Title: Loving A Lie

Author: Robin (icyfire)

Email: icyfire@webtv.net

Feedback: Please! I adore constructive criticism. :) Honest. But gushing praise is nice, too. Or a "I kind of liked it." I'm not picky.

Distribution: Outside of CD, please ask.

Disclaimer: While I wish I could call them mine, they aren't. I don't make any money off of them, either. A robot owns them. A bad robot. Oh, and the beginning of the alphabet--ABC.

Summary: During a late night visit, her past and present with Jack meet. How will it change her future?

Rating: PG-13 because of one (minor) bad word but mostly because it deals with adult issues. And some described violence.

Classification: Angst, Vignette

A/N: Set post-Q&A. This is set in the same universe as "A Consistent Love". You don't have to read that story to understand this one. You only have to know that Sydney's revelation at the end of Q&A was not a surprise to Jack.

This was written in response to the March challenge at Credit Dauphine. I'd never done anything like that and thought it might be fun. Then, I saw the vase . . ..

***

The ringing of the telephone drags me out of an incredible dream. I groan as the horrible noise echoes again. The glaring red numbers of my alarm clock tells me it is 2:52 in the morning. The phone demands again to be answered, and I give in, knowing it is a wrong number, but fearing that it is not.

"'ello?"

"I'll be there in five minutes," the voice on the other end tells me. He hangs up before I can respond.

I am now wide-awake. He's coming to visit me. I grin and hop out of the bed as if I've had enough sleep. I wonder why he's coming for a visit. I think Sydney's all right. His words were clipped, but he sounded more angry than upset or worried.

My hair refuses to respond as I brush it. Sighing, I toss the brush down. Jack will have to see me with flat hair on one side and softly curling hair on the other. The only time my hair ever has a hint of curl in it is in the morning, when I first get out of bed. Jack knows that; we laughed together about it the day after I cut my hair. The shorter length had allowed it to curl for the first time in my life.

An old memory surfaces. I shudder as I again hear her screams; feel her pull at my hair. Her death had been the hardest. Usually most of them never had the time to even know they were going to die. I left her body and went directly to the hair salon. Like I could cut away the memory of her agony. I told Jack I'd done it because my little girl took up too much time, that I needed an easier style.

The cold water I toss on my face helps me push away memories of Janet's death. She had been a nice woman. When I first got home with Sydney, she'd dropped by with a week's worth of dinners already prepared. Her words of wisdom about taking it easy, accepting that I could not do it all by myself helped, helped keep me sane those first few weeks following Sydney's birth.

After brushing my teeth, I grab my robe and head downstairs. Jack doesn't usually visit late at night, but sometimes it's easier for him to get away when everyone else is in bed. I haven't seen him since he told me that Sydney knew about my KGB past, that he'd confessed my involvement in assassinating CIA agents over twenty years ago. That he had let her know that her birth was a part of my assignment.

He hasn't been here since then. Since I'd given in to an impulse and kissed him. I expect that this visit will be painful; Jack will make sure that he has even more control, that he is colder, than usual. He'll keep me as far away from him as he can. I know it, even if I have a hard time accepting it.

As I get to the bottom of the steps, Jack knocks at the door. I smile as I open it. I notice that it is raining. It's a fine mist, but it's clinging to Jack's overcoat. I start to say hello but the anger in Jack's eyes stops me. "Jack?"

He storms into the foyer and then turns to stare at me with eyes disguised as daggers. "What do you know about Milo Rambaldi?"

I shut the door and struggle to recall why the name seems familiar. A former agent? No, I remember. A little. "He lived in the fourteenth-- fifteenth?--century. Worked for a pope. Jack, I honestly don't remember for whom he worked or what kind of work he did, but I think he was some kind of scientist, like Leonardo da Vinci." I smile. "All I can tell you for sure is that he didn't write any literature."

Jack's lips thin. He woke me up to see what I know about a man who died centuries ago, and he's upset that I don't know more? Even as I feel my own frustration rise, I admit that I'm thrilled he's here. That he's angry. He's alive. The Jack statue has become a living, breathing person again. How long will it last?

"Have you ever thought about destroying the US government?"

My eyebrows lift at the tone. It's been years since I've been interrogated. My lips twitch as I answer. "Well, yes, actually I have."

His jaw becomes even more taut, if that's possible. "I am serious."

I sigh and run a hand through my hair. "Well, so am I," I answer him with a raised voice. I cross my arms. "Jack, I'm a former KGB agent. You know that we often thought of ways to bring down the US government. Hell, we didn't only think about it, we actually took action!"

"Such as killing American agents," Jack snaps.

I look down, and I'm surprised to find that there is no blood on my robe. The wound from his words is deep this time. "Yes, Jack," I say instead of screaming. The pain is intense. "I killed CIA agents."

Jack's eyes close, as if he's hearing words he doesn't want to hear, doesn't want to face, but he's known that secret for twenty years. Not that we've ever discussed it. I made my confession on that icy road and that is the only time we talked about it. The only time.

"Have you thought about taking down the US government recently?" he asks. The words are flat, unemotional. Jack the statue can sometimes make Joe Friday from Dragnet seem like an emotional basket case.

I laugh. "Recently? No, I can't say that I have. I don't really pay much attention to politics anymore. Jack, what's going on here?"

He stares at me. Studies me. I shift uncomfortably on my feet and then get angry with myself for showing any nervousness. This is my home, and I've done nothing wrong. Not in twenty years. Jack can be angry with someone else.

Shaking his head, he reaches in his coat pocket and draws out a folded piece of paper. He hands it to me without saying a word. I open it, notice that there is more than one page, and then look at him when I see the red "Confidential" stamped across it. "Jack, this is--"

"Read it."

I hesitate and then begin to read. The words make no sense to me, and I'm not sure why Jack thinks I need to know what a long-dead man wrote. From the words in the document, it seems as if the US government and others are actually looking at this Milo Rambaldi as an honest-to-goodness prophet. I don't laugh, but I want to. Ah, what a government will waste money on.

They are taking the last passage they've translated as a threat. "This woman here depicted--" There is only words on the page I'm looking at, but I wonder what she looked like. Another Mona Lisa hiding her secrets behind a smile? "--will possess unseen marks." Unseen marks? Nice and vague. But then prophets never speak plainly; it's the only way they can remain prophets. "Signs that she will be the one to bring forth my works, bind them with fury, a burning anger. Unless prevented at vulgar cost, this woman will render the greatest power unto utter desolation."

I now see why the US intelligence community is taking this seriously. They always arrogantly assume they work for the greatest power, and they all are feeling vulnerable right now. Life for them became shaky last year. Feeling insecure makes people believe in fears they would laugh away normally.

I finish reading the first page, and I lose some of my arrogance as I read specific scientific data that Rambaldi lists as the unseen marks. Heart size? And is that DNA? A cold draft swirls around my feet, but I ignore it. I don't bother reading the second page.

I lift my shoulders and hold the papers loosely in my hand. "What does this have to do with me?"

Again, he examines me, and the coldness rises around me. The dread begins in the pit of my stomach. What is this? Does Jack think I'm the woman mentioned? Does the CIA? Am I going to be dragged back in? Back in to an endless cycle of questions and accusations? I am not sure I could survive it. Not again.

"Look at the second page," he says. Almost kindly. Almost as if he understands my fears.

More words are at the top, but a drawing is at the bottom. The drawing. I gasp when I see Sydney staring back at me. Then, I realize that it's not her. It's--

"You. That's a picture of you. I thought it was Sydney at first, too. But it is you." Jack steps closer to me. I step away. Please, don't hurt me, Jack. Please don't say that I'm being taken back in, not by you. Send strangers to arrest me, but not you. Not again.

He reaches for my hair instead of my wrists. The strands run through his fingers. He looks at my hair instead of me, and I want to know what he's thinking. I'm too afraid to ask.

"It's been a long time since you have had long hair." His fingers close into a fist. I feel a gentle tug on my scalp but he's not pulling. He would never hurt me. Not physically.

His eyes meet mine, and I know he's going to ask a question I don't want to answer. "Why did you cut it?"

I try to look down, but he doesn't let me. He pulls back on my hair, gently but firmly enough to keep me looking at him. Water blurs my vision, but I refuse to let the tears fall. I won't cry about it anymore; I've cried too much. The past is gone.

Then I hear her screams again. I see the look of horror and disbelief on her face as the knife slides in between her ribs. I feel her hand relax in my hair as her breathing stops. I close my eyes and try to drive the horrible images away. They never leave me.

I open my eyes and look into Jack's. "Haven't you ever wanted to cut one of them out of your mind?"

Jack jerks away as if I had slapped him. In a way I have. I've reminded him that we both are killers. He married me thinking that we shared the same goals, dreams, sense of humor and values. He didn't know that I understood the demands of his job, that I had my own job to do.

He didn't know that I shared his nightmares. He didn't know that I understand that they come back to haunt you in the middle of the night. He didn't know I knew that the dead never let you sleep easy.

"I hate you."

I don't cry out at his soft words. I don't respond at all. I can't. They hurt too much, even though I know he's speaking the truth. When I can breath again, I tell him, "You don't even know me."

"No, I don't." He turns away. The clicking of a clock fills the silence between us. He walks closer to a curio cabinet I have in the corner. He begins to study an item that I have in the center of it.

I tighten the belt on my robe. Crossing my arms, I allow myself a small shudder. Briefly, I wish that I could call up the cool detachment of my KGB self. Shame spreads through me at the thought.

"Devlin told me that you had demanded these and pictures," he says, nodding his head towards the center of my cabinet.

I try to concentrate, try to focus on what he is saying. I see the faces smiling at me. The vase. I had demanded it be brought from my life as Laura Bristow. "Yes, I wanted the vase, the beads, and pictures."

He looks over his shoulder. "Why?"

I know he's not asking about our family photos. "At the time, I thought it was because they reminded me of New Orleans." New Orleans. Music and laughter. Dancing in the streets. Following an impromptu parade. Making love to Jack for the first time.

I still remember his apology, his horror at his loss of control. "You deserved a soft bed and romance. Not the bench seat of a pickup truck," he had said. The sounds of the swamp had surrounded them. The warm, wet heat had covered their bodies.

Laura had only laughed. "Jack, you don't have to apologize. I was with you all the way. I could have said no. I didn't want to. I loved watching you lose that control of yours."

He had actually blushed. Not bright red. Not Jack. But Laura had seen the hint of red in his cheeks. "I wanted it to be special."

"It was," Laura had said, wrapping her arms even tighter around him. She had kissed his neck. "I was afraid that you might not want me. I mean inviting a girl to see New Orleans with you, and then getting separate hotel rooms screams 'I see you as a friend'." He had been the perfect gentleman until that night. Who would have thought he would lose control of his desire while watching the stars from an old two-toned truck borrowed from a friend?

"I didn't want you to feel pressured or rushed."

"You didn't rush me, Jack." She kissed him on the mouth. Lightly. "I love you." She had thought it was a lie. I had thought it was a lie. Years had to pass before I knew that I had spoken the truth that night. That Laura had been in control, and the KGB agent who thought herself in command had been ousted for the entire trip.

The Jack who hates me touches the glass separating him from the vase. "New Orleans."

"Yes," I whisper. I take a step towards him. The papers under my feet stop me. I look down at them, surprised to see them. I didn't realize that I had even dropped them. I reach down to pick them up.

"Why did you really keep them?" he asks, almost casually.