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: This is the fourth fic in my post-ep Season 4 series, following Outside Truths and Ill-Fitting Answers, and A Matter of Belief

Unexpected Liberty

He was going to propose..

Sydney couldn't restrain the brilliant smile that broke out at the thought or the shiver that ran down her spine. She didn't even attempt to dampen down the smile as Vaughn shifted in his sleep, sensing her slight movement and unconsciously pulling her closer to him.

Sydney didn't resist that either. Instead, she tucked her head up under his chin, resting her ear over his heart and let that thought roll through her mind again. Vaughn had actually been planning to propose to her that weekend. She could hardly believe it. She would have said yes, Sydney realized, no matter how surprised she would had been, and then the past three years would have been very different. It was a life that she could hardly imagine, but would gladly dream about all day if she had the chance.

The difference between what was and what might have been was painfully obvious, as well, and it would be heartbreaking if she allowed herself to consider it in that way. It was that thought that finally dimmed Sydney's smile. She could feel tears prickling her eyes.

Her emotions were swinging through a ride wilder than any roller coaster that she had ever been on. It was the loud steady beat of Vaughn's heart under her ear that drew Sydney's attention away from her tears. He was alive and so was she. They were together in a small hotel in Paris. That was certainly not worth shedding tears over, no matter what might have been. This moment would be one that she would savor for the rest of her life- no matter what happen- along with a hundred other memories like it.

The sound of her cell phone vibrating against the wood of the bedside table made Sydney jump in surprise at the unexpected sound. She had been expecting the call, but it had still startled her. This phone call had been the only reason besides her racing thoughts that had kept her awake this long.

She rolled away from Vaughn, gently disentangling herself from his limbs, and stood. With one hand she scooped the cell phone up from the table, while she used the other to pick up a fallen robe. She waited until she had pulled the robe on and cinched it carefully closed before she answered her phone.

"Bristow," she spoke crisply, but quietly into the phone, moving away from the bed and towards the window at the farthest reach of the room.

"You're in Paris. I thought it was a direct flight back to LA."

"It was," Sydney stated flatly. She was somewhat relieved that it was Nadia and not Sloane or her father who had called and slightly worried, as well. It only meant delaying the inevitable.

Nadia's voice startled her out of her thoughts again. "I'm supposed to ascertain if you and Agent Vaughn are in Paris of your own free will and what your status is." Her sister was being strangely formal and Sydney wondered if she was making the call from APO.

Sydney let out a quiet laugh, feeling lighter than she had in years. "You and Weiss were the ones that said that we weren't spontaneous enough," Sydney reminded her mischievously.

She heard Nadia's surprised and quickly suppressed laugh before Nadia replied. "Perhaps we were wrong about that," she conceded lightly. "But you didn't need to divert an agency plane to Paris to prove it."

"We didn't," Sydney quipped, "We came to Paris for dinner."

Nadia was silent before she spoke again. "I hope that you both enjoyed dinner," she said quietly, seriously. She continued before Sydney could respond. "For APO's information," she said formally, "You and Agent Vaughn will be back in LA for a debriefing in the next twenty-four hours, yes?"

Sydney nodded, only slightly chagrined. "Okay." She paused, sensing that their conversation was at an end and quickly added, "Have fun with Weiss while we're gone," before they hung up.

Sydney grinned as she imagined the expression on Nadia's face back in LA. She wished she could have seen it.


She turned quickly away from the window and back towards Vaughn.

"Is everything okay," he asked gesturing towards the phone in her hands.

She nodded, without saying a word. Another smile- this one of pure happiness- slid over her lips as she walked back towards him. She slipped into his waiting arms with ease and drew him into a deep kiss that took their breath away. It wasn't a proposal, but it was good.

26 Hours Later

As Sydney walked through the busy center of APO, she nodded to a few of her colleagues and let her eyes slide over her father. Jack was standing in a corner, watching her with his usual cold expression, but leaning back against the wall with as much casualness as he ever displayed. He stared back at Sydney without looking away or backing down. She refused to flinch at the hard edge of his stare. Countless Agents had withered under the infamous Bristow stare, but Sydney refused to back down or appear to be apologetic for something that she wasn't sorry about in the least.

She didn't bother with even a perfunctory knock on Sloane's door and stepped into his office calmly.

Sloane looked up from his desk immediately. "Sydney." He pushed his chair back slowly and rose to face her from behind his desk. "Where is Agent Vaughn?" His tone was cool and carefully bland. It was the tone of an impending dressing down. Sydney had heard it enough in her early years with Sd-6 to recognize it immediately.

"Vaughn sustained a minor head injury on the mission. The medic told him to take some Tylenol and get some rest. Stitches weren't necessary." Sydney left out the fact that she had practically had to force Vaughn not to come with her. This was between she and Sloane.

Sloane nodded. He would accept her explanation, if only because he believed Michael Vaughn to be the sort of man who wouldn't leave Sydney to take the reprimand for their actions by herself.

"You know," he spoke, meeting her eyes, "that I cannot condone what you and Agent Vaughn did. Diverting and APO aircraft to Paris for personal reasons is not acceptable, Sydney." He pushed back from his desk, and allowed anger to fill his eyes. "It not only jeopardizes the safety of two of my best agents, but the operational secrecy of APO itself. I cannot allow that. Do not make me split up you and Agent Vaughn apart professionally. You make a good team, but if you continue to endanger APO, I will have not choice."

A decade or so earlier, Sloane knew that the lecture that he had just delivered would have immediately chastened Sydney. Things, however, had changed since then.

She matched his gaze coolly. "It was a one time occurrence," she said flatly, "And far less dangerous than the last time that Vaughn and I ate dinner in Paris." Her expression dared him to deny the knowledge of that deadly encounter with Ariana Kane's men.

He didn't bother to try. Instead, he straightened and said calmly, "Whatever our relationship may have been in the past, Sydney, I do have operational control of APO and you will remember that."

Sydney nodded even as her eyes blazed with fury. "Of course." She turned her back without waiting for Sloane to end the meeting.

"Oh, and, Sydney," he called as she stopped in front of his office doors.

She paused, but didn't turn back to face him.

"I know that the last year was difficult for you and Agent Vaughn. I am also aware of how trying the circumstances surrounding Irina Derevkos' recent death have been for you, but if something like this ever occurs again, you will face the full consequences of your actions, despite the history and everything else that we share."

An expression of barely concealed anger and disgust flickered briefly over Sydney face, before she walked out of his office. The way that he had spoken her mother's name had sent chills down her spine and the reference to the previous year only filled her with more anger. She didn't trust Sloane anymore than she had before and their conversation had only increased that distrust.

Even as Sydney was stepping out onto the deserted subway platform, she was dialing the secure phone number that her mother had given her. She wondered for a moment, as the phone rang, when Irina Derevko had become a better choice than Arvin Sloane.

Her second thought was to wonder how long it would take her to get back to her apartment and Vaughn. Sometimes slow wasn't necessarily better.