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A Family Affair

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Her mother had been fascinated with Rambaldi.

Sydney often wondered, in the days after her mother's escape, if it had been the reason her mother had kept her alive - to fulfill the prophecies of a man the US Government akin to a god.

As a disciple of Rambaldi, the bearer of the child who would one day carry out his prophecies (an idea Sydney would not, could not, believe), Irina had loved her riddles, codes. Even her father seemed perplexed by her mother's innate ability to solve a puzzle within seconds - to look at a situation and unravel it so clearly that the solution seemed utterly basic.

He told her she had inherited that from her. Jack Bristow had instinct, power, lethal abilities and his manipulation of the truth to keep him alive, but Sydney's methods were quieter, quicker. With a glance she could find another corner, another escape, another avenue. Her quick mind made her a great agent.

Her humanity nearly killed her more than once.

It had been odd, that her mother had encouraged that. Had tried time and time again, however insincerely, to get Sydney out of the CIA, traded secrets with Vaughn in an effort to determine his love for her, lowered her guard to her father to garner her protection.

It left Sydney with no clear picture of Irina, no real reason to trust her. But her mother lingered in her mind, beautiful eyes boring into her as Sydney studied the documents spread before her.

"Hi."

His presence startled her. Sydney always remained hauntingly aware of Vaughn whenever he was any room, and the fact that he had managed to enter without her notice threw her off. Palms covering the photos, tense smile looking up at the beautiful man, she found herself swallowing harder than normal, evading his glance.

"Hi."

Once again, his eyebrows knitted together, glancing at her as if he were starving for something other than food, hating himself for doing it. It tore at her, like it usually did, and for some reason, with her palms covering Marina Ferrer and her mind racing with unspoken questions, she had no patience for the cycle.

"What can I help you with?" she nearly whispered; voice hoarse but flat, endlessly polite.

Once again, he seemed almost apologetic for even speaking to her, glancing around furtively before he began. "Listen, I heard about what Lauren said to you and-"

"Vaughn." Sydney's tone was cold, nearly exasperated. "Are you really going to bring that up now?"

He blinked a bit, stepping back slightly before he answered, "Sydney, I just wanted to say I'm-"

"You're sorry? You think she overreacted? Because I don’t. You're married, Vaughn. She is your wife. That's her ring on your finger. She has every right." It was a whispered, panicked confession, but one Sydney meant, as her eyes fell down to her documents and her heart threatened to break, yet again, in two. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm a little busy."

The chilly reception was obviously not what Vaughn was expecting, but true to form, her understanding ex-boyfriend held his tongue, beautiful eyes boring into her face as he picked through her reactions in his head, because he knew her so well.

"Okay," he finally said, like a little lost boy, and the word coursed through her, caused an almost indistinguishable shudder, that she hid successfully, buried in Marina's face.

Her concentration tipped him off. "Are you going on another mission?"

Immediately, her eyes lifted, and her palm covered the woman again. "If I was you would have known about it."

"Syd-"

"It's none of your business, Vaughn. It's personal."

Already, they were attracting attention, and Vaughn finally seemed to figure it out, as he glanced at the office around them, and then back down to the photo covered by Sydney's fingertips. "Okay," he said, nodding, stepping away.

It was disconcerting, how the little confrontation, the bitter stab that melted within her, made her focus more intently than before - to uncover this puzzle, this unspoken promise of her mother that somehow she would find the answer to SOMETHING.

"Marina Ferrer," Her father's voice was crisp, to the point, like always. "Orphaned by unknown parents. Came here on a student's visa, stayed here with a work visa. Perfect record, completely clean. Pays her taxes - has no outside foreign accounts that we can find. Speaks five languages that we know of," he glanced down at the clipboard as he nodded once, leaning back in his plush leather chair. "English, Spanish, French, Italian and ... German."

Sydney's eyes narrowed, finger nervously etching at her teeth before she finally pulled her palm away. "No Russian?"

"Never spoken it, never even been in Russia. She was born in Jamaica of all places. Sydney," Her father began in an almost apologetically firm tone, as if he was setting her up for disappointment. "I know what you're thinking-"

"Because you're thinking it too."

"This woman is not a secret agent," Jack Bristow said finally.

"You didn't see the way she looked at me, Dad," Sydney snapped, nearly shivering in her chair as she pushed her bangs away from her forehead, tucking them surreptitiously behind her ear. "It's the same look that Mom's given me. That Allison gave me. That Sark gives me."

"The ability to deceive is not exclusive to special agents," he answered crisply.

That statement was followed with silence. Sydney took in a haggard breath, twining hands together as she glanced anxiously at the door, then down again to the fingerprints on her side of her father's desk, etched in black on white paper, lifted from her cappuccino cup. "She's hiding something Dad, and she knew I knew, and she didn't care. She knew who I was. I could sense it."

"I'm not disputing that," Jack replied. "I don't doubt that your mother sent you there for a reason." He stared at her, as if he was expecting the answer to flow forward from her lips, fitting it together as neatly and quickly as her mother would have.

"You don't think she's a threat?"

"To National Security?" Jack Bristow mused for half a second, before shaking his head with a firm no. "The woman could be the best deep undercover agent I've ever seen, but unless she's staking out Gay Hollywood as her mission, café owner for the last three years isn't the best cover."

"You're taking too much for granted," she answered roughly.

"And you're not?" Jack Bristow quirked his eyebrow, almost playfully. "Sydney, from the moment you met this woman you've assumed that she's a bad guy, someone you need to put down - has it ever occurred to you there is a reason why she might be afraid of you?"

Sydney's eyes widened, her heart thumped and her mind whirled. "She knows who I am. Which means she has something to hide."

"Or someone." Jack licked his lips, glancing down at Sydney's photograph, the hasty surveillance photo of the beautiful exotic young café owner. "You said she reminded you of someone?"

Her eyes bore into her father's as he waited patiently for the lights to click on, for the dots to connect.

"My mother," Sydney finally breathed.

Jack's lower lip quirked slightly. Leaning back, he nodded slightly, before rifling through Sydney's gathered information, and found the 8x10 glossy of Katya Derevko, cold and unassuming. With a deliberately hand, he placed the photo down beside that of Marina's. "See a resemblance?"

Just like that - it suddenly clicked.

"Oh my God."

Jack Bristow's grimace was nearly a smile. "She's your cousin, Sydney."

--

She had managed to lie in bed for about an hour, before she finally gave up, threw on some jeans and a sweater, and drove to West Hollywood.

It was two in the morning and the Planet was still crowded.

With nothing but girls.

Sydney blinked, eyes widening as she took in the entrance, teeming with women draped on top of other women, women making out in the shadows, women just... everywhere.

She thought she saw a man somewhere in the midst of all of this, but the man seemed to have breasts, which gave Sydney a little bit of a headache when she thought about it too often.

Sydney Bristow had walked into buildings laden with explosives. And walked out.

She could do the same in a gay club.

Straightening her shoulders, Sydney ran her hands through her hair, plastering on a confident smile as she walked straight into the bar, avoiding the stares, and the somewhat creepy whispers of 'Fresh Meat' and 'New Blood'.

Inside, bodies swayed and moved with pulsing music, female chatter and laughter shouting above it, creating a bittersweet cacophony that seemed out of place, as if the Planet belonged somewhere in a Greek legend, not here in crazy Los Angeles.

For the moment, Sydney was paralyzed, stuck between wonder, intense anticipation, and her spy instinct, working hard to combat her senses, keep her moving, keep her alert.

In truth, Sydney had no idea what she was doing here, standing in a gay bar, looking for a woman who was her cousin only in blood.

The woman was a Derevko, with a glint in her eyes that Sydney had seen mirrored in herself when she had been Julia, in her mother when she was in her element, and according to her father, in Katya as well.

Was it a family legacy? A curse?

Sydney Bristow had given her heart and her soul to the CIA for nearly eight years, and yet had come out of it with nearly nothing. A broken, beaten, deadened heart, a stitched up body, a mangled spirit.

Duplicity was her family's gift, her own curse, and she had to believe there was more than that in her. It couldn't be all she was capable of.

She stood her ground, scanned the faces of the women around, searching for a familiar face, but there was no Marina.

There was, however, the same shaggy haired girl from the day before, wearing tight leather pants and a tight black shirt, stretched over her skinny frame, talking closely with an equally, if not better groomed, shaggy-haired blonde.

There was no danger here, Sydney couldn't sense it, and although her heart beat with anticipation and the slightest bit of fear, she didn't mind the stares as she approached, mouth widening in a friendly smile.

"Hi," she said, interrupting the blonde's conversation with an apologetic look. "Do you remember me? From the other day?"

Shaggy-haired girl, pretty in a simple way, gave her a dark-eyed stare, eyebrow cocking before her mouth twitched and she responded with a handshake. "Yeah, sure. Hey. Shane."

In the four syllables, was what Sydney assumed was her name. "Shane, hi."

Shane had that look in her eyes, bemused and bewildered, but she politely nodded to her partner, who was eyeing her with a slack-jawed glazed over kind of look. "That's Alice."

"Alice, how are you. I'm Sydney." With a quick smile, she turned back to Shane, leaning forward in an effort to be heard. "Do you know where I can find Marina?"

"Uh... yeah..." Standing on her tiptoes, Shane's gaze roved over the crowd of women. "Probably in the office."

"Shane," Alice's voice was crisp, wary. "I don't think Marina-"

"No, shit yeah, I'll take you, here." With a wink, Shane held her hand outstretched, clearly waiting for Sydney to take it.

Startled, Sydney blinked at Shane's overtly friendly gesture, glancing from it to Alice's tense slightly panicked face.

"Shane, I really don't think-"

"Alice, it's cool," Shane said, almost lazily, and something about the way she said it had Sydney placing her palm on top of Shane's. Suddenly she was pulled forward, hand in hand with a stranger as the woman wove through the crowds, staring women in her wake. "So," she called over her shoulder. "You and Marina, huh? Friends?"

"Not exactly."

The words were true enough, but the way they came out suddenly had Shane smiling, and Sydney blushing, locking her mouth shut before she began to stammer profusely that it wasn't what Shane immediately inferred.

Shane wore a shoddy smirk on her face, tangling their fingers and suddenly slipping into a corridor that was darkened and dreary.

It led to an office, and Shane never paused as she twisted on the doorknob and pushed forward, pulling Sydney into what would become a completely awkward situation.

"Oh my GOD!"

"Oh, shit," Shane said, amusement coloring her face a reddish blush as she wiped at her mouth in a vain attempt to hide her smile. "Dude, I’m so sorry."

"FUCK."

"Shane," Alice called, coming up behind them fast. "I really don't think it's a good idea to..." The blonde's body pushed Sydney further into the office, and this time it was Alice's turn to drop her jaw at the sight. "Oh, God - too late, I guess. I tried to warn them."

She had spent less than five minutes total with her cousin, and Sydney Bristow already knew how the woman fucked.

Marina Ferrer looked disturbingly unfazed, gaze solid and somewhat annoyed as she glared first at Shane, then Sydney, then Alice. The petite woman in her arms, however, was slightly less cool about the situation.

"Oh, fuck!"

Of course, that could have had something to do with the fact that the woman was flashing them all. Shrugging into her shirt with short, erratic jerks of her arms, she looked like a deer caught in headlights, face bright red as she pushed at Marina's hands, and somehow tried to gather them around her at the same time. "Do you ever lock your door?!" she hissed at Marina.

"Polite people usually knock," Marina said pointedly, catching them all in a scathing glare as she casually reached for the buttons of her shirt, taking her time in covering her lacy bra.

"Yeah, sorry... you kinda had a guest..." Shane thumbed toward Sydney, who blinked and stepped back, fervently aware of her flaming cheeks.

"I would have knocked," she said quickly, waving the blame away from her.

"Uh... we can leave!" Alice chirped, reaching for Shane and Sydney's elbows, pulling back. "Jenny, always nice to see you."

"I gotta go," Jenny answered, running fingers through her long black hair and pulling out of Marina's arms, barely glancing at her lover before she nodded shortly to Shane and ducked out of the room, closing the door behind her with a jolt.

Marina seemed to dismiss her immediately, locking intense eyes with Sydney as the spy tried vainly to overcome her own embarrassment.

Alice blinked, annoyed expression creasing over her face. "Okay, has she ever said hi to me?" Crossing her arms, she huffed at the door, glancing back toward Marina. "You know, I introduced you both to this little illicit affair! I'm your freakin' Cyrano! I think I deserve a little gratitude, you know?"

"Alice..." Sydney barely heard Shane's added mumble, "Maybe you shouldn't be talking about Jenny right now."

It was then that Sydney realized what it must have looked like, she and Marina staring deeply into each other's eyes, sizing each other up, challenge and hunger without words.

For some reason, she just didn't care.

"Do you mind giving us a minute?" she asked flatly, arms crossed as she indicated toward the door.

"Yeah, sure," Shane said immediately, nodding to Marina, and placing her palm over Alice's, leading the suddenly dumbstruck girl out of the office.

She was standing alone in a room with her cousin.

The realization was almost painful, to look into the eyes of Marina Ferrer and not have to search to see the look that mimicked her mother's. The cat eyes. Her posture. The slender bone structure and the cheeks that a friend in college told Sydney she envied.

"Would you like some coffee?" Marina asked suddenly, pushing off the desk and adjusting her pants, amazingly in her element despite the fact that she had to button them.

"You're going to wash your hands, I hope," Sydney retorted, and the statement drew a startled look, and then a slow smile from Marina.

"Of course," she answered in her throaty purr. "I'll be right back."

In the silence that followed Marina's departure, it occurred to Sydney that she had just given the woman the perfect opportunity to run away.

"Oh, crap," she whispered, massaging her forehead and closing her eyes in frustration. "You really are the worst spy ever."

But Marina surprised her. Sydney was in the middle of inspecting her sparsely furnished office when she returned, a cup of coffee in one hand, a cup of tea in the other.

"Here you go," she answered, placing the coffee in her palms and moving over to the desk, easing down on it, taking a moment to sip her tea before she leaned back and regarded her cousin.

Sydney was never a big fan of huge awkward silences. Marina seemed perfectly content to stare impassively and say nothing at all, and her lack of expression sent a bit of irrational anger into Sydney.

It reinforced her spine and her courage, and with a glint in her eyes, she deposited the coffee cup on her table, eyes darkening.

"You know who I am."

Marina considered, also putting down her tea, before shrugging slightly. "I wasn't sure at first," she admitted. "I didn't think you would be foolish enough to give me your real name."

That bit into Sydney, caused an unexpected flinch, as if the European woman was teasing her. "I wasn't here to play games or to hide the truth," she bit back. "There wasn't a need to."

Marina didn't react. Yet again she just stared impassively, before she glanced away, and remarked casually, "And then there was the fact that you did not immediately follow me into my office and stick my letter opener into my palm, demanding answers."

Sydney blinked slightly, suddenly flushed with remembrance. "Why would I do that?"

"It is what our mothers would have done," Marina answered simply.

The hardness in her throat made it difficult to swallow, but Sydney kept her composure when she answered, "I am not my mother."

Marina only smiled at that, taking another sip of her tea. "So, Sydney - why are you here?"

"You've known all this time." The statement came as if Sydney had not even heard Marina's question. It was a sentence laden with amazement.

"I did not know details," Marina answered. "I've never known details. My mother insisted on that. But yes, I eventually knew."

"And you never thought it..."

"Interesting?" Marina asked. "That we shared blood? Fascinating, yes. But hardly a reason for a reunion. I wasn't aware that you even knew your mother was alive."

It was callous and cold and cruel, and Sydney's eyes closed involuntarily, as her muscles tensed, and her jaw hardened.

"Fuck you," she whispered, stepping back and moving toward the door. Marina was a true Derevko, and it stung Sydney, to realize she suddenly wanted no part of it.

"Sydney." Marina was halfway out of her chair, fingertips brushing the wood arm rests, before she blurted out, "Who sent you?"

The spy paused, pushing her hair behind her ear, frozen in place. "My dead mother," she hissed, glancing back at her cousin.

Marina took in the statement, licked her lips slightly, and suddenly glanced away, as if whatever was going to come out of her took a moment of preparation.

For some reason, Sydney waited, watched with fascinated eyes through her heightened temper as the older woman struggled with her words, glancing twice around the room and suddenly coming full circle on Sydney.

Her words were in Russian.

"Have you... do you know if Katya has been... is still... alive?"

There was a flash of a completely different woman, the moment those words were said. In a minute expression, came worry and sadness, and Sydney suddenly discovered the daughter of a KGB agent.

Much like her.

It cooled her rage, simmered her temper, as Sydney stood, straight and tall, arms crossed and gaze steady.

"She's alive," she answered briefly, pretending not to notice how Marina closed her eyes, took in an unsteady breath. "My father made brief contact just a month ago."

Marina's palm rested against her mouth, eyes suddenly moist with emotion, before she coughed in embarrassment, looking away. "I write her these letters," she said. "Lately there has been nothing."

Sydney kept her place, but her voice softened. "It's hard not knowing."

Marina's gaze locked on hers, and after a moment, she nodded. "Yes, it is."

It seemed, after that, there was nothing more to stay.

Sydney couldn't move. Her eyes were on Marina, and her heart pounded within her, an unfamiliar recognition that seemed almost frightening.

"Sydney," Marina said finally. "I did not choose my mother's life. I removed myself in an effort to find freedom."

"I know," Sydney interrupted softly, a small, grim smile on her face. "Your secret is safe with me."

She wondered how difficult it was for the daughter of an infamous Derevko to whisper "Thank you."

"No sweat." Oddly filled, Sydney felt her feet moving toward the door, her hand on the door knob, pulling it open. Glancing back, she rediscovered Marina, mask back in place, yet instead of her plastic grin, a small, warm smile accentuated her features.

"If you're looking for good coffee," she said, nodding toward the forgotten cup on the desk. "You know where to go. I promise it will always be free."

Sydney grinned, nodding once, but said nothing else. There was really nothing to say - not now, in the wake of her pulsing blood and irregular heartbeat.

She left Marina in her office, spotted Shane and Alice and gave them a wave as well. They waved back, and Sydney left the club.

Sitting in her car, she found herself trembling, gripping the wheel with an iron handle, tears suddenly streaming down her cheeks, and eyes cast on the silver moon.

In truth, the entire conversation was somehow meaningless. Sydney had no questions answered. The woman she had met was just as much a mystery as her mother.

But her heart was bursting, and when she said her words to her absent mother, she truly meant them, irrational as they were.

"Thank you," she whispered. "Mom."

FIN