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Sunlight at the Edge of the World

Discussion in 'General' started by Kira, May 15, 2003.

  1. Kira

    Kira Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    Hi! Okay, Dani told me to post this here, so here I am. Enjoy. Next part up tomorrow at the latest.

    Title: Sunlight at the End of the World
    By: Kira
    Rating: PG-13
    Summary: Vaughn’s trip to the edge of his world uncovers a project he’d rather have left in the past
    Disclaimer: Alias belongs to JJ Abrams and ABC. Not me. So please don’t sue me, okay?
    Author’s Note: Won’t be long, promise. I’d like to thank Beth, who gave me the motivation to go with this story, and who helped me conceive the beginning. Jen, for giving me an open mind and giving support that was worth more than feedback. And Laura amy, who’s silly antics and prompt reading helped me go on when I was stuck. You three are the reason this fic has been written.
    This story was originally intended for Cover Me’s February Challenge. However, the fic grew too long to be included in that challenge, so you will see elements of that challenge reflected here.
    Heavily, well, totally inspired by the Coldplay song “The Scientist.”
    (only timeline note: after first season. Before phase one. That’s it. Mostly stand-alone.)

    “You need not fear the demon hosts around you; it is most important to tame your mind within.”
    -The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa

    Part 1a

    The dream was always the same. Well, as alike as dreams could be. There was always something, something that was different – the color of a balloon, the words of a passer-by, maybe someone had a different color shirt or hair color. But the content, the content of the dream was constant; like a drum that beat to its own rhythm, never relenting despite the cries, the pleading.

    And that’s what he would do to stop the dream. Never vocal, though. His cries were a deeper kind, a kind unheard by the world. They couldn’t know what he dreamt, what he knew. It was a pain he would not wish upon another human being, a pain he held close to his heart.

    There was some time that the dream stopped, that he was without the terror, the fear of sleeping. And while at first he felt blessed – that finally his cries had been heard – he felt broken. As if a piece of him was missing. For awhile, he dealt with it, finding other ways to make up for this lack of feeling that had begun to consume him. He lived on the edge, doing everything he could to feel alive, to reassure him that life was here, worth living.

    And then it returned.

    It was almost a comfort. But he realized he would never be completely free, that he must live with it for the rest of his days, and nothing short of death would free him. So he learned to deal the best he could. And it helped him keep some hold on his sanity.

    It always started the same – that never changed.

    There was the sound of the ocean, oh, how calming the ocean was! It was early morning, he could tell by the streaks of sunlight rising and falling with the small waves crashing onto the beach. He could never see the sun itself, no matter how many times he had tried to lift his head to see it, he could not. Like a movie, his eyes were directed towards the end of the boardwalk; ;a boardwalk that had appeared out of his mind, under his feet. At the end, he could make out a lone figure, a tallish man leaning against the railing, his mind on things other than the people passing him.

    A child walked by clutching the string of a red balloon. Or maybe blue this time. Her mother smiled and held her other hand, keeping her only child close to her side. They couldn’t be separated, they were enjoying the day together, joy written plainly on their features. For a moment, he thought the woman looked like his own mother, but she passed too quickly. Never base anything on uncertainties, he told himself.

    The figure at the end of the boardwalk pushed off from the railing and turned his way. His expression was unseen from this distance, and the dreamer found himself running in the man’s direction, his feet moving without being told to do so. But it were as if he were simply running on a spinning wheel, and no matter how fast he ran, he never reached the man, never got any closer than he was. And his head would try to snap up to the sky but he could not look into the quickly falling sun. His feet kept going, his mind willing him to run faster! Look for the light! And while these directions were ordered, the man at the end of the boardwalk would disappear down the steps at the end, gone from view.

    Sound would come into the dream at that point, a rush of chaos that swept him off his feet and seemed to throw him around. The sensation was much akin to that of falling when one first goes to sleep, when the room will tilt off edge and for a moment, one fears slipping off their bed into oblivion. The sun was gone, the sound of crashing waves filling his ears. They were so loud! And in the distance, he could hear a gunshot. He knew that was coming. He had known for years. It was what happened next that he feared. And sometimes, he – -

    “- - and I said, that can’t be right.”

    “Things like that just shouldn’t happen.”

    “No. All right, it’s a somewhat overcast morning on this glorious Monday, the 25th of April -- “

    Generally pissed at the necessary yet hated electronic prompted the early morning ritual of slamming the snooze button with all weight and force possible. Now, this often depended on the level of exhaustion being battled at the moment, making the hand miss on a few occasions. It did not miss this morning. Groaning, Michael Vaughn, government employee, rolled onto his back in the mess of covers and pillows, arm coming to shield his eyes in a most clichéd manor. Generally, when waking up from a particularly bad dream, he’d let his mind clear a bit before starting with his morning routine, and, consequently, swearing at the fact that the sun was still asleep.

    But this morning, like many others he’d experienced in his lifetime, left a bad taste in his mouth. One that would not go away. Yet years of practice had made it so he would not show his bad experience, and as the memory faded away, the radio clicked on again, focusing his energy and attention on something completely different. The bad music pouring out of the small, otherwise placid device. Why it was set on this station was unknown to him – it was still on the factor preset position. Oh well.

    Heaving himself out of bed, he stole a glance out the window. Why did he have to go into work so early? He was sure, no, positive, that there were people out there with the same amount of education as him, the same talents, who were making twice what he made and could sleep till a reasonable hour. He was also sure that these same people had normal business hours, hours that wouldn’t cause rifts to form in interpersonal relationships, be the focus of countless arguments, and cause sleep deprivation on more days than not.

    And he couldn’t even flaunt the perks his job presented. He had top secret clearance (in most cases), but could he tell anyone? No. Working for the state department, as he was told to tell everyone, was not glamorous. Nor did it bring in a large amount of money, which he was reminded of as he pulled a clean suit from his small closet. His mind said small since he was in one of those flux periods with his attachment, Alice. When the relationship was on, it could be signified by the closet changing from small to inhumanly sized to fit this many garments, half of which do not belong to the closet’s owner.

    He was glad it was just small. He needed to get some new clothes.

    Yet despite the short-comings of his job, or of his apartment, there was one thing that brought him joy this crisp fall morning. And as he put on his suit coat and check his appearance one last time in his small mirror, a slight smile could be seen on his face.

    He’d been woken up before the worst part of the dream.

    - -

    Vaughn really liked his office. He enjoyed the semi-darkness the dark woods provided, and rarely switched on the overhead lights. The small lap, placed so perfectly on the desk, provided all the light he needed. Outside his door, people ran from office to office, their lives caught up in a whirlwind of activity, of secrecy and patriotism. But in his office, in his office all was calm. He could control the elements inside the four walls. Nothing was beyond his grasp.

    It was nothing like the Joint Operations Center, where chaos seemed to live and have a throne room somewhere in the hidden upper levels. It was disorganized, hectic, and giving a lot of the agents stationed down there ideas of finding new assignments. And there were no windows. They were inside a closed capsule, completely cut off from the outside world, the very world they were trying to protect. Information came in as digits, assembled by the computers, and given to them because, frankly, seeing something with their own eyes wasn’t something they could do.

    It wasn’t like the intelligence world he’d read about in his father’s journal.

    Like a bedtime story, the opening lines described the perfection the writer/main character lived in. A darling wife, an adorable son. The writer longed only for the disclosure to live an equally perfect life, one without the shroud of secrecy around it. But just as he had a duty to his family to be there as much as he could, he felt, no, believed in the duty to his country that so many of his fellow Americans had turned their backs on in favor of capitalist gain. Personal gain.

    The worn pages, gone over so many times by the son who survived him, told the story of a man struggling with his life, with the lies of the past and those of time yet to be. When Vaughn was younger, he was thrilled by the sketchy accounts of missions gone by, the only let-down was the fact that the passages were dominated by his father’s feelings and opinion instead of the action he wanted to read. As the days wore on and the pages more filled than blank, the father wished to be freed from his ever-growing contradictions. Was patriotism supposed to be like this? What had ever happened to the men the father had seen as a boy, men that had pushed him in this direction?

    The reader found it humorous that, one day, after reading a few passages while waiting for a program to come on TV, that he had started asking the same questions of himself.

    It was then that the journal became some kind of instruction booklet for how to handle his life. And then the irony came, the irony that he had an instruction booklet for life that no one else had, handed down by a dead father.

    “You’re staring way to intently at that picture, its freaky.” This, of course, caused Vaughn to snap his head up, surprised by the sudden burst of exposition. The surprised expression on his friend’s face caused Eric Weiss to laugh, and saunter farther into the office.

    “What’s up?” Vaughn asked, swiveling his chair back to face the large desk. At Weiss’ raised brow, he turned his attention to the thin file sitting on his desk, undoubtedly placed there by the group assistant while he was staring off into space. Great, budget reports. Under his cost number. And they didn’t pay for long distance, despite the fact that the CIA operated outside the United States.

    “What’s up with you?” Weiss asked, slipping into a chair. He never seemed to actually sit, instead, he fell, or slid, always an action that was so casual, Vaughn was surprised he didn’t fall right out of the chair. The action was lessened a bit than before, but it was still there. Another Weiss trademark move.

    “What are you talking about?” his friend asked, pretending to be interested in the jumble of numbers on the sheet of paper that was the current focus of his attention.

    “What am I talking about?” Weiss asked as if the question was ludicrous. “Let’s see. What didn’t you do this morning? Say hi? Grab a doughnut? C’mon, you’re off today, my friend.”

    “Off?” Vaughn responded, lifting his head. The yellow light from the lamp reflected off his sharp features, causing him to look more exhausted than he already was.

    “Yes, off, as in acting slightly altered, and I don’t, I mean, I hope it’s not an illegal form of altercation,” Weiss commented. Vaughn shook his head defiantly. Weiss raised his palms in mock surrender. “Right, I know, just checking, buddy. Anyway, sure, coming in here might be a little different, but I know you so,” and here, Weiss leaned close to his friend, almost nose to nose, “what’s going on?”

    “Weiss,” Vaughn replied seriously, not moving a bit, “nothing is going on.”

    “Oh, you are wrong there, buddy. There is a lot going on. Every day. But let’s think of it this way – if you don’t tell me, I’m pulling in Rene.”

    “Pull her. There’s nothing to say,” Vaughn sighed, leaning back in his chair. Weiss sat still for a second (only a second), then promptly stood.

    “Fine. If you don’t want to tell me, don’t. I’ll just go – “

    “Weiss, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. And I am not off. Now get out of my office,” he said, playfully, holding his budget sheet up in the air. “Before this gets to me and I kill someone.”

    “I’m off the ticket, right? One near death experience is enough?” Weiss inquired, leaning in the doorframe of the office. Vaughn smirked.

    “Yeah, one is enough, or so I hope,” Vaughn responded vaguely, his eyes flickering off to the left. His friend shook his head and resigned himself to leaving, but not before one last remark.

    “Fine, fine, you’re hopeless, anyway.”
     
  2. aliaschick4mv

    aliaschick4mv Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2003
    Location:
    East Coast
    :giggles: <-- my new thing. THAT'S ME!

    HEHEHE.

    So, anyway, I love the way you described the dream, I really do. Its so detailed. I mean, most people don't take something like a different color hair or balloon, but sometimes, the greatest writers can do that, take trivial things and make them really important.

    I personally can't do that. I'm a dialogue type person, what can I say.

    You however, are amazing. CAN'T WAIT TO READ MORE!

    Luve ya,
    Dani
     
  3. Sarahmañana

    Sarahmañana Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2003
    hmm sounds interesting!
     
  4. Moriel

    Moriel Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2003
    Location:
    Mafia Headquarters
    interesting..........
     
  5. Scarlet Crystal

    Scarlet Crystal Bibbity Rabbity

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2002
    Location:
    Narnia
    whew... post more! :)
     
  6. Kira

    Kira Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    Sorry! I was away all weekend and not able to post. I will when I get home, though. Thanks! ^_^
     
  7. Mrs. Karie Vartan

    Mrs. Karie Vartan Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2003
    Location:
    Texas
    This is really good!!
    -Karie-
     
  8. Kira

    Kira Cadet

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    Next part. It's really long.

    Part 1b

    He was coming down with something.

    It was around lunch time, near the vending machines, when he first got wind of this approaching sickness. As he was putting his change in the machine for a quick lunch, a headache blossomed in his head. A small one at the beginning, nothing a little aspirin wouldn’t fix. So, he took his bag of potato chips and headed back up to his office, vowing to himself that he’d buy something a little more nutritious when he had time. Even though he knew he wouldn’t, he still told himself so.

    They only got into the office once a week, spending their remaining days off at the joint operations center. In fact, he’d be back there that night, after a quick shower and a fresh suit. He was still running on yesterday’s time and energy, thankful for coffee and any form of sugar he could find. Paperwork Day. That’s what Weiss had nicknamed the one day a week Kendall designated for the agents to go back and see their once-homes, some sort of normality restored. Of course, they always rotated what days they returned, just to throw the agents off-whack. That, or, as Weiss surmised, Devlin was messing with them.

    Whatever it was, it wouldn’t last long, and the chaotic life that had taken the place of the normally placid one would return. At least Vaughn wasn’t just a desk agent anymore. He worked in the field now, which was better than before.

    It wouldn’t help if he were sick. Which is where he was headed. He could feel it.

    Vaughn almost made it to his desk without one interruption when he saw who was sitting in his chair, a Chinese take-out box in his hand, and chopsticks in the other. Weiss. A plaque on his life.

    “Hey, buddy. Looks like you’ve got a nice lunch there,” he commented. Vaughn smirked and took a seat in one of his visitor’s chairs.

    “Doesn’t look like you’re doing any better there,” he responded, tearing open his bag of chips. Weiss laughed before shoving more of his noodles into his mouth. “So what do you want?” Vaughn pressed, munching on a chip. Weiss finished chewing and grinned over at his friend.

    “I miss us,” he said, his face completely sincere. Vaughn paused, his hand halfway in the small bag of chips. “We never talk anymore.”

    “What are you talking about? We talk all the time,” he replied, tone light. He plucked another chip from the bag and popped it in his mouth. His headache had gotten worse, and he could swear his head was just a bit congested. How could something like this just appear like this? Wasn’t he supposed to go to sleep, then wake up sick?

    Weiss was snapping his fingers in front of Vaughn’s face.

    “What?” he snapped back.

    “You spaced out there for a moment. Never going to get any work done that way,” his friend replied. “You know what we need?”

    “What?”

    “A night out, like we used to,” Weiss answered, scooping around for the last bits of his noodles.

    “It would never work. We’d get paged 10 minutes into happy hour,” Vaughn commented, shaking his head, a smile on his face. Weiss finished off the small pieces as he nodded his head, agreeing. The two ate in silence, until Weiss tossed his container and chop sticks into the nearby garbage can and leaned forward, elbows on the four open file folders atop the desk. Next to them sat a yellow legal pad, notes hastily scrawled upon them in Vaughn’s distinctive yet neat handwriting. Weiss’ eyes wandered over to the words, most of them short notes jotted down to be typed or formally written later on reports and forms, but some, some were abstract, disjointed fragments of sentences and thoughts put there absentmindedly by the desk’s owner.

    He read them slowly, wondering what was going on in his best friend’s head to prompt such thoughts. Each man had his demons, and Vaughn had more than he let on, that Weiss knew. It was just getting it out of him, getting him to open up, if just a little bit, that was the hardest part. Which was part of the reason why he always dragged his co-worker out for drinks every so often. There were just some things that people needed to at least say out loud just for the sake of saying them. He decided to take a chance.

    “What’s this mean?” he asked as Vaughn scrunched up and threw his chip bag into the same waste basket. He turned back to his guest, eyebrows raised.

    “What, my notes? It’s gibberish, just stuff I wrote down while going through this huge mountain of paper that’s taken up residence on my desk,” Vaughn explained, standing up to stretch. That was the one thing about being back here instead of the operations center – you were a lot more stationary.

    “No, this. Something about ‘I can never get there’. Get where, my friend?” he reached, anticipating the response. Vaughn froze, then rounded the desk to lean over the legal pad. “And don’t tell me you didn’t write that. It’s back again, isn’t it?”

    Vaughn sighed, running a hand down his tired face. “When isn’t it? I’m just tired, that’s all.”

    “Heard you got out around 4 this morning,” his friend supplemented.

    “Yeah. And woke up at 6.”

    “Preaching to the choir, buddy,” Weiss said. “But the choir doesn’t have demons waiting for us.”

    “C’mon.”

    “Well, okay, but you’ve got more. I think you’ve taken Marlene’s, she doesn’t have one. Neither does Beth. So that’s two more. Then there’s – “

    “Point made. Listen, I’ll get some sleep when I have time. Which won’t be any time soon if you insist on taking my office hostage. Go do your own work,” Vaughn commanded, swiping the legal pad and motioning to the door with it.

    Weiss didn’t move.

    “I’m serious. Out.”

    He still didn’t move.

    “Now.”

    Nothing.

    “Weiss.”

    Still nothing.

    “All right. What? What is it that you could possibly want?” Vaughn demanded, putting a hand on the back of the tall-back chair in a fatherly fashion. Weiss smiled. It was only after years of friendship that someone, such as him, knew exactly what buttons to push in order to get what he wanted. Always. He never really thought about the fact that this was in fact a two way street, and Vaughn was perfectly capable of reversing the situation.

    “Michael, how long have we been friends?” he asked, looking up past the hand tightly gripping the top of the chair. Vaughn sighed and rubbed his forehead, afraid of where this was headed.

    “Four years,” he replied.

    “And in those four years, how many times have I asked things of you,” Weiss continued. Vaughn simply looked down at him, an expression of disbelief painted on his face. “Right. Okay, but how many times have you asked things of me?” Another sharp look, a scoff coming from him. “This isn’t going too well.”

    “What was your first clue?” Vaughn asked, releasing his grip on the chair.

    “We need a guy’s night out, Mike. Tonight. Things should be light, we’ll have time.”

    “No.”

    “Please?” Weiss asked, launching himself out of the chair and whirling around to grip Vaughn’s hands. “I’m begging you. You need it.”

    That was the exact moment the group secretary walked in.

    “Well, I see things haven’t changed while you’ve been away,” she commented sarcastically. Weiss simply turned his head. “Yeah, right. Anyway, you’ve got a call on line 3.” Vaughn pulled his hands from Weiss’ grip and swung down to sit in his now-vacated chair while his friend mimicked a phone and mouthed ‘call me’. The secretary shook her head before following him out of the doorway, the strings of a conversation following suit. For a moment, Vaughn wished he’d eaten something more than a simple bag of chips for lunch. He’d be regretting it later, but it was expected.

    Who was calling him here, instead of on his cell? “Michael Vaughn,” he answered.

    “Hello?”

    “Hi,” Vaughn replied, relaxing and leaning back in his chair. He could feel a sneeze crawling up his sinuses, another sign of the coming illness. His lack of sleep was only going to make it worse, he knew it, but once again, it couldn’t be helped. For someone who had such a desire to control every aspect of his life, it was certainly spinning out of control. No longer did he hold the regular hours of a desk jock, at time when sleep came on a regular basis and he knew when he was going to be in and out of the office.

    Which was probably one of the reasons this phone call was coming at the end of the lunch hour. It was that small amount of time in which even the most productive would welcome an excuse to elongate their lunch break to the limits of time. Even if a boss walked by, the plausible excuse that one was on their break and would return to work as soon as the call was concluded covered the slacking employee.

    “That’s all you can say to me, hi? I haven’t heard from you for months, Michael,” came the patient, edged words. Another sigh, the second in a 10 minute span, escaped Vaughn’s lips. Was this day marked on his calendar to be a pre-designated “Bad Day”? Was he doomed to have karma snap back on him all at once? He really did try to help everyone and make sure he was following the golden rule, he truly did. Yet he was only human, and was prone to make a mistake here and there. And all those little mistakes were converging on him at once.

    “I’ve been busy. I’m sorry, mom,” he responded. Something. He had to do something to distract himself. His eyes wandered to the pile of folders recently delivered, not the best distraction in the world, but it would do. Paperwork was the creation of something truly evil, put on this Earth to stress out and piss off government workers who made too little to be dealing with this.

    “Sorry? Oh, Michael, what – “

    The sneeze could not be held back any longer. It wiped out the rest of his mother’s sentence, affirming that he indeed was sick. How he got this way, he didn’t know. His mind zoomed to the people he’d been in contact with in the last week or so. Who was sick out of that group?

    Sydney. He was going to kill her.

    “Were you even listening to a word I said? Michael? Michael!”

    “What?” he asked for the second time today. Wasn’t being easily distracted a symptom of having an illness? Or sleep deprivation?

    “Are you distracted by work?” she asked. He shook his head as if she could see him.

    “No,” he responded. Long ago he had learned the consequences of lying to one’s mother, especially his. Like all mothers, she had that extra sense that tipped her off to when her son was lying to her. It had to be the inflections in his voice that no one else could hear, because he’d had training in this department from the government. He was doomed if his mother was ever brought in during an interrogation.

    “What’s bothering you?” she inquired, her voice soft, mother-like. Ahh, how rare a sound that was, from her, that is. His mother was a hard, tough woman, shaped from raising two half-orphaned children for years. With their father gone, she had to take the place of disciplinarian, a post she had half-shared already.

    Vaughn, however, was no longer 6 years old nor was he living at home. So one would say he wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore, right? He was too nice a guy, too devoted a man, to simply tell her he was busy and hang up.

    First Weiss, now her. What was next?

    “It’s nothing, I just need a little sleep,” he responded. He could hear her sigh though the phone.

    “Something changed at work, I know it. You used to get sleep and be in your office. Now I can’t even find you. And I know you have a cell phone, you just never bothered to give me the number.”

    “It’ll be over soon,” Vaughn answered almost defensively.

    “Will you be there when it ends?” she asked.

    “I can only hope,” he whispered, the documents before him shifting out of focus for a moment. Facing one’s own mortality was hard, frightening even. When Vaughn had first been told he was becoming a handler, when he had first been told he might need to refresh his field training; he took a weekend to think, to face it. He’d come to terms, realizing that someone who feared death would only bring it about faster with their panic to avoid death. He learned that first-hand in Taipei, when he came face to face with death and calmly figured a way to escape.

    And then, there was Weiss. His best friend faced with the same dire set of circumstances. Yet he didn’t have a screwdriver in his pocket that could save him. Mortality, he’d faced. But lately he felt he was facing it more and more, and soon enough, he was worried, no, apprehensive about the fact that he may never live to see his goals played out.

    “You are too hard on yourself, Michael. You do not have to be there, at the front lines of every fight.”

    “It’s my fight,” he responded.

    “Yours alone?”

    “Yes.”

    “Well, take a break. You’re no good to anyone half-asleep. And please tell me you’re not globetrotting this weekend,” she said. Vaughn thought for a moment. Plans, what plans did he have for this weekend?

    “No, I’ll be home,” he responded, somewhat hesitantly. “Why?”

    “You need to come home, to visit. That’s an order,” she laughed. A knock on the doorframe pulled Vaughn’s attention to Weiss, who held a folder in his hand.

    “Listen, I’ve really got to go. I’ll talk to you later.”

    “I’m sure. Bye.” And she hung up. Weiss grinned.

    “Mom?” he asked.

    “Don’t ask. What’s up?” he asked, placing the phone back in its cradle. Weiss entered, apparently feeling more at home in Vaughn’s office than his own, and tossed a file onto the desk. It slid a bit before Vaughn stopped it and picked it up. “Want to tell me what this is before I open it?”

    “Just the debrief on your girl’s last mission. And it’s not all pretty.” That certainly gained his full attention. He opened it, skimming the contents, noting Sydney’s particular writing style. He could tell she was a graduate student; sometimes she would embellish more than was needed, though it did prove the normally boring debriefs more interesting. Weiss leaned just inside the door, as he had before, waiting for it. It took only a minute or so before Vaughn let out a long sigh and ran a hand through his already disturbed hair.

    “See what I mean? This also means we’re headed back over to the Ops center, so pack your briefcase with what you’ve got left and wave bye bye to your office,” he announced. “And you look horrible. Have you looked in a mirror lately?”

    “Not since this morning. Despite what you think, I’m not obsessed with my looks,” Vaughn replied, collecting the paperwork on his desk. Weiss laughed.

    “You should be, hanging out with a man like me,” he replied. “I’ll meet you over there, ok? I’ve got some stuff to finish up.”

    “Have you even seen your office?” his friend asked of him, shoving the folders and such into his briefcase.

    “Sure. It’s over there somewhere. I’ve got more important things on the mind.”

    “Like Becca, right?”

    “What can I say? She digs me.”

    “Yeah, she digs you, Eric.”

    . .

    He was scheduled for a 4 o’clock meet with Sydney to go over the recent mission, and ask the assigned questions (“Why didn’t the camera work?” “Are you sure you did everything you could in order to complete the counter mission?”) in order to clear up some issues. Ideally, he’d have already spoken to Kendall and Jack and figured out what exact information they needed, but with today being a non-ops day for him, that didn’t happen. Which was fine – he was fully capable of holding on his own.

    By the time he’d arrived at the self-storage, he wasn’t feeling very well anymore. For once he was glad he’d placed a small box of tissues in his glove compartment. Most were gone by now, and the ride to the Ops center from there would only be that much harder. His headache wasn’t improving at all. The pounding reverberating throughout his skull pulsed louder with each movement he made, aggravated with each noise he heard. It was a horrid existence, even if momentarily, that made him want nothing more than to curl up into ball and sleep. For long periods of time. In the dark.

    It wasn’t often that he fell ill. In fact, it was so rare that his mother often commented about it during his childhood. She would always count her blessings as sickness would spread through his school, thankful she wouldn’t have to take a day off of work to take care of him. In the later years of his primary education, his mother was counting even more blessings, realizing, and thus, allowing him to do so as well, that as a single parent she couldn’t afford to take any time off. So, being sick at the moment was an oddity to Vaughn.

    He hobbled, or walked slowly, into the gated clandestine meeting area, chosen by Weiss after hours of trying to locate a stationary meeting place for the handler and his charge. Simply, the pair of agents had run out of ideas for coincidental meetings between to total strangers. After awhile, they wouldn’t be strangers any more with the amount of times they “accidentally” ran into each other.

    She wasn’t there yet. Vaughn meticulously checked his watch, already knowing it was 3:50 from his car clock. Still, he checked. Maybe while he was waiting he could close his eyes, get a bit of rest. He certainly didn’t know secret Asia sleeping techniques, only normal close your eyes and breathe slowly for rest. So he leaned against the cold metal links that formed a wall and let his eyes slip closed, his mind wandering through all he needed to get done before he finally would be able to sleep for sure.

    He wasn’t falling – his mind was too tired for that. Instead, he was drifting uncontrollably, in the controlled chaos of his troubled mind. He could feel the dream coming in, the edges faded like an old movie on 16 mm. He half-expected silent movie stars to run out and take on the rolls of the normal players, detaching himself from the action unfolding around him. But the silent movie stars would not come. Instead, there was just the man, standing to the left of the figureless creature with a large gun, pointed at him. Vaughn’s consciousness frowned, as if it could do such a thing. Someone had skipped the beginning, fast-forwarding him to the beginning of the worst part.

    With no buffer to rely on, his mind began to scream, willing him to run towards the man and his executioner, pouring everything he could into just getting there, just making it to his destination. He ran faster and faster, his feet arching, lungs burning, but he was too late – he was always too late. And as his eyes began to shift out of focus (had he dropped his glasses while running? Didn’t he stop wearing glasses in college?), he heard a large sound.

    “Vaughn!” His green eyes snapped open, a look of fear etched on his face. Sydney Bristow stood before him, her hands clasped in front of her, in the fashion that she had just clapped in front of his face. “Vaughn?” she asked, her voice softer than the first outburst to grab his attention. “You look horrible.”

    “So I’ve been told,” he responded, finally gaining his bearings. Sydney took a step back so he could stand without leaning on the chain link fence, moving without any words having to be spoken. “So, I read over yo-“

    “Don’t you get sick days?” she asked, interrupting him. His first impulse was to yell at her, to tell her to be quiet so he could finish and get out of here. But he bit his tongue and let her speak. In a half-hour, he’d be somewhere other than here.

    “Can we just get through this?” he inquired, rubbing his forehead, slightly frustrated.

    “You really should be at home, Vaughn, you don’t sound too good,” she continued despite his protests. He shook his head, trying to clear it.

    “I’m fine. Now, what – “

    “Really, you’re not fine. Go home. I’ll go talk to Kendall and my father,” Sydney said, crossing her arms. A piece of hair came loose, but she made no move to tuck it back behind her ear. She seemed – perturbed. As if all she wanted to do something but couldn’t. Vaughn sighed. Her worry was misaimed – wasn’t he supposed to make those worries disappear, not cause them?

    “We were,” and this time, he held up his hand to keep her from interrupting him once again, “wondering if you still had any of the equipment. We’d like to analyze it just in case.” Sydney nodded, plunging a hand into her purse to retrieve the items she still had.

    “I’m sorry I don’t have the camera, I had to ditch it before returning to Dixon,” she smiled. In her outstretched hand she held a role of film, removed from the aforementioned camera before returning to her SD-6 partner. Her handler reached out to retrieve it, but her hand closed just before he could take it from her. A mischievous gleam came into her eyes. “I told you I’d take it in.”

    “I can’t believe this!” Vaughn exclaimed, rubbing his forehead in frustration.

    They sat silently across from each other, neither making a move to be the next to speak, each with their own stubborn reasons for remaining silent, hoping the other would prove to be weaker and thus the first to break. Of course, bother knew their silent companion inside the walls of cut links was no amateur, and had most likely received some sort of training that could be applied to this situation. That, or they had been a very socially adept grade-schooler. Whatever the case, they sat in silence; Sydney with her arms crossed and a warm yet fiercely concerned expression residing in her eyes, and Vaughn, leaning slightly awkwardly against the cold links, his face impassive yet determined. If a stranger had happened upon the pair in this state, they might immediately assume a lover’s spat between the two who both equally believed the fault did not lie in their hands.

    Instead, both believed, in reference to the condition of the career intelligence officer’s health, they were right; and neither was willing to change their minds. Yet neither held malice when attempting to impose their rules on each other. Both views were filled with love – or maybe intense concern? – for the other, a desire so fueled by buried feelings that to sway would be to deny their very heart. While neither was ready to admit what they only had a vague knowledge of existing in the core of their deepest feelings, every small battle won brought them closer to some goal not yet define. Insofar, it appeared as if no one would budge and life would be required to go on hold for a bit when something uncontrollable occurred.

    Vaughn sneezed.

    Now here, both parties involved stood at an impasse of a few small seconds. Each had been engrained from birth with the kindness their parent shad not been able to afford in their chaotic lives. And with this kindness came the automated actions pertaining to manors. And so, Vaughn found himself struggling with himself and the need to apologize to the lady sitting before him. Sydney, on the other hand, felt the sudden urge to give him the standard response, using it as a springboard to launch a new attack on him, the sneeze used as proof that going home to rest was the only option. These thoughts ran through their minds as fast as a bullet train, not complete thoughts, but fragments pieced together unconsciously.

    Sydney was never a good ‘silent game’ player, something she blamed on the fact that she was an only child.

    “Bless you.” She blurted out before her mind could relay the message of silence to her mouth. A hand flew up on a moment too late, her face transforming to an expression of surprise and defeat. The victor across from her smirked as best he could in his condition.

    “Don’t start smirking – you didn’t exactly win,” she commented, absentmindedly shifting her weight. “Who’s going to miss you if you take an afternoon off?” Sydney tried to push her view in the minute of uncertainly. Vaughn stifled the silence-breaking sneeze’s sequel.

    “We don’t work in a profession in which sick days are permitted,” he retuned, hanging his head back, eyes focusing on the ceiling. He’d never looked up there in the year he’d frequented this small area as much as his own home. It was a simple crosshatch of metal and pipes, a few industrial light dotted throughout the pattern here and there. He was sure it was combed over week after week by a man who now knew the area like the back of his hand, yet still wondered about its purpose as he searched it. Maybe the tech had created a story of his own, allowing his imagination to run wild as he idly check interments he had long ago mastered.

    What were they really doing here?

    “Not permitted? Another rule from the CIA handbook that must be strictly followed?” she surmised, her voice filled with the disgust usually used when referring to her monster of a boss. Obviously, she didn’t hold the rules and employee of the CIA had to follow in high regard despite the consequences of breaking them

    “Self-imposed,” Vaughn said, pulling his head forward again, his green eyes leveling with her soft brown ones.

    “Self-imposed?” Sydney whispered, speaking aloud to herself. For a moment, she doubted herself; was her concern really valid? Or was she merely doubting him when she shouldn’t?
    He devoted himself so strictly that he would not even take a day off to recover. Her eyes took a look at him, a real look, noticing things she had missed before. How his eyes appeared tired, drained by work, his posture a little stooped, his clothing not as freshly pressed as usual.

    “The world doesn’t just stop overnight; our enemies don’t take a break while we sleep – “

    “But why is it your fight alone?” Sydney broke in, pacing a few feet in front of him. It wasn’t nervous pacing, more a pace of control, of her feet moving as fast as her mind. Vaughn scoffed, the simple gesture turning into a puzzled laugh. Sydney stopped.

    “What’s so funny?”

    “You’re the second person to ask me that today,” he explained, pushing off from the wall he’d been leaning against. Remaining still would only invite sleep, rest, something he had no time for. Only through action could he beat whatever he had, would kick it out of his system. He swayed a bit on his feet, but quickly caught himself, holding his hands out to fend off Sydney’s advance to steady him herself.

    “Whoever it was,’ she responded, letting her arms fall to her sides (obviously a move to make her seem less threatening) “had to be a wise person.”

    “My mother has always been,” he sighed, sneezing again. This time, no power play took place, no wondering who would break first. Vaughn promptly apologized for his cold symptom, yet held his voice at an empty, almost ice-like tone. Any genuine emotion emitted would only give strength to Sydney’s argument, something that need no extra help.

    “You’re no use to me as a pile of tissues – “

    “There are no tissues here!” Vaughn exclaimed almost a little too enthusiastically, hoping she’s hadn’t seen the interior of his car while walking in. That was something she certainly didn’t need to know about.

    “-so just go home and I’ll take care of the technical explanation,” she finished, ignoring his protest. For a moment, she could hardly believe he was nothing more than a school child arguing with his over concerned mother. But she wasn’t a mother, a sister, or anything of that sort – just a friend, a concerned friend. This ‘label’ should have brought her a good amount of sway, but Vaughn was annoyingly stubborn; a trait shared between them.

    “Sometimes,” she started, half-sitting on some old, misplaced boxes, probably put there to give the area more realism. A few were labeled; ‘Bill’s Room’, ‘Kitchen’, ex cetera, leftovers from someone’s new beginning placed in a room where no beginnings would take place. “when I want to forget something, forget about life or the problems plaguing me, I bury myself in work. But after awhile, they all catch up with me, no matter how much I fight them. You’ve been working for so long; you live to work. What happened to simply living?”

    “I can’t.”

    “Can’t?” Sydney recoiled from his answer. She seemed to change, more authoritative, more you’d-better-listen. “Whatever this is, I don’t know. But we’ll talk after you go home and get better before you mess something up as result of your insane stubbornness.” A small grin bloomed on Vaughn’s face, his defeat announced by this show of emotion. At the rate they were calmly arguing, he would never get to the ops center, and therefore, never get home (no matter what late hour that would be). This surrender was simply saving him time.

    “I’m going to remember that for the next time you wonder why I won’t change my mind despite your protests.”

    “If it makes you feel better,” Sydney commented offhand, smiling.

    Vaughn hesitated. Sure, just a bit, he told himself, as did most things Sydney-related. But to rest was to pick-up where the dream left off; and who knew what demons would come out now that his mind wasn’t as strong as usual to fend them off.
     
  9. aliaschick4mv

    aliaschick4mv Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2003
    Location:
    East Coast
    LOL I have to say, I'm a big fan of Nurse Sydney. Its a very cute moment. :bounces in chair in anticipation: Great chapter! Can't wait for more!

    Luve ya,
    Dani
     
  10. Mrs. Karie Vartan

    Mrs. Karie Vartan Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2003
    Location:
    Texas
    This is great!! Keep going!!
    -Karie-
     

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