Rating: R
Timeline: Mid-season 3, after "Blowback."

Part V, Act 7

At the airport, she'd almost turned back. Vaughn was sick, weak, in a coma; he needed her. And she was heading across the world to trade barbs with Sark. And for what? Some files that might tell her more about who she'd been, what she'd done, for two years that she could hardly even bear to think about?

But knowing mattered. She couldn't help it. Miserably, she had boarded the plane, and now she stood, nearly trembling with anger already, as Sark approached, a pale figure in the distance.

"Sydney," he greeted her genially, "how good of you to come."

Her voice, when she answered, was flat. "You didn't give me a choice."

"I'm very sorry I missed the part where I knocked you out, bound you and brought you here against your will." He seemed mildly amused. "And I so would have enjoyed seeing you in handcuffs."

She gritted her teeth. "Cut the crap, Sark."

He nodded. "Very well, then. I have something of course."

The wind ruffled through his hair, but he remained unperturbed, perfectly serious, consummately professional—the perfect contrast to the way she felt: emotional, scattered, put together all wrong.

"Just tell me what you want in exchange," she said, suddenly weary.

Surprise registered on his features: the slight raise of eyebrows, the openness of his gaze. "Nothing, Sydney. I only wanted a share of the knowledge I helped retrieve." He slipped a CD from his inside jacket pocket before she would even reach for the gun she wasn't carrying, and passed it to her. "It's yours."

When the actions are the same, it's the reasons that matter.

It was something Vaughn had said to her, back when she was with SD-6 and wracked with doubt about the work she was going, with confusion about who she was and what the horrible things she did meant.

Looking at Sark, she wondered—not about his reasons, not about his justifications, but about her own. What was all of this about? Why had she really come here? Why had she let herself go with him to begin with? Indulgence? Punishment? And if it was punishment—punishment for who? Herself? Vaughn?

Everything she'd felt since she'd come back was harder, richer, more painful, less easy to discern from the dark swirling vacuum of her missing two years. It had been easier, since Kendall had told her what he had—the puzzle pieces had begun to fall into place. But there was still something missing. Something, she prayed, that was on the disk she now held in her hand. Something that would make this all mean something.

She looked up at Sark, studying the smooth, earnest expression he presented for her perusal. "You could have just sent me this," she said, an echo of earlier conversations. "There has to be something else."

He cocked his head to the side. "You only slept with me," he said after a few moments pause in which her blood had gone cold in her veins, "in order to steal my ID card."

No. "Yes," she said.

He nodded his head, in grim satisfaction. "One cannot fault your honesty, can they?"

She wrapped her arms around her body, looking away from him.

She realized, in the empty silence that followed, that she hadn't expected him to let it go. She had expected him to badger her until she admitted to having liked it (something she would never, ever do), or to ridicule her guilt, when the last deal they'd made found her trading Sloane's life for Vaughn's without a second thought. She never would have expected him to take her answer at face value.

"Sydney," he said instead. "On that disk . . ." His voice trailed off. "According to those files, the Covenant sent an agent after the disk we retrieved over a year ago, but were unable to procure the artifact. It wasn't the only such instance. And of course agents, and agencies, fail to achieve their mission objectives all the time. Reading the reports, they appeared random. But knowing what I know now, I was able to discern a pattern quite quickly."

She fold her arms, in annoyance. "What are you getting at?"

"The failed operative's name, in nearly every case, was Julia Thorne."

She swallowed, hard and dry. "I was working for the CIA," she said numbly. "Of course I would have sabotaged Covenant missions."

"Have you heard of the " He must have seen by her face that she had not. "The Covenant doesn't have them. And neither does the CIA. I did some checking, Sydney. Arvin Sloane has nearly every single one."

Her mouth tasted like ashes; it was as if the world had gone completely gray. She stared at him as if he'd just told her the world was ending: stunned disbelief, sheer panic. "I couldn't have been working with Sloane." Her voice was high and hoarse with strain.

"No," Sark agreed. "They're all recent acquisitions. I believe that you were working against him, and without the knowledge of the CIA."

She shook her head in denial. No. No.

"I know about your sister, Sydney," he said. "Don't look so surprised. It was in the files: the Passenger, her connection to the Chosen One. And with Sloane's recent tactics, and Irina's . . . personal interest . . . . I simply put it together. You have the files. You'll see the truth in what I'm telling you soon enough."

He smiled, just slightly, the edge of his mouth tugged crookedly to the side. It looked sardonic, and sad. Why was he telling her this? Why did he care?

"It seems, Agent Bristow, that as Julia you likely knew precisely where the disk was and what it was for. Moreover, you know of your sister. And in light of recent events, I can only assume it was her life which you removed your memories to protect."

She heard the implication only too well: now, her rash act had put her sister in danger all over again.

"You mother," Sark remarked, "would be pleased."

"I don't care if Irina is pleased." All she cared about was getting to Nadia first, before Sloane could. Her grip tightened on the cae in her right hand. And hopefully this disk would be enough to help her do it.

Sark was still watching her: carefully, with restraint. Sark, who had kidnapped her, made her . . . who had been accessory to so much of her pain, but without whose help she wouldn't be in possession of the disk in the first place. She wouldn't know about her sister. Or, if he was telling the truth, what she had really sacrificed those two years to protect.

"I'm . . . sorry," she said to him, as sincerely as she knew how.

"For sleeping with me? Sydney, please."

Sydney smiled wanly, and his mouth twitched in response. And there was a moment in which she felt she ought to say more—the hesitation must have been plain on her face—but it passed, and she was back to herself, her responsibilities heavy on her.

Uncomfortably, she said, "I ought to go."

He reached out, grabbed her wrist. "A parting gift," he said—and kissed her.

His mouth pressed against hers almost chastely, in comparison to their previous encounters, but she found herself leaning into him, parting her lips, accepting his tongue with open mouth and his body, familiar, warm in the wind of the water, with everything else. Her hands clenched in the front of his shirt.

He pulled back first, but only slightly.

"You can't imagine I wanted that," she whispered, a hair's breadth from his lips.

"I didn't say it was a gift for you." He took a step back, and she released him. "Until next time, Sydney," he said.

She pressed her lips together; she could still taste him. It was all too surreal: the unstable sand beneath her feet, the sound of the waves rushing in her ears. The houses beyond them, behind them, were silent and still.

"Take care of yourself, Sark." She almost didn't recognize her own voice.

He nodded, obviously pleased, and she watched him walk away. It unnerved her to realize, once he was out of sight, that she hadn't even thought to put a bullet in his back. Or at least the back of his kneecap.

But there were other things to concern herself with. Vaughn was waiting for her.

So was her sister.


A/N: And that, my friends, was the Thrilling Conclusion ™. Thanks so so much for reading; it's been amazing to have people actually following this, and for so long. If you managed to get all the way through, I'd love even just a little review that says "Hi, I'm here, I read it." Again—thank you. :)

(Extra special thanks to my wonderful regular reviewers (at some point in the story, if not all the way through—I know I got a little spastic there near the end): annie, Adalon Ithilriel, Sarandipity, Reesie06, grouchy, bluebear-74, MrsJulianLazarey, TheUptownGirl, running, and anybody I missed because gone all weird on me. THANK YOU!)