. one Her breath caught in her throat as the words washed over her.
Her breath caught in her throat as the words washed over her.
“Word from the valley is that Saint Jack got himself buried in a cave-in,” Sawyer said, his eyes locked on hers. “Look at the bright side, now you have someone else to pity.”
The fury mounted in her and as Sawyer continued to stare back at her, smug, she glared at him and flung the bottle rocket at his feet. And she ran.
It swirled in her mind as she tried not to panic: Jack was trapped in a cave-in, he could be injured, he could even be--
She shook her head, the leaves crinkling beneath her feet.
She refused to even think of that.
She remembered sitting on the beach just a little over a day ago when he crouched beside her and tried, yet again, to get her to go to the caves with him.
I don’t want to be Eve.
I don’t want to be Eve.
She cringed mentally as she recalled her words.
She hated it as soon as it left her mouth.
But there were times he’d look at her a certain way, almost as if he were scrutinizing her, trying, somehow, to understand her, and every time she’d look away and refuse to meet his eyes.
Because no one ever looked at her like that.
That day, when he moved to stand back upright, she could sense his disappointment, and his words (If you need me, you know where to find me) rang in her ears long after he had left.
So she ran, because she was going to find him.
The hours apart from him felt like an eternity.
Juliet approached her with a calm smile, the warning clear in her cool blue eyes (don’t try anything), and she stared back at her, defiant, as the burlap sack slipped over her head.
Juliet’s fingers enclosed around her upper arm, guiding her down the long hallway (it was so cold inside here after all that time outside in the sun that goosebumps appeared on her skin), and she expected to be brought to Ben, to have to look into those wide blue eyes of his and be victim to his lies and mind-games.
Juliet stopped (everything was still so quiet) and after a few seconds she pulled the sack swiftly off her head.
Her eyes adjusted to the light and there Jack was.
His lips formed a smile, his eyes instantly becoming clouded with warmth and relief and her feet moved of their own volition towards him.
Juliet left and she pressed her palms flat against the glass and he did the same, and even though he was here and she finally saw him again, the pain flared inside her because he was still out of her reach.
“Did they hurt you?”
His voice cut across the words she stumbled over and he was looking at her like he never had before and she remembered, her face crumpling at the realization of what she had to do.
“They’re going to kill Sawyer!”
The words left her mouth, leaving an inexplicable, bitter taste in her throat, and something in his face changed, hardened, and the moment between them was broken.
Her pleas echoed throughout the room, her fingers splayed against the glass desperately, but he wouldn’t listen.
He gave her one last burning look before turning away from her.
Juliet slipped the sack back over her head, making her jump, and she didn't resist when she was led out of the room.
Under the cover of the sack the tears slipped down her face, the shame taking over.
'I got your back,' She had said, not so long ago.
She didn’t mean to contradict herself.
He did listen, and that was why he turned his back on her.
“Kate, damn it, run!”
So she did.
She ran through the jungle, her heart pounding wildly, his face engraved in her memory.
He had looked at her like she betrayed him.
She kept running, the wrong man at her heels and the right man left behind to make the sacrifice, and she supposed she really did.
She held the walkie-talkie tightly in her hand and told him the story he had told her, confided in her about, and for a moment it was like Sawyer and Juliet had evaporated in the air, leaving her alone with only Jack waiting on the other end.
Her voice cracked as she finished it and there was a pause from him.
Then he spoke.
“I need you to make me a promise, Kate.”
'Anything,' She thought, but the only thing she could muster was his name.
“Promise me that you will never come back here for me.”
There was something in his voice; it was clipped, but also resigned, and it frightened her.
“Don’t come back, Kate.”
And there was a click, and the static was loud, and she knew what he had done.
He had saved her, and the price of that was that he couldn’t be saved in return.
Sawyer said that they had to go and she felt numb as she moved towards the boat, and realized, as they pushed it into the water, that she had made a sacrifice as well without knowing it.
Many minutes passed in a loud silence, the water swaying the boat slightly, and she didn’t even think twice before saying it, because she didn’t need to.
“We have to go back.”
He sat on the chair, so quiet, and it was clear more than ever that something had shifted between them.
She couldn’t understand why.
Ever since she left him behind she felt hollow. The only way to make that go away was to go back for him.
So that was what she did.
She expected him to be relieved to see her, to even be grateful, but the way he behaved towards her now was something that took her aback.
So she expressed her confusion (I came here to help you, so why--; I told you not to come back here for me), and she stared at him, indignant.
“I didn’t think you meant it.”
He looked down for a moment, then looked back up at her, a peculiar look in his eyes and he still had nothing to say (it looked like he was holding something back).
This wasn’t him.
Something happened to him, she was sure of it.
She breathed in and took a step forward, placing her hands gently over his, kneeling down, and there was an expression on his face that she couldn’t read. She wondered when it became so hard to understand him.
Then he brought up Sawyer and there was a flash of something in his eyes, and she suddenly got the feeling that he knew what she did.
She peered at him, a sick feeling in her stomach. She shifted a little closer to him and, scared to know the answer but also scared not to know, asked, “What did they tell you?”
He was silent for what felt like forever, then took a breath, like he was about to reply, when they were interrupted.
They were always interrupted.
Juliet let the door shut softly and she turned away, shielding her face from him, because things had changed drastically and she thought she knew why (she hoped desperately that she was wrong).
“I told you not to come back here for me and I wish… I wish that you hadn’t.”
The regret was evident in his voice and she stared at the floor.
His breath suddenly was warm against her ear. “But I will come back here for you.”
Then he left and she sat on the floor, never feeling so alone.
“You broke his heart.”
Juliet’s firm voice stung like a slap in the face.
When she faced Jack later, roused him from where he lay, face-down, in the hallway, she could tell just by the way his face tightened now as he looked at her that Juliet was absolutely right.
“I’m sorry,” She said, the tears rising to her eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
She meant it in more ways than one and he seemed to sense this as he looked at her, his face so solemn and the pain in his eyes (she put that there).
He moved to get up and she came to his aid quickly, and together they walked slowly out of the house, her arm around his waist and his around her shoulder for support.
Even though they were so close together, the distance couldn’t have been wider between them.
He didn’t look at her like he used to.
When their eyes met now, there was something different in his, something that had never been there before (they used to light up when he saw her but now they didn’t).
He acted reserved towards her, kept his conversations short with her; he even became tense when she was around (she had been on this island long enough to know when he was tense) and every time it hurt even more, because it was all her fault.
She hated what she did to make him act this way.
Jack had pushed her away and Sawyer had been facing imminent death and she couldn’t bring herself to just let Sawyer go.
It was a mistake.
She knew that the minute after.
But she couldn’t take it back.
She attempted small talk with him tonight (it used to be so easy to do this) and it was clear in her voice that she was trying too hard and she knew he noticed it too, but he smiled (he hadn’t really smiled at her in a while) and she felt reassured.
He retreated and she picked up the dirty dishes and when her eyes fell on him, where he sat with Juliet, eating with her, she stopped in her tracks.
Juliet said something she couldn’t hear and Jack grinned (he was much more relaxed) and the memory of them doing the same came to her, and it hit her with a painful clarity.
She had been replaced.
She watched as Juliet kissed Jack and when Jack’s eyes sought hers afterward (it was like he knew she, of all people, had seen), she held Jack’s gaze for a second, then turned away.
She saw the concern in his face that he didn’t even try to conceal and knew she didn’t deserve it.
She was with Sawyer now, anyway.
Jack could be with anyone he wanted, and if that happened to be Juliet, then that was how it would be.
She lagged behind everyone, each step she took getting harder, and when Jack approached her where she sat for a moment, asking if she was okay, she replied the affirmative and expected him to leave.
But he didn’t. She stared at the ground as long as she could before looking up.
When she looked at him he wasn’t looking at her in that way that saddened her; he still wasn’t looking at her like he used to, but his face was more relaxed, his eyes brighter.
He tried to console her, the discomfort increasing with every word he said (it was about Sawyer and it was so hard to look him in the eye when that was the topic) but she questioned him one last time, plastering the small smile on her face (she knew it didn’t quite reach her eyes).
“Because I love you.”
The words were said simply, honestly, and suddenly the distance ceased to exist.
She brought one arm around his waist and as his arm rested around her shoulders (she lost count of how many times they'd done this), she reached up with her other hand and wrapped it around his, holding it firmly, and his fingers tightened slightly around hers in response.
“Listen, if something happens to me--”
“Shut up, Jack.”
The words left her lips immediately, that thought too terrifying (too painful) to dwell on, and she instinctively gripped his hand tighter.
Jack shouted and she froze, clutching the mirror, and she recalled Juliet saying her name but all she could focus on was him.
He looked over at her, the pain etched in his face, and the fear she felt was so powerful, so real.
He received the chloroform despite his weak protests and she managed to utter his name, helpless to him, and she almost said it this time, those three words.
Almost, but then his eyes closed.
He told the lie again to protect her, to defend her.
She didn’t expect anything less.
He detailed it so effortlessly (she’d heard it over and over and would be glad if she never heard it again) and she sat silently, clasping her hands together on the table.
Then it became all too quiet and he answered the last question.
“No. Not anymore.”
She stared at the table, her heart aching, and when she finally got the courage to look up at him, he was looking everywhere but at her.
And even though it hurt, only one thought crossed her mind.
It’s about time.
It’s about time.
I’m the one who came back. I’m the one who’s here. I’m the one who saved you.
She sat on the couch after putting Aaron back to bed, the words becoming a litany in her head.
Her eyes were heavy from the tears and she wrapped her hands around the coffee mug, bringing it to her lips.
It had been five hours and he was still gone.
She knew he didn’t really mean what he said.
She also knew that there was something bothering him, something he couldn’t talk to her about.
She saw it in his face every day now. He was more tired than usual, more quiet, and the drinking became frequent.
She needed to know what was wrong.
So she waited.
She enveloped herself in a thick blanket and curled up, her eyes fixed on the door.
But he didn’t come back.
His hands shot out and closed around her shoulders firmly at first, pulling her back towards him, and his grip immediately slackened a bit (it was like he was afraid of hurting her, even though he already did that a long while ago) as she closed her eyes.
It was pain and comfort at the same time (he was so close and she missed this) and when she opened her eyes again his own bore into hers, so full of despair.
“We were not supposed to leave.”
She pulled out of his grasp (he tried to clutch at her a little more but she was determined) and backed away. “Yes, we were.”
She knew all he wanted was for her to understand but she couldn’t, and his face fell as he knew that she still wouldn’t be convinced.
She just wanted him to get better, to stop this, to come home.
But she knew they were past that now.
And she unleashed her anger on him, her hand colliding with his face (it took her own breath away when she did it), and she left him there.
She hated herself for doing it.
She lay in bed, but after an hour or so of staring at the ceiling she gave up on any chance of getting sleep.
She peeled the covers back, swinging her legs over the side of the bed, and waited a minute more, thinking.
But she already knew what she wanted to do.
She got up and left the bedroom, making sure to walk quietly down the hallway, and opened the front door and left the house.
She walked with a purpose towards his house, even though she didn’t know how exactly she was going to begin to say what she wanted to say, and it was only when she was halfway there that a soft voice spoke.
She stopped abruptly, looking to her left, and Jack was there, sitting on one of the benches.
He was looking at her in confusion. “What are you doing out here?”
She swallowed hard (she would not run again, no) and moved towards him. “I couldn’t sleep.”
She sat next to him on the bench; he shifted a little to give her some room, their shoulders brushing, and they were quiet (like always).
She wondered why he was out here but it didn’t surprise her that he had trouble sleeping as well (she thought of asking him why but she couldn’t bring herself to).
But then he started first.
“So what happened--”
“Why did you say I didn’t like the old you?”
She didn’t mean to cut him off like that, especially with that question, but ever since he said those words to her earlier that day she couldn’t think of anything else.
He sighed and she looked over at him. “I didn’t really mean that, Kate, I…”
He trailed off, looking away, and even though she could only make out a little of his face in the darkness she knew how pensive, how tight, it must look.
“It’s not true,” She said, desperate for him to understand this, and his fingers grazed her hand.
“I know, Kate.”
He sounded so sad when he said it, so tired.
She opened her mouth, took a breath, and told him the truth.
She told him about Clementine, and Cassidy, and lastly, most importantly, about Aaron and Carole, and even though it brought her pain, every word that left her mouth also brought her relief.
He sat silently beside her, listening carefully, not daring to interrupt (because now she wasn’t lying anymore and that was what he had always wanted).
“So that’s why I came back,” She finished, her eyes burning with tears. “I’m going to find her.”
She let the tears fall (she had nothing to hide anymore) and added quietly, “Because Aaron needs his mother.”
He moved a little and his hand found hers, holding it warmly. “You were a good mother to him, Kate.”
She smiled a little, grateful for his consolation, and looked at him.
The porch lights from the houses illuminated his face now that he had turned on the bench, facing her. His dark eyes glimmered, full of understanding.
“But he wasn’t mine, Jack.”
He brought his other hand to her face, his fingers sliding down the side of it gently, wiping the tears that were there away, and when he kissed her she felt the tension that built up inside of her for so long slowly fade.
He pulled her close and she wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him (she was never going to let go again), and he whispered against her hair, “Then we’ll find her.”
She lost herself in the warmth of him and closed her eyes.