Disclaimer: As usual, I own nothing.

Room for Hope

Fear was a funny thing. Some people were always aware of it. It circled them all their lives, following them like a dog too territorial to walk away but too nervous to attack. When it finally got its jaws around its victim, they recognized it. Maybe welcomed it. Surely it would be a release to meet fear and finally be taken by it. Others could deal with it. Manage it. They knew fear but it didn't stalk them constantly.

And then there were people like Ben Linus. People who were not afraid. Perhaps the word for these people would be "arrogant." Or "cocky." Ben had certainly had both charges leveled at him. On more than one occasion, actually.

These people thought they knew themselves, but they were wrong. No one was fearless.

On that morning, he sat on the sofa in his home, staring blankly across the room, his eyes resting, unfocused, on the opposite wall. There was a painting there; it was bland, really, just a seascape, but he'd always liked it. It was soothing usually. Not now. Now he didn't even see it. He was lost in a stark x-ray image that was anything but soothing. That image had taught him something about himself. Something that he'd never realized.

Ben was afraid to die.

Not all death scared him. He could deal with the thought that his world was a dangerous one, that it could snuff him out in an instant through some violent catastrophe. That wasn't so bothersome. But he was struck cold by the fact that there was something inside of him, right now. Something that had been there for god knows how long. Something that had been growing quietly, secretly. And he couldn't stop it. His body had betrayed him and there was nothing he could do.

In a fog, he reached back to touch the place on his spine where it was growing. What he'd found out two days ago would kill him. Funny, but he almost expected that it should feel different. But the slight ridge of his spine felt the same as it always had, as if there wasn't something there that would take his life in mere months. Of course things were no different than they'd been two days ago. It had been there then and he hadn't known. Just because he knew what was there now didn't change it.

It. The tumor. He supposed he should get used to thinking about it that way, since it would be with him the rest of his life. His very short life.

He didn't understand why this would happen. How it could happen. The island didn't let people die of cancer. Why was it letting him? He wondered if he'd done something wrong somewhere along the line. If this was some sort of punishment. Oh, not from God. Ben didn't believe in God. Not when there was another, far more tangible power so nearby.

Would Juliet tell him? Most likely. At some point. He didn't look forward to it. Or telling everyone else. Not only did he not want any pity, but he couldn't help but feel that they would consider him weak. Weakness was not a desirable trait in a leader, and what was weaker than a dying man? A man wasting away from the inside out?

The worst part of the whole thing was that he had no idea what it would feel like. Would he wake up one day, suddenly unable to move? Or would he grow steadily more ill, day by day? He was sure it would hurt. And it would be pain that could only end with death. The thought disturbed him, that there would come a time -- soon, too soon -- where he would live in constant pain.

Ben sighed and forced his eyes to snap back into focus. He thought he probably had less than six months but more than two. There weren't many symptoms yet -- just a funny ache in his back that had nothing to do with work or strain. When he'd asked Juliet about it last week, he'd expected...well, he wasn't sure what, exactly, but not what she'd told him. From the way she'd acted, it didn't seem like she hadn't anticipated it either.

Well. It was happening. He was dying. He wasn't going to hope for some kind of inexplicable salvation that, when it never came, only made this whole thing harder. Better to accept things the way they were than hope foolishly for miracles. Hope could be such a misplaced emotion, anyway. There were things a guy could change, and then there was everything else. He hesitated to call it "fate." So little was left to fate on this island. But there just didn't seem to be much point in hoping for something impossible. Maybe that was morbid. He was in a morbid mood, though.

He got to his feet. There were probably dishes to be washed. Or something to do, at least, that was normal.

Suddenly, the ground moved violently and Ben did what anyone used to earthquakes does -- he dove for the nearest doorway and out of the way of anything that might drop on his head.

Almost as soon as it had begun, the quake stopped. Ben waited a moment to make sure there were going to be no immediate aftershocks, and then he strode out his front door and into the middle of the town lawn. The others had all come outside as well, and out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of Juliet staring at him and then following him. There was a roar coming from overhead and as he searched the milky blue sky, an airplane came into view, flying low and trailing black smoke. With a metallic screech, the tail section separated from the rest of the plane. Squinting against the glare of the sun, Ben watched the two pieces fall.

So. Planes didn't fall out of the sky here for no reason. Maybe there was room for hope on this island after all.