Faces From the Past

By Nomad
October 2009

Summary: Post-finale; Sydney and Isabelle go through the family photo album.
Spoilers: All of season five.
Disclaimer: Characters, settings and concepts belong to J.J. Abrams and co; borrowed for entertainment value, not profit.

Sydney had always sworn that she would never lie to Isabelle.

It was a vow that she hoped she was keeping to in spirit, though the realities of rendering tales for innocent young ears had swiftly put some dents in her ideals. For now, Grandma Irina remained 'a Russian lady who called herself Laura because she wanted to sound more American'. When Isabelle got old enough to start putting together math and history, she and Vaughn would have to reconsider.

Sydney always felt a fresh ache of empathy for her father during those conversations. It made her miss him more than ever.

Of course, the fact she was currently staring at photos of him looking younger and happier than she ever remembered didn't help.

Isabelle squirmed impatiently in her lap. "Turn the page, Mommy!" she pleaded, and Sydney realised that she'd zoned out. Going through the cobbled-together family photo album had become a regular mother and daughter tradition. Sydney was determined that Isabelle would still get to know the people she was too young to remember.

Though some stories were easier to tell than others. She gave a bittersweet smile as she turned the page and saw her parents' wedding photos. This ritual was as much for her own sake as for Isabelle's; it felt like a gift to be able to look back at the past through her daughter's innocent eyes.

"Grandma looks so pretty," Isabelle said, almost pressing her nose to the page. "Can you do my hair like that?"

"I don't know, sweetheart." Sydney ruffled it and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Maybe when it gets a bit longer."

"Grandpa's hair is pretty too," Isabelle decided. "It's all curly." Sydney couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Mommy, that jiggles!" she complained.

"Sorry, sweetie," she said, still smiling. She relaxed a little, fairly sure that searching questions about Grandma Irina's political ideology were still a while off.

So she was caught unpleasantly off-guard when Isabelle pressed a finger to the one face in the picture that Sydney always tried not to look at. "Mommy, who's that man?" she asked, twisting around to look up at her.

Sydney was conscious of the sudden rush of blood in her ears. She and Vaughn had discussed what to disclose about grandparents, the fate of Auntie Nadia, their work. But somehow, it had never quite occurred to her that she might one day need to put a story to the face of her father's grinning best man.

Start simple. "That's Mr. Sloane," she said, with a professional calm she was grateful for even as she hated the thought of using it on Isabelle. "He used to be friends with your Grandpa. But then he did some mean things that made lots of people unhappy, and they stopped being friends."

"Oh," Isabelle said simply, turning back to the album page, and Sydney dared to hope that they might have dodged that bullet. Isabelle peered closer for a moment, her breath fogging the plastic sleeve of the photo album. "Is that why he never says hello?" she asked.

Sydney felt her skin go cold all over. "What's that, sweetie?" she heard herself say distantly. It was surely only childhood imprecision, another way of saying, 'Why doesn't he visit?' or, 'Why haven't I met him?'

Isabelle turned to look at her, big brown eyes shining with earnest curiosity. "When he comes to watch me play," she said. "I've seen him lots of times. He never says anything, but he always waves, and he looks really happy to see me."

She beamed.