Title: "American Triangle"

Part 1: Run

Author: Kat

Important Notes: I am European, therefore I will spell my words in the European way. This story is Alternate Universe due to a few diversions from canon that will become clear as you read the story, but that was mainly because - being European - I haven't watched episodes I know so much about.

Summary: She couldn't hold out forever. History finally catches up with Sydney, and forces her to make some tough decisions.

Pairing: this first part has strong elements of Syd/Will - but will become more Syd/Vaughn as it goes on. The title is an allusion to the emotional mess of the three characters, rather than some clever plot point.

Rating: R due to frequent strong language, allusion to sex and some violence.

Disclaimer: J. is my new best friend. No infringement intended to ABC or Touchstone. No money made by this endeavour.

Date: 20th February 2002

Distribution: Please ask.

Feedback: Coveted and warmly regarded. My first Alias effort.

**

[The First Beginning]

It was stupid. Henta was a small place some forty miles north of San Francisco. Mostly, it was a beachfront housing development peopled by divorcees fleeing the West Coast's bigger centres. The aura was generally relaxed - Sydney had first witnessed topless sunbathing here - yet the residents were wise enough not to market themselves as exponents of 'down home charm.' Cars were European, rather than Japanese. The population was mostly local and as such the main street was filled with hardware stores and first floor hairdressers. Almost unique within the state of California, there was no Starbucks.

She was fourteen the first time. Fourteen. A huge poster of Patrick Swayze from 'Dirty Dancing' had covered her back wall and she'd just made the track team. Crucially, the darkish, shapeless mole beneath her left breast had been declared safe and her dark hair had warmed a little in the heat. The low-slung jeans her mother had approved last year raised eye- brows from the Jenkinson twins as she strolled down the block. The once innocent crop-tops now pulled at her breasts and the multi-coloured slash v- necks of her everyday hinted at womanhood, sexual education and the nights she let Chris Stephens drive her home. Fourteen was walking with her shoulders back, crying in the bathroom and buying underwear with lace.

That summer, her father had rented a box-like mini-van with half a paint job and a radio only capable of picking up short-wave crank calls, and distressing 9-11s. They'd driven for hours out of LA and Sydney can't remember a time she was happier. Her father had taken off his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves. He'd even kissed her mother at a gas station when she'd remarked on the attractiveness of the attendant, mumbling, "oh no you don't," as his lips touched her neck.

She wonders why she comes back. That holiday had been a bust. Her father had spent three days inside their condo sweating into his Hugo Boss suits and shouting down the telephone. Her mother had suffered painful migraines from the heat and had dyed her hair an odd shade, making Sydney a little embarrassed to walk down the street with her. Her dad wouldn't come to dinner, nor would he take them to his old fishing spot like he'd promised. Worst of all, he'd hidden a bottle of whiskey in the spare tyre hatch of the van. Consequently, the only time he'd move from the master bedroom, and the telephone, was to cool another tray of ice to serve with his malt. To punish him, she'd developed a system of clever rebuttals and slight reprimands. She'd ceased to smile at his dour half jokes and make apologies for him when her mother asked how they were "gettin' along." Mostly, she just spent a lot of time outside. And as a result, what was outside spent a lot of time brewing in her.

Sure enough by the third day there was a boy. Flirtacious glances at the retro ice cream parlour had progressed into something else entirely. Hand holding, a start, had evolved into chaste kisses practised and perfected in sand dunes before a strange dialogue ("You know, in France, they do a different sort of kissing,") and afternoons of experimentation and giggles. The boy had a name but that was unimportant next to the taste of him, the feel of him. He spoke like her but drawled his words a little. The blonde streak down the centre of his hair was peroxide, unnatural. He was in High School. He was exotic, seeming to know things she hadn't even though about. He hated his father too. The next semester when she read an article in YM called, "Giving it up," it was him she thought about. For an extra summer and a fall there were even intermittent phone calls. He was her first love, and she was cruelly ripped away from him.

All things considered, maybe the boy was the beginning of a pattern.

By the fifth day, it became clear why they were all there; mom, dad and Syd. It was a concealment, a hideout. A rouse of a family holiday, a game. By the fifth day whatever he had done had passed, the cause of her father's run to the hills was over. He could go back.

And he would go back.

At the time Sydney entertained notions of an interest rate fall or a last minute merger saving her father's business (there was not a thought of spies, not then), but whatever the cause there had definitely been a shifting of positions, a realignment. She saw a half empty scotch bottle in the trash and the smell of burning paper (probably confidential files) lingered on the porch. It was over, and ended with him striding through the door, briefcase in hand, not even pausing to consider the feelings of his family.

A lasting image, possibly. Certainly, a view of him that was to prove hard to forget.

Knowing what she does now, knowing all the little truths, or more accurately being conscious of the bigger lies, it could just as easily have been her mother hiding, her mother authorising his return, her mother's oddly dyed hair the product of some unsuccessful mission. All she knows is that's it's hard to forgive her father for all the perceived wrongs he inflicted, all that she thought he did.

Still. He made her leave. His hiding was done. So there was a neat irony to Sydney's return. Yes, it was stupid, overtly un-textbook, but there was something complete about hiding in Henta, with a boy by her side, wearing those low slung jeans again.

Except this time there would be no going back.

No going back, ever.

**

[The Second Beginning]

It was wrong for her to have brought him. It was one of those, "shoulda known better," calls that made her arms ache and her head spin.

She consoled herself by arguing that she didn't have any choice, she had to bring him or face worse consequences.

For a start, he'd been there when she hit her apartment to collect her belongings. Had she lied to him while broken and bleeding he probably would have followed her - worse - phone her father and suggested they both follow her. Worse still, call out the APB on all stations and believe them when they said she'd died of 'natural causes.'

Second, he was infectious, kinda strong. Almost a necessity. A scruffy, nasal, necessity who made her feel normal. He grinned at all the right places, all the right times. Not to mention she sort of loved him when he bent his head down, wrapped his hands around the back of his neck and exhaled long and loud. It was like an atonement for everything he should have done better. Sydney could relate to that.

Without him, worse case scenario she could have ended up going insane. She has this feeling that she would be a very dangerous crazy woman. Very dangerous.

Of course, he'd jumped at the idea of the trip. Jumped literally, that is. Jumped so hard that when he landed he didn't even try to conceal it, just smiled again and said, "Yeah so when?" before stuffing his hands nervously into his pockets.

"Now," she'd said. "Right now."

For nostalgia's sake, she'd rented a van. A big, air-conditioned van that smelled strongly of pine and was big enough to pack her life into. Then, with him by her side, she'd driven eight long hours out of Angeles before pulling into a rest stop when the adrenalin had died down and he was yawning. She said she needed to sleep because that sounded plausible. It sounded better than, "I need to check we're not being followed and I need to dispose of my weapons before they use roadblocks to pin me down." It also sounded better than the whiny, "please," which she felt coming from her stomach. So he slept and Sydney broke into a gas station, microwaved her beretta in the foods aisle and was even polite enough to put out the fire the implosion of plastic caused. In the toilets she changed her clothes and tried not to cry.

Didn't work.

Least the empty forecourt didn't judge her when she fell to her knees and screamed. Wailed long and loud as she used the heel of her stiletto boot to crush her beeper to dust. It took a while for the panic to die down, for her lungs to stop pounding, for the smell of smoke to leave her nose, and then she picked herself up. Like she'd been trained. At 5AM she murmured something about the sunrise and settled herself in for another four hours driving. Will, who was a smart guy, was prescient enough not to begin small talk.

*

When they arrived Will tried to kiss her as she locked up the van. She realised, then, what a come on, "Drive with me now to my beach condo upstate," must have appeared to be. So, she kissed him back. She also ran her hands through his hair and pulled down his zipper.

She'd like to think there was another reason. A better reason, maybe. But mainly she did this because she owed him.

And that was enough.

**

[Then]

To explain anything, you have to trace its history. Modern Europe made no sense without a grasp of the horrors of the Second World War. The way Matt Sullivan looked at you in the library is useless without a replay of that very drunken Christmas party of two years ago. The digital radio you can inject beneath your skin is boggling without an overview of the four or four major technical advances of the last hundred years. Your lovely, sleek driveway, inlayed with brick, is empty without the eruption of igneous rocks from the centre of the earth. People are nothing without evolution, or the advent of TV.

SD-6 made no sense unless you traced its history. In the beginning, a group of spies breaks away, because it's easier to trade secrets than to keep them. Predictably, their operation looks to span the globe. They pose as national security forces; MI6, ASIS, GSG9 and not forgetting the CIA, in order to recruit trainees. During the Cold War, they run the show. The legitimate national security agencies are quite happy to barter with the mercenaries when they need this or that KGB secret, whichever Box 55 clearance or code five Mossad intelligence briefing.

But after the Cold War things become…difficult.

The sleek SD-6 operation proves ill-suited to the mud-hut warfare of the terrorist generation. The old contacts in Eastern Europe are quickly turned-over to high profit Mafia outfits. North Korea looks to appeasement with the United States. China welcomes international trade. All of a suden there's little room for a body designed purely to sit squarely in the middle. SD-6 finds itself in need of making the news, re-opening the trade routes and funding the terror organisations. SD-6 has to create fear in order to exploit it, in order to survive, halt amalgamation and finally extermination.

Naturally, SD-6 goes too far, too fast. Gets a little too used to how easy it is to hold the world to ransom with an agent count of a paltry five hundred and six. By the time Sydney Bristow is recruited plans have moved beyond general agitation into something much more ambitious. Systematic consumption of the military bodies of four African nations, two eastern European bodies and a powerful Asian conglomerate. Extermination of rival organisations such as K-Directorate, and siphoning of funds into legal operations such as arms or communication. SD-6 and its father organisation get big, fast. Big enough for the other organisations to exercise some damage limitation, and to do it together.

And in the world of espionage, 'damage limitation' wasn't just a euphemism, it was a mother-fucking threat.

Sydney made no sense unless you spin back to a room posing as a blood- mobile on a University Campus. Unless you witness Agent Michael Vaughn of the CIA explaining the vastness of SD-6's operation. Unless you imagine Sydney Bristow cradling her dead boyfriend in her arms. Unless you watch her mother betray her and her father redeem her. She is nothing unless you understand that she only wanted to do good in the world. She ceases to exist if you forget she's ready to die for a cause - any cause - that presents itself as being worth her valuable time.

Sydney made no sense without the understanding that she should have been dead long before now.

Three days ago, history caught up with her. Her and SD-6.

**

[Now]

She was a funny sort of alone when the talking began. The sort of alone that necessitated Will standing in the doorway, balanced against the frame so he could do the paper crossword. The sort of 'talking to herself' Will was 'sort of' going to overhead and save her from.

"You know, when you're a CIA agent, working deep undercover - ," she started, regretting it immediately, but also finding it hard to stop.

"Wha-?" He came through the doorway, quickly, urgently.

"When you're working deep undercover and you die, if you're killed, they don't list your death."

"Again. What?"

"You die as the person you were. You see, you die as if you were that person, that undercover person. You don't even get to die as yourself, when even you don't really care anymore, and no one really gives a shit…"

She was trying not to cry, she really was. She was thinking, "Please don't cry, please don't," but the tears used that as a diversion, her mind looked the other way, and they rolled down her cheeks anyway.

Three days. Three days since everything. She hasn't eaten because of the swelling. Even Will has noticed the bruising.

He'd brought her ice cream and cookies from the parlour where she met the boy. He'd said the place was a little "spooky," which made her smile. She liked his normal version of "spooky." This mumbling about the CIA is all she'd said to him in two days of cohabitation.

She guessed he thought it was because, like the eating, it hurt her to talk. It does, but not in the way he thinks.

Will, as usual, did most of the talking anyway. Before now he'd told her about the "cool" manhunt story they're running on the news stations, and asked her at least twenty times what the sex (the sex they had against the van, and on the floor, and in the bedroom) meant. Each time she'd shrugged and each time he'd answered his own questions. He thinks he can work it all out for her. She loves him for that.

Characteristically, it turned to Will to break the heavy silence that had settled. "Syd, you need to wash. You smell bad."

She tried a smile. "Help me?"

He reached over and lifted her shirt above her head. He even wrinkled up his nose as a sort of theatrical reaction to the odour, an attempt to keep the smile that was slipping from her lips. He led her to the shower and showed amiable skill in unclipping her bra. "It's strange to see you like this…" he began.

"What? Naked?"

"No," and he shook his head sadly. "Vulnerable."

She loves that he thinks she's vulnerable. Despite the scars, she's never vulnerable.

*

In the night she has a dream. Disturbingly, it wakes her to a reality that is all the more frightening.

She'd seen her apartment wrecked before. She'd been followed. She's been tortured. She's had most of the limbs in her body broken at some point or other.

But.

Standing in line at the bagel store (in broad, mid-afternoon daylight no less) and watching the glass front shatter to the tune of automatic machine gun fire was, to say the least, a new experience.

A black sedan (no expense spared) in a typical, mob-style drive-by hit. All very quick, but messy too. She remembers a man in a cashmere coat screaming about his unpaid parking tickets and that the hail-marys were louder than the breaking glass.

She fell.

-Chipped three teeth and bruised an eye socket. Her hands still sting from the tiny shards of glass that cushioned her fall -

Then she ran. Managing three blocks in less than forty seconds was good, but not good enough, because they were smart enough to follow by vehicle and not commit too early to foot. She was glad they'd at least sent a trained unit to take her out.

Showed some respect, you know?

It took her another two blocks to remember that she was armed. She shot back, firing an expletive with each round because she was too exhausted to care. (Anyway, when was a girl in ripped black khakis, bleeding from the mouth with glass in her hair really a candidate for Miss Congeniality?) She looked everywhere for a way out, eventually climbing a trash-can, dropping her weapon as she did so, and pulling herself onto the roof of a Mexican restaurant before running some more.

She made perhaps ten metres across the flat before being stopped, dead. They'd anticipated her run and they'd prepared. A man, in a long coat and shiny shoes stood square in front of her.

-If she didn't know any better, she'd say he came from nowhere. But Sydney was well aware that something never came from nothing. If anything, her entire life was proof of that principle. -

She doesn't remember what exactly stopped the running; whether it was his sociable nod to her when she realised (in panic) that he had her pinned down or the bullet that whizzed over her shin and took a chunk of flesh with it. Regardless, she hit the ground hard, hurting so much she wasn't even sure, at first, where she'd been shot.

He was alarmingly quiet for a hit man. Usually, they smelled of liquor or had the shake of a narcotics abuser. Mostly, they killed people to buy Barbies for their three-year-old daughters. Normally, they didn't look at you as they fired the final shot. But this guy was different. The man sent to kill Sydney Bristow was wearing a dark gray suit with cool, black shades that reflected her own face - and her own fear - back towards her.

He didn't even try to shush her when she screamed. Probably because he was a professional. Probably because he knew, if she was screaming, she didn't have anything else.

When she dreams she sees his dark face looking down at her and his semi- automatic held steady in aim.

When she dreams she sees his too-white teeth exposed as part of a shapeless hole-in-his-face he probably called a smile.

When she dreams he fires the shot and he pities her as she dies.

When she wakes, she remembers.

She remembers sweeping a foot out and taking his legs from under him. She remembers the crack of bone as his body and his head struck the floor. She remembers springing to her feet and kicking him in the stomach. She remembers the way he wrapped his arms around her legs like he was drowning. She remembers rolling him left and right and landing punches and receiving blows. She remembers the heady beat of a passing helicopter as she reached into his pocket and found his second weapon.

She will always remember the look on his face when she pulled the trigger.

She tries to remember to have no remorse for what she's done.

No remorse.

Then, she wonders if she'll ever sleep again.

**

[Sand]

Will still goes out three times a day; for a jog on the beach, for food and to use the internet at the local cafe. She hasn't had the heart to tell him that it "might not be safe," or to reveal the bag she has packed beneath her bed ready for the inevitable ditch and run.

She talks to him in muted tones and smiles only when she wants him to shut up.

Will had gone jogging at three when the sun still graced the sky. He'd asked her to go with him but she'd refused. Pointed to the bruises on her ribs (the ones she said she'd got "falling over,") and dropped into the nearest chair with a yawn to prove her point. But Will had been growing restless lately and had tried every trick in the book until she finally consented to watch him from the wicker chair on the porch. It was a compromise, and one she welcomed. It saved his pressing questions over why she'd felt compelled to burn his cell in the hearth whilst he was out. It also saved her aching head.

Still, it was nice to watch his blonde head bob as he sprinted down the split. So nice, she resolved to stay for a while to watch his blue shirt become a blob on the horizon and finally for the entirety of Will Tippin to become the horizon.

Dangerously, when Will was long from view and her watch said four o'clock she had started to think. Her mind had lingered. She'd played a neat game of, "What if…," that had grown steadily more vital.

It had started with a concession.

Sometimes, when it's dark she forgets who she is. Forgets her life - forgets the way it hurts her face to look left, hurts her jaw to chew - and she imagines. She imagines everything. She wonders what everything would be like if she were a normal person, with a nice car and nicer children. She wonders what everything would be like if Danny was still alive, smiling at her, nodding his head and understanding her.

There's more.

She wishes the worst thing in her life was watching the man she loved die and fucking a friend because she needed someone. She wishes the worst things in her life were need, remorse and incompletion. She wishes it was only Will she needed to apologise to. She wishes her life were that simple

She watches the waves lap the shore and she wishes. She wishes the worst thing in her life wasn't watching the man she loved die, and then watching it all happen again. She wishes the one man who could have understood wasn't dead.

She wishes so much for someone with so little.

- She hears Will laugh and feels his weight on the boards as he mounts the porch behind her. She has wishes for him too. He rushes up, kisses her shoulder and breathes, "Decided to go for the loop, you know, instead of the straight, straight…straight thing."

Wishes he weren't involved. Wishes she wasn't in love with his warm predictability.

And more. -

She wishes that when she reached inside the jacket pocket of a man in gray Armani hired to kill her she'd found a stick of gum, a cell phone - hell - even a picture of his child. She wishes she hadn't reached inside his pocket, run her fingers over the silk lining and found his badge.

She wishes with all of her soul that the badge wasn't CIA.

She wishes her life wasn't hers. She wishes she were the girl in low slung jeans whose biggest problem was her jerk of a father and the weight of her virginity.

There's no surprise when she stands up, turns around and strokes Will's cheek. There's no surprise when she feels a familiar speck of attraction and kisses his lips

No surprise, when she wishes Will Tippin were Michael Vaughn.

Hey, there's even a soft familiarity to the way the pit of the stomach twists when she thinks about him.

Vaughn. CIA. Gone. Betrayed. She wishes…

…too much.

[End of Part 1]

**

Notes:

I hope to have part two out exactly a week after the publication of part one. If I don't manage this don't get mad, this story will finish, and is precisely planned down to a neat three parts.

MI6 = British secret intelligence service

ASIS = Australian equivalent (there is also the DSD)

GSG9 = German Grenzscutzgruppe 9

Mukhabarat = Egyptian Intelligence and security.

SVR = Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki. Russian post cold war intelligence service performing most of the functions handled by the older KGB.

Box 55 = Peace time reference to UK's MI5 (internal security outfit)

Mossad = Israeli intelligence.