Title: Living In The Future
Rating: PG13 (the plot bunny wouldn't allow more than this)
Word Count: around 4400
Disclaimer: if Lost was mine it'd be a completely different show. Come on, I'm too poor to pay Darlton, if they wanted to sue me.
Summary: Three years after the rescue, Sayid receives a call.
A/N: Title blatantly stolen from a song by Bruce Springsteen but it was fitting enough I have to say. I don't think that Ben was in the S3 finale coffin but this time he is for the sake of the plot; I guess I procrastinated a bit on the whole Cooper and rescue things and is pretty angsty on the whole, but I really hope it's fine. Thanks to lasamy for betaing again, I take advantage of her ;)
Sayid’s apartment is a monolocal, somewhere in San Francisco. He rented it already furnished two weeks after they were brought back in that ship to LA and hasn’t moved since. He works in a small restaurant a few blocks down. When he gets in, he turns on the lights; his hallway is grey, with just a table with a phone, a cellphone and a block of yellow post-its with a pen near on. At the right a door leads to a small kitchen which confines with the bathroom, at the left it leads to a room which is where he sleeps, reads, watches TV and doesn’t invite guests if not on a rare occasion.
Today is Friday and he’s just come home after the lunch shift; he goes to hang his jacket but the cellphone rings.
Sayid shivers. Only one person has got that number. That phone is good just for text messages and calls, but Sayid never uses it. He never makes calls and he never sends text messages. But he receives one, every Monday at 10 PM, and it’s been like this for three years.
Now it’s six PM.
Sayid takes the phone and pushes the green button.
“We agreed not to talk, didn’t we?”, he says first thing.
On the other side someone breathes.
Sayid’s hand loses the grip on the jacket, which drops to the ground.
“He hung himself. The son of a bitch.”
“Has someone attended the funeral?”
“The doc’s gone to the funeral parlor. Funeral itself isn’t ‘til two days.”
“How... how is he doing?”
“Gets worse. Each day.”
Sayid doesn’t talk. He guesses that on the other side one could hear his labored breathing.
“Where is the parlor?”
Sayid writes the address on a post-it, then shakes his head.
“Alright. I am going to leave this evening, I hope to be there by lunch-time.”
“See ya then.”
Sayid hangs up and gets the jacket back from the ground. He hangs it and goes into his living room, where a bed is in a corner, neat and with white, clean sheets. A TV is on the other side, shelfs for books cover the rest of the walls also if half of them are empty and a quarter of the other half is full of his random things, with a desk in the middle. He sits and opens a drawer, taking a notebook out of it. On the first page there’s a list, written in Arabic.
They’re all names; the upper part of the page is divided from the bottom by a straight line. The names written above the line are all crossed. Of the ones below, some are crossed, some have a question mark near, others have one or more little xs near.
Strike was for the dead, the question mark for the ones that disappeared since when they left the island. The little xs were for the ones who were 'losing it', as Sawyer said when he texted him.
He searches for Benjamin Linus and strikes. Then he searches for Jack Shephard and adds a fifth little x. Then he stands up, searches a number on the phone book and calls the nearest car rental agency. Sure he isn’t going by plane.
Meanwhile he has a look at the list as a whole. The only awkward name is Kate’s, which is circled in pencil as she’s the only one he couldn’t put into any of his categories. But it doesn’t escape Sayid that the only plain names are his own and James Sawyer Ford.
The night following Jack’s call to the rescue boat, everyone joined them back on the beach; there wasn’t any kind of party or something like that, not after what had happened that day.
Sayid remembered Jack and Kate consoling Claire, whose cries could be heard through all the beach; Desmond was in his tent drinking himself to death while Hurley kept an eye on him, Ben was tied to a tree with someone keeping an eye on him, Juliet hanged around trying to be useful if someone needed it and all Sayid could notice was Sawyer, sitting on the shore, quite far from everyone, staring at the sea, knees drawn loosely to his chest, gun at his side.
Sayid went there and crouched down next to him, without saying a word. Sawyer didn’t make any objection to it but didn’t talk, either.
It took half an hour before Sawyer spoke.
“Why are you stayin’ here?”
“It seemed to me like you could use some company.”
Sawyer just gave him a bitter laugh in response but didn’t complain.
Sayid hadn’t imagined the follow-up, though.
“I killed a man.”
“Well, I know”, he answered thinking about that talk with Juliet just a few days before.
“That was in Sydney. I’m talkin’ ‘bout another. One I killed on this fucking piece of rock.”
He looked at Sayid like he expected him to run away at once, but Sayid just held his stare.
“You know who you are talking to, Sawyer. I’m not going to hold something against you on this basis.”
And then Sawyer shrugged, turned to the sea and, though in bits and pieces, told him the whole story, in a flat tone.
“So, that’s it. I don’t wanna hear you tellin’ me you’ve done far worse ‘cause I don’t care. I’ve done this and is enough.”
“I was not going to. But I think there’s something else.”
“There is. But that’s dumb.”
“You think it is. Maybe it’s not.”
Sawyer took a breath, looking not too convinced.
“Thing is, after the guy in Sydney, I was feelin’ guilty. I still am, I think. But for this one, I ain’t. The more I think ‘bout it, the more I think the son of a bitch had it comin’ and I couldn’t not. But... fuck it, I can’t...”
Sayid blinked, while all the pieces fell into place. Maybe Sawyer couldn’t place it, but he could.
“You mean you want to feel guilty but you don’t?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. Before, as long as I felt guilty, ‘twas alright ‘cause it meant I regretted it and I... I wasn’t becomin’ like him. But now it feels just like I am, fuck it!”, he admitted throwing some little stone in the sea.
Sayid could feel frustration building behind those words, as things were clearer now. Most of all Sawyer’s behavior those days.
“I don’t think you are. Like him, I meant. If you were, now you wouldn’t even ask yourself the question. It hasn’t been too much time since you did it. I think you will figure it out eventually.”
“You think I was right?”
That was an itchy question. Sayid couldn’t really say he had an answer, but after what Sawyer did that day, he guessed he owed him an answer at least.
“I am the last person you should ask, do you understand it? I don’t have such an answer. But anyway, it doesn’t change what I’ve come to think of you.”
Sawyer let a bitter laugh escape his lips.
“Is that good, what you’re thinkin’ of me?”
“You realized you saved my life today?”
Sawyer just shaked his head and raised his head again. He looked just so tired he couldn’t even stand if he wanted.
“Would ya just do me a favor?”
“Sure. If I can...”
In the next five seconds, Sawyer’s head was on Sayid’s shoulder and Sayid thought he really didn’t want to move, not now. He settled for looking at the sea, too, not feeling the weight anymore. After ten minutes he brough an arm around Sawyer’s shoulder and nothing changed.
He didn’t remember how long they stayed like that.
It’s two in the afternoon when Sayid parks his rented car near the funeral parlor. The weather is good but chilly; he gets out of the car, wearing a pair of plain jeans and a black leather jacket. He puts a pair of sunglasses on, lets his hair loose from the ponytail they were in and fall on his face.
Sayid crosses the road and steps into the parlor, where a tall, black man greets him and tells him that there’s already a visitor inside. Sayid nods and when the guy is gone turns to the other side of the room. The coffin is at the bottom, surrounded by chairs; one is taken and Sayid can see a blond head. He crosses the room, takes the sunglasses off and takes the next seat.
Sawyer turns his head and Sayid has a better look at him; they haven’t seen each other since three years, but he finds he hasn’t changed that much, even if he is changed.
He’s a bit thinner than Sayid remembered and though his hair is still blond and long, he has some gray in his stubble, not that much though; his lips stretch in a thin smile and his blue eyes shine with something close to relief from under the glasses. It’s strange, Sayid thinks, he didn’t remember Sawyer wearing them also when he wasn’t reading. And he thinks it’s the same pair he had on the island, but maybe they’re just similar. Sawyer’s wearing an oversized purple and blue flannel shirt, faded jeans and Sayid thinks he needs to buy a new pair of shoes, since his sneakers are completely worn out. Of course, he was reading before Sayid came in. On his leg lies open an old paperback edition of The Trial which looks about to fall into pieces.
“Hey.”, he answers in that same voice he remembered.
“How long have you been here?”
“Couple hours. Nothin’ better to do, I guess, ‘n I don’t think anyone’s gonna show up.”
Sayid nods and has a look a the coffin.
“What do you think?”
“I ain’t thinkin’ nothin’ about this. What should I think? It’s becomin’ so fucked up. So fuckin’ fucked up.”
Sayid stands up and goes near the coffin.
“You wanna open it?”
“No. No, I’d rather not. Sawyer, I think... I think we should talk. But not here.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Probably. There’s a bar just outside.”
“That will be better.”
Sawyer stands up and leaves, Sayid turns his back to the coffin and does the same. When he’s out, the air has never seemed fresher.
When the freighter reached Los Angeles, both Sayid and Sawyer had to get away as quickly as possible.
Sayid didn’t have the slightest idea of which crazy people rescued them, but at one point during the journey they brought him and Sawyer into a cabin, where they spoke to a guy who looked like a businessman but was dressed like a doctor. He told them that after hitting land they were free to go as long as they didn’t have contact with any other survivor and never spoke about the island. He also added that they were the only two allowed to do as they pleased (because it seemed they wanted to keep everyone else in Los Angeles).
Sayid could only ask why and the freighter guy answered that they both didn’t want to be famous, he could bet, and no one would believe an ex-con and and an ex Iraqui soldier anyway.
Sawyer spat And what about the fuckin’ others? in the guy’s face and he calmly answered that if he had any contact with a fellow survivor, he or she was bound to disappear and it was enough to make Sawyer pale as a sheet.
Because, Sayid realized, it was already happening. No one had seen Claire or Sun since they got on that boat and he doubted that they were going to get off. And after that talk, they were put into a cabin for two and Sayid hadn't seen anyone else from the island since.
Sayid resolved to leave the city and Sawyer agreed it was for the best but that he would be staying there ‘keepin’ an eye’. The day after, when Sayid was bound to leave, Sawyer showed up at his hotel and gave him the phone.
“I’m the only one who knows the number,” he explained. “I don’t think it’d be wise to, well, call, but I think I could text ya once in a while. With news. I ain’t gonna speak to anyone for sure, but they haven’t told I couldn’t watch what they do.”
Sayid nodded and took it. They shook hands, Sayid made to get into the taxi waiting for him and then thought better and went back.
“Sawyer, there’s... something I should tell you. In case we don’t... you know, see each other again.”
Sayid swallowed; he really didn’t want to, but he felt like he owed it.
“I don’t think I have ever... well, told you how sorry I am about...”
Sawyer held one hand up.
“If you’re going to talk ‘bout that time with the inhalers, stop it.”
“It’s over. It’s through.”
“I don’t think..”
“I’ve been through much worse. Stop that.”
Sayid wanted to reply, but Sawyer just shook his head and turned, leaving the block. Sayid got into a taxi and it was the last time he had seen Sawyer until then.
In those three years, the text message had always arrived. At first it was decent news. People had gotten released in pairs so that at least they could talk to each other, Sayid figured. Jack was with Kate, Juliet with Ben, Hurley with Desmond, Locke with Jin of everyone. Claire and Sun were just gone.
Desmond was the first of the survivors to disappear, three months after the rescue.
Hurley hadn’t put a foot out of his house for two years then and every time Sayid got a text with his name on it, he sighed and added an x.
Jin disappeared too, a year later.
Locke was the first to die. A fall from the stairs with the wheelchair, they said. Sawyer had added that he didn’t think it was an accident.
Juliet disappeared too and Ben didn’t seem too disturbed by the fact. Sayid had never had anything to do with his name until Sawyer’s last text.
Kate and Jack ended up estranged from each other and Sawyer wrote that she just changed, for the worst, though she definitely wasn’t getting crazy, and that she got back with her previous husband who had run to LA as soon as she called him while Jack was slowly destroying himself, convinced that they had to go back.
Kate’s name was circled because Sayid didn’t know what to make of it.
Jack’s xs were growing.
Sayid sits at the table of the bar in front of the parlor; Sawyer is in front of him. Sayid eyes his cup of tea, while Sawyer has one of hot coffee in his hands but still isn’t drinking and doesn’t take a sip until Sayid does.
“How are you doing?”, Sayid asks.
“I keep goin’. Not the best ever, but can’t complain. I got a job, though.”
“What, you work in some library?”
Sawyer laughs, though it’s a short laugh and lasts mere seconds.
“Ain’t I an open book? Yeah, the kids’ library ‘round my block. It’s quiet, pay’s decent and gets me through. You?”
“Should I call ya Captain Kebab now?”
“That is the lamest nickname you have ever given me, do you realize it?”
“I ain’t given nicknames in a while. Maybe I’m rusty.”
“And anyway my speciality is falafel.”
“Good for you, ‘cause mine is Indian take away.”
Sayid drinks his tea, which tastes awfully like nothing, and then notices something while watching Sawyer’s hands clench around the mug.
“Sawyer, are your hands shaking?”
Sawyer raises his head and looks at him, then at his hands.
“Fuck. I don’t even notice anymore.”
When he sees how puzzled Sayid is, he shrugs.
“Sometimes they just start shakin’. It started a few weeks after the rescue. Ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.”
“You could see a doc...”
“No. Damn sure I ain’t. He’d ask me if I know why. And I know why.”
Sawyer brings the mug to his lips and finishes his coffee. When he puts it down, his hands are still shaking.
“How long does it last?”
“Depends. Can last a minute and an hour. You know, you look better than I do.”
“Maybe it’s because I don’t live here.”
Sawyer nods and looks outside the window.
“Yeah. Maybe you’re right. Oh, fuck it, everything’s fuckin’ wrong.”
Sayid leaves his tea be and even if he doesn’t actually know why he’s doing it, he brings himself forward across the table and takes both of Sawyer’s hands in his. He can feel the shaking under his fingers.
“Tell me. Please.”
“I ain’t ever told anyone. I don’t know if I can.”
Now his voice is shaking too. Sayid has the idea that three years of keeping everything together alone are too much even for someone like Sawyer.
“It’s just... I can’t stand this. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen ‘em disappearin’, I’ve seen ‘em dying, I was at Locke’s funeral n’ I had to hide since the doc was the only one there, I’ve seen Freckles becomin’ someone else, and now I’ve got to see the doc goin’ freakin’ mad. And do you know what’s the whole matter, with him at least?”
“That if I could just talk to him, he wouldn’t be like that. He’s needin' someone who gets what he’s going through and Kate fuckin’ doesn’t. While I fuckin’ do. But I can’t ‘cause I don’t know what they’d do then and I can just watch. You know what? It’s the same that happened between you n’ me.”
“What do you mean?”
“That night on the beach. I don’t remember what I was thinkin’ very well, but if you hadn’t come and told me what you told me, I don’t know what I could have done. I had that gun for a reason.”
Sayid swallows, not knowing what to say to such a confession.
“Havin’ someone understand what I was going through was... well, maybe you saved my ass there. And that’s what he needs now. I could give it to him, but I can’t. And I can’t stand it.”
Some seconds of silence passed, then Sawyer looked at him again and was deadly serious.
“Sayid, don’t tell me you haven’t realized it.”
Sayid looks him in the eyes and suddenly understands what Sawyer means, but asks anyway.
“Tell me. I think I know, but...”
“We are the only ones who are still around and haven’t lost it.You think it means somethin’?”
Sayid lowers his eyes. He wishes he knew.
“I do not know. Not by far. But perhaps it does.”
“Maybe. But I dunno how much I can go on without losin’ it.”
It takes a look to see that Sawyer is genuinely scared of ending up like the others.
“You will not.”
“How can you tell it?”
“If you haven’t lost it on the island, you will not lose it here, at least that's what I think. And you are too stubborn to lose it anyway.”
“Right, but I don’t think I can do this anymore. Not for long at last. Next time it’s gonna be the doc’s funeral, Sayid. Don’t try to tell me it won’t ‘cause I can see it comin’ a mile away.”
Sayid can’t find anything to say at that. He slowly leaves Sawyer’s hands. They don’t shake anymore, at least for the time being.
“If we went to my place for now? I’d really prefer to talk there and not here.”
He stands up and pays the bill, then follows Sawyer out of the bar.
Sawyer’s place is completely different from his, Sayid thinks when he passes through the door. The only word he can find for it is cozy. It really is just one big room with a small kitchen and a table in a corner, but Sawyer knows how to keep it, differently from him. All the walls are covered in bookshelves which are stuffed with books, paperbacks and hardbacks that seem to want to fall off; the only section which isn’t full of books is packed with records, both CDs and LPs. The record player is on a cheap tray near. A cheap laptop lies closed on a wooden desk, books and paper is scattered all over the floor and the bed is covered with a blanket which looks hand-knitted in at least five shades of blue. The desk is covered with notebooks, there are a couple of crossword magazines on it, too. There’s no television but the feeling is that he lives there. Not that he uses it as a place to crash in, Sayid thinks.
“That’s very nice.”
“Thanks. You know, I’ve got to like the place I’m stayin’ in, right?”
Sayid sits on the bed and Sawyer goes to the desk, opens a drawer and takes an heavy folder out, then passes it to Sayid.
He opens it. Everything is articles about the survivors. There’s an interview with Hurley a few days after his release, an article about Jack saving a woman from an accident and Sayid shivers when he sees him on the photo, the announce of Locke’s suicide, and other similar news printed from the internet. When he closes it, he hands it back to Sawyer.
“It’s for you, really. Been putting it together ‘cause you might like to have some other sources. But maybe it’s ‘cause I’m a selfish jerk.”
“Why would you be?”
“’Cause I wouldn’t be the only one actually seein’ it.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s selfish.”
Sayid feels Sawyer’s hands shaking again beyond control now and he takes them in his again. Sawyer doesn’t raise his head.
He doesn’t talk for at least five minutes.
“That’s just pathetic, fuck... I’m sorry, I...”
“Don’t be. I don’t think it is, anyway.”
He doesn’t say that it happened to a lot of his ex-comrades after the war was over.
“Then what’s it?”
Sayid doesn’t really know, but then Sawyer raises his head and Sayid looks into his eyes; he didn’t notice the little wrinkles surrounding them now and it’s plain that he hasn’t had much sleep in months but then Sayid thinks that he has never seen something so beautiful in his whole life. Now Sawyer’s whole frame is shaking and Sayid for once acts out of pure impulse and covers Sawyer’s lips with his own. He expects to be pushed away at once but Sawyer just stills and after an handful of seconds he feels a slight pressure, he leaves Sawyer’s hands, he brings his own to frame Sawyer’s face and answers trying to turn that awkward pressure into some real kissing.
He’s surprised as hell when Sawyer opens up to him and lets Sayid’s tongue caress every inch of his mouth while his hands, now still, are in Sayid’s curls, tight not enough to hurt but enough for Sayid to feel them. It’s a slow motion, Sayid doesn’t hurry because he’s still trying to figure out what he’s trying to accomplish and it seems that Sawyer doesn’t dare to go further than Sayid goes, but to Sayid it feels like for the first time in three years something is right. He thinks he can taste some coffee, faintly; when Sawyer sighs he feels something shifting and tingling inside him and even if he hadn’t imagined things were going to end up like that, he isn’t regretting it.
When it stops, they don’t move; Sawyer’s glasses fall and end up stuck in somewhere between their faces. Sawyer puts them away and his hand goes back to Sayid’s shoulder.
“Well. I wasn’t expectin’ it.”
“Neither was I, to tell you the truth.”
Sawyer laughs and this time it looks genuine.
“Will you... will you leave?”
Sayid knows he should. Good sense tells him. But maybe it’s not such good sense.
“I think I shouldn’t. I mean, even if we tried to do something about... about everything, we couldn’t do it by ourselves. We should... how do you say, stick?”
“How much’s left of your fund?”
Sawyer shakes his head.
“Gone. I had to pay some debts and I invested what was left in buyin’ this place.”
“Well, I’ve still got most of it. I haven’t touched that money if not for paying my rent. And I really do not have much things there.”
Sawyer bites his lip and doesn’t look at him.
“If you wanna crash here... it’s big enough for two. Just if...”
Sayid’s hand turns Sawyer’s face up.
“I’d like that.”
“I’d like that too, Abdul.”
Sayid doesn’t know why, it seems like a weight has been lifted from him. He still doesn’t know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it, but he feels it’s the right thing.
“Will you ever stop calling me names?”
“I think you like it.”, Sawyer answers, and for a second Sayid can see a wicked flash in his eyes which reminds him of the island first times. Sawyer winks at him and stands up, picks up the folder and puts it on the table. For once it seems that things can get better. He doesn’t know how much it’s going to last, but while Sayid can’t see his face because he’s giving him the back, he brings a finger to his lips. He picks up the glasses and puts them on again.
“And please, don’t tell me they are the same ones of the island.”
“I changed lens ‘cause I don’t need ‘em just to read now, but yeah, they’re the ones I got there.”
Sayid shakes his head laughing. It’s crazy, but he can see Sawyer doing something like this.
“Where do you think we stand now?”
“Me? You kissed me. You should know it. We can pretend nothin’ happened, we can go on and see, and meanwhile we can think a masterplan to save what’s still worth enough savin’.”
Sawyer is plainly smiling now and Sayid stands up.
“How about finding out?”
Sawyer is near him again, as close as possible.
“Well, I second that.”
They kiss again and it’s the first night in three years in which both of them don’t think about the rescue or the island.
Sayid wakes up to Sawyer dressing; he zipped up his jeans, already has the glasses on and is buttoning up another hideous flannel shirt.
“I didn’t count you as an early person.”
“I wasn’t. Now I am. You’re lucky today’s my free day.”
Sayid leaves the bed and takes his clothes from the floor where they ended the night before. It takes a few minutes to dress up, then he looks at Sawyer.
“Now we can have breakfast somewhere since fridge’s empty, then we can start plannin’. You know, we’ve got work to do.”
Sayid nods and gets his jacket. Sawyer takes the keys from the desk, waits for Sayid to be out of the apartment and locks it. And it takes some time, because his hand holding the key is trembling again.
When he puts the key in his jeans pocket and Sayid’s fingers close around his hand, he doesn’t flinch, but smiles slightly and is relieved when he feels it isn’t shaking anymore.