Domesticating Ghosts
by Anna S.

The door slid open, revealing a long, badly lit hallway and an agent slumped against the wall.

"Agent Weiss, I presume?" she said as they shook hands.

"Yup. Agent Reed, right?" Lauren nodded, taking a second to examine his appearance. If the softness of his hands hadn't already confirmed it, she would have guessed that he wasn't a field agent from the tight lines of his shirt.

He also looked a little less than professional. Sweat stains both old and new spotted his suit, and there was at least two days worth of stubble on his chin. When he didn't comment on her British accent, she decided that she liked him anyway.

"I suppose I should give you the tour," he said, gesturing down the hallway. "Follow me."

After passing several checkpoints, they reached a series of offices, and Weiss pointed out the ones that would be important. Nodding her head at the office of the agent in charge of their operation, she said, "Jack Bristow. Any relation to the missing agent?"

"Jack is Sydney's father," Weiss replied as he led her into the main operations room. "How unusual," she said, trying to keep her voice emotionless, so it wouldn't sound like she was passing judgement.

Weiss smiled as if she had made a joke. "That's just the start. Irina Derevko is Sydney's mother, the guy over there in the blue suit is her boyfriend, one of the guys with him is one of her closest friends, and the other one's her ex-partner."

"Let me guess. You're her long lost brother," Lauren said, her tone a mixture of amusement and disbelief.

"Nope, I'm no relation. Although I forgot to mention that the prisoner mentioned in your briefing packet is actually Sydney's half-brother." He paused as she blinked in surprise. "I've been thinking about creating a flow chart to make things easier on the rest of us."

"That sounds like it might be worth doing. So, what's my assignment in this family reunion?"

"Same as the rest of us. Find Sydney Bristow." Weiss looked as if he were going to add something when one of the agents from the other side of the room walked over.

"Vaughn meet Lauren Reed. Reed meet Michael Vaughn," Weiss said.

Without meeting her eyes or shaking her hand, Vaughn said, "Kendall told us that your area of specialty is abductions."

"Yes--"" she began, but he cut her off, telling her to follow him in a clipped voice. As they reached the cluster of agents in the middle of the operations center, he curved his lips into the shape of a smile.

Accepting the apology offered in that, she smiled back, pleased to see how quickly his half-hearted smile turned into the real thing.


She was the one who found the body.

Twenty minutes after a routine call from a local precinct which had found a woman matching Sydney's description, Lauren pulled up to the pier.

The police had unzipped the body bag so that only her face was visible, but that was enough. Despite the white slivers of bone peeking through in the places where her skin had been torn away, Sydney was still recognizable as herself.

Lauren's hands were shaking all the way back to the operations center, but she didn't use the cell-phone clutched in her right hand, and she drove at an almost leisurely pace. Every second she sat in that car, with the memory of Sydney's water-softened skin, was another second that Vaughn didn't know. Another moment for him to believe in hope, no matter how slight.

Vaughn must have known when she walked in, but he made her say the words, forced her to repeat them over and over until they didn't have any meaning left for her. When the news finally sank in, he turned his face away from her, but even from his profile she could recognize that what he was feeling was relief.

Responding to that, she said, "Knowing will be easier--" but he cut her off.

"What gives you the right to talk about her? You didn't even know Sydney-- you don't anything about her or about us. Nothing." Sorrow magnified his anger and with each word, his voice got louder, until he was practically screaming.

"Vaughn," she said, keeping her voice soft, but his eyes were still narrowed at her in hatred.

And she knew even then, as he simply stood up and left, that this was the one thing he would never forgive her for.


The first time they slept together, it was just the two of them, no ghosts, no recriminations. Mutual desire and mutual affection with a healthy dose of adrenaline.

Afterwards, he curled up against her, eyes still open.

"Aren't you going to sleep?" she asked, pleasantly exhausted by the combination of a risky operation and sex.

He sighed and for the first time that night, she felt the twinge of Sydney's presence. "God, I haven't slept, really slept in forever. First it was because I was worried about Sydney, and then it was because of her mother, and then all hell broke loose, and I think my body just forgot how to sleep."

"You can sleep now," she said, running her fingers through his hair. She wondered if he would ever let himself simply be happy, or if the ghosts of his past would always resurface.

"We seem to do less sleeping and more of other things in this bed." He grinned at her, and something warm and heavy caught in her chest. Even after a year, there were moments when she felt physically assaulted by his beauty.

"Shh," Lauren said in mock seriousness. "Sleep now. We have plenty of time for the other things."

Pain creased his brow for a second, but then she reached out and smoothed his eyelids shut.

"Sleep" she repeated, and when his eyes stayed closed for more than five minutes, she allowed herself to join him.


He announced one morning over breakfast that he was quitting the CIA. She was tempted to talk him out of it, since it seemed downright senseless to throw away years of dedication and training. Besides, she loved the smooth sound of his voice in her ear and the knowledge that he was waiting outside, gun in hand if something went wrong, and a kiss at the ready, if everything went to plan.

But the CIA was turning him bitter. He complained about its incompetence at not finding Sydney quickly enough, at losing Sark after only a few months, at losing his mother's killer.

Before Michael, most of her relationships fell apart because she was too stubborn, too demanding, and for the first time the opposite was true. She wasn't exactly easy on him, but she let certain things go.

When he asked her to marry him, she knew that it was part of the psychological fallout of losing Sydney. Vaughn was afraid of having somebody else disappear from his life, so he was tying her to it in the only way he knew how.

She didn't care. For once, her dreams weren't about professional success or a well-aimed kick. And despite Weiss' plea for her to wait, his warnings of heartbreak, she wanted him.

And after she had him, she got to watch as all of the anger and the tension fell away from his face, leaving his forehead free of wrinkles. Loose polo shirts replaced his government uniform, and with her encouragement, he started to add a little color to his wardrobe.

It was nothing at all like what she'd expected her life to be like, but she suspected that was true for him too. And that didn't make it any less real.


On the anniversary of Sydney's death, they had sex on the couch and then they fucked on the floor before she finally dragged him to the bed.

"For the sake of your knees," she said with a smirk, but he didn't smile.

"Don't talk, okay?" he said, as he traced the muscles of her stomach with his fingers. For the first time that she could remember, he didn't meet her eyes as he drove into her, for the first time he bit his lip instead of calling her name.

She understood then that this was how you loved a ghost.


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