Kat Scratch Fever
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Hardest Thing

Author: Angelbleu
Rating: PG13
 
Part One - Sydney's POV

I can't believe it's finally over. I dreamed and prayed that this day would come. Now that it's here, it somehow feels different. Not in a bad way. Not in a good way either. I can't put my finger on it. I am reminded of that little yellow bird outside my window. I remember that day he was old enough to be out of his nest. His first breath of freedom to fly away, but he is motionless. Not yet ready to jump and taste the fresh air.

This must be the period of limbo right after one chapter of my life ends but before the next begins when everything stands still. I spent over a decade with SD-6. After that long a time, it is only natural to forget my life had been anything else. Francie was right I guess. My work was my life. My life was my work. But I had good reason to work so hard. Before I found out about SD-6's true nature, I worked because it was a savoir. I was lost at nineteen. There had been no one in my life to guide me. Sloane offered me a purpose. I, Sydney Bristow, was fighting for my country. For the better of millions of men, women and children. Sacrificing personal freedoms seemed all worth it. But some things should never be sacrificed. Whoever said "above all else, there is love" was right. I don't know how I could have gotten through these years after I learned the truth without him. Our paths were bound to meet and cross. And now that everything else was over, we can continue down the same path . . .together.

We had already started working on building that path for a few months now. The timing couldn't have been better. I think I might go insane if I had to keep everything hidden inside for any longer. I haven't seen him yet since the take-down. We decided that once everything was settled and calm, we'd meet back at where everything began. Our secret meeting place. The image of the two of us leaving the warehouse today hand in hand out into the sunlight is all I can think about.

I hear the shuffle of his footsteps coming closer. My heart beats faster in excitement. He suddenly stops. I turn around quickly to see that he is still ten feet away and doesn't have plans to move any closer. I see now. He wants me to be the one to come charging at him with open arms. My head says, why should I be the one to initiate everything? But I can't control my legs. It is simply impossible for me to hold back when all I want to do is fling my arms around his neck and never let go. It takes a few strides and without even looking, I wrap any arms around him and I feel the onset of tears. We had waited so long. Too long. I hold on tighter and tighter and bring my head closer and closer to his neck. Taking him all in.

Then I realize that he is still. He doesn't have his arms around my waist. They are dangling by his side. He doesn't move his head to be closer to mine. He stands upright and stiff. He is playing some joke I'm sure. In the next moment, he'll snap out of it. I just know it. I hold on tighter dismissing his behavior. It's just all too much to feel. People have different ways of expressing themselves. I happen to be a person who wants to let everything out all at once. Maybe he's different. My smile slowly fades as there is still no response from him.

" What's wrong?" I whisper into his ear.

He takes my arms off his neck and gives me a little push. Away from him.

" Vaughn . . ." I say his name slowly in confusion.

As if settling me a little away from him isn't enough. He takes another step backwards.

" What's going on?" my voice cracks a little.

He stares at the floor and gives a big sigh. " Agent Bristow. All the files have been compl . . ."

" What did you call me?" I ask in bewilderment. I must have heard wrong. He never calls me with such formality. Not even when we were still strangers. And we have come a long way since then.

" I said Agent Bristow . . ." he continues again.

I shake my head uncontrollably. Who is this person and what have they done with my Vaughn?

" I heard you. I want to know why you are calling me that."

" It is your name," he states as if I were stupid.

" Not to you. Maybe to Devlin or Kendall. But not to you." Snap out of it Vaughn! He is scaring me.

" That's where you're wrong. You should have always been just Agent Bristow to me. There is standard protocol." The rules? Why is he talking about the rules now? I am quitting the CIA in a few days and he decides to follow the rules now?

" Don't you think it's a little too late for that?" my tone is urgent. How could he turn this day, the first day of my life with happiness, into this?

" It's never too late." He says coolly.

" Vaughn . . .I don't know what you're doing. But stop it. You're scaring me." I take a step closer to him. He takes another step back. Is he doing this to intentionally make me mad?

" I just came here to tell you that all the papers have been prepared and ready for your signing."

" I don't want to know why you are here for business. I want to know why you are acting this way. Like you don't even know me." I feel the tears coming back to my eyes.

" Maybe I finally realized that I don't know you. And you don't know me either." I gape my mouth open. This can't be happening.

" After all we shared? . . .we still don't know each other?" What is he saying? Does he even know the words that are coming out of his mouth?

" That's right. You may think you know. But you really don't. How much do you think we shared?" his voice wavers a little.

" Everything!" I shout. I can't believe he is asking that. " I shared with you . . .my worries, my fears, my hopes, my mind, . . ." My mouth feels dry as I keep on listing. All he does is stare at the floor without any expression. " my heart . . .my body . . .my love . . ." All the frustration, anger, and shock can't be contained any longer. My shoulders heave up and down as I bring my hands up to cover my face. All I want is to clear my reeling mind.

" Vaughn . . ." I say with a shaky voice. " You can't tell me I'm making those things up."

After a long silence, he answers in a calm voice. " Maybe you think you feel that way. But you don't really know that I feel the same way."

I feel like someone jabbed me in the stomach with a knife. " I know!" I say as a matter of factly. I do know. There is no way he can say I don't mean anything to him. His actions have said it all.

" I know you love me."

" Maybe I don't." he spits out quickly.

" You do." I am not in denial. He does. Right now my head is not sure what he is up to, but my heart knows.

" How can you be so sure?"

" Because you told me. Many times. Many places. Here in fact. Against that table," I point to the desk in the corner. " And over there," I spin around to show him the fenced walls. "There is no way you could have been lying. It was real. I was there when you called out my name with desire and passion . . . "

" Desire! That's right. You said it." He cries out to interrupt. " That's not the same as love," he says with a hint of disappointment.

" But then you held me afterwards. When all the heat subsided. What was left?." What about that mister? He can't deny the tenderness of love when all the desire passed. What was left WAS love.

" I am a man Sydney. I do have needs." He says slowly. Turning the knife in my stomach. He takes all the good out of what we did and is making it into something dirty. All the confusion and then hopelessness is now turning into anger and resentment.

" And you couldn't get it anywhere else?" I say through clenched teeth.

He sighs again condescendingly as if trying to explain a math problem to a dumb kid. I am waiting for a response. " I didn't need to. When you made it so easy," he finally lets it out.

It is like a reflex. My arm swings out leaving burns across his face. No one has ever made me feel like such a slut. It is a hundred times worse coming from him. He brings his hand up to his face and I just stare with sadness.

" Why are you doing this?" I ask in a pleading voice. Pleading with him to stop. I don't know this man in front of me. He is not Vaughn. Vaughn loves me.

" Sometimes the truth hurts." That was a low blow.

" That's not the truth. You're lying." I thought he was the one person that would never ever lie to me.

" I'm not." He says flatly.

" Yes you are. why?. You can't say you don't love me. I DARE you to say you don't love me." I fold my arms across my chest. He still has his hand cupping his jaw from my blow. He remains motionless.

Then slowly he opens his mouth. Bare audible, he says, " I don't love . . ." and he stops.

" You coward" I mouth because nothing comes out except a spit bubble. Then I regain my voice. Through the streaming tears, I say tensely. " You coward. You can't even look at me when you say it." He just sinks his head further down. " Look at me!" I yell. " And tell me that. Look into my eyes." He brings his face up to mine for the first time since he came in. My wild eyes are searching deep into his. Looking for that man. The one that would let me lean on him whenever I needed. The one that said sweet words every time we were together. I stare intensely into his stone cold green ones. I see them soften as I keep the penetration. Maybe he isn't really softening. I just can't see because my eyes are blurry with tears.

He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. There! I knew he couldn't do it. But why is he saying all these terrible things to me? To make me hate him? why? Why? WHY?!?

" I . . ." he swallows hard. But before he could utter another word, I rush over to him. My arms seem to have a mind of their own. Flailing everywhere. They start pounding on his chest. Grabbing at his shirt. Pulling, pushing, hitting. My whole body is shaking uncontrollably and my mouth rattles on. " Why?? Why are you doing this? You must love me. In everything you do. Why let me call you in the middle of the night? Why risk your life for me? Why help me and almost drown in Taipei? Why come to SD-6 to save them from Cole? Why help my mother.the one who killed your father?" I am soaking his dress shirt and my hands have now ripped off a few of his buttons. But I continue with my ranting. Through my sobs, I get in various words, " why? Why sneak around? Why make promises? Why do all those things if you don't love me?" He suddenly grabs my wrists and shakes me with force to snap me out. I let out a gasp.

" I may have loved you at one time." My whole body slumps down while he still clings on to my wrists tightly. At one time . . .at one time . . .he words circle in my head. Making me dizzy.

" Now it's different? Now we can finally be free to be together and you don't feel that way anymore?" He couldn't have led me on.

" Yes. I was stupid. I was captured by the thrill of sneaking around. The excitement of never being caught. But now, without that aspect . . .you have lost your appeal." He abruptly releases my arms.

" I've now found someone . . ." My mind goes blank. I don't want to hear it anymore. "And she satisfies me in . . .every . . .way." Make him stop. " She's always been there." Please stop. " She knows me. The real me." stop. Stop. Stop.

" Stop! STOP!" I quickly bring my hands to cover my ears and shake my head furiously. I let out a whimper. " Just tell me . . . so, all this time. All this time I thought I loved you and you loved me. It was all a lie? I was nothing to you except some cheap thrill? You used me??"

I am no longer confused. If he tells me honestly. Then it's all over. Everything. I hold my breath as I hope that there is still something. Something to bring the real Vaughn back. I want this monster to go away. It's not him. It can't be. Just one glimmer of hope. That's all I need.

" I had to make you think I loved you. Why else would you work so hard to bring down SD-6? The better you performed out in the field, the better praise I got back in the office. You weren't just a thrill. You served me in other ways too."

I felt like screaming. Like waking up from this nightmare. I dig my nails into my arm to find that this is real. Everyone has used me. Sloane. My mother. My father. I never thought he would be one of those people. He said he was my ally. It was all lies. ALL LIES. How could I have been so blind? No more self-pity. Don't show him that you're broken. Don't give him the satisfaction.

I stand up and walk to the desk with the files that he had set on the table. I sit down with tears still streaming and sign. I grip the pen hard and keep on signing. Page after page after page. It is a huge pile. He just stands there watching. After it is all done, I stand up with the stack of papers in my arms. In one quick motion, I throw them forcefully to the floor. All the pages fly up in the air and float down scattered across the hard cement ground landing at his feet.

" There are your signed papers agent Vaughn. I'm done with the CIA and everyone in it. I don't know how I could have been so blinded by you. There must have been moments of truth, but I don't care anymore. Why should I care about someone who I hate? You're right. I don't know you at all." He looks almost prepared for what I was going to tell him and a little sad. Don't read anymore into it Sydney. He doesn't deserve it.

I have never hurt so much in my entire life. Every fiber of my being aches. I stride out of the warehouse into the sunlight . . .alone. Never looking back now. What happened to the Michael Vaughn that I loved? He couldn't have been all made up in my mind. Maybe he was. I thought the hardest thing was not being able to be with him. I now know that the hardest thing is letting him go.
 
Part Two - Vaughn's POV

I keep reminding myself to take deep breaths, as I am about to do the hardest thing I have ever had to do. This isn't the way I imagined Sydney Bristow and I to meet after the destruction of the Alliance. The end of SD- 6 was supposed to mark the beginning for us. A new beginning, in which we didn't have to ignore or hide our love for each other. I was not expecting this. It never even occurred in my mind that it had to end.

The last few months have been wonderful. Ever since I found out that my feelings were returned, I have been the happiest man alive. Sure, I was getting tired of not being able to take her out for dinner or kiss her in the park or introduce her to my mother, but those wishes didn't seem to matter because we were together. Despite not being able to show the world, all that was important was that we knew. Now was our chance to have more. At least I thought it was finally our chance. How could I have been so wrong? I am about to walk into our warehouse and kill that chance. I know that when we leave the warehouse and separate today, both of us will have left a part of our souls behind to be lost forever.

I suddenly stop at the door. My hands are shaking. I can't do this. I don't want to do this. Break her heart. But I know I have to. I contemplate turning around and leaving right this instant. But then I know she will come looking for me. She isn't one to give up without a fight. I can't leave this warehouse until I know one hundred percent that she has given up. In slow strides, I walk in.

My breath almost catches as I see her in a spring dress. She just seems to light up the whole dark warehouse. No, she makes the whole warehouse disappear. The black walls seem to be replaced by ocean tides. I can just picture her standing as she is on the beach with the wind through her hair. I blink twice to push aside the image and bring myself back to reality. I wonder why she chose not to wear a suit She does look amazing in that light blue flowing dress. I remember her saying once that when we were together, that whenever SD-6 was gone, she'd burn every single matching suit she owned. " When the day comes, I want never to have to wear suits in front of you again. No more reminders of being professional," she had said. Did she wear it for me? Hoping that I'd notice?

I carry the stack of papers from the office and set it quietly on the table. All the while, I never take my gaze away from her perfect figure. If I don't use every second to admire her right now, I will never have a chance to. Even though I want desperately to see her beautiful face, I can't help but hope she would just stay with her back turned a little longer. So I can just look a little longer. She senses my unwavering stare and spins around quickly.

She is full of smiles. Her eyes are sparkling and she is glowing all over. I didn't realize how much I had missed her these few days of nothing but paper work. Why does she have to be so God damn gorgeous? If only you were hideous Sydney Bristow. If even she was, everything else about her would make it not matter. Her smile is contagious. I feel the edges of my mouth curling unconsciously. Then I think about what will transpire between us, and my smile fades. I can't move anymore. My legs feel as if they are glued to the floor. In a way, this is good I guess. If I can't move over to her, I will be able to control the urge to take her into my arms.

She doesn't move either giving me a raised eyebrow in a playful manner. As if in slow motion, she takes a step closer. Then another. No, stop right there Sydney. Don't come any closer, I won't be able to take it. As her legs move faster and faster closing the gap between us, my body gets increasingly stiff. Before I could do anything, she flings her arms around my neck. I close my eyes and take in her scent while I try to keep from moving. She holds on tighter and all I want to do is collapse in her arms. I open my eyes and try to concentrate on a crack in the wall. This will help me remain unaffected by her closeness. Her grip relaxes a little and I hear her soft voice whisper, " What's wrong?"

Everything Sydney. I want to tell you, but I can't. I have to push her away. I move my arms up and reach behind to grab her wrists. I slowly remove her arms.

" Vaughn . . ." she questions slowly. God, why does she have to call my name? No matter how she says it, angrily, passionately, sincerely, my name has never sounded better coming from anyone else's lips. We're too close. I need to take a step back.

" What's going on?" she asks. I hear the crack in her voice and see the uncertainty in her eyes. Her eyes . . .deep, brown, and soulful.

I can't look at them. I quickly jerk my head down to stare at the floor. I can't keep dodging all her questions. How do I keep this about business? If she sees that I am all about business, maybe she'll believe that it was nothing more. I let a deep sigh as if preparing myself with the words that will be coming out of my mouth.

" Agent Bristow . . ." I force myself to say. It seems so unnatural. I have called her Agent Bristow once, the first day we met. Then it became Sydney. Then it was Syd. Then Sweetie. Honey. Baby. She was not Agent Bristow. Agent Bristow was reserved for her father. But I even call her father by his first name: Jack. " All the files have been compl . . ."

" What did you call me?" she interrupts with wide eyes. I guess she wouldn't buy it anyway. Oh well, I still have to play this game.

" I said Agent Bristow." I try again.

She shakes her head from side to side. She isn't going to let me get away with trying to be distant. " I heard you. I want to know why you are calling me that."

" It is your name," I say harshly. I hope this harsh tone will work.

" Not to you. Maybe to Devlin or Kendell. But not to you." I know. You don't have to convince me Syd. I know. But I have to convince you of the opposite.

" That's where you're wrong. You should have always been just Agent Bristow to me. There is standard protocol." I am a hypocrite. I usually try to take company protocol seriously, but I would gladly screw protocol for her. And I have many times.

" Don't you think it's a little too late for that?"

" It's never too late." I say coolly. It's not too late for you. I want to you be able to walk away from me.

" Vaughn . . .I don't know what you're doing. But stop it. You're scaring me," she takes a step closer. I take another step back. Like a dance. I'm sorry Sydney. I can't stand lying to you, but it's too late for me to back down now.

" I just came here to tell you that all the papers have been prepared and ready for your signing," I say returning to business. Let's keep this about business, and we'll both be okay.

" I don't want to know why you are here for business. I want to know why you are acting this way. Like you don't even know me," she says with resentment.

" Maybe I finally realized that I don't know you. And you don't know me either." Every word out of my mouth comes back to punch me in the stomach. I can't even lie to strangers. I don't know how I am not letting her see right through me.

" After all we shared? . . .we still don't know each other?" she says skeptically. She is not stupid. She's going to see through me. I need a new tactic. There is no way we can stay on the topic of business. If I try to make her think she never really loved me . . .

" That's right. You may think you know. But you really don't. How much do you think we shared?" I almost couldn't control myself and let my voice waver. Questioning her feelings is like questioning her integrity.

" Everything!" she shouts and I am a little startled.

" I shared with you . . .my worries, my fears, my hopes, my mind, . . ." I hear her uncontrolled sobs as she lists. She has shared everything. She let me in like no one else. " my heart . . ." I close my eyes to squeeze the forming tear away. "my body . . ." Oh stop it Syd. Images of her beautiful curves invade my mind. "my love . . ." no more Syd. Stop listing. I can't take it. I can't look up. If I do, I will perish right this instant. Her words sting at my heart. The truth does hurt.

" Vaughn . . ." she says with a shaky voice. " You can't tell me I'm making those things up," she chokes on a tear.

I feel like shit. I don't deserve you Syd. My mind is still bombarded with her words. All she gave to me. All that I took from her only to throw it back in her face. She does love me and she knows it. Trying to convince her she doesn't would be pointless. What am I going to do? She is sure of her feelings. She can speak for herself. She can't speak for me though. After a long silence, I answer in a calm voice. " Maybe you think you feel that way. But you don't really know that I feel the same way."

" I know!" she says as a matter of factly. The way she sounded so sure makes me feel worse.

" I know you love me." I do.

" Maybe I don't." I spit out too quickly that it can't be the truth.

" You do." Yes! She has so much faith in me and I have to kill that faith. Make her turn that love into hate.

" How can you be so sure?" It's a lame attempt, but I must.

" Because you told me. Many times. Many places. Here in fact. Against that table," She points to the desk in the corner. I see images of us. I can feel her below me. No, I shake my head. Don't remind me. " And over there," She spins around gesturing to the fenced walls. I remember the feeling of her pressing my back against the fence. "There is no way you could have been lying. It was real." Images flash constantly. I feel my body getting hot all over. I need to breathe. "I was there when you called out my name with desire and passion . . ." I can hear my own voice calling her. Snap out of it Vaughn!

" Desire! That's right. You said it." I cry out to speak above the voices in my head. Our voices. The words I whispered in her ears. Her moans. Don't go there you idiot! "That's not the same as love," I let out cowardly.

" But then you held me afterwards. When all the heat subsided. What was left?" Don't ask me to answer that. I remember what it feels like to have her bare body resting against mine. I loved that feeling afterwards. Everything was perfect. We felt connected. Like all the spy stuff didn't matter. I knew she felt safe in my arms. And I liked the feeling of protecting her. I would never think to hurt her like this. Forgive me Sydney for what's next. It is the only way.

" I am a man Sydney. I do have needs." I say slowly. I bite my lower lip to feel the pain I know she feels.

" And you couldn't get it anywhere else?" she says through clenched teeth. I think I'm getting through. She is changing. I am slowly shredding all the hopes she had for us.

Just push it a little more. " I didn't need to. When you made it so easy."

Before I could hear my own words, I feel the force of her hand slap across my face. It burns. Thank you. I was beginning to think I couldn't feel anything anymore. I want her to hit me again. For every hurtful word I said. I can hear her silent tears as she stares at me.

" Why are you doing this?" she asks in a pleading voice. Why am I lying to you? Because I have to make you think I don't love you. So you can leave me. Why am I hurting you? Because you leave me no choice.

" Sometimes the truth hurts."

" That's not the truth. You're lying."

" I'm not." Why do you have to make this so hard?

" Yes you are. why?. You can't say you don't love me. I DARE you to say you don't love me." she folds her arms across her chest. Please Sydney. I beg you. Don't make this any harder. My eyes are now boring holes in the ground. Don't make me say it Syd. Please. I plead back.

Then slowly I open my dry mouth. " I don't love . . ." I can't say it. I love you so much and that's why I'm doing this. I feel like giving up. I thought loving you when I shouldn't was so hard. This is ten times worse. It's killing me to have to lie.

" You coward" I hear through the streaming tears. " You coward. You can't even look at me when you say it." I can't. I sink my head further down. Down. " Look at me!" she yells and I feel my heart pounding in my chest. " And tell me that. Look into my eyes." She demands. I am a coward. I can't bring my face to look at hers. I can't look at her hurt face and I know I was the cause.

I slowly bring my face up. My heart stops. Her eyes are busy. They are searching for the man she loves. I'm here Sydney. It's still me. You just can't know that. Her eyes are so powerful I feel weak in my legs. As desperately as I try, I know she's going to break me. I must look away. Her eyes won't let go of their penetration. She dares me to say it. To say I don't love her. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. " I ." I swallow down the lump.

But before I could utter another word, she is immediately in my face. Her arms go at me. Pounding. Grabbing. Hitting. I have never seen her like this. Like a mad woman. Yes Syd. Let it all out. Hit me. HIT ME! Let me feel your pain. Cry out if you want. And she does. Through her sobs, she lets out all her confusion. " Why?? Why are you doing this? You must love me. In everything you do. Why let me call you in the middle of the night? Why risk your life for me? Why help me and almost drown in Taipei? Why come to SD-6 to save them from Cole? Why help my mother.the one who killed your father?" I feel her tears through my shirt. The cold tears awaken me. They burn right through my shirt and sting my skin. I shut my eyes tightly together. Trying to block out all her words. All the reminders of why I love her. She continues, " why? Why sneak around? Why make promises? Why do all those things if you don't love me?" I want to just wrap my arms around. It would be so easy to just hold her like all the times before. No . . .It'll be better for her if this ends now. I suddenly grab her wrists. Return to normal Syd. I give her a shake.

It's over.

" I may have loved you at one time." I have to let you go.

" Now it's different . . .now we can finally be free to be together and you don't feel that way anymore?" she asks still hopeful. I felt the same way Syd. I thought it WAS finally our time. But I was wrong.

" Yes. I was stupid. I was captured by the thrill of sneaking around. The excitement of never being caught. But now, without that aspect.you have lost your appeal." The lies are flowing out now as long as I keep reminding myself why I am doing this. It's all for her.

" I've now found someone . . ." This has to make her believe it's over. "And she satisfies me in . . .every . . .way. She's always been there. She knows me. The real me." My mouth continues while my head is denying everything. Because there is no one. I will never find anyone like you. No one compares Syd. I will never love anyone else.

" Stop! STOP!" she cover her ears and shakes her head furiously. " Just tell me.so, all this time. All this time I thought I loved you and you loved me.it was all a lie? I was nothing to you except some cheap thrill? You used me??"

" I had to make you think I loved you. Why else would you work so hard to bring down SD-6? The better you performed out in the field, the better praise I got back in the office. You weren't just a thrill. You served me in other ways too." This is it. This has to work. Pretending to be professional didn't work. I couldn't convince her that she didn't love me. Telling her I didn't love her wasn't working. Making up a false woman hasn't turned down her hopes. But this is going to work. Sydney Bristow hates being used. She looks back at me. Emotionless. She's finally given up.

She walks to the desk with the files on top. What is she doing? I simply watch. It is like an eerie déjà vu. The first day we met. I was standing watching her as she wrote her statement. That day, I knew I would never be the same. But this time, instead of being the beginning. It is the end.

She stands up with the papers. And lets it all go. The papers fly up and then sink back down at my feet.

" There are your signed papers agent Vaughn. I'm done with the CIA and everyone in it. I don't know how I could have been so blinded by you. There must have been moments of truth, but I don't care anymore. Why should I care about someone who I hate? You're right. I don't know you at all." All that's left is sadness.

The warehouse echoes of her clicking heels. Sydney Bristow just walked out of my life. I will never see her again. The realization hits. She's gone. I turn around and stare the fenced walls. My hands stiffen in a fist. Then repeatedly, I smash it against the wall. Once. Twice. Did it have to end like this? Three times. You said you would never hurt her. Four. Five. Over and over. I want to scream. Harder and harder I punch. Then I stop and hang my head. I watch as the red blood drips from my knuckles and on to the papers on the floor.

Part Three
 
Seven months has passed. With every passing day, Sydney Bristow is learning to regain her life. She is trying to move on from the loss of a loved one. Michael Vaughn had died. In her mind and in her heart. It was only natural for her to go through the process of mourning. First it was denial. She would go to the places they had been and imagine that he would come. It didn't make sense to her that first month. She was still trying to figure it out. According to her IQ, she is supposed to be great at solving problems. But she couldn't figure out why things had ended that way.

Then came anger. Angry at herself for being so stupid. She had on several occasions lashed out unintentionally at her friends. They didn't know what to do with her. Just tried to stay out of her way. But mostly, she was mad at him. In fits of uncontrolled anger, she'd rip up the letters that he wrote to her and throw the picture frame against the wall. But afterwards, she'd always end up on the floor, sobbing over the frame and piecing the papers back together. She didn't have a picture of him. Wasn't allowed to. But it was good in a way because it helped the process.

After anger, she tried to bargain. She wanted him back. Sometimes she'd make herself believe that she would change everything if only he wanted her back. She could be that other woman. She knew she could. She'd go over how things could have gone wrong. If only she had seen it coming. But there was no way she could have. It was so abrupt. Like day and night. If only she could have prevented his change of heart. Not be too easy or desperate. When she finally realized she was not to blame, the worst stage hit.

Depression. Had she gone through this with Danny? She couldn't even remember. She doesn't remember this stage. The days seemed to all blend together. She didn't know if she was stuck in that trance for days or weeks. All she remembers is the empty feeling. And she never wants to go back to that dark place. With the help of her friends, came acceptance and moving on.

Sydney Bristow takes in the fresh morning air. Life IS beautiful. The sun is shining. The towering buildings of LA don't even seem menacing. There's something about today. It feels like the start. But of what? She smiles at the irony of her feeling. This is how she had imagined the end of SD-6 to feel like. Seven months late.

She as continues walking and enjoying the view around her. As she spots the building that has become familiar to her in the last month, her spirits lift even more. Then she sees someone walking towards her. It's okay, you can do this, she says to herself.

" Sydney! " the man calls out as he closes the gap between them. She tells herself to stay still as she watches him speed up almost to a jog to reach her. He brings his hand to catch his breath as he greets her. " Hi . . ."

" Hi Weiss," she answers politely and gives him a smile. This is awkward. She hasn't seen him since the take over at SD-6. Vaughn had always been the bridge between their friendship and now that he was gone, there is no link.

" How have you been? What are you doing here?" she asks all the normal questions to ease the awkwardness.

" uh. . .well every week . . .I come to visit my grandmother." He says as he points his thumb to the building behind them. He is sweating bullets at the uncomfortable situation.

" That's nice."

" um." Weiss is not helping to ease the tension with all his um's and uh's. " How have YOU been?" he finally gets the courage to ask. He smiles back in a concerned manner. She wants to tell him that she's all right and that he doesn't need to look at her like a fragile piece of China.

" I've been good," she nods her response because she really feels it. The last month has been good for her. It has. Almost back to the way things were, but not exactly. There will always be a piece missing.

" That's great Sydney. I know how you and . . ."

" How's work?" she quickly cuts him off. She didn't even realize that she couldn't talk about what happened.

" It's going smoothly. I'm still a desk jockey. That bullet in the neck years ago really did it for me with the field work. But I'm handling a double now. It's tough."

Sydney looks down at the floor. He sees that she hasn't moved on as easily as she made it seem. " Yeah . . .it is." She says quietly. Then she lifts her head up. " But I'm sure you can . . .handle . . .it." And gives a little chuckle. " I'm sorry. That was terrible," she brings her hand to cover her face.

" No! that was good." He laughs with her.

" How's . . .uh . . .everyone at the office?" she can't believe she just asked that. Now the awkwardness is back.

" Everyone is good except for one person. Not job related. " She starts to bite the corner of her lower lip.

" Everything isn't all good with that person and the girl of his dreams?" She should have more self control, but she doesn't care. She still has a little bit of the left over anger. But she quickly apologizes. " I'm sorry Weiss. That was not called for."

" Sydney, you can call me Eric. And I understand. But you should know that he isn't with the girl of his dreams."

Sydney's heart flutters a little. No. He can't have this effect on you, she tells herself. He broke your heart. She shouldn't care anymore. She doesn't.

" He actually isn't . . ." Weiss continues.

" You know what? I don't care how he is."

" But Sydney, you should know . . ."

" No!" she holds up her hand to stop him. She doesn't want to hear anymore about how he is. What his problems are with his girlfriend. She just can't do it.

" Look Eric, I want us to be on good terms. As friends. And if this conversation continues down the path its going, I don't see that happening." She says sincerely.

" Okay." He nods. He understands she's not ready. And it isn't even his place to tell her. But he can't stand what's going on between these two. It is obvious that they love each other. Vaughn is stupid for pushing her away. And now, even if he wants her back, she is clearly trying to move on.

" I have to go. It was nice seeing you Eric."

" Yeah, you too. And Syd?" She lifts her head to look at him. " You're really okay?"

" Yes. I am keeping myself busy with things that are important now. Thanks. See you." She smiles and waves as she walks away.

That's right. She has been coming to this building for three days a week. This is the first time she has come on a Sunday though. When she and Danny were going out, she'd come by the hospital often to meet with him on lunch breaks. Since Danny died, she had stopped coming. Then one day two months ago, she saw one of the ladies at the desk in a supermarket. She had invited her to volunteer if she had the time. She returned home that night with a new-found hope. She has always been a compassionate person and it will do her good to do something useful again.

" Hey Sydney," a young nurse at the desk on the fourth floor greets her. " You're getting to be a real regular around here."

" Hi Julie," Sydney smiles back. " What shall I start with today?"

" Well, Sunday is flowers day." She points to a cart with three boxes of blooming flowers. Roses, daisies, violets, tulips. Sydney's eyes light up at seeing the beautiful colors. " You can go to each of the rooms and take out the wilting ones from last week and put the fresh ones in. Be creative with your arrangement. Our patients like it better that way." She gives her a wink. Sydney likes Julie. She is a just an upbeat person. Being around sick people has made her shine brighter.

Sydney pushes the cart down the hallway. The fourth floor is one where patients stay for various things. Everyone is here. Little kids. Old grandfathers. People who need to stay for awhile. She quickly makes her way down and stops at the last one. She gets a funny feeling in her stomach. She looks up and sees the number on the door: 470. She lets out a sigh, that's what it is. Gosh, that stupid number. It always gives her the creeps. She tells herself to ease away the feeling in her stomach. "Your being silly," she thinks to herself. " It's not like Rambaldi is going to be lying on the bed in this room." Even so, she slowly and carefully pushes the door open.

This is weird. The curtain is pulled across to hide the bed. She guesses that no one is here and that is an indication. Sydney contemplates not putting flowers in this room, but then looks our at the corner with the sagging flowers. They just look so pathetic that she decides to arrange the flowers for this empty room as well.

She slowly takes the half crumpled ones out and lays them on the small counter. She takes the big sunflower and places it in the vase first. As she picks up the rose to admire it, she hears something.

The groan almost scares her half to death and she jumps up a little. Why is she so jittery? As the sound of a man groaning again, she realizes that there is someone in here. Why do they have the curtains up if someone is here? There must be a reason, so she puts the question aside and continue with her flower arrangement.

The person mumbles something and her ears perk up.

" Sorry . . ." the voice says groggily. Sydney holds her breath in anticipation of what's next. Should she call someone? Maybe this person needs help. But it doesn't sound like he's awake.

" I didn't mean to . . ." it continues softly. She doesn't know what takes over, but she starts to slowly walk towards the curtain.

With every step closer, she hears him better.

" So sorry . . ." he says out of breath. " to hurt you . . ."

She lets out a gasp as she recognizes the voice. Could it? No, she shakes the thought away. She thinks to herself, "You were just talking to Weiss and that's why you think you see and hear him everywhere." This happened to her before. Sometimes when she gets extremely lonely, she sees him. But it becomes so much harder when she realizes that he isn't there at all. But it sounds so much like him.

She is only inches from the bed.

" I didn't mean to . . .forgive me"

Sydney brings her shaky hands up to the edge of the curtain. Her heart is beating faster and faster to the point where she can hear it in her ears. Her cheeks are burning up but her hands are ice cold. She grabs onto the cloth and slowly moves it to the left. She sees the end of the bed. . .

" Sydney!" A high pitched voice from the door forces her to let go and spin around. She grabs at her chest to see the head nurse. She is now breathing heavily.

" I need your help really quickly on the second floor." The head nurse calls out gesturing for her to come with her.

" uh sure," her voice cracks. And she clears her throat but follows out the door. When she is halfway out, she turns to give a glance back at the foot of the bed, which she had exposed.

There was a major spill on the second floor. All the nurses had to tend to some patients, so the volunteers were ordered to clean up. The whole time Sydney's body was mindlessly mopping and wiping, she could think of nothing else but who was in room 470. She repeatedly tells herself that it can't be. Can't be him. Can't be. But whoever it is, she is intrigued. She works faster and faster furiously cleaning up so she could return back to the fourth floor. Once she is done, her legs carry her quickly. She contemplates using the elevator, but the stairs would be quicker. She practically sprints up the stairs and rushes past the front desk to barely hear Julie's " Hey, you're back."

She freezes at the door and stares at: 470. This can't be a coincidence. She walks right in and grabs the curtain. Flings it open and gasps.

It is empty. The bed is empty. No, no. Someone was here. She couldn't have dreamed up the voice. She is not going crazy. Or is she? She wants to break down right there, but this isn't the place. She rushes out of the room and down the hallway.

Slightly out a breath and light-headed, she hovers over the front desk. Julie just stares at her in confusion.

" Sydney, are you okay?"

She takes a deep breath. " Was there a patient in room 470?" she lets out in a frustrated tone.

Julie nods her head slowly. " Yeah. But they just had to take him down to another floor."

Sydney almost collapses from relief. So she wasn't going crazy. " Why?"

" He was getting a little delirious and saying things so they took him for more tests."

" What was he saying?" she asks urgently.

" Um, something about being sorry and hurting someone he loves. What's going on? "

" Do you know who the patient was?" Sydney's hands are taping on the desk. Her eyes are frantic and her head is dizzy. " Julie!"

Julie is startled by her outburst. " I . . .I don't know. He came to our floor two days ago when I wasn't here and they just took his file when they carried him out a few minutes ago . . . I don't know anything."

Sydney closes her eyes in disappointment. Now she'll never know. She brings her hand to rub her face. She needs to go home and take a cold shower.

" I can't stay any longer today," she says sadly as she walks towards the elevator.

" Hey Syd," Julie calls when as she takes a few steps away. " Getting attached to some of the patients here? It happens . . ."
 
Part Four

Sydney stares at her clothing selection inside the closet and sighs. Why is it so difficult to simply pick out something to wear? It is not like she is going anywhere special this Sunday; she is just going to the hospital again. That funny feeling is back from that Sunday, the day with that mystery patient. Her fingers quickly stream down all the hanging dresses and shirts. Too fancy. Too boring. Too green. She can't believe she had even bothered to buy these. Too eighties.

" Oh forget this!" she huffs and slumps on the bed with nothing but her bra and pajama bottoms.

" Forget what?" Francie pops her head in from the door-frame.

" Clothes!" she flops back onto her pillow in frustration.

Francie gives her an amused look as if she were crazy.

" How did you ever let me buy this?" Sydney exhibits a puffy sleeved peach- colored blouse.

" Are you okay Syd?" Francie asks in a concerned manner.

" Yes . . .but my clothes are not okay. I don't know. Nothing is right." Sydney knows how much she sounds like a teenager.

" Right for what? Where are you going that needs." Francie uses finger quotes: the right clothes.

" No where," she whispers in embarrassment.

" Maybe the better question is who will be seeing you in these right clothes?" She gives Sydney a sly smile. Now Francie is intrigued.

" No one," she denies flatly. Francie displays an unconvinced expression.

" Seriously," Sydney states rather sadly. " There's no one. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time with this today."

Francie is a little worried about her friend. She doesn't know what happened months ago that changed Sydney. She figured that if she wanted to say something, she would have. The last two months, Francie was beginning to see her old best friend again. But what is it with today?

" Maybe I can help," Francie marches to the closet. " But you have promise to wear whatever I pick because you are never going to get out at your pace . . ."

Sydney is quite relieved. She doesn't care what Francie picks out, she just wants something so she can get to the hospital as soon as possible. She lets out a giggle as Francie examines every piece of clothing carefully. How did she get such a great friend? All of a sudden, her thoughts are interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.

Sydney reaches over the nightstand to bring the cordless phone to her ear. "Hello?"

Silence on the other end.

" Hello?" she tries again. And a third time. She hears heavy breathing and then a click. She blinks rapidly and thinks who it might have been. Before she could contemplate the worse, Francie's cheerful voice interrupts.

" Okay, I found it. The right dress for today. . ." Francie says proudly as she holds it up.

Sydney turns around and her smile quickly freezes into a blank stare. It was that blue dress. The one she wore that awful day. Her whole heart sinks to the pit of her stomach.

" I thought I burned that." She begins to shake her head.

" But you look beautiful in it."

" Anything but that one."

" Syd, you promised," Francie will not let her get out of a promise. " You can't go out in whatever you have on now. Just try it."

Sydney's eyes travel down the dress and his voice comes into her head. Cruel, hurtful words. " you made it so easy.you weren't just a thrill.you served me in other ways." Her breathing becomes heavier as she tries to control her emotions. Stop. She can't let him get to her like this. Why should she be afraid to wear that dress? Because of him? No! She's not going to let him dictate anything she does anymore. She's going to wear that dress and be happy wearing it!

She forcefully grabs the dress from Francie's grasp and puts it on in one swift move.

As she elevator door opens to the fourth floor, she takes one more look down at her dress. It feels peculiarly right. She smiles at the irony. How did Francie pick this one? She passes the front desk and sees Julie staring at her with the same look Francie.

" What . . ." she asks in wonder.

Julie gives her a cryptic smile. " Guess who's back?"

" Who?"

" Room 470." Sydney feels her heart skip a beat.
 
Part Five

The mystery patient is back. Sydney's hand grabs the edge of the counter for support. She couldn't believe her ears. For some strange reason in the past two weeks, her mind would unconsciously drift towards wondering about him.

" Sydney?" Julie waves her hand across the blank stare on her friend's face. " I thought you'd be thrilled by that news. I told the other girls to hold off on supplying the medicine cabinet for that room. I thought you might want to be the one to . . ." Julie's words slow to a halt.

Sydney remains speechless. Now is her chance to find out who he is, and she is terrified. Her stomach feels like it is twisted in knots. Her palms are claming up, and she is having trouble breathing.

This isn't the reaction from Sydney that Julie had intended. After seeing Sydney's out of character behavior last time, Julie was positive that Sydney had grown attached to that patient. Now, she is not so sure.

" I'm sorry Syd. I just thought . . ."

Sydney snaps out of her worries and says, " oh. It's okay."

" I can have some one else go instead," Julie quickly adds.

" No," Sydney wants to do this. She needs to go or else she won't be able to sleep for the next few nights. Secretly, this is what she has been hoping for anyway. " You're right about me. I would like to see the patient in room 470." She gives Julie a big smile and turns to grab the box of medical supplies.

As she carries the box with one arm, her other hand nervously goes to smooth her hair. She doesn't understand why she is so self-conscious about how she looks all of a sudden. It feels like the nerves of meeting a blind date. Why are they mysteriously surfacing now?

As she nears the end of the hallway, she sees that most of the doors are open except for the last room. " Oh no," she thinks. " What if he's sleeping?" She quickly alters her hurried scurry to a slower and softer pace so she barely makes a sound.

She settles the box on the side of her hip as she turns the door-knob. As she opens the door just a crack, she hears the muffled voices of a conversation. Sydney makes two quick mental notes: one, he is awake, and two, he has a visitor. She holds her breath and after a moment of hesitation to turn around, she decides to proceed in. Slowly and carefully, she makes her way in. This is one time when she's grateful for her spy skills to get into a room undetected. She lifts her head up to see the curtain barrier again. She sees the shadows of two men on the curtain and hears the familiarity of their speech.

" At least you look a little better than the last time I saw you," the man sitting in the chair comments. Sydney Bristow can not believe it. It is a voice that she heard two weeks ago outside this very hospital. It is Weiss! Sydney holds her breath and her free hand shoots to cover her mouth to silence her oncoming gasp. So Weiss is here visiting this person.

" Yeah. I feel better," then she hears the other voice. Sydney shakes her head from side to side. So she had been right the other day. It WAS him. He was the one calling out. So many questions swarm her head. What's going on? Why is he here? She stubbornly refrains from letting her mind go to the obvious.that they are in a hospital.

" I think this place is much better than all the other rooms," Weiss gets up from his chair and walks towards the window. He plays with the shutters as he peers outside down the street. " A nice view from here too. Don't you think?"

" I haven't actually gotten the chance to look. The new medication they gave me was not working that well . . ." he slows down and releases a heavy sigh. He sounds tired.

" Yeah. I heard that after my visit, they had to take to you down to another floor."

" I was . . .apparently delirious and saying all sorts of things." Weiss glances back at his friend with a worried expression. He knows perfectly well that there are certain top secret information that can't be leaked.

" Don't worry. I think they just dismissed whatever I said as.delusional crazy patient talk." Vaughn thinks back to that day. The morning started out fine. Weiss had left just as he a nurse came in with the new medication. It made him extremely drowsy. It made him feel as if his whole head was in a tank of water. He was drifting away. It felt like sleep, but it wasn't.

Vaughn lets out a chuckle as he remembers seeing her in that "sleeping" state.

" What's so funny?" Weiss finally notices Vaughn's change of mood.

" Nothing. It's just that in my state of delusion, I thought I saw her." They both know of whom he refers. They have stopped using her name in conversation because they know it is hard on him.

" That girl of your dreams?"

Everything seems to spin into slow motion as Sydney listens closely. She isn't aware of who they are talking about. She doesn't know if she wants to hear anymore. Even after these months of mourning her loss of Vaughn, it still bothers her that he might be with someone else. Though it pains her, she wants to listen to them continue.

Vaughn almost smiles, but quickly chokes it back. He turns his head away from Weiss by the window and stares at the curtain that is a barrier down the middle of his room.

" Don't laugh, but I think I felt her presence that day," Vaughn talks sadly to the curtain.

His hard gaze wants to penetrate through to the other side, but the sun shines so brightly onto the curtain that he can't. But she can see his shadow, and she feels his eyes on her even if he isn't aware. The sensation scares her. She carefully take a few steps backwards until her back just barely brushes the wall.

" And today it's the same way," he sighs as he runs his hand through his hair. " I woke up and felt as if I just had to hear her voice. So I . . ."

" You didn't," Weiss couldn't believe it. He walks to the nightstand by Vaughn's bed and takes the phone that he left on the table when he went out for coffee. " You called her with my phone?"

Vaughn looks down at his hands and nods his head. " But I hung up really quickly. I don't know what came over me."

Sydney gets a flash from this morning when she and Francie were picking out clothes. The phone rang, but there was no one on the other end. Could it be? Sydney reaches to steady herself against the wall.

" I haven't had the urge to do that in awhile."

" You mean you've called her other times before?" Weiss is surprised by Vaughn's confession. Vaughn had always refused to let Weiss call Sydney for him.

" No. I haven't." Vaughn is quick to respond. " But it was real hard right after things ended. When it got to the point when I couldn't take it anymore, I'd try to think where I might find her."

Weiss looks sympathetically at his friend. If only Vaughn wasn't so adamant about keeping her away, he might get his happiness back.

" And I'd go in search of her. I would watch from afar as she ran in the park or sat at the train station or . . ."

Sydney feels her heart beat faster as she comes to the realization that he's talking about her. She blocks his voice out as she tilts her head to rest against the wall. Her insides are churning as she thinks back on those days when she swore she felt him near. So she wasn't going crazy then! She had blamed herself for all those times she wanted to pull her hair out because she thought he saw him but when she looked again, he quickly disappeared. She remembers crying those nights she felt so alone after those episodes. And all this time, he had been there!

Weiss's voice brings her back. " Why did you torture yourself like that man?"

All Vaughn can do is give him shrugged shoulders. He doesn't even know why. Sometimes he wished he never acted so cruel that day at the warehouse. Sure there were days when he wanted to tell her and explain, but then he remembers why he's doing all this. It is for her happiness. When his condition got worse and he had to be admitted, that was the day he swore he couldn't go back.

" I saw her the other day . . .uh . . .as I was coming out of the hospital," Weiss closes his eyes waiting for Vaughn's outburst.

" What?!" Vaughn's breath catches and his shoulders heave with the coming of a coughing fit. Sydney watches intensely through the curtain as Weiss rushes to Vaughn's side. Vaughn holds out his hand to signal that he's okay. He takes a deep breath and continues his outburst, " What? She can't know!"

Weiss feels his forehead for perspiration. " Calm down. I told her I was visiting my grandmother."

Vaughn relaxes a bit and sinks into his pillow. " I'm sorry I jumped at you. I get a little . . ." Vaughn squeezes his eyes shut and flops his arms down on the bed in exasperation.

"Crazy when it comes to her?" Weiss finishes his sentence for him.

Vaughn looks up at his best friend questioningly and finally ask, " How is she?"

" She says she's fine. But I could tell she isn't the same as she used to be." This hurts Vaughn. He never wanted her to change.

Weiss continues, " We got on the topic of you and she didn't want to hear it."

" Good," Vaughn says quietly.

" Good? No! I told her that you weren't doing well because you weren't with the one you want to be with."

Now Vaughn returns to a state of frustration. " Why did you say that?"

" Because it's the truth!" Weiss yells back at him. He is tired of seeing his friend so miserable. He wants to shout at Vaughn to wake up and stop pushing Sydney away. " I don't know why you insist on pretending there is another woman when there ISN'T!"

Sydney clutches box she hands in her hands tighter and tighter.

" She has to THINK there is."

" Why man why?" Weiss gives him a confused face

Sydney wants to ask the same thing. Why Vaughn? If there is no other woman, then why?

" Because . . .that's the only way she'll move on," Vaughn swallows the lump in his throat and wishes the pain in his heart would just go away.

Weiss looks at his pitiful friend. " Is that what you really want?"

Vaughn grabs the sheet in between his hand and twists it around in his hand. " As hard as it is, yeah. I want her to be happy."

" She isn't happy now!"

" She will be," Vaughn is sure of it. " She has so much to give."

Sydney feels the tears well up in her eyes as she listens to him.

" Maybe you could set her up with someone . . ." Weiss is bewildered. This is crazy talk.

" Do you hear yourself?" he wants to go and smack some sense into Vaughn.

" Yes I do," Vaughn says in despair. " I don't know how well she's meeting people. And if you approve of a guy, then that's . . ."

" Then that's what? Wonderful? Perfect? What if you get better? Do you still want her to be with someone else?"

Vaughn is silent. He had already given up so much hope of him getting better.

" Vaughn! You know it's going to be too late when you get better."

" I don't know if I'll get better . . ."

" I think she can help you . . .if you tell her."

"NO!" Vaughn yells. " No. I don't want her to see me like this. To have to come to this place every day. To go home alone every night. To worry about when it will be it for me. And all for what?? For what? No. I can't do that. "

Sydney feels like she can't breathe. Her knuckles are white from her clutching the box. Her knees feel like giving out and her fingers slowly lose sensation. The box slips from her grasp and crashes to the floor.

" Nurse? Are you okay?" Vaughn calls out. Weiss quickly grabs the end of the curtain and pushes it aside. Vaughn and Weiss turn their heads to see. All three people in the room say nothing.

The room is silent.

Weiss is speechless. " I . . .I'm going . . .I . . ." he stutters. He sees that no one is paying attention to him and walks to the door.

Vaughn almost passes out at the sight of Sydney, looking exactly the way she did that day at the warehouse in her blue dress. Sydney stares at him with a blank expression as she lets the tear roll down her cheek.

Sydney opens her mouth and nothing comes out.

She tries again. " You . . ." She says in a shaky voice.

He can't stand to see her like this and turns his head to look at the window. He closes his eyes wishing that she would disappear. He bites his lip as he hears her voice again.

" You. . .Jerk. . ."
 
Part Six

The words sting so much that he almost flinches. They both weren't expecting that reaction from her. All her emotions are jumbled to a point where she can't even think straight.

" You . . . hypocrite . . ." she continues.

" You . . .liar . . ." Never in a million years did she ever think she would say those words to him. Even on that awful day at the warehouse, she never called him any names. It was just numbness that took over.

" Do you know what you put me through?" her voice raises in anger. " Do you know how low I had sunken?" her shoulders rise and fall with every difficult breath. " Do you know how many times I thought I was going insane?" Her fingernails dig into the palm of her hand as her fist clenches harder. Her voice cracks as she sees images of her pitiful self these past few months.

" Do you?" she cries out and unconsciously takes a step closer to his bed. He remains silent. With every word that comes out of her mouth, he feels a wave of nausea. But strangely he wants her to continue even if it is painful. He wishes that every word were in fact a knife, so he could be shredded into pieces. It's what he deserves. He never wanted her to hurt her like he did.

" I felt like I lost everything. EVERYTHING." Her eyes well up with tears. With all her will, she holds them in. She will not let them fall as she takes another step.

He keeps his head turned away from her and keeps silent. He senses her getting closer and closer.

"No one hurt me like you did," she stops to let her words sink in and then she adds on sadly, " on purpose." The room starts to spin again. To steady herself, her hand grabs on to the edge of the bed.

" I thought the Michael Vaughn I knew.had died." Her voice suddenly turns into a whisper. "In my heart, you were . . . . . .dead." Though barely audible, the word rings loudly in his ears piercing right through to his heart. Death has become so real to him now.

As the last word leaves her mouth, he releases his firm grip on the blanket to reach out for her hand, but his body fails him.

Through her blurred vision, she sees his body sink down in slow motion. For the first time, she is aware of his condition. Even though she heard him and Weiss talk, she never fully registered the possibility that something was wrong with him. She sees the color on his face turn pale and she gasps. He is unresponsive when she cries out his name. When she grabs for his hands, they are cold as ice. Panic sets in. Her heart pounds against her chest and even the air in her lungs feels as if it is suffocating her. As fast as her legs could carry her, she runs out of the room in search of help. All the while, her mind keeps saying one thing, " This is what he was protecting you from . . .
 
Last Part

Sydney Bristow sits in the shadow of a corner and stares into space. How can anyone go through so many feelings in such a short span of time? This morning, she had felt that something was off. Something was going to happen. There was a reason that she came to this room.the one that he would be in.

I know that we'll meet again

Fate has a place and time

She's all cried out. She thinks back to that day. Every second is etched in her memory forever. His hurtful words. How he kept distancing himself from her. That wasn't him. It wasn't him at all. If only she had been more observant.she would have seen it. Through the false words, she could have seen his struggle. The way he wouldn't look at her. The empty and helpless expressions on his face. The way he let her explode into his arms. The crack in his voice when she dared him to tell her he didn't love her. The whole time he had been pretending. How could she have missed it?

Her eyes search the room and see the wilting flowers from the last time she was here. She tilts her head and notices that the vase is only half filled. She had never finished putting all the flowers in. His groaning and soft pleading had made her body freeze that day, and she never returned to room 470 until today. She swallows a lump in her throat as she imagined hearing his apologies from that morning. He was talking to her. Unconsciously, he wanted to explain everything. But how could she have known? Sydney covers her face with her hands and lets out a regretful sigh. She feels her puffy eyelids throbbing against her fingertips.

Like Dr.Zhivago

All my love I'll be sending

And you will never know

The murmuring in her head slowly becomes louder. His voice seems to shift from echoes in the far distance into clearer groans coming from inside the room. Her eyes flutter open as she realizes that the sounds are actually real. They are coming from the opposite corner. After hours of agonizingly waiting, he is finally waking up. By slightly lifting the arms of the chair, she inches towards his bed. Quietly, she settles the chair down while keeping her eyes fixed on him the whole time. She sees his face change from one of peaceful sleep to one of anxiety as he regains consciousness. She's seen that familiar worried face of concern numerous times before.

As Vaughn slowly opens his eyes, they are greeted with a blurred image of his angel. He blinks a couple of times to make sure he's not dreaming. She is still there. Whenever he dreams of her, she is always smiling back at him. But this time, her face is sad. That rationalization tells him that this HAS to be real. After a long hesitation, he gets enough energy to ask.

" Do you hate me?"

She does not respond right away. With a sigh, she looks down at her fingers.

" Syd . . . " he calls out softly asking her to say something.

" You scared me," she whispers back equally as soft. " Again . . ."

" I'm sorry." They both look down at her trembling hands.

" I thought I lost you for real. And this time it was my fault," she admits sadly.

" What?! No," he is quick to tell her otherwise.

" If I hadn't gotten you all worked up, you wouldn't . . ."

He shakes his head fervently. "No. Don't say that. You didn't do anything. This . . ." He points around the hospital room. " All this . . ." He hits the side of the bed in frustration. " It wasn't in anyone's control."

" When did you find out?"

" Two days before we raided . . ." He stops to think of the irony.

" SD-6?" she finishes for him, and bites her bottom lip. " That's why you acted the way you did . . . " She lifts her head to look at him. She wants to see and hear the truth from him.

There is no use in denying the truth anymore. " I wanted . . ."

" To push me away?"

" I didn't think . . ."

"That I could handle it?" defensiveness in her tone. Even now, she can't help but interrupt him.

" No. I knew you could. I just didn't think you should have to." His words touch right through to her heart. Thank goodness she is already sitting because she feels her legs go weak.

" You always do that. You know?"

His eyebrows furrow to show that he doesn't know.

" You always try to make things easier for me. What about you?"

" What about me . . ." He has clearly never thought about himself in this whole ordeal. She has been and always will be top priority. These months have been hard, but what got him through was hoping that she'd move on.

So you can get on with your life

I've got to be cruel to be kind

" What did YOU want?"

What about him? What did he want? He didn't know what he wanted, but he knew what he didn't want.

" I didn't want you to have to watch another person slowly slip away to nothing," he looks at her helplessly.

" So you thought you would just shatter everything I ever knew about him in one meeting?" She raises her voice.

" It is better than seeing you come to this place everyday with hope and then leaving alone with frustration."

" That won't happen," she states confidently.

" Even you, the strongest woman I know, will slowly be dragged down until you can't take it . . . " he stops to regain some composure.

" Now that I know, I am going to stay." She sits up straight in her chair.

" Do you know how hard it is to worry about when it'll be the last day?"

" You underestimate me," she sits up straight in her chair.

" Syd . . . listen . . ." he sighs.

" No! You listen.all those times that I went off on dangerous missions, you never knew for sure if I would come back. You didn't know when it would be that last time either. But never once did you give up and think that I wouldn't make it."

" I . . ."

" No! Listen. All those times that I wanted to break down, you were there. You were my guardian angel. You were the one that gave me strength. You were the one I needed. You think you're the only one that can do those things?"

Vaughn's inside start churning as he lets her ramble on.

"Why can't I be those things for you?" she asks plain and simple.

" I think visiting hours are over. The nurses will make you go home."

" Then I'll be back tomorrow and the day after that." She crosses her arms and sits back in her chair as if saying she is here to stay until he agrees to let her back in his life.

He lets out a huge sigh. " I don't have the energy to fight with you about this."

" Then just . . . surrender," He looks into her eyes. They are so much stronger than his own. So strong that he sees himself giving in. " Just . . . surrender" She says it so softly, it has a calming and hypnotic effect.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Vaughn slowly wakes up, and he becomes aware of a heavy weight pressed against his right side. His eyes flutter open and he looks down to find her head resting against his right hand and lower arm.

Sometime during the night, she had moved her chair close against the edge of the bed. When she noticed his hand twitching slightly, it was only natural to reach out her own to cover his. After watching him sleep for sometime, she began to ease into a calmer state as well. She let her head droop down and land lightly against his side. She thought she would only close her eyes for just a second. But it was not long before a beautiful peaceful sleep completely took over.

He feels her soft rhythmic breathing against his palm, which tickle him slightly. He fights the urge to move his fingers for he doesn't want to wake her. His heart warms as he realizes that she has stayed this whole time. Even though he doesn't want her to sacrifice anything for him, he can't help but feel happy to have this amazing woman care for him even after all that has happened. He thinks about everything she said about letting her be there for him like all the times he had been there for her. Is it so difficult? They were both miserable for the last seven months. Can anything be worse than what they felt during that time? He honestly doesn't know.

He sighs again as he brings his free arm over to touch her hair. He feels the soft strands through his fingers, and a wave of longing washes through him. To suppress the feeling, he quickly retracts his hand from her hair, and then immediately curses himself as he sees her begin to stir from her sleep.

Sydney opens her eyes to find she is staring right at the lines on his hands. She senses his wakeful eyes watching her and opens her mouth.

Quietly she whispers, " You surrender?"

After a long silence, he whispers back, " I don't know."

She shifts her head over a little off of his hand and draws her arm up. As she traces the lines on his hands with her finger, she says, " Remember that night on the pier when I grabbed your hand for the first time?"

" mmm hmm," he answers back.

" Remember what you said before that?"

" Some of it . . ." he tries to think back on that night.

" I remember everything. You told me that I can't let darkness take over and that when I'm at my absolute lowest, most depressed.that I could always call you. That works both ways you know." She lets go of his hand and lifts her body up to search for his face.

" Let me be here for you?" she pleads with her desperate eyes. His mouth becomes painfully dry as he senses his resolve on keeping her away quickly diminishing to nonexistence.

In a hoarse voice he finally gives in, " Okay . . ."

Her eyes widen and her mouth slowly forms a smile. She moves from her chair and sits on the bed to get closer to him.

She grabs one of his hands and rubs the back with her thumb. " We'll get through this," she assures him.

He squeezes her hand tighter and says, " Syd . . . but if I don't . . ."

She doesn't let him finish. Her hand instantaneously goes up to cover his mouth silencing his worry. " Don't say it . . . Life isn't that cruel."

He blinks a couple of times to show her his understanding. He takes her hovering hand in his and presses his lips into her palm. With his other hand, he reaches for the side of her dress and tugs gently drawing her closer. He notices that it's the same blue dress that she wore that day at the warehouse and stops his movements. Just as she is about to let herself be pulled into him, she sees his sudden hesitation. They both stare down at her dress. Her breathing quickens as she thinks that the memory is too painful for him.

After being still for what seems like minutes, he begins to move his hand up and down the fabric of the dress. He swallows down the lump in his throat and says, " That day . . ." As she is about to pull back, he holds on. " . . . did you wear this for me?"

Her breath catches as she does a double take on what he said. She is completely surprised that she can't form any words. All she does is nod her head slowly. Yes. It was for him. No more professionalism between them. Up and down she nods her head as she resumes breathing again.

He lets go of her dress and brings his hand up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. His hand then travels along her jawline to caress her face. As his thumb traces her defined cheekbone, he whispers, " I love it . . . thanks."

As if someone suddenly has opened the window to let light in once again, a whole new set of emotions set in. She feels her eyes water up again. But this time, they are not tears of sadness. They are ones of hope and joy. He looks into her eyes as she lowers her head just inches from his face. She rests her forehead against his and squeezes her eyes shut. At the same time that her lips make contact with his own, he feels two tears lightly fall from her lashes down onto his face. He has never felt more alive. The tears are like a cleansing. From her, he will find his strength. For her, he will not let darkness take over.

The End

Written before Counteragent, I do believe...this is the one that got me hooked on her writing, lol