By Nomad
April 2009

Summary: Set during season three. Irina contemplates how best to handle Arvin Sloane.
Spoilers: Up to 3x12 "Crossings".
Disclaimer: Characters, settings and concepts belong to J.J. Abrams; borrowed for entertainment value, not profit.

Emily Sloane's death had upset a lot of carefully lined dominoes.

Irina had not held any particular fondness for the woman; she was a lapdog, bred to look decorative rather than survive against the rigours of the real world. But Arvin's affection for her had formed the one tether that reliably constrained his actions. Irina had used it against him before, their brief and loveless affair surrounded by an edgy acknowledgement of the possibility for mutual destruction that required nothing so crass as overt blackmail.

It had been her plan to use it again in a much more high stakes game. Emily was sheltered but far from stupid, and her disapproval would weigh on Arvin more than any other factor. Irina had worked hard to separate him from his Alliance backers and break him apart from Sydney and Jack, burning all his bridges so that going on the run with her would be his only option. He would never have left Emily behind - but to bring her, he would have to introduce her to the truth of his world, and from that moment on Emily's conscience would become a burning fuse.

If forced to choose between Emily and his quest, Arvin would pick his wife. It was the pragmatic decision - pursuit of artefacts could be shelved until a later time, a wife was not so easily re-won - but his gift for self-delusion would allow him to believe he was sincere. He would hand over his Rambaldi collection to Irina and walk away. Not forever... but for long enough.

It had been the perfect plan. Until one stray bullet had ruined everything.

Arvin had walked away, but in the wrong direction. He'd gone questing for new meaning in his life, and found the one truth that Irina had done everything to keep from him.

The existence of their daughter.

She'd known as soon as she'd learned the truth about the prophecies surrounding her daughters that she must ensure that Arvin never, ever learned there was a child out there that he could lay claim to.

Because Arvin already had a tendency towards grasping possessiveness of things he had much less right to consider his own.

He'd always desired Irina's husband - not in his bed, though she didn't doubt he would have taken that route if Jack had been amenable; Arvin was nothing if not an opportunist when it came to seizing intimacy. But what he truly wanted was Jack's... not love, precisely; that was too simple a cliché - and something that in truth Arvin already had, even if Jack would never admit as much. What he wanted was to be Jack's focus. Present in his thoughts, a constant consideration even if it had to be in a negative way.

Sydney too, Arvin had adopted as his own, in a manner that had always set Irina's teeth on edge. It was that which had allowed her to set up the affair between them, a distasteful and ultimately futile attempt to secure a second channel of information in the event that Jack left the CIA as he'd planned to. Arvin was not one be lured away from his wife by a simple taste for the forbidden or the promise of sexual adventure... but that twisted desire to play the role of Sydney's father, to steal a vicarious glimpse into the one area of Jack's life that remained sealed to him, had been the necessary temptation.

Irina had sought to bind him to her - and succeeded in a far more permanent way than she'd ever intended. She supposed if there was any small favour in the ugly circumstances surrounding her extraction and Nadia's birth, it was that Arvin Sloane had never had the chance to witness her second pregnancy and do the calculations for himself.

But now he knew.

In the months she'd been preoccupied with the Covenant and their capture of Sydney, Arvin had wriggled his way free from all the constraints she'd put on him: removing his most-wanted status, rebuilding lines of communication with the CIA. Now that Sydney and Jack were restored to their former positions, he was free to renew his attempts to worm into their lives.

And therein lay the true danger. Arvin didn't just want Nadia, he wanted both Irina's daughters. In his determination to make himself a vital cornerstone of their worlds, he would do everything in his power to bring them together.

And every possible interpretation of Rambaldi's prophecies agreed that if that happened, one or both of them would die.

Somehow, Arvin had to be stopped.

Killing him was an option Irina had considered, but it held the risk of galvanising Jack. Working with her husband again had proved to her his feelings still ran deep despite everything she'd done to him, and she didn't fool herself that Arvin's betrayals had been any more grievous. If Arvin was killed, Jack would want to know why - and that trail would lead him to Nadia.

If Jack learned of Nadia's existence, his overriding impulse, even stronger than anger over the affair, would be to unite Sydney with her sister. He refused to believe in Rambaldi, and wouldn't accept talk of prophecy as a reason to keep them apart.

So Jack must never learn. Irina had to break the bond of trust between him and Arvin before it could start to grow back.

She knew Arvin could never be convinced to give up his quest to gain her family's affections. But that very covetousness left him prone to the possessive jealousy that she'd exploited before. All she had to do was remind him that if it came down to a battle between the two of them over Nadia, Jack would take her side, not his.

Convincing Jack to threaten Arvin's life ought to make that point nicely. The next time Jack called on her for assistance in protecting Sydney, she would extract the promise of an assassination in return.

Of course, it wouldn't do to handle it herself. Jack would be too suspicious of her motives for going after Arvin at this stage in the game. She would have to send a proxy in her stead.

Irina smiled to herself.

She'd always wanted an excuse to introduce her husband to Katya.