DISCLAIMER: Lost and its characters are the property of JJ Abrams, Bad Robot Productions, Touchstone Television, ABC and Disney. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: The Incident.

Something Worth Running From
By Kassandra Luem


Kate used to count the days she already spent on the island. She's pretty sure everyone used to do it one way or another and whenever she carved yet another mark into the bark of her tree, a pleasant sensation of accomplishment would wash over her. So she was still trapped here, but hey, look at how many days she'd already managed to stay alive. If she'd made it that long, she surely would be able to hold on for those remaining days until they were rescued.

Somehow, those remaining days turned into weeks and then into months. Still, she didn't stop marking and the marks didn't stop to give her hope.

Somewhere along the road being trapped in this strange place with a whole bunch of strange people became living in a community with people who respected, trusted and even loved her.

And somewhere along the road the confines of a small island surrounded by miles and miles of endless blue sea started to offer so much more freedom of movement than the tiny confines of a prison cell and the rigid posture demanded by handcuffs.

Still, Kate didn't stop counting. One day, one mark. One day gone, one day survived. Yet another day further on their way to rescue.

Somehow, these days rescue doesn't seem all that important anymore. Somehow, the people who loved and trusted and respected her have started to fade away, to become distant images of friends she used to know. Somehow, the prison cell and the handcuffs and being trapped have stopped scaring her.

There are worse things than being physically confined, she knows now.

Kate has stopped carving marks into the tree. These days, all they are is proof of her betrayal. They aren't something to be proud of, they are something Kate wishes she could erase from her memory; she wishes time had just stopped in one gigantic explosion of anguish as she watched golden hair disappear into a dark, dark shaft and heard those final three words directed at someone else.

"I love you."

She'd heard her say it in that strong, certain voice of hers and even though it shook at the edges with dread and fear of what she knew was about to come, her absolute conviction of that single fact never waivered.

And Kate knew then and there that she'd fucked it up, that the island had given her a second chance at life and she'd gone and made a royal mess of it.

Because it could've been her Juliet looked at in those final moments, it could have been her she said those last words to, it could've been her, her, her.

But it hadn't been, because she'd been too much of a coward to take a chance and so instead she'd stuck with Jack. Jack, who seemed like the safe option back then. The eternal boy scout, kind, helpful, gentle. And Juliet, she'd been… different.

Dangerous in a way Kate couldn't explain, not even to herself. Not just dangerous in a way that could get you killed if you weren't careful, that you never really knew just what she was up to. No, Juliet was dangerous in a much different way.

She was dangerous in how her eyes sparkled when the sun hit them at a certain angle. Dangerous in the way she walked with those calm, mesured steps and the confident, straight back. She was dangerous in the way she'd sometimes advert her eyes and stare at the floor to try and get people to think she didn't care rather than that she was shy and nervous about certain things. She was dangerous in the way her eyes would sometimes glaze over and she'd appear to be in an altogether different place. And whenever she came back from wherever she went in her mind, her face would be awash with longing and a quiet dispair that contrasted sharply with that cool, aloof manner of hers. She was dangerous in how she was able to read Kate, to call her out on when something seeemed to be bothering her. In how close she could get with just a few words. In how much Kate secretly wanted her to.

And so to her own surprise she found that Juliet wasn't so much dangerous to her physical safety than she was to her emotional one. She wasn't so much a risk to the body than she was a risk to the heart.

Kate knew her own track record for making bad decisions relationship-wise and she knew only too well how deeply ingrained that urge to run was within her. But she had started to figure out that Juliet had her own way of running away too. A kind of inner running away, where she'd retreat to some place in her mind where she was removed from everything that happened around her, untouchable and invincible. And somehow, she'd thought that maybe, together, they could find a way to stop running. Because she could see it in Juliet's eyes, see that she knew, that she wanted, that she needed the same thing.

But in the end, it had all been too complicated, demanded too much work and running had just been too easy. She hadn't even thought about it as she slipped into Jack's tent that night. Jack was safe. He'd leave her alone when she told him to and he wouldn't push and pull until she couldn't help but open herself up to him with everything she was and everything she wanted to be. Jack was safe, but she still couldn't forget the sharp stab of regret, the bitter sting of sorrow when morning found her walking out of Jack's tent and Juliet sitting with her back to her and not once turning around. The sting evolved, intensified and when the day went by without so much as a word from Juliet it turned into the deep, dull throbbing of loss.

From then on, Kate just took things as they came and when she was able to leave the island, she did. She was a mother to Aaron, she continued living her life, but she never stopped thinking about her. To come back to the island after all this time and see her with Sawyer was like a punch to the gut. Still she couldn't help but look at them, to study her, her reactions and expressions around him. And she was shocked to find out that the Juliet that was with Sawyer seemed settled, together and content to be where she was. Kate was shocked to see that Juliet wasn't putting up her walls, that apparently Sawyer of all people had been the one to get her to stop shutting down on them. She was happy. Happy with him. Without her. And that of all things stung. But then again, she'd made her bed and now it was time to lay in it. Now wasn't the time or the place to play The Princess and the Pea and she didn't have the right to anyway. Juliet was happy and if things had worked out with her and Jack she probably wouldn't even be contemplating all that stuff right now. Besides, what was she supposed to say-

"Sorry, Juliet, that I chose Jack all those years ago even though we both knew we had something deeper. But hey, I kinda came to my senses now so would you please leave the man that makes you look so whole and come to be with me"?

Yeah, sure that would be a blast.

And so she decided to stay back and let them be and then Jack appeared with his bomb theory and everything had just gone down the drain from then on, ending with Juliet dangling over that bottomless pit and herself trying to climb down to get those bleeding chains off her body – failing and failing – until she watched Juliet's grip slip and heard her scream piercing her very soul as she disappeared into bottomless darkness.

So here Kate was, wondering how she was still living and breathing after everything that happened. Seconds after it there had been a blinding white flash and for the tinyiest of seconds Kate had been glad that it was all over now.

Then she'd woken up on the beach with everyone around her, Sun and Claire hovering closest, their faces like giant balloons out of a surrealist painting.

They didn't remember, Jack did and wished he didn't and Sawyer – James, as Juliet had called him – had wandered off into the jungle before she was even fully awake and they hadn't seen him since.

And Kate had stopped marking the trees because whatever it was that had motivated her to do so had disappeared right along with that long mane of curly blonde hair. Whoever came to rescue them could never erase those images from her mind and whatever she accomplished during the time left in this godforsaken place would never be enough to make up for that one, fatal failure in that one moment when she hadn't been strong and fast enough.

The tree's bark grows back and it pulls at the marks, causing them to disfigure into almost unnoticable, uneven lines. Every now and then she glances back at the tree and tries to remember how it felt to put those marks in there in the first place. She stands still and listens to the forest vibrate with energy around her and she tries to remember how it felt when she still had something worth running from.

The End

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