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02 November 2006 @ 07:12 am
 
Title: The Mix Tape Drabbles, Part II of II
Words: Approximately 6,000
Rating: PG-13-ish, overall
Warning: Much switching of tenses between vignettes follows. Also, some mushiness is to be expected. Do not attempt to operate heavy machinery while reading this story.


14. I Want You/Third Eye Blind
Rachel once saw a picture of Sydney before she got pregnant. Unfortunately, it was also a picture of Sydney before she hit puberty; it was in a silver frame on Mr. Bristow's desk. Were she to go only on mission reports, she would be under the impression that Agent Bristow could literally snap her in half. Glimpsing a young Sydney in oversize glasses and a Cinderella t-shirt has taken some of the mystique out of Rachel’s original concept.

Also, there was the time she watched Sydney wolf down a sardine and peanut butter sandwich. She's walked in on Sydney drinking a jar of pickle juice, spooning ice cream out of its pint cup with celery stalks, layering deli meat with marmalade. She feels like she's experiencing this pregnancy as much as she can without actually being pregnant.

Especially now, getting lightheaded as she breathes with Sydney in the middle of her Lamaze class. They're surrounded by puffing women and their bored husbands. Vaughn was supposed to be sitting here, bracing Sydney from behind, panting with sympathy. Rachel is self-conscious in his position though hardly anyone has given her a second glance. It's L.A., after all.

"You're doing great," she tells Sydney between breaths.

Sydney nods, totally focused on simulating the birthing experience.

Afterwards, Rachel rolls up their mat while Sydney mingles with a few of the other mothers. She walks to Sydney's side, mat under one arm. "Ready to go?"

Sydney motions to the group. "Rachel, this is Maureen, Fiona, and Barbara." She points to each woman in turn.

Rachel shakes hands with each of them, unsure of what to say.

"You two are pretty far along. Still a month to go, though, huh?" says Maureen.

"Oh, we're not—"

"Yeah, we're just counting down the days. How much bigger can I get, you know?" Sydney interrupts.

The women rub their bellies and laugh. Later, in the car, Sydney apologizes. "I just didn't want to explain about Vaughn." She leans her head against the window.

Rachel spares a glance from the road. Sydney flashes yellow under a passing street lamp. "It's okay. I understand."

"Rachel, really. Thank you for coming with me tonight," says Sydney.

Rachel smiles and tightens her grip on the steering wheel.

15. I Believe In A Thing Called Love/The Darkness
19 April 2006

Persons present: Dr. Lisa Moran
Agent Rachel Gibson, Technical Operations Officer

"Hi, Rachel, I'm Dr. Moran. Please sit."

"Hi. Thank you."

"I understand you're here voluntarily."

"I was supposed to come talk to you after my solo mission, but I've kind of been putting it off until now. My boss—he suggested I see you. He said he noticed that I was tense." [See APO mission report 33J923-1 re: solo mission.]

"I understand. You're very busy. How have you been doing at APO [Authorized Personnel Only]?"

"I'm fine. I mean, overall I'm fine. There are some things that have been harder than others."

"What kind of things?"

"A lot of people have tried to kill me. And my family too. Kind of a rough time for everyone."

"How have you been dealing with these situations?"

(Agent Gibson pauses.)

"I don't know. What's dealing? I work a lot. I train."

"Do you spend any time relaxing?"

"I get a day off every week."

"But do you relax during that time?"

"I clean the house. I get caught up on work. I read a little."

"Is that relaxing for you?"

"Any time I'm not about to die is relaxing."

"Your file indicates that you were in Stockholm last week. You were injured there."

"I was in a car accident with Tom—uh, Agent Grace. Just some whiplash." [See attached appendix B - agent medical report.]

"How's your recovery?"

"Fine. I'm not sore any more. The first few days were bad. I couldn't move much the second day after. But Syd—Agent Bristow was there."

"I understand you're living with Agent Bristow."

"Until I find my own place. I'm just waiting for things to settle down a little bit. And I guess I don't want to leave while she's pregnant."

"Has Agent Bristow asked you to do this?"

"No, no. I just wouldn't feel right. My parents were kind of old-fashioned about some things."

"Are you involved with Agent Bristow?"

(Agent Gibson pauses.)

"Excuse me? No. I'm just her roommate."

"You said your parents are old-fashioned."

"About not leaving pregnant women to live by themselves. What did you think I meant?"

"My mistake. How is your home life?"

"Fine."

"Agent Gibson, this session is both confidential and top secret. Your boss asked you to see me for a reason. I want to get the causes of your tension out in the open. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Your home life. Go."

(Agent Gibson pauses.)

"I wake up. I eat breakfast. I go to work early so I can work out before the morning briefing. I usually get home late. If I come home after Sydney, she leaves dinner for me. I read a little, or watch TV. I go to bed early if I can."

"Do you interact with Agent Bristow or anyone else at home?"

"Usually just Agent Bristow. Sometimes her father—uh, Agent Bristow, I guess. He comes over."

"Do you talk?"

"Her father's kind of scary."

"I mean you and Sydney."

"Oh. Yeah. Over breakfast, or dinner. She goes to bed early too. We talk at the office, mostly."

"So you don't discuss personal issues often."

"Actually, I've probably told Sydney more about my family than I've told my best friend. Probably because she turned out to be evil."

"You're referring to Kelly Peyton." [See agent file appendix C.]

(Agent Gibson nods.)

"So you talk about your family. Anything else?"

"I don't really have anyone else to confide in."

"And you don't do go out together at all?"

(Agent Gibson pauses.)

"Last week she asked me to go to Lamaze with her. She didn't want to cancel. She's really determined to have a smooth delivery."

"So you went."

"Yeah. It was kind of unreal. And everyone there assumed we were involved. Syd—Agent Bristow didn't correct them, because she didn't want to explain about—you know. Agent Vaughn. Which I completely understand." [See APO mission report 21F73-2 re: agent death.]

"Except."

"Except it really freaked me out. How am I supposed to react to that? She used me as a stand-in for the father of her child. She has other friends, coworkers, her dad. Why am I the one at Lamaze and buying groceries and cooking?"

"Perhaps she feels more comfortable asking these things of another woman her age."

"No, but why am I doing these things?"

"You said you don't want to leave Agent Bristow while she's pregnant."

"Well I—"

(Agent Gibson's cell phone rings.)

"Hello? No, I'm still downtown. I'm a block away from that location. I'll be there in five minutes. Doctor Moran, I'm really sorry. I have to go."

"That's all right. Feel free to come back later today if you still want to discuss anything."

"I might not be back for a while. Sydney went into labor and I have—"

(Tape ends 4:49.)

16. Love Will Come Through/Travis
Rachel ended up missing Isabelle's birth by approximately half an hour. When Sydney first went into labor, urgent business in Kazakhstan pulled Rachel away from the hospital in the company of a similarly reluctant Dixon. Tom met them at the airport.

Urgent business ended up requiring an urgent getaway, with Dixon blowing a pile of C4 to mask their retreat in a stolen military truck. A humvee came roaring in their wake; Dixon pushed the truck to its limit in a bid to reach the border, only seven miles away.

A sharp boom echoed not far behind them.

"That sounded like an RPG," said Dixon, peering into his rearview mirror.

"Must go faster," said Tom.

The next RPG landed to their right, spraying metal and dirt through the windowless door. Rachel threw up an arm to protect her face; she felt a series of sharp prickles down her right side, followed by searing pain. Something warm dripped into her eyes.

Tom felt her jerk against him and caught her with one arm. "Are you okay?" His fingers came away bloody. He turned to Dixon, shouted, "She's hurt, we have to get over the border."

"We're almost there," said Dixon, watching the speedometer fluctuate between jolts from the uneven road.

The next RPG nearly propelled them over the border, sending the truck swerving as Dixon fought for control. It wobbled once, then pulled away from the pursuing forces, spurting dust from its tires.

They stopped after several miles; the others had stopped at the border. Tom and Dixon carried Rachel to the back of the truck and got her laid out on a few canvas sacks.

"How are you feeling?" asked Dixon while Tom examined her.

"I'm fine,” said Rachel groggily. Her face was pale under smudged dirt and blood. A few small cuts traced her cheek and forehead.

"I don't think she has any internal injuries, but I need to stop this bleeding," said Tom, indicating her right arm and torso. He had already ripped up his undershirt for makeshift bandages. "Wish we could boil some water."

"I wish a rocket hadn't exploded in my face," said Rachel, and coughed.

Tom smiled involuntarily. "It's a traditional rite of passage for all of us," he told her as he began probing the wounds in her shoulder.

Rachel winced at his touch. "I really don't think you should pull that—" Tom yanked out a small sliver of metal; she yelped sharply in surprise and pain.

"Just try to relax," said Tom. He braced Rachel with one hand. "It won’t hurt so much if you relax."

Rachel closed her eyes. "Do it," she instructed Tom. "Just let me know when—" He yanked out another shard without warning.

Darkness descended within the hour; Tom worked quickly to beat the fading light, heedless of Rachel's watering eyes and clenched jaw. The first stars were faintly visible when he finally stopped. "That'll have to do for now," said Tom, tying off the last bandage.

Dixon appeared as a silhouette in the back of the truck. "We've got about a quarter tank of gas. We can make for the nearest town, get her some treatment while we wait for extraction."

Tom nodded and sat next to Rachel, prepared to cushion her against the truck's bouncing. Dixon climbed back into the cab. They felt the engine rumble, and then they were moving through the twilight. Tom leaned against the cab wall. "How’s your side feel now?" he asked.

She attempted to tense the muscles there and felt an accompanying burst of pain. "Pretty bad," she admitted.

Tom nodded and tried to settle himself comfortably.

"I wonder how Sydney's doing," Rachel mused.

"Better than us. Minus the childbirth," said Tom. He felt warm where Rachel slumped against him. "You know, when we get back, you'll practically be an aunt."

"Mm. I love kids, but only when I know I can give them back at the end of the day," said Rachel. "Besides—" Her ribs twinged and her breath hitched momentarily. "Sydney already has a sister to be the cool aunt."

"A sister who doesn't live with her," Tom pointed out.

"Coma," Rachel replied shortly.

"Touché," said Tom. He glanced at the top of Rachel's head. "You seem kind of unsure about this aunt thing."

"You really want to talk about this now?" asked Rachel.

"What else is there to talk about? Mission success. We're waiting for extraction."

Rachel remained silent.

"Fine, I'll talk. You know, I've been working up the nerve to ask you out."

Rachel started despite the pain. "Tom, I don't—"

"But I haven't," he interrupted, "Because you seem kind of unavailable." She made no further attempts to speak, so he continued. "I know it's not my place to comment on your personal life, but it's kind of hard not to notice that closer Sydney gets to having her baby, the more nervous you get."

She nodded, conceding the point.

"All I'm saying is, if you have a chance for happiness, take it. And if you don't, you gotta let go of the things that hold you back." He checked her arm, noted that the bleeding had slowed to a viscous ooze. "Looks all right. And Rachel?"

She glanced up at him.

"Don't tell anyone about this conversation."

"I won't," she said, with a small, brief smile. They rode on, watching the countryside disappear under a drape of darkness. A few miles later they hit a town and met a helicopter that ferried them to the air field. Rachel slept through most of it, waking only to let a medic disinfect and bandage her cuts, and to get x-rayed at Rammstein Air Base.

Once in L.A., she went directly to the hospital, hoping to catch a glimpse of the baby and check in on Sydney. To her great surprise, one of the nurses informed her that Sydney had just given birth, and that Rachel was by no means allowed to disturb the patient. Rachel went up to Sydney's room anyway, only to literally bump into Mr. Bristow as she rounded the corner.

"Miss Gibson," he said, his surprise manifesting in a slight frown. He took in her general dishevelment and the sling encasing her right arm. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, sir," said Rachel automatically, despite the dull pain throbbing in her muscles.

"I take it Kazakhstan was a success."

"Yes, sir. Mr. Sloane has my initial report," said Rachel.

He turned back to the windows of the nursery, staring at the rows of bassinets. "She's right there," he said, pointing. "Isabelle Anne Bristow."

Isabelle was on the left side of the room, one tiny fist waving in the air. "Wow," Rachel breathed, her face so close to the glass that it fogged over. "She’s just...the most perfect thing ever." She turned her head just in time to catch Mr. Bristow smile (rather, to quirk up one side of his mouth), and took it to mean that he agreed. He pointed her towards Sydney's room, and she left him watching his granddaughter.

Sydney’s room in the maternity ward was plain but for the small mountain of flowers in the corner. She was asleep with her face turned towards the door and where her pregnant belly had been, there was just a flat patch of blanket. Rachel turned away from the door after a moment’s deliberation.

"I thought you were here to visit me," said Sydney, voice scratchy with sleep.

"Hey," said Rachel, a fast about-face taking her back into Sydney’s room. "I saw Isabelle. She’s beautiful."

"Thanks," said Sydney, a larger version of her father’s smile brightening her face.

Rachel made as if to leave. “I just wanted to stop by and say congratulations. Go back to sleep."

Sydney cocked her head as she regarded Rachel. "What happened to you?"

"Uh, an RPG, I think," said Rachel.

Sydney sat up. "What? Are you okay?"

Rachel waved a hand. "I'm fine. Just scratches." She rubbed awkwardly with her left hand at the tiny bandages criss-crossing her right temple and neck.

Sydney made a limp gesture to the chair next to her bed. "Sit down. Tell me all about it."

So Rachel sat, and began with their insertion at the border. She skipped over most of the accident, and left out entirely Tom's confession and advice. "We got back to L.A. a few hours ago. Dixon went to see his family and...well, I don't know where Tom goes."

"I'm glad you came to see me," said Sydney.

Rachel stood, looking uncomfortable. "Can I get you anything?"

"Whatever you've been hiding from me since you got here," said Sydney.

Rachel withdrew the box from under her chair and handed it over. Quickly, Sydney unraveled the ribbon and popped off the lid. Nestled inside was a small teddy bear. Her face dimpled under a smile as she lifted it from its bed of tissue paper. "This is really cute, Rachel."

"He used to be mine," Rachel said shyly. "They just cleared the things from my apartment in Prague and shipped them to Los Angeles."

"Does he have a name?" asked Sydney, stroking the worn, but soft fur.

"Mr. Ticky Tacky," Rachel admitted. "I took him with me whenever I moved. Boston, London, Prague; he's been around. He kept me company when I was homesick."

Sydney looked up at her. "Are you sure you want to give him away?"

Rachel shrugged. "I don't need him any more."

Her meaning sank in, and Sydney looked away, flattered into another smile. "Listen, Rachel, now that things are going to be different at home—"

"I'm already looking for an apartment," said Rachel, hoping to trim down the awkwardness.

"What?" Sydney looked genuinely surprised. "You're moving out?"

Rachel paused, matched Sydney's surprise, and raised it. "I thought that's what you were talking about."

"No, I wanted to ask if you'd be Isabelle's godmother," said Sydney.

"I—you what?"

Sydney yawned, unable to help herself. She had, after all, pushed six pounds and four ounces of baby out of her own body. "You don't have to say yes. Just think about it." She sank deeply into her pillows and yawned again.

"I will. Sydney, thank you. It means a lot that you even asked."

"I wouldn't ask anyone else," Sydney mumbled, already half asleep.

"Sydney—" Rachel saw that Sydney was out of it. She stared down at the other woman, then brushed the hair from her tired face. "Thanks for trusting me. It means…a lot more than you think," she whispered. She left the room glowing.

Sydney watched her walk away, suddenly unable to sleep at all.

17. Into the Morning/The Weekend
Rachel watched Isabelle over the rim of her mug. The sharp tang of strong coffee stung her nostrils, coiled in the roof of her mouth. She welcomed it and drank in a scalding mouthful.

Isabelle stared back at her from her carrier, one chubby fist waving in front of her mouth. She gummed it casually.

"You don't fool me," said Rachel.

Isabelle stretched in her onesie and kicked a little.

"Go ahead. Look cute. It's just you and me tonight." Rachel drained the rest of the coffee and resumed rocking Isabelle to sleep. She had been at it for almost two hours—at least the crying had subsided, leaving a gurgling, but seemingly satisfied, baby in its wake.

She settled into her bed with an operations manual, Isabelle next to her. It only took two pages before Rachel heard the baby start to sniff. She was ready with a pacifier, which she dangled in front of Isabelle. The sniffing stopped as Isabelle followed the object with wide eyes. "That's right. Follow the pacifier," Rachel murmured. She spiraled it closer and closer towards Isabelle, then eased it into her mouth. Crisis averted.

Ten pages later the pacifier plopped wetly out of Isabelle's mouth. She was sound asleep. Rachel smiled to herself, set her manual aside, and turned off her bedside lamp.

She immediately switched it on again as Isabelle let out a wail. She kicked off the covers, grumbling to herself as she pulled on a light jacket and put her hair up in a messy ponytail. Isabelle continued wailing.

She left a note for Sydney on the kitchen counter, gathered up Isabelle in her car seat, and stomped out to her mini. As soon as they were both secure in their seats, Rachel turned on the car and started Carole King's Tapestry. She pulled out onto the mostly deserted street, not particularly concerned with direction. Isabelle gradually grew quiet; "Smackwater Jack" saw her eyelids beginning to droop.

Rachel kept the CD on repeat and continued wend her way through the streets until she heard tiny snores. She parked in front of the house, noting that sunrise was in an hour. The neighborhood was already caught in the muffled silence that precedes the pre-dawn gloom.

There was a dicey moment when Isabelle's car seat caught on the edge of the door. Rachel froze in place, but Isabelle hardly budged, continuing to blow tiny bubbles in her sleep.

They made it inside without further incident. Rachel transferred Isabelle from car seat to crib, then collapsed silently into the rocking chair. She had promised Sydney peace until nine a.m—three hours to go.

More coffee carried her through hour one. Hours two and three were a complete loss as she slumped over in her chair and succumbed to twenty-five hours awake.

Sydney found her on the floor next to the crib, a teddy bear for a makeshift pillow. Isabelle was gurgling happily, waiting for her mother and her morning feeding. Sydney was torn between letting Rachel continue her rest and preventing her inevitable back pain. She knelt next to the sleeping woman, placed a hand on her shoulder. "Rachel."

She came to with a full-body twitch. "Syd?" she said, still half incoherent.

"Hey. You fell asleep on the floor."

Rachel groaned and rolled onto her side. "What time is it?"

"A little after nine," said Sydney. She brushed hair out of Rachel's face. "Best night of sleep I've had in a while."

Rachel smiled sleepily. "That's good."

"Thanks for sitting up with Isabelle. I saw your note. How far did you drive?"

Rachel managed a complicated shrug within a stretch. "I don't remember. As far as you can get on most of Tapestry. I had to play 'Where You Lead' twice."

"Rough night," Sydney commiserated.

"It was worth it. You look rested," said Rachel, peering up at Sydney through half-lidded eyes. She yawned, propped herself up into a sitting position.

They stared at each other for a moment until Rachel yawned again in a fine display of molars.

"Come on. Breakfast," said Sydney. She helped Rachel stand, steadying her until she was sure on her feet. More hair fell into her face; Sydney hooked it over Rachel's ear with a finger and pressed one palm against her warm cheek. "Thanks for taking care of Isabelle," said Sydney softly.

"She's important to me," said Rachel.

Isabelle burbled in her crib; Sydney broke contact with a nervous smile. She lifted her daughter into her arms. "I know. You're important to her too. To us." Driven by impulse, she pecked Rachel on the cheek. "Come to the kitchen. It's a good day for waffles."

After a moment, Rachel did follow, her cheek tingling.

18. Edge of the Ocean/Ivy
Sydney had been feeling a low-level buzz at the base of her spine for almost two weeks. The buzz grew more intense and more intimate with direct proximity to Rachel. She had been focused on carrying to term and protecting Isabelle for the better part of a year and Rachel had always been there. But the tingling was a new development. She felt it at work, at home, and everywhere in between. Rachel, in a newly tailored suit. Rachel in a tank at the gym. Rachel in jeans. It was a never-ending Rachel parade, and she was almost ashamed to reduce someone who had done so much for her to an object of fantasy. But it was so easy, especially when Rachel was lounging around the house in a pair of low-hanging sweats and one of Sydney's college t-shirts. Or—

Sydney shook her head. In front of her, her father continued their morning briefing. Rachel caught her eye, cocked her head as if to ask, "Are you all right?"

She nodded minutely.

As they filed out of the conference room, Rachel tugged her aside. "Marshall and I are running sims all day, but we're ahead of schedule for once. I can start dinner if you want."

The buzz picked up. "Yeah. That would be great."

Rachel gave her a quick smile and left for Marshall's lab.

Sydney spent the day single-mindedly focused on her job in an attempt to outwit the buzz. It worked for a while, but the moment she was home she knew it had been for naught. Rachel was in the kitchen, dressed in jeans and a plain black tee. She had a pan of something frying. Isabelle was nearby in her high chair.

Sydney imagined pushing Rachel away from the stove, against the refrigerator, smashing their bodies together and forgetting dinner.

"Hey, good timing," said Rachel. She turned off the stove and split the pan's contents between two plates. The table had already been set. It was perfect.

"Let me dump my stuff," said Sydney. She took a moment in her bedroom for composure. She could hear Rachel talking nonsense to Isabelle, smell whatever she had made for dinner. The house felt warm, like home. And she realized that the house had also become synonymous with Rachel. She was used to seeing her in the morning and at night, playing with Isabelle or watching TV. Her technical manuals were everywhere, her lactose-free milk was in the fridge, her family pictures were on the mantle above the fireplace.

Dinner was a relaxed affair and Rachel did the dishes while Sydney fed Isabelle. She would have to start weaning her in a month or so.

Sometime between Rachel telling her that the sink was leaking and seeing her go past with a pipe wrench in hand, Sydney realized she was going to have to make a choice. She found Rachel underneath the sink, gave her shirt a tug to get her to emerge.

Rachel sat up, looking bemused. "I think it might be more than a leak. There's some corrosion on the pipe and—"

"Rachel," Sydney interrupted. "Let's talk."

"Okay." Her bemusement intensified.

"Actually, let's...go to the living room. I think we should be sitting down."

Rachel dumped her wrench on the floor and followed Sydney to the couch, where they sat at opposite ends. Sydney scooted over to the middle cushion, trying to close the distance. "So," she began uncertainly. "So I need to clear the air between us. Because I've known how you feel about me for a while."

Rachel took on a stricken look.

"And I didn't do anything because of Vaughn and I thought in the beginning that it was all the craziness in your life. I wanted to be there for you after you risked so much to help us. I thought you would move on, get out of this business. But you stayd and you've been great and I can't imagine you leaving. You do things for me a lot, and I don't do anything for you. You fix things and you take care of Isabelle. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I like you too. I want to be with you, because you make me think about the future and not just the work we do now. And you just..." Sydney frowned, suddenly quite unable to speak.

Rachel had grown visibly paler as Sydney spoke and was now teetering on the edge of her seat. She stood; Sydney mirrored her movement and she held up her hands in a warding gesture. "This is really sudden. I...have to go. Think. I have to think and I—" She stared at Sydney, performed an abrupt about face, and walked out the front door without looking back.

Sydney had barely seated herself again when Rachel banged back through the door. She stalked up to Sydney as she got to her feet and kissed her roughly, hands cradling Sydney's face, thumbs stroking her jawline.

"I thought about it," Rachel whispered. "Are you sure you want this? Me, I mean?"

"I'm sure I want to kiss you again," said Sydney.

Rachel tilted her head, veered off abruptly as the sink made an ominous gurgling noise.

Sydney leaned left to stare at the offending appliance over Rachel's shoulder. "Did you turn off the water?"

"Yeah," said Rachel. "I think it's just an air bubble." Reluctantly, she pulled away. "I'd better finish up anyway."

"What do we need water for?" asked Sydney, playing with Rachel's fingers.

"Drinking. Showering. Cooling off," said Rachel, looking down at their hands.

"The Brita pitcher's full. Isabelle's clean. I don't want to cool off," said Sydney. She ducked her head to look up at Rachel. "You're blushing."

Rachel groaned and buried her head in Sydney's shoulder. "I know. I can feel my face burning."

Sydney glanced down; Rachel's ears were bright red. "That's very cute," she noted gleefully.

"I'm fixing the sink," said Rachel, moving towards the kitchen.

Sydney hooked her around the waist and tumbled them both onto the couch. "That's cute too. I like watching you fix things."

The blush had by now spread under the collar of Rachel's shirt. She attempted to look anywhere but at Sydney's face, normally a hard enough task without having Sydney lying half on top of her.

"Hey," said Sydney, following Rachel's wandering gaze. She pulled in Rachel's focus, brushed her cheek gently. "The sink can wait. Let's just sit here for a while. Something big just happened to the both of us."

"How do you do that?" asked Rachel. "Get right to the important stuff without awkwardness."

Sydney propped herself up on one elbow, shifted her body to rest more on the back of the couch. "I guess I figured out a while ago that there's not enough time to be awkward. We have to say the things we mean now. It's still not easy." She smiled. "What do you think?"

"I think...that this feels kind of new, but also kind of...not new. We're not exactly starting again. Does that make sense?" asked Rachel.

"Yeah. It does," said Sydney, contemplating the woman next to her. She licked her lips. "Rachel."

"Yes?"

"I'm going to kiss you again."

"Okay."

So Sydney did.

19. My Girl/The Temptations
Dixon trudged through hot sand, wishing idly for a drink. He stopped about ten yards from the bungalow, watching Sydney wave to him from the deck. He smiled as he approached and waved back. "This place is hard to find," he said.

"Yeah, that was kind of the appeal of the place," said Sydney. A breeze from the ocean caught her light sundress and for a moment she was like a rustling of bright colors. "Come on in," said Sydney when her dress had settled. "You'll have to pardon the mess."

He gladly followed her into the house, slipping off his sunglasses and blinking to adjust to the relative darkness. Half-unpacked boxes were still stacked around the living room. "How's Nadia?" he asked as Sydney handed him a tall glass of lemonade.

She smirked. "Bored in Argentinean intelligence. She says she's going to retire every time we talk."

Dixon chuckled into his drink. "Marshall says hello, by the way. He would have come along, but he can't leave Carrie while she's on bed rest. I should just schedule a month of paternity leave for him every two years."

"Let me guess. Another boy," said Sydney, grinning widely.

Dixon nodded, turned his head as the front door opened loudly. "Hey, Syd? The car is—" Rachel paused at the sight of Dixon. "Deputy Director. What brings you all the way out here?"

He tipped his glass at Sydney. "The usual."

Rachel set her mouth in a thin, but not unfriendly, line. "Well, better stay for dinner. Isabelle," she called through the open door.

The girl scampered in covered in something dark and viscous. "Hi, Uncle Dixon," she yelped, making as if to jump on him.

"Hold it right there," said Rachel instantly. She pointed.

"Aww," said Isabelle before slinking off to the bathroom.

"She's growing," Dixon noted.

"Almost too fast," said Sydney, rising and walking to the kitchen. She took in Rachel's disheveled state en route. "What about the car? I thought you were just replacing the battery."

"We replaced the oil, too," said Rachel. "Your daughter is not a neat mechanic. We're learning to change tires tomorrow."

"So she's my daughter when she makes a mess, but the next time she changes a tire it's all you?"

"That sounds about right," said Rachel, reaching for the fridge with one oil-smudged hand.

Sydney snapped her forbiddingly with a towel. "Don't even think about it. Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes."

Rachel pouted, earning her another snap with the towel. She disappeared into the master bedroom.

Sydney sat next to Dixon with her own lemonade.

"Everything seems good here," said Dixon.

She looked thoughtful. "It is. It really is." She glanced at him, a familiar quirk in her eyebrows. "Hope you don't mind sandwiches."

He shook his head. "Sounds great."

They set up the kitchen table together. Sydney finished plating the food as Isabelle and Rachel trooped in together, freshly scrubbed. Rachel had exchanged her stained t-shirt and jeans for light capris and a button-down with the sleeves pushed up. She looked more mature, but not much older than the naïve recruit Dixon remembered. Isabelle was less bouncy, but still full of enthusiasm as she ate and described working on the car.

Afterwards, he presented his goddaughter with a small gift from a business trip to Vancouver while Sydney and Rachel cleared up. Isabelle admired the RCMP crest, tracing the metal with her fingers. "I was born in Canada," she said. "I have dual citizenship." She pronounced the last carefully, as if still a little unsure as to its meaning.

"Maybe you'll meet a Mountie some day," said Dixon.

She hugged him with gratitude and scampered off to her room at Sydney's suggestion. Sydney and Rachel sat opposite Dixon when they were sure Isabelle was out of earshot.

"Who is it this time?" asked Sydney without preamble.

He pulled a file from his briefcase. "An old friend." He slid the file across the coffee table. Rachel picked it up and examined the dossier inside with an expression of mild distaste.

"Sark," said Sydney, seeing the 8x10 glossy. She and Rachel exchanged glances. "He always liked you more," said Sydney.

Rachel tipped an eyebrow at her but did not reply. She looked at Dixon. "When would I leave?"

*

Isabelle wanted to spend time with her Uncle Dixon, and he wanted to spoil his goddaughter; accordingly, he shooed Sydney and Rachel out of the house after debriefing them on the low-risk insertion into Paris. Hand in hand, they followed the drift line away from the house. The sun was just below the horizon, leaving warm shades of red and orange glittering on the water.

"How do you feel about this job?" asked Rachel.

"I think you need to stop Sark," said Sydney.

Rachel stopped and pulled Sydney to a standstill. "I mean, do you think I should go?"

"I think…" She tugged idly at the hem of Rachel's shirt. "…there's probably not many people who can keep up with Sark. One of us has to do it."

"You sound like you want to do it," said Rachel.

Sydney's hands moved up to Rachel's collar. "You know, I have a right to beat up anyone who sleeps with my wife."

Rachel snorted. "A, we weren't together when that happened, and B, I didn't know he was evil at the time." She caught Sydney's hands to stop their fiddling and placed them around her waist. "Beat him up anyway."

"Yeah?"

Rachel let her arms drape over Sydney's shoulders. "Yeah." She leaned forward and pecked Sydney gently on the lips. Sydney wouldn't let her pull away, opened her mouth to kiss Rachel properly. She bit down softly on Rachel's bottom lip, lingered there a moment, then kissed the corner of her mouth. "I'll bring back a bottle of wine," she said.

"No wine. I just want you," said Rachel. "You're my girl."

"Then I'll force Sark to admit that he was the one who wanted to cuddle and bring you a tape of the confession," said Sydney.

"And that's why I love you," said Rachel. They swayed gently in the cooling ocean breeze, content to hide from the world a little while longer.
 
 
 
Janinefembuck on November 2nd, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC)
Sachel! Awesome story. I really liked the development of their relationship. They're so cute.
Lishesque: Alias - teh sachellishesque on November 3rd, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
Wow, this was a wonderful read. Thank you so much for writing and posting. :) I loved the last couple of vignettes in particular - their blossoming relationship was just... *squeee!* Yay Sachel!!!
murasaki1200: gets_it_faster: GRRRmurasaki1200 on November 3rd, 2006 10:32 pm (UTC)
Rachel got her girl, yay! Excessive blushing and teaching Isabelle to fix things = very cute. We so need more sachel fic.
used to: shane in shadesdaneorange on November 5th, 2006 02:44 am (UTC)
i haven't been catching up with my alias lately, and *this* wants me to pick up where i left off ;)

have i told you what a wonderful idea this was? because it so is. thanks for writing and sharing. :)
rtmsrtms on November 11th, 2006 06:04 am (UTC)
Awww thanks so much for all of these! They were great and much better than the real ending. And you let Nadia live, good for you.
dariclone on July 1st, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
Ooh, this were lovely also. I really loved the last one and the discussion of Sydney beating up Sark.