A/N: Though he's never going to read this and he'd laugh at me if he knew, this is a present for my little brother, who turned 14 three days ago. Seeing as he's interested in cars and addicted to idiocy, I thought this would be a fitting piece. * * *

It's lonely at night.

Unflinchingly clear halogen headlights slice through the darkness before him, illuminating dust and debris thrown into chaos by the sleek black Mercedes that melts into the evening air. One hand grips the wheel in a strong but relaxed grip; the other dangles over the side of the car, hand straining to catch the wind.

His mind is anywhere but here.

You bloody tosser, what do you want, love and kisses or eighty million dollars and the leadership of Irina's criminal empire?

He doesn't glance at the tiny, barely noticeable stain marring the cream-colored leather impression projected by the seat next to him. He doesn't think about the perfect dark droplet that caused it, or the late terrorist it came from. The sunshine and cloudless sky of that morning don't register in his mind.

But the woman responsible does.

Stray off that cruel crooked path to hell and you'll be lost.

He lets his inner voice rant. It's pulled him through the lowest moments of his life, the ones enough to make any grown man scream and go mad with horror, let alone a lonely sixteen-year-old with nothing but his wits and the charming smile of the most engaging and terrible woman in existence. It forced him through them and into the Mercedes above the quiet street, like a modern-day Grim Reaper clothed in success, Armani, and ice. Yes, it's leading him straight to a realm of eternal damnation and punishment – but he doesn't believe in an afterlife, and seeing as it's kept him alive, he figures he owes it.

Keep fucking up like this and you'll be finding out what's after death soon enough, my friend, his inner voice chides. The point was to protect your interests, not go on missions of mercy to women too fragile to stay cold.

She is an interest, his heart whispers back. She's a business interest and a personal one. Isn't that all the motivation I need to help her?

Can't I drop the mask once or twice?

Even if it costs me.

The man who calls himself Sark – no first name – is only human, though he's better at hiding it than most. Over the years, he's come to think that nobody has ever become the perfect criminal, not even him, though he's come damn close. Oh yes, as of a week from yesterday, since Berlin, he's the most perfect he's been in twenty-three years of life.

But this, the headlights, the wind, this is right here, right now. And until he gets to the end of the road, Mr. Sark would like a break from the façade.

To release it all, even for a few seconds; to be able to break the ice in his eyes and around his heart, to be free of the cold that numbs him, hurts him, creeps and grips something in his chest tighter with every new splash of blood that decorates his hands. If only she could snap the frost with the scorching glare of her gaze, unshackle him from the bonds of his persona the way he crumbles the sad, aloof guise she wears.

If only, instead of fucking up the organized components that make up his precarious charade, she'd return the favor.

But just like her mother, it seems she'd rather wreak havoc instead.

The corner of his crooked lip straightens, pulling his mouth into a nearly straight line tight with tension. Goddamn women...

He remembers the scent of her hair, the look in her eyes, the stubborn mistrust and softness mixed in the set of her jaw. He recalls it so strongly it forces him to close his eyes, and even from some fifty miles away, the image of her haunts the empty black space behind his eyelids.

He opens his eyes, forces the tight muscles in his hands and jaw to relax. The car purrs in a low, rumbling undertone as it picks up speed, responding to his request. He doesn't dare take his eyes off the road, not when driving in a wooded, winding area at breakneck speed. He doesn't want to think about something that has anything at all to do with her.

Strawberries and sunshine, no perfume, just her and the sun-kissed California-tanned skin under the dark dress...

He shoves it to the back of his mind without a flinch, nothing but determination and absolute focus in the blue eyes that could be made of sapphire, maybe ice.

Her lips move, form around a word in perfect synchronization with her tongue – a name? His? He doesn't know, can't be quite sure why he doesn't seem to care...

He curses and shifts into a higher gear, demanding every ounce of power from the engine. She will not do this to me, he thinks through gritted teeth. Because once I let her get to me, there's no telling what else I'll be willing to do. I won't let her.

I can't.

* * *

She wasn't thinking clearly – the Sydney Bristow he fought with on a weekly basis would never have let him maneuver her into a dark corner. Intoxication? The wine in her left hand suggested so. His eyes flickered from her glass to his to her eyes, wide and not awake and oh-so-feminine.

Red for him, and white for her...

Dropping the pretense, matching her stare for stare, frowning with either concern or lightning-quick rationalization – why can't he be sure, he's always sure, always right, except when it comes to her.

Except when it comes to her.

Her stubborn chin tilts up as she laughs, too tired to be concerned at the sudden appearance of her archenemy. "What do you want, Sark?"

"I don't know," he murmurs back.

Her expression becomes sullen, scornful, but still bone-weary. "Just take it, whatever it is. Take it, and go away, and leave me alone to the, the hell that is my life."

Her words deepen his frown, and something regretful tells him that when she offers, he isn't supposed to be worried about what she might be hiding up her sleeve. "You're drunk," he states flatly.

"And who the fuck wouldn't be?" she snaps. The first moment of cohesive thought he sees from her dissolves. "Just...do whatever it is you're doing and go away." Her hand comes up, open palm a barrier against him. "Please."

"I can have anything?" he whispers. "Agent Bristow, you know better than to be promising me things like that."

"I don't give a fuck, you blond bastard."


He senses the defeat in her eyes and shoulders before it registers in her voice. "Is that what you want?"

"I'd think so. But..."

Her voice is small, and her full lips suddenly look very, very vulnerable. "But what?"

"Nothing," he murmurs. He raises his hand and wipes away the tear that drops from her eye. "Not today."

"Oh good Christ, you've become a humanitarian!" she giggles wildly. "I thought," her voice hitches, and he waits patiently for her to catch her breath. "I thought, you wouldn't give a damn and act like the unfeeling egotistical male you pretend to be. But you," her voice becomes breathy, "you didn't."

He pulls away from the hand touching his face. Suddenly, the need to escape this woman, drunk on her unstable emotions, becomes overpowering. He steps back from her, summoning the coolness back into his tone. "Pretend? I hardly think my personality is a pretense designed to amuse your drunk ruminations, Agent Bristow."

He regrets it when her head lolls back onto the dark wall she leans against. "You're a goddamn actor, that's what you are," she tells him. "Just like me. We pretend and we lie and we hide things from the people we love. You're the best actor I've ever seen." She laughs quietly to herself. "You could be in movies." Her eyes meet his. "Have you ever been in love?"

He lies and exits the building quickly.

* * *

Fuck it.


Stupid son of a bitch.

The punishing self-criticism – Mr. Sark is never kind to others and crueler to himself – echoes in his head as the glorifying speed of the Mercedes ends sharply in a body-rocking stop and a forceful motion of his hand. He looks up at the fluorescent neon sign and sighs.

Just this once.

He ducks inside, ignoring the appreciative stares of women. He brushes past the bristling, hostile stares of men not engaged in poker, the overpowering focus, the sense of purpose of missions taking over his mind.

She's right where he left her – staring into her white wine and apparently unmindful of the man trying to woo her on wavering feet. He snorts to himself and promptly increases the distance between her and the strange man by about three feet. Then he punches the other man viciously in the face.

She regards him dully when he faces her. "Please tell me you did not do that."

He shrugs, ignoring the prone body sprawled at his feet. "Agent Bristow, you're drunk. Should you really be commenting on my judgment?"

"What are you doing here?" she asks. Apparently, she's not so drunk that she can't evade his questions.

"I don't bloody know," he replies with more bite than he intended. "Maybe I've decided to play nice."

"When hell freezes over," she mutters. She raises the glass, but it never gets to her lips. She turns to him with a look of surprise. "How odd, Sark. I could've sworn you didn't care."

"Drink any more and I'll have to take that away from you," he informs her, choosing not to reply. He pries the wine out of her hand.

"Ah, fuck," she mutters, bending over. He watches her with a small measure of apprehension. That damned strawberry-scented hair obscures her face, and for whatever reason, right now that concerns him.

"Are you all right?"

She straightens with a sigh. "Yeah, I'm okay." She rubs at her forehead with both hands. "Jesus. I feel like hell."

"Well, that's a surprise," he retorts with dry sarcasm. "Feel up to a nighttime drive?"

"Only if you promise not to kidnap me." She laughs, and for a second he's afraid that she's still jumping from emotion to emotion. "God. I need to get home." She turns and faces him. "What are you, the nightlight that's come to comfort me out of the darkness?"

"Something like that," he says wryly.

* * * He glances to his right, briefly, not daring to take his eyes off the road for more than a few seconds. She's asleep, breathing softly and murmuring something about saving the whales. He grins – a real, honest-to-goodness grin that his features haven't felt for years – and turns back to the road illuminated by the headlights.

Yes, nights are a good time to be alive.