Early the next Monday morning, Strauss arrived at Quantico. Though, she'd been back at the office already on Thursday, the day after being rescued. Truth be told, Strauss had been ordered to take a week off, but she couldn't imagine staying at home with nothing but her thoughts as company. She'd been exhausted, she couldn't deny that, and her body had still ached from the ordeal. She hadn't touched the painkillers and muscle relaxants the doctor had prescribed, and that had meant sleepless nights. Though, she'd be lying if she tried to claim it was all because of the pain. She knew the dark room, the Replicator, and, on top of that, whatever had happened with Alex, would stay with her for a long time to come. All in all, she felt like crap which is why during the two days she'd worked the previous week, she'd taken it easy.

But now, it was a new week, and it was time to put excuses aside. Erin had no doubt the team would, eventually, catch the Replicator. The people higher up the ladder might have them, growing day after day, but, over the years, Erin had come to understand just how good Hotchner's team was, and what they could accomplish. She was still forced to walk the fine line placating the big wigs, while supporting Hotchner's team the best she could, but she was happy to do it. She had a lot to make up for; they'd saved her life, after all.

She'd just reached her office and sat down behind her desk, when there was a knock on her door. She looked up and saw a familiar brunette leaning against the door frame, with a white paper bag in one hand.

"Alex?" Erin couldn't hide her surprise at seeing the woman at the door. "Aren't you supposed to be on mandatory leave for another two weeks?"

"I am, but I couldn't, for the life of me, take the silence of the apartment for another day."

Strauss lowered her head, knowing exactly what Alex was talking about. It was strange how much their lives mirrored each other's, and, yet, how vast the distance between them remained. Erin was about to say something to the effect when Alex continued:

"I won't even suggest going to the field until the doctor clears me, I promise." The agent seemed to be under the impression Strauss was about to send her back home. "I've already talked to Hotch, and he promised that I can help the team in whichever way I can as long as I sit behind a desk. But, only if you agree... Erin, I just really want to work. I need to. I need to know I'm doing something to help the team to catch this son of a bitch."

Erin nodded, understanding Alex's position all too well. Then she offered half a smile. "I can hardly fault you for that when I'm here against medical advice myself."

Now it was Alex who nodded. Strauss thought she could see a hint of a smile on Blake's lips, but it was so fleeting she wasn't sure. Blake kept staring at Strauss, almost as if she was somehow studying her. Erin came to the conclusion that that might be exactly what Alex was doing, and she waited. She wasn't sure what she expected, but when Alex turned to leave without another word, Erin found herself strangely disappointed. She started to log on to her computer when she noticed Alex turning back to her. Once again, Erin waited. Alex was looking at her again, with the same strange expression on her face.

Then, finally, Alex stepped fully into Erin's office. She opened the white paper bag she was carrying and pulled out a take-away coffee cup, offering it to Strauss.

"I have a feeling it's going to be a long week. I thought we could start with coffee, as you suggested."

The end

A/N: Thank you for reading and, if you did, for reviewing.