Author's note:

Canon affords a fair (albeit confusing) amount of detail about the relationship between Gibbs and Jenny Shepard, but the bare minimum for Anatoly Zhukov and Svetlana Chernitskaya.

In Judgement Day (Season 5) we learn that the latter was a citizen of Uzbekistan who came out of nowhere in 1999 as Natasha Lenkov - at the helm of a successful import/export business.

We also learn that she was the handler for Anatoly Zukov - an ex-KGB hitman selling his services to the highest bidder after the Cold War.

Together they worked for the Russian ring that Jenny and Gibbs were trying to infiltrate in 1999.

It's always important to me to know who my characters are, so in the absence of anything tangible, I came up with my own backstory for them.

To me, the most fascinating thing about Svetlana being a citizen of Uzbekistan is that the predominant religion there is Islam.

In the 1920s and 1930s (when Uzbekistan was still part of the USSR), Stalin and Co., were trying to emancipate Muslim women on their southern borders - because they saw them as victims oppressed by their patriarchal Party activists in the region urged women to throw off their veil, attend soviet schools, become party members, and all that jazz.

Svetlana would not have been born then, but in my head her grandfather was a party official who came to Uzbekistan to oversee the above - and stayed.

Married an Uzbek woman and raised his children to be non-Muslim.

Svetlana came along at some point - and was not raised Muslim either.

As I understand it, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan's National Security Service followed in the footsteps of the KGB.

We know that Anatoly was ex-KGB, so I see him coming to Uzbekistan to train recruits.

However, he found a more lucrative job – offered to him by the ring.

He had already met the young Svetlana, and had determined that she was full of potential. When he changed jobs, he thought he saw more possibilities for her and she was whisked off to Mother Russia (smile, Mateja) for training. She quickly became much more than even Anatoly had envisioned - and ultimately became his handler.

They overstepped the boundaries of their working relationship pretty fast, and the chemistry between them was as strong as that between Gibbs and Jenny in that time period.

For the purposes of the storyline, I have created an additional character:

Sergei – a friend of Svetlana's family who was responsible (financially and otherwise) for brokering the move because he occupied an important position within the ring.


Svetlana's apartment in Paris, France

March 1st, 1999

He'd been sitting around the apartment for days.

Drinking a little more than usual.

Barely talking.

Making almost no effort to communicate.

Consumed by what was eating him up.

It all boiled down to the fact that he'd been given very few jobs in the past few months; all of them beneath his dignity and skill.

He hadn't said very much, and that was as much a part of the problem as anything else.

He was internalizing, in the absence of any real indication as to why it was happening, and in the process he had started to shut her out. He would be the last person to admit this, but it was the little things he'd stopped doing which gave him away. The little things which made up the fabric of their relationship.

"Anatoly ..."

"Da?"

He turned opaque eyes on her; accepting the Samovar tea she was offering with a curt nod before going back to staring at the painting on the wall in front of him.

Her one attempt at talking had been met with a snippy response to leave well alone - and she had.

She laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently; trying to convey that she was there if he wanted to talk.

He didn't respond.

She stood there for a while, waiting, and eventually drifted back to the pile of paperwork on her desk.

Halfway through translating a document her phone rang – the one that only Sergei called on - and the change in Anatoly was immediate.

He paced nervously around her as she said, "allo?" into the receiver.

Their eyes met as the familiar voice came down the line – and she was relieved to see that his suddenly looked more alive than they had in a while.

The phone call was brief.

He wanted to see her as soon as possible.

It could only mean good things, they decided as they opened a bottle of champagne over dinner that night.


Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park, Berlin

March 2nd, 1999

1030

Svetlana reached for her phone with trembling hands as she watched Sergei walk away.

He's reckless and unreliable.

The words echoed in her head as she tried to punch in Anatoly's number.

He takes unnecessary risks.

She'd listened in silence as he'd told her how Anatoly had run American agents off the road in Russia a few weeks earlier, and drawn attention to the ring in a way which wasn't acceptable.

Everything had made sense to her then.

The sidelining, the demeaning jobs, the silence.

He was being punished.

Sergei had stopped short of saying that he'd become a liability – and had assured her that he was looking out for Anatoly's interests. But she wasn't sure she believed him. She had no illusions about what would happen if the powers that be determined that Anatoly had become a liability – and the thought that he could be taken from her in cold blood almost brought her to her knees.

Her finger hovered over the last number, but she found that she couldn't make the call.

No doubt he was sitting in the apartment waiting for her to ring - and she had no idea how she was going to tell him.

So she decided to wait until she got back to Paris. Buy herself a few hours and use them to determine how best to break the news.