Title: It Was Beautiful

Author: SydGillyKC

Summary: Both Vaughn and Syd's thoughts during the scene in "Prelude" (Yeah, you know what scene I mean!) and a bit of a missing scene.

Author's Note: Once again, my focus was drawn a little away from "This Tear" and toward writing another little one-parter. What can I say? But I hope, whether you've read "This Tear" or not that you like it and I promise that after I do a little work on my Asian studies paper, I'll work on the next chapter for that. Anyway, the song lyrics are from Jennifer Paige's "Beautiful." And I suggest, even if you normally skip over song lyrics, you at least try to read them, because when I heard them I was totally amazed at how fitting they were. Anyway, I'm done now, so enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

When Vaughn stopped the car and got out, I finally started to panic. Not only was I running away from everything I knew, which was something that decreased more every day, but how was I supposed to say goodbye? How was I supposed to say goodbye to the main who, not too long ago, was nearly destroyed by my supposed death? How can I untangle this emotional mess enough to know what to say in case I never see him again? And most importantly, how was I supposed to even begin to accept that possibility?

He immediately launches into telling me where to find what I'll need, temporarily saving me from figuring out what to say. Once he's done, though, I'm still as lost as I was before. I joke lamely about already being packed, knowing there's really nothing I can do to lighten the mood, to keep up my calm exterior. He knows that inside, I'm a mess. He's always known. It used to fascinate me, like my eyes communicated a language that only he could understand. There were times recently, more than I can count, that I wondered if it was an ability he possessed. Now I know. It doesn't amaze me anymore, though. Now, it just hurts.

He tells me I should leave. I know he's right. I know it's likely that there's a team of agents searching for me as we speak and it's only a matter of time before they realize I'm with him. I can't leave yet, though. Not with all the questions I have, not with everything I've left unsaid. I know that I have to at least try to reach out one more time. I have out know the extent of what remains. Right now, it's all I have left.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm looking for a way to feel you hold me

To feel your heartbeat just one more time

Reaching out, trying to touch the moment

Each precious moment that you were mine

* * * * * * * * * * * *

She asks me why I'm doing this and it breaks my heart. How can she not know? Does she honestly think that I just stopped caring? Doesn't she remember how much she meant to me? Didn't she know I would have died for her? Does she really think that two years and another woman can change that? I can't believe I let her go on believing I no longer cared. How alone she must have felt all this time. And I had no idea, lying in my bed at night with my wife, that she probably lay alone, counting me among the long list of people she'd lost. The thought makes me sick.

She says her life is a disaster, that now mine is too. This pains me for two reasons. The first is that though I've known how painful things must have been for her, this was the first time she was vulnerable enough to admit it. Her guard had constantly been up when I'd seen her at work. Part of me hated it because I know she needed to talk about it before she simply shut down inside. Part of me was comforted, though, because it reminded me of the old Sydney, of how strong and capable she was. Because as selfish as it seems, I'd rather see her mask of strength than to see her cry from the pain she feels. Mostly it's because I know I can no longer be the one that wipes away her every tear. Seeing her like that would kill me. Seeing her like this now is coming close.

The second reason her statement surprises me is because she actually blames herself for my life being turned upside down. Though she hadn't exactly voice that in words, I could father it from her statement just as easily as if she had. I won't deny that she certainly threw my life off-balance when she returned, but never for a second have I actually blamed her for it. I know she didn't choose to disappear for two years and to wake up in a world where everything had changed. And no matter how much it hurts to be in the situation her return has put me in, it doesn't change the fact that I have her back. I spent more hours than I can count on my knees, pleading with God to give her back to me. Though meeting Lauren may have stopped the drunken nightly ritual, it didn't stop me from missing her. It didn't stop me from wondering time to time what things would have been like if I was with Sydney. If my life would've been better with her.

I suddenly realize that this could be my last chance to tell her all this. If I let her walk away now, she may go on thinking that my love for her died when she did for the rest of her life. When she first came back and actually believed that I never loved her, it pained me so much that I told her about how low I'd gotten after her death. That period of my life had been so painful I'd sworn to never discuss it with anyone again, even Lauren. There was no way I could allow Sydney go on believing that, though. She was my everything. And that's why I nearly lost myself when she died. I can't go through the same thing all over again. I missed the chance to tell her what she meant to me once. I won't let it happen again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

How do you prepare

When you love someone this way

To let them go a little more each day?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"What happened between us. Everything. The way it is...isn't anyone's fault Sydney. And even though everything's changed... some things don't."

Since the moment I heard his voice on the other end of my cell phone, I've been fighting tears. I didn't want to break down in front of him and make things more awkward than they already are. His words make it impossible to hold back the tears any longer, though, and they begin to spill over. For over a month now I've been living in a world I no longer recognized. Though there were some people from before that remained in my life now, they were forever altered by what they'd been through in the two years I'd lost. Nothing was completely familiar anymore. Especially Vaughn. Vaughn had changed the most of all of them. Though he'd always been a serious person, there had been a lighter side to him that I'd gotten to see many times during the short time we were together. The Vaughn that taught me hockey, that took me out for ice cream, that wouldn't give up on taking me to Santa Barbara.

Every time I've looked in his eyes since my return, I've felt an immense guilt. My death obviously changed him more than I can even tell. Everything he says now has an underlying pain to it. When he looks at me, his eyes always hold a deep sadness. The side of him that used to have so much fun with me has disappeared. Only part of him remains the same Vaughn that I met four years ago. And I know I am responsible for that change. But for the first time since he kissed me in that car two years ago, I look into his eyes and it's finally familiar. Though the tears are swimming in my eyes, I can see it as clearly as anything I've seen since my return. He's my Vaughn again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The stars we put in place

The dreams we didn't waste

The sorrows we embraced

The world belonged to you and me

The oceans that we crossed

The innocence we've lost

The hurting at the end

I'd go there again

Cause it was beautiful

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I tell her I won't lose her twice and I watch the last of her composure crumble. She looks down at the ground and then back at me. It suddenly feels like nothing's changed. I feel like I've fallen into a time warp. I realize that since we arrived, I haven't thought about my wife once. And I'm surprised to discover that this realization doesn't bother me. Because, right now, all that matters is this woman in front of me. All that matters is keeping her safe. And suddenly, that's the most familiar thing in the world.

Before I can get out another word, she's in my arms. For the first time since I held her in Hong Kong. I'd pictured holding her again so many times in so many different scenarios. Part of me always knew I was hallucinating when I used to hear her voice after her death, but I always desperately prayed that I would hallucinate more than just that. Just to be able to touch her again, to kiss her again, to hold her just like this. And I don't care what my wife were to do if she found out. This is the most comforting thing I've felt in months.

I close my eyes and hold her tighter, terrified suddenly of letting her go. I told her I wouldn't lose her twice. But what if that's exactly what I'm doing? As much as I hate to admit it, she was right about what she said in the car. The NSC wouldn't stop looking until they found her. She may have to be on the run for more time than either of us wants to imagine. Two years without her nearly killed me. Can I do it again?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Some days missing you is overwhelming

When it hits me, you're not coming back

And in my darkest hours I have wondered

Was it worth it, for what we had?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I pull away from him, the reality setting in that if I don't leave soon, his attempts to help me will have been futile. I can only imagine the dozens of places they're searching for me right now. I don't look into his eyes as I slip out of his embrace, but somehow my gaze manages to fall on his lips. Without thinking, I look up at him. He looks into my eyes at the same moment and I suddenly feel like the breath has been knocked out of me. The sadness in his eyes is back, but it's somehow different. His eyes hold another look, though, that is the most familiar thing I've seen in six weeks.

His gaze flickers down to my lips and remains there. My heart is pounding now and I can hear its deafening rhythm in my ears. I momentarily wonder if it's loud enough for him to hear as well. Suddenly, he moves even closer and I wonder if he's going to do what I know we both desperately want so bad. He stops, though, leaving the last distance to me. The desire to bring my lips to his is stronger than anything I've ever felt. I even give it a second of consideration.

I gaze into his eyes, realizing that this is probably the most beautiful and painful moment I've had since I woke up in that alley. So many things are finally clear again. With that clarity unfortunately comes reality, though. As amazing as it would feel to kiss him again, the consequences would be overwhelming. The largest one, at least for me, would be the possibility of regret on his part. I don't think I could live with myself knowing that he regretted sharing something like that with me. Because, as easy as it is to forget right now, he belongs to another woman. The ring on his finger is a constant reminder of that. And though he may be torn between two worlds right now, we both know what he needs to do.

I love him. That will never change. And it's because of that fact that I won't let him do this. I won't pull him into my world of confusion and loss. It's because I love him that I have to walk away and let him go back to his wife.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My thoughts get kind of scattered

But one thing I know is true

I bless the day that I found you

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I see the change in her eyes almost immediately. The fear and sadness in them are overwhelming. I know she wants to stop this before it goes too far. I know she thinks that we might regret it later. I wish I could tell her how far from the truth that would be. That to be close to her again is one of the only things I've wanted for two years. I wish I could just tell her that I still love her instead of having to hint those feelings in cryptic phrases and lingering looks. I wish I could tell her how much I ache to go with her right now.

Of course, I can't say any of these things to her. The truth is that she deserves more than I can give her now. She deserves everything, my whole heart. And me, I don't deserve either of the women I've come to love, let alone both of them. It's not a choice anymore. It's not about choosing between Lauren and Sydney. It's about accepting the choice that's already been made for me. It's about letting go of what I can't have. So far, I've been unable to do this no matter how hard I've tried. Maybe that's why we're being forced to part again so soon. Maybe it's about letting go.

She thanks me and the moment between us is over as quickly as it had started. I nod at her, the reality of our situation crashing down on me again. I reach down and pick up her suitcase, handing it to her. She takes it without breaking eye contact. I can see her attempting to gather her composure. She even starts to smile at me, but can't quite do it. The look breaks my heart. It hurts so much to have to let her do this alone. I can't help but revert to the questions I'd tried so desperately to move past. How did things get so complicated? How did relationship between us become so hard? Why did this happen to us?

She walks away and I force myself not to turn and watch her go. How many times did I stand there in that cold warehouse just watching her walk away, wishing so much that she could be mine. It takes everything I have left not to do the same thing now. To not watch the woman who is undoubtedly the love of my life walk away when I'd only just gotten her back.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The rules we stepped aside

The fear that we defied

The thrill of the ride

The fire in our hearts that burned

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I try unsuccessfully to sleep during the entire flight to Rome. After all that's been said, I know that my attempts are worthless, but it's so much easier to let myself drift off than to face what lies ahead of me. To forget what I've left behind. Walking away from Vaughn was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Perhaps even harder than watching him with Lauren through that hospital window.

I can't help but think about how ironic it all is. When we were together, I used to think of loving him as the easiest thing I've ever done. Walking away from the car that night, thoughts of Santa Barbara swimming in my mind, there didn't seem like anything easier in the world. And then I wake up a few hours later to a world that's unrecognizable and upside down. And suddenly, my life is full of confusion and pain and loving him is the hardest thing I've ever experienced.

I look at my watch and realize I've spent nearly three-quarters of the trip trying to sort everything out in my head. An impossible task, I know, but I always hope to feel better after trying. The ringing of my cell phone suddenly pulls me out of my thoughts and my heartbeat speeds up a little. I wonder if it's someone at the CIA or the NSC looking for me, thinking I may actually pick up and surrender myself. Keep dreaming, I think to myself.

Relief floods my body when the caller ID reveals that it's Vaughn. Without a second thought, I press the button to connect the call and bring the phone to my ear.

"Syd?" He asks immediately. The sound of his voice comforts me the way it always has and I can't help but smile.

"Hey," I reply softly.

"Hey," he repeats. "I was going to call you in a few hours to make sure you landed safely, but I just got called in, so I wanted to call you before I left. I know it may be a while before we can talk again." The last sentence is soft, pained.

"Yeah, I guess so," I say, not wanting to accept it.

"Have you made arrangements on where to stay yet? Do you know where to go?" Vaughn asks, obviously concerned.

I consider telling him about the apartment, but quickly decide against it. The less he knows right now is probably better. Whatever knowledge he has now is knowledge he has to hide from his wife. More secrets and lies. Will they never end? "Yes, I have somewhere to stay. I'll be okay," I reply.

"I hope so," he practically whispers, the sincerity of his statement evident in his voice.

"I know I said it before, but thank you, Vaughn. You saved my life."

And suddenly I'm assaulted with flashbacks. I hadn't even realized what I was saying until it was out of my mouth. I remember standing there in France, looking into those beautiful green eyes I was so afraid I'd never see again.

"You saved my life," he'd said. I smiled, wishing I could tell him I was simply repaying the favor.

"I'll see you back in LA," I say instead. We share one last lingering look, realizing how close we'd come to losing each other once again, before I finally force myself to walk away.

I shake myself back into the present. He's been silent on the other end for at least a minute now and I wonder if he's been tapping into the same memory.

"Just repaying the favor," he replies finally and I can practically see him smiling. I can't find my voice suddenly. The tears are welling up in my eyes again. I'm sure he knows this, because he speaks again before I have to. "I'd better head in soon. I don't want to arouse any suspicions by being late."

I nod, knowing he's not able to see me. "Okay," I say reluctantly.

"I don't know how soon it'll be safe to contact you again, but I'll try, okay?"

"Thanks," I say again.

"Don't thank me, Syd. Your safety is all the thanks I need," he says sincerely.

I suddenly realize I should end the conversation before I start sobbing over the phone. I know he's probably already stayed on the line too long. "I'll talk to you soon," I say, desperately hoping it's true.

"Yeah, soon," he agrees. "Be careful, Syd."

I smile through my tears, remembering the millions of times he's said those words before. "I will."

There's a pause on the line for a second and I wonder if he's going to say something. If reading between the lines could be done verbally, there would be pages full of the things our minds were screaming in the silence. Things we'll hopefully get a chance to finally say to each other out loud.

"Bye," he says finally, so soft I barely hear it.

"Bye," I whisper back, forcing the phone away from my ear. I disconnect the call and sit there, clutching the phone so tightly that my knuckles turn white. I finally put it away after a few minutes and turn back to looking out of the plane window. I can see the stars now, sparkling like a thousand little diamonds in the sky.

In this complete mess that is now my life, I am at least comforted by one thing. Vaughn and I finally stood a step forward today. Everything else may be headed backward still, but the connection between the two of us, something that was once the most important thing in my life, is still there. It may be all I have now, but it's enough.

It has to be enough.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The oceans that we crossed

The innocence we've lost

The hurting at the end

I'd go there again

Cause it was beautiful

It was beautiful

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The End

A/N: Please review! This isn't my normal type or style of writing, so I'm going out on a limb a little bit. So please let me know what you thought!