So, I caved and wrote a sequel. You guys were so amazing with your reviews of Across the Ocean - I hope you like this as well!
Just a note about the title - its from a PJ Harvey/Thom Yorke Duet
Oh, and since I always forget, I don't own lost, not even a little bit!
The Mess We're In
He walked out, Jack didn't storm anywhere, he just walked deliberately with sure and angry steps. If there had been a door to slam, Kate was sure he would have slammed it, but there wasn't one so instead he had just pawed at the canvas flaps of the large tent, searching for the opening. When he found it, he pushed it opened wide and let the opening fall closed, canvas flapping in his wake.
Kate continued to sit on their bed, one leg tucked under her, the other swinging off the edge. She rubbed her temples, then rose and walked to the door. She found the opening easier than Jack had in his wild frustration. She held one side open and watched him walk to the large medical tent. The Sudan sun was bright and had the effect of making the world look like an overexposed photograph. She loved him in that light, the way it highlighted his now deeply tanned skin, how it seemed that extra light filtered into his eyes enhancing the dark brown. She had noticed that his eyes had flecks of green in that light. But now, watching him walking away like this, his body getting smaller and further away from her, the light seemed too harsh. She brought her hands to her eyes to shield them from the glare, but when she looked for him again he was gone. He had disappeared into a door, or turned a corner around a tent.
She let the canvas fall closed and returned to their bed. She sat for a minute, wondering what to do, how to fix this, but nothing came. She felt him slipping away, and it was entirely her fault. No, she corrected herself, he's not slipping away, you're pushing him away, Kate. She lay back on the bed crushing clean clothes beneath her, then rolled to her side. He shoulders seemed to collapse in on themselves and she brought her knees closer to her chest. She didn't even realize she was crying until the tears pooled and dripped of her nose onto the dark sheet.
Their fight had escalated so quickly. They hadn't fought like this in ages, not since the island. She had hated it then and now it was so much worse, the stakes were higher now and there was so much more to lose.
She had been the one to broach the subject, the thing that neither of them had brought up for weeks. Their time here was running out. Jack's replacement would be here within the week. They had been here for nearly six months, it was the longest Kate had stayed in one place since before she could remember.
She had been standing at the bed, folding their clothes freshly gathered from the line. She glanced over at him trying to read his mood, predict his reaction to the conversation she was about to start. He had been hunched over in front of a small tarnished mirror trying his best to shave without running water. "I was thinking," She said shifting her eyes back to the pile of clothes. She didn't continue and he glanced up to look at her in the reflection of the small mirror.
"Yeah?" He said.
"I was thinking" she started again. "That when we leave, we shouldn't go back to the States. Maybe we could go to Europe or something." She saw him lower his razor into the bowl of water and shake it out, seemingly thinking about what she had just said.
He didn't say anything for a moment, then he spoke. "Maybe we could stay here." Her heart sank. She had known he would say it, but up until the last second she had been holding out hope that he wouldn't. She had convinced a tiny irrational part of herself that maybe this wouldn't be a big deal, that he would agree and they would plan their next move together.
In her silence he continued, "I mean this has been ideal, right? The federal government isn't going to come looking for you in Africa." He spoke quickly now, trying to convince her, taking her silence as a sign that she was considering the idea. "And I know you love it here. I've seen you with these people, you can't deny that. And as absurd as it sounds, I feel like were making a small impact here. We can't leave now."
Kate sat on the edge of the bed and picked up one of Jack's socks. She pulled at the elastic while she spoke "We can't do that." She said.
"Why not?" he asked casually. The danced around the subject, both still pretending that this was a normal conversation that they could be having any morning. Maintaining almost zero eye contact and speaking as though their lives wouldn't be inexorably changed by whatever decision they came to.
"Well, for one thing, we don't have clearance to stay. 6 months is all we got." She picked up a folded sheet of paper from the rustic looking nightstand and searched for a name. "Dr. Neil Richards and his wife Amy, an actual licensed RN I might add, will be here to replace us in less than a week."
"You really think they're going to turn us away? We don't have to go," He was trying to keep the utter frustration out of his voice, but the anger was edging in and his volume grew. "This is working, you have to see that."
Kate shook her head, trying to find the right words.
He held up his hand for a moment, "Just listen for a second. I don't think I'm explaining this right."
"Jesus Christ Jack, I'm not stupid. I know exactly why you want to stay."
"Kate, that is not what I meant, and you know it."
"Jack, you can't save everybody all on your own. You just can't." She was actually yelling now. "It's fucking Africa! You're not God. You did your part, you feel for the suffering, you move on with your life." He looked at her shocked. "I know, I'm terrible and selfish, but I am not unfeeling, there's nothing left to give. It's time to let someone else try."
They were both silent for a moment. "You're just itchin to run aren't you?" He nodded slightly as the realization came to him, his hands at his hips.
"That is not what this is about." She brought the tips of her fingers to her skull and kneaded the tension there. She didn't look at him. "It's not an itch, it's a necessity. It is how I have to live my life." She said each word deliberately. "I wish my circumstances we're different, but they're not. You knew what you were signing up for, you can change your mind at any time."
"We don't have to go." He repeated for a third time, but his voice was low and defeated.
She looked up at him, "Well, maybe you don't have to go, but I do." She had stared straight at him when she said it, watched his expression change subtly from anger to raw hurt at the idea she could leave him behind so easily. She noticed a bit of shaving cream near his right ear and her eye was drawn to it until he absently reached up and wiped it away.
"I knew this would happen." He said, the anger slowly returning to his eyes. "I wish I didn't know you so fucking well."
And then he had shut down and walked out.
She continued to lay on the bed, closing further in upon her self, tears spilling unchecked until exhausted, she fell asleep.
Narrow beds lined the wall of the room Jack was working in. Most of them were filled. Flies buzzed in and out. Jack was talking to a woman laying in one of the beds. Well, talking wasn't really the right word for it. He was communicating to her through his translator, a 24 year old Sudanese refugee from the South named Benjamin. He had been in the US from 13 to 20, than had gotten a job with Doctors Without Boarders and returned home.
The woman had some sort of intestinal parasite that Jack was unable to specifically diagnose without the proper equipment. Thankfully, he didn't need specifics in order to treat her. Benjamin was trying to explain to her Jack's instructions, but the woman kept shaking her head. Jack looking down at her noticed the light change on her face and looked towards the entrance.
Kate walked in, her eyes rimmed red from tears or sleep, maybe both. There was a long crease on her cheek, a result of sleeping hard on a wrinkled pillow case. Still, he thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen. She looked almost the same as she had when they were on the island. Her freckles were maybe a bit darker from the African sun, but otherwise she was exactly the same. Her slightly shorter hair was pulled back in a loose mass of curls and her opened white button down revealed a green top beneath. Her hands were clasped in front of her and she nervously rubbed her thumb along her palm, her eyes searching the room.
He tore his guilty eyes away from her to look at his translator. "You got this Ben?" Jack asked.
Benjamin looked up and nodded, then returned his attention to the woman. Jack walked around the bed and headed towards Kate, their eyes locked on each other. Her eyes were dark with things left unsaid and he saw her hesitate nearly imperceptibly. A few months ago, he probably wouldn't have even noticed the shift, but now he had grown accustomed to most of her subtle mannerisms. But her eyes still held secrets in their shrouded green depths. A part of her that she made a conscious effort to deny him access to.
I love her more than she loves me. He knew this. Sometimes he thought it was his insecurities playing tricks on him, but in that moment he felt it as a certainty. She was going to leave him. She'd probably never look back.
He strode toward her, past beds and cupboards filled with what would never be enough meds, and she took a few hesitant steps toward him. But before he could get to her, before he could make the perfect apology and say all the right things to fix this mess he had gotten them into, an elderly gentleman who worked at the hospital approached her from the left. He should know the man's name, but he didn't. He was relatively new and Jack had always been terrible with names.
Kate knew who he was though and when called out her name, it came out like "Kite", not "Kate," she turned to him and smiled. Jack stopped walking toward her, just stood in the middle of the room and watched her. He said something that Jack couldn't hear and Kate nodded eagerly. She gave the man a brief hug, rubbing his back in comforting circles, and followed him towards a bed at the opposite end of the room. She glanced back at Jack, motioning that she needed a few minutes. Neither of them was angry anymore, but neither of them knew what would become of them either.
He saw her crouch at the edge of the bed she had been led to and talk to the patient there. She had an ease with people that he would never have, he felt a tight twinge of what he knew was irrational jealousy. He turned away from her and walked back to his patient. They could deal with all of this later, they would have to.