Lessons in Letting go

Summary: Jack and Kate and a bunch of randomness!
Pairings: J/K, S/K
Rating: Hmmm. Some swearing and sex. PG?
Authors note: Excuse the alliteration, it was too good to resist. Mostly this is an exercise in linguistics. (And in not gilding that clichéd old lilly too much.)

Feedback is the superior to which I eternally report!

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Lessons in letting go

It was the little things she missed the most.

That early morning cup of coffee, Sunday evenings in the bath with the radio on low, the fresh pages of an unread magazine, two extra hours in bed when she really should be doing something else. She misses people too, of course, but most often she thinks of fading sounds and tastes, dark chocolate and U2, all slipping away from her, bleeding into nothingness.

She does what she can to keep things, snatches of songs, the words of friends, fragments of memory; replays them forcefully, carefully cataloguing all the things too precious to be forgotten. It was too easy to start believing that nothing existed before the island, before polar bears, and death and boar, too easy to believe the whole world was the island and that everything dropped off at the point at which the sky bled into the sea.

She asked Jack once what he missed the most. He had laughed and shook his head, said cigarettes after a lengthy beat. It was funny because he didn't smoke, not really, just sometimes when the mood struck. One cigarette to ease the metallic taste of want and the dull itchy ache of an unanswered craving in the pit of his belly. Apparently Jack liked a cigarette after sex or with a cold beer: long luxurious drags, sucked into greedy lungs with practised disinterest, the brief sweet rebellion of a man who lived a life drawn out in perfectly straight lines.

She brought him a cigarette the next day, prised it from Sawyer with all the feminine wile that she had. I think you deserve this. He smiled at her, thank you Kate, picked the cigarette up between finger and thumb. He didn't smoke it though; just stared at it for a while, silently thoughtful, then tucked it away in his jeans pocket.

He returned the favour soon after. Two bottles of nail polish, one pink and one orange and a quiet I thought of you. That night she paints her toenails leaning against a tree trunk, alternating the colours, orange to pink, as she goes along.

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She forgets sometimes, where she is. Sometimes she's back in which ever bed she most recently called her own, wrapped up tightly in a duvet and her own ever brief optimistic naivety.

Then it begins. Her memory is a videotape on constant replay and she sees it anew, feels it all with fresh acuteness, black and white scenes of a hundred of deaths. Despair and longing she feels on each morning breeze, pricking at her senses, tacky on her skin. The rest of her life sits behind her eyelids, a picture in her head of a girl she no longer recgonises, pushing itself to the fore, swallowing everything else.

Someday she will let go, she knows that, but not quite yet; first she has to find a way to save herself from her fate as the girl who cannot stop the ground from disappearing from beneath her feet.

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Jack mumbles about stars and how he wishes he knew their names and how to tell them apart. She doesn't know what to say to him when he acts this way, like he is a little boy, lost, broken, desperate to be fixed. She tells him that she used to be the girl who lay in the dewy grass of her garden gazing up at the sky, each time surprised by the infinity of what she saw. We are so small, he says with a rueful smile.

Silence is her reply because there is nothing neutral to be said, he slips through her fingers as he turns to retreat and the moment dies unmourned like so many others before it and they're still waiting for the unspoken to be freed.

She knows they are only moving in circles now; they've reached the point of stalemate. Someone has to let go first and she's fairly certain that it won't be her. She's fairly certain it won't be him either.

He kissed her once. They didn't talk about it afterwards.

She was almost relieved.

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It takes a while before it happens, before she starts to miss sex. Even then it's not really sex that she misses, more the scratchy warmth and the blissful feeling moment of freedom totally outside of consciousness shared with just one other.

Sawyer misses it too and he tells her this frequently in low greedy tones. He never asks but she knows what he means when he looks at her eyes, her mouth and then back up again. A quick triangle of sexual short hand. Freckles. We're the same you and me Freckles. It's an arrangement he's suggesting, they both want, need to be touched, and it makes sense she supposes eventually.

Makes sense to turn her head obligingly when he kisses the side of her mouth, tasting like salt and coconut and the place where the two intersect, makes sense to let coarse sand-rubbed fingers brush her shoulder and push aside fabric, makes sense to say 'God, yes' hotly into the nape of his neck until a white-hot release boils up through body and consumes her entirely.

Afterwards he touches her hair with uncharacteristic caution and she thinks of lovers and kisses and early morning sex in unmade linen, teeth that nip at the flesh of her ear, and men that call her beautiful and mean it.

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They start a game, some time after the cigarette and the nail polish. It's not even a game really, though they deliberately label it as such. She remembered with fondness the sweet passive smile he gave to her when she asked him if he wanted to play along: Tell me the things you miss, Jack.

Their game truly is an exercise in pulling out your own heart, yet there is a peculiar kind of therapy in scratching open tender wounds with someone who is equally raw. They keep it light for the most part and she gives him what she can, hiding horror and heartbreak under tiny scraps of honesty. He talks of peanut butter sandwiches, basketball, Robert De Niro movies, the place at the bottom of his garden just perfect for the afternoon sun.

As he spoke she couldn't help but imaginr him in the real world; in the Real World he would be a man who hid his imperfections under sharp suits and practised charm, a man who enjoyed watching football and drinking beers with his generic friends, a man who occasionally liked to smoke a cigarette after fucking a faceless woman on expensive cotton sheets.

She doesn't know when it stopped being funny. Their game. Only that he looked at her one day, narrowed eyes and closed mouth: It doesn't do to dwell too much Kate. She thinks of the wickedness of insomnia, conversations with Boone and 'my father is dead,' and wonders who it is he's talking to.

Each night he nurses his ghosts sitting by the fire. He sings to himself too, whispers in soft and raspy tones, not quite loud enough for her to make out the words. She knows he is only doing it to make noise outside his own head, to find something familiar in rhyming couplets and reliable clichés.

She thinks about going over. Like always. Never does. Turns her back and fades into Marvin Gaye and Al Green, the soundtrack of her own ghosts, too loud to shout over, too ugly to be shared with him.

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Later she learns why he turned so cold without warning; funny how you can remove yourself from reality and still be at the whim of the winds of other peoples emotions. She wonders when Sawyer told him about tacky bodies pushed against rocks and skin chaffed by denim though she doesn't wonder why.

Jack wears jealousy like an ill-fitting suit. He is itchy in his own skin, restless like the ocean. He barks orders at Hurley who obliges with only the smoothest of shrugs and she watches with folded arms and tilted head. He spends the evening avoiding her glances, but she feels the warmth of his gaze on the back of her neck. Later he comes over and sits beside her without a word. Their fingers brush upon the sand.

He doesn't say anything for the longest time and she studies his profile, her one point of focus against the burnt orange sky. After a while he sighs and looks down at her feet. Most of the polish had cracked of her toenails, but there were a few flecks of colour left, orange and pink, orange and pink. I like your toes, he says.

In the morning when she wakes she sees him standing at the shore, smoking the cigarette, glancing out to sea.

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When she dreams of Jack she dreams in Technicolor: Jack in the Real World in a new shirt and new jeans; smells like soap and sweat all at once, clean and dirty inside and out. In her dreams she is clean too, no chipped nails nor scratched skin. Freshly washed hair fanned out on his pillow, shower-gel scented fingertips press into his scalp. Jack, she says. Jack. Over and over. Laughing when he whispers in her ear, hissing when he moves his hand lower.

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He started the next day like it was the first time they had met. Nice to meet you she thinks and wonders not first time what this would have been like if she had been a normal girl and his was just another beautiful face glimpsed across a crowed bar.

I have something to show you, he announces with a grin.

It's nothing much in the end. Just a pile of things he has collected since he arrived on the island, when he shows it to her it feels like sharing somehow and she knows that this is him letting her back in.

There is something so desperately sad about it. Such a small pile of nothing: a packet of aeroplane peanuts, a pack of playing cards, a baseball cap two-sizes too small, and a dirty copy of 'The Lovely Bones, pages worn and hard to read.' This is everything I own, he gestures at the ordered pile on the floor. This and the clothes on my back.

It's such a small pile of nothing; discarded possessions of the dead, things that he's kept aside just for the sake of having something to put his name to. She picks up the Lovely Bones. There is a name on the inside cover, neat and tidy script: Property of Alex

Jack is silent for a moment. I hate that book, he says eventually.

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He kisses her for the second time that day, takes her by surprise with the soft brush of his hand across the side of her face, pulling her in like everything is ordinary and they are just two strangers in some bedroom starting a conventionally passionate love affair. Love with an easy listening soundtrack instead of something slightly surreal sadly tinged with weeping strings. Kate. Her name is a whisper that catches in the wind and she closes her eyes and presses her forehead against his.

It was easy to forget sometimes that there was a world outside the island. It was all fading at the edges, bleeding into grey. He was U2, chocolate; Sunday evenings in the bath with the radio on low, the fresh pages of an unread magazine, two extra hours in bed when she really should be doing something else. Warm to the touch and bittersweet to taste. Jack. Almost clean, together, inside and out.

He pulls away from her and he smiles, like something inside him has just clicked. Liberated she thinks, ready to let go.

He holds her hand and it feels like flying with out falling.