It is one thing, Sark knows, to feel that one has little to live for--vengeance, perhaps honor of a kind--and quite another to engage so deliberately with death. He's a fool to return to L.A. so soon after his own release from US custody, but San'ko did not object when he claimed unfinished business, so here he is. He is as careful as he can be, breaking into the apartment, but is not surprised to see that he left some sign of his passing. Unless, of course, the senior Agent Bristow always enters his apartment with a gun in his hand. That isn't impossible.
Best to get straight to business. As the door clicks shut he speaks from the shadows. "They do say that torturers are haunted at night be the ghosts of their victims. Is that your experience, Agent Bristow?"
His eyes are on the gun, just in case, but Bristow doesn't raise it. "What are you doing here, Sark?" The question sounds tired.
"I've come to commiserate. I understand that you, too, were recently released from US custody. And yet here you are, back among your captors."
"Does it seem that way?"
"I make my own decisions."
Sark ignores the implication. "You're more forgiving than I am, at least."
"I wouldn't expect you to understand loyalty, Sark," Bristow says abruptly.
That stings. Sark bites back a protest. "Where is she?" he asks instead. Let Bristow consider his loyalties on his own time. "I know that you were working with her. You must have some means of communicating."
Bristow doesn't pretend not to understand. "You know her procedures," he answers. "I was in custody for nearly a year; she'll have changed all her codes."
"I know her procedures," Sark agrees. "I know you have some means of contacting her."
Bristow is silent.
Sark waits until it's clear that Bristow has no intention of answering. "I think you owe me this, Agent Bristow. You certainly owe me something. The bruises, the broken bones. The scalpels and the drugs." Each item takes him one step closer.
This time the silence is broken by Bristow's growl. "Get out."
"Tell me how to contact her." The weight of Bristow's gaze makes the hair stand up along Sark's arms, but it's too late to back down now. "Not yet? Then tell me something else first. How did it feel, hearing me scream and knowing you were responsible, when you still suspected that I might be your son?"
For a split second Sark feels the pressure in the room like the weight of fathoms of water on a diver's body. They are near enough to touch. Then Bristow explodes, pushing Sark backward into the wall, one hand around his throat and the other holding the gun pressed to his neck. The breath is knocked out of Sark's lungs and he has to scrabble to maintain his grip on the Bristow's neck. Their faces are barely an inch apart. "I never thought you were mine."
"Didn't you?" Sark tilts his head up and leans forward. The kiss isn't gentle: his tongue against Bristow's teeth, his jaw forcing the other man's jaw open. But Bristow responds, hungry, pushing his tongue into Sark's mouth, biting at him. Then he pulls back, suddenly, and Sark is pleased to find that he isn't the only one breathing hard. "Then explain that," he says. "Or do you always balk at rape?"
"Be quiet," Bristow says, and kisses him again. His hands, including the one with the gun in it, are flat against the wall, and Sark's have somehow come to rest on the back of Bristow's head.
Bristow is pushing hard against him, holding Sark pressed against the wall. It might be desperation--after all, Sark thinks, the CIA probably doesn't offer prostitutes to its newly-released employees--or it might be whatever Sark saw lurking in his eyes, all those months of Sark's captivity. Half desire, half repulsion. He isn't surprised when Bristow pulls away again.
"This will never happen again. Do you understand that?" Bristow's voice is perfectly flat: he might be dictating co-ordinates to a CIA colleague.
Sark's response is a lazy smile. "That rather depends on whether we both get what we want."
He knows the mistake as soon as the words leave his mouth. Bristow takes a full step backward, and cold air rushes in between them; Sark's hands fall to his sides, closer to the gun holstered at his back. "Are you whoring yourself out now, Sark?"
"One transaction is much like another, in my experience."
Bristow's face is as unreadable as always, but his voice is full of weariness and distaste. "Stay there." He turns his back on Sark and walks out of the room; it is unusual enough behavior in an enemy that Sark remains still until the older man returns, a box under one arm. "Here," he offers the box to Sark.
It's an old shoebox. Inside there's a book: Great Expectations. How ironic, Sark thinks, but he won't object. It may take him a while to crack the code Irina used, but somewhere in the book is precisely what he wants. He meets Bristow's eyes. "And your price?"
"Get out. Come back you understand why I'm sending you away."
Another puzzle. Sark tells himself that he doesn't care. He got what he came for, and without giving anything in return: a victory, one would think. But there's something in Bristow's gaze he can't recognize, something that makes him hesitate, book in hand. Then Bristow gives a small shake of his head, and the spell is broken. There is insanity, and there is this: Sark knows better than to ask for anything else.
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