AN: Written shortly after Sloane's experiment with Rambaldi's printing press. Spoilers for "Taken."
Nine pages of ancient paper.
Eight blank pieces of paper.
I should have known she would pop up in this somehow. I've never met a woman more inclined to show up in matters that had nothing to do with her.
Well, that is stretching it more than a bit: after all, she had her name engraved on a block hundreds of years ago. The decorative work around it was rather nice, as I recall. Too bad it's buried inside this mass of metal, this awful printing press.
I remember the first time I saw her, in that awful bar off of Fifth Street. Jack had stayed home that night- he had not met her yet. He didn't have a reason to not study.
That bar was one of my favorites at the time. It was an excellent place to disappear for a few hours and meet a contact or three. Many of the men and women I became acquainted with there were essential when I began to build my empire.
In the end, she was no different. Scowling at the wall, downing vodka after vodka, Irina Derevko (who at the time obstinately called herself Laura Rivers) was quite a picture to behold. Dark eyes, dark hair, the most unforgettable personality (and when she was drunk enough, or amused enough, the most unforgettable smile).
We talked, that night. I had not yet met Emily, so such a woman was a relative godsend. Intelligent and beautiful- a deadly mixture.
But she, she said, was saving herself. She was partial to Jack's, she teased, laughing. Did I know any?
She must have known that I was his friend; she must have had extensive files on all of his friends. It would be insane to think that they are so fated that a random chat with a random stranger on a random "First-Week-In-America" drunken spree would turn out that way.
Actually, I told her, I did. Did she like men with curly hair?
She was very partial to curly hair. Was he academic?
Why yes, he was. (This entire conversation was, of course, done in the tried-and-true completely inebriated form. We both were highly amused.)
She was even more partial to curly-haired scholars. Very handy for her, and very unlucky for me.
I had asked her, that night, what she was searching for… besides a scholar named Jack.
She had looked almost sober for a moment. I am looking for my stolen peace. It was such a surprising statement; one I never expected to hear from a dark beauty's drunken mouth.
Your stolen peace?
Yes. She smirked, a flicker of an unknown element in her eyes. I miss my peace very much.
It would take me longer than a decade to realize that she missed her name, and that it one night my drinking buddy had revealed more to me through that simple slip of the tongue than she would in a decade of marriage to her scholar.
Vodka. It's everyone's undoing, even Russian spies.
Even in Greek it is the same. I remember Jack holding Sydney for one of the first times, a look of wonder in his eyes as he quoted an ancient line of Attic poetry. The word- I'm tempted to think of it as The Word, now- dripped off his tongue in an unknowing caress, and it took me years to realize why Laura had looked so unfathomably happy.
She had wanted a scholar, and she had gotten one, hadn't she? The look she had given me over their daughter's sleeping form (Emily and Jack were plentifully distracted by Sydney's tiny fingers and toes) had spoken multitudes, and in my case it became her mantra. I don't think I've ever met up with her anywhere without hearing it, aloud or unspoken. She has a way of drilling her eyes into yours, making it very, very apparent of what she wants you to take away from the moment.
Except for our one drunken night, she never took a shine to me. Or perhaps it was because of that.
Jack never knew, of course, although there was a time he might have laughed and appreciated the irony. Not so much now.
And except for that one fumbling kiss inside the bar, our range of touching became restricted to quick handshakes, or at the most a pat on the shoulder, or (later) physical aggression, as far from sexual as it comes. She has a wonderful right hook.
This, however, no one else knows. If I ever have a moment when I absolutely need to cause doubt in a Bristow's mind about anything, I'll just plant a seed or three about a drunken tumble Irina and I might have taken, before and possibly after her "death."
In any case, Irina had her scholar and her baby, but still not her name. I wonder if it truly irked her then, and if she found the trade fair- her husband and her baby for her name.
Not to mention a cell.
That's always been the way for her, hasn't it? Her name and a cell, or an alias and some semblance of a family. Not that her empire was much of a family, but at least she was the head of that household (although The Man, as an alias, lacked a bit of imagination in my eyes).
Not that Jack had ever had a problem with sharing power with her during those years, or even ceding it in turn. They were very fair when it came to things like that.
She's coming for me, soon. Knowing her, knowing Jack, they've already spoken, already plotted. They don't take abduction or harm of their only child lightly. They never have.
The Covenant will want this machine, and they will pay great amounts of money for it. What good is it to me now? I know the message, know it better than my own mind.
But the message, in undiluted physical form, approaches rapidly. She will disable me and betray me, and I will be left with a CIA cell, my name, and hers.
What message do you carry? I will want to ask her, knowing that this page is not the answer, but a further clue. What do you have for me?
Her fists will have no mercy, and her voice, eyes, hands, and actions will tell me what she has to say. Back off, she will tell me.
The nine sheets of paper fall gracefully into the small bin next to the window. The lighter in my hand ignites coldly. Her name goes up in flames.
What will she do when she finds out that her name has been stolen once again, and in the way she would consider more horrible than all else that has been done to her in the past? She's always been such a Rambaldi devotee. She coveted his works.
Only I understand the urge, and thus I claim the right to blaze her work and ambition to the ground, as an equal and a rival.
They will ask me, later, what the page said. What will I tell them?
I will say…
Peace, I will say.
It is, after all, the truth.
Her footsteps echo against the marble floors. She is angry, and she knows that I know things she will never be able to recover. I will not fight her, this time. She will break bones and blood vessels in her rage, and I will not lift a hand against her.
I don't need to. I have what she has always considered precious, even from the beginning, before both Sydney and Jack.
I have her name.
It is enough, for now.