Note: Set after season four/the deleted scene where Alex sees her with a new boyfriend. Kind of an expansion of the deleted scene? I don't know, I just had feelings I wanted to write out.
Alex thinks the stages of grief are complete bullshit. Always has.
He remembers being pulled aside by the school counsellor at seventeen, just after his mother had died. Remembers how she'd tried to explain them to him, voice gentle as she'd listed the words. Bitter even then, Alex had had to stop himself from snorting; had brushed off her concern and left the room as soon as he possibly could.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate her effort, it's just that he's never understood how anyone could think it was that clean-cut. That simple. Death, loss, grief. It's messy; messier than anyone without firsthand experience could ever imagine.
Acceptance is the only thing he doesn't argue. It's why he's here.
When Pam opens the door, it's with an exhausted smile and a softly murmured hey. Alex returns the welcome, unsure of how else he should greet her. He doesn't know how to treat her now, doesn't know what the boundaries are. It's an odd sensation, for something so familiar to feel so foreign.
He keeps his hands in his pockets as they walk into the home, clenches the fabric absentmindedly. Pam brings him to a kitchen table, points at a chair for him to sit down on.
"You want a drink?"
"No." He crosses his arms over his chest, leans his elbows on the wooden table. He hates feeling this unsure of himself. This lost.
Pam nods slowly, takes the seat across from him. "How are you?"
"I'm doing oaky."
Alex nods, doesn't meet her eye as he says, "Four months now."
"Good," Pam tells him. "You look… better."
Alex flashes her a smile; a mix between pride and embarrassment. "What about you?" he asks. "How are, uh— you and Jacob?"
"Good, that's—I'm glad."
"No you're not," Pam says, but she's smiling. Almost laughing.
"No, I—" Alex laughs gently, runs a hand through his hair. "I want you to be happy, Pam. I do."
He hears Pam sigh, watches as she rests her elbow on the table, forehead falling to her palm. "What are we doing, Alex?" she asks, and she sounds as lost as he feels. "I mean—What…" She trails off, pushes the hair from her face and looks up at him; searching for an answer.
"I don't know," he admits. "I didn't… I feel like I owe you an explanation."
"Yeah, you do," Pam agrees. "But it's a bit overdue."
"I know. I'm sorry, I…" Alex exhales slowly, wishes he'd agreed to the drink just so he has something to do with his hands. "I don't know where to start."
"I read the news," Pam says. "People called. I know what you did I just—" she cuts herself off, runs her fingers through her hair a second time. "Why?"
Alex thinks back to Shales, thinks back to every bad decision he's made since. "I couldn't hand him over," he tells her, hoping that Pam knows who he is. "And after I just… lost it. And I was scared that I was going to—to—"
"You wouldn't have hurt us." Pam keeps her voice strong; sure of herself. Alex wishes he could believe her. "You're not that guy."
"I couldn't risk it." He says, because he doesn't know how to explain the internal struggle. Doesn't know how to tell her just how bad their last few days together had been for him. "I loved you too much. Both of you. I've never stopped."
"I know we've run our course," Alex says before she can continue, before he can be rejected again. "And I respect that, but I just… I need you to know that I never stopped. Everything I did, all of it, I did it because I wanted—because I needed you to be safe. And I know it was all for nothi—"
He can't finish the sentence; still has trouble admitting what had happened, even now. Pam, for her part, seems to understand. She stands up, moves to his side just as she had in the diner.
"It's okay," she tells him, voice a whisper, and Alex can't help but reach for her. She pulls him from the chair, pulls him into a proper hug this time and holds onto him tightly, rubs at the back of his neck when he has to choke back a sob. "It's alright."
"I didn't want to—I didn't—"
"I'm sorry," he chokes out, the words barely formed. His hands clutch at Pam's jacket, his face buried in the crook of her neck. It's an embrace they've shared countless times, one that had always helped him pull his shit together. Now, it just makes it worse. "I'm so sorry."
Pam squeezes her eyes shut, tries to halt the tears threatening to fall. She kisses the nearest bit of skin her mouth can reach; not as a romantic gesture but as something she knows will help ground Alex, will pull him back before he breaks. She wants to say that he has no reason to be sorry, that she doesn't blame him – for any of it, not anymore – but the words are futile. She knows that Alex won't listen, knows he won't believe it.
And, more than that, she knows it isn't what Alex needs to hear. There is enough history between them for her to understand how Alex handles guilt, to understand that it's not your fault is going to do nothing. So instead she just hugs him back, squeezes him tight one last time. She drags her hands up his back, over his shoulders, up his neck until they cup his face. Pulls back just enough to look him in the eye and responds: "I forgive you."
Tears still stain his cheeks, but the words seem to have the desired effect. He nods, sniffles. Steps away from her and uses the sleeve of his jacket to wipe at his face.
"I should go," he says, but what he means is thank you.
Pam almost wants him to stay, just until he looks okay again. But she doesn't admit that, just smiles sadly and says, "I have something for you before you do."
There's a box waiting on the kitchen counter, a bunch of things she'd pulled together from Cameron's belongings; all of them relating back to Alex. Copies of photographs, things they'd made together, reminders of what their family had been. She isn't sure if Alex will want to keep it all, but she hadn't had the heart to throw it away.
"Cam's stuff," she explains. "I thought you might want it."
Alex takes a deep breath, brushes his hand over the box's lid. "Thank you."
Pam nods again, leans up to kiss his cheek. "Stay safe, Alex," she tells him, hand brushing his back before falling away. "Take care of yourself."
"I will," he promises her. "You too, Pam."