Challenge/Prompt: 7snogs, #5 Rumour
Summary: So they have their perfect doctor back, all in indelicate pieces. Ain’t his problem.
Author’s Notes: Set after season two (except let’s say that the finale didn’t happen, in that they weren’t taken at the end), but in a world without any season three. I don’t have Sky One so I haven’t seen season three so it doesn’t exist. That’s my logic, anyway. And I acknowledge the fact that there are no speech marks. It’s a thing.
It’s raining when Jack is taken, the end-of-the-world-so-hard-it-stings-your-f
It’s what’s expected of him.
Two days go and there’s no sign of Jack anywhere, and it’s a toss-up between whether The Others took him or whether he was eaten by the Thing in the jungle, although there are plenty of other options and Sawyer refuses to get involved. He gives flashlights from his stash to people when they ask for them without spending half an hour bickering over what he gets in return, though, and that’s contribution enough.
Eko seems to think that praying’s going to be a great idea and Sawyer attempts to mock him for this, but antagonising Eko doesn’t work like antagonising Jack does, he has too much dignity, and just looks at Sawyer from his dark, dark eyes as though he’s twenty times the man Sawyer is. (Sawyer thinks, well, yes you are, but you don’t need to rub it in.)
And he doesn’t miss Jack, not one bit.
After a week, and they start listing the reasons Jack was taken, and how, and why. A small group of overly-tanned blondes from the beach are convinced he committed suicide, walked into the tide and never came back. There are rumours of shouts in the forest. There are people who swear blind that they’ve seen Jack’s shadow in the trees. Sawyer reflects that it’s all a little like people seeing Elvis and Jesus in slices of toast, but they don’t have toast here, so it’s got to be something else.
But no amount of rumours yield answers and there’s still nothing that can point them in the right direction.
Hey, Sawyer says, at least no one got hung this time.
And Charlie gives him a look like he’s the worst kind of cockroach to walk the earth. (Sawyer things, well, I probably am, but you ain’t exactly Snow White here, sunshine.)
They find Jack asleep on the beach ten days after his disappearance. He looks thinner, but apart from that, he’s fine. Except when they wake him up and he doesn’t say anything. Not a word. He doesn’t look blank, or traumatised, just silent. Calm. And oddly vulnerable. No matter what anyone says, or does, he just stays in his little shell. This is going to be problematic, and everyone bombards him with questions and he doesn’t say anything at all.
Sawyer leaves them to it, once he’s checked Jack’s alive. So they have their perfect doctor back, all in indelicate pieces. Ain’t his problem.
Jack sits in that corner of the beach reserved for outcasts or people half-mad with grief or just plain madness. He won’t move and he just stares at the sea. Kate drags some tarps up there, gets Sayid to help her make a tent thing for when it rains, takes Jack bottles of water, forces him to eat, and everyone sits with Jack for hours and hours and tries to get him to react. None of it works.
Sawyer lies in his tent and reads his creased and crumpled letter and broods, or else plays patience with battered, sandy cards, or makes derogatory marks at anyone and everyone who walks past. Sometimes, he looks up towards where Jack is a hunched unresponsive silhouette against the landscape. And then he looks away.
I don’t know what happened to him, Kate says. She looks tired. Her hair is all straggly and her face is drawn and tired.
Doc still ain’t talking? Sawyer asks, like he doesn’t know. He stares carefully at his fire and gives nothing away.
We need to know, Kate continues, Because otherwise, how are we going to work out how to fix him?
Well, our psychiatrist died all over me a while back, Sawyer remarks, So unless you’re going to psychoanalyse him, Katie, I don’t see what finding out the truth will achieve.
Don’t call me Katie.
Don’t pretend you have the faintest idea how to help him.
Sawyer fixes her with a stare and her face crumples, and she sits beside him, face in her hands.
I can’t do this, she murmurs, He won’t let me in.
There’s a long, long moment of nothing, and then Sawyer gets to his feet, brushing sand off his jeans.
To hell with this, he says.
There are all kinds of crazy rumours, as to what happened to Jack and why he won’t speak. Some of them are ludicrous, some unsettlingly plausible, some just plain weird. Sawyer doesn’t regard any of the stories as truth, and it sends damn shivers down his spine at the more lurid theories. He doesn’t like Jack much, and he likes him much less now he’s all unresponsive and quiet, but he doesn’t like to think of the Doc in the cruel and dark situations that their fellow survivors put him in.
Jack is good at following orders, as long as Sawyer repeats them a couple of times, or drags him around by the wrist, but he won’t make eye contact and hasn’t said anything at all. It shouldn’t take ten days to break a man completely, especially a guy like Jack, but what shouldn’t have happened doesn’t matter because it did.
It wasn’t his intention to end up being Jack’s carer, he just meant to get him somewhere dry and less sandy and a little more home-like, then leave him to Kate’s overprotective fussing. But Jack only listens to Sawyer, and although he hates this stupid situation, Sawyer won’t leave Jack to die from apathy.
Rain is pattering in a tired fashion on the tarpaulin roof of Sawyer’s tent and it’s half-dark and everything is depressing. Sawyer helps Jack pull his t-shirt over his head and forces him into a clean shirt, then sits back.
Buttons, Doc, he says, remember those?
Jack just sits, quiet and pathetic-looking, until Sawyer loses patience and does his shirt up for him.
It’s frustrating, and they really do need Libby for this, but Jack won’t say a word, can’t say a thing, can’t do anything for himself. Kate, a mixture of jealous and exhausted, stops trying to crack into Jack’s psyche, instead almost takes over the role of leader. People avoid looking at Jack, as Sawyer pushes him towards the caves, just keep walking Doc, so they can get water and get clean. It’s like having a child or caring for an invalid and this wasn’t what he signed up for but there’s enough guilt to keep him doing it, tucking blanket substitutes over Jack in a tent that wasn’t made for two and watching him until he goes to sleep.
There’s a young guy, maybe twenty, twenty-two, he’s slipped on a rock and gashed his leg right open and there’s all sorts of blood everywhere. All the people on the beach are dashing about like headless chickens and no one can yell, get Jack, because there’s no point in getting him. But there’s no one else and all the shouting is making Sawyer’s head hurt, so he grabs Jack’s wrist and pulls him to where Sun is cradling the hurt guy – whose name Sawyer will never know – and starts making orders.
Sayid runs to the caves and when he comes back he’s got Jack’s black medical backpack, and Sawyer shoves Jack until he kneels and then informs Jack that he’s going to fix this guy. Jack doesn’t move. Losing his temper, Sawyer smacks Jack’s face, just hard enough.
You hear me?
And something switches on in Jack, and he reaches for the backpack, and obediently fixes up the guy’s leg. But then he returns to silence and it’s up to Sawyer to wash the blood from Jack’s hands and change his stained shirt.
I don’t even like you that much, Sawyer says, pulling Jack under the shade of the trees so that he won’t get sunburnt or sunstroke or both. It’s all quiet and secluded here, no one ventures up this end of the beach and people are actively avoiding Jack anyway, they’ll have privacy.
Inside his head, Sawyer imagines Jack saying, well, I never asked you to look after me, and Sawyer imagines himself snapping back, maybe I should just leave you to die then, and Jack shouting, leave me then, that’s just the sort of thing you’d do (well, Sawyer would think, maybe it is, but you ain’t exactly got the best track record here, have you?), but something inside him says that he won’t be arguing with Jack again for a long, long time. If ever.
This is boring, he remarks instead, settling Jack against a tree trunk and sitting down beside him, letting handfuls of sand fall through his fingers. Jack doesn’t reply and Sawyer can’t be bothered to say anything. It’s not as though Jack cares whether he speaks or not anyway.
They don’t count the days any more, but it’s got to have been at least a month that Jack’s been wandering about like a ghost, and Sawyer is starting to hate him. To resent him. People still murmur, now there are rumours about why Sawyer is doing this; obligation, sadism, love, for nefarious purposes of his own. But it doesn’t matter because Sawyer doesn’t know why he does this anyway, and he’s never cared what other people think.
Lying in the grass beneath a tree, watching sunlight dapple through the leaves, Sawyer rolls on his side to look at Jack. Jack doesn’t look at him. He’s just staring upwards, face pale and withdrawn.
And it might be an experiment but, more likely, it’s an accident, when Sawyer reaches out a hand and turns Jack’s face to look at him. Jack’s eyes are all dark and half-scared and the look in them hurts because it’s the look of a man lost and crazy and broken, broken beyond repair.
Sawyer moves, slowly, so as not to startle Jack, to kneel over him.
React, he says. I know you’re in there Doc, react.
But Jack does nothing and doesn’t object when Sawyer tips his chin up a little, leans down, and kisses him. He just lets Sawyer do it. And Sawyer is about to pull away, because he’s a bastard but he’s not that big a bastard, when Jack kisses him back. Tentative, but sudden. Like whenever he has to treat someone, or when Sawyer pushes him into eating. A flash of the man Jack might still almost be.
But his body doesn’t move and when Sawyer sits back, Jack doesn’t try to stop him, or pursue the kiss.
Fucking hell, Doc, Sawyer mumbles. And leaves him there.
But an hour and a half later, gnawing guilt bites at his stomach, and he has to get up and go and find Jack. He’s still lying there, hasn’t moved an inch, eyes still on the leaves.
Come on, Sawyer says, and pulls him to his feet. He doesn’t say a word as they return to the beach.
You’d let me do whatever the hell I wanted, wouldn’t you? Sawyer doesn’t expect a reply and doesn’t get one, but talking to Jack instead of ignoring him makes him feel a little less like he’s lugging a mannequin around. Wouldn’t even try to stop me.
Jack just stares at his hands. Sawyer sighs.
Wouldn’t scream, wouldn’t even cry. I bet you’d just let me get on with it and, you know, I don’t even think you can cry, not anymore.
Jack says nothing.
What did they do to you? Sawyer finally cracks, and asks. What-
But Jack refuses to reply, and when Sawyer leans forward and kisses him hard, angry, frustrated, he doesn’t react.
I hate you, Sawyer tells him. And gets nothing but silence.
We got any guns left? Sawyer asks. Kate looks surprised, glancing up, sunlight in her eyes. Then she automatically glances down the beach, where Jack is sitting, just within sight. Sawyer can leave him unattended. It’s not like he’s going to wander off anywhere. He’s just going to… sit.
Why? Kate asks, suspicious.
We should put him out of his misery, Sawyer says, indicating their doctor. Kate’s face becomes all twisted and sad and she’s looking at him like he’s the most disgusting thing ever just because he doesn’t want to look after Jack. (And maybe I am, Sawyer thinks, but I don’t see you volunteering to sit by him hour after hour while he counts grains of sand.)
You can’t mean- she starts.
Well, Sawyer snaps, You look after him. Shout a bit, smack him around – release your inner dominatrix, Katie.
Don’t call me Katie.
And don’t dump Jack on me just ‘cause he’s not so pretty now he’s crazy.
Go to hell, Kate responds, so Sawyer is left to wander off back to Jack, still trapped.
No one else has shampoo, but Sawyer’s got a load in his stash, so he sits on a rock and washes Jack’s hair for him, fingers digging in too hard to Jack’s scalp through his hair. It’s growing too long, he should get Kate to trim it, but she doesn’t want to get too close to Jack. No one does. And Sawyer hates that it’s somehow become his problem.
Jack glances up at Sawyer, when all the shampoo’s gone, water running down the sides of his face and mouth slightly open, almost inviting, but Sawyer shakes his head.
Oh no, Doc, he says, You ain’t gonna get me, I’ve made that mistake before.
Sawyer sits Jack down on the sand in the exact same place he was found weeks ago.
I can’t do this, he says, I’m not a good person, I don’t give a damn about what happened to you or why, and more than that, I don’t care about you either. So you can sit here, and take care of yourself. I don’t give a damn any more.
He turns, and walks away. And finally, finally, there’s a voice behind him.
Sawyer, Jack says, Stop.
Sawyer shuts his eyes and sighs.
I still hate you, he mutters mutinously, only that really doesn’t matter any more, does it, and he turns around.