Scant hours previous, he was a poor man's Julian Sark, aping the accent, cutting the capers, milking it for all it was worth. Now he slides into the fully-upright seat next to the real thing, and all he can manage is a half-smile and a weak "Cheers."

Eight letter word for "arrogant", indeed. Vaughn spells it S-A-R-K, he grimaces and grits his teeth and hauls it to the lav, wondering how the upper hand can feel so much like an uppercut.

The cramped allotment of space shoves them together even as Sark maintains the ironical distance in his voice. "Doesn't it bother you?"

Bothered, hell. He's hot and bothered, pushed up against Sark, fixing his eyes on the handcuffs, only the handcuffs.

"A bombmaker arranges for a meeting on the plane, then doesn't show up. I don't know about you, but that concerns me."

He breaks the snake-charmer's gaze and backs away, saved by the bell. He has other things to do, he has a bomb to defuse, and then he can worry about getting cocky Covenant cell leaders into proper custody.

He's got wires to cut. This is what it all boils down to, it seems, the right wire or the wrong wire, life or death. De Gauss ceramic fiber … or not. Whatever the hell that means.

Someone else who knows what they're doing. He's not going to say it, he's just going to do it. That way, it's his idea.

He is in control. He is in control. This is what he tells himself, twenty-six rows of seats.

"I thought you'd never ask." Vaughn focuses on the handcuffs, never looking up from the handcuffs.

Sark is, of course, an expert on wires. Sark is, of course, an expert on everything, sweet-talking Marshall with something variations and dummy wires fixed to suppressors. Plays surprisingly well with others, does Mr. Sark, as long as you don't mind that he'll stab you in the end.

It's a rush when the bomb's on ice and the timer's fixed forever on 00:01. It's always a rush when you do it, when you win out through luck and pluck and teamwork. With Weiss. With Lauren. With Sydney. With Sark.

He loves Weiss, he loves Lauren, he loves Sydney, though God only knows he's struggling with all these relationships at the moment. Sark he does not love, so why are they grinning at each other like a pair of exquisite fools?

"That's impressive."

He is the fool, the fool who does not see the knife concealed in the smile. At least in fisticuffs, the fool can still be the master; he overtakes Sark, singing and glorying in the kicks and punches, knocking him bloody to the floor.

Michael Vaughn is off-balance, out of kilter, out of his mind. But he is no longer rolling on the ground with Julian Sark, so there is hope for him yet. Hope that he might yet make it back to the people who love him, sort everything out happily, and keep all the destructive things safely quarantined.


Just maybe.

He reaches down with one hand, damp with his own blood, and runs it along the other man's bloodied jawline before hauling him into custody at last.

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