Sydney went back to her room as he finished cleaning the kitchen. She quickly threw on a sweater and jeans and grabbed her jacket before coming back out. Sark was buttoning up his jacket in front of the door and he smiled at her, his eyes drawing over her body appreciatively. She smiled cattily and walked to him, but the book he had been reading before caught her eye and she nearly choked when she started to laugh.
“Bridget Jones’s Diary?? You’re reading this?” she managed to get out.
He rolled his eyes impatiently. “Honestly, Sydney darling, I would think with this new revelation of yours, you would stop fitting the world into your stereotypes. It looked interesting, and I assumed it was quite popular, seeing as there was a movie made and all. I wanted to see what the big deal was, really. And now that I have, it makes me wonder what kind of a generation we belong to when one can throw out good grammar and syntax and still have a best-seller. It disappoints me how far backwards we’ve gone.” He took her hand and opened the door for them, linking her fingers through his in a more intimate manner.
“You’re probably right,” she smiled, “but I don’t know…it’s just one of those books you can read over and over again and not have to look for the hidden message behind it. Plus it’s funny. It makes me laugh…true escapism literature.” She gasped slightly when they stepped outside, when the cold air hit her uncovered skin. “It’s cold!”
He nodded and drew her closer with his hand. “The thermometer outside your door registered –31 Celsius. I believe it’s supposed to be cold like this for a while.” He rolled his eyes again when she wrapped herself against his body. “Not that I’m complaining, but please darling, I’m sure you’ve been in places much colder than this.”
She glared at him. “True. I seem to remember taking an unexpected swim in Siberia,” she growled, looking up at him.
His eyes were fighting hard to be innocent, but she reached up and poked him in the neck and he smiled wickedly. “Let’s not forget the ice-pick in my leg. That hurt like hell.”
“Oh yeah,” she murmured. She leaned in on his shoulder and squeezed his middle. “We’ve really hurt each other a lot, haven’t we? I mean…because of our situations, we’ve had to do things to each other that…” she paused slightly, “I don’t know if I regret them; that doesn’t seem to be the right word. I just…you said you loved me for as long as you knew me. How could you do all those things…?”
His arm tightened around her shoulder and his eyes narrowed. “It killed me, you know. The situations we found ourselves in, I couldn’t just take you into my arms and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. Every time I ran into you, I tried like hell not to injure you in any personal way. The incident in Siberia was an accident; I didn’t mean to trap you like that, it was instinct- a reaction to your actions.”
“What about that acid bath in Paldiski? That was no accident.” Sydney balled her hands into fists, growing frustrated with his put offish attitude. He was acting like it wasn’t really a big deal for them to have to face. “Or torturing Will in Taipei? Or…Francie?” her voice dropped down to a choked whisper. Damn it. She was close to crying again. “Why?” she spat out. “Why are you acting like this doesn’t matter? Did you think I would just forget all of this happened?” She punctuated her words with a shove at his midsection. He stumbled away from her and she wrapped her arms around her body for strength.
He didn’t bother trying to touch her again, but stood upright and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m sorry if I seem indifferent to you; believe me, that isn’t my intention.”
“Then act like it fucking matters, Sark!” she cried, her cheeks flushed a furious red. “Show a little emotion for once in your fucking life!”
“Damn it, Sydney!” he yelled. “What the hell? I don’t understand you…are you trying to sabotage everything?” His features were truly angry, his blue eyes dark and snapping. “Your instinct for self-preservation is as strong as mine; you know what has to be done sometimes to keep yourself alive. And in those situations…I either did what was demanded of me, or I would have been killed.”
His features softened, eyes turning down, almost saddened. He began to pace slowly, running a hand through his hair. “What do you want me to say, Sydney? Do you want me to apologize? Would that satisfy your anger? If I could, I would go back in time and change everything, so that you would never have to feel any of the pain in your life? But I can’t, and I don’t know what to do to absolve myself from the blame.”
He stopped pacing, and walked over to her, cupping her face in his hands so she could look into his eyes. “I am truly sorry for all the pain I have caused you and your friends and family. I wish I could make you forget it ever happened but I know that’s not possible. Just know that I have to live with the regret I feel every day. You can choose to accept that, or you could walk away from me. I wouldn’t blame you in the least.” He pressed a soft kiss to her forehead and stepped back, still looking at her, but giving her space to think.
God. They were never going to get around it all, were they? She had always been a romantic at heart, believing that love can conquer all boundaries. But now that she was living it, finding herself in the most complicated relationship she could imagine, she began to doubt. Maybe there were walls too high and too strong to break down.
She looked at him, her eyes brimming with tears again. No, she couldn’t believe that. She couldn’t give up on them just because it would be too hard to forget their pasts. She had to at least try to give them a chance. She knew that Sark had given everything to be with her; he had left his entire life behind just so he could fight to be with her, and maybe prove that he did love her.
It would take time, but she could see beyond that soulless killer that had committed horrendous acts in the past, and open up that caring, carefree man that she was just getting to know. She just wished life wasn’t so complicated in the matters of the heart. She had lived with enough pain; she just wanted one part of her life that would be easy.
Then again, she had fallen for Sark. That was asking for angst.
She wiped her eyes from the stinging cold tears and pulled Sark closer to her, losing herself into his embrace. His arms wrapped around her back, hands buried in her thick hair. “I hope this means you’re choosing me,” he joked.
“Well,” she laughed into his chest, “I guess you could say that. I mean…I’m not just going to forget what you’ve done, but I’m not going to give up on a chance at happiness anymore, just because there are hurdles ahead.”
She reached up and curled her hands around his cheeks. “I forgive you. I just wish everyone else can.”
He frowned down at her. “Are you sure you truly forgive me? I hope you understand what it means.” At her quizzical look, he went on. “Forgiveness, at least in the sense that I’ve learned it, means that once you forgive a person for an act, it means you can never use that against that person again. Can you really do that, with all I’ve done to you?”
She clenched her jaw slightly. “How else can we expect to have any kind of relationship? Look Julian, I’m willing to overlook the past if it means giving us a future. And it isn’t a one way street; I’ve done things to you as well that you’ll have to forgive me for.”
“It’s already done,” he smoothed her hair and smiled wryly. “I understood the circumstances a while ago and I’ve had to face this dilemma. Just…my stakes aren’t as high as yours. I have less to lose.”
“Yeah,” she smiled. Her hands skimmed his cheeks and pulled his head down so she could kiss his lips softly. He deepened their embrace by stroking his tongue across her lips until she moaned softly and his tongue slipped in to her warm mouth. She threaded her fingers in his hair and pressed herself deep into his body. She shivered, then realized it was more from the cold than his talented mouth. Not that his mouth wasn’t making her knees weak. She reluctantly pulled back. “We’re gonna freeze, brat.”
“Is it that cold out here? I really hadn’t noticed,” he arched an eyebrow, then laughed when she punched his arm. He grabbed her hands and they resumed their walk down the path, walking a bit faster this time. The sky was gray and the air still, but crisp. Sydney could feel her cheeks burn slightly and she brought a hand up to rub them. Finally they broke through the trees and approached the large house.
It was quiet inside as they disengaged from their winter clothes. “Where is everyone?” she asked.
Sark furrowed his brow. “Today’s Sunday, right?” At her affirmative nod, he shrugged his shoulder. “Probably at church, then. I know they like to go every so often. It’s a friendly congregation. And Sydney,” he said when her eyes lit up, “spare me the jokes about ‘being struck by lightening’. It’s very clichéd of you.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” she said innocently. He cocked an eyebrow at her and she flashed his famous smirk at him. Sark just shook his head and took her hand again, leading her up the large staircase. When they got to the small landing, the stairs split into two, the left set going up a few short steps before opening to a bright hallway and the right set continuing to the top of the house. Sark led her to the right, but pointed to the left side. “That leads to Anna and Steven’s part of the house. It’s quite elegant and spacious. But the real beauty of this house is the top floor.” They went all the way up until the stairs came to a hallway lined with closed oak doors. Sark walked all the way down to the door at the end, which had a number ‘6’ on it. He stuck a key in the knob, opened the door, and placed his hand on the small of his back so she could check out his room.
She gasped at first sight. The room took up the entire south side of the top floor. The walls were covered in long windows that looked out at the snow covered forest behind the house. She could see far off into the distance, the small town along the horizon and the frozen lake beside it. Inside the room was a large bed covered with thick comforters like hers and handmade wooden furniture: a desk, two chairs, a bookshelf filled with old paperbacks, and a set of dresser drawers. The floor was a thick plush rug that her feet sank into as she spun around slowly, taking in the warmth and opulence of this room. Finally she found herself facing Sark, who was leaning against the doorframe and smiling at her wonder. “Wow,” she breathed.
He closed the door and walked over to embrace her waist. “I know. Isn’t my cousin a genius? All the rooms aren’t this grand, but they’re still quite stunning.” His hands squeezed her hips as his chin settled on her shoulder. “I absolutely love this house. I think it’s the best thing that Anna’s ever done. They’ve really found a money maker in this B&B idea. Plus, it makes my girl happy.”
Sydney turned slightly so she could look at him. “I thought I was your girl,” she pouted.
“Nah.” Sark kissed the tip of her nose. “I love you and all, and you are my darling Sydney, but Anna’s been my girl since she was eleven years old, and determined to take care of me. Nothing could replace how special she is to me.”
Sydney wrapped her arms around his down at her waist. “You’re a complete sweetheart deep down inside, you know that?” She leaned back to kiss his neck lightly.
“You now know my deepest, darkest secret,” Sark growled. “But I’m afraid I’m going to have to torture you so that information doesn’t go any further than this room.” He picked her up in his arms, ignoring her surprised noise, and dropped her none too gently on the bed, then jumped on the mattress next to her and rolled her over so she lay sprawled over him. She propped herself up on her elbows so she could lean her face down to kiss him. She captured his lower lip between her own and sucked on it lightly. He groaned heatedly and ran his hands over her back, rubbing in slow circles over her shirt. He sat them up, his lips still attached to hers and placed her in his lap, before drawing away to nibble her jaw bone. “C’mon. Need to shower,” he breathed against her skin.
Her hands clutching his shirt, they stumbled to the bathroom together. He concentrated on turning on the shower, making sure the water temperature was just right; she pawed his body through the thin shirt. Her fingers worked at the buttons, but she was hurrying too much and they slipped through her fingertips. Frustrated, she growled, grasped his shirt in her fists and ripped down the front of the material, then frantically tore it off his body.
“Sydney!” he grabbed her hands, shocked. “I liked that shirt!”
“I didn’t; too many buttons,” she frowned. He laughed and cupped her face, kissing her nose again. Her fingers stroked smooth skin and hard muscle as his mouth moved down to meet hers, pressing his lips softly to her. She wrapped herself deep into his kiss, her arms coming around to envelop his neck. His hands moved down to her waist, undoing first her jeans, then his own pants and pushing them down. He broke their kiss so he could pull off her sweater and bra, then pulled her in to capture her lips with his again. She opened her mouth to receive his probing tongue, hers darting out to taste the inside of her mouth. Her hands rested on his shoulders and began to rub them slowly when she pulled back and frowned at him.
“What?” he asked, arching a brow quizzically.
“Nothing…it’s just that you’re so stiff and tense. Does it hurt?” She let her fingers dance over his skin.
“A little,” he admitted. She pursed her lips and he rolled his eyes. “Okay, a lot. I think you would understand the amount of stress I’ve had to deal with.”
Her eyes softened, and she hugged him, her chin resting in the crook of his neck. “Poor baby,” she murmured. She raised herself on her tiptoes and began to rain soft kisses on his tight skin, her fingers rubbing softly every time her lips left his shoulder. She raised her head and smiled at him. “Tell you what. After we shower, I’ll give you a massage. Does that sound nice?”
“Perfect,” he purred, nuzzling her forehead. They stepped into the tub, and Sydney hummed pleasantly when the warm water hit her skin. Sark grabbed his shampoo from the edge of the tub, poured a generous amount in his hands and proceeded to lather her hair up. She did the same, her fingers scrubbing his curls, the fragrant shampoo running down her arms as she massaged the soap gently into his skull. When he was done with her, he cradled her head and tilted it back, his fingers threading through her hair as the water washed out the bubbles from her head. She closed her eyes, sighing softly at the intimacy of his actions. She turned him around when she was done and did the same for him. As her hands brushed out the tangles from the curls, she leaned in and heatedly pressed kisses to his slick collarbone. He moaned, his hands running down her back to cup her ass and press her body close to his. She found her favourite little spot on his neck, where his pulse danced erratically, and she attached her lips there, sucking passionately. His moan this time was much deeper, his throat rumbling under her lips and she laughed at the sensation. He reached down and picked up the bar of soap resting in the dish. She felt him build up a good lather and then start to scrub her skin. He started with her back and shoulders as she nibbled her way up to his earlobe and began to suck on the orifice. His hands smoothed over her arms, tickling the sensitive curve of her inner elbows as he spread the soap over her body. Eventually he pulled her back, so his hands could wash her front. They moved from where they were resting on her shoulders over her collarbone and the front of her chest. One hand came down, slick with the silky soap and cupped one of her breasts. His thumb rested on her nipple, pressing it gently, then flicking it up and down and around in circles. She gasped at the feeling, arching her back slightly to get closer. His other hand mimicked its partner, slowly rubbing her taut nipple between two wet fingers. She bit her lip as she sucked in a deep breath. She looked deep into his eyes and saw dark fierce desire burning in them. She knew that it matched the intensity in her own. He bent his head and ran his tongue over her swollen lips, his hands still occupied with her breasts. Her hands frantically reached down and grabbed at the bar of soap, rubbing it frenetically in her hands before starting the same massaging torture to his chest. His mouth was still sucking her lips, his hands palming her breasts more fervently. Her hands moved down to his nipples, her fingers plucking them so they tightened like hers. He retaliated by biting down on the corner of her mouth, where his tongue had been playing. She pushed their mutual torture further by letting her hands dance down his well-defined abdomen, then even lower to gently soap up his hardened penis, which had been poking her hip. He jerked his pelvis at her sudden grasp and brought his forehead to touch hers as he sucked in a harsh groan. He moved his hands to her hips and swung her around, so the water fell on her body again and washed away the soap suds that lingered. He grabbed her hands in one of his and held her away while he wiped his own body free from the lather. When he found them both to be satisfactorily cleansed, he turned off the water and stepped out of the tub, leaving her hot and annoyed.
He caught her glare in the foggy mirror and raised his eyebrows in askance. “Why’d you stop? I was having so much fun,” she whined.
He picked her up out of the tub and wrapped a fluffy towel around her hair, wringing the wet tendrils between his hands. “To be honest, I’ve really never enjoyed sex in the shower,” he smiled and handed her another towel after wrapping the one in her hair turban style at the top of her head.
“Really?” her eyes widened.
“Never,” he shook his curls out, droplets of water flying everywhere. He rubbed his hair out and then picked up another towel to dry his torso off. “Too much work, because the man always ends up supporting the woman against his body. Have you ever tried standing on the wet tub bottom, holding someone up with your body while water makes you even more slippery?”
She laughed. “Guess I never thought about it like that. It’s really sexy, though,” she murmured and shot him a mock seductive look. She finished drying off and bound herself in the towel, knotting it loosely around her breasts. “Now come on. Go get yourself comfortable.”
He wound his towel around his waist, letting it hang off his hips and let her drag him out to the room, where she pushed his shoulders gently to get him to sit on the bed. “No, lie down on your stomach, brat,” she teased and he obeyed, resting his head on the soft pillows and snuggling down into his blanket. She hopped on the bed and straddled his hips and buttocks, sliding her hands over his back muscles. The shower had relaxed him a bit, but his back was still knotted up and stiff under her fingers.
She started slow, her fingers rubbing small circles into his skin. She felt him loosen up a bit, and she dug her fingers deep into his muscles, working the giant knots that lay just below his skin. She heard him hiss in a sharp breath and she paused. “Does that hurt?”
“Yes,” his muffled voice came up from the pillow. “But it’ll feel better if you keep doing it. Don’t worry, I have a high pain tolerance.”
Her fingers dug in again, massaging the tension out of his spine, his shoulders and down his back. Her fingers began to get slightly stiff, but she kept going, his occasional groans spurring her on. She worked on his back until she couldn’t find any more tension under the skin. He lay completely relaxed and flexible under her, murmuring contentedly into the pillow, his eyes closed. Her eyes narrowed and she shifted her body back to straddle his thighs. She moved her hands under the towel still loosely enfolding his waist. She tickled the course hair on his legs, then moved up, her hands cupping his tight ass cheeks. She gave them a quick squeeze before her fingers began to dig into the muscles there. He jerked his hips in surprise, and propped his head up on his arms. As her hands massaged his ass, she leaned over and began to suck on the back of his neck. Her towel unwrapped around her head, so she quickly removed it and tossed it off into oblivion. Her damp hair brushed over his sensitive skin as her lips nibbled the base of his skull. She heard him sigh with satisfaction and she moved her mouth down his spinal cord, alternating slow sucking and light feathery kisses. Her hands would dig into his ass, then press small circles down the back of his thighs, then moved back up again. She dug her teeth gently into his back skin, pulling it up taut and then letting it spring back, covering the teeth marks she left with gentle kisses.
“Sydney,” she heard him pant desperately. “As much as I-ah!-love what you’re doing, my position’s a little…painful,” he gritted his teeth when she moved her body back up and began to suck on his ear.
“Poor Sarky,” she purred, then brought her hands to the front of her towel that wrapped around her body, undoing the simple knot that held it around her. She tossed it away, then leaned her body down until her breasts rubbed against his back, her mouth burying itself in his hair. She felt him shiver and shift his hips, his discomfort obvious to her. She ran her breasts down and up, making sure her nipples brushed his slick skin, nibbling on the sweet smelling scalp and hair, when he abruptly raised himself up on his arms, causing her to fall off his body. His arms came up under her armpits and scooped her up to lay her head on the pillows, and he trapped her body underneath his, pinning her arms down at her sides.
“Naughty Sydney,” he smirked. He was kneeling between her legs, his towel only being held up by some heathen prayer and the front tented enticingly. She struggled to rip her arms out and tear the material away, but he held her down with an evil smile. “Julian…!” she whined.
“Told you I’d have to torture you,” he murmured as he leaned down to kiss her. She opened her mouth to his with wanton abandonment, plunging her tongue out to play with his. He let her arms go and she brought them up to bury her hands in his hair. Her fingers worked the damp curls, twisting around gently as she lost herself in the delicious kiss. She could still taste the peanut butter from her bagel he had stolen.
Sark broke the kiss, his eyes hazy and dark with restrained desire. He lined her jaw with tender kisses, then moved down her neck to suck and kiss as she arched her head back, exposing more flesh for him to taste. He worked his way down her body with his lips, his hands attached to her hips to hold her body carefully to the mattress. When his mouth latched on to her right breast, his tongue swirling around her erect nipple, she purred his name contentedly, stretching out like a cat under his welcoming weight. Her hand skimmed down the back of his neck and made small circles with her fingers along his shoulder line. He kissed down the side of her breast, sucked slowly on the sensitive flesh between the twin peaks, then kissed up the side of her left breast before claiming her other nipple with his lips and tongue and repeating the sweet slow torment.
When he leisurely left her breasts and began to trace patterns on her flat stomach with his tongue, Sydney shifted and moaned impatiently. Much as she loved what he was doing, she was way too aroused for him to keep up with this agony. She wanted to throw him down, straddle his hips and pound her body hard into his. She wanted to be pinned under him as his body drove her deep and rough into the bed, both of them screaming in pleasure.
In other words, she wanted to be fucked.
She bucked her hips, hoping to convey to him what she needed. He rested his chin on her stomach and looked up at her, his eyes devious and mock quizzical. She pleaded with her eyes and spread her legs open wider. He got the hint, raising up and sitting back on his knees, that damned towel still clinging to his lower body.
His right hand traced the bones of her hip, down to the top of her exposed thigh, then sliding to the more sensitive inner skin and up to the juncture of her legs. He stroked her outer lips, parting them only to let the pad of his thumb in. He scooped up a generous amount of the moisture he found there and then brought his damp thumb to her clit, pressing down hard before releasing the pressure slightly. He began stroking back and forth, occasionally pressing harder. She arched her back and rose her hips up to him, moaning with an aching pleasure. His left hand also traced down, parted her lips and fingered her entrance, making her gasp, “Oh god…that’s so good, Julian…”
One finger slid deep into her, circling around, getting used to the new territory, before slipping back out and causing her to whimper. Two fingers this time, delving deep in, feeling around, then pulling back out. She clenched herself, trying to keep his fingers in, marveling at the indescribable sensation. His thumb on her clit moved a bit faster, now going in a circular motion, rubbing the sensitive nub. His two fingers entered her again, but he began to thrust his hand to her instead of teasing her again. She rocked her hips, wanting him deeper every time. Her swaying hips timed with his circling thumb on her clit made for a more frenetic movement and she moved more, loving the fiery sensations her lower body was feeling.
His fingers inside of her bent forward to her stomach in a ‘come hither’ motion, probing her inner walls more insistently, as if they were searching for something. She sucked in breath sharply, narrowing her eyes at the gentle pain. She worked against him, his fingertips rolling back and forth on their exploration when suddenly one seemed to hit the center of the fire. Icy liquid flame replaced her blood and she jerked, writhed, panting, “Jesus!” She saw him arch his eyebrow and his fingers shifted around until they found that sweet spot again. With his thumb still rubbing her clit back and forth and his fingers stroking her G-spot, her body began to shake and shiver. She grabbed on hard to the bed covers, gripping as if they were her anchor. “God!” she screamed, tossing her head around and gulping for breath.
“No, darling, it’s Julian,” he teased as his hands worked her into a frenetic bundle. She groaned with agony, fighting, searching, panting for her release. His mouth descended to capture one of her nipples again and she sobbed, “Julian, please…I’m so close…god, I want you to fuck me.”
Finally his fingers and thumb seemed to silently communicate to each other what was needed, and as her body jerked beneath his hands, his thumb pressed down, his fingers inside rolled the inner skin carefully and the tension that was threatening to kill her let loose in a frantic explosion. She threw her head back, neck arched, and screamed, one loud agonizing cry as her orgasm shook her entire body. She closed her eyes because the light was bursting and she was nearly blinded and she felt like she was going to die if she didn’t breathe.
When the fire had been momentarily quelled and her eyes were able to focus again, she looked up at Sark. His hands were back on her hips, stroking her fevered skin with light fingers. That damned towel had finally joined hers on the floor and his hard cock was jutting out over his knees. Unable to speak, she gave him a demanding look; he bit his lower lip, grabbed her hips, raised them until they balanced on his upper thighs and drove his cock deep into her. She cried out again, but he gave her no time before he began to thrust harshly into her. She pounded her hips forward into him, their skin slapping together roughly. She gripped the bed sheets again for leverage and choked out pleas: “Harder…yes…please…more…that’s it…”
Barely having time to come down from her last climax, her second one rocked her soon after, the new angle making it easier for his dick to hit that swollen inner fire that he had tortured her with last time. She cried again, closing her eyes as the pressure burst and her body writhed. He thrust furiously as she orgasmed, his eyes narrowing and getting a wild look as his own need threatened to overtake him.
Her body still shaking violently, she propped herself up on her elbows, then sat herself up. He stilled, his cock still buried inside of her, letting her adjust. She sat on his thighs, his arms coming around her back to cradle her, and she wound her own around his neck. She brought her head to his, looked deep into his eyes and whispered, “I love you.”
She felt his cock spasm inside of her, his abdomen gave an involuntary jerk and he groaned, his climax finally hitting and spilling deep within her. She rocked a little as he let his head fall back against her arms, his body stiff and tense as the shockwaves overtook him. When he relaxed, he let them fall slowly, his face buried in her neck and his body covering hers as they landed on the soft mattress. She brought one hand up to curl around his hair and held him close to her, closing her eyes contentedly.
Eventually their breathing became regular, and she shifted a bit, looking down at the head that rested on her chest. She wondered for a moment if he was asleep and she made up her mind to join him, but his lips gently kissed her collarbone before he raised his head up to lay next to hers on the pillow, rolling the majority of his body weight off of her so he wasn’t crushing her, but keeping her close, skin to skin. She cupped his cheek. “Hi,” she whispered.
“Hi,” he mumbled, his eyes half-closed. He brought a hand to the back of her head and cradled her hair. “That was perfect,” he smiled wanly.
“Yeah,” she yawned, snuggling into his body. “I’m sleepy.”
“Good, so am I.” He shifted them so he could pull the covers from under them, then slid their bodies under the soft sheets, draping the comforter over them. She tangled her legs with his, linked their hands together and they fell asleep.
A buzzing static noise, like a radio.
“Julian? Are you up there?” A man’s voice, familiar, partially broken as it echoes through the room.
Shifting, movement, then, “Yes?”
Sydney opened her eyes reluctantly and found herself with a face full of wet pillow. She groaned and rolled over, looking for the source of her annoyance.
Sark was lying on his back, looking somewhat blearied. His arm was stretched over her and when she followed it, his hand was resting on the phone on the bedside table. Suddenly he spoke again, “Sydney’s here too.”
The voice came through the speaker on the phone. “Ah. Well, I won’t let the kids come upstairs then.” Steven, sounding visibly amused. “Just to let you know we’re home, going to get lunch ready soon.”
“All right; give us about 20 minutes,” Sark let go of the button he was holding but left his arm where it was on her back. She looked back at him. For having just woke up like herself, he looked suspiciously neat. He grinned at her. “Your face has pillow lines. And you drool.”
“Shut up,” she grunted, giving him a shove under the blankets. He drew her body closer to his and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“Sydney darling, it’s time to get up.”
“Why are you so goddamned cheerful?” she glared at him. He didn’t reply, so she sat up, rubbed her face and eyes clear from that yucky morning stuff and got out of bed. She picked up the towels and walked to the bathroom to get her clothes. One look in the mirror, though, had her screaming and Sark bolting straight up.
“Sydney? Are you okay?” he asked, getting out of bed and following her. He found her standing in front of the mirror, her hands frantically rubbing her face and patting down her hair at the same time.
Sydney moaned. Since she had gone to bed with her hair wet, it was mussed and sticking out at odd angles, tangled into a huge rats nest. She couldn’t even get her fingers through the strands. Her face alternated between deep red markings on her face and light white lines. “I look awful,” she whined.
Sark came behind her, his hands resting on her shoulders. “Well, I would say something soothing and supportive, but I just can’t lie in this situation: you look absolutely terrible.” She gave him a dark glare and he mock sighed, his fingers massaging her shoulders. He smirked. “With all those wrinkles, you bear a passing resemblance to Agent Expressionless.”
“Wha-you mean Vaughn?” she frowned. “He’s not expressionless!” Why was she defending Vaughn? she thought.
“Please, love, in all my time of knowing him-and believe me, the man and I had some intimate conversations during your supposed ‘death’-I’ve only seen him with three expressions: worried, super worried, and atomic forehead.
She laughed at that, throwing her head back to rest against his chest. His arms dropped down around her heaving stomach, tickling her sensitive sides. She covered his arms with her own, then shot him a frown in the mirror. “What?” he asked.
“You’re all tense again.”
He sighed. “Just not looking forward to this talk,” he said, kissing the top of her head before leaving the bathroom. She picked up her clothes and joined him in the bedroom, where he was digging through his suitcase for some clothes.
“What are you going to tell them? Everything?” she asked as she pulled on her panties and jeans. She watched his back as he pulled on a pair of boxer briefs, then his faded jeans as she did up her bra. “Well?”
“I don’t know…yes, I think,” he mumbled as he pulled on a white t-shirt. He stood in front of the dressers and frowned at his appearance in the small mirror there. Fully clothed, she came up behind and wrapped her arms around his torso, resting her head against his back. He sighed. “I don’t really know what I’m going to say right now.”
“Nervous? Or afraid that they’re not going to forgive you?” She felt him nod and she squeezed him.
“I really don’t think I could live with losing them,” he spoke quietly, his voice filled with a deep pain. He turned in her arms and held her to his chest, crushing her so close it was hard to breathe. “I don’t want to hurt them.”
“I know,” she whispered. She pulled back a bit to look into his face. “I know how you feel; it’s so hard sometimes. Just hope that by telling the truth, they’ll understand.” She paused, taking a deep breath. “I don’t have anything more encouraging things to say. Just ‘good luck.’”
He chuckled humourlessly. She felt his hands in her tangled hair, then he reached over and picked up a brush to drag through the strands. She held him as he brushed her hair out, stroking the soft lush mane until it lay flat and shining against her head and back. She poked him in the side. “Thanks, brat.”
“No problem,” he stepped back from her and grasped her hand in his. With one last great sigh, he drew her forward and they walked downstairs.
The main floor was slightly chaotic. The TV was on, with the ever-present video game bleeping and dinging. Caleb was playing against Abby, both of them still in their church clothes, flicking the controllers around as their characters drove. Sydney heard bangs from the kitchen and assumed that was one of the adults preparing lunch. Frustrated cries came from the playpen and she walked over to find Ian sitting amidst various toys, waving his arms around angrily. She picked him up, but he continued to fuss, wriggling around in her arms. “What’s the matter sweetie?” she murmured in his ear.
“He’s teething,” Steven answered, coming out from the dining room. “Here.” He handed her an empty beer bottle and Sydney took it, giving him an incredulous look. Steven laughed at her expression. “It’s okay; our kids have never been the types for conventional teething rights and we’ve found that a cold beer bottle works the best, especially with this one.” He reached over and ruffled his son’s hair.
Sydney continued to be doubtful, but Ian seemed to know what he was doing because his little hands stretched out for the object in her hands. She brought it to his mouth and he chomped down on the opening, gnawing on the cold glass, his small fingers gripping the rest of the bottle. She giggled and sat down on the couch with Ian sitting on her lap. Sark sat down next to her. “Sydney, are you turning that baby into a little alcoholic?”
“Funny boy,” she smirked. He laughed and dropped his arm around her shoulders.
“Isn’t this one a little weirdo? When I was here a few weeks ago, I entertained him for two hours simply by ripping pieces of paper into little tiny shreds. He giggled like it was the funniest thing he’s ever seen.”
Sydney laughed. “Really?”
“Really,” Sark picked up a blank sheet of paper that lay on the coffee table and held it up. “Ian,” he spoke the baby’s name in a sing-song voice. Ian turned his head and looked intently up at the blonde man. Sark quickly tore the paper he had in half with a flourish and the tiny child shrieked with laughter, waving the bottle around with joy. “See?”
“Must be something in your genes,” she teased, and he pinched her neck. They sat back and watched the video game war until they were all called for lunch.
“Julian, stop pacing, it’s going to go fine,” Sydney soothed from her spot on the couch.
He just shot her a look and went back to his meditations. She sighed and fell back into the cushions. Lunch had gone well. Anna seemed to have forgiven them, reverting back to her friendly state as she chatted with Sydney. The entire meal had been very comfortable until Sark had quietly, after everyone had finished, asked if he could talk with Anna and Steven. Anna had stiffened and froze; Steven nodded assent, but refused help from Sydney to clear the table. She assumed he wanted to talk with his wife quietly. The kids were sent upstairs to change and nap, and now Sydney and Sark waited in the living room. Sark’s nervousness grew with every minute until he nearly exploded, and this led to his pacing tour of the room.
She reached over the next time he strolled by her, grabbed his arm and yanked him down on the couch next to her. He fell gracelessly and pushed her away, making to stand again, but she held him down. “Stop being so immature,” she snapped.
“Look who’s talking,” he retorted and flipped her over so she was pinned under him, her arms twisted uncomfortably. She kicked him and her foot connected with his thigh. He winced and rolled off of her, but kept his hands on her arms so she wouldn’t hit him. She brought her leg back to kick him again when an “Ahem,” coming from above them stopped her. The couple on the couch froze and looked up at the couple standing in the doorway. Anna looked about as nervous and tense as Sark had, but Steven looked slightly amused. “Are we interrupting?” he asked.
“Nothing that can’t be finished later,” Sark said brightly, a fake smile pasted on his face. Sydney rolled her eyes as she sat up and reached for his hand, as if to hold it, and at last minute she pinched the skin with her nails. He jerked his hand away, but at least it got that dumb smile off his face.
Anna and Steven sat on the loveseat perpendicular to the couch. Sydney could see Anna’s knuckles tighten around her husband’s hand, turning white. Sark’s jaw clenched slightly and he reached over and grasped Sydney’s hand in his own, threading their fingers together. She brought her other hand up to stroke his arm soothingly, wrapping her fingers around his bicep. They sat in silence, the couples just looking at each other, until Steven broke the silence. “So, Julian, what is it you have to say?”
Sark cleared his throat and gripped Sydney’s hand tightly. She squeezed back and smiled at him encouragingly. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and held it for a second before exhaling. His body relaxed slightly against hers. Good boy, she thought.
“All right,” he started, then stopped. “Uh…yes.” He faltered at this point, chewing on his lip and looking down. He cleared his throat again, blinked rapidly a couple times, displayed every sign of nervousness that Sydney had ever known. She just sat quietly next to him, hoping that he would take enough strength in her presence to be able to speak. He closed his eyes one last time, and let his body go limp.
“Look, there’s very little easy way to say what I’m about to, so I ask you all to bear with me.
“I know that my entire adult life I’ve not been completely honest with you, but I stress that it was all for your protection. My jobs have various titles: terrorist, assassin, spy, criminal. It was what I was conditioned to do as a child and teenager. Two and a half years ago I was captured by the American CIA and was only released conditionally in exchange for another person. I am still a wanted man, because most of my life has been spent working for covert groups intent on stealing weapons and artillery from countries to sell them off and fund their own operations. I’ve been paid to kill people in cold blood. I’ve stolen so much from many people. By all rights I should have been caught and executed years ago, but I’ve always had strings pulled to keep me alive. Even though I’ve broken every tie with that part of my life, I am still a danger and threat to your family, living here and associating with all of you. As much as it pains me, I would understand if you asked me to leave right now. I would do anything not to hurt you.”
His voice during his entire speech was clipped, expressionless. He didn’t look at anyone, but stared straight ahead, concentrating on his words rather than anyone’s reaction. His back had stiffened, as if becoming robotic would help him through, but once he stopped talking he sagged against Sydney again and dropped his eyes to the floor. She gripped his arm and squeezed their hands again, laying her head on his shoulder, letting him know it was all right.
It was surreal, listening to him describe himself in such an unappealing way. No excuses, just simple truth. She might have well been in a briefing room, hearing someone give an official dossier of Mr. Sark to new recruits; that’s how cold and detached his words had been. Save a few phrases, she could almost put herself in that description, the words she had wished she could tell Francie before her best friend was killed. The many instances she had to explain to Will after he found out, trying to show him who she was in this world. The threat that she would always be to people she loved entirely. The loneliness of being rejected, or the fear of rejection.
She smiled bitterly. She never felt so close to Sark as she did right now. There was so little difference in them.
Funny thing life could be sometimes.
There was a heavy silence that descended when Sark finished speaking. Sydney felt that their time for speaking was over, and it would be best to let Anna and Steven digest what they had heard, then give them a chance to speak, rant, scream, throw things, or generally react however they wanted. It was their right. No one could blame them after getting that dropped on their laps. Sydney ventured a glance at them. Anna was frozen in her seat, staring blankly at the floor. Steven was still holding her, much like Sydney held Sark. His brow was slightly furrowed, but he seemed calm, almost…relieved. He looked knowingly at her and broke the silence, “You don’t seem very surprised, Sydney.”
Uh oh. Her turn was up. “Um, that’s because I’ve known for…a long time.” Deep breath, swallow. “I’m a CIA agent.” Stop biting the lip, you’re drawing blood. “Until recently, Julian was my enemy…adversary…one of the bad guys.” Oh, great line, Syd. That graduate degree’s really working for you right now.
She stopped talking because Steven began to laugh. Small chuckles at first, low in his chest, but eventually they worked up to a full-fledged belly laugh. She and Sark shot each other ‘what the hell’ looks, then turned back. “What in God’s name is so funny?” Sark demanded.
“Sorry,” Steven said, his voice filled with mirth. “It’s just…it’s just too unreal, do you get me? I mean, it’s like some convoluted script done by some hack writer on a television show. I’m supposed to just accept that the man who has come to be a brother to me is wanted all over the world and his girlfriend is a CIA agent whose job is to bring you in?”
“For the record,” Sark spoke up, “I think the USA only has a vested interest in me anymore, isn’t that correct, love?”
“That’s not funny,” Sydney snapped. By now both men had smiles on their face. She guessed it was Steven’s way of letting Sark know that he was okay with what Sark had told him, but she wished, for Anna’s sake, they would appreciate the solemnity of the moment.
Or maybe she was just being too uptight. Sometimes the best way to deal with the tough stuff was humour. Dark humour, but hey, anything that helped, right?
“Okay,” Anna finally spoke, her eyes wide and staring at Sark disbelieving. “Okay. So…what you’re telling me, is that you both are spies? Like, real life spies?” Sark and Sydney nodded. Anna fell back into the couch cushions. “Oh,” she said, blinking once.
Sydney began to get that feeling of surrealism again. She had expected…well, yelling for one. Maybe something thrown, a pillow or magazine. Accusations, crying, pleas…anything but a simple ‘Oh.’
Then again, she had no right to expect anything. She just kind of felt a little left out in all of this. Everyone else seemed to be…fine, and she was the one who felt like she had been kicked in the stomach. She was going to lose it.
“What is wrong with everyone? You’re all reacting like everything’s fine. Don’t you feel like screaming, or crying, or throwing things around?”
Okay, she officially lost it.
“Sydney,” Anna’s weary voice made her sit back against the couch. “It may come as a shock to you, but I doubt there’s a handbook on the appropriate way to react when you’ve been given news of this magnitude.”
Sydney arched an eyebrow at her. She could see where Sark got his sense of humour from. He turned around and gave her one of those annoying smirks. She stuck her tongue out at him. He leaned over and kissed her suddenly, a wet smacking kiss you give when you’re five years old. She could forgive him when he acted like that.
“Julian,” Anna spoke again. “Can you honestly promise me that you no longer participate in any of those…things you once did? Are you truly done with whatever life you had before?”
“Yes,” he said slowly, not seeing where she was going.
“Then I don’t want to hear anymore.” Sark opened his mouth to say…something, but Anna held up a hand. “Look Julian, you are one of the closest people in my life and I love you very much. It may seem strange, but I can forgive you for the things you’ve done in the past. I just don’t want to hear about it anymore. Maybe someday I’ll ask…more, but right now I’m glad that you are here, you are alive and that you love me enough to finally tell me the truth. Besides,” she smiled thinly, “it’s probably better that I know less than more about your…life.”
Sydney felt Sark relax totally and fall back into the couch with her. “Really?” he asked hopefully.
“Really.” This time it was Steven who answered, and Sydney could see by the looks on the faces on the loveseat that they really had forgiven Sark for everything. She felt her own kind of relief, that Sark had not been ostracized from these loving people that he so desperately needed. She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest, her ear pressed right to the spot his heart was located. The soothing beats relaxed her and she gave a small hysterical giggle. Sark looked down at her, his eyebrow arched. “Now who’s laughing inappropriately?”
“Funny,” she retorted.
Anna reached over and grabbed Sark’s free hand. “There’s no way I could stop caring about my little kurcha.” Her voice held a small teasing to it.
“Wait, what’s this?” Sydney asked over Sark’s groan. Sark with a nickname? she thought. I wanna hear this.
“It’s nothing, darling, really. Just a little thing from when we were kids,” Sark said hastily, shooting Anna a dark look. She smiled back at him and reached under her coffee table to pull out a worn picture album. Sydney could feel Sark shifting around and she squeezed his hand as she waited to hear.
“Well,” Anna began, flipping through the album pages. “It started when I first met Julian. I was…eleven, I believe and he was five. He had just moved here from Russia and he and his mother were living out on the farm with my grandparents. Julian’s mother is my grandfather’s sister.
“Anyway, we went out to visit them, and I’ll never forget my first sight of him. He was running toward us with a look of terror on his face, this adorable little boy with fluffy white hair, screaming ‘kurcha, kurcha!’ You see, kurcha is the Ukrainian word for chicken, and Julian had wandered too close to the chickens and they were chasing him around, looking for food. He thought they were attacking him. I’ve been calling him kurcha ever since.”
Anna carefully plucked an old picture out and handed it to Sydney. It consisted of two people, a tall skinny girl wearing shorts and a red striped top. Her brown hair was in braids and she wore huge glasses that framed the exotically purple eyes. The smile was pure Anna though, huge and friendly even twenty years ago.
The other person was a short, chubby child standing next to her, his arms crossed over his chest. The cheeks were red and streaked with tears and dirt, the white/blonde hair stuck up at odd angles and was mussed around the head and the blue eyes were glassy, but had a familiar defiant look to them. Sydney began to laugh.
“What is so funny?” Sark demanded, ripping the photo from her grasp and tossing it back to Anna.
“You were fat!” Sydney managed to get out. “And scared of chickens!”
“I was not; that was baby fat! Besides, I’d like to see the great Sydney Bristow take on those demon birds,” he growled. She kept up laughing, her stomach hurting from the effort. She doubled up, curling into his stomach and wiping her eyes from the tears of laughter that had sprung in her eyes. Sark huffed in displeasure, but he wrapped his arm around her middle and let her keep laughing. She couldn’t get over it. It was kind of cute, the scary Mr. Sark being fat and scared of chickens. It sure was funny as hell.
When her laughs had subsided to a smile, she sighed and cuddled her lover. She felt so at home, right there in that living room in the middle of the forest on a Sunday afternoon, being held by the man who loved her. She felt satisfied, like she no longer needed anything else from life. She was happy.
“So,” Sark smiled at his family. “We’re…good then?”
“Of course, sweetie,” Anna gave him a reassuring smile. “That’s what family is for, isn’t it?” Her husband placed his arm around her shoulders and drew her into his embrace much like Sark was holding Sydney.
“Now,” Steven spoke, “who wants coffee and brownies?”