Isabelle stared at the wooden blocks that she had once again built into a tower. She was amazed that the all the blocks fit together seamlessly, but she was even more amazed with the way it tumbled down whenever she pushed it. They seemed to bounce off the floor whenever they fall.
She hadn't shown this toy to her mommy or her daddy yet. This set of blocks was her secret. She found it inside a brown box in her room one morning and since her parents weren't looking for it, she assumed that it was okay if she kept it.
They have guests today. She didn't know them, so they probably didn't work with her parents. Also, her daddy didn't seem too happy about them, especially when he talked to the blond man. Her daddy asked her to go to her room and he told her not to go out until he says she could come out. At first, she thought she did something wrong but she changed her mind when he brought Jack in her room.
A glance at the portable play pen told her that her baby brother was still asleep and that she couldn't messily pick apart the block tower. So, she took her stuffed toy bear, her stuffed toy dog and her blanket then placed it around the tower before she toppled the blocks.
Isabelle rose up to her feet and went towards the window. She peered outside and saw several speedboats by the shore. She pressed her nose on the glass pane and observed the people outside. There were a lot of men walking around and she hadn't seen so many people in their house since… well, never.
She wondered when her mommy would arrive. She went to the big people school to get something… she didn't really understand what her mom told her.
'What did mommy say? Dessert paper?'
She then began to wonder when their guests would leave. She wanted to play outside. The water was so clear and they were shimmering like crystals. A frown appeared on her face and she sighed. She couldn't wait for Jack to grow up. In that way, she didn't have to go outside and play because Jack could play with her inside the house.
Then, she heard footsteps coming towards her room. Isabelle looked outside again and saw that the men and the speedboats were still there. Did daddy change his mind? The visitors were still here.
There was a knock on the door. Isabelle hurriedly crossed the room to open it.
She peeked outside but instead of her father, a tall woman stood in by her door. She was looking at her.
"Isabelle?" the woman said in a gentle voice and kneeled down so that they could be at eye level. The woman gave her a big smile, "Hi."
Isabelle's brows creased, "You're one of my daddy's friends." The opening of the door was just a small gap.
A nod, "Yes… yes, I am. My name's Mac." She said and gazed at her. The woman had dark brown eyes, "May I come in?"
The little girl hesitated. She wasn't allowed to go outside while the guests were still here, but her daddy didn't say anything about letting guests inside her room, "My brother is asleep."
"I won't wake him. I promise, I'll be quiet."
Isabelle took a deep breath then after a while, she nodded her head, "Don't wake him, okay?" she said, trying to mimic her mother's tone as she opened the door so that the woman named Mac could come in.
Mac stepped inside. Isabelle could see that she was looking around the room and she knew that the woman saw Jack sleeping on the play pen. She also knew that her visitor saw the mess on the floor.
Isabelle then regretted that she let the woman in. It felt like someone was checking her room.
Mac bent forward and took a piece of wooden block by her foot. She examined it closely before turning towards the girl.
"You have this toy?" she asked softly and looked down.
She nodded and tilted her head to the side. There was a funny expression on the woman's face, "Why?"
"You can make it into a… into a tower?"
"Yes." Isabelle watched as Mac began to pick up the wooden blocks. She then stooped down and began to pick them up too, "My mommy said I should clean up my mess."
The woman stared at her for a while, then frowned a little. Isabelle didn't take the expression for anger but for confusion, "Of course… yeah, of course." She gave her the blocks she took and sat down next to the play pen. Jack was snoring a little bit.
Isabelle took the wooden pieces one by one and placed it inside its box. She then opened her toy trunk and placed it inside.
"You know, not a lot of people could do that."
She turned to face the woman, puzzled, "Do what?"
"Make those blocks into a tower."
The girl made a face. It was a silly thought. How could they not do it when it was a simple thing to do? Maybe if she showed it to her daddy, he could make the blocks form a tower too.
"Only a small number of people can make it into a tower. Your mommy can do it, but I don't think your daddy can." Mac said, careful not to let her voice get too loud.
"Can you do it?"
Before the woman could answer, there was a short rap on the door and they both looked at it. Before Isabelle could stand up, it creaked open and a head full of yellow hair popped in. The man glanced at Mac and said something in a language she didn't understand.
Mac took a deep breath, "Isabelle, when I went to your room, my friend brought your daddy to the hospital."
"Why? Is daddy sick?"
The woman nodded her head, "Yes, and we called up your mom and she said that she's still far away from your house. Since your mommy's not here yet, we can't leave you and your brother alone here."
"Where will we go?" Isabelle asked. A frightened expression crossed her face, "Will daddy be alright?"
The woman looked at her friend then back to her again, "Yes, of course, sweetheart. Your daddy's going to be okay." Mac smiled at her and caressed her cheek, "Don't worry." She said and began to stand up.
"You'll just be staying with us for a while until he gets better or your mommy gets home." Mac offered a hand to help the girl stand up.
"Who's going to carry Jack?" she asked as she took Mac's hand. Mac's fingers were firm but at the same time, gentle. The blond man started walk towards the play pen.
"Don't worry. My friend, Julian, will carry him." Mac answered and began to lead her out of the room.
"Wait! Can I bring Freddie along?" she asked.
"My elephant." She answered and pulled her hand away to get the stuffed toy from her bed and showed it to Mac, "Daddy gave him to me."
"Sure, you can bring Freddie along." Mac answered. She then took Isabelle's free hand and they went out of her room.
Isabelle noticed that there were men on the hallway. They were big.
"Why are there so many people?"
"Oh, they're just some of the people from the hospital." Mac answered. She could feel Isabelle's eyes following her every move, so she looked at the little girl. "Have you ever ridden a helicopter before?"
She shook her head, "No." Isabelle angled her head, and unconsciously tightened her grip on Mac, "Why?"
Mac gave her a big smile, "We're going to ride one!"
The walls were sterile, stark, white. Every one she saw was wearing white. Everything melded with everyone and it terrified her. She had faced death countless of times and been to countless of hospitals, but not with this kind of situation. No, she had never faced something like this. She had never been robbed of a husband and children before.
At this very moment, she didn't have a clue on what to do.
The sights and sounds around her were blurred. There was nothing memorable about the things along her way. All she could think about was Vaughn and children. Just them and nothing else.
It took her a few moments to realize that it was Dixon who called her out. She was so immersed in her thoughts that she didn't see that she had already passed by the sitting room.
Relief rushed through her when she saw the familiar face, "Dixon." She whispered and hurried towards him. She wouldn't be facing the doctors alone.
He greeted her with a warm and comforting embrace, "We're doing everything we can to find Isabelle and Jack." He said softly, "Mike's still in surgery."
Sydney clenched her jaw from both fear and anger. She silently prayed for her husband to pull through the surgery as she stayed in her friend's embrace. She also prayed that her children were safe.
She was the first to pull away, "Do we know who did this?"
"No." Dixon shook his head and led her to the chairs, "Higher ups have given us a team to work on the case." Everyone who was friends with Sydney and Vaughn were helping them with the search.
Sydney blinked back the tears forming around her eyes. She couldn't think of anyone who'd gain anything by killing Vaughn and kidnapping their children. She didn't have anything to offer.
"We'll help you all the way, Syd. Have no doubt about that."
She mustered a smile for Dixon, "Thank you." She said and touched his arm as they sat down, "This all means a lot to me."
He gave her a small smile. After a while, they sat in silence, both were lost in their thoughts. Sydney didn't keep track of time—she didn't want to think about how long the surgery would take. Every minute seemed to stretch out like eternity.
'No news about Vaughn… no news about Isabelle and Jack…' every thought that came to her mind had an awful tinge to them. She couldn't think of anything positive.
Sydney's head snapped up. A doctor was standing in front of her. Her heart started to race as she quickly stood up, "Yes, doctor?" The doctor looked tired. She began to wonder what took the surgery so long.
"The surgery went fine. We took out three bullets. One grazed his lung but the other two missed the… other vital organs." The doctor took in a deep breath as if readying herself to bring out the awful news, "Mr. Vaughn made it through the surgery, but he's still in a very critical condition and we don't know if…"
Her chest tightened and suddenly, she couldn't hear what the doctor was saying. The doctor was making it sound hopeful but she knew what she meant.
"I'm not saying that you should lose hope, but your husband's statistics are not too bright…"
"We need to wait." Sydney's voice was listless. Vaughn had a greater chance of dying than living. The odds were against him.
She didn't hear what the rest of the doctor said. All she could remember, aside from Vaughn's condition, was the doctor's name: Dr. Elise Fox. She probably wouldn't forget that name if… her thoughts trailed off. 'It wouldn't help if you think about that, Syd."
Dixon stood beside her. She was now looking at the floor.
"Do you want to go home, Syd?" he asked softly. Several people, maybe even hundreds, have been given the same prognosis by doctors about their sick loved ones. That fact, however, doesn't change the gravity of the news.
"Who's waiting for me at home?" Sydney answered.
They had known each other for almost eighteen years. He didn't need to hear words to know that she felt wretched. He also knew that she wouldn't cry—not yet.
Dixon wrapped an arm around her shoulder, "You need to rest."
"Yes, but not here."
Sydney looked at him and saw his concern. Tears began to pool in her eyes and she couldn't stop them, "I don't know where to go." It dawned on her on how alone she was. Vaughn's mother now lived in France. She didn't have relatives because they're all dead.
"You could stay with us." Dixon answered. When it looked like Sydney would refuse, he added, "As your superior officer, I am ordering you to stay with us." He knew that she would find a way to turn down his invitation.
"Sydney." He interrupted, "Vaughn's still in ICU. I know that you want to be there, but you won't be allowed to go in. You need rest and you won't get it here."
After a while, she nodded her head, "Okay."
She's going to rest and tomorrow, she's going to look for the people who harmed her family.
Somewhere in Asia
The ice cubes floated listlessly on the water, and melted as the seconds passed. It was quite hot here, in this little town, but the view of the beach was spectacular. He'd been away from civilization for a long time—six years, they said.
He reached for his glass of water and lifted it to his lips. They – Katya, Sark, and that girl – freed from his stony (and apparently, well-guarded) grave. He preferred if he was rescued earlier, but he had forever to live. Six years under those boulders is going to be cheap change compared to what he was going to face.
"You might have beaten death, Arvin. But you'll never beat me."
Arvin Sloane smiled. Jack Bristow killed himself to bury him. But he had escaped that. So who really won that game?
He leaned back on his chair and enjoyed the view. It's nice to be outside of that place.
"It's a nice view, isn't it?"
He took a sip from his water as Katya appeared in his line of sight and sat on the chair in front of him, "Yes. Yes, it is."
She stared at him. And he stared back. After six years, he still looked like the day he last looked at himself in the mirror; he couldn't say the same for Katya Derevko. She had aged gracefully, but she still looked old. Skin was sagging and her wrinkles, more prominent, but the fierceness of her eyes didn't wane with the years.
"So, where's Ms. dela Cruz?" he asked amiably, "I haven't thanked her personally for freeing me from my grave."
Katya gave a slight shrug, "Attending to the children."
He looked at his hands. A contemplative look passed on his face, "Does she know what's she's doing? What she's about to do? The impact of it?"
"She's not naïve, Arvin. Don't let looks deceive you." She replied, "She had planned everything and every plan has a contingency plan. She has seen every possible angle of the situation and has understood it better than anyone, dead or alive."
"So much faith in so much so young." There was skepticism in his tone and he didn't try to hide it. He knew that it was impossible for someone dela Cruz's age to have so much experience, unless she's not as young as he thought her to be.
This time, she smiled that dazzling (and ambiguous) smile of hers, "She was trained well. And I know her well enough to say that my faith is not misplaced."
She didn't say a lot, but he heard something in her voice that made him want to meet dela Cruz even more.
"I see." He said, and didn't say anything else. It might make Katya even more protective of the girl if he asks more questions.
So he finished drinking his water and looked through the glass doors, farther from the white sand and cerulean ocean.
He's a patient man after all.