Disclaimer: Lost isn't mine.

Author's Note: Right now, the biggest mystery for me on Lost is the time-line. I can't make sense of it. So this story very likely couldn't have happened, but I liked the idea.

The Good Ones

"Benjamin, you must have a drink with me."

As usual, the young man's gaze slid away. Mikhail had learned that Benjamin Linus rarely looked people in the eye, rarely spoke, rarely was noticed. He went about his job quietly and unobtrusively, but he seemed so unhappy whenever he visited the Flame. It was well hidden, to be sure, battened down tightly against whatever caused him such unhappiness.

"No, I really should get back. Sorry." Ben shrugged. "The roads get hard to drive after dark."

"Nonsense," Mikhail scoffed. "What could happen to you?"

For once, Ben met his eyes. There was a wry look in them. "You haven't been here long, Mikhail."

Mikhail smiled and shook his head. "I've been here long enough to see that you don't enjoy it here and could use some company." It was a risk to say it to him -- people liked to imagine they were unreadable, and they often did not take kindly to the implication that they were not. But he was bored tonight, and Ben had brought the new shipment of vodka.

Ben had frozen. He looked...exposed. As though no one had properly seen him and understood this fact about him -- this basic, fundamental fact of him being unhappy. After a long, silent moment (in which Mikhail found himself wondering if he should have kept his mouth shut, after all), Ben suddenly said, "Okay. Sure, Mikhail, I'll stay for a drink."

"Good." Mikhail smiled at him, kindly, because he thought this young man had seen a certain lack of kindness. "I don't have guests often."

"Does that bother you?" Ben asked. His eyes followed Mikhail as he went to fetch a bottle of vodka and some glasses.

Setting everything down on the table, Mikhail motioned to Ben and said, "Sit." Then, as he opened the bottle and poured out two glasses, he said, "No, it doesn't bother me. I like being alone most of the time. But occasionally it's nice to hear another human voice."

Ben sat down, cautiously, and nodded. He seemed to consider something for a moment, then he said, "One of the cats had kittens down in the Barracks. Maybe you'd like one."

What a puzzling man. "Perhaps I would," Mikhail replied. He picked up his glass and downed the vodka, enjoying the burn of it sliding down his throat. Not so bad, considering.

So somehow, one drink turned into a couple, and then just one more, and so on and so forth, and soon half the bottle was gone and both of them were completely drunk, and Mikhail was trying to teach Ben Ukrainian drinking songs. And then they drank a little more and abruptly, Ben's good mood vanished.

He stared intently at his glass and Mikhail watched, certain something was coming, inexplicably uneasy. Probably the vodka. Of course that was it.

Then, Ben looked at him. Directly in the eyes, unblinking, with no trace of his usual look of defeat. There was an intensity there, a burning drive that Mikhail never would have expected to see from Benjamin Linus. It shocked him. It made him listen to what Ben said next, though he could already tell what a bad idea that was. Men got certain looks on their faces when they were about to say something extremely dangerous. If he'd been sober...but he wasn't.

"The Hostiles," Ben began, his words very slightly slurred, "you talk to them."

"What?" Mikhail all but yelped. How could he possibly know that?!

Ben nodded, understanding and complicity on his face. "Just stay out here, Mikhail. I'll tell them... You'll be fine if you just stay out here. They won't come here when it...happens."

"Ben." Mikhail stared at him. "What are you saying?" He thought he knew, and he suddenly felt sick. It had nothing to do with the vodka.

"Just...do what I said, okay?" Ben got unsteadily to his feet and held on to the back of his chair for just a moment. "Thank you for the drink, Mikhail."

"You're not driving back like this?"

He moved towards the door and stopped just inside, with his hand resting lightly on the doorknob. Looking over his shoulder, he asked with a crooked smile, "What could happen to me?"

Moments later, the engine of the VW van outside rumbled to life and slowly faded into the night as it disappeared into the jungle. Mikhail leaned back in his chair and covered his eye with a hand. He was going to have a god-awful hangover tomorrow.

He wished it would make him forget what he'd heard tonight.