This is a short fic based off chapter 26 of the wonderful pillar-of-salt's story Pictures at an Exhibition. I have split this into three short chapters just because it flows better. Also, it may be slightly AU, but it should fit in the moments we don't see in season 1 episode 16, Tamerlane. This first chapter takes place right before Bess leaves for Iran.

Hope y'all like it!

Everything in italics at the top of the story belongs to pillar-of-salt.


"Vincent Marsh is dead. The NTSB report states that his plane crashed over the Atlantic, and all souls perished on board."

"The NTSB report was fabricated," Isabelle pointed out.

"Not that part."

"We don't know what part."

"No survivors were recovered," Elizabeth argued.

"No survivors that we know of."

"There was a funeral—"

"Without a body."

"—and his wife is now a widow."

"Officially, yes."

"Isabelle," Elizabeth said, exasperated now, "he's dead."

Isabelle slapped a folder on the table. "Then why do we have surveillance footage of him walking around Tehran?"

"You have what?!"

Isabelle pulled out a photo from the folder and stabbed it with her finger. "Marsh. In Tehran."

"Well, that's great." Elizabeth paused. "How the hell did he survive?"

Isabelle shrugged. "That's not the problem. The problem is, 'what do we do now.'"

"It's too late. I leave for Iran in the morning."

"Then we better hurry. You call Conrad, I'll get on the phone with my contact on the ground and see what he knows."

Elizabeth nodded, her mind still processing as she dialed. "This is Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, I need to speak to the president."

"It's midnight, ma'am," the man who answered informed her. "I'm afraid the president is asleep-"

"I'm aware of that. And I still need to speak with him."

"Are you certain it cannot wait for morning, Madam Secretary?"

"Yes, I am certain!"

"I'll put you through right away, ma'am."

There was a moment of silence on the line, and Elizabeth watched as Isabelle talked animatedly with someone on her phone.

"Bess?" the president asked suddenly, making Elizabeth jump. His voice was tinged with sleep. "What is it?"

"Sir, I'm afraid I have some... interesting news. We think Vincent Marsh is alive and living in Tehran."

There was thick silence. Then Conrad asked, "We?"

"Isabelle just told me."

He sighed. "I'll be right there."

"Sir, if I may, the press will have a field day if you show up at my house in the middle of the night. If anything, we should come to the White House."

"I'll meet you in the Oval Office, then."

"Yes, sir."

"And Bess?"

"Hm?"

"Be careful."

She nodded slightly, even though she knew he couldn't see it, and hung up.

Isabelle was still on the phone, so Elizabeth motioned for her to follow.

Her security detail was more than a little surprised at her request to be taken with a friend to the White House, but after a few exchanges shrugs and glances, they complied nonetheless.

"Isabelle," the president greeted when they arrived at his office. "It's good to see you again, though I do wish this would have been under more pleasant circumstances."

"It's good to see you too, Con... Mr. President."

"I'm sorry I stopped being able to make the spy reunion dinners."

"We were all deeply offended because it's not like you're busy or something."

The president smirked a little. "Now, what's all this about Vincent Marsh being alive?"

"We have footage of him walking around Tehran," Isabelle told him, handing him the folder she showed Elizabeth earlier. "And my sources say he arrived there sometime last month."

"Bess, I'm starting to think you going there might not be a good idea."

"Sir, we both know I still have to go if there's any chance of stopping what he's planning."

"But, at this point, the coup is probably imminent."

"That's just a risk we'll have to take."

The president studied her for a moment. "Fine. But Bess, if something happens to you..."

"I know."

"Well then," he nodded, looking away and blinking quickly, "good luck to you, Bess, and Isabelle, it was nice to see you."

A quick round of hugs and they were on their way out of the office.

"I have to say, Bess," Isabelle started when they were almost to the motorcade, "I might agree with the president on this one."

"Isabelle... I have to go, you know that."

"But what about your kids, Bess? And Henry? What would happen to them if-"

"Isabelle, please," she begged. "I've been through every scenario in my head a hundred times, I know what could happen. But I have to go, if not for my kids than for the world. A nuclear armed Iran would be a major threat to them and, if there's any chance at all I can prevent that from happening, I have to go."

Isabelle huffed. "You'd better be careful. And Bess?"

"Hm?"

"If you don't come back, I make no promises that I won't flirt with Henry."