I'll Be Right Behind You

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Chapter 20

“She hasn’t called me in four days,” Nicole said to her friends. “I’m getting worried.”

“Still nothing?” Helios asked from his seat on the floor. They were all at Ophelia’s place. Nicole was worried since the first day Alex hadn’t called her. Her friends had assured her that she was probably just busy with work but now, even they had to admit, it was worrying.

Nicole shook her head, she couldn’t stop thinking about Alex, it was unlike her to not call one day let alone four, something had to be wrong and she couldn’t help but assume the worse.

“I’m sure she’s alright.” Ophelia tried.

“I hope so…” Nicole replied. “But I have this sick feeling that something is wrong.” She couldn’t help but assume bad something had happened. The first morning, she woke up without a text, Nicole figured Alex was in a rush that morning and didn’t get the chance to text her. Even when she hadn’t heard from the brunette all day, Nicole assumed it was because they’d finally caught a break and meaning she was busy. Nevertheless, she’d sent a text asking Alex how her day was going. By the second day, Nicole was a little concerned, especially after not having received a call at night; no matter how late it got, Alex always called. That’s when Nicole decided to call her…but it went to voicemail. She tried calling a few times the next day and all of today so far as well as sent her more countless texts. But no reply.

~ 4 days ago ~

“What the hell?” Alex muttered to herself as she forced her eyes open. Her head and neck felt like she’d been hit by a truck. It hurt when she tried to open her eyes and Alex could feel a sense of panic rising within her. Finally managing to open her eyes, she looked around; it was dark and it took her eyes a few seconds to adjust. Once it did, Alex realized she didn’t recognize the place – not that she’d expected to – the place was gray and dusty, bigger than expected, the concrete floor was covered in dust, scratches and other marks put on it over the years, the walls seemed to be unpainted, and the only light was coming in through a small window high up on the wall to her left. Alex looked down at herself, she was still fully clothed – the black t-shirt and her jeans. But her jacket and shoes were missing and so was her watch, and obviously her phone. She was propped up against the wall, half lying on a ratty old mattress, and her wrists were bound using what felt like handcuffs behind her back. Other than that, her body was free to move. For now at least. Alex thought.

What’s the last thing I remember? She asked herself, having difficulty remembering. Thinking back for a couple of seconds, it came back to her. Alex had been up almost the entire night trying to find something on the case. And as she poured her fourth cup of coffee, she noticed something fairly obvious which the team had missed. Looking down at the watch on her wrist, it read 5:42am. It was early, Alex figured, but this couldn’t wait. So she grabbed her things and bolted out the door. Alex had only unlocked the car when she felt something hit her head. And the next thing she knew…here she was.

She decided to take a look around before her captor returned, and try to figure out a way out of here – which seemed unlikely considering the fact that Alex didn’t even have a door in her sight. Her body protested as she stood up, every muscle aching. Nevertheless, once on her feet, she walked around by the walls, it had to be either a basement or a well hidden room because it wasn’t an attic; not only was the ceiling flat, but every step she took, told her it wasn’t hollow underneath. There wasn’t much, Alex realized as she finished going around; other than the mattress she’d woken up on, there was nothing other than what she assumed to be chains and shackles hanging of one of the walls. Fucking great. Another thing she realized was that there was no door…? Wait, what? Confused, Alex walked back to the center of the room slowly, and this time looking up at the ceiling. By the wall on the right to where she’d woken up, there seemed to be a latch on the ceiling.

Alex stood underneath studying it, trying to think of a way to reach it when suddenly, it turned. The trap door swung open and a ladder slid down. She didn’t move, only stepped a couple of feet away from the ladder, watching as her captor climbed down. He didn’t have a beard anymore but the scar on his face was very much familiar to Alex, it was definitely the man they were looking for. And the fact that he wasn’t wearing a mask told her the chances of her getting out of here alive were very slim.

~ Present Day ~

“Woods?!” Alex heard a muffled voice calling out her name. She was either starting to hear voices or someone was actually here other than her captor. It took her a moment to get herself up, her body bloody and bruised, her wrists now shackled to the wall but the chain was long enough for her to be able to take a few steps towards the trap door. Her body protested every small movement as she stood directly under it. Alex saw no point in yelling for help, considering she lacked the strength for it to be heard unless the door was open.

Suddenly, it flew open and Alex could only hope that one of her colleagues had found the door. But the moment was gone as soon as it had appeared when a ladder dropped down and her captor began to climb down, hastily but quietly; he looked at Alex and motioned for her to remain silent as he began to close it. She knew this was her only chance at being heard, “I’m down here!” She called out, hoping her voice was loud enough to be carried up to them. He jumped off the few remaining steps in a rush to silent her before it was too late.

A few seconds later, the door swung open again but Alex couldn’t see who it was with her captor standing over her; assuming – no, hoping – it was someone from the station. He was pulled away and thrown on the floor when Alex finally let herself believe that it was either one of the agents or detective Atom. She let out a sigh of relief, her breaths ragged as she relaxed against the floor she was laying on, not even bothering to look at who it was. The sound of the handcuffs was enough to tell her that it was one of her people.

Agent Vie rushed over to Alex once she’d handed their killer to one of the uniform cops. She leaned down next to her, “Are you okay?”

Alex nodded, her neck instantly telling her to stop. “I’m fine.” But her voice betrayed her; it came out as no more than a low, raspy whisper as she sat up.

“Uh huh,” She muttered sarcastically before turning her head towards the direction of the open trap door, “Can I get a couple of paramedics down here?”

“I’m fine, really.” Alex tried to stand up but Maya stopped her.

“Don’t.” She told her. “Don’t move till they get here, you look hurt.”

Alex sat on a hospital bed, now changed into a clean Miami PD t-shirt and hoodie, and a pair of dark sweat pants. She was waiting for someone to walk in through those doors and tell her she was cleared to leave. Alex was going to catch the first flight back to New York; she needed to be home right now, with Nicole. After everything the last few days, she couldn’t stand being away any longer. Alex closed her eyes, bringing her hand up to her neck; her shoulders and neck were killing her from being slammed against the concrete floor one too many times. There wasn’t much damage, the doctor treating her had said; bruises, a couple of cuts, nothing serious. There was a cut right above her left eyebrow which was held closed by a couple of butterfly bandages. Her jaw was also starting to bruise but the more visible ones were on her arms and torso – thankfully not visible to anyone else.

“Detective Woods?” The door opened and a nurse stepped inside.

Alex nodded. “Can I go now?” Was the first thing she asked.

“You have been cleared, yes. But we would recommend keeping you here for the night for observation.”

“I can’t.” She responded. “I need to go.”

He nodded. “Okay, just sit tight, I’m going to get your meds.” He turned to leave. “Oh, there’s a detective waiting for you outside, do you want me to send him inside?”

“Yeah.” Alex muttered, knowing very well it was detective Atom.

He entered a second later, closing the door behind him. “I thought they would keep you for the night.”

“They want to, but I don’t.” Alex answered. “I need to get back home.”

“You sure that’s a god idea right now?” He asked gently. “You’re hurt, maybe you should spend the night at least at your hotel room before getting on the plane for three hours.”

She shook her head, “I’ll be fine.”

And she was. Alex instantly felt a little better once the plane took off, knowing it was only a matter of hours before she was finally home. Detective Atom had given her a ride to her hotel to get her things and then to the airport. She had received a few weird looked for the cut on her face as well as the bruise which Alex expected was only getting worse; but, honestly, she couldn’t care less. They had recovered all her personal belongings, including her phone but it was dead – not a surprise really. And Alex was in too much of a rush to leave that she didn’t get the chance to even call Nicole.

Nicole unlocked the front door and walked into the empty apartment. It felt weird without Alex there and she wasn’t sure how much longer they’d be away. Not only did Nicole miss her, but she was more worried than usual. A phone call, or even a text, that’s all she asked for. Something to let her know that Alex was okay. Nicole pulled out her phone from her pocket as she walked to the bedroom, the clock on screen read 7:06pm and there were no text notifications, just the picture of Alex and her she had as her lock-screen wallpaper. “Where are you?” She muttered.

The doorbell suddenly ringing almost made Nicole jump. She wasn’t expecting anyone and she knew it wouldn’t be Ophelia or Robin considering she was just getting back home from Ophelia’s place. Confused, Nicole walked back to the door when the doorbell rang again. “Hold on,” She called out. Finally unlocking it, she swung it open and the person on the other side made her eyes go wide in surprise. Everything was still and silent for a moment before Nicole threw her arms around Alex.

The sudden impact took Alex by surprise, causing her to stumble back half a step to stop herself from falling over. Once she’d registered what was happening, her hand let go of the bag she was holding, letting it drop on the floor and her arms came up to wrap around Nicole, holding her as close as possible. It was comforting to say the least, finally having Nicole’s arms around her; she needed this about four hours ago when they’d finally found her. Alex held on to her tighter, the tips of her fingers digging into her shoulders. Nicole could feel the weight of the hug, immediately knowing that something was wrong. Alex’s shaky intake of breath was only more confirmation when they finally pulled apart. She thought she would be angry at Alex but something was definitely wrong and Nicole knew Alex not calling wasn’t her fault. She studied her face, noticing the bruise and the cut straightaway. “What happened?” She asked gently, leading her inside, one hand on Alex’s back and the other carrying her bag.

“It’s a long story.” Alex said as they walked up to the living room and she let herself fall on the couch, Nicole sitting down next to her. “You don’t…you don’t know anything, do you?” She asked, mildly surprised by the fact that it wasn’t all over the news that one of the investigating detectives had been taken by the killer.

Nicole shook her head slowly.

“I was taken.”

“What?!” She didn’t know what she was expecting, but this was not it. “Was it…?” Nicole didn’t want to say the words, fearing that might make it true.

Alex nodded slowly, her neck and shoulders not allowing her to. “I will tell you everything; I know you were really worried Nicole, I’m sorry.”

“No,” Nicole shook her head, “God, don’t apologize, you’ve probably been through hell, it wasn’t your fault.”

She let out a small sigh, no doubt agreeing to what Nicole was saying. “I’m just really tired and don’t have it in me to talk about it now.”

She nodded understandingly, “You look really tired.” Nicole reached out to her face, fingers ghosting over the bruise before caressing her cheek. “You want to take a nap?” Alex nodded and Nicole stood up, holding out her hand. “Come on.”

She led her to their bedroom, her hand on Alex’s back. “I’ll get you something to wear.” Nicole told her, opening one of the drawers and pulling out a t-shirt and a pair of pajama shorts as Alex stepped out of her sweats and removed her hoodie. Nicole’s breath hitched as she caught a glimpse of the angry splotches of blue and purple all over her arms; the bruises were worse than she’d have thought. But she didn’t say anything, only moved closer to where Alex was standing by the bed, and set down the clothes.

Nicole waited silently, not wanting to say anything but then Alex pulled off her t-shirt, revealing her torso which looked like a morbid painting of blue and purple “Oh my god.” She breathed out.

Looking up, she found Alex’s eyes, who was watching her intently, waiting for her reaction. “I’m fine.” Her voice was low but almost convincing; not enough to convince Nicole though.

“You don’t look like you are it.” She swallowed the lump in her throat, reaching out and placing her hand over a patch of skin on her side which was more blue than anything else.

“I am now.” Alex almost whispered, placing her hand over Nicole’s and closing the distance between them as her lips touched her’s. It was gentle and soft and sweet and everything Alex had missed the most the past few weeks.

Getting into bed, it felt like a weight had been taken off of her. The feeling of the pillow under her momentarily made her forget everything that had happened the last few days; there was something oddly comforting about being back in your own bed after a while, especially after the spending the last few days like that. And having Nicole next to her made it that much better. Alex turned on her side, her back to Nicole as her arm found its way around Alex. She pulled herself closer, placing a small kiss on the back of Alex’s neck, “I missed you.”

“I missed you too.”

Nicole got out of bed only a few minutes later, reluctantly. Even though she didn’t want to leave Alex’s side, she thought getting something to eat would be a smart idea. Knowing Alex, she hasn’t eaten the entire day and hell knows what happened in the last four days. It didn’t take her more than a few minutes to fall asleep and Nicole figured it would be at least a couple of hours before she woke. Walking out of the room, she closed the door gently behind her before making her way to the kitchen.

She was sitting on the couch about three hours later, in front of the TV when the door to the room opened noisily and Alex stepped out. “Hey,” Nicole said. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Alex nodded, walking up to her but Nicole didn’t buy it, she kept looking at her waiting to speak up and eventually she did. “The door was closed.” She explained, sitting down. “And it was dark,” She continued reluctantly. “It’s stupid but I panicked. But I’m fine.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

She stopped Nicole, slowly shaking her head. “No, you didn’t know.” She watched as Alex brought her hand up to her neck, rubbing it as she continued to speak after a brief pause. “There isn’t much to tell you really. You saw the bruises and well…it actually could’ve been a lot worse.”

“Worse?” Nicole asked rhetorically.

Alex bit her lower lip and nodded. “But if the team was another day late…” She trailed off, taking in a shaky breath.

“It’s alright.” Nicole placed her hand on her back, gently rubbing up and down. “You’re okay.”

“I thought I wouldn’t get to see you again.” Her voice cracked and Alex could feel tears stinging the back of her eyes. “I thought I was going to die in there.” She took a deep breath, calming herself down.

Nicole pulled her closer and Alex rested her head on her shoulder. “That thought may have crossed my mind too.” Nicole confessed, it wasn’t likely for her to not hear from Alex and she couldn’t help herself from assuming the worst – no matter how much she tried not to. “But I couldn’t bear the thought of that.” She could feel tears soaking through the fabric of her t-shirt. “I couldn’t bare the thought of not getting to see you again; I don’t know what I would do.” Nicole fought back tears; she didn’t know how it happened, how she fell so hopelessly in love with Alex Woods…but she knew one thing, and that was that she wouldn’t change a thing about it.

“I’m sorry,” Alex said after a moment. “I’m sorry I put you through that.”

“What? No.” Nicole cut in, taken aback. “Please don’t apologize, this wasn’t your fault. At all.”

“But you were worried and-” Alex brought her head up, looking at Nicole, stopping with a sigh. “You deserve better than this.”

“Where is this coming from?” she tilted her head slightly in confusion.

It wasn’t coming from anywhere really. Alex always had that thought at the back of her head. But after the last four days, and after hearing how that was on Nicole… “I didn’t want to put you through that. I think I already do enough to worry you with work and everything…I’m sorry about the last few days, I should’ve been more carefu-”

“Don’t do that.” She told her gently. “Don’t blame yourself, you had nothing to do with this.” Nicole looked at her, waiting for her to respond but Alex remained silent. “I love you, no matter what, you know that right?”

“Yeah.” She could feel her chest tightening as she nodded, “And I still ask myself why.” Alex muttered.

“Because…” Nicole took a deep breath, wanting to make her feel better. “Ophelia and Robin pushed me off a cliff and I fell head-first for you.”

That got a small smile from Alex. “Remind me to thank them.”

Nicole lay awake; Alex was asleep next to her, her back facing Nicole and her arm around Alex – their usual position. It was past 1am when they had finally gotten into bed. They’d stayed up, staring mindlessly at the TV screen, paying attention to nothing but each other’s presence. It took Alex a little longer than last time to fall asleep but it had been at least two hours ago, but Nicole couldn’t. It was dumb, she knew that, but Nicole was afraid to look away from Alex for even a moment fearing she’d be gone again.

She finally convinced herself to close her eyes when Nicole felt Alex stir uncomfortably next to her. “Alex?” She asked quietly, not wanting to startle her.

But she didn’t respond, still asleep.

“Baby, wake up.” Nicole tried. Nightmares weren’t unusual and by now, Nicole knew that the best thing to do was wake her up. She tapped on her shoulder lightly.

But instead of a slight surprise of being brought out of whatever memory was haunting her that night, Alex almost jumped up, her breathing fast and heavy as she sat up.

“Hey,” Nicole followed, sitting up with a worried expression on her face. “What’s wrong?” But Alex didn’t even seem to hear her. Nicole placed her hand on Alex’s back. “Alex…” She pulled her in closer and Alex immediately buried her head in the crook of Nicole’s neck. “It’s okay.” Nicole tried, she could feel the tears and the warmth of her breath on her neck. She lowered them back onto the bed, lying down, Alex’s body racking with sobs, the events of the last four days catching up to her.

Nicole waited a minute before speaking, Alex’s sobbing was under control but her breathing was still uneven and panicked. “Can you hear my heartbeat?” She asked slowly, and Alex nodded, her head resting on Nicole’s chest since they’d laid back down. “Focus on that, nothing else.” She said in an attempt to calm her down.

After a couple of minutes, Alex found that it was actually working; she wasn’t feeling as panicked as before and her breathing was starting to calm down. She never understood the “Some times home isn’t four walls, its two eyes and a heartbeat” quote; but in that moment, it hit her, being with Nicole, that felt like home; whenever she looked into those intense blue eyes, or caught a glimpse of that smile…she felt at home – something, Alex figured, she hadn’t felt with anyone till now.

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