Disclaimer: All owned by Bad Robots, alas.
Timeline: pre-show. Chile, 1973.
Thanks to: Kathyh, for emergency beta-reading!
Author's Note: written forthe spysanta challenge, requested by Joylee, who wanted young Jack and Sloane, backstory, a mission from their CIA days, and no slash.
Jack: Long time.
Brill: Chile, 73. We should have never helped overthrow Allende.
Jack: (…) Sloane's designing the op.
Brill: Look who's putting the band back together.
(Breaking Point, season 3)
Sloane knew there was trouble brewing when Thomas Brill went to pee for the second time. Brill wasn't a rookie; Sloane had designed the op, and he didn't pick rookies for something as crucial as this one. Granted, this was actually the first time he himself had been put in sole charge, after years as a field agent, but he had played it out in his head a thousand times. He had reviewed the files on the mess everyone had made in 1970. That wasn't going to happen this time.
"You're sure you can do it with three people?" the director had asked him when Sloane had presented his plan, and Sloane had nodded, skipping over reassurances and the usual "yes, sir" because he was that sure. Their mission was just one cog in the overall machinery, he knew that, but still, it was a crucial one, and he'd never go for anything less than perfection. That's why he picked Jack Bristow and Thomas Brill. He had worked with both in the field. He knew them.
They also had reputations to make, all three of them. Arvin Sloane believed in ambition as an incentive.
Jack gave him a look when they heard Brill in the corner, and Sloane felt a mixture of gratification and concern. Jack had noticed it, too. Of course he did. That was one of the great great things about Jack Bristow, though on the other hand, it raised the inevitable challenge. What would it take to blindside him? Well, now wasn't the time to try and find out.
"Something on your mind, Tom?" Sloane asked when Brill came back. He was all for subtlety and mind games, but not when there was so much at stake. There was a coup going on here in Chile, and it had been their task to get rid of one of the principal obstacles. Without leaving any traces that would connect the CIA to the dead body. The general Jack had killed yesterday would be just one more in the purge among the officers Augusto Pinochet had organized before starting the move on the civilian government. It was done; all they had to do was keep quiet until they could be retrieved. Brill hadn't shown signs of nerves when it counted, he had kept cool and executed his part of the plan, just as Sloane had predicted; there was no reason for him to fall apart in the aftermath. Maybe all he needed was some talk to get the tension out of the way.
"Wish they'd pick us up already," Brill said. "That's all. Man, it's louder outside than in New York after the Yankees win."
There was a lot of noise. Panicked screams, to be precise. And a lot of munition. Pinochet was right on schedule. Sloane didn't ask whether Brill had expected a military coup to go quietly, though.
"You know why we have to wait," he said instead, doing his best to sound soothing and calm. The truth was, his back hurt, his legs felt cramped, and he wished they were back in Washington strolling somewhere, too. But that wasn't the issue.
"That's one of the ways they screwed up the last time. They just dumped the money and the guns on a bunch of incompetents and ran, and next thing you know General Schneider gets killed during the worst kidnapping attempt ever, everyone screams CIA and the entire country rallies behind Allende. We're not getting out of here until we know the job is done this time. No more Marxist government in Chile."
"Thanks for the history lesson, Sloane," Brill said tersely, and started to pace. So much for being quietly commanding and soothing. He was going to have to work on that. When Jack started drumming with his fingers, Sloane decided that emergency measures were called for.
"I never," he said. They both stared at him in puzzlement.
"Come on. I'd suggest Truth or Dare, but that would end up with one of us going outside sooner or later, which would defeat the purpose of the exercise."
"You seriously expect us to indulge in infantile college activities, Arvin?" Jack said in disbelief, though if you paid close attention to the miniscule crinkle around his eyes, which Sloane had learned to do in the last two years, you could tell he was vaguely amused. Maybe even grateful for the distraction.
"Some of us never went to college, because we couldn't afford it" Brill said, then shrugged while Sloane opened the dirty little fridge and liberated the sole bottle of tequila, putting it on the ground between them. "Fine. I never took part in ousting a democratically elected President from office to get some military dictatorship going."
Looking from Sloane to Jack, he added: "What? No drinks. Guess you two didn't, either. Bad example, huh?"
"We don't need another Cuba here, Tom," Jack said quietly. "Allende is a Marxist. He had to go."
"They still voted for him, right?"
Sloane could have said that it had been a mandate the agency had been following for years; the President had made it clear from the start, before Salvador Allende even got elected, that a Socialist government in Chile would be unacceptable and was to be prevented by any means necessary. But he was actually relieved that Brill had come up with what was bothering him so easily. It meant he hadn't misjudged the man's nerves; he had just misjudged his politics. Not a mistake he would repeat when designing his next op. You had to keep learning and use what you learn, after all.
"I never hated a Communist," Sloane said, "and I never felt sorry for one, either. They're the competition gunning for us, and I want my team to win. It's as simple as that. Anything else is a waste of emotion."
Brill made a grimace, took the tequila and drank on both counts.
"Guess I like my emotions wasted."
Then Jack took the bottle and drank as well, only once, though, and Sloane raised an eyebrow. Taciturn Jack Bristow, never confessing a feeling if he could help it. It had been considerable work to make him smile enough to show his teeth, which was why Sloane had tried it soon after their first encounter.
"So did you hate one or did you feel sorry for one?" Brill asked, curious.
"Answering that isn't something required by the game, is it, Arvin?" Jack asked with his usual poker face, and Sloane shook his head. Outside, the screams moved a bit closer, and without needing a sign, they grew quiet for a while, weapons within reach, but then the noise level went down again.
"But I never doubted for a moment that serving this country is the right thing to do," Jack continued, sounding firm as a CIA agent should. But his little finger was still drumming on the ground again. Brill rolled his eyes.
"Thank you, Agent Bristow, Agent Sloane. How can I not be impressed by this sterling demonstration of loyalty?" he said, then mouthed "pricks" at them. Sloane went for another emergency measure. To keep up morale, he told himself, and because if a little exercise in reverse psychology didn't work out, he'd recommend Brill to be taken from field duty and then see to it the man got transferred for a while and then discreetly discharged. He wouldn't be able to have any impact on Sloane's career with what Sloane was about to do, and Jack, well, Jack obviously needed some opportunity for tension release as well.
With Jack, however, there was always the chance he might do something unexpected with that kind of information, but that was the kind of risk you took when you befriended someone as able as yourself. Taking the bottle from Jack and looking at him, not at Brill, Sloane drank. Jack's little finger stopped drumming. Brill whistled.
"Okay," he said. "That was unexpected."
"I'd hate to become predictable," Sloane replied wryly, still focusing on Jack while feeling fleeting satisfaction about having gauged Brill's likely reaction correctly. That was why he was a good strategist, and why he would succeed in the service. He could read people, and he could improvise.
Jack pressed his lips together, but didn't say anything.
"He's lying, right?" Brill said to him.
When Jack slowly shook his head, Sloane again wondered what it would take to blindside Jack Bristow. Which wasn't an issue now. The smell of burning cars pervaded the air outside, and even though they had barricaded the windows and the door, it had invaded their room. The issue now was distraction for his team. Jack focused on him and Brill not feeling the odd man out with his doubts anymore was better than Brill deciding the next time he wanted to pee, he'd do it outside and get some fresh air in.
"Okay, I gotta know," Brill said. "Mr. Model Agent. When did you have that moment of doubt?"
"Answering that isn't required by the game," Jack said, with some well-laced irony thrown in. "Arvin wouldn't have brought it up otherwise."
Now that was both correct and a challenge. Challenges like this were why he might work with the Thomas Brills of this world, but would have never, in his own mind, called them friends, whereas he would never call Jack anything else.
"I never," he said, "found something better than my country to serve."
None of them drank to that, and Sloane was satisfied. Brill called them both pricks again, but this time in an affectionate tone, and the rest of their time was spent without any dangerous undercurrents. When they finally got picked up, his team was whole, together and alert. It wasn't until they sat in the airplane back, the dead bodies in Chile behind them and the documents they had taken from the general Jack had killed on their way in a separate transport to Washington – if Pinochet chose to believe the CIA helped him with his army cleanup pre-coup for no other reason with no other objective than making the removal of Allende go without glitches this time, that was his affair – that Jack, sitting next to him while Brill dozed in two seats on the other side of the aisle, suddenly asked:
"But you're still looking?"
It took Sloane a moment. He was tired, after all, even though unlike Brill, he found it impossible to sleep. Then he knew what Jack was referring to, and needed another moment to contemplate an answer. The mission was over. No more need for stress relief, or another game. Except that this was Jack, and maybe the answer to how one could blindside Jack Bristow was to do what Jack himself found very difficult indeed and open up about something that should be kept hidden away, as it was one downright career-murdering admission. It wasn't like he could assume Jack shared this particular desire; on the contrary.
But if he told Jack, Jack with his sense of not wanting to be too much in anyone's debt would tell him something equally intimate. That was the rule of the game, after all, and who was to say the game ever stopped?
"Yes," Arvin Sloane admitted. He hadn't realized this was so until rather recently, when being told that if the ops in Chile went successfully, he'd have the honour to personally report to the President himself. It was an honor. No question about that. And all the dead Chileans, numbers going into several hundreds by the time they had left the country, weren't a burden to him in the sense Brill might see them. But helping some petty South American general to take over a country, he had suddenly wondered whether if this was possible, and could be done because a President who had just started his second term and would be out of office and removed from power in a few more years himself had given the order, it could be done for some greater purpose. Which meant that he allowed for the existence of a greater purpose than keeping the United States safe. Which meant he was looking for one.
Jack didn't say anything to that for a while, and Sloane didn't press. He waited. They listened to the humming of the machine, Brill's breathing, and breathed the clean, filtered air. So very different from all the stink in Chile.
"The double I killed in Vienna when we were there three months ago," Jack said abruptly. "You were right. I had met him before. I didn't kill him because he had betrayed the country and worked for the Russians. I killed him because I hated him for betraying me."
It could be a warning. It could be a present, just as his own confidence has been. It could be both.
Sloane put his left hand on Jack's shoulder, ever so briefly, because you never did more than that with Jack Bristow, and when Jack looked at him, he smiled.
"Thank you, Jack," Sloane said, and he didn't bother explaining whether it was gratitude for a present or a warning, either.