Pairings: Mostly Jack/Kate, Jack/Sawyer, and Sawyer/Kate
Summary: The island gives back what it’s taken, and more
Note: Written for the suspended_fic challenge, which was to invert the cliché of “Setting right what once went wrong.” Also for lostfichallenge's Challenge #20: Death and the fanfic100 prompt Death. Many, many thanks to themoononastick and eponine119 for betaing!
Word Count: 4563
Spoilers: Up through "Collision"
Kate shifted in her sleep, rolling away from Jack. He stifled the urge to follow her, to keep that contact. Instead, he propped himself up on one elbow and watched her -- she always slept with her back to him -- and listened to her breathe.
She never moved closer to him during the night. Her instinct to be free, to move at a moment’s notice, was stronger than the natural desire to share the warmth of his body.
He still wondered why she was with him, why she slept with him every night. At one point, he thought she had been with Sawyer, although he’d never known for sure.
Just as she might now suspect about him and Sawyer. It wasn’t a subject either of them were ever going to bring up.
He thought maybe he was with Kate just because she was a woman. She was the conventional choice to openly be by his side. He couldn’t call what he had with either of them love. Wasn’t sure if he could just dismiss it as need.
On nights like this, when he couldn’t sleep and Kate seemed far away, he thought of Sawyer, out there alone in his tent, and wondered if he wished for a different arrangement. He wondered if Sawyer wished for anything at all. And he thought, and not for the first time, that he didn’t know anything about either of them.
The sun was bright overhead the next day as Jack hiked out to the spot where he thought he was most likely to run into Sawyer. Days might go by before they were both here at the same time. But when he really wanted to see him, somehow, Sawyer knew to be here.
And he was there already, leaning back against a tree and finishing off a bottle of water. Today there was an edge in his voice. “You look like you ain’t slept in a week, doc. She keeping you up all night?”
Jack just shrugged. “Sleep and I have never been on very good terms.” Maybe it was just the heat making them both snappish today. He just wanted to touch Sawyer, forget himself, but today he knew they were only going to fight.
He was tired. He slumped down next to Sawyer and took a swig from his own water while he tried to decide if it was better to provoke Sawyer and get the fight out of the way or just grab him and ...
Sawyer evidently had the same idea because he suddenly grabbed him, dragging him into the bushes behind the tree.
“Hey!” Jack tried to yell in mock protest, but Sawyer had his hand clamped firmly over his mouth. He held Jack still, his body tense with anticipation, but he wasn’t even looking at him.
Thoroughly confused, Jack struggled against him, but he stopped when Sawyer jerked his head towards the other side of the clearing. The undergrowth was moving and Jack held his breath. He couldn’t see past the splotch of green leaves blocking his vision, leaving only the ground and a few inches above that in sight, but he didn’t dare part the leaves for a better view. Remaining hidden was more important than seeing who was approaching.
The foliage across the clearing parted and someone emerged. Dark slacks and black dress shoes. Not barefoot. But not any shoes or clothing Jack recognized. he tried to keep calm, to just watch as six sets of legs walked past. Two were women, bare legs and sandals. One of the men wore white tennis shoes, one black cowboy boots. They went past slowly, as if they’d been walking a long time and were in no particular rush.
He got a chill watching them. Strangers -- and there were far too many of them on the island -- were never good news. The white tennis shoes made him shudder. Incongruous when paired with a suit. Here, they were worn by a man in jeans. Not that same ghost again, at least.
Sawyer’s hand was still across his mouth and now his fingers tightened, as if it were his own mouth he was covering in horror. Jack didn’t dare move until several minutes after the last pair of legs had passed by.
He had to pry Sawyer off him. Sawyer didn’t move. Didn’t react. He looked like he was going to be sick.
“It’s OK, they’re gone,” Jack said, reaching over to push Sawyer’s hair behind his ear. “Come on, let’s go back.”
“Can’t be.” Sawyer’s voice was barely audible.
“Same boots. Can’t be.” He was shaking his head, a dazed look on his face.
“What are you talking about? Do you know those people?”
Sawyer looked at him now, his eyes burning with a despair Jack had never seen. “You saw them too, right?”
“Yes, of course.” Jack was impatient now. “So do you know them or not?”
But Sawyer didn’t answer. He just brushed past him and ran.
“SAWYER!” Jack jumped up and was after him like a shot, desperate to catch him, but Sawyer ran like a man possessed.
Jack was already out of breath, but he pushed himself on, nearly tripping on the uneven ground. Did Sawyer want to get himself killed? He didn’t yell to him again, didn’t want them to hear.
The tree line blurred by and Jack knew with certainty that Sawyer was running to his death, as surely as Jack was when he went headfirst over a cliff in pursuit of a ghost. Who did Sawyer think he had seen?
Jack rounded the bend and Sawyer was standing before him, stock still. Facing him were the six strangers. Four men. One tall, with gray hair. Two women. One blonde and heavily pregnant. He barely registered the others, a middle-aged couple and an elderly Hispanic man.
Seeing his father wasn’t such a shock the second time around. It was her he wasn’t prepared for. “Sarah?” Jack’s voice cracked. The ground threatened to rush to meet him. “It can’t be.”
But she was running toward him, hugging him fiercely, while his father hung back. His arms went around Sarah of their own accord. She was real, solid. She smelled real, like sweat and just a trace of her usual perfume.
He would be sure he was dreaming or hallucinating again, except there was Sawyer, on the edges of his vision, still dumbstruck. The other strangers regarded both him and Sawyer blankly and after Sarah had finally disengaged herself and Christian had wrapped him in an uncomfortable hug himself, Jack stepped back.
“Oh my God, Jack, I thought I’d never see you again,” Sarah was saying, her eyes brimming with tears, her words coming out in a rush. “But your father wouldn’t give up hope that we’d find you.” All Jack could do was nod. You never said what you wanted to in dreams anyway. So he just took Sarah’s hand in his and led them all back to camp.
Except when he looked back, Sawyer was gone.
If walking back to camp was surreal, then Jack had to search for a new word when they actually got there. Kate saw them first and the color drained from her face.
“Tom?” she whispered and her hand flew to her mouth.
Hurley toppled over like a tree on seeing the man he later shakily told everyone was his grandfather.
The middle-aged couple did not seem upset to find no relatives in the camp, but Jack already knew who they must be. He wanted to go look for Sawyer, make sure he was OK, but in the confusion he couldn’t get away.
Aside from some scrapes and scratches, the other survivors were unhurt. They had pulses he could check. They all were hungry and thirsty and tired. He was too busy tending to them and making sure Sarah and the baby were OK to stop and question it all.
By the time Shannon and Boone showed up, saying they’d gotten lost on a hike, everyone had simply grown tightlipped and pale. They were hugged and remarked upon in turn, but the rest of the survivors, those who knew this was just some strange manifestation of the island, or just a nightmare each was having, exchanged worried glances and nervous little smiles.
Surely, this would end soon. Someone would wake up and it would be over.
Locke was the only one who seemed to take the reappearances in stride, that irritating, beatific smile firmly in place as everyone else wandered around in a kind of dazed shock.
Jack followed him out into the jungle, grabbed hold and shoved him up against a tree. “How do you explain this, John?”
Locke just blinked at him, the smile fading but that glint in his eye never dimming. “I can’t. Anymore than you can, Jack.”
“So you telling me that there’s a reason for all this?”
“You think I had something to do with this?”
“How could I? I don’t have power over life and death.”
Jack’s laugh sounded hysterical, even to him. “Well then, who does? Things like this just don’t happen, John. I buried my wife two years ago in Los Angeles. My father died in Sydney and I was bringing his body back on the plane. Now you tell me how come they’re up and walking around. Or Shannon? Or Boone? Or any of the others? How can you see this and stay so fucking CALM?”
He started to crumble, felt the tears running down his face while Locke waited for him to compose himself.
“We’ve all seen impossible things here. Maybe this is a gift.”
“A gift?!” Jack’s voice broke on the word. “Yeah, well, where the FUCK do we go to return it, then? Because this, this is madness. This is the fucking end.” He stared off into the jungle, as if some new horror might walk out at any moment.
“Just wait and see,” Locke advised, putting his hand gently on his shoulder. “I don’t think there’s anything else we can do.”
Jack dropped his head and nodded. “OK. OK.” He kept repeating the word, as if by saying it over and over he could convince himself that it meant something, that it was true.
He walked back to camp and when he saw Sarah, he forced a smile.
The first change was that Kate moved out of Jack’s cave and Sarah moved in. Kate didn’t take up with Tom. He was a married man and he kept his distance from her.
Kate was the one to find Sawyer and coax him back. He ran through his hidden stash of booze at an alarming rate, staring openly at the people who were surely his parents. They didn’t seem to know him and he didn’t make any effort to talk to them.
She would sit by Sawyer’s side, unable or unwilling to go near Tom, who ended up spending most of his time with Shannon and Boone, by default. No one contradicted the story of those who had returned, who were convinced they had been in another section of the plane that had gone down in the jungle, but an uncomfortable pall fell over the camp.
Sayid approached Jack to demand they find out what was going on but Jack refused to hear him out. There was no point in talking about it anymore. So Sayid drifted back to Shannon, echoing Jack’s movements with Sarah, constantly touching her to make sure she was real.
Jack lay with his wife in his arms and she nestled into him as she used to and he swore this time he would protect her. This time he would save her. It all felt so ordinary. He let himself believe he was happy, that everything was finally alright.
The part that didn’t think maybe he had died too, that she hadn’t returned to life, but that he had followed her in death.
Somehow, life went back to normal, or at least as normal as it could ever be on the island.
Hurley was the only one who couldn’t quite get his mind around it, couldn’t lie to himself every day. After an ugly scene in which he had to be sedated, he ended up spending most of his time in the hatch, listening to records and refusing to acknowledge his grandfather, whom Rose and Bernard took upon themselves to look after.
The middle-aged couple, Bob and Suzanne Ford, mostly bickered. Bob approached Sawyer, seeking some of his alcohol and thinking he’d found another good ol’ boy he could shoot the shit with. Sawyer let the old man talk, until he started to complain about his wife and then Sawyer would grab back the bottle and stalk off, murder in his eyes.
More often than not, Kate would go after him. If she hadn’t, Jack would have.
He watched his own father watch them drinking and waited for him to do something.
On the seventh night, Jack was woken by a woman’s screams. He told Sarah not to move and ran to the beach. Kate was standing over Tom’s mangled body. He’d been killed just like Scott. Every bone in his body broken. Including his neck.
Jack folded Kate in his arms and led her away, past the shocked stares of everyone who had followed the sound of her screams.
“Ethan.” It was Charlie who said the name out loud.
“Jack. We need to arm ourselves,” Sayid said quietly. Jack nodded grimly. Now they had a full arsenal, thanks to the nearly endless stock in the hatch.
They took to patrolling the beach, every able-bodied man taking a shift.
Jack wasn’t sure about trusting his father with a gun. He sat, looking at the one in his hand, when Sawyer found him. Sawyer, white-lipped, told Jack not to give his father one. His fingers dug hard into Jack’s wrist and he nodded. He didn’t say anything else, but Jack saw it, something there in his eyes, and he knew why.
He handed Sawyer the gun, feeling almost leaden as he watched him walk slowly back up the beach.
Not even twelve hours had passed before the next time.
Jack tried to shield Sawyer from what Sayid had found, but somehow he knew to come to that part of the beach, like he’d been called.
He didn’t make a sound. Just stood in silence, his face, white with shock, visible even in the dusk, as he looked at the sprawled, half-naked bodies of his mother and Jack's father.
Jack blocked Sawyer from going to her, held him back, though he wasn’t even moving.
He should have been in shock, like Sawyer, but seeing his father murdered had almost no effect on him. He wasn’t sure he’d felt anything since he saw them all walk out of the jungle.
“She said she had a son’d be my age.” Sawyer’s words came out strangled. “Ran away. Never knew what happened to him. It’s the only time I talked to her.”
“Come on,” Jack said, trying to lead Sawyer away, but he twisted hard, broke free, and ran.
“Sawyer!” Jack yelled, taking off after him, but that strange heaviness settled on him again and he just couldn’t seem to run fast enough.
He heard the shot echo on the beach. When he caught up with him, Sawyer was standing over his father, gun still in his hand. He swayed, like a scarecrow barely propped up, defying gravity by staying upright.
“Sawyer,” he held out his hand, trying to sound calm. “Give me the gun. It’s OK.”
“No. No, it ain’t OK,” Sawyer said and brought the gun up to his own temple. “Never was.” There was a flash of white teeth as Sawyer gave him a crooked smile and then he pulled the trigger.
Jack froze in horror, waiting for Sawyer to go limp, for his body to fall to the sand, for that smile to die. But he just stood there.
He held the gun out and stared at it in puzzled shock and Jack seized his chance. He took a running jump at him, knocking him to the ground. Sawyer was making choking sounds underneath him and Jack took his face in his hands and shook him. “Don’t you ever fucking do that again! They’re ghosts. OK, they’re just ghosts but we’re real. You’re real. Jesus, Sawyer!”
Sawyer’s eyes glinted in the near-darkness, his voice unrecognizable. “I’d just come back, wouldn’t I? So it don’t fuckin’ matter.”
Jack just wrapped his arms around him, not caring who might find them like that, waiting for Sawyer to cry.
Sarah’s date was coming up. She gave him soft smiles, filled with hope and happiness, her hand on her belly. Jack looked at her and felt only dread. It was going to happen again, the same way, only this time worse, with no hospital and not enough medicine. It was all in his hands, now, the worst possible person because he wouldn’t be any damn use.
He considered killing her himself, beforehand. To spare her, he said, but really to spare himself the blood and her screams. And he thought of trying to kill himself, just end this waking nightmare. But if it didn’t work for Sawyer, it wouldn’t work for him either.
So he did nothing but wait. He started taking long walks in the jungle, just to be alone. That’s when he saw them. Kate was sitting in Sawyer’s lap and her hair was so long now, he didn’t realize at first she was naked. They held each other tight, as she slowly moved her body up and down his. It was wordless and fierce and Jack thought they wouldn't notice him even if he spoke.
But then Kate turned her head. Her face was a mask, eyes blank. She saw him, but it was as if she were looking through him. His being there made no difference to her. Sawyer was buried in her, his face between her breasts and Kate turned back to him, forehead brushing his neck softly.
Seeing them together hurt, but not the way he expected. They were both alive -- broken, hurt, numb and wrecked, but alive. He wanted to stay, to go to them. But he had to go back to his dead wife and deliver his dead child.
It was even worse than he imagined. It took hours for her to die. He was covered in her blood and her nails dug ugly wounds in his arm and still she fought. This is hell, was all he could think. He knew they were all damned, but for everyone else, at least it was quick. What did I do? he asked himself, or God, or whoever the fuck could stop this. What the hell did I do?
Finally, finally, her breathing stopped. The death rattle shook her body and he ran outside, ran like something was after him. He didn’t stop until he got to the ocean. He told himself he just wanted to wash the blood off, but he was really thinking of Joanna, who hadn’t come back, and that the ocean was the only sure way.
But they wouldn’t let him go. He didn’t know where he came from, but Sawyer had a death grip on him and hauled him back to shore. He couldn’t fight him. There wasn’t enough left in him to fight.
Kate was on the shore, waiting for them both. She kissed Jack’s forehead and just said, “I know.”
“We have to fucking do something.”
Jack didn’t know why he found it odd that it was Charlie who finally said it.
“It’s creepy. It’s a bloody nightmare. We can’t just wait for ... more.”
Sayid crossed his arms and gave him a look that would have shut him up, if he were paying attention, which he wasn’t. Charlie stared at Jack, as if he had all the answers.
“What would you suggest we do?” Jack threw the words at him, glad to have someone to vent his anger at. “Don’t you think that if I had thought of something sooner, I would have FUCKING DONE IT ALREADY?” He shook his head, noting how intently Locke was watching him. Judging him.
“You’re just a bystander in all this,” he yelled at Charlie, who stepped back at the force of Jack’s fury. “You didn’t have anyone come back. You can’t even fucking know what’s it like. And you think now we should do something because now you think it’s ‘creepy?’ Well, you can just fucking live with it, like the rest of us are.”
“Jack.” Locke said his name softly, but everyone turned to look at him, to heed the unspoken authority in his voice. “I think I might know a way.”
“Oh, let’s hear it, John. I’d really like to know what you think. Now that it doesn’t fucking matter at all.”
“It does matter,” Charlie said sullenly. “Ethan’s still out there. He could come back and kill any one of us!”
“Yeah, well, then they’d just come back too, wouldn’t they?” Bitterness edged Jack’s voice.
Sayid spoke up, softly but with an intensity that Jack had rarely heard before. “Is this more dangerous or more strange than anything else we have faced here? I agree with Jack. Even if there were something we could do, I think the worst is over, isn’t it?”
“You don’t want to lose her again. That’s understandable,” Locke said and Sayid started to say something, but then changed his mind. “But we can’t live like this, this fear and uncertainty eating at us. We’re all going mad, if some of us aren’t already there.”
Charlie looked solemn. “You mean Hurley. OK, his granddad isn’t bothering anyone and he’s not likely to go on a murderous spree or anything,” he turned to Jack, a pleading note in his voice, “but look at the effect it’s having on him. Maybe the worst is over for some of you, but for Hurley it’s still going on. He’s a wreck.”
Jack sighed. “I know. I know. I just ... I just can’t...”
And he started to walk away, but what Locke said next stopped him.
“I’m going to end it. I should have long ago.”
“How?” Jack looked him full in the face, trying to see if he was lying or crazy or both.
“If I’m right, then you won’t ever need to know.”
“What are you going to do?” Charlie sounded a little scared, a little awed.
“John.” Sayid was almost begging. “Please ... please don’t do this. It’s a second chance, can’t you see that? It’s not ours to undo. We can’t undo it.”
“So you want to wait?” Jack demanded, anger burning through him, finally burning through the numbness. “Wait until Shannon is dying in your arms again? Wait until Boone is crushed and bleeding inside and I can’t do a fucking thing to save him this time either? Because that’s all your second chance is, Sayid. A second chance to lose her again, except this time it will be worse. Unimaginably worse.”
Sayid went rigid and Jack thought he might hit him, but then all the tension left his body. He hung his head, eyes squeezed shut, hand pressed against his forehead, as if it hurt to speak. “I know it’s not right. You think I don’t know that? That even though she is warm when I touch her and she smiles when she says my name and it’s like all the rest was a bad dream, I know that this is the nightmare.”
No one said anything until he lifted his head and looked them all in the eye. “Just ... let me tell her.”
“You’re going to tell her?” Charlie squeaked.
“At least ... goodbye.”
Word spread that Locke was going into the jungle to try to make things right.
Claire got it into her head that he wanted to take Aaron and sacrifice him to the island or something, and she went into hysterics.
Charlie reassured her that wasn’t going to happen but Jack still had to give her a sedative -- one she actually took this time -- and Charlie sat with her, rocking her gently, while she wrapped herself around her baby.
Jack considered telling Hurley, but there was no guarantee Locke’s plan, whatever it was, would work, so he decided it was best to say nothing. He just kept an eye on Hurley’s grandfather, kept him away from Hurley. And from Claire, who he couldn’t let see someone die, not in her current state.
Sayid took Shannon into the tent he made for her, the one he had completely abandoned after her death. Later, he took her hand and they walked up the beach, to where Boone was waiting. Sayid had a new project for them all to work on, he said, and he set them both to digging holes in the sand, but their digging quickly turned into a sand-throwing free-for-all and they all collapsed on the ground, breathless with laughter. Except Shannon realized Sayid wasn’t laughing anymore. He was crying so hard, he couldn’t speak. Boone just stared at him in shocked puzzlement while she tried to find out what was wrong. He shook his head and he wouldn’t say, so she just gave Boone a helpless look and held Sayid to her.
There wasn’t a sound when it happened, no roar from the jungle. One minute the dead were there, and the next they were simply gone.
Jack waited for the feeling of dread to leave him, but deep down, he was sure it never would. Sure it, or something far worse, would happen again.
When he heard screams, he wasn’t surprised. He ran to Claire’s side. She was staring at the guitar next to her and screaming and Aaron was crying too and he couldn’t get her to tell him what the problem was.
And then it hit him. He dropped to his knees. “Charlie. I never thought...” He pictured him as he was in death, face pale and cold, with that horrible noose around his neck and this time he couldn’t even fight to save him. Couldn’t beat death. Had never beaten death, just outwitted it for a little while.
Claire stopped screaming when he started to laugh. She stared at him, shocked beyond words, and he didn’t know anymore whether he was laughing or crying, just that his chest hurt and he couldn’t breathe.
They found Locke days later. It looked like he had crawled on his elbows back to camp, but he’d only made it about halfway back. Jack had no idea what had killed him.
When Hurley heard about Charlie, he wouldn’t believe he was dead. They couldn’t watch him all the time, so he slipped away, leaving a note that he was going to look for Charlie. They never saw him again.
Jack wasn’t trying to spy on them, but when he stumbled upon Kate sleeping in Sawyer’s arms, his throat tightened to see how tightly she was pressed against him. She wasn’t trying to get away anymore.