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10 March 2010 @ 11:04 am
Hurt Locker Fiction: "Another Lifetime Gone" (Sanborn, PG-13)  
Title: Another Lifetime Gone
Fandom: The Hurt Locker
Author: HalfshellVenus
Characters: Sanborn, OFC (Gen)
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: It was summer when Sanborn got the news about Will James.
Author's Notes: A birthday gift for badboy_fangirl, who requested this setup.
Also for writers_choice, this is "Echo."

x-x-x-x-x

The last day of Sanborn's tour was as scorching and sand-blown as any other. He spent it saying goodbye to the men in his unit, and running through enough prayers to rival the flowers in his grandma's church-hat that he wouldn't get called out for bomb duty one last time. He didn't need that jinx.

Instead, he made it out safely, the transport riding over broken roads all the way to the airport, and the plane lifting off and soaring skyward through the long half hour to the demilitarized zone. Only then did he let the thought escape: I am never going back there again.

When the last plane brought him home, he kneeled on the tarmac and kissed the ground. It was over, the whole deadly nightmare finally behind him. He'd survived—both the war and SSG William James. The first was luck. The second was some kind of goddamned miracle.

Sanborn went back to the work of living. He got a job managing a Home Depot and met a girl named Shonelle while volunteering for his church. The girl was gentle and as pretty as her name, and she made Sanborn feel peaceful when the world got too loud. They were married in April and expecting by August, and it all felt so right.

"Are we ready for this, JT?" Shonelle asked. "It's happening so fast."

"This is everything I ever wanted," he said, and he meant it. His very own family, with first words and steps and new experiences around the corner, was exactly what he needed to be certain he was actually alive. He could gather them close and fill the emptiness left by all he'd seen and done to make the world a safer place. There were times he'd been afraid he might never have the chance.

A year later, Sanborn got the news. He was bouncing his baby girl on his knee and listening to her laugh, thinking how foolish he'd been to get so worked up over the idea of a son. He'd never seen anything more wonderful than the sweet-smelling, chubby little girl right there in front of him, unless it was her Mama.

"The phone's for you, honey," Shonelle said. "I don't recognize the voice…"

They went to the funeral, of course. A full day's drive and too much time to punish himself with questions like whether liking someone you didn't trust and were mad at most of the time still counted as friendship. He and James hadn't contacted each other but once after Sanborn went Stateside. He'd heard James had re-upped (crazy motherfucker), and now he was just glad the man had gone down on somebody else's watch. With James it was never if, only when, and Sanborn would never understand what drove him to be that way. It made him tired just thinking about it again.

He wondered how it happened--whether James had even been wearing the protection suit—and whether there'd been anything left of him to ship home apart from the box he'd always kept under the bed.

Eldridge wasn't at the funeral, but that was no surprise. It was just Sanborn and Shonelle, James' wife and family, and people James had probably known in high school. They all stood by the graveside with the sun beating down so hard that Sanborn could almost feel the scrape of sand at the back of his neck, like he was back in the desert just trying to make it to the other side of one more day. James' widow seemed more resigned than anything, and Sanborn realized James had abandoned her long before he died. With a beautiful wife and son waiting for him at home, James had still been too fucked-up to put their future first.

Sanborn spoke to her afterward, offered whatever help she needed. He couldn't give her the comfort of kind remembrances, couldn't even tell her that Will James was the bravest man he'd ever known. Bravery on the battlefield would never make up for lacking the courage to come to terms with living as an ordinary man.

On the long trip home, Sanborn drove with one hand on the wheel and the other wrapped around his wife's fingers, the touch of her skin keeping him tethered to the present. He'd never forget his time in Iraq, never silence the nightmares or lay the ghosts of fear and desperation to rest. But he'd already chosen to surround himself with what he wanted instead of what he couldn't change.

He drove on through the night, Shonelle sleeping there beside him and a baby girl with her Mama's brown eyes waiting for him at home.

He couldn't get there soon enough.


-------- fin --------

 
 
 
sassy, classy, and a bit smart-assy: love show hardbadboy_fangirl on March 10th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
*wipes away tears*

Maybe it's just the sobering reality of my own real life right now that needed something like this--the truth of it.

So painfully beautiful. I really love Sanborn as a character, and still think my favorite scene in the whole movie is when he slaps James for taking his headset off.

with questions like whether liking someone you didn't trust and were mad at most of the time still counted as friendship

YES, OMG, yes.

Bravery on the battlefield would never make up for lacking the courage to come to terms with living as an ordinary man.

So poignant.

And this:
He was bouncing his baby girl on his knee and listening to her laugh, thinking how foolish he'd been to get so worked up over the idea of a son.

Men. So typical, and so sweet, too.

Thank you, Karen. I love it!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on March 10th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'm glad this was exactly what you wanted, especially after what you've been through lately.

I really love Sanborn as a character, and still think my favorite scene in the whole movie is when he slaps James for taking his headset off.
I love that scene, because what Sanborn and the viewer know is that he's had to WATCH the man in James' position get killed when things went down badly, and that was when his commanding officer used sense and all the protection available. James' behavior threatens all of them, but it still matters (emotionally) to his team when he endangers himself.

One of the things I loved about this movie was the complicated relationship between Sanborn and James, and the questions that it raises about friendship. I don't know if you watch White Collar, but that features a (much less dangerous) dilemma over the same issue of how to deal with really liking someone that you don't entirely trust (and probably shouldn't).

Well, I'm so glad you liked it! It wasn't the request I expected (not with this setup), but after thinking about it the idea came of how to tell a story that doesn't focus on James' death but includes it as part of how Sanborn continues on after the war.
happy is as happy does: Fangirly joyhappywriter06 on March 11th, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
*sniffles* I can't cry now since I'm in the middle of this fic that I need to work on. This is my canon.

A full day's drive and too much time to punish himself with questions like whether liking someone you didn't trust and were mad at most of the time still counted as friendship....now he was just glad the man had gone down on somebody else's watch. With James it was never if, only when, and Sanborn would never understand what drove him to be that way.
Just these three different men thrown together and forced to have each other's back when they have all these conflicting needs and wants. When they no time to develop a real friendship. I was so tense during the drinking in the room scene. I was just waiting for a serious fight.

He couldn't give her the comfort of kind remembrances, couldn't even tell her that Will James was the bravest man he'd ever known.
Guh, right in the heart. Maybe when James started out it was bravery driving him as in somebody's got to do the job. Then it turned into something else.

What I love about this movie is that the main guy isn't a hero. You walk away with conflicting emotions regarding this guy. But it's pretty clear that Sanborn is the audience. The guy going, are you crazy? At least this is my view of the movie.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on March 11th, 2010 07:31 am (UTC)
Just these three different men thrown together and forced to have each other's back when they have all these conflicting needs and wants.
I think that's the heart of many a war story, but it's so much more explosive here when James is actually endangering all of them. That scene in the desert when they were doing tests and Sanborn talked about "Accidents happen all the time"... chilling, both because of the awfulness of what he was contemplating but also because you understand why he's thinking it, and you can't even really blame him.

Guh, right in the heart. Maybe when James started out it was bravery driving him as in somebody's got to do the job. Then it turned into something else.
The thrill took over the job, and you can see it in how increasingly cocksure (and incautious) he becomes even during the time Sanborn was part of his team.

What I love about this movie is that the main guy isn't a hero. You walk away with conflicting emotions regarding this guy. But it's pretty clear that Sanborn is the audience.
I completely agree. James is kind of an anti-hero (and all the more complex for his flaws), and Sanborn is the normal person representing the audience who also increases the tension and effect of the movie because you are as trapped in the moment of every one of James' bad decisions as Sanborn is, just waiting for something to go terribly wrong.

I'm so glad you found this! I didn't expect to write another story in this fandom, but Candy's request morphed into its own story. :)
tyrical: AP_Apple Icon Black Glowtyrical on March 12th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC)
Lovely peek into Sanborn.
It was really great to see this story. I'd like to think that Sanborn of them all would come home and adjust as well as he has.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Random Fandomhalfshellvenus on March 12th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
I was hoping you'd come around LJ long enough to find this!

Sanborn was the most grounded of any of those three, and he already knew what he wanted when he was caught up in the middle of that war. That, plus his strength of character, led me to believe that he would pursue his future and his happiness with a tenacity that refused to fall prey to all of the horrors of his past.

And what an incredible contrast he is to Will James, who already had all of the things Sanborn wanted and could never make them be enough to keep him happy. It's part of why James frustrates and fascinates us.

Thanks so much for stopping by and reading this! There aren't many people who appreciate Hurt Locker fanfic, and it's nice to have others who do. :)