Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim to own any of the following characters, places, or events.

Author's Note: Set at the beginning of Sydney's missing years - assumes that Irina returns upon learning of her daughter's death.

by Dax's10thHost

The air is empty, wind only ashes against her legs. She stands with arms hanging, fingers curling into themselves, mind numb and refusing to believe. There is a part of her that curses this – her foolishness, her inability to shut down, to move on, to breathe. But then there is this part of her that remembers.

This part that cannot shake the memory of her daughter's body fragile in her arms for the first time, or the sharp scent of crayons and sticky fingers in her hair or the crack of a dozen guns echoing in her ears because she touched her – just touched her – without permission.

And that is the part of her that roots her to these ashes, broken and open-mouthed and staring.

Her eyes slide up to his, tears searing behind her gaze. "Tell me it isn't true," she says, but he only watches her. She returns his stare until it rips her heart out. Only then will she let herself look away… to the ground.

He's still watching her, staring with those pale, tired eyes, weary of a world where he can't be himself without lying. Well, she's weary too. Weary of running. Weary of calculating. Wearing of wondering.

Weary of living.

Tell me it isn't true.

"It's true," he finally croaks, but not from fear. He has been here all night rooting through the ashes, blackening his hands, blistering his flesh, exacting the only justice that he knows. Clinging to the sunrise and that pale fluttering hope that maybe, maybe it isn't true.

But now the dawn has straggled its fingers across the sky and there is no phoenix rising from the pyre.

Only ashes. Ashes warm and cold and fiery against her skin.

"It's not true." She cannot stop the words from leaving. After nearly thirty years, her filter has finally broken and she is simply here, simply Irina, or Laura, or whoever was a mother to this child that is now only ashes flaking into shoes and across sidewalks and streets, strewn to the four corners of the city as if she'd never… never even existed.

Her hands are numb, her arms are numb, her whole body is numb, but she doesn't care. She just wants to stand there and be, with the wind playing through her hair and the ashes settling thickly on her tongue and her heart breaking, breaking, breaking deep inside her.

Has anyone tasted their daughter before?

The thought makes her shiver. A single, violent shudder, and then nothing. Just nothing.

Like always.

"We killed her, Laura. We killed our daughter."

His voice reaches her in a croaking, jagged whisper, and she longs to surrender to the turmoil in her breast.

Laura, he'd said. Not Irina. After twenty years, he has taken her back. In this, the deathbed of their marriage, he has forgiven her. If only to share the blame.

Her eyes slide closed, fingers fisting, unfisting, hanging limply toward the ground. We killed her.

Yes. Yes, Jack, we did. We killed our daughter.