AN: Spoilers for the series finale. This story contains some macabre humor and a dash of Jack/Nadia (the WowWrongBadHot pairing, as it was commonly called in my circle). While the vast majority of my Alias stories were betaed by the fabulous Laura, this one was betaed by Yahtzee63 in the midst of mourning so many of our fair friends.
"I must say, Jack, that I'm impressed."
He glanced over at Nadia's lithe form, the glimmer of her white dress barely cutting through the gloom. "Strangely, I'm not exactly surprised to see you here," he commented, looking back at Arvin, who was still pinned beneath part of the ceiling. "You aren't upset, I take it?"
She shrugged, and sat next to him on a piece of fallen column. "I'm past taking revenge for fallen parents. Rather silly, now that I look back on it." She gave him a bittersweet smile. "It's such a shame that you had to sacrifice yourself. Sydney is probably devastated."
He kept his gaze firmly on Arvin's struggles. The dark blurred the edges of her features, morphing her visage alternatively from Irina's to Sydney's. Only her voice was hers, and her voice was the safest focus. "She has her family. They'll anchor her while she grieves."
She nodded slowly. "I wanted to see Isabelle grow up. But maybe this is better," she mused, "I'd rather not see another generation go into the family business. I'm glad that I didn't leave any children behind."
Seeing Nadia with a child would have been infinitely different from watching Sydney with Isabelle. He was inundated, suddenly, with memories of Sydney's babyhood: late night feedings, baths in the sink, her tiny little dresses and socks. Nadia was too much like Irina to not feel any kind of connection to her, and as he could not claim fatherhood, she was rather dangerous to be around. His attraction to her had been strong in life; it did not seem to have faded in death.
His penchant for Derevko women was really rather fascinating, from a psychological perspective.
"I thought about leaving," she continued, shifting a bit closer. "But then I saw you were here, and I thought, 'Why not stay a while?' I was getting lonely." If the dead could look embarrassed, then she definitely did. "I should probably go and tell Mama that you're here, though. We talked. She seems rather relieved to be dead, to tell the truth."
Funny that Irina's real death would coincide with his. "Let her be for a while," he replied. "I don't feel any urge to track her down, at the moment." She would come and find him, like always. While the wait would have bothered him in life, he didn't particularly care, anymore. Why should he? He had an eternity to figure that woman out.
"I thought you might say that."
As the silence stretched on, he took to watching her instead of his former best friend. She was watching her father's struggles with the same regard a cat might give a mouse. Her body took on a languid, feline cast that he recognized as Irina's, but there was a caution in her expression that was entirely her own. "I tried to stop him," she admitted, feeling his gaze on her. "After he killed me, I followed him… he could see me, for some reason. He wouldn't listen to anything I said. He acted so… condescendingly paternal."
"He loved you."
"He loved Rambaldi more," she said matter-of-factly. "I never really understood the attraction. If I wanted prophecies and conspiracies, I would have read the damn DaVinci Code."
"That's my silver lining," he said unexpectedly.
"Never hearing anything about Dan Brown again. That's my silver lining. I forbid you to mention his name in my presence ever again."
She laughed, surprised and joyous that he had made a joke. "Noted." Her hand slipped over his in a cool caress. "Someday, we'll go and haunt him."
His lips quirked up in a small, barely noticeable smile, and he let the words slip out. "It's a date."
"I think he's really beginning to realize that his position is permanent," Jack said thoughtfully. They stood on either side of Sloane, listening to his weeping with cool detachment.
She nodded. "He's praying."
"He's praying to Rambaldi," he replied, his voice heavy with irony.
"I wouldn't have expected anything less."
"Do you ever get bored? Or feel ashamed?" she asked him one day, lounging on a clear section of floor.
"For watching Arvin suffer?" He thought about it for a minute, before answering with a definite, "No."
"Thank you for justifying my continuing glee."
They exchanged smiles, his barely more than a quirk of his lips and hers wide and warm.
Being dead wasn't nearly as bad as he had imagined.
"You'd think he would have made provision for this." Nadia clucked in disapproval, perched in a small niche high above the floor. Jack wasn't entirely sure how she had gotten up there, but he wasn't about to ask. "Rambaldi should have added something in that potion about maintaining mental facilities."
"He seemed to be all about free will, though," Jack replied, leaning against a wall, tuning out Arvin's raving. "Sometimes I think all he wanted to do was test the purity of the human race."
"Checking to see if we could withstand temptation?"
"Exactly. But to make it more interesting, he added pictures."
"He should have made you the Chosen One," she said, and they exchanged a glance.
He smirked. "If he had done that, this whole mess never would have gotten started. I would have retired years ago."
"Somehow I can't see you fishing on a dock," she mused. "Or sitting on a beach with a cocktail."
He sighed quietly. "You're right. But then, who knows the kind of person I might have become?"
From the look on her face, Nadia found that a rather scary thought.
"So, then they made me their chief."
"No. You're lying."
He gave her a pained look. "Nadia, I would never lie about the tribal customs of South America."
"As if. I don't believe you, not for a second." She settled back against the column with no regard to how much leg she was showing, her arms crossed stubbornly against her chest.
"If you don't believe that, you'll never believe what happened when Sydney was seven."
"If it involves a rocket launcher, two cases of glitter, and seven monkeys, then no, I won't."
"You're so cynical. You should work on that."
"Follow what I say, not what I do, huh?"
"I've been telling Sydney that for years."
She had been meandering around the edge of the same topic for days, now, and when she finally came out and said what she had to say, he wasn't entirely surprised.
"If circumstances had been different, would you have ever…?"
"You're the daughter of my erstwhile wife," he replied, and they exchanged measuring looks from across the room, Sloane lost in his delusions between them. "But the answer is yes."
If she was surprised or relieved, she didn't show it. All he saw was a calm façade. "Sydney wouldn't have taken it very well."
"I doubt anyone would have approved."
"True enough." She sat down, looking at him thoughtfully. "Well."
Neither of them moved any further. The truth was out. They had the time to deal with it.
He suddenly appeared beside her, a slight smile gracing his face. "Sydney has a son."
She returned his smile. "Named Jack, I would bet."
"You would be right." He glanced down at Sloane. "Any change?"
"No." They stood shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip. "You know, if anyone ever does free him, we won't be able to do anything."
"True. But consider the kind of life he would lead, after that discovery." His smile turned positively wicked. "What a discovery he would be: the immortal man. I imagine the global response would be… interesting."
She tilted her head, and began laughing quietly. "Do you think he would rejuvenate body parts, like a salamander? Or would he become the clichéd evil head in a jar?"
"I like the way you think."
"Don't you both look cozy," a familiar voice intoned, and they looked up to see Irina perched on the rock atop Sloane. She had her eyes on their clasped hands, but appeared to accept the change with equanimity.
If anything, Jack thought she looked serene. "Been awhile."
She shrugged, crossing her legs delicately and peering down at Sloane. "I had some things to think about. And I've been keeping an eye on Sydney and her family. I talked to her recently; we spent a while working out our differences."
Jack had let his sense of time slip, a bit, and the revelation that Sydney was apparently dead was a tad unsettling, although not as much as he had expected. "She was old at least, I hope?" he asked, squeezing Nadia's hand.
"Oh, yes. Went peacefully in her sleep, just as we wanted. Vaughn preceded her by about five years; we had a chat too."
"How are their children?" Nadia asked calmly.
"They're both retired and have grandchildren of their own," Irina said rather cheerfully. "We seem to have created quite a dynasty, Jack. There is one boy who is your spitting image, scowl and all. We're such a handsome family."
Jack had imagined many times how this reunion would go. This wasn't what he had pictured, but he found that he didn't particularly care. "We've looked in on them from time to time," he said, patting the floor on his free side. "But in some ways, staying here is so much more entertaining."
Irina smiled. "I can see that." She slid off the stone and took the space he had indicated. "May I stay for a while?"
Nadia peered around Jack at her mother. "I'd like that," she said honestly. "We never got to talk as much as I wanted."
"No, we didn't." Irina offered her hand to Jack, who accepted. "We're such an interesting family," she noted with dry humor, eyeing the small chain they had become. "I'm so glad that I'm a part of it."
And, strangely, Jack agreed.
"Do you think Sydney will ever show up?" Nadia mused aloud.
Isabelle snorted, seated beside her. "If she comes, Dad comes too."
"Too much lovey-dovey nonsense," Katya agreed. "They might feel sorry for him."
"I'm not so sure about that," Irina interjected from atop Sloane's rock, a young boy clasped in her arms and playing with her hair: her great-great grandchild, killed in a car accident. "Sydney had a lot of rage."
"But too much compassion," Katya sniffed. "She'd never let us haunt him in the way we've become accustomed. Now, Isabelle here…"
"I was a hell raiser," Isabelle said cheerfully. "I quite approve."
"If you can't be a good example…" Katya began, and everyone else in the rather crowded room finished the phrase:
"Be a terrible warning."
Jack liked to think that it was the family maxim.
Jack found her stretched out on a sandy beach somewhere in the Caribbean, Vaughn talking nearby with a large crowd of people who could only be descendants, judging by their looks. Sydney looked up as her father took a seat beside her, and immediately let loose a welcoming grin. "Dad! I had hoped that you would show up," she said, shifting herself into a seated position and grabbing his hand. "I would have come for a visit, but…"
He understood. "A bit too dark, I know."
She sighed and nodded. "I like it out here in the sun. And now that I don't have to worry about sunburns or cancer or blinding myself…"
"I only want you to be happy," he assured her, and pressed a kiss to her brow. "Isabelle says hi."
"She always was one for the macabre," Sydney chuckled. "How is Sloane doing, by the way?"
"Oh, ranting. We try to find the best ways to scare him, sometimes. It wouldn't be right to let him get bored," Jack said with his usual stoic mien, but was inwardly amused. "Nadia just likes to watch, of course, but your mother sometimes spends hours just staring at him from the top of his rock. Apparently he finds it unnerving."
"I can't imagine why," she replied dryly.
"Although, as your granddaughter Rose found out, a simple 'boo' serves almost as well."
"I'm surprised he hasn't gone into a coma from shock." A girl of about eight years ran across the sand and threw herself into Sydney's lap; she regarded Jack with wise eyes. "This is Greta," Sydney said in introduction. "I think she's your… hmmm. Lots of 'greats', anyway."
Jack solemnly offered the child his hand, just as solemnly she shook it. "Something about Rambaldi's potion keeps him from crossing that edge," he told Sydney. "And even if he did, we would still keep an eye on him."
"You always did like being busy." She smiled, and whatever sore subject her line might have referred to in life seemed completely absent.
They'd been dead for a long time. Life didn't matter anymore.