sparsenicjade
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Thanks to belladonnalin and emmytie for the beta.

Working in intelligence meant that everything was given another name. It didn't really change what it was, but sometimes it made it sound better, more professional, or at least not as gory.

So, if Irina was raped while British agents were questioning her, that was interrogation . And if Jack Bristow wanted to touch her in ways she preferred not to be touched? Well, that was just covert ops.

***

Jack Bristow was a romantic. It was a stupid fucking thing to be in their line of work, but it made Irina's job a hell of a lot easier, so she wasn't one to complain.

As assignments went, it could have been worse. He was handsome, she could admit, objectively. Distinguished, really. And the risk was relatively low, at least for the moment. He wasn't bad at his job, he was just in love, and the two weren't particularly compatible.

He knew how to kiss, how to touch, how to fuck, so it wasn't even as if that part was all too heinous, but he was an assignment, that was all he could be, and it was necessary to feel some remove. The problem with feeling some remove during sex was that sex with remove was. . .screwing, fucking, fornicating, procreating, even, but it wasn't anything more.

Irina had never minded flings, had generally found them infinitely more convenient than relationships, but sex for the sake of getting off had never really been her thing. Jack liked making love to Laura, though, and Irina knew that rolling over and thinking of Russia was all part of the job description.

***

If someone had ever asked her, Irina would have told them she hadn't noticed things changing. She would have made it seem like she slipped, like the pressure of living with someone day in and day out was what weakened her boundaries, eroded away at her fences until Jack was solidly in her territory. She would have lied.

Maybe, maybe if Sidney asked she would said, "Yes. Yes, I remember the moment things changed," but only for Sidney, not even for Jack. She liked to believe that, anyway.

She did know the moment, remembered it with a clarity that she couldn't put to state secrets. She remembered because it had been the one time Jack hadn't touched her with the easy, fond abandon she'd gotten used to pretending she loved.

She had been sick, morning sick, and weak with it, scared by her body's traitorous response to basic biology. She was used to soldiering through flus and colds and even severe bacterial infections here and there. Sidney, though, had always been stronger than Irina in her own way. Irina wondered, occasionally, if Sidney had known, even then, that she was housed in the body of a woman who would betray her father. Irina wasn't given to melodrama: Sidney was just a precocious thing.

Irina would try and wait until Jack was gone to hide in the bathroom, get through the worst of it. Not that Laura wouldn't have let him see, but there were places Irina couldn't go, not even to maintain her cover. Jack came back one morning, though, and found her. He sat with her on the bathroom floor and never once touched her. He flushed the toilet, he brought her water, washcloths, even a new shirt, but he didn't try and help her change and it wasn't until she held out a hand that he moved to help her stand.

When her hand slid into his, that was the moment allowing him free reign over her body stopped being a covert op.

***

Jack never mentioned any change, and Irina was fool enough to believe that she was that good, that he had never even noticed, until years later. Until they were on either side of a glass wall, she in a cage and he not and he said, "Was it just the hormones? Was that what changed it?"

He looked at her as he asked it, looked at her and seethed the hatred that was more betrayal than actual dislike. She looked back and said, "I have never once been ruled by my hormones."

He didn't ask, didn't say, "Then what?" but she was there for their daughter, and she was too old, too used to this life to lie to herself, even if she could have lied to Jack; even if she probably should have.

She said, "You. . . You allowed me a choice. I didn't see it at first, didn't understand. My training, my government--" She shook her head. "I was a woman under Soviet rule, Jack. I didn't even recognize what you were offering until it was so plain I would have had to be blind to miss it."

Jack's eyes narrowed. She smiled softly. It wasn't a happy smile, just one of acknowledgment. "More blind," she acquiesced.

Jack stared for a moment longer before shaking his head and walking off. She noticed, though, that for the first time that night, they turned the lights off, gave her eight hours to rest in peace--should she so chose.


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile