Old Rivalries Set Aside
Locke could feel the searing pain stemming from the wound in his abdomen, making it difficult for him to breathe. His chest was consumed with a dull ache and his limbs riddled with fatigue as he put one unsteady foot in front of the other, the sweat pouring from his brow as blood seeped through the ragged tear in his t-shirt and congealed between the shaky fingers of his left hand – sticking the split and fraying fibres of his encrusted cotton clothing to the mangled flesh of his torso.
It had taken him most of the previous day and a large majority of the evening to reach camp, and much of his already depleted strength had been further sapped during the ascent from the pit in which Ben had left him for dead, leaving him drained. He hadn't been sure whether he had strength enough to cover the distance required at first, and knowing what he knew about shot gun wounds he realised that his ordeal was far from over yet.
As he finally burst through the jungle and saw the familiar expanse of beach stretching out before him he breathed a sigh of relief, and he knew that he had made it. His vision swam in and out of focus as he slowly began to give way to unconsciousness, and a sudden nausea gripped him. It made him double over, heaving with pain. An involuntary cry – strained and fraught – escaped him and with this a small group of the survivors were alerted to his presence. Locke was relieved to see that Sayid, closely followed by Bernard, were amongst the few familiar faces who began to make their way towards him. Dizziness finally overcame him however as Sayid neared his side, and he collapsed backwards onto the sand, clutching at the wound still oozing blood through his stained and sodden clothing.
"Locke." The young man exclaimed in shock as he observed the exhausted condition of the man now laying before him, turning back urgently to Bernard.
"Get Jack!" He shouted, his tone conveying a suitable degree of urgency, before kneeling down beside the weakened man. Locke's pulse was racing, his skin pale with loss of blood, and clammy with the fever of pain. "What happened?" He demanded to know.
"What's the matter with him?" Bernard asked, finally catching up with Sayid and bending down beside him – having already spread the word to the rest of the group that they needed Jack up here immediately.
"Ben…" Locke began to explain as Sayid gently tried to stifle the man's groans of severe pain, before turning his attention to examining the wound.
He winced in further discomfort as Sayid carefully removed the hand which he still had pressed tightly over the bullet's point of entry, in an attempt to stem the flow of blood. But Locke forced himself to continue, speaking between short, shallow gasps for breaths, which provided only temporary relief from the sharp burning which was now spreading rapidly through his entire chest and abdomen.
"Ben… shot me…" He managed to explain, faltering tensely as he writhed under Sayid's examination. The young man had paled noticeably upon observing the deep hole in the man's side – his expression conveyed what Locke already knew, the injury was life threatening.
"We need to get him back to Jack!" He turned urgently to Bernard. The bruised and tender flesh of the left side of Locke's abdomen highlighted the chance that he may have sustained some significant internal damage, although Sayid was not a doctor and could not determine the extent. The surrounding area was encrusted with dry blood, sweat and dirt leaving him open to infection. It was obvious to anyone, even someone without any medical training, that Locke needed a surgeon, and he needed one fast.
"Locke," Sayid ventured gravely to ask him after taking a moment to think, "do you think you can walk if we help you?" He asked him.
"I would think so." Locke nodded.
In truth although he had made it this far – unsure as to how far he had really travelled in his exhausted state – he wasn't sure for how much longer he could carry on. He didn't know if he had it in him to be able to stand, let alone walk – but before he had the chance to tell Sayid the man was already instructing Bernard in how to help him.
"Right, Bernard you take one side and I'll take the other. Ready?" He asked as they both prepared to help Locke stand. Bernard – who already had Locke grasped tightly beneath his left shoulder blade, in the hollow of his armpit – nodded uncertainly before Locke somehow managed to manoeuvre himself upright, transferring his full weight to the steady forms of the two men standing either side of him. A cry of determination escaped him as his knees suddenly buckled however. His whole body was engulfed in pain, as Sayid and Bernard hauled him back to his feet.
Jack met the group half way, a little further on up the beach. Locke had proven himself significantly stronger than Sayid had initially thought, insisting that he could walk independently for most of the way, and only needing the two men on hand to steady him in his weakened state when he threatened to stumble or fall. The strength he'd managed to muster had surprised even himself.
It became increasingly apparent however that he wouldn't be able to carry on as he had been for much longer. He'd continued to lose a significant amount of blood from both the entry and exit wounds penetrating his abdomen and back – even more so since they had started their arduous trek up the beach – and both men were relieved when they were able to let Locke rest a little as they set him down upon the sand. His dirt streaked hand reached immediately for his throbbing back.
"What happened?" Jack asked them as he approached.
"He says he's been shot." Sayid explained, indicating Locke and the wound to his side as Jack bent down beside the older man, removing his backpack as he did so.
"Jack…" Locke groaned.
Without hesitation Jack knelt down beside him in an instant, grimacing as he got his first glance of the wound and acknowledged the severity of it. He started to gently prise the blood-soaked t-shirt away from the mangled flesh, before carefully lifting it over Locke's head.
Locke whimpered, his legs kicked out in all direction's as the doctor continued to probe at the wound, until Sayid gently restrained him from the knees, applying pressure to both of Locke's aching legs, making it impossible for him to move.
"I'm sorry John." Jack apologised, putting a palm to the man's forehead in order to check his temperature, before turning urgently to address Sayid and Bernard. "We need to get him out of this sun and under some shelter." He told them, feeling the fire of Locke's fever. He delved into the depths of his backpack and removed an uncapped hypodermic syringe, still sealed within its sterile packaging, and a vile of clear liquid. He poured a few drops of alcohol onto a swab of cotton wool and cleaned Locke's upper, right shoulder, before tearing the plastic seal of the needle's packaging and uncapping the syringe with his teeth. He drew up a few mills of the clear liquid and injected it into Locke's arm. All this was done so swiftly and quickly that it took Jack only a few seconds, and Locke flinched noticeably as the sharp needle pierced his skin.
"That should help with the pain at any rate." Jack explained kindly, before then removing a stethoscope from the front pocket of the backpack and placing the disk to Locke's skin, taking a few moments to carefully listen to Locke's chest and abdomen. He examined his patient carefully, and noted the paler of his complexion with great concern. To his relief however he discovered that Locke's vital signs were still strong, and with the discovery of the 'other's' camp, and their far superior medical facilities, the group's previously dwindling medical supplies were now far ampler than they had been.
Locke closed his eyes, exhausted, hearing Jack's words as he turned to Sayid and Bernard.
"He's lost a lot of blood." The doctor explained. "His heart rate is rapid, and he's in a lot of pain. Did he give any indication who did this to him?" He asked.
"Ben…" Locke murmured.
Sayid nodded. "He said that Ben had shot him." He confirmed Locke's fevered mumblings.
"Did he say why?" Jack pressed, but Sayid shook his head unable to give the young man any further information.
Locke let out a muffled groan – a shaky exhale of breath which gave Jack obvious cause for concern as he was leaning over him in an instant.
"Locke, Locke can you hear me?" He asked, rubbing the length of Locke's arm as well as the backs of his cold hands vigorously. He removed a tiny torch from his pocket, and gently lifted the older man's eyelids – shining the light into his eyes to check for a pupil response. "Stay with me." He encouraged him.
"I can hear you." Locke whispered.
"You've lost a lot of blood." Jack told him. "I won't lie to you John, I'm very concerned about the location of the wound. You may have sustained some significant internal trauma."
"If… if you're worried about the location of the wound because of my kidney…" Locke wheezed – his breathing had been compromised by the pain, and the pressure in his diaphragm from the build-up of blood. The inflammation was causing fluid to pool at the sight of the injury, and he struggled to speak the words needed to explain. "I had a kidney removed a few years ago…"
He coughed, and heard the sound of a bottle cap being unscrewed followed the trickle of freely flowing water, before feeling as the doctor firmly pressed something cold and wet against his burning forehead. Locke leaned gratefully into the cold compress, hearing more footsteps approaching.
"How is he?" Juliet asked.
"Ben shot him!" Sayid snapped at her as he turned to glare at the young woman accusingly. Everything suddenly went silent, a cloud of tension immediately descending upon the small group. Juliet was still resented and deeply distrusted by most of the survivors, and her appearance now was evidently unwanted, even if all she really wanted to do was help.
"Hey… hey… ssss not her fault." Locke slurred, before his whole body was wracked by another wave of pain as he felt Jack's hands return to the wound in his side, gently trying to clean away much of the dirt and dry blood which had congealed around the bullet's point of entry. He let out a strangled cry, his own palm's forming fists as he punched the bed of sand beneath him, before Juliet quickly and gently took one of his hands within hers. She prised open his fingers, trying to stop him forcing his nails into his flesh and causing himself any further injury – instructing Bernard to do the same with the other.
"Take his other hand." She said, indicating to him, before looking back down at Locke.
"Shhhh." She soothed him, as he felt Jack remove the cold compress from his forehead, replacing it with his palm as he rechecked the state of his fever. He shook his head, and sighed gravely.
"John we're going to have to move you." He explained, before looking across at Juliet. "Can you help me get him into one of the tents?" He asked her.
"Of course." She nodded. A small smile spread across her soft face, and Jack returned the gesture before reaching once again for his rucksack. He took from it another syringe and a vile of milky liquid.
"What's that?" Locke asked. He seemed a little wary as he watched Jack pop the cap and fill the hypodermic with a small amount of the medication.
"It's a sedative." Jack told him calmly as he quickly located the same vein in Locke's arm into which he had earlier injected the painkiller, and emptied the syringe of its contents. He did this so swiftly and with such expertise that it gave Locke little chance to protest.
"You'll start to feel a little drowsy soon." He explained. "It'll just make it easier for us to examine you if you're asleep." He said. "Do you think you can you move John?" He asked him gently, and Locke nodded.
"Jack…" He strained to speak as the young doctor and Juliet wrapped their arms around him and threw his arms over each of their shoulders for extra support. They attempted to lift him gently. "I… I… had a kidney removed a few years ago." He echoed his earlier words feverishly, began to shiver – the sweet-scented island breeze cool against his bare flesh.
"Yes, and that may very well prove to be what saves your life Locke." Jack told him. "But we need to get you under some cover now, and take a closer look at you first. I'll know more once I've operated."
"Operated?" Locke asked him.
"Yes John." Jack nodded. "You're going to need surgery to fix the internal bleeding. I'll try not to be too invasive, although you'll be asleep. I understand the circumstances are far from ideal though."
He placed a reassuring hand against his patient's shoulder in order to steady him, as Locke tried to pull away from the two doctors who'd positioned themselves either side of him to try and prevent him from falling. Sayid, who'd taken a step back from the situation in order to give Jack more room to work, suspected that the older man would want to make the rest of the journey down the beach unaided.
"Woah, take it easy John!" Jack advised him.
"I'm alright Jack." Locke told him. "I can walk!"
Despite the determination behind the man's statement there was something different about the tone of his voice which made Jack feel wary however. He sounded weaker than he was used to hearing him, and he refused to loosen his grip around Locke's torso.
"I'm sorry John, but I can't let you do that I'm afraid!" He explained, only slightly apologetically. "That sedative I've just given you works quickly. It should begin to take effect soon, and we can't run the risk of you losing consciousness half way up the beach. You could do yourself more harm than good at the moment if you were to fall or stumble, especially if you were to land on your injured side. Not to mention the pain it would cause you!"
Locke lifted his head a little so that his eyes met with the doctor's and he sighed. The two men held each other's gaze for a moment, but it was the patient who eventually admitted defeat, and nodded his head in reluctant resignation. His side throbbed as he gingerly placed one foot in front of the other, each tentative step bringing on another surge of electric-like pain, as the burning rose steadily in his chest until he couldn't take it any longer. He let out an anguished cry, hot tears stinging in his eyes as he doubled over, clutching his aching abdomen as the rising tide of nausea hit him, and he dry heaved onto the sand.
Jack however remained calm, and he and Juliet lowered him slowly back down onto the cushion of sand. In hinsight it was a good thing that they'd both still been holding him, because he wouldn't have been able to support his own weight once the weakness set in, and this would have almost certainly resulted in a nasty fall.
"Jack, my chest, I can't breathe!" Locke gasped, in between the violent stomach spasms. Juliet massaged soothing circles against his back. Locke's vision started to blur around the edges. He felt dizzy, and as though he was going to pass out. Jack acted quickly though, and the next thing he knew he felt the sharp sting of a needle as Jack injected a third dose of medication into a vein in the back of his hand.
"Shhhh." The doctor reassured him as Locke grimaced. The injection hurt. "I've just administered an anti-nausea drug." He explained. "You should start to feel a little better soon! We'll let you rest here for a moment. The sedative should also be starting to take effect. You should be feeling a drowsy, maybe even a little light-headed. Let me know when that happens, and me and Juliet can carry you the rest of the way once you're asleep… it's not too far."
"No!" Locke threw a hand up, adamant in his protest of this however. He struggled against Jack and Juliet's restraint, fighting to get to his feet. He wasn't going to tell them that he'd already started to feel a little light-headed.
"I'm alright…" He told them both. "Just give me a moment to let the drugs take effect… I want to walk!"
Jack regarded him disapprovingly, but the look in Locke's eyes was so desperate. He could tell that the man was pleading with him silently, and despite the previous animosity between them, and how vocal he'd been in his declaration of how much he disliked the man, in that moment he saw a very human side to John Locke. It was a side he had never seen before, and he found that despite his reservations as a surgeon, and despite not knowing how extensive the internal damage inflicted by the bullet might be, he couldn't refuse him his request.
"I'll let you walk with me… just steady me if you think I might need it… but please, just let me walk." He pleaded.
Jack took a long and careful look at his patient, observing that his skin was pale, his breathing rapid, and that the wound in his side was still oozing blood at an alarming rate. There was already a small pool of it seeping into the sand at his feet. He didn't think, based on the man's current physical condition, that he would even make the short distance before he was likely to pass out – either due to blood loss, or the drugs – but eventually he agreed.
"Alright." Jack sighed. "But I want you to take it easy, take your time, and let me know if at any point you don't feel as though you can continue. Don't push yourself. We'll assist you."
Locke cried out as they helped him to his feet but seemed to recover himself very quickly, and the small group began to make their way slowly up the beach. Both Jack and Juliet kept their arms wrapped lightly around Locke's waist – neither of them seemingly wanting to completely relinquish their grip on him.
Sayid followed them, Bernard remaining a little way behind – he seemed to understand Locke's embarrassment and didn't want to intrude or do anything to make the injured man feel any more awkward than he already did. He watched them pause on more than a couple of occasions to give Locke chance to catch his breath. They'd nearly made the full distance when Locke suddenly stumbled slightly as the meds started to kick in, and collapsed. Bernard then observed Jack and Juliet gently lift him, and they carried him the rest of the way, before the three of them disappeared inside the tent.
An hour later Jack emerged, his hands stained red with blood following the surgery, which had in all likelihood saved Locke's life. He wiped them clean on a piece of cloth, before observing Sayid not too far up the beach. He was sitting near the shoreline, allowing the easy ebb and flow of the salt water to gently wash over his bare toes.
"How is he?" He asked Jack, getting to his feet as he noticed the doctor begin to approach.
"I've stitched and dressed the wound, and I've cleaned it as best I can." Jack explained. "Thankfully there doesn't seem to be any significant internal structural damage, and I've repaired what I can without opening him up, but we're going to have to keep a very close eye on him for any signs of infection developing, which is almost inevitable I'm afraid." He sighed. "He's got a long and painful recovery ahead of him, and he may very well need some physical therapy in time in order to help him recover some loss of strength, but we'll know more when he wakes up."
"But he'll be alright, eventually?" Sayid pressed him.
"Well he's still very ill." Jack admitted. "I've got him heavily sedated for now just to make sure that he rests, and to try and give his body chance to recover from the shock of the surgery, but all being well he'll survive." He smiled. "He was lucky, the bullet entered his body where his left kidney would normally have been. Had he not have had it previously removed he would have probably bled to death before he made it back to the beach, and even in the event that he'd made it this far there'd have been nothing I could do for him. I can't operate properly out here, without access to an operating theatre the threat of infection is just too great, and even if the risk was a justifiable one we don't have the anaesthetics needed to make any kind of invasive procedure viable."
Sayid nodded – quite understanding Jack's point. He'd seen the results of battle field surgery himself, carried out in an unsterile, far from ideal environment – and very few of the men he'd seen operated on had survived, once fever had set in.
Bernard, noticing the two men as he himself emerged from one of the nearby tents, approached. One arm was wrapped affectionately around the waist of his wife Rose, who both noticed was returning her husband's embrace. She smiled warmly at Jack – whom everyone knew she had a bit of a soft spot for. She was one of the people whose life the doctor had saved in the initial aftermath of the crash upon the island.
"Jack?" He turned as he heard another voice – that of a woman – hailing him. Juliet had suddenly appeared at the entrance to the tent he'd recently emerged from. "He's sleeping now." She told him, a gentle smile gracing her soft features.
"He's stable." She continued to explain. "But he's going to need someone to keep a close eye on him. He's not likely to wake up for at least another few hours… would you like me to…"
She was going to offer to be the one to watch over Locke, but Jack shook his head.
"No…" He said, cutting her off. "No… it's alright, you go and get some rest. I'll keep an eye on him." He told her.
"Thank you." She smiled, before watching Jack as he turned and started to make his way back up the beach to check on his patient.
"Jack?" Bernard called after him, and the doctor turned back to see what he wanted. The older man paused only briefly to glance from Juliet to Jack and back, before asking. "Let us know when he wakes up?"
Jack sighed. He smiled and nodded before the four of them watched him disappear back inside the makeshift tent, thrown together with sheets blue tarpaulin, and Sayid set off to inform the other islanders of the importance that Jack was not to be disturbed. The doctor had made it quite clear that Locke wasn't out of the woods yet, and Juliet had proved herself quite capable of dealing with any other medical matters which might arise throughout the course of the next few hours, until Locke regained consciousness again.