Serenity in Acceptance
Disclaimer: Mark Gordon's and CBS'. Not mine. Never was, never will be. But since they went and killed one of my favorites, I see it as my right to mourn her through fic.
Rated: G (one strong swear word included)
Summary: Episode addition to S8 finale, but also a sequel to my story 'Fragile Truce', so I suggest you read that first. Implied femslash.
AN1: As a rule, I don't usually write sequels to my stories. When it's finished, it's finished. This time however, it's different. I pretty much figured out in the middle of finishing 'Fragile Truce' that Erin would die in the finale. I needed to deal with that in my way.
AN2: If and when you read 'Fragile Truce', there are some things in it that differ a little from what we learned about Alex (mainly that she lives in a single house instead of an apartment building), but I decided to leave it as it was. I did change the husband's name to James, though.
Alex could see how surprised Strauss was when she offered to drive Erin back to the hotel. She couldn't really explain it herself; they hadn't really had a chance to talk since they'd been captured by the Replicator.
After being rescued, and knowing how the other woman had taken care of her during their capture, and especially after finding out what had caused Erin to betray her all those years ago, Alex found herself beginning to forgive her former lover. She'd never forget, but she was now able to look at the blonde without any feelings of animosity.
Before long, Blake and Strauss were standing at the hotel lobby, waiting for an elevator.
"Which floor are we on again?" Alex asked, glancing sideways at Erin.
"Hmm? Eight, I think," Strauss mused, fatigue evident in her voice.
The doors opened and the women stepped in, both turning to face the doors as they closed automatically.
"Are you going to turn in right away, or would you like to come to my room for a cup of disgusting hotel tea?" Alex inquired.
Erin met the brunette's eyes, and it seemed both women made the same connection simultaneously: over a decade ago, they'd often stayed at different hotels for purposes much different than tea. Now, however, and even without addressing it verbally, it was clear the invitation to join Alex included nothing but a warm beverage and, perhaps, some conversation. Alex had returned to her husband, and Erin had moved on as well.
Briefly, a faint smile graced Erin's lips. "Thank you, but I really am quite exhausted. Rain check?"
"Absolutely," Alex accepted, smiling in return. From the corner of her eye, she surreptitiously studied Erin's profile. It felt good, these tentative steps they were taking towards repairing their friendship. "Life moves in mysterious ways."
"I thought that was God. 'God moves in mysterious ways'."
"Well, Him too, I suppose." Alex assented. "I'm glad you found someone."
"Someone who puts up with me, you mean."
"Well, that's really not so hard to do."
Erin really looked at Alex, then, lost for a moment in their past. She was clearly about to apologize once more, for throwing Alex to the wolves the way she had done years ago. Alex reached out to grasp Erin's hand; the older woman's surprise at the gesture was evident. The brunette agent smiled again, and, this time, it reached her eyes.
"We all make mistakes, Erin."
"You don't hate me?" The Section Chief's voice held a hint of surprise.
Alex shook her head gently, her own voice softly assuring: "No."
Two hours later, Alex stood in a street in the middle of Manhattan, trying her damnest to keep her emotions in check as she looked at the body of Erin Strauss.
Five days later, Alex came home late after being out with the team, celebrating Erin's memory; listening and telling stories. It had been a very emotional day, one of many, lately. For once, she was glad to see the house was dark, and that James' car wasn't parked in the driveway. She needed time to collect her thoughts before he came home.
Blake walked, restlessly, around the house. She ended up going through some old mementos she kept in a box at the back of her closet. Fumbling with the old, broken locket she had received from her grandmother as a child, Alex finally saw what, she supposed, she'd wanted to find all along: a photograph, its edges slightly frayed from the lack of protection. It was taken at a Christmas party the year Alex and Erin were having their affair. It was only a snapshot, and not even a very good one; it was clear the women were in the middle of a conversation, Erin's hand slightly touching Alex's arm. There were no loving looks, or secret smiles; nothing to alert the people around them that they were heavily involved. But they did seem happy.
Alex caressed the picture with the tips of her fingers. She never would've expected to miss Erin this intensely; the ache was actually manifesting as physical pain. Wiping her eyes to stop the tears from falling was of no use; Alex had held her emotions in check all week and she was finally at her breaking point.
So distraught was Alex that she didn't even hear James entering the room, which was why she was startled when he suddenly placed a hand on her back. She turned around quickly, pressing the photograph against her chest in an unconscious effort to protect it.
"Alex?" James' voice clearly conveyed his concern.
Alex, though, was fumbling for words. She was, suddenly, extremely aware that she was in their bedroom - a room she shared with her husband, no less - crying over a woman with whom she had cheated on him. Alex was sure that if she looked at James, he'd know everything; from every caress and tender word, to every kiss and passionate moment she had shared with Erin.
"What's going on? Why are you so upset?"
Alex gnawed on her lower lip, still unable to bring herself to say anything. Her eyes flitted across the room as she tried to come up with an answer that wouldn't be too revealing.
"You're not this upset over Strauss, are you?"
A tear slipped down Alex' cheek, revealing more than she would've liked.
"I don't understand; why are you taking this so hard?" James' tone was almost accusatory. "You always hated her."
"I never hated her, James. I was hurt and I was angry, but I never hated her. It's...it's complicated," Alex corrected, finally having found her voice.
"Well, from where I'm standing, it's fairly simple: she screwed you over, Alex."
"Drop it, James," Alex demanded vehemently. She knew she was losing the battle of keeping her emotions from showing. Alex, again, found herself struggling for words, but, apparently, no words were needed; one look at James' face told Alex that the damage was already done.
"Oh... I see."
Alex swallowed, her heart beating so fast she could hear her blood rushing in her ears.
"No, no... It all makes sense now," James interrupted.
Alex opened her mouth in order to try and explain, but he raised his hand in a gesture that stopped her from saying anything. "No, I don't want, or need, to hear an apology."
Alex kept staring at her husband as everything fell into place; it was an epiphany of sorts.
"I wasn't going to," Alex murmured. "I can't regret it. I just can't."
"Even after everything she did to you?" James exclaimed. "Even after everything she did to us?"
Alex shook her head, her mind still spinning in the wake of the sudden realization. "Even after..."
"You loved her." His accusing words were whispered.
This caused Alex to pause. She'd never voiced her feelings before; she'd known it, years ago, but she and Erin had always carefully avoided voicing just how much they meant to each other. Perhaps, it was time. Alex swallowed and looked at him squarely in the eye. "I did."
"Have there been others?" James wanted to know.
Alex glanced at the photograph she still tenderly held in her hand, and carefully traced her finger over Erin's features. "No, there was only ever her."