Title: Setting the Scene

Author: Robin icyfire@webtv.net

Disclaimer: Not mine. I play with them and then set them back in the sandbox, unharmed. Not making any money. Just having fun.

Summary: An interrogation brings back memories.

PG-13 for violence and implied adult situations.

Category: AU now, sort of spoilers for The Snowman

A/N: Okay, this was written a long time ago when spoilers first started coming out for Masquerade and what became The Snowman. They were wrong to a big degree. The interrogation was supposed to be brutal, and Laura was supposed to talk about her love for Jack and Sydney. Growl. That obviously didn't happen. I knew I had it wrong when I learned the interrogation was supposed to happen to a young Laura, but her cold "Jack Bristow was a fool!" took me by total surprise and ticked me off. At least the name was right.

As far as I know there is no spoilers for unaired episodes.

***

I smile as my fist connects with her face. A small snap lets me know that her nose has given way, has broken. A cool spray of her blood lands across my knuckles. Blood is like that. Hot for only a second as it leaves a body and then cold.

"Hello, Major," I say to her in our native tongue. She stares at me through ice-cold eyes burning with hatred. "I need some information, and I suggest you give it to me. Make it easy for yourself."

"And you?" she spits.

I rub my knuckles, taking away the evidence. "While I enjoy some sport every now and then, I prefer to enjoy it when I'm not pressed for time. So, yes, make it easy for me, too. As one old friend for another."

She smiles. "We were never friends, Alex."

I squeeze her jaw in the palm of my hand. She winces in pain, and anger flares in her eyes. Not at me. At herself, for showing the pain. "Oh, yes, my dear Major Irina Derevko, we were. Very good friends."

I remember how she looked at that party. She caught my eye, held my attention all night. Beautiful, even in her uniform. Looking so intense, passionate. Ready to take on the world for Mother Russia and Communism. Ready to marry the enemy because her country--because I--told her to.

We both moved quickly up the ranks. Her promotions earned for her excellent work in America. Most of mine were earned for being the man smart enough to recruit her. I did good work, but she was brilliant.

Jack Bristow never even suspected a thing. Never knew what had hit him. A chance encounter outside of the Library of Congress and she owned him. I laughed as I watched her lead him on a merry chase. I drank two bottles of Vodka and put my fist through a wall as I watched her take him into her bed for the first time.

I took her to my bed the following day. Pretended that she enjoyed it more with me more than with him. Ignored the brief look of disgust she gave her reflection as she rushed past the mirror. Smiled as she took a long, hot shower.

As for her joy at seeing Bristow outside of my apartment building, that was all part of the job. The job I had ordered her to do.

"You were my mentor, my boss. Not my friend. Never my friend," she answers me. She shows a hint of weakness in her voice. And a hint of steel. A voice speaking in American English.

I grin and rub her cheek. A look of loathing crosses her face, and I wonder how I missed seeing it all those years ago. "You owed me you loyalty. I created you."

She laughs and continues to answer me in English. "Created me? I created me. I studied hard to be ready. If you had not noticed me, someone else with the KGB would have." She leans forward in her chair, and for a moment her eyes are ablaze with a passion I have not seen in years. "You needed me, Alex. I never needed you."

I hit her again. For speaking in the wrong voice. She's speaking to me as Laura Bristow, a woman I hate. I want to hear Irina Derevko. I want to hear a woman who has been dead for many years.

Then, I hit her again for speaking a truth I did not want to hear. Did not want to admit. Will not admit. She needed me. I am the one who brought her into the fold! I'm the one who helped her to become one of the most admired agents in the KGB. Only, she made a mistake. She decided that she no longer needed me.

Satisfaction gleams in her eyes. She knows that for a brief moment she gained control of this interrogation, that she was leading me. I inhale some of the cold mist that pretends to be air in this warehouse, ignoring the burning of my lungs. I am in control. I've always been in control.

I sink down in front of her, leaning on the balls of my feet. My knees remind me that I'm not the young man I used to be, and I hate them for the reminder. I want back what was taken from me, but no one has that ability. At least, not yet.

"Tell me about Jack and Sydney," I say as if we are two old friends eating lunch together after accidentally meeting again after years of absence.

She stares at me for a moment. Then, she grins. "Why? Are they a threat to you now?"

My jaw clenches, but I don't give her the satisfaction of an answer. Finally, she laughs and leans back in her chair. "You know as much as I do, Alex. You were the invisible ghost in my marriage. You know how good of an agent Jack is, and you know how brilliant Sydney is. You saw her the night she was born. Watched her grow up. At least until you made me give them up," she spits out.

I remember her telling me that she was pregnant, an unexpected and unwanted part of her assignment. Her face had been cool, uninterested, but her hand had rested protectively over her stomach. "You should have aborted her," I snarl out before I think.

She shoots out of the chair, and my flesh stings as her fist connects with my jaw. I backhand her, making her fall to the floor. Leaning on one elbow, she looks up at me with fury. Blood drips from her nose, mingling with the blood flowing from her busted lip. Still, she manages to look beautiful.

"I couldn't do that her," she answers. "I couldn't do that to him." She wipes her hand across her nose; she stares at the blood on her hand. "I loved them. I couldn't help but love them." She looks back at me, and eyes finally reflect a broken spirit. "You should have let me stayed, Alex. I wouldn't have told anyone anything."

I stare down at her, letting her see my rage, my fury. "You could have stayed, Irina. You just had to watch Jack and Sydney die first."

She shakes her head and closes her eyes for a moment. When she looks back at me, the defiance is back. "What's the matter, Alex? Still jealous of Jack? After all these years?"

I begin to hit her, and this time I don't stop. I let my anger control me. Only for a moment, but long enough. "Stop!" Boris yells. "We are done filming. Excellent work," he says as he turns to tell something to the young man at the computer.

Irina stumbles up, wincing. I have hurt her, and anger and relief fight within me. She looks up at me with no expression on her face, and then her fist hits me again, breaking my nose. The blood runs down my chin. "I think you enjoyed that a little too much, Alex," she tells me in our mother tongue, finally leaving Laura Bristow behind. "Don't forget who is in charge here."

She turns her back to me. I wipe the blood from face onto my sleeve. It mingles with spots of her blood. I think of my life, and how it has mingled with hers since that party. Mingling but never really becoming one.

"You'll make sure that my daughter will get that, Boris? When's she looking for information about 'The Man'?" She snarls the words. She hates being known as "The Man". She hates hiding behind me, even if she accepts the necessity of it.

"Oh, yes," he answers with his usual grin. "We are burning it on CD right now. Excellent performance; It should have the effect you are wanting."

"Good," she answers. "I must commend you for your choice of location for our little scene." Boris grins at her. She turns and begins to walk past me.

I grab her arm, enjoying the feel of her bruised flesh beneath mine. "How much of it was a performance?"

She steps close to me. I smell the iron scent of blood mixed with her perfume. "Why, Alex? Still jealous of Jack after all these years?" She grins. "I did enjoy him in my bed."

She pulls away from me, and I let her go. As she walks away, she smiles at me over her shoulder, knowing that I will punish her for that comment about Jack later. In our bed. The bed she has shared only with me for 20 years.

I watch her and wonder. She's in control of our operation, but I wonder about her loyalty to it. Her loyalty to me. Others could believe all to be a performance, but not me. I saw the hint of truth in her eyes.

I never questioned her desire to bring Sydney to us. We need her. But Irina was pushing for Jack to come, too.

She sometimes forgets how well I know her. How well I knew Laura Bristow, and how I watched her slowly take over Irina Derevko. The Irina Derevko I once knew no longer even exists. No matter how hard she tries to pretend otherwise.

I remember. I remember the smile on her lips when Jack arrived to pick her up after a day of being mine. The radiance of her face the day she became his bride. I remember all the laughter I heard through headphones. The quiet moments. The loud arguments. And the moans of passion.

I remember that protective hand over a flat stomach. I remember hearing earnest conversations about diaper rash shared between new mothers. More laughter, this time mixed with a young girl's. Of watching her on a television in a tiny van as she dumped a bowl of Jell-O on her kitchen floor and danced with a little girl who looked just like her. And the softly whispered I love yous every night at bedtime.

I want to believe that Laura Bristow is dead. She is dead. She died 20 years ago when I pulled her out of that assignment. She is dead; Jack Bristow has no hold on her anymore. A car, a slick road, and the truth made sure of that.

Most of the time I believe it. But then--

He'll come. Not for her, but for Sydney, and I may just risk Irina's wrath and kill him anyway. Just to be sure.

***

The End!

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