When the incendiaries lit the sky
A face smiled its divine calligraphy:
It was Helen crowned with Troy's debris.
--Elizabeth Smart. "Love in Wartime."
The image wakes him out of an already uneasy sleep: Sydney, standing in the middle of the office, looking pleadingly at him, wanting him to understand. It hadn’t been that long ago: she’d been dressed in black and looking like a Valkyrie, calling war down on her enemies. But in the middle of chaos, she’d spared a glance for him, as if she knew what he was thinking. Retrospectively, she probably had.
Marcus is sorry that he spoke to her harshly. By the time ten minutes had passed, and he was cuffed and sitting in the CIA's windowless van, he was sorry he'd said it. He hadn't meant it, and she probably knew that too: still, in the middle of chaos, he shouldn't have let the deep, burning anger take control. But he’d felt like he didn’t have anything left, so he’d lashed out. And now she’s free, and he is a captive.
He is being detained, along with many other employees of SD-6, by the CIA. He has been treated with marginal courtesy. He has been allowed to go to the bathroom, but not allowed a call to his lawyer. Yet. Marcus still has faith that the United States will give him a chance. They'll see that he was a patriot -- that he'd meant to be working for them. All along.
His breath burns in and out of his body. He lies on a cot in a grey cell, not speaking to Marshall, his cellmate, because words seem to stick to his tongue. What would a lawyer say even if he could call? Gee, Mr. Dixon, it's all been a big mistake. You just wait till I tell the CIA what you *thought* you were doing, and they'll fix it right up. You can go home to Diane and get on with your life.
And it's the thought of Diane that nearly undoes him. He hasn't been able to really consider her since he put the phone down and emailed Sydney that password. It hurts too much. He thinks that she's probably just starting to get worried: and soon she'll probably get the phone call that she won't believe. Will she have to visit him in prison? Will she have to see him get executed for treason?
Marcus Dixon, traitor: the pain of it wells up in him like a geyser. Damn Arvin Sloane and his sweet promises to hell. If Marcus could get a stranglehold on his boss right now, he'd squeeze the life out of him without blinking. Marcus Dixon, traitor? Marcus Dixon, who had belted the National Anthem at every Twins game since he could talk? Marcus Dixon, who had met his wife at a meeting of the Young Republicans? It hurts him like poison, like boiling oil.
And yet Syd hadn't treated him like a traitor. Ever. She trusted him to keep her secrets, to go where she couldn't go. And even before the meeting at the oilfields, she had watched out for him on every mission. As he had watched out for her. Because they were partners and friends. Why couldn't she have just told him? Why keep him in the dark, keep him at work for them, for the fucking Alliance?
When he'd seen that screen go from the comforting CIA background to the black-and-red of Alliance software, he'd begun to ache. Deep in his gut, like when he was nine and his little brother went into the hospital with a racking cough and never came home again. But unlike Jonah's death, this was his own fault: he'd been so sure, so very sure, that Sloane was legit. All that talk about background checks and contacts and how this was a new department, something no one had heard about yet. All those assurances that if he had to, he could go and talk to the President himself about SD-6, because it was legit. And he'd been a geek straight out of MIT and been flattered, fucking *flattered*, by the attention from covert ops.
Too good to be true. Weren't things always that way? All the travel and the exotic locales, the real camaraderie he'd had with Syd -- nothing but a sham. All he had left was Diane, and he didn't even know if they'd tell her where he was. Or if they told her, whether she'd stay. Who'd want to stay with a traitor, even if he was a fine Republican twenty years ago?
Marcus's thoughts rumble off track like the proverbial freight train, and he begins helplessly to think of Diane. Their first baby -- moving to LA -- getting the new house -- hell, how she'd looked yesterday in her blue track pants as she’d kissed him goodbye with tongue. He can feel real tears welling up in him now, to go along with the ache, and he fists his hands into his army-issue blanket to keep from howling aloud.
In the stillness and half-light, he breathes as quietly as he can, and the tears still come. Marcus Dixon, traitor. All he wanted to do was help, but wasn't the road to hell a slippery one?
As he blinks away the last of the tears, he hears Marshall whispering to him from the other bunk.
"Dixon. Dixon? You okay?"
"Yeah, Marshall," he says. He has a fondness for Marshall -- everyone in the department does -- but right now he wishes Marshall were a thousand miles away. "Just thinkin' about my -- just thinkin'."
"Don't worry," and Marshall's voice is kind. "Sydney will put in a word for us. I know she won't let them misunderstand."
Perversely, though he'd been thinking the same thing, this makes Marcus madder. "Yeah, she picked a hell of a time to tell us we were on the wrong side."
"I don't look at it that way. The way I look at it, we've done our best to keep Syd alive, and we've helped her all we can. So really, we've been helping the CIA all along. See? We were her backup."
Marcus turns his head to look at Marshall. The boy's face is so open and innocent, it's easy to see that he actually thinks this. To hell with shades of grey -- Marshall knows they've been on the side of right all along.
"They'll understand that, right, Dixon? She'll tell them and fix it. She found me when I was almost dead. She'll fix it for us."
Pinning his hopes on Sydney Bristow -- a paper-thin hope, but also a strong one. "She's always come through before," he says now. The ache recedes a little bit, replaced by the thought of his wife's smile. "Let's not give up now."
"And when the CIA asks us for information, what do we tell them?" Marshall looks only briefly indecisive. "Everything, right?"
At this, Marcus smiles as genuinely as when he'd told Diane he loved her. "You bet your ass, boy. Everything."
Title from Rage Against the Machine's "Genocide": If ignorance is bliss / then knock the smile off my face. Also, I don’t want to look as if I’m endorsing E. Smart; she makes my poetic sense cringe, mostly. But the image of Helen standing in Troy’s debris wouldn’t go away, so that says something.