Characters: Alex Hunter; vague mentions of Neal/Alex, Neal/Kate
Spoilers: Through end of Season One
Beta: Thanks to ericadawn16
Summary: Why does Alex give Neal the music box?
Notes:We Love the Women Fandom Loves to Hate Day Two
Despite the pairings listed, this story is not truly centered around romance, so I hope it fits into the guidelines all right. If not, please let me know and I shall remove it! :-)
Title from partial quote by Catherine the Great: For to
tempt and to be tempted are things very nearly allied... whenever
feeling has anything to do in the matter, no sooner is it excited than
we have already gone vastly farther than we are aware of.
Neal’s shocked, betrayed face haunted her as she left him at the embassy. She wasn’t worried about her two co-conspirators. They would be able to slip past security and get out. Alex had insisted that they have at least two backup escape routes just for that purpose. The plan was to keep the music box, not let Mozzie and Neal rot in prison for their help. Alex glanced at the black dufflebag on the passenger seat.
In all it had been a successful evening; she’d gone to a party with a duke,she’d gotten the music box and fled from the embassy without even being chased. No one was following her, and to top it off, she had even managed to dupe Mozzie and the great Neal Caffrey. She wished that the last part didn’t make her feel so guilty.
Alex reminded herself that there was a reason she had gone around Caffrey. He had been planning to con her out of the box. She recognized that smile, and his evasions when she’d pressed him about Kate. Of course his interest in the music box was because of Kate. Everything was about Kate. Her heart was still bruised from the last time Neal had chosen Kate over her. Alex wasn’t about to let herself be a fool for him yet again.
Taking the box had been the right decision. Alex pushed away the guilt and focused on getting to safety.
The rental home was small and faded, but it was clean. More importantly, it was private. There were no prying eyes or ears to worry about, so she could take her time. Alex set the duffel bag on the kitchen table, and poured herself a glass of wine. Now that it was within her grasp, she was reluctant to open the bag. It was silly; she had spent so many years searching for it, she should be happy that it was in her grasp.
It was the bittersweet of the moment that was holding her back: The tantalizing discovery of secrets, of history revealed, and the end of an
adventure, with no one to share it with. It would have been nice if...but that was useless to think of now.
Alex toasted the music box, and her grandfather, and took a sip of wine. Excitement was beginning to banish the guilt. She had the box. She had the key. Now it was time to find out what secrets the mysterious music box would divulge.
The music box was beautiful. Alex spent several minutes just looking at it, marveling at the beautiful detailing on it. It was truly magnificat. The amber was some of the most beautiful she’d ever seen. It absorbed the light and almost seemed to glow. The gold detailing shimmered and sparkled. Even without clues to a hidden treasure, the box was invaluable. Selling that alone could be worth the aggravation of tracking it down.
Somehow the thought of something so beautiful gathering dust in a hidden art collection made Alex feel a little queasy. She sighed, exasperated that she seemed to be growing more of a conscience now that she had everything she’d ever wanted. Unbidden, Neal’s face flashed through her mind and she groaned.
“Keep it together, Alex,” she muttered. She shook away the guilt and lifted the music box out of the bag. It was even more riveting once it was fully revealed. She saw where the key slotted in at the top of the box almost immediately, but she held back. Taking the time now to observe anything would only benefit her -- and she wanted to take a little more time to enjoy this little treasure. With great care, she lifted the lid and listened as the music played. The sound quality was fantastic. The box had been well-built, and she admired the craftsmen for the work they had done. When the final notes faded away, Alex closed the lid once more and fitted the little cherub into his proper place.
Heart pounding in anticipation, she turned the key.
Two hours later she was awash in frustration. The key had unlocked a second comb. After locking it in place, Alex played the music box again. The tune was haunting and strange, and it made absolutely no sense. It was obviously a code, but in all the code-breaking games she’d played with her grandfather, he had never taught her this particular kind.
“Opa, you didn’t tell me everything,” Alex sighed. She’d taken notes, on what she’d heard. She even wrote done the musical notes to see if any of them spelled out another message, but no, there was nothing. Not yet anyway.
Maybe in the morning she would figure something out.
Alex tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable. When she did finally sleep, her dreams centered on Neal, with the strange music from the box as a soundtrack. In every dream, something terrible happened to him, or to Kate because they didn’t have the music box.
Her newly awakened conscience nagged her until she finally staggered out of bed at six-thirty. There was only one thing she could do.
She took a cab to Neal’s place. The comb was safely hidden back in the box, the golden cherub was tucked into a pocket of her purse. She wanted a keepsake of her grand adventure. And if she ever managed to get the music box back, she was going to need it. She rested her hand on the music box and smiled wistfully. It was nice to have the fantasy partially fulfilled, but she knew she was doing the right thing.
Her grandfather had told her, just a few hours before he died, that he’d given up the quest of the music box for love. Alex thought that if Gehard Wagner could see her now, he’d understand, and approve of her actions.
The thought made her smile as the cab sped off through the city.