.start.

You wait, wanting this world to let you in
And you stand there,
A frozen light in dark and empty streets
You smile, hiding behind a God-given face
And I know you're so much more
Everything they ignore is all I need to see

You're the only one I've ever believed in
The answer that could never be found

Goo Goo Dolls, Let Love In

Sometimes Sylvia wonders if it could have been different. She lies awake some nights, remembering. Those nights she ignores the warning in her mind, the story of this endless cycle (she remembers washing day as a child, lather rinse repeat, and finds it an appropriate metaphor for this continuous circle) of pain, opens the worn bag, reads through the tattered notebooks, and relishes the rush of memory.

She asks herself how it came to (guns noise yelling crying books guns Tobin anger whispers) that; the smooth, cold grip of his gun in her hand. More often than not, she indulges in the what-ifs, (she never could wonder what if, because what if was dangerous; what if raised the dead, and the dead don't like to be awoken, she has learned this) imagines pulling the trigger and ending decades of destruction and murder. Then a pair of blue eyes swim to the surface, and a lazy grin, and Sylvia remembers that the Teacher is gone (gone, not dead, because dead and gone are two different things, if dead and gone were the same, where would justice be?) and she is here, in Africa, alone.

Africa no longer holds the mystery of the ages; the siren call has weakened. The longing and drive she felt, used and thrived on, they are dead. Words have failed her, and she has failed them.

She remembers before, and it feels like a different life. She remembers the dusty road and the look on Simon's face, remembers the heft of the rifle in her hands, remembers Never again Simon, I'm sorry, and walking away. And she wonders. Because in the stillness of the room, in the protection of those four walls she became the thing she vowed to fight. And a small part of her thinks maybe she never really fought it, maybe it was just for show. Even now, she finds it ironic.

The nights she does sleep aren't much different, except for the way she remembers. Awake, she can filter some memories, draw lines in the sand of her mind she promises she won't cross. Asleep, the demons of her childhood, the demons she faced for years come back, and they are merciless. She fights for her sanity those nights, locked in a battle. She needs sleep to survive, but she needs to stay awake to survive. Sylvia thinks that's ironic too.

Asleep, the faces of the children, torn and shredded by bullets and rocks and sand, rise to the surface, and she names each one. (We do not name the dead… but each face won't go until she does and so she prays for forgiveness as she calls each one by name.) She sees, too, mother father sister, and her mind imagines Simon lying face down in a soccer stadium.

Those are the nights she wakes up, gasping and sobbing, fingers reaching wildly beyond her. Those are the times she opens the worn bag, reaches past the (pain misery suffering anguish anger hurt blood death) notebooks and pulls out a well worn business card, fingers the name gently, tries to remember falling asleep on the phone and You can't say stuff like that with blood on your face, arms gently holding.

Sylvia knows that the gods hate her. She sees it in the graves littering her country, in the pain and poverty around her. She sees it in her expulsion (she feels like a school girl; expelled for inappropriate behavior) from everything she's ever worked towards. She just wonders what she did to deserve the blow Tobin Keller became.

She wonders how this works; how she could possibly have wound up loving the one man she knew she could never have. (Never mind wanted, never mind the moments in her apartment when she dared hope.) It was ironic, and Sylvia thinks the gods are getting stuck on repeat, because that is all she sees in her life. Irony. He lost his wife. She lost her hope. And while he was still in love with a memory (but then, hell, isn't she in love with his memory now?) she fell in love with him.

People can't compete with memories. She knows this, has gained the knowledge through years of loving who Simon used to be and ignoring who he was. And she laughs. Because she misses the protection Tobin offered, misses his anger when she shunted it, and misses the way his languid, fluid smile would light up his face. She misses everything he is, and she knows that he has forgotten her. So Sylvia hates the memory of Laurie Keller, hates with all her heart the woman who repeatedly left him in the lurch, left him lingering and loving her damned memory.

At first there were postcards and letters; How are you, Sylvia, and Is Africa very hot today? But these have petered out, slowly killing any hope she could have maintained, and so she lives a lie of belief, of false, idiotic hope that will never amount to anything. And the damn gods still hate her and she is starting to hate them.

This is how life goes, day after day of picking up the broken, bleeding pieces of Matobo, rebuilding a nation instead of a classroom; night after night of fighting nightmares and faces. Lather, rinse, repeat, Sylvia thinks. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And then, suddenly, one day he stands at her door, and she is holding onto the frame, holding in an effort to stay upright and praying (oh God, please) that it isn't a dream. She looks at him, just gapes at him and damn she can't seem to speak and words - her words - are gone gone gone. That smile slowly comes out of hiding and the eyes sparkle and Hello Sylvia Broome. She feels her lips sneak upwards and bursts out laughing (because he's here and beautiful and here) and she feels like breathing; really breathing; for the first time since leaving him.

Then he is kissing her and she is kissing him and it is everything good. Real, sharp, hungry (not perfect, not fake, there and strong and right) and she relaxes into the strong safety of his arms and dares to hope with a real hope. He is peppering her face with kisses, and she is crying but so is he and his voice is rough and he whispers explanations and muffled I love you's and she says them back.

Sylvia thinks maybe the gods don't hate her that much anymore. She wonders if sometime in her life she did something good, worthwhile, to deserve him, but decides not to worry about it, after all, she has bigger things to think about like where can she find an apartment big enough for the two of them in Matobo, of all places?

Every once and a while, when Tobin wraps his arms around her and promises never to let go, when he caresses her hair and holds her hand, playing with the ring he put there, she looks upward and mouths a thank you; after all, she isn't sure why he came but she figures it can't hurt to cover all her bases.

.fin.

Fandom: The Interpreter
Pairing: Sylvia/Tobin
Rating: PG
Warnings: Slight spoilers

Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, I just like to play with 'em.