Characters: Alex Hunter
Spoilers: Through end of Season Two
Summary: Alex Hunter reflects on what she's going to do next. Takes place day after "Under the Radar".
Notes: Posted for We Love the Women Fandom Hates Day One
Big thanks to ericadawn16 and kinky_sprite for some much needed help, and for all the hand-holding whlie I flailed.
Originally written for elrhiarhodan 's Summer Prompt Fest. The story has been expanded and edited.
Title from "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day
Alex sat cross-legged on the sofa, the classifieds spread out on the coffee table, pint of ice cream in her hand. She needed a distraction from the past few days -- kidnappings, druggings, shootouts, broken heart -- were not part of her daily rituals, even in her rather unique life. Alex took a bite of her chocolate and pistachio ice cream and sighed. She needed to unwind. Too bad that it wasn't working. After she read the same ad twice she finally gave up. Ten years of her life had been spent looking for the music box. Now that it was all over, she still couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Peter Burke had called her earlier. Vincent Adler was dead. The treasure had burned. Ten years of her life were gone. She'd chased leads for years, immersed herself in the criminal underworld to find it. She'd learned the con, learned from the best (Hale, Mozzie, Neal), had run with the worst (Keller, once, Adler, twice -- not by choice), and she'd stolen from hundreds of marks to fund her hunt. The past ten years of her life had been devoted to the search and now...
The music box had been found and returned to its rightful owners. Its secrets had been unlocked. The treasure had been uncovered, and then lost for all time.
Alex stared out the townhouse window at the the night skyline of the city. It was a view people would spend several hundred thousand dollars to have. She wished wistfully that she really did belong here; at the moment she was “house-sitting” while the owners were away in Europe for three months. The beauty of the city skyscape was lost on her tonight; the limitless horizon at odds with how trapped she felt.
She took another bite of ice cream, and wondered what she could possibly do with her life now that the one thing she'd been moving towards was out of reach. Everything up until now had pointed towards the music box and the mysterious treasure. She had never really thought what would happen after she completed the mission her grandfather started. A mission that had turned into a family obsession.
Restless now, she got up and put the ice cream away, and grabbed her coat. She needed some air, but she didn’t want company. Alex pondered the problem, and then headed for the roof; What to do with her life, indeed. There was her ‘career’, of course. She was a fence, and a thief, and she was damn good at both things. People knew her as a reliable source, and she had plenty of contacts. With Adler dead, maybe things would be easier since he wouldn’t be there to paint a target on her back. A cool breeze blew against her skin and she pulled her jacket a little tighter to her body. She could go back to that life, but to what end?
Alex thought back over the people she’d known the longest. Hale had a day time job, tinkering with antiques. He was a fence because he enjoyed it. She knew Mozzie dreamed of the one big score, and living on a tropical paradise somewhere. Neal...who knew what he wanted? She doubted he knew himself. He was servant to the moment; living in the here and now, always dancing at the edge of disaster -- just for fun. But what about herself? She liked being more cautious. She’d studied antiques in college...but that still didn't answer the question of where she wanted to be, what she wanted to do.
She sat on the roof and watched the lights of the city blink on and off as people went about their lives. People were getting together after work, coming home to their families, dealing with things like bills and homework, feeding the dog, taking out the trash. Ordinary lives. Like the one she’d had with her grandfather, before he’d told her the truth about the music box and treasure. Ordinary life. Did she want that back?
The night dragged on, but Alex still didn’t go back inside. The temperature dropped but it was bearable. Here, on the roof, she could at least listen to the sounds of the city. In the townhouse, the sounds would be muffled and distant. Adler had kept her locked up for three days in near silence. She didn’t want that tonight. It would be nice if someone called her. She had left a message with Neal to contact her, but she hadn't heard from him yet. Maybe he was on a new case with Peter. Or involved in one of Mozzie's schemes. Maybe he was with the insurance investigator, Sara; his arms wrapped around her as they kissed.
A pang of loneliness intruded on her, unwelcome and irritating, like a scab that wouldn't quite heal. Being in her business, close relationships were few and far between. She had thought she had something with Neal and Mozzie, but Neal only had eyes for Kate. Where Neal went, Mozzie followed, and she'd been left on her own. That had been painful, and she’d carefully guarded herself since then. When she got back involved with Neal, she had known that it would be all about Kate. She’d known but had somehow deluded herself into believing that Neal would finally look her way. When they’d escaped from Adler, it seemed like it had finally happened. Then she met Sara, and the truth hit her that once again, she was left standing on the outside.
Was this all her life was going to be? Living off things that didn’t belong to her, never owning a thing, with no where to go, nowhere to turn? The future unfolded in her mind and she saw herself alone, always searching for something to fill the holes and never finding it.
Alex swiped a few useless tears away, defiant in the face of her weakness. She'd lived for a long time on her own. She would still do it. She would make this life work for her, somehow. But as the sun crept up in the horizon and the city began buzzing back to life, she knew it was a false promise to herself. She was lonely, and she wanted more than just a big score.
The problem was, she'd been conning so long she didn't even remember who she was. The knowledge made her want to weep. She didn't. Tears wouldn’t get her what she wanted. She stayed on the roof and longed for a life that was right in front of her, but like everything else she'd ever wanted, was just out of reach.