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it never entered my mind

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tired and wired, we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave
the national - apartment story




Juliet says thank you for the tea and steps out of the house and into the cool dusk, the rare breeze hitting her like welcomed relief. The door closes behind her just as the polite smile falls from her face.

From the shadows, a dark figure approaches; her eyelids squeeze just slightly, adjusting to the different light. She doesn't need to see him to know who he is.

"How is she?" he asks. His scrawny form reveals a man who hasn't slept or eaten in days.

"She still has a fever, but her energy is coming back," Juliet answers, careful to keep a neutral voice. "She was running around, jumping on the couch." 

Daniel nods and turns his eyes back to the house. It gives her the impression she's lost him from a moment.

Juliet walks down the small stairs, her feet making a heavy sound as they touch the steps and it feels like she's interrupted the harmony in this small universe that is their island. She advances until she is well into his personal space, but Daniel doesn't seem to notice.

She lays a hand on his shoulder to bring him back.

"I'm going home. Want to walk me?"

Daniel moves his head to the left until it's almost aligned with his shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse of the earth path without ever completely turning away from the house he's been guarding.

The expression on his face is truly sorrowful as he replies, "I - I think I'd like to stay here. If you don't mind."

Her gaze remains steady on him; he squirms, a little unpolished. "Something might happen during the night," he adds, but she isn't sure if it's for her sake or his own.

"How long will you wait?" she asks him, kindly, without judgment.

"I don't know," Daniel tells her, lying. "Until the lights are out. Until they go to bed," he lies further.

His lack of sincerity is transparent to her; it reminds her of when they met. There was a shy awkwardness to him, in the beginning, that he'd lost once he got to know the survivors better, once he began hanging around Charlotte more often. The confidence Daniel gained when speaking of science spread slowly to the other corners of his life, and Juliet thought she was seeing him become an adult, yet here he is, recoiling into himself again.

In Juliet's mind, she watches a red stain grow on a white towel, but the film is on rewind.

It makes her miss a time of ties and work shirts in the middle of the jungle. The jumpsuit doesn't fit him quite well.

"I'll tell the guys to leave the door open for you," she says, a last attempt at holding his attention.

He nods, almost imperceptibly. He's already far away, a glossed over look on his face.

Her fingers pressure his shoulder bones reassuringly, and then she leaves him alone. A man forever waiting for the lights to go out on a girl he barely knew (but dearly loved).

The leaves of trees ruffle in the forest; they're not that far away. Juliet thinks she hears a couple of late birds chirping up above. She walks along the path with a sudden urge to be barefoot and touch her skin to the dirt. It would seem strange to anyone watching, though, her shoes in her hands like she's on the damned beach. And these days, they spend them like men on the wire, threading carefully the line of normality.

About ten feet away, James is watching as she moves toward him.

His chin rises a bit, pointing in Daniel's direction. "What's he doin'?" he asks, annoyance in his voice.

"Keeping watch," Juliet replies, without turning back to the man in question.

"Watch?" James repeats; it's as though the word is spit from his mouth. His eyes are straight on her now. "For what?"

She lifts her shoulder in an untroubled shrug. "He's worried about her."

"Worried? What, the man can't trust his own damn theory?" he says, frustration apparent. "If it's whatever happened, happened, then we already know Charlotte comes out of this in one piece, don't we?"

His takes a dangerous pitch there in the end, and, frankly, it annoys Juliet that she is supposed to be the voice of reason now. 

"Well, I don't think it's about that at all," she tells him, bothered. 

"I think it's sweet," she adds on second thought.

"Damned weird is what it is." James takes a look around them to check if there's anyone to witness this slip little moment of eccentricity from their crew. She smiles grimly in agreement, yes, that too.

A few houses down, a woman laughs.

"He's lucky I got Miles on the night shift this week."

James calls Daniel a damned fool inside his mind, and Juliet can almost hear him.

She shakes her head and moves closer to him, stepping into his embrace. His arm wraps around her like a habit, her hand traces a path from his belly to his chest.

She rests on the curve of his neck, her nose brushing against the rough skin there. "I like how you're always passionate about things," she says out loud, settling a fight that never took place between them.

All this time, they've been walking the line, cautious not to blow their cover. But there's been a shift, Juliet senses it now, and it's suddenly not about what kind of punishments they might receive if they're found out, or about holding on to the chance of getting back to where they belong. It's, rather, what they could lose; it's the protection of the life they've built.

The small change makes all the difference in the world, and just like that, their small group has been separated again, with her, James and Miles on one side, and Jin and Daniel on the other.

James sighs. His body reverberates, taking her with it. He's calm; there's been an armistice in their unbroken peace.

She mumbles against the stubble on his chin, "we can't help him now."

What he hears: we can only help ourselves. And if they're together, that's enough.

The little dots of light shine more clearly as the blue of the sky grows into a deeper shade. The evening is unusually chilly for the island; the weather is as nice and easy as a jazz. They don't say 'I remember; summers here used to be as hot as the seventh circle of hell'. Instead they say, 'will be hotter, thirty years from now'. It's doesn't sound unusual to their ears anymore.

Her fingers slide to interlace with his; her palm presses firmly over the back of his hand, her nails almost dig into skin. Juliet tugs him forward and they walk back to their house with their arms twisted in together this a strange way, her hand cupping his, their fingers curling together.

They don't see Daniel leave, all they know is morning comes and he is gone.