Title: Heart Knows Calm
Pairing: Sawyer/Juliet, Sawyer/Kate
Spoilers: Through 5x08 - "LaFleur"
Word Count: 2,500
Summary: They shack up together, him and Juliet, and soon he memorizes the way her footsteps sound against the floor.
She stays for a long time in the back of him, the deep of him. She shouldn't, but what can you do? He remembers being close to her like it's its own feeling, one you can put a label on like love or fear or hoping. In his idle moments, his the-name's-Jim-LaFleur-and-why-this-here's-just-my-little-slice-of-paradise moments (and those do come – ain't that the damndest thing), he'll breathe in deep and hear the helicopter roaring, feel his fingers on her face and the shadow of kissing her. He'll see her eyes, heavy-lidded and hazy, getting brighter in that split-second where she realizes. He's played that moment so many times that he's not sure it's even real – it seems too big, too sharp and still, and if he's being honest, too goddamn beautiful besides. If he was remembering it right, it'd be blurry, messy. Over too quick to memorize. The crash of the water, you're not gonna feel that less than a kiss.
But Jesus, he loves her so bad even now, and it don't matter that she's gone and it don't matter that he's standing with his feet on 19-fuckin'-74 soil. Sometimes, when he's about to fall asleep and too tired, too far gone to pretend it's not killing him, it eats him up so hard – just remembering. One time, she leaned herself against the side of his tent, blocking the sunlight, smiling down at him. Said some cheeky pain-in-the-ass thing he sure loved but can't remember now. With his eyes closed, it's almost like dreaming: he can look up at her again all over, meet her eyes and like the way they've started to sparkle like that just for him. (He never would've thought it, not really, because he might be cocky but he ain't that cocky, not when she wants redemption so bad and Jack's so damn good. For all his talk, he never really thought she'd look at him twice, not with her eyes so warm like that.)
In these moments, these sorry-ass-son-of-a-bitch moments, he hates himself for ever being anything besides good to her. Hates the way she made him go so crazy, a kind of frustration you felt in your elbows, your fingernails, places you never even paid attention to having; hated how much he almost hated her just 'cause this here was something right and she was still so dead set on not picking him. And he just kept on giving her reasons not to.
He thinks if he could see her now, if he could just touch her one more time—
But she's gone, and he let her go, and it must mean he's better than he was, because he wouldn't change that for a damn thing. As long as she's happy. He ain't a prayin' man, no way no how, but God, let her be happy.
In the daytime, things get complicated. Juliet never promises to stay, but she keeps on not leavin', again and again. They've gotta say something, so they say she's his wife. It does the trick for the ol' Dharmaites, makes the lie even more real.
They shack up together, him and Juliet, and soon he memorizes the way her footsteps sound against the floor.
The new Mrs. LaFleur, she's a reader too. On one of their first nights alone in their groovy new pad together, she sits cross-legged on the floor and examines the bookshelf, and after a couple of minutes his curiosity's piqued and so he goes on over and kneels down next to her. Most of the stuff's old classics, Eliots and Hardys and long Russian names attached to long Russian stories where everyone's miserable for a long, long time. There are a couple of drugstore paperbacks though, too, which he's pleased to find out. He's not sure he can handle anything besides drugstore paperbacks right now. There's something about being thrown back and forth in time over and over; wouldn't you know, it doesn't really leave a guy with a taste for deep-thinking reading material. Like she's reading his mind, Juliet presses a fingertip against the spine of Carrie.
"Ah," she says softly, a little smile curving her mouth on one side. She looks at him then, adds, "Old favourite."
"Is that right."
She pulls the copy off the shelf. "Looks pretty spiffy for an old favourite," he says.
He watches the realization dawn on her face. (He used to think her face was like a mask, damn near creepy, always that I-know-something-you-don't-know poise, but he's starting to figure out how to read it. Hell, maybe she's melting a little bit, too.) "It just came out this year."
"Of course it did." He shakes his head, says it maybe a little lower than he means to.
How the hell did we get here rises in the air for a second, hangs silent and heavy over the both of them. How the hell do we get out.
"You read The Stand?" he asks then.
"There is no The Stand yet," she reminds him.
"Har dee har."
"Yeah, I did," she acquiesces, and he's grateful for that. "It was good."
"Good?" he snorts. "Just good?"
"Fine. Maybe after I finished it I was scared to sneeze for weeks."
"That's more like it," he says, grinning at her.
And that's how they spend the evening, fake mister and missus, talking about books that ain't been written yet.
It's easy, talking to her. He hadn't seen that one coming. It's easy to listen to her, too. He likes the sound of her voice, the smoothness of it; it's nice, graceful. It makes him feel calm, like he always breathes a little easier when he's got the sound of that voice in his ears. Sometimes he wants to close his eyes when she's talking, let that voice roll on over his skin. Make him softer.
This, for the record, is the sort of stuff he thinks after a couple glasses of wine, when they're sitting together at the kitchen table with the record player going and the sky blackening outside the windows. When he's too relaxed to know better. He thinks he'd rather throw himself back in the polar bear cage than say any of this out loud. Polar bears included.
He leans back in his chair and watches her. She doesn't look back at him. She looks at the wall instead while she talks, like there's something real damn fascinating on that patch of wall behind him, like it holds the secrets to all of life's mysteries. She says she really thought she loved Jack for awhile there in spite of herself, but she always knew it was stupid to do it.
"I'm sure you ain't the only one who's guilty there," he says, and he don't mean it to sound petty but sure enough, it comes out that way. "Loving the doc, I mean."
"Oh yeah?" she asks, looking back at him, raising her eyebrows. "There something you need to tell me, James?"
"Cute," he scowls.
She shrugs a little, pleased with herself.
He stares down into his glass. It's almost empty. "For a little while there," he says, hating himself even as he does it, "I really thought she chose me."
Juliet's quiet so long that it starts to burn, and he wants real bad to inhale the words right back into his mouth. Then, simply: "She should've."
"Bullshit," he says. That's what he has to say, isn't it?
She doesn't push it. After a few seconds, she knocks her foot against his under the table. It's a dumb little gesture. It makes him feel better.
"I hope she's okay," he says, meaning it.
She doesn't quite sigh. "I hope he is, too."
They clink their glasses together: it makes sense to do it, even as it leaves him wondering why. Neither of them says anything, and thank God for that. He knows he couldn't stand hearing whatever that meant out loud – To love that's lost, maybe. Something sorry-assed and sentimental. He might be a goddamn fool, but at least he tries not to broadcast it out loud.
At least he's in good company.
He dreams sometimes that Locke does it, that they all come back. He dreams of her standing on the beach, dark hair dancing in the wind, backed by the blue of the sea and the sky. The sand is warm under his bare feet as he walks toward her. She keeps her gaze steady on him. The closer he gets, the bigger she smiles, and he knows he's not alone in this, that she's been missing him too. Sometimes she tells him so; other times she kisses the knowledge right on into him, and he loves her tongue and her teeth and her hands in his hair, loves all of her, loves her so much it spills out into everything. It colours the blue into the sky and murmurs in the waves as they kiss the shore.
Then he wakes up.
He gets out of bed, tries to shake her out of his head. He goes downstairs, tries to appreciate the scratchy carpet underneath his feet because that reminds him that he's awake, that he's here and now and there's nothin' he can do about that except keep on being.
Some mornings, he finds Juliet sitting alone in the kitchen as the daylight just starts to creep in. He doesn't bother her when he finds her like that. He figures she deserves some privacy with the reasons that keep her from sleeping. One time he comes down and she's curled into an armchair asleep with a book resting in her lap and a blanket sliding off of her onto the floor. He listens to the sound of her breathing, just looks at her for a little while. He wishes, for a minute, that he was better at saying the things he means. She's still here with him. He thinks maybe he'd have gone crazy by now if she wasn't.
He really notices the blanket. He takes a second to consider it, then heads on over and leans down, pulls it back up over her. He tries to be quiet, careful as he does it. His thumb brushes her bare shoulder. For just a flash of a second, the concept gets intriguing. Her bare shoulder. He's never thought of her like that before – hasn't had time, not to mention that when it comes to bare shoulders, his attention's been elsewhere. Still, it's not like it's news that she's beautiful.
He's a man. He's got eyes. Easy as that.
And then hers open.
"Sorry," he says, feeling this dumb surge of panic, feeling stupid and caught.
"I'm a light sleeper," she replies, her voice drowsy.
He relaxes. "You got a bed, you know."
"I know." She gives him a slight smile. "Morning."
"Morning." He says it quiet, because there's something gentle about the moment, something that it'd be all too easy to shatter. He's so damn tired of breaking things. He smiles back at her.
And maybe as the months fall by it gets a little easier, the dreams don't happen so much and he answers to Jim and says the right things and, wouldn't you know, makes himself into somebody important 'round these parts. In spite of everything, this here starts to feel like a life. Miles is still an annoying sonuvabitch, but he's an okay annoying sonuvabitch after awhile. Jin's English gets better; it'd be a lie to say it wasn't a good time teaching him to swear. Dan keeps on fading away, and damned if he doesn't feel sorry for the poor bastard. He and Juliet take turns cooking breakfast in the morning; without meaning to, he memorizes how she likes her eggs, her coffee, how she presses the back of her hand to her mouth instead of her palm when she yawns. They talk a lot: she tells him about the babies she lost, the mothers she lost, the way sometimes she still feels the blood on her hands. He knows a thing or two about having blood on your hands, and he tells her about that, and it turns his stomach to say it out loud but she never starts looking at him like he's some kind of monster. They have dinner over at Horace and Amy's place. Juliet kisses him when there are other people around – what with them being mister and missus, and all. Maybe the first time he's caught off-guard; maybe he blushes a little. Maybe she gets way more of a kick out of that than anyone should. It's a funny thing, to have someone who means home just as much as the house you live in. He starts to sink right into life at their little Dharma love shack, but he doesn't think it'd be the same if she wasn't here with him. She lines up the dirty dishes in a certain way and folds the corners of book pages to mark her place. She knows the same secrets he does, and the knowing alone knits them close in a different way than he's ever been tied to anyone. Sometimes he forgets he's not married to her. It don't feel so bad at all, believing the lie.
"I stole a Phil Collins tape for Kate once," he reminisces one evening; they're in the kitchen cooking dinner, talking about all the great and not-so-great music that has yet to get around to existing.
Juliet smirks. "Lucky lady."
"Hey," he says, pointing a defensive spatula at her. "My options were limited."
"No," she says, very serious, "I'm sure it was a very dashing gesture."
"Shut it, grease monkey."
"Again," she says, "dashing."
"Hey," he says, on a whim.
She turns away from chopping vegetables to look at him. "What?"
Thing is, it doesn't hurt so much to say Kate's name anymore. Sure, he misses her. He thinks maybe he'll always miss her. He doesn't know if he'll ever stop loving her. But hey. Maybe this is at least letting her go. It's not like he has any other choice. Maybe she'd want him to let her go.
And he's happy – right here, right now, sipping white cans of Dharma beer and sautéing onions and reminiscing about the great feats of Duran Duran with his pretend wife.
He can tell she is, too. Maybe that's what makes this feel so damn good.
Juliet's watching him expectantly, a smile on her face. Sunlight sneaks through the window behind her, catching in her hair.
He thinks about what it might be like: to decide screw the onions, to cross the kitchen. Not to stop 'til he's right where she is.
She's curious, still smiling at him. "James?" (She never hesitates, never pauses a little too long or trips over the J like it's the wrong letter to start with. He thinks maybe she doesn't have to remind herself not to call him Sawyer.)
And so he decides.