Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of "The Avengers"-they belong to Marvel, Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, et al. I also don't own the characters of "Mission: Impossible"-they belong to Paramount...I think.
Sixteen year old William Brandt sat cross legged on his bunk facing the hallway. "Come on, man, you can't stay in there forever."
"Wanna bet? The bathtub's pretty comfortable."
Will rolled his eyes, rocking back on his bed. He crossed his arms over his blue shirt. "It can't be that bad," he said.
"Again, wanna bet?"
"This is what you get for showing off," Will reminded him. "Just get your ass out here. I won't laugh, I promise."
"I won't!" I might….
There was a pause of silence, and then the hall bathroom door opened. A foot in a pointed shoe stepped into the hall, followed by a body in a Robin Hood-esque shirt and pants that laced at the throat.
And the entire thing was a bright grape jelly purple.
Will burst out laughing. "Dude, you look freakin' ridiculous!" He sprawled on his bed, burying his face in his pillow.
Clinton Brandt flipped his brother off. "You jerk, you said you wouldn't laugh!" He came into their bedroom and collapsed on his bottom bunk. "I'm not doin' it."
"Oh come on, Clint….it's not that bad…" Will bit his lip. Oh God, he was lying through his teeth. "Just think, a couple of weeks and you'll have enough money for the car…"
"Not worth it," Clint groaned. "How the hell did I let myself get talked into this?"
"Musta been a pretty smooth-talking clown," Will tittered.
"You suck, little brother."
"And you're a manly man in tights," Will countered. "And a performing monkey for the next two weeks!"
An arm reached up from below him and yanked on his leg, nearly jerking Will off his bed. "Hey!" Will protested as he grabbed onto the headboard to keep from falling off. "Okay okay I'll shut up!"
"One more word, one more Robin Hood reference and the next thing I put an arrow through will be you," Clint threatened.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Will apologized. He hopped off the bed, landing on his feet next to his brother's bunk. Clint was lying on his back, arms crossed behind his head. "Maybe you'll meet some babely trapeze girl and-" He paused. "If you're already in the circus…where do you run off to?"
Clint tried so very hard not to laugh. It didn't work. The corners of his mouth twitched. "Trapeze is nice," he said finally. "Contortionist, though," he said, wiggling his eyebrows, "that's much better."
"Clinton Francis Brandt!"
Clint flinched and Will flushed as their mother's voice admonished him from the hallway. Laura Brandt stood in the doorway, the look on her face expressing how unimpressed she was with her son's line of thought. And the use of all three of his names just made it worse."Clint" or "Will" was one thing, "Clinton" or "William" was another, and "Clinton Francis" or "William Donald" and it was better to apologize fast and run like hell.
"Sorry Mom," Clint replied quickly.
Laura raised an eyebrow. "I catch you talking like that again, and you're not too old to have your mouth washed out with soap."
"Yes ma'am," Clint said. Will stayed silent. Their mother was a small woman but you did not piss off Laura Brandt.
"Clint, your father said he would drive you to the fairgrounds," Laura continued. "He's waiting downstairs."
"Okay Mom," Clint said. He eased himself off his bunk, purposely digging an elbow into his brother's side as he passed. Will tried not to groan.
Laura smiled. "We'll be there to catch your big debut," she told him.
"Awesome," Clint muttered. Their mother ruffled his hair as he walked by her. Clint's footsteps disappeared down the stairs.
Will looked at his mother. Laura met her son's eyes.
And the two of them chuckled. "Thank God it's only for a couple of weeks," she said.
"Tell me about it," Will moaned. "How do you think I feel, I have to go to school and listen to everybody talk about 'The Amazing Hawkeye.'" He rolled his eyes. "We'll never hear the end of it."
"Does that make you the Amazing Hawkeye's Little Brother?" Laura asked.
Will stuck his tongue out at her. "Don't remind me." He sat down on the bed without another word.
Laura frowned. The mood had gone from joking to serious in half a second. She sat down next to her son. "Okay, what's wrong?" she asked.
Will didn't say anything at first. Laura didn't press him. She waited.
"I'll forever be known as his little brother," Will finally said.
Ah. Laura nodded. "I wondered when we'd have this conversation," she said. "You guys always seemed okay with being twins. I figured you'd grow out of it eventually."
"It's not even that I don't like bein' his twin," Will said. "I like my brother, Mom, seriously. But sometimes…" he leaned back against the footboard. "It's like there's only one of us."
"You boys are too much alike for your own good," Laura admitted. "You're both strong willed. I've seen you finish each other sentences. Sometimes I swear you guys know what the other is thinking." She looked at Will. "But I also know-and other people know-that you are two very different young men. There's a reason Clint is the athlete and you're the brains of the operation." She smiled, and Will grinned back in spite of himself. "He's getting a little more attention now because the circus promoter saw him at the shooting range, and right now, he's in the spotlight." She put an arm around her youngest. "But someday it'll be your turn. My boys were both destined to be great." She smiled. "And I wouldn't be surprised if someday, your big brother is just a little bit jealous of you."
She looked at him, and Will nodded. He glanced at his brother's bedside clock. "We're gonna be late," he said, sliding off the bed. "Wouldn't want to miss the debut of The Amazing Hawkeye."
Twenty-five years later, Special Agent William Brandt lay on the couch in his parent's home thinking about that day. Outside, snow was falling, big movie-studio flakes. He lay on his side, facing the Christmas tree glowing in the corner. It was a few days after Christmas, but Mom never took the tree down until New Year's. She and Dad were in Saratoga Springs, New York, for a long-overdue long weekend.
Will hadn't told his mother he was in the area for that express reason. If he'd said he was nearby, she would have insisted on staying home for the holiday to spend time with him. The nature of his job meant he wasn't around very often, and if he was, it was never for very long.
He was tired. He'd just come off an assignment in Honolulu, Hawaii, and he could have driven all the way to his apartment from the airport but…Mom and Dad's was closer. His team leader, Ethan Hunt, could see the toll the past seven months had taken on him, and ordered him to take a vacation. Actually, it was more like 'forced', Will reminded himself ruefully. He wondered how the team was doing now, in London. Probably better, he thought to himself. He hadn't exactly been at the top of his game. Ethan was probably still pissed at him. Benji had never looked so disappointed, and Jane...God. Jane. He hoped she was doing okay.
Jet lag had kicked his ass. He'd unlocked the front door, tossed his go bag on the steps, locked the door, and collapsed on the couch, shoes, jeans, jacket and all.
Will's eye caught one of the ornaments on the tree and he closed his eyes, remembering. It was a small nine millimeter, painted in candy cane stripes of red and white glitter. His eyes opened and drifted up and down the tree until he spotted the other one-a six-inch pointed arrowhead with the same paint scheme. The gun belonged to him-the arrowhead to his brother.
He wondered where Clint was at the moment. Clint was on a forced sabbatical from his job. Will hadn't spoken to him in a couple of weeks. It seemed as though the Brandt brothers were off their game right now. Not that it's exactly our fault.
Unwittingly, his mind wandered back seven months to a war zone.
He forced the thought from his mind. He didn't want to remember it. He'd almost lost his brother in New York City, twice, and he wasn't ready to relive it. It was the first time he'd really gotten a taste of what his brother dealt with as an agent of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement & Logistics Division-SHIELD, he reminded himself, just SHIELD. And he wasn't handling his newfound revelation on the world very well.
As a Field Agent turned Analyst turned Field Agent with the Impossible Missions Force, Will had seen his share of scary, off the wall, terrifying things but…not once had he ever encountered gods, monsters and aliens. In our line of work you have to suspend reality, he remembered someone telling him.
He'd tried. For three weeks he had. And then it had caught up with him. The nightmares had started. He'd thought he was hiding them...until Honolulu. Until he and Jane had been undercover and he'd almost gotten her killed. She'd been upset with him since New Zealand anyway, and after Honolulu, he wasn't sure if she'd ever speak to him again. He'd screwed up royally. Enough so that he and Ethan had gotten into it and Ethan had sent him home.
But if he wasn't handling this well, he knew his brother was handling it much, much worse. He'd been through hell. Clint had been through all seven circles, the Devil and purgatory. The last time Will had been home with Clint, his brother had been withdrawn, silent, and very, very twitchy. Will could tell Clint hadn't slept in days, maybe weeks, by the circles under his eyes. He slept with his combat knife under his pillow while they'd been home. Will couldn't get him to talk about it, their parents couldn't know what had really happened, and Clint was dealing with it on his own. The brothers had a policy that they could talk about anything but...Clint wasn't talking. At least, not to his brother.
Hopefully his partner was with him on his forced leave. Natasha Romanoff had been by Clint's side and hardly left it since New York City. If there was anybody else in the world that could make his brother see sense, it was the Black Widow.
The lights on the tree blurred, and Will's eyes closed. The house was completely silent. Maybe, just maybe, he'd finally get a decent night's sleep. He always slept better when he was home. Maybe the falling snow would bury the past seven months. He'd wake up and the world would be a fresh slate to start over on.
Will heard the footsteps on the hardwood a split second before the hood was thrown over his head. His eyes snapped open to blackness and a wave of panic spread over him as his body was yanked from the couch and his hands were wrenched behind him. The sharp sensation of plastic zip tie handcuffs were digging into his wrists in the blackness. He thought he caught one of them with one of his tennis shoes when he heard a satisfying grunt of pain.
Then something blunt slammed into his head, and in the blackness he saw stars.
Author's Note: Hello all...welcome to the "Brothers In Arms" universe. If you'd like the backstory, hop into my profile and read "Brothers In Arms" and "Mission: Avengers." This is meant to follow "Mission: Avengers." While I have a pretty defined idea of where this is going to go, I can't promise that updates will be very fast, as I'm still writing this. Constructive criticism is usually warranted and always appreciated, so please let me know what you think!