Title: Second Chances

Author: Duck

Rating: PG-13

Timeline: Full Disclosure/Crossings

Summary: "Don't leave. We can do this. We can get this right. This is our second chance, Vaughn."

A/N: Inspired by the wonderful Gavin DeGraw. I just wanted to use his lyrics and this is what came out of it. Go buy his cd. It kicks ass. [btw, the song does not go with the tempo of the fic at all. It's just a great song.] Thanks to Kyle for the lookover and Neums...just because. I klomev you darlin.

Soundtrack Suggestions: Delicate, Volcano—Damien Rice; Roses from my friends, I'll Rise—Ben Harper.

Second Chances

"I don't wanna be anything other than what I've been trying to be lately."

"What? What the hell are you talking about?" Vanessa Morgan puts down her styrofoam coffee cup down on the cracking counter and turns towards her friend.

"Nothing," Sydney mutters, sipping more of the too strong coffee that the school's machine spits out every morning. Mr. Spiziri is always the first one there, and he always makes it too strong for her. Conveniently, the teacher's lounge is always short sugar, milk, or any decent creamer.

Vanessa peers at Sydney over her thin-framed glasses and accuses her, "You know, you've been acting strange lately. Everything okay?"

"Yea, yea. Fine." Lying is her specialty, always has been. That's why she teaches the drama class in addition to American literature. In the three months that she's started, everything has gone as she's expected; the kids try to get stuff by her because she is the new teacher, the other teachers pry about her life before she came, and there is always a battle for a parking space.

Vanessa was the one that had bumped into her on her first day, apologizing profusely when Sydney's coffee flew out of her hands and smashed on the parking lot pavement, splattering onto her shoes. Once inside, Vanessa helped her clean up and walked with her to her classroom, offering to buy her coffee for a month.

Spilt coffee is something that creates a strong bond. Sydney felt herself growing attached to Vanessa almost as fast as she did to Francie.

Her friend's expression is dubious, but Sydney turns away and throws the cup in the trash. "I have to get my US lit class's tests ready. I'll talk to you at lunch?"

Vanessa's cup joins Sydney's. "Hold on, I'll come with you. I never told you about my blind date last night. It's something that can't wait, believe me."

"Oh yea? Benny...or Sunny...what was it again?"

"Benny. And he was slimy." Her nose wrinkles in remembrance. Sydney just shakes her head.

"I told you to back out," she says, turning the corner to their hallway.

"I promised Jessica! I'm going to kill her now. Do you know what he did when he said goodnight?"

"Asked to come up?" Syd guesses, hiding a smirk. Vanessa is definitely not the type to sleep with a guy on the first date.

"He grabbed my ass!" Lowering her voice, she imitates him, "Had a nice time, sweetheart. I'll call you." She winces in disgust. "Like hell. I'm changing my number today."

Sydney grins wickedly as she turns the handle to her classroom. Vanessa is notorious for going out on blind dates, and usually she listens when Sydney tells her to ditch one, but she'd insisted on going with Benny.

When she steps into her room, she stops short, Vanessa bumping hard into her back. "Hey!" she complains, "Why'd you stop?"

Standing by her desk is a man, right arm in a sling. His suit does little to hide the bulge that indicates bandages down the length of the arm in the sling, and there are bruises on his face, little cuts on his hands. His eyes are attached to Sydney's, widening slightly as she battles to contain her emotions, fighting internally to appear calm and collected and failing miserably.

"What are you doing here?" her voice cuts across the room, making him wince. They hadn't ended on the best of terms. In fact, she hadn't even said goodbye to him in person. Just a note he found on his desk. It was one sentence.

'So we can both be happy.'

He'd dropped the piece of paper into his mug of water at his desk, fearing that Lauren would see it and question him. Until three days ago, he fought to retain the psuedo happiness that coated his life. Before everything he knew was shook to the core. Before he found out who Lauren really was.

"I need to talk to you." He finds that his voice is scratchier than usual, probably from the screaming done only a few days earlier. It was the first time sounds like those ever came from his throat, and he hopes to god they never will again.

Her eyes scan the damage: the bruises, the bandages, the cuts, and the eerily absent emotion from his eyes. It is unsettling. Always had she been able to have a glimpse of his feelings by the way he looked at her, or in more recent cases, how he didn't, but now he is completely devoid. She looks down at the thin blue carpet.

Turning to Vanessa, she tries to express the need for privacy. "Could you excuse us?" Vanessa merely raises her eyebrows with a look that clearly tells her that she has explaining to do later, but leaves without a word.

When the door is securely shut, she walks towards him, but stops and leans on a student's desk instead of closing the distance. "What the hell happened to you?" Her eyes refuse to meet his, instead concentrating on the bell schedule written in her curvy handwriting on the whiteboard behind him.

Straight to the point. Her bluntness was one of the qualities that attracted him in the beginning. Now it seems like a lifetime ago. "I was captured and tortured by a member of the Covenant," he says, leaving out the most important detail. He's not sure he can handle saying it out loud yet.

"What?" she exclaims, jerking her head up. "I made sure they were completely dissolved before I left!" She wants so badly not to believe him, but she knows he would never lie to her. Not about that.

"I know, Syd." His own pain is overshadowed for a moment as he realizes how this will haunt her. Maybe as much as it will him. His comfort reflex is beginning to kick in, demanding that he go over and try to soothe her, but he holds fast, reminding himself that she doesn't want it. It won't let go though, so he compromises. Closing the distance between them, he leans on a desk across from her.

"How did they capture you?" she whispers, eyes closed. The tears are welling up behind her lids, and she refuses to let them break through. She won't cry in front of him. Not anymore. It pains her to know the people that destroyed her life are still in business, but it is equaled by the fact that they tortured the man she still loves, no matter how much she tries not to.

He feels his chest contract as he relives the moment. "I was abducted from my apartment and taken to a room. They asked me questions for two days, questions about a mission I was preparing to go on. Dixon had informed me that it would mean a big success for the Agency, but he never explained the extent. Apparently the what remained of the Covenant found it crucial that they sabotage the mission."

"Did you tell them?"

"No. They weren't using any force, just persistent questions. It wasn't until the third day that I felt any pain." Again, he leaves out something very important.

It is she who bridges the distance and takes his hand, entwining her fingers through his. This is the reason why she left, she knows, but he needs her. He wouldn't be there if he didn't. They are silent for several minutes. It doesn't bother her; she could sit with him for hours. It has been so long since she's seen him, felt his touch, that she doesn't notice the time.

He speaks slowly, trying to find the words. "It wasn't so much the torture that hurt me. I screamed, but not because of the physical pain." He waits while she tries to understand, finally turning her head and finding his own face is much too close for comfort. She scoots back a little.

"Why? What else happened?"

"It--," he swallows, flicking his eyes heavenward as if for guidance, and then back to her own troubled gaze. "It was Lauren."

"What?" she gasps. Her eyes unfocus with pain, and she finds herself rocking forward. He reaches out to steady her, and she reacts badly to the contact. Her feet find the floor and she's pacing before she realizes it. "Are you saying that she tortured you? Lauren Reed is Covenant? How the hell is that even possible?"

He shakes his head. The speech has been rehearsed so many times in his head, but he can't say it that way. He wants her to understand the real reason of his grief without coming on too strong, but the words won't come the way he wants them to. "She..." he pauses, remembering how he read this in a file the CIA compiled. "She was recruited in grade school, when she was full of resentment for her father and his political life. They trained her young...she was one of their first projects. They used her to get insight in American government." Factual and short. He thinks he would break down if he got into the 'why' and he doesn't think either of them could handle that.

"I don't—" Tears streamed down her face, leaving streaks of mascara in their wake. Her voice wavers until she silences herself, wrapping her arms across her chest.

"You don't have to understand, Syd. I just wanted you to know." He's being brave, he thinks as he stands up to leave. All he wants to do is hold her in his arms until she stops crying, but he doesn't know if she wants that. Or even if she wants him here, now. For all he knows she's been spending her nights with another man.

Somehow he knows it isn't true, but he doesn't want to believe that she's still holding onto him.

He's halfway out the door before he hears his name leave her lips. Slowly he turns around and she's right there, crying on his shoulder, shaking so hard that he can only rub soothing circles onto her back with his free hand. "I don't understand why she did this. Why the hell she was sent to do this," she whispers into his shoulder, minding the sling.

His hand reaches her hair, and it's as soft and silky as he remembers. There are no words he can say that will repair the damage Lauren inflicted on them. "Is it wrong," he whispers back, "that the real reason I'm so upset is that she came between us, not because she was Covenant?"

She shakes harder, making noises as the tears come harder until she's clutching at his back in agony. They hold each other in pain for several more minutes until the bell shocks her out of his embrace. "Oh god," she mutters, wiping at her face with the back of her hand. "I have to get out of here...I can't teach class like this."

After grabbing her coat, she speed walks out of her classroom and through the hallway until she's in the faculty lounge. He follows closely behind, dodging several students as they rush to their lockers. Biting her lip, she sinks down onto the uncomfortable green couch that clashes horribly with the plain décor. He shuts the door softly praying that no teachers have a prep first period because he's not sure how stable Sydney is. Or how stable he is, for that matter. He sits next to her, and feels warmth spread from his heart when she leans into him and rests her head on his good shoulder. "This isn't right Vaughn," she says quietly, "This shouldn't happen to us."

Kissing the top of her head softly, he simply strokes her arm. The desire to tell her exactly how much he misses her in every part of his life fills him with such intensity that he knows if he stays much longer, she'll know everything.

"Syd..." He doesn't want to do this, but he has to. "I can't stay. You have to go teach your class."

Recognizing the fear in his eyes is easy; she's seen it before. "Vaughn."

"Wha--" His response is interrupted when she places her lips on his, sparking the heat that never left. It feels so right. It's been so long, but she's everything he remembers; soft, sweet, and full of fire.

When she finally pulls away for air, he's breathless. "God Syd-" he mutters, but she silences him with a finger to his lips.

Her eyes are pleading. "Don't leave. We can do this. We can get this right. This is our second chance, Vaughn."

Response is unnecessary; he replies by kissing her again, and her hands come up to rest on his face protectively. "I'm never going to leave you again Syd. Never again," he promises, running two fingers down her cheek, wiping away the tears still sliding down them.

It is not until this moment that he realizes he's been waiting over two years for this. He did not live during her death; he was waiting for that moment when he could hold her again. It's time to say the words he's thought of every day since he's kissed her for the first time.

"I love you Sydney Bristow."

El Fin