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For the Love of the Game
Author: Jennifer-Oksana
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Time Will Tell
Disclaimer: J.J. Abrams, Bad Robot, and ABC own Alias, not me.
Summary: Anna's in it for the love of the game. Is Sydney? Tiny slash content.

Sydney Bristow is off these days.

This is what Anna thinks as she sits alone in her apartment, a tiny little place in Sao Paulo with a balcony. Not even K-Directorate knows that it exists. At least she believes they don't know about it, and that alone is enough to let her relax a little.

Not a lot. She's not stupid enough to think that anywhere is truly safe for her. But she's able to relax just enough to be able to think beyond the mission, beyond the borders of K-Directorate and SD-6 and CIA and FBI and a thousand other names applied to the identical agencies. Anna relaxes and thinks about faces and names and aliases and a million places she's only seen in a blaze of firepower and purpose and best of all, the sheer adrenaline of a game well-played.

Anna is defined by her love of the game. She doesn't have many beliefs or morals--those have been slowly worn away by the dead and the dying. Anna knows that every good person can be a monster if the right button is pushed, that every wholesome agenda can have a dark side, that basically everything is fucked up all the time, and she doesn't comfort herself with patriotism or the dream of saving humanity from itself.

She cares about the game. The right weapon, the perfect disguise, the ability to make up a Plan B or a Plan Z on the spot, being ready for anything even if the anything is absolutely unbelievable. Anna lives for the sweet move, the last-second save, the breathless competence that every spy needs to have down pat if she's gong to survive.

And Sydney Bristow has been off.

Now granted, the ever-talented Agent Bristow has managed the save most days. But Anna should have never been able to knock her off that ladder so easily, or seen her flinch in that stadium in Berlin, or a thousand other tiny gestures and looks that suggest that something's not right with the other woman.

Anna is good with tiny gestures. That's how a woman survives in the intelligence business. No matter how much time Anna spends training--and she spends a great deal of time training--if she runs into a larger man with more strength and equivalent training, she will go down. Brawn's not going to save Anna; it's going to be skill and smarts that do it when she's in that situation where the choices are death and death with surviving about as likely as hell freezing over.

For now, Anna forgets surviving and stretches out on her rattan couch, cheap and cheerful and bright. She pretends to be a girl from the North-East with only a little money. The neighbors leave her alone. They think she's a streetwalker and they are glad she hasn't brought any of her clientele home with her.

This doesn't bother Anna at all. The neighbors have ignored her out of moral disgust; and so, if K-Directorate or anyone else comes looking, they won't have any secrets to give them. Except maybe the cat, the big orange thing she keeps and tolerates and enjoys. His (her? she doesn't know or care) name is Pumpkin. The cat is camouflage, or it was when Anna first moved in, trying not to make her Portuguese sound too Spanish when she spoke. Now she feels almost bad that she's going to abandon it at the end of the month when she ditches this apartment for a new one.

Somewhere new. She's not sure where. That's all part of the game, establishing a new apartment with a nice bit of cash--maybe a cashier's check--a place she'll stay for another three months with another cat or maybe a dog this time, it's been a while since she kept a dog--and ditch.

No names, no traces. Anna has been doing this for at least five years and no one has ever hinted that they knew or suspected that Anna had a secret lair where she went to be alone. Still a spy, still ready at any moment to torch the place and the cat, but just a little bit off-duty.

Sydney Bristow has an entire life that she pretends is her real life, maybe even believes it is her real life. That's the American way, which Anna thinks is ridiculous and dangerous. When you stay put, it's too easy to find something that you'd die for. If Anna got the order, she could fly to Los Angeles and shoot each and every one of Sydney's little friends. It would be easy, too. Civilians, all of them. She could kill them all within an hour, a bullet apiece.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

Anna thinks she'd probably enjoy it, too, not because of the killing--there was no pride or joy to be had in shooting civilians--but because of what it would do to Sydney Bristow. She'd go insane and what revenge could she have? She could kill Anna--probably would, too, come to think of it--but it wouldn't make her sane again.

It would be an interesting way to end the game, but Anna's not ready to end it, not yet, maybe not ever. Something deep inside her has a grim admiration--hell, she likes Sydney. Anna thinks she's raw and rough around the edges and her ridiculous attachments to people not in the business are screwing with her game, but she respects Sydney. The girl has moves. Sydney, when she's lost in the game, is just as good as Anna is, and that's saying a lot.

Anna wishes that Sydney would stop screwing around trying to find the agency that suits her worldview best--there's not a lot of difference between SD-6 and CIA for Anna's money--and just get her head back into it. Sydney's a natural. Sydney, like Anna, was born to do this, to play the game where people and nations and weapons are all just little toys to be played with, where all that matters is doing it. Doing it well, doing it right. Artistry, craftsmanship, style--these are the things Anna loves in her work, the things that Sydney has in spades.

It would be sweet, Anna thinks, if she could face off against Sydney when both were at the top of their game, a perfect match between equals. It makes her think of all those looks they've exchanged in stadiums and in fights, at the thousand fancy-dress affairs where information flows like champagne. Anna is fascinated by Sydney, no doubt about it, but Sydney is fascinated by Anna as well. Anna knows the looks Sydney gives her, understands the nuances. They have a connection, some sort of bizarre chemistry that's almost sexual.

And Sydney Bristow would be a hell of a lover, no doubt about it. Maybe someday Anna will have that pleasure, once the naïve idealism and navel-gazing morality are ground away over the years. Maybe someday Anna will be able to express to her that all that matters is the game in a way that doesn't involve death. It's not a bad thought.

Anna strokes Pumpkin absently. Of course, she will probably have to kill Sydney someday soon. Nothing fancy--that would be wasteful and over-emotional and bad form. But they'll fight and Sydney will have to die. Anna won't be happy about it, but that's the game, isn't it?

The sun is setting over Sao Paulo in a hazy ball of light and color, and Pumpkin yawns deeply before stretching and walking away from Anna and toward the fading light.

And Anna hopes that the neighbor woman will take him in when she goes.

The End

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