Title: Just another word for nothing left to lose
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just borrowing.
Summary: Forty-two hours of a road trip. She's never gone on the run with anyone. It occurs to her this could be dangerous, in more ways than one.
Spoilers: through What They Died For, and the very beginning of The End
Notes: Title comes from the incredible Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee," of course. Also, yes, all the cities/towns and establishments they go to are real, though I don't name them, and have been selected with the help of google maps and regular ol' google and the like.
The driver who'd busted them out of jail had made it far too easy for her to just walk away, while he'd been preoccupied by an Oceanic truck and a coffin (she really doesn't want to know). Now she's out of LA, a truck stop heading north on the 99. North is an arbitrary direction, one determined only by the trucker who'd picked her up on the outskirts of the city. Four hours later, he'd stopped to fuel up and to eat, and he'd paid for her meal, sat across the table from her like they were on some sort of first date. It'd felt very Pretty Woman, she in the black dress and stilettos, and doesn't take much for Kate to figure he expects to get laid for his troubles. She isn't planning on sticking around to find out.
She's stepping out of the truck stop's shower room, dressed in the jeans and shirt she'd worn in jail, when she sees him. He's at a pay phone, speaking quietly and urgently in a language she doesn't recognize. She runs a hand through her damp hair and studies him while she waits. Yes, it's definitely him, the man who was in jail with her. The surprise she feels at the recognition is only amplified when he ends his call and turns to face her.
"Well. We meet again." He seems decidedly less surprised than she is, and gives her an almost amused smile. "Am I to understand you felt, as I did, it was neither prudent nor necessary to attend a concert tonight?"
Kate swallows her surprise and lifts the black dress she'd crumpled under her arm. "Somehow I didn't think it'd be my style."
The man laughs, though it doesn't seem to reach his eyes. "And where are you headed now, then?"
She looks out into the rest of the truck stop, spots the trucker sitting at the counter of the cafe. She shrugs a shoulder. "Anywhere."
"As am I, coincidentally," he replies, and Kate returns her eyes to him. "And I have a car. Would you care to join me?"
She's never gone on the run with anyone. It occurs to her this could be dangerous, in more ways than one. Still, he is going anywhere, and he has a car.
She's relieved to discover the car he has isn't the ridiculously conspicuous yellow Hummer he'd gotten into at the docks. It's an unassuming Buick, expertly hotwired, and Kate's impressed. Maybe even a little turned on. Once in the car, she tosses the stilettos and the dress in the back seat, toes off the lace-less jail shoes and puts her feet up on the dash.
He glances over at her as he merges back onto the freeway. "Katherine, yes?" he asks, the first time he's spoken since he'd led her out of the building, across the parking lot to the car. She's reminded he's seen her in a cell.
"Kate," she corrects him then; no need for the formalities, no reason for an alias. She wriggles her toes, pinched and aching from the unfamiliar shoes. "And you are..." She'd had no need to pay attention, earlier.
"Sayid. Sayid Jarrah." He flashes another smile then, another that doesn't reach his eyes. She wants to ask him what he did, but he has no reason to tell her the truth.
"Nice to meet you again, Sayid," is all she says, before reaching to turn the radio on.
She watches his hands while he drives. They're clean and precise, and she imagines what they'd looked like, twisting the wires to start this car. She imagines what else they'd done, if they'd robbed a bank or held up a store. If they'd killed a man. She holds her own hands in her lap, to keep from reaching over to touch his.
He's quiet, calm, stops looking in the rearview mirror so frequently as they drive further north. He doesn't seem to mind her flipping radio stations at random, so she does, until she finds something she likes.
It turns out Sayid's never heard of Patsy Cline. She makes it her mission, then, to find all the stations in central California that play her. There are surprisingly quite a few. She sings along: and he was born the next of kin, the next of kin to the wayward wind, and Sayid's eyes are on her, quiet and amused.
They stop for gas in a small town off the I-5. Kate perches on the hood of the car while Sayid runs the pump, and she closes her eyes and breathes. They're surrounded by farms and dairies and the air is no longer the heavy smog of LA. "I grew up in Iowa," she says suddenly, opening her eyes to watch him, see how his eyebrows raise in mild surprise. "Kinda smells like that, here."
He touches her knee as he walks past her, and she wants to grab his hand and hold it there.
When he returns from paying the cashier, he stops in front of her, reaches to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I grew up in Iraq," he offers, still so quiet and unassuming. She wonders if the fact is supposed to surprise her. Scare her.
Instead, she reaches out to him as he goes for the driver's side. "Here. Let me drive for a while."
He takes her hand and helps her down from the car.
He falls asleep a few hours after she starts driving, and she wonders how long it's been since he last slept. Since jail, certainly. It's been that long for her, and she's feeling the burning behind her eyes. She turns the radio off, rolls the window down and listens to the wind and his breathing.
Before long, she grows restless of farms and dairies, of trees and mountains being only in the distance. She pulls over to the side of the road, reaches over Sayid and rummages through the glove box until she finds a road atlas. It's dark by now, and she gets out of the car, uses the headlights to see. She traces a route with her finger, and when she gets back in the car, she heads west, towards the coast. The night sea air cools her awake as she drives on.
It's not until she sees the sign for the Oregon border that she relaxes fully, though she hadn't realized she'd been so tense. In between watching the road, she alternates between watching the dark glint of the ocean and watching Sayid. She thinks about Iraq, somewhere across several seas, and when Sayid stirs, muttering and restless in his sleep, she lays her hand on his shoulder until he calms.
About an hour past the border she has to stop, to stretch the cramps out of her legs and back. She parks across the street from a Chevron station and glances at Sayid – still sleeping – before dashing across the road to the attached convenience store. It's the middle of the night, and the lone attendant is halfway sleeping, halfway watching SportsCenter behind bulletproof glass, and doesn't even look up. Kate grabs a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste from the shelf. She walks through the aisles on her way to the bathroom, and grabs a pair of plastic flip flops, too, because she's sick of driving in the ill-fitting jail shoes and there's certainly no way she's putting the stilettos back on. She breaks the plastic tag with her teeth and slips the sandals on her feet before going into the bathroom, peeing, brushing her teeth and splashing cold water on her face. On her way back out of the store, she grabs two Cokes from the cooler, then steps back out into the night.
When she reaches the car again, he's leaning against the vehicle, map unfolded in his hands. "You got shoes," is the first thing he says, when she steps into the light from the low beams, and she laughs.
"Cokes, too," she nods, handing one of the bottles to him, and he twists the cap and takes a long drink.
"Thank you," he smiles, calm, and she can still see him as he'd slept, agitated, when she'd wanted to smooth the lines on his forehead with her fingers. Then, "Where are we, now?" He indicates the atlas in his hands.
She joins him against the car and smooths the creases in the map as if it's his skin. She taps the highway she's been driving, next to the ocean she can smell now. "Here. Oregon."
"Oregon," he repeats, as if trying it on for size. "I have never been to Oregon."
Kate traces the line of I-5 north, into Washington, and her fingers hover over one particular small dot. Fort Lewis. She looks at Sayid, and for a brief moment she wants to tell him, about a man she once called Daddy and how he used to take her hunting, how she's never been to Oregon but she's been to Washington State. But the moment passes, split second, really; she drops her hands and merely says, "I've never been here, either." And they stand, quiet again, she leaning a little into him, her shoulder against his on the pretense of studying the map.
Finally, restless, she straightens. "Come on, come see the ocean with me," she urges, suddenly needing something other than pavement under her feet. She tugs at his hand, and he leaves the map on the hood of the car to follow.
They pick their way over the highway's guardrail mostly by feel, and the ground is rocky and damp. Sayid hisses a warning, grasps her wrist as she stumbles. "There's no way down." He kicks at the ground and Kate hears stones tumble.
"Okay." She sighs it, and lets him keep her hand in his. If she squints, she can see the ocean's glint. It will have to be enough.
She doesn't know how long they stand, shoulders touching, backs against the guardrail. Occasionally headlights pass, and she can see waves crashing below, can hear them now, closer. Finally, quietly, he speaks. "You've never asked why they arrested me."
She turns her body to look at him, surprised and wary. "You've never asked me."
So close, and she can barely see his face, though she can hear the reluctant amusement in his voice. "So, Kate. Why did they arrest you?"
"Would you believe it if I told you I'm innocent?"
He doesn't answer for a long time. Then she feels his hands, cool and strong, on her face. He breathes, close, and she hears as if through a fog: "You should not believe me if I say I'm innocent." His lips touch hers, maybe by accident. "I am not a good man."
She kisses him then, without thinking about it, just kisses him hard and kind of desperate, because there's that word, good, and she whispers it into his mouth. "Never said I was good."
And he kisses her back, just as desperate; the metal of the guardrail digs into her shoulder and her hands find purchase in the curls at the base of his neck.
Sayid drives the next stretch, filling up the car at the Chevron before they leave. He pays with some of a mysterious wad of cash he's got, something Kate suspects may have come with the car, though she can't be sure. She watches through the door – she's wearing her stolen flip flops still, after all – as he counts the bills out, carefully, smoothing them with long fingers, precise. When he returns to the car, she sees he's also bought a bag of sandwiches, and they eat them, quiet, in the dark with the wind in their hair.
They don't mention the kiss. Don't say anything about how his hands had held her face, too tightly, how her hands had combed through his hair and let it loose. There's no discussion of innocence and belief, anymore. Kate watches his hands and wants to touch him again.
Instead, of course, she falls asleep. (She's not used to being allowed the luxury of sleep on the run, not while the car is still running and the miles are still ticking away. But Sayid is driving, and occasionally he glances at her, and his fingers twitch on the steering wheel, restless. She wants to take his hand, to still the fidgeting; instead, she falls asleep and she dreams.)
There's an ocean, and a beach, the hot sun beating down on her head. She's running, running, running, on foot, in a jungle, on the sand. She's hungry and wet and confused, lost in a way she's never known before. It's not an uncommon dream for her, but this time he's there, too, always at the periphery, quiet and calm and haunted. Until he steps in, bold, and takes her hand. "I am not a good man," is what he says – good, good, good, a refrain in her head – and then he kisses her hand, old-fashioned, formal. And he is gone.
When she wakes, disoriented and groggy, it's daylight again, though the sky is darkened by rain. She watches sheets of it run down the windshield for several moments before she realizes the car is stopped and Sayid is gone.
She has a flash of her dream: his back, walking away on the hot sand of the beach, head bowed. Slow. She takes a breath and sighs it out, thinks she shouldn't be surprised. Running's always safer alone, she knows this. And still, she feels bereft as she gets out of the car, body still heavy with restless sleep. The rain soaks her almost immediately and she shields her eyes; there's a building ahead of her and she dashes to it, pushing the door open without thinking. At least it's someplace to wait out the storm.
She's wiping the rain from her eyes when she hears a familiar voice; her head snaps up and she laughs in sudden relief. Sayid turns from the counter, and he's just as wet as she. "I thought we could use a place to stay for a while," he says in quiet explanation, with a wry sort of apology in his expression.
The motel's one she would have chosen herself, Kate isn't all too surprised to find – just off the highway, but run down just enough to be inconspicuous; they pay cash, are asked no questions. Kate goes to a drive-through down the road while Sayid showers, and when she returns they eat, cross-legged on the floor, shoulder to shoulder with their backs against the bed. Kate doesn't tell him she'd thought he'd left.
"We can't stay here too long, you know," is what she does say, and it's force of habit, never staying in one place long. It's saved her ass too many times to count.
He nods, but takes her chin in his hand, making her look at him. "I know." His fingers brush her jaw in what she thinks must be an unconscious gesture. "One night."
"One night," she agrees after a long moment, and touches his hand at her face. "Just one."
After they eat she showers, the water as hot as she can stand it, staying under the stream of water until her skin tingles and pinks. She lets her mind go blank as she scrubs the road grime and tangles from her hair, and when she's finally done she wraps herself in a towel, letting her rain-soaked clothes air dry on the shower bar.
He's sprawled face down across the bed when she exits the bathroom, and she stands in the middle of the tiny room, watching the rise and fall of his back, the way his damp hair hides his face. She sits on the edge of the bed, finally, and his body moves as if involuntarily making room for hers. She takes the unconscious invitation to lay down, curling up against him.
"Feel better?" he asks, voice muffled by exhaustion and the pillow. She can tell he's moving in between wakefulness and sleep by the slow way his arm comes to encircle her, how his body shifts to lean against hers.
"Mmm," she murmurs in response. Despite the rest she'd had in the car, she still feels like she could sleep for days. Then, "Where are we now?" she asks, into his shoulder.
"Washington State," comes the quiet reply, and she thinks of a moment in Oregon, when she'd wanted to tell him, tell him about something other than Iowa and Patsy Cline. Something important.
Instead, she lifts her head, sees his eyes open, serious and still. She presses her lips to his, slow and heavy, and she whispers. "I've been here before."
He kisses her back, his hands in her hair.
After, she doesn't dream. She knows nothing until she wakes, and the sky through the small window is darkening, and it's still raining. She has no idea how much time has passed, and she lets herself lay under his arm for a few moments longer.
It's dangerous, thinking like this. That time spent doesn't matter, that they can afford more than a few hours' rest before setting off again. (That she should be on the run with someone. That she should let herself care.) She pushes the thoughts from her mind.
She finds her clothes where she'd laid them to dry over the shower, and they're stiff from the rain, feel uncomfortable and dirty as she pulls them on. She retrieves the black dress from the back of the car and puts that on, instead, as she gathers her clothes and his from the floor and makes her way to the small laundry she'd seen a few rooms down from theirs.
Waiting makes her anxious. She sits on top of the machine once she starts it, legs swinging slightly, jumping, really. She wants to get back on the road again; she's never been good at sitting still.
She startles when he suddenly appears in the doorway, wrapped in a blanket from the bed. Above the rain outside and the noise of the machine, she hadn't heard him approach. "Shit," she breathes, smoothing her hands down her thighs, tugging at the skirt of the stupid dress when it rides up.
"You might have left me something to wear," he replies in turn, always so calm.
She studies him for a few moments, trying to picture him doing whatever had gotten him arrested, his strong, cool hands committing some crime that might have been on par with hers. She wants to ask him if he never gets afraid, if he understands the urgency of what they're doing, and she just can't picture it. Not now, with his hair mussed from sleep, wrapped in a blanket. (But she thinks then of the way he does sleep, restless and agitated, of the way his voice sounds haunted when he tells her he's not a good man. She shivers, just slightly, tugs at the dress again.)
"Do you want clean clothes or not?" she asks, finally, in response to what he'd said before she'd gotten lost in her own thoughts.
He smiles wryly, and steps into the room. "I see you found other clothes," he notes, slight humor in his voice, as if he can feel the tension radiating off of her and wants to deflect some.
It works, if not fully then enough so she gives him a small smirk in return. "I think this's dry clean only." Then, as she reaches out to tug a little at the blanket he's wrapped himself in, "I'm surprised they didn't give you a monkey suit to wear."
He moves closer, his hands on either side of her thighs, just brushing her skin. "I didn't stay around long enough for a wardrobe change," he admits, quiet, as his hands get bolder, push up her thighs to where the dress hides his fingertips. "Though I think perhaps you hold more appeal in this dress than I would in any monkey suit."
"Sayid," she murmurs, a warning, and she reaches out to grab at the blanket when it slips from his shoulders.
"Kate," he counters, though he's sobered again, and he grasps her hips and eases her down to stand with him. She can feel his breath against her hair when she leans into his shoulder.
Once their clothes are dried, it's by an unspoken agreement they set off again. Kate flips through the radio stations, pausing to listen each time she hears a news bulletin or a traffic report, and finally Sayid stops her with a hand on hers.
"We shouldn't do that again," she finally says, though she drops her hand from the radio dial. "Stay in one place for more than's absolutely necessary."
He nods, and Kate can feel him studying her. She keeps her eyes on the road, and her fingers tighten on the steering wheel.
"How long have you been doing this?" he asks then.
She cuts her eyes towards him, a quick, wry smile. "Long enough." Sometimes she thinks the adrenaline has run out of it, for her. And she wants to ask him, again, why he's here, what he did, what he's doing, running with her. Instead she stays quiet, watches the road and, in her peripheral vision, the way his hands smooth the creased cover of the atlas on his lap.
It's not until they start seeing signs for the Canadian border that Kate slows. Sayid sees the first sign when she does, and she can see his fingers begin to worry the edges of the map. "We're not going to make it over the border," he says, unnecessarily.
"I used to have a Canadian passport," she tells him, with a small laugh that's not real. "Guess that doesn't do us much good here." It's in an evidence bag now, she thinks, and she pulls over to the side of the highway, turns in her seat to look at him. "So. Where to now?"
He opens the atlas and smooths the page. When he looks up, he smiles at her, and it almost makes it to his eyes. "Anywhere."
Kate does laugh then, and thinks the adrenaline might be coming back, maybe. She draws in a breath and lets it out slowly, thinking of the way he'd asked her to join him, at the truck stop in California. "Anywhere. Works for me."
She pulls back onto the highway and turns the car east.
Sayid's fingers find hers and squeeze.