Summary: He doesn’t know where home is for Kate; he certainly isn’t the one to tell her that. But he’d like to hope…like to think…that home could be with him.
Disclaimer: I do not own Lost. At all. I wish but alas...
Author's Note: The final installment of this fic is dedicated to its biggest cheerleader, and my good friend, and, mysticxf, who encouraged it from its very beginning, over eight months ago. I ♥ you, hun.
Previous Parts: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven
Sawyer stands, soaked from head to toe, next to Jack on the beach. Everything around them is chaos. Crowds of excited survivors jump up and down, scream with joy, cry out at the sight in front of them. A ship. After so long, they’re finally being rescued. Sawyer smiles, with a mixture of surprise and pride. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he says, shaking his head. “Sheena came through.”
Jack looks behind them, to where Alex sits on the sand, likewise doused, her mother above her, retrieved by Sayid. They had returned a little over a half an hour ago – Alex, Charlie, Desmond, and Sawyer – and, already, their rescue was at hand. Alex’s plan had worked without complication. The four of them together had been more than enough to subdue the two women guarding the station below the ocean. Charlie had managed to find the correct code to keep the signal from being jammed, and Desmond had ensured their survival through a completely unexpected ally – Penelope Widmore.
He hadn’t been sure, at first, whether to trust it. Their plans had fallen apart so often, so quickly, in the past. But as the ship on the horizon grows closer, Jack knows that this is it. This is their rescue. They’re finally going home.
“Have you seen Kate?” Jack asks, because he hasn’t seen her, because he can’t find her among the excited beach-goers. Sawyer glances at Jack for half a second, then around, finally nodding over Jack’s shoulder down the beach, where Kate sits in the sand, arms crossed over her knees, staring out at the ocean, toward the ship, trepidation across her face.
Jack frowns when he sees her, but says, “Thanks,” nonetheless. He looks back to Sawyer and takes a deep breath. “Thank you Sawyer…for everything.”
Sawyer shrugs, smirks a little, and walks away. Jack knows better than to think he’s just being an asshole, that he doesn’t care about Jack’s thanks or about the good he’s done for everyone. He cares. He just doesn’t know how to react to it, or to Jack’s appreciation. It’s enough, now, that Jack knows he cares. He doesn’t need Sawyer to say, “You’re welcome.” He knows that’s what he means when he walks away.
Kate doesn’t look up as he slowly approaches her. She keeps her eyes on the ocean, even when he sits down next to her and pulls his knees up to his chest, mirroring her posture. “Hey,” he says, after about a minute.
“Hey,” Kate nods at him without really looking at him. She sighs a little and looks down at her hands.
“It’s gonna be okay, you know,” Jack says, because Kate looks like she needs to hear it. She looks up at him, a bit surprised, and shakes her head. Jack sighs. “We’re finally going home.”
“Where’s that?” Kate asks, sadly, and Jack shakes his head. He doesn’t know where home is for Kate; he certainly isn’t the one to tell her that. But he’d like to hope…like to think…that home could be with him. It’s been hard, between them, but Jack isn’t ready to give up on it, isn’t ready for it go away.
Jack reaches out, tentatively, and holds the hand resting on top of her knee. She hadn’t been expecting it, that’s clear, but she doesn’t pull away. Jack’s fingers wind around her and he smiles as reassuringly as he possibly can. “We’ll figure it out,” he answers. It takes a little while, but a small smile eventually crosses Kate’s face too. It’s a sad little smile, but she grasps Jack’s fingers tightly anyway.
Jack’s eyes return to the ship slowly closing in on the island and his mind drifts away to their survival, to what that really means. When he returns home, what will be waiting for him? Will anything be left: his family, his job, his house. Does anyone know they’re alive? Has anyone bothered to hold out hope? His mother? Marc? Dare he think, Sarah? Maybe Kate has a point. What does home really mean? Did he really have one before the crash? Did any of them? If not, what are they really going back to?
In the end, Jack guesses, they’re returning to the world they’d left behind with the second chance that the island had offered them, with everything they had been through and learned there. That ship will carry them back to their lives, and it will be up to them to make something better of them, to change themselves, to change their lives.
As twisted as it may seem, Jack feels like the island has given him hope, like it has shown him parts of himself that he needs to change, and now that rescue is on his doorstep, he knows that he has that chance. That they all have that chance. It’s up to them, he supposes, what they do with it.
Jack knows he wants to change things, to fix whatever has gone so wrong between him and Kate. He knows that if he returns to his life and Kate follows him, he won’t let what happened with Sarah happen with her. Everything will be different, because he feels different now. He feels like he has a second chance, to do things right, to be a better person, to have a better life.
He doesn’t know if that’s what Kate wants too…but he hopes.
Jack thought that he should know what to say. This was the moment, after all. The one he had been waiting for, for over six months. Since long before that, maybe. And now it was here, standing right in front of him. Now, the woman he had been searching for all this time was sitting in his living room, and he had no idea what to say to her.
She sat, in the middle of his couch, with her hands folded in her lap. She didn’t look different at all. She looked just as he had remembered her. Her long curly hair, her green eyes, her soft, uncertain smile. Everything about her was exactly how Jack had remembered her being the last time he had seen her.
Almost a minute passed before Jack thought to close the door behind himself. He shoves at it with a stiff hand, doesn’t even bother to reach down for his keys. Every move he made was slow, as if he was moving in slow motion. He can’t force words from his mouth, can’t command his body to move very far at all. After so, so much time moving at such an accelerated pace, Jack found his entire world slowing down, crawling from second to second.
Kate stood, nervously, after a few minutes passed in silence. Her movements were a bit slow as well and Jack wondered if it was as odd for her to see him after all this time as it was for him. He wondered what he looked like to her, right now. Did he look the same? He guessed not. Was he the man she remembered? He guessed not, again. He didn’t feel like that man anymore. At least, he hadn’t. Not until about two minutes ago. And now…now he still wasn’t sure who he was anymore. But he felt like he was getting closer to figuring it out. He felt like he was getting closer to figuring a lot of things out.
“Jack, I…” she said, and, God, even her voice was how he remembered it. “I don’t know what to say…how to explain…” Her voice broke away and she shook her head from side to side. Her eyes fell down to her hands, a nervous gesture that had always given her away in the past. “I heard you were still looking for me,” she went on, without lifting her head. She didn’t see him crossing the room with purpose, didn’t notice him until he was right in front of her. Startled, she tried to finish, “I just wanted…”
Jack shook his head as his hands reached up and held her face. Her words died on her lips and she looked up at him with wide eyes, which closed slowly the second before he kissed her. She smelled the same, tasted the same, was the same. She was Kate, she was real, she was here.
Jack didn’t need words, didn’t need thought, didn’t need to say anything, to do anything but exactly what he was doing right now; kissing her, being kissed by her. Answers meant nothing now. He didn’t need them. Didn’t want them. He only wanted her. Only needed her.
They kissed like two people who had been too far apart for too long. They held onto each other as if they were both sure the other would be disappearing any second. They pulled each other closer as if they were trying to erase every last little crevice of space between them. Kate held Jack’s forearms, his hands clutched her back, and their fingernails dug in hard enough to leave indentations behind in their wake.
Once, they had been at a point where everything about this was hard. They couldn’t kiss without feeling suffocated, couldn’t be around each other without fighting. Everything they couldn’t say had hung over their heads, crushed them without either of them ever acknowledging it. But, now, everything was easy. Everything was fluid, because nothing else mattered. Not the next moment, or the moment after that. Not anything that had happened in the past. Somehow, they had finally learned how to leave everything else out, how to be in the moment in the moment.
Jack wasn’t aware that they were moving as they were moving (and he guessed, neither was Kate), because they moved so fluidly from Jack’s living room, through his hallway, back toward the bedroom. Jack found himself there, standing with Kate pressed against the wall next to his closet. His shirt was long-gone, and upon further inspection, so was hers. He didn’t remember taking it off, or having his own shirt removed.
He felt as though everything was happening in blurs. There would be moments of consciousness, of him memorizing everything that was happening as if it would never happen again, and then there would be chunks of moments missing; as if his body had gone along without his brain. He felt Kate’s hands on his stomach, working his belt through the loops, and the next thing he knew he was pulling her back toward the bed. He remembered falling onto the bed with Kate, but everything up until the minute he’s above her, naked, is a blur.
It doesn’t matter though, because that moment, he remembered with perfect clarity. He remembered everything; the way her eyes had fallen closed and her mouth had fallen open when he’d pushed inside of her, the way her blunt fingernails dug into his shoulder blades as he’d rocked forward, the way she’d kissed him like she needed him to breath for minutes and minutes on end. It felt as if the whole world had slowed down, as if time had ground to a stand-still for them.
After so much time spent waiting and wanting, so much time spent in the dark, Jack finally felt as though he was making his way back toward the light. He had his lifeline here, with him. For how long, he didn’t know, couldn’t say, couldn’t trust. But he hoped.
After all this time, he could hope again.
Jack wakes from a restless sleep to the creaking of an opening door. He lifts his heavy head up off his pillow, but it only goes an inch; he opens his eyes, but squints in the darkness and through his fatigue. He had just managed to find sleep, to tune out the rocking of the ship and the crashing of the waves. He feels like he had just fallen asleep, only to be awakened a minute later.
Footsteps fall lightly, so lightly Jack can barely be sure he’s heard them at all. He can’t see in the darkness, but whoever had walked in the door draws closer, until the bed is dipping underneath the weight of a second person. Jack sits up then, startled and more than a little confused, and finds himself looking into Kate’s green eyes. They still have that inexplicable sadness from the beach, but she has a small, brave smile on her face and Jack returns it.
“Kate-” he whispers, but she lays a hand on his shoulder, softly, and shakes her head.
“Shh,” she replies. But she doesn’t let her hand fall. It lingers there, on his bare shoulder, and he looks at it, at her. She has on a white tank top, a pair of flannel pants. Her hair hangs loose, over her shoulders and down her back. She looks like she should be comfortable, like she should feel relaxed. They’re out of the fray, away from the Others and the chaos. But she’s as on-edge as ever; it’s as if she’s waiting for something. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Jack looks at her, questioningly, wondering what she’s so afraid of, and she can obviously tell what he’s thinking, because she shakes her head and forces her smile wider. She grips his shoulder and shakes her head again. She just needs time, Jack thinks. They all do. Time to get used to what’s happening. Time to move on from what had happened on the island. It will take a while, but eventually, they will all be okay again. Jack has to believe that.
Kate lowers herself down onto Jack’s bed, and it takes him less than a second to follow her; even less than that to wrap his arms around her from behind and pull her back against him. His arms wrap around her tightly and her hands find their way into his. Jack closes his eyes against the back of her neck.
This time, he falls asleep almost instantly, the ships rocking and the crashing of the waves easily ignored, all but forgotten. His sleep is sound this time, much sounder than before. So sound that he misses the way that his body turns in the night, the way his arms come loose, and the way that Kate slips out of them, tears in her eyes, a sad look on her face. He misses the sound of her bare feet padding across the floor, and the sound of the door closing behind her as she leaves.
When Kate woke up, she was laying on her stomach, in the middle of Jack’s large, king-sized bed. The sheets were tangled about her and her hair clung to the sweaty skin of her bare back and her forehead. She brushed it away, straightening up and pulling the sheet around her. It was beige. The dark brown comforter was in a messy heap at the foot of the bed and the pillow was six inches away from her head. She was curled up in the middle of the bed. And she was alone.
Carefully, she set her feet on the floor and took the opportunity to look around the room. It was neat, tidy, everything you would expect from Jack. The only thing out of place was the pile of clothes that sat on the floor in the middle of room. Some were hers, some were Jack’s.
With the sheet wrapped around her, she walked to Jack’s closet. Inside hung his clothes: suits, pants, dress shirts. She guessed that he kept his more casual things in the dresser across the room. On the floor of the closet, next to Jack’s shoes, was the hamper. Curiosity got the better of her and she pulled it open. On top of the pile of dirty clothes inside sat a plain, white, dress shirt. Without knowing why, she reached out for it. Before she could think better of it, the sheet was falling to the ground and she was pulling on Jack’s shirt.
It smelled like Jack. She didn’t know how else to describe it, and, after going so damn look without, she thought that maybe she didn’t need to. Maybe it didn’t matter. She managed to locate her underwear in the pile and pulled that on too. The rest, she could save for later. Whatever later might bring.
Tossing the sheet back on the bed, Kate decided it was time. She needed to find Jack, to talk to him. He’d been searching for her for the better part of six months – and, truth be told, a part of her always knew that he would. He deserved answers from her. He deserved a lot of things from her. And, after all of this time, she was finally ready to give them to him. It had taken a long time, but she was ready.
It didn’t take long to find him. There weren’t to many places that he could be, and he ended up being in the first place she looked: the kitchen. He was sitting at the table, with a cup of coffee, staring into space. He looked up as she shuffled closer, and smiled faintly when he noticed her chosen attire. Kate guessed that everything he hadn’t said last night had caught up with him now. She wasn’t surprised. She was sure he was still angry, hurt, confused. She had always known that wouldn’t all disappear just because she was there.
“Hey,” she said, sitting down across from him at the table. He nods in her direction, his eyes lingering on his coffee cup, his hands folded in his lap.
“Hey,” he answered. He nodded a few times and she nodded back. Kate had never thought it could be this awkward between them. History had more than proven it could, but she sometimes got caught up in the idea that because they were them, they would always know what to say. Kate didn’t know what to say, and, she guessed, neither did Jack. She wondered if her presence had just stirred up more questions than anything else.
Jack chuckled a bit, after a minute, and Kate looked up, confused. He shook his head, finally lifting it to look at her, and sighed. “It’s funny, I…” he stopped, trying to find the words. He was obviously having a tough time of it. “I still don’t know what to say to you.”
Kate shrugged. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t expected that – hadn’t earned that. “What do you want to say?” she asked, thinking maybe it would help. He snorted another laugh and shook his head again.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I…I thought I did. I thought I was sure I would know what to say to you by the time we got here, but I just…I don’t know.”
“So, are we just going to sit here and stare at each other, then?” she asked, gently, a small smile on her face. Jack smiled back, but was mostly for show. She didn’t think she would see a genuine smile on Jack’s face for a while. “Jack, I…I was sure I’d know what to say to you by the time I got here, too. But then I saw you and I…I lost it. Whatever I was going to say, whatever…explanation I was prepared to give was gone. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t…try. We can both do that, right? Just try?”
Jack looked up again and Kate saw the question flashing behind his eyes: Could he do that? Could he try? Did he even have the energy anymore? All Kate could do was wait; wait for Jack to work out the answer.
“I wish it were that easy,” he said, quietly, after a long silence.
“How is it not?” she asked.
Jack shook his head. “Because…it just isn’t.”
“Kate,” Jack interrupted and she let herself be cut off. Because there was life behind Jack’s words, and his eyes weren’t as hollow as they had been a second ago. He was upset, yes, angry, yes, but he was feeling, and right now, that was all she wanted. She wanted him to talk to her like he still cared: about her, about anything. “There are so many things I want to say to you, so many things I want to ask you, but I can’t ask you.”
“Why not?” Kate pressed.
“Because you’re just going to go again!” Jack said, as if he was never more sure of anything. Kate’s composure broke then, and she looked completely affronted because she was completely affronted.
“I’m not,” she insisted, but Jack just shook his head and pushed away from the table. He turned his back to her, ran his hand over the back of his neck, and it was clear as day to Kate now, just as it had been back then, that Jack was shutting her out. She followed him, pulling on his arm and demanding he turn back around and say whatever he had to say to her face.
“You are, Kate,” he said. “I know you, and I know you are.”
“Jack, I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “There’s nowhere to go.”
“If that were true, you wouldn’t have left in the first place.”
“I had to.”
“If it was just about avoiding the police, you would have found me, Kate. It obviously wasn’t that hard, because you’re here now. But you didn’t. You didn’t come back, you just left.” He shook his head at her, as of all of his anger and hurt and pain was rising up to the surface and all at once. “I would have helped you, Kate. I would have kept you safe.”
“I know, Jack,” she told him, stepping closer. He didn’t step back, but he did stare her down. “I know you would have helped me, but I…I had to do things my way. In hindsight, nothing could matter less, but at the time…I had to protect myself, help myself.”
“And you couldn’t trust me to be a part of that?” he questioned. “You trusted everyone, but not me.”
“It wasn’t about trust, Jack,” she said, closing her eyes, speaking quietly. True to her word, she would try to explain. But she wasn’t sure she could. She wasn’t sure that she could make him understand.
“Then what the hell was it about?” he demanded, and finally. There it was. The question. The one she knew he’d been waiting to ask for so long, the one that came out of him so quickly, with such anger, she felt like it should surprise her even though it didn’t. “Why was I the one that got left out?”
“Because I would have stayed,” Kate answered. Softly. Almost to softly to be heard. And Jack froze, stared at her like he didn’t understand what she had just said. She looks up at him, her eyes hard, determined. She wanted, needed him to understand this. Because it meant so much, it meant everything.
“What?” Jack asked.
Kate took a deep breath and looked directly into his eyes. “I would have stayed,” she repeated, grabbing hold of both of Jack’s hands, all but crushing them in her hands. She needed the lifeline, the connection. She needed them to be them again so he would understand what she was trying to tell him. “I couldn’t let you know I was leaving because I knew I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye. If I’d had to look you in the eyes before I left, even if I knew I was coming back, I would have stayed.” She squeezed his hands again, one final time and whispers, faintly, “I would have stayed.”
Jack stared at her, silent, for a long moment, and, if asked, Kate would say that it was the longest moment of her life. It wasn’t the moment itself that mattered, but everything that it held inside of it. She needed Jack to understand, to understand her. She needed him to know that he had always been the one that she could stop for, would stop for. She needed him to know that was why she was here now, why she was standing in front of him. She needed the fact that she had come back to be more important than the fact that she’d left.
“I…” Jack said, after a long time. It came out of his mouth heavily, clumsily. It was almost as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to say it. He shook his head a few times, but couldn’t keep his eyes of Kate. “I can’t forgive you,” he finished, almost regretfully. “Not yet.”
But Kate just smiled and shook her head at him. “I never expected you to,” she replied. “And I’ve always been prepared to earn your trust back.”
Jack shook his head a few times, as if that would make things make any more sense, as if he could somehow get a handle on all of the things spinning around in his head. Kate knew that it wasn’t possible, because she had tried herself. But she watched Jack anyway, with a fond smile on her face, and chuckled at him when he gave up trying to make sense of everything all at once. He, eventually, chuckled back.
“What does this mean?” he asked.
Kate shrugged. Here it was. The moment of truth. “That’s really up to you, Jack,” she answered. Nothing was dependent upon her, and she’d always known that. Either Jack wanted her back or he didn’t. She had given up her right to him the day that she had left. Everything was up to him now, and Kate held her breath waiting for his answer.
“I don’t…” he said, shaking his head again. “I don’t know if I trust you.”
“I haven’t given you much reason to,” she answered.
“But I want to,” he went on. “I want things to be…well, not like they were, because, well, it kind of sucked there at the end.”
Kate laughs, and nods. “A little.”
“I want things to be better,” Jack said, thoughtfully. “Better than they were then. Better than they are now. Just…better.”
“I want that too,” she replied, nodding.
“How do we get there?” Jack asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
Jack shrugged, sighed, and Kate wondered what was going on in his mind, what he wanted to say that he was obviously holding back. So much, too much, she guessed, because she was doing the same. Now wasn’t the time, though. Now was the time for healing. There would be plenty of time for everything else later. They were just building back up what had been torn down. Slow and steady was the way to go. For now. Serious conversations could be saved for a later date. The unsaid words could go unsaid for a little while longer.
“I guess…we start over. At the beginning. Try to do things right this time,” Jack suggested, like he didn’t really know himself. Kate guessed that it had been a while since Jack’s last relationship before her. She knew it had been quite a while for her as well.
“Sounds like a good plan,” she replies. “Where do we start?”
Jack smiled and dropped her hand, turned around and opened the cabinet just above the stove. “How about, I make you breakfast,” Jack answered. Kate smiled, giggled quietly to herself. She shouldn’t have been surprised. Jack was, after all, a gentleman.
She watched him walk to the fridge, pull out a carton of eggs, and then retrieve a pan from one of the lower cabinets. She couldn’t keep herself from smiling as Jack juggled all of it in his arms before setting everything, one by one, onto the counter and turning on the stove.
“That sounds perfect,” she said, sitting down at the table once more, resting her head on her hand, and watching Jack crack an egg open on the side of the pan. He smiled over at her and she smiled back at him. She had no way of knowing how long it would take to fix the damage that had been done, if it was even possible to get back what they’d had in the beginning, but, she knew they were in a better place now. With themselves and with each other.
There was a lot of work that needed to be done, repairs that needed to be made, but this, well, this was as good a place as any to begin again.
Because the nomination for this meant the world to me. It really did.