Kate ends up living in Miami for a full four and a half months before she gets up the nerve to take the next step.
Although she’s had the name of the park memorized (she once somehow convinced Ben to tell her, though she doesn’t know why he actually did what she asked), she makes a point of not figuring out where it is. Still, she goes on long walks, a different area every time, just in case she might happen to come across it. She figures that she’ll find it when the time is right.
It takes another five weeks of half-heartedly searching before she comes across it. Acadia Park.
She stops in her tracks when she just happens to look up and see the name on the sign. Somehow she had thought that maybe she would never actually find it. Taking a deep breath, Kate wills herself to move forward. She’s faced countless dangerous and terrifying circumstances, she tells herself, there’s no reason to be so afraid of just a woman and her son.
Kate hadn’t even known whether they’d be there, but it doesn’t take long to find them. She’s seen a picture of the woman, but even without it... She looks at the boy, and she’d recognize those piercing blue eyes anywhere.
She realizes that she doesn’t actually have a plan for what she should do when she finds them. So she simply sits down on a bench and watches. She can’t quite tell how old Julian is, or remember how old he should be by now. Almost too old for playgrounds, but not quite – Kate supposes that she’s lucked out, in that way; if she’d waited too much longer, she may never have found them.
However old he is, though, Julian seems happy. Seems like a normal, energetic kid. His mother looks good as well. She looks healthy.
Kate still doesn’t know what she’s looking for, exactly. But Juliet can’t be here herself, anymore, and Kate thinks that she’d want someone else to come in her place.
Every time that Kate thinks about all the things that Juliet can’t do anymore, it makes her heart ache in a way that never fails to surprise her.
She doesn’t stay at the park for very long, but the next day, Kate finds herself back on the same bench. The following day as well.
It’s on her fifth trip there when Kate is horrified to find Rachel walking up to her.
“Hi. Do we know each other?” the woman asks uncertainly, her expression a mix of wariness, curiosity, and guarded friendliness.
Kate only barely resists the urge to bolt out of there. After a long pause, she manages, “Um, no. No we don’t.”
“Okayyy,” Rachel continues, drawing out the last syllable. A long moment of silence ensues, with Rachel clearly expecting something more from the brunette. When Kate merely opens her mouth, but no words come out, Rachel goes on, “Because I keep seeing you here, and you look friendly enough – and I don’t mean to offend you – but it’s a little strange, how you just come and sit here. Just watching.”
“I knew your sister,” Kate blurts out.
At least, that’s what she means to say, if she has any conscious intentions at all. It’s what she means to say, but it doesn’t quite work out like that.
“I loved your sister,” comes out instead.
Kate’s eyes bug open, unable to quite believe that she’s actually said it. She’s never said it before, so she doesn’t know why those particular words decide to come out of her mouth at this particular time.
The expression on Rachel’s face can only be described as pure shock, and something about that look causes Kate’s breath to catch in her throat. Suddenly Kate can’t quite deal with it all – can’t deal with the excess of emotion flooding through her.
So Kate does what she does best and runs. Runs away from the emotions. From the memories. From the pain. Simply runs away from it all.
* * *
Kate studiously avoids that area of Miami for another week, but eventually she finds herself back there. Because as much as her own instincts are yelling for her to pick up and go, to leave any hint of the past behind, she knows that it’s not fair. Rachel deserves some answers, after what Kate sprung on her.
It takes some convincing (Rachel doesn’t know whether she should be scared of Kate, or whether she should want to hear everything Kate knows; the brunette manages to convince her to go with the latter), but soon Rachel’s left Julian under the eye of a friend, and she and Kate sit together in the little café around the corner.
Now that she has the chance, Kate doesn’t know how she could even begin to explain anything.
She takes a deep breath.
“Your sister is a hero,” she finally begins. “I was able to get to know her a little bit, though under some pretty strange circumstances. We didn’t get along at first.” Kate can’t help but smile slightly at the level of understatement. “But once we got past a few things, we started to respect each other.”
“Do you work for Mittelos?” Rachel interrupts, her face an aching portrait of confusion and longing. “They’re the ones who took her away. Do you work for them?”
The name sounds vaguely familiar to Kate’s ears, but she can’t quite remember what Juliet had thought she was getting into when she first came to The Island.
She shakes her head. “No, I don’t work for them. I just knew Juliet,” she states simply.
“You said you loved her,” Rachel reminds Kate, her voice a mere whisper.
The words fly straight to Kate’s heart, causing the muscle to squeeze tight. “Yes,” she admits softly. “I hated her, and then I put up with her, and then I respected her, and then I loved her. I never told her that when I had the chance, though. I never even really told myself until I told you.”
There’s a long beat of silence as Rachel stares at Kate, and Kate stares into her coffee, trying to will her heart to slow down; to will the approaching tears back into her eyes.
“She talked about you, though,” she finally manages to continue, coughing to try to get rid of the shakiness to her voice. “It took a long time before she really talked to me about anything, but I know that she wanted so badly to come back to you.”
“So why didn’t she?” Rachel asks imploringly.
Kate doesn’t know how to respond to that. She finally looks up into Rachel’s eyes. “It’s complicated. She would have if she could.”
Kate knows that it’s not nearly enough of an answer, but Rachel lets it go. For now, at least.
With a deep breath, Kate goes on. “But she meant a lot to me, and you meant a lot to her. So here I am. Her actions saved a lot of people, and I’m sorry if I’ve caused you pain, but I just thought that if she couldn’t check in on you, she would want someone else to.”
There is only pained silence before Kate finally finishes what she has to say. “I miss her,” she admits, her voice cracking. “And you and your son are the only connection to her I have left.”
* * *
Usually Kate doesn’t stick around long, but tonight, for whatever reason, she’s feeling lazy and indulgent. This feeling doesn’t happen very often – she doesn’t let it – but for once she decides to simply go with it.
So Kate rolls over to lie on her back, stretching her happily tired muscles, before relaxing back into the sand that makes up the tent floor. Without thinking about it, her right hand reaches out to tangle idly in soft blonde curls.
Juliet stiffens at Kate’s side, even though there hasn’t even been enough time for either of their breathing to return to normal. Juliet’s obvious confusion at Kate’s continued presence is enough for Kate to feel guilty about her usual post-coital skittishness.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Kate murmurs, finding herself surprisingly nervous. “Just thought I’d stick around for a little while.”
“Sure,” Juliet replies, getting a bit more into Kate’s casual mood. Well, as “casual” as Juliet ever gets.
Kate’s hand continues to play aimlessly with Juliet’s hair, as the blonde sighs and moves her head slightly into the touch. The silence that follows is unexpectedly comfortable.
For the first time since they started doing...whatever it is that they’re doing together, Kate looks around the space that Juliet has come to call her own. It’s certainly a lot more on the practical side of things than personal. Kate wouldn’t expect anything different, really.
Later, she won’t be able to explain exactly why she even thinks to ask, but Kate breaks the silence with a spur-of-the-moment question. “Do you have any family?”
Juliet turns quickly to look at the brunette, clearly startled by the question, with an expression on her face that Kate can’t quite place. It’s mostly Juliet’s usual stoic look, but with a hint of something else, something familiar.
“Sorry, I...” Kate mumbles. “It’s just that you know everything about me, but I don’t know anything about you.”
Juliet turns back to gaze up at the ceiling. “I didn’t know you were interested in knowing anything.”
It’s a simple statement – and honestly, Kate didn’t even really know that she was interested until she asked – but it feels more like an accusation.
“Well I am,” she responds.
There’s a long moment of silence, not quite as comfortable as before. Juliet hasn’t moved away, though, hasn’t ended the physical contact between them.
Finally, the blonde replies, her voice a soft whisper. “I have a sister. A nephew.”
Kate shifts to look at Juliet closer and is shocked to see moisture gathering at the corner of Juliet’s eye. She finally figures out what was underneath Juliet’s expression earlier, when Kate first asked the question – pain.
In the face of Juliet’s emotion, Kate’s urge to leave the tent grows stronger. She’s never dealt well with other people’s emotions. But she manages to keep her feet from moving, and she reaches out to brush her hand softly down Juliet’s cheek, before leaning over to lightly kiss the corner of her mouth.
Somehow she knows not to press any further with the questions; not today, anyway.
“Maybe someday you can take me to meet them,” she suggests, half-jokingly. She doesn’t quite know what’s come over her, but she’s been feeling increasingly affectionate towards Juliet, though she hates to admit it and would never say anything out loud.
Juliet lets out a laugh, both amused and pained, but she sounds mostly sincere when she answers, “Yeah, that would be nice.”
The silence between them is back to being comfortable. Kate lies back and listens to the sounds of The Island. She can hear the waves softly crashing on the shore, the wind rustling through the trees, the occasional sound from some nocturnal bird.
This is the longest she has stayed by Juliet’s side when they weren’t either handcuffed together or having sex. Kate finds herself wondering why she doesn’t do it more often.
Although she has mostly made a point of always sleeping in her own tent, alone, Kate can’t quite bring herself to leave. Instead, she simply rolls over onto her side, propping herself up on one elbow so she can lean down and kiss Juliet soundly, her own hand cupping the blonde’s cheek as Juliet reaches up to tangle her hand in Kate’s hair.
Somehow she senses that when they break for air, Juliet expects that now is the time Kate will get up and go. The stiffness in her posture betrays her surprise when Kate simply lies down again, turning to sleep on her stomach, with one arm and one leg thrown casually across Juliet’s body.
Juliet doesn’t protest, though; simply turns to place a soft kiss to Kate’s temple, before settling down to sleep as well.
Kate still doesn’t know what’s come over her, and she suspects that it is probably inevitable that they’ll be arguing again before long. But for now she simply gives in to her impulsive desire to keep Juliet close.
It should feel awkward, Kate thinks, lying wrapped around Juliet, or all people.
Somehow, though, it just feels right.