Title: Five Alias Beginning that Never Were

Author: icyfire (Robin) wideyed @ mikrotec.com

Disclaimer: not mine, and I'm not stupid enough to make money with them. However, my credit card will admit that I've spent money on these characters. :) (Oh, Season 1 DVDs, please be in my mailbox tomorrow.)

Summary: title says it all. Here lie five alias beginnings that never happened.

Rating: PG/PG-13

A/N: Thanks to Celli for introducing this concept to the Alias universe, and another big thank you to Celli for her wonderful beta skills as always. (All mistakes are mine, and I won't share them.) A thank you to Amy and Jenai for their support and encouragement. All three of you ladies are more wonderful than I can ever say.

Distribution: CM. All others please ask first.

*** 1. A Different Lose

"Have you told your dad yet?" Francie asked.

Sydney looked over at the woman who'd been her best friend since 7th grade and sighed. She studied the new diamond ring on her finger. She would have to hide it soon. "Not yet. You know how he is."

"Overly protective?" said a voice behind them.

Sydney spun around on the couch and almost fell at the sight of her father standing in the archway between the kitchen and the living room. He was in a polo shirt and slacks instead of his usual business suit. After marching into the room, he took her hand in his. His eyes studied first the ring and then her face. "The son of a bitch better make you happy," he growled.

"Dad!" she protested. Francie laughed and Sydney shot her a look that said, "You're supposed to be on my side!"

"I admit he showed some signs of intelligence," Jack Bristow said, strolling over to the bar. He pulled a bottle of water out of the refrigerator hidden behind two cherry doors. "He called and asked my permission first."

Sydney grinned. "He's a wonderful man, Dad."

"If he wasn't dating my daughter, I might consider calling him a friend," Jack admitted before taking a sip.

Francie hid a snort behind her hand, and Syd rolled her eyes at her. "So you think you and Danny will one day be friends?"

Jack shook his head. "No. Never. Son-in-laws are not friends, Sydney; they are forced allies who must be watched like a hawk."

She shook her head, and he leaned over and brushed his cool lips against her cheek. "I'm happy for you, baby."

His arms wrapped around her, drawing her up into a hug. She blinked back tears and smiled up at him when he released her. He exchanged hellos with Francie and said something about taking them all out to dinner that night to celebrate. Then he was off to make reservations and a few business calls.

Francie picked up a pillow and laughed into it. "What?" Sydney asked.

Her friend looked at her and then burst into laughter again. "Like you could keep a secret from him."

The smile she'd been wearing all afternoon started to fade, but she forced it to stay on her lips. She had been keeping a secret from her father for years. A big secret. For a moment, she let herself wonder what he would say if she told him that she was a spy. Then, she asked herself if she wanted to remain one now that marriage loomed in her future. "Well, I probably could if I tried."

"Right," Francie said, drawing the word out. "Even if Danny hadn't told him, Jack would've take one look at your face and demanded to see the ring. He's spooky that way."

Sydney laughed, remembering too many times when he had caught her and Francie lying and trying to get into trouble. "Remember how much we hated that in high school?"

"Oh, yeah." Francie looked over her shoulder in the general direction of Jack's office. "I remember more than a few boyfriends who hated that ability of his, too. And I know that right after Danny said he wanted to marry you, Jack threatened to kill him if he hurt you. I can see Danny standing here with his knees knocking together."

Syd pushed her hair behind her hear. "I guess all dads threaten the men in their little girls' lives."

Francie shrugged. "Probably, but I believe your dad would do it."

Tossing a pillow at her friend, Sydney said, "Your dad would join him." Jack and Jason had been fast friends through their daughters' friendship, which had made it all the harder for them to get by with anything. Each was as protective of the other's daughter as he was his own.

"True. He would."

"And my dad would help Jason kill anyone that hurt you."

Francie nodded. "Fathers are vicious," she said, almost seriously.

"To everyone but their daughters," Sydney stated before starting to study her ring again. Jack could be stern, but she had never doubted his love for her.

#

Sydney slid the engagement ring back on her finger as the taxi pulled up to the only home she'd known. She had lived across the country until she was two, but she didn't remember anything but this modest brick home her father had bought years ago.

Paying off the taxi driver, she slid out of her seat and grabbed her luggage from the trunk. Her assignment was over, but she still had a pool of dread in her stomach. Her father had promised that they would "talk" about her startling revelation when she got home, and she had a sneaking suspicion that she wasn't going to like what he had to say.

She briefly considered getting in her car and visiting Francie, but Jack Bristow hadn't raised a coward, and her running from the battle wouldn't win her any points in the end. The cool air-conditioning caressed her sweat-dampened body as she strolled into the house. It was perfectly neat, as always. Her dad liked order.

To her surprise he wasn't in his office. She expected to find him sitting in there, his shoulders tense, while he waited for her to get home. She considered the possibility that he went into work, but she discarded it quickly when she realized his prized Beamer was sitting out front. Glancing down at the answering machine, she frowned when she noticed "18" flashing. Her dad didn't usually let messages build unless he wasn't around to answer them.

Without thought, she pressed the button and began strolling through the house. Hearing the voice of her father's boss asking where he was and sounding worried that he'd missed a meeting, she picked up speed. She started calling for her father as she strode down the hallway towards his bedroom.

What if he was sick? The voice of Melinda, Jack's secretary, trailed after her as she hurried down the hallway. She stopped and almost fell when she saw the broken glass that littered the floor in front of his dresser.

The sound of her own breathing and heartbeat filled her ears as she took tiny steps towards her father's bedroom. The recorded voices of worried coworkers and friends were muffled, distant. She paused at the doorway and then leaned forward and peeked around the frame towards her father's bed.

At the sight that greeted her eyes, she stumbled into the room. Walking towards the bed as if in a trance, she immediately started noting items in her mind. Training as an agent meant being forced to behave instinctively in a way that wasn't natural. She noted that the victim had struggled. The disorder in the room--including the shattered mirror which looked as if a body had been tossed into it--spoke of a battle. The bruising of the hands, the lacerations on the knuckles, and bruises around the mouth and eyes showed that the victim was successful in his struggle to some degree, but the cut across his neck and the blood soaked bed beneath him said that his fight had been in vain in the end.

Sydney crawled onto the bed. Her knees and shins became wet. She vaguely thought that the gorge across her father's throat resembled a smile. She took his hand in hers. The warm hands that had patted her back after she fed as a baby, the ones that had held onto her until she could get that bicycle moving on her own, the ones that had led in her in her first dance, were now cool to her touch.

"Daddy?" she whispered. The breeze from the air-conditioning blew across her face, letting her feel the chill of her own tears. She pushed his hair back from his eyes, and then she did the only thing she could do: scream.

#

She yelled as she kicked the last assailant back into a car window. It felt good to yell. For the last three months, she had tried to pretend that she was okay. She was grieving, but she could handle it. She told no one about her guilt, and she ignored every attempt by SD-6 to get her to come back to work. Sloane wouldn't tell her how they found out that she told her father the truth about her work, but she doubted that Jack Bristow had been foolish in sharing it with anyone. He'd immediately understood the need for secrecy when she admitted the truth late the night of her engagement.

The squeal of tired told her that the danger wasn't over, yet. Twisting, she grabbed up one of her assailant's rifles. She aimed its laser scope. The tiny red dot centered perfectly in the driver's forehead. "Get in," he snarled at her.

"Danny?"

"Get in, Syd! Now!" he said.

She jumped in without thought. Even as she did so, she questioned her own judgment. Danny drove like a bat out of hell, and fired a pistol like he was an old western gunslinger. It was obvious that her mild-mannered fiancé wasn't exactly what he'd appeared to be--a medical equipment salesman.

"Who are you?" she asked later, after the fight was over and they were secure in his car.

"I'm Danny."

She was shaking so hard that her teeth were starting to chatter. "And who is Danny exactly?"

He waited before answering. "I think the only answer to that question that's going to matter to you is that I'm Arvin Sloane's son."

Her stomach rolled. After Jack's funeral, Danny had taken her home and made sweet love to her. She'd made love to the son of her father's murder. She felt the urge to rip his skin off his face. She wanted to hurt him.

He grabbed her hands before she even realized she was moving to hurt him. "Syd, we don't have time for this."

"Because your dad's hit men are after me."

"You knew what you were signing on for when you put your name on that dotted line."

She shook her head. "I didn't know I was signing on for Dad's death."

His grip on her wrists tightened. "He didn't have to die, Sydney. What in the hell prompted you to tell him in the first place?"

"I thought I wanted out, and Dad always gave the best advice."

The streetlights reflected his tears. "You should've come to me. When SD- 6 found out he knew--"

"They weren't supposed to know," she sobbed.

"SD-6 isn't the CIA, Sydney."

She tensed and managed to pull her arms from his grasp. "What?"

"They are a part of the Alliance of Twelve."

"That's a lie," she snapped.

He shook his head. "No. And your dad knew it. Jack Bristow was one of the best CIA agents in his day; his best friend was a fellow agent by the name of Arvin Sloane. Sloane went bad and invited his friend to join him. Jack was tempted, but his little girl was more important than anything the CIA or SD-6 could give him, so he left it all behind. When you told him about SD-6, he called someone he thought he could trust at the CIA. He didn't know that agent had been turned by Dad."

She shook her head. "Dad was a spy? SD-6 is the enemy?" Rage filled her. "I guess I've been sleeping with the enemy in more ways than one."

He flinched. "We don't have time for this right now, Sydney." She opened her mouth to continue the fight, and he shook his head. "You've got five minutes to make a decision."

She looked out at the run-down buildings that lined the street where they were parked. "A decision?"

"A car is going to pull up. You can get in that car. The man inside will give you new identity papers, a disguise, money, and a plane ticket to Switzerland. You can get out of the game for good. I'll make sure SD-6 believes you are dead and no longer a threat."

"Why should I trust--"

He reached behind her seat and tossed a bag in her lap. "Or you can wear this disguise, use these identity papers, and go after the device my father wants you to get."

"And I do that because--"

"Because my father wants to forgive you, and that is an advantage that we can exploit. Get the device, come home, and work for real CIA inside SD-6. You help bring down the man and the organization that murdered Jack."

To her surprise, she started laughing. She didn't feel amused, but waves of laughter were pealing from her. Danny grasped her face between his hands. "Look at me. Being a double is dangerous, Syd, but we need agents like you."

She pulled away from him; his touch made her skin crawl. "I'm supposed to believe that you work for the CIA against your own father?"

"He killed your father and you want revenge. Well, he killed my mother, and I want revenge."

He said it so matter-of-factly, but she heard a burning rage hidden somewhere beneath the coldness that time had given him. She looked down at the bag, thought about that car that would give her a chance at a new life, and she thought about just running away from him and the choices he gave her. She could go to the CIA tonight, confirm what he was telling her. It was the smart move, but somehow she knew it would also be a waste of time that could get her killed.

She stared at him, and then said, "Drive. I need to find a bathroom where I can change."

She saw a flash of relief in his eyes, but the only thing she felt was numbness. Instead of getting out of it all because of Danny, she was now getting in deeper.

***

2. A Different Revenge

Her stomach was turning; her palms were damp; and breathing suddenly required effort. In a few minutes, she'd be facing her fiancé, something she was dreading. However, her biggest fear was that he wouldn't be there waiting to fight with her. On the flight home, she'd dreamed of empty closets and solitary meals. It was nothing less than she deserved, but she hoped he could forgive her anyway. She'd lied, but for a good cause.

If she had met him first . . . maybe her entire life would be different today. But during her freshman year at college, while she was yearning to be more than she was, to do more, to find excitement, a recruiter had seduced her with promises of adventure and serving her country until she right where he wanted her--a member of a black-ops division of the CIA.

Now she had a man in her life that gave her all the excitement she craved. A romantic dinner for two by candlelight made her grin for days, and she found holding his hand during a movie much more exciting than shooting her gun. He even managed to get her angrier upon occasion than Anna Espinosa, a feat she would have thought impossible a couple of years ago. Before meeting him.

She paused outside their apartment door and leaned her head against the wood. Please be here, please be here, please be here. He'd never let her down. She wanted to believe he would be here, but the shock and despair on his face had haunted her for the entire trip.

Trip. That's what she called her missions, even in her own mind. Because those were the lies she told her friends. Her best friend from middle school. The little reporter geek, too sweet and naïve for his own good, that they'd added to their friendship during college. She had watched those two stumble into a romance and had felt the loneliness until she'd accidentally knocked a man flat one day while jogging backwards and talking to a friend. The loneliness had disappeared that day, but the lies had increased. Now instead of two, she had three people she lied to on an almost daily basis.

Would her friends forgive her if she told them? Even as she asked herself the question, she knew she would never tell them. It was too dangerous. She only told him because she believed he needed to know, needed to understand what kind of woman he was going to marry. If he still wanted to marry her.

She turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door. And her world fell apart. Drawers were empty, but not as she'd dreamed them. The apartment she left now looked as if it was in the middle of a war zone. Broken glass and wood was scattered across the floor. Pictures were crooked or had fallen from their perches. Furniture was out of place and some pieces were turned over and even broken.

She started calling his name, although she already knew she would find him. He was lying in the den. His beautiful ebony skin now had a gray tint to it, and the side of his face was too close to the carpet. She knew without stepping too close that Charlie had been killed by a blow to the head.

Tears gathered in her eyes and her lips trembled, but she wouldn't let herself cry. Not now. Later. After she took care of her revenge, then she would let herself cry. She could see Sloane sitting behind his desk imaging her shock, imagining her crying. Maybe he even believed she would rush to SD-6 and confront him in her rage.

But he didn't know her as well as he thought he did, hadn't realized how close her and her mentor had become. He had taught her how to push emotion aside, and how to use it to motivate herself. Cold rage was the feeling she had coursing through her veins right now, and she would use it to help carry out a logical plan instead of letting it guide her. She rushed into the bedroom, slid under the bed, and got out the Glock that she had hidden in the box springs. She slid the clip in as she rolled out from beneath the bed.

The ringing of a cell phone stopped her. She turned towards the nightstand and saw Charlie's phone light up as another ring pealed through the air. She strained to see the Caller ID and then realized who it was, although the number was unfamiliar.

"Hello," she said. Her voice was too calm. It scared her.

"Francie, Security Section is on their way."

Jack Bristow's calm voice, usually a comfort to her, failed to touch the rage inside her belly. "I won't be here," she told him, knowing that he was calling from a secure place.

"Francie--"

"I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow, Jack." She remembered the day she learned that her best friend's distant father was a fellow spy. To her surprise, he had chosen to be her mentor, and she had managed to give him back his daughter as payment. It had taken working with both of the stubborn people she loved to get them to lower their defenses enough to let each other back in.

He understood what she was planning to do, maybe even better than she did. She could hear it in his voice. "Sloane's well protected."

She smiled. "He taught me how to get to well-protected people."

"Be careful."

"Watch over Sydney and Will for me."

"I've already invited them to dinner tonight."

She closed her eyes and let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. "Take care, Jack," she said, and clicked the phone off.

Sliding the Glock into the waistband of her jeans, she turned towards the window and used the fire escape to leave her apartment. Sloane was safe right now, but he would be home later tonight. And then Francie Calfo would make sure that he never hurt anyone ever again.

***

3. A Different Parent's Choice

Renée watched as a familiar expression crossed her mother's face. Laurette was gazing out from their balcony at a scene that only she could see. Renée heard the door click open behind her, and she smiled, knowing who it was without looking.

"Good morning," he said in English since he was still struggling with French. In bed, they often spoke in Spanish, a language they both spoke fluently.

"Good morning," she answered back, not taking her eyes off her mother. "How was the lecture?"

"Wonderful," Danny answered, sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her back next to him. His scent tickled her nose, and she inhaled it as she relaxed back into his arms.

"Aren't you glad you came to Paris to study instead of going to one of those American universities?"

He chuckled and nuzzled her neck. "The day I met you I was glad I didn't go to California."

She turned to look at him. "Doctor Delacroix is a good teacher, no?"

Smiling, he leaned down and kissed her. "I decided to come here after reading his latest journals, Renée, not because of you. Yes, Doctor Delacroix is an incredible teacher, and he's so far advance in the study of- -"

She played with the buttons on his shirt. "I don't want to be responsible for your causing your brother harm."

"He's fine. Thanks to doctors like Doctor Delacroix who are willing to think against traditional ideas."

"Je t'aime, Daniel Hecht."

"I love you, too."

They were both silent for a moment, and then she turned to study her mother again. Danny rested his chin on her shoulder and asked, "What's bothering her?"

"It's Dad's birthday," Renée answered. Danny pulled back away from her, and she knew he'd felt every muscle in her body clench at the realization of what she'd just said. After so many years of living with the lies, she'd let something so stupid slip.

"Your father? You never mention him."

She didn't; she couldn't. It was too dangerous. But she trusted Danny, and she needed to talk to someone. "I don't really remember him. I have images of him in my head. I remember once he took us camping, and I fell down and broke my leg. He carried me in his arms for miles, and I thought he was the strongest man in the world."

Danny walked around, a strange look on his face. "Renée, you sound American right now."

She bit her lip and pushed her hair behind her lip. "I'm French," she said, her accent back in place.

He pulled her towards the couch and sat down next to her. "We're going to be married; I don't want any secrets between us."

It was the way she felt. Looking down at their clasped hands, she made a decision and let the truth rush out of her. "My father was a CIA agent. My mother was KGB, sent to marry and spy on him. Only she fell in love with him, and decided to work with him instead of against him. Unfortunately, there was a mole inside the CIA, and the operation fell apart before it even began. My father was murdered, and my mother and I have been running every since."

A new name, a new background to learn. Sydney Bristow was a name of a little girl who disappeared years ago, and her father Jack was a dead man that no one could discuss. She hated it, hated being part of a life she'd never asked for or agreed to. Her parents' choices were still being paid for by her.

He looked dazed. "Renée--"

"Call me 'Sydney'," she whispered.

"Sydney. I like that name."

She let the tears escape. "I do, too."

"I don't understand all of this--"

A laugh escaped. "I don't either."

His hands were gentle on her face when he stared into her eyes. They were the hands of a surgeon. A great surgeon who would save many lives in the course of his career. "If you have to run again, if you're ever in danger, you have to call me, Sydney."

"Why? So you can go with us?" she asked in Spanish.

His thumb wiped away her tears. "Yes. I'll go with you."

She thought of his mother, and his brother, and the people to be left behind. Her mind filled with images of the people he would not be able to save, and the life he would have to live with her. Leaning forward, she kissed him. "I'll call you," she lied, knowing from the look on her mother's face that it would be time to run again soon.

She knew the pattern. Her mother would say, "It's time." Renée would ask for her new identity, and she would destroy the papers and photographs of this life before packing a few items. And Danny would receive no call because sacrifices had to be made; her mother had taught her that all her life.

***

4. A Different Enemy

"You're in," said Michael Vaughn as he handed her cell phone. It had been almost two months since she last saw him. He rolled up his sleeves and answered the question that her face was asking. "We had to verify your statement. SD-6 is too important to take big risks with unknown entities."

Syd felt her jaw harden at his words; she was used to being known and respected. "I told you everything I know about SD-6."

He smiled at her. "It's been a big help. Honestly."

"I don't see why it took two months--"

Sighing, he rubbed his forehead and sat down on the barstool across from her. "I'm sorry, but who you were made us hesitate to take your offer."

"Who I am?" She shook her head. "I'm a damn good agent who wants to hand you SD-6 on a platter."

"Director Sloane doubted your honesty."

"He had no reason--"

"He has every reason," Agent Vaughn replied in a calm voice. "The name 'Bristow' doesn't give him warm feelings, and hasn't for years."

Sydney considered that statement for a moment. "You're saying that Director Sloane knows my father? How? He works for an airplane part exporter."

Vaughn took in a deep breath and suddenly looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but in this dusty and abandoned bar. He opened a folder and pulled out what appeared to be a photograph. As he handed it to her, he said, "This is the man who ordered the hit on Danny; the head of SD-6."

Sydney's entire body began to shake as she looked down at the photo of her father. His normal stern expression pierced through the paper, tearing at her soul. Even as her heart started protesting, her mind knew it was true. If she worked against SD-6, she would be working against him.

"You understand why we had such a difficult time making a decision about you, Agent Bristow. Now, I need to now what decision you're going to make now that you have all the facts."

**** 5. An Additional Difference

Danny kissed her belly. She stretched out on the couch and laughed as he began talking to the flat skin of her stomach. "Are you sure he or she has ears yet?" she asked through her laughter.

"I'm sure he or she can hear his or her daddy," he replied before turning his attention back to her stomach.

He'd been like this for the last two days. Even though he was a medical doctor, even though he talked about the human body the way a mechanic talked about a car, he was in awe that her body could hold his child. He had spun her around at first, and then wondered if he had been too rough. She could only imagine the comments on what she was eating and the reminders to take her prenatal vitamins she would receive over the next few months. She bet her OB/GYN was in for even more headaches from an overprotective husband who happened to be a doctor, too.

The knock on the door surprised them both. He looked at her and she looked at him. Danny shrugged and got off the couch. She sat up and made sure that her top covered the skin he had exposed a few minutes before.

She saw her husband tense when he saw whoever was on the other side of the door. She almost stood up when he said, "Please come in, sir."

Her mouth fell open when Jack strolled into her home. He'd been here one time since her marriage. No matter how many times she'd made the effort to get close to him, he never would let her. Danny tried telling her that it was her father's problem and not about her, and intellectually, she understood that was true; however, something inside of her always wondered what it was about her that made her unlovable to her father.

"Dad," she said, getting up off the couch.

His eyes scanned her face, and she wondered what he saw when he looked at her, just as she always did the few times a year she saw him. Did he see her or did he see a reminder of a wife long dead? Was that why he wouldn't let her close? Because of her mom?

"Rumor has it that you are pregnant," he stated coolly, showing none of the joy Danny had expressed at the news. "Is it true?"

She nodded, unable to say anything. Danny walked over beside her and took her hand in his. "We're thrilled by the news."

"You have no reason not to be, Mr. Hecht," he said, still treating her husband like a stranger, but then Danny was a stranger to Jack, by Jack's own choice. "However, she should know better in her profession."

It felt as if the floor was suddenly gone from beneath her legs. She leaned against Danny. "What?"

"Banking isn't all that dangerous," Danny immediately protested.

Jack stuck his hands into the pockets of his trench coat. His cool eyes met his son-in-law's. "She isn't the banker you believe her to be, Danny."

He then turned his laser-like focus onto her. "And she's not the CIA agent she believes she is either."

She shook her head. "What?"

"SD-6 is a part the Alliance of Twelve, Sydney."

Shock kept her silent for a moment. "The Alliance is a group of mercenaries, terrorists."

"And you're one of them," was his calm reply. "And so am I."

She blinked back tears. "What?"

Jack started to explain the Alliance to Danny. She knew the general background, and she knew she should be listening for more details about her father's life, but she was numb. Everything she thought was true was a lie. How could she not know? How incredibly stupid was she? She wanted to protest that her father was lying, but that seemed to be a silly response in face of the mounting evidence that Jack Bristow did know all about her spying life.

"Did you recruit me?" she asked, needing to know the answer to that more than anything.

Her father hesitated only a moment before admitting, "Arvin recruited you because he was afraid that I knew too much about him. You were a means to control me, Sydney. And now he's going to have my grandchild to use to control us both."

She saw Danny's confusion, his anger and his shock, but he didn't ask her questions. She knew those would come later. Right now, he was going to protect her from the pain her father was inflicting. "Why are you telling us this now?"

He didn't answer. Instead he asked his own questions. "How much do you love my daughter, Danny? Do you leave her enough to leave everything behind?"

Shaking, she realized what was about to happen. She knew why Jack had chosen tonight to dump the truth on her. Grasping Danny's hand hard, she hoped he loved her enough, even as she felt selfish to make that wish.

"What?"

"Tonight, I can get her and the child to safety. When Sloane recruited her, I went to the CIA and offered to help them. Tonight I made some demands. They have the ability to make it look as if you both died in a car wreck. You'll never be able to contact your family, your friends, anyone you knew from this life. It's over, if you go with her. Do you love her that much?"

Danny didn't immediately answer. He turned to look at her and grasped her shoulders. "Do you want to go, Sydney? We can stay here--"

She shook her head. "If I stay, I'll have to work for an organization that I know is evil. I'll be in more danger if I help the CIA." Her hand covered her stomach. What had brought her such joy two days ago, now brought her terror. "I can't stay."

Danny nodded and let go of her shoulders. "Then we'll go."

She gasped and held him close; he wasn't even going to think about it first. "Sydney, you have to leave now," Jack's voice intruded into the moment. She turned to stare at him and wondered if he was happy to finally get the nuisance of a daughter out of his life.

"Give me your wedding bands," he said, holding out his hand. Sydney looked down at the ring on her hand; she'd like to never take it off, but her job required it. Now she was being asked to take it off forever.

"It's only gold, Sydney. We can buy new ones," Danny said, putting his in Jack's hand. Sydney followed, and suddenly they were in the back seat of her father's car speeding to unknown destination.

She felt detached from it all. Danny wasn't speaking, and had a confused look on his face that she knew was matched by her own. He looked at Jack and then at her. Leaning over, he said, "Hey, Sydney, you can't be controlled by something you are supposed to care about, only something you do."

Raising an eyebrow she looked at him, prepared to ask him what he was babbling about, when she remembered Jack's line about being controlled by her. Sloane used her because he knew that Jack loved her. "I love you, Daddy," she said, surprised by the words.

Jack's eyes met hers in the rearview mirror. The car remained steady, but his eyes let her see a brief glimpse of the man she'd known and adored as a child. "I love you, too, Sydney." His voice sounded scratchy, old, rusted. He might never say the words, but she knew suddenly that he always felt the emotion for her. Hiding it had been his way of protecting her.

She leaned into Danny's embrace, and wept for everything that was now lost and the possibilities that could never be explored.

*** The End!

Thanks for reading!