She just wanted to look at him.
She hadn't had the chance yet. Just to lay her eyes on him - such an indulgence - for as long as she wanted, without worry or fear of scrutiny and judgement. He was alive. He had been here. On this island, all along, making a life for himself. Digging in. Her only friend in the world, a complete stranger.
She watched him as he worked and walked through the grounds of the Dharma settlement, as he spoke easily and openly to the people around him, as he ruffled a little girls red hair, as he drank water from a bottle.
He belonged here, he fit here, under this light that was only found in this place. Sharper and brighter, the greens greener and the blues deeper. He was angles and shapes, mathematics in poetic motion, bending and straightening, smooth gradients, arms, legs, chest, flexing into half triangles and sharp lines. He was rocks and water.
She couldn't help it. Just watching him, it all came flooding back, not gently, but in a tidal wave. How it used to be. Kate and Sawyer. She closed her eyes, just for a moment, and it was the two of them, in Sawyer's old tent on the beach, gone now, or not yet constructed. Their ragged breathing drowned out by the relentless ocean crashing to the shore, the sweat on their bodies cooled instantly by the night winds. Sticky and entangled. His hair, tickling her face, her neck, her stomach. They were broken shapes, in mid-repair, sanding each other smooth. Those moments were still in the future, she thought, and it was absurdly comforting.
And then she opened her eyes, knowing instinctively what she was going to see, the disquiet in her heart softly tugging. He was looking right at her. Her heart skipped a beat as she stood, suspended by his gaze. She couldn't decipher the expression on his face, not like she once could - or - she was too scared to put hope in what she saw. His eyes, storming, on the verge of rage. Fierce, but with desire, need denied for far too long. They were choking on the time that had passed by. So much still unsaid, wounds still wide open, new alliances papering over what had stood before. They were the ruined remains of what they once were.
He walked towards her and she stilled. He stopped in front of her, towering above her, and she felt her whole body tremble. She hoped he couldn't see, hoped he wouldn't be able to tell, that she was weakening in his presence. He was real and alive and breathing. And solid. She had to stop herself putting a hand to his chest, just to make sure he wasn't a ghost, that all of this, the last few days, the last few years, hadn't just been delusions and madness.
They stood like that for a few moments, neither saying a word. He looked down at her, his brow knitted, his green eyes narrow, as if studying her. As if she were an abstraction he was trying understand, a book closed shut. She stood still under his gaze, not wanting to move, even though the silence between them had just passed awkward, even though it was wrong to want it so much. She didn't want him to take his eyes away, she didn't want him to let go of her, again.
There were so many things she could ask him. There wasn't even enough time left in the day to begin. She had imagined this. A thousand times in her mind she had imagined seeing him again, in a thousand different ways. Some of her scenarios were favourites, and she had filed them away, replaying them over and over in her mind on the nights she lay awake, incapable of sleep, thinking of him and their lost island. But of all the different meetings she had imagined, it had never been like this. In her dreams, he had never moved on from her.
She prayed he wouldn't say Juliet's name out loud. That whatever conversation was about to follow, it wouldn't touch on that.
The silence grew thicker, unbearable, a physical weight bearing down on her. She opened her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it.
'How long has it been?' he asked.
'Three years,' she replied, shaking his head softly in disbelief. 'How long has it been for you?' she asked, wondering if it had been longer.
'Three years,' he echoed.
He caught her eyes before he spoke again, and Kate knew what was coming, she saw it, an apology in his eyes. She didn't need it, she didn't deserve it.
'I never stopped looking for you,' he said, his voice a low growl. There was more, Kate knew there was more, but that he wouldn't say.
'I thought you were dead,' she whispered, looking down.
When she looked up again, she saw Juliet, blonde and beautiful, so composed, so graceful, even covered in grease. Time was running out. Their spell was about to break.
'We never should have left.' Kate said, choking back the tears.
'I shouldn't have jumped,' Sawyer said, the words thick, full of remorse.
'It could have been so different.' Three years of sadness and heartache threatened to break her.
'It couldn't Freckles,' he said, with softly-spoken certainty. 'Whatever happened, happened.' He raised a hand towards her face, and Kate knew he would have held her, but she saw the decision to deny himself cross over his face, and he dropped his hand.
In another life, in another world, he ran his thumb across her cheek and kissed the top of her head, smoothing down her hair.
'I'm sorry,' she said. For everything, the time they had lost, the future they wouldn't have, the decisions they both had made.
'I am too,' he said, shaking his head, because it was still so raw.
And he turned and walked away, towards Juliet, a quiet and unanswerable question on the other woman's face.
They were just atoms and dust, surfing the waves. Kate trusted. In time…
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