TITLE: Solomon's Decision

AUTHOR: Robin (icyfire)

EMAIL: icyfire@webtv.net

FEEDBACK: Of course. :) Constructive comment welcomed.

SUMMARY: "If she were your daughter . . ." Late at night, Jack thinks about his fears.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Never have been. Never will be. I simply play with them and then put them back in the toy box. No actually money was made in the making of this fanfic.

DISTRIBUTION: CD, please. Anyone else, please ask.

RATING: PG

CLASSIFICATION:  Angst, Vignette

A/N: This is set after "The Snowman". I hate a certain subplot that JJ keeps hinting at, but I had to write this fic after watching the "if she were your daughter" scene.

Any Biblical quotations came from the King James Version. 1 Kings 3:25-27.

A special thank you to Jenai for telling me it didn't suck. And to Thorne for agreeing with her and giving me a great beta for it. She helped make it a better story, but the mistakes are still all mine.



***



You wake up shivering and sweating. Sydney's voice is ringing in your ears. That is not unusual; most of your nightmares are about her getting hurt. Late at night, she has died in your mind more times than you can remember. What you have seen over the years has supplied many variations on how it could happen.

Tonight's nightmare was different. You stumble into the bathroom and blink at the blinding whiteness when you flick on the light switch. Turning on the water, you try to drown out the one word that Sydney said tonight. The cold water splashing on your face helps for a moment.

Looking up into the mirror, you wonder when you got so old. But you don't remember ever feeling young. Then, flashes of memory race through your mind. Tiny Sydney laughing as you spun her around. The intense look of concentration on her face as she worked to beat you at a game of Candyland. Her joy as she ran to you in the evenings. You would come home, dead tired, and be unable to stop a smile from enveloping your face as you watched those short legs pumping to get to you. "Daddy!" she would cry as she tossed herself into your arms.

You felt young back then. Young and strong and happy. Your daughter used to look at you as if you were the strongest man in the world, and you could almost believe it when you saw yourself reflected in her eyes.

It's been years since she looked at you that way. It's been years since you've wanted her, too. You realized a long time ago that you are not the strongest--or smartest--man in the world, and you don't want her to depend on you. Choices you made before she was even born hurt her today. She can't depend on you to protect her.

Even if you are willing to die trying.

You put on a robe and walk into to your living room. It's nothing like the home you had when Laura was alive. You shake your head, not sure how you should think about her now. Your wife faked her death. She's more than likely alive, and Sydney is searching for her. And you've been unable to stop her from doing so.

Pouring yourself a glass of bourbon, you let yourself admit that you know why it is so important to you that Sydney not find her mother. You know it, but you'll never tell anyone. Doctor Barnett thinks it has something to do with your emotions about Laura, about you not wanting to face the mistakes of the past, and you'll never let her suspect anything else.

Your stomach rolls as you look out into the city night. You've been here many times before. You spend a part of most nights staring out this window. A full night in your bed is an anomaly. Hopefully, Sydney can still sleep through most nights, but you are certain that she can't sleep through every night. You won't ask her, but you know it is true. Your world and your habits are becoming hers.

As the bourbon burns its way down your throat, you try to decide what tonight's topic should be. Usually you let the thoughts roam during this time. You stay in control of your mind, of your thoughts, most hours of the day, but even you can't control them all the time. After waking up from a new nightmare, the floodgates fall and your mind wonders into places you don't really want to explore.

However, tonight you are determined to stay in control of those thoughts. You know you cannot afford to lose command of your own mind. If you do, you could go crazy. If you think about Sloane words, if you think about the nightmare-Sydney's response to that possible truth, you will have to face the possibility that it is true.

Laura could tell her that truth.

You pour yourself another glass, and you hate the fact that your hands are shaking. "Daddy!" the nightmare-Sydney had cried as she threw herself into her father's arms. Only that man hadn't been you. Arvin Sloane's face had smiled at you over your daughter's shoulders.

You order yourself to get control. It's not like it's a new idea, you tell yourself. You've been aware of this possibility for years. If you let yourself, you can remember stumbling out of solitary confinement and finding your friend Sloane waiting for you. As you stood there, shivering from being weak and cold, Sloane told you that you had been cleared. He gave you your life back. Then, before you could even regain your footing, he began working on taking that life away again piece by piece.

As he drove you home, he began hinting that Laura had somehow betrayed him, too. Had used him. The bitterness you tasted in your mouth surprised you. The night you received word that your wife was dead, you were told that she was a spy, that she had been using you. Using you not only to find out secrets, but to also get close enough to murder your friends and colleagues- -people who were supposed to be able to trust you to watch their backs. Sitting next to him that day, after having just spent six months alone between four walls of cement, you had to ask yourself why you were upset to find out that she had also betrayed you with her body.

Sloane's comments didn't stop after that long car ride. Slowly, over time, he eroded your confidence in the bedrock of your life--your daughter. Sydney might be his. Oh, he never said it outright, but you started understanding the clues he fed you over the years. The idea of it terrified you. Even as you pushed her away, tried to protect her by leaving her behind, she was the most important person in this world to you.

Enough! You have to think about something else. Sydney hates Sloane. She will never throw herself in his arms and call him "Daddy!" You know that now, but you remember watching the two of them together through the two-way mirrors at SD-6. She didn't know about you then or what she was really working for, and she had liked Sloane a lot.

For a moment, your arms ache because they haven't hugged her to you in years. She hasn't been that happy-to-see-you little girl in a long time. She would not throw her arms around you anymore than she would throw them around Sloane. Your arms ache, even as you tell yourself that it is for the best.

As you begin drinking your third glass of bourbon, you struggle to find something else to think about. You decide on religion. You sometimes ponder it. Maybe because there are no easy answers for you there, and it keeps your mind running in circles. It should keep you thoughts occupied long enough tonight. When the sun begins to rise, starts to destroy the darkness, you always head back to bed. There is only another hour.

You were raised in a time when almost everyone in America went to church. Or it seemed that way. Your father and mother always dragged you to some church wherever your dad was stationed. You used to believe, but you don't anymore. Or maybe you still believe, and just don't think God has any place in your life. If He does exist, He's only sat back and watched you make mistake after mistake.

For some reason, the church you remember the most was the one you went to for the shortest time. Your dad was only stationed there for about six months, you think. Flies filled that church house from the opened windows that let in no air. During those hot summer months, no wind had been felt. Or at least you don't remember a single breeze.

Maybe it was the heat or maybe it was the preacher. You thought he was boring then. You wanted some fire and brimstone, but he stayed with you over the years. Stayed with you long enough for you to realize why he made an impact on you.

He had faith.

Simple and complete faith. You envy him for it. Even today when you have no faith at all. As you finish the last sip of bourbon in your glass, you realize that isn't true. You have faith. In Sydney. Faith that she will get out of this life and start to build a new, normal one.

Normal, like all those people in that church. They sat there every Sunday and listened to the preacher. They didn't sit there thinking about how many people they had killed, or how many more people they would kill before it was all over. They didn't worry about looking over their shoulder for possible assassins or spies that could reveal their double life to the wrong people. No, they worried about they were going to fix for lunch and if their children had finished their homework. Sydney should be in that group of people.

You could go back to watching her from a distance. Your body tenses at the thought, but you know you will do it to help keep her safe. You'll stay in your car and watch her play with her children at the playground. You'll have her husband and friends investigated to make sure they are clean, and you'll celebrate her birthday all alone as she celebrates it with those that love her.

Sydney again. Your mind won't leave her. It won't forget that nightmare, and it forget what you felt watching your daughter calling another man "daddy". You struggle to breathe as you think about Sydney finding out about that possibility. It devastates you for two very different reasons. First, because knowing that she might be Arvin Sloane's daughter would eat at Sydney's soul, would hurt her. But you also know that she would pull away from you even more, if she believed that you were not her father.

Tossing the glass in the sink, you wonder what Sydney would say if you told her that the former Laura Bristow could make it up to you by saying one sentence. You could forgive her for it all if she told you one thing. "Sydney is your daughter, Jack." You could forgive it all, everything Laura had done, because Sydney would still be yours.

You hate yourself for not getting Sydney away from Los Angeles before Sloane recruited her. Looking back, you tell yourself that you should have known. When he finally told you, as he handed you a glass of wine, you knew immediately why he had brought her into SD-6.

His heir. In Sloane's mind, Sydney was his heir to the throne of SD-6. The taunting glee in his eyes that day still haunts you. He knew you wanted to kill him with your bare hands, and he loved it. When Devlin asked you why Sydney had been recruited, you lied and told him you didn't know. It was the first time you ever lied to the CIA.

You lied to protect Sydney. Devlin would have been thrilled. He would have insisted Sydney be brought in immediately and be forced to be a double agent. If they knew now what Sloane thought, if they understood just how far he would go to protect her, how far he would let her in to the secrets of SD-6, the CIA would have a field day pushing her deeper into the underbelly of the Alliance.

You won't let them. Sloane would gladly take her under his wing, would love to introduce her to the real world of SD-6, not caring or understanding that it would destroy her. Split her in two. Sloane would sit back and watch as the good in her fought against doing what he expected from her.

Suddenly, you remember the preacher. The man of faith. He loved talking about Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. You never understood how a man who made so many mistakes later in his life could be seen as so wise. There only seemed to be one story that was told over and over to prove his wisdom.

"And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other." The words come from your memory. You are surprised that you can recall them, and you really don't want to think about those words anyway. You remember all too well that Solomon gave the child to his real mother.

Then, you grow still as you struggle to remember the words of the story. As a child, you always assumed that meant the mother who had given birth, but looking back you realize that Solomon never proclaimed her the biological mother. "She is the mother thereof."

And you are the father, thereof. Sydney is your daughter, and Arvin Sloane can't take that away. Standing here, watching dawn over take the city, you realize that truth. Sloane's known it for years. That's why he never told her, even during those long years when you only called her on her birthday and on Christmas.

Sydney loves you. You are her father, faulty one that you are. You have faith in her to understand that truth. The water will be rough if Laura tells her, but she will keep the course. She always has, no matter what you threw at her.

Watching the sunrise, you think about Solomon's decision. About what it means to you and just how wise of a man he was. You should have realized this truth two decades ago. You should have confronted Sloane then and told him to leave your little girl alone. She would never be his daughter, no matter what her DNA may say.

You start to head back to your bed, knowing that the rest you get in the next few hours will be some of the best you've had in years. Sydney is your daughter and will always be your daughter. You think about the mother standing before her king, pleading for her child's life. "Give her the living child." You both share that trait: the willingness to give up your child, to tear out your own heart, to keep that child safe.

One day, SD-6 will be gone. Sloane will be gone. Sydney will be out of the game, and you'll make sure that the Alliance and its friends never know the part she played in bringing them down. They will only know about you. And when that day comes, you will keep her safe by letting her go again.

***

The End

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