Pairing: This chapter -- Jack/Gabriela, Jack/Juliet, Jack/Kate, overall Jack/Sawyer
Summary: Jack visits three women's hometowns but there's a surprise for him at his own house
Note: Thanks again to zelda_zee for the beta. *goes back to waiting for Lost finale*
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Jack fell asleep as soon as the plane hit cruising altitude. Far too soon, he was being shaken awake and told they were landing at the Venice Airport. His head felt like it was going to explode from a brutal hangover, compounded by jet lag. He wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole and not emerge for several days.
The plan had been for Gabriela to meet him at the airport, but now he was being told they’d go straight to her house. Jack was grateful for the delay, and for the luxury of just being able to sit by himself at the airport while everyone else broke into purposeful groups: planning the day’s shoot, waiting for the baggage or heading off to fetch coffee. He wasn’t feeling particularly chatty and it’s not like he knew any of them that well. Sawyer was the only one of the crew whom he’d really spent any time with.
No one had said anything to him about last night and he decided that was a good thing. If one of the crew was behind it they’d be watching for his reaction, so he fully intended to deprive them of the satisfaction of seeing they'd rattled him.
Out of habit, he checked his cell phone. He had a message from Claire and one from their father. He’d call them once he had some coffee in him. He also had a new text message, from a number he didn’t recognize. But when he clicked on it, he could hear Sawyer’s voice, clear as day.
How’s ur head this morning, Doc?
He laughed out loud, looking around guiltily when a heavyset woman next to him cleared her throat in annoyance. He turned his back to her and tried to think of the perfect reply. Finally, grinning to himself, he typed out a response:
Bastard! I needed that beauty sleep.
He had no idea what time it was back on the island, but Sawyer responded within a few minutes.
It’s called espresso. Try some.
Jack texted back:
You get 2 sleep in, don’t u? I have 2 go be charming & romantic.
Ouch. Don’t hurt yourself.
Jack shook his head at how much of a smartass Sawyer was being. Texting was such a juvenile pastime anyway. This was maybe the second time he’d texted anyone and he was horribly slow at it.
He was still trying to think of what to say next when Steve, one of the cameramen, came back with a cup of coffee for him and sat down heavily beside him with his own cup.
Jack reluctantly flipped the phone shut and took the coffee. The first sip scalded his tongue but he could still tell it was terrible. He made a face.
“I know,” Steve sighed miserably. “I had to find the worst coffee in Italy. But it’s caffeine, right?”
Jack shrugged and sipped at his silently until the crew arrived with the baggage.
In the limo, Colleen, the unsmiling makeup artist, lectured him about the bags under his eyes as she dabbed concealer on. They had to transfer to a vaporetto, the little motor boats that zipped along the canals, to reach Gabriela’s house and all this was dutifully captured on camera. Another crew was out, capturing scenic shots of Venice to run in front of this segment, places that Jack wouldn’t even see on this trip. He was busy reliving his last visit here, some 20 years ago. The city was just as beautiful, just as vibrant and colorful, crowded and chaotic, and just as old and crumbling and on the verge of being swallowed up by the sea as he remembered. The brisk wind from the boat helped revive him, so that by the time they reached Gabriela’s, he was finally awake and genuinely excited to see her.
She was waiting to greet him and a huge smile crossed her face once the boat docked. Scott circled in close to catch their lingering hello kiss. A P.A. took Jack’s things to his hotel and he was handed off to her.
She was a wonderful tour guide, showing him the Piazza San Marco, where they sat and had the most magnificent espresso and cornettos and toured the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. She held his hand as they navigated the narrow boards set down as walkways on the flooded floors. “The water rises every year,” she sighed and he nodded, glad to be here, in such a beautiful spot with such an incredibly beautiful woman.
Lunch was pasta puttanesca and red wine at a colorful, open-air trattoria with flowers trailing over the latticework dividers. Jack felt like he was in another world as Gabriela chatted amiably about the city’s history.
Next came the obligatory gondola ride. He was a bit unsteady getting in but soon righted himself. Gabriela sat in his lap and leaned against him happily. The setting really was incredibly romantic and soon he gave in to his surroundings and the gorgeous woman in his arms. They kissed as they passed under the Bridge of Sighs, just as the sun was setting. “They say you will find eternal love, if you share a kiss under this bridge at sunset,” Gabriela told him and, at this moment, Jack could believe it. If he could make his choice now, he would stay here and never leave. But it might just be the jet lag.
Bachelor production office
“Wonderful. So romantic,” Isabel nodded. “And he totally hit it off with her family. “
“Dinner a la famiglia instead of a candlelight dinner for two? I think we made the right call.”
“His Italian is good, you were right. That little toast he gave totally won her father over.”
“And then the whole family, dancing on the patio? Love it.”
“I don’t think he understood everything her father told him, though, about wanting to see his daughter married before he dies. He didn’t have the benefit of subtitles.”
“I think he got most of it. Let’s just hope Papa doesn’t kick the bucket before the finale.”
“I don’t know. It could play into...”
“No, don’t even say it,” Ben said reproachfully. “We are not going to capitalize on someone’s death. Not if we can help it, anyway.”
Jack checked his phone before he went to bed. No new messages. And he still hadn’t called his father or sister back. He stared at the last message from Sawyer before finally hitting “reply.”
Might need advice b4 that next rose ceremony.
He waited, but no response came and he finally went to bed. He didn’t sleep but it didn’t matter. He could sleep on the plane to Florida.
The loud colors of Miami were surreal after Italy’s more subdued, classic beauty.
Colleen scolded Jack once more about getting some sleep and he shrugged and told her as long as he looked well-rested, that was all that mattered, and he knew she’d make him look good. She clucked at him but told him he was lucky since she could make Danny DeVito look hot.
Juliet was waiting for Jack on the beach and she gave him a warm hug as he exited the limo.
“I have a surprise for you!” she said, smiling mysteriously. “Do you trust me?”
”Sure,” he said, laughing.
“Okay, then. I have to blindfold you,” she said, holding up a black sash.
He looked at her quizzically but nodded his agreement as she tied the sash tightly, making sure he couldn’t see out from underneath it. His mind went somewhere very kinky, but she had to have cleared this with the producers first. Or this was all their idea to begin with.
She led him into the limo and guided him to the seat. “No peeking,” she said sternly as she tucked her arm in his. He could feel the sunlight on his face as they drove and his impatience grew. He was supposed to be the one surprising the women with elaborately planned dates. This left him at a complete loss. He was just wondering if he could sneak in a nap without being noticed when she announced, “We’re here.” She stayed his hand when he reached to pull the blindfold down. “No, don’t take it off yet!”
She took him by the hand, leading him out of the limo. He could hear the sounds of a crowd growing as they walked and his excitement started to build. Monster truck rally. Rock concert. He tried to figure out if it was possible to have hired one of his favorite bands to play and of course Juliet of all people would know who he’d want to see most.
“Stop,” she ordered and he stopped walking. She reached up to remove the blindfold, her breast brushing his arm on purpose or by accident. He kept his eyes shut until she told him to open them. He looked up, blinking into the sun, and saw DOLPHIN STADIUM spelled out in huge letters.
He broke into an enormous grin. “We’re here to see the Dolphins play?”
“No. The Marlins. Baseball!” She smiled and handed him a Florida Marlins baseball cap. “And you’re throwing out the first ball pitch!”
“No way!” Jack grabbed the hat. “Are you kidding me?”
“Come on,” she laughed and took his hand again. “They’re waiting for you.”
Bachelor Production office
“This couldn’t be more all-American. Baseball and hot dogs?”
“Wait, why is it the Florida Marlins and not the Miami Marlins?”
“Does it matter? What matters is Jack living out a childhood dream and having the time of his life with Juliet.”
“And that moment ... there! Where the Marlins win and she throws her arms him and kisses him? Priceless.”
”Not very romantic, though.”
“The romance will come later. It’s pretty hard to top a gondola ride in Venice at sunset.”
After the ball game, Jack and Juliet are driven to her condo, where she introduces him to her sister Rachel, who is pregnant and beaming.
“It’s just me and Rachel,” Juliet explains, hugging her sister close. “And little Joey or whatever his name is going to be.”
”This is all thanks to Juliet,” Rachel says, patting her stomach. “Did she tell you?”
Jack shakes his head.
“I had cancer -- don’t worry, I’m in remission -- and there was no chance I could ever have a child. But Juliet made it happen! She’s a miracle worker. She can get anyone pregnant! Did she tell you about the male field mice?”
Juliet demurs, but finally ends up explaining her research and how she was able to achieve the impossible, impregnating male mice. If only she had more funding, she says, warming to her subject, she could reverse infertility forever.
Jack sips his wine while Juliet - who’s refused all help -- grills burgers on the balcony that overlooks the water. The view of Miami by night, the city lights reflected in the waters of Biscayne Bay, is incredible. Jack leans against the railing, taking it all in.
“Why didn’t you ever mention your sister before?” he asks when Rachel is out of earshot.
Juliet smiles sweetly. “I didn’t want to seem like I was playing on your sympathies. And I knew you’d get a chance to meet her.”
She tells him how moved she was to read about his miraculous healing of his late wife, Sarah. “I’m not really religious, but I’m at a loss how to explain things like your wife being able to walk again or Rachel being alive and about to give birth. It’s what keeps me going,” she says rubbing the stem of her wine glass as she joins him at the railing. “Hope. You must feel the same way.”
He nods, and she leans up to kiss him. “The burgers!” he yells and they both run over to save their dinner from burning.
The next day Jack alighted at the tiny airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was literally in the middle of a corn field and he had to resist the urge to laugh at how fully it fit his preconceived idea of the state.
They had to fly to Minneapolis and transfer to a small plane that made him incredibly nervous, but they were here now. Or nearly here. They still had nearly an hour’s drive to Kate’s home town.
He’d casually inquired about which member of her family he’d be meeting. He was told Kate’s mother was still in the hospital, so he’d just be meeting her father, an Army recruiter. No one gave any sign that they knew any more than the official story about Kate’s mom, the same one the viewers at home would be getting.
He checked his phone and saw he had a new text message from Sawyer. He smiled as he read it.
Advisor to the stars, that’s me. What’s on your mind?
Jack hunched down in his seat. He realized he didn’t have just one question for Sawyer. He wished he could confer with him at the end of each day, like he’d grown accustomed to doing. He stared at the screen and finally started pecking out a reply with his thumbs.
Can we talk b4 I get back?
In about 20 minutes, he got a response.
Sure. Call me when you’re in LA. We can have a drink if you promise 2 go easy on the sauce this time. ;-)
You’re going to be in LA? Jack assumed he wouldn’t be seeing Sawyer again until they were back on the island.
Lining up my next gig. Man’s gotta eat.
And drink. ;) Jack texted back. I’ll call u when I get in.
Jack put the phone away, with a palpable sense of relief. This was going to be a huge help, having Sawyer weigh in on everything that had happened. He’d already been replaying his visits in terms of how he’d describe them to Sawyer, little moments he wanted to get his opinion on. Most importantly, he was dying to know if Sawyer knew about those male field mice!
He turned his attention back to the endless fields of grain flashing past the car window, trying to reconcile the Kate he knew with this generic landscape. He pictured her learning to shoot in the backyard of her house, taking aim at old beer cans lined up along the fence. He suppressed a shudder, imagining her as a girl of 16, aiming at a man’s head and coldly pulling the trigger. Did her hand shake? He told himself it must have.
When they finally pulled up to a modest house with white siding, he shifted his mental image of her shooting beer cans off the fence posts. There was no fence. Not that many fences in the Midwest, period.
Kate was waiting for him outside the house and she came running over. She threw her arms around his neck and he found himself hugging her hard in return, more than a little surprised by her enthusiasm.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” she said and then, quieter, so quiet that he was sure the mic wouldn’t pick it up, she added, “Thank you for coming.” She clung to him for another moment or two and he cradled the back of her head gently.
“I’m glad I’m here, too,” he said with a smile and she stepped back finally, wrinkling her nose in a broad, girlish grin.
“Come on, let me show you the place,” she said and held out her hand. His arm went around her waist instead and she nestled closer to him as they walked. She pointed out the small garden patch, the big maple tree she used to climb as a girl, and the field a few houses over where she learned to ride a horse.
They sat on the front porch and drank iced tea. Her dad would be home shortly, she told him. “Don’t let him intimidate you,” she said, placing her hand on Jack’s arm. “He’s pretty protective of me.”
“With good reason,” Jack responded with a smile. He meant it as a compliment but she froze up for a second, the light dying from her face. She recovered almost instantly and he took the opportunity to ask about her mother, hoping her panic would be read as daughterly concern.
“She’s doing a lot better,” she answered, looking off into the distance instead of at him. “But she needs her rest.”
Jack nodded, taking her hand in his and squeezing.
She laid her head on his shoulder and they sat like that for another few minutes.
“Okay,” the director yelled. “Great. Love it. How about we go inside now? Show him the house you grew up in?”
Jack squeezed her hand again and she nodded. “Sure.” They stood awkwardly on the porch, watching through the screen door as the camera crew set up inside, adjusting the lighting and arranging the flowers they’d brought in.
They had a moment alone and Kate seized it. She leaned up on her toes to talk to him so no one else could hear.
“She wouldn’t have come anyway. She’s never forgiven me.” Her eyes were bright, even though she was smiling. “She hasn’t spoken to me since ... since it happened.”
”Kate, I’m sorry.” He hugged her to him. “I can’t imagine...”
”So this is just my dad’s house. I always liked it better over here anyway.”
Jack’s heart ached for all the things she wasn’t saying. This whole visit was a lie, but even through the false front and the plastered-on smile for the camera, he just trusted her. There was something genuine about her and at the moment, he couldn’t imagine anywhere else he wanted to be.
When the crew had set it up, she showed him her old bedroom, wallpaper with horses probably picked out in junior high still up after all these years, and then they heard a car in the drive. “That’s my dad,” she said and led him out to meet her father.
A tall, gruff man in uniform greeted him, shaking his hand with a punishing grip. “Good to meet you, Jack. Name’s Sam. So you want to take my Katie with you back to California?”
Jack blinked at the directness of the question. “Well, maybe, sir, maybe,” he said with a laugh as Kate swatted at her father’s arm. “Never been a fan of long distance relationships.”
They ate dinner -- fried chicken and a hand-tossed salad with tomatoes from the garden -- and Sam grilled Jack about his career, his goals, with Kate occasionally intervening to tell her father to go easy on him.
“So you couldn’t find a wife the old-fashioned way?” Sam asked, putting down his fork and fixing Jack with his sternest glance yet.
Jack had no idea if he was joking, but he tried to answer the question as well as he could. “To be honest, no. I work long hours and, well, a lot of the women I meet are more interested in how much I make a year instead of what we might have in common. Los Angeles isn’t exactly the best place to get to know people. I know a lot of people but there aren’t that many people I know.”
“So, being followed around all day by cameras? Just part of getting to know people?”
”It’s taken some getting used to,” Jack ventured, glancing at Kate, hoping she would jump in again and end this line of questioning. “But I figured, what do I have to lose?”
Sam wiped his mouth with his napkin. “I told Katie I didn’t think it was a good idea, going on this show. Frankly, I hoped she’d be back home the first week. She’s had enough heartache in her life already. She doesn’t need any more.”
”Dad!” Kate protested, but he kept talking.
“So I want you to promise that even if you figure out she’s not the girl for you, you be honest and square with her.”
”Of course,” Jack said, nodding seriously. “I ... I really care for your daughter. The last thing I’d want to do is hurt her.” He glanced from one to the other. “I have to admit that I didn’t think about it going in, but someone is probably going to be hurt in this whole process. I am taking this very seriously and I know I’m not the only one. But I never would have met Kate otherwise and if that’s all that comes out of it for me, then it was worth it.”
Sam looked over at Kate, then back at Jack. “Okay, Katie. If you want to run off with this fellow, I’m not gonna stop you.”
“Daddy!” she squeaked in embarrassment. “Are you done grilling him now?”
“Just one more thing,” Sam said and, for the first time there was a twinkle in his eye. “You have my blessing. If you drop and give me 10.”
“Oh no,” Kate said, shaking her head, but Jack was already getting up from the table.
“No problem, sir,” he said and got down to start the push-ups.
“Okay, you asked for it,” Kate said laughing, joining him on the floor, and then it was a contest, with each of them trying to go faster than the other. Jack had to admit defeat after 40, but Kate went on to do ten more.
He rolled to his side, pretending to gasp for air and she rolled against him, laughing.
Bachelor production office
“Oh this is good,” Tom said, nodding eagerly. “The small town girl. Heartbreak and humor. Everyone is going to be rooting for her after this.”
”Possibly,” Isabel sniffed. She was still pushing for Shannon or Gabriela while Ben was a diehard Juliet backer.
“And then after dinner, when she showed him her photographs,” Tom continued excitedly. “I can feel the sparks from here, I tell you.”
Kate laughs as she points out the blurry photos she took when she was just starting out as a teenager. “These are terrible,” she says. “But I love this one.” She holds up a photo of a large oak in the middle of an empty field. “This tree ... it’s really special to me. My friend Tom and I buried a time capsule under it when I was 12. “
“Is it still there?” Jack asks, staring intently at the photo.
“No.” Kate’s voice softens and her eyes grow moist. “I dug it up after.... He was killed in a car accident a few years ago and,” her voice breaks a little, “I wanted something to remember him by.”
Jack doesn’t say anything, just takes her head in his hands so that she’s looking at him and then he kisses her, both their eyes shut tight.
“You see?” Tom said. “United by tragedy. These two, together? It’s fate.”
“If he’s looking for tragedy, Shannon’s got Kate beat, hands down,” Isabel pointed out, “She’s lost nearly her whole family. And she didn’t kill any of them!”
“You’re a hopeless romantic, you know that, Tom?” Ben said with a laugh. “Jack’s never going to choose someone who lied about her background. Especially a background like hers!”
“Well, we got the mother out of there at least -- convinced her to take a vacation on us,” Tom said with an aggrieved sigh. “We don’t want it all coming out when this airs.”
“Things always come out,” Ben insisted. “I’m telling you, he’s just putting on a good front here with Kate. He’s going to pick Juliet. And then I am going to say, ‘I told you so.’”
Jack couldn’t believe how glad he was to be back in Los Angeles. Even the smog was like welcoming an old friend as he first tasted the air outside the airport again.
Since Shannon was from Malibu, he could tack on a few days at home with the last of the hometown visits. He could sleep in his own bed, raid his own wardrobe.
He had to admit that one of the things he was looking forward to most was catching up with Sawyer. You couldn’t do that over a text message or even over the phone, really. He was eager to talk to his father and Claire and get their input on these last four women. His family knew him best but Sawyer knew these women better than anyone. He’d seen them through this whole process and now Jack had some of the missing puzzle pieces. Together, Jack was sure they’d be able to narrow it down. With one visit left to go, he had no idea who he was going to send home next, let alone who might be “The One.”
In the limo, he gave Sawyer a quick call, as he’d promised. He felt a pang of disappointment when he got only voicemail. “Hey, it’s Jack,” he said, unable to stop from grinning as he spoke. “Back in LA, baby. I’ve got my visit with Shannon tomorrow but let’s definitely get that drink afterward. I need your help, man. Juggling four women is tough work!”
Home stretch, he thought. It was good to be home.
It felt like he’d been gone for months, not weeks, when he unlocked his front door. The house looked the same. It was always neat as a pin, whether he was here or not, thanks to his housekeeper. Joan was more than a housekeeper, really. She ran the errands he never had time for, so the dry cleaning was hung up in the closet, the mail was sitting on the coffee table in a neat pile and there was fresh juice in the refrigerator. There were even fresh green plants scattered around the living room. It reminded him of how the crew had brought in flowers and candles to artfully stage around the houses he’d just visited. He rubbed his forehead. He was just tired. And he had become too used to being on camera so that he felt like he couldn’t even relax at in his own house anymore.
Maybe if he really found someone through this process, she’d be the one bringing in fresh flowers. Maybe it would really feel like a home again, instead of just a place where he showered and slept.
He kicked off his shoes and started going through the mail. It was mostly bills and catalogs. All his bills were paid online automatically, so he put all those aside without opening them. A small package caught his eye. The return address was the network, so it must have something to do with the show. There was an unlabeled DVD inside and a short, typed note asking him to watch it at his earliest convenience. Now was as good a time as any he figured, so he popped it into the DVD player.
The image was grainy and he wasn’t sure at first what he was seeing. His hand went to his mouth when he realized he was watching Kate. In the shower. He let out a startled laugh. Sawyer hadn’t been joking. Kate, nude from the waist up, was washing her hair, trying her damnedest to get a patch of blue paint out of it. This was clearly the day of the paintball game, just moments after Sawyer had offered to get him this very footage.
He felt slightly queasy. He didn’t know what to think, except that this was an incredibly strange present. He knew he should do the right thing and hit “STOP,” but just then the film skipped ahead.
A shaggy head of blonde hair obscured the camera and when it moved aside, Jack’s stomach lurched. Sawyer. Sawyer was in the shower with Kate, kissing her. He couldn’t see his face, just that hair, but he knew. The purpose for this little present took on a whole new, sickening meaning.
He reached for the remote in disgust, accidentally hitting “FAST FORWARD.” The blonde head had moved and he could see now it wasn’t Sawyer at all. It was Cassidy. Kate’s eyes were closed, as tightly as they’d been when she kissed him, but her mouth was open as Cassidy’s head dipped lower, to one of her breasts...
Jack stopped the DVD before things went any further.
He took another look at the DVD, and at the packaging; there was no way to tell who had sent it. But it could only be Sawyer. Sawyer, who had offered to show him Kate in the shower. And now he had. It was also painfully clear now that he had to have been the one who’d dug up that mug shot.
Jack felt sick. It was bad enough when he thought it was Sawyer in that shower with Kate, but this, knowing that he’d been lied to and manipulated, was so much worse. He’d considered Sawyer a friend, maybe the best friend he’d made in years.
He was on his second Scotch when his cell rang. He knew even without looking it would be Sawyer. Jack turned the ringer off and then he threw the phone across the room.
He’d been wrong about Sawyer, wrong about Kate. He was fucking wrong about everything.
Coming up on The Bachelor: Paradise Island: Jack’s visit to Shannon’s hometown ends in tears.