The days went by, he tracked their passing, the darkness coming down, covering the island like a blanket, the light returning, filtering through the canopy of vegetation. When the light returned, he would lift his hand, pass it through the first shaft of brightness to pierce the gloom of the jungle, back and forth, shadow and light, turning his palm upward, feeling the faint heat of the sun on his skin.
When it was dark he sat motionless in the jungle and watched it breathe and move in the night, and when it was light he walked through it without cessation, searching for what, he didn't know - for her ghost to appear to him as the boy's did in the moments before she died, for the evil ones to take him, for some mutant beast to rip him apart, for the ground to open with a roar and fling him down into oblivion - and he would welcome any of it, anything that would mean the destruction of this cocoon of unceasing blank numbness that encased him.
Sometimes he would fall exhausted to the jungle floor, and lie watching the ground, the ants and snakes and jungle creatures coming and going, sometimes detouring around him, sometimes climbing or slithering over him.
He couldn't have said what wonders or horrors he saw during the endless days spent trudging through the underbrush. He only knew he didn't see anything that gave him an an option to change the way things were.
When he would appear at the camp, people would gather around him, his friends he supposed. They would come to him, touch him, talk to him in hushed, concerned tones, but he couldn't hear their words, only a faint susurration, like the sound of the sea when you held a shell up to your ear. He would stand, buffeted by their touches and their voices, until one of them - one he knew well, it was just the name that wouldn't come - would lead him away and hand him a pill, and he would swallow it obediently and sink for a few blissful hours into a dark and dreamless sleep.
When he awoke, groggy and confused, there would be food for him, and water, and clean clothes, and he would take them and go out into the jungle again, searching.
He didn't speak, or scream, or cry. And, most of all, he didn't feel.
He was dead, he knew he was. He had suspected it anyway, before this, that all of them were. Now he knew it. She had been taken away from this unholy limbo, but he, and the others, were still trapped, going through the motions of life, but no longer living. If he could just feel something, anything, maybe then he could believe, or at least pretend to believe, that there was hope. But the numb, stultifying apathy that consumed him had the unmistakable stink of death, and he disappeared into it, going deeper, further, longing for it to blot him out entirely, so that it would be as though he had never walked the earth.
He stumbled as he trudged unsteadily along paths he had already traveled countless times, his legs trembling, his vision blurred. He knew that he was weak with hunger and possibly illness. He couldn't remember the last time he ate, or drank, or stopped, walking now even at night. He thought that the next time he stopped would be his last, that finally he would be able to lie down, and the jungle would open her green jaws and swallow him whole.
He heard footsteps behind him, his ghost following him, gaining on him, waiting for its chance. He tried to move faster, but his legs were made of stone. Something caught his arm, holding on, and he looked down to see a hand, flesh and blood, and he felt a strange burning where the hand held him, and then he looked up to see a man looking at him with dark eyes, and then he was falling and the trees were rising up around him and the ground was cool under his back and he felt a hand under his head and heard a buzzing in his ears that could have been a voice speaking, coming from far away.
When he opened his eyes again, he was no longer surrounded by the endless green of the jungle. He was in a bed, with sheets and a pillow. The hatch, he remembered. He sat up, and the room spun around him, and he groaned, closing his eyes as the spinning intensified.
"Lie down, Sayid," said a voice beside him, and he started, as hands gripped his shoulders hard, burning into his skin. He gasped, trying to rise, confused, overwhelmed. Jack loomed above him, pushing him down onto the bed, holding him there as he struggled, breathing hard, panic-stricken. "Sayid, dammit, hold still," Jack ordered, as he fought harder, wild now, had to get back to the jungle, had to find her. Jack straddled him, sitting across his waist, Sayid's arms beneath his knees, then reached for something beside the bed. Sayid tried to push him off when he saw the syringe, using all his strength, twisting and bucking, but it was no use, Jack had him pinned, then a prick in his arm, and a fog clouded his vision, and darkness.
He fought his way to consciousness, his mind heavy, his head aching. He tried to sit up but couldn't move, and he froze as a wave of anxiety washed over him. He was tied to the bed. No, he had to get up, he had to get back to her, back to the jungle, she was calling to him. He strained at the bonds, struggling, and the bed creaked, but they held. He lay back panting, his heart racing, his mind ricocheting from thought to thought.
He looked to the door as hurried footsteps approached, and Jack appeared, forehead creased in worry.
"Shit, Sayid, I didn't know you were awake," he said, kneeling beside him. "I'm sorry. I meant to be here. We had to tie you. You kept fighting us. You need to stay here now. No more jungle. We couldn't let you leave again." His eyes held something deep, something hidden, Sayid couldn't quite see it, couldn't make out what it was. "You're trying to kill yourself out there," Jack said gently. "We need you here, with us."
Sayid looked up at Jack with wide eyes, silently begging to be untied.
"I can't, Sayid," said Jack quietly. "I promise, as soon as it's safe, but I can't right now."
Sayid closed his eyes. He needed to get back to her. His head was throbbing, a knife blade digging into his scalp. He moaned softly, pain and despair engulfing him.
And then Jack stroked his head, brushing his hair back, rubbing his forehead, fingers exerting a solid pressure, cool and firm, sliding along his skin, kneading the pain away. Sayid inhaled sharply, his eyes flying open. He felt it. He looked at Jack in wonder and awe, his heart beating a tattoo against his ribcage, his mind fixated on a single thought. He could feel it, feel his touch. On his skin, but inside him as well. He could feel it everywhere.
"What?" Jack asked, pulling away, "Did I hurt you?"
He shook his head, biting his lip.
"Do you want me to do that some more?"
Jack used two hands, massaging his forehead, his temples, reaching beneath his hair to dig his fingers in at the back of his head and rub deep circles into his neck, then down to his shoulders, releasing weeks of tension, and Sayid almost sobbed, astonished at the feeling of being touched, strong hands on his skin and in his hair and on his face, caressing, banishing the pain and the darkness and the nothingness.
"Is that better?" asked Jack softly, and he nodded, not opening his eyes, his skin tingling, and as he drifted back into sleep his mind latched on to a faint fluttering wisp of something that might be hope.
The next day Jack untied him, and sat with him to be sure he didn't bolt for the jungle. Sayid found it difficult to resist the urge, but he knew that in the jungle he'd find only the numbness he'd been carrying since her death. Here he could feel, and if Jack touched him again, he might be able to convince himself that he was still alive, that there was still a chance for him.
But Jack was sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room, watching him, pretending to read a book, and Sayid thought he detected wariness and uncertainty in his eyes, as if he sensed how much Sayid needed him.
Too far away, Sayid thought. He needed to be closer. He sat up, pushed back the covers and carefully got to his feet. He walked across the room, kneeling down in front of Jack. Jack sat up straight and looked at him in surprise. Sayid was naked, but he didn't care. Modesty and shame belonged to a man who had lived another life, not to the one here, on the floor between Jack's legs, about to beg to be touched.
Sayid started to speak, but it had been so long that he couldn't form the words. He tried again, and looked at Jack in alarm as he again failed. Jack leaned forward, and touched his cheek, his hand curling around behind his head, his thumb stroking the back of his neck. Sayid closed his eyes, the stunning warmth of that touch rocketing through his body.
"It's okay, Sayid," Jack said, soothingly, drawing back. "It's been a long time. Relax, it'll come."
He tried again, and the words came, his voice creaking and slurred from disuse.
"Jack... I need... please, Jack... touch me..." He looked up at him, trying to make him see, make him understand. "Please."
Jack looked at him, his eyes serious and filled with pain and sadness and something else, something unnamable. Sayid placed his hands on Jack's knees and felt him tremble, and then he knew, suddenly and with absolute clarity, that what was hidden behind the concern and the empathy was desire. For him. He slid his hands up Jack's thighs, kneeling up, looking into his face.
"I need you, Jack," he said insistently. "I need you to touch me."
Jack blinked and shook his head wordlessly, but Sayid could see the pulse at the base of his throat, beating fast. He grabbed Jack's hand, pressed the palm to his chest, and his body sang as a blaze of heat spread from that point, radiating outwards.
"No," Jack said, his voice gruff, pulling his hand away, "You're still sick, Sayid. You don't know what you're asking. This isn't what you need."
"Yes, Jack," he said, holding Jack's eyes, willing him to give in. "It is what I need. It is the only thing I need."
"Why?" asked Jack, staring at him, "Why do you say that?"
"When you touch me, I know that I am alive. It is the only time that I have felt alive since... since..." He looked at Jack then, and he felt the despair and the numbness waiting for him at the edge of his mind, and he knew that if Jack didn't touch him he would go back out into the jungle, and disappear into it for good this time.
He took Jack's hand again, and placed it on his chest, closing his eyes as he felt weight of it, the solidity, and he climbed up Jack's body, straddling him, still holding his hand tight against his skin. Jack was watching him with wide eyes, his breath coming fast, the conflict evident in his face. Sayid noticed for the first time that he was breathing fast as well, and that he was hard, his cock straining upward toward Jack. He thought he should be embarrassed, to have his need, his desire so unmistakably exposed. But as Jack's eyes traveled down his body, to his crotch, Sayid only felt his excitement increase as Jack stared at his erection, his face changing, features sharpening, eyes darkening. He could feel Jack's cock stiffening under him, pressing up against his balls through his clothes, and it felt good, so good, so he moved, rubbing against it, his hands digging into Jack's shoulders, a groan spilling from his lips, his body demanding more. Jack's hips jerked up into him, and then Jack's hands were on his hips, on his bare skin, resting on the flare of his hipbones, as if they were made to fit there.
He shifted, finding a position where he could thrust against him and feel Jack's cock rubbing against his own, and he rocked down, wanting that contact, wanting it now more than anything, desperate to feel it, as the sensations overtook him and he closed his eyes, giving in to them, the sweetness of it spreading through his limbs until he felt that his whole body was on fire with need. Jack's hand slid down and wrapped around his cock and he cried out, falling forward, catching himself, and meeting Jack's eyes, fierce and determined, no doubt in them now, no hesitation. Jack's hand was in his hair, pulling, and his head fell back, and then Jack's mouth was on his neck, licking and sucking and biting, and he was moaning helplessly as Jack stroked him firmly, and yes, now he felt alive, now he knew that he was not dead, nothing dead could feel this good, this right, and he sobbed with relief as he felt everything shift, felt something inside him crack open, and he cried out as the rush of air and light filled him with a pulsing brightness.
Then Jack was pushing him down onto the sofa, hands on his body, gripping and stroking, and Sayid was arching up into him, and he was pushing Jack's pants over his hips, and stripping off his shirt, and then they were skin to skin, and Jack groaned as they ground their cocks against each other in a fast, ungraceful rhythm. His lips covered Sayid's in a bruising kiss, all heat and wet tongues and clashing teeth as they moaned and panted into each other's mouths. Sayid reached for him, but Jack pulled back.
"Wait," he said, his voice hoarse, and he propped himself on his elbow, one hand coiled in Sayid's hair, and stroked him fast, watching his face with dark, intent eyes. Words pushed up out of his throat, words in Arabic, words of praise, words of gratitude, words of hope, and then he gasped, as the words suddenly left him, and he tensed, his body thrumming with the need for release, and then Jack's thumb pressed on the tip of his cock and the tension broke, and he came hard with a long keening wail, thrusting up into Jack's hand, his cock spasming in his fist, a milky stream erupting over Jack's arm and splashing hot onto his stomach, as his mind went blank and for one heart stopping moment, his entire being consisted only of feeling.
He lay still then, blood rushing through his veins, his limbs heavy, numb with pleasure, concentrating of the sensations filling his body as consciousness slowly seeped back, as the intensity gradually receded and he became aware again of Jack's skin against his, and the sofa beneath him, and Jack's hand still holding his cock, and Jack's lips kissing him gently.
He blinked, focusing, and a slow smile spread across his face.
"I am alive," he said, his voice soft with wonder.
Jack smiled at him.
"Oh yes," he sighed, a finger tracing the line of his jaw, passing over his lips. "I would say that you are very much alive indeed, Sayid."
Jack shifted, and Sayid felt his cock dig in to his thigh.
"Jack," he said, pressing his body to Jack's, his hand brushing lightly down his length. "You must let me take care of this for you. But not here. I think perhaps the bed would be more comfortable than this lumpy couch, don't you?"
He got up and walked across the room, feeling Jack's eyes on him, and he got into the bed, and a second later Jack was beside him and his lips were hungry against his mouth, and his body was filled with need for him, and Sayid's hands were touching him everywhere, and it was Jack's turn to know irrefutably, irrevocably, that he was very, very much alive.