WHAT YOU NEVER KNEW YOU WANTED
by R. J. Anderson
Over the next few days, you try to get your memories back. You really do. You pull as many of your old case files as you can get your hands on, and pore through each briefing and debriefing until you can practically recite them backwards. You look through all the photo albums in your apartment, searching each unfamiliar picture for clues about where you were, what you were doing, how you felt at the time. And every chance you get, you bombard your father with questions about your breakup with Vaughn and your relationship with Weiss, hoping he'll remember something, anything, that might explain why you married one and not the other.
Still, no matter how hard you try to understand her, to remember what it was like to be her, the Sydney in those files, those pictures, those anecdotes, remains a stranger to you.
In the end, frustrated and exhausted by the intensity of your efforts, you tell yourself that it doesn't matter whether your memory ever returns. Either way, your duty to Weiss and to your own conscience is the same. And under any other circumstances, that sense of duty would be enough.
But you can't shut off the feelings you have for Vaughn, even knowing that he probably hates you. If only you knew why you left him, what went wrong... but you still don't know. You can't even begin to guess. All you know is that whenever he walks into a meeting with you or crosses your path in the Ops Center, your eyes and your heart follow him.
As for Weiss, you put him off as long as you can, feigning stomach cramps one night, pretending to fall asleep before he comes to bed the next. The following day you report to Dixon and discreetly maneuver him into giving you a solo courier assignment to Berlin. That gives you a couple more days' reprieve. But in the end you find yourself standing back at the door of your apartment, key in one hand and suitcase in the other, nauseous with apprehension. For a moment you dared to hope that Eric might not be home: but through the door you can hear the muffled sounds of Monday Night Football. He's there. He's waiting for you. And you can't keep him waiting any longer.
You take a deep breath, and paste on your brightest smile. Then you open the door and say, "Hi!"
Weiss looks up at the sound of your voice, and breaks into an equally incandescent grin. "Hey, hey, it's my girl!" He swings his feet off the couch, scattering pretzels everywhere, and leaps up to envelop you in a bear hug. In spite of your dread, you have to admit it feels good to be so enthusiastically welcomed.
"Who's playing?" you ask when he lets you go, nodding toward the TV.
"Who cares?" he says, with a feral grin that makes your heart jump in an unexpected direction, and thumbs the remote. The screen goes dark, like the place behind your eyelids as he kisses you, and your keys fall clattering to the floor.
His hands --
Michael's hands. Pretend they're Michael's.
His lips --
He knows how to kiss you, and you won't deny he makes you feel something when he does it. But he's not Vaughn. And you don't want anyone but Vaughn.
I can't do this --
And yet, somehow, you do.
Not even in the service of your country have you sold yourself so completely. No matter how long you had to drag out the seduction or how many distractions you had to manufacture along the way, you always managed to keep your enemies from possessing you, and escaped from their embraces just in time.
But Weiss is not your enemy.
And tonight, there is no escape.
* * *
Walking into the rotunda the next morning, you feel like you're wearing a scarlet letter. Except it can't be an A, because you and Eric are married, and you and Vaughn never were. The only alternative you can think of is W. And that doesn't stand for "Weiss".
Logically, there's no reason you should feel ashamed, or guilty: after all, you did it for Eric's sake. Eric, who loves you and has pledged his life to you, and deserves every kind of intimacy you can give him. By the same logic, you owe nothing to Vaughn, who is merely a former lover, and a hostile one at that. But the ugly truth is that the only way you could bring yourself to make love to Weiss was by pretending he was Vaughn, and when it was over you felt like you'd betrayed them both.
For once, you're glad that Vaughn doesn't look at you. You can't bear to look at him, either.
Halfway through the morning you head down to the commissary in search of fresh coffee (you've started taking it black, as penance), and on the way back you bump into somebody coming out of a side corridor and spill half of it over his shiny brown Oxfords.
"Oh gosh, I'm sorry, I didn't see--"
Silence. You look up, the styrofoam cup in one hand and its defective lid in the other, and meet Vaughn's resigned, sea-green gaze.
"I deserved that," he says.
You let out a breathless, incredulous laugh. "You deserve hot coffee on your shoes? Do I even want to know what you think you did wrong?"
His mouth twists in a bleak smile. "Yeah, I think you do. Look, Syd -- I owe you an apology, and I guess now is a good enough time to say it. I shouldn't have snapped at you last week."
You stare at him, a rivulet of coffee leaking over your thumb and dripping, unheeded, to the floor. He goes on:
"I should have known you weren't gloating -- that's not like you. If I'd known what the Covenant did to you, the way they confused your memories, I would have guessed right away something was wrong. But I was in Montserrat when they found you, and--"
"Wait a minute." You switch the cup to your other hand, and surreptitiously wipe your fingers on the lining of your jacket. "Who told you I was confused? And what did they say?"
"I'm not at liberty to tell you that."
It can't be your father: he wouldn't betray your trust, especially not to Vaughn. It wouldn't have been Weiss, surely. It must have been Dixon. Or another member of the team that found you. Somebody who heard you talking about Lauren.
"Fine," you say, folding your arms and averting your gaze from his. "I was confused, and I didn't know what I said would upset you. Still, I should have apologized later. And I didn't. So... I'm sorry, too."
Another, uncomfortable silence. "Well," you say finally, "I'd better get going," and turn to leave.
He catches your arm. "Syd."
Automatically you stop, looking down at the fingers wrapped around your elbow. His hand is warm on your skin, his touch light but possessive, just the way you remember it, and you feel a familiar ache beneath your ribcage.
"Can we -- try to make this work?" he says. "I know it's never going to be like it was between us, but... we should at least be able to talk to each other."
Hearing those words, your mouth bends in a radiant, incredulous smile. "Yeah," you manage to reply, when your voice finally decides to cooperate. "I'd like that."
You stand looking at each other for a long moment, and then a voice from behind you says, "Uh... am I interrupting something here? Because if I am, then I could go away, and -- 'cause, you know, if it's like, mrow, ffft --"
You turn, to see Marshall making exaggerated scratching gestures in the middle of the corridor. At the incredulous look on your face he stops and grins sheepishly. "Well, you know -- maybe not a catfight, exactly, seeing as Vaughn is -- um, do you want me to come back later?"
"It's fine, Marshall," says Vaughn, with a touch of impatience. "We were finished talking anyway. See you later, Syd." He sidles past you, his shoulder barely brushing yours, and walks away down the corridor.
You stand watching him, light-headed with surprise and renewed hope, until Marshall clears his throat. Then you realize where you are, and turning back you say with more calm than you feel, "What can I do for you?"
"I need you to come and try on -- it's really neat, wait until you see it --" He leads you back toward his office, babbling technological gobbledygook and random factoids as he goes, and you follow willingly enough. But all the while your heart exults, He doesn't hate me. Vaughn doesn't hate me!
And knowing that, it's just a little more difficult to go on hating yourself.
* * *
[end of Part Three]
Part Four is half done... we'll see how far I can get on it tomorrow. And thanks again for all the great comments and encouragement!