Summary: Sighing, Jack threw a few more odds and ends in the box and lifted it from the desk. The books and journals he could leave. He didn’t know what he would do with the plant in the corner, so it stayed too. He gave the office one last glance. He had everything he cared about having.
Disclaimer: I do not own Lost. At all. I wish but alas...
Author's Note: Still for mysticxf. :)
Previous Parts: Part One
Six Months After the Rescue
“Jack, you aren’t thinking rationally.” He almost heard Christian’s voice. It sounded like something he would say. As though Jack wasn’t already well aware of that fact. It had been Christian once, standing over him with that stern father-knows-best expression on his face.
But it wasn’t Christian. His father was gone, long dead and long buried and thousands of miles away. The figure that stood over him now was “an old family friend”. Jack used that phrase only for lack of a better one, seeing as the last of his family (his mother Margo) had passed away two months ago, and Jack knew the man now standing in his office by little more than name.
“I’m quitting, Asa,” Jack replied. “It’s done.”
His mouth formed into a thin line and he glared at Jack as though he were surprised and upset at being addressed by his first name. Jack didn’t care. Asa had been Mr. Berkley since Jack was a child, but he didn’t seem to be able to muster the formality anymore – not even out of habit – nor care about offending him.
“It isn’t too late, Jack, you can still make this right,” Asa argued. Jack couldn’t contain a rueful laugh as he shook his head. “All I’m asking you to do is think before you throw away your life.”
Jack continued to shake his head as Asa spoke, eventually letting it fall and resting his hands, tiredly, on the box he was currently filling. He would probably end up throwing most of it away in the end, but he wasn’t just going to leave it.
With a deep breath, he looked back up. He was sure that Asa was only doing what he thought was right. He was very much like Christian that way. He thought he knew what was best for Jack, what he should do with his life. It was exhausting, and he couldn’t take it much longer.
“Why did you come here?” he asked.
Asa seemed taken aback by the question, but he just sighed and shook his head at Jack, regarding him as a disappointed parent might regard a stubborn, petulant child.
“I’m here because I know your father would be,” he said, as if begging Jack to understand, to reconsider. “I’m here because it’s what your father would want.”
“That’s funny, Asa, because I’m here because it’s what my father wanted too,” Jack replied. He always wondered what people thought they were doing, when they brought up Christian, as if he were some sort of selling point. What those people didn’t know about the great and powerful Christian Shephard could fill a warehouse.
Asa didn’t reply, only looked at Jack as though he were extraordinarily disappointed. Jack didn’t care. It wasn’t the first time someone had looked at him like that, and realistically, it probably wouldn’t be the last.
Sighing, Jack threw a few more odds and ends in the box and lifted it from the desk. The books and journals he could leave. He didn’t know what he would do with the plant in the corner, so it stayed too. He gave the office one last glance. He had everything he cared about having.
“Jack, don’t do this,” Asa pleaded. “You don’t have to do this.”
Jack walked around the desk, box in hand, and looked Asa directly in the eyes – something he had never dared to do before, something he would probably never have considered a year previous. Now was a different time, however, and circumstances had worn away Jack’s sense of propriety along with his belief in its usefulness.
“It’s already done,” he said. His tone was final. The conversation was over. If Asa had anything left to say, he would have to direct it to Jack’s now empty office.
“Sayid’s gonna rip a strip of you, you know,” Sawyer tells him, though there really isn’t any need. Jack has been preparing himself for it ever since Sawyer had found him. He tries not to let the knowledge bother him, reminds himself that, were he in Sayid’s position, he would do the same thing. But it does bother him and he keeps that to himself.
He nods at Sawyer in reply, then turns to Kate, who stands at his right. She’s been quiet the entire journey back toward camp, save for a few whispered orders to get behind this or that when she thought heard someone coming.
Jack knows that she has a lot on her mind, that he has put a lot on her mind, but he wishes, every now and then, that things could go back to the way they used to be, that they could fill the air with easy, meaningless banter and replace the unsaid words that hung over their heads like an oppressive cloud.
Seeing the line of tents through the bushes, he knows they're approaching the camp now. It had been Sayid’s idea to move inland, away from the beach now that the Others were in possession of Desmond’s boat. Jack had agreed, and once everyone had been convinced their safety was better ensured in the jungle, they had moved.
Upon reaching the camp’s border, they’re greeted by Steve and Sharon, who seemed to have drawn guard duty that night. They have rifles slung over their shoulders, and are halfway to reaching for them before they recognize Kate, Jack, and Sawyer. They seem to breathe sighs of relief as they nodd and are nodded at in return.
As Jack passes them he feels the heat of their gazes, and thinks he’s probably going to be getting a lot of that for the next few days. He never means to worry anyone, which is, more than likely, why he ends up doing it so often.
As soon as they had pass the camp’s border they all put their guns away. The camp in the jungle is much like the camp on the beach. There are tents made from blue tarps, a kitchen area where the food is kept, water basins spread throughout, and a few low fires every so often. It still amazes Jack, sometimes, that it has come to this.
“Well, there you are.” Jack turns around, facing the kitchen and Rose, who smiles pleasantly at all of them. She has a plate of food in her hand, which she sets down before hugging Jack briefly. “You had us worried.”
Jack nods back, lowering his head. Rose has a way of making him feel like he was ten years old again most every time he speaks to her. At least she was still better than his father. Or his mother.
“I’m fine,” he offers back, weakly.
She nods slowly. “I’m glad,” she replies. “And what about you two? Are you alright?”
Kate nods. “Yeah,” she replies. She sounds exhausted, and a look of concern passes over Rose’s face, but she accepts Kate’s answer, nodding back and looking over both of their shoulders to Sawyer.
He offers her a begrudging nod and she sends him a hard look right back, silently telling him that a petulant nod isn’t good enough. He rolls his eyes. “Yes ma’am,” he says.
“That’s better,” she answers, with a nod, even though she gets the distinct impression that she's being patronized. “Sayid will want to see you all, to know you’re safe.”
“Where is he?” Jack asks, though he is in no real hurry to get there.
“He’s down in the hatch with Sun and Jin,” she replies, reaching over and picking up the plate from the nearby table. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get Bernard his supper before it gets cold.” She turns to Jack and lays a hand on his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Thanks Rose,” Jack replies, watching her leave. He sighs and lets his head fall before taking a deep breath and lifting it back up. His eyes find Kate on instinct, and sees that she’s pulling her gun back out, that Sawyer is doing likewise. Shaking his head, Jack reaches for his.
He hates going into the hatch. They all do. It's in an open, indefensible area, and he always feels as though he's going to be shot at the second he ventures out into it. They rarely go down there if they don’t have to. Jack guesses that Sayid is only there now because he has to be.
“Do you think they’re nearby?” Kate asks Sawyer as they all began to make their way across camp, to the border on the other side.
Sawyer shrugs. “Sunshine must’ve seen somethin’, or else he wouldn’t be down there,” he replies. He sounds on-edge and he doesn’t have to say it for Jack to know what he’s thinking.
“It’s my fault.”
Kate stops dead. Sawyer goes on for a few more paces, but stops when he realizes that he was the only one moving anymore.
“Don’t say that Jack,” Kate tells him, pleads with him. Jack just shakes his head at her.
“I went off on my own,” Jack argues. “I could have lead them close.”
“Could have being the operative words there, jackass,” Sawyer replies, testily. “Those two dumbasses had no idea we were even there.”
“They said they’d been looking for me all day,” Jack counters. Kate watches their argument from the sidelines, confused but silent. She crosses her arms over her chest and waits, but listens intently.
“Yeah, and now they’re convinced you were never there,” Sawyer shoots back. “Far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. So quit being such a damn martyr and lets get this over with.” He gestures toward the path that will take them down to that hatch and sighs in frustration. He really doesn’t have time to listen to Jack beat himself up. Even if it was his fault, which, he’d give him, is a possibility, the least he could do was wait to beat himself up in private and not ask them to do it for him.
Jack sighs back and shakes his head. He supposes he could be wrong. Maybe that isn’t why they were in the hatch at all. But he can’t shake the feeling in his gut that it is, that he’s lead them all closer to danger than they already were.
“Maybe we should wait until dark,” Kate suggests, looking up the path directly into the open field. Sawyer sighs and shakes his head in annoyance.
“I’m sick of waitin’,” he replies, taking off with an air of finality, fully intent on going even if he won’t be followed. Kate looks to Jack and offers him a reassuring smile before following Sawyer. Jack can’t even manage to falsely smile back.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Jack, I’ve been looking for six months, burning a hole in your wallet, and I’ve still got nothing.”
Jack pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. His headache was turning into a migraine. The second one today. He dry swallowed a couple of aspirin.
“So, that’s it?” Jack asked, frustrated. Alex never had good news for him. All ends were dead ones. Leads never panned out. He’d paid Alex to tell him the same thing week after week, month after month. And yet, he stubbornly refused to throw in the towel on him.
“Yeah, Jack, I’ve done all I can. This chick? She just don’t wanna be found.”
Jack sighed and shook his head. It throbbed, punishing him for it. “Yeah, thanks Alex. The check’s in the mail.”
“Hey, Jack, don’t-”
But Jack hung up, turned off the phone, and threw it onto the passenger seat. It was amazing, he thought, how far a week could take you. On Thursday he had quit his job, giving up his entire career, which, from the intense apathy he now felt, had been time well spent indeed. On Saturday, Alex had called early to say he had a lead and then later that night to say, “False alarm.” By Wednesday he was having chronic headaches and on Thursday he was about at the end of his rope.
Alex had ended up being a waste of time and money. He should have known that after the first two months. He should have quit his job then, saved himself the frustration and the money and realized that this was a job he needed to do himself.
He knew Kate. Knew her better than most anyone. He knew the people that she trusted, the people that cared for her. He could find her more easily than Alex ever could have.
Asa’s voice echoed in his mind. “Stop,” it said. His father chimes in, “Let it go.”
Their pleas had little influence on him now. He was no longer a child struggling for his father's acceptance, nor a man grappling with his place as the leader of a makeshift society. He had grown and he had changed, but parts of him remained. And those parts of him knew, knew that he couldn’t stop. That he couldn't let Kate go.
He picked up the phone, turning it back on and blatantly ignoring the two new voicemails he knew were from Alex.
Searching his contacts, he located the number he was looking for and pressed ‘send’.
“Jin, hi, it’s Jack.”
“Jack, hello,” Jin replied. His English was far less awkward than the last time they had spoken.
“How are the kids?”
“Loud,” Jin replied. Jack laughed, and Jin returned it. “You would like to speak to Sun?”
“Please,” Jack answered. He heard Jin's muffled voice, calling for his wife in Korean, and another few sentences that Jack could only assume were directed at the two daughters who were never far from his side.
“Jack.” Sun sounded happy, like they hadn't spoken in years. In reality, it had been a few months, but, whenever Jack spoke to her, he wondered why it had taken him so long to do so.
“Hi Sun,” Jack replied, smiling even though he didn't much feel like it. “Jin's English is getting better.”
“Much,” she agreed. “It's been too long, Jack. The girls have grown so much since you last saw them.”
Jack nodded. “I know. I got the pictures.”
They were on the fridge, along with one of Aaron, Claire's latest sonogram (twins), and a picture of Sawyer flipping off the camera that he had cut out of a magazine because it was just too perfectly Sawyer not to.
“You should come by some time,” Sun offered.
“How's tomorrow?” Jack replied. He couldn't see her to know for sure, but he was fairly certain that Sun's mouth had dropped open in shock. It wasn't as if he could blame her.
“Tomorrow is fine,” she replied, sounding a surprised. “Are you sure you'll have time?”
“I’m sure,” Jack replied. He'd never been more sure of anything in his life, actually. He had all the time in the world now. “I'll explain when I see you.”
“Jack.” Her voice was full of apprehension, and oh, was that ever familiar. At times, Sun had been his only voice of reason on the island, both before and after the situation with the Others had escalated. He had counted on her to keep his head level. Her judgment meant everything to him. The tone of her voice now was like her tone of voice then. She knew that he was up to something, and she wanted to make sure he knew what he was doing.
“Trust me,” Jack replied. The magic words. “I'll explain tomorrow, I promise.”
“Alright Jack,” Sun agreed. “What time is best for you?”
“I'm free all day.”
Sun couldn't help but laugh. Jack didn't blame her. Under normal circumstances, those words coming out of Jack's mouth would sound ridiculous.
“Well, the girls will want to see you, so how about nine?”
“Nine is fine,” Jack told her.
“Are you going to tell me what this is all about Jack?” Sun asked. “I have a bad feeling in my stomach.”
Jack knew Sun's bad feelings well. They were usually right. Maybe they were right now too. Jack had no way to know Kate would want to see him if he did manage to find her. Maybe that was why she had left without a word to him in the first place. And if that was the case, well...he needed to hear that from Kate.
With a sigh, Jack admitted, “I'm looking for Kate. I have been...for a while now.”
He heard Sun breathe in deeply. A silence fell between them, before Sun finally responded, “Are you sure that is the best idea, Jack?”
Jack lowered his head and ran a hand over the back of his neck. “No,” he told her. “But I...I need to talk to her. I need to see her.”
“I don't know where she is, Jack,” she confessed. Jack shook his head.
“I know, I just…there are things, about the island, things I need to know, questions I need to ask. Maybe if I know the answers, it’ll be easier to find her.”
“What makes you think she would have told me anything that could help you?” Sun asked him.
“You mean other than the fact that you just asked me that question?” He heard Sun sigh. “I’m not asking you to break her confidence. I would never do that. But you were her best friend on the island. If she told anyone anything, it would be you.”
“You and I were close as well, Jack. I would never keep something from you if I believed you needed to know,” she said.
Jack smiled. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”
“It will be good to see you again, Jack.”
“You too Sun.”
“Nine o’clock,” she reminded him. “You won’t forget?”
“Not a chance,” Jack replied. “Tell the girls I’ll see them soon.”
“I will,” Sun answered. “And, for the record, you’re wrong.”
Jack frowned. “About what?”
“I wasn’t her best friend on the island,” Sun told him. “You were.”
Jack fought to swallow the lump in his throat. It took a while, but Sun waited patiently. “Did she…” Jack starts, but has to clear his throat one more time before he goes on. “Did she tell you that?”
“She didn’t have to,” Sun assured. “I’ll see you tomorrow Jack.”
Jack stared at the phone for almost ten minutes after he pressed ‘end’. Sun had to be wrong, he rationalized. He and Kate had been close, once. But the last few months of their time on the island had been fraught with so much tension, so much mistrust and second guessing – on both sides – that whatever bond they’d once had had, no doubt, been damaged, if not destroyed.
There was only one problem with that, though. Sun was so rarely wrong, and even more rarely was she mistaken about this sort of thing. He trusted her judgment far too much to write it off now.
Jack sighed, and started the car.
There was no ambush. They always feared going down into the hatch for the mere possibility. Strategically, it was an exceptional attack point, Sawyer had said upon scouting the area around their camp. It was unfortunate, then, that one of the most useful tools at their disposal, the surveillance system in the hatch, was located directly in the middle of it.
Kate climbs down ahead of Jack and Sawyer behind them both, covering them and then shutting the enormous doors behind them. The lights were on, flooding the hallway. With a much greater sense of safety behind heavy, closed doors they put away their guns and Jack feels his heart descending from his throat back into his chest.
He could hear voices down the hall: Sayid’s calm, controlled tone, Jin’s rapid Korean, and Sun’s precise translations. They’re gathered in the center of the room, Jack sees upon reaching the end of the hallway. Sun is seated in one of the chairs, with Jin standing just behind her, and Sayid facing them both.
Sun is the first to see him, her face lighting up as she jumped from her chair and threw her arms around him. He responds purely out of instinct, wrapping his arms tightly around her shoulders and holding on, closing his eyes against her neck.
“You’re an idiot,” she whispers in his ear so that only he can hear her. There’s no venom in her voice, no malice, only relief. He chuckles against her shoulder and lets her go. He shakes Jin’s extended hand and nods at him with a smile.
“Are you alright?” Sayid asks him. He sounds concerned, but upset. Jack nods back without meeting his eyes. “Good.” His gaze turns to Kate and Sawyer. “Thank you both.”
It occurs to Jack, when the words leave Sayid’s mouth, that he had never thanked them. They had both risked their lives to come and find him, and he hadn’t even thought to thank them for it. But he realizes, as he looks up to see Kate nodding and Sawyer shrugging it off, that he’s too late. He sighs and runs a hand over the back of his neck.
“Are they nearby?” Jack asks, turning his gaze on the monitors that lined the far wall. More often than not, either Sun or Jin did surveillance, watching the monitors just in case. There were cameras, they found, in quite a few places around the island as well as in some of the Others’ now abandoned stations. They traded off shifts every now and then, when they needed to get out, but for the most part, the hatch was where Sun and Jin lived – and where, Sayid had said as an incentive for Jin, they were the safest. The hatch had a lock.
“They were,” Sun replies, sitting back down. “Two of them.”
“Which two?” Sawyer asks.
“Danny and Karl,” she tells him. “They had an argument and headed back in the direction they had come from.”
Sawyer shakes his head and laughs bitterly. It just had to be those two. “Yeah, we caught the live show,” he says, gesturing to himself and Jack. Sun’s eyes widen a bit, in alarm. “Don’t worry, sunshine. They didn’t know we were there. In fact, Danny thinks that punk jerked him around. They had no idea how close they were.”
“You’ll forgive me if I’m less than comforted by that,” Sayid replies gravely, his thumb and forefinger pinching the bridge of his nose.
“What would comfort you?” Sawyer replies, exasperated. Sayid narrows his eyes at him.
“Now that you have retrieved Jack, I suppose I am as comforted as it is possible to be,” he replies. Sawyer rolls his eyes in reply and Sayid shakes his head, turning his attention back to Jack. “You were quite a ways off if you were indeed in range of that particular camera. How did you come to be so far away?”
Jack shrugs and shakes his head, shortly. “I got distracted,” he replies. “I got lost.”
He hears Sawyer snort, contemptuously, and turns around just in time to see him shaking his head in disbelief and rolling his eyes, yet again. “What?” Jack questions, irritated.
“Do you think I’m an idiot, or somethin’?” Sawyer replies, venomously. Jack opens his mouth to reply, but he isn’t given the chance. “You were on the path to their camp.”
Jack narrows his eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replies, through gritted teeth.
“Oh, like hell you don’t,” Sawyer shoots back, only vaguely aware that all eyes are on him, that everyone is listening intently – especially Kate and Sayid – as confused as the man who Sawyer’s diatribe is aimed at. It doesn’t matter. They might as well be alone. He means to confront Jack one way or another, and he figures, if he is going to lie to all of their faces, now is as good a time as any.
“You were going over there,” Sawyer accuses. “To get Juliet.”