I'm still very very nervous about this fic, but the amount that people have been praising it makes me feel a lot better about posting it. Yes it's Sarkney (do I write anything else?) and it's a slight bit darker than my usual PWP stuff (or fluff?). Umm, if you notice some discrepencies or something is wrong with the medical jargon, please know that this wasn't meant to be spot-on factual. It was a scenario I warped up in my mind once and it came to life because I couldn't get it out of my head. So, here it is. Go me. Oh, and big thanks to Becca and Ali for the beta work and the extremely wonderful encouragement to post this. They are truely great people. :)
Title: Agent, Interrupted
Rating: Mostly rated R for language and, um, dark situations
Summary: After failing to cope with losing two years of her life, Jack has Sydney committed to a mental institution. I guess you could call this Sarkney, but…well, it’s your call.
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, much as I wish I did. They belong to J.J. Abrams, Bad Robot, and Disney…just not me.
Spoilers/Timeline: Post-“The Telling”. Written for SD-1’s Sarkney Jan/Feb fanfic challenge
Distribution: Ask and ye shall receive. My loyalties are flexible, but stealing from me is not. No touchy or I go all banner ad on your ass.
After nine months and twice that many suicide attempts, Jack got fed up with her and brought her there. She didn’t blame him.
When the doctor asks her later, she barely recalls anything before March 19th. Memories hit her at odd times, blurry and disjointed, with loud grating sound like an old laugh track: dragging a completely drunk Will home from some seedy bar; Vaughn’s hands pawing at her in dark corners; long lonely nights in front of the TV, feeling numb; the endless flow of blood from each mission, before they pulled her off field work because she was becoming erratic and sloppy.
When she sees those images, she wonders cynically why it took her so damned long.
Though the days before were hazy, empty, she remembers the day she left clearly. Her father, standing at the door of her room, telling her to pack her meager possessions because she is going away. She remembers the drive: the air in California still cool, a weak sun breaking through off-white clouds at random intervals. She recalls the smells: the heavy scent of exhaust from the numerous trucks on the highway; the pine air-freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror; her own cigarette smoke lingering even though she has the window open. The last she remembers most vividly because Jack hates her smoking, especially in his car, but she does it anyway because she doesn’t care. Can’t remember the last time she ever did.
She barely registers the green sloping hills, the trees awakening from their winter slumber, the ancient distinguished building in the distance. Walking up crumbling stone steps, her father carrying her two battered suitcases, the only things left of life she really wants. He tells her to put out her cigarette before she goes in; she just looks at him, the pale white stick hanging defiantly from her lips. He sighs, grabs the door handle, pushes her in.
The walls are immaculately white. It’s quiet, so very quiet, as if the whole place would erupt in chaos if the orderlies spoke louder than their low professional tones. She leans against the wall as Jack speaks with an older lady behind a desk. While he bends his head over some paperwork, the woman gives her a look of sympathy and she fights the urge to give her the finger. And then the doctor appears, Dr. Jacob Ackland, wearing the blue tie today, the one she likes to stare at because it has a pattern that if you stare long enough and focus your eyes the right way it moves. She keeps her eyes on the tie as he talks to her, speaking in that kindly parental voice that she knows him for, even though they’re probably the same age. She stares at the tie and it dances for her until he turns and walks away and she’s following because Jack is prodding her, bags once again in his hands.
Hallways, hallways, more and more long hallways, all the same in colours and landmarks. Doors are painted a calming blue, matching the soothing taupe of the walls. She sees no others, not doctors or nurses or orderlies or residents. She follows, follows the sharp tap of Dr. Ackland’s shoes and the quiet swish of her father’s coat.
Through sets of double doors and the doctor is pointing out places, because suddenly it’s different, no more hallways that look exactly the same, but a large room filled with plush chairs and solemn still people, blindly staring at a squawking television. Nurses congregating around an enclosed office area smiling at her as she passes, the new girl. She does not acknowledge them but follows, follows until the black shoes have stopped tapping and her father’s jacket is still around his legs. Now she raises her head and looks around: a plain room with a double bed, wooden desk in the corner with a chair in front of it. The walls are still the soothing taupe. The floor is a thick lavender carpet, matching her blue door. The closet doors are also blue, as is the window frame of the large window that holds a beautiful view of the grounds through the thick bars. Other than that, the room is empty, cold. She supposes she’ll feel right at home.
She leans against the wall again, striking another cigarette as Jack and Dr. Ackland talk. She supposes she ought to listen, but she doesn’t care. She’s there for a while, possibly forever, so if she doesn’t hear it now, she sure as hell will later. There’s another presence in the room now, one of the nurses that had watched her entrance. This one has a green scrub top on. Early forties, pretty, with candy apple red hair and bright hazel eyes, a large white sincere smile. No badge, but she’s introduced as Valerie. She shakes Jack’s hand, then turns to Sydney. “Call me Val.”
Sydney grips the hand quick, then pulls away. “I’m sure you already know this, but there is no smoking in this ward,” Val smiles, this time more professional.
“Fuck you,” Sydney spits, taking a deep drag to blow the smoke in the woman’s face. Val’s unfazed, because she’s seen it all before. She calmly plucks the offending stick from Sydney’s fingers, butts it out on the wall and pockets the remains.
“Your belongings will be searched, but we can make this easy now, and you can hand me the rest of the pack.” She holds out her hand, no fear, no anger. Sydney glowers darkly at her before heaving an annoyed sigh and digging in her pockets for the half-empty pack and the cheap plastic lighter. She slaps them in the woman’s hand and turns away. “Thank you,” Val replies softly.
They speak now, but she’s ignoring them again, a dark sense of pride that she can at least win this battle. She hears murmurs about meals and checks and security. She doesn’t really give a flying fuck right now. Dr. Ackland leaves first with a comforting hand on the arm and a mention of tomorrow. She yanks her arm from his grip and sees the hope in his eyes flicker and die. He was so sure they were getting somewhere and now this. The shoes tap until they fade down the hall and he’s gone, thank God.
Then her father standing before her and she can’t ignore him. She meets his gaze: hers is hard and cold, almost dead; his is shuttered as usual, but she sees the deep pain. Her one regret, but she doesn’t feel it. He cups her cheek, a touch as foreign to him as it is to her. Their hug is brief, almost showy for the lingering Val. He promises to visit when he can; she bites her lip and nods. She knows he will only come if there is trouble. A swish of the jacket and Jack’s gone too.
Val is still smiling. “Get out,” Sydney demands, wanting Sydney demands, wanting to be rid of the woman. Val gives a brief nod, then smoothes the comforter with her hand before she turns to leave. At the door, she looks back at Sydney. “If you need anything Sydney, you can ask me. That’s what I’m here for.” Then she softly shuts the door and Sydney is alone.
She checks out the bed first, sitting and bouncing, determining the comfort of the mattress. It feels soft, so she stretches out, staring at the taupe ceiling. The comforter is thick and the pillows plump. She sighs and gets up, opening her suitcases. She places the clothes on the shelving in the closet. Even with all she has it still looks bare. She stacks her books on the desk, the side closest to the bed so she can read before sleep. Throws the suitcases in the corner of her closet and lies on the bed again. She doesn’t expect reality to hit her quick and hard; she is used to adapting fast in new situations. She opens a book, but before she can read one word her door is swishing open and a brunette with a pink scrubs top pokes her head in. “Checks.” Before Sydney can scream her indignation, the pink brunette is gone and the door firmly shut again. She’s frustrated and hops off the bed, determined to find out what the fuck ‘checks’ are.
A month later and she’s adjusted so well it’s almost as if she has been here for years now. She had marched up to Val and asked why the fuck she was being checked up on. The redhead had led her back to her room, away from the prying eyes of the ward and explained the routine, now with Sydney’s full attention. Checks were done every half hour for the safety of the resident. Meals served three times a day for one hour in the common area. Showers were done in groups and supervised, at prescripted times. Medication was given with the evening meal unless it was otherwise necessary. Smoking was not permitted, but any food brought by families or visitors was kept at the nurses’ station and could be dolled out when asked for, as well as other treats the nurses kept for the residents. Jack had left a large amount of chocolate bars for her and she smirked at that. Residents were allowed anywhere they wanted except in another person’s room; room visits were by invitation only.
“We are not here to imprison you Sydney,” Val softly finished. “You’ve done nothing wrong; we want this to be an open environment, one where you can feel comfortable in. The rules are simple enough and few. We’re just here to help. You’ll be here for a while, so get used to the life and treat it as your home.” With those words she had a brief memory of dark dank cells in Romania, a mission long dead. Was that what she had been expecting?
Sydney chucked her jeans and blouses the second day and now lived in her bathrobe, a tank top, and a pair of scrubs bottoms that she had begged off Val. She now had five pairs, as well as five of standard pajama pants. The atmosphere was relaxed and so she wore what she felt like. It wasn’t as if anyone around her gave a damn what she looked like. They all dressed the same as her.
On her second day, she attempted meeting her ward mates. Selective facility that it was, and specified ward that she was now confined to, there were both males and females there. At breakfast everyone watched her and by the lunch hour she had a group of her own. Most voracious was Lina, a sickly thin woman of 22 with mousy brown hair and a plain façade. She had immediately taken to the new resident and forced herself on Sydney. Her real name was Angelina, “you know, like the actress from that movie about this place,” but she hated it because it was her mother’s name and her mother was dead. She had dragged Sydney over to the rest: Lauren, the plump quiet brunette with a sad smile; Nick, tall and handsome who shook at all times, but had a sweet voice; Seth, a middle-aged man who had never finished puberty, his exuberant spirit more adept for a teenager; Alicia, with the white-blonde hair and haunted blue eyes. They all welcomed her with one question, “What are you?”
She had been confused, even offended, but Nick had explained before she exploded. She was almost mesmerized by the melodic voice as he told her that they were all known to each other by their diagnosis. Lauren and Seth were bipolar, Nick was schizophrenic, Alicia and Lina were manic-depressive. They held their titles proudly, no stigmas in the enclosed space. “So what are you?” Nick asked with his sad voice. She didn’t know; hadn’t cared enough to ask. Lina had yelled to Val, demanding Sydney’s ‘position’. Val had approached, setting a light hand on Sydney’s shoulder and quietly answered. Self-destructive depressive. She now had a name for it. Didn’t make a fucking difference to her. The group was silent, absorbing the information, then gaily chattered on as if it didn’t matter. Because it didn’t.
She now knows how to introduce herself, “Sydney, 32, self-destructive depressive”, impressing no one. She spends her hours exploring her new surroundings. The nurses don’t care if she sleeps or not, just as long as she doesn’t disturb the others. She likes the window seat in the corner that looks out across the grass. She avoids the TVs; she doesn’t care for the mindless escapism, ironic as it sounds. She explores the other rooms; Lina had invited her immediately and Sydney knows that the girl already looks to her as an idol figure. Her room is identical in layout to Sydney’s except there are personal touches everywhere, evidence of a family and other people who still care. Many of the others are the same. She doesn’t envy that they have familiar trinkets to hold on to. She had those things; didn’t want them. Material possessions mean nothing if the sentiment behind them is gone.
She hasn’t let anyone in her room. She treasures that one sanctuary she has. She is not rude, just firm. No one takes offense. She is not the only person there to guard her privacy. There are many doors closed down the twisting hallways, many faces that appear only for brief seconds before the need for the familiar overwhelms them and they have to run back to safety. She is glad she has not descended that far yet. She enjoys her solitude, but after time she craves portions of human contact. She just wants people who won’t care. People who don’t demand of her and drive her over the edge.
She’s walking down the halls, peeking in various rooms at some of the other residents because it’s fun to watch them. It keeps her sane to wander the maze of halls in her ward. She loses herself in them and pretends she’s truly lost in a labyrinth. The nurses smile but never ask about her game. She knows them now as they know her. Heidi, the giant blonde woman with braids, tough and crusty until you break in front of her and she becomes a soothing pillar. Jessie was the pink brunette from the first day, smiling indulgently, a pushover for politeness. Tia was born in Japan, but grew up in San Francisco; she has a caustic tongue and not afraid to use it. Katie Sydney does not like, because the young blonde is naïve about the job and the power has gone to her head, making it all the more fun to get under her skin. Sydney has fun playing with all the nurses, but she takes a perverse pleasure in torturing Katie.
She’s walking when an achingly familiar smell hits her and she’s alert. Someone is smoking and she wants to find out whom because she’s been craving one for days. She really doesn’t like them, only used them to piss others off. It might look strange, her slowly walking down the hall sniffing at random intervals but the very definition of strange has no place in her new world. She clings to the walls and uses her fine-tuned senses to seek out her destination. Pauses at one door, closes her eyes and concentrates, moves on when she is disappointed.
Now in front of a half open door and the scent is powerful. It’s here for sure and she’s pleased with herself. She doesn’t recognize the door, the hall and so she’s reluctant at first to push her way in. Her mind screams the punishments she will receive, but she learned long ago how to suppress that voice and she eases the door open, enough for her to slip her body in.
Identical walls and furniture to hers, but darker. The thin beams of light that stream through the heavy blinds highlight the blue smoke, dancing tantalizingly in front of her. Eyes focus on the corner, to the figure sprawled out on the bed. They travel up his lithe figure, more casual then she’s ever seen him in her life, up to meet the crystal clear eyes that are slightly amused, the crooked lips curved in a familiar expression, slender fingers threaded through tousled blond hair as he leans on one hand and brings the other to his mouth, drawing deeply on the thin white stick between his fingers before he speaks. The voice is the same, the one that has haunted her dreams for reasons she doesn’t know why.
“Sydney. You’ve come back to me.”
She understands what the words alone mean, but together as a phrase she is struck perplexed. But she doesn’t care for his games right now and she ignores it. “Where did you get the cigarettes? They’re not allowed.”
He inhales again, tilting his head back as he lets the smoke curl from his lips, trailing upward to join the blue cloud hovering above them. His chin drops forward and he looks at her with hooded lids. “I’m fucking one of the nurses.”
“How nice for you,” she spits. She extends her hand out to him. “Give me one,” she demands.
He gives her a quick once-over, a spark of something in his eyes. She hasn’t seen it since her last encounter with Vaughn. “What’re you going to do for me?” he drawls.
She makes sure her smile matches his before she steps closer and crawls on the bed. He lays back in anticipation when she straddles his lap but before he can move she’s got her hands around his throat, leaning over to hiss in his face, “Give me one now, Sark.” Her fingers press down tighter on his gullet for emphasis.
He’s startled at first, then chokes out a laugh, wrapping his fingers around her wrists and pulling her off. “That’s my girl,” he pants as he sits up, hooking an arm around her waist to keep her close to him. His other hand picks up a cigarette, brings it to her lips, then flicks his wrist to open the silver lighter and flick the flint to start the tiny flame. His eyes never leave her face as she draws heavily until she’s sure it’s lit and her hand pulls the cigarette away to exhale, her head tilted back in ecstasy; a mad spark of pleasure glows with the burning embers. She revels in the fiery sensation the smoke brings to her throat and her body comes alive when the nicotine is drawn deep into her blood, speeding up her pulse.
Through her euphoric haze she is aware that Sark’s arm around her waist is pulling her tighter into his body, the other hand traveling up and down her side. She disentangles herself from him roughly and leans back against the wall perpendicular, keeping him in her sight at all times. He falls back into the mattress in his leisurely position again, his eyes once again amused as he watches her. She loses herself in a nicotine coma, her knees weakening as the poison invades her body. She shoots another glare at the figure on the bed. Now he’s studying her, blue eyes probing. Finally he speaks quietly, “How are you?”
She turns to him, crosses her arms. “What the hell is that supposed to mean, you fuck? I suppose it’s pretty obvious, me being here and all.”
He narrows his eyes. “Tell me how your vacation was, Sydney. I’m dying to know.”
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”
He blinks, but she meets his gaze steadily. Wants to know what his game is. “Tell me the last thing you remember,” he intones softly. He stubs out the butt on the worn desk beside him and lies back on his arms. She flips an obscene gesture and he chuckles.
“You’re not my doctor, Sark. There’s no reason for me to tell you a damned thing.”
He just closes his eyes at that, lets his body relax as if he’s contemplating sleep. She goes back to her smoking, enjoying the moment while ignoring the company. She draws it out, not wanting the cigarette to end. Disinterestedly she throws out a question. “What do you know?”
He rolls over slowly, opening his eyes in askance. “Tell me what you know about me. About whatever was done to me for two years.”
He watches his fingers trace over the sheets on his bed. “What makes you so sure I know something.” A statement not a question. He smirks at her and she fights the urge to rip his face open.
“You know you fucking bastard and you seem to think I would remember it. Now tell me or I tear your dick off.”
“Empty threats,” he whispers, rolling off the bed and coming to stand in front of her, bending his face inches away from her own. His eyes scan her features and he smirks and she can feel his breath against her face. He opens his mouth as if to kiss her, but he speaks instead. “You wouldn’t believe me anyway, so give me one fucking reason why I should tell you anything.”
He slowly draws back and drops onto the bed. She’s ready to step forward and smack his face, but the door opens abruptly and light spills into the room. “Julian, it’s time for therapy.” Heidi’s form steps into the room and Sydney quickly hides her hands behind her back, stabbing the burning cigarette butt into the palm of her hand before dropping it.
“Where’s Katie?” he demands, sounding like a petulant child. “She takes me to therapy.”
Heidi frowns. “Katie has been moved to night staff for a while now. Let’s go.” She catches sight of Sydney in the corner and her frown deepens. “Sydney, what are you doing in here?”
Sydney’s frozen as she searches for a good explanation but Sark’s quicker. “I invited her in. I’m not going with you. Get someone else.” He rises off the bed and comes to stand next to Sydney, his hand slipping behind her body to thumb her burnt palm. She does not move but digs her nails in his flesh until she feels blood drip down. His smile never wavers.
The nurse’s eyes narrow. “Your therapy time is now, Julian. You can’t demand a personal nurse to escort you there. We’re going now.” She moves forward and grasps his arm, yanking him like a mother would a stubborn child. Sydney follows them, smirking at him and mouthing ‘Julian?’ when he turns to look at her. His look is not menacing but calm, almost serene.
“Goodbye Sydney, I’ll come to collect from you later. It’s a shame our pleasant chat was interrupted but we’ll have lots of time to reminisce later. After all, we have a few years of catching up to do.”
His words were designed to infuriate her and they worked. “You son of a bitch,” she snarls and launches herself at him, kicking him hard in the stomach. He falls but hooks his arm around her leg so she goes down with him. She lands roughly on the tiled floor and he’s on top of her, holding her down and laughing, face lit up with a twisted joy. She manages to push him off and roll over him, punching him violently wherever she can. He doesn’t try to stop her, just keeps laughing and it makes her angrier, her fists beating harder. There’s shouting and arms are pulling at her but she’s too strong for them and she’s completely focused on pounding on the face below her.
She doesn’t pause until she feels the sharp pain in her neck and cries out, bringing a hand up to probe the tender spot. The drug works almost immediately and she falls on his prone body, limbs suddenly heavy and useless. She doesn’t feel his arms come around to hold her frame but before darkness consumes her she hears the quiet whisper: “Sweet dreams, my Sydney.”
The nice thing about tranquilizers is that she sleeps without dreaming, something she never did anymore. Still, the strong drugs do not wear off without their effects on her system and she wakes harshly. Her limbs ache like she’s been beaten and her head still swirls, her vision focusing on the darkness around her. She carefully brings a hand to her forehead and holds her temples while she tries to blink away the drug. It doesn’t work and she moans softly.
“Waking up from that’s a bitch, hmm?” His voice floats in her ear and she groans again, this time with distaste.
“I hurt everywhere and I gotta wake up to your fucking voice? Jesus.”
“Oh Sydney, I love when you talk all sexy like that.”
She blinks again, rolling her eyes around the room. She can’t be sure because the corner is so dark but she thinks she can make out his languid shape lounging in her chair. At least he’s here and she’s not hearing his voice in her head. She doesn’t think she’d have been able to cope with that tragedy. She closes her eyes and lets her head fall back against her pillow. She wants to fall back into that black sleep again. “Why are you here?” Her voice is dull but it’s not an effect of the drugs.
He just sits quietly and she knows he’s watching her with that amused smirk. She wishes he would leave. For some reason he unsettles her being here. “Please,” she asks again and there’s a slight whimper in her tone. She blames the drugs this time.
Hears the whisper of cloth on cloth as he stands. He walks completely silently but she can sense that he’s near. Feels the mattress depress where he sits, hauling his legs up so he’s parallel with her. Hand running down her hair, down her back gently. “Please what?” Voice is low. Hand slips under her shirt and strokes bare skin.
She can’t move but her voice is stronger. “If you came here for sex, Sark, I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed.” His hand doesn’t stop.
“I’ll be the judge of that, I think.” Fingers drawing light circles in the curve of her lower back. “Besides, there’s really nothing you can do to stop me. I could roll you over and do whatever I wanted with you. Not that I,” strokes down to her stomach, “already haven’t.”
She bites her pillow and tries to roll over, but pain rips through her again. “Stop,” she says weakly even though she knows that won’t work. Then again, he’s not Vaughn.
Surprisingly the plea must have been enough because his hand moves away and she breathes a sigh of relief. Lets her breathing come down to normal again. Her head is whirling and she doesn’t like it. Feels like she’ll be sick but her stomach is empty. His hand dips under her chin and draws her face over so she can look at him. He’s laying on his side, looking at her, eyes like glacier ice. “Are we sharing now?” Traces a finger down her cheek.
She has nothing to lose by telling him. “I woke up nine months ago in Hong Kong. The last thing I remember before that was finding Will bleeding to death in the bathtub and fighting with…with the woman who replaced my best friend. I killed her and passed out. The two years in between are a total blank.”
She’s able to move now without pain, albeit slowly and she rolls onto her side to face him fully. “What do you know about me during that time, Sark? And don’t bullshit me about this anymore. I’m tired of the lies.”
His hand is no longer touching her. “I can’t tell you everything; it’s not my place.”
“Were we together?”
“For a great deal of the time, yes.”
“And we were lovers.”
Hand back caressing her cheek. “You could call it that.”
“I don’t know; sometimes these things just happen.”
“How long have you been in here? And why?”
He hesitates. “I’ve…only been here for a few months. Why…I’m here…voluntarily.”
She furrows her brow. “What are you?”
His smile is sharper this time, more menacing. Moonlight glints off the white teeth and he looks almost feral. He leans in close to whisper in her ear. “My clinical diagnosis is ‘sociopath.’” She pulls back from him to look into his eyes and his smile deepens. “Does that frighten you Sydney?”
“It never did before, so why should it now?” she whispers. He laughs low in his throat, throwing his head back as he chuckles. She doesn’t want to trust his words but he’s the only person who’s offered her a window to understand how to fit those two dead years into her life. As much as she’s told herself she doesn’t care anymore, with these hints she’s desperate for more.
He’s watching her again, fingers playing with the loose strands of hair on her neck. He opens his mouth to say something, but a silent signal alerts him and he rolls off the bed quickly onto the floor. She sits up carefully to looks for him but the door swings open and a frosted head peeks in, swiftly surveys the room, leaves just as quickly. She holds her breath for countless seconds until he pulls himself up and lies down again. “What was that?” she breathes.
He smirks as he settles down. “Sleepovers aren’t allowed.” He pulls her down again and his fingers resume playing with her hair. She’s tired of this game and curls her hand around his neck, pulling his head down for a harsh kiss. Rolls over on her back and yanks his body over hers. As long as she’s in control she doesn’t care. She keeps his mouth pressed to hers until she can’t breathe and when he breaks away she works at pulling off his pajamas.
Smooth fingers stop her rough hands. “Tell me why,” he pants because she’s got her fingers under his shirt and is stroking his bare skin. She manages to get his shirt off before he stops her again this time a little more forcefully, pushing her arms down away from his chest. “Why?”
She snakes out of his grasp. “I’m doing this because I’m self destructive and this is wrong.” Pulls his hands under her tank onto her breasts. “And you’re doing it because you’re a sociopath and you don’t care.” Lets him kiss her and he doesn’t stop her again because they’ve only got a little time until the nurse comes back. When he enters her she grabs at the sheets and balls hands into tight fists. He isn’t forceful or rough but there’s no tenderness there either. She stares at the ceiling blankly as he thrusts into her, listens to his breathing become uneven next to her ear. She bites her lips so she doesn’t cry out under him when her body begins to respond to his. His own groan is lost in the feathers of her pillow when he goes rigid and spills into her. She waits until his breathing quiets and slows before pushing him off and curling up against the wall, pain still lingering in her limbs. She listens to him slowly dress as she pulls her comforting clothes on under the sheets.
He pauses until she rolls over to face him again. “We’re even now. I owe you nothing.”
He leans over her and brushes her forehead with soft lips. “Just until you need more cigarettes,” he whispers and he’s gone, no evidence that he had been there except for the throbbing and dampness between her legs.
She stares into the black emptiness because sleep evades her again. She has no regrets. She’ll keep playing his game if he keeps giving her answers. Both get what they want and nobody gets hurt.
It’s morning and she’s groggy from little sleep. She’d rather stay in bed but her door opens and Val saunters in. “How are you Sydney?” she asks, sitting on the edge of the bed, concern etched on her face.
All Sydney manages to get out is a moan. Val’s eyes are sympathetic but her face is firm. She brushes strands of hair off of Sydney’s brow. “I assume this means you won’t be attacking anyone else?”
“No ma’am.” Her voice is soft, her eyes cast downwards in a submissive gesture. Val is smiling now, all lectures and threats aside. Her hand feels comforting on Sydney’s skin, but Sydney does not want this consolation and jerks away. Val takes the obvious hint and leaves.
She stares blankly at the ceiling. Wants to stay in bed for the day, but she’s been avoiding contact with others for a week now and the nurses are talking. Her doctor hasn’t said anything yet, but she doesn’t need his sermonizing and she rolls off, pulling on her robe.
She wants a shower. Vaguely waves when she hears her name called from across the room, but her destination is set and nothing will distract her. Leans over the counter into the nurses’ area. “I want to shower.”
Tia’s sitting there, a stack of papers in front of her. “Sorry Bristow, no dice. Your group has already gone. Try again tomorrow.” Doesn’t even look up from her papers.
“I was sleeping of the drugs you gave me, bitch. Come on, make an exception.”
“I don’t make exceptions for anyone Bristow, I’m not Val. You have to wait for tomorrow, there’s no one to go with you.” She still doesn’t look up.
Sydney wants to curse, rip the papers up into little pieces but she keeps her control. And suddenly he’s there, hands bracing against the counter, body pressed against her back. “I’ll shower with her,” he purrs, breath tickling her ear.
Tia looks up now, slightly amused. “No co-ed showers; you know that. Now get lost.” It’s evident that the conversation is over. Sydney pushes him away and stalks over to the window. Wants to scream when he follows and slips his arms around her.
“Don’t do this.” Tries to wriggle out of his grasp but his hands are strong. “Don’t.”
He sighs patiently. “Sydney, Sydney, don’t fight. You don’t want them to give you the nice injection again, do you?”
She whirls on him, finger poking into his chest. “This isn’t some kind of relationship now, Sark. I don’t want to be seen with you, and anything that happens behind closed doors stays there. Do you understand?”
She wonders if he’ll break down, maybe get angry, but his face remains impassive, the familiar smile fixed on his lips. “Whatever you need to tell yourself to get through the day, Syd.”
The familiarity of the nickname bothers her deeply and she knows it’s showing, the way his mouth curves into a smirk. “Listen. All we have is this: you give me cigarettes, I pay you back. Other than that we don’t cuddle, we don’t hold hands and kiss in the hallways like schoolchildren, we don’t smile foolishly when someone comments on how ‘cute’ we are. In fact, the less time I spend in your presence, the happier I’ll be. Now get lost.”
He just sits on the windowsill and pulls her to sit on his lap. She’s completely stiff, not wanting him to think she’s warming to him. He chuckles low in her ear. “So you fuck me for something in return. There’s a word for women like that, love, and the Sydney I remember would have killed a person for even hinting at that prospect.”
“I’m not the same woman you once knew,” she whispers, avoiding his eyes. His hands are in her robe and fingers are slipping under her top. “Stop,” but her voice is wavering again. Soft fingers are tracing patterns along her skin. “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.” She can’t push him away, she’s frozen.
“So we’re not friends,” he murmurs. Unable to talk, she shakes her head. No.
She makes a dismissive noise at that.
“Very well,” he says and stands, displacing her from his embrace. Only then does she relax, her shoulders dropping noticeably. Hands cup her face and lips press to her forehead and she closes her eyes at the touch. His mouth creeps down to her ear to whisper, “I refuse to stay away from you, Sydney Bristow. I don’t care what you say because I’m a sociopath, and you’re going to let me continue because you’re self-destructive.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
“I will keep our bedroom antics secret, but I’m not staying away from you. You can just learn to ignore me if you don’t like it.” And he’s gone, leaving her alone. She doesn’t ponder his words, doesn’t even linger to watch him, but walks over to her group of friends. Their attention perks up as she settles down at the table and digs her hands into the lumpy ball of soft clay that is there. Often she enjoys the mindlessness of the various art projects around. Her fingers smooth the watery mush into a formless mass. She never actually creates but plays, letting the clay form shapes unconsciously.
As her hands mold her project, she turns her eyes over to the others with her. Lina makes wild imaginative shapes, builds them high and more erratic before raising a hand and squishing it back into a lump again. Lauren makes tiny figurines, creates her own world of people and places, plays out dramas in her head. Seth likes to merely cover his hands in the mucky substance and feel it squish through his fingers, making a mess like a child would. Nicky watches them quietly, hands folded on his lap so they don’t see his quakes. Sydney likes to watch Alicia the most. Her gaze is concentrated on her own project, hands busy with the sculpture she is forming. She was an artist before. She’s made a heart. It is separated into halves: one half is smooth and full and perfect, but the inside is hollow, the walls thin. The other half is warped slightly, like it’s been dropped accidentally. There are ridges and scars, but this half has not been hollowed out. Each half has a pattern down the middle, jagged edges to fit them together, but the piece is more profound when the two parts are split. “I like that,” Sydney says softly.
Alicia looks up briefly to give a small smile. “Thank you,” she whispers, then brings her arms up to push her hair back from her face. Her forearms are bare and she makes no effort to hide the paths of scars running up the inside skin. She displays them almost proudly, no shame to hide behind. Sydney is envious of the other woman’s courage to do so. She keeps her robe on whenever she can and folds her arms in whenever they are bare. She hates to admit that she is ashamed of the damage she inflicted upon herself, the lengths she had to go through once upon a time. She lowers her eyes from the sight and concentrates on her clay. Unfortunately the gazes of the rest of the group sear her and she looks up at them. “What is it?”
Lina raises her eyebrows. “How did you do it?”
“The gorgeous guy that was hanging all over you! That mysterious blond hunk that’s no one ever sees! How did you get him out of his room?” Sydney is the center of attention now, a magician of sorts among the crowd. She blinks.
“What do you know about him?”
“Never leaves his room,” … “Gets special privileges from the nurses,” … “Doesn’t like people talking to him.” The responses overlap themselves, but she gets their meaning. When their eyes swing back her way, she opens her mouth to respond, but firm hands on her waist startle her. She is lifted from her seat, then placed back down, now seated on a warm lap with arms entwined around her waist. His voice is low in her ear. “Miss me?” He’s laughing at her, she can hear it.
She doesn’t reply to him, doesn’t fall back into his embrace, but keeps her back stiff and ignores his invasion into her space. She doesn’t introduce him to the others and he does not acknowledge their presence. His head leans into her shoulder as he watches her hand play with her ball of clay. She knows that others are watching them, but refuses to make a scene of it. She hopes if she ignores him enough, he will leave her alone.
And this is how it continues for them. She goes about her daily routine as normal, except he is there, fitting himself into her life seamlessly. When she’s seated at the table with the art supplies, he makes sure she is on his lap. When she sits on the floor under the nurses’ counter reading, he lies in front of her and plays with her feet. He sits with her when they eat and steals her food from her plate. He is not an fool, he knows when she has had enough of putting up with his company and will leave her alone. It is almost as if he can read her mind: knows when she is complacent and won’t fight him away, but disappears when she is tired of his actions. She hates how he can understand her so well. Her friends are often amused by his attention, as if watching the two of them is like watching a drama unfold before them. The nurses were amused at first, but when it starts becoming part of the routine, and not a break from the regular, they are concerned and attentive to Sydney and Sark’s every actions. Val especially will furrow her brow in a laughingly familiar manner and Sydney is sure sometimes she can see a kind of fear. But they cannot stop Sark because he does nothing wrong and Sydney never complains, so they watch and take notes to report to the doctor, about the strange behaviour that’s come to their ward. One humorous tidbit has come to Sydney from attracting the nurses’ attention. She now knows that tiny Katie is the one Sark was fucking for cigarettes. It becomes a source of fun for Sydney to watch the little blonde go red with furious jealousy whenever Sark has her in his arms. She doesn’t ask if he’s stopped playing with Katie and he never tells her. All in all it doesn’t really matter.
She only seeks him out when her cravings become too strong to ignore. Whenever she sneaks into his room, he is usually sleeping, but she has no qualms about waking him up. Repayment for the torture he puts her through daily. He takes a perverse sort of pleasure watching her draw in her first breath of the cigarette. He never takes his eyes off her face, watches her slide under the influence of the drug in her system. Sometimes he joins her, indulges in their mutual vice, but for the most part he observes, as if every inhalation she takes is another step further into total depravity. She’s come to believe that arouses him more to her. It’s what she sees when she sits on his bed and looks into his eyes. It disgusts and thrills her at the same time.
He never collects his end immediately; he likes to draw it out, make her lie awake at night, wondering if he’ll materialize out of the blackness, hovering over her like a shadow. The sex is mechanical, business-like. There is no sensual foreplay, no heated kisses along sensitive skin. Funnily enough, even sex has become routine, so much so she could lay out the entire experience in a detailed presentation. He crawls onto the bed with her and it immediately begins. She lets him kiss her, harsh and unyielding, with tightly closed lips. Once he tried to slide his tongue through hers and she slapped him, hard enough to learn his lesson. Hands never linger when they undress each other. She doesn’t wrap her body around his and pull him close, but lets her arms lay still, gripping her bedding tight in her hands. His hands are usually braced on the mattress, head pushed deep into her pillow as he pounds his body into hers. It’s always rough and animalistic and primal. She bites her lip and stares ahead and disengages her mind from the entire act, so her body won’t respond physically. When she hears him come, she gives him a few seconds of rest before pushing him away. She refuses to let him linger inside, because the hint of allowing an aftermath would be misunderstood. She doesn’t want what sex once had to offer anymore. Feelings hurt too much now. If he stayed only once, she might be drained enough to curl up in the circle of his arms and allow herself to fall into him. The danger of that scenario keeps her hard enough to push him off when he’s done. No words are ever shared, just heavy breaths and muted moans of pleasure. She has nothing to say to him anyway.
And then he’s gone, slipping out so quickly she rarely notices. Some nights she is able to disassociate herself so well that she can convince herself he wasn’t even there. After ever encounter the silence and darkness of the room presses down accusingly on her. She never sleeps anyway but when the air gets heavy sometimes she’s frightened. She knows what she does to herself, what she lets be done to her is wrong, but she’s cast off judgments from all others before. The opinion of an unknown being though scares her though, and the feeling is enough to keep her awake until the tiny hint of light in the sky announces the dawn and the nameless faceless threat cloaks itself until the next night’s transgression.
It’s been four months now and the complacency she once showed is gone, replaced by a fidgeting nervousness. She feels the familiar imprisonment now that the novelty of a new environment has worn off and her body is aching to release the demons inside of her. She has no outlet for her feelings, well, not one she would prefer. Her fingers itch at her skin, longing to dig inside. Incarceration is driving her mad.
She sits sprawled in her usual chair, tossing a yellow tennis ball at the wall beside her. Bounce it along the floor, it hits the wall and come back into her hands. She has the motions perfected. It’s the one part of seeing the doctor that she likes. While he studies the notes the nurses have made on her, she amuses herself with the ball. Imagines certain faces on the wall and every time the ball hits them, another bloody mark on their skin. She’s killed so many people on that wall now.
She sees Dr. Ackland look up and close his folder. “Put the ball down Sydney.” She curses him none too softly, but obeys. She has to hold her hands still in her lap; truly idle hands are the devil’s playthings. She has to be still now; it’s time to begin.
The doctor taps her folder. “I’m disturbed by this.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
“You’re not eating…”
“I’m not hungry…”
“Val tells me you’re not sleeping…”
“I need drugs or something for that…”
“You haven’t left your room willingly for 10 days…”
“That bitch is lying; she doesn’t see everything I fucking do…”
Dr. Ackland raises his eyebrow. “And it seems you keep this association with Sark, even after all you’ve said about him.”
She falls back in disgust. “What I do and whom I choose to ‘associate with’ is really none of your goddamned business, Jake.” She never calls him Doctor.
He sighs, rubs his forehead in frustration. “Fine. We won’t discuss that.” He crosses one leg over his knee, sits back and regards her. “Tell me about this last week.”
“I want to go home.”
“Sydney, we’re not discussing this again.”
“You’re holding me against my will; let me out.”
“You are not being held against your will, you were admitted by your father.”
“Fucking traitor. I want to leave.”
“You know you can’t.”
“I’m old enough to make my own decisions. I don’t need Daddy or anyone else to choose for me.”
“Sydney…” He sighs again and leans forward on his knees. “We’ve been over this many, many times. Your father has been appointed your guardian because you’ve been declared unfit to take care of yourself. He decided it would be best to have you here, where you have the care and supervision you need. You need to stop thinking of this as a temporary solution; you’re going to be here for a long while. Don’t ask to leave again.”
“What right did you have to take away my freedom? I can take care of myself!”
“Your record,” he taps her file, “proves otherwise. If we left you to yourself, you’d be dead by now.”
“Maybe that’s what I want, you ever think about that,” she spits. “No one ever took into consideration my thoughts in this, you fucks. Everyone wanted me back and alive so desperately and I come home and-and-and…”
“Sydney.” His voice is quiet now. “None of that was your fault. Blaming yourself only adds to your depression.”
“It would have been better if I never came home at all,” she says absently, clenching her hands tight in her lap.
“That isn’t true.”
But she’s tired of his excuses. The only regret she has was making that call in Hong Kong. She thought all would be fine once she was home, back where everything was normal and comfortable, but her whole world had turned upside down. They had thrown her right back into her life, because to her only hours had passed from her climactic fight with the clone in her friend’s body. But the world had learned to work without her in it and she was the odd piece in a new puzzle. The only answer was to shove her into a hole and break all angles that wouldn’t fit. She hid her desperation from everyone, pretending she was adjusting fine into her life. But she couldn’t play the game for long before she snapped. She barely remembered the first time. Curled up on the kitchen floor, she’d cried out when the knife split her skin for the first time, but it had gradually become easier. The doctor in the emergency room remarked she would have died if Will had not come home early. She didn’t remember him arriving, or the drive to the hospital, the long talk with the psych resident. The scene that stood out clearly in her mind was coming back to her home. Will had promised Jack he’d take care of her, but Jack was too distraught to smell the alcohol on the younger man’s breath, or the drunken anger in his eyes. She didn’t know if it was the drugs in her system or the fear she felt when he came storming into her room that had paralyzed her. She didn’t even raise her arms in defense as his blows rained down on her. He’d left her bruised and in shock while he attempted to clean the kitchen and drink himself into a drunken stupor.
He hadn’t even remembered that he hit her in the morning. He never remembered all those nights she would find him completely wasted somewhere downtown, dragging him home because he couldn’t walk. He repaid her kindness with his fists. She thanked her gods for all those years of hiding unknown bruises from Francie; she now had cover-up perfected to an art. And yet she never fought back, never defended herself. It was only when he was intoxicated that he could tell her the real truth: he wished she had never come back into his life.
Vaughn, on the other hand, was all too happy to have her back; so happy that he was willing to sacrifice the honest behaviour that she had admired most about him to be with her. She could justify him breaking that one vital promise to his wife if it could make her happy. She had pictured passionate encounters in hotel rooms, sneaking off on long weekends in secret, whispered words of love she could keep close in her heart. How absurd she felt now, believing in the entity of love. He had trapped her in a bathroom stall one day, shoving her up against the brick wall and covering her mouth with his hand so she wouldn’t make too much noise. He hadn’t even removed her panties when he thrust into her. It had been over so fast she had fallen to the floor shaking when he left without one word. When she was finally strong enough to stand on her own she had stumbled back to her desk, frozen with the sight of the man who had just fucked her perched on the desk of a raven haired beauty, stroking her cheek gently. Every encounter was quick and dirty like that, hidden in dark corners or empty rooms, furious and harsh and it always ended with him running back to his wife’s embrace. Still, she had let him treat her that way, telling herself that he preferred it this way so as not to raise suspicions, and that he really loved her. Believing that lie hadn’t given her any more reason to live and eventually became another way to slowly destroy herself. All those moments blurred over in her mind now.
The beginning of the end had been the failed mission in Thailand. She had recklessly disobeyed her orders and left her team uncovered. She had come back in time to catch a stumbling Weiss, his leg shattered to pieces. She completely missed the guard behind him until her friend’s brains spattered all over her. She couldn’t stop screaming, couldn’t move the heavy body of her friend bleeding all over her; all she could do was fire her gun blindly at all movement until one of the other agents from her team had subdued her with a sedative. Jack had taken her to Dr. Ackland and he had kept her sedated until the funeral was over and they had gotten her to sign away her power of attorney, making Jack the legal guardian of her. Two weeks later she’d jabbed a piece of her mirror into her arms and her father had had enough and sent her away. She hadn’t been back to the Ops center but she knew they would all blame her for Weiss’s death. The day that Sydney Bristow had finally cracked.
Now Dr. Ackland looks at her, hears her quiet mumblings. “Sydney, his death was not your fault, you know that. You shouldn’t have been out in the field in the first place; you can’t take the blame for something you had no control over.”
She shakes herself out of her reverie, sits up suddenly. “You lie. You lie! It should have been me dying there! I was the one who screwed up, not him! No one deserves this but me! You have to let me…” She falls back in her seat when he starts to write notes. “Stop it,” she snarls. His arm pauses, still hovering over the pad. “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” she can’t stop shrieking.
His hands are cool on hers. “Sydney, you have to calm down, or I will sedate you.” She falls back again but keeps her angry glare. He glances at the clock on the wall. “Have you had any suicidal thoughts?” he asks.
She turns her head away. “All the time.”
“Tell me about them.”
She balls her hands into tight fists again. “I imagine ways of breaking my window and tearing away at my skin. I try to think of how I can get rid of the nurses when I shower so I can smash a mirror. Sometimes I think about using the cheap dull butter knife we get at meals. I want to get it out, Jake.” When he asks her about those times she’s brutally honest, trying to shock him senseless. He’s seen and heard it all before, it no longer fazes him. “It overwhelms me all the time. And I don’t want it to stop.”
He stares hard at her, tapping his finger against his chin. She meets his gaze steadily, but she can’t stop the small tremors that run through her. He notices her hands shaking on her lap and bites his lip. “I think it’s time we start the drug cocktail again.”
“No,” she protests, her voice trembling and weak. She doesn’t like the drugs’ effect on her body. That’s one reason she agreed to sign power of her life away, because they promised to take away the drugs. “No, please, I’ll be good, I swear.” She’s begging and she hates that’s she’s been reduced to it but it’s necessary. “Please,” she whispers.
“It’s just for a little while, Sydney.”
“No,” she whimpers this time, curls up in her chair. Dr. Ackland moves to comfort her, brush a hand to her forehead, but she shifts away. He stands and opens the door to his office, calling for Jessie to come get her. She watches as he hands the nurse a note and whispers instructions under his breath. Jessie nods and grasps Sydney’s arm, pulling her up. She dazedly follows.
She looks back. He’s smiling. “Cheer up. Remember what the Monty Python boys say.” His favourite way of ending their sessions.
She sighs. “‘Always look on the bright side of life.’” He gives her an encouraging smile, but she doesn’t return it. Just turns around and leaves.
She’s tired of it.
The full effects of the drugs kick in four days later and she’s incapacitated. It’s night and she’s fighting her churning stomach not to revolt on her. She wants to get up and get a glass of cold water from the nurses but if she stands she’ll keel over. Her eyes blur, refocus, feel like they’re spinning around in circles. Even breaths are hard on her, her chest feeling like leaden weights have been piled on. She wants to move, roll over to a more comfortable position but it hurts to move and her limbs feel weak anyway. She hopes that she’ll soon pass out from the pain, fall into a semi-coma of listlessness so her nerves will shut down and she won’t have to feel.
Her mind is fuzzy but she registers the door opening and closing. She clenches her eyes shut tight, willing her head to stop pounding. Not tonight. She knows it’s him because the nurse was by not minutes ago, doing the normal cursory sweep of the room. She can’t protest when he crawls in next to her and digs his face into her pillow while his hands roam her body. One slides down under her pants and slips between her legs. She normally wouldn’t mind this attempt to arouse her but her libido is sufficiently dead and so his probing fingers feel invasive and rough. When he enters her with two of them it hurts and she chokes out a cry that draws her breath away. She immediately feels queasier and her head lolls around uselessly while the inside feels like it’s going to explode with pain. She’s going to be sick.
“Sydney?” His voice is soft, a hint of concern because she’s not fighting for her control as usual; she’s too still and consenting. She feels him raise his head from the spot next to hers and cool fingers trace over her cheeks, turn her head so she can look at him. She tries to focus on his face, but the blue eyes blur and jump in her vision. “Sydney. What’s wrong?”
She’s gasping for breath now from her earlier cry but she attempts speech because she has to answer; the worry in his eyes is disturbing to her. “New…drugs…” she manages to pant out before drawing in a deep painful breath so harsh tears come unbidden to her eyes and drip down her face. She spends the next few minutes focusing her entire mind on breathing, wondering absently if this is how she’ll end up dying. Maybe now he’ll leave her in peace and she can try compartmentalizing the pain. Or pray for unconsciousness.
She’s forgotten for the moment that he’s there, but soft fingers are stroking her face. She wants him to stop, but she can’t summon the energy to tell him or push him away. One hand is underneath her shirt rubbing her stomach and she cries harder when she thinks of the extreme pain of him fucking her. She wants to roll away but she can’t and so she lies back and waits for him to get it over and done with, closing her eyes tight.
His hand stays on her stomach though, rubbing it in small circles. It’s soothing and calms her nausea down. His fingers on her face are also calming; cool enough to remove some of the heat from her skin. Her breaths are slower now, more controlled, and easier. His presence pacifies her and she feels herself relax. “Better now?” she hears him whisper, warm breath brushing into her ear and she nods briefly, eyes still closed tight. The mattress depresses when he gets up, but she summons her strength and reaches for him. “Don’t leave,” she breathes, a hint of anxiety in her voice. The soft hand is back on her stomach and she drowsily leans into his body when he lies back down. For some reason he soothes her and she wants him to stay, because her head is clear now and the pain in her body is slightly quelled. Hears him sigh next to her, a contented sound that fills her with a warm feeling.
She doesn’t know how much time passes, but she’s feeling the first tuggings of sleep pull at her senses when the door swings open for the nurses’ check. The light invades her mind, but she knows it will be brief and so she keeps still. The harsh brightness doesn’t go away, and her throbbing head is filled with an angry voice. “What the hell is going on here?”
It hurts too much still to speak, but Sark solves the problem for her. “Lay off, Val, she’s sick from your fucking medications.” She can feel him sitting up, leaning over her protectively.
“You are not supposed to be in here; get out.”
“No fucking way.”
“This isn’t negotiable, Julian, this is crossing the line. You need to leave right now.”
“The hell I do. So why don’t you just turn around and leave us alone, okay?”
“That is not an option!”
“Get the fuck out! You’re making her sicker!”
The mixture of the light and the yelling is ripping through her violently and the absence of the hand rubbing her stomach causes the nausea to rise again. She musters up as much strength as she can and sits herself up. Strong hands are on her shoulders, trying to pull her down again, but she raises her arm, palm facing out and opens her eyes. “Val, please.” Her voice is weak, eyes narrowed in pain against the yellow light and her entire body is trembling with the exertion. Val has her mouth open to speak, but she studies Sydney’s face and her lips come back together. Without another word, she slowly turns and leaves the room, closing the door back into darkness. Sydney falls back against her pillow, her body aching from the effort. Hot tears are in her eyes again, but his cool fingers are wiping them away and he’s murmuring soft noises in her ear. She can feel her body calming down under his hands again, massaging her stomach until it settles down. “Don’t leave,” she whispers again, closing her eyes.
As she succumbs to the sleep falling on her, she can hear him singing to her. His song brings memories and pictures in her head and she dreams as his clear pure voice lulls her into a peaceful rest.