Title: The Domestication of a Wild Rose
Feedback: Would love to hear what you have to say. If criticism, please make it constructive.
Disclaimer: Alias is owned by ABC, Touchstone, and is the creation of JJ Abrams and Bad Robot productions. Nor do I own anything pertaining to The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry.
Spoilers: S3 – besides one spec in Part Two, nothing that hasn't aired in the U.S. so far.
Summary: Future fic/AU. After losing everything, Sydney disappears. Sark shows up unexpectedly and disrupts her solitude.
My submission for sarkastic's Sarkney ficathon on LiveJournal. Written for randomeliza who asked for a fic with:
Timeline: any sort of AU -- let's say
a Season 3 where Lauren doesn't exist and Simon is still alive.
Up to Three Things You Want to See in the Fic: Sark in black leather & eyeliner, a mission involving a knife-fight, and a threesome with Simon (that last one is optional, but I'd really love it)
Up to Three Things You Don't Want to See in the Fic: Any hint that Lauren even exists, any S/V overtones or undertones, and the phrase "Sark smirked" or any variant thereof. And it should be obvious that bad grammar/spelling is the #1 thing I don't want to see in the fic.
I think I've safely added and avoided most of what you asked, but please forgive me for any grammatical errors, for they are indeed mine. Quotes from the book The Little Prince are in italics and/or quotes.
Ship: Sarkney with a hint of Simon.
Rating: R – for sexual situations and violence in Part Two
Part One: The Savage
Volume VI, Day 646
High Temperature: -4° F
Crack in the ceiling: 4.25" length .5" wide (moving slightly south now)
Spent most of the day looking back through last winter's entries, making comparisons of snowfall and temperature last year to my calculations of this year so far. Seems much colder than I remember winter ever being. Turns out I was right – two more inches of snow has fallen this year, and the temperature has chilled by the same number of degrees.
Ventured outside to gather more wood and was nearly swallowed by the deep blanket of snow. Instead of getting up in a hurry, I just lay there in the midst of the never-ending snowstorm, flat on my face with one boot sucked completely off my foot. Encased in snow, socked foot freezing, shut off from the world, seemed even more peaceful than any of these days in seclusion – almost like a freefall on a cloudy day.
It was the first time I think I've laughed in about six months – since I made the journey to Basel to watch football, I think.
Sinking like a dead weight into the belly of the snow beast reminded me of the book again, so I opened it and began reading, for about the hundredth time, the words that I have memorized.
Tonight is supposed to be the pinnacle of the storm. Already I can hear the winds whipping up through these walls. Hopefully it will die down enough by the end of the week so I can make the trip into town for supplies.
"No, no, no! I do not want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is a very dangerous creature, and an elephant is very cumbersome." – The Little Prince, Ch. 2
Sydney leaned back in her folding chair as she shut her journal, tracing the embossed wolf on the brown leather cover. She was being wistful again, thinking about better times that were best forgotten, and she needed to end the futility.
A good hour still remained before she'd usually move to the back of the small cottage to read in bed until she drifted off, and the last thing she wanted to do was mess up her routine. But she had a feeling that if she didn't move, if she let the memories send her off into a tailspin of sorrow, regrets, and things left unsaid – and undone – then she was sure to be up all night, working herself into a complete wreck by morning.
She hadn't done that in over a year.
So, instead, Sydney would just stick with what she knew. The rite of telling her day to the only person she could – an inanimate one, yes, but perfectly acceptable in her opinion. Once her records were penned, she would douse the oil lamp she kept in the small front room to write by, gather her latest choice of books, and cozy up under flannel sheets and a plush down comforter. She would clear her thoughts, live with her many regrets, briefly remember in her prayers those who were no longer living – everyone – and by tomorrow, just like the storm was expected to, this feeling would pass.
Her bare feet padded across the wood floor, the creaking and groaning of planks beneath her feet a part of her routine. She safely navigated the front room in the dark, guided by the faint light coming from the fire burning in her room, and made it down the twenty feet of hallway, leaving the door open just a crack behind her. The blazing fire danced and crackled in the cove on the north end of her bedroom, greeting and wishing her goodnight in the same smoky breath. The flames usually expired around one, but the effect normally lingered in the room until dawn.
After removing her terrycloth robe and hanging it neatly on the bedpost, she slid inside her turned-down bed in only her sweatpants and thermal tee. Settling back against the propped up pillows, she found her spot in the cushiony mattress, then adjusted the oil lamp next to her bed to her liking.
Content with her nightly routine, Sydney then opened the book her father had given her when she was eight and started the third chapter.
It took me a long time to learn where he came from. The little prince, who asked me so many questions, never seemed to hear the ones I asked him…
Sydney came awake to the stark darkness of midnight. Strange, she thought as she curled comfortably on her side and tucked her blankets more snugly around her body. Rarely had there been a night in the past year that she'd been started awake.
She let out a deep, disconcerted breath as she nestled her cheek into her flannel pillowcase to get comfy again, closing her eyes once satisfied.
Her ease lasted less than a minute before she heard it – thump. It was muted, barely discernible from this far point in the cottage, but her cursed – blessed – trained ear picked up the sound.
Heart pounding, Sydney pulled her Browning from beneath her pillow, cocking it immediately as she stood into her boot slippers. Hardly making any sound, thankful she knew exactly where to step on the old boards, she moved across the room, down the hall, and adjusted her vision to the front room.
There were no shadows besides those from the bare-boned setting of her living room.
Sidestepping with extreme care to keep her presence unknown, Sydney sidled down the wall of the hallway before peeking around the corner into the narrow kitchen. Empty.
Panic relented only slightly in her body with the knowledge that an unknown assailant hadn't infiltrated her cottage – yet. She knew for a fact that she'd heard something, and at this elevation, at this time of night in a storm so furious even animals heeded its wrath, that something wasn't good.
When she reached the front door, gun trained at head level, Sydney held herself immobile for a single heartbeat. What was waiting beyond that door? she wondered. Had the Covenant finally become ingenious enough to track her and had sent a surprise lackey? Or maybe Sloane had decided to finish all of this himself?
All were definite possibilities. Either way, this fear needed to end. If this was how she was going out, so be it. She was ready.
Wrapping steady fingers around the knob, Sydney popped the lock then yanked open the lightweight door, standing behind it for cover. Her arm thrust out into the blackness, the white snow dull with no moon to reflect, ready for battle.
She crept from behind the door and froze when she stepped outside. The bite of wind that met her was so harsh that it took her breath and sent a brutal shiver down her entire body.
It was so cold outside – with not even a robe to shield her a little from the storm – that Sydney could barely move. The snow was falling fast and frantically, and was so dense that she couldn't see more than an inch from the tip of her nose.
No one sane would be out tonight. Then again, those who would try to look for her were usually anything but.
The anticipated sound of yelling words of forcing surrender or flashes and claps of gunfire didn't come; nothing did. She was standing in at least three inches of fresh snow in her sweats and slippers, feeling like an overreacting idiot.
Wouldn't be the first time, she thought dejectedly.
Just as she turned to step back in, she heard it again – thump. Her head and gun whipped to the sound and a shadow. Dark, prone in a deepening hole of snow, inches away from the wall shielding her front room was a person.
The thump sounded again, and she realized the person was sluggishly lifting a fist, trying to find the effort to knock, yet the best they could produce was a strong tap. Well, at least she had heard it.
Sydney swallowed around the tight knot of fear in her throat and cautiously stepped closer. Too afraid to leave the gun behind, she let it hang loosely at her side. The dark lump stayed still, unmoving except for a visibly twitching arm.
She bent to touch the form, prodding what appeared to be a shoulder with three of her fingers. The person wasn't dead, yet, but instinctively she still questioned whether this was all an act. A second later, oblivious to her presence and as if on automatic pilot, the arm lifted again and beat on the iced wall.
Her feet had numbed in the freezing temperatures, the chilled sheepskin lining of her slippers was soaked with snow and abrading the skin above her sock, but she barely noticed. Her hands, too, were cold, stiff around her weapon, and red, but they didn't warrant a passing thought.
What was a person doing out in this abominable weather, in the lower foothills of Switzerland with no transportation in sight, wearing threadbare clothing?
The question went unanswered as she hooked her arms underneath wide manly shoulders and carefully dragged the body, the man, through the snow and inside.
By the time Sydney had the door bolted behind her, she was tight with tension and fear. Her fingers barely wanted to cooperate, useless frozen sticks on the end of her large hands, and her feet had yet to warm any on the thin rug. She rushed to her card table, careful to avoid the patch of floor where she'd dumped the man, easily finding the box of matches to light the room.
The faint light illuminated the room and the man lying on his side. The dancing flame made his shadow tremble and shake in a grand illusion. Only when she peered closer, did she realize it was the combination of shade, trickery, and reality – for the man's body, too, had a fine tremor about it. The abrupt change of temperature had already initiated some havoc on his chilled body.
Grabbing a handkerchief from her desk, Sydney tried to formulate the best plan for getting this man back on the road to wellness. It had been so long since she'd had to prepare for such a thing, but immediately a list began forming in her head.
Towels, blankets, hot water bottles, firewood, liquor…
She wasn't equipped with much for this kind of injury, but for the sake of this man, she'd work with what she did have.
Curling the loose strands from her ponytail behind her ears, Sydney squatted next to the form, not knowing where to begin. His dark body was covered with packed snow and ice from head to toe, so she started by loosening the stiff scarf around his neck and tossing it to the side.
She fanned the melting slush off his reddened cheeks with the kerchief, his beard and mustache, too – hair that covered most of his firm jaw and upper lip – and then wiped the shards of ice off his forehead and stocking cap. Little liquefied rivulets started to trail off him, soaking into the rug and pooling on the old boards.
When she gingerly wiped his blue-tinted chapped lips, the sight of a familiar face – worn down, swollen, battered, and slightly aged, but familiar all the same – struck her. She instantly pushed herself away from him, clumsily scrambling back to the wall and gulping in air around the pounding of her panicking heart.
Her first thought was to flee – run again, even if it was impossible. Her second thought was to scoot into a corner in hidden view of the front door and wait for the rest of the team that had likely accompanied him, prepared to put up her best fight. Her third thought brought her back to the man, Sark, and the fact that he was an immobile Popsicle on her floor.
She rose up to her knees and drew closer again, more guarded than when she thought him a stranger. A second look at his pale face suggested he was not an immediate threat, but that still didn't stop her from emotionally recoiling from the task at hand.
In the end it was that side of her, that foolishly compassionate side she rarely ever used anymore, that won.
Accepting the fact that she would likely regret it in the end, Sydney blew out a breath as she hefted him up again. Sark made no protest, not one sound, as she shuffled the weight that felt far too dead for her liking down the narrow hallway.
When she set him on the floor of her room, he stirred slightly, groaning and curling up into a ball to gather warmth. She found an old blanket in her closet and covered him up for now, then moved to gather the remaining items she needed. Pausing at the door, she turned around to look back at the shivering body.
Two years ago, this man wouldn't have even made it across her threshold without a struggle. Yet today she was stunned to find a spark somewhere deep inside herself, a part of her that liked to be of help to someone again, even if it was to someone who had been proved an enemy.
Compassion is a killer, her sensible side warned her softer side. But she knew that she couldn't have lived with herself if she'd left him outdoors in the storm to die. Plus, the inquisitor in her was quite curious to know why he was here and how he'd found her.
She bit down on her lip to keep her mouth closed, determined not to voice her fears and frustration. An unconscious man couldn't offer her any answers.
She sighed instead. "'Why should any one be frightened by a hat?'" Sydney whispered to herself as she backed the rest of the way out of the room to prepare a few hot water bottles. Maybe the boa constrictor had already eaten and therefore would find no interest in her.
And maybe single roses really did grow on asteroids.
Sydney poked at the glowing red and black embers in the fireplace before stacking kindling on top, recounting what had transpired over the past two hours. Three o'clock now and the cottage sat quiet once more, the sparks of thought in her brain accompanied only by the crackling of wood igniting. Placing a few logs on the burning fire, she wiped her hands on her robe and turned toward the bed where he lay.
She was struck anew at how different he looked. And that was without the bruising, the scarring, and the abrasions she'd found when she'd undressed him.
His appearance was wild, more unkempt than she'd ever thought possible for the man who wore a fitted suit better than most others could. The smooth-faced young man was now rugged and hairy, fatigued and a little frail – even his neat fair head had changed. Matted to his head now instead of styled, longer and straggly just past the tip of his ears, his hair was dull – a light blond now closer to the shade of dishwater than the bright gold of two years ago.
It was another piece added to his unsolved rebus.
When she'd peeled the long drab coat from him, then the under layer – not multiple layers like most intelligent men would see to wear in this weather – she'd gotten a peek at what this man had been up to the past few weeks, maybe even months. All she could do was speculate, which had been her only device since he couldn't tell her himself.
Once nude, she had intently studied the chiseled male who seemed terribly thin and whose skin had grown a bit pasty from a short period without sufficient nourishment. Bruises marred his body; a large mass pointing to a dislocated shoulder, more sets pointing to kicks to the abdomen and kidneys. Angry cuts randomly adorned his skin, beet red and some even flowing anew as the room steadily warmed.
And last, but not least, she saw two gauzed but feebly treated bullet wounds.
She'd looked at the maroon stained bandage on his thigh and found another wrapped sloppily around his upper arm. Circular burns – cigar? – decorated his thighs and wrists, wounds old enough to have grown crusty and near black. Her assessment had moved back up and her eyes had momentarily cut to his vapid manhood nestled in a tuft of light hair, laying lax between pale thighs, before she shook her head in embarrassment and looked instead at the jagged lines decorating his chest. She would clean what she could, apply some salve, and would have to leave the rest up to him.
He hadn't stirred much when she worked off his boots and wool socks to finish shucking his pants and boxers, or even when she'd toweled the thick moisture off his body before moving him to her bed. But his fine tremor had graduated to an uncontrollable shiver, teeth chattering even though she'd spread the blanket back over him.
After situating him on a few towels in her bed, she'd prepared the hot water bottle she had, setting the remainder of water heated on the small gas stove in a small tub. She strategically set the water bottle next to him for additional warmth, then soaked a hand towel and washed his body, trying to make it come to life again.
Her fears had intensified when she'd finished with his legs and found his body still mostly blue-white. His hands and feet were no healthier, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't flush any blood under his skin.
So, she'd piled the down comforter and blankets on him, all that she could find in her closets, and sat in the hard straight back chair in the corner of her room, watching and waiting. And wondering.
Where had he been? she wondered. What was he doing here?
His clothes, strewn over a chair in front of the fire to dry, had been torn and were as tattered as his body. On his back, she'd found a knapsack filled with a frozen bottle of water, a few energy bars, pocket change, and a weapon – no extra ammo. As a precaution, she'd tucked the weapon away in her hidden compartment, and the remaining items had been placed on the night table next to him.
His uncharacteristic lack of preparation surprised and intrigued her. It went against everything she'd ever thought about the man.
And what was worse, Sydney mused, was the thought that he'd expended his last ounce of strength to find her. That thought only spurred her confusion and surprise.
She stood for the fifth time in an hour and went to the bed, placing a soft hand on his forehead. Still cold as ice.
"Come on, Sark," she mumbled on a sigh. "It'll kill me to waste a good two days worth of journal entries speculating, if you don't tell me why you're here."
There was nothing more she could do but wait. Actually, there was one more thing she knew about, but she wasn't quite sure if she was up to it after having no contact whatsoever with the outside world or even one person in such a long time. She filed the thought away as a last resort.
Settling in the chair, tucking her feet under her Indian style, she opened her book and read again.
I had thus learned a second fact of great importance: this was that the planet the little prince came from was scarcely any larger than a house!
Volume VI, Day 647
High Temperature: -4° F still
Crack in the ceiling: same as day before.
It appears my period of solitude has ended. My surprise visitor stumbled unconsciously upon my doorstep shortly after midnight.
He had a shaky night. It wasn't until three hours after arriving and he was still bluish – his lips trembling and brows tight in pain – that I forced myself to touch him. All medical documentation states body heat is the best at thwarting hypothermia, but for the life of me, I was scared.
Sure, it seems like such a minor decision to most, but this is Sark. Sark of the murderous and sometimes volatile behavior, Sark the sworn enemy funding and aligned with the Covenant, Sark the man who always seems to disrupt my life, destroy my plans. Appear so suddenly and turn everything upside down.
He'd accomplished the last again, but for some reason I have a feeling his intentions aren't hostile.
I lay with him underneath all those blankets until morning, his icy back pressed to my front. He felt so cold and lifeless in my arms – if he hadn't been trembling and slightly warming with each hour that passed, I would have thought him losing the battle.
I think I fell asleep around a half hour before dawn, waking in the early afternoon to find our positions reversed. One of his hands had snaked around my waist, while the other was twined in and clinging tightly to my hair. His warm arm automatically flexed against me as I tried to leave the bed, but quickly let me loose after a bit more resistance.
I've had to force my feelings to stay neutral about this. Knowing this is a normal reaction one feels after having little contact with anything or anyone familiar. But damn if I wasn't comfortable in his arms.
He's been quiet all day, murmuring only senseless thoughts in his strained sleep. I've had problems giving him liquids, but he accepts a little, which I suppose is a good sign. And I've had to take away most of his covers for now, since he's switched to the other extreme and seems to be running a fever.
Now I just sit in the chair and wait for him to wake. Wait for him to be coherent enough to answer my many questions.
…it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?" – The Little Prince, Ch 4
His body began convulsing again just after midnight. She'd been sound asleep on the pallet she'd set next to her bed when his hoarse voice sounded out and her bed began to shake. First, she'd thrown back the blankets and grabbed a tub full of cold water, sponging his brow and bathing his body with cool cloths. Then a short time later, she wrapped his body in the soft blankets once the chills retook him.
The two polar maladies of cold and infection rendered a deadly mix in his weak body. Even though she'd managed to get him to swallow one dose of penicillin earlier, she knew it'd likely not even scratch the surface of the illness that brewed dangerously in his body. The sores from his bullet wounds had been re-cleaned, drained, and covered anew, but that had done nothing for the days he'd gone without care.
He'd thrashed and twisted so hard in a vain attempt to allay the assault of the fever that tortured him that she had to restrain him herself. Clad only in her pajamas, Sydney had eased onto the bed and wrapped herself around him, drawing him back tightly against her.
Cradling him in her arms as he jerked and shuddered, she rested her chin gently on his head, as her fingers pushed damp tendrils of hair from his brow. Until the early hours of the morning, she tried to call him back from that dark place that held him.
And that was where she stayed, coaxing and soothing, until he was calm once more and she had drifted off to sleep.
Volume VI, Day 648
Snow: 10" still
High Temperature: -3° F
Crack in the ceiling: 4.35" length .5" wide (still moving slightly south)
I have a new routine now. It consists of my old routine, but also has additional duties that need my attention.
At around five o'clock today his fever broke. He spent the hours before in and out of blind consciousness – eyes open, but unseeing. Grimaces of pain and distress heavily marked his expressions and the twists of his body, and his words…
"I'm sorry." He seemed to repeat again and again, mixed with a "no" or an occasional "please". It was the "please" that caught my interest above all else. So anguished and heartfelt. Like he was begging for it all to just end.
It hurt me to hear words so familiar. Just under two years ago, I'd been there myself in a different capacity. Or maybe similar, I still don't know.
But finally, just when I thought I'd no longer be able to take his misery, his demeanor changed. His jaw clamped shut, hands clenched into fists, his ragged breathing escalated until his body stretched taut with the force of exorcism. Then it broke. His skin grew wet, a fine mist of sheen formed on his forehead and upper body, and then after a few minutes he relaxed into the damp mattress.
"I'm sorry," he whispered one last time, before I drew the blanket over him again and let him sleep.
It's almost midnight and he's still sleeping off the exhaustion, will likely keep on until late morning. I'm too keyed up to sleep, for tomorrow will bring me some much anticipated answers from him. I can only imagine what the nature of the answers will be.
Indeed, as I learned, there were on the planet where the little prince lived--as on all planets--good plants and bad plants. In consequence, there were good seeds from good plants, and bad seeds from bad plants. But seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the heart of the earth's darkness, until some one among them is seized with the desire to awaken. – The Little Prince, Ch 5
"This flower is a very complex creature . . ."
Sydney meandered out of the kitchen over to the front window, feeling overly anxious. She drew back the thin curtain to survey the intense white blanket of snow, hoping to find a way to end this preoccupation with the questions she planned to ask Sark once he woke.
Sighing, she looked from the overcast sky to her watch. Minutes past eleven and still he slept.
She'd checked on him twice so far, just to make sure fluid hadn't filled his lungs and hindered his breathing, and to ensure he had completely rid himself of the fever. Both times, she hoped to see him stir or even find him wide awake, but the most he offered in her presence was a sonorous breath or a quiet grumble of discomfort.
She ought to be a relatively patient person by now, considering she'd been living a simple life for almost two years. But instead of the calm, collected person she should be, Sydney found herself worrying on her lower lip and needing to know the time every five minutes.
Letting go of the sheer material in her fingers, she rested her forehead against the cold window, fogging up a small circle in the glass with her breath. Wake up, she thought as her eyes closed, tempted to beat her head against the glass in beat to the two-word phrase. The curtain slid back into place around her just as the soft rustle of material and the creak of her mattress springs caught her attention.
She blinked to center herself, preparing for the impending confrontation. Her fingers smoothed out invisible wrinkles on her thin sweater, and she consciously curled her loose light brown strands behind both ears.
Nervousness stirred in her stomach, knowing the time had finally come. Taking a deep breath, knowing she was as ready as she'd ever be, she moved back from the window.
Determination marked her steps as she walked down the hallway filled with an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Answers, they were way overdue. Arms crossed across her chest, obstinately guarded and challenging, she stepped through the door.
Sydney stopped mid-step when she entered the room. He faced away from her, still nude and sitting awkwardly on the bed. His firm back muscles drew tight from the strain of holding his position, but overall he still seemed weak, with a slight waver in his posture.
As if sensing her presence, Sark cast a glance over his shoulder. When he saw her watching, mouth open to speak but no sound emitting, he leisurely grabbed for the sheet to wrap around his waist.
"You're awake," Sydney stated foolishly.
He let out a labored sigh and scratched his shaggy curls. Obviously, Ms. Bristow, he seemed to be saying. Grimacing, he leaned forward in preparation for standing up, one of his hands braced on the nightstand for assistance. Sydney took a few steps toward him to help, but was stopped with one disconcerting glare.
"Don't." He told her firmly as he found a shaky balance on his feet.
An unexpected jolt rocked her when her gaze locked with those startling eyes, a total lack of contrition in the man's regard as he stared at her with an expression both blatant and annoyed.
"Sark, you need h – "
"No. I don't." His rough voice and curt manner ruffled her after all she'd done to get him well, but she easily kept it from showing. "I can stand just fine on my own," he added, a bit strained.
He shifted unsteadily on his feet, taking a brief inventory of the small room before he moved. She expected him to stumble, even just slightly, but with each painstaking step that he took, he continued to stay upright. Using the wall as his only aid, he slowly reached the foot of the bed where she stood.
One of his hands gripped the sturdy footboard while the other stayed fisted on the wad of material shielding his lower body from her view. After all these years, he still unnerved her, his ominous height and dark looming aura was still rather imposing.
He looked down at her blankly before clearing his throat. "Bathroom?" he asked, immediately averting his eyes.
Nervously twisting her sweater sleeve around a finger, Sydney backed away, trying not to bumble over her words. "Oh. Yes. Um –" she headed toward the door and looked back to find him following. "The only other door in the hallway," she confirmed, and watched him venture inside.
Sark was just about to shut the door when she cut him off with her palm flat on the wood.
"Are you okay?" she asked quietly, the purposely vague question lingering in a string of silence.
He faced her with his jaw set, but when his eyes flicked down to his marked chest, the pain of remembrance momentarily darkened his already torrent gaze and tautened his expression.
Sydney waited for him to speak, but to her frustration, Sark didn't voice the origin or the depths of the demon barely contained within him. He merely forced the door shut over the weight of her hand, leaving her standing in the silent hallway with her mouth open and, more absurdly, her feelings hurt.
Volume VI, Day 649
High Temperature: -4° F
Crack in the ceiling: 4.72" length .6" wide (still moving in the same direction)
Today was a busy one. Physically draining as well as emotionally.
I never did find out anything from Sark in the short period he was awake. His only requests to me before he retired for the rest of the day, and now the night, were a hot bath and some broth.
I had gone outside to gather more wood for the night when he must have finished bathing, then crawled onto my uncomfortable pallet and drifted back off to sleep.
It was odd being in such small confines with another, even if one of us was conscious to only eat and bathe, yet not speaking more that a few sentences. A part of me felt the need to push answers out of him, a part that was of the Sydney-Bristow-pre-seclusion-in-Switzerland kind, while the other part of me felt a bit of pity for him.
That look in his eyes when I asked about his wellness still haunts me. It was a mix of red, black, and a deep burgundy. Anger, hatred, and blood. Mix them together and you have a heady concoction – vengeance. Finally, my first clue.
He has a proposition for me. I can feel it. I'll give him another day to recoup some of his strength and gather his wits before I take a more demanding approach to this situation.
Whether he's decided to test my abilities to see if I've grown inept in my time away, or wants to feel me out before approaching me with his plans, by the time he leaves here, there will be confidences shared, offers stated, words that are meant to be convincing spoken, and maybe…
Maybe I'll be leaving, too.
As I said at the beginning, today was busy and draining. Tomorrow, for completely different reasons than today, will be much worse.
"Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies." – The Little Prince, Ch 9
Sydney woke at dawn, reaching for the book of matches on her nightstand and lighting the oil lamp as she slipped out of bed. Crossing to the other side of the room, she grabbed her laid-out clothing, her boots, and her Browning, then crept silently out the bedroom door.
While she got dressed, she mentally ticked off the items left to do before she'd be free to leave. Since she wouldn't be back until after dark, and had had no chance to forewarn Sark, there was much left to accomplish. She busied herself making a detailed list in case he needed assistance with maintaining fires, heating water, and things of the like. Then set out some towels, the instant coffee canister, and enough fixings for all of his meals.
List complete and note left in plain sight, she moved back toward the bedroom. Sark still lay in the same position as he had when she woke, sleeping soundly on his side atop the pallet.
Watching him from the doorway, Sydney tried to envision him as the man he was back when she was employed by SD-6 and later with the CIA. For some reason beyond her early morning comprehension, the image was now blurred, flawed not just by his physical changes, but by the weakness he'd shown her in his current predicament. Revelations like the one she witnessed now – him so at peace while he slept, eyelids drooped lazily, breathing strong, deep, and steady, his entire body relaxed – helped to shed new light on the man she once thought beyond redemption.
He still was, and, by his own volition, would always be a few degrees away from salvation, but there was something more substantial to him now. A side effect of oppression, betrayal, and torture. She'd never underestimate a man like him, but in her mind, he would never again be that near-infallible man of years ago.
Her mind whirled in speculation until Sark shifted in his sleep, breaking the spell. Today wasn't his day, or even hers. She had more important respects to pay.
The night before, she had packed up all of her weapons, including the one that he'd brought, tucking them away in her knapsack. To that, she'd added money, a few books, the pamphlet for the museum in Charmey, and the keys to her snowmobile and cottage.
A good hour after waking, she was fully dressed in full winter wear. Sydney took the bag from underneath her bedcovers and set off into the dark skies of early morning.
For she did not want him to see her crying. She was such a proud flower . . .
Volume VI, Day 650
It's been two years, Daddy. I miss you.
"Where are the men? It is a little lonely in the desert . . ."
"It is also lonely among men,"
Wondering if she'd have the willpower to confront Sark even if he decided to avoid her today, Sydney looked at her watch with a sigh, then blinked and looked again. Another sigh sent her warm breath clashing with the cold outside and swirling up in a cloud of smoky condensation.
It was after ten in the morning. He'd been sleeping for almost twelve hours.
Last night, when she had returned just after eleven, he'd been on the pallet again, out like a light. She'd checked for signs that he had left the bed during the day, her first concern that he was becoming sick again. To her relief, she had found food eaten and the items she'd left out for him put back in their rightful places. Both fireplaces even held raging fires, a sign that he'd retired shortly before her arrival.
She sipped from her hot mug and savored the zing of her favorite tea. After two drinks, she set it aside and picked up the paper she'd bought in town, reading up on the happenings in the quaint mountain village and wishing for an interruption.
A whisper of movement from behind caught her attention, as if right on cue with her thoughts. In an effort to appear impassive, she sat still on the large log turned bench and focused straight ahead – out to the start of trees just beyond her land and the snow flurries whirling lightly in the air.
Dressed in the clothes that she'd purchased at the ski shop in town, he strolled over to where she rested and sat beside her, cup of coffee on his knee. His dark down jacket rustled as he awkwardly adjusted to a more comfortable position.
In companionable silence, they drank, neither paying much mind to the other.
Only when she'd emptied her mug did she speak. "It's probably not a good idea for you to stay out here too long. Should we go in?"
Sark tugged the scarf he wore tighter around his neck, crossing his arms over his chest for warmth. His tired eyes squinted as he looked out into the distance, the white snow and capped green trees seeming to capture his interest. A muscle ticked in his jaw, and he seemed uncomfortable, a hint of pink tinting his cheeks either from the cold or maybe even slight embarrassment. Years ago, if she'd seen him like this out of his immaculate element she would have found it humorous.
Today, Sydney wasn't laughing.
"We do need to talk. Inside of course," he replied hoarsely. Then, as if he was thinking aloud, he added, "The fresh air out here is quite invigorating after being inside for long. I might take a few moments first."
She nodded, watching his eyes dart around and take in the winter surroundings.
"Of course," she responded.
A few moments later, she stood, slipping the paper under her arm and picking up both mugs. Sark didn't make a move to do the same, so she headed back inside. When she reached the door, he called out to her.
She stalled just before the door, but didn't turn around. Seconds passed and her gaze slued to his back. Still peering out at the landscape, she heard him clear his throat and speak with a clarity that was startling, considering how rough his voice had been moments before.
"But what does that mean--'ephemeral'?"
"It means, 'which is in danger of speedy disappearance.'"
"Is my flower in danger of speedy disappearance?"
"Certainly it is."
"They kept me in confinement for three months."
Sark spoke slowly as he picked at the Cobb salad she'd made, his voice monotone, words eerily detached, like being held by the Covenant for that span of time was nothing. Three months of enduring their methods of torture was anything but – she knew.
"I had information they wanted that I wasn't ready to offer up, and they had no plans of letting me go until I did."
Her fork in mid-air, Sydney raised a questioning brow. "Information?"
He lifted his eyes to her in a furtive glance that sparked her suspicion. Instead of answering, he startled her by standing with his plate and leaving her at the table by herself. She watched as he rinsed his plate and set it to dry on the drying rack, wondering what he was hiding from her.
As she finished her last few bites, he returned with an open bottle of Chablis and two glasses in his hand. He paused to fill her glass before his own and took his chair once again.
Interesting, she mused as she tipped her glass back for a swallow. Resorting to bribery with wine. Her eyes narrowed as she watched him drink his own.
"After concentrating my efforts, it took me six months to find you."
She choked at the frightening absurdity of that statement. Only six months?
Thankfully, Sark continued. Seconds more and she would be in the midst of a coughing fit. "One of my contacts must have leaked to one of the other cell members that I was searching for you. Before I knew it, I was ambushed in a meeting set up by our cell in South America and taken to a center in Darbonnay."
She barely caught the tail end of his sentence. Six months and the Covenant had found out he was looking for her. Why wasn't she dead already?
She searched his eyes and asked, "How? I mean, how did you find me?"
Her mouth gaped slightly in awe, she still couldn't believe it, and Sark had the couth to not laugh at her expense. Almost two years and no one even had come close to discovering where she'd chosen to stay.
"It took me some time, but one night I remembered a conversation I'd had with Khasinau. He'd mentioned something about your mother handling a personal endeavor in Switzerland. From that, I just did some research on the country and Irina's itinerary that year. A few months later, I was watching you in Charmey."
Watching her. In Charmey. Near the cottage her mother had given to her before she'd died. And she'd never known.
"But the Covenant. If they know where I am – "
"They don't," he intoned. "Yet."
"You're telling me that you knew where I was before they took you into custody for three grueling months, if what your body reflects is correct – which we both know it does – and you didn't give them even a inkling of my whereabouts?"
What did he think she was, a fool?
That darkness flooded back and banked heavily into the depths of his eyes, making her breath catch. All the hurt, anguish, hatred, and anger collected and merged into a single entity, one that was so black it sent a trickle of fear through her veins.
"If I'd revealed anything about you, even the fact that you're staying in Switzerland, I wouldn't even be here to tell you anything to the contrary."
Their silence mounted and stayed precariously stagnant in the small corner of the cottage. Sydney was assured of his honesty. Verily, that one revealing statement was the only thing she was sure of right now. Everything she had ever felt toward this man, everything she'd convinced herself was fact had been uprooted and excavated, comforting baobabs unearthed from the ground and torn to shreds.
He had kept her secret.
She cleared the lump from her throat with a hard swallow of wine. Uncertainty scoured through her with the accuracy of the finest incision, cutting painfully through a body that hadn't known that sort of feeling in months. Or maybe it wasn't so much uncertainty as it was a part of her that had been dormant for so long, reawakened.
She tried not to think about his reasons for enduring such treatment at the hands of a group whose means of torture was both current and archaic. He must have sensed her thoughts for he continued.
"I was comfortable in my role for many years," Sark began as he refreshed her glass. "My first reaction of irritation regarding my forced funding of the entire operation – with money I earned rightly by being raised by my father – faded when I was offered the cell in North America. But once my partner was killed, and the blame was inadvertently placed on me, there was a shift in responsibility."
He relaxed against the back of the chair, casually twirling the stem of his glass back and forth with his finger and thumb. "I was removed from the cell and placed in a smaller one, which included a dock in pay."
A light switched on in Sydney's head as the first sign of the Sark she remembered shone through. "You want your money back," she stated absently.
His head slanted to the side, considering her for a moment before resting his glass back on the table. "Partially."
"Partially," she replied somewhere between a question and a statement.
Sark absentmindedly rubbed at the hair covering his face with a bit of reverence and the look of a cunning intellectual, even though he mostly resembled a rangy mountain man. It was a look that said although he was out for the money, he was also out for blood.
"You feel betrayed, used," Sydney explained what she viewed on his face, in his eyes. He didn't challenge her, so she kept going. "You want to revenge for all they've done to you."
Sound familiar? Sydney asked herself.
"It doesn't help, you know," she told him after a moment of quiet. As many times as she'd dreamed about killing Sloane, she knew it wouldn't alleviate all the pain she felt. It could even create more. Then again, she wasn't Sark.
He looked her square in the eye and, with the utmost sincerity and coldness, replied, "It will. I'll make it."
The statement was said with such conviction that she believed him.
"So, you just want me to go along with this charade?" She asked, placing her fork next to her plate. "I've been safe for two years and you want me to throw all of that away for you and your vendetta?"
"It's yours, too, Sydney. They took everything away from you. Don't tell me you're willing to throw the towel in and stay here for the rest of your life," he said, pointedly looking around at her small cabin in her small part of the world. "You're the one who can do something about it."
He didn't say the word – prophecy – but the implication of the dreadful word made her shudder. If ever a word unsettled her.
"If that were true, it would have happened when I was at my strongest, when I had the backing of the CIA and certain other groups."
"You're telling me you know for a fact that that period was when you were at your strongest? If so, I believe you have no idea of the true strength of your ability."
She shifted uncomfortably in her chair as he leaned closer, but she still listened.
"Imagine the ability to make decisions for yourself without the sanction of the CIA. Imagine having people at your disposal who have the same drive, the same capabilities as you, even if they're driven by money. People who would do anything to see this great power fall, sans rule book."
The clock on the mantle ticked in time with her rapidly increasing heartbeat.
"And imagine at the end of the day having no paperwork to tend to."
His last statement was said with a lighter air, a bit of tease meant to comfort her. To her surprise, a small smile formed on her face. She drained the remaining wine in one drink, watching him watch her for a moment, then shook her head.
"You make it all sound so easy. So…" Tempting. She felt a tingle in her fingertips. How could she even entertain these thoughts?
"What have you got to lose, Sydney?"
She didn't need to look around at her cabin like he so pointedly had a few minutes before. She knew where she lived, how she lived. It was a way that she'd come to accept in all these months, one that she'd foreseen staying the same in the future.
Until he had showed up.
Sark slid his hand into his jacket pocket, removing a disc. Placing it on the table, he moved his hand back, inviting her to look and touch. Tempting.
"It's not much," he told her. "But it's a start."
Volume VI, Day 651
High Temperature: -3° F
Crack in the ceiling: Forgot to measure. Will try tomorrow.
Spent most of the afternoon and evening looking at schematics, maps with known cell locations, and a list of names and business fronts. He was right. He didn't have much, but it was definitely a start.
I have to admit I fell right back in to the routine of research and planning without any noticeable hitches. The knowledge I'd gained over the years had not diminished one iota. For Sark's benefit, I put on my best non-committal face as I browsed the disc and recognized some of the names and faces. Even some of the locations were familiar and brought back memories of ops past. But inside, my stomach churned with an anticipation I'd not felt in a long, long time.
He didn't ask me for an answer today. After we'd finished looking at the information, I tethered my cell phone to the laptop and allowed Sark to email his contact. From what I gather, he'll be leaving tomorrow.
I'm surprised to find my feelings mixed now that he'll be leaving. Whether it was just having company in this place or having a reconnection with my past, I suddenly feel a small twinge of loss.
He's also given me a way back into society, but to take what he's offered? Let's just say I'd have to give more than I'd feel comfortable offering into his trust.
The revenge he's looking for is a tangible thing. It lit his eyes at the most surprising of times today. I understand the betrayal, the need of having blood spilled to relieve the pain of spillage of your own, sort of. But to be blinded by it is a mistake. To let it consume you, detrimental. I just hope he knows what he's doing.
I also hope I'll be able to make a decision by tomorrow that I won't end up regretting.
"I thought that I was rich, with a flower that was unique in all the world; and all I had was a common rose. A common rose, and three volcanoes that come up to my knees--and one of them perhaps extinct forever . . . That doesn't make me a very great prince . . . " – The Little Prince, Ch 20
The bright sun filtered in through her living room window, catching her eyes unaware. Blinking away the pain of the shock of light, Sydney sat up, recognizing that she'd fallen asleep on the couch. Her gaze shifted to the tattered quilt that covered her, one that she knew she hadn't put on herself before fading out for the night.
She raised her head and automatically looked down the hallway toward her room, where Sark probably still slept, then slipped and tied the blanket around her waist as she stood. Slowly, she crept barefoot down the hall, only to meet Sark as he was leaving her room.
"You're leaving?" Sydney asked, taking in his fully clothed body and the bag over his shoulder.
He casually took in her appearance, frayed French braid and sweats, then nodded.
"B-but," she stammered in her morning fog. "This early?" She hadn't even given him her answer yet.
"My contact was merely a few hours away from here and should be around by eight."
Sydney nodded. "Right."
They stood facing each other in the hallway, his gaze assessing, hers somewhat similar.
"You're planning to say no, aren't you?" Sark asked.
She crossed her arms over her chest, telling herself it wasn't because she was self-conscious or feeling defensive. She was just more comfortable that way.
"I need more time."
Sark blew out a weary breath, but re-centered himself quickly. "I'll need an answer soon."
"They'll be looking for me once they discover the destruction in Darbonnay, if they haven't already."
"I know," she bit out.
His imposing height filled and darkened her hallway, and, not for the first time, Sydney wondered how things were going to change when he was gone. Such a frightening thought considering he had only been with her a very short time. Thankfully, his voice shattered her thoughts.
"You live like a recluse, all bottled up in this too small place. This isn't you."
Sydney laughed uncomfortably. "You have no idea who I am."
"I know plenty, and the person who so timidly walked around in this hiding place for the past few days is not you."
It is now.
"Not that it's any of your business, Sark, but I'm fine."
He chuckled humorlessly. "You don't have any contact with the outside world, Sydney."
Sydney fretted with the edge of her shirt. "That's not true. I go into town for supplies," where you rarely ever say a word to those you see. "And I – " went to a football game in Basel where everyone was cheering exuberantly and working as comrades towards that common goal – championship – and just sat there in amused awe without speaking to a soul.
"It's quite pathetic, is it not?"
"Not pathetic," she countered, even if she was beginning to feel otherwise. "Safe."
His jaw grimly set, he adjusted the bag on his shoulder and walked to the front door. "I saved the email address of my contact into your address book so you can get in touch with me. I strongly urge you to consider this carefully before making your final decision."
"I will," she replied curtly.
He left her standing just outside the hallway. He stepped out into the early morning winter anomaly of bright sun, securing the door behind him while she stood and stared at the shut door.
"You're planning to say no, aren't you?"
Yes, she was. Her thoughts of what she'd have to do, have to relive to do all the things he wanted to accomplish, sat uneasily in her stomach. All the wounds reopened to burn and bleed more. The memories of those lost who should have been with her if she did decide she could take the Covenant down.
No was the right decision. So why did she feel so wrong?
Sydney moved to her desk, finding her familiar journal and her book placed neatly atop. As she sat, she noticed a slip of paper folded into the slim book. Carefully removing it, she unfolded and read the single sentence written in black.
On my planet I had a flower; she always was the first to speak
The contrast of black words and white paper, words etched within her memory now scratched neatly before her, hit a spot deep within with a force that smarted her. The thin paper felt heavy in her hands as the implied meaning sank in.
As the smooth slip fell from her fingertips and landed on her desk, a fierce sense of enlightenment swept through her. What had she let all this devastation turn her into?
She crossed her living room in three large steps, facing the mirror to look into thirty-four-year-old eyes that had been world-weary for almost two years now. Was it her, or had they just changed over the course of a few seconds?
Suddenly, her cottage felt too small, stifling. Her clothes seemed too plain, the weather too cold and confining. Her life felt so lonely. She tugged restlessly at the turtleneck she'd worn to bed like it was choking her.
This life was choking her.
Grabbing her ski coat and scarf, she shoved her arms in and flung the cotton carelessly around her neck. She stepped into her boots, forced her gloves on shaky hands, and ran outside. Surveying her land, she spied him walking a few hundred feet away, his form growing smaller by the second. She took off at the fastest sprint that snow allowed.
"Sark! Wait!" she called out when she was within shouting distance.
She watched the small figure in black slow and then stop. There was still quite a bit of distance between them, but even over the wailing eddy wind, he somehow heard her. Giving little regard to her appearance, she stumbled and staggered through the soft, knee-deep snow.
His straggly, wheat-colored hair blew wildly across his forehead, glinting in the sun and teased by the strong breeze. His heavy brows and coarse bearded face made his blue gaze appear electric as he stood in waiting for her. Flakes of fresh snowfall slowly melted on his ruddy cheeks and nose, and in his eyes…
She saw a knowing flash of victory mixed with a bit of curiosity. The sight should have angered her, but it didn't.
"Yes," she blurted out breathlessly when she reached him. "I'm in."
His mouth and gaze softened with relief. Nodding, he glanced over his shoulder and her eyes followed, seeing a snowmobile heading their way. Sark placed his hand on the lower slope of her neck when he turned back to her in a gesture that was a bit more alarming than comforting. Alarming because it was comforting. The contact tingled as he accidentally brushed the underside of her jaw with his gloved thumb.
"We can do this, Sydney. It might take some time and will surely take a lot of effort, but with the right game plan, this will all end."
She nodded as the figure in the distance slowly drew nearer then stopped at a point that still gave them their privacy.
"I'll be staying in Geneva for the next week. If you can close up shop here before that's up – "
"Yeah," Sydney replied, her focus on the person in the distance who had removed his helmet. Recognizing the face she hadn't seen in years, she looked back at Sark with a hint of a smile on her face.
This could very well work, a voice in her head told her.
"You'll get our exact locations tonight in your email."
She nodded again and stepped back. Sark's hand slid away from her body as he turned to leave, the loss of warmth chilling her. Sydney watched as he trudged over to the black vehicle, swinging his leg over and sitting behind his contact. After a small, hesitant wave to the duo, she headed back home with a lighter step than she'd had in months.
When the cottage came into view, she noticed it looked different now, a bit more worn than it ever had before. She smiled confidently as she reached her door. If she had any doubts about her decision, they disappeared as she bolted the lock behind her.
Leaning back against the closed door, Sydney exhaled two years worth of troubles in the heaviest of breaths. She was ready now.
Volume VI, Day 654
I'm leaving today. This will be the last information that I dare document for a while. Whatever happens in the future, I just wanted you to know how much this meant to me. Having your ear to confide in.
Ma vie est monotone. Je chasse les poules, les hommes me chassent. (My life is monotonous. I chase chickens, men chase me.) – The Little Prince, Ch 21
~End of Part One~