupidly and fumbles it, but manages to clutch it to his chest before it smashes against the floor. It's a fifth of vodka.

"Where'd you get this?" Gault asks, pretending not to be excited.

"I told you." Keamy is still standing near the door. "I found it."

So he stole it, or maybe confiscated it from one of his men. He'd rather have them sober and Gault drunk.

"What have you done with Miles?" Gault asks. He sets the vodka on the desk, plans on consuming it when Keamy is long gone.

Keamy smirks. "I haven't touched him. Is he missing? I told you he was up to something."

"What exactly is he up to, Keamy?" Gault keeps his tone bewildered and disbelieving, lets him know he's only humoring him.

Keamy walks across the room to Gault's bed, sits on it and leans back as if he's in a shisha bar, puts his hands behind his head. He lets out his breath, tips his legs apart.

"I don't know," he says. "Something. Widmore gave me a briefing on all of the scientists. He didn't want me interfering with them, but he didn't want them fucking with his island, either. He wouldn't tell me anything about Miles."

"And that proves he's out to murder us all. Well done."

"He's got a picture of Linus in his room."

"You went poking through his room?" Gault doesn't know why he's surprised.

"Widmore told me to keep an eye on them."

"Alright, but so what if he's got a photo? We came here to get Linus."

"I came here to get Linus." Keamy sits up. "They've got nothing to do with it. As far as Widmore knows, they don't even know what Linus looks like."

"So you think Miles is going to murder Linus before you get the chance to capture him? Did Linus kill the man's parents, did he vow revenge? Why are you bothering me with this, Keamy?"

"Because," Keamy says. "I want your permission to restrain him."

"Well, you can't have it."

Keamy scoffs. "What would you do to stop me, anyway?"

"I could tell Widmore you've been interfering with his scientists."

"Nobody's telling Widmore anything, or vice versa! Somebody's made sure of that."

Gault rubs his forehead, groans. Keamy is accusing him of letting this sabotage happen, but there was nothing he could do. He should have gathered the whole crew before they left port and told them straight off: For the record, I have a bad feeling about this. Beyond that, it's all been out of his hands. This isn't a military operation. He can't just start locking people up based on pictures found during illegal searches of their rooms.

"Don't worry about it," Keamy says. "I'll take care of it. Have a drink."

Gault does his best to look offended.

"Your interest in getting me drunk is touching, really, but I think you should get the hell out of my room."

Keamy leans back, crosses his arms over his chest.

"Make me."

Gault feels his heart start to race, right in the hollow his throat.

"You sound like a five year old."

"You just told me to get out of your room."

"So?"

"So my brother used to tell me that. When he was five."

Gault feels like he's just discovered a briefcase full of money. So Keamy had a brother at some point. Or, he's lying for the sake of a joke. Gault is willing to go along with it, either way.

"Your brother, huh?"

Keamy sniffs, rejecting this thread of conversation outright.

"Get over here," he says.

Gault doesn't know how to navigate this. When he was very young, he chewed his nails when he was nervous. He longs for the taste of them now, can almost feel his father smack the back of his head, don't even think about biting those nails.

"What do you want me over there for?" he finally manages. It's easily the worst, most permissive response he could have offered.

"You gonna make me say it?" Keamy asks, gleam of his teeth as he pulls his shirt off.

There's a knock on the stateroom door, and Gault jumps out of his chair, saved. He's disappointed, too, his lap not entirely soft as he makes his way to the door. He clears his throat and adjusts his trousers, hears Keamy laughing under his breath behind him.

"Put your clothes on," Gault hisses. Keamy sits with his hands hanging between his knees, doesn't move.

Miles is standing out in the hallway, and he stares at Gault with his usual watery, vacant expression, as if Gault is the one who interrupted him.

"What?" Gault barks, hugging the door close so that Miles won't see Keamy, half undressed on his bed.

"Frank said you wanted to see me." Miles seems slightly agitated, but Gault doesn't expect he'll find out why.

"Oh -- right --"

He hears Keamy coming up behind him, but it's too late to get rid of Miles. Keamy grabs the door and pulls it entirely open, leans behind Gault and regards Miles seriously, as if he's looking for a confession on his face. Miles is almost literally half his size. Gault is embarrassed, then just relieved to be standing on this side of the door.

"Hey," Keamy says to Miles. "Where have you been?"

Miles glares at him. "What the hell do you care?"

Keamy cocks his head, leans forward until Gault can feel the heat of him through his shirt.

"Just curious," Keamy says. He looks Miles up and down, grins like he finds the whole package pretty hilarious. "Widmore told me about you."

"Oh, really? How fascinating. Gault, do you need me or --"

"He told me that of the three scientists, you were the most expendable."

Miles looks at Gault as if expecting him to deny this. Gault doesn't say anything, doesn't look away. He wouldn't be surprised if Miles is up to something, come to it. He never liked the look of him.

"I know what you're planning," Keamy says. "And I've got permission to kill you if you try it. So I really think you should just do your little science experiment and stay the fuck out of my sight. Okay?"

Miles says nothing for a moment. He's backing down the hallway slow, like Keamy is an animal who tracks his prey by sight, and a sudden movement will give him away.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he finally says, and he makes a break for it, walking fast. Keamy watches him go, puts his chest fully against Gault's back.

"Good," Keamy says, as if he's ticked off an item from his to-do list. He wraps one arm around Gault's waist and yanks him back into the room, bolts the door behind them.

"Wait a minute," Gault says, his legs wheeling as Keamy pulls him across the room. He ends up on his back in bed, the wind knocked out of him more by the circumstances than the fall. "I thought you said Widmore didn't tell you anything about Miles?"

"I did say that, didn't I?" Keamy is taking off his belt, his face completely blank. There's no color climbing into his cheeks, nothing to give him away. He's lied to either Gault or Miles, but it doesn't matter much. Gault lets his head drop back onto the bed, shuts his eyes. He should have had that drink.

Keamy leans over Gault like a shadow, the shape of him blocking out reason and reality, a total eclipse. Gault is hard with teenage speed, just from anticipation, and he pushes up against Keamy, tries to pull him down closer. He's immovable, his tongue stroking the hollow of Gault's throat, counting heartbeats.

"God," Gault lets himself say, drawing his hands up Keamy's back, waiting for him to slap them away. Keamy is indifferent, more concerned with getting Gault's clothes off. Gault would rather not be completely naked in the presence of this man, but he lets himself be stripped. This is more about the pace than anything else, just a shade below frantic.

"Have you got anything?" Keamy asks. He sits up on his knees, and Gault gets stuck on looking at him, can't think about the question. Keamy narrows his eyes in annoyance and leans to the table beside the bed, rummages through its top drawer. Gault watches things being flung to the floor: a pack of cards, some scattered peppermints, a Bible that does not belong to him. Keamy comes up with a tube of burn ointment and empties half of it into his hand.

Gault feels resigned like never before, ready to go to his death. Keamy sits back and yanks him up, turns him around and holds onto him from behind.

"Alright?" His mouth is right on Gault's ear, his big hand sliding down to split Gault's ass. When he pushes a slick finger inside of him, Gault bites his lip and stuffs down a scream, tastes blood. He nods rapidly, his face pushed back against Keamy's cheek so that he'll feel the answer to his half-asked question.

He expected this to hurt a lot more, but maybe it doesn't because he's entered some other dimension where this is the only thing he's ever wanted. He bounces a little, balanced on the balls of his feet, but mostly lets Keamy do all the work, his arms crossed over Gault's chest, fingers digging into his shoulders, deep enough to leave marks. If he'd let himself consider it, Gault might have thought him the cheesy type who barks a lot of commands and curses during sex, but Keamy hardly makes a sound, just breathes roughly onto Gault's shoulder, his ear pressed to his neck, listening all the time to what's he's doing to Gault's heart rate.

They tip forward, Gault's face hidden happily in the sheets while Keamy puts his palms flat against the wall behind the bed and drives into him, losing track of all his rhythms and just barely biting down a building grunt in the back of his throat. Gault buries his shouts into the mattress, doesn't even care at this point if passersby know that Keamy is in here fucking him hard, but doesn't want to give Keamy the pleasure of knowing how good it feels.

"Yeah," Gault breathes, vicariously relieved when Keamy comes, the barrel of his body dropping forward. He shudders quick, and drools a little on the back of Gault's neck as he's trying to get his breath. Gault is ready now to be free of him, but when Keamy falls over onto his side he pulls Gault with him, still inside him, aftershocks making them both twitch. Keamy reaches around to finish Gault off, his hand still slick from the ointment, and Gault is shocked by the gesture, then realizes why he bothered as he comes in Keamy's hand. Keamy hums with the sensation, another kind of pulse aching out of Gault.

Gault clings to the bed, his eyes shut. The room, the ship, and the ocean all press in against his eyelids, harshly present no matter how he tries to forget them. Keamy rolls over to face the wall, groans with the exertion of getting comfortable, and then goes silent. Gault's eyes pop open.

"What are you doing?" he asks, leaning up on an elbow and turning to Keamy, who doesn't bother to dignify this with a response.

"You can't sleep in here," Gault says. He sits up until he feels new soreness pulling through him, winces.

"Why not? I like this bed."

It's the only double bed on board, and Gault sits with his mouth hanging open, realizes that getting off was only half of Keamy's plan here. He's also stealing the best quarters on the ship for himself. In the cabin adjacent to the armory, he and his men share a single room with bunk beds.

"What will your men think?" Gault asks. He crawls to the foot of the bed and reaches for the bottle of vodka on his desk.

"Think about what?"

"About what? Are you joking? They'll know you're sleeping in here. The ship's not that big."

"So?"

Gault takes two long drinks of vodka, waits for the burn to clear his head. He needs to get out of this room, to get away from Keamy, but there's nowhere else to go.

"Aren't you afraid they'll lose respect for you? This is not generally seen as something that blokes like you get up to."

Keamy shrugs. "I'm not the one getting fucked."

Gault drinks again, suppresses the urge to grab him by the side and roll him onto the floor. He wouldn't likely survive the attempt.

"And they know that, do they? You have chats with them about it?"

Keamy smirks, and Gault sees only the edge of it, his face turned toward the wall.

"I don't think it's too hard to figure out, Captain."

"Did they create you in a test tube?" Gault rails, brushing off another insult. "Where do you come from that you think it matters who's fucking who? Men like that don't want to follow someone who's -- who's --"

"Shut up!" Keamy finally shouts, looking back over his shoulder to glower at Gault. "I'm trying to sleep! Fuck!"

Gault is left speechless. He swallows more vodka and then screws the cap back on, remembering his resolution not to drink in Keamy's presence. He falls into bed and stares at the ceiling, afraid to put the light out, though there's nothing short of murder that he wouldn't lie back and let Keamy do. He spends most of the night trying to come up with ways to get rid of him. Even if the communications equipment was working, he couldn't exactly tattle to Widmore. He's supposed to be the one in charge here, sort of, but Keamy has accosted the stateroom, taken him as a spoil of war, and all but officially assumed command.

*

Gault feels vaguely ill the following day, but it's not an entirely unpleasant feeling. He walks the deck listless and squint-eyed, without any real agenda, because there is nothing for him or anyone to do. Frank has informed him that he's worried about Regina. Minkowski has bolted himself inside the communications room. Even Kevin Johnson's gait as he walks across the deck with a bucket seems somehow malicious. Gault can only be glad he's not alone in going crazy.

Heading for the kitchen at noon, Gault thinks about good hangovers. He's had some that almost required hospitalization, and others that just cleared him out, left him with the faintest fuzz of a headache and the promise that he'd be cured after a huge meal. Searching the cabinets, he wishes for pancakes with Nutella, tacos, giant slices of pizza, anything hot and unhealthy. He finds a bag of potato chips and starts in on them, standing at the kitchen counter.

"Are you alright?" someone asks, and he turns to see Charlotte walking in behind him. She's looking at him as if he's someone to be pitied. He stuffs another handful of potato chips in his mouth, wishes she would stay out of it.

"I'm fine," he says. "Why do you ask?"

"Nothing." Her face turns red and she hurries out of the kitchen. So the word has already spread. Gault is indifferent to it. He'll save his sense of humiliation for the off chance that he'll ever see civilization again. He wishes the scientists would hurry up and go looking for Naomi already. They're planning on leaving tomorrow if the other helicopter still hasn't returned.

He washes potato chip dust off of his fingers and heads back upstairs, hears a kind of commotion coming from down the hall. He waits to make sure he doesn't hear Keamy's voice before walking ahead to see what's happening. The remainder of the burn ointment was used up this morning. Gault was half asleep and Keamy took his sweet time, heavy on Gault's back, both of them clinging to the edge of the mattress.

"What's going on?" Gault asks when he finds the source of the noise, in the communications room. Minkowski has reopened the door, and has allowed Frank and Brandon inside.

"I got the sat phones working last night," Minkowski says. "We've tried to call Naomi a couple of times, but there's some kind of transmission blocking the signal."

"A transmission from the Island?" Gault asks.

"I would guess so, yeah."

"Do you think it's Linus? Do you think he's done something to her?"

"It's possible."

"Anything's possible," Brandon adds, ridiculously. Gault gives him a look, and he slinks out of the room.

"What do you think, Cap?" Frank asks. "Should I fly the scientists over there?"

"It might not be safe," Gault says. "I don't like the idea of people going over there without any way of communicating with the ship."

"Keamy could go," Minkowski says. He and Frank share a look that makes Gault want to jump over the side of the ship and be done with it. "I mean, he could probably handle himself."

"I'll speak to him," Gault mutters, hurrying out of the room.

He finds Keamy on the deck with his men, studying a small, black book. He's sitting in the sun, the others pacing around him, in the midst of some mock boxing match, the biggest of them demonstrating a headlock on Omar.

"Keamy," Gault calls. Keamy looks up, shuts one eye and tries to make out Gault's form across the bright deck. The other men stop their game and stare. They seem to still be on Keamy's side, for whatever that's worth. Keamy gets up, and shoves the book into his back pocket as he's walking toward Gault. He stands close, crosses his arms like he's daring Gault to do something stupid, and hunches the way he always does when he's speaking to someone, because everyone else is shorter.

"What?"

"They -- Minkowski says there's some sort of transmission coming from the Island." Keamy smells like Gault's bed, and Gault has never been so bothered by anything, tries to refocus his train of thought. "It's disabling our sat phones. He's got them working now, did he tell you?"

"Yes."

"Well. Anyway. He thinks Linus may be doing it, he may have captured Naomi."

"That's not my problem."

"Right, well." Gault narrows his eyes. "We were just thinking you might want to fly to the Island ahead of the scientists. Considering that something -- that it might be dangerous."

Keamy shakes his head. "No. Widmore wanted them there first."

"He didn't want to send them to be killed by Linus, with no way of contacting the ship! What difference does it make?"

"I've got to be the last one on the Island," Keamy says. "Period. Don't argue with me."

Something about that last command strikes Gault silent. It's less ultimatum and more fair warning, or maybe he's projecting. He leaves, though it feels good out here in the sun, and makes a mental note to fish that black book out of Keamy's pocket later, while he's sleeping. He can't be sure, but Keamy seems to sleep very deeply. He'll have to do some tests to figure out if this hypothesis is correct. Pleased to have a chore, a mystery he actually has a chance of solving, he goes back to the kitchen to search out more junk food.

He takes a long nap in the afternoon, guiltily enjoying the feeling that someone else is keeping an eye on things. His dreams won't let him rest fully, and he has visions of a jungle, thoughts about the combat that he never saw in Vietnam. He wakes up worrying that the lack of travesty in his life has made him weak. Two swigs from the vodka bottle, and he's out the door again.

Minkowski still hasn't been able to get through to Naomi, and when Gault walks past the kitchen, he spots Frank and Keamy inside, having some kind of heated conversation. Charlotte is sitting at the table, trying to butt in, but they're mostly ignoring her. Faraday is lingering in the doorway, watching. He's got a pack of cards in his hand, like he showed up for a friendly game and found this instead.

"I'll go by myself, then!" Frank is saying.

"That's ridiculous!" Charlotte shouts.

"We'll stick to the plan," Keamy says. "There's no reason to think anything's even happened."

"Look me in the face and tell me you think Naomi's perfectly fine!" Frank says. Keamy is already looking him in the face, and Gault would have thought Frank smart enough to realize that doesn't mean anything.

"She's perfectly fine."

"For all you care," Charlotte mutters. "Perfectly fine at the bottom of a ditch."

"So are we leaving?" Faraday asks.

"Not all of us, not yet," Frank says, sighing. "As far as I'm concerned, it'd be like walking into an ambush. We'll wait until Minkowski hears --"

"And if he never hears from her?" Charlotte says. "We leave her for dead? It's not like we can turn back, anyway, with the engines broken."

"Wait two more days," Gault says from the doorway, and everyone turns as if surprised to hear him speak. "If Minkowski can't figure out a way around this transmission, Frank, you take the three you're supposed to fly ahead of Keamy. Bring weapons."

"I'm, ah, not especially comfortable, um. Firing a gun?" Faraday says.

"Keamy can give you lessons," Gault says, not daring to aim his smirk in Keamy's direction.

"I can give you lessons, Dan," Charlotte says before Keamy can protest. Faraday smiles sheepishly, thumbs through the deck of cards.

As if he's made some sort of final decree, Gault leaves the kitchen and walks to the engine room. Tonight it's empty, no one even bothering to tinker. He turns to head back for his stateroom, and starts a bit when he sees Miles standing at the other end of the hallway, watching him.

"Everything alright, Straume?" he calls, the question like an accusation.

"Yeah," Miles says. There is plain calculation in his eyes, and Gault is tired of seeing people's treachery clear on their faces, has never been so close to so much open deceit. "Fine."

Miles walks away, and Gault feels the hair on his arms prickle, as if there was some information Miles considered sharing but withheld, something he might have needed to know.

When he gets to his room, he's all the way through the door before he realizes that Keamy has beat him here. He's sitting at Gault's desk and paging through a booklet that Gault is familiar with, the spiral-bound protocol that Widmore gave both of them at their first meeting in Adelaide. There is a machine gun of some type sitting on the desk, and Keamy has his shirt off, has made himself at home.

"What are you doing in here?" Gault asks anyway. He bolts the door, and feels, actually, relieved to not be alone with himself.

"Reading."

"What, you haven't memorized all that by now?" Gault takes the bottle of vodka and has one quick drink before falling onto the bed. He's got to ration it; there's no telling how long they'll be here.

Keamy ignores him and continues studying the protocol. Gault lies back and considers the plans he's devised for driving Keamy away: attempts at physical affection and conversation. If he annoys him enough, he'll return to his men, maybe start screwing some other idiot to pass the hours. But first, Gault wants to find out what's in that black book. And anyway, for the moment, it's not so bad to have some silent company.

He picks up the Bible from the place on floor where Keamy tossed it last night, and remembers as he does that the lubricant they used is gone. This puts him in a minor panic, thinking that Keamy might not even bother with it rather than search out more. Gault wracks his brain for something else they might use, and remembers a first aid kit he saw under the bed on his first night in the stateroom. He reaches under the bed until he finds it, pulls it out and unlatches its clasp. As he sifts through it, coming up with liquid soap, antibiotic ointment and another tube of burn ointment, he sees Keamy watching him out of the corner of his eye.

"Here's hoping I don't get burned at some point and actually need this," Gault says, tossing the usable items up onto the bedside table. "Though I suppose the Doc has his own supply."

"Yeah," Keamy says after some silence that might have been awkward if they weren't well past that. "Here." He reaches under the desk and comes up with a tall bottle of something, throws it at Gault. It lands heavy on his stomach, and Gault curses him unenthusiastically as he examines the object: lotion with aloe.

"Stole this from the Doctor, did you?"

"No. From Lewis."

"Who?"

"The redhead."

"Oh. Right. Well. Were you a thief before you were a Marine?"

Keamy looks at him like he's tremendously stupid.

"See something you want, take it," he mutters. He turns back to the protocol. "It's not that hard."

Gault considers this as an invitation, but doesn't want to spoil his chance to examine that black book while Keamy sleeps, so he just rolls onto his side and pretends to doze. There is no sound in the room except for the occasional turn of a page, but Gault is wide awake as if there's a light glaring in his face. After some time passes, he hears Keamy get up and stretch with a groaning sigh. His boots hit the floor, trousers following. Gault stays still, tries to keep his forehead smooth, his eyelids relaxed.

Keamy steps over him, rocking the bed, and falls heavily onto the other side. Gault waits to be rolled over onto his back, the lotion within arm's reach on the floor, but Keamy just punches the bed's single pillow -- stolen from Gault, who sleeps with his head on the mattress -- and curls into his usual position. Insanely, Gault feels insulted, then just relieved, because he's sore as all hell. His relief quickly turns to boredom, and there lies the reason he's gotten himself into this situation in the first place.

Keamy has left the light at the desk on, which seems somehow indicative of everything about him that, on top of his bolder strangeness, is subtlety distorted. Gault waits as long as he can, then gets up and shuts it off. He looks back toward the bed, the room now pitch dark, and waits for his eyes to adjust in the small glow that creeps in under the stateroom door. It would be easier to extract the black book with the lights on, but Gault would also have a greater chance of getting caught. He glances at the desk to make sure Keamy's machine gun is still resting there.

Before he dares to crawl across the floor and go poking around in Keamy's discarded trousers, he goes back to the bed and lies still for awhile, listens to Keamy's breathing. It's deep and steady, without the hint of a snore. As his eyes adjust, he stares at the white spread of Keamy's back, waiting for a muscle twitch or an interruption in the puff and sink of his chest. He's almost lulled to sleep, watching, and he thinks of Vera, who he somehow expects to find out about this and to have already moved out of their house with Sammy, back to live with her parents in Rockhampton. She asked him, once, after watching some insipid romantic movie with her sister, why don't you ever watch me sleep? As if she would know about it, but she was right, he never did.

"Keamy," he tries whispering. He gets no response, then realizes this doesn't mean anything. Keamy ignores him often enough when he's not trying to sleep. "Wake up and I'll suck you off," he whispers, but even that doesn't seem enough to rile him, if he's determined to get some rest.

Gault swallows a tremor of fear, as if he's about to disturb a slumbering animal, and puts a hand flat against Keamy's back. The air seems to leave the room for a moment, and he waits for Keamy to snap around and pin him to the bed, growling some threat. Keamy doesn't move, and his breathing doesn't change. Gault risks moving his thumb slightly, delicate enough to feel the tiny hairs on Keamy's skin. Still, he doesn't flinch.

Satisfied that he's asleep, Gault carefully withdraws his hand, and leaves the bed as quietly as possible. On the floor, he moves in a squat to the place where Keamy left his trousers, a dusty pair of military style khakis, covered in pockets. Gault's unsteady hand goes to the back pocket where he saw Keamy slip the black book earlier, and when he feels the shape of it there, he has a brief fretting moment. This has been, so far, too easy. He looks back to Keamy, who is still facing the wall, still asleep.

Finally he comes to the difficult part: the velcro on the pocket. It takes ten excruciating minutes to pull the flap away without making a ripping static sound, and he keeps his eyes on the bed as he works, looking for any sign of movement. When he gets the pocket open he extracts the book and presses the trousers down to the floor, velcro flap up, so he won't have to go through that process again.

The book is smaller than Gault's hand, and his pulse races as he moves toward the door to try and read its contents in the light from the hallway. He checks Keamy again, afraid he'll hear his heart beating from across the room. Gault wouldn't even be vaguely surprised if he did.

When he finally brings the book down to the floor to read it in the light, he's so struck with disappointment that he almost flings it across the room. It's written in some other language: Russian, maybe? It could be Chinese, French, wouldn't matter. Gault only speaks English.

He checks the pages of the book for notes by Keamy, and only sees a string of numbers scrawled onto the back of the last page: 4 8 15 16 23 42. Like the rest of the book, it doesn't mean anything to Gault.

After putting the book back, and reinstalling Keamy's trousers into their previously crumpled position, he heads for the bed, feeling idiotic for thinking that there was even some small mystery on board this ship that he could solve. He's got one knee on the mattress when Keamy speaks, still facing the wall.

"Going to suck me off now?"

Gault freezes, his throat gone dry. He checks the desk again, and the gun is still there, a good six feet out of Keamy's reach. He only has a moment to be relieved before Keamy has grabbed his shirt and yanked him down to the bed.

"I didn't!" Gault sputters. "I'm not --"

"If you're done snooping through my shit, I'll take you up on your offer, okay?" Keamy doesn't sound particularly angry, though his grip on Gault's shirt communicates a fury that he won't otherwise let himself express. Gault nods, takes his hands from Keamy's arms and reaches for the hem of his underwear. He pulls them down only to Keamy's knees, so they'll cuff him if he changes his mind and decides to kill Gault after all.

"What's that book?" Gault asks when his lips are just nearly on the head of Keamy's cock. He looks up at Keamy with his own sort of threat, one he doesn't expect him to really buy into, and mashes his lips together to stop them from shaking.

"I don't know," Keamy says. He puts a finger against Gault's lips and pushes it into his mouth, moves it so that he'll suck on it. "I found it in the armory. I needed something to write on."

Keamy doesn't come until Gault's jaw is sore, brilliant revenge, and when he does, Gault swallows it all without a second thought, wanting it, hard inside his trousers just from this. He doesn't expect any sort of reciprocation, and Keamy only watches him as he spills lotion into his hand and pulls himself off, staring all the time at his face, never looking once down at his lap. Gault keeps Keamy's gaze when he's done, just waiting, nothing but curiosity for what he'll do next.

"If you touch my stuff again, I'll kill you," Keamy says. He blinks once and then rolls over, goes back to sleep.

Gault thinks of his sister shouting that at him when they were kids. He remembers Keamy mentioning his brother telling him to get out of his room. There is something very childish about all of this.

*

Gault moves forward with his plan to try and get rid of Keamy, though he's actually more amused than annoyed as his room begins to fill with Keamy artifacts: more guns, a second pair of boots, a can of WD-40. Still, he can't go on like this, sinking willingly into the feeling that nothing he does really matters, because this is some kind of purgatory he won't ever escape. He tries to surround himself with people who don't seem to share his sense of dread. This amounts to only Frank and perhaps Charlotte. Keamy, too, remains consistently unperturbed, though borrowing his confidence is really very counterproductive, because he also represents everything that is wrong here.

"What did you do in the Marines?" Gault asks him one night when they're still out of breath, Keamy standing by the desk and chugging water like he's just run a marathon, which is nearly true. Gault is used up and exhausted, huddled self-consciously under a blanket, though it's baking hot in the stateroom.

"Why do you want to know?"

"Never mind why I want to know. I do, alright, and you can either tell me or not, I don't give a stuff either way."

"When someone asks you a question, the only thing that matters is why they want the answer," Keamy says. He puts down the water bottle and walks to the bed, crawls onto his stomach. Gault is suddenly bothered by how close he is, despite the fact that Keamy was inside him five minutes ago. He looks at the ceiling.

"Are you quoting something? Read that in The Art of War, did you?"

"No. It's just common sense."

"Nothing you say makes a damn bit of sense to me, but alright."

Keamy sniffs and grins, looks at his hands. He's propped up on his elbows, and he spends a few minutes peeling sunburned skin from his left arm. After he's successfully strewn dead skin all over Gault's sheets, he leans over and puts his hand on Gault's throat, neither a caress nor a warning. He tips Gault's jaw with his index finger, makes him meet his eyes.

"I was a sniper."

"You're lying." Gault didn't mean to say so out loud, but he's quite pleased with himself for being absolutely certain, and he couldn't help it. Keamy's hand tightens on his throat.

"What makes you think that you can tell when I'm lying?"

"Why would I tell you that?" Gault laughs for no real reason, maybe going light-headed as Keamy's fingers push into the muscles of his neck.

There's a knock on the door, and Keamy removes his hand but otherwise doesn't stir. Gault doesn't bother to get up, either, just tips his head backward as if he'll see who's there.

"What?" he calls, surprised that Keamy didn't try to answer for him.

"Sir," someone says, either Jeff or Brandon, Gault can't tell their voices apart. "We've had a communication from Naomi."

"Well, what did she say?" Gault hadn't realized until now how much he doesn't care, and it startles him. He sits up, pulls the blanket around his waist.

"Nothing. The signal came from her sat phone, but Minkowski is speaking with someone else."

"Someone else? Linus?"

Keamy sits up now, fast.

"No, not Linus. His name is Jack."

"Is he working for Linus?" Keamy shouts, tripping into his trousers as he heads for the door. Gault hurries to put his own on before he can pull it open.

"He's not." It's Jeff, standing in the hallway and looking equal parts terrified and humiliated by the sight of Keamy in the stateroom. "He says he's a survivor of Oceanic flight 815. He's not the only one."

"Shit!" Keamy shoves Jeff out of the way and hurries out into the hall without bothering to put on a shirt. Gault and Jeff stare at each other for a moment.

"Who else knows about this?" Keamy shouts back down the hall.

"Um." Jeff glances at Gault. "Everyone, now."

*

Up on deck, Frank is preparing the helicopter for takeoff. Gault doesn't know quite what is going on, but allows the situation to remain opaque for now. Keamy is in the communications room with Minkowski, keeping a close watch on what he says to the survivors. Faraday and Charlotte are loading their packs into the copter.

"Where's Miles?" Faraday asks.

"Taking his time, I suppose," Charlotte says.

"Have you both got guns?" Gault shouts over the noise from the chopper as it begins to fire up.

"Your -- Keamy wouldn't give us any," Charlotte says bitterly. "I wasn't told to bring a weapon on this lovely voyage, or I would have. Miles has one."

"Here," Gault mutters, having a look round the deck before pulling a hand gun from where he'd tucked it into his trousers, under the back of his shirt. He hands it to Faraday.

"Don't tell Keamy I gave you that."

Faraday does his best to smile, looks queasy. Gault had planned on giving the gun to the girl, but at the moment he's more worried about Faraday.

"Captain!"

Gault turns to see Brandon heading across the deck, Miles following.

"Captain," he says again, out of breath. "Just had a communication from Naomi. She said something about a -- tree branch -- she's injured -- but then she gave the code."

"Her sister?"

"Yeah, that. They've captured her. She's under some kind of duress."

"Might it be Linus' people, then? Just saying they're from Oceanic 815?"

"Anything's possible," Brandon says, and Gault gets a sense of deja vu beyond just having heard him say so before.

"Are you sure you want to go?" he says to Faraday, who is lingering on the deck, Charlotte and Miles already in the helicopter with Frank.

"I think I have to," Faraday says, and as Gault watches him climb in, he's fairly sure Faraday isn't referring to his responsibility to Widmore.

He stands back and watches the chopper leave, Brandon beside him with his arms crossed. With the scientists gone, the ship immediately seems too quiet, an eerie hopelessness thickening.

"Great," Brandon says. "Hurry up and wait. How long are they going to be gone? Another seven days?"

"I told them to be back in three," Keamy says from behind them, and they both turn to see him standing with his fists curled at his sides, staring at the helicopter as it flies farther from the ship.

"I think Naomi's dead," he adds before walking away.

*

Gault spends the evening in his stateroom, lying in his bed and reading the Bible. He's never really even looked at it before. His parents were not religious, but his grandparents did drag him to church a time or two as a kid. He remembers flipping through the books of gospel lyrics that sat on the pews, but never this book. He fully expects Keamy to pummel him to death when he comes back and finds one of his guns missing, and he searches the tissue-thin pages for some appropriate final sentiment, though actually he feels pretty peaceful already.

"Want to hear a relevant quote?" he asks when Keamy comes in, much later than usual, or at least it seems so. Keamy only gives him a flick of a glance before he walks to the desk, screws the cap off the vodka and takes a long drink.

"Never been drunk in your life, eh?" Gault says with a laugh, familiar enough with this kind of desperate gulping, which is not for beginners.

"I didn't say I never drink." Keamy wipes his mouth. "I just don't let it make me stupid."

"Oh, well, you ought to sometime, it's a real enjoyable experience, at least at first. So do you want to hear this quote?"

"I'd rather have some peace and fucking quiet."

"You've come to the wrong room, then. Listen. 'My righteousness draws near speedily,'" he reads. "'My salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.'"

"What are you talking about?" Keamy snaps, as if this is something Gault just said, his original take on the situation. Gault laughs and drops the Bible onto the bedside table.

"I don't know, maybe I'm cracking up like Regina and Faraday. Did you see him before he got on the helicopter? I think he expects to end up like Naomi."

"He'd better not," Keamy says. "I don't need any more delays."

"What if there are survivors?" Gault asks. He's been thinking about it, about what Vera would say if he came back not only with Ben Linus in chains, but with forty sad sacks who'd been stranded on an island for months. "Would we bring them back with us?"

"No."

"Why not? It might not be the most comfortable ride, but --"

"I said no!" Keamy shouts. "What the fuck do you care, anyway?"

He sits heavily at the desk, and puts his head in his hands for a moment, sucks his breath in and straightens. Gault watches whatever panic that was rising in face sink down again and disappear.

"What's the matter with you?" Gault asks.

Keamy glares at him. "What's the matter with you?"

"A lot, turns out. Come over here."

"Why?"

"Goddammit, Keamy, why do you think? Fine, stay there, it's good to be in this bed without you fucking crowding me for once."

Keamy drinks again, then puts the cap on and tosses Gault the bottle. He touches the protocol that is still sitting on the desk, watches the reflection of the lamp on its clear plastic cover. Gault holds the bottle but doesn't drink, though he's very tempted to drain it.

"Why did you leave the Marines?" he asks. He doesn't expect an answer.

"Because," Keamy says. "I wanted to see the world."

Gault feels stabbed. He told his mother the same thing when he joined the Royal Navy. Australia had just gotten involved in Vietnam, and she was horrified that he'd be killed in a jungle without a proper burial. She had dreams about it, she said, saw his restless soul wandering forever past mango trees and grass huts. Gault was more interested in seeing what a jungle really looked like than staying home and not dying in one.

"So did you?" he asks Keamy.

"I guess." Keamy seems restless. He walks to the bed and tips his chin back, looks down his nose at Gault. "One of my guns is missing," he says.

"What are you worried about? Think I've got it under the pillow here, ready to kill you?"

"You did something with it."

"Alright, I did. I guess you're going to kill me now, then. Go ahead and do it, if it'll get that thoughtful look off your face."

Gault feels untouchable in a claustrophobic way, like a death row inmate shoveling in his last meal. When Keamy leans down to the bed, he grabs his shirt and yanks him close, breathes into his face. Keamy just stares at him as if he's a platypus, something grotesquely extraordinary.

"What's your first name?" Gault asks. Widmore said it in Adelaide, but that was three thousand years ago. Keamy gives up his footing on the floor and falls completely onto Gault, crushing him into the mattress.

"Why do you want to know?"

Gault scoffs.

"Why did you want to see the world?" he asks. Keamy frowns, and Gault gets the impression that he's never before had someone talk to him like they've got nothing to lose.

Keamy doesn't answer, except to flip Gault onto his stomach urgently, as if he can't stand the sight of his face for another minute. He puts his mouth on the back of Gault's neck, and neatly bites his way down to Gault's shoulder, making him jitter against the mattress. His hands trail down Gault's body, drawing him easily to his knees. Keamy bends up behind him like a wave, and Gault shudders hard, waiting to be struck by it.

"That wasn't relevant, by the way," Keamy says.

"What?"

Keamy reaches around to rip the front of Gault's trousers open, and he slides his shorts down along with them.

"After that, declares the Lord," he says. "I will hand over Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword, and famine, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who seek their lives. He will put them to the sword, he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion."

Gault lets out his breath, hadn't realized he was holding it until his lungs started to burn. Keamy turns him over onto his back, presses hard on his chest with one hand that seems to span the width of him.

"That," he says. "Was relevant. You shouldn't talk about things you don't understand."

"I thought you said you weren't religious." Gault stares up at him, too bewildered to worry about Keamy tilting him back, pulling his legs up.

"You know what?" Keamy narrows his eyes like a disappointed teacher. "You don't pay enough attention to what people don't say. I said I'm not religious. I didn't say I never was."

"So you -- were?"

"No. Always sounded like a lot of bullshit to me."

"Then why --"

"Had to memorize it. Fuck, do you ever stop talking?"

Facing the ceiling, Gault doesn't have anyplace to bury the screams that Keamy brings out of him, and he doesn't mind, really, likes the idea of irritating him by not shutting up even now, pleads out his name like it's the only word that's ever been worth saying. Keamy holds his wrists together while he fucks him, thumbs digging in, again making him one pulsing pressure point. He looks like living marble, his eyes half shut, mouth slick and swollen, muscles moving evenly under his skin, he doesn't even break a sweat.

When Keamy wipes himself clean on the sheets and rolls over, Gault feels torn in half, misses his wife so much he could weep. He wants someone to wrap around and put his face against. Vera would rub his back, scratch her fingers through his hair. Keamy is through with him, and Gault doesn't want those things from him, anyway. Regret pokes into him like a sprout finally pushing through soil.

"I thought you knew my first name," Keamy says. Gault jumps, thought he had already fallen asleep. "It's Martin."

"After that Protestant bloke?" He should be dreaming up ten life stories for Keamy based on this new information, but he's so tired. He listlessly envisions horrifyingly devout parents, an orphanage run by nuns.

"No," Keamy says. "After the saint."

Chapter Text

Gault wakes up to shouts from the higher decks, decides he's dreaming and rolls over. He's vaguely aware of Keamy asleep beside him, the scent of him a kind of dull brine hanging in the air. He got elbowed three times in the night for snoring, and thought at least once that it was Vera telling him to knock if off or go find someplace else to sleep. But Vera never left his ribs sore after her warnings, and he winces against the sheets when he rolls over, feels achy in the comfortable way only a person in bed can appreciate.

He hears the shouts again, and this time willfully ignores them, though the first push of concern has started in his chest, rolling over his senses and waking him bit by bit. A woman screams from somewhere up on deck -- Regina, certainly, the only woman left on board -- and he opens his eyes. Keamy is already awake, staring at the ceiling like he'll discover the problem there.

"What's going on?" Gault asks in a groan, as if Keamy will know. It's been two days since the scientists left, and Gault prays they haven't come back bloodied and broken. An electrical storm brought down their chopper when they reached the Island, but everyone on board survived, and apparently even the chopper is still operable. Gault hopes they won't suffer the same fate as Naomi among the people on the Island who claim to be the survivors of the Oceanic crash, or at least not Faraday and Charlotte, who seem, respectively, too kind and too smart to die here. Miles could go either way.

"Something's wrong," Keamy says.

"No kidding," Gault mutters when another scream rips through the walls of the stateroom, this one definitely a man's, sounding less terrified and more maniacal.

They dress more slowly than they should, Keamy out of indifference and Gault out of dread. Gault is sorry that they can't linger in bed, that he won't be held tightly in the only available fashion, Keamy moving inside him with a sleepwalker's rhythm. It has at last become a comfort, having anyone's arms around him, and someone who isn't afraid after what they've been hearing from the Island, all the better.

Today, there is no escape from the fear that has settled over the rest of them like a mist. Even Keamy's men have begun locking themselves in the armory at night. Gault is glad not to be walking up to the deck alone as someone screams, over and over again:

"Who the hell are you people?"

They reach the deck and find that it is Brandon doing the screaming, the rest of the crew and half of Keamy's men circled around him like animal handlers, their arms stretched out as if to push him back into the center of the circle, should he try to escape. Brandon looks wild enough for this kind of treatment, tears streaked down his cheeks, and as Gault is coming up the last of the stairs he gets a shock of baseless recognition that nearly stops him in his tracks. Has this happened before? More than once?

"What the hell's going on?" Keamy has already drawn his gun, which seems like the worst kind of omen. Minkowski is lying motionless on the deck, and Gault assumes that Brandon has gone insane and killed him.

"Stay still!" Keamy shouts. He points his gun at Brandon, who is stumbling around, taking huge breaths and holding the sides of his head like he's trying to keep his brain in.

"Grab him!" Keamy says, flicking his head at two of his men. They look at him uncertainly, and only Omar moves forward to do as Keamy asked. He tackles Brandon from behind, and Brandon struggles helplessly, hiccups a sob.

"How did I get here?" he cries. "What do you people want?"

When he's restrained, Gault crosses the circle to Minkowski and kneels beside him. He looks for gaping wounds or bruises on his neck, but there are none, and when he checks for a pulse, he feels one hammering hard, as if Minkowski is running on a treadmill, not lying limp on the deck.

"He's alive!" Gault says, more relieved than he expected, as if this proves something. He hauls Minkowski up, and the doctor, Ray, rushes over to get his feet.

"We'll take him to the sick bay," Ray says.

Keamy walks up to Omar and Brandon, who is still fighting feebly, and pushes Omar aside. He clocks Brandon in the back of the head with his gun, and Regina shrieks. Brandon falls to the deck with a kind of splat, like a pile of seaweed, and Gault realizes for the first time that both he and Minkowski are soaking wet.

"You can take him, too," Keamy says, nudging Brandon with the toe of his boot.

"What the hell happened to him?" Gault asks Ray as they carry Minkowski to the sick bay. Jeff and Regina are following with Brandon. "Did Brandon hurt him?"

"I don't know," Ray says. "Apparently they took a boat to the Island --"

"They did what?" Gault nearly drops Minkowski.

"Yeah, well. You were sleeping."

"Might someone have tried to stop them?" Gault shouts. They arrive at the sick bay and hoist Minkowski into one of the beds. Regina and Jeff are close behind with Brandon, who is still mostly unconscious but moaning slightly.

"He shouldn't have hit him in the head," Ray says, frowning down at Brandon. "He probably has a head injury already, that's probably what's caused the disorientation. I don't know exactly what happened to them, but getting hit in the head isn't going to help." He turns back to Gault with a look of accusation

"Tell it to Keamy," Gault says. "I didn't hit him." Everyone in the sick bay is now looking at him as if he should have been able to stop this, and he wishes he didn't feel the same way. He storms out and returns to the deck, where the onlookers have mostly dispersed. Keamy is examining the Zodiac, which is wet and turned on its side.

"I don't think they damaged the boat," he says when Gault approaches.

"Well, that's a relief." Gault scoffs. Keamy gives him the look that is becoming familiar, as if he can't believe Gault ever learned to tie his shoes, let alone captain a ship of this size.

"Yeah, it is," he says. "Cause if that chopper doesn't come back, this is our only way onto the Island."

"Right, and it worked out really well for Minkowski and Brandon."

"Those idiots? That doesn't mean anything."

"Why don't you hold off on that conclusion until we've found out what the hell's even wrong with them?"

Gault walks away from him, not knowing where he's headed. There is nowhere on this ship that he wants to be.

*

Brandon is dead by nightfall. When Ray passes Gault in the hall, the left side of his lab coat darkened by a gigantic bloodstain, Gault doesn't even ask. Ray's best explanation for Minkowski's condition is that he "seems to think he's elsewhere" and is suffering blackouts.

"So he's gone insane, then?" Gault says. "Just from getting in a boat?"

"He has periods of lucidity. He wants to be -- released from the sick bay."

"Do you think he should be?"

Ray looks down at his lab coat, which is growing stiff with Brandon's blood. "No," he says.

"Alright, then."

Gault goes back to the stateroom, hoping that Keamy will be there. When he pushes the door open and sees Keamy on the floor by the bed, doing crunches, he bucks what's left of his restraint, bolts the door.

"Keamy," he says, and something in his voice must be different, because for once Keamy immediately acknowledges that he's being spoken to, stops his crunching and lies still. He stares, out of breath, as Gault sinks to the floor and straddles him.

Gault puts his hands over Keamy's ears and leans down to him. Keamy grabs his sides as if he's preparing to throw him off, but when Gault kisses him, pries his lips apart and licks his teeth, his tongue, Keamy only laughs into his mouth like he can't believe Gault has the nerve.

"Please," Gault says, and he moves to Keamy's neck like a small consolation, runs his tongue beneath his jaw line. Keamy's hands slacken on his sides, and Gault presses his face to his throat, listens to his heart pound like a war drum.

"Brandon's dead," Gault says. Keamy sighs, not out of sympathy or regret, but with impatience, because Gault has stopped grinding against his lap and started talking.

"It's his own fault," he says, trying to move past this by tugging Gault's shirt over his head.

"I wish I was like you," Gault says. "I wish I didn't care."

"You don't."

"Oh really?" The welcome distraction of being irritated with Keamy spreads through him, something warm and red-tinted.

"No. You just think that you should. Guilt. It's a waste of time. C'mere."

He pulls Gault down and kisses him on the mouth, arching up into him, eager for something new. They've worn everything else out, especially in the last two days, with opportunities to do anything else on this ship growing few and farther between. Gault lets his bones go weak, wishes he had tried this sooner. He'd forgotten how good it is, hasn't even kissed his wife like this since before they were married. Keamy is bruisingly enthusiastic, rolls Gault over and crushes the breath out of him. Gault stuffs down a laugh when he realizes Keamy is probably just glad he's found a way to reliably shut him up.

Keamy leans Gault onto the bed, kneels behind him and takes his trousers down with one hand. Gault flops over gratefully, licks his lips. If he'd known it would be this fucking fantastic, letting someone else do all the work, he would have found a bloke like Keamy a long time ago. Doubtful that there is another quite like him, though, or that Gault would be able to face this down outside of a marooned freighter. Keamy's chest is flush against his back, and Gault can feel his heartbeat thrumming up his spine, hard but hollow. He shuts his eyes and sees them both dead in less than a week. There is no other way out of this.

Afterward, Keamy climbs into the bed, and Gault collapses behind him. He feels reality creep back in the way it always does -- brief repulsion, a fleeting desire to put his face against Keamy's back, then the weight of everything else. It's like scratching an itch and being left with nail marks on his skin, sometimes literally.

He puts the light out, gets under the blankets. Keamy is still breathing hard, awake.

"Where did Widmore find you?" Gault asks him, for the second time.

Keamy rolls onto his back. Gault can't see him in the dark stateroom, but he knows the geography of this bed and Keamy's body well enough by now. A tinny scream comes from somewhere on the ship, or maybe from the ocean.

"I have a reputation," Keamy says. "That's how he found me."

"I'm sure you do. How many people do you suppose you've killed?"

"Why the hell would I tell you that?"

"You might have killed Brandon, you know. Hitting him in the head like that."

"Who gives a shit? He was a lost cause."

"Where did you come from?" Gault asks, his voice rising with every word. "Was what I meant to ask."

"Las Vegas."

"Oh, for fuck's sake. That doesn't explain anything."

"I don't have to explain myself to you."

"Maybe not. But I think I'm owed an explanation, at this point. What would it hurt?"

Keamy laughs. He puts his hand around Gault's throat. It's a regular thing, not alarming anymore. Gault does it to himself now, when Keamy is not around, feels for the tick in the hollow of his throat, covers his neck with a hand not as big as Keamy's.

"What do you want to know?" he asks, tightening his grip, daring Gault to ask the wrong question.

"Have you got a family?" Gault asks. "I've got a wife and a son," he volunteers when Keamy's fingers pinch in slightly.

"Do I look like I'm fucking married?"

"I don't know, do I? You must have had parents, once. You said you had a brother."

"I never said that."

"Yes, you did."

Keamy is silent for a moment, maybe weighing his options here. Gault tries to sort them out: Keamy could kill him and be done with it. Nobody would be able to do anything about it. He could roll over and try to sleep, stay anonymous forever, lose what might be his last chance to impress someone in a dark room with the particulars of what he's seen. He could lie just to shut Gault up.

"I'm a failed government experiment," Keamy says. "I didn't leave the Marines. They left me. They revised the plan and started over."

"Right, mate." Gault laughs, relieved that he went with the lie. "You don't feel like a robot to me. Though you do act like one, I'll give you that."

"I didn't say I was a robot."

"How else could you be an experiment?"

"That's classified."

"Who cares? You think I'm going to go home and write a book about all of this? You think I'm even going to get home, ever, that you are?"

Keamy doesn't respond. His thumb is moving against the side of Gault's neck, fluttering, an artificial pulse tapping against his skin.

"Widmore didn't give me a briefing on you," he finally says.

"Well, he didn't give me one on you, either, Keamy, so I guess we're even."

Gault doesn't realize until long after Keamy has rolled toward the wall that he might have been asking to know something about him, a fair exchange of information. He feels stupidly guilty, and turns toward Keamy, puts his face against his back so he'll have the conciliatory pleasure of pushing it off. He falls asleep that way, waiting.

*

Frank returns the following morning not with the scientists, but with two people from the Island. Everything quickly goes to hell.

"One of them has whatever Minkowski has," Keamy tells Gault, who has decided not to leave the stateroom anymore. The vodka is long gone. The sight of Keamy coming through the door has replaced it, and he's too far gone to worry about how much more dangerous this new addiction is. Like the drinking, it went so quickly from a distraction to an obsession, to something he needs more and more of, never enough.

"Whatever Minkowski has," Gault repeats listlessly. He sits on the bed beside Keamy, watches him open a can of tuna fish and eat it with his fingers.

"Do you want some?" Keamy barks, annoyed by his staring.

"I don't have much of an appetite, mate."

Keamy finishes his lunch and leaves. Gault tries to read while he's gone, a copy of The Sea, The Sea that he found in Faraday's room. It's more entertaining than the Bible, particularly Faraday's barely legible scrawlings in the margins, but he still can't concentrate. At one point, an alarm goes off. He sits, listens, waits.

When Keamy returns, he has Frank with him. The alarm has been turned off. Keamy walks to the desk, picks up the empty vodka bottle and throws it into the corner opposite the bed, smashing it into a thousand pieces.

"Jesus!" Frank says, backing toward the door. Keamy draws his hands through his hair, collects himself.

"Frank let them talk to Faraday!" Keamy says, pointing at Frank. Gault stands up, tries to even nominally understand what is going on.

"Let who talk to Faraday?"

"I thought you said the Captain wanted to see me?" Frank says to Keamy, frowning.

"He does," Keamy says, still pointing. "Tell him to stay the hell away from those survivors," he says to Gault. "Tell him I'm handling it."

"What were they doing talking to Faraday?" Gault asks. "Is he alright?"

"Hell if I know!" Frank says. "He thought he could help the one guy with his -- disorientation."

"Leave that to the doctor," Keamy says.

"Because he did such a good job with Minkowski!" Frank scoffs, shakes his head. "He's dead, by the way," he says to Gault. "Captain, I gotta tell you --"

"Listen to Keamy," Gault says. "Don't let those survivors manipulate you. If they even are survivors. Naomi is dead because of them. God knows what they're doing with Faraday and Charlotte."

"They said --"

"I don't care what they said! We've got no reason to trust them."

"What's talking to Faraday going to hurt?" Frank asks, at a loss. Gault has no idea how to answer that. He thinks of Faraday's handwriting in the margins of the novel he's been reading. Beside one passage he wrote: it took me 210 pages to decide this narrator is unreliable.

"Frank," Keamy snaps. "Stay out of it."

Frank pushes out of the room, and Gault is relieved when he's gone, watches Keamy bolt the door.

"One of them wants to talk to you," he says.

"Who?" It doesn't matter -- Gault doesn't want to speak to anybody.

"One of the survivors. If that's what they even are," Keamy adds, and Gault knows he doesn't really suspect them of working for Linus, just wants to encourage him to think so. "His name is Sayid Jarrah."

"Good for him. What's he want to talk to me for?"

"I don't know. I wouldn't bother."

"Alright."

Keamy picks him up, pins him to the wall. Gault kisses him hard, has been waiting for this all day. Keamy is more responsive than usual, less mechanical, either because he's upset about Frank's insubordination or proud of himself for making the Captain of this ship his pawn. Maybe both. Gault pulls at him like he's a shirt he's trying to take off, can't get him close enough or take it hard enough, because this is the only thing that blanks his mind clear like a tall glass stacked with ice. He imagines the bubbles from the shot of tonic jumping against his face, the poisonous smell, good enough to get him a little bit high before he even takes a sip. This is all of that and more, another thing he doesn't really believe a person can recover from.

"Is Minkowski really dead?" he asks when he's close to falling asleep, his face pressed to the mattress. Keamy is beside him, programming a digital watch.

"Yeah. Listen. We're going to get Linus. Frank's flying us over there at six AM. This whole thing's gotten fucked up, and I can't wait around to straighten out this bullshit with the scientists."

"You're going to bring them back, too, though?" Gault sits up on an elbow, stares at him. Keamy curses his watch, slaps it against his knee.

"What the hell's wrong with this thing?" he mutters.

"Keamy!"

"I'm sorry you're suddenly so attached to them, but no, we're not going to waste time trying to find the scientists," he says, glaring at Gault.

"Attached to them! They're people! Our people! Can you at least conceive of the fact that a normal human being would want to do something? To help them?"

"Sure, fine, but we don't have time."

"What is Widmore paying you?" Gault shoves Keamy's shoulder, makes him look at him. Keamy grabs Gault's throat, pushes him back against the wall. "Tell me," Gault coughs out. "I want to know what you're getting out of this."

"It's my job." Keamy holds him in place, watches him. Gault thinks for a moment that this might be it, that Keamy will snap his neck so he can get a good night's rest before the trip to the Island. But he releases him, gets out of bed and begins packing guns in a duffel.

"I'll go, then," Gault says, rubbing his throat. "I'll take the Zodiac and bring back Faraday and --"

"You'll end up like Minkowski and Brandon," Keamy says.

"Well, that's my problem, isn't it?"

"No. I need you to stay here and keep things in order until I get back. Make sure those people from the Island don't screw anything up."

"Why don't you leave one of your men here to do that?"

"Because I need them with me. Don't argue with me, Gault."

He gets smashed apart by the sound of his name, can’t respond. It's the first time Keamy has said it, the first time he's even heard it in what feels like years. He's been 'Captain' for the past few weeks, in name if nothing else.

"Listen," Keamy says. He sighs, rubs a hand across his face. He seems constantly exhausted, and considering how quickly he popped up when Gault snooped through his things, he wonders how well he really ever sleeps.

"If we run across the scientists, and if we have room on the chopper, maybe, depending on what's going on, we'll bring one or two of them back. That's the best I can do."

Gault knows he's lying, but slides back down into bed and pretends to be placated by this, because he also knows there is nothing he can say or do to convince Keamy to help those people. He knows, too, that he won't be able to do anything himself, not really. They're gone.

Hours pass, and neither of them can sleep. Gault has never seen Keamy tense before, watches with fascination out of the corner of his eye as he tosses and turns, hissing curses under his breath.

"Here," Gault finally says, tired of listening to it. He takes Keamy's hand, for a moment is distracted by the way it feels in his, heavy and hot. He brings Keamy's fingers to his throat. Keamy leaves them there, stares at Gault for twenty heartbeats, then puts his mouth on the place where his pulse stutters hardest, the gap in his collar bone, an evolutionary mystery, something so vulnerable and so easy to reach. Gault goes hard while Keamy licks the soft skin there, is too tired to do anything about it. Eventually they fall asleep, Keamy's face tucked under Gault's chin.

Gault dreams that the ship explodes, disappears in a fireball bigger than this Island he's never seen. It's a profound relief, and it feels so real he wakes up with his eyes wet, thinking it's over, he's free. Keamy is standing in the middle of the room, buckling his belt. Gault wipes his face, watches him pick up his duffel and go to leave.

"Martin," he says. Keamy turns back with just one shoulder, one cheek, his hand on the doorknob.

"Huh?"

"What'll we do if you die?"

The duffel shifts in Keamy's hand; Gault hears metal clicking against metal. Keamy's silhouette is huge against the light from beneath the door, and it dawns on Gault like regaining breath, what he's lately been realizing. He's wanted to be consumed by something bigger than himself for a long time, forever. Something that would certainly kill him if he lost his footing for even a moment. He wanted to be in the ocean for the same reason, remembers being very young and running toward it before he knew how to swim, his mother screaming behind him, rushing to stop him from drowning.

"I won't," Keamy says, and he walks out the door.

*

Gault has been partly looking forward to sobriety, but, as ever, it's disappointing. With Keamy gone, he faces the same problem he's had every time he's tried to quit drinking. What the hell to do with all these hours?

Ray comes to tell him about Minkowski around noon, and Gault is relieved to have something to think about. He puts on a jacket while Ray stands in the middle of the room and surveys it, his lip curling a bit at the broken glass and the wrecked sheets.

"There was nothing I could do for him," Ray says. "But that man from the Island seems to have stabilized. They want to see you, to talk to you."

"Fine," Gault says, having grown at least curious about these people. "Bring them to the deck. I'll be up there in a minute."

He goes to the kitchen and finds it completely empty. There was enough food here for at least another month last time he visited, but he suddenly can't remember when that was. Perhaps it's been a month. His stomach growls, and he leaves the kitchen, heads for the deck.

The sun is harsh and hot, directly above them, and he lingers in the doorway that leads out from quarters, surveys the deck. The sound of chains clicking together comes from above him, and he doesn't think anything of it, spots Ray standing with two men across the deck, one tall and dark, the other smaller and lighter.

"Hey!" the smaller one calls, and for a moment Gault thinks he's talking to him. Then he looks up, sees Regina wrapped in chains. She's dead, he thinks with alarm, but she hasn't even jumped yet. When she does, both of the men standing with Ray race forward as if to help her.

"Don't just stand there!" the smaller man shouts to a few crew members who are back near the stern, staring and silent. "What's wrong with you people"?

Gault trips out of the doorway, watches them shouting about ropes and getting her up. As if the splash she made when she hit the water wasn't a clear enough death knell.

"Stop!" he shouts as members of the crew begin to listen to the survivors.

"She just jumped!" the smaller man yells.

"It's over," Gault says. He walks down to the deck, newly confident without Keamy here to dwarf him. "She's gone."

The survivors make a fuss about Regina. Though they're new here, he's surprised they don't already understand.

"I didn't jump in, or order my crew to jump in, because I didn't want to lose any more people," he tells them, sympathizing regretfully with Keamy's short patience for moralizing. These protests are well out of context. This is beyond explanation, but he tries. The engines, the sabotage, his orders. He even tells them who he's working for when they ask.

"This is Charles Widmore's boat?" the smaller one asks, as if an affirmative answer would be a portent of the apocalypse.

"That's right," Gault says, recognizing the man now, from a photograph Widmore showed him, a warning about his daughter trying to interfere. Desmond Hume, the lost sailor. "You know him."

He shows them the black box, not really sure why. Acting as if he actually knows more about what's going on here than other people do is a bit intoxicating, and anyway he feels like a chat. When he's through explaining about the 324 bodies Linus sunk into the wreckage of the phony Oceanic 815, he feels he's done a fairly good job of convincing them that, at least at the outset, this mission to capture Linus was worthwhile. Their protests silenced for now, he summons Ray to take them back to their quarters.

When they're gone, he hurries to bolt the door of the stateroom and goes for Faraday's copy of The Sea, The Sea, which is pushed halfway under the bed. He flips frantically through the pages, until he finds the Dylan Thomas lines he remembers reading, toward the back, written in pencil:

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


"Sang in my chains like the sea," Gault mutters, maybe five hundred times, until he's laughing like a lunatic.

*

He resumes control of the ship, even beats the hell out of two crew members when they try to take off in the Zodiac. He's not sure if he's become so adamant about no one going to the Island because he himself is too much of a coward to go after the scientists, or if he's just protecting the Zodiac because, eventually, he will.

Sayid bursts into the stateroom one night, and Gault looks up hopefully, expecting Keamy. Not seeing him there doesn't make the news about who has been sabotaging the ship any easier. It was the janitor all along, of course. Gault cuffs him and locks him in a bunker. He should kill him, maybe, but he's never killed anyone.

"You're working for Linus?" he asks the man, who Sayid tells him is actually called Michael, not Kevin. What's the fucking difference, Gault wants to scream. He's just another stranger who can't be trusted, like anyone else, like himself, as far as the others are concerned.

Michael doesn't answer, which is answer enough.

He hears the helicopter that night, feels it coming closer like a blood red sun rising through him. Keamy has returned with Linus. Gault has discovered and retained the traitor. They'll make Michael fix the engines, and maybe Gault will have time to recover the scientists while he's working.

He doesn't really believe any of it will go that well, walks to the deck like he's wearing his chains. Keamy is helping to unload someone from the helicopter, someone who looks dead. Gault watches, thinking Keamy has accidentally killed Linus, then he realizes it's one of Keamy's men on death's door, that Linus must have gotten away.

"I need you to tell me how many people are on that Island, and where every single one of them is," Keamy is growling in Sayid's face when Gault walks down to the deck.

"And why would I do that?" Sayid asks.

"Keamy!" Gault shouts, before he can rip the man's head off. "What the hell do you think you're doing, mate?"

Shouldn't have tossed the 'mate' in there, but he does that when he's nervous. When Keamy's eyes flick to him, Gault is sorry he spoke at all. He walks to Gault and sticks a gun under his jaw in lieu of a greeting. He looks ten years older than he did two days ago, and Gault remembers Regina calling him flat, can't imagine a better word for his expression. It's not blank, but trying to be, pressed down.

"You gave me up," Keamy says, and the flatness peels at the corners, his jaw going tight.

"What?"

"Linus knew who I was," Keamy says. Gault can see the shadow of some now-buried fear on his face, knows that men like him should never be allowed to be afraid, that they will take it out on everyone around them, tenfold. "He knew my name. He knew everything about me."

Everything? Gault doesn't see how that could be true. He's beginning to doubt that there is anything to Keamy except what's here on the surface, the gun pointed in his face.

"No." Gault swallows hard. "I'm not the one who gave you up."

"Then who did?"

"I'll show you," Gault says. He reaches up, pushes the gun down carefully.

Keamy keeps the gun in his hand, but follows Gault without hesitation. Gault's heart is hammering, and he wishes he could let Keamy appreciate this, calm him down, but there is no going back to the way things were. Keamy has been to the Island. Gault doesn't dare ask where Linus is, what happened.

"Sayid told me," he explains as they walk. "This man was on the Island with them. He made a bargain with Linus to save his son, and now he's working for him. I've got him in here."

They come to the bunker that Michael is locked inside, and Gault takes Keamy's arm as he reaches for the door. Keamy jerks like a caged animal, his knuckles white on the handle of the gun.

"Wait," Gault says, not sure what he's asking for. Keamy barrels into the bunker anyway, and Gault can only follow.

Keamy has Michael kicked to the floor before Gault can even get inside, and he's kicking him again, again, asking him questions.

"My name," he says in a snarl. "Do you know my name?"

"Keamy," Michael says, like he's spitting blood. "Martin Keamy."

"Did you give it to him?" Keamy asks.

"Who?" Michael is coughing up his breaths; Keamy probably broke a rib or two. Gault realizes with slow panic, like water boiling around him, that he's about to watch Keamy murder this man.

"Benjamin Linus, did you give him my name?"

"Yeah," Michael huffs, like he wants Keamy to kill him. Of course, he doesn't have much choice.

"Wait," Gault says when Keamy cocks his gun. "Wait! Martin, no!"

Too late, but then, not. Keamy tries to fire again, can't. Gault feels weirdly responsible, as if calling him Martin stopped everything. Keamy takes the clip out, his knuckles so white Gault expects bone to break through skin.

"Martin, we need him," he says. He'll stick with his first name, live or die by the risk of that intimacy. "He's the only one who can fix the engines."

"And what makes you so sure about that?" Keamy asks, still fooling with the gun.

"He's the one who broke them."

Keamy stands back for a moment, steadies himself before decking Michael cleanly across the face. Michael absorbs it with a wince, and his head hangs limp on his shoulders. Keamy stands and wipes the corner of his mouth, looks back at Gault like he might still be next.

"Come on," Gault says, leading him out of the room. "We'll deal with him later."

They walk out into the hall, Gault expecting the walls of the ship to fall down around them, the world to tip on its side. He hangs close to Keamy, doesn't know where he'll try to steer him. He's not sure he wants to be alone with him right now.

"I need your key," Keamy says.

"What?"

Frank comes out of nowhere, almost crashes into them. He's got a bloody rag in his hands, which fits the scene, appropriate set dressing.

"Captain," he says. "Mayhew just died. Doc couldn't do anything for him." He looks at Keamy. "The crew's asking a lot of questions about what happened to you guys over there."

"You can tell the crew that I'm dealing with it," Keamy says, already walking away. "Then you can go gas up the chopper, Frank. We're going back."

"Going back?" Frank nearly shouts. "What the hell for?"

Keamy turns back to give him a long-suffering stare. In the greenish hallway light, he looks like he did die over there, like he came back ghostly and rotted, still determined.

"Gas up the chopper, Frank," he says.

"Listen, Martin," Gault says, walking along with him when Frank leaves, trying the name again. It seemed, at one point, like useful information that Keamy gave him, something for the future, a password.

"While you were gone, there was some kind of sickness," he says, though that's not the right phrasing exactly. Keamy isn't really listening to him anyway, is still walking ahead.

"The crew, they've been exhibiting some very strange behavior," Gault stammers on. "Regina threw herself overboard, for God's sake. I would be derelict in my duty if I didn't point out that this might be exactly what's happening to you."

Keamy stops to look at him. Gault knows, maybe, that's he's fooling himself that Keamy wasn't always as he is right now, half-dead and looking to take some others down with him.

"I appreciate your concern," he says. "Now give me your key."

"That's not the protocol!"

Gault sees Regina in her chains, turning back to tell him again, he's going to kill us all. Keamy slams him back into the wall, hands on his throat, and for a moment this is a fresh breath of normalcy. Gault exhales as Keamy reaches for his neck, but he only grabs the chain that hangs around it, which holds the key to the safe in the stateroom, one they were told to open together if anything went seriously awry. Gault thinks the time for that sort of Plan B scrambling has well past, but Keamy is ever the pragmatist.

"Thank you," he says as he takes the key, with a sweetness that is much more terrifying in its sincerity than any ironic offering could have managed.

Keamy pushes into the stateroom and Gault follows, bolts the door behind them. The safe is on the floor under the desk, and Keamy gets to it without taking a second look round the place, unlocks it.

"The reason there are two keys is we're only supposed to open the safe together," Gault says, feeling like an idiot.

"You're here, aren't you?"

Keamy pulls open the safe and takes out a booklet with an octagonal insignia on it. He flips through it as if he's looking for something specific.

"What's that?" Gault asks. He already misses his role of leader of this ship, reclaimed for a few short days and blown easily to pieces by Keamy's return. It was nice, answering questions as if this all makes perfect sense to him, beating people into the deck for their own good.

"It's a secondary protocol," Keamy says.

"What does it say?" Nothing would surprise him, and he knows Keamy will do whatever's written on the page without a blink of consideration.

"It says where Linus is going."

So he did get away. Gault leans forward, tries to see what Keamy's reading, but his mind is racing, and he feels like he does when he tries to read things in dreams, as if the words are rearranging too quickly for him to process.

"How would Mr. Widmore know that?" he asks.

"Because he's a very smart man."

Gault doubts that very much sometimes.

"And if Linus knows that we're going to torch the Island," Keamy adds, flipping through the booklet. "There's only one place he can go."

"What do you mean, 'torch the Island'?" Gault asks, thinking of Faraday and Charlotte. "That was not the agreement! I agreed to ferry you here for an extraction mission!"

Keamy stands up and stares at him. The ridiculousness of the past few weeks -- if that's what they were, Gault wouldn't be surprised to learn they'd been centuries -- strikes him full force. He went to bed with this man. He spoke to him in the darkness and liked the smell of his skin. Thinking about it objectively is impossible. Keamy lifts his weapon.

"Fix my gun," he says, a kind of tired resignation in his voice. Gault takes it from him, realizing as he does that Keamy has actually thought about this, has decided not to kill him. He waits to feel relieved, doesn't.

*

Gault sulks in the stateroom, though he doesn't feel right doing so anymore. He flips through The Sea, The Sea, skims the ending. Between the third and second pages from the last, there is a tiny, worn slip of paper that flutters out onto his stomach. He picks it up, recognizes Faraday's handwriting:

cereal
oranges
milk
easy mac
bread
animal crackers
coffee
kleenex


It's just a grocery list converted to a bookmark, but it makes Gault's eyes well up, and he puts it against his face, tries to breathe it in though it long ago lost whatever scent it once had. There are still things that matter here, and time left to save them. It hits him so stiffly, and so belatedly, that he almost shouts it out loud. He folds the grocery list up and tucks it into his pocket, gets out of bed. Before he leaves the room, he reaches under his bed for his emergency supplies -- strips of jerky in plastic wrappers, more canned tuna, several gallons of water. He packs them into one of Keamy's duffels and takes them to the pantry.

Up on the deck, he finds Omar standing with Desmond and Sayid. Gault is not dissuaded by him, nor by his previous doubts about the intentions of the boat's newest passengers. He sees purpose unfolding in front of him like a map, feels again like a compass, like himself.

"Omar!" he calls. "Keamy wants you in the armory."

Omar frowns at Gault. Increasingly, Gault has gotten the feeling that Omar detests him, or maybe just suspects him of trying to usurp his position as Keamy's second in command. Gault came close to doing just that, feels delivered from it now.

"He said I wasn't supposed to let these two out of my sight," Omar says.

"I'll watch them. Go."

Omar leaves, somewhat reluctantly, and Gault knows he doesn't have much time now. Keamy will soon know that he's set things in motion, and his voucher for survival will be void.

"There's a pantry below our galley with enough room for two men," he tells Sayid and Desmond, speaking quickly. "I've left you a supply of food and water. You need to go there."

"Michael--" Sayid says. "Is he dead?"

"No, but not for lack of bloody trying, which is precisely why you two need to be hiding before Keamy comes back on this deck."

Sayid asks for the boat instead. Gault had been planning on taking it back to the Island himself, but perhaps Sayid will be more well-received by the people there who need rescuing.

Gault gives them the boat, and Faraday's heading. He's about to mention Faraday specifically, but what good would it do? He's become a sort of symbol for Gault, the phrase "animal crackers" running through his head like a mantra.

"What will you do when Keamy notices the Zodiac is missing?" Sayid asks.

Gault doubts he even will. His natural tunnel vision seems to have narrowed to a pinpoint.

"I'll tell him you stole it," he says. "Now go."

*

Night comes quickly, and Gault watches the last of the sunlight disappear over the prow. He's got Keamy's gun tucked into his jacket pocket, hasn't tried to fix it yet. Getting the boat to Sayid and Desmond was the easy part. Now, the fallout. He hasn't seen Keamy since the stateroom, the introduction of the second protocol. Keamy was a fool to tell him about his plans, fire and brimstone and nobody brought back alive, not even the people they came with. Gault wouldn't have believed anything else, but the fact that Keamy told him the truth worries him. If it comes to it, Gault might not be able to hurt him.

He knows that Keamy must be stopped, and that he's waited much too long to try. Evil breeds in sleepy contentment, and Gault went willingly to the trap, like something mythical, Odyssean. He snorts at the idea, but it's actually not far off. Even standing here waiting for the first shots to ring out behind him, he has known Keamy too well to dismiss him entirely, he has been him. It's a cheap conceit, but Keamy has been inside of him like no one else ever has, and still Gault knows more about him than he does about Gault. He came away with a few things after all, and Keamy took a lot in return, but not as much as Gault, nothing that could inspire the sort of whitewashed terror that Gault saw on him when he said that Linus knew everything.

Gault imagines Keamy's helicopter ride back to the ship, after Linus slipped away from him, given the upper hand by some traitor. Gault was the most obvious suspect, and Keamy must have dug his nails into his palms, remembering the careful way Gault had scraped information from him, making him think it was all his idea, that he wasn't the one getting fucked. Gault is surprised he didn't kill him on sight after landing, more furious with himself than the man who gave him up to Linus. He shouldn't have given Gault the chance to explain. The fact that he did will make the end of this unbearable. Already, he's somewhere on the ship, muttering with Omar, who has told him that Gault lied. Gault can feel his backtracking fury somewhere close, all the more lethal for being pushed into the tight ball where anything that gets to him goes, and the ship is only a bubble floating over Keamy's rage, it will disintegrate on contact.

When the sun is gone, he hears shouting on the deck. He takes the gun from his pocket and weighs it in his hand. It's the second gun he's taken from Keamy, though this one was given freely. He thinks of the first, knows that Faraday probably hasn't been able to bring himself to use it. More likely it's been taken and used against him. Gault steels himself, turns for the deck.

Keamy is slitting someone's throat when Gault arrives, and he feels panicked in a banal sort of way, like he's come late for a math test. It's Ray, sputtering like a fish while Keamy disposes of him. Frank is standing on the deck, watching this with his fists curled, his gray hair blowing in the breeze and reminding Gault of old westerns, a showdown at the corral.

"That change anything, Frank?" Keamy shouts. The cool, businesslike pretense he once put on is long gone. Gault still wants to know why this means so much to him. Maybe he's Widmore's son. Maybe Linus killed his parents. It's easier to think of him as related by blood to this place where he's bound and determined to spill so much of it.

"Another thirty seconds and it's someone else's turn!" Keamy shouts while Gault makes his way down to the deck. Two deckhands come out of the shadows to flank him, and Gault wonders why until he realizes they've seen the gun in his hand, that they think he's about to restore order here. He wishes they would stand clear, has not the slightest hope of restoring anything, but it won't make much of a difference in the end, he expects. Everybody on this ship is already dead.

He fires the gun into the air, is surprised when it works.

"Fixed your gun," he calls to Keamy when their eyes meet. The pleasant surprise of the miraculously repaired firearm reverberates through him, a good sign. Whatever happens next, he's doing the right thing.

Keamy's face clears of anger, and he goes calm, as if he's received his own sign, is experiencing his own certainty. Gault can see it all over him, and he knows now that he won't be able to kill Keamy, even as he watches Keamy realize that, with this final act of treason, he'll have no problem killing Gault. He looks relieved.

"Now stand down, Martin," Gault says, the name a last stab or a last pathetic peace offering, he isn't sure. "Or I will fire."

Keamy hands Omar the knife he used to kill Ray. He starts to raise his hands, more a threat than a submission, but Gault might be the only one here who understands that. When he grins, Gault knows he's finished, and lets some brief thoughts about what he might have done differently rattle through his mind. He might not have taken this job. In a strange way, he doesn't regret it. His life has maybe always been coming to this, and he feels part of something that is truly much bigger than himself, swallowed up by it but not in vain. He thinks of his family. What will Widmore tell them? Keamy's smile grows wider and wider. He gestures to a black box he's got taped to his arm.

"I don't think you want to do that, Captain," he says.

"What's that on his arm?" Gault shouts. He was ready to die until Keamy gave him one last goddamn thing to wonder about. "What's that on his arm?" He turns toward Frank, desperate to know.

Keamy shoots him in the heart. How stupidly appropriate, though not even as predictable as his last words, one more question about Keamy. He falls to the deck, disappointed that no one answered him.

From his puddle of blood he hears shouting, the helicopter chucking to life. Someone leans over him, and Gault know it's Keamy, recognizes the shadow of him even with his back turned, his heart stopped.

"Thanks, Captain." It's the last thing he hears, friendly and clear again. In trying to help Faraday, Gault might have actually saved Keamy. He was confused, unraveling, until Gault turned on him. Now, boots across the deck, he remembers, surely, who he really is.

*

It occurs to Gault at some point that he's doing a lot of thinking for a dead person, and he opens his eyes to daylight.

He's in a jungle.

He sits up, palms his chest. There is no blood stain, no wound. Reaching under his shirt, he finds not even the slightest scratch where the bullet tore his skin. Birds scream overhead, and he can hear the ocean close by. It's hot, or it must be, but he's not sweating. His clothes are clean.

Something is off. He's dead, so this shouldn't come as shocker. But he doesn't feel gone, not even quite numb, though the wind doesn't touch him when it moves the leaves on the trees around him.

"Mum?" he calls, thinking maybe he's in heaven, or at least some kind of afterlife. He thought the jungle might be some sort of sign from her, telling him she's nearby. No one answers. He stands up, and feels something like a click in his consciousness.

He's on top of a mountain, taking dizzying breaths of what should be thin air, though it doesn't feel like air at all, more like water with a menthol tint. Around him there is green and ocean, daylight filtered through heavy clouds. He reaches for his head, blinks, and finds himself on a beach. Turns to try and get his bearings, and he's back in the jungle. Flails around to grab hold of something, and he's in a bunker -- on the freighter? No, it's unfamiliar, then gone. He's surrounded by people who are arguing, walking among people who are marching, crouched with people who are hiding, and he doesn't recognize or get noticed by any of them. The switches come faster and faster, until he can't hold himself together anymore, feels close to a discombobulation that will scatter him everywhere, something worse than death.

"Wait!"

Someone grabs his wrists. He's afraid to open his eyes, but when he does he's back in the jungle, in a dark, sheltered section, a glade with trees that have trunks covered in twisted vines. A woman is holding onto him, staring at him with a kind of frightened vigilance.

"Concentrate!" she says. She sounds French. Gault shuts his eyes, chokes out a staggered breath. He thinks he's going to throw up, then that he'll become sick in some other way when throwing up comes to him as a suddenly very abstract concept.

"Look at my face!" the woman says. Gault doesn't want to, hates the thing that is racketing through him, like a shudder he needs to shake out but can't.

"What's your name?" the woman asks, trying to make her voice soothing, though Gault can tell already that it's not in her nature. There are other people here -- two teenagers huddled near a tree, watching him like they don't want him around.

"Huston Gault," he tells her. He tries to pull his wrists free, but she won't let him.

"And where were you born, Huston?"

"Rockhampton," he stutters. Images flash through his head, moving too fast -- the house by the water, Vera on the porch steps, his father's boat parked forever in the front yard -- and he needs to speak again or he'll get lost in them. "Australia."

"And where did you die?"

This steadies him more than anything, as if he was waiting for her to ask. He straightens, and she lets his wrists slip free.

"On a freighter," he says, blinking rapidly, the colors of the jungle sharpening around him, every imaginable shade of green. "Not far from here."

The woman nods as if she expected him to say so. Her name blooms through Gault's head -- Danielle Rousseau. Killed by Keamy. He turns to the teenagers by the tree, and knows that Keamy killed them, too. The girl looks haunted and angry, the boy terrified.

"He killed all of us," Rousseau says, needlessly. Gault stumbles backward.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I tried to stop him."

Rousseau shrugs. He didn't, really, and she knows that.

"Where am I?" he asks.

"The Island," she says. Gault already knew that, but it's nice to hear it out loud. He's got to cling to the small things he needed when he was alive, or he'll start skipping around again, disappear.

"Why?" he asks. "What's going on?"

"I don't know." Rousseau steps back. "All I know is that we are here. And we are not the only ones."

"I know, I saw other people, when I was --"

"Not the only dead ones, she means," the girl by the tree says. Her name is Alex. Keamy killed her mother and that boy right in front of her, then shot her in the head while Linus watched. Gault could swear now that he was there, that he saw the whole thing.

*

He finds Faraday easily, just thinks of him and he's there, on a beach crowded with worn, sunburned people. Charlotte is with him, Miles isn't. Gault is relieved, and he hangs back near the tree line, watching the two scientists speak with their heads bent together, away from the others. He wants to talk to Faraday, but knows he would only scare him, and anyway has no idea what he would say. Faraday wasn't with him on the ship, Gault only had his book. And his list. Gault reaches into his pocket, praying it's still there. Though his pocket knife and compass are gone, the list remains, and Gault reads it again, like there's some secret message hidden in it.

Looking at it now, he realizes at once that there is a message in the seemingly random words. Cereal, oranges, milk, easy mac, bread, animal crackers, coffee, kleenex. The first letters of each word glow out at him with an obviousness he can't believe he missed. It's spelled vertically down the paper: come back.

He looks up at Faraday, hoping the sight of him will make the message clearer. It doesn't. This can't be just a coincidence, but Gault has no idea what he's meant to do. He's dead, and he knows for certain that he can't come back, like he used to know for certain that he had hands, legs, breath in his chest. All of those things are just a vague idea now, and he can't reclaim them.

Maybe the message was meant for someone else. He thinks of releasing the list into the wind, then doesn't want to let it go. He tucks it back into his pocket, will consider it again later.

Sayid arrives in the Zodiac, and there is a commotion, plans being made. Gault wishes he could hear what the people around the boat are saying. Faraday pulls Charlotte away from the group, and Gault slinks back into the trees, watches them come closer.

"How the hell are we going to convince them to take us back?" Charlotte asks Faraday. "If it's up to them we'll be the last ones off."

"Maybe, maybe --" Faraday is scratching his head, pacing. Charlotte grabs his elbow.

"Dan, calm down."

"Calm down? Charlotte, you don't know what it'll be like. You don't know."

"Neither do you, actually."

"You're a woman," Faraday says, as if this is truly an epiphany. "You should use that, you know, try and go first."

"There are plenty of other women here, Dan, and what about you?"

"Me, yeah, what about me." Faraday strokes his beard, sighs into his hand.

"You could volunteer to drive," Charlotte says. "You know the bearing, and you'll have some pull with the others when you reach the ship."

"What about Miles?"

Charlotte scoffs. "What about him? We're not even sure he's still alive."

"He saved you, though. He gave you his vest when the chopper was--"

"Right, well what's your plan, then?" Charlotte shouts. She looks back at the others, lowers her voice. "You want to comb the jungle looking for him? I kind of doubt he'd do the same for us."

"You're right, you're right." Faraday takes her shoulders as if to brace himself for a moment, looks at the ground. "Okay. I'll ask them about driving. Maybe then we can -- get you on the boat sooner rather than later."

"Maybe. I shouldn't be around when you ask, at any rate. It'll look less suspicious if I'm not hovering."

"Alright. Alright. Just -- give me a second. I need to think for a second."

Charlotte groans with impatience, then squeezes his arm like an apology, nods.

"Don't be long," she whispers, and she walks off.

Faraday sits on a fallen tree trunk, wrings his hands. Gault can't imagine why he's hesitating. This is his chance -- Gault got him the boat, he's come up with a way to get onto it, what the hell is he waiting for?

He realizes too late that he's saying this out loud. His facilities work a bit differently now that he's dead. Faraday jumps up and stares at him with slow-building confusion.

"Um, Captain?" he says. He laughs a little in disbelief. Gault walks out from the trees, glancing at the beach to make sure no one else is watching, though he's not sure anyone else would be able to see him.

"What are you doing here?" Faraday asks. "Did you come on the helicopter?"

"Don't worry about it," Gault says. "Just go, you've got to go now."

"I know," Faraday says. "But I'm worried -- I don't know -- about the disorientation. I, um. I'm afraid that under this kind of stress -- and if people are with me, counting on me to get them -- and if I suddenly -- it's hard to explain --"

"Here," Gault says, reaching into his pocket. He takes out the grocery list, holds it so that Faraday won't have to touch his hand.

"What's that?"

"Just take it, Dan. It's yours."

Faraday sucks in his breath as if he understands the gravity of the list already, and what it's meant to Gault, what he's giving back to him. It's hope, and a reminder of life away from this place. He takes it.

"This is my handwriting," he says after reading it. "Where did you--"

"From a book you left on the ship. If you start to -- think that you're elsewhere, get confused, just look at that. Remember something normal. It -- it helped me, actually."

Faraday looks up at him, the openness of his face like a cold drink of water after a long night of boozing, a kind of relief Gault didn't expect to know again, being fundamentally bodiless.

"Helped you with what?" he asks.

"It helped me get that boat back here for you." Gault flicks his chin toward the Zodiac. "Now go on. Save as many as you can. Keamy -- he's here." Gault has felt it like a stone in his shoe for about an hour now.

"I know, I heard him on the -- does he know that you're here?"

"I don't think so, Dan. Better get a move on, then. Hurry up."

Faraday tucks the list into his shirt pocket, pats it once. He stares at Gault, seems to know something is wrong here but can't put his finger on it. Gault feels like he did on Sammy's first day of school, wants to walk forward and put his arms around this frightened person he's turning out into the world, but he's got to stand back. The time for that has passed.

"Thanks," Faraday says. He's still standing there.

"What are you waiting for?" Gault asks, trying to make his voice hard.

"I -- I don't know. How will you get off the Island?"

"I'll be with Keamy. Don't worry about me."

"Keamy won't, uh, do something to you? When he finds out?"

"He can't. He won't. Please, hurry."

"Alright." Faraday finally relents, starts to back away. "If you see Miles, try to, I don't know. Help him out, too, I guess."

He waves and starts to trot off down to the shore, where the Zodiac waits, the discussion about what to do next raging on among the others. Faraday turns back, sees Gault watching him go.

"Hey!" he calls. "I'll, uh. See you back on the ship!"

Gault waves, then flicks his hand forward, motioning for Faraday to get to the boat. He watches Faraday talking with Sayid, who allows him to climb into the Zodiac. Six other people get in, including a woman carrying an infant. Gault watches Faraday drive out into the waves, his passengers huddled behind him, and thinks the image has a sort of spiritual heft, like a religious painting, like something out of the Bible. If only he knew a relevant passage.

He turns back into the jungle, ready now to find someone who will.

*

Keamy is harder to locate, probably because he doesn't want to be found. Gault comes across his men in the late afternoon, creeping around an overgrown greenhouse. His new consciousness prods him to understand something about this place, but he ignores it, doesn't much care.

He walks right up behind Omar, testing to see if he'll sense him. Omar seems nervous, but that doesn't indicate anything beyond the situation already at hand, the men waiting to be bombarded with whatever Linus has left. Omar walks right past him, unseeing. Gault has the feeling Keamy won't be able to do the same. He wants too much for Keamy to get an eyeful, hasn't really enjoyed being a ghost until now.

Gault hears whispering and turns, startled, though he's got nothing left to be afraid of. Old habits die hard, he supposes, and he's grateful for it, will hang on to imitating a living person for as long as he can. He sneaks back into the brush, sees three men peering through it, watching the ones Keamy has stationed outside the greenhouse.

"Okay," a tall, bald one says. "I'm sorry, Ben, but maybe I missed the part where you explained what I'm supposed to do about the armed men inside."

Ben. The bug-eyed man standing between the bald man and the hugely overweight one must be Linus. He's so small, Gault almost wants to laugh. He stays hidden, just in case the infamous Mr. Linus has a talent for seeing dead people.

"I'm gonna take care of them," Linus says. There is something in his voice that compensates for his appearance, though there is a kind of fey quality to it at the same time. He is not at all what Gault expected, but whatever is, lately?

"And how the hell are you going to do that?" the bald man asks.

"How many times do I have to tell you, John?" Linus says. "I always have a plan."

Gault watches him walk into the courtyard by the greenhouse, stays hidden. Linus has his hands over his head, and maybe it’s only Gault’s vague new telepathy, but he feels certain that this odd little man will kill Keamy, though he appears to be unarmed.

Keamy walks out to receive him like a native king appraising a captive explorer. There's his mistake, putting on airs like that. It's much the other way around. Linus is the native here, and Gault feels the Island that has haphazardly imprisoned his soul perched like a thing ready to strike, as if it's an extension of Linus himself.

"My name is Benjamin Linus," Linus says to Keamy, dry, but not without malice that thins the air like a razor blade. "I believe you're looking for me."

Keamy puts a gun against his head, and Gault thinks for a moment that he's lost any sense of why he came here, will blow Linus away and stage a coup, steal Widmore's island for himself. But he only hits Linus with the butt of the gun, knocks him out.

His men detain Linus, dragging him away, and Keamy patrols the perimeter of the area, the tip of his tongue between his lips. He's looking for Linus' army. Gault turns back toward the two men who were with Linus, but they have already ducked to some other hiding place. Keamy stands alone, his gun drawn. Gault decides now is as good a time as any.

"Keamy," he says. Keamy jerks, a full-body flinch.

"Who's there?" he shouts, cocking his gun.

"What do you say, mate?" Gault asks, stepping out from the jungle. He smirks when Keamy's eyes go huge. Unfiltered terror is not a good look on him.

"Can we still be friends?" he asks, too angry to laugh at his own joke.

Keamy pumps an entire clip of ammunition into him. Gault hopes the bullets will pop back out of his chest like a movie's special effect, but they only disappear somewhere between Keamy's gun and his body.

"Guess not," he says, stepping closer. Keamy keeps trying to fire, the gun clicking uselessly. He's got another one on his belt, but seems to have forgotten it.

"You're dead!" he says, trying to choke down the shake in his voice. "They threw you into the ocean, I saw --"

"Probably not a good move." Gault is already slipping back into the trees as he hears Keamy's men running through the courtyard to see what he's shooting at. "If you'd kept me on the ship I might not have made it here,” he says before he disappears.

“Catch you later, Martin.”

Chapter Text

Not needing to sleep anymore is the hardest adaptation. Gault has considered trying it, but is afraid that if he shuts himself down for too long he won't return to even this paltry form. Though his new non-life is mostly a nightmare, he's not ready to stop existing entirely. He's afraid, too, that he might find out he can't erase what's left of himself no matter how long he shuts his eyes, and he doesn't want to know yet that he's going to be here forever.

Haunting the living is mandatory. There is nothing else to do. Keamy was of course Gault's first choice, but he's dead now as well and less interesting for it. Gault did get to see Keamy's final moments play out, and enjoyed how sloppy and oddly talkative he became after encountering Gault in the jungle near the Orchid. He credited himself entirely for Keamy's mad attempt to become a proper villain, explaining his plans and spouting bad poetry about the way Linus' daughter died, which ended up getting him killed despite his truly poetic insurance policy, the heart rate monitor, the thing Gault died asking about, which perhaps explains a lot and brings this whole catastrophe to a neat end. Or maybe it was Keamy being stabbed in the neck that did that.

Gault spent time with Keamy while he recovered from being shot, the breath knocked out of him. He sat beside him and watched him take huge gulps of air, staring at the sky and trying to regain his bearings. Gault couldn't be sure at that point if Keamy saw him or not. If he did, he made no indication, simply stumbled up and headed after Linus, followed him into a chamber deeper than hell to meet his death.

Keamy's last heartbeats pumped the blood right out of his neck, and Gault hung back in the corner, wanting to intervene partly because he didn't want to share all of eternity with Keamy, but mostly because it didn't seem like a real ending, just an offshoot of some more important story.

He knew from the beginning that Keamy wouldn't last long here. There is a savageness to this place that is much more complex than Keamy's own. Gault watched John Locke try to save him, frantic and shouting at Linus. There was a tenderness in it that had nothing to do with Keamy, but Gault still appreciated that someone was desperate to feel the last weak beats of his heart. Keamy coughed out another threat as he died, saying Widmore would someday find Ben, as if he would do so to avenge his low-level thug's death.

Keamy's ghost took one look at Gault and disappeared. He's seen him twice since, moping near the coastline like he's waiting to get picked up and taken away from here.

The Island is densely populated with ghosts, something Gault found rather hilarious at first, but now just annoying. He avoids most of them, but doesn't mind the company of Claire, who is from Sydney. Keamy killed her, too. He and Claire share an interest in Charlotte and Miles, who spend most of their time arguing and failing to successfully track the group led by Richard.

"Do you think they'll fall in love?" Claire asks Gault one day, when they've followed Charlotte and Miles to a rocky beach where they've stopped to eat and rest.

"I doubt it," Gault says. He reclines on a rock, wishing he could feel the sun on his face. He even misses pain, would do anything for a burn across the bridge of his nose.

"Why not?" Claire asks. She's always wanting something to happen, has already grown bored with the slow progress of human drama.

"He's a prick."

"Well, she's not so great, she complains all the time."

"If he's a prick and she's a nag, why would you want to see them fall in love, anyway?"

"It's not that I want it," Claire says. "I just thought, maybe."

When Sawyer and Juliet begin having an affair, Claire starts following them around the Island instead. Gault is not interested in watching other people have sex with bodiless nostalgia, and he continues wandering alongside Miles and Charlotte, until Miles finally turns on him and glares.

"What the hell do you want?" he shouts.

"Who are you talking to?" Charlotte asks, and Gault smiles.

"Going to let her think you're crazy?" he asks.

"I don't care what she thinks."

"What who thinks?" Charlotte asks. "Are you -- what are you doing?"

"It's the captain of that freighter," Miles says. "He's been following us."

"The -- what?" Charlotte laughs in confusion. "Have you gone mad?"

"Just leave us alone!" Miles shouts at Gault. He grabs Charlotte's wrist and pulls her away. Gault considers walking after them -- what could they do to stop him? -- but turns around instead. He wonders whatever became of Faraday. The freighter exploded, but he might have gotten to the helicopter. Gault is fairly sure he would know if Faraday had died. He would have shown up by now.

He finds Claire sitting alone by the lake inside the now deserted compound where she died. She's at the end of the dock, her feet in the water, and he can tell by the expression on her face how disappointing it still is to not be able to feel it, cool on her skin. He sits beside her and looks for their reflections in the water, knowing he won't see them.

"So, Miles can see us but Charlotte can't," he tells her. She shrugs.

"What's wrong?" he asks. He pats her back, can't really feel her like he would if they were alive, there's no breath and no warmth and nothing really solid about either of them, but she's more concrete and immediate to him than the wind or the sun or the water.

"I just don't understand," she says. "Why are some of the people who died here, and some aren't?"

"Search me. I don't think you'll get very far trying to put a logic to it."

"It's just that I knew someone," she says, quiet and staring at the motionless surface of the lake. "Who died here."

"What, and he hasn't shown up?"

"I loved him, was what I mean to say." She looks at Gault, heartbreakingly pretty, preserved forever with perfect skin that isn't skin, watery eyes that were actually burned away by an explosion. She's shown him her body, lying blackened in the compound behind them. They've yet to find his.

"I loved him," she says again. "And he's not here."

"But he died on the Island?"

"In the ocean. Like you."

Gault makes a motion like a sigh. It feels different without real breath to expel.

"I've got the bloke I was fucking wandering around here somewhere," he says, trying to lighten the mood.

"You what?" She laughs, and he's glad he's humiliated himself, both because it's good to see her laugh, and good to know that his soul, or whatever's left of him here, can still experience embarrassment.

"He's the fella who killed us, actually."

She laughs harder, throws up her hands. He can't help but join in, glad that he's not the only one who has posthumously found humor in this.

"No accounting for taste, eh?" he says.

"I think I knew all of this," she says, wiping at her eyes as if there were tears of laughter there. "I think I already knew. It's funny how that works."

"It is," he agrees. Knowledge clouds his consciousness like balloons floating along a ceiling. When something he already knows is actually articulated, it's as if one of the balloons pops, and the details spill out like air, inconsequential but clear.

"You should go and see him," Claire says. She kicks her feet through the water, and the surface of the lake stays perfectly still.

"What for, a chat? Should I go and gloat that he's been murdered now, too?" He's considered it.

"Just go see him." She looks at him, and Gault understands. One of her balloons has popped.

"Should I give him hell for killing you?" Gault asks, standing.

"If you want," Claire says. "It'd be a waste of time, though."

"Time, well." Gault turns to leave. "We've got plenty of that."

*

Keamy is much more locatable than he was when he was alive. Gault finds him on the beach, standing and staring out at the ocean with an expression of accusation. He seems reluctant to stray very far from the water, and also determined not to turn back to look at the Island, as if it will have him for good when he does.

"Keamy!" Gault calls, afraid that if he surprises him he'll flick away instantly. Keamy peeks back over his shoulder, turns around again.

"Get lost," he says.

"Make me."

Keamy offers no response, only folds his arms over his chest and stands up straighter. Gault thinks he looks shorter now that he's dead. Maybe he's slouching.

"Linus got away," Keamy says after a long time has passed, Gault refusing to leave or be the first to make a concession.

"Yeah, I noticed. He also killed you."

Keamy glowers at the water, his eyes almost shut against the sun. Gault wishes it would rain, can't believe it hasn't yet.

"Sorry, is that still a touchy subject?" Gault asks. More than rain, he wants to rile Keamy. This won't be any good if he can't shake him up the way he did before he died, again turn him into an ineffectual issuer of elaborate threats.

"Just go away," Keamy says. Gault does, not understanding what Claire thought either of them would get out of this. He turns back when he gets to the tree line and sees Keamy still standing there, his shoulders raised up. He's not slouching, he's wincing, or bracing himself, or just frozen into an uncomfortable posture like a startled bird, hoping he won't be seen.

"No one's coming back for you," Gault shouts. He hates Keamy for killing him when he would have died anyway, hours later. What difference did it really make? He couldn't have stopped Keamy. He wouldn't have fired.

"How was I supposed to know that?" Keamy shouts, and Gault feels as if he's been caught with his pants down.

"Let's agree not to read each other's minds," he calls back, mostly because he's disappointed that he can't read Keamy's, though he hasn't really tried yet, probably doesn't want to know.

"Fine," Keamy says. "You're the one who -- why don't you go bother those fucking scientists?"

"They told me to get lost, too."

Gault sees the corner of Keamy's grin, and he doesn't understand why this should make him feel better. He walks away, dizzy with disorientation like that he experienced after first arriving here, and he takes hold of a tree to steady himself. He doesn't know why he's still afraid to break apart. There's nothing here worth saving. He shuts his eyes and tries to find Faraday, but he's long gone.

"Have you been to see Jacob yet?" someone asks, and Gault shoots up, scrambling against the tree trunk and expecting its bark to scrape him through his shirt. He keeps waiting to get hurt again, to be relieved that he still can be. Probably everyone here is waiting to be told that there's been a mistake, that they're still alive.

Alex is the one who is asking him about Jacob. She's alone, which is unusual, and the way she is looking at Gault makes him uneasy, as if she's the only one here who might still be able to hurt him.

"Who?" he asks. "What?"

"Jacob," she says, like he should know the name, and maybe he does. He shies away from the knowledge, leaves it alone. He doesn't like not earning these things, not needing to wonder.

"No," Gault says. "I haven't seen him."

"Well, you ought to." Alex is staring at Keamy. Gault wonders if he can feel it on the back of his neck, like hairs rising. What sort of revenge can ghosts take on each other? There's got to be a reason they're all still around, and Gault is afraid -- or certain -- that it's something dark. He's more troubled by the fact that he doesn't want any sort of revenge than he is by this premonition.

"He'll answer a question for you," Alex says. "One question, anything you want to know. Even if it's about the future. Or what would have been the future."

"Is that what you asked about?" Gault knows it's a nervy question, but it's more polite than peeling back his hesitation and letting himself know anyway.

"I haven't asked anything yet," Alex says. "I'm still thinking. You only get one question." She's looking at Gault like she knows he's already made up his mind. He leaves her with Keamy, not headed in any particular direction. He might know what his question will be, but that doesn't mean he's ready to ask it.

*

Like Claire, he keeps waiting for certain dead people to show up, though his people didn't die here, not even in the ocean. More than anyone, he wants to see his younger sister. He had two sisters, an older one who hated him at first sight, and his younger sister, Carla, who was big-eyed and a little slow, always on his side. She died at seventeen, in her drunk boyfriend's car. He wouldn't mind seeing his Mum, either, only a few years dead from some mysterious heart condition that she hid from the family all her life. He prays his father won't ever stumble out of the jungle. He would just call Gault a fag and ask him what the hell he expected to come from all of that.

Nobody shows, just Claire, and sometimes Alex, her mother and boyfriend trailing her as if she's got a body left to guard. There are a few others; nobody remarkable. Gault tries to be glad that Faraday got away, that he's not here to stutter and need reassurance. He misses giving him things: the gun, the raft. He misses taking things from Keamy, too. The gun, the raft. Bracing himself against the mattress in the stateroom and just taking all he could.

Sometimes he feels stir crazy, trapped in his non-body, unable to take comfort in any of the things he used to subject himself to. There are also times when he's just charmed by the fact that he never has to worry about taking a piss again, suffering a hangover, getting shot in the chest. The sand doesn't stick to his skin the way he always hated when he was alive. But the sun doesn't touch him, either, and that's the one thing he can't get past.

He imagines that all of this must be doubly hard for Keamy, who never had much of an inner life, as far as Gault could tell. He watches him like he watches the living, from afar. Keamy keeps his eyes on the horizon, and Gault wants to ask him what the hell he's looking for out there, remembers him watching the ocean from the windows of the steering room on the night of the bad storm.

Finally, he just goes to the cabin.

Claire is hanging around in the clearing outside, leaning against a tree with her arms folded and looking like she's been scolded, sent to her room. Gault stands beside her and stares at the cabin. The stream of constant whispering that sits in the back of his mind like a different kind of hangover altogether quiets when he sets his eyes on it.

"Have you gone in there yet?" he asks Claire.

"Yeah." She pushes away from the tree, narrows her eyes. "I think he might be a liar."

Gault knows she only wants to believe this, that she didn't get the answer she wanted. He wishes he felt a manic urge to protect her like he did with Faraday. It was as addictive as anything, having a sense of purpose. But Claire is already dead, and if she's here to be saved in some other way, Gault is pretty sure that's somebody else's job.

Claire leaves him alone with the cabin, and Gault watches her go. She's careful with her steps through the jungle, the way she learned to walk when she was pregnant. If someone she loved died here, why would this place keep him from her? Gault moves toward the cabin with a kind of righteous fury, though that is not the question he is going to ask.

He hesitates when he reaches for the doorknob. More virtuous questions prickle through him. What will become of his son? His wife, will she remarry? He's afraid he knows the answers. Vera will find someone and Sammy will hate him at first, but by high school graduation he'll be calling him Dad. God knows what he'll think about the man he used to call that. If Jacob knows as well, Gault doesn't want to hear it.

He could ask questions about this place, about the fate of the world, about why he's here. He could ask Jacob who the hell he thinks he is. But he knows enough about this goddamn place already, doesn't care much about the rest of the world, and as for why he's here, he suspects it has nothing to do with him in particular. He's like a bug that's been sucked into a vacuum, crawling around in the dark and the dust, trying to figure out what he did to deserve this when he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jacob's cabin is both dark and dusty, and it looks like it belongs to some other place, like it's got too long a history to have originated here. There is a man sitting in a chair. Gault can't see his face. It occurs to him that the man might not have one. He shuts the door behind him and feels as if he's been taken hostage.

"Well?" Jacob says, when they've both been silent for a long time. The questions Gault should ask bubble under his lip, and he holds them back, terrified that he'll slip up and do the right thing, ask about something that matters.

"Tell me everything about Martin Keamy," he says before he can.

Jacob shifts in his chair, and for a moment Gault thinks it's in excitement, as if he hasn't heard a question this good in a long time.

"Are you sure that's what you want to know?"

"Yes."

"His life was not particularly interesting."

"Tell me."

“Fine.” Jacob sits up straighter. “Normally I tell people to sit, but I think you can take this standing.”

Gault sits anyway.

"Martin Christopher Keamy was born in 1975, in Ely, Nevada," Jacob says, and regret curls into Gault, so sharply that for a moment he remembers what it was like to really have a body. He's spent his last dime on a rigged game he won't win. But he's flushed, too, especially thick in the air, waiting to watch his coin drop.

"His father was David Keamy, who had returned from Vietnam and retired from the Marine Corps the year prior. His mother was Gretchen Keamy, a waitress who lived with her parents during most of her marriage, while David was overseas. David left Gretchen for his AA sponsor when Martin was three years old. He moved to Montana and rarely saw his son. Gretchen moved to Las Vegas and continued to take waitressing jobs until she met and married Raymond Coyne, a Mormon minister with whom she had another son, Raymond Jr. Martin was a poor student who played football and decided when he was very young that he would join the Marines. After high school, he did, and he served with distinction until he was discharged for having an inappropriate relationship with an officer. He worked as a bouncer until he met a man who asked him to kill his brother-in-law, and thereafter began a new career. A political kingpin he was hired to protect in Uganda told Charles Widmore that Martin Keamy would work for anyone who fed him like he had nothing to lose. Widmore hired him to capture Ben Linus, and he died trying."

Gault walks from the cabin without looking back. He doesn't know where he's going, but then again maybe he does, because when he looks up, he's on the beach.

Keamy is sitting down now, still staring at the ocean.

"You know," Gault calls as he walks toward him. "There's a man on this Island who will tell you anything you want to know."

Certainly Keamy doesn't know what Gault has just done. But he won't look at Gault, and doesn't, in fact, seem to even really be looking at the ocean.

"I don't want to know anything," he mutters.

“Nothing? He’ll even tell you the future, if you like.”

Keamy finally looks at Gault, horrified and surprised, still, that he could be so stupid.

“The future? What future? That’s the last thing I want to hear about.”

Gault knows now how ghosts can have revenge on each other. He's not sorry for his. Keamy, probably, is not sorry for killing him.

"Cheer up, mate," Gault says. He sits down and puts an arm around Keamy, more a gesture of petulant irony than anything else, though he does wish that he could still feel the warmth and weight of another person, even him.

"Hell could have been a lot worse," Gault says.

Keamy scoffs. “What are you doing in hell?” he asks. “Who’d you kill?”

“Nobody. Get it? I guess I was supposed to shoot you when I had the chance.”

“There’s no such thing as hell, anyway,” Keamy mutters. He looks back over his shoulder as if he’s afraid the devil heard him say so, then puts his elbows on his knees, hides his face. Gault is stupidly pleased when he doesn't try to leave or even ask him to get lost, and he realizes at last how glad he is that Keamy is stuck here, that he'll never get away.

"You know what's the worst fucking part?" Keamy barks suddenly, and Gault shakes his head.

"I keep hearing all this shit -- in my head -- stuff I don't want to know." Keamy looks at Gault like he should have an answer for this. "It's like the fucking military all over again."

"Nobody told me anything when I was in the Royal Navy," Gault says. Keamy gives him the disbelieving stare.

"What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"

Gault laughs so hard he falls backward. Or maybe he does the falling on purpose, because it's what he would have done, back when he had weight and breath and a relationship with gravity. Keamy stares at him like he was staring at the ocean, waiting for a resolution.

"How about it, Martin," Gault says. "I got shot in the heart, you got stabbed in the neck. Tick, tick, tick. Boom."

"I wish I could have at least seen the ship blow up," Keamy says, so wistfully that Gault laughs himself into something that feels like revival, but only briefly.

"You and me both, mate."

Keamy grins at him like he did when Widmore introduced them, like this is the start of something that only one of them will walk away from. Gault is so relieved to know that neither of them is going anywhere, and he realizes with a belated epiphany that he is far more wicked than Keamy ever knew how to be.

"You've got to ask a question," he says when Keamy pulls him up so that they are again, ridiculously, huddled together.

"Huh?"

"Of Jacob, that bloke who can tell you anything. You can't waste that. At least ask another one for me."

"What the hell does anything matter now? What do you want to know?"

"Were you really named after a saint?" It's a follow-up question he didn't feel entitled to ask Jacob.

Keamy shakes his head, not in answer to the question, but as if Gault keeps failing to learn the same lesson.

"Yeah, okay?" He throws out his hands. "Patron saint of soldiers. What difference does it make?"

Gault doesn't respond, and doesn't say anything when Keamy reaches over to put his fingers in the hollow of his throat. There's nothing, not the faintest flicker of a ghost of an echo of a pulse. Gault would fake it for him if he could. Keamy takes his hand away, looks out at the horizon again.

"Jesus," he says. "That didn't go the way I thought it would."

He could be talking about a number of things. The mission to capture Linus. The hollow of Gault's throat, the heartbeat he's got the balls to look for even after he stilled it himself. Life in general.

"There's got to be something you want to ask," Gault says. Keamy moans, rubs his face. Gault feels normal for a moment, and thinks that if they can just irritate each other until the end of time, they might pull one over on hell, get away with being only slightly miserable.

"You were in the Navy," Keamy says. "Were you in Vietnam?"

That wasn't what Gault meant by something he must want to ask. Keamy should go to Jacob, take advantage of the one allowance this place offers. But Gault goes along with it, because maybe it's better that they only get answers from each other.

"Yeah," he says. "Sort of."

"What was it like?" Keamy's voice is so buried that Gault probably wouldn't hear it if they weren't both dead and didn't need to say any of this out loud anyway.

Gault doesn't really know. He was on a ship, ferrying supplies more often than troops, he saw it from afar. He remembers standing at the stern one night and thinking he heard gunfire, explosions, but it turned out to be the ship's malfunctioning refrigeration equipment, blowing out for good below deck.

"It was intense," Gault says. "It was the most intense experience of my life." Keamy doesn't need to know what he's really talking about, and he won't guess, because to him it was just killing time on a job that ended badly.

Gault has thousands of stories about Vietnam. Keamy won't care that none of them are really his. Gault has read novels about the war, seen movies, heard rumors on the ferry from men who were really there, who saw everything.

Keamy uncurls while Gault talks, spills his legs out on the sand like he once did on Gault's bed, drops his hands between them and lets his shoulders sink. He's been waiting a pretty long time to hear this, and Gault might have known that even if he'd asked Jacob a different question.

"What about your kid?" Keamy asks suddenly, cutting Gault off in the middle of a story his regular bartender told him about Binh Gia.

"What about him?"

Keamy doesn't say anything. He spreads his hand out in the sand, picks it up.

"It's weird how you can do that and not leave an imprint," he mutters.

Gault takes that as an apology, goes on with his story.

*

Ten thousand miles away and twenty years later, Daniel Faraday sits Indian-style in his backyard in New Haven, attempting to fix his daughter's telescope. She doesn't really care about the thing, about astronomy or science in general, but maybe that's why he's so determined to fix it. The lens sits on the grass, reflecting sunlight. It's a cloudless day, and he's supposed to be getting ready for his oldest son's graduation from high school.

"Dan," Charlotte calls from the back door. The New England hardness that has crept into her accent since they moved here is never more evident than it is when she says his name. He turns back, gives her a wavering smile.

"We'll be late," she says. She tosses out her hands, lets them slap her sides. She's wearing that green dress that Dan likes. She hardly ever wears dresses. He smiles again.

"I'll be right there!"

She knows he doesn't mean it, goes back into the house with a groan. He turns back to the telescope, and his hands are shaking. He isn't sure why. Sometimes, outdoors, in direct sunlight like this, he starts to remember.

There was a special on television last night, something about the Oceanic Six and the twenty year anniversary of their return. They've all since disappeared, even the baby. Dan squints up at the sky and thinks about that baby, who is probably taller and stronger than him now, a man. That, or he's dead.

He doesn't think so, though. Sometimes he wonders if he's the one who died, if he's stuck in some half-reality, a skew that he was lucky to float into. It was too easy, and he's been trying to figure out why. Desmond and Penelope Widmore pulled him out of the ocean with the others in his raft, onto a ship that bore him safely to real land, the sort that couldn't spontaneously disappear. He returned to America in obscurity and lived like a ghost for a year, rarely leaving his rented apartment in Boston. Then Charlotte showed up at his door, beaming and explaining nothing. Daniel didn't want an explanation, just wanted her arms finally around him.

It's been too easy, and something about the way he left that island has always bothered him, like a misplaced negative sign in an otherwise elegant equation that nevertheless makes the rest useless. Not that his life has been useless. It's been good, actually, but that's the troubling part.

He has dreams sometimes. Not exactly nightmares, but he doesn't look forward to them. He dreams about that island that shifted and whispered and didn't exist in any sort of universe he could make sense of. Widmore had enticed him with promises of unique phenomena, but there was more to it than that. He's still stuck on the day he left, the raft and that last look at Charlotte, and the captain of the freighter stepping out of the jungle to give him a grocery list he'd written three years ago. He said Daniel might need the list to steady himself while he drove the others to safety, but it was after he reached land that Daniel needed the list most. Until Charlotte returned to him, he studied it, rearranging the words into every possible permutation, investigating it as if it was a code, something for him to decipher. After he married Charlotte, he put it away, tucked it into his wallet. Like the island, and what happened to his wife in the year that she spent on it without him, it was not given to him to solve.

This is hard for him to accept. It's in his nature to puzzle things out, but maybe less so, now. He lets his children's teenage motivations remain opaque, and Charlotte's implacable calm, her quiet refusal to discuss the things that still haunt him. He looked up that freighter captain when he returned to America, and found that he'd been declared dead, a victim of malfunctioning scientific equipment on Widmore's research freighter that exploded and killed everyone on board, including Daniel Faraday and Charlotte Lewis. Their new last name is Faris, a combination of the old ones. No one has ever come looking for them. Daniel had to give up his career -- Dan Faris doesn't have a doctorate -- but independent research suits him better than teaching, and he's funded by a Charlotte Lewis Memorial Grant.

"Dan!" she calls again, this time through the window. "Leave that thing, will you? We've got to get moving, the traffic will be bad."

"Coming, coming," he mutters, trying to fit the telescope's lens back into its casing. It's suddenly too big, which doesn't make any sense.

Daniel leaves the telescope parts on the grass and stands, looks up at their house. Graduation ceremonies exhaust him, and he doesn't see why finishing high school should be considered such an accomplishment, though for his oldest son, who is more interested in sneaking girls into his second story bedroom than academics, it actually is quite an achievement.

He's lucky, he knows, to have these sort of petty concerns, these suburban problems. He's lucky to have Charlotte, was close to becoming a real ghost when she found him in Boston. Every night before bed, he wants to ask her how she got off the island, why she came back to him.

He thinks it might have something to do with Huston Gault.

Still standing in the middle of the backyard, he hears the doors on Charlotte's car opening out in the driveway, the sound of his children's voices as they climb in, and he takes his wallet out of his back pocket. The pencil markings on the grocery list are worn almost completely away. He can see most of the word "crackers," but that's about it.

It doesn't matter. He memorized the list, and he remembers the most obvious message he found in it, the one that should seem nonsensical but always tugs at him, even looking now at this now disintegrating piece of paper. The words "come back" were spelled down the paper with the first letter of each word, and he was the one who wrote it, so he should have known that, should know what it means.

He walks forward to the car, carefully folding the list back into his wallet. He thinks of Huston Gault telling him to go, then giving him this paper that asked him to come back. But Gault didn't write the message, Daniel did, some other Daniel who might as well be a stranger after all that's happened.

Daniel didn't want to go that day, but not until Gault told him he should. Before that, he'd been determined to leave as soon as possible. He would never have let Charlotte stay if he hadn't spoken with Gault, and he doesn't know why. He felt she would be safe with him. The man was inconsequential on the freighter, hardly even in command, but on the island, Daniel felt like he had the power to keep Charlotte alive.

"Everyone ready?" she asks when Daniel climbs into the passenger seat. She looks into the backseat for unenthusiastic responses from the kids. Sometimes she complains that they're such Americans, as if that's Daniel's fault. She was the one who was afraid to go home after she came back from the island.

Daniel watches the usual scenery pass as they drive toward the high school. He can't shake the feeling that his whole life is some sort of mystery that he was supposed to eventually understand but never will. He knows he's lucky not to understand, that understanding would likely kill him, but he's afraid sometimes that Charlotte is withholding important information, that she doesn't want him to know what happened to her because it means she's won, she's solved something that he gave up on.

Sometimes it feels like he hasn't given up, though what he can do about investigating that long ago part of his life, he doesn't know. He could ask his wife, who would smile and laugh and change the subject. He could search newspapers for the name Huston Gault, as if he's a kind of keystone. Once he even went to the grocery store and bought all of the things on the grocery list, but no sudden realization or time shift or death ray struck him as he left the store.

"Try not to fall asleep at the ceremony, Dad," his son says, leaning forward to poke his shoulder. Dan shakes out of his thoughts, laughs as if this is a ridiculous idea and not actually very probable.

"Are you alright?" Charlotte asks, with a grin that makes him want to say yes, he is. And he is, mostly.

"Sure, sure." He pats her knee and looks out the window. He wishes that he didn't feel that Huston Gault handing him that list saved both of them, because then he could wish that he never had, and he wouldn't have to see Gault standing there, all the time, like it's painted inside his eyelids, Gault watching Daniel leave with that note clutched in his hand, the list that was asking him already: come back, come back, come back.