Thanks for the reviews. I know a lot of you are sad to see this fic go, but it's better to end it while it's still good. Otherwise it'll just become a typical post-rescue Jate story with Sawyer as the annoying housemate who pops in every now and then to make a sarcastic remark, and trust me, that would get old fast, for me to write, and you to read!
I really thought you'd all guess where he was going after leaving Jack's, but since none of you seemed to, I hope the epilogue will come as a pleasant surprise…
Chapter 16. Clementine
Three days later, Sawyer pulled up outside a little house in Albuquerque, just over a block from the university, like she'd said. It must have had at least two bedrooms, but after spending all that time at Jack's, it didn't look much bigger to him than the trailer he'd spent the better part of his childhood in, reminding him again of how well he'd screwed them over. If he weren't such an ass, as Kate had said, they'd be living in that nice old house in Iowa, but he'd done more or less the same thing to them that the other Sawyer had done to him; the only real difference was that nobody died this time.
Stepping over a bicycle that lay abandoned near the gate, he made his way up the walk, pausing on the doorstep to gather his thoughts. He hadn't expected to be this nervous, but now that he was here, his hand was shaking as he reached for the bell.
From his side of the flyscreen, he heard it ring out through the house, then, half a minute later, a little girl with blonde hair and dimples came scurrying into the hall, offering him a gummy, gap-toothed smile. "Hi," she said in the sweet southern drawl he figured she must have picked up from her mother. "Are you here to see Momma? She's outside hangin' out our clothes, but I could get 'er if you want."
He wasn't ready for that confrontation yet, and all that came with it, so he said, "Your name's Clementine, right? Clementine Phillips?"
"Yeah," she agreed, cocking her head to one side in surprise. "How'd you know?"
"'Cause you're the one I came here to see."
She brightened on hearing that he was there for her, her grin making the dimples stand out like little valleys in her cheeks. Watching her, he still wasn't sure that he felt the kind of fatherly affection he imagined that Jack did for Annie, but he had to admit, she was cute.
"Really? 'Cause I never got visitors before, 'cept kids from school," she told him, looking pleased with herself, as if having a grown man pay her a visit somehow made her more important.
To a girl who'd grown up without a father, he supposed it did.
It was at that moment that she noticed the stuffed bear he was holding, giving him a coy smile as she asked, "Is that for me?"
He followed her eyes to it, embarrassed, aware that after missing more than five years worth of birthdays and Christmases it was a pitiful offering. He'd thought about buying her a doll, but there were so many to choose from nowadays, and he had no idea what kind, if any, she'd like. "Sure is," he agreed finally, deciding that a poor present was better than none at all. "Why don't you come out here and take it?"
Unhinging the door, she accepted his gift, studying it before rewarding him another smile. "What's his name?"
She was beginning to get to him, his throat dangerously dry, so he said, "I don't know, you can call it Fluffy or Snuggles or whatever your little heart desires."
She looked thoughtful at this, not seeming to mind the bristles in his tone. "I think I'll call him Peanut 'cause I like peanuts and that's what colour he is. Thanks, Mr….?"
He considered telling her to call him Sawyer, but somehow, that didn't seem appropriate. He wasn't sure he was ready for Daddy yet either, though. "Mr.'s too formal. You know what formal is?"
She nodded. "Yeah, like the clothes you wear to church."
He couldn't help chuckling at her words. Cassidy had done a good job with her. She was a smart kid, the kind of kid he thought he could grow fond of. "Well, then, how 'bout you just call me James?"
"'Kay." She opened the door the rest of the way, tugging him inside. "Wanna see my room, James? We just got new drapes, and mine have ballerinas on 'em. I wanted dinosaurs, but Momma says they're for boys."
So that's the epilogue. I thought it would be nice to show what he's learned, and how the experience with Annie has changed him. Thanks again for your reviews, and don't worry, you'll get your Jate in my other fic! Maybe I'll even do a sequel one day where Sawyer bring Cassidy and Clementine to meet Jack, Kate and Annie – I've always wanted to see a fic that addressed the connection between Cassidy and Kate! ;)