***

So I dove into the water

And swore I believed

***

"You understand what this will require, Jack?"

"Yes, Sir," he answered. He ignored the look of concern that his boss gave him, much as he'd been ignoring the worried calls and the anxiety on his friends' faces for the last few weeks. Even Arvin had been shocked at how "well" Jack was handling the news of Laura's death and betrayal.

Jack knew that Andrews had protested when Langley requested him for this assignment. He believed that his agent was not in the right frame of mind to make this kind of decision, although he had admitted that Arvin Sloane trusted Jack and was more likely to recruit him than anyone else. When Jack had been told, he'd found Andrews' naivety to be both amusing and sad.

Langley was asking him to do this because of his emotional frame of mind. They knew he wouldn't refuse them, and they knew his new apparent vulnerability would attract Sloane. Leading the former patriotic Boy Scout down the wrong path would appeal to him.

"You'll be lying to everybody," Andrews reminded him.

Lying was a part of deep cover. "Yes, Sir."

"Jack--"

He was tired of the warnings. "I'm ready. I know what the CIA requires of me. I know how I let this Agency down, but I won't fail this time, Sir."

Andrews leaned back in his chair and sighed. "You've never let this agency down, Jack."

"Tell that to the twenty agents who are dead because of my mistake." Jack was stunned at how steady his own voice was. He'd become a stranger, even to himself, since the FBI had interrogated him, had showed him the truth. Even Sydney didn't have the ability to make him smile now.

Andrews leaned forward. "You'll need additional training, Jack, for such a deep undercover mission. You'll have to spend six months in 'solitary confinement' as the FBI 'investigates' you to hide this training."

Jack thought of leaving Sydney alone with only a nanny for six months. Then he thought of his father telling him that failure was not an option, that working with the CIA would be a great chance to serve his country. He thought of that witch who'd moaned in his bed after she'd killed his friends, and he thought of his own blindness. Sydney would be okay for six months.

"I understand, Sir."

"You also need to start showing signs of falling apart."

Andrews should know that Jack was a master at strategy. "I've already started working on that, Sir. I've been going to a bar every night after work. Sloane knows me well enough to know how out of character that is, and I'll make sure that I do it even more when I get back from my training."

His boss looked at him with sad eyes before standing up. "Are you sure about this, Jack?"

A voice whispered in the back of his mind that he was reacting to the stresses in his life instead of actually taking the time to think through the options, just as the CIA wanted. He ignored it. "Yes, Sir. SD-6 and the Alliance need to be handled. Arvin Sloane is a traitor who must be dealt with with speed and efficiency, Sir."

Andrews held out his hand and sighed. "Good luck."

"Thank you," Jack said, wondering if he was finally giving more than he could give without self-destructing.

***

When I tried to put my best face on

You know the damn thing always fit me wrong

***

"Good work, Jack. I was surprised at the hesitation you showed, but you came through for us in the end."

Jack nodded. "I believed he could have been a valuable asset to us. Unfortunately, he was too loyal to his current employers. Death was the only option in the end."

Sloane nodded and crossed his hands in front of him. "I know it isn't easy to kill."

"I'll do whatever you need me to do, Sloane. You know where my loyalties lie," he said, somehow not choking on the words. He used to think he was a bad liar, but he was finding out that he was damn good at it.

"I know," Sloane said, putting a hand on Jack's shoulder. He lightly squeezed it as he said, "I've never doubted your loyalty or your friendship."

Jack walked into the men's bathroom after watching Sloane walk away. Deep breaths didn't help stop the nausea attacking him, and his lunch came back up as he thought about that man he'd just killed. A good man. A loyal man. Someone he would've liked to have met in another life time.

***

Too bad

You had nothing up your sleeve

***

"Devlin, I need to be on an SD-6 transport in less than two hours. I don't have time for a meeting today."

"Sit down, Jack," Devlin said. It was then that Jack realized that two other men were with his boss. He had an odd feeling déjà vu as he sat down. It had been almost twenty years, but he still remembered the day his entire world had been destroyed. The sight of the file folder on the edge of the desk made him hesitate only a moment before picking it up.

He couldn't totally hide his reaction to the pictures inside, but he managed to conceal most of it. "Sloane has recruited Sydney," Devlin said unnecessarily; the pictures said more than Jack wanted to hear. He had failed his daughter; he'd let that son of bitch get to her first.

He tossed the file back down on the desk, never wanting to see the photos inside again.

"Arvin Sloane had not informed you of this development?" one of the other men in the office said. Jack realized he was FBI.

"No," he answered. Strange how the world was so upside down now. The kid who used to be a lousy liar was now so good at it that the man he was betraying on a daily basis had no suspicions of him, but the agency he had dedicated his life to doubted his loyalties.

"He knows I would not have allowed it, if I'd known."

The man who had spoken sighed and picked up the file folder. "I hear you are a master at strategies, Agent Bristow. Too bad you didn't have a plan up your sleeve to prevent this from happening."

***

I'll take the problem in my hands

Till the well runs dry

***

Devlin would be furious with him. The entire CIA hierarchy would be angry with him. He was tossing away twenty years of his own work to save a civilian who knew nothing and could be of no use to them.

He didn't give a damn.

After he delivered the plane tickets in his pocket along with a few curt words of warning, he would be forced to go into hiding. Sloane would know about his betrayal within minutes of Sydney's plane arriving. He had no choice, though. He'd failed her before by leaving her vulnerable, allowing Sloane to use her. He couldn't fail her now.

When Sloane had put that folder in his hands, had let him see the transcript of the phone call the idiot had made, he hadn't been sure who he wanted to strangle more--his daughter or the stupid man she'd become engaged to. But he'd known that he couldn't turn a blind eye and let SD-6 kill Daniel Hecht. He wouldn't let Sydney know how it felt to have the person she loved die. He wouldn't.

The fact the door was cracked open warned him that he might have been too late. Pulling his gun from the holster, he slowly entered the apartment where Danny lived. He'd never been there before, but he doubted his daughter would become engaged to someone who left their apartment in this kind of shape; it was trashed.

He opened the bathroom door and closed his eyes to the blood that staining everything. He had failed her again. Re-holstering his gun, he turned and walked away. He thought back to Sloane's comment years ago about how much the CIA asked from their employees. He thought of the dead young man who had made his daughter happy, and he sighed as he thought about how much Sydney had given today. And he wondered how much more she could give before she crumbled.

***

I think I'll stand up tall and be a man

Till the well runs dry

***

Jack held his daughter as she cried. She kept telling him she was sorry, and the words cut through him more than he wanted. He had hurt her today. Hurt her to keep her from being hurt worse later, but still he had been the one to make her bleed. Her soul was aching from her loss of faith in Laura, but at least she was alive and not hurting as badly as she would've been months down the road.

He'd sacrificed more today than he ever had before. Today he'd let the CIA down. Irina's "Bible" was now destroyed from the bombs he himself had arranged. He feared what the loss of the manual may mean to the agency he had pled loyalty to decades before. With it, they could have wiped out an entire organization of enemies.

But at least he hadn't failed her. Failing her was not an option. He would keep on giving up parts of his soul as long as she was safe.

***

But every time I put my best face on

I say "why?"

***

Jack stared at the stark white tombstone, but there were no answers there. There never had been. So why did he continue to visit every few years looking for a solution?

Was he expecting his father's ghost to appear and tell him that he was proud?

He felt an arm around his back, and he couldn't believe he'd allowed someone to approach without being aware of it. He smelled her perfume and realized it was his daughter. Looking down at her, he couldn't find any words to say.

"I didn't even know he was buried here. You've never talked about him. Ever."

"How did you find me?" he asked. When the fog had forced them to land at Santa Fe last night--on a return trip from a mission for SD-6--he'd decided to take advantage of their closeness to visit before their plane left this morning.

"Sloane called earlier, and I didn't know where you were. When I talked to Vaughn, Mom had told him that you would be here." Jack felt his teeth grind together, but he didn't say anything. He didn't even admit to himself how much it bothered him that she knew him so well. It used to make him feel great that his wife knew all his faults and fears and loved him anyway.

Sydney tucked her hair behind her ear and said, "Tell me about him."

"He was a career military officer. He loved his country. He believed serving it was the best thing in the world, and failure was not allowed."

He watched the sadness play across his daughter's face. He knew she was hearing more than he wanted her to, but what could he say about Colonel Thomas Bristow? He could lie and say that he'd been a great father, but he hadn't been and Jack didn't have the energy to fake it. And he didn't know anything else about the man to share.

"How did he die? Heart attack?"

Jack sucked in a breath. "No," he admitted. "He shot himself twice in the stomach."

She turned to look at him, horror written in her eyes. "Suicide?"

"He went in for his physical. His doctor told him that he had stomach cancer. There was nothing they could do--at least not then. His body had failed him."

He saw the horror and the understanding in her eyes. Her grandfather had not been able to accept any type of failure. "I'm sorry," she finally said.

Jack said nothing. What could he say?

Sydney put her hand in his, and he looked down at it in surprise. "I'm glad that you're not like him," she said after a few minutes.

The wind blew around them, and he wondered how she could fail to see how much like Thomas Bristow he was. Cold. Distant. Unable to connect with his child. "What makes you think I'm different?"

She shrugged. "Because you never give up. You face all your failures and take your hits and keep going. The first sign of trouble doesn't make you quit."

Squeezing his hand, she said, "Watching you work this past year has allowed me to see how hard you keep working for what you believe in. No matter what gets in your way."

She turned to walk away, and Jack looked down at the marker. "Sydney." When she looked at him, he told her, "I'm proud of you."

He saw her thinking about his hearing last week, about the words he'd said to the senator. She smiled, and he knew that she understood what he was trying to say. He'd been able to speak the words she wanted to hear there. "I know, Dad."

She turned and walked away, leaving him alone. Looking down at the grave, Jack finally found the words he'd been looking for since his father had died. Maybe finding the words to say to the Senator--to say to Sydney who he knew was watching and listening--had helped him. "You were a selfish son of a bitch. I didn't deserve that phone call from a stranger. You should have called me, told me that you were sick. You should have allowed us time to say goodbye. You should have fought like you always told me to do instead of giving up. You used to say that failure wasn't an option, but you failed me."

Jack looked to where Sydney was waiting for him by the car. "I've spent most of my life trying to make you proud, Father, and I'm not sure why; why I tried so hard or why you couldn't be proud of me."

He thought of all the decisions he'd made in life because of his father, because of his past. He'd damn near killed his daughter in his struggle to destroy the past. He and Sydney both were paying the price for his eagerness to prove his loyalty to his country, to prove to himself that he had not let his father down after allowing Laura to use him.

Why had he cared about one man's opinion so much?

The grave gave him no answers. Jack turned and walked away, finally giving up those dreams that had died with Thomas Bristow. In his mind, he buried them beside his father.

Now it was time to get on with the future. Time to start building with Sydney what he'd always wanted.

"Good-bye, Father," he whispered as he walked away, knowing he'd never come back here. There wasn't any need to anymore.

***

The End!

Thanks for reading!

And happy belated and early b-day, Celli! You are a great person to know. I'm glad that I met you. Even if you do make me write songfic. ;)