"The House that Jack Built"

Author: Kat (Bishclone )

Disclaimer: Touchstone, Bad Robot, ABC

Set: Just before "The Confession"

Updated: Slight date wrongness (my fault) and multiple Suzys. Thanks to Peregrine.

Thanks to: Rach, because she's cool.

Summary: Sometimes Jack Bristow regrets his entire life…



There were a certain number of assumptions that accompanied Jack Bristow.

Stuffed shirt. (From the kid who delivered his newspaper)

Cute Old Man. (Landlady, arguably older than he was, failed actress)

Distant father (Francie, that friend of Sydney's, her teachers, her friends)

Gruff (the bank teller)

He has a box beneath his bed full of the detritus of his life, faded photographs and crumpled ticket stumps.

Most days, he wished those assumptions were all that was true about him.



A film playing on a large screen, a pine smell, uncomfortable polymer seats that didn't like his weight. Pre-Video days, yet no projection set - he even wondered about that then - and an undeniably clean man with a bright, toothpaste commercial smile.

A recruitment tape (soon he would help to make them), a recruitment officer and a recruitment smile.

Vietnam. Johnson-era. The rest of his school smoking pot on the football field. Senior Year. A palpable amount of pain, a permanent cut on his bottom lip, the lingering memory of Suzy Claymore naked in the back of his father's truck followed by the lingering memory of Suzy Claymore naked with somebody else at Steve Hollison's house party.

His father, his mother, his house, his brother - all very small. An expectation, "America Expects!" a war there (South China Seas and those 'brave' boys) and a war here (cold, cold, cold.) Connected wars both of them, worlds apart.

At the Odeon Theatre seen 'In the Heat of the Night' thirty times. Thirty- one, should have been, but Suzy was too busy fucking someone else to join him.

All of this somehow relevant when he thinks back to that day - April - his hands full of College fliers, offers and acceptances and damn wrestling scholarships, looking over at the recruitment officer and saying, "Tell me more."

Tell. Me. More.

Sometimes, he wakes in a sweat, a burning turmoil rushing through his head. He wishes he had a better explanation. He wishes there was a bigger patriotic desire. He wishes the reasons were better.

The faded memory of Jenny Chapman, then, dancing naked beside his pool after mixing packet Margaritas (that were new then, better) and feeling the first rush of sex beneath his analytical, physics-fuelled head.

Joining the CIA to get away from it. It and her.

Looking at his empty bed - the cold, frozen pictures in a file box in a cupboard - and wishing there was a better reason for this to have begun, maybe, even, a purpose.

It would be easier to blame a purpose than a girl.



He knows it was good for a while, a long while.

A black and white photo, orchestrated by some office, somewhere, a reporter and a headline, "Young America!" He knows a decade earlier it would have read, "Young America fights Communist Threat," but the resistance was stronger with the new decade. Remembers men now long dead grumbling, "Fucking liberal hillbilly kids," when they streamed into the capital. The conscious decision he made to burn his twelve-inch copy of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," when his superior called Simon and Garfunkel, "the dwarfish fag and his fairy friend."

(Feeling bad about that AND going back to the store to buy eight copies. Felt personally responsible when it remained Number One for what felt like months.)

Watching those same superiors, their faces, their twitchy hands when the people died at Kent State. Seeing the looks in the White House, the war veterans (Second World War, sonny, Second World War) and their real fear - the small whisper that lingered at the state briefings, "It's all coming down. It's all coming down."

Maybe it was.

But it was good. He remembers the suit he bought with his first pay check. He remembers receiving his first assignment and shipping out of West Virginia for good. City boys for friends, city boys who already had passports and had seen Europe, city boys with Harvard degrees and the IQs to warrant it.

Most importantly, a chance meeting at a coffee shop (before they were franchised) and a girl. A new girl. A beautiful girl. A girl that put pay to haunted memories and parochial country girls with ministers for fathers.

A city. A girl. A job for life. A friend.

Arvin had introduced him to Laura in a Washington coffee shop. A year older, Arvin, and an education. An old money mother and a New England lifestyle - New York, Boston, Massachusetts schooling. Washington was small town for him, small purchase. Different though, Arvin, decidedly more human than the other lifers, the other graduates. He had a wry sense of humour and an ambition that Jack admired. They made for an unlikely pair. Jack, broadly shouldered, in shape, the guy they put behind the President to make him feel safe. Arvin, the small man with the sharp eyes they had greet the dignitaries. Their way of telling the world's politicians that America had long since outgrown its colonial beginnings. Superpower, Arvin used to say, America the superpower and us the standard bearers.

A palpable excitement between them, a conspiracy of remaining boyhood, a loyalty that has long since grown cold. They watched the demonstrations together and acknowledged their exclusion from the world. Relished their exclusion from the world. "This was what we signed up for!" Arvin would say. Except Jack signed up for a girl.

And now there was a new girl. Arvin's girl. In a coffee house, when that was exotic, her look and her lips constituting possibly the most perfect moment in his life. Her smile for the first time and her honest vitality. She made him feel what his bank balance told him every first of the month: young, upwardly mobile, promising. She made him feel what it was to be happy.

When she danced naked by the pool, he knew life was good. Good, excessive and strange.

Never was he farther away from his country - Nixon, Apollo 13, Hawaii 5-0 - that year, that summer.

And never did he believe in it more.



On May 26, 1972, the US signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. The beginning of the first end for the Nuclear age (he is quite sure there will be a second age, quite sure.) The old, now dying veterans in the House mumbled more. Stationed in Moscow to oversee just about everything, he felt very pleased with himself when he married Laura the Saturday after SALT I.

In latter years, he's thought that perhaps she was recruited here. There could have been coercion, torture, drugs. There could have been a number of things to make her believe falsehoods, lies. When he found out who she was, when the KGB connection was made painfully clear to him, he had said, incomprehensibly, "But she always voted Republican," as if Democrats were any more likely to betray their country. Such was his naivety. He has since grown to hate the irrational part of himself that refuses to believe she hated him all along. The irrational part of him that likes it better if she at least loved him before she betrayed him.

He knows that if Sydney knew how ridiculous his emotions could be, how well they would betray him, she'd be more forgiving of his stoicism.

His wedding pictures - taken by a local 'comrade' in a luminous transfer that makes him look almost orange - show very little. There is Laura, her mother, his mother, Arvin, Emily (with curls to her waist) Watson, Jones, his brother's widow and a figure in a light grey suit whose accent he remembers but whose name he forgets.

That's what it shows - and this is what it means -

Southern Georgian mixed with something that felt like Slovakian for Grey suit, the name unimportant but the link less so - Laura's friend and the first of many. Grey suit's proclivity to touch his then wife by the wrist, to pull her away, to insinuate what it was not appropriate to insinuate on a man's wedding day.

Jack can still feel the imprint on his knuckles from breaking grey suit's jaw. Jack can still feel the self-righteousness that a vodka breakfast inspires, what he felt when he said, "I do."

The wedding pictures do not show that - static, helpless portraits of static, helpless people who were, if nothing else, happy then.

There is one picture more telling than the rest. Faded around the edges (Laura had insisted it be put in a frame atop the piano) it depicts Jack with a flute of sparkling wine in the one hand, Arvin by his side sporting that awkward, tight lipped smile of his. It's years since the photo has seen the light of the day, Jack had long since become embarrassed by it, but it still held more truth than Laura's forced smile. Sloane was Arvin then, politically motivated - maybe he'd become President himself, someday, maybe he would - and the CIA had yet to present itself as too limited a weapon for his advancement.

That day in May, before Sloane and Emily disappeared to other lives and sustained deception, Arvin Sloane was his best friend in the universe.

He's embarrassed by that, by himself.

Sloane has since told him that he knew the dark was coming. Jack simply basked in life's many glories.

He's embarrassed by that.

By himself.



That year it was mainly Chilean dictators and South American beach resorts. The women were relaxed, waxed six ways to Sunday and spat when they pronounced his name. "Haq!" instead of "Jack" for the millionaire's mistresses and bell hops at the Sofitel Rio Palace. The mid seventies with the white powder becoming a commodity or a crutch and his work taking him to backwater dens, hidden behind reputable coffee plantations.

(By the eighties, the backwater dens would be hidden by brothels and gambling pits - and then terrorist organisations, and even aid relief charities.)

In 1974 his only daughter was born and he was surrounded by laundered money in an Ecuadorian bank vault when he heard. The wire with the message, "Jack, daughter born healthy - ten fingers, ten toes - and seven pounds two. Laura happy. Emily jealous. Take care, Arvin," still carries the smell of the insect repellent he poured over his agitated skin (skin agitated by more than the mosquitoes, skin agitated by "take care" Arvin and the recurring, incessant memory - 'Laura had been Arvin's before she was yours,'). The paper is also crumpled and faded from his sweaty hands.

To the news, he was initially cold. A daughter, yes, another asset - something that he could deal with, like a restless wife and an absentee supervisor. But the informant got an extra beating that night, and his hands bled with a new pain as the days strolled by without her.

*Her.* A child without a name (three weeks later the news that Laura chose, "Sydney,") an idealised, perfect, pure individual.

Someone who would save the world, a new life - his life recontrolled and redistributed, made better and made again. The half promise that with her would come an added purpose to his life.

A feeling that the slum cities building around Sao Paolo would not overtake him. Not distressed by the street children who amassed outside his embassy. Not afraid of the Andes, the removal of Incan artefacts, the vastness of a world that made phone lines cackle and girl-child gurgles indistinguishable from static.

Suddenly, he could control life. "Washington" and its halcyon virtues returned to his skin. The grey hairs that had tickled his ear lobes receded, afraid. His superior noticed. His superior approved. His superior sent him home to LA.

He saw Sydney for the first time on the bed, in a velveteen pink romper suit, with Laura beside her. When he saw her he said, "She seems…small."

He had meant to say 'perfect.'

Because that's what she was.



Sydney perplexed him. She was tall for her age and agile, thin. She demanded things of him. Laura had a way with her, a manipulation of confections - "You can have a biscuit," "Get into bed and I'll read you a story," - of which he disapproved.

"How do you expect her to learn?" he would ask Laura, in the den of a night, with Sydney long asleep.

"How do you expect her to live?" Laura would return.

His favourite saying was, "A child of mine…" He would always say it to Sydney and to Burt Huck, their neighbour, Jack's sounding board for everything he considered normal and parental. Sydney hated it. But to Jack it was a proclamation - she was his, she was all of him, she was his future and most of his past and he would not be a party to getting Sydney wrong. She would be everything, because she was his.

He has many pictures of her around the age of four. Her mind was awash with questions and she was playful, alert. Her favourites games were dress- up and seek. Dress up involved a large box of clothes he had inherited on the death of his mother (- the lasting, indelible image of a five year old Sydney's tiny feet stuffed into a pair of size eight spike stilettos-) and 'seek' was an odd evolution of hide and seek. Sydney's growing, milky teeth would spit out the word "seek!" and she would push him into the bedroom. There he would count to a hundred (even if he was tired, addled with summer beer or aggravated by her childish nature - he always played by the rules) and come out in 'search' of her. Except, she was always in plain view.

Sydney's game, "Seek!" was a test for the seeker - how well he could pretend he couldn't see her. The joy for Sydney was the way he'd stumble around as if blindfolded, his flailing hands tickling her tummy to force a giggle and a concession of the game. Sydney always won, a pronouncement she would make with a flourish when she saw fit.

Laura strayed increasingly from the family home. There were late night meetings and weekend seminars now that she'd returned to teaching (he thought.) He floated the idea of a second child like one would a business proposal, a thousand "good reasons" (a playmate for Sydney, a boy for his name) hiding an instinctual one (because I want one, dammit.) Laura said no, every time.

One Sunday he had dropped Sydney off at a birthday party and returned home to find a strange car in his drive. Just as he pulled open the garden gate a man (a familiar man) had rushed past him, into the car and away. He found Laura in the garden, beside a jug full of Sangria, wearing lingerie and an oriental print chemise. She looked at him coldly when he asked, "Who was that?"

"No one."

He looked at her sceptically, took the seat beside her and drew a glass of the fruit wine. She was lighting a cigarette when he said, "I thought you'd be more discrete."

Pushing sunglasses from the crown of her head to shield her eyes she nodded, took a drag of her cigarette and acquiesced, "That was discreet." A small silence passed between them, before the game started anew. She shook her hips, punctuated that with a drag on her cigarette. He couldn't help but look at her. "Like what you see?" she asked.

They made love on the garden swing seat.

He thinks that maybe this was the only time Laura didn't lie.



There was no fanfare. No prophetic dreams. Regular, wholesome married person sex. Sunny, family holidays in Europe. Sydney attending school, Sydney happy.

He still believed that his wife loved him. A photo taken New Year's 1981 spelled out the whole perception; Their home, tastefully decorated, Sydney with cake around her mouth in her Fairy Princess costume, Jack clutching Laura in a suitable 'photographic' embrace. Wide, realistic smiles.

1981 was an easier year than 1980. Of 1980 he is pleased there is barely any record at all. A few airline stubs and his expired passport in the box. Some tickets he scored off a radio phone-in for a Lakers game and an invitation to the Kramers' 40th Wedding Anniversary. Nothing of any real emotional significance. This is quite possibly due to the fact that the only things of emotional significance to him in 1980 were his .45, his malt whiskeys and the carton packs of Marlboro he bought back duty free.

1980 was about the FBI. Countless times, secret meetings, investigations and the hanging questions of Laura's continued absences. Laura's mother appeared to have disappeared (she wasn't bothered, called her mother once over the waffle machine one stressful Tuesday "a fucking whore" and let that be it) and his mother was dead. This became increasingly relevant as Sydney's care became more and more of a concern. Sometimes he would return home to find the house empty, save Sydney alone on the front step. She would then proceed to blame him for the predicament, cry as he burnt her dinner (canned, over boiled and sticking to the bottom of the pan) and run off to her bedroom as soon as he had chance.

In these situations he would turn beet red, overbear Sydney's ever-growing frame and roar, "Would you just be quiet child!"

She would be quiet, yes. But she would make him pay for his blessed silence.

When Laura returned (sometimes a man would drop her home) Sydney would rush down the stairs and embrace her mother dramatically at the door. The late, strangely absent Laura would then turn to admonish Jack with a, "What have you done to her?"

That year, he believed they conspired to break his heart. To shatter it in two.

He also believed his wife - the gorgeous, lyrical, unprepossessing Laura - was having an affair. Neither surprised him. Through his nicotine stained fingers and work bled lips he was faintly aware of the bastard he was becoming. Even the FBI thought he was a bastard. They told him so on a regular basis.

"But, Jack," they would say, "…we believe Laura may have…"

And he would sigh - sometimes get angry, although not during those early morning sets at the coffee shop - and repeat, "It's my fault. She's…probably seeing someone else. I know, you've told me…those meetings…all that but it's…"

They would look at him expectantly.

And he would let them down, "…my fault."

Sorenson, a friend of Jack's at the bureau, would view him with wide, sceptical eyes. "This isn't the same Jack who stopped the Russian's nuking this and Carlos Rejenta from assassinating that and held the best damn barbeques in LA, is it?"

Jack would smile at the final suggestion. "The barbeques were Laura's. That Laura, my wife, the one you believe wants to kill me."

Rothschild, Sorenson's partner, would slurp his coffee and then look at Jack pointedly. "We don't believe she wants to harm you, or your daughter, Mr Bristow," he would say. "We believe she wants to harm the entirety of the United States and all its god fearing citizens."

1980 scared the shit out of him. And proved the worth of his training.

Although he refused to believe, in his conscious mind, her betrayal, he funnelled the FBI information of her whereabouts, and by the end of 1980 was actively involved in the "prevention" of her as-yet-unrecognised activities. Sorenson promised no actual certification of his aid would find its way into files and records and Jack was always on hand to watch Sorenson burn the intel.

Jack wanted it that way. Jack knew Sorenson was screwing another woman (other than his wife) and so Sorenson watched his back, allowed the preliminary FBI investigation to go on under Jack's name, at Jack's request.

Sorenson turned over Jack's house and even managed to sneer at Laura, "we'll catch your scum of a husband some day. No one's beyond the law."

Sorenson should have transferred to CIA. He was good at the pretend.


81, the night after Laura's death - the cut-crystal memory he has is the look on Sydney's face.

The others of it - the police station waiting room, that urgent call from Sorenson, the counsellors they had put on - were unimportant. Her face was a brilliant white, her cheeks red from the cold.

She looked at him, wide eyed, and asked, "What have you done?" before breaking into tears.

She blamed him.

Photos, trinkets and mementos wouldn't do such indignation justice.

She had always blamed him.



They changed their house. Moved from the suburbs to the town, from a comfortable four bedroom to a cramped apartment. Jack hired a nanny called Denise, chosen because she didn't require a live-in arrangement.

Jack was adamant. He didn't need another woman distracting him from his work.

But then, there was very little work. They were watching him closely, waiting for his next mistake. He had found their surveillance points, located the tap on the telephone, and removed the tiny microphone from the table lamp in the hallway. They kept stressing the importance of a work "secondment."

Jack would look up from his briefing, not miss a beat, and reply, "I'm thirty one years old. I can handle this."

He couldn't handle this - mainly because there was no 'this.' Laura was gone. There was no work. He was being denied clearance after clearance. The looks had gone from pity to aggravation as the CIA's incompetence detector honed in on him. An empty nothing surrounded him. He would attempt to express this, only to be rebutted by, "You still have Sydney."


One night in February, Juliana, their landlady had brought Sydney home from dance class. The faintest part of him can still remember the rhythm of her voice, her tiny hand shaking his shirtsleeve, the whisper of, "Daddy, wake up."

And then, worst of all:

"Daddy, please."

He hated hearing those words come from her mouth. Felt it stir a low part of himself, a realisation, an understanding. The decent parts of him that interlocked with those he'd rather not acknowledge - jealousy, rage, hatred, pain - were gently slipping away. That got him angry. He was angry, simply, that he'd fallen asleep on the sofa and failed to make her dinner, failed to protect her.

But there was no one to be angry with. There was no one. But Sydney.

"I'm sleeping."


"Sydney, I was asleep! I was tired. I am a very busy man!"

She looked at him, first on the verge of tears and then capturing some kind of resolve. "You are not a very busy man," she said levelly, with an air of challenge before throwing her dance kit to the floor and moving to her bedroom.

He hired a new nanny. He gave this one a room and a key. He was not fit to care for his child.

Unfit. And they saw it in him. This was why he was chosen.

Arvin phoned him at 3AM.

"Jack? I'm on London time, sorry to wake you."

He wasn't.

"I'm coming to LA in a few days. Emily and I…we're….going to look for a house and - I thought it would be nice for us to meet, maybe see Sydney, we could…"

"Sydney has summer camp," he replied.

"Oh well then, "Arvin recovered, "just you and some of that Californian sunshine." He laughed, forced. "I'll come to your house, Tuesday, 10AM."

The phone clicked dead before Jack had chance to remind Arvin that he didn't know where he lived.

Arvin had been out of country since Sydney was a year old. Jack was unconcerned by the actual details of his relocation, as Arvin has begun to grate on a wholly personal level long before then. Arvin Sloane used to be his best friend, his boxed trinkets attest this fact, but Arvin Sloane had become a very small, sad little man who enjoyed scoring points off of those who intimidated him.

Jack had been a heavy, a shoe salesman's son, a wrestler, a killer, a political aid, a husband and a father. He had loved, he had grieved and he ad fought. Though how much was negligible, there was worth to Jack Bristow's life.

Sloane didn't do things, he inherited them, acquired them, manipulated them. Jack could feel Arvin's slow jealousy of his life and as a consequence began to hate the way Arvin would pick up the infant Sydney and proclaim, "Her eyes, they're a little like mine, don't you think?" or the way he would take care of Jack's affairs at the office, "I'm sure Jack's the man for that job," or "Sounds like Bristow's your man." Truth was, Sloane was faltering. People were suddenly refusing to turn over and let him tickle their bellies with his hammy compliments and his compelling wit.

The more Jack saw Arvin work people, control a room, the more he was reminded of the lies within his own friendship and the less he wanted to protect Arvin when the rumours began.

Arvin was not a salesman, nor was he a trader on the market; he was a servant of the state. He could not get by on patter alone. It soon became as clear that a change of tactics was required.

Arvin's greatest asset was his assessment of mood. Modes of operation were reassessed, he took on the persona of consistent irritation, was first to bring a silence to the table rather than a gentle jibe. His next job involved an unnecessary use of force and the whispers around the office were that 'Pink' Henry, the Frisco informer, lost more than his dignity at Sloane's hands.

The CIA transferred him to London to be rid of him. What happened there is information Jack is not privy to, all he knows is that Sloane came back. And that when he came back, he was no longer CIA.

"They betrayed you both, Jack. You and Laura, they don't want to make America a safe place, they-"

"Wait," Jack said quietly, leaning back in his chair, "you mean to tell me they don't pay…"

"Ah…Jack," Sloane said loudly, before leaning forward across the table and whispering, "it varies, you know it varies, one job to the next…"

"And why me?"

"An LA office. Think of it. They know your value, Jack, they know that and they know your pain…"

Truth was, CIA knew his pain as well, long before Arvin and his SD-6. They'd profiled him as a 'double agent' years before he'd even considered the option.

It was Jenson who said to him, "After Laura…we knew you were adept at controlling two separate areas of your life, and discrete, you were discrete…"

He could be two people at once. Loving husband and counter agent. Brutish father and caring parent.

One Jack knew his duty. The other remembered faintly a recruitment video, "America Expects!" and a daughter, swaddled in pink.

He could protect Sydney and be useless; he could do his job and put her at the greatest danger.

He is still puzzled by his decision. "Yes," Jack said, "Yes."

That night the nanny said Sydney was running a high fever. She whimpered in his arms as he carried her to the hospital. He wanted to explain to her, to tell her he was sorry, but as the sheet she was wrapped in grew clammy and the nurses looked on, brows furrowed, all the fevered Sydney would do was call, "Mommy! Mommy!"



Sydney's graduation pictures were the most deceptive of all. Sydney, her gown, diploma clutched in her fist, head cocked to the one side, a bright, carefree smile.

All true, or true enough for the lens of the camera, but the thin paper memory was backed up by no real one. He wasn't there to verify whether the sky was as blue as the photograph showed, her smile as well formed and practiced. He wasn't there to stand by to congratulate her, nod his head and discuss her SAT scores with the other parents. There was no awkward moment. There was no trite sentiment.

There was, for Jack, nothing.

The day of Sydney's graduation he had been in Lebanon, saving the life of a US diplomat who, in Jack's estimation, didn't deserve saving. Explaining to SD-6 the failure of their mission was easy enough, receiving the muted congratulations from the CIA office slightly harder, facing Sydney some Saturday morning after his return the hardest of them all.

"You didn't say you would be there," she said nonchalantly. "You didn't promise me anything…"

"Aeronautics fair, Sydney, important for business…"

Sydney nodded, scooped more cereal from her bowl and flashed a weak smile at him. "Yes, I know, you said."

He sighed, asked in a tone that showed not a hint of interest, "It went well?"

"Pretty much," she shrugged. "I signed for a package…over there…if you want…"

He shook off her change of subject, "Yes, but the ceremony…it was…?"

She looked at him with a thinly disguised contempt he had found easier to ignore than to despise. "Fine. It was all fine. Um. You got the message about my college fees…"

"Yes," he nodded, "UCLA," and he nodded again.

She smiled weakly. "Mom's school. Her programme."

The words were so familiar to him now they fell out of his mouth without much consent, "But Harvard, you got into Harvard…"

It was painful to look at Sydney some days. For a child (woman) so long divorced from her mother, the similarities were startling. Sydney had the same shy confidence as her mother, the same way of structuring her sentences and posing her half questions. The more he watched Sydney, her increasing independence, her steady moves away from him, the more she scared him.

His great second chance, the one thing he could do right in the world, was nothing like him. Worse, she wanted nothing to do with him.

"I'm going to UCLA." She stood, conversation over, made her way to the sink and carefully rinsed her bowl.

He racked his brain for something to say to her, but the distance was proven. The distance was the other parents who would call and ask to speak to him, politely inquiring (in a way that only a concerned parent could) if it was quite right that Sydney should walk home by herself, or that she should spend so much of her free time at Sarah's or Natalie's of Francie's. The distance was all the passion he could see inside of her he just didn't understand. Distance was the careful perimeter they kept around themselves at all times. Distance was the way she said with utter conviction, "Mom's School. Her programme."

Days went buy when he just wanted to grab Sydney by the shoulders and scream, "She wasn't perfect you know! She wasn't everything. You were just a…"

But he wouldn't. Mostly, because he didn't want her to share his pain. He wanted her to be free of everything that was him. He wanted her safe.

He was not safe.

And, for that, he was sorry.

The blue sky of graduation day knows nothing of this. Neither does Sydney's smile.



He's never been quite sure of what he did to Sloane. What happened to make Sloane hit him exactly where it would hurt for the hardest and longest with the biggest scar.

For two years, while Sydney believed he worked in aeroplanes he believed she was an English student, simple, plain, free, dating some fourth year med student, average, normal, unremarkable - (all the words he wanted for her now, his perception of her long removed from someone he would wish to stand out from the crowd, he wanted her hidden, safe.) Yet, since 1996 Sydney had not simply been an English student, she had been a recruit.

In 1998, they'd argued over a job in Beirut - Sloane thought Jack was too lenient (as always) Jack thought Sloane was showy. Sloane said he could be showy, Sloane said it was what he deserved. Jack did what Jack knew, pushed Sloane out of his chair and had him up against the wall.

It was then, his face disfigured in that small smile he had, that Sloane had whispered, "Sydney."

Jack dropped him in an instant. "Sydney?"

"Sydney." Sloane had nodded, "Training Room Beta."

Jack had run faster than tired bones would allow. Jack had arrived in a small fire arms controlled room in the rear of the building to see his daughter - tall, athletic, agile Sydney - letting off rounds on a handgun with instinctual panache. It was Sydney, joking with the instructor, trying out different weapons, calibres, weights in the search for her own weapon, acting like she belonged. It was Sydney trapped in his world.

Sloane arrived about a minute behind him in the observation lounge. "You know Jack," he said, "on her initial assessment she was asked why she wanted to join the CIA." He paused, smiled, waited and then, "She said, and here I recall verbatim, 'since the death of my mother I've lacked a real sense of family. I think the CIA can offer that.' Family, Jack, family."

"You did this," Jack said, turning on him.

"Ah no," Sloane replied, that bastard smile stuck to his face, "didn't you listen? You did this Jack. You created her."

Through the glass he could see Sydney decide on a weapon and slip it into a holster. "If you hurt her," Jack began, more weakly than he'd like, "if you hurt her I'll…"

Sloane's smile slipped a notch and he took a step forward, bent his head towards Jack's, "You know just how well I'll protect her. You know that I'll treat her like my own…"

It was easy to strike his arm out with all his force, connect with Sloane's stomach and watch the man crumple to the floor. It was all Jack could do to stop himself kicking Sloane while he was down.

Jack tried to regain his composure and leave the room but Sloane - adept at mood if nothing else - caught him just before he left. From the floor, Sloane coughed out, "And tomorrow, she's going to Egypt to deal with Hassan…"

It made him sick.



There was a singular problem with being a double agent. The CIA and SD-6 offices had become so utterly similar he had difficulties telling them apart.

Thin, pale men and women from late twenties to mid fifties occupied mainly open plan desks with little direct sunlight and the air conditioner set to a cool just beneath comfortable. There was a liaison meeting with SD-6, and then one with CIA. Sloane still liked to run to CIA protocol so both meetings pretty much went the same way, only the content differed. Mission and counter mission, destroy and salvage, continue and stop.

One thing that was the same: Sydney.

Everything had taken on an extra sense of purpose since the death of Sydney's fiancée - Hecht - and that night when he was able to tell her half the truth, offer her the out. But…

She didn't trust him, she still blamed him and she had to do everything on her own.

Now Coughlin was dealing with the aftermath of that particular escapade and Sydney's early morning visit to head office. CIA head office. Half of him was proud of her, if the other half wasn't remembering that he'd been like that once, that he'd thought - years before now - that it was possible for one man to save the world.

"Bill Vaughn, you knew him right?" Coughlin asked.

Jack had never met the man. But such was the incestuous scout camp of the CIA he nodded his head anyway. This way they'd cut right to the chase and Coughlin would not feel compelled to remind him, "He was one of Laura's targets."

That much, Jack did know.

"Good, good," Coughlin nodded, tapping his pen against his desk. "So…" he let the words hang a little, and then rushed his next fractured sentences, "Michael Vaughn, low level, junior, good guy mostly a little off on his accuracy, maybe too much of a hero but not many scruples, you know, not much they can take him on…the kind of guy…"

"A pride guy."

There were two types of men at the CIA. Pride and Adrenaline. Adrenalin's were street wise, heavy set and dead within their first operational year. Prides usually towed the course longer, and ultimately fell harder.

Coughlin nodded. "A pride guy."

Jack sighed. "Acceptable. You want me to reveal my cover to her?"

Coughlin shrugged his shoulders. "Jack, I've been your handler for ten years, in all that time you have never asked me to make a decision. But…well, we pretty much expected you to, builds trust and you can…you know, keep her safe…"

He could never keep her safe. Not when she was six years old and he'd been driving the car that killed her mother and he'd survived. Not since then.

Jack didn't miss a beat. "We can't keep her safe."

Coughlin looked visibly shocked. "Every precaution, Jack, every…"

"Every damn precaution," he moved to stand, "yes, I know. But she deserved better."

Jack was out the door when Coughlin said. "She's paying her country a service."

Jack didn't even bother to turn around to reply, "That bullshit stopped washing with me years ago…" because Coughlin knew that, and still he threw out the party line.

Jack saw Michael Vaughn as he left the office. The man reminded Jack of his own youth, a little quieter maybe, a little less fuelled on his own self- importance, but that same look about him, that same healthy confidence that had yet to get people killed.


"Mr Bristow," Vaughn replied.

However this ended - and the small, dark pieces of him knew exactly how - this Vaughn would feel pain above and beyond himself. Jack wanted to warn him, but that would serve no purpose so he nodded and moved away.

He was faintly aware that he was always doing that.

"Agent Vaughn." Vaughn turned to look back at him. "Look after her."

And then a silent, "please."



There were a certain number of assumptions that accompanied Jack Bristow.

All of them were true, unless you looked a little deeper.

He moved the box to his lap and slipped it into the UPS envelope he'd acquired earlier that day. It was a peculiar of his to have kept those things for so long.

"It is one thing for a man to know his limitations, it is another for a man to become his limitations." Arvin Sloane, 1969, moon-landing party at Langley.

Jack Bristow may have done things badly, but he was not dead.

He could atone. He could amend.

He marked the envelope Sydney Bristow and ticked the box beneath 'Priority,' then placed it back underneath his bed.

He'd take the assumptions, as long as he could keep the secrets.

Sydney would know everything, soon enough.