Kate's campfire sizzled and jumped as she tossed a few twigs into the blaze. Everyone around her was drifting off, quietly lost in thought, absorbed in another person… She noticed how so many of the people around her were paired off. Rose and Bernard… Sun and Jin… Charlie and Claire…
Kate hugged her knees. She didn't want to feel sorry for herself. She didn't need anyone, not like they did.
I've always been better on my own, she reflected. She flashed to an image of Tom, slumped dead beside her. She couldn't help losing herself in the glow of the fire.
Jack slowly lowered his body next to hers… but far enough so that he couldn't easily brush against her.
"Hey. Busy night."
Jack ginned. "You could say that."
They sat silently. Kate could sense Jack's eyes on her. Usually he retreated, turned away, but tonight was different.
"Kate. Let's go."
"Go? What, go party hopping? Enjoy the nightlife?"
He took a sidelong look at her as she playfully hit his shoulder.
Jack rose and reached out his hand. Kate averted her eyes from his and focused instead on his hands. Doctor's hands. Healing hands. Fingernails cracked and dirty… Something to hold – something to hold onto her.
Kate slowly stretched her fingers to touch him, almost against her will. Her mind was on lockdown, repeating 'run' over and over and over. But touch, the body, ruled her mind.
She grasped his hand as he helped her to her feet. As soon as she had begun to feel the creases on his palm, he let go.
"Alright, Jack, where are we going?"
Kate saw immediately that Jack wasn't leading. He stood beside her, walked beside her. They were equals.
They took to a path along the beach.
"So, where to?"
"Do we always need a destination, a mission?" Jack sighed.
Kate twisted her head to look up to Jack. His eyes were tired. He was vulnerable. Breakable.
"Here's nice," Kate offered as she chose a spot of sand.
Jack stood before her. He started to pace.
"Jack, you seem exhausted."
"Really?" His voice dripped with sarcasm.
Kate knew him well enough by now to not prompt him. He'd either open up. Or not.
"Kate." Jack ran hands over his head.
Kate looked at those hands. They were raking his head, trying to figure things out, to fix things.
She rose and extended her arms, her hands, her fingers to Jack's. She pried his hands off his skull. She held onto them.
Jack's eyes were downcast. Almost ashamed. She wanted to tell him that not everyone could be strong all the time. That maybe, maybe… She desperately tried to push her revelation out of her head, but failed. Maybe… Maybe you sometimes need a hand. Or two. Maybe sometimes you just need someone.
But she couldn't. And Jack broke away, turned from her. The wall was built up again, fortified even. Kate wanted now, so much it was painful, to do something, anything, to break down what was between them. Destroy the unimportant surface they danced on. But Kate stood petrified. At least she was safe, safe from everything that would come with what that breakdown would bring.
Jack stepped further away.
"Kate. I wanted… I wanted to just be here with you. I can't handle anything more, but I guess I can't even handle this."
Jack's body shifted to her. His eyes were blazing, filled with an unspoken challenge.
"What is this?" He practically snarled. "I sure as hell can't figure it out."
He moved closer to her and locked his eyes to hers. She tried to resist his gaze. It held something that terrified her. Terrified her because it was so full of so many things that she didn't want to name.
"Jack… Jack, we should go back. Back to camp."
"Why? What do I have there? What do you?"
Jack's eyes never faltered. When she looked up, there they were. And everything she felt in them never left. Her instincts grabbed hold and she spun away from him.
"I don't need anyone."
Then his hand brushed her should and her mind finished her sentence… anyone but you, she thought silently.
The soft graze of his fingers on her skin made her turn to face him. She took a step to him.
"Kate… Kate…" He swallowed. "I know you don't need anyone. You don't need me. You never have. You're strong. Resilient. But I don't… I don't think I am. Kate," he half-whispered, finally breaking his gaze. "I need you. Since the first day we met. And you keep sewing me up, putting me back together, just like that day."
Kate couldn't feel anything except her heart thumping in her throat. She reached out, touched his neck ever so slightly. Jack's body gave a sudden start and Kate pulled hastily away.
Once again, her body had seized control of her mind.
She glanced up at Jack, wondering if the moment had passed. If she would be able to deny the fact that she had responded.
His eyes told her it just wasn't going to be possible.
"Jack… Jack, I…" Her mind raced, searching for the right words. The words to make everything okay and calm and safe.
"I love you." The words literally fell out of her mouth. As soon as she let them free, she did what she did best – ran.
She prayed he would let her run, let her run like she had after she kissed him. In a second, she realized he hadn't. She could hear his ragged breathing right behind her.
Where am I going? What am I running from? she thought as she raced down the beach. Soon, she felt her chest heave and she collapsed sitting onto a large boulder halfway down the stretch of sand.
Jack was facing her in a second. She was glad he had to take a few moments to collect himself. She didn't know what was going to happen and she couldn't judge if the feeling in her stomach was fear or anticipation.
Jack slowly crumbled to his knees, inches from her. He looked up to her and then his head fell into her lap and his arms encircled her.
Her body tensed and relaxed so rapidly her mind couldn't dictate her movements. She felt his head with her hands. Traced the muscles on his neck. Ceased to think.
She kissed the top of his head and he glanced up. She could feel a few tears in her eyes – from what? – and she saw a mix of sheer exhaustion and happiness in his.
He pushed himself off her legs gradually. He seized hold of her hands and they stood up together.
"Kate… I love you."
She felt her stomach tighten. Definitely anticipation.
Jack's hands rested in her hair, let it slowly drift through his fingers.
"Kate… We don't have to run anymore. And if you do, I'm going to keep coming after you. Because I love you."
Kate's hand went to Jack's face. It felt like using a brand new instinct. His eyes closed slightly as his head titled to rest in her touch. His arms wrapped around her – his instincts at work.
They kissed each other.
The thought of running away never crossed Kate's mind.