The sheets creaked and the tell-tales slapped the rigging; Lauren stood at the end of the pier and let the undecided breeze toy with her hair. Her eyes were fixed on the yacht tying up out in the harbor. "I'm here to meet my brother," was what she'd told the harbor-master. "It's a surprise."
His face had become a mass of creases as he smiled. "The yacht went out this morning--they'll be coming back near sunset."
Now the sails crumpled down one by one, the sheets were being coiled and the bumpers hung over the side. She adjusted her weight as the swell shifted the boards beneath her feet. She wouldn't have guessed that Sark cared for sailboats--too much work and not enough opportunity for havoc. But then, quite a number of things she'd imagined about Sark had been mistaken.
She let the harbor-master take the dingy out without her. The clouds were bringing twilight early, but she could see the flash of Sark's head turning toward the land to look for her; down into the dingy he went, and then it was a matter of minutes before they puttered up to the dock. His color was high--even Sark's self-possession no match for the wind and the sea--and his eyes were bright. It made him look happy, and so she snapped, "Where is she?" thoughtless even of the harbor-master's ears.
By then he was standing in front of her. "No kiss hello for your brother?"
She matched the quirk in his mouth and lifted herself up to peck him on the cheek; an arm through his as they walked down the dock to dry land, she repeated her question. "Where is Derevko?"
"No place you'll find her," Sark answered.
Her mouth tightened; it was likely to be true.
It has been a year, and she still dreams:
She misreads the slim body and dark hair running ahead of her--caught in the thrill of the chase, seeing motion more than shape. A final burst of speed catches her up with her target, who whirls to face her; for one long moment all her brain can produce is, "That isn't Sydney," before the identification clicks and time begins to run again.
This is when Sark arrives. His role is to secure their target, but she, by pure chance, has caught the greater prize. She doesn't need to say it: Derevko is the key to the power she knows Sark wants. The Covenant has been desperate to locate her, and the two of them will be able to name their price. He won't be able to resist.
"Help me secure her," she tells him. Her attention is fixed on the dangerous woman before her, but she can hear Sark moving in.
"Well," he says. Just that.
"I'm sure you'll have plenty to say to her later, Julian, but first?" Lauren reaches for the pack she carries; there's rope in it, which will do until they can find something better.
"Indeed," he says, in the same soft tone. "Indeed I shall."
She hears the blow, rather than feeling it, just as it all goes black.
Every time she wakes, she thinks she should have known.
There was a pub right by the harbor. He ordered pints for both of them and she excused herself to fix her hair and lipstick. Staring at the mirror in the loo, she wondered whether it wouldn't be more sensible to escape out the window. Sensible, yes, but her pride had already taken one blow too many.
Every eye was on her as she walked back into the parlor. That still mattered, even when she had to pretend she didn't see it. Her eyes went to Sark, who was settled into a booth at the back of the room: good cover for both of them, and quiet as well. He'd hung up his foul-weather jacket and now, sitting in a sweater and jeans with his beer in front of him, looked like he belonged there. She, scarf, heels and skirt, clearly didn't, but that was just part of the game.
She sat down and lifted the glass. He'd ordered bitter, which she didn't care for; she couldn't remember whether he knew that or not. The sip of beer, in any case, did nothing to help the dryness in her mouth.
"Were you working for her all along?"
"Does it matter?"
"Consider it a matter of idle curiosity," she answered. "I can't decide whether you're capable of having loyalties, or merely of changing them."
"Are you angry that I betrayed you, or that you didn't betray me first?"
Her anger answered for her. "I did betray you once."
"With Cole. I'd almost forgotten." His smile almost looked sincere.
"Was it worthwhile?" she asked. "Was she everything you dreamed she'd be? Did she take you back?"
They weren't the kind of questions to which she expected answers. He drank, and she waited, and every now and then the door would open and his eyes would leave her for a second.
Another year, another dream.
The plan is to drive down the coast to Cork, but they never make it. She pulls the rental car over to the side of the road, by the gate to a cow pasture, just as his hand on her thigh moves high enough to make her forget planning altogether. This is familiar, she thinks, and, this is the truth. Then she's lost to everything but the texture of denim against her stockings and the wool sweater scratching through her silk blouse. He shoves her skirt up around her waist and tries to laugh when he feels her suspenders--no tights for this meeting--but she swallows that and the gasp when his hands touch her skin, all in one deep kiss. Her hands run down his chest to his hips and lower. The zipper is stiff--salt water, she thinks--and she has to force it open, twisting in the seat to push his jeans down far enough, never time for anything more than just far enough. But he's ready and so is she, hungry even though she knows that this will barely be enough. She slides down around him, hands on his shoulders, tongue pushing into his mouth, into an awkward rhythm of moans and bucking hips which ends far, far too quickly.
She can hear the rain beat down on the roof of the car. "Darling?" Sark murmurs, and she pushes herself up and slides back to her own seat. Her knee hurts; she must have banged it on something.
It's so dark that she can hear Sark better than she can see him. This is her moment, time for the one question she needs to have an answer to. "You could have shot me," she says. "You knocked me out, but you didn't kill me."
He's silent for what feels like a long time, as she braces herself for a typical answer: I deplore waste, or a comment on her looks. "You've answered your own question," he says.
She waits, but he doesn't add anything. Her hands are on the wheel; she starts the car and pulls back up onto the road. They're fifteen miles outside of town when she stops. "You can walk from here."
He reaches into the back seat to get his coat; the motion brings him near enough for a light kiss on the cheek, nothing she's ever had from him. "My loyalties are my own business," he whispers.
Then the door closes, and she is alone, in the car, in the rain.
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Thanks to Rez for beta-reading. Alias is owned by JJ Abrams, Bad Robot Production, and ABC. No copyright infringement intended, and no profit made. Original story elements my own.