Disclaimer: not mine

Rating: 14A

Description: S/V. interwoven thoughts on each other up to and including 'Almost Thirty Years'.

Snip it: Falling asleep at the wheel. A drowsy lustful feeling and you don't even realize that your car's gone off the road until suddenly you're waking up in the ditch, jarred awake with blood in your eyes.

Feedback: love you forever.

Authors notes: I wrote this while snowed into my house (Canadian eh?). For anyone who is used to my style, this is a little different and extremely jarring. Please read it anyways. The bold text is Vaughn and the regular text is Sydney. I recommend reading it twice: Once for content and once for perspective. Love you all, especially sugar princess because she's been awesome to me and I haven't even emailed her a thank you.

Car crash fantasy

It happens fast. They tell you that in training

"In the field, everything happens fast," but it doesn't make a difference. Not in the moment. Second. Instant. Not to Vaughn, trapped like a pale moth behind glass and not to me screaming, fire extinguisher in hand.

We're in the club, dancing, lights, frenzy. A man dances around me, a disgusting look in his eye and I suddenly realize that Vaughn is stepping forwards, one hand on the man's shoulder pushing him away. Pushing him away from me. I feel like I'm his. It happens so fast.

Sydney smiles and the current in the air, strobe and florescence, crackles. I can feel it in my fingers. The palms of my hands where I shoved the chump just seconds ago and my shoulder where she accidentally slipped past me, running to the power box. She leaves and I stay here alone. A thin line of current connects us, we-

-rely on the talkies for communication. A familiar and pointless tremble surfaces momentarily as I turn my back from him. Foreboding at the mere idea.

"This could be the last time I see him alive."

Every moment could be the last time and it never is. Foreboding is a natural state that I have learned to ignore.

The guards go down, a heap of flesh on tacky back hall carpet and I push open the door. 47. It leaves no room for question. There is no question that the circumference is inside.

"The circumference; the distance around a circle."

The giant orange globe is surreal, out of place and time and space. In my talkie I search for a comforting voice.

"Vaughn, its bigger than I thought."

Sydney isn't responding and I listen for the tell tale sounds. Gunfire, the drawl of a confident guard having just made a capture. A kill.

I swallow my heart back into my throat and focus on understanding that she isn't dead, just out of range.

Clippings of her voice come through giving me nothing to go on and I am already in the hall. No reason to risk the journey but I have to see her alive. I have to be there.

In training they explain to us why it isn't a good idea to get personally involved with someone at work, especially a field agent-

"There is no room for doubt," they say. "There is no room for a personal agenda. Involvement is a very personal agenda. It will always leave room for doubt."

I tell Vaughn not to come but I don't think he heard me. I even sort of wish he were here now.

"If I turn this thing off I'm going to have to swim out of here."

The bomb will give me an extra five seconds. Down to the wire decisions are something I'm good at because a good agent always chooses to do the job. I know I can make it, even as the hallway behind me is-

-flooded. It is coming and it is unthinkable. She is running towards me, her heavy boots inaudible in the long hallway. There is only the sound of waves and the distant blare of base and metal.

It is a beautiful scene and I imagine it on a poster. A post card.

"Greetings from Taipei."

I would keep the image in my wallet if I could. Instead I just stare, unable to process the wall of water. Unable to breathe as she blows past me, her fingers scrabbling on my smooth leather lapels.

"There is a sick fascination to watching something terrible happen." Someone famous, an author or a scientist once said that but I was never sure I believed it. Now I understand with intimacy and revulsion.

Watch as finally he turns and runs. Pretty face and silly hair, lit up chalk pale; he will not be fast enough. I could lie about it but what would be the point?

Inside the elevator I grasp the heavy mechanical door, tempted to place myself between it and its intended destination, if only to keep it open. A futile gesture. The door closes and he is suddenly gone.

Trapped. I'm trapped and I can see her, inside, still breathing, still terrifyingly alive. The moment before the water comes is-

-silent. On his face is an emotion I can't conceivably place. I look out at him-

-and it gives new meaning to the word horror. She is beautiful. Blue hair and red lips as bright as the metal extinguisher hanging on the wall behind her. She will-

-try to use it but it won't break this glass. Vaughn is outside and I am not.

A plan is not always a way to solve a problem. In the second before a disaster, a plan can be nothing more than a possible course of action,-

-an attempt, a futile move but she will try it. I can tell already. I will tell her not to and she will not listen. It is for that precise reason that I come to an undeniable realization.

Not the elusive-

-suspicions that I push under the rug, quiet down with a good book and a glass of red wine but-

-a truth. Substantial. Definite.

In the moment of death things happen that would not have been possible otherwise. So perhaps Vaughn will find a way out of this, but it is also

-possible to feel things too.

Sydney is looking out at me. She places her hand against the window, her lips already beginning to fog up-

-the glass so I can't see him. I need to see him. He is looking in at me and we are both still.

We both realize- a truth shared, double sided, and then the water comes.

It happens-

-so fast.

1. TOLSTOY

That I would dare to walk right in the front door comes as a shock. To everyone, my self included. Dad will say it is stupid. Not right now because he isn't around, but later, during one of our fights about work and life and everything. He's right, it is, but it is also the only thing I can do. In the lobby and severe woman with tired secretary eyes escorts me to the back. The real offices are a latticework of doors and windows. More like what I would have pictured a newspaper room to look like, actually, and I have seen where Will works, it's quite similar. Still, its clean and quiet accept for the whirr of the photocopying machine and I'm grateful for any place that doesn't smell like urine and makeshift disinfectant and blood. I have spent the last six hours staring at my own teeth on the floor.

"I've got nothing to lose."

By the time he comes in I'm already-

-halfway done writing. I would have been in sooner but Ladke had a report for me. I feel like a moron carrying a Danish and a glass of grape soda through the office and when I put the food down she doesn't even look up.

Its almost-

-scary. That's how he looks at me. The rest of them too but it bothers me more with him. I wonder if he was drafted for this job. The under dog who drew the short straw and got stuck in the office with the crazy girl. I wonder of his director told him what to say, what exactly to do. I wonder if he's been briefed in dealing with me. A-

-protocol. Devlin gave me a protocol to follow when handling with new recruits. Especially the tough ones, not that I have a tendency for being assigned to rogue cases. Still.

I'm supposed to know how to do this. I tell myself I do know how to do this and then I spout the required line

"If there's anything we can do for you, just let us know-"

"A new pen, this one's dying."

She uses it like a weapon. Her knuckles turn sickly white and each letter is precise. Jerky and controlled. Angry writing. Weiss seems tense beside me. Maybe that's why the entire room seems tense. Weiss is almost never nervous and I make a mental note to blame it on him once I have the time. I realize he's smirking but I don't understand why until I look at him and am therefore no longer staring at her. That's why.

"She was just... strange," I'll say later.

They stare at me until I think I might scream and then the skinnier one, Vaughn has the courtesy to leave. Thanks, I appreciate it.

I don't mean to be so angry but I've had a very bad day.

In vaughn's office I stare at-

-a photograph of me and Alice until I have to turn it around so that she-

-can't see it anymore. Damn, I liked that picture; it meant I didn't have to look at any thing else, like his face. I wonder-

-why I did that, turned the picture away. I didn't mean to, but it made me feel nervous. My personal life out there, like some sort of false display. I sit down and look across the-

-table at me. Again it feels like my skin is too tight for my body but this time I don't have the patience for discomfort. I look at him and think of all the things the man in Taipei said to me. Before he ripped out my teeth. It helps to get angry when you're in a vulnerable position. As long as you're angry nothing can hurt you. It's a rule I live by.

I want to tell her that she's been brave enough for one day and she doesn't have to wonder about me. I want to tell her that I'm working for the good team and I'm not going to hurt her. For unknown reasons I want to tell her she doesn't have to look so tough with me but I cant.

Protocol. So instead I keep my mouth perfectly straight and open with a line about Tolstoy. I am supposed to remember that jokes are not part of the protocol; instead I catch myself smiling even though I shouldn't be and I imagine what they might have done to her. How long did she hold up without breaking?

"Six hours," I want to tell him. "If you think you can wear off six hours of torture with a smile and a joke, or that I'm going to give a damn about you right now or ever, then you can forget about it."

Besides, my face hurts when I smile.

He says something about 'another double' that I only half hear but instantly jump all over him about it. It feels good to get angry with him, my blood gets warmer and the scowl slips a little.

"I have a feeling about you."

It sounds like some sort of pick up line. What is wrong with me?

I wonder if she is planning on telling everyone in the office the way I, "had a feeling about her," before I even knew her whole name. She doesn't strike me as that kind of girl but then again, I'm not even entirely sure she's human underneath her scowl so that doesn't say much.

He offers me a dentist and I decline. It's not until I'm standing and he's out from behind his desk that I notice I'm-

-smiling. Just slightly. The blood has dried, a slight cool aid tint on her lips from hours before and her-

-fists are clenched at my sides. I unclench them when I realize he's looking and wish he wasn't so quick on the uptake. Someone stupid and ugly would have been a nice pairing right about now. Easier to relax with and easier to ignore. Not that his physical appearance has any relevance, because-

-it doesn't, it's just that her hair makes me feel distracted. She unclenches her fists when she realizes that I've noticed and I understand something about her. The first real thing:

Bravery isn't always displayed by metal plaques and badges. Large men rush into burning buildings without fear because they know they can get out. But this girl has no idea-

-what's going on and I'm-

-so scared she can't even unclench her fists. Later I will read her debrief and accidentally stay late at the office to memorize the facts, but now I have already begun to know her.

I have already begun to know him.

And I realize that Sydney Bristow-

Foolishly, he is a good man.

-has a monopoly on bravery.

2. WILDLY, CRAZY CAREFUL.

We pick up where we left off: him in the van. AC maintenance, power line maintenance, always some sort of maintenance; and me running down the long stadium hallway a mind full of ones and zeros. Accept that now I'm in the van, closer proximity, dangerously close, and I have a mind full of things to say.

"You do not give me orders."

I'm yelling because he tried to tell me what to do. There's no other reason accept that-

-it's so easy to fight with Sydney. When I fight with Alice she always backs down eventually or else she gets entirely serious, skin turning pale gray and wont talk to me for hours. Sometimes one of us has to sleep on the couch.

"We should get the theater tickets for Tuesday so we can catch the game on Monday!"

Last night we fought over laundry and I accidentally found myself mentioning Sydney.

"Just in passing," I defend. Then wonder why I feel the need to defend myself at all. I'm allowed to talk about her. A voice in my head tells me it isn't a good idea.

I shouldn't take things like this. I swallow hard and continue to yell, voice rising. I sound shrill on an off key. I try for enraged but end up passionate, one octave above. I shouldn't take things so... personally. For some reason when we fight its like all the air goes out of the room and I'm left dim headed and dizzy.

Fighting with Will is never like this.

Fighting with Will is never life and death though, so I guess that makes sense, still, in the small van there isn't a lot of room and its easy to imagine hitting him, pressing my hand against his lips to silence him, make my point. Although I'm not so sure-

-what my point is anymore. I had one when this all began but once the yelling started it seemed trivial. A lot of important things seem to become trivial lately. Protocol not included of course.

"Sydney we have to be careful here. We have to be wildly, crazy careful!"

I've always been wildly, crazy careful. Its-

-the story of my life. Nine hundred rules, three hundred of which are faulty and useful if broken. He is suddenly staring at me and I wonder if he is the-

-wildly, crazy careful sort. Once I took Alice to the hospital. A half hour trip, because she had fallen down the bottom three stairs and said her ankle hurt. 'A mild sprain' was the diagnosis and she wondered aloud if I had always been such a worrier.

I had wanted to explain that I knew how to name a gun by the sound of it being cocked. I wanted to show her the scar on my ribs, a bullet hole. Instead I had smiled and kissed her fondly on the lips. Even her lip-gloss tasted careful in my mouth.

I wonder if Sydney can read it in me. Knows that I-

-want to scream sometimes. All the time, really. Do something insane, not because its my job or because I have to but because I need to, for me, for my sanity. Because I am always careful, always doing the right thing and it really does get tiring.

Somehow, the fact that he's trying to do the right thing for me seems wrong. Inappropriate.

A handler and his charge are not allowed to share those sorts of responsibilities, not allowed to share much of anything. And I wonder-

-why does this keep happening? The awkward shuffling, a dance of feet and hands placed just outside of important boundaries then retracted, jerked back within the lines as if shocked into submission.

Can I touch her on the shoulder? What about the wrist? What if-

he's really, really worried or he just-

-had a fight with Alice? Is it okay then? Why shouldn't we be friends?

In the van I look at him in silence that quickly congeals into a buzzing sort of tension between us. "Wildly, crazy careful." What was he talking about again?

I can't quite remember but I think that the fight has passed. My head is still-

-a little fuzzy from the rush of blood and anger but there is a satisfaction as well. Because if SD-6 suspects me in the least... its over. I have my answer.

It strikes me as funny. The way he looked at me just now. I could have sworn I saw his eyes flash, genuine fear. For me or-

-for my job or for what? I shouldn't be afraid for her. She is my job but she is not my... anything. I should not need to use two adverbs to describe the kind of careful we have to be. But I did.

Damn it. Why is this-

-so difficult? And I think I know why we fight all the time. Because talking is harder, I cant ever seem to say a word.

"Anna is still your enemy."

And she smiles at me. Beautifully simple, but complex behind the eyes. There is real work that goes into this smile. I wonder if Weiss notices-

-how weird this is. Maybe it isn't even weird at all. Or it's just me.

"Anna is still your enemy." I have an answer now. I can go.

As I leave I try not to wonder if I'm smiling because he's given me an answer or because he's made things that much more confusing.

3. DARKEN YOU

And the confusing keeps on coming. Different sources of the same emotion, Never a dull moment in my life. Never a simple dinner, my father showing up on time with a yellow rose. Ordering us a glass of wine each and then a dinner full of tentative smiles and careful gestures.

"You know Sydney, I was busy when you were younger but I always wanted to show you the fairs wheel. It's not to far from here..."

Funny how I end up there anyways. Standing by the water. The ocean lapping restlessly at the rocks and the fairs wheel glowing off his face. I know that Vaughn shouldn't be here. It was stupid of me. I should have called Will or Francie or a wrong number to a gas station where I could have told the attendant the whole story before he had the chance to hang up. The person I should not have called was Vaughn. I wonder if he knows-

-that this is a very big boundary. That all it took was-

-pressing the 'send button'. That all it took was-

-a one-syllable word, clear as a blade, to completely shatter the original pretense of "appropriate" that we had constructed between us.

"Yes."

He should have said no. I don't know why he didn't just say no and tell me to 'take something.' If my father can respond that way, then this man who should really be a stranger, an acquaintance at best, is certainly able, but-

-I didn't. I couldn't. Over the phone Sydney wasn't crying and her voice was as tight as a birch twig, sickly and more vulnerable to snapping. I thought the words; I said them numerous times in my head.

"Nonononononono."

"No, I'm sorry, I don't think it's appropriate."

"No, I'm sorry, Alice and I have a date."

"No, but why don't you tell me tomorrow at debrief."

Each one of these would have been acceptable and perfectly true. On the ride to the pier I go over each, trying to find reasons that I was right to have not used them. I find the one about Alice particularly distressing.

That was work, I have to go. Can we do this again tomorrow night?

Her sad face was not half as sad as Sydney's voice had been.

When I arrive at the pier she is not yet in tears. She looks as though-

-I have been holding my tongue. Bitten down to bleeding in my mouth, iron and taste buds. My entire body feels bruised and dirty but I will not cry. Ten seconds before his car comes into sight I promise myself I will not cry in front of him. I am-

-standing by the edge of the pier, looking over, gripping the wooden railing tight enough to force splinters of salty ocean wood into her palms and I get out of my car, I don't even-

-park it in a proper stall, he just gets out and leaves it sitting. "You left your car," I say. He is several steps away but he is looking at me as if we are three inches apart.

"They can tow me."

And the tears start now despite all my promising. He will let me cry, they will tow his car and he will let me cry like this. I can't stop.

She cries just long enough for the ocean to work us through with gritty moisture crawling under my clothes thought it's only really several minutes. I find it eerie that the tears stop so soon, Alice can cry for hours.

I really shouldn't keep drawing comparisons between Sydney and Alice.

Then, through the sobs she attempts to speak. The words come out broken, torn around the edges but the message is there. Pain in its purest form, bravery; undiluted but exhausted and I cant help but-

-imagine touching him. What it might feel like to drop into his arms and have him place them around me. Strong and lean and shaking. He is shaking; I notice this through my tears. And it's odd because-

-even though we've never done this before, it feels alright, sort of… elegant. I want to tell her that I'm glad that she came to me. That I had been thinking about her at dinner. When Alice ordered the low fat chicken I had wondered if sydney would have gotten the flambé. Excitement flashing in her eyes, the flames licking her face into the complexity of another smile. She would have worn velvet. Simple, black, and elegant. I want to tell her that even through the tears she is beautiful. Instead I tell her that 'the enemies have a thousand names' and stutter out an offer of companionship. Nothing more.

"Just remember that you can always... you've got my number."

Yes. I have his number. He tells me that I can call him and my body aches to be held. Not that I'm disappointed that he hasn't. Not that he even could. Ever. Still…

We've finished talking but I-

-can't seem to figure out how to move away. Closer would be so easy. I test out the feeling of being nearer to her in public and am suddenly incapable of moving in reverse. Incapable of-

-making a sensible plan to go home and send him a thank you email. The absurdity of the act catches in my lungs and makes me shiver. I want to tell him something.

-I don't know what it is but it's there. It has been for a while now. Something foolishly heavy that shouldn't be said, that-

-shouldn't even be thought about. So I don't think it. I stare out at the waves and let the world move around us.

The sides are now clear. The world as an entity is a separate thing and then there is us. We are together, fused to form something stable. I cannot leave her side.

The fairs wheel is-

-turning in the distance and I realize that dad would never have liked it- he's never been a fan of bright lights anyways but I don't care. It is something that I like, the framework invisible; it could be made of gold and diamonds.

I feel for-

-the place in her pocket where her pager used to be. I can tell she is glad she threw it. They'll give her a new one anyway, tomorrow at SD-6 she'll forget about this meeting and things will go back to normal. I can only believe this until her hand is against my skin. I can only not look at her; forget about wanting to comfort her constantly so long as she doesn't put her hand to mine and grip. It is-

-almost painful. A rush of contact, "the first and only time," I promise myself. We can not continue to do this. But tonight-

-is different. She was sad and I-

-said the perfect thing even though I looked hideous and-

-beautiful and powerful. Normally this would be a thing we could not do, normally-

-this would be wrong. But tonight-

-tonight it is perfect.

4. TAPE.

He shouldn't have done it. He shouldn't have-

-come so close to betraying her. It isn't that I almost betrayed her that's the problem, I mean-

-we can pretend that it is and it is, sort of, but there's something else that makes me feel ill. It isn't the betrayals that point fingers our way. There is nothing inappropriate about hating each other but-

-I know that everyone can tell, Weiss at first and slowly spreading contagiously, the rest of the office.

"Vaughn seems to have some sort of relationship with his girl."

"What kind? are they dating?"

"I don't know but it seems close. Maybe they're-"

"No. We aren't." I want to tell them. "Sydney is my case and I am her handler and that's it." I even tried to say it once.

"We are professionals and she doesn't mean- we haven't crossed- we're only…. She's just my case."

I felt sick and left quickly, then I called her for an early briefing. We ended up spending fifteen minutes discussing interior decorating and favorite pets. A friendly conversation that was entirely professional, naturally.

"I made this when we met the other day. I wasn't sure you'd be able to testify yourself-"

He shouldn't have done it.

Again we are sitting alone, silently and I cant help but look into his eyes, wonder what sort of strange magnetism it is that makes me keep coming back.

"I was going to use it but I couldn't. I don't know why- I just thought I owed it to you somehow."

-No, not really. We're beyond keeping score- we both know it.

Sydney, I am lying to you. I didn't think I owed it to you. I knew, over everything else that I was destroying us if I did this and I couldn't do it.

That's what's going to keep pointing the fingers in our direction. Because-

-in the intelligence world, there is nothing wrong, or awful or ruinous about emotional betrayal. In the office they can-

-never find out that I gave her the evidence back, in return for nothing but herself. If they knew that, then they'd know exactly what it was that's happened between us. Meeting in the save rites and rendezvous in storage facilities. They'd know exactly what I felt when I looked at her touching her face, a bruise forming under thick cover up. To the CIA-

-he has betrayed them. The evidence was true, it could have been used, should have been used but it wasn't. I have begun to guess why. Oh god and the intoxication is back. Light headed and dizzy. I accept the tape but I don't-

-say thank you. I don't deserve it but also, the interaction is simply too intricate. We have spoken less and less lately, at least about business. We no longer-

-need words to understand each other. A glance is significant, a slight flick of the eye from his suit to his hair and back. He has told me I look good. His voice straight and calm but quick, guilty underneath it all. I never voice my thoughts on him.

"Hi. You loo... hi."

If I did, who knows what might happen? We are at a point where-

-nothing is clear. I can feel it. I can feel her. When she pulls away from me emotionally I can feel the cold side of her shoulder and I am beginning to know how to brave the chill, warm her up again. I cannot admit that there is anything sexual-

-behind this. There isn't. There never has been. Ever.

He hands me the tape and there is a glimmering of sparks where our fingers touch. Subconsciously I wish the tape were bigger. "I'm going to Devlin tomorrow," he tells me. For the first time he is hurting too, angry and wanting the revenge that his father deserves. I will agree to help him. He needs this and that means a lot even though-

-it shouldn't. Shouldn't mean anything to either of us.

She throws the tape-

-into the trash can by the door as I leave. It was never the tape that mattered but-

-there is something important here. Weiss would be able to tell me what if I was willing to listen. I can't hear it, not even from myself.

"She means so much to you that you wouldn't use the tape? Mike, man you know that you two cant-"

Yes, I knew. Does she know? I hope she does because I don't think I can bear to have to tell her that-

-there is just nothing between us. We are professionals. We do professional things. Anything that does not fit within those boundaries is-

-not an option. I do not feel for her. I did not brush her hand with mine as she went by. She did not lick her-

-lips just now, and he did not think-

-anything at all when she did. None of that has happened and, as Weiss would be too quick to point out:

"None of it ever will."

After she's gone I retrieve the tape from the trash where she discarded it. I hold the hard plastic casing in my hand before dropping it to the ground and stomping it beneath my heal.

All evidence vanished.

5. HUG.

Two days from the morning I stood in the van listening to Vaughn tell me he couldn't betray me, we stand-

-in the sub basement. We like it here. More than any of the other places we can talk, here is the one where we are most alone. Safest. The idea that we could do or say anything that we want here is not one that we have ever accepted, but at least

- I can tell him about Francie's engagement without thought of saying the wrong thing. Conversation was first established within these walls and I find it oddly suiting that bodily contact has suddenly sprung up between us here as well.

It is another late night phone call, the kind I have promised never to make; I don't even realize the broken promise until I am pulling on my coat. Lip gloss and a hair brush should not be the things I think of before leaving but then we hug and he smells nice up close, cologne and rainwater mixed with electricity, so perhaps I'm not alone in how out of perportion my priorities have become.

I have already burned all of my mothers pictures anyways, so at least I've got that part right. Maybe I should have brought him a few pictures to burn, but that would have made it seem-

-stranger than it is, not an easy feat.

When she arrives I wonder for the thousandth time what we think we're playing at. I want to ask her what this-

-means. "Vaughn, my mom killed your dad? Do you still... What do you feel about me now?" It would really be so much easier to just come out with it but I cant and neither can he so we talk in circles instead.

Finally, once the idyllic chats of dinner plans and approaching holidays have become entirely transparent, no thin film to hide behind, -

-she finds our way to the crux of the issue. She tells me about the books of her mothers that she has and I picture her burning them all. I don't know why I know she's done this, but she has, I can tell. Then, once all the words have come spilling out-

-I have nothing left but the one thing that is most important to me.

"Vaughn. I just wanted to say... I'm so sorry."

There is a moment where I think that I might be able to get away with a smile. The urge to be closer to her subsides and I-

-let my guard down, nothings going to happen, remember? Neither of us is going to let anything happen.

Maybe that why she's suddenly in my arms. And I'm in her arms and this isn't a good hug, this is a bad hug, this is a 'hunger' hug where I am touching her all the way-

-down, but I cant pull back even a little because I-

-stopped trying for separation, even just for a second and it was like-

-falling asleep at the wheel. A drowsy, lustful feeling and you don't even realize that your car's gone off the road. Not until suddenly you're-

-waking up in the ditch, jarred awake with blood in your eyes and a dent five inches deep in your hood. Not knowing what happened but only that it was your fault and you probably should have done something to stop it but you couldn't because you've wanted this so bad for so long, the bozo red hair even, that long ago and-

-he feels just like I thought he might, holding me like I'm perfect and sacred and he's afraid that I'll shatter but he's also afraid that he'll never get the chance to touch me again-

-which I might not. I mean, realistically speaking I can never let this happen again and neither can she. Professionally speaking this never happened at all. I try to pull back but her hair smells so good like pears and book ashes from earlier when I'm sure she burned them all and I realize that we are dangerous people. Around each other-

-we are explosive, flammable, polar ends of a magnet. Baking soda and vinegar like the science project I made in grade two, like C4 on a current. "I hate my mother" I'd like to tell him but he doesn't-

-need to hear it. I only need Sydney to not go away. I need to keep holding her because it's suddenly very real.

We might never touch again. She might die or I might die. "Things happen that I can not imagine, so I need to keep holding you." I tell my self that I am-

-not in love with Michael Vaughn. And as long as we stay this way I don't-

-have to think about it.

6. AVOIDANCE AND SUBSEQUENT COLLAPSE.

From there things happen with an alarmingly emotional twist. I can no longer see a man with a slender nose, green eyes, without reaching for the cell phone in my pocket, pulling my hand back, caught foolishly in the act.

He is-

-always careful around the office. Walking on glass and eggshells. So long as I keep the balance neither of us has to fall, never mind that I find it exhausting. To-

-quit the effort is not a choice, to-

-accidentally slip and find myself phoning her in the middle of the night introduces anew, the possibility that I am a man and she is a woman and if we just shut the storage room door we could-

But we don't-

-But we cant. Sydney sits there looking at me and I am saying "Yes. Yes I'll break into the Vatican with you."

Not that I know-

-how we'll ever make it out alive, but if there's a chance then I suddenly need him to go with me. He is the man I want to have a chance at life with.

We both speak perfect Italian and I introduce-

-an uncharacteristic stutter onto-

-my tongue when he uses his own perfect mouth. Despite my linguistic abilities I find this talent in him maddening. My face is hot as we disarm the security system and he asks me-

-if she likes Italian food. Then I feel insane for mentioning it. We could die and I'm thinking about dessert. That's when I realize that it's not the food at all but the concept of Sydney herself that I find appetizing. We-

-struggle with attraction through out the mission. A glimpse-

-of her smile makes me want to reach my hand towards her. Never mind that there's no time for that, we have to-

-do the job. Just the job. I have to not think about his eyes because that would be weird and wrong and bad.

We escape with the code and I avoid-

-talking about our personal lives for eight days straight. On the ninth day-

- I mention Charlie's cheating on Francie and our resolve crumbles into a trembling of hands on coat zippers. Arms forced prematurely into thick nylon armholes. I beat a hasty retreat.

Hours later I find myself in a van looking for Sydney. I can tell by the way they talk that they arn't going to tell her anything. Not where they're taking her or what could happen or why. I wish I could at least let her know that the Vatican job was-

-useless. Clearly.

Because I can tell that they are going to want to tie her down and god help me, I have yet to stop them. When the men get out they wont let me go with them. They are large men, I could maybe take them down solo but only if they didn't have guns, I'd be blown away in a second. They go into a club, lively, music and bright colors, its a-

-nice place and I'm suddenly glad I've come. Despite my tendency for being a little aloof, tonight everything seems easier. Dancing and laughing. That's what it feels like to have proven you innocent of terrible crimes.

When the men come in my first thought is to start shooting. Take down two before the third can register the assault. I repress instincts for survival and excuse myself. Will laughs in my ear and turns away, already talking to Francie and suddenly I'm very alone. It is almost painful.

In the van they-

-strap her down. Tighter than they have to, I can tell it hurts by the way she avoids wincing. Balls her fists and sets her jaw at a firm edge. She looks at me in the darkened shadow of the van's metal walls and I remember the first time we met. The look she gave me, all terror and tough eyes. To strong to-

-show them that they can hurt me. It helps to get angry when you're in a vulnerable position. As long as you're angry nothing can hurt you. It's a rule I live by. I jut my chin out and look at Vaughn. I'm not sure I understand any of this but Vaughn I know. I kind of wish he would -

-do something, anything to make the hurt in her eyes, dim and extinguish but I cant. Emotionally, I would gladly kill them all. Four bullets for four people. That, I realize now, is the danger of attachment, of caring. "Sydney I would do anything for you without-"

-a rational thought. It's almost apocalyptic, the amount of destruction we could do in this moment. In combination with him, I could almost be the girl in their prophecy.

Just one decision: do we-

-run? Could we ever really run? And who would they kill to get to us? I could do-

-this but it would be the wrong choice. We both-

-know it. We have maintained at least that much perspective. Instead I tell her-

"Sydney, it's going to be okay," and-

-he leans in close so that I have to look at him.

He will get me out of this. I never stop believing that he'll find a way.

There is a moment even, because that's all it is really. A moment in the lie of our relationship where I think I may have found a way to let the emotional battle slide. Vienna, Noah and I dig a computer chip out of a man's throat and I kiss him- a very convincing diversion. Everything out from there is a confusing slope of past feelings, the time needed for "I remember's" to fall away, leaving room only for reality. I think that it can work, Vaughn aside, I've found a relationship that's real. Then he mentions reassignment and suddenly I knew it was coming all along.

I meet with Vaughn and it is strikingly difficult to talk around the words that have cluttered my mouth, painfully awkward, so instead I spit them out. Deliverance is choppy and I wish I wasn't blushing.

"We actually used to date a little, but we kept it under the radar. SD-6 discourages fraternization among agents."

Difficult to swallow and without warning I reach for the side of the van. Perhaps she's stated a pattern. Want but cant have, desire without any hope of receival; a simple pattern but is it hers or mine? They were a couple. Romeo and Juliet, Sydney and Noah. The words come out big and clunky in the air. Diseased. Sydney and Noah, Noah and Sydney. I feel myself losing her already, I just cant-

-figure out what to say about this. Missions? Fine. Cheating friends and ex girlfriends sure, but lust? Passion? And perhaps there could be love? We had been close before so perhaps we would pick right up where we left off? what-

-would I do if she loved him? Noah. If I lose her I suddenly think of dieing.

I don't hate a lot. Sydney's mother maybe, but that's different. I find it instantly easy to hate Noah, in fact I find it nearly impossible not too. She leaves and I imagine her in his arms, I imagine all the details, skin and hips and tongues. Not to be perverted but in the hopes that I can ever be okay with this. Then I reach into my pocket for-

-the coin that he keeps there. He is playing with it the next day in debrief and there is enough tension to drown us both. Maybe we-

-drowned each other long before Tai pee. Maybe this is where it starts.

I imagine Noah's hands on me- trying to warm my skin with his. I remember all the things I did with Noah and then I look at Vaughn. Everything is confusing now, no lines or-

-boundaries anymore. I would probably cross them all just to get her back, but that isn't my choice. I ask her if there's anything that's bothering her and she shakes her head. I feel like I've got no lungs. Choking on air. A-

-fish out of water. Can he tell that I am still only me? SydneyandNoah do not yet exist any more than SydneyandVaughn. Sydney is always scared only this time I am more so because there is no definite evil. No-

-identifiable 'wrong side'. And I guess that's what-

-makes this so twisted. I cant breath and I can't get warm. I didn't tell Noah but I'm still cold. The sex- yes, it was nice. A good feeling between my legs and I came, gasping softly. he made sure I did. but he could not make me warm. Even when I got home, hours on the chopper back, but in the bathroom mirror I could swear I was still blue pale. Freezing to death, and now every second counts because-

-what if she dies? On the next mission, on the one after that? What if he isn't there and he lets her die. "I will kill him," I think, and I know that for once, it is a pact that I will keep.

She is everything. Who ever has her, has the world to lose.

My own world contracts and, for a time, I cant even leave my house.

7. TRAIN STATION.

All this eventually gives way to the train station. A dark night with a plane waiting to take her to Taipei. When I find her there is a calm that surrounds us. I've heard the news of Will, missing. Her mother, looming. The circumference. And yet now of all times neither one of us has anything to fight. No boyfriends or Rambaldi prophesies

No girlfriends and murdered fathers, no-

-yelling because it's easier. Now it's just her and me and we are perfectly ready to do the job. I finger the tacky plastic seat and concentrate on not turning around, looking her in the face and-

-kissing him because this is the biggest mission yet and if we're only going to die then why not? I don't do any of that, actually, I don't think I would have the focus to find his lips anyways- I just listen while he tells me everything and then we-

-know what we have to do.

"I'm in," are the only words it takes. Funny how it all feels meant to be. I don't think I could still be alive if I hadn't met her. She is the force that moves the world, I used to think it was the sun but now I know that its-

-him who is meant to come with me. Perhaps we were meant to do this mission together. Jagged pieces, I am a person with sharp edges, whole but dangerous. And I suppose that he is my foil, a compliment or-

-a contrast. We sit back to back, splayed out like negatives of each other. Reflected in a mirror, and I think about her. Maybe she thinks-

-about him. So many times, so many worried looks and arguments and-

-complex smiles that have led us to here. We will go on this mission together and when we get back I will-

-play the hand I've got.

The next time she grins at me I might have to act upon the opportunity, softly kiss her smile. It would taste delicious like cinnamon spice, I'm sure. Just a slight kiss maybe. Not even the car crash fantasy, maybe-

-just a momentary slide over black ice. Dangerous only because it is unexpected. He could be made of black ice, I never saw him coming.

And what if in motion we-

-can no longer find traction? Spun wheels and fingers shaking over buttons, ties, and flesh wounds hidden under cloth? Perhaps a rush of blood to the head becomes a rush of blood elsewhere, becomes an addiction to adrenaline? The constant forbidden longing to fall

-head first into the ditch, quivering on the-

-kitchen table, the living room floor, the-

-front hall?

-What then?

I could love Sydney in all of those places. I could find it impossible not too. The decision to allow physicality comes later. We can-

-stand, now and leave the station. Whistles will keep blowing long after we are gone, trains coming in and in and in, but we have a mission to do.

"I'm in."

He's given everything.

The good of the cause: i'm not that selfless, but the good of Sydney Bristow: entirely.

There is a monopoly on bravery and Sydney Bristow has it all.

There is a monopoly on love but we will not realize that until later. Until the water comes.

I wont get a chance to tell him but he'll know.

In the last second I'll look at her and she'll understand:

Love when faced with death can surface,

and it all happens-

-so fast.