Author: sangga PM
"'Let's fight til six, then have dinner,' said Tweedledum"... Syd and Vaughn do the hot and sweaty. Surreptitious perving - go figure. Post-'20 yrs' pick-me-up.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,831 - Reviews: 46 - Favs: 17 - Updated: 06-10-02 - Published: 06-07-02 - id: 821733
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"I hate…push-ups…did you…know that?"
Sydney's hair is hanging out of her ponytail a little at the front as her biceps work. No girlie push-ups for Sydney – torso and legs a plank, her arms move smoothly, rhythmically. Vaughn is watching with interest as the sweat pools on her back in that little hollow in her spine between the edge of her crop-top and the waist of her pants… He blinks.
"Uh, seventy – you're done. And no, I didn't know that. As much as you hate pull-ups?"
"Nah. Pull-ups are worse."
He quickly averts his eyes to his clipboard to make a note as she hauls herself to her feet. Fake exhaustion – she's done pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, a sprint and a rope climb, and he can tell that she's still fresh. She could do this all day, within reason, and still look like a glamour goddess if necessary. He knows this is a fact - he's seen her in action. He catches her impatient expression as she glances at her watch.
"You said thirty minutes, and I have to be in class at –"
He's scribbling, and his upraised finger halts her. "Almost done."
"What's next?" She raises an eyebrow as she towels perspiration off her face. "Holding my breath underwater?"
He stops and stares at her with a hint of grim amusement.
"No, I think you've already established your streetcred on that one."
His look reminds her, and the recollection comes flooding back.
You need a dentist…
Her mascara running into her eyes when they pulled her up out of the sink the first time. The light reflecting off her interrogator's glasses. That crunching sound, which she's tried to repress, as the pliers…
She swallows and pushes it all back down with a flippant shrug.
"Eye test," he supplies helpfully.
Back on a firmer base than bad memories, she nods confidently.
"I'll make it easy for you. I'm twenty-twenty. Surgically corrected, about three years ago."
Vaughn looks surprised. He can't remember if this is in her file.
"You had laser surgery?"
"Yup. Cool, huh?" Her tone suggests that a week spent in semi-blindness and bandages was actually somewhat less than cool. "SD-6 coughed up to 'perfect' my skills. So, you still need to test me?"
"Guess not." His momentary confusion is covered as he scribbles at his clipboard, then he glances up and grins. "At least I get out of this one too, huh?"
Sydney shrugs and slings the handtowel around her neck.
"Shouldn't bother you though, right? You don't wear glasses, or contacts even."
There's a sudden vacuum. Vaughn has abruptly stopped fiddling with his notes to stare at her. Sydney feels her cheeks warm as the implication of her words filters through. She's been looking at him. Closely, in fact – close enough to note the absence of contacts. Gazing into his eyes, so to speak. And now she's practically told him so. Idiot.
Sydney purses her lips primly. Vaughn is sorely tempted to milk it, but decides that it would be unfair. Instead he inclines his head disingenuously, and gives her a secret smile, as he gives away a confidence of his own.
"I'm short-sighted in my right eye."
Sydney's embarrassment is overtaken by surprise.
"No way. Then how –"
"Don't need corrective lenses." He explains further. "The problem is pretty minor. It's balanced out on the other side – my left eye is long-sighted to the same degree and compensates."
"Get outta here."
She blinks her interest. He does his best 'aw shucks' routine.
"It's kind of common, apparently. That's why I favour my left eye for distance targets. Seems to have made me a little ambidextrous with my gun."
Sydney nods with wary respect. Turning a weakness into an advantage is no mean feat.
"I'll keep that in mind." She takes a step back to peruse him, discretely contemplating hidden talents. "Wow – I would never have known."
Vaughn smiles. See anything you like?
"I'll take that as a compliment." Then his unconscious pen-tapping on the clipboard alerts him to forgotten priorities. He looks down at his list. "Okay, um, next is a run. A timed four hundred metres."
Sydney frowns and stops. "But if we go down to the track someone might see –"
"Relax." Vaughn makes a note before allaying her concerns. "I took the liberty of timing you a couple of days ago, during one of your regular sessions."
"You spied on me?" Her expression takes on a frosty tenor.
He shrugs – very dry. Well, duh.
"Occupational hazard. Anyway, you were well within range on the run, so we can take that as your test result."
"Fine." She's still a little unnerved, but decides to bite on it. "So is that it?"
Vaughn is being studious with his notes.
"One more thing."
"What? You want me to abseil off the roof? Field-strip a semi-automatic? Or I could –"
"Hand to hand." He meets her eyes finally. "I have to test your unarmed combat skills."
"Unarmed combat?" Her brow furrows in confusion. "Against who – the wall?"
Vaughn straightens and fixes her stare manfully.
Sydney is smiling. She's trying, oh so hard, not to sound condescending but goddamn it, he just seems so…
"Against you… Are you serious?"
Vaughn straightens further.
"Sure. Something wrong with that?"
She blinks and crosses her arms. Diplomacy was never her strong suit. Actually it's her frankness that he most admires.
"Well – yeah. It's not a fair contest."
"I'll go easy on you." He's already divesting himself of clipboard, stopwatch, pen.
She rolls her eyes. "I meant it's not fair on you, dope. Look, no offence, and I'm sure you're a very competent field operative and everything, but this stuff is like second nature to me now. I'm not sure I'll be able to pull all my punches, and –"
"I don't expect you to pull any of them." He toes off his shoes and removes his socks, stuffing them under the nearest benchseat. The look he gives her when he stands gives her the strangest feeling. "I want to see you fight."
"Don't go all macho on me now –" she warns.
He nods a chin towards her feet in reply.
"You should take off your shoes."
Her use of his name was meant to arrest his movements and it does – but without quite the desired effect. He smiles broadly. She frowns and huffs.
"Fine. But don't blame me if this ends up with you in the hospital."
"I won't end up in the hospital. And I absolve you of responsibility – it's my call."
Sydney pouts, which is glorious, but he remembers that placating comes first.
"Anyway, we still have to test you for the assessment, so…" He nods at her feet again. "Take off your shoes."
Relenting reluctantly – my objection is a point of record, Your Honour. Looking alternately pissed off and worried, she walks over to the bench and slips off her runners and socks, then feeling oddly self-conscious she wriggles her sweatpants down to reveal thigh-high lycra training pants. Berates herself for being self-conscious.
Come on, it's just Vaughn– staunchly reliable, wryly placid Vaughn. She hazards a glance in Just Vaughn's direction in time to see him lift his sweatshirt and toss it onto the bench – underneath is a tight black t-shirt so old that the sleeves appear to have disintegrated.
Sydney gulps discretely and looks down to straighten her ponytail. When she looks up again, her handler has a polite hand extended towards the sparring mats set up in the centre of the huge room.
Sydney rolls her eyes – this is ridiculous – but makes for the mats anyway. He follows. Just when they're about to turn and face each other, she remembers something.
She lifts a finger to counterpoint, then dashes back to her belongings on the bench and sets up her walkman; removes the headphones, switches it to speaker. A riot of lively techno-thrash is suddenly whistling on the air, and Sydney grins as she races back to her position.
Vaughn raises an eyebrow.
She shrugs. "Well, you wanted the whole kit and caboodle…"
"Looks like I got it."
They're standing opposite each other, about five feet apart. Plenty of empty space in between, and staring seems to fill the void a little. Let's-pretend-we're-sizing-each-other-up - when in fact they've been sizing each other up for quite some time now…
She's thinking that he seems…tall. Even without his shoes. Which is kinda weird – she's never thought of him as tall. She thinks of herself as tall…but her eyes are level with his, so he must be…gah, this is stupid.
I'm tall, he's tall…okay, fine. Get over it.
He's also, her brain notes dispassionately, lean and muscled and rather brown. Almost too brown for a guy who apparently spends most of his life in rumpled government-issue suits. Tanned? Nah, that's not it. Maybe, olive-complexioned would be a better…
She straightens and swallows.
He's thinking that she looks…nervous. How weird, for Sydney. She can't be nervous about fighting him – bravado aside, the whole thing is most likely going to end unhappily, with a) a broken nose, b) internal haemmoraging, c) all of the above, and no prizes for guessing who'll be wearing the damage.
But then again…he has a few tricks up his sleeve.
He grins faintly, and his eyes drift accidently down…take in the glisten of perspiration on the skin of Sydney's bare midriff.
And the back of his throat goes ever so slightly dry.
He can see her belly button peeking over the top of her lycra waistband – a small shaded hollow, a niche for the tip of his index finger if he -
He takes a deep breath and his eyes snap back up as Sydney breaks first.
"Now – wait." He holds up a hand, echoing her earlier move, as he listens to the fade of the techno track from the walkman. Then his eyes narrow. "How long is this next song?"
Way to segue… She answers automatically. "Three minutes fifteen seconds."
He's smiling – he'd known that she would know. "Perfect. One round."
And the first yowling chords of the song begin, and suddenly he's unleashed. She barely has time to squint before he attacks.
Speed notwithstanding, it's a loose casual beginning. Knowing that her defensive skills are probably on par with her attacking skills, and being the first to start would normally be considered a mistake, he comes in with a light kick to her knee and another to her waist, pulling both short of impact. Her surprised glance at his first move is her only initial response, until the second kick – by then her reflexes are instinctive, and she twists at the waist, lifts her hands; one hand to block – a light touch on his ankle – and one hand in a faux palm-heel punch. Leg-break.
Her turn. She counters with an elbow to the head, a midriff uppercut. He blocks both. It wouldn't have mattered – there's no force behind any of her moves.
His turn again.
Her turn again.
It's all very low-key and pleasant, but this wasn't what he had in mind. They parry around each other. He punches, she slaps him away. She kicks, he blocks. It's just fooling around. After about thirty seconds, he slows and gives her a playful grin.
"You bored yet?"
In kind. "Maybe."
"Come on, Sydney." Cajoling. "Relax. It'll be fun."
"Did you know that it's actually really hard to say 'It'll be fun' if you've got no front teeth?"
He snorts and grins, then quite suddenly he stops moving completely. The look in his eyes is unfamiliar. She's getting that funny feeling again.
His voice is low, and shockingly sultry. "You really think you can take me?"
Unprepared for the jolt in her abdomen, salvaging dignity by hardening her gaze and matching his tone. "You really want me to try?"
"Knock yourself out."
She grins. "Your words, not mine."
Oh baby, you've gone and done it now.
The bass beat rumbles around them. Sydney strikes.
It's a whirling series of kicks, spinning punches, elbow crosses. To her considerable surprise, he blocks everything beautifully, and she realizes with sudden chagrin that she's made the classic mistake of underestimating one's opponent – familiarity breeding contempt, in this case. Well, maybe not contempt, but she never thought of Vaughn as being a particularly skilled fighter, for some reason
Now she's doing some rapid reassessment. He's lithe and fast, and when he takes his opportunity and grabs her out-thrust arm - too slow in drawing back the punch – to flip her neatly over his shoulder in a textbook takedown, she can't help but be impressed. His knee pins her chest, she's flat on her back, and he's leaning over her with a hand at each of her wrists, opening her out. He's grinning. She gives him a nod – he deserves it.
Unprepossessing as usual, but she can tell he's chuffed. She smiles inwardly – don't get too cocky yet, sunshine. Then to emphasize her point, she does a neat twist and kicks up to barrel them both over. Now she's the one on top, but with her back against his chest, effectively blocking him. She's done a little wrist-spin to reverse the positions of their hands, and now she's pulling his wrists, forcing his arms to cross around her. It's not the best counter, but it'll do.
"My pleasure," she grins.
No, actually, that would be mine. Vaughn is momentarily distracted – his face is just a little too close to the crook of her neck. Whoah. The scent and proximity is somewhat dizzying. But he's supposed to be putting up a good fight here, so he forces a mental shake, and returns to the task at hand.
Rolls to break her hold – they both quickly get up from their knees. Sydney attacks again, more lightning-fast punches and kicks – her strength is staggering, despite her slim build. He tries to be smooth about it, and he knows that he's up to her standard – to a point – but he considers himself lucky to be blocking everything she's throwing at him. Her experience is her best advantage.
Still, he's doing okay. One thing she's a little weak on is balance – and that's something he happens to know quite a bit about. He tries another toss, but she's onto him now and counters. Which is what he's been waiting for – almost casually, he kicks her legs out from under her. Back to where they started, with him above her, pressing her into the mat. Funny, that.
Sydney is openly baffled now.
"Since when did you turn into Jet Li?"
He smiles into her face and decides to shed some light on the situation. Shrugs modestly and tries not to be too snerky about it.
"I was national judo champ four years running. And I've always been informed I'm more Jackie Chan than Jet Li."
"I don't see the resemblance."
She kicks up strongly to get rid of him, then does a very nifty backflip to standing and comes in immediately with another volley. Vaughn does his best, but he still manages to end up under her arm in a headlock. The sweaty fabric of her croptop is warming his cheek. All in all, he's been in worse positions.
"We're both anti-authoritarian goof-offs?" he offers.
That gets a smile, which unfortunately he's in no place to see.
Sydney holds on grimly, but he breaks the headlock by forcing the issue – he elbows her in the kidneys. She makes another grab, but she's overextended and taking her down for another floor throw is a simple exercise in physics.
Or it would have been simple, if she hadn't hooked her ankle around his knee. Some grappling for dominance evolves into ground-level evasive manouevres - Sydney rolls, Vaughn scissors for her legs; she tries some upper-cuts and elbows, he retaliates with a sweeping kick before handspringing upright.
Sydney is hard on his heels, continuing with her original line of enquiry even as she whirls in with a reverse spinning kick.
"If that's true, then how'd you end up working for the government?"
This time she really has overreached herself. Either she's getting blasé, or something is distracting her. Vaughn figures it might have something to do with the fact that in most of her combat encounters she's not usually conversing amiably with her opponent.
Either way, it's working for him. He rebuts her move, and reels her into a short-term holding pattern, locking up her arm from behind and tangling her legs with his own. The side benefit is that this brings him close to the side of her neck once again, and he allows himself an unseen and very brief lascivious grin, revelling in the nearness, and the salt tang of her sweat.
"Just got lucky I guess."
Almost as if she can hear the implied savour in the cheekiness of his tone, Sydney rolls her eyes and promptly reaches back with her other arm to grab the scruff of Vaughn's neck and work him over with one of his own judo throws. He recovers quickly, familiar with the technique, and ducks another kick before coming upright and entering the fray again.
Sydney can't pinpoint exactly when it begins to change. The tempo of the background music becomes more frantic, but maybe it starts before the beat picks up.
She feels her pace and her pulse-rate quicken, and he's matching her blow for blow. They spar in an escalating back-and-forth rhythm that becomes more brutal, and she realizes after a time that it's been a while since either one of them spoke. Perspiration makes her hands slide on his shoulders, makes his skin slippery and seal-like.
He cops a blow to the face that whips his head around, and returns with a punch that caulks her bicep. She kicks high, his head moves just in time, but the edge of her heel still catches his collarbone. The grimace on his face is genuine, but he still takes advantage of the moment to grab her foot and twist, forcing her to flip down to the floor to avoid a damaged ankle.
A real fight. This is a real fight now.
Somehow it got cranked up to no-holds-barred, and he can feel his muscles stretching, sliding with each movement, his heart thudding. He'll pay for the bruises tomorrow, but right now it's an amazing feeling. Sydney's gasping, and Vaughn's suddenly acutely aware of the heat from her body when they clash.
Her hair has worked its way loose, but he can't think about that now. Too busy avoiding an ouch – kick to the thigh that drops him to his knees, but he's in a superior manoeuvering position. He's about to pin her down when a strange expression comes over her face, and he only understands that it's desperation at the last moment, when she swings her hips up in an astonishing piece of acrobatics and holy shit, he's now got Sydney Bristow's exquisitely toned thighs wrapped around his neck in a vice-grip.
A quick twist and the weight of her body pulls him onto his back. On one level, it's the worst possible place to be in – choking on the floor with his opponent looming over him. He's trying hard to break her lock, gripping her knees, trying to hit knee-joint pressure points that will force her hold to give way. She's got her fingers scrabbling at his to prevent exactly such a thing.
And their eyes are locked, and even as his lips begin to go blue he's having a hard time imagining that there could possibly be a better place in the entire universe than where he is at this second. The skin behind her knees is like velvet, and when he looks into her face to see her cheeks on fire there's an almost audible click in his brain - that moment of clarity finally arriving - and something in his chest does a hundred-and-eighty-degree revolution as he understands what that scent of salt and heat and musk radiating from her in waves really means…
And in the same moment, he knows exactly how to break her lock around his neck. He twists his head, closes his eyes, and slakes the inside of her right thigh with his tongue in one long, rapid lick.
Sydney gasps and falters. It's enough – Vaughn takes his chance and rolls, breaking out from between her legs to bring his elbow into her side, a glancing blow but it sends her off-balance, and while she's grabbing for purchase on the mat, he flips her neatly, grabs for each of her wrists and holds fast, using his bodyweight to press her down.
Reversal of fortune. They're chest-to-chest, and god, if only she could stop blushing…
She can feel it every time he inhales, every time he moves, and have his cheekbones always had that angular perfection or has she been suffering from some sort of pathetic myopia? Whatever – she's getting a helluva good look at them now. And the eyes. And the lips. His whole face opens as he scans her, and Sydney feels something like a slow burn that starts in her toes and gushes upwards, pounding through the blood, enveloping skin and bone…
Vaughn's having trouble breathing. It's like trying to inhale underwater. The air separating his face and Sydney's is thick with arousal and bodyheat and he's labouring with the effort of trying not to think about her breasts pressing against his chest - until he feels her nipples harden, and then all bets are suddenly off. He can plead insanity later, but right now Sydney's lying under him, and her legs are twining around his, and there's a painful demanding ache (ohgodpleasedon'tstopjesusplease) that he can see mirrored…
She has a second of panic, when her face registers a momentary confusion – what the hell's going on here? And the answer to the question is written in his expression – I think you know what's going on here… And then rational thought processes temporarily disintegrate as Vaughn moves subtly against her, and there's not much room left for anything else in her mind apart from the feel of his stomach against hers where his t-shirt has ridden up, and his knee thrust between her thighs, and the slickness of sweat in the hollow of his neck, making it maddeningly tempting to lift her head and taste…
And he can feel her sharp inhale as their bellies slide together, and her face is amazing to watch as she flashes from shocked to sober to…sinful. So when she wriggles gently to counter his movement against her, to press herself closer, he knows he's in trouble.
Ain't no driver on this here locomotive, son. We got ourselves a runaway.
Enjoying the way his eyes and mouth widen in reaction to her, feeling her own lips soften and part of their own volition…Breathing begins to hitch and strain…Little movements take up the whole world…Watching in slow motion as Michael Vaughn's head lowers, and Sydney can almost touch his lips with her own, lifting her chin delicately, that first whisper of soft smoothness and the damp of their united breath…
…when twelve sweat-shirted, overly jocular basketballers burst through the main doors of the gym, trampling a path to the practise hoops.
They both jerk back and stare in surprise at the interruption. Sydney is the first to blink and recover, and when her eyes turn back it's to register that Vaughn looks incredibly pissed off, and that my god, that's Vaughn, Michael Vaughn, your handler, you idiot, and before he's even returned his gaze to hers she's already made a decision, twisting her hands up and out of his hold to give her the leverage to kick up. Taken completely off-guard, he flips over awkwardly, and winces when the side of his face smacks into the mat.
The barbarian basketballers are already engaged in heavy-duty back-slapping and one-on-ones by the time Sydney and Vaughn both manage to rise and confront each other. Vaughn almost winces again at the startled-deer look on her face. Shit. But true to form, Syd's quick on the offensive, wiping her expression into blankness and speaking first.
"So…are we done?"
He's forced to nod, all gravitas. "For now."
She fakes a polite smile. Their eyes veer away from each other and search for simpler targets. Sydney goes to the benchseat, aiming to gather a bit of distance, clicks off the walkman abruptly and begins putting on her shoes and socks. About two seconds later there's a presence at her elbow, and a discreet tap on a clipboard.
"You have to sign here."
"Oh – sure."
Embarrassed now, she makes certain she returns the pen. And after a pause she's in damage control, because damn it they have to work together, and they have to be able to converse, or at least look each other in the eye.
"So. Did I pass?"
A noncommittal shrug. "I'm not assessing your results – but I think it's safe to say yes."
"Great. Okay." She gathers up the rest of her things in her towel and makes ready to leave. Stops to offer a conciliatory word, because you have to give credit where it's due, and after all, he wasn't the only one doing the clinching… "Well, thanks for making it all relatively painless."
Vaughn sighs silently, watching her brain tick over. Same old same old. It never ceases to amaze him how Sydney can plunge into the most dangerous and life-threatening situations, with himself happily co-opted as backup, and yet still neither of them have the guts to say a single meaningful word to one another…
She nods, satisfied that they've reached an understanding.
"Then I guess I'll…see you next assignment."
She turns quickly to go and misses his expression, a mix of frustration and poignancy. But she can't miss the tone of his voice from behind.
Stop, but don't turn around. Look, but don't touch. Trust, but don't care. Syd stands for a second, chafing at the rules. He takes her halted progress for a concession.
" - is that all you're gonna say to me?"
And what if it is a concession?
She can't really be thinking that…actually yes, damn it, she can.
They have to work together, and something has irrevocably changed, and frankly she just doesn't have the energy or the time for any more secrecy in her life than there is already.
Wouldn't it be more dangerous to them both to pretend like nothing had happened? What if the rules got broken for a change? Would it be such a terrible thing?
Oh god, I hope not.
What if they could take a weakness and turn it into an advantage…
She feels a peculiar lurch in her chest when she turns her head to look at him. Michael's face is reading a hundred different emotions – wanting, worried, being brave enough to ask, hopeful but steeling himself… All the convincing words in the world, and nothing could have confirmed her feelings better than the expression on his face. And suddenly it's the easiest decision in the world.
The corners of Sydney's mouth lift just a little. She spins around on her heel, marches the few steps back to her handler, dumps her gear at his feet. Then she gathers his head in her two hands, noticing the softness of the hair at his nape and the faint stubble on his jaw, and lifts her chin, and their lips open and meet. He gasps delightfully against her mouth; she closes her eyes and feels him melt into the tender, warm, pliant, desiring…
…releases him a moment later to stare mischeviously into his eyes.
And Sydney collects her gear and turns quickly to saunter off, leaving Vaughn half breathless, hands trembling, knees altogether unsteady, inwardly rejoicing, and wondering vaguely what the hell he's gotten himself into.