author: Keren Ziv
summary: pictures, much like women, lie. Future. Past. Derevko. Bristow.
To the most amazing beta in the world, permissionslip! As always, my Aire girl saved my butt. Any mistakes are probably from small additions I did after her fantabulous beta work.
"Is she the Derevko we're looking for?"
"If she isn't, she's a very good fake."
"Don't even joke about that stuff, Bristow."
The pair on the roof of the building steady their nerves and aims. This is the most wanted terrorist in the United States.
The meeting was scheduled under Derevko (and rightfully so, she thought grimly). Her men had mentioned something about an American colleague on the look-out for a certain Rambaldi artifact that was rumored to be under her possession.
Again she thought of the notoriety the name of Derevko had shared with Rambaldi. It held almost as much as the infamy of her contact: Bristow.
And that's where the ironies had been the most evident in too many years to count. She had for a time been both identities. Her yesterdays and day-before-yesterdays were waring with her todays and tomorrows. It wasn't a battle between good and evil, exactly, but they did both pull from different poles.
In the light from an old bulb, she could just make out a figure coming from the other end of the alley. She made no note of notice until he was standing in front of her. It was only polite to allow him to initiate contact after all; it was his meeting.
He gave his customary curt nod.
"Hello, Jack," she said, and she reached for him.
"Ms. Derevko." His face was hewn of stone.
"So formal. I feel old. Older than you."
Tenderness here. A softening of the eyes and the shadow of a smile. This is the man that she remembers from twenty and more years ago, soaked in sobriety but not made of it altogether.
"That's impossible," he says to her (sad).
"It's what I feel lately. Old and alone."
In the night, she is sleek and mercurial. She seems unhindered by such mortal plights as forethought and decision. She is a mercenary, and cruelty becomes her. It was as if she were born that moment in the battle and without past or future about which to worry. Anonymity breathes in and out of her pores; she exudes expendability.
Nobody shoots to kill the foot soldier; it's always the leader for whom they are aiming. Why waste the energy on one whose existence was negotiated at reduced rates when you can hit the government and feed like a leech.
In the rooms, she is always whom she claims to be: Derevko. Too valuable to be killed, too dangerous to let live, she will be thrown into some prison. Invariably, after her subsequent search and rescue operation is completed, they will boast in the local papers: International Terrorist Plot (no photo or accurate description will accompany any news, because she's just that good).
In rebellion, she takes comfort in her husband as many nights and rooms as possible just to get the taste of resignation out of her mouth.
"You're a Derevko," a man told her twice.
"Bristow." The name of an American.
"Of course," and the man watched her carefully.
He spoke more lies. "You're still a Derevko."
It was how it slipped so well into conversation there that surprised her. She'd never used Bristow in these circles before (it was her private name, her fresh self), and it felt clumsy. What a false way to live, and what a curious way, isn't it? Only in this strange second life she had could she be herself. Except she could never use Bristow here and expect future anonymity.
Besides, she realized that Derevko had a cloaking device installed. Whisper the name, and memories skipped or blacked out completely. She could work with fear, and a chill ran down her back. At that moment, she couldn't have told you who she was.
Of course (and this is a secret), she probably can't tell you who she is right now.
She was the last thing that she'd ever wanted to be.
There were no pretty little trails on her name anymore. Once she was said with length and luxury (and it's not the quick clip of her now, and people approach her with an awe and reverence; they're standing in the shadow of a Derevko), and she felt treasured with that long, limber word, that sigh of a name.
Everything was different than in her younger days, because they'd all heard about the Derevko family, the huge, matriarchal crime syndicate run by sisters. And who was the older woman, one might ask? And the others would laugh at his ignorance and say, the Derevko mother, of course!
There is always a Derevko mother (you knew that; where do you think she learned it all?).
She was caged, and her cage was built of family. Her tree branched but to encase her in hell. She prayed to someone above in the ways of her father's Protestantism, her mother's Orthodoxy, and the Catholic pursuits of her husband, all to no avail. God had stopped shop for the weekend.
What she had been started sifting about of the hands and lips and tongues of her self and became pressed by her now. Her past was for her inner-self, her truer-self. The present called muted meetings with people she loved in darkened alleys where the most familiar anybody got with another were the two feral cats sleeping together on a fire escape.
Things she left behind litter their conversation; sometimes not even related to him. Memories of her first trip to New York linger on the edge of her words, and she can almost taste the hot dogs. On the steps of a library, she had broken her little toe (it ached and crawled up her leg and played with her spine, threatening hysterical paralysis). And a long time ago she'd thought, maybe we'll have a boy, but not now. There would never be a new child now.
(Sometimes, she would say to him, "Hello, Jack."
And he'd answer her with, "Hello, Sydney.")
The right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, and that's the way that Chase and Sloane had manufactured the entire gig to be. Duplicity was written into their charter with the Agency. Chase was the only real double agent; the rest of them just played at it very well.
It was an accident that APO had even gone rogue, Chase said. The way she told it was that the system -- well, the system had become corrupt. It was time to dismantle the deception that came with working under the American government and to create a better agency.
Sydney never fully believed these reasons, not even after she cooed them into the ear of her husband so that he would not have to leave her (-- could not leave her, Vaughn, please, stay stay stay stay --). What really had happened between Chase and Sloane, what deals had been brokered, still remains to be seen.
Of course, Chase is dead now, and Sloane lost his fight with sanity too many years ago to say.
There had been artifacts.
A manuscript, Jack said, and a very dangerous one. Those were the only kinds in which they dealt lately, and the superfluous quality of his comment made her smile. Last night her fortune cookie had read, find humor in the workplace.
If the intelligence were noticed by Langley, it would be used for weapons projects or worse. Jack betrayed confidences and abused contacts to show them his information. Giving it to the CIA was dangerous.
"You don't know that," said Sloane from aside.
But Sydney believed him, and so did Nadia and Dixon. For Jack, that was enough.
Turned out that Chase had been thinking this way all along, and Dixon had known that she'd been doing it on her own for months. Vaughn stood closer to Sydney as she pondered timelines and missions, questioning over and again herself. He was a poor shield from the truth though, and Nadia had to hold her hand as she hurt over reality.
It didn't take long for the entire team to follow the wisdom of their superiors (even Sloane; but Sydney realized that he was holding out for show). Marshall was the most excited -- the number of manufactured Rambaldi goods which he would have to produce was astounding, intimidating, and cool.
It was only supposed to be a sometimes thing. Sometimes, if the Agency was going to do bad with the artifacts, it was wiser to give them a fake. It was only saving the world from death and destruction at the hands of the ignorant, that's all.
Everybody knows how addictive those sometimes things are (cigarettes, alcohol, pain)
They make their mark, and she falls back like the curve of a swan.
In a show of faith, Sloane promised that the artifacts would be destroyed (Jack said nothing; maybe he knew). They lied. Now it is too late to get rid of them; she understands all to well the great and terrible knowledge that they hold and how dangerous it is to hide it. People always want what you've just smashed into tiny pieces, and in duplicate, please.
("I'm pregnant." Nadia looks up with shining
eyes. "It's a little girl. She comes in the spring.")
And her mother, her mother was telling her things only I know (that for which they seek), and there was broken quality to her that Sydney could not ignore. The way that she loves her mother is not the way that she despises Rambaldi, because Rambaldi has given her sisters and mothers, and therein she finds benevolence in her demons.
(And Sydney is so happy for her that
she cannot help but say, "God bless this child.")
"You're a Derevko," a man told her twice.
"Bristow." The name of an American
though she was without any allegiance.
Why did she say a name that wasn't her?
"Of course," and the man watched her with sadness.
He spoke more truth. "You're still a Derevko."
There was more to say though, and he was going to say it full. Without thinking, she shook her head.
Couldn't be both Derevko and Sydney.
"My name," she said, slow and clear, "is Bristow."
She tried to tattoo the name on her tongue;
instead she forked it in a dying art.
Truthsaying's never appreciated.
Every sad story has its tears, and here are this one's:
It was raining when she realized that she couldn't go back to the CIA.
Sometime in the last two years, she had drawn a line between what she saw as right and what she saw as wrong, and the Agency was on the other side of the mark. More and more, her missions were being reshaped and reformed by APO, and less and less had Chase been their liaison (she was too close to the innards, the beating heart of the Agency, to ever come along on their ride; even Dixon knew that.
Jack hadn't known that).
To contrast, the day she found out where her allegiances were kept was a sharp, scorched morning in Arizona. Blood on the sand of the desert sparkles like rubies. She discovered this as she lay panting on her side, bullet lodged somewhere in her chest (and, oh dad oh dad oh dad, this is your daughter, this is your daughter in the rubies; oh dad oh dad oh dad).
Her father took a picture for the director, but pictures, much like women, lie (especially during death). Nadia came before he had driven more than a quarter mile, and with her was Vaughn. She coughed a little bit to say, I'm here! Remember me here! They remembered her, because there were talking and touching and tears, because it hurt.
And then --
And then her mother gave her name. "Sydney."
"Mom," she cried, reaching out for her. "Stay here."
"Don't be an idiot, Syd," her mom said.
She added: "Your father always was one."
Witness the damage he caused. "I once told
you I would always find another way."
But he never said the same.
At the hospital, she learned that you can patch up a wounded chest much better than a broken heart. Sydney almost backed down, almost gave full control in the business to her sister. But Nadia had been handed her celebrity by Rambaldi, and her contacts were only starting. Sydney was the oldest, the known daughter of Derevko. It was too dangerous for Sydney to give up, even though Vaughn wanted her too.
("Let's get married. We'll go to Paris and live."
"Because my father wouldn't look in France?"
It was more than that: because her father wouldn't find them in the Paris suburbs if they lived right, and because he'd always wanted a tiny little daughter of his own with whom to speak French, and because maybe after that he could convince her to have a son.
He wanted to scour Normandy, the place of his birth, but that was too much. Paris would be fine, and they would have a small house in a town that reminded him of Fleury and his boyhood.
Sydney smiled from her bed of betrayal and bandages. It was a pretty life that he was suggesting, and she thought then that maybe it was possible. She didn't know -- couldn't know -- how Rambaldi would possess her more still. She had given up everything in order to protect Rambaldi's work. She was through with giving.
"We'll do it. We'll get married and go live."
And perhaps together they would have a son.)
Less than two weeks later she would be forced to interrupt her honeymoon to fly to Pakistan and recover an artifact. The contacts that she made then would have such importance. Months later, the little voice in the back of her head would nag, just one more job. She would never have a child, not because she couldn't (but because she wouldn't).
She didn't know any of that, and she still had sand in her hair.
"I've been noticing some strange things lately."
The dry desert sun drips down. "Things like what?"
"I don't taste." And she licks a wrist of salt.
"Don't worry." Syd smiles softly. "It's just guilt."
She knows a great deal about that blame thing. She's here in the front to take the charges, the good and the bad. Twining about her decisions all those years had been that ambiguous line between right and wrong. If she looks at it with first one eye closed and then the other, it's hard to figure out what side of the line it lies. She says: only to the worst she is able. After that, she will leave them any way that she can.
But she isn't psychic, and she doesn't know to what level they will drag her. She will always suppose another worst (her dominant fault).
"You hear the rumors about you today?"
"And what do they say, my darling sister?"
"They say Syd Derevko's going to sunder
the world." And she laughs a little and smiles.
But what do the prophecies read? They say she's going to live, and the world will be whole. Nadia takes Rambaldi's word for it.
Syd Derevko lives in Lisbon with her mother, husband, and aged mentor (said mentor doesn't like to be referred to as aged; he has enough of his faculties to see the injustice of that). She has three hunting dogs, no children, and likes to complete the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen. Her favorite color is burnt orange. If she isn't working, she likes to wear thick, chunky spectacles and her hair in pony tails.
She and her husband steal days away to France as often as they can, and her sister's family joins them occasionally. She is aunt to many nieces, three beautiful young children barely out in school, and as an aunt beams proudly over their accomplishments. They are Derevko daughters, dazzling and determined little things that drive their father to no ends.
Her favorite view is out of the cupola, from which she can spy the roads leading to her home. To the west she sees the stables, and in them she's got four older horses that she's using to teach her nieces to ride. They're quite good at it.
One more thing --
Her mother is the most wanted terrorist in the United States.