Title: Manhunt

Setting: Post-"What Kate Did" and including spoilers up until the preview for the next new episode (which airs next year, yikes.) This picks up the story pretty much where we left off in the episode. Only it's a few days after. Yeah.

Disclaimer: I wish I had my own Sawyer, unconscious and shirtless on my bed. I would obsessively hover over him until I hallucinate sexy black stallions... But, sadly, I don't. The Lost crew and that lucky psycho killer Kate do. Sue me not.

Author rambles: Hello. This is my first time straying from fun one-shots and attempting a longer, chapter story for Lost. The thing that scares me about longer stories is that I actually have to remember to update :D Shouldn't be much of a problem this time around since we have that long ass gap between episodes and it's mostly over Christmas vacation. So I'll attempt to keep on top of this story with at least one update a week, if not more. But feel free to give me a friendly reminder if I start to slack off ;)

As for the story, the idea for it formed about two weeks ago, but I had to wait until "WKD" aired 'cause I knew it'd likely affect key points of the story. Not much, but minor details. You'll see as we go along.

This first chapter is kind of long and will probably bore most of you, but it was needed to catch us up on current events. After this, the plot will start moving along and I'll try to keep chapters about this size.

And yea. Hope ya'll enjoy ;)

(By the way, it's mildly rated now but a few chapters later on will border "R" territory. Just a head's up.)

---

"If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else."
- Marvin Gaye (American soul singer, songwriter and producer, 1939-1984)

---

Kate stood to the side, shadowed from the campfire light by the low vegetation that grew where the forest ground met the sand, carefully watching Jack as he briefed the few people gathered around him. It was early in the morning and there was still some time before the sun would rise, but the small group had been congregated for a good hour now. This was the second day in a row that they would be going out into the jungle, and Kate observed them with a stab of jealousy. She wouldn't be going along, though that was mostly out of her own accord. For once, she had a reason to stay back while the others went ahead.

The alpha of the recent newcomers, Ana Lucia, stood authoritatively beside Jack, having steadily assumed the leadership role right alongside him. Kate felt another tinge of envy, though she mentally kicked herself for the action. She had no real right to hate the women, despite the fact that she had murdered one of their own- if by accident- and was now working her way into Kate's place amongst the castaways- though no one was quite accepting her with open arms. Giving up her position, both as the next-in-command and as the always-willing adventurer, had also been Kate's choice. It came with the new territory she was trekking. She couldn't have it both ways. There had to be sacrifices.

This is how things had to be. At least for now. Eventually, Kate clung to the belief that everything would go back to normal. That is, if there was a "normal" here.

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Kate regarded the rest of the group. It consisted of two middle-aged men who had stepped up to help on different occasions over the past two months on the island. Kate realized she didn't even know their names, and that fact made her feel slightly guilty. Had she really been so preoccupied before as not to have taken an interest in something so simple as learning an extra name or two?

With a sigh, her gaze wandered to Sayid, who also stood with the team, though seemingly not listening to what was being discussed. Kate figured he was probably absorbing every word, even if he had a lot more on his mind. He had barely spoken a word over the past few days and often spent his time away from the camp. Kate was worried about him, but she hadn't found the time to talk to him since that day by Shannon's grave, though that hardly counted as a comforting chat. Her guilt suddenly grew a notch.

A few feet away, Jin observed the group with a reserved expression. Sun stood by his side with her arms crossed, nervously throwing her husband glances, as if afraid he would disappear if she didn't check on him every few seconds. He had wanted to go with the others, but Sun had pleaded him to stay. He hadn't had the heart to go against her wishes for a second time. There was too much to lose now. Kate knew the feeling.

Of the other newcomers, Rose's husband had made no outward indication of wanting to join the party, though Kate couldn't blame him. He had rarely left his wife's side since they'd reunited, and their solid dedication and unconditional love brought smiles to all who crossed their path- which given the circumstances on the island now, was a worthwhile accomplishment. Despite being stranded and faced with unknown dangers, Rose and Bernard were now together and that alone made them happy and seemingly trouble-free. Kate found herself almost hating them at times. She would never have that.

There was one other woman- Libby- who had kept herself busy over the past week by sitting down and talking to every person on the camp at least once. Kate had managed to avoid her up until now, partly because she spent most of her time at the hatch and few bothered seeking her out when she was there. From what she'd gather, Libby had been a psychologist back in the real world. And apparently a good one at that, for people seemed to enjoy spilling their problems to her. Or maybe everyone just needed someone to talk to, professions be damned. With nerves running low, people hadn't the time to stop and make friends. Libby's calm nature was a welcomed change. Kate made a mental note to continue steering clear of her. She wasn't much for being analyzed and she didn't need any more friends.

And last, but most certainly not least, there was the mysterious Nigerian man who had taken off into the jungle with Locke almost three days ago. He and Locke had become an almost instant item since their first meeting. They were eerily alike yet outwardly different. Most notably, they shared a recurring trust in fate. The difference lay in that Locke followed it blindly while the other man wasn't afraid to question it. They evened each other out in a manner that seemed almost uncanny in its perfection. Kate hadn't really seen enough of this "Mister Eko" to decide whether she approved of him or not, but the fact that he was greatly responsible for bringing Sawyer back to them on time was enough for now. Kate realized she still hadn't thanked him.

Jack's voice began to fade off and Kate snapped out of her thoughts once again. She watched as the group starting on their way. Silently, she wished them luck.

Michael had been gone for close to four days now. He claimed that Walt had contacted him through the hatch computer and the possibility that he was out there sent Michael on a mindless and dangerous pursuit into the jungle alone. Everyone had found it highly unlikely that it was really Walt on the other side of the computer, but their attempts to talk some sense into Michael had been futile. He'd taken a pair of rifles, some food and water, and headed out into the woods that same night, right under everyone's nose.

The next afternoon in the hatch, Locke had announced that he would track Michael down and bring him back. Eko had stepped up, stating that he knew where he was heading and that he wished to go along. Apparently, it wouldn't have been his first time bringing Michael back. The two of them had left before anyone was given a chance to disagree.

It took Jack the day to organize a proper search party, though it proved useless in the end. They'd followed the existing tracks for a few hours, then an unlikely storm blew in and forced them back to camp. Now, they had gathered enough supplies to last them a few days, and once again they were going out. The rain had washed away most of the prints, so the odds were against them. Still, no one wanted to sit around and do nothing. A false hope was better then none.

As the party slowly made its way towards the trees, Jack's eyes caught Kate by surprised. They stared at each other evenly for a moment, then Kate lowered her head. When she looked up a second later, he had disappeared into the shadows of the forest. Kate hadn't said good-bye. Her gut twisted as she remembered the last time she made that mistake. This situation was oddly similar.

Her and Jack had hardly spoken over the past few days. He had stopped by the hatch every so often to check on Sawyer and take over a shift here and there. Kate always made sure to be conveniently absent. She knew she was being immature and that eventually she would have to face him and perhaps go so far as to explain what had gone on between them in the jungle the day Michael had left. But with everything going on lately, it seemed only natural to postpone that meeting.

Her relationship with Sawyer, on the other hand, had taken a welcoming turn. He had been conspicuously chatty and amiable, at least at first. He shamelessly enjoyed the pampering Kate willingly provided, even going so far as to allowing the whole "baby-feeding" approach Kate had offhandedly teased him about when he was still out. His sharp sense of humor hadn't faltered. The night after he'd first woken, he'd commented on Kate's exhaustion with genuine concern and not so subtly invited her into his bed- which, granted, was something Kate should have expected from him. She'd refused, of course, though it was dangerously tempting. Instead, she'd settled for taking the top bunk bed in the same room, where she'd slept undisturbed for a full 12 hours.

The next day, when she'd learned that Michael had left, Kate had decided to keep the information away from Sawyer, afraid he would get some crazy notion of duty and head after him. At one point, weeks ago, the thought that Sawyer would display enough care for another being to act upon it would have seemed absurd to Kate. But after hearing the recollection of how Sawyer had been shot- the whole tale which made Kate sick- she doubted his liabilities and how far he'd go for simple revenge. Thinking back to the whole boar incident which had taken place long weeks ago, keeping the news from Sawyer seemed almost necessary to his recovery.

Thus, she'd continued to play nurse and Sawyer had continued to accept her help. Over the following hours, they had talked endlessly about the most random of things. She updated him on the other island happenings, filling in everything that had occurred since they'd launched the raft up until they'd come back. When she informed him of Shannon's death, Sawyer had questioned about Sayid's condition with open care. She had been amazed when his playful demeanor had shimmered down almost instantly afterwards, as if he was paying his respects.

Talking to him about everything that had happened was also a means for Kate to get everything that had been building up off her shoulders. Sawyer had always been the one person on the island she could freely talk to, though she'd until always covered that fact with an excuse. When he'd left, a part of her had been shut down. She had been forced back into her carefully constructed shell of lies and delusion.

Kate found herself surprised at how much she'd missed Sawyer's company. His sudden return at such a critical condition had been a big slap of reality. Up until they'd parted, Kate had been denying the growing feelings she was developing for him, mainly due to her own insecurities. Now that she had settled her demons, she was able to give into the fact that Sawyer was what she would always be attracted to. It was in her blood, in her inner being. It was destiny, if she believed in such a thing.

And while that fact still scared her, she didn't deny it anymore. She couldn't. At least now they had a chance.

Or she'd thought they had a chance. Until yesterday, when his mood had taken a downhill turn. News of Michael's actions had been slipped to him by someone passing through the hatch, and Sawyer had lashed out at Kate for keeping the information from him. Kate had attempted to give him his space after that, but she found it impossible to stay away once she'd gotten a taste for always being there. Holding a brick wall of sorts against his foul mood, she stuck by him as usual; bringing him food, making sure he took his medication, lugging him around the hatch for exercise. His condition was greatly improved now. His shoulder was healing well and the infection was passing. His arm would hurt for weeks to come, and he'd likely bear a scar for the rest of his life, but at least that life wouldn't be cut short this time around.

Last night was the first time that week he'd gone to bed without speaking to her. Kate had been shocked at how much that hurt her. Still, she refused to fall into his game and allow his behavior to impact her's. Eventually, he had to come around. And Kate would still be by his side.

Realizing that she had been standing there for close to an hour now, Kate cast a final look out across the beach. The remainder of the camp had withered away from the fire and everyone was now going about their daily morning activities. Kate sighed before turning and starting back towards the hatch. Sawyer would be waking soon and then the day would proceed uneventfully as usual.

But, of course, with Sawyer things never went according to plan.

---

Kate turned the corner and glanced at the counter offhandedly as it flipped to its 105th mark. She scanned the main quarters as she walked, wondering who had the next shift. As she calculated the schedule in her head, she came to the conclusion that it was Hurley's turn. There was also supposed to be a first-timer running the drill with him, and odds are he had forgotten or attempted to skip out on his duty. Kate smiled to herself and figured Hurley had gone down to the beach to hunt his partner down.

"Sawyer?" She called out softly as she entered the bedroom, noting quickly that he wasn't there. Frowning in confusion, she brought her hands up to rest on her hips. Her eyes wandered from the unmade bed to the small table beside it, which usually housed Sawyer's antibiotics. However, they were missing.

A distant shuffling of activity echoed through the hatch and Kate turned around towards the hallway. After a moment, she started after the noise.

The storage room door was open. Kate stepped through it and stopped instantly in her tracks. Sawyer stood a few feet ahead, digging through a box of leftover Dharma food. An open backpack lay at his feet.

"What are you doing?" Kate asked after a seemingly endless moment of silence, hoping against odds it wasn't what it looked like, though she feared she already knew the answer.

Sawyer uncovered a pack of nutrition bars and causally dropped them into his pack. This wasn't a spontaneous idea. He'd been planning it.

"Sawyer." She called out again, but he continued to ignore her.

"You're going after them, aren't you?" Kate accused, her voice betraying her worry. Finally, he spared her a sideways glance, his hair falling evenly over his face despite the haircut she'd given him two days ago. His cool blue eyes told her everything she needed to know before he looked away and continued preoccupying himself with scouting through the supplies in the box.

Kate felt her temper bubble as she stepped forward. "Sawyer, you're still recovering from being shot. You can't be serious."

He let out a sharp breath, a sound of frustration. It made Kate even madder. What right did he have to be frustrated?

She stepped up beside him and put a hand on his good arm, violently turning him towards her. "What the hell is the matter with you? You nearly died out there the first time around and now you're heading back?"

He regarded her carefully but still said nothing. With a sinking feeling, Kate realized she wouldn't convince him out of this plan. His mind was set and whether this was out of some noble sense of pride or a ridiculous death wish he so obviously wanted fulfilled, there was no stopping him. As desperation set deep into her thoughts, Kate reached struggled for a way out. Perhaps a more direct approach would work.

"I'm going with you, then."

Finally, he reacted, though not like she expected. He flashed her one of those rare, honest smile. The ones that reached his eyes and made him look almost nice. "Figured you'd say that."

And then he brought his hands up behind her, pushing one to the small of her back and the pressing the other through her hair and against neck. She hardly had the time to register this turn of events as his mouth crashed against hers, his tongue inviting itself past her lips and instantly deepening the kiss. She fell into the action instinctively, and for the second time she found herself taken by Sawyer's annoying perfected kissing abilities. Her hands had traveled up to rest against his chest, perhaps initially intending to push him back, but the notion had been forgotten shortly after.

Just as her head was starting to spin from a lack of oxygen, Sawyer pulled back. He stared at her sadly as she attempted to catch her breath. Suddenly, she realized he was speaking.

"Good bye, Freckles."

The words seemed foreign, and by the time they made sense, he had walked out the room.

"Sawyer." Kate started after him, but the door closed shifty before she reached it. As she reached for the handle, a light click made her heart skip a beat. Jiggling the doorknob, her fears were confirmed. For the second time now, she was locked in the storage.

"Damn it, Sawyer!" She yelled, pounding against the heavy door. She heard his footsteps fade away but she continued to beat against the metal. A full minute passed before she stopped, her hands throbbing.

Turning around, her eyes instantly sought out the vent that had been her escape the first time she found herself in this predicament. With a stab of dread, she remembered that Locke had drilled the cage shut a few days after they'd found the hatch with the intent that if they ever needed to keep someone confined in the room, there would be no easy way out.

Swallowing the growing lump in her throat, Kate slide down to the ground and pressed her head into her hands. Hurley was bound to come down in an hour or so to take over button duty. She was left with no choice but to wait for him.

Once she got out of here, as if history deemed repeating, she'd go after Sawyer before he had a chance to get himself lost. Or worse.

And if she found him in one piece, she was so going to kick his ass.