Dopo Il Diluvio (After The Flood)
by Naomi

It's the story of her life, writ large in a bloody scrawl across the devastated city, writ smaller in painful lettering across her heart. Prophecies fulfilled, choices made, consequences to live with. Walking away alone for the thousandth time, choosing the necessity of freedom over the screams of her own heart.

She endured months in CIA custody before, and, after Yelena and multiple heart attacks, a glass-fronted cell with negotiable benefits -- she's sure Jack would speak on her behalf, as would Sydney -- would be a respite. She could take the time to heal from all that has occurred, be near her family, keep building this delicate and precious new trust with her husband, she could be there to find out when Nadia was alright again. Perhaps they would even let her attend Sydney's wedding, see her little girl become a bride... And how long has it been since she slept in a real bed? She's still not sure; her body aches all over from the rough use Yelena put it to, and it is temptation, this opportunity, this chance to surrender for a little while. It would be the easy road, but Irina Derevko has never once taken the easy road.

There is still so much to do, to set right, to stop and to gain control of. Yelena's apocalypse is thwarted, but there are innumerable other fanatics out there to continue her work. While Rambaldi's Followers -- idiot sheep, seduced by the false opiates dangled by a madman prophet -- still work to bring their master's work into being, Irina's work continues. To do what she must, she cannot be in CIA custody.

Jack seems to understand, and he warns her of the pending arrival of the CIA extraction team with the same ache in his eyes as she has in her chest. "No one can hold onto Irina Derevko for long," he says and she wants to take him by both hands, to kiss him, to hold onto him and point out that yes, there is someone who has. Someone who has held onto Irina Derevko with an iron grip for years, even when he was away from her, even when he hated her. She told him once, after a twenty-year absence, that she had held a picture of him in her mind all the time they had been apart. She will hold this picture in her mind, too, until they see each other again -- Jack, understanding, loving, letting her go, saying 'Irina' with the same tender voice he used to use when she had another name -- and she will pray to a god she's not sure she believes in that she will see him again soon.

Sydney, too, understands. She's changed so much since the last time Irina saw her, since the night Irina jumped off a building with words of those damned prophecies and confidence and love. Sydney's become stronger, Irina thinks, but a little harder. She no longer has the luxury of seeing the world in black and white. The mother in her aches for her daughter's disillusionment, but as a mother who has done terrible things, she is secretly, horribly, pleased that she has ceased to be the devil in Sydney's eyes. She hopes, too, that Sydney's new appreciation for shades of grey will allow her to accept her young man in spite of all he's kept from her. Michael Vaughn reminds her of Jack as he used to be before she broke him, and for that reason as much as any other, she'd like to see Bill's son happy. He and Sydney are good together -- again, a younger, happier reflection of who she and Jack could have been, if things had been simpler -- and she sees a kind of redemption in Sydney's happiness. If her daughters can be happy and live full lives, then all she has endured will not be in vain.

Nadia. The little girl she'd lost so long ago -- it's a bitter irony that she got to find her younger daughter only to lose her again so soon. That she is still alive comforts the mother in Irina's heart, but it troubles the Rambaldi scholar. He has yet to be wrong, the bastard, and Irina knows that death is not the only way to be destroyed, to perish, to fail to survive. She fears desperately what may become of Nadia, but knows her hands are tied. If there is anything she can do for Nadia, it is not the provision of medical attention. Jack and Sydney and the CIA will see to that. If there is any way Irina can help her younger daughter, it will be through returning to Rambaldi's writings and finding what he said would come dopo il diluvio -- after the flood.

So, because there is much still to do, she walks away, uttering promises aloud and in the silence of her soul that she will see them all again, and soon. Perhaps it is a brave new world out there, anyway, now that Ragnarok has been swept away in cleansing waters. Perhaps the reality of what almost came to pass will have dissuaded some of the followers of Rambaldi from trying this shit again. Irina doesn't imagine it will, not really, but it is a pleasant fiction that she indulges in sometimes, that people might actually learn from their mistakes rather than repeat them.

History is cyclical, though, and she knows that what is past is merely prologue for a grander story playing out in their lives. She knows that actions and mistakes and cruelties are as perennial as the grass and that living through one kind of hell does not mean you would not make the same choice if you got to do it over, or that you will not make the same choice when confronted with similar circumstances in the future. She knows this only too well: she's walking away from her family again and leaving her heart behind as she once did.


Irina gets past the Russian military patrolling the outskirts of Sevogda with frightening ease -- these foolish children are the ones protecting her once-beloved Russia? It would almost hurt if she still cared about notions such as borders and nationality. She slips past them, only having to dispatch two soldiers, and she manages not to have to kill them: there's been enough death today, she thinks, and continues to the next city. East, into the rising sun, to Podrel'ye and the house of an old friend.

"I thought you were dead," Dmitri says, taking her into his arms so fiercely that it rattles Irina's wounds and she grits her teeth.

"I'm not," she tells him, pulling away and taking the offered sat phone, punching in a number she still remembers by heart.

"Hello?" A sleepy voice answers and she smiles faintly, wondering where he is and envying the slumber in his tones.

"Hello," is all she says and her smile broadens at the indrawn breath at the other end of the line.

"Reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated then. I had assumed so." There's no sleep left in his voice and she feels a rush of pride in this boy, one of her greatest creations.

"I'm glad to hear it, Julian."

He lets out a small sigh that belies his confident words and, it is probably lingering sentimentality from seeing her daughters and Jack, but the relief in that sigh warms her a little.

"Where are you? Do you need extraction?"

"It would be nice," she says, and punches the button on the sat phone to give him her GPS coordinates.

"I will see you soon, Irina," Sark promises. A pause, and then, "Is it over, then?"

He sounds so young, asking questions like that.

"It's never over," she tells him. "See you soon, sweetheart."

"Not if I see you first," he returns, and she can hear the smile in his voice.

Irina hangs up and takes the cup of tea that Dmitri offers her, settling back in to wait for her own extraction and to think about the work still ahead of her.


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