Summary: Set 19 years in the future: Sawyer is dying of lung cancer
Rating: PG-13, four hankies
Note: Although sort of similar to effexxor’s “Death in a Black Trenchcoat," this is actually loosely inspired by having just seen the movie “Constantine.” Spoilers up through “Outlaws.” Kind of a sequel to "Luck," but not the kind anyone asked for!
Sawyer hadn't had a cigarette in 19 years, but the damage was already done. His teens and 20s were spent in smoky bars, chain-smoking while he drank and played pool and flirted. Until his supply of cancer sticks ran out after the crash, he'd lit up whenever he could.
He was getting worse, Jack knew. He couldn’t lie to himself anymore. There weren’t any X-rays to read but he knew the cancer had spread.
Sawyer had started coughing up blood nearly a year ago. Before that, it was just the occasional shortness of breath, some tightness in the chest. Now, he couldn’t do more than just lie there, gasping for air.
Jack didn’t sleep nights anymore. He just lay with Sawyer, willing him to breathe, choking back tears at the tortured rattling noise Sawyer’s chest made.
Eucalyptus couldn’t help this. The stash of drugs was long gone; they had run out of nearly everything in the first six months. Jack hadn’t been reckless with doling them out, but there had been other emergencies, and then one day there simply wasn’t any more medicine.
There wasn’t any medicine to give Charlie when he’d caught a tropical fever. Or Claire, when she’d suffered complications giving birth to Charlie’s baby. They were buried together, in the small cemetery plot that had gotten too big for anyone’s liking.
That was so long ago, none of the children on the island remembered them, not even their own son, also named Charlie. Only Walt played Charlie’s guitar now, having painstakingly taught himself how. Jack felt for him. There was no else Walt’s age. He was younger than the original survivors and much older then the generation born on the island.
At least Jack and Sawyer had had each other. Jack’s hair was completely silver now, like his father’s. Sawyer’s beard had flecks of gray in it and both their faces were lined from the unrelenting sun and years of hard living.
If he’d been back home, Sawyer would likely have had a beer belly by now, like his daddy had had. But living in the jungle had kept them all lean. And now Sawyer was rail thin, a shadow of his former self.
Any day now, Sawyer’s lungs would give out. And there wasn’t a damn thing Jack could do. They’d had nearly 20 years together, 19 amazing years, more than he thought he’d ever have with anyone. He’d felt so lucky to be with him, so lucky that out of the tragedy of the plane crash, at least one good thing had come out of it.
But their luck had run out. Sawyer’s breaths were coming more painfully. He was gasping like a fish that had jumped out of its bowl. He just couldn’t get enough oxygen.
“It has to be ... today,” Sawyer wheezed, his eyes boring desperately into Jack’s. “It’s time. You know .. it is.” They were alone in the shack they had built together. Sawyer was as comfortable as Jack could make him, lying on the last of their blankets.
“Sawyer,” Jack’s voice broke. He squeezed his hand. “One more day. Please.”
Sawyer shook his head with an effort. “That’s what you said ... last week. I can’t ... anymore.”
Jack nodded, tears running down his face. “I know. I know. I just ... I can’t either. I can’t let you go. I don’t want to.”
“Not up to you... doc,” Sawyer said, using his old nickname for Jack. For old time’s sake. “Never ... was.” Another coughing fit came over him. The blood he coughed up was a frothy pink.
He lay back stiffly once the coughs had subsided. Jack stroked his forehead. There was no color left in Sawyer’s face, just a sickly gray tinge. His face was bathed in sweat.
And then Jack hated himself. Hated himself for not giving into Sawyer earlier, for prolonging his suffering for his own selfish reasons. “OK,” he said. “I’ll get it.” His voice sounded hollow. He felt like someone had scooped out his insides.
It was someone else who went over to the suitcase and got out the gun, someone else who loaded the last bullet they’d saved all these years.
The gun felt heavy in his hand. He held it for about an eternity, and then he walked over to Sawyer’s bedside.
“The last bullet...” Sawyer sighed. He looked at the gun, and then at Jack. Their eyes locked. Neither one wanted to say anything. Neither one wanted to take the inevitable next step.
“Seems like we been here ... before,” Sawyer choked. “Only I fucked ... it up. Guess that ol’ ... marshall can chew my ... hide about it now.”
“Sawyer!” Jack choked out his name. He didn’t try to stop his tears.
“Now I know. The ... head ... not the heart,” Sawyer gasped. “Don’t want to ... botch this one, doc.”
“You want me? Or you?” Jack asked, stumbling over the words. He didn’t know what was worse. Handing Sawyer the gun or Sawyer asking him to pull the trigger.
“Thought ... I’d go out .. like my daddy,” Sawyer said, red spittle showing on his lips. “Bullet ... in the brain.” He grinned, a ghastly smile that broke Jack’s heart.
“Sawyer.” Jack's voice cracked as he said his name. “What if I want to keep it? For myself,” he asked, his face drawn.
Sawyer closed his eyes and what little life was left in him seemed to shut down with those blue eyes cloaked. “You can’t do that. They all .. need you. You’re just ... being ... a selfish bastard ... you know.”
“I know,” Jack said, choking out a smile at Sawyer’s insult. “I just can’t fucking stand it. I don’t want to live without you.”
“Don’t be .. melo... dramatic, Jack,” Sawyer sighed. “You either ... let me ... pull the trigger or ... you’ll have to ... smother me .... or break my ... fucking ...” he gave into another coughing spasm, this one even more violent. “Neck,” he finally finished.
“Do you want me to do it?” Jack asked, his voice pained.
“No,” Sawyer choked out the word. “No big deal for me. You gotta ... keep your slate ... clean.”
Jack nodded, his head bent as he swallowed the enormous lump in his throat.
“Take me ... outside,” Sawyer said haltingly. “Please, Jack ... I want to see ... the sun.”
Jack helped him up, and they slowly made their way outside. Sawyer nodded when they had reached a spot he approved of. He looked around him, making a note of the blue sky, the glistening ocean, the lush green of the jungle and surrounding hills.
And then he studied Jack’s face, putting his hand up to every familiar line as Jack blinked back tears.
“Do you want me to leave?” Jack said, his voice barely audible as he helped him to the ground.
“I wouldn’t mind ... if you stayed...” Sawyer gasped, reaching out his hand to Jack. “I don’t want to go ... out ... alone.”
Jack handed him the gun and took Sawyer’s other hand in his. “I love you, Jim,” Jack sobbed. He kissed him on the forehead, and then once on each cheek, and one last time on the lips.
“I love you, Jack,” Sawyer said. He smiled again, and it seemed to Jack that he was already far away from him. He put the gun to his temple. Then he closed his eyes and Jack did, too.
The gun sounded impossibly loud. Sawyer’s hand went limp in his. Jack doubled over, sobbed brokenly over Sawyer’s body. He cried huge, wracking tears until he couldn’t breathe anymore, until he was completely out of tears. He sat until after the sun set. Until he felt almost as cold as Sawyer did.
In the gray twilight, he felt like time had stopped. He allowed himself to believe he was dead, too, that he had entered some kind of limbo. It was the end of everything. Sawyer was gone.
Jack numbly thought of how he could take his own life. He could cut his wrists, letting himself die drop by drop. He could swim out into the ocean, take a few lungfuls of water, and mercifully drown. He could jump off a cliff, smashing himself on the bottom.
If only he had one more bullet. And then he thought of something. He took the gun from Sawyer’s hand. He hadn’t dared to look at Sawyer’s face, and now he saw the bullet wound was smaller than he’d thought possible. Sawyer actually looked peaceful, he was shocked to see. He covered his mouth with his hand, stifling the fresh sobs trying to get out.
He ran down to the beach with the gun. Kate saw him run past and followed him.
“Jack!” she called. He didn’t stop. She ran after him, calling his name.
She found him scrabbling through a pile of pebbles, trying desperately to fit one into a chamber of the gun.
“Jack!” she gasped. “What are you doing?”
“Sawyer’s gone,” he said, looking at her finally. His eyes were rimmed red, his face a mask of pain. “There aren’t any bullets left. But anything bullet-size will do.”
“Jack, no!” she exclaimed, wresting the gun from his hand. He didn’t fight her, just crumpled into her arms. She rocked him gently as he tried to cry, his chest heaving, a broken wail coming from deep within him.
“You know this isn’t what he’d want,” she said softly. “You have to live, Jack. We need you.”
“I don’t want to live,” he said hoarsely.
“Give it a day,” she said, rubbing his back. “Just one more day, OK?”
He choked and she wasn’t sure if he was laughing or crying. It was the bargain he’d made with Sawyer. One more day. And then one more. Until there weren’t any more days left.
They sat there until the stars came out. Jack felt nothing. Just numb. Slowly, he let Kate lead him back to camp. One more day, he said to himself. Just one more day.