Disclaimer: Not my characters, alas.

There was something about the finality of Irina's kiss that Jack couldn't stop thinking about. When he'd first seen her walk out of that jungle – dirty, fragile, but so very alive – he'd forgotten how to breathe. And he'd wondered if this was the second (third, fourth, fifth) chance to start over.

She'd punched him then, and he'd been glad. He deserved worse, and maybe one day he'd get it, but she'd touched him and he'd known she was real.

She wasn't the same woman he'd married. She wasn't the same woman who'd walked calmly into the CIA and surrendered. Listening to her on the plane, he'd felt physically ill at what her sister put her through.

(And thought: I should have trusted you. I should have looked for you.)

He'd found closure by putting a bullet between her double's eyes, except it wasn't the closure he'd been seeking. The second he pulled the trigger he'd known he'd gone too far.

She'd forgiven him with a kiss and a smile, and walked away.

He should have gone after her, should have said something – but he hadn't been able to move. He tried to capture that image of her glancing over her shoulder, the hint of a smile on her lips, an expression he couldn't quite define on her features.

He thought his heart had been irrevocably broken when she'd driven into a river. It had been broken again with the revelation of who she really was. Again, when she breezed back into his life with cryptic comments about truth and time. Again, when he killed her. By rights, there shouldn't have been enough of his heart left to break. But with a kiss and a goodbye, it broke once more.

Jack wanted to drink himself into oblivion, but when they returned from Russia they went straight into debriefing. Three hours later, he went by the hospital on his way home. Sydney was at her sister's side, clutching Nadia's hand as if she could heal her just by the force of her will. Jack stood in the doorway long enough for Sydney to register his presence. She smiled, then turned back to her sister.

He met Vaughn on his way out, accompanied by a very worried Weiss. Jack said nothing; no words could make this situation any better.

He tried not to think of Irina as he drove home. Tried not to imagine what she was doing right now. Told himself he didn't care if she was thinking of him.

He almost succeeded, and then he arrived home and found her curled up on his bed.

1/2