Author: eretria

Disclaimer: Alias and the characters of Alias are property of ABC and Touchstone, and are the creation of JJ Abrams and Bad Robot. These stories are purely for entertainment purposes, no copyright infringement is intended, I am not making money from this at all.

Rating: PG 13

Feedback: Is lovingly cherished. And I mean it.

Timeline: Beginning of season 3

Thank you: Rez, beta-reader with more patience than I could even pray for
Murron, for constant support
Auburn, for bloody amazing stories and comments which made me smile

Dedication: For Rez

Summary: Emptiness and counter-measures. Syd/Sark

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Stir



It didn't make a difference. It didn't hurt like it should. It didn't make her feel what she wanted to feel.

Sydney Bristow looked down at her hands: Bloody, raw. She had been training for hours on the punching bag, imagining faces. Kick, punch, shove. Her own harsh breath echoed in the empty gym. Her gloved fists hit the bag with a sound like the crack of a whip.

The bag was still moving when she finally pulled off her gloves.

A single drop of blood fell, staining the mat in the cool, clean, halogen lit training room. Before, she would have worried that someone might see her hurting herself, take it for a sign of weakness. She used to hate showing weakness.

Not anymore.

There was no one left to worry about, or to care.

Francie was gone, not even granted a decent grave. She knew she should grieve for her best friend, but she couldn't quite access the pain.

Will. He had survived the encounter with Francie's double, but it had changed him beyond recognition. His eyes were filled with an almost fanatical gleam that would have frightened her if she had enough energy to care.

Her father. Imprisoned and unwilling to speak. That was something that hadn't changed. Talking with her had never been his strongest suit. It should bother her, and somewhere, far, far down, she could feel a slight stirring of sorrow, but it was hardly more than a ripple in an endless ocean.

Vaughn. Married. That should have hurt, too, more than anything. Because that was expected of her, wasn't it? Wasn't everyone waiting for poor Sydney to break down, crying, mourning her lost love?

It didn't hurt. Nothing hurt these days and that sure as hell gave her some advantages when it came to staying ahead of the game.

Meetings to sit through, everyone staring.

They were handling her like glass, expecting her to break, and she wanted to laugh at them, explain to them that she wasn't the same Sydney Bristow as before. Which Sydney she was, she couldn't say. It changed daily.

They asked so many unanswerable questions.

Where had she been, what had she done? How had she ended up in Hong Kong? That scar - where had it come from? Had she known about what her father was doing? What had happened to the double, Allison Doren? What was the last thing she remembered?

Over and over again. By now, she could tell from the looks on their faces which question would come next. It was tempting to make something up just to satisfy them, get them off her back.

The gym only had a small window, high up in the tall room, not giving enough light to brighten the bare, grey walls, not big enough to let fresh air in. It couldn't even be opened. A travesty, built in only because it was required. A prison cell could hardly be worse.

More drops of blood fell to the mat, a subtle drip-drip, making for an interesting pattern.

And that was how things were for her these days: interesting. She viewed her surroundings with a clinical interest, like watching something on a surveillance monitor. She knew she should feel more - they were right, the detachment wasn't normal. But she couldn't bring herself to care.

***


She looked at her hands again. The muted coppery scent of her own blood reached her nostrils, intermingled with the smell of new plastic and sweat. A familiar smell. Apparently, no matter how good and expensive the interior of a gym was, you could never get rid of the smell.

She smiled humourlessly and let her thoughts drift.

There was someone from her past they hadn't told her about. A name they seemed to be afraid to mention to her.

It was one of the few things that made her angry, maybe because they weren't accommodating. One of the few times she let emotions bubble up.

It had been an impressive show she had put on for them, she had to admit in hindsight. The raised voice, the slamming of her fist on the table, the raging anger that radiated from her. They had granted her permission to see him afterwards.

She hadn't. Had been close a few times but shied back. That carefully sedated animal within, something she guessed might be her soul, stirred whenever she thought about the prisoner in the glass cell. It was the same cell they had kept her mother in.

Two years. She had read the file. Two fucking years. The pictures were remarkable, the change evident as day and night. There had been the cocky smirk, the boyish curls, the handsome features, in that first prison photo. His eyes, showing amusement and serenity. Now the smile was gone, the curls shaved to stubble. Even the eyes had changed, something she hadn't thought possible. He looked weary, hollow, defeated.

Just another casualty on the way to get the information they wanted. Something they accepted when using the techniques they had utilized.

Just what they had expected.

She went into the washroom, measured steps. Took a shower and felt the water and the fragrant shower-gel sting the raw skin of her hands.

Pain was irrelevant these days. Curiosity had taken its place, and a hunger for something other than distrust and sympathy and righteousness; something she couldn't get from anyone at the agency.

She stepped out of the shower, enjoyed the feeling of the rough towel on her skin. The mirror was steamed up, hiding her face. Single droplets rolled down the silvery surface, making visible only the seam between the tiles right behind her

She wiped at the mirror lazily, and saw her face contorted by the watery streaks. Tried for a smile whose reflection looked like some modern painting of a madwoman.

The knowing looks told her everything. They were waiting for her to break down. It was only natural for her to have to vent all of those pent-up emotions. She couldn't possibly take all of this in and not go insane, could she?

Her hands went to the mirror again, deliberately, slowly. She saw her own eyes staring at her, perfectly calm. Her fingers caressed the moist surface. Not a single muscle in her face moved when she punched the glass hard. She didn't have any answers. And looking at the splintered mirror on the off-white tiles, she didn't mind.

She dressed immaculately, bandaged her hands carefully, made an effort with make-up. You couldn't disappoint the watchers, could you?


***


If he was surprised to see her; he didn't let show. Apparently not even two years in a CIA prison could change that.

He was standing in the middle of the cell, arms hanging loosely at his sides.

His trademark arctic gaze was missing; it was the first thing she noticed.

She was sure he was playing to the cameras. The tired look, the defeated posture - he knew what was expected of him. She'd learned the same thing; acting the part didn't take much.

"Agent Bristow." His voice washed over her, the accent velvet over stone. It was pleasant, interesting. She used to hate that voice with all her heart and soul. She didn't now.

Her gaze didn't meet his when she stepped closer to him, started to circle him. He was barefoot, his ankles and wrists shackled. The pale skin under the manacles looked red and raw, as though the restraints were constant companions. She felt the bandages around her own hands.

He was thinner, almost to a point where his frame seemed too wide for his weight. His eyes were sunken, fine lines fanning out from them, his lower lip showing a set of white scars as if he'd bitten it through.

But it was the eyes which were the worst. Those dead eyes, having lost all of their dancing spark of endless temptation and dark knowledge.

He looked like a broken man. It chilled her.

"You look terrible." She finally allowed her eyes to meet his. Every single breath was being recorded. She knew that he knew.

He looked too tired to argue or even reply, shrugged instead.

Their gazes locked. The seconds trickled by, she could almost hear the crackling of the microphones in the cell. The air-conditioning whirred quietly. She could hear him breathe, and herself. Even and calm.

It was a fine stage set. They were acting just as everyone outside the cell was expecting them to, like good puppets, strings pulled without their will.

And she still stared at him, unblinking. Hoping for something, anything. It couldn't possibly be true. This wasn't someone you could break.

She uncrossed her arms and took a few steps around the table separating them, near enough to study him more precisely. He didn't even flinch, too tired to care. Those eyes preoccupied her again. A darker ring circled a lighter blue iris. The white perfectly parted from the blue. No secrets left, no mockery, no playfulness. There were no emotions there, only fatigue. He was broken.

The air in the room suddenly felt fetid, making it hard to breathe. She had hoped to find something to oppose the emptiness in her here, but she had found nothing.

Disappointment welled up, making her want to scream, the strongest feeling she had experienced in weeks. She averted her eyes, felt her shoulders wanting to slump before she caught herself.

How could they have possibly broken him?

Turning away, she looked back once, maybe in hope. And there it was, like a reward for her patience: the laughing, sub-zero blue gaze.

There was no air left to breathe, no matter what the sounds of the air-conditioning tried to tell her.

A broken man. Like hell. She should have known, trusted her instinct that it would take more than two years in CIA custody to break a man like Sark.

Their conversation was silent, not visible for the camera, not audible for the tapes. Something flashed through his eyes.

She knew the agents behind the monitors were inching closer now, trying to anticipate her next move. A smirk flitted over her face.

She reached and drew him forward, capturing his lips with hers, open-mouthed abandon. No tenderness, no meaning but power play and an end to compliance. No surprise on his part, no hesitation. He kept his eyes open, as she did.

Analyze this, you bastards.


Fin