Beyond All Doubt

Bluebird8311 doesn't own this story. I publish it because I loved it and can't find it online anymore.

Author : Jude

PG-13

Missing scenes from A Dark Turn

ABC, Touchstone, Bad Robot, and the BRILLIANT JJ Abrams own em. Not me, I own nothing.

Well, I originally had no plans of writing a fic for this episode. I had an idea over the weekend but really didn't want to write it. But alas the muse wouldn't leave me alone yesterday morning so this is what came out. Of course it's nothing to do with the original idea I had, but that part will come. It will follow from the beginning right up to and including Truth Takes Time. It starts out pretty fluffy, but I'm warning you as I add more parts, it will get considerably angsty.

4th March 2003 – 27th March 2003

Beyond All Doubt

Walking out of the meeting with Yeager, I was desperate for one thing and one thing only: Vaughn. I needed to see Vaughn. I knew if I could just see him, talk to him, that this wrenching feeling in my stomach and heart would go away. There had to be a logical explanation for this, there had to be.

I walked through the hallways looking for Vaughn. I just need to see him, to hear his voice. I knew seeing him would calm the fears welling up inside me. My heart knows he hasn't done anything; my heart knows he never could. But my brain is screaming at me, betrayed again Bristow. Betrayed again.

Two years of my life was flashing before my eyes. I replayed every moment in my mind with him, over and over again telling myself, this is a mistake, and trying to reassure myself everything is okay. There's nothing to worry about, but the seed of doubt had been planted. My head was having a field day with it.

I ran into Weiss who hadn't seen Vaughn. When he told me he was being called into the briefing room I knew this was not going to be good for Vaughn somehow. So many things went through my mind. Was he being set up? Was Sloane doing this to get back at me? All I knew is that I needed to get out of here. It was my day off after all. A day off that started out perfect with Vaughn and I playing hockey. How could it go badly so fast?

As soon as I got out of the ops center I called Vaughn. It went to voicemail right away which meant he was in a meeting. I left him a message to call me. Hearing his voice calmed me some, but I still had a nervous energy in me that I needed to get rid of. I ended up at the gym and spent two hours working out and hitting a punching bag that probably never knew what hit it today.

I called Will and we had a late lunch near where his cover job was. He could tell I was jittery and I excused it as nerves about my parents being on a mission. I briefly told him what my father had told me shortly before I escaped the ops center. He was obviously too distracted by his mission with my mother to notice my anxiety. It's not like he's ever been intuitive with me anyway.

Shortly after I leave Will and head to the mall, Vaughn calls me. When I see his name on the caller ID my heart starts racing. I take a deep breath and answer, "Hey you." I even manage to smile saying it.

"Is this my totally amazing super spy girlfriend?" he asks teasing.

I can't help but laugh, and with my laugh, most of my fears escape. "Well I don't know about the amazing super spy part," I tease back. I have to admit having him call me his girlfriend though makes me feel like I'm back in high school and giddy with the thought of I have a boyfriend, and a very hot French one at that. "What have you been up to?"

"An extremely boring meeting at the CIA office for the last three hours," he explains. "Just imagine eight analysts, Devlin, and four agents in a room and I think you'll understand." He sounds tired. "What did they need you for at ops?"

"Oh just clarification on a brief I'd turned in. It was stupid really," I say, hating lying to him. "Then I went to the gym for a couple hours and I just had a late lunch with Will."

"I'm heading to get lunch now." he says, as I hear him opening and closing the door to his car. "Are you heading home?"

"I'm not sure. I may go shopping," I reply, needing to do something to kill the time.

"Well after I grab something to eat, I have to go back to CIA headquarters for awhile and finish some paperwork. I might be a little late," he says apologetically.

"Don't worry about it. Did you want to eat out or in tonight?" I ask. Since we started dating, we've been together almost every night.

"Let's eat in, but you don't need to cook. We can order a pizza and watch the game. Is that okay?" he asks.

"That sounds perfect," I reply, feeling better every minute.

"Okay, I'll see you later," he says.

"Bye," I say before disconnecting. I take a deep breath as I pull into the shopping mall parking lot.

I shop for a few hours obviously more upset than I'll admit to myself because I leave with several shopping bags full of purchases. I even bought a sweater for Vaughn. It felt nice to be back in the men's department. I missed having someone to buy something for. It's a deep green ribbed crew sweater and I can't wait to see it on him.

I arrive home and change into one of my new outfits. I look at the clock and see it's almost six-thirty. I kill time hanging up and putting away the rest of what I bought. I leave Vaughn's sweater folded neatly on the end of the bed. I smile as I hear the doorbell, but I wish that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach would go away.

He kisses me as he walks in and puts his attaché on the counter. We talk and he's obviously upset about being left out of the loop about my parent's trip to Bangkok. It's great to know that with a smile and a few words I can calm him. The same way he calms me with his presence.

Of course the minute he's gone to take a shower, that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach is back. I try to ignore it and go to the fridge. but I can't help seeing Vaughn's bag out of the corner of my eye. I tell myself I'm looking at his laptop just to prove to myself that he hasn't done anything. I've never felt so horrible about doing something in my life. Just as I'm about to check out the program files I realise I can't do it. I just can't. I close the laptop and put it back in his bag and grab a wine cooler out of the fridge.

I go and curl up with on the couch grabbing a pillow and hugging it tightly. This is Michael Vaughn, I tell myself over and over. He'd never betray this country. He'd never betray me. I realise I haven't ordered the pizza yet and quickly call in and order pizza and wings.

As I sit back on the couch I close my eyes and wish this would all go away. I'm not sure how long I stare off into space but I'm startled when his hands touch my arms and he kisses my cheek from behind the couch, "Sorry, didn't mean to make you jump."

"No it's okay, I guess I was spacing," I say as he walks around and I see he's found the new sweater I bought him. I smile seeing it on him. He's barefoot and wearing a pair of jeans he left here. Damn he is so gorgeous. "Do you like it?"

"I love it," he says, as he sits down next to me. He pulls me into his arms and kisses me. "Did you order the pizza?"

I smile at him, looking into those green eyes of his and all my fear and doubt are erased. "Yeah, I did."

"Good," he says, as he starts kissing me again. "We have time to relax before it arrives." His kisses become more urgent and his hands make contact with the bare skin of my back and I'm blissfully lost in his touch.

"This is relaxing?" I tease, as his mouth trails down my neck.

"Uh hum," he mumbles as he finds his way back up to my mouth. "Don't you feel relaxed?" He smiles at me as he continues kissing me.

I can't help but laugh and I move to straddle his lap. "I think I feel something a little more than relaxed. You are a tease Michael Vaughn."

"Oh really? And why is that?" he asks, rubbing his thumbs on my skin under my sweater.

"Because you know that in about ten minutes the pizza is going to come and your game starts in fifteen minutes and I know you won't be leaving the couch until it's over," I say running my hands through his hair.

"Well there is always intermission, and who says we have to leave the couch?" he leers at me.

I laugh and reply, "Oh somehow, I don't think Will would be too amused. He'll be home pretty soon from the gym."

"Ah, I forgot he's been going every night since he couldn't get into that suit," he says smiling at me. As if on cue, we hear the lock on the door. I scurry off his lap quickly and sit next to him.

"Hey guys," Will says, still not quite used to seeing Michael Vaughn in their place. "What's going on?"

"Um, nothing. We ordered pizza and are going to watch the game," I say, looking at Vaughn to make sure there isn't lipstick covering his face.

Will just stands there smiling at us for a moment before saying, "Well, if you are going to watch the game, it might help if you turn the TV on. I'm going to take a shower, I'll make sure I yell or something to give you a warning before I come back out." He waves his hand at us and says, "Go back to what you were doing."

I can't help but laugh and Vaughn quickly pulls me back to his lap. I look at him and he says, "Well, he did say to go back to what we were doing." I look at him and think there is no possible way he could be doing anything to betray this country.

We continue our little make out session until the doorbell rings. "Can you get it, I don't think I can get up right now," he says, smiling and looking a little uncomfortable as he hands me his wallet.

"That's what you get for being a tease," I say to him as I walk over to pay for the pizza. As if on cue, Will walks out and grabs the pizza boxes from me, talking them to the kitchen.

Will and I grab plates and pile the wings on a platter. "Vaughn, what do you want to drink?" I yell, as I grab the ranch and the blue cheese dressing.

"A beer would be great Syd, thanks," he says, as he turns on the television.

"Vaughn?" Will questions. "You two are sleeping together, isn't it about time you start calling him Michael?"

I smack him and reply, "Can you grab Michael's beer for me please Tippen?"

"Ha Ha Ha," Will retorts, "You are sooooo funny Bristow."

I ignore him and walk out and hand Vaughn his plate of pizza. He kindly grabs the dressing bottles that I'm holding precariously under my arm and I put the plate of wings down on the coffee table. I forgot to grab napkins so I go back to get them and grab another wine cooler while I'm there.

When I walk back out, Will is happily ensconced in his chair wolfing down the pizza and a beer, knowing Francie won't be home until the wee hours from the restaurant. I give Vaughn a quick kiss as I sit back down and we eat and watch the game.

True to his word, the first intermission, Vaughn nudges me and gestures his head back toward the bedroom before announcing, "I'm going to the bathroom." I manage to hold off, oh probably a minute, before I announce, "Oh, I almost forgot, I need to call Dixon about something. I'll be right back."

I quickly walk back to the bedroom and as soon as I walk through the door his arms grab me and his lips are hungrily on mine. We break away breathlessly a minute later and he says, "Do you have any idea how much I wanted to do that the entire first period? You are way too distracting." He kisses my nose before tenderly kissing me again.

"I'm sorry," I say, even though I'm not. "How can I make it up to you?" All thoughts of the briefing with Yeager are totally gone from my mind.

He replies as he continues kissing me, "Oh I'm sure you can figure out a way. We still have another intermission after this one. We spend another five minutes kissing and laughing before I untangle myself from his arms and walk back to the living room taking a deep breath to calm myself.

Of course I am probably flushed and the smile on my face probably doesn't help because the minute I sit down Will asks, "So looks like you had a nice chat with Dixon?" Will raises his eyebrows at me and my mature response is to pick up a pillow and throw it at him.

"Gee I leave you two alone for a few minutes and I come back to mayhem," Vaughn says, laughing as he heads to the kitchen. Of course my first reaction was to throw a pillow at him too but I figured I'd get back at him other ways.

"Will, want another beer?" he calls.

"Um yeah Michael, thanks," he replies, as he throws the pillow back at me.

I grin at him and finish off the rest of my second wine cooler, I'm about to ask Vaughn to get me another one when I see him walking toward me with one in hand. He hands Will his beer and then hands me my wine cooler as he bends down to kiss me. "Thanks," I say, before kissing him again.

"Oh come on you two," Will says faking a sickening look on his face. "You just spent the last ten minutes sucking face in the bedroom. I'm trying to watch hockey here." This time Will is assaulted with pillows from both of us and he gives up, "Okay, okay. Geesh, can't a guy have any fun?"

I just smile at him and curl back up under Vaughn's arm as the second period begins. Of course I don't stay there long as the action in the game increases. Vaughn is, well let's just say he's very vocal when things aren't going how he wants or thinks they should be going.

By the end of the second period, we are all yelling. The Kings are losing and of course we are all in agreement that it's because of bad calls from the refs. Will gets up to grab two more beers and as he hands one to Vaughn I pout, "Where's mine?"

"You still have half of yours left," Will points out. "Besides, I know how you get after three."

"Oh do tell," Vaughn says, smiling eagerly at Will. Of course I look at both of them with a glare that sends them scurrying off with excuses of the bathroom and phone calls.

I smile triumphantly curling back up on the couch and sipping my wine cooler. After a minute or two Will wanders back in and sits down grinning at me. "What?" I ask, self conscious.

"Nothing, I mean it's just great to see you so happy again, Syd," Will says, as he sips his beer. "I'm just happy for you."

I look at him, knowing in some ways how hard it must be for him to see me with someone else. That makes what he says mean so much more to me. I almost tear up, but I smile and say, "Thank Will. You have no idea how much that means to me."

"He's a great guy Syd, and totally smitten with you. I think it's great." Will shrugs like it's no big deal.

Before I have a chance to say anything, Vaughn walks back in. He starts grabbing the empty beer bottles and plates and takes them to the kitchen. I get up grabbing the rest and follow him. He's rinsing off the plates before putting them in the dishwasher. I open the cabinet to where the recycle bin is and throw the bottles I had as well as the ones Vaughn set on the counter.

"Hey," he says, wrapping his arms around me as I close the cabinet. "You okay?"

I turn and look at him and probably partly due to the wine coolers and partly due to the little voice in my head still bugging me, I ask, "Vaughn, if you were in some kind of trouble, you'd come to me, right? You know I'd do anything to help you?"

"Sydney," he says concerned. "What's this about?"

I stammer a moment and then answer, "Just a bad dream I had. You were in trouble and wouldn't let me help you. I guess it's just bothering me more than I thought." Not entirely a lie, I convince myself.

He sighs and strokes my cheek, "Syd, you'd be the only person I'd come to."

I wrap my arms around him and put my head on his shoulder losing myself in his embrace. The nagging voice in my head temporarily silenced from the doubt it keeps causing me. I silently curse Agent Yeager for planting the seed in the first place.

"So you going to tell me what happens after a third wine cooler?" he teases.

I can't help but laugh and the love I feel for him overwhelms me. He always knows how to make me feel better, always. "Well you could always get me a fourth and find out, but somehow I don't think you'd like the answer." He stares at me a moment waiting for me to continue. "I fall asleep." I admit before adding, "And somehow I doubt you want me falling asleep tonight."

"Well if you are tired Syd…" he starts to say before I bring my lips to his in a searing kiss.

"Does that in anyway, give you the impression, that I'm tired?" I say, smiling suggestively at him.

"Um, no not at all." he says, the desire in his eyes obvious.

"Good, then let's go watch the rest of the game." I say, pulling him back in the living room.

The last period is dismal for the Kings. Just when we think it can't get any worse it does. They lose 4-1 and the mood in the room as Will turns off the TV is somber. "Well, they should get the next game," Will says hopefully.

We both agree with him and then Vaughn looks at me smiling. "Well, I think we're off to bed Will. I have to be at ops early for a meeting with Kendall."

Vaughn gets up saying goodnight to Will and I grab the back of his sweater and follow behind. Just as we turn the corner, I turn and say, "Goodnight Will."

"Night Syd," Will smiles at me.

We walk into the bedroom each taking a turn in the bathroom. I change into boxers and a tank top knowing they won't be on very long but smile at the thought as I brush my teeth. When I come out Vaughn already has all the lights out and a single candle lit. "I set your alarm for your meeting for you. It's at seven, right?"

"Yeah," I reply, as I slide into bed next to him. "Hey," I say lying on my side facing him. "I'm sorry they lost."

He smiles at me and replies, "You know it's funny, normally I'd be upset, but lying here in bed with you - well it's just not possible." He brushes my cheek with his hand.

I smile at him and wonder how I could ever doubt anything about him. Without a doubt, he is the best thing that's ever happened to me. So I lean forward and kiss him, knowing that somehow we'll get through whatever is going on. And with that in my mind, I lose myself in his touch and his tender lovemaking until we fall blissfully to sleep.

The blaring alarm wakes me from my peaceful sleep. I smack the snooze button and turn over wanting to curl back up with Vaughn for a few minutes. My arm finds an empty bed, and I'm instantly awake wondering where he is. I sit up and see a note on the pillow. I quickly snatch it up and read his familiar scrawl.

Syd,

Went for a run. Should be back in time to join you in the shower.

Michael

I smile in relief, but part of me wonders if he's really on a run. Is this what my life will be like now? Wondering if the man I love is betraying his country? Betraying me? I hate this. I shouldn't even be thinking about it, but I am. Part of me wants to confront him, but the little voice in my head is telling me, What if it's true? Do you really want to know? Ignorance can be bliss.

I know I will find out eventually. Yeager isn't going to give up. The question is, how far am I willing to go? My heart knows I'd do almost anything. If it meant running away with him, I'd do in a heartbeat. But then the nagging part of my brain is back and telling me, What if he doesn't want to run away with you? What if he was just using you all this time?

Grabbing his pillow, I pull it to my chest and inhale his scent. The bed still smells of him, of us, of our lovemaking last night. It soothes me and I know there is no way he could be doing anything wrong. I know there will be an explanation for everything. There has to be.

The snooze alarm goes off again, and I turn it off completely. I grab Vaughn's dress shirt from the floor and quickly put it on with my boxers. I strip the bed and saunter out to throw it in the washing machine. I stop in the kitchen on the way back seeing that Vaughn already turned on the coffeemaker. I pour myself a cup of coffee before going back to my bedroom.

I take out a new set of sheets and start to make the bed when I hear Vaughn come back in. I can't help but smile and then I hear, "Good morning," from behind me. Suddenly his arms are around me from behind.

"You're all sweaty," I say, as he kisses my neck.

"You didn't seem to mind that last night," he says in a low voice that instantly makes me melt. "I like my shirt on you. Of course, I like you out of it too." He starts unbuttoning the buttons and slips his hand inside. I playfully swat his hand away. "Aw, come on. You have to get undressed for your shower anyway."

I turn in his arms and smile at him. I place a lingering kiss and say in a low voice, "We'll have to be quick. I can't be late for this meeting." I grab his hand and pull him into the bathroom and close the door.

Twenty minutes later

I'm buttoning my blazer when Vaughn walks out of my bathroom in a towel. He smiles at me and images of us against the wall in the shower make me forget what I'm doing. I shake it off and grab the sheets to finish making the bed. "I can do that. You should go eat breakfast," he says, grabbing clean boxers from the bag he had in his car.

"You don't have to," I say walking over to grab my keys.

"It's not a problem, Syd," he says as he pulls his suit pants on. "How bout I take you out to dinner tonight?"

"That would be great. I'll be in the kitchen," I say as I grab my coffee cup as he finishes getting dressed.

I add more coffee to my cup to warm it up. I'm startled when Francie appears behind me. "Geez Francie, you scared me," I say putting my hand over my heart.

"Sorry," Francie says emotionless. "You're leaving early."

"Yeah, I have an early meeting with the bank director," I lie, putting a bagel in the toaster. "Do you want a bagel?"

"No, I have to get going actually. I have some errands to run before I go to the restaurant," Francie states.

Vaughn walks out with his dress shirt on but unbuttoned, his white t-shirt underneath. "Good morning, Francie," he smiles.

Francie looks at him a moment and over at me and then says, "Good morning. Well, I have to be going. I'll see you both later."

After she closes the front door, Vaughn looks at me and says, "Why do I get the feeling she doesn't like me?"

"It's not you. It's me. She's mad at me. I don't know. Things have been weird with her lately," I sigh. "Please don't worry about it, okay?"

"Alright," he says, as he pours his coffee. Vaughn grabs the milk from the fridge and sets it on the counter, grabbing a bowl and a box of cereal. He opens the newspaper he brought in earlier, and sits down at the counter.

"Do you want a bagel too?" I offer.

"No, this is fine and I'll grab something else on the way." he says, sipping his coffee.

"In other words, you are picking up one of those greasy breakfast burritos you always eat," I say as I put cream cheese on my bagel.

"Oh come on, they aren't that bad," he says grinning. "Besides, it's my only vice. Well besides you." The serious look he's giving me sends shivers down my spine.

How can he do that? He can turn something so simple into something that means more to me than anything. "Well, I hope I'm not a bad vice," I say as I walk around and sit next to him.

"Never," he says kissing me. "I probably won't be able to meet you for lunch today. I have an errand to run this afternoon, so I need to work through lunch."

Of course this starts the little voice going in my mind again. I quickly reply "That's okay. I should see if Weiss wants to have lunch with me anyway. I think he's feeling sort of neglected."

"Oh really? Did he say something?" he asks curiously.

"I was looking for you yesterday and he made a comment about the only time I talk to him is when I'm looking for you. I realized he was right. So I thought I'd ask him to lunch today," I say finishing the first half of my bagel.

"That would probably be good. I'm sure he's not happy I'm spending all my nights with you either," he says as he pulls out the sports section of the newspaper.

"Well, this weekend you two should go out for a beer or something." I say trying to hurry and finish my bagel.

"Yeah, maybe." he says, his eyes fixed on a hockey article on the front page.

"Well, I have to run. I'll see you later." I kiss him, lingering a little too long.

"Um, I like these kind of goodbyes," he says, our noses nuzzling.

"I like it better when it's a hello and I don't have to leave. What time for dinner?" I ask, reluctantly pulling away.

"I need to run home tonight for a bit so lets say I'll pick you up at six-thirty. Is that okay?" he asks as he turns the page on the newspaper.

"Perfect," I reply as I quickly run out the door. I feel my blazer pocket to make sure I have the disc. That awful feeling in the pit of my stomach returns but I brush it off. The idea that Vaughn is doing something wrong is even more preposterous then when I first found out. I'm determined not to let it get to me.

As I get in my Landcrusier and start it up, I tell myself that everything will be okay. It has to be. I'm finally happy for the first time in two years. I'm in love, I have a man that would do anything for me, and I'm free of SD-6. There is no way I'm going to let anything get in the way of my relationship with Vaughn. I've fought the worst enemies and somehow made it through. Now I just need to win the battle with that little voice in my head. It's a battle I don't intend to lose.

I'm relieved the meeting with Kendall has nothing to do with Vaughn. He's not even mentioned, just a stupid status meeting on arrests and intel gained from the fallout of the Alliance. Not that I'm complaining that he's keeping me informed, I just have my mind on other things. One thing in particular: Vaughn.

The next couple of hours are spent going over reports and statements Kendall left for me. A lot of employees of SD-6 are still in limbo. They aren't being prosecuted, but they haven't been offered jobs in the CIA yet either. It's possible they never will.

As I walk out of the briefing room with a stack of folders I still need to read through, I see Weiss walking into the break room to get coffee. I follow him in and say, "Good morning Weiss,"

"Hey Sydney, and before you ask, I have no idea where your boyfriend is." Weiss retorts.

"I wasn't going to ask you that," I say smiling as I shake my head. "I was actually going to ask you if you wanted to have lunch with me today."

"What's the matter, lover boy isn't available or have you finally come to your senses and decided that I'm the better man," Weiss says, as he takes a bite of a powdered donut.

"In your dreams, Weiss," I say smiling. "No, I just realised you were right yesterday. That I only come to you about Vaughn, and so I thought we could have lunch."

Weiss turns and looks at me a second, obviously surprised and replies, "Sure, what time?"

"I'm free anytime after eleven-thirty," I say as I pour myself a cup of coffee.

"Alright, I'll find you after my meeting with Kendall. It's at eleven, so depending on how much hot air he has today, it might be closer to noon." Weiss says as he grabs another donut to go.

"Sounds good," I say, as I sip my coffee. I pick up my stack of folders and make my way out to my desk. I notice Vaughn isn't at his and figure he's probably in with Kendall now.

I work for the next hour or so, pouring over the statements in the files until I decide I need a break. I swivel my chair around and see Vaughn working at his desk. My heart speeds up when I see him. It's amazing how he can do that to me. I stand up to go talk to him but then my heart speeds up for another reason. I see him put something in an envelope and stick it in his inner jacket pocket. The little voice in me is now screaming in a deafening voice.

He glances over at me and I quickly smile and walk up to him. Too many thoughts are running through my head. I cross my arms quickly, trying to gain a little control of everything I'm feeling, but I can feel it slipping away fast.

He smiles at me, putting is hand in his pockets and says, "Did you speak to Will? He was a little freaked out this morning."

Of course my mind is on one thing, and one thing only so I ignore what he said and ask, "What was that?"

He looks down at his pocket and replies, "Oh. Just work stuff."

"Come here," I say, the little voice having taken control.

We walk over to a quiet corner and I ask nervously, "Are you keeping secrets from me?"

"What?" he replies, obviously surprised by my question.

"Answer the question," I demand. I'm not even affected by the confused emotions scattering across his face.

"I'm sure I am. We just started dating. Of course there are things that I don't feel comfortable…" he says sincerely before I cut him off.

I shake my head and say, "No, that's not - I'm not talking about us."

"What, work then?" he says, obviously relieved. "Yeah, there are certain things, under protocol, that I'm not authorized to talk about with anyone."

"And that's it?" I ask, probably a little to quickly.

He looks at me a moment, and obviously tired of my questions says, "Look, there is something you don't know about me. I don't like it when people question my loyalty. It makes me insane."

I'm caught totally of guard by this remark. The little voice is having a field day with it. Guilty! Guilty "This isn't about loyalty. I never said anything about loyalty."

"When you ask me if I'm keeping secrets, the suggestion's pretty clear." he says, tired of my accusations.

Of course, this only brings out the bitchy side of me so I retort, "And you know what? Secrets will be a problem between us. After everything we've been through, you should know that." I almost hate the accusatory tone of my voice.

He nods at me, seeming to understand and then shaking his head, he reaches in his pocket and pulls out the envelope. He sighs and says, "This is the key to my apartment. I was going to give it to you tonight over dinner" He drops his head as he puts it back. "Obviously, an inappropriate move." He makes eye contact with me again and the hurt in his eyes is obvious.

I feel like I've been slapped. No, I feel like I've been punched in the gut. "Vaughn..." I say, not knowing what else to do, but pleading with my eyes for him to forgive me.

He hardly looks at me before saying, "Barnett's waiting for me."

As he walks away, I realise what I've done. It all comes crashing down. I let the little voice of doubt win and I just basically told the man I love I don't trust him. I have to grab onto the wall to hold myself up. The tears are forming in the corner of my eyes. I take a few deep breaths and walk to the bathroom.

I go into a stall and grab tissue and quickly wipe my eyes. I feel like I want to throw up, but I know I have to pull myself together. I know that. I look at my watch and see that it's quickly approaching noon. I take a few more deep breaths and walk out to the sink. I hate what I see in the mirror. I see a person who let herself be manipulated by someone again, but this time it's gone too far. This time I hurt someone I love.

I lean up against the sink and feel the disk in my pocket against it. I look in the mirror again and without a doubt in my mind, I know what I need to do. I walk quickly to the conference room that Yeager has been camped out in.

I don't even knock and steel myself for this, determined not to let him get to me. I put the disk down letting it fall from my fingers.

"You made the right decision," Yeager smirks, obviously pleased he'd convinced me to do this.

"That disk is blank. I didn't make a copy of Agent Vaughn's hard drive. The fact that I doubted Vaughn's motives makes me sick," I spew, as the smug look on Yeager's face disappears.

"You should be aware that by choosing not to assist, you are implicating yourself in Agent Vaughn's activities," Yeager threatens as he gets up.

"Don't threaten me again," I interrupt him.

"And you could be prosecuted as an accessory." Yeager says, thinking he still has the upper hand.

"I understand," I say, knowing I'm willing to go down with Vaughn if that's what it requires.

"Understand that there are consequences to your actions," Yeager continues.

"There are consequences, that's my point." Yeager nods at me smiling smugly. That only makes me more determined. "Ask yourself, would you betray someone you love?" I don't even realise what I'm admitting to him.

Yeager turns away a moment before he replies smugly, "Well, I guess we have an answer to the intimacy question." He takes his glasses off and continues to stare at me.

"Am I done here?" I ask, just wanting to get out of the building.

"For now. I'll be in touch." Yeager says, looking like the cat who just caught the bird he'd been trying to catch for weeks.

I wordlessly turn and walk out. I know I was stupid admitting that to him, but I don't care anymore. I walk back to my desk and grab a piece of paper. I scribble a quick note to Vaughn and start to leave it on his desk. I stop when I realise a note isn't going to begin to fix what I've just done. I crumple it up and throw it in the trash.

"Hey Sydney, ready to go?" Weiss asks walking up behind me.

I take a deep breath and plaster on a smile and turn and say, "Yeah, where do you want to go?" I can do this, I tell myself even though I feel like I'm dying inside.

"Did you have anything in mind," Weiss asks as we walk toward the doors leading to the garage.

"Doesn't matter, you pick," I shrug even managing a real smile. Maybe Weiss is just what I need to make me feel better.

"Great, I'll drive," Weiss says opening the door to the corridor for me.

We ride in an uncomfortable silence before Weiss finally says something. "Is everything okay, Sydney?"

"Yeah, it's fine," I say turning to look at him. "Why do you ask?"

"Because you seem a million miles away and upset about something," Weiss says as we pull into a parking lot.

Ah, Chinese food. "I think I just need to eat. I only had time for a bagel this morning and that was at six-thirty," I reply hoping he buys it.

Weiss looks at me and jokes, "No wonder you are so thin. You eat like a bird."

We settle in at the restaurant and discuss the food selection while the server takes our drink order. Part of me wants to order a nice rum and diet coke, but I just order a diet coke instead. Of course Weiss has to crack a joke about me drinking a diet coke and I'm pleased with myself when I tell him that he's the one that should be ordering a diet coke. It's all in jest of course but he feigns hurt and tells me that he knows I'm just jealous that Vaughn doesn't look like him.

The server brings our drinks back and takes our food order and Weiss obviously tired of my evasion asks, "So you and Vaughn had a fight, huh?"

I look at him and reply, "Why do you say that?"

He looks at me a moment before sighing and saying, "Because I ran into Vaughn in the corridor earlier and he had the same miserable look that you do."

I shake my head and smile, "We're both that transparent, huh?"

"Horrible," he says taking a sip of his root beer. "I'm a good listener, if you want to talk about it."

"I know. I don't really know if there is anything to talk about though," I say, wishing I could discuss this with Weiss, but I don't want to get him involved with this mess if he doesn't have to be.

"Look Syd," Weiss says leaning in. "I'm no expert on relationships, but I do know that you two have something that I've never seen before. You know that don't you?"

I just look at him and nod solemnly. I only hope I haven't ruined it.

"You two are also the most stubborn people I've ever met," Weiss says, grabbing his napkin to place on his lap as our server sets our soup down. "I don't think compromise is in either of your vocabularies."

"I know, I never thought it would be easy, Eric." I say. I sigh and take a spoonful of soup before adding, "I just – I just…" and I want so badly to tell him it's killing me. "It's complicated," I finally say as a copout.

Weiss looks at me carefully before saying, "Things have a way of working themselves out."

I can tell by the way he's looking at me that there is a double meaning in that statement. "I hope so," is all I can manage to say.

"One thing I do know, Syd, is that Mike is crazy about you. I mean he has been since you walked into his life two years ago. Don't ever doubt his feelings for you." Weiss says, before carefully adding, "But I think sometimes he's not too sure about yours."

I look at him and think to myself that maybe this is why Vaughn was so obviously upset about what I said to him. I mean he should have been upset regardless, but hearing Eric say that, brings a new understanding to it. "I'm trying," I say, just above a whisper.

"I'm not saying you aren't. Syd, it's obvious you care about him and I know you have reasons to be afraid. I'm not discounting them. Just don't let your fears take over," Weiss says, reaching over to squeeze my hand.

"Thank you," I say, feeling a little better.

"Anytime, Syd," Weiss says as our food arrives.

We spend the rest of lunch talking about everything but Vaughn and work and it's exactly what I needed to lift my mood. Eric insists on paying for lunch and I give him a hug before he leaves. I told him I wanted to spend some time alone and that I'd catch a cab back to the ops center.

I walk down the street passing several shops, pausing to look in the window of each one. I know I'm just killing time, but I just don't want to go back to work right now. I start to go into a bookshop when my phone rings. I stop and look at the caller ID, somewhat disappointed it's not Vaughn.

My father tells me about Panama and tells me that my mother wants to see me before they leave. I tell him I'll grab a cab and be right there. So much for getting away. I hail a cab and head back to work.

Of course if my stomach wasn't already in a knot from the fight with Vaughn, it's being twisted now. I haven't seen my mother since after the Alliance was taken down. As promised, she's refused to see me. It's not like I've tried though, I've been a little preoccupied with Vaughn. We've spent almost every moment outside of work together.

The cab drops me off at the park and I spend a few minutes outside gathering my thoughts before I head in to see her. I make a point to walk by Vaughn's desk and see it's not cleared off yet, but I don't see him around. Maybe he left to run the errands he'd told me about this morning. I refuse to let my mind wonder about his whereabouts, and head to the detention area.

I stand a moment and watch her. She is hard at work writing notes on the Rambaldi manuscript. I'm allowed a few moments before she realises I'm there and turns and walks over.

"Dad says you're going to Panama." I say, so many different things running through my mind. She just nods at me and I ask, "Do you think there's a chance you'll get Sloane?"

"I wanted to see you because - it's going to be dangerous, setting this trap. I hope it goes well but there's no guarantee. So whatever happens, there's something I need you to know. Sydney, I love you," she says, ignoring my original question.

"Mom…" I say, barely holding it together from everything that's going on.

"You don't have to say anything. I'm pretty sure I haven't earned very much, and that's okay. This was just something I needed to say," she says with more emotion that I've ever seen from her.

I realise she's trying to say goodbye to me and I say, "Mom, you're coming back."

"I hope so," she says, as she places her hand up against the glass.

I somehow manage to place my hand against hers on the glass and we share a moment before she pulls hers away. I smile and turn before the tears start to fall but stop when she calls me.

"Sydney," she says, as I turn around. "Agent Vaughn is a good man. He loves you very much. Don't let him go."

The tears fall freely down my face now and I smile and look at her. "I know. I won't"

I walk out of there as fast as I can about ready to crumble. I need Vaughn so much right now and I can't even go to him. I rush around the corner to head to the garage and run smack into Weiss.

"Hey, hey," Weiss says, grabbing my arm. "What's wrong?"

"I just need to get out of here, Eric." I say pleading with him. "Can you tell Vaughn that I need to cancel our plans tonight? I need you to tell him that, Eric, okay? Can you do that?" I'm practically frantic right now.

"Sure, I can tell him that, but you need to tell me what's wrong before I let you tear out of here," Weiss says, refusing to move out of my way.

"I just saw my mother; I need to think about some things. Please Eric, just take Vaughn out for some beers tonight or something. Don't let him come looking for me," I beg.

"Okay, okay, but promise me you'll call me. If you don't want to talk to Mike right now just call me so I can reassure him you're okay. Promise me," Weiss says firmly.

"I promise. I'll be back tomorrow," I say before running out and getting into my SUV. I'm sobbing heavily by the time I get to the Pacific Coast Highway and I turn North. I turn my cell phone and pager off and toss them on the seat. I'm not sure where I'm going. All I know is that I need to go somewhere and be alone. I have a lot to think about, but most of all, I just want to run away for awhile and not be found. Is that too much to ask?

I'm not sure how long I've been driving. All I know, is the tears have stopped and I'm suddenly tired. Looking at the next sign, I can't believe I've driven all the way to Santa Barbara. I shake my head wondering whether I've lost my mind. I pull off at the next gas station and go into the mini mart to get coffee.

As I walk back to my SUV, I can hear the ocean crashing against the nearby rocks. Maybe this is what I need. Getting back in, I head further up the highway until I come across the first hotel on the water with a vacancy sign. I get a room and park in front using the key card to go in. It is a simple moderate range room, nothing special, but it will do.

I walk back to my car, taking my overnight bag I keep in the back. I hesitate a moment before grabbing my pager and cell phone, but take them and disappear into my room. Vaughn has to know I'm gone by now, and part of me wonders if he even cares. The tears start to fall again and everything that transpired earlier crashes into me.

I can't deal with this right now. I don't want to deal with this. I quickly grab sweats and a t-shirt from my bag and change. I pull my running shoes out and put my hair up; making sure the keycard is in my pocket. I look at my phone and reluctantly clip it to my pants, leaving it turned off.

Taking my car keys, I open the door of my SUV and find my CD walkman and a certain disc, strapping it around my waist in the belt carrier. The cold hits me as I walk outside and I realise I don't have a jacket with me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Vaughn's sweatshirt on the back seat. He'd left it in there a few days ago when we'd gone to watch an outdoor concert in the park. I reach in the back and quickly pull it on. It still smells like him, and I start to tear up.

I press play on the walkman to get my mind off him, opening the hotel room and tossing my car keys inside. As the music starts, I feel better and walk toward the jogging path running along the beach. I take off running North, convincing myself the farther away from my problems I am, the better I'll feel.

I'm not sure how long I run, but the pathway ends as it comes closer to houses overlooking a cliff. I slow down and start walking back. Taking the concrete stairs, I walk down to the beach. It's almost sundown and the tide is coming in closer and closer as I start a slow jog along the waters edge.

The sun is setting on the horizon and I decide to stop. I walk far enough away from the water to be safe from the incoming tide and sit down in the sand. Pulling the CD player out, I select and program a particular song to repeat. Of course this particular song is a form of self torture, but part of me knows I need to face the demons I've been avoiding.

The haunting sounds of Moby's My Weakness reverberate through my mind and my soul. Images of the day flash through my mind: The last lingering kiss from Vaughn before I walked out the door, the look on his face as I accused him of hiding things from me, and the final nail in the coffin of my heart was the look on his face after he showed me the key to his apartment.

His key. The feeling of being punched in the gut hits me again. How could I have been so stupid? He wanted to give me the key to his apartment. That's guy speak for giving me the key to his heart. It's not surrendered easily or without a lot of thought, and I screwed it up. All of it. Everything.

The tears fall down my face, a few landing in the dry sand. I finger the sand trying to erase their evidence. If I do that, maybe the pain won't exist anymore. I look up at the horizon I can tell with the clouds the sunset is going to be amazing. I close my eyes for a few minutes and let the music run through me. I move one earphone off my ear so I can hear the waves crashing. Taking deep breaths, I let the combination of the two soothe and lull me until the tears have stopped. I open my eyes again and look at the brilliant shades of red and purple that have appeared in the sky.

All the pain is replaced by the beauty in front of me. I get up and walk down to the waters edge taking my shoes and socks off and pulling up my sweatpants before I step into the icy water. I don't mind it. It reminds me I'm still alive. That even with the pain in my heart, and in my world, there is still beauty in it. I just have to remember to look for it.

Standing in the sand with my arms around me, I watch the sun until it descends below the water. My feet are numb and I'm not even sure if I can move, but I don't care. It is healing.

The visit with my mother, although painful doesn't matter anymore. With or without her in my life, I know I'll be okay. There will always be part of me that wishes she'd never come back. I've wrestled with that guilt a lot since I found out she was alive. At first all I felt was hate, but slowly she got under my skin. She somehow filled the desperate need to have a parent, a real parent. How pathetic is that? A cold blooded killer who killed Vaughn's father, but the little girl in me that grew up desperately wanting a mother, allowed her back into part of my heart.

Did Vaughn ever discourage me? No. He selflessly reminded me that no matter what she'd done, she was still my mother. He'd even gone to see her to save me from having to do it. To save me from the pain that I didn't think I could handle. And how did I repay him? I doubted him, when beyond all doubt, all he's ever done is shown me he'd do anything for me. And what do I do? I let someone's witch hunt of the man I love, chip away what we'd so carefully built the last two years: trust.

I hate myself right now. I hate what I've become, so paranoid and mistrusting. I told Vaughn once, I was starting to expect that betrayal was a given, convincing myself that if I expected it, that it wouldn't hurt so badly. All it was - it was another lie I told myself. Another wall I put up. No one saw through that wall but Vaughn. No one even tried, but he did. He always pushed through it. He saved me time and time again, not just from the bad guys, but more importantly from myself.

I realise as I stand here, it wasn't about my mother at all. I thought when I left there in tears after lunch that it was because my mother was leaving me again, possibly for good. I know now it wasn't. My mother left me when I was six years old. The woman who stood in front of earlier was an incarnation of what I'll never really have. She wasn't real. She never would be.

But Vaughn - he was real. He is real. The one real thing I've had my entire life. Even Danny wasn't real. That relationship had been built on a bed of lies, which ultimately led to its destruction. I'll always love him, always, but there will always be a part of me knows that even if he hadn't been killed, it would never have lasted. Relationships built on lies never do.

I walk back up to the dry sand, my feet cold and numb. Burying them in the sand, I sit and watch the waves and the horizon until darkness overtakes the light. I'm getting cold, but for some reason I don't want to leave. I pull Vaughn's sweatshirt up over my nose and ears and inhale the scent, his scent. It warms every fiber of my being. It's like being in his arms again, safe, secure, and loved.

The tears are falling again but this time they are tears of happiness. The happiness that comes from knowing you are loved. We may have walked away from each other today hurt and angry, but nothing has changed. I know if I were to call him right now, he'd come running if I asked. He'd put aside his pain once again and save me from myself.

I look up and see the first star appear in the sky. And with it, I realise that this time, I don't need him to save me, I've saved myself. I look at the star, glistening in and out of the clouds and smile. Closing my eyes, I make a wish, saying the familiar rhyme from childhood. I feel silly, but it makes me happy. Looking at the star a final time, I get up and shove my socks in my shoes. Carrying them, I walk along the dry sand back towards the hotel.

I no longer feel like I'm running away. I feeling like I'm running toward something. I'm not quite sure what it is yet, but I'm no longer afraid. No matter what happens, all I know is that I'm standing by Vaughn. Whatever it is, whatever is going on, we're going to get through it, together. It's finally my turn to save him.

I arrive back at the hotel cold and numb. Maybe my wade in the water wasn't such a great idea, but I'm not sorry. Walking into the bathroom, I turn the hot water on for a nice bath. I unclip my phone, turning it on before I set it on the counter. As I removed my clothes, the familiar tone sounds telling me I have messages.

My heart leaps, it really does, it leaps, as I pick it up and look at the face. The display shows new voicemail messages. I smile and turn it to silent so I can have my bath in relative peace. There are no candles to light, no wine to drink, and no Vaughn to comfort me tonight, but the water still feels wonderful as I slip into its warmth.

I stay in the bath just long enough to eradicate the chill from my body. Stepping out, I quickly dry off and then pad out to grab a pair of jeans and undergarments from my bag and quickly put them on. I pick up Vaughn's sweatshirt and slip it back on as I grab my phone and walk out flipping the television on.

Sitting on the bed, I flip the channels finding nothing interesting and turn it off. I stare at the phone a moment. I know I need to call Weiss, but I need to listen to the messages first. Hoping there is a message from Vaughn, I connect to my voice mail nervously. The computerized voice informs me I have seven messages. Hesitating a moment, I press the key to listen.

Message one, 2:15 PM. (Shortly after I left the ops center) Weiss: Sydney, I talked to Vaughn. He didn't take it well and seems hell bent on finding you. Don't be mad at him, he's just worried. I'll expect to hear from you later like you promised.

Message two, 2:20 PM. Vaughn: Syd, where are you and why aren't you picking up? I'm sorry about earlier. It's been a hell of a day for both of us. I still want to take you out for dinner. Please call me.

Message three, 3:13PM. Vaughn: Sydney, please call me. I just need to know you are okay. I know you saw your mother - just call me.

Message four, 3:48. Vaughn: Dammit. Click

Message five, 4:26. Vaughn: I'm getting worried now. You aren't at the train station, or the pier. I'm at the observatory now and I've been everywhere else. Eric is dragging me to happy hour. If you don't want to call me, at least call Eric so I know you're okay. Please.

Message six, 5:49, Will: Syd, where are you? Vaughn's been calling for you and I'm starting to worry. Give me a call and let me know what's going on. Bye.

Message seven, 6:45, (about thirty minutes ago) Vaughn: *Slurring*. Syd…Syd, *sighs* I'm worried. Weiss is hell bent on getting me drunk and it's working. *silence* I-I don't know what to say here, Syd… what you want…*shuddering sigh* I just want to know you're okay…dammit…I just want you here in my arms. *silence* Look I know I'm drunk so I'm going to hang up now before I make a fool of myself. *silence* I…*deep breath* I need you -to call. Please.

The tears are falling down my face again, tears of relief, tears of guilt. Taking a deep breath I dial my house and wait for Will to pick up.

"Hello," Will answers.

"Hey Will, it's me," I say as cheerful as I can.

"Syd, where are you I was worried," Will asks quickly.

"I'm in Santa Barbara actually. I just needed to get away and be alone," I say truthfully.

"Is everything okay? Vaughn called several times and he sounded upset. Is something wrong with you two?" Will asks concerned.

"Everything is fine with us, Will. There is just some stuff going on at work and my mother and I just needed to get away for a bit," I explain.

"Alright, just call me if you need to talk, okay?" Will says sincerely.

"I will," I say. "Look, I haven't had dinner yet so I need to go eat. I'll be back tomorrow after work."

"Okay, bye Syd."

"Bye Will," I say, relieved to click the phone off.

I get up and walk to the window looking out. Part of me wants to call Vaughn, but knowing how drunk he probably is by now, I dial Weiss's number instead.

"Hold on," Eric says answering the phone. I can hear the noisy bar get quieter and realise he must have stepped out. "Sydney, you okay?"

"I'm fine Eric, I'm sorry I didn't call sooner," I say, feeling guilty.

"No it's okay, I knew you needed a little time. Where are you?" Eric asks.

"I'm in Santa Barbara," I reply and then add. "I took a run on the beach and sat for awhile."

"Are you staying there?" Eric asks.

"Yeah, I have a hotel for the night. How's Vaughn?" I ask, not sure I want to know the answer.

"Well, he'll have quite a hangover in the morning I'm sure. He hasn't done this with me in a long time. He won't remember a thing, but I'll make sure he gets home safely, Syd. Don't worry," Eric says, and it becomes obvious to me that he probably hasn't even been drinking.

"Thank you," I say grateful. "You're a great friend, to both of us,"

"Well, just remember that when you two name your first child," Eric teases, and I laugh.

"You know, I just realised how scary it is having you and Vaughn together and drinking," I say in jest.

"You should be. We have the names of all your children all picked out," Eric jokes. "I have enough blackmail material on him now to last for months."

"I don't even want to know, Eric. Look I haven't eaten. I'm going to drive up the road and finds something horrible for me to eat and then watch something sappy on the television and go to sleep," I say, getting up to find my shoes.

"You know, that's exactly what I had planned for the evening. I was thinking, Someone Like You, makes me cry every time," Eric mocks.

"Goodnight Eric," I say acting unamused.

"Night Syd," Eric says, as I click the phone off.

I put my shoes on and find the keys on the floor where I tossed them. I start to walk out the door, but decide to make one more call. I nervously dial Vaughn's home number, not quite sure what I want to say. His voice on the answering machine soothes me.

"Hey," I say hesitantly. "I know you may not get this until morning - I'm not sure where Eric is taking you from the bar. I just wanted to say, I'm sorry. I'm not running away from you. I'm running away from me. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" My voice cracks several times as I'm talking. I have more I want to say, but I know I need to do it face to face. That done, I close the door and head out to find dinner.

I run harder this morning than I did last night. Of course it's different this morning, last night I was running away, this morning I'm just running. The music of Alanis Morissette's latest CD, Feast On Scraps, pulsates in my ears in rhythm with my feet hitting the pavement.

When the CD ends and begins to repeat for the third time, I turn and head back toward the hotel. I self consciously realise as I head back north, that this morning I was running toward home, instead of away from it. I smile as Fear of Bliss picks up and I adjust my pace to match it.

sometimes I feel this is too good to be true
I sabotage myself for fear of losing you

fear of bliss and fear of joytude
fear of bigness and ensuing solitude

The words strike a chord inside me; it awakens part of my self-conscious. Is it that simple? Am I trying to sabotage the best thing that's ever happened to me because of my fears? Am I afraid of being happy? It almost seems unreal to be thinking that, but it makes perfect sense. The few times in my life that I'd been truly happy, were always tragically ripped away from me.

I realised last night as I was eating pizza and watching For the Love of the Game on cable, that I have held back a lot with Vaughn. I haven't put my heart out there for him to take yet, even though his has been out there for me to take from the start. What he doesn't know, is that my heart has been his almost as long. I'm just afraid to let him know it - to let him have all of it.

When I woke up this morning, I turned my phone on and was surprised there weren't any messages. Of course I figured Vaughn was probably in no shape last night to punch a button on a phone, either that or Eric didn't let him, probably the latter. I'm going to be very late getting back to LA. Kendall won't like it, but frankly I don't care. I have my pager on if anything comes up.

My pace back to the hotel is faster than the trip out. I think I'm anxious to get back. There are so many things I want to talk to Vaughn about. I've decided I'm going to tell him about the investigation. I can't live with this nagging doubt in my mind anymore. I need to know what's going on. I know he's got a reason for it. I just don't understand why he's hiding it from me, and who am I to judge about hiding things. I told Yeager that I loved Vaughn before I've even told him that myself. How messed up is that? Fear of Bliss. I've admitted it. Now the only problem is, how do I get over it?

Walking back into my hotel room to take a shower, I realise I don't have anything clean to wear to work. I pick up the phone I'd purposely left, and see there aren't any messages. I quickly punch the speed dial for Weiss.

"Good morning gorgeous," Eric answers.

I smile but cut to the chase. "How's Vaughn?"

"Sleeping it off at my apartment. I called him in sick this morning. I'm sure once he's coherent, oh I'd say sometime this afternoon, that he'll drag himself in," Eric says.

"Pretty bad, huh?" I say guiltily.

"He'll be fine. Are you on your way back yet?" Eric asks.

"No, I just came back from a run. I'm going to eat breakfast and then I'll head back. I figured it would be better after rush hour is over," I say, finding clothes to wear on the way back. "I have to run home for clothes too, so I probably won't be in until lunchtime or so."

"Don't worry about it. I haven't even seen Kendall today. I think he's at the CIA building most of the day," Eric says. "I'll see you when you get here."

"Thanks, Eric, for everything," I say, gratefully.

"Anytime," Eric replies, before I click off.

After a quick shower, I quickly dress and head back to LA. I stop at the first Starbuck's I see and get coffee and a muffin, sitting inside to eat it before leaving. I make pretty good time most of the way, but once I get close to the city, the traffic is still heavy even at ten o'clock in the morning. By the time I get to my apartment, it's almost eleven.

Grabbing the first suit my fingers touch, I quickly get dressed for work. Arriving at the ops center, I'm disappointed that Vaughn's sedan isn't in his spot. Maybe he won't make it in after all. I quickly walk inside intending to find Weiss, but he finds me first, walking beside me.

"Hey. You know the thing we're both involved in that we can't talk about?" Eric says quickly.

"Yeah," I say, caught off guard.

"Yeah, well, I know a guy from the farm who works with Yeager and he's about to file a formal charge against Vaughn. Mishandling classified intelligence." Eric says, stopping.

"What!" I gasp, turning around. The little voice inside me is suddenly awake and screaming. Evidence. They'd need evidence to do that!

"Yeah." Eric says, somberly.

"I need to talk to him!" I exclaim, starting to hit his speed dial number.

"No, no, no, whoa, wait, wait. You do that and you're breaking six different laws." Eric says, providing the voice of reason.

"He needs to know that this is happening!" I say panicked.

"Fine. But his phone is probably already tapped." Eric says, before adding quietly. "Agency cars are equipped with GPS navigators."

"Can you access the system?" I ask hopefully.

"Yeah." Eric replies, without hesitation.

I look at him a moment and stare, "You know you're implicating yourself if you do this."

"I know," Eric says, his eyes telling me he'll help in anyway he can. "Does Vaughn have any clothes at your place?"

"Yeah, a spare suit and a few things," I reply, my mind unable to grasp what he's asking. Suddenly it hit's me what he's implying. "I'll go home and grab whatever I can."

"You'll need to rent a car," he mumbles, his eyes communicating words unsaid. He picks up a piece of paper and writes down an address. "Leave your SUV at home, take a cab a few blocks from there and walk. Call me once you have the car and are clear."

I just nod at him wordlessly. So many things are going through my mind. I'm frozen. Weiss squeezes my arm and breaks me out of my reverie and I look at him a moment before turning to leave.

The drive home is a blur. I remember calling the cab, but otherwise I'm not even sure how I got here. All of a sudden I realise I'm parked in front of my apartment. I quickly walk in and gather up Vaughn's spare suit, a pair of his jeans, a shirt, and socks and boxers. I stuff them into a duffle bag along with a couple changes of clothes for me. Grabbing a smaller bag, I pick up his running shoes along with mine and stuff them in.

I'm in almost a full panic now as I walk into the bathroom grabbing our toothbrushes and stuffing them along with a couple of his things into my pre-packed toiletry bag I always have ready. Looking in the mirror, I see a woman completely lost and confused. I'm ready to run if I have to, I realise that now. Without question, I'd run with him if he asked. If I was afraid before, I'm terrified now. My feelings for him although confused and fearing betrayal, are stronger than anything I've ever felt.

The horn of the cab startles me back to reality and I stuff the toiletry bag in the larger bag. Putting both bags over my shoulder, I pick up both our suits and manage to head out to the cab. Giving the driver the name of a hotel near my destination, I sit back and close my eyes. My heart is racing and I take a few deep breaths to try to calm down. I know I need to keep my wits about this, but once again my world is spiraling out of control. Would someone please tell me how to make it stop?

I somehow manage to walk the three blocks from the hotel to the rental car company. Eric must have already called because I'm quickly in a car with an assurance it's not traceable. I drive around for about thirty minutes and after I'm sure I have no tails, I call Weiss. I know they took Vaughn's car to happy hour last night. I'm hoping Weiss will tell me Vaughn is still sleeping it off at his place. Of course he's not and gives me the cross streets and I nervously head there.

I'm not even sure what I'm going to do or say to him when I get there. As I get closer to my destination, the surroundings get bleaker. What the hell is Vaughn doing in this kind of neighborhood? It only encourages the little voice in my head. The voice that has been telling me they wouldn't be bringing charges against Vaughn unless they had hard evidence. This was Vaughn after all. His record had been spotless until he'd met me. Of course this has the little voice telling me… yeah too spotless

I shake it off as I drive down an alley, pulling up to the end and stopping. I see Vaughn's sedan parked outside and quickly call Weiss to let him know.

"I found his car," I say when the phone clicks.

"Roger that. Keep me posted," Eric says, quietly.

I grab the keys and get out determined. I'm not going to let the little voice win. I'm sure there is an explanation for this, for all of this. I trust Vaughn. I trust him with my life. I trust him with my heart. Don't I? I silently hate myself for even thinking that.

Walking around to the front entrance, the knot in my stomach is twisting unbearably. I can't understand what Vaughn would be doing in a dive like this. I step inside, and stop, immediately seeing Vaughn sitting at the bar. I recognize the man he's talking to from the picture that Yeager showed me: Porgaski, the ex-KGB assassin. The knot in my stomach moves to my heart as I see Vaughn hand Porgaski an envelope, taking one from him.

The exchange complete, Porgaski gets up and after emptying his glass, turns and walks out. I quickly move and pick up the phone as Porgaski walks by me to leave. I pause a moment, watching Vaughn as he looks at whatever documents he bought from Porgaski. Taking a deep breath, I walk over toward the bar. Each step feels like I'm walking to my possible destruction.

Trying to remain calm, I sit down on the chair next to him. He notices I'm there and just swallows as if to say something, but I beat him to it. "What are you doing here?" I ask, in a demanding tone.

He sighs. "Sydney..."

"I asked you a question," I say, trying not to think of the sound of my name from his lips.

"What's going on?" he says, looking at me confused.

"Don't tell me it was nothing," I say, trying not to let his eyes throw me off.

"Are you following me?" he accuses.

I look a way a moment to gain control before stating, "You just bought something."

"It's research," he says, unnerved.

"Research?" He nods. "What kind of research?" I demand.

He looks away before turning back and replying "It's something private. Something just for me."

"Who do you think you work for? Nothing is private." I say as he turns away again. "You're being investigated." I say, as he turns his head back toward me.

"What?" he asks, obviously stunned.

"And when they find out I've told you, I'll be a target," I say truthfully as he looks away distressed. "So don't lie to me," I plead.

He turns away a moment before turning and looking at me. His eyes beg me to believe him, "Sydney, I am not disloyal."

"Then why did they say you've been meeting with high-ranking FSB officers, an ex-KGB assassin?" I say, the words sinking into my head. He turns away and brings his hand up to his forehead rubbing it. "They have you in Istanbul, Prague, Krakow without authorization." I say as I watch him wrestling with an array of emotions. I'm battling my own too as I look at him obviously distressed. "Vaughn," I say, struggling to hold my tears from falling. "If there is some explanation for what you've been doing the past four months, I need to hear what it is - right now."

He looks at me again, those eyes of his implore for me to trust him. He looks down and says, "Now I understand why you were asking about secrets." He looks back up at me and says, "Yes, there is something I haven't told you." He turns away and begins, "It hasn't been easy, accepting the idea that my job requires me to - collaborate with my father's killer." He looks at me as the pieces start to fall into place. "And the fact that she happens to be your mother didn't make it easier. So I've been investigating her on my own for the past six months." I look at him taken aback as he continues. "I-I couldn't wait for the agency's red tape so I contacted everyone I could, anyone who knew her, who ran in the same circles." He bends over and pulls a thick file out of his bag, placing it on the bar. "I-I retraced sat phone records that were logged while your mother was with you in India, Kashmir. Tracked recorded conversations between your mother's former lieutenants to see if she signaled them when Kendall gave her access to Echelon."

"I don't understand. You wanted us to work with her. You encouraged it," I say confused.

"Because I believed your father was right about her having a secret agenda. I wanted to see what she was going to do. I mean, I did all of this on my own. I paid for this myself, I-I had freelance agents retrace every step of every hour she's taken outside operations since her surrender. I-I surveilled prison guards who we assigned to her cell block, the - the kitchen staff who prepares her meals..." he says, pleading his case.

"They told me you downloaded Xenon," I say, still trying to grasp everything.

"I downloaded that program to read KGB files. I had to find out if she was deceiving us again. I mean, I could not sleep at night knowing I was doing nothing. That somehow, I was helping her." he sighs.

I look down at the files he's spread all over the bar. I take a few minutes to thumb through the pages. I don't know what I'm looking for so I finally look up at him and ask, "And did you find anything?"

He looks a down a moment before gazing at me and replying, "Nothing. She's clean."

I'm not sure if I'm relieved or angry that he didn't find anything. The little voice has been silenced and is replaced by a queasy feeling. The feeling of knowing you let your fears and insecurities almost derail what you hold most dear. The tears start to fall and I look around for the restroom. I think I'm going to be sick.

"Syd," he says, concerned right before I bolt to the restroom.

I empty the contents of my stomach, somehow convincing myself I can purge the demons that have been chasing me the last couple of days. I'm crying as I try to get control. I can hear Vaughn outside the door calling me, but all I can think of is, what have I done? The door cracks open as I grab tissue to wipe my mouth.

"Sydney…" he starts to say before I interrupt.

"Give me a minute," I say, my throat raw and scratchy. I hear the door close and I lean back against the side of the stall. I take few deep breaths before walking out to wash my face and rinse my mouth. I refuse to look in the mirror. I can't face myself right now. I want to just hide in here and hide from everything. How can I face him? I can't even face myself.

After a few minutes of staring at the sink, I move towards the door and open it. I half expect to find Vaughn outside the door. I'm disappointed when he's not. Peering around the corner, I see him packing up the files. He turns my direction and looks at me. The hurt in his eyes sends a knife through my heart.

I don't even remember walking over to the bar but suddenly I am next to him. "You okay?" he asks quietly. I can almost convince myself that he cares, but how could he? I shake my head no grasping onto the edge of the bar. "Let me take you home, Syd."

"You can't," I mutter. "You're in trouble. They are filing charges."

The realization of what's been going on the last couple of days hits him. "Syd, you need to leave then. I don't want you involved in this."

Damn him. Why does he have to be so selfless? "No," I say simply, making eye contact with him. "I - I have a rental, I have clothes."

He looks at me a moment, confusion in his eyes before he grasps what I mean by that. "You are prepared to run with me if necessary, aren't you?"

I just nod at him as the tears fall again. I take a shuddering breath and say, "I'm sorry."

He grabs my elbow, a desperate look in his eyes. "Don't be sorry. We need to go somewhere and talk. Where's your rental?"

"Out back," I reply, the contact of his hand on my elbow sustaining me.

He places money on the bar and leads me out the back door. Quickly opening the trunk of his car, he grabs a bag before closing it. I lead him to my rental and he steers me to the passenger side as I wordlessly hand him the keys and climb in.

The silence is deafening in the car as he pulls out onto the main street heading for the highway. I close my eyes and put my head back. My arms are wrapped around myself as if they are the only thing holding me together. I hate myself right now. I hate that I'm so jaded by my past that I let this situation get the best of me. He would have never acted the way I have. He would have never doubted me. Never.

Opening my eyes as we turn again, I see we're getting on the highway heading south. It doesn't matter to me. I'll go anywhere with him. The only thing I'm not understanding right now, is after what just happened, why would he want me to come with him?

Vaughn POV

We've been driving for about ten minutes before I can't take the silence in the car anymore. Sighing, I turn on the radio to an 80's station. I know she'll talk when she's ready. One thing I've learned in the two years I've known her, is that you don't force Sydney to do something she's not ready to do. I'm hoping once I decide where the hell I'm going and we stop, she'll be ready to talk.

The commercials on the radio station end and a new song starts. Ah, Billy Joel, just what I need. I reach over and turn the radio up a little. I start tapping my hand on the steering wheel to the song. I can see Syd look at me out of the corner of her eye and I can't help but smile a little. As the familiar lyrics go through my mind, I can't help but think how appropriate this song is. It's all about trust.

Some love is just a lie of the heart,
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start.
And they may not want it to end,
But it will, it's just a question of when.
I've lived long enough to have learned,
The closer you get to the fire, the more you get burned
But that won't happen to us,
Cause it's always been a matter of trust.

I don't know what to do for Sydney right now. She's obviously been through hell the last couple days. I'm not angry at her, although I know if I told her that right now she wouldn't believe me. Sydney needs to work through this herself. She's wrestling with her inner demons right now and as much as I'd like to help her through it, I know there isn't anything I can do, except wait.

I'm not sure where we're going. I'm going to have to go into the Ops Center and face whatever is going on, but it's late in the day and Sydney and I need some time to sort this out first. It amazes me that she was willing to run with me if I'd been guilty of something. I honestly didn't know she'd go that far out on a limb for me. I hoped she would, but I've known all along it was going to take some time to win her heart.

As much as I hate the circumstances of how we met, I think if we'd met in a normal way, I never would have had a chance with her. She had the walls up so high when I met her, they were nearly impenetrable. But having to work with her and getting to know her through our meetings forced her to let them down a bit. She had to learn to trust me. Her life depended on it.

Now I know you're an emotional girl.
It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world.
But I can't offer you proof,
But you're gonna face a moment of truth.
It's hard when you're always afraid,
You just recover when another belief is betrayed.
So break my heart of you must...
It's a matter of trust.

I look over at her and see her struggling to hold it together. Her fists are clenched and she's taking steady breaths trying to calm herself. I want to reach over and touch her, but I'm afraid she'll crumble. I know this isn't all about me. It's about her mother too. Something happened when they met. Of course I was too busy being and idiot and then getting drunk last night to find out. Add into that the grilling she's probably gone through from whatever ass they sent to investigate me.

The only thing I'm a little angry at her about is not coming to me right away. I could have saved her the obvious anguish she's been through. Of course there is the fact that I could also have told her about what I was doing in the first place. I know why I didn't: my incessant need to protect her. I figured if I found out anything I'd tell her, if I didn't she'd never need to know. Of course I was naïve and should have known better. I tried to cover my tracks all this time. The only thing I really did wrong was downloading Xenon to my laptop.

Sydney has been betrayed so many times in her life that I can only imagine how she felt when she was called in. The investigators they send for circumstances like this are trained to intimidate and are good at what they do. I shudder just thinking about it. I'm sure she put on her strong demeanor on the outside, but on the inside I know she was being ripped apart. She's told me on more than one occasion that I'm the only person she completely trusts. I've always made sure I've respected that and tried not to jeopardize it. I only hope my investigating her mother isn't an irreparable breach.

You can't go the distance,
With too much resistance.
I know you have doubts,
But for God's sake don't shut me out.

I get off the highway at the next exit and head toward the beach. I'll find a hotel and we can hopefully sit and work this all out. I'm sure she has a lot of questions. I could be wrong though and she may not want to talk at all. She may shut me out. One of these days she's going to realise she only hurts herself more by doing that. I know Sydney sees it as a form of protection for herself. In reality, it only hurts her more.

Since we began our relationship after the takedown of the alliance, I've been careful not to push things too fast. Surprisingly, she's been moving things along faster than I'd expected. We've hardly spent a night apart since that unbelievable first time. To say it was nothing less than earth shattering doesn't even begin to describe it. Every fantasy I've had, and believe me there were plenty of them, were blown out of the water by the real thing. I'm not sure why it surprised me so much. Maybe it's just the fact that I finally had the woman of my dreams in my arms and discovered she wanted me just as much.

This time you've got nothing to lose.
You can take it, you can leave it,
Whatever you choose...
I won't hold back anything,
And I'll walk away a fool or a king.
Some love is just a lie of the mind.
It's make believe until it's only a matter of time.
And some might have learned to adjust,
But then it never was a matter of trust.

I pull onto the Pacific Coast Highway and look for a hotel. I'm relieved to see she's relaxed a little. At one point I think I saw her drumming her fingers along with the song. I wonder if the words are having the same impact on her as they are me. There is no better truth than the words being sung. I haven't held back much from her. Sure there are still things we're both learning, but never in my life have I been this open and comfortable with a woman; never. I've even been called emotionless and maybe I was. That all changed the day Sydney Bristow walked into the CIA. That was the day I became a fool for love.

I'm not saying things with Sydney are perfect, they aren't. There are a lot of issues we need to work out that we haven't even begun to address yet. It's only a matter of time. Some of them I don't even want to address. I know we can't avoid them all together, but I figured like everything else the last two years, we'll eventually address and work together to solve the issues. I can only hope we can transfer that into our personal relationship.

I'm sure you're aware love,
We've both had our share of,
Believing too long,
When the whole situation was wrong.

Looking over at Sydney a moment, I'm relieved to see that she's unwrapped her arms and is staring out at the ocean. I knew bringing her to the ocean would calm her. I only wish it was under different circumstances. We've been talking about getting away for a weekend, driving down to San Diego, but getting a couple days off together lately has been impossible. The only time off we've had was after Dixon and I rescued her from Kabir's compound. She'd gone straight to the Ops Center to write her debrief and then I'd whisked her home.

She was exhausted mentally and physically from the time she spent in the compound. Of course she didn't want to talk about it, but I read her debrief. I'm only thankful I was able to get to her before the physical torture started. Emotionally though, she was a mess, and not just from Kabir. The horrible incident at the church really affected her. Hell, it got to me too. I'd drawn her a bath when I'd taken her home from the Ops Center. She'd fallen asleep as I'd caressed her cheek. I'd let her stay until the water cooled and then woke her. I dried her off, helped her get dressed, sat and towel dried her hair, before tucking her in bed. She'd slept most of the next twenty four hours. I'd gone into work the next day only to be sent home by Kendall. I was worried about Sydney and was obviously distracted.

So I'd merely gone to her place and crawled in bed with her. She slept contently in my arms as I read quietly part of the time. I also caught up on the hundreds of hours of sleep I'd missed since she walked into my life. . I worked half a day the next, coming back to find her curled up in bed crying. It broke my heart. It made me wonder about all the other times she'd cried alone the last two years. How many of those tears had been about me? Weiss told me how she'd nearly fallen apart after Taipei. I saw firsthand the pain and fear in her face when the virus nearly killed me. And Alice, I can't imagine how many tears fell because of my stupidity with that. I know I can't do anything about the past, but somehow I vow that she isn't going to cry alone again. Of course in reality, I know that's not possible, but that doesn't quell the incessant need I have to protect her from everything.

Some love is just a lie of the soul.
A constant battle for the ultimate state of control.
After you've heard lie upon lie,
There can hardly be a question of why.
Some love is just a lie of the heart.
The cold remains of what began with a passionate start.
But that can't happen to us...
Cause it's always been a matter of trust.

Maybe that's one of the reason's I'm not even upset at her right now. I'm more upset at myself for causing her the obvious grief she's gone through the last couple of days. Instead of protecting her I've ended up hurting her. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a no win situation. Everyone thinks she's so strong. I've even heard people refer to her as icy. The truth is, she's the most passionate, caring, and loving person I've ever met. It's just buried under the numerous protective shields she's so carefully constructed. Somehow I was given the key to get through most of them. Not all of them - yet anyway. There are barriers we still haven't broken yet, on both sides. It's only a matter of time before they all fall.

Spotting a hotel on the beach that looks fairly empty, I pull off into the parking lot. I look over at her and see the tears falling from her eyes. And as the song comes to an end something occurs to me. The proverbial light bulb goes off. I realise it isn't me she doesn't trust. This isn't all about me. Sydney has been betrayed so many times by nearly everyone in her life. The truth is simple: she doesn't trust herself.

I pull into a parking space and as I place the gearshift it park, I suddenly feel a hand on mine. I look over and she's still looking out the window, but another barrier has just been broken. I place my other hand on top of hers and bring it up to my mouth, gently kissing it. There aren't any words spoken, just a silent understanding that seems to have occurred in both of us. It's always been a matter of trust. And that trust, will somehow get us through everything to come.

It's a matter of trust...
It's always been a matter of trust...

Sydney POV

I'm holding onto Vaughn's hand right now like it's a lifeline. So many things are going through my mind right now I can't even think. It's a conscious effort right now to even remember to breathe. The song is still going around in my head reminding me what the truth is. The truth is that I trust this man more than I trust myself. The real issue is me. I need to learn to trust myself again. But how do you do that?

We sit in the parking lot a moment before he breaks the silence. "You need to go get a room for us Sydney," he says quietly as he squeezes my hand reassuringly.

I just nod, still not looking at him. I squeeze his hand before I release it trying to convey that I'm okay. Or at least coherent enough to do what I need to do. Taking my fake ID and the cash I'd pulled out of the teller on my way to the rental agency, I head inside to get us a room.

Door key in hand, I return to the car informing him, "Our room is down at the end." I point to the end closest to the ocean. He starts the car and parks in the space right in front of the door. We quickly get out grabbing the bags I hastily packed and go inside. It's a pretty nice room. A table and two chairs are to the left by the window, a king size bed, and dresser with a good size television. A small refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker are next to the dresser. A small closet area is on the wall right before the sink. The bathroom is on the left with a nice big tub.

Vaughn hangs our suits up and looks through the bags. Grabbing the toiletries bag he sets it on the counter. That's one of the things about Vaughn that took me by surprise, although I'm not sure why. He's very organized and meticulous. Not in an anal way, he throws his socks on the floor like any other man, but they never stay there long.

I realise I'm just standing here doing nothing. I walk over to my bag and grab a pair of jeans and a sweater to change. I start to walk into the bathroom, but change my mind. I think self consciously I want to show him that nothing's changed. I still trust him. I'm not ready to tell him with words, but I hope my actions of stripping down and changing in front of him convey what, at the moment, I can't say in words.

He smiles at me and continues moving things around. The bag he brought has a change of clothes and an extra gun and clips. I jump when my phone rings. Looking at the ID I see it's Weiss. I completely forgot to call him back. "Hey, I'm sorry I forgot to call you," I say, mouthing to Vaughn that it's Weiss. He nods and continues putting things away.

"I assume you found him," Weiss says.

"Yeah, we're at a hotel. Everything's okay Eric. We'll be in tomorrow morning to get this all sorted out," I say, relief washing through my body as I hear the words come out of my mouth.

"I'll let Kendall know. I'm sure he can keep Yeager at bay until then. Call me if you two need anything," Eric says, relief evident in his voice.

"I will Eric, and thank you, for everything," I say gratefully.

"Anytime, Syd," Eric says. "Tell him I'll kick his ass for this later."

I smile as I click the phone off. "So Eric helped you find me?" Vaughn says, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Yeah, he arranged for the rental too. It's untraceable," I say, putting the phone down on the dresser. "Are you hungry?"

"I could eat," he says, rubbing his forehead. "You?"

"Not sure," I say the knot still working its way out of my stomach. "I need something to settle my stomach though. I'm going to run to that little market we passed a few blocks back. Anything I forgot that you need or want?"

"No, you did a great job packing what I'd need, Syd. Thank you," he says looking tired and worn out.

We lock eyes a moment, neither of us sure what to say to each other right now. Time, we just need a little time, I tell myself. I manage a little smile and tell him, "I'll be right back with some food then."

He hands me the keys from his pocket and our hands linger a moment. Not sure if I'm doing the right thing, I lean down and kiss him gently. He responds and I'm relieved as we share an affirming kiss. A kiss that says that everything will be okay, we just both need a little time. I break away, near tears and quickly leave before they fall.

Gathering my composure, I drive to the market and walk up and down the isles. I don't know why, maybe I'm avoiding going back to the hotel. I'm not sure what to say to him. I don't even know where to start. I realise I've been through the whole store and haven't even put anything in my cart. Trying to focus, I head to the deli area and have a couple sandwiches made up. I grab a salad from the case and pickup plastic ware as I head to the drink section. Grabbing a six pack of ginger ale I head to the check out. As an afterthought I take a couple wine cooler packs from an end display on my way.

I have to laugh when I'm asked for ID when I get to the register. I quickly hand her my fake one and pay with cash. I place the bags in the trunk when I notice a Chinese food place next door. The sign says they deliver and I walk in and look over the menu. I order and pay for dinner, arranging for it to be delivered to the hotel later tonight. Looking at my watch as I start the car, I'm surprised I've been gone almost an hour.

Arriving back at the hotel, I open the door and see Vaughn lying on the bed with his arm over his face. I come in as quietly as I can but he gets up taking the bag with the wine coolers from me. I hand him the styrofoam container with his sandwich and pasta salad in it and toss him the package of plastic ware. I put the other container and the salad in the fridge taking a ginger ale for now.

"There's another sandwich in there if you need it," I tell him as he opens one of the wine coolers.

"Aren't you going to eat?" he asks concerned.

"No," I say sipping my ginger ale. "I think I'm going to take a walk on the beach."

"Alright," he says a little disappointed.

I start to walk out and then turn and say, "I ordered Chinese for later. They are going to bring it around seven."

"Sounds great," he says, a half smile forming on his lips before he takes a swig of the wine cooler.

Closing the door, I walk down toward the sidewalk above the beach. It feels like déjà vu. Only yesterday I didn't know what was going on, tonight I do. So why the hell do I feel so lost? I walk south along the sidewalk. It's pretty empty since most people haven't gotten home from work yet. Sipping my ginger ale as I walk and listening to the waves, my stomach is slowly settling.

My thoughts wander randomly. I smile as wonder what it would be like to get a little house on the beach with Vaughn. We could jog together along the beach, and take Donovan for walks after work. I smile just thinking about it. The only question is, how do I get there from where we are right now? Right now, neither of us knows what to say to one another. That's not totally true. I'm sure Vaughn knows exactly what he'd say. I'm the one that doesn't have a clue right now how to make this right. He just knows, like he always does, that I need time to sort this out myself first.

After I've walked for about thirty minutes I turn around and head back. I've figured nothing out but at least the knot in my stomach seems to be gone. People are starting to arrive home from work and the sidewalk is filling with joggers and people walking their dogs, normal people and their normal lives. Will I ever have that?

I walk down to the beach and walk along the waters edge. I suddenly focus on trying to figure out what I'm so afraid of. Why can't I trust myself? I know I'm not stupid. I think things through rationally whenever I have a decision to make. In fact I think way too much, but that's part of the problem. I need to learn to trust my heart again. Maybe that's not the right way to phrase that. I need to find a way to let my heart trust that I'll not set myself up for heartbreak again. Is that even realistic though?

Thinking back to the time I was with Noah and then Danny, I held myself back for so long in both relationships. Everything was done with a lot of thought put into it. Almost like if I evaluated every aspect I'd be taking less risk. Just like my missions. I shake my head realizing I can't expect matters of the heart to be the same. I need to learn to just let go.

As the sun starts to dance on the horizon, I can see the hotel up ahead. I suddenly wish Vaughn was here with me. I stop when I arrive in front of the hotel and turn and watch the waves. I close my eyes and listen to the sounds around me. After a few minutes I open them, feeling peace and warmth pass through me. Without even needing to look, I know he's here.

Can you see me there when I'm standing alone?
How did you know I needed you here?
Can you feel the screams from the depth of my soul?
Is that what makes you appear?

I turn enough to glance out of the corner of my eye to see he's standing a few feet behind me. He's waiting for me to let him know it's okay for him to be there. How does he always know what I need? I take a deep breath and start talking.

"The man they sent, Mitchell Yeager is his name. He's smooth and arrogant. He kept trying to trip me up by asking the same questions he'd already asked. I was in with him for four hours. Four hours. That was Tuesday morning, the phone call I got calling me in when we were at the rink. I can't begin to explain everything that went through my mind as he showed me pictures and records of the places and people you'd been in contact with." I pause a moment, shivering as the wind picked up.

Suddenly a jacket is around my shoulders and I lean back into him. Our hands join at my hips and he says gently, "Go on, I'm listening."

The tears are welling up in my eyes as I continue, "He asked me right away if we were intimate. I told him that was none of his business. Toward the end he handed me a disk and wanted me to make a copy of your hard drive. He said it so arrogant like, you know just do it when he's in the shower or asleep. Like it's no big deal. I told him there was no way you'd do anything. I told him there wasn't a chance that you were a traitor or would do anything to betray this country." I stop taking a deep breath before I say, "He told me he'd known my mother and how charming she was. He reminded me how well she'd fooled everyone."

See, I often wonder, in the presence of this all,
what we did to become this way.
And, I'll never forget when you whispered to me.
You said, don't worry it'll be ok.

The tears are falling from my eyes now and he brings his head against mine as he squeezes my hands and whispers, "It's okay."

Almost sobbing I say, "The last thing he said to me before he let me go - I wanted just jump across the table and wrap my arms around his throat. He asked me what my priority was, national security or my new boyfriend."

"Bastard," he says bringing his arms around me, our hands still clasped.

"I was so angry at the time. All I wanted to do was find you and find out what was going on, but you were at headquarters and later when I talked to you on the phone I realised how ridiculous it was for me to be even worrying about it. I just tried to push it aside. I thought maybe it would all just go away. You came home and I tried to ignore it. While you were in the shower I got your laptop out. I was going to just look… I-I wasn't going to copy it, I just needed to see," I say as I cry.

"Sydney," he says, his voice cracking.

"I couldn't do it. I couldn't look. I closed it and went and curled up on the couch. But all that time… the last couple days, it was eating me alive," I say as he starts to rock me gently in his arms.

Sometimes the sun calls our names.
And, sometimes we listen.
Sometimes the devil's there,
but we just can't go with him.

"After I pulled you over yesterday morning and you showed me the key… I-I was so sick about it I almost threw up in the bathroom, but then I got angry. I got angry at Yeager for doing this to me; to us. I marched in there and dropped the disk on the table in front of him. He seemed so pleased with himself until I told him the disk was blank. He tried to threaten me. He told me I was going to be prosecuted as an accessory. I told him I understood, but he just kept pushing me." I cry as he tightens his arms around me.

"Shhhhh, Syd, it's okay, I don't blame you. I'm not angry or upset at you," he says sincerely.

I pull out of his arms and take a couple steps before I turn around and practically yell, "But you should be, Vaughn. You should be angry at me. You shouldn't even want to be anywhere near me. But you are, you are," I sob, turning back around to the water as I wrap my arms around myself. "And I don't understand why? I almost betrayed you. My fears and insecurities almost caused me to betray you. I hate myself for that. I hate that everything in my life has caused me to become so jaded and fearful that I hurt the only person in my life that's ever been real."

He is silent for a moment before he says softly, "But you didn't Sydney. You didn't betray me. It doesn't matter what you thought or felt. What matters is that you didn't," he says as he moves behind me putting his hands on my shoulders. "Do you have any idea what that means to me, that - that you were willing to run off with me if necessary without even knowing the truth?" He wraps his arms around my chest as he places a kiss on my neck. "Sydney…"

Can you hear me now when I'm standing this close?
Can I tell you one of my fears?
See, I hope you live to sing when I die,
'cause if you're gone,
I don't think I want to be here no more.

"I was so scared Vaughn," I say interrupting him. "That's why I ran away last night. I-I had to. I couldn't face you. I couldn't even face myself."

"Where did you go?" he asks calmly. "I was so worried about you. I didn't get your message until late morning."

"I-I didn't even know where I was going. I just drove. Next thing I knew I was in Santa Barbara. I got a hotel. I ran along the beach, walked on the beach. I waded in the water until I was cold and numb. I thought I made peace with everything. I came back and took a bath and then listened to your messages. I was crying when I was done. I was so relieved that you didn't hate me. I was so determined to come back today and make things right," I say wondering what happened to the peace I'd found last night. "And then I got back to the Ops Center right before lunch and Weiss told me that Yeager was filing formal charges against you. And it all fell apart again. I was coming back to help you, to stand by you. And I failed."

"But you didn't fail, Syd. You're here. You're here with me. How is that failing?" he murmurs in my ear.

"Because I doubted you, for a time I actually doubted you. In the bar earlier…"

"Syd, stop," he interrupts. "Look I can't say that I would have done the same thing in your shoes. I'm sure Yeager pushed every button he could use to turn you inside out. And it worked. So what? And this may piss you off Syd, but you're a woman. You may try to be strong and impenetrable, but I know better. I know you. The real you that no one else sees. I see you." He turns me around and lifts my chin up before continuing. "You didn't fail. If you failed you wouldn't be here with me now. You wouldn't have tracked me down at the bar. If you failed you wouldn't even have tried." He brushes the tears off my face as he cups it. "You've never failed me, Syd. Never. You are always there when I need you."

I look at this man who has risked his life and career so many times for me and suddenly the damn breaks and I'm sobbing. I cry safely cradled in his arms and I realise that all the fears and worries I had the last couple of days were so foolish. Why did I even let myself believe that he would ever walk away from me so easily?

'Cause sometimes the sun calls our names.
And, sometimes we listen.
And, sometimes the devil's there,
but we just can't go with him.

After I cry in his arms awhile, he whispers softly, "Hey, you're getting cold, let's go inside."

I shake my head and say, "I want to watch the sunset."

He doesn't say a word as he steps back grabbing my hands and pulls me toward the first break wall. He removes his jacket from my shoulders and I slip my arms inside. He sits partially on the wall and pulls me back against him. He wraps his arms around me and we remain that way wordlessly as the sun descends.

I finally break the silence and say, "I stood in the water last night and watched the sunset and all I could think of was you. I thought about a lot of things actually, but everything came back to you. I don't know what I'd do if I ever lost you, Vaughn. I would never have made it through the last two years without you. You know that don't you."

"There were times I wasn't sure. There were times I thought I made your life more difficult, but I somehow always knew. It's nice to hear you actually say it," he teases. I laugh and he adds, "You are the best thing that's ever happened to me. No matter what happens tomorrow or anytime in the future, don't ever doubt that."

Sighing as my breath hitches, "I may need you to remind me of that now and then."

"Everyday for the rest of my life," he says as he tenderly kisses my cheek.

I turn around in his arms and cup his cheek, "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too. I should have told you. I could have saved you from everything you've been through. I was just trying to protect you. I'm so sorry, Syd." he says, brushing the hair back from my face.

"I understand though. I do the same thing in a lot of ways. I think you know what I'm talking about," I say not wanting to mention my mother.

"We're going to have to figure out a happy medium here, Syd, but not now," he says as he leans in and kisses me with a fervor I've not felt since our first kiss.

I return the kiss eagerly before we breathlessly break away. "I missed you last night." I say relief still flooding through me. "We will talk about it though, right?"

"Yeah, we will," he says in between kisses. "What time is the food coming again?"

"Around seven," I say, wishing I'd told them a later time.

"We have time," he says, moving me and taking my hand to walk back up.

"We can always reheat. We have a microwave," I say laughing as I follow along behind him.

He pulls me back up to him and kisses me again. "Maybe you should call and ask for a later delivery," he says smiling.

"Or maybe I should just cancel it all together," I say kissing his neck.

"Nah, just change it to eight. I'll need the food to keep up my strength," he laughs.

And with the laughter the fears are chased away. I look at this man in front of me, my man. The man I now trust with my heart. I suddenly have no doubts at all, that everything will be okay. We'll fight the devil together like we've fought everything else. The devil will never know what hit him.

Sometimes the sun calls our names, oh…
Sometimes we listen.
Sometimes the devil's there,
but we just can't go with him.

"Syd… Syd," I hear as I slowly wake up from a sated sleep. "Sydney!" I open my eyes slowly to see Vaughn sitting on the edge of the bed. "Good morning, beautiful. If you still want to watch the sunrise together, you better jump in the shower now." He leans forward and kisses me before getting up and moving one of the bags over by the door. Obviously, he's been up awhile.

I sit up on my elbow and just watch him a moment. He's got jeans and a sweater on, but is still barefoot. I can't help but look at his butt as he bends over. Michael Vaughn has the best ass I've ever had the privilege of being intimately acquainted with. Of course that goes for all of him. It's funny actually, any man I've ever been with, there was always something I didn't like about their body. It wasn't enough to turn me off or cause me not to date them, but there was always something not quite right. Michael Vaughn is the exception. Not that he's perfect, he has his share of scars and I've never really liked tattoos, but it's funny, with him I don't care. I've kissed every mole, scar, bruise, and mapped every part of him in my mind.

"What are you smiling at?" he asks, catching me staring at him.

He walks over and pulls the sheet up over my chest and I can't help but smile. "What's the matter? Am I distracting you?" I say, sitting up with the sheet around me.

"Always, but you made me promise to drag you out to watch the sunrise. Now get that beautiful body of yours in the shower," he says, kissing the top of my head.

I reluctantly get up and keeping the sheet wrapped around me walk towards the bathroom. Part of me is tempted to drop it and then call his name before I walk in. I know I could easily persuade him to join me, but the reality that this could be the last sunrise Vaughn and I get to share together for a long time, if not ever, quickly erases those thoughts.

Right now I don't even want to think about it. All I want to think about is the wonderful night we shared last night. I turn the shower on letting it get nice and hot before I step in. Part of me doesn't want to wash the evidence of our lovemaking off. His smell, his sweat, I close my eyes as I lean forward into the water.

All I can think about is his lips, his touch, his voice. When we'd returned from the beach, I was barely in the door before he had me against it and his lips were assaulting mine. We never even made it to the bed. Our coupling was frenzied and needy. Both of us desperately needing the quick release that the tension and stress from everything going on around us.

I never even had time to change the delivery time for our dinner. Luckily we'd had time for a quick shower before the food showed up. We sat at the table only talking about our current problems briefly. We decided once everything had been worked out with Yeager, we would get away and discuss my mother. We promised to openly discuss how both of us felt about everything. No holds barred. The rest of dinner was spent talking about anything other than the problems we were facing.

I grab my shampoo and lather my hair as I remember our tender lovemaking after dinner. Vaughn is by far the most amazing lover I've had in my life, not that it surprised me. What surprised me, was that every time I think it can't get any better it does. I'd fallen into an exhausted, sated sleep after we'd made love for the third time shortly after watching a midnight movie on cable.

The tears start falling from my eyes unexpectedly as I rinse my hair. The reality that we might have made love for the last time hits me like a ton of bricks. Yeager isn't one to mess around. I know he's going to go after Vaughn with every possible charge he can find. If he can make the treason charge stick, Vaughn could spend the rest of his life in prison. I close my eyes and say a silent prayer before I step out and grab a towel.

Walking out to grab my clothes, I see Vaughn standing by the window. I can only imagine what is going through his mind right now. I quickly dress and walk up behind him, wrapping my arms around him. I don't ever want to let go. "It will be okay Sydney, I promise," he says sighing. Only Vaughn would try to comfort me at a time like this.

"Let's go down to the beach," I say softly. He turns around and cups my face and kisses me before we quietly walk out the door.

The pavement is cold as we walk down barefoot to the same breakwall we sat on last night. As the darkness starts to fade, we walk down closer to the water and turn around to the east as the water laps at our feet. It's cold, but somehow I think it both reminds us that right now we're both alive. I'm safely cocooned in his arms as he holds me from behind.

"Just promise me one thing today, Syd," he says, his warm breath against my neck.

"Anything," I say without hesitation.

"No tears. This isn't goodbye," he says brushing a kiss on my neck.

Of course hearing him say that almost makes me tear up, but I take a cleansing breath and repeat, "No tears."

"I'm sure he'll be calling you in again. Don't let him get to you," he says, encouraging me.

I smile and say simply, "I won't. I played right into his hands the last time I was in there dropping off the empty disk."

"You never finished telling me what else happened," he says tenderly.

I take a deep breath and say, "He knows about us. You need to know that before you go in there so he doesn't use that against you." Once again he knows I'm not done and patiently waits for me to finish. "When he'd told me there would be consequences to my actions, for not copying your hard drive. I said something I shouldn't have."

After I'm silent for a minute, he tightens his arms around me before asking, "What did you say?"

"I told him there were consequences, that was my point," I reply. I close my eyes not sure I'm ready to admit this to him but figure it's now or never. "I said to him, ask yourself, would you betray someone you love?" I quickly add hoping he'll forget what I'd just admitted, "And of course his answer was the he now had an answer to the intimacy question."

He is silent for a moment, and I'm internally cringing for telling him that right now. It's not exactly the best timing. Suddenly he says, "I hope you know I would never betray someone I love either."

I can't help but smile. I should have never expected our first I love you to be done in the conventional way. Nothing about our relationship has ever been conventional. It doesn't matter though. It only reminds us of all we've overcome to be standing here on this beach together right now. "Are you ready?" I ask, knowing we need to get dressed and face the day ahead.

"As ready as I'll ever be. Thank you," he says, swaying me in his arms.

"We'll get through this. We always do," I say, turning around and catching him wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. I don't think it would be possible to love this man in front of me anymore than I do right now. But then, I never thought it was possible to love someone like this in the first place.

We hug an endless moment before he places a lingering kiss on my forehead. Smiling at me, he tugs at my hand and I follow closely behind him as we walk back toward the hotel. I suddenly realise that there is nothing I wouldn't do for him. Nothing. Isn't that what love is all about? I smile, knowing the answer in my heart and in my mind. And somehow knowing this, I'm convinced that everything will be okay, beyond all doubt.

fin