"You never answered Miles's question. Not really, I mean."
Juliet looked at him sprawled in the chair. She had tucked herself into the corner of the couch after setting her empty glass on the table, arms wrapped around her knees. The sound of his voice startled her. The house had been silent since Miles and Jin left.
She eyed him for a second before responding, "Just following your lead."
Though James and Juliet rarely brought up the past (or was it really the present?) - their lives before the island – if Miles had had enough liquid encouragement, he would rattle on about time travel and Back to the Future. Earlier that night he had asked everyone what they would change if they took a trip to the "real world"; what they would make different if "whatever happened" didn't have to happen. James said he would tell himself not to get that haircut when he turned twelve. Juliet chimed in that she would tell herself to skip more classes. Jin stayed silent with a faraway look in his eyes.
"So would you? I mean have you ever thought about it? Goin' back and tryin' to change something?"
"Of course I've thought about it."
"But you believe Twitchy's whole 'whatever happened, happened' line?"
"I do. Besides, I wouldn't even know where to start," she said with a wry smile.
"I hear you on that one."
They had been living as a part of the Dharma Initiative for about a year. James and Juliet had been sharing a house for almost that entire time. With the help of alcohol, close quarters, and sheer boredom, they had learned just about everything about each other's lives. It was amazing how fast the walls came down as they settled into their lives here.
"What about you?"
"I think he was right, too. But…" he trailed off.
"But sometimes you still want to try."
He threw back the rest of his drink. James had been drinking whiskey during their little get-together. A lot of whiskey, now that she thought about it. He stood to grab the bottle from the coffee table, sat down on the other end of the couch, and poured himself another glass. She knew where his thoughts had gone. Though they both believed that the past was fixed and unchangeable – that they could look at it, but they couldn't make it move – it didn't make it any easier. If she let her mind go down that track… Well, it was better not to.
By the time she snapped herself out of that train of thought, he had already finished the drink.
"I think that maybe I'm just doin' it again." He grabbed the bottle and took a swig, no longer bothering with the glass.
She reached her hand out, and he slid next to her on the couch and handed her the bottle. She took a drink and passed it back to him. "What are you doing?"
"Hiding. I hid under the bed then. Now I'm hiding in some hippy commune."
"James," she looked at him, an intent expression in her eyes, "You can't –"
"I know," he cut her off. "I know that. But it just feels that way sometimes. Like even if I can't do anything about it, I should still go back. Just to try."
"So are you going to?"
He paused for a moment.
He took another drink and handed her the bottle to do the same.
"It would suck to break in another roommate. What if they got all uppity about drinking too much?" she said in a playful tone.
He laughed and felt some of the tension go out of his shoulders.
"Heaven forbid." He grabbed the bottle back and raised it in a toast to her before taking another swig.
"Jin is a better cook than you though," she swiped the bottle from him and helped herself to another drink.
"Ah, maybe. But you know you'd miss my sparkling conversation and wit," he teased.
"Would I?" she retorted.
"I'm sure Alan would be happy to step in and keep you company," he grinned.
Alan was a carpenter who made frequent visits to the Motor Pool to use their equipment and make incredibly obvious and awkward attempts to flirt with Juliet.
"Not funny," she replied, and untucked her legs to playfully kick his shoulder.
"Hey now!" He grabbed both of her feet and pinned her legs down across his lap. "You know it's true."
She shot him her best 'don't mess with me' glare. "I wonder what he would give to trade places with me right now…" he said, trying to hold back a laugh.
She held up the bottle in one hand. "Don't make me use this."
As he made a lunge for the bottle, she swiftly pulled her arm back to move it out of his reach. Still reaching his arm out, he slid closer toward her and moved his body along hers until he successfully grabbed the bottle from her hand.
"Let's not get violent now, sweetheart." He leaned down to put the bottle on the floor, but didn't back away from her after he set it down.
They stared at each other for a moment, faces inches apart, James almost fully on top of Juliet.
"You better watch it, or I'll tell Rosie about this." She used her eyes to indicate that she meant their current position.
"I wish you would. Maybe she'd finally back off."
"I doubt it."
He paused for a moment. She observed him, the expression on his face changing from lighthearted to serious. He moved his eyes so he was now looking at her shoulder instead of her eyes. She heard him speak again, almost in a whisper. "Would you really miss me if I was gone?"
She reached her hand up and placed it gently on his face. "I really would."
He leaned down and kissed her cheek, but didn't pull back.
"James," she whispered. He turned his head slightly and their lips met.
She woke up when she felt fingers brushing her hair away from her face. She opened her eyes slowly. They were still on the couch (fully clothed, she noted), limbs tangled, and bodies pressed close together.
"Sorry," James said, "I woke you up."
"Headache?" she asked.
"Juliet?" She looked up at him. She hadn't once tried to backpedal or run away. The way she was looking at him now – she trusted him, she stuck with him. She never kept score. She was beautiful. She respected him. She stayed; and she wanted him around. She understood.
He brushed a curl of hair back behind her ear and kissed her. She kissed him back.