A/N: So this is basically the result of insomnia and an aching need for actual resolution in 'Lost'. This story is completely canon, and takes place after Christian takes them all into the light. One warning - though this is a lot less shippery than I thought it was going to be, in the end it still is a Skate fic, so if you're a die-hard Jater you probably won't enjoy this. That being said, if you're at all the teensiest bit open minded, I think you'll enjoy this a lot, because it really is just intended to be a character piece.

Enjoy, and don't forget to review!

Oh and by the way, it's all from Kate's POV.

To be fair, it did take a while for reality to set in.

Days, months, years of living (dying, really) in this paradise. A perfect utopia modeled after that God forsaken rock they'd spent their lives trying to escape, trying to return, trying.

And with that the Universe succeeded in it's quest for the ultimate irony.

Yet here they came - whole, happy, and together. Like the first moment of falling in love, their minds were clouded in naïve bliss, eager to rest after a long life's work. They were still drunk on that moment of remembering; that beautiful, perfect moment.

As were the moments that followed. And the moments after that.

The first night was a blur of tears and tired facial muscles. A perfect blur.

The warmth from the journey's light had clung to them, and hadn't yet receded from their skin until well into the night, yet they huddled like teenagers at a sleepover in the dead of winter. Warm and cozy, huddled in one of the newly furnished Dharmaville cottages. Overlapping feet and hands, eager after so much time apart; laughter and smiles and tears. First the smiles, then the laughter, then the tears.

Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of happiness - of every positive adjective that she had so rarely felt during life. No tears of sorrow until deep in the night; and only in the silence.

Her old friend.

When the memories had flowed back in that bright moment with Claire, her life before and on the island came rushing back; and her life after was now slowly dribbling forth. Her life after. Her life before.

Not that there was much to remember. But she did remember - deep in the night, when the lights were off and the sleep of death was here.

It had been one year, six months, and four days after. It was dark and quiet (as it so often is on country roads at midnight), and then it was loud and bright; the sickening screech of metal and bone and blood ripped through the air, and she was drowning in a thick pool. She was wet, and the water ran out the gaping hole in her abdomen - out the choking hole of her mouth. She wasn't drowning, she was bleeding. She was drowning, she was dying.

As if her body remembered her last burning breathless minutes, her eyes shot open with a gasp of air - her dead lungs starving.

And then the tears.

Still grasping for air, her eyes and lungs and bones were burning.

"You alright there, Freckles?" said a low voice, breaking the silence like a shot in the dark.

Her lungs were aching, and in her weakest moment she had no energy to cover up her fear with a witty retort, let alone reply at all. She clutched her chest with one hand, her throat with the other. Flickering her gaze up towards him, covered in shadow sitting up against the wall, her choked gasps reduced themselves to light whimpers. Her wordlessness filled up the time, until silence wasn't enough. She could barely grasp enough oxygen to keep her mind moving, and the tears were rapidly tracking down her face.

She was helpless.

"I died," she whispered, her body quaking in a desperate attempt to not scream out in pain.

She knew she died. That was an obvious fact - an event that must happen to make the jump from life to afterlife. As soon as she woke up at the concert she knew she had died; but it had been an abstract thought. She was alive, and then she was alive again, and then she remembered that she wasn't alive but had been before. And now, she's not really sure what she is. She was dead, as she had died, but she had been dead before and it hadn't made much of a difference.

But now she remembered - she felt the sting and the rip. She remembered the pain.

Oh, the pain.

"I know," he whispered.

Her eyesight was blurry and dark, but she could see him. After all this time.

"How did you die?" she asked. Her voice wavered minorly, but her breathing had returned - it was all coming back.

She watched as his head lulled from staring at the full moon, to staring at her. The way he swallowed a sigh made her wish that there was a better way to ask that question. There wasn't though - and there wouldn't be. She'd been dead before, but never like this.

"Heart attack," he said simply, his right hand fingers soothing his left hand knuckles. Back and forth. Back and forth. Like a pendulum, or a hypnotizing pocket watch. She desperately wanted to break the melancholy tension, but all she could think of was pocket watches, and she didn't have much to say about those.

Her curiosity got the better of her anyhow.


"'Bout ten years after you."

After you. Before the Island. After the Island. After life. After death.

She could breathe again.

Her heart was beating.

Her blood was pumping.

She felt an urgency like no other she'd felt before. Strange - it felt strange, that incessant voice in her head. She knew there was no hurry. She could nod, look away and drift off to her perfect after-death sleep. Selfish.

But she couldn't be selfish - not about this. Somehow she knew this wasn't the time. And so here the tears come again.

So she whispers, "I missed you," and her heart is beating faster, her pulse is thumping harder, her tears are flowing down. Water ran out her eyes.

Because this is important.

He replies, "I missed you too," and even the air is overwhelmed with the feeling.

This matters.

She lets out a watery laugh, and he laughs in response.

She is dead, yet so very much alive.

She never knew death could be so simple.

In the years since they arrived here, everyone seemed to thrive on the monotonous and the routine.

The sky was always blue, the sun always warm and inviting; a few scattered clouds, puffy and round, bringing only a pleasant breeze in their wake. There was something magical about the possibilities that the day held in this realm. The fact that the days passed uneventfully one after another didn't seem to bother her.

They were filled with quiet mornings sitting at the kitchen window sipping on her tea while listening to the birds chirp and the trees rustle. With lazy afternoons tilling the earth and tending her garden. With cozy nights curled up by a crackling fire with her nose buried in a good book. They were quiet and calm.

She was calm.

In life she never would have been satisfied with this - would have wanted adventure and excitement and passion. Yet here she was.

Quiet and calm.

There was something about the light they brought with them from the first death that subdued her. A comforting voice in her mind that told her not to worry - a warmth. A perfection.

She was living the way she was supposed to in life, with the person she was supposed to live it with.

And as the sun rose the same way everyday, it was always warm.

When one thing changes, everything changes.

The all learned this the hard way.

They learned, even in death.

Ben, Michael, Walt, Rousseau, and Alex walk out of the jungle - fourteen years and four months after.

That night they have a feast; laughing, smiling warmth.

She crawls into bed next to Jack, fully sated by happiness and food.

She falls asleep feeling thankful that their finally all together.

Then she wakes up.

Something is different.

She wakes to the same sun peeking through the bedroom curtains, the same birds chirping, the same trees rustling; but something is different. The foundation pulled from under her, it takes her a few disorienting moments before she realizes what has changed.

The warmth in her mind is gone.

Everyday, every hour, every minute and every second of the past fourteen years suddenly seems like a dream. Like one of those strange, eclectic dreams where you're driving a car made of couches and Batman's in the passengers seat singing show tunes and dressing your cat up in a Christmas Tree outfit.

And a bitter wind blows through the window.

Because all of a sudden she feels painfully awake, and a nauseating rock is forming in her stomach, a lump in her throat, a fog in her brain.

"What the hell -" she mutters to herself, hastily pushing the covers off her shivering body and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Her feet twitch in protest to the ice cold temperature of the floor. It's no longer warm - not just in her mind, but on the Island itself.

And suddenly it's pouring rain. For the first time in fourteen years.

The darkness in her mind seems to be equally reflected in the room around her - the usually cheery yellow walls bleak and gray, the corner shadows grow with unusual eagerness.

She can't breathe again. Just like the first night. The night that she hadn't thought of once since it had happened, and yet now it's her clearest memory. Now it was her life jacket in a sea of uncertainty.

Her face is crumpling in a mixture of confusion and...some deep sadness that's been hidden away all this time. She feels like she just ran into a brick wall of forgotten emotions, because not once in the past fourteen years has she felt anything like this. Not anger, not sadness, not loneliness - not even boredom.

And now she was feeling it all at once.

A loud, guttural scream broke out - powerful enough in it's intent to break through the pounding of both the rain and her skull. Her head snapped sharply towards the noise, the quick movement dislodging the pools of tears in her eyes. Though she was still thoroughly incoherent, her mind did quick work without her to figure out that those cries were headed towards her.

Jack sat up abruptly with a sharp, deep gulp of air.

Clearly, it wasn't just her.

"Oh God," he choked out, his sleepy eyes already reddening as his hand clutched his chest. Without another word he shot out of bed and stumbled out of the bedroom.

The screams were getting louder. Or closer. Or both.

Feeling like a fawn taking it's first steps, she stood on shaky knees and carried herself towards the now wide open front door.

The torrential rain and wind eagerly rushed through their front door, biting at her uncovered skin like a thousand frozen knives. She was clad only in a tank top and underwear, yet going back to the bedroom to put in something more appropriate didn't even cross her mind. There was nothing appropriate for this.

Her bare feet padded down the slippery hallway floors as the howling wind knocked over the coat hanger and dismantled picture frames.

Arms hanging loosely at her sides, she crossed the threshold onto their front porch, now only meters away from the source of the cries.

Juliet and Jack were kneeling, crumpled in the mud and rain, shaking and crying. The only word the storm couldn't drown out between them was 'David'.

Her throat felt like it was have a Charlie Horse. Her skin was burning from the cold. She couldn't pull herself out of the sorrow. She was trapped in a room with no door, no window, no light, and no hope.

This was death, but this was not heaven. This was life at it's finest; this was hell.

All she could feel was the hurt and the loss. Fourteen years worth - more, really. These fourteen years, plus the twenty-seven before, and the thirty-one before that. And now all at once, all she could feel was the loss. And the hurt. The pain and regret.

The darkness.

Welcome to the afterlife.

P.S. Does anyone know how to make line breaks that don't go all the way across the page?