Risk

Just one of the many meetings between Jack and Irina in the years Sydney is missing. Irina's sick. Jack worries about her and their mission.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

AN: Randomly saw a few episodes from season two recently and remembered how much I love Jack and Irina together. I have huge gaps in my Alias knowledge, and I question my ability to write spy fic that isn't completely ridiculous, so feel free to point out anything that's wrong. Thanks for reading.

--

and the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more

--

He's pretending to read the German newspaper he picked up at the train station, the occasional word striking at his attention like a flashbulb, while his eyes and his mind drift elsewhere. She's late. She almost always is, but it still unnerves him. He's been sitting in a nondescript café somewhere in the heart of the former Eastern sector of Berlin for nearly half an hour. It's a place Irina would feel comfortable in, he thinks – and presumably she does, as she was the one to call the meeting – but he feels exposed, out-of-place here. He can feel the eyes of the wait staff on him. His coffee's long gone cold.

The door creaks, a bell chimes as she walks in. He knows it's her without looking up, like there's an extra sense that connects them. She brushes his arm as she walks past him, the most intimate greeting he can expect in public. He feels the comfort of this routine settle over him, a gesture of normality in these dark times, and then he sees her face as she sits down across from him and his stomach clenches.

He can count on one hand the number of times he's truly seen Irina's composure disturbed. She always maintains perfect control, always masks her thoughts with an expression of confidence and the knowledge that her secrets will always remain her own. Any display of emotion is calculated. This is why after 20 years he still only knows about her what she chooses to reveal herself. And now exhaustion and resignation and something else – something worse – are etched into the lines of her face. Her eyes are too bright, her movements too heavy. He can see the effort that just being here is costing her.

Fear tugs at him when he realizes she could have brought him here for an entirely different reason. Maybe she didn't have information from another contact or plans for another recon mission...maybe she had something to tell him about Sydney, something final.

"What's wrong?"

Her lips twitch slightly as if she's holding back a smile. "Nothing."

So it's not Sydney. But there is something. She orders tea but makes no move to drink it, merely wrapping her hands loosely around the mug. A lemon slice floats on top like something dead. She watches him watching her and blows out a breath. "I'm just feeling a little under the weather, that's all."

Her tone is firm, indicating that that's as much of an answer as he's going to get. They know her here; they won't be bothered. There are more important things to discuss.

"Ilya Semyonov is in town." She paused to see if he recognized the name. "He's a major player in the underworld, has extensive connections to criminal organizations throughout the world. People, dealings, secret alliances – he knows a lot about what goes on behind closed doors, and he's known for monitoring and recording the activities of the underworld at large on an unprecedented level."

"You think he has information relating to Sydney?"

"My contact is sure he has something – maybe helpful, maybe not. The circumstances surrounding her...death and her relationship with me are enough to make her a subject of interest. There's a possibility his surveillance has turned something up that we haven't seen before."

They lapse into silence. He thinks about how many fool's errands they've gone on before, always turning up the same information and being driven in a maddening circle, never closer to the truth. The past year (13 months, 5 days, almost 20 hours since that moment) has not been kind to either of them. They're sinking resources and lifetimes into a mission that just drags them deeper, buries them in a black hole they cannot hope to escape. The danger of working together has long been brushed aside. It is too hard to care about these things now. And the business relationship, born out of a need for answers and vengeance, quickly became personal. They both needed something more. And there is even trust, understanding, and, yes, love – nothing complete, because neither can give the other everything, but it is enough.

They know so little of each other, and so much.

He thinks this is another useless grasp for information that simply doesn't exist. But he (they) will always take the chance that this time they will find something real, and the world will no longer be shattered. It is the one thing to cling to besides her warm body on nights too far apart. "What's the plan?"

She outlines it quickly. They will act tonight. Semyonov is using a house in Zehlendorf, conveniently isolated by a swathe of forest. The trees will give them cover coming and going; the safe house can be reached on foot (a long walk, but safe) and the forest will make them virtually untraceable. Her man on the inside has control of security. The cellar door will be left unlocked for them, and they will use the back staircase to access the second floor and Semyonov's personal database.

"Semyonov relies mostly on surveillance security, not manpower. Any guards stay close to him, and if we're lucky he'll be out of the house tonight. My man will loop all the video feeds – he guarantees us ten minutes – and we have all the access codes for the computer. If something goes wrong, the fire alarm will be pulled to warn us so we can get the hell out of there."

"This seems too easy."

She nods. "I know. If everything goes as planned, it will be easy."

"Famous last words," he says, with a slight smile. But the whole situation feels off to him. Too many things can go wrong on a mission like this, and having Irina not up to full-strength doesn't help matters. She's pale, her body filled with tension, and he thinks he can see tremors rippling through her body every few minutes. She is obviously underplaying whatever's wrong with her. If it comes down to a fight and her senses or reaction times are even a little bit slow, it could cost them everything.

"Are you sure you're up to this?"

He's relieved when her eyes snap up to meet his with their usual resolve. "Semyonov doesn't stay in one place for long. We need to do this now."

"I understand. I just think it's unwise to further jeopardize the success of a mission like this by ignoring any physical...limitations you might have at the moment."

Irina is bristling now, her hands clenched so tightly around the mug of cold tea he's sure she'll break it. She growls, "And you haven't gone on missions when you were less than completely fit for duty? This is part of our job, it's what we do."

They stare at each other for a long moment, testing how hard the other is willing to fight. He knows she won't back down, knows he should trust her judgment even if he disagrees. They have become more reckless in the past year, more comfortable with courting death, but neither of them is desperate enough to doom a mission before it's begun. And the argument has brought back her fire; maybe if he can keep her angry during the mission, everything will be fine. This thought amuses him – their tempers are both sharp, and flares of anger are already a given.

Her gaze is steady, unbending. "I know very well what's at stake here, Jack. I'm ready."

"Then let's go."

They stand as one. He lets her past to lead the way out into evening, and again she brushes against him in a familiar movement. This time he feels the heat radiating from her, unnaturally, perhaps dangerously, high, and he feels sick at the thought of what might happen.

He grips her arm (like a furnace) and holds her back. "Irina..."

"Jack." It's too late; she's intent on carrying out the mission. Her eyes are set, but she senses his worry and squeezes his hand briefly. She releases herself and walks out into the dying light. He can only follow.

--

They say little during the trek through the forest, and the woods, as if discerning the sobriety of their movement, mirror their quietness. This only increases Jack's feeling of foreboding.

They are both armed, and he insisted on bringing a few small charges to set along their way to the database in case they are compromised. They are tiny, little more than smoke and sparks, but they might provide enough of a distraction to make a run for it.

The trees begin to thin around them, and suddenly they can see the outline of a building before them. Both hesitate, stopping within the last meters of safety behind the treeline, searching out each other's faces in the dark at precisely the same moment. Something must be said.

Irina opens her mouth, wavers, settles for, "As soon as the cameras pick us up in the clearing, the video will be looped. Ten minutes."

And so it begins.

They run. Through the cellar door, hurrying up the old staircase. The house is too silent, and each step seems to echo too loudly – it is impossible to balance speed and caution, so they just move. Jack taps small circles of explosives into place (under the railing, above his head) as Irina leads.

The room with Semyonov's database is just ahead. One last charge laid in the doorframe. It is a large room – two entrances and a wall of windows add to the feeling of exposure. The screen of the computer is lit up, as if waiting for them. Jack is already entering the codes Irina gave him, slipping in the disk to start the file transfer. Irina prowls between the two doorways, listening and watching intently for any hint of danger. Minutes pass, and both are acutely aware of the time. Three minutes left, and the copying is finished. Irina is beside him now; he gives her the disk to stow inside her jacket and moves to erase the computer's recent history.

The unmistakeable click of a gun being cocked, assuredly levelled at them, breaks into the calm of the room.

And then, too late, the fire alarm goes off.

--

More to come. Reviews would be awesome.