Summary: Jack sees a way to save everyone
Note: A late luau fic for alliecat8, who asked for Jack and (if she wants it) emiliglia, who asked for S6 spec. (This is more like series finale spec, inspired by a conversation with elliotsmelliot) Thank you to eponine119 for the beta! :)
Spoilers: Contains elements of S5, although set during a(n unspecified) future crisis
Word count: 625
Warning: Character death
The wheel is encased in ice, so cold that he draws his hand back at first. It's the cold that makes his left hand shake, he tells himself. He tears a strip of cloth from the bottom of his shirt -- God, it's so cold... and wraps the palm of his hand with it. It works: he no longer automatically lets go of the freezing metal at first touch. He takes the moment before his flesh screams at him to tear his hand away to lash his left hand with his right. A second person could have tied his remaining hand, but Jack couldn't take that chance. Not with someone else's life.
While they were still knotted in a somber little group, intently discussing who it should be, and why, he'd gotten inside and locked them all out. The flush of his success had kept him warm at first, but that first rush of adrenaline is fading, evaporating in this frigid, rocky chamber.
He's done far harder things, he tells himself. The voice in his head sounds so much like his father's, he turns his head, half expecting to see him. But there is no one. He doesn't have time for hallucinations anyway, he says, or maybe it really is Christian who speaks. It doesn't matter.
He should have wrapped his right hand with cloth, when he had both hands free but now there's no time. He loops the rope over and around a spoke of the wheel as best he can one-handed and then he takes the end of the rope in his teeth He nearly cries out as his bare hand meets icy metal, but he can't let go of the rope. Its freezing, but it feels like fire. Not long, now comes the voice.
It takes all his strength to turn the wheel. He throws his whole body into it, every ounce he has, so that he's sweating, even in this cold, by the time it finally budges. He hears the whine of metal on metal and then -- success! an enormous roar building behind him.
He closes his eyes, bracing himself as the water rushes in, buffeting him hard against sharp rock and unforgiving metal. The water rises higher and he feels the same panic he did as he swam out to save Boone and Joanna, when he realized he could save only one. But now, now, he can save them all. He grips the wheel all the tighter, as if even now, the island waits to snatch the lives he's won from his grasp.
This is it, he thinks as the waves reach his chin. The water is so high now, Jacks has to crane his head to reach the shrinking pocket of air.
He remembers the shock of seeing Sawyer jump from the helicopter, the flood of sorrow inseparable from the guilt of not being the one to make the obvious sacrifice. He wonders what Sawyer thought, as the ocean rushed up at him, sure, somehow, that he wasn't thinking of his own death, but of everyone he'd just saved. I got this one, Jack thinks, but it's Sawyer's voice he hears.
The water is over Jack's head now, and the air in his lungs will only last another moment, maybe two. His chest burns with the need to breathe and now Jack can see Charlie, like he was there with him when he took his last breath. Charlie is smiling at him like everything is okay and so Jack smiles back.