There were rows and rows of candles. Tall, clear jars full of colorful wax, there was nothing special about them. There were no special markings that made them look as if they were capable of carrying countless prayers and desperate wishes to God. But, Benjamin Linus thought, that didn't seem to have stopped anyone from placing their faith in the generic candles, given that many of them were lit. And considering the amount of liquid wax in some of the jars, they had been for quite some time.
As Ben walked over to the display, the sound of his heels connecting with the marble floor echoed through the sanctuary, corrupting the silence. Even the candles seemed affected by his approach, their flames flickering more violently than they had when he'd first entered the church. But as he stopped in front of them, their dancing lights calmed. It was almost as if they were asking him, encouraging him, to place his faith in their wax and wick.
For a moment that felt like a lifetime, Ben could do nothing but stare at the rows of glass jars, his bright blue eyes wide and unblinking. From far away, he could tell that the wax in the candles was different shades. And now that he was standing before them, he could make out the different colors - reds, greens, yellows. He supposed that their warm glow should have been beautiful and comforting, all the different colors making up for the beige walls and plain Crucifix of the church.
But all Ben could see were shades of grey.
Since Alex's death, since her murder, his life had lost all color. Now, there was only black and white, and variations thereof.
With each slow inhale and exhale of breath Ben took, the candle's flames flickered towards and away from him. The gentle movements of the dancing lights were soothing, hypnotizing, and he couldn't keep his eyes from falling shut. But just as they did, he saw the same horrific image that had been behind his eyelids for the past three years.
Alex, his beautiful daughter, dead.
Her lifeless body slumped over in the yard she'd played in as a child.
Just as the memory had sunk even deeper into his soul, it disappeared, making way for everything else that had happened that day. The memories were so clear, so detailed, that sometimes Ben was convinced he was still in that horrible moment. He could almost feel himself standing inside his home as Alex was forced to kneel in the grass, terrified and begging for him to help her.
Her every sob and sniffle were burned into Ben's memory, and he could recite everything she'd said to him in the minutes before her death. But the one word he couldn't bear to think, let alone speak, was "daddy." Before she'd died, she'd called him Daddy.
And she'd meant it. Really meant it.
There had been a time when Alex had adored him and looked up to him. She'd been Daddy's little girl, showering him with kisses and running to him whenever she had gotten hurt. But when she'd gotten older and learned who her father really was, that had all changed. It had been like night and day. And she hadn't called him "Daddy", with any real affection, in a very long time.
But when she had…
When Alex had used that one special word…
He'd told Keamy that she wasn't his daughter, that she'd meant nothing to him. After years of perfecting the art of lying, Ben had had no problem sounding convincing. His heart had been racing, but his eyes had never left the other man's face, never once allowing himself to look at his daughter. Because if he had, he wouldn't have been able to go through with it.
He wouldn't have been able to keep up the lie. As it was, his voice had been shaking slightly, threatening to give away the truth.
But for the most part, he'd kept calm and maintained the charade he had been praying would save Alex. And part of that had included saying the very last thing a daughter should have ever heard her father say. Clutching the radio in his hand, he'd said, "So, if you want to kill her, go ahead and do it." He hadn't even finished the sentence or had time to hope that Alex didn't believe him before Keamy's single shot had shattered his world.
He would never forgive himself for that. And lighting a silly candle in a church would do nothing to help soothe that ache.
Painfully brought back to the present by thoughts of flames and wax, Ben's blue eyes slowly opened. As his irises readjusted to the flickering light, he refused to blink. He wouldn't voluntarily give into an impulse that would cause him to relive Alex's death again. But even if he were to never close his eyes again, Ben wouldn't be able to escape the memories tormenting him.
As weeks and years passed, the visions of Alex had gotten worse. Instead of fading with time, he saw her dead body more clearly than ever before. Ben supposed that clinging to her memory more and more with each passing day didn't help. He knew that if he were to let go, to just forget about Charles and mourn his daughter, that maybe the pain would lessen some.
But he couldn't let go, and he could never, ever forget.
To forget would be to lose his daughter forever. And that was an unbearable thought. His last memories of her might have haunted his dreams and waking life, but he needed them. Not to fuel his revenge against Charles Widmore. That desire would remain long after Penelope was as dead as Alex. No, he needed them to remind him of what love truly felt like. He'd loved Annie and Juliet, but that wasn't the same as the love he felt for his daughter. No matter how strained their relationship had been, that hadn't changed how he felt about her.
The past few years with her had been so difficult. Ben knew that teenagers were rebellious and supposed to resent their parents. He'd read all of the parenting books hat had been left in the DHARMA homes. Why they had them, given the mortality rate of pregnant women and their newborns on the island, was beyond him. But he'd read them nonetheless.
He had thought he knew what to expect, but nothing could have prepared him for Alex's reaction to his real role in their little community. Not even their psychologist had been able to offer any advice beyond the standard, "She's a teenager Ben. That's how kids are."
He'd tried to be patient with her, tried to understand what she was going through. But it had been next to impossible. He'd longed for the days when she was the sweet little girl he would kiss on the forehead before tucking her in at night.
The last time Ben had kissed his daughter on the forehead, she had been dead. And he would never forget the feel of her skin against his lips and palm. She had been slick with sweat and still warm, her body not having had time to cool yet. His hand had slid carefully over her eyes, gently closing them before he'd pressed a tender kiss into her forehead.
His last goodbye had been short, the monster quickly tearing through the rest of Keamy's team; he hadn't had much time with her.
In the few minutes that the smoky mass ripped through the trees, filling them with screams and shocks of lighting, he'd said goodbye. When the tears had begun to fall down his face, Ben hadn't even thought of holding them back. He hadn't been able to save his daughter. The least he could do was cry for her.
Very gently, as he'd done when she was a toddler, he'd rolled her onto her back. When she'd been little, he'd move her sleeping body around to keep her from rolling off the couch or her bed. Sometimes he'd re-adjusted her for no other reason than that she'd looked uncomfortable. But those were days long gone. And the very last time he would roll her over was so that he could close her eyes and give her some semblance of a final resting place.
Even now, as he stood in the church, Ben didn't know what had happened to his daughter's body. He'd left her laying in their backyard, the monster still devouring Keamy's men. There'd been no time to move her body or make sure Richard would take care of her.
For all he knew, she was still lying in that yard. He couldn't think of her as a decaying corpse even though, by now, that was what she was. In his mind, she was still laying in the green grass, her wavy hair a mess and a streak of crimson blood across her forehead. It wasn't pretty, but it was better than the alternative.
Unable to stand the sight of the flickering flames any longer, Ben dropped his gaze. Instead of staring at the floor, he found himself looking at a small wooden box bearing a plaque that read, "Donations." And next to it, a tall, gold filigree vase filled with extra long matches. Without realizing what he was doing, Ben pulled out all of the change he'd stuffed in his pocket during the day.
Looking at the assorted coins, Ben was embarrassed to see only a few dimes and nickels and a couple of quarters. Altogether, they totaled eighty-five cents. It was nowhere near what Alex deserved, but it was the only cash he currently had left on him.
Carefully, he slipped each coin through the slit in the top of the box. As the change fell into the collection, it crashed loudly, echoing through the church. Ben almost felt as if it was mocking him, mocking him for failing his daughter, for not being able to protect her from Charles Widmore. The sound continued to echo through the hall long after he'd dropped in the last dime.
Loose change and a candle would never be enough, but for now, it was all he could do. Someday, he would get his revenge; someday Charles would understand his pain and what he'd really done when he'd changed the rules.
The night he'd gone to Widmore's penthouse, Ben had felt himself fill with the same anger and rage that had driven him to kill Martin Keamy. Unlike every other decision he'd made, it had been an action driven by pure emotion and free of any pre-meditation.
But standing before Charles, the same hatred coursing through his veins, Ben had known exactly what he'd wanted to say. And what he was going to do. This time around, his feelings had been in check and his anger channeled towards the man lying in the bed. This time, he would not be ruled by irrational emotions.
Even as Charles had lain in bed, mocking him, Ben had managed to keep calm, knowing the effect the purpose behind his visit would have. Widmore could accuse him of stealing things that were rightfully his and taunt him about the island, but it would take Ben only one sentence to prove how very serious he was. And he hadn't had to wait long for the opportunity to present itself.
Charles had looked at him, convinced, as always, that he had the upper hand. It had been then, that he'd asked the most important question. "So, once again I ask you… why are you here?"
Ben hadn't moved; he'd just stared at the man responsible for his daughter's death. The moment he'd been thinking about for so long had finally come. When he'd finally answered, his voice had been steady and his eyes unblinking. "I'm here, Charles, to tell you that I'm going to kill your daughter." Even though he'd never met the woman, Ben had known all about her. And it had only taken one word to prove that. "Penelope, is it?"
There had been more to the conversation, but it hadn't mattered. All that mattered had been Charles' reaction to his threat. For the first time since the conversation began, Widmore had seemed worried. That alone had been enough to satisfy Ben. His threat had been taken seriously, and he had known that Charles had understood that he would see his plan through to the very bloody end.
And it was an end he'd thought about quite a lot.
He didn't fantasize about killing Penelope. In fact, he was truly sorry that to hurt Charles, he had to kill his daughter. She was merely an innocent bystander, just like Alex had been. And because of that, Ben would make sure that her death was quick and painless.
A single gunshot to the back of her head, just like his own child had received.
Only then, once Charles understood his pain, would he be able to truly mourn his daughter's death. Only then would he feel like he'd somehow made up for failing Alex when she'd needed him the most.
Before he could stop himself, Ben pulled one of the long matches out of the vase and dragged it across the striker. With a hiss, the stick was alight, its fire burning brightly. Very carefully, he touched it to the brand new, blue candle.
As the fire spread from the match to the wick, he thought of Alex. How she'd been the happiest baby and the most beautiful daughter. Despite their differences, he loved her dearly, and he always would. Watching the new flame begin to flicker, he also thought of Penelope Widmore. She was a woman who would soon die because of her father. Like Alex, she was someone's beautiful daughter.
And just like Alex, she didn't deserve what was coming to her.
Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- This was originally written for challenge #13 at the lj community "henrygalelovers ".
- All of the dialogue, save the line, "She's a teenager Ben. That's how kids are," is taken from the episode, "The Shape of Things to Come."
- Quack: Thank you so much. A lot of this fic was inspired by how beautifully you wrote the relationship between Cuddy and Joy in "20 Moments." You're amazing and your help means so much to me. :duck:
- Reviews are love.