Eternity; one-shot (R)
rating: R (for sexuality)
pairings: Eloise/Richard, mention of eventual Eloise/Charles
characters: Eloise Hawking, Richard Alpert, Charles Widmore, mention of Jacob and random Others
setting: the Island, 1960. Eloise is 23, and Richard is, well, Richard.
summary: Things fall apart on the untouched island, and not even immortals can have everything they want.
warnings: None really, except that there is moderate sexuality. It's not too graphic. Not beta'ed.
author's note: My main Alpert pairing is Richard/Alex of course, but this idea got into my head last night and I coudn't go to sleep until I'd written it. It was also an experiment in writing a needy!Richard, and Eloise is the only woman who could manage it. Apologies for sap, and midnight writing.
Eternity was in our lips and yes,
Bliss in our brows bent.
- Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
She comes to him each night without fail. Barefoot, tiptoeing across the dew damp grass; her every step is silent. A breezy rustling sounds through the trees as she slides aside the flaps of his tent and secures the ties, knowing full well they will keep nothing out, nor contain her muffled cries. She has done it since she was seventeen, an island orphan, her parents sacrificed for the good of their territory, gunned down by cocky soldiers whose bodies now lie in shallow graves, nothing but bleached bones. She had come to him in tears that first night. Just a careless scramble across the wakeful camp, pushing and clawing her way through their waiting people, bursting right into Richard's tent. The fire had crackled late into the evening, but had not made enough noise to blot out the sounds as she sobbed out her grief and kissed him and held on tight.
Richard always knew someday they would be stopped. Such things are inevitable. Charles Widmore may be distracted, taking his first fledgling steps as a leader, but he is no fool, and nor is he patient. Still, it is never of Widmore that Richard thinks as he first rises from waiting and slides over, making room for Ellie on the makeshift bed. Eloise, he reminds himself. She is no longer his young, bitter Ellie, but a woman edging towards adulthood and leadership. Somehow, she is prettier now than before, with her new strength and the firm, cool confidence she displays at all times. Eyes stray her way as she marches into the jungle ahead of the pack. Widmore is only one of the men that observes her. Soon, Charles will grow tired of waiting. Richard knows this, and knows what will come after. The rules are unbreakable. They both see the future clearly, but it does nothing to stop them from falling down into a tangle of breathless kisses and silky limbs and rough camp blankets each illicit evening. The worry always comes later for Richard, when he holds her and thinks of time fleeting.
"Do you care for him?" Richard asks one night, after, as they lay awake in the bed. He thinks of the glances Widmore has given Eloise, the overheard plans. It is difficult to think of anything else now, Eloise satiated and distant, mostly sleeping. The moon is full and the light shining across the grass and into the tent is bluish. Most nights like this, Richard loses himself in nature, but lately he has often grown preoccupied.
Eloise closes her eyes, snuggling against him. "Does that matter?"
Richard stares up at the top of the tent, watching the shadowy patterns of clawing branches swaying above. "He's interested. You know what that means for you."
"I'll do what I have to, when the time comes," she assures him sleepily. Her body is warm against Richard's, and he wraps an arm around her, pulling her in closer.
It is going to happen sooner than you think, Richard wants to warn her. He mulls it over, feeling the inevitable pressing down. A day, maybe a week. He will not leave it longer. "Will that be enough for you?" he asks in spite of himself. It is better not to ask questions. Their situation is precarious. A new leader has been chosen, everything is different now. Widmore’s tactics rely on steady discipline and preparedness; they are a military operation, a new dynasty. Charles Widmore thinks like royalty, believing himself a king who must have a queen, and the only woman suitable for the position is currently half-asleep in Richard's bed.
Eloise shrugs lightly, visions running through her head as sleep works its magic on her. Dreams hover close and irresistibly tangible. She is a soon-to-be leader, a breed apart. She was meant for it. "It won't have to be, will it?" she asks, a touch of coyness in her voice. Eyes closed, she reaches up and runs a hand through Richard’s hair, making him shiver. "Stop worrying," she adds before Richard can speak again. "I know how to handle Charles."
She feels him tensing against her, jealous. He has always been protective. It should grate against her, agitating. She has no use for a bodyguard anymore; she is no child. But it does not bother her, the way Richard holds on and tightens his grip. "Of course I do, Richard," she speaks casually, seeking out his mouth and kissing him languidly. "Let's not talk about this anymore," she adds, sinking down so that her head rests on his chest.
"Instructions came from Jacob just yesterday. He's leaving the island tomorrow, recruiting new people." Richard waits, hoping Eloise will respond, but she does not. "There is still time. Tell him about us, before he leaves.” It is not the kind of proposal that he wants to offer, but the only invitation he can muster. His brain drums with the fervent need. She is the first thing to be genuinely his in decades, and he can feel her slipping away. Let him hear us, Richard thinks desperately. Let him find out now, before she's trapped. "Ellie?"
"It's more difficult than you realize, Richard," Eloise says in that sharp, grown-up voice that she has taken to using of late. She never speaks to him that way, with condescension. Wearily, she attempts a brief smile to cancel it out, and sighs with relief when Richard looks back at her, his dark eyes gleaming not with hostility but with want. "Please," Eloise adds, "let's not go on.” Before she can comment further he slides over her, claiming her mouth in a rough kiss, and she does not have to explain anything to him, because he can feel the truth all around them. Leadership is her destiny, and there is only one way remaining for her to attain it. For Eloise, who has already sacrificed her parents for the island, and who, though she does not yet know, will someday sacrifice her son, protecting the island matters more than anything else. She will do what she has to.
Visions of Charles' piercing green eyes and demanding personality fade as Eloise pulls Richard close, feeling him shove aside the blankets in desperation to touch her bare skin. Widmore might be the leader now with Eloise soon to join, but they are temporary, and their power is meek and fleeting. Richard always has been in charge, and he proves it, grinding her wrists down against the mattress, making her suck in her breath and moan involuntarily at his touch. He kisses Eloise hard on the mouth, and shivers as she opens her eyes widely, shocked at him. Richard is a force unrelenting, catching her as she tries to turn away, kissing her roughly. He lets himself explore her mouth and feels her own savage tongue delve past his lips, accompanied by the taste of peppermint. He chases away Eloise's thoughts until all the world is reduced to what Richard's hands and lips do to her body, and he delights in the quaking of her limbs as passion builds between them, unstoppable.
In the morning, Eloise leaves as usual, stealing out into the grayish pre-dawn light in such a way as to remind Richard of a snatch of poetry, something about fog and cat’s feet. He lingers in bed as he always does, letting the coolness of her absence steal over him, feeling the dull soreness in his limbs and back that characterize a night of particular delectable abandon. Her taste lingers on his damp, hot lips as the blankets release the warmth of her body. He can still smell her scent circulating on the cold, humid air of early morning.
Eventually, he rises, unable to sleep without her nestled there beside him. The remains of the night's fire has been reduced to seething red embers, and he sips the last of the bitter coffee that has bubbled and boiled atop a stone oven throughout the night. Richard’s eyes focus not on the place where Eloise sleeps, catching a few unobserved hours behind the secured flaps of her tent. Instead, he stares dispassionately at Widmore's tent, waiting for the new leader to rise. It seems, even from his perspective, to take a long time.
"Richard," Eloise calls to him, hours later. Customarily, her voice contains no hint of emotion, and she does not look at him as she skirts the fire, walking over to where he his perched, reading. Automatically, Richard stands, but she ignores this.
"I spoke to Charles earlier. He is preparing to leave tonight, and he asked for you." Calmly, collected, Eloise glances up to meet Richard’s gaze for the barest of instants before she frowns and purses her lips and looks away. “Take his pack,” she adds. “And Cathy’s wrapped up some food for him, by the fire. Bring that as well.”
He moves away from her on leaden legs, wanting only to turn back. The frustration grows with each step. Their camp is nearly empty, every one of their people at their respective posts, spying on the Initiative or skulking in the deep jungle, waiting for something to kill. Richard walks as slowly as he can, listening to the sounds as Eloise cleans up. She douses the fire for good, then gathers up the ax for firewood, not watching him go. Richard walks slow because he cannot hurry and mustn‘t stop or he will turn back. He is leaving her alone, as he promised he never would. That promise, the words on his tongue; he can still recall that awful night and the weeks after, back in the days when Ellie's parents were recently dead and their funeral pyres still burned brightly in the foreground of her mind, filling her thoughts with the image of watery graves, making her cry unexpectedly in the middle of the day.
"Go," she tells him, when he looks back.
Richard goes. She is the leader now, or will be soon enough. He already knows what Charles will ask him to do. Ellie has been a leader in training her whole life. She is one of the most trusted and certainly the most bright of their people. A good match, not even Richard cannot dispute that. All that is left is the formalities.
Sure enough, that is what Charles has on his mind. He paces near the water's edge, leaving footprints in the sand.
"Richard," Widmore speaks, and Richard is struck by the mixture of relief and petulant demanding in Widmore‘s voice, the trace of haughtiness and fear. He is used to that. Eloise speaks that way, too. Their people groom leaders from infancy, observing them through a protected childhood, giving into each whim of adolescence, trusting them with undeserved, untested responsibility. It is only natural that they speak with a cockiness, given the spoiled status of their birth. But they talk differently to him, hesitantly, often questioning at first, remembering when they were mere children and Richard gave the orders.
"Instructions from Jacob," Widmore says minimally, eyeing the people who load supplies onto the scavenged boat. "I wanted to speak with you before I left." He draws a deep breath. "Eloise Hawking," he begins heavily. If he notices Richard's eyes narrowing, he does not comment. "I know what Jacob originally intended for her, and I know why I was chosen instead."
Widmore rakes a hand through his longish brown hair. His green eyes are piercing as he fixes them on Richard. "I want her," he says simply, as though asking for a fishing hook or the delivery of a report from an outpost. "It's time, isn’t it Richard?" Charles speaks, barely halfway through twenty and already jaded. "I'm the leader now, and I'm entitled to have what I want." He makes no allusion to the fact that he has always felt that kind of entitlement, even though he has never shown nor tolerated much in the way of restraint. Richard refrains from mentioning it. "Jacob has made my responsibilities clear. I’ve had my fun. Now I want a proper relationship. I need a woman in my life, someone who is capable of leading with me, someone we can all trust. What do you think of Eloise?"
"She's the only suitable choice," Richard says reluctantly, damning himself.
"Absolutely. So, there it stands. I want you to discuss it with her when I'm gone. Make it clear that she will in no way be my subordinate. She'll lead beside me or not at all." He smiles slightly, that look all the women in camp find dashing, and nods as though confirming the arrangement to himself. "Not that she'd have it any other way."
Richard nods, imagining Eloise's cool eyes, already picturing the combination of haughty pride and remorse that will shine in them when he gives her the news. He looks over at the boat, which is mostly loaded, simply waiting. The tide is rising, sending long, flat plains of water cascading up towards the beach. The waves crash and break upon the sand, scattering seawater.
"You'll take care of them when I'm gone?" Charles asks, forgetting that Richard has been doing this for generations.
"Bring this to Johan," Widmore instructs, passing over a folded envelope. He has fallen easily into the saddle of leadership, just as Richard expected; proud and pleased with himself, though he has been in charge less than a month. He touches the pistol at his hip, savoring it. "His last report came in yesterday. The Initiative is building a new station. According to Robert, they broke new ground two days ago. I want the situation monitored closely."
"You should dedicate a small team to patrol the beaches," Richard says by way of an answer. "We ran across a small party of Dharma workers yesterday. There was no breach," he adds as Widmore's eyes widen. "They had no idea we were anywhere near them. The truce is secure. They are building something, out there in the water. The last load out of the submarine was full of parts for some kind of aquatic device. I would guess it has something to do with electronics, from the supplies I noticed."
"Tell Ellie. She can decide how to handle it," Charles instructs. "I trust her judgment," he adds, turning towards the boat. "She's the most loyal of all our people, Richard. That's why I chose her. She lives to protect this island, and nothing will ever distract her from that purpose. Not even you. I know her," he continues delicately, not looking at Richard. "I also know what has been going on. I understand, of course, but she must not risk her integrity now, or they will never trust her. She needs to understand what's expected of her. I don’t expect to have to discuss it with her further.”
Richard straightens up, his look deadly.
"If that’s all clear...” Charles says expectantly. “I'll return in a month," he adds by way of dismissing Richard. He licks his lips nervously, suppressing the panting of his breath as his heart drums cold and scared and his stomach tightens. He can sense Richard staring at him, and remembers suddenly, with an abrupt weakness that floods his limbs, the brute strength that flowed through Richard's arms years ago, when John Locke had come and the gun had been knocked out of his hands. Richard's exasperation had been painful. All at once, he is eager for this trip.
Richard walks back to camp twice as fast as he left, rage and loss burning through him. He clenches his hands into fists and glides noiselessly through the jungle, grateful for the slap of wild branches across his face, the minimal pain distracting to his anger. He does not mind the path but wanders, paying no attention, though his body moves on autopilot, drawn towards the right direction as though his need for Eloise was a magnetic field.
"So he's done it," she speaks to him as soon as he steps out of the clearing. A few of their people mill about, tending the fresh water supply or beating clothes upon the rocks and tying them to tree branches where they will flutter and dry. They glance up, their eyes dilated, then turn hastily away. The rumor has already begun to seep through camp, voices uttering phrases that verbally unite Eloise Hawking, the orphan, the visionary, with Charles Widmore and his iron fist. "Yes," she answers before Richard can ask the question. "I knew he would." She spares him a quick glance, more like an appraisal, and then motions towards her tent. "Come on."
"Why are you doing this, Eloise?" Richard asks as Eloise settles down on the luxurious mattress and beckons for him to join her. For once, Richard refuses, and remains near the curtained doorway. "Do you have any idea of the consequences to your actions?" He loves her, of that is certain, but for the moment he wants to hit her, a startling blow that will wake her up from her fantasy and make her see what is happening to them both.
One of their people comes, rapping knuckles on the wooden tent stakes, bearing tea. Eloise is already royalty, as word circles the camp.
"I can get that myself," Eloise says coolly. She will not be waited on or fussed over. The woman nods obediently and leaves. Eloise rises, seals the tent flaps by tying tight knots, then walks slowly over to Richard. Her hand settles on his shoulder, and it shouldn't feel reassuring anymore, but still it does. He covers her hand with his own automatically.
"It's Eloise, Richard," she corrects him. Her voice is petulant, fierce. "I've told you a hundred times..." Then she stops, pursing her lips and wetting them. "What did Charles say, exactly?"
"Everything I expected," Richard answers. "Everything I've been warning you about." He shakes his head grimly, tilting his head to look at her. His eyes shine as she meets his glance. "Don't," he adds as Eloise touches his cheek. His voice sounds commanding and firm, nothing at all like the way he feels inside. Her palm is hot against his skin and he jerks away. "Leave it."
Eloise exhales in exasperation, releasing him, and draws back to the bed. It is better than his own. Even after the choice was made, when Charles was selected, Eloise remained important to Jacob, hence important to their people. She has the best of everything. "Pfft," she informs Richard with a slight shake of the head. "Don't be ridiculous, Richard."
"You don't understand," Richard tells her, desperate that she realize what is happening. "You will belong to him now." He wishes the words would cut his mouth the way they cut at his soul. "Do you have any idea what this means for you? For me? Charles Widmore doesn't make compromises," Richard explains seriously. “He won’t share you.” And I won’t either, he thinks but does not say. If there is anything he is sure of, it is that she is more than he is allowed.
"I don’t belong to anyone, Richard. I’ll thank you to remember that," Eloise retorts. She lays back on her bed with a sigh, aware that Richard is watching her. "So we'll have to be more careful, that's all," she tells the ceiling, not looking at him.
Richard narrows his eyes, furrowing his brow. "Nothing is going to be the same, Eloise. You won't be just one of our people anymore, able to slip away on your own whenever you want to. Everyone will watch you. It's their duty to protect you with their lives. They've sworn loyalty to Widmore, and they will promise the same to you."
"And you?" she asks seemingly undisturbed by the proclamation.
Richard frowns. "What about me?"
"Will you be loyal to him?" Eloise questions coyly. "To Charles?"
Richard grits his teeth, then shakes his head, averting his eyes. "No," he admits with a sigh. He draws a deep breath, wishing it would steady him, and hesitantly crosses the room. "Not when it matters." He spares a thought for Jacob, who will hear him and recoil, as he drops onto his knees on Eloise's bed. "Not when it comes to you."
Eloise rewards him with a kiss, caressing his face with her hand and stroking his hair, comforting him. She curls her legs beneath her, too experienced for twenty-three, lacking the awkward absence of sophistication that would mark to a normal young woman, bound up in taught grace. She draws him nearer, kissing him firmly, her arms encircling his neck.
"Then neither will I," she assures him when she finally lets go. Her hands trace down Richard's chest and stomach, her fingers skipping lightly over the belt, then gingerly and expertly undoing it. She leans back against the mattress as Richard unbuttons her blouse and peels it away from her body. “Charles will accept the arrangement, provided we do not embarrass him. If he wants a docile, obedient woman, let him find one. I’m not expected to serve in that capacity.”
Richard nods. "You don't love him," he affirms to himself.
Eloise shrugs as Richard discard his trousers onto the floor. "It's complicated," she decides primly, the last of her girlishness caught up in that bright moment. "And furthermore, it doesn't matter in the least," she announces, her breath hot as she murmurs into Richard’s ear. "It doesn't change anything," she continues, a note of seriousness as she runs her hand over Richard's chest and looks him in the eye keenly. "It won't change the way I feel about you."
Richard thinks to mention something about her lack of consideration for him, her dark selfishness as she fails to think about the impact it will have on Richard to watch her bound to someone else, caught up in a separate life he can never share and only ever observe. He says nothing, however, about the way it will feel to watch her sitting sedately at Widmore’s side as the fire burns gold at midnight, or what it will cost him to see Charles place a careless kiss on her perfect cheek or a controlling arm around her immaculate shoulders. It is too soon to make her understand how their lives will play out. Richard will never permitted to touch her in public, let alone to take her, kiss her, claim her at his whim, the way he has wanted to for years. He bites his lip, aching and impatient. He has waited long enough. Though time spirals out in lengthier loops for him, the six years of caution have been a torment, and now there is no end in sight. If Eloise comes to him at all in the night, she will have to steal from Widmore’s tent, her skin still stained with his scent. When she stays there, slumbering out of reach, Richard will have to stand it, each empty, lonely night.
He dips his head and kisses her stomach, then slides down the bed and kisses her feet, his chest burning as his hands explore her, preparing for a time when she is off limits. His eyes sting as he trails kisses upwards, sucking at her breasts as she runs her fingers through her hair, then delving into the hollows beneath her collarbone, finally nuzzling desperately against her neck, breathing her in. When he kisses her mouth, the gesture is pure reverence.
“Oh, Richard,” Eloise tells him softly. Richard’s promises echo through her head, intoxicating and disturbing. “It will be all right. You’ll see,” she assures him, exploring his body with her hands. Her eyes flutter blissfully closed as he continues, his lips warm as they barely press against her eyelids, her forehead, her cheeks. Richard carries on. He is marking her, claiming every inch. It doesn’t matter who the leader is. It doesn’t matter what he has promised Jacob. It doesn’t matter if the island burns. She is his, and always will be.
“Shh,” Richard instructs her, pressing a finger to her lips as he removes the rest of her clothes from her body and scatters them. She cannot reassure him. Whatever this means, with Eloise charging forward in control as Richard steps back, resuming his ancient role as advisor, he is still the more experienced, and he has been around long enough to know that she will not always be able to control the future. What they have is right now and waning. That is all he can hold to, and he is loathe to let go, so he doesn’t. He grabs the blankets by the fistful and tosses them aside, wanting to feel her nude and unprotected before him.
He never takes he before she is ready, and doesn’t this time, but instead of the sweetness and the slowness Eloise is used to, his thrusts are mad and desperate. He takes her greedily, his lips and tongue coaxing her mouth open as she pants against him, her skin shining with a thin sheen of sweat. His own body is damp as he moves against her, into her, holding her so tightly that she protests, but not letting go. Eloise kisses his cheeks, dragging in a needy breath, biting her lips so she won’t scream Richard’s name, her voice echoing right through camp and ruining everything. She climaxes and comes down to find Richard still moving inside her, his mouth absorbing the blood from her bitten lip. The second time, pleasure rockets through her too strongly for restraint. Richard smothers the sound with his own mouth, kissing her roughly, his unshaven skin scraping carelessly across her cheek. Eloise slides her hands over Richard’s back, then his heaving hips, feeling the friction growing between them again.
The first time she had crawled into his bed, she had been the one in need of comfort, and he had given her exactly what she’d wanted. This time, Richard is the needy one. He holds her too tightly, unwilling to let go, first pinioning her forearms down to the bed, then scooping her up and wrapping his arms around her waist. Panting, eyes closed as he presses kisses against the nape of her neck, Richard breathes in the humidity and Eloise’s scent, letting it fuse with his blood, trapped forever in his long memory. He drives her to the edge again and again, dampening down the sound of her moans and cries with his lips, kissing her long and tirelessly as her body shudders, overloaded.
Finally, both of their bodies slick and Eloise’s throat raw from calling out Richard’s name against his lips, he quickens his tempo and comes with her. He speaks her name defiantly, not caring who waits outside the tent, listening in. Eloise shudders with pleasure against him, then lays caught him his arms, her hands caressing his face even as her eyes flutter closed, exhausted. Her voice falls silent before she can speak, before she can say the things that need saying. Richard lets her, understanding the need to sleep. There will be time for arrangements later. He will make certain he doesn’t lose her. Richard knows the secrets of the island and has guarded them well, but he will tell her, and she will know all, if that is what it takes.
“Eloise?” Richard asks after a few minutes, listening to Eloise’s rhythmic breathing. He smiles even though she does not awaken, and draws her unconscious body closer to him. They lay on their sides, her back to him, his chin against her shoulder and one arm around her hips. Eloise does not stir even when Richard presses a kiss to the back of her neck, brushing aside her sweat-damp hair. After a few minutes, Richard finds himself joining her, sleep rushing over him the way it almost never does, full and dark and insistent.
He awakens hours later, refreshed. They have shifted in the bed. Eloise lies on her back close beside him, her eyes still firmly shut and her mouth slightly open, the bruised lips pursed, her face peaceful and her breathing sedate. Richard opens his eyes to shadows. It is nearly dusk. The light visible through the cracks where the drapes and tent flaps fail to cover is blue. The scent coming from the smoky cook fires indicates dinner is well underway. Richard can hear movement beyond the tent, the normal rhythmic comings and goings of their people as supplies are fetched and dispersed, reports delivered, preparations for evening begun. He smiles in spite of himself as he rolls over onto his side, perched on his elbow. The conversation will inevitably flow; he knows that, expects it, but it barely matters at the moment, and he does not think on it.
Instead, he looks down at Ellie, his gaze exploring her smooth brow and her spent body, still uncovered and revealed to him. Reluctantly, he pulls up the blanket for her and covers her with it, knowing that the tropical air will cool slightly now that darkness has come and that she will be thankful for the warmth. Even though he intends to seek her out again before she wakes up on her own, he has work to do, Widmore’s orders to deliver. The thought still stings, but he ignores the thought, concentrating on his purpose. Richard rises from the bed and pulls his own clothes on, but does not leave immediately. He lingers a moment longer, staring warmly down at Ellie, his thoughts tangled in remorse and want and desire and responsibility. He bends and kisses her forehead, then kisses her swollen lips, drawing her taste into his mouth like sustenance. His heart quickens as his fingers stray over Eloise‘s body, touching her shoulder and her arm, drawing down to her hand. His fingers clutch hers for a moment before he forces himself to let go.
He will love her all the days of his life.