AN: This contains spoilers for Legacy.
An unexpected twitch jitters through his nervous system as he watches his daughter move quietly across the patch of barely green ground. The grass is new and young. Healthy.
"When?" she asks.
"Soon," he replies, eyes fixed on where his daughter stands, at the heart of matters.
She checks her watch. "This was sudden."
"Only to you." He looks away. "Your mother likes to appear spontaneous, but you may rest assured that she always plots everything out in advance."
She looks up, intrigued. "Everything?"
He pauses, considers. "You might have been the rare exception. I wouldn't know."
She shoots him a disbelieving look. Clearly, Sydney still thinks her Daddy knows everything. She sits on the grass, plucking a few shoots with nimble fingers.
"Why are we meeting her?"
He looks past her now diminutive figure towards the trees.
"Dad? When will she be here?"
The sun bursts through the gray clouds, falling on the form of his child. He stares at her, momentarily dazzled.
"She's already here," he hears himself say, meeting his daughter's startled eyes.
She blinks furiously against the sun, and inexplicably leans back, propping herself up on her elbows. A change comes over her features: one moment young and confused, the next younger and calm.
Sydney, seven and pigtailed, sinks into the quicksand of her mother's unmarked grave.
He jerked her to him, lips claiming hers hungrily.
She went willingly, unlike her sister, who would have made him wait and work for it.
She yields. He takes, furious at another reminder that the sister is not the woman he sees.
Her nails pierce the skin of his back, and she pulls one hand towards her mouth. A drop of bright blood clings to her index finger, and she delicately sucks it into her mouth.
With the palm of her free hand she shoves against him, throwing her weight enough to shift the balance of power. An unexpected cascade of hair falls against his face, and he looks up into Irina's stern eyes.
She wags a finger at him mockingly. "Naughty."
He blinks once, twice. She softens slightly, and lets herself collapse against his chest, her arms curved loosely above his head.
"I know we've taken a wrong step somewhere when you start dreaming about fucking my sister," she says seriously, brushing a light kiss across his lips.
He pulls his mind from the lust-induced fog and wraps his arms possessively around her waist.
"No," she replies, pushing a lock of hair off of her face. "I'm in the desert."
For a moment he thinks he sees Katya's face stare back at him through Irina's long hair. Her distinctive voice mingles with that of his wife.
"I'm scoured and wasted," rasps the chimera that lies intertwined with him. "Come away, and find me."
He closes his eyes in frustration, and opens them to empty arms, and sand in the sheets.
Arvin heaves The Hourglass above his head and flings it to the floor. Sydney sucks in a breath, eyes wide and anxious. She is neatly contained beside him.
He almost wishes that he could take the time to hold her hand in reassurance.
Arvin waits, staring in expectancy at the green liquid in the floor.
A stirring of triumph quickens in Jack's chest. Arvin isn't the father.
It dies, as quickly as it had come. Neither is he.
He locks eyes with his nemesis over the wreckage of reluctantly similar hopes and wasted chance.
Sydney chokes out a sob, and runs for the door.
Arvin runs after her, syringe in hand.
Vines twist and lock over Jack's feet and around his ankles, and all he can do is stare.
The walls and doors of the twisted hallway shift rapidly, catching the sleeve of his jacket. He abandons it and walks on, dodging through deadly intersections and doorways before they can snap shut on an arm or leg. He can hear his daughter calling somewhere beyond his reach. Screaming.
It sends a chill through his veins.
Ahead of him, dodging erratically through the guillotining walls is Irina. She always is straight ahead of him, no matter if she ducks through a portal to the right or to the left. She should be far away by now, on another path, but the laws of this wonderland do not pertain to her sense of direction. She goes straight. She will not be deterred.
Her clothes, like his jacket, must catch in the snapping jaws. He finds them scattered in a trail behind her. Jacket, shirt, Kevlar vest, pants. Bizarrely, shoes. He looks up, catches a glimpse of her fleeting form, clad only in a camisole and a pair of underwear. She is barefoot, although he hasn't yet seen her socks pass beneath his fleeing feet.
Suddenly, she stops and whirls to face him. The walls calm around them, but further away he can hear the distressing slamming noise of steel against steel increase, compensating.
Her hands rest on her barely clad hips, and she stares benignly at him.
"Have you found her yet?" she asks, ignoring another of Sydney's screams.
"You can't hear her?" he asks, turning, trying to find the source of the sound. Before it had seemed to lie ahead of him. Now, it is to the right, although all he can see is an empty wall.
Irina frowns. "Who?"
She starts, and chuckles. "Not Sydney, Jack. Sydney's over there somewhere, with Vaughn." She waves her hand vaguely to the left. "I meant Nadia. Have you seen her?"
He stares at her in disbelief. Behind him, another piercing shriek of pain.
Irina sighs, shaking her head. "Fine. I'll find her myself."
A wall slams shut between them, almost catching his nose.
Sydney screams again. He turns, backtracks through the long hallway. The clicking of steel slows, and the distance that had seemed so monumental before now shortens. Irina's clothes lie newly shredded and torn on the ground as he passes them.
A wall disappears, and Sydney looks up from where she is lying on the floor.
"Dad?" she asks, seeming confused. A book is balanced on her stomach, open and held firmly with one hand.
He takes a few steps closer, and notes that the bottom half of the book is a gory crimson, along with her shirt. "What's wrong with your stomach?"
She quirks a small befuddled smile. "Nothing." She pulls up the bottom of her t-shirt to bare her stomach.
A bloody forty-seven, carved into her skin and muscle, glistens in the white light.
She gestures. "See? Nothing." Smoothes the shirt back in place. "Have you seen Mom?"
The final wall slams into place, taking his right hand with it.
He finds it disconcerting, how much she looks like Irina. Sydney glances nervously at her half-sister, looks away. Nadia examines her fingernails, bored.
She looks up.
She has Arvin's eyes.
And a knife buried in Sydney's side.
Sweeps his hand across the brief expanse of sheets next to him.
Curves the hand around a woman's hip.
Turns away, and looks into Irina's angry and betrayed eyes.
He blinks, heart racing, waiting to be swept into another nightmare.
Irina stands quietly and walks out of the room to wait in the den beyond. He sees her sit slowly on a chair, drumming the fingers of her right hand listlessly on her knee.
He would have preferred a bullet to the brain, or a knife to the heart.
He turns to a still-sleeping Katya, wondering why his worst nightmares always wait till dawn.