Posted on behalf of yankluver
Title: Hands of Time
Disclaimer: Alias and its characters do not belong to me. I do this out of
a love for the show and no infringement is intended.
Summary: After Vaughn and Lauren's confrontation about Sydney, they have a long talk about the fate of their relationship.
Vaughn and Lauren sat on the bed with their backs to each other. Lauren was removing her jewelry and placing it on the nightstand. Vaughn had been in the process of removing his shoes and socks, but had stopped along the way, lost in thought.
They had yet to say a word to each other.
"Did you remember to get milk?" Lauren finally asked, breaking the silence.
He shook his head. "No, I'll get it tomorrow."
"Don't bother. I have an errand to run in the morning. I'll get it."
They lapsed into silence once more. It was Lauren who broke it again.
"What were you thinking?" she asked, shaking her head. "Helping Sydney escape like that?"
He stared straight ahead as he answered her question. "I was thinking I needed to do everything I could to save her life."
Lauren squeezed her eyes shut. "And you didn't even consider what it might mean for your job...for us?"
"That wasn't what mattered most." He paused and then asked, "What were you thinking?"
They both turned and looked at each other. Lauren remained silent.
Vaughn swallowed hard, dropping his head. "You know, Lauren, if what you did was just about doing your job, then I would accept that. I would be understanding of that. But it wasn't. You did it because you felt threatened by Sydney. You weren't doing your job. It was personal."
Lauren licked her lips, her eyes focused on his face. "And you were just doing your job? It wasn't about following orders, Michael. It was about saving your ex-girlfriend."
"Sydney is still my friend. I care about her. I'm not going to deny doing everything I can to make sure she stays safe." He paused and then added quietly, "But I hated lying to you, Lauren. I did what I had to do, but I didn't like it. I'm not sure I can say the same for you."
Vaughn waited for Lauren to respond, but she never did, so he went on. "One of the reasons I married you was your character. You always tried to do the right thing. You never let personal feelings get in the way of that. I don't know what happened to that, Lauren. The woman I married wouldn't have done what you did."
Lauren inhaled sharply, the words taking her aback. She let out a breath, before focusing her eyes on him and smiling bitterly, "Well, the woman you married had no idea what her life would turn into, did she? You're not the man I married either, Michael. The man I married was a French professor. He had loved deeply once, lost that love and did his best to move on. I always knew I would have to live with a ghost. I just never expected this."
"None of us did. No one could have predicted this," he replied with a shake of his head.
"You don't understand, Michael. Don't you remember how we started? We started out as friends. You told me all about her. I could tell how much you had loved her. I could see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice. She was gone and I knew that I could never compete with her, so I didn't even try. But I believed that if you gave me, us, a chance, we might be able to have something special."
"And we do", he said, unable to meet her eyes.
She shook her head, absently wiping at tears on her cheeks that she hadn't even realized were falling. "Our whole relationship was based on one simple fact: Sydney being lost to you. Don't you see? We wouldn't be sitting here right now if you hadn't thought Sydney died. You can't honestly believe that if she were alive and we had met under the same circumstances, that it would have progressed past friendship."
"But that's what happened, Lauren. There's no point in looking back and wondering."
"Yes. Yes, there is. One thing had to happen for us to be together: she had to be gone. That's changed now. The one event that set everything in motion has been reversed. We call her your ex-girlfriend, but there was no breakup. You didn't fall out of love with her. You just lost her. Now, she's back and I have to wonder where that leaves us."
Vaughn rubbed tiredly at his face. "I told you. We're married. Sydney's not my wife."
"I know what you said. I asked if you still loved her and that was your response, the fact that you are committed to me. I don't want to be an obligation, Michael."
"Lauren, that's not what I-…"
"You never answered my question," she said, cutting him off sharply and allowing a lingering moment of silence. She then added softly, "Do you still love her?"
Vaughn slowly met her eyes. "Lauren."
"I've always admired your honesty, Michael. You claim you hated lying to me. You claim you didn't want to do it. Then don't lie to me now. I think I deserve the truth."
He looked at her for a long moment, before dropping his head.
He didn't say a word. He didn't need to. They both knew the answer to the question.
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stop the tears. "I figured as much."
He raised his head. "I'm sorry, Lauren. You wanted the truth. Well, the truth is that you're right. I never fell out of love with Sydney. I lost her. And what we had didn't just end because I thought her life did. I just never expected…" his voice trailed off. He paused and then added, "You wanted the truth. Now you have it."
Lauren nodded. Deep down, she'd always known that, but it didn't make hearing the words any easier.
Vaughn cleared his throat, feeling the need to say something more. "There's no going back, Lauren. This is my life now."
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "I think you're lying to yourself now, Michael. Where there's love, there's always a way back."
With that, she stood up and walked into the bathroom. His eyes followed her until she disappeared from view.
* * * *
Fifteen minutes later, Lauren emerged from the bathroom carrying her cosmetic bag. She threw it on the bed and moved to the dresser. Vaughn watched her with wide eyes from his spot on the bed for a few moments, before jumping up and walking to the dresser. He touched her hands, forcing her to look at him.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm going to visit my parents in Virginia for a few days."
"Just like that? You're leaving just like that?"
"Lindsay arrived to take over for Dixon. I'll call him on my way to the airport and let him know that I need a few days. It shouldn't be a problem."
"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it. What does this mean for us?"
She shut the drawer and turned her body to face him, arms crossed over her chest. "What do you think it means?"
Vaughn's jaw tightened. "Damn it, Lauren, I'm not a mind reader!"
She shook her head and smiled bitterly, "No, I suppose you're not. If you were, then you'd know exactly what it means."
"Well, I guess you're just going to have to spell it out for me then."
Lauren squeezed her eyes shut and replied in a voice barely above a whisper, "I can't do this anymore."
Vaughn shook his head sharply. "That's it? You're just giving up?"
Lauren's eyes flew open. "Giving up? I'm not giving up. I've done my best to make this work, but I'm realistic enough to know when it won't."
"No, you're upset about what happened and you're reacting emotionally. You haven't had any time to think about this."
"I've had plenty. Since the moment that phone rang and you told me she was still alive, I've been thinking about this. I promised myself something that night. I promised myself that if the time ever came for me to let go, I would. The time's come."
Vaughn gritted his teeth together. "You're being rash, Lauren! We had a fight. Every marr-..."
"It's not about the fight, Michael. You're still in love with her. It's that simple."
The calmness of her tone unnerved him. He closed his eyes and rubbed at his face, his voice lowering. "I can't help how I feel. You wanted the truth, so I gave it to you. But I'm not married to Sydney. I'm married to you. I love you, Lauren."
Lauren smiled sadly, as a tear fell from her eye and cascaded down her cheek. "I know you do. I love you, too. But you're not in love with me, Michael. There's a difference, you know. Maybe you were before or maybe you thought you were, but once Sydney came back, that all changed. You remembered what true love feels like."
Vaughn squeezed his eyes shut. He wanted to deny everything she said, but she was right. Any denials would be transparent.
"Don't do this, Lauren. We can still make this work."
She shook her head back and forth. "We could pretend. We could go through the motions, act as if everything is fine. We could go on like that for weeks, months, even years. But she'd always be there, Michael. And we would just be prolonging the inevitable."
"You don't know that. This is all still so new. We're adjusting. We hadn't been married very long before Sydney reappeared. I know how difficult that must have been for y-..."
"No, you don't. You don't know what it's like to be married to a man and know that he wants another woman. When I married you, I knew there would always be this part of your heart that belonged to her. I accepted that. I knew that I was not your first choice, but I thought I'd be your last. And then she came back and I knew. I knew that you only had room in your heart for one woman and that woman wasn't me."
Lauren looked at him for a long moment and smiled wistfully, suddenly lost in another time and place. A better time and place.
"I still remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday. You were the most handsome man I'd ever seen. I just knew there had to be something wrong with you. No man's as perfect as they seem. I figured you would turn out to be arrogant or superficial. But you weren't. I got to know you and realized you were the man I'd spent my entire life waiting for...dreaming about. You were as perfect as they come. The only thing wrong with you, I realize now, is that you'd already found the woman you'd waited your whole life for. You'd already given her your heart. There's no changing that." She took a deep breath, "I'm not blaming you, Michael. This isn't your fault or mine or Sydney's. It's just the way it is. It's the way it has to be."
Vaughn swallowed hard. "So, the vows we made to each other...they mean nothing?"
Lauren smiled slightly. "No, for a few glorious months they meant everything. But it would be easy to use them as an excuse to continue like this. I'm not happy, Michael. I don't like the person I've become. You're right, what I did was personal. I don't want to be that person. You're not happy either. And the only way that's going to change is if we face the problem. As much as I love you, I have to let you go. It's more for me than you. I'm not going to be your consolation prize when the grand prize is sitting right there in front of you."
"It's not like that, Lauren," he managed weakly.
"That may have been a crude way to put it, but it's true all the same. I deserve better than that."
Vaughn dropped his head for a moment and then looked up into her eyes. "Is there anything I can do?"
Lauren smiled and placed her hand on his cheek. "Can you turn back the hands of time? Because I would love to have that moment before the phone rang back again. I'd love to experience that feeling one last time...That feeling of knowing I'm the only woman on earth you love. I'd want that moment before everything changed back."
Just then Vaughn's cell rang. Lauren's eyes moved to the spot where it sat on top of the dresser.
"I'm letting it ring," he said softly.
She shook her head. "No, answer it. It could be important."
Vaughn sighed, before reluctantly picking the phone up and answering it. He listened for a moment, before saying, "Okay, I'll be right there," and then hanging up.
He stared at Lauren and then dropped his head. "I have to go. Sydney's been captured by the Italian authorities." He then raised his eyes to meet Lauren's gaze and shook his head. "This isn't over."
She tilted her head to the side and responded softly, "Yes, it is."
Vaughn took a deep breath, his eyes focused intently on hers. He then raised his hand to her cheek and leaned down, bringing his lips to hers in a gentle kiss. After a few moments, he pulled back and said, "I'm so sorry."
"So am I," Lauren replied, her voice nearly strangled by a sob.
Vaughn moved to leave, but Lauren caught his arm in her hand. He turned to look into her eyes, which were veiled by unshed tears. "Find a way to be happy, Michael...or this was for nothing."
He looked at her for a long moment, before nodding and leaving the bedroom.
Lauren moved to the bed and sat down. She then covered her face, letting the full weight of what had just happened hit her.