Disclaimer: Lost is the property of ABC. Title from The Joy Formidable's 'While the Flies'.

i'll take to throwing all the pennies i stole

At first, Ben feels like a cheap substitute for Richard Alpert. Hugo's expectations are veiled to him, mysterious, just like whatever possessed the other man to ask for his help. Help? What help can he possibly offer? His whole life, he thought he was helping the island, and all that turned to ashes and death.

The first thing they do is send Desmond home. And Ben never does say the words I'm sorry, because he thinks, isn't this enough, you're going back and you have everything. But the thought sneaks in that maybe he has more than he deserves, and even though he pushes that thought away he still shakes Desmond's hand and tells him, "Good luck."

They bury Jack using twisted sheets of wreckage from the Swan as shovels. Neither of them says anything after they lower him into the damp earth. There's too much to say, and maybe not enough words in the world to say it. So they stand there, and the sun beats down on them and the waves crash on the shore below, and Hugo cries unashamedly. In another time, Ben would have attributed the sting in his eyes to sweat running down his face, but now he doesn't.

Afterwards, Ben sits facing the ocean and makes the rough cross that will mark the grave. It's a beautiful view, he realizes, and wonders why he's never stopped to think it before. Hugo sits down next to him with two straight sticks and a handful of palm fronds to tie them together, and Ben glances at him and asks, "What's that for?"

Hugo concentrates on his work. "No one ever marked where Juliet got buried."

There's no indication that someone is buried there, not to the casual eye. But he's looking now, and he can see the low mound of earth, beaten down by rain but bare of any new growth. Should he have known as he walked by? But he had stood next to his daughter's grave and not had a clue, and whatever he felt for Juliet was second-rate compared to Alex.

He stands and stares while Hugo fixes the cross in the ground. Even though they don't know which way she's really facing, he asks, "Which way is east?" and Ben points.

"Sorry, dude," Hugo says as they walk away. "I thought you knew." Ben opens his mouth to say why do you think I care, or maybe, why are you apologizing, but nothing comes out. Hugo looks at him knowingly. "Weren't you guys, like, Others together?"

Ben laughs mirthlessly and says, "I suppose we were."

I could have let you leave, he thinks later, when the palmettos have started to cover the grave. To hell with Jacob, he could have said, I love you so I'll let you go, just like he could have said, Don't hurt my daughter; I'm coming out now.

Maybe everything he's ever felt for anyone has been second-rate.

He closes his eyes and sunlight and darkness streak across the insides of his eyelids, and the jungle is quiet except for the seashell surf of wind through the palm fronds. Maybe he's different now.

After all, everything else is. Why not him?