Title: Just a Man

Author: Karen T (poohmusings@yahoo.com)

Disclaimers: The characters belong to a bunch of people who aren't me.

Category: Broody, angsty futurefic

Rating: PG

Spoilers: None

Archive: If you want it, it's yours. Just let me know where it's going so I can visit.

Feedback: Please. Always welcomed and appreciated.

Notes: This is a departure (I think) from my usual, but it demanded to be written. Thanks to Mai, Jenai, Celli, and Elizabeth for asking the important questions and encouraging me to post this.

Without thinking, Sydney sets the table with two plates, two forks, two knives, two spoons, two goblets, and two off-white, linen napkins.

Two. But she is only one now.

The realization sends her staggering a few steps backwards until she grabs onto the edge of the table to steady herself.

He is gone and she is alone.

She'd always known this day would come. That someday – a day she refused to speak of, to think of – the man she'd shared most of her life with would disappear and there'd be only her.

Alone.

*

She'd been there with him at the end. Hung on to his clammy right hand as the siren of an ambulance grew louderlouderlouder until it overflowed the room and became the thing their minds focused on.

As the paramedics went thump, thump, thump up the two flights of stairs to their apartment, he stared into her eyes and strained to lift his head up from the linoleum floor. There was still so much that needed to be said, by both of them, to both of them. Where had the time gone?

He wanted to tell her how proud he was of her, how thankful he was that after all the dust had settled decades ago – SD-6 raided and destroyed; Arvin Sloane arrested, charged, and found guilty of treason; the Alliance fractured and scattered to remote corners of the world – she hadn't left him, hadn't walked away, had instead accepted his peace offering and allowed them to reach an understanding.

But most of all, he wanted to tell her how much he loved her.

The pressure of his fingers intensified against her hand and she could see his lips parting, tongue struggling to form words, and all she could think was, This isn't supposed to happen! Why is this happening? Please, don't let this happen.

*

There was no 'I love you' that day. Perhaps that was for the best – inevitably fitting – since there'd never been any 'I love you's through the years. Empty sentiments, they'd both declared them to be.

But in the end – during the ambulance ride, at the hospital, outside his exam room as the doctor, solemn, so solemn, had said, "I'm sorry," and patted her shoulder awkwardly – those empty sentiments were all she wished for.

*

She'd seen him grow tired, watched as the lines on his face doubled in number and depth. But as year after year had passed, both of them falling into a comfortable routine with each other, she'd convinced herself that he was fine, that nothing was wrong. Because nothing could be wrong, not after everything they'd done, everything they'd survived, together.

But none of that matters anymore because he's gone and too many things have been left unsaid.

"I love you," she whispers now as she slides into her seat at the table set for two.

Empty sentiments. For an empty girl.

*

Tomorrow she'll wear black.

She'll slip into a black, three-quarter sleeved, wrap sweater and pair it with a black, A-line skirt and black, demure, one-and-a-half inch heel pumps.

Tomorrow she'll attend his funeral.

She'll stand a bit apart from the rest of the crowd gathered around his burial site and listen to people say what a wonderful man he was, how he will be missed. And she'll nod her head and mumble her agreement while inwardly cursing them for their naivete. They don't know who he had really been; they have no clue. Only she knows those secrets.

Tomorrow she'll come back home and set the table with two plates, two forks, two knives, two spoons, two goblets, and two off-white, linen napkins. Again.

*

He was just a man, she tries to force herself to believe. Just another man.

But she knows that is a lie because Jack Bristow had never been a 'just' anybody.

He was her father. And now he is gone and she is left alone.

A party of one.

— the end —

Thanks for reading!