Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
Summary: An observational character fic between Sark and Sydney set in season two, written from Sark's POV.
Disclaimer: The author claims no ownership of the characters. She is not making a profit from their appearance here, and no celebrity endorsement is implied. In other words: don't sue.
. . .
The two of you are having a difference of opinion, again. She would call it a fight; you call it a tiff. (I say tomarto; you say tomayto. That's the trouble with these Americans, they fancy they're speaking English when in fact what they're talking is at best a foreign language, at worst gibberish).
'You tortured my best friend,' is today's challenge.
'No. I did not.'
'I saw him! I saw what you did to Will.'
'Oh he was tortured,' you assert. 'Just not by me.'
She gets up and starts to stalk off.
Why she sought you out in the first place is a mystery. Office politics, perhaps. You're awaiting the convenience of your current employer, on whose payroll she also happens to be. She doesn't like consorting with the enemy and resents your proximity to what she fancies are respectable people. It's possible she feels the need to be seen hissing at you, within the carpeted confines of this smoked-glass silo. (Personally, you'd be as happy in an actual silo, although it makes a change to be wearing a suit and tie instead of fatigues, to be engaged in workplace warfare; you don't resent the opportunity to keep your hand in).
She stops, turning at the door to refocus the glare in your direction
'You're pathetic,' she opines. 'You don't even have the honesty to admit to what you did.'
It's not immediately clear whether she is accusing you of hiding behind semantics, or invoking the Nuremberg Defence. Her ground, in either case, is shaky.
You rock back in your chair, considering her. She's a riot of emotions, of which the ringleader is antipathy. It's inscribed on her face like a tribal tattoo. Not for the first time you wonder how this woman manages to do her job as well as she does.
'Your mother,' you say, 'taught me that the devil is in the details. Honesty isn't always possible, or advisable, in our line of work. Accuracy, that's the thing. Being accurate, I did not torture Mister Tippin. Did not lay a finger on him. Was not, in fact, in the same room during his ordeal.'
Multi-lingual, and what does she serve up? 'You two-faced son of a bitch.'
'The more faces the better, don't you think? In our game.'
Why isn't she walking away? Of course: because you mentioned her mother.
'You can accuse me of doing nothing to prevent his interrogation,' you offer. 'Of facilitating it. By all means rap my knuckles for that.'
'Rap your knuckles?' she grits. 'I'd like to smash your face in.'
'Ah. Well, in that case you will have a fight on your hands.'
'I've beaten you before.'
'You have.' You tilt your head to one side. She gives no impression of appreciating your candour. 'Have you read Huysmans?' you ask, prompted by a perverse muse.
'A Rebours. It translates as Against Nature, or Against the Grain. Your mother made me read it, some years ago. There's a chapter in which the protagonist - I won't call him a hero - attempts to make a murderer out of an ordinary boy, by giving him a taste for expensive living that he will be obliged to finance by any means necessary.'
'Do you even have a point?'
'Just that it was an extraordinary book to be given by a woman. But then your mother is an extraordinary woman.'
'I told you before. You know nothing about my mother.'
'No. You told me you knew nothing about her. Not the same thing at all. And,' narrowing your gaze, 'if you intend to start a fight in here I should warn you that signature plate glass is extremely costly to replace. Not to mention the message it would send out to the rabble.' You sketch a gesture towards the drones.
'These people are my friends.'
'Be accurate. They are your colleagues.'
'I wouldn't expect you to understand. Do you even have any friends?'
You give the point your full consideration. 'No,' you decide.
'Well I do. Will is one of them. And you need to understand how it makes me feel having to work alongside the man who tortured him.'
You hesitate to repeat yourself, although really you're beginning to wish you had tortured the tiresome Mister Tippin. To take the blame without having indulged in the transgression rankles rather.
'Do I? Need to understand how it makes you feel? I was rather under the impression that you disliked me before he contrived to stumble into the hands of my colleagues in Taipei. Which by the way was more than a little clumsy on his behalf but note that I do not deny they were my colleagues. Now it's your turn to be accurate. You hate me. Don't bother to deny it,' (she's made no such effort), 'I make you angry. You have a lot of anger, haven't you? It's not a complaint, merely an observation. Personally, I find it clouds the agenda. Irina felt the same.'
'Shut up about my mother.'
Happy families. Filial loyalty. Patriotism. (Or paytriotism. A nonsense in any language). You know nothing about any of these things. Why should you?
'Tell me,' you insist. 'Has it never occurred to you that your father nurtured your anger, intentionally, as part of his weapons training? It would have occurred to me, in your place. It gives you quite an edge. These - what is the word I want? - issues. These parental issues you have - '
She cuts you short. 'You know nothing about my relationship with my parents.'
Really, you should be charging her for this. What do therapists earn by the hour? This is why she seeks you out, again and again, you're almost sure of it.
'I know that it takes up far too much of your time, and your emotion. Cripples you, in fact. You're damaged goods.'
'Well it takes one to know one.'
You yawn, let her see your teeth, your tongue. 'If we're trading insults, we'll be here all day.'
'You're a psychopath.' She delivers the word like a full stop.
'Yet here you are talking to me. Again. You're enormously needy. Even for an American.'
You sit up straight and lean towards her, letting your body language signal concern. 'It's just... there.' You point with the index finger of your right hand. 'At the corner of your mouth. Not quite a tick. But you should watch out for it. Oh and there's another one, by your left eyebrow.' You click your tongue. 'A dead giveaway.'
She's coming towards you. What will it be? A paperknife? A paperweight? No, she's going for the chair. At the last minute she changes her mind, puts her knuckles on the desk, pushes her face towards you, every one of its tells out on show as she launches into a renewed attack on your character, ancestry and morality, or lack thereof.
How does she do this job? She reeks of neurosis and need.
And then it occurs to you: perhaps she is bluffing, pretending a lack of self-control. Hoping to blindside you with the modest indiscretion of her friendship with Mister Tippin in order to safeguard the larger indiscretions, the ones that really matter.
In which case it would appear that Mister Tippin is destined to be exploited by his friends and enemies alike. You might almost feel pity for the man, if he wasn't such a sitting duck. What is she saying?
'So stay away from my friends.'
'Shall we make a list of them, to be on the safe side? There's Mister Tippin - but we've covered him - there's the man for whom you were willing to kill Sloane. I'm assuming it was a man.'
You stop. Partly for dramatic effect. Largely because she settled on the paperknife and is holding it to your throat. Bluff or no bluff, she's fast on her feet. You can't resist laughing, which doesn't help matters hugely. Fortunately for you the knife is blunt, designed to slit envelopes not throats.
'Unless you intend to go through with this, in which case I suggest you hold the blade a little higher,' you demonstrate, your hand on hers, 'and aim for the jugular - try stabbing not slicing - can we dispense with the weaponry?'
She expresses a desire to hack your head off, implying the blunter the blade the better it will please her.
You draw her attention to the stiletto you have aimed at her spleen.
Nothing like a nice slice of deadlock to spice up the morning.
The drones are waking up the other side of the smoked-glass.
The pair of you tuck away your weapons - your blade, her anger - and prepare to play comrades-in-arms.
(I say irony. You say iony.
How does the song go?
Let's call the whole thing off).
. . .