Tense and Skin

by Vanzetti

[the eye of the crow and the eye of the camera]

It happens all at once and seems to take forever: the way his body jerks back, and then the slow collapse of his limbs. There's no sound, but Lauren's mind can supply the dull crack of the gun. Sydney gets there first--always was, always has been, always will be there first--and even in the grainy black-and-white of Marshall's hacked surveillance footage she can see the perfect curve of her back and neck and the hair falling over her face.

The room has gone silent. The men around her shift their weight away from her, staring at her, or the screen, or the floor.

Lauren is aware of the plastic chair beneath her, of the empty space around her, of the footage on the screen. The blood is black there; where Sydney is it would have color. She forces herself to watch until the drama is finished, as the rest of the team arrives and takes over: how gently Eric Weiss draws Sydney away from Michael's body to make space for the emergency medics. They are long gone and the screen is empty of anything but gray blood-stained concrete when someone comes and touches Lauren gently on the arm. Arrangements have been made, there is a secure hospital not far away, a jet is standing by.


[loss is their shadow-wife]

In the muffled sterility of the company hospital--antiseptic over ink and cordite--they sit in silence. Sydney will not leave. Lauren feels her presence like an itch, like craving a cigarette, until she has to clasp her hands to keep from striking out. The pose suits her--demure, dutiful--and no one would blame her if she staged a collapse of her own. Well-wishers come and stumble over a few words; she sees their averted gazes and nods mutely at their hushed condolences and well-meant encouragement. All she can see is Sydney, everywhere she turns.

They don't speak to each other, but sometimes she looks up and lets herself show surprise to find Sydney's eyes on her. Then they both look at once at the bed, at Michael's body lying like a wall between them. Because she can. Lauren reaches out to hold Michael's hand in hers; it's dry and limp but now that she's taken it she can't put it down. Not in front of Sydney.


[something is going to fall like rain and it won't be flowers]

Even dutiful wives need to sleep and eat and change their clothes; there are reports to be made and superiors to be coddled. The hospital-room door swings open under Lauren's hand and she walks right in, her mind not yet on Michael, still thinking about McKennas Cole's last coded message, something excited about a coterie of female assassins, and hoping she would never understand that man's sense of humor and...

...and there Sydney is, sitting by the bed, holding Michael's hand in one of hers and resting the other on his cheek. She looks up when Lauren comes in, but doesn't move away.

It's just the two of them, Lauren thinks. No reason for Sydney to pretend to be embarrassed. She does finally stand as Lauren walks around the bed, and up to that last second Lauren isn't entirely sure what she will do, but Sydney as always is brave beyond caution and will not step back, not even when Lauren is barely inches away from her.

The slap of her hand across Sydney's cheek is utterly conventional, so exactly what Lauren Reed, the wife of Michael Vaughn, would do. The kiss is not conventional, long and deep enough for Sydney to know she means it, and she feels a little jolt of triumph as Sydney stumbles backward when she breaks the kiss. Lauren doesn't pause to look for an echo of her own furious hunger as she takes advantage of this one moment of physical superiority, pushing Sydney back against the wall and holding her there with her body. Now she's biting at Sydney's lips, now she has Sydney's mouth open under hers, now her hands are slipping down from Sydney's shoulders. Lauren knows exactly what she's doing and it's been a while for Sydney, hasn't it, that's what the little noises she's making tell Lauren, that and the nipple hard even before her hand touches it.

Lauren opens her eyes to find Sydney staring right back at her. That won't do at all, she thinks, and pinches a little too hard; Sydney arches up against her and slides her leg between Lauren's. It's a struggle to keep her hips still but there's no way she's losing this battle. Her hands are sliding under Sydney's shirt, under her bra, and she's trying not to think that Sydney is really a much better kisser than Michael is but Sydney has her hands in Lauren's hair and her tongue in Lauren's mouth and she's moving under Lauren's hands, sinuous and muscled just like Lauren knew she would be. Lauren slides her fingers down Sydney's belly to pull her jeans open and slip one hand in and under the cotton--of course it's cotton--and now it's Sydney's turn to squirm. She's already slick; Lauren's fingers find the right place and she gasps into Lauren's mouth. Then it's only a matter of time until her eyes close and her kisses lose their focus; her face changes as Lauren's fingers move, and she knows she'll havebruises on her shoulders from the way Sydney is clutching her, but it will be worth it for this memory, the other woman's mouth opening and closing and no sound coming out and if Sydney Bristow doesn't know that sex is just another weapon it isn't Lauren Reed's place to warn her.

Then she's done and steps back. Her fingers are wet and she's flushed and swollen but that's nothing compared to the expression on Sydney's face: incomprehension and the aftereffects of lust now slowly turning to something else--hurt or even anger. Lauren doesn't wait to find out. "You should leave," says.

She turns her back and checks the bed. Michael is still unconscious.


[to lying as husband true]

Efficient nurses change the sheets on Michael's bed and the dressings on his wound. They move around Lauren as if she weren't there.

Sydney doesn't return.

Lauren goes back to headquarters once and sees her across the room, but they were already in the habit of avoiding each other. There's no need to go speak to her. Back in the hospital room, the hum of the machines monitoring her husband's body has started to grate on her ears. Perhaps, she thinks, she could request some kind of music; she could claim that it was for Michael.

She sits and waits, hands again folded in her lap. Sometimes she toys with the paperwork she brought from the office, like an actress performing even without an audience. Sydney's absence is nearly as grating as her presence. But on the fifth night Michael begins to shift and murmur, and mid-morning the next day he opens his eyes.

Lauren is already there, her fingers laced through his and a dry kiss planted on his forehead. "Darling," she says, and lets the tears in her eyes say the rest for her. The show goes on.



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Written for JennyO, for the Alias Slashficathon. Her request was for Sydney/Lauren, smut, and a Kill Bill reference.
Alias is owned by JJ Abrams, Bad Robot Production, and ABC. No copyright infringement intended, and no profit made. Original story elements my own.