Chapter: Part 4
Summary: Jack agrees he's not the right doctor for Sawyer.
Prevous chapters: One | Two | Three
Jack watched as the men filed into the room and took their seats around the conference table. He didn’t know any of them.
The man with the bifocals, Riggs, introduced himself and then all the other doctors, but none of the names sank in and then the questions began and he took a deep breath and answered them as best as he could.
“You didn’t know the patient was suicidal?”
Jack sat up straighter. “No. I knew very little about him. But of course, I take full responsibility for what happened.”
Riggs nodded dismissively. “Ah,” he said, consulting the report before him, “but he seemed to think he knew you very well.”
“Yes.” Jack swallowed. “He’s under the delusion that he not only knows me, but that I’m his, um, long-lost love, I take it.”
The men around the table exchanged glances. “But you’d never met him before,” Dr. Riggs glanced down at his notes, “October 16.”
“Did you see it as a conflict of interest to evaluate him after securing a confession of murder from him?”
“Well, I did consider that, of course,” Jack said, shifting in his seat. “But he had refused to talk to any other psychologists. Calling me in again was a last resort. I thought this fixation he had on me might prove beneficial.”
“Instead, he tried to kill himself,” Riggs said sternly.
”I do think his breaking the window was accidental. But afterward, he didn’t seem to care whether he lived or died.”
“So you were the wrong doctor to treat him after all,” Riggs sighed. “It’s unfortunate, but I don’t see how you were at fault. Of course, we’ll want to see you back here in six months.”
“Thank you,” Jack stammered. The men were already getting up and filing out of the room. One of the men, a balding, fatherly sort, patted him kindly on the arm before walking out. Jack mechanically nodded in response. That’s it? he wondered. He felt almost nauseous with relief.
It took him a few seconds to register that his pager was going off.
He dialed the number on his cell phone. “You called me?”
“Oh, hi, yes I did. It’s Dr. Travis. At Good Sam. Listen, you left last time without talking to me. I’ve got you down to see James Ford this afternoon.”
“What? No, that’s not right. I’m not his doctor anymore.” I’m barely a doctor anymore.
“Oh. But ... you’re listed here. I mean, it’s not usual because you’re not affiliated with the hospital, so there’s no mistake. There’s a tremendous amount of red tape needed to get you in here.”
“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” Jack said, running his hand over his forehead, warding off a pending headache. “Listen. There’s a personal angle you don’t know about. A conflict of interest. I can’t be his doctor.”
“What personal angle?” Travis sounded annoyed.
“He thinks I’m someone else. He thinks he’s in love with me. You can see the problem that causes.”
“That’s common enough. Transference. Patients falling for their doctors. Happens all the time.”
“Yes, I’m quite aware of that phenomenon,” Jack snapped. “But there hasn’t been time for transference. Listen, I’ve just been through a review on this and we all agree I’m not the right doctor for this patient.”
“Listen, all I know is the police and the hospital and everyone involved has signed off on this already. Now are you going to come in?”
“Look, I’ll come in just to straighten this out.”
But when Jack did make it back to Good Samaritan, he had resigned himself to being Ford’s doctor again. He’d gotten the strangest phone call of his life, during which Dr. Riggs had completely reversed himself and insisted he not only see Ford, but that his license now depended on it. “Besides, it’s such an interesting case,” Riggs had rattled on. “You could write a book. Make your career.”
It didn’t make any sense. None of it had made any sense since the first night he’d met James Ford. But he couldn’t deny he wanted to see him again and maybe this time find out what the hell was going on.
James wasn’t restrained. But they were in a secured room with padded walls. Nothing to break. Nothing a mental patient could use to hurt himself with. He sat slumped in the corner, every line of his body spelling defeat. He was dressed in the standard patient outfit, cotton shirt and drawstring pants in a drab gray that made everyone look anemic.
He ignored Jack when he came in. Ignored him when he addressed him. Just kept determinedly tracing a pattern on the wall with his finger.
Jack sat down on the floor opposite him. He was throwing out his rule book. He shouldn’t even be here. He felt as frustrated as Ford clearly was. So he just sat with him in silence, knees drawn up, leaning back against the opposite wall, just watching him.
After the quiet had dragged on for half an hour or more, Ford finally turned his head to look at him. Jack met his gaze with the barest of nods. Something flashed in Ford’s eyes and then was quickly gone.
“I know what you’re doin’,” Ford rasped as he glowered at him.
“What am I doing?”
“You’re tryin’ to wear me down.”
And at that moment, caught in the crosshairs of that accusing blue stare, Jack couldn’t say just what he was trying to do.
“So I guess it’s working,” he finally said with a smile and he caught the briefest echo of a grin on Ford’s face.
“You always...” Ford started to say, and then stopped himself, the light dying in his eyes. He turned back to face his wall.
”I know it’s difficult.” Jack sweated over his choice of words, whether to keep reinforcing the idea that this other Jack even existed at all, and then plunged on. “You think I’m him. But you know I’m not. It must be awful. But you know I’m not, don’t you?” He stood up and walked over to James, crouching next to him.
“Yeah,” James said softly. “I know. It’s just ... I keep forgettin’. “ He sighed and bent his head. “It’s just that I got nothin’ anymore. Nothin’ makes sense. I’m just stuck here and ... hell, it’s just like that damn island all over again except I’d take the polar bears and the torture-happy Iraqis and even that power-mad creep right about now.”
“So I take it Jack wasn’t a power-mad creep?”
James snorted. “Well, darn near sometimes. But no, I didn’t mean him.” He looked at Jack warily. “You want to hear all this? Hear the cast of characters who apparently only live inside my head?”
“Yeah, I want to hear it,” Jack nodded, settling down onto the floor. And James talked, a nonstop stream, as if he were relieved to be able to let it out. He even talked about himself. James as Sawyer, the island scapegoat, the most hated man on the island, the man who invited death. Jack sat back and marveled at the role he’d created for himself and he felt a wave of sympathy for the man. What had he been like before the break, he wondered, wishing there was some history he could read or some friends, some family he could talk to to get the full picture.
James kept talking, about everyone and everything on the island ... except for his lover.
“So, what about Jack?” Jack prodded. Here was the counterpart to James’s own hateful self image. A strong protector figure, someone he could depend on. Someone heroic in the ways James hadn’t been able to be in his life, at least not when it had counted.
“Jack.” James sighed, drawing out the word. “See, you think I’m a fag now, right?” He shot a look at Jack that kept him quiet. “But before him, it was only women. It’s just that, being stuck there, I had no choice.”
He took another deep sigh and Jack just knew he was wishing he had a cigarette. “OK, that’s not exactly true. I had other options. But I just ... I couldn’t get away from him, you know? God this is so fuckin’ surreal,” he muttered. “Talkin’ about him with you.” He glanced up at Jack, setting his jaw in a firm line as if to keep his emotions in check. “You’re exactly like him in every fuckin’ way. I just can’t get my head around that you’re not him.” The break in his voice gave away that he was close to tears.
“What would you say to me if I were?” Jack held his breath for the answer.
James grinned now, the first genuine smile he’d seen on him. “Well, wouldn’t be doin’ a lot of talkin,’ exactly,” he laughed, the sound rumbling deep in his throat.
Jack flushed, remembering how James had kissed him the other day. He had taken him by surprise then, but now Jack watched him, waiting to see if he’d try something like that again. He shrugged off that stab of disappointment when James didn’t move. He told himself, for about the twentieth time, that he was losing his professional distance on this case.
Especially when James looked directly at him, the hurt and confusion contorting his face. “You know, that was hell but it didn’t feel like hell because he was there. I mean, for the first time I ... and now I’m here and it’s worse than hell. Because it’s just me and you’re not you and I don’t know what to fuckin’ do anymore!” His voice rose and he lashed out, punching the wall.
Jack moved quickly to restrain him, grabbing him and holding his arms to his side, but he couldn’t contain him.
“Why won’t you ever let me die?” James sobbed, struggling for freedom, a flailing elbow catching Jack hard in the gut.
Jack doubled over and James slipped out of his grasp. He began butting his head against the wall, with increasing force, yelling, “Just go, just fuckin' go,” over and over, in a broken sob. Gasping for breath, Jack crawled over to him, trying to stop him.
The door was flung open everything happened in a rush after that. Two burly orderlies rushed in and took charge of Ford, wrestling him to the ground, and despite, his curses and protests, sticking a needle into his uninjured arm.
They held him down until he grew quiet. His eyelids started to close, but his tortured gaze never left Jack’s face.
Jack found himself on his feet, outside Ford’s room, and he leaned against the wall, calling himself every name in the book.
He straightened and headed to Travis’s office. “I’m through,” he said, before Travis could utter a word. “I can’t do this anymore. Get someone else, OK?”
”But, you have to,” Travis stammered. “You’re the only one who can help him.”
“I’m not helping him,” Jack shook his head firmly. “I’m killing him.”
He stormed out before Travis could say anything else. It meant throwing everything away, his whole career, but he couldn’t keep torturing that poor man. He ran down the stairwell to the parking garage, not stopping, not letting his better judgment catch up with him.