"You haven't?" Weiss asked incredulously, eyebrows climbing almost to his hairline-which was saying something, considering his hairline. "I couldn't pry you two apart the other day. I thought you were gonna do it right there on the top-secret files, get Kendell's evidence all dirty. After that, he's totally buying the professional distance story, by the way."
Vaughn rolled his eyes, trying not to smile. "Shut up. Have the words ‘none of your business' completely lost their meaning with you?"
"Ah, when I have to go on missions with the two of you having comm-sex over an open channel, I think that makes it my business whether I like it or not. Not to mention the late-night phone calls every time she goes on an operation."
"I don't-we didn't-" Vaughn stuttered defensively, then realized he didn't have a leg to stand on. "OK, whatever. But we're taking it slow. Not like we've had much time in the last couple of days anyway-we've both been giving statements, Syd's been trying to get Dixon to talk to her, I've been busy with Kendell-"
"Taking it slow?" Now Weiss' eyebrows practically disappeared entirely. "Mike. Dude. It's been a year and a half. I've seen icebergs move faster than that."
"You have an unhealthy interest in my sex life, you know that? Maybe you should talk to Barnett, work some things out-"
But Weiss refused to be distracted. "You've got one of the hottest women on the planet fooled into thinking you and your cheap-ass aftershave are worth getting involved with, despite the fact that she's way smarter than you and she could kick your ass with one hand tied behind her back. And I'm telling you, on behalf of all men everywhere, that if you don't make your move soon, I'm gonna have to revoke your cojones. ‘Cause obviously you're not using ‘em."
"Well, when you put it that way... I still think you should shut the hell up and get out of my office." But Vaughn was grinning.
Weiss shrugged innocently, grinned back. "I'm just sayin'." Then he sobered, moving closer to his friend's desk. "How'd Alice take it?"
Vaughn shifted uncomfortably. He shook his head. "All right, I guess. I told her after we got back from Nice, actually. I mean, I didn't go into too much detail, but... I don't think it was a huge surprise." He was silent for a moment, then shook his head again, looking up to meet Weiss' eyes. "I screwed that one up. Big-time."
Weiss nodded. "Yeah. You did." Then, as Vaughn looked back down at his desk with a half-grimace, he relented a little. "Live and learn, though, man. Not exactly a typical situation you've got going here."
Vaughn laughed a little at that, though there wasn't much amusement in it. "Not exactly, no."
After another short silence, Weiss took a deep breath, let it out. "Well. I've got a meeting with Kendell, figure out how I'm gonna describe my part in this freak show." He started towards the door.
"Good," Vaughn responded, his voice dry. "You've obviously had way too much time on your hands lately."
"Remember-cojones. Revoked," was Weiss' parting shot as he swung the door open and disappeared into the hallway.
"You haven't?" Will nearly choked on his coffee. Sydney blushed.
"No! God, Will, not everyone in L.A. needs to know about this," she hissed at him, but her dimples were out in force. "It's bad enough that the whole office knows."
"Well, maybe you should've thought of that before you made out in the middle of the wreckage of an international intelligence organization," Will suggested cheerfully, lowering his voice and suddenly grateful for Sydney's lipstick bug-killer. She laughed, covered her flushed face with a hand. "I mean, c'mon! You've had two days! Forty-eight-plus hours! You've saved the world in less time than that!"
"But it's weird!" Sydney protested through her fingers. "I mean, a year and a half and we're trying to pretend there's nothing there... and the one date we've had ended with us killing two people to avoid being killed ourselves." She glanced at the passers-by as they crowded past the outdoor table, but no one seemed to be paying any attention. "I mean, this is hardly your typical situation. I know him so well... but in that way, I don't know him at all. Besides, I've only seen him a couple of times since... well, the whole thing. There's been a lot of work to do, a lot of stuff to get ironed out."
"Uh-huh." Will nodded, rolling his eyes. Sydney was pleased to see him so happy for her-even given the recent Francie situation, she hadn't been quite sure how he would react.
"But when I do see him..." she trailed off, feeling her face grow even hotter. The first kiss had been wonderful, mind-blowing, but there had been others since-as it turned out, there was more than one "flirting corner" in the Ops Center, especially given the current state of upheaval-and those others had had the added advantage of not involving gloves and bulletproof vests, and... She felt a pleasant shiver in her stomach as she remembered.
"Oh my God." Will's voice broke into her reverie, and her eyes snapped open. She hadn't even realized they were closed. "You are actually having a sex fantasy in front of me right now." He started to gather the shredded remains of his napkin while Sydney giggled. "I'm outta my league here. You need Fran for this."
"How are things with Francie, by the way?" Sydney asked, grateful to turn the tables on her friend. "I've been spending so much time at the office I've hardly seen her."
Will smiled a little, shrugged, a hint of red creeping into his cheeks as well as he stood, empty cardboard coffee cup in hand. "I actually haven't seen much of her either. I think she might be a little weirded out. But..." He grinned. "We'll see."
Sydney jumped a little as her beeper went off. She still wasn't used to the idea that now every page was from the "good guys."
"Syd?" Will whispered conspiratorially. "That's destiny calling. It's telling you to get it over with, for God's sake."
She grinned and blushed yet again, starting to wonder if she was capable of any other expression. "Shut up."
"Call me later?" She nodded, and Will leaned down, kissed the top of her head. "I'm happy for you two, Syd. I really am."
"Thanks." She grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "I'll talk to you later." As Will moved off into the crowd, Sydney attempted to school her features into something resembling professional gravity before setting out for what she hoped was her final meeting of the day.
As it turned out, there were several more meetings, and it was dark by the time she made her way out of the Ops Center and back home. She'd barely had time to take off her shoes and curl up on the couch when her beeper went off yet again-this time, with the usual code to meet Vaughn at the warehouse. Weird, she thought, brow furrowing. We shouldn't have to meet there anymore. Then a slow smile curved her lips as a thought occurred to her. She'd only seen Vaughn once all day, and there had been CIA techs breathing down their necks the whole time. It was probably just a normal debrief, but...
She grinned and hurried into her room to change.
After all, he's the one who said to always be prepared...
Even with primping time factored in, she made it to the warehouse before he did. So she got a nice clear view of him as he walked in, hands in his pockets, leather jacket and jeans and dark grey sweater, and just the sight of him made her heart turn over in her chest. She gave him a brilliant smile.
"Hey." His eyes swept appreciatively over her as he approached-jeans and a scoop-neck shirt, just a hint of makeup, a nice change from SD-6 Basic Black. He couldn't help wondering what she was wearing underneath. She giggled, watching him.
He stopped about a foot from her, gave her a quizzical-and slightly nervous-smile. "What?"
"You. Checking me out. I wish I had a nickel for every time I caught you doing that in the past year and a half." She giggled harder as he hung his head sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. "Even once when my dad was standing right there. For a field-trained agent, you suck at subterfuge."
He laughed, conceding, and her smile melted into his as he took her face between his hands and kissed her thoroughly. Her arms wound around his waist, her body sagging against him, and when he drew back just enough to rest his forehead against hers, he smugly noted the dreamy satisfaction in her eyes. "I've been thinking about that all day," he murmured, tracing her cheekbones with his thumbs.
She smiled, dropped her eyes, her hands smoothing the lines of his jacket. "Me too. I still can't believe that..."
"...we can," he finished for her. "I know. I keep waiting for the guys with guns to show up." His grin fading, he suddenly wrapped his arms tight around her. "God, I dreamed about that so many times. Dreamed about you compromised, hurt, captured..." he trailed off, but he didn't have to finish. She'd dreamed the same things, about him, about herself, about both of them. She held him closer.
"I know," she whispered into his chest. "And it's still going to be dangerous, what we're doing. So we'll just have to watch each others' backs."
He forced down his fear, loosened his hold on her, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she swiped a hand across her eyes. "So what are you going to do? Have you decided yet?"
She nodded. "I can't quit now, Vaughn. Sloane's still out there... and who knows what Sark will do, now that the Alliance has been destroyed. I used to think it was about SD-6... about what they did to Danny... but now I'm starting to realize, it's not just them. It's men like them. Men who'd sacrifice anything to secure their own power. Now that I've seen everything that I've seen... I can't just go back to my normal life, be a teacher and settle down and always know that I could have done more." She shook her head, determined. "You said it was about killing the whole monster. All we've done so far is cut off an arm. A pretty big one, yeah, but there's a lot of monster left."
Watching her, that familiar set to her features, that resolute squaring of shoulders, he loved her so much he could hardly breathe. What a woman-Joan of Arc, Mata Hari, and avenging angel all rolled into one, and for some reason, she wanted him. And that was what really struck him, every time he touched her these past few days-not just that they could do this, but that he could, that she let him, wanted him to, that he was so lucky. He didn't trust himself to speak, so he just laced his fingers through hers and squeezed, hard. She turned to look at him, and smiled so bright and sweet that he completely lost track of time, though he had the vague sense that he was grinning goofily at her in response. Eventually, he managed, "Did you talk with Dixon today?'
Her smile turned sad, and her eyes filled with tears as she glanced away. "No. He still won't see me."
"He'll understand eventually, Syd. When he's had time to think about it."
She sighed heavily. She was glad Dixon knew the truth, but the idea that he might cut her out of his life as a result was almost too painful to think about. "I hope so. I did what I had to in order to protect him, his family. I'd do it again. But I've been lying to him for so long, when he believed in me, and... that's not easy to forgive." She sighed again, then shook off the melancholy with a visible jerk of her shoulders. "Anyway. What was this meeting supposed to be about?"
He looked at her strangely. "You tell me. You called it."
"What?" She laughed a little, but her eyes went wary. "Vaughn, no, I didn't. You paged me."
His heartbeat started to accelerate-was this a set-up of some kind? They automatically assumed defensive positions, back to back, scanning the room, until Vaughn caught a glimpse of red fabric peeking out of one of the crates. He suddenly remembered Weiss catching him in the hallway as he was on his way out for the evening.
"Going to meet Sydney?" his friend had asked. And then, at his nod, "Y'know, I think they used to store wine in that warehouse. Fifth crate on the left. Just a suggestion."
As several things clicked together in his mind, Vaughn rolled his eyes and groaned. "I think I know what this is about." Sure enough, the lid was ajar on the fifth crate to the left, and the red fabric belonged to a napkin wrapped around two wine glasses. The requisite bottle of wine rested next to them, a decent red-Eric must've asked the guys at the liquor store, since all he drinks is Budweiser-with a note attached to the top. Vaughn snatched it before Sydney, who was starting to move curiously towards him, had a chance to see it. He scanned the writing quickly:
Mike. The place is all yours for the night. On behalf of men everywhere. Darkness, remember? Get on it already.
With a rueful chuckle, he shoved the note hastily in his pocket as Sydney leaned against him to peer into the crate. When she saw what was inside, she looked back up at him, questioning.
"Did you plan this?" Smile. Blush. Again. Dammit.
Every instinct Vaughn had was telling him to take the credit, but he figured they had enough lies in their lives already-he didn't want to get started down that road with her, even in a trivial way. So, reluctantly, he shook his head. "Ah... no." He shoved his hands in his pockets again, glanced up at the ceiling, cleared his throat. How to phrase this? "Eric's been... interested in how things are going between us. I think this is his idea of a hint."
Sydney covered her face with her hands. "Oh, God, him too? Will hasn't shut up about it for the last two days."
They both laughed a little, awkwardly, ducking their heads, eyes focused on the floor. Finally, Sydney grinned almost shyly up at him. "Well. As long as we're here..." She reached out, took hold of the wine bottle.
"Eric did say it's secure for the night." He had a brief moment of terror that she was going to ask him when, exactly, Eric had mentioned that particular fact, but she just kept looking at him, and the sudden heat in her eyes made him swallow hard.
"Generous offer," she replied, innocent tone belied by a half-raised eyebrow. She felt her knees go a little weak when he smiled at her, the full-force Smile of Seduction he'd shown her in Nice.
"Yeah." He moved closer to her, hand drifting out to slide along her cheek. "And I'm hungry again."
"Me too," and damn, it was hard to talk all of a sudden.
His laugh was little more than a low rumble in his chest, resonating through hers as he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her to him. The wine bottle dangled, forgotten, from her hand. He inched his mouth closer to hers, and finally, when only the tiniest breath separated them, he whispered, "Think they'll deliver pizza to this address?"
That got him a shove in the chest that had him stumbling backwards, but the sound of her laugh echoed off the concrete walls as she stomped over in a mock-huff to find her cell phone.
As it turned out, the pizza place did deliver to the apartment building two blocks away-after all, it was hardly worth compromising national security for the sake of a large pepperoni with extra cheese-and if the driver thought it was odd that Vaughn was waiting outside for him, he didn't comment. It also turned out that Vaughn had some camping gear in his trunk that would serve well enough to keep them comfortable on the cold concrete floor. So several Boy Scout jokes, half a pizza, and most of a bottle of wine later, Sydney was seated across from her former handler, cushioned by several layers of unzipped sleeping bags, legs crossed in front of her, pizza box between them, laughing hysterically as Vaughn related Weiss' version of welcome-to-the-CIA hazing.
"He did not," she gasped, disbelieving.
"Oh, he did," Vaughn assured her wryly, stretched out on his side with his head propped on one hand. "So I go in for my first formal presentation, and I put my hands in my pockets because I'm nervous, and there I find..." he trailed off, and Sydney was ridiculously charmed by the way his face reddened at the memory.
"Thong underwear you've never seen before," she finished for him, still giggling as she finished off the last of her wine. "I'd pay so much money to have seen the look on your face."
"I've still never really gotten him back for that," Vaughn admitted, glad to hear her laugh even if it was at his expense. "I did rig the couch in his apartment to collapse one time, but that's nowhere near..." Then he chuckled smugly. "Surprised the hell out of the girl he brought home, though. Don't think she ever went out with him again."
That set Sydney off again, and by the time she caught her breath, she realized that Vaughn was just staring at her, smiling, eyes unbelievably green in the dim light. "What?" she asked, suddenly self-conscious.
"Do you ever wonder what it would've been like, if things had always been like this? No CIA, no SD-6, if we'd just met on the street and I'd asked you out and we went on a few dates, like normal people?"
She set her wine glass down in front of her, folded her fingers around it. "Yeah. I've thought about it," she responded quietly. "But, as much as we've gone through, and as painful as it's been... if it hadn't been that way, I wouldn't really know you. I mean, you stood out on that pier with me when we'd only been working together for a little while, and you stood out there in the middle of the night and listened to me and you knew exactly what to say to make me feel better. You've risked your life for your country, for what you believe in. And for me. It takes most people a lifetime to find those things out about each other." She met his gaze evenly. "I trust you. Like I've never trusted anyone else." She faltered for a moment, looked away briefly as Alice's name hung unspoken between them. But then she brought her eyes back to his. No one's perfect. "I trust you," she repeated, her voice firm. "I wouldn't be able to do that if we hadn't been through what we have together." Then something occurred to her, and her mouth quirked. "I also know that you don't run when you're supposed to." The sudden shift in tone startled him into laughter. "Seriously, Vaughn. The next time I'm running full-on down a hallway with a huge wave of God-knows-what behind me, and I tell you to go, go. You'll save us both a lot of trouble."
He looked down, sheepish. "Fair enough." Then he grinned wickedly. "Almost worth it, though, to see what you were wearing when you found me."
That got a giggle, as he'd hoped. "I liked what you were wearing, too," she told him saucily, the wine making her bolder than usual.
He raised an eyebrow. That wasn't the response he'd been expecting. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah." The subtext of which was, Duh.
He levered himself to his feet, held a hand out to her. "C'mere."
"What?" She looked at him suspiciously, but took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. He led her over near the chain-link fence, arranged her so that she was facing him, his hands resting on her shoulders. Her brow furrowed, questioning. "Vaughn, what are you-"
He cut her off by kissing her, his hand coming around the back of her head to tangle in her hair. She responded eagerly, and what started easy and sweet turned scorching before either of them realized it. When Vaughn finally pulled back, breathing hard, Sydney found herself pressed up against the chain-link with one of his hands braced beside her head and the other caressing the bare skin of her waist beneath her shirt.
"I can't tell you how long I've wanted to do that," he told her, his voice ragged.
"I think I have a pretty good idea," she breathed, acutely aware of how well their bodies fit together, the warm, hard length of him pressed against her.
"All those times, alone in here with you," his fingers slid over her collarbone, "trying to focus on national security when all I wanted to know," and now his fingers drifted down, tracing the low neckline of her top, barely brushing her skin, "all I really wanted to know was, what's she wearing under that, what would it be like to touch her, what does she taste like here, and here, and here," punctuating his words with kisses on her forehead, her jaw, her neck. Sydney's eyelids fluttered closed; she felt deliciously light-headed. She spent so much time playing the seductress that she'd almost forgotten what it was like to be seduced, slow and hot and sure and who knew her steady, virtuous Boy Scout had it in him?
"Vaughn," she whispered, and it came out half-moan.
The sound sent a shiver through him. "God, Syd." He'd imagined this so many times that it was hard to believe it was actually happening, that he wasn't going to wake up alone and frustrated in his empty apartment. She fascinated him, such an enthralling combination of softness and strength-and he knew that already, he'd always known that, but he'd never experienced it in quite this way. He let his hand trail down between her breasts, smiling a little as she sucked in a breath and her eyes snapped open, wide and smoky. He met her gaze. "Sydney. You told me you weren't amazing. How could you think that? How can you not know?"
He'd never seen anyone with a smile like hers, incandescent. She kissed him then, urgently, her hands sliding up over his chest, pushing his jacket off his shoulders while her tongue tangled with his. He let her go long enough to shrug the jacket aside, their mouths never separating, then his hands returned to their explorations, tracing patterns on the skin of her back and ribs. He was just bidding a hasty farewell to all rational thought when she leaned back and he felt the shape of the chain-link against the back of his hand, reminding him suddenly where, exactly, they were.
He tore his mouth away from hers, almost laughed at the confused and slightly pissed off expression on her face.
"What's wrong?" she asked breathlessly.
He shook his head, and he did laugh a little now, smoothing her tousled hair. "Syd... if we're about to do what I think we're about to do... do you really want to do it here? I mean..." He gestured at the less-than-inspiring surroundings. "It's not exactly a bed and breakfast in France, is it?"
Dammit, Vaughn, I've waited over a year, I'd be pretty happy to do it anywhere, was her first response, not to mention that we almost got killed in that bed and breakfast in France...but then something else occurred to her. "It kind of makes sense," she pointed out, snaking her arms around his neck and flashing her dimples at him. "I mean, we've spent so much time here together... we've both fantasized about it enough," and she pressed her hips into his, biting back a self-satisfied grin at the way his eyes nearly rolled back into his head, "in a way... it's the perfect place. Besides," and her smile turned mischievous, "it's much more fun to sneak around now that we know we don't have to."
He couldn't help smiling back at her, but he still wasn't entirely convinced. She deserved better than a few sleeping bags piled on a concrete floor. "Syd..."
"Vaughn." She placed her fingers over his mouth, spoke very slowly and deliberately, though there was a sultry curve to her lips. "I know this is new for both of us, so I'm gonna tell you this now. I want you. Anytime, anywhere, up to and including up against this fence." She could almost see his mouth go dry, and his eyes went dark and hot. "So quit worrying and start touching me."
There was a moment of shocked silence, and then, "Fair enough," he agreed, and almost before the words were out of his mouth he was kissing her, and she was working her hands underneath his sweater and T-shirt, running her nails lightly over his ribcage. He groaned into her mouth, began maneuvering her as best he could towards the sleeping bags, with much stumbling and laughing on both sides. "We'll try the fence later," he muttered, and she giggled, letting him push her down until they were both kneeling on the tumbled pile of flannel and polyester. She tugged his sweater and shirt over his head, admiring the play of muscles beneath his skin as he tossed them to the side. She touched her index finger to the center of his sternum, where she'd jabbed the needle into him in Cap Ferrat, then leaned over to place a soft kiss on the spot.
"Sorry I stabbed you," she told him, suddenly earnest.
"Huh? Oh," as he realized what she was talking about, and gave her the same boyish grin he'd given her that same night. "I have a few ideas how you can make it up to me."
"Such as?" she inquired, mock-innocently.
"Well, there is something I've been wondering about for quite awhile now..." and he reached over to slide his hands under her shirt again, pulling it off with a smooth motion that was as much a caress as anything else. When he caught sight of what she had on underneath, black lace against smooth, creamy skin, he had to remind himself to keep breathing. "That's what you wear underneath those suit jackets?" he asked finally, tracing the scalloped edge with one finger, his eyes wide and intense. Of course he'd imagined all manner of things going on beneath her conservative CIA-wear, but somehow seeing it firsthand was a whole different world.
"Sometimes," she replied, feeling suddenly a little shy at the way he was staring at her, fascinated.
"Damn," he whispered, leaning in close to press kisses down the length of her neck. "Tell me again why we waited so long?" he murmured against her skin.
"Big guys with guns," she reminded him, and he could hear the amusement in her voice even as her heartbeat accelerated beneath his mouth.
"Oh yeah," still kissing, "fuck that, would've been worth it," and her chuckle melted into a sigh as his mouth closed warm and damp over her nipple. She gripped his shoulder for balance as her head began to spin. His hands slid down her sides to the waistband of her jeans, his fingers toying with the button.
"Vaughn," she moaned again, breath hitching, and he smiled to think that no one else would ever say his last name in quite that way. He deftly worked at the button of her jeans, then the zipper, and she collapsed back onto the sleeping bags, lifting her hips to allow him to peel the denim off of her. More black lace, more creamy skin, more reminders to breathe, until he caught sight of the handful of scars marring the smoothness of her body. She was so tough, so capable, so good, so lucky, but here was irrefutable proof that she was human. Mortal. More fodder for his sleepless nights while she was risking her life halfway across the world. He leaned down, kissed each scar deliberately, feeling an overwhelming desire to protect her even though he probably hadn't even known her when those scars had formed.
"I'm OK, Vaughn," she said quietly, her fingers moving through his hair.
"I know." A lingering kiss on the last pale mark-a thin line across her ribs-and he forced the worry from his mind, looked up at her with his heart in his eyes. Then he laughed a little. "`OK.' God, that's not even... you're beautiful. Perfect." He bent his head again, savoring the taste of her, the tiny sounds she made as he worked his way slowly down her body.
She went liquid everywhere he touched, heat building to fever pitch inside her as he carefully slid her panties down her legs, following the path with his mouth. Finally, when he had kissed her everywhere except where she most wanted to be kissed, she began to writhe with impatience. "Vaughn," she managed, pleading, digging her fingers into the cloth beneath her, and he grinned.
"Don't rush me," he replied, as calmly as he could while he was dizzy with the scent and feel of her. He nibbled at her inner thigh, felt her muscles tremble.
"Vaughn," and she was almost growling now, "I could kill you with a couple of fingers, you know."
He chuckled, the vibration of it adding to the torture as he neared the apex of her thighs. "Yeah," he agreed, starting to lose control himself, "but then I couldn't do this," and he flicked his tongue across her clitoris, once. Her response was electric: her entire body tensed, and he could hear the sudden hiss of indrawn breath.
"God-" and hey, that was fun. He tried again, a little longer stroke this time, amazed at how wet she was beneath his questing fingers. Her sharp cry reverberated off the concrete walls, and then her hands were at his shoulders, tugging him up towards her.
"Later-" she panted in response to the surprise on his face. "I want to see you-it's been so long and I want-I want you, now-" and then she was pushing his jeans and boxers down over his hips, and her eyes were luminous even under the pale fluorescent lights. She lay back again, pulling him with her, and he reached down to the clasp on the front of her bra, sliding the straps off her shoulders so that nothing remained to separate them. They stilled for a moment as he settled himself between her legs, both marveling at the feel of so much bare skin when, only a few weeks before, a simple hug had seemed like a major achievement in physical contact. She smiled at him, brilliant and warm, her eyes filling as she reached up to lay her hand along his cheek.
"Hey," he said softly, as he'd said a million times, walking into the warehouse or the Ops Center with an armful of files and a head full of reasons why he couldn't touch her.
"Hey," she answered, just as she always did, knowing exactly what he was thinking about. She shifted to allow him better access, her feet curving around his calves.
He took that for the invitation that it was and-after a brief resolution that if this was a dream, he was going to have no choice but to kill himself when he woke up-he braced himself on his arms and slid slowly into her. They gasped in unison, and her neck arched as she closed her eyes. He kissed her jawline, forcing himself not to move yet even though every instinct he had was telling him to bury himself in her. Then she moved her hips, and the sudden sensation nearly stopped his heart.
"Jesus, Syd," he breathed in her ear, his voice raw. She sighed in response, moving against him again, establishing a hesitant rhythm. It was a little awkward at first, as they became accustomed to each others' bodies, each others' needs, but he was tender and she was careful and soon she could feel tension coiling in her belly again, and his breath was coming faster now, stirring the damp hair at her neck.
"Vaughn," she gasped. All of her nerve endings were humming with pleasure. "Vaughn, look at me. I want to see you."
He levered himself up so that he could meet her eyes, and the change in angle sent shockwaves throughout her body. Their expressions as they watched each other were almost identical: wonder, heat, awe, perfect understanding. He began to thrust harder, deeper, drowning in the sound and scent and feel of her. He felt her start to tremble under him, her eyes going wide and glassy until she suddenly convulsed, crying out wordlessly, her fingers grasping his triceps. The sensation of her contracting around him and the expression of ecstasy on her face was enough to push him over the edge as well, and he whispered her name over and over again as he buried his forehead in her neck and poured himself into her.
Later, he lay with his head pillowed on her flat stomach while her fingers trailed lazily through his hair. He'd found a lantern among his camping gear, and now it was glowing softly next to them, the harsh fluorescent lights extinguished.
"So what's up with this tattoo?" she asked suddenly, craning her neck to look at him, one arm folded underneath her head. "I wouldn't have figured you for a tattoo kind of guy, Agent Vaughn."
He laughed as he caressed her hip. "College thing. I don't know why, just went out one day and got it. My friends couldn't believe it. They didn't think I was a tattoo kind of guy, either."
"Huh." She could picture that, a younger Vaughn doing something no one expected him to, just for the hell of it. He followed the rules, but he knew when to break them, knew when to listen to his heart over his head. "Do you think they'll let us work together?" she wondered. "I mean, I know it'd be unconventional, but I think we've proven that we work well as a team."
"Dunno," he answered, considering. "Everything's so turned around right now, I hadn't really given it much thought." Then his lips curved as something occurred to him. "Be fun to finally get to see some of those outfits I keep hearing about."
She giggled, swatted his shoulder. "You'd have to keep your hands to yourself."
"No deal," he shot back instantly, underscoring his point by kissing his way up from her bellybutton, between her breasts, lingering at her mouth. He propped himself up on one arm, grinning down at her, his fingers toying with the sex-tangled hair at her brow. Suddenly the realization of where he was and what he was doing overwhelmed him, and he shook his head at the wonder of it. "I can't believe this is actually happening."
"I know," she agreed.
"There are so many things I want to do with you. Places I want to take you, restaurants, bars, movies. We'll get season tickets to the Kings."
She smiled at him, her eyes shining in the flickering light of the lantern. "OK."
"Syd..." His face turned serious now, and he looked down for a moment, hesitant. "I think you must know this, but I'm going to say it anyway." His eyes lifted again, looking at her steadily. He took a deep breath. "I'm in love with you."
The admission caught her completely off-guard. All of these months with so much unspoken between them, so much uncertain, and now... it was almost too much. Love was terrifying enough under normal circumstances, and in her life, it was all tangled up with betrayal and death and danger and artifice. But he was looking at her with such earnestness in those incredibly green eyes, and how could she refuse such a gift when it was offered like this? She felt tears sting her eyes, reached out to trace the line of his jaw. "Vaughn..." Then she laughed softly. "I feel like we should be on a first-name basis, after what we just did... Michael," she tried, experimenting, feeling the unfamiliar syllables roll across her tongue. Then she wrinkled her nose. "It just doesn't feel right."
He managed to smile at her, even though she could tell that her reaction wasn't exactly what he'd been hoping for. "Call me anything you want."
She hastened to reassure him. "It doesn't feel right because... it's not you, to me. I don't know Michael. I know Vaughn, my guardian angel, the man who broke in to the Vatican with me and risked everything for me and bought me miniature golf tickets and said he was my ally when no one else was. The man I..." but when it came down to it, she couldn't bring herself to say it. "Vaughn," she said finally, feeling a knot in her throat, "the men I love get hurt." It was as close as she could come to what she really meant. She looked up at him, almost pleading, hoping desperately that he would understand what she couldn't put into words.
And, as always, he did. The sharp ache in her throat began to ease as she saw the hurt melt out of his smile, and he leaned down to kiss her. "I'll be careful," he murmured against her lips, his hand moving soothingly on her hair.
"You'd better," she told him, mock-threateningly, her voice still quavering a little. "Does that mean you're going to run next time when I tell you to?"
He laughed at that, dropping his head into the crook of her neck, and she thought about how just purely good it was to be here with him, alone, close, safe. "I'm never gonna hear the end of that, am I?" His voice was muffled against her shoulder, but the rueful tone was clear.
He raised his head, met her gaze. "The thing is, Syd, what we do is dangerous. Maybe us being... together... makes it more dangerous. I don't know. All I know is, we've waited a long time for this. And now that it's finally happened... I want to take advantage of every second we have."
"I can work with that," she whispered, feeling warmth bloom in her chest and spread throughout her body.
"Good," he replied firmly. Then he shifted closer, his hand drifting up from her waist along her ribs and higher, and a mischievous light glinting in his eyes. "Now... along those lines... there are still a few things I want to try out before we leave here..."
"Yeah, I had some thoughts about that, myself," she grinned, and kissed him, letting the burdens she'd carried for so long drop from her shoulders as she resolved that no matter what happened tomorrow or next week or next year, no matter how much pain she'd cause or endure, tonight, at least, she'd be happy.
And that was enough.