Author's Note: This is written from the point of view of Jeff, and it's my first (and possibly last) piece of Homefront fanfiction. I've just discovered the old series and haven't completed viewing it yet, however, so I suppose there could be more to come.
"I don't trust anybody," Hank said, and then left me alone there with his wife. The way he'd left me alone with her when he'd gone away to war. He didn't trust anybody…but he trusted his own brother, now as then. And now, as then, I failed him.
Sarah wasn't breathing. Hank had just gone for a cup of coffee. A measly cup of coffee. He couldn't miss the last moment with his wife! It couldn't be me there with her, when she died. It wasn't my right. It wasn't my place. She'd chosen Hank, in the end, and it was right and good that she had. So how could I be here now and not him?
"Nurse!" I shouted. "Nurse!" and then to Ginger, "Get Hank." Because it had to be Hank instead of me, it was always Hank instead of me…I was just a short stop, the guy in between, between second base and third, between Hank and Hank. She'd said she'd loved me, but she hadn't, not really, not like she'd loved him.
By the time Hank set a foot in the door, Sarah was already dead, and his words ripped right into me – "I told you to watch her!" The way I was supposed to watch her when he went away to war. And I watched her then, all right. Day in and day out, from the sidelines, admiring her beauty, her sweetness, the soft sound of her voice, how all-around swell she was, until she'd noticed me noticing her and, to my surprise, noticed me back.
It was nobody's fault, I'd said, over and over again, and I was going to say it to Hank too, when he came home – and like the naïve little boy I was back then I thought Hank would understand. I knew he wouldn't now, because what was there to understand except that I'd betrayed my own brother? The love I felt for Sarah, I don't know what kind of love that was. It was like a fantasy, a dream. It wasn't like my love for Ginger, which was something real and prickly and beautiful and hard and wonderful all at once.
As Hank ran to his already dead wife, I finally felt for the first time what a lie that was, what a terrible lie that was, to say it was nobody's fault. I'd said it a dozen times, to myself, to Sarah, even to Hank, but without the confession to follow that would have stabbed him through the heart. Over and over I said it, and I believed it, too, because it was easier to believe than to believe that I was a louse.
Except it was somebody's fault, because it was a choice to follow Sarah outside the house, wasn't it? To kiss her in the hidden shadows of the flowing bed sheets, to let her pet me, to whisper words of love, to not quite fully let go when Hank came back, to let go and then to reach out for her again, to beg her back, and only, finally, fully release her when she let go of me. Otherwise I never might have let go, because she was my first love, my very first. But Hank was her first and last, the only one to share her bed, and it was Hank who should have been there to watch her die. Not me.
It wasn't nobody's fault. It was my fault. I failed my brother then, as I failed him now, letting Sarah die on my watch. Because I'm a louse. The kind of louse that kisses his brother's girlfriend when he's off getting shot at, the kind of louse who kisses a girl in his bedroom while he's engaged. I'd lied then too, to Ginger, hadn't I, when I said nothing had happened between me and Judy?
Nobody's fault. Nothing happened. Lies, all lies, and I believed my own lies, but it's strange how something as dark as death has a way of shining spotlights on the shadows where the truth hides. Nothing happened, sure, if inviting a girl up to your room at night was nothing. Nothing happened, sure, if dancing with a girl alone at night in your room was nothing. Nothing happened, sure, if having every intention of sleeping with her when you first brought her up was nothing. Nothing happened, sure, if kissing was nothing, because I'd kissed Judy before I'd stopped kissing her. If kissing was nothing, then I'd done nothing with Sarah – heck, I'd done nothing with Ginger for months and months, nothing since that first unexpected time. Well, kissing Ginger wasn't nothing. Kissing Ginger made me feel…different than kissing Judy. Different than kissing Sarah. Different than I've ever felt before. It made me crazy with desire, with wanting more and more and more, and not just sex.
Oh, I'd done the right thing in the end. I'd told Judy I couldn't go through with it, but it's not like I hadn't taken five steps down the wrong path first. Flirting with her at the bar night after night. Inviting her up. Dancing. Kissing. Doing exactly what mother told me not to do – courting temptation instead of fleeing it. Sure I retraced my steps backwards eventually, I turned to the right path, I'd fled temptation, eventually, but it was a lie to tell Ginger I hadn't courted it first. I should of just told her I was a fool, that I looked it in the face, and I followed it, and I wish I hadn't, but I loved her, loved Ginger so much that even when I put my foot five steps down that path, I was still able to turn and run in the end. But that's not what I told her because that wasn't the advice Coach gave, and because I'm really good at telling myself lies – lies like "nobody" and "nothing."
Yeah, I'd done the right thing in the end when it came to Judy. Like I'd done the right thing and stepped aside so Hank could have Sarah. But I never did the right thing until I'd toyed with the wrong thing first…and if that's the way I am, maybe Ginger's right. Maybe I can't resist temptation forever. Maybe my mother's right. Maybe I need to take temptation more seriously. Put walls up around myself sooner so it can't worm its way into my heart. But maybe I don't want to. Because maybe I want to keep that door open and peek inside…because maybe I really am just a louse at heart, a louse who betrays his brother from beginning to end.
"I told you to watch her!" Hank wept, and he was at her side, bent over her, screaming he'd just gone for a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee. He was angry at me because he was angry at her death, but it only felt right that he should be angry with me.
I'd stolen so many moments with Sarah. How could I steal this one too?