Title: The Dreams of Tortured Souls
Paring: Slight Kate/Sawyer
Spoilers: Confidence Man, Outlaws, Exodus
The Island had a way about it. It created invisible strings that tied all tortured souls in a interdependent web. One couldn’t shift without disturbing the other. In the end, it was because while the rules of the Island may have seemed harsh to some, they were simple enough: if one wanted something from the Island, one had to do sacrifice something to it. If a persona wished to heal, they first must help another mend their wounds.
* * * * * * * * * *
Kate stared into the dancing flames of the signal fire, but she didn’t really see them. She heard it said that if a man stared into the fire long enough, he would begin to see images, his own thoughts reflected back at him, and there was certainly enough to think about.
Two days ago remains of the tattered raft had washed ashore without a trace of any survivors. Those left on the island hadn’t expected to see any of the men alive again, but the next day, two figures appeared at the edge of camp. A bewildered Jin was practically dragging along Sawyer. The other survivors ran for them, ready to bombard him with questions, but they all stopped dead in their tracks as soon as the pair drew closer.
Sawyer’s head hung down limply, chin bobbing up and down on his chest, blond bangs covering his eyes. The previously gray shirt was practically black, completely soaked through with blood. He’d lifted his head with a considerable amount of effort, and Kate nearly gasped when his eyes met hers. The previously blue orbs, so bright with life, were now a dull gray. His lips twitched, bringing an ever so light touch of dimples to his cheeks.
“Hey, Freckles,” he’d managed to get out before collapsing in the sand.
Now Sawyer lay on a stretcher under a canopy of trees a few feet away on the other side of the fire. His torso, bare save for the step of cloth wound tightly around his shoulder, almost glistened from sweat an the flickering light from the fire. He didn’t rest well, constantly thrashing and wincing in restless slumber. Jack had said that between the pain and medication, Sawyer should have been completely out for nearly twenty four hours, but Kate knew better. No man with so many scars on his soul could ever sleep peacefully.
Occasionally Kate’s glance shifted from the flames to him, but she never once dared to sit by his side. Not that she didn’t want to, but she was honestly afraid. What would she say to him after he woke up? They hadn’t spoken a single word to each other since the night by the fire. The night after he’d betrayed her secret. Kate was angry with him, but there was something else as well. Oh she could pretend all she wanted. She could pretend she hadn’t been glancing his way when they were pushing the raft into the ocean, could pretend he hadn’t looked back. She could pretend she didn’t searched for him before she left for the jungle with Jack and Locke. She could lie to herself as well as she could to everyone else, but lies didn’t change the fact that when he’d stumbled back to shore half-alive, his betrayal hadn’t even crossed her fear clouded mind. Kate sighed, pushing her long curls away from her face, and went back to staring into the fire.
* * * * * * * * * *
She knew the difference between a dream and a nightmare mainly because it’s been so long since she’d had dreams. But she knew how to separate the nightmares from reality. It was the only thing that had kept her relatively sane all these years. She knew what nightmares were. Just like Kate knew that the one she was standing in now was not her own.
She stood on a calm street of a suburban neighborhood in front of a small house. The leaves were already beginning to change to shades of deep reds and oranges, but the air was still surprisingly warm. Then the wind blew, and Kate shivered, not because it had suddenly grown much colder, but from the deep dread she felt as she looked at the house. Still she took a few steps up the walk way, noticing that both the screen and front door were flung wide open. Kate wanted to run as far away as her legs would carry her, but something inside was calling to her, and Kate tentatively stepped through the doorway.
The eerie quiet of the house was disturbed with heavy footsteps moving upstairs. The steady drumming sound filled her with dread, and Kate wanted to run upstairs, but her attention was drawn to the right and into the living room. As she came closer, a bloody scene unfolded before her eyes. The living room was mostly intact, save for the overturned coffee table. On the floor next to it was the body of a woman in her mid to late thirties. Her straight blond hair fell all around her head, and Kate was grateful she couldn’t see the woman’s face. Her red shirt was stained with blood. Kate knew that she should have been sad for the woman, but all she could feel was pity, an emotion she considered absolutely disgusting.
The sound from upstairs caught her attention again. The ascent of of the heavy footsteps ceased, and a chill ran down Kate’s spine. She felt if she didn’t get upstairs immediately, something terrible was going to happen. Kate walked out of the living room, leaving the dead woman behind without as much as a second glance. Climbing the stairs slowly, she listened. Seconds later, Kate heard the squeak of rusty door hinges, and her breath caught in her throat.
“James?” she called up the stairs. Kate had no idea how that name found its way to her lips, but somehow she knew exactly who she was calling for.
Halfway up the stairs, she stopped dead in her tracks. The house was absolutely silent, like a calm river just before the breaking of a dam. When it finally happened, Kate reeled back, grasping the handrail with force. It was a single gun shot, a loud powerful bang, and then all was silent once again. She held her breath, listening to her own heart pound against her chest, desperate to hear any sign of life.
“James?” her voice got progressively louder as she ran up the stairs and through the open bedroom door. “James!”
The scene in the bedroom was more ghastly than the one downstairs. The entire room was immersed in shadow. The dead man on the bed was not just another lifeless body like the woman in the living room. His eyes were wide open, frozen in a mixture of rage and despair. His fingers were still curled around the gun and charred with the powder residue. Kate covered her moth, feeling nauseas.
She jumped back a little when she heard something shifting under the bed, and a moment later the covers were pushed back to reveal a small blond-haired bewildered boy. He must have been no older than eight, Kate realized. She lowered herself to her knees in front of the child, suddenly feeling relief wash over her. The boy didn’t seem to notice her at first, instead looking around the room with confused eyes.
“James?” she asked again, all the while wondering how she knew his name. He was still searching the room for something, and suddenly Kate remembered that the man’s dead body was still on the bed less than a foot away. She couldn’t let the child see it.
“Oh no, no, no,” she reached out to the boy, touching his cheek gently and forcing him to look at her. “Don’t look that way, baby. There’s nothing there for...”
“Is he gone?” the boy interrupted, finally meeting her gaze. He didn’t seem at all bothered by the strange woman in his home. His blue eyes still looked anxious and apprehensive, but Kate could tell that it wasn’t her he was afraid off. Who was he talking about?
“Yeah, he’s gone, baby,” Kate soothed back the child’s hair, thinking that maybe he was talking about his father.
“No!” the boy pulled back suddenly. “He’s still here, isn’t he? He’s still here!”
Kate frowned, watching his face shift from confusion to absolute terror. His eyes went wide, breath coming out in short shallow gasps. The boy clenched his tiny fists at his sides, and the feeling of fear in the room became almost suffocating. Still Kate couldn’t see what was scaring the boy so much. The details in the room began to blur a bit. The man’s dead body on the bed had disappeared. She looked back at the boy.
“James, I’m sorry, I just don’t see...” she stopped. The child wasn’t looking at her, but rather over her shoulder. She followed his gaze, and gasped when she saw a third figure standing on the other side of the room from them.
It was clearly a man, but his face was blurred by the darkness. All Kate could see was an expensive-looking business suit. The man’s hands were clenched behind his back, but when she looked down to the ground, she noticed a small puddle at his feet. Every few seconds, another drop of crimson feel into it. Finally the man brought his hands forward slowly, and Kate finally saw what was making the puddle; the man’ hands were dripping with blood.
Quickly rising back to her feet, she took several steps backwards, putting herself between the boy and the nameless man. Her eyes never once left the figure, but Kate used her right hand to pull the child closer to her body, not knowing what else she could do to protect him. The boy clung to her, practically shaking in fear.
“James, who is that?” she asked, without looking back. Kate had a pretty good guess, but she needed to know for sure.
“It’s him,” the child whispered, as if he was talking about a monster, fearing that if he uttered the name, it would come after him. “It’s Mr. Sawyer.”
Kate’s gaze instantly hardened, and she looked at the figure with new eyes. It was no longer a specter, but a monster of a different kind. A real monster. Her hand tightened around the boy instinctively, and she reached down to pick him up in her arms. He shuttered, burring his face in her curls. The man looked like he was approaching, but Kate knew that it was just the fear. He hadn’t moved at all, but the echoes of his cold disembodied voice filled the room.
Mine... Mine... He’s mine...
“No,” she whispered back, her voice just as cold and hugged the boy closer to her body. “Not yours. Never yours. I’ll never let you take him.”
Already belongs to me...
“No, he doesn’t,” Kate shook her head feercly. “You’ve haunted him for too long. He deserves a second chance. A chance to heal. Just leave him alone!”
The specter didn’t look like he heard her at all, but his form did begin to fade. The room looked like it was getting darker and even more foreboding. Kate took on last look at the man, and with the child still in her arms, ran out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and out through the front door. She felt the entire foundation of the house shake for a moment, and then all was calm again.
There was no one outside, and Kate set the boy back on his feet on the front porch. He took one look around and then went to sit on the wide wooden swing that hung over the porch. Kate regarded him for a second and followed his example. The boy no longer looked terrified, but he was sad and pensive. He looked down at his dangling feet which hung half a foot off the floor.
Neither spoke at first, until the silence became too deafening for Kate to stand. “Are you alright?” she asked, hoping to at least get some kind of response out of the boy.
“You didn’t let him take me,” he finally said in a matter-of-fact.
“Does he usually take you?” Kate asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah,” the child nodded. “He’s always there, always watching. He never lets go. But you made him leave.” The boy looked up at her in amazement, as she’d just accomplished a feat beyond his wildest imagination. “Why?”
Kate knew what he was asking. Why had she bothered? Why did she choose to fight someone else’s daemons when she had so many of her own? Looking into the child’s blue eyes, she suddenly remembered that same expression on the face of a man who she thought she’d never be able to face again. A desperate expression, full of demand for understanding and compassion. She thought for a moment.
“Because you didn’t do anything wrong, James,” she said firmly. “Non of this is your fault. You’re not bad, not him.”
The boy seemed to consider this somewhat novel idea. “They’re dead,” he finally said, his voice void of any emotion.
“I know,” Kate nodded. “So let them rest. Let it go, James. It won’t bring them back, but if you go chasing monsters, monsters will find you.”
There was another onset of silence, and when Kate looked down into the child’s eyes, they were shimmering with unshed tears. “Kate,” he whispered, voice trembling. “I don’t want to be the monster anymore.”
She smiled and placed her arm around the boy’s shoulder, pulling him into a hug. She kissed the top of his head, soothing back hair. “I know, baby. You were never him.”
He smiled up at her, the tears in his eyes gone. Instead a mischievous smile appeared on his lips. Kate cocked her head to the side. “What?” she asked, slightly suspicious.
He paused for a moment then reached out to her and tapped her nose in a childish playful way. “You have freckles on your nose.”
Kate was so surprised, she let out an honest good natured laugh. “And you,” she brushed a finger over his cheek, “have dimples.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Kate opened her eyes, and it took her a moment to focus back on the fire. She wondered why the flames looked so blurry until she brought her palm to her cheek and felt the wet streaks of tears. She deftly whipped them away with the back of her hand. Sawyer was still asleep on the other side of the fire. He was still far from peaceful, but his thrashing and occasional convulsions subsided. Slowly Kate climbed back to her feet and made her way towards him. She knelt by his side, carefully observing every detail of his features, the strained expression on his face, the frown that marred his brow, his heavy breathing. Even asleep, Sawyer was never truly at rest.
Dirt clung to his sweat-soaked skin, shimmering as his chest rose and fell. There as a bottle of water buried in the sand next to him, laying atop of his tattered gray shirt. Kate reached for it, ripping out a large, more or less clean peace of cloth and poured the water onto it. It was warm against her hand, and she slowly ran it over Sawyer’s skin, cleaning away the dirt and grime, first around the shot gun wound, then everywhere else. His breathing hitched at the sensation, but he didn’t wake up.
Once he was relatively clean, Kate set the water and rag aside. He was calmer now, soothed by the water and maybe even by her presence. She siged, suddenly feeling a wave of exahstion wash over her. Kate settled on the ground next to him, draping an arm across his chest and laying her head on his one good shoulder. She watched him for another moment as his eyes fluttered open, still clouded by a foggy haze from the pain and medication. He turned his head slightly and looked at her.
“I had this wired ass dream,” he murmured, voice hoarse from sleep. “You were in it, Freckles, jus’ not the way you usually are in my dreams.”
Kate smiled. If Sawyer was making sexual jokes, he must be feeling better. “Oh really?” she played along.
“Yeah,” he nodded, then looked directly in her eyes, and Kate wondered if it was just her imagination or had his blue orbs cleared. “You made him leave.”
“Yeah,” Kate knew she should have been surprised, but nothing surprised her anymore. “He’s gone.”
Sawyer took a deep breath, wincing as his shoulder shifted slightly. “ ‘at’s just as well,” he said. “ ‘cause I think I lost the letter. Probably fish food by now at the bottom of the ocean.”
Kate gently touched her open palm to his chest in a sign of comfort. “I don’t think you need it anymore, James.”
Hearing his name for the first time in years made Sawyer chuckle, but he quickly regretted it as he began to caught. When his throat cleared, he took a deep breath and hugged her closer to his body. He was no more surprised to hear her say it than she was to discover that she knew it. “Yeah, I suppose I don’t.”