Summary: Pain was punishment for failing
Spoilers: Season 2 finale, “Live Together, Die Alone”
He was being made to pay. The pain was punishment for failing.
They didn’t ask any questions. Just drove the bamboo under his fingernails a little deeper each time. Each time, he told himself he wouldn’t scream. He could still hear Sawyer’s howls of pain echo in his head, could still see Sayid bent on his grim task. The one he’d sanctioned.
The Others knew all about him, they’d been watching him this whole time -- all of the survivors. This was payback for what he’d done to Sawyer, revisiting that dark, private place, that line Jack should never have crossed.
His hands were tied behind his back and two of them held him down while another administered the torture. The bamboo -- or something just as sharp and cruel -- bit into the tender flesh under his fingernail again. He writhed, trying to wrench free, but there was nowhere to go.
He’d never known pain like this -- sharp, shocking, inhuman -- not even when he’d gotten his tattoos. He’d gritted his teeth then, through the two separate three-hour sessions. He’d paid for the needle to sink into his skin, for his blood to be drawn. He’d been drunk and drowning in sorrow and the buzz of the needle had almost felt good. Like it was clearing his head. Purifying him. Making him stronger. Marking him so that he wouldn’t ever again be that same man, the one who had fucked everything up. He’d be made new. He’d be different.
And he hadn’t made a sound then.
The bamboo pushed deeper, and a scream ripped itself from his throat. He’d lost.
Even though his his ankles weren’t bound, they didn’t let him walk, instead jerking him roughly along. They shoved him into one of those crude round huts and left. He was alone.
He hadn’t seen Sawyer or Kate since the day before yesterday. Or maybe longer. But he’d heard Sawyer’s screams. He’d never forget the sound of them. He heard nothing that might be Kate. He prayed it meant they wouldn’t hurt a woman.
His knees hurt but if he laid down, he wouldn’t be able to get back up again. Not with his wrists still bound tightly behind his back. He leaned against the rough wall of the hut, letting his mind wander not to how he would get out of this, or to what they were doing to Kate and Sawyer, but to how they had built these huts, and with what. He rammed into the wall with his head and shoulder as hard as he could, but it didn’t give. He stopped before he hurt himself more. It was no use.
He must have blacked out or slept; when they opened the door and threw Sawyer in, he blinked at the bright glare of the sun. It might have been days since he’d seen the sun. They slammed the door shut before he could make a move.
Sawyer was a mess. His hair was plastered to his head, blood caked along his forehead and down one side of his face. Having fallen on his knees, he sagged forward, swaying. He looked, to Jack’s horror, almost exactly as he’d looked that day in the jungle. They knew.
“Sawyer,” he rasped, slowly inching over to him on his knees. He badly needed water, but had been given none. “You all right?” It was a ridiculous question. It killed him that with his hands bound, he couldn’t even properly examine Sawyer.
“Here, let me try...” they turned back to back to fumble with each other’s binds, but he couldn’t make his injured fingers work properly. The were bound with leather straps, tied insanely tight and the pain of trying to pick at the knots was so excruciating, he had to stop after only a minute or so. “Gah, I can’t,” he finally said after several minutes. “I’m sorry.”
“s OK, doc,” Sawyer said wearily as they both leaned heavily against the wall, utterly spent. Unbelievably, a sly smile crept over his face as he turned to face Jack. “You know, they didn’t even ask me any questions,” he said wonderingly.
Jack was too confused to do anything but smile back. “Why ...?" And then he realized Sawyer was quoting. “Han Solo,” he said with a short, bitter laugh. Good for him. Good for Sawyer for keeping a sense of humor. He felt a short, quick thrill of pride, glad beyond measure that Sawyer was here with him.
The feeling was followed quickly but that stab of guilt. When Sawyer had been hit with that dart, he’d run. He’d seen him fall, seen him start to convulse and his first instinct had been to yell “Run!” He’d had to protect them all, he told himself. He couldn’t have done anything. And in the end, he’d failed to protect any of them.
“It’s all my fault,” he said bitterly. “I should have told you the truth. I should have...” He stopped, shaking his head as he ran over it again in his head. What they could have done differently. What he could have done differently.
Sawyer managed to shrug, despite his bound arms. “Way I see it, we were gonna get it either way. Either us three or the whole camp. Better just us, I figure.”
Jack nodded. The thought was small consolation.
“”Sides,” Sawyer continued, one eyebrow arching up, “Wasn’t you who sold us out. Not mad at you. You’re not a no-good murderin’ sonofabitch who’d sell his friends out to these motherfuckers.”
“No,” Jack insisted. “I should have known. I should have known better.”
“How could you?” Sawyer sighed, leaning slightly toward him so that now their shoulders were touching. “Even I didn’t think that piece of slime had it in him. And to think I saved his sorry hide. Should have let the bastard drown.” He spit into the dirt floor.
At Jack’s look of confusion, he reluctantly elaborated. “After the raft blew up, Mikey was drownin’. So I pulled him up, gave him CPR -- all this after I’d been shot, mind you, and the bastard not only never thanked me, he blamed me for the whole fuckin’ fiasco. Like it was my fault those fuckers took Walt. Jackass doesn’t have a loyal bone in his body. Nothin’ but ‘my boy, my boy.” Sawyer pitched his voice higher, scowling as he mocked Michael. “Hope he and the brat fuckin’ drown,” he muttered.
“I didn’t know,” was all Jack said, picturing Sawyer grunting through the pain to save Michael, and then the hurt on his face when he got no thanks for it.
Sawyer was right. Michael had only ever been in this for himself. He’d only built the raft to save himself. Saving anyone else was beside the point. And now he was gone and on his way to hell, for all Jack cared. He’d never felt hate like this for anyone before in his life. He thought he’d hated his father. He thought he’d hated Sawyer. But this well of rage in him, this black tide threatening to swamp him was like nothing he’d ever known before. “If he was here, I’d kill him,” Jack said, not realizing he was speaking out loud. “With my bare hands. I’d tear his fucking heart out.”
He looked up to find Sawyer staring at him with that same look of raw vulnerability he’d the other day. When he told Jack he was the only friend he had here. “I’m sorry,” Jack said, voice breaking. Tears stung his eyes but he’d be damned if he’d let Sawyer see him cry.
Jack had always wondered why Sawyer had goaded them into tying him to a tree and torturing him for no reason at all. How he could hate himself that much. And now he knew. Jack deserved all this and more. He’d brought this all on himself. He’d fucked up every step of the way. That day with Sawyer. Boone. Now Michael.
“I’m sorry,” he said brokenly. “It’s all my fault. I was an idiot to lead us right into that ambush. And I .... I saw you get hit with that dart and I .. I just ran. I went to help Kate...”
Sawyer winced, the friendliness fading from his face. He shrugged his shoulder away so that it was no longer touching Jack’s. But all he said was, “Kate.” They both fell silent.
“Haven’t heard her. I heard you ... screaming,” Jack said after a few minutes. “So maybe that’s a good sign?”
“Yeah,” Sawyer sighed. “Maybe. Heard you too, doc. Thought they were killin’ you in there,” He brought his head up, eyes burning with rage and something more. “If I had my hands free, I’d kill every fuckin’ one of ‘em.”
“I know,” Jack said softly. His hands had thankfully gone almost numb behind his back. But right now, if he had them free, he’d reach out to Sawyer. Pat him on the shoulder. Put his arm around him and lie to him that everything would be OK. Instead, all he could do was lean closer, press their foreheads together.
Sawyer sighed as Jack brushed his cheek against his forehead. “Jack,” he whispered and turned his face, his lips grazing Jack’s chin. And then Sawyer’s mouth opened to him. His lips were rough and he tasted of blood and tears but his mouth was warm and soft and the shock of the kiss, the heat of it, spread through Jack like a short, sharp pain.
Sawyer’s eyelashes fluttered against his cheek and they felt wet, but that might have been Jack’s fault too.
Jack wanted to take Sawyer’s head in his hands. Wanted to hold him and take away his pain and make up for all the ways he had failed him. But his bloodied hands were still behind his back and so he poured all his frustration and hate and fear into kissing Sawyer. He kissed him like he might never have another chance in this life, hard and desperate and aching and if the world ended right then around them, he might not have noticed.
Finally, they broke apart. Sawyer’s face was just an inch or two from his and though he looked at him long and hard, there was no blame in those clear blue eyes.
“They can’t break us. I won’t let them,” Jack said, hope flooding back. He let his head fall on Sawyer’s shoulder. They could be strong together. “Gonna get us out of here.”
“How?” Sawyer asked quietly.
“I don’t know. But I will. I’ve got to.”