Title: To Dance on the Brink of Daylight

Author: UConnFan (Michele)

E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Story Summary: There's always truth, even if it's something you never thought you'd see.

Authors Note: SD-1 is down for the moment, and SD-3 doesn't like me . . . So I guess I'm posting here for awhile. Here's part one and then part two.

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Ten days after they were mysteriously saved from a firing squad in North Korea, Michael Vaughn still wasn't sure if he'd wanted his impromptu confessions to change everything or nothing. Worse yet, nearly two weeks after they arrived back from their near certain death, he still couldn't tell what, if anything, had changed.

Sydney wouldn't let him say it, and now he didn't know whether to be grateful or annoyed. She'd known - of course she'd known. Truth be told, she'd probably known since he'd helped her escape the country when Lauren found out that she had spent two years as an assassin. Nothing had changed, not when it came to how he felt - there would never be anyone else, not in the way they'd been together, and there never would be.

Yet he was still married to Lauren. That, for the time being, couldn't be changed. The vows were sacred, even if his sanity had been questionable at the time. Rumors had swirled around the CIA after his return that Jack Bristow clearly thought he and his entire marriage was irrational. There were days when he couldn't help but wonder if Jack was on to something.

Since their return, the hours seemed tediously long and that day was no exception. He continued his dance with Sydney, the one that he thought they would have perfected after nearly five months. She'd seen him after they returned from North Korea, how he'd gone straight to Lauren, holding her in his arms in the middle of the workplace. Most people would have just thought it was unprofessional and looked away in disgust or annoyance; to Sydney, it must have left her questioning every word and action that had passed between them in their holding cell. Vaughn hated leaving her in limbo, but hated even more that he knew he couldn't yet do anything to fix it.

The apartment was dark, his shadow long as he passed by the window, flipping absently through the slew of mail they received. After he decided there was nothing there that couldn't wait until after he ate dinner and watched the Kings game, Vaughn tossed it onto the sofa. As his mind raced through the events of the day, he began to undo his tie, stepping into the bedroom.

"Stop," a commanding voice called him mere seconds before he flipped on the light switch.

Confused, Vaughn looked up, his blood growing cold at the sight in front of him. Lauren was not on a plane to have a meeting with Sloane, as she'd claimed she was going five hours ago when she said goodbye to him at work. Instead she stood in the middle of their bedroom, dressed in a leather outfit that he'd never seen before. If it wasn't for the gun she held in her hand, steadily pointed at him, Vaughn would have wondered if this was some new type of role-play.

"Lauren, what -"

"Shut up Michael. Shut up! I'm not doing this anymore. Quite frankly I'm sick of it. I'm tired of how our life has started revolving around Sydney Bristow - you have no idea how long I've had to put up with her name and her life, having to drop everything because of *her*! I'm not going to do it anymore."

"What are you talking about -"

"Shut up!" she screeched, her eyes shutting tight with disgust. Vaughn glanced down to her finger, watching it shake slightly against the trigger, and struggled to remember what they'd taught him in the farm about field training. "You have two options Michael," she opened her eyes and met him, not an ounce of uncertainty pr fear evident on her face or in her posture. That only left him terrified. "This is going to end tonight Michael, one way or another. Either you'll listen to me and then help me, or we can end this right here. I'll clean up and then be on my way, I can do it without your assistance, although it would be easier on both of us if we went with the first option."

Only slightly dazed, he reached to lay his hand on their bedroom dresser, struggling to steady himself. "I'm listening."

The side of Lauren's mouth twitched, slowly turning into a smirk, "it's amusing, really it is. You and I aren't that different Michael, not when you see things the way I do, not when you're able to look at the whole picture. We married each other for nearly the exact same reason, which I know is something neither one of us likes to think about, never mind admit to each other or likely even ourselves."

"I love you Lauren," he choked out. The words were only a hollow truth, barren of the intimacy and devotion, the passion, which a man should feel for his wife. She'd saved him from himself, he loved her and would be forever indebted to her for that.

"That's not why we got married Michael. That was only something we conveniently convinced ourselves, because at the end of the day we both like to think we're good people. No, you married me to help find out more about Sydney. Which is just as well Michael, because I married you to find out more about Julian."

"Julian?" Vaughn's features twisted painfully.

"Yes," her features softened only momentarily. "You took him. Just tossed him in jail and for two years didn't even consider what he might have left. A life, despite his crimes he had a life and people who loved him and would do anything to help him and get him out -"

"Sark," he realized. "This was planned from the beginning. Sloane's pardon . . . When Sark escaped, you weren't surprised, and you had it planned from the very beginning."

"Brokering Sloane's pardon was just a bonus, something my employers wanted from me. My objection had always been to see that Julian was promptly released."

"Your Covenant."

"Don't pretend to be surprised Michael. You married me because I was Covenant, you planned it, you and Kendall, Dixon and Weiss - I wouldn't be surprised if even Jack Bristow was involved. You shouldn't be surprised that we had a counter strategy. I wouldn't have entered into this if it wouldn't have been beneficial for us as well."

"Why did you do it? Your family . . . Your family has had generations in Congress and public service on both sides of your family Lauren, what happened to make you disloyal? Don't tell me it was money either, your family has plenty of that," he recalled. "What about your father? Senator Reed?"

"Senator Reed *is* Lauren Reed's father," Lauren confirmed. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot the Senator doesn't want people to know about his daughter. She was beautiful, you should have seen her Michael, beautiful and bright and ambitious. Boarding schools from the time she was seven though, underneath all of that was a lot of anger. She was accepted to Oxford and her free-running spirit got away from her. It was sad to see it; she became quite a loose cannon. My employers found her over two years ago, roaming the red light district in Amsterdam. Selling her body to pay for her habits. While her father was plugging family values and making healthcare more difficult for the impoverished, his daughter was selling her body and dying. I was there when she died a few days later."

"The Covenant went to the Senator with this information."

"Yes, it seems the Senator owed our organization some favors after that. The Senator's been working in politics for nearly thirty five years, he wasn't eager for us to come forward with the information we had, never mind leak it to his political rivals. When we explained the situation, he and his wife were more than eager to help - after all, Lauren had been their only daughter. Lauren's body was the one placed in the apartment, the body they injected the dental pulp into to insure that the remains were identified as Sydney's. Shortly after that I arrived in Los Angeles, after having spent several weeks in Virginia letting the Reed's get to know their new daughter."

Vaughn looked at the woman in front of him, the tale she'd just weaved so far expanded than anything he'd ever thought he'd get involved in. Even at the time, leaving the CIA, getting involved with her, had not been the best idea but it had seemed logical, help them get answers faster. He hadn't allowed himself to believe she was really dead, and his superiors had wanted answers about the newly emerging terror cell. The deal he'd made didn't leave him exuberantly proud of his morals, but he allowed himself to believe it was balanced out by the pure emotions he had towards Sydney.

"If the real Lauren Reed is dead, who are you?"

"I think you should appreciate the irony of this Michael. Most people who really know me call me Julia Thorne."