Pairing: Kate/Sawyer (Jack/Kate; Sawyer/Juliet)
Spoilers: through "The End"
Word Count: 3,919
Summary: Kate needs to run away for awhile. Sawyer tags along.
Author's Note: I think way back in season two, I decided that all I wanted from the end of Lost was Sawyer and Kate driving off in a rusty ol' pickup truck together, free to pursue some twangy southern outlaw blue-jeans-wearin' Patsy-Cline-listenin' shenanigans. At last: MAKING IT HAPPEN. Iiii had way too many feelings whilst writing this.
I'll follow you into the park
Through the jungle
Through the dark
Girl, I never loved one like you
Moats and boats and waterfalls
Alleyways and payphone calls
I been everywhere with you, that’s true
Laughing ‘til we think we’ll die
Barefoot on a summer night
Never could be sweeter than with you
And in the streets we run a-free
Like it’s only you and me
Jeez, you’re something to see
-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, ‘Home’
Endings feel a whole lot like beginnings. Kate wakes up in the morning wishing (before her wishes shape themselves into waking and it becomes clear just how stupid they are) that he would stumble across her by accident. Step out of the jungle and stitch her up. She’s cracked open and bleeding. Nerves spilling out like angel hair pasta. She thinks she could remember everything he ever said to her if she tried.
She’s the one who teaches Aaron to call Claire Mommy, because Claire’s still a little shook up and won’t be able to do it herself. She tries to believe it’s worth it for the look on Claire’s face when Aaron says it the first time (tentatively, like he’s not quite sure what’s going on, like he suspects he’s being tricked) – she looks radiant and happy and young, like she can’t quite believe in this second chance.
Kate goes into the kitchen and cries, and hates that she’s crying because she’d rather break things. Smash glasses. Tear this pretty house down. She likes it but she has always felt eight and clumsy in it, just like she feels every time she slides into a skirt or a pair of high heels. She can walk in them but she likes the ground flat under her feet. She feels more trapped in here than she ever did on the island. It’s all very taco night, and maybe with Jack, it was worth it, that was a price she was willing to pay for him. But now— In her bones she’s itching to run, to go.
She calls Sawyer. When he picks up, he’s sleepy-voiced, like he’s not all there. She wonders if he was dreaming, and feels guilty for interrupting him.
“Kate?” he says.
“You wanna go somewhere for awhile?”
“Didn’t really plan that far.”
He’s quiet a long time. She listens to Claire and Aaron in the living room. Aaron is laughing. She hears the sound of clapping hands.
“Sure,” Sawyer says.
She smiles a little and wipes her face with the sleeve of her designer blouse. The ivory silk is nice and cold, and comes away streaked with mascara.
Kate packs a backpack: she brings an extra pair of jeans, a couple t-shirts, black lacy underwear that she bought to wear with Jack and she knows Sawyer would get a kick out of, not that she plans on him seeing it. She doesn’t bring a toothbrush or shampoo or deodorant. She figures they can stop at a drugstore, stand in front of one of those racks of tiny one dollar travel bottles. Pretend they’re going somewhere exotic. (She laughs to herself.)
She buys a shitty old pickup truck she finds on craigslist for fifteen hundred bucks. She likes the way the red paint’s rusting away, the fact that one of the doors doesn’t have a handle and you have to caress the dashboard and call her darlin’ to make it deign to start. There’s a hole in her jeans; her hair’s still wet from the shower when she pulls it back in a sloppy ponytail. Her sneakers are new and a little stiff on her feet. She can’t wait to wear them out. She thinks about wearing one of Jack’s t-shirts, an old one from college, but it’s way too big, and she knows Sawyer’ll figure it out in an instant, and something about that’s so pathetic she can’t stand it. She wants to keep his clothes smelling like him, anyway.
She digs a Patsy Cline tape out from somewhere. When she sticks it into the tape deck to make sure it works and Walking After Midnight comes out she closes her eyes and smiles, and rocks her whole body back and forth, just slightly, in time to the music.
On the morning that she leaves Aaron and Claire stand out front, ready to bid her goodbye. Claire looks nervous but happy.
“Bye Mommy,” Aaron mumbles into her neck when she hugs him goodbye.
“Auntie Kate,” Kate corrects softly, feeling sick, hoping Claire didn’t hear it.
“Auntie Kate,” he echoes dutifully.
Kate almost kisses the crown of his head. She stops herself. She gives Claire a hug and promises she’ll be back soon and she leaves. They wave to her until she’s out of sight, blonde and sweet, and no one could doubt for a second that they’re mother and son.
Sawyer’s waiting for her outside of his apartment complex.
“Well, hell, Freckles,” he says, surveying the truck. “I didn’t know we were goin’ on a road trip.”
“Why?” she asks, and there’s a little bit of that old sparkle in her voice. He tends to bring it out. “There a problem?”
“No problem,” he says. “Lemme go grab some more stuff real quick.”
Kate follows him in even though she’s not sure she’s invited. It’s a pretty crappy place: tiny, old carpet, musty smell. Dirty dishes are piled up in the sink. There’s nothing on the walls, no photographs, no mail on the table. The only reason she can tell he lives here at all is that there are paperbacks all over: on the kitchen counter, on the floor, stacked on top of the ancient rabbit-eared TV. He’s got The Stand on the couch with a makeshift bookmark sticking out of it. It looks like a photograph. While he’s in his bedroom rummaging through the dresser, she lifts the book and flips it open. It’s a picture of Juliet. She’s smiling – not with the regal, closed-lipped poise that Kate remembers, but big, with her mouth open like she got caught laughing. She’s looking to her left. Kate wonders whether she knew the picture was being taken.
By the time Sawyer comes out, the book’s back on the couch where she found it. He’s got a backpack slung over one shoulder.
“You ready?” Kate says.
They stop at a Wal-Mart for toothbrushes and stuff. Kate grabs a basket and they throw stuff in at random as they go: chips, Oreos, those little packets of tissues. Kate grabs a bag of gummy worms. Sawyer lifts an eyebrow and then tosses in a one dollar package of multicolored swirly straws. Kate ups it with a pair of orange shoelaces. They don’t talk, but they both just about smirk their faces off. With a perfect straight face, he plucks a lint roller off a SALE display as they pass it, and she has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. She loves Claire: sometimes she thinks that if she didn’t have Claire to piece back together, she’d fall apart in a day, an hour. But it’s a relief being with just Sawyer. It makes her feel like she doesn’t have to pretend, to stand up so straight or smile all the time.
They finally make it to the travel items. She grabs shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
“Blue okay?” she asks, waving one in Sawyer’s face.
The question seems to amuse him. “Red or nothin’,” he mock-growls. It’s strange to see him joking around.
She drops the blue toothbrush back into the bin and picks up a red one instead.
They drive all night. She lets him take the wheel once the sun sets. She pulls her knees up to her chest and hugs them there, and likes the dark outside and Patsy’s voice and the way Sawyer drives one-handed and sure and a little bit loose, just like she’d always figured he would.
“My mama loved Patsy,” he says, breaking a half hour’s silence.
“Oh yeah?” Kate looks over at him. “Mine too.”
“She had a pretty voice on her.” Sawyer’s looking straight forward, like he can see the memory there instead of the stretch of road. “She used to sing me Blue Moon of Kentucky to try to get me to bed at night.”
“That’s pretty lively for a lullaby.”
“I’m not sayin’ her methods weren’t flawed,” he says, chuckling low. “Made for a nice memory, though.”
“My mom always liked the sad ones,” Kate says.
When morning hits, they pull into a motel parking lot and sleep in the truck. Sawyer falls asleep first. She watches him. His mouth’s open a little. She considers his lips, his teeth. She remembers the way he used to kiss her, the way it felt like a dare, like a whoop of laughter, like being ten and getting tackled by your best friend and wrestling on the grass. There’s a foot of space between them now. She remembers one night when Jack broke her heart in some small way she can’t even quite remember now – Juliet, he was with Juliet – and she crawled on into Sawyer’s tent and kissed him hard and pretended she wasn’t crying. She liked that: knowing that he’d always be there, that he wasn’t like Jack, wanting her whole heart and soul, waiting gallantly ‘til it could be his all the way. Sawyer, he’d take what he could get, and that felt safe in a way that Jack’s reverence didn’t. She knew she could drop Sawyer hard, knock him around all she wanted, and he wouldn’t break. God, he knew how to make her go crazy when he touched her.
She thinks about clambering across the seat and onto him, waking him up with her hands in his hair. Steaming up the windows.
She thinks of the picture of Juliet tucked in The Stand. She thinks of Jack. When he kissed her it left her breathless and lucky and full of feeling, and something in her was always convinced it’d be the last time. Afterward, he’d always stop to look at her like she was something lovely. Like he was lucky too, and the two of them were cheating fate.
“You see Clementine yet?” Kate asks the next morning. She’s at the wheel again.
“Yeah,” Sawyer says out the window. “A couple times.”
“She’s great, isn’t she?”
“Yeah,” Sawyer says. She can tell he’s keeping his voice neutral on purpose. “She’s somethin’, all right.”
“How’s Cassidy dealing with it?”
“She’s got some new guy. Wasn’t too wild about the way he looked at me when she introduced us.”
“Yeah, well,” Kate says, trying to joke, “Cassidy’s got crappy taste in men.”
“Thank you very much,” he deadpans.
She takes a turn. Thinks about Clementine’s bright smile, her missing teeth. Oh, just wait ‘til you hit the tooth fairy stage, Cassidy had told her once in that authoritative Mom Voice that Kate had started picking up herself by accident after awhile. She thinks of Aaron. Of his rows of perfect little white teeth.
“Did you and Juliet ever talk about having kids?”
“You think you would have?”
“Yeah,” Sawyer says. He doesn’t even pause, the way she was sure he would. God, she thinks stupidly. He must have really loved her. “You and Jack?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” Kate says. Her grip tightens on the wheel. “I had Aaron already when we were together, so it was sort of like—like we already had a kid together. Like we stepped into this pre-made …” She stops. She doesn’t know where the sentence is going. Where her thoughts are going.
“Claire and Aaron gettin’ along?” he asks.
“Oh yeah,” Kate says.
Sawyer reaches over. The way he moves makes her think of the Tin Man, all rusty hinges. She remembers how easy he used to move. How quick and sure he was to touch her. Now, he puts a hand on her shoulder and bends his fingers slow. His thumb moves awkwardly back and forth over her shirt and her skin. She thinks about taking her hand off the wheel, putting it on top of his, but before she can he’s moved away again.
“You watch any Little House lately?” she asks instead, and tosses a smile at him.
His mouth twitches.
They stop at a movie theatre and watch half of something horrible with Cameron Diaz in it. It’s eleven thirty in the morning so they’re the only two people in the theater: they talk loud throughout and eventually Sawyer starts throwing jujubes at the screen. The popcorn tastes great. They split a Coke: she bites off each end of a Red Vine for a makeshift straw. He raises his eyebrows at the method before he takes a sip; she grins to herself. They leave halfway through, before they get themselves kicked out.
“I ain’t been to a movie in … Christ. A long time,” Sawyer says as they climb back into the truck.
“Me either,” Kate says. “It’s a shame it was that one, huh?”
“A damn shame,” Sawyer says. He throws a jujube at her and misses. It bounces once before landing on the concrete.
On their way out of whatever town they’re in (she didn’t bring a map; didn’t seem important) they drive past a park. There’s a group of people sitting on the green grass, and on a makeshift platform actors in elaborate costumes dart back and forth, waving their arms.
They park the truck and get out and walk for awhile, glancing sometimes at the stage.
“O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”
“Jack took me to a Shakespeare play for our six month anniversary,” Kate says.
“Oh yeah?” Sawyer shoves his hands into his pockets.
“Yeah,” she says. She nodded off in act three. She wore a strapless little black dress and Jack kissed her on the shoulder to wake her up and when her eyes fluttered open, he was laughing quietly at her. The elderly couple to their right shushed them. Which got them both laughing, even though Romeo and Juliet sure were having a hard time up onstage. She remembers Jack putting his hand to his mouth, biting his knuckles to keep from laughing loud, his eyes bright and happy. She’s glad it happened. She likes to remember him like that.
“Juliet liked the theater,” Sawyer says. “She told me. I would have taken her if –”
“If you weren’t trapped on an island?” Kate says wryly.
“Well, yeah,” Sawyer says.
“Do you like the theater?” she asks, mimicking his hands-in-pockets posture.
“Oh, hell no,” he says at once. “You kidding me?”
“Yeah,” Kate says, smirking. “My feelings exactly.”
“Hey, Prospero!” Sawyer yells. “Get off the damn island!”
There’s a flurry of confused mumbles from the audience. The actors all go momentarily still. But Sawyer’s already pulled her behind a big oak tree, and they may as well have vanished.
“Screw you, man!” shouts Prospero to no one.
They wait for sixty seconds, then amble back to the truck, casual as anything.
They pull over on the side of the road for dinner. He tears open a bag of Doritos and they get started on them, crunching in boring, comfortable almost-silence. Patsy’s still crooning away.
The song changes to a slow one. A sad one. This was her mom’s favorite.
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember ‘til you’re home again
You belong to me
I’ll be so alone without you
Maybe you’ll be lonesome too, and blue
All the sound’s gone by the time the song’s over. No more chewing, not even the crinkle of the bag. The two of them are sitting still. She closes her eyes and breathes in deep.
“I’m gonna go have a cigarette,” Sawyer says gruffly.
She nods and tries to swallow the lump in her throat.
She watches him wander up and down the side of the road, his cigarette a tiny red dot in the dusk. Occasionally a car will pass. She wonders what they think of him. He looks a little mean. Not a hitchhiker you’d want to pick up. His shoulders curve in like he’s got the weight of the world on his back.
After awhile, she gets out to stretch her legs. He’s on his second smoke. Without saying anything, she plucks it from his fingers and takes a drag. She doesn’t like it, never has, but it reminds her of sneaking Wayne’s cigarettes with Tom when they were kids. She smiles a little.
“What’re you thinkin’?” Sawyer asks, not much louder than a whisper.
She passes the cigarette back to him. “You’re my best friend,” she says.
She expects something snarky – Well, gee, Freckles, I didn’t know we were still in grade school – but she doesn’t get it. He reaches forward with his free hand. He puts his fingers on her waist real lightly, just for a second, like he means to pull her in and then thinks better of it. His hand hovers awkwardly in the air by her hip. Then he tugs on one of her belt loops.
“Yeah, well,” he says, “you too.”
She kisses his cheek.
“You need a shower,” she mutters into his ear, making him laugh. Then she walks back to the truck, the sound of his laughter trailing after her, and leaves him out there to finish his cigarette in peace.
She wakes up from a dream about Jack with a crick in her neck. Sawyer’s smoking again, the driver’s seat window rolled down and half his arm out of it. She lifts her arms over her head. It doesn’t do much good. Waking up she always feels old these days.
“When you wanna head back home?” Sawyer says.
I don’t, she thinks. I don’t. She doesn’t want to go back to that house, with Aaron calling Claire Mommy, with Jack in every drawer and every shadow, in every glimpse she catches in the corner of her eye.
“It’s not home,” she says.
“I know,” he says.
She looks outside. The sun’s just starting to rise.
She says, “Let’s just keep going awhile.”
“Okay.” He tosses his cigarette butt out the window and coaxes the truck on.
They sneak into a public swimming pool early the next morning. It’s completely stupid, and she’s thrilled doing it. It feels like putting on an old pair of shoes. Sure, the stakes aren’t as high as she was used to once, but it still gets her blood pumping. You gotta start again somewhere.
“You ready, conman?” she asks with a smirk, standing outside the front door with her partner in crime.
“You got it, outlaw,” Sawyer drawls, and winks at her.
“You’re such a dork,” she declares.
“What??” he demands, and she swings the door open and laughs and lets him follow her.
They sneak behind a vending machine and wait for about five minutes ‘til the girl at the front desk gets called away. Then they sprint to the changing rooms as fast as they can. They fall to a stop, both panting a little, in between MEN’S and WOMEN’S.
“Ladies’ choice,” Sawyer declares, and she grabs his hand and drags him into the women’s changing room. He rolls his eyes.
She twists the shower on. It’s horrible: the water feels like needles and it’s too hot. But it’ll do. She turns and sees that Sawyer’s got their grocery bag of little bottles. He pulls out the shampoo and the conditioner and some lavender-scented body wash (picked out as a joke. She’s pretty sure) and lines them all up carefully along the floor. He looks so focused, so endearingly and ridiculously focused. She takes a minute, while he’s not paying attention, to just look at him and smile.
Then she takes out her ponytail and slips the rubber band over her wrist, shaking her hair out. Sawyer pulls his shirt off and tosses it across the room; it lands on one of the benches in between the lockers. He wriggles out of his pants, stumbling a little. She laughs, and then there’s a moment where he’s standing there in his boxers and God she wants him between her legs because it’s been so long since she’s been touched like she’s not breakable and maybe they had a lot of issues but sex was never one of them. He always had her pegged in that department, could tell what she wanted like it was a second sense. He’s let himself go a little, but somehow that makes him look even better to her, the knowledge that he’s a little changed by what he’s lost, a little worse off than he was once. She’s got some new scars herself. One on her shoulder, a bullet wound that won’t fade all the way even though Jack stitched it up so careful. She wouldn’t want it to.
The thought’s enough to kill any desire for now. Sadness doesn’t fill up the hole it leaves, though. That’s new.
“You got a problem, Freckles?” Sawyer asks, cocky, smiling so big his dimples show. Something like this happened years ago; she hasn’t thought about it in ages. They found a waterfall, she remembers. He ran right on in. Most of the time, this memory turns right into and-then-they-found-the-case-and-then-he-w
It wasn’t all misery.
So now she shrugs and gives him a cute little grin. “Nothing I haven’t seen before.”
He laughs and pulls his boxers off. She pulls her shirt off over her head and lets it fall at her feet. The water soaks it quick. She slips out of her jeans.
“Damn, Freckles,” he says, ogling the underwear he wasn’t supposed to see, “were you planning on seducing me in a boudoir at some point during this little adventure?”
“In your dreams,” she says. (She remembers stepping out of the bathroom, smiling, her hair tamed and silky around her face, and Jack waiting for her in bed – the look on his face when he saw her, like she was a dream; the way he coaxed her gently down next to him, the way she let him.)
Sawyer makes a well-I-tried face that she knows he doesn’t mean. Kate does that practical-but-unsexy thing where she turns her bra around so she can unhook it in front, then tosses it on her pile of wet clothes. Her panties, too. If Sawyer’s paying much attention, he doesn’t show it. He bounds over to the water and gets under it.
“Shit!” he howls, and leaps a few feet away. “It stings.”
“Yeah,” Kate says airily, “maybe I should have warned you about that.”
He fake-glares at her, telling her that oh, she’s in for it now, and she laughs and darts back. He lunges forward and catches her wrist, dragging her back under the water with him. They’re both laughing and cringing, and it hurts like a bitch and she can’t remember the last time she felt so alive in her skin. Sawyer shakes his head like a happy dog and a few droplets fly into her face; she damns him, laughing; he makes no apologies.