Thanks to dollsome for the prompt and to melanieanne for the beta.

they never cry out loud

take your silver spoon

Jack closed the door behind him and stood in the dark for a moment, letting the silence work its way into his muscles and bones. Reaching behind him, he flipped the deadbolt on the door with one hand while loosening his tie with the other.

He'd always hated the CIA's retirement parties and had managed to avoid most of them throughout his career. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option for his own, so he'd stood in a conference room for two hours, holding a plastic cup of punch but not drinking it, accepting the congratulations of agents half his age and throwing dirty glances at Devlin, who stood smirking in the corner.

Jack worked his tie free from his collar and tossed it into the darkness of the room, pleased he'd never have to wear one again if he chose. Without turning on the lights, he moved into the room.

Something creaked a few yards in front of him.

Jack froze, then reached for a gun he wasn't carrying. His nearest weapon was six feet away, in the drawer of the sideboard. Eight feet to his left was another, secured to the underside of a sitting chair.

Both were too far.


Jack relaxed, took two steps, and flipped a light switch.

Irina stood in the entry to the dining room, leaning against the doorjamb. She held a bottle of champagne in her hand.

"I brought you a retirement gift," she said.

Jack let his eyes wander over her. "I can see."

She turned her face to hide a smile and straightened, pushing away from the wall. "How was your party?"

"As bad as expected." He took a step toward her. "They always manage to make you feel guilty for not dying for your country."

Irina backed toward the kitchen. "Well, they can't fault you for lack of trying."

"No," he agreed. He reached out and caught her hand. "Where are you going?"

She raised the bottle. "For glasses."


He tugged her arm, and she came willingly.

wake up in the morning, see your sunrise

The cheap row of back-to-back airport seats shifted as someone sat behind her, and Irina smiled.

"You're twelve seconds late," she murmured into her newspaper.

"Your watch is wrong," Jack replied.

They didn't speak again while they waited for their boarding call. When the flight attendant made the announcement, they stood in unison and stepped toward the aisle.

"Oh, excuse me," Jack said when they brushed against each other. He gestured with an arm. "Please, after you."

"Thank you." Irina moved forward without giving him another glance.

He stood behind her in line, and as they shuffled forward, boarding passes extended toward the flight attendant at the gate entrance, Irina could feel his breath whisper against her hair.

They sat several rows apart on the flight, ate in different restaurants on their layover, and ignored each other on the longer second flight. Irina pretended to sleep. Jack didn't bother.

Once they reached their destination, they took separate cabs to the village. Irina lingered in the market, letting Jack take the first bus. She bought a wooden carving of a monkey, amused that the devious look on its face—turned away, over its shoulder, as though ignoring her—fit the game she and Jack played so well. There was no need for it; neither of them were under surveillance any longer. If they were, they'd have traveled days apart instead of rows.

She enjoyed the game. Being able to see each other but not speak or touch heightened the anticipation, gave their rendezvous a touch of the old danger.

They both missed the old days.

The bus ride to the beach lasted twenty minutes, and Irina was the only passenger to disembark. The beach was deserted in the off-season, two local boys playing in the twilight surf the only people Irina could see. She took off her shoes and walked along the sand, letting the waves wash over her feet, until she rounded the point of the bay. There, nestled amongst the palm trees where sand met jungle, sat four small cabins.

Light shone from the windows of the third.

When her bare foot touched the first step leading up to the porch, the door opened. Jack's silhouette filled the frame.

Irina smiled. "Hi."


She barely got through the door before he was kissing her.

pick up the pieces and go home

Irina sank to her knees at Sydney's words, unaware she'd dropped her tea until the liquid soaked through the legs of her jeans.

"A heart attack,"Sydney said, her voice small and broken. Irina could hear the truth in her daughter's words, but her mind instinctively fought against it. Nothing as mundane as a heart attack could be capable of killing Jack Bristow. She'd just seen him two weeks ago, and he'd been—he'd been—

"I'm coming," she said.

Sydney hesitated. "Mom—"

"I'm coming." No government agency on this earth would keep her from saying goodbye to the man she'd loved through two lifetimes.

Sydney recited the funeral information with a mixture of reluctance and relief, and Irina hung up without saying anything more.

She sat for a long moment, her eyes closed. It did not seem possible that Jack could be dead when she could still feel his skin beneath her fingertips.

When she finally moved, the puddle of tea surrounding her was long cold. She left the shattered remains of her mug on the floor.

shatter your illusions of love

Jack ducked back behind the table, a bullet barely missing his head. It slammed into the wall, throwing splinters of wood into Irina's face.

"Six," Jack said.

Irina nodded. They could handle six.

He raised his gun, holding it vertically next to his face, and lifted his eyebrows. Irina raised her gun in response, and Jack whispered, "Go."

She rose from behind the overturned table half a second behind him, and in the protection of Jack's cover fire, systematically dropped their adversaries. In four seconds, the room was quiet.

"Let's go." He pulled her completely to her feet and broke into a run.

"This isn't my fault, Jack," she said, watching his eyes rove the corridors, alert for danger.

"I don't care if it is or not."

He held up a hand as they approached a corner. She slowed her pace, matching him, straining her ears for any sounds of pursuit while he carefully leaned his head around the corner. He twitched his fingers, signaling her forward, and she sprinted after him.

Jack heard them an instant before she did—the sudden movement of his gun—but she reacted faster, grabbing his arm and spinning them both through the nearest open door. She shut the door silently and turned to face him. He jerked his head toward the back of the room, and she realized they'd ducked into the first of a long series of interconnected laboratories running perpendicular to the hallway they'd just left. With a likely exit at the other end, far from the commotion they'd caused on this side of the compound.

She followed Jack through the lab, carefully weaving between tables, eyeing test tubes and beakers labeled in an indecipherable scrawl with wariness.

"You don't trust me," she said.

"You're surprised?" Jack looked at her over his shoulder, and Irina saw every betrayal she'd ever committed in his eyes.

Her fingers tightened on her gun. "I just thought, after all this time…"

His lip twisted and he turned away from her, resuming his brisk walk through the lab. "I will never trust you, Irina. Never."

They paused at a door, checking the next room. It was empty, and they kept moving.

"You did once," she said.

Jack turned on her. "That wasn't you," he hissed. He took a deep breath, restoring his implacable façade, and said, "This is not the time."

"It was me," she protested, not sure if she was whispering because of the situation or the subject.

He didn't bother looking at her as he replied, "It was a lie."

"In name. In history. Not in me."

He paused, listening for danger, then continued moving.

"I haven't lied to you since then," she continued. "Not once."

Instead, she'd lied to herself. Every day since her extraction twenty-five years ago, she'd told herself he'd be okay, that he and Sydney would be okay. He'd told himself the same lie, but every time they saw each other again, the lies became harder.

Jack whirled, his free hand gripping the base of her throat and slamming her against a refrigerator. Glass tubes rattled.

"Why are you doing this now?" he demanded. His face was so close she could have kissed him.

"I loved you."

She didn't say the rest. Maybe later, while they worked off the adrenaline in her safe house, she could whisper it into his skin. And maybe later, when the feeling of betrayal faded again, he would believe her. But right now old wounds were too fresh, too close to the surface for emotions to be put in the present tense.

Irina watched the flash of pain in his eyes harden, and he loosened his grip and took two steps away from her. He opened his mouth, a sneer already in place, and she saw the movement over his right shoulder.

She lunged toward him, hammering at his shoulders and tangling one of her legs in his. As he fell, she saw his sneer turn into a snarl, and betrayal flooded his face.

Then the bullets hit her, taking her breath away.

She heard rather than felt her impact with the floor. As she tried to pull a breath past the pain, she heard the spit of Jack's silencer and an answering thud to her own. The searing agony in her chest spread, as if every cell in her body realized what was happening and screamed in protest. But then the screaming faded, leaving nothing in its wake, and that was worse.

"Jack," she gasped.

"I'm here, Irina."

She felt herself picked up, held, and she focused on his stricken face. She'd found a new way to hurt him.

"Oh, God. Irina…" His voice shook. She wanted to touch him, but her arms wouldn't move. His face blurred and darkened, and she struggled to pull in a rattling breath.

"Do you believe me now?" she asked.

She didn't hear his answer.

rulers make bad lovers

"Stop, Irina."

She obeys, halting at the edge of the light cast by the compound's perimeter. Arms held away from her body, she turns toward him.

Jack's aim is steady as he takes a few steps toward her. The barrel of his gun never wavers from her chest.

She smirks. "Are you going to shoot me, Jack? Over this?" She lifts the disk in her left hand, and light flashes off its plastic case. Her right hand moves toward her waist.

Jack responds instantly, decades of training replacing thought or calculation. He pulls the trigger.

She sinks slowly, and he is there to catch her as her knees buckle. Her weight pushes him to ground, and he holds her in his lap. Blood spreads across the front of her jacket.

"I'm so sorry," he says.

She smiles and lays a hand against his cheek, and he pulls her to his chest, because she is beautiful and he has killed her again.

He feels no surprise when her knife slides between his ribs.

"Me too," she whispers.

Her hand slides behind his neck and tightens, pulling him toward her. He buries his face in her hair and breathes her in one last time.


Usual disclaimers apply: not mine.