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15 December 2009 @ 12:21 pm
Fic: Shadows (Part 2), Alias Syd/Sark (Illusions part 5)  
Fic: Shadows (fifth in the Illusions series)
Author: Rhien Elleth
Pairing: Syd/Sark
Rating: M
Words: 15,891

Due to LJ's wordcount limits, this one has to be posted in two parts.



Sark watched Jack and Irina checking over the straps to their chutes. The two had maintained a silent truce since the exchange on the bluff, for which he was thankful. When distributing weapons and gear, Jack had even handed her an MP5K without a word. Impressive, because Sark had expected an argument over that.

The four engines of the C-17 Globemaster III were a great deal louder than the posh private jet in which they’d arrived in Greece. Nor was it as sleek and sexy an aircraft as it’s civilian counterpart. But what the two hundred and fifty million dollar plane lacked in style, it more than made up for in utilitarian usefulness. The Talbot Learjet, for instance, could never have served as a jump ship.

“Ready?” Sark yelled the question over the powerful engines. Both Jack and Irina nodded, for once in agreement. Perhaps they were capable of putting aside their differences to help Sydney, after all. “Our satellite scans indicate a dozen warm bodies in the monastery. Half of those appear to be manning the walls. We can assume that two inside are Sloane and Sydney.” God, he thought, let one of them be Sydney!

“Irina and I will take care of the guards,” Jack yelled back. “You go on ahead and get Sydney. We’ll catch up.”

Ah, thought Sark, amused once again. He wasn’t surprised by Jack’s seeming altruism in allowing Sark to go in after Sydney first. The other man wasn’t willing to allow Irina out of his sight, and since two people were preferable to take out the guards, he’d opted for that. From the glance Irina shot Jack, she had figured it out, too. She shrugged, smiled.

“Fine by me,” she agreed readily enough.

“Fine!” said Sark, and gave the Jumpmaster a nod. He moved into position at the jump door, hands on the metal sides of the doorway, face leaned out into the cold night air whipping past the fast moving C-17. He was ready, waiting for the Jumpmaster’s signal.

“Go!”

And he was gone, freefalling through the darkness, the blue black of night surrounding him on all sides.

He’d forgotten what a rush night drops could be. He fell thousands of feet through the air, fresh adrenaline coursing through his already over extended body. When he pulled his ripcord, the monastery walls visible below him with the aid of his night goggles, his chute worked perfectly. Now, his descent unavoidably slowed, he waited tensely to be noticed by Sloane’s guards, for the first bullet to whip past him.

Unbelievably, it never came. He guided himself in, shooting for a spot in between two guard positions, and landed with a muffled scuff of stone. Sure that someone would have heard that, he detached his chute, letting it fall over the wall behind him. Whatever noise it made would be minimal compared to the task of trying to stuff it out of sight here. He lifted his MP5K to his shoulder.

The guard to his left, closest of the two, had indeed shifted toward him. Sark could see him clearly, but didn’t want to alert the others, if he could help it. At least not until Jack and Irina had also landed. He watched the man hesitate, then begin walking toward him. Moving silently, he moved away from the outer wall before the guard was close enough to see him clearly, picking a position obscured by the shadows of the crumbling structure of the monastery. He lowered the gun from his shoulder, and drew a knife instead.

Something, a sound maybe, made the guard pause a few feet before reaching Sark’s position. He turned, looking up to the sky, and his body went stiff. He’d seen one of the others. Sark moved. Before the man could open his mouth to call a warning, before he could finish the motion of lifting his gun to shoot one of the parachuters down, Sark wrapped a gloved hand over his mouth, and shoved the knife into the base of his skull, all the way to the hilt. It was quicker, quieter, and certainly less messy than cutting the jugular. He held the dead man as his body convulsed, dragging him clear just as Jack landed. Irina was only moments behind him.

Jack touched his shoulder while Irina detached her chute. He met Sark’s eyes, then gestured to the door just behind them. His meaning was clear. We’ve got this. Get going! Then he was gone, moving swiftly down the wall toward the next guard.

Sark didn’t waste any time, either. Sydney was waiting for him.

***


Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes no matter how she tried to stop them. She didn’t sob, didn’t make a sound in the darkness of her prison. But the tears continued to trickle down her temples and into her hair. She kept telling herself that this was impossible, all of it. She couldn’t really be here, at the mercy of the man she hated most. She couldn’t be tied down to a stone slab, not knowing if she would ever escape, ever see her loved ones again.

She couldn’t have been pregnant.

She couldn’t have miscarried.

But she was, she had, the nightmare was real. She wanted to cradle her abdomen with her hands, the place where she had so recently carried a life inside of her, but the ropes still held her securely.

Would it have been a boy? A little tow headed boy with curly hair? Brilliant blue eyes to match his father’s? Or a girl. A tiny elfin girl with a dimpled smile and the requisite pig tails.
Oh, God.

Sydney closed her eyes, trying valiantly to shut out the images of what might have been. She couldn’t bear to think of it, to picture it, to see Sark looking back at her from the phantom eyes of a dead child.

Sark. How was she going to tell him? What would he say? Did he even want children? Would he be sad, angry, or secretly relieved? Was he on his way here, right now, to rescue her? Would she ever see him again?

Everywhere her mind turned were questions she couldn’t bear to face, for fear of the answers. And she had nothing to do in the dark, but think of them. One question in particular rose up to the surface above all others. A question she hadn’t looked at closely enough to ask, even of herself. A question that filled her with aching despair, desperate hope, terrible fear.

She’d miscarried. Violently, Sloane had said. And as a captive, she hadn’t been given proper medical care. What if…what if she couldn’t get pregnant ever again? What if she could never have children?

Sydney bit her lip to hold back the sob that welled in her throat. Hard enough to hurt, to taste blood in her mouth. She couldn’t face those questions yet, not here. Not now. She focused her mind instead on Sark, and her father. She knew them. Surely they were looking for her. Maybe even on their way here, now.


And if they aren’t? It was a small, nagging voice in her head. The voice that seemed to drag her back from hope, constantly pulling her down into desolation. She ruthlessly shoved it aside. She was a trained agent. She could damn well rescue herself, if need be.

She twisted at her bonds again, feeling the ropes scrape over skin that was now slick with blood from the abrasions she’d already suffered. It hurt, but it was nothing compared to her inner anguish. She could feel fresh blood trickling like warm tears down her arms as the ropes bit into her flesh, but she would not give up. She would get herself free, and Sloane would pay for everything he’d done. The bastard.

Focusing on her anger helped. She couldn’t be sure, but it definitely felt as though the rope binding her left wrist and arm was looser. She twisted harder, clenching her jaw against the pain…and with an abrading scrape that took off at least three layers of skin, that hand slipped free. She bit back a sob, cradling the stinging appendage to her chest for a moment, waiting for the pain to fade.
Thank God, thank God, she thought fervently. She forced herself not to think about the rest of the task which lay before her. Not to wonder about the number of armed guards Sloane had on hand, or how she was going to get out of this pitch black room.

One thing at a time, Syd, she told herself, and reaching up, went to work at freeing her right hand.

***


Sark discarded his night vision goggles as soon as he entered the building. The walls were lined with torchlight. Torches, he thought incredulously, in the twenty-first century. He shook his head. Maybe Sloane hadn’t bothered having a generator flown in.

He paused just inside the door, adjusted the radio ear piece that connected him with CIA Agent Eric Weiss, Sydney’s one time handler, and the man who had commandeered a satellite to obtain real time infra red images of this area. It was he who had sent them the C-17 aircraft for the drop, per Jack’s request.

“Weiss,” Sark said in a barely audible undertone. “I’m in.”

“I’ve got you by the side entrance,” he heard in his ear. “You’re clear up until the end of the hall. One guard at the T section, right hand corridor.”

Sark didn’t bother much with stealth. The ancient monastery wasn’t exactly riddled with appropriate nooks and crannies for surreptitious movement, and even if it had been, he wasn’t so sure he’d have used them. Part of him, a large part, was angry enough to look for confrontation. Ever since Jack Bristow had woken him with that phone call, Sark wanted to lash out, to punish, to seek vengeance for any harm inflicted to Sydney. And this was his opportunity.

Six people inside meant four armed guards, Sloane, and Sydney. He made his way swiftly past door after door of monk cells, empty rooms that had once sheltered good and devout men of God. They were tarnished, now, by the presence of those intent only on death.

He didn’t slow at the T intersection. His gate never varied. He simply rounded the left hand corner with the butt of his MP5K raised, and brought it down hard on the shocked face of Sloane’s first guard. The man never even got his gun up. He fell heavily, out if not dead. A hard blow to the temple was often fatal.

Sark confiscated the man’s ammunition, just in case, doing a quick, cursory search of the body. No sense leaving weaponry behind to be used against him.

“OK, good,” came Weiss’s voice in his ear, “next up we have two more guards at the end of the hall. Careful, they might be able to see you from their current position. Looks like Sloane’s ignoring the rest of the monastery, and just guarding the path to Sydney.”

“She’s still stationary?” Sark asked under his breath. He was already up and moving, fast, direct and lacking in any subtlety, the business end of his submachine gun pointed to the end of the hall.

“Yeah….look, why don’t you slow down, the way you’re moving those guards will see you for sure…”

“Good,” said Sark coldly, just as one of the men heard him and looked back over his shoulder.

He said something to his companion, and both men swung toward him, raising M11 submachine guns to fire. But Sark’s was already trained on them. He fired a three round burst into the nearest man, stepping sideways and dropping down to one knee as the second guard sent a spray of gunfire down the hall. Stone chipped and spit into the air as rounds hit the wall, floor, and ceiling, the muzzle swinging wild and high as the guard flew back, hit by Sark’s second three round burst.

“Jesus Christ, Sark!” Weiss was yelling into his ear. “What the fuck are you doing? Ever heard of using a little caution? You’re not going to do Sydney any good if you’re dead, you stupid…”

Sark reached up and shut the radio off. Only one guard and Sloane remained, and he hardly needed Weiss to tell him where they were. This intersection led down a set of stone stairs, past the kitchens and into the cellars, he thought. To Sydney, and the room Sloane was holding her prisoner in. He would be there, too, Sark was sure. And so would the final guard, a last, desperate barrier between Sloane and the fate he justly deserved.

Sark hoped Hell was ready and waiting.

Something wet trickled down his temple as he stood and stepped over the bodies; he brushed it away with a gloved hand, noted the faint stinging sensation from just beneath his hairline with a detached kind of annoyance. A piece of flying stone must have cut him, but he ignored the wound for now. So long as it didn’t drip into his eyes, it didn’t concern him.

Not entirely without reason, he stopped at the head of the stairs and pulled a flash grenade from his flak jacket. He pulled the pin, counted off three seconds, threw it down the stairs. He averted his face, closing his eyes and plugging his ears. He heard and felt the concussion as it went off, was up and moving before the floor had stopped vibrating.

Sloane’s last guard was on his knees in front of a what looked like a steel reinforced door, hands covering his eyes. Sark didn’t even hesitate. Sloane already knew he was coming. He pulled his SIG from its holster and killed the last guard with a double tap to the head.

He found the key to the door in the dead man’s pocket. He stood, heart pounding, almost afraid to fit the key to the lock. What if Sloane had killed her? That he would use her as a hostage for his own life, Sark had no doubt. But what if, knowing he was done, knowing he couldn’t escape, he’d already delivered the final blow, and killed Sydney?

He took a deep breath, willing himself to calm. He closed his eyes, tried to find that cold, detached center of himself. The place he’d always lived until Sydney entered his life. He couldn’t afford to be emotional now. Couldn’t afford the fear, or the rage that went with it.

“Keep it bloody together,” he told himself out loud, and fit the key to the lock.

He pushed the door open, his MP5K slung over his shoulder in favor of the better accuracy of his pistol. He held the SIG in a dual handed grip, shoving his way past the door with his shoulders. And stopped dead.

He thought he’d prepared himself for anything, thought that no matter what he found on the other side of that door, he’d be able to handle it calmly, professionally. Like the soldier he was trained to be.

He’d been wrong.

Whatever he’d expected, this wasn’t it. It wasn’t Sloane in control at all, but Sydney. She was leaning against a stone table, clearly unable to stand without its aid, and blood covered her arms. He could see the deep rope abrasions on her wrists and forearms from here. Her face was colorless, the skin so drawn and pale she might have passed for a ghost, instead of a living, breathing woman. And she held a .45 caliber Smith & Wesson in her hands. Sloane was slumped on the floor, his back supported by the wall behind him, and half his face was covered in blood from his obviously broken nose. He was looking up at Sydney with a mixture of stunned disbelief, pain, and fear.

And she stared back at him with pure, unadulterated hatred.

“Sydney…” Sark said.

She didn’t even glance at him when he entered the room. All of her focus was on Sloane. Sark was struck, forcibly, by a powerful sense of déjà vu. It swept him back to a certain winter’s night in Rome, and a hotel room riddled with blood and feathers.

He’d saved her, then. That night, still so crystal clear in his mind, was the beginning of the end for Sark. The end of his life as he knew it. And the beginning of something more.

Sloane was pleading with her, his voice even and reasonable, almost fatherly. “Sydney, think about this. You can’t kill me. I’ve done so much for you! I’ve nurtured you, trained you, prepared you for everything that you are destined to be.”

Her hands had begun to shake, and Sark knew she wouldn’t be able to hold the gun up much longer. She’d either have to fire, or lower the weapon.

“Nurtured me?” she asked in a voice so furious it swept him with chills to hear it. Even in Rome, faced with the man who’d murdered her former lover, she hadn’t sounded like this. “Is that what you call what you’ve done? Look at me, Sloane!”

Enough, thought Sark, and raised his gun. If one of us is going to kill Sloane, it won’t be Sydney.

“Sark! Don’t you dare!” Now she took notice of him, still not looking his direction, but her voice whiplash sharp with the crack of command. “Not this time.”

“Sydney…” he tried again. She wouldn’t let him.

“No,” she said, and slowly straightened away from the stone slab. “You don’t know what he’s done. To me. To us.” He wondered at the way her voice trembled with unshed tears. Watched as she took one tremulous step forward, and then another, sucking air through her teeth as if in great pain. He went to go to her, to hold her up, support her, take the bloody gun from her fingers...

“Don’t touch me!”

He froze, stopped still just by the tone of her voice. Sloane started to laugh, and Sark glanced at him uneasily. Sydney kept moving toward the other man, one slow step at a time. What the hell was she planning on doing? She could shoot him from here, if she wanted to.

Sloane’s laugh unnerved him. It carried an edge of instability, of wildness.

“Sark…Sark is here to rescue you, Sydney,” he said, his voice mocking, as if she wasn’t still holding a gun on him. “How touching.”

Sark could see a pool of blood spreading beneath Sloane’s left leg, and realized then that Sydney had already shot him once. Immobilized him, to be precise.

“I didn’t realize that the two of you were so close, but I can see now that you are. He looks worried, Sydney. About you.”

She stopped right in front of him, slowly lowering herself down to kneel at eye level. Sark tensed, taking a step to the side so he’d have a clear shot if Sloane tried anything. But he just kept talking.

“How close are you? Are you friends? Lovers?”

Sydney flinched, and Sark’s brow knit in confusion. He was missing something here, something important. He could feel it.

“You are, aren’t you?” said Sloane softly. He smiled, as if he’d found the answer to some plaguing question. “Are you going to tell him?” he asked, and it was as if Sark wasn’t even in the room.

There was something, an air of intimacy between Sydney and Sloane that excluded him. She looked Sloane dead in the eye, and lifted the muzzle of the gun to his head. The older man kept watching her, kept smiling like he didn’t really believe she’d do it. Sydney leaned down, whispered words that Sark barely caught.

“I told you I’d kill you.”

Her finger tightened, and Sark lunged.

“Sydney, no!!”

But it was too late. The sound of the gunshot reverberated around the stone walls as blood, bone, and brains splattered the room. Splattered them both. He felt the droplets hit his face, saw the ichor spray Sydney.

She just sat there, unmoving, staring at Sloane’s headless corpse. Sark stood frozen for a timeless moment, wide eyed and disbelieving of what she’d just done. My God, was all he could think. How could I have let her do that?

After a moment, he forced his legs into motion. He crossed to her, gently pried to gun from nerveless fingers. He could see the glassy look of shock in her eyes, but wasn’t sure what it was from. Murdering Sloane, or the injuries she’d sustained?

He was murmuring words, meaningless phrases meant to sooth, to comfort. It’s all right, I’m here now, c’mon Sydney, let me help you up, c’mon, your parents are here, too, they should be here any moment, come here…

He tossed the Smith aside, holstered his SIG, and swung her up into his arms. It worried him, how light and frail she seemed. Up close, she looked even worse than he’d first imagined. The skin around her eyes was dark as though bruised, her lips parched and chapped, and the abrasions on her arms deep and scabbed beneath the freshly weeping blood. All of her strength seemed to have suddenly fled, and she was crying. Silently. Uncontrollably. He hid his worry, cradling her to his chest. Her arms squeezed around his neck, and she buried her face against him.

Just then Jack and Irina came pounding into the room, out of breath, weapons drawn. They stopped, stared. Looked from Sloane, to Sark and Sydney. Jack looked like he wanted to say something, made an abortive move toward them, his eyes on his daughter, and Sark shook his head just as Irina grabbed his arm. Together, mother and father watched silently as he bore their weeping daughter past them.

“It’s all right, it’s all over now…” he murmured into her hair. He carried her out of that room with it’s blood painted walls, away from Sloane. “Shh, Sydney, it’s over.”

But he didn’t really think it was.

Los Angeles, California


They tried to make him leave. Two hours after Sydney was admitted into a hospital in L.A., an hour after Jack had been called back to speak with the doctor, two men approached him as he paced the waiting area, grimacing his way through his fourth truly terrible cup of coffee. A pair of CIA gorillas in suits, with stone golem faces and official sounding words.

First he laughed in their faces.

Then he told them if they tried to force the issue, he’d happily kill them both and claim self defense. They were, after all, a great deal larger and more threatening seeming than he. Physically, at any rate.

At least one of them had read his dossier, because they exchanged a glance, looking somewhat more unsure than they had just moments before, and backed off. They didn’t leave. One pulled out a cell phone and had a hushed conversation with his superior. After that, they both settled back and watched him pace. Sark didn’t mind, so long as they maintained their distance.

He wasn’t bloody leaving, and the CIA with their load of bollocks about “classified events” and “official sanction” could shove it up their collective arse.

“Sark.”

It was Jack, standing just inside the waiting room entrance. He looked…impassive, his face carefully blank. Oh, God, thought Sark, and cleared his own expression of emotion. It was bad, it had to be, for Jack to look like that.

He couldn’t bring himself to ask how she was, but instead he crossed to Jack and looked him squarely, stoically in the eye. He wouldn’t shirk away from it.

“Sydney’s going to be all right.”

“She’s…what?”

It caught him off guard, completely. If she was all right, where was Jack’s relief, his happiness? However he tried to keep such things from showing, Bristow simply wasn’t capable where his daughter was concerned. And so Sark was flummoxed. What the hell is wrong with him? He looked around, half expecting to see Irina lurking about the room. She’d had to decline joining them for the trip to the U.S., since she was still a political criminal, but her presence would have explained Jack’s attitude.

But of course, she wasn’t there. He looked back at the other man, frowned.

“Look, Bristow, I’ve already gone round with the hospital staff and these two gormless idiots—” he jerked his head at the CIA goons behind him, “—about the acceptability of my presence. I may not be Sydney’s family, but I have just as much fucking right to be here as you.” More, he thought, but was wise enough not to say.

To his endless surprise, Jack didn’t even argue.

“Sark…look, maybe you should sit down.”

Ah, fuck. “No. I think I’ll stand, thanks. Just tell me, Jack.”

The other man took a deep breath, like a diver going under for a long swim. “Sydney had a miscarriage.” He paused for a beat. “She was pregnant when Sloane grabbed her. The drug he gave her accidentally aborted the child.”

Sark stared at him for a full minute. His paper coffee cup hit the floor, splashing both his shoes and Jack’s with the tepid remains of dark liquid. Neither man glanced down. Then he sat, blindly, without checking to see if there was a chair behind him first. A quick move on Bristow’s part guided him a foot to his left, saving him from an embarrassing fall to the floor. Sark didn’t even notice.

“Pregnant…” he repeated numbly. “Ah, Sydney…fuck. Fuck me.”

And he buried his head in his hands.

Jack sat down beside him, silent for a long time. Finally, after what could have been ten minutes, or might have been an hour, he cleared his throat. Sark didn’t move, didn’t acknowledge his presence in any way.

“It might be…best,” said Jack quietly, “ if you didn’t see Sydney for awhile. She’s undergone some severe emotional trauma. She’ll have to debrief, undergo mandatory counseling, and you’ll have to explain to your own superiors what happened. The actions you took.” He paused. “Sloane’s death.”

Sark understood. They’d decided on the plane, all of them, not to reveal how Sloane had really died. Sark intended to take full responsibility. He found Sydney. Sloane used her as a hostage. He was forced to kill him.

Simple. Straightforward. By the book.

“Right,” he said roughly, without looking up. “I won’t…I won’t contact her until she’s ready. Look, Jack, could you just give me a moment here?”

“…sure. I need to see Sydney anyway.”

The other man stood up, loitered for a moment. He cleared his throat, then held out a plain white handkerchief. Sark took it without a word, without looking up. He waited until he could no longer hear Jack’s footfalls on the hospital tile.

Only then did he wipe away his tears.


One Month Later,
London, England


He’d put it off for as long as humanly possible. Dragged his feet, avoided the issue, told himself he would take care of it “later”. Until the day he’d come home to find Nathaniel Collins on his doorstep. Beside the same 1951 Bentley Mark VI he’d once ridden in as a boy. It’s silver paint job was washed and waxed to a perfect gleam, even on an overcast London day.

Collins, as always, looked impeccable in a pressed silk suit, posture perfectly straight, every hair in place. Though the hair was a good deal more gray than Sark remembered. But the blue eyes were every bit as penetrating, and the single lifted brow an admonishment that still, it seemed, had the power to instantly fill him with guilt.

Sark got out of the cab, pulled his coat a bit tighter against the wind.

“So,” said Nathaniel in his low baritone, “you’re out of it.”

Sark stepped up onto the sidewalk beside his old friend and mentor. He took a deep breath, let it out again.

“I am, yes,” he said. “It was time, and I’d had enough.”

Nathaniel simply nodded. Then he said, rather pointedly, “Your mother will be happy to hear.”

Sark ran a hand through his hair, bit back frustration. “Look, Nate, it’s not as though I’ve been shirking it, exactly. This last bit was…it was bad. I needed some time before I could step into her parlor. Time to…”

“Wash away the blood?” Nate looked at him with those penetrating eyes again, and Sark simply nodded. “She understands, you know. Knows more about who you are and what you’ve done than you think. Understands that the title, the manor, the whole package that goes with it, it’s not for you. She understood that when you left at fifteen.” Nate looked at him for a long minute. “You’re her son, Andrew, and even if you never take the Talbot name again, even if you keep your distance and stay “Sark” for the rest of your life, you will always be her son. She loves you.”

It was a long minute before Sark could answer. “I know,” he said finally. “And I love her. That’s why I can’t bring this to her with me. Just a bit more time, Nate. A few days. A week at most, and I’ll come visit.”

Nathaniel held out his hand. “I’ve your word?”

Sark took it, clasped it firmly. “You do.”

“Then I’ll be on my way.” Nathaniel turned, started to climb into the open door of the Bentley. He hesitated. “You should probably know, there’s a woman went up to your place about half an hour back. She didn’t come down again. A pretty little piece. Tall, brown hair, American. Sweet talked the doorman into letting her up.” He smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. “Have to admire that, as your doorman’s rather a crusty old bloke.”

Sark wasn’t listening. He was staring up at the closed blinds to his apartment, and his mouth had gone dry. He swallowed. Sydney was there…waiting for him right now. “I’ve…got to go, Nate,” he said, without glancing at his friend. “Later.” He was already up the steps and past the crusty doorman before Nate could open his mouth to reply. The older man watched after him for a moment, then closed his mouth. He smiled.

“Thought it might be like that,” he said to himself, and ducked into the car, gesturing the driver away. About bloody time, he thought, looking forward to sharing this tidbit with Mary Talbot. She’d be thrilled for her son.

***


Sydney waited in the dark. Even as afternoon shadows drifted toward evening, even with the blinds pulled, she didn’t turn on any lights. She paced Sark’s immaculate apartment, took note of the little details of it. Tried not to think of why she was here, how he’d react when he saw her. What she noticed most were the touches of luxury, of money, that seemed at first to be mere extravagance.

The countertops in the kitchen were black slate. The most expensive money could buy, and only of value if the person using the kitchen enjoyed cooking. She wondered if Sark did, thought back to the few times they’d had the opportunity to share a private meal, and decided that yes, he must. It would certainly explain his exclusive collection of Danish cookware. What sort of man paid attention to the pan he cooked in?

His living area was sparse. It held the usual items. Leather couch, chair, the most up to date home entertainment system. It was nearly devoid of anything representative of the man who lived there, save for one piece of art. A large frame picture taking up nearly one entire wall. Italian, she thought, looking at it. Modern. Dark.

She touched the frame lightly, ran her finger down it’s edge, and paused. There was a switch, barely detectable. She hesitated, then applied pressure to it. The picture and accompanying section of wall swung inward smoothly, soundlessly. And the hidden room it revealed, far from containing all of Sark’s mysterious secrets, held wine instead. A temperature controlled room filled with wall-to-wall wine racks.

Sydney smiled, pulling the door shut again without entering the room. How very Sark.

His bedroom was more of the same. Very little of a personal nature. No pictures, no piles of mail or personal correspondence, no address book to leaf through. The bed was huge, a king size piled with blankets and pillows. It looked like he never slept in it, but a hardcover book lay on the bedside table. A spy thriller, of all things. She picked it up, read the back cover, then opened it to the page he was on and read a paragraph. Interesting, she thought despite herself, and put the book back down.

The room also held a large gun safe, and she paused by it, but couldn’t even begin to guess the combination, and didn’t really want to try.

The closet, of course, was lined with perfectly pressed suits, most of them more expensive than the monthly salary she’d pulled from the CIA. She smiled, fingering one she remembered very well. He’d worn it in Rome for their second liaison there. And he’d still been wearing half of it when he’d pinned her against the wall, and thrust himself inside of her until she’d screamed.

The flash was so vivid, so tactile her breath hitched and her heart accelerated. She dropped the suit quickly, shut the closet doors. Don’t go there Syd, not yet, she told herself, and walked quickly from the bedroom.

The floors in the kitchen, bathroom, and entryway were all tiled with black granite. A very masculine choice, she thought with a smile, listening to the soles of her shoes echo as she walked on it.

She entered the bathroom and stopped dead, staring. The bathtub was like nothing she’d ever seen before, not in real life. It was huge, black marble, and fed by what appeared to be gold plated faucets. The marble spilled from the high sides of the tub down the three steps that led up to it, until it met the granite of the floor. If she walked up those steps and peered into it, she could see the jets built into the sides. Wow, she thought, and nearly lost her balance and fell in, when a familiar voice suddenly whispered into her ear.

“Thinking about taking a bath?”

She stifled a small scream and fell back, straight into Sark’s arms. He caught her easily enough, set her on her feet again, and let go. Quickly.

Disappointment welled within her. And sadness. Was this why he hadn’t called? He didn’t want her anymore?

“Sark,” she said swiftly to cover up any awkward silence. “I’m sorry for just coming up like this, I…” She stopped, at a loss. What could she say, what explanation could she give that would make more sense than the truth? I was afraid if I knocked, you wouldn’t let me in. “…I hope it’s not a problem.”

“No,” he said quietly. “Not a problem, Sydney.” He paused, peered at her through the darkness. “How have you been?”

She couldn’t quite see his face, and regretted not turning on the lights. Shadows made his expression impossible to read, and his tone was even, smooth, giving no hint to what he might be feeling. Her own heart was pounding so hard, she could hear the pulse in her ears. She twisted her hands together.

“I’ve been…I’ve been…” To her horror, a tear slid down her cheek, and then another, and another. It made her feel helpless, and angry. “Why haven’t you called? Where have you been?” The words burst forth before she could stop them, and they struck Sark like a physical blow. He actually staggered back a step.

“Wha…? Didn’t Jack tell you, explain?” he asked.

Crying openly now, and powerless to stop it, Sydney lifted her hands. “Explain what? I know he told you what happened, about…about the b-baby. I know you had to leave, you had to come back here and check in, debrief, explain yourself. But you m-must have finished that weeks ago. Where have you been, Sark? Do you have any idea what I’ve been through? Do you even care? Or did the idea of fathering a child scare you that damn much?”

“Sydney, no! I wasn’t, I’m not…fuck!”

He closed the space between them and grabbed her by the arms, resisted the urge to shake her in his frustration.

“It threw me, I’m not denying that. The idea that you’d been carrying our child. Yours and mine. But that…that wasn’t… Sydney, you lost the baby. And I can’t even begin to imagine what pain you must have gone through, must still be going through. I didn’t call because --because I thought you might need time. Away from me.”

She stared at him incredulously through her tears. “Why would you even think that? Sark, I love you. You were the father of my child. I needed you then more than I’ve ever needed anyone in my entire life!”

And he hadn’t been there. She might as well have hurled the words at him like a knife, they cut so deeply. He stared at her.

“Oh, God.” And he crushed her to him, holding her tightly because he was afraid if he didn’t, she’d turn around and he leave him, like he deserved. “Sydney, I’m so sorry, so, so sorry. Jack said you’d need time, and I thought…I thought that meant I should let you come to me. I’ve never been through anything like this before, and I thought my presence might remind you, might make everything harder. I’m so sorry.”

And he just held her, stroking a hand over her hair and praying to God that he hadn’t ruined things irreparably.

He waited, and after a time, she spoke.

“So, you still…you want to…make this work?”

“God, yes!” he said, relief flooding through him. He felt a little like crying himself, but didn’t. “Of course I do. I love you, you know.” He smiled into her hair. “In case that wasn’t yet clear.”

He lifted his head, cupping her face in his hands. “And I promise to always be there for you when you need me. God, Sydney, why do you think I went after you in the first place?”

He kissed her tear streaked face, her forehead, and finally her mouth. It was soft, and gentle, and coaxing. A kiss meant to reassure her of his feelings, not to be passionate. She returned it after a moment, her hands closing over his arms, holding on as if for dear life. He pulled back, rested his head against hers.

“Why don’t I pour us some wine? You could take bath, relax. I’ll put on some music, something soft and soothing, and make us dinner.”

She smiled, and he nearly cheered. “Ok. It sounds…good. Great, really.” She glanced at the marble tub, and the smile became a grin. “You have the most amazing bathtub I’ve ever seen.”

He started her bath water, provided her with towels, a robe that would be too big since it was sized for him, and showed her where he kept things like bath soaps and shampoo. Then he kissed her, and left to pick out the wine.

He settled on a 1997 Beringer Merlot. It was rich and full flavored, and heady. He thought perhaps she needed something of its ilk. He poured two glasses, deciding on the Waterford crystal. He enjoyed drinking fine wines in equally fine glassware. It was something of an insult to the wine, otherwise.

By the time he delivered her glass and the rest of the bottle for her, she was submersed in steaming water, enjoying the relaxing pulse of the jets. Her eyes were closed, and she’d chosen to light the few candles he kept in the cupboard. He was tempted, sorely tempted, to join her.

But he thought better of it. Best to cook dinner first. Let her relax, eat, rest. Everything else could wait. Damn it.

He delivered the wine, kissed her brow, and left.

By the time she was done with the bath, he’d finished setting up the meal, a simple bouillabaisse, served by candlelight in his small dining alcove. He used it so rarely, it seemed strange to sit down to an actual dinner.

And, he realized suddenly, he was nervous. He was, for the first time, allowing someone else into his life. He picked up his own glass of wine, took a drink. And turned at a sudden sound behind him.

Sydney was standing there, dwarfed in the robe, a hesitant smile on her face. She held both her own glass of wine and the bottle. Her hair was wet, hanging loose around her shoulders.

His first thought, shameful as it might be, was to wonder what, if anything, she was wearing under the robe. His robe. His mind flashed to an image of her, naked in his bed, and dinner was instantly, utterly forgotten.

“It smells wonderful,” she said, smiling.

He blinked. “What?” And actually blushed. Damn it. “Oh, yes. Dinner. It’s nothing really, just a simple…”

He trailed off, because she was walking toward him, a different kind of smile curving her lips, and one he recognized. Predatory. The same one she’d worn, once, when she’d straddled him on a hotel bed. He felt himself grow hard, couldn’t remember what he’d been saying a moment ago.

He cleared his throat. Watched as she set the wine bottle on the table behind him, watched her drain what was left of her glass. Her tongue flicked out to lick the taste from her lips, and his mouth went dry. She shot him a sultry look from under her lashes, and slowly slipped the robe down her shoulders, shook back her hair.

“Maybe,” she said softly, “dinner can wait.”

Hell, yes.

He grabbed the tie to the robe, used it to pull her against him. She just smiled, touched his face with her hands, ran fingers back through his hair. His hands splayed over her abdomen, and their eyes met.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” he whispered.

She didn’t even hesitate, but reached up and kissed him, open mouthed, her tongue sliding sensuously over his. The last knot of worry dissolved in his gut, and he gave himself over to her. The Merlot was a rich, heady taste on her lips, on his, on their mingled breath. Her fingers played with his hair, trailed down to his shoulders, dug into his flesh through the thin silk of his shirt as her body rocked against him. He untied the robe, slipped his hands inside it.

She wasn’t wearing anything underneath, and the fact only heightened his need for her. She gasped into his mouth when he touched her, stroked hands over flesh still hot and damp from the bath. She grabbed his shirt, pulling it free of his slacks with quick, almost frantic motions.

“I was so afraid you didn’t want me anymore,” she whispered, as his mouth trailed down the curve of her neck, settling on the spot he knew would drive her wild. He cupped her breast in his hand, grazed the nipple with his thumb. She bit her lip, arched into him.

“How could you think that, even for a moment?” he admonished, and flicked his tongue out, laving it over the sensitive flesh just above her collar bone. She shuddered, gave up on undoing his shirt, and yanked it open instead, scattering buttons. He didn’t give a damn. Her hands began fumbling with his belt. Her breathing was no longer steady, and neither were her legs.

“You’re an ache inside of me,” he continued, moving up her neck, pulling her earlobe between his teeth to flick it with his tongue. He released it a moment later, filled his empty hand with her other breast. The robe fell forgotten to the floor.

“I see you, and I need.” He circled both nipples with his thumbs, stroked, and pinched until she whimpered. One hand ran down her body in feather light caresses, slipped between her thighs to find her already wet, already ready.

“I dream of ways to get you naked, and wanting, and screaming my name.” He stroked the cleft between her legs, slipped two fingers inside of her, watched her eyes go dark. He held her up with his other hand splayed across her back, stroked those two fingers in and out until her breath came in short gasps, her head thrown back. Pressed his thumb into that hardened nubbin of flesh until her nails bit crescents into his shoulders. She still didn’t scream, didn’t moan, didn’t give in to the pleasure he knew she was feeling. He stroked faster, harder, his thumb circling her clitoris, practically demanding that she come. He knew her body well, now, was able to judge it down to the second.

“Come for me, Sydney. Only for me.” And he kissed her, at the same moment thrusting as hard and deep as he could. He felt it break over her, felt the shudder wrack her body, heard her sob into his mouth.

Jesus, watching her come made him hard. Painfully so.

She finally got his belt free a moment later, and his slacks slipped down his waist to pool at his feet. He stepped free of them, kicked them aside without looking away from her. And sucked in a sudden, sharp breath when she fastened her mouth to one of his nipples. She was a wild, wanton thing in his arms, licking, biting, stroking with her hands. He reached behind her, lifted until she could wrap her legs around his waist.

Her mouth found his again, her tongue entangling, stroking until he almost couldn’t stand, legs trembling, her hips rubbing up and down against him in torturous little movements. He groaned, staggering toward the bedroom. Wondered if they would make it. When she reached a hand down between them, pulled him free of his briefs, he knew they wouldn’t.

He was powerless to stop her when she lifted herself up, slid down over him, so slick and hot and wet, his legs crumbled beneath him. He went down on his knees, but it didn’t matter. She was already moving above him, whispering in his ear, squeezing him until his jaw locked to keep from screaming.

“Come for me, Sark. Only for me,” she breathed, moving faster, harder. His hands grabbed her hips, but it didn’t slow her in the slightest.

“Wait…” he gasped, but she didn’t.

Jesus, she didn’t.

The muscles of his shoulders and neck corded, his head thrown back as the climax rippled through him. He didn’t know what he said, what sound he might have made, or screamed, as his seed spilled inside of her. All that mattered was that wave of pleasure cresting over him in an endless tide. She kept up for a few more strokes, and then she was shuddering and gasping with him, her body squeezing him like a fist.

He groaned, collapsed completely to the floor still entangled with her, trying to catch his breath. Good Christ, he thought dimly. And I was worried about her handling sex again?

“I think,” he said aloud, between breaths, “you’ve killed me. I now know exactly why the French refer to orgasm as the ‘little death’.”

She giggled, burying her face against his chest. He closed his eyes, holding her, relieved, so utterly relieved, to hear that sound. He’d been afraid, after Sloane, never to hear it again.

But she was going to be fine. And so was he. He stroked a hand over her hair, wondered if now might be a good time to tell her. And the words left his mouth before he could really decide.

“I’ve left MI-6,” he said. “Permanently. I handed in my resignation last week. I’m done.”

She went still in his arms, not saying a word. He waited, almost holding his breath, wondering if he ought to explain further.

“Why?” she said finally, still not looking at him. Her hand was tracing circles on his skin. He sighed.

“I can’t do it anymore, Sydney. In order to be an effective agent, especially a deep cover operative, like me, you have to have your head in the game one hundred and ten percent, all of the time. And I don’t have that, not anymore.”

She was silent again for a time. Then, “Because of me, of us?”

“To be blunt, yes. I worry about you too much. And when something happens like what did, with Sloane…” His throat closed up and he stopped talking for a minute. She waited. “Well, we’re just damn lucky we’re all still alive, that’s all. I can’t separate the professional from the personal any longer, and that makes the game too dangerous to play.”

He couldn’t sit still anymore, and sat up, dislodging her. He wouldn’t look at her face, but stretched out fingers and snagged his slacks to pull back on.

“And I can’t settle for a desk job. I’m not built for that.” He stood up, belted his slacks, was aware, peripherally, of Sydney reaching for the discarded robe. “So I left. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I’ve got rather a lot of money put away, and I thought…” he paused, cleared his throat, “…I thought, maybe I’d come to L.A. for awhile. Try my hand at sunshine and sandy beaches.”

He forced himself to face her, then, to look her in the eye. But he couldn’t, because her head was bent and she was examining the carpet as if it were the most interesting thing in the universe.

He couldn’t help it. Anger leaped up to pound through his system. He frowned, turned abruptly away before he said or did something regrettable. If she didn’t want him to come, fine…

“I’ve left the CIA,” she said suddenly, from behind him. He stopped halfway to the kitchen, turned back around. She smiled faintly. “I worry about you too much. And…and the truth is, there isn’t really a reason for me to be in the CIA anymore. SD-6 is gone. Sloane is…Sloane is dead.”

She looked down at her hands, and Sark knew she was seeing them splattered with blood. He crossed over, knelt beside her on the carpet. Took her hands in his.

“It’s all right,” he said softly. “So we’re both free agents. We’ll go somewhere, start something new together. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even have normal lives.”

She looked at him with tears glimmering in her eyes. “Really?”

He pulled her into his arms. “Really. No more illusions, Sydney. No more shadows. It’s over.”

And it was.

:: Il finale::
 
 
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Mandy: syd phaseleelu92 on December 16th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
Thank you sooo much for posting this fic- it's one of my very favorite series. I miss the old archives too. When I rewatched Alias this summer I remembered a fic called "Southern Cross" sydney/lennox. It was a really great piece of work and I would give anything to read it again. But I'm pretty sure it was in the Cover Me archive. *sigh*
I just got all excited b/c I realized I could copy your fic into a document and send it to my Kindle!! Yaa.
Mandyleelu92 on December 16th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
OH!! I totally just found that fic on Fanfiction.net! yaa!
rhienellethrhienelleth on December 16th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
:) I love that kindle let's us read fic on it! *loves kindle to pieces*

Like my ipod, my kindle is one of those pieces of technology I'd have to IMMEDIATELY replace if anything terrible should befall mine.

I am so very sad that Cover Me is gone. So much great fic, all totally gone now. And sadly, all of the smaller archives appear to have disappeared as well.