it's late

pg-13 | sexual content

It's late.

Who would be calling at this hour?

I groan aloud before I remember the warm body entwined with mine. I gently extract myself from her arms, reaching over her to grab the receiver off our nightstand.

"Hello?"

My voice is groggy.

"Agent Vaughn?"

No one's called me that in ... a while. It takes a second for my sleepy mind to recognize the person on the other end of the line. Why is he calling me?

It's late.

"No, just plain old Michael Vaughn now. I take it this isn't a courtesy call, Kendall."

"No. It's about Sydney. Sydney Bristow."

They've found her body.

It's the first thought that enters my mind and somehow I am comforted by it. I was always bothered by the idea of her corpse, lying out in the air somewhere, so that any body could just walk by and spit on it. She deserves a funeral. She deserves a pretty casket and lots of flowers on her grave. She deserves to have all her friends - the ones who are alive, anyway - remembering her over tea and biscuits.

"Agent Vaughn? Are you there?"

"Yes. What about her?"

"She just called from Hong Kong. She's at our safe house. I want you to head out tonight and meet her there."

He says it so matter-of-factly. As if she was on a mission there just yesterday. As if I still work for him. As if I kissed her good bye before she got on the plane. And I'm still half asleep, so my first feeling is annoyance that he's ordering me around like I still work for him. It isn't until it fully sinks in that I understand the ramifications of what he said.

She's alive.

Sydney Bristow is alive.

And suddenly the woman lying next to me and the memory of what we did just a few hours ago makes me feel dirty.

"Why me?"

I don't know why I pick that question out of all the questions that come into my mind. How? Why? Is she okay? Was she kidnapped? Did she run away? Does she have amnesia? Does she remember the past two years? Does she remember the years before that? Would she even recognize me if she saw me? Did she ask for me? Did she call me Michael?

"I think you know why."

The rest of the phone call consists of details. What plane. What safe house. What he knows, which isn't much. My brain manages to record them, but it's still reeling.

She's alive.

The woman sharing my bed rolls over, disturbed by my motions.

"Mike? What's wrong?"

She never called me Mike.

"I have to go into work."

As I say it, I realize how odd it is to be saying it. Since we've been together, she's been used to me having a normal job, with normal hours. The more I think about it, I realize I never said it to Sydney, either. It was always, 'we have to go into work.' Whenever we got calls in the middle of the night, they were usually asking for both of us. I never had to leave her, in my bed, naked, as I dressed to go into the office.

"What are you talking about?"

I called it 'work.' Like I still work there. Interesting little Freudian slip.

"I just do. I'll call you."

She tries to kiss me, but I don't let her, twisting my head so her lips land on my cheek. I can't kiss her. Not now. Not now that I know she's alive.

It feels wrong.

-

They tell me that she passed the eye scan. Apparently Sark or Sloane or Derevko or whomever re-created the doubling technology. Two doubles have already been located and incarcerated. There was some concern that she was just another one.

But she passed the eye scan, so she's not.

The plane ride seems to take forever. Plenty of time to think.

Why me?

Why not Jack? Hell, Jack probably requested I do this. Revenge. Because I got there too late. Because I quit the agency. Because I stopped looking for her. Because of what happened only 27 days ago, when I stood in front of my friends and family and pledged to be with Alice until I died. I remember his eyes, steely and cold, as he asked me how I could give up on Sydney like that.

Why not Dixon? Because Dixon's dead, I forgot. Died two months ago. I don't know how, because I don't work there anymore, but I know that whatever did happen, they couldn't have an open casket. Maybe it was insensitive, but I prodded Will for details at the funeral. He just glared at me and told me I didn't have clearance.

Why not Will? Yes, why not Will? He's risen up the ranks pretty well, from what I hear. He's probably got more clearance now than I did when I was there. Will would be a much better choice.

Did she ask for me? I asked Kendall, but he didn't answer, moving on to another topic before I could bring it up again.

I don't want to be here. I want to order the pilot to turn the plane around and go back. I'm just a civilian now. They can't order me around.

I don't know what to tell her.

Should I tell her how I cried? Every day and every night, for weeks, for months. I had to throw out all my sheets because no matter how many times I washed them, they still smelled like her. I couldn't sleep. I would bury my head in my pillow to stifle my sobs and all I would smell was her.

Should I tell her how I tried to find her? I went to Turkey, to France, to Australia, to Siberia, to Argentina and to South Africa. I followed up every lead, no matter how questionable the source. Kendall humored me for a while. I'm not really sure why. Eventually, though, he stopped authorizing the missions. I left the CIA to search for her on my own. I went to Pakistan, to Poland, to Sweden, to Iceland and to Guam. I talked to hundreds of people - I threatened hundreds of people - anyone who I thought might have an idea where she was.

Should I tell her how I ran into Alice one night, in a bar, where I was drowning my sorrows in cheap beer? Should I tell her how I went back to Alice's apartment and cried out her name? Should I tell her how Alice was too drunk to notice? I felt cheap and dirty, but when she called up three weeks later, I accepted a date. And then another. And another.

Should I take off this ring? Hide it in my pocket until later? Should I lie? Should I kiss her, taking her in my arms like I just saw her yesterday?

Should I tell her how our forensic experts swore that she couldn't have lost that much blood and survived? Should I tell her how everyone at the Agency thought Jack and Will and Dixon and I were nuts for thinking she was still alive? Weiss - the man who pushed me so hard to be with her - started pushing just as hard for me to move on. We don't talk anymore, even though I have.

And now I'm here, and only a door separates me from her. I don't know what she will look like. Maybe I hope she looks different. Maybe I hope she looks like a stranger.

It's late.

It's too late now, I think.

(fin.)