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No Finer Place

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Juliet’s starting to think they might just spend those two weeks right here on the dock, as neither of them seems to want to get up. It feels like the first quiet moment they’ve had in days — or decades.

“Speaking of getting my back,” James says to break the silence. “Where does a fertility doctor learn to shoot like that? Wait a minute, lemme guess … Others 101?”

“That’s right,” Juliet says, smiling as she recalls the look on his face when she covered him in the clearing. “I can give you a few pointers if you want.”

He raises his eyebrows, a smirk tugging at his lips. “All right, Annie Oakley. We ever get our rifles back, I might just take you up on that.”

She nods, looking out at the water and thinking about the first time she held a gun instead of an ultrasound probe.

You need to know how to defend yourself, Ethan had said, not long after Ben told her about Rachel, and she started seeing more and more cracks in the sunny yellow paint. 

She hated it at first — how the blast echoed through the jungle, the kickback rattling all the way up her arm. It made her feel as fragile as the bottles she was aiming for, even closer to falling apart than she already was every second of every day that she spent with these people.

And then one day, something changed. Her arm was steady, and she hit every target, and she felt something she had thought she would never feel again for as long as she stayed on this island — control.

Things were different after that. She was different.

They sit on the dock for a while longer, not saying anything. Eventually, she hears James stand with a groan, boots scraping the wood. When she glances over, he’s offering her a hand. 

Juliet looks at it, at his tan fingers and callused palm. Then she looks at the sub behind him.

Two weeks, she thinks as she lets him help her up.

 

There are three rooms available, with two beds in each.

“Come on, Chewie, you’re with me,” James tells Jin. “You freighter boys can bunk together. Let’s give the lady some space.”

“Suddenly he’s Prince Charming,” Miles grumbles as he and Daniel shuffle off.

James gives Juliet a nod before following Jin down the hall.

In her room, she tugs her shoes off and stretches out on top of the covers. That really bad jet lag Daniel talked about might not be giving her any more nosebleeds, but right now she feels like she could sleep her way back to 2004. 

The mattress is stiff as a board, but it beats a tent on the beach. She’s out as soon as she closes her eyes.

Then, just as suddenly, someone’s hand is on her shoulder, gently shaking her awake. Before she can remember where she is or what’s happening, she sits bolt upright, grabbing the person tightly by the wrist and jerking their arm around behind them.

“Whoa, take it easy!” James shouts, and Juliet comes to her senses and lets go of him.

It’s morning, and the sun is streaming in through the window, stinging her eyes. She quickly becomes aware of every ache in every muscle in her body.

“Hey, guys, come look,” Miles says from the doorway. “She’s finally beating him up.”

Juliet holds up her hands. “I’m sorry,” she tells James. “Are you all right?”

“I knocked on the door, but you didn’t hear it.” He rubs his shoulder. “That’s one hell of a grip you got there. Not to mention the ninja reflexes.”

“Old habits,” she explains.

Don’t hesitate, Colleen had told her the first time, as Juliet lay on the mat waiting for her breath to come back to her.

Juliet wasn’t used to acting without thinking. Her entire life, thinking had been what she did best. But after the third time Colleen dislocated her shoulder, she learned to react quickly.

James sits heavily on the edge of the empty bed. “I mean, I thought you’d at least let me buy you a drink before we wrestled. So much for taking things slow.”

Juliet laughs, not even caring how sore her ribs are.

“Never mind,” Miles sighs, walking away. “They’re back to flirting.”

 

A few days later, the tension rises when Horace joins them in the cafeteria during breakfast. 

Juliet watches James sit up in his chair, getting into character. He’s not quite as good as he thinks he is. Or maybe she’s just too used to deception.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk yet, Juliet,” Horace says after a moment, adjusting his glasses. “Tell me, what’s your story? How’d you end up with this group?”

James opens his mouth. “She’s a —”

“An adventurer,” Juliet cuts in, poker-faced, as she slices her ham. “Or at least I fancy myself one. My father was a historian. He passed away last year. When I heard James was putting a team together, I thought it would be a nice way to honor him.”

Juliet doesn’t look at James, but she can feel his eyes on her. He insists on doing all the talking, but he should have known he’s not the only one who can spin a story.

“I’m very sorry for your loss,” Horace says, seeming to buy it. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

She nods a thank-you, taking a sip of coffee. Lies make her mouth dry.

Once, she had thought it was Goodwin who taught her. When you’re sleeping with a married man, it comes with the territory. 

Later, she thought she had learned it from Ben. He was the expert, after all. 

But they couldn’t take all the credit. She spent so much time lying to herself — that she could save her patients, that she would see Rachel again — that eventually it just came naturally.

“Why’d you bother coming up with that?” James asks in a near-whisper as they’re turning in their trays. “You could’ve just said you’re a doctor. Might even buy us some more time.”

“I don’t want to be a doctor, James,” she tells him plainly. “Not in this place. Not anymore.”

James frowns at her, confused, or maybe just surprised by her frankness. Then something that looks a lot like understanding takes over his face, and he nods.

She may have to lie to DHARMA, but at least she doesn’t have to lie to him. 

 

Juliet’s eating her lunch outside one afternoon when, without a word, James sits down across from her and opens a book.

“Son of a bitch,” he mutters after a moment.

“What’s up?” she asks.

“I asked Horace for something to read, so he gives me The Aeneid.” He holds up the book, a hardcover missing its dust jacket. “Not my first choice, but I ain’t picky. Now I open it up, and it’s in damn Latin.”

Juliet moves to the chair closest to him. “That’s my book.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“When I learned Latin from the Others. This is one of the books I translated.”

“You mean thirty years from now?” James wonders, with that little crinkle he gets between his eyebrows whenever they talk about the future as if it’s the past. “What, they couldn’t splurge on a new copy?”

Juliet shrugs. “Waste not, want not.”

Med school had given her a bit of a head start on the Language of the Enlightened, but she still spent plenty of nights tearing her hair out over cases and conjugations.

She had expected to feel the same resentment toward it that she felt toward everything else on the island, by virtue of having no choice in the matter. But it turned out to be the lesser of many evils.

Sitting alone with her nose in a book was one of the few familiar things she had. And after months of failing at what she was supposed to be good at, it was nice to finally get something right. Even if it was just a stilted sentence in a dusty old language.

“Well,” James says now. “Guess you’re just gonna have to read it to me, then.”

Juliet quirks an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

He responds by turning to page one and placing the open book on the table in front of her. She can’t help but smile, leaning forward to read the first line out loud.

Arma virumque cano,” she begins, “Troiae qui primus ab oris.”

“All right, wiseass.” 

Juliet looks up, feigning innocence. “Oh, you meant in English?”

“That’d be helpful,” he says, and she ends up translating five pages for him while he steals DHARMA potato chips off her plate.

 

The night before the next sub is due to leave, Juliet sits on the dock again. And again, James finds her.

“We can stay,” he says, and this time he sits right next to her, legs dangling over the side, the soft cotton of his borrowed shirt brushing her bare arm. “For good this time.”

She gives him a questioning look. 

“Well, maybe not Doctor Who. They’re talking about sending him to Ann Arbor,” he explains. “But thanks to those Hostiles we killed, they’re short a head of security. Offered it to me.”

He casts his eyes down with a sort of sheepish pride she’s not used to seeing.

“Oh,” Juliet says, and it comes out sounding more disappointed than she wanted it to, so she adds, “That’s great, James.”

And here she was thinking that tomorrow would find all five of them on the sub together, their two weeks up and no choice left. And maybe some stupid part of her had thought that they would stick together when they got to wherever they were going.

That they would get each other’s back.

“There’s an open position in the motor pool,” James tells her now. “Yours if you want it.”

Juliet shakes her head. “I don’t know anything about cars. I haven’t even driven one in three years.”

“Yeah, but you’re a fast learner.” He bumps his shoulder against hers. “Call it DHARMA 101.”

She chuckles. “James, I —”

“I know, I know,” he interrupts. “I said two weeks, and it’s been two weeks. But you can’t blame a guy for trying.”

Juliet is quiet, trying to figure out why it’s suddenly so hard to say she’s leaving. 

The same sub she watched explode in front of her a month ago now sits in one piece, waiting to take her away from here. She would be crazy not to go. 

At least, that’s what she would have thought a month ago.

Now, she pictures herself climbing down the ladder, waking up somewhere far away from here, stepping out onto a different dock and into a new life.

Alone.

She didn’t think it would make a difference, but it does.

For three years, she was an outsider — even with Goodwin, who was always someone else’s. And with the survivors, who were right to distrust her. If she left now, she would be a stranger to her own family, to her childhood self. An outsider again.

Juliet stares across the water at the houses she knows so well, filled with new people who know nothing about her, or about what she can (or can’t) do. She thinks of Miles and Daniel and Jin. Outsiders with her, stuck in the wrong time. 

And James, asking her to stay. But giving her the choice to go.

In some ways, she’s right back where she started. And maybe she’s just chugging another questionable glass of orange juice. But it’s the closest she’s felt to belonging since she left Rachel in Miami.

Welcome home, Miles had said when they got here. And maybe it was finally true.

“What’re you thinking, Blondie?”

Juliet looks up. “When do we start?”