Summary: Sawyer goes back home
Pairing: Mostly gen, mild Sawyer/Juliet
Spoilers: For LaFleur
Word count: 3800
Notes: Many thanks to zelda_zee for the beta.
Sawyer wouldn't have gotten on that sub if it hadn't been for Juliet. He had planned to stay put, see this time shift thing out, get back to when they should be, because God knows, once they left the island, that would be it; they'd be stuck in the '70s forever.
It's not until after he reminds Juliet that it's 1974 back home too that he actually thinks about what it would be like to go back. And then it hits him. Back then. Before everything went to hell. He feels an almost sickening rush at the thought: he has to go back.
He doesn't ask Juliet why she wants to leave, what she plans to do when she gets there. He just assumes that anywhere is better than this goddamned island, that she's looking forward to driving a car again, having whole libraries of books at her fingertips. People who aren't trying to kill her every five minutes.
She doesn't blink when Horace says they have to be drugged for the trip, but it's enough to make Sawyer reconsider. But she's so fucking calm about it, that he figures, Oh, what the hell? If they never wake up again, well, that's that, right?
When they come to, they're in Los Angeles, in a hotel. Sawyer's groggy but Juliet's already awake, watching the TV avidly. It's the news – sports – and Sawyer stares, lost in a wave of nostalgia as some anchorman in a horrible plaid suit and ridiculously wide tie talks about the Los Angeles Rams, the St. Louis Cardinals, rattling off the names of teams and cities that haven't gone together for, Jesus, decades now.
No, not now he reminds himself, glancing over at Juliet, who's just as mesmerized by the TV as he is. Now, as he knows it, hasn't happened yet. Which is why he's here.
"I forgot... or maybe I was too young... all the war footage," Juliet says. She seems dazed, like she's been watching for hours. "And they just announced -- ha, it's breaking news -- Nixon's being impeached."
"Damn, I remember that." Sawyer shakes his head, picturing his dad cursing out the president's misdeeds and saying they should run the bastard out of the country. His mouth twists in a smile. He'd forgotten about that, how his dad would rant on and on and his ma would just roll her eyes and change the subject. Used to make him laugh. Once he got warmed up, Dad was hard to shush, but Ma managed it, most of the time. Early on, Sawyer knew she was the one calling the shots. Dad was just the one making all the noise.
He's lost in some half-remembered conversation from when he was a boy -- he can picture the living room the way it was, the TV on in the background, the fucking brown paneling for God's sake, until he realizes Juliet is talking to him.
"How do you feel?" she's asking. He glares at her to mind her own business, he doesn't need her inside his head, until she adds, "Groggy? Hungry? I could go for some food."
"Yeah," he answers with a laugh. It's not like she can read his thoughts, of course. "I could go for some breakfast. And coffee, definitely coffee."
They find a wardrobe of '70s clothes in the closet and can't stop laughing as they hold up the outfits, the floppy hats and halter-tops for her, the super-tight jeans for him. "I guess it really is 1974 all over," he sighs and pulls on the damn jeans. He feels like a girl trying to squeeze into them and of course Juliet won't stop teasing him about looking like a porn star.
It hasn't sunk in yet that they're really here for good. For now, they're just playing dress-up, eager to explore this strange, new, but oddly familiar world. And damn, but everything is green and brown and orange, especially in the cheap-ass diner next to their hotel.
Sawyer pronounces the coffee crap but he keeps drinking it. Free refills, after all. Even with all the food they order, the bill only comes to $4.45 for both of them. Dharma set them up with some money, so Sawyer goes to figure out 20 percent, like always, and then says, "Fuck it," and throws down a $10 bill. The waitress nearly faints when he says to keep the change.
The first few days are spent just knocking around, like kids in a retro museum. They go see The Godfather on the big screen and Sawyer resists the urge to repeat the lines he knows by heart.
The gas isn't as cheap as everything else; he'd forgotten that prices went sky high -- for those days -- around '73. 'Course, anything under a dollar is still laughably cheap to them. They buy a VW van that's a dead ringer for the old Dharma one for about $200, and fill it up for pennies.
Juliet places a call to her parents' house, just to hear their voices, and then hangs up before they even answer. Sawyer thinks of doing the same, but it feels like bad luck so he doesn't.
Before they leave LA, they do a bit of research and swing by the residence of Christian and Margot Shephard. It's a huge house, and since it's summer there's a bunch of boys in the front yard chasing each other around with water pistols --- Super Soakers didn't come in for at least ten more ten years.
It's not hard to peg which one is Jack. Sure, there aren’t any tats yet and no buzz-cut, but there's one boy who's taller and far more competitive than the rest and when the boy ducks his head and lets out an unexpectedly high giggle, Juliet nudges Sawyer with her elbow. "That's him," she smiles, and for a second he thinks she might cry.
"Okay, let's go," she says, and Sawyer starts the engine. He looks back at the group of boys and damned if Jack -- wow, that really is him -- stares right back, trademark squint and hands-on-hips stance already in place.
"Yeah, yeah, we're goin', Doc," Sawyer tells the rearview mirror. "Be seein' you."
He asks Juliet if she doesn't have somewhere else she wants to be, but she just sticks right by him, so she's there when he makes the drive to Jasper. The van kicks up a lot of dust on the old driveway, making his eyes water when the house comes into view.
It looks exactly the same -- yard only half-mowed, porch swing hanging crooked and the dahlias his ma planted the only touch of class. The place looks more beat-up than he remembered, more poor. He gets a kind of clenching feeling in his stomach and hits the brakes.
"We don't have to go up. We can go anywhere," Juliet says quietly and Sawyer clears his throat -- damn dust.
Sawyer makes a U-turn --- dad always drove right over the grass, he didn't care -- and heads to town. They hit the first bar they find and Sawyer knocks back two whiskeys and a beer. Juliet goes to play the jukebox, giving him some room. Her first choice breaks him out of his gloom: he can't help but chuckle when he realizes she’s picked "Bungle in the Jungle."
He walks over to her and they pick out more songs -- Bad Company, The Doors, Steely Dan. He's got a good buzz going now, so when "Do It Again," starts to play, he takes her hand and pulls her to him. He's not sure what kind of dancing they did back then if it wasn't disco or line dancing, but she's swaying against him nice and slow, and that feels about right.
He thinks maybe he should grab some random girl, someone he doesn't know, but when, a few hours later, they fall into bed together for the first time, that feels right too.
They don't say much, because there isn't much to say. She takes a drag off his cigarette -- damn, it feels good to smoke again -- and he thinks how the southern heat is just like the island, and yet, not at all.
They spend the next few nights like some kind of newlyweds, drinking and fucking and then going out to late, lazy breakfasts where neither one eats or says much.
Sure, the faces around them are new and they can come and go whenever they like, but it still feels like they're playing house, like they never left the Dharma village. It all feels like a game, some kind of silly make-believe that's going to end the next time they close their eyes.
He's been dreading seeing his parents, putting off a return trip to the house, when he realizes his plan is crap. He can't wait it out here for two whole years. He's going to cut this off at the source and he doesn't want Juliet there for that. She seems to always know what he's thinking, so he's not really surprised when he wakes up and finds a note that says she took the van to Miami. She doesn't need to add that she’s gone to look up her folks. He's not sure when she'll be back, or even if she's coming back, but that's just not important right now.
It takes him six months to find "Mr. Sawyer." He’s in Memphis, going by a different name. Sawyer makes sure, really fuckin' sure, that it's him. He's going to kill the same man twice, but not the same way. That took too long. No, he's going to go with his original plan of just blowing the guy's head off. He catches the man who ruined his life peeing in an alley and his hand doesn't even shake as he raises the pistol. He's smarter than to aim for the heart. It's the head that's quickest.
There's no letter anymore -- and never will be now -- so there's nothing to say. The man doesn't need to know why he's dying. He just needs to be dead. Sawyer pulls the trigger once, twice, waits, heart pounding, until he's sure.
He goes back to his hotel and is all for just crawling under the sheets, but his clothes are soaking wet. He's shivering hard enough to make his teeth chatter, nerves and cold finally hitting home. It was raining tonight, just like it was that night in Sydney, and he hadn't even realized.
Making the drive back to Jasper is almost a celebration. He cranks the shitty AM radio when that old Three Dog Night song "Shambala," comes on and he half expects to see Hurley and Charlie riding shotgun, and Jin, in the back, grinning his head off, with the damn dog barking away.
It's just him and his memories, though, even if, for a minute, he thinks he hears Charlie laughing.
The yard's been mowed since last time, but otherwise the house looks exactly the same. He's parked on the street, little more than a glorified driveway really. It's as close as he wants to get.
The little family piles out of the house on their way to Sunday service and Sawyer feels a fierce stab of pride as he watches Ma, Dad, and the kid -- he can't think of his younger self any other way -- all looking as normal as normal can be. Ma pushes the kid along -- always daydreaming, he was -- and Dad barks at them to hurry it up, but he's not really mad.
Sawyer nods with satisfaction. It's just an ordinary day. Same as any other. Same as it always will be.
He's done what he came to do and now he can do whatever the hell he likes. So why then, does he go back to the same hotel where Juliet left him? He gets good and drunk and ponders why women are always leaving him and why the fuck he stands for it -- or why he never leaves first anymore. He suddenly thinks of Cassidy and decides to make the drive to New Mexico, until he remembers that she'd just be some little girl with pigtails and scraped knees.
It was good for a laugh to look up the Boy Doc, but he's not about to do that with everyone he ever knew, so instead he heads for Miami, and the one person he knows who's still a fuckin' grown-up.
He finds Juliet easily enough, tending bar at some beach dive. She gives him a long, hard look, like she knows what he's been up to, but she doesn't ask, just sets a beer in front of him and says, "That'll be 75¢."
"Highway robbery," Sawyer smiles and damn, but it's good to be around someone who gets the joke.
If there was another guy in the meantime -- and judging by the way the men at the bar come on to her, there probably was -- he figures it's none of his business.
They fall into a routine, a kind of regular life together and it all feels strangely normal. He still expects to wake up back on the island -- or back in 2004 -- each morning, but instead there's just Juliet lying next to him, and the same loud yellow-and-orange sheets.
Two years pass fast enough. The same things happen in the news, sure, but it's different enough from Jasper that he doesn't feel like he's just looking back at his own life through a fun-house mirror.
All anyone can talk about is the fucking bicentennial and Sawyer grits his teeth each time anyone mentions it, picturing all too well the 'Spirit of '76'' stamp on the letter he carried around his whole life. It's not like he was going to exactly forget the year his pa blew his ma's head off, but he's surprisingly jumpy when anything reminds him of the fights they had leading up to that night, like a TV ad for Froot Loops or some damn thing. He feels that knot retying in his stomach when they start playing Elton John's "new" song, 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart." He remembers the first time he ever heard it; because just a week later, his ma was dead. When he heard it again, he was in a social worker's car, on the way to some relatives he'd never heard of and who didn't end up keeping him more than a month anyway.
Juliet insists on going with him, even though he lies about where he's headed. "I just need to check on 'em," he says, and she wraps her arms around him in silent assent.
He meant to get there sooner, but the van breaks down and the shop lies about when they can get the parts, so they don't roll into Jasper until June 29, the fucking night of.
He's just going to drive by, just make sure things are all quiet on the home front, but he pales when he hears the sound of angry voices, even before he turns off the engine. Juliet puts her hand on his, cautioning him to wait instead of barging in.
But he doesn't want to go in there. He just wants to drive off again, pretend he doesn't hear the shouting. He can't make out the exact words, but it all sounds sickening familiar.
"It doesn't mean...." Juliet says. "They could be arguing about anything."
"They never argued like that. Not until... tonight," Sawyer answers. That's not quite true. There were a few doozies before then, nights when he stuck his head under the pillow, but the pitch and intensity of this particular fight is uniquely hammered into his head.
He sits there, gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles and sweat-slick hands, trying to tell himself that he's wrong, that he fixed everything, that this can't be fucking happening. He's just managed to convince himself that this is different, has to be different, when he hears his mother scream. That scream.
Sawyer jumps from the van and hits the ground running. All his life, he wished he'd had the fucking guts not to hide, that he'd run in there and saved his ma. He's done this so many times in his dreams, ran for all he was worth, ran until his lungs nearly burst, but he’s never fast enough. Never. He freezes at the sound of the gunshot.
His feet are rooted to the spot and he can't even move after the second shot. He tells himself it's just a nightmare, the same fucking nightmare he's lived his whole life, but there's never been someone running up behind him, yelling at him to wait.
Juliet's shouts should be waking him from the nightmare, but he just plunges in deeper. This is really happening. He runs for the door, suddenly free from the spell of those shots, and he's telling himself he's not too late, that if he fucking traveled back in time to stop this, then he fucking stopped it.
But there, just inside the door, is his mother. The room spins as he takes in the blood; god, so much blood, and her legs sprawled in that unnatural way. One arm is bent over her ruined face, as if she fell holding it out, asking, pleading with Pa not to shoot.
The heavy, crawling feeling of a nightmare grips him harder as he walks towards his bedroom. It feels like an eternity before he can open the door and time freezes as he takes in the tableau he's never seen from this angle before, not fully lit, not... like this.
It was a saving grace, being under that bed, and not having to see what's left of his father's face, the spray of blood over the walls, the bed. The body slumps there, so horrific, even in death, that he half expects his father to rise, pick up the rifle that's laying on the floor, and finish the job.
There's the smallest, softest sound, like a sob or a gasp, and Sawyer sinks down. He's there, under the bed right now. He crawls on his hands and knees, slowly, until he can peer into a small set of blue eyes, unnervingly wide with shock.
"It's okay, kid," Sawyer says softly, his voice failing him. How in the hell do you talk to yourself when you've just seen your dad blow his head off? When you're a complete fucking stranger?
He reaches out a hand to the boy. He must have jostled the bed frame somehow, because just then, the body on the bed falls forward, just missing him. Sawyer jumps back with a scream and then the little boy is screaming and then Sawyer doesn't even know which one he is anymore.
It was all for nothing, and here he is, that kid, still fucked for life because fate was always going to play out the exact same way. "Kid," Sawyer sobs. "Don't come back. You hear me? DON'T YOU EVER FUCKING COME BACK!"
The boy has gone deathly silent now and Sawyer expects him to bolt for the window or something --- he can't remember anymore what he did -- but it's Sawyer who runs from the room.
Juliet is in the living room, kneeling over his mother's body. "I called the police," she says. "I had to look up the number because I forgot there's no 911 and then I remembered you used to be able to just call the operator and..." her voice sounds strange but she keeps talking, filling the room with words, because he's pretty damn sure that if she doesn't do that she's going to start screaming too.
By the time the cops arrive, the boy is gone. Sawyer doesn't try to explain what happened -- how the fuck could he? He just lets Juliet do the talking. He's not really listening to what she's saying, what kind of excuse she's giving for them being there, because the world is fading in and zooming out in an alarming way.
He stumbles to the ground, retching out his insides and suddenly Juliet is by his side, making him lie down in the cool grass. The stars come and go and so do the police and the flashing lights.
He wakes in the back of the van, shouting. He dreamt the same old nightmare -- that he was under the bed, unable to move, but this time was worse, so, so much worse, because this time he could also somehow see the bodies of his parents from under there. Juliet wipes his forehead with her shift sleeve --some crazy paisley pattern -- and tells him they're safe, they're in Florida.
"What about the kid?" Sawyer asks in a panic. He sits up, insisting they go back, that they find the kid, that they take him in so he doesn't go into the damn system, but Juliet just gently pushes him back down on the bench seat.
"We can't do that, James," she says gently. "It just wouldn't work."
"Like hell," he growls, shoving her hand away. "What the fuck do you know? It's my life, woman."
"So you want to be your own father now?" she snaps and he can't believe that she's mad at him. "You can't change anything. You tried your best and it didn't work. We can't change anything," she finishes quietly. The anger has left her voice and now she just looks sad, so very sad that he almost feels guilty for dragging her into the fucked-up horror show of his past.
Sawyer remembers Daniel, muttering in that crazy way of his about Charlotte, whether to warn her or not. "I fucking told myself not to come back, whatever good that did . I just managed to scare the shit out of myself even more." He covers his face with his hands. "I should have died then, that night. I wish to God I had," he chokes out.
Juliet takes him in her arms and rocks him like his ma used to when he was really little. He tries to picture his ma the way she was, before. Wrapped in soft arms and nestled against Juliet’s breast, he can see his mother suddenly, blonde and beautiful and smiling like an angel.
The second Juliet lets go the vision is going to fade, and so he wishes, like a little boy would, that she won’t let go, at least, not yet.