Title: Trying Normal

Author: UConn Fan (Michele)

E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Story Summary: "Can I be normal?"

He shrugged, "what does normal mean anyway? You can be happy though, and that's about as close to normal as anyone can hope for." (Sequel to "Coming to Terms")

This Chapter: The first night . . .

Authors Note: The Story Summary is the last two lines of "Coming to Terms" - this takes place immediately where that leaves off.

Dedication: To Natalie & to G. Harris, who correctly guessed the scene that motivated me to write "Coming to Terms" but my computer had a heart attack & I couldn't find her e-mail address to send her the first chapter of this. I hope this dedication serves as a step to apologizing for my computers nervous breakdown.

~* Well I've been afraid of changing

Cause I've built my life around you

But time makes you bolder

Even children get older

And I'm getting older too *~



Sydney looked closely at him, carefully considering his comment. Perhaps there was truth to his words; being happy was normal, wasn't it? Not everyone was happy in the same situation; thus normal was different for every person. Before she could respond, however, the sound of his beeper resonated throughout the warehouse.

"It's Weiss. More paperwork," he explained apologetically.

"Go then," she nodded. After searching her eyes, obviously wanting to say more, he forced himself to walk out of the warehouse. Even if it was work he reasoned, it was work that would ultimately keep his family safe and happy.

She sat with Jackie, waiting an appropriate amount of time before she left behind him. It wasn't until she was halfway home that she realized she had been using procedure that was no long necessary. Much to her dismay, she also realized that she had been subconsciously looking for tails during their drive home too. Old habits died far harder than she ever would have thought.

Arriving back at her house, she grabbed the carrier and headed into the house. Ignoring the pile of mail Mandy had thrown on the coffee table earlier, she set the carrier on the table. Tossing her own coat haphazardly over the sofa, she then slipped out of her shoes. The drive home had lulled Jackie into sleep, and Sydney was tired she left the snugli in the car. Having quickly grabbed the carrier's handle, she walked back to her room. After she set the carrier on the bed, she opened her closet, reached up and brought down the shoebox and hatbox where she kept the mementos that meant the most to her from each parent. Not forgetting to grab the carrier, she wondered how parents had lived without car seat carriers, as balanced the shoebox and hatbox in her free hand and returned to her living room.

Jackie only fussed briefly as her mother took her out of the carrier and placed her in the swing, buckling her in and turning it on. The smooth motion was quickly rocking her back to sleep while her mother quietly turned on the stereo to Stevie Nicks. Content that her daughter was sleeping, at least for the time being, she sat down on the floor in front of the coffee table. Taking the lid off both boxes, she started to sift through the memories that the boxes contained.

The phone had rung three times since she walked in the door, and she had listened to her friends' concern growing on the messages, having heard something about the bank on the news. Sydney ignored them: She couldn't face them or tell them another lie for the time being. Instead, she sat and fingered through the memories. Seeing the memories for the first time as a mother, a parent, made them seem different. The _expression on her mother's face in so many of the photos seemed sincere; she seemed happy, and when Irina looked at her daughter, there appeared to be legitimate love on her features. Now a mother herself, she had to believe that regardless of her mother's motives for conceiving, somewhere along the way there had been sincere maternal feelings.

Before she could dare to ponder the underlying meaning of the many the pictures and mementos that involved her father, the doorbell rang. Relieved that the noise hadn't woken her daughter, she stood and hoped that it wasn't her friends. Perhaps it was her father, since she hadn't seen him since the beginning of the day. Her father she could deal with, she wasn't sure she could handle anyone else.

She pulled open the door and looked at him in surprise.

Vaughn.

"I was going to call you again... Joey's Pizza..." He looked at her uncomfortably before adding, "Then I remembered I could just come over." Sydney nodded and allowed him in, giving him his first glimpse at her home. What caught his eye, however, were the boxes and how Jackie slept soundly in the swing.

"Make yourself at home," she insisted.

Taking off his jacket, he glanced around, pausing when he noticed her answering machine flashing. "Syd, you have messages."

"Yeah, I know." She sat back down on the floor in front of her coffee table. "They're from Francie and Will... I can't talk to them right now."

Vaughn nodded and dared to take Jackie out of her swing. Bouncing her slightly, he rested her in his arms and sat down on the sofa. "Hey honey, you're getting so big. I've missed you." His gentle words wrapped around both mother and daughter as he planted a kiss on Jackie's forehead.

"What's going to happen to Dixon and Marshall?"

"Once they've finished their debriefings and they've passed all the necessary security steps, you can see them. There's a possibility they'll be offered positions at the CIA if their stories check out."

"What's going to happen to my dad?"

He looked up from his daughter to look at Sydney. "He's going to stay with the CIA. Supervisory work, something similar to Devlin's position."

"That's good," she nodded.

"I got called into Devlin's office today."

"For what?" He now had her full attention, which she suspected was all he had wanted from the beginning.

"I've been offered a promotion in Washington. Senior officer in charge of junior officers, working in counterintelligence."

"Oh." She silently prayed for the strength not to cry. When SD-6 and the Alliance had went down... Especially with Jackie... She hadn't expected to lose him. I'll be fine, she reassured herself. She and Jackie had been doing fine, they could continue to do fine. Sydney Bristow wasn't one who needed help or support... Except, perhaps, from the man sitting on the sofa behind her.

"Syd, I turned it down. I'm going to stay here in Los Angeles."

"Are you sure?" she asked, although she wasn't sure why she was looking a gift horse in the mouth.

"I'm sure," he agreed. "Have you started looking for teaching positions?"

"No, not yet," she sighed. "I guess that's what I'm going to do now... Teach literature."

"Isn't that what you want to do?"

Sydney moved to sit on the sofa next to him, smiling at the sight. Jackie's green eyes were smiling and her lips had formed a gassy grin while she sat cuddled up next to her father's chest. From the two of them, Sydney wondered how they had managed to create a full-blown Daddy's girl.

"You don't have to teach right away," Vaughn pointed out.

"What else am I going to do?"

"It's May... Take the next school year off. Be a stay at home mother to Jackie."

"That's a nice thought," she agreed with a slight smile, before growing serious. "But if I'm not working, then there's no money coming in, which means we'd be bonding while living in a cardboard box." She smiled at the image. "Anyway, who's ever heard of a stay at home mom without a husband?" she asked offhandedly, returning her attention to the hatbox with her mother's photos.

"We could get married."

Before she could even open her mouth to respond, the doorbell rang. She whipped her head around, wondering who it was and why they had the worst timing in the universe. Had her former CIA handler just proposed marriage to her? Not enough time had sunk in for her to be entirely sure yet.

"You should get that." Vaughn gave her a half smile. Standing, she nodded, her mind still reeling.

Pulling open the front door, she wasn't surprised to find Francie and Will waiting behind it. "Syd! You're okay! I was so worried! We've been calling!" Francie hugged her and then led Will into the house. "I've left like twenty messages! Credit Dauphine is all over the news, I was so worried you'd been arrested and that no one was with Jackie..." she trailed off awkwardly when she realized they weren't alone. "Sorry, we didn't know you had company."

"It's okay," Vaughn insisted, starting to stand. "I should go -"

"No, stay," Sydney stopped him as he sat back down. There was no way Sydney was letting him leave her home until they settled what he had just said... Or what she *thought* he had just said. "Francie Calfo, Will Tippin, this is Michael Vaughn."

"Nice to meet you." Vaughn stood, still balancing Jackie in one arm and shook their hands with the other.

"Have we met before?" Francie asked as he shifted his daughter in his arms and nodded.

"Yes, we did. In the mall around Christmas time."

"That's right!" Francie eagerly agreed.

"How long have you two known each other? Are you from the bank?" Will quickly turned into the alpha male; he loved Jennie, but Syd was his best friend and no man was going to just waltz into her life, especially not with his goddaughter involved, without a couple of questions.

Vaughn glanced at her, allowing her to take the reigns of the conversation. She could tell them as much or as little as she wanted, and he'd understand. "We've known each other about three years. He works for the government."

"The government?" Will was obviously impressed as Vaughn nodded. "So, how'd you two meet?"

"Vaughn's been my liaison with the government. I've been giving him information about the bank..."

"You knew about everything? The embezzlements and the fraud?" Francie eyes were wide. "Did you know the bank was close to bankruptcy?"

Sydney glanced at Vaughn, whose gaze was just as confused as she felt. Obviously the CIA couldn't let the true story leak out, and she supposed that fraud was as close as one could get to saying treason without letting everything leak out. "I found out right around the time Danny died. . ."

"I'm so glad you won't go to jail! I was so worried about you and Jackie!" Francie said, hugging her again.

"Me too -" she started to speak when Jackie cried. Sighing, she turned around, when Vaughn held up a hand to stop her.

"I got it Syd."

"Thanks, the nursery's down the hall to the left," she called as he nodded. The trio of friends watched as Vaughn readjusted Jackie on his shoulder and started down the hallway, speaking softly in an attempt to reassure her. Turning back to her friends, she smiled and shrugged.

"He's wonderful Syd," Francie whispered. "Jackie looks just like him."

"What?" Will and Syd questioned together.

"He's her father?" Will added.

"Look at the cleft on Jackie's chin Will, he has it too! And they have the same eyes!" Francie pointed out. "He's wonderful Syd, I like him already."

"Thanks," she smiled as Will sulked and sat on the sofa.

"I just wish you had told us when we met at the mall."

"It was complicated Francie... Towards the end, things with the bank were getting messy... They even had some security tails on me. No one could know that we were working together... Not even his mother," she emphasized as Francie nodded.

"You two can be together now?" she whispered. Sydney glanced down the hall and thought of what he had said earlier.

"I hope so," she smiled.

"Hey, Syd!" Vaughn called from down the hall, popping his head out of the nursery.

"Yeah?" she asked, walking closer to the hallway to hear him.

"Do you want me to change her?"

"Do you mind?"

Vaughn grinned and shook his head vigorously. She had been doing this by herself for a long month, and now it was his turn to step up to the plate and be Jackie's father. After all, now he was a Daddy. "No, I got it. Try to relax."

She smiled at him and thanked him before returning to her friends. "Where are Charlie and Jennie?" she asked as she sat down between them. If she could get them off the topic of Vaughn, Jackie's parentage, or the bank, perhaps she could have a relaxing night. After the past few days, she deserved it.

"They'll be over in a little while," Will said.

"Yeah, we needed to go shopping." Francie grinned.

"For what?"

"Will, tell her," Francie urged as Sydney looked at him.

"An engagement ring. I'm going to ask Jennie to marry me."

"That's great! I'm so happy for you!" She smiled and gave him a quick hug. "Oh that's wonderful Will, when?"

"This Saturday, hopefully. We chose the ring today."

"It's perfect Syd, Jennie's going to love it. Plus, with his new salary as a columnist, he can actually *afford* it."

"That's wonderful Will, you'll have to come by Sunday so I can see it! You and Charlie can come by too, we'll make a big celebration breakfast out of it."

"Sounds great," Will agreed.

"Anything where you don't have to make your own food sounds great to you," Francie pointed out as the three shared a laugh. "Syd, do you want us to go? I know you must still be tired... And you and Michael could spend some time alone together..."

Sydney looked at her, briefly wondering who Michael was, until it registered that Michael was Vaughn's name. "No, stay, it's fine." She smiled. After all, she had all the time in the world to relax now - especially if Vaughn had said what she *thought* he had said, and implied what she *thought* he had implied.

"Syd, how long have you known Michael?" Will asked.

"Will! She's had a long day, this is no time for you to play reporter!" Francie hissed as Sydney laughed.

Michael is Vaughn, she reminded herself again, wondering how long it would take to adjust her mind to calling him that. She had spent the last three years locked in to think of him as Vaughn. Even in their personal moments, she couldn't bring herself to call him anything else. Smiling at her friends, she prepared herself for Will's arsenal of questions. "A few years."

"How come we've never met him?"

"Will, she's already explained because of her job -"

"She worked at a bank!" Will snapped.

"Stop! Stop *now*," she ordered. This was the last straw, Sydney thought in frustration. She couldn't have her friends arguing over a lie about her now non-existent job. Another lie just wouldn't do.

"What's going on?" Vaughn asked softly, walking in to the room as Jackie slept with her head on his shoulder. For the first time that evening, Sydney realized how good he looked, in only a T-shirt and black slacks.

"I'm going to tell them the truth," she whispered, locking eyes with her former handler.

"Syd, are you sure?" he asked gently.

"I can't lie anymore," she explained as he nodded and sat down. This was her prerogative, she could tell them as little or as much as she wanted to, and he'd support her all the way. Before she could speak, she was relieved to feel his hand come out and take hers, silently offering all the support he could.

"What I have to tell you two can *never* leave this room, you can't tell Charlie or Jennie or *anyone*. You two *have* to promise me,"

"Of course sweetie," Francie reassured her.

"What's all of this about?" Will questioned.

"Will, please just *promise*."

Her friend sighed before he nodded in agreement.

"Okay... Vaughn wasn't my government liaison... I mean, I suppose you could call him that, but that's not really what he was... "

"What do you mean?" Will asked, now fully suspicious.

"What do you mean *was*?" Vaughn asked softly, drawing her attention. Sydney had just assumed he had found out, but when she met his eyes, she found he looked just as confused as her friends.

"I told Devlin I was out, I quit, no more."

"I just assumed you'd do consultation of some sort..."

"No," she shook her head. He nodded, accepting her answer, and not completely surprised by it. Turning back towards her friends, she gave them a small smile before she grew somber. "Credit Dauphine wasn't actually a bank. On the sixth sub level was something called SD-6, an organization that *claimed* to be part of the government."

"But it wasn't," Will realized as she nodded.

"You're right, it wasn't. When I joined SD-6, I was told I could never tell anyone that it was the government... Then Danny proposed... I couldn't embark on a life with him without him knowing the truth..."

"They killed him because he knew," Will whispered as Sydney nodded.

"Yeah," she agreed. "Shortly after he died, my father came to me and told me the truth. That SD-6 was part of a larger organization that had no affiliation with the United States government and was in fact, an enemy of the government. Eventually, the only thing I could do was to go to the real government and offer to be a double agent... That's where I met Vaughn."

"I can't believe this," Francie said softly. Will stood and started to pace.

"You know this sounds absurd, right Syd, this sounds like something out of a bad comic book."

"I know," she nodded. "I'm not done yet."

Her friends looked even more surprised as Will forced himself to sit down and listen. "Over the past few years I've found out a lot... There was a former KGB operative who infiltrated the life of a government employee and built a life with him, had a child with him, all while getting information from him to send to the KGB. That woman killed twelve government operatives, including Vaughn's father."

"Man, I'm sorry -" Will started to apologize.

"That woman was my mother." Sydney swore she had never seen her friends so pale.

"Your mom?" Francie whispered. "Syd, your mom was a school teacher -"

"I thought she was too," Sydney nodded. "I thought so for a really long time. I always thought that my mom was the good parent and my dad was the bad parent..." she trailed off for a moment, lost in thought. "Neither of my parents were good, neither was bad. They're both just... gray." Her brow scrunched for a few seconds of deliberation.

"Sydney, I'm so sorry, I kept pushing the name Laura on you..."

"It's okay Francie." She smiled and reached for her friend's hand. "That life is behind me now. Today the government raided SD-6, which was the last in its organization to fall. I'm free; I'm no longer a government employee. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do yet... That's the full truth. Promise me you two don't tell anyone, anything, *ever*."

"Promise," they agreed.

"Your dad actually worked for these people too?" Will assessed.

"Jack works for us, he was also a double agent," Vaughn offered.

Will eyed him skeptically, wondering how he had earned the right to call Sydney's father by his first name. He had known Sydney a hell of a lot longer than 'a few years' and would never imagine doing so.

"My father's going to continue to work for the government," Sydney explained.

"What are you going to do?" Francie asked. "If you need a job Syd, you can work at the restaurant or something..." she offered. The last thing she wanted was to see her best friend jobless while trying to support an infant.

"I might start looking for a teaching position," she shrugged.

The doorbell rang and Sydney stood, Vaughn closely following. "It's probably just Charlie and Jennie," she softly reassured him.

"Check anyway." His words were a gentle command.

Seconds later, Sydney smiled softly in relief. "It's my dad."

Vaughn wasn't as relieved when the door opened and Jack Bristow saw him standing closely behind Sydney, Jackie half awake in his arms. "Sydney, Vaughn," Jack greeted.

"Jack," Vaughn greeted as Sydney moved to let him in.

"Francie, Will," he welcomed her friends. "How's my granddaughter?" he asked, turning his attention to his daughter and the man he was certain would one day be his son-in-law.

"Do you -" Vaughn started to shift his daughter to hand her to Jack.

"No, you need to catch up on lost time," Jack insisted, a soft smile on his face when he looked at his granddaughter. "Would it be possible to have a moment with the two of you?"

"We'll leave - " Francie offered again.

"No, that's not necessary," Jack stated.

"Sure," Sydney agreed as she led them down the hall towards the nursery. "What's going on?" she asked softly as she shut the nursery door behind them.

"The CIA should be done checking your debriefs on Marshall and Dixon tomorrow. Agent Weiss wants to know if you'd like to see them tomorrow before they're released, possibly explain the situation."

Sydney nodded, "Yes, I'd like to do that. Are they going to be offered positions?"

"Yes. The CIA technical staff is impatiently waiting for Marshall to join them," Jack informed them as his daughter smirked.

"I bet."

"Ben also informed me that you've resigned from the CIA."

"Yes," she nodded, watching as Vaughn sat down on the rocker, only half of his attention focused on her and her father.

"What do you plan on doing?"

"I don't know yet," she said honestly with a shrug. "Spend some time with my daughter. Possibly look into teaching positions. . . I need out of this life Dad. I can't do it anymore. I don't have to and I really don't want to."

Jack nodded. "I respect your decision. If at any time you decide to rejoin the organization, there will be a position for you."

"Thank you."

After a few seconds her father's _expression softened. "I'm proud of you Sydney."

Sydney smiled widely as she allowed herself to be taken into her father's arms. "Thanks Dad."

"Breakfast tomorrow?" Jack suggested as they pulled back. "Then I'll bring you to the CIA to see Dixon and Marshall."

"That'd be nice," she agreed. "Who's going to watch Jackie?" she realized.

"Mandy's in town a few more days, or Francie," Jack suggested.

"I can do it," Vaughn spoke up, drawing their attention. "I was given the rest of the week off. I have a lot of PTO time."

"Jackie can stay with her father," Jack decided.

Vaughn smiled as he looked down at his little girl: It was the first time Jack had acknowledged he was Jacqueline's father without contempt in his voice. A feeling of pride surged through him, hearing someone other than himself and Sydney validate his role in Jackie's life.

"I should go, I still have work to do."

Sydney nodded as she started to lead her father out of the nursery. Vaughn slowly stood up and followed behind them. "I'll see you tomorrow morning," Sydney agreed, sharing a smile with Jack as she shut the door behind him. Turning towards her living room, she smiled when she saw that Charlie and Jennie had already arrived. Vaughn stood awkwardly in the doorframe, still closely cuddling his little girl.

"Charlie, Jennie!" she smiled.

"I'm so glad you're okay!" Jennie stood and hugged her, echoing Francie's earlier sentiments. "My entire firm was watching it on the news; it's so unbelievable, it puts a whole new twist on corporate scandal."

"I guess it does," Sydney shrugged uncomfortably. "Jennie, Charlie, this is Michael Vaughn. We worked together... He's Jackie's father," she introduced. The man in question hesitantly stepped forward and offered the two newcomers a professional smile.

"Nice to meet you," he said as they shook hands.

"Jackie looks a lot like you," Charlie noted.

"Thank you," he smiled.

"Syd, I was going to get the Scrabble, but we can leave if you want -" Jennie started to offer.

"No, please, don't. Scrabble sounds good." She smiled as her friends started to set up. Sydney followed closely behind Vaughn as he started towards the swing.

"Is Scrabble okay?" she whispered as he buckled their daughter into her swing and switched it on.

"In college I used to make most of my money from pool and Scrabble."

"You're a pool shark?"

"Pool *freak*," he corrected. Smirking at her reaction, he continued, "You don't have to be so surprised."

She shrugged and started to help her friends set up the game.

They spent the next few hours playing Scrabble. Will lost all four games - Sydney took two, Vaughn took the other two. The time allowed her the opportunity to see him with her friends, to consider their earlier conversation without the pressure of an answer. Much to her surprise, all of the men had a lot in common - mostly a desire for sports that almost outranked their desire to breathe. Both Jennie and Francie took to him, and Will and Francie kept her secret.

Just as she had imagined, Vaughn assimilated easily into her life. He almost seemed to be the final piece to the puzzle. Since Jennie had come along, she had been the odd man out. Before Jennie she could always gang up with Will against Charlie and Francie, but then it had become two couples and her. Now it was the six of them, and it felt right. More than that, it felt nice, just being able to meet his gaze and smile at him in front of her friends. Talking about simple things and laughing, all things she swore she'd never again take for granted.

The late news was about to start when her friends left. Although it was a weeknight, the restaurant didn't open until ten and Jennie wasn't due in court until after lunch. Vaughn offered to take Jackie back to her room and tuck her in while Sydney picked up the living room and said goodbye to her friends. As she walked them out, Francie and Jennie went on and on about how wonderful he was and even the men agreed that he seemed like a nice guy. No matter how stubborn or protective he was, even Will conceded that he was a good guy and he deserved her.

Sydney was straightening up the living room, fixing couch cushions and throw pillows, when she heard him walk in to the room. She was almost loathed to see her friends leave. It wasn't as though she didn't want to be alone with him; in fact it was something so simple that she dreamed of for so long. Now that they were alone, they needed to talk; they couldn't avoid the issue that she suspected weighed heavily on both their minds.

"Vaughn, Michae -" she stopped and looked over her shoulder at him. "What do I call you now?" Throughout the evening she had managed to skirt around having to call him by name, but unfortunately she knew that couldn't last forever.

"Anything you want," he shrugged, stepping out of the shadows and closer to her. "Just nothing profane, at least not in front of Jackie," he requested.

Sydney laughed before she grew somber. "Why didn't you take the promotion?"

He met her eyes, trying to silently get her to understand, as he had been able to so many times before. On that evening, however, either she was too scared or stubborn or tired to read what was so obviously written in his eyes, because she turned away and sighed.

"You know what, I'm sorry, it's really none of my -"

"I love you Syd."

Before she could even formulate a response, Jackie beckoned from her nursery. "She needs to be fed," she muttered. All he did was silently nod and follow her down the hallway. Leaning against the doorframe, he watched her go in and pick up Jackie, adjusting her blouse before allowing the infant to start nursing.

"Syd..." he softly called as she turned around to look at him. This was the first time that she and Jackie had company for their nursing session. He hadn't even been aware that she was doing this naturally. That didn't matter, because at the moment he had far bigger things on his mind. "What I said earlier. . . It's not as though I have a ring or something . . ." he trailed off awkwardly.

Sydney met his eyes, gently patting Jackie's back as she nursed. "I don't need a ring," she shook her head, speaking in a voice no higher than a whisper.

"We don't have to do it..." He approached them. "I understand if this is just too fast for you, we'll do this however you need to..."

She smiled softly, once again swept away by how gentle he was, how careful he was to do this the 'right way'. Sydney wasn't even sure what that meant anymore, but she was certain that if anyone knew how, it'd be him. "We can't lose you," she whispered.

"You're not going to lose me. I'm not going anywhere," he promised as he gently reached out to cup her cheek, carefully caressing with his thumb.

Looking into his eyes, the answer wasn't easy or simple, but it was obvious. There was too much history between them - history that lingered long before they had ever met - for what they shared to ever be simple. Over time she trusted it could get easier; she trusted him enough to know he'd make it that way. "I love you too."

He grinned widely, almost surprised by her candor. After a few moments he grew somber, momentarily lost in her eyes. Swallowing hard, he rested his free hand on her elbow, feeling Jackie's tiny feet resting near his hand. Seconds passed by like hours before he bent down and kissed her.

"Can we do this?" she whispered, her breath warming his face as he grinned at them.

"You're Sydney Bristow, you can do anything," he reminded her.

"Sydney Bristow, former super spy and solo Mommy," she reminded him as he laughed.

"That's cute."

"I'm thinking of writing my own children's book series," she teased. "Your mother's never even met me... Not really at least. . ." she reminded him, once again serious. "Can you really marry me, spend every day of your life with me, knowing that I look *just* like the woman who killed your father? Can your mother live with that, with having me in her life?"

"You'll meet my mother. I'll call her tomorrow and we'll go and meet her Sunday for dinner," he explained simply. "My mother has an immense capacity for forgiveness, and she decided the first time she met you that she liked you... As for me," he said seriously, his eyes never leaving hers. "Syd, you don't need to worry about me. The last thing I think of when I look at you or Jackie is your mother. I see *you*, the courageous, beautiful, determined, intelligent woman that walked into the CIA with this fiery determination to bring down the devil. I never saw your mother in you. You are your own person, with your own mistakes and faults and vices, and I love you."

"How can you say that so easily?" she wondered in awe.

"That I love you?" he asked as she nodded. "It's true. Over the past few months it's become more difficult not to say anything, than to actually say the words to you."

"I've known for a long time," she confessed.

"I'm not very good at hiding my emotions, huh?" he asked as she smiled.

"Sometimes it was the only thing that kept me going," she conceded.

"My life Syd... I'm still with the agency. I still want to stay with the agency. You know that means I can't promise you too much," he reminded her. "I'll never betray your trust or willingly hurt you. I love you, and I love Jackie. You're my family, and I promise to do everything I can keep you safe and happy." He smiled down at their daughter, who was finally starting to pull back. "She's hungry."

"She's always hungry," she laughed as the baby unlatched.

"I'll burp her," he softly insisted, taking the baby, allowing Sydney's hands to readjust her top.

"Is your mother going to like me?" she asked softly as he paced a small area, attempting to burp the stubborn infant.

"You're not blonde and your name doesn't start with an 'A'. She'll love you."

Sydney smiled as she sat down on the glider, curling up as her family paced in front of her. "You have an attraction to blondes with A names?" she teased.

"Oh yeah," he confessed, his eyebrows slightly rose as the color danced onto his cheeks. "There was Angela in high school, trust me she was anything *but* an angel," he remembered as she laughed. "Audrey, freshman year, Stacey, whose real name was Anastasia was junior year... I was with Anika for two summers in college, she and I both had family in Fleury..." he remembered as she smiled, amused at his laundry list of blonde girlfriends. "Amy and I dated in law school, and when I left she decided I wasn't worth her trouble. Then, of course, there was Alice."

"We're never naming anything an 'A' name, not a baby or a cat or a dog, nothing," she informed him with a straight face before she broke into a huge grin.

"Tell me about it," he smirked as Jackie let out a big burp.

"So which vixen turned you in to a pool shark?"

"After Audrey, I had a *lot* of free time, so I spent a lot of time in the game room. My grandfather taught me how to play during my summers in France when I was little. Whenever it would rain we'd stay in the house and play pool," he remembered fondly.

"Do you really want to get married?" she asked softly. Vaughn stopped his short steps and looked at her, meeting her eyes in the dim room.

"Yes, I do. But only if you do Syd, I don't want to pressure you in to anything -"

"Thank you Agent Vaughn, but I assure you that no one pressures me into anything," she reminded him as he chuckled and nodded. She watched him place Jackie in the crib, carefully tucking her in, awed by the gentle side of him that shone through. There had always been a gentle, sweet part of him that she had the privilege of knowing, but seeing his paternal side brought his personality to a new level.

"Michael," she whispered into the dim room as he turned to face her.

"Syd?" he greeted back, obviously pleased that she was now addressing him by his given name. While he loved the sound of his name on her lips - the way she said it could caress his soul or send his blood pressure rising - no one would ever say his name like she did. Now he was simply Michael, and he was positive he could easily live with the new adjustment.

"I think we should do it."

"Really?"

"Really," she smiled and nodded. "I think you should sleep here tonight too," she boldly suggested. "Just sleep though," she added as an afterthought. The day had been too draining and the past two months too much on her body to consider anything else.

"I have a bag in the trunk of the car..." he admitted. "I wasn't planning this Syd -"

"I know you weren't," she reassured him. "Just... Stay tonight," she requested. "Please."

"Of course," he nodded.

"I'm going to go get changed... Do you want to get your bag out of your car?"

He nodded while his lips curved into a slight smile. "Sure. Will she be okay by herself?"

"She'll be fine. I'll just be in my room, if she makes any noise I'll hear her."

"You're sure?" he asked cautiously, relieved when she picked up the baby monitor.

"The other one is currently in the living room. I'll go get it then get changed."

"Okay," he smiled. When she smiled sweetly at him, he was unable to stop himself from leaning down and gently kissing her. Pulling back, his smile widened when he remembered he could kiss her now without fear of breaching national security.

"I'll see you in a few minutes," she agreed, her brown eyes sparkling in the dim room before she walked out.