Title: How it Ought to Be
Author: UConn Fan (Michele)
E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Authors Note:
This is actually the SECOND post-Counteragent fic I wrote. The first one sucks. This one pretty much sucks too, but not as bad.
Please review, constructive criticism only.
I'll tell you right now that I don't view this being at the same caliber as 'Coming to Terms'. I'm not even sure if this is done . . Please tell me what you think and I'll take it from there.

SUMMARY: . . . not everything is gonna be the way . . You think it ought to be
(Sheryl Crow - "I Believe")

DEDICATION: To Meg, who really is the best, & Natalie, who's just been so sweet.

DISCLAIMER: If it's recognizable, it's not mine.

BE WARNED: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! Also I twisted the end of Counteragent to what I DESPERATELY wanted to see (you think after several seasons of XF that I'd learn that screaming at my TV does NO GOOD!)
I think there might be spoilers for episodes after Counteragent too. I've seen it in a lot of fics so I took it . . . . Please be cautious. If you don't want to risk being spoiled, don't read it, I won't take it personally.

Vaughn raced through the hallway, walking as fast as he could without drawing attention. Taking a chance as he saw her hand reach out to open the door, he found his mouth opening to speak. "Syd," he called out.

She stopped instantly, although he was certain he had never said her name softer. Sydney's eyes closed briefly before she put her hand down and turned around to face him. If he wanted to talk, she'd listen. What other option did she have? In some weird sense, he was her boss, and their professional relationship was too crucial to the ultimate destruction of the Alliance to allow her frivolous emotions to get in the way.

Unfortunately she already knew her emotions were far from frivolous, and their "emotional attachment" had already saved both of them repeatedly.

He walked towards her, his eyes so soft. When he had brought up Alice his tone had been grim, nearly anguished to her ears. Why had he brought her up at all? Sydney would have been perfectly content to leave the subject untouched. Ignorance *is* bliss, she recalled as she forced herself to meet his gaze.

"Syd . ." He had raced down the hall so fast that he had no idea what he wanted to say to her. All that had filled his mind were Irina's words - 'and between a man and a woman?'. He was disgusted to admit it, but her Mother had had a legitimate point. Irina had spurred him to action, now he had no idea what the action was.

Impromptu confessions of affection were certainly not appropriate for CIA hallways, his logical side perked in. They had already treaded the fine line of agent/handler relations in the past few weeks. Instead he quickly racked his brain to find the words to fix it. Although she wasn't crying, he could see that her eyes were already glossed over. Never before had he made her cry, and he wasn't even sure there was a remedy.

"Syd . ." He swallowed hard before the words tumbled out of his mouth. "It's not forever."

She smiled that smile that made him want to believe that somewhere down the road everything would fall in to place and it would be alright. A smile that made him rethink his notions that they were doomed from the onset, that they had been on a crash course with destiny and destruction since she had walked into the CIA that first day. That was the only promise he could make her, the only words he could offer to soothe her soul.

"I'll see you tomorrow," she restated as he nodded. He smiled softly at her as she turned around and walked out of his sight.

Sydney returned home to change, greeted by a note from Francie and Will. They were, as expected, at the restaurant and hoped she would come down. Although it had been a long day, she couldn't bare to sit at home and consider everything that had happened. As an agent, she knew she should be first concerned with knowing that Sark knew of her double agent status and was now an ally of the Alliance. The little sleaze bucket got his way, she thought as she searched her closet for something comfortable. That wasn't the thought or concern that plagued her the most. Instead she knew it was the one tidbit that should bother her least and yet it hung heavily over her.

Driving to the restaurant she wondered if he should have mentioned that he was seeing Alice again. When did he have *time* to see Alice, she wondered. She supposed that she had been subconsciously monopolizing his time and enjoying it. As dangerous as it was, she enjoyed working with him on and off the field. Just being with him. He had always been there whenever she needed him, and even when she didn't realize she had needed him. Shouldn't he have been with Alice instead?

"What's wrong?" Francie asked, wiping the counter as Will and Syd sat watching customers enter and be seated.

"Nothings wrong," she smiled and took a sip of her drink.

"Something's wrong," Will agreed.

"I just had a really long day at work."

"Nah, this is more then a work thing," Francie insisted as she leaned over to talk to her friends. It was a relatively slow night at the restaurant and she was able to spend a few extra moments with her friends. "It's a guy thing."

Will studied her closely as she shook her head. "No, really, it's not." She insisted. Lie! Her conscience accused.

"You guys go get a table and get something to eat, okay?" Francie suggested.

"I'm free?" Will asked hopefully as the two women laughed.

"You're free."

Will and Sydney took their usual table in the restaurant as a few customers ate around them. "What's wrong?" Will asked softly.

"Nothing," she promised with a smile.

"Is it your Mom?"

"No, she's fine," Sydney answered. As fine as someone in CIA custody can be, her mind added.

"Your Dad or Sloane?"

Taking out the lipstick/bug killer, she placed it behind the flowers so she wouldn't draw any attention. "Sloane is joining forces with Sark." She whispered.

"Sark? The bastard who kidnapped me?" He hissed.

"Yeah. I almost thought I had him killed - Sloane, not Sark," she softly explained. "I know it sounds horrible, but I'm almost relieved he isn't dead. I don't know how I could have dealt with knowing I had intentionally killed a person."

"Even someone as evil as he is?"

"Even someone that evil," she agreed.

"That's not it though, what's really bothering you?" He gently pressed.


Sydney closed her eyes and looked up to greet her problem with a smile. Standing before her was Alice (what was her last name, she wondered) with her arm possessively around Vaughn (Michael, she remembered). Meeting Will's gaze, she prayed he would shut up and get a clue. So far he had been cooperative, making her life easier, and she knew he would never purposely hurt her. Neither of the men in front of her would.

"Rita, hi, how are you?" Alice asked pleasantly as she forced a smile.

Compartmentalize *now* her mind screamed. Unfortunately, like her feelings for Danny, she hadn't yet learned how to completely tuck them away while living another aspect of her life. Her inability to do so had ended up killing him, she remembered regretfully.

"I'm good," she said as she nodded in Vaughn's direction, her heart sinking when she noticed his arm around the blonde's shoulders. "This is my friend Will," she introduced as Alice shook his hand.

"It's nice to meet you." He shook his hand. Will looked at Sydney, silently reminding her to introduce him to Vaughn. Sydney wanted nothing more to run to the bathroom or just run out of the restaurant, but neither option was plausible.

"Will, this is Michael, we work together. Alice is his girlfriend," she introduced. Will's eyes seemed to instantly understand Sydney's feelings as he acted as though he was once again meeting Vaughn for the first time.

"Michael just got out of the hospital today, so we were going out to celebrate. He's feeling so much better," Alice smiled brightly.

"That's good," Sydney nodded, her stomach growing more twisted the longer she kept her painted smile on. She couldn't even bring herself to really look at Vaughn, instead searching desperately for some polite excuse to leave before something awful happened.

"Would you two like to join us?" Alice offered.

Something awful like *that*, she thought miserably.

"We can't," Will spoke up, his best friend's gaze instantly grateful. "We have a bet going on the Lakers game, especially now that Shaq's back it's even more interesting," he explained as Sydney started to stand.

"It was nice seeing you again," Alice smiled.

"Yeah, it was," she agreed softly. Taking a moment to study the floor as she took her hair out from her coat, she looked up and met his gaze. Briefly she wondered which one of them was more tortured by this brief encounter, a reminder to both of what they wanted and couldn't have. "I'm glad you're feeling better."

"Thanks," he smiled at her, forcing her to look away. "I'll see you at work tomorrow?" He asked, unable to hide how hopeful he had posed the question.

"Yeah," she nodded and smiled at him. It was absurd to be mad, and she wasn't mad. She didn't have the authority. She didn't have the right to be hurt either, but she was, and she hated it.

"C'mon Rita, I don't want to miss the game." Will gently said, wrapping a friendly arm around her shoulders as they walked out. They walked silently for a few minutes before he looked at his best friend, still silent in thought. "It's that, isn't it?"

When she met his questioning gaze, her eyes were glassy from unshed tears. "It's stupid," she muttered and shrugged. Having learned everything that she had in the recent weeks, she almost felt as though she was *supposed* to meet Vaughn. Her Father had intended to recruit her into the CIA after college. The CIA was where she met Vaughn. Whether Danny had lived or not, whether she had called that number on that business card that day during her freshman year, she would have known him.

"It's not stupid," he promised. "She's not all that much to look at anyway," he joked, relieved when she laughed.

"I'm going to be fine," she forced a smile as she wiped away the tears that had welled over in her eyes. Sydney knew that the important thing was that Vaughn was *alive*. She had saved him; he would be there tomorrow for her to see. In some capacity, even if just professionally, he was hers in a way that was completely removed from Alice.

Would he go to Taipei for Alice, she wondered, hoping the answer was no.

"Do you want me to do a background check on her, see if she has some horrible skeleton in the closet?" Will asked playfully as she laughed.

"No, don't do that. You don't even know her last name." She pointed out.

"I'm a reporter - well, a reformed drug addict slash reporter, but same thing," he smiled, delighted that she was laughing.

"She makes him happy," she noted somberly as Will sighed. There was nothing he wouldn't do for her - but the same could go for Francie. He had the utmost respect for her, and he hadn't lied when he said he loved her. He did love her, and while it strangled a part of him to see her so obviously torn up over another man, he wanted her happy. Even if that happiness didn't include him.

Which, at that moment, was just how Sydney felt about Vaughn.

"She makes you miserable," Will noted.

"I don't even know her," she shrugged.

"So, where'd Rita come from?"

"Long story, don't ask." She requested as he nodded.

"Danny would want you happy," Will whispered as she met his gaze.

"Will, I *can't* -"

"Yeah, I know all the reasons you can't," he remembered. "Just . . Just don't let some awkward fear about tarnishing or disrespecting Danny's memory stand in your way."

"I won't," she promised.

They walked silently for a few seconds, Sydney's car coming in to view. "Y'know Syd, there are other fish in the sea." He said lightly.

"I know," she forced a smile.

Will smiled back and got into the car, knowing full well the only fish in the sea she wanted was the one fish she couldn't have.

"Agent Vaughn, we had an interesting request this morning," Agent Kendall greeted him as he walked into the joint task offices.

"What was the request?" Vaughn asked, only half awake as he stumbled into the offices. After having dinner with Alice at Francie's, he brought her back to her house and then returned home to spend most of the night pacing. How foolish could he have been to bring her to Francie's? At the time it had seemed like a good idea, but he should have logically surmised that both Sydney - and Rita, he thought with slight amusement - and Will would be there.

"Irina Derevko wants to speak to you."

"To me? About what?"

"We don't know Agent Vaughn," Kendall shrugged.

"I'll go see her," he sighed.

Ten minutes later the guards lifted the gates and he slowly walked through to meet with his Father's murderer. The woman who bore such a resemblance to the one thing Vaughn desperately wanted and couldn't have. Yet when he looked at Sydney, he didn't see her Mother, and he prayed that Syd never thought he did.

"You wanted to see me?" He asked, looking at her through the wall of glass.

"Yes, I have. Thank you for agreeing," she said as she slinked over to look at him. "I've been thinking. I do that in here, a lot of thinking."

"About?" He prompted.

"Our discussion earlier, regarding my daughter -"

"I've already answered all your questions."

"No," she shook her head with a slight smile. "What you did was prove that you're a master at answering questions without actually saying anything."

"I believe I said enough."

"Maybe you did," she suggested.

"I won't answer any more of your questions." He decided. This woman would just as well have him going insane running circles in his mind. That would be letting Irina win, and that was something he couldn't do. For his sake, for his Father's sake. Ultimately, for Sydney's sake.

"Even if they're for your benefit?"

"What could you possibly ask that's for my benefit?" He snapped. In truth, her questions had been beneficial. They had sparred him into thinking, into action, and while that action might not have been ideal, it was better then doing nothing. Doing nothing caused far more pain.

Irina nodded slightly, considering his words. Eventually, seconds before he prepared to turn and leave, she finally spoke. "The real question here, Mr. Vaughn, is about you, not Sydney."

"I beg your pardon?"

"It's quite simple actually, what do you value more?"

"What do you mean by that?" He asked, already prepared to be put under attack by this woman.

"What's more important to you, living a normal life with someone you merely care about or living an abnormal life with the woman you love?"

He looked away and briefly pinched the bridge of his nose before he looked back at her. "Nothing is that simple."

"Eventually, everything is that simple," she said with a smile. "At the end of it that's what it boils down to . . . " She grew nostalgic as she continued. "I've lived a normal life with the right person, and you and Sydney have a luxury that I was not given."

"What's that?" He challenged.

"You two can be honest with each other. Completely honest. Which you both appear to be, except on the one thing that really matters. Then neither one of you is honest, to yourselves or each other."

The sound of the gates being lifted drew his attention before he could answer. Much to his surprise, he watched as Sydney smiled widely at him and walked towards him. Despite their company and his better common sense, he smiled back. "Sydney, I didn't know I was allowed to have two visitors at once," Irina noted with a smile, having closely observed how the two agents silently greeted one another.

"You're not," Sydney said, her expression straight as she turned to look at her Mother. "I thought it was safe to assume that Vaughn would be leaving soon."

"I was just on my way out now," Vaughn agreed. With a slight nod in Sydney's direction, he started to leave, abruptly stopping when the younger woman called his name. "Yeah?" He asked softly, glancing over his shoulder to look at him.

"I'll see you in a few minutes?" She asked hopefully. Irina noted in slight victory that another tiny smile had graced the mans features as he nodded and then left them alone. It was obvious he would make a futile attempt to live a 'normal life' - something Irina knew her daughter could not yet offer. The attempt would forever remain futile, because one look at her daughter and she knew he was a goner.

A/N: Is there more to come? Honestly, I have no idea. That's all I have, and as always I was itching for everyone's thoughts. Please only constructive criticism.