Title: So Are You To Me

Author: UConnFan (Michele)

E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Story Summary: A painful goodbye - season 3 story

Dedication: To Linda. Please don't be mad that I posted it unbeta'd. It was haunting me and wouldn't leave me alone . . . Had to get it out before the finale . . . Sorry! I miss you!! I promise I won't post anything else until I hear from you!

IMPORTANT: SPOILER HEAVY! VERY SEASON 3 SPOILER HEAVY! I'm taking SATURATED from every angle with SEASON THREE SPOILERS. DO NOT READ IF NOT SPOILED (FULLY). PLEASE take this to heart and to NOT continue if your not spoiled. I won't take it personally.

Also, this hasn't been read by anyone else. Linda is MIA currently (I MISS YOU!). I will post this at SD-1 once it's beta'd, along with the next chapter of IGO. Until than, this should amuse you.

Also, the title is because the eastmountainsouth song is stuck in my head . . Oh, and some of this IS fiction, but too much is based on spoilers to ignore. So please, please, please, have read spoilers before you've read this and take everything you read in here for a grain of salt (especially the actual situation - the circumstances are based on spoilers; the situation is my own doing).

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Sydney Bristow liked Lauren Reed.

They'd never be best friends. Lauren would never be Francie, and Sydney would never be the equation of whatever female Lauren was chummy with. Their jobs dictated they work together, and despite Sydney's numerous reservations, Lauren had proven herself competent. There had been one occasion where Sydney's instincts had kicked in and she'd been forced to save the other woman's life on a mission, but she chalked it up to beginner's mistake. After all, as a diplomat, Lauren didn't have much field experience.

How she could feel that way towards Vaughn's wife was something that continued to baffle Eric Weiss nearly eight months after her return from death. There had admittedly been moments when the mere thought of his wife had left tears in her eyes and the seas angrily churning in her stomach. Even so, eventually she survived the inevitable meeting with Dixon as the unfortunate person left with the introductions. Later that same night, over Chinese leftovers and Game Show Network reruns of Jeopardy, Eric had confessed that he was more than relieved that he hadn't been the one to introduce them.

The truth was Sydney didn't have much to lean on since her return. Whatever support system she had once had, what she had once seen as indestructible, now only lingered in her mind. The loss of her support system, of the friends that had once been the center of her existence, had hurt the most. The number of things that were the same could be counted on one hand. There were the little things that people took for granted, the way her apparent death had left her homeless, lacking clothing and without a single cent in the bank account. Then the changes that hurt the most, the changes in the people she had loved and how she was left to rebuild and refocus her life goals.

As the plane slowly descended onto an LAX runway, Sydney marked her page and settled back in her seat, smiling at the unassuming young mother to the left of her. Another mission to another far away country left her wondering whose idea it was to invent time zones. When she was a child, Sydney had reasoned that Santa had time to visit all girls and boys because of the beauty of time zones. As a sore, broken woman, the only use she saw in them was jet lag. At least she was home, back in Los Angeles, a place she was struggling not to take for granted. Despite her exhaustion, she made her way through lines and customs and the necessary red tape to claim her bag and get out of the airport just as the sun settled in under the horizon.

Thankfully the drive from LAX to the apartment wasn't very long. The street was blissfully quiet as she pulled in to her driveway, smiling at the porch light that glowed a short distance away. With ease she removed her carry on and rolling suitcase from the compact trunk of her car. Along with the loss of her clothes and home, her death had seen the demise of her beloved Jeep. Understandably there hadn't been too much time for shopping - most of her clothes had been kindly given to her by Carrie, who at the time of her return had been far too far along in her pregnancy to even consider wearing her normal clothing. Too busy struggling to understand where she'd been, too wrapped up in trying to destroy the group she believed was involved in her loss of the past two years of her life. The life of a workaholic didn't leave much time to car shop, and the Government issue car had been the perfect temporary fix.

The apartment was more of a condo than an apartment, and she had slowly come to like it as much if not more than her former home. A few blocks from the beach, she was aware that two government salaries could only afford it because her roommate's uncle was the landlord. After all Sydney Bristow had endured in recent years, she was more than happy not to question her luck. In fact if it wasn't for the generosity and kindness of her new roommate, there was little doubt that she'd still be living in a CIA safe house. Although she was already given back her CIA access, and had quickly regained her field grade, she was more desperate than ever to keep her private life away from the CIA.

"It's about time you got back," a familiar voice jostled from the kitchen as she walked in. Sydney rolled her eyes as Donovan walked in, his face stained with what was undoubtedly human food.

"Eric," she sighed and walked into the kitchen. Over half a year as roommates and she had come to see the similarities between Eric Weiss and Will Tippin. It was comforting, her new confidante and best friend bearing a striking resemblance to the former, while everything else in her life was in shambles. "The vet already yelled at me for Donovan's weight, why do you keep giving him food he shouldn't be eating?" she questioned, nevertheless smiling at him as she slid up onto the kitchen counter.

"Missed you too Syd," he muttered, his back to her as he worked over the stove. Donovan was a slightly painful reminder of the past she had lost, although since her return she had come to accept that Donovan was now more their dog than Vaughn's. In fact the pooch had been in Eric's custody for well over a year, since just before Michael Vaughn's marriage to Lauren Reed. Adopting the dog was a necessity, since Lauren was terribly allergic.

"Anything interesting in the mail?" Sydney questioned, starting to flip through the pile on the counter.

For some reason that caught her roommates attention, "wait, Syd, don't -" he started.

Unfortunately, by then her hand had already found the offensive object. The thick ivory envelope could have easily given her a finger cut if she wasn't careful, and the handwriting was painfully neat. The thing that caught her eye was not the way the envelope was addressed to both Mr. Eric Weiss and Ms. Sydney Bristow - rumors about *that* arrangement were unnecessarily flying around the CIA - but the return sticker in the corner. From a Mr. and Mrs. Michael Vaughn.

"What is it?" she calmly asked, her eyes tied to the envelope as she set it back down among the bills and various catalogues. Since her return, Sydney rarely got mail. The bills were in Eric's name, the catalogues didn't even know she existed. The only mail she had received were sent to her via the CIA, sent by Will Tippin in whatever undisclosed location the CIA had him in. The reminder of his departure, of the reason why he had lost everything he loved and was forced to build a new, caused her heart to grow heavy as she waited for an answer.

"It's an invitation," he sighed, leaning heavily against the counter.

Sydney's brown eyes looked up to meet Eric's suddenly haggard face. "To?"

"Their anniversary party."

Sighing, she pushed hair behind her ear and softly spoke, "oh."

Rapidly he began to fire away, "listen Syd, I've been thinking about it. At first I thought it was a horrible idea. I actually was a few seconds away from calling Vaughn and chewing him out for being so insensitive. Then I realized that you don't need me to. It's been over six months Syd, and you're stronger than that. Your too strong to let his . . Irrational decisions keep you down."

"I don't think getting married qualifies as an irrational decision."

"I was there," he muttered. "Trust me, it was irrational at the time."

"So what," she looked up at her friend. "What are you suggesting I do? Go to this thing?"

"Yes," he nodded. "That's exactly what I'm suggesting. You go in there and show him what an idiot he was, and that your not going to stop being who you are just because he screwed up . . " Eric paused, running his fingers through his hair. "Plus . . . Sydney, for whatever reason, Lauren wants you there. Obviously, since she addressed the envelope. From the moment she read your file, she respected you. In an unusual way, she looks up to you. I think it would mean a lot to her if you were there."

Sydney sucked in a large amount of hair and crossed her arms defensively. "I don't think I can."

"I *know* you can Sydney. Didn't you tell Vaughn that it call comes down to faith? That he should have had faith in you? In that you'd come back?" he reminded her, leaving her to briefly regret that she now trusted him with nearly every secret of her soul. Perhaps Sydney Bristow had lost Francie Calfo and Will Tippin, but she had gained Eric Weiss, and he wasn't too shabby as a roommate or a friend. Plus he liked to cook, a skill that was mostly lost on Sydney. "Then have faith in yourself. You love him Syd, I know that and he's an idiot if he doesn't. I don't doubt that you'll always love him, but you don't need him. I've seen what you can do Syd - you don't need anybody."

"I guess," she sighed, looking out at the sleeping hound and away from him.

"Besides," Eric shrugged, turning back to the stove. "I already responded. We're going."

Sydney silently conceded defeat as she slid off the counter. "I'm going to go take a bath."

"Dinner will be ready in an hour."

"Don't forget to feed Donovan," she called as she started to the bathroom.

"I already fed him!" Eric exclaimed.

Sydney rolled her eyes before she called back, "*dog* food!"

In the kitchen Eric looked affectionately in the direction which Sydney left and than back at Donovan. "Such a drill sergeant, isn't she?" he teased before preparing the dogs food.

The party was eleven days later. A relatively casual affair despite the formal nature of the invitations. A mission to Argentina with her Father and another to Moscow to track down a lead on The Covenant and her missing two years had left her without much time for seeing anyone except Weiss and Dixon. Moscow had almost ended in disaster, and she had spent most of Friday being debriefed and subsequently yelled at by her former partner and later her father. Words such as reckless, thoughtless and foolish were commonly used, and while she didn't agree that she'd been thoughtless, even Sydney knew she'd been reckless. At times, however, there didn't seem to be much of a point.

Since her return, she'd rarely allowed herself the luxury of examining her life. Mostly because it left a fairly deep shade of gray over her heart. With the exception of Marshall and Carrie's sweetness and Eric's humor and generosity, so much had changed. The truth was that she was more alone than ever. Instead of her return bringing her closer to her father, the two years had pushed him farther away than ever before. Deep down she struggled to believe that his distance had a cause, that somewhow he had a master scheme that was larger than her own, but he was unable to offer the solace and comfort she obviously needed. Not of his own doing, Will was also unable to offer her much comfort or friendship. It had taken him weeks to convince the CIA to let him see her, to spend some time with her and explain before he was sent back to the life that the Witness Protection Program had built for him.

That hadn't been the worst of it. Sydney knew some of the news *had* been positive. Marshall and Carrie were happy, and part of Sydney was thrilled for them, just as she felt pride in Dixon for his promotion. Unfortunately there was more pain and questions than comforting answers. Somehow in the two years of chaos that had been spent without her, Sloane not only was in CIA custody, but also had an immunity agreement. Knowing all the pain that he had caused, thinking of the loss of Emily, Francie and even Danny, the thought that he had immunity left her continually nauseous in his presence. That wasn't counting the fact that someone was out there, someone who looked just like Francie Calfo but was in fact Allison Doran, a woman who was likely working with Sark and causing more destruction. Despite her years of training, her expertise, Sydney hadn't managed to kill Allison that night. While she had always viewed murder as an unfortunate yet sometimes necessary side effect of her job, she still battled the disappointment in knowing the one time she had wanted to do damage, she had failed.

Early in her return she had caused some damage. A bitter, physical argument had broken out between Sydney and Vaughn in the safe house in Hong Kong. Not surprisingly, since he'd been out of commission with the CIA and had never been especially flexible, she had easily overpowered him. For a moment there had been the temptation to hurt him, to possibly even take away his life. This man before her couldn't be reconciled with the loyal, loving man that she had known. In the end both survived, and she still harbored mixed emotions towards her gut reaction to his wedding band. In the end she took comfort in knowing that she wasn't the one who had changed, he was. And now he was Lauren's, and had been for just about a year.

The party was held at their house, a green colonial in a newly built community in an upper middle class suburb of Los Angeles. They had a large in ground pool in the back, an attached two car garage and a driveway big enough for a basketball hoop. The property was expansive, and the house was beautiful. The convertible she recognized as Lauren's was parked in front of the curved driveway along with Vaughn's more sensible car. In silence Eric shut off the car's engine and glanced curiously over at her. Since her return he'd been one of the few people she could count on, it was a role he took seriously and saw as an honor. Two years of working with Sydney Bristow prior to her disappearance proved she didn't take friendship lightly, and she took everything more seriously since her reappearance. Studying her face in the dim car light, he just hoped he hadn't made the wrong choice.

Unbuckling her belt, Sydney tossed her concerned friend a smile as she slipped out of the car. After he sighed heavily, Eric followed. Half a step behind her, he watched as she straightened her shoulders and rang the doorbell, clutching her coat like a lifejacket. Moments later the door swung open and Lauren smiled widely at the two from behind the screen door.

"Eric, Sydney, I'm glad your here," she pleasantly welcomed, opening the door and letting them.

Handsomely decorated in top of the line appliances and mostly new furniture, Sydney battled the burning ache in her heart as she instinctively inspected the home. Her hostess broke her concentration, taking her jacket and directing them to the back of the house. "People are just starting to arrive, but Michael's already starting to burn dinner," she smiled politely and disappeared to take care of their coats.

"You ready for this slugger?" Eric quietly asked.

Not amused, Sydney's eyes darted briefly to his, "what are we, five?"

"Let's go," he sighed as they joined the others. Most of the other guests were CIA employees, friends of the couple, tossed in with a few handful of relatives that Sydney had never met. The two were quickly busy talking to various friends from work that she was temporarily distracted from the memory and knowledge that she had entered the world she should have had with world not as a participant in this daily normal existence but at best a brief intruder. This world of pool side barbecue anniversary parties and large houses in new neighborhoods full of young saplings and even younger children would never be hers, and certainly never be hers to share with Michael Vaughn.

Dinner was grilled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs. Although she was transplanted in Los Angeles from her native Britain, it was obvious Lauren enjoyed the American tradition of a barbecue and informal party. The food was relatively good; the music that played in the background was enjoyable and as long as she forgot where she was and why she was there, Sydney could manage to hold a pleasant conversation. For most of the night, however, Eric Weiss was never far from her side, not counting the time that she was eating dinner and sharing a conversation with Carrie and Marshall Flinkman.

The sun had set in the sky and Eric, along with half a dozen other guests, had taken off their shoes and were lounging by the pool. Comfortable in a lounge chair, Sydney was hearing the more interesting highlights of the first few months of little baby Flinkman's life when two impatient fingers tapped against her shoulder. Looking over her shoulder, her eyes landed on the green eyes that she'd always love, obviously upset despite the darkness. "Follow me," he demanded, disappearing into the house without waiting.

Despite her initial anger, Sydney's gut instinct was to always trust him, no matter what. With an apologetic smile in Carrie's direction, she walked into the house, finding it barren sans an obviously angry Michael Vaughn pacing the living room. "What the hell was that -"

"What the hell happened in Moscow?" he demanded.

"Excuse me?" her eyebrows shot up. Michael Vaughn was no longer her handler, certainly not her superior. At best the man before her was her peer; at worst he was slightly below her. Both had been out of the CIA for over a year, but she had left of her own choosing and had disappeared while still on slightly better ground with the CIA. By the time Michael briefly withdrew into the private sector, he had all but warn out his welcome at the agency.

"Damnit Sydney! What the hell were you thinking? Not calling for back up? Do you think you can single handedly take down an international ring of espionage -"

"What I was or was not thinking isn't your concern Agent Vaughn - "

"The hell it isn't Sydney! You were nearly killed!"

"I've already heard this Vaughn, I don't need to hear it again," she snapped back. Dixon and her Father had already repeated this same message more than once.

"You cannot take down the Covenant alone! I understand that you want answers Syd, I do too," he started as she softly snorted, her arms crossed over her chest and her eyes lowered in disinterest. "Stop making the CIA the bad guy here Syd, stop refusing to accept allies -"

"Don't you dare talk to me about allies," she hissed, her eyes sharply meeting his. "I don't ever want to hear you talk to *me* about allies or faith or trust!" Sydney corrected, the anger shaking her soft utterance. "You are *not* my ally anymore. I can count the people I can trust on one hand! The CIA only let me back in because of Dixon and because of what I could for *them*, not what they could do for *me*, so don't you dare give me some company bullshit about allies," she demanded. "Will is *gone* Vaughn! My Father is more distant than ever. Somewhere out there my Mother is hiding, running away. She's done some horrible things, but right now she's primarily a fugitive because she tried to help *me*. Someone is out there right now who looks *exactly* like my best friend in the entire world, a woman who the CIA believes knows *exactly* where I've been the last two years and wants to kill me! Then I walk into the CIA and have to listen to how Sloane has an *immunity* agreement and how *I* can help the CIA?! I'm so sick of helping *them*. This is about *me* now, not the CIA. I don't need their back up, I don't need their equipment or promises."

"So now you're going to take down the Covenant all by yourself?"

"I took down the Alliance."

Vaughn's green eyes never wavered from hers, "not alone."

Sydney sighed and shrugged, her shoulders only lowering slightly and her eyes still not meeting his. "What do you want from me Vaughn?"

"I don't want you to get killed," he desperately urged, his voice low. "Perhaps the CIA is more interested in fulfilling their own agenda right now Syd, but *use* them. You'd be *insane* not to use their resources to track down the Covenant and you can't just ignore their Intel."

"I can take care of myself," Sydney promised, her voice strong but devoid of the harshness. Instead she sounded tired, her eyes no longer glittering the way they once had.

"Be careful Syd," Vaughn spoke, the words his only plea.

A solemn nod of her head was the only acknowledgement as she glanced ever so briefly at him. Out of her corner of her eye she watched him shove his hand into his pocket and wipe the underside of his nose with his free hand as she turned to leave. "Ren's pregnant," he whispered as she froze.

Not only did the news cause her to freeze, but also the intimate nickname he used to refer to his wife as. Logic told her of course he had a nickname for her, some term of endearment. After all, who else could make Syd sound as enticing as he did? Still, those two words together caused her body to pause as she slowly looked back at him.

The look on his face was bitterly divided. Joy at his upcoming fatherhood was obvious in his eyes, as was the anguish that came with delivering the news to her. Softly the words poured out of him as she stared at the bridge of his nose, hoping he didn't notice her aversion of his eyes. "I just . . I wanted to tell you, before someone else did. We just found out, but stuff gets out pretty quickly . . . I wanted you to know from me."

Softly she forces a smile and feels her heart crack as her voice breaks over her words, "congratulations."

Vaughn's lips pressed together as he silently nodded before he croaked, "thanks." Another forced smile, another beat of her heart stopping as she turned away from him. Two footsteps from him, half a dozen from the door, it comes so softly that he almost doesn't recognize it. "Syd."

This time it's her lips pushed together, a thin line where a smile once rested. Turning around the silence echoed around them with words they'd never say and things they'd never do. Instinctively her brown eyes met his green. In the room's infinite stillness Sydney could make out the house they should have bought, the family they should have built, the years of give in take. If she stood still long enough, patiently listening, she swore she could make out the laughter of children upstairs; children who would call excitedly for Mommy and Daddy before the ran down the stairs to greet them.

In his eyes she saw the inevitable truth. Somehow she'd fooled herself into ignoring it. Ironically it was in that room, the room where she could so easily imagine their children spending a lifetime of Christmas moments and summer memories, was where it was ending. Clear as day to both of them. Whatever future they could have had, whatever life they should have lived, was coming to an end.

"Take care of yourself Syd," he hoarsely requested.

"I will," she vowed, the shake of her head unnoticeable.

One final look into his eyes, she closed her hers for a moment and then lowered them to the carpet before she left in search of Eric.

Authors Note: I know, you hate me, but this was stuck in my head. You DO like me - go reread Coming to Terms or Raw Precision and you'll remember. Promise. This is the only story that I will EVER have end like this - promise. Just remember, there's no way you hate reading this story as much as I hate my muse for making it.