Sara stared at the stray brown hairs that stuck to the back of Alex's neck. Wasn't she hot? Alex was dressed from head to toe in black, from her hip-length tank top to her leather boots, and even though her thick hair was pulled back into a ponytail, a few hairs had escaped the maroon elastic band and plastered themselves to her skin.
Dressed in a blue halter top with white linen pants and an embarrassingly large hat, her skin slathered in coconut scented sunblock, Sara was sweltering. She thought of New York in the dead of winter, snow getting black and hard in the gutters. She yearned for it, the cold wind in her face as she tried to hail a cab, or the slippery concrete stairs as she rushed into the warm subway station. Yes, every single cold weather thing that everyone ever complained about, she'd take it in spades if it meant getting out of the sun.
It probably wasn't even 90 degrees, but the humidity from the rainfall earlier in the day made the heat absolutely oppressive. Even under the SPF50, Sara could feel the tingle of sunburn on her fair skin.
Alex glanced over at her, still chattering away with Spanish with some local contacts (criminals, Sara told herself, but it was really unimportant at this point since she'd spent the last three weeks traveling with a criminal), and smiled. Sara had no idea what they were talking about, or even if they were discussing Neal Caffrey. If they had been west into Haiti, Sara could have helped, fluent in French, but as they stood in the Dominican Republic, she was useless. One semester of high school Spanish left her with the ability to count to ten and ask where the bathroom was, but not enough to understand the directions on how to get there.
"Any news?" Sara asked when Alex lazily jogged back over to her.
"Neal isn't as famous as he likes to think he is," Alex replied, an amused smile on her face. "They'd never heard of him, but a man fitting his description, who was accompanied by a funny little man--"
"--came through a week and a half ago. The guys were pretty tight-lipped about any of the details, but that's to be expected."
"A week and a half?" Sara repeated, her heart pounding. She hadn't really heard a word Alex had said after that. Even though they hadn't started their search until nearly three months after Neal and Mozzie had left New York, they found themselves consistently a month behind them. To suddenly be this close meant everything. They were lucky that Neal and Mozzie stood out. A gorgeous, charming blue-eyed con accompanied by a paranoid bald man. Yes, people remembered them.
Alex nodded and smiled. "I know. They told me about this small airport down on the coast -- drug runners, probably -- that handle unsavory business. He told them about it, so if Neal and Mozzie left the Dominican, it was probably out of there. We can leave in the morning. It should only take a couple hours by car, but we should probably show up during the day to be on the safe side."
Alex only took the safe side because Sara was with her. They both knew this, and under most circumstances, Sara would have insisted they go right away, but these weren't most circumstances. She was a little more cautious these days, too.
The trail of Victor Moreau had ended a long time ago, only because Sara had laid eyes on the passport, if only for a few seconds. She gave the name to the FBI when Neal first ran, and Victor fell off the map not long after. Now that she was working with Alex, information didn't go to the FBI. They kept it all for themselves, leading them for the next seedy airport and tropical location.
"I'm going to get some food," Alex said. "You want to come with?"
Sara wanted to go with her, but her stomach churned at the thought of eating, or even being around food. She shook her head. "I think I'm getting a little heatstroke. I'm going to head back to the hotel."
Hotel was a bit of an overstatement. There wasn't air conditioning, not where they were staying, but there was a ceiling fan and she wouldn't be in direct sunlight. Plus, there was a bathroom where she could throw up in almost perfect privacy.
She and Alex had been sharing rooms since they left the US. They were staying in some shady places, and many of the doors had crappy locks that Alex could easily jimmie open with a hairpin, and besides, there was safety in numbers. Sara had brought her baton along with her, and she slept with it under her pillow. Alex obtained weapons wherever she went, and left them behind any time they crossed a border. Sara didn't ask questions, but she had always sort of figured Alex was as funny about weapons the same way Neal was, but that hadn't been the case at all. Alex didn't seem to like the guns or knives she often picked up, but she still found them useful when she thought she might need them.
"I can bring you something back," Alex said, falling in step next to Sara. "Something cold."
"No, it's okay," Sara replied. "You don't have to hang out at the hotel just because I can't handle the heat. There's all sorts of things to do here. Be a tourist for a couple hours."
Alex laughed. "I see tourists and all I see are easy marks. I could pick a hundred wallets and no one would be the wiser until morning. It's not even fun when they're that easy."
For a moment, Sara wondered what Alex saw when they looked at each other. Not an easy mark, that was for certain. What was Alex even doing there? Of course, it was Alex who approached her about teaming up.
"I heard through the grapevine that you're looking for Neal," Alex said, opening up a single serving non-dairy creamer. She dumped it in her coffee and looked up at Sara. "Is that true?"
It had been true.
Sara didn't think she'd be the type trying to hunt down her ex-boyfriend, especially one who was a convicted felon who had fled the country, but there she was, trying to get any scrap of information she could from her Federal contacts. She'd told them everything she knew and when she asked for the favor in return, they gave her nothing. Diana Barrigan had looked at her apologetically, but shook her head and told her it was need-to-know. Sara couldn't find the words to tell her why she needed to know.
Do you know where he is?" Sara asked. She hadn't ordered anything at the diner where Alex had asked to meet. Alex had a full glass of ice water sitting next to her coffee, and after a moment, Sara snatched up the water and took a sip. If Alex thought that was strange, she didn't say a word.
Alex shook her head. "I was going to ask you the same thing. If you don't know where he is, what do you know?"
They sat there for an hour, comparing notes. They each had a handful of facts and a whole lot more rumors. Four days later, they set off for Mexico, and they'd been moving south ever since. There they were, almost three weeks later, hoping each clue would lead them to another one, or, even better, to Neal and Mozzie.
Sara hadn't asked why Alex wanted to find them, and Alex, not indulging the information had, extended the same courtesy to Sara. They each had their own reasons, and if finding Neal was the goal for both of them, the reasons were unimportant.
At the hotel, Sara stripped down to her underwear and bra, frankly, not caring if Alex saw. After sharing hotel rooms and bathrooms, there wasn't much the other hadn't seen, and in heat like this, modesty wasn't on Sara's list of priorities. If Alex cared, that was her problem, but she hadn't said a word.
Sara stretched out on her bed, positioning herself under the ceiling fan. She closed her eyes, and it didn't take long for her to drift off. However, what only felt like moments later, her eyes shot open. "Oh my god, what's that smell?"
Alex's eyes were wide as she held up a brown paper sack with a grease stain across the bottom. "I had leftovers. It's a--"
She was about to apologize for snapping, but instead of words, Sara could feel the bile rising up in her throat. She stumbled off the bed and raced to the bathroom, dropping to her knees in front of the toilet. Kneeling before the porcelain throne, she thought with a rueful laugh that didn't quite make it past her lips, afraid if she opened her mouth, she'd throw up again. She swallowed and her throat burned.
Wasn't this supposed to be over by now? The book she had tucked into her bag said that the morning sickness and nausea should fade with the second trimester. Of course, she hadn't stayed in the same place for more than three days and had been eating out of foil since they left the States.
"Sara?" Alex called through the door a few minutes later. "Are you okay?"
"Fine," Sara replied weakly. She reached up for the toilet's chain, pulling on it and flushing the contents away. She leaned back, not quite ready to trust her legs to hold her up. Besides, the tile floor was cool, so as long as she ignored the occasional roach that crawled along the corners of the room, it wasn't bad. It wasn't much different from New York.
The door opened a crack and Alex's hand appeared, holding a bottle of water. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," Sara said. She rolled her head back against the wall and smiled as best she could when Alex handed her the bottle. "Thanks. I guess the heat finally got to me."
Alex sat down next to her, looking unimpressed. "It's always the heat, or the food, or a bug... Sara, are you going to keep using those lines? It's been four months since Neal left New York and you're..."
Sara dropped her gaze to the floor. Maybe she had thought Alex just wouldn't notice. She didn't think she was showing much. She held her empty hand over the curve of her stomach. "Is it that obvious?"
"Well, you do hang out in your underwear a lot. I don't know how long you thought you were going to hide it with that plan."
Sara nodded. She sort of felt like laughing, because she hadn't really considered trying to cover up her belly, even knowing that it was an important part in hiding a pregnancy. The need to stay cool won out. "I know. I'm just not meant for tropical locations. I hate humidity. Why couldn't Neal and Mozzie gone to Poland? Is it cold in Poland? It sounds like a cold place."
Alex laughed. "I don't know."
Neither of them said anything, and after a moment, Sara looked up at Alex, who was contemplating her carefully. "What?" Sara asked.
"Is this why you want to find Neal?" Alex asked. She nodded at Sara's abdomen. "Because you're pregnant? I mean, it's his baby, right?"
Sara nodded again. "It's not like I want him to come back to New York and raise the baby with me. That's not him. It's... it's not even me. He ran for a reason, Alex, and whatever that was, I trust him enough to know that to alternative wasn't good. He loved New York. He loved June and Peter--"
"And you?" Alex asked. It wasn't an accusation, and it wasn't mocking, like Neal how would fall in love with her, and it wasn't even that curious. It was just a question, like a fact.
"I don't know. But I know that he was happy. He was happy with his job and his life. He may have even been happy with me. And maybe he'd be better off never knowing, but I can't do that, but I just feel like he has to know, does that make sense?" She didn't pause to let Alex answer. "Maybe it's cruel to tell him, but I have to try."
Alex didn't move. Sara took a long drink of water and wondered if Alex was going to tell her what she wanted with Neal, but Alex didn't say anything. All she did was take Sara's hand, and it was all Sara could do to not audibly gasp in surprise. For all their time spent together, they never touched except for maybe bumping into each other as they carried their bags around an airport.
Sara couldn't explain how good just the touch of Alex's hand against her own felt. It was comfort and still managed to send an electric shock up the length of Sara's arm. He mouth twitched into a smile, and Alex gave her a tentative grin back.
She didn't know what Alex thought of her, but when Sara looked at Alex, she saw nothing but mystery. She knew Alex's history, her German grandfather who told her about a music box that lead to unimaginable treasure, and she knew there was some kind of history with Neal, but she didn't know Alex as a person. In all the time they'd been traveling, they'd only ever really talked about Neal and Mozzie.
Sara, suddenly aware that she'd just thrown up, turned her face away. She wasn't going to forget herself for even a minute. If she did, tired and vulnerable on the bathroom floor, she wasn't sure what she would do.
"Hey." Alex pulled her hand free and reached up to touch Sara's hair. "We'll find him, okay? We have to."
It was easier to let Alex think that's was what she was worried about, instead of bad breath, so Sara lifted her chin and smiled. "I know."
Sara wasn't entirely sure how Alex obtained the things she got, but she tried not to ask too many questions. They always had a place to sleep, food to eat, and transportation. Sara had plenty of traveler's checks, American cash, and three credit cards, but except for a few choice hotels, she hadn't really used much of them. Alex supplied everything (even when part of their agreement on the trip was that Sara would fund it, but maybe Alex hadn't really meant it when she agreed), and Sara kept her mouth shut.
When Alex showed up the next morning with a bright blue Jeep that looked like it may have survived a couple hurricanes, Sara couldn't help but ask, "Where did you get that?"
"Bargain shopping," Alex replied, and Sara realized she didn't want to know the details. "Climb in."
The Jeep was without a top or doors, so Sara secured her bag in the back seat and climbed into the front, clutching her sunblock. She'd already applied a layer before she even stepped out of the room, but if they were going to be in a topless car for two hours, she was going to need more.
"What if it starts raining?" she asked, popping open the purple lid and pouring the white lotion into her hand.
Alex shrugged. "We'll get wet."
It probably shouldn't have bothered Sara. She had showered that morning, and fixed her hair, but the humidity was already creeping up into it. It was going to get windblown in the car, so what would a little rain matter? She glanced at Alex, whose hair was pulled back in another ponytail, and realized the smartest thing to do.
"Do you have another hair thing?" Sara asked, motioning to Alex's ponytail. She rubbed sunblock over her shoulders, which were already tinged red.
"Sure," Alex replied. She dug in her pocket and pulled out a yellow band and handed it to Sara. There were a few brown hairs still clinging to it, and Sara tried to pull them away, but all she got were the hairs sticking to her. Finally, she ignored it and pulled her hair away from her face.
They'd been on the road in silence for maybe half an hour when Sara looked over at Alex. "I wish we'd had time to catch a baseball game."
Alex barked a laugh. "What?"
"Do you know how many professional baseball players come out of the Dominican? It's like there's baseball talent in the air. There had to be a game somewhere, even if it was just kids playing on the street." She would have loved to have watched that, and then talked to the kids (through Alex translating, of course), and remember all their names just in case any of them were playing in the big leagues, twenty years down the road.
"I'm not into sports," Alex said over the sound of the rushing air around them.
Sara grew up with sports. She couldn't even remember the first Tigers game she had attended. One of her earliest memories was standing in old Tigers Stadium, clinging to Jaime's hand while their father ran to get them ice creams. It probably wasn't a good idea, leaving two girls under the age of six alone, even for just ten minutes in Detroit, but Sara never felt afraid. She always felt like everything was right there. While she liked hockey and enjoyed attending football games, baseball had always been a safe place for her. It had been a haven.
She could have used that now. She was thousands of miles away from home, pregnant, and traveling through the criminal underworld with a known thief to find a convicted felon. Sure, that felon had been her boyfriend, and he was sweet and charming, like a prince out of a Disney film, with the flawless face to match, but he was still a wanted criminal. He was wanted, and she wasn't going to turn him in.
Sometimes, Sara wasn't sure who she'd become since she started things up with Neal Caffrey, but it wasn't all bad. In fact, most of it had been pretty damn good.
"What are you into?" Sara asked. She sort of liked the idea of peeling away the mystery that was Alex Hunter.
Alex shrugged with one shoulder. "I like winning."
"That sounds like a challenging hobby," Sara replied dryly.
"That's why I like it," Alex said. She turned away from the road for just a moment to flash Sara a grin. "I like getting what I want, especially when it's hard. That's when it's the most satisfying."
Sara could relate to that, but it wasn't something she would consider a hobby, but maybe Alex was joking about that. Sara wasn't actually sure. Alex could be harder to read that Neal.
"Chocolate," Alex said, and Sara blinked at her.
"I love chocolate. It's not a hobby, but it's what I'm into. There's this place uptown that makes these amazing savory chocolates. They have this sun dried tomato chocolate that is to die for. I was skeptical at first, but I go there at least once week when I'm in the city." Alex smiled. "Of course, I also have no problem with sweet chocolate. I'm a sucker for cupcakes with big globs of icing."
Sara smiled, too. She'd never been a dessert fan, and when she had it, she ate key lime pie or cheesecake with fresh raspberries. She wasn't one for chocolate, but the way Alex spoke about it, she thought she might like to try it wherever it was Alex ate it.
"That sounds tasty," Sara said, and Alex's smile spread into a grin.
"It is. I'll take you sometime."
I'd like that," Sara said, but she wasn't sure if Alex heard her over the sound of the rushing air.
Sara liked Niazo, even with the heat. She and Alex ate lunch and then, while Alex asked around, knowing who to talk to, and how to say it, Sara found exactly what she was looking for: ten year olds playing baseball in the street, moving out of the way every time a car came by. It reminded her of when she was ten, back when she would play with the boys in her neighborhood. She never had any natural talent for the game, but she was fast on the makeshift bases and she played hard. None of the other kids made fun of her, even when she fumbled the ball. She would have kicked their asses if they had.
The kids on the street were good, and Sara cheered for both teams. She seemed to egg all of them into showing off, making back-handed plays and swinging harder at the ball. That resulted in a few more strikeouts.
"Hey," Alex said, coming up behind Sara. "I got directions to the airport."
Sara took one lingering look back at the baseball game, and then turned to follow Alex. "How far?"
While Alex talked to the guys at the airport (who didn't appear to be drug runners, but Sara didn't actually have a lot of experience with drug runners, so maybe she didn't know what they looked like; but these men appeared to be very friendly, one of them apparently flirting with Alex), Sara sat in the car, applying more sunblock to the back of her neck.
Alex jogged over to the Jeep, her ponytail swinging. "They were here, and they flew to Kingston, but Jesus said they were asking about Aruba. They don't fly to Aruba out of this airport, but there's one in Port Morant that does."
"Aruba," Sara repeated. "Can we go to a real airport and fly directly to Aruba without going to Jamaica first? We don't have to literally follow their every move. If they were going to Aruba, they had to have a specific reason."
"Oh, if they went to Aruba, I know exactly why they were there." Alex grinned and climbed into the Jeep. "There's not a lot of black market work in Aruba, but there's Ramon. He's a smuggler. He gets things in an out of countries without anyone knowing."
"Don't you all do that?" Sara asked.
Alex started up the car and turned her grin to Sara. "Not like he does."
They couldn't get a flight into Oranjestad until morning, so they booked a hotel room by the airport in Santo Domingo. It was a nice room with air conditioning and they could have gotten separate rooms and been perfectly safe, but Alex didn't suggest it, so Sara just got one room put on her credit card. Sara liked sharing with Alex. She was a familiar presence in the room and the further they got, the less Sara wanted to be alone.
Sara brushed her teeth and walked out of the bathroom, the carpet plush under her feet. She snapped the toothbrush holder shut and tucked it back into her bag.
"What are you going to do when you can't fit into your clothes?" Alex asked. She was sitting on the end of her bed, her knees pulled up to her chest. She had already changed into her pajamas, a pair of men's plaid boxers and a white tank top without a bra underneath. Her hair was loose and flowing around her shoulders. Out of her armor of black leather and denim, she looked small.
"Buy new ones, I guess," Sara replied. She didn't feel like admitting that her pants were already uncomfortably tight, and she was glad she had brought a few skirts with elastic waistbands. Her mid-section expanding for the sake of a baby was nothing to be ashamed of, but she couldn't help it. "We haven't gone anywhere so remote that I couldn't pick up a maternity dress."
"What if we're out here for a long time? When are you going to..."
Sara changed into her shorty pajamas, not answering right away. Finally, she turned to Alex. "I don't know. When I can't fly anymore? When my doctor starts to get suspicious that I haven't shown up for any appointments? I don't know if it's ever going to seem more likely that we'll find Neal than it is right now."
Alex nodded. She pulled her hair all over one shoulder, twisting a finger in a curl. She looked suddenly so young, even though Sara was pretty sure Alex was actually the older of the two, but it was hard to tell.
"What's with all the questions?" Sara asked. She sat down on her own bed, facing Alex. She wasn't annoyed, but actually curious why. Maybe Alex had also realized that they knew so little about each other.
"I don't know," Alex replied with a shrug. "I've never been pregnant. Well, I was once, but briefly." She shrugged again like, you know how it is.
Sara nodded. She knew. "Yeah, me too. I was twenty, in college. My boyfriend was one of those really intelligent, attractive jocks. He plays for the Phillies now, but he could have gone on to pretty much anything he wanted."
"Which one is the Phillies? Football?"
"Baseball," Sara replied with a smile. "Always baseball. When I told him I was pregnant, he just stared at me and I knew he could see his whole future breaking apart in front of his eyes, but he said he'd do anything I wanted to do. It was my future, too, so I told him I'd have it taken care of. We split the cost and broke up a month later." She hadn't meant to tell the whole story, but Alex's eyes were wide, clearly riveted.
"What's different this time?" she asked.
"Well, it's ten years later. I'm an adult. I'm settled. I have a great job, though I probably won't be able to do what I do now with a baby. They've been badgering me to take a promotion, which would be an office job. I'm thinking about it." Sara knew she was babbling, but Alex didn't seem to mind. The truth was, Sara had thrown herself into the search for Neal so she wouldn't have to think about this stuff.
Alex sat back, stretching her legs out in front of her. She leaned forward, practically folding her body in half as she wrapped her hands around the bottoms of her feet. "It probably helps that you and Neal will make a beautiful child."
"I guess so," Sara said. "There are some good genes in there."
There were some bad genes too, but she didn't say that.
Alex smiled. "Besides the throwing up, how's pregnancy? What's it like?"
"I haven't really had a chance to think about it. It's just been something that's happening to me, but I haven't... I'm trying not to think about it." Sara wasn't sure why she was admitting this to Alex; she'd barely been able to admit it to herself. Home and her real life was starting to seem so far away. It was another life where her office wanted to her to take over Bryan McKenzie's old position, and where she was going to start buying diapers and baby clothes.
"We don't have to talk about it," Alex said. She sat up and pushed her hair out of her face.
"No, it's okay." Sara pulled back the blankets on her bed and sat down. She considered Alex for a moment. For being a thief and a con, Alex had a surprisingly honest face. That was probably how she was so good at her job. "I guess... I guess I'm scared."
"Of having a baby?" Alex asked.
Sara swallowed, feeling her eyes burn with the threat of tears. She could barely believe the words were coming out of her mouth. "Of having a baby. Of doing it alone. That the baby won't be healthy."
"I think that's all pretty normal stuff to be worried about." Alex got up and sat on the other bed, her thigh warm as it pressed up to Sara's. She reached up and wiped the tears away from her face. "I hate to see anyone cry." Her hand lingered there, and she tucked a lock of Sara's hair behind her ear. Her hand came to rest on Sara's shoulder. "I think you're going to be okay."
"How can you tell?" Sara asked. "You don't even know me."
Alex shrugged. "Sure I do. Anyone who goes this far to look for their boyfriend is going to do even more than that for their kid."
Sara swallowed and smiled. "Neal's not my boyfriend. Even if he had been, he left. Something was more important."
Narrowing her eyes, Alex asked, "Are you looking for Neal to tell him about the baby, or to ask him why he's not there?"
Sara looked down at the carpet and took a few breaths, thinking over her answer. Finally, she licked her lower lip and said, "It was about the baby at first. Now, I'm not so sure. The longer we're out here, the more I just..." She didn't want to cry again, but she could already feel the tears springing to her eyes. Damn hormones. "I don't know what I want anymore. I haven't felt this lost in years."
"Well, how'd you fix it then?" Alex asked.
"I grew up. I was just a kid back then. My older sister, Jaime, she ran away from home when I was thirteen. I made up all these stories about where she might have gone, and it took me years to accept that she was probably dead." Sara paused and pulled at the ends of her hair. She took a deep, shuddering breath. Everything fell away and the words spilled from her mouth. "Bipolar runs in my family. My dad had it and he killed himself when I was ten."
"Oh my god," Alex breathed. She reached over and took Sara's hand. "I'm sorry."
"He was sick. Even as a kid I knew that. My mom died from cancer when I was two, so he was a single dad raising two little girls and he did the best he could, but..." Sara looked down at the floor. Her father could be blindingly bright and charismatic. He took Sara and Jaime to Tigers games and taught Sara how to throw a curve. She could still hear his voice proudly boasting, I don't need a son, I have Sara. There's nothing a son could do that Sara can't.
However, for every wonderful day, there was darkness, lost in her father temper, getting shorter with every beer he drank. Even at five years old, Sara knew to tip-toe around Daddy when she spotted the 12-packs of Milwaukee's Best in the fridge. She never knew how long the periods of his depression and his anger would last until one day things were suddenly all right again.
"It wasn't enough," Sara said finally. "After he died, Jaime and I went to live with our grandmother. She was amazing, and didn't take bullshit from anyone. When Jaime started having mood swings and... she'd lock herself in her room for hours and just scream. Grandma took her to the doctor, but every medication they tried had a series of horrible side effects and the meds never really worked. I guess it's harder to find the right combination for teenagers."
Alex squeezed Sara's hand and nodded encouragingly.
"I know Jaime was sick, too, but it was so hard, not knowing where she'd gone. She left a note telling us not to call the cops, and that was it. She was there one day and gone the next. No one could find her."
Sara stared down at her hand, the one clasped with Alex's, and through all of her mixed up emotions, it felt so clear and secure to have Alex's hand wrapped around her own.
"I'm so sorry," Alex said softly. "I can't even imagine what that must have been like."
Sara just nodded. As the time wore on, her hope to see Jaime again faded, and as much as it broke her heart to think it, she was pretty sure Jaime had left to die, that she hadn't wanted her little sister to see her fall apart the way their father had.
"I don't know why I didn't have it too," Sara said. "I've always been so scared that at some point everything would slip away from me like it did for Jaime and my dad. I try to keep myself so controlled all the time because I'm scared. And now I'm even more scared for the baby. Just because I'm not bipolar doesn't mean he won't be. It's all still there."
"That's what you meant when you said you were afraid the baby wouldn't be healthy," Alex said.
Sara nodded. "It killed my dad and my sister. And I know they're always finding better medications and new treatments. I know it doesn't have to be like it was before, but I'm so scared."
Alex wrapped her arms around Sara and pulled her into a hug. "It'll be okay," she whispered into Sara's hair. "You should be more worried about having a little con artist."
Despite everything, Sara laughed, even as she cried. She pulled back and smiled at Alex. "I guess that's a concern too," she said, her voice choked with both tears and laughter.
Alex pulled her hand away and reached up to wipe the tears from Sara's cheek. "If I told you that it was all going to be okay, would you believe me?"
"No," Sara replied, "but it's nice to hear."
With a smile, Alex leaned in and pressed a kiss to Sara's forehead. "For what it's worth, I still think you're going to be all right."
Sara smiled and she tried to hold back her tears. She'd cried enough, and now that Alex was so close, and so sweet, Sara didn't want to cry anymore. She took Alex's hand again and squeezed it. "Can you stay with me tonight?"
Alex nodded. "I can do that."
With their hands clasped Sara and Alex curled up together on the bed.
"You know," Alex said in a quiet voice, "I was raised by my grandparents, too. My mom left when I was a baby and my dad died in a car accident when I was seven. I was in the car when it happened, but I was so little, I just crumbled in a ball and nothing touched me. I barely had a scratch, but the car was so scrunched up, it took them an hour to get me out. My dad died on impact and I was just stuck in there with him. It's one of those things you'd think I would have blocked out, but I remember all of it."
"That's horrible," Sara whispered, clutching Alex's hand.
"We're all screwed up," Alex continued. "It's all about how we deal with it. I think we're okay."
Sara closed her eyes, but she stayed awake long after she felt Alex's breathing even out to sleep.
The flight to Oranjestad was only a couple of hours, and Sara was grateful for it. She never got quite comfortable, shifting in her seat, and got up to use the bathroom twice. When she was sitting, she was unbelievably aware of Alex's hand next to hers. She could still feel that kiss against her forehead, and how good it felt to have someone take care of her. That's all Alex had done over the last three weeks, and Sara didn't even know how much she needed that. She'd done a lot of traveling all over the world, but she'd never been happier to be on the ground than she was when they landed in Aruba.
Oranjestad was a beautiful city, with gorgeous buildings and friendly people. While Alex disappeared to go find them a car, Sara wandered through a few of shops. There was a lot of chattering in Dutch around her, but all the people Sara spoke to identified her immediately as American, and spoke to her in English. She bought a new bottle of sunblock from a shop, just in case their next location took them somewhere more remote, and stepped out into the sun. It was hot, no doubt about it, but there wasn't the humidity like there had been in the Dominican.
A tiny car pulled up to the curb and a moment later, Alex got out. "I got directions to Ramon's. He lives on the other end of the island, but it shouldn't take long to get there. Get in."
This car was everything the Jeep in the Dominican hadn't been. It was a compact two-seater with all its doors and windows, and Alex had the air conditioning cranked up on high. Sara almost wished she had on long sleeves.
Alex readjusted her hands on the wheel. "We're really close to finding them. They were probably just here, and they might even still be here for all we know."
"Yeah, I know," Sara said. "It's weird to think about that. That's what we're here for, but now we're... here, you know?"
"I know." Alex swallowed and glanced over at Sara. "Have you thought about what you're going to do when you see him?"
"Not since last night," Sara replied. "We're so close, I can't turn back now. And I don't think I can really hide it from him. There's no other reason for me to be here other than the pregnancy. It could be awkward to pretend there's some other reason."
"It could just be that you missed him."
Sara laughed as she rubbed her hands over her arms. "Neal and I never really had that kind of relationship. It wasn't... it was just a lot of fun. It wasn't until after we broke up that I felt like I actually got to meet the real Neal Caffrey. It would be more embarrassing than touching for me tell him that I came all this way and spent all this time and money just because I missed him."
"Yeah, I don't think anyone has that kind of relationship with Neal," Alex replied. She paused and added, "Well, most of us, anyway. Do you think when we find them... that you might stay?"
"With Neal?" Sara asked blankly. "I... I hadn't thought about that."
She had been imagining the ways she would tell Neal about the pregnancy, and maybe find out why, exactly, he left, and see if perhaps he'd come back if he could. In all of that, she never thought about staying. Surely, Neal and Mozzie would be living in a fantastic location. Maybe not the most suitable place for a baby, but it could be a wonderful place to raise a family.
She knew she didn't need Neal to make a family for her child, but it sounded nice. He'd probably be good with a baby. She didn't like the idea of dropping everything and leaving her job, but that wouldn't be the same after she had the baby, anyway. She wouldn't be able to drop everything and recover a piece, not with a child, and no family to take care of him while she was gone. Staying with Neal would mean running. Always running. Was that how she wanted to raise her child?
"Well, you'd be staying with Mozzie, too," Alex said when the silence had fallen in the car, and Sara laughed.
"Yeah, now New York sounds more appealing by the second."
Alex chuckled. "You don't like Mozzie?"
"Mozzie doesn't like me, but I don't think it was anything personal. Neal was trying to grow some roots when Mozzie wanted to run. He was a little devil on Neal's shoulder for a few months there. I don't know what changed. I know Neal wouldn't have run if he didn't have a good reason, but I guess Moz is happy. He'd probably hate it if I intruded on their running game, with a baby, no less."
"For as long as I've known them, it's always been the Neal and Mozzie club," Alex said with a nod. "Mozzie's an acquired taste, and it takes him a long time to trust anyone."
"It's funny that we don't get along," Sara said, glancing out the window. "I'm the exact same way."
It only took about half an hour to get from Oranjestad to the southern most part of the island. Sara didn't think she could get across Manhattan in that length of time, but there wasn't much traffic on the roads and Aruba was smaller than she had realized. Before she knew it, Alex was pulling into the driveway of a three story fortress of a house with huge palm trees planted in front of the darkly tinted windows.
"Do we just knock on the door?" Sara asked.
Alex shook her head. "Ramon's expecting us. I sent word yesterday after I heard the word 'Aruba'."
"Should I stay in the car?" Sara had been avoiding a lot of the criminal aspect. These guys knew Alex, and they knew she worked with Neal when she asked about him to their mutual contacts, like Ramon. For being criminals, they were all pretty loyal, and they weren't looking for Neal to get busted. At least with Alex they knew she wasn't going turn him in.
"No, come on in," Alex said. She turned off the car and opened the door. "Ramon's safe enough, and he knows you're coming."
Sara was glad because not only was it too hot to sit in the car, but she also wanted to check out the inside of the house.
The front door opened before they were even halfway up the steps, and a man walked outside. He was tall, lean, and dressed from head-to-toe in black, his dark hair slicked back away from his handsome face. He smiled as he leaned against the front pillar. "Alex Hunter. It's so good to see you again."
Alex smiled as she hurried up the stairs to him. He pulled her into a hug, and Sara felt a flare of -- was that jealousy? -- when Ramon's hands ran over Alex's hips and her back. She knew he was only patting Alex down, but the hug was familiar. Sara wondered how many times Alex and Ramon had worked together, and what exactly that work had entailed.
"Ramon, this is Sara," Alex said as she pulled away from him.
"It's good to meet you," Ramon said, shaking Sara's hand. "Any friend of Alex's is a friend here. Come inside, ladies. We'll have a drink."
The inside of the house was just as beautiful as the outside, the walls and floors made of white marble, and through the large glass windows, Sara could see a huge swimming pool in the back, with the ocean just beyond it.
Ramon led them into a kitchen, also made of white marble, with gleaming stainless steel appliances. He opened up a frosted glass cabinet and pulled out a bottle of vodka. "What will it be, ladies?"
"Whatever you're having," Alex replied. She sat down on a stool in front of the marble island in the middle of the kitchen.
"Just water for me," Sara said, taking the seat next to Alex.
Ramon mixed two drinks and poured them into tumblers, and then poured a tall glass of water from a plastic bottle. He leaned against the counter, holding his drunk in his hand. "Now, what can I do you for, Alex?"
"I'm looking -- we're looking -- for Neal Caffrey," Alex replied. "I know he was in the country, and if he was here, he came to you."
"Neal Caffrey," Ramon repeated with with raised eyebrows. "He was here, yes. I helped him, and his friend, but I can't tell you where they are. My work, my guarantee, is that I tell no one where I send people or things. My reputation is my silence. You know that."
Alex took a long drink. "Ramon, you know me. You know that I'm not going looking for Neal so I can turn him in or hurt him in any way."
"What do you want with him?"
"She doesn't," Sara said, and Ramon tore his eyes away from Alex to look at her. "I'm pregnant and the baby is Neal's. She's been my guide to find him."
Ramon appeared skeptical as he studied Sara's face. "You're pregnant."
"I can pee on a stick for you if you don't believe me," Sara replied coolly. Next to her, Alex snorted.
"That won't be necessary," Ramon said. He sipped at his drink and set his tumbler down on the island. "I'll tell you what, ladies. I won't tell you where they are. I'm not going to let anyone find them. Credit cards, passports. Any one of those things could lead federal agents or bounty hunters to them. I won't be responsible for them. I will, however, for a price, of course, send you to them."
"You're not going to put a pregnant woman on a boat for a week," Alex said right away.
Ramon shook his head. "You can fly. You just have to do it with my plane and my pilot, and I won't be telling you where you will be going. I can arrange a plane for you at five o'clock tomorrow morning. You'll be with Neal Caffrey by lunchtime. When you're prepared to leave, I'll get you back out of the country and send you home."
"How much is that going to cost?" Sara asked.
"I'll take care of the details," Alex said to her in a low voice. She smiled. "You can pay me back later."
Assuming it was some kind of criminal thing, Sara nodded. "So what do we do until five tomorrow morning?"
"This is a safe house," Ramon said. "The third floor is off limits, that's where I sleep, but go upstairs and choose any room you'd like on the second floor. All the rooms have private bathrooms and you can help yourself to the kitchen. Use the pool, or swim at the beach."
"Thank you," Sara said. "I'll go get my bag from the car while you guys talk about payment."
Alex tossed her the keys and Sara walked back outside into the heat. She got her bag from tiny trunk and then grabbed Alex's bag duffle bag as well. She slammed the trunk shut and was already sweating by the time she got into the house. If she'd thought to pack a bathing suit, she thought she might take Ramon up on the offer to use the pool.
She could hear Alex and Ramon's voice carrying throughout the marble foyer, so Sara set Alex's bag on the floor by the door and headed toward the large staircase. She passed the open kitchen door and gazed in at Ramon with his hand in Alex's hair as she smiled back at him.
The jealousy that had flared up inside of Sara earlier was now curdling in her stomach. She swallowed hard as she tried to ignore it, and went up the stairs. Alex was a grown woman, and it wasn't as if Sara had said anything about her sudden onset of feelings. Alex could do whatever she wanted.
Sara went up to the second floor and selected the first bedroom, and she almost gasped when she opened the door. There was a king sized bed with a red and gold comforter that looked so soft she might sink right inside of it. She shut the door and walked back into the bathroom. She didn't wouldn't need a bathing suit; she could practically swim laps in the huge tub.
She smiled. Well, if they were stuck there until morning, she might as well enjoy herself.
Sara waited until she was certain the kitchen was cleared, and slipped in. Ramon had said to help herself, so she dug through the fridge, pulling out a huge hunk of brie and a large bunch of green grapes. She rooted around a pantry that was as big as her living room at home for crackers, and found them, along with a dusty bottle of sparkling apple cider. Perfect.
In her room, Sara filled up the tub, popping grapes in her mouth as she waited. She tried not to think of what Ramon and Alex could be doing, and instead wondered what the hell she was going to say to Neal when she saw him.
"Hi, honey, I'm pregnant," Sara tried, and then she laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it. She'd never called Neal honey, except maybe once in jest. Maybe he'd just be able to look at her and tell. She pulled off her top and curled her hands around her belly. She doubted anyone would look at her and assume she was pregnant, but then again, Neal knew her body. He could be observant like that.
She hadn't sat at a bath tub's edge since the day she took the pregnancy test. It had been sitting in her cabinet for two weeks before she finally had the courage to take it. She sat on the tub in her apartment and held the plastic test in her hand, and she waited for the longest five minutes of her life. When the two little pink lines appeared, she threw the test in the sink and sobbed.
Sara knew exactly how it had happened. The night she'd gone over to Neal's to talk to him about his commutation hearing. To truly talk to him, and have him be honest, and to be honest back at him. It had gone so well, with the wine and the conversation, and the way Neal brushed the underside of her wrist with his thumb.
"I'm pregnant," Sara said to the room. She pictured Neal's face and tried it again. "I'm pregnant."
The words didn't sound so strange now. She could almost see his shocked-pleased-confused face. She smiled and turned off the water before stripping off the rest of her clothes and getting in. The water was warm and after a few minutes, the tension in her muscles melted away.
Sara wasn't sure how long she soaked in the bath, though she was halfway through the bottle of sparkling cider when the water finally went cold. She was climbing out of the tub when there was a knock at the door.
"Hang on a second," Sara called, wrapping a towel around her body. She secured it tightly and headed out into the main room. "Who is it?"
"It's me," Alex replied from the other side of the door. "Can I come in?"
"Of course," Sara said as she reached the door. She pulled it open and Alex was standing there, her clothes wrinkled and her bag slung over one shoulder. Sara reached out and took Alex's hand. "Are you okay?"
Alex nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine. I just came from Ramon's room, and I didn't want to stay there. I know there's five other rooms I could choose from, but is it okay if I stay in here with you?"
Sara squeezed Alex's hand and pulled her into the room. "Come on in."
Alex set her bag by the door and motioned to the bathroom. "I'm going to jump in the shower."
"There's a cheese and grapes in there if you want it," Sara said. "There's no wine or anything, just sparkling cider. Non-alcoholic."
"Okay," Alex said with a small smile, and she disappeared into the bathroom.
Sara sat down on the bed and she thought about getting dressed, but instead, she stretched out and adjusted the towel around her, making sure it would stay on. It was kind of like being in a spa. She closed her eyes and let herself doze, while listening to the sound of the shower, just beyond the door. It wasn't like they hadn't been sharing rooms for the last three weeks. Sara had heard Alex shower before, but this was the first time she listened.
She must have actually fallen asleep because she started when she heard the bathroom door open. "Hey," Sara said, opening her eyes.
Alex, her wet hair pushed away from her face, a matching white towel wrapped around her, walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge. "Thanks for letting me stay in here. I guess I'm used to bunking with you now."
"Me too," Sara said. She sat up and took Alex's hand. "I like having you with me. So, we have all day and most of the night. What do you want to do?"
Alex leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to Sara's mouth, her free hand caressing Sara's cheek. "I don't want to do anything. Is that okay?"
Sara smiled, savoring the feeling of Alex's kiss on her lips. It was so natural that she almost didn't realize it was happening until it was over. As far as first kisses went, it wasn't full of the most passion, but it felt right in a way no other kiss before it had.
"That sounds perfect," Sara said. "We're one step away from Neal and Mozzie. I think we've earned a break."
"Have you thought about what you're going to do when we get there?" Alex asked, her smile fading. "Are you going to stay with Neal?"
"I can't stay with Neal, even if he wanted me to. I can't have a baby on the run from the law. I don't want to be a fugitive, and if I stay with Neal, that's what I'll be. I want to have a real life and real home for my child. I love New York and my job, and that's where I want to be." Sara let go of Alex's hand and leaned back against the pillows. "What do you want?"
"After we're done?" Alex asked, pulling her wet hair over her shoulder. She pulled on the ends and stared down at comforter. "I don't know. I guess I'll just go back to what I was doing."
"International acquisitions?" Sara asked with a raised eyebrow.
Alex laughed and looked up. "Yeah, that's what I tell people."
Sara sat up on her elbows and gazed at Alex with narrowed eyes. "What do you want Neal for? I didn't want to ask, but you know why I've done all of this. Why are you looking for him?"
"I'm not," Alex replied flatly. She took a deep breath and didn't quite meet Sara's eye. "I'm looking for Mozzie. From everything we heard, they were still together and if you were looking for Neal, there wasn't any reason to to do two searches for the same guys. When you didn't ask and I didn't ask, I just let be. We didn't have to know. You could assume whatever you wanted."
"Are you trouble?" Sara asked.
Alex nodded. "But I'm afraid too tell you. If you know what happened, you're not going to want me around your baby."
Sara took a very slow breath. Alex was probably right. She probably didn't want to know, but she did want Alex around the baby. She didn't realize how much she wanted it until the prospect was gone. And if Alex was afraid of this, then that meant Alex wanted to be there too.
"You can tell me," Sara said. She reached over and took Alex's hand. "I know what you do, Alex. It's okay."
"This is different." Alex swallowed audibly. She looked so small and young, her tough criminal facade fallen away. "A few months before they left, Mozzie set me up with some guys. They needed a fence for some... antiquities and I've been doing a lot of work for them. They liked my work so much that they asked me to acquire a few things, and they paid well. They hadn't been dangerous, and I figured if Moz knew them, they weren't."
"They wanted me to hurt someone. Not kill them, just hurt them. I didn't do it, and now they're... they feel that because I didn't do one thing they asked me to, I owe them, and I want a clean break. These guys are like a stalker ex-boyfriend. I kept getting vaguely threatening voicemails and sometimes there are guys following me. They're not doing anything, but they're letting me know they aren't going anywhere. I don't know when they're going to strike."
"How is Mozzie going to help?" Sara asked.
The corners of Alex's mouth turned up into a little smile. "I know he doesn't look it, but Mozzie has a lot of clout. He's earned a lot of respect and people listen to him. Moz set me up with these guys, and I think if he can tell them to back off, they will. Or at least I hope they will."
"I don't think you did anything wrong," Sara said. She paused and added, "Well, except for the regular illegal stuff you did, but I expect that sort of thing. You didn't hurt anyone, and that's a good thing."
"I know," Alex agreed, "but they are dangerous men after me now. That's not something you want around your child."
"But we're going to find Mozzie tomorrow, and it's going to be over. It's going to be okay."
"I hope so."
Sara smoothed her hand over Alex's wet hair. "It will be. You'll get this sorted out." She leaned in closer and kissed Alex softly on the mouth. "You're beautiful," she mumbled, barely aware the words were out of her mouth. She meant to say something a lot more reassuring, but from the way Alex's smiled, her eyes dark and sexy, it might not have been too bad.
"So are you," Alex replied, and she pressed her lips to Sara's, but her kiss wasn't soft. She pushed Sara down onto the bed and her kisses quickly spread down Sara's neck, and she gently took Sara's earlobe between her teeth.
"Oh god," Sara muttered. She reached up and pulled at Alex's towel. She needed to get her hands on Alex's body, and the towel was just too much between them.
Laughing, Alex sat up and the towel fell gracefully from her body, and lust sparked deep within Sara. For as tan as Alex's arms and shoulders had gotten, the rest of her skin was pale. She grabbed Alex's hand and pulled her back down, kissing her hard. Her hands roamed freely over the curve of Alex's hip and around her ass, squeezing the soft flesh in her palm.
Sara loved the way Alex's mouth felt, her lips a little chapped, and how her hair fell over her shoulder and tickled Sara's cheek. Sara ran her hand up Alex's arm, and it sent little current of electricity throughout her entire body. She actually whimpered when Alex pulled away.
Alex laughed. She opened up Sara's towel slowly, like she was unwrapping a present and wanted to save the paper. Sara almost laughed from the sheer concentration on Alex's face. She'd spent the last three weeks in stuffy hotel rooms wearing nothing but her underwear, and showering with the door open so they could keep talking about their latest lead. There wasn't much that Alex hadn't seen at this point, but still was still treating this moment like it was something reverent and beautiful.
When she finally had the towel open, Alex leaned down and ran her tongue over a hardened nipple. Sara gasped, and Alex nearly jumped out of her skin. "What is it?"
"Nothing, it's -- they're really sensitive," Sara said, carefully running a hand over her breast. "They've been like that every since the beginning of the pregnancy, but not..." She felt her face flush. "Not when I'm this turned on. It hurt."
Alex smiled and, tossing her hair over her shoulder, said, "We'll just skip that part, then." She bent over and pressed a kiss just below Sara's breasts. Her hand ran down the length of Sara's torso, over her swelling stomach, until her middle finger pressed into Sara's slit.
Sara tried to hold back her second gasp, just so she wouldn't startle Alex again. This time, however it was a gasp of pleasure. She bit her lip and closed her eyes as Alex played with her clit. No one besides herself and a brisk doctor at an Upper West Side office had touched her in months, and neither of those were exactly as thrilling as sharing it with another person. The doctor definitely didn't count.
"That feels so good," Sara breathed.
Alex leaned forward and kissed Sara on the lips again. "Good," she whispered, working her finger in stronger circles now.
Sara wrapped her arms around Alex's waist, pulling her down so their bodies were flush together, and she buried her face in the crook of Alex's neck. She rocked her hips in time with the motion of Alex's fingers.
"You're so beautiful," Alex mumbled, laughter in her voice. "You should see yourself."
Sara's only reply was a deep moan. She lifted her knee until it pressed between Alex's legs. A noise somewhere between a laugh and a gasp slipped from Alex lips. She clenched her thighs around Sara's knee and ground herself against it.
She tightened her grip around Alex and closed her eyes, gasping as her orgasm came on, sudden and strong. "Ah!" she cried out, arching her back. It felt like not only the front of her body, but every inch of her was pressed against Alex. She held her breath for a moment, and she let it out as her orgasm faded. She opened her eyes and Alex was smiling down at her.
"You are sensitive," Alex said. She moved her hand away from between Sara's legs and brought her finger to her lips. "I like it. I should try to sleep with more pregnant girls."
"Or you could just sleep with me a few more times," Sara replied, laughing. She pulled Alex closer to her, curling their bodies together, and kissed her. "This is exactly what I needed."
"Still feeling lost?" Alex asked, running her fingers through Sara's hair, only pulling it away when she caught a tangle.
Sara considered the question, and then smiled. "I'm lost in a different way than I was..." Had that only been a night ago? "There are different variables."
Alex's eyebrows furrowed. "Variables?"
"You came in here to stay with me, and then we do this and it was wonderful. It was what I needed, and I meant it when I said I wanted to do it again. Tonight or tomorrow or... I don't know what's in your head, but I can tell you what's in mine: I can't just think about myself anymore."
"So, you mean that you can't date criminals anymore," Alex said slowly.
"I don't know," Sara replied as honestly as possible.
It would have been easy to assure Alex that, yes, she wanted to be with her, yes, she wanted to do this again when they got back to New York, but it was a lot more complicated than that. Even if Alex got things sorted out with the guys back in the city, she was still a thief, and that wasn't likely to change. Sara didn't want to be the one to ask Alex to completely overhaul her entire way of life. It wouldn't be fair. That was how resentment began, asking someone to sacrifice everything.
The truth was, and Sara had to be the one to face it, was this someone she wanted around the baby? As much as she wanted Alex there, she wasn't sure. She had so much more to think about than what she wanted.
"It's a lot to think about," Sara said when Alex didn't reply. "For both of us."
For as relaxed as she'd been just moments before, Sara's body was tense, and next to her, Alex shifted uncomfortably. Sara pulled away, but still reached up to touch Alex's damp hair.
"We should try to get some sleep," Sara said. Even though it was still early, she was exhausted just thinking about traveling more. "It's going to be a big day tomorrow."
Alex nodded, and they got beneath the blankets. Sara turned off the lamp next to the bed, though light still poured in through the windows. She rolled closer to Alex and Alex relaxed in her arms. Sara smiled. It felt pretty good.
It was still dark out when they arrived at the private airport. Sara had to admit, she had been picturing a little bush plane, but when they walked out to the runway, there was a sleek, private jet waiting for them.
"All right, ladies, these are the rules," Ramon said before they even set foot on the plane. "I'm not telling you where you're going, and when you arrive, you are not to know where you are. Your pilot is Mr. Franklin, and when you're ready to go home, tell him and he'll bring you back here."
Sara didn't want to ask how much it cost for this deal. It was above and beyond accommodating, and while she had intended to pay Alex back for it, she started to wonder if that was actually possible. Instead of dwelling on it, she nodded and followed Alex onto the plane. They sat next to each other in plush leather seats and the singular flight attendant, a woman named Rachael, offered them coffee and orange juice before takeoff.
"I think I just want to sleep," Sara said. As much as she was looking forward to seeing Neal, she was looking forward to not being on anymore planes for a while. Of course, when she got back to work, she could end up on a flight to anywhere at any second.
"I'll take a coffee," Alex said. She leaned her head against the seat and looked at Sara. "So, are you excited about seeing Neal?"
"I am," Sara replied, stifling a yawn. "Everything else aside, all the drama and the baby, Neal's a good friend, you know what I mean?"
Alex nodded. "I know exactly what you mean."
Sara fell asleep not long after takeoff, and when she woke up, Alex was curled up in her seat, her knees pulled up to her chest, but she was awake.
"Hey," Sara said, "how long have we been in the air?"
Alex shrugged. "A few hours? It's harder to tell when you don't know how long you still have to go."
Rachael brought them breakfast, and Sara was pleased to have absolutely no nausea as she ate every bite on her plate. After they ate, Alex stared out the window while Sara read her pregnancy book.
After a few more hours, the plane began its descent and Sara's stomach tied up in knots. She thought back to the day before, trying out the words over and over again. I'm pregnant. It wouldn't be so hard.
"Are you okay?" Alex asked. She took Sara's hand. "You look anxious."
"I am anxious," Sara replied. "I think I might be a horrible person for telling Neal about a child that he'll never get to know or even see, at best. At worst, it'll cause Neal to do something stupid and get caught and thrown in prison for the rest of his life. You know we can't count that out."
"At least he'd get to see the kid on prison visits," Alex said, and Sara snorted.
"That's hardly the point."
"I know." Alex reached up to touch Sara's hair, but stopped midway and brought her hand back down.
Sara rested her free hand on Alex's arm. "I know things ended weird last night, but it's only because I don't want to ask you to change who you are. You're a thief, and that's... it's okay. It is, it's okay. It's got to be on me to stop falling for criminals." She laughed and even got a smile out of Alex.
"We'll see how it goes," Alex replied.
On the ground in the undisclosed location, they found themselves in a gorgeous paradise, surrounded by clear green-blue waters and white sandy beaches. If it wasn't for the sudden onset of humidity, Sara could have sworn they had just flown around for a few hours and ended up back in Aruba.
They got into a black sedan with tinted windows and Mr. Franklin drove them, well, somewhere. Sara glanced over at Alex after they'd been on the road for about twenty minutes and asked, "How do we know we're going to Neal and Mozzie and we're not going to get murdered and never found?"
"Because Ramon isn't getting paid until we get back," Alex replied with a smile. "I covered all our bases."
"Good to know," Sara replied, laughing. "They're certainly going to be in a for a shock, aren't they?"
Sara looked out the window as the car came to a stop, and in front of her was a sprawling villa. She opened the door and stepped out of the car, staring at the gorgeous house. It was as lovely as Ramon's had been, except it was only one one floor and had an open quality to it, instead of looking like something seedy was going on behind the tinted glass.
The bright red front door opened and for a split second, Sara didn't even recognize Neal. His touch of scruff had been grown out into what was almost a beard, with just a enough grey in it to be sexy. Instead of a well-tailored suit, he wore loose fitting khaki pants and a white button down shirt with the shirttails out and no shoes.
His mouth opened to maybe ask if he could help them when his eyes settled on Sara and his jaw stayed dropped. She wondered what was going through his mind, but his first instinct, she was sure, was to bolt.
"Sara," he said and took a few steps down the stone sidewalk. "What are you -- how did you--"
Alex got out of the car, tossing her hair over her shoulder and said, "We came from Ramon's," she called. "Before you get too pissed at him, I had to do a lot of work to get this deal and we have no idea where we are. The last thing we want to do is get you in trouble."
Neal laughed, probably because he didn't know what else to do. "Well, who could stop the two of you?" He walked toward them and pulled Sara into a hug. "Hi," he whispered into her hair and she breathed in the familiar scent of him. It felt so strange and good all wrapped up at the same time.
"Hi," Sara replied, wrapping her fingers around the collar of his shirt.
He stepped back, and his eyes dropped to Sara's abdomen. He must have felt the bulge of it between them as he had hugged her so tightly. She could see his eyes slowly processing everything, and then he looked up at her, still unsure.
"I'm pregnant," she said, so quietly the words barely came out of her mouth. She tried again. "I'm pregnant."
He still looked bewildered, but slowly his mouth spread into a smile. "You're having a baby... we're having a baby?"
Sara grinned. "Yeah, I guess we are."
Neal touched her stomach. "Wow. Congratulations. That's amazing." He looked up and grinned. "Come inside, both of you."
Alex slung her bag, along with Sara's, over her shoulder as she walked around the car. "Please tell me Mozzie's here, because unlike her, I didn't come all this way to see you." She grinned and stretched her neck out to kiss him on the cheek. "But it's good to see you. Even if you stole the treasure I spent ten years of my life looking for and didn't give me any of it."
"Moz is inside," Neal said. "And we'll figure that treasure thing out." He took Sara's hand and they walked into the villa. It was breezy, with the back side of the house completely open. Just beyond the stone patio was a kidney-shaped swimming pool.
"Wow, this is amazing," Sara said. "So this is what a billion dollars buys you."
"We like it," Neal replied. "Are you hungry? Can I get you anything?"
Sara shook her head. "No, I'm fine. I ate on the plane. I don't even know what time it is where we are. What meal are you eating?"
"It's almost dinnertime," he said, leading her into the kitchen. "How about a drink? Water? Juice?"
"Juice would be great. Thanks." She leaned over the counter and looked at him. "Neal, I can't be here long, so I can't beat around the bush. There are things we need to talk about."
Neal turned around with a bottle of cranberry juice in one hand and a tall glass in the other. "Ask me anything," he said.
Sara pressed her lips together. Asking him anything was one of the things that led them here. "Why'd you run? I thought you were going to stay -- I thought you wanted to stay."
He poured the juice and pushed the glass across the counter. He set the bottle down and he smiled sadly. "I wanted to stay. Believe me, Sara, I wanted to stay. I love New York, and that's my home."
"Then what happened?" she asked.
"Peter told me to run. He was standing in the front of the office, he was talking to Kramer and he gave me to the signal to run. I don't know what that conversation was about, but I can take a guess."
"Oh, so now I know who the blame for my future as a single parent," Sara said. She stood up straight and took a sip of her juice.
Neal laughed. "Don't blame Peter. Blame me. Or, if you really want to make me happy, blame Kramer."
"I'm not actually blaming anyone. I'm going to be a grown-up about it and just accept that this is how things are going to be."
"You came all this way to tell me that?"
Sara considered him and shook her head. "No. It's been a really long three weeks since Alex and I left New York. And in that time, I've gone back and forth about what I was going to do or say when I saw you. I've questioned over and over again if I was doing the right thing. I know it would have been easier for you if you'd never known. Am I just being mean to you? I don't even know anymore. Every day's been longer than the last."
Neal shook his head. "You're not being mean. Knowing's going to be hard, always wondering what he'd -- or she'd -- look like, or be like. Knowing that I'm not going to be there, it's going to be hard, but I'm glad you told me."
"When I found I was pregnant, it just seemed like the most important thing in the world, to tell you." Sara felt her eyes flood with tears, remembering how it felt, sitting alone in her bathroom. "I just wanted someone to know. I wanted you to know."
He walked around the counter and wrapped his arms around her. "I know now," he said in a quiet voice. "I'm just sorry that I'm not going to be there for you."
"Neal Caffrey, apologizing?" She laughed as she pulled away. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"I never thought I'd feel sorry," Neal replied. He ran a hand through her hair. "What can I do for you, Sara?"
"Right now I think I just need to go lay down for a little bit. All this traveling's been wearing me out. And maybe when I wake up, I'll be ready for something to eat."
Neal nodded. "I can do that. We have a couple of rooms. If you go down the east side, I'm at the end of the hall, but there's a couple of bedrooms. I'll bring your stuff in."
"Thanks, Neal." Sara took a step away and then stopped. "Oh, and Neal, can you bring in Alex's stuff, too? And tell her where I am?"
His eyes widened with surprise for just a moment, and then he nodded. "Yeah, I can do that. Get some rest."
Sara took his hand and squeezed it. "Thanks."
Sara wasn't sure what time it was when she woke up. It was dark outside, and she felt like it had been hours. She walked out of the bedroom and she followed the sound of laughter to the back patio. She found Neal, Mozzie, and Alex sitting around the pool with two bottles of wine on the table, one empty and the other half gone.
Alex twisted around in her chair and grinned. "Hey, you're up."
"Yeah, and it sounds like I missed all the fun."
"We were just talking about some old times," she replied, taking Sara's hand.
Sara laughed. "Oh, so it's a bunch of stuff I'm better off not knowing."
Mozzie raised his glass. "Plausible deniability is the--"
"It's good to see you too, Moz," Sara interrupted with a smile. "I'm starving and I can't have any of the wine, so is there food? You said there was going to be food. I'm a pregnant lady, I need to eat."
Alex looked up at her and grinned. "I guess that means you're past the morning sickness?"
"God, I hope so," Sara replied. "So, is someone going to feed me or what?"
"Dinner's almost ready," Neal said, grinning. "We were going to come get you when it was done."
Since there wasn't going to be food right away, Sara sat down in the empty chair between Alex and Neal. "Good, thank you."
While Neal went to check on their meal, Sara glanced over at Alex and Mozzie. "I guess all the wine and laughter means you two got your business sorted out?"
Alex nodded. "By the time we get home, things should be back to normal. Now, if I could just get Mozzie apologize for hooking me up with bad people. It's not the first time this has happened."
"Maybe you should just stop listening to Mozzie," Sara suggested.
"If you want make an omelet, you have the crack a few eggs," Mozzie replied with a shrug. "And you needed my help. Twice now. You should be thanking me."
"Thanking you for what? Not giving me a cut of the treasure?" Alex asked. "I wouldn't have had to take this job if you'd just given me a couple of paintings. You were sitting on them when I took this job! You wouldn't have any of it without me. You wouldn't have even known about it. And you certainly wouldn't have gotten your hands on the music box, and Neal would have gotten blown up with everything if I hadn't been there. I might have earned something."
"I suppose we could have come to some arrangement," Mozzie grumbled into his glass.
"We could still come to that arrangement."
Mozzie paused, narrowing his eyes. "All right, you win this time."
"I appreciate that."
Sara felt her stomach churn, and she was pretty sure it wasn't morning sickness. The Nazi treasure was the reason she broke up with Neal. She wasn't ready to have it in the hands of Alex, not if they were going to become something beyond this trip. Not if Alex truly wanted to be a part of this child's life. That treasure was a poison and it killed everything it touched.
Neal walked out onto the patio with a large platter of chicken and rice. "I hope Sara's not the only one ready to eat."
Despite her nervous stomach, Sara was still starving and somehow made it through two plates of food. It was easier, once the laughter started again and Sara could feel the muscles in her shoulders relaxing.
After dinner, after the dishes were cleared away from the table, Sara stood on the patio alone, her hands over her belly.
Neal walked out next to her, a glass of wine in one hand and glass of cranberry juice in the other. He held the cranberry juice out to her. "This is for you."
"Thanks." She smiled. "It's really beautiful here. I see why you ran here of all places. I still don't even know where we are, but you can't tell me. That's part of the deal. Apparently plausible deniability is the something of something."
He laughed. "Yeah, it is. Have a seat."
Sara sat down, and Neal sat in the chair across from her. "So, have you thought about any names, yet?"
"Oh, I don't know." She laughed. "It's been so busy, I haven't really had a chance to think about it. And I don't even know if it's a boy or a girl, yet. It's still to early." She paused, taking a sip of her cranberry juice. "But I did think that I might like to, if it's a girl, call her Charlotte. After my grandmother."
Neal nodded. She hadn't given him all the details of her past, but she had told him about how her grandmother had raised her after her parents died.
"Everyone called her Charlie," Sara continued. "I guess, now that I think about it, Charlie could be a good name for a boy, too. I could name him after my grandmother, no matter what."
"I like Charlie. It's a nice name," Neal replied. "But I guess it doesn't matter what I think."
"Of course it does," Sara said, but she knew what he meant. He wouldn't be the one calling that name across a park or saying it soothingly after a bad dream. That was going to be her life, not his. However, it still felt important, the way it felt important that day in the bathroom for Neal to know about this child. Neal couldn't be a part of the baby's life, but he could help pick the name. Someday, she could tell her child that his father helped pick his name.
"I shouldn't have left," Neal said quietly.
"It's not your fault, Neal. You didn't run out on us. You didn't even know there was an us to run out on. I didn't even know."
"But I didn't just leave you, I left everyone, and... I told myself I didn't want to run anymore. And now all I'm going to do is run. Always looking over my shoulder and never be able to settle down with anyone."
"You're going to have to leave here when we go, aren't you?" Sara asked. "I promise, Ramon did everything to make sure we don't actually know where you are. We couldn't tell anyone if we wanted to."
Neal shrugged. "It's fine. Maybe it was time to move on, anyway."
"Have you have yourself some hot girlfriends since you've been here?" Sara grinned, and Neal just laughed.
"A couple. How about you? What's going on with you and Alex?"
She shook her head. "I don't know. It's really complicated. Some moments, we feel really close and I feel like I can tell her anything, and then the next moment... things are just weird. I can't let myself forget who she is. She's a lot like you. You know, gorgeous and intelligent, and..."
"A con?" Neal suggested when her words trailed off.
"Exactly. Remember that time I said that apparently I date criminals? I guess I do have a type."
"Well, you're right about one thing," Neal said. "Alex is like me in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways, she's not. I fall in love with everybody. It's easy for me, but Alex isn't like that. She doesn't open herself up to people the way I do. The only reason I know this about her is because she opened up to me once, a long time ago, and I didn't realize it at the time."
Sara smiled and shook her head. "I don't know what her priorities are. Believe it or not, Neal, I don't want my kid growing up around a life of crime. I'd kind of like to give him or her a chance to really do something with their life that doesn't involve possible prison time, you know? Is that really too much to ask for?"
"For some of us it is," he replied before taking a sip of his wine.
"I know, and that's why I can't ask that of Alex. I can't ask her to give up everything in her life for me."
Neal's bright eyes turned serious. "Are you in love with her?"
"It's too soon to tell. I know I feel connected to her, and she's so lovely. She's beautiful and..." Sara flushed and she laughed uncomfortably. Neal probably didn't want to hear his ex-girlfriend go on about a different ex-girlfriend. "I know I like sharing a room with her, and I was able to tell her things that I'd never been able to talk about with anyone. But at the same time, I hardly know her."
"Maybe you could do it like everyone else does and go out on a date."
Sara laughed. "Since when have we ever been like everyone else?"
"Touché." Neal set his glass on the table and leaned forward, resting his hands on her belly. A warm breeze swept through the patio, causing the unbuttoned top of Neal's shirt to flutter open, revealing his bare chest. "Sara, you have no idea how hard it is for me to see you like this. Every bone in my body wants to go back with you. If I thought for a second that I could go back to the city and things could go back to the way they were, in New York, with the FBI and Peter... I'd wear the anklet forever if I meant I could be there with you. But it wouldn't be like that. If I went back, I'd be put in prison, or I'd be chained to a desk in DC."
"It's okay, Neal, I understand," she said, her eyes filling with tears. She pushed his hair away from his face and smiled down at him. "I'll be okay."
He looked up at her, and she thought that he might burst into tears right along with her. "I'm not worried about you. I know you're going to be a fantastic mother, because you're great everything. I'm worried about... what are you going to tell him about me? I had a mother who kept secrets about my father from me, and I hated it. I hated finding out the hard way that he wasn't a good person and I think I thought... maybe I couldn't be a good person either. I don't want our -- your kid to think that because of me."
"Except you are a good person. One who made bad choices, but you're a good person." Sara smiled warmly at him, hoping he knew that she meant every word. "And that's what I'll tell him."
Neal's eyes were a little watery, but no tears escaped. "Would you -- I mean, I know you're not close with Peter and Elizabeth, not on a personal level, but I'd like it if..." He dropped his gaze to her stomach like his request was somehow embarrassing.
Sara nodded, understanding. She knew how important Peter was to Neal, and just hearing him talk about Peter made her realize how much he missed his friend. Not just the man who pulled him prison and gave him chance after chance, and ultimately saved him from a life in government servitude, but his friend.
"If they're around?" she asked, and he nodded. She smiled. "I'm sure they'd like that. And if the kid ends up being anything like you, I could probably use the help. I think Peter might be the only one who could ever really handle you."
"Very funny," Neal replied dryly, but he was smiling. He got to his feet and held his hand out to her. "Come here."
She stood up and Neal pulled her into a hug. She wrapped her arms around his body and pressed her face into his neck, breathing in his familiar scent. For a moment, it was like nothing had changed, and they were back at June's house, out on the terrace on a hot, summer evening. But instead of the noise from the traffic of the city below them, there was only the tide crashing against the beach.
"I missed you, you know," Neal mumbled into her hair, but she knew that he missed everything, and she just happened to be a part of it.
"I missed you, too," she replied. She tilted her chin up and pressed a kiss to his cheek, the stubble rough under her lips.
Neal turned his face and caught her mouth with his own. She paused for a second, just in the shock that he had kissed her, but then she kissed him back. It felt like the only natural thing to do, to kiss him, while he brought his hand up to her hair. She hadn't kissed him since that day in her office, the day he told her about the Raphael. It felt like it was a lifetime ago. She had transformed into a completely different person since then.
The kiss ended, and Sara rested her forehead against Neal's, and they stood like that, wrapped up in each other's arms, listening to the sea. Sara closed her eyes, trying to remember every detail of the moment. Someday, she was going to tell her child about the last time she saw his father.
She wasn't sure how long they stood there like that, but Neal pulled away, and Sara looked up at him, but his gaze was looking beyond her, toward the house. "Hey," he said, stepping away from Sara, and shoving his hands in his trouser pockets.
Sara turned around and Alex was just outside the house, staring at them. She didn't look angry, or even hurt, but she watched them like they were a statement of fact.
"Hey," Sara echoed and she walked over to Alex without giving Neal even a glance over her shoulder. She took Alex's hand and thought about apologizing, but that didn't seem like the right thing to do. She wasn't sorry that Neal had kissed her, though she was a little sorry Alex had seen it. Alex, of all the people in the world, knew how powerful the pull of Neal Caffrey could be.
"I'll leave you two alone," Neal said, as he walked around Sara and into the house.
"That was some kiss," Alex said.
Sara nodded. "Goodbye kisses usually are. That's all it was. I'm never going to Neal again after this, and we're still having a baby together. That's still important."
Alex gave her a small smile. "You're right, it is."
"Is Mozzie going to give you some of the treasure?" Sara asked, trying to keep her voice as even as possible.
"I think so. Some of it is rightfully mine. Moz was telling me how he got it, and Neal wasn't even a part of stealing it, and Moz shared it with him. I think I've earned it. Besides, they have all of this, and there's no way they could spend it all. Even if they just gave me two or three pieces, I could live off that for the rest of my life."
Sara pressed her lips together. "Did you know that Neal and I broke up over the treasure? I found out that he was hiding it and I couldn't be with him anymore. I thought the treasure was gone the night I got pregnant. So did Neal. But only some of it was gone, and Alex, I have to tell you, I don't want to be anywhere near it. I don't want it near my child. I can overlook a lot of things, I can turn a blind eye, because I've done it before, but that treasure tears people apart. Neal would be complaining about it, but serving out his four year sentence in New York, his home, if it wasn't for the treasure. And now he can't go back at all, ever, with out going to prison."
Alex stared at her. "What are you saying, Sara?"
"That if you take it, we can't be together. I know it means a lot to you, that it's more than just the money, but I can't help how I feel."
"Then I won't take it."
Sara's eyes widened. "Just like that?"
Alex closed the gap between them, and she took Sara's hands in her own. "I wanted it so I could start a new life. Being a thief and a fence, that's not everything about me. That's just part of who I am, and I only started this to find the treasure, and it's been found. Maybe it's time for me to find a new dream. I can give it all up."
"You don't have to do all of that," Sara said, feeling the tears come back again. "I'm not asking you to do that."
"I know you're not, but I want to. I think we've invested enough time in each other, even just traveling together to give this a shot and see where it goes. You can teach me about baseball." Alex grinned and squeezed Sara's hands. "And, you know, I like kids, too."
Laughing, with tears streaming down her cheeks, Sara pulled Alex closer and kissed her. An easy warmth spread throughout Sara's body as she wrapped her arms around Alex's body. Alex moaned in surprise, and brought her hand up to Sara's cheek as the kiss grew more heated.
Sara had her goodbye kiss. This one was hello.