So, I am 100% totally new to the world of Fan Fiction, but I was so devastated by the S5 finale, and have just been spinning yarns in my head for various happier endings. I have some more thoughts on this one, but have written so much for now that Part 2 will have to wait.
Sawyer twisted uncomfortably in his seat. Damn last minute tickets, and stuck in the middle seat. Well, as long as he didn't have to speak to either of his seatmates. He'd been stuck next to a Chatty Cathy on the connecting flight from LA, and if he had to spend the entire flight to Miami listening to someone blab on about their boring job, he'd lose it.
The window seat had already been occupied when he sat down. An older woman with a "Word Find" book. "Uh oh," he thought. Those didn't take a lot of attention and left plenty of brain space for inane conversation. So, as soon as she looked up at him and said "Hello," he'd responded with a grunt and the best "back off" sneer he could muster. That seemed to do the trick, and she ducked her head back to her word find. His shaggy hair and gruff exterior came in handy yet again.
No one was in the aisle seat yet, but he planned to pull the same trick on whatever fellow traveler had the misfortune of holding ticket 16D. Hell, maybe no one would take the seat, although that was unlikely. Here in Cincinnati there was a cold drizzle, but apparently things were much worse up in Chicago. Watching the flight monitors at the gate, he'd seen flight after flight to O'Hare delayed. Now the whole system was backing up, and this flight was already 15 minutes behind schedule.
He opened his book, but kept a wary eye on the passengers filing down the aisle. A fat guy in a Chicago Bears jersey. God, please, no. Phew. The Fridge took a seat a few rows in behind Sawyer. Here came a pimply teenager with blaring head phones. Eh, could be worse. Mr. Clearasil slowed as he approached row 16. But he was the window passenger across the aisle.
Then he saw her. "Sweet Jesus, let her be the one to sit here," Sawyer thought. She was a dark-haired, olive-skinned beauty. And her low-cut, tight fitting halter top left little to the imagination. And tight jeans, too? Damn. Visions of joining the Mile High Club danced in his head. He even attempted eye contact as she headed down the aisle toward him . . . and passed right on by. Leaning into the empty aisle seat he craned his head to get a view from behind. Well, damn, there she was sitting with Mr. Chicago Bears. Some guys have all the luck.
Images of the dream occupant of 16D were still running wild in his brain. "Huh?"
"That's my seat."
He straightened up. "Sorry."
It was the actual occupant of 16D, and, luckily for Sawyer, she wasn't bad looking, either. A tall blonde woman, with her hair in a loose ponytail. Of course, the long-sleeved t-shirt and loose fitting jeans couldn't compare with the Mile High Mistress a few rows back, but this lady was better than Mr. Clearasil. Even better, though, she dropped a fat copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince onto her seat prior to stuffing her bag in the overhead bin. It was the universal gesture for "Don't talk to me, I'm going to be reading," and he couldn't be more pleased. He'd intimidated Mrs. Word Find into silence, and now Blondie here seemed as uninterested in chit-chat as he was.
That settled, he could get back to his book. He'd only gotten a few paragraphs in when the blonde's phone buzzed. Great - a cell phone chatter. He looked at her in irritation as she answered. She made an apologetic face before starting her conversation.
"Yeah. I made the flight – barely. Well, they're delayed here, too. No, it's not too bad, but apparently things are pretty dicey up in Chicago . . . I don't know . . . I'll let you know when I know more . . .I'll be there as soon as I can . . .How's he doing? . . .. OK, see you when I see you . . . Love you, too. Bye." She clicked off.
She looked at him apologetically. "Sorry about that. My dad had a heart attack this morning. I've been trying all day to get back home. That was my sister."
Now he felt shitty for giving her a mean look, but what's done is done he figured. "Sorry to hear that."
But all this chatter was just enough to pull Mrs. Word Find back into the conversation. "I'm sorry about your father, dear. I'll say a prayer for him."
"Thank you," said the blonde, picking up her book, a clear signal that the conversation was over.
"You may think prayer doesn't help, but it does," continued Window Seat.
"Shit," thought Sawyer as he glanced at Aisle Seat. He noticed then how startlingly blue her eyes were. Her face was really very kind. "Shit," he thought again. No way was sweet Aisle Seat going to be able to shut down Window Seat. Now it was going to be conversation city all the way to Miami.
"I appreciate it," was Aisle Seat's response, and she again returned to her book.
"You may not be a Christian – your reading material seems a little troubling," (Aisle Seat looked questioningly at the cover of her Harry Potter book at that remark) "But there are times when we could all use a little Jesus in our life."
Now when Sawyer glanced over at Aisle Seat he saw a look that could cut glass. Gone was the soft and kindly face he'd seen just moments before. Why wasn't Window Seat shutting up? An odd thought fleetingly crossed his mind, "Lady, when she looks at you like that, she means for you to SHUT UP." But how did he know that? He'd never seen Aisle Seat before in his life. None of it mattered, though, because Window Seat kept right on trucking, "I don't mean to pass judgment. . . "
Aisle Seat cut her off right there. "Well then, don't. Just because our tickets both say '16' doesn't give you any special insight into what I'm thinking."
Window Seat's mouth closed with an audible pop. "Way to go, Aisle Seat," thought Sawyer. He tried to discreetly give her a thumbs up, but he doubted she saw it. Plus, she was right, just because they were both sitting in Aisle 16, he had no special insight into what she was thinking. How odd, though, that minutes ago, he felt like he knew EXACTLY what she was thinking?
Why did she have to go and do that? She had been downright rude to the older woman in the window seat, and why? OK, she was being nosy and presumptive, but that was no need to be so snappy. And it wasn't as if her dad couldn't use some prayer. After a childhood spent in Sunday School it wasn't as if she was even anti-religious. Juliet wanted to apologize immediately, but didn't care to give the woman another chance to reopen her conversation.
It had just been a really long, bad day, she thought. That's all. She was at the end of her rope. The phone call had come at 6:30 that morning. Rachel was at the hospital and frantic. Juliet's brain was still sleep-fogged, and her first worry was that something had happened to Julian, or that Rachel's cancer was back. She heard some of Rachel's words "Dad . . . morning jog . . collapsed . . . hospital." But she kept asking the wrong questions, "Is Julian OK, and you're fine?" "JULIET! Listen to me! . . . Dad's had a heart attack!"
All the words fell into place. For a man in his mid-60s, their dad was in remarkable health. A heart attack after his morning jog? Rachel had just gotten to the hospital, and had few details, but it seemed serious, and she thought Juliet should come home as soon as she could.
She had been scheduled to be at Stanford for two more days. She'd already given her guest lectures, but now planned to do a bit of collaborating with her cross-country colleagues. They didn't get all that much time to meet and share data face to face. Well, she'd have to do it another time. She'd just take the first San Francisco to Miami flight she could get.
But nothing was easy. She thought she might just be able to make a 9:00 flight. First she needed to get in touch with Dr. Hill, the department chair she'd been working with. She'd promised to share some interesting results with him, and she wanted to give them to him before she left. It was so early, though, and when she finally got in touch with him, she decided to simply email them to him. She was getting ready to hit "send" on her email when her room's wireless connection conked out.
In the business center, she was able to send her email, but not before getting another frantic call from Rachel. Things weren't looking great with Dad. "Look, I'm on a 9:00 flight out of here, and should be home by 7 tonight, OK?"
But it wasn't to be. Her cab to the airport got a flat, and by the time a new cab came to pick her up, they were in the heart of rush hour traffic. There was no time to make it through security, and she missed her flight. The ticket agent was courteous, if not particularly nice, and re-booked her on a flight through Cincinnati. She wouldn't be home by 7, but she would be home tonight, she promised Rachel.
But that flight had mechanical problems, and was 45 minutes late getting to Cincinnati. She'd only made this connection because it, too, was late.
She really was at the end of her rope. All she wanted was to get home. How difficult could it be? But at every step of the way she was thwarted. Her wi-fi, the cab, the traffic, the airplane . . .
Frantic. That was the only way to describe her current state of mind. SHE HAD TO GET HOME. Was it too much to ask? She tried to lose herself in Harry Potter, but found herself chewing her lips, chewing her nails, reading the same paragraphs over and over. Home! That's all I want, she thought again. And now she was getting irritated at the nosy window passenger all over again. Sitting over there doing her inane word find puzzles. How boring! How mindless! Must be nice.
At least she felt like she had an ally in the man in the center aisle. She'd felt like such a bitch when she'd insulted the older lady, but the man in the center aisle had given her a quick smile and flashed a brief thumbs up. When he did she noticed how very good looking he was. She didn't normally go for the shaggy type, but it was nice to know that for as long as they sat on this plane, he'd have her back if her window seat tormentor started in again.
She had actually begun to make progress in her book when the intercom clicked on. "OK, sorry folks, but we're still delayed. Things are just really backed up right now. But we hope to get you out of here soon, so just sit tight and relax, and we'll provide updates as soon as we've got them."
"Son of a bitch," snarled her aisle ally. That earned him a searing look from the window seat busybody, which he pointedly ignored as he turned to Juliet.
"You know, you'd think if you were sitting on the tarmac for longer than half an hour, they'd at least bring the drink cart around. This would be easier to handle with a cold beer."
Juliet agreed. A cold beer, a nice wine, anything to take the edge off of this frantic, helpless, holding pattern. Then she had a realization.
"I totally forgot!" she declared, and stood up, rummaging in the overhead bin. She pulled out a tiny bottle of Mount Gay Rum.
"I was on first class on the way here, and never got around to drinking this. Care for some?" She extended the tiny bottle to him.
"Ladies first," he said.
And so she unscrewed the lid and took a long sip before handing him the half-empty bottle. "Mmmmmm . . ." he said appreciatively.
But she wasn't listening. Or looking. The warmth of the rum shot through her throat and out to her extremities. But it wasn't the alcohol that gave her this weird feeling. It was . . .this place. . .no, not this place. This was just an airplane. But the feeling was so odd. She wanted desperately to get home. She needed to get home, but she had been thwarted at every opportunity. And she was sitting here and her last, best opportunity seemed to be fading away, too. And she was drinking rum straight from the bottle, because why the hell not? And she was sharing with this man. This scruffy, but handsome man whose name she didn't even know, but instinctively felt comfortable with.
It was a déjà vu from hell, and it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
"Hey . . ." the man in the aisle was snapping his fingers in front of her face. "You still there, Blondie?"
She snapped back to reality. Blondie? She should have been insulted. She hated it when men made judgements based on looks. But she wasn't at all insulted. Surprisingly, she was charmed. She smiled. "Sorry. Just distracted."
"No problem," he said. "My name's James."
He held out a hand for her to shake.
"Juliet" she said, returning his handshake.