Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: pinch-hit for eye_of_a_cat, who is Milo Rambaldi to Jack Bristow? Set quite a few years post-S5 (so, in a way AU, I suppose).
NB: Many thanks to darlas_mom for the beta. Title (and a couple of quotes in the text) are from Marlowe's Dr Faustus.
It is the same trick you'd played on Bell a lifetime ago, except that this is no trick, no miracle resurrection. It is what once passed for the divine, nothing more.
And dead men walk the streets of London, you think, not the least bit surprised. You had come out of the Royal Exchange building, the latest copy of the FT already half-open, and had nodded across the sprawling crossroads to where a living dead man was leaned against the white marble, staring at you.
Sloane is wearing a charcoal cashmere coat against the winter chill. It gapes open at the neck, revealing a dark polo neck, riding high over his throat. Perhaps a little too high; you wonder briefly if the jagged slash just below Sloane's Adam's apple is still there. You feel vaguely ashamed for it, but only insofar as it had been inordinately sloppy work, inflicted when you'd been half-crazed with hunger and rage.
He looks mostly the same, you think, as if death had been such a trivial, bothersome thing that he'd discarded it as soon as he could. Mostly, he is a little thinner, a little paler. He looks good, though; for all that there are dark shadows under his eyes. It isn't that he is younger, nothing that prosaic, precisely. Instead, it is as if all that had been extraneous to him had been burnt away, leaving behind pure essence.
He crosses the road in slow, measured strides, unconcerned about the traffic screeching to a halt around him.
"Hello, Jack," Sloane says, and his voice had not changed at all. Still the same rough, gravely voice you remember from years underground, when the dull gleam of Sloane's eyes and the rasp of his voice had been the only things in your world.
You start a little as Sloane's hand touches your elbow. The intimacy somehow seemed gauche, given the situation. Then again, anything up to and possibly including fire and brimstone would have seemed gauche, given the situation. Given your situation.
He is not Lucifer, you think, a familiar mantra. Sloane does not have that scope of greatness in him, no matter the gluttony of his conceit.
Some other poor fool, though - yes, yes, that fits.
Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it...
In all of the vast, sprawling writings of Milo Rambaldi, your name does not feature, not even once.
Of course, no names feature in Rambaldi's writings, per se, so expecting your own to be tucked away in an aside somewhere was always unlikely. Rambaldi, though - whatever else he might have been - had been diligent in faithfully transcribing the personages he foresaw, and they are easily identifiable: Sydney, Nadia, Irina, Arvin… even Emily had been there, her death predicted hundreds of years ago.
It strikes you as particularly sadistic that someone as innocent in all this as Emily could be required as a sacrifice to the faceless, silent hunger that characterises all things 'Rambaldi'. But it is also, in a way, expected: after all, who would demand the sacrifice of a rapist or murderer? The most you could expect was active indifference, with each heart weighted up against the others and found to be no more than meat, whatever its past transgressions.
You worked out long ago that this makes you a lot safer than anyone could ever suppose. (An unfair universe gives bastards an advantage.)
So, for all her good works, Emily ends her life as a footnote in Sloane's journey, several more pages devoted to the fallout from her death than to the entire sum of her life. Rambaldi, it appears, did not find that as relevant.
Nadia has several tomes - in pieces, of course, and scattered in secretive places around the world - devoted to her, charting her every move from birth to adulthood. There is, you suppose, a tome somewhere spelling out in gruesome detail exactly how she died, and why this was vital to Rambaldi's end-game. (Of course it was; how best to turn Sloane away from everything else?)
Irina has a few volumes penned in her honour as well, although you suspect a greater number exist than have ever been recovered. You know her well enough to know that those would be the ones she would go after first; the ones who posed the greatest threat to her. (The possibility of someone - anyone - having such information on you leaves you winded, reeling from a hypothetical blow.) Sloane's rises and falls, the numerous peaks and nadirs of his existence - each more pronounced than the last - are in there somewhere, pulled apart under his watchful, avaricious gaze.
And Sydney - of course, there is information on Sydney, an entire mountain of it. You are briefly tempted - always briefly, but occurring time and again - by that thought; by the heavy, warm feeling of knowing precisely what will happen to your child - now, tomorrow, forever. It is more intoxicating to you than the strongest drink could be, this soft, suffocating certainty.
(It is enough to make you wonder why Sloane never made any real effort to induct you into Rambaldi's mysteries. He must have known - how could he not? - the appeal such certainty would have held for you; the draw such assurances would have.
There are no motives you can reason out of his actions, save greed. Arvin had always been the possessive sort - in faith, it appears, most of all.)
In this endless, sprawling monolith of self-obsession and hubris, of you, Jack, there is no mention.
Many years ago, in the middle of a stupid argument with Sloane that achieved nothing, he turned to you and said, with no small measure of condescension, "you have no idea of the responsibilities I bear, Jack. This isn't something I can walk away from. I have been chosen." The light in his eyes had been blinding in its fanaticism.
It is not the first time that you wonder if you have lost your best friend to madness.
How simple and how terrifying a thought that had been, back then, to have someone as bright and as sensible as Arvin turn to you and proclaim that he had a pre-ordained, nay, divine purpose. Oh, he did not say that; he didn't need to. You could read it plainly.
You have always been able to read it: the bright eyes, brittle and fixed as glass beads in a doll's glossy, lifeless face; the abstracted expression - a little preoccupied, a little superior; and, always, the soft, solicitous voice - the trappings of concern. He could afford to show such emotion for you, could he know? He had always felt that the normal rules governing friendships did not apply to him, that somehow he could be as expansive and as demanding of his love as he pleased, and that you would follow his example.
Even when you had gained the upper hand, his attachment to you had remained.
It is perhaps erroneous to attribute all these feelings to possessiveness; doubtless Sloane had felt some genuine friendship for you some time ago; as you had for him, in truth. Doubtless also that he did not view his attachment to you in such plain terms, but couched it in his familiar flowery language - "you and Sydney are my salvation," you remember from one particularly memorable occasion.
Most people would have said those words humbly, even repentantly.
Not Arvin Sloane.
(You wish you'd burned the damned manuscripts when you'd had the chance.)