You Should Know

Disclaimer: Alias is not mine.
Timeline: AU from S2-ish, assume all eps including and after The Getaway never happened. Sd-6 is still around, Syd and Sark have been working together for some time now, and Irina freed herself earlier.
Notes: CQ's Challenge entry. Fic goes backward (challenge requirement). The italics at the end is Sydney's POV after all the events have occurred. Don't get too confused, and feedback is of course, always welcome.

-

It's safe to fall if you just trust the ground that you stand on.
I swear I would never let you down.
You should know sometimes it's hard for me
To show my fears but I'm never insincere.
Don't turn away from what you trusted yesterday.
I'm still that person that you can always depend on.

Midtown - "You Should Know"

-

In the limo, Sydney took a few deep breaths and turned to Sark. "I need to know what happened."

Sark nodded. "You seem to be taking everything quite well. What do you remember?"

"Sloane sending me—us on the mission. And Vaughn giving me the counter mission. Then… nothing. Then, I woke up in the hotel room."

"I don't think you'll believe me if I tell you. When we reach my house, you'll have to undergo regression therapy to remember. Is that okay?" He appeared concerned, searching her face for clues to how she felt.

She nodded and swallowed, "Yeah. I'm okay with that."

"Are you still worried about Sloane's asset?" Seeing her nod, he added, "Don't worry. Your mother and father will figure it out. I just hope it isn't too crushing."

Sydney smiled briefly, before asking, "You think Vaughn will be fine?"

"You shouldn't have let him go," he whispered, keeping his voice low and his face turned toward the tinted windows.

"Listen to me, Sark. As of now, I am very unsure whom I can and cannot trust, and that is one of the most dangerous things in our line of work. Last I remembered, I couldn't trust you, yet here I am. What if I trusted the wrong person? I couldn't jeopardize someone else's life on top of my own."

Sark turned to face her and gave her a slow nod, as if he understood. "Why didn't you go with him then?"

She dropped her gaze to her hands resting in her lap. "My head was screaming for me to trust him, and not you. You, you were a cold-blooded killer whose alliances could change at any second. You betrayed anyone to get what you wanted. I respected your work, but I didn't trust you."

He chuckled. "That's not exactly a vote on my side, Sydney. Why did you come with me?"

"Despite what my rationality was telling me to do, I couldn't. My instinct was telling me to go with you. So was my heart." She looked back into his face, a fiery gaze in her eyes. "Don't make me regret it."

3 hours earlier
Sydney opened her eyes slowly, feeling an ache in her left foot. She didn't want to get up; the bed was so wide and comfortable… She gasped and sat up in the bed. Where was she? The room… looked like a hotel room. A very expensive suite, for that matter. She was sitting on a king sized bed with a golden yellow awning. The curtains were the same color. The walls were a white, donned with paintings with what looked to be expensive and decorative frames. The dresser and table looked almost antique, with a nice oak color. Everything in the room matched the golden tone. The room was fit for royalty. She got out of the bed slowly, noticing that she was wearing a white tank top with white shorts. The tan carpet felt thick and soft beneath her bare feet. When she tried to stand, the ache in her left foot turned into a burning pain that shot through her entire leg. She let out a shriek and sat back down on the bed. As if on cue, the doors to the room swung open. Sydney looked around in terror and grabbed the gun that was resting on the nightstand. She aimed it at the doors and at…

Sark, who rushed in with an extremely worried look on his face. At the sight of her aiming a gun at his chest, Sark held up his hands, "Sydney, it's just me. You can put down the gun." When she continued to point it at him, his expression turned from worry to confusion. "Sydney. What are you doing?"

"I don't know," she admitted. "But you can never be too safe. Sit down, Sark." Using the gun, she directed him towards the chair.

Sark had no choice but to comply. As soon as he was sitting, he asked her, "What the hell is going on?"

"You tell me." Keeping the gun leveled, she cautiously got up from the bed, remembering to keep her weight off her left ankle.

Sark gave her a curious glance. "How's your ankle?"

She ignored him. "Where are we?"

Sark laughed. "Where are we? Sydney, what kind of game is this? Put the damn gun down. We have to leave in less than a few hours."

"I need to know what's going on. Where are we leaving to?" She tried to fathom why Sark was acting as if the two of them were good friends. Even if working together at SD-6 had given them an effective relationship on the field, all they exchanged outside of work was polite comments and occasional verbal jabs.

Sark shook his head and decided to humor her. "We are in Venice. We are leaving to my private home."

"Why are we here?"

"Mission, by Sloane, yes, Rambaldi, top-secret codes?" Sark sighed, getting exasperated.

"Okay." She nodded slowly, thinking hard. She remembered Sloane sending them on the mission. She lowered the gun.

Sark breathed a visible sigh of relief. "Care to clue me in on what's going on?"

Sydney sat back down the bed, lifting her feet up as well. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rocked back and forth, like a small child. "Sark… I don't remember anything after Sloane gave us the mission, except my—" she cut herself off, realizing she was about to say, counter mission. She chastised herself for being so stupid.

Sark stared at her intently. "Nothing at all? What happened?"

She shook her head violently. "Nothing. I don't know what happened, Sark, that's the problem. Maybe I got amnesia. You have to tell me what happened on the mission. Where are the codes?" She laughed at herself bitterly. "What am I saying? We might be respectful of each other on the field after working together for so long, but we've never been friends. You could lie to me so easily. Maybe you already are lying to me."

Before Sark could answer her, a knock was heard from the door, as it slowly creaked open. They both turned to see who it was.

Sydney blinked. "Vaughn?" She scrambled to her feet, jumping off the bed. She forgot about her ankle and pain shot through her leg again, as she stumbled to stand up straight.

Sark caught her by the waist. "Whoa, whoa, Sydney, watch out."

She pushed him away. "Don't touch me. I can handle it." She rushed to Vaughn's side. "Vaughn! Thank goodness you're here."

Vaughn looked confused, his expression matching the one Sark had when Sydney aimed the gun at him. "Yeah… Didn't I tell you that I wasn't going to leave without you?" He nodded curtly behind her, "Sark."

"Well, see, I—" she struggled for the words, staring between Vaughn and Sark, as seeing the two of them in the same room, breathing the same air, without trying to do bodily harm to each other was something she never thought possible.

Sark watched, smirking. "She's lost her memory, it seems."

"What?" Vaughn glanced behind Sydney to look at Sark. "What did you do?"

"What did I do? I didn't do anything. I opened the door this morning to find her pointing a bloody gun at me. Five minutes later, she's telling me the last thing she can remember is being sent on this mission by Sloane."

Vaughn didn't reply to Sark. He looked at Sydney carefully. "Sydney, do you remember who did this to you?"

Sark rolled his eyes. "I don't think it'd be a problem if she remembered, Agent Vaughn," he pointed out, stressing each word.

"Hey, you shut up, okay? You're lucky that I haven't turned—"

"Stop it!" Both men turned to look at Sydney. "Quit bickering. You have to tell me what happened on the mission, especially how it came to you two having a somewhat civilized conversation. We can deal with my memory loss back in LA."

Sark and Vaughn glanced at each other worriedly. Sark spoke first. "We're not going back to LA."

Sydney blinked. "What? Why not?"

Vaughn cut in before Sark could answer. "He's not going. We are."

"I don't see why you would want to risk her life," Sark stated, smirking, almost as if he were talking to a child.

"Oh, and you think that running is the answer? That is just as dangerous!" Vaughn was clearly upset that Sark could remain so calm.

"You know that Sloane will have—"

"I am not having this conversation with you again!" Vaughn yelled, unable to contain his anger.

Sydney rubbed her forehead and cried out, "If you two want to argue, at least tell me what's going on. Why can't I go to LA?"

"You've been compromised," Sark told her. "Sloane knows you're a double."

"What the hell happened?" She asked angrily. Shaking her head, she laughed, "I'm still trying to get over the fact that we seem to be friends, Sark."

Vaughn appeared almost taken aback at Sydney's comment about being friends with Sark. "Somebody tipped him off. We have to get back to LA and try to straighten it all out with the help of the CIA."

"What about my father? Is he safe?" Concern was written all over her face.

Vaughn seemed to hesitate, but Sark answered firmly, "He's safe."

Sydney relaxed a bit. "Where?"

"Not entirely sure, but you got a phone call yesterday, okay?" Sark sounded slightly tired.

Vaughn's forehead crinkled as if he was about to add something, but the look Sark shot him made him keep his mouth shut.

"Okay," Sydney breathed, trying to taking all the information in. It appeared as if everything had changed since this mission. She glanced at both of them questioningly, "What about going back to LA?"

It appeared as if everything had changed since this mission. She glanced at both of them questioningly, "What about going back to LA?"

Sark supplied, "Agent Vaughn might think it's fine to go back there, but I know it's not safe. Sloane told me that you would be taken in as soon as the mission was over. No doubt, he'll have people there. It's dangerous."

Seeing Sydney nod at Sark's words, as if she understood and agreed, Vaughn interjected, "Either way it's dangerous! Besides, Sark, how do we know you aren't still working with Sloane? He could be waiting for Sydney anywhere, especially wherever you plan on taking her." He turned to Sydney, pleading, "Come to LA, please, Syd."

A torn look appeared on her face; this shouldn't be so difficult. "Who was I planning to go with?"

"You hadn't decided." Sark answered truthfully.

Sydney smiled briefly, appreciating Sark's honesty. "I have a few more questions first. Why are you helping us?" Sydney realized Sark had no stake in this, no reason to be helping her. The seed of doubt Vaughn's words planted remained in her mind.

"I'm not helping him, I'm helping you." Sark clearly avoided the question, an unreadable expression on his face.

Vaughn stared at the two of them, feeling ignored. "We don't have time for this Sark. Answer the question, the plane leaves in about two hours."

Noticing that Sark was prepared to fire back, Sydney asked, "Where are the codes?"

"I have them," Vaughn told her calmly, still watching Sark.

Sark took a step forward, shocked by Vaughn's words, "What the hell are you talking about? The mission was a wash."

"Stop lying, Sark." Vaughn narrowed his eyes. "What kind of game are you playing? Just because Sydney doesn't remember what happened—"

"Lying?" Sark's eyes flashed, his face impassive and cold. "Bullshit. You are the one who's lying. I don't know why but even if Sydney goes with you, she'll eventually figure out you don't have the damn codes." A strange look of suspicion passed across his features. "Unless—"

"Let's go outside," Sydney interjected, feeling a headache beginning to press onto her. She needed some air.

Sark and Vaughn halted their argument long enough to check out of the hotel. Aside from the hateful glances they shot each other, they ignored one another and tried to help Sydney. She shrugged them both off and faced them, "Did we get the codes or not?"

Neither Sark nor Vaughn would budge from their story, and Sydney felt anger crawling under her skin. Someone was lying here, and she'd have to go with one of the two soon.

Vaughn gave Sydney one of his trusting smiles. "Sydney, please come with me to LA. Sark knows that by saying he doesn't have the codes, you'll accept it and he'll be able to keep them."

She felt herself taking an involuntary step towards Vaughn. After all, he was her guardian angel, her confident, someone she could trust through and through.

Sark smirked. "Agent Vaughn, how do you feel lying to someone who doesn't know better? How will you feel walking right into a trap? Unless, of course, you are involved in this whole plot. Unless you set up the mission or managed to steal the codes before us. That would explain a lot."

Sark's words and accusations should have propelled her towards Vaughn, but she stood, rooted in place, tearing her gaze between both of them. She noticed Sark's hand hovering near his waist. "Whoever I go with," she whispered, "the other leaves unharmed."

Neither man said anything, continuing to stare at one another.

Sydney rubbed her forehead. The decision should have been easy, by all means, but she felt completely torn. Finally, she shook her head, whispering, "I'm sorry." She walked up to Sark. He took Sydney's hand and walked away from the hotel. He glanced back and looked at the man who was standing at the entrance, watching them leave.

28 hours earlier
Sydney yawned and glanced at the clock next to her head. It was already noon. She got up and tested her ankle. It was still a bit sore, but she could move around with only a slight limp. "Guess there's no sightseeing for me today," she told herself as she padded to the bathroom. After her shower, when she was dressed and entirely awake, she headed to a quaint café she had seen across from the hotel to get some lunch. She spent the afternoon browsing the little shops nearby, buying a few gifts for Francie and Will. She received a phone call from Francie, inquiring about the trip. Sydney relayed her accident on the hotel stairs and the sprained ankle, promising Francie it wasn't that bad, she could still move around with no difficulty. She remembered to ask her friend something that had bothered her, but Francie, it seemed, hadn't heard from Will in a few days either. Will had gone on a trip for the 'magazine' a few days earlier, but hadn't returned the time he said he would. Neither was worried, Francie chalked it up to delayed airplanes, since it was snowing in Chicago. Sydney thought the CIA research had just taken longer than expected.

She called him again on the way to her room at the hotel, but still no answer. Sark was sitting in an oversized chair in the outside living room of the suite, tapping away on his laptop. "How's the ankle?" he asked, nodding at her, his gaze still resting on the computer screen.

"Good," she said as she walked into her room and dropped her bags on the bed.

Sark closed his laptop and set it on the table, trailing after her. "Anything new?"

She closed her eyes, knowing the meaning behind his question. "It's just a lot to handle at the moment. I really don't know, Sark."

"I understand." The way he said it made it sound like he really did understand, but he also wanted her to go with him.

When she opened her eyes and turned around, Sark stood less than a foot away. She studied his face, impassive yet affectionate. His blue eyes held a depth of warmth. Cautiously, he reached a hand to her face and cupped her chin delicately, his thumb lightly grazing her cheek. The sensation tingled through her body; heat spread throughout her. Sensing that she wasn't going to pull away, he began to lower his face to hers. He immediately pulled back as the shrill ringing of Sydney's cell phone broke the moment.

"Hello?" Sydney flipped open her cell phone.

"Sydney, it's me." At the sound of her father's voice, she immediately backed away from Sark, feeling an intense guilt wash over her.

"Dad! Are you okay? Sloane hasn't found you yet, has he?" Sark jerked his head toward the door, indicating he was going to give her some privacy. She couldn't read his expression but mouthed a 'thanks' and listened carefully to what her father was saying.

"No, no, nothing like that. I'm fine. Irina has kept her word… so far." Jack placed stress on the last two words.

"I still can't believe you're with her."

"Strange, I know. But I still do not trust her completely. She can be very manipulative." He hesitated for a moment, almost as if he feared what his next words could mean. "Listen, Sydney, your mother says… she may have found a way to dismantle SD-6 and the Alliance."

"Really?"

"Don't get your hopes up yet. According to her, this had been the plan a long time in coming, but now that Sloane has decided to act on intel that we are double agents, she can speed up the process."

"What do you mean, act on intel? How long has he known?"

"Your mother is still Sloane's ally, or so he believes. She tried to find out who his asset was, but he wouldn't reveal that information. She did manage to find out that his asset got him the Rambaldi codes he sent you and Sark after, and that the intel indicating we are double agents was given long ago. Sloane just never felt the need to use it. He's known for a short while."

"But why now? And why would he send me and Sark here in the first place?"

"Those two questions are related. Sloane knows that sending you on a mission means the intel acquired is fake. These codes are extremely important to him and his Rambaldi puzzle, and he needs the codes. He sent you and Sark before he understood just how essential the codes were. By then, it was too late to get you two out of it, so he sent his asset in."

"Where's his asset based in?"

"Los Angeles, from what Irina has gathered."

"What else did she manage to find out?"

"Nothing, except…" he hesitated briefly.

"What?"

"Sloane seemed to hint that it was someone close to you. How close, we don't know. Could be a mere acquaintance at the CIA for all we know. Irina is working on the identity based on whatever information she can squeeze out of Sloane. I would recommend staying out of LA. Is there anywhere you can go?"

Close? Sydney massaged her temples; it could be anybody who knew she and her dad were double agents. The list wasn't terribly long, but it was long enough. Finding Sloane's asset wouldn't be easy. "I could go…" she went silent for a moment, "with Sark."

"Sark? Are you sure, Sydney? He could very well be Sloane's asset despite what has happened on this mission and what Irina says."

"I'm pretty positive it isn't him, Dad. I trust him enough to go with him. But what about Vaughn?"

"Vaughn needs to go back. If he was gone and the asset was indeed from the CIA, it would look too suspicious."

"Be careful Dad. Love you."

"You too, Sydney. Goodbye."

She hung up the phone and decided to go look for Sark and Vaughn so she could tell them what happened. Perhaps they could all get a bite to eat. She felt quite hungry, and it was pretty late. She frowned when she discovered Sark was nowhere to be found, and neither was Vaughn. She opened the door that connected her room to Sark's, only to find it was deserted, his cell phone and gun gone from the nightstand. Vaughn didn't answer the knock she placed on his door, and no sound could be heard from inside his room. She decided they might be downstairs eating already, though she chuckled at the thought of the two of them sitting together, attempting to talk without arguing. As she turned away from Vaughn's door, with a slight limp due to her injured ankle, someone grabbed her from behind, and she felt a sudden sharp pricking in her neck. She struggled to see her captor, but all she thought she caught was a glimpse of blonde-ish hair. By then, her mind was hazy, and the world faded into black.

16 hours earlier
Sydney sat in a table near the entrance of the hotel's restaurant a few minutes before seven pm. She glanced through the menus and shifted in her seat, waiting for Sark and Vaughn. Sark arrived at seven o'clock sharp, and Sydney smiled at his punctuality.

He pulled up a chair next to her and asked, "What's the occasion?"

"I'll tell you, as soon as Vaughn gets here." She watched the entrance carefully.

If Sark was disappointed that the dinner invitation wasn't only for him, he didn't show it. He nodded and motioned to a waiter.

Sydney nearly snorted as Sark asked for drinks. "Can't live without the fine wine, can you?"

He shot her a disdainful look, and then cracked a smile himself. "It's one of my charming attributes."

She laughed amiably, just as Vaughn walked up.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

Sark grinned. "We're arguing over the wine."

His comment only made Sydney laugh harder and Vaughn more confused.

"Never mind," she said when she gained her composure back. After ordering the food, Sydney took a sip of the wine Sark had ordered. "Mmm. Not bad," she drawled, watching Sark.

He pretended to roll his eyes, but didn't say anything.

"Okay," she started, "I got a call from my dad yesterday."

"Is he safe? Sloane hasn't gotten him, has he?" Vaughn's forehead creased in concern.

"No, he's fine. You won't believe what he told me though. He's with Irina."

Vaughn appeared extremely shocked, barely able to hold his distress in. "What!"

Sark looked mildly amused, but not very surprised.

Sydney nodded. "Apparently, she extracted him before Sloane could get to him. Sloane thinks he's on the run on his own, doesn't suspect a thing." She told both of them the whole story, pausing only to eat her dinner.

Vaughn was still skeptical, but accepted the whole situation as the truth. "What are you going to do?" he asked her anxiously.

Before she could answer, Sark spoke. "We have to leave in two days. Sydney, I hope you aren't planning to go back to Los Angeles." Sark arched an eyebrow at her questioningly, swirling the red wine in his glass.

"I hadn't thought about it," she admitted, feeling a little saddened at the prospect of leaving this place and going on the run from Sloane.

"She has to go back to LA. We have to figure out how she was compromised," Vaughn cut in, looking back and forth between Sark and Sydney.

Sark shook his head. "It's too dangerous. We know that Sloane is planning to bring her in as soon as she touches foot in LA."

"Sloane asked you to bring her in. Besides, we can outrun Sloane's guards and bring her to a safe house until the CIA figures out what's going on."

"You're willing to risk it? Wouldn't it be easier to bring her to a safe house elsewhere?"

"Oh, what do you think she should do?" Vaughn asked, irritation starting to become evident in his voice.

"I certainly don't plan on going back. Sydney can come with me to one of my houses outside of Venice." Sark took a sip of his wine.

"Okay!" Sydney cried out. "I'm right here; don't act like I'm not."

"Where do you want to go?" Sark asked her, running his finger along the rim of his wine glass.

"I don't know. Can we not talk about this now?" She forced a smile.

Vaughn shrugged, prepared to change the topic of conversation when his phone rang. He looked at the number and told the two of them, "I'm going to go up. Night, Syd, Sark." He walked off, leaving the two of them staring after him.

After another half bottle of wine and a conversation about trivial yet normal topics, Sydney felt fairly intoxicated. She looked at Sark, taking in his mused up hair, his slight smile. The past few days brought out a side of Sark she had never seen before, a side of Sark she enjoyed seeing. Her eyes trailed over his face and she sensed something rush in her, partly the wine, partly a feeling she had never associated with Sark in the past. She leaned forward, a giggle in her throat. "Remember our first kiss?" she could hear that her speech was slightly slurred.

Sark's eyebrows shot up at her question. "Mmm. Does that mean I'm forgiven?" Upon seeing her blank expression, he continued, "I didn't think so. I think you've had just a bit too much alcohol, Sydney. It's time to go." He threw some bills on the table to pay for the dinner and took her arm to help her back to the room.

On the way up the stairs that led into the lobby, Sydney stumbled in her steps. Sark managed to catch her before she fell completely but not before she felt a stinging pain in her ankle. The pain sobered her, and she laughed. "Ow! How embarrassing."

"You okay?" Sark gave her a concerned look, holding on to her arm and waist.

"Yeah, just my ankle." They made it back to her room safely. Sydney walked slowly, using Sark as a crutch.

She sat down on the bed, as Sark went to get some ice. She glanced at her ankle, already becoming slightly swollen. Sark came back with a bucket of ice and handed it to her. "Brilliant," she muttered, "I can fight in high heels but I can't walk up stairs of a hotel. Thank goodness we have this time off."

Sark examined it carefully, taking her foot in his hands. He turned it side to side and gentle pressed various spots around her ankle. A shiver shot straight through her, unfurling in her gut, at his touch. "Doesn't look that bad. It's only a tiny sprain," he concluded, shrugging. "Just rest it for a few days and it should be fine."

"Thank you, doctor," Sydney quipped, resting her foot on a pillow.

Sark flashed a crooked grin, and moved to the door. "Night, Sydney."

"Night," she called after him, already feeling sleep pull at her.

23 hours earlier
A knock was heard on the door as Sark pushed it open and walked in. "Have you reached Jack?"

Frustrated, Sydney blew out a deep breath, "I keep getting the voice mail. I don't know why he isn't picking up." A horrified expression passed across her face. You don't… you don't think—" she choked out.

Sark cut her off. "No. Your father wouldn't be caught or outsmarted by Sloane. He must be in hiding as well."

She swallowed, trying to smile and share his confidence.

He walked closer to her, looking her in the eyes. "He wouldn't, Sydney." He held her chin and turned her gaze towards him. "He's fine, Sydney. You have to believe that."

She finally nodded, staring into his deeply blue eyes. Slowly, his mouth lowered to hers. At first, the kiss was feather light, barely a touch. She felt her heart pounding in her ears as he gradually kissed her more firmly. She responded for a moment, before remember exactly whom she was kissing, and then pushed him back, breaking the contact.

Sark smirked as she turned on her heel and tried to flee from the room.

"We have to talk about it, you know." Sark called after her, still smirking.

Sydney turned around slowly. "Talk about what?"

"This. Us. Whatever keeps happening." He made a motion between the two of them.

"It doesn't keep happening. And there's nothing to talk about. We kissed. Twice. The first time I just… was trying to be my alias, and the second time was a fluke." She tried to sound firm, her eyes darted around the room, resting anywhere but on Sark.

"Really?" he asked, sounding amused. He walked toward her, closing the distance between them.

"Yes," she said weakly, feeling her resolved slowly crumble as she took in his slightly curved up mouth, and that adorably crooked bottom lip.

"Then it won't happen again…" he trailed off, standing merely a few feet from her.

Before she could open her mouth to agree or disagree—she didn't really know which—Sark's lips were on hers again. By then, all logic had flown out of her mind and she responded willingly, gently wrapping her arms around his neck as she played with his curls.

This time, it was he who pulled away all too soon, but not before lightly nipping her bottom lip with his teeth.

She dropped her arms. "Okay," she said faintly, "We have to talk about it."

Sark's cocky grin appeared on his face. "Go ahead."

"What?"

"Go ahead and talk. I assume your guilty conscience is kicking in about now."

Sydney looked at him, horrified at the way he was talking. Was this still all a game to him? Did he just kiss her to indulge in his belief that he could undo anyone, even her? "I suppose I should feel guilty I kissed a cold blooded assassin, but I'm too busy dwelling on the fact that you clearly kissed me that time," she told him coldly. If he could play this game, so could she.

Something flickered across his gaze, but the icy look guarded the emotion in his eyes quickly. His smirk didn't falter. "You responded. Obviously, you had no concerns. Do you now?"

Anger bubbled inside of her, and she hissed, "I do. You're still a conceited asshole. I was wrong to have thought otherwise. Tell me, do you get off on pretending the kisses we shared were real?"

His smile faded, but he asked her calmly, "What does that mean?"

"You're obviously missing something emotionally, so you have to pretend that anyone could actually care for you." She knew it was a low blow, but Sark was treating her like a low being, someone to be toyed with.

His fists clenched by his sides. "I don't fancy myself with making emotional ties, Sydney," he spat out her name like poison. "And you do care. You just don't want to admit it. Also, even if I'm missing something, at least my emotions don't get in the way and kill the ones I care about."

The harshness of Sark's words struck Sydney speechless. Blinking back tears, she spun around and ran into her bathroom, slamming the door after her. She slumped down against the door, trying to stop the tears. He wasn't worth crying over.

A few minutes later, she heard a soft knock above her. Silently, she willed Sark to go away, but he continued to knock. She stood up slowly and gripped the knob. Throwing it open, she braced herself for whatever was going to come.

Before she could even get a word out, Sark spoke softly, "I'm sorry, Sydney. That was entirely out of line and not even true."

She stood stiffly, leaning against the door, unable to speak.

Sark looked at her, his emotionless eyes focused on her face. "You don't have to say anything; I know I don't deserve it."

She didn't understand how Sark could still be so poised and indifferent, even when regarding to his own mistakes. "You were serious when you said you didn't let yourself feel emotion, weren't you?" She laughed bitterly.

His gaze darkened slightly. "I used to be. It's amazing how fast things can change."

"How?"

"How else, Sydney? You." He inclined his head slightly in her direction.

The simple admission said everything.

Sark explained, "You said it yourself, Sydney. I'm a lot different than you used to think. When I started SD-6, I fully did intend to be rid of Mr. Sloane. It was Irina's intention to take down the Alliance, and she needed someone on the inside. I thought it would be quick. In and out, before Sloane even knew that I was the one that caused his empire to fall. But as the months dragged on, I had to pretend to be the loyal ally, going on missions, obtaining artifacts. It grew tiring. I was used to working on my own accord, taking long-term orders from Irina and executing them however I pleased. Now, I had to work with you and Dixon, pretending that SD-6 was part of the CIA. Dixon could care less about me as long as I did my job on the field. You were a different story. Especially after Sloane decided I was very good for field missions and took Dixon off active duty, you grew even more wary of me, seeking to find out everything you could about whom I was. Between your constant prodding and our daily banter, the wall I had built around my emotions starting slipping. Then Sloane sent us here. Everything changed, Sydney, when he asked me to bring you in. It was easy to lie to him and assure I would, but inside, I knew I could never do that. It happened little by little, but I feel something for you, Sydney. Something I don't think I've ever felt before."

His confession left Sydney speechless.

He took a long look at her face, and nodded knowingly. "It's okay. Just…" he ran a hand through his hair. "Just think about it." With that, he turned around and disappeared into his own room, shutting the door behind him.

Sydney snapped out of her daze as her cell phone rang. "Hello?"

"Sydney?"

"Dad!" she exclaimed, "Are you okay? I've been trying to call you, but your number—"

"Yes, I disconnected my cell phone. I think Sloane planted something on it, even though it was CIA issue. Yours should be safe though. He knows we're doubles."

"Oh. Yeah, I've been told," she said, matter-of-factly.

"By whom?" He sounded as if he had been expecting a more emotional reaction.

"Sark, of all people. Sloane alerted him that they were going to ambush us when we got back to LA."

"And Sark just offered to help you?" Jack's tone of voice was incredulous.

"Well, long story short, he already knew I was a double. He says he's willing to help. So far, I believe him, actually." She seemed amazed at this admission herself.

"Be careful around Sark. Even with what Irina says, I'm still weary. Are you safe?" he asked worriedly.

"I'm fine. The mission-vacation time isn't up yet. I—did you say Irina?" She switched the phone from one hand to the other, wondering if her ears were playing tricks on her.

"Yes, I'm with her now."

"Wha—how?" Sydney sputtered, nearly speechless.

"She extracted me before Sloane could get me. He doesn't know I'm with her. He thinks I'm at large, and continues to confide in Irina. She says that Sark is on our side also, which is why I decided to call you. Though I am grateful for her assistance, I don't completely trust her, and I don't think you should place your complete trust in Sark just yet either."

She digested the information regarding her mother. "Don't worry, I'll be okay. Vaughn is here too and he, well, he's getting along with Sark. Somewhat."

"All right. Irina is still trying to find information. I'll call you back sometime later with more info. When do you need to leave?"

"In three days."

"I'll contact you soon. Be careful, Sydney."

"You too. Bye, Dad." She hung up the phone and lay down on the bed. After a few minutes, she got up, wrote two notes and stuck one each under Sark and Vaughn's doors.

Both read: Dinner tomorrow. 7 PM. Downstairs. –Syd

29 hours earlier
Sydney curled up on the couch across from Sark, watching him type on his laptop. She smiled as she studied his face, concentrating on his work. His expression was passive and his eyes scanned the lines of text in the document.

Sark looked up, and noticed her staring. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

She felt a blush creep into her cheeks. "Like what?"

"Like I'm a fascinating creature," he teased. "How's the book?"

She shrugged, her book sitting in her lap, forgotten. "It's good."

Sark smiled knowingly, but before he could say anything, his cell phone rang. He flipped it open, still smiling. "Sark."

As he listened, he shifted his laptop and sobered. "Yes sir." A pause. "Okay." He cast a worried glance in Sydney's direction.

She opened her mouth to ask whom it was when Sark placed a finger to his lips.

After a long silence in the room, he replied into the phone, "Are you sure?" He cast a stricken expression in Sydney's direction.

Sydney sat up straight, worried.

"I will, sir. Thank you. Goodbye." Sark closed his phone, an alarmed expression on his face. "Sydney…"

"What is it?" She chewed on her bottom lip, terrified at what he was going to say.

"Sloane… he knows you're a double agent."

She cried out, "How?"

"He didn't say. He only wanted me to make sure you enjoyed the rest of this vacation and didn't suspect anything. He was planning to abduct you at LAX after our flight back, and just wanted to give me a heads up. I'm sorry, Sydney." Sark truly looked apologetic, even for something of this magnitude that wasn't his fault.

Sydney shook her head in disbelief. "How could he know?" She drew in a deep breath, "I just… this… I don't know what to make of it."

"You might want to tell Vaughn that you're not going back to LA." Sark told her quietly, pocketing his cell phone. He set his laptop on the chair next to him.

She nodded, standing up and walking into the hallway toward Vaughn's room. Sark followed close behind.

Vaughn opened his door on the second knock, peering through a small crack, "Yeah?" He took in their worried expressions. "Everything okay?"

"We need to talk." Sydney expected Vaughn to open the door and welcome them in.

Instead, he slipped out of the room and shut the door closely behind him. "What's the deal?"

"I've been compromised."

"What!" Vaughn's initial reaction was to turn to Sark in anger. "What did you—"

"It wasn't him! Sloane just called him and told him I was going to be abducted at LAX on our way back. He told Sark to make sure I don't suspect anything."

Vaughn continued to regard Sark suspiciously. Finally, he turned back to Sydney. "So what are you going to do?"

"I don't think I'm going to go back to LA."

"But where else can you go?"

"I have a house outside Venice. She can come with me," Sark interjected.

Vaughn shook his head, "No."

Sydney appeared confused. "But why? I could go with Sark and you could go back to LA and try to find out more."

"It's too dangerous, Sydney. I'm not even sure I would trust Sark here. Perhaps he wants to turn you into Sloane. Perhaps he'll sell you to another organization for money. Who knows, Sydney?"

Sark narrowed his eyes. "I resent that. I'm not selling Sydney to anyone. I just want her to be safe. It's more dangerous to go back to LA. Sloane is waiting for her at the airport."

Vaughn wasn't persuaded. "I can send for a private helicopter. Sydney needs to go back to LA and get to a safe house there. The CIA can protect her."

Sark laughed cynically, "You think Sloane will care about the CIA? He can get past the CIA; he can get past a safe house."

"Oh and you think she'll be safe with you?" Vaughn was getting angry.

"All right! I'm right here, I'll decide." Sydney cried out, tired of the bickering.

Both men turned to her. "Okay then. Tell Sark you want to come back to LA," Vaughn told her confidently.

She looked at the both of them. "I really don't know yet. I'll try and figure this out, and think about which way is the safest. I need to call my father too. So you two just stop arguing because I'm going to decide where I want to go."

Sark nodded and Vaughn crinkled his forehead. Vaughn's cell phone went off and he excused himself, going back into his room.

33 hours earlier
There was a knock on the door of the living room suite. Sark opened it, "Yes?"

A maid stood outside, holding a silver tray in her hand. "Breakfast for Ms. Morison."

Sark recognized Sydney's alias and took the tray. "I'll give it to her." He tipped the maid and closed the door, "Thank you."

Just as he was about to place Sydney's breakfast tray on the table, she walked into the room. "What are you doing?"

"Room service just sent your breakfast. I wasn't eating it, I promise." He set the tray down and inclined his head, holding up his right hand.

"Yeah, that's what they all say—then they steal your peanut butter and jelly sandwich," Sydney teased, unwrapping her sandwich.

"Why would they wrap a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so meticulously?" He sat down and pulled out his laptop, setting it onto his lap.

"It's a fancy hotel," she told him, in between bites of her sandwich.

"I'm surprised they even have that on the menu," he mumbled, focusing on his laptop.

She sat down across from him, finishing up her sandwich.

After a few moments of silence, Sark looked up, "Sydney?"

"Yeah?"

He bit down on his bottom lip in that adorable way. He seemed to be contemplating his next words. "Are you going to introduce me to your Agent Vaughn?"

Somehow, Sydney wasn't surprised he knew Vaughn was here. "Why do you want to meet him?"

Instead of answering, Sark responded with a question of his own. "Have you told him I know?"

"I talked to him about it."

"I'd just like to meet him."

She sighed. "Okay. Let's go." She walked out of the room, Sark trailing behind her.

Vaughn opened the door after a few knocks, smiled when he saw Sydney, and suspicious when he noticed Sark. "What are you doing?"

Sark took the liberty of introducing himself. "You must be Agent Vaughn. I'm Sark."

Vaughn narrowed his eyes. "I know. You're a wanted terrorist."

"You don't need to be so harsh, Agent Vaughn." Sark smirked, watching Vaughn grow more irritated.

"Listen to me, you pompous murderer. I don't know what you're trying to do here. Sydney may trust you a bit but I certainly—"

"Vaughn, relax. Sark isn't going to rat anyone out. Let's just trust him for the time being, all right?" Sydney noticed Vaughn's clenched fist.

"Fine," Vaughn breathed. "But if he does anything—"

"I can assure you, I won't be betraying my word to Sydney." Sark folded his arms, unfazed by Vaughn's threats.

"Good," Vaughn said grudgingly.

Sydney pulled Sark by the elbow. "You met the man, let's go. Bye Vaughn."

36 hours earlier
Sydney desperately hoped Sark was a sound sleeper. But whom was she kidding? No one in this business was a sound sleep. She'd just have to be careful in switching the disks.

Slowly, she opened the door that connected Sark's room to the 'living room' of their suite. Sark appeared to be asleep. She crept to the chair next to his bed, where his jacket was draped. She reached toward the pockets, hoping the disk was still in one of them. On her third try, she gripped the disk in triumph. Just as she was pulling her blank disk out, a hand closed around her wrist. She shrieked.

"Sydney, Sydney. Don't try to steal from me," Sark scolded, turning on the lamp next to the bed.

"I wasn't—" Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of him. His blanket fell into his lap, revealing his smooth, toned chest.

He picked the disk from her and smirked. "I wasn't lying, Sydney. You didn't need to steal this from me. I'm sure your disk is just as blank as mine. Did you not trust me enough to give the information to Sloane had I actually obtained it?"

"I—" Sydney was still speechless.

Sark continued, "Or maybe it's because you need it for the CIA."

Her eyes widened. "What?"

"I said—" Sark prepared to repeat himself.

"I heard what you said. How do you know?" She mentally slapped herself. If Sark hadn't known, she would've just compromised herself.

"That you're a double? I've known for quite some time, Sydney." He smirked slightly.

"How? When?"

"Remember the antidote you were willing to hand over Sloane's life for?" He raised an eyebrow.

Sydney nodded, understanding. "You analyzed the sample didn't you?"

"Of course. I was curious as to who exactly needed the antidote… and to find out you were a double—that was quite a reward." He caught her worried expression. "Don't worry, Sydney. I don't plan to tell Sloane. I just like to know exactly where people's alliances lie. I'd like to see the Alliance crumble as much as you do."

"Oh," was all she could utter.

"I really wasn't lying, Sydney. There were no codes. You should go to sleep. It's two am."

"I guess so." She stood up, averting her eyes so she wouldn't look at Sark's bare chest. She didn't even know why she trusted him; something in her gut was telling her to.

Before she closed the door completely, Sark called out, "I'd love to meet your Agent Vaughn sometime."

7 hours earlier
"Vaughn?" Sydney asked in disbelief. "What are you doing here?" She opened the door wider and ushered him into her room.

"Listen, Syd, we weren't sure if you'd be able to get the codes from Sark, so I obtained a copy directly from Derringer's computer." He smiled, speaking softly in case Sark could hear from next door.

"Wait—what? How? The mission was a failure. Sark didn't get the codes." Sydney appeared bewildered that Vaughn had gotten the codes.

His expression became serious. "What do you mean? I thought he had a deal to buy them from Derringer."

Sydney shook her head and recalled to Vaughn the events of the day. "He claimed he didn't get them. I don't understand. How did you get them?"

"I snuck into his house and stole them. Early in the morning. He always goes to play tennis in the mornings. Do you believe Sark?"

"I did, because he came back all too soon for the mission to have been completed. Unless he was the one that did it, and he didn't want me to know about the codes. He did go radio silent on the mission. Damnit! I'm going to have to swap the disk for a blank one, just in case." Her eyes flared with anger. "I'll do it tonight, while he's sleeping."

"Be careful, Syd. You can give it to me when you make the switch. My room is down the hall, 346." He opened the door and let himself out.

"Thanks, Vaughn. You too," she called after him.

6 hours earlier
"The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can enjoy the rest of the mission-vacation," Sark told her as he adjusted his tie.

Sydney checked the equipment and consented, "That's why I'm glad we made the deal for the first day. Sloane was actually generous in letting us stay."

"First time he's ever been. Guess there is a first time for everything. You ready?" Sark asked, pocketing two blank disks, one just in case.

"I don't see why I couldn't have been the one to make the deal. Being on the receiving end of the com is not my forte." Sydney complained, shaking her head.

"Derringer doesn't believe in women in this business. Sorry Sydney, he wouldn't have traded if he thought you were going right now." Sark opened the door.

"Good luck." She called.

A few moments later, Sark's voice crackled in her earpiece. "I don't need luck, Sydney. I'm about to ring his doorbell now."

Erik Derringer was a wealthy executive, and he owned the entire twelfth floor of the hotel in which they were staying. He held a handful of Rambaldi codes valuable to Sloane. He had no clue what the codes were for, but had been willing to set up a meeting and make a deal to trade them—for ten thousand dollars. Sydney shook her head at the absurd value of a bunch of codes written by a dead man.

She heard Sark suck in a breath. "What is it, Sark?"

"I'm going radio silent, Sydney."

"No, don't do that! Sark, tell me what—" Cursing, she took a deep breath and waited.

Less than ten minutes later, Sark burst through the door.

She stood, prepared to give him a piece of her mind, "What the hell was that! You can't just 'go radio silent' when I have something to say—"

Sark interrupted her, "Failure. Derringer and all his guards are dead. The computers have been wiped. Someone got to the codes before us."

"What?"

"You heard me. They're all dead. Shot. Bloody and messy up there. Good thing I didn't get any blood on my suit." Sark pulled out his cell phone.

"Who are you calling?" Sydney asked, a little dazed at his news.

"Sloane. He'll need to know the mission was a wash." Sark moved away, into the other room.

She sat down into the chair, rubbing her forehead. Dead… who could it have been that killed Derringer? Who else wanted the codes? She scoffed. It seemed that every time something was wanted, everyone in espionage wanted it.

Sark sat down next to her. "He's letting us stay. He was concerned about our safety, but decided we should get to enjoy the rest of the vacation anyway."

"He didn't worry about the codes?" Sydney raised an eyebrow.

"Not too much. It is unlike him, but Sloane can be quite odd at times. Rambaldi has made him that way. I'm going to change and get some lunch. Venice is beautiful city. Might as well enjoy it. You should too." Sark walked into his room and closed the door.

24 hours earlier
Sydney tapped her foot impatiently. Sark was late. She took in the lavish surroundings of the hotel and smiled. She'd enjoy the vacation after the mission, even if it was with Sark.

"Ready, Agent Bristow?" a perfectly polished British accent called out from behind her.

She turned and took in the way Sark was dressed. She liked it. He had on casual cloths, khaki pants and a blue button-down shirt. She was wearing a flowery red-white skirt and a white tank top.

They walked up to the counter, hands linked together, like the couple they were supposed to be. Sark spoke to the girl at the counter in perfect Italian, "Dorian Worchester and Samantha Morison, please."

While the girl typed in their names and found them a suite, she flirted blatantly with Sark.

Sydney pretended to looked bored, but still felt a twinge of jealously when Sark eyed the girl as well. She suppressed it and snatched the keys from the girl quickly. "Let's go, sweetie," she purred, tossing a disdainful look at the girl behind the desk.

Sark looked surprised as her behavior and was even more shocked when she leaned in and planted a kiss on his lips.

Once in the elevator, she disentangled her hand from his and tossed him a key to his room.

He smirked, "A little jealous there, Sydney?"

"Oh please. It's the alias. I just didn't want her parading on my boyfriend. I'm sure 'Samantha Morison' would never allow that." She told him coolly.

"Sure." Sark smiled, getting off the elevator on the third floor.

They went to their separate rooms, pleased to find that there was a 'living room' connecting both their rooms. It was part of the suite.

Sydney grinned, showing her approval, "Nice. It's huge. And posh."

Sark laughed at her using the word 'posh'. "After tomorrow's mission, we can relax for a few days. It is very nice."

Perhaps this mission wouldn't be so bad after all.

-

Does everything add up? Yes, it does, except for one thing—Sloane's asset. Now that I have all my memories intact, I ran through them, reliving them, in hopes of finding clues to point to the betrayer, but there are no big ones. A few seem to point at Vaughn, but I refuse to believe it, and it isn't even evidence that he betrayed anyone, it's evidence that he never trusted Sark. Speaking of Sark, we've been waiting for news from my mother and father for a few days now, but I can't help but think that I'm enjoying myself. With Sark It's amazing, yet a part of me has let go and embraced the temporarily normalcy I'm experiencing. Every day is relaxing, no spying, no people to steal from. I'm still pretty surprised Sark's time remains as free as mine; I expected him to go back to whatever he was used to doing—getting intel, going on missions, but he's just cutting loose like me. Spending all this time with him, it brings forth an emotion from me that shakes me, scares me to the core. I won't let myself believe I've fallen for him; bad luck always seems to come when I let my defenses down.

Now, as we sit on the couch together, me leaning back against him reading a book, him with his arm curled around my waist watching the TV, I can't help but feel that something is coming. Something does come—a phone call from my father. I picked up the phone with a nervous feeling in my stomach, and Sark is no longer paying attention to the TV, he's watching me now.

"Sydney," my father starts gravely, and I'm not sure if this means he has good news or bad news. "I have some good news and some bad news." I guess that answers my question.

"Okay," I breathe into the phone, feeling the knot in my stomach tighten at the words 'bad news'.

"Irina has effectively shut down SD-6 and the Alliance." He seems a bit pleased at this, so I guess that means him and my mother are on okay terms now that she's kept her promise.

"Really? Wow. That was… quick." And it was. I hadn't expected this news from him. I thought he would tell me that the Alliance was going to be gone, but there was still a lot of work to be done. Excitement spreads through my body and I feel a slight smile break out on my face, but I sober quickly as I remember there's bad news to come.

"Yes, but as we know, your mother is very efficient and thorough in her work. It was relatively easy, according to her. She and I led the team into SD-6, while the CIA managed the rest of the branches' raids." He pauses.

I want to ask him all for the details, ask how they took it down, but the prospect of bad news still gnaws at me from inside. "Dad… can I hear the bad news?"

Sydney… when your mother and I took down SD-6, we killed Sloane, but someone else died as well."

My stomach constricts. "MarshallDixon?" My voice is barely above a whisper.

"No, no, they're fine. I'm sure they will receive jobs at the CIA after they've been debriefed. Sloane's asset was killed, Sydney." The way my father is talking tells me that Sloane's asset wasn't just an acquaintance or someone I had seen around the CIA.

"How close to me?"

"One of your trusted friends. I'm so sorry, Sydney

My heart lodges in my throat as the tears spill over. "How did Sloane do it?" I choke out in between my shaking sobs.

"It started out as a blackmail. But the Rambaldi puzzle—and the reward Sloane offered, was too great for him to resist." His voice is never wavering, though I hear some sorrow and regret.

I don't even bother to ask who it was, I'm almost sure I know anyway. My sobs are gradually getting louder, and everything in my line of vision blurs through my tears. Sark runs his hand up and down my arm in a comforting motion, pulling me into him. I shove the phone into his hands and cover my face, feeling my wet, cold, damp skin.

"Mr. Bristow?" Sark asks, rubbing my back. He listens attentively for a few moments, says, "Thank you, sir," and hangs up the phone. He throws it onto the table and gathers me into his arms. I don't resist, crying into his chest, gripping him as a lifeline while he rocks me back and forth like a child.

"Will," I whimper against Sark's shoulder; even saying his name tears through me like a knife. Now that I know, everything fits in place. It's all my fault, I can't help but think. My tears won't stop flowing, and my heart feels as if it's been ripped apart.

"It's not your fault, Syd," Sark whispers gently in my ear, as if he can hear my thoughts. "I'm so sorry." He holds me gently like a fragile flower, letting me cry until I'm exhausted and I've run out of tears. Even then, I stay in his arms, wondering how I'll ever go on, how I'll ever heal, how long it will take. However, as Sark murmurs into my ear, I already I will move on and heal, but it isn't a matter of time.

Time doesn't heal all wounds.

Love does.

-

End.