Without Light
by Chris Anderson

Waiting. Here in the dark, alone. Waiting in the shadows.

A footstep, whisper of shoe against carpet. Not much, little sound at all, but I hear it. I hear it.

He senses me somehow, I can tell. Knows I'm there. I know what he will do before he does; I speak. "Do not turn on the light."

How many times, old friend? How many times have we been here? This place, those words... Yes. All things in the darkness, without sight, reaching in the dark... And then in the morning, nothing. In the light you remember nothing. As it has always been.

We understood each other once, so very well... And then you became this thing that I do not know, this thing I do not want to know.

And still I am here. Still I came.

"You shouldn't have run from her, Jack."

Shouldn't I have, old friend? Oh, I want to laugh- to laugh, to tell you that you are wrong. No, I should have run long ago, instead. As usual, my timing is off. Never when it is important, of course- only, instead, when it truly matters.

And so I speak again; tell you what I have come to say. The notes, leads I know you will not follow, pass between us. You brush my hand with yours the way that you used to, when you wanted me to stay and didn't know how to say it. And part of me- part of me wants to answer the way I would have then, to go to you, freeze-frame the world. Let none of it matter until the morning.

But I can't. I can't, and I won't. Not ever again.

I take your promise knowing fully what it is worth. Knowing you will never keep my secrets- that you never did. Knowing I will be betrayed the moment I leave the room.

It won't be the first time.

But it might be the last.

You see, Arvin, you made a mistake recently. It's not the first time you've screwed up, but it'll be the first time I won't be there to catch you when you fall.

If I were to add up the sum of all the things you've done wrong, it would amount to more than this. But that doesn't matter. I think now, that this might truly be the last thing. The last straw, as they say.

Even knowing, so much better than anyone ought to, what you are capable of, I still want to take you by the shoulders, demand an answer. How could you? /How could you, Arvin?/ When he was so innocent, so naive, so trusting... when he idolized you so much? How could you throw him to the wolves? Marshall, for God's sake!

You never saw him as anything more than a tool, did you? The strangest of the arrows in your quiver, but the perfect one for certain things... the best. None better, Jack- isn't that what you told me when you found him? When you seduced him with your charm and your smiles and your lies, brought him into this world of ours where he knows nothing, least of all what he /thinks/ he knows?

No, I know what you thought of him. And now, I see it in your eyes- what you think of all of them. What you would do. Marshall, Dixon... even McCullough, you would turn away from, wouldn't you? Cut your losses, find a replacement, carry on.

Marshall, Dixon, McCullough, me... Sydney.

You let me think she is special- that you love her as I do, that she is too good, too bright, too /necessary/ to you... That never, ever, no matter what- Never would she be where you have left countless others to die. In the dark, alone.

I wish that I could believe you. I do. But I cannot. I know that as long as Sydney has value to you, you /will/ protect her in your way- one must, after all, take good care of the blade if one wishes to be able to wield it.

But I did not raise my daughter to be your sword. I did not even raise her to be mine. No, I made her- what she is... I made Sydney her own sword. Trying to guide her, I found that she turned in my hand... As she will turn in yours. And I know- I knew it, suddenly, with Marshall- that she is nothing to you. That every emotion you seem to feel is a lie.

Marshall. Danny. Will. Emily. Me.

Yes, you do the- the /expedient/ thing, don't you? The moment we become burdensome to you, the moment we cease to be useful, you turn away without a second thought. You have ruined the lives of perfect strangers, because they have stood in your way. You have done- you do -worse.

Do you think I don't know, Arvin? That I haven't known all along? The Alliance told you that to secure your place as a full member, you would have to kill Emily. I know you. I know full well what you have done. And I wept for her, when I became certain none of the tears you shed were real.

There was a moment, there must have been- that instant of realization. When Emily ceased to be your wife, someone you were supposed to, in theory at least, care about, and became instead something less, a means to an end... An obstacle in the way of your damned ambition.

She loved you, you know. Yes, I who have failed so miserably in emotional relationships, still recognize real love when I see it. And Emily loved you. I would say that God only knows why. But I loved you too. So in a way I understand.

Yes, she loved you. She loved you, and she never questioned, never complained, never grew angry because you could not love her back. She understood about us, when a lesser woman would have been furious. You, of course, never knew what you had.

But who am I to cast stones? I didn't, either.

But at least I loved her. Oh, that haunts me now- more than you will ever know, believe me- but I did love her. I loved her every moment I had her. And I wept, real tears, when I lost her.

You were there. Of course you were there. That was when it began. Too much to drink, and it didn't help at all, not really, and I told you to leave me alone, to go and leave me the hell /alone/, but you wouldn't- you wouldn't, and then suddenly you were holding me, holding me the way that she used to... And we chased each other's demons away.

I didn't know then, just how dark or how numerous your demons really were. But I would learn. My sorrow, but I learned.

Irina said once that I was a fool. She was right. You see, I thought, because you loved me- and I believed this, of course, just as Emily believed it- I thought because you loved me, because you cared for my daughter, that you would never hurt her. That you would never let Sydney come to harm. You promised me, there in the dark- we would take care of her, together.

And God forgive me, Arvin, because I believed you.

You said you would never hurt her. Only you would believe that killing the man she loved didn't count.

And then you tried to take another of those she loved away- and I couldn't have it. I /could not/ have it. You told her another of your lies- that you wanted to spare her the pain of another loss. You took what I had done, tried to pass it off as your own. Was it then I felt what used to be between us begin to turn to something else? It could have been.

You don't know this, of course, but I am the one who held Will Tippin after we got him back, who held him and soothed him though I didn't know how, though I didn't believe my own words. Who had to show a reporter that sometimes the truth does anything but set you free. I saw what was done to him... And I see it again in Marshall's eyes when he comes back to us... He doesn't know it yet, but he has crossed the first line. He is bloodied, now, when he did not ever have to be. When he should have been spared it.

But why should you of all people be expected to believe- that innocence should be preserved?

It wasn't what you did to Marshall, or even Will, that brought me to this point. No. It was Sydney.

You saw what you wanted- saw that she could be /useful/ to you- and you didn't care for anything else. You brought her into this. Your best friend's daughter. Your- No. What we were to each other doesn't matter. I realize now that it never did. Foolishly I thought that it should have- and so I went to you. I went to you and I said then what I want to say now, not knowing then that it would do no good. How could you, Arvin? How could you?

Do you remember what you told me? She's good, Jack. She is the best.

Do you think that I don't know that? She /is/ the best, better than you, better than me... Better than either of us deserve.

I must have looked outranged, furious, but you went on. Either you didn't notice or you didn't care. SD-6 can use her, that's what you told me. Meaning, of course, that you could use her. And this was my cue- SD-6, the magic word. The one that was supposed to make everything alright. And it must have seemed to; I calmed down, nodded, smiled back at you. Went out and apologized to Dixon for being an overprotective father. The smile I gave him when he said I should be proud of her, was genuine. At least he knew her worth. At least he never knew what he was bringing her into.

You did, and so it is you I hold responsible.

And you, Arvin, who have always put yourself before others, never put anyone else first- you will never comprehend it. It's never me I have cared about, never myself I wanted to keep safe. I know what I have to do, I know that it is what I have been trained for, what I am good at. No, it was never me. It was Sydney. Always Sydney.

If you had children of your own, would you grasp it then? Or would you only see them as pieces upon the chessboard, as you see her?

Once you said to me, how much I must hate Irina Derevko. How much I must /hate/ her for what she has done to me...and to Sydney, you add, as an afterthought. As if this doesn't really matter. And there was a time that I did. But the thing you have never realized about hate, is that at its deepest form it comes from love. Love shattered, love broken, love twisted, love beyond its limits- but love.

If I said that love was the reason I hated you so now, would you realize what I meant? Love of my daughter...and of you, once so long ago? I doubt it. One day you may understand. One day...

I'm not a religious man, Arvin. In what we refer to as 'our line of work', it isn't something it pays to give a lot of thought to. But lately I have been wishing- I have killed before. Men who would have killed me if I had not killed them first. Men who had done horrible things... the occasional woman who had also done horrible things... Men who posed a threat to me...or a threat to Sydney. And so lately I have been wishing...

But can you send the devil back to hell? Can you?

In some ways you are already there. I see you start in your chair every time the office door slams, every time the phone rings... Every woman turning the corner just out of sight, is Emily. Every sound in the night, every wrong number... You wonder if it's real, if you are losing your grip. I can tell you truly, you aren't. And it is real.

Ariana Kane is right, but for all of the wrong reasons. Or perhaps she isn't. I have not so much betrayed you, as turned in your hand. And I do not do it for ambition, for power- the last thing on Earth I want is your seat at the Alliance table.

No. Again it is love, old friend- love as you will never, ever know it. I do it...for Danny, for Will, for Emily- for those countless others you have killed or destroyed... For Sydney, whose life you have irrevocably changed. Perhaps I do it for me, also- for the simplest and most petty of reasons, maybe. You hurt me, and so I am going to hurt you back.

But really it is simpler than that.

I do what I do, so that one day, my daughter and I can go home. So that we can go home, rebuild our relationship and our lives...

No, I don't hate Irina. I can't.

I swore to myself once, I would trust her before I ever took you at your word again. Careful what you wish for, but now... Yes, Arvin, I will face those ghosts of my past, make deals with the darkness if it will bring down the devil. I will trust her, let her help me, help us, bring you to your knees.

I will trust the woman I may still love, to destroy the evil of the man I never should have. The woman I can still, if I wish, go to in the middle of the night, before the one I will never again be weak enough to turn to.

But it's love, Arvin... and so I don't expect you to understand.


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