DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything related to Lost. No copyright infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: through the end of season 4.
Kate gave up on promises a long time ago, before the island and before Claire, but she made a promise to Claire. She's cursing herself for it now.
The time since they left the island is a blur for her - Sawyer jumping from the helicopter, watching boat explode as they flew away, Sun's screams, the raft, Penny's boat, endless questions from a parade of strangers.
"We have to lie," Jack says.
We have to lie. Only the solid weight of Aaron on her lap assures her this is real. Aaron is looking up at Kate and his eyes are the same brilliant blue as Claire's.
Claire's eyes would crinkle at the corners when she smiled at Kate. It made Kate feel something she couldn't easily pin down - a comfortable stillness, warm and almost peaceful. Kate never felt it except in those quiet moment with Claire. She would get giddy on the feeling, giddy on the way Claire looked at her. Claire giggled when Aaron grabbed Kate's finger and smiled at her.
"He likes you, Kate. My son has good taste."
That night, after Aaron had gone to sleep, they sat outside Claire's shelter. Claire was talking about the constellations. Kate wasn't listening, she was just watching Claire. She loved the look Claire got on her face when she was passionate about something. Claire's hands bounced around as she excitedly pointed out the locations of various stars. When Claire turned her head to look at Kate, Kate was embarrassed to be caught staring but that thought disappeared when Claire spoke.
"If anything happens to me, I want you to take care of Aaron, Kate."
The declaration caught her by surprise and Kate's automatic response was denial.
"Nothing is going to happen to you, Claire," she said. "I won't let anything happen to either one of you."
It was a stupid response and Kate knew it. There were no guarantees on the island. They'd all lost so much. Claire and Aaron had already been hurt and Kate hadn't been able to stop it.
Even before the island, Kate had learned that she was no good at protecting anyone or anything. She always went wrong somewhere. People got hurt - her mother, Tom, Kevin. But, Claire was different. Claire was meant for a happy ending. Kate looked at Claire and Aaron and she couldn't picture anything but Claire raising her son and loving him for the rest of her life. Kate wanted to be a part of that but her past had taught her not to hope.
"You and no one else, Kate. I feel safe with you. If I can't be with Aaron, I want him to have that too. I want him to have you."
Claire leaned her head on Kate's shoulder. The next part was a whisper.
"Promise me, Kate."
Kate wanted to run away screaming, wanted to tell Claire she was stupid for asking. Kate was the last person Claire should trust with her life or her son's life. But, the weight of Claire's head on her shoulder, the way she fit so perfectly against Kate's side and the way Kate didn't mind the contact as she would have with anyone else all made Kate feel like Claire had a right to ask. It made Kate feel like she had a right to say yes.
"I promise, Claire."
She reached out and tucked a strand of long blonde hair behind Claire's ear and pressed her lips gently against Claire's forehead.
"I promise," she said again.
She should have known better.
Sitting in this plane with Claire's son in her lap, all Kate can think is this isn't what either of them meant at the time. Jack is still giving instructions. We have to lie. Kate's not worried about that. She's good at lying. She'll play her part when the time comes but, right now, she isn't listening. She is watching Aaron, remembering the way his mother looked at him. She's remembering the bounce in Claire's step as she paced back and forth with him when he wouldn't sleep and the way her lips moved as they formed his name. Kate's thinking about the lullaby Claire would sing to Aaron when he'd wake up crying. Kate doesn't know all the words.
Kate is not Aaron's mother and this is not what she meant when she promised Claire she'd look out for him. Aaron is crying and all Kate can do is pull him closer.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm so sorry, Aaron."
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