Title: Safe and Sound
Pairing: Alex/Sean (with a healthy dose of Nikita/Alex friendship talk)
Raiting: Eh...if you can watch the show, you can read this fic
Summary: Where Alex and Sean are really at and how they feel about each other. Covers 3X03 and 3X04.
Why is it always my right arm?
It was a stupid, pointless thought, but it was the only thing Alex could think of as the blinding pain ripped through her shoulder. It wasn’t the first time she’d been shot, but somehow you never quite got used to it. The pain didn’t last. An odd, floating numbness began to creep through her as she slid to the floor, warm blood already starting to soak her shirt.
“Alex? Alex? Alex, look at me. Look at me.” She could hear Nikita calling her name, could see her kneeling down, but it was like a layer of gauze had been draped over the world. Nothing was quite in focus.
“Mia’s turned. Alex is down. I repeat, Alex is down.”
Things faded in and out, flashes of coherency she couldn’t hold on too; Nikita’s face, the roof of a van, the hallways of Division, and then Sean. They look so scared and she wanted to tell them she was fine, wanted to make it OK for them, but the words wouldn’t come out. Her body wouldn’t obey her. She laid on the gurney as they rushed her to med unit, Nikita pressing cloth to her wound, Sean stroking her face, and tried to just keep her vision in focus. It was harder than it should have been.
In the end she lost the battle to keep the darkness from closing in. It was probably for the best.
When she began to surface again, it was to the lullaby of obnoxious beeps streaming out of the medical equipment looming around her. She was still woozy, her vision swimming ever so slightly when she cracked her eyes cautiously against the bright lights. The gauzy film over everything was gone. The pain was back.
“Hey,” Sean said softly as he heard her groan. He leaned over from his chair, setting aside the tablet he’d been working on. “Welcome back.”
“You passed out from blood loss, they had to give you a transfusion, and some fluids, but you’re going to be OK. Through and through, clean wound. Gonna hurt like hell for awhile though.”
“Yeah,” Alex winced. “I noticed.”
“Sorry, they were going to give you some morphine, but…”
“Thanks,” she said softly, meaning it. The last thing she needed was to wake up high. The pain was far preferable. Sean shifted to sit on the side of her bed, looking down at her, concerned.
“So, aside from the searing pain, how are you feeling?” She gave him a wry smile.
“Oh, I’m fabulous. Red’s a good color on me.” He smiled, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes and Alex remembered how scared he’d looked as they’d rushed her into Division. “Really, I’m OK. A little tired, weak, but nothing too terrible,” she said more honestly. He nodded.
“That would be the blood loss. It was pretty bad. I thought Nikita must have taken a hit too, she had so much on her.”
“Where is she?” Alex asked as she tried to push herself up, wanting to check for herself that Nikita had escaped unharmed. Sean put a gentle hand on her uninjured shoulder and held her still.
“Take it easy, doc doesn’t want you up until she gets a chance to look you over. Everyone’s regrouping, going over what we know, trying to figure out the next move.” Alex frowned. She didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital bed while everyone else did all the work. She wanted to be there with them. Sean seemed to read her face perfectly. “Let’s get you caught up.”
Alex waited in med unit, sore and cranky and contemplative. Being stuck in Division under any circumstances was enough to make her skin itch, but being stuck there while Nikita went off to finish an op without her was torture. Not that Michael and the other agents weren’t more than capable of providing adequate backup, but she wasn’t used to sitting around not doing anything. It was supposed to be her and Nikita, partners in vigilante justice. Alex owed her life to Nikita several times over, she was her best friend. She should be out there, by her side, trying to help save Mia.
And that was the amazing thing. They were still trying to save her. Alex wondered if that should bother her. Mia had put a bullet in her less than 24 hrs ago, and Nikita was risking a lot to bring her in alive. But she supposed it wasn’t any stranger than her still working with Nikita after finding out she’d pulled the trigger on her father. Division was a dark cloud that cast shadows over the lives of everyone it touched – if one person could escape the shadows and seek a better path, didn’t everyone deserve that same chance?
“Hey, how’re you feeling?” Sean’s voice startled Alex out of her thoughts.
“Hey, um, just waiting for them to change my bandage.” She narrowed her eyes. “You should be at the arena.”
“Yeah, well, you were with me when I was wounded, I figured I’d do the same.” That caused a flutter in Alex’s stomach she didn’t really want to think about right then, so she pushed it aside and focused on the current op.
“Any luck tracking Joshua?”
“My SEAL contacts came up empty.” Alex turned back to the tablet in her hand, Mia’s file pulled up. “What’s that?” Sean asked. She turned it so he could see.
“She really got to Nikita. Never seen her question herself like that.” Sean took a deep breath
“She’s not the only one.” Alex looked at him, suddenly wary. He sat next to her on the gurney. “What are we doing here, Alex? Chasing monsters? Monsters that are only going to be replaced as soon as we take them out.” He sounded so defeated.
“I don’t believe that.” She said firmly.
“Well, what do you believe? Because if you’re here for Nikita, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, especially if she’s having doubts.” She turned away from him, trying to think of the words to make him understand. “You had a life before all this. You could have it again,” he said softly.
She wished it was that simple, but it wasn’t.
“You see this woman?” She turned to tablet towards him again. “This woman threw her out a window, and she still wants to save her. You wanna know what I believe in? Nikita.” Sean gave a small nod and took in her words silently. “What about you?” she questioned. “You were never really Division in the first place. Why are you still here?”
“Well I guess some things are worth fighting for.” He looked at her intently. Alex fumbled for something to say, but Sean sighed and stood up. “I’ll see if I can find out what’s taking so long with your bandage change.”
Alex watched him go and wished she knew what to say to him. Everything about him, about them, confused her. It was stupid. She’d done the relationship thing once already, with Nathan. It shouldn’t feel so new and scary.
But the truth was, it was new. What she’d had with Nathan had been something she’d needed in her life, a reminder of what normal even was. But it hadn’t been real. She’d been Alex Winslow. There were so many things she’d pushed down and ignored when she was with him. Alex Winslow hadn’t been a sex slave. She hadn’t seen her father murdered. She hadn’t spent years doing whatever necessary to get money to get high. So Nathan never saw those things. Alex never let herself feel those things when she was with him. He was normal, and innocent, and for awhile she could pretend that she was too.
There was no pretending with Sean. He knew her; maybe not every single thing, but more than most. She couldn’t hide from him, or what really being together would mean. And it terrified her. She didn’t know how to be that person. How to be with someone who knew some of the darkest parts of her, and let herself be happy at the same time.
Alex had never really had a time in her life that was normal. Even before operation Pale Fire, her father had been training her. He loved her, Alex had no doubts about that, but he also wanted to use her, to shape her into his perfect legacy, whether she wanted that for herself or not. Her mother, who loved her too, had always gone along with whatever her father’s plans were, however he wanted to teach or punish Alex. Affection and fun always came at a price. Alex didn’t know how to give it freely, because it had never been given freely to her.
Not until Nikita. She was the one person in Alex’s life who had never expected her to act a certain way. It was Alex who had pushed to infiltrate Division, to make herself into a soldier, a crusader. Nikita had only ever wanted her to be safe, to feel loved. Even when Alex had turned on her. She never really stopped being there, her rock. She couldn’t leave her. Nikita had given her back her life, it was a debt she could never repay, but one she was willing to spend the rest of her life trying to. She needed to be here.
She cared about Sean. She liked spending time with him. He made her laugh. Made her feel things she hadn’t felt before. But being with him, really being with him, was something Alex just wasn’t ready for. It was too big, too complicated. She didn’t know how to be in a relationship like that.
But she knew Nikita. She knew what she felt for her. She knew their friendship, their bond, and knew she could trust in it absolutely. She needed that right now, more than anything.
Sean sat at the dinner table, making idle conversation, trying hard to be happy and cheerful, to match the rest of the party. He liked everyone at the table. He and Michael had a lot in common, and there was a lot he admired about Nikita, even though he wasn’t sure he could ever totally forget the part she’d played in his mother’s death, however small. And Alex…well, it was really all about Alex, wasn’t it.
He’d lost a lot in the last few months. His mother was dead, his sisters were focusing on their own families in the wake of the tragedy, and his covert military career was over. A year ago he’d had a solid life, and now there wasn’t much left of it. Alex was a bright spot, for so many reasons. She inspired him, her strength and resilience. If she could survive everything she had been through, he could survive. He could rebuild a new life, even if it wasn’t what he’d always imagined. She made him feel stronger. And she made him happy. Every time she smiled or laughed, it made his heart feel lighter.
At least it used to. Months had passed since he’d kissed her. That she hadn’t jumped at the chance to be with him afterwards hadn’t bothered him. It had been such an impulsive, ridiculous thing to do, and she certainly didn’t owe him anything because of it. Yet she hadn’t rejected him either. They didn’t live ordinary lives and he could appreciate how stupid asking her out on a real, normal date was. But the uncertainty of it had begun to wear on him. They flirted. They touched teasingly. But they weren’t together, not really. He didn’t know where her head was at.
And now they sat, having dinner, celebrating the happiness and certainty of Michael and Nikita’s love, and he could barely look at Alex. Every time he did his eyes were pulled to the sling holding her injured arm, and it was like a punch in the gut all over again. He’d had her blood on his hands less than a week ago, and everyone was acting like it was no big deal, just the cost of doing business.
“Nikita, where do I start…I hope you know I’d do anything for you.”
“You mean more than taking a bullet?” It slipped out, quiet and bitter, before Sean realized he had spoken out loud. The silence grew awkward and tense, and he kicked himself inwardly. Everyone tried to cover with jokes and lightheartedness, but he knew he’d blown the façade of civility he’d been clinging to for days.
“What was that?” she asked when Michael and Nikita had rushed off to answer Birkhoff’s summons. Sean knew it wasn’t the right time – it was the wrong place and neither of them were in the right head space to have the discussion they needed to have. But it came spilling out any way.
“You need to leave Division.” It was the spectacularly wrong thing to say, a reflection Sean had more than enough time to dwell on later that night as his fifth apology call to Alex went straight to voicemail. He didn’t necessarily regret what he’d said, but he knew how he’d said it had been boneheaded. They needed to have a conversation; a very long, complicated, probably painful one. Conversations tended to go better if they didn’t start with demands.
Something had to change. It hadn’t seemed so bad when they started – being part of the inner circle of the new Division, knowing things were being run in a moral way, being by Alex’s side, having a mission. But it wasn’t enough. He wanted to be committed to what they were doing, but as time went on it just seemed more and more futile. There was no satisfaction in the missions for him. No sense of duty or worth. One enemy went down, another popped up. He couldn’t keep doing it, not for as long as it would take to really shut Division down, if that ever even really happened. But he couldn’t leave Alex there either. He remembered her blood on his hands. He had to try to convince her to leave with him. He understood her devotion to Nikita, or at least tried to. He even respected it. But he was terrified that devotion was going to get her killed.
It was Sonya who called him about Amanda’s attack. She’d been assigned the duty of contacting all offsite assets and updating their security warnings. She had always been calm and professional in all circumstances, something Sean appreciated. It helped keep him from panicking. As her to do list was long and she didn’t have time to talk, Sean was left with far more questions than answers, and after a sixth and seventh call to Alex went to voicemail, he headed straight for Division to get a full sit. rep. for himself.
The atmosphere in Division was tense, angry, scared. Sean himself felt all of those, feelings that only intensified when he saw the bodies being carried out. Losing comrades had always been hard for him, even if he didn’t know them well. You protected the people who were supposed to have your back, that was just a basic tenet of being a soldier. Active recruiting had been suspended when he first arrived at Division, but there were still recruits already in training, some of them still teenagers. He’d seen them working to finish their training, knew their faces. There were more young faces being zipped into body bags than Sean cared to think about. He knew if Alex had been hurt he would have been told by now, but the panic he’d suppressed earlier kept getting closer to the surface the longer he went without seeing her.
“Sean? What are you doing here?”
Hearing her voice, strong, whole, uninjured, should have calmed him. Instead it broke him.
How could she not know? How could she have to ask that? In that moment he knew. What he felt for her, the way just having her nearby made his day better, the way he couldn’t think about what to do with his life without picturing her with him – she didn’t feel that way for him. His presence confused her, it didn’t comfort her.
“Well, you’re not returning my calls. And then I heard that Amanda set off a bomb inside Division, so, you know, I figured I’d stop by and see if you were still alive.” All the hurt he felt was turning fast into anger. He tried to stop it, tried to stay calm and rational, to talk through it like adults. It wasn’t fair to blame her for not feeling the same. But Sean’s nerves and emotions had been stretched thin, and he had passed the point of no return.
He knew she would never leave with him. Knew he would never be that important to her. He still tried. He couldn’t help himself. He hadn’t meant to tell her he loved her. He hadn’t even admitted that to himself yet. But he said it, and knew it was true. And he kissed her, one last time, just as ridiculous and impulsive as their first kiss had been. It had a kind of symmetry, he supposed.
“I love you. But if that’s not enough of a reason for you to leave, then I got no reason to stay.”
Maybe it wasn’t fair, but it was the truth and he needed to say it. Everything he felt, all the pain and frustration of the past few months, the past week in particular, had coalesced in his mind, and he finally understood. He felt that Alex’s devotion to Nikita, her willingness to follow her anywhere, would lead to terrible things, to her life being twisted permanently. The same held true for his devotion to Alex.
He wanted to be with her. Almost more than anything else he wanted to stay with her, to have her love him the way he loved her. But staying in Division for her was killing him. His life was in shambles, he’d barely had time to start grieving his mother, and all he was doing was treading water, staying stuck in the same place, all in the hopes that someday someone who was still surprised he was even around would love him back.
He couldn’t watch that place destroy anyone else. Including himself.