Tell No One -- Chapter Two
Author: CatherineBruce
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I own nuthin! Didn't break 'em, I only borrowed 'em! Any emotional stress these characters display after I return them was already there. I swear it!
Spoilers: Up to 'The Telling' with information found out in Season Three. AU.
Author's Notes: This story takes place during those Two Years. Definitely AU, definitely a WIP. Wasn't really sure which category to place it so I plopped it here. Hopefully I won't face a flogging squad and be flogged with Slimy Things!

Thanks to Twichie for making this all pretty!

"Have I ever told you that I hate this game?" Weiss readjusted his padding in a futile attempt to cover the more sensitive areas of his body more effectively. However, he found this was like trying to discreetly pick a wedgie on a hot sweaty July afternoon. It wasn't happening.

He felt like a knight of the old ages, weighted down with bulky armor and only a sword to defend him. Or in this case, a six foot bent stick.

Mike moved from side to side, concentrating on the pucks before him. "That's because you don't." Without warning Mike drew back his own bent stick, and with a loud crack that echoed through the icy arena one of the pucks hurtled toward the goal post.

Toward Weiss.

At an insane rate of speed.

Eric barely had time to move his stick before the puck careened between his skates. It ricocheted off of the metal post and for a moment he was his own pinball game. "Okay, I don't hate it. I love hockey. What I hate is playing with you. Especially when you get like this."

"Like what?" Three more shots were fired in rapid succession.

Forget the knight; he was the little blonde boy form the old 'Calvin and Hobbes' strips. The rabid pucks hurtling toward him had gnashing sharp carnivorous teeth and each was after his poorly padded flesh.

After barely surviving the onslaught, he held up his hands in defeat. "Okay, that's it. I'm done." He made a hasty exit before Vaughn could decide to lobby another attack. At the first bench he came to he began to peel out of the pads and the helmet. A chill ran through him as the sweat on his forehead cooled at the sudden temperature shift. Mike's helmet soon joined his.

It didn't take an observant person to notice the whole lot of 'not looking at best friend' happening. "Come on man, seriously. What's going on?" He picked up an overpriced bottle of sports drink, took a quick swallow and absently noted that it was his favorite flavor. Blue.

Mike was silent for a couple moments. Though he remained silent, Weiss could see that he was struggling with something. As he came to some sort of conclusion he looked Eric directly in the eyes for the first time in a while. "I think I might be losing my mind." And then the moment was over and he returned to looking everywhere else.

Had it not been for the seriousness he saw in his friend's eyes, Weiss would have believed the words to have been spoken in jest. He sat down on the bench, focused intently on the conversation now. "What do you mean?"

Another moment of silence passed and then he spoke. He started from the beginning. Weiss knew it was because that was the way Mike spoke slowly and chose each word carefully. "I always wanted to have a normal life, you know? As much as someone at the agency could have at any rate. Wife. Kid. Dog. Barbeques. Petty fights over the phone bill. The things that 'Everyday Joe' had. Then one day I realized that that wasn't what I wanted anymore. At least not if it meant having it without her. Which I couldn't, because it was wrong and against policy. And it could have gotten her killed." Mike sat down on the bench beside Eric. He grabbed the bottle and took a drink himself.

"Then one day things changed, and suddenly I could –we could have all that if we wanted. And then it was as though everything had shifted again, and instead of wanting a normal life all I want is her, and if we never had a picket fence or kids or phone bill spats it would all be better than anything else I could have imagined because she would be there. Then one day I woke up and she wasn't. She was gone along with forgotten dreams of normalcy." He laughed then though it was more to keep the tears away than from actual mirth. "I think I may have actually lost my mind months ago but am just now realizing it."

Weiss thought about the copy of the e-mail he carried in his coat pocket. He had brought it along, tempted to ask Mike what he could make of it. Now knew that his original gut instinct to keep this to himself had been correct. "Have you been having the dream again?" He had known about the nightmare. He had even been there the first time it came. It had been the night of the memorial service. Since then it had been easy to tell when it would come again by the way Mike held himself. But it had been so long since the last time that Weiss had nearly forgotten what it was like.

"Yeah, I had the dream. First time in a while. But that's not the reason I'm questioning my sanity. Or at least not the whole reason. I've been talking to her." Weiss's head shot up in alarm, and Vaughn shook his head. "I know that she's gone and no amount of pretending is going to bring her back, but talking to her is what kept me sane those first couple of weeks. I didn't care that she didn't answer back yet. I didn't care that the only person in the room while I was talking was a half insane grieving drunk. I talked to her, and it helped." The intense look in his eyes sent a chill down Eric's spine. He hadn't known that.

He almost gave the obvious and glib 'So, did you talk about me?' when something Mike said caught his attention. "What do you mean, yet?"

"A couple weeks ago I was just telling her about my day, just rambling to the walls about that teaching position I'm looking into. About half an hour into the conversation I swear to God Weiss I heard her plain as can be. It was as though she were right there next to me."

There were probably a lot of things he could have done at this point, but the only thing he could think of doing was to just let his friend talk. "What did she day?"

"I never pictured you as the professor type, Vaughn," he said, his words rushed. "That was it, but I heard it. At first I thought it was just a regular trick of my mind, but it kept happening. Just a few times at first, but now nearly every time she answers."

"Have you told Barnett?"

"Not yet. I didn't plan on it at first, but now..." Vaughn sighed. "I've also decided to try for that normal life. See if I can still get something I wanted. So I'm going to call Lauren tonight."

Jetlag was perhaps the worst part about her job. She had been surprised at how much traveling she actually did. Especially since she hadn't made the selection for field training.

Thanks a lot, Daddy.

Lauren heaved a long suffering sigh as she dropped her suitcase and carry-on off at the entryway before stretching the aching muscles in her back. All she wanted to do now was to sink into a nice long bubble bath with a glass of wine and Bach to keep her company.

While not nearly as large as what she was used to while growing up, her apartment of considerable in size. Her father had found it for her while she had been in the process of moving to Los Angeles. She suspected that the moderate rent was more through his persuasion than through the landlord's generosity.

Out of everything in the apartment perhaps her favorite thing was the large claw footed tub. It was wide and deep. Though unlike her taller friends in college, she had never personally had problems fitting into a tub. It felt wonderful to be enveloped by so much smooth porcelain.

She adjusted the faucet so the water was almost too hot to bear before she grabbed what she needed from the other rooms. The wine was already chilled and the stereo still had the Bach CD from her last bath. As she was grabbing a large fluffy towel from the hall closet her cell pone rang. She contemplated ignoring it. For a moment she pictured just one evening to herself with no interruptions. However her mother had said she would call tonight. Risking a glance at the caller ID, she saw that it was indeed the home number.

With a groan she flipped the phone open. "Hello?

"Lauren sweetheart, how was your trip?" The sounds of her father moving about in the background caused her to smile. It broadened as she heard his request to pass on his love.

"It went fine. Everything went as expected." Testing the water temperature, she poured in a few capfuls of vanilla scented soap and then with a shrug she added one more. Tonight was an 'extra bubbles' kind of night.

As she prepared her bath, her mother spent the next couple minutes in idle chitchat. She could still hear the sounds of her father moving about in the background. Finally, "So, what about that nice young man you told me about last time? Anything happen with him yet?"

"No mother, not yet. Things are still pretty much the same and I'm not sure it will go anywhere, really." She wasn't in the mood for this. Not tonight. Her back ached from the uncomfortable airplane seat and she just wanted to forget the smarmy business man with gingivitis who had sat beside her on the tortuously long flight.

"Well, I would work on that if I were you, missy!" Beneath the teasing tone was the slightest edge that sent a chill down Lauren's spine. Then it was gone and her mother's voice was cheerful once more. "I want to have grandchildren before I'm too old to spoil them!"

"I'll get on that, mother." The bubbles nearly reached the top of the rim. She turned the water off and the sudden silence filled the air. "I'll call you if there are any changes."

"See that you do. Well, I have my luncheon to get to. Kisses, love! Would you like to speak to your father before you go?"

Before she could get the chance to protest she heard the phone being shuffled around. Then she heard her father's deep voice. "Hello Princess, how's Los Angeles treating my baby girl?"

Lauren felt a genuine fondness as a smile softened her face. "Hello Dad, I'm fine." For several more minutes they spoke before he had to leave for a meeting as well. After she wished him a good day, she sat the phone on the tub's ledge and slipped out of the rest of her clothes.

After pressing play on the stereo and pouring a glass of wine, she slipped into the warm bath. The extra minutes spent talking to her family had cooled the water slightly more than her liking and the bubbles weren't nearly as she would have liked, but it felt heavenly all the same.

Not more than five seconds passed before the cell rang again. In frustration she slapped the water, sending a spray of bubbles and water onto the linoleum. She barely resisted doing the same to the irksome piece of hardware. Instead, she brought it up and checked the caller ID, her nose scrunching at the unfamiliar number.

"Hello?" She hoped her annoyance wasn't too obvious.

"Lauren, its Michael. Did I catch you at a bad time?"

"Michael! No, it's a fine time. I just wasn't expecting your call. What can I do for you?"

"Nothing work related. I just called to see if you were doing anything this weekend." He kept his voice interested and neutral, but she could still hear the reluctance underneath. We'll have to exercise some of his demons.

As she mentally drew up her schedule for the week, she groaned. "I have to be at a conference in DC on Saturday." A solution came to mind, and she mouthed a quick 'thank you' to the ceiling. Perhaps now her mother would let her have a moment of peace. "We could do something before that if you would like. Dinner tomorrow, perhaps?" She settled back in the tub once more, free hand playing with the bubbles as they made final plans. Then the conversation drifted, and they were talking about nothing in particular. As the conversation went on, she found herself genuinely smiling or laughing at something he said.

Perhaps, she thought to herself before she hung up, this won't be so bad after all.

Vaughn stared at the receiver for a long time after he hung up with Lauren. He remembered a time in his life when he would have felt good for making a successful first date. A sense of pride, even.

All he felt this time was hollow.

Sure, there was that nervousness in the pit of his stomach. It was that 'oh s, now what do I do?' feeling when the plans had been made and the next step was waiting to be made. Other things flitted through his brain, congratulating him on a job well done for not making some stupid remark.

All of that was on the surface, though. Under it all was the hollow acceptance that he was finally taking steps to move on with his life. It was time to let go of Sydney and perhaps he could come close to finding what he had with her again. Only this time it would be with another woman. It was something he needed to do though, before he went mad. It still didn't stop him from feeling like s.

He tossed the phone on the counter and then sprawled on the couch. The blank television screen stared at him accusingly. The warped image of himself alone on the couch caused him to turn his face back toward the cushion.

"I'm sorry," he murmured into the cushions.

Silence was his only response and he felt himself sink deeper into the hollow.

-end Chapter Two