From Senn's prompt list: "He never was one for shades of gray."

I didn't actually use that line in here, but this was what sparked off of her prompt.

T for language/violence

Many thanks, as always, to the group that makes up the Beta Branch. We're not exclusive by any means, so if you're interested in our particular brand of craziness, just send one of us a PM.

Part 1 of 3

Shades of Grey -
Part One (Of Three)
- Victoria LeRoux

"Drop it. Now." Ethan's voice was unwavering as he shouted the order.

"Sorry, no can do," the man replied instantly as Ethan leveled his gun at his head. The knife in Kramer's hand moved closer to the victim that hung limply in his grasp. "You get out of here and I let him go." He gave his captive a little shake for good measure.

Brandt didn't dare move as the knife brushed lightly against his throat. It was like an old-fashioned standoff, but Brandt would have preferred to be out of the man's grip and on the other side of the room instead of hanging limply in his hands.

Or maybe in an underground bunker for when things went nuclear, as they often did around Ethan.

Brandt's eyes flickered from Ethan to the hand resting near his face and back again. He could see Ethan going through all the scenarios and looking angrier by the minute. Brandt knew that there were few options available to them – Kramer had already killed their asset in cold blood. The analyst was aware that he was lucky to be alive and relatively unharmed, with the exception of his broken arm.

"He's not going to shoot you," Rationally, Brandt was aware that trying to talk down Kramer was ineffective at best, but he needed to try because Ethan was getting the look in his eyes that meant someone was about to be shot.

With his luck, it would be him.

"He is, Agent Brandt," Kramer chuckled. "You know he is."

"Well, yeah, maybe. But you can't blame me for wanting to avoid the whole throat-slitting moment we're leading up to," Brandt said sheepishly, finding it hard to keep his mouth shut. He wasn't sure if it was the pain from his broken arm, or just his rising fear of Ethan's reckless nature. "So how about you let me go and-" the knife pressed closer into his throat, causing Brandt to fall silent. Point taken.

Brandt tried to focus his eyes on Ethan. It was hard, with the angle his head had been twisted, but it was enough to let Brandt read the tell-tale signs on the man's face. Ethan's jaw twitched, and Brandt let out a heartfelt groan. Kramer glanced down at Brandt, puzzled by the sudden noise, and the agent closed his eyes. He had a feeling Ethan was going to do something incredibly stupid.

His guess was confirmed moments later when something slammed into his right shoulder and burned through it. Brandt yelled hoarsely as his body jerked involuntarily. There was the sound of several more gunshots, and then he felt his body drop to the ground.

Ethan kept his gun locked onto the man, seething as his agent's face grew paler. This entire mission had turned into a clusterfuck of noteworthy proportions, and all the team leader wanted to do was get his agents back on a plane to D.C..

He still found it hard to believe that they'd let Kramer get the drop on him. It was supposed to be a simple intel drop, and they'd prepared accordingly. What they hadn't gambled on was finding their asset dead on the ground, or Brandt getting into a fistfight with Kramer. It hadn't ended well for the analyst, and Ethan had barely entered the room in time to see Kramer effectively neutralize his agent.

Brandt was looking more and more anxious as the stalemate dragged on. Kramer had also begun to look more twitchy, something that made Ethan fret.

There was only one way out of this, but Brandt wasn't going to like it. In fact, Ethan would probably gamble that Brandt was going to hate his idea.

There were only two options on the table, one of which Ethan wasn't willing to accept. Ethan had no doubt that Kramer wouldn't hesitate at killing his agent. The agent couldn't allow that outcome when there might be some way to end it all now. There was no possibility Jane and Benji would be able to circle around the field fast enough to reach them in time to affect however the situation ended.

Ethan remained still, not needing to close the distance between himself and Kramer. A small flicker of possibility had crossed his mind. It was the small shred of hope he'd been grasping for. He couldn't shoot Kramer - anything less than an instant kill-shot would give the man time to cut Brandt's throat. He altered his aim slightly, letting out a long, soft breath.

Ethan felt the muscles in his jaw twitch, and he saw Brandt go pale. The analyst closed his eyes, making Ethan unwillingly smile. The team leader barely managed to push away the remorse, guilt, and fear that was threatening to swarm him as he waited for the small window of opportunity Brandt would present him with.

He'd have to judge this shot carefully. The instant Kramer glanced down, Ethan altered his aim slightly and fired in a swift movement. Unfortunately for both of the IMF agents, Kramer had shifted both his weight and Brandt's with his motion, causing Ethan's shot to go lower than he intended. Instead of being a clear through and through that clipped the underside of Brandt's arm before piercing Kramer, the bullet tore through Brandt's right shoulder. The result was the same - Brandt, who had been using his right arm to cling to Kramer's in an effort to avoid strangulation, released his grip and dropped like a stone in the man's grasp.

Kramer was so taken aback by Ethan's unpredictable action that he didn't even attempt to stop his shield from going down. For a moment, all he could do was gape at the man for a moment. That moment was all Ethan needed. Two more shots threw the man back a pace where he crumpled to the ground. Ethan didn't need to see if the man was still alive. He'd neatly placed one bullet near his heart and the other in his throat.

"Shit," Hunt breathed as he darted forward to examine his agent. His aim had been more off than he initially thought, causing Ethan to curse once again. "Brandt, are you-" He'd missed.

"If you ask me if I'm fine," Brandt growled, the effect diminished by the fact that he couldn't manage much more than a pained squeak. "I will probably kill you myself. Or better yet... I'll die on you." The analyst took a shuddering breath as he tried to push himself upright. "Then I won't have to deal with this."

Ethan tried to force a smile as he clicked on his comms. unit. They hadn't even had time to turn the damn things on before everything went to hell. "Benji, we're going to need an ambulance," he said urgently.

"Ethan, what are you-" Benji began.

"Just call an ambulance," the team leader snapped as he stopped Brandt from moving. "Gunshot wound to the shoulder. Clear through and through. Jane's going to need to dispose of two bodies."

"Two bodies... Dammit, Ethan, what the bloody hell is going on?" Benji growled but Ethan had already turned back to Brandt.

"You shot me," the analyst said weakly when he had Ethan's attention. "You... bastard. You shot me. Deliberately. I'm resigning. You fucking shot me."

He'd missed.

"Take it easy," Ethan said as he did his best to slow the wound that was luckily only moderately bleeding. "You're going to be fine."

It looked like Brandt was having difficulty breathing. Ethan wasn't sure if it was the pure rage on his analyst's face or if it was the effort of breathing through the pain that made his agent's breathing ragged and tense. Too much time had passed since Ethan had shot him, and Brandt had begun to shiver from his position on the ground.

"Ethan, mate, did Brandt just say you shot him?" Benji demanded. The door slammed open on the other side of the room, making Ethan flinch. The tech had been closer than he thought, Ethan realized as he looked up to see the man stowing away his mobile.

"Yes," Ethan snapped. "How long until the paramedics arrive?"

"Not more than ten minutes," Benji replied as he scurried over to drop to the ground beside the groaning Brandt. "You shot him?"

Ethan cast a withering glance at the tech, only to find one just as cold leveled back at him. With a sigh, Ethan elaborated. "It was shoot him in the arm, or watch Kramer slit his throat."

"That does not look like an arm to me," Benji replied, pushing Ethan aside to take over applying pressure on the wound. "Did you say Kramer?"

"Yes," Ethan ground out before hopping back to his feet.

"Ethan!" Benji shouted after him as the agent stalked from the building.

He'd missed.

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