Title: Redefinition
Rating: Mature (violence, language, disturbing imagery, sexual content)
Pairings: Sark/Sydney, Jack/Irina; hints of Vaughn/Sydney, others planned but not announced
Characters: Think clowns in a clown car, from a bunch of the CIA to a ton of the "baddies"
Beta: The amazing gidgetzb, who puts up with my crazy and keeps my plots from eating me alive, yo.
Spoilers: S1, S2; basic plot of S3, through S4 and up to and including certain aspects of S5
Timeline: Canon up to Sydney passing out after her fight with Allison
Disclaimer: Dude, if Alias was mine, we wouldn't have gotten that shit S5, trust me.

Notes: In season four, we saw a photo that hinted that, just maybe, there was once another baby Derevko, Irina's baby niece. That went nowhere in the show but it's essentially the hinge on which this fic works itself out. Going into AU land as of the Sydney and Allison fight at the end of season 3, it's primarily centered around Sark and through Sark those he's most connected to, both negatively and positively. As you can guess, Irina and Sydney play a massive role, as well as their collective family on both sides of the spy spectrum. Why? Because there were way too many dropped plot lines in regards to Sark and Irina (and everyone else that has a main role in here) that would have been awesome with a light drizzle of awesomesauce on top and because I'm an obsessive little plot fiend that loves interconnected storylines in big ass fics. And because Irina is so fantastically morally gray that she deserved more than how JJ ended her story in S5. And so did poor I-am-the-king-of-wasted-potential Sark. And so did poor JJ-didn't-even-know-what-to-do-with-my-awesomeness Jack. And so did poor got-her-badass-Derevko-self-owned-by-a-glass-table Nadia. And so did poor I'm-a-Bristow-and-a-Derevko-but-all-I'm-going-to-do-is-wahwah-over-Vaughn Sydney. And, yes, even poor I-could-have-been-cool-but-JJ-wuvs-his-Syd/Vaugh-and-ended-up-sacrificing-us-both-for-it Vaughn deserved better. So, by now, y'all get where I'm going with this, right?

Teaser: In the end, when the lies come apart, the truth is only a matter of perception.


Prologue

It had all come apart at the seams.

Sydney had known it would, had prepared herself for it, but it still pissed her off.

Left her panicked, frantic, scrambling to make sure it fit together right.

It was small comfort that Sark was no doubt just as pissed off.

Gunshots rang out through the tunnels, shouts echoed after her as she ran, searching for any flash of blonde hair, any hint of an accent in the noise.

The CIA was coming in.

It was beyond surreal, to feel both proud and frustrated at the same time.

The concrete by her head exploded and she jerked back around the corner, blinking the dust out of her eyes as the shots kept coming.

The ground beneath her feet shivered as the barrage ended and she peeked out, a quick glance that showed the hallway empty. She held her breath and listened, could hear the aggravated cursing, the other woman running again.

The disc was gone, safe— the only thing that had gone right.

Somewhere close, there was a blast, the ground not shivering but shuddering.

Back up plans to cut off the C level, she remembered her mother telling her so many long days before, and knew she had just won an extra few minutes. She took a breath and let it out, gun at the ready as she followed, moving faster as she heard the unmistakable sound of metal against metal.

Another corner and Sydney caught sight of her, frozen in the act of pushing open a door.

Lauren Reed stared back at her, face flushed, her once-white blouse bloodied and torn.

They stared at each other for a heartbeat, gunshots dim above them; Sydney had thought the anger had weakened but she'd been wrong. It flooded back, rose up and left her breathless, realizing with shocking clarity just how helpless Lauren was in this moment, abandoned by her superiors.

Once it would have made her hesitate.

Now it made her move faster, swinging her gun up as Lauren's face blanched, finger twitching as she pushed against the door in a last desperate attempt to survive, stained fingers splayed flat against the door—

But Sydney didn't fire off the shot that reverberated through the tunnel.

Burning pain exploded in her back, threw her forward to the ground breathless, vision flickering as she struggled to get an arm under her enough to turn herself over, watching as her gun was kicked away.

A foot flipped her over and she swallowed as her vision cleared, jerked in a harsh breath as she gazed up at him, the older man with the hardened face and the impossibly familiar features. "Go," he ordered, tilting his head to the side, and she realized he was speaking to Lauren, was helping Lauren escape as he pressed his boot hard against her chest, agony blazing in her back at the pressure.

The thought of Lauren Reed surviving was worse than anything else, let the fury to rise up again.

"I really can't let you go," he said softly, eyes soft with something almost paternal, but Sydney ignored him, blinking away hot tears of frustration as she twisted her head enough to see Lauren's feet vanish. "You're so obsessed with Reed," he noted, twisting the heel of his boot into her.

If she could spit at him, she would.

As it was, she was helpless, cataloguing everything she could in the seconds she had.

The disc was gone but Sark could handle it, had learned enough from her mother to keep control of it all.

She absently hoped he'd take enough time to kill the bitch after everything else was done.

Then knew with complete clarity that he would, would make sure everything was repaid.

He was better with long-term plans than she was.

"I wish it was different," he told her gently, the corners of his mouth creasing slightly in what she was sickeningly sure was true sincerity. "You were so good for my son, and you would have been a wonderful mother to my grandchildren if you two ever decided to settle down—"

"Just shoot me already..."

The softness left his face, his eyes hardening as he leveled the Glock at her, flashed that horribly familiar grin as he put more of his weight onto her, crushing the breath out of her lungs and making spots dance before her eyes. "Okay."

A single shot ringing through the tunnel, a jerk in the body under his foot as the CIA pushed their way into her mother's last stronghold, Vaughn leading the charge.

And Lauren Reed, bloodied and bruised, escaped from it all.


Seventeen Months Earlier

Her prison was small, compact, had a door she couldn't figure out, and a mattress in the corner.

The walls were cement, the ceiling was too high, and the blankets didn't do enough to keep her warm.

Air vents that were too small and too high to be used, and fluorescent lights set into the ceiling.

Except for the irregular visits by strangers for questioning (don't think about it) she was completely alone.

When she woke up this time (measuring time was impossible) there was a crack in the wall.

It wasn't the same wall.

But everything else looked the same, felt the same.

She'd been moved, she was sure of it. It would explain why she'd slept so heavily, but it was a lot of work to go through, to make her new cell an exact copy of her old one.

They were fucking with her head, she was sure of it.

Sydney had never been comfortable with swearing, had always felt awkward when she had, as if she didn't know how to do it right and would only make the words a joke.

Even now, as an adult and a professional, she still wasn't comfortable with verbal vulgarity.

But they were fucking with her.

It ignited anger inside, muted but steady, anger that she fed as she ran her fingers along the crack in some futile hope that it could lead to escape. She thought of Sloane and Danny, her father never really being there, and her mother falling backwards off a building. She only thought more furiously of old wounds when she realized the crack meant nothing, was just a further way to make her unbalanced.

Breathing heavily, she moved back to her mattress, slid down and glared up at the crack. Swiped at moisture in her eyes a few minutes later, shifted her glare down to her damp hand as she realized slowly that she was beginning to cry.

There was no lock to pick, no guards to disarm, nothing to do except sit here.

Sit here and wait for them to come get her, to question her more.

Questions that didn't even make sense, and were ridiculous.

They listed off strings of queries about fairytales and children's stories, prodded her relentlessly about Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb. Asked her the questions as if she was supposed to have them all memorized, as if she'd been raised by parents who sat around all day and read them to her.

She closed her eyes and stretched out, taking slow breaths to stay calm.

Patience had never been her strength, was something she could accomplish but not without a lot of work.

She wished she were more patient as she measured her captivity through counting the minutes she spent awake.

Her previous wounds, the ones inflicted by the woman who had worn Francie's face and died with it, had healed— a few months she'd been here, at least. There was no sunlight and no clean air, no change in the temperature around her. The guards who handled her care were constantly rotated but one man popped up periodically, an older man who watched her carefully when he sat in during the interrogations.

Wherever she was, he was in charge, gave orders without hesitation, eyed her the way someone would eye a trophy.

She missed Vaughn, a constant stab of pain as she breathed, and she thought of Will with an ache behind her eyes;, images flickering far back in her thoughts, her life that was gone and would never be again.

Even if she escaped, survived, it would never be the same.

Sydney suspected that she was losing her mind, the way her thoughts were starting to fragment and break apart.

When she slept, she dreamed of her father giving her orders that she carried out while he watched with his heart in his eyes, looking at someone behind her guiltily. Sometimes, though more rarely, she dreamed of her mother, stretched out beside her in the bed from her childhood, fingers brushing her hair from her eyes tenderly, pressing slow kisses to her forehead.

And sometimes she dreamed she was Little Red Riding Hood, gripping her basket to her chest protectively, trying to ignore the wolf whispering in her ear and trying to lure her off the beaten path.


It had been five months, since Sark had been placed in Irina's old cell.

Irina had told him that if they ever caught him, he'd be stuck behind the glass wall where they could interrogate him whenever they wanted. Because of this, she'd told him to memorize every aspect of it, sketched everything she remembered down to the way the walls looked and tested him on it, leaving him feeling like a child in class.

But that was what life with Irina was like, even now that he was an adult and worked for others as well.

Irina taught and he learned, listened and watched.

She'd been right— he received her cell after she sold him out to the CIA, allowed him to betray Sloane.

No wonder she'd been so sure that he would be caught.

But the infamous cell, he quickly decided, was devastatingly boring.

Within a month, he would have killed for a rubber ball.

Three walls and glass that stretched before him, offered him only blankness and shadows, nothing to amuse himself with except for what his mind could conjure. The cot was still firmly attached to the wall, with only a weak mattress providing comfort for his back. There were no books, not even a damn deck of cards, and the only human contact he had were the officers who came to get him for the bi-weekly questioning sessions.

Still, the questioning was… interesting, to say the least.

Provided him with new parts to the puzzle he'd decided to focus on, knowledge he gained in bits and pieces.

Sydney Bristow had been killed in the fight with Allison.

It wasn't a surprise, by itself.

Allison had always been disturbingly single-minded when it came to her work.

But so many people greater than Irina had been careful to keep her alive until she could be used, so many powerful people were obsessed with her, had plans for her.

It was too perfect, death and then fire, and besides, he had been a dead man for quite a few years, hadn't he?

Now, months later, his puzzle was a far more interesting picture than the three walls and the glass, than the food he got every morning, was something to focus on to keep from becoming a ghost.

Irina had taught him this, to focus to keep from coming undone.

Hard to do, to not become abstract through it, but it worked if one knew how to do it. How not to succumb to the weaknesses inherent in the method— it worked for him, and his mind continued to function.

Every night, in the moments before he slept, he remembered stories from when he had been young.

Remembered when Irina had told him the stories, settling at his side for hours when she was sure things were calm around them— her words shifting easily between languages and voices, her hands moving slightly, fingers dancing through the stories, silly tales that had kept him calm in the chaos.

Remembered what the lessons had taught him.

Irina's final orders before she had vanished had been basic, unwavering, so Sark went against his nature, went against instincts she herself had drilled into him, and waited in the little cell where they kept him.

Besides, he knew Irina would get a good laugh at exactly how he had stayed sane during his captivity.