A/N: Please bear with me in my long-windedness. Thank you to everyone for going on this journey with me. Thank you for your incredible feedback and your awesome comments, whether you commented on the first chapter, whether you commented on the fourth, or whether you commented on all of them - you have been such an inspiration and you've totally made me believe I can write! Thanks to my wonderful beta Ann - you are my constant! "You and me against the world" is a 1974 hit by Helen Reddy. This is the fifth and final chapter to this story. And I'm pretty damn certain that there will be more Days of Dharma fic to follow. These two are far too awesome not to try!
Part Five – You And Me Against The World
This Island had changed him.
There was a time when the man named Sawyer was only out to serve himself. Occasionally he shared what he had – for a price. But mostly, he looked out for number one. One day broken and winded from the mistake he had made, he ran from his crime and boarded a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles - Oceanic Airlines 815.
This man named Sawyer survived the fall out of the sky. Stranded on a deserted island with forty-seven other passengers, he hoarded his treasures and did what he did best – survived. But voices came out of the jungle and ghosts in the night stole children away. They weren't alone anymore. This island had Others with mysterious secrets, they hid in the shadows and refused them rescue. And then he was taken. A bag was thrown over his head, and he was beaten and locked in a cage.
But then he escaped, and he charged through the jungle searching for freedom. He ran blindly until he stopped to figure out where the hell he actually was… and then he met her.
"Hey." The voice came from behind him.
He'd turned to find a woman staring calmly back at him - blonde hair, rosy cheeks, Not half bad to look at flicking briefly through his mind before she oh so casually - as if she did it for a living – tasered him to the ground.
This woman – this Other named Juliet, then saved his life. Through fate and desperation she betrayed her people, and became one of his. She did what she could to gain their trust, to earn their respect, but essentially she was on her own.
In the meantime, the man named Sawyer learned how to share. The blonde with the gun had called him by his given name and he could no longer hide behind an alias, he had to admit to being James Ford. And once he was named, he was human. He was called leader, and friend. He was still guarded, still selfish, but less so than he'd been his entire life. Then he'd jumped out of a helicopter, because the load was too heavy. So he sat on a beach with the Other named Juliet. They flashed through time together each feeling their own hurts, each fighting their own demons until one moment it stopped, and she was what he was – just another lost blonde.
It had been six months since James Ford had become Jim La Fleur. Six months since his world had turned on its head once more. And to even his complete surprise, he found that this change continued to better him. He laughed during the day, he slept at night, and he relaxed on the weekends. This world was a con, but it felt so damn right. For the first time – probably in his whole life – he had a home. A home he shared with his best friend – a rosy-cheeked blonde who had once tasered his ass to the floor. When she looked at him, she saw him. She learned his moods, and most of the time, was able to dispel them with a gentle lift of an eyebrow, and the soft curves of an enigmatic smile. When he was angry, she didn't tell him not to be. When he was upset and lost in fading memories, she reassured him with a gentle touch on his arm and understanding eyes. She was a mystery he had yet to solve, and the more time he spent with her, the more he wanted to unlock her secrets. He felt like he owed that to her, to let her know that it was finally okay to breathe, that if she fell, he'd catch her the same way she continued to catch him.
Yes this Island had changed him, but it was Juliet who had healed him.
James drove through the wet and muddy landscape, continuing to head in the direction he was sure Juliet had taken. The rain continued to fall and he was forced to slow the jeep in order to see where he was going, he also knew that he had a greater chance of spotting her that way.
"Juliet!" he called out into the darkness. "Juliet!"
His voice was hoarse but he wouldn't let up. The rain soaked through to his skin but he didn't care. His only thought was Juliet - this woman who had gotten under his skin and stayed there. If he'd allowed himself leeway on his thoughts, it might have occurred to him to dissect his panic and to figure out why he was so scared. But even if he was being generous with his thoughts, they would only have led him right back to where they started six months ago, sitting on that dock. He didn't want her to leave then. And now, he didn't want her to leave ever.
James had driven across the fields and headed into uneven terrain, the jeep rocked a bit, and he slowed a little more to stop it from overturning should he hit any serious bumps. So far it had mostly been careful navigation up and down several inclines, but he didn't want to risk speeding through the darkness, the journey was rocky enough as it was. Sure enough, not long after he'd started he felt the jeep jerk as it hit something. He felt it go under the front wheel and then fly under the back wheel. Whatever it was, it was small. Maybe an animal? He thought. Even the dumbest animal wouldn't be standing still in the middle of a storm.
He brought the jeep to a halt, and got out to investigate. Flashlight in hand he backtracked a little, searching for whatever the hell he'd hit. And then he spotted it lying on the ground a few feet away – a brown work boot. Sawyer picked it up and spun round wildly. "Juliet!" he cried.
Holding his flashlight ahead of him, he began a frantic ground-search. "Juliet, are you out here?!" he called again.
And then he heard it, a tiny cry against the wind. "James."
James's knees nearly buckled when he heard her voice. "Where are you?!" he called.
A pause. A heartbeat.
"Down here." Came the small, tired reply.
Down? James watched his footing as he headed towards her voice. The beam of the flashlight made out the edges of a gaping hole. Getting down onto his knees, he crawled to the edge and peered over. There, directly below him, propped up against the dirt, was Juliet.
She tilted her head back to gaze up at him. "Hey." She said.
He smiled, relief flooding his features. "Hey yourself."
James grabbed the tow-chains from the jeep. Hooking one end in place, he dropped them down the length of the hole. He used the chain to help lower him down. When he reached half-way, he jumped the rest of the way down, his boots squelching in the mud. He raced to her side, kneeling down next to her. He drank her in – dishevelled state, her mud-streaked face, and shoeless twisted foot.
"Can't leave you alone for one minute." He said with the hint of a smile on his lips.
Juliet half-laughed, half-sobbed a response. James palmed her cheek, and she leant into it like a person starved for human contact. He could feel her trembling, her eyes had filled with moisture and her lip was wobbling dangerously. He used his thumb to caress her cheek,
"You don't gotta be brave right now." He told her.
She sniffed and leant forward into his arms. Burying her head in his chest, she sobbed. He knelt there cradling her, letting her get it all out. The rain finally gave up, and eventually her breathing evened.
"I'm sorry." She whispered, her face still hidden in his jumpsuit.
"Me too." He replied softly.
They sat there for another minute before he said, "I need to get ya outta here."
Juliet nodded and shook her head simultaneously. James repeated the action, searching her eyes.
"Can't." she managed.
He examined her foot. It was blue and swollen, bent at an awkward angle. He rested his hand on her knee. "You wanna tell me how you lost your shoe?"
Juliet's gaze drifted off to the side, and he saw the fatigue in her eyes and her frown as her brain willed herself to remember.
"I…" she started. "I fell and… my ankle… and I tried to get up… and I couldn't. I took off my shoe 'cause it hurt so bad and… I didn't know how to get out… I stood but I couldn't get out. And I got mad so I threw the shoe." She was crying again. "And then I passed out."
If he weren't so concerned about her and if he couldn't see how much pain she was in, he would have laughed at the way she told her story. He could just imagine her defiant face as she threw her boot out at the storm.
"Well lucky you did. Wouldn't've found you otherwise."
She smiled a little at this.
"You ready to try movin'?" he asked softly.
Juliet stared at her lap, her shoulders rising and falling gently. He could see her mind fighting the logic of moving. Whatever was bothering her, it was enough to keep her rooted. Settling in next to her, he mimicked her position – legs stretched out, back against the mud. She turned her head to look at him. He watched her forehead crinkle as she searched for words she couldn't find.
"I don't hate you." She said eventually.
He frowned and cocked his head in vague amusement. He'd been concussed enough times to know that its effects can bring on some mighty fine conversations with oneself.
Realizing what she'd said, and realizing that she'd probably just confused the heck out of him, she mimicked his frown. She tried again, but she was just so tired.
James held her gaze. Even in the darkness he could still see the intensity in her sapphire eyes.
"I ain't goin' anywhere." He said gently.
She blinked once. A little frown. A quick bite of her lip.
"It's okay." He said.
Her forehead had found its way onto his shoulder. "No it's not." She mumbled.
He kissed the top of her head, tasting mud and papaya-scented shampoo. "Yeah. It is."
Her hand was in his, balled into a fist and squeezing tightly. He returned the pressure, reassuring her. Turning her hand palm up he unravelled her fingers, revealing the crushed and crumpled flower he'd left for her that morning.
She looked at him just then, the hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth. "It got a little broken." She whispered.
"I can fix it." He whispered back.
This time her smile made it all the way. "I believe you."
He smiled back at her and she laughed a little. He leant his forehead against hers, their noses just touching. "You scared the hell outta me." He told her.
"Sorry." She whispered.
"Maybe I needed to be scared."
She moved her head back to look at him. She was frowning in that bemused way of hers, and it struck him just how cute she was when she did that. They sat there for a while just looking at each other, him, grateful that she was okay and her, thankful that he was here. She was so close and it was all he could do not to kiss her right now. And looking into her eyes, he knew that she knew that.
She smiled again. "I'm ready to get out of this sludge-fest."
"Well c'mon then." He grinned.
Helping her to her feet and mindful of her injury, he guided her toward the hanging chain. He dug the flashlight into the ground so that it shone upwards. "I reckon if I push you up, you should be able to make it over the top." He handed her the chain. "Ready?" he asked. She nodded. He knelt down, and she used her good leg to stand on his knee. Taking her weight, he boosted her into the air, using his arms to push her higher still. She grunted in pain, but bore the movement well. With both him and the chain for support, her fingers found the edge of the pit. She threw caution to the wind and dug her good foot into the wall, using the momentum to swing herself upwards. She balanced for a second before bringing the knee of her other leg to land on steady ground, keeping her injured foot hovering mid-air and then bringing up the other to match it. She crawled forward a little to get clear, and then turned to wait for James. He joined her moments later, having used the chain like a climbing rope.
"Well that was an adventure." She mumbled sleepily, exhaustion etched into her face. She waved an arm in the jeep's direction. "Nice stallion."
He raised both eyebrows and bent down to offer her his hand once more. "C'mon, let's get you a bath." He said. She giggled a little at that. With one hand still in hers, he slipped one arm round her waist in an attempt to pick her up.
"I can walk you know." She told him.
"Don't be so damn stubborn." He replied.
"Now? Or in general?"
He looked her square in the eyes. Her expression was deadpan but her eyes glinted in the moonlight. She was teasing him.
"Guess I'll just have to learn to work around your stubborn bits."
"That could take some time." She said matter-of-factly.
He grinned at her. "We got some."
He watched her smile light up her face as he helped her into the jeep. Hopping into the driver's seat he started the engine and put the stick into gear. She was still looking at him, still smiling, her eyes expressing relief and gratitude. Then she turned to face front, leaning her head back and shutting her eyes. He pressed his foot down on the gas and drove back towards the barracks. Occasionally he turned his head to look in her direction, her eyes remained closed but the smile was still there.
Looking out ahead and seeing their home come into view, James was certain of one thing – he should have kissed her anyway.
And he knew, by her upturned lips, that she thought so too.