For a CIA agent, Jack's security was surprisingly easy to get past. (Or, Irina thought, maybe she hadn't lost her touch.) The house was familiar, ghosts of who they used to be in every room. Memories she'd tried too hard to forget suddenly demanded acknowledgement.

She stripped in the bathroom and took a quick shower. She needed to rest, but she also needed to wash the feel of captivity from her. (After Kashmir, she'd showered up to six times a day. Even before then, she'd hated feeling dirty. After . . . well, after, there was never enough water to feel truly clean.)

She dropped her dirty clothes in the hamper – remembered doing the same thing as Laura, a lifetime in the past – and borrowed one of Jack's shirts to sleep in.

Laura had done that too, she thought with a wry smile.

Irina clutched the pillow to her chest, burying her face in Jack's scent. She remembered doing this when he was away on long assignments, and she'd realized then that she loved him. Now, decades later, she'd come full circle and returned to the home she'd left behind, in search of comfort.

For the first time in years, she felt her age. She was tired of this: running, lying, pretending. Tired of Rambaldi and prophecies. Tired of seeing the people she loved torn apart by games.

She knew she shouldn't have come here. She was almost certain Jack wanted nothing to do with her. But the reality was that she had nowhere else to go. Not now, while she was still vulnerable and recovering from treatment at Elena's hands. While her youngest daughter was in a Rambaldi-induced coma.



She rolled onto her back, squinting up at him. He couldn't quite hide the shock on his face, and she was glad she still had the power to surprise him.

She grabbed his wrist, pulled him to the bed, then curled her body against his and buried her face in his neck. Much better than the pillow, she thought. He smelled of strength and warmth and everything she'd ever loved about him.

When he wrapped his arms around her, she let out a soft, contented sigh.

He said nothing. Perhaps he didn't need to. He'd been tortured before. He understood betrayal.

She needed more.

Pulling away slightly, she tugged clumsily at his shirt. Now that the adrenaline had worn off, her body was reminding her of how she had suffered. Her muscles were stiff and sore, and she was glad when he got the hint and took over. He slipped her shirt off too then lay back against the pillows and waited for her to make the next move.

She didn't want sex. She wanted comfort. Wanted the skin-to-skin contact from a previous life, where a husband held his wife and nothing in the world could touch them.

She reclaimed her previous position, and lay still as Jack ran his hands over her back. How long had it been since she'd been treated with such care? She felt tears prick at her eyes and let them fall.

Jack said nothing. His hand moved to cover her heart, as if he was the one in need of reassurance.

She needed to look at him, to tell him she understood and she didn't hate him. In his eyes she saw guilt and pain and regret, but she saw love too, and she knew she'd come home.