Ooooh. I didn't think I was going to get to this before I left, but I just decided to sit down and bang it out. ALL DONE!

When Oceanic 815 crashed, everything happened so damned fast. And so, Sawyer reacted the way he always had: snap, instantaneous judgments.

That guy running around, saving everyone's life, making speeches? The doctor? A douchebag Dudley Do-Right. The Middle Eastern dude? On a plane that just crashed? Terrorist, and if not, a scary motherfucker, better to be left alone. The fat guy? A harmless, entertaining blockhead.

That girl? The hot one with the freckles? Instantaneous connection. Immediate attraction.

That was life. That had always been his life. His "career" was based on quickly summing people up, making snap judgments, and acting on them. And damn, he was good at it.

That Asian psychic dude? Nothing but trouble and too smart-mouthed by half. That uptight, rigid Korean? A domineering asshole and a huge pain in the ass.

That blonde woman? The one Jack drug back from The Others? Bad News and one scary bitch to boot.

But in Dharmaville, everything happened so damned slow. It happened in endless 9-to-5 shifts playing "20 Questions;" and it happened on Saturday mornings when the water was glassy and the fish weren't biting; and it happened on Thursday nights playing Battleship.

It happened every time he shared a beer with Miles and gave him shit about the women he was trying to hook up with. It happened with every curse word and lame cliché he taught Jin. It happened every time he finished a book and handed it to Juliet with a "You gotta read this one next."

It happened every time Miles had an encounter with his parents, and James learned to back off and ease up on him for a few hours at least. It happened every time he sat listening to Jin reminisce about his 1st date with Sun, or 8th, or 10th, or 13th. It happened every time he and Juliet made love, and he could lie there afterwards and relax instead of wildly spooling his mind towards how to get out, how to take her money.

But then they came back, and everything happened so fast again, and he wasn't used to it. He couldn't handle it. His snap judgments weren't working anymore, and he just couldn't make it work.

He tried to be nice to Jack, but Jack said one assy thing, and BOOM! Snap judgment: Doc's still an overbearing douche. And James didn't have time to notice that the Doc was actually just sitting back, letting things happen . . . until it was too late.

He tried to give Hurley the benefit of the doubt. He gave him a great, big giant hug, but Hurley asked some idiotic question about the president, and BOOM! Snap judgment: Hurley's still a blockhead. And James didn't have time to notice that maybe just talking to Hurley, of all people, could have straightened him out, got him to slow down, see the big picture . . .until it was too late for that.

He tried to give Sayid a way out. He worked up this great plan that Sayid was a defecting hostile, and he was gonna spring Sayid from jail, but Sayid wasn't going along, and BOOM! Snap judgment: Sayid's still a loose cannon, and best to leave him to fend for himself. And James didn't have time to notice that leaving Sayid alone would allow Little Ben Linus to slip in and help the loose cannon escape . . . until it was too late.

He tried to pretend it didn't matter that Kate was the first girl he ever really loved. Because it didn't matter, not really. And BOOM: Snap judgment: Shit, I'm still attracted to her. And James didn't have time to notice that it didn't mean a damn thing, because there were plenty of women he was attracted to (that Dharma teacher, Jessica, that Farah Fawcett poster Miles had taped up in the security room . . .), but only one woman he'd happily spend mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nights with . . . until it was too late.

It all happened too fast. He just didn't have time, and he kept making these snap judgments and they didn't work, and it all just went away. And the last he knew, Jin was who knew where, and Miles was screaming at his dad, and Juliet had just been right here. He had her. He had her. But she was gone now. It was all gone. Nothing mattered, and if he had any energy, any life force, he would have just jumped in, too. And Kate was pulling at him, and now Jack, and if he could move at all, if he could just will his limbs to work, he'd push them away. But he couldn't. He couldn't move. He couldn't do anything but say her name, and feel the ache in his arm where her weight had been.

Soon, he'd regain strength. Soon he could move again. This place had been littered with guns. Surely they hadn't all been sucked down there with her. Surely there was one somewhere and he could find it and put it in his mouth, and be done with it all.

But the ground started rumbling and shaking and the sky turned to white and his head burned and . . .

He couldn't fucking believe it. I mean, Christ, he had clothes that didn't cost that much. He wondered if Cassidy was playing a sick joke. "You wanna buy your daughter a birthday present? Fine, here, buy these doll clothes." Shit, $32 for a doll dress?

He'd left the American Girl store in a huff, and felt much better in the aisles of the big box toy store. He'd stopped at the Barbie stuff. Much more reasonably priced. He wondered if Clementine had any Barbies. Then he berated himself for not knowing. Plus, it wasn't that he wanted to be cheap, just, shit . . . $32 for doll clothes?

He passed a display of Hungry Hungry Hippo games at the end of an aisle. Now that would be fun. But he imagined Cassidy's voice, "You aren't the one who has to listen to the racket that game makes." So, he decided against Hungry, Hungry Hippo and looked further into the game aisle. Candyland? Nah, she was too old for that. Clue? Probably not ready for a game about a murder.

Battleship? Huh. Now that was a fun game. One of his favorites. He remembered when he used to. . . well, shit, what did he remember? "You just sank my battleship!" That was from the commercial. He stared at the boxes. Quite frankly, he couldn't ever remember playing this game, and yet . . .

"Excuse me? Sir? Are you OK?"

He'd been so spaced out, he hadn't even realized someone else had walked into the game aisle.

"It's just, you've been staring at those Battleship games for awhile," she said.

Well, don't I feel like an idiot. But, hell, maybe she could help him. He said, "It's my daughter's seventh birthday, and I'm lookin' for a gift. My ex says I should get American Girl doll clothes. You have kids?"

"No," she said, looking wistful, almost sad. She brightened right away though. "I'm shopping for my nephew's birthday. He'll be seven too, and I'm supposed to get something called Bakugan. I don't even know what that is!"

"Can't help you there," he said. "But, well, I guess you used to be a seven-year-old girl . . ."

"Way back in the '70s, sure," she answered.

"Did you like Battleship?"

"Oh, yeah!" she exclaimed. "I loved it! I used to always . . ." she trailed off. She looked off to the side, confused. "You know what? Now that I think of it, my sister used to say it was a boys' game. So, I guess I didn't ever really play." But then she stared at the game boxes, much as he'd been doing. She shook her head as if to clear it. "I do remember 'You just sunk my battleship!', right?"

Right, he thought. Just right. Something about the way she said it was just perfect, but who knows why.

"Maybe I oughta stick with the list my ex gave me," he decided.

"Probably best," she said. "Well, good luck. Off to find Bakugan!" She smiled at him, and good God, it turned his insides to jelly. She breezed past him, and the most amazing smell wafted after her. He felt almost drunk. It couldn't be perfume, it was too subtle to be perfume. It must be shampoo. Jesus, her hair smelled fantastic. He could hear the sharp staccato of her heels marching to the end of the aisle.

"Hey, wait," he called after her. The clacking heels stopped, she turned to look at him. "I guess I gotta go back to that American Girl store, but I think I'm gonna get this Battleship game, too. If you wanna play some, I think I'll be at the Starbucks down the street in about half an hour."

My husband doesn't really approve of me meeting strange men for coffee.

Sounds great, but I'm really in a hurry.

I'd love to, but I've got a big meeting.

I don't drink coffee.

I don't play board games with strangers.

All, he supposed, were likely, reasonable answers. When she looked at him, she cocked her head to the side, sussing him out.

"Sounds like fun!" she said. "See you there!"

He leaned back in the comfy chair, holding his warm cup of coffee. Today Starbucks was playing old World War II standards, and Bing Crosby was crooning away on the sound system.

Kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again.
It's been a long, long time.
Haven't felt like this, my dear
Since I can't remember when.
It's been a long, long time.

He closed his eyes and let the lyrics wash over him. Something about them just fit. He looked up every time the bells on the door rattled. She probably wasn't coming. Why would she? And what made him ask a woman to a coffee shop to play a kids' board game?

The bells rattled again, and it was her. She lifted a bag from the toy store, waved it in his direction. She must have found her octagon or whatever it was she needed. She went first to the counter to place an order, then came to sit next to him.

"Kind of a weird way to spend an evening, huh?" he asked her, and she nodded. He said, "I don't even know your. . ."

"Juliet!" called the man at the counter.

She stood up. "That's my coffee."

"And that answers my question," he said. "I'm James, by the way."

"Nice to meet you James."

She turned to get her coffee. Bing kept on crooning.

You'll never know how many dreams
I've dreamed about you.
Or just how empty they all seemed without you.
So kiss me once, then kiss me twice
Then kiss me once again.
It's been a long, long time.

Something about that just sounded right to James.


Sorry for the Bing -- I've been listening to sentimental WWII music for some reason.

Well, everyone, thanks *so much* for spending this never-ending hiatus (but it is ending!!!!) with me and my stories. It's been a lot of fun. I'd love to list out everyone who's been so helpful and encouraging, but I'd be sure to leave someone out. So, I just want to say thanks. Anyway, season 6 starts SOON, and I guess I'll just leave it up to the professionals from here on out.

I have a teensy tiny epiloge idea. If I get it written before the season starts, I'll post it. Otherwise, this is where the story ends.