Manhattan Hotel

Author: Brynn McK
Rating: NC-17
Summary:  A little post-"Indicator" smut.  Syd and Vaughn are way too attractive not to be having the hot monkey sex, and that mean JJ Abrams won't let them.  This is like a public service, people.
Disclaimer:  I own none of these characters.  I am not making even a shiny nickel off of this.
Distribution:  If you are so kind as to want this fic, please take it—just let me know, so I can come visit!
Feedback: Yes please!  Here or at  This is my first attempt at smut, and I'm kinda nervous.

He's drifting, really, just resting his eyes, glancing aimlessly around the room, and suddenly there she is in the doorway—soaking wet, shoulders hunched beneath a terrible weight, lips pressed together in a desperate attempt to hold back sobs.  The pain in her eyes hits him like a physical blow, and he's on his feet before he knows it, desperate to close the space between them.  As he approaches, she seems to crumble, and by the time he reaches her she simply collapses against him, clinging tightly, and he can feel her chest convulsing against his.  Tears and rain soak his suit, and anyone could walk in and see them standing there, destroy all their arguments of appropriate professional distance—but all he can think as he strokes her wet hair is, She knows.  She knows what he did.  And his heart breaks, and swells, because she can never seem to escape suffering, and because she came to him for comfort.  Her fingers clutch at his shoulders.

"Shouldn't—" she gasps, between sobs.  "Shouldn't be here—"

"Shh," he soothes, mind racing.  "It's OK."

But even in her agony, she's the strongest woman he's ever known, and she pushes away.  "It's not.  We both know it.  You'll get reassigned, or…  I should go."  But her face is still contorted, and he can tell that only her formidable will is keeping her from complete breakdown.  He can't leave her like this.

For the first time in his life he has a wild and sincere desire to walk away and leave the CIA behind him forever.

"Wait," he tells her, and she covers her mouth with a hand as if to press back the pain, sweater dragging down over her fingers like a child.  She nods jerkily.  He hurries back to his makeshift desk, shuffles papers until he finds what he's looking for.  Scribbles on a scrap of paper and returns to her.  Her eyes are huge and wet.

"Here," and he grabs her hand, pressing the paper into it.  "Look for Andrew Stone."  He gives her hand one final squeeze, and releases her.  He watches as she uncrumples the paper, sees his hastily scrawled: Manhattan Hotel.  45 minutes.  His heart is pounding, waiting for her reaction.  She glances back up at him, and the gratitude and relief in her eyes nearly brings tears to his.  She nods again, drops the hand from her mouth, squares her shoulders and walks away.

He dives for the phone, makes a last-minute reservation, then sits fidgeting for the next twenty-five minutes as the tension builds inside of him.  He wants to be with her now.  A few agents drift in and out.  He makes what he hopes is appropriate conversation with one of them, but he honestly can't remember a word of what is said.  Finally, the twenty-sixth minute passes, and he bolts for his car. 

It is a twenty-minute drive from the safehouse to the Manhattan Hotel.

He makes it in ten.


So he's been waiting for exactly thirteen minutes when he hears a quiet knock on the door.  He's got just enough of Special Agent Vaughn left in him to glance through the peephole, but all he needs is a glimpse of rain-darkened brown hair before he slides the chain-lock back and pulls the door open.

"Hi."  Her tears seem to have slowed for the moment, but she gives him the sad smile that always rips at his heart.  Her clothes are still hanging damply off of her.

"Hi."  He realizes, belatedly, that inviting your just-friends guardian-angel top secret double agent to a hotel room might result in a little awkwardness.  He's not sure what comes next, so he just steps back to give her room to enter.  He inhales her familiar scent as she passes, overlaid with wet wool and misery.  He locks the bolt, slips the chain back into place.  She stands in the center of the room and glances around.

"Nice."  He can hear the barely-suppressed tears in her voice.  She looks at him, an unspoken question.

"It's secure," he assures her.  "Brought a bug scrambler with me."  She nods, and her eyes go distant.  His eyes fall on the pile of rumpled cloth on the bed.  He'd had some extra clothes stashed in his car, though in his haste he wasn't quite sure what he'd gotten hold of.  "Here," he says, grabbing a handful and holding it out to her.  "I thought you might be cold."

She smiles again, tiny, a little shy this time.  "Thanks."  He realizes she's waiting for something, and feels heat flush his cheeks.

"Oh.  Sorry."  He turns his back, listens to her pull her sweater over her head, tries to keep from imagining all that creamy skin exposed a few feet from him.  He hates himself for even thinking about it, especially now, but even his concern for her, her situation, can't quite make him forget how badly he wants her.  A moment later, he hears her moving across the floor.  He figures it's safe to turn around, and when he does, he can see her in the bathroom, carefully hanging her wet sweater and jeans over the shower rod.  For some reason, this makes his heart contract even further, and by the time she's returned to face him, bare feet and rolled-up jeans and too-big sweater, he's ready to die for her.

"Thanks."  She sits on the bed, tentatively, looking incredibly vulnerable even though he knows she can bring a strong man down with a well-placed thumb.

"So."  He can see her eyes starting to fill again as she remembers exactly why they're here.  She has such incredible control, he can only imagine what she must be feeling to bring her to the breaking point so easily.

"My dad…" she whispers, her eyes empty, then chokes on great, wracking sobs as she buries her head in her hands.

As before, his body moves without waiting for permission from his brain, and the next thing he knows, he's holding her tightly while she buries her face in his chest and digs her fingers into his starched shirt.  And for once, there is no one to interrupt, no one to make them pretend, no one to put them in danger.  He just holds her, and rocks her, and aches for her, feeling utterly helpless as all the pain of a lifetime of betrayal pours out of her like a flood, swamping them both.


When she's finally aware of her surroundings again, her hair is nearly dry and she is curled up on her side on the bed.  She seems to have dragged Vaughn with her somehow, because he's stretched out behind her, facing the ceiling, and her hand is tucked underneath her body, clasping his behind her back.  His thumb is moving rhythmically over her knuckles.  She sighs.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees her shoulders rise and fall, and wonders if she's starting to climb out of her misery a bit.  He squeezes her fingers gently, a question.  She sniffles and clears her throat.

"I feel awful."  Her voice is raw and exhausted.

He smiles a little, sadly, fondly, and rolls over to prop his head on his hand.  He can feel the heat from her body radiating along the length of his, even though he's still a good ten inches away from her.  "I noticed."

His understatement startles a tiny giggle from her, followed by a groan.  She scrapes at her cheeks with the sleeve of her sweater—his sweater, technically, she remembers as she catches the scent of his cologne on it.  She gives his hand a final squeeze and sits up.  "Ugh.  Be right back."

He watches her pad across the carpet, graceful even with his jeans dragging around her ankles.  She disappears into the bathroom, and he hears running water, splashing, nose-blowing.  He glances at the clock—they've been here over an hour.  He has no sense of time, of how many of those minutes she's spent crying, how many talking, how many simply holding onto him in wordless desperation.  He thinks he might have talked a bit, but mostly he remembers her voice, whispering about her mother, her father, her childhood, her broken family.  The whole thing seems surreal, otherworldly, and for a moment he wonders if he's dreaming.

When she emerges from the bathroom, there's more color in her cheeks, though her nose and eyes are still tinged red.  Without makeup, he can see the hint of a bruise along her jaw, a remnant from some recent mission.  She stops a foot or so away from the bed, and as he looks at her it hits him suddenly: this is Sydney.  Insane, passionate, sweet, tough, dangerous Sydney, who's always in the back of his mind, who makes him crazy with want and worry, the unattainable everything he's ever wanted but can't have.  Here.  With him.  Alone.  The last hour has been such a torrent of emotion and concern that he hasn't really been able to process anything, but here she is, standing in front of him, undeniable.

She watches him watching her, and something moves in his eyes that she can't quite identify.  She feels utterly drained, but somehow cleansed, too, and closer to him than she's ever been to anyone.  He's the only one who knows everything.  All those nights with his voice in her ear as she moves through foreign parties or runs hell-bent down mazes of corridors; all those moments at flower-shops and cafes where he sits with his back to her and she feels, rather than sees him; all of those calls for "Joey's Pizza" that end in warehouses and the look of sympathy or affection or heat in his eyes that makes her clench her fists to keep from touching him; all of it has come down to this: him stretched out on a king-sized bed in his starched shirt and slacks, watching her with deep green eyes she cannot read.

He's the only one she trusts.

Her smile is sheepish and playful as she tells him, "Sorry I cried all over your sweater.  And your shirt."  She gestures at his button-down, where it's rumpled from her tears and her hands.

He grins back, marvels again at how quickly she recovers from the betrayal du jour.  "'S'ok.  That's why I left my hockey jersey in the car."

That gets a real smile, dimples and all, and even though he knows it's a cliché he could swear the room actually gets brighter.  "Good plan."

They stay like that for a moment, staring at each other, grinning, and it's such a release after all the tension that she feels almost light-headed.  She lets the momentum carry her to the bed, where she curls up facing him, her head pillowed on her arm.

Her knee is inches from his thigh, and he doesn't know how many times he's imagined her head resting on a pillow next to his, and suddenly it's incredibly hard to breathe.

"Vaughn…"  She places a hand over his where it rests on the bed between them.  She can see his Adam's apple bob as she touches him and feels a thrill of pure feminine pride, but there's something she has to say first.  "Thank you."

As soon as her fingers brush his, his mouth goes dry, but he forces himself to focus on what she's saying.  "I hate it," he tells her quietly, half-mesmerized by her soft eyes and the lamplight reflecting off her hair.  "Seeing what you go through.  Not being able to help, to… I don't know."  He lifts a shoulder helplessly.  "Take you out somewhere, get your mind off things.  Or buy you a drink, or take you to a movie, or even touch you…"  He stops short, realizing what he's just said, and suddenly terrified he's crossed a line.

She sees the flash of fear in his eyes and smiles fondly, thinking that only Vaughn would be worried about overstepping boundaries when she's lying in bed with him, wearing his clothes.  "You help, Vaughn.  Having you there helps.  Knowing that you want to do those things, even if you can't."  She sobers suddenly, looks him straight in the eye to underscore her meaning.  "I can't imagine doing this without you."

Something warm blooms inside his chest.  "Thanks," is all he can manage.

She nods, lets the moment hang between them.  Then her expression shifts suddenly, becomes a mix of mischief, challenge, and anticipation.  She takes a deep breath, as if steeling herself for something.  "Besides…"  She drops her eyes to their joined hands, then looks up at him from beneath long lashes, and his heart begins to hammer in his chest.  "You're touching me now."

He swallows again, hard.  He's hardly led a celibate life, but somehow she manages to make him feel like an awkward teenager again, wondering how the girl will react if he puts his arm around her in the movie theatre.  And she's enjoying it, he can tell, that wicked light in her eyes brightening as she watches his mental wheels spin on ice.  It tweaks his competitive instincts, and he abruptly determines that he'll show her he hasn't even started to touch her yet.

She feels heat spiral in her stomach as he gives her a slow, dangerous smile.  She's seen him turn on the charm before, but never full-force like this, and the effect is devastating.  She finds herself holding her breath as he runs his hand deliberately up her arm, over her shoulder, his fingers coming to rest along her neck and jaw.  It seems like he takes a hundred years to lean towards her, green eyes hot and utterly focused, and she's convinced she's about to go crazy when he finally, finally touches his lips to hers.

The kiss is lazy, smoldering, and she can't tell which one of them shudders as she opens her mouth to let his tongue explore.  She's dimly aware of his thumb stroking her cheek, his fingers sinking into her hair, his body shifting to press closer against her, her own hand sliding up to caress his back.  But mostly, all she can think is, Vaughn, oh God, this is Vaughn, and it's better than she could possibly have imagined.

When they eventually break apart, the wow seems implicit in both of them.  He does manage, barely, to process a small jolt of satisfaction at the dreamy expression on her face as her eyelids flutter open.  But just barely.  It occurs to him that if she can look so fulfilled from just a kiss

"You looked at me like that when we were in France, after I found you," she whispers.  "Did you want to kiss me in France?"

The question is so ridiculous he can't help laughing, but it comes out half-groan as he rolls his eyes.  "In France, in the club in Taipei, in the Vatican, in the warehouse, on the pier…  God, Syd.  When haven't I wanted to kiss you?"  Somewhere, there is a part of him that cannot believe this is actually happening.  One does not attain the unattainable.  And yet, he can feel her pulse beating under his hand, taste her in his mouth…

She's giggling.  "How about when I stuck that huge needle in your chest?  Did you want to kiss me then?"

He laughs, ducks his head.  "OK.  Maybe not then.  But before, and after.  And now."  That makes her giggle harder, and she reaches for him again.  But her amusement doesn't last long.  The kiss heats up quickly this time, startling them both, months of frustration and denial fueling his hands as they begin to travel restlessly over her body, sliding over the muscles of her back and arms, grasping her waist, slipping under the sweater to find the smooth skin underneath.  She's unbuttoning the top button of his shirt and his thumbs are just brushing the undersides of her breasts when he suddenly tears himself away from her.  Her cheeks are flushed, her eyes smoky, and it takes every ounce of his strength not to dive back into the kiss and damn the consequences.

He drops his forehead against hers, breathing hard.  "Syd.  We can't do this."

"Don't," she hisses fiercely, and plants a hand on his chest, pushing him back so she can pin him with her gaze.  "Don't do that.  We may not have been killed yet, but we've both sacrificed our lives for this country.  And I'm tired.  I'm tired of fighting, and compartmentalizing, and never trusting and never feeling and always focusing on the mission, and duty, and protocol.  I'll do all that tomorrow.  But tonight."  Her hand curls unconsciously into a fist, twisting his shirt, and even through the haze of love and lust and guilt he can't help but admire the fact that she could very well kick his ass.  "I want this tonight.  I don't have anything else, and I want it.  I want you."  She chokes out a breathless laugh, but there's little humor in it.  "Besides, you're not Michael Vaughn.  You're Andrew Stone, remember?  And I'm… who should I be?"  She tries to press close, but this time it's him who holds her back.

"No."  She blinks at the firmness of his tone, the flash of steel in his eyes.  "If I'm going to risk this, it's going to be for you.  Not Jane Doe or Elisabetta Bartoli or Anna Kereyvka."  He cups his hand underneath her chin.  "If we do this," and his voice is lower now, but still compellingly intense, "there won't be any pretending, or disguises.  It has to be you, and me."

It's the perfect thing to say.  The words seem to arrow straight down into her soul, resonating throughout her entire body.  Something twists inside her chest, joy and pain to know that she can have him tonight, and she will lose him again in the morning.  But at this moment, she's willing to pay any price.

"OK," she whispers, meeting his gaze evenly.  "I'm Sydney Bristow, a double agent for the CIA.  You're Michael Vaughn.  My handler."  Mischief and danger glints in her eyes.  "So handle me."

He's a strong man.  But not that strong.  With a groan, he sinks down into her, surrendering, needing to touch her everywhere.  Their tongues tangle and he slides a hand along her hip and beneath her thigh, pulling her flush against him.  Her answering shiver sends a flash of heat straight to his groin.

He wants to know what every inch of her tastes like, and as he trails his mouth along her jaw and down her throat, he can hear her murmuring between gasps… "Vaughn…  When I lost you in Taipei… when I thought you were dead…  I thought I'd never be able to tell you, show you…  Oh, God, Vaughn…" as he hits a particularly responsive spot just above her clavicle.  He's fairly sure he's never had a woman call him by his last name in bed before, but something about the delicious huskiness of her voice wrapping around the single syllable is almost unbearably erotic.

She's losing control, and it feels incredible.  Her entire body is humming, and everywhere he touches her, her nerve endings spark like firecrackers.  She worms her hands up between them, determined to finally get him out of his much-abused dress shirt, turns her head to the side to allow him better access to her neck as she struggles with the buttons.  After a few moments, she's only managed two, and she feels him laugh against her throat.

"Didn't they have manual dexterity requirements at SD-6?"

She chuckles, rolls her eyes, and it feels so good not to hurt for once.  "You're distracting me." 

He raises an eyebrow at her, gives her a boyishly cocky grin, and disentangles himself from her long enough to sit back on his heels so she can try again with the buttons.  She kneels in front of him and takes the opportunity to get a little of her own back, taking his earlobe between her teeth, delighting in the sudden increase in his heart rate beneath her hands.  The shirt comes off fairly quickly after that, and the cotton T-shirt beneath it, but she only gets a glimpse of well-muscled chest before he's tugging the sweater over her head.

He's seen her in a wide variety of costumes over the past several months, most of them geared towards male fantasies, but he's never seen her look so sexy as she does right now, skin flushed, kneeling in front of him in her white satin bra and his jeans hanging low on her hips.  He shakes his head a little, wonderingly, and huffs out a breath, then frames her face with his hands and kisses her smile.  One hand traces a path down her throat, sliding along her skin until it closes gently over her breast.  He can feel the nipple stiffen beneath his thumb, hear her tiny gasp and moan.  His hips jerk against her in response, eliciting another moan.

Much as he likes the satin, he has a feeling he'll like her even better without it, and reaches behind her back to unhook her bra.  As it falls away, he lowers his head, flicks his tongue over one of her nipples.  Her breath hitches, and she sways against him, and he smiles against her skin as he bands his other arm around her back to support her.  She tastes delicious, a hint of sweat and rainwater and an indefinable sweetness.  He lavishes attention on both her breasts, licking and sucking with increasing hunger as his hand creeps under the loose waist of the jeans and beneath the elastic of her panties.  She is drenchingly, intoxicatingly wet.  He can't think, he can't breathe, and when he glances up at her to confirm her permission to touch her, he sees her head thrown back, back arched, hair cascading down to spill over his arm.

He takes that as a yes.

It's as if she's lost every one of her senses except touch, and every physical sensation is magnified by hundreds.  She trembles at the melting combination of his mouth at her breasts, his questing fingers exploring her hot, wet center.  He thrusts one finger into her, then two, and the shock of pleasure that arrows up through her body ends in a small cry she can't quite repress.  He sets up a steady rhythm with his fingers, pressing the heel of his hand in exactly the right place, and it's been so long and she wants him so much that it doesn't take long for the slow burn to explode into a cascade of sparks, lighting her up from the inside.  She can swear she sees stars behind her closed eyelids, and a warm, sinuous weakness spreads through her muscles as she slumps against him.

The experience of having Sydney Bristow come around his hand is enough to hamstring Vaughn as well, and, thrown off-balance, they collapse together on the bed, panting.  He watches her as she drifts back from her high, and when she finally opens her eyes and looks at him, the brilliance of her smile is almost blinding.

"You're good at that," she breathes, feeling the heat ignite again at her core at the hunger and smug satisfaction in his eyes.

He grins, somehow managing to be cocky and self-deprecating at the same time.  "Well, I've given it some thought over the past few months."

She laughs, rolls her head to stare at the ceiling, giddy with release.  "Oh, God.  Me too."

"Glad I'm not the only one."

She glances back at him, gives him her best sultry look while her fingers trace aimless patterns on his forearm.  She's never noticed before how incredibly sexy forearms can be.  "So," she says, feigning innocence.  "What else did you think about?"

"Well…"  He shifts closer.  "As great as you always look in those dresses they like to put you in…  I have to say I've never seen one that I didn't want to tear off of you."

The words, and the accompanying mental image, send a thrill down her spine.  "Yeah?"  Her breath catches, drawing out the word.

He gives her that devastating smile again.  "Yeah."

"Well," gesturing at the jeans, "this isn't one of my better disguises, but…"

"I'll make do," he assures her, and the next thing she knows he's standing at the end of the bed, peeling jeans and panties off of her in one smooth motion.

The sight of her, sprawled out naked and disheveled on the luxurious king-size, is enough to render him completely speechless and motionless for what feels like an eternity.  He's vaguely, distantly surprised he isn't having a heart attack.  His mouth works soundlessly, and when he finally forms words, all he can manage is, "God.  Sydney…  God."  And then, trying to elaborate, "Beautiful.  Do you know how beautiful…?"

Her lips curve in a warm smile that seems to shut out everything in the world that isn't the two of them.  She holds out her arms.  "I want you," she tells him evenly, quietly.  "Come inside me."

He's doesn't really remember how he ends up naked, but he suddenly he is, kissing his way up the tanned, muscular length of her body.  He slips a knee between her legs and leans in to kiss her mouth, but suddenly the room revolves and she's straddling him, pinning his arms above his head, wearing nothing but a triumphant grin.

"How's that for manual dexterity?" she asks smugly, and he'd be laughing if he had any breath in his lungs.

"I take it back," he chokes, torn between amusement and overwhelming desire.

She tsks, mocking.  "Not yet…  You haven't seen all I can do."  She drags her fingernails lightly down his chest, his abdomen, until she finally takes him in her hand.

His cock jumps, and his eyes roll back into his head.  "Jesus, Syd…" he groans, and she laughs softly.

But when she speaks, her voice is serious, intimate.  "Look at me, Vaughn.  Look at me."

He can't help but obey, opens his eyes and watches her, the goddess-next-door, watching him with warm brown eyes, lowering herself onto him with exquisite slowness.  So wet… so tight… fuck… his brain babbles distractedly, and only the intensity of her gaze keeps him from closing his eyes to focus on the sensation.  When he's fully sheathed in her, they both still for a moment, wide-eyed.

Then she leans towards him, draws his arms down from above his head, clasping his hands in hers.  The ends of her hair brush against his chest, and she touches her lips to his for a long, thorough kiss.  "This is me," she states firmly as she pulls back, slow and deliberate.  "And this is you."

He nods, helpless, entranced.  And she begins to move.

His hands sweeping over her back and hips, his cock sliding in and out of her, the look on his face that's something very close to awe… she wants to take a mental snapshot of every sight and sound and feeling, to be pored over and wept over in the long, lonely months and maybe years to come.  He feels unbelievably right inside of her.  She clenches her muscles around him, watches him arch his neck and gasp, yes on a long, slow hiss, gripping her hips tighter.  As he meets her eyes again, she's surprised to see his brow furrow, and he reaches up to brush away a tear that's sliding unnoticed down her cheek.

"Syd, what's wrong?"  He stops moving, even though she knows what it must cost him, and the concern darkening his expressive green eyes is enough to break her heart.  His voice is rough with passion.  "Is this all right?  Do you want to stop?"

In that instant, she can't imagine loving anyone more.  "No, no, it's perfect, so perfect, I…  Don't stop."  She leans forward again to kiss him.  "Don't stop, Vaughn," she murmurs desperately against his mouth, and the dam is breaking now as she begins moving her hips in time with the words that tumble out of her, "don't stop, please, please, I want you, I want, I love, I love, love, love--" and her voice echoes like a litany in his head as she rolls onto her back, pulling him with her.

He can feel any vestige of control slipping away, feeling her beneath him, around him, drowning in pain-edged joy.  She draws her knees up, letting him thrust even deeper inside her, her eyes going wild and witchy.  He's swamped with love for her, and he places his hands on either side of her heart-shaped face, watching the expressions of ecstasy shift on her features as he moves steadily in and out, in and out.  He wants to die right now, to spend all of eternity with this image in his mind.  He finds he's babbling, too, maybe in more than one language, but it's all right because she understands them all, "Be careful, Sydney, please be careful, I need you to come back, can't do this without you, please, please," and she's still chanting, "love, love, love" like a mantra and now he's chanting it with her until she gasps and stiffens and convulses around him, and his entire body goes electric and he follows her over the edge.


"Vaughn," she whispers, much later, tugging gently on his hair.  He raises his head from between her thighs, eyes hot in the dim light.  "Thank you," she tells him simply.

He grins wickedly.  "My pleasure."

She smiles, touches his cheek.  "I want us to live long enough to do this again."

That sobers him.  "We will," he says fiercely, reaching up to grasp her hand.  When she nods slowly, he bends his head again, determined to take advantage of every second, determined not to think about the fact that he has no way of knowing if what he's just said is true.


They don't get much sleep, but eventually doze off just as the first faint light is starting to creep in around the curtains.  When she wakes, the light is bright and undeniable, and the clock reads 9:18.  She can't remember the last time she slept so late, even on a weekend.  Not that weekends really matter in her line of work.  She sighs, and Vaughn stirs behind her, tightening his arm around her waist and nuzzling her neck with a half-asleep mmmmm.  She twists around to look at him, wanting to see his face, to assure herself that it's really him.  His eyes drift open, regarding her with fuzzy adoration.  He gives her a warm, sleepy smile.


She can't help smiling back.  "Morning."

"So I wasn't dreaming, then?"

She can feel herself blushing.  "No."  Her eyes drift down to the bed, and she reaches over to take his hand.  "I have to meet Francie at 10:30.  She was worried last night."  She glances back up at him, afraid of his reaction, but even though she can see his jaw clench and his eyes go sad, he only nods, understanding.

He always understands.

She holds his hand to her suddenly aching heart.  "Vaughn, last night was…  I can't tell you.  It meant everything."

He tightens his fingers around hers.  "You don't have to explain it to me, Syd.  We both knew the clock was ticking."  Then his mouth curves in a half-smile.  "I'm not sorry, though."

She traces his cheekbone with her thumb.  "Me neither."

"Good," he says firmly.  Then, when she doesn't move, he nudges her gently with the hand that's clutched to her chest.  "Syd," he whispers hoarsely, "I'm trying to be tough, here.  But if you've got to go, go.  Because in a minute I won't be able to let you."

That brings tears to her eyes, but she leans forward, kisses him hard, then forces herself to let him go.

They get dressed mostly in silence, take turns with the complimentary toothpaste.  She notices that instead of choosing his shirt and slacks, he pulls on the sweater and jeans that he'd given her to wear the night before.  Her throat closes, and finally there's nothing left to do but say goodbye.  She throws herself into his arms, clinging tightly.

"Thank you," she murmurs into his ear, pressing her lips against his cheek.  "For everything.  For being the only one I trust."

His answer is to hold her closer, his hand moving through her hair.  After a moment, he pushes her back, places his hands on her shoulders.  "I want you to know something.  I meant what I said last night.  This won't be the last time.  But since we don't know how long it will be, I want to tell you."  He leans closer, intent.  "I won't touch you again until this is over.  We both know it's too dangerous.  But I'll never stop wanting to, every time I see you, every time I hear your voice.  You are never out of my mind."  His mouth is very close to hers now, his forehead pressed against hers.  "And on the day we take down SD-6 for good, on the day we win and those bastards get what's coming to them, I'll find you… and when I do, you'd better be naked."

She laughs into his mouth as he kisses her, tears spilling over to run down her cheeks.  When they finally break apart, she sniffs and giggles.  "Deal."

"OK."  He releases her, even though it feels like losing a limb.  "Go see Francie."

"I'll see you soon."  She gives him one last teary smile, her heart in her eyes.  "It won't be the last time," she whispers, and then she's gone.

He leans against the door, trying to breathe.  He can still smell her on his sweater.  Be glad you had one night with her, man, he tells himself.  More than you ever thought you'd get.  Somehow, that doesn't help much.  Then he remembers the look on her face as she left, the determination:  It won't be the last time.  It won't be the last time.  It won't be the last time.

He closes his eyes, clenches his fists, and tries to believe it.