Title: ninety-nine percent perspiration

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine. The world is not.

Rating: T

Spoilers: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Summary: The chief reason the guilt had stuck so long and so hard was the reason Will had followed Ethan in the first place. 500 words.

Notes: From the ghotocol meme, inspired by the prompt: "The reason Brandt followed Ethan on his run the day Ethan's wife was 'killed' was because Ethan ran shirtless. Brandt knows it's not right, but he doesn't care/can't stop."

The knowledge that Julia Hunt was still alive was a weight off of Will's soul.

Enough of one for him to pick up the smart phone and agree to continue working for her husband, anyway.

He'd missed the field. The instincts and training that had served him well in the physical arm of the IMF had stood him in good stead during his rise through the ranks of the analysts, but had never really been an adequate substitute for pushing body and will to the edge and making sure the other poor bastard died for his cause before he- or she- could imperil IMF's. It had been his judgment he didn't trust anymore- and still didn't, really, though being the 'helper' rather than team leader would take a large part of that concern out of the equation.

The chief reason the guilt had stuck so long and so hard to a trained and experienced IMF agent... was the reason he'd followed Ethan in the first place, back in Croatia. He'd known Ethan was capable of taking care of himself given even a few seconds' warning- which meant the best of the agents on the couple's detail should have stayed with Julia. Which meant him. That wasn't Will's arrogance talking; it was simple acknowledgement of skill. But he'd let himself get distracted- and several people's lives had drastically changed as a result.

Julia may have survived, contrary to what he'd believed for the last three years- but she'd still been the guest of six Serbian nationals for as long as it took her husband to get sanction and a secondary mission to justify her rescue. The two agents left with her had been downed. And there'd been a body- some other poor woman had been killed in Julia's place, to muddy the trail of her disappearance.

Inexcusable. A life was a life, and he was sure Julia would carry the memory of those hours of captivity for the rest of hers, no matter how well she'd recovered. All because of one William Brandt's juvenile fixation on her husband.

Call it a puppy crush, starry eyed worship of a legendary agent, led astray by his dick, whatever- he'd been so fixated on what Ethan Hunt would think, what Ethan Hunt would do, and the sight of Ethan Hunt running shirtless, shining with sweat, that he'd let should slip in favor of what he wanted to do.

It was only justice, he supposed, that his judgment would be subordinate to the other man's in future. The guilt had lifted enough to let him work- the rest, he'd just have to harness to keep himself motivated. He'd thrown himself out of a building to save Ethan's life once already; who knew what else the coming missions would throw in his way?

Forget getting over it- any of it. From there on out, Will figured he might as well try Ethan's method: run with it, make shit up, trust his team, and see what happened.