after.midnight // v.naked
Title: Aftermath: Act 2
Author: Tamara
Rating: PG - good clean, angsty fun
Summary: Two years and 48 hours later and life just isn't the same. Spoilers for The Telling
Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me. They belong to JJ Abrahms. Well, everyone except Mirielle Vaughn. She's all mine.
A/N: Okay, I'm still reeling a bit from the season finale. Since I knew that Syd and Vaughn were doomed from the start, no matter how much I love them, I'm not really all that surprised that JJ created the two year rift between them. With that in mind, I had to get this out. And happy endings we are not.


He married her because it was expected, because there was no other reason why he shouldn't. Sydney was gone, and no amount of begging, pleading, praying, or searching was going to bring her back. And it had only taken his near death, the knowledge that he hadn't given a damn whether he lived or died anymore, to realize that holding on to Sydney was going to kill him.

So, he'd forced himself to let her go. He buried every memory he had of her in the back of his mind and he tried to move on because he didn't know what else he was supposed to do.

It was the quickest courtship in history: Boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy asks girl to marry him. Girl says yes. Boy thinks he just made the biggest mistake of his life. Boy marries girl anyway.

"The love of boy's life comes back from the dead," he muttered aloud. "Boy ruins three lives all in one fell swoop."

"Go, boy," a familiar voice remarked, interrupting his thoughts.

Vaughn looked up just in time to see his mother sit down on the sand beside him, a pair of strappy heels dangling from her elegant fingers. He'd always thought his mother was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on. It never ceased to amaze him how she managed to become even more lovely as the years went by. "Hey," he said softly, wrapping an arm around her. "I wasn't expecting to see you for a while."

Mirielle Vaughn smiled, pressing a tender kiss on her son's cheek. "I got an interesting phone call a couple of days ago," she explained. "I figured you could use me."

"Sydney's back," he said softly, getting right down to the point. He hadn't lied to his mother in two years. And after all that they'd been through together in that time, he wasn't about to start now. "Kendall sent me to Hong Kong to brief her."

"I really hate that man," Mirielle said, fire flashing in her eyes. She turned back to Vaughn, her eyes regarding him intently. "That must have been hard. Not to mention a little overwhelming."

Vaughn nodded absently. "I didn't expect to ever see her again," he said quietly. "I had just gotten to the point where I could wake up without hearing her voice in my head. Where I could walk into a room and not imagine her sitting there."

"You were just learning how to live without her," Mrs. Vaughn said softly, leaning into her son's embrace. "And now you have to start all over again."

Vaughn looked down at his mother and smiled slightly. "Yeah," he said with a nod. "I take it you have some experience with this?"

Mirielle chuckled, the sound a mixture of amusement and bitterness. "Do you remember Richard?" she asked, gazing up into her son's green eyes.

Vaughn nodded, vaguely remembering the man who had, very briefly, been his stepfather.

"I met Richard in France," his mother continued as she stared out at the ocean. "I went there a year after your father died. I had to get away from everything because I just couldn't take it anymore. Everyone was telling me it was time to move on, to start over. That William wasn't coming back and I needed to let him go. And part of me felt that as well. I had a son to raise, a life to live, and I couldn't keep holding on to the ghost of the love I once had. But I couldn't let go, I wasn't ready to. I loved your father more than I had ever loved anyone and I hated it, *hated* it that people didn't understand that when he died I lost the other half of me.

"So, I sent you to your grandmother's, and I just left," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"And you met Richard?"

Mirielle smiled slightly. "Yes," she said softly, remembering those days so long ago. "I met Richard. He was sweet and kind and attentive, and he loved me. I thought that I should hold onto that, that this was my chance to make things right again. I thought that if I let Richard in, the pain would go away."

Vaughn sighed, resting his cheek on his mother's head. "But it didn't," he said, more of a statement then a question.

Mirielle shook her head. "No, it didn't," she said softly. "It only made it worse because I married this man, I vowed to love him and honor him, and I spent every single second of every single day wishing he was someone else." She heaved a sigh. "I didn't love Richard. Not the way he deserved to be loved. And in the end, I just ended up hurting all of us."

They sat there for a moment, wrapped in each others arms, watching the waves lap at the beach. "You know, all I ever wanted was for you to be happy," Mirielle said after a moment, breaking the quiet stillness. "Knowing that you're not...I just can't help feeling that I failed somehow."

Vaughn gave his mother a look. "You know you didn't," he was quick to reassure her. "You did everything for me."

Mirielle shrugged, dismissing that. "I'm your mother," she said firmly. "You're the best part of me. I just wish..." She trailed off, not knowing what to say, knowing nothing she could say would make a difference. "Do you love her?" she asked instead, her gaze meeting green.

Vaughn nodded, returning his mother's gaze. "Yeah, I do," he said softly, the tears welling up in his eyes. "More than anything." He sighed. "But I'm starting to think it just wasn't meant to be."

She wanted to tell him that love conquered all, that in time things would work out. But she, better than most, knew that some things really weren't meant to be, that sometimes even the good people didn't get all the wonderful things they deserved. As much as she had loved her husband, their time together had been cut short and she'd never found love to rival it again. And as much as she wanted her son to be happy with the woman he loved, seeing his hopes and dreams dashed time and time again tore her apart.

And since she couldn't fix his heart, broken so many times she wasn't sure it could ever be repaired, she did the only thing she could do.

She held him.