Just like he had three days ago, Simon smiled as he opened the door, but this time the smile was wiped off by her appearance. “My God…”
She pushed past him and practically ran into the room. She stopped by the bed and took a deep steadying breath as she pushed the hair off her face. His arms pulled her to him as he crooned soft comforting words in her ear. He knew she seemed about to cry, but the truth was she had no tears left.
He pulled her back and looked at her, lifting her chin to meet her eyes. “Julia…love…are you okay, babe?”
“Si…” she breathed. She clutched the front of his shirt and tried to stop trembling. She knew she looked horrible; she had seen her reflection in the lobby mirror. Blood streaked her bodice, her face was bruised, and a large welt was throbbing where her head had hit the desk. Her clothes were wrinkled and her makeup streaked her flushed face. Her hair was mussed and had leaves in it from her run back to civilization. She hadn’t even tried to make herself look halfway decent; she had just run upstairs, to his waiting arms.
“God, I thought you were dead.” Simon’s eyes were shining oddly. He tucked her head under his chin and held her gently, rocking back and forth.
“I…I had to hide, but I fell again, and knocked myself out. When I woke up, it was clear, so I ran. I’m okay…okay.”
He smoothed his hand over her forehead and kissed her temple softly. She leaned into him and a dry sob choked out. “I’m tired…”
He laid her down on the bed and cuddled her to his body. “Shhh…sleep then.”
He leaned down to kiss her gently, but she grasped his head and frantically pressed him to her. He tried to pull off of her, but she grabbed at him, forcing his shirt off and pressing wild kisses to his body. “Julia, no…you need rest…”
“No,” she choked out. “I need you. Please, Simon, please…I need you.” She pulled him down to kiss her again. He kissed her back, sweetly and softly and when he broke away to breathe, he held her face and looked deep into her eyes.
“Are you sure, love?”
She blinked at the tenderness in his eyes. “Yes.”
His hands were gentle in removing her clothes; hers were rough and furious. He pressed soft kisses to her body; she clawed at his skin. He entered her slowly; she rocked into him with harsh thrusts. His hands caressed; hers drew blood. His breathing was punctuated by groans of pleasure; hers by sobs of pain. When they finally came, he shuddered and brushed her face; she screamed and arched her body.
He was about to roll off of her when she whispered, “I love you.”
He froze. “Do you really?” He searched her face with begging eyes.
She was trembling again, but this time from fear. “Yes.”
He pulled her tightly to him, tears falling on her head. She wrapped her arms around him and suddenly found she had tears to match. “Simon…”
“Oh Julia, I love you…I love you so much, babe.” His voice shook with tenderness. Her lips found his again, and this kiss was caring, soft, the salt of their tears tasting sharp and bitter. She clung to him, saying “Don’t leave me.”
“Don’t worry,” he whispered to her. “I never will.”
When he was sleeping, she was awake, but stayed cradled in his arms. She let her fingers trace his sleeping form, brush his dark hair from his forehead, and memorize the contours of his face. The waning moonlight made him look so vulnerable, and she blinked before tears started to fall again.
She loved him. Julia loved Simon. And she had told him.
She had to leave. Weiss was expecting Sydney back sometime early; they had to be back in L.A. to report tomorrow. She wanted to scream and beat the walls in, her frustration was so intense. She could no longer do it. She couldn’t separate herself like this. It had broken her heart into pieces to have to act this way. She no longer cared about the Covenant, or whatever happened to her two years ago. Her life was killing her. Nothing about it all mattered anymore.
“Simon,” she whispered. He shifted and mumbled in his sleep. She shook his shoulder and tried again, louder. “Simon.”
He started, and opened his eyes to find her leaning over him. He smiled and kissed her sleepily. “Aren’t you tired, babe?”
“I have to go.”
He sat up and stared at her. “What?”
She tenderly stroked his face. “I’m sorry Simon, but I have a meeting in L.A. that I need to be at. I don’t want to go, believe me, but it’s important that I do this.”
He ducked his head. “Okay. I…I understand.”
She raised his chin again. “No, darling, please don’t do this. I will come back to you. I promise.”
He looked at her with pain in his eyes. “Promise?” he mouthed.
She nodded. He pulled her to him, cradling her body gently to his. They rocked back and forth for endless minutes, just holding each other. When she pulled away, he entwined their fingers. He helped dress her back into her outfit and when they finally ended up at the door, he pulled her in for a final kiss.
She grabbed his other hand and brought them both to her lips. “Meet me at the Hotel Bristol, in Paris, in one week.”
She brought him down for one last kiss, then turned and left.
“Sydney?” He spoke tentatively.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry Eric, what did you say?”
He rolled his eyes. “See, this is why I said you should sleep a bit. We could have caught a later flight; I’m sure Dixon would let us come in a little late if it meant you are actually conscious.”
“Funny, Weiss. Really funny. What were we talking about?”
He glanced over the report he was typing. “Last thing you said was that you had been surprised while leaving, you fought, got separated from Walker and the gang, had to find an alternate exit, then…you got all dreamy. Did you get hurt? Were you compromised in anyway?”
She smiled bitterly at that phrase. “The soldiers didn’t catch me. I ran into an empty bunker to hide, but…”
“I…fell, bumped my head and passed out.” She ducked her head sheepishly.
Weiss looked at her. “You passed out, and you weren’t caught?”
“Luckiest. Spy. Ever.”
“Shut up, Eric!”
Her apartment was the same as it had been when she left. She gave her living room a cursory glance and shook off her jacket, hanging it up before she deposited her stuff in her bedroom. After a quick shower, she slipped into sweats and a comfy tank, and curled up on the couch with a battered Agatha Christie.
“You graduated with a degree in English Lit., and you’re reading paperback mysteries?” Weiss plopped down on her couch, a beer in his hand.
She rolled her eyes at him, “I didn’t invite you over.”
“I know,” he shot her a friendly grin. “But I knew you’d never pass up a chance at our regular beer and pizza after espionage and thievery.”
“Fine. But it’s your turn to order, jackass.”
He bounced off the couch and picked up the phone. She sighed and laid her book down. She had really wanted to be alone, to ignore the fact that she was not at all where she wanted to be tonight. But now that he was here, she relaxed and stretched out. Eric had always been a really good friend to her and he was one thing that she would miss from life. Francie was gone, Will was still being hidden, Vaughn had changed, her father was suspicious of everything she did, her mother couldn’t be reached and Dixon was now in charge. Weiss was the solidity to Sydney’s life, and she needed it tonight.
He hung up the phone and came back to sit with her, handing her a cold beer. She flipped on the TV and they watched bad sitcoms in silence, drinking every so often.
“Syd?” he finally broke out.
“Yeah?” she looked over at him.
He didn’t say anything at first, just faced the TV. Finally he turned to her and said, “Look, I want to be your friend here, and I don’t wanna sound suspicious, but…do you tell me everything that happens on your missions?”
She smiled at him. “Of course I do, Eric, do you think I’d lie about-.”
“Syd, I know you’re sleeping with Simon.”
Time stopped. She turned off the TV and stared at the now black screen. Tears started to slip down her cheeks unconsciously. She couldn’t face him.
“Sydney…Sydney, please stop it, please.” He gently cupped her chin and forced her to look at him. “Sydney, I’m sorry, honey, I’m so sorry.”
She said nothing but laid her face on his shoulder and cried harder. His hands rubbed her back soothingly and she clutched his shirt. Finally her tears subsided to little sniffles and she lifted her head to say “The laser mic, right?” in a weary voice.
He nodded. “About two months in, I figured out what you were doing to intercept the signal. I was going to tell you, but…then it got all fucked up, and…I wasn’t sure what to do. Then…I don’t know how she did it, but Lauren, she found out. And she told me not to tell you, or anyone, what was going on, but to keep collecting tapes and lie to everyone else.”
She wiped her eyes. “Wait…Lauren Reed? But, she doesn’t have any authority over you…”
“I know, Syd, but…she said this was NSC territory, and her superiors would override CIA on this. She’s obsessed; she said you were slipping, and everyone tries to protect you, even though you should be locked away. She was crazy, Syd. But…I helped her. I thought it was for your own good. I figured you were doing this because you were so fixated on finding out how and where you disappeared to those two years…I thought you were trying to self-destruct or something…”
“I think I was, in the beginning,” she whispered softly. “But then it changed. I…I…”
“You fell in love with him.” Weiss stated.
She nodded mutely, tears sliding down her face again.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s okay Sydney. I was crazy not to go to you, or Dixon or your dad in the first place. But when I realized that the only reason Lauren was making me do this was to destroy you…I couldn’t do it anymore. She hates you; she thinks now that you’re back, Mike’s just gonna go running back to you. She wants you out of the way so badly it’s scary. She’s freaky…but I had nothing to go on. I had no idea what she was doing with the tapes and I couldn’t just accuse her unsoundly, so I let it go on. But then you changed. You…I could see you fighting every time, to slip in and out of your role as Julia, and it was getting harder and harder for you…and then…the other night…”
“Oh god…” she buried her face in her hands.
“I’m so sorry, Syd. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She wiped her face and grabbed his hand. “No, Eric, I’m sorry. I should have…I shouldn’t have lied to you. But…you’re right, it was so hard, trying to fake it, like nothing happened to me every time…like Julia was just some person I became for a mission like so many other times. But she isn’t. She’s me, Eric. Julia is some dark part of me who loves the power I had in that situation. I could just forget about all this shit at home and run away from all my problems. But…I couldn’t…I couldn’t mix me and her together and I couldn’t keep us apart. It was killing me.”
She laid her head against the back of the couch, completely worn out. Weiss copied her, rubbing his thumb over her hand comfortingly.
“So what do we do now?” she asked wearily.
“Are you planning on meeting Walker again?”
She nodded. “I told him to meet me in Paris, in a week.”
“Were you planning on coming back?”
She shrugged. “I really don’t know. I just…I was going to see what happened then.”
“Syd, I know that you…love him, but…he’s tied to the Covenant. You really think he’d leave everything just to be with you? Would he give up his entire life because he loves Julia?”
“I really think he would, Eric. I know I shouldn’t trust him, that I’m putting my life in serious danger, but…how am I supposed to just forget him? I can’t just go back to my life like this. Everyone I’ve ever known has spent so much time trying to get rid of the Julia part of me. I can’t just go back to the way things were.”
“I know. God, Sydney…now I know how you’ve been feeling for this entire episode. Wow,” He chuckled softly. “Why didn’t you ever talk about it? I mean, there are great people for that…doctors at the CIA-.”
She cut him off, “I couldn’t, Eric. Nobody understood at all. All they wanted to do was make me forget about it, or feel bad that I couldn’t handle it myself.”
“You could have talked to me. I may not have been able to do anything, but I can listen.”
“I know,” she replied softly. “But I didn’t want you to turn into everyone else. I needed you, if only to escape from life for a while.”
“I would never do that to you, Syd.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and rocked her to him. He sighed. “Syd…I think you should go to him.”
She raised herself up and stared at him in shock. “What?”
“Syd…you hate this. You’ve changed now, and this life here no longer has anything for you. I’m scared that Lauren’s gonna break you somehow, and I don’t want to see you suffering the rest of your life because you followed one part of your heart. Eventually the Covenant will be taken down, but after them it’ll be another group wanting power or some fanatic thinking he can be the next Rambaldi. It’ll never end, and I want you to take him and run. Get out of here.”
“But what about you and Dad, and Will? Am I just supposed to leave you behind? I love you all too, and I can’t just run away from it all.”
“Can any of us make you happy? We’re all in this world together. Look,” he sighed again, “all I can tell you is listen to your heart. Your whole heart, not just Agent Bristow, not just Julia, but every part of you. If that means leaving us…I think you should do it.”
“I could never tell Dad about this. He’d never forgive me,” she sobbed.
“He will if he loves you. And he does, Sydney. Most of the time I’m scared to death of Jack Bristow, but I know that he loves you to death. He’s just afraid of losing you like he lost Laura. If you told him you couldn’t do this anymore, yeah he’d be mad, but he’d agree with you. He wouldn’t want to hurt you in any way.”
She leaned on his shoulder and gripped his hand. “I can’t believe how bad this night has become,” she laughed through her tears.
“I know,” he squeezed her hand. The doorbell rang and he rubbed her shoulder. “Still up for pizza?”
“Sure,” she smiled at him. When he got up, she reached over and plucked a few tissues, wiping her eyes dry. They stung slightly and she smiled shakily. Weiss brought the pizza with a few napkins to the coffee table and they ate in silence.
“You want the last piece, Syd?”
“No, you take it.”
“’Kay,” he settled back into the couch. She leaned back into him, using his shoulder as a pillow and sighed.
“You okay, kid?”
She smiled wanly, “Life sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?”
He chest rumbled as he chuckled. “Yeah, it does.”
A thought popped into her head. “Eric…”
“You said something about the other night, in Berlin. You…you taped that?”
He nodded slowly. “Yeah.”
She said nothing. Her heart clenched like it was being squeezed to death. Oh god…
“Eric…I…god, it’s…” she breathed a shaky breath, “What do I do?”
He sighed and closed his eyes tight. “It would be impossible, yes.”
“Do you really love Simon?”
“Like you loved Mike?”
“It’s two different situations.”
“Yes, I do.”
He wrapped her tightly in a huge bear hug. “Then you have to take what you can get. If it were possible…god, I should kill myself for saying this, but…I’d fly you back to him myself. But Simon loves you too, and I think you can make it with him. At least, more so than you could with…someone else.”
She sighed deeply. “You’re right. I just…yeah.”
He squeezed her again. “I should get going. It’s late.”
“Eric, could you…could you just stay tonight? I don’t feel like being alone now.”
He rolled his eyes, but smiled. “Sure, Syd. That’s what I’m here for, right?”
She laughed. “Well, you’re also an accomplished CIA agent, but you make a better teddy bear.”
“See, this is where I wonder why I’m here for you,” he grumbled, but he lay down on the couch as she cleared the food and turned off the lights. He wrapped his arm around her waist as she spread an afghan over them and snuggled down. She gripped his hand and smiled into the dark.
“No problem, Syd.” He kissed her temple softly. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Sydney sat at her desk quietly. Three days had passed. Her debrief had been fine and since she had not mentioned any more jobs for the Covenant, they had decided to let her and Weiss take a break, so to speak. Vaughn was ignoring her, even though she had apologized for attacking him the last time they had spoken. He had coolly nodded and went to lunch with Lauren, who had shot Sydney a triumphant look as if to say, ‘I win, bitch.’ Sydney had just rolled her eyes and walked away.
She made long-term plans. Shopping next weekend at the outlet mall. Inviting Marshall, Carrie and the baby over for supper one night. Lunch with an old professor from university. Dinner with her father tonight…
She was dreading making that one, but he had been pleasantly surprised. She knew, though, that she would have to tell him before she just up and left. It scared her, because she knew he would get angry and demand to know why, or worse, that he would beg for her to stay, to explain why. Her heart broke over the decision, but to disappear unexpectedly again would kill him. She would rather he would fight her leaving than to just leave him without a word.
“Bristow, you up for lunch?” Weiss appeared over her shoulder.
“Sure,” she smiled. “What were you thinking?”
“Oh I don’t know, how ‘bout candles, soft music, Taco Bell…”
She laughed and swatted him on the shoulder. “Lead the way.”
“You know, watching you eat, one would think you’ve been starved all your life,” Sydney laughed.
Weiss threw a packet of hot sauce at her. “I’m a growing boy. I need my daily dose of junk food. Besides, it’s not like you’re daintily eating that chicken quesadilla.”
She stuck her tongue out at him and bit into her meal hungrily. “Mmm…so good…”
After getting their food, they had driven to the beach and ate on the sand. When they were done, they sat back and relaxed. Sydney watched the waves break and sighed.
“So,” Weiss lay back on his elbows. “When do you leave?”
She looked down at her hand tracing pictures in the sand. “Tomorrow.”
He nodded. “You all ready?”
“Yeah. Except for telling Dad and I’ll do that at dinner tonight.”
He nodded again. He had promised not to tell anyone only if she told Jack.
They stared at the water, wind whipping her hair around her face. She blinked back a few tears. Would she ever be here again?
“I’m gonna miss you, you know,” Weiss tossed a rock in the air.
“I’ll miss you too, Eric.” The tears in her eyes dripped down her cheeks.
“I mean, who’s gonna pay for my pizza and beer now?”
She laughed shakily and threw sand in his hair. He sat up and protested, but then pulled her into a hug.
“God, I can’t believe I’m telling you to do this,” he smoothed her hair down.
“I can’t believe it either. I’m not really sure I want to.”
He pulled back and lifted her chin to look into her eyes. “Yes you do. And it’ll hurt, and you’ll cry, but I’ll keep in touch and so will Jack. And we’ll be here if you want to come back.”
He hugged her again, letting her tears seep into his suit jacket, “I just want you to be happy.”
“Sydney, is everything all right with you? Your eyes were red when you returned from lunch with Agent Weiss,” Jack Bristow frowned over the top of his glass.
“It was nothing, Dad.”
They sat in Jack’s kitchen, eating pasta amatriciana. So far the meal had been nice for her. He had not wanted to talk about work, so they discussed banal things. She knew she was putting off her responsibility, but she was nervous about how he would react. So she immersed herself in trivial topics, letting the mood of the room relax a bit.
Finally the plates were cleared and they sat at the table, sipping wine. “You know Sydney, this is very nice. Perhaps we should make it a weekly thing?”
“Yeah…” she said quietly, blinking at the sudden sting in her eyes.
“Sydney? Are you sure you’re feeling okay? I’m sensing your mind is somewhere else tonight.”
Once again, tears began to fall on her face. Jesus, what’s wrong with me? I’ve been overly hormonal this past week.
“Sydney,” Jack made to get up, but she raised her hand and he settled back down. He took her hand in his and stroked it awkwardly as she cried and wiped her face. For a few quiet minutes they sat, her staring at the floor and him staring intently at her.
Finally she spoke. “Dad. I’m leaving.”
His brow furrowed and he looked at her quizzically. “I don’t understand. You’re leaving the CIA?”
“No,” she turned and looked at him, bringing her other hand up to curl over his. “No, Dad, I’m leaving L.A. I’m going…somewhere. I won’t be coming back.”
“What?” he said. He looked shocked and he pulled his hands back from hers. “Where are you going?” he demanded.
“I can’t tell you.”
“Tell me.” he insisted.
“No, Dad, I can’t. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to do it this way, but I had to tell you. I couldn’t just leave you without saying something.”
He looked down. “Why, Sydney? Why are you doing this? Does this have something to do with your mother, or the last two years? Please tell me something.”
She looked at him with pained eyes. “I’m not happy here, Dad, and…I need to be somewhere where I am. I need to get out of here.”
Jack rubbed his face. “Sydney, do you know the hell I went through, looking for you for almost two years? And you just want to walk away again? Hurt all those people who drove themselves crazy trying to find you? Are you really that selfish?”
“You’re talking to me about being selfish?” She stood up, incredulous. “God, Dad! I came home, and everything had changed. Francie’s dead. Will’s gone and I can’t talk to him. I had to move into some new home and buy all this new stuff. Vaughn married some bitch and now he doesn’t even acknowledge me. Everyone has moved on and they’re expecting me to just ignore it all and move on with them. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be perfect Agent Bristow, who does what everyone says to make them happy about themselves.
“I know how scared and worried you were and that’s why I’m telling you, so you don’t have to worry so much. This isn’t about you; if I could, I’d bring you with me. But I need to do it this way, Dad. And I don’t want you to come looking for me. Please, just leave me in peace, okay?”
“I can’t do that, Sydney. I can’t just let you go again.” He looked at her with sad eyes.
“Dad, don’t do this.” Her eyes watered again.
They were both crying now. She stood up and went to kneel in front of him, cradling her body in his lap. He smoothed her hair in a loving manner as she sobbed. When he sniffed, it broke her heart and she cried even harder.
Eventually her sobs subsided, but she still sat there, her head rested on his lap. His hand stilled in her hair, but it was a comfort nonetheless. She put her hand up to cover his, and he enfolded her fingers with his. They just sat there, father and daughter, clinging to the last remnants of their fragile life.
She stood up and wiped her face. “I have to go, Dad. I have an early flight.”
He stood up and followed her to the door, helping her with her coat. When she faced him again, he kissed her forehead and pulled her into a desperate hug. She clung to him, willing herself not to cry again.
He buried his face into her hair and took a deep breath. “I love you so much, Sydney.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
He pulled back and kissed her again. “Please call me when you can, okay?”
She nodded. “I will.”
Then she turned and walked out of his arms.