"She was cremated," Irina says.
Sloane tastes ash on his tongue. Jack's decision, he thinks. Sydney wouldn't understand his horror: Emily's body reduced to ashes and tossed about on the winds. Jack might, had he considered it.
Beneath Irina's sympathetic mask, he can see that she guesses what he feels, perhaps why as well. She has asked little of him since they left Tuscany, and he of her, but he is aware of Irina's growing impatience. Time has not, in fact, stopped for everyone else. There are plans, schedules, appointed hours yet to come.
"Thank you," he responds, swallowing bitterness.
Ashes in the wind. He returns to Tuscany precisely one year later, listening for Emily's voice in the rustling olive-leaves. The American government is wary, but Sloane is a master at playing on his countrymen's sentimentalism. The role of bereaved husband comes easily.
The garden is untended: red dust and green-black cypresses. Emily would see its beauty and dream of ways to improve on that beauty; he sees only a weed-choked ruin, peaceful as an empty tomb. It has been a dry spring, in Italy. A lizard runs along a cracked paving-stone, a hawk wheels overhead.
She is not here.
The villa burns to the ground in December; Sloane hardly notices. On the second anniversary he closes the office; his staff eye him with confused sympathy and thank him for the holiday.
He considers returning to the monastery, but knows that this is not the time. Instead he stands on another mountainside, not quite half a world away. There are wildflowers everywhere, blue and white and yellow, bright against the bright grass the way the white clouds are bright against the shining blue of the sky. He takes a deep breath, tastes ash on the mountain air.
She is everywhere.
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Title: Appointed Hours
Author: Vanzetti [email]
Details: Standalone | G | 1k | 04/18/04
Summary: The role of bereaved husband comes easily to Arvin Sloane.
Disclaimer/Other: JJ, Bad Robot, ABC. I simply borrow what's theirs.
Distribution: Cover Me, list archives, otherwise with permission.
Author's note: Thanks to Rez for helping me fix a few problems.
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