Title: About Alice . . .
Author: UConnFan (Michele)
E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com
Story Summary: A brief trip into the "Trying Normal" universe
Authors Note: This is supposed to be a chapter in Trying Normal, in about a chapter or 2, but since it's not critical to what happens in the next 2 chapters, I've decided to post it for all those wonderful people who are itching for SOMETHING, plus this proves that Alice does make an appearance but it's brief :) Just long enough to rock things up a bit. This will be in "Trying Normal" at some point, in a future chapter along with the remainder of that chapter. Read now but expect to see later!
The UConn Girls have captured the Big East Regular Season Title :) 29-0, who would have THOUGHT?? Yay!! Tomorrow's the men's senior nite (including my Mike Sob and Tony sob again). Coach Calhoun is BACK from prostate cancer surgery and doing great; really, all that's important is he's back and healthy, I'll take a few losses to have him healthy :)
I still like Trying Normal, btw, but The Lightkeeper has been so much fun, and I still love my original fiction :)
**You MUST have read "Coming to Terms" and "Trying Normal" to understand this at ALL!**
Dedication: For Secret Agent Girl, for being one of my sweetest & most consistent reviewers & for recommending my work! Thank you so much!!
The last Saturday of May, she went with Francie and Jennie to a print shop in Pasadena. Her two friends insisted that even though it was a small, private wedding they had to have invitations. Sydney had initially protested, wondering why she needed invitations when they could just as easily invite the less then twenty guests by word of mouth. They insisted it was necessary; after all, didn't she want an invitation for her wedding album?

Mike stayed at her house with Jackie, who was starting to flirt with a case of colic. Sydney was grateful to be out of the house and enjoying the time with her friends. Francie was friends with the owner of the print shop and she was certain they would be able to convince him to print up two dozen invitations without any problems. The three spent fifteen minutes looking over styles and wording until she found something that she felt was simple enough and they approached the counter.

"Very nice choice," the clerk smiled. "Now, the bride and grooms names?"

"Sydney Bristow. That's S-Y-D-N-E-Y B-R-I-S-T-O-W."

"Your lucky groom?"

"Michael Vaughn. V-A-U-G-H-N."

"Excuse me?" A petite blonde asked, approaching Sydney. "Did you say Michael Vaughn?"

"Yes. Do you know him?" She asked, suddenly wondering if she was in some bad romantic comedy.

"I'm Alice Watson," she introduced. "Michael and I dated for several years . . . I suppose I haven't seen him in a year," she mused. "My goodness, I can't believe he's changed so much! I could never imagine him marrying," she laughed lightly.

"Did you say about a year?" Sydney asked, her spy-training kicking in at that tiny tidbit.

"Yes. About a year," she nodded. "Congratulations though, he's a wonderful man, you must be very lucky to be the one to have pulled him in."

Sydney forced a laugh and nodded. "Thank you. It was very nice to meet you."

"Yes, it was. Tell him I said hello."

"Yes, I will." She smiled as Alice walked away.

Although she insisted to her friends that she was fine, Sydney brewed what Alice had said during the nearly hour drive home. It wasn't that they had dated for several years - she had already insinuated that. No, it was that she hadn't seen him in a year. Logically she knew that could mean something as simple as she bumped into him at the grocery store a year ago, but that wasn't the impression the petite blonde had given her. Even meeting Alice had made her slightly insecure. She was still only eight weeks post-delivery and her body wasn't quite what it used to be. Her eyes were finally starting to return to their normal shade. Plus, if he had such an interest in petite blondes what attracted him to her, when she was neither?

An unfamiliar, miserable emotional rolled through her stomach as she parked her car in the driveway. For the first time in her life, she was jealous. Noah Hicks had been her first serious beau, and as much as he had hurt her when he left, when he was with her he didn't seem to even notice other women. Danny certainly had had other girlfriends in the past, but they had been in England and as a result she never met or even heard about them. This was the first encounter she had ever had with one of her beau's ex-girlfriends, and she had walked away with a terrible feeling in her stomach and a bad taste in her mouth.

The truth was, if Vaughn (she wondered why she slipped back to referring to him as that at that particular moment) and Alice had even been casually dating on and off as recently as a year ago - right around the time their daughter had been conceived - she would have felt terrible. Worse off, it he had willingly begun a relationship with her (particularly since she was certain their daughter hadn't been conceived until months into their relationship and a long time after she realized she was in love with him and had assumed he had fallen in love with her) while he still chose to see Alice, she wasn't particularly sure she could forgive him. That would mean he had lied to her. When she had depended on him to be her truth, to be the one constant in her life, he lied. At least she could plead ignorance. What was his excuse, she wondered, temporary memory loss?

He smiled at her when she walked into the house, getting up off the sofa to greet her. He always did that, she realized, stand when she entered a room. One of the terribly polite mannerisms Brigitte had taught him over the years. "Hey Syd. I finally got Jackie to sleep. I think I found something we might want to -"

She tossed her jacket and turned towards him. Later she realized that she had already been poised to fight, having already passed judgment on Alice's innocent comment. "Vaughn, when did you break up with Alice?" She asked casually.

Mike stepped back slightly, noticing that she was distant, her face a professional mask and, for the first time in nearly a month, she had called him Vaughn. "A couple of years ago, Syd," he said offhandedly. By the time he had ended things with her he had been so busy with Sydney that there hadn't been a lot of time to mark the date on his calendar. "Is everything okay?"

"I saw Alice today, at the print place in Palisades." She explained. He nodded, sensing that this was about to take a severe turn downwards. "She said that the last time she saw you was *about a year ago*."

"That sounds about right," he shrugged. When he read the expression on Sydney's face, he felt sick to his stomach. "Syd, you don't think -"

"Were you sleeping with me and still dating Alice?" She asked. The words stumbled out of her mouth without much thought. She couldn't believe she was questioning the virtue of the most moral man she had known, but her brief encounter with his former flame at sent her reeling.

"Sydney! Are you-"

"*Were you*?" She snapped. Where had he had the time, she wondered. After working with him for only a few months she realized she was in love with him, and as a result she did everything she could to spend more time with him, even if they just shared long gazes full of want from across the warehouse.

"No! Damn it Sydney, when would I have had the time?"
"I don't know!" She snapped and shrugged. "It wasn't as though we planned getting together and it's completely plausible that-" She started to rant, her voice still raised.

"Syd! Listen to yourself!" He yelled. He turned his back to her and pinched his nose, forcing himself to remain calm. At that point at least one of them had to be logical, before she said something she regretted or woke Jackie; or, worse off, both. Turning around, he met her eyes, hoping to break through the icy barrier he saw there. "Sydney, I was with Alice for six years, I never even brought up marriage, and whenever she did I did *everything* to change the topic. I love you, I'm marrying *you*, why else would I do that unless-"

"Because you knocked me up," she said, the tone of her voice sharp enough to break through diamonds.

Vaughn chuckled in disbelief and had to stop himself before his eyes rolled. "Syd, you've lost your mind." He said quietly. Then he turned back towards her, searching for some way to break through this supposed veil of insanity that had temporarily shrouded her.

"We're you sleeping with me and seeing her? That would have been the perfect arrangement for you, wouldn't it?" She snorted in disgust as she started to pace. He continued to quietly watch, waiting for the calluses of insanity to break open and her to come to her senses. "Is that all we were to you? Really, you could have slept with me in the afternoon and gone out with her for dinner and the movies the very same night! My God, were you seeing her when I was pregnant?!" She asked. When he looked at her, wondering if she was hearing herself, he innocently rolled his eyes. Except it didn't break the tension as he had hoped it would, it seemed to send her over the edge. "You know what, maybe I don't know how to do this and we're just not ready," she decided, starting to put back on her coat and walk down the hall.

"Syd? Syd, what are you doing?" He asked as he watched her walk into the nursery. Her movements remained purposeful as she silently walked into the nursery, quickly preparing Jackie and putting her in the carrier. "Sydney, where are you going?" He asked as she breezed by him and started back down the hallway.

"If you're not going to treat this like an adult -"

"Sydney, you're jumping to conclusions-"

"Am I?" She snapped and whipped around to look at him.

"Yes, I saw Alice on and off for a few months, but we have a *history* together Syd, and it was -"

"It was what, convenient? Normal? You *knew* what I could give you Vaughn and I thought we had a real relationship, but apparently we just had a nice roll in the hay that resulted in our bastard daughter-"

"Sydney!" He yelled. After a few seconds, he continued in gentler tone. "Syd, listen to yourself -"

"I have listened to myself. You're the one who's talking and still not saying anything." She decided as she twirled around on her heel and walked out the door.

Helplessly he stood there, watching as she snapped Jackie in and then drove like a bat out of hell into the darkening night. After waiting only a few seconds, he slipped on his shoes and jacket, wondering what had taken control of her mind. If she would just take a few patient moments to listen she would have heard that he and Alice had ended for good before they ever even kissed and learn that he had never betrayed her.

For her part, Sydney slowed down once she was off the street and her home was no longer in sight. Taking a left towards the beach, she felt the tears start. Had she called her child a bastard? She shook her head in disgust as she checked on the sleeping angel in the rear view mirror. Regardless of Jacqueline's Father and how angry she was at him, she didn't regret her daughter or who her Father was. For so long he had been the only person to ever be honest with her . . . To imagine that he had been with Alice when any emotions existed between them, even before they were physical intimate, made her heart break and her stomach drop.

Fifteen minutes after they left the house, she pulled in to a Burger King. Taking only a brief interlude to get Jackie, she nearly ran into the bathroom, sicker to her stomach then she ever recalled being. Even on the worse day of her pregnancy her stomach hadn't been as tumultuous. Then again, she thought as she sat down on the toilet and looked at Jackie sleeping on her carrier on the dirty bathroom floor, when her stomach had been sick her heart had been just fine. This time nothing was fine.

Had she been duped again? She thought in disgust as she wiped her face and took a moment to change Jackie. Michael Vaughn had been the only person in her life who ever knew the real her and never lied to her.

What had happened along the way that had caused her to lose her judgment?

That answers obvious, she thought as she picked up Jackie and held her tight. Somewhere along the way she had fallen in love with him.

Sydney had always wanted to be normal with him. In the end - that seemingly unattainable end - she had wanted to be normal with him. There had been nothing to indicate that she didn't want that with him. Had she been so incredibly desperate to believe it that she had manifested signs in her mind? She had never thought he would take the easy way out. Even when they weren't physically together, knowing that he could have been with Alice while he felt something for her made her feel as though he had cheated on her.

Taking a moment to adjust her hair, she forced herself to stop thinking. Time to compartmentalize, she noted as she grabbed Jackie's carrier. Hiding in a public bathroom sobbing and internally ranting certainly wasn't going to help any. On her way out she grabbed a newspaper from the stands and decided she would do something that could help.

Twenty minutes were spent in her parked car at the pier, the car light on as she circled job openings. Sydney had had enough deception and was certainly not going to stay with someone who would lie to her all while knowing how desperately she depended on him, needed him. No more, she thought briskly, she would depend on no one. The first step to independence was finding a job. It was spring, teachers would be hired, retired and fired over the next few weeks and she intended to be in the first category.

With eight job openings circled she tossed the folded newspaper down on the passengers seat and started to drive again. Jackie was getting fussy and Sydney's aimless driving seemed to calm her. This should at least help one of us, she thought as she continued her drive. The city passed by her, lights, movement, and people. People who trusted those in their lives, and whose souls the only person they had ever allowed themselves to depend on had not torn out.

Years later she would not recall how she eventually ended up in the one place she swore she'd never see again.

The warehouse.

Sitting in the cold, damp warehouse she breastfed Jackie and looked around the abandoned building. Was there a sign somewhere in that building to indicate when she had stopped seeing things objectively? Did she have a memory that could be triggered by being there? The worse part was that Vaughn's deception had not only stirred up questions about him but also painful questions about his relationship with her.

Was Jackie the sole reason they were together now? Had he just stumbled over a clumsy non-proposal because he was, by all accounts, an honorable man who had made a child with her? Was he really supposed to be with Alice and she was destined to be alone after losing Danny? Were they just thrown together for all eternity because of a second of passion and the wonders of genetics?

For her the worse question was the one she didn't allow herself to think until she had spent nearly two hours pacing the warehouse, bouncing Jackie in her step.

Did he want to be with Alice?

Did he want normalcy with her? Two children and a house with a fence and a dog running in the yard?

Worse yet, if she hadn't become pregnant or the Alliance's end wasn't in sight, would he have had that with Alice?

Would he have had it all while she was in his life?

It was already two in the morning when he found her car in the warehouse, instantly flooded with relief. He had spent the last few hours, a lifetime, looking for her. He stopped at Jennie and Wills, Francie and Charlie's; he even tracked down Jack Bristow's address to see if she was there. He went to the pier and found nothing; the Bluffs and the Palisades, the Observatory and the train station all resulted in the same. Finally he went to the only other place that he could have imagined her going and feeling safe at two in the morning.

The one place she had always been safe, the one place where he had always promised it - the warehouse.

Sydney Bristow, the strong, beautiful, fragile woman he loved was slumped forward in the plastic chair, her face in her hands as their daughter slept in her carrier. Seeing them both safe made his heart start beating again. She had never run before, she had always faced problems head on and with his help. This was their first fight; the first time he had ever seen her flee. She was walking the line of defeat, and this was one battle he was not going to let her lose.

She didn't have to bother to look up to know it was he. Who else would go to a warehouse on the bad side of town at two in the morning? Only them, she thought. Only two dysfunctional, misguided, confused individuals. This was certainly not normal, she thought before her mind bitterly added that it was certainly not something he would have to worry about with Alice.

"Did you sleep with her when you were sleeping with me?" She asked softly, her chin resting on her hands and her eyes downcast.

He didn't skip a beat or even approach her when he answered, "no."

"When you broke up with her, around the first Thanksgiving we were working together, did you see her again after that? Did you date her after that?"

"Syd . ." He sighed as her eyes met his, stony cold.

"Did you?" She challenged.

When he let out a sigh his shoulders sagged. "It wasn't the ideal situation Syd-"

"It couldn't have been that bad," she replied flippantly. Following a few moments to regain her composure, she was calm as she continued to talk. "Did you see her while you had feelings for me?"
"We met up a few months after we broke up . . . We decided to give it another try . . . If things had been different Syd-"

"What? You would have been with me instead of fucking her?"

"Damn it Sydney! Is it wrong that I wanted something normal?"

"And I didn't?" By then they were yelling, screaming and Jackie's whimpers started to join in her parents cries.

"No, you *didn't*. Not yet. You still got your adrenaline rush from kicking down the bad guy. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't attracted and in love with you, but you were too busy saving the world to let me know -"

"I was trying to make the world someplace where we *could* be together, but you were to busy with *Alice* to realize it!" She snapped.

"What about you Syd? What about Noah Hicks?"

"That was one stupid night! One stupid night and damn it you know how guilty I felt after that!"

"How'd you feel about me then?"

"Did you want to be normal with her?" Sydney's question was nearly inaudible as she blinked away tears.

"What?" He was now fully confused at the abrupt shift in the questioning.

Her unwavering eyes met his, the clear tears bubbling up in front of her brown orbs. "Did you - no, *do you* want to be normal with her? Do you want her to have your children and help you name your dog and buy your minivan?" She asked softly. "Just say the word," she shrugged. "You can see Jackie, but I won't *force you* to put up with me." She finished, her tone so icy he swore he felt frostbite on his skin.

"Do you know when I realized I was in love with you?" He challenged. Her arms crossed over her chest and he instantly recognized her attempts to protect herself.

"No, Vaughn, when did you know?"

"When you walked into CIA that first time, with your red hair and your mouth was bleeding. You had just seen the darkest parts of the world for the first time, and while you had had the shit kicked out of you, you hadn't let them take your soul. Do you remember what I said in my office?"

She sighed and uncrossed her arms, instead resting her hands on her hips. "First you turned the picture of Alice away so I couldn't see it," she recalled clearly as he sighed and wondered why she was being so difficult. "Then you said something about having an instinct about me."

"That's the understatement of the millennium," he muttered. "Damn it Sydney, I had known you less then a year and I risked my life and my job by breaking in to SD-6 when you were taken hostage by Cole. I broke in to the *Vatican* with you. I basically tossed every honored written - and unwritten - CIA rule of protocol out the window when I met you. I've been suspended and within inches of losing my life and my job. Alice and I broke up both times because I kept running out in the middle of night or at the oddest hours to see *you*. She got frustrated because even when I was with her, most of the time my mind was worrying about *you*. So in the course of our first year together, before I even laid a romantic hand on your body, I found out that your Mother killed my Father and proceeded to lose my girlfriend and nearly my job and my life to protect you." He reminded her. "You know what though?" He asked, shrugging slightly

"What?" She asked softly, feeling guilty for putting such weight on his ex-girlfriends simple comment. The past didn't matter; what he had with Alice didn't matter. As much as it hurt her to realize it, what she shared with Danny was no longer of any consequence. Michael Vaughn was moral, her rock, and the faithful keeper of all her truth. He was the first person in her life that knew everything about her, good and bad, and yet he didn't abandon her or try to force her in to anything. What matter was what they shared, what they had always shared - even when he was with Alice and she was mourning Danny. Anything in the past paled to all the storms they had been through together and victoriously survived.

"If it meant that at the end I'd get to be here with you and Jackie, have normalcy with you both, I'd do it all again." He whispered.

Sydney looked down at the ground and felt herself losing the battle with her tears. Since she was breastfeeding she was still hormonal eight weeks after Jackie's birth. "Syd? Are you okay?" He asked softly, stepping closer and placing a hand on her arm.

She felt even worse. She had just yelled at him, questioned something that people held close, particularly government agents - their honor. What was he doing though, regardless of how much she had just hurt him, he was worried about her. There was no doubt in her mind that he was one of the sweetest men she had ever known.

"I'm an idiot and we're having our first fight," she confessed tearfully as he laughed. His thumbs reached out to wipe away the tears that fell.

"Syd, we've fought before, a lot. Remember? A bloodmobile where you basically told me I knew nothing and you were the boss?"

"I still am," she sniffled as he smiled and nodded. "This is our first non-work fight."

"Your not an idiot and yes, it's our first fight, but it's okay," he reassured her, taking the incentive to wrap his arms around her and pull her closer. "I'm sorry Alice upset you so much," he whispered, kissing her temple. "This has not been an easy time for you, but it's over now. It might never be perfect, but we're together and I promise that I'm not going anywhere. I've screwed up before Syd, I can't say I haven't, but I'm here now. Things are the way they are now, not the way they were then. This is the way I wanted things, the way I've always wanted them - even when I was with Alice. I'm not going anywhere."

"I'm sorry about that whole 'knocked up' comment from before," she muttered against his shoulder.

"It's okay," he whispered, holding her close. "I'd marry you either way."

"I know," she nodded. "I told you I wasn't sure how to be in a relationship."

"You're doing fine Syd," he reassured her. Pulling away, he cradled her face in her hands. Their daughter, to her credit, had calmed herself down having sensed her parents' aggravation slowly peeling away. "Let's go home, okay?"

She let out a shaky breathe and nodded. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against his shoulder and nodded. "I didn't stop loving you when I was with her."

"I know," she nodded with a shaky breath.

"I fucked up Syd, I'm sorry," he confessed, running his fingers through her hair. "What she and I had has nothing to do with you and I, it takes nothing away from what I feel for you."

Wrapping her arms around his waist, she nodded again. "I love you."

"I love you too." He wrapped his arm around her and grabbed the carrier as they walked out of the warehouse.

Being in love didn't make everything better. Vaughn realized he should have known that seeing Alice when he and Sydney felt so blatantly obvious for one another would one day come back to hurt her and haunt him. She loved him though, and that made her far more likely to forgive his acts. He loved her, making him far more determined to keep the one thing that mattered to him, and that was what he held in his arms as he walked out of the warehouse on the earliest hours of a cold May day.