When It's All Over We Still Have to Clear Up

There's a terribly long moment where every thought freezes in Ben's mind and horror doesn't even come close to describing the emotion crawling through his veins. Though at first all he sees is a hand, white cuff of an incongruous dress shirt inching just past the wrist, he knows whose face he'll see when his eyes drag themselves there against his will. John's face still has the haplessly puzzled look that he -- it -- wore as and after he died. After, Ben thinks, feeling strangled himself, he choked him with an extension cord in a seedy budget motel room. He's never been one to let his mind drift back to the things that fate has forced him to do, but among the many things he regrets is the lack of dignity that John Locke had in death.

So he'd told John that he'd known the island would revive him. He'd told Sun that it scared the hell out of him to see the man alive and well. At the time, even he hadn't been quite sure which was true.

He is now.

Ben feels his mouth open uselessly, though he can't see how any words could possibly force their way out, nor what he could possibly want to say. Richard is standing over him, Richard who has always been...not subordinate, never, but always...courteous; and who has just bodily hauled him by the arm, as though he's a child again, across the beach. Ben can feel sand sticking to the still-wet bloodstains spattered across his shirt in hieroglyphics easy enough to read, and it doesn't seem so imperative to hide them anymore. Richard will not -- would not -- throw him to the wolves, even now. Especially now, when it's clear that there's something wrong.

Something nauseatingly, gut-wrenchingly wrong, and there have been many times in the past week that Ben's lies have seemed weak and ineffectual to his own ears, but none so much as his "Of course Jacob's all right." Something in Richard's face -- maybe everything -- had flatly refused to lend any credence to the pitiful deception, and Ben had the distinct feeling that, as Richard had taken in his stuttering expression, his posture, his thin attempt to cover the evidence of what he'd just done (he's still in shock; has he really murdered a -- his -- why didn't he fight back?), that the other man already knew, in his heart-of-hearts, what had occurred beneath the statue. As he lies there, he suddenly feels the pressing hostility of the group spread across the beach, drawn together at each pinprick of fire. There's a dual threat of Jacob's followers, whom he can no longer count himself part of, and John -- no, that thing inside, whom Ben must follow or die, on command of his dead daughter who offered him nothing but hate and scorn.

His swelling horror recedes momentarily, long enough for him to sit up and look away from John, but when his eyes are drawn irrevocably back, the twisting in his gut crashes back in like a storm surge. Slowly, almost cautiously, Richard lowers himself to sit next to Ben. A minute passes, maybe two, where some force holds everyone else at bay and the two of them sit there, neither looking at the other, and there's something between them that's not quite camaraderie, but it's close.

"Ben," Richard finally says, "you need to talk to me. I can't stop them unless you tell me what happened -- what happened to Jacob." Ben furrows his brow a little, buffeted for a moment by an overwhelming shame. Richard's tone makes him feel ten years old again, and for just the barest of seconds he almost wishes that he was. As pathetic, as contemptible as that is, it would at least take away the mounting burden of his failure to control anything. He's done something, the realization slowly comes to him, done something awful, and Jacob just let him, didn't fight, didn't...and Ben didn't fight for Alex, did he? He stood at that window and watched while that mercenary scum executed her.

He doesn't need to be a child again; he already feels enough like one.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Richard glance away, though not in exasperation. There's a naked fear on his face, but he doesn't know how afraid he should be. Not really. Ben feels his stare go slack. Does he really know how afraid he should be? Does he know what's in there?

His jaw unhinges just barely as part of him almost breaks with desperation and unburdens his...actions. But he clamps it down, shuts his mouth. It's the part of him that cried when his father reminded him what a blight on Roger's life he was, and he buried that part of himself long ago.

"You and I have known each other for thirty years, Ben." The urgency in Richard's tone is plain. "I'm asking you this as a friend."

In another situation, Ben may have scoffed at that. Right now, though, he's glad that Richard considers him a friend. It won't last long. Finally, he tears his stare away from John's empty features.

Despite what Richard says, it's all over his face that he really doesn't want to know. He'll deal with it, of course -- that's what he does. But even Richard is still capable of denial. Convenient, because Ben really doesn't want to say what happened in there. His own capacity for denial has become quite impressive. "You want to know what happened, Richard?" He hears a note of weariness in his own voice. It's the sort of thing he used to mask. What's the point anymore?

Richard's eyes reflect black apprehension and Ben's face twitches towards some expression that he can't describe. His gaze drifts a little, past Richard and towards the dimly lit statue, as he says, "Why don't you go inside and find out?" There's a threat implicit in the words, though it's not his intent to threaten Richard.

And it's certainly not the words themselves, but his tone makes it feel like the most honest thing he's said in years.