A/N: No worries, I haven't given up on "Bitten." But Born to Run inspired some serious Kate-angst in me, and I had to get it out of my system. ;) I've never really written Charlie before, so I apologize in advance if his characterization seems off.
Disclaimer: Lost is the property of ABC and Bad Robot. No infringement is intended. No profits are being made from this endeavor.
Jack turned to see Charlie jogging up to him as he made his way across the beach. He was coming from the direction of Claire's tent, where Jack could see her gently rocking the cradle Locke had fashioned out of bamboo. Jack grinned at how Charlie had so easily fallen into the role of father to Claire's son; he was a natural.
He stopped and waited for Charlie to catch up to him, squinting into the setting sun on the horizon. There wasn't much daylight left and he had promised to help finish preparing the raft.
"Listen, Jack, I know you're busy, but do you think you could spare an hour to watch Turniphead?"
Jack suppressed a laugh at the nickname as Charlie continued.
"I wanted to take Claire for a walk tonight. You know, give her a break from… everything."
"And I'm your first choice to baby-sit?" Jack asked, slightly incredulously.
"Well, Claire doesn't like to leave him, and you being a doctor and all, she wouldn't worry about him as much," Charlie explained matter-of-factly.
Jack nodded. "I would, Charlie, but Michael wouldn't agree to take it easy until I told him I'd fill in for him working on the raft tonight. He's pretty anxious to get it finished and they need all the help they can get."
Charlie sighed and nodded in understanding. "Thanks anyway, mate."
"Isn't there anyone else Claire would feel comfortable leaving him with?" Jack questioned. "Kate, maybe? She's great with him, I've seen her…"
Jack trailed off as Charlie's face darkened. "What?" he asked, looking at him quizzically.
"Uh, Claire's not really keen to let Kate anywhere near him, considering…"
"Considering what?" Jack asked.
"You mean, you haven't heard?" Charlie asked hesitantly. "Thought it'd be all over camp by now."
"Thought what would be all over camp, Charlie?" Jack prompted in a frustrated tone.
"Well… it turns out Kate was the one that the Marshal was transporting back to the U.S."
Jack's face went blank, and Charlie began to wish he hadn't been the one to tell him.
"Sorry to break the news, mate. I know you two--"
But Jack cut him off. "Who told you that?" he asked, trying to control the intensity in his tone as his thoughts immediately went to Locke.
"Sawyer. He kind of… outed her in front of everyone. And she admitted to it," Charlie explained, lowering his voice confidentially. "Quite surprising, really."
"Sawyer?" Jack repeated, dumbfounded.
Charlie nodded in assent. "Of all the people to point fingers, eh?"
Jack was silent, trying to process what had happened. He glanced at Kate, seated in the sand as she stared at the waves about a hundred yards up the beach. She was noticeably removed from the rest of the castaways; much further up the beach than usual. Jack frowned and looked back at Charlie.
"Thanks for letting me know."
"Yeah, well, I better get back to Claire," Charlie said, walking past Jack and giving his shoulder a slight squeeze.
Kate didn't seem to be aware of Jack as he approached her, and he walked a little further into her line of sight so she wouldn't be startled. She was sitting with her legs crossed and her hands folded in her lap, absently fiddling with something that gleamed orange and red in the dying light. Jack couldn't see it, but he knew instinctively that it was the plane.
Slowing as he neared her, he studied her face to gauge whether his presence was welcome. After the way they'd left things in the cave earlier, he wasn't sure what to think. He hadn't meant to blurt the question out like that, like an accusation. And it had hurt him to even ask it. But a dead man's words haunted him, and he had to know the truth. She'll do anything to get away…
Setting his backpack down softly, he eased himself down onto the sand, a few inches from Kate. Drawing his knees up, he leaned his arms across them and looked sideways at her.
"I heard what happened," he said softly.
Kate nodded slightly but continued to look straight ahead. "Looks like you're off the hook; you don't have to keep my secret anymore," she said, a sad smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.
"I never considered it a burden, Kate."
She glanced at him quickly before lowering her eyes to her hands. She seemed to remember all at once that she was holding the plane, and she covered it discretely, seemingly ashamed of her sentimentality. But the movement didn't escape Jack's attention.
He turned away to stare at the waves, not wanting to make her uncomfortable. They sat in silence for a few moments before Jack spoke again.
"How did he know?"
"I don't know," Kate replied, shaking her head. "I think he's always known…"
"How could he?" Jack asked.
Kate chuckled wryly. "It's like he has a sixth sense or something. We're the same, he and I. He just knew it."
"You're nothing like him, Kate," Jack spoke sincerely. Turning to look at her once more, he paused, looking thoughtful. "He did it because of the raft?"
"Yeah," she answered in a whisper. "Can't blame him, I guess."
"Don't make excuses for him," Jack said, shaking his head. "He shouldn't have done it."
"I'm not," Kate said, drawing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. "I'm just… it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway."
Jack nodded slightly, letting out a slow breath. "Guess so. But, maybe it's better that everyone knows now. Maybe you could never really start over here 'til you laid everything on the table, you know?"
She looked at him suddenly, square in the eyes this time. "It was my idea for Sun to poison Jin."
Jack blinked in surprise, but didn't turn away.
"I should have told you before, I know." Her eyes glistened with tears that made Jack want to forgive her immediately.
"Why didn't you?" Jack asked, trying to keep the hurt out of his eyes. Why was it so hard for her to be honest with him?
"Because I didn't want you to look at me the way you are right now." Her voice shook slightly as she said it, and she looked back out at the horizon, where the sun was still slowly sinking.
"I know you want to believe that I'm not like Sawyer, Jack," Kate said, trying to harden her voice. "But it's not true."
"It could be Kate," Jack sighed, standing. "All it would take is for you to believe it, too."
He turned and walked slowly back down the beach, hurt that he had been right to be suspicious of her, and wondering if she'd ever give him a reason not to be…