Sydney smiled at the perfectly placed lights on the tree, then stood on tip toes to place the star on top. It seemed like a decade since she'd had a real tree and time to decorate it. This year she'd demanded a week off and it had been glorious, culminating in picking out the perfect tree and setting it up in her festively decorated apartment.
She'd even baked!
Dusting a few pine needles off her sleeves, she bent to plug in the lights, then rose...
Half the lights were out and the other half weren't twinkling.
"Twinkle lights my ass." Grumbling Sydney kicked the box over and read again that it said they'd twinkle. "I just bought you!"
Feeling her holiday joy dissipating, she desperately began checking bulbs, replacing them with one of the spares.
After ten minutes, she stomped over to the kitchen and poured Scotch into her hot chocolate.
The doorbell sent her head jerking up from where she was slumped on the floor, lights strung across her lap, fingers numb from pulling out the damn little bulbs in a desperate attempt to find the one burnt out one in the string of one hundred that cost all of $3.99. She'd debated going to buy new lights but it was the principle of the thing.
Of some thing.
The straight Scotch was helping to keep her from tearing the tree apart with her bare hands but was also keeping her stuck in the apartment.
The doorbell rang again and she struggled to her feet, trying not to step on the lights. "I'm coming. Jeez, hold your horses."
Stomping in sock feet to the front door, Sydney drained her glass and smacked it down on the foyer table. She unbolted and unlocked and tugged open the door to blink blearily into the bright sunny day.
"Oh, this is just perfect."
"Go away, you're a hallucination. A really bad one."
"Charming as always. May I come in?"
Sydney screwed up her face in a look of horror and nodded her head vehemently. "No."
"Your lips say no..."
With a smirk on his face, Sark slipped past her into her apartment.
"I have intelligence I think you will find interesting."
"You're a bad guy, a wanted guy. I should arrest you. No, I should shoot you! Yeah, that's it. I'll shoot you." She pulled open a desk drawer and began rooting around for her spare gun. "It'll be self-defense. I'll tell them you were snarking me to death." Slamming the first drawer, she opened another one. "Dammit!"
"You don't want to shoot me. Look, I fixed your lights."
Sydney's head shot up and she stared in shock at the lights strung in a neat row across the floor, everyone of them lit and twinkling. "How the hell? I've...you...You're evil. The lights are evil and reacted to your evil. I've been working on those damn things for over an hour!"
"Perhaps they needed a man's touch."
"Pity there isn't one here."
Sark grinned and began to wrap the strands of lights back around the tree.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Why, yes, I would like a drink. Do you have any chilled vodka?"
"Can you be more stereotypical?"
"It's in my blood, as bitchiness is obviously in yours."
"Get out." Sydney turned back to the desk and rummaged through the last drawer before remembering her back-up gun was in her night stand. This was where she kept a couple grenades and she debated for a moment over tossing one at him, but then decided she didn't want to scrape burned Sark bits out of her furniture and carpet. Blood from a bullet wound was much easier to clean up.
"Do you have ornaments?"
"I bet you have every ornament you ever made in school, right? No plain balls for you."
Rolling his eyes at her, Sark went into the kitchen and found the vodka in the freezer. He poured two glasses and returned to the living room to find Sydney tweaking lights. "They were perfectly placed."
"I don't like perfect."
"Of course you don't." He handed her one of the glasses and she gave it a dubious look. "You love perfection. That's why you're so very disappointed that Mr. Vaughn turned out not so perfect."
Sydney hissed and thought for a second of throwing the drink in his face, then slammed it back. "Shut up."
Sark smirked and tipped his head back to drain his glass. "Now, do you want to hear the information I have or not?"
"I don't like perfect. Perfect is so, so...imperfect," she muttered, staring at the lights that were twinkling and giving her a headache.
"What do you remember of the past two years?"
"Not much, and why are you bringing that nightmare up?"
"It's remarkable, really, that what you can refer to as a nightmare, I call the most exquisite moments of my life."
Sydney swivelled her head around to gape at him. "Huh?"
"Of course I knew you weren't Julia Thorne, but imagine my surprise when you continued your seduction out of the public eye. I wondered if I'd awaken chained to the bed. Well, that came later, but that first night..."
First she went white, then she went red, then she shrieked, "Get out!" and jumped up and down in horror and shock.
Sark simply gave her his trademark smirk and went to refill their glasses. "When I heard you were back playing at Sydney Bristow, I had to come see for myself. It didn't take long to learn of your conditioning and of your amnesia, self-imposed I assume. Pity really. We were fucking fantastic."
"Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up," she muttered over and over again, shaking her head until she grew dizzy.
"The truth will set you free, Sydney, you just need to let yourself remember."
"I was brainwashed. I was made to do horrible things. Obviously if I, if I...Gack!"
Sark shoved her glass back into her hand. "Charming, really. I think I do prefer Julia. She at least was honest with herself."
"How could she be honest? She didn't have a clue who she was. She was....bad," Sydney hissed.
"And it felt good to be bad." Setting aside his drink, Sark took her free hand and Sydney gaped in more horror as it trembled and her fingers tightened in his. "I liked you bad, but I did know it wasn't your true self. Still, I came to care for Julia, realizing it was a side of yourself you kept hidden, but a part of a whole I was interested in knowing more intimately. And then you disappeared from our bed, and Sydney was born again."
His thumb stroked across her inner wrist. "I seriously debated letting you go. I believed I couldn't care for stuck-up do-gooder Sydney, but as I've watched you for the last several months, I've seen how miserable you are, and I've seen Julia more than I thought I would, so I came to a decision."
"Stop touching me," she whispered but made no move to pull her hand free.
"I will not go to prison, and in fact that would defeat my purpose, but I will provide evidence on my employers. I will assist you in bringing them down. I will help you fight your good fight."
"I want my Julia back. I want you, Sydney, and I firmly believe that buried in your psyche is the woman who wanted me just as much."
The sincerity in his voice sent shock waves through her and Sydney nearly fell over, only to be caught in his arms and spun around into the entry to the foyer. Head falling back, she gasped and stared. Sark's eyes followed hers and he smiled, a truly genuine smile.
"I will be as constant as the northern star, I swear, Sydney. When I give my word, I don't break it, and I will become your partner and help you save the world, but first...You're standing under the mistletoe."
"Kiss me and I'll kick..." Her curse was cut off by firm, warm lips and she melted uncontrollably, her arms going around Sark's neck to hold herself up as her knees went weak. The kiss deepened, and the memories began to spin back into her mind.
"Julian," Sydney whispered. "Oh god..."
"Julia," Sark replied with a mixture of satisfaction and relief. "Do you remember what you said to me our last night together? What I said back to you?"
Sydney nodded as tears flooded her eyes. She was still incredibly confused but the kiss had been so right. "We love each other?"
"We love each other," he murmured back and kissed her again.
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