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06 October 2013 @ 06:46 pm
Fic Post: In Times of Trouble  
Title: In Times of Trouble
Author: Montiese
Category: Angst/Drama
Pairing: Erin Strauss/Mark Cramer
Rating: TEEN
Warning: Discussion of unwanted pregnancy.
Summary: “If we do this vault thing, and I'm not saying we will, but if we do then you need to say it out loud first.”
Author’s Note: This is #15 in The Story of Us series, which focuses on Erin Strauss meeting Mark Cramer while in the FBI Academy and their life’s adventures over the next 28 years.


Late April, 1986

“Are you sure you should even be doing that right now?” Mark asked as Erin lit a Parliament Light. She took a deep inhale before putting the pack beside her on the concrete steps.

“I don’t think it matters much.”

“It does matters.”

“I wasn’t even sure I was going to tell you.” Erin said.

“Are you serious?” he couldn’t look at her when he asked. “What the hell is that, Erin? I needed to know.”

“I wasn’t sure how you would react. I wasn’t sure how I would react to your reaction.”

“I have a right to know.”

“You know now, OK? Please don’t go all…”

“All what, Erin?”

“I don’t want to fight.” She made a slashing motion with her hand.

“I don’t either.” Mark put his hand on her knee.

He still couldn’t look at her, preferring to look ahead. They were sitting on the steps just a few feet from Erin’s condo door. It was a rainy spring night in Alexandria. At nearly midnight, there weren’t many people outside the Edgemoore Apartments.

The parking lot was full; couples and families in for the night. Mark sighed. He had so much to say but didn’t have the words. Erin called him earlier in the evening, wanted him to come over. She wanted to talk but he knew from her tone that something was wrong. The couple had been together for eight months; he didn’t worry so much that every serious conversation was going to be a breakup.

“Hurting you was never my intention.” She said.

“I'm not hurt, I'm just worried about you.”

“I'm OK.” Erin took a deep inhale of her cigarette.

“You're trembling.” Mark said.

“It’s chilly out here.”

“We don’t have to be sitting out in the rain. I know you don’t like smoking inside but we could sit on your balcony.”

“We’d still be outside, Mark.”

They were quiet again. Erin put her head on his shoulder after kissing it. She loved Mark. It wasn’t easy but she’d quieted the demons in her head and just let go. On the surface, to friends and colleagues, they seemed like the perfect 80s power couple.

Both from well to do families, Erin and Mark were bright blondes with big dreams and the bank accounts to make things happen. They were passionate about politics and justice and designer clothes. At the right party they looked as if they stepped out of the pages of Vanity Fair. But that wasn’t what Erin fell in love with.

Mark was smart and ambitious, which was a turn on. He also had a soft side, a snarky side, and definitely a sexy side. He did sweet things like cook her breakfast before a hard day’s work and read her articles from the Post while she exercised. With him she didn’t have to wear the Strauss mask.

She had, for some time anyway, but never had to. He made it impossible not to fall for him. Some days Erin didn’t know whether to love him or loathe him for that. She didn’t expect to be here just six months out of the Academy and working in DC.

“Do you want me to tell you not to do it?” he asked.

“No.”

“Are you sure? You asked me to be honest and now I'm asking the same from you.”

“Not doing it isn’t an option.” Erin shook her head.

“Why not?”

“A baby, right now? It’s so far from being an option it is completely and utterly not a fucking option.”

“You were on birth control…I didn’t think this could happen.”

She almost asked him if he thought it was her fault, if she got pregnant on purpose. Erin stopped herself because she knew it would be picking a fight. Mark wasn’t devastated when he found out she was pregnant. It seemed as if he was numb, shocked. He touched her face, her stomach, and then moved away from her. Mark was a smart man so he knew what was coming next. He braced himself and waited for it.

“I didn’t think so either.”

“And it’s supposed to feel like this?” Mark asked. “It’s supposed to tear you apart on the inside?”

“I don't know. I think it might be better not to think about it at all.”

“I can't do that. Even while thinking about not thinking about it…I'm going to be thinking about it.”

“If I have this baby it’s going to tear us apart.” Erin said. “If I don’t have this baby, it’s going to tear us apart. That’s fucking insane.”

“I’d never ask you to do something that you just can't do. I knew when we got into this relationship that career was first. It was for me and it was for you. We've worked so hard; the doors are just opening. There can be some compromise where careers are concerned but this would be a game changer.”

“It’s not a game; it’s our lives. And the truth is that my career isn’t the only reason I'm making this decision.”

“I know.” Mark nodded and put his arm around her shoulder.

“I can't do this right now for more reasons than I could ever name.”

“I know. And as hard as it is to say, you never have to justify this to me.”

“You’ve got my back on this?” she asked.

Erin had been here before and she went through it alone. She was barely eighteen, dumb, and couldn’t believe what was happening. She lied to her mother, telling her that the money was for the senior class trip. The fake ID cost her $50. The guy’s sister was the one who took her to the clinic in Westchester, an hour from home.

Hours later she took the bus back to Manhattan. Erin had no idea how she got through that time but she did. She had a tough decision to make and she made it. Having someone there for support should’ve been easier. The truth was that nothing about this would ever be easy.

“I’ll always have your back.”

“I appreciate it.”

“I love you, Erin.”

She didn’t reply as she lit another cigarette. It was starting to rain harder and the air was a bit colder. Spring was blooming but the nights could still be cold. Mark wished they were inside, burrowed under the covers making love to bad soft rock on the radio.

“We could put it in the vault.” He said.

“What does that mean?” Erin asked puffing away. She shouldn’t be chain smoking but she was a bit stressed. This would be her last. She needed to go to bed. This very long day needed to end.

“Every relationship has a vault. It’s the place where you put things that happen so you can't use them to hurt each other.”

“What happens if we put this in the vault?”

“We don’t discuss it after we close the vault, unless you want to. We don’t bring it up to hurt each other no matter how bad the fight may be. We accept the decision we made, together, and move on from it…together.”

“That sounds a bit silly.”

“Maybe I'm just an idealist at heart.” Mark said. “The vault isn’t my place Erin, or your place, it’s our place. We don’t have to put it there, I'm just making a suggestion. I just don’t think it would be the best discussion to have five years from now over brunch.”

“If we do this vault thing, and I'm not saying we will, but if we do then you need to say it out loud first.”

“Say what out loud?”

“C'mon Mark, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah.” He nodded and sighed. “You're pregnant and you’ve decided to terminate the pregnancy. I love you and will stand by you. I’ll never pretend it was an easy decision to make even though I truly have no idea how you're feeling.

“I know I feel sad and a little lost. I also know this is probably the best decision we can make as individuals and a couple right now. There, I said it out loud.” Mark stood up. “I think I'm going to take a walk.”

“It’s raining.” Erin reasoned. She held onto his hand.

“I don’t melt in the rain.”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“I actually want to do this alone. I know how tired you are. You should go inside and go to bed. I’ll be in soon.”

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“No.” he shook his head. “But I will be. I'm going to take this walk, have a talk with myself, and then I'm going to hold you while you sleep. If you want me to that is.”

“I do.”

Mark turned and put up the hood of his windbreaker. He bent down close to her on the step, taking Erin’s face in his hands. He kissed her nose and then her mouth. When he mouthed that he loved her, she returned the sentiment.

“Can I have a hug before you go?” she asked.

He’d already gotten to the bottom of the steps when she asked. Erin’s voice cracked and she hated the vulnerability in her tone. She stood up, walking down the four steps so that she was standing right in front of him. Mark wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close without hesitation. Erin exhaled and held on.

“I’ll be back.” He pried himself out of her arms and walked away.

Erin sat back down on the step. She lit her third cigarette even though it was a bad idea. She just sat there, smoking and watching fat drops of rain hit the puddles in the parking lot. When the tears came there was no point in trying to wipe them away. It was better to give them their moment and then move on.

She had to do what she had to do, but that didn’t mean Erin had no feelings at all. She just couldn’t let them rule her decision making. Never in her life did Erin think she’d be here twice. Plucking the cigarette out into the darkness, she stood and made her way back into the condo. The living room lamp created an eerie glow in the otherwise dark place but Erin walked straight back into her bedroom.

She was already dressed for bed, as Mark worked really late before coming over to talk. She climbed between the sheets, pulled them over her shoulder, and just laid there. Mark said he would be back even though something in the pit of her stomach told Erin that he was gone for good. She wouldn’t be surprised if this destroyed the whole relationship. She couldn’t keep the child just to prevent that from happening. No child needed to be brought into this world because of that.

Erin sniffled, damning the tears but burying her face deeper into the pillow so at least she didn’t have to hear herself cry. She was just exhausted. For nearly a week she’d held onto this, only discussing it with Alex and a God she might not even believe in. Now it was out and they could both move on in whatever ways were best for them. Alone or together, Erin was going to pull up her big girl undies and get on with it. This was just a crack in the road on the beginning of a long journey. There was no way she’d stumble, fall, and stay down when she was barely out of the gate.

“It’s me.” He whispered as he climbed into bed and wrapped his arms around her. “Don't wake up.”

Erin didn’t know how long she was asleep, or if she’d been asleep at all, when she felt his hand on her shoulder and his breath on the nape of her neck. She immediately turned in his arms, snuggling against his chest. Damn him for making that one of her favorite places to be.

“I'm back.” Mark said, stroking her blonde hair.

“You're damp and cold.” Erin murmured.

“We’ll warm each other up, OK?”

“OK.”

He rubbed her back, whispering little nothings in her ear. For a while Erin shivered against him, he was cold, but soon the warmth of the blankets and his embrace engulfed them both. Mark listened to the rain falling outside and wondered if he’d fall asleep tonight. As long as Erin was alright he’d make it through this somehow.

She’d have to carry the weight of most of it on her shoulders. He wished there was something he could do about that. Mark would stay, that’s what he would do. He would stay, love her, support her, and make the life together that he thought they deserved.

“I love you, Erin.” He whispered, kissing her forehead. She was asleep and didn’t hear him. It was alright because he knew that she knew. She wasn’t going to make it easy for him in a lot of situations yet it had been effortless from the very beginning.

***

 
 
Where am I?: the lair
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