A Path of Thorns
Jessica S

***
Classification: Weiss/Alice (hints of Alice/Vaughn as well), angst, response to the EV challenge "Five, five, one".
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Anything, and everything until "The Double Agent" is fair game.
Summary: "Maybe I should have fallen in love with you."
Feedback: Highly coveted at breathe@mail.nu
Notes: Thank you to Pharo and Aire. Both betaed and encouraged me, and ladies, it means a lot to me.
Disclaimer: Alias does not belong to me, I am not JJ Abrahms or ABC.

***





(one)

His sister's apartment, August in LA. Warm, sticky, sweat sliding down his neck, down his back. The heat surrounds him, suffocates him, tangling around his arms, his legs, his skin. Kate drinking a wine cooler, Mike watching Duke playing against North Carolina State. He's listening to the flicker of noise from the television screen, gulping down an iced tea.

The doorbell ringing, Kate cursing. Thirty seconds later, a blond on Kate's arm. Blond hair, pretty, small grin highlighted with flashing white teeth. Eyes alert, eyes wide and grey. Small frame contrasting against Kate's long, lean form and honey coloured hair.

Kate says, "This is Alice. Alice the wonderful, Alice in wonderland."

Her words slur, just slightly. He makes a mental note not to let her near another wine cooler before saying, "Kate's only slightly drunk. I'm Eric, the brother. This is Mike, the best buddy."

A smile, a blink, a touch of her hand against his palm. Desire, flooded with curiosity.

"I just came over to bring over some cookies. I made too many and-"

Kate crooning, "Isn't that quaint?" and Mike saying, "Wow, domestic. Chocolate chip, my favourite."

A smile slowly curving across her face. Mike running a hand through his hair, eyes twinkling. Mike smiling at Alice, Alice smiling at him.

A warm summer day. A surge of disappointment flowing through his blood, through his bones.





(two)

Two days before Christmas, four months since Mike and Alice's first date, Steve's Christmas party. Lights adorning the palm trees shining through the glass. His date for the night flirting with a stockbroker with cold, calculating eyes. Mike across the ocean (Paris), sleeping with a .32 caliber in his bed, coming home on Christmas Day.

Underneath him, his old fraternity brothers and their dates laughing, dancing, drinking. Marissa with her silver bronx, Christopher with his bourbon. Mike's old roommmate, James, doing a table dance after one too many.

His breath heavy with Jack Daniels, hers laced with the taste of dry martinis. She's undoing his bowtie. He's sliding the strap of her deep red silk down her pale shoulder, pulling her over the sink of the upstairs bathroom. Her fingers in his hair, elbows hitting the stone of the counter, porcelain sliding like silk on her bare, bare skin.

She's arching her spine, hipbones bumping into his. He's leaning forward, pushing, pushing. Using his hands, making her cry. Mouths twisting together, mouths open wide. Her head against his neck, his teeth knocking against her cheekbone.

She gasps, breaking, breaking like glass. Then she's pulling away, "Dammit, dammit." Tears dripping down her cheeks. "Dammit. I love him, I--I was, I am drunk."

And a "This never happened. My God, Mike, Mike."

Jack Daniels behind his eyes, and then a wall guilt, so much guilt. "This never happened."





(three)

The cold aisle of Albertsons, debating the pros and cons between Prego and Pizza Pockets, he sees her. Applesauce, cheese, cornflakes, yogurt in her cart. Denim jacket wrapped around her waist, eyes ringed in darkness. Sadness trembling from her face. The bones make harsh angles against her face. The last time he saw her, she was smiling, but that was before Sydney Bristow. "Alice."

Surprise, followed by a quick glint of anger. "Eric."

Sweaty palms, aching jaw. "I haven't seen you since--"

"Mike broke up with me?"

An awkward pause. "I was going to say dinner at the Vaughns last October, but, okay."

A harsh laugh, lined with bitterness. "How is Mike anyway?"

Screwing up his career for Sydney Bristow. Following Sydney Bristow. Making puppy eyes at Sydney Bristow. But he says, "Good. Mike is good. He's, you know, being Mike."

"I don't know what that's supposed to mean."

A shrug, a pain in his chest. "He's good at pushing people away."

A nod, blond hair brushing her cheek. A change of subject, a question dying to be asked. "Is he seeing anyone?"

"Mike?"

"Who else?"

Emotions breaking through his veins. He wonders if she can see it in his eyes. Mike doesn't deserve this kind of devotion, he tells himself. A long pause as he listens to the creaking of the grocery cart, the whine of children begging for ice cream. Finally, "No, he isn't seeing anyone."

He sees the relief flood her eyes, like rain. "Good. That's good."

And at that moment, at that very moment, envy and anger fills his head, crawls over his skin. He shakes it off, and asks, "Should I go with the canned spaghetti? Or the instant pizza pockets?"





(four)

Her father's funeral. Her eyes, hollow and tired. Black silk contrasting against her skin, deadly white. Tears gathering in her eyes. He watches her from afar, watches her weave through the sea of black suits and sad eyes.

Flinches when he sees Mike, hand on her back, on her arm. Concerned eyes, cheating heart. Blood pounds in his ears, in his heart. His fingers curl into fists, but breathes in.

He's in front of her, and Mike's looking at him. "Hey."

A nod, a glance towards her. "I'm sorry about your father...If there's anything I can do..."

A grateful smile, and she's biting her lip. "Thank you, but Mike's been incredibly helpful."

"Good, that's good."

He tries to smile, but he's sure it doesn't reach his eyes.





(five)

A knock on his front door. His heart starts from the shock. He mutters a curse under his breath, walks towards the front door, a Molsen in his hand. Water droplets from the bottle trickles down his fingers, into his palms. He wipes them on his rumpled t-shirt.

The knocking persists, he swings it open. The clouds have started to cry, and he didn't notice. She's standing there, shaking in an oversized grey sweater. Before she speaks, he knows why she came. He remembers Sydney and Vaughn -- all lips and hands -- nestled within the remains of SD-6.

"Mike dumped me." Eyes wide, lost.

A sigh, and he wonders why he has to pick up the pieces. "You want to come in?"

Tears fill her eyes. She follows him inside without answering. He cringes when he sees the state of his house through new eyes. Dust, dirty dishes. But she doesn't notice. She slumps down on his couch, and he follows. "Do you want some juice or something?"

She shakes her head mutely. He waits for her to speak. And finally, she says, "Did you know he was going to?"

"Going to?"

"Dump me. Did you know?" A laugh without humour, happiness. "You must have. You're his best friend."

She looks up, and his face, his eyes say it all. "You did."

A reluctant nod. "Yes, yeah I did." followed by an apology, "I'm sorry."

She presses the heels of her hands to her eyes. He listens to the wind floating through the trees, through the air. "He's an asshole. Mike is just an asshole. He gave me this crap about us being over long ago, and that it wasn't me, it was him. He's probably been fucking another woman right under my nose--"

His face blanches, and she freezes. Her eyes widen, "Oh my God."

"No."

"He's sleeping with someone else? Oh my God." Her voice cracks.

And he's at her side, holding her wrists. "No! No. Mike wasn't sleeping with anyone else. He was faith-" He stops, swallows his words. "He didn't sleep with anyone else."

She looks at him, begging him to disagree with her. "But there's another woman."

He swallows hard, avoids her eyes. And she whispers, voice tight. "Don't lie to me, Eric. Don't you dare."

And so he nods, for he can't trust himself to speak.

And suddenly, she's crying. Her shoulders shake, and her head falls against his shoulder. Warm tears sliding down her cheeks, soaking into his shift, into his skin. He's rubbing her shoulder, feeling her muscles heave and pull. He tastes the salt of her tears, the feel of her hair against his skin. He whispers, "It's okay, it's okay." over and over again.

And gradually, gradually, her shoulders stop shaking, and he now longer feels tears. She doesn't move away. And he feels her breath against his neck. He closes his eyes, and breathes in.

Moments later, she moves away, just for a moment, and whispers, "Maybe I should have fallen in love with you."





***
End
***