A/N: So, so sorry this is so late in coming. Once again, I will not only thank The Beta Branch for keeping me on track, but blame them by getting me too involved with Avengers crapola. I sorta lost my Mission Impossible muse for a while there, also I don't like writing endings so I was procrastinating big time on this. But here you go. Thanks again everyone for reading, reviewing, and fav'ing. Also if you're interested in a link to TBB, just to have stuff beta'd, hang out, see our works in progress, harass me to update, whatever, you don't have to take a test or anything, anyone can join. You can PM me for details.
Jane had dragged Curón over to a tree where she had tied him tightly up. His eyes seemed to smile at her, but she ignored them with dogged determination. Her team didn't have time for that. The next few hours were a blur. She tried getting water down Brandt's throat every little while, but he would only manage a few trickles before he choked on it and started coughing. Benji didn't look great either, as he studied his teammates, trying not to let his growing exhaustion and nausea show.
The sun was long down when Brandt opened his eyes with a clarity that Jane hadn't seen since that morning.
"Jane," he whispered.
She smiled widely at him. "Will," she whispered back relieved. "How are you feeling?"
He considered. "Been better," he admitted.
She helped him sit up and take some more water, before giving him more aspirin followed by another round of water. He kept more of it down this time, before he looked from Benji's sleeping form to hers. "Ethan?" he asked.
"He's getting help," she assured him.
Brandt took a deep sigh, looking away as his body gave another slight tremble. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"William," she said quietly, but sternly. He turned to look at her, surprised by the full use of his first name.
"Don't you dare say that. We all made mistakes today. Also, quite frankly, it's insulting. We can own up to our mistakes as a team. That's what a team does. I'm not letting you take the blame for this." Her eyes softened as she leaned down to wipe away more blood and pus from his shoulder. "Besides, we don't let the guy who's down for the count take the blame."
He opened his mouth to speak, but she silenced him with a look. "Don't say 'maybe you should'." She smiled at his frown. "I can read now, Agent Brandt." She said with mock authority. "Don't let every mistake consume you. It's unprofessional. And honestly," she gave a look towards Benji to make sure he was still sleeping. "It's very unbecoming." She winked at him. He gave her a small smile in return.
"Heard that," Benji mumbled.
Jane's face changed to one of pure rage in an instant and she grit her teeth. "Shit,"
Brandt gave a small laugh.
"And who says women don't have a place in the IMF," Benji continued through closed eyes though he was smiling now.
"Don't you hate how…" another tremor ran through his body, "…he just says the wrong things at the wrong times?" Brandt whispered.
"Are you sure you're just not confusing that hate with hatred for him?"
"Hey now, injured man over here," Benji mumbled.
Brandt caught Jane's eye, ignoring the tech. "Thanks," he whispered.
She smiled and nodded.
Unfortunately, that seemed to be the most awake Brandt was over the course of the night. Jane got no sleep, constantly cleaning his wound, soothing him when he became agitated and twitchy, and just generally worrying. Benji was keeping himself awake as well. Jane gave up trying to get him to go to sleep after he faked it for the sixth time.
At one point, Brandt gave a loud cry of pain, curling in on himself and biting off screams. Whether they were screams of pain or memories, Jane wasn't sure, but she quietly got up and moved over to Curón who had been watching. He grinned savagely at her before she punched him once, twice, three times in the face, rocking his head back into the tree he was tied to, splitting his lip, and blackening his eye.
Benji watched silently as she came back over to them, sliding easily onto the ground next to Brandt and rubbing her bleeding knuckles calmly.
Dawn came, and Jane wasn't sure Brandt could wait for three more hours. Red streaks had spread out from the wound, racing up his neck and down his arm and side. He had become entirely unresponsive, and Jane just sat with him, holding his hand and whispering words every now and again. Benji would occasionally shoot glances of hatred towards Curón who for his part seemed pretty out of it too. They hadn't given him water in a really long time, and Benji was slightly worried they may get written up or fined for some indecent treatment of prisoner rule, but at this point he didn't really care.
At 7:30, Jane turned on the radio. She was met with static, predictably. She couldn't wait anymore. Even Benji was silent.
When 8:00 rolled around, they both stared at the walkie talkie, as if waiting for it to sprout wings.
At 8:25, Jane became too anxious and got up to pace.
At 8:50, Benji sunk his head into his hands and didn't move it.
At 9:12, Jane bit back a choked sob of relief when Ethan's voice came over the radio.
The next few hours were a blur for Benji. The chopper reached them shortly after Ethan made contact, airlifting the three of them and Curón out. Benji and Brandt were hooked up to IVs immediately, both for antibiotics and painkillers. Benji had insisted he didn't need it, but after Ethan's insistence, relented. He had tried to keep an eye on what was happening with Brandt, the medics and his teammates crowded around him, but soon found himself drifting off against his will.
When he awoke again, he was in a hospital bed. He sat up stiffly, noting the twitch of pain in his calf. He pulled back the bed sheet, and saw the bandage there covering what felt like stitches. He was about to lie back down, not really surprised at this turn of events, before he sat up straight again. Brandt! Brandt wasn't there.
"Jane? Ethan?" He called out hesitantly. There wasn't an answer, and he started pulling back the sheets more to get out of bed.
"Benji, what are you doing?" He looked up, surprised, as Jane entered the room from the hallway.
"Where's Will?" he said.
Jane smiled. "He's getting stitched up. He's going to be fine, Benji."
Benji sank down back into the pillows with a deep, relieved sigh, and his mouth shut tight. Jane noticed the wetness in the corners of his eyes and gave him a pat on the wrist.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"I'd be better if Brandt was here," Benj said honestly.
"Ethan's going to get him moved in here when they're done," Jane reassured him.
True to her word, Brandt was wheeled in about half an hour later with Ethan accompanying him. He seemed a little groggy from the pain meds, but he smiled when he saw Benji and Jane he grinned widely before pointing to the new gauze pad covering his shoulder smartly.
Benji in turn pointed to the one covering his calf and Brandt gave him a silent thumbs up.
When the nurses who had been pushing Brandt's bed and IV determined he didn't need anything else, they left and Ethan shut the door behind them.
"Curón's gone," he stated simply. "He's on his way to Gitmo for some…medical treatment. It would seem he really took a beating trying to traipse through the jungle hog tied." Everyone looked at Jane, who shrugged noncommittally. Brandt, even in his drugged state, dropped his eye contact with Ethan.
Ethan pretended not to notice, and continued. "But, he's someone else's problem now, and I would declare this mission a success. We'll be staying here over night, but then we're going home." Everyone smiled but Brandt's looked only half-hearted.
Ethan was not about to let it go.
Later that night, when Benji was asleep and Jane at a hotel, Ethan came back to the hospital. He wasn't surprised to see Brandt awake. They'd taken him off the heavy painkiller drip, so he was probably beginning to feel a little sick and his shoulder probably ached. Brandt didn't acknowledge the older agent's entry. Ethan pulled up a chair next to his bed and waited.
"I understand if you want me off the team," Brandt finally mumbled. Ethan inwardly sighed. He knew this had been coming. "I'm a liability. If Curón could read me that easily…"
"We were all having an off day. And usually we don't spend that long with assets. It could have happened to anyone. It has happened to me. More than once."
Brandt shifted, locking eyes with Ethan then, not quite believing him.
Ethan nodded slowly. "There are always going to be people out there as smart as, or smarter than us. That's why they're good at being criminals. It's how we cope as a team that makes us unique. You can't carry around this bone-crushing guilt after every mission that has even something little go wrong. It'll destroy you. And us. You just have to learn from it."
"But I got Benji-"
"Benji hasn't even complained about his gunshot because he's been so worried about you. And while that in itself is truly miraculous, I'd more like to impress upon you that he can handle this job. And so can you."
Ethan moved towards the door. As he turned the knob, he heard a "Thanks, Ethan," from the other side of the room.
He smiled. "I'll see you at 7 AM tomorrow. We're getting the fuck out of this miserable tropical hell hole."