Pairing: Light Jack/Sawyer, smidgeon of Sawyer/Kate
Summary: Sawyer reads the file on Jack
Note: Sticks to canon up through "I Do" and then departs sharply, with Kate and Sawyer being recaptured. Thanks so much to foxxcub and zelda_zee for betaing! :)
Sawyer wakes to eerie green lighting, and the unfamiliar realization that he is inside.
The ceiling must be 15 feet, but it feels low, like some kind of bunker. He’s sure they’re underground, farther even than the hatch that had come to seem like home after days spent regathering his strength in that tiny bunk bed.
He sits up slowly, taking in his new surroundings. The cage was like a haven of freedom compared to this gloomy, airless cell of concrete and glass. He’s lying on a metal slab, suspended from the ceiling by four heavy chains. There’s another chain around his ankle, leading to a depressingly solid-looking metal bolt in the wall. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Escaping the first time had only got him dragged right back to the same cage; this time sterner measures were clearly in order. They’d been ready to put a bullet through his brain but for some reason now he’s been given a reprieve. He half expects them to barge in, threatening him with some kind of new punishment, but he’s alone, except for a tiny camera mounted high up on the wall. Figures.
His neck stings and he rubs it, which probably isn’t wise. He and Kate hadn’t gotten very far when those damn tranquilizer darts had taken them down again. Didn’t even have time to squeeze his finger on the trigger of the rifle.
He stifles the nagging doubt that she’s anywhere but safe in an adjoining cell. She might have gotten away -- he hopes she did -- but she wouldn’t just leave him. She had her chance before, and she didn’t take it. And like before, there was nowhere to go.
His throat is dry and he has a killer headache, same as last time. There’s a tray thoughtfully laid out with a pitcher of water -- plastic, unfortunately -- and a tumbler, also plastic. He ignores the tumbler and drinks straight from the pitcher, tipping it back, not caring how much is running down his shirt front.
It’s only then that he notices the neatly bound piles of paper next to the tray. He picks up the first one. There’s a cover sheet, like a school book report. His heart skips a beat when he reads the title: “Katherine Austen.” Sure enough, the one underneath reads, “Jack Shephard.” The hair on the back of his neck rises, knowing that his captors are watching him right now.
He pauses, ignoring that heavy feeling of unease, and then puts down the file on Kate, flipping instead through Jack’s life. He’s just skimming, but he can see it’s insanely thorough -- a broken arm at age 9, piano lessons at age 12, lifeguard certification at 15. A list of girlfriends is surprisingly short.
He pictures Kate and Jack in separate cells, poring over the details of his sad little life and the thought makes him sick. He throws the reports down. He’ll be damned if he’s going to play into their hands and read them.
He holds out for maybe half an hour. He gives the camera an annoyed glance and then starts in on Jack. He learns all the details of the miracle surgery and the short-lived marriage that followed. It doesn’t take a genius to see it was based on gratitude and obligation. Predictably enough, she left him.
Sawyer doesn’t feel like a voyeur, like a vulture feasting on the ruins of Jack’s life, until he gets to the part about Jack’s father. His stomach twists to read of the betrayal, the grievous falling-out. Sawyer rubs his fingers over the words, not seeing them anymore, instead seeing the bitter, burnt-out drunk he met in Sydney, and Jack’s face that day in the jungle, crumbling like a little boy’s to hear that his father didn’t hate him after all.
There’s only a few more pages and Sawyer doesn’t have the heart to read them just now. Fate's a funny thing, putting him in a position to deliver a father’s dying words of forgiveness to his son. His throat feels tight, wondering if Jack is sitting nearby, feeling sorry for him. If he ever sees Jack again, he’ll know the instant he looks at him, be able to spot that welling up of pity for the scared, small boy under the bed. Once someone knew, they never looked at him the same again. He’s spent his whole life running away from that look.
He doesn’t know how long he sits there before he remembers he hasn’t read the file on Kate yet. He blows out a breath and picks it up. Her life starts out ordinarily enough. Small town girl. 4H Club and an obsession with horses. Perfectly normal. Sure, there’s a lousy stepfather but Sawyer knows in his bones that her story won’t have the same ending as his. Because it just can’t. He would have known.
His head is starting to throb from reading too much, but he doesn’t put the file down. Even though it reads like a poorly plotted novel; the setup seems too involved, the twist too long in coming. But when he gets there, he goes back and rereads it from the beginning, seeing everything the report didn’t say. Wayne. He thinks he remembers now that’s what Kate called him that time in the hatch, and her look of disgust. That’s all Kate’s ever felt for him, he realizes with a twisted smile. Pity for what had happened to him, disgust for who he reminded her of.
He’s still hunched over the report in his lap when he hears his name.
His head jerks up and he has to squint to make sure it’s really Jack leaning against the glass partition and that he’s not just having some kind of migraine-induced hallucination. “Doc?”
“Yeah, guilty,” Jack says, with an awkward smile and there’s a hushed quality to his voice that Sawyer doesn’t recall. It doesn’t take his telltale glance toward Sawyer’s reading material for Sawyer to know that he knows.
Sawyer lets the first dozen questions that spring to mind go unsaid. He just nods, getting up slowly. “Good to see you,” he says finally, surprised by how fucking sincere he sounds. He walks to the glass wall, the loud drag of the chain around his ankle marking each step.
“Yeah, you too,” Jack says, taking in the chain without comment. Neither one speaks for a moment and then Jack looks away, eyes raking over the whole cell, as if seeing if anything’s changed. “This is where they were keeping me.”
“Yeah? Well, you can have it back.” Sawyer manages a laugh at last and Jack answers with the faintest of smiles.
“They put me in your cage.”
“Well. Ain’t that ... tidy?”
He’s going to ask Jack how he knows it was his cage, but instead follows Jack’s gaze to the camera mounted on the wall.
“They’re always watching us,” Jack says, dropping his voice, all trace of amusement gone. “Always.” The look he gives Sawyer is significant enough -- even before his eyes dart away -- that Sawyer gets it. Jack’s expression is more sorrowful than accusing but the hurt is plainly written there in the instant before he drops his gaze.
“Oh. Ah. Yeah.” Sawyer shakes his head, rubbing at the back of his neck. Why does he feel like he’s been caught fucking someone’s wife? He shrugs off pinpricks of guilt. She doesn’t belong to Jack. Certainly not to him, even if that’s what Jack must think now.
“She didn’t want to leave you.” Sawyer’s chin goes up. “That’s how they caught us both. She’d rather die than leave you.” He leaves out the part about how Kate could have run, could have left him behind but maybe Jack saw and heard all of that too.
“And you?” Jack’s arms are crossed as he waits for the answer.
“Happy to leave your sorry ass here.” Sawyer waves his hand to include the cell that’s held them both. “Sure, Doc. No point in us all goin’ down, right?”
Jack nods, as if he can’t find any fault in Sawyer’s words. And then something flickers in his eyes. “I did the surgery,” Jack grits, that vein in his neck starting to throb. “For you. And her.”
“Why?” Sawyer shouts, slapping the glass with an open palm so hard that the glass shakes. Jack winces. “For fuck’s sake, Jack, I thought you were smarter than that.”
“They were going to kill you,” Jack states coldly, eyes narrowing like he can’t believe what he’s hearing.
”So what, you think you’re makin’ a sacrifice in the name of true love or somethin’? Because last I heard, you didn’t give a fuck about whether I lived or died.”
Jack laughs, the maniacal laugh of a man who’s too frustrated to do anything else. “So, what, either I’m an idiot for doing the surgery or I’m an asshole for not doing it. Which is it?”
“Both,” Sawyer’s smiling but his eyes are prickling. He sits down, his back to Jack. “Look...” His voice trails off and there’s nothing but silence.
It’s several minutes before Jack speaks, the words coming out wobbly. ”Did you know about Kate? Before this?”
”You mean, did she tell me she blew up her Daddy one night? No, somehow she never got around to mentioning that.”
“But she knew... about you?”
Sawyer couldn’t be having this conversation if he was facing Jack. He shrugs, finding a spot to rub on his jeans. “She guessed most of it. Not in 100-page-report detail but...”
Sawyer nods mutely.
“I... I never guessed it was anything like that. With her. I mean, there were times I hated my father. Really hated him. Don’t most kids probably think it at one time or another? But who actually ...?” He stops, maybe aware that he’s treading in dangerous territory with Sawyer now. Jack hasn’t said he’s sorry about Sawyer’s parents and that fills him with a kind of fierce relief. He’s never known what to say to “Sorry.”
Sawyer’s throat feels raw when he finally speaks. “Figure sometimes it’s him or you.”
He looks up at last to see Jack’s eyes burning like coal through the glass. They’re dark and bright at the same time, Jack’s whole face sagging in sorrow. Jack sniffs, wiping at his nose, and glances away.
A buzzer sounds and the door to the cell swings open. Jack regards it warily.
“Guess they want you to come inside.” Sawyer stands, the chain clanking as he walks towards the open door.
Jack glances towards the door that let him in here, and then back to the one leading into the cell where Sawyer stands, watching him. He walks towards Sawyer. The door swings shut behind him as he steps inside the glass tank.
“Shit, Jack. You do everything they want you to now?”
Jack shrugs. He doesn’t bother to explain himself. He’s subdued in a way that Sawyer doesn’t like. He reminds him of some of the kids he’d see in foster care who had learned to somehow go dormant, rather than call attention to themselves. His eyes are just a little vacant, his shoulders just a little hunched over. The Jack he knows has given up.
But as Jack steps closer, those dark eyes spark to life again as they scan Sawyer’s face, noting each cut and bruise. “What did they do to you?” he asks, reaching out to brush his fingertips over his ravaged cheek.
Sawyer waves his hand away. “Nothin.’” He wants to ask Jack the same thing. Even though there isn’t a mark on him, they got to him and the realization doesn’t sit well with Sawyer.
Jack’s fierce glare isn’t letting up, so Sawyer sighs and answers the question. “Sonny Liston out there needed a punchin’ bag after his woman didn’t make it.”
Jack starts guiltily, hands clenching as if he’s resisting reaching out to Sawyer again. “You mean Colleen?” He drops his head. “I couldn’t save her. I ... didn’t know they would take it out on you.”
“Hell, I don’t care,” he lies. “I was hopin’ she’d die. About time we got one of them for a change.”
Jack’s gaze falls on the still-healing incision on Sawyer’s chest. “And what’s that?” He jabs his finger at the telltale line.
Sawyer pulls his tattered shirt over the wound. “Just a cut. They were just tryin’ to scare me.” He’ll be damned if he’s going to tell Jack about how he fell for their stupid con.
Jack is still looking at him thoughtfully, with sympathy that’s bordering a little too close to pity for Sawyer’s liking. “That was, what, four or five days ago? I think I heard you.” He turns to point to a box on the far side of the cell. “You were screaming. I thought they were going to kill you.” His voice is quiet but his eyes are dark, haunted.
“Yeah, I kinda thought so too,” Sawyer says after a few beats. He turns and abruptly sits down, grateful for the distracting noise of the chain that follows his every movement. He can feel the sympathy flowing towards him like a tide from Jack and it bothers him more than the quiet, closed-off Jack of a few moments ago. Just like with Kate, he never knows where he stands with Jack. Might as well be standing at the ocean’s edge, trying to stand still while the tide rolls out, as figure those two out. Even with all the answers, all their secrets spelled out in neat, black type, he can’t get a handle on either one of them.
“There’s more to people than what it says there,” he points vaguely at the reports.
Jack nods, not bothered by the sudden change of topic. “I know. They tried to use mine against me. They still are.” He shrugs. “They knew Juliet looks like my ex-wife.”
“Shit, Jack,” Sawyer stares at him, trying to picture him with someone like that taser-toting blonde bitch. “You really like the ball busters, dontcha?”
Jack lets out a startled laugh. “No, no, Sarah was nothing like her. She was...” He stops and blows out a breath. “I don’t want to talk about her.”
They seem to have run out of things to say to each other. Jack has settled down on a concrete slab facing him, but he’s lost in thought, not even looking at Sawyer anymore.
Sawyer’s figured out their whole game until now. They needed Jack to do the surgery and they needed him and Kate to have someone to rough up if Jack said no. The reports, though, they make no sense. They probably used Jack’s to wear him down, maybe tried at first to get him to fall for someone who could be a ringer for the wife who left him, the one he clearly never got over.
But showing each other their reports... Sawyer didn’t know what that was supposed to accomplish. Show them they really didn’t know each other at all, maybe. Show Jack there’s no point in remaining loyal to two worthless career criminals. Or force some kind of showdown over Kate.
If that’s what they expected, they’re going to be sorely disappointed. There’s no fireworks, no fight. Maybe this is what they wanted then, to prove that there’s nothing between them, not friendship, not rivalry, just… nothing.
He’s watching Jack from under his eyelashes, waiting for the Jack of old to pound at the walls, yell into the camera, demand some kind of response. But Jack’s retreated inside his own mind again, as surely as if he were in a separate cell on the other side of this island.
Sawyer’s head hurts. He rubs at his temples, wishing for a soft bed and complete darkness and about 10 years to sleep it off.
Jack is watching him, brow wrinkled in concern when he looks up.
“Been worse,” he shrugs.
“Told you not to read without your glasses,” Jack says with a half smile and sits down next to Sawyer. He takes Sawyer’s hand in his and Sawyer is too surprised to resist. Jack holds Sawyer’s palm out flat and pinches the flesh between thumb and forefinger. “Acupressure. Should help,” he says and Sawyer nods.
Jack keeps up the pressure and, slowly, Sawyer can feel some of the tension drain out. Next to him, Jack seems more like his old self as he concentrates on his task. He wonders if this treatment is maybe more for Jack’s good.
“We’re underwater, you know,” Jack says, suddenly, looking up at the ceiling, as if he can see the ocean through it.
Sawyer isn’t too surprised. “Kinda looks like an old aquarium,” he says. “We’re on another island.”
Jack cocks his head, forehead wrinkled in confusion. “What?”
“Yeah. A whole fucking second island. So there ain’t anywhere to go, without a boat.”
“Huh.” Jack takes Sawyer’s other palm in his hands and applies the same pressure. “Guess we’re pretty screwed.” But he doesn’t sound particularly upset.
They’ve just established how fucking hopeless their situation is, and yet Sawyer doesn’t feel hopeless. He feels raw and exposed and confused and he still hasn’t figured out what the hell they did to Jack, but with the expert pressure of Jack’s hands slowly easing his headache away, he feels almost as connected to Jack as he did to Kate when he held her afterwards. It’s a temporary illusion, just touch, just warmth. It doesn’t mean anything, but that quiet ease deep in his body tells him otherwise.
He wants to thank Jack for saving his life, for not laying into him about Kate. For this, just a simple touch that proves that, no matter who Sawyer is, no matter what he’s done, Jack doesn’t hate him.
Whatever their plan was, he thinks, it’s fucking backfired.
Eventually, they both sleep, Sawyer on the slightly swaying metal shelf, Jack on the concrete slab next to him.
When Sawyer wakes, he’s alone. He looks up at the camera and away again. He doesn’t want them to record his reaction.
He finds a fresh tray with water and dry bread, which he wolfs down even though he isn’t hungry. He paces as far as the chain will let him, and then he gives in and picks up Jack’s file again. He hadn’t read those last few pages.
Nearly every detail of what’s happened on the island is there and his stomach aches to think that they’ve been watched this whole time. Jack never mentioned he found -- and destroyed -- his father’s coffin. Jack never mentioned a lot of things.
Sawyer reads the report from the beginning and then he reads it again. Now he knows everything they know about Jack. All his secrets laid bare. But Jack isn’t in these pages, anymore than he’s here in this room.
They might know where Jack got his tattoos and what those Chinese letters mean, but they don’t know him. It takes more than a cold recitation of facts and events to tell you who a person is.
Sawyer puts the bundle of paper down and rubs his right hand, pressing the spot between thumb and index finger.
He knows just about everything there is to know about Jack, except when he’ll see him again.