Four hours and sixteen minutes after accepting a candy bar from a mega-hot but temporarily unfamiliar doctor, James is on cloud nine. Still.
Then Juliet softly fractures it. "I should go."
It sorta comes from nowhere, he thinks for a second, until he recognizes the look on her face. It's familiar. They dated for two years, three months and twenty-four days. He knows that bland expression, those distant eyes. He's memorized what they mean.
In their other life, in the beginning, she'd sleep with him and then run, panicked at the direction they were headed (and maybe he found that nice and comforting and familiar) and she was damaged. Unused to someone who could actually love her.
They shouldn't be in that place anymore.
"Thought we'd quit this way back when," he traces his thumb along her jaw. "What's so awful that you're givin' me the stone-eye again?"
She sits up, brushes her hair out of her face. Folds the sheet over her breasts and he don't really get that because he knows her, right? Naked and not. "I have a son, James." She says it casual and blank, but that itself ain't a good sign with Juliet.
Then what she said hits him.
He follows her into a sitting position, leans back against the headboard and tries to fake like he's processing it. Of course, shouldn't surprise him. It's not like she should have been waiting for him to turn up her whole life. Hell, they've both spent thirty-six years not remembering each other.
"You married right now?" he asks after a moment of silence, as it occurs to him. "Married with a little boy?"
"Divorced, with a teenager."
"A thirteen-year-old." Now she ain't looking at him, and there's something else to the story.
Before he gets to pry it out of her, she takes a real deep breath and turns her eyes onto him with resolve. "I got pregnant senior year of college and delayed med school until—until—" and he's never seen her looking like this, wonders if being in this place's changed her, and him, and them, "until Jack finished."
James' stomach lifts at into his throat and he thinks maybe he'll vomit. Jack, because it could only be the one. A thousand associated painful memories crash back to him, few of them to do with Juliet, most irrelevant, but there was a time he hated that guy and now…
"Well how about that."
"James." It's like an order, but he swings his legs around and gets up from the bed and seeks out the clothing spread across the floor. Puts a giant-ass cork in the unwelcome emotions dragging him to the floor because now, now ain't the time. "I'm still trying to process it too."
"I gotta, look, Babe, I gotta think about this."
"What do you have to think about?" She climbs out of bed after him, stark naked and exactly the same as the woman he's been making love to for two years, three months and twenty-four days. Except there are probably stretch marks on her stomach he didn't recognized and her hair's never been this short and the starburst on her back ain't there. Things melt ruthlessly, the elation mutating into sharp anger. Unreasonable anger, uncontrollable. "Jack and I have been amicably divorced for years. James." Her eyes fix him firm and blue. "I love you."
He's shirtless, almost at the door, when it comes back, for all intents and purposes, the end of everything.
I changed my mind when I saw you look at her.
…How angry, how agonized, he was when he realized that Juliet couldn't understand she was the one he loved. That she couldn't trust him when he said his time of loving Kate had ended.
That the consequences of her not believing ended in her death.
James braces himself on the wall as tears press behind his eyes. Her death.
It'd be so easy to live it all again, the other way round.
But James, see. He learns from mistakes, whoever's making them.
"Shit," he whispers and turns to where she still stands stripped bare, face frozen, eyes desperate and sad. "The hell do I have to think about? You're here and—and that's all."
She closes her eyes and a grateful tear sneaks out. "We'll make it work," she whispers as he stomps across the room and pulls her into a hug. "We'll—"
"Damn straight we will." He kisses her forehead. "I don't plan on spendin' another second without you," he insists grandiosely.
Her tears burn his shoulder, and he wonders how long the agony of losing her once will be enough to trivialize the rest of their baggage.