Summary: Walt doesn't know what to call Michael.
Disclaimer: Lost and all related characters, settings, plots, etc. belong to J.J. Abrams and ABC. I claim no ownership and make no money from this venture.
"Hey Walt, you hungry, man?"
Walt looks up at the man who is speaking to him. It's his father, Michael. Beside him Vincent awakes from his mid-afternoon nap and sits up, looking at Walt with devotion in his eyes. Walt shakes his head.
"No. Not right now…"
As usual, Walt falters at the end of his sentence. Michael notices and is slightly confused, but he doesn't say anything. Walt wanders away with a tennis ball in his hand and Vincent at his heel.
"Stay close," Michael calls, as he always does. Walt waves a hand but doesn't turn around. He walks until he's hidden from Michael's view by a large rock formation but is still close enough to camp to hear if Michael begins to call for him. Vincent dances around on his hind legs, whining and looking longingly at the ball until Walt throws it for him. Vincent dashes off to get the ball and Walt sinks to the ground with his back against the sun-warmed rock. He sighs and glances around at the jungle he's in, at the sky above him, and at his own dirty clothes.
A year ago, Walt thought his life was bad. He had just moved to a strange country where people talked funny and didn't seem to like him very much. He had no friends other than Vincent and his mom.
Six months ago, Walt thought his life was really bad. His mom got sick very suddenly and had to go to the hospital. Walt stayed with a neighbor, an old lady whom he could barely understand and who made Vincent stay outside. He only saw his mom once a week, and each week it seemed she deteriorated more and more until Walt was sure one day he would visit and she would have wasted away to nothing. It scared him so much he had nightmares about it, and when he woke up crying there was no one there to comfort him or help him get back to sleep.
Three weeks ago, Walt thought his life had hit rock bottom. His mother passed away. He learned he was to go live with his father in America. Another move, a new school, no friends, no mother, and a father he barely knew. Surely it couldn't get any worse.
Now, Walt knows true misery. After being dragged onto a plane to go to America so that he could live with a father he didn't know, the plane crashed, he almost lost his dog forever, and he realized that he was to be stuck on a deserted island with a bunch of angry adults for who knew how long.
On top of all that, Walt still doesn't know what to call Michael. It is the reason for his faltering sentences, and it is an ongoing problem he doesn't know how to solve. Every time he considers calling him anything, he pauses, hesitates, and stops his sentence short.
What is he supposed to call him? The guy is his father, but he has been absent for the last ten years. Walt isn't about to call him Daddy. He doesn't want to call him Dad or Father or Pa or Pops or anything, but he doesn't want to hurt Michael's feelings, either. Sir seems a little much, Mister as well, and Michael doesn't seem right. Walt's mother had only referred to him as "your father" the handful of times she had ever mentioned him during Walt's life. It wasn't until he came to Australia that Walt learned his real name.
In the days following his mother's death, it was easy to avoid talking to Michael. He spent a lot of time in his room crying, and when he did come out of his room there were so many people surrounding him going, "There, there, little one, you're gonna be just fine. Are you hungry? Here, have a glass of water. Are you okay, honey? You don't even have to talk, you go on and be alone if you need, but if you do want to talk, I'll be right here…"
Walt couldn't get a word in edgewise, not that he wanted to. When the funeral was over and his mother was buried, asleep forever in her satin-lined casket, Walt laid a bouquet of flowers on the tombstone and used Vincent's fur to dry his tears. Then he got in the taxi with Michael and they went to the airport so they could board a plane that would take them to Los Angeles, a city Walt had never been to, to live in a house he had never seen and go to a school he had never heard of and live with a complete stranger. The taxi ride was Walt's first time to be alone with Michael, the father he had only met days ago.
Michael didn't seem to be in a talkative mood at any time during the ride to the airport or the flight, and Walt was just fine with that. He was already mad that Vincent had to stay with all the luggage instead of with him, and when that was coupled with his anger about having to leave Sydney and his mother's grave behind he pouted almost the entire way.
It wasn't until after the crash, after the initial chaos and shock and terror that ran through Walt, that he realized his dilemma. When Michael showed him where to go each night to sleep, when he brought him food, when he asked him questions, Walt never called him by any certain name. In his mind this man was Michael, but he couldn't translate that into an appropriate word. He knew Michael must have noticed, but since Michael wasn't offering any suggestions, Walt didn't want to ask.
Vincent brings back the ball and deposits it in Walt's lap. He sits back on his haunches, his pink tongue lolling out of his mouth and his bright eyes looking at Walt hopefully. Walt cracks a smile and holds the ball up, watching Vincent's ears perk up and his muscles tense. When the ball is finally thrown Vincent thunders away to retrieve it for Walt again. They go through the routine a few times; Walt throwing and Vincent retrieving. When he grows bored of it, Walt gets up and wanders back towards the mouth of the caves.
He is glad Michael agreed to let them stay at the caves. It was much better than getting sunburned at the beach and Vincent doesn't seem to pant so much, either. Michael seems a little happier here, too. When Walt comes back he is sitting at the edge of the little pool filling water bottles. Walt hesitates for a moment, unsure if Michael wants time for himself or wouldn't mind being bothered. Vincent runs forward to the water and begins lapping noisily. Michael looks at the dog, then glances over his shoulder and saw Walt.
"Hey, man," Michael says, beckoning to his son. "You having a good time exploring?"
Walt shrugs. "Yeah. I guess. I like this place."
"That's good." Walt sits beside Michael and picks up an empty water bottle. He fiddles with the cap and starts to tear off the label just so his hands have something to do. Michael falls silent and continues filling the plastic bottles and wishes he could think of something better to say to his son.
"Hey, you like coconuts? They found some today and brought a bunch back to eat," Michael offers.
"I'm allergic to coconuts," Walt answers. He doesn't even look up.
"Oh." Michael fills another bottle. "How about bananas? They found some of those, too."
"I like bananas," Walt says.
Michael caps the water bottle and stands up. "Stay right here. I'll be right back." Michael walks to the place where they had begun to store food. He grabs a fresh banana from one of the bunches that had been deposited and jogs back to where Walt is helping himself to a drink of water.
"There you go. Eat up," Michael says, trying to sound light and encouraging. His voice comes out sterner, as if it's an order, and Walt frowns a little. He turns his back on Michael as he peels the banana and Michael mentally kicks himself. He tries again, this tome focusing on sounding as fatherly as he can. "You know, gotta keep your strength up so you can grow up big and strong, right?"
Walt hears the forced way the words come out. He fights off the urge to roll his eyes because he knows Michael is trying so hard to make this easy for Walt, even though it's an impossible task. He takes a bite of the banana, then offers a piece to Vincent. He knows Michael is still standing behind him, probably shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably as he does so often around Walt. He's probably expecting Walt to say something or do something, but Walt doesn't.
"I'm, uh, gonna go, um, work on gutting that fish I caught so we have something for dinner. Stay close, all right, Walt?" Michael says. Walt nods and heard Michael start to walk away. Suddenly a thought comes into his head and he turns around.
"Thanks, Mike!" he calls. Michael stops and turns around, staring at Walt with something like incredulity on his face. Walt hesitates, then asks, "Is it all right if I call you that? Mike, I mean?"
Michael seems to pause and consider for a moment, then his face splits into a smile. "Yeah, sure, of course. Mike. I like it, man!"
Walt grins in return. "All right. Thanks Mike."
"No problem. It's my job, right?" Father and son share a moment of connection as they smile at each other before Michael turns around and Walt goes back to eating his banana. Michael feels a strange warmth inside, and even though he's never experienced it before, somehow he knows that it's fatherly pride. Walt smiles to himself because he knows that even though his relationship with Michael –make that Mike– isn't perfect, it's something, and now he has something to work with.