"Mmmmph," Boone offered by way of answer. Guilt swept over Jack. Not only was he responsible for Claire running away, and now for Charlie's disappearance, but he was letting Boone down. He put his free hand on Boone's head, brushing his bangs aside as you would to soothe a small child.
"Kate will be here soon," Jack said, trying to stay optimistic. How long had she been gone? It was growing dark. She had to have been gone for two hours or more. Jack had already calculated how long she should have taken to get to the caves and back, and his most hopeful time estimate had now come and gone.
Fresh worry hit him. What if something had happened to Kate? It wasn't safe for her to be out alone now. What had he been thinking, to let her go by herself? If only he'd had his medical bag with him to begin with, he could have already treated Boone and they all might have been safe by now.
"I never do anything right." Jack was startled to hear Boone say what he had just been thinking.
"What?" Jack said, not sure he had heard right.
"I messed up everything, the CPR, I couldn't save Joanna," Boone said, tears forming at the corner of his eyes. "I fucked up again. Now we'll never find Charlie and Claire."
"No you didn't Boone," Jack said, his heart going out to him. "This was an accident. If any one messed up, it's me. If it hadn't been for me, Claire wouldn't have run off, and we wouldn't be here now."
"Jack," Boone said, clutching Jack's hand convulsively. "I'm going to die here, aren't I?"
"No, Boone, no, I'm not going to let that happen," Jack said firmly, patting Boone's head reassuringly, but he felt his own fear growing. "We're going to get you back and fix up your leg and you'll be fine."
"Can you really fix it?" Boone asked, a pleading note in his voice. "Just don't use concrete, OK?"
"Concrete?" Jack asked, puzzled.
"'As I Lay Dying,' ... read it in college ... they use concrete on his broken leg and ... I can't remember, but it's bad." His voice was starting to trail off. His momentary bout of alertness seemed to be over.
"He's going downhill," Jack thought, with a pang of fear. He'd been a fool to wait here so long. They should have taken him out earlier, despite Boone’s screams of pain. This was the worst plan possible. Jack berated himself as the complete idiot he always knew he was.
Something wet hit Jack's hand. He looked up, startled, but it was only rain. A smattering of raindrops quickly turned into a downpour. In a few minutes, an inch of water had formed in the bottom of the pit. Water poured in from above, and the dirt walls had turned into a running river of mud. Soon, Jack’s lap -- and Boone’s head -- would be underwater.
“Boone, we have to move,” Jack said as calmly as he could. Boone was already shivering with cold, and with each involuntary shiver, a blinding jolt of pain from his broken bone shot through him. He winced and let out a noise halfway between a groan and a whimper, his teeth beginning to chatter.
Jack felt Boone’s body jerking with pain but grimly knew he was about to cause him even more pain. He inched forward, holding Boone’s torso against his, slowly forcing him into a sitting position. As Boone’s hips tilted forward, the broken edges of the bone scraped together. Boone let out a tremendous howl of agony and went limp in Jack’s arms.
They wouldn’t drown where they sat now, but Jack knew they couldn’t stay there. With Boone unconscious, Jack took his chance. He carefully leaned Boone’s head against the muddy wall and eased out from under him. Making his way around to Boone’s impaled leg, he took a deep breath and put his hands on it. Boone didn’t move.
Jack gripped the broken thigh more firmly. He began working the leg up off the spike. He paused, but Boone still hadn’t moved. He had reached the halfway point now, which required pushing Boone’s leg toward him in a gruesome parody of a leg lift. He could feel the bone moving and Boone came to with a horrible scream. Jack cursed at his own ineptness.
“Boone, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve got to get your leg free or let you drown, and I’m not going to let you drown.” He made his way back over to Boone’s side. The light was fading now, and he could barely see Boone’s face. “It’s going to hurt like hell. But we don’t have any choice. You’ve got to be really brave. Can you do that?”
Boone nodded, his eyes growing wide with fear. “Here,” said Jack. He unbuckled Boone’s belt and handed it to him. “When it gets really bad, bite on this.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen this in a movie or two,” Boone said, trying and failing to sound unafraid. He took it and dutifully put it in his mouth and nodded at Jack.
Jack took a deep breath and set to work again, hardening himself to Boone’s tortured moans. Boone bit hard on the belt and plunged his hands deep into the mud in his agony. Both men were panting now, Jack from exertion and Boone from pain. With a last push, Jack lifted Boone’s leg free of the spike and Jack nearly collapsed with relief. At some point, Boone had passed out again. Jack carefully laid the leg down off to the side of the spike, where it sat in several inches of filthy water.
He stood up wearily and clambered up the side of the pit, no easy task with the mud running down the sides in great gushes. Finally, he was out of the damn pit, and he felt around for some twigs he could use to bind to Boone’s leg. He was operating by touch now. Night had fallen in the last few minutes and he was in complete darkness. Locke had taken their only flashlight. Only Locke was ever prepared, Jack realized, while he had simply run after Claire without a plan, without anything useful.
He wandered blindly, crouched over, hands outstretched and scraping the ground for branches of any kind. The only loose branches he could find seemed gnarled and twisted, no good for his purposes. Despairing of leaving Boone alone for so long, he reluctantly gave up and returned to the pit. He slid back in easily, by now thoroughly soaked with mud.
Boone was still out. Jack’s only option now was to stabilize Boone’s broken right leg by tying it to his good left one. He took the belt that had fallen from Boone's mouth and carefully wrapped it around first Boone’s good thigh and then the injured one. As he cinched it, an anguished cry from Boone let him know he had come to again. “It’s OK, Boone,” Jack said soothingly, putting his hand out blindly for Boone’s hand. “We’re getting out of this hole. But I need your help.” He found Boone’s hand and squeezed it.
“OK,” Boone said feebly. “What do you want me to do?”
“Hang on,” Jack said. “I’m going to pick you up.” He draped Boone over his shoulder, surprised to find he weighed more than he’d thought. He couldn’t climb out carrying Boone, so he’d have to pull him out. “Can you stand?” he asked, easing Boone off his shoulder and into a corner of the pit.
“I’ll try,” Boone said doubtfully.
“I’m going to let go of you,” Jack said slowly, “and then I want you to put all your weight on your good leg. Can you do that?”
“Yes,” Boone said. He braced his hands against the walls to steady himself.
“OK?” Jack said, patting Boone on the arm. “OK,” Boone replied shakily.
Jack gave Boone a last reassuring pat and climbed out again, getting a mouthful of mud while was at it. He got his breath, wiped his mouth, and laid flat on the ground, reaching back in for Boone.
“Now I want you to reach up to me, Boone. I’m going to pull you out. Just hold on for all you’re worth.”
“OK,” Boone said, reaching up and gripping Jack’s strong arms. Jack grabbed Boone under his armpits and pulled. Boone gasped as his leg bumped over the edge of the pit, but before he knew it, he was lying on the ground next to Jack. The two of them lay there for a minute, getting their breath back and just marveling that they were free of the hellish pit at last.
Jack sat up and held Boone in front of him as before. They were both soaking wet. Boone was trembling with cold and shock and Jack rubbed his chest, trying to warm him up as best he could. It was too dangerous for anyone to come tonight anymore, Jack realized with a sinking feeling. They were stuck here for the night.
Boone felt terribly frail in Jack's arms. Jack cursed himself again for everything that had gone wrong today. "Please let Boone be OK," he prayed silently.