Sydney carefully unpacked the groceries, making sure everything was put perfectly exactly where it should be. She opened the fridge and smiled as she saw the small box of chocolates hidden in the bottom draw. The sticky note attached was starting to change colour but the writing was still clear,
Hope you feel better soon, V x
He'd given her it last week when she came down with an unpleasant cold, nothing Sydney couldn't handle but it did elicit a stern warning from her father to stay in bed for a few days; which she had enjoyed immensely. The old swing of waiting around for a new mission and going into work to type reports against the heat was back underway however. She'd spent the last couple of days doing nothing but paperwork whilst sweltering in the LA summer, still downing cups after cups of coffee. Vaughn had been away on a long mission for the past week and the last she'd seen of him was when he left the chocolates and gave her a kiss goodbye. She hated it when she was all alone in this big beautiful house Weiss had bought her, and she was still fluttering from the new found attention Vaughn was giving to her now, they'd established they wanted to give it another go.
It had been about fifteen months since Lauren's death, Vaughn and Sydney hadn't spoken the entire year after and had been thrown with each other once more at APO. At first it was rather awkward and Sydney felt anger towards him but along with that age old need to pull him into her arms and tell him everything was going to be ok. She was well aware of how tough it had been on Vaughn - to find out his wife was a joke and having to shoot her down. Sydney had started to finally understand Vaughn's decisions that year; he'd told her he needed someone to be there for him, and she'd believed him. Weiss had continued to give her detailed information on what was happening with him and how he was coping. She was shocked to find he'd burnt down his home, but at the same time was glad it didn't exist anymore; Lauren had truly gone.
Weiss had told her of how Vaughn's terrible drinking habit had been reintroduced and how he'd barely left his apartment since that day. Sydney wasn't stupid, she allowed him space to grieve as she didn't think she could cope seeing him sad because of her.
Vaughn of course, had also asked Weiss on Sydney updates too. With Weiss showering Vaughn with the news of Sydney's pain from Vaughn's distance.
Vaughn had got himself together and was determined to throw himself into his work, get back into being the agent he was before the mess of last year. He was still shaken by his stupidity of letting Lauren into his life so easily; he'd accepted her company at first because he knew he couldn't spend the rest of his life in the shadows of Sydney's death.
It was more of a surprise when Lauren had first shown an interest in him. She'd shown up after seeing him look pitiful at a bar far away from home, and she'd helped him put his jacket on and get back to his apartment. Vaughn didn't even register her existence until he saw her standing in front of his door three days later.
"Hi, again. I thought you might want some company?" she said with a hopeful gaze in her eyes, her accent blazing through. He was still pretty drunk and wearing a shirt he'd slept in the past several days. But still, she'd made the effort to find his house again but more importantly, she was holding a bottle.
"You'd better come in." He'd replied, not really sure if this was a good idea. She spent a good five minutes with her nose up at the state of his apartment, Vaughn didn't think he needed to bother responding; seeing a woman back at his house made him feel more uneasy than usual. There was still several photos of himself and Sydney, her smile always managed to radiate the room. But after a good solid hour, Lauren had tidied his flat and managed to make him several cups of coffee and water refills whilst Vaughn continued to sit there staring at the blank TV screen. Lauren slowly sat beside him and placed a hand to his knee which he gave a flinch in response.
"You must have really loved her". This made him cross, she didn't even know the half of it, and she had no clue how hard it was for him to see anything other than Sydney's face every minute of every day. Yet she had the audacity to come here alone and think she could 'fix' his life for him.
He got up and clenched his fist,
"Look, I don't need your help, I have my own plans" He started,
"Plans?! Of getting drunk continuously day after day and sitting in a pool of sweat thinking about someone who isn't here anymore, you have to let her go!"
That was it, she'd stepped the mark. But Vaughn refrained from an explosion of anger on the blonde, after all, he barely knew her; couldn't even remember her name. Instead, he sat back down and gently told her he was grateful for her help but that she kindly leave. Lauren smiled gently and unbuttoned his shirt.
Vaughn froze. He didn't know what he was supposed to do. She removed his shirt and in the small moment of folding it on her lap, Vaughn began to sweat and shiver at the same time. He was nervous but he didn't quite know why. He wasn't looking for another woman, not now, not ever. But he longed so much for Sydney's warmth again, Lauren stood up and walked away returning with one of his clean shirts whilst he sat there running through countless possibilities at once,
"Here, you could at least avoid smelling like an alcoholic who sleeps on his couch whilst I'm here".
The gesture was a mere concern for his wellbeing. He felt flushed at her kindness and wondered if perhaps, this was safe. That Lauren was just that bit of help he needed to pick himself back up…
He still shuddered at the memory. When he felt he'd found a genuine caring person while he was down. He remembered how she'd 'dropped by' nearly every day after that and always cleaned and cooked and chatted but nothing more, till that one day.
When she'd first made a move and caressed his cheek, even then he felt he was cheating on Sydney. But there was always something missing, when he'd first slept with Lauren all he could feel was appreciation of the time and effort she'd devoted to him, not any flicker of romance between them. She was a mere necessity at getting better, not someone he wanted to make love too.
He found however, as the days went on that he did harbour some feelings for her, despite knowing they'd never equate to actual love. He knew when he married her that domestic life was going to be easy with her, it was the loving part he struggled with, but he was numb to the feeling by then. He enjoyed being around her and she was very kind to him, but he still felt nothing when she kissed him other than a tiny flutter of reassurance that he wouldn't go off the rails again. He appreciated that she was indeed a good wife but he never saw the same passion in Lauren that he did with her.
Once Sydney had come back, he had dreamed many nights of being with her again. He'd had to take sleeping medication to drown them out. He loved Lauren, but he was in love with Sydney. Each day he felt the pain as he tried to remain civilised around her whilst so desperately wanting to tell her how he was still in love with her and that he knew he'd never feel the same about anyone else.
He'd only recently allowed himself the excitement of his chance to get back with his soul mate. They'd been on a mission to which he had to save her from falling out of a moving train, seeing her helpless like that had only made him feel worse and pine for her even more. But he'd seen the look in her eyes and knew after they had spent the night together, that she wasn't gone from his grasp just yet.
But for now, the best he could do was let Sydney decide if she could forgive him for the last year and hope that she still felt some amount of love for him.