Title: "Sunlight in the Mirror"
Rating/Classification: AU, language, sexual situations.
Disclaimer: Bad Robot! And SEAL Team 16 belongs to Suzanne Brockmann.
Summary: A sequel to "Angels & Ropes." Mister Sark chose angels. The
problem is...he might live to regret it. A slightly crossover-y AU.
"Tell me now is there difference between a shark
and the ghost of a shark?" - Tom McRae.
You never had a brother growing up. Pockets to put toads in. Someone to blame broken vases on. No one to shift responsibility to and innocently say, "He did it!" when it came time to be grounded or caned.
So, perhaps, you are making up for lost time.
Putting a toad in Michael Vaughn's desk is perversely juvenile... but infinitely satisfying when you hear the "Holy shit!" and the rain of cursesthat goes on for minutes after the initial discovery.
And the sight of six CIA agents chasing a little brown tree toad through the center of Operations is nothing if not priceless.
When Sydney catches your eye across your stations, you have to duck
your head to hide your mirth. They are probably already regretting welcoming you into the fold. "This is not professional behavior, Bristow!", Kendall is, no doubt, huffing behind a closed door. "We took a risk bringing him in and now he's trivializing that!"
But better a prankster than a killer, yes?
You have not shot a single person since Sloane.
And your fingers are itching.
You occupy by them by twirling a golden ink pen, walking it across your knuckles over and over. By devising new ways to make the ever-so anal retentive Vaughn hate the reminder of his dead father's infidelity even more than he already does.
You're required to see Dr. Barnett twice a week. Her false compassion is a thousand times worse than a good, hard, caning and she says you are "compensating for years without a traditional family model" and "testing the boundaries of your new role as son and baby brother."
Wonderful. Truly wonderful.
If only the intelligence community, your old allies and contacts, could see the elusive Mister Sark now...playing Goldilocks in a grammar school drama. Of course, as far as the world at large is concerned, Sark is a condemned spy and traitor to the crown, locked away in some high-security military facility while the United States and England jockey over who gets to push the plunger in the lethal injection.
The shiny new nameplate on your desk reads "Adam D. Vaughn." And every time the *other* Vaughn passes it, he flips it around or inches it so it
clatters to the floor. It's nice to know that abject childishness is genetic. But, of course, he can't white-out all the personnel files. Or keep Jack from referring to you both, in briefings, as "The Agents Vaughn", like you're an '80s Euro-Pop group with a hit single.
Naturally, they do not trust you enough to let you operate in the field. You can't particularly blame them. Your Sark persona has left a trail of bodies long enough to wrap around the earth at least once and you can risk recognition from neither the enemies of the Agency nor its partners. So, you coordinate from remote locations...usually flanked by Marshall...who seems to think you're "really cool but scary" and spends entirely too much time talking to Agent Weiss about playing Grand Theft Auto. You doubt the little man has ever stolen a car in his life.
You jimmied your first window when you were ten.
Oh, yes. You're compensating all right. Testing your boundaries.
"I know he's your fair-haired boy, Jack...but I'm not here to help you make good with your wife and your daughter at the expense of the United States government."
"I fail to see how there is any 'expense' running up on the governmental tab." Her father didn't even blink. She had to give him credit for his restraint. "So far, all his intel has been right on the money and every operation he has assisted on has rated above 90% in terms of efficiency."
"He's a liability!" Kendall spat, pounding his fist on the table. "We don't know that his loyalties lie with us and I will not have a repeat performance of the Derevko affair on my watch."
She delicately cleared her throat, breaking the contest of wills and the eye war going on between the two men. "Excuse me, but you're wrong, Director." She shuffled the files in front of her, stopping at the right one and pulling out the glossy black and white surveillance photograph of a girl reading a book at a Parisian sidewalk cafe. "We *do* know where my brother's loyalties lie." Six months ago, she wouldn't have envisioned calling Mister Sark her *brother*, or much of anything really, but now she liked the sound of it. It rolled easily off her tongue and served the dual purpose of reminding herself who he now was to her...and annoying the living Hell out of most everyone around her. "Farah Ismail," she reminded, quietly. "As long as we have her under our protection, ensuring her safety, Adam will cooperate. He doesn't care about prosecution, about extradition, or the death penalty, but he does care about *her*."
"Sydney's right." How she loved it when Jack said things like that. She was going to have to go home and split a bottle of wine with Michael and celebrate. "Miss Ismail is our insurance and all parties concerned are aware of that. Were Vaughn inclined to return to his former identity, he would risk opening not only himself but Miss Ismail to retaliation from the remnants of Arvin Sloane's organization."
"And he's *not* inclined," she added, swiftly.
Kendall made a disgusted noise as he pushed back from the conference
table and began to pace the length of the room. "I have people coming down on me from all sides. The Director, the President, the UN Security Council. These assurances are nothing," he scoffed. "You both said the same things about Irina Derevko one year ago."
"And we were right." *There* was the icy contempt in her father's voice. The tightening of his mouth that spelled an impending explosion. "Irina Derevko proved to be an ally, working with me under the radar in order to extract her child from Sloane's operation."
The Deputy Director stopped stock still, turning on one heel to match that contempt with his own. "The Central Intelligence Agency is not here to
function as the Bristow Family Reunion Fund," he said, coolly. "Not when
national security could be on the line."
Sydney reached over and placed her hand over Jack's, in an effort to
preempt the committing of a capital crime. "When national security *is* on
the line, please let us know," she said as evenly as she could manage...leaving out the acid sarcasm that the three other members of the Bristow Family Reunion wielded like weapons. "I have some paperwork to file. Is this over?"
"Yes," her father said, gently disentangling from her grip and rising, all homicidal urges tamped back beneath his mild-mannered exterior. "We're
"Not by a long shot," Kendall ground out as they walked out together. "Not by a *long* shot."
You call Farah, overseas long distance, and talk to her for hours about
nothing. Classes in art history and the taste of freshly fried falafel. The latest Tom Cruise movie--after which you feign jealousy--and how she wants to be Bjork when she graduates. Topics like the bullet that barely missed her kidneys or her father forbidding her to see you are off-limits.
She still slips and calls you "Anton."
You still slip and answer to it.
Eliciting strange looks from the man, Fowler, they suggested become your roommate in the house that overlooks the Hollywood Hills. "Suggestion"
equals "order." "Roommate" equals "guard." You'd suggested moving in with Tippin, grinning fiendishly when the poor fellow balked. He would probably expect to be shot every time you came home. You would gladly oblige. However, your freedom requires an Agency stooge making eggs in the state-of-the-art kitchen on Saturday mornings and radioing an away team every time you leave.
You have a phone in your bedroom, but you know it's tapped. Just in case murmured love words and gasps and directions of "touch yourself *there*" are double-speak for betrayal.
You wonder if Fowler hand-launders his sheets after he listens in. He
doesn't even smile when you greet, "Hi, Honey, I'm home. Did you miss me?"
Farah pretended to be jealous until you told her he was six-foot-five
and bald, with a face only a mother could love. You know it is only a matter of time before she meets some dashing young man named "Rahim" or "Ali" and you're nothing but a bad memory and a faded scar so you go along with her whims and savor her whispers of "I love you."
But sometimes you leave the phone off the hook for hours so she can't
And you savor the silence.
"We'll be sending a team into Kazbekistan for the meet. Vaughn, you and Bristow will be on point. You'll be joined by a unit of SEALs, " Kendall said, officiously. "This is a standard op with the usual suspects."
"Starrett and Karmody?" Vaughn looked almost smug as he named off two of their regular co-conspirators from Navy SEAL Team 16 in the face of
Adam's barely masked boredom and lazy sprawl in one of the desk chairs. "They know The Pit like the backs of their hands. This should be cake, Sir."
Sydney was almost certain her boyfriend and their brother were trading
kicks beneath the table. And if he kissed up to Kendall any more, his lips were going to be chapped.
Ever since the toad incident, he'd been determined to be as By The Book
as possible ...the most helpful agent Command Central had ever seen. Probably so they wouldn't suspect when he devised revenge.
The game of one-upmanship the two men were running would have irritated her to no end, especially in the face of the very real concerns that Kendall and her father kept battling over, if it weren't so damn funny. Vaughn brooded in their bed at night and she had to smooth out the lines crinkling his forehead repeatedly. Adam concentrated on looking as disaffected as possible even though his mind was probably full of a thousand-and-one ways to be a pain-in-the-ass.
And Will...Will was the third party in their little dynamic. Vaughn had
previously regarded Will with this leery jealousy, but now that there was a worse player in town, Will was suddenly his best buddy, his "pal", and they had back-slapping, beer-slugging outings with Weiss where they thought up ways to keep from getting shot in their sleep.
It didn't help that the former Mister Sark made little bang-bang gun
motions every time Will was in a briefing.
Her *brother* she was still getting to know. She had no leverage. Just that slow process of discovery where she wondered what his favorite color was and whether or not she had to get him a birthday present--Irina had, teasingly, suggested a new 9mm and some aftershave. Michael...well... she was half-tempted to roll over and claim a headache if he didn't grow up.
Because a "cake" mission like the one they were about to embark on could easily go south if petty games were involved.
And she'd lost enough.
She'd lost *more* than enough.
Now she was going to hold onto her life, and everyone in it, as tight as she could.
The static buzz of a comm device in your ear is familiar. Like a lover's whisper. The curve of the microphone wire trailing down past your wrist, tangling with the other wiring from the surveillance equipment, is as comfortable as a worn pair of jeans and your favorite black turtleneck sweater.
The only thing you know more intimately is the slide of a firearm against your palm, the trigger beneath your fingers. The click as the ammo magazine locks in to the base.
The Agency refuses to issue you a gun.
You can't say you particularly blame them.
Besides, they tell you that the unmarked van that hangs back two blocks from any given op point is rarely a target. As if, even in a war-torn, post-Soviet nation like Kazbekistan, you're a glorified ice cream man or mail delivery truck and no one will give you a second glance.
The first channel has cheerfully bawdy banter from the lieutenant and
chief petty officer of the SEAL team about wives and babies, multiple orgasms and frog tattoos. It's entertaining for a moment or two and you even pose a swift question about colored ink versus the standard green before switching down to the second comm channel that the Agency is using. Far more subdued, your pouting brother and overacheiving sister are trading coordinates...and the thought is enough to give you pause. Your half-brother and your half-sister as lovers. You grew up with no family at all and suddenly you're inbred.
Tucked away in Jack Bristow's bedroom, plotting her latest back door
Rambaldi-related scheme, your mother is, no doubt, laughing.
"Sark...you there?" Vaughn's voice is brusque as it crackles into your
ear, devoid of the tenderness he was using on Sydney. And it doesn't escape you that he uses your alias on purpose. To him, you aren't Sydney's brother Adam Derevko...and most definitely not his, Adam Vaughn. The sharp kick to your foot during the briefing in Los Angeles was a bruising reminder that you are an unwilling ally of the American government, a liability, and wholly untrustworthy.
"I'm here." He's right, of course. Which is why you kicked him back as
you dozed with your eyes open. "The contact should be approaching the drop
point in approximately three minutes. The SEAL team is poised for back-up
at your signal." *Asshole*.
Amar Joglekar is a contact of Kabir's, your old friend from Kandahar. A
free-range arms dealer out of Kashmir, he's dancing from "K" to "K" like a child hooked on the alphabet, selling his wares to the highest bidder. You won't be surprised if he's selling to militia men in Kansas next. He's promised intel to the Agency in exchange for a longer tether, but you know full well that no one comes to the table without ulterior motives. And extra men. Armed to the teeth.
According to Chief Karmody's fancy sensors, and the corroborating ones
furnished by the ever-so benevolent Deputy Dickhead Kendall, there are at least six "tangos" accompanying Joglekar to the suitably crowded marketplace where Sydney waits, veiled like a proper Muslim woman, and Vaughn is tricked out like Lawrence of Arabia.
And your fingers itch.
At least six expendable targets.
It's like the promise of sex with a chastity belt firmly locked over it.
You weren't Farah's first...but she made you feel like it.
You remember yours. The blood was everywhere. You were scrubbing it
from beneath your nails for days.
Within five minutes of Joglekar's arrival, there is the pop-pop sound of
exchanged gunfire. Can't *anyone* make a simple transaction for information these days without resorting to violence? Not that you're complaining about Sydney's marksmanship. Just the *sound* is enough to make your body clench, your mouth water, and the wet-behind-the-ears technician in the seat next to yours shifts as if he's never seen an erection besides his own.
Irina is the one who taught you to smile, to enjoy it, while killing. She told you that the only other moments where you were that intimate with another person were birth and orgasm. Perhaps that is why your mother and Farah are the two most important people in your life.
Her mother answered the door wearing nothing but one of her father's
shirts and the elusive smile that had probably crept up on her lips when she peered through the peephole and saw Sydney reflected in the tiny circle.
"Come in!" she said, easily, gesturing with a glass of red wine.
Jack Bristow's space had always been utilitarian. Austere. Functional.
Everything in sedate shades of gray. The apartment he'd taken after she moved out of the house had always been more like a monk's cell than a home. But no longer. Now it was splashed with touches of Irina. Multi-colored pillows on the sofa, books and maps scattered on the coffee table and stacked up at various places on the carpet.
It was surreal...her mother's imprint on her father. And his...on her.
The glasses perched on the tip of her nose, the hint of cologne that clung to the baggy blue Oxford shirt.
"Come, Sydney," she said again, urging her over the threshold. "Tell me
how I can help you."
"I-it's not me," she assured, automatically, hugging her purse close to
her chest as she shut the door, locked it, and followed her mother into the front room. "I came to talk to you about Sark." And she paused. Grimacing. "Adam," she corrected. Michael was rubbing off on her. At this rate, she was going to start furrowing her brow and talking about hockey all the time.
Irina laughed, softly, moving a blueprint of some kind to make room on
the sofa and patting the cleared space next to her. "I understand your confusion, Sydney. You have handled things beautifully since your father and I told you...but some semblance of doubt must remain."
"That's just it!" she sighed, shaking her head. "I *don't* doubt him. Just like I don't doubt *you*, Mom." The visceral trust she'd placed in him since he'd stumbled over the seal on the floor and into her arms had not wavered one inch.
"And *that* is what concerns you?" Her mother arched an eyebrow, nodding, knowingly. "Your instincts have always been true. You have to believe in them." She took a sip of wine, swirling it around on her tongue and
savoring the body. "Adam and I are cut from the same cloth. We do not deal well with cages, with rules. For a very long time, all we could count on was ourselves." Irina's gaze grew distant for a moment. Gone to a place where Sydney could not follow. "I taught him self-reliance...and selfishness. And I do not regret that, Sydney."
"But you also taught him love, right?" It was a stupid question...but one she couldn't help but ask. The man nearly crying with relief in a hospital room... the one who had laughed as he held her at gunpoint...the one whose eyes went blank like blue screen on a PC during briefings...he was still a mystery to her.
Her mother cocked her head, grinning. "My son can love...just like my
daughter," she assured. "Deeply and truly and with his whole heart."
She breathed a sigh of relief and reached for the goblet on the coffee table that had, no doubt, been put there for her dad. Well, now it was for her. As she helped herself to the bottle next to it, she asked, ruefully, "So, what's his favorite color?"
And she wasn't entirely sure that Irina was kidding.
They track your movements. Nothing so gauche and obvious as an ankle monitor, but you know that there are probably transmitters sewn into the fibers of your clothing, tucked into the heels of your impeccably-polished
shoes. And the idea of Fowler bent over your suits with a needle and thread is just silly enough to make the constant surveillance tolerable.
They want to make sure you're not re-connecting with your underworld
contacts when you take your car out for long drives through the city. You're almost touched that the Agency cares so much about your social life.
Over the last few months, they've realized that the underworld you
frequent is not the one they need concern themselves with. While your brother hoists a brewsky with his boys, you drink crisp vodka with would-be vampires and seers. A dark bar with a lounge singing host is the last place anyone affiliated with Arvin Sloane would bide their time.
Sometimes you sing French ballads a capella for the disinterested crowd.
And you wonder if you're more fluent than Vaughn.
As seductive as Sydney.
If you're anyone at all.
You come home to the blinking message light on the answering machine
with dust on your hands and laugh when it's Irina asking after your welfare and then Farah asking, tearfully, for you to call her as soon as you can manage. Neither bodes well for you and your "roommate" looks perhaps a tad sympathetic when he brushes past you on the way to his suite.
You could grab a cold one from the fridge and drop down next to him as
he watches the Angels go into extra-innings and ask if he knows anything,
anything at all, about women, but you think better of it. You're better off in the comfort cave of your bedroom, with the happy Buddha statue on the dresser that Farah bought you before she knew you held no sanctity for life, and if Fowler wants to listen in while she tells you she's met "Ali" or "Rahim", he's more than welcome to.
Better that than him hearing Irina ask you if you're happy, if you've been eating right, and if you've killed anybody lately.
Your answer will have to be a regretful "no."
The Agency doesn't need to track your movements when you're going nowhere.
"I don't understand why you're so gung-ho about this, Syd. He *shot*
me. And Will. And he's *tried* to shoot you."
"I'm not asking him over for Sunday night dinners, Vaughn. I just
want...some sort of truce. This...*thing* between you two is starting to affect day-to-day operations and I want it stopped." She sighed, glad the alcove that Weiss had once dubbed 'the flirting corner' offered them at least some semblance of privacy. "I know what my mother did. If I can make the effort to accept her, and to accept Adam despite what *he's* done, you should be able to at least quit blaming him for what your father did."
He flinched, looking like a wounded little boy. "Sydney, that is *way*
out of line." Which, somewhere deep inside, he still was.
"Is it?" she demanded.
She knew how hard it was when a parent fell from their pedestal. Jack
and Irina had spent the last two years tumbling off theirs. Vaughn's father had died a hero...and here he was, resurrected in Sark's smile as just a man, with a man's weaknesses.
"Sark is *dangerous.*"
"He's our *brother*," she reminded.
Vaughn winced, dragging a hand through his hair. "Up until now, the
only blood we've had in common is what Irina Derevko spilled. Do you know
how fucking weird this is?"
"Is that what's really bothering you?" she wondered, giving him an easy
out. "The fact that this makes us somehow related?"
"Y-yes...no..." He sighed and closed his eyes and closed the 'for propriety' distance between them, leaning his forehead against hers as he admitted, brokenly, "I don't know."
"It's all right. There's no easy way around this...we're all doing the best we can..." She stroked his hair and murmured reassurances and kissed his temple... and made a mental note to tell Adam that dinner this weekend was a no-go.
In the area for a training op, a few of the SEALs from the Kazbekistani mission drop by Operations to trade one-liners with Vaughn and Weiss. They pull out baby pictures and talk about getting together for drinks the next time the guys are down in San Diego and not once do a pair of eyes flicker over to your station to invite Vaughn's long-lost baby brother along.
You wonder what would happen if something pale-skinned and vaguely demonic came in to visit you. If you met your lawyer in the lobby before dinner, would their eyes linger on the angry red scar on her throat? If Farah were to escape her father's watch, hop on a plane and walk in the door, so beautiful and warm and alive... would Vaughn be kind to her knowing that she spreads herself willingly beneath you?
You can run schematics and success projections in your sleep and that's
what you do, slumped at your terminal, as you pretend not to watch file folders full of Sark's betrayal change hands. As you pretend not to watch Sydney laugh as she's jostled between Michael and Eric and Chief Karmody.
Your sister is beautiful. Almost as beautiful as your mother. You remember that Sark sort of wanted her while Anton made love to Farah and
Adam existed in limbo. Now your identities are pared down to one. One that sees, in black and white, a sister and former enemy. And a family that doesn't quite have a place for you.
Sydney invited you over to her and Francie's place for dinner...and you
wonder if it's prudent to tell her that Francie hasn't been Francie in quite some time. Allison was someone you dated once and the last time you brushed elbows, she turned against your ear and pleaded for you to let her keep her new life now that she no longer had to work for Sloane. It strikes you as sort of perverse and your own secret joke against the ever-so insipid Mr. Tippin, so you've let it be. If she blows her cover over pot roast some night, it will be completely out of your hands.
And, of course, you won't be there to witness it. Not any time soon.
Merely a day after the tentative invite was offered, it was revoked,
with Syd going scarlet and telling you that Michael wasn't ready. Neither,
you think, was she.
It's okay. You're certain that Fowler can make a mean pot roast.
You'll drink Cosmopolitans until your eyes blur and wait for the next
briefing with Kendall and your reluctant stepfather. For something that will allow you a chance to breathe some foreign-familiar air and remember when your skin actually fit.
When you actually belonged somewhere.
When you knew exactly who you were.
Who all three of you were.
The insistent wail of the phone woke her at 2:32 in the morning and she
reached across Michael--who mumbled something in protest and turned
over--to answer it.
"H-hello?" she ground out as the sleep slowly fell from her eyes and she
sat up in bed.
"Sydney?" The feminine voice was sweet, lightly-accented. "Sydney,
this is Farah Ismail...I...I don't know if you remember me...and I'm sorry to call so late...but...but..."
"What is it?" she said, swiftly, panic closing a fist around her heart and
squeezing as she cut off the girl's babbling. "Of course I remember you. What's wrong?"
"I-it's Anton. Um...*Adam*." There were tears there in the syllables.
"I...I've called him every day this week and he hasn't returned my calls. I think something's happened to him."
She reminded herself that Farah was at least five hours ahead. That it
was morning wherever she was. And paranoia wasn't usually a morning sickness. "That's impossible," she assured, gently. "Adam has been at work every day...and if he'd gone somewhere at night, we would've been alerted."
"No...no, you misunderstand me, Sydney." Farah laughed, now, and it was haunted. Not like the girl in the hospital bed who had so succinctly put
her brother in his place. "Adam hasn't called me back...but I have been called. And the man who has spoken to me isn't him. They have the same voice. The same tone. The same words...but it isn't him. Something is *wrong*."
"I...you're right. I don't understand." She nudged at Vaughn's shoulder, urging him awake. "If the man calling you back isn't Adam...then who is he?" And at her sharp question, he met her eyes and his mouth tightened. "Is he dangerous?"
"I...I have no idea. I have no idea who he's become. *What* he's become."
*"He's a liability"*... "I taught him self-reliance...and selfishness"..."Sark is dangerous"...."He's our brother."*
The phone slipped from her numb fingers. "Oh, God. No."
When you let yourself out of the house, all of Los Angeles is spread before you like a buffet of lights and sounds and heartbeats.
Your guard dog is asleep. Perhaps for hours. Perhaps forever.
Your fingers idle on the cool, smooth, steel of the 9mm Glock you appropriated from his holster. On the trigger that you know better than a
Somewhere in a military facility, Mister Sark is being executed.
Somewhere in dreamland, Anton is feeding his girlfriend grapes and laughing.
Somewhere in the back of your mind, Adam waits for sunlight.
Until then...the night is yours.
June 4, 2003.