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Edge of Darkness

by Andraste

[Story Headers]

1. Toronto

In the year after everything happens, he often thinks about dying. It's probably normal - if anything about his situation is normal - but that doesn't make it less disturbing. Arvin Sloane has spent his entire adult life avoiding death, and inflicting it on others. The idea of embracing it had never so much as entered his mind before, even in his darkest hours. But there are moments now when the idea of following Emily - even into oblivion - tempts him.

There are moments, too, when it everything seems pointless. Moments when his faith in the pattern that has been laid out for him wavers. By necessity, he had grown used to Emily's mortality long before he finally lost her, held the weight of it in his heart ever since she became ill. No, it's the idea of a world without Sydney he finds almost impossible to conceive of.

The guilt eats at him every day. If he hadn't recruited her, if he hadn't placed Alison in her house - but he had always thought that she couldn't come to any real harm. Rambaldi told him she had so much left to do.

He has to keep moving, keep ahead of those hunting him while he formulates his own plans, and somehow it had seemed appropriate to come back to North America. In a rented room in Canada, he lays everything out on the scratched wooden table, every line of prophecy he's ever acquired. Late into the afternoon he pores over it, searching for any sign that this was foreseen. All he finds are promises, seeds that never came to fruition, stories left without endings. It doesn't make any sense. If Sydney is gone, then perhaps Rambaldi is wrong. If that's the case, then what's the sense in going on? How does he even know that his reason for being, the object of his search, exists? That this isn't some cruel joke?

At last, He takes out the parchment that offers proof of his daughter's existence. He strokes it reverently as if it were his child, not an abstract representation of her genetic code. Rambaldi is not wrong. Sloane still has his faith, if he has almost nothing else.

It's cold outside, but he has a good coat, and he's never been afraid of the weather. He needs the air to clear his head, and he knows that he should eat.

It's difficult, up here so close to where Jack was born, not to think of him. He's never missed him so much as he has these past few months, although looking back he realises that he's been missing Jack for a long time. Since he found out for certain that he was a double agent, perhaps, or since his recruitment of Sydney drove a wedge between them. Perhaps since Jack lost his wife, and his soul along with her.

Sloane wishes that he could just see him, but Jack must surely want him dead. It's not as if he even blames him. In those dark moments, he's even half-tempted to place himself in his path. It would be ... appropriate.

He selects an Italian restaurant on King Street and ingratiates his way to a table he hasn't booked, settling down beside the window to watch the people go past. Ever since he learned of her existence, he watches women of the right age and approximate colouring, wondering if he's looking at his daughter without even knowing it. He wonders if she's beautiful, knows without any inflated pride that she's brilliant. Perhaps this dark young woman who just smiled at him as she handed him the menu is his only living blood relative.

He considers the wine list, eventually orders the Faraona alla diavola, and keeps scanning the street for his daughter. They could meet each other, touch each other, and he wouldn't even know it. It doesn't stop him from examining every face.

Tonight, he catches himself searching for Sydney, too.

2. New York

He doesn't know what he was hoping to find in Brooklyn, but it's not here. He's barely been back east except on business since his mother died, and this hasn't been his home for a long time. Prospect Park is more or less as he remembers it, at least, and he kills some time in Museum of Art and the Botanic Gardens, thinking of how much Emily would have enjoyed it here.

Somehow, he ends up wandering south along Flatbush Avenue, past the Zoo and down to the carousel. Watching the children go round and round, he's struck by a vivid memory of his father lifting him up onto the back of the lion, fifty years ago. For a moment, he can't help but wonder what it would have been like to stand in a parent's place here. He wonders if she would have chosen the same way he did, or if she would have liked to ride behind the dragons.

Turning away, he heads back the way he came, to where he last saw a payphone. He dials Jack's number hoping that he won't be there on a Saturday afternoon, but on the fifth ring he picks up. "Jack Bristow speaking," he answers curtly.

There's not much Sloane can read into that. He's been keeping a discreet eye on Jack from a distance, monitoring his reaction to Sydney's death. Sloane has looked the fire himself without getting anywhere, but he's surprised that Jack has time to complete his CIA assignments given the amount of time he seems to be investing in his own obsessive investigations. Still, he managed to work as a double agent under Sloane's nose for ten years. Jack must be an expert at dividing his time.

"Hello?" Jack says, after the silence has stretched for too long. Sloane didn't call to talk, just to hear the voice of the only person he loves who's still breathing. There is nothing to say that wouldn't be met with threats or stony silence. He doesn't know which would be worse.

Jack says nothing else. Perhaps he's running a trace, not that it would do him any good. After another moment, Sloane hangs up and keeps walking. Perhaps the Japanese Garden will be soothing.

3. Philadelphia

He should have expected it - Jack is as predictable as the tide in some ways - but it's still a surprise when he catches them together.

He's staying overnight up in Chesnut Hill when the disk arrives at his hotel by courier, and so Sloane watches the action unfold in a room not dissimilar to the one it occurs in. He hadn't had a camera placed in Jack's room in Prague in the hope of seeing anything interesting, just to see if the other man was sleeping. Well, he'd certainly slept the night he brought Irina Derevko there, but not until they'd worn themselves out.

Sloane watches them screw dispassionately. He won't get angry; it's not news that Jack doesn't think with his brain when it comes to Irina. He shouldn't find it strange that his friend would betray him to the CIA, turn against him for recruiting the daughter he himself prepared to become an agent, when he's still fucking the woman who destroyed him. He probably can't help it. Jack has never fully understood the way that woman can blind him.

Neither of them look happy as they sink down on the bed, tearing at each other's clothes. There's a grim urgency about the way they unite, but they both get off - he could usually tell when Laura was faking it with him - and afterwards they curl up together companionably enough. Sloane studies them as they relax into sleep. Seeing them like this, a stranger wouldn't know that they were anything other than a married couple.

They must be working together, looking for the people who killed Sydney. It makes sense.

Sloane turns off the laptop, and goes out for a walk down Germantown Avenue. Suddenly the suburban charm all around him, the coffee shops and the craft places, seem cloying. Tomorrow, he'll make a point of being on another continent.

4. Santiago

Sloane is wondering if there's anywhere in all South America you can get a decent cup of coffee - the irony would be amusing if he wasn't so in need of a caffeine hit - when Irina calls him on his cellphone. He doesn't bother to ask how she got the number.

"Irina," he says, as smoothly as he can, "to what do I owe this pleasure?" He can hardly hear her over the sound of the crowd on the Avenue Providencia.

"I want you to stop looking for her."

Straight to the point, as usual. "You know I won't do that."

"You know that I will stop you."

He believes her capable of it, under normal circumstances, but her attention is divided. "I'm not certain I understand your objection. I'm looking for our daughter."

"No. You're looking for the Passenger."

"It's the same thing."

"You know as well as I do that isn't true."

The truth is, Sloane is looking for both. If he finds his daughter, wrests the secret of Rambaldi's device from her, then they can share in its power. That's all he wants, to have something to share with her.

"It doesn't have to be this way, Irina. We could look for her together."

"I would rather never meet my daughter at all than let you anywhere near her."

Sloane finds his hand clenching by his side. He can see the scar around his index finger, like a ring. He hasn't forgotten that she is ultimately responsible for putting it there. "I'm sorry that you feel that way."

"If you go looking for her, you will gain nothing but pain."

"Maybe you're right - but let me ask you something. What do you think that you and Jack will gain, in hunting down the people who killed Sydney?"

She doesn't hesitate before answering, so he concludes that she already knew he was aware of their alliance. "Revenge - surely you, of all people, understand that?"

"I understand that it doesn't assuage the grief. I understand that it might get Jack killed."

"Perhaps that's what he wants."

It's as good as an admission. If this keeps going, Jack will end up in jail, or worse. "You're only going to hurt him if you keep seeing him."

"I've always been prepared to take that risk."

"Then you'll understand why I'm willing to take the risk of searching for our child."

"Just tell me this - did it ever occur to you that she's better off without us?"

He's thought about it, considered the possibilities from every angle. What if she was adopted somehow? What if she has a father, who knows her and loves her? An ordinary life far away from the machinations of international intelligence and the prophecies of Rambaldi? What if all he can bring her is disruption and pain? Sloane isn't afraid that she will hate him - he's expecting that, and prepared to deal with it. He's afraid that she won't even care that he's her real father, that there will be nothing she needs from him at all.

"Yes," he say, "but I know that you and I aren't better off without her."

She hangs up on him. He takes that as a kind of agreement.

Sloane finally finds the cafe he was looking for, and acquires a cup of passable coffe while he considers his options. The next phase of his plan would certainly be easier to accomplish if Jack and Irina were both out of the game, but there are multiple ways to accomplish that. Since finding out that Irina is the mother of his child, he finds himself surprisingly reluctant to kill her. He doesn't relish sharing his daughter with her, but nor does he like the idea of having to tell his child that he killed her mother. There's going to be enough of a gulf between them without that. Elimination is not even an option with Jack, not anymore. It's a weakness on his part, but unavoidable now.

First of all, he has to separate them. He's not going to let Irina take Jack from him again.

5. Buenos Aires

He makes the call the next day, from Plaza de Mayo in the shadow of the presidential palace in Argentina. Senator Reed is the soul of discretion, and once the information is in the hands of Robert Lindsey, he can at least be relied upon to claim all the credit. Nobody will trace the information back to Arvin Sloane. Jack will never know that someone betrayed him, let alone who it was.

The thought of Jack in a prison cell again, after seeing what it did to him the last time, should not be a comforting one. Still, it sets Sloane's mind at ease to know that he's at least out of harm's way. Now he only has to find a way to occupy Irina or drive her to ground and he'll be free to resurface and begin his very public redemption.

Sloane turns and walks in the direction of the Rio de la Plata, safely anonymous, eyes always scanning the crowd for the faces he won't see there, and one he would not recognize even if he did.

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Fandom:  Alias
Title:  Edge of Darkness
Author:  Andraste   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG-13  |  gen  |  11k  |  06/18/05
Characters:  Arvin Sloane
Pairings:  Passing mention of Jack/Irina
Summary:  "Sloane still has his faith, if he has almost nothing else."
Notes:  Set in the year after the end of Season Two.
Disclaimer/Other:  I do not own 'Alias' because if I did Lena Olin would be chained to the set and never allowed to leave. Er, in a good way. I make no money from writing about it.

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