Summary: Sawyer's all over the news. He's a hero. (AU)
Note: Many thanks to zelda_zee for the fb and beta! I thought I'd whip the rest of this fic out but it has been giving me all kinds of trouble. More to come, but for now: Part 2...
Sawyer opened his eyes to white. His right arm hurt. He tried to sit up but his head throbbed unpleasantly. Hospital he realized with disappointment as he looked around the small, sterile room. Last thing he'd known, he was bleeding out on the floor of an airplane, the closest to rejoining his mama that he'd ever been.
He let out a deep sigh and once the nurse realized he was awake, she sent the cops right on in. Sawyer's tongue felt thick, probably due to whatever he'd been doped with, but he answered their questions the best he could. They seemed to have the whole story already, just asked him to clarify a few particulars, the where and why-fors of his stabbing a crazed hijacker in the throat.
"You ever in the military?" The cop had already closed his notepad, so the question was definitely of the academic type.
"No," Sawyer said slowly, wondering at the query.
"Just curious where you learned to use a knife like that." The cop, an older, grizzled type, raised his eyebrow, as if waiting for Sawyer to spill his lengthy rap sheet.
"Boy Scouts," Sawyer answered firmly and the two cops laughed.
"What kind of badge d'ya get for that?" the younger one said, shaking his head in amusement.
"Those folks are damn lucky you were on that plane," the older cop said, all seriousness as he stuffed his notebook in his pocket. "Airline's pickin' up your hospital tab, by the way. Probably fly you wherever you wanna go."
Even this short talk had tired Sawyer out. All he could do was nod as they walked away.
He hadn't even thought about bills, plans. All that seemed far away. He barely listened to the nurse when she came back in, fussing over him and tucking him in. He was all over the news, she said. He was a hero.
Sawyer should have been relieved that he was here, instead of in jail, relieved to be considered a hero and not a killer. Mostly what he felt, under the ache of his arm and the fog of the drugs, was the same old deeper ache that never went away.
He must have closed his eyes for a minute, because the nurse had become a doctor. Sawyer didn't pay him much mind, figured it was time for his temperature to be taken or something, but then he realized that the man in blue scrubs was none other than Handsome Jack.
"Hi," Jack said, almost shyly as he approached Sawyer's bedside. "Hope I'm not disturbing you... the nurse said you were up."
"Yeah, if bein' flat on my back counts as 'up,'" Sawyer smiled, although it felt like an effort to do so.
The scrubs, though baggy, suited the doc. Short sleeves showed off well-defined arms and unexpectedly, some intriguing tattoos. Aware he might have been caught staring at them, Sawyer turned his scrutiny back to Jack's clothing. "They got you workin' here?"
Jack stood by the bed somewhat awkwardly, as if not sure what to do without a clipboard or some other doctorly accoutrement to keep his hands busy. "The hospital was good enough to loan me these. My clothes were, well..."
"Ruined," Sawyer finished for him. He'd probably bled all over Jack's nice suit. "Sorry 'bout that," he said, getting a surprised laugh in response.
"Sorry?" Jack looked more than incredulous, he seemed almost mad. "For bleeding on me? For saving everyone's lives on that airplane? If it hadn't been for you..."
"If it hadn't been for you, Doc, I wouldn't be here right now." It was as close as Sawyer could come to thanking him. Jack gazed at him a little too long, a little too intently, as if he could read Sawyer's ambivalence about still drawing breath as clearly as he might read his chart.
Sawyer looked away first. He was injured, wasn't he? He wasn't up for a damn staring contest.
"Yeah, well, we were both lucky all around," Jack said, settling onto the empty bed across from Sawyer. "You almost didn't make it. Thank God we were near an airport."
"And where is that?" Sawyer realized no one had told him yet.
"Texas. Some little town I never heard of," Jack said sounding puzzled at being the one to supply that information. "It was the closest place the pilot could land."
"Mmmhmm," Sawyer nodded. "Thought I heard some twang on those cops."
"I'm sure they've talked to everyone now," Jack said, rubbing the palm of his left hand with his other thumb in a way that suggested the ritual of a surgeon washing his hands, or maybe it was just nerves. "They were waiting for you to come to. I think everyone else is already on the next plane to Miami."
"Yeah?" Even in Sawyer's fogged state, he realized that meant that Jack should be gone too. "You're not on it."
"No," Jack looked slightly embarrassed. "I offered to stay behind, in case, well, just in case. And they couldn't find my luggage anyway, so ..."
"Well, that's mighty... nice of you." Sawyer was finding it difficult to come up with words. Damn drugs. His eyes were starting to close, no matter how hard he tried to keep them open.
Jack got to his feet, realizing that Sawyer was seconds from sleep. "Listen," he said, leaning down low so Sawyer could hear him. "You mentioned your mother back there, on the plane. If you want me to get in touch with her..."
That opened Sawyer's eyes. "Be a little hard, 'less you can talk to the dead. She got shot in the head when I was eight." He hadn't meant to say those words, so flat, so harsh, but there they were.
Jack drew in a quick, pained breath. "I'm sorry," he said, dark eyes sympathetic and maybe even a little watery. "I ... I'm sorry about that." He seemed about to say something else, as he had before, and then he merely squeezed Sawyer's arm.
"Get some rest," he said softly. His breath felt warm on Sawyer's cheek, almost, Sawyer thought, like a kiss. Just the drugs, Sawyer sighed as the overhead light dimmed.
Sawyer woke the next morning -- at least he thought it was the next morning, judging by the fact that the overhead lights in his room were on. It was hard to tell with no windows and the hallway lights were never off, so yeah, it was anyone's guess what time of day it was.
He felt several shades better than last night, but still towards the "like crap" end of the spectrum. He'd always hated being sick and having to lie in bed. But he was wise enough -- and honestly, weak enough -- not not to mess with the IV in his arm or the other tubes hooked up to his anatomy.
He stared at the nondescript, off-white ceiling overhead. This was a strange kind of limbo. He hadn't even known where he was until Jack had told him last night. He wasn't entirely sure he was still alive, to be honest, except that his arm still hurt and his throat was dry and he didn't think you'd realize all that if you were stone dead.
He could just reach the nightstand without dislodging his IV. There wasn't anything to read there, not even a Bible, which struck him as downright un-American, especially if he really was in Texas. There was a beat-up looking TV remote and he swiveled to find the TV. There it was, mounted in the corner, high enough where no patient could pull it down, he observed wryly. He clicked it on and chose between some program in Spanish, a talk show, a game show and the local news. He paused on the news station and nearly dropped the remote when he heard his own name.
The nurse had been right. He was all over the news. They'd even dug up an old photograph somewhere, God knows where. What gave him the biggest jolt, though was seeing Jack commenting on the daring heroics of one James Ford. "If it hadn't been for him, who knows what might have happened..." he'd said, squinting thoughtfully into a camera lens. Jack was still wearing the same suit from the airplane, dramatically spattered in blood, so he must have done the interview right after the whole thing had gone down.
He got that awful knot in his stomach he always did whenever someone used his real name, since like as not, it had usually been in the context of some policeman or judge or social worker, sitting there, raking over his sordid little life and everything going back to that one damn night.
He'd been traveling under his real name, because it raised fewer flags than "Sawyer," did. He'd never expected to see either name splashed across the news, let alone with a photo that might as well have been a mug shot. He kept watching, expecting them to get into his whole history, but no, it was just "Hero of Flight 815," and that was it. He shut off the TV, surprised to be confronted with a breakfast plate. He hadn't even heard the nurse come in. She chattered on, clearly thinking he'd be pleased to be lauded as the local hero. She made him swallow some pills but he passed on the food. He didn't have the stomach just now.
Sawyer woke with a start: he'd been dreaming, the same old dream where he was that little boy under the bed, frozen. His heart raced as he heard the screams but his limbs were heavy, far too heavy to move. It took him a moment to realize he was awake and here, in this hospital bed and another moment still to realize he wasn't alone.
Jack hovered in the doorway, shoulders slightly hunched. "I'm sorry, did I wake you?" He looked embarrassed to be catching Sawyer at the wrong time.
"No, no... just a bad dream. Must be those drugs they're givin' me," Sawyer said sitting up and trying to rub his face free of sleep. He felt sweaty and sickly. He must look a sight.
Jack, on the other hand, looked damn good, shaved and showered, unlike himself, Sawyer thought, suddenly desperate for a shower.
"You okay? You look a littler feverish," Jack said, reaching to feel Sawyer's forehead, probably just instinctual doctor stuff but Sawyer jerked his head away.
"I'm fine," he insisted. "What happened to the scrubs?" he asked, happy to have another topic to seize upon. He surveyed Jack's new outfit: Heavy boots, a black Harley Davidson T-shirt and obviously brand-new jeans that were still stiff and a tad too tight, not that Sawyer was complaining.
Jack cleared his throat a little, as if aware he'd crossed a boundary in trying to touch Sawyer. He wasn't Sawyer's doctor after all. Just some guy.
"Ahh, well, they still haven't found my suitcase," Jack explained. "So I had to do some shopping." He shrugged, clearly not entirely pleased with his purchases. "I forgot what it's like to break jeans in!" he laughed, rubbing at the stiff denim. It was a nice, giggly kind of laugh that Sawyer couldn't help but join in. Jack had these great lines around his eyes when he laughed, something Sawyer always loved in a man.
"They had belt buckles even bigger than yours," Jack continued, a mischievous light in his eyes, "I thought about getting one with a Camaro on it..."
"But you thought better of it," Sawyer finished for him. "Shame. They make good conversation pieces."
"They do," Jack nodded and he held Sawyer's eyes for just a beat too long, recalling, probably, that first moment when they'd met, all because of Sawyer's ridiculous eagle belt buckle. If they were at a bar, the right kind of bar, and they both had a few drinks in them, Sawyer might lean over right now and kiss him. But this wasn't a bar and neither one of them was drunk. Sawyer was a little high on meds, that was all.
He felt at a loss for words suddenly, and he was never at a loss for words.
Jack must have felt the same way, because he was twisting his hands around one another again in that odd habit Sawyer had noticed last time. Only now he was definitely rubbing one finger, a bare ring finger.
He caught Sawyer's glance and his hands stilled. "Still not used to not wearing it," he said with a sigh. "You married?"
"Nah," Sawyer said, lying back down and turning onto his side. He felt drowsy again, but a nice kind of drowsy, where he'd drift off and there'd be no dreams. "Never found the right one."
Jack nodded, chewing over, perhaps, that Sawyer hadn't said, "the right woman." Or maybe he was just fresh out of small talk, too.
"I figure I'll get a flight out in a few days, but there's no real rush," Jack said, his words rushed as if he'd practiced this little speech. "I .. I kind of hate to think of you alone in the hospital here, by yourself."
Sawyer nodded. He didn't want to make too big a deal of it, but he was glad Jack was staying. Real glad. He flashed him a drowsy smile. "You just don't wanna leave Texas without that Camaro belt buckle."
"You're on to me," Jack laughed, his hand rubbing absentmindedly at his new jeans. He stood up to take his leave, pausing in the doorway to add, “They put me up at the local Best Western. If you need anything...”
Sawyer just nodded. He wanted to tell Jack he'd seen him on the news and heard what he'd said about him, but he figured it could wait. He wasn't going anywhere just yet and neither, it seemed, was Jack.