by Melanie-Anne

She never thought it was possible, but she misses Moscow winters. She and Katya, chasing each other in the snow, while Elena looked on imperially. Katya, whispering that Elena thought she was the lost tsarina. She and Katya, attacking Elena with snowballs.

Maybe it's not Moscow she misses as much as those moments with her sisters. She has not seen or spoken to them in three years. She wonders if they think of her as often as she thinks of them.

It's a different kind of cold here in DC. The snow is the same colour, and Jack throws snowballs at her the way Katya did, but something's missing. When he holds her close, tells her how much he loves her and how lucky he is she agreed to marry him, all the heat in the world isn't enough to drive away the chill in her bones.

There are still moments, though they come less frequently, when she feels panic rise up inside her and it's so tempting to call her handler and tell him she wants out. Wants back to Moscow, to her sisters and Mama and the winters of her childhood.

That can never happen, she knows. She cannot give up on this assignment, not now, not this late in the game.

What scares her most is not the thought of what could happen if she did make that phone call, but the idea that this life could go on forever. She's learning to like Jack Bristow. (Liar, she hears Katya laugh in her head, you always liked him. You're falling in--)

She banishes the thought before it's fully formed. She can't go there. She can't love him. Won't love him. Wonders if there's a difference.

He kisses her in the firelight, and murmurs a name. She wants to cry, because it isn't her name and all she wants is for him to say her name the way he says, "Laura."

She doesn't even realize what this means. She thinks she may be losing her mind, wonders why no one warned her - they said it would be a difficult assignment, but she never expected this. Wonders why, when they told her they were confident she could handle it, she feels like she's falling apart.

("Take care of yourself," Katya said. They were sitting on a bench in Gorky Park, watching children skate on the ice, huddled close together to keep warm. "I'll miss you."

"I don't know if I can do this." Katya is the only person who will ever hear those words pass her lips.

"Of course you can. You're the strongest person I know.")

Jack, surprisingly, is a cuddler. Their usual sleeping position is him spooned behind her, his arm wrapped around her waist, his breath soft on the back of her neck. (Katya used to take up all the bed space, and she often found herself pushed onto the floor. "Rushka," Katya laughed, "you've got to learn to fight for what's yours.") She knows she should feel cherished, and a part of her does, but there's another part - the part that wishes he'd call her real name - that hates the pretense.

But, she reflects, enjoying the warmth of Jack's hand on her stomach, this pretend life is all that she has, all that she is. One day Jack will call her by her real name - whether it's in love or anger; only time will tell. One day she will see her sisters again and they can catch up all their lost time.

She just hopes she doesn't forget who she is in the meantime.

"You're still awake." Jack presses his lips to her shoulder blade, the hand on her belly slipping lower. She feels heat, feels herself melting, and wants to cry.

"What's wrong?"

"I was just thinking."

"About?" The hand slips lower. Her breath catches in her throat. She rolls to face him, kisses the corner of his mouth.


She waits for the Katya in her head to say something, but there's only silence. And Jack, whispering words of love to Laura.

For now, maybe that's okay.


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