This fic is a post-ep for 'My Fare Lady', guest starring the wonderful Kelli Williams. If you haven't seen the episode, please please PLEASE do not read this fic, but go and find the episode and watch it. Then come back and read ;-) This fic is very spoilery, and it's an excellent episode, so watch it before you read.
Also, I'm not expecting that many hits on this fic as a lot of people won't have seen the show, so please, if you read it and enjoy it, just drop me a little review to let me know. I've been working on this on and off for a few months, so it feels good to get it out there finally.
Disclaimer: Not my show.
The cool metal of the gun in her hand simultaneously soothes and excites her. She'd felt it before, even when she couldn't remember who she was. When she touched the gun and felt a tug of familiarity, there was also a flicker of exhilaration, a bolt of adrenaline. And a flash of fear.
Mostly, though, she'd felt power. After the accident, it was helplessness she felt. Not knowing who she was, not knowing what had happened to her, not knowing what move to play next; all she felt was helplessness and frustration. But the gun in her hand gave her security. Control. Power.
She doesn't care to remember how it all began, although she's contemplated a thousand times how it could all end. Arrest. Death. A new identity – settling down, a suburban mom with a husband and kids and a white picket fence. She knows she'd never be content with that, though. When you've tasted something this strong, you can never go back, no matter how many years you spend stacking up regrets like building blocks, a tower destined to fall.
The truth is, she's good at what she does. Smart, ruthless, with a deadly aim; of course her career choice could have been more conservative, but revenge can give birth to a monster that doesn't care about telling the difference between innocence and guilt. And she knows all about revenge. That was the beast that brought her here, the event that started the whole chain, the first domino to fall. But she tries to block that from her mind; dwelling on the past won't help her now, and there's no jury alive who'd accept any excuse she could give them. Besides, the catalyst is irrelevant. She chose to continue, to be who she is; if one day she has to pay the price, she knows it will be high. And although she doesn't want it, she can't deny that she deserves it.
Before she remembered who she was, she'd felt so disconnected. Her identity was lost to her, she was a stranger in her own mind and body. She didn't know the person she used to be, and the fragments she learned only scared her. She'd wondered about herself – about who she was before the accident – and if that person was really her. She'd wondered if she could find her, somehow, simply by continuing to live her life – would she be able to slip seamlessly back into who she was? Would the choices she made lead her back to the life she'd lived before the crash, the life she couldn't remember?
Now, she knows who she is. She remembers everything she's done. She sees the blood on her hands long after it's washed off, she can hear the sound of sirens and knows they're coming for her victims, she feels the darkness in her heart and knows it's there because she chose it, because she decided to walk this path.
But who, she wonders, was the woman she was when she didn't remember? The woman who ate rumaki at a party, who turned to a stranger for comfort and found something she didn't expect, who watched her sister die with no idea why. She wonders if that woman was inside her before; if she's the woman she would have been if this wasn't the life she had chosen. If she would have met him in another way, and a life together would have been possible.
But now, she'll never know.
She'd looked for a way out; had decided that seven years of killing was enough. But then she was betrayed. That was all it took for her to see that what she was doing was a mistake. He, of course, tried to convince her that she wanted to change, that she could try again, but she knows that some people have done too much, seen too much, watched too many people die at their hand to every truly be capable of change. She attempted something, snatched at redemption, before learning it just didn't fit. There's no turning back, no second chances. No one to trust. Not even him.
Perhaps some days she will wish things hadn't worked out this way. Perhaps some nights the nightmares will still cause her to wake, breathless and sweating, a nasty taste in her mouth and the word guilt on her tongue. Perhaps sometimes she will think of him.
If she could let herself believe that he could be tempted, that she could draw out his darker side, use his attraction to her to make him follow her, maybe she would. At the same time, it's his goodness she likes. It's a comfort, in a world where all she sees is badness. He'd shown her kindness; that was something she'd forgotten existed.
But the other Charlotte is the one he wants, the one he was kind to, and she had only existed briefly. She knows she has to expel her; she's her biggest weakness. When she'd tried to change, to reach for a better life, she'd been stabbed in the back and responded instinctively, with cold, hard anger and a bullet firing through the air. That is who she is. She can't afford to let the other Charlotte back in, can't let the edges soften or the lines between her identities blur. He was right when he said she'd spend the rest of her life on the run, with both sides after her. What that means is that she must now be stronger. Harder. And more alone than ever.
She wanted him to understand that, as they stood in the street, but there was so much she wanted him to understand and, at the same time, hoped he never would. There was something almost romantic about the mystery. If the bare bones of her life were laid before him, all that existed between them would be the truth. And that's something she's been running from her whole life. There's so much he can't see when he looks at her, so much he'll never know. Things she doesn't even let herself think about anymore, things she couldn't find the words to explain even if she tried. If he knew the depths of her darkness he'd never have looked at her that way, but a tiny part of her thinks perhaps it doesn't matter. Maybe he really is the one person in the world who could look past all that, who sees new beginnings where she sees only dead ends, who still has a grasp on the meaning of hope.
Had he hoped she would change, for him? For herself? He'd tried to hang onto the person he'd known, briefly, before they both disappeared forever, but surely he knew what they'd shared in those strange days was not something that could ever be sustained. He'd said that he could see the person he thought she was, as though she were glimmering beneath the surface somehow. She'd tried to quash that thought quickly. That Charlotte was fake. A lie. She has to believe that, now. It's easier than confronting the alternative – that who she could have been had existed, just for long enough to tempt and torment her with the faint possibility. The possibility that had been snatched away from her when she'd been betrayed; when her sister had been killed; when she'd used the gun to execute her betrayer and feel the satisfaction of revenge sweep through her again. Killing didn't always feel that good, but when it did she knew she'd never be anything else. And he is not a man who could love a killer.
The woman he loved – or however close he came – is not someone she recognises, or knows how to find again. It's who she is – or could be - in a world without sin, and mistakes, and cruelty. The Charlotte he loved could not survive in the real world, could not cope with this reality. She was nothing but an illusion; a mirage; an echo of what could have been. And there's no way to reach her now, to become her fully. She's lost, gone; killed by the woman with the gun in her hand and the icy stare on her face. The woman he looked at in the way that made her aim to the left, and who walked away without doing what logic said was necessary. She tossed a threat, she turned away, she disappeared to where she knew he could not follow. But the look on his face haunted her, and the possibility scared her. That he might just have been willing to see past what she is. That he really believed the woman he met a few nights ago was who she really was. But she knows that's not her, and glimpses of the better Charlotte only serve to weaken her. She has to make the Charlotte she met recently disappear; it's the only way she can survive.
She hadn't looked back. She kept her shoulders straight, her steps even, her breathing steady. She knew, as she knows now, that she can't afford to let sentiment cloud her judgement again. She can't risk it all, not for anyone.
Next time, she'll pull the trigger half a second sooner, twist the knife just a little harder; do whatever she has to do to convince herself that she made the right decision. That this is who she is. There's no going back; acceptance is all she has.
She shouldn't still be thinking of him, although she imagines he is thinking of her. She picks up the phone, replaces it, then picks it up again, cursing her indecisiveness. Just one call. Just to impart a final message, a little sweeter than the one she left him with before. And just so she can hear his voice one more time, even if it is only the voice of an answering machine.
"Hey Mike. I miss you too. Night."
She hangs up, and vows that she will not falter again.
This is the choice she has made.