A/N: Ever since I found out that Jeremy Renner won't be starring in 'Mission Impossible: Fallout' I've been going CRAZY, trying to figure out what might explain Brandt's absence. This… was the pretty much most depressing possibility that came to my mind. So of course it was the one I chose to type. (chuckles)

DISCLAIMER: ME… OWNS… NOTHING. If I did, Renner WOULD be in the upcoming film. (POUTS)

WARNINGS: CHARACTER DEATH, violence, mentions of injury and blood… A tiny bit of language, perhaps… Yuuup. That should cover the worst of it.

Okay, folks. Are you ready? LET'S GO. I REALLY hope that you'll enjoy the ride, despite the plot…

Tick, Tock

/ "Tick, tock, agent Hunt. Weren't you supposed to be IMF's best? Hurry up and get to him before it's too late. I'm not a patient man." /

It was incredibly quiet.

The mission was over. Gone were the shouts, explosions, racing vehicles and gunshots. After all the tension, adrenaline and intense action the silence was deafening.

The wintertime forest was very beautiful, actually. Tall trees were covered in white and when sun shone snow sparkled like diamonds. To the man lay on the ground the sky above seemed surreally bright and blue. He felt no pain or cold. It probably should've scared him. But the thing was, he couldn't quite figure out why.

"… nd …!"

William Brandt blinked slowly and barely succeeded in opening his eyes again. Whose voice was that? Was it real? This all felt like some sort of a bizarre dream.

Strange-looking, pink snow flew up in a puff and suddenly there were hands on him. Pressing down, fighting a war to keep him alive. That, he definitely felt, and groaned as he writhed under the pressure.

"Hold still." The voice seemed to come through a long tunnel and echoed unpleasantly. "I'm trying to keep you from bleeding out."

Will turned his head with tremendous effort, just enough to see a familiar face and dark hair. There was a torn, wild look in the eyes staring at him. Which did bizarre things to the bubble of numbness that used to cocoon him.

A hand tapped his cheek, pulling him back when he'd almost slipped away. "Eyes open! Stay with me!"

The thing was… He didn't think he could. Not with how labored and painful breathing was. Each wheezing pant bubbled while blood rushed into his lungs.

Will felt himself drifting and his head moved listlessly, leading to him facing the sky again. At some point snow had started to fall. His eyes began to flutter closed once more at the sight of the large flakes floating softly towards him.

It was almost time.

/ "Tick, tock, agent Hunt."

Those words kept haunting Ethan while he dashed towards what was hopefully the right direction. It was three hours ago he found out that it was three brothers running the criminal organization his team shut down, not two. Two hours and fifty minutes later he'd succeeded in reaching everyone from his team but one. Two hours and twenty minutes ago the missing team member's phone called back. But it wasn't Will's voice he heard. "You took away my brothers. This is the closest I can get to showing you how it feels", the caller hissed. "Tick, tock, agent Hunt. Weren't you supposed to be IMF's best? Hurry up and get to him before it's too late. I'm not a patient man."

Ethan squeezed the phone so tightly that it was a miracle the item didn't break. He wanted to roar, holler threats. Instead his tone was deadly calm. "Where is he?"

The phone call was disconnected. Five endless seconds later he received a message. The picture of a forest, along with coordinates. And those infuriating words. 'Tick, tock.'

Ethan had been running since then and was finally almost there. Almost… Almost…

Two gunshots echoed like a sarcastic slow clap after a pathetic performance. /

The snow was stained in red and the stench of it made Ethan's stomach turn. He'd seen his fair share of death and violence. But this was Will. A friend. Something of a brother.

No matter how stubbornly he pressed down his two, already soaked hands just weren't enough.

Will shuddered, wheezed and shifted. For a moment Ethan imagined that the man would fight him again. Instead the analyst – who shouldn't have been in this situation in the first place, wouldn't have been if Ethan didn't screw up yet again – gave him a tiny, feeble smile. "… 's okay."

Well, he wasn't planning on listening to that speech. He gritted his teeth so hard that his jaw hurt and focused on the wounds sneering back at him. The blood was ominously dark. "Benji's gonna be here soon with a med team." 'Tick, tock.' "Just…" He swallowed and tasted copper. Apparently he bit his tongue at some point. The taste made him shiver. "Just hang in there and let me help you."

Will was quiet for a long while. Too quiet, too long, too still. What eventually came out was barely audible. "'s pretty here." The few words clearly sucked out almost all the energy his friend had left. The analyst blinked slowly, possibly lost consciousness for a second or two. "… could be worse …"

Ethan couldn't help it. His temper flared, hot and bitter. "Shut up and let me focus on saving you!"

Will did shut up.



/ 'Tick, tock, agent Hunt.'

Ethan reached his destination and froze. The first thing he saw was a tall man with ice-blue eyes and disheveled mahogany hair he'd never met before. The stranger had a far too pleased expression on his face which seemed to have quite a bit of bruising waiting to blossom. When Ethan's gaze traveled downwards he figured out why.

Will lay on the ground, wrists and ankles bound tightly. Unmoving and his face almost the color of snow. Well, his friend was pale aside the split lip and the eye that'd nearly swollen shut already. Clearly the analyst put up a mighty fight before getting captured. Now there was no fight left in the man. There was far too much red on snow, pooling from two gunshot wounds. If it wasn't for the horrible sounding, wheezing breaths Ethan would've imagined that Will was already gone.

"To be honest I thought about aiming for his head. But that would've been too quick." The criminal pursed his lips. "For a moment I worried that he'd bleed out before you'd get here. You were pretty slow, Ethan." The man wiped at his lip when it began to bleed. "One hell of a fighter, that one. Must've been a good agent. Too bad he met you."

The impact of those words hurt more than getting shot or stabbed. Almost enough to steal Ethan's breath. His whole body tingling agonizingly in the aftershock, Ethan raised his gun just as his enemy did. He was faster. And aimed for the head.

'Tick, tock, agent Hunt.'

It was the echo of the gunshot which made Will's eyes flutter open. /

Will could hear it, barely. Ethan' s voice, tinged with uncharacteristic despair. Calling out to him. It was enough to pull him back, one last time.

He couldn't… Not yet… Not before…

The sun and snow cast a bizarre, unearthly glow on Ethan. Or maybe it was just Will's mind shutting down. He focused fiercely, anchored whatever little there still was in him on the tormented look in his friend's eyes. They both knew that it was over. But only one of them was willing to admit it to himself.

"… 's okay", Will repeated his former words as firmly as he could. Desperate to get through to the stubborn man. It was so very hard to breathe… "… not on you …" None of this was Ethan's fault. He needed to hammer that into his friend's thick skull. Had to at least try.

Predictably Ethan didn't seem convinced. The man was saying something but Will was already too out of it to hear, or to comprehend what little he did distinguish. Pity. Whatever the other agent was trying to tell him seemed important.

He wanted to say something, too. If only he would've been able to get his mouth to cooperate. It would've been nice to say something meaningful for his final words. "… 'than …" He swallowed thickly, soldiered to think past the fog filling his head. "Thanks." For coming to get me. For not letting me bleed out all alone. It was far better than most IMF-agents got.

Will was fading out already, his eyes closing for the final time and his mightily fought for breaths slowing to a stop. So he never felt or saw Ethan shudder violently. He never saw the flash of immense ache in his friend's eyes. The last thing he ever saw of this world was snow, still falling softly.

How was he supposed to know that his final words, meant to be soothing, were like a bullet through Ethan's heart?

/ "Thank you." /

/ "Tick, tock, agent Hunt." /

It was like someone had blown out a candle. No matter how hard Ethan fought, no matter how fiercely he pressed, he couldn't keep the very life from leaving his friend. And there, under his blood-soaked hands, Will's painful sounding panting breaths and stuttering heartbeat came to a stop. Snow landed and melted on the deceased agent's eyelashes. Even if the man was already turning cold in the merciless winter temperature.

Will fought for as long as he could but now it was over.

/ "Ethan… Thank you." /

Lindsey… Will… There was the kind of blood Ethan would never, ever be able to wash from his hands. Those two trusted him, until their final moments. He failed them both.

Ethan sat there, dazed and in a shock. Stared at Will's face as though there might still be hope. Unable to comprehend why his eyes were blurry all of a sudden. Unable to let go of his friend, even if not being able to feel even the faintest promise of life tore at his heart. The bitter taste of grief, rage and defeat was heavy on his tongue.

After all the times he and his idiotic plans had almost gotten Will killed, starting from when they first met… This was finally it. In a forest in the middle of nowhere.

Ethan was too slow – and now it was over.

/ "Tick, tock, agent Hunt." /

A few minutes later Benji finally rushed to the scene, followed by a medical team. Whatever little breath he had left after all the running got stuck into his throat. His eyes watered instantly, even before he'd processed what he was seeing properly. "No…!" He didn't register saying that out loud. Didn't register much of anything.

The mission was supposed to be over – they weren't supposed to be too late…!

Yet Will lay there in a pool of blood, eyes closed and a serene expression on his face. The agent seemed to be sleeping. The look on Ethan's face, along with the unshed tears in the usually stoic man's eyes which still stared at their deceased friend, spoke the truth. Benji didn't think he'd ever seen his friend look quite so defeated.

Somehow the sunny afternoon felt much colder all of a sudden. It was also unbearably quiet until Benji spoke out so quietly that it was a miracle the words carried all the way to Ethan. "What happened?" Because he couldn't understand, it refused to make sense to him. After all the ridiculous missions, after all times they'd succeeded in tricking fate… "Ethan? What happened?"

Ethan gritted his teeth and fought visibly to not lash out when the medics began to work on Will's body. "We lost." They finally ran out of luck. And Will paid the cost.

/ "Tick, tock." /

Those two words would haunt Ethan until his dying day.


A/N: Sooo… Yeah. THAT was depressing. Poor team! Poor Will!

Thoughts? Comments? Rants? PLEASE, do leave a note before you go! I LOVE hearing from you.

In any case, THANK YOU so much for reading! Who knows. Maybe I'll see you again one day.

Take care, of yourselves and all the William Brandts out there!