AN: This story was written using spoilers for "Search and Rescue."


There were no boundaries between life and death. No thin line, no long corridor, no light at the end of the tunnel. No light at all, just the blackness of unrelieved night, the unseen and all too solid confines of her four by four room, carefully measured and memorized by dry, chafed hands; hands with wounds that had bled, clotted, and healed in cracked lines—

There was a crooked old man who lived in a crooked old house who had a crooked old cat who ate a crooked old mouse—

Those hands reached up, touched rough ceiling, reached down, concrete floor. Four by four by four, a prison of cramped dimensions that hurt her spine and knees and neck and would she ever stand again, and would she know how?

He had a crooked old wife who died in a crooked old bed and was buried in a crooked deep grave near the banks of the crooked old creek, daisies in crooked old hands—

Elena was a spiteful devil, her grandmother had once told her, birthed for a prophecy and discarded on a whim and left to lead a crooked life. These were her words, spoken on her death bed, crooked hands clutching Irina's young, straight ones and her fearless gaze catching her granddaughter's suddenly shy one, and her grandmother had told her this, and Irina had never forgotten, never believed, until she found herself in her cell beneath earth and hope and light and air, with just enough to survive and hope for a death that never came into physical being, but became a part of her.

And the wife in her crooked deep grave became a crooked old corpse and the man sat in his crooked, creaking chair and asked, "What to do? What to do?" in his crooked old voice—

There was no hope left, no hope but Sydney, but it was a fleeting, skittish, cruel hope, for after running from her daughter for so many years, why should Sydney come searching for a mother said to be dead? And dead she was, Elena said, and Irina half-believed her, in the dark. And Elena laughed, standing above her, her voice ghostly and all-encompassing and buried in Irina's spine; said, no, no, you fool, you don't understand, I've killed you to the world, I've resurrected Helix protocol and no one will ever believe you live, will ever come searching for you.

And as the wife became crooked old bones (thanks to the slitheringly sly worms), the husband rocked and rocked and rocked and never, ever got an answer—

Alone, alone in the dark; dead, dead, killed with a single bullet and placed in a mausoleum in Moscow and neatly recorded in the CIA's damnable records, a footnote to the end of the world, only noticed by God and the devil, who surely missed her in his old, crooked way, and all by Jack's hand.

That was the part, the worst part, the part that would have killed her if she hadn't already been dead and buried. And why should Sydney come looking now, after choosing her grave and mourning and moving on, on, on.

And the crooked old man met with his sad, young daughter and asked, "Where has she gone?" And his pretty, young daughter said, "Away, away, to where the sun is blind."—

You fool, you fool, Elena said, and dragged her up and into the merciless sun; and Irina, blinded, thought, this, this, is the worst part of all.