Made Of Glass
by Melanie-Anne

When Irina still called herself Laura, she had loved Christmas. Every year she and Jack had made a big deal out of selecting the perfect tree and decorating it. One year, early in their relationship, Irina made herself a crown out of tinsel. They drank too much eggnog, got distracted, and had to finish the decorations the next morning. Every year after that, they donned tinsel crowns and drank eggnog while decorating. And every year - until Sydney was old enough to insist on helping - they got distracted.

Irina had not celebrated Christmas nor drank eggnog since she walked away from her life as Laura. She couldn't do that without remembering all that she had left behind, and if she allowed herself to remember she would not find the strength to stay away from her husband and child.

She expected Christmas in CIA custody to be the same as every other day she spent in her glass cage. Sydney had surprised her with a Christmas Eve visit. Standing shyly in front of her, Sydney had apologized for not bringing a gift. "They told me I wasn't allowed to," she said.

It didn't matter to Irina. Seeing her daughter, talking to her again, was enough of a gift. When she told her that, Sydney's face lit up and Irina knew she wouldn't have the strength to stay away from her daughter again.

She didn't know then that she would have no choice in the matter.

She had told Sydney the truth would take time, but time had run out. Sydney was dead to the world, though Irina couldn't - wouldn't - believe that.

And it was Christmas Eve again, and she was alone, as always. She was standing at the back door of the house she and Jack had shared, unsure why she had come. She picked the lock and quietly slipped inside the house. Jack's security was surprisingly lax, and she wondered if it was a reflection of his state of mind. With Sydney gone, nothing mattered.

The house was dark inside. From memory, Irina navigated her way down the hall and to the beam of light shining underneath the study door. Nothing had changed. She knew she'd find Jack drinking inside.

She opened the door and looked at Jack. He was behind his desk, a half-empty bottle in front of him. He looked up at her, but said nothing, and made no move to pick up the gun that lay atop a folder next to the bottle.

"Merry Christmas," he said. He sounded sober.

"There's nothing merry about it." She stepped inside the room, shutting the door behind her as she had countless times in a life long past.

"What do you want, Irina?"

He wouldn't believe the truth, so she settled for a lie. "I don't want anything."

He pushed the bottle closer to her. "Not true. You want the one thing you can never have."

"Just like you." She picked up the bottle and swirled it, the liquid sloshing against the sides. She raised it to her nose, inhaled, then took a sip. "Vodka, Jack?"

"You always liked it. Even when you were Laura." He smiled, though it contained no warmth. "That should have been my first clue."

"Let's not talk about the past." Images of her life flashed through her mind: Sydney laughing, Jack dancing with her, Sydney playing the piano . . .

Sydney was the past, and the knowledge cut through Irina with a pain so fierce she bent forward and clutched the edge of the desk, the bottle slipping from her hand and shattering on the floor.

She remembered holding Sydney in the hospital just hours after giving birth to her, remembered the strength of her tiny fingers as she clutched Irina's hand, the fine dark hair covering her head. She'd held Sydney so carefully, as if she was made of glass, and she knew then that she would do anything for her child.

"What do you want?" Jack asked again.

She shook her head.

Jack stood and walked around the desk. When he was next to her, he took her wrists in his hands and pulled her to face him. "Why are you here?"

"It's Christmas," she said, and remembered how Sydney had come barging into their bedroom to announce that Santa had brought presents. She closed her eyes. "I'm sorry, Jack. It's all been for nothing."

"What are you talking about?" His fingers still gripped her wrists. She knew he'd leave marks, and she didn't care.

Irina finally said the words she'd been afraid to utter aloud, as if the admission would make it true. "She's dead-"

Jack pressed his lips to hers, his kiss rough, punishing - though she wasn't sure who was the one being punished. When he pulled away, he said, "Don't say that. She's not."

Irina shook her head. Jack didn't understand - how could he, she thought bitterly, she never told him. She had known for years of Sydney's role in Rambaldi's work, and she'd spent her life trying to keep her daughter safe. She'd hoped one day to explain to both Jack and Sydney, but now that would never happen.

With Sydney gone, the truth didn't matter anymore.

"We'll find her," Jack said. There was no doubt in his voice, and she didn't know whether to love him or hate him for it.

She kissed him as roughly as he had kissed her. She wanted to feel again, just for a little while. He released her wrists, sliding his hands around her waist, pulling her body flush against his. She wound her arms around his neck, pulling his head down, deepening the kiss. He reached behind her and cleared the desk with a swoop of his hand, then pushed her back. She was tugging open the buttons of his shirt, one leg hitched up around his hip, when the doorbell rang.

"They'll go away," she said.

"If they don't, we can always kill them."

The bell kept ringing.

Jack swore, then removed his hands from Irina's breasts and stepped back. "If those are carolers, I will kill them."

Irina followed him to the front door, intending to pick up from where they had left off once he'd sent the visitor away. She was thankful Jack hadn't bothered to turn on the lights when he opened the door to reveal Vaughn standing there. She ducked out of sight, remaining close enough to hear everything that was said.

"Agent Vaughn." Jack's voice contained more sympathy than Irina was used to when it came to Vaughn, but there was irritation laced in the words.

"Agent Bristow. Uh, may I come in?" When Jack didn't answer, he continued, "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

Jack remained silent.

"I'd rather do this inside. Please."

Jack sighed, and a moment later he stepped aside to allow Vaughn in.

"A couple of months before - uh, before the fire, Sydney bought your Christmas gift. She said she knew it was early but she'd found it when she was Prague - remember that mission? I didn't realize she'd left it at my place until this week. I think she'd want you to have it."

Irina watched from the shadows as Vaughn handed Jack a box.

"I'm not sure how appropriate this is, but she told me she had hoped that this year you guys would have spent Christmas as a family."

Vaughn let himself out. When the door clicked shut, Irina moved to Jack's side. He was staring down at the box in his hands.

"She got her wish," he said softly.


"Family at Christmas." He looked up. "Part of it, at least."

Irina cupped his cheek in her hand.

"Will you open it? I can't."

She took the box from him and lifted the lid. Lying on tissue paper was a glass angel. Irina could imagine Sydney seeing it and imagining Jack's face when she gave it to him. She knew how much her daughter desired Christmas as a proper family - it had been Irina's desire for more than twenty years.

"She's not dead," Jack said, though he sounded less certain than before.

Irina put the angel on a table, then took Jack's hand and led him upstairs to the bedroom.


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