Disclaimer: The poem belongs to me. The characters do not.
A/N: For the September challenge. The following elements had to be included – an airplane crash, a first, and a poem. Set during an AU season 3; Nadia doesn't exist in this universe, and neither does Lauren.
The first time Sydney Bristow attended a funeral, she didn't understand why an empty box in the ground meant her mother wasn't coming back anymore. When she finally realized what dead really meant, she crawled into bed and didn't come out for a week. Her nanny didn't quite know what to do with her – her father was away on what she thought was a long business trip – so it was Emily Sloane who ended up curling around the small child and reading about Alice and march hares and tea parties until Sydney wrapped tiny arms around her waist and sobbed.
She's been to plenty of funerals in the years since then, including her own, but the memory of that one has always been sharpest in her mind. A little girl clutching her daddy's hand, the strongest man in the world crying, and no mommy to hug her and tell her it was all going to be okay.
Nothing was ever okay after that, even when her mother came back from the dead. Sydney thinks there's a part of her that will always be that six-year-old girl, mourning the mother she used to have.
Her father's funeral, ironically, is similar to her mother's first funeral.
(Irina Derevko's second funeral was attended by Sydney and her father. They watched the coffin go into the incinerator and said nothing. Sydney wondered what her mother felt when her father shot her; she wondered what her father felt, but knew better than to ask. When Sydney asked what he did with the ashes, he told her he'd scattered them in the sea. She didn't ask any more questions.)
This time Sydney clutches Michael Vaughn's hand, and she knows that despite the empty box in the ground, her father is not coming back.
In her mind, she replays the moment she was told of his death on a continuous loop. Dixon asking her to sit down, taking her hand, quietly explaining the details of a mission gone horribly wrong. A mechanical failure, a plane crash in the mountains, no survivors.
Laura Bristow is survived by her husband, Jack, and her daughter, Sydney, aged six.
Of all the things that could have killed him, she thinks numbly, it was a plane crash.
Jack Bristow is survived by his daughter, Sydney.
When Dixon first told her, she refused to believe him. She told him she'd know, somehow, if her father was dead, and demanded to see the body they'd recovered. Looking at the charred remains, she hadn't wanted to believe it, and Vaughn had caught her before she hit the ground.
After the funeral, she crawls into bed for a week, and Vaughn holds her as she sobs and tells him she loves her daddy and she's sorry and it's not fair, dammit! He rubs her back and kisses her, and waits.
It's another month before she can bring herself to go through her father's things. His house – the house she grew up in – seems as if it's just waiting for its previous occupants to return to inhabit it. Sydney stands in the kitchen and sees an image from the past: Mommy's sitting on the counter, Daddy's cooking breakfast. Mommy looks at Sydney and smiles. "Morning, sweetheart. Hungry?"
On the doorpost is a series of lines showing Sydney's height at different stages of her life. Her father stopped marking it when she was twelve. She can't remember why.
In the living room, she sees her parents dancing. Daddy's singing; Mommy's eyes are closed and she's smiling.
"This house is haunted," Sydney says aloud, and climbs the stairs.
Her bedroom is the same as it was the day she packed up and left for college. There are still posters of her teenage crushes on the wall, and a threadbare teddy that's missing an eye lying on her bed. Her mother gave her that bear.
Sydney sees herself slamming the bedroom door and yelling at her father to leave her alone. She wants to tell the younger Sydney to stop, but she blinks and the memory is gone.
Sydney picks up the bear and heads for her father's bedroom.
And she's five years old again, and there's giggling coming from behind the closed door. Sydney wants to know why her parents are laughing, so she slowly pushes open the door. Mommy and Daddy are wrestling. Sydney wants to play too; she runs over and jumps onto the bed. Daddy dives off the side; Mommy throws his shorts at him and laughs even harder.
Sydney smiles at the memory, and opens the door. There's a book on the bedside table. Sydney curls up on the bed and opens it.
Laura – All my love, forever and a day – Jack.
He wrote that in all the books he gave her, Sydney thinks, and her heart breaks for her father. His wife was his world, and she destroyed him.
Beneath the inscription is a handwritten poem; the ink looks newer.
Like a siren of old she calls to me.
Like others before, I chase after her,
her song pulling me further out to sea
as her whispered words of love reach my ear.
It is only in dreams that I come near
to catching her. When I wake she is gone.
No sign of her, the horizon is clear,
and I find myself list'ning for her song.
If I meet her again I will not let
her slip through my fingers. I'll chase her far
to the ends of the earth and weave my net
with words of love, and make her mine once more.
Because unlike the princes of ancient Greece
All I am looking for is my lost peace.
She runs her fingers over the words, her eyes filling with tears. The initials J.D.B. in the corner tell her who wrote it. He still loved her, she thinks. After everything she did to him – to them – he loved her.
She wonders if her mother knew how deeply her father's love ran.
She wonders, then, how her father could have killed her. Maybe he couldn't live with the guilt, she thinks. Maybe the plane crash wasn't an accident.
She leaves the book and the bear on the bed as she rushes to the bathroom and kneels in front of the toilet. No, Daddy, please, no.
Later, her eyes red-rimmed from crying, she hugs her teddy bear to her chest and opens the book again. They're all sonnets.
Sydney puts the bear and the book in the box of the things she intends to keep, and moves on to the next room.
A month passes. Then two, then three. Sydney finds herself returning to the sonnet on the front page, and she wonders.
And one morning a postcard arrives in the mail. There's a yacht in the front, sailing on clear blue waters, its sail a brilliant white against the sky. She turns it over, frowns, and is about to throw it out when something makes her pause.
Dear Lorelei, Finally found what we were looking for! Wish you were here. See you soon! Love Mom & Dad.
She shakes her head, and tucks the postcard into the cover of a nearby book.
It's later that night, as she's reading her father's poem for what could be the hundredth time, that she remembers Lorelei was one of the sirens. Ignoring Vaughn's curious look, she jumps out of bed and searches for the postcard.
Finally found what we were looking for!
Tears of joy spring to her eyes. She clutches the postcard to her heart and starts laughing.
And thinks, really, I should have known better.