culture shock
By gale

SUMMARY: It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, but with less kidnapping and Patty Hearst references.

They’ll be back in Sydney tomorrow. If everything goes according to plan and *this* plane doesn’t crash, too – and really, what are the odds on that, Boone wants to ask, but doesn’t quite dare – they’ll be in Los Angeles by midnight Sunday.

Midnight Sunday. It hardly seems real, but it is. Their paperwork’s been expedited, new passports provided. He even got hold of his mother, who’d thought the whole thing was a sick joke right up until she didn’t; then she’d burst into tears, which was scary enough. Sabrina Carlisle *never* cried. She didn’t so much as get red-eyed when Shannon’s dad died, for Christ’s sake.

When Boone gets up on deck, he’s not really surprised to see Walt standing there. “My dad’s saying goodbye to Sun,” the boy – no, teenager now – explains, and for once Boone decides to take the words at face value. If he lives to be a hundred and has people explain it to him in slow voices with small words, he’ll never be able to understand the Sun/Michael/Jin thing.

“Mmn.” Boone settles in next to him at the railing, looks out at the water. It’s nice out. There’s a breeze. “You guys coming back to LA?”

Walt shrugs. “Dad doesn’t know yet. He keeps talking about New York, but—“ He shrugs again. “You?”

”For now.” Boone’s trying very, very hard not to think about the future until he absolutely has to. It’s going to be fun enough having that talk with Sabrina:

”Hey, Mom? Remember how I went to Sydney to bring Shannon home? Well, it turns out she’s been scamming us for years, and while we were down there, we had sex. …No, I know, but it gets *better*. See, she’s coming back five months pregnant with a husband, and I’m coming back – well, I don’t know *what* I’m coming back, but I hope you like having a doctor for a son-in-law. Sort of.”

He’ll have to edit the first part, but that’s okay. The last part’s going to be enough to give her an aneurysm.

“I don’t see why we had to leave,” Walt bursts out. He doesn’t clench his fists, but it’s a near thing. “We were just fine.”

”It would have looked weird if we stayed,” Boone says, not looking away from the water. “Would you have wanted to leave your dad?”

”Which one?” Walt asks. It makes Boone close his eyes.

John hadn’t left. He’d listened to everyone else making plans with varying levels of excitement and unease, and calmly announced that he was staying behind. Everyone else could do as they wished, but Walt was going with his father – with Michael. He hadn’t said anything to Boone, but he’d shot him looks through the whole speech, and if there’s one thing Boone’s always been good at, it’s understanding the part of the conversation that doesn’t require words.

”My dad’s not going to want to see anyone from the plane,” Walt announces matter-of-factly. Boone recognizes the tactic; Walt does it instead of making dramatic, overly theatrical pronouncements. After all these years, being staid is about as annoying. “He’s not going to want to let you see me. I have to go back to school, and make friends, and get back to things being normal.”

Boone waves that off. “You can do both at once.”

”But my dad—“

”Your dad,” Boone says carefully, “is not the boss of me.” He wants to say he’s not even really the boss of Walt, after all these years, but better not to put ideas in the kid’s head. Besides, it’s not like Walt doesn’t already know. “We’ll figure something out.”

“I hope so,” Walt says.

They’re both silent for a minute. Boone tries to tell himself not to get used to it. The real world’s loud in a way he’s not used to anymore; he should start bracing himself for that.

“Did Jack get hold of his mom yet?” Walt asks, breaking the silence.

”A couple hours ago,” Boone says, rolling his shoulders. He’s looking forward to that almost as much as seeing his mother again. He’s never said one word to Sarah Shepard, but he knows from the way Jack goes all tense when he talks to her that he’s not going to like her very much. But isn’t in the rules that you’re not supposed to like your in-laws? “She sounded more upset that he didn’t have his dad’s body than anything else.”

Walt mutters something rude under his breath. Boone doesn’t bother telling him not to use language like that. That’s why there are dads, after all. ”You don’t like her.”

”I don’t know her,” Boone says. He’s very aware that that’s not an answer, though.

”It’s going to be weird,” Walt says, looking at him. “Going back, I mean. I don’t even remember living in America. And there are going to be too many people.”

”You’ll be fine,” Boone says, and means it. Walt will be wildly uncomfortable, and God knows how much fun Michael’s going to have with a teenager who’s not used to being around other people his own age – let alone girls, and Boone’s almost sorry he’s going to miss that - but he’ll be fine. If Boone’s worried about anyone, it’s the kids, the ones who’ve never known anything but the island. There aren’t a lot of them, four counting Claire’s son, but they’re going to have culture shock like no one’s ever seen before.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t going to be problems, because there are. And questions, because people ask questions when a plane is ripped open above the Pacific and 48 people survive out of 130. Boone’s had his story ready since the guys on the boat announced they’d be back for them in the morning: plane crash, survived, wild animal attack and other natural disasters, thank God you came. It’s what they want to hear, after all, and Boone’s always been good at telling people what they want to hear.

He’s not sure what’s going to come after that. He’ll still be Walt’s brother, but he’s not sure how Michael’s going to react to that. He’ll still be with Jack, but they both have responsibilities in the world, and the transition period is going to suck. He’s going to be an uncle in a few months, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to be at that. Sure, he and Shannon are almost friendly, but he and Sayid still can’t be in a room together for longer than 10 minutes without one of them (usually Boone, he’s man enough to admit it) picking a fight.

The rest of his life is a question mark. Four years on the island have burned a lot of things out of Boone, and the biggest is his taste for unanswered questions.

If Boone turns around right now, he’d maybe see the island way off in the distance, shrouded in early-morning fog. It’d take a while to find, but his eyes are young and strong. He might even see John, or something John-shaped.

Boone doesn’t turn around.

Instead, he looks forward, towards the slowly-growing shape of Sydney Harbor. They’ll be there before lunchtime, the captain’s promised.

Los Angeles might as well be another planet. Boone’s not sure he remembers how to speak their language. He did, once.

Just for a moment, Walt rests his head against the railing and closes his eyes. “I want to go home,” he whispers, and Boone knows he doesn’t mean Sydney or New York.

And just for a moment, he threads his fingers through his brother’s. “So do I,” he says. But he still doesn’t look back.
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