Title: The Screams Inside

Author: Robin (icyfire)

E-mail: icyfire@webtv.net

Website URL: I have no Alias website.

Feedback: Yes, please! I love all kinds. I even enjoy constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.

Distribution: Outside of CD, please ask.

Disclaimer: Bad Robot? Not me! (Okay, I can be bad, but I'm not a robot!) My initials are not JJ, and I don't even own one share of ABC stock. So, I don't own them, and I'm not stupid enough to try to make money off characters that aren't mine. :)

Summary: "But sometimes, just sometimes, he wanted to let go of that control, but he never did. Because of fear. Fear that he could never regain that control, could never stop screaming, if he let go." Jack learns a devastating secret about his daughter on a mission.

Rating: PG-13 for some language and adult issues

Classification: Angst

Written after Q & A aired, but I don't think it contains any spoilers for that episode. Nothing real specific for any episode that I can remember.

***

Dixon gasped, unable to believe what his ears had just heard. He turned to look at the silent man beside him, unable to keep his mind focused on the job. For a moment, staring up at his partner for the night, Dixon thought that maybe, just maybe, he had heard it wrong.

Then Jack unbuttoned his jacket and turned to walk out the back of the van. "Jack--" Dixon called, stumbling over the name. From the first time he'd been introduced to Sydney, he'd felt an immediate friendship, a connection. Jack though was the polar opposite of his warm, friendly, and open daughter. Dixon never knew where he stood with the man or what to expect from him.

The door slammed shut, cutting Jack away from view, but Dixon knew what to expect this time. Knew what he himself wanted to do. It was rumored around the office of SD-6 that Jack could kill a man with his bare hands within seconds. Without feeling a sliver of regret.

Dixon watched as their assignment for the night continued to laugh with his employees. The loud and slightly intoxicated group continued to make rude comments to women walking by, unaware of the danger approaching them. Sloane had ordered his agents to listen, to get the intel from Harris's meeting. A simple, no contact assignment. Now, after revealing a secret, Mark Harris had become a target for Jack's rage and Jack's gun.

"Hey, guys, our ride's here," one of the youngest members of the group said. "Bully," they called him. Dixon knew that SD-6 would probably have a positive ID on him within 24 hours. Sometimes it disturbed him to see the massive amounts of information that the government had on civilians, law abiding and non-law abiding alike.

Harris and his men drove away just as Jack arrived at the pool. Dixon shivered at the look of rage and desolation on Jack's face, even as he understood it. Sydney was like a daughter to Dixon, or at least a kid sister. He'd always wanted to protect her. Tonight, he had discovered that he--and Jack--had failed. Had failed in a way that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

At that moment, besides an overwhelming numbness in the pit of his stomach, he could only feel grateful that she'd had a test tomorrow. That Jack had volunteered to go in her place tonight. That she didn't hear Harris's crude comment; that she hadn't been forced to see or listen to the man who-- .

Sighing, Dixon knew he would have to protect her from tonight. Keep her from knowing what had happened. Keep everyone else at SD-6 from knowing. He started typing commands into his laptop.

After a quick debriefing at SD-6, Jack offered to drop Dixon off at his house. It had been the most difficult debriefing that Dixon had ever gone through with it being the only time he had not informed his superiors of everything that had occurred on a mission. He and Jack both kept silent when Sloane mentioned the momentary audio loss on the tape they had made of the meeting. Sloane had looked at them strangely, maybe sensing the tension in the air, but he had not questioned them about it.

He had thanked them both for their great work, and Dixon felt shame. Shame that he failed to inform Sloane of something so important. But, he also felt relief that Sydney's secret was safe. At least now SD-6 knew when and where the weapons transfer would take place. They could get back the ones they gave to Harris, along with a few more. The agency didn't need to know that the guns were not the only things demanded as payment for the intel.

Dawn was struggling to get the sun to rise when the car stopped in front of an average home in an average subdivision. Dixon reached for the handle, and then stopped. He looked over at Jack. Even in the shadows, he could see the tense shoulders. The pinched lips. The way his hand gripped the steering wheel. Even in the low light, Dixon could see how white those fingers looked against the black steering wheel. Pale. Bloodless. "Jack-- "

Jack turned to stare at him. "You will never mention this to Sydney."

Opening his mouth to protest, Dixon thought about the sadness that had sat around Sydney like a veil for the last month. Her explanation, her lie, about what had happened in Cairo. How she had never even hinted at the truth. Not to him, and obviously not to Jack either. "I won't," he promised before he could think about it. He did not want to think about it.

Jack's shoulders sagged. He stared down at the gauges, but Dixon knew he wasn't seeing them. He was seeing Sydney and hints of her distress that he had missed. That they both had missed. Or maybe he was torturing himself with images that he had not seen but would never get out of his head. "Thank you," Jack said without looking at him.

Nodding, Dixon opened the door of the sedan and stepped out into his yard. All up and down the street, kids' toys laid out in yards. It was one of the reasons why he loved this neighborhood so much. The children reminded him of the good in the world, even if there were never any quiet moments while the sun was up and school was out.

Living in this "typical" neighborhood reminded him why he did this job. A job where good people, friends, got hurt.

Dixon could only watch as Jack turned on his turn signal, slowly merged with traffic, and drove away.

***

The loud pounding woke Vaughn up from a deep sleep. The first descent sleep he had gotten in a month. Since he found out about Cairo. Woke him up on the one day he was going to go in late. The one day he could sleep in, was sleeping in, and some idiot was banging on his door. The pounding again reverberated through the apartment as Vaughn sat up. Or maybe his visitor was tying to knock the door down. At that moment, Vaughn didn't care. He just wanted the noise to stop.

He reached over to pick up the pair of jeans he'd tossed in the chair last night, and then decided against it. Whoever woke him up today deserved to see him looking like he had just woken up. Vaughn glanced in the mirror and saw that his early visitor would get an eyeful. The man looking back at him in the glass had blurry eyes, matted hair, a wrinkled t-shirt and twisted boxers.

He straightened his boxers as he walked--stumbled--to answer the door. If Weiss stood on the other side with a grin and a wisecrack, Vaughn knew he would have to kill him. He didn't even care of it was a real emergency. Then, sighing, Vaughn admitted that wasn't true. If she were in trouble, she would be worth no sleep, but she was okay. He knew it. She'd stayed home last night, lying to Sloane and even her father about a non-existent test.

He winced at the thought as he opened the door. She hated lying to Jack, but she told him telling her father the truth was even worse. Sometimes the truth hurts too much, she had said.

Vaughn froze for a second when he saw the man standing on his doorstep. Instead of the smiling face of Weiss, he found the cool, reserved face of Jack Bristow. Fortunately Jack did not wait for Vaughn to get out of his way; he slid past him into the tiny hallway that marked the entrance into the apartment. Fortunately because it took Vaughn a few seconds to react to the unexpected visit.

Closing the door, Vaughn remembered his first meeting with Jack. Vaughn had grown incredibly close to the wall in that restaurant in a short time. But Vaughn had grown used to Jack's attitude since then. Actually, he even admitted to respecting the man on most days. Jack had probably forgotten more about the business than Vaughn would ever know. And there was no doubt how much he loved his daughter. Not now. But when Vaughn had first met him . . ..

Caring for Sydney and desiring the destruction of SD-6 were probably the only two things they had in common, but it was enough. Enough for them to understand one another. Enough for them to respect each other. And enough for Vaughn to keep his mouth shut as Sydney lied to her father to protect Jack.

"Come on in, Jack. I'd offer to make you breakfast, but the only thing I have in my refrigerator is some Orange Juice that I think expired last year," Vaughn said. He couldn't decide whether to be amused or angry at the unexpected forced entry.

He'd never thought he'd ever Jack Bristow in his home. He was walking into the living room when his brain finally woke up. He spun on his heels to stare at the man stalking into the room behind him. "What the hell are you doing here? You could have been followed!"

Jack shook his head and walked past him. "No, I wasn't followed, Mister Vaughn. I made sure of that."

Vaughn ran his hand through his hair and wished he could have at least brushed his teeth first. It was too early for him to be talking to Jack. His brain needed some coffee and food first. Then he thought of the only reason Jack would take the huge risk of visiting his home. His stomach dropped, and he felt his knees weaken. "Is Sydney okay?"

Jack stared at him. The funny feeling in the pit of Vaughn's stomach grew. Had something happened? She was supposed to go out for a movie with Will and Francie last night, but accidents happened, even to agents. One of his first friends at the agency had died from a fall, a fall from his own roof. He'd been cleaning leaves out of the gutters. A stupid accident had brought down one of the best agents Vaughn had ever met.

"I haven't spoken to Sydney since we left the briefing yesterday," Jack finally said. Vaughn felt the air rush back into his body as he finally took a breath. "I've just gotten back from Vegas."

Vegas. Mark Harris. Careful, Vaughn, careful. "Yeah, I know," he said with a nod. He sat down on his sofa and motioned for Jack to sit in the overstuffed chair across from him. Jack remained standing. "Sydney told me about the assignment. Said she had to study and that you were going to do it for her. A really easy one, she said. Dixon had all the work hacking into the hotels' security she said."

Jack crossed his arms and Vaughn felt beads of sweat starting to pop out on his forehead. "Yes, Mister Vaughn, my daughter has said a lot. That's why I'm here. I want to hear what she said to you about Cairo."

Vaughn stood up and moved towards his kitchen. "You sure I can't get you anything to drink? My coffee pot should have finished brewing by now. I didn't think to reset the timer last night--I'm usually up and getting ready by now, but I was going to sleep in."

Jack followed him into the kitchen and then leaned against the doorjamb. "Perhaps you didn't hear me, Vaughn. I said I wanted to know what Sydney told you about Cairo."

His heart clenched in his chest. He knew. Jack knew, and he had come to Vaughn to confirm it. But Vaughn understood why Sydney didn't want Jack to know. She'd rather have Sloane know about her decision in Cairo than Jack, and Sloane knowing it would devastate her. Vaughn could try to deceive Jack, and he would try.

But a part of him knew he would fail. Jack was a lot like Sydney when it came to the truth. He had to hear it, no matter how much it hurt.

"There wasn't a whole lot she could say about it," he said. The truth. Stick as close to the truth as possible. What could she have said? What could anyone say? Vaughn had not found any words; instead, he'd spent over two hours on the firing range after he'd left her. Trying to spend the rage, the frustration, the pain. He'd failed there, too.

"She told me that K-Directorate had kidnapped you and two of your colleagues. They tried to exchange you for the Ramboldi book, said they would kill you all within 72 hours if SD-6 refused."

"Which, of course, they did," Jack said with an acceptance that both repelled and appealed to Vaughn. He wished he could accept everything in this business so easily. Or at least could appear to accept it so easily.

Vaughn nodded as he gulped his coffee. The liquid scalded his mouth and tongue, punishing him for beginning to tell something Sydney did not want him to tell. "And Sydney talked Sloane into sending her to try to extract you."

"He indulges her too much sometimes," Jack said, and Vaughn heard the steel in those words. He understood Sydney's anger and hatred of Sloane; he did not know why Jack felt the same way towards the man. He didn't have the courage to ask.

He turned and looked at Jack. "She saved you life."

Jack's jaw clenched and his hands trembled. Barely. A person who didn't know him, who hadn't been trained to pay attention, would not have even seen the small motions. Jack stood up straight and stared at Vaughn. "At what cost? What did she have to pay for my life?" The question was quiet but Vaughn heard the emotions screaming behind it.

Vaughn looked down at his coffee and felt like he was being sucked into a black void. His mind even provided the brief flash of a tiny version of himself drowning in that cup of coffee. "She said that she managed to get Mark Harris, a small times arm dealer that's moving up in the world, to tell her your location by offering an arms shipment. She managed to get you and your colleagues out with only a couple of hours to spare, and Sloane ordered the shipment sent to Harris the day after your return."

"And now he plans to steal them back. That way SD-6 is known for keeping it bargains, and, with stealth and subterfuge, SD-6 will get to keep its arms, too." Jack stood up from the door and walked farther into the kitchen. "And thank you for telling me what was in Sydney's reports, but I've already read them. Both of them. Now, I'd like hear what she told you about what really happened in Cairo."

Knowing that there was no way out of telling him, Vaughn took a deep breath and told Jack what he already knew.

End 1/2