Stop stealing my LJ! (auchic) wrote,
Stop stealing my LJ!
auchic

Chapter 21

Chapter 21

“Dad? What are you doing here?”

Sydney disentangled herself from Sark and shakily stood on her skates. She wavered there for a second, her eyes still wide as she studied her father. He stood straight and still, hands buried in his pockets and to her great surprise, an amused look on his face. Was he laughing at her?

Before she could speak again, she heard Sark stand and skate past her to the bench. “Mr. Bristow. It’s a pleasure to see you again, but I’d prefer you not call me Mr. Lazarey. Julian is fine with me.” And before Sydney knew what was going on, Sark extended his hand. She nearly fell on her butt again when her father extended his own and they shook cordially.

“Julian then,” Jack released their hands. “Before I forget, I’d like to thank you for contacting me about…” his eyes cut over to Sydney, “this latest incident.”

Sark sat down on the bench. “I trust you were able to verify my intel then?”

Jack nodded. “Through my own sources, yes.”

He looked as if he was going to say more, but he placed his hands back in his pockets. “Well, I’ll let you change out of your skates. We can continue this inside.” Without a word at Sydney, Jack turned and walked back towards the house. She stared at his back before turning on Sark.

“What the hell was all that about?” she yelled. Sark didn’t say anything, just stayed bent over his feet, picking at the laces with frozen fingers.

“For Christ’s sake, Sydney, did you have to tie these things so bloody tight? I swear my foot is stuck permanently.”

She skated over, fell to her knees in front of him and ripped the laces apart, yanking the skate off his foot. He barely had time to wiggle his toes back to life before she stood up and held the blade to his throat. He straightened and stared at her, blue eyes wide. “No offense Sydney, but I don’t think it’s really the time or the place for foreplay.”

“Shut up,” she hissed, moving the blade closer so it touched his skin; he winced at the touch of cold metal to his neck. “Tell me. What that. Was all about. NOW.”

He slowly moved his hands up, wrapped his fingers around her wrists and pulled them down, so he was no longer in danger when he swallowed. He let out an audible sigh of relief when she let the skate drop to the ground, but she was still visibly pissed, so he pulled her down to sit next to him. “Don’t get angry with me, darling.”

“Julian! I haven’t heard from my father in two whole months, I’m half afraid he’s dead somewhere, then he shows up with no explanation and you guys are best friends? How could I not be angry? Explain!”

He was bent over picking at his other skate, so she huffed an impatient sigh and grabbed his leg, drawing it up on her lap and undoing the laces again for him. He shot her an incandescent smile and she scowled at him. “You better start talking soon, or I’ll turn you into a eunuch,” she threatened.

He laughed at her. “That’s my girl.” When she yanked his other skate off roughly, he held up his hands in front of him. “All right. I promised your father I would let him explain, but right now I’m not sure which Bristow to be more frightened of.”

She giggled in spite of herself, pulling at her own laces. He smiled and cupped her cheek in his gloved hand. “All right, what I can tell you is that after you tried to get in contact with your father the first time, I managed to get through later. I didn’t tell him about Irina’s death, only provided him with some hints for him to search on his own. I left him a contact number for him to call me if he was successful. When he called me back, he was willing to work with me on this, but he told me not to inform you about this, even though you were worried about him. Him coming here means…there’s something new in development.”

Sydney’s mouth had dropped open during his speech. “You mean to tell me that all this time, you and my dad have been, what, working together?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

She rubbed her temples. “Out of all the crazy things that have happened in the last three months, I think this one takes the cake,” she said weakly.

Suddenly tears sprang in her eyes and fell down her cheeks. He cupped her face again, his eyes wide with concern. “Hey, hey, what’s the matter, baby? Don’t cry, it’s okay. I’m so sorry, I wanted to tell you, but there are other issues in the way here.” He frantically pulled off his gloves and wiped her cheeks with his bare fingers. “Sydney, please, if your father sees you crying, he’ll probably pull out a gun and shoot my feet off. It’s okay, love. I’m sorry.”

She swiped at her own face. “No, I’m okay, I’m okay. Just…a little overwhelmed.” She stretched up and gave him a soft kiss. “I just don’t understand, Julian, and I want to. I get antsy when I don’t know what’s going on.”

He held her hand as they walked back, skates dangling from his other hand and the rope for the baby sleigh in hers. “Sydney,” he started, then bit his lip. “Part of that is for your own protection. Just…trust me on that one, okay?”

“Why? What kind of danger would I be in?” she queried.

He kissed her forehead. “I’ll let your father explain, okay. Don’t worry, you’ll know most everything soon.”

******************************************

After disrobing, Sydney found her father seated in the living room with a cup of coffee and various plates of food in front of him and a chattering Anna across from him. He looked slightly uncomfortable, so she stepped in the room. “Hey, Dad.”

“Sydney,” he stood and gave her a small smile. She decided not to be petty and gave him a quick hug, which he gratefully returned, kissing the top of her head. “It’s good to see you’re well. I’m sorry I’ve been unavailable; there were circumstances.”

“It’s…okay,” she smiled and she caught a glimpse of a relieved look cross his face quickly. She sat down next to him and grabbed a cookie off the table. Sark came in, looked around, then cautiously sat himself down next to Sydney and slid his arm around her shoulders. She fell back against his chest and smiled at Jack. He purposely avoided looking at the couple and Sydney shook with silent giggles.

After some polite talk, Anna stood up. “I’ll leave you all to catch up,” she smiled and left the room. They all sat in silence for a few minutes, then Jack stood and started pacing the room. Sydney looked at Sark, but he was staring hard at his lap. The tension was heavy, but it seemed like neither man wanted to be the one to start the conversation.

Finally Sydney was fed up. “This is killing me. Would you please explain why you’re here, Dad? I’m really tired of being the one left out in the dark here.”

Jack sat down on the loveseat across from them. “Sydney, would you please leave us to talk in private?”

She frowned. “No! I want to know what’s going on!” She crossed her arms defiantly in front of her chest. Sark sighed and stroked her back gently. “Don’t baby me right now Julian,” she snapped.

Jack leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. “Sydney, there are some things that I’d like to get cleared with…Julian before I am able to tell you the whole story. So please…”

“Mr. Bristow,” Sark smoothly cut in. “I realize there are some things in life you still want to protect your daughter from, but the longer we keep this from her, the more dangerous it could be. Besides, she deserves an explanation for all of this. And it’s about time we gave her one.”

Jack gave Sark a poisonous look but he sighed impatiently and sat back in his seat. “Fine. But I would ask, Sydney, that you keep all your questions until the end please.” She rolled her eyes, but nodded in acquiesce.

Sark’s fingers twirled around loose strands of her hair. “My guess is that by coming here, you’ve found Irina’s body?”

“What remains of it, yes. It was badly decomposed, but it was her. I had to…take some DNA for verification.”

“Verification?”

“Irina and I had a plan, in the event that something like this happened. There was a safe deposit box that could only be opened when her death was confirmed. I opened that box three days ago.”

“So you have all the information you need?”

“Not all. She left some personal papers for you, if you were still around. I have them with me, unless you’re willing to turn them over to us.”

“I don’t think so, Jack. If I’m correct about what they are, I can use those papers to perhaps gain my freedom. Besides, there are things to be done with them. This all cannot end so smoothly.”

“True. I’d like to trust that you aren’t lying to me though.”

Sark shifted forward, taking his arm away from Sydney. “You’re here. You haven’t killed me for touching your daughter. I can assume that you at least trust me this little bit. I’ve been nothing but completely honest with you in everything and I have trusted you with many things that you could have turned me in for. I only ask for the same consideration.”

“The only reason I’ve been so subdued, Mr. Sark, is because of my daughter’s affection for you. Otherwise I wouldn’t hesitate to bring you back to the Joint Task Office and place you in custody until we’ve finished this. So perhaps you keep that tongue of yours under control or I might rethink my genial behaviour.”

“Hey!” Sydney snapped. “Please, just stop this and let’s get on with the working well together.” They all scowled at each other.

Sark broke first. “Fine. I will share my information with you alone, Jack. Let’s not get the CIA involved in this yet.”

“I have no intention of doing so until I’m able to do some internal investigating.”

“So I shouldn’t feel bad about the lack of trust; it seems you have issues with your co-workers.”

“I trust no one, save my daughter, and even then…” He gave Sydney a look and she blushed. Thanks, Dad.

“So,” Sydney said softly. “Am I…can I ask questions now?”

Jack looked at Sark. “I think that would be fine.”

“Okay,” she sat back into the couch. “You’ve found…Irina’s body? So what does that mean now?”

Jack looked steadily at her. “We-that is Mr.…Sark and I-are in the process of breaking down your mother’s organization. But we’ve run into a few complications.”

“Those being…?”

“Someone deliberately covered up the fact that your mother’s body was found with San’ko’s when the Covenant was raided. He was found, his death was verified, but hers was not. No one at CIA or the JTF knows that she is dead; they still believe she is hiding somewhere. At least that’s what I believed until a few days ago. I managed to break into a secured file that spoke about the cover-up in great detail; unfortunately there were no names or any leads on who wrote it, who had access to it.”

“So what you’re saying is that someone from our office, someone we work with, knew about this and hid it? You’re kidding me.”

“There’s more,” Jack’s voice was softer now. “In that file there was also mention of the failure in Paris. From the language that was used, I took it to mean that you were supposed to be killed in Paris with Simon Walker.”

Sydney froze in her seat, her eyes wide. “What?”

“Someone wanted you dead at that time Sydney, and I happen to believe that you’re still in danger.”

“But, why me? I don’t understand…”

“I don’t either, but we are investigating…”

“Investigating what? I thought you said you couldn’t find anything about anyone at the JTF! Someone there is trying to kill me and we have no idea why!”

“We have some idea,” Sark broke in. She turned to him incredulously. “The raid on San’ko’s office was NSC.”

“Why would the NSC want me dead?”

“I don’t think the NSC as a whole wants you dead, Sydney, but someone in a position of power with them might.”

Sydney rubbed her head. “This is stupid!”

Jack leaned forward again. “I would agree with you, Sydney, but there’s too much evidence to the contrary. We’ve managed to stop the attempts on your life…”

“Attempts? As in more than one? Since when?”

Sark looked down at his lap. Jack frowned. “Sark was able to find out about them ahead of time and put a stop to them, but there have been two times that we’ve known about, where someone was hired to kill you. By someone who knows where you are.”

“That could be anyone,” she said miserably. “I didn’t make a big effort to hide.”

“No you didn’t, and ordinarily I would have warned you to be more cautious, but I’d had no idea you were in any danger either.”

Sydney closed her eyes tight and rubbed her face. “So what are we supposed to do about this?”

“That is precisely why I came here.”

********************************************

“No! I absolutely refuse to do this!”

“Sydney, be reasonable. Right now it’s the best plan we have.”

“I don’t care about plans! I am not letting you leave me!”

Sydney threw one of the pillows on the couch at Sark. He ducked, but completely missed her second throw, and ended up with a face full of pillow. “Stop being so childish,” he snapped.

They had come back to the cabin after an agonizing meal. There had been steady conversation, but no one could miss the tension between Sydney and the two men. She didn’t really care; she was extremely angry and was in no mood to humour them.

Jack’s plan was for Sydney to come back to LA with him the next day and return to work as if nothing had changed. Sark was supposed to get himself back in his old job, reviving his role as Irina’s right hand man, except now with all the power. While he worked to bring down the organization, both he and Jack would use their sources to try to find out who was behind the cover-up and the attempts at Sydney’s life. It meant, though, that Sydney and Sark would be separated for an unknown amount of time, and they would not be allowed to see each other. Sydney had refused point blank. She and Jack had argued until they were all called for supper. She had sat stiffly at the dinner table and ate little. She hadn’t lingered for coffee, but feigned illness and ran back to her cabin quickly. Eventually Sark had come back too and she immediately started fighting with him.

“I can act any way I want,” she snarled, hurling another pillow at his head. He caught it and laid it carefully on the chair in the corner. His calm demeanor annoyed her even more and she picked up her glass and poised it to throw at him.

“Don’t you even dare think about throwing that glass.” His voice was deadly quiet.

She cocked her eyebrow and pulled her arm back, but he crossed over to her and grabbed her arm roughly, yanking the glass from her hands. Catching him off guard, she kicked his knees out from under him. He fell heavily and she went down with him. She raised her arm to hit him across the face, but he caught it and used his leverage to roll himself over her, pinning her arms above her head. She struggled uselessly under him, trying to extract a leg out to kick him, but he slammed her body down hard. “Stop it,” he snapped. She kept fighting him harder. “Stop. It.”

“Let me go!”

“Sydney, stop it!” He managed to trap her legs around his so she couldn’t move. Her breathing was furious, her face flushed with anger. To her dismay, tears started rolling down her cheeks.

“Just let me go, okay? I want to…”

“I’m not going to let you run away and sulk,” he cut her off, keeping both her hands in one of his and bringing the other down to wipe at her cheeks. She turned her face away from his hand, but he kept caressing her, drawing her chin back so she was facing him. He sighed. “Sydney, do you think that this is only hard on you?”

“No! But you…you just accepted it so easily. You always do this, acting like it doesn’t affect you, or you don’t care about it. Just once, I want you to let go and…and…” She had to stop then because she was crying too hard to speak.

Sark rolled off of her and sat up, then picked her up and drew her into his lap, tucking her head into his neck. “Oh, my Sydney,” he said softly. She buried her head into his shirt and sobbed.

“I don’t want to do this, Julian. I’m tired of all this leaving.”

“I know, baby, I know. I don’t want to have to be apart from you either. But it’s only temporary; it’s not a permanent thing. We only have to do this until we know you’re safe.”

“But what if it doesn’t end with this, Julian? Or what if something happens to you? I don’t want to be away from you.”

“I can take care of myself Sydney, you know that.”

“I know,” she sniffed. “Why do we have to do it this way? Why can’t I just come with you? I can take care of myself too. I want to help with this.”

“You are safer back home, where your father and your friends can protect you, much better than I can.”

“I don’t want to go there, I want to be with you!”

She felt him heave a huge frustrated sigh, resting his forehead on the top of her head. “Stop being so stubborn, love. Being together is dangerous for both of us right now. And there are other people we have to think about in this as well. I want it all to end, Sydney. Bring everything down and then fake my death or something, so we can disappear somewhere together.”

“Why can’t we just disappear here? Why can’t we just stay?”

“You know it isn’t safe; whoever is after you knows you’re here. And because of that, we’ve inadvertently put my family in danger too.”

“Oh,” Sydney brought her hand to her mouth. “I didn’t even think about that. Oh my god…what if…?”

“Shhh…your father promised he would keep an eye up here. It’s not your fault, Sydney. None of us knew.” He stroked her hair. “It’ll be okay. I promise you, it’ll be okay.”

She collapsed against him, her body exhausted. “I can’t do this. I can’t go home and just go back to my life like nothing’s wrong. I need you too much.” She wrapped her hands around his shirt, balling them into tight fists. “I hate this. I hate it so much.”

“I know.” They sat there for a long time, quietly holding each other. “Don’t think about it. Think about when this all ends. And then we can go somewhere, anywhere and we’ll be together. We can go somewhere warm, lay on the beach all day. We could live all over Europe and go sightseeing like tacky tourists. We can build a huge house and lay in front of the fire all night and I’ll never let you out of my arms again.”

She wiped her eyes, laughing quietly. “Since when did you become such an optimist?”

“Since I met you,” he smiled, tipping her chin up.

“Ugh. That’s so cheesy of you. Sometimes I’d rather you be all snarky and sarcastic instead of sappy, like now.”

“Believe me Sydney, I’m only like this with you. Sometimes it makes me sick as well.”

“Shut up!” she laughed, pushing his chest. He caught her hands in his and leaned over to give her a quick kiss. She sighed and lay on his shoulder again, nuzzling his skin.

“This is better; this is how I’d rather we leave each other,” he whispered in her ear. He brought her hand up and kissed her palm. She curled her fingers around his cheek, trailed up into his hair.

“I don’t want to,” she whimpered, burrowing herself in closer.

“I know.”

************************************************************

They spent the rest of the night packing up her belongings and cleaning. Jack was coming to pick her up early the next morning. Sydney was scouring the room for any small things she might have left behind while Sark carried her suitcases out by the door. Satisfied, she laid her clothes for the next day out on the chair and crawled under the covers. Warm arms wrapped around her waist as he came into bed with her. “How’s my baby?” he murmured, pulling her close.

She gripped his hands tight in hers. “I can’t believe this is it,” she cried. He nibbled down her neck, rubbing her stomach through her pajama shirt.

“Don’t think about it like that, Sydney. I promise you, this isn’t the end.”

She turned to him. “Can you? Can you honestly promise me that?”

He kissed her forehead. “Yes, I can honestly promise you that, my love. This is all I’ve been wanting since I knew I wanted you. I’ve been working for this for a long time. You damn well better believe I’m not letting anything stand in my way any longer. We’re meant to be together, Sydney. Love’s a tricky thing sometimes, but in the end, if it’s meant to work out, it will. And we’re meant for it.”

Sydney smiled at him, then wrapped her arms around his waist and rolled him on top of her. While he shifted his hips to fit more snugly with hers, she skimmed her fingers up his bare back and pulled his head down to hers for a searing kiss. Her hands threaded in his hair as she caught his lower lip between hers and sucked on it. He propped himself up on his arms, stroking her hair as he let his tongue explore her mouth slowly. She undressed him quickly, pulling away the flannel pants he wore and tossing them to the ground. She kept one hand pressed in the small of his back while the other hand slid over his hips and between their bodies. She wrapped her hand around his hard cock, stroking it firmly. He groaned into her mouth, drawing in a deep breath. She kept her movements steady, the hand on his back keeping him in place against her. Her thumb smoothed over the head and spread the small amount of secretion there in slow circles. His inhalation was sharper this time, and he rolled slightly off of her, bringing one hand down to dig into her wrist and stop her motions. “Sydney…I can’t…”

“Then hurry up; you’re too slow,” she panted, lunging in for another kiss. He managed to shed her of her pajamas, but when he reached a hand in between her legs to stroke her, she pulled him away. “I’m ready.”

He lifted his head to give her a quizzical look but she was already pulling him inside of her, wrapping her legs around his hips. He laid soft kisses on her neck and she placed her hand on the back of his head to keep him down there. As he thrust into her, she stared at the ceiling, biting her lip against the tears coming again. She tried desperately to keep her mind on him, work herself to climax so she could just go to sleep, but he suddenly stopped. “What are you doing? What’s wrong?” she asked quietly to keep the wavering from her voice.

He maneuvered his head out of her grasp and looked at her in the eyes. “What’s the matter?”

She avoided his eyes. “Nothing. Don’t stop now.” She squeezed her legs tighter around him.

He sighed, frustrated, and pulled out, rolling off of her. She turned on her side and tried to pull him over to her again, but he shifted away. “Julian?” her voice trembled.

“Damn it, Sydney, I don’t want you to fuck me just because you think you have to.” He shrugged her hand off his arm.

“That’s not what this is; please, come back and finish, please.”

“No.” He go out of bed and pulled on his pants, then grabbed a blanket. “I’m sleeping on the couch.”

“Don’t do this,” she sobbed, wrapping her arms around her chest. He didn’t turn around, just walked out and slammed the door behind him. She stood from the bed, wrapped a blanket around her body, and followed him but her legs were shaking so badly she fell onto her knees, hot tears running down her face. She opened the door slowly and crawled out to the living room, over to where he was stretched out on the couch. His back was to her, front facing the couch back. She placed her hands on his back. “Please come back to bed,” she whispered.

She felt him sigh. “Sydney, just go to sleep.”

She fell back on her heels. “I thought you didn’t want to leave with a fight.”

He rolled over, eyes burning with anger. “I did not start this, but I am not going to let it roll of my back. You wanted me to show some emotion, Ms. Bristow, fine, here it is. Now please, go to bed. You’ve an early day ahead of you.” He rolled over again.

Sydney felt her heart shatter at his words and she clutched her blankets tight to her chest. She didn’t have the strength to stand and leave, so she fell down and curled into a ball, crying openly now. She heard him expel a frustrated sigh again. “Don’t try to manipulate me with tears Sydney, it isn’t working. It’s late and I don’t want to play these games. Just leave.”

“No!” she screamed, pounding the floor. “Why are you doing this now? Please, I want to be with you tonight. Why are you pushing me away? I need you to hold me.”

“Really?” he scoffed. “Because from my perspective all you wanted me to do was fuck you, roll over and go to sleep while you just lay there and took it. If I wanted someone for a good lay, I certainly didn’t need to come here.”

“That’s not what I wanted,” she whispered.

“Then what the hell do you want, Sydney? Because I have no fucking clue right now! All night, you’ve been angry because you don’t want me to leave you; you’ve been practically begging me for promises I’m not sure I can keep. You tell me all you want is for me to be with you, then you act like you don’t even want me to touch you. I can’t deal with hot and cold Sydney Bristow like this, okay? Figure out what you want from me, then come crawling back.”

“I want you,” she sobbed. “I know…I don’t deserve anything for acting so stupid, but…I just want you, here, forever.” She covered her eyes with her hands. “It’s just…you were there, and you were so loving, and I-I can’t leave when we’re like this. I don’t know if I’m ever going to see you again and I want to be ready for that. Every person that I’ve loved, th-they all left or were taken from me when I was so happy with them. I-I j-just wanted to m-make this less hard. Because it hurts so much, more than anything I’ve known.” She swallowed the lump in her throat and choked on the heavy sobs. She let her head fall to her knees and squeezed her eyes shut against the dull pain that was starting behind her eyes. When she could move, she slowly stood and weaved back to her room, collapsing on the bed and wrapping up in her comforter. Her throat burned, her headache was spreading throughout her skull and she was completely worn out, but she was too hurt to fall asleep. Her chest ached, a tight pull of muscle against her ribs. She wished she could stop bawling, but she felt like she had no control over herself anymore.

Again, warm arms encircled her waist. “Shhh,” he hushed, turning her so she was curled up into his chest. “Shhh, baby, shhh. You’re going to make yourself sick.”

“I’m so s-sorry,” she cried, her voice muffled by his chest. “You’re right; I don’t know what I want and I treated you like sh*t for it. I don’t deserve this. It’s better that we’re leaving each other; we’re just not working. We can’t stop hurting each other.”

“I thought we already went over this,” his voice was slightly amused in her hair.

“Th-this isn’t funny!” she yelled.

“Shhh…of course it’s not. I’m just trying to let you know that it’s okay. I know you’re sorry and I forgive you, all right? I don’t feel like fighting over something so stupid when I have no idea when I’m going to be with you again.”

“Julian…” she moaned. His hands on her back were rubbing small slow circles, a comforting gesture. She coughed a couple times, harshly, but she was able to stop the tears from coming. He held her tight as her breaths fell to small hiccoughs, her chest jerking with each inhalation. He whispered soothing words into her head, pulling her into a quiet daze.

He kissed the top of her head again. “Go to sleep, love.”

“Wait,” she brought her head up. “Can we…will you…”

“You don’t have to-”

“I want to,” she breathed.

He kissed the dampness off her face while she unraveled herself from her blankets and removed his pants again. When he placed his hand between her legs again, she didn’t pull him away, but opened herself more, so his fingers could probe her nether regions gently. He slid two fingers inside of her, his mouth sucking on her neck softly and she arched up to him, lips parted in a soundless cry. She rocked her hips into his hand while cradling his head in her hands and bringing him up so she could kiss him, taste the salty remains of her tears. He removed his hand and positioned his hips over her. She tangled her legs with his as he entered her carefully, sighing contentedly. He wrapped his arms under her back and held her close, looking into her face as he thrust. She blinked rapidly. “Harder,” she panted. He sped up his rhythm and she clutched his back tightly. She matched his motions with her own, raising her hips to him. “Oh god,” she breathed. “Oh god…I love you.”

“I love you too,” he groaned, laying his forehead on hers. She made small cries when her body shot out of control and she pulsed around him. He exhaled heavily when he came and let his body drop onto hers. “God…Sydney,” he murmured into her cheek. He cupped her cheek and threaded fingers through her hair. “Why is it I can never stay mad at you?” he asked.

“I dunno,” she yawned. “Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m so sweet?”

“Or perhaps it’s because I love you so much.”

“That too,” she slurred, smiling sleepily along his cheek. She heard him chuckle. “You better not forget about me,” she warned.

“I really doubt I could even if I wanted to.”

*********************************************

The alarm bleeped at 5:30. Sydney’s hand covered it, turning off the dreadful noise. Sark’s hand came up over hers and pulled it back in around her body. He held her quietly for a few seconds. “Julian, I have to get up. My dad will be here soon.”

She disentangled herself from his embrace, keeping her back turned as she dressed. She brushed her hair into a ponytail and threw the last bits of stuff into her overnight bag, zipping it up. She paused and took a deep breath, letting her head hang for a second. She heard him get up, and his hands covered her shoulders. “Julian…”

“Hush,” he whispered in her ear. He let his hands slide down her arms until he was covering hers with his. He picked up her bag and as one body, they walked to the front door, where he pulled her jacket on. He leaned against the wall and drew his arms around her waist so her back rested on his chest. She slumped against him, enjoying the comforting body warmth. His chin came to rest on her head. “Did you know that even though your father agreed to share intel with me and work with me, he still had the nerve to threaten my life?” he said conversationally.

She giggled. “Of course he did. Even if he likes you, no man is good enough for me in his eyes. And I’m pretty sure he likes you better than he liked some of my other…uh…lovers.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Well, he thanked you, he shook your hand, he called you Julian…that’s more than he’s done with everyone else.”

“Well, that’s comforting. Still, I’d rather this than loving Daddy. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it if Jack ever hugged me.”

“I don’t think you have to be worried about that one.” She closed her eyes, resting her head against his chest. “So, what excuse are you going to use this time?”

“No excuse; I’m simply going to tell the truth.” When she turned her head and arched an eyebrow at him, he smiled sheepishly. “Well, the truth with some important facts left out. Just enough so they’re not worried, but not enough to…well, get them killed.”

“Ah,” she hummed. She let the motion of his chest moving up and down lull her into a sleepy haze, so deep that she didn’t hear her father’s car drive up. When Sark shook her shoulder, she frowned. “Nnn…”

“Come on,” he gently prodded, standing them up. She turned in his arms and hugged him to her. His hands rubbed her back soothingly. “I will see you soon,” he whispered. “I have faith.”

“Uh huh,” she whimpered, feeling tears coming again.

“Now, Sydney. None of that,” he chided, tipping her chin up. He kissed away the tears that lingered on her face. She lay her forehead on his chin and stayed in his arms until the door opened and Jack came in. He nodded at them and picked up her bags, hauled them out to the car.

When he returned he held his arm out. “Come Sydney, we need to leave.”

She wanted to scream “Just one more minute!” but she knew that wasn’t feasible. Keeping one arm around her waist, Sark stepped forward and extended his hand to Jack. Her father shook it firmly.

“I wish you good luck, Mr. Lazarey.”

Sark nodded and held up a finger, indicating one more minute alone with Sydney. Jack turned to go, but Sark stopped him before he left the room. “Mr. Bristow. I would ask that you take care of Sydney. Please.”

Jack looked slightly affronted at this, but he gave a sharp nod and left.

Sydney cupped Sark’s head in her hands and pulled him down for a long kiss. When she pulled away, he opened his mouth to speak, but she pressed her finger to his lips. “No goodbyes,” she whispered.

He smiled sadly. “No goodbyes,” he repeated. “Just a ‘see you later’.”

“Yeah,” she breathed. She let him hold her for a few more seconds before she stepped back from his arms. She took a deep breath, grabbed her last bag and left. Just before she got into the car, she turned and gave him a little finger wave, smiling. He gave her one back, leaning in the doorway. She got in the car and her father turned around and drove off. She leaned her head against the window and sighed, watching the trees whip by.

Her father’s hand covered the one on her leg. “Sydney, I am sorry. Are you all right?”

She turned to him, her small smile lingering. “I’m fine, Dad. I’ll see him again. I know I will.”
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