A/N: I apologize x1000 for the delay - I generally suck at updating in a timely manner. Anyways, here's the new chapter and I very much hope you all like it! The timeline in this one jumps around a bit, so if you have any questions feel free to ask. And don't forget to review! (I'm asking nicely, of course).
Once upon a time, she had pitied Shannon Rutherford.
Or really, twice...multiple upon a times.
In the first life, the girl had immediately grated her nerves. Her blatant rebellion, self-centered nature, and self proclaimed bitchiness were so contrary to everything that Kate was used to. She was such an unknown entity, and yet Kate took one glace at the tall blond and categorized her as a vapid, useless princess without pause.
The first time they'd met, Kate was immediately put off by the girl's...honesty.
In all her years (few as they were) she'd never had anyone treat her as if she was unimportant. Even Edward, as much as he hated and despised her - his entire life had revolved around her for years. Tracking her, hunting her, her, her, her. It was all about her.
Maybe a shrink would say that her unfortunate childhood experiences were conductive to a narcissistic personality. That simultaneously hating and being adored by Wayne, wanting her mother's approval so badly that she was willing to take another's life to guarantee her loyalty, and worshipping her absent father figure from afar. All these added up made for an unfortunate combination of egotism, and a reckless need for attention.
That's what a shrink would probably say, but due to her reckless need for attention and misguided selflessness, she had blown someone up and been on the run ever since. But even being an anonymous vagabond, she was still so important. Really, she never had a chance of feeling any other way.
No matter if it was positive (though that was rare), or negative ( more likely), she still had such power over people's lives. She affected them like no one else could. She was important.
Now she sees that she had no basis for this attitude, but at the time she felt it. But really, with no reason.
Everyone forgets that she was only twenty-four. It seems impossible that she had lived so much in such a short amount of time, and yet never really lived at all. She had killed someone, she'd been married, she'd traveled, she'd watched someone die, she'd loved, she'd lied. And all in only twenty-four years.
She was only twenty-four when they'd crashed.
And like in every other aspect of her life, she'd immediately made herself important in the group. And like in every other aspect of her life, she lied. She charmed Jack, Sawyer, Charlie - everyone really, immediately took a liking to her. And why wouldn't they - she was helpful and resourceful, nice and mostly patient. And then for some reason she had a moment of clarity-
What are you, like two years older than me?
And she was right. If only for a second, Kate realized this. And yet she still never took Shannon seriously. For God sake, she skipped the girl's funeral to wallow in self-pity. Clearly she hadn't evolved much.
And she didn't in her next life either. When she first saw Shannon sitting with Sayid in the church, she'd felt pity for the poor little girl. How horrible it must be to be someone's second choice. Kate was never anyone's second choice. She was Kevin's first choice (or rather, Monica was), she had been Sawyer's first choice, and then Jack's...and then Sawyer's and then Jack's again.
And here was Shannon, forced to spend eternity with a man who clearly was supposed to be with someone else. Though Kate had never quite taken to Shannon's particular brand of personality, she certainly would never have wished that fate upon her. Honestly, when Kate saw her in the church, after the pity had come the overwhelming feeling of wanting to help the girl.
Obviously, this was just another stop along the way for Shannon.
Kate sat there, Jack's slightly over-warm hand tangled in hers, cheeks twitching in exhaustion from the ever present smile on her face. She was clouded and content and happy – and it was beautiful, and all she wished was that Shannon could have felt the same way.
It wasn't that Kate doubted that they were happy to see each other, or even that they loved each other – it's just that she knew that there was no way they could possibly feel as good as Kate was feeling with a dead wife hanging between them.
She continued the pity.
They had been dead (the second time) for three-hundred and sixty four days, and were planning on having a celebration to mark the one year anniversary of their entrance into this heaven.
This glorious land that had opened it's arms to their waiting bodies.
It had been a year of quiet smiles and laughs, never any more pressure than your lungs were comfortable with. There was no passion, but in it's wake came a contentment that was impossible to attain if you were consumed with feeling. So the year was filled with quiet smiles and laughs, never exerting any more energy than was possible. It could easily be described as sleepy.
Jack woke in the morning to home-made pancakes and island grown coffee. He'd kissed her on the cheek in thanks, smiled his twinkled-tired smile, and trotted out the door like every other day, to go fishing with Charlie or play golf with Sawyer. She leaned against the door frame, allowing the warm sunlight to stream across their foyer floor, and smiled at his retreating frame.
She was so happy.
Smiling. She pushed the door halfway closed with her foot when she heard Shannon's loud, and undeniably angry, voice make it's way from the next-door house.
In the last twelve months, Kate had never had an aggressive thought. Not one negative feeling in a year. No anger, no jealousy, no irrational need to run. But she did feel vague curiosity.
Only vague, because true curiosity required a little more effort than Kate felt like putting in. But it was certainly there. Because she had never felt anger, or jealousy, or mood swings, or a need to yell.
She hadn't felt that. Neither had Jack.
When they were together in life, they had fought constantly; about Aaron, about Sawyer, about him forgetting to close the bread properly so it wouldn't go stale. Anything and everything. They hadn't fought once since they had died. Not even an inkling.
And it wasn't as if anything was boiling under the surface either. It was just that there was no reason to.
Neither of them ever did anything that merited getting angry over. Kate was beginning to think that that wouldn't even be possible. Because neither her, nor Jack, nor Juliet, nor Sawyer had felt that. None of them had fought, whether that was in their individual couples or between friends.
It would have not even occurred to her that there was the option to fight. Kate hadn't felt it, and neither had anyone else – that is, except for Shannon and Sayid.
Kate remembered a few days after they had arrived here, she came across Shannon sitting alone on the beach. Though it was verging on dusk, the air was warm and Shannon was dressed in nothing but a simple black tank-dress. Her feet buried in the sand, long legs bent with thin arms encircling the knees.
Kate was startled to see fresh tear tracks and tell-tale swollen eyes. She was immediately confused. No one had been any where near sadness – not since that first night.
Most of them had awoken after that first night with suspiciously red eyes and salty cheeks, but almost immediately upon waking had felt all the sadness and doubt be swept away with the rising sun. They had spent the day reminiscing about the good times on the island (somehow managing to talk around the bad times), telling funny stories about their childhood, and figuring out where everyone was going to live. Dharmaville was plenty large, and the little yellow houses seemed infinitely more friendly and inviting than they had been in life.
Her and Jack had settled into a two bedroom cottage with a quaint backyard that bled into the surrounding forest. She went down to the beach ahead of him to scope out a good place for them to camp over night. Their plan was to sleep on the sand under the stars, with nothing but the waves and their voices for company.
Shannon was sitting in the perfect camping spot.
And she was crying.
Kate was first confused. Very much so.
They were in a beautiful, sadness-free paradise. What did she have to cry about?
Stepping forward, Kate tentatively lowered herself to the ground next to Shannon to silently lend her support. She never had liked Shannon all that much, but she couldn't feel any animosity towards the girl anymore. She started to pity her though.
Here we are in utopia, and she's crying alone on the beach.
She decided to ask a question – more for Shannon's venting sake than to stave off her own curiosity. It just wasn't as overwhelming as it once had been. In life.
"Why are you crying?" That seemed like a good place to start. She still couldn't really believe that she was asking that question to anyone at all in this place.
Shannon let out a sharp, watery laugh. Though it was less of a 'haha funny' laugh, and more of a 'my life is awful' laugh.
"I just heard what Sayid's been up to since I died," she said dryly, "and before I died for that matter. Why is he here with me when he could be with the chick he spent basically his entire life chasing around the globe?"
Kate didn't understand it either.
She pitied Shannon, and wanted her to feel better. But she didn't feel so motivated as to make up some profound reason as to why Sayid was here with her rather than Nadia. In life, Kate was an excellent liar. She was an observer, and could therefore imagine up excuses as if they had been there the whole time.
But this wasn't life, this was death.
So instead, all she felt like saying was the truth.
So she said the truth.
"I don't know."
Kate had escorted Shannon back to her and Jack's house, where Shannon spent the night in the guest room. Jack and her had gone on with their original plans and spent the night stargazing from the spot Shannon had been crying.
Kate figured the tears were left over from the first night. Jack had spent the night talking about when he was in love with his ex-wife, and Juliet, and her. Kate had talked about Sawyer, and Tom, and Kevin. Neither of them had cried at the mention of previous loves.
Kate figured Shannon was just an exception, and pitied the girl for getting saddled with that unfortunate side effect.
Over the next few months, she had gotten to know Shannon a little better. It was difficult becoming friends with the girl, however. She was nice enough, but her attitude unnerved Kate.
She was carefree and happy like every one else. But it was different. When she smiled, it wasn't that slow, sun warmed smile on every one else's face. When she laughed, it wasn't that lazy exhale of air. When she smiled it was bright and overwhelming, like a laugh was bubbling right below the surface. When she laughed it was loud and hearty, and so heavy with feeling.
Her forceful happiness was trying to crack a hole in Kate's own lethargic version.
And Kate finally realized that she had never met anyone quite like Shannon Rutherford.
"Yeah, that's right! Run off into the jungle!" Shannon's booming yell crept through Kate's half open front door.
A lazy laugh of air escaped Kate's lungs. Shannon's odd personality had grown like some form of statuesque cancer on Kate. She still felt so bad for her though. It had been a year, and still no one else had shown any signs of aggression, save Shannon and Sayid. Though to be fair to Sayid, Shannon did most of the yelling.
Sticking her head through the ajar door, she turned left to see Shannon's tall form standing on her own front porch while Sayid jogged across the Dharmaville common area and out of sight.
"Shannon?" she called lightly, startling the younger girl in her tunnel visioned anger. "I have left over pancakes."
Like a flip had been switched, that thousand volt smile appeared on her face and she closed her door behind her before padding down her front steps to make the short trip to Kate's house. Kate swung the door fully open, and without a pause Shannon entered and toed off her well worn flip-flops onto the already large pile of shoes by the door.
Even in someone else's house, Shannon managed to lead the way to the kitchen.
"So what was that about?" Kate asked mildly. Her curiosity about the specific event was much less intense than her curiosity about why they got angry in the first place. She went to the counter by the stove to re-stir the pancake batter, while Shannon made herself at home by scouring through the fridge.
"Oh, he sliced his hand yesterday putting up the hammock," she said, taking the orange juice and bowl of strawberries out of the fridge, "You know, for a guy who used to be all 'army-jungle boy', he sure does get hurt doing simple tasks a lot."
Kate's brow furrowed in confusion, "You were mad because he cut his hand?"
"No," she said rolling her eyes, "I was mad because he decided to stop the bleeding with my vintage Chanel scarf."
"Move over," she nudged Kate over to get a glass from the cabinet, and proceeded to pour her orange juice, absentmindedly adding "I was planning on wearing it tonight".
Kate shook the pan back and forth to loosen the pancake, and took her spatula to flip it over. Shannon was generally a mystery to Kate, and they really didn't have much in common. Yet Kate enjoyed their frequent visits with each other, if for nothing else than the odd entertainment value that Shannon brought to every conversation. She did find though that conversations went better when Kate herself didn't actually speak, but rather reacted accordingly at random intervals. This was mostly to do with the fact that Shannon liked to talk a lot, but also that Kate really didn't have anything to say.
"Anyways," Shannon continued, plopping herself down on a breakfast-bar stool with a glass of orange juice and a bowl of strawberries in front of her. She popped a strawberry into her mouth. "He knows I'm not really mad. Well I am, but not like a mad mad, more like a pissed mad. And I'm more mad at this stupid 'heaven' than I am at him."
Kate's shoulders tensed. It was when she smiled, and when she laughed, and when she said things like that. Unnerving.
"I mean, if this was really heaven, how come there's not one mall?" she said as Kate plated the completed pancakes and turned off the stove. Kate went to the fridge to get syrup.
"Or even like a strip mall? I could so go for a fro-yo right now. Wow, that rhymed. Or some greasy, chinese take-out. Oh! Or, when I was living in New York, there was this Thai food place that had the best Yellow Curry I've ever had. Man, that stuff was good. Do you have any whipped cream?" Shannon rambled while pouring a generous amount of syrup over the pancake stack and dumping the remaining strawberries on the plate as well.
"Yeah, one sec," Kate replied. She retrieved the whipped cream and set it down in front of Shannon's plate, and turned back towards the coffee maker to pour herself another cup. Shannon continued to rattle off about this and that in the background. She really could hold an entire conversation by herself.
She had gotten to know Shannon infinitely better than she had ever known her in life, but still it barely seemed to scratch the surface. It was a surprise, certainly. Looking at her, even after a conversation or two, there didn't seem to be much substance there.
And yet there was. In times like these, Kate had simply listened as Shannon talked and talked. And it was surprising; that amongst the random information on Shannon's favorite television shows and detailed descriptions of throw pillows she had when she was in high school, there were gems of information about who Shannon really was. They truly interested Kate.
In this new afterlife, Kate didn't feel much pressing need to do or feel anything. But when Shannon talked, she felt interested in what the younger girl was saying. Even if none of it really mattered.
When she first was getting to know Shannon, she thought that letting her vent was therapeutic for Shannon. Since that night on the beach, she'd felt so bad for the girl who was stuck living with a guy who should be with someone else. So she let her come and talk about anything and everything. She really did think she was the only one Shannon talked to like that. She thought that the only time Shannon was able to let her guard down and smile was when she was with Kate, but then a few months after the beach incident she'd gone over to Shannon's late one night to borrow her wine-opener.
Jack had been out late with his father, and was in the shower. In his absence she'd got a bottle of nice red wine and made a romantic fruit and cheese plate. She'd set a roaring fire in their den, had blankets and pillows set up on the couch, and then discovered that her wine-opener was nowhere to be found.
She quickly sprinted out the back-door, through the small gate separating the two overgrown yards, and up to Shannon's back door. She was about to knock but a smiling, laughing Shannon saw her first and swung the door open. A rush of warm, delicious smelling air wafted out of the kitchen.
"Hey! Come in," Shannon greeted, before turning back to where Sayid was dipping a spoon into a sauce simmering on the stove-top.
"Kate," he nodded smiling, and continued at Shannon, "I think this needs more turmeric".
Shannon bumped him out of the way, lightly wrestling his hand away from the spoon, "Hey, I'm the chef here and I say it's got plenty of tarragon."
"Turmeric," he said after a moments pause.
"What? No, tarragon," she said as she sifted through piles of mango skins to the recipe hidden underneath. Flicking a stray bit of minced garlic off the paper, she held it out triumphantly for him to see. "See? Tarra- oh...turmeric. I knew that."
Sayid was failing at keeping a straight face as Shannon rifled through the messy cabinets to find the correct spice.
"Shut up," she mumbled through a smile, finding the correct bottle and turning back towards Kate. "So, what's up?"
Kate was in a bit of a daze. Maybe she hadn't been listening to Shannon as much as she pretended to, but she really didn't expect to see the girl so happy. Didn't she know that the man who was currently clearing their counter of mango remains was married to someone else? Kate knew that she did know.
Honestly though, the more she thought about it, the more she was confusing herself. She thought it was strange that Shannon was crying, and now she thought it was strange that she was happy. Finally realizing that they were both staring at her expectantly, she quickly asked for the wine-opener and headed back to her own life.
That night she had discovered a few things. One, she clearly did not understand Shannon at all. Two, she did not understand Shannon and Sayid's relationship. And three, she still felt bad for Shannon. While Kate was spending an evening lying in Jack's arms, content in the knowledge that they were made for each other, Shannon was stuck in a sporadic fantasy.
And as Shannon piled her fork with pancake and whipped cream, Kate still pitied her. She would admit, that after a year Shannon and Sayid did seem to have some sort of understanding between them. Shannon never volunteered much information on the subject (at least nothing beyond superficial details), but Kate's assumption was that they agreed to basically keep each other company. Until it was Nadia's time to move on to here, and until Shannon's soul mate (whoever he was) arrived.
So Shannon finished up her pancakes, and ran out the door to go get ready for the one year celebration ("It'll take me twice as long now that I don't know what to wear with my dress").
The girl was living in a delicate fantasy.
The rain was pounding, the thunder booming, and intermittent lighting pierced the sky in concurrence with Juliet's bone-chilling screams. She was screaming so loudly. Every one was gathered in the common area by now, making a disjointed circle around Juliet and Jack's crumpled forms. Everyone was crying.
Sawyer was a few feet away from her now. He had walked across the circle, and her throat and stomach were being ripped apart. She could barely see his face, inches from hers, through the tears and rain – but she felt his arms wrap around her. Her heart pounded, her ears pounded.
Thump thump, thump thump.
Her arms were frozen, but managed to move up between their bodies to wrap around his neck. She hadn't felt this much in fourteen years, and her body wasn't used to it. She was shaking and frozen and shaking, and she couldn't stop crying.
Everyone was crying.
To her left she saw Shannon and Sayid's front door open.
She blinked, the tears falling down her cheeks and clearing her eyes for the moment.
They were both standing there, under the protection of their porch overhanging, faces rumpled in confusion. Eyes dry.
She didn't understand before – the fighting, the smiling, the crying, the laughing. It was life. For some reason, Shannon and Sayid hadn't felt the fog, the cloud that had been present in everyone else. They had been alive. In anger and happiness and heartbreak and passion, they had felt it all, while Kate had been floating along for more than a decade in an emotional coma.
Kate finally got it.
And for the first time since they'd met, Kate envied Shannon Rutherford.