Disclaimer: I do not own Alias or any of its situations or characters. I'm just temporarily playing in this sandbox and I'm definitely making no money from this.

Author's Note: The second fic in my post-ep Season 4 series. Sequel to Ill-Fitting Answers.

Outside Truths

Jack felt her slipping farther and farther away with every word spoken between them. Sydney had long since ceased to be his little girl- that innocence and naiveté had been slowly stripped away from her since the moment that her mother had died for the first time. It seemed that Irina's final death along with the events of the past year had at last destroyed the aspects of Sydney that made her such a unique agent, full of caring and trust in the goodness of people despite what she had seen in her life.

She was becoming too much like him- cold, hard and angry, full of pain that he could no longer assuage. Jack sighed and looked away from where his daughter had gathered with her friends. Her future had seemed so wonderful and limitless as she had lain in his arms as a newborn, staring up at him with impossibly big brown eyes. It had all been rendered into dangerous shambles so quickly and messily.

"You're playing a dangerous game with Sydney, Jack." The mere sound of Arvin Sloane's voice made Jack's already tense muscles ratchet to an impossible level of tension.

"What I choose to do with my daughter, Arvin, is none of your business." Jack turned to face his former friend with a cold stare, "And perhaps you should take your own advice. As nauseating as I have always found your supposed paternal affection for Sydney it has never served to benefit her- in fact- exactly the opposite. Perhaps you should consider that and focus on your dealings with your daughter." He walked stiffly passed Arven and paused as the door slid open in front of him.

"Jack," Arvin called as the other man began to step through the doors, "At least I've learned from my mistakes."

Sydney sank down into the depths of her couch with a sigh. It was odd to see the charade that was her life this way- to be the one who knew the deceptions for what they were, not the one wading through lies as if they were the true foundations of her reality. She understood part of her mother's plan, of course. Being dead was a very convenient and familiar state of being for Irina Derevko. It allowed her to move unrestrained and work unhindered.

Still even as she admitted that she loved her parents and her sister, Sydney couldn't say that she trusted them. Knowing that Nadia knew the truth about Irina's faked death, she wasn't worried about that situation. But seeing the way that Jack had cut into that situation with Nadia only showed that she couldn't trust him. He had acted in what he believed to be her best interests, but perhaps it was no longer good enough. Her mother, she didn't trust out of long experience and Nadia…

The front door to her apartment clicked shut softly and Sydney heard footsteps approaching softly.

"You're still up, Syd?" Nadia dropped down onto the other end of the couch with a glowing smile.

Another dinner with Sloane or Weiss. Sydney wondered which it was, but didn't ask. Instead she grimaced, "I couldn't sleep."

Nadia nodded as if she understood and Sydney thought that she probably did.

"Have you heard from Mom," Nadia asked after a moment of comfortable silence.

Sydney nodded distantly. "She wanted to congratulate us on an interview survived, a job well done and her murder successfully avenged. She asked me to tell you that you would contact you later."

It had been surreal to hear the same sort of maternal pride and bemused wisdom in Irina's voice when she had discussed her daughters' recent activities that she had once reserved for praising Sydney's grade school accomplishments. It had been in severe contrast with the rest of their discussion.

"You sound like your father."

"Well, it seems to have worked well for him," had been her flippant response to her mother's statement.

Irina was not amused by the comment. Instead she seemed to be more worried. "Jack has his reasons for being angry, disillusioned and bitter with the world- good reasons, perhaps- but you've always been different, Sydney. You've always had faith in the inherent goodness of the world, even when reality has shown you its harshest aspects. You shouldn't give in now."

"I'm getting tired of getting back up, Mom. I'm tired of loosing even when I try my hardest because I have to play by the rules. I hate never being able to trust anyone but myself."

"Sydney-" Irina's voice held a real note of concern for Sydney's welfare and a hint of pleading.

Sydney cut her off. "Call Nadia later, Mom. She should hear from you."

"Thanks, Syd," Nadia said cheerfully and then grew quiet, not noticing Sydney's distraction.

Nadia picked up one of the small throw pillows off of the couch and plopped it in her lap only to pick at the tassels hanging off of a corner. The silence that had been comfortable when she came in was lingering to long now and growing uncomfortable.

Finally Nadia looked back over at Sydney and asked tentatively, "Sydney, did Mom ask you to let me stay here?"

Her voice was serious and the question so unexpected given her current train of thought that Sydney blinked in surprise. She didn't hesitate to respond, however. "No, she didn't." Sydney paused, "You thought that I asked because of Mom?"

"You suggested it on the way back from Moscow. It seemed likely. I know how much you hate Arvin."

"No. I mean you're right, but you're my sister. Sloane does not get to influence what I do or don't do. I wanted you to stay here. I wanted to have a chance to get to know you better." Sydney admitted with a smile.

Nadia smiled widely in response. "Well, thank you- for letting me stay here and for not hating me because of Arvin." She looked up at Sydney, her expression taking on a mischievous glint. "Having an older sister will take some time to get used- especially as much as I seem to have to rescue you."

Sydney's expression was a mixture of a grin and a grimace. "Welcome to the extended Derevko/Bristow family. Life is never boring and always life threatening. Besides," she added with a knowing grin, "I've seen some of your file- you seem to have your own knack for getting into dangerous situations."

"A few," Nadia conceded with a wry smile at the understatement, "But nothing that I couldn't handle." She set the throw pillow back down on the couch, ending the conversation as she got up to wander into the kitchen.

A moment later, Sydney heard her examining the contents of the refrigerator and followed her into the next room. "There's leftover Chinese takeout back there," Sydney offered helpfully, as she perched herself on the counter. "It should be the freshest."

The shrill ring of Sydney's cell phone startled them both and cut off Nadia's reply, as Sydney quickly reached over to answer it.

"Bristow," she answered crisply. Her expression slipped immediately from one of casual good spirits to instant seriousness. She conversed quietly with the person on the other end of the phone before she hung up. "That was Dixon," she explained, turning back to Nadia. "He was just letting us know that Sloane called an early meeting in the morning."

"One thing that I didn't miss while I was out was the hours," Nadia commented with a half-grimace. "Sleeping until noon was nice."

"It must have been nice," Sydney said allowing herself a rare wistful smile. She had even stopped daydreaming of a life after the CIA.

Moving slowly she hopped down from the counter and began to wander slowly towards her own bedroom. Sleep had eluded her earlier, and she wondered why she was even attempting to recapture it. Even Vaughn's comforting presence wasn't enough to totally ease her into peaceful, and undisturbed sleep these days. "Sweet dreams," she added ironically, over her shoulder to Nadia as she turned to shut her door behind her.

Nadia nodded sleepily, the effect of the late hour and the food induced drowsiness finally kicking in as she walked towards her own bedroom. In the darkened room, Nadia shoved the small duffle bag full of clothes that she had taken with her to Moscow off of the bed. She didn't even notice as the bag knocked into a small open box, dislodging an old black and white photograph to flutter onto the carpet.