Boone lay on his side, watching Jack sleep.
How Jack could sleep through the racket, Boone didn't know. The caves echoed both clearly and loudly, which was why people had learned during the past two years to do everything (talking, snoring, making love) as quietly as possible - or to do it somewhere else.
Sawyer and Kate's arguments had begun to break this rule more and more frequently.
"I don't have to lie down when you lie down. I don't have to sleep when you sleep." Kate wasn't yelling, but her words had a bitten-off quality that was even more foreboding.
"You used to not mind that, Freckles. Used to be you couldn't wait to lay down for me." Sawyer didn't sound as though he missed those days - only as though he thought it might annoy her to be reminded of them.
"I want to go for a walk, and it's my own business what I do -"
"I don't want your damn cold muddy feet kickin' me in the night -"
Charlie's voice rang out from the nook of the cave he shared with Claire: "NOBODY CARES!"
Boone could hear a few chuckles from within the cave, then Kate stomping out, heedless of Sawyer, the late hour, the danger, everything. A jingle of dog tags revealed that Vincent had decided to follow her - probably that was the only company Kate would stand right now.
The two of them argued more than they talked, these days. From a couple of unfunny jokes Sawyer had made, Boone got the distinct impression that sex was more or less a thing of the past. They hadn't broken up yet - but they would soon.
Jack shifted slightly in his sleep, and Boone put one arm around him, as if to hold him fast.
The next morning was bright and sunny - the first day in a week that promised to be without rain. Jack immediately put the tool-making workshop on hold; rock could be chipped and wood carved any old gloomy day. Doing anything but fishing on a brilliant day like this would be a waste of time.
"I ain't goin'," Sawyer announced, stretching out. "See, I hear each person in a couple needs private time. I've been hearin' that a lot lately. So I'm takin' some right now." Kate just stared stonily at the jungle outside the cave, as though she could not wait to escape.
"Suit yourself," Jack said. Pretty much anyone could slack on any given day if they chose; Boone had watched Jack learn the hard way that people were the best judges of when they needed time off. Only sustained loafing attracted notice - and peer pressure had turned out to be a better motivator than any command.
"Would you mind looking after Richie?" Claire was braiding her hair back, preparing for action. "He's always trying to swim out into the surf, and I can't fish properly if I'm watching him."
"You got it." Sawyer's smile changed into something much nicer as he mussed Richie's white-blond hair. "We gonna have us some fun, huh, little man?"
Richie laughed. Sawyer was one of his favorites.
On their way to the beach, Boone walked by Kate's side. He did that so Jack couldn't. In order to make it seem like he wanted to talk with her, he tried, "You know, Sawyer's great with kids."
"Yeah." Kate said this without enthusiasm. "Great."
She was still angry, then. Boone tried to turn that into a joke. "Go figure. He can't stop pissing off anybody above 18, but give him a kid, and he turns into a soft touch."
"That's about Sawyer's maturity level." Now Kate pressed her lips together in a straight line, and Boone figured it was time to drop the subject.
Jack gave no instructions when the ground turned to sand beneath their feet and they reached the shore. By now, their fishing trips had become routine. They spread out into their usual parties; Sayid and Hurley heading toward the northern horizon, Michael, Sun and Walt moving toward the limestone cove, Claire and Charlie wading right out into the water nearby.
Kate walked with Jin, headed for the far south, just a few paces ahead of Jack and Boone. It was still windy, so Jin's voice was only just audible as he said, haltingly. "You not sleep?"
"I'm fine," Kate said, giving Jin a smile that was almost convincing. But Boone figured you didn't need even the minimal English Jin had learned to know that was a big lie.
Boone had never been interested in girls, but he understood that Kate was a beautiful woman. Her tanned legs seemed to go on for miles before finally reaching the cut-off blue jeans that hugged her ass. The T-shirt she was wearing was thin enough that Boone could tell she hadn't bothered with a bra.
He glanced to one side, hoping Jack wasn't looking.
Jack was looking.
"Here," Boone said, stopping in his tracks. "Let's fish here."
"Here?" Jack frowned at the water. "We usually go another half-mile or so -"
"Exactly. The fish are expecting us."
That won him one of Jack's grins, which made Boone feel warm all over - like the sun in the sky had finally reached his skin. "I don't think fish expect much."
Boone kept walking toward the water until a wave splashed over his feet. "We should always try new places, right?"
"You're right." Jack followed him, not Kate. Once more, they stood side by side and alone.
Boone tried to relax, but he didn't really succeed until Kate had disappeared around the curve of the shore.
They had all paired up fairly quickly after the crash.
Boone could understand, with some distance, that two months was no amount of time to choose the person you'd be with forever, or until they were rescued, whichever came first. But at the time, it had felt like part of the crash - like grabbing for the oxygen masks as soon as they fell. You took what you needed and asked questions later.
From the first day, Boone had known he wanted Jack. At first it had been about his body - compact and muscular, competent and strong. Boone had imagined embracing him from behind, belly to back, running his fingers through the thick hair on Jack's chest.
By the second day, Boone had known that Jack wanted Kate. He'd hated Jack for that, though it was stupid, hating a guy for being straight. It was a solid three weeks before Boone stopped making up other reasons to be mad at him.
Kate had wanted Jack too. Boone could see it - hell, everyone had seen it. They couldn't have been more obvious about it without just tearing off each other's clothes and fucking right there on the beach. For a while, Boone had wished they would. At least that way he'd get to see Jack naked.
But then Kate pulled back, and Jack didn't chase her. Six weeks after the crash, she was shacking up with Sawyer. Nobody was ever exactly sure why, but Boone was pretty sure nobody had ever dared ask. Jack had spent a lot of time on his own after that - but he never fought it. Probably, Boone thinks, he never even said a word to Kate.
One man's loss is another's opportunity. When Sawyer would start sweet-talking Kate in the afternoons, Jack would go for one of his long walks on the beach. Boone started joining him, never asking permission, just falling into step by his side. At first they walked in silence; then Boone started telling Jack about his life, stuff he'd never told anybody, stuff Jack probably didn't even want to know. Jack had listened, and Boone had drunk in the attention eagerly, like the first swallow of fresh water in the morning. So what if it was only so Jack didn't have to think about Kate? If that had been all Boone ever got, it would have been enough.
Then, one night, he got more.
As the sun set that evening, they had been sitting in the sand, facing not the horizon but each other. Boone had been trying - once again - to talk about his father, and failing - once again - to find the words.
"He thought - if he gave me the office and he bought me the suits, that I'd just turn into the man he wanted me to be." Boone had swallowed hard, wondering whether this last humiliation was one he wanted to share even with Jack. "One time - at a conference - a hooker came to my hotel room. A woman. She didn't have to say who'd hired her."
"What did you do?"
"I didn't have sex with her - I couldn't -"
"I realized that." Boone had come out to Jack a couple weeks before that; Jack hadn't seemed surprised. "But what did you do instead? Just turn her away?"
"No. She needed the money, so - I bought her dinner from room service. We watched a movie on cable."
Jack had been smiling by that point; Boone had never realized the story was kind of funny before. If you didn't think being gay was something shameful - well, it was funny. "Okay, Boone, I have to know. What movie?"
"Steel Magnolias." Boone had been grinning by that point, so much so that he couldn't have been very convincing as he said, "Stop laughing."
"Sorry." Jack had collected his composure, rested his hands on his knees as he sat Indian-style. "Your father shouldn't have done that to you. It's funny now, but at the time - it must have been embarrassing."
"It was always embarrassing until now." Boone met Jack's eyes for a moment, willing him to see what a gift it was, being able to reveal the worst secrets of his life to somebody who wasn't shocked. "Until I told you."
Jack didn't look away. "Then I'm glad you told me."
They'd been so close, too close, and all those stupid hopes and desires had been welling up inside Boone again. Jack's straight, he had reminded himself desperately. Just to have something to say, to fill the silence, he blurted out, "I guess your father never hired a hooker for you, huh?"
For a few moments, Jack had been silent. Then he pushed up the sleeve of his shirt and held out his wrist. Boone, heart pounding, had held Jack's hand in both of his.
"See that white scar? Right there?"
"Yeah." It wasn't big - not even a quarter-inch long, nothing Boone would ever have noticed if Jack hadn't pointed it out.
"One night - when I was, oh, I don't know, eight or nine -" Jack's voice had trailed off, and Boone hadn't known if he would go on. He had wanted Jack to go on, because that way he got to keep holding Jack's hand. "My dad brought his highball glass down on my hand. I think - I know he just meant to smash my fingers. But he was drunk, and he hit too hard, and the glass shattered. So that's what my father gave me."
"Oh, shit." Boone had been mortified. "Jack, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been venting about - about stupid stuff -"
"It's not stupid. Don't ever think that."
"But compared to you - to what you -"
"It's not a competition. Just - when you talk about your father not accepting you, I know where you're coming from. I know really well. That's all." Jack had shaken his head, as if coming out of some kind of trance. "I don't even know why I told you."
In a minute he'll go, Boone had thought desperately. He's going to say we should head back, and he's right because it's almost dark, and we'll never be this close again. Last chance, last chance, last chance.
He'd blurted out, "If I kiss you, are you going to hit me?"
Jack had stared at him, and Boone was on the verge of apologizing before Jack said, "Did someone do that? Hit you because you kissed them?"
"It's happened." That night at the Sig Ep house - but no, Boone wasn't going to dump more baggage on Jack, not yet anyway. Trying to make light of it, he'd said, "See, you straight guys, you have it lucky. Women know you might try to make a pass at them; they're prepared. With men it's harder to know, and if you get it wrong - well, you can fill it in from there."
"Nobody should ever have done that to you." Only then had Boone realized Jack hadn't pulled his hand away. "Not because of a kiss."
Boone had looked at Jack's mouth - he had a good mouth - and then he couldn't look away. "Well - then - if I kiss you -" Nervous and shaking, he'd only barely managed to say, "- are you going to kiss me back?"
Jack had been quiet for a moment, but then his hand tightened over Boone's. "I never kissed a guy before." With a half-laugh, he said, "You'll tell me if I get it wrong?"
"Yeah. I mean, you won't get it wrong - just -"
It had been Jack who leaned forward first, and Boone had fallen silent, his nervous words finally lost in the rushing of the tide.
Boone had meant to kiss him gently - it was the first time, probably the only time, and more than likely Jack was just being kind - but he'd dreamed about that moment too long to hold back. He pressed his mouth hard against Jack's, harder again until Jack parted his lips, then pushed his tongue inside. Jack had tasted like salt, like the sea.
Breath had puffed against Boone's cheeks - Jack, surprised and God only knew what else, but not pulling away. His tongue brushed against Boone's, and that first sign of cooperation, of shared pleasure, had turned Boone's whole body into nothing but heat and muscle and need. He had captured Jack's face in his hands, beard bristly against his palms, to hold him there for every last second of the kiss.
When they'd finally broken apart, neither of them had spoken for a few moments. At last, Boone said, "Are you mad?"
"I'm a lot of things right now." Jack had sounded slightly out of breath. "Mad isn't one of them."
Then Jack had brushed his hand against Boone's hair, and Boone had had to shut his eyes against the sheer wonder of it all. The joy. "Please," Boone had whispered, "tell me you're gonna let me kiss you again."
"I need to take this slow." Jack had said, haltingly. "Okay?"
"Okay." Boone would have promised him anything.
They fished in companionable silence for a while; Boone no longer worried about the times when he and Jack had little to say to one another, not as a rule. Learning to relax and just be together was the first sign you were really in a relationship.
But what if long silences were the first sign your relationship was falling apart? That the man you loved - the straight man you loved - was already thinking about the woman he might have another chance to win?
Boone tossed his spear back onto land. "Hey, Jack?"
"Hang on a sec." Jack peered down into the greenish waters, intent on his prey. "I think I see something."
Using his spare time to pull off his T-shirt and throw it after the spear, Boone watched Jack make a jab into the waves, then swear. "Dammit. I'm no good at this."
"Stands to reason you'd have to be bad at something. Otherwise, you wouldn't be human."
The compliment made Jack frown. "Don't do that."
"That thing where you pretend I'm perfect. I'm not, we both know it, and it feels like -"
"What? Like I care about my boyfriend?"
Jack sighed. "Like you're setting me up to fail."
Failure was a loaded word for Jack. Boone knew when to relax; fortunately, this played into his plans anyway. "All I'm setting you up to do is kiss me."
Jack squinted against the sunlight on the water, but he smiled. "I like the sound of that."
Boone took Jack's waist in his hands - firm muscle against his wrists, his thumbs - and opened his mouth for him, kissing him deep. Jack brushed his fingers against Boone's cheeks, then gripped Boone's shoulders gently, as if willing him to stay close. At this moment, Boone felt as though he could stop time, just keep the two of them together, knee-deep in the waves; he closed his eyes, but the brilliant light shone through, red-gold.
"So, which one of you guys is the bait?"
They broke apart; Kate was standing on the bank, hands on her hips, her smile difficult to read.
Don't let go, Boone thought. Don't let go of me. If you let go, that means you don't want Kate to see us kissing, and you're thinking about leaving me for her already, and I can't take that, I can't -
Jack didn't let go, and yet Boone didn't feel any better. "Either you're here because you and Jin already caught as much as we can eat, or you're here because you're doing as badly as we are."
"First one, luckily. Jin's on fire today. Seriously, the best thing everybody can do now is help us get the catch back to camp, so we can smoke them."
"You got it," Boone said. "We'll be right there."
Kate nodded. She looked as though she wanted to say something else, but instead she kept walking toward the north, where the others still worked.
One more quick kiss - efficient, almost like Boone was a kid getting sent off to school - and Jack had let go to wade back onto shore. "You know, once Jin speaks a little more English, he's got to tell us how he does it with the fish," Jack said, picking up Boone's shirt and tossing it to him. "It's eerie."
"So we're just done here, then." Boone held out his hands, his T-shirt flapping in the breeze. "We're kissing, and then Kate comes along - and then you forget that we were together at all."
"Did you not hear what she said? This is food, Boone. You know how quickly the fish go bad." Clearly annoyed, Jack was slightly too polite as he said, "You don't have to help if something's bothering you."
It didn't matter that Jack hadn't let go; it didn't matter that Boone understood Jack got all impersonal like that when he was feeling freaked-out. Boone couldn't keep it bottled up anymore. "You know something's bothering me. You just don't want to have to deal with it."
"I don't want to have to deal with you throwing a temper tantrum for no reason. Yeah, you've got me there."
"You leering at Kate is not 'no reason.' It's a really good reason."
Jack's eyes got wide, though he was obviously more offended by the suggestion than surprised by it. "Excuse me? Which one of you was I just making out with?"
"You were looking at her earlier. Don't deny it."
For a few breaths, Jack was silent; then he pressed his lips together and nodded. "I looked. Sometimes I look. That's what men do - gay or straight or in between. We look. Right?"
"You still want her. Don't you?"
The wind whipped through the palms, rustling sharp reeds and leaves against each other, though that wasn't why Jack's voice had become so loud. "I'm not going to dump you for Kate, okay? Can we drop this and get some work done? Or are you determined to keep acting like a brat?"
Boone could've punched him, then. "Don't do that! Don't keep using those words - brat and temper tantrum - like I'm a kid!"
"You're acting like one." Jack rolled up his sleeves, going into Official Grand High Leader mode, his argument style of last resort. "I'm going to find Jin and bring the fish back to the caves. Come or don't. The choice is yours."
"Choice. Funny word to use." Boone gulped in a deep breath, then finally said it: "If we weren't on this island - if we just met in Los Angeles or Sydney or, or anywhere - you wouldn't ever choose me. Would you?"
Jack stared at him, hard and flat, then said, "No."
Numbly, Boone turned away, made his way back up onto the beach and started walking toward the caves.
He didn't want Jack to yell for him to come back, but he was still sort of mad when he didn't. Once, Boone glanced over his shoulder, but Jack was already headed in the other direction, on his way to help Jin with the fish.
So Boone went in search of a sympathetic ear. Instead, he found Shannon.
"Of course he wouldn't choose you, numb-nuts," Shannon said, wringing out the towel she was washing in the shallow pond. "Jack's a straight boy. In the world outside the island, straight boys choose straight girls. That's the way that world works."
"I just can't believe he said it." Boone was sitting beside her, marginally helping out; Shannon was almost healed from the accident with the boar three months ago, but her foot was still in a makeshift splint. "That's all."
Shannon put her finger to her mouth, mock-thoughtful. "Hmmm. Could it be because you asked him flat-out? Dumb move. Hand me the T-shirts next, okay?"
Boone handed her the T-shirts, barely seeing his sister as he did so. She was a lousy confidante, but somehow, when he really had to vent, he always ended up talking to her anyway. "I just thought - I don't know. It shouldn't be like that. I mean, he didn't have to pick me. He didn't have to pick anybody."
"By the time Kate made her choice, most of the girls were taken," Shannon said. "As boys go, you're definitely on the girly side."
"Wow. Thanks for that. I feel so much more confident now that I'm going to hang myself."
"You're such a goody two shoes. When are you going to stop expecting Island Dating to be like regular dating? Because it's not. Never has been. The rules changed the minute the plane dropped out of the sky, Boone, and you're the only one who pretends any different."
"People want to be together," Boone replied. Nothing hurt worse than the idea that, instead of desire, Jack only had need. "People love each other. That doesn't change."
"The guys at Hallmark will never know what they lost when you didn't make it back to civilization." Shannon laughed at her own joke, scrubbed at a blue shirt and continued, "You and Jack were the first weird sexual combo on this island, but you weren't the last. And you're not the weirdest by a long shot. Sun's been with Michael for a year and a half now. But she still sleeps with Jin sometimes. Right?"
"Well - yeah - but they were married - are married, I guess - and I thought that was just to stop Jin from trying to kill Michael for the zillionth time --"
"AND, nobody ever breaks up here, even if they're a total case of square peg/round hole. It would throw off the whole game of musical chairs. Though I guess Sawyer and Kate are about to - but some change might be fun." The breeze ruffled Shannon's blonde hair, and she smiled softly, as if she'd been caressed. "Lots of fun, maybe."
"Nobody's ever wanted to break up before," Boone insisted, thinking of Jack and hoping that was true.
"As if. And did you know Charlie's started letting Hurley sleep with Claire sometimes?"
"What? But - no way." Charlie and Claire were the most devoted couple of them all, the Pair Most Likely to make it official even if they were rescued someday. "Why would he do that?"
"They felt sorry for Hurley because I wouldn't do him and the fatso had no other options. So Claire helps Hurley out, and Charlie knows he's the one she really loves, and they're all three getting along great so far." She stretched her arms, then tossed a few of the damp T-shirt at Boone. "Will you be useful for a change? My shoulders are cramping up."
To be useful, Boone began his share of the laundry. Which was, technically, Shannon's share of the laundry, but whatever. "I couldn't let Jack sleep with somebody else. If it were just - I don't know, just fucking around - I could deal with that. But not somebody he cared about."
"Not Kate, you mean. Well, keep asking yourself about that. Because the music's about to start again, and the musical chairs are going to change." As though she had only now realized that Boone was actually upset, Shannon spoke more softly. "Hey. You realize she's got other options, right? Sayid will go after her in a heartbeat. I wouldn't count Jin out, either. He's seriously hot, and he's mellowed out a bunch, and trust me, he's amazing in the sack."
"How do you do that?" Boone glanced sideways at her, finally daring to ask a question that had teased him for a while. "Play all the guys against each other. Keep them fighting for you."
She tossed her hair. "It's basic sexual economics, Boone. Supply and demand. The guys were acting so stupid and macho at first - like, claiming women for their own, so they'd have the supply, right? I figured that actually gave me the real power in the situation, so I used the power. That's all."
"I can't believe you remember anything from economics class. It's like you attended a lecture or something."
"I did graduate, you know." Shannon scowled, which only made Boone laugh. So she shot back, "Anyway, I'm the one who figured out that everything changed here. You're the one trying to pretend that you and Jack, like, courted or something."
"I'm not trying to pretend," Boone said, thinking of those early evenings on the beach, how he and Jack had slowly gone further and further. "Not with Jack."
"You're the only man here who still shaves his face." Shannon's eyes were knowing. "You think Jack won't like kissing you if you have a beard."
Boone couldn't say anything after that. She began limping back toward the caves, using palm fronds and tree trunks to steady herself. As Shannon moved from the dappled sunlight into shadow, she called back, "Don't forget to hang the underwear in the brightest sun! Nothing makes people bitch and moan like wet underwear."
"Got it," Boone said. But he sat motionless for a while, looking at his wavering reflection on the amber surface of the pond. The wind rippled the water, and his face blurred away.
That first night, Boone had only kissed Jack, and not for that long. He hadn't been able to sleep for hours after that; he'd lain in his corner of the cave, running his tongue along in the inside of his swollen lips, feeling the small cuts his own teeth had made. The flickering pain had been welcome proof that it had all really happened.
The next night, Boone had felt as though he had to ask Jack if they could walk together, and he'd expected to be told no. Instead, Jack nodded, and they had made awkward small talk for almost an hour before Jack stopped in his tracks, swore, and kissed Boone again. They'd gotten to the point of actual making out the night after that - hands wandering, kissing each other's necks, nipping at each other's skin. But Boone had pushed no further. Jack had limits, and Boone had been determined to keep stopping just short of them.
But after a week of kissing and touching, Boone had realized he had limits too.
They had been in the ferns on the western shore, sitting down, arms around each other and mouths locked together. Jack could just get lost in kissing - go and go and go, like he didn't have to breathe, even - and Boone loved that about him. But it just wasn't enough. It couldn't ever be enough.
"You love to kiss," Boone had said, panting for breath against Jack's throat.
"It's been a while."
"About two months, huh?"
Jack had laughed softly as he brushed his lips against Boone's temple. "More than that. It's been a long time since anybody - since I - it's just been a long time."
The invitation couldn't have been any clearer, in Boone's opinion, though he hadn't been sure Jack fully realized what he'd done. He'd just whispered, "Lie down."
"Boone - I don't know - "
"Just lie down," Boone had insisted. Jack had looked more panicked than turned on, but Boone had known he could get him past that. "Close your eyes, Jack."
Slowly, almost awkwardly, Jack had lain back onto the sandy ground. He'd shut his eyes tightly, not relaxing even as Boone dropped a kiss at the hollow of his throat.
Boone had unbuttoned Jack's shirt slowly, kissing his chest all the way down, brushing his tongue against a nipple. Jack had gasped, and the tension in his body had changed into something better, Boone thought.
That's right, he thought. Keep your eyes shut. Don't think; just feel. Because it's going to feel just like a girl, just like you're with a girl -
He'd circled Jack's navel with his tongue as he unzipped Jack's jeans. To Boone's surprise and relief, Jack had already been hard, and his cock throbbed once at Boone's first touch. The boxer shorts had slid down easily - Jack had tilted his hips to help him, agreeing to it, giving in - and then Boone could see his erection, long and firm and begging to be sucked.
My mouth's just like a girl's, Boone had thought, his tongue darting out to brush against the tip. As Jack had taken in a shuddering breath, Boone had angled his mouth just so, then took him in deep.
Jack had groaned, the vibration rippling through the skin beneath Boone's cheek. He'd swirled his tongue to cover as much of Jack's cock as possible, wrapping it around him, relishing the feel of wet skin. Then he'd started sucking, just a little at first, giving it time to build.
After a moment, Jack had shifted his weight, thrusting up ever so slowly into Boone's mouth. Taking the cue, Boone had begun sucking harder, matching the pulses of his lips and tongue to Jack's movements, finding a tempo that worked for them both. Jack had started cursing, talking dirty, in a way that made Boone go hot all over.
Yeah, he'd thought. That's it. Forget where you are. Forget who you're with. Just feel. Just fuck.
When Jack tensed beneath him, Boone had gripped the base of his cock, hard, denying him release. That had only made Jack swear more vehemently, which just made Boone burn for him more. Bringing his tongue up just to the tip, he'd circled the firm ridge there, tasting the liquid flowing from him now, felt his own erection becoming so hard it hurt. The sand had shifted beneath him, gritty against his palms, as he straddled Jack's body, releasing his grip, freeing Jack to climax.
Jack had pushed up between Boone's lips, filling him, once and twice and again, before he shouted out. Come filled Boone's mouth, hot and salty and thick, and he'd gulped it down, using each swallow to caress Jack's cock one more time.
At last he'd pulled away. Jack had lain beneath him, shuddering in the aftermath of his orgasm, his face simultaneously baffled and delighted. Boone had smiled, then dropped a kiss onto Jack's softening erection; it pulsed once beneath his lips.
Boone had been prepared to apologize, to go away, to deal with it however Jack wanted to deal with it. But instead Jack had pulled him close and held onto him for a long time. Closing his eyes, Boone had wished that this night would never have to end.
Finally, Jack had said, "That was - really, really good."
"I wanted it to be." Boone had never felt so humbled or so helpless, but it was enough in that moment to have shown Jack - just once - how much he wanted him, how good it could be.
They were quiet together for a while, until Jack whispered, "What about you?"
"Jack, don't." Boone had wanted him, so badly it hurt, but he hadn't wanted to push. "You don't have to."
"I want to."
When Jack had unfastened his belt, Boone had forgotten how to move, how to think, even how to breathe. He'd been hesitant, even uncertain, as he opened Boone's fly, so Boone had guided his hand, wrapped Jack's strong fingers around his cock and said, "Touch me. Just touch me like you touch yourself. You know - yeah - you know what to do --"
And Jack had stroked him slow and hard as they kissed, until Boone couldn't hold back anymore and got lost in the sky and the sea and the stars.
Neither Jack nor Boone spoke at dinner. It wasn't that they weren't talking to each other, Boone thought, more like they were avoiding the proximity that could force them to talk to anyone at all.
Everyone else was in a great mood. After a week of coconut and plantains, fish was a treat, and Jin had done well enough for all of them to eat their fill. The soft white meat flaked at a touch, singeing fingertips and tongues as everyone wolfed it down, unwilling to wait for it to cool. Walt helped Claire feed bits of it to Richie, who was only now beginning to take solid food; the little boy chewed slowly, as if unsure of this business, while his mother held him in her lap.
"I'll be hunting again soon," Locke promised, though that day was still a while off; his ribs were still bound up tightly, and his breath was short in his chest. "Then we can have pork again."
"Never did I think I would look forward to eating pig," Sayid said.
"Tell me about it," replied Kate, as she licked her fish-salty fingertips. Niceties like religious rules and vegetarianism had fallen away long ago; if you could eat it, you did.
"Those trees up on the far north shore have some really sticky sap," Michael offered. "I tasted some the other day. Tastes sweet. If we worked with it some, we might be able to come up with a kind of molasses."
"Well, that's just dandy," Sawyer said. "That'll be real nice the next time we have pancakes."
"Ohh, don't talk about pancakes," Hurley said wistfully.
"Use your imagination," Michael said, grinning. "Molasses plus pork plus some of that spicy root we found equals -"
Sawyer's eyes lit up wickedly as he finished, "BARBECUE. Michael, my man, you are a genius. Bona fide."
"Does sound nice," Jack said - the first time he'd talked all evening. "We could have barbecued ribs."
"Way better than plain old burnt ribs," Shannon said, and everyone laughed.
The evening turned into something of a party, after that - celebrating the sunshine, the good dinner, another day without anybody getting hurt. Charlie played his guitar, and he sang with Sayid while other people drummed on logs or the ground or each other's backs.
"Cecilia - you're breaking my heart - you're shaking my confidence daily - oh, Cecilia - I'm down on my knees - I'm begging you please to come home - come on home -"
Michael danced with Sun, and Hurley danced with Claire; when Charlie looked at them, he only smiled wider. Boone wondered how anybody could be so free from jealousy - how anybody could be so sure that he was loved.
He glanced over to see if Jack was talking to Kate; if those two started to dance, Boone would lose it. But instead, Jack was playing with Richie, helping him clap his hands in time to the music. The smile on his face was broader than Boone had seen in a while.
Then Boone wondered if Jack wanted kids, and his good dinner turned to stone in his belly.
Quickly, he dusted off his jeans and went outside, just to get a breath of fresh air. As soon as he had, though, Boone wished he hadn't.
Because, further down the path, he could see Sawyer and Shannon.
Shannon's arms were behind her back, wrapped around the trunk of an obliging palm. Sawyer stood close to her - not touching, but obviously wanting to.
"A gentleman would help me walk to the beach," Shannon said, her voice softer than it ever was when she spoke to Boone.
"I expect a gentleman would." Sawyer tilted his head, his grin wolfish in the moonlight. "Now, what do you think I'd do?"
"Help me walk to the beach. Then have your wicked way with me."
"You're mighty sure of yourself, ain't ya?"
Shannon leaned back, the tree swaying with her, as though she were on the verge of lying down. "I respect ulterior motives. That's all I'm saying."
"I get up to wash my face - when I come back to bed, someone's taken my place -"
Boone stalked away in the other direction, angry at Shannon for not telling him, not WARNING him. She was helping it along, seducing Sawyer just when he was ready to be seduced by someone else, and he'd leave Kate, who'd be alone and who still looked at Jack sometimes and -
No, he thought. It won't last. Sawyer and Shannon? They'll fight too much to make it stick, so Sawyer will come back to Kate. Definitely.
But the more Boone thought about it, the more he realized how well Sawyer and Shannon would fit; Sawyer argued with everybody, but unlike Kate, who took that stuff personally like a normal human being, Shannon would just argue right back. It would be like a game to them, Boone thought, a game they both enjoyed. As for Sawyer - Boone had learned long ago that there were men who liked chasing someone more than they liked having someone. Sawyer was one of those. With Shannon, he'd always have to keep chasing her. He'd always have the thrill of the hunt.
And he would never come back to Kate.
As Boone went up the stony ridge that led to the low cliff, he realized someone was already up there - then was startled to see that it was Kate. She was alone, except for Vincent, who thumped his tail once as Boone came close.
"Hey," Kate said. Just that one word - or, really, the way she said it - told Boone that she'd seen Sawyer with Shannon. She obviously minded, but not enough to try to stop it.
"I'm sorry," Boone said.
She shrugged, her dark hair streaming behind her in the breeze. "Honestly, at this point, I'm glad about it." This wasn't exactly true, Boone figured, but it probably wasn't a total lie. "It was time for Sawyer to move on. He'll be happier; I will too."
Though it was the last thing he should ever have asked her, Boone had to know: "Why did you choose Sawyer in the first place?"
"You mean -- why Sawyer, instead of Jack?" Kate didn't meet his eyes; she was staring into the night, at something only she could see. Her voice was low as she said, "I didn't want to stay in one place for too long. And I always was bad luck for a good man."
That, of course, was Boone's cue to mention they were stranded and not going anywhere for a while, and to say she wasn't bad luck to anybody. Instead, he walked away, still searching in vain for a place in the wilderness to be alone.
After their fourth night of lovemaking - four nights in which Jack had proved to be a fairly quick study - they had wandered back toward the caves, not arm in arm, but smiling at each other every few steps. Jack's hand had brushed against his as they moved, accidental but not. Boone had known he was acting like a teenager with a first crush, but he figured that was okay.
Still, though, he'd figured he would have to tune it down before they got back. It wasn't like the others could know. Boone had been someone's dirty little secret before; he knew how to play the role.
When they had arrived, dinner was cooking - the boar roasting over a fire, Locke and Sun taking turns beating it with swags of wild herbs they'd picked. Locke insisted this improved the flavor, though Boone had never been able to tell any difference. "Smells good," Jack had said.
"About time you got back," Charlie had said, popping out of the cave as if propelled. "Something's happening with the baby!"
"Oh, my God." Jack had dashed inside. "What's wrong?"
"Charlie's being an overprotective sweetheart dope," Claire had explained serenely as she nursed baby Richie. "Nothing's at all the matter."
"How can you say that?" Charlie had cried. "Watch him!" Richie sucked in a couple more mouthfuls of milk - then his entire body convulsed, just once, as milk dribbled from the corners of his mouth. "You see now, don't you?"
Jack had done a very poor job of hiding his amusement. "Yes, Charlie, this baby is suffering from a very dangerous case of -- the hiccups."
"Hiccups? Babies don't get hiccups!"
"Of course they do." Claire had smoothed down the few wisps of Richie's hair as he resumed nursing, far less troubled by his hiccups than his adoptive father was. "He had them in the womb, sometimes. My whole belly would jump up and down."
Charlie had grinned, relaxing at last. "Really? Wild."
Some of the others had laughed, but kindly; almost everyone was gathered together, awaiting dinner. Boone had been glad of the distraction, because that way maybe they'd be less likely to notice how long Jack had been gone, and who he'd been gone with -
"Now, where were you two boys off to?" Sawyer had drawled. He had slid his arm around Kate, obviously hoping to get a rise out of Jack. "Gosh, Dr. Shephard, you've been spendin' a whole lot of time off with Metro here. Might make people start to wonder if - seeing as how AC didn't work out for you - you mighta switched over to DC, if you know what I mean."
"Sawyer, shut up," Boone had said, trying to make it about him and Sawyer instead of Jack and Sawyer. That way, Sawyer might actually let it go.
But Sawyer hadn't let it go; he hadn't even looked over at Boone, just kept staring at Jack. "So, tell us the truth, Big Kahuna. You doin' it with Boone?"
Everyone had stared. Boone had been sure nobody could have been more surprised than he was. He'd never imagined that Jack would claim him, openly, in front of them all.
"Dude," Hurley had said. Kate's eyes had darkened, and for a moment Boone had been sure she would say something. If she had, she could've taken Jack back in an instant. But she'd remained still. Sawyer clearly had not prepared a retort for this. Everyone else had just stared at the obviously straight man and his obviously gay boyfriend, though in the far corner of the cave Shannon gave Boone a deliberately obnoxious thumbs-up.
Jack had turned slowly around the cave, making eye contact with everyone in turn, Boone last of all. Boone had given him a small smile, just because he hadn't known what else to do; the moment when Jack smiled back was one of the best of his life. "Is this going to be a problem for anyone?" Jack had said to the group at large, never looking away from Boone. "Because if it is, say so now and let's hash this out."
"It's not a problem for anyone," Claire had said, her jaw set in a way that suggested they'd better not. "IS it, Charlie?"
"Heck, no." Charlie had laughed. "Half the band was gay. The other half, I should mention." Others had started laughing too, then Jack had relaxed, and the tension was over. Within another couple of minutes, Locke and Sun were bringing in dinner, and Boone had been slightly dazed to find the others clearing a space for him to sit by Jack's side.
Long after dark, Boone came back down to the cave. Almost everyone was asleep; Boone wondered if Sawyer was sleeping with Kate or with Shannon tonight. He'd figure it out in the morning.
Then, just before he reached the small cove he shared with Jack, he had a horrible thought: What if Kate was in there with Jack? What if all that bad-luck talk was just talk?
But when he climbed inside, Jack was lying there, already undressed, waiting for him. Boone wordlessly lay down by his side, only to feel a rush of relief and gratitude as Jack pulled him fiercely into his arms.
Boone laid his head against Jack's chest, clinging to him, trying to keep his composure as Jack whispered, "I'm sorry. I know I hurt you."
"I started it."
"Doesn't make it okay."
Jack's body felt so good next to his - broad where Boone was slender, hairy where Boone was smooth. His hands were splayed across Boone's back, holding him tight; Jack had such great hands, strong and capable. Boone had waited a long time to be held by hands like those.
"We have to talk about it," Boone murmured, resisting the urge to kiss his way down to Jack's belly. "About what you said. I can't pretend it didn't happen."
"Okay." Jack was quiet for a couple moments, then said, "Boone - you wouldn't choose me either."
"Are you telling me that if you had hundreds of gay men available, you'd pick an uptight straight guy twelve years older than you? One you had to teach how to make love to you? Forgive me, but I don't think you would."
Boone had never considered the question in this light. "It's not like that. I didn't go shopping or anything. I just - I met you. And then I didn't want anybody else."
"Exactly." Jack hugged Boone a little tighter. "I didn't need somebody to screw around with. I could just have traded favors with Shannon and left it at that. I needed - somebody who was going to matter. And that was you. It's still you."
"It wouldn't have happened, though. Not if we weren't on this island."
"No," Jack said carefully. "But we are on this island. It has happened. And I'm not sorry. Are you believing me yet?"
"Sort of." Rolling over, Boone got far enough from Jack to see his face. To his surprise, Jack looked almost haggard; he hadn't realized that Jack might, sometimes, be afraid of losing him, too. "You're still attracted to Kate."
"Well, yeah. I'm still straight - more or less," Jack sighed.
"More or less?"
With a smile, Jack said, "Before the crash, more. Since the crash - less."
Boone realized he was smiling too.
"You're the one who understands about my father. You're the one who knows how I get when stuff freaks me out." Jack's eyes sought Boone's in the dark. "Nobody else sees that. Just you."
Never before had Boone realized that, instead of desire, Jack had love.
Of course, there was more to the story. Jack didn't just feel drawn to Kate because she was female; some kind of bond still existed between them, and that still scared Boone like hell. And they were going to be on the island a long, long time - someday, somehow, Jack was going to want to have sex with a woman again. When that day came, Boone didn't know how he was ever going to face it.
But Jack was lying next to him, not Kate, not anyone else. Boone was tired of worrying about the future. If this was the only way it could ever have happened, if this was the only time they'd have, then that just made Boone more determined to hold on tight.
He kissed Jack hungrily, opening his mouth wide for Jack's tongue to plunge in deep. Jack's hands were at Boone's hipbones in an instant, tugging him close so that their legs tangled together. "I love you," Jack whispered as their lips parted.
Boone had heard Jack say those words in the past, but this was the first time he'd ever believed him. "Love you too," he said, claiming Jack's mouth again.
Jack stripped off Boone's clothes without a word, and Boone stifled his groan of response when Jack touched him at last. The caves echoed both clearly and loudly, which was why people had learned during the past two years to do everything as quietly as possible - talking, or snoring, or making love.
Return to Yahtzee's New Fic Index Page
Return to Yahtzee's Main Page