Pairing: This chapter -- Jack/Shannon, overall Jack/Sawyer
Summary: Jack's visit to Shannon's hometown doesn't go as planned
Note: This chapter dedicated to arabella_hope, who asked for something with Shannon for her birthday. (I still have a Shannon/Dean plot bunny in the wings. ;D) Thanks to zelda_zee for the beta, especially for the ballet expertise. And Jack/Sawyer next chapter, I promise!
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
Jack winced at the unspeakably bright light as he rolled out of bed the next morning with his second killer hangover of the week. This was getting to be a distressing habit. He groaned as his reluctant feet met the floor.
At the moment, he just wanted to crawl back into bed and stay there for several hours, but there was no rest for the weary -- or the hungover -- on this gulag of a dating show. The crew was coming to get him for his hometown visit with Shannon in about two hours. He had to be ready to flirt and smile for the cameras and suffer through retakes, and all the while be making mental notes to see if she was the girl for him.
He downed coffee and orange juice and his queasy stomach demanded he add some toast to counteract what now seemed like liquid gasoline sloshing around his gut.
Feeling somewhat more stable, he hit the shower. As the water washed over him, he couldn’t block the images of Kate and Cassidy from playing over and over in his mind. He braced himself against the tiles, and let it all hit him again, until he felt dizzy. He couldn’t do this, couldn’t process this right now. There wasn’t time. He didn’t even have time to sort out his tangled mess of feelings, let alone decide what he was going to do about it.
The phone rang and he jumped out of the shower to get it, heart beating fast as he tried to decide what he’d say to Sawyer, but it was just Phil, the P. A., making sure he’d be ready on time. Jack mumbled that he would be and hung up.
He retrieved his cell phone from where he’d hurled it the night before. Still in one piece, he was relieved to see. He turned it back on and carried it into the bedroom with him. He kept glancing at it as he dressed. He had to stifle the urge to call Sawyer. He was the only one Jack could think of to share this latest sordid wrinkle with, the only one he’d trust to keep it confidential. That was the worst part of betrayal -- the person who’d stabbed you in the back was the very one you wanted on your side to deal with the aftermath.
Jack wanted to hear Sawyer tell him he’d had nothing to do with any of this but he didn’t want to look Sawyer in the eye and know he was lying, that he’d been lying this whole time. He still didn’t know what Sawyer had to gain from all this, but the why of it didn’t really matter.
He flipped open his phone and listened to his messages again. Finally he dialed his father’s number.
“Dad? Hey, I’m back in town. Listen, what are you doing in the next hour or so?”
“I’m about to go into surgery. Can it wait until this evening?”
Jack massaged his aching temples, trying not to let the frustration he was feeling creep into his voice. “No, this evening I’ll still be on a date. Shannon, the one from Malibu. Maybe if I finish up early...”
“How about we have lunch tomorrow? My office, noon?”
“Sure, yeah, that sounds good.” Jack agreed hastily. By tomorrow, maybe he’d have a handle on things himself and he wouldn’t even need to rehash it under his father’s scrutinizing stare.
The doorbell sounded. The production crew was here.
He went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face. His reflection looked haggard, his eyes red and lifeless. “Show time,” he sighed.
Jack drove his own car to Malibu but the production crew was right behind and another truck drove alongside his Jaguar, shooting the beautiful ocean backdrop as he whipped down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Shannon was waiting for him at the school where she taught ballet. She was dressed in a black leotard and and a short black skirt over pink tights that showcased those gorgeous long, lean legs of hers. There was something melancholy and wistful about her, he thought. It wasn’t just that she was dressed in black, but the way she ducked her head briefly as he approached her. She broke into a sunny smile as he closed the distance and he dismissed her air of sadness as just a projection of his own jumbled state of mind.
She leaned up to kiss him and he vowed to think of nothing but her today. She deserved his full attention. None of this was her fault.
“I’ve told my class all about you,” she said, eyes sparking with mischief as she led him into the school. “So you’re going to be meeting a room full of very excited nine-year-olds.”
“What exactly did you tell them?” he laughed.
“That you’re a doctor. And that you came to my rescue,” she said simply. The fondness in her gaze was unmistakable and it made his heart ache just a little. Here he was, holding back, analyzing everything and she was already emotionally invested in him. “You’re my hero,” she said, grazing his lips with a kiss and he held her there for a moment, wanting to let her know he felt it too.
She wiped some lipstick off his lips with her sleeve and then, satisfied, opened the door to the classroom. “Everyone, this is my friend, Jack.” About a dozen wide-eyed little girls looked up from their exercises to beam at him. “I feel like Santa Claus,” Jack grinned.
The girls clustered around him and asked him questions. How tall was he? Did he save people all the time? Did he have a dog? Was he going to marry Shannon?
Shannon blushed at that one and put an admonishing finger to her lips. “Shhh, that’s not polite to ask people, girls. Remember what we talked about?” They nodded as one, looking properly contrite. “Now, let’s show Jack what we practiced.”
She nodded to the pianist, and slow, mournful piano music filled the studio. Jack recognized it as Erik Satie. The girls faced each other in a circle, all on tiptoe. They each bent over at the waist simultaneously, then back up; as a group, they resembed a large flower opening up. They repeated the movement, but each girl staggered from the next, who then turned to her partner and, clasping arms, leaned forward, balancing on one leg as the other shot out behind her.
“Very good,” Shannon clapped. “Now, Jack, how’d you like to try that?”
“Me?” The girls all giggled and Jack had no choice but to give in. Shannon leaned forward gracefully, her right leg sweeping into the air as she balanced against him.
“Now you try,” she said and he attempted to follow her lead. He was wobbly as hell -- would have been even if he hadn’t been nursing this damn hangover -- but he got his one leg up behind him and back down without falling over. The girls applauded and so did Shannon, smiling at him. She glanced away again before he felt the pressure to return the warmth of her gaze but he knew it was a “moment” that was sure to make the final cut.
He bid his adieus to the little ballerinas and waited for Shannon outside as she changed. She emerged in a blue dress and a jean jacket. As she got closer, he thought her eyes looked puffy. She looked away and then he was sure. She had been crying.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her with concern when she joined him.
“It’s nothing,” she said, not meeting his eye. “Well, okay, it is. You came out here to meet my family, only there’s no one to meet.” She managed a bitter laugh. “My mother died when I was eight and then my father died when I was 18. And last year ... my brother died. So now all I have left is my stepmother and she hates me. But I thought I should ask her anyway, you know, so you could see where I grew up, since it’s where she lives now. But no, she couldn’t even do that.”
”It doesn’t matter,” Jack said, pulling her to him and wrapping his arms around her. “I’m here with you and that’s what’s important. And I met your class!”
“I know,” she said, her voice quavery against his chest. “But you met everyone else’s families. And I don’t have anyone for you to meet.”
”Shhh, it’s okay,” Jack said, rocking her gently, distracted as Steve moved in for a closer shot. “I still get to see where you live, right? And we get to spend the day together. And the rest doesn’t matter.”
She finally nodded and wiped her eyes and he got her to smile at last.
“What about lunch? I’m starving.” he lied. “Where are we going?”
Lunch turned out to be at a historic little shack on the beach that served fish tacos. Jack’s stomach rebelled. Fish sounded like the worst thing on earth right now. He got a beer and prayed they’d edit around the fact that he didn’t eat a bite.
After lunch, they strolled on the beach, holding hands as they waded in the surf. He rolled up his jeans and she teased him about being knock-kneed, which he most certainly was not. It almost felt like a normal date.
They drove to her apartment next. It was small but elegant, like her, Jack thought. French art prints covered the walls and in the corner, there was a piano. A collection of framed family photos lined one book case and she pointed out her mother, father, and lastly, her brother. “This was Boone,” she said with a sad smile. She held the photo to Jack and he nodded over it, studying the intense blue eyes and crooked smile. “He was very handsome,” he said, not at all sure he was saying the right thing.
But she seemed satisfied and then the conversation turned to France and travel and then it was time for dinner. Fortunately, Jack finally had an appetite.
The crew had laid out a candlelit dinner on her balcony and Jack dug into the filet mignon, which was excellent. “I’m not much of a cook,” she confessed and Jack assured her he wasn’t either. They swapped stories of disastrous dinners they’d tried to cook. Jack started to tell her about the time that he’d made the world’s worst cake for his mother’s birthday when he was seven, but then he noticed that her smile was a little too bright and he hastily wrapped it up. Family was a sensitive topic with her and he quickly changed the conversation to her favorite places in the L.A. area.
“Just think, we might have met already,” he suggested. “Although I do spend most of my time at the hospital.” From the way her face fell, he quickly realized he’d made another gaffe.
“I hate that place,” she said dully, like it was something she’d said so many times that she longer thought about it. She shuddered. “Everyone I know died there.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, feeling miserable. He had no idea what to say next when Shannon dissolved into tears and excused herself.
Bachelor production office
“Well, that was a disaster,” Tom said, shaking his head.
“She’s just proven that she’s far too young for him and much too emotional,” Ben agreed.
“But Jack needs someone to take care of...” Isabel insisted.
“He’s looking for a wife, not a child,” Ben huffed. “He doesn’t have time to hold someone’s hand constantly.”
”Well, I don’t care. This is a lovely moment here, where he sits at the piano and starts to play.”
”It’s the same thing the girls danced to, isn’t it? Erik Satie?” Tom said, unable to keep from sounding deeply impressed.
Isabel nodded. “And here she comes out and sits next to him ... and puts her head on his shoulder. Just lovely.”
“Well, that was a sweet goodnight kiss,” Ben admitted. “It’s obvious he cares for her, but he’s not going to pick someone just because he feels sorry for them. Did we realize what a wreck she was before this?”
”Come on, emotion, drama, tears. It’s what makes the show.”
“Proposals, that’s what makes the show,” Ben said firmly. “And he’d be an idiot to propose to her.”
Finally, Jack was free. He’d done his post-date interview, proclaiming Shannon “so incredibly sweet,” and now the cameras were gone and he was his own man again -- at least until the next rose ceremony, the day after tomorrow.
So, he asked himself, why was he driving back to Shannon’s apartment? He didn’t have a good answer except that he felt terrible about how the evening had ended. He’d touched on all the wrong subjects and made her cry and he couldn’t leave until he’d apologized. And he had no choice but to do it in person. He didn’t have her number -- a strict policy, they’d told him at the beginning -- and without Sawyer to act as his liaison, all he could do was double back now, before this window of opportunity closed.
She took a minute to come to the door and another minute to open it up once he’d told her who it was. “There’s no cameras,” he assured her. “It’s just me.”
Those were the magic words, because the door finally swung open. He guessed she’d been wiping the tears from her cheeks; her eyes were red and so was her face but she still looked beautiful. Her smile was politely puzzled. “Did you forget something?”
“No, not exactly. Can I come in?”
She nodded, brown eyes regarding him seriously.
He’d barely begun to say what he’d come to tell her, that he was sorry, that he was an idiot, but he didn’t get much farther than “I’m sorry” before she was kissing him.
Her cheeks were warm and damp with her tears but her mouth was hot and wet and it was that heat and need that won out as she pressed her whole body against him, as if by kissing him, she could burn away all her sadness.
He stumbled backwards, caught off guard by the unexpected force of her kiss but she followed, gripping and twisting his shirt in her hands and then her hands found their way under his shirt, her fingers pressing briefly against his abdomen as if making sure he was real, as if she was feeling the pulse of his desire there. She felt his sharp intake of breath, felt the shudder of anticipation that ran through him and her fingers flew to his belt, impatiently trying to undo it without looking.
She wanted him. She needed him and fuck if he didn’t need this too.
They somehow ended up in her bedroom with Shannon laid out on her back, her skirt hiked up past her waist, panties in a ball on the floor and him not even bothering to step out of his jeans, bunched around his ankles.
He never made the conscious decision to fuck her hanging half off the mattress like that, her blonde hair splayed like a perverse angel, those sinful long legs wrapped tight around his waist as he pounded into her, harder, and harder, like she kept urging him.
His knees nearly gave out when he came and he folded over her, thinking, ridiculously, of the ballet maneuver from earlier today.
He never decided to fuck her at all, it just happened, he told himself as he collapsed on the bed next to her. He hadn’t planned to spend the night either, but she curled up against him, kissing his neck softly and his arm went around her. He tucked the blanket around them both and the next thing he knew, it was morning.
He still had his T-shirt on, but nothing else, he realized, and she still wore her crumpled dress, now mostly tangled around her middle.
She didn’t wake when the mattress shifted as he got up. He could slip out now, unnoticed, but that had never been his style. It’s not like he could run out on her now anyway, not when he was locked into seeing her again at least once more. And now, of course, he would have to keep her.
He watched her with a mixture of tenderness and regret. She looked even younger and more vulnerable, her face slack and soft, in slumber. She’d needed someone and he was there. He almost had to laugh because the rules about him not seeing any of the women alone -- at least not until the “overnight dates” -- were clearly there for just this reason.
So he did the only decent thing he could do. He pulled his jeans on and got up to make breakfast. Her kitchen was even more poorly stocked than his own, however, and after a thorough search he’d only managed to turn up some black currant tea. It was caffeinated, fortunately, so he made two mugs and brought them to her in bed.
She’d woken up by then, and he caught her attempting to smooth her mussed hair. She took the mug he offered her and thanked him grandly. “Breakfast in bed? You are the perfect bachelor, aren’t you?” she said with a lopsided smile.
“If being the perfect bachelor means I’m useless in the kitchen,” he laughed, sipping at the tea and finding it not too terrible. “And if you call this breakfast.”
“Well, I’m hopeless too. I usually just got to Starbuck’s,” she said with a grin. She straightened out the blankets and patted for him to sit next to her. She nuzzled her nose against his cheek. “Mmmm, I like the stubble,” she said appreciatively. “You should shave less.”
”You think?” He rubbed at his jaw self-consciously. “I don’t know ... I guess doctors are usually clean shaven.”
“I like this bad boy side of you,” Her voice was husky, almost a purr. She traced the tattoo of flames and stars on his inner arm. “And here I thought you were so straight-laced.”
She leaned in to kiss him but his eye went to the tilting mug in her hand. “Hey!” He grabbed it just before getting a lap full of hot tea. “Let’s just put this over here,” he said, placing it on her night stand. The alarm clock read 10:47. “Fuck, is that the time?”
“Yeah, so?” she wrinkled her nose in disappointment, anticipating what he was going to say next.
“I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. I have to meet my father for lunch at the hospital.”
“He can wait...” she said, arching one eyebrow suggestively as she reached for the waistband of his jeans.
“He can’t, actually,” Jack sighed. “He’s only got a small window I can see him in and ... I really need to talk to him.”
“About this?” she asked with a small frown. “You’re not going to tell anyone about this...”
“No. Why would I?” He kissed her forehead. “This is just between us.”
“Okay,” she nodded, seeming satisfied. “It’s just ... you’re not sorry, are you?”
“What are you talking about?” he said, running his hands through that beautiful blonde hair. “I care about you,” he said, wincing inwardly because although he managed to avoid mentioning their “connection” -- the most overused word on any dating show -- he was falling back on the standard clichés anyway. “I care about you, Shannon,” he said, more firmly this time, to prove to himself that he really meant it, cliché or not. “And this is no one’s business but ours. Got that?”
“Got it. But Jack Shephard, the next time I see you, you better have a fucking rose for me.”
He drove home with the top down. The brisk ocean breeze was just what he needed to clear his head. He barely had time to shower and dress before meeting his father at his office.
Christian didn’t get up from his desk when he entered, just gave him a stern glance over the top of his glasses. “You’re late,” he said.
“Late night,” Jack lied.
Christian waved him over to the table and couch, where two soup and sandwich trays were laid out. “So, what couldn’t wait? The producers have been talking to me and your sister about meeting the last two women, so I thought that would be it.”
“I know,” Jack said, picking up a napkin and spreading it out carefully on his lap. “A lot of things have happened and I really needed your advice. Away from the cameras.”
“Okay, let’s hear it,” his father said.
Jack had thought about what all to tell him and found he was reluctant to share Kate’s indiscretions with him. He still felt oddly protective of her. And he didn’t want to share the depth of his disillusionment with Sawyer. It didn’t make sense when he’d tried to put it in words. So, between bites of turkey on rye, he simply laid out the basics about the four women, what he liked about them, what their relative strengths were. When he was done, Jack realized he’d edited things so much, there might as well have been cameras here after all.
But his father was always an expert at picking up on things he didn’t say. Christian nodded a few times, forehead puckering thoughtfully as he weighed what Jack had told him.
“Well, they each sound like they have potential, son. But you have to ask yourself… the Italian woman, Gabriela, does she really want to be with you or is she just looking for someone to marry before her father dies?”
Jack shifted in his seat, bristling at the suggestion. “You can’t help timing, Dad. I shouldn’t choose her because her father is dying?”
“Timing is one thing. Desperation is another. I remember advising you before your wedding that maybe there was something going on besides true love, that maybe it was just obligation.”
Jack nodded miserably. Sarah had never really loved him. He’d realized that far too late. What she’d felt for him had been more like gratitude and Jack ... Jack had just been swept up thinking it was fate, destiny.
“You didn’t listen to me then, so I hope you listen to me now. This woman’s place is with her father. Would you be willing to move to Italy, sideline your career? No, of course not. Don’t make the same mistake again, Jack. Don’t be blinded by sympathy.”
Jack rubbed at his pants leg. To hear Gabriela -- beautiful, warm, vivacious Gabriela -- dismissed so lightly was hard, but Christian had a point. He couldn’t move to Italy and she couldn’t leave her father.
”Now Juliet. She sounds very capable, very driven. And she understands how demanding the work is. Of course, two doctors ...” Christian grimaced, “it can mean you never see each other, but here is someone who can understand why you’d need to put in those long hours at the hospital and that’s rather rare. The other two ... Shannon is how old?”
“That’s very young, Jack. And it sounds like she’s still mourning her dead brother. And a father and mother too?” He made a “tsk” noise. “I know you like to fix people Jack, you like to pick the broken ones and try to fix them, but I think you need to find someone who can be there to fix you when you need it.”
Jack ran his thumb over his jaw, unconsciously echoing Shannon’s gesture this morning. “Maybe you're right,” he said with a little laugh at himself, for not being able to recognize his own destructive habits.
“So that leaves Kate,” Christian continued. “You haven’t said much about her. Which makes me think you like her best.” He held up his hand to stop Jack from interrupting. “Because you know I’m going to critique her and maybe tell you she’s not right for you and I don’t think that’s something you want to hear. I can’t say if any of them are right for you until I meet them, and then, of course, it’s still all up to you. But you came for my advice and there it is. You don’t want to get tangled up with sorrow and loss. You’ve had enough of that, Jack, haven’t you?”
Jack blew out a breath. “Thanks, Dad. This was ... good. I knew you’d be able to help me sort through it all.” He stood up, ready to take his leave.
“Is there something else?” Christian asked, fixing him with that stare that had always felt like he was looking right through him.
“No, no, nothing.” Christian looked skeptical, so he quickly added, “It’s just all a lot more than I bargained for, being on camera all the time. And I didn’t count on starting to care for more than one person. I thought it would be clear, that I’d just know the right one, right away. But it hasn’t been like that at all. Right now, it’s about as clear as mud.”
“Glad I was of some help,” Christian said dryly. He got up and put on his white lab coat. “You’ll figure it out. Maybe none of them are right for you, Jack. You have to consider that possibility too.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Jack nodded, not having heard anything he really wanted to hear. His cell phone rang and he answered it without thinking.
“Hey there, Doc, you’re a hard man to get on the phone.”
Sawyer. Jack’s mouth went dry. “Oh... hi,” he managed finally.
“This a bad time?”
“No, no, I just finished having lunch with my Dad.” He gestured to his father that he was going to take the call outside, and ducked into the hall.
“Okay, well, you still want to do that drink before you’re back on the clock?”
”Uh... sure.” The hallway was crowded with patients and doctors so he couldn’t very well start shouting accusations at Sawyer.
“Great.” He could almost hear Sawyer’s smile through the phone. “When and where?”
“My house,” Jack said firmly. He was going to need some privacy when he confronted Sawyer and now he warmed to the idea. He was going to have it all out with him and it was going to feel damned good. “How’s nine o’clock?”
“Your house? Okay.” Sawyer sounded surprised. “What’s your address?”
”Don’t you have it already?” Jack said, with just a hint of the anger he was holding back.
“Noooo,” Sawyer said slowly, like Jack was some kind of simpleton. “That’s why I’m askin’ you for it.”
Jack rattled off the address and Sawyer had to get him to slow down and say it again.
He heard the scratching of pencil on paper and then finally Sawyer’s voice. “Great, see you tonight, Doc. Lookin’ forward to gettin’ all the juicy details.”
“Oh, yeah, I have a lot to tell you,” Jack said and flipped the phone shut. He didn’t know what he was going to do with himself until 9.
Coming up on The Bachelor: Paradise Island -- Jack makes his hardest choice yet as he sends one woman home.