Disclaimer: Lost is the property of ABC. Title from The Joy Formidable's 'The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade'
a glass a view a mirror (which one distracts like open windows)
Though Richard didn't have anything alcoholic with him, Ben more than makes up for it hours later. "Thought you could use this," he says, handing her a half empty bottle of whiskey, which he produces from his satchel, without really looking at her. Sun takes it wordlessly as Ben mutters, "I know I could."
For a minute, she just wraps her fingers around the smooth glass and tilts the bottle. Where the liquid slides against the sides, it feels cool on her skin. "Did you know to bring this?" she finally asks, raising her eyebrows at him. She hopes that it comes across as the dark humor she means it to be. Nothing else seems to fit this moment.
He glances at her and smiles without any mirth. "Are you going to have any or not? Because I'll certainly take it if you don't care to."
Something in his tone almost feels like a challenge. Giving him a level stare, she untwists the cap from the bottle and takes a swallow of the whiskey. She's never been a big drinker and the alcohol burns as it runs down her throat, but she manages to keep her reaction battened down to her watery eyes.
Ben, on the other hand, coughs when the whiskey goes down; short, harsh barks that tell her he doesn't usually drink either. Part of her can't believe she's having that thought about Benjamin Linus, but she's come in the past few days to understand that a whole new world of strangeness has opened up in front of her on this island. Drinking with Ben seems normal in comparison to most of what has been happening.
He doesn't put the bottle down right away, turning it idly while he stares into the fire. Flames reflect off the glass, orange and red on his face where the night isn't casting it in shadow. Flickering lights his eyes, but he's somewhere else, looking to something that she has no part of. She doesn't care what he's thinking about and doesn't really care that he's the one sitting here keeping her company. But she wants the whiskey back.
Sun holds out a hand, and the movement seems to bring Ben back from wherever he was. Without exchanging any words, he hands the bottle back to her. This time the liquor is easier to swallow. With another few swallows, the dark begins to feel heavier, the world simultaneously larger while it folds closer towards her. The fire cracks sharply and sends sparks like shrapnel into the air, but she doesn't jump. She is no longer easily startled.
"I didn't know," Ben says suddenly. His voice is quiet, but it carries over the sound of the surf and the fire. Sun doesn't fool herself that he's talking about presciently bringing alcohol, but she doesn't respond. Jacob meant and means nothing to her.
"The only reason I followed him was because he said the man you killed would help me find my husband." Ben meets her dark stare after she says this and looks for a moment as though he's going to respond; argue, perhaps, that it isn't his fault. She happens to agree, because she knows what it is to be manipulated; to be trapped into doing the only thing you think you can, and then to realize afterwards that you never truly have only one choice. But it doesn't mean she wants to hear his excuses. After a long moment, he exhales shortly, in half of a sardonic sigh. She doesn't know exactly how to read this, so she just offers him the whiskey again.
He hesitates momentarily, then accepts it and drinks. "You would have followed him no matter what," Ben finally says, "just like the rest of us." He raises an eyebrow at her, as if daring her to challenge him and explain why she would have been special enough to resist the pull of the-man-who-isn't-John-Locke. It's almost enough to make her get to her feet and join some other group around their fire, but the alcohol – both how much she's had and the fact that she wants more – stops her. And there is something almost easy in the level of distrust between herself and Ben. In its own way, it's comforting.
So she stays, and she asks, "Why did you come back?" To the island, she means, but knows she doesn't have to specify that to him.
He looks surprised, as if he thought either no one cared enough to ask, or alternately that the reason is so obvious that there's no need to. Furrowing his brow at her, he says, "Why wouldn't I?"
With a shrug, Sun replies, "Your daughter's dead, isn't she?"
The fact that she has this knowledge seems to disturb him in some way, and he bolts down another mouthful of whiskey in response. "Thank you," he says, his tone bone dry. "I needed the reminder."
"Could I have that back?" she asks, ignoring him and gesturing at the bottle.
"Have the rest," he says dismissively.
The darkness starts to swim with her next swallow, and she rests the whiskey in her lap, locking it in place with her knees. "You said Jin would be here," she eventually says, and though she hadn't really planned on it being an accusation, it becomes one. In another moment, she feels intoxicated, and whether that's because the whiskey finally caught up with her or because she can't stand this conversation sober anymore, she doesn't know.
He flicks his eyes towards her, and they seem to bore into her own. "I was wrong," he says, his voice low and dangerous in some way. "Maybe you've noticed, but that's been happening an awful lot to me lately."
"Maybe you were always wrong and it's all catching up with you now," she fires back, wearied by his bitterness and irony. She is bitter too. "You don't know if Jin is alive, do you?" she demands. "You never did."
"You should have had this revelation before you got on that plane, shouldn't you have?"
"You told me he was alive," she repeats, anger and desperation and fear and a million other emotions crowding to the forefront of her mind, when she has successfully kept them back for so long.
Ben drops his eyes away from her face and stares past her. The slight breeze off the ocean ruffles his hair a little, and it's the only thing that breaks his stillness. "Do you think," he begins, a bite in his voice that was not there before, "that you're the only person on the planet who feels like they've lost everything?" Sun stares at him coldly, feeling something rise in her throat. She feels sick, but she knows it isn't from the whiskey. Ben meets her stare with a chilly one of his own and tilts his head at her. "What do you think your mother will tell Ji Yeon when you never come back?"
Suddenly, she's on her feet and her arm is raised to strike him, though she doesn't remember beginning either motion. Ben just looks up at her, the expression on his face unchanged; neither expectant nor flinching. For a long moment, they are frozen that way, like a painting except for the movement of the fire and the air. The bottle of whiskey has dropped to the ground and the amber liquid is trickling into the sand. Her lip curls in—something, and her heart drops into her stomach, and she just turns and walks away into the night.
The sand feels like it's sucking at her feet and her legs feel like they're made of water. The moonless night drops darkness over the fires behind her as she keeps going, towards the tree line, stumbling over her feet and putting all of her frayed concentration into remaining upright.
Her eyes are dry but she wants to scream; feels something clawing its way up her throat that cannot get out. She feels herself shaking; with rage or something else, she doesn't know.
At the sound of her name, she stops, but doesn't turn around. She can feel that Ben is behind her, keeping his distance, but certainly following her.
"I wouldn't go into the jungle."
Was she expecting an apology?
The trees waver and she sways. There's a soft sound behind her, and she whirls around to face him. He has inched closer, and one hand is raised slightly, palm facing her, as if she's a skittish animal. "Don't go in there," he repeats.
His words roll past her. "I gave up everything!" she yells at him, pain tearing itself loose from where she has locked it away with everything else she can't think about – her daughter, the fact that she's no closer to finding Jin than she ever was.
Ben's face twitches a little. "I know," he says.
Anger surges through her at his tone, so patronizing in its calmness, and without thinking, she rushes towards him. For a second, he looks like he's going to take a step back, but he holds his ground, and she's only inches from his face when she hisses, "You don't know."
"You know, I might surprise you if you'd get to know me a little," he says darkly, narrowing his eyes. His ignoring of her emotional turmoil is statement enough on it.
"I already know you," she growls.
It doesn't extinguish the sardonic flicker deep in his eyes, and again, she finds herself ready to strike him. This time, she goes through with it, but Ben catches her wrist. She tries to twist away but he holds on, and the night swirls around her while she stops and tries to glare at him. He has drunk far less than her, but there's something unfocused about his eyes as he stares intensely at her.
"I shouldn't have said you'll never see your daughter again," he says quietly, his hand still holding her wrist. It's all the apology she's going to get, not that she needs or wants one from him. Cautiously, Ben uncurls his fingers from her arm, and they stare at each other for a long moment.
Then her breath half-hitches in something that is not quite a sob, and she sinks to her knees. Sand finds its way into her pant legs and collects near her ankles. Briefly, Ben remains standing, but then, awkwardly, he kneels next to her.
The world is peeling apart around her, a blackness that isn't entirely visual seeping in around her eyes. In a second, she will pass out, but she wishes it would happen now.
Slowly, she raises her head, only to meet Ben's eyes. There's something there, something calculating, or maybe merely considering, and it twists something in her, twists it until she's leaning forward and kissing Ben roughly, her hands on his face. She digs her fingernails into his face, and she is surprised when he kisses her back. He tastes like whiskey and blood, and something about the latter brings her anger back full force. She's filled at that moment with stark certainty that she'll never see her husband again, and she feels that she's already lost.
There's a touch on her shoulder – Ben, neither pulling her closer nor pushing her away, as though he knows perfectly well that he isn't important at all; he's only a physical vessel for her to take out her...her...everything she's feeling right now, none of which she can make sense of. All she knows is that she's looking at her life from a long way away, through a dark tunnel, where doing the right thing is a bright pinprick of light that she has never been able to reach. By now she's used to it receding.
Sun pushes him to the ground – forced would only be the word if he seemed anything less than willing, which he doesn't. She knows that he knows that she's only interested in some kind of release, and this is the easiest kind to grasp, the most banal and base and ultimately probably unsatisfying, but she's too caught by her need to stop.
Neither of them even bother to fully strip their pants away. She thinks that she'll be repulsed by his touch, but when it comes, when he puts his hands on her waist, one slipping under her shirt so that the heel of his hand rests on her stomach while his fingers splay upwards towards her breast, and positions her hips over his, she isn't. She pushes him inside her and her hand between her legs and doesn't think until it's over.
When it is, Sun leans forward to rest her head on his chest, drained and weary and filled with hate for both of them. She can feel Ben's heart beating, which is the last thing she wants. A heartbeat implies a human being, which she would prefer to forget that he is. An ache stabs through her when he lays a hand gently on the back of her head, in a gesture that's so opaque to her that it is almost frightening. It's what makes her untangle herself from him and scramble away. She falls when she tries to stand and she remembers that her pants are twisted around her ankles, but she has trouble staying upright even with that realization when she pulls them back on. Ben is already dressed when she turns around, his blood-spattered shirt tucked back into his pants. He offers her nothing in the look he gives her, his expression as inscrutable as ever. She doesn't want anything from him, though, and she's sure her face screams that.
For a second, he watches her, and she tells herself that she will kill him, strangle him with her bare hands, if he smiles. But he doesn't; there is an illusory flatness in his eyes that will hide everything he wants it to; and he turns and walks away.
"Ben," she says. His name will always taste like blood in her mouth. He turns around, and she asks, "Why did you let me?"
His eyes narrow in something not that far from pity. Or derision. "Let you?" he says acidly, as if her presumption that he had ever been out of control of the situation was completely contemptuous. But then he appears to reconsider leaving it at that. "The same reason you let yourself."
She doesn't do anything to indicate that she accepts this, but she thinks that he knows she does. When he turns again to leave, she doesn't stop him.
In a few minutes, she'll follow him; go back to the fire and lie down to sleep by the smoldering embers, and she will hope that when she wakes up in the morning, she'll have forgotten this.