Title: Clarity

Author: UConnFan (Michele)

E-Mail: LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com

Story Summary: But this morning . . . There's a calm I can't explain. - John Mayer, "Clarity"; Post-"The Frame"

Authors Note: I love John Mayer. Clarity is the song that was played at the beginning of the ep - one of my favorite on the CD. When I heard it, I screamed - and it was probably one of those girly screams that I refused to give out at the concert. Anyway. It's shorter than I usually write, but I felt bad for Syd, had to make her feel a bit better. Especially since I'm torturing her in "Between". This is it.

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It should have been enough. That she was in love with - and loved by - a man who put his own wants behind the needs of those he cared about. That in this world of evil and alliances that vanish like quicksand that he was steady in who he was and his loyalties.

Except it wasn't. And that scared her.

Knowing he wanted to be with her now made it worse. Sydney was certain *nothing* could have made it worse, but she'd been quickly corrected. Coffee was far from a promise of forever, but it was a long wished for step in the right direction.

She was proud of him. Despite her own pain, she was proud of him, could sympathize with Lauren's torment. Still, a lifetime ago it had killed her when he'd gone back to Alice after her father's death. Needless to say it wasn't a surprise that he'd stayed with Lauren, but knowing that he was doing the right thing for all involved did nothing to alleviate her own agony.

There were moments now when she began to suspect that the entire universe was against them. Not that she was a big fan of conspiracy theories - despite her quest to seemingly fulfill Rambaldi's prophecy, she wasn't entirely sure she believed it. Except there comes a certain moment in everyone's life, especially hers in recent days, that couldn't help but leave Sydney wondering.

Subconsciously she'd known he wouldn't be there. Even as the question left her mouth, Sydney's deepest instinct screamed that he wasn't on Eric's couch. That he was tucked safely at home, half a room away from his wife. And she was sad for the other woman, despite her own pain. Sad that it had taken the death of Senator Reed to keep Vaughn by her side, sad that their relatively young marriage had already deteriorated to nearly nothing.

Yet while he was Lauren Reed's husband, he was still where she felt she began and where she ended. The only man who could ever control the tendons of her soul, the only person to ever get that close. There was comfort in that, in having found that person without really searching, of stumbling upon that stability. Of knowing that no matter what, when push came to shove, he'd always be there for her. He'd offered to risk his career and his freedom for her more than once since her return - most recently by suggesting they destroy the disks because they could cause her harm. Doing so would have led to questions at the agencies, the complications Vaughn had neither considered nor seemingly cared about. His offer had added to the hope she'd slowly begun to feel.

Once she read that having a child was similar to having your heart walk around separate from your body. Watching Vaughn and Lauren's interactions, their own personal sufferings and the pain that was etched in his eyes if you looked closely enough, Sydney wondered if this was the type of agony that came with having your soul walk around outside of your body.

Weeks before, as a small group of her friends stood around looking at pictures of little Mitchell and listening to Marshall brag, she was struck by the instinct that Lauren didn't want children. Not now, not with her rising position in the NSC, and perhaps not ever. For some reason, she found that particularly sad and couldn't help but wonder if she'd talked about starting a family with Vaughn. They'd never progressed far enough as a couple to seriously have the discussion, but she knew he wanted children. More than that, she was certain he'd be an excellent father.

Sydney hadn't truly thought of her own future as a mother, never considered them as anything more than an abstract concept, before she met Vaughn. Even with Danny, the conversations had never seemed real, even with his engagement ring on her finger and his arm around her waist. Then a couple of years later, cuddled up next to Vaughn, talking about everything and nothing, the images of a family hadn't seemed so far fetched.

She wanted to like Lauren, but if she intended on keeping Vaughn from having something he so desperately wanted, postponed having the family she knew he'd always longed for, Sydney couldn't help but hate her. At least a little.

After his phone call, after his quiet confirmation that they wouldn't be having coffee, she couldn't sleep. The carefully compiled hope that she'd felt in recent days was smashed in a way her life hadn't felt since she'd woken up nearly six months before. Nearly six months passed by and there were moments when Sydney felt she was no closer to Vaughn than she had been when he came to claim her, distant and stunned, in Hong Kong.

Over the course of the nights since her returned, Sydney had perfected nearly every cure she'd ever heard for insomnia. By that point she'd managed to fall back into a pattern, back into a lifestyle that had some semblency to the normalcy she felt she'd be forever chasing. On that night there was no hope of getting sleep, no attempts to do anything but lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. As the hours passed towards sunrise, she relived every monumental moment in their relationship, her mind piecing together a coffee date so vivid it nearly seemed real. In her soul she knew it wasn't, recognized it as a careful construction of her rambuncious imagination, but it was still the balm she'd desperately needed.

The next morning she went through the motions, preparing for work. Enough cover up to not only hide ner newly acquired bruise but also the evidence of her sleepless night. Then Sydney grabbed a muffin, eating as she made her way towards the car. She turned up the radio and flipped on the most stimulating music she could find, hoping to find the motivation and adrenaline to carry her through the day.

The rotunda was quiet as she walked in, a few people arriving at their desks for the day, no one to notice her silent entrance. Walking the hall she caught her father's eye as he nodded at her. Jack made no attempt to stop for conversation but instead made his way towards a predetermined destination. In recent days his expression had been more unreadable than usual. Since her return they'd grown closer and finding that she could not read his expression, Sydney couldn't help but be concerned at whatever was brewing behind the scenes.

Slowly she walked to her desk, feeling her face etch with confusion. Once she set her bag down and glanced around to insure that she was still unnoticed, she picked up the object of her curiousity. Underneath the Starbuck's cup was a pink post it written by a familiar hand. Cautiously Sydney took a sip of the warm liquid and peeled the note off of her desk. Her eyes worked over the handful of words twice before she fully processed what they said.

'I'm still sure. Never lose hope.'

The smile steadily blossomed across her face. Glancing around, she slipped the note into her pocket and sat down, taking another sip of her coffee.

It wasn't a new start, it was barely a step towards the new beginning she'd hoped for, but it was enough to keep her hope alive. For now it would be enough, because it would have to be.