Sydney woke up to find Sark still pressed on top of her. She welcomed his weight, reveling how safe she felt being held in his arms. He was awake; his fingers were tracing her arms lightly. When he felt her stir, he raised his head and met her eyes again. She smiled reassuringly, shakily and he smiled back, spilling into his eyes along with the pain and love that was there. She cupped his face as he leaned over to kiss her and said a prayer of thanks that whatever barrier had been built to shadow those eyes from emotion had been broken, so she could know what he was feeling. He broke away and touched a finger to her lips, whispering words that squeezed her heart.
She nodded, not trusting her voice and he rolled off slightly, pulling her with him so she could be the one who curled up into him. She let him lie in silence for a while before she whispered, “Do you want to talk about it?”
She felt his chest rise and fall with a harsh breath and she hugged him tighter. “It’s okay; we don’t have to if you don’t want to. Just know that I’m here for you.”
He nuzzled her hair with his nose. “Just let me hold you; all I need is to be with you now.” He wrapped the blankets tight around them and threaded fingers in her hair. She rested her hand lightly on his chest and listened to him breathe. They lay like that for a long time, until her finely tuned ear was able to distinguish that he was in a deep sleep. She gently kissed his neck and rolled herself out of his embrace, sitting quietly and watching him.
She had done this so many times in different circumstances, as a different person, in a different life. It hadn’t been so long ago and she hated herself for forgetting it so quickly.
She couldn’t deny it. She missed Simon.
Oh, it wasn’t the sexual play they had enjoyed; Sark more than made up for that. What she missed was the side the other man had brought out in her: dark, sensual, hard, wild, unforgiving and without an iota of emotions. She missed Simon because she was still allowed to be Julia with him, and she missed that part of her. As much as she loved being Sydney Bristow, she craved that darker side of her soul to take control of her senses. She desperately wanted to run back into it, to embrace that underground world that offered her the chance to never feel again.
But there was nothing left in life for Julia Thorne. Her lover had been killed, her alias compromised, her job taken away. If she ran again, they’d catch her, and all of Jack Bristow’s manipulations with the NSC wouldn’t save her from a lifetime in isolation. Or perhaps Lauren Reed would whisper a suggestion in Robert Lindsey’s ear and Julia Thorne would cease to exist at all; it wouldn’t matter if she took Sydney Bristow along with her.
She rubbed her temples, closing her eyes in pain. She hated Sydney right now, and she wasn’t about to become Julia at the moment. She had come here with the intent on melding the two together, but it seems no one wanted Julia except Simon. She was damned sure no one at the CIA was looking forward to meeting the woman who betrayed herself for good sex, especially not Jack Bristow. And now there was the issue of the man now lying next to her, sleeping peacefully under the guise of love.
Julia Thorne had been allowed to love after being with Mr. Sark. Sydney Bristow was now feeling in love with Julian Lazarey. And now they were caught in this pretense of life, playing a dangerous game of lies that was going to leave both of them hurt. Badly.
They needed to talk about this soon.
She turned her attention from her knees to Sark. He lay still, bathed in silent silver moonlight, caught within the folds of slumber. She loved how sleep could render even the most evil person completely innocent, unguarded. With the amount of life he had lived, Sark’s face should be lined with age, creased with the weight of everything he had seen and experienced. But his features were smooth, almost childlike, his hair mussed around his head. She lightly brushed the curls from his forehead, then let the back of her fingers trace down the side of his face, falling over his cheeks, his nose, his chin. She ran her fingertips over his lips and he frowned a little, his eyes fluttering as he shook his head softly from the intrusion. He shifted a little, then frowned deeper when he realized something was missing. He opened his eyes and looked at her drowsily. “Hey…what’re you doing up there?”
“Just thinking,” she whispered. “Sorry that I woke you.”
He looked at her seriously, eyes narrowed slightly, before he sighed and covered her hand with his. “Come back to bed?” he asked.
He let his thumb graze over her hand as he watched her, but she made no move to lie down, so he kissed her palm and rolled over. “’Kay. G’night.”
She felt tears welling up in her eyes. She had just wanted him to go back to sleep, but not turn away from her. She lay down and encircled her arms around his waist, pressing her face into his back as she cried silently. He didn’t move and she held him tighter, choking out apologies with her sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
He finally turned and let her sob against his chest. “S’okay,” he murmured into her hair. “It’s okay, Sydney love.” He held her close as she cried for every possible reason she could think of, trying to release her pain into the tears covering his chest. The keening wails subsided into small hiccups eventually and she felt emotionally exhausted, even more so than before.
He stroked her back and arm, listening to her grow quiet, then kissed her forehead gently and linked their fingers together on his stomach. “I guess we really need to talk.”
“Yeah,” an almost silent whisper.
He rolled them both until they lay on their sides, holding her so tight that there wasn’t an inch of space between them. She could feel his warm breath in her ear as he spoke, “We can do that later. Right now, let me hold you, okay?” He punctuated that with a soft kiss on her ear.
She nodded, feeling herself slipping away into slumber, but grasping his hand as snug as she could. If it ended tomorrow, she would need this to get her through the rest of her life.
She woke with a start, opening her eyes wide to make sure that it was in fact a dream. It hadn’t been that bad, in nightmare sense, but it was the chill that remained with her that bothered her so much. She reached over, hoping she didn’t wake Sark up, but the bed was empty, save for her. She frowned and rolled over, blinking away the rest of the sleep in her eyes. The covers and pillow on the other side were flat and cool, meaning he had gotten up a while ago. She sat up and listened, but the shower wasn’t running and there didn’t seem to be any sound from the rest of the cabin. Her clothes were the only ones littering the floor. She felt tears prickle in her eyes when she realized he was gone.
She lay back down, the tears spilling over and running down her cheeks. She hugged herself tightly, trying to stop herself from the sudden shaking that overtook her. She knew he would be hurt after last night, but she thought they would wake up and talk about it right away. She never thought he would just leave her. Maybe it’s for the best, she thought, sobs choking in her throat. Some time apart might let them think about what they had to say to each other. It was too soon, she mused. I should have waited a bit before I jumped right into this…
Much as she tried to rationalize it, it still hurt like hell, the fact that she had screwed this up so soon. All he had wanted to do was hold her, and she wouldn’t even let him do that. Now she needed him to be there with her and he had left her, and it was killing her. She cried for a long time, burying her face into the pillow to soak up the moisture from her face. Eventually the sobs subsided and she just held herself, letting her body settle down. Her stomach rumbled softly and she got up, deciding she’d better have breakfast before she did anything else. Maybe it’s the lack of food that’s making me so emotional, she thought to herself as she pulled on a comfy pair of flannel jammies. She opened the door of her bedroom and stepped out into the main room, but stopped suddenly at what she saw.
Sark was sitting quietly at the table, reading one of her books she had brought along. The smell of coffee filled the room. She stood there staring, until he realized she was awake and put down the book, smiling at her. “Good morning, Sydney.”
She blinked and wrapped her arms around her chest. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d left,” she whispered.
She hadn’t meant it to sound like that; she was so surprised that he was still here that she just blurted out the first thing she could. Her heart sank as she saw a flash of pain cross his face. He closed his eyes, then stood and grabbed his jacket. “Right. I was just leaving.”
“No!” she cried, running over to grab his arm. She pulled him back and he shook her off instinctively. She was off balance and fell to the floor, bumping her head against the leg of the table. She cried out softly, and her tears started again at the pain, so she buried her face in her hands. She felt warm arms wrap around her body and she leaned into his chest, sobbing quietly into his shoulder. His hands stroked her hair and he made soothing noises in her ear as his fingers gently probed the bump at the back of her head. He kissed her forehead and pulled her back to look into her eyes. “I’m sorry I pushed you.”
“It’s okay,” she sniffed. “I’m sorry about…I didn’t want you to leave. I just woke up, and I needed you, and you weren’t there, and I thought you had left, and then you were there, and it surprised me…”
He stopped her ramblings with a soft kiss to her lips. She touched his cheek softly. “I thought you’d stay with me until I woke up.”
“I wanted to,” he smiled. “But you were in such a deep sleep, and I thought it’d be nice if I went and started breakfast. I didn’t want to wake you up. I wouldn’t leave you without telling you.”
“I guess I was just being stupid,” she murmured. “You’re being so sweet and I…just jump to conclusions and then break down crying.”
He laughed softly, and she joined him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss, tracing her tongue around his lips until he opened his mouth to her. He settled her onto his lap and kissed her so deeply that she had trouble breathing. She gripped the tiny curls at the base of his neck and skimmed her fingers over the soft skin there. She pressed herself into him as their tongues danced around their warm mouths. She nibbled on his lower lip when he pulled away and he retaliated by giving her a wet kiss on the end of her nose. She giggled and poked him in the side and he tickled the sensitive curve in her lower back.
“Do you want some coffee?” he asked, standing them up and taking her hand.
“Sure,” she smiled. “What else did you make?”
“Nothing much. I was going to prepare something more, but I figured you’d be fine with just bagels or something like that. Is that okay?”
“Yep,” she said as she followed him into the small kitchen. She poured two cups of coffee as he stuck a couple bagels in the toaster oven. “Sugar?” she asked as he dug in the fridge.
“No, thanks. What kind of things do you want with it: butter, jam…anything else?”
“I think I bought some cream cheese; check the cupboards. There might be some other stuff as well. Just grab anything you want.” She scooped some sugar in her mug and brought them both to the table, along with two small plates. Sark was digging through the cupboards as she came back to grab utensils and she suddenly hugged him from behind and kissed his neck. He jumped slightly, dropping the cream cheese in surprise. “What was that for?” he asked, amused.
“I don’t know; I was just thinking how normal this seems. Almost as if we we’ve been doing this forever,” she squeezed him tightly before turning back to the silverware drawer. “Well, that and I just wanted to hug you.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw him smile foolishly as he laid out condiments. She grabbed some knives and spoons and walked back, setting them on the table. He followed her, two hot bagels on a plate, along with just about everything you could possibly think to put on a bagel. She began to laugh at the sight of him balancing jars, bottles, and cans in his arms. “Do we really need all this stuff?” she asked through her laughs.
He glared at her. “You never specified what you wanted, so I brought everything.” She laughed again at him and picked out a few of the jars so his arms weren’t as full. He smiled gratefully as they placed everything on the table, then he surprised her by grasping her around the waist and covering her face with wet kisses. She squealed delightedly and let him draw her into his embrace, where he nuzzled her hair with his nose. “What was that for?” she laughed.
He shrugged. “Just felt like doing that. Do I really need a reason to kiss you?” he asked as he sat down.
“Nope,” she smiled and sat down on the other side. She let her mind wander a bit as she prepared her bagel. It almost seemed like last night was a dream, or some alternate universe that she had stepped into. She knew she needed to talk, but at least there was no tension between them right now. That would make it easier for her to…well, to talk about that nagging bit of guilt that had been gnawing at the back of her mind for some time. She was trying to formulate the words in her mind, what exactly she was going to say when the time came when his voice shook her out of her musings.
“Sydney! What in God’s name are you doing?”
She blinked, and looked down at her hand, which was grasping the bottle of honey that was in the mixture of stuff on the table. “What? I’m just making my breakfast.”
He shot her a funny look and pointed down to her plate. “You’ve already put cream cheese and peanut butter on that thing, and now honey? Are you even paying attention?”
She smiled. “Of course I am. This is how I like my bagel.” At the disgusted look on his face, she let her smile deepen. “Don’t tell me you’ve never tried it before. It’s so good.” She punctuated that with a huge bite into her bagel, savouring the delicious mixture of flavours. She held out her arm to him. “Try it. I guarantee you’ll love it.”
He wrinkled his nose in distaste, but took her wrist and guided her hand to his mouth, where he tentatively took a small bite from her bagel. She watched his face as he chewed slowly. He narrowed his eyes as if he was concentrating hard on keeping it in his mouth. Finally he swallowed, and she asked, “Well?”
He licked his lips a bit. “Not my first choice, but I can see the appeal. You have extremely strange tastes, Sydney.”
“Of course I do. I like you, don’t I?” she said airily and bit back a giggle at the look on his face. He dabbed his finger through her bagel mixture and before she could move, he smeared it across her nose and cheeks. “Hey! That’s not fair!”
“Nasty Sydney. Shouldn’t tease,” he smirked, then leaned over and licked the mess he had made off her face. She closed her eyes as his mouth and his tongue slowly laved over her skin, cleansing it gently. She leaned in a bit, hoping that he would kiss her after, but she felt him move away and when she went to open her eyes and protest, something soft hit her in the face. She caught the towel as it fell and shot him a dark look when he said, “Wipe your face darling, It’s all sticky.”
She smoothed it over her flushed cheeks, muttering “Brat,” under her breath, but he heard her, judging from the innocent smile he shot her way. She threw the towel in his general direction and went back to her breakfast, only to find that half of her bagel was gone. “You ate my bagel!” she said.
Sark licked the remains off his fingers and gave her one of his superior looks. “You seemed more interested in my mouth than your breakfast, and I was still hungry, so I finished yours off. You don’t mind, do you, love?” He didn’t give her a chance to protest but started to clear the table. She went back to eating the remainder of her breakfast, vowing to get him back somehow. The funny little feeling in her stomach started up again as she watched him clean up. They still needed to talk, but she was so afraid of losing this wonderful moment that she didn’t want to say anything. Rubbing her forehead, she picked up her coffee mug and went to curl up on the couch, where she could think quietly for the moment.
She was lost in thought, her head buried into her knees and her hands clutching the coffee mug when she felt something brush her shoulder and she jumped, twisting her head around to find Sark looking concerned down at her. She wiped away at non-existent tears as he sat down on the other end of the couch, facing her. “Are you all right, Sydney?” he asked gently.
She lay her head against the back of the couch. “We need to talk,” she whispered.
He nodded and looked down at his lap but didn’t say anything, waiting for her to formulate the right words. She truly had no idea what she was going to say. Oh, she knew something had to be said; it was just wording everything perfectly, making sure it would make sense to her and him. Like it or not, both of them needed an explanation before anything more happened between them.
How could any more happen? her mind queried. You already told the man that you love him. That’s the most intense, the farthest you could go. Stop fighting yourself Sydney. You know what needs to be said, you just need to admit it out loud for it to become a reality.
It was true. As long as she didn’t acknowledge what she knew to be true, she could keep running from it all. And she was tired of running. She took a deep breath and sat up, facing Sark.
“Before I start, I just want to make it clear,” she began quietly, “that when I told you I love you, I wasn’t lying. I do care for you, even though it seems sudden, because I really don’t know you and you really don’t know me.”
She saw Sark open his mouth as if to counter her statement, then shut it without speaking. She was grateful for that and inched closer to him, plunging ahead with her words.
“I say that because…well, because I really have no idea who I am either. My life has changed so much and…and now I look back at myself five, six years ago and I barely recognize that person. Now…everything has become so complicated and there are so many people that I have become that I can’t define who I am anymore.”
Sark’s voice was very gentle when he broke in. “Tell me about those people, and see if I can help you, Sydney. I want to help you through this.”
She bit her lip and swallowed her fear. There was no turning back now. “Whenever I try, I always start with the girl I was before…before D-Danny was killed.” Sh*t, now she was going to cry. “I-I was so young back then, but life was so simple. I had my best friends, I was in school, I thought my job was helping my country. My mother was Laura Bristow, and she was dead, and I wanted to be a teacher like she was. I h-had a man who loved me so much…who wanted to marry me. My whole life was ahead of me and it was so bright…
“I think of that person as ‘Innocent Sydney’. The naïve, cheerful, loving girl that I was before I got a taste of the truth of the world.
“Naturally, the next person I…became was Agent Bristow. I was no longer innocent; Danny’s death changed everything for me. I had to grow up fast. Bringing down SD-6 and Sloane was my life…I needed that revenge, for destroying my life. And I had to face things like the fact that my mother wasn’t dead, but was some woman named Irina Derevko; I had to build a relationship with my father, I had to become a double agent for the CIA, I had to…deal with whatever was growing with V-Vaughn and Will finding out about me, and being betrayed by people that I loved…that I thought I loved.
“And I had to be this professional, this perfect agent that could do no wrong, that had to stop all the evil in the world. Agent Bristow was what everyone seemed to want of me…what everyone still seems to want…
“But…I disappear for two years, and I don’t remember anything…nothing, and I come back to a world that’s changed so much…and everyone expected me to fit right back into my role as the perfect professional, even though everything had been taken from me. Vaughn…was married, Francie was dead, my father was in jail, Will wasn’t around…everything was wrong…
“That’s why I wanted to be Julia so bad. And…I became her…because she’s me. She’s a part of me, just like the others are. She’s everything about me that everyone in my life has been trying to suppress; the dark, jaded, harder side of me. The woman who no longer sees life as black and white, good and evil…because I know now that life isn’t like that. I can’t compartmentalize the world into subjective words anymore.
“But…but now I’m so lost. When Simon died, any chance of being Julia forever died with him, because I needed him to remind me of all those things she was. And I can’t be Innocent Sydney anymore…I can’t go back to ignoring the fight that I’ve been fighting for so long. And I don’t…I can’t be Agent Bristow anymore because I can’t. I can’t just forget everything that has happened, everything that’s been done to me, every person I’ve lost. I can’t and I won’t, no matter what everyone wants of me.
“I don’t know who I am anymore, and that scares me to death, Julian. And I can say that I love you, but I don’t know which person it is that loves you, and I don’t know who it is that you love.” Sydney was full-blown crying now, tears streaming down her face, but her voice was still steady. “All I want is this: the chance to find out who I really am. And I don’t know if you’ll still love me when you find out who the real me is. And that scares me so much…I don’t know why, but it hurts and it scares me to explore everything that I am.”
“Sydney…” Sark’s voice was so quiet, so soft and she tilted her head at him. His face was sad, his features almost a mirror of her own. His eyes glowed lightly; they were bright blue and focused on her. His hands came up and cupped her face, stroking her face gently. “My darling Sydney…don’t you know? I will still love you for whoever you become, because I don’t just love one aspect of your person like everyone else does. I know and I love all of you.”
“How?” her voice was so shaky and broken now. “How…I…”
He brushed his fingers across her lips to shush her. “You know exactly who you are, Sydney. You are every one of those women you described. Parts of them make up the whole of you. You can no longer just be them because they make up this wonderful person sitting in front of me. The woman who can be calm, cool and professional when she needs to be, but has that dark fire when something’s wrong. She’s jaded about certain parts of the world now, but whenever she can, she’s able to forget what the world is about and become that innocent, loving person she was in the beginning. Hard and soft, cool and hot, sweet and sarcastic…it’s all you, Sydney. And I love you. I have for as long as I’ve known you.”
“How?” she asked weakly. “How could you love all that about me when…when I didn’t even know all of that? How are you so able to see who I am?”
He smiled at her, a real stunning sweet smile. “Don’t you know? Do you still not understand? I told you, we have a connection, because we’re the same, Syd.”
“The…same? Because…” The realization hit her and her eyes widened. “Because…you…you’re Julian. You lived for so long as Julian, in this life here, being this…casual, fun, lovable man…but,”
“I’m also Mr. Sark,” he finished her sentence. “I have another side to me, another person that I can become, but that remains a part of me at all times.”
Oh god. Fresh tears spilled from her eyes as everything fell into place. It was true, so real now. It would take time to get used to it, but she knew who she was, and she…she liked it. She threw herself onto him, causing them to fall back into the couch cushions and sobbed into his neck.
I’m real. I’m Sydney. I don’t have to pretend anymore. And…and Julian, he loves me, all of me. And I love him, all of him.
“Sydney? Sydney love, are you okay? Please, Sydney…” his voice was so concerned in her ear, his hands rubbing her back tenderly and holding her close to him. She tried to choke out an answer but she was crying so hard the words were completely garbled. “Syd…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean,”
“No! No…it’s not that,” she stopped him, raising her head and rubbing furiously at her eyes and face. “No…I’m so…it’s so good, to know that it’s real now. That I can be me, the person that I want to be and it’s all overwhelming…I just…don’t really know what else to say now,” she laughed shakily.
He smiled, his hands threading in her hair. “I think we’ve said all that needs to be.”
“No,” she stopped him before he pulled her down for a kiss. He looked confused as her hands came up to frame her face. She looked seriously into his eyes. “There’s something left. I love you Mr. Julian Sark Lazarey.”
He laughed lightly. “And I love you, Ms. Agent Sydney Julia Bristow.”
She leaned down and pressed her lips softly to his. He kissed her back, his mouth opening and his tongue darting out to flick against her lips. She retaliated with her own and deepened their kiss, letting her tongue dance in his mouth as her lips did battle with his. He rolled them over so she lay beside him, snuggled into his body and ran his hand down the side of her face, her neck, her arm until it came to rest on her hips. Her hands buried themselves in his soft curls, her fingers pulling him even closer to her, breaking away from his mouth to kiss along his jaw line, sucking on the skin there, before returning to his lips.
When they finally, reluctantly pulled apart, he lay his forehead against hers and nuzzled her cheek with his. “My darling Sydney,” he murmured.
“My bratty Julian,” she giggled and she felt him smile. She looked deep into his eyes and sighed at the way that love made his eyes so clear and blue, made them shine like precious gems fitted on the sculpted marble face.
It was finally perfect. She was complete with the knowledge of herself, her true self and now she had someone who not only recognized and knew that person, but loved it all the same, just as she could do for him. And whatever happened, she was not going to let him go, for any reason. Maybe life wasn’t perfect yet; the future was still uncertain, what with him still being wanted by the CIA and her having to decide what to do when she finished her suspension, but right now, in this moment, she finally felt that the fight that had been warring inside of her was settled. The battles had been fought and the war was over.
The myth of Agent Bristow and Julia Thorne was laid to rest. For now and forever, she was Sydney. The person she had made herself.
“So what do you want to do now?” she asked, breaking the satisfied silence that they had been wrapped in. Her hand came around to his chest and stroked it enticingly. “We could always go express our love in a more…stimulating way.”
His eyes darkened with desire and she moved to kiss him again, but he pulled back and sat them up abruptly. “I have an idea. Let’s go to my place.”
“Your place? You mean, your room at Anna’s?” she said suspiciously.
“Yes,” his eyes sparkled at her. “C’mon, I need a shower and a change of clothes. And…I need to talk with Anna, and I would like you to be there for that as well. Please.”
She smiled at the earnest and nervous look on his face. “Okay. Just let me get dressed.”