Kat Scratch Fever
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One Step Forward

Syd and Vaughn have dinner with the Dixons

Title: One Step Forward...
Author: Kat
Rating: PG-13, up to R at the end
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything
Spoilers: Firebomb

~*~*~

Sydney leaned back against the tub, sighing as Vaughn stroked her cheek. She leaned into his hand, savoring the feeling of his touch. She opened her eyes and frowned when she saw the wrinkles in Vaughn’s forehead. She reached out and smoothed her hand across his forehead. He smiled at her and leaned down to place a kiss on her cheek.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, smiling as he held her close, not caring about the bubbles or the water. “Vaughn, thank you for everything. If it wasn’t for you…” She trailed off as tears filled her eyes.

“I would do anything to keep you safe, Syd. I can’t ever lose you.” He leaned back a little, smiling at her. “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you, but I’m so happy we got this chance.”

Sydney rolled her eyes. “You would have had a normal life. She shivered and Vaughn slowly rubbed her arms. “I think it’s time for you to get out. You’re freezing.”

He slowly stood and grabbed a towel, holding it up as she stood. He wrapped the towel around her and helped her out of the tub. He pulled her into a kiss and she sighed in contentment. The day had seemed like one huge nightmare. She didn’t want to think about what had happened anymore. She just wanted to forget for a few moments.

She lost herself in the kiss until she needed to step back to breathe. She smiled up at Vaughn, her hands toying with the hairs at the nape of his neck. “My guardian angel. I’d probably be lost without you.”

He laughed. “This, from the woman who can kick my ass.”

She stuck her tongue out at him and slowly backed her way into the bedroom. “Going to join me?”

He followed her to the bedroom and placed his hands on her hips as she leaned against his shoulder. “Syd, what were you and Dixon discussing before we left?”

She sighed and held him closer. “He wants us to start fresh. He invited us to dinner with him and Diane. On one hand, I would love to be able to tell him everything, but on the other, I’m scared that he won’t want to listen.”

“Syd,” Vaughn sighed into her hair. “He’s extended an invitation. I think that should erase any doubt you have. “ He pulled back and gazed down into her eyes. The doubt was there, she knew he would see it. She lowered her head and leaned in against his chest and let him gently stroke her hair.

She wrapped her arms around his waist and they just stood there in silence. Finally, she whispered softly, “Come with me.” It wasn’t a plea, a question, or even a demand. Somehow, it ended up being a combination of all three.

Sydney stepped back and looked up at Vaughn. She needed to give Dixon an answer to that invite. She also need Vaughn with her, she couldn’t do this on her own.

“Always,” and a smile was his only response.

Relief flooded through her and she sank onto the edge of the bed. Sydney felt so tired. The events of the past few days had finally sunk in. She just wanted to close her eyes and let Vaughn wrap her up in his arms and protect her. She tugged on his arm and pulled him down on the bed beside her.

“Here,” he said, gently leaning her back onto the pillow and wrapping the blanket around her. He knelt down beside the bed and tucked some loose strands of hair behind her ear. “Let me call Dixon. I’ll let him know we’ll both meet him for dinner tomorrow and we can tell him everything. Or not. Whatever you choose.”

Vaughn rose and started out of the room. Sydney raised her head and called after him. He stopped in the doorway.

“You’ll be back,” she asked quietly.

She saw his eyes grow soft and another smile spread across his face. “Always,” was his only response.

Sydney smiled back at him and lay back on the pillow. She closed her eyes and tried to block out all the images and memories of the past week. Zurich, Mexico City, Kabul… they all blurred into one horrible nightmare.

Sydney’s eyes shot open. She was in a fog, her eyes refused to focus on her surroundings. Tears had pooled in them, and she blinked to let them fall, and then hastily reached up to brush the tears away. She rolled onto her side, and her hand reached out to the empty space that Vaughn filled.

“I’m coming,” she heard his soft voice say from the doorway. She smiled.

Within a matter of seconds Vaughn filled that empty space on the bed. With one hand, he held her own. With the other, he pulled her in closer. Sydney tried to look away. She didn’t want him to know she had been crying, but, as always, he seemed to instinctively know.

He didn’t ask any questions, though. Instead, he kissed her forehead and let her snuggle in under his chin. She felt both his arms wrap around and envelop her. Sydney closed her eyes. There it was. She was safe, protected. With no thoughts but him, she let his rhythmic breathing lull her into a soft and easy sleep.
~*~
 
Sydney woke up, rubbing a hand against her eyes as she tried to block out the sunlight streaming in through the blinds. She turned around expecting to see Vaughn asleep behind her, but all she saw was an empty space and a note. She propped herself up on an elbow and reached for the note.

My angel was sleeping.
Love you later,
V.


Sydney held the note in her hands and lightly traced the writing with her fingers. She smiled. "You can count on that," she said quietly to herself. She closed her eyes and laid back down, a smile on her face.

Reality set in and she sighed, knowing that she had to get ready for the day eventually. The thought of seeing Vaughn again was enough to make her attempt to leave the bed but she had a feeling that greeting him the way she wanted to would be frowned upon.

She sat up and stretched her arms above her head, sighing as she felt her muscles begin to relax. She lowered her arms and stood, walking toward the closet. She studied her clothes, not knowing what she wanted to wear to the office. Something comfortable, since she had a lot of paperwork, but she also wanted something that would catch Vaughn’s eye.

An hour later and at work, she found herself stealing glances out of the corner of her eye across to Vaughn’s desk. Almost as though reading her mind, his eyes were always there to meet hers. They had their own little secret and for once, it wasn’t going to get her killed.

She tried to smother a laugh as he raised his eyebrows and gave her a once over. She attempted to glare, but it turned into a smile. She turned away from him and stared at the paperwork in front of her. She needed to concentrate.

Somehow, time passed. She found herself getting lost in the work that had piled up on her desk the past few days. A shadow fell across her desk and she looked up. Dixon. They stared at each other, still a little uncertain of what to say. Dixon finally broke their uncomfortable silence.

“Agent Vaughn called last night.” His eyes stayed on her, waiting for her reaction. She sat silently. “He accepted the dinner invitation on behalf of both of you. He felt that we had issues that should be discussed.”

Again, he stood, waiting for a response, and still, Sydney sat silently.

“I couldn’t help but agree with him,” he finished. “I’m glad you’ll be coming.”

Sydney rested her head in her hands and felt a wave of relief wash over her. She rose from her chair and crossed around to where Dixon stood. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him in to a hug.

“You’re a good man, Marcus. Thank you,” she whispered quietly to him. She pulled back and smiled up at him. “You deserve to know everything. Give me that chance. Let me be the one to tell you.”

He returned her smile.

“We’ll see you both at 7:00, then?” he asked, glancing across to where Vaughn sat. Sydney looked over at him and stifled a laugh. Vaughn was sitting alone at his desk, trying desperately to hear the exchange between the two friends.

“Of course,” Sydney said.

“Perfect. Let me call Diane and let her know.” Dixon turned and started back to his desk.

“Dixon!” Sydney raised her voice above the office hum. He turned and Sydney gave him a smile in return. “Thank you,” she said one last time.

He smiled and returned to his desk.

Sydney turned and started out of the rotunda towards the break room. As she passed Vaughn’s desk, she tapped him on the top of his head and kept on going.

A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed what she thought. He was following.

She slipped into the break room and silent a silent prayer of thanks that it was empty. Sydney felt great, better then she had in days. There was one person she wanted to share that feeling with and he had better be right behind her.

“Sydney. What was all that…” She didn’t give him a chance to finish. He probably didn’t know what hit him. Sydney had shut and locked the door behind him and pushed him up against the wall. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

His arms wrapped around her waist and she sighed at the feeling of being in his arms. She leaned back and smiled. “That’s for not waking me up this morning. You owe me big time.”

“So your talk with Dixon went well?”

She gave him a big smile and leaned into his embrace. He kissed the side of his neck and whispered, “Thank you.”

He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “Your happiness means the world to me, Syd. I know how much you went through when you had to constantly lie to Dixon.”

Sydney looked up at him, silently praying for no more tears. There had been so many. "I don't think I ever would have survived everything without you. She closed her eyes and blocked everything except the feeling of Vaughn's arms around her. As long as she had Vaughn's support, they would survive this too.
~*~
 
Sydney pushed at the piles of paperwork on her desk as she glanced at the clock. Especially now, after that break with Vaughn, work seemed to drag on. She was nervous about the dinner. She wanted to make everything right with Dixon, but she couldn't help but have her doubts.

She brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and sighed in frustration. Time seemed to just drag. She closed her eyes and counted to ten before taking a deep breath and concentrating on the paperwork in front of her. One brief at a time, the pile lessened, and the day grew that much closer to being over.

“Ready?”

Sydney looked up and there was Vaughn standing over her desk. She smiled up at him and then glanced down at the watch on her wrist. It confirmed what she hoped. It was quitting time.

“Totally,” was her only response. Syd rose and stacked what was left of the folders on that dreaded bottom In-Tray. She’d deal with them tomorrow. There were more important things to focus on tonight. She followed Vaughn across the rotunda and out the doors.

Stepping out into the cool evening air, Sydney looked at Vaughn and smiled.

“What,” he asked.

“I just can’t get used to the fact that I can leave through the front door…,” she paused before continuing, “…with you.” Sydney smiled again.

“Anytime you want to,” he smiled back at her. Taking a step towards her, he brushed a lock of hair out her eyes. His hand lingered on her cheek long enough for both of them to understand his meaning. Sydney turned and practically skipped through the parking lot. There were so many loads being lifted off her shoulders lately, and she hoped and prayed tonight would just be one more weight gone.

She glanced over at Vaughn, now heading in the direction of his car, and tossed him a little smile and wave.

“I’ll see you soon?”

“Give me 45 minutes,” came his reply. “A quick shower and change and I’ll be over.”

“Well, you know…,” she began. He cut her off there.

“Yes. I know. And if I do, we might as well cancel dinner now.”

Sydney unlocked the SUV and laughed and she climbed in. She unrolled the window and raised her voice so he would hear.

“Fine. Be that way," and she playfully wrinkled her nose at him. "I’ll see you soon.” With that, she pulled out of the parking lot and began the, she hoped, uneventful drive home.

Sadly, freeway construction stalled that plan. Sitting in traffic, she cursed silently under her breath. Constant checks of her watch confirmed her doubts. Unless traffic picked up, Vaughn would actually be home, showered – she caught herself smiling at that, and back to her place before she made it home herself.

As she finally pulled onto her street, she really had no choice but to laugh. There was Vaughn’s car, waiting on the street in front of the house. She pulled up next to him, rolled down the window, and laughed.

“I’ve already been. We had an early dinner at McDonald’s. I tried to reach you but…” She started laughing at the look he shot her.

“Glad to see you’re fully prepared,” was his response. Sydney laughed at him and pulled into the driveway. She climbed out and headed towards the door. Vaughn came running up the walkway behind her and whispered innocently, “What was that old myth about women taking forever to get ready?”

A playful whack on the back of the head and an unlocked door later, Sydney stood in front of her open closet doors debating what to wear. Professional, but nothing that reminded them of the office; casual, but nothing that made her appear careless. With the conversation she knew was to come, what to wear should be the least of her worries.

Sydney was so lost in thought she didn’t even notice Vaughn come into the room. It wasn’t until his arms had wrapped around her waist that she realized he was there. She absentmindedly dropped her head to the side as he kissed her neck, still lost in the dilemma of clothes.

“Sydney,” he whispered, “they want to see you, to listen to your story. Clothing is not important. They won’t care what you have on.” He continued to kiss along her neck. “Myself,” he continued, “I like what you don’t have on.”

Sydney pulled away, exasperated. She rounded on Vaughn and exploded.

“Everything tonight is important. They are giving me this one chance, and it is probably the only one I will get. If I cannot convince him of my motives tonight, then it’s over. He will never trust me again, not that I blame him, and I really don’t think I could live with myself. The past two years have been the longest and the hardest of my life. Knowing that I was lying to this kind, generous, and loyal man, who truly deserved to know the truth, killed me. He needs to know that, and I need-.”

Vaughn cut her off there.

“You need to sit down and breathe.” He took her hand and guided her across the room to the bed. She sat and he knelt in front of her. One hand on her knee, the other on her cheek, he looked into her eyes. “Marcus Dixon knows you. He’s known you since you became an agent. He’s been through life and death situations with you. You have been there for each other, and after tonight, you will continue to be.”

Sydney held his eyes with hers. Finally, she blinked and before the tears fell, he had reached out to brush them away.

They sat there silently for a few minutes. Finally, Sydney sighed, rose and crossed back to the closet. She reached in, pulled out a light sweater and held it up for Vaughn’s opinion.

“Yes?” She waited for his response.

“Sydney, you could wear your pajamas and they wouldn’t care. They only want to hear you speak from your heart. You can do that.”

His words seemed to echo through the room.

He moved towards the door. “I’ll be in the kitchen with Will if you need me,” he said and shut the bedroom door behind him.

Sydney sighed at looked at the sweater she was holding. It was good enough. Besides, Vaughn was right. Her clothes didn’t matter, just what she had to say. She had gone over everything in her mind- again, and again, and again. Somehow it never seemed quite right.

Well, tonight she would have to make it right, she sighed to herself.

She dressed quickly, pulled her hair back, and grabbed a light coat from the closet. She wandered down the hall to the kitchen. Laughter echoed off the appliances and she found herself eavesdropping on the ‘guy talk’ that was going on.

“No way?” she heard Will exclaim. “You really managed to get a girl to-.”

Vaughn cleared his throat and cut Will off as Sydney stepped around the corner. She stared past Will to Vaughn.

“You actually got a girl to what? I’d like to hear how this ends.” Sydney raised an eyebrow at him and watched him squirm in his seat. As uncomfortable as it was for Vaughn, it was equally amusing for her.

“I… uh… managed to get a girl to … uh… WOW! You look absolutely beautiful.”

“Nice save!” Will reached out to high five Vaughn, apparently thought better of that and pulled back. Sydney shot Will a look that silenced him. She watched him back slowly out of the kitchen.

“Keep leaving, little man,” she laughed at Will. She turned on Vaughn and whispered quietly, “Nice save, indeed.” She kissed him lightly, pulled back and asked, “Ready?”

“Let’s do this.” Vaughn helped her on with her coat, grabbed his keys and held the door open for her as they headed out to his car.

Twenty minutes later they pulled into the Dixon’s driveway. Sydney had been silent during the drive over. She absentmindedly drummed her fingers on the armrest. Vaughn’s hands kept reaching out steady them. As he shut the engine off, Sydney looked at him.

“We can do this, right?” She felt like running and never looking back.

“You can do this,” he reassured her. “I can help. Yes. We can do this.” He leaned across and gave her quick kiss. “You’ve survived a lot worse,” he whispered into her ear before he hopped out and opened the door for Sydney to climb out.

Slowly, they headed up the pathway to the door. Before they reached the top step, the door opened. Syd felt her nerve waiver slightly. At the same time, she felt Vaughn’s hand press lightly against her back. She could do this.

“Dixon,” Sydney smiled at him as she entered the house.

“Marcus, please, Sydney. We’re not at the office. It’s Marcus.” His voice seemed warm as he took their coats and hung them in the closet. Maybe she was nervous for nothing.

“Hello Sydney.” Diane. That voice wasn’t quite so warm. Syd’s fears and anxiety returned. She forced a smile to her face.

“Diane. Hello. It was so wonderful of you both to invite us for dinner this evening.” This was going to be much harder then she had thought.

“Ah yes,” Diane continued. “Mr. Vaughn, is it? We had the pleasure of meeting once last week, I do believe.” Sydney could hear the tension in Diane’s voice. This had the potential to become a very long night.

“Yes. We did.” Vaughn paused and Sydney watched Diane’s face as he continued. “And I want thank you for all your help, both yours and your husband’s.”

She could have hugged him right there. He was ready to go to battle for her tonight. He deserved no less from her. She painted her most gracious smile onto her face and said, “I’m sure everything this evening will be lovely.”

They made small talk for the next little while - How were the kids?, The weather in LA this winter, what movies they had just seen. "I swear," said Diane, "If the kids drag me to one more remake of a comic book, I may have to tear my hair out. They are so overdone."

They talked about everything except the important things. Fluff. That was the perfect way to describe it. Sydney just wanted to blurt everything out, to end this torture for herself, once and for all. She kept trying to find the 'perfect time' to interject, to bring up the subject that they were all dancing around, but that time never came.

Vaughn grabbed her hand and squeezed it. She smiled and resisted the urge to physically lean against him for support. She noticed that Dixon was watching the two of them carefully.

“So, Syd, how long have you and Michael known each other?”

Sydney took a deep breath, looked at Vaughn, and looked back towards Dixon. “I’ve known him for almost two years now. He is, or rather was, my handler for the CIA.” She shot a look towards Diane and swallowed nervously. She wasn’t sure how much Dixon had told Diane about their jobs.

Sydney looked at Vaughn, took a deep breath, and jumped right in. There was no place for her to start other then the beginning. “Danny and I were engaged, you knew that.”

Sydney looked at Dixon and Diane. “I couldn’t start a new life with him without him knowing the truth about my life. So I told him, what I thought, was the truth – that I was a CIA operative, that the bank was just a cover.” She paused for a moment, considering her words carefully. “I wanted the most important person in my life to know the truth. Then they killed him for knowing. No one else was going to die because of me.” She pointedly looked at Dixon.

“After Danny, I found out the truth. The truth that SD-6 had nothing to do with the CIA, that we weren't the good guys. I wanted nothing more then to walk away right there, but I couldn’t. If I did, they would kill me.” Sydney saw Diane shift uncomfortably on the couch. She wasn’t going to stop now.

“Honestly, I didn’t care about my life at that point. Danny was gone. I had just found out everything I believed was a lie. What was the point?” Before they could cut her off, she continued. “But then I realized, I didn’t want Sloane to drag everyone else I loved deeper into that hole. I needed to find a way to end this charade, and not just to avenge Danny’s death, but for me, and everybody else. I needed to find that light at the end of the tunnel."

She stopped there, hoping that would suffice. She knew it wouldn’t, but she could always hope. She felt Vaughn squeeze her hand tighter. She had survived quite possibly the hardest part – the Why? Now the questions would come. She could handle that.

True to expectations, Dixon jumped in immediately. “Sydney, you could have told me all of this then. Why- ,” Sydney cut him off.

“I couldn’t. It was bad enough that I knew. We weren’t going to risk any more lives then we needed. You were, ARE, such a good man. We didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.”

“You keep saying ‘We’. You mean the CIA?” Diane had jumped in. She was not going to let this go lightly. Sydney knew things were about to get touchy.

“Well, yes. But more specifically, myself, my father, and…,” she nodded towards Vaughn.

“So, what you’re saying is that the three of you decided to play God with my husband’s fate?”

“Diane. It wasn’t that simple. There were so many unknowns. When we weighed the risks, it just seemed safer that he not know the full truth. Arvin Sloane was, and still is, a dangerous man. Marcus had a wife, kids, a family. I had none of that. If something had ever happened to me, if I had been compromised, there was nothing …,” Vaughn released Sydney’s hand and rose. She watched him cross the room and gaze out the front window. She turned back to their hosts. “But still. Don’t you think he had the right to know who and what he was -,” Diane was cut off by her husband.

“Would you all please remember that I am in the room listening. I can speak for myself,” Dixon said. He looked at his wife, “I would like to hear the rest of this.”

Diane sat back and folded her arms across her chest. Sydney could see that she was not happy. Who could blame her? There had been a whole lot thrown at her in the past few days. Sydney remembered feeling overwhelmed when she had learned the truth, and she was involved in the ‘spy lifestyle.’ She could only imagine what Diane was going through. There had to be something that would help her understand.

Sydney opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off. “Sydney put her life on the line, again, and again, to not only save your husband, but also to protect this country against people like Arvin Sloane. You have absolutely no comprehension or understanding of the evil that man is capable of, either of you. Rather then attack and condemn her failure to share intel with you, classified intel too, I might add, you should instead, be congratulating her on helping to destroy this evil. I know I thank God everyday that she not only succeeded, but survived as well.”

Sydney stared at Vaughn in astonishment. She was not expecting that. She looked at the Dixon’s. Neither were they. Almost like a cat, Sydney saw Diane bristle at that outburst from Vaughn. Diane leaned forward in her seat, eyes blazing and turned on Vaughn. “I suppose we should all be thankful to the great Sydney Bristow for saving the world? It’s too bad the rest of the world doesn’t know of this woman’s great heroics.” Sydney could hear the sarcasm dripping off Diane’s each and every word. “Oh wait! How can they? Everything is shrouded in secrecy. Everything is classified. Everything is on a ‘need to know’ basis, and apparently, and even those being duped by those ‘evil doers’, as you call them, do NOT ‘need to know’!”

Dixon reached out to his wife in an attempt to calm her. She jerked away and rose from the couch. She crossed the room, away from where Vaughn stood, almost in an effort to put as much distance between herself and everyone else as possible.

“Diane,” Dixon tried to reason with his wife. “Please. We invited them to hear an explanation. Please, can we just let them finish?”

“Dixon, don’t…” Sydney began.

“No, Sydney. I would like to hear this,” he said. “Actually, I have one question for you, and I would like an honest answer. If you can do that one thing for me…” his voice trailed off.

“Of course. Anything,” she said. She stole a glance over to Vaughn, looking for more support. His gaze had gone back to the outside.
“Had your father not been compromised, would you have told me the truth?” Sydney froze. That was not the question she had been expecting

She searched for just the right words. She looked down at her hands and felt everybody’s eyes on her, waiting for her answer. She grappled with what to say. Finally, she knew what she had to say. The truth. She owed them that still.

“No.” The word hung in the air.

Vaughn was the first to speak.

“I think we should go,” he said.

“That would be a good idea,” Diane echoed that sentiment.

Sydney rose to follow Vaughn out of the room.

“Sydney wait,” Dixon called after her. She turned to face him. “Thank you. I know that wasn’t an easy answer to give, but it was honest. That was all I asked for. I don’t doubt your motives, I just question your methods. We,” he nodded in Diane’s direction, “have things to discuss. Don’t blame yourself for that. I’ve withheld secrets too.” He reached out and squeezed Sydney’s hand and she felt her eyes well up with tears.

“Goodbye Sydney. Michael.” Diane was already holding the door open for them to leave.

Sydney silently followed Vaughn out the door and down the path to the car. She tried not to look back. Vaughn opened the door for her and she silently slid into the seat. He slid in behind the wheel, silently started the engine and backed out of the driveway.

“Thank you,” Sydney said quietly.

“Certainly,” came his response. Sydney could hear the tension in his voice. They sat silently.

Finally, Sydney couldn’t take it any longer and broke the silence. “What’s wrong?”

Vaughn stared at the road ahead. Silent. Finally he repeated her words from earlier. “If something had ever happened to me, if I had been compromised, there was nothing.” He looked across at her. “That hurt. I was ‘nothing’?”

Sydney sighed. She couldn’t do this now. Not after everything that had just happened.
She stared at him in stunned silence, trying to understand what he was saying. "Vaughn, please." She reached out to touch his arm. "Can this wait until we get home?"

"Sure," was all he said.

They drove the remaining blocks to Sydney's in silence. Sydney's mind raced as she stared at the scenery passing by. Could she cope with this now? She stole a glance across to Vaughn, still staring straight ahead at the road. She knew then, ready or not, that she had to cope with this now. The past few hours had been a piece of cake compared to what they were about to go through.

For Sydney, for so many years, Marcus and Diane had been the epitomy of a happy marriage. Every ideal she had was based on the closeness she knew they shared. Now, after tonight, she wasn't so certain. Would her and Vaughn even stand a chance at happiness, if Marcus and Diane weren't successful?

Every part of her wanted to scream yes. She looked across to Vaughn again, and caught his eye. She smiled at him, hoping ease the tension. She got a tight smile in return. Sydney sighed and leaned her forehead against the window, more determined then ever to give tonight it's happy ending.

Vaughn pulled in to the driveway and left the engine idling. Sydney turned to him. "Come in, please. I want to talk about this."

Slowly, he reached to the keys and shut the engine off. They both climbed silently out of the car, and made their way up the path into the house. Will was sitting in the living room, watching television. "Hey guys! How was dinner," he asked innocently.

Sydney sighed. He couldn't have known. "It was ok. Very... enlightening," she answered. "We'll be down the hall if you need anything." She tossed the house keys on the table and led Vaughn down the hall to her bedroom. The door closed silently behind them and they stood facing each other.

She watched him look at everything in the room but her. Finally, she stepped slowly towards him and tentatively reached out to take his hand. "Vaughn. You have this so wrong." She kept her voice level and patient. She needed him to hear every word she was about to say. "Nothing I said tonight was directed at you. Nothing." Her hand reached up to brushed his cheek, like his had done to her's so often before. It was a reassuring calm for her, she hoped for him as well.

She watched the emotions flicker across his face as she struggled to explain everything to him. There was no holding back now. She knew she needed to lay everything out for him, and let him decide from there.

"You know why I started this, from the beginning, it was all about Danny, a strike against those who took him from me. Plain and simple revenge. I made no effort to conceal that from anyone. They took from me what i held most dear. I wanted to take everything from them." Still, her voice stayed level and calm.

Vaughn turned away from her. She watched him cross the room to the window and pull the curtain back. Sydney was not letting him off that easy. She came up behind him, wanting to wrap her arms around him, but instead, leaned on the windowpane beside him.

"Somewhere, somehow that need for revenge changed. Don't ask me when, because I can't give you that answer." He opened his mouth to speak, but she hurried on. This moment wasn't going to pass her by. "Each day became less about destruction and more about rebuilding. I found that I didn't need revenge in my life. I needed hope."

With that last word, she stepped in close and took both hands in hers. Eyes locked on his, she leaned into him and whispered, "You gave me that hope. You make me want to find that hope and hang onto it for dear life. You make me want to live again.”

She heard her voice break at the end, overwhelmed by the emotions of the night. She had looked up at Vaughn and was stunned by what she saw. Tears had pooled in his eyes. A small laugh escaped her lips. "This isn't the way it's supposed to be. You say something sweet, and I cry." She reached up to wipe his tears away.

He held her hand against his cheek and gently kissed her palm. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head in the crook of his neck. She felt his arms pull her in close. "You make me want to hope again too, Syd," he said, gently stroking her hair.

She pulled back and found his eyes with hers. Silently, they stood, lost in each others eyes until finally, Sydney broke the silence. "Living is about love, and I love you, Michael Vaughn. I really, truly do." She held her breath. It was done. Everything was laid out. The leap was taken.

Her words hung in the air. Vaughn's arms pulled her in close again. She nestled into his embrace. His words were soft, so soft she would have missed them had she not been hoping and praying to hear them. "I love you, too, Sydney Bristow. I really, truly do."

Sydney closed her eyes and felt tears of joy and relief mix together and fall onto her cheeks. He leaned down and kissed the tears away as his arms wrapped around her waist. She moaned as his mouth met her in a desperate kiss, his tongue exploring her mouth. She gasped as his hands traveled under her shirt, his thumbs hooking in her pants. She smiled, fighting back a laugh.
His mouth moved lower to nibble on her neck and she gasped as he reached a sensitive spot. He slowly pushed her back against the bed, stopping to look into her eyes. She pulled him into another kiss and he laid her against the bed.

He slowly teased her, taking his time to torment her. He sat up and removed her tank top, taking in every detail. Sydney shivered as she caught his gaze. He leaned down and began to kiss his way up her body. Her stomach muscles quivered as he placed light kissed on her belly. She closed her eyes and surrendered to the sensations his mouth created.

She held her breath as he reached her breasts, his mouth lavishing attention on them through her bra. She moaned as he reached behind her to remove the lace. It soon joined the tank top on the floor and she sighed as he resumed his exploration of her body.

She pushed him back, her hands moving to unbutton his dress shirt, eager to remove his clothing. She pushed it off of his body, taking in the sight of him. She ran her hands over his muscles, tracing the contours. He smiled down at her and met her in another kiss.

His hands threaded through her hair, pulling her closer. She sighed as their chests met, skin to skin. She held him close, enjoying the feeling of his body on top of hers. He slowly moved his hands to her hips. He moved to lay on his side, unbuttoning her pants. He slowly pushed her pants and underwear down, pushing them to the floor.

She blushed under his intense gaze, still not used to his appreciative stares. He trailed his hand along her hip and she took the opportunity to toy with the button of his pants. He winked at her and she laughed, unzipping his pants and pushing them down. She leaned forward and kissed him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She pulled back and stared into his eyes. “I don’t know where I’d be without you.”

He cupped her face in his hand and kissed the tip of her nose. “Syd, you don't need to wonder that. You're here and I'm here," he said as a loving smile spread across his face. "We finally have each other, and I love that. I love you." Vaughn pulled Sydney into his arms and kissed her. Content and warm, she melted into his embrace, comforted by his love and full of hope for the future before them.
 
EPILOGUE

The silence woke her. Sydney stirred and rolled onto her side, eyes half open. Laying there, staring back at her was Vaughn. "Hi," he said.

"Hi," she responded. She laughed. "Haven't we been down this path before," she asked, smile across her face.

"I think we have, but just for the record, I like this path," he said. "In fact," he continued, reaching out and tracing her cheeks, "I love this path."

Sydney smiled at him. She wanted to stay there together in the silence of the morning, under the light cotton sheet, with the sun streaming in the window, for the day. Forever.

She broke the silence. "I do love you. You know that, right? Last was...," her voice trailed off.

"Real?" He finished the sentence for her. "I know." He ran his hands around her waist and pulled her in close. His voice was calm. Reassuring. "I know everything."

Sydney nestled into him and sighed. This was what life was supposed to be - sleeping late, waking with the one you love... She looked up at Vaughn. His eyes were closed, his breathing even and steady. Had he fallen asleep again? She waited a minute, certain that he had, and slowly unwound herself from his arms and legs. She had made it to the edge of the bed when his arms reached out to pull her back in.

"Where do you think you're going," he asked playfully.

"I thought you were sleeping." She leaned down to kiss him. "Let me go put some coffee on. I'll be right back."

"Don't be too long," he said, eyes still closed.

"I'll go quickly," she said. "You won't even miss me."

His eyes opened and locked with hers. "That's where you're wrong."

Sydney felt her insides melt. She wanted to forget about the coffee, forget about the day, and crawl back into bed. A smile played at the edges of her lips. "Do we have to go to the office today? I really don't want to."

"Neither do I, but..." His voice trailed off. "I know..." she sighed. She turned, wrapped herself up in her robe, and with an "I love you" at the bedroom door, headed towards the kitchen and the coffee pot.

The first step into the hallway hurt. She wanted to be back in the safe confines of her bedroom, wrapped up again with him. The second stepped ached. The distance between them was maybe 20 feet, but it felt like a whole other world. On the third step, she quickened her pace. The sooner she got there, the sooner she could finish, and the sooner she could hurry back. By the time she reached the kitchen her entire body was screaming for her to turn back, to race down the hall and shut herself up with Vaughn.

"Oh screw it," she said to herself. "That's what Starbucks is for." She slammed the cupboard door shut and took off back down the hall towards the room.

Sydney quietly opened the bedroom door, not wanting to wake him if he had fallen asleep again. Immediately, she felt a calm take over. Her heart stopped racing and the ache began to ease. She looked towards the bed. He wasn't there. He was awake, standing by the window, half closed eyes squinting into the sun. She crept up behind him and wrapped both arms around his waist, and laid a cheek on his shoulder.
"That was fast," he said.

"I hope you like Starbucks." He looked quizzically at her. "I couldn't handle being there while you were here." Sydney felt herself blush. For so many years she had been trained, programmed even, to show no weakness. Now, even with him, someone who knew her inside out, it was strange. "Come here," he said. He took a hand and gently pulled her around in front of him. "Feel that," he said. He had opened the window. She closed her eyes and felt the warm wind hitting her face.

"I used to give thanks for just being able to see you everyday," he said. "Now? I thank God everyday that you are in my life and that i can love you... and that you love me." Sydney turned towards him. He placed a finger on her lips and continued. "What we do isn't easy. It never will be. But anywhere you are - LA, London, Beijing... anywhere- you feel that wind, and that's me. I will always be with you. I will always love you."

Sydney laughed and turned around to wrap her arms around his neck. “Were you always this cheesy or was I just blind to it?”

Vaughn smiled down at her. “You know you can’t resist my charm. And it wasn’t that cheesy. I could have said something about how all the grains of sand in the world are not enough to equal the amount of love I have for you.”

Sydney stared up at him, trying to hold back the laughter. “How can you say that with a straight face?” She sighed and closed her eyes, just enjoying being held in Vaughn’s arms. “Although, I have to say, I love you just as much.”

Vaughn sat down on the bed, pulling her with him. He laid back and she rested against his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Her fingers idly traced the contours of his muscles and she sighed happily. “I dreamed of this day for a long time.” She blushed and looked down.

Vaughn picked up her hand and gently kissed the back of it, making her laugh. “You can tell me anything Syd.” She felt his other arm wrap around her waist. A gentle tug and she found herself draped across his chest, laying chest to chest and looking eye to eye.

“This view is nice.” She smiled and leaned down to kiss him. “Vaughn, seriously, I’m so glad that I have you in my life. I don’t think I would have made it this far without you.” She leaned down, planting a kiss on his shoulder.

Vaughn returned the favor, kissing the side of her neck and making her shiver. “Syd, as long as we have each other, we can get through anything. Never forget that.” She nodded, leaning down to share a kiss. Sydney closed her eyes and focused on that moment. Each day would bring new moments, she was certain of that; new moments with Vaughn that she would treasure always. As his hands roamed across her back and hers wrapped around his neck, she knew there was no hurry. They would have this, always. One small step forward every day... she smiled and found herself lost in him.

Jude inspired this one.  She gave me the ideas and set up the basic plot.  She wanted to write it but didn't have the time.  So I wrote it way back when, lol.  Cels helped out with parts and I'm forever grateful.

JJ owns the characters and the show