Title: What might have been

Rating: PG-13 For deliberate language.

Genre: Angst/Romance

Pairing: Kate/Sawyer (with Kate/Jack)

Summary: Some things in life leave you wondering what might have been- some people have a peculiar way of being a reminder.

A/N: I wrote this story about a year and half ago, and just found it again; thought I'd post it under the right name. Nothing more than that. ;)

She hadn't thought he would ever show up.

She thought that he would be a no-show, not even bothering to call and tell them he wasn't coming. Because that would be so much like him; what she remembered of him. Memories, feelings- everything was stirred up inside her mind, inside her heart, leaving her breathless when thoughts would wander towards the subject of her distress.

Looking at Jack across the room, she wondered if he sensed anything of it. He had admittedly always had a hard time figuring her out, everyone had... except him. He had never had any problems at all seeing through her tough facade, knowing to tell the lies from the truth, seeing the soul behind the walls she put up. He would eventually always tear them down, leaving her naked, bared and so utterly emotional she slightly hated him for it.

And that was the way it had been; whenever he had gotten too close, too much beneath the skin, she would say something she knew beforehand that she would regret and he would get angry; she relieved. Anger and fights somehow always replaced what they didn't know, didn't want to say and brought them closer together. Both knew it, and both hated it.

So when she found him in the upstairs billiard room, looking at the portrait of Jack's mother and father, drink in hand, she had done nothing but smirked when entering. He knew of her presence, but did nothing to acknowledge it. They both knew he was hiding away from the rest of the crowd, emotions and memories far too real for him to willingly deal with. Fuck it, instead. Keeping people at an arms length meant they couldn't get under your skin, and anger helped along the way.

" I thought I'd find you here."

A statement more than anything else. Bringing a dimple out of his face, deeply etched into the light, light stubble on his chin and he turned to face her. A similar thought ran through them, how fucking beautiful they both looked in their outfits; she wearing a dark, green dress that reminded him too much of the mystery jungle- and what a mystery she was to match- and him wearing a tux that sat so fitting on him that first made her think it couldn't be nothing but a designer one, and then the thought of ripping it off him brought heat to her cheeks.

She couldn't. She had made a different choice, no matter what her pounding heart was telling her now. " Feelings aren't always tangible, " her husband had told her. " And after everything we have been through, we need something tangible." He had proceeded to tell her that she was tangible, and she had wanted to laugh him right in the face -- She fucking wasn't.

And yet, here she was, married; a housewife now taking measures to escape from the life she had always fought and now felt trapped in.

She loved her husband, she really did. But it wasn't the kind of love that she thought she wanted... it was the kind that she would always run from- and not because she couldn't handle it and it left her feeling afraid either- but because she felt trapped.

" Well, sorry if ain't the life of the party, Freckles. Seems like your good ol' husband enjoys the show a little too much for that ever to happen." She walked up to stand beside him, the thought of embracing him entering her mind- she had been taught to be courteous. That she had always felt silly hadn't mattered.

" Jack is just happy to see everyone gathered, Sawyer-" a move to tuck away descending hair "- and so am I." His face turned around, looking down on her smaller form, his eyebrow raising to challenge what she had just said. It was inevitable for her not to miss, especially in this close proximity, and her mouth formed a line, pressed down consciously to restrain a chuckle. She still slightly hated the way he saw right through her.

" I am!" she expressed with a tiny laughter, trying to shake the feeling. It had been so long since they had stood beside each other, so long since someone had been able to see right through her like he did. With her husband, she could tell a lie straight to his face- and she had, many times- and he usually never picked up on them. There was, of course, the every few times he saw through her but the majority and fact of all the times he failed spoke so much more than when he succeeded.

" Well, sorry for not seeing you going all giddy, then, " he drawled, bringing the scotch to his mouth. Watching his lips connect with the icy edge of the glass, flashback images of an evening by the fire entered her mind, images and memories still so fresh she could feel the heat of the fire on her face, taste the burning of the alcohol as it descended down her throat- not that she ahead showed it to Sawyer, though. She was Kate, and she did throw rocks.

" It's nice seeing everyone together again." Once again, the turned to her, same eyebrow raised. This time, she couldn't restrain herself.

" Okay, so maybe 'nice' isn't the best word to describe it..."

" How 'bout trapped?" he suggested. Her smile fading, she waited for whatever it was she knew he would say. " I thought I felt trapped on the damned small space of that fucking island, but this is worse Sassafras." He always had a away of making words coming out harsher than what he, deep down, really meant. But it was a facade, and as they both knew, she didn't have to make any effort to see through it.

" Why did you come here Sawyer?" He leaned against the billiard table then, his left hand going to his backside for support he really didn't need. Facades, exteriors and all that.

" It was you, " and he pointed to her with his glass, " that invited me. That you didn't expect me to show up is your problem." She had no come back, just watched as he sat down the empty scotch on the billiard table, the thought of how angry Jack would be if he saw it running through her mind. " That is going to leave marks, " he would told her. An uneasy hand going to cover her heating cheeks as she was reminded by the time she had tried to pin him down, straddle him, to it, uttering words that would make him blush like a schoolboy in all other situations- but the heat left her cheeks as she remembered his words and actions. Sufficient to say, that night had ended with them in bed, yes, but facing opposite directions on their respective pillows. He had slept soundly, she had mooned.

" But if you must know... " his drawl brought her eyes up to his, sharply, again, welcoming the reality and warmth hitting her in the face as his words, " I came here because of you, Freckles."

" Me?"

" No, I came here to talk about those Sox with Jack, damn woman, " he grinned at first, then lips turned to a line, remembering his moment of evenness with Jack in the jungle. One of the few times, and yet it slapped him in the face as an ugly reminder of all that he could have been, had he chosen a different path, and at the same time of all the island had tried turning him into- thank God he got off in time for that.

Now, he just wanted to cut all the bullshit. He had come here for a reason... one he just wanted to get an answer to, then, he would get the hell out.

" I came here, Freckles... " and he took her hand in his, the motion shocking himself as much as her, " because I can't stop thinking about you." And I need closure. The last part never came out. He didn't think he was ready for it.

" Sawyer, I do think about you... Although I don't want to, I do. But so much time has passed... And I don't know anything anymore... " No, she never did. So when she had finally chosen to let Jack help her, he had taken it like a square punch in the face and gut, enough to knock him down, and as a pointer to all the things he could never be, never could achieve. He had hated Jack for it, but he had never judged or deemed her for it- sure, he had thought about it- but he just wouldn't paint her black in whatever memories he would have of her- not her, too. He had done that with countless women, but held out for the special one... also the same woman who had gotten away.

" I just, " pausing, eyes going to the floor, " I tried moving on, and whenever you enter my mind I just... think about the memories from the island. It's dangerous to think about what might have been, Sawyer. It isn't tangible." Horrified of what she had just said, she tried not to make it show; now moving a muscle, not flailing with her eyes or change her already uneven breath. But he had already caught the slight, tiny, almost unnoticeable flutter of her eyelashes. Swallowing down, not bothering to hide it, she tasted the bitter sweetness in the back of her mouth as she realized just how much living with Jack- and only him- must have changed her.

And he noticed it, too. It wasn't like her to say such a narrow-minded thing; she had always been all for openness of mind. Frowning, irritation of Jack growing, he sighed. He was just tired.

The bitter sweetness in the back of her mouth- and the random thought that it tasted a bit like dark chocolate- made her frown, irritation, feelings and pure overwhelming burning at her throat. In the time with Jack she had learned so cleverly, effortlessly, to hide her emotions, tuck them away. No, here he was, tearing down all those walls again and she wanted to hate him for it- but found that she couldn't. Was he just bringing out truth in her?

Lashing out, swatting him at his chest, fists crushing down in the muscles... she couldn't take it anymore. Not when he was this close, not when every reminder was so up to the point, well presented, not when she could smell that damned cologne when she was closer now, feeling the same muscles, seeing the same tinted hair with golden edges in his head framing his face- not when he was here to remind her of the biggest fucking mistake of her life.

And one wouldn't think it, but he understood. Grabbing her wrists, he pulled her closer, pressing her body against his in a soft way, the contradiction of actions bringing out a gasp for her, one he would mistake for outburst of emotions.

" Why did you leave me!" Her voice crackling, and best as he tried, emotions brought to his own surface, once again making him so damn tired.

" What do you want from me, sugar?" She pried herself away to look at him for a short moment, reasoning having left her mind ages ago.

" I want you to give me my heart back." Shock, then speaking the first words that came to mind.

" I didn't even know I had it."

" The least you could do is just say sorry... and give me my heart back." No answer came. He didn't know one.

" Freckles... " hands cupping her face, and the surprise of him actually doing it brought another sniffle from her. " We can't go back in time, sweetness. As much as I would like to sweep you off your feet in that, " his eyes raked down over her body and when she thought she would feel shy, she felt proud, " hats off sexy dress of yours, and just put you in my car and downright kidnap you- I can't." The smile she had worn at the beginning of the sentence transformed, the edges of her lips going to a blank line, her eyes betraying what she had tried to shield. And it broke his heart to see her in this state, knowing that it was his fault.

But he had to. He had to break her heart... to save her. From himself. He had never been good enough for her- no matter what his damned thumping heart was telling him right now.

And she knew what me meant- knew what he was trying to do. Eyes flooding with tears, her resolve escaping again, there was no way for her to hold back the fresh batch of tears. And he didn't try to stop her, just pressed her against his chest, murmuring soft words that she would never catch in her ear.

" I won't say goodbye to you, " she said then. He nodded, understanding.

" Kate...?" When Jack entered the room later- how much they didn't know; it could have been minutes, hours or just moments- Sawyer had slowly begun to feel the slow breaking off his own heart- for the second time. As much as what he was about to do pained him, he wondered if it didn't pain her more- and he hated himself for making her feel this way.

Jack entered wordlessly, seeing the state they were in; Kate leaning against Sawyer, crying like he couldn't remember her doing since... ever. Another sharp fact hit him then- he hadn't seen Kate cry since they had gotten off from the island. he had heard her, locked away from him, but she had never showed such emotions to him. He swallowed down the hard gulp of realization.

At first, he wanted to walk straight over and knock Sawyer down; first instinct. But he had never been a man to act without reasoning and this was no different case. And judging from the way Kate was willingly leaning against him, the way he just looked like he was comforting her, he doubted Sawyer had made her feel this way- at least not willingly.

Sawyer eyes found his then, motioning for Jack to come over. He did, wordlessly stepping over to their side, looking expectantly at them both; wanting an explanation, and somewhat surprisingly indifferent about the fact that he knew that in typical Sawyer and Kate sense, he would never get one.

But things were so different now. This wasn't the island with all its uncertainties- Kate was his wife now. Sawyer wasn't an opponent anymore and when Jack looked at Sawyer again, he saw something he had never seen in the rivalling man before- defeat. Sawyer looked tired, sad... and something else Jack couldn't define.

" Here." It was Sawyers soft voice that broke him out of his reverie, as he slowly pried himself off Kate, and it didn't go Jack amiss how she tried clinging to him, how she wouldn't let go. Sawyer almost had to bend her off, and instead of Jack becoming angry at the fact, he only became curious to what had actually happened here... what had he missed?

What had he missed from Kate in all their time together off the island? And, more importantly, what did she seem to have missed?

Kate almost smashing against him took some air from his lungs and he looked into Sawyers eyes- the indefinable thing in them he couldn't define even more evident on his entire appearance now; as well as the tiredness. With one last look down on Kate, a sigh, he heightened the gaze to meet Jack's.

" Take care of her, now." As he nodded and watched Sawyer retreating back, he somehow knew that Sawyer hadn't solely meant for this evening and the next thought shocked Jack, all other thoughts leaving his mind, almost numbing the feeling of Kate's wetness of tears against his shoulders-

Had the Southerner finally given up?

Running down the stairs, passing people he never took any time to notice and smashing out of the front door he didn't want to think about anything, things along; what given up had given him, and where given up had took him.

When Kate heard the revving of an engine on the yard, she looked down, outside the window. Catching Sawyer's face in a red convertible of some kind, the sentence she had forgotten to tell him entered her mind, another choke at the realization. Though, she never realized that he was thinking the same thing, sitting in his leather seat, stubbornly trying to tuck away the lump in his throat.

I love you. I fucking love you.

And I'll never know what might have been.

He hadn't been able to give her heart back. He had just tried to ensure that he wouldn't trash it anymore than what he already had, and did right now. It was the least he could do.

Speeding down the driveway to the yard, dust around all four wheels, he smirked at the darkness, the feeling inside making him want to scream- all that was missing was his sunset to ride off into.

But guys like Sawyer never got any cowboy endings, no matter the origin. They got what they could take- and he wouldn't take her. He let her go instead.

He fucking loved her too much.

And he would always hate himself just a little bit more for it.