Author's Note: Just wanted to say a special thank you to aeletha and phi4858 for all your reviews. Thanks guys! Sorry this chapter has taken a while, but I caught the flu and have been in bed for weeks :( Hopefully, the next one won't take so long!
Secrets and Lies
"Write this down: E-M-E-T-I-B. You got it? Now reverse it." – Sydney Bristow
The next morning, I woke up to a throbbing headache and the sense that I had yet again dreamt of something important but couldn't remember what it was. Completely frustrated by this and the situation I found myself in, I dragged my weary body out of bed and wondered just what else was going to happen to me.
Grimacing as reality crashed around me once more, I was forced to acknowledge that, yes, I was still wearing Sark's sweats and standing in Sark's guest bedroom. And yes, Vaughn had betrayed me. The despair and anger surged through me again, driving away the little bit of peace that I had been granted this morning and I decided my life was too difficult to think about without coffee... and some decent painkillers.
I wandered through to the kitchen and found, to my delight, that someone (who could only be Sark, as surreal as that was) had put the coffee on. Gratefully, I poured myself a cup and sipped the delicious liquid. Slowly, my brain cells began to fire and I began to wonder at the silence in the apartment. I had slept late, as physically tired as I was emotionally drained, and had expected Sark to be up well before me – which he evidently was, unless the coffee had turned on by itself. So where was he?
Coffee in hand, I began to wander around the elegantly furnished penthouse apartment, but I could see no sign of Sark anywhere. Not really wanting to intrude if he was still in his bedroom and since there were no sounds of a shower, I wandered into the lounge and stopped in surprise.
Sark was outside on the balcony that overlooked the River Corrib and the stormy looking grey sky. But it was not his appearance that had stopped me in my tracks – rather, the elegant and precise movements he was making. I watched, transfixed, as Sark sinuously moved through the steps of Tai Chi. His movements flowed gracefully, but there was an edge to them; a sense of danger that I had always associated with Sark. He rather reminded me of a panther I had once seen at a zoo – tightly controlled, mesmerising and all too deadly.
The scent of incense caught my nose and I shifted my gaze from Sark long enough to take in the two small pots of bamboo and the matt that covered the tiled balcony floor where Sark was doing his Tia Chi. The incense was perched on top of a small bench in between the two pots of bamboo. Sark was dressed in a pair of loose sweat pants and a singlet, neither of which were black to my surprise, and his eyes were closed. Taking a sip of my coffee, I was once again mesmerised by the controlled power in Sark's actions and the look of peace that was on his face. There was a brief, but unmistakable sensation of familiarity at the sight. I felt like I had seen it many times before, but I just couldn't remember.
"Is there something I can help you with, Bristow?" The suddenness of Sark's question surprised me, because he never once stopped his movements or opened his eyes.
"Sorry." I found myself apologising. "I didn't mean to disturb you."
Ducking back inside, I wandered back to the kitchen to let Sark finish in peace. He came inside about ten minutes later and I watched him walk to the fridge and grab a bottle of water as I wondered what to say. This wasn't exactly a normal situation for me. Taking another sip of my second cup of coffee for the morning, I searched my brain for something to say as Sark leaned back against the kitchen counter and regarded me with icy eyes.
Before I could think of anything witty or intelligent to break the silence between us, Sark spoke. "I received some Intel from one of my contacts this morning." He said. "Apparently, the CIA has decided to form a new black ops task force to deal with both Sloane and Rambaldi."
I raised my eyebrows at this. "Who's in charge?" I asked, wondering if Kendall was up to his old tricks again, particularly not that I wasn't forced to do his dirty work anymore.
"Your old partner Marcus Dixon and your father." Sark answered.
I raised my eyebrows at this, my mind whirling. I suppose I should have expected something like this, but it still surprised me that my father had gone off the books again. Then I felt a stab of pain through my gut. "What about Vaughn..." I grimaced slightly. "... Reynard? Is he part of this?"
Sark nodded, a little wary at my response. "The CIA still believe he is the ever loyal Michael Vaughn." His tone was sardonic. "He, along with agents Wiess and Flinkmann have also joined your father."
I closed my eyes against the anger and tears that surged through me at his words. Vaughn... Reynard now had the resources of a black ops CIA group at his disposal! Groaning in frustration, I felt sick at all the things he could do... and wondered just how great a spy I was supposed to be after buying the image of sweet, loyal Vaughn for so long. It didn't matter about the odd feeling of unrest I had... I hadn't figured out what he was until it was too late.
"There are two other agents joining the RTF team." Sark said, and I opened my eyes just in time to see him re-enter the kitchen and place a folder next to me on the bench.
I realised with a start that I had not even heard him leave. "RTF?" I asked.
"The name of the new black ops group." Sark explained. "Rambaldi Task Force. Not exactly imaginative, I know."
Snorting at the boring name, I turned to the folder he had so casually tossed at me, wondering what it was. I soon found out – it was surveillance and reports on the new headquarters and team of the ??. Looking over the photographs, I saw that one of the new agents was a blonde woman. She was pretty and obviously well trained, but I wondered just how much experience she really had – and if she knew just what she was getting herself into. I blinked in surprise when I saw the other new agent and a very familiar face – Thomas Scott. "The woman is Teresa Gideon and the man is..." Sark began to explain.
"Thomas Scott." I interrupted him and at his icily questioning look, I added. "We've met before."
Sark seemed to accept this as an explanation. "It seems there was a question about Agent Scott's loyalty recently, but he has friends in high places." Sark said. "That and Reynard has recently presented a document to the CIA proving you were behind most of the leaks and problems they've been having, effectively clearing Scott."
I brooded over that for a minute and tried to hold back the emotions that were clamouring to get out. At this point, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to burst into tears or shoot someone. Maybe both. "So what's the plan for today?" I asked Sark in an attempt to keep the emotions at bay.
"Nothing." Sark answered curtly. "You're nowhere near ready to be out in the field, Sydney. So take the chance to catch up on your sleep."
"What the hell do you mean I'm not ready to be out in the field?" I exploded, stepping towards Sark threateningly.
Those Arctic eyes turned and stared into mine. "You're an emotional wreck." He said. "Reynard's betrayal has made you vulnerable and affected your judgement. You're too much of a risk right now."
I ignored his explanation, simply fixating on his belief that I was too much of a risk to be out there doing something. It was better than admitting he was right. "I can still take you down, Sark!" I growled out threateningly. "And anyone who comes my way! Stop being an asshole and help me do something!"
Sark simply raised an eyebrow in response to my anger, but there was something akin to sympathy and understanding in his gaze. "Anger can block out the pain, Sydney, but you still have to deal with it sooner or later."
With those soft words of advice, he turned and walked out of the kitchen, presumably to have a shower and leaving me to my complicated and painful thoughts.
Two hours later, I was alone and deathly bored. Sark had gone for a run, and while I normally would have jumped at the chance to do the same, I hadn't felt like any company, so I'd stayed behind. Fifteen minutes of mindless channel surfing had proved that had been a mistake. Groaning, I slumped back against the couch and shut my eyes. This was a nightmare! I rubbed my face with my hands, feeling like I was about to explode out of my skin. I'd always hated it when I had been unable to do anything, being a woman of action, and this was no different.
Suddenly, I went completely rigid, before leaping off the couch. The memory hit me with the same force as a lightning bolt. I couldn't believe it! I had actually remembered something about my missing two years! It was nothing more than a fragment, yes, but it proved that there was more to those years than I knew – or that anyone else did for that matter. And I could bet that it was definitely more than just the location of the Cube! I sank down onto the floor, cross legged and dredged every detail of the memory from my mind and tried to crystallize it into memory.
The woman stood on the beach below me, her long brown hair whipping in the wind that blew in off the ocean. She wore loose white pants and a white singlet, bare foot in the sand. In one of her hands she held a sword, which was a strange sight, even on a beach as deserted as this one. Carefully, she began the movements she knew so well, carving out the form gracefully and purposefully.
Suddenly, she spun, sword held high as if expecting an attack from behind. Then she grinned and she lost the weary and guarded look on her face. "Syd!" she cried happily. "You're back early!"
Biting my lips absently as my thoughts whirled, I searched the lounge for a pencil and some paper, so I could carefully sketch the face of the woman before I forgot it. I didn't know who she was or how she knew me – but I did know two important things: I trusted her and she had called me "Syd", which meant she had known who I was while I pretended to be Julia Thorne. And that meant she was worth pursuing.
Finding what I was searching for, I managed to sketch the face of the woman from my memory just before Sark returned. I'm not entirely sure why, but I hid the drawing from him. I think I wanted to sort this out in my mind and maybe remember more before I considered telling him. I still didn't trust him, after all... but all that was forgotten when I saw the foreboding expression on Sark's face. Slamming the door behind him, he stalked into the lounge and stopped suddenly when he caught sight of me. I had never seen his icy control slip so much (without me being the cause, anyway) and I wondered what had happened.
"What's going on?" I asked him as he glared coldly about the room.
Turning his icy gaze on me, he paused for a second, as if debating how much to tell me. "Hey!" I snapped, rising from the couch and putting my hands on my hips. "We're in this together! So why don't you just tell me?"
"I just received a phone call from a mutual friend of ours." He said. "Lauren Reed."
I frowned, a little confused at why this had obviously made Sark so mad, before it came to me. "You mean your former girlfriend, Lauren Reed?" I asked.
Sark snarled and grimaced at my words. I remembered reading the intelligence reports not too long after Lauren's supposed death that detailed her illicit affair with Sark and the rumours that Sark had been in love with her. Confronted by the angry man in front of me, I wondered if the rumours were actually true. Aside from assuming that Sark was actually capable of loving anyone but himself and possibly my mother, he wasn't acting like a man who had just discovered the woman he loved was suddenly alive. He was acting more like a man confronted by an annoyance he didn't want to have to deal with right now. I shivered slightly at the cold way Sark was treating the situation, but part of me was irrationally glad that Sark obviously didn't love Lauren Reed.
"She was never anything more to me than a means to an end." Sark snapped, the expression on his face saying clearly that he didn't even want to mention the word 'girlfriend' again.
"Rumours say you were in love with her." I said, filling in the dots. "But you were just using her, weren't you? Was just to take down the Covenant, Sark? Or is there something else I should know?"
Sark raised an eyebrow, regaining the inscrutable demeanour he was known for. "I was trying to find the people behind the Covenant." He said. "Removing the head from the snake, as it were. I was also curious to see just how far the network of the Covenant extended and obviously it had ties in the CIA. I wanted to see how far they went and Lauren Reed was in a perfect position to tell me."
"And did she?"
"I'd thought so." Sark replied. "But considering the recent revelation of Michael Vaughn's real identity, obviously not."
I let that sink in for a moment and yet again questioned what I had got myself into – and why I hadn't considered this earlier. It seemed even I had underestimated Sark. Yes, he was a cold blooded bastard that would betray anyone to ensure his own freedom and life, but he was also far more resourceful that anyone had given him credit for. I began to realise that my half-formed ideas about taking down Rambaldi actually stood a good chance of working with Sark by my side. And instead of scaring me like it should have, the prospect actually made me smile.
"So what did she want?" I asked, more calmly this time, and settled back down on the couch.
Nothing but a flick of his eyes in my direction showed that Sark was surprised by my sudden calm mood. "It seems that your decision to join me has been even more successful than I imagined." He said. "The Covenant, or at least, what's left of it, has no idea where you are, Sydney. Lauren Reed believes that by enlisting my help, she can find you."
"And she's banking on your supposed love for her to make you agree." I added.
Sark nodded. "Yes."
I smiled a little. "So what did you tell her?"
A smirk flittered across Sark's face. "I told her I was little busy right now, but I'd think about it and get back to her."
At his reply, delivered in such a characteristic manner, actually made me grin. "You're going to send her all over world chasing ghosts, aren't you?" I asked.
Sark lifted an eyebrow, the smirk still in place. "Of course." He answered. "I thought it fitting. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go and take a shower."
I watched him walk out of the room, still grinning in amusement. For the first time in a very long time, I was actually beginning to feel happy – the Covenant and everyone trying to destroy me didn't know who I was or who I was working with, which meant that I was a few steps ahead of them, for once. And Sark and I had spent more than a day in each other's company without even trying to kill each other once. Maybe, just maybe, this time I would win; this time Rambaldi would be the one who was destroyed.
Agent Thomas Scott, new agent of the RTF, groaned softly as he rubbed his eyes. He felt as if he had been staring at his computer screen for an eternity. He reached for his coffee cup, only to find it was empty. With a grimace, he got up and went to fill it again. The coffee in this place was really bad, but the caffeine helped, no matter how bad the taste was. He supposed that was the only reason his fellow agents put up with it.
He was about to walk back to his desk, when he heard something. Pausing for a minute inside the tea room, he listened to the hushed conversation occurring just beyond the doorway. Years as a spy had trained him to gather any information he could and he'd learned the hard way not to trust the people you worked with. As he listened, he recognised the voice – it belonged to Agent Vaughn. Something about the man had just rubbed him the wrong way from day one, and it was more than the man's hatred of Sydney Bristow.
That was another thing that made Thomas wary. He knew that Sydney wasn't the mole in the JTF and the sudden amount of evidence to say she was, was a little suspicious to say the least. Besides, she'd trusted him because of little more than a gut feeling when she didn't have to and he respected that. His gut was also telling him that she could be trusted, no matter what everyone was saying about her.
"Damn it, I have no idea where she is!" Vaughn hissed from just outside the tea room, breaking into Thomas' thoughts. "She's disappeared off the face of the planet! Not even her father knows where she is!"
There was slight pause as he listened to whoever was on the other end of the line. "I know, but the evidence I forged against her is only going to delay the CIA for so long! We need to find her."
Thomas bit his lip to stifle his gasp of surprise. He'd found the mole! No wonder Sydney had never stood a chance. The mole was the man who was supposed to love her! Thomas sank back against the counter as his thoughts whirled. This was bad. What was he going to do? The team at the RTF seemed to trust Vaughn implicitly and he knew he couldn't convince them otherwise without evidence. But what evidence could he hope to collect without Vaughn figuring out someone was onto him?
Vaguely he heard Vaughn snap his phone shut and move away, but he didn't move from where he was. Then he sighed. The only think he could do was to find Sydney because right now, she was the only person he even slightly trusted. But how was he going to find her when everyone else was having trouble?
Then a thought struck him. Sydney had given him a phone number of a message service to he could contact her if he found anything else about Rambaldi when he met her in Peru. If that was still active, he had a way of getting in contact with her. All he had to do now was hope that she checked it and got his message.
That night I couldn't sleep and it was more than just an overload of caffeine. With a snarl, I got up and padded down the corridor to Sark's room, hoping he wouldn't shoot me for waking him up at 3 in the morning. "Sark?" I called softly as I knocked on his door.
There was silence for a second, before I heard blankets being thrown back and someone softly walking to the door. "Yes?" Sark asked, his tone decidedly grumpy as he opened the door.
My eyebrows rose sharply at the picture that confronted me. It seemed that Sark was not always the perfectly groomed superspy he presented to the world – sleep had rumpled his short hair so it stood up at odd angles and the pillow had left little red creases in his cheek. A pair of very ratty sweat pants hung low on lean hips and his chest was bare, revealing a well-muscled chest decorated with a few silvery scars and the fact that Sark could probably do with a few good meals.
The sight had made me pause for long enough that Sark fixed me with an irritated glare. "Bristow." He said, his voice still a little thick with sleep. "It's 3am. Please tell me you didn't just wake me up to see if I slept in pyjamas or not."
Jerking my eyes back up to his face, only to find amusement in those icy blue eyes, I got my mind back to the reason I had woken him. "Whether or not you wear pyjamas to bed is hardly something I would spend a second thinking about, let alone let it keep me awake at night." I snapped back.
"So what is it?" Sark sighed, as if running out of patience.
"There's something you should know..." I began.
Sark groaned. "Nothing good even follows those words." He said. "Wait here."
Disappeared back inside his dark room, I heard the sounds of a draw opening and closing, followed by a muffled curse before Sark reappeared back at the door. He'd pulled on a black jumper and seemed a little more awake now. "I need a cup of tea." He said, before leading the way towards the kitchen.
I followed, a curious feeling spreading through me. Unlike anyone else in my life, Sark simply accepted the fact that whatever I had to say was important and seemed to instinctively know that the explanation wouldn't be a short one. Instead of demanding answers, which he probably had every right to do, or asking unnecessary questions, he simply pulled on a jumper and went to make tea. It was nice, really nice. For once I felt that I was considered an equal – that my opinions and bad feelings were as important as anyone else's.
"Coffee?" Sark asked as he walked into the kitchen, turned on the light and made his way over to the kettle.
"No thanks." I said. "But I'd like a cup of tea if I could."
Sark glanced back over his shoulder at me and raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Tea, Sydney?" he replied with a smirk. "I didn't think you'd even know what it was."
I shot him a dark glance. "I drink tea!" I said, perhaps a little defensively.
Sark snorted. "Perhaps when you run out of coffee." He said, turning back to the kettle and pulling two mugs out of one of the nearby cupboards.
We bickered until the tea was ready, falling back into familiar patterns from SD-6 and the various missions we had been on, both as rivals and partners. Finally, we sat down at the small table in the middle of the kitchen and Sark placed a cup of tea in front of me. I smiled my thanks at him, before taking a deep breath. "It all starts a little over two months ago. Just before she was supposedly killed, Lauren told me about a bank vault in Wittenberg. She hinted that I'd been controlled by the CIA since I was a child and that it was no surprise that I'd become an agent." I said. "So I went to check it out."
Sark's expression remained neutral and he offered no hollow words of comfort, for which I was grateful. "What did you find?" he asked.
"Top secret documents," I answered, "one of which was a file on a project called S.A.B and was initiated on my birthday."
"You believe the CIA trained you to be an agent from childhood?" Sark asked, his face without expression.
I didn't pretend not to know why he didn't seem to care – after all, he had spent his entire life being trained to be exactly who he was too. For an instant, I realised that Sark and I were almost kindred spirits in a way. It could explain why we had always understood each other better than anyone else. Both of us had been manipulated and turned into something other than what we would have been by people intent on using us as pawns. "I know I was." I replied, my tone firm and not asking for sympathy. "I was the prototype for Project Christmas. One of the very things Irina had been sent to discover and take back to her superiors at the KGB."
Sark nodded. "I always assumed as much." He said. "Your father was simply too much of a spy to not think that you would be a target in later life."
"It's not only that. My father also profiled me, right down to which Rambaldi artefacts I would find and whether I would kill my mother when I discovered the truth about her." I continued. "He spent my entire life trying to turn me into a weapon that he could use to destroy Rambaldi, because he believes that Rambaldi destroyed his life."
Sark studied me over the rim of his cup. A cold smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "You're not the only one who was crafted into a weapon from a young age, Sydney." He told me. "Irina had a similar idea to your father – I was supposed to be her weapon that would ensure Rambaldi became a reality."
"Supposed to be?" I asked.
Sark shrugged and an expression of such cold entered his eyes. I had thought his normal gaze was Arctic, but it had nothing on this one. "I no longer have any allegiance to Irina Derevko." He said.
I nodded, understanding the pain only my mother could cause. Sark seemed to shake himself free of whatever memories his talk of Irina caused and his gaze sharpened on mine again. "And the other documents?" he asked. "I hardly think your father's betrayal could have caused you to lose so much sleep – or drive you to wake me."
Sometimes I really hated the way that Sark understood me so effortlessly. "No, you're right. It's not my father that's the problem. At least, not directly. There were two other files in the vault. One was a very similar profile on you." I said. "I could tell that it was only recently compiled, but it had an eerie amount of information in it. The other file was on Rambaldi."
Sark shut his eyes and let out a hiss of breath. "Bitch." He muttered, followed by a stream of curses in a mixture of Russian and English. "She told them."
"Told who, what?" I asked.
"Irina must have told your father about me during her voluntary imprisonment with the CIA." He explained, his voice colder than I thought possible and the fire of anger burning in his eyes. "She knew that I was no longer hers. This was her way of making sure I wasn't going to be a threat."
I felt a rush of sympathy for Sark in that moment, but hid it well. He would not appreciate it, I don't think. I understood a little of what he was going through, however. My life had been a series of betrayals, just like his. "The Rambaldi file was probably the worst." I said, trying to draw Sark out of the dark place he had gone to – how I knew that, I'm not sure. It certainly wasn't in his expression, as the carefully cultivated mask could hide it quite well. "It talked about something called 'the Shards'. There's five of them and they're supposed to power the machine that is Rambaldi's endgame. It also talked about Page 47 and the prophecy."
Sark had opened his eyes again and was listening intently, obviously ignoring his anger for now. "Apparently there's a code hidden on both Page 47 and the manuscript that discusses the Passenger. The supposed prophecy written next to my face was more of a warning and a distraction that the actual thing. The object the Passenger and the Chosen One are supposed to fight over is 'the Shards'. And the Passenger isn't my sister." I continued.
There was a long pause as Sark digested this information. In a gesture that proved just how tired the emotional storm of the last few minutes had made hi, he slumped down a little in his seat and rubbed his hand over his face. "That explains a lot." He said. "Did you make a copy of these files?"
I nodded. "That's why I woke you." I said. "Looking back it was rather stupid, but I hid a copy of those files in my apartment. If my father managed to find them first, then we're probably okay..."
"But if the NSC or Reynard found them..." Sark interrupted. "We could be in a lot of trouble."
"Yeah." I agreed. "There's something else – I made a second copy of the files and hid it in a safety deposit box in Berlin."
Sark looked at me and smirked. "Then I think we should take a trip to Berlin, don't you?" he said.
I nodded. "Sounds good to me." I replied.
To be continued...