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21 June 2005 @ 09:15 pm
Bona Fides, Part 11 (Alias, J/V)  
So sorry that I'm behind on answering comments. This day has been kind of sucky and now I'm pretty sleepy. This bit isn't really scrubbed for typos yet. Corrections always welcome.



Bona Fides

11.

So very fucked.

Vaughn was processing his thoughts when Jack turned and eased against his back, arm sliding around his waist.

It was one of those times when Vaughn thought he could sense vulnerability in another person. Jack was being open, but he could close up tight again in an instant, like one of those ferns that curl inward at the brush of a finger. At the moment Jack seemed to trust him, and if Vaughn pulled away, he might strike a hairline crack in their rapport that could divide them later at some crucial point in the op. But if he was just as open, he was as good as admitting they had a relationship.

And then, suddenly, he realized that they did. He'd been with women in situations just as tenuous and ambiguous, where neither of them knew how things would go--if they'd date casually or move in together, or even be together in a week's time. The idea of trusting Jack to treat his heart and pride gently felt like wearing a target and asking to be shot down, but what if Jack himself was doing that? Everything was a gamble.

He twisted and refit himself face to face with Jack, and smiled. Jack met his eyes and smiled back and stroked a hand along his side, down over his hip. It made him catch his breath a little.

"Good morning," Jack said. Vaughn wasn't sure he'd heard that tone of voice before; warm and easy, all soft baked apple, no crust. *I baked you*, Vaughn thought with amused satisfaction.

"Hi." He smiled more widely. He started to kiss Jack, then flinched back in apology. "God, I'm such a mess. I should get cleaned up--"

Jack kissed him thoroughly until getting out of bed seemed like a really stupid idea he'd once had several years ago. He gave into it. Jack's hands on his skin felt rough and hard compared to the soft sheets and Vaughn was starting to get needy again. He pushed forward with the entire length of his body. Jack lazily palmed his ass with circular motions as if he were getting accustomed to something he owned. And then he gently rolled Vaughn onto his back and held his jaw and kissed him some more. Then, lower.

"Do we have a flight?" Vaughn said dazedly, holding on to a thread of professional pride.

"Not for several hours." Jack ran a tongue along his collarbone, then shifted up mid-kiss with a serious and hesitant gaze. "Do you mind if I do this?" He emphasized the *this* with a caress across Vaughn's chest.

"What? Is that a trick question?"

"We're far past necessity."

"You mean...for the op."

"Yes."

"I know," he admitted. And now it was out there between them. It didn't feel as uncomfortable as he'd expected. He stretched his arms back, wedging them half under his pillow. He felt catlike, his body alerting itself for happy pleasure. And he thought: *What the hell*. Dabbling your toes in the water was for wimps. "You're sexy, you know that?"

Jack just stared at him, nonplussed. "No."

Vaughn laughed. "What? Just 'no'? Come on. Jack." He realized then from Jack's expressionless face that the other man was distrustful of the compliment. He flashed on a thought of Irina and how she must have manipulated him all those years. God. What a fucking bitch. "You're incredibly sexy," he said.

The assurance just made Jack pull away further. He was closing down now, as if he believed Vaughn was playing him. Vaughn sat up and held him there before he could leave entirely.

"Hey. You don't trust me?" He was equally serious now.

Behind cloaked, possibly wounded eyes Jack continued to study him, then said, "We're maintaining a cover. I should know better than anyone how the lines can blur. What I said a minute ago--you should disregard it."

"Fuck that." That was insulting as hell. "Do you think last night was business? I didn't think of the job at all. Not once." He wanted to communicate the epiphany he'd had.

Jack glanced away and Vaughn saw his throat move as if he were swallowing back words. He must have had to do that a million times in his life; forbid himself what he wanted to say in case it turned out to be a mistake. He wouldn't want to set himself up for betrayal again.

"You know, Jack, there comes a point when you have to take someone on faith. If you choose not to believe the things I say--what am I supposed to do?"

He got another opaque, searching gaze at his question. "I don't know."

"You're such an asshole." Despite the words, Vaughn couldn't rouse himself to real heat. In fact, he suddenly felt mellow and indulgent of Jack's insecurity. "I still like you, though. Get used to it." He left Jack and went to take a shower.

***

Jack got terse when you rubbed him the wrong way. Actually, if you whittled hard enough, you could get him down to single syllables, spaced out grudgingly over the course of insufferable hours. But Vaughn wasn't trying for that. He was simply being quiet himself, because he knew that anything he said would fall on deaf ears.

The trip across the Atlantic and then to L.A. passed with intervals of silence, their remarks coinciding only with the arrival of the flight attendant. And even then they spoke to her, not to each other.

Vaughn considered himself a patient man. Or at least a man who could brood as good as he got. Either way, he was usually amiable about being ignored unless there was a heavy hanging tension in the air. Jack's tension seemed to be turned inward, though. Vaughn could take that in stride. He must have done something right, as it happened, because thousands of miles later when they were driving home from LAX, Jack broke the silence by apologizing.

"What?" Vaughn said, turning his head toward Jack. He'd been focused on the landscape out the window, almost tranced.

"I said, I'm sorry. For creating a disagreement where none existed."

His immediate reaction was: *wow*. Without thinking, he reached out and stroked Jack's arm. "It's okay."

And then Jack took his hand and held it for a few miles. It was a new day, and this was the best thing that had happened in it so far. And then they got home and got into the shower and got warm and dirty, and the day got even better.

***

Regrouping from their recent missions meant time spent analyzing and planning for the next ones, but there was always more than one pot on the fire. Their own cover required occasional review. They met with Pendergrast again, aced his tests, and got passed along to Mission Counseling with Judy Barnett. Vaughn's visit was first and he took a seat in her office with a nod of greeting, hoping to project the air of an agent ready to meet due diligence no matter what invasive questions he was asked.

Barnett tipped her head and smiled at him. She looked like a guidance counselor giving full focus to a pupil who needs special attention. Her experience showed. She had the poised air befitting a top agency shrink, her curiosity neutral, her surface polished.

"So how are you doing?"

"Fine." The word was his first reflex. She kept her smile on; it seemed like a knowing one. "You probably want to hear more than that," he offered.

"Yes."

Defensiveness was natural. He could try to convince himself that he didn't feel it, but under his casual attitude he did. "You know how weird this mission is," he said with a shrug, casting it out as a preliminary statement.

Before he could go on, she asked, "Weird in what way?"

The probing had begun. He almost grimaced. "It's not often you're officially asked to sleep with a fellow agent."

"To *sleep* with a fellow agent," she repeated. She didn't hide her interest. "When you say sleep with, you mean having sex."

Denying it would be disingenuous and pointless. He swallowed once. "Yes."

"Were you asked to do that in so many words, Agent Vaughn?"

His face heated slightly, but he maintained the bearing of a seasoned agent, refusing to be put off balance. "It's implied."

"Is it?"

More impatiently, he said, "Yes."

"So you're sleeping with Agent Bristow--Jack. You're having sex. How are you handling that?" She exuded professional concern, which was not quite sympathy or even empathy.

"It's sex." He had to work harder at his pose of indifference now. "It's part of the job." It occurred to him in an objective way how whorish that sounded, but it was a little late to get squeamish.

"Is that how you think of it--like a job?"

"I'm not a robot," he said tersely.

"I'm sorry." She affected immediate contriteness. "I didn't mean to suggest you were. It's natural and human to experience intimacy as something personal." She paused. "That *is* what you're telling me?"

"Yes."

He saw her switch gears, her gaze shifting down for a thoughtful moment before lifting again. "It is an unusual mission," she acknowledged. "In simulating intimacy, it's inevitable that you'll become intimate--I'm not talking now about the physical aspects." He nodded. "Without intimacy, the cover would be unconvincing. You'd be putting yourselves in jeopardy." Where she was going with this wasn't clear. "Right now, what feelings make you the most uncomfortable about your relationship with Jack?"

The question didn't catch him off guard, but that didn't mean he wanted to answer it. "I've never been with a man before."

"Anxiety on that point is expected and normal. We can certainly talk about it more later. But for now, let's go beyond that."

"I don't know what you're looking for."

"I think you do." She gave him a quick smile to take the sting from her words. "You need to be able to analyze your own reactions in order to compensate for them. It's part of any agent's professional tool-kit. Whatever evokes the strongest response in you will be your vulnerable point."

Resentful of her patronizing, he said, "I know that. I just--" He took a breath, forcing himself to detach. "I don't know."

"Tell me the first thing that comes to mind."

He almost did, then caught himself.

She smiled cannily. "You had a thought just then."

He couldn't stop a glare. "Look, you want me to analyze my feelings, fine. But I don't need to share them to do that."

"Agent Vaughn," she chided. When he said nothing right away, her manner became more formal. She channeled the voice of the agency, showing him she could be stern. "Mission counseling is a requirement."

For a moment their gazes locked in stalemate, then he looked away toward the window, fingers knotting in front of him. "He's older than me. A lot older." He fell silent again. She waited him out. "It turns me on...a lot."

"Do you think that has something to do with losing your father?" she asked, getting right to the point.

"You're the shrink."

A brief, automatic smile met his words. "There's nothing wrong with what you're feeling."

"I knew you'd say that," he muttered, evading her gaze again.

"Why is it difficult for you?"

"You don't think that's kind of sick?" he said, more confrontational now. "Fucking someone who's like a father figure?"

She blinked and raised her brows mildly. "No." With a tip of her head she added, "Why do you? It sounds like an intense feeling. Does that make it more wrong?"

"It's harder to control. This job is about control."

"Do you want to control Jack?" she asked point-blank, as if that was what he'd been getting at.

Her words flashed through him and his mouth went dry. The thought brought an intense surge of images and feeling, unbelievably arousing and inappropriate for the current time and place. "I can't--why is that important?" he asked a bit desperately.

"The more emotional this becomes, the more you need to understand your working dynamic. Emotions will influence your decision-making abilities, your instincts. If you make something personal at the wrong moment, you could put yourself in danger. And Agent Bristow." Without warning she straightened in her chair, a fresh smile like punctuation at the end of a sentence. "That's all for today. I'd like you to think over what we've talked about before we meet again."

***

Vaughn did leave Barnett thinking about the things he'd said, not so much obeying instructions as mulling on his own. But trying to pick apart what were apparently his daddy issues somehow turned into thinking about Jack's hands and the smell of his aftershave and the brisk sharp tugs he gave his shoelaces when tying them. He was perhaps smiling goofily to himself when he ran into Sydney at the entrance to the control room. She was carrying a leather clip folder and a pen as if she were on her way to a meeting, but she wasn't hurrying.

"Hey," she said, stopping on her way out as he stopped on his way in. She'd thawed a bit toward him since Heidelberg. Being rescued would do that to a person.

"Hey. How's it going?"

"Good. I took a few days off to wind down. Post-Sark stress syndrome."

"I've heard that can be tough." Vaughn smiled, and then loose connections fired in his mind--Sydney, Jack, downtime--and on impulse he said, "You should come over for dinner soon."

She held his eyes so steadily that he could tell she was about to lie in some way. "Sure." Agreement, and a smile in return, but only a thin veneer of enthusiasm.

"Look. I know you hate this--"

"I don't hate this." Automatic denial was the least credible response she could have made. She might be the world's best actress when she made the effort, but at any other time her social pretenses were cursory.

"Syd, come on. I'm sleeping with your father. It's totally understandable."

"You know he's twice your age."

"He is not!" he said, piqued at her brattiness. "He'd have to be sixty-eight!"

"He's old enough to be your father."

"So what? Plenty of relationships have age differences."

She stepped forward, close enough for discomfort. She was a tall woman with steady Bristow eyes and he realized too late that he'd provoked her, like a kid riling a caged tigress that had looked deceptively relaxed.

"You want me to speak plainly? No problem. You and my father are on some kind of op. I know it. My gut tells me. You have to maintain cover. To do that, you're having sex. Fine. That's your business and his. But know this. If you hurt my father...I will make you pay."

Since Jack was more likely to rip his heart out than he Jack's, that was pretty rich, but he admired her loyalty.

"I'm not going to hurt him," he said, avoiding the issue of the mission. At this point it seemed unnecessary to keep up his denials, even if he couldn't confirm it. "I care for him. Really."

She stepped back, putting formal space between them again. Her brown eyes were still piercing, but the warning edge in them had softened. "You know you just tacitly admitted you're on an op."

He smiled. "I did not. You just have persistent delusions that I humor, as a friend."

Some vigilance of muscles in her shoulders relaxed and a tiny smile escaped her lips. She eased back a little more. "You're better at this spy stuff than I thought."

"You know, I get enough daily condescension in my diet, thanks," he said dryly.

Now her cheeks dimpled. "You mean my dad."

"Who else?"

"So what would you serve for dinner?"

She was a hard person to keep up with at the best of times. "You like duck?"

"Duck." She raised her brows at the same time she lowered her head. A challenging and skeptical attitude.

"Yeah, duck." He gave her a mock quizzical look back. "You think I can't cook?"

"Right. All gay men can cook."

"Oh my god, you're such a bitch." He grinned widely, and then invited her to dinner the next night. She accepted.
 
 
 
Fandom: karass or granfalloon. Discuss.sherrold on June 22nd, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
god how I adore you
This is so damn sweet!

Vaughn wasn't sure he'd heard that tone of voice before; warm and easy, all soft baked apple, no crust. *I baked you*, Vaughn thought with amused satisfaction.

I really love the little bit of Syd we see here, too -- I love how he sees the difference between "on" Syd, and just Syd in the office She might be the world's best actress when she made the effort, but at any other time her social pretenses were cursory.

But it's not just little para by para bits othis that I love -- I love the whol damn evolving arc of their relationship, and I can't wait to see where it's going next, now that Vaughn has actually said out loud that he's got Daddy issues (which nearly made me urk up my oatmeal!)

S--
Anna S.: christian-bale-smileeliade on June 22nd, 2005 04:42 am (UTC)
Re: god how I adore you
And I adore you! *mad glommage* How are you doing? I can't wait to see you on Thursday. :)
julia_herejulia_here on June 22nd, 2005 04:50 am (UTC)
Some vigilance of muscles in her shoulders relaxed and a tiny smile escaped her lips. She eased back a little more. "You're better at this spy stuff than I thought."
"You know, I get enough daily condescension in my diet, thanks," he said dryly.


Bother. That isn't quite enough, but I played with the quote cut for several minutes and that's the only thing smaller than the whole chapter I can point to. Vaughn is not thinking of Syd at all, and they're better able to communicate, seem to have a more tangible friendship, than when he thought of her. This is another turn around, isn't it? Another subtle change as important as Jack holding Vaughn's hand, earlier, and as important as Vaughn's recognition of the way the age difference turns him on?

Freaking amazing, in any case, and deeply satisfying.

Julia, hoping for a less oppressive atmosphere tomorrow



cindershadow on June 22nd, 2005 05:40 am (UTC)
That I wasn't expecting a new piece today made this even more of a treat. I love how Vaughn is starting to notice and speculate more about what might be going on inside of Jack; it's fascinating to follow the subtle shifts as their relationship keeps changing here. You build this so skillfully, out of little moments and seemingly ordinary actions and apparently casual statements; that's why rereading is so rewarding, even as the initial rush of the first go-through is still reverberating. And of course the touches of dry humor are delightful.

Ah, and those control issues--intriguing reminder of the complexities seen so far in their interactions both in and out of clothing. I like that you haven't made this important element overly simple or one-way. (Here's hoping Vaughn's not-quite-intentional candor with Ms. Mission Counseling doesn't cause difficulties later, since he/we don't know what Jack's version is going to be.)

Thanks again--now back to read it at least once more tonight.



Girl with Spoon: Boyscout and Spydaddy2am_optimism on June 22nd, 2005 05:50 am (UTC)
"Good morning," Jack said. Vaughn wasn't sure he'd heard that tone of voice before; warm and easy, all soft baked apple, no crust. *I baked you*, Vaughn thought with amused satisfaction.

:) Just fantastic to see a completely believable other side to Jack. I adore the prickly way you're playing the developing relationship.

Sydney's reaction is also highlighting one of my frustrations with the show - in that whenever anyone tries to keep a secret from her, she bulldozes her way through until she finds out - surely it would just be easier (and more secure) for everyone to just tell her what's going on from the beginning?

Love the artifice of Barnett's professional emotive displays during counselling too. And Vaughn's daddy issues!

Best thing ever to wake up to first thing in the morning, thank you :)
abbyleeabbylee on June 22nd, 2005 06:11 am (UTC)
Okay, tonight I'm going with the quoting reply.

Jack glanced away and Vaughn saw his throat move as if he were swallowing back words. He must have had to do that a million times in his life; forbid himself what he wanted to say in case it turned out to be a mistake. He wouldn't want to set himself up for betrayal again.

That's my Jack :D

And then Jack took his hand and held it for a few miles. It was a new day, and this was the best thing that had happened in it so far. And then they got home and got into the shower and got warm and dirty, and the day got even better.

I love the word play you have going here.

"So you're sleeping with Agent Bristow--Jack. You're having sex. How are you handling that?" She exuded professional concern, which was not quite sympathy or even empathy.

I can hear Barnett's voice here, and I would have even if you hadn't named her. You've got that perfect, even, enquiring way of talking that she has.

"I don't hate this." Automatic denial was the least credible response she could have made. She might be the world's best actress when she made the effort, but at any other time her social pretenses were cursory.

I liked this, because you've given a nod to the disconnection between how we see her in different situations, showing that it makes sense that she can maintain control in an op but be blindsided with her friends.

Since Jack was more likely to rip his heart out than he Jack's, that was pretty rich, but he admired her loyalty.

I love how he's already noticed earlier how much Jack protects himself, but he still can't translate that to understanding how much more he can hurt Jack than Jack can hurt him. Vaughn knows how to bounce back, even if it takes him ages. Jack doesn't.

"You know, I get enough daily condescension in my diet, thanks," he said dryly.

Love. Love. Love.

Thank you.
Anaxila / Babblesanaxila on June 22nd, 2005 07:15 am (UTC)
OMG, I love you! Haven't read it yet, and have a plane to catch, but now I have something to read on the next flight! Wheeeeeee! You are the best friend evar!
Humairahumaira_k on June 22nd, 2005 11:50 am (UTC)
WHeee! Barnett could be a secret psychopathic psychologist. Try saying that first thing in the morning! Yay Jack for letting himself be vulnerable! And Sydney for accepting the dinner invitation. Now this will be fun!
A carbonated fusion beverage!: swmbo king crownswmbo on June 22nd, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
all soft baked apple, no crust. *I baked you*, Vaughn thought with amused satisfaction.


*melts*

Awww. And omg, daddy issues and daddy!kink and suddenly this already amazing story just went to a new level. YAY!
alittlebritonalittlebriton on June 22nd, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC)
I like the fact that Vaughn both wants to control Jack and gets off on the fact that he can't. Sigh. Older men are hot.
Rimau Sua Lay: dreamsua_lay on June 22nd, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC)
"Right. All gay men can cook."

:D Well, since Vaughn is already thinking about becoming an interior designer with the aubergine walls, I can't see why he couldn't live up to this cliche as well.

I can't possibly tell you how much I'm enjoying this fic. It's both subtle and action packed, the balance between the plot and the pron is excellent.

*applauds*
The Alpha Beta: Yay! - meretdiluvian on June 22nd, 2005 02:48 pm (UTC)
Spy!Daddy issues! Bweeee!

And, this I particularly love:

a man who could brood as good as he got.

::adores::
flaming museflaming_muse on June 22nd, 2005 03:50 pm (UTC)
Oooooooooooooh yeah.

*insert intelligent comment here*
witlingwitling on June 22nd, 2005 04:31 pm (UTC)
Mmmmm. Again I say, yeth.
lost2mercy: suzvoy's guhlost2mercy on June 22nd, 2005 04:46 pm (UTC)
This is so my crack these days. *bows to the dealer*
Carriecbking on June 23rd, 2005 01:17 am (UTC)
Fantabulous. I'm so curious to see where this is going to go . . .
Herself_nyc: William pre-vamp by proudducklingherself_nyc on June 24th, 2005 03:02 am (UTC)
Great convo with Syd, and the thing with the shrink--really tricksy. Wow. This is all a big wow.
(Deleted comment)
Herself_nycherself_nyc on November 2nd, 2005 06:32 pm (UTC)
Wah! I can't believe you just left this here!!!!
avvaroze on November 17th, 2005 04:45 am (UTC)
Um, hi. I'm very new here. I just came in and read all of your J/V fics in the past 24 hours. I then went through the rest of your LJ and I can't find anymore. Now, I don't want to come across as whiney or demanding but...you can't just get someone hooked like that and then cut them off. I mean, it's just not nice. Now, I'm not normally one to have an OTP, I usually have one favorite character that I will read with just about anbody, but I think you converted me. Also, I don't think this one is finished. The Op's not over yet. I guess what I'm trying to say is, PLEASE write more. Please. Please. Please.
MELODY GLOUCESTER PEGASUS: Red Lipsjolielaide on January 19th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
meow.
Herself_nyc: Jack Bristow-Arvin's Evil-by roniabirkherself_nyc on June 4th, 2006 10:04 am (UTC)
I just want you to know that, having screened a couple early Alias eps with Bitca last night, I then HAD to reread this. HAD TO. I love it so very very very very very much.
(Anonymous) on July 26th, 2006 11:29 am (UTC)
BONA FIDES
I've just discovered your wonderful stories and u end this like this??????????
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
please!
R u writing some more alias
(Anonymous) on July 26th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)
BONA FIDES
I've just discovered your wonderful stories and u end this like this??????????
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
please!
R u writing some more alias?
(Anonymous) on November 26th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
BONA FIDES
Wow!! Your fic has blown me away. Before this I couldn't picture J/V before, you've made it believable and fluid. Great characterizations all around!

"Good morning," Jack said. Vaughn wasn't sure he'd heard that tone of voice before; warm and easy, all soft baked apple, no crust. *I baked you*, Vaughn thought with amused satisfaction.

"I baked you" I think that will stick with me for a long time, yummmm. I can't wait to read more of your great fic. Georgia
Herself_nycherself_nyc on January 2nd, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
I'm an idiot--these last two parts ARE in your memories, I just didn't scroll down far enough.

Another reread, another WOWSA.