From Senn's prompt list: "He never was one for shades of gray." Part 3 of 3. Many thanks to all of those who've reviewed, favorited, and alerted!
Rated T for language and violence.
Once again, many thanks to the Branch for being fantastic. As always, a reminder that we're not an exclusive group and we're always open to new members.
Thank you to everyone who reviewed - I promise I'll send out replies this time. ^.^. As promised, this one is twice as long.
Shades of Grey-
Chapter Three (Of Three)
This time, he didn't hit Brandt's shoulder. This time the bullet tore into his analyst's throat, and Ethan was barely able to reach the man in time to meet a pair of accusing eyes.
Ethan startled awake, his hands going instantly for his gun. His breathing was ragged as he attempted to try to control the adrenaline that had surged through him.
The agent went to the curtains of his room to yank them open. Light poured into the room, making him wince. His head throbbed with every heartbeat, causing him to wonder if he'd gone out drinking last night.
No. No, he didn't think he had. He could clearly remember Jane slamming the door in his face when he tried to come visit his team.
The agent sighed, running a hand through his hair. The entire team was falling apart at the seams, and he knew the blame lay chiefly with him. He'd failed at keeping them safe, and he couldn't blame them for condemning him for it.
Two weeks. Two weeks since his agent had been released from the hospital and they'd returned to Virginia. In the time since Brandt had been cleared to stay at Jane's house, he'd only seen him twice. He had been only able to talk to him once under the close supervision of Benji, as if the tech had suspected that Ethan would try to shoot Brandt again.
He hadn't even been given the chance to issue a proper apology and was beginning to regret storming out of the hospital.
Ethan rubbed his face with the back of his hand before turning. It was time to get a little more creative, he realized. If Jane wouldn't let him through the front door, he'd have to find another way.
The realization that he was stalking his own agents wasn't a pleasant one.
Ethan crouched in the patch of undeveloped land behind Jane's house, thankful that there was sufficient cover to avoid being seen. He knew that Jane would soon be going to bed, and that Brandt would spend at least another hour sitting in front of the television. Benji had left over two hours ago, making it unlikely that the tech would return before morning.
Jane and Brandt seemed to be having some kind of argument, Ethan realized. It was enough to make him wish he'd bugged the house, but he hadn't wanted to risk it at the time. They were too far away for him to easily read their lips, and moving closer would activate Jane's automatic lights.
Jane threw her hands up and stalked from the living room to disappear in her own. Good. Ethan's time had come.
The agent slithered back into the bushes before looping around. He couldn't go through the backyard or by the garage, but he knew she had a little skylight above her attic. He probably would be able to reach it by climbing the side of the house. He'd have to hurry, he knew. He only have about five minutes before she turned on the alarm.
Ethan dropped over the fence and managed to reach the roof with some ease. He'd have to speak with Jane about this - she was too vulnerable to attack if someone came after her.
The agent did his best to step quietly until he reached the skylight. He'd assumed incorrectly - it was just over her room. Ethan peered through the glass and realized the bathroom light was on. Quietly he tested the lock and found it open. The man frowned. It was another thing he'd need to discuss with her.
Ethan slid it open and swung into the room. It took a little hopping, but he managed to get the glass closed just before he heard her shower click off. Quickly he hurried out of the room and gently closed it behind him.
You're an idiot, Ethan.He told himself firmly before slipping into the living room. Brandt's back was to him, and the analyst seemed unaware of Ethan creeping up behind him.
His foot bumped a set of books, tipping them over. The analyst whirled at the sound, going to draw his weapon. The sling got in his way, pulling a pained noise from the younger man's throat.
Shit. Not a good start.
"Hey," he said softly. His golden plan didn't seem quite so refined now that he was face-to-face with his analyst. "Can we talk?"
An embarrassed flush rose to Brandt's face as he righted his sling. The analyst jerked his thumb at the uncomfortable looking chair by the television.
"Go ahead," Brandt responded after a long, awkward pause. "You'll only keep trying until I agree."
Ethan moved fluidly to take the seat, wincing as the uncomfortable backing drove into his spine. He leaned forward and clasped his hands together.
He knew that his next words were probably going to be the most important ones of the whole conversation.
"Brandt," Ethan began, keeping his gaze steady on his analyst's face. "I'm sorry." The analyst blinked, looking fairly surprised, but didn't say anything. Ethan tried again. "What I did... it was the only option I saw that didn't end with you in a body bag. It wasn't my intention to hurt you so badly."
The words had sounded better in his head, and evidently Brandt agreed because the agent didn't take long to snap back. "Well, that's a relief. I was hoping that you only intended shooting me to hurt a little bit," there was a pause as Ethan waited for the analyst to continue. "So you had a plan? What was it - killing me before Kramer could?"
Ethan winced, thankful that the agent had kept his words to a low growl. The last thing he needed as an angry Jane bulldozing into the room and shooting him.
"It was only supposed to be a graze. I wanted to remove you from the action," Brandt snorted, but didn't say anything in response. Ethan waited patiently, not sure if a snarky remark would occur, but none came. This wasn't working, it wasn't working at all. With a sigh, he stood. "Look, Brandt, just take care of yourself.? You're too good an agent to quit the IMF."
Brandt couldn't help feeling sorry for Hunt. The man looked like someone had shot his dog as he stared beseechingly at Brandt. The analyst sighed as the man stood. It would be so much easier simply look at this in terms of black and white, to stay mad at Ethan just because he shot him, and to just give up on this whole team idea.
"Ethan." he grunted. The team leader cocked his head to one side, staring at Brandt. Two weeks had been a long time to think. "Plans only sound good until you put them in action," Brandt told the man. It was hard not to reach up at touch his shoulder, but he managed to keep his hands still.
A flicker of confusion crossed Hunt's face, but the man remained silent. Brandt allowed his eyes to move past Ethan to look at Jane, who was standing in her doorway. The agent's words from earlier crossed his mind as she gave him an encouraging nod, and Brandt sighed.
"If you didn't intend to nearly kill me, I take it you were trying to save my life?" Brandt asked. The question was a no-brainer, but it was all he could think of.
A flicker of hope crossed Ethan's face, causing a small tinge of guilt in Brandt. Damn it. Hunt was supposed to be the guilty one here.Ethan nodded. "Do you still plan to resign?"
Huh? Brandt blinked, not sure when he'd broadcast any intention in front of Ethan. Maybe the man was just jumping to conclusions. It wasn't exactly an unreasonable one for Hunt to grasp at. A hazy memory of yelling at Ethan crossed his mind. Oh."Is that what I said before I passed out?" his question came out more curious than accusing, and Brandt mentally smacked himself. He should have known that he was too tired for a confrontation tonight. His anger had diluted in favor of a weary exasperation.
Ethan shifted, looking longingly at the door behind Brandt. Will resisted the urge to feel smug. Come to think of it, he deserved to feel smug watching Ethan squirm uncomfortably.
"Yes," Hunt said at last.
Brandt glanced at Jane, who was making a pleading face at him, before returning his focus to Ethan. The team leader looked a little uncomfortable in the face of Brandt's guarded expression.
"Would you do it again?" Brandt demanded. Ethan cocked his head to one side, puzzled. Brandt elaborated. "Would you shoot me again, given the chance?"
Ha. Talk your way out of that one.
Ethan paused, looking momentarily thrown for a loop. After just a second's contemplation, he responded with absolute certainty. "Yes," the agent admitted, "but probably in a different place."
Well, damn. It was hard to argue with that. Brandt couldn't resist the small smile that appeared on his face. He'd been forced to agree with Ethan in the middle of his first week out of the hospital that it probably had been the only choice. "Alright," he began carefully. "I can accept that. But just... aim better next time, okay?"
Ethan stared back at him, completely bemused. The analyst had expected the perplexed expression though, and elaborated on the conclusion he'd arrived at a while ago. "I got your wife killed, Ethan. If you can forgive me for that, I can try to forgive you for shooting me."
The team leader narrowed his eyes, looking thoughtful as he stared at Brandt. It was obvious that he hadn't expected the conversation to play out at it did, and he arrived at the obvious conclusion. "Jane talked to you, didn't she?"
Brandt grinned sheepishly as Jane stuck her tongue out at Ethan's back. It was true - Jane had spent the better part of two weeks stonewalling Ethan while trying to talk Brandt into releasing some of his anger. She had been pissed at the team leader too, but she was more forgiving than the others.
"Something like that," Brandt said. "Now come here."
Gingerly he opened his arms, trying to keep his face deadpan as he gestured to Ethan for a hug. Looking bewildered, Ethan moved forward.
Gotcha.Brandt lashed forward with his good arm, his knuckles glancing off Ethan's nose. The older agent's head snapped to one side, and he cursed loudly as Brandt chuckled.
The analyst leaned back smugly as he gave Ethan a cocky smile. "Now we're good," he said with satisfaction.
Ethan shook his head with disbelief as he looked at Brandt. The satisfied smile on Brandt's face remained as the team leader turned and came face-to-face with Jane.
The pair would have a long way to go, but it was a start.