AN: A short little Juliet and Jack AU following the post-appendectomy scene in 4x10 in which Juliet tells Kate that Jack kissed her "to prove that he doesn't love someone else." I have wanted to write lost for quite awhile now but for some reason, I find it intensely difficult, particularly in the case of Juliet. Nevertheless, she's one of my favorite characters in the show, so I'm hoping to do more with her in the future.

I'm not usually a great 'shipper, but I must admit guiltily to this one: I love Juliet with Jack. I have been catching up with Lost on DVD, and I've been sort of perturbed by the inconsistency of characterization, especially regarding Jack—he goes from kissing Juliet to moaning over Kate over the course of a single episode! Here's how I would've had it go instead.

Strained

"I know you're awake." She watches his eyes blink open, black in the warm lamplight of the tent, unreadable. He's still playing dead, even now. It's predictable, just what she thought he would do: Juliet looks away from his face, tasting the bitterness of her own strained generosity. She presses the first layer of gauze to his stomach and watches the dark bleed through.

It's when she's taping him up, when she's getting ready to leave and get Bernard to relieve her, sure that there's nothing left to say, that she feels Jack wince, hears him clear his throat.

"I wasn't." His speech is slurred, and she can tell that he's struggling to stay awake. Though his eyelids are only half open, his eyes are on her, feverish and intense.

"What?"

"—wasn't trying to prove anything, Juliet, I just wanted to—" He chokes a little on the words, bends as if he's trying to sit up—

"Jack," she holds him down, her hand closing over his shoulder. Due to his injury, it doesn't take much to keep him there. If only it were so easy all the time, she thinks. "Don't move, ok? You can tell me whatever you want to tell me right here: I won't go until you're finished." She shivers despite herself, watching his eyes move to the place where she's touching him.

He huffs out a deep breath as though he's just run miles, and she can see the strain in his muscles, the wrinkles in his forehead as he raises his brow, like it hurts to say this.

"I just wanted to kiss you—I wanted to—"

She feels like her face has palsied when Jack lifts his hand to cover hers where it rests on his arm: she cannot bring herself to smile, to express anything. The palm of his hand is sweaty and hot, shaking with the effort of holding it there. He is looking at her earnestly, his eyes now wide, and then she feels that her hands are shaking too.

"Jack, you don't have to do this," she lifts their hands together, bringing his back to his side in a relaxed position, but doesn't let go yet.

"I wanted to make you feel safe; I wanted to feel safe—with you," he grinds out, and she feels like a vein is popping somewhere in her head. Her eye twitches and her lip trembles, and all she can think about is how hard this all seems for him, how unnatural. He is making himself, focusing, heart beating hard in his chest (she feels it, not knowing when her hand made its way there). She keeps asking herself, "Should it be so hard? Should it take so much effort?"

But as she leans down toward him, she knows that the answer is yes. Her scalpel arm aches as she holds herself gently above him, her hair spilling onto his shoulder. She comes closer, catching one of his eyes, which has dilated beautifully, before it closes in anticipation. Her heart races as she moves in, and touching her lips to his makes everything hurt.

Time seems to slow down; her mouth sliding against his, every movement soft and deliberate. His tongue strokes hers back lazily, and she knows they need to stop this, because he's tired and drugged, and near passing out. But for a few moments she's in limbo, her body coming alive against his, skin prickling and damp, ready for something that she isn't—that neither of them are. He is panting when she pulls away, the sounds ragged and almost pained.

"Juliet," he breathes, hot against her face.

She strokes his cheeks and his hair, as his eyes close. His hand is still holding hers, knuckles white, fingers clutching hers. Like he's still in surgery and squeezing her for the pain. She waits for his fingers to loosen to retrieve her aching hand.

She waits for a long time.