Jack wades into the ocean until the water comes up to his waist. For a moment he's tempted to keep walking until the water covers him completely. He thinks of Sydney, then, and Nadia, and he remains still.
He remembers the night of Sydney's wedding; after she and Vaughn had gone back up to the house, Jack and Irina had sat on the beach – just sat, holding hands – until early morning. There were no more words. She fell asleep with her head on his shoulder, and he picked her up and carried her back to the house.
He hasn't slept much over the last few weeks. He couldn't, not when time with her was so short. So he watched her, watched the steady rise and fall of her chest, committed each detail of her to memory. The way her lashes curled on her cheeks, the exact shade of her hair in the moonlight, the curve of her smile. Everything filtered through a lense of tears.
The ocean is calm today, and it seems fitting.
"I love you," she said, and he replied, "I love you, too." Even now, he's surprised at how easy the words were to say. After twenty years of being afraid to utter them, suddenly he couldn't stop.
"I love you," he told Sydney just this morning, but she was crying too hard to respond.
The ghost of a breeze kisses his face, drying his tears. He lifts the lid of the box he's carried here. He closes his eyes and her image is vivid in his mind.
"I won't really be gone," she said, one of the mornings near the end.
He'd forced himself to smile. "Are you going to haunt me?"
"Only if you want me to." She covered his heart with her hand. "I'm right here."
"You never left."
He curls his fist in the ashes, then lifts his hand and lets the sad breeze pull her out of his fingers.
He watched her sleep, watched the steady rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. Watched until she stopped breathing and the only sound in the room was the sound of his own sobs.
He lets the rest of her fall from the box; some of the ashes are picked up by the breeze and carried away, some settles on the surface of the water.
She's free now, he thinks.
"I love you," he says. The breeze brushes against him; a caress. And he smiles.
It's another five months before Nadia wakes up. When she's out of hospital, Jack arrives at her apartment with a carton of Chinese food and a box of photographs. He gives her the results of the DNA test, then tells Nadia how much her mother loved her.
She looks at the photograph of Irina on Sydney's wedding day for a long time before she says anything at all. "I think I know that."
She starts to put the photos back in the box for Jack; he stops her with a hand on her wrist and a shake of his head. "Those are your copies."
She smiles then. "Maybe we could have dinner sometime. Get to know each other."
He smiles too. He's had months to get used to the fact that she's his; he'll give her the time she needs.
He doesn't have to wait long. Sydney invites them around for dinner one night. Weiss comes too, and if he was a little afraid of Jack before, he's terrified of him now. He barely touches Nadia all night; Jack thinks Irina would be as amused as he is.
He stands in the nursery and cradles his granddaughter in his arms as he hums a lullaby. Isabelle Irina Vaughn. He wonders what Vaughn thinks about her name; he knows he'll never ask.
Isabelle looks up at him with her grandmother's eyes.
There's a soft knock at the door before Nadia steps into the room. "I didn't mean to disturb you. Eric and I are leaving now; I wanted to say goodnight. Dad."
He blinks back sudden tears. "Goodnight, Nadia."
She smiles, then slips out again.
Jack strokes Isabelle's cheek with one finger. "You look just like your Babushka," he says.
Isabelle keeps staring at him, her expression far too serious for someone so small.
"One day I'll tell you all about her," he promises.
Then, as if she really understands him, she smiles and grips his finger in her tiny fist.
"I won't really be gone," Irina had said.
She was right. She lives on in her daughters and her granddaughter.
It's not Rambaldi's idea of eternity but he thinks it's one that Irina prefers.
And, somehow, he knows they'll meet again.