Disclaimer: Lost isn't mine.

Tell the Truth

"How long are you going to make him sit in there, Ben?"

Ben let his eyes linger on the bank of televisions in front of him, on Jack Shephard slouched in the operating room, before swiveling around to face Juliet. The look on her face was stony and he glanced from it to her medical smock, the same one she'd worn during Colleen's operation. The blood had dried from bright red splashes to dull, iron brown stains.

"What do you think you're accomplishing?" she demanded, stepping into the room and slamming the door shut behind her. "Do you think cuffing him to the table is going to make him operate on you? That he's going to feel so bad about Cole that he'll jump at the opportunity to save your life?"

Her voice grew strangled at the mention of Colleen and tears sparkled in her eyes. Ben took his glasses off and continued to look at her. She opened her mouth wordlessly, apparently about to shout something else, before she clamped her lips together and turned away from him, leaning wearily against the wall. "Are you just going to sit there?" she whispered.

With a barely audible sigh, he got to his feet and went to her side. "It's not your fault that you couldn't save her," he said, tilting his head a little to try to see her face.

"What would you know about it?" she mumbled. "You weren't there. You were too busy with your plans." With this, she turned quickly to face him, catching him off guard with her sudden nearness. She smelled like disinfectant, but he didn't mind that particularly. "You're so concerned with yourself that you can barely spare a moment for anyone else. Did it occur to you that Danny could have used you? No! Of course it didn't, Ben, of course it didn't." Their eyes locked and now she was crying, tears trickling down her cheeks in slow dribbles. "I know it's not my fault that Cole died. Cole died trying to protect all of us, which is more than you've ever done!"

Ben watched her cry for several more moments, refusing to let her words sting like she meant them to. Good god, how had the two of them gotten to this point? Then, mostly because he knew it would throw her (and that gave him a kind of perverse pleasure), he lifted a hand and wiped some of her tears away with his thumb. She twitched her face slightly away, but not enough to stop him. He wanted to say something sharp, or cool, or even hurtful, but the words stuck in his throat at the sight of this blood-stained, sniffling woman. It hadn't been so long ago, after all, that they'd enjoyed each other's company. That he'd looked forward to having a day to spend entirely with her. That she hadn't looked at him with condescension and bitterness.

Instead, he remarked, "I never told you I was a nice guy." In response, she just laughed sharply. Cupping his hand under her chin, he turned her face back completely towards his. "Do you want me to die, Julie? Tell me the truth."

Her tears had dried up. Voice steady, Juliet replied, "I want you to stop doing all the things I've always hated."

"Do you want me to die?" he repeated, his voice taking on a hard tone.

She looked him in the eye without blinking and answered softly but definitely, "No."

Ben finally took his hand from her face, but only to move it to her shoulder, which he massaged gently. "It would be upsetting if you wanted me dead."

Suddenly, she reached up and caught his hand. "I don't, Ben. I don't want you dead. I want you back. The way you were. You've changed and I hate it."

Her frankness was nice. He'd always loved that about her. "Yeah, well, dying has a way of changing you."

"You made the choice to alienate me while you died," she replied levelly. "And that's where we're different, Ben. I never would have acted the way you have."

"You've done it all, though," Ben said, a trace of accusation tinting his voice. "Everything I've asked. You've done it."

She gave him a look full of pity. "That's because I love you." With these words, she sighed heavily and looked at the ground. "A lot of good it's done me."

Ben, completely at a loss for how to respond to this, just stood there staring at her, feeling the warmth of her hand through their loosely entwined fingers. Finally, because there just didn't seem to be anything else to say, he told her, "You can bring Jack back to his cell now."

Juliet bit her lip, squeezed his hand, and left. Ben didn't bother to watch her progress on the monitors.