A/N: Just watched MI4 about 4 times and this feeling that the Secretary was deliberate about where Brandt went after Croatia just kept niggling at me. Of course, this is also my first MI4 fic ever, so...


Cobalt

"You're too good of an agent to lose."

Will doesn't look up at the man's authoritative voice. He's standing, head leaned back against the wall, hands on his hips, as he stares into nothingness outside the window. It's nighttime and on the backside of IMF headquarters where there are no parking lot lights to intrude on his mind.

The night is almost black. A fine night to hand in his resignation.

"If I was too good of an agent," he's almost surprised to hear himself rasp out the words, "she'd be alive." He looks up, hesitates, then turns back to the night, uncaring.

It's the Secretary walking up to his side and putting a hand on his shoulder. "No one could have done a better job."

Empty words hit hollow places inside. Will grinds his jaw.

"With all due respect, sir," he begins, turning to the Secretary, bitter words biting at the back of his mouth for release, but the Secretary holds his hand up for silence, and Will gives it to him for no better reason than habit. The words cut off. He feels tense, like there's electricity running through him.

"You have good instincts, Brandt," the Secretary begins. "You ignored those instincts for orders, and you shouldn't have to do that again."

He didn't realize he'd put that on the report. It bothers Will to realize someone knows just how screwed up this whole mission went and why Will blames himself.

"No, don't tell me 'no' just yet," the Secretary waves aside the hesitance he engendered. "Come work for me as an analyst. I have a long-term project that needs good instincts and a good eye, someone who remembers things."

It was right there in his file, all the things Will once thought he'd excelled at, but the offer felt dull. "Sir, I turned in my resignation…"

The Secretary holds up the letter for a long moment, then hands it back. "Take a week. Think about it. Get back to me." He walks away slowly.

Will gazes back into the night for a few more moments, then thinks about it.

It's out of the field. There's that.

Catching Cobalt is an operation that requires long-term planning and a delicate touch. The Secretary chooses every agent involved very, very carefully.

Agent Will Brandt is something of a dark horse, but one with a brilliant mind, if one he's less sure of now that he's faced his first failed protection detail. (The mission was a complete success, but the Secretary cannot count on him to do what's necessary later down the line if he tells him so.) He thinks through everything, ripping the intel to shreds and going back for more, turning numbers into facts and facts into numbers until everything they know starts to form a reliable picture. The Secretary catches Brandt late nights in the office, mumbling obscure details to himself, juggling variables into summaries, never losing sight of the objective. (It's more important than most analysts realize.)

The Secretary makes sure Brandt is there when Hunt takes the fall for an unauthorized hit. He makes sure in his own way that Brandt knows absolutely everything there is to know about Cobalt.

Croatia may have caused the IMF to lose a good field agent and turned Brandt's natural analytical skills into castigating self-doubt, but it also gave him a driving reason to not fail and to not fail Hunt in particular. The Secretary knew the mission was in good hands.

Will understands objectively the reasons for his presence on the Secretary's trip to Russia, but he finds himself surprised when the Secretary pulls him aside from the rest of the delegation.

"With me."

The black limousine drives slowly to a designated pick-up point and pauses to allow on another passenger.

The Secretary smiles grimly.