This story takes place just after Jack agrees to do Ben's surgery in Season Three, episode Six. Ben reflects on the five stages of grief as he lies awake staring into the darkness hours before his surgery. His thoughts continue through waking from the surgery and his return to "their" Island and The Barracks Ben calls home.

Five Stages

By B-D Banzai

Denial. People don't get sick on this island. Perhaps that is not entirely true. People do get sick. Women get pregnant, which should be the most joyful time of their lives, then get sick and die. And there doesn't seem to be a damn thing I can do about it. Despite our best efforts, Dr. Burke's best efforts, we can not change the fate of the women who have become pregnant. They just…die. But that fate does not apply to me. It SHOULDN'T apply to me. We don't get cancer here. I serve Jacob as his favored son. He wouldn't let the happen to me. He wouldn't inflict this kind of physical pain on me. What have I done to incur His wrath? I've already made my blood sacrifice to the Island. The x-rays might be proof positive of the growth quickly enveloping my spine, but I can not believe Jacob would allow this to happen to me. My work here is not done.

Anger. Juliet has come to my quarters to do some preliminary tests prior to the surgery. She says little to me as she runs through a perfunctory exam. I can see the anger in her eyes as she draws blood from my vein. I felt her anger in the less than gentle jab of the needle. I believe she enjoys a sense of empowerment over me as she causes me mild discomfort. "Are you nervous?" she asks me as she checks my blood pressure. My body betrays my calm façade but I tell her that I have no reason to be nervous. After all, it was Juliet who pointed out to me Dr. Shepard's expertise as a spinal surgeon. I say to Juliet in my most confident voice, I must be in extremely capable hands if not willing hands. I have no choice but to my trust in Jack Shepard. The dim light cast by the small light on the side table next to the dingy couch where we are sitting keeps her eyes dark, but I can see a flicker of flame behind her blue eyes. I know in my heart she wants this surgery to fail. She thinks if I were dead, there would be no one to keep her here. She would be wrong. We all serve Jacob and we are all bound to the Island. The Island decides who and when we will leave.

Bargaining. All my hard work, all my best laid plans, were thrown out the window when Jack saw my x-rays hanging on the wall. It never occurred to me that Jack would catch on so quickly. I should have been much more careful. I wonder, (actually I know) if Juliet left the x-rays hanging on the light box on purpose knowing Jack would immediately recognize them for what they are; a picture of a massive tumor gnawing away at my L4 vertebrae. I always have a plan. A plan A, a plan B, and if the situation requires it, a plan C. I don't beg, yet I found myself desperate for Jack's surgical skills. And so I make him a deal. A deal I knew he wouldn't pass up. A way off this island, although I don't know why he wants to leave. He has nothing to return to and the Island will want him back. He'll regret the deal once he realizes what he has done, but a deal is a deal and I've given my word.

Depression. Alex hasn't asked about my condition again, and to be fair I haven't given her much of a reason to care about what happens to me. She is angry that I have forbidden her to see her friend Karl, a boy she calls "her boyfriend". At first, she thought Karl was dead. Is this how she perceives her father? As a cold blooded killer? Doesn't she know how much I care about her? Everything I do, every decision I make, is in Alex's best interest and the interest of the Island. What I said to her about the pain in my heart over the distance she has put between the two of us pales into comparison to the pain in my back is true. What happened to my little girl? Where is the little girl who would smile at her father and run to my awaiting arms? What happened to my Alex and who is this stranger that has taken her place? I have so little experience with teenagers. Even Karl is older than he appears. There hasn't been a teenager on the island for 16 years. I can't exactly use my own upbringing as a template for how to raise a teenage girl. I hope that she is just over reacting when she says "I hate you. I wish you were dead." I said the same thing to my father. I have always strived to be a better father than Roger was to me. I have always given Alex everything and I will protect her from the Island's curse. I will not lose her to the Island even if it creates an insurmountable rift between us. I can take the pain of torture at the hands of the Oceanic survivors. The physical pain is nothing compared to the pain inflicted by a child's hurtful words. I can only hope this will pass and she will know how much I love her.

Acceptance. "I need you to count down from twenty." It was the last thing I heard until Tom say "Did Juliet really ask you to kill him?" and Jack answer "Yeah and in about forty minutes she is going to get her wish." I felt nothing, still numb from the anesthetic in my body but not in my brain. More bargaining, more deals, more promises, and the surgery was completed with the removal of the tumor. Then a searing pain settled in my back along with an infection. At least the pain from the incision I can feel. I can't say the same for my legs. I believe the Island will provide the cure I need to walk again. I see Tom and the other out of the corner of my eye and I know they have come to collect me for the return to the Island. I lie helplessly as they gently lay me on a stretcher. I haven't seen Alex but I hope she understands. The Island isn't finished with me yet. Jacob hasn't finished with me yet. There are still many more trials for me, Benjamin Linus.