INFRARED

Author: alikona
Distribution: Cover Me, Allies
Rating: R for slight language and SpySex
Spoilers/Timeline: Post "Double Agent," but everything's fair game.
Summary: Sydney, Vaughn, and the power of the human touch.
'Ship: I only sail on the S/V.
Disclaimer: This is just a fun little writing exercise for me. "Alias" and the characters of Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn belong to J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Garner, and Michael Vartan. I thank them for giving me such wonderfully fleshed out people to play with.
Author notes and thanks at the end.


For the past year and a half, I've kept a nice little list in my head - a catalog and a wonderfully detailed map – of every occasion and place where he's touched me. It was a great comfort on those cold, lonely nights when I'd start feeling sorry for myself. The globetrotting double agent and her devoted handler, forced to stare at each other across pristine government-issue desks, to stand with an empty warehouse between them, backs uneasy against opposing chain-link fences, a pesky little thing called protocol always in the way.

Gathering the intel for my lovely list wasn't easy, given that any touch could sentence us both to death or permanent, painful separation. But there were enough occasions where fingertips brushed shoulders and waists to keep my bathwater warm long after I'd turned off the tap. Those few all-encompassing hugs where it felt like we were fused together – those resulted in some very vivid daydreams on long plane trips to or from Moscow or Madrid or wherever the hell I was flying.

But then, last night, my carefully compiled list just exploded.

He told me that he can't sleep when I'm away on missions. I think he's making up for it now. Or else all he needed to cure his insomnia was a good fuck. Good Lord, I shouldn't wake him up, so I try to strangle the sob of laughter that erupts from my throat at my own depraved thoughts. He's curled up on his side, my 400-thread-count sheets nestled around him as his eyelids flutter. He must be dreaming of something very nice, given the smile that keeps flitting over his face. I've mirrored his pose, a grin creeping over my face as I watch him. I don't blame him for sleeping after last night's theatrics; after all, he's not 25 any more. I should probably sleep too – I probably haven't gotten more than four consecutive hours strung together in months, but I don't think my mind would even consider taking a rest. My adrenaline and memory are working in overdrive.

"Here's some more coffee and something to eat."

He didn't touch me the first time we met. Probably too confused by the desperate creature with the bright red hair to even consider letting one hand linger a little too long. I do remember him taking a pen from Weiss and putting it on the table next to me, too scared or intimidated to catch my attention and give it to me himself. In a way, I was too wrapped up in my righteous indignation and grief to really notice the little CIA lackey who'd drawn the short straw that day, but I now regret that we missed that opportunity — we didn't take our only chance to really meet for the first time, to look each other in the eye and properly shake hands. To relish that first moment of connection without anyone thinking the worse of us for it. How I missed the fact that meeting this particular CIA agent — out of the dozens who could have been assigned to me — would change my life in so many ways, I'll never know.

My sensory map got its first electric charge that October night on the Santa Monica pier. Sure, I guess you can say he first touched me during our meeting in the bloodmobile when he placed that tiny bandage on the inside of my elbow, but I was in such a bratty mood that I barely even noticed. But that night on the pier, he became someone I'd never known before. My father was the only other person who knew anything remotely close to the truth about me, but our conversations were always so one-sided. It's ridiculous to be thinking about this now, or even consider the possibility, but even if I could still confide in Danny, I think he'd nod politely while secretly looking for his next opportunity to run away screaming. Even though Will knows the basics, he always resorts to humor to make heads or tails of this world, a world he can't fully comprehend.

That night on the pier, when I impulsively reached out and grabbed Vaughn's hand, I half-expected him to drop the sensitive-guy routine, shake my hand off and hiss at me for so blatantly making contact with him in a public place. I guess I've always been kind of aggressive when it comes to things like that. But he didn't shake me off. He was surprised, I'm sure, but he accepted my touch and held his place, melting his own hand around mine, letting me stand there and stare at the ocean for those long, timeless moments. From then on, in my mind, my right hand began to glow a nice, warm red.

"Hockey can wait."

Over the next few months, I didn't get to add much to my list. But when we discovered the mind-boggling coincidence that my mother killed his father, that revelation opened up a new realm of physical connection. When he broke into SD-6 to help me, I thanked him by greeting him with a little flick of the wrist that sent him sprawling to the floor. We ended up pointing our guns at each other, but I should have realized there was nothing to fear from this attacker when that familiar, comfortable spark of electricity shot up my arm from my fingertips. He didn't take much offense at my assault, though, and he used the opportunity to work closely with me, his rushed, humid breath floating over the planes of my face. There were moments when I had to force myself not to shut my eyes and just take him in. After I nailed Cole in the garage, when Vaughn came over to me and guided me away with a few strategically placed fingers on the skin of my waist—the area immediately began to burn.

But the incident that had initially marked my body the most was that hug. Our first. I stood in front of him, completely broken. A few months earlier, I'd had the rug ripped out from underneath me when I discovered the truth about the agency for which I was really working. Now, it had happened again. My sweet, innocuous mother was an assassin, her cherished books hiding her true intentions just as much as her persona had. And because of who she had killed, he owed me absolutely nothing. I had told him that he had no idea what it was like to lose a parent to the spy business, that I didn't care how he felt when I began my investigations. My arrogance was so absolutely blinding to me that I didn't notice how his eyes fell when I reminded him of his own father's demise. He should have stalked away without looking back. But he was the one who reached out, placing one hand on the back of my head and the other on my back, reeling me in from the iciness of my own emotions.

Of course, looking back at that hug now, it was so awkward, lukewarm. We've since improved on it ten-fold. He still offers himself to me in his selfless way when I need comfort. After I learned about my father's own machinations, there was only one place I could imagine going. I trudged through the rain and cold, and I found him, concern filling his face as always, but with a new note mixed in. No questions, no demands. He single-handedly hauled me back to the land of the living, his hand stroking my hair, drying each damp strand. Warming my heart and soul.

I hate raisins, but I know that they're just grapes that have been left in the sun. My nose crinkles with this odd train-of-thought, but in a bizarre way, it makes perfect sense. When I first heard that Vaughn might die, I was convinced that I would just shrivel up in an arctic vacuum if he were gone forever. I had enough trivial medical knowledge from my training and from Danny to draw blood without assistance, but I couldn't get over the tediousness of the task. Thousands of nurses draw blood from thousands of patients everyday. But this was no faceless patient, and I was certainly no nurse. He tried to reassure me as always, but what really got me through was more base than that. The vial of his blood I carried with me was a reminder of his heat. The pulse points in my right hand, my waist, the back of my head – they all sang at having this essence of him so near. When I gave the sample up to create the vaccine, my body went stone cold. I was freezing when I made the choice to kill Sloane. I knew the chill would become irreversible if I didn't act quickly.

When I saw Vaughn for the first time after that, his cheeks healthy and flushed, I couldn't hold back. I latched onto him there, right in the middle of the Ops Center. We enveloped each other, our bodies searing together in nearly every possible place. I'm almost embarrassed at the thought that our coworkers saw us like that, bonded together and willing to stay that way for much longer than protocol allowed. After I walked away, our conversation about Alice ringing in my head, my brain was ready to figuratively throw in the towel. But my entire body, everywhere I had touched him – my cheek, my breasts, my stomach, my knees – tingled with their escape from the dredges of hypothermia. And I knew we were nowhere close to the end.

"Do you think I'd just throw anyone in my trunk?"

I had this nagging feeling all along that somehow, things eventually would work out for us, but there were several incidents that just confirmed my hope. Of course, when he risked his career to break me out of FBI custody, it showed how far he was willing to go for me, but several days earlier, he had gone halfway around the world. Rome. It was the first time we really worked together in the field, to use our skills in concert with the other. And we fit together perfectly. I had a hint of this compatibility during the Cole raid, but didn't get the chance to see it on this level. We anticipated each other's movements to the millisecond. He used the blowtorch, I set the explosives. He distracted the guard while I concocted a heated, last minute plan for escape. But even with our freedom on the line, I had fun. We chatted in the sewer about Kobe Bryant and he asked me out to his favorite restaurant. And when we huddled together for protection against the explosives, his strong arms alternately cradling and scorching my head, I was blown away by how...intimate...the gesture was. That should have been the first sign that our eventual coupling would be as feverish as it was.

But I don't think I was ready to think about that yet. Everything in my life was so unpredictable that I needed something familiar and comfortable. Warm. So when Noah came back into my life after Vienna, it was easy to push aside these new, confusing feelings. Not just about Vaughn, but about everything - I fell back into Noah's arms all too quickly. I heard the catch in Vaughn's voice as he struggled to ask me about the mission in Arkhangelsk. I didn't want to tell him, even though it had nothing – yet everything – to do with him. But my one-word response conveyed all he needed to know, and all the energy stored in the warehouse, all the steam generated by each clandestine caress, seemed to fizzle like a defective firecracker shrieking as it spirals off into oblivion, its pent-up heat rendered totally useless.

And then I once again sat before him, completely frozen. Hot, salty tears gathered in my eyes as I recounted this latest duplicity. I remembered that time at the pier when he said I could call him whenever I was at my absolute lowest. This was it. And even though I had betrayed him in a way, he still sat there and listened to me and offered me support, but I could see the pained expression on his face. When I stood, preparing to once again brave the chill, he placed an ice pack on my bloody fingers. The jolt from the combined touch of the slick plastic cold and his pulsing fingers was practically erotic. I had to brace myself to keep from crying out as the embers of his touch flooded through my whole body. He told me to take care of myself. I couldn't tell him that he had just seared shut the gap in my heart shut by himself. We managed to brave that cold spell just fine.

"I swear, I'm going to kill this guy."

We should have gone radio silent while I was "seducing" the Alliance creep because this comment nearly broke me. I was having enough trouble gearing myself up to be his "friend" without hearing Vaughn's editorializing. As much as I love having him purr in my ear during our missions, this time the juxtaposition nearly made me ill. When this cretin with the greasy fingers touched me, grabbing my ass, his fingernails digging in, it was nothing like the diffuse warmth when Vaughn's skin touches mine. I felt freezing cold shoot straight to the bone.

I don't think Vaughn would have normally made such a bold statement and advertised it over a comm channel, but after our experience in France the week before, he must have been feeling overly protective. Our date was the first overt demonstration of our escalating relationship. Sure, we both acknowledged our feelings, but in no normal way. Our secretive spy code? A broken watch and more miscommunications than any normal relationship can endure. But now, looking back, I realize that we barely even touched on our dinner together. This was our first opportunity to talk face to face, without having to rely on a code or a mission. We had been stumbling along, little baby steps occurring from time to time, and my infrared picture had gotten extensive mental usage for over a year as I permitted myself to occasionally fantasize about what could be. But then, we hit the fast-forward button, and we didn't even indulge in any physical contact beyond the desperate clutches we shared when the Alliance henchmen were chasing us.

Not that we didn't want to. When the proprietor of the restaurant placed that room key on the table, heat throbbed through my entire body. Well, a few locations in particular. My right hand, my waist, the back of my head, my cheek, my knees, my breasts. For starters. But hindsight is 20/20. I'm lucky for so many things, but if SD-6 hadn't been destroyed when it had, that would have been the furthest we could have gone. Why didn't we hold hands over the tabletop or play footsie under the table? If I couldn't have Vaughn in my bed, at least I wouldn't have had to wear socks to bed every night.

But thankfully, we destroyed SD-6, and sparked the overheated state I've been in for the past week. Our first embrace nearly set us both on fire. It didn't help that we were both decked out in insulating SWAT gear, but his hands went everywhere. My arms, my shoulders, my back. I think I could have lit a city block for a whole night with just the energy from that embrace. And last night...god. The kitchen was absolutely blanketed in a sheen of sweat, like a Louisiana bayou on an August night. Between the stove and my own temperature issues and Vaughn standing with his shirt unbuttoned down to there, I was on the brink of spontaneous combustion. I couldn't even stand to touch him. When I needed a wooden spoon, I had to slide by him, mere millimeters away, but I couldn't complete the circuit. I did feed him some sauce to see if he liked it. And while my hand just hovered by his cheek, he had no qualms with stroking my wrist. I don't know why I was so timid. I needed him to warm me and quench my fire at the same time – maybe I was concerned that the reality could never live up to that heat-sensitive map my brain had constructed. But thank goodness he had no such reservations. He reached out and charred my elbow, pulling me in to the source of his heat, slipping liquid fire into my mouth.

To say that we had sex, we made love, just doesn't do it justice. Sex is something everyone does. I've had sex before, and he certainly has too. But our – dare I say it? – courtship has been so unusual and odd and maddening and drawn-out that it doesn't seem acceptable to think that what we just shared wasn't something invented just for us. My skin is so heated that I can't even stand to have the bed sheets touching me, smoldering me at all. There are no barriers left between us; we're bleeding into each other and blistering our hearts and minds and bodies into this new being that's larger than either of us can comprehend. He looked into my eyes and saw the flame flickering there, then did everything he could to make it burn brighter. The torrid air in my bedroom rose to a fever pitch as we exploded together. His hands and lips and tongue melted my skin everywhere, but I think the scorch marks are most noticeable on my lips, my neck, my breasts, my inner thighs. He was very thorough.

"I'm your ally. Never question that."

Remembering this exchange brings a giggle bubbling to my throat. Oh yeah, he was my ally; I can't count how many times in the overnight hours he was my ally. There were the two times before actual hunger for food got the better of us and we made our way out to the kitchen, reheating dinner as Vaughn had so thoughtfully suggested earlier. But it was a good thing Francie was still at the restaurant – we found ourselves inspired during dinner and used the opportunity to christen my new kitchen table. We eventually made our way back to the bedroom and gave my solid mahogany headboard a good workout...

"Syd?"

I can't hold it in anymore. My state of delirious bliss finally escapes. I start snickering full bore now, further arousing Vaughn from the little sleep he managed to get. He breathes in, deeply, and peers at me through blinking green eyes, a mischievous, sultry smile appearing as he takes in my shaking form.

"What's so funny?" he asks, his face torn between self-conscious confusion and delighted amusement. I manage to squeeze out one last snort, and then shake my head, looking him in the eye.

"I think...that reality is just catching up with me," I say, not really sure that accurately describes how I'm feeling, but it'll do. The past week has brought with it a maelstrom of emotions, both fantastic and stressful, and I think that my brain's just trying to sort through it all even though I should just relax and enjoy the moment. I know there's a lot that we need to discuss, but I didn't need to bring it into this little bubble we've been enjoying.

He senses the intrusion of the outside world into our conversation, his forehead furrowing as usual, his lips pursed as he gazes at me.

This isn't what I intended to do. I quickly shoot him a reassuring smile and lean forward, planting a soft, early-morning kiss on his pliable lips. I start to draw back, wanting to give him a little more space in which to wake up, but he has other ideas. He wraps his arms around my torso and hauls me on top of him, the sheets tangling even more than they previously were.

If last night was the time for radioactive levels of heat, we've turned it down to a nice simmer now. He embosses my forehead with balmy kisses, and I breathe in the succulent steam rising off of his skin, my eyes closed to take in the sensation. We may both need a shower and a good amount of mouthwash, but neither of us cares at this particular moment. I settle with my arms folded across his bare chest, content to just stare at him as he uses his hands to soothe my tangled hair. We settle, just...being, the brassy sunlight starting to creep into the room. I contemplate how my name just tumbled from his lips, sounding familiar in his gravelly, sleepy voice. And then I freeze, my body tensing, realizing where my hands are resting.

Last night was not the first time my hands touched him here. They skittered across his tepid skin in Cap Ferrat, the motions of a desperate creature with ice-blond hair – grasping at leather restraints, checking for a pulse, trying to transfer just some of the heat that he had so thoughtfully infused in me back to him. But I couldn't do it. I had to resort to an artificial spark, a hypodermic of adrenaline glinting metallic in the dim light. I had to jam it into what makes him him, what makes his precious heat ooze through his body, what makes him the man that I love. After I managed to revive him, I grabbed his hand and pulled him out of that hell, the icicles on both of our hands starting to thaw.

That mental image isn't what I wanted to think about at this particular moment, and tears jump to my eyes as they slide up to his strong, muscular shoulders. I touched him there too, in the moment that sentenced him to that madman's sub-zero dungeon. After I set the explosive on that enormous red ball, I turned and ran, my muscles burning in protest. And he stood there. He just stood there. Watching the oncoming flood as though it were a reckoning or the end of time, the color draining from his face. I nearly tackled him, my jumpy hands jolting his upper body, trying to bring him out of his trance and spur him to movement. I did, but I was too late. Too late. I watched as that tidal wave swept him away from me, into the dark, wet recesses.

I close my eyes against the onslaught, my chin dropping down to his chest and my lips opening to place a sloppy kiss against his sternum. I feel his hand move to cup my ear, his movements forcing my eyes up to meet his. The concerned look is back again.

"Syd, what's wrong?"

I take a deep, cleansing breath, forcing myself to smile even as tears drip from my eyelashes.

"This...this is just...it's what keeps you coming back to me."

I lean down and place another kiss on his golden chest, trying to convey how precious he's become to me. His eyebrows knit in confusion. He's not used to hearing me express something so personal and private, so sentimental. The emotion of the moment makes me shiver; his toasty hands move down to rub my trembling arms.

"Are you cold?" he asks, with a quality in his voice sounding like he doesn't know what the hell he's gotten into.

I grin through my tears, the warmth of my smile erasing his worry lines.

"Not at all."

I lever myself up with his shoulders, my stomach striking against the fine hairs on his chest, and attack his lips with a blaze of passion. He gets the hint and wraps his arms around my back, deftly maneuvering me back to my previous resting spot, the sheets thankfully darting away in protest. He places a knee between mine and I feel the smoldering ignite once again.

If I'm lucky, we'll hit a dozen before breakfast.

After considering a joint venture into the shower, we figured that it's best to leave wanting more. So Vaughn went home to change for a quick day at work before heading back here to meet up with me, Francie, and Will for my graduation. I've finally managed to extricate myself from our snug sanctuary and head into the bathroom. I let the water have a few moments to heat up, but when I step in, I shiver as I'm showered with what feels like a piercing hailstorm. Damnit, the water heater's acting up. We need to call that repairman again.

But I stay standing. The frigid water may rinse away the Vaughn fingerprints coating my body, but his impact can't be diluted away. I close my eyes and conjure up my map. All over, in every possible nook and over every plane, it's glowing a fiery crimson, illuminating the dark recesses of my brain and the chilly tile of the bathroom.

I'll never be cold again.

FIN