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01 May 2009 @ 12:26 am
Fic: Sun Ray; Shining Light (Richard/Helen)  
Title: Sun Ray; Shining Light
Characters: Richard, Helen, “Helen”
Disclaimer: Lost is not mine. Seriously? Seriously.
Rating: R
Words: 3600
Spoilers: Up to Jughead.
Summary: Richard leaves the island to pay one last visit to Locke, only to find him on a walkabout. So he turns to someone else to gain insight on John. For lostpicksix prompt 'Unrequited'. Won Best Unusual Pairing at lost_fic_awards.



x x x

Richard spends his morning being driven around Santa Ana feigning interest in buying a house. He notices the streets are named after trees and flowers and bodies of water, yet the only visible nature has been relegated to rectangular strips of parched grass, stunted shrubs, and organized beds of colour-coordinated blooms. Every so often you can catch a glimpse of a palm tree whose fronds are higher than the Spanish tiled roofs.

On his way to the real estate agency, he had traversed a neighborhood where the gardens had run a little freer, less tended to; there were bars on those house’s windows suggesting nature was not the only wildlife in the area. At one point, he had stopped at a traffic light next to a bus stop where trash lay at the feet of the waiting passengers. Their gazes looked everywhere but at his car. Richard had been curious to know who these people were and what their days held – labour, undoubtedly, but what else – love, laughter, and faith that it all meant something? He had been tempted to abandon his own errands and follow one of them, just so he could gain a sense of what that type of life was like.

Instead, upon meeting his agent, Richard easily slips into the skin of a man eager to purchase a piece of Southern California suburbia. His brow furrows as he seeks Helen’s opinion about the value of broadloom over hardwood. At one point he remarks that a neighborhood looks “kid friendly” and speaks fondly about starting a family. When she asks him about his current equity, he smiles brightly and discusses the strong housing market in Portland.

Throughout his performance, Helen sneaks peeks at him from behind her sunglasses, like she’s trying to ascertain something he’s not telling her. Her astuteness makes what he needs to do more challenging, but it’s a pleasing trait to find. Richard lets her direct the conversation for a while. She asks if he has any family in the area, and recommends a Spanish restaurant near his hotel for dinner. It’s not until she offers a quip from the city’s newly elected Latino mayor, does he guess that she’s politely hunting for clues on whether she should really be showing him houses in a Hispanic subdivision across the river.

“I like this property for you,” Helen states as they exit her car to look at the first listing. She pauses in the driveway, and pushes her sunglasses on top of her head, indicating that nothing should mar the view in front of them. It’s a subtle sales technique. As one slim hand shades the sunshine from her eyes, Richard is reminded of the Greek origin of her name: sun ray; shining light.

Helen, a woman for whom nations start wars over and John Locke had just let her go.

Richard had arrived in California two days ago. This was to be his fourth and likely final visit to gain insight into the man who had long ago insisted he was one of them before disappearing into a flash of light. By now John would be close to the age when they first met, and Richard might finally see in the middle aged man, the wisdom and destiny he was seeking, and none too soon. Ben’s tumor was the island’s version of a coup d’état, and proof that Richard had failed again in finding a suitable successor. So he came calling for John one last time, only to find an empty apartment, an itinerary for a return trip from Los Angeles to Sydney posted on the fridge, and a folded wheelchair in a closet. There was also a stack of unsent letters in a shoebox that beguilingly spoke of regret, and were addressed to the woman trying to sell Richard a house.

Just as Helen turns to study his reaction, Richard pretends to admire the exterior. The house has two stories, an attached double garage, and a bay window. Helen had called it “elegant yet conventional” which he supposes it is, if you’re from around here. The word manufactured comes to mind, and he can’t quite find a more favourable adjective so he just nods, and puts out his hand, and says, “After you.”

Helen purses her lips. “I can tell it hasn’t grabbed you yet, but just wait.”

Inside Helen points out the cathedral ceilings and warm paint tones on the walls, explaining the decorating touches make the space appear bigger than it actually is. It makes no sense to Richard because he at once feels horribly confined by the walls and overwhelmed by the idea of having all this space for him alone. The house also feels unbearably quiet and uninhabited. There’s a clock ticking somewhere. The appliances hum in the kitchen. He stands under a fan and feels the trapped air swirl around him. They could be on Mars or in a grave for all the signs of life he observes.

As if noting his discomfort, Helen stops sprouting off the kitchen’s features, and comes over to him. “It can be difficult to imagine this home being yours when someone else’s belongings, and mess, and even their scents are present.” She places her fingers on his forearm and says, “Close your eyes. Come on, try it.”

There’s something soothing about her confidence so he obeys.

“Clear your mind, Dr. Alpert. Now imagine your furniture in here, your paintings on the walls, your photographs on the mantle. Listen, there’s your wife calling you to dinner. And think about the future, about how else you could fill this house one day — with new neighbors, friends from the hospital, and one day even children.”

Under her spell, Richard allows himself to picture the life he had described to her earlier as being his, as if it were a possibility and not a packet of lies. He could plant fruit trees in the yard and forget about promises to a land far away. He could learn to make small talk and forge commitments that only stretch to the following Sunday. When he imagines the alleged Mrs. Alpert, he envisions Helen coming home from the office and pressing her body against his and saying how she missed him. Before he can search for the appeal in this fantasy, he puts John in his place, and wonders how it went so wrong for him. Was John’s failure to find a home and a family proof he was meant to be elsewhere?

“Did it work?”

Richard opens his eyes. “Can I confide in you, Ms. Norwood?”

“Of course,” she says pleasantly enough, though he notices she also folds her arms defensively and glances at her watch.

“My wife and I are separated and have been for a while.”

She takes this information in and says sincerely, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

“How could you? I led you to believe otherwise.” Richard frames his face with sorrow and explains, “She’s been transferred to Santa Ana and I’m just...I don’t know what I’m doing...”

“Following her?”

He pretends to think about her choice of words and nods. Then he pulls a name from thin air. “Megan doesn’t even know I’m here looking at houses. I wanted to show her I cared, and had hoped with this step, we could make amends. If I could get her to forgive me, we could start over somewhere new.”

Helen speaks as someone who knows hearts can’t be mended with a down payment. “That’s a risky investment, Dr. Alpert.”

“I just can’t lose her.”

Helen sighs, fiddling with the strap of her briefcase. He suspects she’s thinking about how he’s wasted her time, when she pulls out a chair from the kitchen table and sits down, indicating he should sit too, and he does. “I’ve known people to purchase a home to save a marriage, and in all occasions but one, that house was on the market again within a year. Grand gestures can sway some people, but if you want my opinion...”

“I do.”

She responds to his insistence with an odd look, then continues, “You should go back to Portland and be honest with her about your intentions. Truth and trust is what could save your relationship, not false dreams.”

Richard watches her carefully and notes the disappointment in her voice. He would prefer to be more direct and discuss what John had written in his unsent letters, about how he had been so absorbed in finding his past that he had neglected to see Helen as his future. But Richard had not interjected himself into this woman’s life for gossip. He merely wanted to know what type of woman John would woo, love, and leave, and if there was any reason for John not to say good-bye to this world forever. In the brief time he had spent with Helen, Richard had discovered she was a sharp and genuine person with a warm beauty. If he could not be satisfied with such a woman, John had to be looking for something else entirely. That also meant John would be prepared to brace himself for the loneliness he would undoubtedly endure on the island.

“Perhaps we should call it a day so you can think things through,” Helen suggests.

Richard nods and concludes their conversation by saying wistfully, “It’s a lovely home.”

“It’s actually a disaster,” Helen confides. “Thin walls, a roof that needs replacing, and you’re going to spend a fortune updating the windows. This would not have won your wife back.”

Before they go their separate ways in the parking lot of her office complex, Richard thanks Helen for her time, and apologizes for spoiling her morning. She offers her card, and tells him to call if he’s ever really in the market for a home. They shake hands and just before he lets go, a longing stirs in him that he never expected to feel again.

He immediately pushes it down and abruptly says goodbye. He gets into his rental car and heads onto the freeway without a glance back. On the way to his hotel, Richard tries to ignore the rapid pace of his heart and the flutter in his abdomen. He reminds himself of his lengthy ‘to do’ list: the finalization of the supply run, a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the staff at Mittelos, and...it’s of no use. He’s overcome with a rush of emotions he had not felt in an insurmountable measure of time. He exits the freeway, pulls over on a side street, and parks under some elms.

Richard removes his clenched hands from the steering wheel and watches them shake. For a moment he’s convinced that nothing will stop them but the feel of Helen’s skin. He closes his eyes and imagines she is in the car with him. Her skirt rides up her thighs as she straddles him. He sits pinned by her slight weight, and trembles as one of her hands slides across his chest to unbuckle his seat belt. Then she leans back against the wheel and waits for Richard to touch her. At first all he allows himself is to let the pad of his thumb graze the exposed hollow in the grove between her collarbones. Helen’s skin is warm and soft; it’s just the antidote he imagined. This diminutive touch stills his hands and inflames the rest of him.

Suddenly the car is too small for how big this feels, so he switches the setting to the house they stood in this morning. Now Helen is perched on the kitchen counter, knees askew. One of her legs curls around the back of his thighs, slowly enveloping him in an embrace. His lips find her neck and he nips and nibbles her flushed skin, expecting it to burst with sweetness like an overripe mango. While he kisses her, his hands feel their way down her body and slip under her blouse. His fingers map the curve between her waist and hips and all he can think of is the word divine. Impatience rises with his rapture, and his hands leaves her skin to pluck at the buttons on her blouse. The cotton tears and it thrills him. “Richard...,” she admonishes.

His name echoes too loudly in the house that is not theirs and once more Richard changes the scene, this time taking Helen to his own home. He’s too engrossed in the undone vision she presents sprawled naked on the dark soil to take much notice of their exact location. It doesn’t matter; the air around them is heavy with moisture and brings with it the smell of the ocean. While he kneels between her legs, he insists on delaying her invitation so he can appreciate the anticipation. He sits back on his heels and admires how the light scatters across her body, imprinting her breasts and the curve of her belly with faint shadows from the jungle canopy above them. Patience soon dissolves into eagerness, and he bends down to lick the inside of her thigh. Before his lips meet her skin, he can already feel the island’s humidity coating her body, claiming her, changing her. She tastes like...

With a shudder Richard is reminded of those he thought he had put to rest: Marié-Joseph, Matthew, and Clara. Over the years, he had savoured their bodies on the same sacred ground. Reality crashes hard and shakes him from the mirage he created. He is in a car that smells like glue, parked outside an Episcopalian church of all places. He is as far away from Helen as he is from the island.

Under his suit, his shirt is drenched in sweat. Richard shrugs himself free from the jacket and loosens his tie. He runs one hand through his hair and starts the car. Then he does two things he never normally would; he blasts the air conditioning and turns on the radio. He fiddles with the dial and chooses the loudest music available. It’s a rock ballad he remembers was popular with the Dharma youth. A singer howls about love and loss. It acts as a further reminder of why he is done with all that.

Richard can’t bring himself to go back to his hotel just yet, so he returns to John’s apartment. Once there he paces around the threadbare carpet that has sections worn thin from wheelchair treads. He grows flustered again, this time not with lust, but with anger at Ben, because it’s always convenient, and with John, because he never makes the right choices, but mainly at himself. Long ago Richard had decided that being alone was better than being left. His behavior today proved that surrendering intimacy, be it sex or companionship, was never absolute, even if there would never be anyone who could keep up with him.

John has a small TV stacked on two milk crates. Just as he did with the radio in the car, Richard turns it on and up, drowning out his own thoughts. He sits slumped on the bed because there’s no other seating and watches a group of people clustered on a stage yell over each other, trying to get their point across, while a host looks on bemused. They’re debating something about the economy or the climate or foreign policy. The subject doesn’t matter; the blaring tone is as numbing as meditation. It distracts him until he spots the phone and thinks of Helen’s card in his jacket pocket.

Then he remembers his jacket is downstairs in the car, which gives him a small excuse not to call her. Yet he picks up the phone anyway, just to hear the sharp pitch of the dial tone. He notices that John has three numbers saved in his memory: Mark’s, A.C. and Helen. Curious Richard presses the first one, and a brisk voice answers, “St. Mark’s Rehab, this is Luisa.” He hangs up and tries the next one. It’s a long distance number and there’s no answer, only a click as if someone picked up and hung up immediately. Richard guess Anthony Cooper is A.C., the absentee father who cost John a kidney and his legs.

Richard puts the phone down without trying Helen. The last thing he needs to do is have John’s number show up on her phone and make things worse between them. After managing to wait an entire five minutes, he changes his mind. He wants to hear her voice one last time. No, it’s not that; he wants to see if her voice can trigger what her touch did. He’s desperate to feel something, anything, again.

The phone only rings once before it’s answered. A low purr fills his ear, “Sunset Services, this is Debbie speaking. How may I be of service?”

There are few situations that have the power to turn Richard speechless. The woman on the other end of the line is clearly used to this reaction, and fills in the silence. “How are you, Honey?”

“I’ve had a strange day,” Richard admits, relaxing somewhat as he pulls the threads together and realizes why John has this number listed as Helen.

“Do you want tell me about it?”

“Not really.”

“We can talk about anything you want, Baby.”

The appeal is undeniable. He could be himself with this woman or anyone he wants to be. Either way, he could relinquish any and all responsibility. Of course, it’s all an illusion, just as manufactured as the house he saw today. Still he wants to see what this conversation could stimulate.

Richard offers the best explanation he can about the reason for his call, “I’m just here on business.”

“Have you found what you’re looking for?”

“Maybe.”

“Mmm, I want to hear more about that. But I need you to do one thing for me.”

There’s an undeniable hitch in his voice when he swallows and asks, “Yes?”

“First I need you to tell me your name.”

He hesitates; it suddenly feels too intimate. It’s ridiculous, but he can’t tell her his name, and the first one that comes to mind seems fitting for an interaction of this kind. “It’s Charles.”

“Can I call you Charlie?”

“Just Charles.”

“Ooh, you’re a strict one. I like that. Okay Charles, I have one more question for you. Visa or MasterCard?”

Her sales pitch is as seamless as Helen’s and even though he feels none of the same connection he had earlier, he is getting a clearer look at John’s wants and needs, and maybe even his own. So he asks, “May I call you Helen?”

Husky laughter bubbles in his ear. “What a coincidence, Helen is my middle name.”

He allows himself a dry chuckle. “You don’t say.”

“Now Charles, I’m going to need that number from you. Just sixteen little digits and we can get to know each other a lot better.”

Richard shifts on the bed so he can pull out his wallet. He reads off the numbers on his card, which he notes amusingly gets billed to Ben’s accounts, and he wonders if the man will have the nerve to mention this expense.

Debbie/Helen puts him on hold so she can process his payment, and Richard takes the opportunity to turn off the television. He has a new distraction now and it demands his full attention. Just as his hand gropes for the remote, the loud people are cut off by a special report. A picture of a jet appears in the corner of the screen and a grim looking newsman announces the disappearance of a passenger plane en route to Los Angeles from Sydney.

Even if Richard didn’t know John was in Sydney, the story about a plane lost over the South Pacific would have caught his eye. Rather than turn off the TV, he ends the call and puts the phone down. He turns up the volume, then races to the kitchen to grab John’s itinerary off the fridge.

“Oceanic Flight 815 left Sydney this afternoon at 2:15 p.m. with 316 passengers and eight crew members on board. It was expected to land in Los Angeles tonight at 10:42 p.m. Approximately six hours into the flight, the pilot contacted ground control in Fiji to report a problem with his radio. Contact with the plane was then severed. Flight 815, a Boeing 777, is currently not recognized on any radar. We expect a statement from Oceanic Airlines shortly. Please stay tuned for further details.”

The fact that the paper in his hand indicates John Locke is not due back from Australia for three more weeks does not subdue the alarms ringing in Richard’s head. The last time a plane mysteriously disappeared in that region, Yemi had joined their group, and fifty years before that, Amelia and Fred had survived the plummet down to their island.

Maybe the island didn’t need him to bring John to it. It was always going to happen. Richard’s mouth goes dry at the thought of what that could mean for him.

He returns to the living room and turns off the television. It can’t tell him anything important. He reaches for the phone again, and punches in a number. As it takes a second to connect, he wonders ever so briefly what Helen’s reaction would be to hearing John was on the plane. Sadness? Relief? Pity?

These thoughts vanish as one of the clerks answers the phone. “Mittelos Bioscience.”

“Diana, it’s Alpert. I need to be connected with Linus.”

“Right away, Dr. Alpert.”

x x x
 
 
Current Mood: pleasedpleased
 
 
suck ittttttttttttttttttt: Nick Jonas bucket o goldonelittlesleep on May 1st, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
This is QUITE LOVELY! I don't read much lostfic, but this pairing was so interesting, I couldn't help but click and give it a try. I am so glad I did! I've never written Richard pov because he seems too mysterious to pin down, but you've taken him on and you've done something great with his character. It's just wonderful!
suck ittttttttttttttttttt: Nick Jonas bucket o goldonelittlesleep on May 1st, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)
haha, I read it AGAIN. SIGH!
elliotsmelliot: Alpertelliotsmelliot on May 1st, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)
Wow! Twice? Thanks for reading and commenting. Richard's POV is extremely challenging to write, though with each fic I writer, I feel I get a little closer to understanding him.
motorcyclesfly: richard - very close upmotorcyclesfly on May 1st, 2009 06:05 am (UTC)
Wow, I really like this. Your descriptions help create the setting and make it all very vivid, and it was an interesting idea to have Richard pursue Helen for information. Will there be more?
elliotsmelliot: Alpert black and whiteelliotsmelliot on May 1st, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I hadn't planned to write anymore, though I feel Matthew was lying to John about Helen’s death, so that might be interesting to explore.
~Lirpa~: Locke Coffinkatje0711 on May 1st, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
I think either Helen really is still alive or they had her killed.
~Lirpa~: Richard Alpertkatje0711 on May 1st, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
I loved this! Wow. I'd never thought of Helen receiving a visit from Alpert. So, you thought of her as a real estate agent, too. Funny how minds think alike.
elliotsmelliot: Lockeelliotsmelliot on May 1st, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
That's nice of you to say. Why did we both think this about Helen? I had checked Lostpedia and could find no information about her occupation, and went with this one because it offered an opportunity for Richard to meet her, and seemed fitting for her character.

As for Helen's current status, I hope they were just lying and she is really alive.
~Lirpa~: Locke Destinykatje0711 on May 1st, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah. It might be neat if she showed up on the island. I really don't believe Locke has to be destined to be alone.

I came up with Helen being a real estate agent because Locke had the home inspection service and they just seemed to go hand in hand.
elliotsmelliot: Locke huge mistakeelliotsmelliot on May 2nd, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
Oh that's funny. When I was writing this I thought of the home inspection business too, though I had it wrong because I remembered it being Nadia's occupation, not John's.
~Lirpa~: Sayid/Nadiakatje0711 on May 2nd, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
Hee!

Tsk. I know my Locke, ye know. ;) His company was called Welcome Home and he was inspecting Nadia's house.
valhalla37valhalla37 on May 2nd, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
WOW.

Once again, I am fully amazed at your grasp on Richard. The added details and nuances here are so rich and complete and vivid, but totally fitting. There are too many sections I especially loved to point them all out, but this line really stayed with me -- "he grows flustered again, this time not with lust, but with anger at Ben, because it’s always convenient, and with John, because he never makes the right choices, but mainly at himself."

On a more technical note, the story also reads really, really well -- great flow, and everything feels very ... fresh, for lack of a better word. Great job!
elliotsmelliot: Danielelliotsmelliot on May 3rd, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It did feel slightly easier to write Richard this time, maybe because I had more experience or maybe taking him off island helped. Still, he remains an enigma for me. Calling this fresh is a huge compliment. Thanks so much for reading.

Re - your icon, poor Dan. I loved that scene.
Janice: lost s5 picjaydblu on May 3rd, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
Whoa.
My brain must be too dead tonight to form coherent praise (but not too dead to read!), but I really like this. I just think you've never gone wrong writing Richard, and this is a different side of him entirely. Brilliant as usual.
elliotsmelliot: fickle bitchelliotsmelliot on May 3rd, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you thought this was a different side of him. I was hoping that would come across. I imagine Richard has to feel different whenever he leaces the island, as he is away from his comfort zone. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope your brain has been revitalized with a good sleep!
(Deleted comment)
elliotsmelliotelliotsmelliot on May 4th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
My mood theme was designed to taunt you. I think 90% of the happy moods feature Jack and Kate making out!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You last line about human and uberhuman makes me want to dance around. You're the best for taking the time to provide such a nice and thoughtful comment.


missy_uselessmissy_useless on May 7th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
[I'm too late again. I'm sorry.]

This is such an originial, ingenious fic - not even in a million years I would have thought I'd ever read a Richard/Helen story but oh my, you made it work so perfectly. This is part of my personal canon now. I'm in awe. Your take on Richard's character continues to amaze me - he feels tangible and human and yet not, and ooh, this is brilliant.
elliotsmelliotelliotsmelliot on May 7th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. Your take of what I'm trying to do for Richard makes me feel like I actually accomplished something here. Thanks for that!
the female ghost of tom joad: lost othersjanie_tangerine on May 10th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
I'm incredibly late for this one but I had it bookmarked since I was back and I'm just sorry it took me so much time to arrive here because, uhm, wow? This was such an unique idea. Richard going to Helen to understand more about Locke was absolutely inspired and I love how you went with it. It makes sense that he'd make a connection with her this was and your Richard voice was great. It was so completely IC and I could really envision him giving in to lust in such a circumstance. (Also, uhm, hot. Richard's fantasy with Helen in the car and the kitchen was some really sexy writing, I absolutely loved those sections.) I love how it comes across that he can lose control once in a while, and how he lost it here really worked.

Also, you say so much about Locke even if the fic isn't exactly about him.

Before he can search for the appeal in this fantasy, he puts John in his place, and wonders how it went so wrong for him. Was John’s failure to find a home and a family proof he was meant to be elsewhere?

This part especially was pretty much insightful, as the one with Richard in his house was. It makes a lot of sense that he'd have those three numbers and the part with the second Helen was also great. Also, I chuckled at Richard giving the name Charles and at him paying for the call at Ben's expenses. LOL, Richard, well done, I applaud it. Actually, all the remarks directed at Ben were absolutely IC. And uhm, yes, wow again.

And I was forgetting, I loved the link with the Greek Helen. It was very clever and that line about Helen being the one a war was started for and the one Locke let go was some pretty awesome parallel. Again, wow. I loved it.
elliotsmelliot: Alpertelliotsmelliot on May 11th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
Thanks for this great comment. I am happy with everything but the fantasy scenes in this fic. I think they worked in terms of Richard losing control, and never being to loss it fully, but I still feel the details were awkward. Oh well, I've resigned myself to being able to write sex scenes, but I feel I am getting closer to know Richard.

Thanks again for reading and commenting. You're the best!