It was the not knowing that was the worst part for Kate. Every night, every minute she missed Jack she just didn't know. Was he still alive, sitting on the island and gazing out into the sea, or was he dead, just another skeleton that others would find decades later?
When she thought of him as dead, it was bearable. But when she thought of him on the island, needing her just as much as she needed him, her heart broke just a little bit more. She remembered their kiss vividly; it was the first thing with him that she hadn't screwed up.
No. He didn't have to speak to answer her question. It was evident in his eyes and the way he couldn't fix her with a direct gaze and Kate found herself shaking her head, tears trailing down her face. It couldn't be true. Jack couldn't leave her. Not now. They had just defeated Locke - or whoever he was. So why now?
She kissed him with such passion and such intensity that she felt as though if the island had broken apart right there and then, she wouldn't have cared. All that mattered was Jack. He kissed her hungrily yet tenderly, his lips sweet on hers.
The others had moved away to give them space. Kate hooked her arm around him, pulling him close and realizing just how right his body felt on hers. This was she needed to keep her going for the rest of her life. But now she wouldn't have it ever again.
They pulled away from each other, shaking and trembling. More tears were running down Kate's face. "I love you," she told him breathlessly. It was the first time she had said that. Even when they were living together, she had always tried to avoid it. But there was nothing left to run from.
"I love you," he replied, gazing deep into her eyes. She wanted to tell him to leave the island alone and to come with her. But Kate had known from the beginning that she would be fighting a losing battle. Jack's sense of purpose and duty was far too great. If this was what he was supposed to do, he would never give it up for her.
After they had landed the plane, Kate had rushed to see Aaron. Claire had reunited with her mother, who had helped her to raise the child at first. But the bond between Aaron and Kate had been too strong, and Claire ended up living with Kate to raise him.
It was so hard, telling Aaron that she wasn't his real mother. But she couldn't raise him anymore; not alone. With Jack it had been so easy. He had known what to do. He had known which stories to tell to his nephew.
"I love you." Sitting in the armchair in her living room, Kate had tasted the words on her tongue. She regretted not telling that to Jack earlier. There were so many things she could have changed. But she had always been too busy running.
Memories flashed through her, memories of a faraway time spent on an island. Sometimes Kate didn't believe that it was real - that Jack had even been real. But Aaron was always there, constantly questioning Kate about the man who had helped her raise him. It gave her strength to know that Jack had existed and that she wasn't crazy.
Jack's hands on her back, pulling her towards him as she screamed and struggled, frustrated at the island. Everything had been so perfect then as she had reached up to kiss him, grabbing his cheeks and holding on them for dear life. But that was the first indication that it had been time to run.
They had been together for a couple of years, but Kate knew that if she had said what was on her mind, hadn't run and had let Jack into her heart, they would have had more time. Even if she had told him the night before, when they could have spent it together, just like old times.
Or that time at the temple when he tried to kiss her. But as usual, running at been the best solution. It was always the quickest one, anyways. But it was more like a band-aid than a real solution.
Kate regretted not kissing Jack then. She regretted every oppurtunity she had had to be with him that she didn't take. How different would things have been if she hadn't slept with Sawyer?
She still saw him occasionally. He came over to help her and Claire with Aaron, his brown eyes always sorrowful. They became each other's placeholders - Sawyer was her Jack. Sometimes at night, when he was pushing into her, she would close her eyes and pretend that he was Jack. That the stubble rubbing against her face was actually Jack's. She could hear him moaning Juliet's name over and over again under his breath as they made love.
But the light came with morning and it made it painfully obvious that Sawyer was not Jack, nor would he ever be. He was her best friend, the one who comforted her no matter the difficulty, but he wasn't Jack anymore than she was Juliet.
Sometimes the attacks came. She would be sitting on her bed, making Aaron breakfast, or at the park with him and Claire. Then all she would be able to think about, to see, to hear, to touch, to taste - it was Jack. His image would flood her mind and his smell would flood her nostrils. For a moment it was heavenly, but the realization that was dead or lost came rapidly to backhand her.
She would cry out his name sometimes at night. Kate would wake up from a dream, just missing him so much that she felt like she was going to die. She would whimper and sob, just a steady stream of Jacks, one after the other.
Aaron had caught her doing this. She had seen him standing in the doorframe, hand resting against the wall as she had sobbed helplessly. Hopefully Aaron would never have to endure heartbreak like this in his life.
The dreams were the most vivid memories of Jack that she had, apart from the engagement ring she still kept in her sock drawer.
They were sitting on the plane, buckled in beside each other. Jack looked over at her, trying to smile encouringly.
"Isn't it great?" he asked her, trying to break the ice that had formed after their one night stand - which Kate didn't know how to feel about. It had been so great to let herself collapse back into Jack. But now it was painful to look at him. "All of us, here. Together."
The next words had blown a chill across his heart. "Just because we're on the same plane doesn't mean we're together."
Kate couldn't fathom why she had been so cruel. It would have been so easy just to tell him that they were together, to kiss him, and to say that he was the only man that she wanted to be with. But she hadn't and there was no changing that now.
The break-through came ten years after she had left the island. Hurley had appeared to meet her in the park, finding her just as she recovered from another one of her attacks. She had gazed at him with wide eyes.
How did you get off the island? She had bombarded him with questions like that, to which Hurley had simply responded that since he was Jacob now, he could leave any time he wanted. Ben was still on the island, running things smoothly.
Apparently a few more people had found the island. Hurley and Ben were watching them as they repaired their sailboat. In no time at all, they would be sailing away and the light - the heart of the island - would be safe once more.
What about candidates? She had asked him, trying to avoid talking about Jack. If he was still alive, couldn't Hurley bring him off the island? The hope was so real and it was fluttering around in her chest.
Hurley had shrugged. None yet. He wasn't tired just yet, but one day he would pick someone else to guard the island. Then Kate had met his gaze with a worried and anxious one of her own. Jack?
He was dead.
Hurley's words still stung her to the core. Her hope had died as quickly as it had flared up. Jack had died many years ago after saving the island. Hurley couldn't bring him back. No one could. Was there a life after death where she could see him? She might has well just kill herself. If there wasn't an afterlife with Jack, she would never know.
Hurley's words were the same as Sawyer's suggestion, and so Kate had tried. She had found men her age, also suffering from some kind of heartbreak. She had brought them home, tried to love them - but failed.
There was never a hope for one of their relationships to work. Both sides could sense it from the beginning. Kate wasn't theirs, and they weren't Kate's. There was only one man for Kate, and though she never talked about him, they could read it in her eyes. She was missing someone that she would never find again.
Some had stayed weeks. Others had stayed months. A couple stayed years. But Kate grew older and wearier, and she began to realize that no matter how hard she tried to find another lover, there was only Jack.
That was true love.
If only she had recognized it sooner. Kate remembered the day of her trial, the day she had been allowed to go free and raise Aaron. Jack had not only lied on the stand for her, but he had made an effort for coffee afterwards - which she had pushed away.
"Dr. Shephard, do you love the accused?" The laywer's voice was strong and firm. Kate's heart leapt into her throat, but Jack didn't skip a beat. He ducked his head with a forced little half-laugh. Then he shook it.
His eyes searched around the room and they found Kate's. Her breath was caught in her chest. She wouldn't be able to live until she heard the answer to this question.
"Not anymore," replied Jack.
Kate wilted a little inside. She did love him, but she had never been able to say it. Now Jack was doing something she had never been able to do - move on. She wondered if he remembered all the moments they had shared. She had made him his very first sling.
But he had found her in the parking lot after the trial. Two simple words had escaped his lips, but they had brought back her very soul.
Kate had lied so many times too, but before their kiss on the cliffside, she had never been able to admit it. The one thing that gave her peace was that she had told Jack the truth before he had sacrificed himself. She did love him. More than anything - and now he knew it.
Desmond came back too, sent by Hurley. Their conversation had been short and awkward.
Desmond could have put the stone back into the pool. It could have been Desmond the whole time. But it was Jack who had chosen to do it; Jack had always believed in what he was supposed to do.
She had cried and screamed and hit Desmond's chest, over and over again.
Why didn't you do it? Why didn't you save him? Why wasn't it him that Hurley sent back?
Desmond hadn't stopped her. He could see the tears streaming down her cheeks as she remembered Jack. But Desmond had a wife and a son. Jack had saved him. Jack had known all along.
He had always known the right thing to do, even if he was going on his gut. That's why Kate had always been with him. Every time he asked, she had been unable to refuse. Are you with me, Kate? I'm always with you, Jack.
She had caused him so much pain. Her memories of the island were as vivid after twenty years as they had been the day Frank had landed the plane. They had been held hostage by the Others - or the hostiles. Whoever they were. It didn't matter. They were all people on the island who could possibly replace Jacob. Why hadn't they done it so long ago? Why wasn't it Jack.
But she had told him that setting off the bomb would render everything meaningless. She had urged him, tears in her eyes, to think about the good moments in life. What had he said? It was mostly pain.
All Kate's fault.
Then it had been thirty years since her days on the island. Aaron was grown up - she and Claire were grandmothers in crime. He had two kids, one Charlie and the other Jack. It hurt Kate every single day to look at them. Aaron didn't know the pain he was causing his aunt and mother. All he knew was that these were people that had been important to them, and that he wanted to honour their memory.
There were no more men in her life. She had given up on that awhile ago, content just to be a grandmother and to rest on the compensation money that Oceanic had given her. Her dreams were all still of Jack.
When she was eighty-five, she was diagnosed with a heart condition. Claire, Sawyer, Aaron, Charlie and Jack had all crowded around her bed, stroking her face lovingly. But the Jack holding her hand wasn't the Jack she wanted, nor the Jack she hoped to see.
Only Sawyer really understand her pain. There were no new woman for him either. Just glimpses of his past with Juliet - the years they had spent together on the island were the happiest in his life. Kate understood that.
She spent most of her time in a hospital bed. Sometimes Kate thought she saw Jack walking towards her, his hand extended. But everytime she reached for it, the image would slip away. She had never stopped loving him. Every touch, every kiss - it still gave her butterflies to think about it.
He was the last thing she thought about as she faded away into the darkness.
"I'm sorry I kissed you."
Another lie. She wasn't sorry for herself. She was sorry for the pain she had caused him.
The truth. The perfect, blissful truth. That should have told her everything she needed to know. They could have had so much more time together. But it wasn't right to dwell on that. Not now, not when she only had a few seconds left to remember him and love him.
"Kate, will you marry me?" His dark eyes were so vulnerable as he extended the ring towards her. Then she spoke the words that weren't a lie, had never been a life, or would never become a lie.
"I'd love too."
Maybe some day she would see him again.