Title: This is Gonna Hurt Like Hell
Rating: T adult concepts
Disclaimers: Characters are property of Tina Fey et al. Title and lyrics are from Sarah McLachlan's 'Hold On' and used without permission.
Pairing: Jack/Liz, minor Liz/Pete.
Summary: Some things are temporary.
"Hold on. Hold on to yourself,
For this is gonna hurt like hell.
Hold on. Hold on to yourself,
You know that only time will tell…"
Jack never thought much about losing Lemon.
If he did, he imagined her marrying, losing her to another man. Otherwise, he could picture them drifting apart once TGS ended, which it inevitably would and fairly soon. He always suspected there would come a time when Liz was not a part of his daily life. When she wasn't first on his speed dial. When she wasn't his assumed plus one to last minute invitations. When he couldn't just ride down a few floors and jab a thumb at her office whenever he wished to talk with her.
Some things are temporary. He understood that. So in a way, he almost expected to lose her. One day.
He just wasn't ever prepared for it to happen this way. He is not equipped to deal with this. Never thought he'd have to be. But then, he supposes, no one ever is or does.
In the beginning, Liz approached her illness with the same irreverence and humor that she applied to the rest of her life. And her family at 30 Rock instantly gathered around her. They bolstered her confidence, joined in her joviality. And believed her every assertion that this was something that would pass, something she could beat.
And she still might.
To say Jack was rattled by hearing the news of her illness was an understatement. She told him in person, of course. But like everyone else, he felt it his responsibility to remain supportive and positive at all times, to hide his shock. His fears. The truth was, it didn't seem fair. If it were him, he could look back on a cavalcade of challenges and achievements, adventures and liaisons. Liz's life, however, barely seemed to have begun. Even at the age of thirty-eight, her astounding naiveté and juvenile vocabulary gave the impression of someone far too young to be going through what she was going through. And Jack knew more than anyone all the dreams she'd hoped for, but had not realized. How much more there was left for Liz Lemon to experience.
Not that they talked about such things. Their relationship stayed fairly much the same. Close but casual. They talked mostly about work and any talk of the future was abstract and didn't venture too far into the uncertain. Lemon continued working. Even as her always small frame became smaller and frailer, making her clothes hang off her. Even as her skin became paler and her eyes became darker. Even when her hair began to fall out, Liz continued working. She wore a purple wool hat on cold days. The rest of the time it was baseball caps. Until one day, she arrived at work with a colorful scarf covering a completely shorn head.
After that, she worked less and less. Pete had to fish her off the ladies room floor, her head out of the toilet bowl on a regular basis. Jenna vacated her dressing room at the same time every afternoon so that Liz could take her daily nap. And Kenneth would guard the door, attempting to keep the corridors outside as quiet as possible.
Jack did whatever he could. He accommodated her work wise and made sure she had the finest treatment in the country. But still he felt there was more he could do, more he should do. Something else he wanted to do. He just didn't know what was required. And this was one predicament he couldn't negotiate or buy or charm his way out of. All he could do was watch. And pray. And for the first time since he was a kid, that's what he found himself doing. Late one night, he found himself in a church, slouched in one of the pews as he prayed for his best friend.
He knows all about her illness. In the theoretical sense. He knows the terms and causes and treatments. He knows the various stages and symptoms that present. He knows the drugs she must be taking and the foods she should eating. Not because she's told him but because he's done his own research. Because he wants to know, he wants to understand. He wants to lessen the uncertainty, the mystery surrounding it. Somehow he thinks this will make him less anxious. Or perhaps he is just hoping to find some magic thing to prove to himself, and to her, that eventually she will be fine.
Jack never finds that thing. But he keeps looking.
It's not that Liz tries to keep her condition a secret. Everyone knows. Even the teamsters know. But what no one really knows is how bad it is, how awful she might be feeling one day to the next. Nobody knows whether they should be counting the days or preparing for the worst. Not even her closest friends know that. Not even Jack knows what to expect, when.
Pete keeps a careful eye on her, reports to Jack informally. Not that it comforts either of them. They're both equally in the dark. Equally powerless. Equally concerned. And equally determined to allow Liz to handle everything in her own way, in whatever time she may have left. Neither knows how long that will be, neither wants to even speculate on how long it might be. They simply nod at each other assuringly and mumble that Liz is fine, Liz seems fine. And perhaps she is. For now.
But some things are only temporary.