A/N: Finally! I got a bit longer one up for you guys. It's like midnight, I'm exhausted, and while this has been beta read I didn't personally comb through it for things I felt needed changing. Hopefully it's good enough without my usual OCD on these matters, lol.
On a totally different note, anyone who's interested in leaving prompts/filling prompts for MI:4 fics, I've begun the process of adding the category to the fic_promptly community over on Dreamwidth. If you want to know more about it just send me a PM and I'll send ya to the right place. We need more writers/prompters!
Brandt trudged through the swampy woods, his mouth twitching as he fought to contain a smile. After a few seconds, a snort followed by a muffled snicker escaped his control, which quickly turned into a small chuckle before he was able to clamp off his amusement.
"It's not funny," Benji grumped as he followed directly behind his teammate. The tech walked with his arms crossed, a black smear of mud, sticks, and leaves plastered to the entire right side of his body trailing up to coat part of his face.
"Sorry," Brandt said, still smiling, then forced himself to act serious. "Sorry, you're right. It's not-" Looking over his shoulder, he lost it again at the pout on Benji's face.
Carter, who took up the rear of the group, stifled a laugh of her own, while Ethan merely smiled as he lead the way, keeping out of the whole conversation. They were currently making their way through the Darien Gap in Panama on a mission to infiltrate a Colombian extremist camp a few miles across the border. The objective was to obtain information on the whereabouts of a couple of British "tourists" who had been kidnapped from Panama, an occurrence that seemed to be increasing lately in frequency. The bigger issue was that the two captives were not actually tourists this time. They were part of an undercover operation put in place by the American government to put an end to the abductions, but the mission wound up coming to a standstill as no further contact was made from either the agents or the Colombians. Without the expected demands from the Colombian extremists or any signs from the undercover operatives, it remained unknown whether the captives were even still alive at this point, let alone the location of where they were being held. Not wanting to alert the Colombian government of the involvement of the US in the matter, and hoping to keep the identities of the undercover operatives a secret, Hunt and his team were called in to track down the missing agents and bring them home if at all possible.
"Remind me again why there isn't a road between Panama and Columbia," Benji complained.
Ethan shot a brief glance over his shoulder. "If there was a road, we wouldn't be taking it anyway. Too many witnesses."
"Right, shadows, in and out without a trace," Benji said bitterly, wiping at the mud on his face only to smear it further across his cheek. A few miles back the tech had slipped down the side of a small hill, riding down a mud slick all the way to the bottom. It had been difficult getting him back to the top between his muddied hands being unable to properly grasp the rope, and the fact that Brandt had been laughing so hard he had proven to be of absolutely no help whatsoever in the rescue process. The tech had been whining about it for the rest of the afternoon, and every time he opened his mouth it would set off Brandt again, which would only make Benji that much more irritable. It would almost be obnoxious for the other two members of the team if not for the fact that it was rare to see the tech and the analyst in such a drastic role reversal. While Brandt did let his cunning sense of humor shine every once in a while, he was often too busy running scenarios in his head to let loose very much while on mission, and he was quick to let his irritation show when things didn't go as smoothly as planned. Benji, on the other hand, usually took everything with the proverbial spoonful of sugar, and was usually the one who would try to lighten the mood when things got a little too tense. Apparently something as simple as mud was all it took to throw the two off kilter for a while, and Ethan and Carter found that to be incredibly amusing.
"Guys, the river's just ahead," Ethan announced, quickly putting an end to the childish behavior.
Brandt moved up to pace beside the team leader. "Okay, there should be a green canoe hidden from view somewhere close to the shoreline." He scanned the area ahead even though they weren't quite close enough to see the river clearly. "It's supposed to be within ten meters of our crossing point."
Ethan arched an eyebrow at him. "Supposed to be?"
Brandt shrugged. "I've learned to accept that not everyone at the company is as accurate as I'd like them to be."
"That's because none of them have OCD," Benji muttered.
Brandt turned to face the tech with a look of disbelief. "Remind me…who's been crying for the last…" He looked at his watch, "two hours about getting a little dirt on his face?"
Benji's mouth dropped as he looked from Brandt down to his mud-covered clothes, and back up to the analyst. "A little... I've got twigs plastered to my trousers! There's grit drying in sensitive areas that are probably chafing by now, and I'm probably covered in scratches that are infested with swamp germs carrying any number of exotic diseases! I think I have the right to complain!"
"Yeah, yeah," Brandt waved him off, continuing on ahead. "Cry about it later, princess, we've got a boat to find."
Benji raised his hands in a mock strangle hold. "Sometimes I just want to…"
Carter walked past him, nudging him with her elbow on the way by. "Come on, maybe he'll slip and fall in the river."
Cracking a smile for the first time since his fall, Benji nodded and picked up his pace a little bit. If Karma was going to dunk Brandt in the water, he definitely wanted to be there to witness it…if not help it along a little bit…
"Got it!" Brandt hollered back to his teammates, all of whom were spread along the river coastline searching for their ride. The agent had one foot down in the water peering around a grove of thick trees whose roots were well below the surface, the branches hanging low enough that he had to duck to see under them. "Thirty meters from where they said it would be, but it's here," he added under his breath.
Ethan, Carter, and Benji began to trek back upstream to meet up with Brandt, Benji being the closest one to the analyst. He grinned as he watched Brandt try to reach around the base of one of the large trees in an attempt to haul the canoe out without getting any more wet than he already was, and promptly realized it wasn't going to happen. With a sigh that had the tech beaming, Brandt stepped further into the river and waded around the grove, having to go in deep enough to where the water came up just below his knees.
"How's the bath?" Benji asked as he neared the spot where Brandt had shrugged off his pack.
"Kiddie-pool warm," the analyst replied in disgust as he began tossing away the branches that were laid atop the canoe, further camouflaging it from unsuspected travelers. He stopped and pushed some leaves out of his line of sight so he could better converse with Dunn. "Why don't we trade places? You're the one that needs the bath."
Benji shook his head. "No, I think I'm alright, actually. You look like you've got everything under control down there."
"Right," Brandt said with a slow nod, knowing that the tech was just getting back at him for not helping to get him back up the muddy hillside. Sighing, he turned back to unveiling their boat, accepting his punishment with as much dignity as possible. "Can you at least send Ethan down when he gets-"
Brandt's words were cut off as he suddenly disappeared below the water's surface. Benji laughed for a second, believing the analyst had merely stepped into a hole or something. When Brandt didn't immediately resurface, however, his humor quickly turned to concern. "Brandt?" he called out, taking a step closer to the water's edge.
A loud splash, followed by a cry and immediate gunfire sounded from upstream. Benji turned to see Brandt struggling to keep his head and arms above the water, firing every round his waterlogged gun could manage into the river right in front of him. A half second later, he had gone under again, a large reptilian tale surfacing in his place for a brief moment.
"Shit!" Benji hollered, pulling out his own handgun and racing up stream. "Ethan! Carter!" he screamed over his shoulder as he ran to catch up to the where Brandt had again managed to resurface for too short of a breath. Hesitating only briefly, Benji fired his own weapon towards where he hoped the crocodile's midsection would be, praying that he didn't hit his friend in the process. Like Brandt, he fired all his rounds at once, and upon seeing a cloud of red ballooning in the river and floating away, he dropped his weapon and dove in. Ethan was only a second behind him, leaping into the water to follow suit while Carter quickly began tearing through the bags for the med kits. She kept one eye on the river as both Ethan and Benji went under in search of their missing member, terrified that instead of seeing them resurface with Brandt, she'd get a glimpse of a very much alive, and very much angry crocodile. Several long seconds ticked by as she spread the fire repellant blanket on the ground and filled a syringe with a heavy painkiller. Just as she was thinking about going in after them, all three boys broke the river's unsettling calm, gulping down huge swallows of oxygen. Brandt, amazingly still conscious, appeared to be crying in a mixture of fear, pain, and utter relief to find himself still alive.
"We've got you," Benji assured him as he and Ethan dragged him to the shore. "We've got you. Take it easy."
"Oh my god," Carter muttered as they hauled Brandt onto the shore, a flow of deep red immediately running down from the several tears in his clothing, mingling with the water and dirt at their feet. "Over here! Lay him down over here!" she ordered.
He practically fell onto the blanket as his little remaining strength gave out, his body already shaking from the shock as he stifled a pained scream through clenched teeth. Jane wasted no time with the injection as Ethan set to work cutting off the tattered remains of Brandt's clothing, and Benji moved to slice through the boot where it appeared the croc had initially grabbed their agent.
Everyone stopped for a second, gasping as they took in the damage to Brandt's left side and thigh. Two long gashes were settled amongst several smaller punctures and tears, the flesh flayed wide open to expose the thin layer of fat on his torso, and deep enough to rip through the muscle in places on his thigh. Carter thanked every god she knew of that neither had been deep enough to damage arteries or puncture organs, and set to work helping Ethan begin the painful process of cleaning and suturing wherever they could.
Benji got the boot off, swallowing as he pried a broken tooth from the rubber sole. He pocketed it and studied Brandt's ankle, alerting Ethan and Jane to the shallower punctures encompassing his leg and the swelling that was beginning to occur.
"Is it broken?" Brandt barely managed to hiss out, focusing on what Benji was doing instead of what the other two were working on.
Slightly startled by the question, and bringing him back to the reality of the situation, Benji sat back on his heels. "Uh…n-no…no, I don't think so. Probably just a mild sprain, maybe not even that, might be you just twisted it a lit- a little. I'm sure it's fine. You'll be walking on it in-"
Whatever Ethan and Jane had done caused the analyst to cry out again, his left hand scrambling to grip at the blanket while the right moved around across the ground, seemingly lost as it searched for a purchase. Benji leapt forward and caught a hold of it, squeezing it tight and fighting back the wince as Brandt practically crushed his fingers.
Ethan glanced up at the tech for a second as he worked at tying off a thread. "Benji, get on the SAT. Get an airlift down here now."
"No!" Brandt ground out before Benji could even move. He choked out a second, "No," as he tried to catch his breath to explain.
"Brandt, we're not arguing about this," Ethan snapped. "You need-"
"They'll see…they'll see it," the analyst argued, anyway. "Too c-close to the…to the border. They'll k-kill those agents." He coughed, which turned into another suppressed wail that tapered out into a groan.
Ethan shook his head. "For all we know, they're already dead."
Brandt shut his eyes. "For all we know….they're not…" he whispered. "The mission…"
"Is over," Carter finished as she finished with the thigh wound and moved on to some of the smaller tears. "We're taking you home, Will."
"Please," he muttered, shaking his head. "At least…at least take me further b-back, away f-from the border. Give anoth-" he sucked in a breath and held it for a second, clamping down on Benji's hand again. "-another team a chance to…to save them."
Hunt, done with all he could do on the injuries for the time being, sat back and studied his agent. Brandt caught his gaze, the fire still in his eyes beneath the pain. "You're one stubborn son of a bitch, you know that," Ethan stated, shaking his head. He turned to look around the area and spotted the partially uncovered canoe. "Jane, stay with him. Benji, you're with me."
"Right," the tech answered, releasing Brandt's hand and giving it a pat before following after Hunt. Fearless, Ethan jumped down into the water and quickly began to strip the canoe the rest of the way of its camouflage. Benji glanced around the water a bit nervously for a second, the adrenaline fading away and the fear of another possible attack sliding in to replace it. A quick look back at his injured friend doing his best to take shallow breaths in hopes of easing the pain, he pressed his lips together and jumped in, moving around to the opposite side of the boat. Within minutes they had dragged it up on shore and, following Ethan's lead, they used what tools they had to break the thing down, turning it from a canoe to a much smaller, lighter, makeshift stretcher. They shoved oar handles through the back end creating handholds on each side, and another two at the front, parallel to one another so that a person could stand between them and hold onto each pole. There was still just enough of a hollow in the canoe bed so Brandt could lie in it without fear of rolling out, which they proceeded to pad with whatever soft forest bedding and clothing they could afford to use from their bags. By the time they were done, Brandt had fallen unconscious, probably due more to his injuries than the drugs pumping through his system.
"Alright, lift him easy," Ethan ordered as he, Benji, and Jane prepared to shift him into the stretcher. On three, they gently lifted up on the blanket and slid Brandt into place, using their remaining jackets to cocoon him in and keep him warm. Benji looked at him, concern written all over his face as he noted the fact that Brandt hadn't even stirred during the move.
"He'll be alright, won't he?" he asked.
"Yeah, he'll be fine," Ethan answered, the confidence in his tone not helping to ease the situation as much as Benji had hoped. He nodded, anyway, awaiting the team leader's next order. "Move fast, but watch your footing. If you feel like you're losing your grip, call for a halt – we can't drop him. I'll take the front."
A few minutes later they were rushing back the way they had come, going as fast as they safely could manage with their fragile burden. Benji kept his eyes on the ground, terrified that he might take another slip, and angry with himself for ever wishing harm on Brandt to begin with. Logically he knew it wasn't his fault, but it didn't make him feel any better about the whole ordeal.
"Stupid Karma," he murmured.
"What?" Carter breathed out.
He glanced over at her. "Karma. It isn't fair. A crocodile attack isn't a fair trade for having a bit of a laugh over a mudslide."
"Benji," she started, seeing the guilt written all over his face.
"I know, I know," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't actually do anything…but I still feel bad about it. I mean, what if I had gone in to help him like he asked? Maybe I could've pulled him out before the croc dragged him off."
She sighed, giving him a sympathetic look. "Or maybe if you had pulled on him, he would've lost his leg in the fight. Or maybe if you had been in the water instead of on shore, you wouldn't have been there to shoot the fucking thing and we wouldn't have been able to save Brandt at all. Or maybe the croc would've grabbed you, instead. You can't play the 'what if' game, Benji. We all know that."
"We know it, but we all can't help but do it, anyway," he answered with a frown, turning away from her and thus ending the conversation.
Unable to argue with the truth of the statement, she turned her gaze to the path ahead. A short silence passed by before Ethan spoke up from the front, tactfully changing the subject. "How's he look back there?"
Carter looked at Brandt's slack features. "A little too pale, but he doesn't look like he's in any pain at the moment."
"Good," Hunt answered with a nod. "We'll get him back to that clearing where Benji went for his ride, and call an airlift from there. It should be far enough away from the border not to compromise a future rescue mission."
Benji's head snapped up. "But…that was a few hours' walk. We can't take him that far!"
"You see any other spot open enough to drop down a line?" Ethan countered.
The tech opened his mouth to speak, then promptly shut it again. "We should…we should move a little faster, then," he suggested lamely, but no one argued the point. They risked picking up the pace a tiny bit more, desperate to get their injured friend to a hospital as soon as they could.
Hoarse laughter broke the silent, collective trance of deep concentration that Benji, Ethan, and Jane had fallen into.
"Will, you with us back there?" Ethan asked, not certain whether to be worried or thrilled about the agent's strange reaction upon his return to consciousness.
"A fffffucking crocodile," Brandt slurred, the humor in his voice evident beneath the thick tones of drugged-up exhaustion. "Would rather 've been shot."
"Could've been worse," Benji offered. "For a minute there I was afraid I had shot you while you were being eaten by a crocodile."
Brandt chuckled again, cutting it short with a slight hiss. "I would've…would've had to live just to sh-shoot you back."
"Not execution style, I hope?" the tech asked, trying to keep the conversation going. Brandt was talking, but he hadn't even attempted to move or even so much as open his eyes.
"Noooo." The single word had been breathed out slowly more than actually spoken. There was a long pause before Brandt continued. "I'd shoot you in the…" He laughed again, seeming like he was talking more to himself really than the others. "…right in the ass. Wouldn't be able to…couldn't sit without one of those doughnuts…for weeks."
That had the others laughing in a much-needed release of tension. Ethan slowed them to a stop and tilted his head over his shoulder. "Set him down. We need to get some water in him while he's still awake."
Ever so slowly they lowered the stretcher to the ground, and had Jane not been looking in the exact right direction at the right time she would've missed Benji's wince as he let go of the oar handle. Frowning, she stepped around to his side and snatched his hands as he stood up, flipping them over to see the fluid-filled blister on one palm and the oozing tear on the other. Looking down towards Brandt and over at Ethan who was busy digging a water bottle from his pack, she dragged the tech off to one side.
"Why didn't you say something?" she whispered as she yanked the pack from his back.
"They're just blisters. I'll manage," he answered. He nodded towards where Ethan was kneeling down beside Brandt. "He's the one we need to worry about."
She poured some water over the open sore, ignoring his little squeak that escaped before he could bite his lip in an attempt to keep himself quiet. "How are you supposed to help him if you can't use your hands?" she hissed. She finished with the cleaning and doctoring, taped up his palms, and shoved some gloves over the top of them, pausing to look at her own hands before likewise wrapping a layer of tape around them and slipping on a pair of gloves of her own. She shot Benji an, "Oh, shut up" look at his little, know-it-all grin, and made her way back over to Brandt's side.
"Don't try to help," Ethan was saying as he braced Brandt's head up with one hand, carefully tipping the water into his mouth.
Brandt turned away from the water, his face screwed up in pain as he gasped out, "I'm done."
"Okay, okay, you did good, Will," Ethan said quietly as he lowered his agent's head back down. Brandt kept his eyes clamped shut tight, his breathing coming in short, erratic little intakes of air as he rode out a wave of pain. Hunt kept one hand on the analyst's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze as he looked up at the approaching Carter.
"Is there anything else you can give him?" he asked.
She shook her head, the apology written all over her face. "Not yet. He's already had the maximum dose. Anything more right now could kill him."
"'m okay," Brandt managed to get out between breaths. "It's okay."
"Who's supposed to be reassuring who, here?" Hunt asked with the tiniest of smiles, which Brandt surprisingly returned along with a small glimpse of the blue that he had kept hidden behind closed lids. "You ready to keep moving?" Ethan asked, and received a subtle nod in return before Brandt's eyes slid shut again. Turning to Jane and Benji, he looked down at their hands, then up at their suddenly hardened looks. Nodding in understanding, he stood up straight and pulled out his own gloves as he tucked away the water bottle. "You guys ready?" he asked.
"On your go," Benji responded, taking up position at his pole.
"Go," came the command, but not from Ethan. They looked to the stretcher and smiled at Brandt, simultaneously hoisting up the altered canoe in preparation for the next leg of their trek.
"…need immediate evac at coordinates…"
Ethan paced back and forth at the top of the muddy hill as Benji rattled off their location over the SAT, eyeing the clearing in the trees above their heads.
"Something wrong?" Carter asked once she was done checking on Brandt, who had fallen unconscious again shortly after they had begun walking, and had yet to show any further signs of waking.
"I don't think they can lift him from up here," Hunt answered, still staring up at the canopy above them. He looked down the hill, following the clear path of Benji's earlier slide to the bottom.
Jane's eyes widened as she realized what the team leader was thinking. "We can't send him down there!"
"You have a better idea?" he asked sharply, pointing up to the wide clearing above the spot in question. "That's the only place where they can get him up. Anywhere else, and he could get snagged in one of the branches. We don't have a choice."
"So, what, we just send the whole canoe down the slide with him in it?" Jane questioned sarcastically.
Ethan nodded. "…Yeah. Two of us head down first, the third comes down with Brandt, and we all stop it at the bottom."
Benji stepped up beside them. "What's going on?"
Ethan smiled at the tech. "Ready to take another ride?"
Dunn laughed uneasily for a second before he realized Ethan was serious. Looking at the muddy hill, the clearing, Brandt, and back over at his team leader, everything clicked into place. "You-you're serious," he stated. At Ethan's one-shouldered shrug and raised eyebrows, he sighed and stepped over to the top of the slide. "Sometimes I really hate this job," he stated, then sat down and pushed himself over the edge.
Carter and Hunt watched him hit the bottom, barely managing to regain his footing in the slippery mess below, the entire backside of his trousers and shirt once again covered in mud. As he turned, he sported a surprisingly broad smile. "Who's next?" he called up, giddy that at least this time he wouldn't be the only one covered in mud.
"I'll go," Carter volunteered, not very enthusiastically. "You guide that canoe straight when you come down with him," she ordered as she sat down.
"Yes, ma'am," Ethan answered as he watched her push off. He waited for their ready signal before moving over to Brandt's side, gripping the canoe by its front handles and using them to push the rig towards the edge. "You're gonna be sad you missed this," he muttered as he got in position behind the boat, taking a few steadying breaths before he shoved off, hoping that Carter and Dunn would be able to catch them once they neared the bottom…
Covered in mud, scraped up, bruised, and exhausted, Ethan, Jane, and Benji sat together in the helicopter as the paramedics checked over their fourth. They left the stitches and wraps in place, leaving the wounds for the surgeons to treat upon arriving at the hospital, but worked diligently to try to get down the fever that Brandt had slowly been developing on the journey back to the clearing.
"Should've lifted him from the river," Ethan mumbled, leaning his forehead down against his clasped hands.
"He would've hurt himself more trying to stop you," Jane pointed out. "You know how stubborn he can be."
Ethan snorted out a little laugh, and sat back in his seat. A bright flash blinded him for a second, and when he blinked open his eyes he found Benji smiling at him from over a camera.
"Take mine," the tech said, shoving the cam into Ethan's hands.
"For Brandt, when he wakes up. If he thought it was so funny the first time, he'd think this was hilarious. I mean look at us. We look like the freaking creatures from the black lagoon."
Ethan glanced down at the image Benji had captured of him and Carter, and couldn't help but laugh. The canoe slide hadn't quite gone as smoothly as they had hoped, and while they managed to prevent further damage to Brandt, the three of them hadn't exactly come out of it unscathed. Shaking his head, he lifted the cam towards Benji whose white teeth almost glowed through the layer of dark mud coating his face, and snapped off the shot.
A cleaned up Ethan and team stood to greet the doctor of the secure hospital, their faces lined with worry for their missing teammate. They had come in hours ago, had time to shower and eat, even sleep if any of them had felt inclined to do so, but none of them would allow themselves rest until they had received news on Brandt's condition.
"How is he?" Ethan asked.
"The damage was rather extensive, as you well know," the doctor explained, knowing that sugar-coating anything would get him nowhere with people like these. "There were infections beginning in a number of the puncture wounds, some of which had shards of tooth embedded within that needed to be extracted. The lacerations needed to be reopened and cleaned – you did a fine job on the initial stitching, by the way." Ethan nodded impatiently and waved a hand for the doctor to continue. "The tear across his side, while the larger of the two trauma wounds, should heal rather neatly as long as Agent Brandt doesn't push himself before his body is ready. The thigh wound is of more concern. With the damage to the muscle underneath, he'll need to follow a strict therapy regime if he wishes to have full recovery of the use of his leg."
"But it should heal?" Ethan questioned, needing clarification.
The doctor nodded. "If he does what we ask, yes, he should be able to return to the field with no physical limitations within a few months time."
"We'll keep him in line," Hunt promised.
"What about the ankle?" Benji asked abruptly. "He was…he was a bit worried about his ankle earlier…when…" He trailed off at the stares the others gave him.
The doctor gave Benji an understanding grin. "The boot appears to have taken the brunt of the damage to his lower leg. From what I can tell, the animal grabbed him just long enough to drag him under, then quickly readjusted its grip up to his side. There were some shallow cuts and punctures on his calf, most of which required no more than a thorough cleaning, and the mild sprain should heal well before Agent Brandt is ready to attempt walking on the damaged leg."
"Good, good," Benji responded. "So can we see him?"
"For a little while, yes. Mind you he's under the effects of heavy medication. He may not be awake, and if he is, it won't be for long."
They all knew the drill and followed the doctor quietly, slipping into Brandt's room with the same silent steps they used while on mission. As if sensing their presence, Brandt cracked his eyes open a tiny bit and smiled at his visitors.
"Hey," he said simply.
"Hey," Ethan replied, keeping his voice to just above a whisper. "How do you feel?"
"Mmm…numb," came the tired answer, coupled with a slight shrug of one shoulder. "Prob'ly a good thing, right?"
Carter smiled and patted his hand, mindful of the IV line. "Yes, that's a good thing."
"Hey, Will," Benji alerted, pulling something out his pocket. He stepped up to the other side of the bed and pressed something into Brandt's palm. "I kept a souvenir for you."
Brandt fingered the edges of the crocodile tooth that the tech had pulled from his boot, and chuckled. "Thanks, Benji." He turned towards the tech and forced his eyes to open a little more. "Thank you."
"It's just a tooth," Dunn replied self-consciously.
Brandt shook his head. "No, not… Saved my ass back there."
Benji moved to deny the claim. "I didn't… I shouldn't have… It would've been better if I'd-"
"Shut up, Benji," Brandt mumbled, his eyes slipping shut. "You did. I owe you one."
A few seconds later found them looking down at sleeping Brandt. Carter wrapped an arm around Benji's shoulder. "Told you," she said with a wink, bringing a little grin to the tech's face. Ethan pulled up a chair and got comfortable beside the bed, smirking as he watched the other two do the same. Brandt was in for a long recovery, and the three of them would remain beside him through the ordeal as much as possible if for no other reason than to keep the man stationary. He just wasn't the type to allow something as trivial as a crocodile attack to keep him down, and they hadn't completed their mission, after all…