Rating: PG

Summary: Aware of the show's mythology through "Maternity Leave," but shouldn't have an explicit spoilers.

Warnings: Pretty sure it's clean. Tiny bit of implied sexuality at the end.

Status of Fic: Completed

Author's Notes/Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in this story, nor do I own any rights to the television show Lost. They were created by JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof and they belong to them, Touchstone, and ABC.

The group was gathered around a fire, bickering about what, exactly, was going on.

"We were all brought to this island for a reason," repeated Locke.

Sayid, ever calm and thoughtful, said, "Maybe so. But what reason? What could anyone possibly want with such a motley crew of individuals as us?"

Jack said, "That's a good question, John. What do we have in common? Nothing. Why us? There is no reason why us, because there was no us. We were random strangers on a plane that happened to crash."

Sawyer, who had been kneeling by the fire, adding twigs and timber to stoke the flames, stood up.

"That's not entirely true. The part about us all bein' strangers. I'm pretty sure me and Freckles met once before."

"What?" gasped Jack, as the group went silent, starring at Sawyer. Kate cocked her head at Sawyer, questioning.

"Was about four years ago at the Argosy Casino in Sioux City."

Kate recoiled ever so slightly. How could he possibly know where she'd been working four years ago?

"I was tryin' to burn as much money as I could and still afford alcohol. Set myself up at a table where the house was this pretty little thing with brown hair and a frown. I figured the frown probably had something to do with the black eye she was wearing. Good dealer--fast, smart. About two in the morning, out of nowhere, some fat moron rolls up, reaches into her station and grabs her ass to get her attention. He calls her dollface, and asks where the bathroom is. The girl cracks him in the jaw, knocks him clean over. Security rushes over and gives her a hard time, tellin' her to stop beating on the clientele--that's their job. I remember wondering how a girl who could handle herself like that ended up with such a nasty-lookin' eye. Figured maybe a barfight, because she didn't seem the type to let a boyfriend smack her around. Never said a word the rest of the night except about the ante. Wouldn't let me flirt with her at all. Remember being mad as hell when her shift was over, 'cause if I wanted to keep playing that table I was gonna hafta start getting my cards from some grizzled hag with a goiter."

Kate's stare of disbelief suddenly transformed itself into the expression of a woman struggling to remember something...a name.

"Edith. That was Edith with the goiter," said Kate, as she told silently herself to close her mouth and stop gaping like a fish.

Sawyer shrugged, while everyone else watched this exchange as if it were a tennis match.

Kate suddenly recalled a man with sloping shoulders and a miserable, worn expression. He'd been drunk, but it was a good, easy drunk. He'd been mostly silent when they were alone, but had directed a trash-talking smart remark at the retreating back of every player who came to the table and soon departed, clutching what was left of their money and pride. He'd been a good poker player--too good for Iowa, not one of the usual Midwestern idiots who rolled in clutching Hoyle's and tapes of Celebrity Poker Challenge.

Exhausted, at six in the morning after a six-hour shift--no breaks at Argosy--she'd been a little regretful about leaving him. He'd been at her table all night, and they had a good rhythm. Most of all, he didn't make inane small talk, or ask questions about things that were none of his business. Others had come and go through the night, but she'd only really paid attention to the ebb and flow of the game played by the guy who'd been drinking--and effortlessly winning, to his apparent dismay--through the long, still night.

As she collected her things, on her way out to another cold Iowa sunrise, she had looked at him and smiled, just a little, grateful for the connection and the quiet company.

He'd winked at her and tossed her a chip.

Kate looked at Sawyer across the campfire, remembering him for the first time in the two months they'd been on island.

"You offered me $5,000," she said.

"You didn't take it," he said.

"It was a proposition," she said, with the edge of confrontation that so often crept into her tone when she was addressing Sawyer.

"It was a tip," he said, gently.

She'd tossed it back. The casino didn't let them accept chips anyway. Cash only.

She remembered thinking how easy it would be to take the money, take the breakfast and coffee he would no doubt offer her next, and then simply give in to whatever it was he wanted to do after that.

Kate remembered thinking, as she walked away, that she'd rather just keep the memory of the quiet hours in the casino, alone, early in the morning, with someone who understood.