“What are you doing?” Nicole asked groggily, cracking an eye open to look at Alex, who was walking out of the bathroom, dressed in a pair of skinny jeans and t-shirt from the blonde’s closet.
“The hospital called.” She replied.
“What did they say?” Nicole sat up straight.
“Reyna’s stable. For now.” Alex told her. “I borrowed some cloths, hope that’s okay.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Nicole brushed it off. “What time is it?”
“Umm…” She looked at the watch on her wrist. “2:05 am.”
The blonde only nodded. “Come on, I’ll drive.”
“You don’t have to.” Alex tried but Nicole was already getting out of bed. “It’s late and you should sleep, you have class in the morning.”
“It’s fine. You shouldn’t be behind the wheel right now.”
She thought for a moment before nodding. “Alright.”
“Give me 2 minutes.”
The ride to the hospital was a short one but felt a lot longer. Alex was very anxious and Nicole wanted to say something that would calm her down but she couldn’t think of anything that would help. The small voice inside Alex’s head wouldn’t stop telling her how badly she messed up and if anything happened to Reyna, it would be her fault. She didn’t know what to expect once she saw Reyna again. She hadn’t seen her since they rushed her into surgery – probably one of the most terrifying moments of her life. Her hands were shaking, Alex looked down at them, almost feeling Reyna’s blood on them once again, warm and wet against her skin. She clenched her hands into a fist in an attempt to stop the trembling and hoped Nicole hadn’t noticed.
“You okay?” Nicole asked, glancing towards Alex for a fraction of a second before her eyes darted back to the road.
“Yeah, yeah.” Alex replied quickly. “I’m just not sure what to expect right now.”
“She’ll be fine.” She told her. “You have to stay positive.”
“Not the easiest thing to do right now.” Alex muttered.
Arriving at the hospital, it only took a couple of minutes to find a parking spot. Alex stepped out of the car, frozen to her spot. “What if something happens to her?”
Nicole circled around the car and linked her arm with Alex’s. “Well, we have to hope for the best. But…” She paused, continuing reluctantly, “…if something does go wrong, – if – you won’t be alone, I’ll be right here.”
“Thanks.” Alex nodded and with that, they made their way towards the entrance and up to the floor where Reyna’s room was.
As they approached, they noticed Ophelia sitting on one the chairs on the wall opposite Reyna’s room. “Lincoln’s inside.” She told.
Alex nodded as she walked up to the door.
“I’ll be right here okay?” The blonde told her.
She nodded as Nicole took a seat next to her roommate.
“How’s she doing?” Ophelia asked her friend, looking straight ahead as the door closed behind Alex.
“As well as you’d expect.” Nicole sighed. “What about Lincoln?”
“Alex’s probably better at dealing with her emotions than he is.” She turned to look at Nicole as she continued, “He’s a total wreck.”
“Not by much but yeah, probably.”
Ophelia turned to Nicole and spoke ‘If something happens to Reyna…’ letting the sentence hang in the air unfinished.
“Hey,” Alex said softly as she entered the room, standing by the door as Lincoln stood up from the chair next to Reyna’s bed. He muttered something into his sister’s ear, kissed her forehead and walked towards the door causing Alex to move further into the room.
“Hi,” Her friend greeted her as the door closed softly behind her brother. Her voice was barely audible amidst the sound of the machines beeping in the background; it was reassuring in a way, Alex thought, it meant her friend was still alive.
“How are you doing?” She asked, sitting down next to her partner.
“Not too well.” Reyna sighed. “I just wanted to see you one more ti-”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” Alex cut her off, her voice low and gravelly, almost stern. Taking her hand, she continued, “It’ll be okay. You’re gonna be okay.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” She forced the words out.
Alex shook her head, not saying anything.
“Try to see it as it is.”
“Please don’t…” Tears threatened to spill. Reyna would be okay. She had to be. “You’re going to be fine. In a few months, you’re going to be back at the station with me, catching killers, doing what we do best…” She could almost feel her heart tightening in her chest as she forced the words out.
“And I’m going to stop messing up like this.” She blinked the tears away as she continued. “I’m going to wait for back-up and…and I’m going to call it in…”
“Alex stop.” Reyna cut her off. “We both know that’s not happening.”
“Don’t do this to me. Please.” Alex shook her head. “I know I messed up this time. Like really messed up and I’m so sorr-”
“It wasn’t your fault, please don’t say that.”
“But it was.” Alex looked away from her friend and down at her hand holding Reyna’s, muttering, “It should’ve been me.”
“No.” She shook her head ever so slightly. “You can’t do that to yourself, Alex.” Reyna paused. “I need you to promise me a couple of things.” When Alex didn’t look up at her, she pressed on. “Please.”
“Okay,” She whispered, finally looking up.
“Promise me you’ll look out for Lincoln.” Reyna started. “You know how he can be.”
“Don’t say it like that.” Alex pleaded, trying her best to not let the tears spill. “Don’t say it like you’re not going to be around to do it.”
“I probably won’t be.” Her voice wavered. “He’s all I have.” Reyna continued. “You and Lincoln. You’re all I have left. And the two of you mean more to me than anything else in this world, you know that. And I need to know you’re going to look out for each other if I’m not around.”
“I will. I promise.” Alex tried to stay strong, wiping away the tears now spilling as she nodded. “But I don’t think he will want to see me after what I did.”
“He’s not mad at you.” She started. “He knows it wasn’t your fault.”
“But it was.”
“Another thing I want you to promise,” Reyna continued, dismissing what Alex had said. “This one’s about you.”
“What’d you mean?”
“Promise me that if I don’t make it, you’re not going to spiral out of control.”
Alex sighed looking away once again, not saying anything.
“Promise me you’re not going to shut yourself out and you’re going to let people help.”
She scoffed. “Who do I have left?”
“Nicole.” Her friend answered, straining to speak. “She cares about you. Whether you choose to believe it or not…”
Alex went silent for a second before answering, “I can’t promise you that. I’m sorry, but you know I can’t.”
Reyna hummed in acknowledgement. It wasn’t anything unfamiliar when it came to Alex; whenever something bothered her or something bad happened, she would shut everyone out, pretend she was perfectly fine. Reyna had believed her too, the first few months. But then one day, she just broke down. It was something small that finally sent her over the edge, making her crumble. “There’s another thing.”
“What is it?”
“You can’t blame yourself for this.”
The moment the words left her mouth, Alex let go of her hand and leaned back into her chair, refusing to look at her partner.
“And you can’t take it out on yourself.”
Alex sighed, “I’ve been clean for years now.”
“Not completely.” Reyna reminded her of the night last year, after her mom had called.
“Clean enough.” She corrected herself.
“Fine, clean enough. But I don’t want this to push you over the edge.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to you.” Alex told her, trying to convince herself more than Reyna. “And who’s going to pull me back over the edge without you around?”
“Nicole.” Reyna was having more difficulty speaking. “Like I said, she cares about you and you have to let her in.” She repeated.
“She’s not going to want to stick around after all this.” Alex paused. “After she sees me like this.”
“You don’t know that.”
She let a moment pass before agreeing reluctantly, “Fine. I’ll let her in…if she wants me to.”
Silence fell over for a couple of seconds before Alex finally spoke. “You know I love you right?”
“Of course I do, why would you even ask me that?” Reyna’s voice was just above a whisper. “I love you too.”
Alex smiled through the tears.
“This wasn’t your fault.” Reyna tried again.
“I don’t know if I believe that. Or if I ever will.” Alex leaned forward and took her friend’s hand once again. “You’re going to be okay.”
Her friend forced a smile, closing her eyes. Alex made small circles on the back of Reyna’s hand with her thumb. Silence fell, the sound of the machines and Reyna’s breathing almost soothing. Everything was calm and for a moment, Alex believed everything would be alright again; that everything would go back to the way it was before…all this. And that Reyna would be back at the station, by her side in a matter of months.
All of a sudden, everything changed. The rhythmic beeps of the machines in the background changed to one more urgent as a wave of doctors rushed in to the room and Alex was practically shoved out. “No wait,” she wasn’t sure what had happened, assuming the worst. “What’s happening? Is she okay?” She craned her head to look but couldn’t as the door slammed shut in her face.
Alex remained rooted to her spot outside the door as Nicole almost ran up to her. “What happened?”
“Something’s wrong.” Her voice trembled as she answered.
“Come on,” Nicole placed her hand on the small of her back, guiding her to one of the chairs in the hallway.
“Alex, what’s wrong?” Lincoln asked, standing next to them. Alex had completely missed him standing right outside the door when she got, practically, thrown out. “Is Reyna okay?”
“I don’t think so.” Alex replied, her voice almost inaudible.
Silence fell as Ophelia led Lincoln back to his seat, trying to comfort and reassure him that his sister would be alright while Nicole did the same with Alex. Nicole wanted to say something to help calm either one of them down but decided against it. After a few agonizing minutes, the door to Reyna’s room opened as a doctor stepped out. Both Alex and Lincoln stood up and walked over to her, asking if Reyna was alright. The doctor – Dr. Cartwig – spoke in a low voice, Nicole and Ophelia unable to hear a word.
A moment later, Lincoln stormed off down the hall causing Ophelia to take off after him. And Alex stumbled a step backwards, almost collapsing into the chair behind her; her entire world crumbling around her. Nicole rushed over but Alex didn’t speak, she just stood silent for a few moments.
“She’s gone.” The brunette finally said, her voice low.
“Oh god.” She gasped, wrapping her arms around Alex. “I am so sorry,”
Alex remained stiff, unsure of what to do with herself. It felt like her entire world was crumbling around her but she couldn’t even move.
Nicole remained quiet for a few long moments before pulling apart, “Let’s take you home.”
“She’s gone because of me.” Alex said as she laid down in bed, speaking for the first time since they left the hospital. “It’s all my fault.”
“No, it’s not.” Nicole tried.
“But it is,” She raised her voice slightly as she sat up straight, swinging her legs off the bed. “Her blood’s on my hands. I should’ve done something…”
“There’s nothing you could’ve done,” The blonde followed her friend’s lead, sitting up and scooting closer to Alex. She settled right behind her. “You know, it wasn’t your fault. It’s on the son-of-a-bitch that shot her, not you.”
“But she is-” Alex stopped herself before continuing, her words having to be forced out. “Was. She was my partner. I was responsible for everything that happened to her just like she was responsible for everything that happened to me.”
Nicole didn’t say anything, just moved closer and rested her head on the back of Alex’s shoulder, letting her know she wasn’t alone.
“I feel so empty right now.” Alex whispered, tears spilling. “It feels like my entire world is collapsing and someone is tearing up my insides.” She sucked in a shaky breath.
“You’re not alone on this okay?”
“Why does it feel like I am?” She questioned. “Reyna’s gone and Lincoln hates me…”
“Lincoln doesn’t hate you. He doesn’t even blame you for what happened.” The blonde told her.
“He does.” Alex said before Nicole could continue. “He’s not going to say it. He never would.”
“You shouldn’t blame yourself.” She nudged Alex as she did lied down, asking her to do the same.
Alex followed, lying down on her back, looking up at the ceiling. “God, I’m having a serious case of déjà vu.”
“What are you talking about?” Nicole asked, puzzled.
“I get the people I love killed.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because Reyna isn’t the first person that died because of me.”
“Reyna didn’t die because of you.”
Alex shook her head.
“And who are you talking about?”
“Costia.” She replied.
Nicole waited for her to continue.
“She was my girlfriend through the last two years of college.” Alex explained. “I thought it meant something…I mean two years is kind of a long time. But we lost touch after graduation.” She paused for a moment. “She came back though, during my first year in homicide. As a cop.” The brunette almost smiled, still unable to believe Costia hadn’t told her. “The two of us had talked things out, and we were back together within a couple of days… “ Alex continued with a sigh. “She was just starting out and me and Reyna had been in homicide for a few weeks now. And it was a busy week at the precinct so they paired her with the two of us to show her the ropes.” She paused.
“I fucked up.” Alex stated. “After a couple of months, we were working on this case and we went to bring in our suspect. We didn’t wait for back-up and just rushed the whole thing. The apartment was empty when we went in. Me and Reyna didn’t clear the place properly. Costia went ahead to see if our suspect had left anything useful behind when…”
Nicole waited for her to continue and eventually she did, “…when we heard a gunshot. He came out of nowhere with a gun drawn…bullet went straight through her head.” The brunette clenched her jaws at the memory of seeing her on the floor, bits and pieces of her insides splattered on the wall and floor. “And it was my fault. Just like this was.”
They went still for a few seconds before Nicole finally spoke, “What did you and Reyna talk about?”
“She told me to look out for Lincoln.” She started, turning on her side to look at Nicole. “…And she told me to not shut everyone out. And to not blame myself for this.”
She nodded. “She’s right. You shouldn’t be blaming yourself for this.”
Alex wiped at her eyes, stopping the tears before they could spill. “I don’t know what to do without her.” The aching in her chest seemed to get worse with every word she spoke.
Nicole pulled her in closer. “I’m so sorry. She didn’t deserve this.”
“No,” She shook her head against Nicole. “If anyone did, it was me.”
“Don’t do that to yourself.”
“I don’t know what to do.” A sob escaped her before she could stop it. Breaking down in front of someone wasn’t something Alex found ideal. She didn’t like to let herself do that when alone let alone around someone. She could bottle everything up for a very long time before the lid finally came off. And when it did, it would be 2 in the morning, with no one around; and Alex would plug in her headphones and just let herself go. Some times she couldn’t even pinpoint a specific reason that made her finally break down. Yes, it wasn’t healthy but Alex found it easier than talking about what was wrong. “I don’t know what to do without her.” Alex repeated, forcing the words out.
Nicole sighed, her arm around Alex tightening. The sound of Alex’s ragged breaths and muffled sobs filled the room as they lay there; Alex almost content in Nicole’s arms.
The aching in her chest seemed to dull as she let herself fall apart. It made her feel lighter somehow yet worn down and tired, wanting to collapse right then and there next to Nicole. Reyna was like a sister to her, it felt like a part of her died along with her. Alex could feel herself falling apart inside, it wasn’t something she hadn’t felt before, only this time it hurt more than she thought was possible.
She wasn’t sure when either of them had finally fallen asleep but Nicole was woken up by movement next to her. The blonde yawned as she sat up, turning the light on the nightstand on. “Alex?” Surprisingly she was still asleep but rather uncomfortably. Alex stirred uneasily in her place; obvious to Nicole that she was probably having a nightmare. “Hey,” She tried to wake her up. “Alex wake up,” She tried again, placing a hand gently on her arm.
Her eyes shot open as she jerked awake. Alex let out a sigh of relief and visibly relaxed at the sight of Nicole.
“What’s wrong?” Nicole asked once Alex sat up.
“Nothing.” She lied after a couple of seconds.
“Did you have a nightmare?”
“That’s not nothing.”
“It is when you’re me.” The words left her mouth before she could stop them. “I’m sorry I woke you up.” Alex added before Nicole could question her. “Let’s just go back to sleep.”