A/N: Howdy all! Sorry for yet another delayed update. General craziness got in the way of this alternate ending…but! It's here now, and hopefully it will appease Jinks fans. Spoiler Warning: Seasons 1-3 of Warehouse 13.

Disclaimer: I don't own Warehouse 13. If I did there would be no Twizzlers. Red Vines, perhaps. But certainly no Twizzlers. XD

Alternate Chapter 12: Awake

Somewhere…sometime in the near future…

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

He's sleeping. He has to be sleeping…because it's only when you're asleep that it's this dark. This empty.

There are no thoughts. There are no dreams.

Just the dark.

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

He can't see, can't hear, can't smell, can't move. For a long time he can't feel, either. But now…now there's a stirring. He doesn't know where…but there is movement. Somewhere in the darkness, something is moving. Coming to life.

Tick, tick, tick, thump.

He can hear again. He can hear the rhythmic ticking. An alarm clock? That would make sense, since he's sleeping. But it feels so much deeper…so much heavier and thicker than sleep.

Tick, thump. Tick, thump. Tick, thump.

The stirring is stronger and there's an aching pain alongside it. He knows where now. It's on his chest. A painful weight on his chest. Growing stronger as the ticking grows louder.

Tick, thump. Tick, thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

There's a sudden coolness in his throat. It moves up from his lungs and into his mouth and through his nose. It's startling, how cold it is. How…strange it feels. How foreign.

The cool feeling keeps coming, matching the beat of the ticking and thumping. What is that? He wonders. It's the first full thought he's had since…well, he can't actually remember. All he can think of is the darkness…and now this strange feeling filling his chest and throat and—

Oh, wait. He's breathing.

With a start, he opens his eyes. Blurred colors swarm his vision. A raw cough accompanies his sudden inhale of breath. He jerks himself into a sitting position. It makes his head throb…but for a brief moment, he can't hear the thumping.

Once the pain in his head subsides, though, the noise returns.

Tick, thump. Tick, tick, thump.

He was with Sykes and Marcus. They were in the office…they'd just brought back H.G. Wells…then Sykes had looked at him. Said something about…something about…

He blinks rapidly to clear his eyesight of the troublesome spots that seem intent on sticking around. He coughs some more…deep, wet coughs. Like he's got the flu, or something.

The spots clear (finally) and he can actually look around. He doesn't know where he is—he's not in Sykes office, that's for sure. Everything is still too bright, though. There's a lot of metal…a lot of glares. And fluorescent lighting that bathes everything in an intense white.

And he's cold. He's really, really cold. And it seems to come from…from the inside. Like…his body itself is generating the chill.

But a warm hand grips his own and he starts to thaw a little.

"Steve."

He jumps. That's loud. Well, louder than he's used to. He turns, and his eyes settle on a familiar face. Rust-colored hair falls into pale brown eyes.

Claudia.

She's grinning like crazy. But she looks…different? She doesn't look…like she did in the woods.

"Hey…Claud." He blinks. Yeesh, he sounds awful. Like his dad, all ragged and rough and raspy. He clears his throat a little. "Did…did something happen?"

"…You could say that." She answers quietly. Well, it's quiet, but it still sounds too loud to his ears. That's hardly relevant though. Because the expression she's wearing…the way she's looking at him…he knows something bad has happened.

He tries to think back. Before the dark, before the long stretch of nothing.

Sykes.

He remembers Sykes. But what happened after?

He looks around again. The glares are dimming, thankfully. It's not as painful to look at all the stainless steel and white linoleum. They're…they're in a medical facility, it looks like. He's…he's on a metal slab. Not a hospital bed. A slab.

Slabs are typically only found in one place.

So they're in a morgue?

And he's on a slab. That means…

Oh.

Oh.

"I was…" he gulps. It hurts. "…Dead."

"…Yeah." Claudia tells him. Again, quiet, but far too loud.

"Then…Sykes and Marcus. They…they…"

"Yeah, Steve." She obviously doesn't like talking about this. She shifts from one foot to the other, discomfort evident in her frown.

"…Wow." It's all he can think to say. He's dealt with some weird stuff at the Warehouse…slobbery scarab beetles and crazy flasks and knives that make people sick…but resurrection. That's a new one for him.

Wait…resurrection.

He stares at Claudia.

"What did you do?" he demands. He's read the manual, and he's heard Artie's lecture on raising the dead at least ten times.

"Steve, listen, I—"

He struggles to move his legs, to stand up. He's worried and scared and he doesn't know how to feel about all of this. Is he happy? Is he upset? Is he having a weird hallucination? Is this some kind of test, or something? A horrible nightmare?

"Whoa, whoa!" Claudia throws up her hands. He stops moving. "Hey, man…keep your sheet on." He glances down. Ah. That would be why he's so cold. "Just…hang on, a sec."

She tosses a gym bag at him and retreats to the far side of the room, turning her back to him. "You can yell at me after you put some pants on. Deal?" He thinks it's meant to be a joke…but it comes off a little flat.

His ears are starting to ring from his sudden movement, and his limbs don't seem to want to cooperate. It takes a full fifteen minutes to get dressed, between the lack of coordination and the weakness of his leg muscles. That, and the sensation of fabric against his skin is…strange. He's been without senses for…well, it feels like forever to him. But he's sure he hasn't been gone too long. Claudia doesn't look…that much older.

"Okay…" he mutters, standing unsteadily, his windbreaker unzipped and his shoes untied. He hadn't even bothered with the laces. His hands are shaking too much for that. He sits back against the slab. He's exhausted. "Safe to turn around."

She nods, and heads back over to him. She looks him up and down with a weird expression on her face.

"What?" he asks. She shakes her head.

"Nothing." But of course it's not nothing. She's got tears in her eyes. And he has to remind himself that he was dead.

"What happened?" he asks. What happened to him that was so…so awful that Claudia would do…whatever it was that she did?

Claudia winces.

"It's not important," she tries to convince him. He laughs. It sounds more like a wheeze.

"Not…not important? I died!" The word scrapes across his throat and sounds like an accusation. It makes Claudia visibly flinch. But, instead of looking ashamed this time, she looks angered.

"Yeah, you died." She snaps, her voice raised in volume slightly. "You died that day, and it nearly killed me. I had to see you…sitting there, pale and cold and…" she grits her teeth. "And it was for nothing, Steve. It was for nothing."

He stares, not really understanding any of what she says. It was for nothing? No…none of that was right. None of that was supposed to happen.

"Claud…" he starts to say. She doesn't look at him. "…What do you mean?"

"Marcus injected you with the same stuff they used on Stukowski." She mutters. "It looked like a heart defect. They left you behind in the office…we went after you, you know. Went in there, ready to grab Sykes and Marcus and H.G….but we were too late. And we didn't figure out his game plan until later. Your death was…it was senseless."

"You didn't figure out his plan?" his heart rate quickens. Another sensation he's not used to. "Then did he…I mean…"

"The Warehouse was destroyed." She tells him, crossing her arms against the chill of the room. Maybe against the chill of her words, too. He can't be sure. "H.G. died."

He sways a little, falls against the cold metal table. That wasn't supposed to happen. He went undercover to prevent that very outcome. He wanted to keep them safe. He wanted to keep her safe.

"Steve," she rushes forward and grips his arm as he falters once again. "God…you've been dead for three years. Take it easy."

"Three years?" he cries, and falls down once again. Claudia still has a grip on his arm, but he's much bigger than her, and ends up pulling them both to the floor. "It's been…three years? Claud, I…if I've been dead that long, I should be…" his stomach churns just thinking about it. "A pile of dirt."

"…" she doesn't respond. She bites her lip and stares at the speckled linoleum floor tiles.

"Claudia." He says firmly. "What did you do?"

"The metronome." She admits. His eyes widen. "It…it works even if…well, as you put it…even if someone's a pile of dirt."

"But…but," he sputters. This is all just too much. "Marcus. Marcus was using the metronome. He—"

"He's dead." Her voice is razor edged, just like her gaze, as she says it. "He…tried to kill Leena. But I found the metronome and—"

"Claudia…no. No, this is all wrong. This…it goes against the laws of physics. Against the laws of nature!" he tries to stand up, tries to get her to see that this is not right. "You need to…put me back. Stop the metronome and put me back…" In the ground. It makes him shudder, but he doesn't see another way around it. He can't be here.

"No," he's not sure if she's responding to his statement, or his trying to stand up. He shakes his head.

"Claudia, this is a bad idea."

"It isn't," she insists.

"Artie will—"

"Artie okayed it." She rushes to say. He blinks.

She isn't lying.

"He…what?" he asks, sitting back down again.

"He's the one who gave me the metronome. I…well, it's a long story. But I…left, for a while. And then I went back for the metronome and he…just handed it over."

Ah. Now that is a lie.

"No, he didn't." he narrows his eyes. "What really happened?"

"I told you, he okayed—"

"I believe that part," he nods. "What I don't believe is that it was as simple as you say it was."

He's struck a chord, or something, because her face darkens considerably and she drops her gaze. Her shoulders tense, and she's got that guarded look about her. The same guarded look she had when he asked one too many questions about the twelve years Joshua was missing. She puts on that look when she wants to keep others out. When it's too painful for her to talk about.

He reaches for her without thinking. He places his hand on the side of her face. She's got to be at least twenty-three now. A grown adult. But again, he's seen this before. With the guarded expression comes the sixteen year old kid who never healed from the things she had to go through. He read somewhere that you stop maturing after a traumatic event in your life. If that's true, then it's a miracle she's as together as she is.

Her skin is warm and smooth under his hand. And very, very real. Just as his cold, rough hand is real to her. For the first time, it really hits them. He's back. And in spite of what he's told her to do, he knows he won't be dying a second time. At least, not anytime soon.

"What happened?" he asks for the umpteenth time. But now, he's not referring to his death. He wants to know what happened to her.

"It doesn't matter," she says again.

"Yes it does." How can she keep saying that? How can she think that it doesn't matter? "Of course it matters. What happened, Claudia?"

The silence stretches for an indeterminable amount of time.

And then suddenly she's sitting next to him, head in her hands, telling him about…about everything that went wrong, after he died. Everything. Some of it—no. Most of it is hard to hear. Hard for him to even imagine, actually.

She couldn't have killed Marcus…

She couldn't have Tesla'd Leena…

She couldn't have run away. She couldn't have turned her back on them…

Years on the run. Pete and Myka going after her. Her unsuccessful break in at the Warehouse. Jane's ultimatum. Artie's forgiveness…his willingness to let her go, to take the metronome. The talk at the B&B…and then, inevitably, they reach the point in the story where past meets present.

"Some stupid cover story about…about new evidence in the case. Had to get permission to…to…"

"Exhume." He mutters. He never thought he'd use that word to describe his own body.

"Yes." She sounds tired. Very, very tired. But can he really blame her? She's gone through hell these last few years. Because of what happened to him. Because she cared so deeply about him. Because she couldn't let him go. He feels…guilty. He feels…awful.

But then he recalls that he was dead. That his being here is not right. It's a perversion of the intended order of things.

"Claud," he starts.

But he doesn't know where to go.

He's trying to think, trying to figure out what to say. Her death grip on his shoulder doesn't help. He runs through the possibilities, all of them accusations. You were wrong to do this. This isn't what I wanted. You've inadvertently destroyed my faith. You were crazy to try this. You've wasted your time. Your effort. All those years were for nothing.

But then…

"God, Steve…I just…you were gone." She tells him, sounding hollow.

He has to blink rapidly to keep from tearing up.

He doesn't tell her that she's done wrong. He doesn't tell her that she's shattered his faith, that she's gone against his every wish. He doesn't tell her that she's crazy for doing this. He doesn't tell her that she's wasted her time and effort on him.

Instead, he remains mute. He lets her cling to his shoulder, lets her silently cry to herself. Becausethis might not be what he wants…but it's she needs.

And he decided a while back that her needs were important to him; important enough to put them first, and to place his own on the back burner.

He tries to remember when it was exactly that he knew he'd do whatever it took to protect her. Maybe it was after she told him about Joshua, and her long years spent trying to get him back. Maybe it was after a few late-night snack sessions, relating tales of near-death experiences with artifacts.

Or maybe it was the day he opened his mouth to call her for dinner, and almost said 'Olivia.'

He smiles. Yes. That's when it all began.

After a while he clears his aching throat.

"So…does it count as a rebirth if you're put back in your own body?" he mutters weakly. Claudia looks up at him, a kind of dumbfounded expression on her face. She can't tell that he's joking. So he grins a little, and reiterates the question. "Well?"

She sniffs, and laughs. A heartfelt, relieved, genuine laugh. And he can suddenly feel the absence. He can sense that he hasn't heard that laugh in ages. That he hasn't heard too much of anything.

"I…dunno, Jinksie." She admits, still laughing and still crying. "I think it counts."

"I hope so." He mutters, struggling to stand. She notices his tight jawline, and the stiffness of his limbs. She helps him up as best she can. They both end up wheezing at the effort.

"I have an excuse," he jokes, marveling at his ability to keep such a level head about all this…this 'no longer dead' business. Not only that, but he can poke fun at the situation, too. "I've been six feet under for the past few years. You, on the other hand, are just plain out of shape." Which isn't exactly true. If anything, she looks a little thinner since he last saw her.

"Never was in shape, actually. Us hackers…we aren't an athletic bunch." She says. She leans against the slab. Her expression is once again serious. "Look, Steve…I…I get that…the joking thing. I get that maybe you're in shock…that maybe it's a coping mechanism."

"Sounds accurate."

"See…that's the shock talking, I think." Now she looks worried. "I really think we should…" she takes a deep breath before she finishes her sentence. "Head back to the Warehouse."

"I thought you said it was destroyed."

"It was. This is…a different Warehouse. I guess you could call it Warehouse 14."

"…Is it still—"

"It was moved, but it's still in the Badlands."

"…"

Ah. Here's the real decision. He realizes.

Sure, it's one thing to decide that he's forgiven her. That he's going to ignore the logical part of his brain that's screaming for him to get back on that slab and go back to the nothingness. But this. This is another decision entirely. This is essentially deciding if he wants to return to the place that got him killed.

Does he want to go back?

Is he ready to return to the land of the living?

"I…" he starts. "I get that we need to talk." He agrees. "But…I don't know…if I'm ready to go back there."

I don't know if I'll ever be ready.

"Okay." She nods, looking a little dejected, and a little lost.

"We could go someplace…closer?" he suggests after a few beats of silence. "Someplace a little less…cold." He shudders. "And maybe someplace with food." Because God, he's starving! Who knew being dead could work up such an appetite?

Claudia smiles.

"I think that can be arranged." She tells him quietly. He returns the smile, and reaches for her arm to steady himself as they head for the door. She happily offers it, grasping his hand in her own. Again, the warmth spreads through his palm, and radiates up his wrist, into his arm…

And he starts to feel alive again.

XXXX

Well! This turned out a bit more sappy than intended. Apologies. Anyways! This isn't the end…there's one more chapter in this fic…and then it's officially DONE! Hopefully folks enjoyed this extra, bonus bit of 'Alone.' But! Even if you didn't, feel free to let me know in a review! :)