Chapter 9

It was just past 9 pm when Sawyer forcefully pushed open the diner door. Nervous, he stepped inside and looked around for Diane. For a second he didn't see her and, if possible, he tensed up even more.

At last, he noticed her coming out of the kitchen, holding two plates, and their eyes met. Unexpectedly, she held his gaze for a few seconds and slowed down her pace. Did she know who he was, he wondered? Had the gum-chewing waitress told Diane about his earlier call?

While Kate's mother served her clients, Sawyer sat down at the counter and ran a weary hand over his eyes. He was mentally exhausted. Would he ever find her? Would he ever get to hold her again? He had done a good job avoiding those questions until now, but now that he was nearing his goal, doubt and fear filled his heart.

Sawyer opened his eyes and looked up when he heard footsteps coming his way. Diane was standing before him, behind the counter. She was staring at him intensely, but with an unexpected gentleness.

"Are you the man she loves?" she asked softly after a moment.

Sawyer's breath caught in his throat. He was stunned. Could Kate have told her mother she loved him? He had a hard time believing that. And… love, so soon?

"Did she tell you that?" he couldn't help but ask.

"She didn't have to," Diane replied with a little smile.

Still in shock, Sawyer tried to figure out what his own feelings for Kate were. Of course, taking four planes in 36 hours to find her made it obvious he cared for her, but did he love her? Love. What was it exactly? To trust someone enough to open up completely? To accept them for what they are? To feel like life wasn't possible without them? If that's what it was, then Sawyer had to accept that, for the first time in his life, he was in love.

Strangely, the realisation didn't scare him. Being in love and being loved in return was probably all he ever wanted in his life, without even realising it. Now more confident that Kate felt the same way towards him, he suddenly didn't feel tired anymore. He was going to find Kate and tell her he loved her. Tell her all he wanted from life was to be with her. Hopefully she'd react positively.

"I'm Diane, by the way," he suddenly heard, coming back to reality. Kate's mother was introducing herself, an amused smile playing on her lips.

"James," he replied and Diane was silent for a second or two, examining him.

"You could use something to eat," she said at last, ready to head towards the kitchen. "I'll bring you a-"

"No!" he exclaimed a bit too loud, stopping her dead in her tracks. "No, I'm not hungry," he said in a quieter voice. "Thanks. All I really want is to know where Kate is."

"Why? What do you want with her?" she wanted to know, her voice showing a hint of suspicion.

"I need to talk to her," he answered, unable to hide his desperation.

"If you need her so badly, why did you leave her?" Diane wondered.

"I thought... I thought there was something more important to me than her," he replied, staring down at his hands. "But I was so wrong," he ended in a murmur, surprised at his own admission.

When he looked up again, he saw some compassion in Diane's eyes.

"Kate is fine, James," she told him, putting her hand over his in an effort to comfort him. "I talked to her about an hour ago. She's on her way to see her father in Tallahassee."

"Is there any way to reach her? I need to find her, I need to!" Sawyer asked, urgency lacing his voice.

"Do you want me to call him? Her father? He could tell her to call you," Diane suggested.

"Yes," was all that he was able to say. He had never felt this grateful to somebody.

Diane was about to pick up the phone when a client asked for more coffee. Sawyer shot the poor man a deathly stare while Diane refilled his cup. He couldn't stand another second waiting for confirmation that Sam was indeed going to tell Kate to call him.

As he did his best to stay calm, Sawyer eyes fell on a newspaper on the counter. "Where's Oceanic flight 815?" said the big headline, causing Sawyer's jaw to drop. That flight… that flight was the one he'd almost taken. The one he's refused to take so he could be with Kate a few hours sooner.

Shaking with the knowledge he could have found death when he finally wanted to live, Sawyer silently thanked Kate. Twice in the last few days she had saved his life. Without her, he'd be no more.

Finally, Diane came back with her purse and rummaged through it until she extracted a small phone book. After a few seconds, she picked up the phone and started to dial. Sawyer was holding his breath, hoping Sam was home.

He was.

"Hello Sam, it's Diane. Sorry to call you this late, but it's important…" She paused. "Well, Kate is on her way to see you and… Yes, she's fine. She decided to leave Iowa, spread her own wings, that's all. She'll explain everything when she sees you."

While she was talking, Sawyer wrote down his cell phone number and handed it to Diane.

"Listen, Sam, I have a message for Kate. It's very important. Do you have a pen? Okay. She has to call (481) 516-2342 and ask for James. Thanks. Yes. Take care, Sam."

She hung up and Sawyer gave her an expectant look.

"He'll give her the message when he sees her," Diane said. "Meanwhile, you should try to get some sleep. There's a motel just-"

"I'm not tired," he cut her off. "I'm not going to wait here. I'm going down to Tallahassee."

Diane nodded, not surprised.

"Sam works at a recruiting office for the US Army. I don't know the exact address, but it shouldn't be too hard to find when you get there."

"Thank you," Sawyer said, getting up. "For everything," he added.

Diane grinned.

"She thinks you're a good man, you know. She said you've helped her a lot."

"She helped me more than I could ever repay her for," he replied, trying to contain his emotion. He and Diane exchanged a little smile before he walked away. As he was about to exit, a large trash can caught his eye. For a second he didn't move, as an idea formed inside his mind.

Then, slowly, he reached into his pocket, took out the letter he had written as a kid and threw it in the trash. Then, without a look back, he left the restaurant.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

After talking to her mother, Kate had slept nearly 12 hours straight. Now, even though she felt rested, she was still very worried about James. Where was he now? Was he dead or alive?

On her way to Florida, she had stopped at a cybercafe, needing to find out if James had killed the real Sawyer or not. What if she could still find him and stop him? Searching the Internet, she had found nothing about a Mr. Sawyer being murdered, but that didn't prove anything. Since the news of the hour was a plane crash in the Pacific, some conman's death could easily have gone unnoticed.

As she stopped her motorcycle in front of the building where her father worked, Kate almost felt like turning around and leaving. It surprised her, since for so long she had thought being here, with Sam, away from Wayne, was the solution. But now that she was free to be here, to start over, there was something more important to her. All she wanted, really, was to find James. And that's what was she was going to do after talking to Sam, she decided.

Her step fast and determined, Kate pushed the door to the recruiting office. Her father was on the phone at a desk.

"I'll send one over to you, right," he said on the phone before noticing Kate. "I'll call you back later," he added before hanging up.

"Hi, Dad," Kate greeted him. Strangely, he didn't seem surprised to see her and she wondered why.

"Hey, Katie! I'm so glad to see you!"

The father and daughter hugged briefly, both smiling.

"So, your mother said you had left Iowa for good," Sam began when they pulled apart. "Is that true?"

"She called you?" Kate replied, taken aback.

"Yes, last night. She told me you'd explain."

Kate took a deep breath. There were things she needed to hear from Sam, but it wasn't going to be easy.

"Why didn't you tell me, Dad?"

"Tell you what?" he wondered, sitting on the corner of his desk.

"I… I was making a scrapbook… A surprise for your birthday. So I called one of your COs to get some pictures of you in uniform. The pictures that he sent me had dates on the back. Photos of you in Korea up until 4 months before I was born. Why didn't you tell me that Wayne was my father? Why?"

Sam was obviously shocked that she knew about Wayne. It took him a moment before he told her calmly:

"I didn't tell you because he's not someone you'd have been proud to call your father. For all that matters, I'm your father, Katie, and it never has to change. In the end, the rest is irrelevant."

"Then why didn't you take me with you? You don't know how awful it has been for me all those years, Dad!"

"You were 5 years old. I wanted to take you along with me. She wouldn't let me; she threatened to get a paternity test. I didn't want you to ever find out Wayne was your biological father."

"Then why didn't you kill him? It would have been better for all of us!" she exclaimed, tears suddenly glistening in her eyes.

Sam raised a surprised eyebrow at her question, but replied gently:

"Because I don't have murder in my heart, Kate. And your mother loved him. I had no right to make that choice for her."

To that, Kate had nothing to say. She and Sam had arrived at the same conclusion. Kate shivered, thinking about how close she had come to making the biggest mistake of her life. Many lives would have been ruined if she had gone through with her plan to kill Wayne, it was now clear to her.

"Katie, I'd be happy if you came to live with me," her father told her, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Kate smiled briefly, finally realising Sam would always be there for her, no matter what happened. Wayne didn't have to be a part of her life anymore. She was free, free to be the person she had always wanted to be. To do what she wanted to do. And right now, there was only one thing on her mind.

"Thanks, Dad, but… I don't know what I'm going to do yet. There's someone I need to find, first."

"Is it James?" Sam asked.

Kate couldn't believe her ears. How could he know about James?

"What??" was all she could say.

Sam smiled.

"Your mother gave me a message for you. Here. You have to call that number and ask for James."

Kate took the paper and stared at it for a long moment, flabbergasted. He was alive! He was looking for her! She could hardly believe it.

"Is that good news, Katie?" Sam wondered after a moment, a little worried.

"Yes, very good," she murmured, unable to take her eyes away from the piece of paper.

"Then... I'm guessing you're anxious to call that man, whoever he is," Sam said, a smile playing on his lips. "You can use that phone."

"Thanks," was all she could say, still in shock. Her heart was pounding in her chest. Did this mean he hadn't killed Sawyer? Did this mean he wasn't going to ruin his life and their chance to be together?

Forcing herself to breathe again, she dialled the number. She got it wrong the first time, being too nervous. At last, she succeeded.

"Kate," the voice immediately said on the other end. It was him, no doubt about it, and Kate suddenly felt weak as memories of their time together invaded her thoughts.

"James?" she replied after a beat, her voice barely above a whisper.

"I didn't do it, Kate. I couldn't," he said fervently.

Upon hearing those words, Kate was filled with relief, with joy. The thought that there was nothing left to keep them apart was overwhelming. They could be together now, if they wanted to. If he wanted to.

"Why didn't you?" she wondered.

"My horoscope said that I shouldn't," he joked, but Kate could read between the lines and she smiled.

"Where are you?" she asked, waiting to hear confirmation he was in Iowa.

"I'm in the parking lot," he replied softly.

It wasn't the answer she was expecting and for a split second she was lost.

"What?" she let out, but as she spoke she understood what he meant and slowly turned around to look outside the window.

And she saw him.

Wearing a black shirt and jeans, he was standing by her motorcycle, looking straight at her. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him.

Without a word, without her eyes leaving his, Kate hung up the phone.

"Everything alright, Katie?" Sam wondered as he approached her.

Coming back to reality, Kate nodded.

"Yes. I'll call you later Dad," she said, and Sam seemed to understand what was going on when he followed her gaze to the man standing outside.

Not waiting for her father's answer, Kate walked out of the building. She felt like running towards James, but something was holding her back. What if he didn't reciprocate the feelings she had for him?

They exchanged a gaze filled with uncertainty, and when he made a hesitant step in her direction, she felt such love for him that she couldn't help increasing her pace. He opened his arms to her and a second later he was holding her tight.

"Kate..."

"James…" they said at the same time. That made them smile and for a couple of seconds they just stood there, grinning, eyes locked. But then James' smile faded and his features grew serious.

His eyes dropped to her lips and suddenly Kate couldn't wait another second. Their lips crashed together and they kissed passionately. A kiss fuelled by the fear, desperation and hopelessness they had gone through lately. They had thought they'd never see each other again, but there they were, holding each other in a warm embrace. It was just too good to be true.

Eventually the time came when they had to breathe, but they didn't let go of each other. Her arms still wrapped around his neck, Kate put her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, feeling more peaceful than she ever had. Everything was falling into place.

"Freckles?" James said at last, making Kate smile upon hearing again the nickname he had found for her.

"Yes?" she replied, not moving.

"When I talked to your mom, she asked me if… if I was the man you…" he paused, hesitation obvious in his voice. What was he trying to say? In order to give him some confidence, Kate started to lovingly caress his neck. It seemed to have the desired effect, because he continued, "if I was the man you… you loved. She was just… saying that, right?"

Kate finally opened her eyes and looked at him. He was looking at her expectantly, uncertain as to how she would react. She smiled, thinking how well her mother had read her. Yes, she loved him. And even though she didn't know for sure what the future had in store for them, even though they was still a lot to learn about each other, even though they still had personal issues to resolve… she wanted him to know how he made her feel.

Tenderly, she cupped his face and kissed him, kissed him in a way that told him that there had never been any man she had loved the way she loved him. And when their lips parted, she saw a big dimpled smile on his face.

And he said the words she had longed to hear.

"I love you, too."

THE END

A/N: Well, I hope you enjoyed this story! I'd like to thank every person who took the time to read or review this fic. Special thanks to the amazing so original who beta-ed this. She's the best beta ever and I owe her a lot!!! Thanks!!!!

Also, I have another fic in the works. I only have one chapter done and very little time to write, so I'll wait a little before posting it. This way, you won't have too long to wait in between chapters. I can already tell you that it's going to be called 'Two For The Road' (unless I can find a better title! ). Here's the summary: When Oceanic's flight 815 crashed, what if Kate and Sawyer didn't fall on the beach with the other castaways? What if they find themselves into the jungle, instead?

Thanks!

Jenn