~ Moscow, Russia. State Medical Facility ~
As if looking the other way would change anything.
All that remains is dead. Flesh, skin, hair. Sydney can’t think. Her throat hurts. The world, like her tears, is empty now. The world is less than nothing at all. So she looks down at her mother in a blank stare. But she can’t touch.
Usually she is waiting for disaster to strike. Ready to flee at the first sound, at approaching steps. But not here, not now. A mistake, she realises, when she feels her hair being stroked back, softly and carefully, by Lauren’s pale hand.
“You did this?” Sydney asks. Her voice is flat.
“Flattering,” Lauren doesn’t smile. “Considering who we’re talking about. But I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you.”
“Then why are you here?”
Her tone is more agitated now, which seems to amuse Lauren.
“We have a deal to make. I know --” Lauren cuts her off the moment she opens her mouth. “You don’t negotiate with terrorists. However, if it was my mother, I’d at least think about it.”
Sydney can still feel Lauren’s hand in her hair and she knows her whisper is blackmail. Nevertheless it cannot be denied that there is some truth in her words. Slowly she takes her eyes off her mother and turns to Lauren. But she can’t bring herself to ask.
So Lauren offers, “Intel on your mother’s death in exchange for the Rambaldi equation.”
Watching Sydney carefully, Lauren can see Sydney’s jaw muscles working as she looks down on her mother’s corpse again.
“No deal,” Sydney finally says.
And Lauren exhales in disappointment. Until, to her surprise, Sydney continues.
“My working with you will be subject to conditions: My sister cannot be harmed. I won’t be involved in the actual capturing of the equation. And I want Sark back in CIA custody.”
“I accept your terms,” Lauren smiles.
Sydney can’t smile back; she’s still trying to convince herself she did the right thing. For a moment she almost believes it. But when they finalise the deal, her hand is not at home in Lauren’s.
~ McLean, Virginia. Outside CIA Headquarters ~
“You’re sure that’s our best option?” Sydney asks.
Despite the fact the sun has almost set, the asphalt is still hot under her feet. The sweetish smell of the shrubs surrounding the parking lot becomes unbearable. With time moving so slowly, smoking doesn’t seem such a bad habit to pick up anymore. Leaning against the car, she figures, Lauren must be thinking the same thing.
“I suspect you don’t want us to kidnap Marshall. So I guess it is,” Lauren answers, staring at the exit. “There she comes. Is everything ready?”
“I told the car-park attendant we’re ‘abducting’ her for a surprise birthday party.”
Lauren smirks, “Aren’t you imaginative telling fibs, Sydney.”
“You would be surprised,” Sydney says.
From the look on her face, Sydney can tell that Lauren isn’t sure her tone was playful or sarcastic. It would have amused her if she didn’t have to admit it might have been something in between. But there isn’t much time to think about that now.
“Terri Lowell?” she asks as they walk up to the woman they’re here for.
“Come with us.”
~ McLean, Virginia. Motel ~
The room seems to be stuck in the 70s. White furniture. Brown and orange wallpaper. Even the dust whirling up from carpet and upholstery seems to be from decades ago. No air conditioning, the smell of mothballs and Sydney thinks she is suffocating.
“My name is Lauren Reed and this is Sydney Bristow.”
Lauren gets up from the bed while Sydney stays put for one more moment, touching her throat in an unconscious gesture. Telling the woman their names made her death inevitable.
“I would so like to hurt you right now,” Sydney whispers in Lauren’s ear as she got up.
“As long as you smile,” Lauren whispers back, concentrating on the task at hand. “So, Ms. Lowell,” she continues in a normal tone, “we have a job that requires – your help.”
“And to what do I owe this dubious pleasure?” Terri asks, looking as if she is forcing herself to meet Lauren’s eyes, forcing herself not to show fear.
“From your CIA file we understand you’re a capable artist.”
“You forgot to mention I’m a field agent with OTS training, too.” Terri’s tone is more irritated now.
Sydney breathes in sharply, “You don’t have back-up. You shouldn’t try anything stupid.”
“What do you want?” Terri asks, seemingly not sure whether to take or ignore the advice.
“We want you to help us break in the CIA Headquarters in L.A.,” Lauren explains calmly. She walks around the chair and kneels, and whispers. “We want you to get me in and out unseen. We hear you’re the woman for the job.”
“I'm sorry, but the Art Department is fresh out of invisibility paint.”
“That was a moderately clever retort.” Sydney bites back a smirk at Terri’s response.
“You shouldn’t make this – painful,” Lauren frowns. “Especially since it will be more painful for you than for us. Think about it.”
There’s a moment of silence which drags on. Unnecessarily, Lauren thinks. Roughly she grabs a handful of Terri’s hair and pulls it back. “Oh, I'm sorry. Did I break your concentration?”
“What did you have in mind?” Terri finally replies, gasping for air and closing her eyes in the grip of pain.
“A mask, fingerprints, something to get past the DNA scanner, minor explosive devices in case anything goes wrong. Can you do this?”
“I’ll need access to the lab.”
“Very well,” Lauren finally loosens her grip, “Ms. Bristow will accompany you.”
Terri’s cheeks are burning and her voice is accusatory and curious at once as she addresses Sydney, “So you’re a mole within the CIA.”
It’s the truth. Yet it’s hard to listen to it. With guilt and horror Sydney recognises that, in the end, this one true accusation will make it so much easier for her to eliminate Terri Lowell.
She looks away.
~ L.A., California. Hospital ~
“You were right. Lauren has to pay.”
Sydney is angry now. The interrogation had to be expected. But Marshall wasn’t supposed to get shot, Vaughn wasn’t supposed to get stabbed.
(And she shouldn’t have made a deal with Lauren.)
As she asks her father to help her find Lauren, he refuses, telling her it wasn’t her call to finish.
But Sydney insists, “Lauren betrayed all of us.”
It’s easy to blame Lauren. And betrayal had been a possibility right from the start. Yet she had made that deal.
(She should blame herself.)
That doesn’t save her from feeling outraged, angry, disappointed. At her own stupid actions and at Lauren as well. But her father denies her that feeling.
“Not in the same way. She was his wife,” he says.
His words taste sour. It’s like back in the days of her mother’s disappearance when he had claimed to be the only one having the right to feel abandoned and betrayed. For almost all her life she had been sure, her father was right telling her Irina Derevko had to pay, to die for all the things she did.
But now Sydney isn’t so sure anymore.
Her mother is dead. Killed. If she tells her father, he will surely tell her she reaped what she had sown. And yet it doesn’t feel right.
It doesn’t feel right, that not being able to talk to her father openly about her mother got her involved in Lauren’s schemes.
And it doesn’t feel right that her father tells her what to feel.
“I don't care about any of that now,” she exclaims. “I want her to die, and that's going to happen whether you help me or not.”
~ Outside Palermo, Italy. ~
Afterward, she will think a lot about what she has been doing.
The air is thick with fear and expectation and the frenzied energy that boils at a fight for life and death. And principles. A moment ago she was still tangled in Lauren’s embrace. Got down with her in a dirty struggle for control, for superiority, for dominance.
She can still taste Lauren’s sweat and blood on her lips and tongue but now Vaughn is here, coming to a rescue she doesn’t need or want, and somehow the image got ruined.
“Vaughn! What are you doing? How did you get here?” she asks, her breath heavy from running up to him.
“I came for you,” he says through clenched teeth.
He doesn’t look particularly sane or stable and for a second there, Sydney isn’t sure who he is talking to. However, his gun is still pointed at Lauren. And when he pulls the trigger, Sydney decides it’s impossible he has heard of her betrayal.
So she pulls Vaughn into a kiss, desperate to distract him. Because no matter how mad she is, at herself or at Lauren, she came here to get paid.
As their tongues meet, Sydney feels he is hearing the conflicted call of the kill he came for and the kiss she offers. From the corner of her eye she can see how Lauren starts to get up. He must have recognised that too because he pulls away though she tries to hold on to the distraction as long as possible.
“One – zero – six - two...”
Lauren offers her part of the bargain when Vaughn shoots her a fifth time. And Sydney sees her falling. But her face can’t show anything now as Vaughn turns to her.
“What was that?” he asks.
He sounds as wary as Sydney now tries to appear clueless.
“I don’t know. It doesn't matter,” she feeds Vaughn the worst lie and looks at him.
~ Outside Wittenberg, Germany. ~
“I thought you fell in a hole, never to appear again.”
It’s another country, another parking space, another sunset.
“Oh, you didn’t wish for that, Sydney, did you?”
Lauren smiles a brilliant smile and moves closer to Sydney across the smooth surface of the car bonnet. They sit in silence, staring down the precipice of the deserted quarry. The wind moves quietly among the trees. It should be easy to breathe.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Sydney finally asks.
For a moment it doesn’t seem like there will be a response.
“Did you?” Lauren says.
But Sydney can’t answer that. The sweaty backs of her naked thighs are stuck to the heated bonnet. Lauren’s hand is on her knee and Sydney can’t seem to be able to move.
“How does Katya Derevko tie into this?”
It’s another futile attempt at discovering a truth nobody wants to share with her. Not even Lauren, who is now toying with Sydney’s hair again.
“It was nice working with you, Sydney. We should do it again.”
There’s a little smirk forming around the corners of her mouth but Sydney doesn’t see much of it as Lauren leans in to kiss her. She should probably push her off. Maybe continue the bitch slapping they did earlier. But so many things have gone wrong already and she is so damn tired that it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
And the kiss? Is sweet and soothing.
It’s already dark when she finds herself alone in the car, startled by the ringing of her cell phone.
“Sydney? Where are you?”
She’s relieved it’s Weiss’ voice she hears. “Germany,” she answers slowly.
He sucks in his breath, “Your sister got away from the safehouse.”
“Lauren –” Sydney stammers, still afraid that she got tricked somehow.
“Your father brought her in yesterday. Well, her body… three bullet holes in the chest. They put her on ice.”
“My father?” she asks, her voice thick with disbelief.
“Yeah. He followed you to Italy. I thought you knew that,” he says, sounding more uncomfortable by the minute.
“And Lauren… Did you see her?”
“Yeah. Sydney, what is this? You sound… is there anything wrong?”
“I’ll… I have to go now,” she lies, then presses the button on her cell for a moment longer than necessary.
She looks into the rear view but Lauren is long gone. She isn’t dead though. However, her father has brought in a body. Her father, who has killed her mother, whom she has seen lying there, dead, in a morgue in Moscow.
So she catches herself staring blankly at the mirror. Afraid of what she might see, she can’t seem to actually look at her reflection. But looking the other way doesn’t change anything either.
Sydney closes her eyes.