"Game face. Game face. Kremlin game face."
Ethan glanced at the former-tech, wondering for the fifth time in as many minutes if this was going to be the mission that finally killed him. He'd never worked with a man this talkative before. He never remembered Benji being the babbling type, but of course, he'd never been on a field mission with the man before, either. Ethan had asked Benji if he'd gone into the field before Budapest, and the answer had been no. He was as green as they came, and his first field assignment had been the usual type for field technicians - behind the scenes dealing with the equipment - not face front, dealing with actual NOC operations. His nervousness was palpable, and he'd chattered non-stop almost from the moment they entered the Kremlin gates.
Ethan had tried to remain patient - everyone had quirks, right? But the unnecessary talk was definitely becoming a distraction. In any other situation, the running commentary on their situation might have been humorous, but considering what was at stake, and the fact that they were in the ACTUAL KREMLIN made it unnerving.
Benji was in the middle of a rundown of the checkpoints they had just passed when the guard at the final station cleared his throat. "Excuse me, General."
Ethan tensed. Dear God, here it comes. He could sense Benji's nervousness, and he was certain – this was it. Benji would say something in English, or crack in some way, and they'd be arrested, and the world would be shot to hell.
"Your documents, please."
Ethan turned slowly, maintaining his serious expression. He glanced at Benji, noting the "oh-shit" expression on his face. He walked slowly to the guard station, pulling out his fake ID. In his peripheral vision, he noticed that Benji already had the upload sequence running, wisely keeping it low so the guard couldn't see it. Ethan spoke sharply to the guard, while moving as slowly as possible without causing undue suspicion.
Not slow enough, of course. The transmitter hadn't loaded his falsified information in time for the guard's first scan. Ethan felt sick, but he kept up the angry Russian General act with ease. A moment later, Benji's foot tapped his own, and Ethan demanded the guard try again, smoothly "demoting" him for causing further delay.
The upload was successful, and the guard was suitably contrite. Ethan glared, but otherwise ignored him. Benji surprised and pleased Ethan by chastising the guard in perfect, accent-free Russian, playing the "indignant assistant to the General" to an absolute tee. Ethan was impressed - suddenly, he didn't feel the impending sense of dread hanging over him that had been there since he been told that one of Cobalt's agents had stolen nuclear launch codes. He had faith in the current IMF recruiters, but he'd never been forced to shove a tech right into the forefront, and Benji had actually handled himself excellently.
Just as he was about to give his "assistant" a nod of approval, Benji whispered in English again. "I think that went quite well."
Ethan's eyes narrowed. "Just shut it," he hissed.
"Sorry," Benji said, speaking in Russian again at least.
They might not die today, but assuming they survived, Ethan was definitely going to have to work on this particular quirk.