Author: Alias424 PM
“And let me wring your heart for so I shall, If it be made of penetrable stuff.” William Shakespeare, HamletRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 12 - Words: 66,009 - Reviews: 94 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 02-04-04 - Published: 12-04-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1628378
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A/N: This has nothing to do with anything, or at least not any episodes. It's just something that popped into my head and wouldn't leave until it was written down. Enjoy!
"And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,
If it be made of penetrable stuff."
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Chapter 1: A Pounding Heart
Her arms pumping, flying, beating through the frigid air; legs moving as fast as they could, her feet barely hitting the frozen ground. The wind rushing through her hair, probably tangling it beyond hope. But that didn't matter now. It never did. The icy air stinging her cheeks, leaving its frosty, throbbing mark, finding its way into her lungs and threatening to burst them. But she never thought of that. Ever. Her heart pumping faster than she would have ever thought humanly possible. The adrenaline coursing through her. Exhilarating. The only thing keeping her going. Every time. The only thing that ever left her wanting more, so much more; that suspended every second. The only thing that made this damn job worthwhile.
Her earphone crackled, squawking as she continued onward. "Syd?"
Well, one of the only things.
"I'm almost there…" she gasped, straining to hear herself over the blood rushing in her ears. Any normal person would have been beyond the powers of speech, but not her. She always found a way to communicate with the voice in her ear, especially if it was Michael Vaughn. "I can see the building."
It was only a speck, or rather a small spark of light from a single emergency bulb, but it was quickly gaining, adding to the excitement, the thrill. Soon she would have completely infiltrated Russian intelligence, would have purloined the documents the CIA needed, that no one else was supposed to have, and would be back in the van with Vaughn and safely on her way to the airport.
Sydney: 1. Russian terrorists: 0. She would have won yet again.
Vaughn's soft voice in her ear carried her back to reality, plucking her from the sheer excitement and gently placing her down in the midst of the freezing storm. She knew he couldn't stand when she did this, knew that part of him died inside every time she was on a mission. He had tried to describe to her one night, as they lay in bed, fingers entwined, how he felt when he listened to her short, gasping breaths over the com-link, when he heard the sickening thud of a body, when he heard her soft, whispering voice. She had laughed quietly and jokingly told him not to listen, to give the job to someone else.
"Be careful, Syd."
She knew he was keeping his voice low to prevent it from cracking, knew that if she could see him, concern would be flickering through his eyes, playing with his emotions, wreaking havoc on his usually stoic front.
She heard a sound behind her; thundering footsteps, so many of them that they were rumbling even over the wind. This didn't sound like the patrol that she knew would be going by eventually. But not until she had safely retrieved the documents and was well on her way back to Vaughn. Not for another thirteen minutes. Ducking into a dark alleyway, she hid amongst the shadows a split second before Vaughn's voice whispered once again in her ear.
"They're on to you."
Instead of worrying over the meaning of his words, Sydney found herself awash in the tone of his voice, the tender love and anxiety enveloping her, making her feel whole, keeping her from fretting, letting her think that everything would be okay.
Maybe everyone was right. Maybe they were compromising missions, or at least themselves, by sleep… living together. But Sydney didn't care, and she knew no one else did either when she and Vaughn were deemed the best working pair that anyone could remember. She closed her eyes and a soft sigh escaped her lips, her senses escaping momentarily and basking in the man of her dreams, her love, her life. His tender kisses and caresses were whispers on her skin, his touch feather-light, leaving her craving…
Deep, ravenous barking invaded her ears, the dogs sounding as if they hadn't been fed in weeks, had been waiting, had been bred, had been starving for this very moment. Sydney stood frozen in the alley, not daring to move, not daring to breathe, trying desperately to come up with a plan, but quickly scrapping that idea and relying on instinct to guide her in the heat of the moment.
Closer and closer. Snarling and growling, stomping and yelling. A flash of white teeth. Sharp fangs. Sprays of saliva. Chunks of dirt uplifted by feet, mixing with the soft snow that was beginning to fall. Fur and feet and hands and faces streaming into view. But gone just as quickly, running right by, most of the pack not faltering for a second. One of the dogs, snarling and angry, poked its nose into the alley, growling viciously, almost close enough to touch her, to take a chunk out of her flesh.
A booming yell from ahead, a Russian word that she couldn't make out, and the dog quickly retreated, darting to catch up with the rest. Confusion clouded her mind, dampening the high of the adrenaline. Trained attack dogs do not just run by their target.
They find. They pounce. They kill.
"Vaughn," she whispered harshly. "What the hell is going on?"
The cold was beginning to catch up with her, caressing her skin with icy finger, soft touches that went straight to her core. She could feel the stinging of her chapped cheeks, hear the howling of the wind, banshee-like through the alley and across the no longer so desolate compound.
They had thought this place was deserted, had thought that no one had even cared that it was here anymore. They had thought that this intelligence compound had been shut down and forgotten, except for the guards that still did their rounds through the abandoned streets. And the CIA, who had recently found that pertinent files still lurking deep within the shadows of the now nearly defunct Russian technology. But if they had figured it out, then…
"Someone else found out about the files, Syd," Vaughn's voice crackled. To anyone else, it would have sounded perfectly calm, cool, and collected. But Sydney knew better. "We haven't been able to get a positive ID." She knew he had heard the dogs and the shouting just as she had, but had been unable to see that she was unharmed, hidden away. He was petrified. More afraid of losing her, than she was of dying. "Get the hell out of there."
"But if I – "
"Syd. Please." Just drop it and run. Be a coward for once. You don't always have to be the goddamn hero…
She could almost hear his inner monologue tearing away at him. And maybe the CIA really was behind this decision, maybe they would rather have her run and screw the mission, maybe they could get the files some other time, do without them. Or maybe Michael Vaughn cared more for Sydney Bristow than he did for the CIA.
"I could still get them, Vaughn. ID the group…"
They hadn't seen her yet, and if she laid low, they never would. They would never know that she was there, that they had company, that their every move was being watched and would be documented. She peaked around the corner just in time to see them disappear into the building, the very same building she herself should have been infiltrating at that very moment.
"They're inside," she murmured, not caring that he probably already knew.
She could almost see him, tense and anxious, inches from the computer screen, headphones on, poised and ready, hanging on her every word. She had known it even before he had told her that night; even now she could feel his arm around her, his fingers entwined with hers as he whispered into her hair. But she had already known; could tell by his tone, the words he used, the way his voice came dangerously close to cracking with every word.
"Get out of there, Sydney. Before they come back."
Both pleading and commanding, stern, but never harsh, not with her. Not when this could be the last time he would ever speak to her. The glass was always half empty; he always prepared himself for the worst. When he had told her this, she had tried to convince him that everything would always be okay, that she would never leave him. He had given her that small, sad smile, kissed the top of her head, and tightened his grip on her hand.
Sydney didn't answer, not realizing that that was worse than any response she could have given. She didn't know that the wind was whistling through her end of the com-link to his ears, that he was trying desperately to hear the sound of her breathing, to pass off whispers in the wind as a sign of life.
The door to the building slammed open, unheard at this distance, but its force apparent as it bounced off the concrete wall, nearly closing again. Figures poured out, shapes barely discernible in the mixture of darkness and snow.
"They're back," Sydney mumbled, ducking back behind the wall. A truck tore by, its headlights blinding even in the dark of the alley. Thankfully, it was going too fast to notice the woman crouching almost clearly within its view.
"Lay low. Don't let them know you're there."
A thousand questions were flaming within her, tiny sparks that would ignite only to be extinguished because she didn't know the answers, because they were taken over by other, bigger, more burning issues.
"I can't see who – "
She peered around the corner again, the truck's headlights more or less clearly lighting the scene, but the distance still too much to make out individual faces. Men and women were lined up along the wall, hands on their heads. Had she been close enough, she would have seen them shaking, seen the fear in their eyes, the sheer terror directed at the twenty armed men in front of them and the assault rifles breathing down their necks. The tears running down their cheeks, lips quivering, eyes unblinking, afraid that if they shut, the last thing they would remember would be the darkness.
"There were people in the building…" The utter horror of the scene was beginning to catch up with her. Beginning to gnaw away at her and growing slowly worse as time progressed, as the wind howled, as each snowflake fell. This part… this was the worst. The killing the violence. The innocent men and women… and children.
Because a tiny figure at the end of the line had just run into someone else's arms, had just been scooped up and consoled, hiding its head in the other's shoulder. Children… Families... What the hell was going on?
"Vaughn…" her voice was so low that he could barely hear her, but so full of need and fear, so tiny and timid, so chilling…
"Syd, I'm here."
"There… There're children… Kids, Vaughn, and – "
"Do. Not. Move." Each word was a separate statement, a declaration. She could tell he was beginning to compartmentalize, to become solely Agent Vaughn, if only for the moment. And she knew that she needed that, too, that she needed him to control her, to tell her not to move. Because she knew as well as he did that without his direct order, she would be out there in a second, fighting for her life and losing it just as quickly. She was good, but she would never be good enough to take on more than twenty armed terrorists and almost that many half-starved dogs. No one ever would be.
She didn't fight his command. Not verbally. But it was tearing her up inside, ripping her apart. Maybe it was her imagination or just the wind, but she swore that the children's cries were being carried to her on the breeze. She could hear their whimpering, their cries of pain.
"Sydney. Please… Stay where you are," Vaughn repeated, quickly gaining some emotion, his words as thick as the fear that was clouding his brain.
And anyone, whether they worked for the CIA or not, would have realized at that moment that perhaps emotion wasn't such a poison when added to the stresses of their job, this job. Had any other agent been on the other end of her earpiece, Sydney Bristow would have launched herself out of that alleyway and to most certain death. But it wasn't just any agent giving her that command. It was the only one she would actually listen to, the one who she went home with after a tiring day, and lulled away the nightmares that threatened to keep her up at night, the one who held the key to her heart. It was Agent Michael Vaughn.
Sydney sunk down against the wall, waiting for what she knew would come, knowing that Vaughn was seated in his chair in the van thinking the exact same thing, wishing he could be with her at that moment to comfort her, wishing like she was, that there was something they could do.
The air was dense, the wind still screaming, just as Sydney knew the people were, mirroring them, mimicking them out of sympathy perhaps, or maybe unable to stand listening to their shrieks and trying to cover them with its own.
But the wind couldn't cover what was to come next. The sudden, short blasts that she knew ended a life. A small piece of hot metal, twisting its way into flesh, embedding there and stealing the life from the owner, sealing its fate.
"Vaughn… they're executing them."
Neither needed to actually see the proceedings to know what was going on. The scene still played out in their heads, closer to reality than either of them would expect. Sydney fought to keep the tears back, not sure why she was crying for people she had never met, might even be the enemy. But this was no way for anyone to die, no matter what their alliance might be.
She counted the shots, matching them with her own breaths, her heartbeat seeming to echo them, stopping and starting in time with each loss of life.
If she had been closer, she would have heard the thud as the body fell to the ground, empty and hollow, sickening…
The shots carried clearly through the air, echoing in her ears and reaching Vaughn's. She knew because he started to whisper to her, to try to tell her that it would be all right, an attempt to hold her when he knew he couldn't. She could barely hear him, barely process his words. But they were there, and that's all that mattered.
"… It's all right, Syd. It's okay…"
"… c'est bon…"
"…tout sera bon…"
"…seulement le séjour…"
"…s'il vous plait, Sydney…"
"…s'il vous plait…"
"…s'il vous plait, ne deplace pas…"
"…pour moi, Sydney…"
"…tout sera bon…"
"… je t'aime…"
"…pour toujours et…"
But Sydney never got to hear the end. Thirteen single shots before a barrage of them assaulted her ears and thoughts, and without peering from behind the safety of the brick wall, she correctly assumed that all hell broke loose.
Forty-seven seconds and it was over. She knew because she counted, trying to keep her mind on anything but what was occurring, trying to block the sounds from her ears. It didn't work. Snarling, tearing, barking, screaming, pounding, dying… all carried to her on the howling wind. Sydney didn't need Vaughn's command to root her in her spot this time; she was frozen, couldn't have moved if she tried.
Only the wind and the falling snow, dancing to the ground; the darkness oppressing, pushing down on her for a split second before the noises started again, the stomping of feet, the slamming of doors and the growling of an engine. The men, dogs, and the truck roared by, and moments later, silence, deathlike, found her once more.
Sydney took a deep, shaky breath, as if it were the first one she had taken for hours, and the last she would breathe ever again. She stood up and peered around the corner, darkness and silence greeting her, the wind whipping around her as if to shake her hand.
"Syd?" Vaughn's voice crackled in her ear. He sounded like he had been holding his breath the entire time, afraid that he wouldn't get an answer.
She could hear the fear and uncertainty in his voice, the sigh of relief when she responded. "They're gone."
"Syd…" He paused there, needing a second to compose himself, to sort his thoughts, his emotions.
"Vaughn." It's okay, Vaughn. It's always okay... I promise... I love you. God, she wanted so much to return to him, to fly into his grasp…
"Get out of there, Syd. Come back." She could tell he was straining to keep control, to stay at his post and not to run to her. She could tell that he wanted to have her in his arms just as much as she wanted to be enveloped in his. "Please."
As much as she wanted to, she knew that she couldn't. She knew that she couldn't turn and flee, couldn't run away. Not now. Not this time. She had to see… to see who it was that…
"I have to see, Vaughn…"
It would bring her that much closer to finding out who had massacred them, who it was that had those documents, the documents that were so important as to cause so many deaths.
"No, Sydney. Please, no."
There was something out there. Something out there that would give her a clue, that was pulling her towards the area even as Vaughn was begging her to run away. An unseen force had lassoed her, yanking her toward the destruction that she didn't want to see, wasn't even sure if she could stomach. And she didn't know why. It wasn't as if she had never seen anything like this before. But…
"Sydney, you don't know when they might come back."
Eerily, the wind stilled for a moment, silence descending like the now thickly falling snow. A shiver ran up Sydney's spine, but she didn't feel the cold. Something carried its way through the stillness, taking advantage of the momentary absence of wind to fight its way through the snowflakes. She couldn't place it, not at first…an animal howling, the wind playing tricks far away, the dogs returning… a whisper, a murmur, a tiny cry off in the distance, quieting just as quickly as it had crept up on her.
"There's something out there."
"Please, Syd. Just get the hell out of there."
Picking her way through the dark, tiptoeing around the bodies, glad the night cloaked their faces, wishing they weren't there. Snow was falling thickly now, trying to sugarcoat the scene; the dark shrouding it, covering what was there. But not completely.
The solitary light bulb humming above the door of the building, throwing light where none should fall: a pool of blood; a silent scream forever petrified; a vacant eyeball, once so full of life, now frozen in fear until the end of time. Sydney found her way into the small circle of soft light and knelt beside the figure sprawled across the concrete steps. A woman, younger even than herself, almost a child… with four bullet holes ripped through her chest.
Reaching up with shaking fingers, her gloves protecting them from the cold but not the numbness, Sydney gently closed the woman's mouth and eyes, bringing an end to her terrified grimace and leaving her in peace. She took a shuddering breath, her gaze still fixed on the woman before her, unable to identify her, her knowledge of Russian organizations and leaders failing her for a moment, leaving her unable to fathom who she might be.
A rustling in the dry, nearly dead bushes made her leap in the air, pistol poised, instantly at the ready. It repeated itself as she trained her aim in that direction, the wind instantly picking up as she did so, shrieking with even more fury than it had before, blinding her with frigid air and snow.
"Vaughn?" she whispered harshly and loudly, willing at once for her voice to be heard over the wind, but not to carry too far, realizing in an instant that coming this way had been futile, that she should have listened to him when he told her to run the hell away.
He didn't answer.
Her heart slammed against her ribcage, her blood racing through her veins. Without realizing the absurdity of the idea, Sydney began to think that he was ignoring her, angry with her for not following his orders, forgetting that he would never intentionally leave her on her own. Ever.
Unfazed, she pressed onward, concentrating now not on tiptoeing around the bodies, but just not stepping directly on them. The wind and blinding snow making even that nearly impossible as she faltered and tripped through the street. Nudging and stepping over them, whispering apologies that weren't heard. It was like the death march, like she was the last survivor on the battlefield. Except she was a traitor, a coward… she hadn't fought. But still she trudged on; her internal compass and instinct led her to the bushes, weapon still trained on whatever danger lurked within them.
"Vaughn?… Please…" she tried again, needing more than ever to hear the sweet sound of his voice, feel him, taste him, see him… She needed him to kiss away the hurt, the fear, the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach…
She moved the dry branches of the bush aside with fumbling fingers, just as her com-link let out an ear-piercing squeal, breaking her concentration just when she needed it most. The high-pitched squawking subsided to the soft crackle of static. The line was dead.
Sydney swore under her breath, her heart skipping a beat as she lost her direct connection to Vaughn, her blood turning to ice at the thought of being without him, of him worrying about her.
It only took a fraction of a second for her to regain her senses and poise, to fully move the stubborn branches aside and plunge the barrel of her weapon within the gap, pointing at whatever was inside. Her heart was pounding, threatening to break her ribs, betray her, give her fear away.
She hastily blinked the snowflakes out of her eyelashes, trying desperately to see through the inky blackness. The world seemed in slow motion, glimmering in and out of focus. Her heart beating impossibly faster, egged on by the unknown, the knowledge that she could very well be dead in seconds. Her eyes widening as the earth shimmered into focus, stinging as they became more exposed to the biting gusts of air.
"Oh my God…"
Here are the translations of Vaughn's French, at least according to AltaVista, with a little help from my friend. I don't speak it, so I'm sorry if they're awful: "It's okay… It'll be okay… Just stay… Please, Sydney… Please… Please, don't move… For me, Sydney… It'll be okay… I love you… Forever and…"
So, what do you think? Should I quite while I'm ahead, or do you want more? The chapters will get better (and fluffier) after this, I promise…