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.

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Dixon had hated invading Michael Vaughn's new sanctuary, his classroom at the community college, but that's just what he did when he strode purposely into the room. The students exited around him as Vaughn packed up his briefcase, unaware of his visitor. Nine months had passed since they thought Sydney Bristow had died, and the task ahead of Marcus Dixon was one he was bittersweet about at best.

"Vaughn," he spoke. Vaughn looked up, clearly surprised to see his former co-worker before he went back to packing up his belongings. He'd left the agency three weeks after Sydney's death, his resignation on Devlin's desk, but his belongings had been gone for nearly as long as she had been. He was out of the country, no one eve really knew where he went, not even a concerned Mrs. Vaughn, but then he was back. Establishing his new, post- Sydney Bristow life, taking a job teaching French at the community college. Given what Sydney had wanted to do with her life, it left little to the imagination to wonder why he'd taken that job.

"How'd you find me?"

"Agent Weiss," Dixon explained. "I came here for a reason -"

"I'm not going back," he quickly looked up. "Weiss has been trying to convince me since I came back . . . I like my job. It has good hours, I get decent pay, and it's safe. I can't just go back in there, work day after day without her there. She was my job for two years, taking care of her and being her partner . . . Nothing you offer me can make me go back."

"Kendall asked me to come see you actually. We'd hoped to see you when you were in to talk to the NSC, but you were in and out before we could speak to you."

"Speak to me about what?"

Dixon glanced around the classroom and back at the man before him. The bags were still heavy under his eyes, and it was obvious he needed to shave. Perhaps he'd convinced himself, convinced his closest friends and family that he'd moved on, but whatever he was doing, Dixon was certain it didn't qualify as living. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"

It was February, a cold winter by Los Angeles terms, and the seats by the college's baseball field were deserted, sans the two men, both silently reeling from losing the women in their lives. Vaughn held his travel mug in his hands, his soft-sided briefcase at his feet as Dixon sat besides him, taking a moment to reflect on the job at hand. He was the one to convince Kendall that Vaughn had to know, the man who'd argued that keeping him out of the loop would be more detrimental in the end.

"Your seeing Lauren Reed."

Vaughn looked at him as though he'd grown another head, "we've gone out a few times, how -"

"You might have left the CIA Vaughn, but your not really gone," Dixon stopped him. In truth he couldn't even begin to pretend how he could even look at another woman, never mind date one. Diane had been gone for a little over a year, and while he had Robin and Steven to keep him preoccupied outside of work, the thought of being with another woman, in any sense of the word, left a fresh ache in his newly healed heart. "You met her when the NSC investigated Irina Derevko."

"Yes. Weiss suggested I asked her out, said we looked like we'd hit it off or something," he muttered, taking a sip of his coffee. Dixon bit back a half smile, awed at how easily Agent Weiss had completed his part of the arrangement, no matter how badly he'd hated it. "You already know all of this though, so why are you here?"

"You don't know who Lauren Reed really is."

Vaughn's features twisted, almost in amusement, "I know that, we've only been on two -"

"She's not NSC, not really. Her allegiances lie with the Covenant," he explained, knowing that as hard as that news was to break, it wasn't the hardest thing he had to share.

"What? How? When did -"

"The CIA's had suspicions for awhile, information given to the NSC through our channels getting leaked out to the Covenant. We've confirmed it now. We don't know what their end game is Vaughn, they're big though, and they're only going to get stronger."

"What do you want from me?"

"We need you to continue your . . . Relationship with Ms. Reed -"

"Absolutely not. No Dixon, I'm sorry, those people are responsible for what happened to Sydney -"

"Sydney's not dead," he cut him off. Instantly he hated himself for how he let it slip out, especially when Dixon had spent the entire forty-five minute drive to the campus rehearsing this part of his visit.

"What?" Vaughn froze, his features confused and weighed down with pain. "This isn't funny, this isn't the way to get me to do this. I was there, I saw the house on fire, I -"

"I've heard her voice Vaughn, I've seen the surveillance of her meeting with Kendall. She looks different, but it's still her."

"How long have you known?"

"About three weeks."

"How come I wasn't called immediately -"

"Kendall didn't want you to know at all. It took Jack and I to convince him to bring you in. This is big. We had to get you out with Lauren Reed -"

"Weiss knew about this? You essentially set me up with Lauren when you knew Sydney was alive?"

"Sydney was coming to see you Vaughn, she was going to come back to Los Angeles and tell you that she was alive. She was in Los Angeles, but we had to convince her it was too dangerous for you if she came back now. The Covenant thinks she's been reprogrammed to work for them, that she's completely adopted an entirely new personality and life. Kendall had to convince her that she'd do better for you if she wasn't with you, the only way was for her to see you with Lauren."

"She saw us together? Damnit, you *arranged* for her to see us together?"

"It was Kendall's idea -"

"I want to see Kendall."

"Vaughn, I need to know -"

"No. I won't agree to anything until I can see Kendall."

Dixon sighed and looked at the man before him, barely holding the pieces together at the mere mention of Sydney's name. The look was almost convincing, but his facade was thin. After Dixon found out the news, he considered what it would be like to break the news to the former agent. That night he had laid in bed, having checked on Robin and Steven half a dozen times, contemplating what he would do if someone gave him some hope, any hope, that Diane was still alive. Then to be told that she was out there, had seen him with another woman, and had walked way for his sake . . . Dixon couldn't fully comprehend being in Vaughn's shoes, but he could fully imagine his anguish.

"I'll see what I can do."

They met two days later, at the warehouse, the micro storage cage that Vaughn had sworn to himself he'd never see again. That *they'd* never see again, but then she'd died, she'd died and he'd been alone. He'd never go there again, not with her ghost in the shadows, months piling into years wasted because Sloane and SD-6 had invaded the seam of her carefully constructed life.

Vaughn stormed into the area, the other men already waiting as he prepared to unleash what had stormed within him for the last forty-nine and a half hours. "Where is she?" he demanded.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you that Mr. Vaughn, it's classified - " Kendall started.

"Where the hell is she?" he growled, grabbing Kendall by the collar and shoving him roughly against the fence.

Weiss stepped out of the shadow, "Mike, stop!" he insisted, pulling his friend off of their superior. "Just stop. That isn't going to get you anywhere," he reasoned.

"I'm not even privy to knowing her location," Jack answered.

Vaughn glanced over at Sydney's father, "I thought you were deep undercover."

"I was. Needless to say, this was the type of situation that required a quick break," he explained. "My . . . Partner understood."

The younger man's eyes briefly slid shut before he looked back at Jack, "you were working with Irina, this whole time."

"Yes, he was," Kendall replied.

"What the hell is going on here?" Vaughn questioned again, his confusion only growing.

"We believed Agent Bristow was dead, Mr. Vaughn, just as you did. When I received the call that she was in fact alive, we devised a strategy that will hopefully allow us to stop the Covenant and one day bring Sydney home safely."

"One day?" he barked. "One day? I've spent the last nine months thinking she was *dead* and now your telling me I need to wait on the hope that one day, if the Covenant doesn't just decide to kill her, she'll be home?"

"Mr. Vaughn, I'm breaking about half a dozen federal laws by just having this conversation with you -" Kendall began.

"I want to see her."

"You can't Mr. Vaughn, I've already convinced Sydney to stay away from you. You're both in too far to coincidentally be seen together. It would raise questions everywhere! It was common knowledge among your enemies that you two were in love."

"Are in love," Vaughn quietly corrected. "We still are in love."

"Then instead of wasting our energy arguing, why don't you assist us? Which, I might add, was the entire point of contacting you in the first place. Your no longer CIA Mr. Vaughn, you left, the only reason I considered letting Dixon tell you was out of courtesy for what you have gone through."

"What does Lauren have to do with this?" he questioned, growing weary as he sat down in the familiar plastic chair.

Kendall sat down on a carton and began, "in a few days, Lauren's going to be leaving for Zurich. The NSC has been given clearance to hammer out the terms of a pardon for Arvin Sloane -"

"No," he stood up. "No. How can you pardon him?"

"Agent Vaughn," Jack commanded, addressing him as no one else dared to.

"Jack, how can you let them pardon Sloane, after everything -" he halted as the pieces began to fall together. "Irina."

"Yes. Sloane's been cautious, but it's been evident for some time that Sloane was looking to rebuild his organization," Jack answered.

"The Covenant," Vaughn connected. "What does Irina have to do with this?"

"Sloane is under the false impression that Irina's alliances lie with him."

"She's working as a double."

"Essentially," Dixon answered. "We're hoping that the pardon will give Sloane a false sense of security."

"I'm not staying with Lauren," Vaughn answered.

"Agent Vaughn, while the idea doesn't thrill me, you have no choice," Jack replied.

"No. I can't stay with her now. Once I find out about the pardon, which as a former member of the CIA and her new boyfriend, I inevitably will, Sloane would never believe I'd stay with her. She's *negotiating* a pardon for the man who made Sydney's life a hell for over a decade!"

"I'm well aware of the circumstances," Jack reminded him sharply.

"Mr. Vaughn, Sloane, as well as the rest of us, is aware of how difficult it has been for you to move on after Sydney's death. He believes, just as we hope he and Sydney and the rest of the Covenant will, that you've moved on as quickly as possible for your own sanity. Lauren made you laugh, she's probably the first one besides your mother who could make you take a shower and shave in nine months. What it comes down to is that we need you on the outside with Lauren and we need Sydney on the inside if we have any hope of thwarting the Covenant's progress."

"She's out there, without any back up, working with some organization who think she's been brainwashed, and your asking me to sit here and do nothing?"

"That's exactly what I'm asking you to do," Kendall explained. "Soon, however, she'll have back up."

"I don't count anyone the Covenant could send as back up," Vaughn scoffed.

"Have you ever heard of a man named Lazarey?"

"Um . . Yeah, he's a Russian diplomat."

"Yes. The Covenant's out to kill him, he furthers whatever their cause is. Sydney's been tasked to kill him, another step in proving her allegiances are with the Covenant."

Vaughn was immediately on his feet, the fear and horror written on his face, "no. You need to pull her out -"

"We *can't* Mr. Vaughn!" Kendall roared. "There is *no* way to pull her out now without risking her life, and quite frankly your life, which is something Sydney couldn't and wouldn't do."

"So we're going to stand by and allow her to break federal and international laws? When she comes back, she's going to be a *criminal*, she has no choice without our help! You're leaving her to become no better -"

"She's not actually killing anyone Mike," Weiss softly interjected. "We're faking his death. They're only going to *think* he's dead. He's going to be her partner, he's going to be working for us."

"I want her out, I want her back, *now*," he demanded, looking to Jack Bristow for back up.

"While no one would like that more than I would Mr. Vaughn, it's not an option."

"So, Mr. Vaughn," Kendall began as Vaughn looked up at him, fighting back the tears. "Are you in?"

He left the warehouse ten minutes later. The words echoed in his head, his deal to rent out his soul to the CIA in the hopes that Sydney would one day be back with him. Nine months wasted, he thought angrily, wondering when it would ever end for them, for *her*. This wasn't a life, not what she'd been forced to endure, and he couldn't think of a thing she'd done to deserve it. Now he was embarking on a dangerous journey, one that left him with more than a small amount of guilt. As they'd demonstrated, this was all he could do for Sydney Bristow, standing on the outside of her new life and desperately looking in, a position he was intimately familiar with. As horrible as this new avenue of his life would be, the ramifications of which Vaughn hadn't even allowed himself to fully process, this was the only way he could remain by Sydney's side, no matter how far apart they were - and he loved her too much to allow her to do this alone.

The bluffs were abandoned as he got out of the car and approached the boulders. Where they'd spread the ashes nine months ago - he couldn't begin to imagine whose ashes they'd in fact put to sea that day, but he hoped they'd found the peace they obviously hadn't in life. Vaughn climbed to the top, staring out at the water. "Syd," he sighed, struggling to fight back the tears as he dropped his head to rest on his knees. There was no way of knowing when this would end, how or when . . . Sydney could be done before he was, leaving him in the guise of a relationship when she re-entered this life. As the water rocked towards him, he made her a silent promise, no matter where she was; no matter how badly she was hurting, thinking he'd moved on so quickly. There would be an end, he silently swore, and whenever that came, whenever she needed him, it would always be the two of them in the end.

Over a year removed from his solemn ocean-side vow, Vaughn looked up at his wife, feeling the horror sink in. They'd known she was Covenant, he'd known from nearly day one that she was a traitor to the United States government, but he doubted any of them imagined it went that far. There'd been suspicions that in fact the Senator had been in the pocket of the Covenant as well, but no one had hinted that it was for reasons other than financial.

"Your Julia Thorne."

"Yes, Michael," Lauren answered, her patience waiting. "I'm Julia Thorne. The Covenant was able to manipulate Sydney's appearance enough that she was able to adopt my identity. Which in a way is ironic, because I managed to take most of what had been hers as well," she snickered.

"You never had me," he shot back before he quickly silenced.

"Yes," she sighed, almost resigned, perhaps even sad. "I grew to care about you Michael, a great deal. There were moments when I enjoyed what we had, your a good man, a little foolish, but a good man. On some occasions I even wished our marriage was legitimate."

Vaughn licked his lips, "what happened Lauren, why are you doing this now?"

"As opposed to waiting for the CIA to gather enough evidence to take me into custody? I have no intention of seeing the inside of a jail cell. Julian spent more than enough time there for the two of us."

"Why now Lauren?"

"I don't have time to answer your questions Michael, and quite frankly I'm sick of them. You can either drive me to the airport or we can end this here. I'm giving you an option, although I suspect you'd rather be accused of aiding a fugitive then face the thought of leaving your precious Sydney alone to fend for herself."

"Why her? Why Lauren, why do you and the Covenant choose to ruin Sydney's life? What did she ever do to you?"

"Thanks to the two of you, the man *I* love spent two years in jail. In a way I understand your pain Michael, when we began seeing one another - you thought Sydney was dead, and I knew very well Julian might be."

"Why are you leaving now? If you do this now Lauren, your going to look guilty, no matter how innocent you may be -"

"We both know I'm far from innocent. With the crimes I've committed I could be put in a jail cell for the rest of my life without the benefit of a child, thanks to your countries lovely Patriot Laws."

"Don't run Lauren. Turn yourself in, maybe you can negotiate -"

"With what Michael? I have nothing to negotiate with!"

"This doesn't have to end like this."

"Unless you help me, I'm afraid it does. Although I will have to send your mother some flowers, I can't imagine how difficult it will be to learn both your son and husband lost their lives in the line of duty . . . And of course Sydney. Flowers from the widow to the suede-widow. I have no doubt she'd make my life a living hell although. She'd take the high ground, the aggressive one, as always. Unlike you. You folded Michael. For a man, a government employee, you certainly lack a backbone."

"Tell me what you want Lauren, just tell me."

"I'd prefer you dead, but I'd take a ride to the airport."

The sound of the apartment's front door being kicked open shattered through the dim of their conversation. Surprised, they both turned to see the intruder standing at the entrance to their room, a government-issued handgun in hand as Lauren softly sighed, annoyed at the interruption. "What are you -" Vaughn started as his wife cut him off.

"Welcome to the party Agent Bristow, what a nice little surprise," she snickered and looked back at her soon to be ex. "Looks like Sydney just made the decision for both of you. Well," she added, surprisingly cheery at the prospect. "At least you'll die together."