sine qua non
Alias and the characters of Alias are property of ABC and
Touchstone, and are the creation of JJ Abrams and Bad Robot.
These stories are purely for entertainment purposes, no copyright
infringement is intended, I am not making money from this
Is lovingly cherished. And I mean it.
during season 3
Rez, beta-reader with more patience & speed than
I could even pray for
Murron, Amy, Red & Auburn for constant
For carmen_sandiego. Her requirements were Sydney firing a
gun, Sark's flat and dessert. Not quite evrything
is in yet, but ... Hope you enjoy, sweetie!
The cause can't be removed without the result ceasing to exist.
Conditio sine qua
“Sydney, are you all
„Actually … No.
No I’m not feeling well.“
“Will you be all right
here? Or do you want to go home, lie down?”
be wonderful. But can you --“
“Work without you for
a day or two? I believe this agency has a few more Agents
than just Sydney Bristow. I think there’s also Vaughn
“Thanks a lot. For a
friend, you’re a horribly sarcastic boss.”
“Get out before I reconsider
and call you in for weekend duty.”
And she does.
She hates lying to Dixon. It’s almost like lying to
her brother, or her uncle.
But she had no choice, had
she? This opportunity is too good to pass up, and she’ll
be on her own, no back-up, no one messing with her mission,
no one telling her to get out when she isn’t ready.
Also no one to watch her back,
but that’s something she ignores. It isn’t as
if it will require a lot of stealth or actual spying. Just
a little lock-picking and an ability to disappear from other
As of early this morning he
was in South Africa on a Covenant errand, so chances of him
returning early and finding her are close to zero.
Still, her nerves are jittery
when she drives through early afternoon traffic on the freeway,
rain pelting on her windscreen. She doesn’t need a map
anymore, the way etched into her brain from looking at it
Her fingers thrum on the steering
wheel, out of rhythm with the music from the radio.
She hadn’t expected
to find him living in quite such a unremarkable neighbourhood,
had thought he’d be living in an expensive part of the
city, arrogance residing in an arrogant area.
The secret of his residence
is one she’s kept well. No one else knows about it,
and she intends for it to stay that way, for now. This is
her mission, her time to satisfy her curiosity, her time to
The rain has eased into a drizzle. She finds the address and
leaves the car in a nearby parking garage.
She doesn’t have to
worry about being spotted much. The drizzling rain soaking
her shirt keeps people in their secluded offices, the usually
crowded street empty.
When she reaches the three
storey cinder-block building, she uses the lock pick with
the fluid motion of someone using a key, inconspicuously,
quickly. There is no name tag on the painted metal door of
the building, but she hadn’t expected one. She hasn’t
even seen a number.
She’s surprised to find
that it’s equally nondescript inside, though pleasantly
dry. She has always imagined him living in an apartment with
his own porter, calling her Ma’am upon her
entry, subdued light, exotic flowers in the lobby and shining
Instead, she is greeted by
clean, yet grey and utterly normal stone, a long
hallway with a lone light-switch and, at the end of it, a
flight of stairs. No pictures on the walls, not even wallpaper.
This is no industrial chic, it’s nothing but raw building
structure no one has ever cared about. Clean, impassive, still
smelling of slightly wet concrete. There is no noise, nothing
but her own breathing, swallowed by the height of the long
passageway. Empty. She lets the door slip closed behind her
quietly, and the last sliver of light disappears in the windowless
She expected an alarm, some kind of safety system against
burglars. But there is nothing when she picks the lock. Meaning
he is as arrogant about his flat as he is about everything
else. No one in their right mind would dare break in here.
But obviously, Sydney Bristow isn’t in her right mind.
She opens the door and slips
inside, closing it just as quietly as the one downstairs,
her heart thumping wildly. She doesn’t allow herself
the question about what it is she’s doing here. She
has a plan.
If you want to get to know
your enemy, a good way to do it is to invade his private space.
And that’s what she was doing now. Getting to know her
She knows she’s being
naïve. A man like Sark hardly makes the mistake of leaving
information about himself lying around in a random flat. He
probably has dozens of residences all over the globe. Still
… he spends a lot of time in this hemisphere as of late,
and she doubts that he spends it in hotels. Especially not
after two years in a prison cell. Even a man like him needs
something to root him, a place to sleep quietly. And even
Sark can’t only live off air and malice.
There’s something for
her here, waiting, she knows it with a certainty.
The air inside his flat is cool and dry. She shivers - whether
it’s nerves or from the sudden chill, she can’t
The blinds must be closed,
for the room is dipped in a gloomy twilight, barely allowing
her to see the interior properly.
She doesn’t know what
she had expected, but she hadn’t considered Sark to
be the type to own a loft. Even though owning it is probably
the wrong choice of words. After the weeks she’s spent
tracing his numerous accounts to this place, where a regular
amount of money is paid to a landlord, she has learned to
admire - even though she isn’t going to admit it out
loud - his ability to cover his tracks perfectly. It had been
only with a huge amount of the Bristow stubbornness that she
hadn’t given up. She almost had. Almost. But something
about those last names on the list of accounts had been suspiciously
unsuspicious. Upon finding this place, finally, she had given
a shout of victory into her - flat.
The floor shines faintly,
the whole room smells slightly of resin, as though the parquet
is still new. The lack of furniture surprises her: The room,
as far as she can see, only sports a leather chair close to
one of the loft’s floor length windows.
The kitchen is part of what
she supposes is the living room - clean steel and wood. A
bar but no bar stools. There’s a teapot standing on
the counter, its lid open. She moves closer, lifts the round-bellied
teapot - earthenware, from the slightly rough texture against
her fingertips - and sniffs carefully. The faintest hint of
exotic lemon reaches her nostrils - bergamot. Earl Grey. Somehow,
this is the first thing to meet her expectations. She has
always considered him to be the classical type. There’s
a moment in which she berates herself for not bringing poison
with her. No chance would ever be as good as this one again
to end his game. But the thought is gone as quickly as it
has flickered up. It wouldn’t have been worthy of either
of them. She’s not a killer. And he’s not a man
to be poisoned.
She opens a cupboard and is
surprised to find the part that isn’t swallowed by shadows
fully stocked with everything a gourmet’s heart desires.
Everything but enough plates and glasses and cutlery to allow
another person to dine here. The lack of dishes makes it obvious
that this is a place only for him. He neither expects nor
Sydney bites her lip and thinks
of her own cupboard, filled with dishes that hardly ever get
used. She closes the cupboard door quickly, not wanting to
think about the parallel.
The flat’s spaciousness
dwarfs her, leaves her feeling unprotected and watched. The
simplicity makes her uncomfortable: No rugs, no potted plants,
no table, no TV. A desk. A stereo, an expensive one, judging
by the dull gleam and the understated profile. She wonders
if he ever sits here and feels the bass making the parquet
In a corner that’s been
in the shadows she spots a bookshelf. Interest sparked, she
inches closer. It’s too dark to see any names or titles,
but, upon running her hands carefully along the backs of the
books, she can feel that all of them are hardcovers; linen-and-leather-bound,
engraved in what she expects to be golden print. None of these
books can be younger than seventy or eighty years. And from
the feel of them, they’re in mint condition. It fits
her picture of him.
She stands from her crouched
position in front of the bookshelf and looks around, her eyes
now well adapted to the twilight.
There is a stair leading up
to another level, a floor that must hide the bedroom. She
wonders what she’ll find there - a real bed? Just a
mattress on the floor?
The stair is wooden, without
a railing, burnt sienna, perfectly polished as she can see
now in a sliver of fading afternoon light peaking through
the shutters. Almost as though someone had cleaned it only
shortly before, she muses in hindsight, but dismisses the
thought as she climbs the stair, leaving her shoes on the
first floor as to not cause any scratches on the steps. The
wood is warm under her bare feet.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Bristow.”
The sudden sound of an accented
male voice turns her blood to ice, then sends it rushing to
her face; hot, fast.
She spins around, reaches
for her gun, aims at the quiet movement in the twilight. Her
hand is steady. He’s a shadow among shadows.
She tenses, prepared for fight,
excess adrenaline making her scalp prickle. Her mind is reeling
with shock. He can’t be here. Live video feed showed
him in Johannesburg, just this morning. Johannesburg!,
her mind repeats, uselessly, when she feels his body collide
with hers. The finger on the trigger tightens, tenses along
with her whole body, causing the bullet to whiz through the
air with a sharp whirr. Glass shatters. She hears their laboured
breathing, feels the pain of the collision - how the hell
did he hit her? - tries in vain for leverage, for the upper
His hands are quick, the twilight
in his favour. He rains a quick succession of blows to her
sternum, leaves her gasping for breath and distracted from
any immediate reaction, uses his weight to immobilise her,
dodges her blows, catches her arms and pries the gun from
her tight grip.
His breath is close to her
left ear when he places the gun against her right temple.
“I’ll have you know that the mirror you just shot
Warm breath, moving the fine
hairs which have fallen out of her tight ponytail.
“Who the fuck cares?”
she grinds out from between clenched teeth. Bucks against
his body, momentarily ignoring the gun against her temple.
He rolls off her but presses
the muzzle of her Sig harder into her skin. She can feel the
cold steel all the way down to her skull and stills. She might
hesitate shooting someone at close distance - she knows he
won’t. Maybe resistance is indeed futile - at least
as long as Sark is holding a gun. Her gun.
“You should care, Sydney”
From Bristow to Sydney within
mere minutes? What is this, bonding night?
“Seven years of bad
She rolls her eyes, ready
to come back with a biting riposte when he continues: “Then
again, that’d only leave you with four more to deal
with. Or should it be added to the past years?
Son of a bitch. She can see
his eyebrows rising; he manages a sneer without so much as
twitching his lower lip.
“I wouldn’t know,”
she retorts, moodily. “It’s not my fucking mirror.”
For a few tense seconds, there
is silence, the gun’s steel chilling her skull, then
she feels rather than hears him chuckle.
Her reaction is involuntarily,
the laughter too genuinely amused to pose a threat, making
her tense muscles relax for a bit.
She breathes in deeply, trying
to find a way to clear her mind from post battle haze.
“Aren’t you going
to ask me how I found this place?”
He sighs. “What does
it matter? It only means I have to find another place, which
is unfortunate.” A pause. “I was rather fond of
He doesn’t offer anything
else, but there’s regret in his voice, maybe accusation.
No surprise, though.
There’s slowly calming
breathing. The rain has come back in full force; it pelts
against the shuttered windows.
He is warm against her making
her aware of her damp shirt and the chill that settles in
now the adrenaline has stopped heating her up. His smell hits
her unexpectedly - freshly starched bed-sheets, fabric softened
cotton shirt, warm skin, unobtrusive shampoo, mint toothpaste.
It’s a scent that’s
entirely too innocent and pure for him, she muses.
The gun is still pressed to
her temple, but she can’t take the silence, the quiet
menace that’s hanging in the air. “And you’re
not going to ask what I want here?”
“I’d be curious.”
He snorts. “You, dear
Sydney, would be righteously kicking my arse before you even
allowed yourself curiosity.” The pressure of the gun
lessens slightly, enough to stop hurting her, but not enough
to take away the threat. “Besides, isn’t it obvious?”
Damn him. “Are you ever
going to answer a question without a counter-question?”
“Is there a reason why
I should?” The laughter is back in his voice. She bets
if she could actually see his eyes in the dark, they’d
be sparkling with mirth. Bastard. But as long as he’s
obviously enjoying the banter, he’s not going to kill
“To stop being so damn
annoying, maybe?” It’s a meagre attempt at sarcasm,
and she knows he’ll pick up on it.
“Sydney, you used to
be more eloquent.”
I don’t see the point of wasting my linguistic skills
A sharp intake of breath.
For a moment, there’s icy silence. The gun’s full
pressure is back, and she feels his whole body tense against
hers. She wonders if she went too far.
The sudden touch comes as
a shock. He slides a crooked finger up and down the side of
her face, inconceivable friction in a simple movement. “The
last person who called me by that name has already paid for
it.” A chill runs down her spine, gooseflesh spreading
over her arms. McKenas Cole. The medical examiner hadn’t
had much to work with when they found the body. And Vaughn
still has scars from the torture that went beyond a mere demand
for information. “Are you sure you’re ready to?”
She doesn’t know why
she feels so confident, doesn’t know whether she has
a death-wish or only wants to test the boundaries. The challenge
comes naturally. “Why don’t you try me. Julian.”
The finger continues its movement.
“Silly Sydney. Always so sure of yourself. Do you know
what you’re playing at?” His voice is smooth,
his breath warm on her forehead.
Her frozen limbs wake up to
the dare. She tries moving a hand. An arm when he doesn’t
stop her. Her fingers meet his on her face, softly curling
around his hand. “Why don’t you try me?”
He is distracted for the merest
moment, the gun at her temple moving a fraction, and she takes
her chance. Yanks her head away from the gun. Launches a punch
that lands him on his back, the gun slithering away from them,
their positions now reversed. Stunned amusement overwhelms
her briefly as she keeps his body on the ground with hers;
she didn’t expect for it to actually work.
“I don’t mind
this position, either.”
The bastard has the nerve
to sneer. Disgusted, she thinks about punching him in the
face, but reconsiders, squeezes her thighs tighter around
his legs, her knees causing bruises for sure. “Dream
“Oh, I do.”
The admission sends her reeling.
Damn the man. For once it’d be nice if he said something
less confusing or irritating. Why can’t he just be a
cardboard baddie, to be discarded and forgotten?
“What’s that supposed
She hears him smirk, that
quiet pushing of air out of his nose before his lip curls
upward in the way that infuriates her so much. His muscles
relax all at once. The son of a bitch is getting comfortable
Of course, she doesn’t
get an answer.
“I see two possibilities
here.” She raises an eyebrow before she remembers that
it’s a useless thing to do in the dark. “One:
We fight each other until one of us ends up either dead or
“As long as it’s
you, I don’t --“
“Do let me finish, please.”
She can’t believe the
nerve of him. He’s in the weaker position and still
making demands? What irritates her even more is that she actually
does let him finish.
“Two: We behave like
two intelligent, well-behaved adults and stand up from the
floor to negotiate.”
“Why would I want to
negotiate with you?”
She doesn’t need to
see it to recognise the impertinent glare.
“You may not want to.
But I do believe your stomach does.”
And, to her utter embarrassment,
her stomach growls loudly.
Damn the man.
He starts chuckling and she
loosens her hold on him, rolling on to her back, covering
her eyes with her arm; willing the earth to open up and swallow
her, growling stomach and all.
She hears him stand up, still
After a while, his hand -
big, warm, strong - pries her arm away from her face. A sliver
of light illuminates his sparkling eyes as he kneels before
His hand is stretched out
towards her. “Will you join me for dinner, Sydney?”
“Damn you,” she
whispers before she takes his hand
She doesn’t try to hide her morbid fascination. He slices
vegetables as though he’s never done anything else in
his life. Seeing him handling the sharp knife for something
that doesn’t involve killing is odd.
“Do you ever think about
your work when you do that?” she blurts out.
He gives her a sharp glance,
but the eyes twinkle before he continues to slice. “Only
when chopping onions.”
She tries to hide a grin but
fails miserably. The whole situation is too bizarre. Sark
is standing in his kitchen preparing dinner. Sark who isn’t
even supposed to be here, Sark, whom she should deliver to
the CIA right this instant, Sark who should have put a bullet
through her brain when she first entered his private rooms.
She wonders why he hasn’t. She wonders why she hasn’t.
“Stop thinking, Sydney.
It’s too late for that.” Damn him, again. He hasn’t
even looked up, yet he knows exactly what’s going on
in her head. It’s thoroughly unnerving.
“Cogito, ergo sum, Sark.”
He continues to slice tomatoes
with maddening perfection but looks up and raises an eyebrow
at her in a way that makes her want to ram the knife into
his chest. She hopes he’ll at least cut his finger.
There has to be some blood spilled for that mockery.
“Pass the basil, please.”
She does so mechanically,
still trying to wrap her brain around the fact that she is
watching her nemesis prepare dinner for the both of them.
“Look, can’t you
at least --“
“Pasta is in the upper
cupboard. But I believe you found it earlier, didn’t
She shrugs nonchalantly even
though she feels like flinching. No use denying the obvious.
The water in the casserole
is already boiling and she moves next to him to prepare the
pasta. She feels uneasy - the cooking a familiarity, but the
situation is too charged. There are too many sharp objects
all around them. She’s taken inventory of his knives
and she keeps counting them. She doesn’t want to find
one in her back because she’s been careless.
Watching him cook is one of
the oddest things she has ever done. Sark and domestic things
don’t mesh. It’s so many kinds of wrong, she can’t
even begin to name them. But he’s completely at ease
among the pots and pans. Dedicated, almost.
Spoken without looking up at her, again. Her blood boils.
“If you should need
a scalpel or a pad, too, doctor Sark, do let me know.”
A grin - not apologetic, but
almost - flashes across his face, giving him the look of a
mischievous boy. “Please.”
Has there ever been a more
next to read the next chapter or previous