Title: Blood Ties: Lying in Wait Author: icyfire (wideyed@mikrotec.com)

Summary: "You're starting to ask yourself if the lies are kinder than the truth." Will struggles to understand his new world.

Rating: PG-13 for language

Ship: Hints of Wancie.

Disclaimer: I don't own them. I just enjoy torturing them and then giving them back to their owners.

A/N: Thanks to Celli for the beta. And thanks to Jenai for letting me play in her universe.

This is the fourth story in a series. We try to make each story stand alone. Spoilers up to "Almost Thirty Years," but after that it is AU. You can find part 1 at http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=963016 . Part 2 is http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=974272 . And Part 3 is located at http://fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=1026044 .

****

Pain shoots through your body as you twist on the hard bench. Somehow you manage not to gasp. The man sitting next to you still notices. "McNeil?" he asks with sympathy.

"Yes," you answer. Even you hate the short formal way that you speak to him, but you can't help yourself. You're not sure why you are uncomfortable around Vaughn; you just are. While Vaughn has been training you on surveillance techniques, Robert McNeil is in charge of the torture known as physical training. You'll start learning even more from different instructors next week. "He says I need to be tougher, to remember that I'm not fighting him but an enemy agent."

You look over at Vaughn and see the concern and understanding in his eyes. Wishing that he wasn't a nice person, you sigh and turn back to look at the monitors. You are only there to watch and learn. He and Sydney have obviously done this many times before, although you doubt she's ever broken into a place in LA before. She told you that usually he's a half-a-world away from her, being her guardian angel from afar.

Her guardian angel. You wonder where your guardian angel was the day a man drilled a hole in one of your teeth to just make a point. Where was that guardian angel as you cried in fear and pain? Was your guardian angel laughing as pain tore through gums?

Sydney's voice announces that she's made it into the room. The video cameras tell you that it's true. And you taste the anger in your mouth. You force it down, tell yourself to ignore it. What good does it do to cry over spilt milk? Or a lost tooth? You can't even cry over lost innocence. You don't have the strength to stop if you ever start.

It strikes you suddenly. You are angry at Vaughn. It's not jealousy that's making you uncomfortable with him. No, it's anger that courses its way through you every time you see him. "It's not fair," you whisper to yourself.

"What?" Vaughn looks at you.

You can't tell him that it's not fair that you've been blaming him. He's been easy. Get angry at him, treat him as if he's responsible, and you can ignore the rational side that knows he's as innocent as you are. "I've found the safe," Sydney's voice announces over the headphones. Vaughn turns to acknowledge her communiqué.

Shifting on your seat, you ask, "How did you get involved with the CIA?" Not really wanting to know, but thinking you should. Right now you see this man more often than you see your mother.

Vaughn hesitates before answering. "I've always known that I wanted to work for the CIA." You can hear Sydney's breathing and some beeping noises in your headphone as she tries to pick the electronic lock. "My father was an agent."

"Was?"

The man next to you looks over at some display. "He's a star on the Wall."

You've heard about that wall at Langley. You even dreamed about it one night; Amy standing before it, crying, wondering what had happened to you. So many families never knowing what happened to their loved ones. Not what really happened. Too many times they are told cover stories. Car wrecks. Plane crashes. Accidents. Not the truth.

So many lies.

You're starting to ask yourself if the lies are kinder than the truth. Being around Sydney was so much easier when you believed her lies. In blissful ignorance, you laughed your way through life, or at least it seems that way now. Problems that used to weigh on your shoulders so heavily before the knowing now seem lightweight. Unimportant.

So you can't look your mother in the eye anymore. At least she's safe. She doesn't know. She worries about you, but not like she would if she knew you were a card-carrying member of the CIA.

And Amy acts like she's suffering from separation anxiety where you're concerned. She has nightmares about your "carjacking" and the beating you received. You don't think it would be any easier on her to know that you'd been dragged to Taipei so a man could play with your teeth for his own enjoyment and your misery.

The truth serum from hell still gives you nightmares. You wake up hearing the words "Sorry, but you were that one in five!" Your breathing's labored. Sweat soaks your body. And you can't move for so long that you know it's true, that you are suffering from paralysis. What comfort could Amy get from knowing any of that?

Lying to them is for the best. Even if you no longer feel comfortable around the people who love you. They are safe, even if you aren't.

It makes you feel small, that envy you feel for their sense of security. You want that feeling back. You wish you were a better person and could just feel happy that they can still enjoy it and take safety for granted.

Francie. As they have so often lately, your thoughts turn to her. She's the only person who manages to make you feel like yourself when she's around. Which isn't much lately. Her new job keeps her out all the time, and she's starting to travel some, too. Just like Sydney.

But when she's home, her eyes tell you that she knows about the nightmares, but she doesn't try to get you to talk about them like everyone else. As she doesn't look at you like you're crazy when you start to talk about stupid stuff to fill in the silence. She makes you feel like she understands that stillness terrifies you, that she knows your demons haunt you in the quiet. You think that she has her own secrets, and somehow that makes you feel better.

You notice that Sydney has gotten the item from the safe and has left the room. It's slow going as she climbs through ventilation shafts. You wonder if you are claustrophobic. You don't think you are, but you've never tried going through a building that way before. You wonder if you ever will. Vaughn tells you that the CIA will never use you in that manner, that they are more interested in training you for your safety's sake. Sydney says the same thing. You don't know whether to thank them or curse them for lying to you. You don't even know if they are lying to you.

The vicious cycle of wondering. What's real? What's fake? It gives you a headache. Makes you feel like a crazy person. You yearn for a lull, a break from the storm of doubts.

You remember that Francie should be home tomorrow. You wonder if you can get her to come over for a movie night. You'll even let her pick. Sappy can be handled when it's with someone with whom you can feel like yourself. Someone you don't question, who doesn't stare and study you as if you are a precious commodity that she almost lost. You wonder if Amy will ever call you "dork" again. You hope so; you miss it. Anxious Amy makes you worry, makes you feel like you failed her somehow.

"You have any brothers or sisters, Vaughn?"

Vaughn shook his head. "No. It's just my mother and me."

"Does she know?"

Understanding dawns in green eyes. "Yeah, she does. She doesn't like it, but--"

"My mother calls me ever night now to make sure that I'm home," you tell him. "She's angry that she didn't realize I was in trouble. Angry at herself. She and dad are fighting a lot, or at least that's what Amy tells me. They don't let me see that."

"Mr. Tippin--"

"Will," you say holding up a hand. You can still hear your voice--hard, a stranger's voice--telling him to call you by your last name. You told him that you expected him to teach you, not be your friend. Sydney had looked sad and disappointed by your behavior, but you hadn't cared.

Now you do. You can't continue to blame him for your fucked up life. "Vaughn--" You stop and take a breath. "Michael--" An eyebrow lifts in surprise. "I'm sorry that I've been such a dick--"

"I understand."

"Do you?" Even you wince at the angry snap in those words.

Vaughn studies you for a moment and then he nods. "I don't know exactly what you're going through, Will, but I do understand."

You look away, feeling like an idiot. A tired idiot. "Life's just not the same anymore. I feel like a stranger in my own life."

"Damn!" Vaughn says next to you. He's sitting up straight and reaching for the button on his headset. "Sydney! The man you ran into in Tangier is here. He just went past the first security camera."

"I'll take the alternate route out then," she says as she veers to the right instead of the left vent. A minute later you watch as she exits into an empty office. She announces, "I'm changing clothes now."

The video camera goes out and you know that in a few minutes that she'll be forced to take off the headset. She'll be going to audio silence. Earlier, as you listened to Vaughn and Sydney discuss the mission plan, you could tell by the tension that neither one enjoyed that idea, but it bothered Vaughn more than Syd. He wouldn't even know she was in danger, and that worried him, but she believed that she could take care of herself.

"Who is this guy?" you ask.

Vaughn answers but he's not really paying attention to his words. His mind is somewhere else--probably with Sydney. "Sydney had a run in with him in Tangier. He's apparently Anna Espinosa's new partner."

"Anna--"

Vaughn looks over you and grins. "You could call her Syd's archenemy. She works for K-Directorate. Syd's run into her a few times." He rubs the back of his neck. "We had reports that she was dead, but apparently they were wrong. Syd chased her out of a building there. Which was strange. Anna usually enjoys taunting Sydney, but this time she just took off running without saying a word."

Vaughn acknowledges Sydney's message that she's going to audio silence. She plans to walk right out the front door. Fortunately the man from K- Directorate has already made his way to the third floor ventilation shaft that Sydney used earlier. He'll find the safe empty. Another victory for the good guys. You wonder why you feel hollow inside. It should mean something to you that Sydney won.

You feel Vaughn's attention focus shift to you. "Will, it's going to be okay."

Forcing a smile, you say, "I hope so."

"It will. Just give it some time."

Vaughn believes what he's saying, and you want to, too. But it's hard to believe that any amount of time will make this new life okay. And now you're starting to sound like a baby even to your own mind. Taking a deep breath you promise to give yourself time.

Some time with Francie is just what you need to get yourself back together again. Maybe you'll go over to their place and hang out until she shows up. Sometimes you two have even spent time alone in her room, talking and laughing. It's stupid, but it's the only room in the house that feels the same to you now. It's not touched by any lies.

"You know, I keep looking for the unseen now." You're surprised that you are sharing this with him, but then who else do you have? There's Sydney, of course, but things are strained between you two. You're both trying to fit into this odd new friendship that is so unlike the easy one you originally had.

"Francie came back from her last trip with a pair of earrings. Knowing how she is with money, I knew that there was no way she bought them for herself," you admit. You laugh and shake your head. "Within minutes I had convinced myself that she was secretly dating a man in the Russian mafia."

Vaughn doesn't laugh, but his smile says he wants to. "Francie and the Russian mafia?"

You laugh and hide your face behind your hand. "Yeah, I know. Francie bought them for herself. The gems aren't real. I just--"

Vaughn smiles as he tells you, "When I was learning crypto, I saw codes everywhere. Everywhere. Billboards. Magazines. I was even convinced that the entire novel War and Peace was a giant coded message."

"Just what I needed to hear," you sigh. "I'm supposed to start learning about codes next week."

Vaughn does laugh with you then. It feels good to be laughing. Suddenly Vaughn sits up straight. You watch as his shoulders tense. "SD-6."

"Where?" You study the images on the screen and wonder when you'll be able to pick out an agent just by looking. When you will have dossiers of the enemy running through your head.

Vaughn points to a dark-haired lady on the monitor. "There." You wonder if all SD-6 agents are beautiful. Sydney will soon be walking out those doors and possibly right into that agent. How will she explain her presence there to Sloane? Especially when SD-6 finds out that the artifact is missing from the safe.

You yank off your headphones and ignore Vaughn's shout as you head out the back door. It slams shut behind you, cutting off Vaughn's question. There isn't time to explain. You try not to run over to the SD-6 agent. Look normal, you remind yourself. You manage to catch up with the dark-haired lady, noticing how she looks like a woman rushing back to work after lunch. Normal.

You put your hand on her shoulder, and you feel muscles tense. You expect her to flip you over on your back, but instead she turns and smiles. "Yes?"

"Hi, I'm Will Tippin," you introduce yourself. No sense in lying. It will only make Sloane wonder later when he sees you in the tape. Hopefully, her surveillance team is focusing on your right now. Syd's little disguise of glasses and a hat should work from a distance, especially when the attention if focused on you.

"I'm a reporter, and I was here interviewing--" You stammer, and you feel like yourself. How many times have you done this before? Tried to introduce yourself to a pretty lady and sounded like an idiot while you did it? You smile. "I was wondering if you would like to go out to dinner."

You notice Sydney in the corner of your eye. She sees you, notices who you are talking to, and cuts around the corner. Vaughn will pick her up down the street, and you'll catch a taxi. That's how it should work. You suddenly feel confident in this new role of spy. You did what needed to be done.

The agent from SD-6 politely declines, but you think you almost see a look of regret in her eyes. It makes you feel good to believe it. You tell her good-bye and turn towards the street. You spin back around and study the crowd to the side.

Of course she isn't there. Francie's not even supposed to be back until later tonight. You smile even as you chide yourself for seeing spies everywhere. Or maybe you're not looking for spies but for Francie.

The thought makes you uncomfortable, so you decide to call for your taxi. You'll ask him to drive you to a place two blocks away from the CIA building. Just in case SD-6 follows you. Vaughn's showed you how to look out for them. And then you'll go to your debriefing. You think they'll tell you that you did a good job. No, actually, you know they will. Everything feels right, at least for the moment.

But you're still glad that Francie's going to be home tonight. You need some truth in your life.

***

The End