Title: In the Middle

Author: Steph (ILUVNYYANK@aol.com)

Category: Drama/Romance overtones

Pairing: Sydney/Vaughn

Spoilers: "Cipher"

Rating: PG

Archive: Sure, just let me know where.

Disclaimer: Alias and its characters do not belong to me. I do this out of a love for the show and no infringement is intended.

Summary: Sydney finds she's suddenly caught in the middle between Will and Vaughn.

Note: Just a couple of scenes I would have liked to see in "Cipher" and am hoping we get to see in upcoming episodes. Hope you enjoy and please let me know what you thought! :) ~Steph

* * * In the Middle: Part 1/1* * *

"Hey," Vaughn greeted Weiss with a smile, as he entered his hospital room and took his place by the bed. "How do you feel?"

Weiss ignored him and pointed to the mounted television with the remote. "Seriously, I've never understood this show. Why don't they just tie Gilligan to a palm tree so he can't screw things up? And why did Ginger and the Howells bring so much clothes for a three hour tour?"

Vaughn chuckled, "Ah, life's eternal questions."

Weiss shook his head and turned the television off. He then gestured to the large paper bag in Vaughn's hand. "What did you bring me?"

Vaughn opened the bag and began pulling items out. "Latest issue of 'Sports Illustrated', your yo-yo, a Mad-Lib, and a book."

Weiss picked up the book. "'Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood'?" He looked up at Vaughn with a grin. "You know me so well."

Vaughn shrugged. "Sorry, I was in a hurry and I mistook 'Ya-Ya' for Yo-Yo'. I thought it was a book about yo-yo tricks."

Weiss laughed and threw the book on the table beside him, "Thanks anyway." He paused and looked at the bag. "That all?"

"Yup."

"Mike, I told you to bring me one of those meatball grinders from Romano's. If I eat anymore of that salisbury steak and that jello with the unidentified black chunks in it, I'm going to go into cardiac arrest. Is that what you want? You want to kill your best friend?"

Vaughn sighed, "No outside food allowed. You know the rules."

Weiss snorted, "And since when do YOU follow the rules?"

Vaughn smiled. "Hey, the wrath of Devlin is nothing compared to that nurse of yours. I wouldn't want to get on her bad side. I saw her yell at some kid for putting his mouth on the water fountain. Plus, she looks like a cross between Quentin Tarentino and Bea Arthur."

"I think I've been in here too long, because she's starting to look good to me." Weiss paused and then said with a smirk, "Speaking of looking good, how's our favorite double agent?"

Vaughn shook his head with a well-hidden smile, "Nice, very nice." He shrugged and then replied, "Fine. She's dealing with her mother the best she can. Oh and I met Will Tippin."

"The nosy journalist guy?"

"That's the one. The agency wanted to see if he knew anything about something Sark was working on on his laptop when he was held captive. They used hypnotherapy on him."

"Did he help any?"

"Yeah, he remembered seeing some Russian authors' names, which Syd then took to her mother to decode. It all has to do with this Rambaldi music box."

"So what did this Will guy seem like?"

"He seemed nice. Definitely curious, full of questions."

"Yeah, like 'do you have a thing for my friend?'"

Vaughn groaned. "I don't have a thing for Sydney."

Weiss smiled. "It's amazing how you say that with a straight face."

Vaughn rolled his eyes. "It doesn't matter anyway, it seems like she and Will are very close."

"Yeah, we already knew that."

"No, I mean, I think HE has a thing for her."

"Well, that would fit. You don't almost get yourself killed like he did unless you have a thing for someone. I think you've proven that over and over again." Vaughn chose to ignore that comment and Weiss went on. "So do you think these feelings are returned by Syd?"

Vaughn looked away. "Who knows? I know she cares deeply for him. That's why I'm going to make sure that Will Tippin stays alive and well."

Weiss laughed. "Always Mr. Noble. Protecting the competition."

Vaughn sighed heavily. "Will is not the competition. Even if I did have a thing for Syd, there's nothing I could do about it. Therefore, there is nothing to compete for."

Weiss nodded, "Yeah, whatever. Just remember this is me your talking to. I may have taken a bullet in the neck, but it didn't affect my ability to spot a load of crap. You have feelings for Syd and the sooner you admit that, the better off we'll all be. I heard your little 'let's go get a bite to eat' conversation before I almost died, remember? Now, I can't be sure, but I don't think you would have wanted the rest of us to tag-along." He stops and then adds with a smile, "You know, I wouldn't be so cranky if you'd brought me that meatball grinder. Speaking of food, have you been feeding my fish?"

"What fish?"

"My goldfish, Mike! Damn it, I fed your dumb dog for you!"

Vaughn laughed, "Calm down, man. I fed your stupid fish."

Weiss breathed a sigh of relief. "You shouldn't do that to a man in my condition."

Vaughn smiled and then headed for the door. "I've got a meeting with Sydney. I'll be back tomorrow after work. Enjoy your book."

Weiss watched him go, before turning the television back on. He groaned, "'Leave it to Beaver'. Golly gee, Beav, what have you gotten yourself into now?"

* * * * *

Will and Sydney are relaxing on the couch; Will clutching a beer and Syd nursing a glass of wine.

Will took a long drink of his beer before putting it down on the table in front of them and turning to Syd.

"So, this Vaughn guy, what exactly does he do for you?"

"Basically, he coordinates my missions, passes on intel, and...kind of makes sure that I get home safely."

"Oh," Will replied with a nod. "And you see him what? Once a week?"

"Usually at least twice, often more."

Will turned his face away from her so that she wouldn't see the expression her answer caused.

"He seemed like a nice guy. The way you described him - smart, professional, won't waste your time - I kind of pictured him as older. You know, the type you see in movies: middle-aged, cardboard personality, totally nondescript looks. They seem like they could be your accountant. This guy...Well, he just wasn't what I expected. He was...a lot younger."

Sydney raised her eyebrows, as she sipped her wine. "Yeah, I guess. I suppose once you've been a part of this life for as long as I have you sort of give up your expectations...There's always something around the corner that shatters them."

Will didn't seem to notice Syd's attempt at subtly moving the subject away from Vaughn.

He went on, "He knew about Francie."

Sydney removed her eyes from his, sensing where this conversation was headed. "Yeah, well, I've mentioned her to him a couple of times. I've mentioned you, too."

Will shrugged. "I guess it just seemed weird. I mean, you said how he's so professional and doesn't waste your time, so I figured you never had much time for chit-chat about your personal life."

"I wouldn't call it chit-chat. Just a comment here and there. Like I told him that Francie got engaged when he asked about my Thanksgiving last year. You know, just little things before or after our meetings."

Will nodded and took a long drink of his beer. He offered Syd a long look, as he tried to decide how best to bring up this next subject.

"I asked him about the picture frame. I figured it was used as some sort of signal between you two."

Syd's eyes widened and she swallowed hard. "Oh, you did?"

Will bobbed his head and then studied her expression as he went on. "Yeah, he said it was actually just a gift."

Will stopped and looked at her, pausing to allow her to reply. She never did, so he went on. "That just seemed a little strange. I didn't think the C.I.A. liked that type of thing. I mean, he's kind of like your boss, right?"

Sydney refused to meet his eyes. "He's my handler. I follow orders from him that are given by our superior. But, yes, the C.I.A. frowns upon fraternization between agents." Syd smiled and then added lightheartedly, hoping to change the subject and put the heat on him instead of her. "Although I don't think you should talk, Mr. Slept-With-Your-Twenty-Year- Old-Intern."

Will laughed. "That was so not the same thing." His laugh soon subsided and he continued, "So what was that picture frame thing about then?"

Sydney sighed. "He was just being nice, Will. He saw it and thought I might like it. It was totally innocent."

Will snickered, as he took another drink from his beer. "Trust me, Syd. Guys don't give girls antique picture frames unless they're interested."

Sydney shook her head. "Seriously, Will, it was nothing. Don't you believe that men and women can have platonic relationships? I would think so, considering I'm one of your best friends."

Sydney regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth.

Will groaned, as he finished off his beer. He then replied softly, "Sure, I believe it."

Just then the phone rang and Sydney walked over to answer it, thankful for the break from the suddenly uncomfortable conversation.

She said hello and then paused for a moment, before replying, "Sorry, wrong number."

Will's eyes darted over to Sydney's figure, those words now carrying a new meaning.

Sydney hung up the phone and grabbed her purse. She then turned to Will. "I've got to go."

Will nodded and responded in a heavy voice, "Yeah, I know."

Sydney offered him a smile, before turning on her heel and walking out the door.

Will simply watched her walk away from him, as he'd done so many times before. But, for the first time, he knew who she was walking to.

* * * * *

"Hey," Sydney greeted Vaughn brightly, as she entered the warehouse.

"Hi," he replied with a smile. "How are you?"

"Good."

"And your friend, Will? I hope that hypnotherapy session wasn't too traumatizing for him."

Syd shook her head, "No, he's okay. It's not something he'll ever want to relive again, but he knew how important it was."

"The agency really appreciated his help." Vaughn averted his gaze, his voice lowering. "It's good that you were there for him."

Sydney looked at Vaughn, suddenly realizing that she had a new role to play in her life: the go-between for two men who have feelings for her.

"Will is one of my best friends. I just want him to be safe."

Sydney thought it was a good idea to emphasize the fact that they are just friends.

"He asked me about the Christmas gift," Vaughn suddenly blurted out.

Sydney nodded, "Yeah, he told me. Will's just curious by nature. He's trying to understand this whole world...This world that I don't even completely understand."

Sydney was trying the same tact with Vaughn as she had with Will: trying to subtly change the subject. It didn't work on Vaughn either.

"He seemed surprised by me. He said it was because he thought I'd be older, but it seemed like something more. Did you tell him anything about me?"

Sydney shook her head. "Just that you were smart, professional, wouldn't waste his time."

Vaughn's brow furrowed, "Professional? You told him I was professional?"

Sydney looked at him in confusion. "Yeah, why?"

Vaughn shrugged, "I don't know, it just seems like a strange thing to tell a civilian about a C.I.A agent. You'd think they would assume that professional comes with the territory."

Sydney removed her eyes from his, "Yeah, I guess. I don't know why I described you to him that way."

Vaughn studied her for a moment, before going on. "I guess that's why he was surprised when he met me. I suppose when some people think of professional and C.I.A. together they tend to think older."

"I guess."

"He certainly seemed to be pretty curious about our relationship though."

Sydney moved her eyes to the ground. "He's just trying to understand my life. You're a part of my life...a big part of my life...and I think he just wants to understand what part you play in it."

Sydney felt Vaughn staring at her and couldn't help but meet his eyes. The look they shared said it all: they wished they could play bigger parts in each other's lives.

Vaughn cleared his throat, "So, about why I called you down here..."

Sydney nodded, but only half-listened to him. She was pondering the new role she would have to play in her life. She juggled enough as it was and this new one was anything but easy.

How do you mediate between two men who want you, when you want the one you can't have?

That was something she was about to find out.

**************************************THE END******************************** Hope you enjoyed it and please let me know what you thought! :) ~Steph