In which we witness the set up.
“Guess what?” Weiss asked Vaughn, stepping into the latter’s office.
“I don’t even want to try, given the way today has been going.”
“Why? It’s only 8:15am! What’s happened already?”
“Alice asked me this morning if I was gay.” Vaughn grimaced at Weiss' reaction. Gales of laughter were not what he wanted to hear. Expected maybe, but wanted? Umm, well, NO.
“She asked if you were gay? And, why may I ask, is that?” Weiss prided himself on the fact that he had kept a straight face.
“Well, you know I’ve always avoided staying overnight?”
“Are you still having nightmares about Sydney?”
“Yeah, I don’t think they are ever going to end. I worry...”
“Nah, it’s not worry. It’s guilt. But go on.”
“So, anyway, last night I was so exhausted I fell asleep on Alice’s couch.” Vaughn heaved a deep sigh and knew his forehead was no doubt a mass of wrinkles. He sighed again. “And apparently in my sleep I kept moaning ‘Syd’.”
More laughter. “And she thought you were moaning about some guy named Sid with an i”.
“So, how’d you get out of that one?” Weiss stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth.
“Well, I mean it’s not like I can tell her what I really do and who Syd really is and---”
“And how you really feel about Syd, even though you are going out with Alice?”
“Drop it. Anyway, I had to come up with something plausible and told her that I had an old girlfriend named Astrid. And that I sometimes called her “Strid” and had bad dreams about her because she was a risk taker. And she must have misheard the name. And then because she didn’t say anything, I kept babbling like a fool and told her I broke up with her because I couldn’t take the stress and when work was exhausting, I’d have these dreams and...”
“And she said what?”
“That maybe that if I weren’t gay, I was still hung up on this woman and maybe that was why I did not seem to be fully involved with her, that I was making all the motions, but my heart was not really there. That she had been thinking that for a while. And that it wasn’t fair to her or me or ‘Astrid’, assuming of course that Astrid was real. I think she really thinks I’m gay.”
“Hmm. So, she gave you walking papers, I assume.” Weiss smirked.
“Yeah. Well, what did you come here for anyway? Surely not to hear the sad story of my sorry love life.”
“Well, I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“Give me the good news.”
“We have to go on a mission to Hawaii and spend a few days touring around Maui and lying on the beach.”
“Sounds great. What’s the bad news?” Vaughn asked suspiciously. But really, what else could go wrong? A second later he knew that one should never ask that particular question.
“Your assignment.” Weiss paused. “Mike, you know how I always said Sydney Bristow was one woman I would not want mad at me? Really, she’s just not someone I would want to cross. When you think about it, she doesn’t always get mad the way you expect someone to get mad. It makes me wonder if she’s one of those ‘I don’t get mad, I get even’ types. Or maybe her anger just gets cold instead of hot. I had this girlfriend once myself and when she yelled it was okay, but when she got quiet -- wow, look out. I mean Sydney’s not Jack or Irina, but still...”
“Weiss, you’re babbling. Wait a minute, don’t tell me...”
“Yup, you’re going on assignment with Sydney. Her assigned agent woke up this morning at 3am with acute appendicitis. The plane leaves in 2 hours. We needed a very strong swimmer, which qualifies you. Also, there is the nature of the assignment, which meant that it was easier if the agent actually knew Sydney. We gave her the choice of 3 agents and she asked for you.”
“You have got to be kidding. And wipe that smile off of your face.”
“Oh, no, I am not kidding. And let me tell you that she’s gotten over being sad about Alice. I mean I’m assuming she was sad about the Alice thing after all the time you two…. Hey, don’t give me that look! Anyway, I think she’s in the stage of grief called anger. It’s not going to be pleasant for you Mike, not at all. I can just tell...”
“Tell what?” Vaughn prompted.
“You know the phrase, ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’?”
“She shouldn’t feel scorned, I...”
“Inadvertently rubbed her face in a relationship she did not know existed until after she had saved your life by being willing to commit cold-blooded murder. Uh-huh. I saw the surveillance tape of that bar with you, Alice, Syd and her friend, Tippin, Tupper, whatever. Yeah, I guess she should just forget about it. Anyway, she said, and I quote, ‘Let’s go with Agent Vaughn and kill two birds with one stone. Lord knows he could use more field experience’.”
“Oh it gets better. She also said, and I quote, ‘He has the duplicity skills down all right, but he needs more experience in creative problem solving in the field.’”
“Double ouch? That was a stab right at the heart, man. And if giving you more field experience is killing one bird, that leaves open the question of the other bird she’s going to kill with some stone, doesn’t it?”
Then, Vaughn asked reluctantly, knowing it was going to get worse, “You mentioned the nature of the assignment?”
“This is the best part. You two are going to play the part of honeymooners.”
“This is not happening, this is not happening.”
"Oh, it's happening," Weiss said as he turned to leave. "Pack some sunscreen. You'll need some heavy protection." He laughed and walked away.
Chapter 2: In which knowledge proves to be a dangerous thing.
Style: Humorous AU
Summary: What happens if Sydney allowed herself to get angry about Alice? And Weiss decided to play matchmaker?
Timeline: begins approximately six months after “The Getaway” in S2. We are in an alternate universe in which Phase One and anything thereafter has never happened. (Written in early 2003.)
Chapter 2: In which knowledge proves to be a dangerous thing.
He was a trained professional.
He could do this.
He could act like a professional.
He could think about the mission without spending all of his time thinking about Sydney in a bikini on the beach. Or in the hotel room next door. All alone in that bed…….
Yeah, and pigs would fly. Jack Bristow would call him “son” and welcome him to the family with a big hug. And Weiss would grow up. All likely events.
In an alternate universe. On the planet Krypton. In the year 2525.
On the way to the airstrip, his cell phone beeped. It was Weiss, of course. “So, Mike, where are you? We’re waiting!”
“What do you mean? I’m right on……” Vaughn trailed off as he saw the time on the car’s clock. What the hell?
“Let me guess." Weiss laughed, "You went back to your apartment to pack and spent who knows how long sitting on the bed doing what? Imagining Syd in a bikini?”
Thank the gods above Weiss wasn’t here to see his mouth hanging open. “Weiss…..”
“Or wondering which shirt would perfectly match your eyes and make her go all gooshy inside and say..." Weiss changed his voice to a falsetto, "'Oh, Vaughn. I'll forgive you anything since you coordinated your shirt to match your dreeeeeamy eyes! Oooh!'" Weiss changed back to his normal voice. "Is that what you're thinking you should do to get her to drop whatever revenge scenario she might have cooked up?”
“Argh. Is gooshy even a word? And I don’t even own a green shirt! Please tell me she isn’t sitting right there listening to you. Please.”
“Nah. I’m not that cruel. Although if you don’t show up soon, everyone is going to start asking questions and you know me, honesty is the best policy.” Weiss finished in a sing-song voice that made Vaughn want to pop him.
“I’m on my way. Ten minutes if I speed.”
“Well, speed then. Hey, Syd, guess what---“ Weiss hung up.
Vaughn broke out in a cold sweat. By the time he arrived at the airstrip he was a wreck. He threw his bag into the cargo hold and greeted everyone, sat down and then got back up to grab a soda. Then sat down and opened the soda. Then got back up to get a napkin or two or twenty because he spilled the freakin’ soda. Then threw away said napkins. Then had to get himself another soda. Then noted to himself that maybe he needed a caffeine-free soda, given the fact that he had the jitters already. So he got back up and exchanged the soda for another one. Then sat back down. Opened it. Carefully. Then gave Weiss a dirty look for cracking up at him. Then turned his head when Weiss wandered over and asked, “A little nervous, are we? Don’t blame you. Not at all. Not at all.”
Hours later, he thought, okay, he could do this. Maybe Weiss’ fears were unfounded. Nothing seemed to be happening. Syd was polite, professional. Somewhat cool, but only those who had known them “Before” (he always thought of it with a capital ‘B’ in quotation marks) would notice anything wrong. But then again, probably everyone on this assignment knew that he had been her handler and that she had requested reassignment to Weiss. If they did not know the full story, (and he hoped to God that they did not), they probably thought he must be incompetent, especially if she repeated her comment about needing more field experience. So great, he was either the world’s biggest fool for going out with Alice when he could have been having some kind, any kind, of a relationship with Sydney or he was incompetent. What a choice. Fabulous.
Vaughn spent the entire flight just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But Syd never engaged him in any conversation other than about the mission nor did she make any snide comments to Weiss or the other two agents, Barclay and Washington. She looked like the consummate professional. He probably looked like he was coming down with something what with the constant light layer of sweat on his forehead. Every time Weiss handed him a tissue, he smiled, a huge mocking smile that Vaughn vowed he would someday, someday soon, punch right off of his face.
He hated to admit it, but Weiss was right, he had mishandled the situation. He’d had time to think about it. He should have been honest from the beginning. Although he still didn’t really know why he’d done what he’d done. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Maybe he could just blame it on common, classic male stupidity? Yeah, great idea. That would make her forgive him. Not. That idiotic excuse would just up the ante. And Sydney Bristow out for blood would not be pleasant. But so far, he could handle it. Really, he could.
“Weiss, maybe you were wrong," Vaughn offered. Hoping. Praying. "I mean, she didn’t do anything on the flight.”
“Yeah, and you looked like you were handling that oh-so-well." Weiss nodded. "She has you down cold, man.”
“What do you mean?
“You may love her, but in some ways you don’t know her. She, however, knows you and has probably spent the last 6 months analyzing your weaknesses. She knew you would just be waiting for her to do something on that flight. Instead she did nothing, knowing it would just kill you by raising your anxiety level every minute. Perfect.”
“So, am I right?” Weiss asked, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet.
Grunt. Then Vaughn asked, “So what do you think she’ll do next?”
“Ha. Who knows?” Weiss laughed and kept on walking. Looking over his shoulder, he added, "I couldn't begin to guess. Can you?"
Style: Humorous AU
Summary: What happens if Sydney allowed herself to get angry about Alice? And Weiss decided to play matchmaker?
Timeline: begins approximately six months after “The Getaway” in S2. We are in an alternate universe in which Phase One and anything thereafter has never happened. (Written in early 2003.)
Chapter 3: In which Vaughn learns what’s next. And it’s not good. For him, anyway.
As they walked through the Maui airport, Sydney latched onto Vaughn’s arm. Startled, he looked down at her as she dimpled up at him. Oh, no, this wasn’t good, this wasn’t……. Shit. Now she was talking.
“Sweetheart..." Sydney said, batting -- actually, for the love of god, batting her eyelashes at him. "Aren’t you excited about being on Maui? I know I am! Alice was right – it looks like a perfect place for a honeymoon. I’m ever so glad she suggested it. We should call and thank her. Where’s your phone?”
He actually stopped walking when she said that. He. Stopped. Walking. His brain came to a standstill, so his feet did as well. Right there in the airport, with hundreds of people streaming around them. Including, possibly, any of the contacts for this mission who needed to believe that they were really honeymooners. In his ear, he actually heard Weiss choke on his own laughter. Looking back, he saw him bent over while Agent Barclay pounded him on the back and Agent Washington looked on quizzically.
Syd reached out and grabbed him by the arm. Plopping sunglasses on her face, she pulled at him. “C’mon, darling. I’m sure that poor man over there just swallowed some papaya juice wrong. I want to hurry and get to our room, don’t you?”
Weiss was chortling in his ear, “You look shellshocked. Darling.. Wake up. The mission, the cover?”
Vaughn tried to rearrange the muscles of his face. Apparently not fast enough. Syd reached out and grabbed his jaw. It may have looked like a lover’s touch to those watching, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he had bruises the next morning. She had strong hands. Reaching up just a little, she gave him a soft kiss on the lips. Just when he began to relax, she bit his lower lip. “Okay, Vaughn, keep your head, you know --the one up top? The one you apparently don’t use too often? That one--in the game, please,” she whispered in his ear.
He was a dead man. Apparently Weiss concurred, “You are dead. So dead.”
He would like to die, Vaughn decided. Now would be good. Right now. Please?
Keeping her arm threaded through his, Sydney guided them toward the car rental booths. The attendant offered them their choice of colors but of course, this being Hawaii, they got a convertible, standard issue. Great, so he could see Syd’s hair blowing in the breeze. Great. He’d had dreams about that……
The whole time he was handling the car paperwork, she stroked his arm, leaned into him, pushing her breast into his side and finally gave him a little kiss on the ear. He turned to glare at her. Vaughn then whipped his head back around when the clerk, an older woman, laughed and smiled indulgently, as she asked knowingly,“Honeymooners?” He could feel his face turn red and he looked down. The clerk leaned over to Syd and in a stage whisper said, “You’re lucky. Gorgeous and shy, too.”
Syd whispered back, “Oh, I’m lucky alright.”
Vaughn grabbed the keys and taking a deep breath, forced himself to smile. “Let’s go!” he said brightly.
“Let’s go!” Weiss mimicked. “Can’t you do any better?”
“Believe me when I say I am doing the very best I can. The very best.” Vaughn gritted out. They made their way through the relatively small, open air facility to the car rental parking lot. The minute they exited the airport itself, Syd dropped his arm to look through her bag. He gave her a sideways glance, somewhat worried about what she was pulling out of that bag. Mace, pepper spray, a martial arts stick? Eh, who was he kidding? She needed only her bare hands. To his relief, she pulled out a ponytail holder and began winding her hair up in it. Correct that, to his immense relief. At least he wouldn’t have to see her hair loose.
“Why don’t you drive, darling?” Syd asked with an innocent look that immediately ratcheted up his anxiety level. “I’d like to look around on the way to the hotel.”
”Sure,” Vaughn said suspiciously, but then Syd got into the car and began rummaging around the bag again. By the time he had stowed the rest of their luggage in the trunk of the car, she had triumphantly pulled out sunscreen and was lightly applying it to her face.
When Vaughn slid into the driver’s seat and looked at Sydney cautiously, she asked, “What? Oh – here have some sunscreen – this tropical sun is a lot more dangerous than you think.”
“I know, I’ve been in the tropics before,” Vaughn said with an edge to his voice.
“Oh, have you? I wouldn’t know, would I? Information about yourself, those little life details – they never seemed to come up as topics of conversation, did they?”
Vaughn shoved the key into the ignition and peeled out. Knowing he was acting like a typical man, using his car to vent his anger, he slowed down almost immediately. Stopping, he turned to her and said, “Syd. I think we need to talk about the cover, if we are going to make this mission a success. I don’t think it’s helpful to bring up Alice.”
“What? Is there some problem with bringing up Alice? I mean, you were a free man, you had every right to go out with her, didn’t you? It’s not like you ever acted like you were, oh I don’t know, interested in someone else, did you?”
Weiss said in his ear (and where was he anyway, Vaughn looked around), “Oh, wow. I know I’d love to hear the answer to that question.”
Spotting Weiss and the other two agents in the car behind him, Vaughn shifted the car back into gear and turned into the street. They had a little ways to go before they reached the town where their hotel was located, Lahaina. He hoped to lose them along the way.
Keeping his eye on the rearview mirror while Syd gave him directions, he ground his teeth when he saw that Weiss had no intention of letting him get loose.
Driving out of the airport area, he glanced over at Sydney. He couldn’t see her eyes behind the sunglasses and, maybe, he didn’t want to see them. What would be there-- coldness or amusement? Or worse, sadness? He swallowed hard several times, while she looked at the passing scenery. He knew she was waiting, but could not seem to open his mouth. Largely because he had no idea what to say.
Vaughn jumped when Weiss said, in his ear, “So, you going to answer that question or what?”
“No.” Syd looked over at him curiously. He pointed at his ear and she raised an eyebrow. To her look he responded, “Nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Hey, buddy,” Weiss noted. “I’m not the one who’s worried, I’m not the one with the cold sweats in that airplane, I’m not the one---“
“I get it!” Vaughn cut him off.
“Nah, I don’t think you’ll be getting anything until you answer that question,” Weiss said gleefully. Vaughn could only groan silently and wonder what in the world Barclay and Washington were making of that side of the conversation.
Finally, they pulled into the oceanfront hotel on the edge of Lahaina. “Lahaina is the perfect location,” Vaughn said to Sydney as they got out of the car. “Lots of art galleries, nightlife, a renowned nighttime luau, views of Molokai and sunsets reputed to be among the most beautiful in the world.”
Sydney looked at him quizzically with a half smile on her face and he realized he was babbling. Weiss confirmed it, “You sound like the freakin’ Travel Channel. Shut up.”
“I’ll shut up now,” Vaughn said. “You do the talking, Syd. You seem to have a lot to say.”
“Oooh, getting brave now, aren’t we?” Weiss chortled.
Chapter 4: In which Vaughn almost makes it, almost. So close.
Chapter 4: In which Vaughn almost makes it, almost. So close.
“Fine, darling!” Sydney cooed, while her eyes shot sparks. “Let’s go check in. I can’t wait to see our room. If you know what I mean?” she asked with a wink.
Sydney led the way to the check-in desk. While she gave their information to the clerk, Vaughn looked around. It truly was a beautiful property. The lobby looked out on the pool and beyond that was a sand beach, the ocean and Molokai in the distance. It even faced west, toward those sunsets. Perfect.
Who was he kidding? He wasn’t going to be cuddling Sydney on the beach while the sun set. Not unless he could come up with an explanation and possibly, maybe, prevent her from killing him.
Suddenly his head jerked around. What had she just said? Oh, my God. She was arguing with the clerk about… Sydney was saying firmly, “No, that is not acceptable. This is our honeymoon and I don’t want a room with a double bed. I want a room with a king-size bed.”
Vaughn cleared his throat and said, “Honey, since it is our honeymoon, maybe that double would be okay. I mean how much room do we…” One brown eyebrow lifted. s***. The gauntlet had been thrown.
“Well, darling, since it IS our honeymoon, I want more room. Cuddling close is fine, sometimes. But sometimes, a person, a woman wants to be able to move around, spread out. IF you know what I mean.” Sydney smiled up at him. Weiss snickered. Sydney looked like she was about to snicker. The clerk snickered. Both Sydney and Vaughn leveled a glare at the hapless young man. He began pounding on the keyboard, “Yes, ma’am. I’ll change that room for you right away.” Shortly they had the keys. Sydney motioned toward the suitcases. He sighed, clearly she was playing the delicate female (which was the biggest stinkin’ joke in the WORLD) and he would have to carry all of the luggage.
As soon as they got in the elevator, Vaughn turned toward her. “What the hell was that about? Don’t we need the rooms already assigned for the set up?”
“Calm down, boy,” Weiss advised. “Syd was just fixing a problem caused by the idiot in the Op Center who didn’t reserve the correct rooms.”
“You could have told me. Great. Now I have to—“
“Apologize. Yeah, starting with this little tirade that was…”
“Shut up, Weiss. Syd, I apologize, Weiss just explained…..”
“You know, Vaughn, it would be nice if you would trust me.” Sydney paused, then pointed out, “I have been on a few of these missions before today, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. Sorry.”
Vaughn looked over but she was studiously studying the elevator buttons. Biting her bottom lip as though the world depended upon reaching the fifth floor immediately.
“Syd, I want to say..…” She looked up when he paused. Smiling tentatively, he added honestly, “I’m glad to see you.” Wow, that was an understatement. Really smooth, Michael, really smooth.
To Vaughn’s astonishment, Sydney smiled slowly in return. “I’m glad to see you too.”
“I thought….Syd, I’ve missed you.” Vaughn smiled at her again. Her smile grew brighter for a moment, then dimmed completely. He tensed.
“Really? I thought you’d have been too busy to miss me. I mean, I never intruded into your personal life with your friends, parties, girlfriends, now did I?” Then she looked away, looked up at the floor indicator above the door.
Diiing. The elevator had reached the fifth floor.
He muttered, “If you only knew……If you only knew.” He cut off his words. When would he learn to open his mouth and when to shut it? Maybe she wouldn’t notice… But of course, she caught it.
“If I only knew what, Vaughn, what?”
“Syd—“ Vaughn grabbed the suitcases and followed her out. Dropping them in the middle of the hallway, he made a grab for her arm. She whirled around, avoiding his eyes. “Syd…I want you to know that I’m not going out with Alice anymore.”
Still looking away, she asked, “Since when?”
“Since this morning, which seems like years ago at this point.”
“Who broke up with whom?” Sydney asked carefully.
Weiss squawked a warning, “Lie, lie, lie. Obfuscate. Feint. Do not tell her---“
“She broke up with me,” Vaughn told her, not seeing Weiss' point.
“You idiot. You were doing so well, too.” Weiss moaned.
“I see.” The artic glaciers could not have been colder than Sydney’s voice. “Let’s get to the room, darling,” she said loudly. “I’m eager to see that bed.” He winced. He had gotten the point.
Picking up the suitcases, he followed her to their room. Wincing again, he noted how lovely it was. Opening up the doors to the balcony he could not help exclaiming, “Syd! Come out here and see the view.”
Sydney hissed at him, “Vaughn! Come in here and act like a trained professional.” He turned around. Sure enough, she was running a routine scan while he acted like a tourist. Could he act like more of a fool? Could this day get any worse?
Who was he kidding? Of course it could.
Chapter 5: In which they settle into their room. Don’t get too excited.
Chapter 5: In which they settle into their room. Don’t get too excited.
Vaughn went back in and helped her run the scan. Without exchanging a word, they both began unpacking into the dresser, mixing their stuff together to make it look like a real couple. Sydney never said a word more than necessary. Vaughn was struck by the silence, Ttat silence that sat there like the proverbial pink elephant. Large, stinky and immovable. She finished first and went into the bathroom with her toiletries and came out again. Weiss knocked on the connector and Vaughn opened it. The agents had the rooms on either side of “theirs.” Vaughn would be sharing one with Weiss at night, although for Sydney’s safety, the door would be left open between the rooms.
Weiss came in rubbing his hands. Looking from Vaughn to Syd and back again, he plopped himself down on the bed, king-size bed. “Okay, tonight, it’s no big deal. The initial contact will be either at dinner or dancing afterward. Those were the instructions -- dinner, then dancing. At some point during the evening, you will get an envelope handed to you or left on the table with instructions.” The three talked for a while about the mission, which although simple, involved scuba diving.
Syd looked at her watch and said, “Okay, it’s show time. Is that all, Weiss?” She went to the dresser and pulled out what appeared to be a piece of fabric far too small to be a dress.
“That’s it.” Weiss also eyed the fabric in Syd’s fist and raised an eyebrow at Vaughn.
The two of them just stood there. Finally Syd said, “Gentlemen, perhaps you could leave so I can get ready to play the part of the adoring new bride?” Pause. “After all, it will take me quite a while.”
“Ouch.” Vaughn moaned as they closed the door behind them.
“‘It will take me quite a while’? Direct hit.”
“You’re not kidding. But somehow I don’t think that is going to be anywhere the end of it.”
“No, I think that dress is going to be the end of you.”
“It did look like there wasn’t much to it.”
“Uh-huh. The question is how much is going to be left of you by the time she’s done?”
Chapter 6: In which Vaughn learns just how annoying Weiss can be.
Chapter 6: In which Vaughn learns just how annoying Weiss can be.
Half an hour later, Vaughn sat in the lobby. He was ostensibly waiting for Sydney. That was a joke, the woman could get dressed faster than he could, so clearly the wait was just the usual form of torture to which women subjected men, only given Syd’s capabilities the torture possibilities were a little more real than most men experienced... He heard his com unit click on.
Weiss was laughing. Again. “Oooh, boy, you are in so much trouble.”
“Why?” Vaughn asked half-suspiciously and half-resignedly. What else could she do to him, after---
“Here comes Sydney. Yowza.” Weiss whistled quietly. Vaughn could hear the other agents snickering in the background but couldn’t see what they could due to a different vantage point. He wanted to pop them all. Then with a grin Vaughn could hear in his voice, Weiss told Vaughn, "You're in for a hard time tonight, my friend. But that's about all you're getting into if you get my---"
"Drop it!" Vaughn muttered in a hiss. How bad could it be? He'd seen Sydney in any variety of... Uh-oh. Finally Vaughn could see her. Ooh boy, he was in big trouble. She had pulled her hair up loosely so that tendrils floated around her shoulders. Just a touch of makeup, except something she did to her eyes made them appear huge and her mouth looked very soft. The dress appeared to be merely a big bright pink silky scarf of some kind that she had wrapped around her body from the front, crossing in back and then bringing the ends under her arms and around her neck. She told him it was a pareu, or some such thing, he wasn’t really listening, he was too busy looking. The skirt ended mid thigh and she had on 3 inch sandals. No stockings, just miles of bare legs. He was in big trouble. Getting bigger by the minute actually.
Vaughn swallowed hard as she approached. Well, that was okay. Even if he were her husband, he would be gulping when he saw her approaching looking like this. Right?
Weiss said evilly, “Just think, if you’d had some guts, you’d know what she was wearing underneath that scarf thingie.” Vaughn groaned.
She came to a stop in front of him. He noticed that her eyes were sparkling and the look on her face just spelled trouble. She pirouetted. “Honey, what do you think?”
“You look gorgeous,” he said in all sincerity.
In his ear, Weiss added, “You can tell her we all agree.”
“Shut up, Weiss.”
They went into dinner. She flirted mercilessly. Weiss kept saying in his ear, “You are in such trouble.” He could not have said what they ate or drank. He knew that they made small talk that anyone hearing would have thought perfectly appropriate, as were the heated glances she kept throwing at him, her supposed new husband. Only he knew those glances were the equivalent of hand grenades. Then she began touching him, light, little strokes to the arm or the hand. Why was he here anyway? He had trouble remembering his mission. Thank God he was just supposed to sit still and wait for the contact. They had finished dinner, still with nothing. s***. Couldn't this day just end?
Weiss chortled, “Okay, this should be fun. You two need to go to the hotel club for dancing.”
Vaughn excused himself to go to the men’s room and meet Weiss. He looked like
he was going to bust a gut from laughing. He was glad someone was having a good time. He wasn’t and it didn’t look like Syd…...
Weiss interrupted his thoughts, “Okay, that’s enough of a break. Back into the fray.”
“I’m glad you are having such a good time.”
“Oh, we all are.” Weiss rocked back and forth on his heels and smiled.
“Wait – Weiss? What does everyone know about Syd and I?”
Weiss went still and silent and then spoke quietly, solemnly. “What everyone knows or thinks they know is that the two of you were a phenomenal team. That you had a connection of some kind. Personal and professional. One that was hard to separate because…it just was. Lots of us figured you two were just waiting until SD-6 was a memory and then…No one could quite figure out the Alice thing. Lots of us thought it was just a cover, that maybe you and Syd were already involved and…But as for the change in handlers – no one but the three of us knows the real reason. Well and probably Jack. And Irina. We’re the only ones that know that she was hurt and felt like she couldn’t trust you anymore. Lots of speculation, but most people figure you two must have had some huge blowup or that Jack Bristow had you removed for being too involved, emotionally.”
Vaughn stared at him blinking. Weiss never went on like that. He must truly be trying to warn him...warn him. Danger. Danger. s***! Vaughn blurted out, feeling a light sprinkle of sweat on his furrowed forehead, “You think Jack knows? And Irina?"
“Oh, yeah. Makes a guy nervous, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t even want to contemplate---“
“The reason why you are still alive with all body parts intact?”
“I’m not gonna deal with that right now. One Bristow out for blood is enough. But -- no one really knows that ---“
“No, Syd doesn’t have to feel humiliated.”
“You never thought of that, did you?” Now Weiss seemed angry. “You never thought of how it would make her look when people realized that you were falling all over her, figuratively speaking, and then going home to screw Alice? I still can’t believe you were still going out with her when you were clearly in love with Syd. I still can’t believe that Jack hasn’t killed you for that date in Nice when you were still going out with Alice. I don’t know what I was thinking to encourage it, except that any idiot could see there wasn’t anything real between you and Alice. I thought, honestly, that you’d break up with her the next day, that you’d see the light. What was wrong with you?”
Vaughn’s brain had stopped, however, at the factoid most likely to result in his death and/or dismemberment. “Jack knows about the date in Nice?”
“Jack Bristow knows everything. Which means Irina knows too probably. If that doesn’t freeze your nuts, I don’t know what would. Now, get back out there.”
Rolling his eyes, Vaughn went back to the dance area. Syd had already snagged a table and ordered two drinks. She was leaning back with her legs crossed, which made them look even longer. Great, just what he needed. She let him take a few sips of his drink while his eyes roamed the dance area. He could do that, he was supposed to be an agent on assignment. Agents should be scanning the area for trouble, right? His reprieve was short-lived, for she tapped him lightly on the hand and said, “I think we should dance.”
Weiss muttered in his ear, “Let the torture begin.” Vaughn was glad he was wearing the earpiece tonight. Syd didn’t need any more ideas.
This one was bad enough. Geez, didn’t the dj have anything but slow songs in his playlist? Vaughn knew Syd could feel his body hardening against her -- how could she help it since she was plastered against his front song after song? He whispered, “How long are we going to dance?”
“Long enough for the contact to spot us. Why -- is this…...hard…...for you?” Sydney asked with a small smile on her face that reminded him, scarily enough, of Jack.
Vaughn could hear Weiss chortling evilly in his ear and vowed that somehow, someway, Weiss would pay for his amusement.
Looking down at Sydney, he sighed and then he forgot all about Weiss as his arms took over and pulled her as close as possible. She stiffened for a moment and then seemed to melt into him. Surprised he pulled back to see her face. Was this another salvo in the war? But she turned to the side and short of grabbing her jaw, he couldn’t see her features. All he could see was that she was biting her lip. Again. “Syd, can we talk about this? I think we are both feeling---“
“Mike, sorry," Weiss squawked in his ear. He didn't sound sorry, Vaughn thought with irritation as he shook his head at Sydney and nodded, listening to Weiss tell him, "Back to the table. The waitress is delivering something…….”
The waitress brought a note with the drinks and a bottle of champagne. She told them that a gentleman at the bar had given the champagne to the “newlyweds” with his compliments and a note of congratulations.
They took the bottle back upstairs to the room, where Vaughn immediately went into Weiss’ adjoining room and took a cold shower. He didn’t even look at the note. He could care less about the damn note. Half an hour into the shower he smacked himself on the head. He should have followed up on that moment on the dance floor, but he had been so consumed by the need to calm down, as it were…… He jumped out, but by the time he was done, Washington and Barclay were back and teasing him about his easy assignment tonight and letting perfectly good champagne go to waste. Ha. He intended to drink the whole bottle tonight and send himself into oblivion. Someone else could be on watch.
Watching for what, he didn't know. Then Weiss came in.
Chapter 7: In which we see something not normally found in reality, Alias reality, that is.
Chapter 7: In which we see something not normally found in reality, Alias reality, that is.
Weiss swiped the bottle away from Vaughn. “No way. Forget it. Just go swimming or sit in the hot tub or watch tv. You are not getting blotto tonight. We are on a mission, remember? See ya.”
“Where are you going?”
“I want to talk to Syd.” Without looking again at Vaughn he knocked on Syd’s door. At her muffled, “Come in,” he opened it and saw her sitting on the bed dialing her secure-line cell phone.
"Hey, Syd, who are you calling?"
"The two of them? Why? How?"
"My dad always goes to see my mom this time of night."
"He what? What!"
"Don't ask me!" Sydney threw up one hand and shrugged. "All they do is argue. Why he continues to do it when he could stay at home and watch Letterman or craft explosive jewelry devices or run ballistics tests in his basement, I don't know. But the two of them seem to enjoy it. Anyway, I'm calling my dad on his cell phone so I can talk to the two of them."
"About what?" Weiss asked oh-so-casually. "This mission is no biggie."
"I know. I wanted their advice on.........well, this will sound nuts, on Vaughn."
"Let me get this straight -- you called YOUR parents for relationship advice?" Weiss asked in shock, real or feigned.
"This I gotta hear. Jack and Irina's take on a love connection. Wisdom for the ages. Put them on speaker." Weiss sat down on the bed next to Sydney.
When her father answered, Sydney explained that she wanted to talk to them both. He argued, of course, but did it anyway. Sydney quickly explained what she had done. Irina laughed out loud a few times.
Jack interrupted as she reached the end of the description, "You're doing what? Irina, was this your idea? Did you know about this?"
"As if Sydney needs advice from me on how to engage in payback, Jack? Do I need to remind you that she’s your daughter, too? Hmm? She came up with this on her own. Although I believe that new handler of hers -- that rolypoly man, Weiss -- I think he's probably helping in his own way."
Weiss mouthed, "Roly poly? Roly poly!"
Irina continued, "And besides, she has anger she needs to work out. It's not good to repress anger indefinitely, as you----"
"Irina," Jack began. "I am full of anger, saturated with anger, consumed with anger, and you don't see me---"
"Pardon me!" Irina exclaimed. "Are you not the individual who blew up a building in Madagascar to frame me and set me up for execution because you were ANGRY? Was that or was that not you, Jonathan Donahue Bristow?"
"Well," Weiss said, "But he didn't do what he really wanted to do, I bet."
"What's that?" Syd asked absently as her parents continued to sling volleys back and forth. She was starting to wonder about the two of them......
"HEY! Those are my PARENTS!" Sydney nearly shrieked.
“Oops. Sorry. Sometimes I forget you’re not one of the guys,” Weiss mumbled.
"Weiss, Syd? What's going on in there?" came Vaughn's worried voice.
"Oh nothing," Weiss quipped. "Syd's just asking her parents for relationship advice."
Silence, then they heard him whisper, "Oh my god. That’s sick. And I’m so dead."
"Go away!" both Weiss and Sydney said fiercely.
"Mom, Dad, if you can interrupt your family feud for a second, I need some advice. Remember me?" Sydney asked, rolling her eyes at Weiss.
"Sorry," both of her parents mumbled.
Sydney asked quietly, "Should I stop? Have I gone far enough? It’s so difficult to keep doing this, when I….."
"Sydney, I think he…...." Jack trailed off.
Irina prompted him, "What, what we you about to say, Jack?"
"Humph. I doubt that. Sydney, while your father is gathering up his courage," Irina began.
They now they heard a male "humph", but Jack still said nothing.
"Let me just say this,” Irina began again. “Agent Vaughn, Michael, loves you. Anyone can see it. He made a huge mistake. I admit I don't really understand why. But don't make the mistake of letting your anger ruin this chance." She stopped for a long moment and then began again. "You have questions about why he acted the way he did. And you will need to ask him, force an answer since neither you nor I could ever devise a reasonable explanation all those times we talked about it. Now, I don't make the mistake of thinking I can understand how the male mind works, when it works. Maybe your father will be able to explain why Vaughn did what he did. Maybe it's some male idiocy that he can explain."
"Thanks!" both Weiss and Jack exclaimed.
They heard Jack clearing his throat, then Irina saying, "Jaacck," in a wheedling tone never heard before. Sydney and Weiss stared at each other.
"Here's what I am thinking," Jack began. "I believe that he decided that he and Syd had no future together for the foreseeable future. That even though he loved her, he couldn't have her. Especially after that fiasco in Nice. Honestly, for the love of God, leaving the airport TOGETHER? And while I'm on the topic, Sydney---”
“Jack, focus.” Irina snarled.
“Fine. So, for once, once, after that debacle of a date -- about which, I assure you, Vaughn and I will be having a conversation -- Vaughn decided to use his training, and continue to compartmentalize. Put his personal life in one box and his professional life in a second and his feelings for you in a third."
"Continue to compartmentalize? Put his life in little boxes" Syd queried.
“Yes, honey. Isn’t that what we all do, after all, in this business?” Jack asked gently.
Jack returned the question to Sydney, but Irina answered. "Well, that's an interesting idea, Jack. But why ask her out in Barcelona?"
"How do you know about THAT?" Weiss asked.
"I was there, remember? I heard what they were saying over the com units. By the way, sorry I knicked you that day."
“Knicked me? Knicked me? I had a near-death experience!” Weiss protested.
“You’re making too much of it, Agent Weiss. You were never in any real danger. If I’d wanted to kill you, you’d be dead. Now play like a dead man and be quiet so that we can get back to my family, if you please.” Irina argued.
While her mom was busy scaring Weiss, Syd was thinking for the millionth time, why did Vaughn tell me the watch story, to say nothing of the date in Nice while going out with Alice? "Mom, that's what I really don't understand. If, as Dad says, he was compartmentalizing, then why ask me out on dates, why not just stop everything he was doing---"
"Sydney, honey, just what else was he doing? I'd like to know." Jack asked quietly in that tone of voice that made the hair on the back of one’s neck stand up.
Irina spoke up quickly, "Jack, don't even think what I think you're thinking! Sydney is a big girl, she can take care of herself."
"Oh really? Then why is she on the phone to us right now?"
"Mom! Make him stop."
"Don't worry, I'll take care of your father. I have my ways." Irina paused and Sydney thought she heard her father chuckle. But no, that couldn't be, she must be mistaken. Irina began talking again, "But Sydney, why Vaughn did what he did? My experience tells me that there is no underestimating male stupidity." Both Syd and Irina made identical “Uh-huh” sounds while Weiss and Jack snorted.
Jack asked, "Weiss? You know Vaughn best. What do you think?"
"Truthfully? I think he gets around Sydney and he forgets everything. Girlfriend back home? Who? Washername? National security? Which country are we working to protect? Career? Let me look at my id so I can remember where I work."
"He's blinded by his emotions," Jack said flatly. "Been there, done that. Not good." Sydney remembered her mother's words on that KGB tape about her father, that he had been blinded by his emotions. This was a quagmire from which she needed to extricate----
"Jack, I---" Irina fell silent. And then addressing Sydney, she continued, "The big question is whether you can forgive him."
Jack disagreed, "No, the first question is whether or not he apologizes."
"I am sure he is sorry. I am sure he regrets it. Although you are probably right and ---" Irina asserted.
"Why do you defend him? Does he regret it? Or does he just regret that he got caught?" Jack asked sarcastically.
"Somehow," Weiss whispered, I don't think they're talking about you and Mike anymore.”
"Me either," Syd whispered back.
Jack continued, "Whether or not he was compartmentalizing or not, whether or not he was blinded by his emotions, whether or not he was abiding by protocol, the truth of the matter is that……." He stopped for a moment, "The truth of the matter is that when you hurt someone you need to apologize. You not only need to never do it again, need to prove that you are trustworthy, you have to sincerely, honestly apologize. Without the apology, you can't really forgive. And if you can't really forgive, then there's nothing left because there’s no…."
“Trust,” Irina said flatly. And then silence.
Weiss and Sydney quirked eyebrows at each other. Weiss whispered, "Why don't you say goodbye?"
"Bye, Mom and Dad. You've been a big help. Talk to you later!" Syd said brightly and hung up.
"Your parents?" Weiss muttered.
Sydney shook her head, "I know. That’s a lie. Actually, I don't know.”
“Syd, I have a question.”
She looked up cautiously.
Do you think I’m roly poly?” Weiss asked.
Chapter 8: In which Syd and Weiss have a heart to heart.
Chapter 8: In which Syd and Weiss have a heart to heart.
"Do I think you're what?" Sydney asked, distracted as she stared at the connecting door to the men's hotel room.
"Roly poly. Roly. Poly!"
"Of course not." Sydney smiled and patted Weiss' shoulder.
"Then what am I?"
"That's a loaded question!" Vaughn called out from the other side of the door.
"Go away!" Sydney and Weiss yelled in tandem. They both laughed as Vaughn slapped a hand on the door and walked away.
"No, seriously, Syd. If you were a woman---"
"If I were a WHAT?" Sydney asked indignantly and put her hands on her hips, covered by her pink nightshirt.
"I mean, I don't think of you as a woman..." Weiss bit back a grin as he noted what she was wearing.
"Then WHAT do you think of me as?" Sydney continued, poking Weiss in the shoulder.
"Can we get back to me?" Weiss asked desperately. She had fingers like fireplace pokers. Vaughn better be careful of the kind of grip fingers that strong might have. "How would you describe me if you were setting me up with a friend of yours?"
"Hmm." Sydney put her hand on her chin and looked Weiss up and down. "I think...."
"You're killin' me!"
"What a shame. I might have sympathy, but then again, that's a feminine response and since I'm not a woman...."
"Vaughn thinks you're a woman, Sydney..." Weiss said leadingly.
Syd took a deep breath and the bait and asked Weiss, "What do you think about today, what I've been doing? Like I said to them, I don't want to, don't think I can do this anymore...."
Weiss ventured to give Syd some advice. "Go with your instincts on this. If you think you shouldn't go on, then don't." She nodded and looked down at her hands. Weiss reached out and patted her hand as he said, "And, as much as it stuns me to say this, I think your parents gave you good advice. You were hurt and you need an apology. You also need to listen to his explanation, no matter how lame or stupid it is. When you come right down to it, the problem has been a lack of open communication. The two of you haven't taken much, or enough, time to be honest with each other. You have the feelings for each other, but that's not enough. You need honesty and trust. You two need to decide how much you trust each other. How much risk you're willing to endure. How much your relationship is worth. You need to have that conversation and the time is now." Weiss squeezed Sydney's hand and looked into her eyes, for once with all traces of jesting and jocularity wiped from his face.
Thinking, Sydney said softly, "That was quite a speech, quite mature for….."
"For me? Is that what you were about to say? Hey, I've been working on it for six months."
Syd nodded absently. Then leaning up, she gave Weiss a kiss on his cheek. "Thanks for everything these last six months. You've been a rock. And I'm sorry that the last few weeks I've been ---"
Weiss cut her off. "No problem. But that's why I decided to get involved---"
"What do you mean, 'involved'? What have you been doing? Or saying, is that it? Saying in Vaughn's ear?"
"Nothing. Just a little man-to-man humor."
"Oh, really? My bet is you've been making his life a living hell." Sydney smiled slowly.
"Nah. That's your job on this mission."
"Well, I think that's done." Sydney said.
Sydney held up an index finger. "Unless a good opportunity presents itself or Vaughn screws up again. And the odds of that are about---"
"One hundred percent," Weiss laughed. "Just don't do any permanent damage, okay?"
"Okay." Sydney grinned. “I’d like to have children some day, after all.”
"Good. Because I’d like to be the obnoxious uncle who gets the kids hyped up on sugar while babysitting and then leaves before the inevitable meltdown at bed time. Speaking of which…" Standing up, Weiss gave Sydney's shoulder a squeeze. "Don't drink that bottle of champagne over there, alright?"
"No, don't worry."
"And try and get some sleep."
Sydney nodded and Weiss gave her a smile as he walked back into the other room.
"Wait," Weiss asked as he put his hand on the door knob. "You never answered my question. How would you describe me to one of your friends?"
"Oh." Sydney shrugged and walked over to look out her balcony door. The ocean looked inviting, tonight.
"Oh! How would I describe you?" Sydney smiled at Weiss' reflection in the glass. "That's easy. Cute and funny. Like a teddy bear, that's it! A good fr---"
"Teddy bear? Friend?" Weiss groaned. "The kiss of death. I need to change my image. But then again...." He groaned again, thinking of a certain incident in the recent past. "Perhaps I've done a little too much image alteration already... Guess I should...."
"Guess what?" Sydney asked, turning away from her contemplation of the scenic vista out her window.
"Nothing," Weiss sighed and went into the other room. One down…..
Chapter 9: In which there is more evidence that we are in an alternate universe.
Chapter 9: In which there is more evidence that we are in an alternate universe.
Half an hour after Weiss came back into the room, ignoring Vaughn's demands to tell him what was going on, Vaughn's cell phone beeped. Peering down, he noted that it was Jack's number. "Oh no," Vaughn moaned. He put a hand to his head. Yup, about a million wrinkles.
"What?" Weiss asked, turning off the tv.
"Better pick up. Get it over with." Weiss grinned and sat up straight. This should be good.
"Hello, Jack," Vaughn said woodenly and then felt his spine snap to attention when something unexpected happened.
Irina Derevko's cool voice said, "Agent Vaughn?"
"Why are you using Jack's phone?" he demanded, imagining the worst.
She laughed. "Are you imagining that I somehow overpowered Jack Bristow just to steal his cell phone?"
"No. If I were to overpower Jack, it wouldn't be to use his cell phone---"
"I don't need to know---" Vaughn began.
"You need to know something, Agent Vaughn," Irina noted. "Anything, actually, about women---"
"Irina..." Jack began. Vaughn frowned. Did Jack's voice sound amused?
Irina continued. "Back on point. Ahem. The phone. Nokia doesn't make covers in prison chic, so Jack loaned me his. Voluntarily. He's standing right here, in case you want to check."
"Yes, I do." Vaughn decided he'd much rather talk to Jack; he seemed more predictable than Derevko, who was quite frankly freaking him out with her demeanor that seemed...almost...like any other mother concerned for her daughter. That is, until the inevitable threat. It had to come. These were the Bristows, after all. Note to self: Don't allow kids to ask grandparents how to handle playground bullies.
"So lacking in trust, Agent Vaughn. How…..ironic," Irina murmured.
Jack sighed into the phone. "Vaughn, it's fine. I gave Irina the phone. She wants to talk to you. Give you the benefit of some hard-won life experience, she says. Personally, I just cannot wait to hear such pearls of wisdom from the Dear Abby of the KGB," he finished in his usual sarcastic tone.
"Jack, I told you!" Irina hissed.
"Shut up and talk,” Jack urged.
"Shut up and talk?” Irina asked. “That makes no sense! Do you ever listen to yourself?"
"Argh! You're wasting my anytime minutes. Just tell him---"
Holding the phone away from his ear, Vaughn stared at it. Those two…. “I don’t know about them,” Vaughn whispered to Weiss.
"Are they going at it again?" Weiss asked.
Vaughn nodded, "Yeah. It would just be better if Jack nailed her already."
"No kidding. But maybe it's the other way around. Maybe she needs to nail him. But what with those monitors on 24/7...."
"Syd probably wouldn't want to see that when she reviews her mom's tapes, would she?"
"Uh, no. Judging by how she weirded out when I said that her dad wanted to---“
"You did not say that to her!” Vaughn laughed “You freak.”
“I forget she’s not one of the guys sometimes.”
Vaughn stared at him in astonishment. “Huh?
“Yeah, there are those of us, who while we can acknowledge that Syd is a beautiful woman, can get past the point of drooling.” When Vaughn made no comment, Weiss continued, “Whatever. Like I’m the only one who would do anything to get Jack Bristow in a better mood? After what we’ve dealt with ever since Irina came back into his life? There would be a line going around the Op Center to participate in anything that would get that ballbuster off our backs. Maybe we'll have to see what we can do about those monitors."
"I’m serious,” Weiss nodded. He asserted, “Another clandestine operation with the Bristows? Or rather, for the Bristows? Count me in this time."
"Really?" Vaughn asked incredulously.
"Sure. ANYTHING to get Jack Bristow in a better mood. God, just once I’d like to get home in time to see Letterman, instead of going over reports on the Balkans or ballistic analysis of some new explosive he’s devised in his spare time or whatever other torture he assigns us. But really, can you believe he’s letting her use up this many anytime minutes? He never lets me borrow his phone."
Vaughn laughed, “Well, I don’t think it’s your prison chic pants Bristow wants to get into, is it?”
Weiss shook his head. Vaughn listened to his phone and finally held up a finger, indicating he should be quiet, that the battling Bristows were done. Irina once again had control of the phone.
"Agent Vaughn!" Irina demanded breathlessly, leading Vaughn to wonder just the two of them had been doing. Wouldn't that be just perfect if Irina and Jack got together before he and Syd? Just perfect.
He wiped his hand over his face and asked resignedly,"Yes?"
"Sorry for the interruption. I'll be quick since Jack is concerned about his cell phone bill.” Her voice dripped with disdain. He could hear Jack practically growling in the background. Boy, the women in that family knew how to yank chains. Focus, Michael, she’s talking…… “I called to tell you that aside from the fact that the two of us would cheerfully gut you for hurting our little girl…..." Vaughn swallowed. "The truth of the matter is, as we all know, that you love her. And she loves you."
He felt his jaw drop. "Are you kidding?"
"No. Are you blind as well as stupid?" She paused. "What am I saying? You. Are. A. Man." She snorted. "Therefore, you are blind and---"
They heard Jack say warningly, "Irina, get to the point."
"Okay, here it is. The first thing you need to do, the most important thing you need to do, is apologize for hurting her. Just apologize, honestly and sincerely. You've already taken your punishment, so hopefully once you apologize...."
"Wait a minute, ‘I've already taken my punishment.’ Did you give Sydney the idea?"
"Why does everyone assume I gave Sydney the idea?” Irina asked with an innocent tone that was not entirely successful. “She's a woman, isn’t she? Any woman with an ounce of self respect and ingenuity can figure out how to skewer a man without anyone's help. And it's not like she blew up a building in Madagascar because she was angry, like her father. Or gave you a necklace laced with C4. Or threw you out of a train going over a canyon. Or…..Aak!"
Jack clearly had grabbed the phone, but was addressing Irina. "Or pistol-whipped you in front of her slimey ex-lover, right, Irina?” Putting his mouth to the phone, he said gruffly to Vaughn, "Two things, Michael."
"Yes?" Vaughn asked with a certain amount of trepidation.
In that silken, menacing voice that had no doubt made more grown men wet their pants than the sight of a knife at their throat, Jack asked, "You hurt my little girl again? That building I blew up in Madagascar? Next time, I'll wait until you step inside to hit the detonation switch. Are we clear? Perfectly clear? No misunderstandings?"
"No, sir, no misunderstandings." Should he stand and salute, Vaughn wondered? Weiss looked at him sharply, while Vaughn wiped the sweat off his brow. And wondered, why of all the women in the world, was he hopelessly in love with the daughter of Jack Bristow and Irina Derevko? Was this some kind of cosmic joke?
In the background he could hear Irina laughing. This kind of conversation probably passed for foreplay between those two, he thought morosely. Hell, maybe when Jack had thrown Irina from that train......His train of thought, (and wow, wasn't it totally inappropriate, he realized), was interrupted by Jack.
"And one last thing.” Jack began.
Weiss had watched as Vaughn's face whitened during the course of the conversation. Finally, Vaughn pulled his phone away from his ear and just stared at it. Slowly, he reached out and pressed the 'end' button. He turned his head and stared at Weiss, who raised his eyebrow.
"What? Jack threatened you with mayhem?" Weiss guessed.
Vaughn shrugged, "Of course. That goes without saying."
Vaughn shook his head as if to clear it and stared off. "Weiss? What year is it?"
"What planet are we on?"
"I am currently living on the planet Earth. How about you? Is there some reason you’re looking a little green?"
"I believe…I believe I am living in an alternate universe, where nothing is quite the way it should be."
"Jack Bristow.....Jack Bristow just told me, 'Good luck, son. You'll need it.'"
They stared at each other.
Weiss said slowly and carefully, "Jack Bristow called you 'son.' He used the word 'son.'"
Vaughn confirmed it with a nod.
"He wished you luck in winning back Sydney." Weiss continued.
They stared at each other for a long moment. Then Weiss opined, "There is only one explanation for this and that bizarro-world conversation Syd just had with Jack and Irina. You are correct. We are living in an alternate universe. What's next?"
Vaughn mumbled, "Pigs will fly and you'll act like a mature adult."
"I heard that! And I’ll have you know I have had my mature moments on this trip. So, watch out for the pigs." Weiss noted. Then looking over at the exhaustion on his friend's face, he said, "This has been a long day."
"No kidding. It started out with Alice asking me if I were gay and ended with Jack calling me 'son.'"
"And inbetween --"
"Sydney out for blood and you assisting her with the scalpels."
"If it's any consolation, I don't think Sydney really enjoyed it." Weiss argued.
"Oh, YES she did," Vaughn disagreed with a quirk of his mouth.
"Well, maybe a little."
They looked at each other and began to laugh. Weiss got up and went over to the minibar. Taking out two beers, he handed one to Vaughn, who asked in surprise, "I thought you didn't want me to drink?"
Weiss shrugged and said, "One beer is hardly going to get you drunk. And you deserve it after today. Plus, maybe it will help you sleep. As exhausted as you are, I don't think it's going to be easy to drift off tonight, is it?"
"No. You're right. And if today was any indication, tomorrow isn't going to be---"
"Don't worry. I think Syd is done."
"What makes you think that?"
"Oh, I think she got it all out of her system today. But regardless, I think tomorrow you'll do what you have to in order to resolve this."
"And, what pray tell, O Wise One, would that be?" Vaughn asked sarcastically.
"Three steps. First, apologize. Two, be honest with each other. Three, kiss the girl." Weiss took a swig from his bottle.
Vaughn nodded and agreed, "Sounds like a plan to me." What could go wrong?
Chapter 10: In which at least one step, maybe two, in the plan is enacted. Hijinks and hilarity this Chapter? Not so much.
Chapter 10: In which at least one step, maybe two, in the plan is enacted. Hijinks and hilarity this Chapter? Not so much. (I mean, Weiss couldn’t be here for this step, could he? That would be NC17 and we’re not going there in this story, folks. We’re going for cute in this story.)
Sometime around sunrise, Vaughn gave up tossing and turning and sat up in his bed. He was startled when Weiss said softly, “There’s just thirty minutes until the alarm rings.”
“Why are you awake too?” Vaughn asked.
“Today is a complicated day. I’ve got a lot on my mind,” Weiss replied. Vaughn waited, but Weiss did not elaborate. When he finally spoke, Weiss said softly, “But a lot less than you, I’m sure.”
Vaughn made no reply, just stood and stared outside. Their room faced west, so looking out from the doors to the balcony he saw only blackness, just starting to lighten to gray. It suited his mood and he stepped outside, wearing just his shorts. Sitting down on one of the chairs on the balcony, he felt like an old man. His muscles ached from fatigue. Maybe he should use these minutes to soak in the hot tub for a while, he wondered briefly, then rejected the idea as requiring far too much work. It was easier to just sit here in the warm, fragrant air unique to Hawaii and try and relax. Or that’s what he tried to tell himself. Because how could he relax, knowing that Jack and Irina were looking over his shoulder? In a way, of course. They weren't really here, after all. They couldn't see or hear or truly know what he was doing. Or not doing. Or... Could they? He rubbed his forehead and muttered, "Now, you're just getting paranoid. Which doesn't mean no one's watching you, but still..."
He gave a casual glance to the left, looking at the balcony for Syd’s room, peering through the decorative privacy grillwork that separated each balcony. It reminded him of the priest’s confessional in the church back home in Normandy. Just enough screening to give the illusion of privacy, but enough light to remind one that someone else was there, that you were not alone. There was a towel on the chair – had she gone swimming late last night? Weiss had never left the room. Great, she went off without any protection. Then he laughed to himself, like she needed protection? Staring off in the distance where he knew Molokai lay, even though he could not see it, he pondered exactly what his next move should be.
Suddenly, Vaughn heard the door to Sydney’s room open. To his astonishment, she stepped outside. She flipped the towel over the balcony railing and sat down in the chair, moving slowly as if her muscles ached too. He just stared at her, wondering what he should say.
“Snick,” went the door to his room. Startled he glanced up and saw Weiss standing on the other side of the glass, closing the door. His mouth hanging open, (although his brain wondered why he was shocked at anything Weiss did at this point), he saw Weiss point to his watch and mouth, “Less than thirty minutes.”
His head whipped back around to Syd, wondering if she had heard the door as well. Sure enough, she was staring at him, also in open-mouthed shock. He gave a wry smile and then looked down.
Neither said a word for the longest time as the sky lightened. Finally, Vaughn gave a deep breath and then opened his mouth.
“Syd—“ “Vaughn—“ they spoke at the same time, looking at each other through the grillwork. They stopped.
Vaughn hurried to speak first, “Syd, let me get this over with.”
“Okay,” she said quietly.
“Here goes. I can say a lot of things. In fact I spent the most of the night thinking of different ways to say this. More eloquent ways, maybe. But the simple truth is that, however inadvertently, however stupidly, however many reasons I thought I had for what I did...."
"Did you ever count?"
"The number of reasons. I mean, you said you had many and---"
"Syd." Vaughn heaved a sigh. "Let me finish, okay?"
"You were the one who stopped talking."
"No, I didn't. I was...prompting you."
"I don't need prompting!"
"No, I know what you need...." Sydney mumbled.
Vaughn opened his mouth and then shut it again. Ohmigod, they had just sounded like Jack and Irina. He spoke up quickly. "And I know what you need."
"Oh, do you?"
"Yes. An apology. I hurt you. And I’m sorry.” As Vaughn let out a deep breath, he realized that his chest felt lighter. Looking at Syd through the grillwork, he saw her staring wide-eyed at him. Taking another breath, feeling more nervous than he could remember in his entire life, he continued, “I’m more sorry than I can ever say. If there was ever anyone I would not have wanted to hurt it would be you. I hope you can forgive me and —“
“Vaughn,” Syd said firmly, cutting off his babbling.
Thank God, he thought. Then asked, “What?,” feeling his heart rise into his mouth. Was she going to tell him to shut up or….
“Can we talk without this grill between us?”
“Sure,” he said with a small laugh, feeling relief. Leaping up from the chair, he grabbed the grillwork with his left hand and swung up onto the railing, barefoot. Clambering easily around the grillwork, he stepped onto the railing on her side of the balcony and jumped lightly down. Catching her grin, he realized suddenly that all he wore were his Kings boxers, a joke Christmas gift from his aunt. “Don’t say it,” he implored.
She stood too. “You know, all the times I imagined seeing you in this state of undress for the first time, I never imagined that hockey pucks would enter the picture,” Syd laughed.
Vaughn said quickly, “How many times did you imagine---“
Syd cut him off. “About as many times as you did.” Then she looked down at herself and laughed. "And I bet you weren't imagining me wearing this either!"
Vaughn looked at her for the first time and grinned himself. She was wearing a Little Mermaid sleepshirt with Sebastian the lobster on it saying, ‘Kiss the girl.’ He asked, “Were you wearing that when Weiss was in your room?”
“Yeah. Though I had a bathrobe on, why?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s cute. A joke Christmas gift, too?”
“Yeah, from my dad, last year.”
“Your dad? Gave you a joke gift?”
“I know. Weird, isn’t it? It was one of the few movies he took me to after my mom disappeared, so I guess he remembered it. But the thought of my dad in a Disney store surrounded by stuffed animals and sippie cups--” She stopped. Waited.
“Syd,” he began. “I didn’t come over here to talk about Ariel.”
“You know her name?”
“Sure, she was a babe. For a cartoon character and all.”
“It’s a guy thing. Anyway, I didn’t come over to talk about either of our sleepwear. I came over to continue my apology.” He looked down, thinking that, you know, he had silk boxers. Could he have had them on tonight? Oh no. Instead, he had on hockey pucks. Which was what seemed to be lodged in his throat preventing him from saying anything rational.
“Oh, yeah. Well, get on with it,” she said with a smirk.
At the tone of her voice, he looked up sharply and caught the fleeting grin that flew across her face before she schooled her features into solemnity. “Oh, no!” he laughed, “You’re not yanking my chain any more.”
“No. I’m begging you, no.”
“Well, since you’re begging….” Syd said archly, raising an eyebrow.
Vaughn groaned, “Don’t tell me you want me to get on my knees. Not on this concrete, not on my bare knees…”
“Well, gee, now that you mention it…” She laughed at the look of horror on his face. “No, of course not. I think or hope maybe, that if you’re on your knees in front of me, it will be for something else.” He swallowed. "If you know what I mean?" She waited. He looked down and then began to smile, looking at her nightshirt again. “What is it?” she asked.
“I think I’m going to take the advice,” he said, giving her a bone-melting smile.
“What advice is that?” she asked quizzically.
“Kiss the girl,” he said and reached for her.
Wrapping one arm around her waist and tunneling his other hand into her hair, he brushed his lips across hers slowly, slowly until she hissed and said, “I thought you were going to kiss the girl.”
“I think it’s your turn to beg,” he whispered.
“Oooh!” she growled and reaching up with her own hands, held his head in place, slanted her mouth across his and began the kiss they had been anticipating for far too long.
Each time Vaughn would lift his mouth for a breath he would whisper, “Sorry.”
Finally, Syd stopped him with a finger across his lips. “That’s enough with the sorries.” When he breathed a sigh of relief, she smiled and added, “For now, anyway. I can think of other ways you can apologize later, after you tell me—“
Vaughn bent his head again. He would never admit that he was trying to avoid anything. Nope, not him.
“Ahem.” They looked to Weiss’ balcony. Sure enough there he stood, looking out at Molokai. “Sorry, guys. We need to get going on the mission. Oh and Vaughn – this time, why don’t you use the door between the rooms? It’s getting a little light out for those hockey pucks, to say nothing of any hockey umm sticks, to be making a dive across the balconies. Especially if someone was watching..."
"Who's watching?" Vaughn exclaimed.
"Did I say someone was watching? No, I didn't say someone was watching---"
"Is it Jack and Irina? Are they here?" Vaughn looked around suspiciously.
"No," Weiss grinned. "I was speaking of a...possibility. I said 'if.' Not because. If someone was watching, it wouldn't do your reputation or mine much good."
"What do you mean?" Vaughn asked, still looking around carefully. Hell, for all he knew Jack could have installed recording devices in the room -- that might be why Syd had had to change rooms and---
"I meant, if you can focus, Mike, that if someone saw you doing the midnight waltz between my room and Syd's, they might wonder why you were leaving Syd’s bed to come to my room. Okay?”
"Okay," Vaughn agreed.
"And another thing..." Weiss whispered, leaning close to Vaughn. "You need to watch it. You two sounded like Jack and Irina earlier. You're freakin' me out."
"Tell me about it."
"Well...." Weiss began. Then started to sing, "When a man loves a spygirl...."
Chapter 11: In which Weiss reminds Vaughn of the stinkin’ plan. Oh, and the mission. (Like we really care about the mission.)
Chapter 11: In which Weiss reminds Vaughn of the stinkin’ plan. Oh, and the mission. (Like we really care about the mission.)
“So, ‘kiss the girl’?,” Vaughn asked as he walked in the men's hotel room behind Weiss and closed the door behind him.
“Hey, good advice is good advice." Weiss shrugged. "Whether it comes from me, Jack, Irina or a lobster, you’d have to be a fool not to take it when it was offered. But, did you also----”
"Everything's fine," Vaughn said with a huge grin as he closed the door behind him. He was surprised when Weiss did not return it.
"EVERYthing's fine? Do you really think so?"
"Wait a minute. There is no way in those 30 minutes that you went through all three steps in the plan. NO freakin' way in 30 minutes did you made up for months of anxiety, anger, distress...whatever you want to call it. No matter how good a kisser you think you are, how much French you whisper in her ear.”
"Hey!" Vaughn exclaimed, feeling his face turn red. Great, he decided as he rubbed his face with his hands. Red wrinkles.
"Red wrinkles? A Shar pei perfect for Christmas?" Weiss smirked.
"Oh, shut up," Vaughn grimaced and shook his head.
"You know what? That's just not possible." Weiss shook his head this time. "There's too much riding on this---"
"Why?" Vaughn asked suspiciously. "Why is there too much riding on this for you?"
"We've had this conversation. Jack---"
"Yeah, yeah," Vaughn sighed.
"Back on point, French fry."
"Yeah..." Weiss pointed toward Vaughn's forehead. "The crinkle cut variety." He paused. Had he just heard a giggle from Sydney's room? "And speaking of wrinkles--"
"Which I wasn't!"
"Well, someone's gotta. You skipped step two, didn't you?"
"You did. Timing. It's all about the timing, Jack says." Weiss gave Vaughn a speculative look. He continued, “Especially since -- how long did it take you to get up the courage to do step 1 and apologize?"
"Alright, already. So, maybe I skipped step 2. You know, after all this time, maybe I was in a hurry to get to step 3 and ---"
"You skipped step 2? That's almost as important as step 1! Remember that whole issue of trust? And you think a woman like Syd is just going to accept your apology and that'll be the end of it? You think all Irina has to do is apologize to Jack and he'll say, 'Sure, let's let bygones be bygones. What kind of flowers do you want for our anniversary?'" Weissslanted a look of derision in his friend's direction before continuing, "Yeah, right. Syd is Jack's daughter in more ways than one. C'mon! Stop thinking with your dick!"
Suddenly they heard Syd say, “Hey, I CAN hear you two!”
“s***,” the two men said simultaneously, glaring at each other.
Vaughn continued, as if there had been no interruption, "No, YOU c'mon. I think I can handle it from ---"
"No, YOU c'mon. You handled it like crap for months. The only reason you were locking lips with her now is because she had the guts to provoke you yesterday and I.....Well, never mind. You owe it to her and all of us in the audience to explain."
"Mind your own business, Weiss," Vaughn snarled.
"Like minding my own business got you and Syd where?" When Vaughn gave him a hard, speculative look, Weiss quickly glanced at his watch, "Crap, we're out of time. We need to get going. Mission, remember?"
“Yeah. Hey, I keep forgetting. What’s our goal on this mission, anyway?”
“At this point, I have no freaking clue anymore. It seems like it’s become the ‘Syd and Vaughn – how-can-we-get-them-together-show’.”
“Hey, that’s a worthy endeavor.” Vaughn smiled as he gathered up his clothes for the day. How often did one get to wear shorts on a mission. Wait -- what would Syd be wearing today? Besides skin, lots of skin....
“Yeah. From your perspective. I feel like the lobster in that movie. Always trying to get the boy and girl together and spending half my time just trying to evade the cook who wants to boil me.”
“Who’s the cook?”
“Nobody, forget it," Weiss said quickly. "But hey, Syd’s shirt – that Ariel is a babe, isn’t she?”
“No kidding. I told Syd that, but she didn’t get it.”
“Nah, it’s a guy thing. But I hope you didn’t compare her to a cartoon character,” Weiss warned.
“Are you nuts?" Vaughn protested, "I am not that stupid.”
“Really? Then why were you going out with Alice when Syd—“
“I’ll drop it as soon as we all hear an explanation.”
Vaughn sighed. “You’ll hear an explanation as soon as I figure it out myself.”
“Syd needs to hear it a lot more than me," Weiss warned. Then sighing, he told Vaughn, "Well, there’s always the old standby.”
“Yeah. Works for me all the time.” Weiss shrugged.
“I think that’s because, for you, it’s totally believable all the time.”
“Really? So, tell me." Weiss smirked. "How’s Astrid these days?”
Chapter 12: In which there are volcano analogies?
Chapter 12: In which there are volcano analogies?
After a full day of running all over Maui, picking up intel at twenty different locations, all the while watching Sydney grow more and more quiet, Vaughn had had enough. He exploded, “What the hell is wrong with this joker of a contact? I am sick and tired of this scavenger hunt we’ve been on ALL day!”
Barclay and Washington, sitting with him in the van, stared at him in open-mouthed astonishment. They looked at each other, then Barclay got up and exited the van. Washington gave him a dirty look. “Uh, Agent Vaughn, it may have escaped your notice, but isn’t that what being an agent is about? Playing scavenger hunt? Picking up clues and following them to the next? But maybe it’s more like that game Mousetrap? Nah. More like Strate---"
“Who ARE you? Weiss’ long-lost brother?” Vaughn expostulated. “And did I ask for your opinion? Don’t you know a rhetorical question when you hear it?” Then he heard himself and winced as Washington also bolted from the van.
Fabulous, he was driving everyone away. And there went his reputation for staying cool under fire. Especially when poor Barclay and Washington had not a clue, he hoped, about the fire he was trying to put out. But then again, neither did he.
Why was Syd so quiet? He’d truly thought when he apologized (and when she kissed him) that it would really be all but settled. And early this morning she’d been all smiles. At first, when she got quiet, he’d thought she was just as annoyed as he was on this stupid assignment. But then he’d watch her jaw grow tighter and tighter. Weiss thought he didn’t know Syd well enough, but he knew what it meant when the bones of her face stood out like that. She was pissed. At someone, not the situation, at someone. Like he didn’t know who. But like a typical woman, was she telling him why? No. Of course not. He should just know!
Oh, who the hell was he kidding? He knew. That stinking step 2. He’d thought, hoped he could skip step 2. But, then again, Jack had wished him luck, told him he would need it. And Jack knew strategy. That meant it would not be that easy, didn’t it? And Weiss…Weiss couldn’t be right, could he? C’mon, that would be too much. He sunk his head into his hands and didn’t even look up when the door to the van opened. He already knew who it was.
He wanted to groan when the door to the van closed and Weiss began speaking. "You know what your problem is?"
"That I don't know how to pick my friends? That the friends I have, one in particular, don't know when to shut up?" Vaughn asked sarcastically, finally looking up.
“You may have not noticed, given that your brain was working in overdrive to avoid the obvious, but I did not say one word, not one word, in your ear today about Syd and you. Did I?"
"And we see where that got you. Humph." Weiss crossed his arms. "Nowhere."
“Nowhere? Nowhere is exactly where we are on this mission--"
"I thought you thought that this mission was the Get-Syd-and-Vaughn-Together-Mission. In which case, you're right - for once -- you are nowhere and---"
"Hey! It's hot and I'm tired and--"
Weiss held up his thumb and forefinger. "And here's the world's smallest violin playing just for you, Master Stradivarius."
"Listen. My brain was working overtime to handle all of the endless running around, looking for intel in some idiotic place this joker of a contact thought up to hide it – I mean, what is it with this guy? Does he really think we’re on a honeymoon and is trying to give us a full tour of the island, or what? And what IS the goal of this mission? I mean--”
“Hey, I thought Haleakala was amazing. The size of that crater was something else. Almost approximated the size of the hole you’re digging yourself into today.”
Vaughn ignored the last comment. It was often wise to ignore Weiss’ comments. “Yeah, you weren’t the one walking across it with a backpack the size of a small child with a woman who wasn’t talking. And it was so dry out there. And the cold too? On Hawaii? Who would have ever thought something that once was as hot and molten as a volcano could end up so cold – at least early in the morning?”
Weiss gave him a look and then cracked up.
“What? What’s so funny?” Vaughn asked irritably.
“Talk about analogies.” Weiss choked out.
“I still don’t get it.” Vaughn said.
“Dormant volcano? Syd? Still don’t get it? Okay, moving on. Since you did so very well without my help today,” Weiss said with maximum sarcasm. “I get to exercise my rights to make comments now.”
"Here we go..." Vaughn muttered.
Weiss continued, "Because I don't really think you are a coward,--"
"Or a wimp. So I don't think you're avoiding giving her an explanation because you're afraid that she really could kick your butt."
"Hey!" Vaughn protested.
"Kidding. Surrre, you could take her. Uh-huh. Maybe. On a really good day. When she’s not mad. In other words, not today. And did you forget that women fight dirty? And too, between her parents, Syd must know every dirty trick in the book!”
“Are you done with your expository admiration for Syd’s martial arts abilities? What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’m not the one whose butt is in danger of a kicking. Forget it. Anyway, she would never hurt you, at least physically. Focus, like Jack says. Let’s get back on topic. The topic is step two: the explanation. The problem is that you don't know why you did what you did. You better figure it out. The sooner the better. The writers never gave us an explanation, so you’re on your own.”
“Don’t you think if I knew, had one idea…. I mean, it makes no sense.”
“You have no idea? Okay, let’s bat this around for a minute or two or three. And let me remind you that one of the great things about being a guy is that you’re not supposed to have to have relationship conversations with each other. What’s next, exchanging gift bags from Bath and Body Works?” When Vaughn just stared at him, Weiss continued, “If you must know, I could use a new loofah. And possibly some of their new vanilla-scented foot lotion. It’s divine on the calluses.”
Vaughn looked ready to explode. Weiss laughed. Vaughn moved his foot back and forth across the gritty sandy van floor and growled. "Weiss..."
“Okay. Jack suggested that you were compartmentalizing, putting work in one box, Syd in one box, and what you deemed ‘personal’ in a third box. How does that work for you? Syd was a little skeptical, but maybe….”
“Wait a minute. Jack said what?” Vaughn sat up straight.
“Are you paying attention now?" Weiss smiled. "Or are you still contemplating the lotion selection at Bath and Body Works?”
“I swear to God….”
“Okay! No need to get so testy." Weiss grinned again. "Jack said that you were disconnecting each part of your life from the other once you decided that the two of you could not be together.”
“I think….that’s probably true. Damn it! Jack Bristow knows me better than….But Syd was skeptical of that?”
“Yeah. So was Irina,” Weiss said with a warning tone in his voice.
“Okay, I see a gender gap here," Vaughn noted thoughtfully. "What’s up with that?”
“It’s the issue of why you were making googoo eyes at Syd while you were going out with Alice.”
“Did Jack have an explanation for that?”
“Nope. In fact, he wanted to know too. In fact,," Weiss told him. "Jack was reeeeeally curious about that issue. In fact, ---“
“He thinks that’s pretty scummy and that’s why he wants to blow me up like that cottage in Madagascar.”
“Yup. And the fact that Jack Bristow, not widely known for his concern over the finer points of ethics, thinks you did something scummy ---”
“Not a good thing.”
“Nope." Weiss looked at his watch. "Definitely not boy scout material.”
“Well, I’m definitely not prepared to answer the question yet.”
“You better get prepared. Syd is getting ready to blow.”
“How can YOU tell?”
“Honestly! Why do you think she’s been so quiet? She’s waiting for you to talk! And I caught a glimpse of her face every time you two stopped. When her cheekbones stick out like that, it means someone is going to get their butt whipped soon. Or she’s going to just collapse. Come on! In case it’s escaped your attention the mission ends in a few days. It'd be nice to tie this all up by the time we're back in LA. Wouldn't it?"
"And I don't really want to explain to Jack and Irina why you two didn't make up."
"Oh. Good incentive."
"The best, my friend, the best. Now, if you’re done frightening the children, we need to get a move on and go back to the hotel and get ready for the scuba work. Who knows, maybe if you’re lucky, when you’re underwater you can meet Sebastian and he’ll give you more advice."
“The last thing I need is to meet some crustacean with big claws.”
“Yeah, I can see that. You’re alraedy acting like something has your balls in a vise.”
Chapter 13: In which Vaughn makes an important, first, admission on the road to completing Step 2. In fact, it’s an admission that more men should make.
Chapter 13: In which Vaughn makes an important, first, admission on the road to completing Step 2. In fact, it’s an admission that more men should make.
With a supreme effort of will, Vaughn avoided slamming the van door behind him as he exited. Standing there for a moment, trying to control himself, he saw Barclay and Washington doing their best to observe him surreptitiously. No wonder, they were probably waiting for him to come over and toss them both over the side of the railing of the driveby on which they were parked. And landing in that field of sugar cane below them would not be pleasant. They knew the perils of cane, having spent an hour or more scouring the same field for another piece of the intel from this idiotic tour guide of a contact.
Sugar cane – sweetness encased in a scratchy, prickly, exterior. Surely, Weiss would find another stinkin’ analogy there, but he had no intention of going back in the van. Good, Vaughn, he thought to himself, distract yourself so you can calm down. Think about sugar cane, think about taro fields, think about the orchids we saw at that botanical garden-- His brain screeched to a halt. No, for the love of God don't think about those orchids…...
My God, he was fixating on orchids now? He was sick. He was perverse. No, actually he felt like one of Weiss’ friggin’ volcanoes, ready to explode…And he looked over and saw Sydney standing there, leaning against the car doors, waiting. She was craning her neck to look out over the fields toward the ocean view in the distance. His view of her was not helping the situation.
He groaned. Like the rest of them, she had changed out of the coveralls they had worn in the fields to protect their skin. She was back in her "regular" honeymooning clothes of denim shorts, a Hawaiian print halter and sandals. Looking tall, toned, and beautiful. As usual. Syd had lots of skin, he noted. Lots of soft, smooth, skin….Oh, for the love of God, you idiot, stop it!, he thought to himself. Then she turned her back to him to peer over the railing and he nearly groaned again, looking at the line of her back. She turned to face him and he stalked forward, feeling energy race through him in every step, knowing he was on the edge of a breakdown of one kind or another. As she watched him, a concerned look grew on her face.
"Um, Vaughn?" Sydney ventured as Vaughn pulled the keys out of his pocket with a jerk. She reached out a hand to grab the keys.
"WHAAT?" he exclaimed and grabbed her hand tightly to prevent her from taking the key.
"I was just going to say that maybe I should drive or you should take a moment and breathe before you start. You look...."
"Like what?" he snapped.
"Like you're about to go insane. What went on back there in the van anyway? First Barclay comes out and then Washington, like the hounds of hell are after them. What did you say to them?” He made no answer, so she continued, “Then Weiss goes in and you come out looking like your head is about to explode."
"Not more volcano analogies!"
“I’ve had it!” Vaughn exclaimed and Syd pressed back a little into the car, wondering no doubt from where this raving madman had originated. In for a penny, in for a pound… He reached out with his free hand and snaked it around her back and pulled her toward him.
The keys dropped to the ground with a clink.
Vaughn used his free hand to cup the back of Sydney’s head and hold her still as his mouth descended, only belatedly realizing that she wasn’t resisting. In fact she was tilting her head up to meet his mouth. How had he so totally misread… and then he stopped thinking as their lips finally met. All of the tension and energy he had repressed all day finally did explode and he moaned as he felt himself lose all control and press her back into the car. Moaned again, when she moved her legs so that he could move between them at the same time that she opened her mouth and invited him in. Reangling their heads, they kissed each other ravenously, as if they had been waiting years for this moment. And, duh, they had. With the back of his mind, he noted that the CIA van backed out of the driveby and knew they had to get a move on as well. He had the worst timing….
“Well, that’s better. I’ve been waiting for--” Syd said with a smile when Vaughn lifted his head. She stopped as he stared at her in astonishment. He had half expected that she would smack him right upside the head.
"That’s better? You wanted me to do that? You weren't mad today? C’mon!"
"I would have rather you kissed me a few times along the way. The silence was becoming...unnerving and if you'd kissed me, at least....."
"You're kidding! I thought you'd kill me if I tried to kiss you.” He shook his head. “I will never understand women."
"No kidding.” Syd said dryly. “And just how many women do you need to understand, anyway?" she asked. He stiffened and then caught the little quirk of her lips and relaxed.
Vaughn smiled. “Don’t try and fool me, Syd. You were mad. When your face gets all tight like that, I know….”
"I was a little mad.” He raised an eyebrow and she corrected herself, “Okay, maybe more than a little. But really, I was more nervous than anything."
"Nervous? I would never have thought....."
"Well, how should I have felt? This morning I thought…...And then I was waiting for you to explain yourself and when you didn't say anything all day, not even, 'Syd, I'm clueless and stupid,' I started to imagine the worst."
"Syd," Vaughn began. Then smiled as he admitted, "Syd, I'm clueless and stupid."
Sydney sighed happily. "Well, at least you admit it. Now maybe we'll get somewhere. Let’s go." She bent down and picked up the keys and threw them at him.
Well, at least she was letting him drive, he noted as he got in the car. That was something, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it? He looked over at her and smiled. She returned the smile. "Let's talk," she suggested. "I've got an idea or two---"
"For when we get back to your room?" Vaughn asked hopefully. Then squirmed when her eyes made a slow scan of his body.
"Oh, no..." Sydney shook her head and ran a fingertip down the length of his forearm. "That's far too long...to wait."
"What?" Vaughn nearly slammed on the brakes. "Whaddya mean?"
"I mean... Of course...." Sydney smiled and licked her lips.
"Of course?" Vaughn swore as his voice seemed to crack.
"Of course we should have that talk about our relationship right now?" Sydney said brightly. "Don't you agree?"
"Oh. I thought..."
"Yeah. That was fun...." Sydney grinned and reached into her tote for a scarf to tie her hair back.
"I'll tell you what's going to be fun--"
"You know...This scarf has many purposes," Sydney suggested, running her hand along it. "All soft and silky as it is... But we won't find out until we find out just what the problem was....Will we?"
"Man, I'd start talking!" Weiss opined in Vaughn's ear.
Chapter 14: In which Vaughn finds that Jack Bristow was right about the importance of precision in timing.
Chapter 14: In which Vaughn finds that Jack Bristow was right about the importance of precision in timing. Of course Jack was talking about ballistics in that particular episode (at least Vaughn thought he was). And Vaughn is dealing with a woman….But, wait. There’s a difference?
They drove for more than half the way back to Lahaina in silence, interrupted only by Vaughn’s occasional clearing of his throat.
Weiss finally broke in and said, “I swore, SWORE, I’d keep quiet, but Vaughn, would you at least tell her something? Anything? I’m getting a little concerned that you might not surface from your dive tonight.”
Vaughn cleared his throat. Again. Syd looked at him first in curiosity, then in disdain. Finally, she gave a huge sigh and said, “Okay, what is it that you are too nervous to say? And can I say that I don’t understand how you can be so fearless when we’ve been on missions together and today you’ve acted like---“
“This is more important than a mission."
"That's...good," Sydney responded with an encouraging smile.. "And..."
"And I don’t want to screw up, because I think I’ve used up all of my chances.”
“Oh,” she said softly. And waited some more. She was getting this close to smacking him right upside the head. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea. Maybe he needed some sense smacked into him. Grr, she didn’t know whether to kiss him or kill him. Right now the latter option seemed slightly more enticing. Ha! ‘Slightly?’ How about FAR more enticing? "Vaughn, surely whatever you have to say is better than silence."
“Can I ask you a question?” Vaughn finally asked.
“Sure, I guess.” Syd replied looking straight ahead, trying to give him some space. He acted as if he might find her intimidating and she couldn't imagine why that would be, she thought, rolling her eyes at herself. Maybe she had played her hand a little heavy, but then again! If he didn't speak up soon, her hand was going to connect with his---
“Umm. Well, it’s about…” Vaughn trailed off.
“I’m gonna kill you,” Weiss mumbled in his ear while Syd looked ready to explode. Maybe Weiss was right about the volcano analogy.
The words just fell out of Vaughn's mouth, “Okay! It’s about Noah.”
“NOAH?!” both Weiss and Syd exclaimed loudly. Vaughn winced. That name screamed in stereo? Great. What was next? Someone yelling, “Sark!”? Or perhaps, “Will!”?
Vaughn took a deep breath. “Here’s the thing. I’m trying to figure out why I did what I did, aside from just plain old-fashioned stupidity. I know everyone’s entitled to their stupidity quotient and clearly I’ve used up mine. But I think that answer’s just a little too easy. And I need to talk about it to figure it out. And I don’t know where to start and—“
”You’re babbling, boy,” Weiss warned.
“Vaughn, Spit. It. Out,” Sydney said with her teeth gritted together.
“Forget Noah. That was just a distraction strategy. I think. Or maybe, I was hitting on the truth, no, maybe….” He stopped and said in answer to her look of scorn, “Yes, I am a worm. You’re right – I can read that look of yours. I’ve been trying to ignore what I need to do because I honestly don’t know the answer to the question.” He fell silent again.
Finally Sydney said, “Well, we have several choices, several answers. Let me list them for you.” She began ticking them off on her fingers. “One, you are a worm, plain and simple. Right now, I’m remembering seventh grade bio and the dissection lessons. Two, Weiss thought--”
Vaughn interrupted. “’Weiss thought’? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”
“Hey!” Weiss protested.
“Well, Weiss, you’ve never given me any pearls of wisdom on the topic!”
“Ahem. You never asked,” Weiss said in his ear.
“I had to ask? I had to ask! You’ve been poking and prodding and giving me unwanted advice on every topic on the face of the earth for how long? And I had to ask about THIS?” Vaughn said to Weiss.
“Hey, I wouldn’t want to overstep my boundaries.” Weiss said, while Vaughn gave a bark of laughter. With his voice snotty with sarcasm, Vaughn asked, “Boundaries? You’ve stepped so far over the boundaries of appropriate behavior that---“
Syd shook her head and interrupted him. "You know, I love Weiss, I do. But I really don't need or want a threesome. So, if you don't mind my saying, why don't you take that com unit out of your ear and perhaps the two of us could just talk this out?"
As Vaughn sat there stunned, he heard Weiss whisper, "Finally. Thank God. Talk to you later, buddy." And the com unit went silent. Syd reached out and pulled the earpiece out of Vaughn’s ear and handed it to him. [And the audience goes, all together now: "Aww. Bad Sydney. We liked Weiss." Don’t worry, he’ll be back.]
Vaughn fumbled with the wire and said nothing for a moment. Finally he said, in desperation, "Syd, you know I suck at creative problem solving in the field. With you, when you are the field.” When she raised both eyebrows, he groaned, “Well, that sounded terrible, didn’t it? Sorry.”
Sydney was staring at him in shocked bemusement, mouthing “When you are the field?” She turned her head to hide her smile and then shook it as he looked over at her. She was pointing to the right. “In case it’s escaped your notice, we’re back at the hotel. We’ll have to continue this discussion later. I think I’ll take a few minutes to continue making that list on my Palm Pilot.” She said as he pulled into a parking place. She leapt out of the car and headed inside, smothering her giggles.
Vaughn put his head on the steering wheel and groaned. What bad timing. Syd was right, he totally sucked at creative problem solving in the field.
Weiss walked by the car and pretended to drop his keys so that he could stop and say, “You know, I’ve heard premature ejaculation is a problem in relationships. Or so I’ve been told. Wouldn’t know myself, of course. But I’ve never known a guy with the opposite problem before. You need to work on your timing.”
“Tell me about it.”
"I'll tell you about it -- there's no time like the present. Follow her. Now."
Chapter 15: In which Vaughn talks in lots of capital letters, slams doors. Then tries to follow the plan.
Chapter 15: In which Vaughn talks in lots of capital letters, slams doors. Then tries to follow the plan.
Vaughn walked quickly through the hotel lobby and went up to “their” room. He opened the door and to his astonishment, Sydney was indeed pulling out her Palm Pilot. He couldn’t believe it. He flippin’ could not believe it.
Slamming the door, Vaughn asked, “Are you really going to make a list of all the reasons I might have had for being stupid?”
Sydney cringed a little as the door vibrated and said slowly, “Sure. Umm, actually, I already have a list I made up a while ago.”
“I’ve been working on it for a while. It was like, oh, I don’t know, therapy, I guess….” Sydney trailed off as she watched Vaughn cross his arms over his chest, which did really nice things to his biceps. She sighed distractedly as she continued talking. “We, I mean I, just finished it early last week. I think it has seven points on it -- I was checking when you came in--”
“Seven…? SEVEN!You can’t be serious!”
“Yes, the possibilities for why you might have been so---“
“You said it not me,” Sydney smiled, swinging her leg back and forth as she sat on the bed.
“Said what…?” Vaughn asked, watching her leg move. They were so long. Smooth and….
“Seven? Remember seven?”
“Seven what?” Vaughn grinned. “I think I can do better.”
“Can you?” Sydney asked, opening her eyes wide.
“Oh, you bet---“ Vaughn said, taking a step toward her. She was already on the bed… How hard could it be? Well, maybe he shouldn’t ask that question at the moment.
“Wow. I’m impressed.” Sydney’s eyes dropped down Vaughn’s body and she raised her eyebrows as she looked back up at him.
“Good, because let me show you---“
“Show me? You wrote down all the reasons for why you might have done what you did on your Palm Pilot?”
“Reasons?” Vaughn laughed. “I thought we were talking about inches.”
“Oh? How big is your screwdriver?”
“I hope it’s bigger than portion of your brain that’s trying to figure out what those seven reasons might be, because surely you know that you should be trying---“
“I’ll tell you what I know I should be trying…” Vaughn said, reaching for Sydney’s hand. Kissing the palm, he looked up when she sighed. Then his eyes narrowed as he caught sight of her PDA. “Wait. You really do have seven reasons!”
“I told you I did.”
“Please tell me you didn’t show that list to anyone. Seven!”
“Okay. And stop fixating on the number, the size of the list. You know what they say --- size isn’t important…” She smiled.
Vaughn stopped her with a glare. Sydney attempted to look contrite and then spoiled it by laughing, “Although I have hopes…. “ When he didn’t respond, she sighed and continued, “Anyway. So. I had another idea and I thought I’d work on it until we have to eat and then get ready for the dive.”
“ANOTHER idea? Seven wasn’t enough?"
"Is seven really enough?" Sydney smirked. "I thought you said you could do better. Didn't you?"
"Why are you changing the subject?"
"Because it's fun?"
Vaughn stared at her. "Wait. Don’t you want to talk about this? Have one of those serious conversations? I thought you wanted to--”
“Not right now. Something you said before – I need to think about for myself.” And maybe if I give you some time, you'll get a clue, Sydney thought hopefully. Her mother had told her it was best if men thought they had thoughts all by themselves. At least occasionally.
“Are you going to enlighten me?” Vaughn snapped, “Or do I have to guess?”
“Calm down. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
“It’s not my KNICKERS that are in a twist, Syd.” He growled.
Syd laughed again and then seeing the expression on his face, sobered her features. “Sorry. There’s really not enough time to umm, untwist you right now. Or me.”
When Vaughn opened his mouth to object, Sydney held up her hand, “Hey, it wasn’t me stopping at that scenic overlook above the sugar cane.”
“WHAAT? Are you saying that you wanted to do it on the car?”
“No. I’m teasing. Joking? Remember that?” Sydney asked with an air of wide-eyed innocence. Vaughn wasn’t buying it, she saw and continued, “Seriously, with our luck, given that the car was a convertible, we’d get arrested for public indecency. I could see the headlines, ‘Creative clandestine operations? Not-so-covertly-convertible-copulating CIA agents?’ But if we’d had a conventional coupe car….”
“Arggh!” Vaughn groaned and grabbed for Sydney. Pulling her down on the bed, he rolled her underneath him and held her head still for his mouth. She responded for a moment, then spoiled it by starting to giggle. “Sorry,” she gasped out. “Alliteration always agitates. Me.”
He pulled back and slapped the bed on either side of her shoulders and exclaimed, “Are you drunk? You’re driving me up the wall!”
“I know. Isn’t it fun?” She pulled his head down and planted a quick kiss on it and then blinked up at him.
“You. Are. Insane. This is what happens, take it from me, when you’ve spent WAY too much time with Weiss.”
“I heard that!” Weiss called from the other room.
Startled, Vaughn looked over at the connector door. It was closed. “Yes, the walls are that thin,” Syd whispered, “Which, since I said before that I’m not into the idea of a threesome, is another reason not to…” She stopped to yawn.
Vaughn dropped his forehead to rest against Sydney’s and felt her smile again. She reached up and clasped her arms around his back. He relaxed his body against hers and smiled too. He said, “I think you need to take a nap. This is my cue to go into town and do a little shopping. I think it’s also my turn to get everyone dinner. Have any preferences?” He gave her a hug and asked as he pushed himself to his feet.
“French fries? A hot hoagie? Yoplait yogurt?”
“Cashew chicken?” she called out as Vaughn left the room, shaking his head.
“She’s hungry,” Vaughn said in resignation as he saw Weiss.
“Then feed her.” Weiss shrugged. “Do I have to tell you everything?”
“Yeah. Do you know she’s got seven---“
"I thought she told you that size isn't everything," Weiss laughed. "Good thing, eh, shortie?" he asked smirking, as he elbowed Vaughn.
Chapter 16: So now, Syd’s seriously silly. And Weiss starts to see somewhat scary similarities.
Chapter 16: So now, Syd’s seriously silly. And Weiss starts to see somewhat scary similarities.
After Vaughn left on his shopping mission, Weiss poked his head through the connector door. “Cashew chicken isn’t really alliterative. Hard c, soft c---"
"I'd go with the hard---" Sydney began to giggle.
Weiss rolled his eyes. "I guess I have to ask too. Are you drunk? High? Nuts?”
“No. I didn’t sleep well last night and today was exhausting. I’m just a little punchy. And happy.” Sydney sighed.
“You alliterate when you are happy?” Weiss leaned on the door jamb.
“I am an English major. I alliterate when I don’t have any angst.” Sydney laughed when Weiss groaned. Shecontinued with a little smirk, “Why not? It’s better than overusing onomatopoeias. Want more? I can keep going. ”
"Vaughn would probably appreciate that a little more than me," Weiss grinned. Then shaking his head, he asked, “Don’t you think that’s a little odd? The alliterating for fun?”
“You’re talking to the daughter of Jack Bristow and Irina Derevko and you think advocating alliteration is odd? When you consider the universe of options available to me, genetically speaking…” Sydney curled up on the bed as Weiss paced back and forth.
Weiss stopped and stared at her. He saw the point. “Yeah. Keep on alliterating. I’ll live with that. But, just out of curiosity, what does your mom do when she’s happy?”
“Hmm. Let’s see. Bait my father. Keep him off balance. Get him to yell.”
“That’s how you know she’s happy? When she’s driving your dad crazy? Hmm,” Weiss said looking at her speculatively, “Speaking of genetics…What were you doing to Vaughn in here? ‘Size isn’t important?’ for example. Ring any bells?”
“Oh. Oh! Eww. Am I….? And wow, these walls are thin! But you know, before my mom pretended to die my parents did have good times together, we all did, and ---“
“And pretending to die – that’s just a minor hiccup in any relationship, I suppose? Right up there with leaving the toilet seat up. Or—“
“Or going out with one woman while asking another woman out to dinner, telling her the watch story….”
“The watch story?” Weiss inquired. When Syd said nothing, he continued, “Somehow, whatever that is, I don’t think that’s the equivalent of being a KGB spy, Syd. But do you know why he played around like that? It was so atypical of him. Do you have any ideas? I don’t think he’s figured it out, yet.”
As she smushed her face into the pillow, Syd mumbled, “Something he said today, I think I’ve got it. I don’t think he does yet, though.”
“What? What is it?” Weiss asked eagerly. If Sydney knew then this entire problem could be wrapped up nice and tight and he could be home by morning with a good report and---
“I, well." Sydney shook her head and wagged her finger in Weiss's direction. "I’m not going to tell you before I tell him! But FYI, my dad once told me that when you’re interrogating somebody, the most important intel often is revealed when someone just blurts something out.”
“Oh. My. God. Please, please, pleeeeease, don’t tell me you’re using techniques you learned from Jack Bristow…”
“Sure. If they work. Why not?” Sydney shrugged.
Weiss stared at her. Finally he said, “Sometimes, Syd, you scare the crap out of me. Poor Vaughn.” Then he laughed. “Yeah, poor guy. My heart bleeds. Wait, I’ve got one more question.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“What does your dad do when he’s happy?”
“I don’t know. If I knew the answer to that, to what makes him happy, I could have already figured out Rambaldi,” Syd said dryly. Then she sighed, “My dad is so controlled, so concerned about maintaining control – how can you be happy when you do that 24/7? The only time he loses control is—“
“About, around your mom?” Weiss asked speculatively, thinking the parallels were getting just a touch creepy. He shook his head to clear it and asked, “Do you remember…”
“You were starting to say something about before your mom left. When the three of you were together, what made your dad happy? I mean, it’s hard to tell now that much of anything… I’ve only seen him laugh once in all the years I’ve known him.”
“You’ve seen him laugh?” Syd asked. Weiss shrugged and said nothing. Hmm, must be some guy-thing he didn’t want her to know about. She’d get it out of him later. Weiss was such an easy touch when it came to interrogations, especially when he was tired. She shrugged herself and continued, “I know he’s not what you would call a joker, never was, not like you. But when I was a kid, one strong memory I have is the three of us playing games.”
“Such a surprise, the Bristows playing games,” Weiss exclaimed in fake amazement. “Just out of curiosity, what game did your dad like?”
“Risk. Never, ever, play that game with him. You cannot win. And did he love it. And Boggle, he could find the words so fast. Wonder when’s the last time….” She trailed off, thinking.
“Risk. Wow. What. A. Shock.” Weiss said sarcastically, but then frowned as a thought occurred to him. “Who won when your parents played? Your mom or dad?”
“Pretty even. That’s no surprise, either, is it?” Syd asked. Then she noted, “Then sometimes, I would be teamed up with one of them and we’d always win – I mean, whoever had me. I don’t know if I really helped or if I just added to the competitiveness of it or if the other person let us win.”
Weiss thought of making an analogy, but decided even he had enough of those for today. Probably. For now. “But they – both your parents -- played that with you when you were how old?”
Syd thought for a moment. “Starting at age four, I think.”
“You played Risk, the game of global domination, at age four? Four?”
“Why? What’s the big deal?” Syd asked, perplexed.
“Risk is not a game for four year olds. Most four year olds are playing Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, Syd. Not Risk. Risk is a game best played by adults.”
“LIFE, I mean real life, is a game for adults, Weiss. Risk is nothing in comparison.”
He stared at her. “And that is the one critical difference between you and Vaughn. Between Jack and Vaughn. The willingness to take risks.” As Syd groped around the bed to find her Palm Pilot, he added, “Speaking of taking risks, holiday dinners around the Bristow-Vaughn table are going to be fascinating.”
Syd chuckled, “Do you think Kendall will let my father have a carving knife to cut up the Thanksgiving turkey in my mom’s cell?”
“Do you really want to give your father a knife when he’s in close proximity to your mother?”
“Good point. One of these days she’s going to push him a little too far…” Sydney frowned and looked at the ceiling. “Why exactly is my mom always pushing my father? What does she want him to do?” Syd mumbled and looked over at Weiss.
Weiss stared at her and raised his eyebrows, wagging them at her. “Oh, I don’t know. Why have you been pushing Vaughn? Hmm? See any parallels between the two of you and your parents?”
Syd giggled, then groaned, “Ooh, I need to veer away quickly from that exit on the highway of happy thoughts. Yuck. Crash imminent.”
“’The highway of happy thoughts’? For the love of…..Speaking of crashing, you need a nap. Go to sleep.” Weiss shook his head and turned to walk back into his room.
“And whatever you do, don’t make that comparison to Vaughn!” Sydney called out.
Weiss frowned from the doorway and demanded, ”Do I look like an idiot?” Not waiting for an answer, he walked into his room, muttering, “That’s all I need to do. Compare him to Jack and the two of them to that gruesome twosome, Jack and Irina, and all this hard work…I wish someone would pay this much attention to my love life. I mean the closest thing I’ve had to a date has been—“
”What’s that, Weiss?” Syd called out.
“Nothing. Nothing, nothing. Just like my love life. Nothing.” Then he raised his voice, “Go. To. Sleep. Vaughn was right, you need to rest. We have that scuba project tonight, remember?”
“Somehow I don’t think the reason he wants me rested is deep sea diving,” she laughed sleepily.
Weiss muttered, “Ear plugs, I need ear plugs. Or maybe a cork for that hole in my head I must have in order to have agreed to this…”
Chapter 17: In which the boys eat and talk.
Chapter 17: In which the boys eat and talk.
Vaughn returned with containers of Chinese food and a bag he stuffed in a dresser drawer while Weiss called Barclay and Washington for dinner.
“Where’s Syd?” Vaughn asked.
“Still sleeping,” Weiss mumbled with a mouth of moogogaipan. “We’ll save her the cashew chicken.” He swallowed and rolled his eyes at the other men as Vaughn hesitated and then carefully opened the door to Sydney's room. "Do not wake her up!" Weiss hissed.
"I won't!" Vaughn hissed back. "I just want to..." He looked down.
Barclay grinned. "I know. He just wants to look on his Sleeping Beauty."
"Ooooh," Washington said, putting his hand over his heart. "So sweet."
"Oh, shut up," Vaughn said in a whisper and went into the other room, closing the door behind him. Walking silently over to the bed, he slowly sat down on the bed, next to Sydney. After gently smoothing her hair away from her cheek, he leaned down and kissed the soft skin as lightly as possible. “Syd… Someday soon….” he whispered as the traced a path across her cheek to her mouth. Pressing his lips lightly to hers, he smiled as he remembered what Barclay had just said.
“Why…” Sydney sighed, her eyes still closed “Were you smiling when you just kissed me?”
“The guys were joking about Sleeping Beauty and here you were---“
“I think you all have an unhealthy fascination with Disney’s animated women,” Sydney said, turning over.
“Well, we are on ABC,” Vaughn pointed out, his hand sliding surreptitiously toward Sydney’s Palm Pilot on the night stand.
“Forget about it!” Sydney said, grabbing his hand and flinging it aside. “That’s cheating.”
“But I’m dying to know…” Vaughn wheedled, smiling down at her.
“You can get used to waiting. I did,” Sydney pointed out.
“Ouch,” Vaughn winced, looking at Sydney carefully. Seeing the tiny smile on her lips, he pinched her butt.
“Hey!” Sydney laughed. Grabbing his hand once again, she pulled him toward her as she yawned. “Stay with me until I fall back asleep?”
“Sure.” Vaughn paused. Smiling again, he leaned over and kissed her hair. “Princess.”
"So…” Weiss said, thinking hard. “I guess that means Sydney would be Princess...Lights, Halogen, Bulb, Track, Flora, Flourescent....something to do with lights..." Weiss finished, frowning.
"Aurora," Barclay told him. "Aurora. Like in Borealis."
"The princess's name in Sleeping Beauty is Aurora Borealis?" Washington asked.
"No!" Barclay exclaimed, then winced when he heard how loud his voice was. They all wanted Sydney to be rested and ready for…whatever. “It’s Princess Aurora.”
“Well, what are her parents’ names?” Weiss asked.
“I don’t know! Why?”
“Because we could use them as code for Jack and Irina.”
“Which would make you the three fairies,” Vaughn said as he came in and closed the door. Pointing from Weiss to Barclay to Washington, he named them, “Flora, Fauna and Merriwether.”
“I call the fairy who wore the blue,” Weiss noted, tapping his chopstick on the table.
“Hey!” Washington protested. “Pink isn’t my color!”
“You’re a magic fairy, Washington, change the color of your stinkin’ dress to whatever you want! Sheesh! Do I have to tell you everything?” Barclay asked in disgust as Vaughn sat down with them at the small table.
“And besides, Wash,” Weiss shrugged. “I think pink is probably your color. Didn’t your wife buy you that pink oxford shirt once? Said it went with your skin tone or something?”
“Yeah,” Washington grimaced.
“Wait, she said more than that,” Barclay laughed softly as he handed Vaughn the food containers. “She said that the pink nicely offset the chocolate brown tone of your skin.”
“Nah,” Vaughn corrected him. “She actually said more than that. She said that his skin was the color of semi-sweet chocolate chips because he could be sooooo….”
”Sweet!” Weiss, Barclay and Vaughn said in unison.
“How’s Syd?” Washington asked desperately.
“Out like a light.” Vaughn quipped and they all broke into fits of laughter.
“Whoa,” Sydney whispered from the other side of the door. “Men have really stupid conversations. I'm going back to sleep. Or maybe I’ll call Fran and have an intelligent conversation about shoes or something.”
“So, tonight,” Weiss told Vaughn as they resumed eating. “The three of us will take the van again and you and Syd can take your honeymooners’ car.”
“Some honeymoon,” Barclay quipped.
“Yeah,” Washington agreed. “When a guy has to climb around on balcony railings to get a little nookie, it’s pretty pathetic.”
Vaughn’s mouth dropped open. “What? How did you know? Weiss!”
“Well, like you think I’d let you go out there without doing any recon, making sure the area was secure? I had to use them.”
Barclay nodded. “Yeah, Vaughn, thanks a bunch. You could be moving this relationship along a little faster, you know. Washington and I didn’t appreciate Weiss’ early morning phone call to go out and scout the beach to make sure the coast was clear for your little Spiderman routine this morning.”
“Wait a minute, you all---“
“Just call us your guardian angels on this op, Vaughn,” Weiss said with a grin.
“I thought we were the fairy godmothers,” Barclay noted.
“I’m not doing the pink. So we’re guardian angels. Hey, Vaughn, what’s your problem, anyway?” Washington asked. “With the princess?”
“Well, first off, I don’t think he’s even told her how he feels yet,” Weiss commented as he forked another bite in his mouth.
“Great going, boy scout,” Barclay commented with a dirty look. “That’s pretty basic. Jack will not like this.”
“Jack? What’s this about Jack!” Vaughn exclaimed.
“Shh!” the other men said, looking at the connector door.
“Jack wants Syd to be happy, you fool.” Weiss said acerbically.
Washington added, “And as odd as it seems to us watching you in action, or should we say inaction, you seem to be the one to make Syd happy.”
“How do you know that?” Vaughn demanded.
“Jack.” All three said in unison.
Vaughn said incredulously, “Jack? Jack said that? I can’t believe it.”
“Well, you gotta know when to approach him,” Weiss commented matter-of-factly.
“And when would that be?” Vaughn asked.
Weiss said calmly, “After he’s seen Irina. He gets all agitated and—“
“Blurts things out. Kinda like you in the van earlier today? Lose control a little around Syd, don’t you?” Barclay noted.
Weiss winced and drew a line across his throat at Barclay while Vaughn was busy looking at the other man.
“Great! Now I’ve got the three of you giving me advice!” Vaughn frowned and everyone stared at the wrinkled expanse of his forehead. He continued, “Why did you even have this conversation with Jack, anyway?”
“Kendall was the one, actually. Went up to him one night and asked when the junior officers could go home, what it would take for them to be able to see their wives while they were still awake. Not that it’s an issue for me,” Weiss sighed.
“The man is brave or an idiot,” Barclay said with a frown.
Washington nodded. “No kidding. I vote for idiot. But anyway, Kendall went on to say that Jack seemed really stressed—“
“How can you tell the difference normal Jack and really stressed Jack?” Weiss laughed.
Barclay agreed. “Yeah, the guy is wound kinda tight, isn’t he? Anyway, he blurted something out about being worried about Syd, that Irina was all uptight that she wasn’t happy, that when Irina was uptight---“
Vaughn said, ”Then Jack’s life is hell. Or another, deeper circle of hell.”
Washington nodded. “Yeah. And then Kendall asks, actually asks, him what it would take to make Syd happy and Jack tells him to mind his own business. Kendall stalks off and—“
Barclay nodded his head in Weiss’ direction. “Weiss here, who is either stupid or has no fear, goes over and asks Jack the same question. Saying as her handler he has a right to know the answer. And Jack blurts out your name. Then turns all white, because, drumroll here please,” Weiss and Washington used their forks to bang on the table, “Jack Bristow talked about emotions.”
“So…” Vaughn trailed off.
“When we heard that you were the point man on this op, we all had hopes, Vaughn.” Barclay noted.
Washington added, ”Hopes that you would get your freaking act together, get together with Syd, make her happy, which would make Irina less uptight and therefore get Jack out of that circle of hell he’s in, which might, just might, result in a lighter load for us and therefore we might get home in time to have some nookie with OUR wives.”
Vaughn stared at them and broke into laughter. “I don’t know, you guys are putting a lot of pressure on me. I don’t know if I can perform under these circumstances….”
“You better, or that picture Barclay took of you flying across the balcony in hockey puck boxers will become the Op Center screen saver when we return to the office,” Weiss warned.
Chapter 18: In which there is actual evidence of a mission. Go figure.
Chapter 18: In which there is actual evidence of a mission. Go figure.
“Hey, Ariel, get into mermaid mode,” Weiss commented as Syd and Vaughn walked over to them on the deserted beach. “Time to dive.”
“Didja ever wonder how mermaids and mermen have merbabies?” Barclay asked. “Given that---“
“No!” Sydney said, rolling her eyes.
“Valid question, though,” Vaughn nodded as he pulled on his gear and checked the air regulator before they all got into the boat.
“Totally,” Weiss agreed.
“Why is that a valid question?” Sydney asked as she too checked her gear.
“Because that’s why Ariel had to become a girl with legs,” Barclay told her with every evidence of seriousness.
“What?” Sydney asked. If only she could tell Fran about these conversations. Maybe she could make some sense out of them. But no, that would require superhuman powers. Now, this, this is what Rambaldi should have concentrated on – making sense of the male mind.
Washington explained, “Because the hidden agenda in the film is that the prince ---“
“Eric, I’ll remind you. Prince Eric,” Weiss said smugly.
“Prince Eric has to get into Ariel’s---“ Vaughn began.
“That doesn’t happen!” Sydney protested. “It’s a G-rated Disney movie. A cartoon! For kids!”
“Only if you don’t look below the surface. You have to look below the surface in the movie, Syd,” Vaughn told her.
“What?” Sydney stared at him, then all of the men as they each nodded.
“Really. You’re an English major and you just accept the piece of fiction at its face value?” Weiss shook his head mournfully. “I’m disappointed.”
“Me too,” Washington agreed, as he pulled in the mooring rope.
“Me too,” Barclay added, as he slowly gunned the motor and they set off.
“Me---“ Vaughn began, then grunted when Sydney smacked him in the stomach.
“For the last time!” Sydney hissed. “Prince Eric was not trying to get….nookie from Ariel.”
“Sure he was,” Weiss disagreed.
“First of all, he’s a man,” Washington explained. He grinned when the men nodded and Sydney rolled her eyes.
“Second of all,” Vaughn added. “If the whole point of changing from mermaid to human was not to get legs and thereby make herself…how shall I say it…available---“
“It was so that she could live on land!” Sydney ground out. "Because she was curious!"
“Yeah, curious about human nookie, if you want my opinion,” Weiss added. “I mean, what’s a merman got going for him, anyway?”
“Maybe half a brain?” Sydney muttered, as she checked their position against the instructions and nodded to Barclay who was navigating.
“Which brings us back to my original point,” Barclay noted, as he began to cut the motor after checking their coordinates. “How do mermaids and mermen make merbabies?”
Sydney pulled her face mask down and sat on the edge of the boat. “I’m outta here. Off to search for signs of intelligent life on the planet. Sea urchins, maybe? Or perhaps I’ll meet Sponge Bob Square Pants. Even Patrick the Starfish would do at this point.” She pushed herself off of the boat and landed with a nearly-silent splash in the water.
Weiss put a hand on Vaughn’s shoulder as he pulled his own mask down. “Go on, Flounder. Make sure Ariel doesn’t get into trouble down there.” He shoved Vaughn into the water and grinned. “I’ve been dying for months to do something like that.”
“How long you think it’s gonna take them?” Barclay asked as he turned to watch their progress on the tracking equipment.
“Depends upon how…” Weiss grimaced. “Aggravated the contact was when he placed the boxes down there.”
“Could be a while then,” Washington said with a sigh. “What are we gonna do?”
Barclay shrugged. “We could rate the Disney princesses on the hot-o-meter.”
A while later Sydney emerged from the water to hear Weiss arguing softly, “Nah. Cinderella was more approachable when she was the neglected stepdaughter. Hair down, bare feet, ripped dress. Now, that’s a woman you could take places. Do things. When she’s all duded up for the ball? Forget it. I mean, what can you do in glass shoes? They’ll break---“
“Weiss, I’m going to break your head,” Sydney gritted out. “We need some help down there.”
Weiss asked, “What’s the problem down there?”
Vaughn explained, “The stinking containers are wedged so tightly, so deeply, into the sand and all this other crap down there, it’s like digging in cement. And it‘s hard to get good torque in the water. This sucks.”
“How can they be so badly stuck?” Weiss asked. Then he sighed as the Barclay and Washington looked at each other and nodded. Quickly, he glared at them and added, “I mean…..”
“What?” Syd asked suspiciously.
“Well, I mean, didn’t the contact just recently put them down there? At least that’s what he told me.” Weiss frowned. Then smirked, “But Vaughn, seems to me you need the practice of extricating something deeply wedged into a hole. You know, dig yourself out of a hole? Hmm?” Then squawked when his friend shot a huge splash in his direction.
Syd scolded, “Boys, boys, this is supposed to be a clandestine operation, remember?” She rolled her eyes.
Weiss sobered up slightly, enough to tell Barclay to get suited up and help them. Barclay looked with some trepidation at Vaughn, who laughed and apologized, “Sorry, for earlier, Barclay. In the van. I was a little…”
“Out of his mind,” Weiss finished. “But we’ve got him back on his medication now. Did you know they sell salt peter in Lahaina? Not so surprising, I mean, this being an old whaling port and all. You know, those sailors out for months at a time……”
Syd giggled. Barclay and Washington both coughed to cover their laughter. The sound of teeth grinding was audible in the night air. Vaughn grabbed Syd and dove. Barclay scrambled into the water to follow them.
Even with Barclay’s help it was a nightmare. They had to return to the boat several times for different tools to prize out the containers. Barclay innocently commented on one of their surface forays, “Bristow and Vaughn – you’re a good team, if what I saw down there and on the rest of this mission is typical. You compliment each other and anticipate each other’s needs and movements.” They both nodded and avoided looking at each other. In the silence, Barclay continued, “I don’t know why you two don’t work together all the time. Seems a waste to me.” Weiss looked superior. Vaughn gave Barclay a dirty look and refrained from responding. Syd looked away to hide her smile.
Finally, they extracted three containers. Later, the five of them stood on the dock, talking softly about the dive. Syd threw on a cover up, while the men donned t-shirts. In the warm breeze, their suits would dry quickly, so no one bothered to change into street clothes before heading back to the hotel. Gathering up some gear, Syd commented, "These containers look more interesting than anything else we've seen yet and I wanted to…..." As she talked, she stepped onto the beach and stumbled a little.
Barclay, who was closest, grabbed her elbow and then moved away quickly as Vaughn came over and took her arm.
Weiss shook his head, "Whoa, Syd, you're tired. Didn’t you get enough sleep this afternoon?”
“How could I?” Syd protested. “You used up most of the time talking to me about board games, remember?”
“Oops,” Weiss said cheerfully.
“Thanks a bunch, Weiss,” Vaughn hissed. Sydney stepped away for a moment to brush sand off and paid them no attention, having learned that sometimes it was best to ignore Weiss and Vaughn for her own peace of mind.
Weiss hissed back, “You need to tell her how you feel first, you dope. Then you need some sleep too, if you want my opinion. I’m doing you a favor. You don’t want her to remember your first time together as a lackluster performance, do you?”
“Some favor! And this is not a team effort! But, eh, you’re right,” Vaughn said in disgust. “Again.” He looked away. Then his brow wrinkled, “Board games?” he echoed in puzzlement.
“You know, Risk, Chutes and Ladders?” Weiss said.
“I hate Risk,” Vaughn said flatly. “That game gives me a headache. Boggle’s good though. And I like Taboo.” When I was a kid--- He stared in puzzlement as Syd and Weiss began to laugh.
Weiss sobered and said to Sydney, “You don't need to do anything else tonight. I can handle analyzing the intel just like I've been doing all along."
"But -- I'm curious about those containers. And what’s our goal on this mission, anyway? I keep forgetting,” Sydney asked. “Didn’t the contact call this part ‘message in a bottle?’ So what’s the message?”
"You can see them tomorrow. It's sure to be no big deal, anyway. This is not Rambaldi stuff after all. Why don't you--"
Vaughn interrupted to ask Sydney, "When we get back to the hotel, why don't we just sit on the beach a while and relax?"
Everyone seemed to hold their breath waiting for her answer. Syd shrugged and said, "Sure, that sounds.....nice and....relaxing." Everyone sighed happily. Syd looked at the men curiously, but no one offered any explanations.
Weiss warbled, “Good idea, nice night…”
Barclay added, “Beautiful night. Warm, tropical breezes...”
Washington continued, “Gorgeous night. The scent of flowers in the air…”
Vaughn finished, “Perfect night. Absolutely perfect night for just relaxing on the beach.”
She stared at them, “What are you? Some barbershop quartet for the Travel Channel?”
As they all just grinned at her, she thought, ‘What was with these guys, tonight?’ First they had the giggles over Chinese food and now this? Clearly, she needed to monitor their MSG intake. Either that, or they had been spending way too much time watching Lifetime Television. Or, she thought remembering the earlier conversation, repeats on the Disney Channel.
Chapter 19: In which there is some light romance on the beach. Everyone sighs happily again.
Chapter 19: In which there is some light romance on the beach. Everyone sighs happily again.
When they got to the hotel, Vaughn snagged some towels from the hotel’s towel rack by the pool and the couple followed the lighted path to the beach. Placing the towels on the sand, he sat down and pulled her with him. Seeing her shiver a little, he urged her to sit between his legs and wrapped his arms around her. "Umm, this is nice," she murmured and rubbed his leg with hers. He smiled and kissed her hair. They looked out toward the ocean. Syd commented, "It's weird. It's so dark tonight without the moon. You know Molokai is out there -- this huge land mass -- and yet you can't see it."
Vaughn thought to himself, 'Where's Weiss? He'd just love that analogy.'
Then he took a deep breath and asked, hating to spoil the peace of the moment, "Do you want to talk some more about--"
Sydney shook her head and the wet ends of her hair whipped back and forth. "You know what, Vaughn? I don't. We can go over that list I made later, tomorrow. You know we’ll work this all out. But not right now. Weiss was right, I'm just too tired. And this is too nice." She paused. "Humph. You'd think an English major could come up with a better word than 'nice', wouldn't you? I must be tired. I'm babbling, aren't I?" she commented, feeling more than seeing his smile.
Vaughn quipped, “Well, at least you’ve stopped the endless alliteration.”
Sydney shook her head and asked, "How about we just talk about...whatever? Tell me what's been going on with your life in the last six months, that kind of stuff...."
Vaughn was quiet for a moment and then said softly, "I do have something I need to tell you right now, though."
He leaned forward and whispered, "Sydney, I love you."
She turned to face him and smiled. "I know."
"You do?" He asked and raised his eyebrows, wrinkling his forehead. He saw her eyes move upwards and asked, "What are you doing?"
"Counting the wrinkles on your forehead." He groaned. She continued teasing, "You know when you get older--"
"Sometimes I doubt that I am actually going to get any older, that maybe I'll die of frustration by then." Vaughn rolled his eyes, then asked, "Syd, how did you know? Was it women's intuition or--"
"My mom told me," Syd said with a chuckle while Vaughn rolled his eyes.
He asked, "How does she know these things, anyway?"
"I don't know. I 'm not sure I want to know. But I do know this -- " Sydney took a deep breath. "I love you."
"I know," Vaughn said with a smile of his own.
"How?" Sydney began to laugh.
"Your mom told me." They both laughed. Vaughn continued, "Of course she also told me I was blind and stupid and--"
"You don't need to go on. My mom has a tongue like a knife."
"Hmm. Prove to me you're different," Vaughn said teasingly as she tilted her face up for his kiss.
He lifted his head and quipped, “Please, whatever you do, don’t tell me that was ‘nice.’”
Syd opened her eyes and blinked up at him. “Hmm? Oh no. It was more than nice, it was….Sorry, I’m exhausted. The stress of the last two days and then, really the last few weeks I’ve been running on empty – I guess it’s finally catching up with me. Sorry. It’s my turn for bad timing, isn’t it?”
Vaughn gave a huge sigh of mock relief and commented, “Well, glad to see I’m not the only one.”
“No. We’re more alike than I think we knew. But, hey, I thought you didn’t sleep well last night. Where are you getting your energy?”
“Oddly enough,” Vaughn said sarcastically, “I’ve had lots of energy today,” he said with a smile as he tilted his hips forward towards her.
She chuckled sleepily, “Energy? That’s what you’re calling that nowadays?”
“C’mon. You need to crash.” Vaughn said and then stared at her in bemusement when she began to giggle helplessly at the word ‘crash’ and mumbled something about a ‘happy highway.’ Huh? She really needed to get some sleep. He stood and pulled her up.
“No, not yet. Let’s just sit here and talk for a while,” Syd protested.
“We can do that on our balcony. That way when you fall asleep I don’t have so far to carry you,” Vaughn contradicted her. Putting his arm around her, they walked into the hotel.
“Gee, that sounds……nice,” Sydney laughed at the look on Vaughn’s face. “Would this be the first time you carried me when I wasn’t shot or bleeding or tortured?”
Vaughn thought for a moment. “I think so.”
“Well, at least tonight will see something done between us for the first time.”
“Wow. Just what I was hoping, too,” Vaughn said sarcastically. "I am so lucky. I get to spend another night with Weiss."
"Should I be worried about that?" Syd laughed.
"The only thing you should worry about is whether or not I'm going to kill him when he gives me more unwanted advice."
"Has the advice been so bad?"
"No. That's the problem. He's been right. That's why I want to kill him.”
They were walking toward the hotel and Syd automatically looked up at their rooms. “Smile,” she chuckled, “The guys are watching.”
Vaughn looked up and sure enough Weiss, Barclay and Washington were laughing down at them from a balcony. Syd gave a happy wave. Vaughn lifted his own hand in a slightly more offensive digital salute.
Chapter 20: In which, well, people talk. A lot. Which is such a shock in this story, isn’t it? What else? Remember what Syd said
Chapter 20: In which, well, people talk. A lot. Which is such a shock in this story, isn’t it? What else? Remember what Syd said about Weiss getting tired? Hmm. And Vaughn takes a pill. He’ll need it by the end of this Chapter. Oh yeah, and Jack makes a phone call. Minor little details like that.
"What are you doing in here, anyway?" Weiss asked in surprise as the connector door opened and Vaughn walked through. Weiss clicked off his phone without saying goodbye to whomever he was speaking, Vaughn noted but did not care enough to speculate about.
"Why, did you have plans for the room yourself?" Vaughn asked as he walked over to the balcony door and looked out at the night sky. It had been a lovely night. It could have been lovelier, but... There would be other nights. He looked down at the part of himself that was protesting his departure from Sydney's room the loudest and mumbled, 'Just remember that.'
"Ha. Ha. Seriously, though....." Weiss trailed off.
"Wellll," Vaughn turned and gave Weiss a sheepish smile. "Given the fact that Syd heard us talking this morning and you heard us talking this afternoon---"
"Ah. The walls are kinda thin," Weiss noted as he sat down on his bed.
"Right." They looked at each other.
Weiss turned away and mumbled, "And I've had enough close encounters with…” and his voice trailed off so that Vaughn could not hear it.
"What? Were you talking to me?" Vaughn took a step away from the window.
"No. Myself." Weiss shrugged.
"You've been doing that a lot lately," Vaughn noted.
"Well, you know me. If no one else is willing to listen, I'll just talk to myself. Just me, all alone, no one else giving me unwanted advice on how to handle the situation…..."
"Weiss, are you okay?" Vaughn asked. Eric was babbling, for crying out loud.
"Fine. Just peachy." Weiss pointed his finger at Vaughn. "Hey -- But even if you both were tired, you could have just slept with her, not done anything else…”
“Yeah, right. Like I have that much control?" Vaughn rolled his eyes. Then he sighed. "And she’s so tired, that would be..….inappropriate in the extreme. And I’d really rather wait until she has at least a smidgen of energy.”
“You are such a liar,” Weiss scoffed.
“Okay, okay. At this point she could be totally asleep and I almost wouldn’t care anymore. Almost.” Vaughn grinned.
They both laughed in commiseration. Then Weiss commented, “Honestly, I swear you’d be happy as long as she was awake enough to moan,” and here Weiss went into falsetto, “’Oh, honey, you were the best! Much better than Noah—‘”
Weiss ducked as Vaughn threw a pillow at him. “You are SO dead, Eric. Dead! I can’t wait til you have a girlfriend again. I swear payback is going to be sweet then.”
“Speaking of payback, why did you bring up Noah today? Don’t tell me you’re thinking you went out with Alice to punish Syd for Noah?" Weiss shook his head and frowned. "That would be---“
“Ridiculous. And even I am not that stupid. I don’t know why I said that. It just kind of popped out.” Vaughn thought for a moment while Weiss looked at him speculatively. In a moment, Vaughn continued, “But that’s par for the course with Syd, isn’t it? I don’t know why I do anything.”
Weiss looked at him and said carefully, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a Freudian slip is more than a piece of naughty lingerie.”
Vaughn stared at him. “I think you’ve finally lost it, Weiss.” Weiss shrugged and said nothing further, which was enough to make Vaughn curious. But when the silence continued, Vaughn just shook his head. “Anyway, I’d like to dig myself out of that hole filled with scum I made for myself, thank you very much. You know, act like a gentleman, earn some points,” Vaughn said as he began taking off his clothes.
Weiss laughed in agreement, but then noted, “Don’t push the gentleman bit too far.”
“Huh? I thought……”
“Yeah, but a woman likes to know that a man’s interested. I bet part of why Syd looked so upset today was because you didn’t kiss or her anything all day. Put that in combination with your total lack of forward movement on step two and she was probably worried that you decided the whole situation was too much trouble, too difficult.”
“How did you know?” Vaughn asked in shock.
“I know more about women than I am given credit for, my friend. Not having your looks to coast by on, I’ve had to learn to actually listen to women.”
Vaughn stared at him in shock. “My looks? Coast by?! Are you insane? Oh lord, are you….jealous?”
“Blech. Let’s not let this conversation degenerate into another Bath and Body Works moment. What’s next? Watching 'Terms of Endearment' or 'An Affair to Remember' on Lifetime and sharing a box of tissues?”
”Whatever." Vaughn shook his head as he admitted, "I’m totally lost here. So you think I should have stayed in there tonight.”
Weiss shook his head. “God, no, not if you couldn’t control yourself. These walls are too thin. Don’t need that much information about either of you. I’m talking about later, somewhere else, when I’m somewhere else. But I am looking forward to going a night without hearing you moan Syd's name in your sleep."
Vaughn turned and stared at him. "You're kidding. How often do I do that, anyway?"
"Every time we've been on a mission and share a room, all night, it's 'Syd, Syd, Syd.' I’m curious; don't you ever call her Sydney? Anyway, your dreams probably have more action than my life! And--"
"No, wait," Vaughn interrupted. "I say 'Syd’ every time I'm asleep? I can't believe Alice never said anything before the other day. Although I avoided falling asleep at her place like the plague until the other night when I was so tired about all those squash games you and I played after that long day at work--"
"Well, most of the time you just mumble, so if the person listening didn't know what you were really saying…..."
"Hmm." Vaughn felt his forehead wrinkle as he thought deep thoughts. "I guess I must have been speaking very clearly the other night for once then."
"Guess so,” Weiss said cheerfully. At Vaughn’s suspicious look he added, “Don't ask me! I wasn't there."
"I'm starting to wonder about that."
"What are you talking about?" Weiss asked innocently.
"There's something fishy…..." Vaughn trailed off, staring at Weiss with narrowed eyes.
Weiss laughed. "Are you still fixated on 'The Little Mermaid'? Not surprising though, when you consider that the first time we met Syd she had that day-glow red hair just like Ariel’s, is it?” Weiss asked, always happy to make another analogy. Then smirked, “That red hair made a permanent imprint on your psyche. I’m thinking I see wigs in Syd’s bedroom in the future." Weiss laughed.
Vaughn gave Weiss a dirty look and then his face lightened, "Oh, hey, guess what Syd said tonight?"
"Guess what? What now?" Weiss asked tiredly. Then he brightened. "Ha. Don't tell me Syd asked if you were gay?"
Vaughn cracked up. "No. Thank God. That would totally put me over the edge.”
“After all this time, she might legitimately wonder……”
“Very funny. But get this -- you know that Little Mermaid shirt? Jack gave it to her as a joke Christmas gift. Do you believe that?"
"A joke gift from Jack? About 'The Little Mermaid.'" Weiss nodded, then when he saw Vaughn looking at him curiously, added quckly, "Well, you now know that we are in an alternate universe."
"It gets better, though." Vaughn told him, "Syd gave him a joke gift in return."
Weiss looked puzzled. "Huh? What do you get Jack Bristow as a joke? The mind reels. Defective C4? A Christmas sweater with reindeer on it? A pair of high top sneakers? A clip-on polyester tie? A karaoke machine? Can’t you just see Jack singing, “Surrey with the Fringe on Top?’”
Vaughn cracked up. "Weiss..."
Weiss couldn't stop though. He was on a roll, “One of those 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' books? An 8 by 10 glossy of Kendall, with the dome polished to a high sheen? A mood ring? Billy the Singing Bass? A smidge of plutonium? Nah, he'd find a way to use THAT. Wait, I've got it. An encryption program that translates everything into lyrics from Disney songs?"
"Hey, you're close with that last one! She got him this t-shirt--"
"Jack in a t-shirt?" Weiss interrupted and put his hand up. "Not seeing it.”
"Shut up and let me finish. You’ve got total diarrhea of the mouth tonight, Weiss. You must be exhausted." Vaughn looked at Weiss. He did look tired, actually. He spoke up quickly. "Syd got Jack a t-shirt from that movie, 'The Lion King. 'Remember the bad lion -- Scar -- who always had some nefarious plan? And his lackeys were those irritating hyenas. Hmm.” Vaughn said and stopped with a significant look in Weiss’ direction.
“Go on," Weiss prompted with a bland look on his face.
“So this t-shirt has the hyenas with Scar. Scar is rolling his eyes and saying, 'I'm surrounded by idiots.'"
Weiss broke up. Gasping with laughter he said, "Oh my God. The next time we are in some meeting and Jack does one of his patented eye rolls, I'm gonna imagine him ---"
"I know! Imagine him wearing that t-shirt underneath one of those Armani suits of his.”
Weiss stopped laughing to say, “But wait, you know he’s probably had it bronzed and put in his Sydney shrine in that bunker he calls his house, don’t you?"
Vaughn laughed, “You’re right. He probably does have a Sydney shrine in….. wait a minute.” He stopped and stared at Weiss, “You’ve been in Chez Bristow?”
Weiss bit his lip. Shit, he was too tired to have this conversation. He said quickly, “Sure. Haven’t you?” and shrugged nonchalantly.
“Are you delusional? The only reason Jack would invite me to his house is to have a convenient place to bury my body! I don’t even want to know what’s in that man’s basement. Probably every guy who’s ever done Syd wrong in some way from kindergarten on up.” Vaughn gave a mock shudder. Then sobered, “But I don't think Syd truly knows how much her dad cares about her, the lengths to which he'd go for her.”
Weiss broke into somewhat manic laughter, but then bit his lip before observing, "Don’t mind me, I’m a little tired and punchy myself. And no, I agree, Syd has no idea what Jack would do for her." When Vaughn looked at him quizzically, Weiss continued, "This joke gift business…...We should do something to him, plan some joke on him. He owes me…..” Weiss trailed off. Vaughn looked at him as if he were nuts. “In fact, I’ll ask Syd when this is all over, bring her in on the plan."
“I’m missing something here, Eric,” Vaughn commented. “You want to play a joke on Jack Bristow? Are you friggin’ nuts? Do you have a death wish?”
“No. All I need is a plan. Syd is good with plans..…” As Weiss pulled back the covers on this bed, he looked over at his friend and said, "Speaking of plans…..."
“Tomorrow. Step Two,” Vaughn said firmly.
Weiss nodded, “Good. Don't make me have to nudge you again. It’s tiring.”
“You’re tired? Try living through this! And anyway," Vaughn pointed his forefinger toward Weiss. "I think you've enjoyed it.”
“Maybe. Well, parts of it. Tomorrow should be good.” Weiss grinned.
Vaughn groaned as he pulled back his own covers, “I hope I sleep tonight.”
“Here,” Weiss said, walking over to this bag, opening it and pulling out a pill, “Take this.”
“What is it? Salt peter?”
“Nah. Don't be ridiculous." Weiss grinned. "And do they even make that stuff any more? It’s a sleeping pill.”
“Since when do you take sleeping pills?”
“I don’t. I don’t need to. I have a clear conscience." Weiss shrugged. "More or less.”
“Well, then where did you get this?” Vaughn asked curiously.
“What, don’t you trust me?”
“After the past several days?” Vaughn asked. Weiss gave him a dirty look and Vaughn shook his head, “No, I’m kidding. You’ve been disgustingly, annoyingly, irritatingly correct. Do you have some inside information besides this amazing ability of yours to listen to women?” Weiss shrugged. Vaughn continued, “But seriously, where did you get this? It’s not like they hand these out with our MREs.”
“Jack. Who else?" Weiss explained as if the answer should be obvious. "The man has a portable pharmacy in his briefcase.”
“He does?” Vaughn asked, even as he wondered why he was surprised.
“Sure, what Jack doesn’t whip up in his basement lab, he has from his sundry hospital stays. Plus if he wanted a drug, I think he’s got every nurse at the US Naval Hospital in his pocket. If you get my drift.”
Vaughn’s mouth dropped open. “You’re kidding.”
Weiss shook his head, “Nope. Let me tell you my care improved dramatically after Jack came to visit me. After, all I heard was, “Jack this”, “Jack that.” Which, by the way, is not something I intend to ever tell Irina. I don’t want to be the one to get that woman jealous.” He gave a mock shudder and then smiled and continued, “But, seriously, ask Jack a question about any painkiller in the world and he’s a regular 'Physicians’ Desk Reference'. For the record, his favorite is Percodan. Or is it Percocet? Irina prefers—“
Vaughn interrupted the pharmacology discussion to ask, “When did you have this discussion with them about painkillers?”
”When I happened to mention that you were Syd’s partner on this trip. A discussion about painkillers seemed appropriate.”
“Ha. Ha. You are soooo funny,” Vaughn mocked. He asked, “But, when did you have time? Between the original agent getting sick, contacting me and getting ready to leave…” Weiss shrugged. Vaughn narrowed his eyes, something was wrong with the timing here, but then he brushed it off. He was tired, probably imagining things. He asked, “And the sleeping pill?”
“Well, that was Irina’s idea. She thinks you don’t sleep when Syd is on an op. You want to tell me how she knows that, by the way?” Weiss raised an eyebrow.
Vaughn protested, “I have no freaking clue! I certainly didn’t tell her! It's one of those unanswered questions. I hope there aren't as many in Season 3, but lemme tell you, that woman is…...”
“Tell me about it. Aside from everything else, you sure you want Jack and Irina as the in-laws? Talk about family dynamics at the Thanksgiving dinner table. And planning the wedding? I’m thinking elopement. Vegas or Hawaii sound good.”
“You’re not kidding. And Thanksgiving?" Vaughn shuddered. "I’ll think we’ll have to start our own tradition of disarming nukes on every major national holiday.”
“Fine, I’ll babysit. Given your fixation with 'The Little Mermaid', I’m thinking the kids will like my fish. Maybe a dog, though..….Wait a minute! Did you ever think -- your kids will be Jack and Irina’s grandchildren! Maybe you should adopt. The genetics…….”
“Now I’ll never go to sleep,” Vaughn moaned.
Vaughn looked over at his phone and groaned. “Oh, come on! I’ve had it!”
“What? Who is it?” Weiss asked quizzically.
“It’s Jack. Or Irina. For the love of..…” he said with disgust as he picked up the phone. He answered it saying, “What? What now?”
There was a pause. “Hello, Michael.”
“Jack,” Vaughn said resignedly.
“Just calling to check on how the mission’s going,” Jack said conversationally.
As if, Jack Bristow had casual conversations. And that tone of voice was enough to send Vaughn’s blood pressure through the roof. It always did.
“That’s bullshit, Jack and you know it. You never called me before to see how the mission was going.”
Weiss mumbled, “Gee, aren’t you lucky? He trusts you. He calls me all the time on missions.” Vaughn made a slicing motion with his hand in Weiss’ direction.
“Fine," Jack said in a clipped tone of voice. "You want me to cut to the chase, I will. I just extracted information from Irina about the little conversation she had with you after you got out of the hospital.”
“Extracted? How?” Vaughn asked suspiciously.
“I didn’t lay a hand on her. " Jack said. Vaughn frowned -- Jack's voice sounded amused. Amused? Jack was continuing, "I just..…talked. And then she talked.”
“You mean you baited and tormented Irina using your knowledge of her against her,” Vaughn said flatly.
“And your point would be what?” Jack asked.
“But…..” Vaughn protested. He rubbed his forehead knowing that he would probably never understand the games Jack and Irina played.
“Oh, get over it, she enjoys the game too,” Jack said dismissively.
Vaughn thought for a moment, “Wait a minute, why didn’t you just watch the tapes from her monitors?”
“It was more……enjoyable this way, I assure you.”
“This is your idea of FUN?” Vaughn spluttered.
“One of my ideas. Now, let’s move onto your ideas. Like the idea of what constitutes a normal life, shall we?" Jack asked, pausing when Vaughn hissed in a breath. "I’ll make this quick. You chose to be an agent. Therefore, your life will not be easy and uncomplicated. Period. If you wanted easy and uncomplicated you could have chosen to be something else. Accept that and live with it.”
“Live with it? Like you did? Like your life? No thanks, Jack. No thanks. I don’t want to live in that cold prison you call YOUR life!” Vaughn said with venom.
Weiss stared at him in shock.
Vaughn heard Jack take a breath and then say calmly. Of course he said it calmly, Vaughn thought grinding his teeth. Jack thought Vaughn was just a little gnat buzzing around, not even a bee or...He looked over at Weiss, a lobster. Oh wait, Jack was talking. “Vaughn, are you listening? Let me explain something. There’s one major difference between my life and yours. Sydney is not Irina.” Jack paused and when Vaughn said nothing, sighed and continued, “Take my---“
Vaughn interrupted him, “You know what, Jack? Even though some of the advice has been good, I am sick and tired of it. You know what? I think I can deal with this myself from now on. You know what? You’ve got enough to worry about with your OWN woman. You know what I want? I want you to butt out and mind your own business and let me worry about Syd.”
Silence. Then Jack said with a hint of a smile in his voice, “Congratulations. I'm sure we are all glad to see you’ve finally found your backbone. I know I wondered what it would take." He paused and Vaughn heard Irina laughing softly in the background. Jack resumed talking. "Irina hopes it’s permanently implanted. Take it from me, you need a backbone to deal with the women in this family." Jack paused and then said dryly, "Good luck. Son.”
And the phone went dead.
Vaughn tossed his phone aside and slammed his hand down on the bed. “Damn him! He called me son again!”
Weiss had been staring at him in amazement throughout the phone call. At Vaughn’s final words, he shook his head and held out his hand, “Here. Take the pill.”
“Oh, believe me, I’m taking the pill.”
Chapter 21: In which we learn what Syd meant by the phrase, “Frost the pie.”
Chapter 21: In which we learn what Syd meant by the phrase, “Frost the pie.”
Vaughn groaned as he heard Weiss get out of bed. He sat up, looked at his watch and shook his head. Why was Weiss up so early? They had at least 45 minutes before they had to get up. Speaking of which, he looked down at his lap. Then he looked back at his watch, then at Weiss. Hmm.
“What?” Weiss asked suspiciously.
“So… how long a shower you planning on taking this morning, anyway?” Vaughn asked.
“Why? Oh.” Weiss said knowingly. He nodded and said, “I’m thinking…say, thirty minutes?”
“Works for me.”
“I’m thinking three minutes would work for you at this point,” Weiss smirked.
“Shut up and go away,” Vaughn laughed and pointed toward the bathroom.
Weiss chuckled as he went into the bathroom. He called out, “I’m turning on the water and I hear nothing, nothing, I tell you. Nothing at all.” And the idiot began humming the song, “Kiss the Girl,” from that movie Vaughn never wanted to hear about again. Ever.
Vaulting out of bed, Vaughn went over to the dresser to change his shorts. While Syd had been dutifully working on that blasted list of hers yesterday, or rather talking to Weiss about board games (and what was up with that, he wondered absently), he had gone into town for a little shopping of his own. No hockey pucks today, thank you. Blue silk, he thought Syd would appreciate that more than the Kings motif cotton or the much more plentiful Hawaiian floral motif available in Lahaina.
Vaughn walked over to the door and listened for a moment. He could hear Syd moving around and without a second thought, opened the door. He jumped, she jumped – she had been reaching out to open the door herself. They both smiled. Vaughn began, “Weiss is in the shower and—“
“He can’t hear anything. I know. I heard him. These walls are really thin,” Syd said quickly as she pulled him into her room.
Vaughn grabbed her around the waist and kicked the door shut behind him as he said, “I know. Let’s make the most of the time we have.”
“It’s thirty minutes, I think I heard him say.” Sydney smiled.
“Did you also hear him cast aspersions---“ Vaughn began, unable to stop himself from grinning.
“Hey, I don’t know about you, but after waiting all this time,” Sydney said with an arch tone as she ran a fingertip down the center of Vaughn’s chest. “It’s not going to take me thirty minutes….”
“Well, maybe we can frost the pie more than once then.” Vaughn said archly.
Syd looked up at him, perplexed, then giggled. “I don’t know, you tell me -- just how much frosting have you been saving up for this occasion?”
Vaughn burst out laughing. “Enough, let me tell you. Don’t worry about that.” He pulled back and made a face at her Little Mermaid tshirt. “Take that off.” She raised her eyebrow and did not move. He knew she was teasing, but had reached the end of his rope as he growled, “Syd, I swear to God if you don’t…”
“What?” she asked sweetly.
“That’s it. I’ll show you creative problem solving in the field.” And he reached down and pulled the nightshirt off, picked Sydney up and tossed her gently onto the bed. Then stopped and let out his breath in a hiss. When his eyes finally made their way back up to her face, she was staring at him with a smile.
“Vaughn, as much as I appreciate the silk boxers over the Kings pucks and sticks, what I’d appreciate even more is if you were not wearing anything at all.”
He raised his eyebrow. “Well, then take them off me.”
“We’re into the orders this morning, aren’t we?” Sydney noted and tapped her fingers on the bedspread.
“Syd, we all know how this is going to end. Don’t waste our time.”
“Okay.” Sydney smiled again and waggled her finger at him. “Come on over.”
“What?” Vaughn stopped for a moment, slightly surprised that she had acceded so rapidly.
Sydney caught his look and explained, “Now that you told me how you feel, the explanation can wait a little. I’m ready, if you catch my drift,” Syd said with a smile.
Inwardly, Vaughn groaned. Damn it, Weiss was right again! Outwardly he smiled and said, “Good. I’ve run out of patience, I’m beyond ready……” He leaned over the bed, grabbed her hands and put them on his waist.
Instinctively Sydney’s hands curled around the waistband of the boxers and she pulled them down. Looking at him, she said, “I guess you are.”
A while later, Syd sighed and said, “Well, I’m ever so glad to see you got your, um, backbone back overnight. I mean, really glad. I mean, ecstatically glad. If you get my drift….”
Vaughn laughed and shook his head. “Not more sea references.”
Syd commented with a wrinkle to her own brow, “I was starting to worry that I’d pushed you too far.”
“Nah.” Vaughn shook his head and kissed Sydney’s forehead, smoothing the lines of worry away. “You know me well enough to know just how far to push. That wasn’t the issue. It was my own guilt. It was better to, what did your mom say? Accept my punishment and then move on? Besides it was actually just that first day that you gave me a hard time. Yesterday was me waiting for a sign from the heavens or the writers to come up with an explanation, neither of which happened. You weren’t giving me a hard time yesterday really.”
“Oh really?” Syd said archly. “What about at the car? Or this morning?”
Vaughn laughed. Then laughed again for the sheer joy of being able to laugh with Sydney once again. It had been so long, he had missed her and… “Speaking of which, we still have some time left, you know. So did you want to see if you could—“
“Squeeze any more frosting out of the tube?” Syd asked trying to keep a straight face, then convulsing with laughter. Vaughn stared at her with his mouth agape, then broke up himself. “Sure, I’m game,” she finished.
“Speaking of games,” Vaughn asked, “Was this one better than Risk?” When they finished laughing, Vaughn asked her, “So, we already know I’d gotten my backbone back this morning, but what were you thinking? I thought maybe you had wanted to wait for the explanation.”
“Like that would have made a difference to you this morning?” she asked with a smile.
“Don’t worry. I liked it. As if you couldn’t tell. But next time, it’s my turn—“ Sydney said teasingly.
“You got it. No arguments. Then it’s mine again. But give me a minute.” Vaughn thought and feeling Sydney’s legs rubbing against his, added, “Well, maybe I won’t need a minute…”
“I’m sure we can work out a schedule. Anyway, I just decided this morning when I heard Weiss talking about taking a thirty minute shower, that this was an example of taking advantage of a wild card in the field. You know?”
“Oh?” Vaughn asked absently as he ran his fingertips along Sydney’s skin.
“Yeah, otherwise known as the ‘screw it’ Chapter in the field op manual.” Sydney laughed as she continued, “And too, I thought I’d take pity on you.” She bit her lip to keep from laughing.
“Pity on me!” Vaughn looked up.
“Yeah. Before you exploded.” Sydney shrugged. “I felt bad for you, after all. Took pity---“
“That was pity sex? Uh-huh. Right. I’m not that stupid and clueless,” Vaughn laughed. “But then, hmm.” He stroked his chin and wiggled his eyebrows at her. “I can’t wait to see what it’s like when you really mean it.”
“Hmmm to you too,” Sydney noted, darting forward to kiss Vaughn’s chin. “And when we have the time and don’t have to worry about how much noise we’re making and….”
Vaughn groaned, “Don’t start. Now we really don’t have the time.”
“We could save some time by taking a shower together. I see by the, um, obvious that you’re up to the task now.”
Vaughn stood up quickly and pulled Syd up with him. Heading in the direction of the bathroom, he noted, “I always did appreciate your creative problem solving skills in the field, Syd.”
“And I appreciate the way you wield the umm, knife, when you frost a pie, Vaughn.”
Chapter 22: In which Weiss’ ability to distract confuses even me. So poor Vaughn never has a chance to follow up on his suspicions.
In which Weiss’ ability to distract confuses even me. So poor Vaughn never has a chance to follow up on his suspicions. But he does get a day off with Sydney.
Cut to the chase: Syd and Vaughn sit on the beach, wait for a waiter to bring an umbrella drink with a note attached to it. Get said drink, get said note, give it to Weiss. What a lame mission.
“What a lame mission,” Vaughn said to Weiss back in the hotel. “You want to tell me once again what the hell we’re doing?”
“I told you before,” Weiss said, pocketing the note.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Sure, I did.” Weiss shrugged.
"No." Vaughn said with exaggerated patience. "You. Did. Not--"
“Boys!” Sydney exclaimed as she walked into the room from “hers”. “What are you arguing about now?”
“Weiss never told us what the goal of this mission was,” Vaughn accused.
“Sure, he did,” Sydney said with a crease between her brows. “At least, I think he did.”
“Aak!" Weiss exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air. "Of course I did. I can't be held responsible if you two can't remember simple things like the nature of this mission.” Weiss continued in rapid-fire speech, “Honestly, you two are driving me nuts! Your brains are fried from the endless ever-so-critical questions like, ‘Is my Little Mermaid tshirt a turn off? Does she like my new boxers or does she prefer the hockey pucks?’ I can’t take it any more. I swear. I can’t help it if you’ve spent all your time on this mission concentrating on practices and procedures not found in any field manual.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Syd said slyly, “I think Vaughn enjoyed my interpretation of the ‘screw it’ Chapter of the field manual this morning.” Vaughn choked on his own laughter, while Weiss’ eyes looked like they were going to bug out of his head.
“Oh, no.” Weiss protested. “I am not having this conversation with a woman. Nope. Notgonnahappen. Not natural. Not acceptable. Not appropriate.”
“Appropriate?” Vaughn and Syd parroted together. “YOU?”
“Even I have my limits,” Weiss said solemnly, then spoiled it by grinning. “Guess what?”
Vaughn groaned again. “Oh no, that’s how this whole thing started.”
Weiss shook his head, “No, I believe it started when Syd walked in with that Bozo red hair needing a dentist. This is just the,” he paused, “climax of the affair.”
Syd giggled, while Vaughn rolled his eyes and mumbled, “Geez, I hope not.”
“Actually, me too, buddy, given that this morning you only had—“
“Eric!” Vaughn interrupted him. “I thought you were the one going on about what was appropriate.”
“True. And daylight’s burning." Weiss motioned toward the sun high in the sky. "Let’s get back on track. What I was about to say is that you guys are free.”
“Free?” Syd asked, puzzled.
“Yup. Mission accomplished, as far as you two are concerned. Barclay, Washington and I can finish it up. Our plane doesn’t leave until tomorrow. So, go, go. Shoo.” Weiss said with a smile.
“Whaat?” Vaughn asked suspiciously. “If we’re done, why not fly back today? After all, what's the point in --”
“Vaughn, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth," Sydney interjected, giving a speculative look at Weiss who stared back at her blankly. "Besides, it doesn’t make much sense for the taxpayers to foot a bill for the two of us to fly back today and then the three of them tomorrow."
“That’s right!” Weiss agreed. “So, go have fun. Go sightseeing, whatever, as long as I don’t have to hear it or hear about it.”
“Syd, what do you want to do?” Vaughn asked, still looking at Weiss with narrowed eyes.
“Hmm. I know! Thanks to the Travel Channel!" Sydney began to laugh. "I saw this on the Travel Channel one time: the road to Hana! I’ve never done that, have you?” Sydney asked Vaughn.
“No. That sounds fine. Whatever you think...” Vaughn agreed absently, his forehead furrowing. There was something....
Weiss agreed eagerly. “Great idea, Syd. All those switchbacks and deadly curves – kinda like your relationship with Vaughn, doncha know?”
Vaughn groaned at the analogy. "How do you come up with these analogies, anyway? Did you take a class in college on “The Analogy: The best way to drive family and friends insane?"
Weiss ignored Vaughn and continued, ever-so-helpfully, “In fact, you know, teh road to Hana is nearly an all day drive. Why don’t you plan on spending the night in Hana and then use a copter to come back tomorrow? I’m sure the concierge at the front desk could help you make reservations,” Weiss suggested, rocking back and forth on his heels.
“Yeah, Syd, could you do that?” Vaughn asked absently. Syd nodded and left the room. The minute the door closed behind her, Vaughn turned to Weiss and began walking toward him. “Okay, that’s it. Spill.”
"Spill what? Oh....Did you have another type of problem this morning?" Weiss smirked. "As I told you yesterday, I don't have personal experience with those types of problems, so---"
“What is this mission about?" Vaughn interrupted. "Why haven’t you told us? What’s on that note? In fact, let me see that note. NOW.”
“Geez. I’d think you’d be a little less testy this morning or was there just not enough time, after all?" Weiss grinned. Heh. This was fun. A good time was had by all, he could report back. "I guess I was right the first time about your problem that’s the opposite of premature ejaculation?“
“Let. Me. See. The. Note,” Vaughn ground out.
“Why? What’s that going to do for you? You haven’t been paying enough attention on this mission to be able to interpret anything this late in the game,” Weiss said staunchly.
“You’re making me extremely suspicious, Eric. Give over the note.” Vaughn demanded.
“No. You’re making me extremely irritated, Mikey.”
“Do NOT call me Mikey! That’s it!” Vaughn said as he lunged toward Weiss and reached for his front pocket.
Weiss backed up. “Hey! Don’t even think about going there, boy. Don’t tell me that I have to be the one to break the bad news to Sydney.”
Vaughn held out his hand and asked, “Bad news?”
“Yeah. Hoyay right here on the fifth floor. Not good. Jack is so not going to like that, let me tell you. And frankly, you’re not my type, anyway. Too pretty.”
"Too....?" Vaughn spluttered, feeling red climb up his face, right up to his wrinkled forehead.
Weiss chuckled and reached into his pocket and pulled out the note. “Here,” he said, “If it means that much to you, knock yourself out.”
Vaughn stared at it. “This is just a list of art galleries in Lahaina, with what is it – a list of paintings?”
“Yup. Was it worth groping me for that note?”
“I did not grope you!”
“Well, that was as close as I want to come with any man, let me tell you.” Weiss shuddered.
“Stop it. Answer the question, already!” Vaughn implored.
“What question?” Weiss asked innocently. “Why am I doing this? Helping set you two up? Hey, you know me, just a regular matchmaker, here to make the course of true love run smooth. Or would that be smoothly? Smoothly. Smooth. No, smoothly. Right.”
Vaughn stared at Weiss. “Have you been channeling Marshall?”
“Nah. What was your question?” Weiss asked.
“I’m gonna kill you one of these days. I don’t remember!”
“Oh, I do. Why am I doing this? Seriously?” Weiss asked, Vaughn nodded and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Yes. Finally. Get serious.”
"Okay. I saw you killing yourself pretending to be involved with Alice. She was a convenience, something I never thought I'd see you do. But not much of a convenience I'm guessing, if she could believe you were gay -- not able to get it up for her very often, were you?" Vaughn stepped toward him and Weiss held up his hands. "Hey! Like that's not the truth? Like you weren't seeing Syd's face in your bed instead of Alice? But, I see Syd every day and I know what she's feeling. I’ve been dealing with it, with her as her handler for months now. I watched you two together the last few days. You are an amazing team. Get it together, will you? My time babysitting the two of you has come to an end. I’d like to move on to my own love life, thank you.”
Vaughn stood there in silence for a long moment, absorbing the truths his friend had just imparted. He nodded. Eric nodded back. Vaughn smiled and pointed at Eric as he said, “Yeah, that’s a good point, Weiss, that last one. Here you are giving us all this advice and when’s the last time---“
“Yeah. What a fool you were to listen to me about relationships when I got all stupid last year. When have I ever had a relationship like you and Syd have? Exactly never. My longest term relationship is with my fish. Who, by the way, seemed to like you better than me.”
"How can you tell? They’re stupid pets." Vaughn made a swimming motion with his hand. "They just swim around, looking at each other."
"Stupid? Just swimming around and looking at each other? Sounds like you and Syd the last two years," Weiss laughed.
"Ha. Ha." Vaughn rolled his eyes.
"Hey -- Before this morning you’d barely even kissed each other and yet you had more intimacy between you than people married for 10 years. So don't rag on me about my relationship with my fish."
"You're comparing us to some guppies?" Vaughn asked.
"Better than the black molly. Did you know that the female will eat her babies? Or is it the male after they've had sex? Or is that the praying mantis – isn’t she the one who rips the head off the male before they’ve had sex?”
They looked at each other and said in unison, “Eww.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Syd said as she walked back in the room. “The first time I heard that in biology class – you know the same place I learned how to dissect worms, Vaughn? I thought that didn’t make any sense. But as an adult I realize that the male of the species seems perfectly capable of having sex without needing or, even, wanting a brain involved in the process.”
“Ouch,” the men said in unison, again.
“That was a broad hint that we’ll be talking about Alice today, darling,” Syd said with a smile as she walked back into her room to pack. Then spoiled the moment by giggling.
“That mantis thing -- sounds like Irina,” Vaughn quipped in a whisper to Weiss. The two men looked at each other and laughed.
Weiss commented, “Well, since you’re still alive, I’m thinking that Syd doesn’t take after her mother that way. But then again, it’s not like Jack looks terribly dead, does he?”
“That’s because he hasn’t had the little…" Vaughn groaned and shook his head. "I’m stopping right now. Blech. Let’s not have this conversation.”
“Fine. But you do have the Alice thing figured out, right? Please tell me…” Weiss begged. This op had to go well. It had to.
“Yes. I think so. Besides if I didn’t, I get the feeling that Syd’s figured it out, anyway.”
“I don’t care who’s figured it out. As long as there’s a reason," Weiss asserted firmly. "Some reason, any reason, at this point. I’d hate to think the Alice was just a gratuitous plot point designed solely to delay the inevitable Sydney-Vaughn relationship.”
“Yeah. If we’re not going to use that story to further develop my character, give me some backstory, then what’s the point? It would almost be…condescending to anyone who cares about us. A cheap trick. But hey -- at least we know it can't get any worse, right?”
“Totally. Hey, did you hear that?” Weiss cocked his head.
Vaughn followed suit. “What? That crumbling, crashing sound?”
Weiss nodded. “Yeah. That’s the sound of the fourth wall coming down. Quick, better get going to Hana before we lose any pretense at maintaining the audience’s credulity.”
Chapter 23: In which there is reckless driving, turns taken, walking on the edge, drive-by 'shootings' and finally something gets pulled out.
Chapter 23: In which there is reckless driving, turns taken, walking on the edge, drive-by 'shootings' and finally something gets pulled out.
Weiss said, “Oh, speaking of the road to Hana? Mike, have you ever let Syd drive on a mission?”
“I don’t know, I don’t remember,” Vaughn shrugged.
“You must not have, you’d remember. Believe me. Well, all I can say is, don’t eat first.”
“Given the topic of your upcoming conversation… All I’m saying is that the road is full of ups and downs, curves, surprises. It is not for the weak of stomach. Kind of like…” Weiss stopped when he saw the look of disgust on Vaughn’s face, “Okay, I’ve already made that analogy. But Sydney Bristow drives like she does everything else – with great….gusto. Gee, just imagine what---“
“Shut up now if you know what’s good for you,” Vaughn warned, trying to look menacing, although he knew he was failing.
“The scary look ain’t workin’, Mikey,” Weiss noted.
“I know,” Vaughn sighed. “I can’t really get or stay angry with you. It’s like being mad at a…teddy bear. Ooomph!” Vaughn grunted when Weiss smacked him in the stomach. “Geez, Eric!”
“Hey, I could have aimed lower and all you would have been able to do is kiss the girl…” Weiss chortled, then continued. “But seriously, I’m glad you and Syd seem on the road to…where you should be. And finally, you grew some cajones.”
"EXCUSE ME?" Vaughn exclaimed.
“Okay, okay.” Weiss held up his hands. “It’s sure easy to yank your chain, isn’t it? Get out of here and go get yourself a lei."
'I meant a lei -- one of those flower thingies that go around your neck? It's your mind that's in the gutter, not mine." Weiss said innocently. Then spoiled the effect by smirking and saying, “Well, if I can’t make analogies, at least let my have fun by using a pun.” [Everyone is allowed to groan here. Okay, moving on now:]
Two hours later, Vaughn thought he knew why Weiss had been smirking about the road to Hana. Sydney drove like a freakin’ maniac!
“OH MY GOD! Slow down!” Vaughn ordered as he grabbed onto the door handle of the car.
“C’mon, this is great. I love it.” Sydney laughed happily. Her hair streaming behind her, she looked over at Vaughn and laughed again at the look of sheer terror on his face. “It’s like driving a theme park ride, your own rollercoaster car, only this is real. Whoosh, zoom, right around all those curves!”
“The next sound is going to be Crash, Blam, Splat! As we drive into the side of the mountain!” Vaughn winced as Sydney took a turn. He closed his eyes and muttered, “Weiss warned me…”
Sydney slowed down a fraction to look over at him. “Uh-oh. Weiss warned you. Did he tell you about that time in Switzerland?”
Vaughn’s eyes snapped open. “What time in Switzerland?”
“Syd, I have the wire, I can call him.” Vaughn patted his shorts pocket.
“You didn’t bring the wire. Tell me you didn’t bring the wire,” Sydney moaned.
Vaughn winced as they went around yet another hairpin curve at breakneck speed. “Yeah, I did. I don’t have it on, but…”
“Why? Why? I am starting to wonder about you two, I really am.”
Vaughn looked at her sharply, wondering just what she might have overheard this morning. He didn’t want to explain Weiss’ sense of humor when he was this close…He said simply, “Well, after that fiasco in Nice, I am loathe to remove the wire when on a mission. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Or inappropriate.”
Anticipating the next curve, she just rolled her eyes and mumbled, “Here we go. Inappropriate, his favorite word.”
“Hey!” Vaughn smiled. He continued, “Nice? Remember that? The date that ended in gunfire and death? All because I’d taken out the wire?”
“’Oh. That’? That’s all you have to say about that?” Vaughn asked in surprise. “Because I’m sure your father is going to---“
“I try to forget about that. And what my father’s going to say about that one of these days. My mom was bad enough and I mean, I still can’t believe that I agreed to it.” Sydney shook her head.
“Why?” he asked defensively.
“Oh, calm down. It’s not that I didn’t want to go. That I didn’t have a good time. It’s that…” Sydney tapped her chest. “I agreed to it knowing that you were, technically at least, still with Alice. That was kind of – scummy -- of me. As my mother pointed out.”
“Your mother said that? Irina Derevko who, for ten years--” Vaughn asked incredulously.
Syd cut him off. “Yeah. When Irina Dereveko gives you a lecture on dating and sexual ethics, it’s hard to look in the mirror the next day, let me tell you.”
“No kidding,” Vaughn groaned. Then his brow crinkled, “But wait a minute. How did your mother know?”
“How do you think? My father.” Syd rolled her eyes.
“How did your father know anyway?”
“Weiss, I’m assuming. Or one of Dad’s contacts. He’s got them everywhere. Our waiter in that restaurant probably owed Dad some favor. Everyone seems to owe him some favor. And sometimes I think he has everyone in his life bugged.”
They looked at each other and began to laugh. Vaughn nodded, “Eww. Well, while that’s not out of the question given that it’s Jack Bristow we’re talking about, I’m surprised I did not have a little conversation with him. You know the kind – where I end up staring at the end of his gun or see a fist coming my way. Because, you know, I was the scummy one, not you. The scumminess was all mine. In fact, I was not only the scum, I was the pond on which the scum floats.”
“What? Oh, give it a rest. And pond? And yesterday I was the field? What is it with these landscape analogies?”
They looked at each other and said in unison. “Weiss.”
Vaughn shook his head and said, “Well, good attempt at distracting me with the wire. But, what happened in Switzerland?”
Syd smiled ruefully. “Well, I was going, Weiss said, a little too fast around a curve and this stupid hiker jumped down from the side of the mountain. Kind of like this, where the road is carved out between the rock and the edge? And so I had to swerve, only there was a car coming the other way…”
Vaughn swallowed hard and muttered something that sounded like, “And he wonders why I don’t sleep when the two of them are on an op. If I’m not there, she runs amok, amok…”
“Amok? Who uses the word amok?”
“Me, when I see my life flash before my eyes. All those old vocabulary lessons rush before my eyes along with the rest of my life. Syd! Keep your eyes on the road!” Vaughn braced his hands on the dashboard.
“Vaughn, aren’t you enjoying this?”
“I would if you’d just slow down a little or at least pay attention! That’s IT! The next wide spot in the road, pull over. I’m taking over.”
“Okay, fine, I want a chance to look at the scenery too.”
“Yeah, I’ve really seen SO much scenery with the way you drive. Just a big blur of green as it goes by.”
She bit her lip. Maybe she had been driving just a smidge too fast? Maybe she was just a little anxious? It had been fun, though. She liked racing around curves, testing her abilities, taking risks. Oh well, there was a driveby ahead. She pulled in slowly, carefully, aware that soon THE conversation would commence.
They both got out and strolled over to the railing, looking at the incredible vista. Endless blue ocean, bright blue sky, taro fields directly below them, everywhere lush greenness. Vaughn looked over at Sydney as she leaned over the railing, then leapt up and began walking along it. He looked over and rolled his eyes at the sheer drop below. He shook his head as he stifled the urge to pull her back to a safer spot. Syd caught the movement out of the corner of her eye and turned to face him and jumped down, propping her hip against the railing. She asked, “What is it? Why were you shaking your head?”
“You, Sydney Bristow, are…” Vaughn trailed off and just stared at her.
“What?” She prodded with a smile.
“You…bring me back to life.”
“What?” Sydney waited. She had been waiting a long time for this moment.
“I just realized that, as much as there is no way on God’s green earth I am ever letting you drive this road with me in the car again,” he smiled, a huge smile that melted her right there, “I have never felt so alive as when I am with you. That when we aren’t together, it’s like my life is….” He stopped unable to find the correct words.
“A little less real? Everything seems muted, gray. Nothing seems quite real?” Sydney asked softly.
“Yes!” He nodded.
“Me too,” she agreed and looked out over the ocean. “Did Weiss tell you he actually reprimanded me for taking unnecessary risks early last week?”
“NO!” Vaughn grabbed Sydney’s arms and spun her around to face him. “He did not. Syd, what the hell—?“
For once she was the one to look down. “He said that my behavior on missions in the last six months had become increasingly risky and…. And we are not going to go into what my dad had to say to me.” She shook her head.
Vaughn pressed, squeezing her arm gently. “Why? What’s been going on?”
“I was trying to feel something. Even if it was fear or the rush of adrenaline. Something. I felt like…”
“Ever since the scene in the bar with Alice, you felt like you were just going through the motions?”
Sydney looked up sharply and bit out, “Yes.” Catching sight of the honesty in his face, she asked, “You too? Did Weiss know?”
“He seems to know everything.” Vaughn frowned. “He’s starting to scare me.”
“Scare you? Weiss?“ Sydney scoffed.
“Yeah. I mean, he was so against us in the beginning I have trouble seeing him as matchmaker. And I’ve wondered about the timing of this mission. But I guess it was just our luck or his, if he was playing matchmaker, that your original agent got appendicitis the morning of the op.”
“What are you talking about?” Sydney frowned and shook her head. “You were always the assigned agent.”
“WHAAT?” Vaughn yelled.
Sydney blinked. “What are you carrying on about? I’ve been a nervous wreck ever since he told me that my request for you out of the choices he gave me was granted, the day after he filed the reprimand for my risky behavior. He encouraged me to ask for you, said we needed to settle this one way or another and this mission was a good way….You and I, we just didn’t meet up until the day we left because you were out of the country…” She trailed off as he shook his head.
“There’s still something I’m missing, something about the timing, I don’t know…But I do know that we have been so set up,” Vaughn laughed.
“We’ll have to think of a way to get him back,” Sydney said, laughing as well.
“Really?” Vaughn asked as he moved his hands from her arms to her hips and pulled her close. “Really? Or will we have to thank him?” he murmured before leaning down and touching his lips to hers. Then he pulled back slightly, wanting to see her to know this was real, only to feel Syd reach up and pull his head back down. “Syd, I wasn’t going anywhere. I just---“ His words were stopped by her mouth. One of his hands immediately came up to cup her head and hold her in place, as if he were afraid that she might move away, she thought. Not a chance, not a chance. Then she stopped thinking as their lips met and pressed, and stroked until both knew they needed to stop. But didn’t for a long time.
Another car pulled into the driveby and they pulled apart. They stood there for a second, just staring at each other. Suddenly, Vaughn reached into the back seat of the convertible and rummaged around in a duffel bag Weiss had handed him as he had left. “Aha! I knew it.”
“A camera.” With a grin, he walked over to the couple getting out of the other car and asked them, “Would you take a picture of my wife and I? We don’t have any pictures of the two of us on this vacation, do we?” Sydney gaped at him. “C’mon, don’t you want some?” he asked.
And then turned red when Syd whispered back, “I want some all right, but it’s not pictures that I want.”
Vaughn turned toward her and they both had begun to laugh when the woman called out, “That’s it! Turn right now!” They did and the woman snapped several shots.
Her husband noted, “My wife knew just when to get you to turn. Those will be perfect pictures. You both looked like you were having the time of your lives.”
“We are,” Sydney and Vaughn said in unison. Vaughn reached down and kissed her softly while the woman snapped another picture.
“This must be your honeymoon,” she ventured while handing back the camera.
“Yes,” Sydney agreed, looking sideways at Vaughn. He had started this whole 'marriage' cover.
The woman continued, “Are you going to try to make it to Hana today?” When Syd nodded, the woman recommended that they try a waterfront restaurant in the tiny village and noted also that there was a general store with all sorts of souvenirs.
The husband called out as he got back in his car, “The obligatory souvenir is the tshirt that reads, ‘I did it on the road to Hana!’”
“Well, we are about to do it, alright,” Syd noted as the couple drove off.
“Huh?” Vaughn asked in shock, looking around.
“Don’t get too excited,” she murmured with a downward glance and a smile. “I meant, we’re finally going to have the conversation.”
“Oh, that. Gee, I was hoping…” Vaughn teased and pointed toward a trail head.
“No more dessert for you until we get to that restaurant. And we don’t have time to make s’mores over a campfire out here.” Syd giggled. “We need to finish the main course first – the explanation.”
“That was a lousy analogy,” Vaughn said. He groaned as Sydney hopped back up on the railing.
“I know. But then you’re comparing me to Weiss, who is a master. Did you ever wonder if he read some book filled with analogies and memorized them all?”
“Actually, I wondered if he took a class in them. But that’s enough about him. Do me a favor and get down.”
“Why? Hand me the camera, I want to take a shot from this height.”
“That’s it,” Vaughn ground out and leaning forward, grabbed her around the waist and hauled her over his shoulder. Slapping her lightly on the rear end, he tossed her into the car, passenger side and mumbled, “You’re bad enough normally and Weiss had to put up with you taking what hecalled ‘unnecessary risks’? No wonder….”
Vaughn lost his train of thought as clipping her seatbelt, Syd smiled up at him. “Don’t worry. I think those days are done. I don’t think I’ll need to jump out of buildings anymore to get my thrills. Or at least I hope not,” She said archly.
Leaning toward her, Vaughn kissed her and promised, “I guarantee I can provide enough thrills to keep you satisfied.”
“Yeah, I’ve had months to think up enough scenarios to keep us busy for years.”
Vaughn backed out of the overlook and started down the road. Sydney looked at him and said, “Speaking of the last few months…”
“I know. It’s time. Pull out the PDA and let’s go through your list.”
Sydney grinned and opened her bag. "Well, I'd really rather pull out something of yours, but...here goes."
Chapter 24: In which we spin the roulette wheel of explanations and pick one.
Chapter 24: In which we spin the roulette wheel of explanations and pick one.
Vaughn grinned and concentrated on the road as Sydney pressed buttons on her PDA. While she opened it up, she glanced toward the speedometer and muttered, “You could be driving a little slower.”
“What? What did you say?” Vaughn asked, tilting his head. “Can’t hear you what with the sound of the wind rushing past me---“
“You’re driving a little fast! Oh-my…Come on! Are you trying to kill us?”
“No. You were right, this is fun!”
“I’ve created a monster,” Sydney moaned. Then looking at the screen of her PDA, she brightened. “No, that’s right. You were a worm. That’s option number one. I always liked that one. My mother said it was because I could feel powerful imagining you as a worm, that I could step on you or skewer you on a fishing hook for bait.”
“Lovely analysis from Irina Derevko, the Dear Abby of the KGB,” Vaughn muttered. “I suppose it could have been worse than a worm, …Wait a minute, I thought you told me that no one had seen this list!”
“No. You said, ‘Tell me you haven’t shown this list to anyone.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ It seemed to be exactly what you wanted to hear. And I never actually showed her the list, we just talked about it. Now, if you had asked me, ‘Did you create this list with anyone else?,’ well then, that would have been different, wouldn’t it? But, technically…”
Vaughn ground his teeth. “I can see that asking you questions is going to be lots of fun. Tons of fun. Almost as much fun as interrogating your father.”
Vaughn mouthed, “Thanks? I compare her to Jack and she says, ‘Thanks?’”
Sydney gave him a look. “Vaughn, why do you keep talking to yourself? Did you pick that up from Weiss too?” When he did not answer, she shrugged, “Okay, let’s move on. Two, you wanted a girlfriend you could take to parties and your mom’s for Thanksgiving and have around for….whatever. That was more important than anything else? Convenience. Lovely, using Alice as an escort service.”
Vaughn winced. "Weiss said something similar," he admitted.
Sydney nodded and continued, “Three, you were afraid to break the rule book. I’m a Bristow, rules aren’t that important to me so I can’t relate, I admit. As far as I’m concerned, you use the rule book when it’s helps, when it doesn’t -- just consult the ‘screw it’ Chapter.” She dimpled up at him, “I think you liked that strategy this morning.”
"So I did!" He laughed and gave her a big smile. She stopped for a moment, staring at him. God, his smile. She was lucky that she’d never let him know what his smile did to her, or she could have never forced him into this conversation, had such fun torturing him that first day. If he’d asked her to stop and smiled at her, she would have been a goner. That was intel he was never going to get from her!
Her mother had cautioned her about giving the man too much knowledge. It made Sydney shudder to think what that meant in light of her parents’ relationship. Watching Vaughn negotiate a series of headache-inducing turns, she wondered if that advice meant her mother thought not telling her father that she was KGB, there to steal from him, was just a little, harmless, man-woman game? She shuddered; knowing her mother, that could be just what she thought. But then again that relationship would make anyone shudder on any number of given topics.
Shaking her head, Sydney continued as they entered a straightaway, “Four, what is it my dad said – you were compartmentalizing a bit too much. My dad seems stuck on the notion of little boxes, for some reasons.”
Vaughn muttered, “I’m not touching that analogy with a ten foot pole. Nope. Notgointhere.”
“What?" Sydney blinked at him. "What did you say?”
“Nothing! Go on. I think you're up to five. Will that be Weiss' theory?”
“Yes. Five, Weiss thought that my dad was right-- that you were compartmentalizing, that you thought you were doing the right thing--”
Vaughn quoted with the patented Jack-sneer to the voice, “According to my naïve sense of morality.”
Sydney raised an eyebrow, eerily reminiscent of Jack as he had said that phrase. As if that wasn’t enough to make him nervous, she continued. “Yeah, Weiss said that you were playing by the rule book, but that when you got around me….”
“Weiss was right on that count. If asked, however, I will deny he was right about anything!” They smiled. Vaughn sighed and continued, “Whenever I was around you, I forgot about anything else. I lost control, that was the irony of it. The truth came out. If you had asked me, say when we were in Nice, the name of my girlfriend, I would have said, ‘What girlfriend?’ Or said your name. And if someone had asked me where I worked, I would have had to look at my id badge.”
At Sydney's look of shocked recognition, which he didn’t understand, he continued, “And that was a truth I didn’t want to face because it meant I was out of control. Kind of like, when you were driving on this road?”
“That’s very….Weissian of you. But no doubt, true,” Sydney commented. Looking at him, she nodded and put her hand on his thigh. He wished he could put his hand on top of hers, but wham—around another curve. They smiled at each other as the car zipped around the edge of the road. Syd squeezed his leg and said, “I understand. That was number five, that you could not control yourself around me. I think number six might be that in a world like ours, in which we don’t often seem to have much control, having some control, any control, becomes important, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. And…” He stopped while he gathered his thoughts and then continued, “Seven, if we’re still numbering. Sometimes it’s easier to be with someone for whom you don’t have the strongest feelings, someone comfortable. That way you are still in control.”
“It makes life easier, doesn’t it?” Syd asked. He nodded. She closed the PDA and tossed it into the back seat with her free hand. She took a breath and looked at him as she said carefully, “I know. That’s what I did with Noah. Being with someone who didn’t really matter, in a way. And more importantly, I was trying to recreate the past, I think. The past when I didn’t know what SD6 really was, before I met Danny, before my work got him killed. I think I thought that if I could just pick up with Noah, then all that never really happened.”
“Yes. He represented an easier life, less complicated, more unaware of the complexities of real life, our lives, the lives we've chosen. That’s number eight, I think.” Vaughn stopped and took a deep breath before continuing and then cocked his head, hearing in the distance the sound of a drumroll, “And that’s THE reason, the big reason.”
“It is?” Sydney asked softly.
“You know it is. You knew it the minute I blurted it out yesterday afternoon, didn’t you?" Vaughn asked, knowing in that instant that it was true. "That’s what you were typing in your PDA. That’s why you got so slap happy. Because you’d figured it out.”
“Yes. But how did you—“
“I remember your father telling me once, well, lecturing me actually. That when you’re interrogating someone to pay attention to the little things the person blurts out. That those comments are usually the key.” Vaughn shrugged.
Sydney burst out laughing. “My father needs to write a book. But then again, I think he’s going to be in a book. I think that’s why Barnett keeps hounding him about additional sessions. I think she’s trying to write a book on the ultimate dysfuncational relationship.”
“Well, we were running a close second. Let's not get distracted by your parents, that could take the rest of our lives."
"Sorry," Sydney winced.
"No. I understand. When your parents are one's models for relationships, well, let's say that it's a good idea to review the situation, assumptions, mistakes. But let me finish talking about my own idiocy. You didn’t fit into this easy life I thought I wanted and I thought I could compartmentalize. Like Noah for you, Alice represented for me this easier past, before I knew you, before my life got so complicated. I thought I wanted the easier, calmer, flatter middle road rather than what we had together.”
As he said, that he took a curve too fast and Sydney shrieked as she reached out a hand to steady herself. “Vaughn! Watch it! This road we’re on requires a little more attention than….”
They looked at each other and began laughing. Vaughn shook his head as he asked, “Another analogy? Oh no. Weiss would love this one.”
“That’s why he was smirking about us going on the road to Hana, I bet,” Sydney laughed.
“No, he was smirking because he said you were a crazy driver who would make me lose my lunch.”
“He did not! Oh, he is so dead.”
“You know…” Vaughn confided. “He was the one to push me to ask you out in France.”
“He was?” Sydney asked, not terribly surprised.
”Yeah. Although to be perfectly honest, he told me to tell you how I felt. And me, I thought asking you on a date would be enough, that I wouldn’t have to actually say anything. Being my usual cowardly self when it comes to confronting…”
“Your feelings?” She rolled her eyes. “Men."
“Stop it. But are we done now?” Vaughn asked hopefully.
Sydney laughed and said, "Almost. Just a final question, I still don’t get something. So you asked me out in Nice, hoping what? Besides, perhaps, the obvious?”
“Hoping? Who knows what I was hoping?" Vaughn rolled his eyes. "C'mon. I wasn’t applying game theory to that night!”
When Sydney looked perplexed, Vaughn continued, “Honestly, don’t you remember? After I killed those two SD-6 goons in the alley behind the restaurant – what did I do? I tried to grab you and I intended to kiss you. For the love of God, there are dead bodies lying next to us, the smell of blood and bullets in the air, Ariana Kane is squawking on the com unit and what do I do – try and grab you to have our first kiss? All the while still having a girlfriend, in name anyway, at home. Does that sound like the actions of a man who is in control?”
“No,” Sydney said slowly. “That sounds like the actions of a man….” She trailed off and waited.
“A man deeply confused. On the one hand, a man desperately trying to avoid his fate for fear of the loss of control and on the other, a man desperately trying to embrace his fate because he knows that’s the only way he’ll ever be happy.” Vaughn said softly. “A man desperately in love with a woman. A stupid, clueless, desperate man. Who hopes you’ll forgive him and…”
“Pull into that overlook,” Sydney interrupted him and pointed to an upcoming driveby.
”Just do it!" Sydney ordered. When Vaughn turned the wheel, she added, "And by the way, you need to review those vocabulary lessons, Vaughn. You say ‘huh?’ a lot. Good thing for you, I’m an English major. I can give you those lessons anytime…”
As Vaughn pulled in, he looked at her, “You know, Syd, I was baring my soul back there and you’re talking about vocabulary lessons? Doesn’t do much for---Umph!” He said as she grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
“Stop complaining, you idiot and kiss me. I’m trying to tell you, nonverbally, since I don’t think you aced your verbal SATs,” she paused and squealed when he gave her jaw a pinch. “I wanted to tell you that I love you, I forgive you. Even though you are stupid and clueless.” She dimpled up at him again.
Vaughn groaned, “This is going to become ‘our’ little joke for the rest of our lives, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I think so. And I wanted to reward you for saying all those things when you could concentrate on us, not on the road. I’d hate for you to have to explain a car wreck to my father. Come here.” She pulled his head to hers and their lips met in a kiss, finally free of the past, able to look toward the future.
Much later that night, Sydney and Vaughn were finishing up dinner in the waterfront restaurant the other tourists had recommended. The waitress came over and asked if they wanted dessert. Sydney giggled and the waitress gave a sideways glance to the nearly-empty bottle of champagne in the ice bucket. No doubt thinking it would be best for this female customer to eat a little more, she pressed, “We have a wonderful selection. Tiramisu, homemade French cream horns---“ she broke off when Sydney began giggling again.
Vaughn kicked her under the table, but had trouble keeping a straight face himself. He choked out, “Continue, please.”
The waitress looked from one to the other, feeling relief that in a village as small as Hana the couple had no doubt walked over from their hotel and she did not have to worry about them driving drunk. Still, it would be better if they ate a little something more or she was afraid they might fall into a ditch. “We also have a wide variety of pies. We’re famous for our cream pies. Does that tempt you?”
She stared in bemusement as the couple both collapsed in laughter.
Sydney said, with tears running down her face, “I’ll have the…banana…cream pie myself. Vaughn, how about you?”
His face bright red, Vaughn was laughing as he said, “Nothing for me. Right now.” As the waitress shrugged and turned away, he said to Sydney, “I’m planning on stopping in that general store on the way back to the hotel and buying some whipped topping for my own dessert. You know, to frost the pie?”
Chapter 25: In which there is a question of timing.
Chapter 25: in which there is a question of timing.
The sun streaming into the room gradually woke Sydney and Vaughn up. Vaughn turned toward the clock and grimaced. They did have to get up. They needed to catch that helicopter. Flipping back toward Sydney, he smiled when he saw she was awake. Giving him a soft smile, she reached up and putting her hands around his neck asked, “Is it time to get up?”
“Almost” he whispered back.
Sydney wiggled a little closer. "Almost? Feels like it is time to get up, given that you're already up---"
"We don't really have the time I'd like---" Vaughn began.
Sydney sighed. "We should have woken up earlier. It's all about the timing." She giggled. "That's what my dad always says but I doubt he was thinking about this situation. Do you?"
"Speaking of timing..." Vaughn muttered. "Bringing up your father at that moment, was not conducive to---"
Sydney pressed her hips forward. “Guess not," she sighed. "Let’s just lie here a while,” she suggested.
“Sure,” Vaughn agreed as he buried his face in her neck. Running his hands up and down her back, he savored the moment as she caressed his shoulders. He could practically hear her brain humming away and finally leaned back with a smile, smoothing her hair away from her face.
“What, what are you thinking?” Vaughn asked her.
“Yesterday was the best day of my life.”
“Guess what? It was mine too.”
"Maybe we do have just enough time?" Sydney suggested.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," Vaughn agreed and threw the covers off of Sydney's body.
Sydney and Vaughn laughed as they ran from the helicopter over to the transport plane with just moments to spare. Weiss waved them in and helped Vaughn with the gear. Once it was stowed, Sydney turned to Weiss.
“Weiss,” Syd said with a huge smile. “Thank you for yesterday. Do you know what we did?”
“There’s so much I could say to that, but I’ll pass. I’m all out of analogies.”
Vaughn snorted. “Humph. Like that’s likely. But I have a question. About timing.”
“Don’t tell me you’re still having that….problem, Mike,” Weiss laughed.
“No, I’m not having….That’s not what I meant!” Vaughn protested.
“While you’re collecting your thoughts,” Weiss rolled his eyes, “Let me answer Syd’s question, first. So, let me see. Everything worked out. Vaughn finally confessed the reason for his stupidity. You ate a nice dinner, had some champagne, a decadent dessert...” Sydney choked and Vaughn began laughing. Weiss gave them a curious glance, before continuing, “Walked on the beach, visited the general store, bought the obligatory t-shirt, and then blah, blah, blah, nothing else I need to know about.” Weiss said with a huge grin. “Looks like everything is going well.”
“Yes,” Vaughn said with a smile in Sydney’s direction, “But I’m curious about something. How did you know about dessert in that restaurant, the general store, and the walk on the beach?”
Sydney laughed, “You’ve been spending too much time with Vaughn. You’re usually more articulate than that, Weiss!”
“Oh, stop it, Syd. Don’t you think it’s curious that Weiss knows about all that?” Vaughn asked her.
Sydney shrugged. “Stop being so paranoid. What else would we do in that dinky little town but eat in the only nice restaurant and then walk on the beach?”
“Hmm. It’s still odd. But to get back to my original question. Weiss, both you and Jack and apparently every woman who watches the show thinks it was scummy of me to be asking Syd out while going out with Alice. Right?”
“Well, that’s what the internet chats say, anyway.”
“But the timing of this mission---“
“We’ll get to that later. My phone is vibrating. And while that’s as close as I come to a thrill these days, I still would like to answer it.”
“Oh, no, you don’t! Enjoy the buzz for a moment. Syd tells me that you had already set me up as the male agent on this mission a week ago. Which is not what you told me.”
“What’s a small white lie between friends? I mean, if you can’t lie to your friends to whom can you lie?”
“That’s, that’s….idiotic! And a week ago I was still going out with Alice. So why would you---”
“Oops, gotta go!" Weiss exclaimed. "This vibrating is getting a little too…exciting for me in my recently-celibate state. Well, seemingly-endless celibate state. Why don’t you go check out the new sodas in the refrigerator? Mikey.”
“Why don’t I what?” Vaughn spluttered. Sydney ducked her head forward so that her hair covered her amused face. Weiss knew how to play Vaughn. She should pay attention. Who knew when it might come in handy?
Weiss pointed toward the refrigerator. “We have a whole new bunch of sodas on board for the return flight. You should be interested. I mean, knowing how much you love soda.”
“What?" Vaughn asked, rubbing his forehead. "What in the name of God are you talking about?”
“You’re always offering sodas to people. Like Manolo, other people you interrogate." Weiss looked at Sydney and she nodded in agreement. Weiss continued. "You always say, ‘Would you like a soda?’ That’s bizarre, frankly. Unique interview style. What’s up with that, anyway? Don’t think you got that from Jack. He’s more the ‘tell me what I want to know or I’ll break your face’ kinda guy.”
“Weiss….” Vaughn growled.
“Wait a minute, before I answer the phone, I’ve got a question, been bugging me. So, am I right in that the Noah question you asked two days ago was key or what? Was it that you went out with Alice for the same reason that Syd went out with Noah – pretending that life was easier than it really is, thinking you could ignore the consequences of your own choices?”
Vaughn stared at him in shock. “How did you----“
“Oh, Jack told me---“
“Let me guess, pay attention to what people blurt out?” Vaughn asked, shaking his head.
Sydney laughed, “That must be standard training procedure for him. He told me that too. That’s how I knew, when Vaughn blurted that out, that it was the key.” Weiss nodded.
Sydney continued, “Weiss, we need to thank you.”
“Don’t worry about it. My, um, pleasure, I guess. Well, maybe pleasure is too strong of a word, but…” Weiss trailed off as he glanced at this cell phone, still vibrating. Noting the number, he blanched. “Sorry, guys, I really have to take this call,” he muttered and walked away.
Vaughn sighed, “We really do need to thank him, even though he drives me nuts. You know, I’ve been thinking. Your father, and I hate to tell you this, did call me twice to….I guess the correct word is encourage me. Or maybe scare me. I don’t know. But, don’t tell me we have to thank your father too. Weiss is going to be bad enough as it is.”
“And then there’s my mother, who also kept encouraging me…” Syd trailed off, thinking.
Vaughn met her eyes, “So, do you think it’s a coincidence that all three of them were pushing us at the same time?”
“I’d worry, except for the fact that no way in hell would my father ever work with my mother on anything involving my personal life.”
“Yeah. You’re right. " Vaughn nodded in agreement. "It was probably all Weiss, and everything else was just coincidence. I mean it was over a year ago that your father gave me that lecture and probably much longer ago that he gave you the same lecture, right?”
“Two years ago, actually.”
“Well, this Noah thing – what he meant to you," Vaughn said slowly, shaking his head. "I still can’t believe that Weiss figured it out. You figured it out. Wish I’d done it myself in terms of Alice, before.”
“Well, in my case, I wanted to figure it out because on the one hand it was too soon after Danny. And on the other hand, if I were going to move on with someone else, it made no sense to be with Noah, because even though it was early days, you and I, well, we were already, kind of…” Sydney trailed off.
“I know. I was jealous,” Vaughn said with a slow smile in her direction.
“Were you?” Sydney smiled. “You shouldn’t have been. I almost said your name….” She stopped and looked away. He looked away and smiled too. He was going to have to tell her about Astrid---
That totally ridiculous story. Truthfully, although he was not in the Jack Bristow lying league, even he could have come up with a better one. He’d wanted it to be over and that incident was just a convenient excuse, a way to force her to cut them loose. He truly was scum. Cowardly scum. Just like the other day, when he’d avoided talking about it when he’d had all day driving around in that car on that stupid mission, that scavenger hunt. Blurting out that question about Noah, when as Syd had done with Noah, he should have thought about it a little harder and figured it out. But then again, if a whole team of writers hadn’t come up with a reasonable expectation, who was he to do so?
“So you tried to compartmentalize. And that worked really well, didn’t it?” Syd asked, softening the question with a smile.
“You sound like your father. Great." Vaughn sighed. "But you’re right. And you cannot compartmentalize the heart. Doesn’t work.”
“Nope." Sydney reached up and gave him a soft kiss. Smiling as she pulled back, she laughed as she suggested, "Let’s grab a soda and sit down.”
“Oh, wow. There are tons of new brands in here,” Vaughn said while Sydney rolled her eyes.
“Mike’s getting suspicious…." Weiss whispered. "No. I can handle him.”
Chapter 26: In which the author honors her grandmother’s love of Abbott and Costello.
This chapter is much better understood and enjoyed if the reader is familiar with the classic Abbott and Costello routine, "Who's on first?" Google it!
Chapter 26: In which the author honors her grandmother’s love of Abbott and Costello.
“Mike’s getting suspicious….No. I can handle him….Yeah, he’s starting to put two and two together…. No. I did not blow it, thank you very much. It’s the timing thing…. Yeah, he’s better than we thought…. Syd? She’s not saying anything, can’t tell if she has a clue or doesn’t care or is afraid to ask…. Distract him? Sure, I can do that. I saved something or two just in case. I may not be Mr. Games Theorist like someone I know, but I can babble with the best of them…. Later. This should be good. All those hours spent watching old tv finally pays off.”
As Weiss strolled back over to the group, Vaughn looked up and asked him sharply, “Who was that?”
W: “Why do you want to know?”
V: “Why are you reluctant to tell me who that was?”
W: “Who was where?”
V: “There, on the phone.”
V: “Just NOW. When you couldn’t wait to answer.’
W: “Oh, that. Well, did you ever think it was personal?”
V: “Oh, sorry. But, no, wait a minute. You were on a secure line. And besides, what’s personal with you?”
W: “Don’t you mean, ‘Who’s personal with me?’”
V: “Who, what? No, WHEN did you get a personal life?”
W: “Hey, I have my fish and….”
V: “And what?”
W: “Don’t be so suspicious. What is it with you?”
W: “Yeah, you.”
V: “This isn’t about ME! It’s about you!”
V: “Yeah, YOU!”
W: “Oh, me? Or would that be ‘oh, my’? No, wrong movie. We’re not doing Oz. What were you asking? You’ve totally confused me.”
V: “I’ve confused YOU?”
W: “Yeah. You’re babbling today. Is this what sex does for you? Makes you babble?”
V: “WHAAT? I do not….Arrghh. You’ve confused me so much, at this point I don’t know which end’s up!”
W: “You don’t? Well, that could be a problem. Poor Sydney. Maybe you two need couples therapy. I don’t know if Barnett offers that, but surely she could supply you with a recommendation. Confidentially, I’m sure.”
V: “Couple’s therapy? Are you NUTS? I don’t have any problems.”
W: “Well, neither do I. I wasn’t the one with the problem opposite of ---“
V: “Stop it! I don’t have that problem when…Why are we having this conversation?”
W: “I don’t know. You started it.”
V: “Did not.”
Sydney stopped swiveling her head between the two men long enough to interject in Vaughn’s direction, “Actually you did.”
V: “For the love of…What were we talking about?”
W: “Your sexual problems.”
W: “Glad to hear it. I draw the line at friendship there, buddy. Although I don’t have any sexual problems, so you could always ask me for advice. Glad to give advice. Like giving advice. Just don’t want to do demonstrations, if you get my drift.”
W: “Hey, I haven’t had any complaints.”
V: “Complaints? Complaints from whom?”
W: “Isn’t that from who? Nah, you’re right, it’s whom.”
V: “No. Who.”
Sydney: “WHOM!” She stared at Vaughn in amazement, shaking her head. Couldn’t he see….?
W: “Are you sure?” he asked Sydney.
V: “Of course, she’s sure. She’s a damn doctoral candidate in English! Although where she finds the time to do research, write, and meet with her adviser what with going on global scavenger hunts, I don’t know.”
W: “Well, that’s your girlfriend for you. An excess of energy apparently. And I’m thinking you might want to find a way to use that, if you know what I mean. Hope I don’t have to explain further, there are some lines….”
V: “Lines? Since when do you care about crossing lines! Speaking of lines, who was on the telephone?”
W: “Did you ever think that maybe it was my girlfriend?”
V: “Girlfriend! What girlfriend?”
W: “That girlfriend, any girlfriend. You wouldn’t know. You pay no attention to MY life.”
V: “Sorry! I must be really dense to miss that. So, who’s the girlfriend?”
W: “What girlfriend?”
V: “When did you get a girlfriend?”
V: “That’s what I asked!”
W: “Asked what?”
V: “About your girlfriend!”
W: “I don’t have a girlfriend. Who said I had a girlfriend?”
V: “You did.”
W: “I did?”
V: “You did.”
W: “I don’t.”
V: “Don’t what?”
W: “Have a girlfriend. Pay attention to the conversation, for crying out loud.”
V: “What is this conversation ABOUT?”
W: “You wanted to know who was on my phone.”
V: “I did?”
W: “You did.”
V: “So, who?”
W: “Who, what?”
V: “We already went over that. It’s whom. You didn’t know, remember?”
W: “Sure, I did.”
V: “No, you didn’t.”
W: “Yes. I did. I aced my verbal SATs. Got a perfect 800. How about you? Just testing you, Mikey.”
V: “DON’T call me Mikey. I hate that.”
W: “Hate what?”
V: “Arggh. The timing is killing me here. How did Abbott and Costello do it?”
W: “Do what?”
V: “Who’s on first?”
W: “Oh, let’s not go there, that routine takes forever.”
V: “So. Who. Was. On. The. Phone?”
W: “Oh, why didn’t you just ask?” Weiss stepped back as Vaughn lunged at him. “Calm down, French fry. That was Jack. Just checking in like he always does on Syd’s missions. With me.”
Vaughn asked, “Really? He never checked up on me, not after the beginning. Why would he do that to you and not me?”
Weiss laughed, “Because he likes YOU, Mikey. I’m betting that when Syd was on missions with Noah, there were plenty of phone calls.”
Syd nodded. “Actually, you’re right, Weiss. Found that out later.”
“Really?” Vaughn asked incredulously.
Sydney shrugged. “Well, yeah, Dad hated Noah. Always did. Never trusted him. And that should have warned me right there. Aside from Irina, my dad has nearly-flawless instincts about people.” Sydney began as Weiss walked away to speak with Barclay and Washington.
Vaughn shook his head. “Your father would hate any man that expressed an interest in you.”
“That’s not true,” Sydney argued.
“Oh, yes, it is. He pulled a gun on me once in this Chinese restaurant to tell me to watch it.”
Syd started to laugh, then bit her lip to stop it. “Really? I’ll have to ask him about that. But he does like you.”
Vaughn protested, “Give me a break. No, he does not!”
“How else do you explain the fact that you’re still alive?” Syd asked tauntingly.
He stared at her. That was true. He was still alive with all body parts intact. And Jack had called him son. That stilled fried his bacon. “Son?”
Then he remembered waking up in the hospital. Jack had been waiting there. Knowing now that Jack must have known at the time about Alice, he was still astonished that the man hadn’t cut off his life support sometime earlier. He still occasionally had nightmares that Jack reached over and shut off the respirator that had kept him alive that first day. Instead, Jack had visited him and waited for him to regain consciousness. Syd had told him yesterday that she thought (because they’d never ask Jack directly, for the love of God) that Jack had waited so that Vaughn would not wake up alone and panic. That was…nice. And if there was one word never associated with Jack Bristow, it was ‘nice.’ So….
If Jack liked him, what in the name of God did that say about him? And Irina – she kept trying to get him to admit his feelings. Did that mean she thought he and Syd were a good match, too? What did it mean that those two games players thought he was the man for their daughter? How complicated could his life get? What would Thanksgiving dinner be like? Where would they hold the wedding – in the Op Center or could Irina get a day pass? Talk about planning nightmares not covered in Miss Manners! And when they had kids ---would Grandma Bristow babysit their kids while she sat in her cell? Would Grandpa Bristow teach the kids all about ballistics and encryption programming?
When Syd laughed, Vaughn realized he had been thinking aloud.
She smiled again and said, “Don’t forget, there’s Project Christmas to worry about and….”
Vaughn stared at her in horror, thinking that the fates must be laughing at him. He who had always wanted a simple, normal life, had fallen in love with the daughter in the most dysfunctional family in the world. Those two games players….He stared off, thinking. Timing. What was it Jack had said once about timing? Something about precision. This whole situation…..
“Vaughn! I’m talking to you!” Weiss exclaimed. Vaughn jumped, he had not even realized that Weiss was standing next to him. What a super spy he was.
“Barclay wanted to ask you about that hotel in Hana. He’s thinking of taking his wife to Hawaii for their next vacation.”
“Oh. Sure, sure,” Vaughn said absently as he got up and walked over to the other two agents.
Glancing at his watch, Weiss sat down next to Sydney. “So....” he said.
“Don’t try that crap on me, Eric,” Sydney warned.
“Don’t play innocent with me.”
“Me?” Weiss put his hand on his heart and looked at her, eyes wide.
Sydney reached out and pinched the a wad of skin on the back of Weiss’ upper arm. “Ouch! That hurt!” Weiss protested.
“Good! Now, what was that about?”
“Getting rid of Vaughn?” Weiss asked. Sydney nodded. Weiss smiled, “You’re good, Bristow. Good genes, I guess.”
“Whatever. " Sydney shrugged, then tapped Weiss's arm. "Spill.”
“I want you to ask Mike a question.”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
“It’s important – will you just do it?” Weiss pressed.
”Why?” Sydney asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Can you just take my word for it?”
“Your lack of trust wounds me." Weiss looked from side to side before leaning closer and lowering his voice. "Okay, listen up. I need to talk fast. Ask Mike, ‘Who is Astrid and why does she keep you awake at night?’”
“You want me to ask him about yet another woman?" Sydney asked through clenched teeth. "Now? What is this – some perverse form of—“
”No, I’m not trying to hurt you. How can you ask that?" Weiss pointed his finger at her. "And it’s not a joke. Just ask.”
“Why?” Sydney asked somewhat sullenly. Weiss avoided noting that that particular facial expression was better suited to someone twenty years younger.
“It’s the last little bit that I know Mike will avoid telling you. It’s no biggie. In fact, I think you’ll get a big kick out of it.” Weiss got up and walked away.
Soon, Vaughn came back over with another soda and sat down with a quizzical look on his face. “Eric said you wanted to ask me something?”
Sydney corrected him, “Weiss wanted me to ask you a question. I don’t know---“
“If I should.”
”Given that it’s Weiss we’re talking about, your apprehension is well founded.”
Syd winced as Weiss yelled “Hey, I heard that!”
Vaughn looked cautiously from Weiss back to Sydney. Taking a deep breath he asked, “Okay, so what’s the question?”
“Who’s Astrid and why does she keep you awake at night?”
“WHAAT!” Vaughn actually jumped up to glare in Weiss’ direction. Weiss waggled his fingers at him and grinned.
Sydney gave Vaughn a look of surprise and pulled him back down. She shook her head, saying, “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. I mean, Weiss didn’t say why I should ask you that.”
”He didn’t? He is so dead.”
“Well, I think we can agree on that, in general, but….” She waited.
“Alright. Astrid is a name I made up to cover for something I said in my sleep. I fell asleep on Alice’s couch and in the night she heard me saying…” Vaughn paused. God, this was difficult. Humiliation and honesty in one tidy little package. He was going to kill Weiss. Oh what the hell was he saying? Left to his own devices, he would have kept it to himself and the story would have come out at some far worse occasion. Weiss was right again. He took a deep breath and said, “She heard me saying, ‘Syd’ over and over.”
“Oh. Oh!” she said in surprise. “Let me get this straight. Alice heard you saying my name, so you made up the Astrid name to cover for it, right?”
“Right. And I told her I used to go out with an Astrid, called her ‘Strid and we broke up because I couldn’t handle her risk-taking behavior. That I occasionally dreamed about her more wild escapades, that she was hurting herself by not being careful enough.”
“Strid? Strid?” Sydney began to laugh.
“It was 5am! I’m not a morning person," Vaughn protested. "And I’m not Jack Bristow who can come up with a lie at the drop of a hat to cover any contingency. And…”
“And it was a good way to get her to break up with you, right?”
Vaughn’s mouth dropped open. “How did you.---?”
“Do I look stupid?" Sydney rolled her eyes. "Okay, I understand the need to cover for my name, especially for your girlfriend.”
"Hey--" Vaughn began.Could she have sneered any more when she said that last word?
“Hay is for horses. And also for cows--"
"What are you talking about?" Vaughn exclaimed. "What does hay have to do with anything--"
"Because this is the biggest pile of bulls*** I've heard in a while! Honestly. So, clearly she did not buy that bunch of bull, did she?” Syd began to laugh as the story hit her.
“Hey! She woke me up out of a dream about you and was asking me who Syd was. Talk about a nightmare. What was I supposed to say? Sorry, sweetie, Syd is this amazing, beautiful woman for whom I’ve had the hots for two years. But we can’t be together because we’re both international spies and her dad would kill me for looking at her. And there’s the little issue of her mother killing my father. But I can forget that, I do forget that and everything else, every time I see her. All I can see is her. And when you and I have had sex, on those rare occasions, I imagine it’s her and not you. And you – you were just handy? So, that Astrid story was not the best, but….”
As the words tumbled out, without volition, without any self-preserving censorship, Sydney stared at him, her mouth hanging slightly open. She asked again, “Did she buy the Astrid story?”
“Um, no. She thought….” Vaughn looked down, his cheeks turning slightly red.
“She thought I was making it up, that I really was saying your name. Only she thought it was Sid with an i.”
“But that would be a guy’s name...”
Syd looked at him for a second and then her whole face contorted with laughter.
“She thought you were gay? You? Gay?”
“Yeah. Do you have to rub it in?”
“Oh yeah. Oh, YEAH, I have to rub it in. This is priceless. Does Weiss know this?”
“Yes. I foolishly told him.”
Sydney looked over in Weiss’ direction. Meeting her eyes, he mouthed, “Told you.”
She continued laughing as she asked, “So, I have to ask a really obnoxious question here. When’s the last time ---“
Vaughn covered his face with his hands and mumbled. “Don’t ask. So long ago that she had reason to wonder when she heard me moaning about some “Sid”….”
“So you couldn’t or wouldn’t…”
“Ah, that’s why you said you had lots of…frosting saved up,” Syd said dryly. Vaughn looked up. They both broke into laughter.
Sydney critiqued, “What a story. You need to work on…”
“I know, my creative problem solving in the field. Is that all you have to say?”
“No. Not in the slightest! This is so good. Priceless. Forget the stupid and clueless joke. This will be the joke I tell our grandkids. And you gay? Michael Vaughn gay? The man who gives off more sexual vibes with a look than most men do with…. That is hysterical. I’m never gonna forget this as long as I live.” She broke into laughter again. Endless laughter, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“So, you think I give off sexual vibes?” Vaughn asked, leaning in towards her.
“Mmmm,” Sydney said as their lips met. “Mmm, when you’re not being pathetic.”
“Ah, you’re right. The whole story was pathetic. What can I say? Your mother was right. Your father was right.”
“Wait a minute. How did you talk to them, anyway?”
“They called me and ---“
“They called you?”
“Yeah. You didn’t know? You didn’t put them up to it?”
“No. Of course not. How did they have your secure line cell-phone number anyway?”
They stared at each other. Their eyes clicked as the same thought occurred and they said simultaneously, “Weiss!”
“You rang?” Weiss called from across the plane. Sydney motioned him over. With a smile, he sat down next to her.
Syd said softly, “Weiss, did you call my parents back and put them up to calling Vaughn?”
“No. Of course not.”
“No. I only called and gave them Vaughn’s number.” Weiss grinned. They both hissed. “You two sound like cats. But you know me – just a regular matchmaker. Just helping the course of true love and all. Besides, your mom said they were about to call me and ask for his number. Your dad always has my number on your ops, you know. Checks in about every half hour to make sure…..” Weiss continued babbling on, “I really wish Jack would have some confidence in me, not withstanding that little incident in Europe and okay, that time in South Africa, but really, if Syd didn’t feel the need to act like a lone ranger, if she had a partner……”
Sydney and Vaughn glanced at each other and began laughing. The moment was broken by Weiss saying with a look at his watch. “Would you look at that? Almost in LA. How time flies when you’re having fun.”
Sydney leaned over and whispered to Weiss, "Good job wasting time on the flight. Can't wait to see what's next."
Weiss looked at her innocently, "I have absolutely no clue as to what you are implying. None."
Vaughn looked at the two of them suspiciously, "What are you talking about?"
"Nothing," they said in unison.
"You know, I'm not that stupid and clueless.
“I do know you never answered my question.”
“Question, what question?”
“Don’t start. You’re giving me a headache. You’d think we were playing Risk or something.”
“Nope, no board games on board.” Weiss said.
Sydney and Vaughn groaned. Vaughn said firmly, “So, why did you set me up on this mission if you thought I would still be going out with Alice? That would be scummy. And….wait another minute, Jack and Irina would never have been so sanguine about me and Syd, Jack would have never wished me luck if Alice had still been in the picture…What the hell is going on?” Weiss looked back at him, all innocence. Something clicked and Vaughn asked, “What did you do to Alice?”
“Alice? She’s fine, now that she’s free of a fake boyfriend.”
Syd asked, “I’m worried about Astrid. I mean, whatever happened to her, anyway? Fall off a cliff? Die of frostbite because she didn’t wear a full face mask in Siberia? Get run over by a rampaging Ford Focus in Zurich? What?”
“Her boyfriend tossed her out the plane without a parachute!” Vaughn exclaimed.
“Oh, that’s too bad..." Sydney grinned. This had been so much fun. "Just when he was getting really good at frosting that pie. With that attitude, his knife might have to stay locked in the utensils drawer for a while.”
“I don’t want to know,” Weiss moaned, “Really, I don’t. That’s an analogy I don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole.”
“Really? Try the one about her father being obsessed with little boxes,” Vaughn said with a grin.
Chapter 27: In which a reference to the title of Chapter 1 would be helpful.
Chapter 27: in which a reference to the title of Chapter 1 would be helpful.
As Weiss, Sydney and Vaughn walked through the Op Center, Vaughn said, “I realize you didn’t answer my question about the timing, and what you did to Alice, Weiss. Really, I’m not that stupid.”
“We didn’t do anything TO Alice—“
“I didn’t say ‘we’, I said ‘me’.”
“Really? You said, ‘me didn’t do anything to Alice’?” Vaughn said in disbelief.
“Yup. I’m practicing pidgin English for my next assignment in, in, in Calcutta. Or maybe….Bangkok. That’s it exactly. And did you ever stop to think about what a funny word Bangkok is? I mean---” Weiss said energetically.
“I swear I’m going to punch you all the way there if you don’t tell me,” Vaughn threatened.
“Did I tell you about what happened at the luau next door to us the night you two were in Hana?” Weiss asked.
“No, Weiss, tell us,” Syd said with a sidelong glance at Vaughn, whose forehead was wrinkling more every minute.
“They were forklifting the pig into the pit and someone went up to the operator and jostled him. The guy hit the lever wrong and all of a sudden, the pig went flying through the air!”
“The pig flew?” Vaughn asked.
“Yeah, Jack’s called you ‘son’. I believe that, at times, I’ve acted like a mature adult. And a pig flew. So I think this story is just about over.”
“Really? And what’s next? Why isn’t it over already?” Vaughn asked suspiciously.
Weiss spoke quickly, “Whaddya know? Here we are at the tunnel to Irina’s cell.”
”What are we doing here? Syd?” Vaughn gritted out. “We could be on our way home by now, you know.”
“Don’t look at me! I’m just along for the ride. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, a few more minutes won’t kill you,” Sydney protested.
“Yeah. Sydney is innocent. Well, except for planning her first day of revenge.” Weiss paused as they stopped to allow the guard to open the gates. Sydney bounced up and down on her toes.
"Syd, why are you so wired?" Vaughn asked as they walked down the hall to Irina's cell.
"Well, aren't you excited?" she asked with a grin, pulling him along.
"I'm not excited, no, about going to see your parents. I mean, I assume your father's going to be there."
"You bet," Weiss added with a grin of his own. "Don't know why he doesn't just move a cot in there or to cut to the chase, a king-size bed."
"Weiss! Those are my parents," Sydney groaned.
"Oops. Forget again----"
"I know, that I'm not one of the guys," Syd shook her head. "But seriously, Vaughn, why aren't you more excited?"
"Are you nuts? Why would I be excited about making this stop when we could be
on our way to your, um, bakery?" Vaughn asked. Sydney giggled and Vaughn put his arm around her and pulled her close as he said, "Now-- a bakery stop. That I could get excited about."
Weiss rolled his eyes and said dryly, "Actually, wouldn't it be, 'About a bakery stop I could get excited'?"
Sydney resumed giggling, "No. It's 'I could get excited about a bakery stop'."
"STOP IT! " Vaughn exclaimed. "You two are totally taking the fun out of sexual innuendo with all this gabbing about grammar, syntax and sentence structure.." Vaughn groaned.
"Vaughn, did you just alliterate?" Syd asked slowly.
"Noooo. Don't tell me I did that. We’ve abandoned analogies for alliteration? Don't tell me it's rubbing off," Vaughn groaned again.
"I’m assuming your rubbing days are---“ Weiss stopped with a squawk as Vaughn punched him in the arm. Sydney laughed.
“How long is this hallway?” Vaughn asked with a glance upward for divine intervention.
“Why, does it make you feel inadequate or something?” Weiss asked.
“That’s enough!” Vaughn exclaimed, but then began laughing himself. "You know, I'm almost gonna be glad to see Jack and Irina. At least I can count on them to act like normal people.”
Weiss and Sydney stared at him in puzzlement. "Normal?" they asked in unison.
“Okay, okay,” Vaughn conceded. “Normal for them. Which means no alliteration, no laughing, no inappropriate innuendo, and probably no smiling. Just a basic conversation.”
Weiss turned to Sydney and asked, “What alternate universe is he living in? Oh, wait, I meant to say, Ms. English Teacher,” when Sydney opened her mouth to interrupt him, “In what alternate universe is he living? I mean, isn’t there always a subtext to any conversation with Jack and Irina? And what is a basic conversation with the Bristows?”
“Don’t know myself, Weiss, never had one. At least not since I was six,” Sydney agreed. “I guess today a basic conversation with my parents involves a threat or two, a poorly-disguised attempt by my mother to use memories to worm her way into my father’s heart, several sneers, no apology yet, some well-hidden looks of regret, and arguing, if we’re lucky, in English. If we’re truly unlucky, they’ll argue in Chinese. That gives me a headache. But if they’re really mad, they’ll use Russian.”
“They argue in other languages?” Vaughn asked in disbelief, shaking his head.
“Sure. It’s how they keep their fluency up." Sydney shrugged. "It’s a little game for them.”
“Don’t get me started on your parents’ games,” Vaughn said, “They are just so---“
“But, don’t you see?" Sydney tapped Vaughn's arm. "That’s why I’m excited! It’s one of their games.”
“Here we go again with Mr. Articularity,” Weiss said.
“Wouldn’t that be for an action figure? Articularity?” Sydney asked.
“Maybe. But I thought that was articulation. Hey, I wonder if Vaughn were an action figure, would his forehead wrinkles would come with articulation? You know, press a button and he gets one wrinkle…”
“He never gets just one wrinkle,” Syd said firmly, “I mean like right now. He’s got at least---“
“Stop it!" Vaughn exclaimed once again, fighting back his own laughter. "Why are you two ganging up on me?”
“Because it’s fun?” Weiss and Sydney said in unison, laughing.
“Fun. For. Whom?” Vaughn asked.
“Wow. I’m impressed, aren’t you, Syd? He used ‘whom’ correctly this time.”
“Oh, he impresses me all the time,” Syd said slyly with a sideways glance.
“That’s sweet, Syd. Look he just turned red,” Weiss laughed.
“You know, Weiss one of these days you’re going to get what’s coming to you. I swear. And this hallway?” Vaughn moaned, “I never remember it taking this long before.”
“That’s because the writers have never fully explored the “Get Smart” possibilities of this corridor. C’mon Agents 86 and 99, let’s go meet the chief.”
"Get Smart?" Vaughn asked, rolling his eyes.
"Would you rather I make an analogy about the tunnel’s length and why you might feel inadequate?" Weiss asked, as they neared the door to Irina's cell.
Chapter 28: In which an interesting conversation begins under glass.
Chapter 28: In which an interesting conversation begins under glass.
As the three approached the glass, Weiss stepped forward and tapped on it. Jack, who had been half-sitting on the small table in the cell, turned around abruptly, revealing Irina sitting before him. She slowly slid her hand away from his leg with a very self-satisfied look on her face.
“Whoa,” Weiss said in a whisper to Vaughn. “I’d like to know just how Jack got that look on her face when they’re both still fully clothed.”
“I’m not gonna ask him!” Vaughn noted, although he too wondered.
“But, Mikey---“ Weiss protested. “He likes you and—“
“Oh, be quiet, you two,” Sydney said, rolling her eyes. “It’s obvious what they’ve been doing---“
“You mean, you…know?” Weiss asked, with a glance at Vaughn.
“Sure, why not?” Sydney shrugged. “They’re playing the interrogation game. My mother always liked that. Better than Risk, I bet.”
“She…did?” Vaughn asked, surprised at how sanguine Sydney was at this evidence of her parents’….Well, he wasn’t going there! Nope. No how. No way.
“Yeah, I think…” Sydney frowned, as they waited for the guard to open the door. “I think I came in on them once, and they called it playing cops and robbers.” She sighed. It must have been a great shock to her father to learn that he should have been playing the interrogation game for real. And.. “Ohmigod, the game they’re really playing is---“
“Don’t think about it,” Vaughn advised. “Just don’t.” He looked at the couple. Irina was still smiling, reaching her hand out now to touch Jack’s cheek. Vaughn shook his head; apparently Jack was right—Irina did seem to be enjoying this. Sick. Twisted. But then again, as a little game between a man and a woman, hmmm….He gave a speculative glance at Sydney as they finally entered the cell.
Irina stood and clasping her hands together, called out, “Finally! I’m dying to hear and I know you are too……”
“What do you know?” Jack asked suspiciously.
“Nothing. Nothing.” Irina shrugged and took a small step away from her husband.
“Stop it.” Jack warned, taking a step toward her. “I know you know something more than you’ve let on. I can tell. I have ways of making you talk, you know.”
“I’ll look forward to that later, Jack,” Irina said with mock sweetness. “But, as for this little…operation, I have my conjectures, but as for what I know to be fact…..” Irina trailed off and then resumed speaking, “Oh, go greet your daughter.”
Jack’s face brightened as he looked fully at Sydney. “Honey,” he began. When he did not continue, Irina elbowed him. He cleared his throat while Sydney and Vaughn stared at him curiously. Weiss and Irina rolled their eyes. Finally, Jack said gruffly, “Weiss, where are my little boxes, anyway?”
Vaughn choked and then began coughing, while the older couple stared at him curiously.
Weiss cleared his throat and said, “Barclay is on his way down here with them, right now.”
“WHAAT?” Vaughn exclaimed.
“Oh, catch up, Vaughn,” Sydney mumbled. In a louder voice, she said, “It’s my guess that my father is referring to those small storage containers we killed ourselves pulling out of the ocean the other night.”
“He is?” Vaughn asked, rubbing his forehead.
“Of course. What else could the phrase ‘little boxes’ refer to, anyway? I didn’t understand it when you guys were talking about it before…..” Sydney stopped, thought, said, “Eww.”
“Wait a minute!” Vaughn said fiercely as Barclay walked in carrying the three containers.
“Barclay,” Jack said as the agent brought in three boxes and sat them down on the table. Jack frowned looking at them.
“Bristow,” Barclay said. “Are Washington and I even with you now? No more favors owed?”
“For the moment. Oh, and thanks. Tell Washington thanks as well,” Jack added absently.
On his way out, Barclay muttered, “’Thanks’? Oh my god, the world is coming to an end. Bristow actually said thanks. I need to get home. Fast. Kiss the wife. Pat the dog. Lock the doors. Drink…something strong. Wait for the apocalypse.”
Jack rolled his eyes and then pinned Weiss with a stare. “Want to explain why there are three boxes, instead of two?”
“Forget that! Want to explain why we are looking at those boxes, in this cell, at all?” Vaughn asked.
“Actually, Jack, one of those boxes is from me,” Irina said softly.
“From you!” both Jack and Vaughn exclaimed.
“Well, I was the one who started this whole operation, wasn’t I?” Irina asked, hands out spread toward the boxes.
“No. It was me,” Jack protested.
“Actually, you’re right,” Irina conceded. Jack looked startled. Irina continued quietly, “You started this the day she was born. Wanting her to be happy. Putting her happiness first, even if you were sometimes misguided in your attempts, even if you were sometimes lost, working without a map, you still wanted the best for her.”
Into the silence, Weiss interjected, “Great analogy, Irina. And map? That explains..…”
“Shut up, Weiss, we’ll get to that,” Irina snarled.
“You know about that?” Jack demanded, “Weiss?”
“Get to what, know about what?” Vaughn asked.
“This little operation, which has my father’s fingerprints all over it, but I can tell my mom also had a little something to do with it, as well,” Syd said with a smile.
Vaughn stared at her incredulously, “I thought, Syd, that we decided that it was just Weiss and that everything else was a coincidence.”
“Well, we didn’t really decide that,” Sydney explained slowly.
“We didn’t?” Vaughn frowned. He really had to start paying more attention.
“No. I said my father would not work with my mother and it looks like that’s true,” Sydney admitted. “You said that it was probably all Weiss, and everything else was just coincidence. I didn’t agree or disagree. Although really, you need to learn more about game theory. There are just not that many coincidences in life.”
“Arggh! We need to have a conversation about these technicalities.”
“You need to learn how to ask questions more carefully. Then it would be more fun, wouldn’t it? More like a game?” Syd asked, laughing.
When no one said anything for a moment, they heard Weiss’ stomach growl in the silence. While Weiss turned and asked Irina about what was for dinner in the cell block, Vaughn just stared at Sydney. She wanted him to question her, as if he was interrogating her? Like, oh, he didn’t know, her parents? Ohmigod.
Watching him, Sydney cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. When he said nothing, she leaned in and whispered, “You know, the game where I am the bad guy and you’re the good agent who is interrogating me? And you’ll do anything to get that intel out of me? And I’ll do anything to distract you from your mission? Or we could switch it around, whichever way you like.”
Staring at her, Vaughn thought, Geez. This is what came of walking in on Jack and Irina when you were a tot. Although… What else was imprinted on that brain of hers? Oh brother, who knew what the future held?
Sydney whispered again, “But it does sound like fun, doesn’t it? We can have our own little conversation room. You know, right next to the bakery?” she asked.
Vaughn rolled his eyes and felt his cheeks turn red. Well, maybe the future held……some interesting surprises.
Next to him, Jack said loudly, “Ahem! Moving along..… “
Sydney laughed and asked Vaughn, “Besides, did you really think that was a viable mission?”
Vaughn shook his head, “You’re right. I can’t believe I let myself get so distracted by you and ---“
Sydney interrupted to say, “There was no mission, was there, Dad?”
Jack nodded in his daughter’s direction. “Of course, there was no mission. No real mission for you two. Honestly, Vaughn. Did Sydney kick anyone’s butt? Did she rappel down a cliff? Climb up a building? Did she badly speak a foreign language? Did you speak French? Did she wear some ridiculously-scanty attire that makes me positively nauseous? Vaughn -- Did you wear black leather?---“
“I’d like to go on a mission with you when you’re wearing black leather, Jack,” Irina purred.
Jack opened his mouth and then closed it. Rubbing his hand over his forehead, he cleared his throat and continued, ignoring the wink his wife sent his daughter, “Vaughn --- were you wearing some hideous blue leisure suit that the costume department somehow decided is what international arms dealers wear? Did you have to save her or she you? Did you have any gadgets that break every scientific law? No? Then it’s not a mission. Although I understand that you were swinging from balcony to balcony like Spiderman. But hockey puck boxers are not Agency regulation, are they? That doesn’t sound like a mission to me,” Jack smirked while Vaughn turned an accusing eye on first Sydney, then Weiss. Both shrugged innocently. Jack explained, “The digital camera? Remember? Barclay sent back the pictures that day. We’ve been---“
“No! Not the screen saver!” Vaughn protested, feeling his stomach sink.
“No. It’s more useful in my files than as a screen saver,” Jack noted with a smug smile.
Vaughn thought “Jack’s files?” Ohmigod. Jack’s files. Now there was a computer worth hacking into. Or would that be, into that computer it’s worth hacking or ……
Jack gave Vaughn a sharp glance and sighed, “Focus. What’s your problem, low blood sugar?”
“Yeah, Mikey, maybe you needed to stop at the bakery on the way here, get a doughnut,” Weiss suggested with a broad grin.
Sydney choked. Her father gave her a curious glance and continued, “And if that’s not enough, what did you actually do on this mission? Pass notes back and forth? What was this -- seventh grade bio class?”
Sydney commented, “Well, that is where I learned to dissect worms and idea number one on my list was all about worms, so…...”
Weiss cracked, “And, actually, Jack, I’d say that is exactly what this mission was. I mean in my seventh grade bio class we learned all about human repro—“
“Shut up, Weiss!” everyone exclaimed.
“Well, that’s the thanks I get, after everything I’ve done!” Weiss sniffed in mock affront.
“I knew this was a lame mission, I knew it! That’s why you never told us what the mission was!” Vaughn accused.
Weiss shook his head, “That’s not true, Vaughn. I told you that it was the ‘Syd and Vaughn – how-can-we-get-them-together-show’.”
“You did. Another damn technicality,” Vaughn said flatly, shaking his head.
“See? The only lie I told you was the one to which I’ve already admitted – that the assigned agent had appendicitis. I think one lie in the game of true love is allowed.”
Vaughn stared at Weiss, his face promising retribution. He turned to Jack and asked, “But wait – Jack, how did you know we wouldn’t catch on sooner?”
“I saw the way you two looked at each other and I knew if you could actually spend time together..… I was young once too, son, young and foolish and let my emotions blind me to what I should have seen. I predicted that you two would be the same and I was right. Been there, done that, after all.”
While Sydney mouthed, “Son?”, Vaughn shrugged. Eh, he was getting used to it. It wouldn’t kill him.
Irina said softly, “Jack, I..….” They all waited for her to continue.
But when she said nothing more, Jack shrugged and quipped, “I figured you would be concentrating on each other, on the mess you’d made out of your relationship, on well, um, your feelings that you’ve repressed for months now. And when you got that straightened out, I figured Weiss’ endless babbling would distract you anyway.”
“Hey!” Weiss protested.
“Sorry, Eric,” Jack said with a shrug. “But I admit -- Your mouth is the best misdirection device I’ve ever seen in my life. So, how did it go today after our phone call when you were on the plane? What did you use – the Who’s on First technique?”
“Yup. That’s my favorite.” Weiss smiled.
“That’s when I figured it out, though. I’ve seen him use it before when he’s deliberately trying to distract someone,” Syd noted.
“Figured what out?” Vaughn groaned. “Can someone start at the beginning?”
“Me! Me! I get to do that!” Weiss exclaimed.
"Finally!" Vaughn exclaimed, crossing his arms and waiting.
Chapter 29: In which there are references to The Little Mermaid, My Little Pony and a suddenly-overdeveloped Vaughnian backbone. Dangerous waters ahead!
Chapter 29: In which there are references to The Little Mermaid, My Little Pony and a suddenly-overdeveloped Vaughnian backbone. Dangerous waters ahead!
“Well, go ahead,” Irina urged Weiss. “I suppose you are owed this moment of glory.”
“Yes,” Jack agreed. “After all, it’s not often that a…teddy bear gets a moment of glory.”
Weiss winced. “You know,” he muttered. “I spend all this time helping out this family and what do I have to show for it…”
Jack and Irina looked at each other and nodded slowly.
“I’m sorry, Weiss. Do go on,” Jack apologized with a gleam in his eyes that made Weiss shift nervously.
“Okaaay. So, what happened was I had to watch the two of you—“ Weiss pointed at Sydney and Vaughn. “Nearly killing yourselves for the last six months. Sydney for one, looking more and more depressed and at the same time acting like an adrenaline junkie. When I told Jack that I was going to have to seriously consider filing that reprimand for unsafe behavior, he said something had to be done. I agreed. And besides, Jack would have killed me if anything had happened to the princess.” Jack growled at him. Weiss spoke up quickly with a sideways glance toward Jack. “And then… there was Vaughn.”
”What about me?” Vaughn asked, glaring at his friend.
“Okay, okay. I’ll be dead meat for this,” Weiss shrugged. “ But…..I figured from how you’d been acting…”
“How was I acting?” Vaughn asked, puzzled.
“Oh, I don’t know. Tense? Irritable? Frustrated? That you weren’t, shall we say, availing yourself of the benefits of having a girlfriend. And that said girlfriend might start to wonder after too many excuses of--- “ Weiss began using a falsetto, “’I’m sorry, I have a headache,’ ‘I’m sorry, I’m so tired tonight,’ and ‘It’s that time of the month, darling.’”
Vaughn growled. Jack held a hand up to his face to hide his grin, although Irina caught it and pulled his hand away.
Irina said, “Well, I was the one to urge Sydney last week to pick you as her partner on this op. After she’d finally finished that list with my help, I thought she was ready to confront the issue. Of course the fact that the other men listed as options were either completely unknown to her and therefore not appropriate for the mission or completely despised by her – that was not my idea. That was ---“
“Weiss.” Syd and Vaughn said in unison.
“Yes. Leaving Vaughn the only viable option.” Irina nodded at Vaughn and then looked over at Eric. “And then Weiss advised her that she would be wise to try and confront you, deal with it. And then I figured Jack would be taking care of the rest, in fact that he’d already set an op in motion, knowing him.”
“Did you?” Jack snarled. “So, you wanted to tag team?”
“We are good at playing games together, Jack,” Irina said with a smile as she touched his arm. “But I know you did the greater part of the set up. Weiss just…coordinated it all. So…...”
“So, Dad, you planned this whole escapade? Arranged for the boxes to be buried, the notes to be passed, the intel to be hidden all over Maui?” Syd asked.
“Yes. It was easy. Easier than your childhood birthday parties, let me tell you,” Jack said, then snapped his mouth closed as if he’d said too much, too soon.
“What? You planned my parties? I thought…” Sydney trailed off, confused.
“What? You thought the nanny planned those scavenger-hunt extravaganzas you wanted for years? If left to the nanny’s devices you would have gotten My Little Pony parties every year!” Jack said with a grimace.
“But that one year ---“ Sydney stopped, remembering.
“The year you had The Little Mermaid party?” Jack gave a slight upturn of his lips.
“Yes!” Sydney put two and two together as she thought of her sleepshirt, a gift from her father. He had known that she liked that movie!
“I was stuck in the hospital," Jack explained softly. "You were too old for that theme, but you’d always liked the movie, so the nanny thought……”
“You were in the hospital?” Sydney asked, surprised. “I thought you just were too busy, weren’t interested…...”
“No,” Irina said firmly to everyone’s surprise. “Even if you weren’t aware of it, your father was at most of your parties. He’s shown me pictures he took of them. And so often when you thought he was unavailable he was in the hospital. Do you know how many times he’s been shot, knifed, poisoned? I bet he has his own room in the hospital by now!”
Weiss mumbled to Vaughn, “That’s not all he has in the hospital.” Vaughn began to laugh, until Weiss elbowed him.
“Um. Okay. But what does this have to do with the non-mission?” Vaughn started and then stopped, “Oh. Wait. That second day, that scavenger hunt? That was a little gift to Sydney? And, so this whole mission was just a taxpayer-funded front to get us together? Hold on. Does Kendall know?”
“Kendall?” Jack scoffed. “He’s clueless. He’s blinded every morning by the glare of his head in the mirror as he’s polishing it.”
“Which? The head or the mirror?” Weiss asked.
“Both, probably,” Jack said dryly, “Besides, there was a mission. Just you and Syd weren’t on it. You both put in for three vacation days and permission to use Agency transport to Hawaii.”
“We did?” Syd and Vaughn asked in unison.
“Yes. Of course. All of the paperwork is signed and completed and filed.”
“Of course,” Vaughn muttered, “And I’m sure our signatures on these forms are fullproof, would stand up under any scrutiny?”
“Why wouldn’t they? I did them myself,” Jack said with a shrug.
Vaughn stared at him. The man was unbelievable. Although, Vaughn asked himself, why should he shocked that Jack was acting as if forging signatures, arranging a non-mission and whatever else he’d done was no big deal? Because in the scheme of Jack Bristow’s life, it was no big deal, just a minor little hiccup. He’d probably spent more time planning Syd’s birthday parties! Here his thoughts stopped, because he knew, just knew this wasn’t the end So, why the hell was he worrying about something as relatively trivial as forged signatures? That was surely just a minor detail, a drop in the bucket in this story, he could tell. He just knew it wasn’t going to get any better, he just knew. All he didn’t know was how much antacid he was going to eat tonight. Oh, shut up, he thought to himself. It would probably be best if he just stopped thinking at this point, I mean, why ruin a perfect record?
Jack continued, “I paid for Syd’s hotel room in Lahaina. And there was a mission, Vaughn, so don’t worry that the taxpayers got the shaft. Weiss, Barclay and Washington were in on it.”
“Okay, clearly Barclay and Washington owed you something. Getting out of Jack Bristow’s debt would be enough to motivate anyone. But what did you get out of all this, Weiss?” Vaughn asked accusingly.
“Well, first of all, it was fun. At least the part where I was distracting you. The other part?” Weiss shuddered. “Not so much.”
“The other part?” Syd echoed, then stopped when she saw the smirk trying to peek out from her father’s face. Her mother looked at him quizzically, with a crease between her brows.
Weiss began speaking, but Irina cut him off to ask accusingly, “Jack, what else did you do?”
“Who, me?” Jack asked, hands uplifted.
“Yes, you!” Irina poked him in the shoulder.
“Oh, no, not Who’s on First again, “Vaughn moaned.
“I don’t have to resort to those tactics, thank you,” Jack said sternly. Then turning to Irina he asked, “Why do you think I did anything else?”
“Because you’re Jack Bristow and enough is never good enough.” Irina nodded. “And because I recognize that smirk on your face.”
“Oh, really?” Jack glared at her. “After twenty years you think you can recognize what my facial expressions mean?”
“Yes. I’ll be proven right, eventually,” Irina noted firmly. “Let me go on the record saying that that particular Jack Bristow smirk means that you think you’ve been quite, quite clever about something. In the past, you might have actually laughed aloud. But in the present, in which your face might apparently crack if you laugh---“
Sydney interrupted, “Hey, Mom, Weiss says he’s seen Dad laugh.”
“He has?” Vaughn and Irina said in unison. Weiss nodded but bit his lip and avoided Jack’s harsh glance.
“Can you not keep your mouth shut?” Jack said to Weiss.
“Sorrrry,” Weis said sullenly.
“Yeah, Jack,” Vaughn said, “Bet he didn’t realize there was a law against telling your own daughter that occasionally you take that stick out of your ass.” Vaughn looked proud of himself for a moment, then blanched.
Sydney gaped at him and whispered, “Sometimes a little backbone goes a looong way, you know.”
Weiss groaned and buried his face in his hands. “I worked so hard to get them together and now it will all be for nothing. Although…” He lifted his head and brightened, “I suppose we can now find a way to recycle those boxes?”
“You're absolutely correct, Weiss," Jack said tightly. “By using them to bury Vaughn’s ashes.”
"Good going, French fry," Irina noted.
Chapter 30: In which Vaughn isn't killed, we learn about the Bristows' honeymoon and that there is yet more of the set up.
Chapter 30: In which Vaughn isn't killed, we learn about the Bristows' honeymoon and that there is yet more of the set up.
Irina grabbed Jack’s arm as he moved forward. She winked at Sydney and quipped, “Jack, he’s right. Why don’t you smile and laugh, at least around us, your family? I mean, are you worried that laughing might ruin your reputation as the stiffest man in creation?”
Surprised, Jack turned to stare at Irina. Suddenly his mouth quirked and he said dryly, “Well, Irina, I remember times when you’ve been quite happy that I was the st---“
“DAD! I’m in the room!” Sydney choked out.
Smiling, glad that she had been able to deflect his anger away from Vaughn, who was surreptitiously wiping his forehead, Irina said, “Well, so, why were you smirking?”
“Hmm. I guess you could say that the reason for my smirk is that we or rather, Weiss, did something that was, well…” Jack paused, then shrugged. “Funny.”
“Funny?” Irina echoed.
Jack answered impatiently, “Yes. Funny. Amusing. Comical. Humorous. What, do I need to do -- pull out my Roget’s?”
“I don’t think it’s your Roget’s Thesaurus that Irina wants you to pull out…I’ll stop now,” Weiss said when Sydney elbowed him hard. Boy, that girl had pointy elbows, he thought as he rubbed his ribs.
Vaughn implored, “Can we get back to the story now?” And he had thought he would be having a normal conversation with the Bristows? What was wrong with everyone lately, what was with all this sexual innuendo? Did the author of this story find it amusing, or what?
Weiss said, “Oh, I don’t know. Except for the part where Vaughn almost lost his life a few moments ago, this has been pretty amusing. Although, actually that was pretty humorous. Comical. Funny.” When no one responded, Weiss sighed. He continued, “Okay, Vaughn wanted to know what I got out of this? Besides helping my best friend, whom I love like a brother and Sydney, whom I love like a sister, get together? Oh wait, stop. That’s not a good analogy. If Vaughn were my brother and Sydney my sister….. Nope, not gonna go down that road.”
Vaughn muttered, “Thank you.”
Weiss chuckled and continued, “That was the main reason. I..…love you both and wanted you to be happy.”
“Oh, Eric,” Sydney said and moving forward gave him a hug. Kissing the top of her head, Weiss looked up as Vaughn said, “Thank you.”
Pushing Syd back toward Vaughn, Weiss continued, “That was too close to a Bath and Body Works moment for me. Let’s get back on track, talk about more manly stuff. Right, Jack?” Weiss asked, then blanched at the look on Jack’s face. He spoke up rapidly. “Like the fact there was the added incentive of Jack’s recommendation for a promotion if I carried this off.”
“A bribe?” Vaughn asked.
“No. An incentive,” Jack countered. “And Weiss did carry off his assignment. So, the recommendation is in one of those boxes. I assume you’d like to read it now, if you didn’t before when you were handing the boxes over to my contact for placement.”
“No, Jack. I didn’t read it. That wouldn’t have been ethical,” Weiss said in affront.
Jack shrugged, “I would have.”
“There’s a shock,” Vaughn muttered, then grunted when Sydney elbowed him.
“Well, go ahead. Here’s the key to box number one.” Jack handed Weiss the key.
As Weiss read the sheet of paper, Vaughn said, “You know, coming down the hallway I said I was looking forward to having a nice, basic conversation here. But with Weiss in the room, it’s gotten all…loopy. I still don’t understand how..…”
Weiss looked up and said quickly, “How it all came together? Jack planned it all out, from the moment you got to the plane. Although he did make one miscalculation.”
“Yes, I did. I admit it.” Jack sighed. “I thought you’d come up with the explanation sooner, Michael.”
“Yeah. Jack didn’t know about your little..…timing problem, so he couldn’t take that into account in his plans,” Weiss said snidely.
“Weiss, I swear…...” Vaughn snarled.
“Boys, boys,” Jack warned. He continued, “I was surprised at how long it took them to get together. That’s true. When I spoke with Weiss on the second day and he said that Vaughn still didn’t have an explanation, that’s when I figured I’d talk with Michael again, light a fire under him, give him an idea--”
Vaughn accused, “That second phone call. You manipulated me! You knew just what to say to get me..…”
“To grow a backbone? Yes. You needed one. Sydney needed you to have one. You can’t live with the women in this family without one. But let me remind you that I don’t need to have demonstrations of that backbone, save it for Sydney and--”
“Jack, let it go,” Irina cautioned, still holding onto his arm.
Vaughn growled, “Great. Fabulous. And wait, you spoke with Weiss? Not just me? That’s how you knew that I didn’t have the explanation yet?” he asked in surprise.
Weiss answered, “Sure, don’t you remember? I thought I blew it at the time, but luckily your mind was, um, elsewhere. I was on the phone when you came into the room that night, after tucking Sydney into bed.”
”That’s all he did, tuck her into bed?” Irina asked in surprise.
“Yeah, Syd was pretty bushed by the end of the day and then they had to do the scuba portion of the scavenger hunt. So, by bed time…well, let’s just say that Vaughn earned some much-needed points by being a gentleman.”
“Wait a minute..…scavenger hunt on Maui?” Irina asked.
“Yeah, that’s what Vaughn called it, a scavenger hunt,” Weiss confirmed.
“Oh, I’m not surprised by the scavenger hunt, you know that. But, on Maui? I’m just putting two and two together. Just where did they go?” Irina asked again, turning toward Jack, raising an eyebrow. “Jack?”
Everyone stared in surprise, was Jack Bristow actually…..no, that could not be a tinge of red across his cheeks, could it?
“What is it, Derevko?” Vaughn asked for everyone.
“Sydney,” Irina began, turning reluctantly away from Jack. “Do you know where your father and I went on our honeymoon?”
Vaughn answered, “Let me guess. Maui?”
“Very good,” Irina confirmed. “And Maui was, is, beautiful. Gorgeous scenery, lovely, romantic. But we were more interested in…” she broke off with a smile in Jack’s direction. He pretended to ignore her. She continued, “We were more interested in, um, each other. But there we were in this exotic location – we should see it, right? So, we decided to make a race out of it, a game to see how many sights or attractions we could see in one day. That way we could show photographs, tell people all that we had seen, but then we’d have the rest of the days and nights free for---“
”That’s enough! Sydney doesn’t need to hear about that. And neither do I,” Jack protested.
“You’re the one who set them up on that game plan, Jack, not me! So don’t get squeamish now. But no wonder Sydney was exhausted, if the hunt you sent them on was anything like what we did. And adding scuba onto it? You were just trying to make sure that one or both of them was too tired to do anything about their feelings until they’d straightened it all out, don’t lie to me, Jack Bristow!”
“Oh, come on. That day was no big deal. I mean we did almost the same road trip, I admit we didn’t do the scuba dive, but we still had more than enough energy to…” He stopped, chagrined. Sydney looked away, pretending to ignore the last comment.
Irina smiled at his slip, but still protested, “We were just kids when we got married, did that itinerary, Jack. As adults, that would be exhausting!”
“Eh, they’re both in great shape. Now, if it had been Weiss……”
“Hey, is this where I have to hear about being roly-poly again?” Weiss protested.
Jack ignored him to continue, “I don’t see what the big deal is about the schedule.”
“Be realistic,” Irina argued. “You’d be tired too after that day.”
“Oh, really? Even at our age, I’ve never had any complaints about my stamina…in the field.” Jack said dryly.
While Weiss laughed and Irina growled, Sydney and Vaughn looked at each other and mouthed, “In the field?” Yikes, Vaughn thought, had he picked up that phrase, that analogy from Jack? Or was his mind starting to work like Jack’s? Ohmigod, ohmigod. Stop at the Agency store on the way out, and buy some borax for the brain, he thought to himself. This was getting scary.
Vaughn spoke up, “So what’s in the other boxes?” His curiosity was killing him.
Irina answered, “Well mine is a tape of Jack planning the operation with Weiss. Weiss gave it to the contact when he gave him the other boxes as well. I thought you might like to have it as a souvenir. Better than that tacky tshirt you bought in Hana, anyway,” Irina said.
“Hold on!” Jack exclaimed. “You had Weiss bug me?”
“Yeah, isn’t that great?” Weiss asked. “Ironic, wouldn’t you say?”
“Hold on,” Vaughn said more calmly. “Ironic, what’s ironic? And how did you know about the tshirts? How did Weiss know about all that stuff in Hana?”
“Yeah, what were you doing with that whipped cream, anyway?” Weiss asked curiously.
Vaughn and Sydney turned red and Irina and Jack looked at each other. Weiss said, “Oh. Sorry. I lead a sheltered life, didn’t occur to me what you were doing..…Should have kept my mouth shut. Now. I’ll shut up now.”
Jack covered his face with one hand, while Irina whispered with a smile, “Jack, don’t you remember when we were—“
“Stop it!” Jack whispered fiercely back. “There are some things I just don’t want to know, alright?”
Sydney cleared her throat. “I know. That couple that took our pictures on the road to Hana? Some of your contacts, Dad?”
“Of course.” Jack nodded.
“Jack…Sometimes you scare even me,” Irina laughed.
“Well, good. Then there was more than one benefit to this game. Maybe you’ll think twice before you play with me again……” Jack stopped when Irina began to chuckle at his words.
Irina whispered, “Play with you? You want me to stop…” She smiled. Jack groaned.
“So what was the real mission, anyway?” Vaughn asked.
Jack shrugged dismissively, “Gathering up intel that Irina had given us a while back that was not of crucial importance in terms of timing.” At the word timing, Weiss made a slicing motion across his neck in Jack’s direction.
Sydney asked, “So, wait. So, mom encouraged me. I know that. And, Mom, you thought, assumed that Dad would pick it up from there. But the timing of it, how did you know?”
“Well, Weiss of course would tell your father that you and Vaughn were going on a mission, even if he did not have another way to learn that information.”
“But, there was still Alice,” Sydney protested.
Irina shrugged, “Oh, I figured Jack would take care of that aspect of it.”
“Did you?” Jack asked of Irina.
“Yes, I know you that well, Jack. Some things never change. And one thing that would never change is that you want your little girl to be happy and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy.”
Weiss let out a sharp bark of laughter. Jack sent him a quelling glance. Looking from one to the other, Irina asked quickly, “Weiss came to you or did you go to Weiss?”
“Jack called me the same day you had your little mother-daughter talk with Syd, about an hour before I spoke with you. He knew about the mission, knew about the reprimand, was frantic about Sydney,” here Jack frowned, while Weiss continued, “and he thought it was a good opportunity to resolve the matter. Just like Irina did when Syd mentioned it to her. Talk about freaky timing.”
With a sidelong glance at him, Irina spoke up quickly, “My only question and I admit it’s been killing me, is this: how did you do it? Neither of us would have countenanced the two of them getting together with the supposed girlfriend still in the picture. I know Jack felt the same way, knew he’d take care of it. But HOW did you make sure Vaughn was available, for real, this time?”
No one spoke. Vaughn glared at Weiss and Jack. Not surprisingly it was Weiss that broke first.
“We set Alice up,” Weiss muttered.
“You set her up? Oh, Weiss,” Syd moaned.
“How?” Vaughn exclaimed. “Tell us how.”
“This should be good,” Irina said with relish.
Chapter 31: In which we find out more than we ever wanted to know about Sid with an ‘I’. Warning: a twisted tale lies ahead.
Chapter 31: In which we find out more than we ever wanted to know about Sid with an ‘I’. Warning: a twisted tale lies ahead.
“Good?” Vaughn repeated incredulously. “Those two set up Alice –that’s not good. That’s kind of cruel.”
Weiss raised his eyebrow and spoke sarcastically, “Really? Like it was so kind to string her along for several months when all the time you were pining over another woman? The kind thing to do would have been never to go out with her to begin with and failing that, to break up with her a lot sooner than you did. So don’t give me a lecture on kindness, buddy!”
Vaughn looked down, then back up. “I get the point, Weiss.”
“Good,” Weiss nodded. “Besides -- Jack did a check on her, what she’d been saying to her friends to make sure that she had a clue that all was not well in Vaughn land.”
“Jack did what? How? Let me guess. You planted a bug on Alice?” Vaughn asked Jack, already knowing the answer. “That’s why you said it was ironic that Weiss bugged you?”
“Of course I planted a bug on Alice. It was logical, effective. Why not?” Jack shrugged like bugging loved ones was no big deal.
Vaughn stared at him, then shrugged internally as well. Of course, to Jack Bristow planting a bug on the girlfriend of his daughter’s non-boyfriend to ascertain the status of the relationship between that girlfriend and the boyfriend he thought was probably that girlfriends’ non-boyfriend in the real sense of the word …He was lost in his own train of thought. Well, anyway, it would not even rate a blip on the ethics radar. If such a thing existed in the land o’ Bristow. Oh wait a minute, it did. Jack had lectured Sydney on going out with Vaughn while he had still been dating Alice. And…he thought suddenly, how would he pay for that? Jack would never let that go……Vaughn stared at Jack with narrowed eyes.
Irina spoke up, “So, he planted a bug on the soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. What is it you Americans say? Big hoop?”
“No. Big whoop,” Weiss told her. “And in light of…” He trailed off, giving Jack a cautious look.
Jack gave a quirk to his lips. “Well, in light of what else I did for the sake of my daughter’s happiness, planting a bug on Alice was nothing.”
Weiss began to laugh, as he said, “Should I take that as an insult, Jack?”
“Take it anyway you like it, as long as I don’t have to repeat it ever again.”
“Oh, I don’t know, it may have been worth it just to see you laugh that hard,” Weiss commented.
Syd echoed, “Laugh? Dad? Okay, Weiss, spill. Now. I can tell this will be good.”
“Jack, is it okay?” Weiss asked.
“You were the one who was so… freaked out by it.” Jack paused. Had he actually used the phrase ‘freaked out’? He needed to stop spending time with Weiss. He really had to stop spending time with Weiss; the kid was unpredictable. “Well, I’ve had worse done to me. In different ways, I hasten to add. At least this time I wasn’t hospitalized,” Jack said. “So, go ahead if you want.”
Weiss began, “So the key was the fact that Vaughn says Syd’s name in his sleep.”
Irina asked, “You heard via the bug, Alice mention Vaughn talking in his sleep?”
“Actually, no. We already knew that, had the germ of the idea from that. Weiss knew that Vaughn says Syd’s name in his sleep from times they’ve had to share a room,” Jack corrected.
“And he would say it every night, without fail. Especially if he were tired,” Weiss explained. “I babble when I’m tired, Vaughn lets down his defenses and talks about Sydney in his sleep when he’s really tired. So it was just a matter of making sure he was tired enough on a night when he was supposed to see Alice.”
“You have got to be kidding.” Vaughn said flatly, “This was planned, like, like…A Jack Bristow plan. Nothing was left to chance, was it? So the day before this mission, that ridiculous work load Jack assigned me, then all those squash games were solely to…..”
Weiss nodded, “Solely to get you so tired you’d fall asleep on her couch, since we all know you weren’t going to bed---“
“That’s enough!” Vaughn exclaimed.
Weiss continued, “What we did know from the bug is that Alice found it curious that you were talking about some guy named Sid in your sleep, when you never mentioned him at any other time. Especially when you would moooaann his name. She was just starting to wonder if there was more to your lack of a sex life than mere tiredness. Or so she said to her friends---“
“Our friends? Uh-oh,” Vaughn moaned.
“There he goes with the moaning again,” Weiss laughed and then laughed again when Vaughn tried to give him a dirty look. “Anywho, Alice was starting to wonder if you were hiding something or rather someone--”
“Someone named Sid?” Irina asked, beginning to smile. “Jack, this is so twisted. I love it! It has your imprint all over it---“
“I was all over nothing, no one!” Jack protested, trying to keep from laughing aloud. It was still damn funny.
“Oh. My. God.” Vaughn moaned again as a lightbulb went off over his head. This was just sick and twisted enough that…. “No, no, don’t tell me..….”
“Vaughn, meet your good friend, Sid.” Weiss gestured toward Jack.
Sydney broke into hysterical laughter and gasped out, “That’s why she asked if you were gay? She met my father and thought he was---thought HE was gay? Thought Vaughn was gay? Boy, she doesn’t have good gaydar, does she?”
"Gaydar? Is that an American term, slang? What’s the Russian translation of that?” Irina asked Jack.
Jack just rolled his eyes and then said, “Later, Irina. Syd, I think you’re being too hard on her. I mean if the woman is willing and the man won’t put out, it’s only natural for her to wonder if he’s having an affair, which in this case was true – an emotional affair, or if he’s gay or ---“
“I don’t know. Just plain stubborn? Or the biggest tease, what’s that American expression? And the male equivalent would be a ---” Irina asked slyly. Jack slammed a hand over her mouth. Sydney stopped laughing. This was way too much information. She glared at her mother. Irina bit Jack’s hand and he removed it, glaring at her.
Irina mumbled, “Oh, sorry. Forgot you Americans are so prudish. Hard to believe it of you Sydney, being Jack’s daughter and all, but..…”
“Irina, that’s enough. Focus,” Jack snarled.
“Fine, I was just having some fun, but..….” Irina began to laugh. “So. Jack, Weiss, tell us, what exactly did you do?"
Vaughn crossed his arms over his chest, "Yeah, tell us. I'm dying to know."
"You know how a few days before the mission started you had that date with Alice at that restaurant you like a few blocks over?" Weiss asked.
'Yessss," Vaughn said with trepidation. He was getting that sinking feeling in his stomach. The kind that had caused him to buy cases of Tums ever since the Bristows had entered his life. And Weiss working with the Bristows? He might need stomach surgery by the time this was over.
"Well, walking down the street from the parking garage, just who do you think Alice met?” Weiss asked, rocking back and forth on his feet. "Or would that be 'whom'?"
"It's---" Sydney began.
"Syd!" Vaughn exclaimed. "Does it matter?"
"Well, no need to get so...testy! Mikey," Sydney grinned.
"I want to know," Vaughn gritted out. "Who did Alice meet? Just answer that question."
"Me. And Sid, here—“ Weiss pointed at Jack. “Getting ready to walk into that gay bar, the Rainbow Room. You know, the one that's right next to the restaurant."
"Oh. My. God." Vaughn groaned and rubbed his forehead.
"And so she saw me and of course, I had to stop and introduce your good friend, Sid, here to Alice,” Weiss explained.
"Of course…...?” Vaughn knew his mouth was hanging open and shut it with a snap, only to immediately open it back up to implore, “You have got to be kidding me." For the love of….would you look at that smirk on Jack's face, Vaughn thought. Weiss was not kidding. He could not believe this....”Puh-leeze tell me you’re joking.”
"Would I kid about this? No, I would not." Weiss shook his head.
"But.....did she…..?" Syd asked.
"Get it right away? No.” Weiss shook his head. “It wasn't enough to introduce her to "Sid," your "good" friend. Hate to say it, but she’s not real quick on the uptake. She wasn't making the connection right away even though we were at the gay bar. You could tell the name meant something to her, but she couldn't quite figure it out. Although I could see the wheels turning, they weren't turning fast enough. I mean, you could have come down the street yourself at any moment. And Jack’s Plan B for proving who Sid was to you – well, we didn’t have enough time, really, to use PhotoShop without staying up all night. And Jack wanted to get home and finish the planning. So, it had to get done right then. We had trouble, my friend, right here in Spy City! Drastic measures were needed, my friend, drastic! " Weiss said in a sing song voice. That voice that always made Vaughn want to pop him.
Vaughn thought for a moment and then asked, "PhotoShop? You were going to make pictures? Oh, my God. Wait a minute. Drastic? Your idea of drastic or Jack's? Jack, tell me there were no explosives involved, no kidnapping, no regression therapy, no hypnosis, no psychotropic drugs......."
"No. Don't be ridiculous," Jack said with a smile. Which was enough to make Vaughn cringe. "The simplest plans are always the best. The fewer the steps, the smaller margin for error."
"Thanks, Jack, so much for the impromptu lesson in strategizing. And by the way, you'll be glad to know Weiss at least has been paying attention. But, tell me already, what the HELL did you two do?" Vaughn asked, knowing he was nearly shouting but unable to control himself.
"So testy, Mikey. Really, calm down. All's well that end's well, isn't it?" Weiss asked complacently.
Vaughn growled. “Weissssss….”
"Alright already.” Weiss held his hands up in front of him. “You asked. I’ll remind you of that. So… with the introductions over, Alice had turned around and begun to walk away. And I said to Jack, just loudly enough for an innocent passerby to hear," Weiss rocked back and forth on his heels, looking entirely too smug, "That I didn't appreciate always playing second fiddle to Vaughn, that the only time we went out was when Vaughn was busy, that didn't I have what it takes myself? That I prided myself on being good at…Of course, she turned around when she heard Vaughn's name…..."
“Of course,” Irina echoed, biting her lip to keep from laughing aloud. Jack’s games were always good fun. She gave him a speculative up and down look. Always good fun, indeed.
"The look on her face. The confusion. I almost felt bad." Jack commented, shaking his head in mock sympathy.
"Yeah, right. I'm so sure you did," Vaughn snarled, while Syd and Irina stared wide-eyed at the men, wondering just what was coming.
"Well, see, what I saw on her face was still some lingering confusion. We had to get rid of that." Weiss explained.
"Don't say 'we', Weiss. What happened next was all your idea. Not mine. Not mine." Jack protested.
"What happened, already?" Vaughn exclaimed, afraid to ask. Although how much worse could it be than what he already knew….
"Oh, I reached over and planted one on Jack." Weiss said casually.
It was that much worse.
"It was quick. Just a peck. No tongue or anything,” Weiss was quick to explain.
Jack held up his hand. “Yes, let’s make that perfectly clear.”
Weiss rolled his eyes, “But she had a look of such shock on her face. Then she just said, 'Oh, Eric, you're such a joker, but getting more weird all the time.' She shook her head and stared at us, like waiting for the punchline. Then she walked away, still shaking her head. And Mr. Happy here," he pointed at Jack, "Gets this look on his face like he's going to lose it any moment. And Alice is still right there, for crying out loud. For all the times for Jack Bristow to lose control......Honestly, am I the only one who could keep a clear head on this op?" Weiss shook his head.
"Mr. Happy?" Irina laughed. "Now there's a new euphemism for...Ooomph!" She halted when Jack squeezed her arm.
"Then what happened?" Syd asked, between giggles.
"So, Jack says to me that if what he just sampled was evidence of my technique, I really need to work on my skills." Weiss sniffed in mock disdain, "Like he got the full treatment from me anyway!" He paused and then began again, "Then he starts laughing. Laughing! Didn’t do much for my ego, let me tell you!"
Irina said, "He was laughing? What set you off so much, Jack? I'd have thought you would have been mad at him. But then again, when’s the last time you really----"
Jack sent her a frown as he said, "No, as he said drastic situations call for drastic measures. We were desperate. Eric used creative problem solving in the field. Wish he’d thought of some other method, but as I always say, you can’t argue with success. And too, I was thinking that maybe this made up for all the times Syd thought I wasn't there for her. I mean, if letting Weiss kiss me doesn't earn me some points…..."
Weiss said snidely, "Yeah, so you said at the time, Jack. Then he starts to laugh, recounting all the various ways he's been tortured over the years and maybe this was the worst. Humph. I shoved him into the bar, he was laughing so hard I thought he was going to….. I don't know what. I mean, when's the last time you laughed, Jack? You need more practice – that was the problem, you had years of laughter stored up inside you and it all burst out that day.”
“I knew it! That’s what I was about to say, that when was the last time Jack really laughed? But, then what?” Irina asked, smiling.
"I had the biggest glass of Scotch I've had since, oh, I don't know, since Sydney figured out that you were alive," Jack said.
“Ha, ha, Jack. Very funny,” Irina sniffed and pulled her arm away from Jack.
With a smirk at Weiss, Jack added, "That scotch is a great multi-tasking tool. Served as both antiseptic and anesthetic."
“Ha, ha, Jack. Very funny,” Weiss sniffed.
“Then we went back to my house and planned out this little op. Didn't take that long, maybe twenty minutes, half an hour?” Jack asked Weiss.
"Yeah, when Jack's on a roll, he could plan the takeover of a foreign country in, oh, maybe an hour or two?" Weiss suggested.
Irina mumbled, "I think he's done it in less."
"So, you timed the whole thing -- when Alice would be coming down the sidewalk and accidentally encounter you two?” Vaughn asked, still in shock.
Jack confirmed, “It's the timing, Vaughn. I've told you before, you need to be precise in your timing.”
Weiss interjected, “Yeah, he needs help with his timing, Jack. Maybe you could give him some remedial instruction in that area.”
“SHUT up!” Vaughn said.
Sydney giggled, “This is amazing. I don’t know what the best part is.”
“Well, don’t make your judgment yet,” Irina suggested. “I have a feeling there is more.”
Chapter 32: In which an avalanche of alliteration ensues and we learn that Weiss just isn’t Jack’s type. In case you were wondering.
Chapter 32: In which an avalanche of alliteration ensues and we learn that Weiss just isn’t Jack’s type. In case you were wondering.
Weiss laughed, “Actually, the best part was watching Jack try to hold in the laughter. Poor Alice. She must have thought not only that Vaughn was cheating on her with a man, but that the man in question had fits on the street as well. I was relieved when she left, because I was getting afraid that Jack was going to give himself a hernia from holding in the laughter. Who knew a kiss from me could break Jack’s rules against loosening up around junior agents and inspire a laughing fit?”
“Jack, I still can’t believe you let him do that!” Irina looked like she didn’t know whether to be horrified or just giggle. And with that thought, Weiss stared at her. Irina giggle? Hmm.
“Well, Weiss isn’t my type, but it didn’t kill me.” Jack said dryly.
Now Irina really did giggle, along with Syd. Irina looked up at Jack and began laughing even harder, mumbling in gasps, “Not your type,” until she reached out a hand and grabbed Jack’s arm to steady herself. Jack put his arm around Irina and smiled down at her. Then he realized what he’d done and pulled his arm away so fast Irina nearly stumbled.
Vaughn stared at the two of them in astonishment, his mind still reeling from the notion of Weiss planting a wet one on Jack. And living to tell the tale. Although, he thought it could not have been a wet one, Weiss really would not have been alive if that were the case. And, by all that was holy, why was he thinking about this topic, still? Yuck. Think about something, anything else……
“Wait a minute –,” Vaughn began, “Alice thinks I am in some kind of three way relationship with Weiss and Jack.” Argh. He would never be able to hang out with any of their mutual friends again. He looked at Jack and asked, “So, for hurting your little girl? My friends will all think….” Vaughn watched Jack nod smugly. Vaughn sighed, “Payback. It’s a bitch?”
Weiss rolled his eyes and asked in a tone of false hurt, “Jack, I have to ask. Why am I not your type? Is it because I’m roly poly?”
Syd cracked up, “Are we back on that topic again? Mom, you really need to tell him you were kidding.”
“Of course, I was kidding, Agent Weiss. You’re….. cute and funny. Sweet. Cuddly. Like a teddy bear.” Weiss groaned and shot a look at Sydney, while Irina continued, “Those are good qualities, you know. Lots of women want just that. I think you haven’t been paying attention to the right women if you don’t have a girlfriend. And clearly roly-poly was a joke. After all, I would never say something that negative if I really meant it. I have my limits, after all.”
Jack burst into laughter. Irina stared at him in annoyance. Everyone else stared at him in shock. Jack Bristow was laughing. Again? They were in an alternate universe. Jack stopped to gasp out, “That’s good. More dating advice from Irina Derevko, the Dear Abby of the KGB. And what’s this? You have limits? You hesitate at calling someone roly poly but shooting him in the neck – that’s no big deal?”
“That’s exactly what I mean, Jack," Irina said, as she put her hands on her hips. "You know how devastating words can be. You’re the king of the derogatory, derisive, distrustful, disdainful, disturbing comment.”
Good hit. Jack sobered up at that comment. Vaughn nodded in agreement with Irina, surely yet another sign that the apocalypse was nigh. Sydney poked Vaughn with one of those pointy elbows. Weiss thought, yeah, Vaughn should avoid antagonizing Jack for a little while anyway.
Then Weiss realized what Irina had said and groaned, “Not more alliteration.” He stopped, thinking that genetics was indeed a funny thing, wasn’t it? He glanced at Jack, who had a fleeting look of bemusement on his face as he looked from Irina to Syd. Weiss looked sharply at Syd, who had apparently not noticed the alliteration, being busy trying to keep her boyfriend alive.
“What was that -- derogatory, derisive, distrustful, disdainful, disturbing? A page from Roget’s Thesaurus?” Jack asked sarcastically. Then continued, “Oh, wait. What is the equivalent book in Russian? I mean, after all, aren’t you always thinking in Russian?”
Ooh, good hit. Weiss watched Irina begin to grind her teeth.
“You idiot. The words would not be the same in Russian! They wouldn’t start with the same letters, so the alliteration wouldn’t work!” At that Syd looked up. Irina continued, “You want to know what I’m thinking in Russian? I’ll tell you, you---“ And she let loose a torrent of words, to which Jack replied in the same language.
The three younger people watched Irina and Jack sling words back and forth like volleys in a tennis match.
Vaughn whispered to Sydney, “I forgot how fluent your father is. So, this is one of their little games? Wow, looks like tons of fun,” he said sarcastically. Then asked curiously, “Do you know what they are saying?”
“The question is,” Sydney muttered, “Do I want to know?” Then she winced at a particularly pointed comment from her father that made her mother’s face turn red. She shot something back so rapidly that Sydney could not translate it.
The speed of what were clearly insults increased again and again, until Irina stopped to say in English to her daughter, “You see, Sydney, this is what happens when you don’t practice a language often enough. Your father is having trouble with this one consonant combination—“
“Arggh! Are you criticizing my Russian now?” Jack demanded, leaning forward.
“Yes!” Irina poked her finger in Jack’s shoulder.
“Oh, really, Irina? Say the word s-a-b-o-t-a-g-e for me, will you?" Jack smirked, crossing his arms across his chest. "No one on the North American continent says it the way you do!”
“I can say it correctly if I want to.” Irina crossed her arms over her chest and sighed when she realized that Jack was aggravated enough that he didn't seem to notice what it did for her bustline.
“No, you can’t.” Jack shot back. “If you had ever said that word that way in the time we were together, the jig would have been up!”
“No, it wouldn’t!” Irina countered, ignoring as did Jack the fact that there was anyone else in the room.
“Mom, Dad! SHUT UP!” Sydney yelled. “You’re acting like five year olds. I’m expecting you to stick out your tongues at each other any minute, for crying out loud.”
“Tongues? Donwannaknow…” Weiss choked. Vaughn pounded him on the back and the two men turned away to hide their amusement.
“Fine,” Jack and Irina said in unison, both breathing heavily.
Jack spoke first, point a finger at Irina, “And I don’t want to hear another poop out of you tonight.”
Irina turned to Sydney and murmured, “I think he means ‘peep out of me.’ You see, Jack, you’ve even lost your ability to speak English at this point, let alone Russian. This is what happens when one allows oneself to become too…... agitated, too stressed, too…..frustrated. Especially when alleviation is so close at hand.”
Vaughn and Weiss both began to laugh, but at a pointed glare from Jack, coughed and stared at the ceiling.. Sydney decided she would just pretend to ignore the whole incident and the subsequent conversation in Russian between her parents about just who was…. Don’t need to know this, don’t need to know this, don’t need---
Jack started to speak and then stopped. He thought for a moment and then spoke, clearly deciding to continue the original conversation as if the Russian tennis match and innuendo-laden interlude had not happened. “Please, Irina. When have I ever hurt you with my words? And, anyway, words as weapons? Please. I mean it’s not like being electrocuted or shot or poisoned or I. Don’t. Know, stabbed in the back.”
Silence fell. Truth often did that, Sydney thought, just killed the conversation. Something to avoid at dinner parties, to be sure. She looked at Weiss desperately. He rose to the occasion; you could always count on Weiss to have something to say, after all.
“True,” Weiss agreed, “Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes.”
“Um, Weiss, how do you know the words to that Cher song, ‘Turn Back Time’?” Sydney asked with a smirk of her own. “Should I start to look among my male friends for a date for you?”
“Oh, my god.” Weiss rubbed his arms. “How did I know that? Maybe I need to go see Barnett? Maybe this long run without a girlfriend is screwing me up? Although maybe that’s a good title given the situation here. Maybe, but why did I remember it? And……”
“Shut up, Weiss,” Jack relaxed and chuckled. “We heard it in that bar. Songs get stuck in one’s head. Doesn’t mean anything. You’re babbling again. Your masculinity is still intact. Or as intact as it ever was.”
Vaughn asked, “I hate to break up this little conference on human sexuality, but will someone tell us what’s in the other box? In case we’ve all lost track, the first one had Weiss’ apparently well-deserved recommendation, the second has a tape of Weiss and Jack’s game strategy, which I’m starting to think deserves to be on the curriculum at spy school—“
“Spy school?” both Jack and Irina echoed.
“A joke?” Vaughn sighed. “But the third box, what’s in that?”
Weiss and Irina stared at Jack, who straightened his tie and said quietly, “That’s from me to Syd. Maybe she could open it later.”
“Oh no!” Irina exclaimed. “Now, this has been going on long enough. It’s going to stop right now. You’re not going to avoid this. You did this all for her. Show her. Jack give her the key. Sydney open the box.”
Chapter 33: In which we finally circle around to the beginning.
Chapter 33: In which we finally circle around to the beginning.
Slowly, Jack extended a small key to his daughter. With a curious look Sydney took it and opened the box. Raising the lid she looked inside and then stopped. With a glance at her father, she reached her hand in and pulled out a small plastic Little Mermaid caketopper of Ariel and Prince Eric in wedding attire. For a long moment she just stared at it. Her eyes began to fill.
“Oh, Dad,” Sydney choked out, “This is from my birthday party all those years ago. How, where?”
When Jack did not answer, just looked down at the floor, Weiss responded quietly, “It’s from the Sydney shrine in his house, Syd.”
Jack hissed, “Weiss…”
“Dad? I---“ Sydney began.
When no one said anything, Irina rolled her eyes and softly urged Sydney, “I think there’s something else in the box. What is it?”
“Oh. Let me see,” Sydney handed the caketopper to Vaughn and reached back into the box. She pulled out what looked like a map. “Oh. It’s a map. Wait! It’s just like all those scavenger hunt maps from my parties. That you made up,” she said slowly staring at her father. Looking back down at the map, she narrowed her eyes. “This is of Maui, basically, although the starting and ending points are here in LA. And what’s this, at the end? Oh, look, Vaughn. It’s a tiny little photo of the two of us from that restaurant in Nice! I knew that waiter was one of your contacts, Dad, I knew it! Or was it the busboy? I bet it was the busboy.”
Jack smiled slightly, while Vaughn glared at him.
Weiss muttered to Vaughn, “Given how it turned out once you took the wire out, you want to make an issue out of Jack’s overprotectiveness?”
“Oh. Good point,” Vaughn whispered.
“Besides,” Weiss continued, “This is not about you anyway. This is about a father’s love for his daughter.”
“So, daughter?” Irina said, “You get the point, since your father appears tongue-tied? For once? He did all this for you, to give you what you wanted, what you needed. At the end of the scavenger hunt, at the end of the search of a lifetime, guess what? You and Vaughn found each other.”
[Everyone here can say, “Awww” in unison.]
“Oh, Daddy, I---“ Sydney whispered, looking at her father with tear-filled eyes. Jack stared back at her, but neither said anything more or moved.
Suddenly Irina hissed at Jack, “Go ahead. Do it already.”
Both Weiss and Vaughn stiffened. Irina laughed at their caution. “No, you fools. Jack isn’t going to do anything to either of you—“
“At this time,” Jack corrected.
“Of course, you may change your mind later, as the need arises, Jack…” Irina smiled as Vaughn and Weiss looked at each other nervously. “But right now, I just want you to go ahead and do what you want. What you’ve wanted to do ever since the kids came into the cell, what you started to do and then lost courage to do--”
“Shut UP,” Jack hissed.
“You can’t make me,” Irina hissed back.
Jack arched an eyebrow.
Irina coughed lightly and smiled. “Maybe you could, but not right now. Just go ahead and hug your daughter, give her a kiss, tell her you love her. That’s what you want to do anyway.”
Sydney stared in shock and asked, “Daddy?” No one moved.
Irina rolled her eyes and urged, “Sydney, come over here. Your father is paralyzed by fright. Ridiculous. He’s utterly cool when someone threatens to attach electrodes to his body, throws a knife at him, aims a gun, but when it comes to letting you know, showing you that he loves you, he’d rather plan elaborate game theory than try just a simple hug. For once, Jack Bristow chokes on assignment.”
Jack and Sydney stared at each other. Finally, Vaughn gave Sydney a push and Irina elbowed Jack. Weiss looked on happily as Jack and Sydney met in the middle of the room and embraced.
“Honey, everything is truly okay? Are you---“ Jack began and then stopped.
Weiss rolled his eyes. “Happy! He wants to know if you are happy!”
Cupping her father’s face in one hand, Sydney reached up and gave him a kiss. She realized belatedly, that was the first kiss she had given him in decades. Giving him another squeeze, she said softly, “Yes. I’m happy. Thanks to you.”
Jack looked over at Vaughn and intoned, “And she’d better stay that way. Or--”
“Oh, Dad, c’mon. We all know you like Vaughn,” Sydney laughed.
“And that’s what scares me,” Vaughn muttered.
Sydney rolled her eyes. Then she dropped her voice and whispered to her father, “Don’t you think you ought to join me in thanking Mom? I mean, she did…”
“Sydney..” Jack said in a warning tone, “I don’t want to ruin the moment, but please don’t ask me to---“ He broke off and stared at his wife.
“Jack, I…” Irina began, staring back.
“You know, you always say that, ‘Jack, I….’ When do you intend to finish the sentence, Irina?” Jack accused and released Sydney after giving her one last hug.
To everyone’s complete lack of astonishment, Weiss entered the fray. “Yeah, Irina. I mean, Mrs. Bristow, I mean Ms. Derevko. I have a question for you about--” Weiss stopped at the deadly glares from Irina and Jack, but didn’t back down, just scuttled sideways, Syd thought. Like Sebastian. She choked back a giggle as Weiss said, trying to cover himself, “Speaking Russian, I need some pointers.”
Vaughn whispered to Syd, “Weiss is filled with foolish confidence after this last mission, isn’t he?” Sydney nodded, waiting for the next installment in wide-eyed shock. She didn’t have long to wait. This was Weiss, they were talking about.
He suggested, “Jack, why don’t you go talk to Syd and Vaughn for a minute?” He waited. Jack didn’t move. “Jack, I could kiss you again. Don’t want to, but I could. Wouldn’t kill me, after all and—“
“Ugh. I’m leaving now!” Jack exclaimed and stepped away. To Syd and Vaughn, he said, “I need to get something from my briefcase, then I’ll be right back. Don’t let Weiss get too cozy with your mother. I don’t know what he’s thinking but…Irina and Weiss? That’s a scary combination if I ever saw one.” He stalked out the door to the cell.
Syd called out, “What did you need, anyway?”
“A Tylenol and an antacid. Or maybe go straight to Percocet. I’m sure I have some of those in my briefcase, too. If not, I’ll just give a call to…,” Jack grumbled.
In the quiet left in Jack’s departure, they could all hear Weiss’ brain humming. Syd and Vaughn exchanged looks of alarm. “Oh no, Weiss, don’t even think…” Vaughn muttered as Weiss and Irina began talking very softly.
Sydney stepped over to Vaughn. She smiled suddenly. Vaughn raised an eyebrow. She whispered, “You know, in some perverse, twisted way, I can’t wait to see Weiss take on my parents as his next project.”
“Perverse and twisted as in the torture Weiss will endure in the attempt? Sounds good to me. But do you really think he intends to do that?” Vaughn asked. Although he was absolutely sure, with the kind of knowledge that came with that deep, sinking feeling he got around Weiss, that the next few weeks or months were going to be a rollercoaster. And he knew, just knew, he was going to get strapped into a seat, much against his will, and go on the ride. He only hoped he didn’t get thrown from the ride or vomit along the way.
“They are going to be a lot more difficult than we were. I don’t know that Weiss is up to it,” Syd said with an arch tone.
Weiss lifted his head. “Hey, I heard that! And believe me, I don’t think anything could be more difficult than you. I took my life in my hands there on that street with Jack for the two of you! And Vaughn’s timing problem? I thought I was going to have to call in a specialist. Or worse, have to ask Jack to show up on site. That would not have been pretty. And I wasn’t sure that first day if you would really forgive him.”
“But Weiss, weren’t you the one pointing out that whatever Vaughn had done it was not the equivalent of being a KGB spy on the side?” Sydney asked with a pointed look at her mother.
“Yeah.” Weiss sighed. “That’s going to prove to be a slight problem.”
“Slight?” Vaughn, Syd and Irina said in unison.
“Let’s see, where to start?” Weiss pondered for a moment, then looked ominously at Vaughn.
Vaughn sighed and said, “Step one: Apologize.”
Weiss chuckled and turned a speculative glance back on Irina, who looked horrified.
Syd asked Vaughn, “Step one? What was that about?”
“Oh, Weiss gave me a step by step plan to dig myself out of the hole. It would have gone a lot smoother if I had just followed it, too.”
“How many steps?” Sydney asked curiously.
“Three? Three!” Sydney exclaimed. “And you had trouble following it? Maybe you needed to borrow my PDA?”
“Excuse me!” Vaughn said in mock indignation, while Syd laughed.
Sydney’s mirth stopped suddenly as she realized, “Somehow, I think it’s going to take more than three steps for my parents.”
“Oh, yeah. We are so not Jack and Irina. For which I am profoundly grateful,” Vaughn commented, putting his arm around Sydney and squeezing her waist.
Then Syd gave an impish grin and Vaughn tensed. That grin meant trouble.
“What is it?” Vaughn asked with a sigh of resignation. “Just tell me.”
“Guess what?” Sydney asked brightly. “Did I tell you I’ve been thinking of changing my first name alias?”
He relaxed. A work conversation, kind of oddly-timed, but no big deal. “No. What’s wrong with Kate? What are you thinking?”
“Something a little easier to remember.”
“Easier to remember?” Vaughn asked. Kate was damn easy to remember so---
“Sure. Lots easier to remember for you...” Sydney smiled.
“Uh-oh,” Vaughn mumbled.
“Yeah. From now on, call me Astrid. Astrid…Gayfeather.”
Vaughn looked at her and then burst out laughing. “You got me.”
“I certainly hope so!” Irina called out. “After everything we went through… Although I think Jack got the worst of it---“
”Hey!” Weiss protested. “I’ve never gotten any complaints!”
Vaughn rolled his eyes. Looking at Sydney he commented, “Astrid? I was thinking Ariel.”
Weiss looked up and asked, “Don’t you think it’s odd that with all ‘The Little Mermaid’ references, no one’s noticed that the hero of that story is named Eric and that’s my name too? And I didn’t even get the girl!” Weiss noted as Jack returned to the cell.
Jack groaned. “Oh no, not more with ‘The Little Mermaid’! What is it with you all and that movie? And, no, don’t say it. I’ve already heard how you two think Ariel was a quote unquote babe.” He rolled his eyes.
“Am I missing something?” Irina asked. “She was a cartoon. How can a cartoon be a, what did you say, a babe? Would this make more sense in Russian?”
“No.” Jack and Sydney said in unison. “It wouldn’t.”
“It’s a guy thing,” Vaughn and Weiss said next in unison.
Irina looked from couple to couple. "This is a very bizarre chorus for the ending," she mumbled to herself. "Perhaps if this were set to music, it might work better. And why isn't it? ABC is owned by Disney, so you'd think we could get a musical number or two in this show and---"
Weiss commented with a look of concern in Irina's direction, “You know, I’m thinking if Syd is Ariel, Vaughn is Prince Eric of course, I clearly have been assigned the Sebastian role, Jack is Triton, but who would Irina be?”
They all looked at each other. Jack cracked a smile as everyone but Irina said, “Ursula?”
Crossing her arms, Irina exclaimed, “Well! I like that. I am an overweight, purple watery witch with eels for elves and 8 arms?”
“Hey, I’m a crab!” Weiss argued.”Or a lobster, what was he? Anyway, I think Ursula had a total of 10 arms.”
“Whatever, who’s counting?” Irina said dismissively. Then she thought for a moment and said, “I’ve never understood the Disney films. They almost always feature a lost or missing or dead mother figure, don’t they?”
“Yeah. Gee, wonder why Sydney always liked them so much,” Jack said quickly, then looked almost regretful.
Weiss gave him a thoughtful glance and jumped into the silence, “Did you ever wonder about Ursula though? I mean, maybe if Triton had ever given her the time of day, she wouldn’t have been so angry? Or…maybe she just wanted his… spear?”
The younger people laughed. The older couple did not.
“Are you saying,” Vaughn added, “That it was just a case of misplaced sexual tension?”
“Yes! Maybe Little Mermaid Two should have been about Ursula and Triton. I mean imagine the possibilities for analogies here. Spears and.. Wait, I’ve got an idea…” Weiss began.
“Oh, no. We’re outta here,” Vaughn said and grabbed Sydney.
“Me too! I’m leaving!” Jack said and headed toward the door. “Anyone for cashew chicken?”
“Me! I love cashew chicken,” Sydney exclaimed.
Vaughn whispered, “I thought we were making a bakery stop, Syd?”
She whispered back, “Oh, that’s for dessert. Get a grip on yourself. Wait, that would be a waste. I mean, it’s always a waste when frosting isn’t used properly…” she giggled. Vaughn rolled his eyes and then laughed. Sydney called back, “Mom, do you want us to bring you back some?”
“From the bakery?” Irina asked, slightly confused. “No, I think I’d prefer something with meat for dinner. Jack---“
Sydney turned bright red. Weiss bent over with laughter. Vaughn choked and after giving him a quizzical look, Jack pounded him on the back, perhaps a little more forcefully than necessary, Vaughn thought. But then realized that after the stick up the ass comment, he was lucky to get away with only a thump on his spine, after all. He was lucky to still have a spine.
Weiss finally called out, “I like moo goo gai pan. Or beef and broccoli. No, pork fried lo mein. Oh, whatever you guys pick is fine. I’m not picky. Now, Irina, let’s talk about--”
Irina called out plaintively, “Hey, what about me? You’re leaving me here with him?”
Jack sighed happily, “Ah, finally a perfect revenge.”
“Jack! C’mon! You know I can’t leave!” Irina protested.
“I know. It’s great,” Jack smiled. “Have fun!”
As they began walking away, they heard Irina call plaintively, “Jack…I’ll tell you anything you want to know, anything…”
Jack stopped for a moment and then shook his head. “Guess what? You will eventually, anyway.”
As the three of them looked back, they heard Weiss say to Irina, “So. What’s this I hear about nightly dates in Cell Block A? Have any mixer dances lately? You know, you’d probably look great in black. In fact, I bet that’s your color. Do your hair, put on some makeup, high heels? No? How about---“
“Weiss,” Irina said wearily, “This isn’t a sorority with mixers and game night, you know.”
“Hmm,” he said, “That gives me an idea.”
Irina rolled her eyes, “Oh, no. What?”
“Guess what?” Weiss asked.