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Title / Prompt: Price / 001: Black
Character: Irina Derevko
Pairings: Sloane/Irina, Jack/Irina
Fandom: Alias
Word count: 1, 202
Rating: Uh... say PG13?
Disclaimer: Alias belongs to people who are not me. Also, this fic written while on painkillers, so I blame any gaps in logic, or other crap, on the meds, and the hurts that made me take said drugs. You have been warned. :)


She slips from shadow to shadow, a wraith in the night. She has walked in places far darker and far stranger than this, from the nightmare of Sovogda to the far darker corridors of death and madness.

With such footsteps behind her, this is- it could be- almost nothing.

In a quiet suburban neighborhood where the only sound is that of a soft breeze ruffling the trees, she slips around the back of a large, well-kept house. Gloved hands touch the smooth fence boards, and then she vaults over. She could almost laugh for the ease of this, the path she now takes.

But Irina hasn't laughed much since Sovogda.

She finds the backyard strangely peaceful, with its neat flowerbeds and vegetable garden, clusters of roses and rows of tomatoes and carrots.

She remembers when this would have been only as easy as it seemed, remembers when she would have laughed, for the simple ease and joy of this. For the practice of her craft, for the knowledge that tonight nothing can stop her, that nothing can touch her.

Remembers it, but wonders if she will ever feel it again.

Too much has touched her now.

She looks from window to window, door to door, assessing her options. The back door is too obvious... but perhaps not, too.

She has the advantage of knowing her enemy, of knowing his doubts and his fears. Over thirty years of memories turn in the back of her mind- He is one of those she kept an eye on even after she was gone and Laura was dead- and she nods to herself as she eases the wire cutters, a specialized tool with one edge wrapped in rubber, from her pack. Slowly she digs her fingers into the earth at the edge of the back patio, until her fingers brush the power line. She takes the cutters, slides the power line between them, and twists once, sharply.

Her hands search the ground for another line, denoting the presence of a backup alarm, and she shakes her head when she does not find one.

Sloppy.

For the first time she begins to wonder about the ease of this, for such negligence is hardly like him.

She sets the thought aside as she steps to the door. Any reasonably competent burglar could break in now, and she certainly is that. A few moments' work and she is inside at last, glass tinkling softly to the carpet at her feet.

Irina holds her gun arm extended as she steps into the kitchen, the lack of outdoor security giving a clue as to what she is likely to find here.

He is only a silhouette seated at the table, and he, too, holds a gun in his hands.

She resists the urge to shake her head in exasperation, nowhere near foolish enough to take her eyes off him.

"Hello, Arvin. Drop the gun."

"Irina." She hears the safety click on again, then the gun skids across the table towards her.

"You disappoint me, Arvin. I expected that you would have come much farther than this by now."

"I'm trying," he says, but she only shakes her head.

"You are wasting time. Nadia's time."

"I would do anything I could- anything, Irina!- to help her."

"Would you?" Irina challenges. "I only see you pursuing your own agenda. Nothing has changed since Sovogda, nothing."

"Perhaps. But I'm not the only one, am I?" He smiles thinly. "I know what you're doing, Irina."

"No," she says, "you don't. Understand this, Arvin- my patience is not without limits."

"Everything I've done, has been in pursuit of a cure for Nadia."

Irina shakes her head again. "You truly believe that, don't you? You are a fool, Arvin. I know who you're working with. Understand this, also- I will not see one daughter sacrificed to save the other. I will not."

"Irina- I would never-"

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. But they would, and that is unacceptable. Do you understand?"

"Yes," he says at last. "Yes, I understand. I give you my word, I would never see Sydney hurt again-"

"Your word," she replies. "Your word? Empty promises are no use to me, Arvin. Particularly promises broken long before you gave them to me."

"Irina, please-"

"No. Prophet Five uses you, and you allow it. They waste Nadia's time, and you allow it. No more. You are in a position to help her. Do it. No promises, and no more excuses. She is your daughter, Arvin, however much I might lament that fact."

He smiled sadly. "We had something, together. You know that."

He rises from the table, slowly moves around it.

Irina merely raises an eyebrow. "Nadia," she says, "is the only good that came from that night."

"Irina." He grasps her shoulders. Her grip tightens on the gun. "It's good to see you again."

"Your security," she says softly, "is rather lacking."

"My present situation does not lend itself easily to stronger measures," he tells her.

Irina nods. "You overreached yourself. You realize that."

"I believed, if I gained Elena's trust-"

"Don't," Irina says, her voice harsh and low, "even think to take me for a fool. You knew exactly what you were doing, and your motives were far from altruistic."

"Perhaps. But it's the ends that matter most now."

He kisses her, rough and hard. Irina could do anything now, could raise the gun, pull the trigger, and he would never even have time to realize... But she doesn't. He still has his uses.

"Don't disappoint me again, Arvin," she says as she pulls away.

It's a strange partnership they've had off and on since she escaped CIA custody. Sometimes she thinks that he reads too much into what they share; at others, she believes that he uses her as much as she uses him.

He had loved his wife, and she still loves her husband. This is only something that happens now and again- when it is anything at all. Sometimes it isn't.

Emily never knew, because she would not have understood. Jack knows now, because things are different now. He knows what she does and why.

Thirty years ago she swore she would never let Arvin Sloane touch her again. But that was before he could reach their daughter, and she couldn't. Before he had the means to save Nadia, and she did not.

Some things are worth any price.

*

"He has no idea, does he?"

The hospital parking garage is dimly lit, but she has spotted him even before he speaks, leaning against the rail.

"Of course not."

"I didn't think so. Your ability to deceive is as great as ever."

She chuckles softly. "Naturally." Then she sobers. "How is she, Jack?"

"The same. I'm sorry."

"I want to see her."

He nods. "Yes. The shift is changing now. We'll have about ten minutes."

Ten minutes. It is not so very long, but she is learning to live her life in these stolen instants, handfuls of moments when she can reach out and touch those she truly loves.

No, Irina thinks, as she takes Nadia's still hand in her own several precious minutes later. Arvin doesn't have any idea at all.
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Irina Derevko

March 2015

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