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Alias Fanfiction

Caveat Emptor
By Sarah

Summary: Sark's incarceration takes a detour when someone has questions for him.
Spoilers: Season two finale, season three (mild)
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.

. . .

He is being traded, again. (And they wonder at his talent for switching allegiance, as if it was something more than a simple matter of survival, as if he had a choice).

Loyalty is like a muscle: if you don't flex it, you lose the use of it altogether.

He tried to explain this when they threatened him, repeatedly, with Jack Bristow. Agent Bristow would make mincemeat of a person he suspected of aiding and abetting his daughter's kidnappers, they implied (and he agreed). But Jack Bristow never materialised, and now he has to wonder why. Since he's being traded again, no questions asked (or answered).

Commodity trading is a little-known sideline of the CIA. They bled him dry for twelve months (or so they say) and now he's out of favour, taking up space they want for another more promising product. His number's up and he's out. But something (the usual thing) tells him this isn't a free pardon. His name was down for death row; this jaunt is more likely to be a shortcut than a detour.

The trade takes place at night. He half-expects a hijack, wouldn't put it past them to stage such as thing, hoping to track him down to earth somewhere interesting. He'd tell them, given the chance, that his friends exist only in their imagination. That he has no allies, no current allegiance. Of course it's possible they know better than he does on that score, but more probably they've worked their way through a list of the people he's offended and sold him to the highest bidder. You reap, he reminds himself, what you sow.

When the prison van stops (they drove all day), it is in an alley. Apparently deserted. Stone walls suggest an execution. But they march him, still chained, down rusted iron steps into a dank-smelling basement. For the first time, he rebels. They hold him hard, their fingers fitting easily into old bruises. 'Stand still you little fuck.' (Such eloquence, how can he resist?).

The bruises protest, so he does as he's told, but this is worse than the cell where they were keeping him. Admittedly it's clean - scrubbed stone floor, whitewashed walls - but there are no windows, no natural light, just a hard-looking mattress on the floor. Oh and chains, bolted to the wall. His brain performs a reluctant calculation. This won't to be over quickly, nor will it be comfortable while it lasts.

They swap the federal chains at his wrists and ankles for the shop-bought ones bolted to the wall. Brand new, as is the mattress where they make him sit.

Just when he thinks they have finished with him, one of them produces a hypodermic needle. He stares at it, summoning a smile. (To show weakness at this stage would be futile, and frustrating). Lethal injection? Surely not. They have protocols, procedures. On which they pride themselves, or so he's been led to believe. On the other hand they can usually find a loophole or two in the Geneva Convention, for terrorists.

They search his forearms but fail to find what they're after. His veins collapsed some time ago. Too much sodium pentathol sent them into hiding. They settle on his right ankle.

'This is goodbye then.'

'Shut up.' The needle scratches, his bones too near the surface. 'Keep still you son of a bitch.'

'I'll miss you,' his voice is already a murmur; whatever it is it works fast. Doesn't hurt. Feels in fact rather pleasant.

They back away as he starts to slip sideways. One of them says something. Another one kicks him, which is the cue for the rest to join in. Farewell bash. (What happened to the carriage clock, the traditional leaving gift?). He shudders under the impact but the drug has him well wrapped up, insulated from the worst of the pain. Funny to think he may not get to see the bruises they leave behind, this time.

He lies down, curls on his side, waits for them to lose interest. They do, eventually. Their fervour makes him wonder whether this is part of the trade, if the buyer paid extra for damaged goods.

Their departure is lost in the pervasive fog of the drug. He's either sleeping or dying. He'll find out which, presumably, in the morning.


. . .

It is hard to imagine the young man lying on the mattress is a trained killer, a devious, ruthless, ultimately evil fiend who deserves to die a lingering and horrible death. A year in federal custody has hollowed some of the seraph from his face but he still contrives to look sixteen, an innocent. His body is thin and ill used under the covering of dark overalls.

(Crouching down, lifting a lifeless arm, uncovers a dark chart of damage).

It is possible he was suffering enough, where he was. But he wasn't answering questions, or offering explanations, or remorse. He may in fact be incapable of offering these things, but that remains to be seen. The men tasked with his interrogation were, at best, impersonal experts. They lacked a stake in the outcome of their efforts. And some of them, quite possibly, imagined they were dealing with a tenacious boy, no more, no less.

You won't make that mistake.


. . .

He opens his eyes to whitewash and a migraine. The migraine is familiar (I don't do drugs, I am drugs - who said that?) but the whitewash is not.

He shifts his limbs with weary vigilance. (There's something to be said, for being dead).

There's a rattle of steel from his left side. Chains. (Why should that be ghoulish?). He tests their length and strength without real hope of finding a weakness. He's fastened at his left ankle and wrist, smooth steel that's going to take his skin off eventually. The chains are sunk deep into the wall on bolts. The cement looks recent. (This place was purpose built, for him. Now that is ghoulish; he's going to have to stop that). There's enough slack in the chains to sit up but not enough to stand.

He sits, drawing up his knees to rub the most recent ache out of his right ankle. Pins and needles. Well, needle. The drug was a tranquilliser, nothing worse. They wanted him asleep. Why? And now what?

The chance of being heard if he shouts for help is negligible. The alley was deserted, and this building looked gutted. The basement is sunk deep below street level, and the walls are thick. The chance of getting free from the chains is non-existent. The steel is snug around his wrist and ankle. More than snug in fact. Bespoke. Two years ago the cuffs would have been too small. Perhaps they measured him during one of their routine interrogations - a tape measure around his wrist and ankle would have gone unnoticed in the course of one of their more physical sessions - and made the chains as part of the trade. Or perhaps the buyer calculated the measurements for himself, or herself, based on the knowledge of what two years in federal custody was likely to have done for his never very impressive physique.

Enough thinking, for now. He knows to take his time, meter out these periods of inactivity. Too much thinking too early in the day is fatal. Especially when he's nursing a migraine.

(Dali. I don't do drugs, I am drugs. Salvador Dali. So his brain isn't gutted just yet).

The lights go off. Pitch black makes him catch a breath and hold it for a heartbeat before he lets it go. This is a trick he knows. He can manage this, although he would rather not right now. Who knew how much he'd miss the state penitentiary? The predictable routine of showers, food, questions, solitary. Lights on, lights off.

After some time, he lies back down in the darkness and allows himself to start thinking.


. . .

The door opens. He uncurls, flinching from the sudden flood of light, half-blind. The figure in the doorway is tall. Familiar. He narrows his eyes against the light, trying to see.

'Sark.'

Oh... Fuck.

'You seem surprised.'

'I am.' He props himself on his elbows, still squinting. 'When they told me about this trade, I tried to imagine who might be willing to pay good money for me. You were not on the list.'

'What makes you think I paid anything?'

'I'm a consolation prize - a reward for years of faithful service - is that it?'

'You overestimate your worth. Your value to me is marginally more than your value to them, that is all. It's cheaper, to keep you here.'

'Where is here, out of interest?'

'You have done this enough times, I imagine, to know that questions are something you answer, not ask.'

He lies back, lacing his hands behind his head and lowering his lids against the glare glancing off the ceiling. 'I feel it only fair to warn you that your friends had the pick of my brains. You're welcome to what is left. Although I would be more willing to make the effort if I felt this was likely to end in anything other than my death.'

'Don't make me to resort to banal threats. I am sure you know nearly as much as I do about the ways in which it is possible to die, and the time it can take to get there.'

He slides a glance at the doorway. 'Nearly as much,' he echoes, 'yes. Your friends did their best to advance my education. I take it you are here to teach me the little I don't already know.'

'If necessary.'

'Your candour does you credit,' he shuts his eyes, 'I could almost believe you weren't looking forward to torturing out of me whatever confession it is you're after.'

'No confession.'

'What then? You haven't gone to all this trouble for nothing.' He rattles the chains theatrically.

'You won't deny there is a symmetry to your current situation, given the way you chose to live your life.'

'I'm an animal, is that it?'

'Aren't you?'

'Sydney had a similar theory,' he remembers, sitting up and resting his chained wrist on his bent knee. 'When I was working for Arvin Sloane, she called me a dog looking for a new master. Unlike the faithful hounds that haunt Langley, the ones you help to keep on a short leash.'

'Your loyalties have always been flexible, haven't they Sark?'

'It keeps them in good shape.'

'For what? Selling on the open market?'

'The market would appear to have foreclosed on me. Unless you are thinking of trading on. Are you?'

'Unlikely. I doubt even Sotheby's could sell a corpse.'

He falls silent, meeting the bland stare from across the room. He could talk himself in knots and still get nowhere, with this man. Jack Bristow. Some time father to Sydney, one time dupe of Irina, the vigilante's vigilante. (Oh... Fuck).

'So what do you want? Retribution?'

'Perhaps.'

He drops his gaze to his hands, laughs shortly. 'Excuse me while I digest the irony of having helped your daughter save your life only to have you accuse me of being implicated in her death.'

'Who told you she was dead?'

'Michael Vaughn. He paid me a visit - strictly off the record - shortly after I was incarcerated. He also seemed to think I was in some way responsible for Sydney's demise despite being in federal custody at the time it took place.' He dips his head to look at Jack. 'Surely you don't share his stirring but naïve vision of me as the mastermind in this or any other enterprise.'

'I think my daughter was right. You're a dog. A puppy. Right now you have no master. But a good dog can usually pick up his master's scent. Will know his trail.'

'You think I held that back from the CIA? For what purpose? Your wife and her fair-weather friend sold me out, in case you've forgotten.' Bitterness, he thinks, is the note to strike with Jack Bristow. But he's only half-right.

The man stands looking down at him, grim as the reaper. 'I had a puppy,' he snips the words neatly, 'as a child. My grandfather taught me to whip it. He said it was the right way to teach the creature its place. He explained that it was what the animal expected, what it needed in order to be housebroken, to learn to live with people. He was right. It sat at my feet afterwards. Never gave me any trouble.'

He falls silent, removing his gaze from the man's face because it frankly frightens him.

'You chose to run with wolves, Sark. Arvin Sloane. Irina Derevko. I would be doing you a favour if I taught you how to live among civilised people.'

'By keeping me chained to a wall, and whipping me?' He cradles the back of his neck in the palm of his right hand. 'A surfeit of irony... But what would it really achieve, what are you truly after?' He looks up. 'A salve for your conscience? Not even Mister Vaughn dressed up his... interview as anything more than a chance to vent his spleen.'

'You invite aggression, Sark. Surely you are aware of that. You cultivate it, in fact. A trick no doubt that you picked up from Irina Derevko.'

'I can see that this has the potential to be wonderfully therapeutic for you, Jack. May I call you, Jack? No, I didn't think so. But must your therapy be at my expense? The CIA has professionals of its own - I know, I met a couple of them - and I'd far rather you talked through your issues with my association with your wife on their time - '

In two short strides Agent Bristow is at his throat, lifting him bodily by his windpipe and shaking him like a rag doll. 'I'll be doing you a favour,' he says, still snipping, still neat, 'this is a lesson that is long overdue.'

He's thrust back onto the mattress, dropped like a hot coal in fact (his anger seems to frighten even Jack, or perhaps he's imagining that).

Agent Bristow is already gone.


. . .

The door opens an hour later - round two already? - and he makes the effort to relax the tension in his shoulders and back. (He's been lying, shielding his eyes from the light, bending his brain around the problem of Jack Bristow's antagonism. Irina out-rode it. But he is not Irina. Nor is he sure, yet, what it is the man wants from him. Which makes the problem-solving complex, to say the least).

He pushes into a sitting position, arranges the chains and looks up at his captor remembering (with something like nostalgia) the relative ease with which he was able to provoke Michael Vaughn into bringing his interrogation to a swift if uncomfortable conclusion. No such prospect is on offer here.

'I hate to introduce a base note to our budding acquaintance,' he murmurs, 'but I need the bathroom.'

'I'll bring you a bucket.' The words are delivered like shrapnel.

'If you told me what you wanted,' he sucks in the side of his mouth, looking up at the man, 'it would take at least some of the suspense out of this situation.'

'The suspense can stay. For now.'

He shifts forward as far as the chains will allow and studies the new shadows under Bristow's eyes, the greying pallor to his skin. He nods, slowly.

'I was wondering why it took you nearly a year to get around to this... revenge. Given the generous visiting rights the CIA extended to Mister Vaughn, it can only have been that you weren't at liberty to call on me earlier. Tell me, were you in prison?'

'You pride yourself on your intelligence, Sark. Personally, if I had spent as much time behind bars as you in your short life I would think twice before lauding myself on that particular score.'

'I wasn't after empathy. I was simply trying to make sense of why this is happening now. Sydney has been dead nearly a year and yet you - ' He stops. Widens his eyes. Narrows them again. 'Or has she?' he ends on a soft note of wonder.

Jack looks down at him, giving almost nothing away. Almost nothing.

'When I had the effrontery to speak of your daughter's death to Mister Vaughn, I counted myself lucky to escape with a bloody nose. You have your emotions in better check, of course. But you aren't hampered by the presence of prison guards and,' his gaze intensifies, 'I very much doubt the Geneva Convention extends to this neck of the woods. So... I find myself wondering why you aren't breaking my legs at this precise moment.'

'Would it stop you talking?'

'I lack your admirable brevity it is true, but you'll allow me the excuse of being nervous in the presence of a man who has twice attempted the execution of his own wife.'

The blow nearly breaks his cheekbone. He keeps his head down as he counts out the long seconds it takes for his head to stop spinning and his body to stop anticipating a second blow. But he has his answer. This isn't about Sydney. It's about Irina. He sits back up eventually, nursing his newest bruise with the hand that isn't chained to the wall.

'If you were to tell me what you wanted,' he tries again.

That flat stare shuts him up. Jack's anger is under control again, for now. (He realises, with a sick lurch in the pit of his empty stomach that it is because the man values him so little that he is able to indulge so readily in an emotion he usually guards with his life; to Agent Bristow he is barely human, a minor irritation to be batted at like a fly).

'You have nothing to offer,' he is told, 'I was never very interested in your threadbare collateral - a handful of contacts here, a taste of treachery there - and at this exact moment your bargaining power exists only in your imagination. Let us be clear on that point. There is no leverage within your grasp, to stop any of this happening.'

He reins back the fear and frustration, but some of it must have shown in his face because Bristow smiles, a tight transitory smile that comes and goes in a heartbeat, alien on his impossibly impassive face.

He draws his knees to his chest and wraps his arms around them awkwardly. The man's eyes snag on the bruises and old track-marks that colour his too-thin forearms.

'No leverage,' Jack repeats steadily. 'So save yourself the trouble of playing the misguided youth card.'

He prompts, 'You said something about a bucket?'

Jack turns on his heel and goes.


. . .

He's woken from a trite nightmare (searching a hall of mirrors for the box where they are keeping her) by a pencil beam torch being shone in his eyes. He feels his retinas sear, his vision burned back to yellow stripes as he's thrust onto his right side and held there by a knee on his thigh and a hand on his shoulder.

'Hold him still.' Jack's voice, harsh.

A second set of hands grab his wrists. Two of them, there's two of them? There's the unmistakable rasp of steel being sprung: a switchblade. 'Please,' the word slips up before he knows he's going to say it.

'Put him on his back. Hold him still.'

A warm weight, heavy, settles on his chest, crushing the air from his lungs. Knees pin his elbows to his sides, feet pin his wrists, grinding bones in the one that isn't protected by the steel cuff. Broad hands hold his head twisted to the left.

The blade slices through the cotton of the overalls and into the tendon between his neck and right shoulder. 'God,' he bites through his bottom lip, keeping still only with a supreme effort of will as the hot rush of his blood under the blade makes him gag.

The knife moves in the wound, skittering unevenly when it meets his too-prominent clavicle, is withdrawn and replaced by probing fingers.

'Please!' It's easier to say the second time. Pain has redrawn the yellow stripes of his vision in dripping red.

There's a wrenching sensation in his shoulder and he nearly passes out as Agent Bristow pulls something - his tendon? his collarbone? - out of his body and drops it into a steel dish (he hears the metallic crack through the thunder in his head).

He pushes ineffectually against the weight of the second man's body still spread across his chest. It's removed and he drags air into starved lungs, rolling onto his side and retching.

'Jesus, Jack. There are easier ways of killing him.'

'Stop the bleeding.'

A cloth of some kind is pressed to the wound. His left hand is lifted to hold it in place. He tries to see the second man but the torch is switched off as soon as his head starts moving in their direction.

'Can't see what I'm doing here,' the second man's voice is youngish, almost but not quite flippant. 'If you want him to bleed to death - and I have less of a problem with that than you might think - fine. If not, let's get some light in here.'

'The lack of it was for your benefit.'

'Sure. Keep him in the dark, I get that. But since I'm here and I'm helping let's do it properly.'

'Your help was neither requested, nor required.'

'I get that too. The warm welcome was a giveaway. Come on he's ruining my shirt. Switch the lights on.'

There's a pause before this happens. He's too busy fighting the pain to bother about the identity of the second man. When he does eventually look, he can't put a name to the face. Outsized friend of Vaughn's. He's knows him by sight. The wonder is the man didn't crack ribs when he sat on him.

The man blinks down at him, looking just a little surprised. 'So how come no-one found the bug when they had him inside? Too busy starving him to sweep for hardware?'

'It's a sleeper.' Jack is studying whatever he put in the steel dish. 'It only went live when he was removed from the perimeter.'

'Smart tech. So who tagged him? Sloane?'

'Ask him.'

The man squats on his heels at the side of the mattress, jerking his head in greeting. 'Hey Sark. How's tricks?'

Weiss. That's the name. Eric Weiss.

He shuts his eyes.

'That was a big bug Jack just hauled out of you. Must have hurt like hell going in. Stung some coming out too I guess.'

Several answers suggest themselves, but he offers none of them. Keeps his eyes shut, his head turned away. (He'll be better, he think, in a minute. Right now he wants to weep with pain and shock and fright).

'So, Jack, what's the plan? He's doing his best dying swan act here. You going to stitch him up, or shall I?'

'He'll live. I avoided any major artery. I suggest you clean yourself up and return home.'

'Is that before or after you thank me for alerting you to the fact that the Sundance Kid was lighting up the grid like a Christmas tree thanks to that tracker in his ass?'

'I appreciate your discretion in coming here when you might have alerted Kendall or the NSC but it is in everyone's best interests, not least your own, for you to leave, now.'

He manages to get out another, 'Please.' (Please leave, don't come back, take Mister Bristow with you).

'Shut up, Sark.' This is Jack. To Weiss, 'You took a risk coming here. Thank you for that. But there is nothing to be gained by your staying.'

'Fine, I'll just put in an expense claim for dry-cleaning the bloodstains out my suit and hope no-one asks any awkward questions like what the hell you're doing keeping Public Enemy Number Two in a darkened cellar on an end of a chain. Fine.'

'Number Two? When was I promoted?'

'Shut up Sark.' This is Weiss.

'Traditionally,' he eases into a sitting position to relieve the pressure on his shoulder, 'isn't one of you obliged to be the good cop? I feel short-changed.'

'How many more bugs are you carrying?' Jack asks. 'Out of interest?'

'May I see?'

The steel dish contains what looks like a miniature trident. Not nearly miniature enough.

'You won't believe me, but I have never seen that before. I certainly never gave permission for it to be buried in my body.'

'You want me to scan him?' Weiss offers. 'I bought Marshall's magic wand, just in case.'

'Yes I swept him with that last night. Thoroughly. It didn't pick up anything.'

They all look into the steel dish. There's enough flesh attached to the tracker to make him queasy. The other two appeared unmoved.

'We could check him for scar tissue. Something that size's gotta leave a mark.'

'Why not dissect me and have done with it?' He wrings out the cloth, shakes blood from his hand and reapplies it. 'I'd hate to feel your talents for butchery were being in any way under-exploited.'

'Shut up Sark.' Both of them, this time.

Weiss stands, edges away from the mattress, addressing Jack. 'I'd be happier suggesting this if I didn't know you had a knife on you, but have you thought it might be Irina Derevko who spiked him? She's the one who tipped Syd off about Stockholm.'

Silence. Still holding his shoulder, he slides a glance at Jack's stony profile.

'Because you know they wasted a helluva long time asking him questions, and even longer figuring out his answers were worth zip. If he was buying her time - '

'He wasn't. By all means stroke his ego. But Irina Derevko is entirely capable of sacrificing the pawns in her game without any explicit motivation. I don't imagine she gave a second thought to selling out Sark. Nor can I think of a good reason why she would plant a tracking device on him. His value to her is negligible, at best.'

Light-headed, he lies down. The two men look at him. Jack says, 'Someone wanted to know when he was removed from CIA custody.'

'So you're thinking Sloane, then?'

'Not necessarily.'

'The bug would've triggered if they'd moved him to Alder.'

'Yes, apparently so.'

'OK. I'm getting the whole none-of-my-business vibe loud and clear but just so you know I didn't take the risk coming here for your sake. Vaughn thought Sark knew something. If I thought he was right - and you could get it out of him - I'd be happy to help.'

He makes a hollow sound. They look down at him. 'What's that?' asks Weiss.

'Nothing. Carry on.'

'How long you got him for?'

'As long as I feel there is a point to this.'

'And then?'

'Don't kill the suspense,' he murmurs, 'Agent Bristow worked so hard to build it up.' He sighs, nods. 'I know: shut up Sark.'


. . .

The third round begins in silence. He is sunk in self-pity. Hunger and the constant cold that accompanies it establish a periphery of discomfort; his shoulder throbs and flares by turns. When Agent Bristow arrives to change the dressing, he steels himself for more pain but the man's touch is unexpectedly light, careful.

He stays still, without demur. 'I give you my word I knew nothing about the tracking device,' he says, at last.

'The trouble with your word,' Jack clears away the first-aid kit, 'to quote Agent Weiss, is that it is worth exactly zip.'


. . .

Round four takes place (as far as he is able to judge) four hours after the knife was in his shoulder. 'I hesitate to try your patience,' he begins, 'but I appear to be running a fever.'

Agent Bristow looks down at him in silence. His vision is wavering, sending what look like ripples of emotion across the man's face. (He's hallucinating of course). A cool hand finds his forehead, then his wrist. His pulse is a quick stumble under the man's fingers.

'Where is the pain?'

'My shoulder,' he admits with reluctance.

He squints down when Jack peels back the dressing. The skin around the wound is hectic, enflamed. 'I don't suppose you kept the tracking device?'

Jack reaches into his jacket, holds up the bug sealed in a plastic pocket.

'I can't - It looks - is there a piece missing?'

After studying the thing, Jack says, 'You may be right.' He reaches into a second pocket, retrieves the knife.

He closes his eyes in quick protest. 'I suspect the damage is done. I saw a prototype device like this, in Taipai...' His voice trails off.

'Sark?'

'In Taipai,' he concentrates. 'It was constructed in such a way that if it was - removed without the proper procedure - it jettisoned a trigger that released - a poison.' He stops.

'Lethal?'

'The prototype killed within the hour. I may be mistaken but this - doesn't feel like a quick death. A slow one, possibly.'

'Was there an antidote?'

'It didn't occur to me to ask that question.' He pauses before adding, 'I'd just as soon you didn't point out the moral of the story.'

'If this is a trick, Sark...' Agent Bristow looks weary, or sceptical, or both.

He sighs, 'Would I devise a master plan that hinges on you extending me the courtesy of mercy? You stand to gain most from this scenario. Perhaps you hope for a death-bed confession of some kind.'

There's a moment of standoff. Stalemate. Then Jack straightens, pocketing the tracking device. 'I'll take this to Marshall and see what he can find out. I'll need a blood sample.'

He proffers the ankle that isn't chained. Jack says, 'Weiss can take this watch.'

He makes a sound not quite a laugh. 'Agent Weiss as nursemaid..? My compliments. That should set the seal on the slow and painful death.'


. . .

Thou shalt not kill but need not strive, officiously, to keep alive. This is the maxim that runs through Sark's head as Eric Weiss bathes with palpable reluctance his fevered brow. At some point he speaks the words out loud and Weiss retaliates in time-honoured fashion with, 'Shut up Sark.'

'Do you intend putting that on my gravestone?'

'Guys like you don't get gravestones. You get good riddance and a short ride to the incinerator.'

He shifts tiredly on the mattress trying to ease the pain that is slowly crippling the right side of his body. 'Wonderful bedside manner.'

'Wind me up and find out how good it gets.'

'The mistake you make is imagining I prefer a lingering death to a bullet between the eyes. Or do you share Agent Bristow's taste for sadism? In which case you are ideally placed to indulge it.'

'Do you ever shut up?'

'I thought smalltalk might render this tableau less loathsome. But since you insist...'

He fades out.


. . .

'Jack?' Weiss goes upstairs to get better reception on the cell-phone. 'No, he went quiet about an hour ago. Still conscious, yeah, though the silence is all kinds of eerie. I'm no doctor but I'd say he's headed for a coma.'

'Marshall is making up an antidote. I'll be back within the hour. Keep him awake if you can.'

'There's another alternative. Call 911. Make it their problem.'

'Yes I thought of that but I imagine whoever planted the bug is staking out the nearest emergency room in anticipation of just such a move. While it would be interesting to find out who thinks Sark is worth this much trouble, I prefer not to play into their hands just yet. Keep him awake, and the doors locked.'


. . .

Weiss fills a plastic cup with cold water, returns to the sickbed and squats to look at the patient.

Sark is curled on his left side, facing the wall. His knees are drawn up to his chest and his left hand, chain and all, is wrapped around his waist. (Jesus he's skinny). Weiss holds his hand in front of Sark's mouth to make sure he's still breathing. Heat is coming off his body in uneven waves. The fair hair, cropped short, is stained dark with sweat. Bruises hollow his cheeks and the skin under his eyes looks hectic, raw.

He's dying, Weiss decides. The NSC's gonna have Jack's ass for this.

He puts a hand on Sark's good shoulder and shakes him (not too hard). 'Sark. Hey Sark, wake up.'

No response.

'I'm missing the smalltalk. You're right, silence sucks.'

There's a muttered sound of protest but at least the guy's awake enough to hear him.

'You want some water?'

Silence again. Sark tenses, seems to weigh up the words, then curls tighter into himself, making a feeble attempt to shrug off Weiss's hand. Thinks I'm sticking it to him, Weiss decides, only wish I was.

'Jack's going to be seriously pissed if you die on my watch. Water, yeah?'

He slips a hand behind Sark's neck (he's burning up, his skin nearly scorches Weiss's palm) and eases him into a sitting position to take the drink. Sark sips at the water then gulps thirstily. 'Take it easy. Drink too fast you'll be sick.'

A dry sound like a laugh finds its way out of Sark's throat. Weiss feels relief; the little son of a bitch is tougher than he looks.

'Thank you.' It's a whisper but sincere. (Sark's manners have always freaked Weiss out: please and thank you and after you I insist, while I slit your throat).

'OK. Sit up. Talk to me.'

'Why?'

'Jack's on his way. He's got an antidote.'

Sark narrows his eyes. (Bright blue, burning up like the rest of him). 'Why?' he repeats.

'Guess it's not your day to die.'

Sark shifts his limbs and catches a breath. Shudders. His eyes are closing again.

'They slimmed you down some on that prison diet. Think I should give it a shot?'

Sark's eyes crack back open. He looks up at Weiss with suspicion.

'I mean I got this whole man mountain thing going for me, I know. But I can't help noticing the ladies like the skinny.'

(God he's going to hate himself for this in the morning).

'Which is kind of weird because they say size is a sign of strength and historically-speaking the cave-ladies they went for the big guys, the good hunters, the ones who could put the food on the table - wham! - leg of mammoth for supper, that's gotta impress right? And of course in some cultures it's still a status symbol, being big. But you're considered pretty cute, right? I mean, by most standards, you're a catch - '

'Bring me a pen.'

'What?'

'I'll sign whatever confession it is you're after. Just - please - can we not have this conversation?'

'Freaking you out? Yeah, me too. OK. Let's try something different.'

'Must we?'

'You sleep, you die.' Weiss shrugs. 'I don't write the rules.'

'Dear god.' Sark shuts his eyes and opens them again with an obvious effort. 'Very well. Do your worst.'

'You're British, right? I went to London once, around the time of those tax riots. Beats me where you guys get your reputation for being mild-mannered.'

'I'm not British.'

Weiss frowns, shakes his head. 'Sure you are.'

Sark sighs. 'Have it your way.'

'If you're not a Brit what are you?'

'I don't know.'

'What's that mean?'

'It means we can spend the time until I die arguing about my genealogy or we can move along to other trivia.'

'You're using words like genealogy I'm guessing you're not about to die any time soon.'

'I'm grateful for your optimism.'

'So what d'you want to talk about?'

Sark looks at him for a moment, then drops his gaze to his lap. 'Is Sydney Bristow dead?'

Weiss feels his jaw tighten. Son of a bitch -

Sark leans his head back against the wall. His hands are loose in his lap, his fingers twitching as he tries without success to control the pain. 'I wouldn't ask but - '

'What, did Vaughn not spell it out loud enough for you?'

Sark is silent. After a long pause he lifts his eyes and gazes at Weiss. (Jesus those eyes, like looking at the desert sky). 'You might tell me,' Sark murmurs, 'call it a last request.'

Soft-spoken son of a bitch (not a Brit, yeah right). 'You're not dying.'

'You can guarantee that can you?'

'Call it a premonition. I've got an instinct for bad news and you living is about as bad as it gets.'

Sark flinches and just for a second Weiss thinks he's hit home. But it's the fever. Sark is frying right in front of him. He puts a hand to his chest and coughs. (Anyone else and it'd be pitiful). How the hell old is he anyway? Twenty-two? He looks like a sick street-kid from a Shriners commercial.

When the coughing stops, he says, 'You might tell Agent Bristow for what it's worth I hope she isn't. Dead.'

'I'll pass it along.'

Sark nods. His head is slipping sideways on the wall. Weiss reaches out a hand and props him upright. 'Damn it Sark you're not dying.'

But it looks bad. There's blood on his mouth already and as Weiss holds him he starts coughing again: more blood.

Weiss lowers him carefully onto the mattress and glances at his watch.

Where the hell are you Jack?


. . .

[ Read Read Part II ]

. . .


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