Title: "Half in Shade"
Rating/Classification: crossover, angst, adult language.
Disclaimer: Bad Robot! Grrr Aaaargh!
Summary: Fourth story in the "Angels & Ropes" series, after "Sunlight in the Mirror." Takes place during an AU S3 "Alias" and S5 "Angel". What once was Sark is now becoming...something else entirely.
"Half in sunlight
And half in shade
Words in collision
I bend to your shape
I see the skull beneath the skin
I see it all."--Tom McRae
Jack is waiting for you at your station when you arrive, looking, for all
the world, like your headmaster from school when he informed the boys in your corridor that the tomcat who used to lurk outside the kitchens had been found dead in the chapel. Poor Churchill. He hadn't even struggled when you stroked his soft neck, burrowing your fingers in the fur, before snapping it.
This isn't, you think, about a cat. Or the infamous toad. Not with an MP standing a discreet distance away.
"Is something the matter?" you wonder, a little annoyed that you are being denied your typical routine of "slide into chair and sprawl carelessly."
"We need you to come with us, Agent Vaughn," he says, quietly, and the
way his eyes are cool and his tone is polite is familiar. You remember it well from your brief tenure at SD-6. A subtle indicator of threat.
"Why?" There were no urgent messages on your cell. No alerts, or body
cavity searches, from Fowler when you came in at four a.m. More's the pity. You know the Agency and its various governmental extremities are fully aware of the Other Los Angeles that you've been frequenting of late. That this cannot be a crackdown on your hobnobbing with fiends and people who wear considerably less black than your co-workers. There are probably ultra-secret agencies in charge of monitoring possible occult-oriented threats, the supernatural, like the X-Files, but the Director and Kendall would never admit they existed. Sort of like how England claims Bram Stoker as one of their own only when it's convenient and the rest of the time he's an Irish crackpot who smoked too much opium.
So, it must be something else.
When Jack's hand closes around your shoulder to gently steer you out of
Operations, you know you have two options...shrug it off and hit him...or allow yourself to be steered. Out of courtesy, you choose the latter. "It has come to our attention that you've been behaving erratically," he says. "We're simply concerned."
"Erratically?" you echo. "You try being dropped in the middle of your warm, fuzzy family and the CIA and not behaving erratically."
He's lying, of course. It goes deeper than the myriad of pranks you've
been pulling since you were brought in. And when you are in a glaringly white lab with more MPs and a two-way glass, your suspicions are confirmed. "What's going on here?"
"We need to do a retinal scan, a few other tests."
A retinal scan. For certain proteins. Oh. *Oh*. Of course. "You
think I've been doubled?" You have to laugh. "Me? Doubled?" Now, you do shrug off Jack's hand, looking at your perturbed stepfather full in the face. "Do you honestly believe anyone not bound to you Bristows by blood would *voluntarily* spend time with you?"
The only person in their midst who is an evil spy clone is running a
restaurant and making sure Will Tippin's shoes are properly tied. But you're not going to tell them that. That would be rude. And uncharitable.
And hanging out with this lot of martyrs and heroes has upped your sense of altruism to an alarming degree.
You sigh, glancing over at the ever-present Dr. Barnett with her cocker
spaniel eyes and her notepad. "Look...just run the tests. I don't mind at all. I had no other pressing plans this morning." Except for, perhaps, taking out a few screws in your constipated half-brother's chair and gleefully watching it collapse under his weight.
Amusement flickers on and off Jack's dour features. And you know he's
already convinced of your identity. Not that he'll admit it. "Thank you for your permission, Adam," he says, almost...*almost*...sarcastic.
"No problem, Dad," you quip, most *certainly* sarcastic.
"I don't understand," Barnett murmured. "There has been no marked change in his psychological profile. No signs of backpedaling, of a return to the
Sark personality he spent so many years constructing."
"And the protein analysis came back clean. He is, without a doubt,
exactly who we know him to be," her father added, almost triumphantly, as he looked at Kendall.
She breathed a sigh of relief that she had been holding in for seventeen
hours. So, perhaps Farah had been paranoid after all when she'd called claiming that somebody else was behind Adam's skin, his eyes, his voice? Perhaps it was just the overactive imagination of a worried girlfriend who'd been separated from the man she loved for a long period of time?
"We're going to up the surveillance on his nocturnal movements...track
where he goes... the tests didn't reveal any signs of chemical dependency, but we cannot rule that out," Kendall was saying when she tuned back in to the hushed conference. "We need to know if his behavior will adversely effect our operations."
"It may not be a chemical source. It could be mystical," Jack countered,
There was a short list of things Sydney had never expected her father to
say. "You're right" had already been crossed off, much to her surprise. But things like "Let's go to Disney World as a family," "I'd like a pair of jeans for Christmas," and "It could be mystical" were still on it. "Wh-what?" she gasped. "Mystical?"
"Yes, mystical." Her mother, seated at the far end of the long table, had
been quiet throughout the duration of the meeting. And now her typical secret smile denoted that she was ready to weigh in on the matter of her son's mental well-being. "Don't look so surprised, Sydney. Hasn't our involvement in Rambaldi's research shown you that there are realms well beyond basic human understanding?" Her words were smooth, clipped, and purely academic in the face of Kendall's audible snort. "The American government has been keeping track of these realms for decades," she assured. "Much like the intelligence community, everything is on a need-to-know basis."
"What? I...I still don't get it." Probably because she'd never "needed
to know." Never *wanted* to know.
"Have you ever sped up as you walked past a dark alley, Sydney? Have you ever felt a chill run up your spine that made you reach for your purse and
feel the weight of your agency issue weapon?" Irina laughed, softly, at her mute nod. "When you were a little girl, you used to ask me to check for monsters in your closet. To peer under your bed and look for things that go bump in the night." She tapped her perfectly-manicured red nails on the tabletop. "There are things in those alleys, in closets, under the bed. Things that *do* go bump in the night."
Kendall's jaw looked tight enough to shatter his teeth. "And Adam
Derevko-Vaughn could be involved with them," he concluded.
"We can rule out vampirism," Dr. Barnett said, delicately. "He strode
into the building this morning in direct sunlight. I would not rule out the possibility of demonic possession or some kind of spell that his daytime persona is unaware of."
Vampirism? Possession? What? Huh? She waited for the punchline. For Marshall to pop out from behind the screen and shout "Gotcha!"
But they were *serious*.
And Sydney was completely baffled. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry. In the last two years, her life had completely spun out of control. She'd lost Danny, found out that SD-6 wasn't part of the CIA, gone double agent, learned that her mother was alive, fallen in love with her handler, lost Emily...gained a brother... and now... now she was supposed to believe that not only did vampires exist, but the government *knew*?
She choked against her hand as the completely clinical and completely
absurd conversation continued around her.
No wonder Farah didn't quite recognize her boyfriend.
All of a sudden, the people in this room were strangers.
You know what they're thinking. Their small minds overloading with images of a hose tied off above a vein and a needle going in...of be-spelled beers
in the backs of bars...of barely healed twin wounds somewhere beneath your
"Erratic"? No. You've never been more focused.
They cannot possibly understand that the explosion of ashes against your designer suits is the only thing keeping you their docile, cooperative,
prisoner. Their dutiful son, their adjusting brother. That you must taste death every so often in order to savor life. That you would come to Farah bloody so she could wash you clean.
You have no name in this incarnation.
It's easier without one.
To move swiftly in shadow, cloaked in anonymity, as the others sleep, and sling your arm companionably, around someone's throat before you slit it.
You remember the short time you spent in the Agency's favorite holding
facility after your handling of Sloane. Standard procedure, they'd told you, as they worked out a deal in exchange for your cooperation. Security measures far and beyond anything at the Los Angeles office. Soldiers with keycards and containment suits at every turn. There were murmurs of a fellow named Rayne who had his own wing in the place...a crazy bastard who claimed to be a sorcerer.
He wouldn't have had a wing if they didn't believe him.
Besides, you had already, by then, been familiar with your prey.
Back alleys in London, railway stations in Prague after midnight, provide for such eclectic educational opportunities. You've killed far worse than
kittens and far more than humans for a simple challenge.
And now you crave more than simple challenges.
So, when you linger in the doorway of the newly rebuilt bar called Caritas, you scan the crowd for potential victims the way its green-skinned proprietor scans for psychic residue and emotions whenever he's in from his
fancy high-rise office downtown.
There is a charm in place that prevents demon violence, of course.
But you're no demon. Just a man.
She had the address crumpled in her palm, the ink sweating onto her skin, as she made her way down the stairs to the underground nightclub. Passing her in the hallway after the grand powwow, her mother had pressed the scrap of paper into her hand.
'Caritas', it said. Latin. Charity.
Definitely not easily found. Not Sky Bar or the Viper Room. She'd had to search.
"Wear something with a high collar," Irina had advised, with a glint in her eye, and she wasn't sure if that had been an attempt to unsettle her or honest, motherly, advice. Either way, she'd opted for a black Chinese silk top with two pearl-inlaid buttons at the collar that served the proper purpose. To match it, she'd gone for her severely cut geisha wig.
Agent Bristow, undercover even while off-duty. She couldn't go three days in her natural hair, could she?
Probably a wise choice.
Because Caritas was not a place where she wanted to be herself. Herself wasn't equipped for the big gray thing with a horn sticking out of the middle of its head sitting at the obsidian inlaid bar just off the entry. Or the furry thing next to it.
Sydney had walked into the "Star Wars" cantina. And a quick glance revealed no Luke Skywalker...and no Adam.
Oh God. Suddenly, she wanted her mother. She wanted that assurance that there were no monsters in the closet. None in front of her. None behind her. Nothing in the darkness waiting for her to surface.
"Beautiful, you look a little lost. And big time scared." The observation was flirty and flaming and reminded her of her hairdresser (and it all came back to hair, didn't it?) Julio. Except Julio didn't have bright green skin, red horns, and an absolutely fabulous Dolce & Gabana double-breasted suit. She stumbled, reaching for the wall to hold her up as the...thing...demon...whatever, clicked his tongue and shook his head. "And clumsy. First time seeing the scaly underbelly of the world, hmmm?"
She'd faced down cold-blooded killers. And now she was talking to a green thing drinking a Sea Breeze. This...this was not her life. This was not her Los Angeles.
But, apparently, it was her brother's.
"I...I'm looking for someone," she ground out, forcing a brave smile.
"Oh, aren't we ALL?" The thing, red-eyed Julio, extended a hand. "I'm Lorne. I own this humble establishment. One of my many ventures now that I'm having a lovely streak of windfall." He winked as if they were co-conspirators, but she didn't get the joke. "And if you want to find someone, Doll. I have just the thing..."
She expected him to wave his hand and part the crowd of tables and whip out a shelf of shrunken heads. Maybe a potion from the bar. Anything but point to the stage, where there was a stool and a very *human* looking guy sitting at a baby grand piano and tickling a little Barry Manilow out of the ivories...as well as a fancy stereo system and teleprompter set-up. Karaoke? He wanted her to sing Karaoke?
Los Angeles really DID have a dark side.
"Come on, Doll. Hum a few bars for the crowd and I'll see what I can do for you."
Something about the demon thing...er...Lorne's earnest face urged her on. And after a less-than-stellar rendition of Beth Hart's "L.A. Song", one that never would've impressed Alexander Khasinau, he took her hand to help her from her perch.
"First things first...you've got a *lot* of love in you. You are one lucky action hero. And I would get a ring from that tall drink of water with the worry lines because he's a keeper." She blushed despite herself. Worry lines? He could see Vaughn all from a few warblings? Lorne cocked his head, staring at her so intensely that, suddenly, she couldn't breathe for the panic. "As for the horse with no name...your brother...? You just missed him, Sydney. He left here twenty minutes ago like the very devil was on his heels..."
Before she could even be shocked at the use of her name, she was pulling away, sprinting towards the door.
And the nattily-dressed psychic green demon's last words echoed...
"Honey, the devil *was* on his heels. And he needs your help to lose him."
It is a very LA thing to do to meet your lawyer over sushi and write it
off as a business expense. Unfortunately, you have no stomach for fish ...and your lawyer is dead. And you have serious doubts as to whether or not the Agency would give you a tax write-off for meeting with the likes of Lilah Morgan.
"We're prepared to offer you a freelance cleaning contract," she says, not particularly distressed about her lifeless status...or the angry red scar
that is just barely visible beneath her stylish silk scarf. But, then again, it has been your experience that nothing distresses her. A tedious detail like being decapitated and then brought back to life by her otherworldly bosses is something akin to a broken nail. She should, you think, meet Jack and your mother.
"'Freelance' and 'contract' don't exactly go together," you point out, keeping an eye on the men skating the perimeter of the tiny sushi bar. You'd guess Yakuza but they're more likely vampires. Your spine tingles and your fingers dance in anticipation. "We're both aware of what your employer's idea of a contract is. "
"Not my new employer." She smirks, shaking her head. "He's more likely to offer you a lifetime supply of hair gel and a guilty conscience then a
one-way-ticket to Hell."
A conscience. Anton had one of those. Adam, too. For you, for Sark, the
price is entirely too high. You laugh, softly. "I merely want to provide a service."
"No, you don't." She stares at you without flinching. The same way Lorne, the host at Caritas, eyed you only an hour ago. "You're a fucked up little puppy wanting to be taken for a walk."
"Are you offering to hold my leash?" you wonder, arching an eyebrow.
"I'm full up on pets," she assures, dryly. "I just want to make sure
we're clear here. You have a day job where they expect you to act like a rational human being. We'll expect that from you, too...with a side of efficient carnage."
Oh, yes. Lilah and Irina are twin souls.
Maybe that's why you keep toying with the thought of fucking her.
After dark, you're too dangerous for Farah. You think she might know that now. It is only a matter of time before she calls Sydney or Vaughn or both
and they, too, become strange creatures crawling around in search of your shadow.
If you're lucky, your shadow will elongate across the concrete and you'll
be able to feel them stepping on the edges of your head before they catch up to you.
"Avoiding your surveillance tails will be solely your responsibility." Lilah shuffles a few files, expertly, like they are cards and she's a Vegas blackjack dealer withholding the 21 you need so badly. "We'll arrange for all target information to be held for you behind the bar at Caritas. If you get caught, neither Wolfram&Hart nor Angel Investigations will claim any affiliation with you. We have too much to do without engaging in a pointless tango with the government just because you have a hard-on for violence."
"So, why did you agree to meet me? To arrange all this?" you counter as
the prowling men finally make their move and surround you.
In a split second, you've both raised your guns from beneath the flat, low, table, and the pleasant string and flute music that brings to mind pagodas and cherry blossoms is drowned out by the harmony of silenced semi-automatic handguns and bursts of ash. Lilah rises with a crossbow in her other hand, easily polishing off two vampires as you take out the last...the nice old man who brought you your untouched California roll a mere hour before.
Lilah dusts herself off with a feral gleam in her eyes, coming around to
tap your face with her long, perfect, nails. "Maybe I have a hard-on, too, Puppy," she whispers, before she draws away and meets her own shadow chaser in the doorway.
The man takes note of you for only an instant, blue eyes sharp and keen, before he folds into her and they fade away into the night.
It all seemed like a dream to her. A haze of running through alleys, slip-sliding on garbage or blood or something else she didn't even want to define as she searched for a bright blond head bending into the darkness.
She'd searched for Adam for hours.
And she'd found him. Finally.
The next morning, slouching at his terminal as though nothing was wrong. There were no alerts from Fowler with the switchboard, no notations of erratic behavior from the security staff downstairs. Nothing. For all intents and purposes, she'd been looking for someone else. Maybe she'd dreamed the snappy suit and the red horns, too.
Because Adam Derevko-Vaughn looked rested and refreshed and was covertly playing Warcraft with Marshall under the guise of checking satellite intel for bugs.
"You look like shit, Sis'," he observed, flippantly, as she passed him. "Big Brother keep you up all night?"
Her mouth tightened in a line and she sped up, her heels clicking hard against the floor. Michael had been asleep when she finally got in, mumbling in protest as she moved his arm, slid beneath the covers and against the firm comfort of his chest. But even the solid feel of his heartbeat couldn't erase the things she'd seen...the truths that were out there.
And the fact that she'd lost an enemy but gained something far scarier when the elusive Mister Sark had become her half-brother.
After her initial tip, Farah had called again. Just this morning. "Let me see him," she'd pleaded. "I can help him."
"It's too dangerous," she'd said, efficiently, just like her father. "We are not in a position to arrange that kind of meeting."
The girl's voice had gone up a notch. "Not in a position? He *loves* me, Sydney. And I love him. I haven't stopped just because your government and my father have made some deal for my safety." In that instant, she'd seen the core of steel in Farah Ismail that must have appealed to Sark...that must've begun wooing him away from the dark side. And maybe...maybe it could woo him back this time. "Make it happen. Or I'll find my own way."
At the moment, as far as Sydney was concerned, Farah was welcome to him. Adam...Sark...whoever he was... was a loose cannon. His psych evals were clean, his hands were even cleaner...but there was no denying that he wasn't exactly walking in the light.
And wherever he went, she was determined to follow.
Even if it meant going straight into the depths of Hell.
You kill your first official demon contract at 3:32 in the morning...as Fowler snores before the t.v. set, happily dosed up on tranquilizers and Heineken. He'll wake in the morning with a headache and your snide one-liners about how he shouldn't tax himself when it comes to watching you. And you'll wake to peace of mind.
The second is harder. But only just slightly. You tell yourself it is exhaustion from an operation in Kabul and not the fact that you're getting rusty. Never mind that you never left the van. That they're still watching you.
When you come home dripping in some unidentifiable dark liquid, Fowler doesn't even blink. His shallow breaths drift him closer and closer to dreamland.
And you...farther away.
July 7, 2003.