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Okay, so this was supposed to be a typical Red and Dembe caper. Really, it was. But... First Red tells me that he doesn't have friends. Then it comes out that he has one. And she also lives in my head. I don't know if this even makes sense, but... yeah. So, my first crossover fic. The Blacklist/Alias. Kind of spoilers for most this season of The Blacklist and most of Alias. It also kind of ties in with Home At Last, my AU season 5/series finale Alias fic. Confused yet? Sorry.



He's surprised to see her, though he supposes he shouldn't be. She turns up whenever and wherever she feels like it; she always has. She has her business and he has his, and she rarely asks what he is up to or offers her own explanations for why she is in town. He rarely asks.

It's always a pleasant surprise to see her, and he asks her to dinner with a casual grace that belies how long it's been since he's seen her last.

They dine alone on the balcony of a four-star restaurant, where the wait staff is paid very well to be discreet as well as unobtrusive. They can talk here, as they can't many other places.

"Truth takes time," she reminds him. He nods. "But you are running out of time, Raymond."

He nods at that too, because it is true. He doesn't much care for that truth, but saying unpleasant things has never bothered her. "I know," he tells her. "But truth, Irina... truth is complicated."

"Of course," she agrees, smiling over her wineglass. "How else?"

He sighs. "It wasn't easy for you, as I recall, to tell the truth to... those you cared about." Even with her he won't use the word family. But he doesn't have to.

"No," she agrees. "It was necessary, however."

"How is Jack?" he asks, deliberately changing the subject.

She knows he's done it; it was hardly a subtle move for him. But he wants to see if she'll answer the question.

She does. "Adjusting. Slowly."

"Of course. You've been dead before, but it must be all new to him." He shakes his head. "I'm glad to see you two crazy kids finally got your act together. It's about time."

Irina smiles. "Thank you. I thought so, too. You have to realize, though, that the lies I told only made that harder. Every untruth you tell, you have to unravel in the end, Raymond."

"Do I?" he asks.

She just looks at him for a moment without speaking. Then, "Raymond."

"Yes," he agrees to her unspoken chiding. "But there are still things she doesn't need to know."

"I thought the same once," Irina tells him. "Thought I could get away without telling Jack and Sydney everything. And because I didn't tell them the complete truth about Nadia, she's dead now. I hardly had the chance to know her, and because I let them think Sloane was her father, they let her go to him."

"And he killed her," Reddington says, nodding. "Yes, I know. It's not the same."

"In exact details, perhaps. In generalities? All lies are really the same, Raymond. They all cover up the truths you'd rather not tell."

"You sound like Dembe. He's been telling me that I need to tell her everything."

"Dembe's right, Raymond. She has a right to know."

"I know she does." He sighs, taking a sip of his wine, his brow furrowed in thought. "But the truth puts her in danger, too."

"More danger than ignorance puts her in?" Irina asks.

He thinks for a moment. "Perhaps. What she doesn't know, she can't reveal to anyone else. I have enemies, Irina."

"An occupational hazard," she agrees, eying him over her wineglass. Those dark eyes seem to see right through him, but that's not new. "And how many of them already know that they can hurt you by hurting her?"

"Hopefully none," he says. "Braxton is dead."

She nods. "Not before he did some damage, though."

"Thank you for reminding me. I'd forgotten that he went digging into her memories."

"I'm not sure what you're more afraid of, Raymond. That she'll find out, or that you won't be the one to tell her. If you tell her yourself, you control the revelation- how much information, how quickly. You control the environment, where she is and what she hears. If she finds out any other way... you'll do damage to your relationship that you may not be able to easily repair."

She speaks from experience and he knows it, but it doesn't help. Or rather, it does, but it doesn't do anything for his deepest fears. Those he still has to face on his own.

"I've already done damage to our relationship."

She shrugs fractionally. "Nothing irreparable. Not really."

"There's Sam," he points out.

Another shrug. "She risked her life to save you from the Kings. I think she's made her peace with that."

"She's pushed it to the back of her mind, but she hasn't forgiven me for it, and she certainly hasn't forgotten it. She still has questions. She just chooses not to ask them all the time."

"You're teasing her with the truth without coming right out and saying anything. It's bound to pique her interest, and you knew it would when you started down this road. Or do you expect me to believe you don't know enough about her profile to have predicted that?"

Irina would know about that, having been his source for hacking into the FBI's own databases to get that profile. Which doesn't make her point any less valid, rather more so.

"I want to keep her interested, but only to a point."

She just shakes her head. "You're playing a game more dangerous than you realize, Raymond."

"This isn't danger, Irina. Trust me in that."

"I trust you, I just happen to think that you're wrong this time, and that it's going to come back to bite you."

"It wouldn't be the first time."

"It would be the first time it was something- someone this important."

To that, he has nothing to say.

Finally, he asks, "How long are you in town?"

"A few days. I'm waiting on a contact, but I can only afford to give him so much time. And he can only afford to keep me waiting for so long."

Reddington tilts his head to the side, smiling. "Sark."

Irina's lips curl upward in an answering smile. "He's been on thin ice with me for a long time, and he's smart enough to know it. I nearly killed him six years ago. He's lucky I had more pressing concerns, and time to change my mind. Although to be honest, I'm not sure that I have changed my mind entirely. He can still say or do the wrong thing and suffer for it."

"Very slowly, I'm sure," Reddington says.

She smiles. "That's one thing I value about our friendship, Raymond. How well you understand me."

"Still regretting that you couldn't seduce me?" he asks with a smile.

She raises an eyebrow at him. "I wasn't really trying."

No, he reflects, she probably hadn't been. It had been a game to her, a way of taking his measure. A test he had passed. In some ways he's almost sad that it had turned out the way that it had. But no. Their relationship is better this way, and her heart has been tangled up with Jack Bristow's for more than forty years now. Raymond Reddington isn't the sort of man to want to get in the middle of all of that without a seriously compelling reason. In this case, there wasn't one.

He and Irina have been associates- friends, if he is being perfectly honest- for decades now. She may in fact be his only friend, the only one he knows besides Dembe and Elizabeth that he doesn't expect would turn on him if their price were met. Irina Derevko has everything she could need or want, except things no one can give her now, and probably figures she's more than met her quota of betraying people she cares about. He knows he's lucky to be counted among them, though he's somewhat lower on the totem pole than her family. Which is only fair, because he ranks her about the same.

"I didn't know that at the time," he says, bemused.

"No, you didn't."

"All part of the plan, I assume?"

Irina laughs. "Oh, of course. I had to do something to catch your attention."

"Oh, you did that, absolutely," he says. He lifts the wine bottle, an eyebrow quirked in question. She nods, and he fills her glass again, then his own. "God, that was a long time ago."

"It was," Irina agrees, sipping slowly at her wine. "We've come a long way since then."

"We have," he agrees. "You've come home, and I..."

"You have some decisions to make, Raymond."

"Not today," he says.

"But soon."

"I suppose... yes," he agrees at last, and is rewarded with her deceive nod. "Tell me, was it this difficult for you?"

"Yes, and no," she says, thinking back. "Turning myself in to the CIA was necessary. Considering my encounter with Sydney, events had been set into motion. There was also the matter of Rambaldi's followers to be dealt with. They would have involved Sydney in their work whether I was there to protect her or not. You face, if I'm not mistaken, a similar situation with Elizabeth Keen."

He says nothing for a long moment, only drawing a deep breath and letting it out in a slow sigh. Then, "She has the Fulcrum."

Both Irina's eyebrows go up this time. "She told you that?"

"Yes. Finally. I assume she's had it for some time. Likely Aram couldn't access it, and she thinks that perhaps I can. She also assumes it holds the answers to many of her questions."

"Does it?" Irina asks.

"If it is what I think it is... no. But it is the key."

"To you," Irina agrees.

"Elizabeth is the key to me at the moment," he corrects her.

"Is that likely to change?" she asks. Already knowing the answer, but driving him, always, to see the truth for himself. To see it and to admit to it.

"No," he says. "I'm just not sure that's something she needs to know."

"She's not stupid, Raymond. She's put together the pieces you've given her. She doesn't have the complete picture yet, but that doesn't mean she can't draw any correct conclusions."

This is true. He's had to be careful lately not to give Lizzie too many pieces of the same puzzle, lest she put them together before he's ready for her to. But lately he's also realized that he may never be truly ready for her to know everything... and tonight he realizes, too, that Irina may be right. She usually is, after all. And as she's said, she's traveled this road before. Not listening to the voice of experience would be a waste of her time and his, and Raymond Reddington abhors waste.

"The truth," he says, "is going to change everything."

"Yes," Irina says. She leans forward over the table. "In the most terrible and the most amazing ways, yes. You know that."

"Experiencing it is... somewhat different."

She smiles. "You'll be fine. Oh," she adds. "Of course you're terrified. That's incidental."

"Were you?" he asks.

She thinks for a moment. "I had my fears, yes."

"How did you cope with them?" he asks, genuinely curious.

"I ignored them. The truth was more important. My family was more important."

He nods. Yes, that would be Irina Derevko. She is a complicated woman with a complicated past and a shockingly uncomplicated present. Her devotion to her family had outlasted everything else about her life. It was one thing he truly admired about her. The other was her skill as an operative, but he rather thought the former was actually the more difficult to have cultivated and maintained.

"You'll feel better when it's done," she goes on. "They do say the truth shall set you free."

"And if you believe in all of those old platitudes, there's a bridge in Moscow I'd like to sell you."

She smiles. "Only if you're giving me a good deal."

He laughs. "I'm so glad you were able to stop by, Irina."

"Am I leaving so soon?" she quips.

He shakes his head. "Of course not. I enjoy your company far too much to send you off before you're ready to go."

In truth she's one of the few people who can consistently keep up with him. It's one reason he's maintained their association for so long. It's probably also why she was able to cross the line from 'resource' to 'friend'. Not that he'd admit to anyone that he has friends. Of course, he's one of only a handful of people who know that Irina Derevko is still alive, so there is that. But he could no more betray the fact that Irina Derevko is his closest friend than he could turn his back, utterly and entirely, on Elizabeth Keen.

Neither is ever going to happen.

"Have I ever told you," he asks, "how glad I am that you dragged Jack to that ill-advised party I was throwing that New Years'?"

"As I recall, it wasn't even your party."

He laughs. "That's right! Didn't have the foggiest idea who was throwing the party, either, but they had good taste. Lovely furnishings, though they were much the worse for wear by the end of the night. Anyway." He waves a hand. "I was so pleased to see you. I'd thought we could conduct some business, so my trip wouldn't have been a total waste, but when I realized..." he sobers, and she nods.

She had thought her oldest daughter was dead, then, and she'd been willing to do anything to see those responsible for it brought to justice- her justice, hers and Jack's. And something about that need, that desire to protect her child, spoke to him on such a deep level that he couldn't only look at her as an acquaintance or a contact. It was then that Irina Derevko began to become his friend.

He has a more distant relationship with Irina's husband. Jack Bristow doesn't trust many people, and he sure as hell doesn't trust Raymond Reddington. He likes him well enough, even gets along with him fairly well, but that was a man who cultivated his trust like a garden, and he wasn't going to open himself up to someone like Reddington. Even if Irina does trust him- as much as she trustsa anybody.

Irina nods slowly. "You were the only one I knew who could help me. Us. Everyone else had failed us."

"I'll never do that, Irina," Reddington says.

"Yes, I know." She sighs softly. "Neither of us trusts easily. In some ways it's a miracle we've come as far as we have."

"Do you still believe in those?"

"After everything I've been through?" She shrugs. "I don't know. There are times..."

He nods. "I truly thought that you were dead, or I'd have been looking for you." He thinks it's for the best that Jack and her daughters found her- those relationships had needed some repair, which the rescue had facilitated. But he does still blame himself for not knowing, for not having had his people searching the globe for any sign of her. It was just that he'd thought Bristow had really been stupid enough to fall for Elena Derevko's little scheme. Just that he'd thought the man had really shot Irina dead in Vienna.

"I know, Raymond."

He smiles faintly. "I did consider doing something about Jack after Vienna."

"I'm just as glad you didn't."

"I thought you'd feel that way. That's one reason I never did it."

Irina smiles. "Did you think you were seeing ghosts when I came to see you?"

He laughs. "Of course not. It all made sense then. As soon as I saw you, I knew. Oh, I still considered doing something violent to that idiot you married-"

Irina holds up a hand. "He has his moments, but they played him very well. And that was my fault. Elena got the information to do that from me."

"Not willingly," Reddington reminds her. "You held out as long as you could."

"Not long enough," she says. He knows then that she still feels guilt for that, that she probably always will. It all ties in to Nadia's death in a way- if she had never revealed her plans to Elena, Nadia never would have been affected, would never have recovered thanks in part to Sloane's efforts. Never would have gone to see him the night she died.

"It's not your fault," he tells her.

"If I'd killed him years ago..."

"Yes," Reddington agrees. "But he was still useful. You know better than to throw a tool away before its time, Irina. Sometimes that means we let people live who don't deserve to."

She closes her eyes and nods once. "Trust me. You don't want your life to get so tangled up in lies that it takes too long to find the truth. You think you have time, but sometimes... there isn't as much time in the world as you think."

"I know." He reaches across the table and places his hand over hers.

She turns her hand over so that they are palm to palm, and grasps his hand. "You've come so far, Raymond. Don't let it all be for nothing."

"No," he agrees. "Only I..." He sighs, feeling the wine loosening his tongue, and at last lets it go. There's no point holding back the truth, not from her. "A part of me thinks she won't care for the truth as much as the secrets. It may not be what she's imagined."

"The truth often isn't," Irina agrees. "But I imagine you've tied her into enough knots that she's considered any number of possibilities by now."

Reddington smiles at that. "I'm sure that's true. The lies, though, Irina. Do they ever forgive you the lies?"

"If they love you enough...yes."

"Does it matter if they don't call it love?"

Irina shakes her head. "No."

He thinks for a long moment, and nods once, decisively.

"Are you going to tell her?"

His answer is a single word. "Yes."


Muse: Raymond Reddington (guest starring Irina Derevko)
Fandom: The Blacklist
Words: 2,993

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