Title: Between the Memory and the Moment

Author: UConn Fan (Michele)

E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Story Summary: They were inevitable, weren't they? AU Post-The Telling

Authors Note: Read carefully.

The first thing she'd remember was the noise. The sound of cars, of every day conversation, of the regular hustle and bustle of a big city. Sydney Bristow had traveled enough to recognize that she wasn't in America before she even opened her eyes. The illuminated neon lettering only confirmed her fears as she struggled to limp to a pay phone, an unfamiliar nausea and dizziness seeping in as she arrived at a public phone. Thankful for the trick Marshall had taught her years ago, only moments later she had a dial tone and was calling the number she knew by heart.

"This is Vaughn," a groggy voice answered.

The fear curled in her stomach as she leaned slightly against the glass of the phone booth, thankful to have found one in the age of cellular phones. Biting back her anxiety, taking comfort in the sound of his voice, she spoke. "It's me." Instead of a voice of joy or concern, the only sound that reached her ears was his breathing, and even that was nearly undetectable. "Hello?" she questioned, growing impatient.

"Who is this?"

"Vaughn?" Sydney's voice trembled, the space slowly growing smaller the longer the air lay dormant.

The voice replied, this time impatient, "I asked who is this?"

"Vaughn, it's me . . . Sydney . . "

"Excuse me?"

"Sydney Bristow."

"Jack Bristow's daughter?"

"Yes, damnit Vaughn!" she grew frustrated. "I just woke up in Hong Kong. I don't know how long I've been here or how I got here," she relayed far more calmly.

"Get to the safe house at Tsimshatsui as quickly as possible. It's on -"

"I remember where it is," she cut him off, annoyed with his uncharacteristic behavior.

"I'll make sure they're expecting you."

Her journey through the city was brief. Every vein throbbed with pain and every joint moved slowly, but with no money she had no other choice but to make the journey by foot. They greeted her there with the proper detachment, no words spoken as to give her any idea as to what happen. Instead her mind raced with what ifs as a man she could only assume was a CIA employee led her down a hallway. "Have they said . . " she started. Sydney cleared her throat and tried again, hoping for some answer. "Have they said anything about how I got here? Do you know any -"

Finally the silence that had trailed her since she left the phone booth was broken. "You should wait for information until your contact arrives," he decided, his voice thoroughly detached. Then he unlocked the door to a room and nodded to her, disappearing as she entered.

The wait seemed an eternity as her mind wandered over the possibilities. They were too endless to count. Sydney was well informed on how long a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong took, and her body still felt down trodden from the earlier debacle. Going on that alone, she had estimated that a handful of days had transpired since that horrible night, at the most. Yet as her fingertips worked expertly over her body, gently probing, she was unable to find the scars she knew should be there, she found no evidence to coincide with her timeline.

Vaughn slowly reappeared as the door opened. A light stubble grew on his haggard, stricken face as he entered the room. For once she felt grateful to Kendall or whatever higher authority had allowed him come. That was the way it always was, she thought gratefully as she wrapped her arms around him. Slowly he responded as she allowed the tears to come. Now that he was here, they would figure it out and deal with it together. History had proven that if they did something together, it would inevitably all be okay.

"They doubled Francie," she whispered, her voice stricken.

"Sydney -"

"What happened to Will? To Francie? Are they dead?"

Unable to look at her, Vaughn pulled away. "You . . . Sit down," he commanded.

Sydney's footsteps felt heavier than they had earlier as her heart progressively sunk. Obediently her tired body sank back down into her chair as he sat across from her, his green eyes trained anywhere but on her. "Vaughn?"

"Everyone thought you were dead," he spoke in a hoarse voice to the floor. "They asked me to come to ... to explain..."

"Why wouldn't they?" she asked, the panic rising in her lungs.

Slowly he shook his head, the exhaustion evident on his features, his hands rubbing nervously over the fabric of his pants as he continued to study the floor. "How did you get the number?"

"What are you talking about?" she demanded. "You gave it to me . . . You gave it to me, after you were assigned as my handler . . . " she explained as he briefly looked up at her. Instinctively Vaughn brought his left hand up to rub his face. The dim light bounced off the gold band on his left hand and directly to the core of her being. "Vaughn . . . Why are you wearing that ring?"

"Sydney . . . Ms. Bristow . . . " he shook his head and finally met her eyes. "This is the first time we've ever met."