Epilogue: Alex

"I caught myself"

When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me that we were all allowed to make mistakes. That, without them, life is boring, menial, and really not worth living, much less enjoying. We need to make them, and we need to learn from them in order to make ourselves better people.

Okay.

Fine.

Great.

Spectacular.

I don't think she ever imagined the mistakes I would make. The sheer number, or the colossal quality of them.

Witness Protection. Essentially lying to most of my friends, to all of my family. Just picking up and leaving everything behind me, when I'd spend my entire adult career convincing people to stand up for themselves. Way to set an example Alex.

When I finally came out of protection, I couldn't face myself, let alone my old squad. Mistake number 2.

Jim. I had him. And I let him go. Because I was afraid. I guess this is one of the mistakes I've learned from. I'm not afraid anymore. But it's still among the mistakes. Number 3.

Robert. Okay, I guess our courtship was a result of mistake number 3. He was the anti-Jim. Cool, calm, collected. It never would have worked, we were too similar. And then I cheated on him. The very night before he asked me to marry him. I suppose the mistake here was my saying yes to the engagement. I couldn't be honest with myself though, so how could I be honest with him?

Jim. Again. The other man, the one I run to. Even for a release. Yeah, he was the one I cheated on my would-be-fiancé-soon to be-ex-boyfriend with. Does this come as a surprise? It shouldn't.

Chris. I guess this one counts as the big one and the blame falls totally on me. I wanted so badly to become myself again, to get the hell over it. I diluted myself with lies, and very nearly lost everything I'd worked so hard to re-build.

Visiting Zapata. I knew better. But at least here, there were no lies. And I wonder if that's a step in the right direction.

So I walked around the hospital, recanting all the mistakes I'd made with my life, especially those that had occurred in the last four years. The doctors had advised that a little movement would be good for me, but I wasn't really sure where I was headed. Air maybe. I hated hospitals. They smelled of antiseptic, despair and of death. It wasn't a pleasant environment. And wasn't one I wished to spend any more time in than necessary. I found myself passing through the maternity ward, babies in their tiny cribs, covered head to toe in pink or blue identifying the gender of the child. The tiny and underdeveloped were hooked to machines. Their fate was up in the air, unknown to anyone. And they had no control over it. Like corpses, they lay there, helpless unless someone stepped in and saved them.

Savasana.

Watching them made me think though. Because I wasn't tiny, underdeveloped or helpless. I could make my own future, I could control my own destiny, and I could learn from my mistakes. I wouldn't be a corpse. There would be no more of this for me.

***

And he was waiting when I got back to my room. Eyes glazed over with exhaustion, like he hadn't slept well since I'd been admitted. Which, I knew he hadn't.

"Jim… you need to go home. Get some rest. I'm going to be fine."

"There's a truckload of people in the waiting room, they want to see you. I came in to see if you were up to it."

"I'm good. Really. I just needed to get up and move around. You can only spend so much time lying around."

He stood, connecting our eyes together, searching mine to see if I was telling the truth. But I was done with the lies, he needn't have worried.

"You'll be alright." He whispered more to re-assure himself than anything else.

"Damn straight I will." I replied, and leaned forward, kissing him hard on the mouth. I didn't have to fight this alone. He would stand there with me, no matter what. "Now, go let everyone else in here, so I can let them see the same thing."

As he slid from the room, I poured myself back into bed, wincing slightly at the minor sting the bruises still gave off. I closed my eyes, exhaled, and before I knew it people were in my room, seemingly materializing from nowhere.

Elliot and Casey were holding hands, which made me smile. I wondered when that had started, and hoped it worked out for the best.

"How're your feeling Alex?" Olivia asked from somewhere within the depths of the crowd.

"I'll live." I joked, and turned my attention back to Elliot. "So…" I gestured towards Casey "When… when did this start?"

He shrugged. "I guess it's been building for a while. "I love her." He said loudly. "And I'm going to marry her."

The redhead blushed, but the grin that crossed her face said it all. And I was happy for them.

Only menial chatter followed, and eventually, the medicine they'd given me kicked in, and I could hardly keep my eyes open. Jim ushered them out quickly, and then turned to me, tucking in the light blanket.

"My knight in shining Armani." I quipped through a yawn.

"I don't make enough money to wear Armani." He said as he brushed his lips across my forehead. "But you can be my damsel in distress any day."

I shook my head. "honestly, what is it with the cheesy pickup lines? Nobody ever has a good one."

He laughed. "I dunno, I thought that one was halfway decent."

"Nope." I yawned again. "Awful. One of your worst, actually."

"Okay then Al, what counts as a good one?"

I sat up, ran my hand gently down his face. "I love you. And okay, I can't announce it like Elliot did, I'm not ready for that. But it's a start, and it's a hell of a lot better than 'damsel in distress'"

He kissed me again, for what might have been minutes, it might have been hours, I wasn't entirely sure. But when we finally broke apart, he was smiling. "It's way better. And you should know, I love you too. I reserve my cheesiest pickup lines for the women I love."

I laid back down. "I had better be the only one Steele."

"Now and forever."

I closed my eyes, breathing normally, resting easily.

Finally, it was over.