Sydney caught the look her parents were sharing and smiled. "I think I will take you up on that. I am feeling a little tired and there is so much more I want to know." She stood and picked up the bottle of whiskey, murmuring a soft goodnight.
"Hmmm. See you in the morning, honey."
"Goodnight sweetheart. Irina, shouldn't you at least wait until she's left the room?"[/i]
Sydney stopped at the kitchen and grabbed and empty tumbler from the cabinet. She walked up the stairs, trying to ignore the sounds emanating from the den. She tried humming to herself as she treaded down the hallway to her room. Once inside, Sydney banged the door shut. Throwing her handbag on the bed, she started rummaging through the dressers and the closet for a change of clothing. She found one of her father's old shirts hanging behind a heavy winter coat. The dresser drawers yielded underclothing and jeans. Satisfied with her haul, she shed her clothes and slipped on her father's shirt. The scent of his cologne still clung to the fabric. It was an odor that always seemed so uniquely his. She pulled the shirt tightly to her chest, soaking in the spicy scent. As a child, she always felt the safest when she wore his shirt to bed, allowing his smell to surround her.
She picked up the bottle of whiskey from the table and poured out a generous portion, before settling comfortably onto her bed. The night had been one long roller coaster ride. She took a hefty gulp of her drink, letting the alcohol burn its way down her throat. Another gulp brought her the subtle warmth of the liquid, allowing her to relax against the pillows. She stretched out under the covers, her foot hitting against something solid at the end of the bed. Glancing down past her feet, she saw that her purse had worked its way near the footer and was perilously close to falling off edge of the bed. She rescued the bag and started to place it on the table next to her, when the hard edge of diary slipped out from its confines. She took the book out, opening it to the first page. Her mother had neatly inscribed June 1974 to December 1977 on the inside cover.
Judging from the dates, the diary covered the first two years of her life. The thought of reading about her baby years was narcissistically appealing, but the book held her mother's private thoughts. Reading it seemed an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, she'd read some of the diary earlier, and that hadn't contained anything too personal. What could a few more pages hurt?
"Goodnight sweetheart. Irina, shouldn't you at least wait until she's left the room?"[/i]
"I've waited far too long, Jack. Besides, Sydney's a big girl now. She knows what happens between a man and a woman."
"Yes, but a child usually doesn't witness her parents going at each other like horny teenagers."
"I feel like a horny teenager."
"Hmmm. Well I feel like a husband who has been without his wife for far too long." Jack got up and held a hand out to Irina. She took it and pulled herself up. Instead of releasing him, she drew him to her, her lips capturing his. The kiss deepened and they clung together, pulling apart only when startled by the sound of a door slamming against its frame.
Jack smiled. "Sydney."
Irina laughed. "It was a very good slam. I'm proud to be her mother." She traced a finger across his lips. "That was very much like our first kiss."
"Mmmm. Not quite. This time I get to take you to bed."
"You could have done it that time, too."
"Well, how was I to know you were ordered to have sex with me?"
"It wouldn't have had anything to do with orders. My handler was all for stringing you along for a while. I, [/I] on the other hand, wanted very much to make love with you."
"You're welcome." She brushed her hand through his hair. "I know you've had over twenty years to rethink our relationship and the time we've had since then has been very short, but Jack…, what we had would not have lasted very long if I hadn't loved you. You would have seen through me very early in the game. You know that here." She touched his temple. "Now try to believe it here." Her hand covered his heart.
Pulling her hand to his lips, he placed a gentle kiss at the bend of her wrist. "You never did finish telling us about your father. Why did he give up trying to bring you back to Russia?"
Irina would have preferred to discuss their marriage further, but recognized Jack's not so subtle change of subject for what it was; he needed more time. "Why do you want to know that?"
"I'm just surprised he let go so easily."
"Not so surprising, really. I told him the truth."
"The truth? You told him you'd fallen in love with me?" She nodded. "But Irina, all he had to do was tell the KGB and you would have been on the first plane home."
"I knew he wouldn't."
"How could you be so sure? He almost sold you off to the highest bidder…"
"Jack, he was arranging my future. It was how things were done in our circle." She pulled him closer. "He knew when I married you that there would be no one else. He was happy for me, but worried about what would happen should I ever have to leave."
Jack kissed her temple, smoothing her hair behind her ears. "You wanted Sydney?"
"Yes, Jack, I wanted Sydney. She was made because of my love for you."
"You need to tell her that."
"Tomorrow." She put her finger against his mouth. "Let's go to bed."
"Good idea." Jack took her hand and they walked together up the stairs. When they reached the top step, Irina stopped. She turned to him and started unbuttoning his shirt, laying tiny kisses along his chest as each opened button revealed more flesh.
"Irina, can't we at least wait until we get to the door. Our daughter is just down the hall."
Irina gave a throaty laugh. "Good, maybe we can teach her a few things."
"I'd rather she didn't…Irina, please tell me that wasn't my zipper…" Jack groaned as his wife's hand slipped along his hardened shaft. "Oh God, honey, you're hands are like magic…"
They both jumped when loud music suddenly blared from Sydney's room. They pulled apart. Irina glared at Sydney's door. "You don't suppose she's planning on keeping it that loud all night?"
"No, she'll turn it down in a little bit. She used to do that when she was a teenager."
Irina turned her glare on to her husband. "Jack, you haven't been bringing other women to our bedroom?"
"What? No, the loud music was usually after an argument. Curfew. Boys. You know…, the usual."
Her glare turned to sorrow. "No, I don't know. Oh God, Jack. I really wanted to be here for her during those years." Tears hovered in the corner of her eyes. Jack brushed at them gently as Irina struggled for control.
"I know," he whispered softly. He held her for a moment, then pulled back, looking deep into her eyes. "Besides, I usually reserved a room at the closest hotel for all my women." His lips quirked into a smiled and added, "The desk clerk knew me by name."
"Jack, you better be trying to cheer me up. Otherwise, I'm going to shoot you." Jack laughed and swooped her off her feet. Irina gave a startled yelp and Sydney cranked the music louder.
"Jack, what are you doing?" Irina shouted over the music. "You'll injure yourself..."
"Are you saying I'm too old?"
"You're as young as you feel."
"Well, right at the moment, I really do feel like I'm a man in my fifties." He pulled her tighter to his chest. "But I love the feel of your body against mine."
"Hmmm. You have the body of a 20 year old, darling." She leaned in to kiss him, as he moved them closer to the bedroom. "Trust me, I know."
"And you were complaining about my women!" Carrying her through the threshold, he kicked the door shut behind him and laid her on the bed.
"I used sex to survive, Jack. You know that. But that's all it was. Every time they touched my body, a part of me died inside. I couldn't even fantasize that it was you sharing my bed, for fear I'd call out your name." She felt his body tense against hers. "They never touched my soul, sweetheart. Only you have ever done that."
"You told me all this last night, Irina. I wasn't questioning you just now."
"I just need to be sure that you believe me. I need you to know that you possess not only my heart, but my soul."
"I think we've talked enough for one day. I'm ready for the part where actions speak louder than words." Jack's hands reached for the hem of her sweater, expertly lifting the top over hear head as she fell back against the pillows.
"I'm very good at the action parts," Irina sighed, as Jack quickly shed his own clothing.
Sydney opened the diary to the first entry.
My little friend, it looks like you are going to be my only company for a while. Five weeks. It seems an eternity. The bed feels so cold without him. I gave a 'pop quiz' to my students today. None of them seemed very surprised. Jeremy Dayton wrote me a note on the bottom of his paper. He wanted to know how long my husband was going to be away this time. I had to laugh.
Yes, little book it's me again. Angela asked me where my husband worked. I told her teachers are not allowed to give out that type of information. Then I asked her why she wanted to know. According to her, several of my students decided it was time to take action and ask his boss to send him home. A 'win-win' situation, she said. [/I]
Sydney looked up when she heard muted laughter from the hall. Her parents. Automatically she reached for her old stereo and jammed up the sound. She laughed softly. She hadn't done that since she was a teenager. A startled cry pierced over the music and Sydney cranked the box higher.
Ten minutes passed before she decided it was safe to lower the volume. Turning it off completely was out of the question. No child should ever hear her parents making out. She turned back to the book, scanning through several entries that followed the same vein as the first two. In August, the tenor changed.
Jack surprised me Friday. Somehow, he convinced the Grand Poobahs to give him a weekend pass. We spent almost every minute in bed. Mostly we were making love, but sometimes, we just held each other close. It was all I could do to let him go away again. His pillow smells like him again. Five more weeks. Eight hundred and forty hours.
That Jenny Marest is very perceptive. This morning, she asked after Jack. When I asked her how she knew he'd been home, she said I looked happy. Well, I am happy. I will always treasure last weekend.
We didn't have much time together, little book. The next five weeks will be very boring for you, since I will probably spend it remembering the weekend. I was supposed to teach two classes last Friday, but I called in sick. Lydia covered the classes for me. She asked after Jack. Am I so transparent?
We had three whole days of just the two of us. It was wonderful. Every part of me still aches today, but I don't care. I'm sure Jack is equally sore. [/I]
Sydney quickly turned the page, as her mother started to describe exactly how sore. Scanning once more, she located the part that was more interesting to her.
I'm not feeling very well, little book. I think I might have the flu.
I'm pregnant. Yes, I am sure. Six tests in all sure. You will forgive me, my little friend, for the unsteadiness of my hand. I don't know anything about being a mother. Babies are so fragile. Jack will make a good father. He's so gentle and patient with the neighborhood children. Jerry was over just the other day telling me how much he missed Jack helping him out with the Little League team.
Jack will be home in a couple days. I will KILL the next person who assigns Jack to another of these long-term missions.
I told Jack about the baby today. He's so excited. We haven't told his family yet. He thought we could tell them when we visit at Thanksgiving. I'll be near the end of my first trimester by then. His mother will not be happy with us for keeping it a secret from her for so long, but Jack seems to want to enjoy our pregnancy just between us. He had to tell his boss. There shouldn't be any long-term assignments for a while now. Jack's trying to get transferred closer to the project site. I want him to wait until after the baby is born.
Thanksgiving was very interesting, my friend. Jack's mother went out shopping right away. I'm not even showing yet … at least when I'm wearing clothes. Jack has noticed the other changes already taking place. My breasts are more tender when he touches...
Sydney turned the pages quickly, skipping over the varied sexual references. Learning her father was 'well-endowed' was not one of things she really needed to know.
She kicked me, little book. Yes, I said 'she'. Of course, we really have no idea if it's a boy or a girl. We decided we'd rather be surprised. Jack is predicting a little girl, though, and now refers to the baby as 'she' or 'her'. We are just past the halfway point, only four more months to go.
Sometimes I feel like a lumbering whale. Getting out of bed is difficult. Bathing is difficult. Making love … well, Jack has never had any trouble there. But you are already well aware of that, my friend. I'm glad Jack's assignments have all been closer to home. Every time I start fretting about how big I am, he looks at me with those warm brown eyes. I see in them how much he loves me, how much it means to him that I am carrying his child.
Do you suppose the old wives tale about castor oil is true? I'm ready to deliver this baby. Now. The doctor said everything looks like it is on schedule and not to rush things. The baby will come when it's time. I think I'll have Jack pick up a bottle of castor oil on his way home.
She's beautiful, my friend. Ten fingers and toes. Yes, I counted them. Jack says she will look like me, but I already see much of Jack in her. She has his ears, which he hates, but I love. We finally settled on a name. Sydney Ann. It's beautiful, isn't it? Just like my baby.
I decided to breastfeed. It's not as easy as they make it look. No one mentioned how much it would hurt. The nurse assured me that the pain would go away soon. I hope so. I want to enjoy feeding her.
How can I describe the feeling I have, holding my baby in my arms as she suckles my breast? She's so fragile. When I look down at her, the trust in her eyes as she snuggles against me; I am filled with awe. Over and over in my head I hear a refrain I thought I never would. I am her mother.
I have a picture of Jack holding our baby. He's so big and she's so tiny. I've started calling him my gentle giant. You should have seen his face when she tried to nuzzle him. I laughed so hard.
Jack has already started spoiling Sydney. I've told him no more toys. If he gets any more stuffed animals, we won't have room for the baby.
Good news. The doctor has given the okay to 'resume normal relations'.
Sydney closed the diary. There were still more pages, but she'd leave that for another time. She scrunched down into the covers, smiling at the image of her mother holding a tiny baby in her arms.
"Irina, come back to bed. The sun isn't even up yet."
Irina glanced at her husband lounging against the headboard. "One of my diaries is missing."
"Missing? I'm sure we took all of them from dresser."
"We did. I had it out earlier. I'm going down to the den and look."
She stopped. "Yes?"
"Don't you think you should put something on before you go?"
She looked down and realized she was indeed totally naked. Walking to the closet, she pulled a robe off the inside hook. Frowning, she pulled the robe around her. She fingered the material, remembering the day she'd purchased it for him. "Jack?"
"Yes, Irina, it's the same one."
"You kept it?"
"After the CIA arrested me for conspiracy to commit treason, they did a very thorough search of the house. I was brought along…for multiple reasons, not the least of which was to see our home destroyed. They took special joy in ripping open the Christmas presents you'd already wrapped." Jack got up and pulled a pair of jeans from the nearby dresser. "Do you remember that Raggedy Ann doll I brought back from England?
Irina nodded, unable to move.
"One of the agents took a knife and ripped it open from top to bottom. All the gifts intended for me were paraded by with corresponding derogatory remarks. They took great pleasure in regaling me with the robe."
"Hey, Bristow, the wife bought you a robe! I guess she got tired of looking at your naked body." [/I]
"I see from the look on your face they didn't like the robe?" She wrapped it closer. "I was looking forward to seeing you in it."
"They seemed to think that was the point of your purchase."
She cocked her head to one side. "Now why do I get the feeling they didn't mean it quite the same way I did?"
"Arvin and Emily came by later and cleaned up what they could before picking Sydney up from school. Rosa went by later and took care of the rest."
"Jane must have had an interesting six months taking care of Sydney. As I remember, she wasn't very fond of children."
"Sydney didn't stay with Jane. Rosa watched her for me until Jane could arrange a nanny."
"She hated me that much? Sydney is your child, too."
"You know how she was about children, Irina. You know, I really don't want to discuss the past right now. Why don't we look for the missing diary instead?"
Irina brushed her hair back from her face, tucking the tendrils behind her ears. "I'll drop it for now. The book must be still in the den."
She grabbed his hand, carefully avoiding squeaky boards as she led him down the stairs. "You really should have those fixed, sweetheart."
"And ruin a perfectly good intruder alert system?"
"Since you put it that way..."
"You take the couch, I'll check the recliner."
"It's not here, Jack."
"Not here, either. Maybe we should switch?"
"I don't think we are going to find the book here, sweetheart."
"Our room and here are the only two places…" Jack stopped as he realized where the book had to be. "Exactly how descriptive were you, Irina?"
"Very," she replied, her voice grim.
"Well," Jack quirked a brow at her. "We are[/I] spies. It shouldn't be that difficult to retrieve it."
"But what if she's read it?"
"Then we'll hope she skipped all the good parts."
Irina shook her head and smiled at him. "Let's hope so. I wouldn't want her to compare her boyfriends to her father. Otherwise, she may never marry."
Jack paled. "You were that descriptive? Perhaps we should burn the diaries?"
"We'll put them back in their hiding place. I still want you to read them. You don't think she may have hidden it already?"
"The book will most likely be on the table next to her bed."
"I'll get it Jack. You keep an eye on her."
Jack watched as Irina stealthily moved through the room to the table. "It's not here, Jack. I don't see it…wait, it's on the bed. Her hand is covering it, but I should be able to slip it out."
"Mommy?" Sydney stirred in her sleep.
Irina froze. "It's okay Irina, she's still asleep."
"Daddy? Don't leave me. Please."
"Shhh, sweetheart. Daddy isn't going anywhere." Irina looked up at Jack. "Tell her, Jack."
"I'm right here, honey. Go back to sleep. Daddy will always be here for you."
"Always! Now go to sleep, Buttercup." Sydney smiled and settled once more back into her covers.
"Night, Daddy. Love you."
"I love you, too."
"I've got it, Jack. Let's go."
Sydney peeked through her eyelashes, watching as her parents quietly closed the door behind them. "Some spies they are." She laughed softly, then fell back to sleep.
Once back in their room, Irina looked at Jack and started to laugh. "You don't think she was playing us, do you?"
"Yes, but we'll leave her the illusion that she fooled us, if you don't mind. That way, no explanations are required." Jack pulled her close, his hands going to the cloth belt holding the robe in place. He started to untie it, but Irina placed a hand on his, stopping his progress.
"You kept this robe for twenty years. Why?"
"I've never been much of a shopper."
"Jack, be serious."
"Why do you need to know?"
"A gift from the woman who betrayed you. Your co-workers used it to belittle you. No one would blame you if you had a ceremony and burned it. But you didn't. You not only kept it, but you still use it. I can smell your scent on the cloth."
Jack pulled away from her and moved away from the bed, stripping out of the jeans and t-shirt he'd donned earlier. "Do you remember when we bought the sewing machine?"
Irina nodded, allowing Jack to tell her in his own way. "I wanted to make clothes for the baby. You thought I was crazy."
"You didn't know how to sew."
"No, I didn't. The Home Economics department gave me the most beautiful baby clothes at the shower. They were all handmade with such intricate details. Heirloom quality. You were away a lot and I was bored, so I took a class."
"I think Sydney was the best dressed girl in kindergarten."
"I was going to make her the Cinderella dress for her birthday. I was so mad at you, not only for spoiling her so, but for ruining my plans for her birthday gift."
Jack tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. "You should have told me. But I don't regret buying her the dress and I would do it again, given the same choice."
"Tell me about the robe, Jack."
"With everything I went through that first year, a part of me wanted to believe that you loved me. I hated you for what you had done, but I also hated myself for the illogic of still loving you despite what you had done. The robe was the only tangible proof I had that maybe it wasn't all one sided. When the investigators pulled the robe out of the box I knew you had made it for me. You went to a lot of trouble for someone who was just an assignment."
"But when I came back, you were so angry."
"I was afraid. With you safely dead, I could hang on to my illusions. But you weren't dead and there was the matter of that video."
Irina slid across the bed, her hand caressing his ear and chin. "I'm glad you kept it, but I think it's time I made you a new one."
"You can't. I gave your sewing machine to Sydney."
"We'll buy a new one."
"Does that mean you plan on staying?"
"Was there ever any question?"
"You are on the USA's top ten most wanted list."
"I know you, Jack Bristow." Irina leaned in, her lips gently caressing his. "You have my pardon already arranged."
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. You have to review it and sign off on it. I had them send it to your attorney's office."
"We've come full circle, haven't we?"
"Mmmm." Jack yawned. "I think it's past my bedtime."
"You plan on sleeping?"
Jack tugged at the already loose belt holding the robe together. "Eventually."
~ * ~
Irina snuggled closer to her husband, comforted by the feel of his warm body next to hers. "Jack?"
"He's asleep," Jack murmured into her ear, his hand tightening around her waist.
She chuckled softly in response. "Talking in your sleep, my love? Should I prime you for secret information."
"I think you should just prime me, period."
"Is that one of your stipulations in the pardon agreement?" Irina traced a lazy finger along the sensitive area just under his jaw.
"Page five, paragraph two, under marital relations."
Irina moved her hand down along his neck, slowly following a path down his chest, stopping when she touched the tip of his swollen head. "I don't think you need any priming, sweetheart."
"Who knew pot roast could be such an aphrodisiac?" Jack shivered as Irina's hand slid back and forth along his cock. His own hand found it's way to the moist vortex between her legs; he slipped a finger in, teasing a sensitive spot. He watched her eyes narrow with pleasure, before dipping his head to suckle her lips.
"Jack, you have magic fingers, but I need you inside me. I want you to come with me, to be joined as one." She moved his hand away and guided him between her legs, sighing happily as he imbedded himself deep within.
He held still for a moment, enjoying the feel of her muscles contracting around him, until Irina forcefully reminded him of her needs. He moved slowly, increasing his tempo to meet his wife's demands. Irina's hands roved over his body, touching and tickling, delighting in each response. Jack clasped his fingers around Irina's breasts, teasing the tips to total erection before moving his lips to their fullness.
The moved together, eyes sharing a silent message that held a promise for their future, one no longer separated by lies and deceit. In their joined culmination, each bestowed a wordless covenant uniting them with love.
"So Dad has arranged for you to receive a full pardon, no strings attached?" Sydney poured the freshly brewed coffee into two mugs, placing one before her mother.
"Of course there will be strings attached, sweetheart. Nothing involving a government comes completely free. But I'm willing to live with the strings. I've been away from you both for far too long and I won't let any government interfere a second time."
"Is that coffee I smell?" Jack walked into the breakfast nook, placing a soft kiss on Irina's neck before pulling out a chair. He settled his large frame easily against the wooden back, enjoying the sight of his wife and daughter together once more in his home.
The doorbell rang as Sydney placed another mug in front of her father. "I'll get it. You two enjoy your coffee."
Jack reached across the table, taking Irina's hand in his. "I have something for you." Using his free hand, he pulled a set of rings from his pocket, placing them on Irina's left ring finger. "I found your rings after I came home."
"You kept them." Irina stared at her hand in wonder.
"I had to leave them behind. If I didn't, the KGB would have confiscated them."
"For many years I wondered why you didn't take them with you. They would have been worth some money on the black market."
Irina looked aghast. "Sell them? If I thought for a minute that I would be able to keep them, they would never have left my finger!"
"I assumed you didn't want to have any reminders of us and our life together, since you didn't seem to want them for their financial value."
"They were too precious to me to allow anyone else to have them. I knew that one day I would come back and retrieve them, so I hid them where I thought no one would ever find them."
"The FBI and the CIA were pretty thorough in their search, but they didn't know the house. I looked in the places they would have overlooked."
"What about your ring, Jack?"
Silently, he reached into the pocket again and pulled out a matching band and placed it in her hand. She clasped it tight, before kissing it. Picking up his hand, she slipped the ring on his finger, whispering an "I love you" as the golden circle slip into place.
Sydney walked back in the room, just as her mother pulled her father's hand into a kiss. She cleared her throat. "Warning. Daughter in the house."
Jack looked up, the tips of his ears glowing a gentle hue of pink. "Sydney. We were just.."
His daughter gasped, interrupting his need for explanation. "You are wearing your wedding rings. That's so sweet."
Jack cleared his throat. "Sweet?"
"Are those your father's suits, Sydney?" Irina pointed at the items Sydney had folded over her arm. "They will get wrinkled if you carry them that way."
"Well, I had to, Mom. Otherwise they would drag on the floor and I'm sure Daddy would not appreciate that."
Irina took the load from her daughter. "Let me put these away before you inflict any more damage."
"Oh, I almost forgot. They found something in one of the pockets. A note or something." Sydney handed the envelope to her father as Irina made her way up the stairs with Jack's dry cleaning. "It must be from Mom."
Jack took the envelope from his daughter and silently read the inscription on the front of the cream colored paper. "ARILY". Quickly he opened the flap and read the note inside.
"She must have left this in one of my suits from Panama."
"What does it say?"
Jack cleared his throat. "I think this is one of those 'need to know' things. I'm pretty sure you don't need to know."
Irina returned, taking in her husbands embarrassed expression and Sydney's sly smile. "Did I miss anything?"
"Dad just got your note from Panama."
Irina looked at Jack and smiled.
Sydney watched her parents and realized that for the first time in twenty-two years, her family was at peace.
"Hey Mom and Dad. Do you want to watch some home movies? I've got 'Sydney, age 4" loaded in the player."
"I think it's time we quite replaying the past and start making new movies, sweetheart." Jack looked at the two most important people in his life and pulled them into the circle of his arms. "This time, we'll do it right."