Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. They belong to Marvel. And whoever owns & operates Mission: Impossible. Something that got into my head and wouldn't go away 'til I wrote it down.
Special Agent William Brandt let the hotel door click shut behind him. He slid the chain lock into its holder. And then, out of habit, he checked the bathroom, looking behind the door, in the tub, and under the counter. The beds had solid bottoms, but he pulled up the edge of the comforter anyway. Can't be too careful. He drew the window shades shut. Then, once he was absolutely positive that he was alone in the room, he dropped his duffle on the floor and allowed himself to drop down on the bed and relax. He was still adjusting to the time change from Mumbai and his body was protesting loudly to being back on Pacific Time.
It seemed like he'd only just closed his eyes when he heard it. Faint footsteps. Someone was in the room. Brandt controlled his breathing, keeping it nice and slow, while mapping the intruder's path into the room. Past the bathroom, standing in front of the TV...Brandt reached a hand out and flipped on the lamp even as he pulled the hammer back on the .38 he kept under his pillow.
"Hold it right there," he commanded. The intruder wore dark combat pants, a dark t-shirt and belt with a pair of sturdy boots that hit mid-calf. He raised his hands slowly. 'Come on Will,' he said. 'I know it hasn't been that long...' He turned around to face Brandt.
It was like looking in the mirror. Same government-issued hair cut, serious blue eyes, cocky smile. 'Jesus, Clint,' Brandt said, letting the hammer slide forward again. 'What the hell are you doing here?'
Clint Barton grinned. 'Nice to see you too, brother,' he shot back.
Brandt sat back down on the bed and rubbed his face trying to wake up. 'What the hell you doin' in Seattle?' he asked. 'How'd you get in here?'
Clint took up a position near the window. 'Told the cute blonde behind the desk I-well, you- lost my key.' He smiled. 'Should be more careful.'
It was an old gag, and one that worked well. Brandt couldn't count the number of times that he and Clint had switched places on friends, teachers, and unsuspecting relatives. "And I know a guy with an almost sentient computer," Clint added. "You checked in here with your own last name. Wasn't too hard to find you."
'Last I heard you were in New Mexico,' Brandt said, getting up and grabbing a bottle of tequila from the minibar. He poured half the bottle in a plastic cup from the bathroom and handed it to his brother. Clint kept one eye in the room and the other out the window. Brandt studied him. 'Clint, there something you wanna tell me?'
Clint blinked. 'Sorry,' he said. 'Old habits.' He knocked back the tequila, but he didn't move from the window. 'Yeah, I just got back from New Mexico,' he replied to Brandt's question. 'Where were you?'
"Mumbai," Brandt answered. Clint took in the butterfly bandage over his eye and the slight limp and smiled. "Did you save the world?" he asked.
Brandt chuckled dryly. 'Mission accomplished,' he said wryly. Clint nodded. 'How 'bout you?' Brandt asked Clint.
Clint's eyes clouded over, and his gaze returned out the window. Brandt saw his fist close around the empty plastic cup and crumple it. 'What?' Brandt asked him. He was an analyst; it was his job to notice people. Clint had gone from the cocky older brother by moments back to super soldier in two breaths. He was in sniper mode: one eye on the room, the other on his surroundings, particularly out the window. Brandt caught his fingers twitching, like at any second he was going to reach for the nonexistent quiver of carbon shaft arrows that usually resided on his back. 'Hey,' Brandt said gently, trying to shake Clint loose. 'What's goin' on?'
'I have to go to New York,' Clint said after a minute. 'There's something...big, going down.' He looked over at Brandt. 'Really big,' he stressed.
Brandt drained the last of the tequila and went for another bottle. He tossed it to Clint. 'You wanna declassify it?' he asked. It was the rule between them: IMF and SHIELD could send them anywhere, to do anything, and tell them if they ever told anyone it would mean their asses. But if it was ever too much, if it would mean sleepless nights, heavy drinking and long, solitary nights of no contact, all one or the other had to do was pick up the phone. They both knew how to keep a secret. And both of them knew what havoc it could wreak on a body, on a mind, and on a soul.
Between them, there was no "classified." There were no "secrets."
There never had been. Clint was older by all of two minutes, and the two brothers were closer than close. Clint was firing arrows at targets around the same time their sheriff father was teaching Brandt how to fire a nine mil. It surprised no one when both brothers graduated and went into government work. In the family Christmas letter, Clint and Will were special ops. It was as close to the truth as their mother could get without saying, "Will is a superspy and Clint is a superhero."
Clint, for his family's safety, had changed his last name to "Barton," to dissuade freaky guys with superpowers and your average nutjobs from trying to get to his family as leverage for Clint. Clint's work with SHIELD put him up against people who were even more crazy than the ones his little brother hunted down for a living-and they usually could spit fire or freeze time or create doomsday machines. Most of the time, Brandt's baddies were into arms or nuclear war or viruses.
Definitely the easier of the two types.
Clint kept a watchful eye out the window for a minute or two. "I might not be comin' back from this one," he said finally.
'We've both had rough ones-" Brandt began.
"Not like this," Clint said. He laughed humorlessly. 'They're putting a team together. A Norse god, a WWII hero that was frozen in ice for 70 years, a cocky billionaire with a metal flying suit, a guy that turns into a big-ass green monster when he's pissed...and me and Natasha.' Brandt had heard Clint mention the other SHIELD agent before. He'd even gone so far as to suggest he ask her out. To which Clint had coolly informed him he was too scared to...and he wasn't kidding. Natasha reminded Brandt of Jane, a little.
The scenario sounded unbelievable...and yet Brandt didn't question it. SHIELD was into some weird shit. And he'd thought IMF was bad. 'Sounds like a helluva team,' he said.
'Shit Brandt,' Clint said. 'You have no idea.' He took a hit of tequila and grimaced at the taste. 'I'm more worried the team'll kill each other before Loki gets a chance.'
'Loki?' Brandt repeated. 'The Norse god?'
'Don't ask,' Clint said flatly.
Brandt held up a hand in acquiescence.
'I don't know how I can do this if I can't trust the guys I'm working with,' Clint admitted. 'I mean, I trust Natasha with my life but...' He sighed. 'This team's a time bomb that could go off any second. And if we can't trust each other...'
Hell if that don't sound familiar. "You have to hope," Brandt said, choosing his words carefully, "that when it matters most, your guys'll have your back. That it'll come together when it needs to. You're part of a bigger plot, somethin' bigger than one person. Everyone's got a skill set to bring to the table. And when it counts...when it matters...when the world is depending on it-" here he chuckled, and elicited a short knowing laugh from his brother- "your team will be behind you all the way."
Clint knocked back another shot of the tequila. 'Sounds like you're speaking from experience,' he said. 'Exactly what happened in Mumbai?'
"That I picked up in Dubai, actually,' Brandt corrected.
'Wow you get around.'
No kidding, Brandt thought. 'I'll tell the whole story to you when you get back from New York,' he said. 'By the way, Mom already has our room cleaned for Thanksgiving,' he added. The unspoken, "so you can't die in New York" was implied.
Clint smiled. 'I get top bunk,' he said.
'Screw you buddy, I'll unbunk 'em before I let you have top,' Brandt kidded.
Something caught Clint's eye outside, and he sighed.
'What?' Brandt asked.
'Ride's here,' Clint said. 'Time to go.' He set the bottle of tequila on the table. There was a swallow of it left. He started across the room.
'Hey big brother.' He felt a hand on his shoulder.
He stopped, one hand on the door handle. He turned. Brandt stood behind him. "See you soon," Brandt said, extending his hand.
Clint stared at it for a moment. Then he looked at his brother and nodded. 'See you soon,' he repeated. That was another quirk between the two brothers. They never said goodbye. He shook his brother's hand once. Brandt caught a glimpse of them in the mirror before he let go. Mirror images of each other in mind, body, attitude…and call of duty. Clint opened the door and stepped out into the hall. Brandt watched him until he disappeared out of the fire escape. Then he went back into his room. The bottle of tequila was still sitting on the table. Brandt went over to it and picked it up. He tugged back the curtains with one hand and watched Clint climb into a black government-issue SUV. The vehicle pulled out of the parking lot and disappeared into traffic.
Brandt let the curtains fall shut as he tipped back the rest of the tequila. "See you soon," he repeated to the empty room. It wouldn't be long at all.
All he had to do was look in the mirror.