Disclaimer: Obviously, Lost and its characters and situations are not mine.

Strangers Wash Ashore

They had handed her to him once they were done with the tests. Could he watch her, they'd asked? Change her diaper if it needed it? Feed her? Yes, of course, he'd snapped. It was just a baby, after all.

So Benjamin Linus sat alone in the empty nursery (concrete walls newly painted in pastel blue), holding the baby girl awkwardly. He didn't know why he hadn't put her down in the crib yet. It wasn't as though it was comfortable holding her like this. Who would have thought that something so small could get to be so heavy after awhile? Of course, he'd never actually seen a baby before this, not in the flesh, so his judgement wasn't necessarily the best. He supposed that would be strange off the island -- a twenty-five-year-old man who'd never seen a baby, let alone held one. And he knew it was a testament to the trust that Hanso's people had in him, even at this stage, that they'd left her here with him. What if he dropped her on her head?

He shifted the little girl slightly and she stirred, opening her eyes. They were blue, clear blue, like the tropical sky and the familiar ocean, and so unlike the walls of the room. Ben wondered if she could even see him, or if her world was one of blinding light and blurry shapes, so unfamiliar and bewildering after the past nine months. He stared at her wrinkled, pink face and bright blue eyes and then, there was no mistaking it, she smiled.

Maybe it was just a random twitch of nerves in a body that was used to functioning in darkness and liquid. Ben felt himself relax a little, though, and at the same time, the baby made a little gurgling sound. Happiness? He scrutinized her. She looked like she might be enjoying herself. Though what a week old baby could possibly get enjoyment out of, he didn't know.

She made the gurgling sound again and it brought a smile to his face. Maybe he should talk to her. Babies had to be talked to, didn't they? "Your mother called you Alex," he said, his tone conversational. As if she could understand. But at least she was looking at him, appearing vaguely interested.

"Maybe I'll just call you that," he went on. "Alex. It's a nice name. Short for Alexandra, I suppose?" The girl just blinked at him. "I like Alex better, though." Ben doubted the DHARMA scientists would let it stick. They hadn't told him why they'd taken her. They hadn't seen fit to tell him anything, really, ever in his dealings with them. But they liked him, he knew, because he didn't ask questions, and because he had knowledge of his island that they could only dream of. More than that, he understood it. Even though they'd been here around twenty years, it was still little more than "the island" to them. But it was his home.

And he didn't need to ask questions. They would be appalled if they realized how much he'd figured out about them. They were sick. The women were, at least. Probably why they'd taken the baby -- Alex -- they would want to see if she was the same. He knew they were itching to run their tests on him, but they were afraid that he'd leave at the suggestion. Just melt away into the jungle, never to be seen again. He could do it, and they wouldn't risk their native island guide. Not yet, at least.

With a start, Ben looked down at Alex. Native. She was native. She'd been born on the island. Just like him. He felt a sudden, fierce up-welling of -- what? Warmth? Affection? Protectiveness? For this little creature who'd been, until recently, just an accessory to that nuisance French woman? For a moment, he considered the emotion. And yes, it did seem to be all those things wrapped up in an incomprehensible, baffling jumble.

With a small smile, Ben told Alex, "So it looks like you and I aren't that different."

He tried to keep what he was feeling off his face because he knew there were cameras in the room. In fact, it occurred to him suddenly, perhaps that was why they'd given him charge of her. Maybe they'd known, or suspected, or just hoped, that he'd do exactly what he was doing now. So that there'd be some attachment. And to these people, attachment meant leverage. If they were watching now, they would have seen the quick flashes of feeling and they would know that they could use that to get what they wanted from him.

Alex's eyelids were drooping and Ben watched her drift back off to sleep. He wondered if he stayed, let them do their tests, became one of them, would they let him take care of her? It was a fantastically idiotic idea. Why should they? She wasn't much more to them than a test subject. They'd set aside this nursery and studded it with cameras for that very reason.

But then again, there could be ways to phrase the request, ways to make it sound as though it was really in DHARMA's best interest to allow him this. What harm, really, in letting the quiet young man they'd found on the island care for the baby? And perhaps the more perceptive among them might have some inkling of what it meant to have someone else like him, finally, in a place where only strangers washed ashore...then maybe. Just maybe.

Alex was still smiling in her sleep and gazing at her, Ben felt another rush of emotions that he could barely give a name to. How very strange, that in such a brief moment, his life should change so profoundly. How strange that one tiny, baby girl could hold so much promise.