She was cold. Very, very cold.

(Oh, God)

The room was pale, painted a light ochre; the lamp was on in the corner, the carpet was clean, and the chair she was strapped to at the hands and feet (with rope - thankfully not plastic ties) was horribly comfortable.

She was still wearing the sweater, the air in the room was heavy, and the temperature was warm, humid.

She was still cold.

There was a mirror on the wall facing her, behind which stood SD-6 operatives, and possibly Sloane. She took a deep breath as she tried to focus, pissed at being caught (we were going to get away), and even more so because instead of taking her straight to someplace resembling a torture chamber, which she'd expected, she was here, in this room resembling a safe house. She was annoyed that she was in such nice surroundings.

It wasn't what she'd expected, and she hated these kinds of surprises.

The men had grabbed her after a moment of indecision, which, Sydney had realised, was their only weakness, if it was a weakness at all. If it counted at all.

(But everything counts right now)

At the bed and breakfast, it had all been very professional. They'd walked her out the gate, down the road to a van. The sun had risen slowly, orange beams of light slicing through the morning dew and casting everything in a busy glow. She'd been handcuffed, feet cuffed, blindfolded, gagged, and strapped to the floor in the back of the van, surrounded by men with guns, laughing and chatting about their 'success,' poking her in the side with the butts of their automatics.

She'd lain silently, fuming, listening to them banter, listening to the sounds outside the van. Running water, cars, nothing special. There had been bumps and a small bridge, and they were driving past trees. Sydney ascertained this from the shadows passing over the blindfold, quick, random bursts of brightness indicating a break in the foliage.

She'd lain silently as they'd turned corners, her hips hitting the boots of the men sitting near her, thankful for the blindfold.

At least they hadn't seen her tears.

Now, she was here. This room, this little spot of tawny paint, with a comfortable chair and people watching her from behind glass. The silence was unnerving, and she stared straight ahead, at nothing in particular, her throat tight as she tried to hold back the sobs.


That was what she didn't understand: where he was. Why he hadn't shown, why the Jeep was gone, why he'd left the room in the first place. Betrayal started to build in her mind, threatening to overtake her as she tried to think of different options. But there weren't any.

She listened to the silence, wondering if she was going to be 'visited' anytime soon. There were scuffling sounds outside the door to the left of the mirror, and she prepared herself. Voices, muted words, shadows from under the door, and she breathed deeper for a moment, trying to gather her courage, all her old skills: the blank face, the strength behind her eyes.

She almost failed.

She was looking at the floor when the door opened, a form outlined in the dim light. Sydney had a fleeting memory of old detective movies, of the typical frosted glass door through which the 'tough cases' walked in, of the silhouettes that approached from outside, mystery drawing closer as the trumpet in the background played.

She met his eyes as he gazed at her, stoic and calm as always. She fought to stop herself from screaming obscenities at him as he approached, stood by her side.

She flinched as he reached out to touch her cheek.

"Sydney Bristow." Arvin Sloane's voice still hadn't changed, and she was scared for a moment before defiance took over.

"That's the name." She glared at him, and he smiled, walking a few steps away. He paused, turning back around.

"How have you been, Sydney?" He smiled wider, his face becoming rat-like as his irises seemed to grow larger.

"Fuck you." She spat out the words, her eyes feral. Her hair fell in her face, and she flipped it back, feeling bold.

(No. That's a lie. I feel anything but bold.)

"That's a little out of line, don't you think?" Sloane stopped the pleasantries. His eyes grew hard, his posture taller, his voice menacing as opposed to chatty. Sydney smirked, trying to hide her fear as best she could, preparing a biting response.

"Screw being in line. You don't have any control over me." She watched as he took that in, his facial expression hardly changing at all. There was a slight flicker behind his eyes, and then nothing.

"But I do have control over you, Sydney." Sloane looked at her again, composed, ready. The repetition of her name made Sydney anxious, worried. He moved closer as she looked away, her eyes focusing on the Renoir print on the far wall. A café scene. the name of the painting escaped her. She tried to focus on the shafts of light in the painting, falling carelessly on restaurant patrons, as Sloane moved ever closer.

There was a pause as he stood above her, and then he touched her hair. She tried to recoil, but his touch soon changed as he grabbed a clump at the base of her neck, pulling her head back. She winced.

"I have all the control here. Your life is in my hands. My hands, Sydney. No one else's. And I'm not letting you out of here anytime soon."

She closed her eyes, the spite in his making her want to cry. She kept them clenched as he moved away, as he turned and walked from the room. A few minutes passed, and then the light in the room dimmed until it was almost pitch black. Why, she didn't know.

She relaxed her eyes, trying to sleep through the unease, the pain, the tightness in her chest.


But the tears still threatened to fall.


"I just want to feel safe in my own skin I just want to be happy again I just want to be deep in my own world But I'm so lonely I don't even want to be with myself anymore."


The room was still dark when she woke. Looking around the dimly lit room, she glanced at the digital clock on the table by the bed, which indicated eight thirty-five. She sighed, noticing now that the room had no windows, and she blinked a few times, attempting to rouse herself more.

Sydney paused, trying to listen. There was nothing, not even shadows from beneath the door, and she frowned. The entire area was dark. No light coming from the space outside the room, no low sounds of computers, no low mumbling of conversation.

Something had changed.

She tried to move, the chair inching forward when she attempted to fling herself forward. Still, there was no movement from outside.

Another grunt as she tried to move forward, gaining another few inches in the almost dark, getting closer the mirror. Another try, and another, the chair moving further and faster across the carpet as she got the hang of the movements.

And still no one burst in through the door, gun waving at her, telling her to stop, telling her there was no escape.

Confidence and hope built in her as she moved, throwing her body weight forward. Her ropes were loosening slightly, but she forced herself to stop thinking of simple escapes.

Closer to the mirror, closer, feet and hands now almost completely loose, her breathing steady. Another push of her body, and she lost her balance and tumbled to the floor.

She lay silently for a moment, still expecting someone to rush into the room, flick on the lights, yell. She was on her knees and shoulder, carpet digging into her cheek, the weight of the chair on top of her pressing down slightly. Satisfied no one was coming, she tried to move again.

She fell onto her side, wincing at the pain as her wrist was caught under the chair. She bit her lip as she tried to push herself back onto her shoulder, tears pricking at her eyes as she felt her skin bruising, the pain blunt and harsh.

She tugged at her other arm, trying to move the rest of her body as little as possible, and she finally smiled with triumph as the rope allowed her other arm to slip from it's knots.

She pushed herself up, untying her legs, then getting off the chair and turning to undo the knots around her other wrist, rubbing it when it was freed.

Then she stood, pausing. There was still nothing from outside, from beyond the mirror, and she wondered if this was an elaborate set-up. She'd run out the door, which would be miraculously unlocked, race down a hallway and jump out a window, falling onto warm grass and loping across a lawn to a road.

Then she'd see her blood on the ground as she fell, wounds to her chest crying red tears.

She shook her head as she fumbled along the wall for a light switch. She found one, but when she flipped it, nothing happened. She sighed in exasperation as she tried the door - locked - and wondered what the hell was happening. Surely her guards - naturally, they had to have left some - weren't just sitting on the opposite side of the mirror, laughing silently as they watched her topple to the floor, untie herself, and try the door.

Sydney hesitated, wondering again. Maybe she was lucky, and they'd decided to break while she slept. Taking her chance, she moved swiftly to stand right in front of the mirror. Reaching to her right, she lifted the chair, turning it so the legs faced the reflective glass, and thrust it forward.

The glass shattered, falling forward, backward, into the room she was still standing in and into the 'observation' room beyond.


She stood still, triumphant, and yet horribly scared. There was no one in the room. No one sitting in the swivel chairs, no one typing at any of the keyboards, no one sipping coffee. The lights were off; the only sound the faint hum of one of the many blank monitors.

(Okay. What the hell is this?)

Sydney placed the chair on the ground, stepping on it to throw her leg over into the other room, foot landing on the sturdy table. She stepped onto it, glass crunching under her boots, and then jumped to the floor. She paused again, scaring herself once more as nothing happened. No gunshots, no yells, no explosions.

She shook her head and headed off, down a hallway, also dark without windows. There was silence. Nothing moved, nothing stirred, and she became even more suspicious. Nobody would be sleeping at this time of day, and she was definitely someone who should have been watched.

She moved quickly down the hall, passing open doorways, bedrooms, a bathroom. Approaching what seemed to be a bright open area, she heard a voice. Low, pleading, horribly quiet. She stopped, freezing near the edge of the hallway, and looked around the corner.

A column blocked her view, but she recognised the area to be the kitchen and living room. Tile floor, vases of flowers. Very nice, from a design point of view. She shook her head at the inane thoughts and concentrated on the low voice from further out in the room.

"Please. Don't do this." Sloane? (Oh, my God.)

"Why shouldn't I?" The voice. Changed by one of those voice boxes she hated so much, strong, straight-to-the-point. A no-bullshit kind of person. She moved slowly to the pillar, trying to look around.

She almost didn't believe what she saw.

Sloane, on his knees, head bowed. A man stood above him, gun pointed at his head, execution style, dressed in black, a balaclava covering his face. She shook away the feeling of familiarity as she watched, confused, scared. Glancing across to her left, she spotted men.

Sprawled on the ground, at least seven of them, blood on their clothes, automatics in their hands.

(He's here to save me.) Sydney almost smiled at the thought, looking at the man, his frame strong, slightly taller than her. (But it. no.)

Sloane pleaded one more time, his voice still strong. Upholding his honour, it seemed.

"I don't deserve this." He risked a glance up at the man, who didn't move. There was a pause, and then the voice box boomed again.

"Arvin, this is all you deserve."

The shot was silent, the small sound alike that of a tranquilliser gun, and Arvin Sloane slumped sideways onto the ground, eventually landing stomach- first on the cold tile.

The man stood unmoving for a moment, his gun still raised. His hand fell to his side, and he stared at the body lying in front of him. Sydney wondered what was going through his mind, and why he seemed so calm, so stoic.

She looked around on the floor near her, spotting a handgun. She picked it up, it's weight indicating it was still loaded, and tucked it in the back of her jeans, keeping it for a worthy occasion. She didn't move forward, content to watch the man on the other side of the pillar stare at the ground silently.

Something moved out of the corner of her eye, and she saw one of the men on the ground raise his arm. She opened her mouth to call out, but Voice Box Man had turned and a shot was fired before she had the chance.

The arm dropped, the man on the ground now dead, and Voice Box Man spun back around. He threw his gun to the ground and moved off, heading in her direction, his head down.

Sydney hesitated, then stepped out from behind the pillar, blocking his path.

The man froze. His head rose, his eyes meeting hers, and she felt tears prick at her eyelids before he even took the balaclava off.

She moved forward, stopping right in front of him. Then his arms reached out, and she almost fell into him, letting herself be enveloped in his strange comfort.

"Hi Dad," she whispered, trying to keep the tears in check. She tightened her arms around him, thankful for his presence, for showing up in the last place she expected him.

Jack didn't move, clasping her to him, cradling the back of her head. "Sydney," he said gruffly, and she smiled, amazed that he could still be so restrained in such a situation. She moved back, wiping her eyes slightly as he looked down at her, his face full of sadness and pride, and even regret.

"I'm." he paused, searching for the right word. She stood, waiting. "I'm sorry for - for taking so long to. make an appearance, Sydney." She nodded at him, her lips curving into a small, forgiving smile.

"How was Germany?" she asked him, the hurt in her stomach slowly receding as she told herself that he was here, and that was all that mattered.

(He came to save me. He came all the way from Europe to get his daughter. That deserves some credit.)

Jack gazed at her for a moment, considering his words, searching her face for malice, resentment. Obviously not finding any, he looked down before looking back at her, nodding as he spoke. "Surprisingly lonely, actually."

Sydney grinned. When Jack raised a corner of his mouth in response, her hope returned.

Turning, they walked from the house slowly, stepping out onto the warm grass and into the humid air. A Lincoln (it's okay, it's a sedan) stood by the road, one wheel driven up onto the gutter, surrounded by black and silver vans and men. Tons of men, strolling from van to van, from house to car, speaking through phones, through walkie-talkies. The business was astounding, and yet serenely quiet. Sydney looked at her father, at his weathered face. His hair had greyed, receded slightly, and his eyes were resigned. Remorse hit her, as did pity. So much had happened to him since she'd last seen him, probably more than she could guess. He glanced at her, nodded in a way that was characteristically Jack Bristow.

She turned back to the scene in front of her, eyes scanning the area for Vaughn, hoping he was there. She imagined him looking up from a map on the hood of a car, his eyes brightening at the sight of her, his legs moving quickly as he jogged to pull her into his arms, kiss her lips, whisper apologies and reassurances in her ear.

He was nowhere in sight.


She spotted Eric Weiss by a van, bulletproof vest covering his pale blue oxford, sunglasses resting on his nose. He took them off when he saw her, nodding his head in acknowledgement as he started to head towards her.

Sydney turned to her father, and he nodded at her again as he noticed Weiss. His eyes moved to three spots - left, right, left, in a strange habit - before returning to her face, and he inclined his head in the approaching agent's direction.

"Go ahead." He spoke, voice strong but no longer gruff. "I'll be ready to get you out of here when you're finished."

She nodded, looking over as Weiss got closer. "Where are we going?"

Jack looked at her intently, the look n his face once again weary. "Miami, to the safe house. And then, somewhere where we'll be safe."

Sydney smiled faintly, replying with a small "Okay" before Jack nodded again and walked away towards a group of agents. She turned to watch him move away, and Weiss walked up and stood next to her, hands in his pockets, filling the space Jack had just occupied. There was silence for a moment as they stood, watching Jack retreat.

"He's been here for days. When he found out what was happening, he flew straight in from Europe."

Sydney looked over at Weiss, his eyes narrowed against the harsh morning light as he indicated Jack with a tilt of his head. She turned to him, pushing her hair behind her ears before she spoke.

"How did you find out where I was?" she asked. Weiss sighed, looking down. Then he, too, turned to look at her, his face open but drained.

"Michael called at about five this morning, said Sloane had gotten too close."

Sydney frowned, confused, counting. "Five? Not six?" (That's not right. We ran out of there at six.)

Weiss shook his head. "No. Five. My cell woke up half the guys in the van. We were already heading to Miami, and just changed direction when he called." He looked around at the men covering the lawn, his hand sweeping in a half-circle to indicate them. "We were all ready to come in and kick some SD-6 ass."

Sydney nodded, turning away as she felt herself start to choke up. Vaughn lied. To her. She knew she should be thankful that he'd gotten her saved, but she wasn't. He should have been there with her, saved her himself like he had so many times before.

But he'd lied. He'd left the room earlier than he'd said, moved the Jeep, left her behind. Her eyes began to water again, and she swore under her breath as she moved the hair off her forehead. The sweater, the once- comforting sweater, was now making her feel hot, clammy, itchy, sick.

"What?" Weiss asked, noticing the look of distaste on her face.

"Where is he?" she asked, looking at him angrily. He raised his eyebrows at the look in her eyes.

"Don't you know?"

She shook her head, heart thumping.

(Please tell me he'll be here in a moment. Please don't tell me he's gone.)

Weiss put his hands on his hips, the Kevlar vest moving upwards with his movements. He didn't speak for a moment before looking at her, his face apologetic.

"I don't know, Syd."

Sydney stopped breathing for a moment as she digested the words. "What do you mean, you don't know?"

Weiss shrugged. "I don't know. I thought he'd be - I thought he might have been caught, too. There was a tracking device on your clothes, he said, on your sweater." She looked down at the knit, feeling worse, sickness starting to form in her stomach.

(Holy shit, I've been so stupid)

"That's how we pretty much found you. Jack said to wait until everything was taken care of before we got you out." He raised a corner of his mouth in humour. "You were asleep when we got to the room."

Sydney was listening, but her mind was nowhere near her sleeping, the sweater, Weiss. Vaughn flew through her mind, the last minutes she'd spent with him, the kiss - the thing that should have let her know. The finality.

(So stupid)

"So you don't know where he is?" She asked Weiss one last time, making sure. Hoping for a, "Actually, he left a note for you" scenario.

Weiss shook his head, and her hope faded again. "No idea, Sydney. I'm sorry."

"That's okay." She looked away, at her father. His eyes darted to meet hers, and she nodded, moving towards the Lincoln. "I'm going to go, okay, Weiss?"

He looked at her, his eyes contrite. She felt like hitting him. (I don't want your pity.)

(What I want is Vaughn)

"Okay. Good luck, Sydney." She smiled thinly at him, walking towards the Lincoln and climbing in to the passenger seat. Her father joined her silently minutes later, starting the car and pulling onto the road, two vans following them, most likely full of agents ready to help, shoot, kill if need be.

Her eyes closed as they drove, the sick feeling in her stomach growing, the pain in her chest threatening her breathing.


He was gone. And again, she was lost.


"I didn't say all the things that I wanted to say And you can't take back what you've taken away Cause I feel you. I feel you near me."


Sydney felt safe.

The car was quiet: pleasantly warm, the air conditioning sweeping small strands of her hair back from her face. She imagined she was standing on a beach. A long beach, deserted save two people. Clasping hands, waves trickling between their toes, they'd stand forever, watching the tides rise and fall.

The sun filtered across her face as she glanced at her watch. Twelve thirty three, and they were in Fort Lauderdale, almost on the final leg of the trip to Miami.

God, how she wished it was Vaughn driving.

Her father had been the same. That was, silent. He'd hardly spoken, glancing over once every ten miles to see if she was awake. She hadn't been able to sleep. She'd been thinking for the three and a half hours of the journey so far, and she knew she'd probably be thinking for the remaining forty minutes. (More like for the rest of my life)

Then she was going to a safe house (like in Lawrenceville) and a new life (like in Portland). She was scared, petrified of what lay ahead. She knew everything was over - her father had explained to her earlier, in short sentences, how the Alliance had been infiltrated, how SD's seven through to nine had been destroyed within the last week, how SD-4 had three double agents, how SD-6's headquarters in San Francisco had been hit (blown up) approximately a few minutes before Sloane had been killed. Executed.

Everything was finally finished. Sloane. Sydney felt no pity for him. None at all.

(After everything, he deserves it.)

(And I deserve some happiness.)

But it wasn't going to happen. Again, there was nothing for her. Just another meaningless existence in some corner of the country, with new friends, new details, a new life. She didn't think she could handle it again. After last time - her attempt at normality, which ended in this, this freak road trip down the East Coast - she was just too scared. Scared of losing more, of getting close to anything that could die again.

She wanted someone to take her away from everything, to come along and rescue her from herself.

(Vaughn could. He's done it before.)

But Vaughn wasn't going to come and save her anytime soon, anytime at all. That thought depressed her, the facts terrifying her when she realised that she was truly never going to see him again.

(But I thought that the last time, and look what happened then)

She sighed quietly, watching the scenery pass.

Another thirty-five minutes, and they'd be in Miami. In the safe house. The safe house she was meant to be in with Vaughn, not her father.

(Where did you go?)

A glance, craned neck, allowed her to see the van following them, the smooth silver of it gliding along almost silently behind their own black Lincoln.

(To think I was so scared of these. Now I feel safe.)

(I wish I could just make up my mind)

She stopped herself from smirking to cover up her pain. Her stomach was clenched (hungry), her head was throbbing (ache), and her heart hurt, sitting quietly in her chest, pumping unenthusiastically as she stopped herself from crying again.

(Heartbreak. God, I sound like an Elvis song or something)

Sydney was sick of it. The self-pity, the tears, the self-indulgent whining. She was meant to be so strong, and she cried more than anyone she knew. Vaughn was right to call her a baby.

(And I really shouldn't be thinking of Vaughn. Like it helps.)

The car zoomed downtown, and she continued to stare out at the sun shining, lighting up everything happily. Nothing matched her mood. Her father cleared his throat, and she expected him to speak, but he said nothing. The road was long, (obviously) and she stared ahead, wondering where it would lead.

She finally removed the sweater, sadly, breathing it in one last time as it went over her head. It landed on the backseat, and she paused for a moment, looking at it laying there, crumpled, harmless. Then she turned back forward.

(Goodbye again, Vaughn.)


The safe house. (Another one) Sydney clenched her jaw as they walked through the door, the pale blue walls smirking at her. It was small. While her father swept for bugs (why does he bother? We're meant to be safe, right?. but wait. This is Dad.), she walked slowly through the house.

It was pretty; the curtains were a royal blue, and the whole house seemed to smile. It was clean, it was private, and it was nice. Comfortable. She liked it, hated it, wondered why she felt both. The living room consisted of two couches, a television and a coffee table, and there were three rooms to the side. A study. Or what passed for a study, because the shelves and table were filled and covered with nothing but maps, gadgets, and weapons. Sydney was surprised - this time, at everything being left out in the open, and the room was the only messy one in the house.

The last two rooms were bedrooms. Both small, one with a single bed, and both had tiny ensuites. She smiled at the bar of seashell soap in the ensuite of the smaller, at the matching blue towels.

The larger bedroom, however, made her stop. Pause. Almost cry. (Almost saves me every time)

Double bed, blue covers, blue pillows. (So, so blue) Towel on the bed, messily thrown. The bathroom was all blue tiles and white porcelain, and she walked into it slowly, looking around at the shower, the bath, the basin as if waiting for something to attack her.

The towels. The bed. Sydney turned back around quickly, looking at the made bed. She quickly moved towards it, pulled back the covers.

Slightly rumpled sheets.

(You can't be serious.)

She walked to the bathroom again, touched the hand towel hanging by the basin, gripped it with both hands.

Slightly damp.

(No, no, no, no, no)

The rooms smelled nice. The bathroom was. different. There was something in it, something unidentifiable, and yet she knew what it was.

(He's been here)

Sydney stopped breathing. She looked around the bathroom again, trying to figure things out, find clues. There were water droplets on the basin, which wouldn't have been there if no one had used the house in as long as she'd been informed. Towels, slightly damp. The one on the bed was half- dry, and she clutched it as she stood in the middle of the bedroom, staring at the bed.

(He was here)

Her first instinct was to fall to the floor, sobbing, crying, begging for him to come back. To hold the towel to her pathetically and cry into it's cold, slightly-damp comfort.

She stopped herself.

Instead, she stared at the bed, waited for something to happen. Satisfied the bed was empty she moved over to the mattress, sat on it for a moment. (I'm insane) Stared at the pillows, imagining a head-sized dint in one of them. (There's nothing there. I know that. But I want there to be) She finally lay on the bed, breathed in its smell - clean sheets, nothing more, and was disappointed.

(I want them to smell like him)

Stood again, turned to face the bed once more. So innocent, innocuous, and yet it made her want to pull apart the pillows, rip the coverlet to shreds, gauge into the mattress with a knife, killing something that was already dead, cause it as much pain as it was causing her.

(I think I'm losing it)

Sydney stared at it some more, wondering why. Why she was here, why he'd been here, why she was so lost without him. (I'm my own woman, dammit. He shouldn't make me feel like this. Like I'm three and can't find my father at the supermarket)

(But he does)

Then she moved towards the bed again, reached for the pillow closest to her. Snatched it to her, held it as she looked under it. Prayed for a message, a photo, an envelope.



She left the room, the pillow dropped to the floor on her way out, towel half-off the foot of the bed.

Her father was in the kitchen, looking tired and peaceful. Sydney felt hope. Something made her feel as though there was an escape from everything, finally.

Her father almost smiling, for one.

She sat down near the counter, slipping onto one of the stools as her father pulled out the cake, looked at it sceptically, then placed it on the blue (blue; it's as bad as the fucking pink) marble bench top next to him. She watched Jack, the man who had brought her into this life, arrange some fruit on a plate and set it out in front of her, ready to be eaten. She picked at it, eating a strawberry and a banana before giving up.

Her father looked at her worriedly, then decided it was best to leave her alone. Silence overtook the house, the only sounds for a long while being the crunch of fruit between teeth, of peels hitting plates, and then of plates being stacked in the sink. Her father moved to the small bedroom, peering in at the small space, and turned back to Sydney, nodded once.

"I'll take the smaller bedroom."

Sydney looked up at him. "No, Dad, take -"

He shook his head. "No. It's yours. I'm going to get some rest, all right?"

Before she could answer, he'd closed the door, leaving her alone. She wondered if he'd sleep; then realised he actually might.

And she was left with nothing to do. It was hardly two in the afternoon (three past two, to be exact) and she wanted nothing more than to collapse somewhere and cry, mourn everything, then smile and celebrate the start of something new.

She wrote a note, left the house, walked for hours. Good sense of direction helped her as she strolled, the beach helping ease her mind as the salt water trickled over her toes, the salty air whipping her hair back from her face. She wished she wasn't alone, wished she was completely free, wished a lot of things that would never come true.

Several hours later, she returned to the house, surprised by the long time she'd been gone, and yet happy at how she'd spent her time. She hadn't cried.


She strolled into the kitchen quietly, not wanting to wake her dad, but then stopped when she spotted him sitting at the counter.

"Hey Dad." The words were quiet from her mouth, controlled and not shaky.

He looked up at her with a small smile, one of those where the corners of his mouth just. rose above the rest of his lips. Most would have considered it a fake smile, but Sydney knew that it had been the only one he possessed for years.

"Hello, Sydney."

His gaze was calm, his eyes not shutting her out, and she was confused. He was too happy - or not happy, more along the lines of 'cheery' - compared to his usual moods. His cup of coffee, the smell wafting into her nostrils, (choking me) was cradled between his hands, and the whole picture was wrong. She didn't want him happy. She wanted him pissed off.

And she wanted answers.

She smiled faintly, trying to work out exactly what she wanted to say. She focused on her hands as she leaned on the bench across from her father, not hearing whatever it was he said, his speech still punctuated by that constructed smile. She was lost for a moment before she looked into Jack's confused eyes and asked, "Why didn't you tell me you were going to Germany?"

Jack's face immediately changed. Sydney paused for a moment, realising she'd spoken wrongly, wishing she could take it back. Take back the words that had made her father's face impassive, closed off, controlled, masked. His coffee was forgotten as he pushed it aside and stood, turning around to wash his hands in the sink as if cleansing himself of something.

"Why do you want to know, Sydney?" he asked, and she could see him gathering his thoughts as he waited for her to answer.

"Why d'you think I want to know, Dad?" She was tired of this - of everything. All she'd thought to be true had been turned upside down again, and it was enough. Right now, she just wanted to know everything, and that was all there was to it.

(Everything that I want. yes, I feel selfish.)

(And I don't give a fuck.)

He glared at her as he turned off the faucet and faced her. "I left, Sydney, because I had to. SD-6 was going to be destroyed, and -"

"You could've told me," Sydney burst out, waving her arms at him as she stood, feeling taller and stronger as she did so. (Fucking invincible)

"How, Sydney? Did you honestly expect me to be able to call you, tell you, and take you with me?" His face was turning slightly red, and she was reminded of an earlier conversation, much earlier. In a car while it rained, when she told him she wanted to find her mother. "I didn't think. I didn't think you needed me."

Sydney disregarded the last comment. "A note would have been nice." She threw at him, pissed. He wiped his hands on a dishtowel slowly, then paused as he looked up at her.

"I couldn't, Sydney. I wanted to, but I couldn't. That would have put you in more danger than you already were. As it was, you were more than lucky to survive."

She stared at him, her fury growing. "And you couldn't let me know?" She practically shrieked, her legs wobbling as she tried to keep her balance while the argument raged on.

She was startled when her father flung the dishtowel across the kitchen, his face a mix of emotions, his mask gone. She watched as his eyes watered (no, they can't be watering. Jack Bristow doesn't cry. Right?), his cheeks became brighter with anger, and his breathing became shallow for a moment before he spoke.

"I wanted to, Sydney! Can you understand that? I couldn't! If I had been able to, you'd be living in Osnabrück right now!" He shook his head, and she was sorry. Sorry for making this a bigger confrontation than it was supposed to be. She only wanted an explanation. Just an explanation.

She didn't want her father pissed off anymore.

She was almost scared as he dropped his head to his chest and sighed, the energy draining from him. He looked at her finally, his eyes anything but blank.

Sydney wanted to cry when she realised he was hurt, and just as scared as she was.

(This can't be my Dad. He's never. never anything but professional)

And yet he was so much more than professional.

"I'm sorry, Sydney. Very sorry."

She nodded, understanding. "I know. I'm sorry, Dad."

He looked away again, nodding in confirmation.

She asked him one last question. "Did you try to let me know?"

He looked at her. "As soon as I heard that SD-6 was gone, I called the CIA. Devlin told me you'd be fine, but he wouldn't let me know where you were. I suspected that he didn't know."

Sydney thought about that for a moment, and believed him. Elizabeth Whitby had disappeared quickly, easily, and she'd been thankful.

"Thank you, Daddy."

She looked up at him. He was calmer now, his hands at his sides, his eyes meeting hers, then glancing away.

He nodded at her, and she turned around, walking away.

An hour passed, and the sun disappeared. The night crept up, dark and depressing, and she stood at the window in her room, staring at the sky as the colours changed from pink and yellow to green and navy, and the stars twinkled happily as the invaded the heavens.

The bed was cool when she slipped under the sheets and coverlet, and she pulled the covers to her chin, feeling chilly despite the warm weather. The moonlight (full tonight) shone in through the window high above the bed near the ceiling, shadows of palm tress dancing along the walls happily as she tried to sleep, failing miserably.

At about two in the morning (I can't believe I've been awake for this long), her eyes finally closed. Dreams flooded her, of happier times, of strange times. Her dreams always calmed her; Sydney had realised a long time before that no matter what was happening in the dream, it was usually better than what was really going on in her life. She liked to sleep, to roll around in bed on Sunday mornings knowing she had nowhere to go, to be able to drift in and out of sleep and dreams quickly and freely, enjoying more than one world at once.

But she hated waking up. That took her back to Real Life.

And Real Life was hell.

Five in the morning, Sydney rolled over, her hand hitting the other pillow. She pulled it to the side, curious, thoughts suddenly hitting her.

(I'm right handed. Vaughn's left-handed. I'm on the right side of the bed. would he have slept on the left?)

Under the blue. Small white rectangle, thick package.


She sat up, flicked on the light. Stared at the envelope for a moment before tearing at it, ripping it open and reading the words scrawled in Vaughn's neat, printed handwriting on the small piece of paper.

And she smiled.