This takes place off-Island during the Oceanic 6 period. Kate's just been hounded by Ben's lawyer, met with Locke, gone to the dockside meetup, lost Aaron at the grocery store, visited Cassidy, but she's come to a different conclusion: She's not going back to the Island.
When did it start? When Locke came to the house? When she had the dream (nightmare) about Claire? Is she losing it? Like Jack did? Is she being haunted? No. No, those lawyers were real. Claire's mother was real. Ben on the dock was real.
What is NOT real is any hope of going back to rescue the ones they left behind. Locke is (was) a crazy old man, and Jack needs to get a grip. She is not going back. It's been THREE YEARS. The Island disappeared in front of them. They were gone. There's no going back, and even if that was possible, no way they survived THREE YEARS.
No. The lawyers were one of Ben's mind games. No. Kate is staying right here, thank you very much.
That's not to say when she dropped Aaron off at preschool this morning, she was calm and collected. No, she sat outside his building for at least an hour. Watching – for what?
Thinking about Claire's mom.
OK, get a grip, Kate.
She has an hour to kill before preschool ends. She'll get coffee.
She's NOT being haunted. That Claire doppelganger in the grocery store? You know what, she didn't even look that much like Claire. And, minor scare, that older, slightly overweight man in front of her at the ATM is not Bernard. Get a grip, Kate.
She waits to place her order at the coffee shop. Her phone rings from the depths of her bag. Fishing it out, she has a minor panic attack. Who is it going to be? Aaron's school? Is he OK? Is everything all right? Or Jack? Does he really think he can go back? Or Sun? Those lawyers? She gets the phone, doesn't recognize the number, but does recognize the area code: It's her mother calling. She punches "ignore." Or, shit. What if it's not her mother? What if it's a doctor? Has Diane taken a turn for the worse? Died? And if so, does Kate care?
She stares at the phone a bit longer, waiting for the voicemail chime. It never comes. So was it her mother, and was she too chickenshit to leave a message? Or was it a doctor too courteous to leave a bad news voicemail? Kate sets her jaw. She cannot be dealing with this too, on top of everything. She throws her phone back in her bag, misses. The phone crashes to the floor, and when she stoops to retrieve it, the bag spills most of the rest of its contents: juicebox, crayons, wallet, sunglasses. She's fighting tears, squatting on the floor, snatching up the items, as if all this is their fault. As if somehow that tube of Chapstick is to be blamed for the fact that she might very well be losing her mind.
"Looks like you could use a hand." She realizes someone's squatting on the floor next to her, handing over a mostly smushed Apollo bar. She mumbles thanks, takes the candy bar, finishes shoving things in her bag, and stands up. Her white knight stands up as well. His glasses have slid down his nose, and he's using his right middle finger to push them back up. He's tall, so she has to look up to offer thanks again. His black plastic glasses frames are hard to miss, but so are the amazingly bright blue eyes behind the lenses. She wonders why someone with such pretty eyes would hide them. Hasn't he heard of contacts?
"No problem," he says, raking his fingers through his straight, somewhat unruly blonde hair. Now he's looking at her intently, head cocked to the side, something like a smirk on his lips. It sparks a mild glimmer of recognition she can't quite place. He's still looking at her intently, and she can't shake the feeling she knows him. He, too, looks like he's trying to place her.
"Have we met before?" she asks.
"I think I would have remembered that," he says, breaking into a wide grin. Two divots spring to life on either side of his face, great big dimples.
Get a grip, Kate.
She remembers the Claire lookalike in the grocery store. These lookalikes seem to be everywhere.
Get a grip, Kate.
He snaps his fingers, points at her. "I've got it!" he exclaims. "You're Kate Austen, aren't you? Oceanic 6?"
Right. She's world famous. She forgets sometimes. No wonder he recognizes her.
"Guilty as charged," she admits.
He laughs. "Funny."
They've reached the front of the line. "Let me buy you a cup of coffee," he offers. She turns him down, she can buy her own coffee. "Come on," he wheedles, half smirks, smiles, and there are the dimples again. "If I'm gonna tell my buddies I had coffee with that hot chick who survived a plane crash, I gotta, you know . . . have coffee with her."
"You could just lie about it."
"I'm a pretty crap liar," he admits. She looks into his open, honest face, wide, clear blue eyes behind thick lenses, and somehow believes him. "How 'bout we go dutch?" he offers.
"All right," she relents.
They place their orders, and she takes the cup of black coffee handed over to her. They take a seat near the counter, waiting for his order. They're still settling in, scooting back chairs, placing bags on the ground, phones on the table, when his order is called.
"Jimmy!" the barista shouts, and Kate's companion jumps up to get his drink.
"Jimmy?" she asks, incredulously, as he returns. "Jimmy? What are you – eight?"
He looks bashful, does that smirk thing he did when she first looked at him. Again – some mild ping of recognition that quickly vanishes. "Twenty-eight, actually."
"So, Jimmy," she says, placing emphasis on his delightfully child-like name, "What do you do that allows you to hang out in a coffee shop on a Thursday morning when the rest of the world is gainfully employed?"
"Ah. Well, two answers to that question. One," he holds out an index finger as though he's actually keeping track, "I've got a nice little trust fund. And two," he unrolls his middle finger from his palm, he's actually counted out "two" on his right hand "I'm a high school biology teacher – we're on winter break."
"So if you've got all this money and free time, how come you're not traveling the world?"
"Maybe I'm scared to fly," he answers. "Planes crash sometimes, you know." He winks at her. Touché.
You know what? This is kind of nice. She makes fun of his name, he makes fun of her survivor fame. It's fun, this give and take, this ribbing. It reminds her of Sawyer. . . and then Jimmy smiles the big dimpled smile and her stomach flops, crashes.
Get a grip, Kate.
She wonders if maybe that fake Bernard dude is on his way to her drycleaners where she often runs into a fake Rose. Maybe if she looks hard enough she can rustle up a fake Jin to introduce to Sun.
Get a grip, Kate.
Jimmy must not notice her unease, because he's still answering her question. "Truth is, my sister's getting married on Saturday, and I'd probably be disowned if I didn't show up for that. Actually, the wedding? It's why I'm here." By "here" he indicates the coffee shop. "It's all wedding drama all the time, and I need a break. My sister's normally pretty level-headed, but she's become a freaking drama queen. Let's see, this morning it was her hair. Apparently, it's too big and frizzy. For which she blames my mom. They were really going at it this morning. Thought I'd keep the peace, I said 'Rach, your hair's always been big and frizzy, you're just noticing today?' So, Rachel storms out of the room, mom looks like she could kill me with her eyes… My dad's no better: 'Oh, my baby's gettin' married. Oh boo hoo hoo. I'm gonna be cryin' like a Goddamn baby.' I just had to get out of there, you know? Besides. I've got my tux. All I got to do is be at the church at 5 on Saturday. Or, shit. Maybe earlier. We're supposed to do family photos."
Kate thinks of Kevin, her wedding, Jack, their engagement. This family drama, this wedding-is-coming-jitters, this give-and-take between mom and daughter and brother and sister and dad and husband and wife. It's something she'll probably never know. She changes the subject.
"So what's it like growing up rich?"
He shrugs. "Wouldn't know, really. My dad was just a campus security guy. My folks got lucky in the stock market. I mean really lucky. Bought a ton of Microsoft in '78. I was in middle school by the time that money started pouring in."
She nods appreciatively. Easy money if you can get it, she supposes.
"Wanna know a little secret?" Jimmy asks conspiratorially, leaning in, looking over his glasses, blue eyes dancing mischeviously.
"Absolutely." What is it? His parents are insider traders? Money launderers for the Mob?
Jimmy reaches down, pulls up his laptop bag, and unzips it slowly. He gestures to his laptop. "I'm a Mac," he whispers, holds up his index finger over his mouth. "Shhhhhh."
"That's your big secret?" she joshes him.
"It is when your family's made a fortune being PCs."
"So how come you work if you've got such a big fortune?"
"You don't know my mother. I don't think she'd stand for us to just sit around on our asses all day."
"Art conservator at LACMA. Shhhhh. She's a Mac, too. Don't tell."
"Your secret is safe with me," Kate pledges, actually crosses her heart. Ah to have such secrets, she thinks, regretting all the secrets she's keeping, will keep.
"So, you've got a little boy?" he asks, and she tenses, somehow she feels Aaron should be off-limits. "That must be tough," he continues, "on your own and all."
OK, you can do this, just an innocent conversation. Keep it light. "My construction truck knowledge is not up to his standards," she admits.
He nods, he understands. "I had a whole fleet of Tonka trucks when I was a kid." He stares off into space, maybe remembering his dump trucks and diggers and bulldozers. When he refocuses, he says, "So, I gotta ask, what's it like to survive a plane crash?"
And there it is. The question she simply cannot answer. What is she supposed to say? That the guilt of it has driven Jack to drink and drugs? That the guilt of it sent Hurley to the loony bin? That the guilt of it causes Sun to pull a gun on someone? That the guilt of it causes her to see ghosts everywhere she goes? She remembers that day. Sun screaming for Jin. Jack's bleeding side, the pandemonium, the sheer awfulness of it all. And of course, the kiss. And Sawyer jumping from the helicopter. Did he survive the swim back? Or did the Island just disappear on him, too? Was he left to drown? Or if he did make it back, what was waiting for him on the beach? No rescue, no communication, just boar and 30-year-old Dharma supplies. How long did he survive?
But wait, no. Jimmy isn't asking about all that. No, he asked a simple question, for which she can provide a simple answer. She'll take it a step at a time.
"Surviving a plane crash?" she begins. "The plane crash part was pretty scary, but surviving was pretty nice."
He chuckles, winds up to ask another question. She'll play it by ear. She'll answer what she can, and she nervously awaits the next question.
Jimmy's phone chirps. He looks at the screen. "I'm so sorry, this is my dad. Gotta take this one." He winces, clearly he finds it poor manners to interrupt their conversation for his call. Little does he know that she feels overwhelmingly saved by the bell.
"What's up Pops? How's it hangin'?" he answers the phone. A loud, steady stream of words from the other end of the phone, expletives included. She misses Sam acutely. Even more, misses a time when she thought he was her dad. She distracts herself by watching Jimmy. He holds the phone away from his ear, rolls his eyes at Kate. She giggles. Jimmy's left arm is crossed over his stomach, and he rests his right elbow on his left hand. She notices the biceps on both flexed arms, the big right hand cradling the little phone.
God, but she feels lost. This nice man. This nice, good-looking man. She feels instinctively comfortable with him, ribbing him, laughing with him, answering his questions. And yet, she can't tell him the truth, can never tell anyone the truth. Besides, most of her heart is still beating for that guilt-ridden, bearded drug addict (she tries to hate him, tries to get over him). Any bit of her heart that's left over probably drowned in the South Pacific three years ago.
She can never see Jimmy again, because if she ever gets too close to anyone, if anyone ever asks too many questions .. . about Aaron, about Aaron's dad (hell, Cassidy even asked one time is Sawyer was his dad). Aaron! She glances at her watch. She needs to go pick him up.
Jimmy hangs up the phone. "Everything OK?" she asks.
"Yeah. Just my dad – letting wedding preps get to him. He's not real good at that sort of thing."
Kate's gathering her things. "It was very nice to meet you Jimmy, but I've got to run," she holds out her hand and he shakes it.
"The pleasure was all mine. Not every day you get to talk to a plane crash survivor."
She smiles, and heads for the door.
"Hey, Freckles," he calls after her.
Her blood turns to ice, and she stops in her tracks. What the hell? Has this all been a game? A set up? Well, you know what? Ben can flood grocery stores with Claire lookalikes and flood dry cleaners with Rose lookalikes and flood ATMs with Bernard lookalikes. He can put some pseudo-Sawyer lookalike in every Goddamn coffee shop in LA, but she is NOT going back. She is not going to do it, and she'll just give this Jimmy a piece of her mind.
"What did you call me?" she spits, advancing on him, anger pouring from her. If you so much as come near my son, that's what she's prepared to say next, but Jimmy holds out a hand to stop her.
"I'm . . .I'm" he stammers. "I'm so sorry. I really . . . I didn't mean anything. It's just you've got . . ." he gestures around the bridge of his nose and his cheeks with his index finger. "You've got . . ." he cringes. "Well, freckles, right around here. I'm so sorry."
He looks so honest and abashed. Wide blue eyes and the glasses that hide just how pretty they are. A loose-fitting t-shirt that gets just tight enough around his shoulders and upper arms. His laptop with his big, oh-so-secret Mac inside. Poor guy.
"No, I'm sorry," she apologizes. "Just something I'm sensitive about."
"You'dve thought I would've learned my lesson making fun of my sister's hair this morning. Anyway, you left your phone."
He hands it to her, and she takes it. "Bye, Jimmy. Nice to have met you."
"Ditto," he says, and waves, but it looks half-hearted. No wonder, she just about assaulted him over a nickname.
She leaves the coffee shop, picks up Aaron. She's not going back. She has to decide what to do, if anything, about Claire's mom, but she's not going back. These lookalikes can't haunt her forever.
On Saturday, she thinks about Jimmy and his family. Hopes he made it on time, didn't miss family photos. Would he take off his glasses? Would his sister get her hair under control? Would his dad keep it together or lose it walking her down the aisle? She pictured a first dance, a father-daughter dance, Jimmy asking his mother to dance, and pretending to be reluctant and bashful about it.
Maybe she should call Kevin, he'd tried to get in touch when they first got back. Maybe she could call Sam. It buggs her that she'd have to lie about Aaron to him. Damn the lies. She wishes she could have Jimmy's life. Not the money, Oceanic gave her enough of that. She wants the easy familiarity. She wants to rib her dad on the phone, tease a sibling, take family photos. She wants her big secret to be the kind of computer she used.
She wants a "real life," and she fears she's never going to get it.