Author:  The Wanlorn
Title:  Pipe Dreams 1/1

Summary:  Irina and Vaughn reflect on the happenings of 'A Higher Echelon', and on Sydney.

Rating:  PG13, for safety

Spoilers:  'A Higher Echelon'

Distribution:  Ask, and ye shall receive.  Ask not, and ye shall be ANNIHILATED!

Disclaimer:  None of these people belong to me.  JJ Abrams owns them all.  The plot, however, is mine.  No money if being made off of this sh!t.

Pipe Dreams

(A/N:  Yes!  She finally admitted it!  Hott cute.  SD-4??  So cool!  There are more bad guys besides SD-6!  Poor Marshal!  Damn it!  They changed the intro credits again!  I liked the other one better.  Who's the black guy that gave Vaughn Will's psych report?  'Men in Black' zapper things!!  SO FUCKING COOL!!  Everything's going wrong!  Francie's suspecting things…uh oh… Ahck!  Poor Will!  Yay!  A job!  Fucking TV!  Damn antennas!  Damn snow!  It's going all fuzzy!  Phew!  Commercials - I can fix it.  Is Sloane just sitting there, watching the thing download?  And is he going to do that until it's complete?  Psycho…  PEZ!  I fucking love PEZ!!  Hehe.  I'm not addicted.  No, not me… Smart Marshall!  Uh-oh.  Jack's gonna get caught!  Haladki?  I don't remember him.  Which bad guy was he?  What did he do?  Perhaps that will jog my memory.  Fuck monkeys!  Smudged!  He's going do-own!  Oh well.  Jack's an ass, anyway.  Is Kim Coles an actress?   PONG!  I LOVE PONG EVEN MORE THAN PEZ!  GO MARSHAL!  So cool!  Parachutes!  Close the friggin' site!  Oh, Jesus, that last part - with Vaughn and Sydney and the song - is making me cry.  Damn Sloane!  FINALLY!  THEY GET TOGETHER!  THANK THE GODS!!!  This fic is non-related to my series.  R/R/E.)

"I know the pieces fit
Cuz I watched them fall away
Mildewed and smoldering
Fundament differing…"
            Tool - 'Schism'

            It had been an interesting day for Irina.  They had brought her out of her cell again.  Of course, it had taken much arguing.
            Sydney's mission had gone awry, and SD-6 got the access code for Echelon.  They had everything they needed.  Of course, Jack wanted to know if she knew of any way to get it back from them, or block them from using it.  As usual, he was rude about it.  She was so sick of his attitude.  Did he deserve to be pissed at her and hate her?  As much as she wished he didn't, he did.  But, he didn't have to have that 'holier-than-thou' attitude.
            If there were overlapping sites, she could deactivate them and SD-6 would lose everything.  But, they had a limited amount of time, and only she could do it.  It would take far too long to explain it to someone else.
            Predictably, the answer was no.  He said it in such a snotty voice that she would have slapped him if she weren't locked up.  There was a security system that they would have to bypass - 'quicksand'.  She warned him of it - sort of, with a cryptic message.  If he got it, bully for him.  If he didn't, well, she tried.
            Of course, they needed her.  She would guess Sydney had convinced Kendall after they hit the security.  She had been surprised when her daughter told her that Jack had argued for her.  With his attitude, she would have suspected that he had done his little 'thing' again where he answered questions in such a way that Kendall was sure to say no.
            If the only thing that kept her alive wasn't her willingness to help, she would have refused, just on principle.  Sometimes, 'the system' pissed her off so bad she could just scream.  But, her life depended on her continuing value.
            Walking out to the computer, her wrists handcuffed, was… She couldn't explain it, not even in her thoughts.  Everyone looked at her like she was a monster, like she was something evil that shouldn't be allowed to see the light of day, with fear mixed in.  Uncomfortable didn't even begin to describe it.  But she held her head high, acting proud.  Acting proud.
            Truth be told, she was anything but proud.  The only thing she was proud of doing in her life was Sydney.  Her daughter had grown up to be such a wonderful woman.  She was strong, smart, she knew how to handle herself in rough situations, she was stoic, and she wasn't afraid of anything.  The one thing she was proud of…
            She asked for the coffee just to see what they would do.  Maybe she could 'accidentally' spill it on the keyboard, if there were no overlapping sites.  Have a little fun at their expense.  There was dead silence, ands he could sense Kendall looking at Vaughn.  She almost had a heart attack when Vaughn asked her if she wanted cream or sugar.  She was so surprised that she couldn't even come up with a response.  She had murdered his father in cold blood, and yet he was the only person kind enough to offer her a choice.  Kendall would have just gotten her black - of course, that wouldn't matter because that was how she liked it, but it was the thought that counted.  If Vaughn and her daughter didn't get their acts together…
            Her musings - really the only thing for her to do at night - were interrupted by the sounds of someone entering solitary.  What did that want now?  Perhaps whatever it was would be more interesting this time, like another sojourn outside on a mission.  That had been extremely fun.
            Surprisingly, it was Michael Vaughn.  She stood and watched him silently as he came to stand before her.  She noted how he always stood in the same place - dead center and about a foot away from the glass.  She would surmise that he was a man of habit, who wanted order in his life.  What did they need from her now?
            "I just wanted to say thank you," he said after a moment of playing the 'quiet game', "for helping us earlier.  I know no one else will…thank you, that is."
            "My usefulness is the only thing that keeps me alive," she said pragmatically.
            He shrugged, turning to go away.  "You still didn't have to.  Thanks."
            "Agent Vaughn," she said before he could get far, effectively stopping him in his tracks.  "Thank you for the coffee.  And talk to her.  Time is running out; you may not reach the goal soon enough.  You don't need the other one.  Which one shows up in your dreams?"
            He opened his mouth to say something, but ended up gaping like a fish.  Finally, he just turned and left.  Irina settled back on her bed, satisfied by the meddling she had done.

/|\/|\/|\/|\/|\

"Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate
Desperate to control all and everything
Unable to forgive your scarlet letterman…"
            Tool - 'The grudge'

            Vaughn gaped at Irina.  He knew he should be saying something, like how that wasn't appropriate.  Or try to deny it, asking what she was talking about.  But he could not force any of the words out of his mouth.  So, he turned and walked away.  It was time to go home, anyway.
            Donovan greeted him at his door, jumping and barking.  Vaughn reached down to pat the bouncing bundle of fur as he went to start a pot of coffee.
            Was he that obvious?  He leaned against the counter to wait for the coffee to be done, and to think.  He thought he had hidden his feelings very well.  After all, his position as Sydney's handler depended on it, and it was quite possible that her very life depended on it.
            But how could he continue with this constant pining?  He was using - yes, using - Alice to try and take his mind off Sydney, but it wasn't working.  The pain in her eyes every time they happened to run into each other when he was with Alice… But Sydney was the one he loved, and he had all but told her that a couple times in the warehouse.
            Irina was right.  Their time was running out.  One day, something would happen, and either he or Sydney would be gone.  What if that day came, and he had never said… Then, of course, what if they couldn't take down SD-6 within their lifetime?  That was always a possibility.
            But how had she known?  Was it in his face, in his eyes, in his speech?  What?  Did other people see it, too?  Or maybe Sydney had said something.  He prayed that was it.  Then he wouldn't really have to worry.  Why had he even gone back and talked to Irina?
            Oh, yeah, because she was Sydney's mother and deserved to be thanked.  Because she wasn't some faceless monster anymore.  Because, although he still hated her for murdering his father, she was slowly becoming an actual person to him.  He had seen the utterly shocked look on her face when he asked if she wanted cream or sugar.  Did he pity her?  No.  Nor did he think she had gotten any more than she had deserved.  But, without her, there would be no Sydney.  He was grateful to her for that.
            His coffee was done, so he took it to his living room, sitting in his chair and flicking on the TV.  Maybe he would make a move for Sydney.  He and Alice were almost over - she could tell his mind was on someone else, and he could not keep using her.
            He stared at the phone.  It was calling to him, beckoning him over.  He jerked his hand back as it touched the plastic.  He hadn't realized he was even reaching for it.  Pipe dreams were all he had.  Pipe dreams.
            The danger was what stopped him.  He could not put Sydney in that sort of danger.  Her father was already on the run from SD-6.  That immediately implicated her in something.  They would probably be watching her closely for a while.  Associating with a real CIA agent, whether she knew or not, would place her under even greater suspicion.  And if they found out about her double agent status…there would be almost no hope.  If he loved her at all - and he loved her much more than that - he would do nothing.
            Or maybe he could 'arrange' something.  Like, a mission together, to somewhere romantic.  Like France!  He knew she was going there soon.  But the danger, even there…
            Vaughn dropped his head into his hands and sighed in frustration.  What to do, what to do?  They were hidden heroes.  Until SD-6 was taken down, they would never be acknowledged for the work they did protecting their country.  And, because they were the hidden heroes, they must stay hidden from each other in everything but work.
            Pipe dreams were all he had.

"I'd pray to God if there was a heave
But heaven seems so very far from here.
And it all boils down to the same old thing
Just a yin and a yang or a couple of pipe dreams…"
            Travis - 'Pipe Dreams'

*Fin*

(A/N:  *sniffle* I usually hate writing angsty ones if they don't end happy.  But, depending on next Sunday's episode, maybe it will be a happy ending… Go read my other 'Alias' fics!  Get thee gone!)