Title: Obvious

Email: princess_watermelon

Feedback: Please?!

Distribution: Let me know. Tis all. :)

Credits: Thank you again, Kat. I know I bother you with this stuff, but yeah. You rock, and I thank you for all this. (Go cheer her on for me, everyone!)

Disclaimer: Definitely not mine – Alias and its characters belong to the ABC and Touchstone, and are masterful creations of J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot. There is no way I am getting any money from this WHATSOEVER, so please, don't sue. There's nothing for me to give. *sighs*

Summary: Sydney. Poland. Problems. Etc.

Rating: I'm not sure. Guessing about PG-13, as usual, because I'm a great, and very polite, person. Hmm.

Classification: Angst, Action/Adventure

*

I can't concentrate. Sitting here in this gilded, chain-link cage, trying to focus on the words coming from Vaughn's lips, nothing useful wants to enter my mind. It's already overflowing with thoughts of my last mission – the one I almost didn't come back from.

It makes me feel like an amateur every time I think about it. Simple. Completely routine. I'd done it before. One of the typical, easy, get-the- file-for-the-CIA-and-give-the-fake-one-to-SD-6 missions. I went alone, amazed at how straightforward and monotonous this task was, packing only a few things: tight clothes, strong shoes, some Marshall gadgets. I was prepared.

That's probably why I screwed it up.

I was travelling to Krakow, in Poland, a city of cobblestone streets, old buildings and marketplaces. The language was close to Russian, close to Czech, and if all else failed and I just didn't understand, I could always fake being German – or just speak English. Russians were usually viewed as cons coming to sell fake jewellery or pirated music, but Germans, on the other hand, were viewed as tourists coming to see the land they had owned in World War II, when Europe was a crumbling world full of mistrust and lies.

It had changed, for the most part, but some of the mistrust was still there.

I flew to Warsaw, caught a train to Krakow, and prepared myself for a night on the town in a hotel near the place the Pope stayed whenever he returned to his home country. I slipped myself – or rather, sewed myself – into a pair of leather pants and short black camisole, my hair dyed a mahogany red and curled, bouncing around my shoulders like a balloon bobbing on the air. I was primed. Ready.

Wrong.

The files I was sent to collect, plans for some new destroy-all weapon, were in the home office of a Polish businessman, Józef Kaszubski, who ran arms to and from Russia, somehow disguising them as children's books. The man was a legend – adored for his ease at giving so many 'children' joy, for his elegant looks, for managing to stay rich through changes in the economy. Women threw themselves at him, men kissed ass to get to him, and in general, he was worshipped.

I knew his type; I'd always known his type. Met them, kissed them, screwed them, killed them. Handsome. Intelligent. Prosperous. Cocky.

That cockiness was what made Józef so annoyingly sure that his office didn't need a security system. No cameras. No safes. Just a key taped under a drawer and a filing cabinet full of revealing documents that could bring down his world. I smirked at his kind. I also smirked at the ease with which I got into his house, the ease with which I got through the raging party he was holding, and the ease with which I took out the one guard who stood watch by Pan Józef's antique collection.

I pulled the guard into the antique room after I knocked him out, glancing at his clearance tag. It read Marek Orlowski, age nineteen. I shook my head, wondering if the boy had anything on him except brawn, and moved on to the office, which was large, private, and extremely normal.

Two minutes later, I was strolling back down the hall; files photographed, with the CIA's camera shoved in the side of my bra, not a care in the world except getting out of the house. I was so confident I didn't even check to see whether Marek was still knocked out in the antiques room.

Maybe if I had, I would have left there faster.

Down the stairs. Through the party. Out the front door, where I nodded and smiled at the man who had checked my (forged) invitation. I crossed the expanse of lawn calmly, until a bullet cut through my arm.

The hot pain slashed through my skin like a knife through melted butter, taking off a chunk of skin and causing crimson blood to flow down my pale- skinned arm. I glanced at it, mouth open in a gasp and muffled pain, and for a split second I watched the contrast of the scarlet on off-white. Then I made myself realise what was happening.

They were chasing me. I was startled, obviously, but still sure I was fine. People chased me all the time. (Stupid men. Why aren't women ever the ones doing the chasing? Chauvinists.)

I covered my left upper arm with my hand, blood seeping through my fingers as I started to lope down the winding driveway. The house was set about two miles from the main road, and was surrounded by tall fences and even taller oaks. The driveway was my only escape.

I turned once to see who was running after me, and gaped when I saw five men, including Marek, giving chase, all in 'ordinary' clothes. Thus meaning pants and muscle shirts. I fleetingly thought that brawn, not brains, seemed to be all Marek really needed to get on in life.

That and a small automatic thrown in for good measure.

Another shot hit me, again in the arm, just below the first shot, and I bit my lip in pain, drawing blood. I tried to run faster, but the distraction of the sticky liquid flowing heavily from my upper arm was making it hard to focus.

I stumbled and cried out, a hot tear slipping down my cheek. Another gunshot, and I had a nice gaping wound on the other side of my waist. Why were they hitting me so well? So easily? I was supposed to be good at this.

And there was still a mile to go.

I couldn't make this; couldn't keep it up. I was losing blood, too much blood, and it was slowly making everything around me fade. The physical exertion and the shots were all leaning towards one thing – and I didn't want to go there. It was too confusing. My heels pounded the rocky drive, and I cursed my shoes, wondering why I couldn't have worn combat boots instead. /Spice Girls style. /

Another shot. Another graze, this one on my thigh. Another chunk of skin ripped from my body, and I thanked God for not being completely riddled with bullets already. I fell to my side, screaming in frustration as the blood coursed down my leg. I struggled to my feet and started to run down the drive again, blocking out the pain, the blood. The men behind me were slowly catching up, and I was in no condition to fight them.

The next bullet hit my right shoulder, and agony was not the word I felt. So much was running through my mind at that point – I felt foolish and idiotic for believing it would be easy, vulnerable and defenceless because that was pretty much the situation I was in, and terrified. So many times, I'd been close to dying, but only then did I truly realise that one shot in the right place would kill me.

That thought petrified me, and I spurred myself on, every part of me in pain, blood covering almost all of my body. My lungs were screaming for oxygen as my breath came in short gasps and catches, and I started to feel heady from the loss of blood.

I was so scared.

One more shot grazing my thigh and I reached the road. I turned right towards the city, pulled my car's alarm deactivator from my pants, and pushed the button. Sliding into the rented Opel, I sped out onto the road, using my good arm – the one with the bloody shoulder – to drive, somehow managing to extract the tiny camera from my bra with my other hand. I was sore and could hardly think, all of my remaining strength given to focusing on the dark road in front of me.

I glanced in the rear-view, thankful that Brawny Marek and his friends weren't following in an entourage of black sedans, and focused on my blood. It was all over seat, practically dripping, reminding me of a scene in a bad teen slasher movie. The fact that I could see so much of it only reminded me of how much I'd lost, and I got a head spin.

Placing my other hand on the wheel, I gritted my teeth against the pain and stared straight ahead.

I didn't even think twice about where I was going. I ran on autopilot, getting myself to a hospital emergency room, where I slurred out in bad Polish that my name was Jola, I'd been caught in a shoot-out at a nightclub, and I couldn't feel my arm. Middle-aged women in white ran around me, yelling to each other and to me, things I only just understood.

"Co sie stalo?" (What happened?)

"Cholera, stracila duzo krwi. Zawolajcie lekarza! Szybko!" (Shit, she's lost a lot of blood. Call the doctor. Quick…)

Then I passed out.

*

I awoke three hours later, according to my watch, in a quiet room of the hospital. I was stitched up, my hips sore, my head throbbing. I could think straighter, though – I'd probably had a blood transfusion.

But I had a flight in two hours.

I pulled the IV needle from my arm, spotted my clothes on a nearby chair, and stood, wobbling slightly. I pulled on my pants and top, thankful the blood couldn't be seen in the black, and walked quietly out of the hospital room.

I found the car, and the stupid alarm-deactivation thing next to my right front tire, where I'd had the sense to put it earlier. It was still dark and just rounding on four AM when I climbed in the car, startled at the amount of blood on the seat, and drove to the hotel. I packed. I scrubbed the car seat a bit. I caught the plane home.

Sloane had gotten the fake files. I'd asked for a few weeks off, telling him that I had a lot of exams to study for and was tired from the missions he'd recently sent me on, and he'd reluctantly agreed to give me the weeks of semi-freedom. I'd left his office, trying not to grimace as pain shot through me with every step.

I'd met Vaughn, given him the camera. He'd glanced at it, then looked again, and had asked me why there was blood on it. I'd spilled the story, and he'd silently enveloped me in his arms, his hands caressing the small of my back gently, as if I was made of fine porcelain. He'd then told me that if I ever sensed anything could be wrong again, I should drop everything and save myself.

"You can't die, Sydney. You're too important."

Too important to what? *For* what? Too important to him, or too important to the CIA? But I hadn't voiced my thoughts. I just nodded against his shoulder, breathed in his smell, lost myself in him.

And here I am three weeks later, in the warehouse. The scars are better now; the stitches are gone. I still hurt if I lean sideways, and Vaughn's aware of that. He keeps trying to help me, placing files and gadgets right in my hand so I don't have to reach for them, talking more quietly as to not disturb my headspace too much.

And I'm thankful for him. I truly am. But I'm scared. I don't want to be here right now. I don't want to have to go anywhere anymore. I don't want to see any more guns, run down any more driveways, wear any more leather pants.

I'm too scared. Of dying. Of never seeing Vaughn again. Of being killed in some faraway country while everyone at home wonders where I am, not realising that I'm lying dead in a ditch somewhere across the world, riddled with bullets.

But I know this won't stop. I know my fears have to be kept hidden, and I know I can do that. I always do.

So I tune back into what Vaughn's saying, his green eyes bright and worried, and wonder if, someday, I'll be able to look back on this as a simple life lesson.

The answer's obvious.