September 25th, 2006
A/N: Ugh, this chapter took me a little longer than I expected. I had to get it just right and not only that, I had to step into a new character's POV which wasn't what I thought it was going to be. Talk about complex guy! (hee hee you'll have to read to figure out who that mystery man is!) I think this is it, everyone. Sorry if that's disappointing, but I feel like the story's been drawn out enough. (If I put our trio through anything else, they might go on strike too!) This is the end. Thank you all so much for your reviews! Maybe I'll tackle another commitment-required story over the hiatus, but until then, it's back to one-shots for me (I've thought up so many working on this thing!) As always please read and review.
Chapter 28: Constellations
Like a younger sibling who teases and torments just enough to annoy and just enough to amuse, sleep was playing games with her. Listening to the soft snores and gentle movements at her back, Kate pleaded for the sleep that had found her friends. She wanted to sleep. She needed to sleep. She was sure if it would let her, she'd find relief from the past few days, but her mind was stuck in overdrive and she was forced to wait until it had decided to move onto someone else.
Her muscles burned when she rolled over in an attempt to find a more comfortable position on the awkward floor, a silent reminder that they weren't happy about running through the dense underbrush of the jungle in the middle of the night. Ignoring their protest, Kate pulled her knees towards her belly, her hands tucking close to herself to hold the warmth of her own body against herself. She tried to distract her tired mind, focusing her attention on Sun who slept soundly on the raised bed of the cramped cabin. The mother-to-be lay on her side, her left arm draped casually over her stomach as if blanketing the life within. The thought unnerved Kate and her eyes darted away.
She couldn't see Locke, but could hear his snores from somewhere above her head and when she looked up, straining to catch a glimpse of him, her vision was blocked by the dark silhouette of Sayid's body. The soldier slept soundly on his back and for a moment, Kate wondered if he was really asleep or just dozing. When the boat rocked with the heave of a wave and his head lolled with it, she forgot all thoughts of his alertness instantly and her attention turned to the twitch of an arm just past his sleeping form.
The smile she successfully surpressed was aimed at Sawyer, sprawled on his back; the only give-away that his dreams were anything but pleasant was the pissed-off look on his face. She could see the shameless angle his right knee was bent at, his other leg ramrod straight as if bracing for impact, his arms shifted to the right side of his body as if he wanted to roll onto his side. If it weren't for his closed eyes, Kate could have sworn he was ready for a fight despite his betrayingly relaxed posture.
That left Jack and for a second Kate panicked when her eyes didn't find him right away. Then the boat rocked gently and the moonlight leaking from the deck fell across the floor, illuminating his face, the glow shifting ever so slightly with the roll of the waves. She sighed heavily, studying him and feeling the flush in her cheeks about doing so. What if he woke up and caught her staring?
Despite her embarrassment, Kate couldn't help but notice how un-Jack-like he looked. He lay facing her, his arms stretched out in front of him, his legs bent at the knees, one more so than the other. For the first time since they had been here, he looked relaxed.
Stretching her cramped legs, she sat up and decided sleep wasn't about to find her anytime soon. The cool ocean breeze beckoned her out of the cabin and she stood carefully, finding her balance between the tosses of the boat. Kate deliberately and slowly tip-toed her way to the stairs leading invitingly to the upper deck, stepping cautiously over Jack. When she felt her booted foot connect with something solid, she froze, her shoulders tense. Only after several seconds had passed did she allow herself to turn around, expecting to find his sleepy blinking eyes staring at her. Kate let a strangled sigh escape her lips as she watched him shift slightly, his eyes kept firmly shut. Quickly she ascended the stairs before she caused anymore trouble.
The instant her body was exposed to the full blast of ocean breeze, Kate wished she had stayed below deck. The cool air ripped right through her thin T-shirt and paid no attention to the feeble protection her arms provided folded high across her chest. She glanced around, her eyes squinted against the rush of air, and slipped a small smile toward Jin. He nodded and smiled back, not voicing a question or speaking her name. As she turned and headed towards the bow, Kate tried to forget the feel of his eyes following her. Jin was never an accusing sort of person, and she liked his quiet way. She wished more people were like that.
No, Kate thought harshly, leaning heavily against the boat's railing. She cupped her hands around her elbows and focused her eyes far out to sea, noticing with subtle appreciation the way the night sky blended seemlessly with the dark waters of the ocean. She came out here to clear her mind and thinking about her fellow castaways was not going to help.
She blew out a weary sigh, shivering slightly as the breeze tossed her hair, its unruly curves tickling the backs of her bare arms, its coolness raising goosebumps along her exposed skin. It felt good though, so different from the heat of the past few days and the claustrophobic atmosphere below deck. She relished the cold, the freshness, closed her eyes and breathed in the chilly air until it bit viciously inside her chest.
Her heart almost jumped overboard when she opened her eyes and noticed the dark form standing next to her. But relief flooded her the instant she realized it was just him. She watched out of the corner of her eye, pretending like she didn't know he had joined her, as he mimicked her stance, leaning his own weight against the metal rails. He looked once at her, then out to the horizon, then back at her again and Kate fought the flush of heat she felt spreading throughout her.
He must have noticed the awkwardness of the silence because he broke into it as gently as possible.
"I always liked Orion."
She forced herself to keep her face neutral and turned to him, faltering as the moonlight flickered with the smile in his eyes. His voice was still thick with sleep, but he seemed more at ease. Probably from the few good hours of actual rest he got, she mused. She was distracted by the explanation she hadn't asked for but the one he had decided to give anyway.
"I think it's… well I know it's because it was the easiest to find."
The smile in his eyes finally caught up with his mouth and he huffed at his own nerves. Even after two short months with him, Kate had learned to recognize his unease in an instant. It was the way he glanced down at his hands, his fingers twisting as if working over some job or object known only to him. Then came the sigh that rose into the night chasing after hers. He nudged her gently with his elbow, catching her wandering attention.
"Now would be the time when you shared yours," he teased lightly.
She narrowed her eyes at him slightly, suddenly feeling the urge to be guarded around him. The brief change in his eyes she saw was her own reflected uncertainty that was quickly replaced with anger at being so open. He had always had that irritating ability to read her and it seemed he was learning to master it.
"Pegasus," she said, a little too rushed. Then as if to make up for her abrupt answer, "I used to love horses."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him press his lips together, nodding slowly as he glanced quickly out to sea and then turned back to her. "I should've known."
She smiled, ducking her head shyly, feeling the heat inside her intensify.
The silence fell lazily on them again, the only intensity of it seemingly resonating with the crisp breeze slipping stealthily through the small gap of night separating their bodies. It was almost as if they found common ground, Kate thought. Neither one of them dominated in their tranquil moment. It was mutual, as if they were leaning into each other for support to be taken and support to be given. Comfortable was not a word that she used very often, and she couldn't name this invisible bond she had formed with him and he with her. But if she had to, she'd settle for comfortable.
"What are we doing Kate?"
Her brow scrunched at the question, not fully understanding, and she fixed him with a confused stare. His dark eyes slowly found their way back to hers and for a moment, they just stared. She felt the remnants of the walls they had built and torn-down only to be patched again crumbling from the weight of their stare. He repeated his question when the last brick had dissolved.
"What are we doing about us?" Jack asked, stirring the space between them with a hand.
She bit her lip and looked away from his watchful gaze, feeling her chest constricting and her mind start a dull throb. As if knowing he had frightened her and afraid she would run from him, Jack reached gently for her arm, holding enough to ground her.
"If you don't know, that's fine, I just…"
He let his sentence trail off lamely. Even in the lack of words, Kate could hear his own confusion, anxiety and frustration at whatever this was and stopped her own head from nodding her understanding. When had this conversation about constellations become so serious?
She closed her eyes, swallowing around a lump that threatened her control. What did she want? Sighing, she opened her eyes, finding that spot so distant on the horizon, letting her eyes wander between the spaces when Orion and Pegasus should have been. But the patches of black were devoid of stars and suddenly Kate felt her legs wobble underneath her as the waves seemed to pitch her out of reality. Her hand instinctively reached for his and the turmoil steadied within her as she felt him return her grip.
"I…" Her voice sounded choked and Kate swallowed again, fighting for control. Her heart raced and her mind was trying to coerce her legs into bolting because she had trained it to do that when she felt the warning prickling of dependence. She glanced at him, pleading with him to understand, but the look he gave her was inquisitive and patient, the same way he had always been with her.
"I like this," she said slowly, almost as if admitting something she'd later regret. There it was out, she thought. Her shoulders stiffened and she braced, waiting with an irrational fear for it to be trampled and thrown back in her face. His arms circling around her was not what she'd been expecting.
Feeling the hot sting of tears and the shudder jolt her body, Kate buried her face into his chest, a fresh spurt of relief wetting the front of his shirt when she felt him press a kiss to her hair and whisper back.
"I like this too."
From where he stood, he could only hear the gentle murmur of their voices. Not that he'd be able to understand what they were saying anyway. If there was thing Jin had learned about those two, it was that they were too complex for him to try to understand, language barrier aside. He supposed that was what fascinated everyone at camp about them.
When they were together, there was always a small gap between them, both physical and emotional, or at least he had thought so. A minute space that allowed a ray of light squeezing past their hips, as if they were afraid that if that light weren't there, they'd be something more. Something neither of them was quite ready for.
Noticing that lack of space separating them now, he watched them for a few more seconds before dutifully looking away as if to allow for their privacy. It was funny, he thought. No one, not even Sawyer, could argue that there wasn't some sort of connection they shared. It was different from everyone else, more intricate, more secretive, more intimate.
But it was as if they had decided to let their relationship develop backwards. Normally, Jin mused, people fell in love, were happy, then let their problems drive them apart. If anything, Jack and Kate were dealing with those separations before commiting to the relationship. He chuckled softly to himself, risking a furtive glance over at them, before checking the course set on the compass in his hand, letting his gaze find the bright sparks of the stars above.
A few miles back, Henry stared at a similar patch of sky, squinting, trying to make out the small boat that had sailed away from them. The booted footprints of the rescuers and rescuees littered the sand his bare feet were currently almost ankle-deep in. He barely heard the nervous shifts of his team behind him.
But what surprised him most was that he didn't feel the slightest bit angry at his hostages' escape. In fact, he almost welcomed it.
"Boss?" Tom's gruff voice sounded cautiously into the night. "Should we go after them?"
He stared silently, a few tense seconds passing by lost forever to the expanse of time. Time, he thought. It seemed so much more impressive in the dark. Maybe that's why he wasn't feeling the crunch of this seeming defeat.
"No," he said, not quite feeling the resoluteness evident in his voice.
There was no need for a questions demanding an explanation behind him. He turned to face the uncertain looks of his comrades, smiling from Alex to Tom to Pickett to Bea.
"We've already gotten what we wanted."
He strode a few yards from them, then his crypticness disappeared and his barked order to hurry was met with a flurry of commotion and the small group evaporated into the jungle.