Last chapter, and I really hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for readingx
31 December 2032
The sky above Kate was crystal clear and smattered with millions of stars, smashed crystals on black silk. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the air she breathed tasted crisp and fresh. For December, the weather was mild, and she was thankful for it, as she walked alone through the streets of Central. It was quiet here, and Kate was thankful for that too. She needed some time to herself before she joined the festivities at the park. Everyone would be there now, celebrating the dawn of a new year, and a new life.
Kate heard squeals of laughter carrying faintly on the wind as she turned the corner and crossed the road to the park. She stopped for a moment as her feet stepped on to soft grass and she closed her eyes. She wasn't hiding, she wasn't walking in the shadows. She didn't have to look over her shoulder. She still hadn't gotten used to these small luxuries, so she allowed herself moments of stillness like these to remind her.
Kate inhaled deeply and set off again through the southern overgrowth of the park, heading towards the Serpentine lake. Far off in the distance she could see flickering shadows in firelight. But now the fires weren't flames of destruction, they weren't burning fear through streets and houses. They were warming flames and roasting flames, flames that lit up the world around them.
Kate slowed her pace. She still wasn't ready to join in. She wanted to smile, and she wanted to laugh. But she didn't want to force it. She wanted to mean it, and she wasn't quite there yet.
So much had changed in such a short space of time, Kate still hadn't caught up. There was so much to process, so much grief. And of course there was so much to celebrate. The walls had come down, something Kate had thought she'd never see. Ben Linus was dead. His mangled body was pulled from the wreckage of the demolished building and was left on the stage that was meant for Kate's death. The Blades had left him there.
It wasn't an act of maliciousness, in fact it was the opposite. They waited for some family or friends from Central to claim the body, and give him a decent burial, but no one came. In the end they had burned him, along with the stage, just near where the gates of Central had once stood.
They had buried Penny and Desmond together in the local cemetery, one of the few in the slums where a church still stood and grass grew thick in the gardens. Kate had visited every day since.
As she drew closer to the lake, Kate heard the sound of a low, deep chord sing out across the park, vibrating through her body, forcing her entire being to pay attention. She'd never heard anything like it, it was mournful and joyful and victorious all at once. Suddenly, the solitary horn was joined by the sounds of violins and guitars and drums, crashing together in an upbeat melody.
Music. Kate smiled. She closed her eyes, straining to listen, before picking up her step and following the sound. As she climbed the small grassy hill that overlooked the lake, she stopped again, her mouth dropping open.
She'd never seen a more perfectly beautiful scene as the one before her now.
The lake was covered in tiny floating candles, lighting the ebbs and flows of the lake black and gold. A large group of children sat at the edge, splashing each other, exploring the muddy banks, venturing out bravely into the shallow waters. On the grass beside the lake, all the tables and chairs that were scattered round the park had been brought together to create a huge eating area. Not a seat was left empty now. Each table was surrounded by red-faced, smiling people. Laughing, eating, drinking, moving to the music. There were food stalls all around the eating area, each with a long queue of people waiting to be served, but they weren't waiting impatiently, they were smiling, looking all around them in delight, eyes shining, feet tapping in time with the beat.
Further along was the band, an impromptu rag tag bunch that Kate recognised from the slums. They beamed and laughed as they plucked and strummed and banged on their instruments, dancing around them and in and out of each other. At the foot of the band were hundreds of people dancing, spinning each other around, weaving in and out, laughing so freely.
And that's when Kate broke. She fell to her knees, putting her hands up to her face and she cried, her sobs racking her entire body.
It was such a fine line, such a delicate thread between despair and happiness, she could hardly bear it. It made her breathless. The thought that one single moment could change so much... It was such a fragile thread, it was bound to break. So she almost couldn't look at it.
'What's wrong Freckles? Can't you dance?'
His soft tones, dryly mocking, and so full of love, made her heart sing, like only his could. She looked up, her face wet with tears, and smiled at him, the smile that she had been waiting for. The one where she could mean it.
'Look who's talking,' she said, her melancholic uncertainty ebbing away. It wasn't funny, she knew, but she couldn't help it. Sawyer wouldn't be dancing, not for a long time.
When they'd first pulled him out of the wreckage, Kate had been convinced he was dead. His right leg was hideously twisted - broken in three places they'd found out later - and his face was covered in so much blood, Kate couldn't see where it was coming from. It was only when he'd opened one eye and caught hers, that Kate knew that somehow, by some absurd stroke of luck, he was going to be ok. They were going to be ok.
He'd closed his eyes then and didn't open them for a long time. Kate had waited, and she had tended to him, just as he'd done for her months ago in the forest. She talked to him and fussed around him, until one morning, a week ago, Sawyer woke up.
Kate patted the ground next to her, smiling sheepishly at her lame attempt at a joke. 'Sit with me for a while,' she said, amused and contrite.
Sawyer dropped his crutches and slowly manoeuvred himself to the ground, the wince on his face telling Kate that the effort hurt, but she didn't move to help him. He wouldn't like that.
They sat for a few moments together in silence, taking in the music and the laughter and the excited chatter. Kate basked in the feeling of Sawyer's presence, his solid warmth beside her. He smelled like apples, and grass, and tobacco smoke. He moved his hand over hers, covering it completely, and a glow of warmth crept up Kate's arm.
She turned to look at him, his skin catching the glow of the fires, his too-long hair falling in his face. Kate looked at the black eye patch that covered his left eye, tufts of clean cotton peeking out of the edge.
'What did the doctor say?' Kate asked apprehensively.
They rarely talked about it. Sawyer hadn't been able to open his eye since the explosion. He shrugged, not replying, staring straight ahead.
'Sawyer,' she pressed.
'It's too soon to say,' he said gruffly.
Kate nodded and looked back out at the party ahead.
She couldn't be upset about it. He was alive and breathing. At least it wasn't his leg that he might lose. That was healing, and so were all the glass wounds and bruises that covered his body. He was here to face the future with her. That's all Kate cared about.
'What is it?' she asked when he remained silent.
'Nothing,' he said.
'It could have been worse,' she said. She didn't want to lecture him, but she wanted to make him see.
'I know,' he replied, his jaw clenching.
'What then? You think I'm not going to find you attractive anymore? That it?' Kate said, joking.
Sawyer didn't reply and Kate's eyes widened, realising she'd hit on something.
'You are kidding right?'
Sawyer still didn't say a word, but she felt him stiffen in embarrassment beside her. She laughed despite herself, immediately feeling guilty when he shot her a look of wounded pride. No one ever saw these glimpses of Sawyer besides her and it delighted Kate. The way this strong, tough man, who was a leader of men, could be so… sensitive.
'So you think this is funny,' Sawyer said. The beginnings of a grin tugged at the corners of his mouth.
'What you gonna do?' Kate asked mischievously. 'Make me walk the plank?' she added, pointing at his eye patch.
Sawyer dug his hand painfully into her ribs and Kate squealed, slapping it away.
'Ok, ok, I'm sorry, bad joke.' she conceded laughing.
'You're just full of them tonight, ain't you Freckles.' Sawyer said sarcastically, but Kate could tell he had relaxed and that was enough.
She moved closer to him and pressed into his side, pulling his arm around her and holding it in place across her stomach.
'It's a good day,' she said quietly, the fuzzy warmth of peace spreading through her body. She heard Sawyer's heart, beating loud and strong in his chest, and closed her eyes, letting her body fall into rhythm with his.
'Let's take a walk,' Sawyer said after a while, his voice rumbling through his chest in Kate's ear.
She opened her eyes lazily. 'Sure you're up to it?' Kate asked.
Sawyer regarded her, one eyebrow raised and Kate smiled. He had her number. She was the one feeling to sleepy to move.
'Come on, girl. Got something I wanna show you.'
'What is it?' she asked, her curiosity stirring.
'You coming or ain't ya?' he said, grinning, proud of himself.
Kate got to her feet, wiping the grass from her hands on her jeans. She waited for Sawyer to rise, as she watched the people dancing below. 'You know what the time is?' Kate asked absently.
It would be new year soon, she didn't want to miss it. She wanted to mark the moment. It was if everyone had been waiting for this night until they could truly declare it a new dawn.
'Think we have an hour,' Sawyer said, as he got to his feet and stood beside her.
They both started walking down the hill, taking it slow as Sawyer manoeuvred on his crutches. As they walked past the dining area cheers went up, and everyone turned in Kate and Sawyer's direction, lifting up their beer mugs and clapping. Kate looked down. It was like this everywhere she went these days, people wanting to talk to her and thank her. It didn't sit well with Kate. After nearly a lifetime of anonymity, it made her uncomfortable. Besides that, she really didn't think she'd done anything to deserve it.
She glanced at Sawyer. He hated it to, she knew. It was different for him. He'd never been anonymous, he'd been despised, mistrusted. He'd made himself that way. Now everyone wanted to buy him a drink, dinner, shake his hand. But he smiled tightly, and Kate looped her arm around his as they walked, the cheers following in their wake.
They walked past the food stalls, then the band and the dancers, when Kate saw Sayid, breaking away from the crowded dance area, heading their way. He stopped in front of them, his large brown eyes sparkling.
'Having a good time Ali?' Sawyer asked slyly, glancing over Sayid's shoulder at a pretty woman, eagerly waiting for Sayid to come back, her dark hair tousled from dancing.
Sayid followed Sawyer's gaze and laughed quietly. His whole body seemed to shrug.
'I thought I might try living for a change,' he said, his smile broadening.
Kate had never seen Sayid so happy and relaxed. She had only spent time with him plotting or planning something. Rallying up support, fighting on the frontlines. As he stood in front of Kate now, he looked younger, lighter.
Kate smiled and Sawyer nodded, hitting Sayid with his crutch in lieu of a pat on the back.
'Where are you two off to anyway?' Sayid asked. 'You're the guests of honour. You can't leave.'
Kate rolled her eyes. 'Please, no. Not you too.'
Sayid laughed. 'You should get used to it Kate,' he said.
'And I don't know where we're going,' Kate said, ignoring that. 'Sawyer's not telling.'
The two men exchanged a look and Kate rolled her eyes again. 'So Sayid knows?' she asked turning to Sawyer.
'I needed help,' Sawyer said grinning, looking down at his broken leg.
'I'll let you go then,' Sayid said. He held out his hand to shake Sawyer's, waiting for him to readjust his crutches, and then took Kate's hand, bowing as he kissed it. He turned on his heels, his steps quick as he headed back to his pretty companion.
Kate and Sawyer watched for a moment as the two of them rejoined the throngs of dancers. Kate squeezed Sawyer's arm impatiently. He chuckled quietly muttering something about her lack of patience as they set off again.
They hadn't got more than five steps when Kate heard their names being called. She sighed and looked over at Sawyer. He met her gaze, shrugged, defeated, and they both turned around.
Luckily, it was Cid. Someone Kate didn't mind in the least talking to. He lumbered towards them, a warm smile on his face that Kate automatically matched.
She'd gotten to know Cid well over the last few weeks. To a stranger, he was an intimidating figure. He was a hulk of a man, and his craggy face gave him an air of menace. That was, until he smiled. Then his blue eyes sparkled warmly, softening his face. He was a good man, one of the best, and it made Kate happy that Sawyer had chosen him as his second-in-command, before they had met. She felt safe just being near him, and was so glad to have made a new friend in him.
'Hey,' he said when he caught up to them. 'Party's this way,' he jabbed a thumb behind him.
'No shit,' Sawyer said dryly, looking at the hundreds… thousands of people behind them that filled up the park. They still came, more and more joining all the time. Kate could see them entering the park from all directions, heading towards the food and the music. Cid grinned and shoved an enormous hand through his hair.
'I, uh… I was wondering what next boss. Boys have been asking about work. Not sure what I'm supposed to tell them.'
'Tell them to take a break for a coupla days, let the new year settle in, relax, get drunk. I got a few ideas, but it can wait Cid.' Sawyer looked at the other man purposefully, another silent exchange taking place before Kate's eyes.
Whatever the message was, Cid took it. He smiled broadly and winked at Sawyer, who scowled at him in return. He saluted Kate goodbye before turning back to the party, heading towards the bar.
Kate and Sawyer turned and resumed their walk, Sawyer taking the lead away from the lake and towards the furthest end of the park.
They walked without hurrying, enjoying each others company, the stars bright above them and the streets quiet and peaceful. They walked down to the river and followed it east, past the long-forgotten parliament houses and abandoned palaces. Finally they came to the Tower Bridge and castle, where Linus had imprisoned Sawyer, where Kate had rescued him and they had escaped the city. It felt like a lifetime ago. Sawyer led her across the castle lawns, into a forested area and suddenly Kate knew exactly where they were going.
Her heart began pounding loudly in her chest and she laughed at herself. She was nervous, she realised. She was never nervous around Sawyer.
And then there it was. The cottage. In front of them in a lush glade, like a painting. The front lawn of it had been cleared, and the soil upturned, ready to be planted. The front door had been fixed and painted. But the ivy she loved so much hadn't been touched. It crawled all over the house, swallowing it in green and crimson. Sawyer stood at the gate, looking half bashful, half incredibly pleased with himself. Kate laughed and walked towards him, pressing herself into him. He let his arms fall behind her back and pulled her close, and they stayed like that for a few moments. Kate was desperate to go inside, but she wanted to stretch out the moment for as long as she could.
Sawyer let go of her and lifted her chin up, raising her face to his. He caught her in a kiss, while pushing them both slowly off the gate. He took a step inside the garden and walked up to the door, waiting for her to open it herself.
Kate stepped forward and grabbed the handle, twisted it and pushed open the door.
It was exactly as she remembered it, but so much better. It had been cleared of all the rubble inside. The stone floors had been swept and cleaned. The walls had been scrubbed. It was empty of furniture. A blank canvas waiting to be painted. She walked into the kitchen and went to the window, and pressed her hand against it. From here she could see the trees of the small forest and the castle in the distance. She could see a small strip of the river as it cut through the city, winding past her old hideout in the docks.
She didn't want to, she tried not to, but Kate couldn't stop herself. She could imagine living a life here, she could see it laid out in front of her, rolling forward. In this place. With Sawyer.
And then she realised, that was exactly what Sawyer was offering her. She turned around and he stood watching her, leaning against the doorway, arms crossed across his chest, almost defensively, as if bracing himself.
'How did you find it?' It wasn't what she wanted to ask. She didn't even care.
Sawyer shrugged and took a few cautious steps closer into the kitchen. His anxiety was so endearing, Kate had to stop herself from throwing herself into his arms. She moved forward a few steps, her hands crossed nervously behind her.
'So… you like it?' Sawyer asked.
'I love it.' Kate said, meeting him squarely in the eyes.
He smiled, relaxing a fraction. He stood taller and took another step towards her. He looked around the room before his gaze landed back on her. 'You need help packing?' he said, his eyes dancing.
Kate stepped forward, resting her hands on Sawyer's chest. 'Are we really going to do this?' she asked.
Far away, they heard the cracking of fireworks, heralding the new year.
'Yeah,' Sawyer said, his lips to her ear. 'You and me Freckles.'
Kate looped her arms around his neck, and raised her face to look at him. So beautiful, everything she'd never known she'd always wanted.
'Happy new year Sawyer,' Kate said, her voice almost a whisper.
Sawyer didn't reply, instead capturing her lips in a lingering kiss. They pulled away and smiled at each other, unspoken secret promises.
'So,' Sawyer said, after a few moments.
Kate raised an eyebrow, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. 'What next?' she said, completing his sentence.
She saw the look in his eyes and she understood it completely. Passion mixed with the need for a new adventure, a new target. It was in his blood, and it was in hers to. They would be happy here, in this tiny house. They would make a life for each other here. But there was a whole world out there, cities and towns waiting to be explored. So much to see, like the village in the forest, and Bellic, and Karl. They had to start with London, of course, but after that… Kate's smile grew wider as she thought of the possibilities. Sawyer caught her gaze, and pulled her into his arms, not leaving a millimetre of space between them, his smile matching hers.
'We still gotta get paid, right Freckles?'