A/N: Yes...I have another one. I have a problem! And I'm proud of it!

Can we guess where this falls in my timeline-of-all-my-stories-are-connected? Writing things out of order is fun. ...Or, at least it's fun if you like clue games, lol. If you don't, I apologize. At least I've written most of these so you don't really need to read any of the others to follow the story...

This one's a bit dark and heavy in the emotional department. You've been warned. And there's sailor mouth language. *shrug*

He could feel the adrenaline coursing through his veins.

Bullshit. You don't feel it "coursing" through shit. Adrenaline isn't like a syrupy drug flowing sluggishly along in places it shouldn't be, making your body and mind do things they're not made to do naturally. Adrenaline is what happens in a flash of panic just before that drug starts doing its damage, and you know shit's about to hit the fan. Adrenaline slaps you in the face just as hard as that punch you just threw at that guy who was about take a shot at your friend. You don't feel it coming, don't even really know it's there until everything's said and done, until after you've fought or you've fled. You feel it draining. Yeah. That's when you fucking feel it - when the danger's over or you're too tired to care anymore, and your heart's beating so hard in your chest that you think it's knocking on your ribcage trying to get the hell out; and your hands won't stop shaking because you realize you just did either the most amazing thing and you're still riding the thrill high, or you just managed to get through one hell of a traumatic ordeal and the thought of ever having to repeat it makes you want to puke your guts out. That's how adrenaline really feels.


He put his pen down and folded his hands over the top of the journal, sliding it just a little closer to his body. It looked like the others were still writing so he kept his head ducked, not wanting to draw attention to himself. He failed.

"Agent Brandt? Are you finished?"

That woman's voice grated on his nerves. It wasn't her pitch or tone that did it - nothing quite so easily identifiable - but she had that way of making a kid want to piss himself when the teacher called his name in class to answer a question he didn't know shit about.

Brandt cleared his throat before answering. "Y-yes. Should I not be done?"

Her eyes darted around at the other…patients?...trainees?...screw-ups? He didn't even know what to call the group he had been forced to fall into; the only thing he know was that they were there because they couldn't keep their shit together…and he was apparently the only one that didn't feel the need to write out some grand adventure that dealt with riding an adrenaline high.

React to the phrase. Those were the directions. He reacted. He was done. That was that, end of story. Maybe that was the problem. He hadn't written a story. A story wasn't a gut reaction, though, it wasn't shouting out the first thing on a person's mind when they looked at an inkblot. A story was about the time Asshole "A" went cliff diving with Idiot "B" and they all pretended like they could feel adrenaline coursing through their veins because they didn't know the difference between what adrenaline and a fucking crack-high felt like, and they told their moronic stories using big flowery words to impress the...instructor?...therapist?...prison ward?...the bitch that pretended like she understood what was going on inside their heads when they fell asleep praying the coming nightmare might only include one torture session this time; and maybe, just maybe, the rotting corpses of his friends wouldn't be dancing around his sacrificial altar chanting their accusations that it was all his fault.

"Agent Brandt?"

He shook his head. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

Her left eyebrow went up. That was the one she used when she was thinking, You didn't catch that because you were off in Crazy Alice Mirrorland not paying attention to a fucking word I was saying, but I'm not allowed to tell you that so I'm just going to stand here and look slightly pissed off at you about it.

"I asked if I could take a look at what you wrote," she repeated, or at least he assumed she was repeating whatever she had said earlier. She could be having a whole different conversation with him than the one he had completely lapsed on. Not that he gave a flying fuck.

"No," he answered in a casual manner. "You said these were private unless we wanted to share. I don't want to share."

Now the other assholes had all stopped writing. They weren't done. They were just trying to stick their dicks where they didn't belong.

She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back a little bit. You had better say yes to the next thing I ask or I'm not giving you your gold star for the day.

"Can you just hold up the book with the page open so I can see that you at least attempted to write something? I can't mark you as having completed this session if you didn't write anything."

Using only one hand, he slid out the book, opened it back to the bookmarked page, and flashed it at her for a full two seconds before snapping it shut and tucking it back beneath his other arm. "You happy now?"

And there was the tight smile. No. I hate my job, I hate working with pricks like you who shouldn't ever be going back into the field you're so fucked up, and I hate having to pretend that I'm actually here to help you. I want my paycheck, and I want to go home.

"Yes. Thank you, Agent Brandt." She turned away from him, much to his relief. "Now, does anyone else who is finished wish to share?"

The douche in the front desk raised his hand, actually raised his hand like they were in the fucking first grade. Acknowledged by what's-her-face-who-didn't-give-a-shit-about-them-so-why-should-he-bother-to-learn-her-name, the douche stood up and started reading his response.

"The best adrenaline rush I've ever had was the first time I went skydiving. I was standing there on the plane with my parachute on, my best friend right next to me, and I could feel this warmth spreading through my body…"

Brandt snorted and shook his head, wondering what the guy had done to wind up in the group. Probably got caught getting drunk in the bathroom at headquarters and this was his makeshift AA meeting. The half-assed, reward-cookies-for-good-behavior program might actually work for that guy. Not for Brandt, though. Not for those two in the corner whose eyes were as full of ghosts as his were.

He had to stifle a chuckle. The damn government could pay for floating magnetic suits and machines that made the most intricate masks, but wouldn't send them to specialized therapy. People like Brandt, like those two poor schmucks in the corner, needed someone to talk to who's been there. They needed to see the hints of the same ghosts in a person's eyes, a person who fought off the horrors and won. Until then, they were just biding their time with a what's-her-face so she could sign them off as clear for duty. The IMF would take the signature as gospel.

Ethan would take one look at Brandt and know it was total bullshit.

Maybe tomorrow he'd try a little harder to participate in the writing exercise…