after.midnight // v.naked
Title: Kindred
Author: Tamara
Rating: R, Vaughn/Irina angst
Disclaimer: They don't belong to me. JJ owns all.
Summary: Vaughn, Irina, and the ghost of Sydney.

kindred - n. having a similar or related origin, nature, or character.


Toothpaste. Toothbrush. Razor. Shaving cream. Aftershave.

He tossed the items into the bag, grabbing the box of bandages and a tube of Neosporin. There were three other tubes lying around the apartment -in deference to his mother, who was convinced that Neosporin was one of God's greatest gifts to the world, along with ice cream, chocolate, sex, and the cell phone. There was one in the kitchen in the drawer next to the stove, one in the spare bedroom, and one hidden between the cushions of the couch in the living room.

It's a simple thing, small and insignificant, but the thought of that tube banishes his sunny mood into darkness.

He and Sydney had never gotten around to using it that night. Bandaging cuts didn't seem so important when all you wanted to do was take pleasure in being alive; when feeling him inside her was more important to her than breathing, when the feel of her warmth surrounding him was the only thing that mattered. It was one of the consequences of surviving death.

He tossed the rest of the things he needed into his bag, closed the medicine cabinet, and walked out of the bathroom.

"Where are they sending you?" she asked, softly. There was a hint of sadness in her voice. He dismissed it as impossible. Sadness meant that she cared. Sadness meant that what they had -anger, grief, need, desperation- meant something.

It was too soon for that.

"France," he said, chuckling without humor. "Couldn't get out of it."

And he had tried. Hard. He had begged and pleaded and had gotten nowhere.

He'd spent the next three days trying to forget other memories of France. Getting caught making love under the Eiffel Tower at three in the morning. Spending the weekend in the tiny little chalet in the mountains. Planning a family as they strolled around the gardens of the house where he'd spent summer vacations and Christmas holidays. Had tried so hard and failed.

"Why would you want to?" she asked after a moment, genuinely curious. "I would think your mother would be happy to see you."

Just when things were going well -pleasant conversation, interest in the everyday happenings of his life, regret that he would soon be leaving- she had to mention his mother.

Mireille Delorme-Vaughn. The woman who raised him by herself after her world had crumbled, who wanted grandchildren and a daughter-in-law to shower with love and affection she had given him so unconditionally. The woman who cried alone in bed at night for months after her husband died. His mother, who had never loved anyone as much as she loved his father, no matter how hard she'd tried.

He hadn't spoken to her in weeks.

"It's March," he replied, tossing clothes into his suitcase. Shirts. Pants. Ties. Socks. "She's in Cambridge. Teaching a course at Harvard."

He'd always found it amusing, in a sick, somewhat twisted way, that his mother and Laura Bristow had had the same profession, had always wondered if they would have been friends. He can just imagine them, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea, complaining about how hard their husbands work, how hard it is to raise a child, be a wife, and teach college students the joy of literature and history.

She nodded, refolded his clothes and put them back in the suitcase. It was something you would do for a child or a husband. It was the same thing Sydney had done for him whenever he had to go off on some trip. Folding his clothes, trying to find some way to go with him, cursing the job for keeping them apart.

"Don't," he said firmly, watching as she made a move to refold the charcoal gray pants he placed in the case. She halted, her brow lifting in question. He couldn't explain, wouldn't even know how to tell her that seeing her there in Sydney's place, doing Sydney's job, filled him with anger and guilt and so much sadness, so he just shook his head and sighed. "Just don't."

She pulled her hand away, instantly obeying. After nine months of ignoring his wishes, staying when he told her to go, touching him when he pleaded with her to stop, he was surprised. There was a first time for everything.

Just then, Donovan traipsed into the room, hopping up onto the bed and into Irina's arms, his new favorite spot now that Sydney's arms were no longer there, heaving a contented sigh when she stroked him gently.

"My dog loves you," he said, highly amused. Love was too tame a word. Adored her, would be more fitting. He'd adored her daughter, too. "Wonder why."

If possible, the room got even more silent. Irina looked up at him, her brown eyes hiding everything but the slightest hint of hurt. It was the same look Sydney had given him on numerous occasions, when times got rough and she was determined to be strong. He couldn't resist the Bristow women when they looked at him like that. It was one of his few remaining weakness and Irina knew them all.

"I'm sorry," he said, instantly contrite. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

Irina gave him a sad little smile and simply said, "Yes, you did."

She was right, she usually was. Deep down, he meant every word he said that hurt her, meant every thing he did to cause her pain. While nine months together had weakened his hatred of her, her very presence in his life caused him pain, reminding him of what once was, what could have been. He knew that he would never love her.

Hate wasn't the only thing he didn't have the strength to do anymore.

He finished packing in silence -foreign for other people, normal for them. Sometimes they spent entire days speaking at all, co-existing without saying a word. They only time they were never silent was in bed. Between the sheets, there were whispers and moans, names cried out in the darkness. But everything that happened in the bedroom, stayed in the bedroom. And what happened there rarely affected what happened everywhere else.

The somber mood was broken as the phone rang. Irina reached over Donovan to lift the receiver to her ear and he put away the last few items into his suitcase as she spoke.

"It's Agent Weiss," she said after a moment, handing him the phone.

He listened intently as Eric gave him last minute instructions and he responded appropriately. When they were done, he hung up the phone, and turned back to her, wondering what to say, if there was anything to say at all. Normal rules didn't apply to them. She would not beg him to stay, he would not tell her he wished he could.

Instead he closed his suitcase, and walked over to her. Brushing a lock of hair from her face, he bent down, brushing his lips with hers. And because they were in the bedroom, she kissed him back. She tasted of coffee and maple syrup, loneliness and grief, heartbreak and desperation. Emotions he knew so very well.

And when the feel of her lips on his became a reminder of things past, he broke the kiss and pulled away.

He gave Donovan a brief pat, grabbed his suitcase and walked out the bedroom door. Ready to spend the next few days without her.

He didn't ask if she'd be there when he returned. She would be.

She didn't ask if he was coming back. He would.

They had no other choice.