Disclaimer: All owned by J.J. Abrams and Company.

Thanks to: Andraste, for beta-reading.

Author's note: This was originally intended for the alias500 challenge, but grew to over 1000 words, alas.


Secret Keepers

She liked secrets. Of course she did; working as therapist for a great many professional paranoid secret keepers would not have been possible for her otherwise. Judy Barnett was quite sincere in her desire to help people, to find those fissures in the psyche of an agent before a nervous breakdown, or to heal them afterwards. But when she ruthlessly examined herself, which was necessary every now and then, she had to admit there was something immensely powerful and alluring in her position. She watched the watchers.

Perhaps that was why she allowed herself to fall for Arvin Sloane. She had to think of it as a fall, and not just because in the end, she lost her privileged position because of it. Aside from everything else, it had been unprofessional behaviour. After all, Jack Bristow had sent her to Zurich as a psychiatrist, and psychiatrists did not allow themselves to be wined, dined and bedded by the people they were supposed to counsel.

But she had been curious, and reasonably confident in her abilities. Getting either Agent Bristow to talk to her about their problems had been anything but easy, and yet Dr. Barnett had succeeded. In comparison, Arvin Sloane should have been a simpler task. She had written several evaluations of him based on his files, which she knew intimately. She had seen the footage of the church with its dead burned visitors who had died because Sloane needed to test a new weapon he didn't even plan on keeping, and she had talked to the doctors who had treated his late wife and who called him the most devoted, tender husband they had ever seen. In short, she had believed herself to be prepared for all extremes.

It wasn't even that she was completely unaware that he began to manipulate her from the moment they met. He told her as much. He said he knew exactly how to get people to respond in the way he wanted them to. It was a classic game of bait and switch, hinting at secrets and confidences, then shutting down the next minute, and all spiced with a subtext of challenge and flirtation. She hadn't expected the flirtation. Nothing in his files had even hinted that this was a tactic he used. But she thought she could handle it. She certainly wasn't about to concede defeat and return home. She had to find out the reason for his actions first. Even the latest one, telling her a secret at last, but one that could have just as easily belonged to an accountant who had never killed a fly; a decades old extramarital affair. In one moment, she was sure he had only told her to win her confidence, to make her feel privileged and thus inclined to trust him; in the next, she could not see what he gained by winning her trust, and wondered whether he actually had wanted to confess.

Along with the anger and betrayal, there was a dull sense of relief when she was told he had used her computer access. This at last was an unmistakable action, and everything was back in parameters she was used to, even if the disappointment was crushing. There was always the question whether a sociopath of Arvin Sloane's calibre was capable of changing; evidently not. When Dixon, who presumably wanted to be kind, informed her later that Sloane had in fact not been the guilty party but had been framed himself by the Covenant, it did not help at all. She still felt obliged to ask for a transfer. Both Bristows had stopped consulting her in any case, and though she told herself she was simply projecting, she imagined she could feel the question in everyone's look. Why would an experienced psychiatrist behave like one of the pitiable women who married serial killers in prison?

As she didn't feel up to self-analysis just yet, she concentrated on the question of just why Sloane had told her what he had, had acted as he did, if it hadn't been about access. If she could just solve this mystery, she could live with herself again. At the very least, it would put an end to the feeling of incompetence.

The conclusion she finally arrived at wasn't something she could ever prove, and she had almost resigned herself to the fact when she met him again, at the Los Angeles airport. It was obvious he must have received another pardon by the way he was utterly unconcerned about security. Seeing her, he seemed surprised but not unpleasantly so. He greeted her amiably, as if the last time they met hadn't been with him in a prison cell, and the time before that… no, she wouldn't think of it. He was waiting for a flight from Buenos Aires to arrive, he told her, and invited her to a cup of coffee before her own flight left. It was all very civilized. She wanted to kill him.

"You wanted me to tell Jack Bristow, didn't you?" she asked him, once they had sat down. "About the affair. Oh, not the way it actually happened. You definitely didn't plan to be in jail at the time. But you wanted me to tell him. You counted on the fact I'd be unprofessional enough to do that, sooner or later. If you provoked me in the right way."

"But why would I have wanted that, Judy?" he asked mildly. "I had nothing to gain by making Jack angry at me, and believe me, 'angry' in this context is a euphemism."

"Because," she said coolly, "you wanted him to be angry at Derevko as well. She must have done something just before we met, because you're usually not that spontaneous, something that made Jack Bristow send me to you in the first place. It's not an obvious gesture on his part, either. Something had happened between you, and Derevko was involved, and you wanted to pay her back."

He steepled his fingers. "If it were so, it was a grievous fault" he said, quoting Julius Caesar, and leaving the rest of the quotation, "and grievously hath Caesar answered it" unsaid. Trust him to identify himself with Caesar. Though, given that the quote came from Antony's funeral oration… she shook herself. No. She would not ever try to analyze Arvin Sloane again. Now that she had finally deciphered something about him correctly, she could let it go.

He asked her about her new work at Langley, and she deflected the question, pointedly not asking him what he was doing for the CIA these days that allowed him to walk around free and unthreatened, again. After a few more polite phrases, they took their leave from each other when the computer screens showed the flight from Buenos Aires he was waiting for had arrived. There was a sense of relief in her; she still felt humiliated, and oddly frustrated that in the end, it hadn't been about stealing national secrets or centuries old prophets but that strange triangle he had created for himself with the Bristows, but still, the feeling of failure that had haunted her since their week in Zurich was at last gone.

Telling herself that it was nothing but professional caution, for he was still a criminal at large, no matter how many pardons he received, she remained long enough, at a discreet distance, to find out whom he had been waiting for. It wasn't anyone she knew, or anyone from his files. It was a dark-haired young woman, very beautiful, looking both weary and apprehensive when she spotted Sloane, and yet hopeful as well. Sloane's face transformed when he saw her. No photograph and no moment during that strange week had ever familiarized Judy Barnett with that expression of unguarded delight.

She turned away, feeling sorry for the young woman already. But whoever she was, it was none of her concern. It had taken a brilliant sociopath of the first order, but Judy Barnett had finally lost her taste for secrets.