Title: The Lightkeeper

Author: UConn Fan (Michele)

E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Story Summary: "Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light." - Albert Schweitzer

- My attempt at a getting V&S together post-SD-6 fanfic. Oh, & I took some of my TN/CTT characters for the heck of it!

A/N: You guys are so going to hate me for this . . . I've got a lot of nerve starting a new (probably multi-chaptered) story before I even come close to finishing Trying Normal . . . hehe, too bad! I'm evil, my life has sucked the past week, so deal with it! :) (not trying to be mean, you all know I love you lots and lots!)

I owe everyone lots of e-mail; I'm working on that, promise, but Meg was in the hospital last week & UConn has lost THREE TIMES NOW (my poor Mike; he's so damn cute, only I would have a crush on a guy who NEVER plays) so I've been busy with that.

I want to know everything that you guys think; please R&R! Whenever I get a review, I let out a little scream (seriously, just like I do when something good happens on Alias; ask Meg!) so it's awesome for me and even better for my (at times) fragile ego.

This is very much inspired by Rhonda's "The Invitation". If you have not read that, STOP HERE - GO READ IT! it is the BEST fanfic I have read in ages, arguably the best S/V fanfic I have ever encountered. If she's reading this - even if she hates it - a response would make me SOO happy!

This is my first attempt at including some I/J & W/F into a story, so tell me what you think!

Michael Vaughn didn't need to read a calendar to remember that it had been twenty-five months and six days since he had last seen Sydney Bristow. Somehow, that number was always easy to remember, compared to the number thirteen, which were how many months he'd been married to Alice.

Then, of course, there was the number nine; the number of days he'd been back in Los Angeles.

The truth was, it had been a long twenty five months and six days - seven hundred and sixty six days, his mind mentally popped in - since he'd last seen Sydney. Bad and good had happened, but he knew he hadn't found the happiness he had been so sure he'd strike after the Alliance crumpled. Part of him continued to hope that wherever Sydney was, she'd been less foolish and luckier than he'd been.

In truth, the CIA owed a lot to the Alliance when it came to the destruction of SD-6. Word had been leaked out of the Alliance in early April of 2003 that the Alliance was investigating the possibility of shutting down the SD-6 cell. There were great concerns that significant funds were missing, missions were being blotched on a nearly regular basis, and there appeared to be several moles and not a single legitimate suspect. All trust in Arvin Sloane had been slowly gnawed away over the course of time, and his failures about to catch up with him.

The possibility of SD-6 just collapsing under its own corruption had never occurred to the CIA. When the opportunity arose, and an informant in the Alliance leaked out a date for the destruction of the cell, the CIA acted. Within three days the teams were in order, and a mere two days later the office was raided. Unfortunately by then Arvin Sloane was gone, along with an estimated hundred million dollars that he'd been embezzling from the Alliance.

With SD-6 gone, but the Alliance still intact, Sydney was aware that it wasn't safe for her in the states. Unwilling to go into Witness Protection, and with her double-agent status already blown, she came up with an unlikely solution. With Vaughn's help she was accepted into the Peace Corps. The paper trail was nonexistent, and he wasn't even aware of where she was sent. All he knew was that she was safe as an education volunteer for the program. She had been the one to point out that such a program was the last place they would have expected; the CIA had arranged for her to go to a country she had never been, that was far enough from civilization to gain her anonymity but close enough if she needed to be extracted immediately.

He had mixed emotions knowing that Sydney's desperate measures phone call had never come. In the end, his relief won out over any childish disappointment. Sydney's safety was far more important than his ridiculous need to hear her voice and see her again. Their relationship had carried a tense undercurrent during its last few months, since he'd casually picked up his relationship with Alice again. By the time SD-6 crumpled, he was the one bringing up personal topics of conversation, anything to salvage an extra few minutes with her. Although she hadn't fully pulled back - she still smiled and answered any questions he had - there was something more reserved about her. Something that made a swift punch to the gut seem less painful.

By September the CIA had tracked down Sloane. He had holed himself into a cheap motel room off the highway in a tiny, dusty town south of Tulsa. Three weeks the CIA surrounded his room, vainly attempting to negotiate. Keeping the media and curious locals away had been almost as frustrating as trying to contact the man inside. There had been minimal communication - his demands, the government's replies - for nineteen days. Then on the twenty-first day, having not heard anything in two days, the government broke into his room. Sloane had overdosed on painkillers and had been dead for an estimated eighteen hours when they found him.

Two days later, after too many mornings spent hung over after dancing with Captain Morgan the night before, he proposed to Alice. Sloane's death had forced him to confront what he'd spent so long avoiding: Sydney was gone. It was for her benefit, but there would be no happy ending. The Peace Corp. was not only her chance to be anonymous, but also her opportunity to give back to a world that she felt she had taken so much from. With Alice he could be content; they could have a house and kids. Together they could pay a mortgage and run a house and take kids to sports practices. Perhaps it wasn't everything he had dreamed for himself, but it was normal and safe for everyone.

The Alliance tumbled over on itself on October 4, 2003. Key players were arrested and indicted on the necessary charges. A few short weeks later, after she spent days with a cramped hand, overused from writing everything she knew, Irina Derevko was released from the cell that had been her home for over a year. As Jack had once proposed, the house on the beach that came fully equipped with around the clock surveillance was hers. She had held up her end of the bargain, since Sark had fallen right into their hands only days after Sloane's body was discovered. That way she was given a strong illusion of freedom, and was always available if they needed information. Eventually the CIA discovered that freedom was a powerful tool - once she began enjoying her freedom, her gardening, lounging around her home, Irina was even more willing to tell them what they needed when the opportunity arose. The last thing she wanted was to be brought back to that horrendous cell, and it wasn't as though she was a young woman anymore.

Aside from Alice, his personal life expanded slightly. By the end of SD-6, Will had been working as an analyst and researcher for the CIA. Shortly after Sydney left. Will and Mike began a friendship. They'd go to hockey games or play against one another on the weekends. Eric and Will got along famously as well, and the three friends would play hockey or baseball for hours on the weekends. Over time Will and Francie even embarked on a relationship. As surprising as it had been at first, it almost made sense. They knew one another fabulously and had a great time together. Romance was a natural progression of their relationship.

He married Alice in April of 2004, almost a year to the day after he last saw Sydney. As badly as he scolded himself for it and as hard as he tried to fight it, it was Sydney on his mind when he woke up and went to bed on his wedding day. The wedding had been modest, held in the Napa Valley region that she had been raised in. Alice's brother walked her down the aisle and his mother sat in the front row. His sister Charlotte was one of Alice's bridesmaids; Patrick, his brother in law, was one of his groomsmen, while his niece Maya was the flower girl.

Brigitte Vaughn had attended the wedding, shaken hands and made polite conversation, but had told her son from the beginning that she felt he was making a mistake. No one could argue that Alice was a nice, good person, but Brigitte felt strongly that she was simply not right for her son. After much questioning from her younger brother, Charlotte confessed that she agreed.

Needless to say, his mother was even less thrilled when he and Alice went promptly from their honeymoon to India. Needing to be out of L.A., he had accepted a yearlong assignment to India. He had taken the position with the state department with the hope that being in a new place with his new wife would help their relationship and help him forget the one thing he couldn't have. Truth be known, newly wedded life was almost a disappointment. Being in a different country, really only knowing one another, he'd entered the marriage with pre-conceived notions of early marital life. He'd expected to walk in the door and want to ravish his new wife against the wall, or to spend most of their free time half naked around the house, sharing showers, brushing up on one another's most delicate areas.

It was nothing like that.

The job's hours were reasonable; he even found himself enjoying the work. Alice was never particularly close to the family she had remaining in California, and had claimed she'd be fine with the move. Instead, he'd come home to find her sulky or complaining about another aspect of their life. Either he wasn't doing enough around the house, or he didn't trust her enough to take care of the house on her own. He'd offer to make dinner at night, and she'd translate that into meaning that he didn't like her cooking. He seemed to take one step forward and seven shuffles back; he felt as though he was walking a tightrope with nothing underneath to catch his fall.

During a brief holiday trip back in December, he had been glad to see things going noticeably better for Will and Francie. So well, in fact, that Will rented a billboard that one passed when getting off the exit leading to Francie's restaurant. Calling in some connections at the CIA, he had it painted with his wedding proposal to Francie & his cell phone number. Within two days, he had half of the city calling to ask what she had said, and even ended up on the evening news. Francie's response had been an obvious yes, and their wedding was fast approaching.

Their permanent return to Los Angeles, which he had desperately hoped would raise his wife's spirits, had done no such thing. Being back in California was a mixed blessing. On one hand, he was closer to Eric, Will and Francie, people he loved spending time with. As all things seemed to go for him at that point, Alice despised them. They annoyed her; they had such few common interests. Francie had gone out of her way to e-mail Alice while they were in India, desperately trying to get to know her, but Alice made no room to budge. Nothing beyond a cordial, barely pleasant e-mail or phone call had ever passed between the two. Not that Mike blamed her, but eventually, Francie stopped bothering.

Often he wondered if it was that Eric, Will and Francie all had a connection to Sydney. While he had never clarified to his wife who Sydney was, she had heard the name enough to know it meant someone important. Mike's reservation in talking about her only infuriated Alice even more. None of his friends spoke about Sydney to him anymore, particularly since his marriage, although he suspected that Will and Francie remained in contact with her. Talking about her hurt too much - she was doing well, she was safe, and that was what mattered. If he knew where she was it would be too tempting, and he had to deal with the life he had built for himself.

Another downside to being in California was that it proved his mother right. Brigitte had only seen them once since they arrived back in Los Angeles, but had promptly called her son at work on his first day back to ask when he was filing for divorce. His mother took him aback - she was an old-fashioned Catholic who only believed in divorce in the most extreme circumstances. Then when he had answered that they weren't getting divorced, he listened to her scold him in French for nearly an hour and a half. Deep down, he knew he deserved every bit of his mother's anger, but he was in too deep with Alice to walk away now.

Michael walked out of the bathroom, adjusting his tie as he went. It was the second Monday of May, just a few short days until Francie and Will's wedding. Will had asked him to be one of the groomsmen, and while he had accepted, he was still searching his brain for an excuse as to why Alice wouldn't be with him. When he had brought up the subject, she had barely allowed him two words before she told him in no uncertain terms, no; if he were childish enough to associate with such people, he would do it on his own.

"When are you going to be back?" Alice groaned. While it wasn't even six thirty in the morning, and his wife still lay nestled in the bed, her voice already had an aggravated edge to it. It seemed that he was damned if he didn't spend time with her, and damned if he did.

"I'm not sure what work's supposed to be like. Eric and I have a meeting with the Deputy Director and some other agents late in the afternoon. Do you have any plans?"

"What the fuck do you think?" she snapped as her head still lay on the pillow. "You need to get bread. And milk. You forgot to get them last night and I need them so don't forget this time."

"I won't," he promised as he slipped on his suit jacket.

"That's what you said yesterday and you still forgot," she muttered.

"Damn it, give me a break, okay?" he snapped as he slid on his watch. The horrendous state of the marriage rested heavily on both of their shoulders and he knew it. "Jesus, I'm doing my best," he mumbled as he walked over to her. Out of habit he kissed her cheek and told her he'd see her later.

"Don't forget the fucking bread and milk!" she called one more time as he shut the bedroom door behind him.

An hour later he sat at his desk, absently toying with his favorite gold coin. The item had been played with more in the past thirteen months, than in the first thirty some odd years of his life combined. Eric Weiss stuck his head in the room, knocking on the door to grab his friend's attention.

"Coffee? Or what the CIA claims is coffee?" he joked, walking in and handing his friend a paper cup.

"Thanks," he sighed and took a sip.

Eric sat down and studied his friend. Relationships had never been his strong point, at least romantic ones, but he was sure that marriage was supposed to make a person smile. One year of marriage was supposed to make your eyes sparkle, your smile grow wider, and you should still want to spend the rest of your life with that person. Instead, his best friend looked horrendous; his once bright eyes now seemed diluted by wear and tear, the bags under his eyes grew, and his mouth was constantly drawn into a frown.

"Long night?"

"Yeah," he sighed.

"My guess is the honeymoon stage is over," he quipped.

"What honeymoon stage?" he bantered, taking another sip of the coffee.

"I know I asked you this when you got engaged, and right before the wedding, but for shits and giggles I think I'll ask again. Not to quote your brilliant mother, but why the hell did you marry her?"

"Alice is a good person," he softly reminded him. Deep down he still believed that, but that good person was buried underneath all the anger and miscommunication and frustration that had built up over their short marriage. "She and I have a normal life."

"If misery is normal - which the divorce rate does nothing to disprove - then you're normal."

"Is it that obvious?"

"Only because I have eyes," Eric shrugged. "Mike... It's not that you're not a good couple, or she's not a good person... It's just... Whenever I've seen you with her, it doesn't feel like it's the real you."

"What does that mean?" His defenses - and his eyebrows - instantly rose at the question.

"You let her do most of the talking, you don't really smile, and when you do, it seems unbelievably fake. It just seems that one moment you spend legitimately happy with her, is countered by five minutes you spend forcing yourself to be happy with her."

"Eric, I love Alice."

"Yes, you do," he agreed. "You love Alice. You've known her since you were nineteen years old. Summer love and all that crap. She was your first . . . Maybe not your first kiss, but let's face it buddy, she was your first everything else. You love her, you love what you've known with her, but you're not in love with her. You were nineteen when you fell for her, what the hell did you know? Maybe you never were in love with her."

"How long have you been married?" he snapped. Instant regret hit his heart as his friend pulled back as though he'd been physically slapped.

"You're right, I'm not married, but right about now I'd make a safe bet that you wished you weren't either."

"I can't leave her now."

"I know," his friend smirked. "Believe me, I've heard all the damn reasons why you can't leave her a million times over countless glasses of rum and coke."

"I don't drink anymore."

"Oh, but I bet when you go home at night you wish you still did."

"We're just having a rough patch."

"A thirteen month rough patch?" Eric quickly silenced when his friend sent him a sharp look. "Listen, I'm just giving you my opinion, it doesn't mean shit unless you agree with whatever I'm saying. I'll leave you alone, but don't forget about that meeting."

"I won't," he promised as his friend walked out of his office.

"Sorry." Sydney Bristow smiled at a nun as she accidentally bumped into her. It had been years since she'd been in an airport, and it almost seemed foreign as she walked over to the conveyor belt. Still not having fully adjusted to the time change, she covered a large yawn as she scanned the belt for her luggage. Most of her important earthly possessions - including her wedding gift for Will and Francie - were in her suitcase. If the airline lost it, she'd be screwed.

Five minutes later, carefully skirting around a frantic looking mother with two young children, she grabbed her suitcase. Pushing her way through the crowd at LAX, she stepped outside into the L.A. air for the first time in two years. Walking up to the sidewalk, she spent a few seconds vainly trying to hail a cab until one finally noticed her. Apparently, in her obviously rumpled jeans and T-shirt, she didn't look as promising of a customer as the businessmen and busy families that surrounded her. Slamming the door shut, she slid her suitcase next to her. After relaying the directions to the cab driver, she sat back and tried to relax.

Everything about Los Angeles - even the slightly smoggy skyline - was a relief to her. People still went about their lives oblivious to one another, the sun continued to shine, and trees continued to grow. As wonderful as her time away had been, she had missed this. Soon enough she'd see her father and she'd get to see Francie and Will and observe their romantic relationship for the first time. She had missed everyone terribly, and her arrival hadn't come a moment too soon.

Paying the cab driver, she fought with her suitcase before walking up the sandy walkway. Pushing a disobedient strand of hair behind her ear, she looked around her as she rang the doorbell. Seconds later she heard it open, a voice calling out, "Sydney! You're home!"

Looking up, she met her mother's big brown eyes, surprised at how wide her smile was. "Hi Mom." She smiled as Irina pulled her into an embrace.

"Your father just left, he said that you'd be arriving today!" she explained as she welcomed her daughter into the house. Sydney had been expecting something similar to a safe house, and was surprised at how comfortable everything appeared to be. The living room was done in warm earth tones, mostly tans and light browns. A small fire burned in the fireplace, although it was a fairly warm June day.

"Dad was just here?" she asked, her confusion growing when she noticed something on her mother's left hand.

No, her mind quickly amended, not just *something*; a simple silver band on her *ring finger*.

"Yes," Irina smiled widely. Quickly reading her daughter's confusion, she continued, "You can ask you know."

Sydney smiled and shook her head. In truth, she was too tired to even consider trying to translate her parents' relationship. No matter how hard they tried to fight with their heads, she was slightly relieved to see that their hearts had won out. In fact, they were still married, her mind reminded her. Although she knew how much deceit and pain her parents had caused one another during the span of their relationship, seeing that they appeared to legitimately care - possibly even love - one another, gave her hope in that her conception had not just been a rouse or completely pointless.

"You must be exhausted," her mother gently spoke, taking the suitcase and setting it in the corner. "Why don't you go take a shower and then when you come back we can sit and talk?"

Despite her reservations, she found herself nodding. The only person she'd had contact with since she had left was her father. On the brief occasions where he'd mention her mother, he'd given her no reason to believe she was anything less than trustworthy. There was no way she could completely forget or forgive her mother's sins - most noticeably, killing the father of a man who had once meant the world to her and then abandoning Sydney when she was only six years old - but they could move on. They could continue to build a new relationship. Since she'd turned herself into CIA custody three years ago, she had been nothing but cooperative and true to her word.

An hour later Sydney sat on the carpet in front of the fireplace, her legs tucked comfortably underneath her. Her hair was still damp and slightly curly from the recent shower, and curled around her face as her mother walked into the room.

"Here, warm tea. I know you have things to do, but it'll help you sleep later," Irina smiled as she handed her daughter a mug. Then she sat down across from her, almost a mirror of her daughter, as she balanced her own mug in her hands.

"Thank you," she smiled and took a sip.

"So what was it like?" she asked, eager to hear all of her daughter's stories. Irina's one and only frequent visitor was Jack, and he'd constantly talked about how she was doing, but she wanted to hear about her daughter's experiences from the source.

"Hard," she sighed but didn't stop smiling. "I think I'm more ready to be a teacher now than I was when I left. I've learned a lot, not only about the country, but about how to be a good teacher."

"Where were you stationed?"


"I've never been there," Irina realized.

"Neither had I, which was part of the reason I chose it. A lot of my work was in Yerevan."

"The capital," her mother recalled as she nodded.

"Yes. I learned how to make Yalanchy Sarma, which are stuffed grape leaves, and Patlijan Kufta, which are eggplant meatballs. . . I was given the opportunity to work with some wonderful students. One of my students even received a scholarship and will be starting at Oxford in the fall."

"Oxford? That's impressive."

"She didn't even know English when I started working with her," Sydney beamed proudly.

"You must be glad to be home though."

"I've missed Los Angeles... I've missed everyone. It feels like I've missed so much."

"Your friends are getting married, aren't they? Francie and Will?" she recalled Jack's mention of it.

"Yes. They weren't even dating when I left, and now they're getting married in a week. I have to go to the seamstress' tomorrow. Francie ordered the dress for me, so hopefully my dress size hasn't changed too much since I left."

"You look wonderful, I'm sure the seamstress won't have any problems," she insisted.

"I promised Dad I'd go see him before I went home..."

"Where are you staying?"

"I don't know yet," she laughed. Will had moved in with Francie, and while she knew the offer was open, she didn't want to barge in right before their wedding. There was the option of staying with her father, but she realized not for the first time, that she had no idea where her father lived.

"You could stay here," Irina cautiously suggested. "I have an extra room... I'd love to have you around," she confessed as Sydney smiled. Her relationship with her mother would never be easy, but no Mother-Daughter relationship ever was. The important thing was that she could at least *have* a relationship with her mother, and simply be able to talk to her mom about something less critical than nuclear warheads and antidotes to terminal diseases, was more than she had hoped for.

"That'd be nice," she smiled. Her plans hadn't even included seeing Will and Francie until the following day, and the extra time with her mother would be nice.

"You need to see your father too. Will you be going to see Agent Vaughn as well?"

Quickly her smile evaporated, the sadness clearly written in her eyes as she shook her head. "No, I wasn't planning on it."

"He's not happy Sydney."

"You haven't seen him," she reminded her mother.

"I haven't," she conceded. "However, it was obvious years ago that whatever attempts he made to live a normal life would end in misery. He's been in India for a year on assignment; my guess is to escape the memory of you."

"Mom, he's married," she explained. "I'm sure he and Alice are very happy together," she said confidently.

Despite the pangs in her heart, she did wish that they were happy. Falling in love with Vaughn had taught her a lot; one being that the CIA's rules of protocol weren't all that stupid, and they could have saved her a lot of pain. In the end, however, she wouldn't have changed how she felt for him, even if it remained forever untouched. When she saw Alice, she didn't feel jealous, just sad; she wanted him happy. He had wanted normalcy and she hadn't been able to offer it at the time; she wasn't sure she'd ever be able to, but if he was happy then she was happy. At least Alice had seemed like a really nice person, which, at times, she wasn't sure she counted as anymore.

"You at least need to see him Sydney. I'm sure he'll want to know you're back and safe. I doubt the man's slept well in twenty four months, wondering where you were and if you were okay."

"I doubt Vaughn ever thinks about me," she insisted.

"You can't possibly believe you meant so little to that man."

"We were colleagues."

"Sweetheart..." Irina shook her head as her daughter took a sip of her tea. Sydney's eyes fell on her watch and realized how late it was. "You need to go see your father?" Irina smiled as she nodded and started to stand.

"I'll be back later, if that's okay?"

"That'd be wonderful," she agreed. "I'll make dinner, your favorite," she promised.


"Would you like to borrow my car?"

"You have a car?"

"There's a tracking device, and once in awhile I'm even tailed, but yes, I have a car." She smiled as she reached over and handed her daughter the car keys.

"You don't need it?"

"What for? I'm going to stay here and cook dinner. Go see your father, and while you're there, go see Agent Vaughn. Even if you just drop by his office and tell his secretary you're back in town. Trust me, Sydney," she whispered as she placed her keys in her daughter's hand, gently folding Sydney's fingers over them. "Agent Vaughn's going to want to know you're back."

"I'll see you in a few hours," she promised, purposely making no such promise.

For the first time, Sydney walked into the CIA through the front door. There was no reason for her to be scared anymore. She did have tails on her, but given the fact that she was driving her mother's car, she instantly recognized them as CIA employees. During the short ride over, she had played with her mother's radio, getting readjusted to Los Angeles radio, all while trying not to obsess over what she had seen on her mother's left ring finger. When it came to her parents, it could mean a myriad of things. Perhaps they got along well enough to decide that a divorce was too much of a hassle; perhaps it was something more than that. Either way, she wasn't certain she was ready for the whole truth on her first day back in Los Angeles.

Walking past the front secretaries and security guards, Sydney showed her clearance ID. At that point she was glad to remember that once you had security clearance, you always had security clearance, no matter how long it had been since you used it. Making her way towards the elevators, she watched the men and women at work for their country; no one looked familiar, but their cause, keeping the country safe, was one she still held dear to her heart.

Nowadays, her father's office was on the fourth floor of the CIA building, a few doors down from the office of Deputy Director Devlin. A few various people seemed to recognize her as she stepped onto the elevator; not so much as Sydney Bristow, (although according to her father and Will, she had become something of a CIA legend) but as Jack Bristow's daughter. All things considered, she reasoned that there were far worse things to be known as. Such as Irina Derevko's daughter. As much as she loved her mother - and she long ago accepted the fact that, good or bad, she *would* always love her mother - she didn't particularly want to be remembered as the daughter of a Russian assassin who murdered twelve CIA operatives.

Pushing past a few people, she got out of the elevator. The fourth floor, just as the first, was filled with people going about their workday. They were all oblivious to her. Turning right, she started down a hallway towards her father's office. A quick glance at her watch, and she estimated that he would be out of his meeting shortly. Before she had even left Armenia he had told her that he had a meeting the day that she arrived, but wanted her to come by the CIA anyway. Just as she was building up her relationship with her mother, she was working to repair the gap with her father as well.

Turning the corner, she stopped in her tracks, nearly bumping into two unsuspecting CIA analysts. No more than two feet away, walking in her direction, was Michael Vaughn. Although he was looking down at a folder in his hands, there was no question as to whom it was. His face looked drawn out in worry, and he looked as though he hadn't slept in ages. There he was though; if you added in a wedding band and a batch of new wrinkles, he was exactly the man she remembered.

Michael walked quickly down the hallway, scanning the folder in his hands. The meeting with Jack, Devlin and Eric had gone reasonably well; he had all of the Intel they had asked him to bring. The entire meeting had gone far faster than he had suspected. Eric was usually the one who attempted to rush meetings along, but today Jack Bristow seemed in a hurry to see it end it. Whatever he was planning on doing after was obviously more important than attending a monthly review meeting.

Sensing someone watching him, he stopped walking and looked up. There wasn't just *someone* watching him - *Sydney* was watching him. Blinking twice, he wasn't entirely sure she was real. Just standing there, in the CIA hallway with her hair slightly damp, dressed in jeans with a turtleneck peaking out under a sweatshirt. The _expression on her face, one of surprise and shock, was mirrored on his own.

Taking a few precarious steps towards her, he shut the folder and looked at her. From the gaze he held on her, she wondered if he was just waiting for her to vanish. "Syd?"

Laughing nervously, she smiled. "Hey."

"Hi." His eyes widened.

Unable to stop herself, Sydney stepped forward and pulled him into a hug. Seeing him had been the last thing she wanted to do, but then he was right there in front of her. He looked far worse for wear than she did, and she hadn't slept in nearly two days, as well as suffering from jetlag from her significant flight from Armenia.

"You're back," he realized as she stepped out of his arms.

"Yeah, I just got back today," she explained as she nervously brushed hair behind her ear.

"Where were you?"


"Armenia? Armenia," he said surprise. His reaction reminded her of when she had saved him in France. Of course 'France' sounded far more romantic on his lips than Armenia did, but she supposed Armenia was a type of word that was hard to make appealing. "Wow," he softly explained, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Yeah," she smiled as he met her eyes.

"What... What are you doing here?" he asked when he remembered that she was no longer an employee of the CIA.

"I'm here to see my dad," she informed him. He nodded, suddenly aware that Jack's earlier behavior now made sense. If he had known that he'd be seeing her for the first time in two years, he would have rushed through the meeting as well.

"You should probably go then," he remembered as she nodded. "It was... really nice to see you again."

"Yeah," she agreed, her sad smile breaking his heart. "It was."

Quickly grazing his top lip with his finger, he glanced up at her and then down at the floor before quietly remarking, "I missed you." After his confession, he managed to look up and gauge her reaction.

Keeping her eyes in the direction of the floor tile, she responded, "I missed you too." She looked up and smiled at him. The smile that he returned caused his face to relax, and he looked far younger than he had mere seconds before.

"You should go see your dad," he remembered in a gravely voice. Another sad smile crossed her face as she nodded and walked by him.

Neither noticed the other glance over their shoulder to watch them walk away.