"Agent Bristow. Could you come into my office, please?"

Sydney looked up at Kendall. She quickly suppressed her shock. He was almost smiling. She followed him into his office and sat down.

"It appears, Agent Bristow, as though reports of the death of your father were a bit premature."

"Sir?"

"I have just received word that your father was not killed in the training accident in Algeria."

A smile lit up Sydney's face. "How do you know?"

"Your father has just made contact with the CIA office in Belgium. He appears," and at this point Kendall actually smiled, "to have taken down Sloane's operation."

"My mother?"

"Is with him. Apparently they were working together."

"And Rambaldi?"

"Unfortunately, it appears that anything associated with Rambaldi was destroyed in the process of eliminating Sloane. The CIA are trying to recreate as much as they can, but they have very little to work with. Your mother sustained a concussion in an explosion, and she has had some memory impairment. She has not been able to provide much assistance."

Sydney sat for a moment, reveling in the knowledge that Sloane would not be persecuting her family any more. Then, realizing that she had missed an obvious question, she asked, "Who was it that died in the training accident?"

Kendall studied her carefully. "Who was it, indeed? What a coincidence that the remains matched the dental records you supplied," he said casually.

Some coincidence, thought Sydney. She wondered how her father had smuggled that jawbone into Algeria. "Mistakes happen," said Sydney neutrally.

"Yes," Kendall agreed quietly. "Mistakes happen." He thought for a moment. "Take some time off. I'm sure you'll want to see your parents. Both of them. And Agent Bristow - please tell your father from me that... I'm sorry. I should have believed him."

**

Jack watched the water slip by the under the bow of their ship. He and Irina were heading back to the US but, by mutual agreement, had decided to sail back rather than fly. It would give them time to talk - about their past, about their future. Irina was nestled next to him in the deck chair, wrapped in a blanket and taking a nap.

Jack's phone call to the CIA station chief in Belgium from the underground vault had been surreal. Jack had been frantic for medical assistance for Irina but, surrounded by Sloane's dead gunmen, a car in the parking lot gutted by a car bomb, and the remains of the Rambaldi prophecy, had been reluctant to call the local police. The CIA station chief, receiving a phone call from a man whose funeral he had attended several weeks prior, had required Jack to recite virtually every operational code in the book before accepting that it wasn't a crank call.

Irina's leg had required surgery and pins for the bone. She had stayed in the hospital for a week, Jack seldom leaving her side. Her lower leg was still encased in a cast, and she still tired easily, but she was healing rapidly. She had been released into his custody; the paperwork for a full pardon was already in process.

They had spent several additional days in debriefing in Belgium, with more likely on their return. Jack, in particular, was anticipating some difficult sessions. The rosy glow of Sloane's death would likely cover for the fact that Jack had faked his own death, been absent without leave, and misappropriated agency funds. It was unlikely to counter the agency's displeasure at the destruction of the Rambaldi artifacts and manuscripts. Jack shrugged mentally. He had been accused of worse.

He felt Irina stir next to him, and tenderly leaned down to kiss her awake. The past few days on the ship had been among the most joyous he had known. For so many years he had dreamed of her face, her touch, her laugh; each dawn the bitterness would return, casting a pall over his life. When he had woken up the first morning of their cruise, with her still in his arms and not vanished in the mists, he had wept unashamedly. He had found her, then lost her, then found her again. He would never let her go.

With Rambaldi no longer between them, like a jealous lover, Jack had sensed a change in Irina. No longer did she withhold a part of herself from him. He felt that, for the first time, he was seeing her clearly. He no longer mourned the Laura that had died, but gloried in the Irina that lived. Her intelligence, her courage, her passion, her complexity. He hugged her closer to him as he watched her slowly awake.

Irina opened her eyes and smiled lazily up at Jack. It felt so good to be with him, cradled in his arms. The sea breeze ruffled his hair, and he looked years younger than he had when she had first returned. It was with a start that she realized that she faced him for the first time with no more lies between them. History and baggage, yes, but not the shadow of imminent betrayal which had haunted her during their first years together and during her stay at the CIA. Would he know that? After all that had passed between them, after being offered the power to rule the world, she wanted nothing more than the love and trust of the man next to her.

"Sleep well?" asked Jack smiling.

"Mmm hmmm." Irina studied Jack mischievously through lowered lashes. "I was having such a nice dream. A tall, handsome man was sweeping me off my feet..."

"Oh?" said Jack pretending to frown. "And what was he planning to do with you?"

Irina leaned over and whispered in his ear. Jack cocked an eyebrow at her. "All those things?" Irina nodded vigorously. Jack sighed theatrically. "How long is this trip?"

"Forever?" said Irina looking up at him, all traces of laughter gone from her eyes.

"Forever," Jack agreed, as he swept her up to carry her back to their cabin.

*******fin*********