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Secret Creatures

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Jack Bristow is Arvin's oldest friend.

For Emily, this fact is part of the background knowledge that makes up her daily existence. The roses will need pruning on a weekly basis, she will never quite get used to sunny weather year-round, and Jack will always be there. She will always raise her glass to toast at a dinner party and be answered by his from down the table. She will always come home from a late meeting for a local charity, and Jack and Arvin will be sipping brandy in his study.

Jack Bristow is still grieving for his wife.

Emily envied Laura on more levels than she could ever hope to count, but the core of her carefully hidden jealousy was the beautiful, happy child who looks so much like her mother. Now that Laura is dead, Sydney never smiles, and looks at Emily with blank eyes and a carefully expressionless face. Years from now, she will likely never remember that she had an Aunt Emily who was her mother's closest friend. She is Laura's daughter even unto death, loyal to a fault.

Jack Bristow is a patriot.

He is still serving his country even though Arvin has left the CIA behind and is working banker's hours. It's to be with her, he says, but the trips he takes for Crédit Dauphine take him farther away than the Agency ever did. Jack emerged from his prison cell with no reason to trust the CIA ever again, and he walked right back into its open arms. Emily knows that Arvin has offered him a job at Crédit Dauphine, and she thinks that maybe someday soon Jack will take it. She knows that his greatest fear is to leave Sydney without anyone, and she knows that a CIA agent's life is not one that many retire from.

Jack Bristow is –

- holding on to her hips so tightly she thinks that possibly his fingerprints will be branded to her skin, the latter-day equivalent of a scarlet A. He is tracing the column of her throat with his tongue, panting in shallow breaths against her collarbone, pushing hard into her, so hard she knows that behind his closed eyes he is seeking oblivion.

Emily's eyes are wide open, and she chooses to see this as a sort of symbolism. No promises made means no lies traded, and no words means no emotion. She understands perhaps even better than he does that this will never happen again, that it is in fact not happening now. For these moments, she is not Emily Sloane to him, and he is not Jack Bristow to her. They have both loved and lost for their country, and are seeking solace by projecting their ghosts onto the last person on earth who should be a vessel for them.

Arvin is in London, at a meeting of the board of directors of Crédit Dauphine. He is likely even now opening his briefcase, reporting on first quarter client retention, speaking of annuities and interest rates. He is entirely unaware that half a world away his best friend is fucking his wife.

Emily comes with a force that feels like a punch to the gut, a physical sensation very close to pain, and Jack is not far behind. No condom; not even Jack Bristow can accomplish what the country's best doctors have deemed impossible. She rolls to her side and he lies on his back next to her.

There is enough left in him of the man he was before Laura's death that she can feel a hesitation in the air that is him trying to find words for her.

She turns to face him and thinks as she did when she opened the door to let him in that he has aged. His dark hair is frosted with gray, and the lines of his face are already deepening. It is not a face she can imagine laughing or even smiling anymore, though she has a thousand memories to call on of just that.

Jack's eyes meet hers and she shakes her head, just slightly, causing a curl to fall across her eyes. He reaches up to push it aside, and she was wrong: there is the slightest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. It is the same twist of his lips that she will see tomorrow night, when Arvin comes home and she returns from dinner with the DAR to find Jack in Arvin's study, talking about the finer points of international finance. She doesn't have a single doubt about whether Jack will be there.

After all, Jack Bristow is her husband's oldest friend.