AN; This used to be several chapters long, but it was never going to be finished, so I'm shortening it back to it's original one-shot state.
For the first time in a long time, fear engulfed her. Somehow, despite her panic, despite the pounding in her chest, she managed to think it through. The last time she could recall being so frightened was on one of their early days on the island. Charlie, Jack and her had gone up to the cockpit. Turns out the pilot had survived although she could vividly recall thinking that death would have been a better fate for him. The pilot was just useless enough to tell them that they were 1,000 miles off course when It came and took the pilot out of the cockpit to slaughter him in the trees.
They had run and run and run and it was so easy, so effortless for her. She hadn't looked back when she'd heard the thud of Charlie's body hitting the ground, didn't turn around when she realized Jack wasn't behind her anymore. She just kept running, because once she had started, there was no way in hell she had ever been able to stop.
She had finally ended up in the shelter of some sort of tree and once there, she panicked. She broke down. For the first time in her life, Kate Austen didn't know what to do, where to run, how to get away from this immediate, impending danger. Far enough away that she could breathe and watch the sky and plan where to go next. She didn't know where to run, and that was startling, frightening, surprising, and oddly reassuring.
And then, just as she was now, she'd remembered what had happened the very first day on the beach, right after she'd gotten her handcuffs off. She had walked out of the jungle and into a clearing where you could just see the beach and the ocean, rubbing sore wrists, and there he was, this large, bleeding gash running the length of his side. He had sat there in front of her, half naked, on his knees as Sawyer was now. Only difference was, Jack didn't have a gun to his head.
He had asked Kate if she'd ever sewn anything before, and she stumbled over her words.
He'd asked her to sew up that big, ugly gash across his back and she had, but she'd nearly vomited all over him as she did. He didn't act afraid, even as she dug a needle into his back, and so she had asked why. Even she wasn't sure if she meant because they had crash landed in the tropics or because a fugitive was stitching up his back with a sewing needle. He had laughed, a beautiful laugh, and smiled a sort of grimace of pain that Sawyer would bear, many, many times in the short time she knew him, and Jack had talked through the pain, telling her about his first solo surgery. How he'd split open a sixteen year old girl's something-or-other, and how all of her nerve endings had gone everywhere, "like angel hair pasta." He said he had been terrified. He said that he didn't know what to do, and the fear was overpowering him - he couldn't think.
So he let the pain overtake him for five seconds.
Five seconds of pure, paralyzing fear, and then, as soon as he took in a deep breath after number five, it was gone. The fear was gone, and he could think. Apparently, he'd fixed the girl up, and everything was fine. In Jack's world, everything had been fine. At the time she had been as disgusted as she was awed. Were there really people whose fear was so trivial, so surreal, that they could count to five and it was gone? Was that what fear was for the normal person, fear for a spinal surgeon in Los Angeles? In made her sick, but she wanted it so bad, so bad it hurt. She wanted this man. Wanted his life, his home, his love. His fear.
So back there in that fancy tree, she'd counted to five, and she was okay, everything was fine. Jack was right. Wasn't Jack always right? Charlie showed up, and Jack showed up, and they got back to camp, and that was just one more disaster avoided for the time being.
And that was the last time her fear had been this deep, this all encompassing. And this was the first time she'd ever been this scared in her entire life for another person.
Jack was right, as usual. It was gone.
His voice crackled through the rain as Kate's eyes cleared and she looked up from the five seconds of tranquility, of fear, she'd immersed herself in. "Do you remember it!"
"Yes!" Kate cried back, voice breaking painfully. "Yes! I remember!"
Her eyes flickered up into Sawyer's and almost imperceptibly, he shook his head. The look in his eyes... - she couldn't breathe.
As though from a million miles away, Jack's voice came again. "When you get safe, you radio me and you tell me that story."
He said it with finality, as though those words, those words alone would make it all better. I can't leave, Jack, dammit! No, I won't! She had just stopped running, and now he wanted her to start again. That was another difference between Jack and Sawyer. With Jack, she'd always been running, and she didn't know any different. It was her comfort zone. But with Sawyer, when she'd given him the chance, he'd made her stop.
She'd fallen in love since that day on the beach. So many, many things had happened since that day on the beach, when she thought she had fallen in love.
And now she was going to watch him die, this man who meant so much and so little and absolutely nothing at all while a man she had once thought she loved was telling her to run. But there was no time, no time to run, no time to explain. "Jack, please..."
"If I don't get a call from you in the next hour, I'll know something went wrong and he dies!"
Kate shuddered, and again she could make out Sawyer slowing shaking his head through the sheets of rain. She didn't want to be responsible for anyone's death ever, ever, again. She'd killed the man she thought she needed to, and contrary to popular belief, it had made it better, but there was no one else who needed to die by her hand. That was someone else's story, someone else's revenge, someone else's hate. She and Sawyer had paid their due, ended the lives of those whose lives needed to end. Not again, not ever again. But the ever-present threat of notimenotimenotime pressed thickly against her brain, her skull, until she thought she might scream. How could she cram all these thoughts into five seconds of hurried speech? How could she get across to Jack how much she loved him, but how much more she loved Sawyer? Five seconds was not enough. Jack was wrong. Five seconds would never be enough.
"Jack, I can't leave without you!"
"Yes, you are! Go!"
"Jack, I can't!"
The sobs rose anew in her throat, choking as she gasped for air. "I CAN'T!"
"KATE, DAMMIT, RUN!"