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

Chapter 23

Chapter 23

It was pouring rain and stormy the day they buried Jonathan Donahue Bristow. Sydney was grateful for the angry weather; if the sun had been shining, she would have refused to go through with it. With the rain, it felt like the entire world was crying along with her.

Sydney stood in front of the mirror in her room, staring blankly at her reflection. She had spent the entire morning trying on all of her outfits trying to pick the perfect one. Everything she owned felt too casual, or too short, or too office-like. Her room was covered in discarded garments, pieces of material she had tossed away in frustration. She didn’t know why she wanted it to be so right. It just felt that she should.

Five days ago she had woken up with Sark curled next to her. Her initial joy at having him there had broken when her mind, slightly fogged from the drug they had given her wore off, had reminded her what had happened. She woke Sark up with a wailing cry of despair, but he drew her into his arms and held her while she sobbed. She had cried until her tears dried up and even then she had kept with the cries, her throat constricting around dry sobs and her eyes burning painfully.

She’d spent most of those days lying in her bed, holding on to Sark. He had delegated Weiss to handle the constant traffic that came by: florists, neighbours, old friends, people Jack had worked with in the past. He did an excellent job accepting all the gifts people had sent, answering the never-ending phone calls and turning visitors away, quietly informing the world that Sydney didn’t feel up to visitors at the moment. Most had been understanding but some had been rude, demanding to talk with her about this or that. She didn’t want to bother with them.

The only person she had let through was Jack’s lawyer. They sat in the living room and quietly discussed plans for the funeral, et al. Per his wishes, there would be no memorial service and the graveside service would be private, by invitation only. She had agreed, not wanting it to turn into a CIA circus down there. His will had been very simple; everything was left to her, stuff that included many safety deposit boxes, storage units and bank accounts. Jack had certainly been prepared for a war of some sort. She’d cringed when she noticed that the date on the will was only two weeks previous, and that brought on the tears again. The lawyer had left with awkward condolences and she’d collapsed into Sark’s arms again, pushing the stack of papers into heaps onto the floor. The next time she’d seen that room, the papers had been neatly stacked back in their place on the table.

Unfortunately for her the CIA had insisted on having some sort of wake for one of their top agents and they had asked multiple times for her to attend. She grudgingly went, bringing along the countless bouquets of flowers messing up her apartment. She wanted to throw every vase against the wall in anger. Whoever the hell had decided that flowers would be an appropriate thing for a grieving person needed to get their ass kicked. Since the place would be surrounded by CIA agents, Sark had to stay behind. Sydney had spent her time standing stiffly next to Weiss, holding his arm and nodding absently when people came by to shake her hand or give her a hug or give her words that were supposed to sound nice and caring but really didn’t do anything for her. The breaking point of that night had been when she stepped away to get some food. She was standing at the long table, picking through the row of snacks when she had heard a roar of laughter behind her. A group of male agents she barely knew were standing around, saying something about how Eric Weiss now had an ‘in’ with Sydney Bristow now that her dad wasn’t around to stop him. She had thrown down her plate, turned on her heel and left, stopping only to let Weiss know she was getting the hell out of there. She’d driven erratically back to her apartment and practically dove into Sark’s arms when he opened the door.

She now ran a hand down her black dress, toying with the slight flair at the bottom. This one wasn’t appropriate at all, it was way too slutty for her father’s funeral. She tugged slightly at the neckline, cursing how low it dipped and how much cleavage it showed. She fidgeted a bit more, then decided she needed to change again.

“Sydney, are you ready?” Sark’s voice stopped her. He stood in the doorway, a signature black suit underneath his long jacket and a black toque covering his blond locks. Since the funeral would be very private, she had begged him to come. She needed him to be there at her side, holding her up. A substitute wouldn’t do for this part. Finally he had agreed, wiping her tears away gently and kissing her. With his hair hidden and the high collar of his coat covering his face, they figured he would be safe. No one would be paying attention to him anyway. Of the six people who would be there, two were high level agents Sydney had never met; her, Sark and Weiss; and Arvin Sloane. She couldn’t believe that her father still wanted Sloane to come to his funeral, after all that man had done to them. She just hoped that Sloane wouldn’t notice Sark.

She looked at him, then back in the mirror. “No. I need to change.” Her hands started to claw at her dress, trying to pick it off her body frantically. “It’s not right, it’s too slutty, I have to find something else.” She yanked at the hem as tears came into her eyes.

“You look fine, Sydney,” Sark said gently, crossing over to her, but she skittered away from his touch.

“No, no I don’t, I look awful, oh god I look horrible, Julian. This dress is all wrong, and my hair needs to be changed, and I’m wearing too much makeup…” Her tears were now spilling down her cheeks in a steady stream.

Sark firmly grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him. He cupped her chin and looked straight into her eyes. “Look at me, Sydney,” he whispered. She met his blue eyes, her chest heaving. “Deep breath, in and out.” She sucked in and let the air out in one big whoosh. His hand on her face and on her shoulder and looking into his eyes calmed her down, made her tears slow down. “You look fine, baby.”

She nodded and buried her head into his chest, balling her hands around his coat into tight fists. His arms came around her and rubbed her back in a comforting manner. “We’ll get through this together,” he whispered into her hair, laying soft kisses on the top of her head. “Just breathe. You’ll get through this.” He held her gently as she cried and clung to him.

She finally stepped back and wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Are you ready?” he asked, and she nodded hesitantly. He cupped her face with one hand and looked at her, then led her out of her room. Weiss stood there uncomfortably in his suit, picking at his sleeves. He looked up when Sydney came in and opened his arms for a hug. She hugged him tightly, then he stepped forward and shook Sark’s hand, then pulled him in for an awkward guy-hug. Sydney held on to Sark’s other hand until he was back at her side.

“So, ummm…how do you want to handle the driving thing? Should we all go in one car or…what?” Weiss’s words trailed off.

Sark looked at Sydney, but she kept her head down, buried into his chest. “I think it would be best if we took our own car, so we can leave at our own leisure.”

Weiss nodded in agreement. “Well…see you there then.” He left, pulling on a jacket. Sark helped Sydney into her own coat and led her outside to the car.

The drive was silent and long. Sydney stared out the window, watching the rain drench LA. She didn’t notice the buildings and cars flying by them. She kept her hands on her lap, covering one of Sark’s in it. He didn’t object at all. When they arrived, he got out first, opening the umbrella to keep them from getting wet. She watched him walk around the car to her side, open the door and extend his hand. She looked at it for a long time before slowly getting out and curling up next to him. It was time.

All she did was stare quietly at the coffin, both hands clasped in front of her holding a pair of roses. Sark stood behind her, his head tilted down into the curve of her neck and his right arm linked around her waist, holding her close to him. Weiss stood at her left side, one hand on her shoulder for comfort. The other mourners were across from them, but Sydney didn’t bother looking at them. She just listened to the people speak, trying not to think about the reality of it all. The rain poured down on them.

Finally it was over. She stood still, frozen to her spot as the others left. The two men she didn’t know merely shook her hand and walked away quietly without saying anything. Sloane approached her then, and Sark slid his arm away, turning his face to look over the rest of the graveyard.

“I’m very sorry for your loss, Sydney,” Sloane spoke gently, cupping her face. She nodded stiffly. She wanted to scream at him, punch his face, keep hitting him until he was lying there dead and broken, but she was numb. He kissed her cheek in a paternal manner and gave her a brief hug, one that probably would have been longer if she had moved. He stepped back and looked like he wanted to say more, but Weiss stepped forward and gave him a quick shake of his head. Sloane just patted her arm again. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.” When she didn’t respond, he looked down and walked away. Eventually Weiss left too, whispering something to Sark that she didn’t catch, then squeezing her shoulder one last time before turning and walking to his car.

Sark wrapped his arms around her waist again and laid his chin on her shoulder. He didn’t say anything and she was grateful for that. She just wanted to stand there forever; she didn’t know why, but it just felt like something she should do. She didn’t know what to do without her father there. Even though he had been absent from her life while growing up, he was still there in the background, the only family she had left. Plus they had built such a strong relationship after she had been found in Hong Kong and he had become someone she’d learned to rely on when there was nobody else. What hurt the most was that she had never apologized to him for her harsh last words to him. The guilt was eating away, that he had been taken so abruptly from her. “The last thing I told him was to get out of my life,” she murmured, new tears dripping down her face. “I didn’t even tell him I loved him. I told him to get lost. I can’t believe it.”

“Sydney, no. This was so unexpected; he knew that you loved him, even if he could be overbearing at times. You can’t beat yourself up over this,” Sark whispered in her ear. She just cried harder, her body shaking against his. “Oh Sydney, Sydney,” he crooned softly, trying to comfort her, but she doesn’t want to be comforted. She lay back against his chest and turned her head slightly. They stood there while the rain poured down, the wind blowing it around her bare legs, his jacket fluttering around them.

Finally she shook her head jerkily, brushing the back of her hand down her face. She stepped out of Sark’s embrace and bent down, laying one of the roses in her hand down on the coffin. She stroked the lacquered wood carefully, then pressed the palm of her hand to it. “I…” she started, then swallowed hard. “Goodbye,” she whispered, bowing her head ‘til her forehead was laying on the coffin. Her chest felt hollow and cold, and her heart felt ripped in two. She rose slowly and turned to find Sark watching her closely. She took his hand. “Come.”

They walked down the cement path of the cemetery, not back to the car but to a spot she had visited many times in the past. Sark let her lead him, not questioning where they were going. When she stopped, he looked down and sucked in a harsh breath. “Sydney…”

“No,” she stopped him, pressing her fingers to his lips. She replaced her fingers with her lips briefly, then turned away and knelt down, smoothing her hand over the grass on the flat grave, and tracing out the name printed on the stone.

Daniel Hecht

She laid the other rose on the wet grass and watched the delicate petals get bruised from the raindrops. Just like she had done with Jack’s coffin, she rested her forehead against the stone. “I miss you,” she breathed. “I loved you so much…and I’m so sorry.” She pressed a kiss to the cut stone before standing up and walking back to Sark. He was biting his lip, looking at her with such a defeated look that she couldn’t help but throw her arms around him and bury her face into his neck. He hesitantly hugged her back, brushing her damp hair away from her face, but when he tried to break away, she didn’t let go. “Syd…”

“Get me out of here, Julian,” she pleaded. “Just…let’s go.”

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

The air in the car was filled with a different kind of tension on the way back. Sark drove again, but this time he ignored her and stared straight ahead, his jaw clenched tightly. She figured he was upset about being dragged to Danny’s grave, although she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why he would be. She placed her hand on his knee, but he moved away and she frowned, crossing her arms. If he wanted to pout, she really didn’t care and she wasn’t going to stop him.

Suddenly she sat up. “Get off at the next exit,” she said.

He looked at her, eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“Just do it,” she snapped.

He obliged her, swerving the car hard into the next lane. They didn’t speak except for her giving directions every so often. She sat back and watched the buildings and houses of the city disappear as they drove west. Finally she pointed out one more turn, down a beaten gravel one-lane road. He maneuvered the car through sharp turns, trees and bushes hitting the doors and windows. At the end of the road was a small clearing, opening up to a small sheltered beach. She could just barely make out the water in the distance.

Sark stopped the car abruptly, slammed it into ‘park’ and turned off the engine. “Do you mind telling me why we’re here?”

She shrugged her long coat off her shoulders and arms, then braced her hands on the console in front of her. “Dad, Mom and I used to come here when I was a kid. I…I liked it.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sark go very still, his eyes dropping to his lap. “Why don’t you just say it?” she snapped.

He shook his head. “I don’t know what you want me from me,” he said wryly. “What do you expect me to say?”

She bit down hard on her lip until she tasted blood. Looking out the window in front of her, she watched a flash of lighting through the drops of rain. Without a word, she threw open her door and launched herself outside. She heard Sark protest before slamming the door shut and running out onto the sand.

Her heels sank into the wet ground, so she kicked them off in front of her and made her way down to the shore. The ocean was furious in the storm, waves crashing up against the sand, whitecaps waving at her in the distance. She stood there, tears mixing with the rain that spattered on her face and stared out into the distance. She wanted to throw herself into the water and swim forever, lose herself deep in the dark ocean, slip down into the cold depths and fall asleep. Let the current take her until she couldn’t fight it anymore and gave in.

Right now she hated herself so much she didn’t care about Sark or Weiss or anyone else for that matter. They’d get over it. They did before.

She bent down and picked up a rock. Flung it hard at the waves. She watched it splash somewhere in the distance, then threw another one. Then another and another, heaving them so hard her body pitched forward and she stumbled. She picked up the shoes she had discarded and threw them too, watching them disappear into the water. She kneeled on the sand, breathing heavily. Finding another rock, she stood and threw it with all her might, screaming this time. The sound ripped from her throat and she screamed until she couldn’t breathe and choked. As she caught her breath she palmed another rock and screamed again when she could. She kicked clumps of wet sand until she fell down again.

She wanted to curl up in a ball and start crying again, but she had done enough of that the last days. She was angry now, angry at Vaughn for leaving her so easily in the past, angry at Laura Bristow for abandoning her as a child, angry at Irina for becoming Laura, angry at Sloane for killing Danny, angry at Noah for betraying her, angry at Dixon for taking over as the boss, angry at Will for not coming back, angry at Francie for being so stupid, angry at her father for being the man he couldn’t help but be, and most of all angry at Sark for doing this to her, for loving her so much that it hurt more than anything in the world, and not being able to do anything but love him back.

She stood shakily and brushed her hands down her dress. Her dress, the one that was so slutty for her father’s funeral. She grabbed the collar and pulled, ripping the material straight down the front. She tore it off her body and held it out in front of her, ripping away at the sleeves, the hem, the waist until all she held were scraps. The rain poured down on her naked skin and she shivered but she didn’t care. She dropped her hands and stood there, chest heaving with sobs.

“Sydney.” She turned and saw Sark standing there, umbrella open, one hand in his pocket, his jacket whipping around his legs. His face was blank, eyes cooler than she had seen for a long time. “Are you quite done with your little demonstration now?”

She walked up to him and punched him hard in the face. He stumbled back, dropping the umbrella and nearly fell when she hit him again. Her fists hit his eye, his nose, his neck, his chest, pounding him. “You bastard. You fucking bastard,” she spat, drawing back one leg and kicking his knees.

He recovered, dodged a fist and grabbed her wrist, holding her. “Stop,” he said simply, and she saw the concern and pain seep into his eyes. She swung her other arm out of his grasp and raked her nails down his cheek, drawing blood. “Fuck!” he cried, shoving her away. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

She punched him again. “Be Sark!” she yelled.

“What?” he asked incredulously.

She hit him again, catching the side of his head and bruising his temple. “Be. Sark. Hit me, fight me, throw me down and fuck me, I really don’t care right now.” She punched him again and he fell down to his knees, blood running down his face with the rain. “DO IT!” she screamed. She kicked him square in the chest, causing him to fall on his back and she straddled him, drew her arms back and began raining blows down on him. “Do it, do it, do it, do-”

Without warning he flipped her onto her back and pressed himself over her, kissing her harshly. She struggled under him, lashing her legs out and pushing her hands on his chest, but he drew his mouth away and slapped her hard. She tasted blood in her mouth and she spat it out before his lips claimed hers again roughly.

Her hands on his chest changed from pushing to tugging, bringing him down onto her more. He had taken off his jacket when she had pushed him down and she was laying on it, the wool chafing her wet naked skin. Her fingers trembled trying to undo the buttons on his shirt but he pulled away and slapped her again. “Lie still,” he snarled, catching her hands and holding them down above her head. He bent his head down again but didn’t kiss her; instead his mouth latched onto her neck, biting her deeply. She screamed and kneed him in the abdomen. He retaliated with a similar blow to her stomach and a backhanded slap across her cheek.

His hand on her body was rough: groping at her breasts, parting her legs, touching her through her panties. She arched up to him when his fingers brushed her clit and he slammed her down again. He ripped away at the satin material and jammed two fingers inside of her until she screamed in pain. It hurt so damned much but her body couldn’t help but respond. She writhed underneath him, rocking her hips against his thrusting hand. He was biting her shoulder now and she was crying in pain and pleasure, staring up at the rain falling down on them and hearing the waves crash in the distance.

He withdrew his hand before she could climax and she wriggled and jerked, dying for release. He let go of holding down her hands and worked at undressing himself. She tried to slide a hand down to finish herself off but he wrenched it away and slapped her again; she punched him across the cheek. He wrapped fingers around her throat and held her down while he undid his pants and pushed them down to his knees with his underwear; his shirt was unbuttoned and open showing of the smooth skin of his chest, but he didn’t expose the rest of his body. He watched her gasp for breath, her nails clawing at his hand, before letting go of her neck and slamming himself into her in one motion. She couldn’t cry out because she hadn’t caught her breath and he immediately began pounding his hips down hard into her, dominating the entire act. When he bent his head down and began biting her neck again, she threw her arms around his neck and crushed him to her, holding on for dear life.

Four months and it was all she could do not to go over the edge too soon. He was being deliberately rough, never slowing down the pace into a nice rhythm but thrusting into her furiously. He ripped along her insides, hurting her with the rough invasion but stoking the fire within. She slammed her eyes shut and bit down on her lips to hold back the moan in her throat, lifting her body to his punishing one. She could hear his breathing become unsteady and she dug her nails into his exposed neck. “Make me come,” she panted, biting his ear. He threaded his fingers in her hair and yanked her head back, but she did the same, pulling his face down to hers. “Make. Me. Come,” she yelled, even though he was mere centimeters away.

He claimed her mouth again with his, forcing his tongue to do battle with hers, while one hand left her hair and slipped between their thrashing bodies. His thumb attacked her clit with sharp strokes, dragging the edge of his nail against the sensitive flesh. Her mewling cries were lost against his lips. He teased her with his thumb and slammed his cock into her until she bucked her hips around him and stiffened her back as her orgasm hit and overtook her. Her head went light from lack of oxygen and she bit down on his tongue, causing him to throw his head back. She gulped in breath and tried to voice her pleasure, wave after wave of the punishing heat engulfing her. One of her hands fell down his back and slid over his taut ass to grasp his balls. She squeezed them hard, digging in her nails; he screamed “FUCK!” and with one last rough thrust he came deep inside of her, then let his body collapse on hers, crushing her into the sand.

When it was over, they lay still, listening to the rain, the ocean and each other trying to catch their breath. Sydney began to cry quietly, tears running down her face and over her wounds, the salty stream mixing with the blood. Her sobs became uncontrollable, her body shaking with fear and anguish. She closed her eyes and turned her face away, but his hand cupped her cheek and drew her into the soft curve of his neck, his arms slipping around her back and cradling her to him. He held her and gently rocked her as her sobs turned into keening wails and her hands grabbed tightly at his shirt front. She could barely hear him humming softly in her ear, trying to comfort her pain. She cried until it wasn’t physically possible anymore, the rain beating down on the top of her head and drenching them.

He held her until she was quiet and trembling in his embrace. Still cradling the back of her head, he laid her back down, his body hovering above hers as he stroked her face gently. He carefully wrapped her naked body in his long jacket before rolling off and redressing himself. She watched him wince as his hands touched the cuts she had made to his neck and face, most of the blood washed away with the rain. She hadn’t escaped untouched; her face hurt like hell, blood from her neck wound was dripping down her torso and there was a dull ache between her legs and around her hips, where bruises were starting to form. She suddenly shivered and wrapped her arms around herself tightly, drawing herself into a ball. She rested her head on her knees, but looked up when he drew his arms around her, pulling her close into him. His face met with hers, her forehead resting gently on his cheek. She closed her eyes and reveled in his warmth.

“I’m sorry, Julian,” she finally whispered.

“I know. I’m sorry too, baby.” He tenderly kissed the skin in between her brows. “I do love you, Sydney.”

“I love you too, Julian,” she whimpered, but he kissed her before she could start crying again. At first, it was nothing more than a simple caress of lips on lips, but he tilted her chin up enough for him to have access to her entire mouth. She parted her lips to allow his tongue to slide through and shivered when he stroked the inside of her mouth slowly. He kissed her until she thought that she would pass out, then drew back just a bit but kept her face in close to his. Her hand came up and slid through his soaking wet hair. “Please take me home.”

With one arm on her back and one under her knees, he lifted her and carried her effortlessly to the car. He set her down briefly to brush sand off the coat before sitting her in the car. She leaned back against the seat and curled up. He got in next to her and turned the key starting the engine, then kicked the heat up to ‘High’.

While they sat and let the car warm up, her frozen hands moved around his coat and dug in the pockets, looking for the leather gloves he had been wearing before. In the right pocket, her hand closed around a tiny object and she frowned, drawing it out.

The box was tiny, just big enough to fit in the palm of her hand, and covered in green velvet. She skimmed her fingers over the soft material and contemplated just sticking it back where she had found it but her curiosity got the better of her. “What is this, Julian?”

He had been absently staring out the window, but her words brought him back and he looked at her. When he saw what she was holding out to him, he drew in a deep breath and looked away. She stared at him, waiting for him to say something but when he didn’t, she carefully opened the little box in her hand. When she saw what it contained, she couldn’t help but gasp.

Nestled on the white satin, the diamond winked up at her even in the gray light of the day and the darkness of the car. It was square cut, different from the traditional round, but still very attractive. Framing it on either side of the white-gold band were two sapphires cut in the shape of a heart. The entire ring glittered and Sydney could tell even with her untrained eye that the craftsmanship was the best that money could buy. She couldn’t speak, just brought her eyes back up and stared at Sark.

He laughed hollowly. “I’ve been meaning to take that out of there, but…circumstances, you know. Every time I brought it out, all I could think was, ‘Way to go, Julian. Be the man that asks your girlfriend to marry you just after her father’s been horribly killed. That doesn’t make you any kind of an insensitive bastard at all.’ I actually had an entire clichéd proposal scene planned. You know, fancy dinner, some dancing, a moonlit walk along the beach, and then I would get down on one knee and you would tease me about being such a sappy fool.” He laughed again, this time with a touch of bitterness to it. “I mean, what kind of a person is that tactless? Oh right, I am. How silly of me to think otherwise.” He fell silent and went back to staring out the window, biting his lip gently.

Sydney closed up the little box and set it on the center console separating them. She brought her hands up and pushed her hair back off her face. Very slowly she sat up and crawled over to Sark, straddling his lap. He kept his head down, stared hard at his lap, so she cupped her hands around his face and tilted it up to hers. His eyes had an unnatural shine to them, glowing cerulean blue in the harsh light. She ran her hands up and down his cheeks before leaning her head down and kissing him softly. He turned his head and tried to break away, but she held firm, brushing her fingers in his hair. Her jacket fell open, exposing her naked body, and his hands came up and grasped her waist. He kissed her back finally, pulling her down to him. When she broke away, breathing heavily, she looked deep into his eyes and smiled. “Thank you,” she whispered, tracing her fingertips over his lips. He kissed them softly and smiled back.

They sat there for a long time, just looking at each other. “Sydney,” he eventually spoke, his voice low. “Let’s go home.”

“Okay.” She didn’t move.

He lifted her hips gently off his legs. “Sydney love, you’re going to have to remove yourself, or it’ll be very difficult for me to drive the car safely.”

“Oh,” she blushed and climbed off of him, back over to her seat. He reached over and drew a hand down her cheek lovingly. She grabbed at the hand and held it in her lap. He didn’t try to bring it back, but let her keep it as he pulled the car into gear and drove home.

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

The rain was still falling when they drove up to Sydney’s apartment building and since she had lost her shoes to the sea, Sark carried her into the house. When he finally set her down in her bedroom, she was shivering violently, the cold seemingly tattooed on her skin. “I’m freezing,” she murmured.

“How ‘bout I warm you up, then?” he said, giving her a cocky grin. He pushed the wet jacket down off her shoulders and let it pool onto the floor. He undressed himself, letting his wet suit lay where it fell. When he was as naked as her, he leaned down and kissed her hungrily, setting his hands firmly on her hips. She entwined her arms around his neck and opened her mouth to his tongue. Without breaking away from her lips he picked her up and set her to rest on his own hips. She wrapped her legs around him to hang on. He walked them over to the bathroom and stepped into the tub, reaching behind her to fiddle with the knobs and turn the shower on. She shrieked when the initially cold water hit her back, but it quickly turned hot and steamy. “Mmm…nice,” she purred, stroking her hands down his back. He kissed a path down her neck as he reached for her loofah and soap, pausing when he found the open sore he had made with his teeth. He very gently ran his lips over the spot, caressing it tenderly. Her own lips did the same with the nail marks she had ripped into his body. He lathered up the loofah and smoothed it up and down over her body, washing off the sand that clung to her skin. He tilted her head back under the spray and ran his fingers through her hair, making sure it was clean. She let him wash her before she took the loofah from his hands and scrubbed it over his torso. “I’ve missed this part,” she murmured into his shoulder.

“Me too,” he agreed. He reached around and turned the shower off, then lifted her up on his hips again and stepped out of the tub. She sagged lazily against his body as he dried them off with a towel. “Tired?”

“Exhausted,” she yawned. She buried her face into the curve of his neck as he hooked his arms under her knees and carried her back to the bedroom. He lay her down and she stretched her body out, long and lithe like a cat. She tried to pull him down next to her, but he just smiled and side-stepped her hands. Her eyes half open, she watched him pick up his wet clothes. When he had them bundled under his arm, he left and in the distance, she could hear the washing machine start running. She slid off the mattress and picked up his coat, hanging it on a hook on the back of her door. She dug into the pocket again and pulled out the jewelry box, closing it in her fist as she settled back down on the bed and closed her eyes.

The mattress depressed on her left side and she instinctively rolled her body over to his. One hand curved under the back of her head and lifted it up to kiss her meditatively. She pulled him to rest heavily on top of her, welcoming his weight. He slowly ran his hands up her sides, lifting her arms above her head. When he came across the object hidden in her hand, he pulled back and sat up, turning away from her. She sat behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning her forehead against his shoulder. He grasped her hands and took the box away from her, turning it over in his hands. He shifted around to look at her. “Sydney…”

“Ask me,” she whispered.

“What?”

She pointed to his hand. “Do it.”

He tilted his head back, raised his eyebrows. “Sydney, will you marry me?”

She shook her head. “No.” He frowned and she touched the furrowed spot between his eyes. “Again.”

He bit his lip and looked at her as if she had grown another head. “Marry me?”

“Nope,” she giggled. “Again.”

He picked her up, swung her around and set her on his lap. “Sydney Adrian Bristow, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”

“Mmm…no,” she answered and pulled away, rolling onto her stomach and looking up at him. “You get one more chance.”

He sat himself up on his knees, resting back on his heels and wrapped his arms around her waist, picking her up and pulling her into him, so that she straddled his thighs and her back was pressed up against his chest. He slid his hands down her arms until he had her hands cupped in his. He opened the little box and placed it in the palm of her hand, holding it out in front of them. “Sydney,” he spoke against her ear, sending hot tremors down her body. “I do love you with my whole heart, body and soul, and I can’t imagine living without you. I’m asking you please, marry me.”

She turned her head until her face was curved against his. “How can I possibly say no to that? Yes, yes, of course I will, yes…” her words were cut off as he bent his head down and kissed her hard. She arched her neck so he could lay kisses down her skin. As his tongue slid in circles around the tiny hollow of her neck, he plucked the ring from its spot in the box and, holding out her left hand, slid it slowly up her third finger. It fit perfectly, nestled at the base of her finger. She raised her hand and cupped his face, drawing her fingers slowly down his cheek. “Thank you. Thank you for making this easier for me, and for putting up with all of it.”

He dropped a kiss on her shoulder, his hands curved over her stomach. “Always. Always.” His hand dipped lower, brushing between her legs and she arched her back, closing her eyes in pleasure. She covered his hand with her own, pressing his fingers to find her waiting clit. He flicked it back and forth, then slid a finger back and slipped it inside of her. She rocked gently against him, her mouth open but no sound coming out.

“Okay…okay,” she panted, grabbing his hand and forcing him to stop. She could hear him breathing heavily behind her, his forehead pressed against the back of her neck. She wrapped her fingers around his hard cock and, raising herself up on her knees, she guided him inside of her. He groaned as she sank down on him. “God,” she moaned. “God…I…I…”

He shifted her forward, one hand cupped on her stomach and leaned their bodies forward. She brought her hands palm down on the bed, bracing herself up on her arms as he pushed her onto her knees. When he was certain she was settled, he braced himself with one arm on the mattress and one hand on her hip as he began to thrust forward into her. She hummed small cries, pushing backwards to meet him. “Julian,” she whimpered, throwing her head back in ecstasy. “Julian…please…”

“Sydney,” he groaned, his head laid forward on her back. “Oh god, woman…” He kept thrusting into her in the same slow rhythm, ignoring her cries of passion. He buried his face into her hair, kissing her everywhere he could. She curved her back and wriggled her hips a little rougher into his. “Christ…” he whispered.

She squeezed her inner muscles around his cock, bucking around him and trying to feel him everywhere inside of her. He moved his hand from her hip to push up against her abdomen. With the extra pressure, his cock brushed against the extremely sensitive inner button of flesh and she screamed. “There…there…almost…” she managed to get out, her throat closing around her words. She lifted one arm and slid a hand through his hair as he suckled on the curve of her collarbone. “Julian…”

“Yes, Sydney…” he murmured. He thrust faster, hips pounding harder into her. The faster pace was enough that she needed to go over the edge, and she threw her head back again, a sound somewhere between a groan and a scream erupting from her mouth. Her arms went weak through her climax and she nearly fell forward, but Sark’s arm snaked around her waist held her up. He thrust hard through her contractions, listening to her cry as he bumped against the bruises he made earlier. Finally she fell back into him again and he let go, spilling into her with a soft cry.

He held them up as they caught their breaths, their bodies sticky with sweat. Again, his arm crooked around her waist, he lowered them down, laying her down on her side and spooning behind her. She ran her fingers up and down his arms that were clasping her to him. He laid his head in the crook of her neck and brushed a kiss along her chin. “You’re so beautiful,” he sighed, sliding one of his legs in between hers. She rolled back slightly and ran a hand down his cheek.

“I love you so much, you know that?” she whispered. “I couldn’t have done any of this without you…I wouldn’t have survived today. I need you so badly it hurts to be without you.” Tears slid down her face and she brought her fingers up to wipe them away. He tilted his chin toward her and kissed her again, claiming her lips hungrily.

“I won’t leave you again,” he spoke into her mouth. “I’m not letting you do this alone anymore. You’re mine, and I’m staying here with you. No more separation.” She opened her mouth to ask him what he meant, but he pressed a finger to her lips. “Shhh. We’ll talk later. Right now, you need a good full sleep.”

She rolled her head forward as he lifted her and slid them under the covers. “Stay with me?” she asked sleepily.

“Yes, love,” he whispered. She snuggled into him and closed her eyes, a smile dancing on the edges of her lips.
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