GOOD CHRIST! I haven't even replied to the comments to Part One and I'm already posting Part Two. SORRY!
Title: Whisper Through Skin - 2/3
Warning: Adults only, language and sexual situations. Spoilers for S2, speculation for S3.
He’s startled awake by pain and hands working efficiently to change the dressings on his foot and calf.
His fist comes up and his mouth starts to open, still half-asleep and angry that Jack has returned, angrier still that Jack has ripped him from his dreamworld, that place in which he seeks refuge because the colors become increasingly more vivid and the sounds crisp and clear.
But then there’s a hand tight around his wrist, cool and smooth, stopping him.
It’s Rose. Not Jack, but Rose, and he relaxes somewhat.
“Sorry. Thought you were – ”
He winces, more in surprise than in pain, when she cuffs him on the side of the head.
i don’t care who you thought i was you raise that hand to me or anyone else again and i’ll damn well knock you into next week have i made myself clear? you’ll mind your manners around me and everyone else i’ve had enough of this foolishness.
It takes a long time for her to say it and by the time she’s done he’s almost smiling. He’s received his fair share of scolding from her, almost everybody has, but he can’t remember ever hearing her curse and certainly never saw her hit anyone.
He, of course, would be the first.
He knows he must have really crossed a line, in her mind, and he almost feels guilty, as well as amused, and then all he can think is that he’s desperate to know what she looks like, hands on her hips, maybe, or perhaps shaking one finger at him, fire in her eyes and mother to the entire camp but right now mother only to him.
Suddenly he’s homesick. For home, not just for civilization but for home, or rather the place that had been home for too short a time.
She finishes tending his foot and then he feels her moving, shifting slowly until they’re side-by-side, then one arm slides around his shoulders and she presses him against her, comfort, which he hates because to him it means pity, but which he also welcomes, why, he doesn’t know, and the discomfort and confusion make him hold himself stiff.
But he doesn’t pull away, either.
The homesickness intensifies when he feels her breath stirring his hair, he knows she kisses him affectionately and that hurts, so much it almost makes him sick. Then she speaks, twice at once, both with her voice and with her hand.
it’ll be all right. i know you don’t believe me but it’ll be all right. whether or not you get it all back, it’ll be all right.
His throat tightens so he moves out of her embrace, turns his face away, and her hand runs over his hair once, twice, before it settles on his shoulder.
i’m leaving. i know how stubborn you boys can be about letting a person take care of you but you remember what i said. i will knock you into next week.
She emphasizes the word ‘will’ by digging hard into his palm as she spells it out. He does smile at that, reluctantly.
that’s better. and it will be all right.
He doesn’t respond and she leaves with a final touch on his hair, and he’s left both relieved and aching when she’s gone.
For the first time he understands how important that touch is, it frees him from the jail cell his mind has become, freedom, short-lived but still freedom, he’s outside of his head and back in the world of the living.
It’s important. Which means that he needs it.
He hates needing anything, always has.
Now he’s back in his prison of silent black, dead or may as well be, he thinks, and that part of him that always fights to stay alive no matter what recedes and he considers actual death, if he could possibly manage to make it happen and how.
But what if death is simply an eternity of this, dark and silence and only himself and his demons for company?
For one night and one day he drifts, interrupted only when someone brings food and water or asks if he needs help, with his foot or anything else but he doesn’t answer, he keeps his eyes closed and pretends to sleep and they leave eventually.
He’s not sure if he’s trying to get used to this or if he’s on the verge of giving up, but he doesn’t care. He’s quit trying to see or hear and now he’s wrapped himself up in it, lets himself just be in it, become it.
Sometimes he wonders where Jack is.
Sawyer hopes that he won’t come back but still waits for him, anyway.
When Jack does return it’s as if a storm hits.
He bulldozes into Sawyer’s tent that night, disrupting his odd sense of calm, drags him outside as Sawyer kicks at him, curses, and then Jack shoves him roughly on to his back before he grabs his wounded foot and props it one thigh.
The hate and the anger surges again.
“How about you quit fuckin’ around with my damned foot and try to do somethin’ about this? Foot will be fine, I need this, I want this back! Seeing and hearing again, that’s all I give a shit about – take care of that!”
Everything goes still, and Jack is silent for so long that if his hands weren’t still on his leg Sawyer would’ve thought he was gone.
“Got no answer for that? Can’t do anything about it, just givin’ up and leavin’ me like this? Or maybe you don’t want to do anything about it – this your fucked up way of makin’ me pay? Then consider me well and duly punished, you goddamned son of a bitch, guess I’m not fuckin’ good enough for you to – ”
Jack wraps his hand around Sawyer’s wrist, so tightly that it hurts and he feels bone grind against bone, and he drags Sawyer to a sitting position and then he talks.
this might be it. your future. may have to stay like this so just fucking deal and quit feeling sorry for yourself.
Sawyer sees then, but only rage, red ramping up quickly to white and he whips his leg away, ignores the pain and gets both knees under him and he reaches out, fumbles to get some hold on Jack and he does, pulls him down and on to ground and blinded by something else entirely he just moves, thought falls away and he just moves.
He has no idea how long it lasts or exactly what happens, but the pain in his hand and the scent of blood in the air and Jack’s body as it heaves underneath him tell him enough.
feel better now?
Jack’s words hurt almost as much as Sawyer’s hand does, it feels like he tears the skin of Sawyer’s palm as he speaks and Sawyer tries to yank his hand away but it feels as if his wrist is in a vise.
“Yeah, I feel a hell of lot better, you asshole, but I wish I could see the damage, that would make me feel even better – ”
Jack rolls unexpectedly and hits Sawyer once, hard, and Sawyer almost enjoys it, thinks again that pain is real and unfiltered, goes straight through, and now he tastes blood, his own.
too far, both of us never again. never. understand me?
“Yeah, I fuckin’ understand, but you keep it in check all you want, doesn’t mean I have to, doesn’t mean I won’t do it again – ”
Jack disappears, the weight and heat of his body gone, leaves him alone and bleeding on the ground.
Sawyer stays there, wipes at the blood flowing from his nose with his shirt sleeve.
He stares up at a night sky void of stars or moon and drifts again.
what in the hell did i tell you?
Rose again, furious, he feels it, and she works quickly to wash his face and takes care of his foot, then she’s gone again.
He’s surprised he has it in him to feel hurt and ashamed.
At times he thinks it’s getting easier.
At other times, he’s sure it’s worse.
They don’t fucking know. He still can’t make them know.
And still he rages, and still he mourns.
Scent becomes heavy, as does taste.
Touch is rich, and when night falls it’s by touch, when the sun rises he knows it by feel.
Sawyer starts to spend even more time alone if he can manage it. Sometimes he thinks of Jack, tries to imagine apologizing. Remembers the way he smells, misses the ease of communication they’d managed to create, wants what Jack still has, wants his sight and his hearing, hates that he thinks of him at all.
He sits, usually in the dark in the vain hope that it would bring its own blindness down on everyone else, and he tilts his head and feels. Breezes or fierce winds, touch and scent combined, they sometimes feel wet and heavy with rain and within them there is always the ocean.
He misses the ocean, but worse than that, now he fears it, he would be helpless even in the one part of this place that he really belonged in, belonged to, the one place that was his own.
But the water is no longer his.
He tries to satisfy himself with the muted roar of his blood as it rushes through his body, pretends it’s the sound of the waves.
But at least the winds bring him the scent of it, of the sea.
They also carry the jungle, gift him with it, and he gives it the colors of his memory, seeing of a sort, but the smell is very real, crushed and broken vegetation where someone had walked, the sweet and slow rot of leaves as they slowly sink back into the soil, returned to the earth.
He seeks out the various scents, unravels thread by thread the tapestry they make, and as he does his hands dig into the sand, sift through it, he runs it through his fingers before he digs deeper to where it’s damp and almost solid and he clutches it tightly before allowing it to crumble and fall away.
Over and over, hands gritty with sand and head lifted to the winds.
And somehow, a quiet that he actually welcomes settles over his mind as he caresses the earth and lets the breeze run over him, a light caress in itself, lets it soothe him to sleep, push him forward and then down into his dreams.
It’s on one such night that Jack comes back, falls heavily next him and clumsily slaps a bottle into one hand and a partially crushed pack of cigarettes in the other.
“Shit. Thank God, fuckin’ light me one now.”
Jack sighs, takes the pack and Sawyer smells the sharp and sweet tang of whiskey and he drinks eagerly, then sets the bottle aside and accepts the lit cigarette, inhales deeply, immediately lightheaded, too long since he’s had either.
Jack grabs his wrist and Sawyer waits but there’s nothing, just the slow back and forth brush of Jack’s thumb on the inside of his forearm.
Sawyer’s sure Jack doesn’t know what to say. He’s familiar with the feeling.
He knows Jack is drunk but he doesn’t pull away, instead he lets his arm relax, rest heavily on Jack’s thigh, moves it forward so that his touch is higher up, just below his elbow and Jack lets him, the slide of his thumb lengthening, elbow to wrist and then back.
He takes a long, deep drag of his cigarette and his eyes close automatically, too much to feel and taste and smell but he welcomes it, wants to drown in it, connected once again to the world out there but much more intensely, he’s in it, as fully as he can be.
“Feels good,” he says and doesn’t regret it, just finishes his cigarette and grinds it out in the sand and takes another drink of whiskey.
Jack’s touch continues and Sawyer just wants to lie back, let the liquid warmth of the alcohol ease through him, let Jack’s touch keep him here, in the world outside.
But Jack stops.
Sawyer sighs, waits, doesn’t speak.
Then touch again.
i’m trying. to figure it out, what happened. i’m trying.
you behaving yourself?
He’s cuffed again and he pretends it hurts, and he’s struck once more before he’s forced to eat.
The anger doesn’t ease, it simply retreats, but comes roaring back again with everyone, everyone who condescends to him or patronizes him, but he keeps it leashed.
Except with Jack, who lets him rage but doesn’t abandon him.
He sighs, shifts uncomfortably in the heat, and when Jack arrives to check his foot he’s ridiculously and humiliatingly relieved and grateful, and the anger growls in the back of his skull but he pushes it back.
“The son of a bitch healed up enough for me to get cleaned up? Haven’t taken a real bath since I did it, want to cool off.”
Jack doesn’t speak, just grasps Sawyer’s hand and pulls him to his feet.
He smells fresh water, smells and feels the mud on the embankment between his toes and he sighs in anticipation and hurries to rid himself of his clothes, the idea of water and soap overshadowing his resentment that he has to steady himself on Jack’s shoulder as he strips, but the anger again, and loud and fierce, comes back hard when he has trouble with the buttons of his shirt and again he feels helpless when Jack has to do it for him.
“You’re gonna watch, I suppose? Make sure the baby doesn’t drown in the bathwater? You know I fuckin’ hate that.”
He does, he hates it, and he wonders if the bitterness shows in his voice.
Then one painful flick to his ear makes him scowl.
“That’s a new one, and don’t you ever fuckin’ do it again unless you want me to beat the shit outta you again. And quit laughin’, because I know you are and that just pisses me off even more! Just back the hell off and let me do this, I won’t drown and I won’t get lost but I will kill you if you decide to swim out there and help me – I want to be done with that shit, I hate it and I hate this, hate that you have to take me everywhere, watch, help, Jesus, can’t I just fuckin’ enjoy somethin’ for a change? By myself, alone? Shit!”
He waits, for what he’s not sure, certainly not fucking permission, then finally Jack speaks.
sorry. go on i’ll wait.
“Wait all you want but just leave me the hell alone, got it?”
One tap, against his hand this time.
Soap is then in his hand and he feels a tremendous sense of relief and he moves hurriedly, and when the vertigo hits again he just falls forward and lets the water catch him and cradle him, safe in its cold embrace.
He’s breathless and tired because after bathing he swam, hard, as long and hard as he could, dove as deep as could, reveling in the freedom the water offered, and when his muscles become weak he reluctantly leaves the water, glad that Jack stays back, lets him find his way on his own.
He struggles back to the bank, uses the depth of the water guide him, then collapses.
But then Jack is behind him, cold as he is Sawyer feels the heat of him, breathes in the familiar smell of him, welcomes both but has no idea what Jack plans to do, then he curses as a comb drags roughly through his hair.
“Ow, Jesus, take it easy, asshole.”
Why this is all right but other help isn’t Sawyer leaves alone, to think about later.
Jack’s touch eases, tangles are smoothed and then it’s a slow, long repetitive stroke, from forehead to the nape of his neck, the sides of his head and then back, and this combines with the exertion of his time in the water to relax him as much as he has been since this happened.
Then it stops and Sawyer swears, not ready for it to stop, he feels Jack laugh and he swears again, then Jack leans forward, mouth near Sawyer’s ear, says something.
Sawyer freezes, feels Jack starts to move so he whips one arm over his shoulder, reaches, seeks by touch, his arm slides around Jack’s neck, he pulls Jack close again.
Jack stiffens and Sawyer shakes his head.
It takes an eternity but Jack finally speaks, by voice and not by hand, and Sawyer shakes as he pulls Jack closer, forces his mouth tight against his ear. Not quite hearing, he thinks, but so fucking close.
Jack stops, reaches for his hand.
“No. No, don’t, just keep talking, louder.”
Jack shakes now, Sawyer feels it, but he talks.
“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
Jack says something else and Sawyer understands, he can’t hear it but he understands, and he answers.
“No, no, I can’t hear you, not exactly, but I can feel it, better than nothin’, fuck, more.”
Jack is confused, Sawyer knows, but still he speaks.
Sawyer can’t make out the words but he feels the difference between each of them; those that end hard, clipped, those are easiest to feel.
But the softer ones, fluid, the ones that blend into one another, he can feel those, too, and they all whisper through skin and then vibrate through blood and bone and it’s so close, so close, not actual hearing but near enough, brings the world almost within reach and he flings his head back, rests heavy on Jack’s shoulder and purely out of habit his eyes squeeze shut so he can concentrate.
Sawyer thinks it’s like the way it feels when he speaks himself, just further away but so much better, because it’s from out there, not from inside, from out there, the outside world.
They’ve never tried this, why have they never tried this, he wonders, Jack’s tests had been simple and short, stuff from behind him that remains a mystery and snaps of his fingers near Sawyer’s ears, but nothing like this.
And never this close.
But that’s fine, Sawyer thinks, he’s already decided he will learn to tell one word from another just by feeling them whisper through his skin.
Jack cradles the side of his head with one hand and pulls him tight, mouth still against his ear.
“Yeah. Yeah, don’t stop, just keep talking.”
Jack talks, and Sawyer finally weeps, he had mourned but now he actually weeps, uncaring.
“Just keep talking.”