Ch. 18: It's All Over
When Ethan rejoined the team at the hospital, they glanced over the agent's new injuries and empty expression and needed no explanation of what had happened during his absence. Brandt's arm was in a sling and he kept looking to Ethan as though he had something to say, but he voiced nothing. Luther and Zhen wanted to give him space, but Jane decided against remaining silent.
"Why don't you go home?" she pressed.
Ethan shot her a look, but she shook her head, "The doctors won't know for several hours, you can go home, get a shower, get some rest."
"We all should," Brandt chimed in before Ethan could protest.
The agent sighed and looked blankly from one to the other.
"Thank you," he told the pair before his eyes went to the others, "I wouldn't have made it this far without all of you, so...thank you."
Brandt and the women nodded solemnly, Luther just studied him.
"We've given him his best chance," Ethan continued, almost more of a question than a statement.
The team nodded again. Brandt felt pressed to say something still.
Zhen walked up to Ethan and patted him on the shoulder before heading for the door. Jane was reluctant, but she followed suit, studying Ethan. She stopped just behind him and turned back.
"I'll be okay," he told her, "go."
She let out a breath and followed Zhen. Luther was next to walk up to Ethan, and he looked down at him, shaking his head.
"You did good," Luther told him, "He's a tough little guy. He'll pull through," he looked over his shoulder to the double doors then turned back, "Plus he knows you'd kick his ass if he didn't."
Ethan let out a hollow laugh.
Luther started to leave then leaned close, "Now, don't you go getting married without telling me this time."
Ethan's laugh became a little more genuine this time and he allowed an appreciative smile before Luther headed to the exit. Brandt was still standing awkwardly, caught between leaving and saying something.
Ethan was about to call him out on it when he opened his mouth.
"When we first met," Brandt began, "I had a weight in my chest because I had carried around the guilt of thinking I had failed you. That I let you down."
Ethan moved to speak, but Brandt pressed ahead.
"Last we were in this city, you made me privy to the knowledge that I hadn't failed and caused you to lose the person you loved." He paused, "I was an analyst, I should have known we were walking right into a trap in DC. I should have exercised the judgement here that I didn't then and-"
"Brandt," Ethan cut in, shaking his head.
"No, I'm sorry, Ethan. I'm so sorry. I can't...imagine what this has been like for you. He's part of the team, but I didn't know what he means to you until recently…"
"Neither did I," Ethan replied softly.
Brandt looked down.
"He's stronger than we give him credit for," Brandt's eyes flicked back to Ethan, "He always looked up to you and wanted to do you proud, and he's learned from your determination. If anyone can pull through, he can."
Ethan nodded sadly. Brandt thought a moment before continuing.
"He loves you."
Ethan locked eyes with Brandt.
"It's obvious to all of us now. I...I don't think he'd want to disappoint you."
Brandt nodded. "You didn't let him down either, you know?"
With that, Brandt slowly made his way to the exit, letting out a breath.
Ethan took a seat in one of the chairs, determined to wait as long as it took for Benji to pull through.
A few hours of silence later and the team slowly came back to the waiting area one by one. They seemed slightly less haggard than before. Brandt had a rucksack slung over his shoulder. He handed it to the Ethan.
"Change of clothes if you needed," he told him.
Hours more passed and Ethan pushed exhaustion from his mind and focused on staying there for Benji. The team talked amongst themselves. Occasionally they left to get something to eat or to walk around. Ethan remained in his chair, waiting and hoping.
As afternoon pressed into evening, a weary doctor emerged from behind the double doors. He looked at the team and locked eyes with Ethan, who was the most desperate-looking of the group.
"He's stable right now...but tonight could go either way…He lost a lot of blood."
Ethan's heart sank.
"He's very strong, a definite fighter. We've moved him to the ICU…"
Inside Benji's room, the Englishman was tucked into his bed, surrounded by various machines trying to keep him alive. He lay limply, a tube sticking out from his mouth and coiling behind his head. His arms were at his sides on the bed, his chest rising and falling slowly.
Ethan entered alone. The others had decided the agent deserved this private moment. Walking close to Benji he suddenly stopped, afraid to get too close and cause him more harm. He shook his head at the man's state. It wasn't fair.
He pulled a chair up to the bedside slowly and sat gingerly. His eyes looked Benji up and down and he swallowed a lump in his throat. Taking Benji's hand, he squeezed lightly, an attempt at contact.
"Benji…" Ethan called softly, "You have to keep holding on just a little longer, okay?"
He was gifted no response from the unconscious man.
"Please hold on for me. I need you."
When visiting hours drew to a close and a nurse doing her rounds entered the room, she saw Ethan asleep in his chair, holding tight to Benji's hand. She checked over the machines and decided against waking the agent. She left undetected by the exhausted man.
Ethan's eyes slowly fluttered open. He looked to Benj, whose tube had been replaced by a mask. Ethan took this as a good sign. He sat up, still not letting go of Benji's limp hand. With his free hand, he wiped the sleep from his eyes and looked at the machines. Still going strong.
Outside the window, the sky was lightening with the approaching sun. Benji had made it the night.
Suddenly, Benji's fingers curled in, holding Ethan's hand back.
Ethan sat up quickly, scooting closer to Benji. The younger man's eyes cracked open, then closed. Ethan scanned Benji's face quickly, and Benji tried to open his eyes again. Blinking at the light, his blue gaze fell on Ethan.
Benji mumbled something incoherent and Ethan's pulse quickened.
Benji let out a groan and reached with his free hand for the mask, but Ethan moved to stop him.
"No, just leave that on," Ethan told him, "You're going to be okay."
Ethan couldn't tell if that sentence was more for Benji's benefit or his own.
Benji reached again at the mask and pulled it off, despite Ethan's warning. Benji took in a shaky breath and shook his head when Ethan moved to put the mask back on.
"You...you look like shite," Benji choked out.
"You should see yourself," Ethan shot back, smiling excitedly down at Benji.
Benji adjusted to breathing on his own and his eyes took in the room before settling back on Ethan.
"He's not going to hurt you ever again."
"It's not me I was worried for…"
Ethan said nothing for a moment. Benji drew in a slow breath and let out a cough. Ethan moved to put Benji's mask back on, but he moved his hand in the way.
"I don't want it," Benji told him when the other agent shot him a look.
Ethan relented, sitting back in his seat. Their hands were still entangled.
Benji looked down at their hands and smiled, then closed his eyes, resting his head back on the pillow.
"You need to rest," Ethan told him.
"Did you mean what you said…?"
Ethan tilted his head to the side in puzzlement.
"When I said what?"
Benji's eyes flicked open and narrowed at Ethan, studying the other agent.
"That you loved me."
Ethan let out an exasperated laugh, "I thought you were unconscious."
"Just answer the question."
Ethan paused a moment, Benji looked over him worriedly.
"Yes," he swallowed, "I meant it."
Benji's brow furrowed, "I want to hear you say it."
Another little laugh escaped Ethan. Benji wasn't laughing. Ethan sat forward, squeezing Benji's hand.
"I love you, Benji Dunn."
A smirk crossed Benji's face and he closed his eyes again, settling down in his bed, "You're damn right to," he told Ethan.
The older agent smiled and shook his head, feeling tension leave his body. Benji's grip tightened on his hand and Ethan looked over at the Englishman.
"I love you too, Ethan."
The pair slowly began to relax, knowing that the other was finally and truly safe.