I didn't think the Sawyer in the alternate world in LA X looked like the broken man who'd just shot an innocent guy. Maybe in this reality he didn't shoot Frank Duckett. Christian Shephard didn't talk him into it - someone else talked him out of it.
He takes another shot of whiskey. His fourth, fifth, who the hell knows.
He hears a gravelly voice to his right: "You tell 'em, cowboy. These bastards think Americans can't hold their liquor. I, uh, I hate to hold my hand out, but I seem to have misplaced my wallet."
Sawyer looks up to see an older man a few seats over. Guy in as bad a shape as Sawyer is. Poor bastard. Sawyer turns to the bartender. "Set him up."
The bartender pours out a few more shots. The older gentleman nods thanks, says, "I drink to you. What's your name, cowboy?" Sawyer tells him, and his new companion toasts: "To Sawyer, may he find whatever he's looking for in the bottom of a glass. So, Sawyer, what brings you to Sydney?"
My own hellish life. Came to kill a man, and now I've wimped out. Fuck, thinks Sawyer, I ain't tellin' this guy everything. He finally answers, "Business."
His fellow drinker nods. "You know why they call Australia down under, don't you? Because it's as close as you can get to hell without being burned."
Sawyer acutely wants another shot. Yeah, he knows he's in hell - probably deserves to be. Doesn't need this guy telling him so. He watches the older guy down another shot. Suddenly he doesn't want to be in this guy's orbit, doesn't want to be thinking what this guy's thinking, doesn't want to be drinking what this guy's drinking. Sawyer waves the bartender over, gestures at the old guy's glass. "Nother shot of whisky for my friend here, and shot of your best rum for me."
The bartender acquiesces. Sawyer isn't normally a rum drinker, but maybe he just wants something sunny and beachy. Forget this miserable place and the miserable fucking downpour. He downs his rum shot, and nearly spits it right back out. "This the best you got?" he hollers at the barkeep.
"You want the best, you need to talk to her," the bartender says and gestures to a woman sitting at the end of the bar. "She asked me to leave the bottle with her, so all I've got left is the low-grade stuff."
Sawyer peers through the smoky darkness. All right, he thinks. No way she's gonna drink all that herself. He can charm her out of a few drinks, maybe charm her out of something more than that . . . and say sayonara to Mr. Gloom and Doom in the process. He stands up, pats the old guy on the shoulder. "Well, good to meet ya, man."
He swaggers over and approaches her. "Whatcha celebratin'?," he asks with his best charming grin.
"I'm not celebrating," she answers, dully, not even bothering to look at him. Dammit, Blondie, he thinks. You gotta look at me for the dimples to work their magic. He stands silently, pondering his next move. He really doesn't want to go back and sit next to Black Cloud. Sawyer's silence stretches long enough to make her speak again, actually answer his question. "It's my sister's birthday."
"So, you always celebrate by gettin' soused?"
She finally turns to look at him, and when she does, he catches himself taking a step back. He knows her. But he can't place her. Except, good God, her eyes are gorgeous, and there'd be no way he'd have forgotten them. She stares at him a bit longer, expressionless and silent, before answering. "I forgot it. That's all. I didn't realize it was her birthday until today."
"Ah, man. Now you're in the doghouse, right? Forget to send a card?"
"Nope," she answers, sliding the bottle of rum over to him. "She's dead."
"Well, then, I guess she ain't expectin' a card." She actually smirks at that remark. Okay . . . he's getting somewhere. He sits, pours himself a shot of rum. He attempts friendly concern. "First birthday since she . . . well . . . passed?"
"No. She died close to three years ago."
He's equally tickled and frustrated by her responses. She answers every question he asks, just . . . not quite. "And?" he inquires.
"And now here it is three years later, and I didn't even realize it was her birthday until I saw the date in my conference program this morning. It's like she died three years ago, and she dies a little more every time I forget something. The way she laughed. The way she would look at me when I did something she thought wasn't so smart. The way she ate ice cream. Her birthday."
Sawyer keeps silent, feeling almost sick. No, I won't forget, he thinks. I'll remember everything about you – always. Jesus, what's going on? Who's he never gonna forget? How much has he had to drink anyway?
"I was with her when she died. I guess I'm glad – I would've hated her to die alone, you know?"
I know, I know . . . Something resonates in him. A low thrumming recognition he can't quite place. He pours himself another drink. Probably not the wisest thing, considering the tricks his brain is playing on him.
She keeps talking. Sawyer realizes it doesn't matter how or whether he responds to any of this. Maybe all the alcohol has loosened her tongue, but she's unburdening herself to him. "It was like a part of me died with her. Have you ever lost someone you loved – so much – that you didn't know how you could go on?"
He waits for her to keep talking but realizes she's turned to him. She's actually expecting a response to this. I understand. My God, I understand. I didn't care anymore after you died. What was the point in going on without you? What the fuck? Who was "you," and what happened? His mom, maybe?
He steals a glance at the bottle of rum. Something's not quite right. What's he actually drinking anyway? The bottle looks legit.
She's still staring at him, patiently waiting for his response. She's not going to let him get out of this with a charming remark or a flirty smile. She never did. Gah! What the fuck – again? He shakes his head violently, trying to clear it.
Has he ever lost someone he loved so much it was like part of him died? When his parents died, he was scared, but in many ways too young to understand completely. Besides, the whole point of his life is to not make connections. Then he never has to experience heartbreak, never has to lose anyone, never has to be set adrift without the person he depends on for sanity. Finally, he answers. "Nope, can't say that I have."
"Well, consider yourself lucky," she says, taking another drink herself.
He thinks on that for a minute. "I consider myself lonely," he says.
She glances at him again, lifts an eyebrow, half smiles. At that look, he feels a warmth spreading up from his toes, thinks, But I feel like I'm thisclose to talking you into staying for two more weeks. Please. I really don't like being so lonely. The warmth dissipates into a cold chill. He should stop drinking now. He turns the conversation to something safe. "So, what kind of conference you here for?"
"Medical conference," she answers. There's probably more to it than that, but she seems to keep her responses to the bare minimum necessary to answer his questions. She turns the conversation back to him. "So, James, what brings you to Sydney?"
It's the exact same question the old dude down at the end of the bar just asked him – nearly word for word. Except . . . when did he tell her his name? His real one? His brain feels liquefied. His thoughts are swimming in all the whisky and rum sloshing around up there. He tries to remember all he's said to her in the last five minutes, gives up, and simply answers her question. "I came here to kill a man." Holy hell, what's gotten in to him?
Her eyes widen at that confession. Now would be the time for her to stand up, slowly back away. But she doesn't. She simply asks, "And have you? Killed him, I mean?"
He shakes his head. "I chickened out. So, I came here, hopin' a little liquid courage would do the trick. Maybe go back out, give it another try." Why can't he stop talking? Why's he telling her all this?
"What'd he do to you?"
"He's the reason my parents are dead."
"Killing him won't bring them back."
He nods. He realizes that, but he's spent his life tracking this bastard down. What kind of man would he be if he backs out now?
She holds out her left hand palm up, then her right hand in an 'on the one hand, on the other hand' gesture as she speaks. Her movements are exaggerated, sloppy. He realizes she's as drunk as he is. "My sister died of cancer," (left hand held out). "I'm a research doctor," (right hand). "I could spend the rest of my career searching for a cure for cancer, and it still would never bring her back."
"At least you'd of cured cancer," he encourages.
She leans close, conspiratorially. "I'm not a cancer researcher." She laughs at that – irony maybe. He likes her laugh. It's gallows humor, but that's his favorite kind. He laughs too, even though he's not quite sure what the joke is. She stops laughing, looks at him seriously, straight in the eye. Or as straight as she can, her eyes are wavering in and out of focus. "So, killing this guy. That's gonna cure cancer?" she asks.
"Nope. Just gonna make me feel good."
"And then what?"
Maybe he is getting tired of her half answers and riddles. "Whaddaya mean, 'then what?'" he asks. Locke said he was leaving to save us. The flashes have stopped.
No, no they haven't, crazy lady speaking in my brain. Please, stop doing that.
And she does, answering, "You feel good for how long, then . . . what? Your parents are still dead, and you've become a killer. Doesn't sound to me like you're going to feel too good for too long." She downs a shot, and against his better judgment, he does too. They sit in comfortable silence for awhile. He's actually calmed, sitting here silently, processing her words. Not any different than anything he's told himself lately, but coming from her . . . they just make more sense, seem right.
He wants to talk to her more, find out where she lives, what book she's gonna read on the plane ride back to the U.S. (she is American, right? Her accent seems to confirm this). The bartender approaches then, though. "Ma'am? That taxi you asked me to call is out front."
"Thanks," she murmurs to him. She roots around in her bag, pulls out a fistful of bills. She squints, looking at them closely, counting and recounting the money. She puts down a pile on the bar, picks it up, counts it out again, slowly, deliberately. Sawyer is reminded again of how drunk she is. How drunk they both are.
"Here, let me chip in," he declares, reaching into his back pocket.
"It's OK," she says, and stands up. He stands, too – the gentlemanly thing to do. She stands, sways, wobbles, and he grabs her elbow to keep her from falling. She turns to him. Looks right at him with those blue eyes. He's still got her elbow.
Why are you going back?
Karma, James. Why are you going back?
And he drops her elbow like a hot potato. He doesn't want her to leave, but he doesn't like this odd feeling, either. She's still staring at him, seriously.
He wants to lighten the mood. "Well, thanks for the booze, then. Maybe next time, I'll buy."
She laughs, bitterly. "Sorry, but you're not going to find me drowning my sorrows in a bar all that often."
"Well, then. We could get coffee sometime."
And his brain liquefies just a little more. The room is spinning a little bit, she's still looking at him, but her eyes don't seem to be focusing quite right. She says something that he doesn't quite understand. He can't hear right, something seems to be buzzing, but it was something about lunch? Or "that's a bit much?" He doesn't understand, and he's swaying, too.
She steps away. Takes a few unsteady steps to the door. She stops, turns to him. "I have something to tell you," she says. And he realizes he's too busy trying to look like he's not fall-down drunk to pay much attention. He tries to focus. She can tell he's out of it, so snaps him to attention with, "It's really, really important." At that he grips the bar, stands as steadily as possible, looks at her, seriously. "Don't kill him, James. You'll hate yourself forever if you do."
"Maybe too late for that," he answers. He's hated himself for as long as he can remember.
"I don't know about that," she says. "You seem like a good guy to me."
Yeah, he's spent a lifetime making women think that, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that she does, too. But, she knows his name, knows he came here to kill someone, and still thinks that. Maybe she's right.
She turns then, and leaves the bar. He can see her through the windows. She's dashing to the cab, holding her bag over her head, as if she's not going to be completely soaked. She slides into the back seat of the cab, says a few words to the driver, and off they go.
There's a part of him that wants to chase after her.
"Good try, soldier," he hears. Turns to see the old guy, Oscar the Grouch, still hunched at the bar. "Looked like things were going pretty good, but she is way out of your league, don't you think?"
He wants to punch him. How dare he? But he's probably right. So Sawyer just stands there, confused, swaying, trying to regain his bearings. Old guy keeps on. "So, you gonna be around much longer? Got more business to attend to?" He's probably fishing for more free booze.
"No. Nothing more to do here," Sawyer answers. "I think it's probably time for me to go home."
Somehow a great weight has been lifted. He's not going to kill Frank Duckett. What good would that do anyway? It's time to go home.