A Day at the Beach

Author: Amy (aka pie)
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: All things "Alias" are the property of ABC, Touchstone Television, Bad Robot et al. I just am borrowing the characters for a bit.
Spoilers: Higher Echelon
Ship: Sydney/Vaughn
Feedback: Please. The good, the bad, the ugly. Bring it on! You can email me at pie_girly@yahoo.com
Summary: An unexpected meeting between Sydney and Vaughn at the beach results in a more intimate encounter.
AN: Pop in Jack Johnson's "Bushfire Fairytales", grab a beer and enjoy.

As her hands grasped the thick leather of his shoulder holster, his eyes registered surprise, and then something more unidentifiable - something more along the lines of lust tinged with just a bit of fear. He smiled slowly, knowing what she wanted and desiring the same thing himself.

They stood like this for a moment - the tension palpable, filling the space between them with electricity. She wanted desperately to ask about Alice, but she wanted to kiss him more. He wanted to know if she loved him, but he wanted to feel her underneath him more. They both wondered if they were making the most enormous mistake of their lives, but they chose to ignore these questions and let momentum carry them forward - carry them into each other.

Lips crashed against lips. Hands explored, grasped, touched. Nothing was spoken aloud, yet everything was expressed. It was the way he trailed small kisses down her neck and how she hooked her leg around his, rubbing her foot along his hamstring. It was about possession, satisfaction, love and lust. It was about feelings coming to the surface that had been repressed far too long.

Beep Beep Beep...Beep Beep Beep

He continued to kiss her as she fumbled with his shirt. His hands were in her hair and on her shoulders and around her waist. There wasn't enough time to breathe or even to think beyond the simple tasks of buttons, belts, jackets and underwear. Finally, she had finished with his shirt and her hands were exploring his chest and shoulders, feeling his skin for the first time.

Beep Beep Beep...Beep Beep Beep

Sydney! Sydney!

She opened her eyes, but instead of Vaughn, she saw Francie. And she was in her own bed, not the warehouse. What the hell?

"Fran, what's going on?" she murmured.

Francie just smiled and replied, "Well, your alarm has been going off for about 30 minutes, so I figured I should come in and wake you up."

"Mmm...sorry 'bout that Fran. Going back to sleep though...need to finish dream."

Sydney turned over and tried to recall the dream that had seemed so real only a few moments ago. Unfortunately, Francie had different plans for her.

"Uh-uh, Syd," she said, yanking the covers off her. "We're going to the beach today. Get up and get showered. We're leaving in an hour."

Sydney moaned and burrowed further under her pillows. And then those same pillows were removed one by one by a very determined Francie.

"Nope Syd. You're getting up. No complaining."

"Fine. I'm up...I'm up," Sydney grumbled as she sat slowly up in bed. "Why again are we going to the beach?"

Francie laughed and threw a towel at Sydney. "First of all, because it's January and 80 degrees out. Second of all, because we both need to meet cute boys. And finally, because you and I have not had any fun girl time. Now, hit the showers mi amiga."


They arrived at the beach shortly after noon. Although she had lived in LA her whole life, Sydney was still amazed by how randomly warm it could be in the middle of winter. She smiled at Francie as they walked along the hot sand, looking for the prefect place to settle down.

All of a sudden, Francie grabbed her elbow and whispered conspiratorially, "Cute boys at 10 o'clock."

With the target in sight, Francie practically dragged Sydney over to an unoccupied patch of sand. She dropped her beach bag and began laying out her towel. When Sydney was slow to do the same, she looked at her and said, "Listen, Syd. The view doesn't get much better than this. Sit down already."

It wasn't that Sydney didn't want to sit down - something, rather someone, had caught her eye. However, she dismissed the notion quickly - lately, everyone looked like him. She saw him at the grocery store, at the gym, on the street, but there was no way that Vaughn would be at the same beach as Francie and her. Obviously, her dreams were getting the better of her today.

She spread her towel out next to Francie's and pulled off her shorts and t-shirt. Opening her bag, she put her clothes inside and pulled out her sunhat and sunblock. She sat down on the towel and began the process of spreading the lotion all over her body. Once done with that, she put on her hat and sunglasses, finally ready to enjoy the view that Francie was so excited about.

"So," she began, looking at Francie. "How's the view so far?"

"Mmmm... It's mighty fine. Check out that football game."

Sydney looked to where Francie was pointing. There was a group of eight guys playing a spirited game of touch football. They were facing away, so she couldn't get a good view of their faces, but the sound of their game was very clear. It was the sound of laughter, mixed with vague overtones of trash talk, and infused with the mellow sound of a Jack Johnson song playing from their CD player. To Sydney, it was the sound of freedom. She closed her eyes and laid back, content to enjoy the sound of the game and the feel of the hot sun on her skin.

"Syd, closing your eyes is not the preferred method for scoping out the men."

Keeping her eyes closed, Sydney responded lazily, "Mmm... You do the scoping Fran. Let me know if you see something of interest."

Sydney let her mind wander back to her dream from this morning. Vaughn-related dreams were becoming a frequent part of her sleeping hours, and more often than not, they continued into her waking hours. She could only remember fragments from this one - images, sounds, feelings. She could recall wanting to forget all the questions that lay unspoken between them and to drink in all of him, but she knew the reality of the situation was far more complicated than that.

The sound of a familiar voice pierced her thoughts. She sat up quickly and looked around her. He was here. She hadn't been sure of it when she first caught a glimpse of a well-built man with sandy brown hair, but that voice was distinct. It was the one that spoke to her over her comlink, the one that told her to be safe and that he would see her when she returned. It was the voice from her dreams and from her reality.

She scanned the area around her, and there he was. Michael Vaughn dressed only in a pair of board shorts; his honey-colored skin covered with sand. He was part of the group playing football, and now that Sydney looked closer, she noticed other familiar faces from the CIA as well. She knew instinctively that this was a bad situation, that she needed to get out of there, but she'd never had the opportunity to observe Vaughn in this atmosphere. Seeing him like this was a revelation - her Vaughn, he of the dark suits and starched shirts, was a total California boy at heart. He seemed so relaxed and happy - like he belonged there.

She heard Francie say softly, "So, I see you decided to join the club. There are some hotties over there..."

"Uh Francie. See that guy over there - the one in the blue board shorts with the ball right now."

"You mean the hottest guy out there... Yeah, I see him." Francie replied with a wicked smile.

"Um, well...That's Michael."

"What?" she exclaimed. "The Michael? Co-worker with a girlfriend Michael?"

Sydney grimaced at the word 'girlfriend' and then replied quietly, "Yup, the same one." She paused for a moment and then continued in an unsure voice, "Fran - would you mind if we moved spots? He hasn't seen me yet, and well..."

"We are so not moving from here Syd. It's time for you and I to work our magic."

At first Sydney was shocked by Francie's words. Obviously, Fran didn't understand how uncomfortable this situation could become. But then again, the prospect of just hanging out with Vaughn at the beach was almost too delectable to pass up. Perhaps, Francie had the right idea. It was time to make a move, to be bold.

Sydney looked at Fran and smiled. "Okay. Let's do it. I think this calls for a walk down to the water."

Francie laughed and stood up. "Excellent thinking my friend. Let's go."

Michael Vaughn was in the middle of running an out pattern when he saw her. Or someone that looked remarkably like her. There was no way that Sydney could be here. He was so caught up in the thought of her that he missed the pass and was rewarded with a shower of jeers from his teammates.

"Little distracted there, Vaughn?" Craig called from a few feet away.

Michael looked at him and grinned. "Nah. You're just a shitty QB."

"Get your ass over here," Craig replied. "We've another play to run."

Craig called the play, and they scored with a well-timed pass to Rick. When Craig came over to congratulate Rick, Michael pulled him aside. "Look over there," he said pointing at two women standing at the edge of the water. "Can you tell if the one in the red bathing suit is Sydney? I could've sworn I saw her earlier."

Craig looked sideways at Vaughn and started laughing. "Man, Weiss is right. You've got it bad."

Michael stared at Craig and stammered for a minute trying to figure out how to get out of this pickle. "I, uh... I'm not... Well, regardless of how I feel, we should make sure everyone here knows that we all work at 'the bank' together. Just in case it is her, of course."

Craig slapped Vaughn on the shoulder and chuckled. "I'll make sure everyone is briefed on their covers, Agent Vaughn. Now, if you haven't noticed, we're in the middle of a game..."

"Hmmm - play without me for a minute. I need to go see if that's really Sydney."

Craig looked like he was going to make another smartass comment, so Vaughn just grinned at him and began jogging slowly toward the waterline. As he got closer, he slowed down, wanting to make sure it was Sydney before he made a complete fool of himself.

She was turned away from him, but he was positive it was Sydney - the shape of her arms and the color of her skin gave her away. He took a moment to memorize her like this - standing at the edge of the ocean, dressed only in a red bikini and straw hat. She was laughing at something her friend - Francie probably - said and just seemed so carefree. She seemed so different from the intense Sydney Bristow he dealt with on a daily basis. He continued to walk towards them, hoping Sydney would be happy to see him.

"Sydney," Francie whispered. "Don't look now, but Michael is quickly approaching. Looks like our plan worked."

Sydney could feel the flush creep up her cheeks. She was reacting like a girl with a crush and it was killing her. Add together a constant stream of sexual innuendos from Francie and the memories from her dream, and Sydney was a complete wreck. She was standing on a beach, in an obvious state of undress, fantasizing about her CIA handler who was quickly approaching.

This was not happening to her.

She heard footsteps behind her and knew it was him. She felt a hand on her shoulder, turning her around. Then she heard his question, "Sydney?"

She had closed her eyes in anticipation, and when she opened them, she was facing Michael Vaughn.

This was happening to her.

From a distance, he had looked good, but with only a foot separating them, she realized exactly how devastatingly handsome this Michael Vaughn was. His closeness took her breath away, but she knew she had to respond... if only she could find the words.

"Michael," she finally said in her best fake Sydney voice. "What a surprise!" She turned to Francie and continued, "Michael, this is Francie Calfo. Francie this is Michael Vaughn. We work together at the bank."

He reached out to shake Francie's hand and said, "Nice to meet you Francie. I've heard a lot about you."

"Me too," she responded. "Sydney has told me a lot about you."

That comment made Sydney blush even more, and she tried to glare at Francie through her sunglasses. Turning back to Vaughn, she asked, "Who are you here with?"

"Just some guys from the bank. I think you know a few of them," he replied. "Why don't you come join us?"

She looked at Francie who had raised her eyebrow in a most distinctive manner. Message received. "Sure, we'd love that," Sydney said.

The three of them walked back up the beach, and Vaughn helped carry their stuff over to where the guys were all hanging out. Sydney introduced Francie to everyone, and soon conversation was flowing along with copious amounts of beer and food.

Sydney and Vaughn sat next to each other, but they were conscious to keep space between them. The last thing either of them needed was more speculation about their relationship.

Craig began passing around a flask of tequila and razzed anyone who didn't take a shot or three. When the flask came to Sydney, she decided a little tequila was exactly what she needed and proceeded to take a couple of quick shots. She needed some liquid courage to get through the day.

Vaughn took the flask from her but then just passed it to Rick. This earned him a round of comments from the assembled group, to which Vaughn responded, "Trust me. Jose is not my friend."

Craig piped up from the other side of the group. "Yup, no tequila for Vaughn. Last time was a disaster."

This comment immediately captured Sydney's interest. "What happened last time Craig?"

She heard Vaughn groan loudly and say, "That story is for a different time and place. Right, Craig?"

"Sure, buddy, whatever," Craig replied, barely concealing his laughter.

Vaughn looked at Sydney and decided it was time to take advantage of the situation. He stood up and reached down to pull her up with him. "Let's go for a swim," he said simply, and for whatever reason, she followed without asking any questions.

They walked side by side down the water, and then Vaughn looked over at Sydney and smiled wickedly. "Let's walk a little further down the beach. Someplace less visible."

She returned his smile and they turned to walk down the beach, gradually putting space between themselves and their friends. Once he felt they were far enough away, he reached over and grasped Sydney's hand. He used his other hand to pull off her hat and sunglasses, and then pulled her with him into the water. They ran through the waves, laughing like kids.

Sydney realized she was holding Vaughn's hand like it was a life preserver, and she felt a wave of heat flash across her face. This sudden intimacy was the substance of her dreams - she never imagined it would be her reality. Looking over at Vaughn, she was struck again by his appearance. His board shorts rode low on his waist, leaving nothing of his upper body to her imagination. His skin fascinated her - it was smooth and golden and accentuated by the sand and salt clinging to every surface. How she yearned to run her hands all over him.

Realizing that his gaze reflected the same intensity of desire as hers, Sydney decided that she needed to lighten the mood. She dropped his hand and ran further into the surf, eventually jumping through a wave and coming up just in time to get clobbered by another one. This time she emerged from the surf coughing up water, and Vaughn was there by her side with a worried look on his face.

"You okay, Syd?"

"Yeah," she replied sheepishly. "That's what I get for showing off!"

"Come here," he said with a smile, pulling her to him. "You look pretty cute when coughing up salt water."

She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I look cute doing a lot of things, Agent Vaughn."

Now it was his turn to blush. "I can only imagine," he replied in a low voice, pulling her legs up and wrapping them around his waist. "So, Agent Bristow, how are you enjoying your day at the beach?"

She leaned her head into his neck, and grabbing his earlobe in her lips, whispered, "Let's just say that I am having a very rewarding day."

"Rewarding?" he whispered.

"Ummm - yeah. I've wanted to do this for so long," she said as she began kissing him lightly along his neck. "And now I'm being rewarded with the opportunity to do it."

"Syd-", he began. "You're driving me crazy."

"Isn't that the idea?" she replied, moving her attention to his shoulder blade.

Vaughn knew he was in trouble. He had wanted Sydney for so long, and if they continued along this path, he would be tearing her clothes off right in the ocean. They needed to go somewhere more private.

"Syd-" he tried again. "I have an idea... Can you get Francie to leave soon, but then drop you off at the Starbucks over in the Village?" When she nodded, he continued, "Okay. Here's the plan - let's go back to the group. You get Francie to agree to leave and I'll take off right after and pick you up at the Starbucks. Then I have a surprise for you."

Sydney unwrapped herself from Vaughn and smiled. "Is all of that necessary?"

"Well, everyone from work will suspect we're together, but I'd rather not give them visible proof like us leaving together. It'll be easier on both of us that way."

They smiled at each other and Sydney started walking back to the beach. When Vaughn didn't immediately follow, she turned back and said lightly, "C'mon Vaughn. Let's get this show on the road."


It took a few minutes for Sydney to get Francie to agree to leave, but after multiple pointed looks and raised eyebrows, Francie caught onto the plan and executed on it with gusto. She claimed that she had a bit of a headache and that she really needed to check in at the restaurant before the Saturday night rush. She then said goodbye to everyone and even managed to drop her number in a few lucky laps on her way out with Sydney.

Once they were in the car, Francie pounced on her. "What's going on with Michael?"

Sydney felt the heat creeping up her face again. "Uh - do you mind dropping me off at the Starbucks? Michael is going to pick me up there... We didn't want everyone to see us leaving together."

"Oh my God!" Francie screamed in response. "You are so going to get some tonight."

"Francine!" Sydney responded indignantly. "I'm not sleeping with him tonight."

"Ummm right. Is the Pope Catholic? I saw how you guys look at each other."

"Whatever, just get me to the damn Starbucks Fran." Sydney replied as a big grin took over her face.


Within fifteen minutes, Sydney was safely ensconced in Vaughn's car - a black 4Runner that judging by the customized shocks and exhaust was definitely not government-issue. She smiled at him as she clambered up into the truck, throwing her bag into the backseat. "So, what's the plan Vaughn?" she inquired. "Or is it still classified?"

He put the truck into drive and gave her a smile that made her heart skip a few beats. "Still Classified Agent Bristow. Now, get comfortable - it's gonna to be about a 45 minute drive."

Sydney turned in her seat so she could look directly at Vaughn. He had thrown an old Grateful Dead t-shirt over his board shorts and was wearing wrap around black sunglasses that most certainly were not part of his weekday uniform. The pièce de résistance however, was seeing him wear flip-flops. It was as if her CIA Vaughn had this mysterious laid-back twin brother. It was enlightening to see this other side of him - one that indicated he was more playful and spontaneous than his by-the-book manner at work would have led her to believe.

She knew she was being obvious, but she let her gaze linger on his muscled calves and then continue down to his ankles and feet. She grew warm just thinking about what it would be like to have those legs wrapped around her. Sighing, she turned back in her seat and pressed her forehead to the window.

"Do I pass inspection?" His voice sultry and teasing as he accentuated each word.

A furious blush covered her face, and Sydney turned further away from him, pressing her whole face to the passenger-side window. She tried to answer, but only a few garbled words actually came out. "Ye-, Wha-, Uh-"

His laughter filled the car. "I can't believe that Sydney Bristow is speechless. That is a first, I believe."

It wasn't that she was speechless - it was that she had too much to say. She had felt so free with Vaughn when they were on the beach, but now, she felt all the questions that had been bothering her for the past month come bubbling to the surface. When they had been playing in the surf, she had been so ready to just have him right there, no explanations needed. Perhaps it was the tequila or the feeling of being wrapped in Vaughn's arms in the ocean. She really had no good answer for why one minute she was ready to forget everything just to be with him, and a few short moments later she was filled with fear and doubt.

Michael had spent the past couple of minutes watching Sydney out of the corner of his eye. He knew something was bothering her - it was written all over her body. He wondered why the sudden shift in her mood. She had been so happy and open at the beach and now he could see her visibly shrinking away from him and retreating behind her wall. He decided to venture a question and see how she would respond.

"Syd-," he said softly. "Everything okay?"

She sighed, knowing precisely what he wanted to know, but not exactly sure how she would answer him. Everything was fine on the surface - she could simply smile and say "I'm fine", but he would know she was lying. So, she answered him as truthfully as possible.

"Vaughn - what are we doing?"

It was one incredibly loaded question, and Vaughn was very aware that asking it took a large dose of courage on Sydney's part. They'd done a meticulous job of avoiding the subject of "them" for the past couple of months, resorting to looks and metaphors to say what they felt, but never really owning up to any real feelings. He knew how he felt, and he thought he knew how Sydney felt, but lately... lately, something was off. The truth of the matter is that he had no idea what he was doing with Sydney Bristow. The whole idea of them being together was so utterly ridiculous, yet it seemed so right. It had felt so good to hold her at the beach, and looking over at her now sitting in his passenger seat, it seemed so right. But how long could this fantasy last? Tomorrow they would be back to Agent Bristow and Agent Vaughn. She was right - what exactly were they doing?

Realizing he owed Sydney an answer, he gave her a half-smile and replied in the only way he knew how, "I have no fucking idea."

No fucking idea why the one woman in his life he wanted to be with was the one woman he couldn't have.

No fucking idea why fate was cruel enough to have her mother be his father's killer.

No fucking idea why he wanted her so badly.

No fucking idea why they were in his car right now, violating every rule they were supposed to live by.

He expected Sydney to withdraw further given his lack of an answer, but instead she started giggling, and then her giggles turned into full-on belly-splitting laughter. "We're quite a pair Vaughn," she said, trying to catch her breath. "No fucking idea is absolutely the answer to that question."

Her laughter hung in the air for a few moments, and then Sydney turned to him and said in a more sober voice, "Let's try to figure it out though, 'k?"

"Okay," he responded. "I'm all for figuring it out."

Sydney leaned back against the window and turned her gaze to the mountains they were driving towards. Without looking back at Vaughn, she said softly, "I owe you an apology."

"For what?" he asked, his voice filled with curiosity.

"For not letting you explain...explain about Alice," she stammered. "If you don't mind, I would like to hear what you had to say."

Vaughn squinted at the road, trying to find the right words to make her understand. "Syd," he began. "Alice and I were dating, but my heart wasn't in it. We broke up shortly after I got out of the hospital. I was being selfish, leading her on like that, so I ended it. Syd - she isn't you and you're the only woman I want in my life."

Sydney kept her eyes focused on the passing scenery and tried to absorb what Vaughn was trying to tell her. Alice was no longer in his life. He wanted her. She felt like a complete jerk. If only she had let him explain earlier, she could've been saved so much heartache. They both could've been saved so much heartache.

This was ridiculous.

"Vaughn - I'm so sorry," she said. "I should've let you explain, but I was so afraid of what you were going to tell me that I acted like a complete jackass."

She felt his hand on her shoulder pulling her around to face him. He looked briefly away from the road and reached for her face with his right hand. Tracing the angle of her jawbone he said slowly, "Apology accepted."

He could feel her smile against his hand, and he wanted to pull over right then and there and kiss her long and hard. But he also wanted to reach their destination and time was of the essence. So he settled for grasping her left hand with his right and running his thumb over her knuckles.

Sydney felt a wave of serenity wash over her. Obviously the Alice issue had weighed more heavily on her shoulders than she had cared to believe. She still didn't really know what they were doing, but she didn't much care either. She was sitting with Vaughn in his car and he was holding her hand. Sydney grasped Vaughn's hand tighter and sighed contentedly.

A few minutes later, Vaughn pulled his hand away from Sydney's. "Sorry, need both hands for this part," he said as he drove the car off-road onto a fire trail and began the steep climb up the hill. He wanted to watch Sydney as she saw this place for the first time, but if he didn't concentrate, putting the truck into a ditch was a very likely scenario.

For her part, Sydney was mesmerized by the scenery. They had driven somewhere inland from Malibu and now Vaughn was driving her up this incredibly steep trail. All around her, the hills were covered with a layer of green grass, early spring wildflowers and California oak trees. The grays and browns of late summer and fall had been replaced by the fresh colors of the coming spring. Finally, the car hit the crest of the road and Sydney gasped at the sight in front of her.

"Oh my God Vaughn. Is that...?"

He put the car in park and looked over at her, delighted by the look of awe in her face. "Yup," he replied. "The best view of the Pacific in town. In fact, you can see the beach we were at."

He jumped out of the car and walked around to the passenger side to get Sydney. Opening the door, he reached in to grab her hand and help her down to the ground. She rewarded him with an enormous smile. "This is so beautiful Vaughn... But where are we?"

As he walked to the back of the truck to gather a few things, he explained that this was part of a friend's ranch and that he had been coming here for years.

"With all your girlfriends, I bet," Sydney teased him.

"Actually, no. Mostly just on family outings. Sometimes when I help Javier with the cattle during the summer."

He walked back over to where Sydney was standing and placed a blanket on the ground. "Here, get comfortable. Be right back." A few seconds later, Michael returned to the blanket with a couple of Patagonia fleece jackets, some granola bars and a flashlight.

Sydney looked up at him and grinned mischievously. "You had all this in your car?"

He sat down next to her and laughed. "Well, you know... just in case."

Vaughn stretched out on the blanket, resting on his elbows, gaze firmly fixed on the western horizon. Sydney moved to lay her head on his lap, making sure that she could still see the ocean. They sat like this for countless minutes, with only the sound of the breeze and animals keeping them company. Soon, the bright orange sun was at eye level and a few moments later it hit the ocean, sending cascades of orange, yellow and pink light into the sky and across the deep indigo sea.

As the sun slowly sunk into the ocean, Vaughn felt Sydney shiver. The temperature had dropped considerably, and they were both still in shorts and t-shirts. He reached for the Patagonias and handed Syd a blue one and took the gray one for himself.

Once she was wrapped in the warm jacket, she laid back down in Vaughn's lap, this time staying on her back so she could gaze up at his face. The edges of a smile were playing on his lips, and he just looked so full of joy. Seeing him like this, she realized her question had been answered.

"Vaughn," she said quietly. "Today has been wonderful. I love that I got to spend a day with you - a day where I could look at you in the eyes and talk about more than just work"

"Before, when I asked what we were doing... I had it all wrong. I've been so freaked out by the consequences of being with you, that I forgot that sometimes you just have to live life and not worry. Today is one of those days. We should just enjoy this gift we've been given, and not question it to death."

Michael sighed deeply and shifted his weight back on his hips, releasing his hands from their position behind him. He began to stroke Sydney's head and face, tracing patterns in her scalp, along her cheekbone and brows. He could feel her relax deeper into his lap. She looked so beautiful - her chestnut hair fanned out across his lap, her face lit only by the fading light. Her ruby lips were calling to him, but before he could give into his desire, he needed to ask.


"Mmm?" she replied, sinking deeper into his lap.

"I want this so badly, but I need to know something...if we do this, are you going to regret it?"

His words startled her. Didn't he understand that she wanted him also - that she had wanted him from the very beginning? She knew it was scary, but for the first time in a long while, she felt like she knew what she was doing.

She sat up and moved to sit in his lap. Wrapping her legs around his waist, she placed her hands on either side of his face. She peered deeply into his eyes, and said quietly, "Michael, no regrets." And then the three words that had been sitting in the back of her throat for months came rushing to the surface, "I love you."

He heard the words, but it took a few seconds for them to sink in. Once he realized the full meaning of her declaration, his answer was immediate and passionate. "I love you too Sydney Bristow."

No more words were needed. The important questions had been answered.

Michael brought his hands up to Sydney's face, and her hands moved to the back of his head. He leaned in and brushed his lips lightly against hers, enjoying the first taste of Sydney Bristow. She rocked her body closer to his and pulled his head down to hers, forcing a deeper kiss. His tongue began a gradual exploration of her mouth, and soon Sydney was reciprocating.

Later, when thinking about their first kiss, he would remember the taste of tequila and mint and she would recall salt and beer. They would both smile at the urgency of their passion, the thrill of the first kiss and the wonderment with which they explored each other's mouths.

Soon, Sydney was restless - she wanted more. She pushed Vaughn down on the blanket and began to trail kisses down through the hollow of his neck and along his clavicle. Her hands caressed his arms and chest, and she could feel his heart beating oh so fast under her palms. It wasn't enough though - she needed to feel his skin pressed against her and there were far too many layers of clothing in the way of this goal.

She shifted back on her knees and pulled Vaughn up to a sitting position. Slowly she unzipped his jacket, and after running her hands up his chest, she pulled it off of him swiftly, discarding it to the side. Now it was time for the t-shirt. A few tugs and that joined the jacket on the grass. Sydney ran her fingers lightly along Vaughn's chest, tracing the patterns of his muscles - right pectoral, left pectoral, oblique, abdominal, trapezius. She pushed him back down and began trailing kisses down his torso, circling his nipples with her tongue. Sucking and licking and nipping and kissing. She was consumed with passion for him. This was so much better than her dreams.

As much as Michael was enjoying the attention being lavished on him by Sydney, he knew that she definitely had too many clothes on. Rolling over on the blanket, he caught Sydney underneath him and began to remove her jacket. After her jacket came her t-shirt. And then all that remained was her bikini top. Michael decided to keep it like that for a moment, as he leaned down and began exploring Sydney's body. He began with feather light kisses along her temples and then her eyelids. Then he took her earlobe in his mouth and nibbled and sucked lightly, enjoying the feeling of Sydney moving underneath him. He spent countless minutes kissing and licking the rest of her. From her neck down her arms, around her side and down her legs. He had tasted and explored every part of Sydney Bristow, except for the two most important places.

"Vaughn," she called in a raspy voice. "Please..."

He knew what she wanted, and the idea of her excitement and desire nearly pushed him over the edge. Deliberately taking a few deep breaths to clear his thoughts, he gazed down at Sydney. She was lying haphazardly on the blanket, limbs thrown akimbo, dressed only in khaki shorts and a bikini top. Her lips were swollen and her cheeks were rosy with desire. He moved to lie down next to her, and lazily began running his fingers from the base of her neck, down her sternum, across her belly to the waist of her shorts, and back again. He would take occasional detours to explore the top edge of a breast or one of her hipbones, but he refused to go exactly where she wanted him to go.

Finally, her moans of desire convinced him that it was time. He allowed his fingers to explore her breasts, to rub her taut nipples. He reached around her back and undid her bikini top. As he removed it, he leaned over and grasped her nipple in his mouth. He nibbled and sucked lightly and was rewarded by a loud gasp from Sydney. He took her other breast in his mouth, and while he explored it with his mouth, he let his hands wander further and further past her waist, finally rubbing his palm over her most sensitive area.

Sydney could not remember ever feeling this degree of ecstasy. The sensations coming from every corner of her body had overloaded her senses, and all she was able to do was lie there and let the waves of pleasure overwhelm her. She could feel Vaughn's mouth on her breast and then his hand drifting lower and lower until it reached the center of all her feeling. It was all she could do not to pass out right then and there. Instead she writhed against him, feeling his state of arousal clearly against her leg. Well, two can play at this game she thought as she reached down and began massaging him through his shorts. She heard him gasp and his mouth and hand momentarily stopped their movements, but seconds later he was at it again and she lost herself in the moment.

Vaughn kissed his way down her belly and then unbuttoned her shorts slowly, enjoying the flashes of emotion that lit up her face. Yanking her shorts and bikini bottom off in one swift pull, he sat back on his heels and just looked at her. Sydney Bristow - lying naked on a blanket in the middle of a meadow with only the early evening sky illuminating her pale skin. Michael Vaughn was sure he had died and gone to heaven. This was the stuff of fantasies, not of real life.

He kneeled down in front of her and pulled her right leg up. Kissing the length of it, he finally placed it on his shoulder. He did the same with her left leg, paying special attention to the spots where she groaned in response to his touch. Leaning down, he began his exploration of the one part of Sydney he had not yet touched.

She knew what he was doing - where he was heading and she ground her hips into the blanket in anticipation. She could feel his breath on her wetness; she could sense him pause... And then he took her and she went falling off the cliff and was just flying on waves of pleasure and utter delight. His fingers and tongue worked together in precision. Spreading her open, rubbing her sensitive areas, exploring her inside and out. Sounds were muted, and all she was aware of was a vague noise of waves crashing in her ears as her nerve endings caught on fire. She had not been touched like this for as long as she could remember, and she felt herself buck against Michael, finally ready for her release.

He could feel her body's response and knew she was ready. A quick nibble of her clitoris, a strategic rubbing of the spot deep inside of her, and she came violently around his fingers. He crawled up her body, loving how her lips were partially open and how she still had not caught her breath. Her eyes fluttered open, and in them he saw such a depth of feeling that it momentarily stunned him. It was as if, in that one act of passion, he had unlocked the key to her soul. She lay there exposed and open and beautiful. Rolling onto his side, he began to caress her again, loving the feeling of her warm skin against his hand.

Sydney gradually began coming down from her high. She opened her eyes and saw Vaughn there, staring at her. She was amazed by the love she saw in his eyes and wondered how she could have misunderstood his feelings for so long. The feeling of his hand wandering across her body prompted her to turn on her side facing him. She threw her leg over his hip and pulled him to her, so that their bodies were intertwined. Sydney just sat there for a moment, thrilled to be able to examine Vaughn's face in such thorough detail. She leaned in and began kissing him again. This time it was a slow, smoldering kiss as they pressed their bodies flush against one another.

The desire was building up in her again, and she knew that Michael was ready - and had been for a while. She reached down and untied his shorts. Smiling wickedly at him, she took her time pulling his shorts down. She licked and kissed around his hipbone and then along his inner thigh. As she pulled the shorts bit-by-bit down his legs, she continued with kisses and caresses and little nibbles. All of which were making him crazy. Finally, he was in the same state of undress as Sydney was. She crawled up his body and placed her knees on either side of his quads. Reaching down, she threw him a wicked look and proceeded to take the full length of him in her mouth. Using her tongue, she began to tease and lick his most sensitive areas. She could feel him shudder in pleasure as her hand joined her mouth in a rhythm meant to inspire.

"Syd," he said breathlessly, interrupting her activities. "I want to be inside of you."

He could feel her smile against him as she gave his penis one last long caress with her tongue. Repositioning her knees next to his hips, he was amazed by the heat emanating from her.

Grabbing his hands and placing them on her hips, Sydney lowered herself onto him. The feeling of being inside of her took Michael's breath away. She was so wet and tight and all of the things he could have ever desired. He felt a jagged breath tear through her, and knew she felt the same.

Slowly, she began to move around him. He used his hands to push her hips in rhythm with his thrusts and pulled his knees up so that he could get more of him inside of her. She arched her back and leaned into his legs enjoying the sensation of having him go deeper and deeper. Her skin was on fire and she was feeling overwhelmed by all the sensations flooding her nervous system. She knew she was close, and could sense Vaughn was almost there also.

She looked at Vaughn pointedly and he understood her intention. He flipped her over on her back, never losing contact, and Sydney wrapped her legs around his waist and ground her hips into his. They both were moving together, in perfect unison. She could feel herself on the edge and then she was falling and calling "Michael" and he was collapsing on top of her whispering her name over and over as he finished spilling himself into her.

They didn't dare move, fearing that this wonderful moment would someone be snatched away from them. After a few minutes though, they realized that what they had shared was more real than anything either of them had experienced and that no one could take it away.

Vaughn rolled off of Sydney and pulled her close to him while wrapping them up in the blanket. They stayed like this for a while - not speaking, just enjoying the feeling of being together.

Sydney was the first one to break the silence. "Vaughn...Michael... You can handle me anytime," she said, giggling like an eight-year old.

Michael laughed with her and whispered in her ear, "I don't think I'm the only one fit to be a handler - you did a pretty good job yourself there Agent Bristow."

After a few more moments of companionable silence, Sydney said softly, "Vaughn - what are we doing?"

This time, he knew exactly how to respond.

"We're loving each other."