When Boone gets back home, things are different in ways just subtle enough to throw him off. Fashion is more glam, music is more rock, gay is the new black, and a humiliating reality TV show is the quickest way to stardom.
It almost makes him wish for the island.
It doesn't help that his house feels like a hotel. His bed's about three layers of dirt and rock too soft. Trying to swim in the pool, filled with chlorine, makes him gag. Air conditioning makes him shiver. He can't drink coffee, or eat much that isn't fish or fruit. He hasn't talked to his friends in three years and he doesn't recognize most of them. Worse yet, he finds he doesn't want to. For them, three years was three decades, a whirlwind of break-ups and marriages, deaths and births, job changes and reinventing themselves, new apartments and new cars, and hell, they thought he was dead anyway.
He gives himself a reacquaintance period of three months. Then six. Then a year. After that he says fuck it and asks his mother for a transfer to the Hawaii branch. There, at least the weather will be warmer.
That Shannon comes along with him is unsurprising. Ever since she came back, it seems like she can't make a decision without him, even though she seems to resent him just as much as ever.
Hawaii is a little more relaxed than back on the continent. Going around shirtless in your free time is pretty natural, so Boone gets stared at a lot. His scars are visible even when he leaves just two top buttons undone. He notices when people stare. He notices when people so obviously don't stare they might as well.
When his mother comes to visit she's horrified, like any proper Junior League member. That night she calls him on his cell and begs him to get the scars removed. He tells her no.
"But they're so… unseemly!"
It amuses him that, in this one instance, she tries to be PC.
"Darling, at least the one on your face."
He hangs up on her. He's tired of listening to her squawk and he's late for dinner with Shannon anyway. She doesn't like the scars either. No one does. They don't understand why he keeps them. They look at him and see puffy pink tissue and white lines. They don't understand how grateful he is for the scars, how beautiful he finds them. Those scars stand for a part of his life he never expected to like but will probably spend the rest of his existence chasing. They're a part of him now, a tangible symbol of all he's become and overcome, undone and let go. They mean he survived, though Jack swears up and down he shouldn't have. Couldn't have. The island intervened for Boone and he doesn't know why, but he'll wear its symbol for the rest of his life.
Jack called Boone pretty once. Boone hated it. He'd always hated being pretty. He hated the looks and the jokes and the smirks, though Jack's "pretty" had come along with none of those. He just hated the assumptions, that he was less of a man or couldn't do certain things because of how he looked. He hated how Sawyer called him Pretty Boy and the look on Sayid's face when he volunteered for guard duty. He still feels a little twinge when he remembers all the guys in his college frat, all the stupid jokes they had for him.
Strange, to look back on it. People can't do things like that anymore. Boone is no longer pretty in the strictest sense of the word. It's hard to be pretty when you're covered in scars. Oh, it's not bad if he's wearing a shirt, but if you look close enough there are scars on his neck and collarbone and across the edge of his nose, pale against his tan. Shannon says it makes him look creepy, and from the way she flinches when she says it, it must be true.
He doesn't mind the scars exactly. His chest was ripped open - he's lucky he isn't dead. And it's not like the scars hurt. Sure, his leg aches on long days or when it rains, but that's a small price to pay for keeping it. He should be more grateful. In the scheme of things, scars and a limp are nothing. But sometimes, when he sees Jack's hands slide over Kate's body, over unblemished skin, over someone perfect and pretty, he wishes he could have it all back again.
Boone remembers how innocently it started. Except not innocently. No, not innocently. They knew what they were doing. They knew all the facts. But it started with good intentions, before it all went to shit. He'll at least say that.
He was fucked up after the plane landed on him. Obviously. When John got him back to camp, he had a fractured leg and a pierced lung and a shitload of cuts and bruises. In so much pain he asked Jack to let him die, except of course Jack wouldn't.
And that's where it started. With Jack mashing him back together and pumping him full of drugs, only they ran out of morphine about two days in. Which, incidentally, was about the time Boone regained full consciousness. Painful and hazy and really not a happy place to be. Not pretty. In between everything fading in and out, he remembers Jack lecturing him on how all painkillers are addictive, and that as long as Jack was the one giving him very controlled doses, he'd be fine. Flying a little higher than someone on morphine, but fine. If he didn't want to, he didn't have to take the drugs – Jack left that option on the table – but chances are Boone was going to want some kind of painkiller. He'd need it. People do crazy things under intense pain. No way of telling if he'd fuck up his leg more, even.
Boone told him yes. He would have said yes to just about anything at that point. And see, now he looks back, and yeah, everything Jack said was true, but you also usually can't walk a mile from your house and find a cargo plane stuffed with heroin, can you? And most times one of the guys playing nursemaid isn't a recovering heroin addict. And he's really only "recovering" because he ran out of heroin. It's laughable, looking back on it. It's fucked.
Good intentions. Bad circumstances. Like every other fucking thing that ever happened in Boone's life. Like when he went to rescue Shannon and ended up in this fucking place. Like when he took that job his mother gave him, like when he went to live with his mother and stepfather and Shannon instead of his father. Good reasons, good choices, fucking terrible outcomes.
So he's still here now. Obviously. Scarred, a little gimpy, addicted to heroin, but here.
Funny. Of all the ways Boone expected to fuck up his life, this wasn't it. Off-island, he avoided drugs like the plague. He'd done the club scene when he was in college. He'd seen people OD on the pavement, in the bathrooms and in the backrooms. He'd seen the dealing and the taking and how un-fucking-pretty it could really get. And okay, he'd done a little X now and then. He'd smoked some pot in high school. With Shannon, for Christ's sake. But he stayed away from anything that people seemed to end up in rehab for.
Heroin addiction. He'd never really toyed with putting that into his life plans, but this island fucked up a lot of stuff. There are probably worse things than a heroin addiction. The rest of them aren't exactly the island version of the Cleavers. Kate's still going back and forth between Sawyer and Jack, Ana Lucia and Sayid have taken up rough, angry sex as their latest hobby, Michael spends most of his time wandering around the jungle looking for his kid, and John has just… disappeared. After the accident, he took off into the forest. General consensus is he's fine, just feeling guilty, which, you know, maybe he should be. Boone thinks he's okay. If anyone could give as good as he got to the island, it was John.
Boone's glad he's gone though. Besides Sayid, who's too busy pretending to be fucking Shannon when he's fucking Ana Lucia to notice squat, John was the only other person who knew where the heroin was. They've got a system, Boone and Charlie, because Boone's not stupid. Far from it. He's the safety. He makes sure they don't do too much, don't do it too often. Can't indulge themselves. Have to function. Not sense in making sure the heroin runs out. Because yeah, there's a shitload of heroin in those statues, but it's going to run out sometime. It's going to run out like everything else on the island. Just like the water, just like the meds, just like the clothes. So they can't get rid of too much of it up their noses too fast.
And Charlie, he knows all sorts of neat tricks for hiding the signs. Even here on the island, without eye drops or make-up and all sorts of other useful cover-ups, he's got it all under control. He's gotten pretty good at making sure the trail's clear before they go out and when they come back. He knows just when no one will be looking for them. He knows just the stupid thing to say when they come back so no one even thinks about why they were gone. Not really. He and Charlie's jungle escapades aren't exactly a secret. People see them coming out of the woods all the time – they just don't jump to the right conclusion. Or not all the right conclusions. They're all thinking, poor Claire, poor Aaron. But they can't be too mad either. They aren't. Because after what's happened to poor Boone, he deserves something good in his life too, doesn't he?
It's been about three months since Jack stopped dosing him up, about the time he stopped having problems walking. It was maybe a week after he stopped when Charlie came over to him. Offered to distract Jack long enough for Boone to sneak into his cave and get a little something. You know. To take the edge off. Boone told him he had a better plan.
It's only a fifteen minute walk to the plane, even when you're limping and your whole body is shaking and all you want to do is throw up. It's almost comforting.
Charlie didn't even ask any questions. Didn't seem to have any trouble falling off the wagon. Just broke open one of the Marias and ripped out a package. Snorted it, wiped his nose and licked his palm, and held out his other hand.
Snorting it instead of smoking it – smoking's safer, Jack said. Less chance of overdose, but definitely less of a rush – and you can feel it hit. Or after a minute you really can't feel, which is more important. No more lame leg, no more shakes or nausea. Like you left your body behind and became something like a god. And he remembers looking up and seeing Charlie looking at him. Looking at him. Glassy-eyed, yeah, but that wasn't the only thing that was different about it.
And Boone knew that look. He wasn't stupid. He'd run the club scene. He didn't do drugs, but he knew people who did. He'd fucked people who did. He knew that look. And Charlie knew that he knew that look, like Charlie knew that every groupie did. Because Boone's automatically the groupie in this situation. In every situation. It's his lot in life. The groupie. The face. The bitch. The background. It's the way it works out for him. He's always someone else's groupie. Even on heroin, he's just a groupie. He's Charlie's.
He begged for it. Didn't have to, because Charlie was going to do it, but he begged anyway. It'd felt like he'd never wanted something so much in his whole life. Riding the high, hard and fast, pushing his hips back to meet every thrust.
It's like that today. Face up on the hull of the plane, shirt yanked off and pants pulled down, fucked six ways from Sunday as he stares up into the sky. He wonders if he wouldn't just float off if not for Charlie. He feels weightless, sometimes, only remembering he has a body when Charlie starts playing chords on his back, singing into his skin. He doesn't care if the songs are for him or not. They peel out of Charlie when he's high, riffs and lyrics coming out left and right. Doesn't matter who they're for when he's the only one who can hear them.
He wonders what people would think of him now. His friends, his family. He's rough. His skin is rough and his speech is rough and his manners are rough when he bothers to use them. His whole demeanor is rough. He swears like a sailor and doesn't give a shit. He's like a mirror version of his old self.
Maybe this was the way it was always supposed to be. Boone the junkie, bending over for a cute British guy in a rock band which might have been good once. This is the version where his father didn't marry his stepmother, where his family moved to a small apartment in the seedier part of town and he and Shannon went to a public high school. He still ran the club scene, but he was the one doing the drugs then. He was the one getting fucked. Maybe. Maybe.
He always ends up the groupie anyway.
When Jack promised not to let him go, Boone knew he had to do something. He didn't want Jack to let go – who the hell wants to die? – but it was going to happen anyway and Boone's the kind of person who's used to doing things on his own terms. It's something he learned in the corporate world and damned if he'll let go of it here. He can be an asshole like that. Going for stuff he knows is impossible, making people do things they don't want to do. And he knew it wasn't easy for Jack. Hell, it wasn't easy for Boone. But sometimes you've got to do things. So he asked. And Jack let go. He held Boone's hand and he let go and Boone will always be grateful for that.
John's taking it remarkably well. Boone's not so sure how he feels about that. John qualifies death with faith and sacrifice and principle, but Boone didn't believe. Boone didn't ask Jack to let him go because he wanted it or because he thought something would come of it. Boone's never been Joan of Arc or Eleanor of Aquitaine. He's never wanted to be. Anyway, John isn't losing much sleep, though out of anyone, he's probably the one who probably should be.
Shannon isn't sleeping. She's spending a lot of her time crying. Mostly she hasn't forgiven herself for not being there when he was hurt, no matter how much everyone tells her it's not her fault. It's hurting Boone in ways he can't quite name. He loves her, no matter how you label it, somewhere between lover and sister and beloved enemy. Seeing her cry – seeing Shannon, who never cries – twists him up inside. The only thing worse than pining over someone you can never have is worrying about someone you thought was unbreakable.
He wants to help her. He wants to tell her that he loved her and that he never hated her, not even for a minute, not even when she was at her coldest and most vindictive. Not even then. But he can't. He can't.
And it explains, really, why he's here in the middle of the night sitting inside her tent and stroking her hair. He can't move a single strand of it and she can't feel it, but the illusion is nice. He remembers what Shannon's hair used to feel like. He remembers how warm she was, even if he can't feel it now. Even if he can't feel her tears either, can't reach out and taste the salt on his tongue.
He doesn't torture himself with trying to touch Jack. Boone, even if he could talk to him, wouldn't really have anything to say that would make him feel better. And unlike Shannon, he doesn't even have the memories of touch. Boone's always been pretty masochistic, but even he wouldn't go that far.
He doesn't know what he's doing here. Unlike John, the island isn't sending him any signs. It's kept him here and it won't tell him why. All Boone knows is that when he died his life didn't end. Not quite. It just figures he'd only be able to touch Shannon when he can't feel it, that John would understand when he was so confused, and that Jack would let him go and the island wouldn't.
When you're in the middle of the jungle with your chest pretty much torn open, you're also pretty much fucked. Boone knew that. He knew that the minute he came to and couldn't breathe right or move his leg. He knew his chances of walking away from that.
The days pass and he realizes he's right. He doesn't get to walk away. He hobbles, more or less, and when Jack says he's well enough to get around on his own, Michael takes a day off from boat-building and makes him crutches.
"Bamboo," he explains. "Solid and lightweight. Vines shouldn't come undone – they're pretty sturdy – but just tell me if you need them retied or whatever."
Okay. Okay, he can do this.
At the end of the day his arms hurt like a son of a bitch because he kept grabbing the crutch too tightly, afraid to use it. His good leg aches too. Boone's discovered its way difficult to keep his balance, and that while one crutch is possible, two are the only real option in some parts of the jungle. The vines can be killer.
Jack lets him go all the way down to the beach the next day, which Boone is grateful for right up until he gets there and he becomes an instant celebrity. Choruses of hey man, good to see you and glad you're better fly all around him, and it makes him want to scream. None of these people are his friends – he doesn't know half of their names. They didn't care about him before, why bother to pretend now? Is he their little miracle like Claire's baby? Maybe they can look at him and feel good, because hey, at least they're not the resident cripple.
Back home being disabled would be like being a leper only people were obligated by law to be nice to you. Boone thinks that would be bad enough, except here on the island it's even worse. It's the goddamn kiss of death. No one wants to tell Boone he's useless but he knows he is. He feels like the biggest freak on the island, and between the crazy French woman and the polar bears, that's saying something.
"Hey, Peg Leg!"
"Sawyer," Jack gasps, momentarily paralyzed with the kind of severe disapproval Shannon reserves for people who wear white after Labor Day.
Sawyer just grins.
Boone fixes his crutches under his arm and hops to his feet. "Hey, Sawyer. Jack, what time do you need me back?"
For a minute Boone thinks Jack might have an apoplectic fit, but he finally just shakes his head. "Before sunset would be good."
"Okay." Boone follows Sawyer down the trail to the beach, feeling Jack's eyes bore into his back all the way down.
Boone doesn't blame Jack. There's no doubt in his mind that Jack did everything he could. Sun told Boone Jack gave him a blood transfusion, held off amputating until the last minute. Jack pulled him through a collapsed lung and a raging infection in his leg. What was left of his leg, anyway. No, he can't blame Jack.
Boone doesn't blame John either. John didn't push the plane off the cliff. He didn't know it was going to fall. In different circumstances, John would have been the one in the plane. It was just the roll of the dice and Boone came up short. There's no one to blame, no one to point the finger at, no one to accuse. Boone can't even be angry at himself. He was trying to send out a rescue call, and he did, didn't he? Fuck knows if it did any good, but he tried.
"Why are you hanging around with Sawyer?"
"Because I want to."
Jack snorts. "No one wants to hang around with Sawyer."
"Boone, you don't have to – "
"I know. I want to."
Sawyer doesn't try to help him over things or warn him where to step. He's the only one who talks about it and certainly the only one who dares to make fun of him for it and look at the leg-stump when Boone's face isn't turned away. And sure, sometimes Sawyer makes him angry and embarrassed, but he doesn't ever make him feel like a freak.
"He just doesn't," Boone says finally. "That's why."
Jack nods, turning back to the bandages on Boone's chest. "Okay."
The one thing Boone hates more than anything is pity. He sees it every time he takes a walk, so these days he avoids the beach. He sees it in Kate's gaze, hears it in the soft way she talks to him now, because she never bothered before. He sees it in Sayid's eyes. He sees disgust in Shannon's and, God help him, he likes that most of all because at least it's honest. Sun isn't so bad. Neither is Jack. Maybe because they know how close he was to dying. Maybe they see that losing a leg isn't such a bad price to pay. And it isn't. Boone tells himself it's not about the leg. It's the looks that come along with it.
Like John. John can't even look at Boone lately, and he's not sure why. Boone knows John pities him most of all, and that he can't stand. He doesn't understand why. John disappears for days at a time and Boone feels a little lost without him.
"You know," Sawyer drawls one day. "You need to get up off your ass and do something."
"You don't do anything," Boone accuses, stung. Sawyer doesn't do anything – neither of them do. They sit on the beach far away from everyone else, from all the island politics and drama, and that's how Boone likes it.
"That's general principle. You're just feeling sorry for yourself."
"Are so. You were one of the busiest little members in the happy hippie commune up there. They think your little peg leg changed everything. Guess you do too."
Boone gets to his feet and heads for the trail, not quite sure why he's bothering. Normally he's too smart to let Sawyer trick him into something, or he likes to think he is, but this time he has a nagging feeling Sawyer might be right. Is everyone treating him differently because he is different, or because they think he is?
"Happy hippie commune?"
"Got a nice ring to it, doesn't it?" Sawyer pulls out his copy of Watership Down. "'Sides. Wasn't like your legs were your best feature or anything."
Boone isn't sure if he's insulted or not.
"Jack? Do you have something I could do?"
Jack doesn't bother to look up. "Like what?"
"Something." Boone shrugs, the movement awkward and stilted because he can't let go of the crutches. His face feels like it's on fire. "I haven't done any work in a while and â€""
"Sun could use some help with her plants," Jack interrupts. "Think you can handle it?"
He's bruised and dirtier than usual when he comes back. His back muscles ache. He hadn't realized gardening was so difficult. That night he's hungry – really hungry in a way he hasn't been in a while. At dinner he sits next to Jack and throws little stones at Sawyer, who is usually too busy bothering with Kate to retaliate.
Every day afterwards he follows Sun around. He learns which plants are for pain and which are for infection. He learns how to plant them and water them and harvest them and crush them to make pastes and oils. He walks around smelling like eucalyptus, his hands tinted brown and yellow and green.
Jack doesn't let anyone out alone anymore, not after Claire wandered off and nearly had the baby by herself, not after that girl died out in the shoals. It's a rule now, everything in pairs - swimming, taking walks, hunting for food. The only exceptions are Sayid and Locke, and it's only because they can handle this place without breaking a sweat.
Most people manage to slip away now and again, but the rules still apply to Boone. No exceptions. Even Sawyer won't let him get away with it. No pity, thank God, but no quarter either. Boone ends up spending most of his time with Jack or Sawyer, because he gets tired of guilting people into going places with him.
He's walking down the beach with Sawyer one day when he trips over a piece of driftwood and pitches forward onto the ground, a tangle of leg and crutches. He licks his lips and tastes sand, can all ready feel the way it's sliding under his clothes and into his shoes.
He slammed his hip on the way down. Feels like he twisted both his ankles too, which is odd on quite a few levels, considering he only has one ankle. Maybe he hit more than his hip.
"Fine." Boone picks his crutches up and curls his knee, wondering if he's going to be able to do this without falling flat on his face again. When Sawyer tries to grab onto his arm, Boone glowers at him – a lethal combination of Jack's hairy eyeball and Shannon's bitchiest glare, with just a little of Sawyer's own nastiness thrown in for good measure.
"I don't need your help."
It's doubly infuriating when Sawyer laughs. "I'd be helping you up whether you had two legs or not," he continues mildly, and because he's smirking and because it's Sawyer, Boone wants to think it's the truth.
"Yeah?" Boone switches his crutch to the other hand. "You wouldn't do it for Jack."
Sawyer yanks Boone to his feet. "Jack and I ain't exactly friends, are we?"
Boone keeps his head down when he pushes his crutches back under his arms. "That's definitely one thing you and Jack are not."
"Got that right, amigo. Now hurry your skinny ass up. We need to get back to camp before Cream Puff eats all the food that ain't particularly disgusting boar organs."
Though Sawyer takes off ahead of him and doesn't bother to look back, Boone isn't fooled. Not at all. Sawyer's nicknames aren't just off the cuff, spur of the moment slurs. He says what he means, even if you have to look at what he said with just the right slant in order to understand it.
And Boone can think of worse nicknames than friend.