A/N: Since you guys all asked so nicely, I decided to go ahead and write a sequel to 'Unexpected Enemy.' Now, this is going to be a chapter story, not sure how long yet, and I want to warn you in advance that I won't be able to update nearly as quickly as Peggster does, lol. It's unusual for me to start uploading chapter stories anymore if they aren't already finished (or darn close to it), but I thought I'd give you all a little taste since you've been such fantastic reviewers. I promise I will try to keep up on this as often as I can, but real life obligations tend to bog me down at the worst times so please don't come after me with pitchforks if I take too long to send you an update (though gentle pokes and reminders are totally okay!). Thanks to the members of The Beta Branch who fixed this up all nice and pretty for me (Red Tigress, SicklySweetNanny), and I hope this will appease everyone's need for more post-crocodile whump mayhem, lol.
"Wait, Benji, wait! Carter, back him up before it's too-"
Brandt sucked in a breath as he watched his teammate go down in a shower of blood and gore.
"Late?" Jane finished casually, a hint of annoyance in her tone that Brandt could clearly pick up on through his headset.
There was a pause before Benji's guilty voice cut in. "Sorry. I got a little ahead of myself. Won't happen again."
Sighing, Brandt set the controller down on the floor beside the couch he was laying on and rubbed at his eyes. "Benji, for someone so ridiculously good with computers, you really suck at video games."
"I know," Benji replied sullenly, then perked up and continued his explanation at a rapid pace. "I blame it on the fact that it's the one thing on a computer that I can fail at without there being detrimental side effects. It doesn't really matter if I hit the wrong button – the worst that happens is a zombie eats my face, I spawn somewhere else, and start again. Pressure free, you know? I just want to… to get in there and be reckless. I don't get to be reckless very often."
"Yeah, well be 'reckless' with someone else's high score," Brandt muttered back. He glanced over at the coffee table where his own computer sat closed, the little sleep-indicator light blinking at him in a taunting manner. He furled his brow and held his breath as he began to push himself up onto his elbows.
"Stop it," Jane ordered in his ear.
He froze. "Stop what?" The innocent tone he was going for was totally lost in the breathless quality of his voice being forced out through clenched teeth.
"Whatever you're doing. You're supposed to call for Ethan if you need something."
Rolling his eyes, he pushed himself up to a sitting position and was barely able to suppress the groan that threatened to escape. Wrapping one arm around his healing side, he leaned forward toward his computer, biting his lip to keep himself from making any noise.
"He's not going to be happy when he finds out you're disobeying doctor's orders," Jane warned him. "…again."
"I think I can handle getting something off a table two feet in front of me," Brandt bit back, though the tug on the stitches in his side and leg as he reached his arm out further told him otherwise.
"Whoa, whoa! Brandt, what are you doing?" Ethan snapped from behind.
"She told you," Benji sing-songed.
Brandt sighed and slowly sat back against the cushions, shutting his eyes as he leaned his head on the back of the couch. "Shut up, Benji."
Ethan came around to see what his agent had been reaching for. Spotting the laptop, he deftly swept it off the table and set it down beside Brandt. "You're supposed to call me if you need something," he scolded.
"Yes, Dad," Brandt mumbled. He lifted his head and eyed the computer for a second as if debating whether he wanted it anymore after his failure to retrieve it on his own. Slowly, he inched one hand over to the release button and opened it up. The other arm remained wrapped around his side.
"You okay?" Ethan asked, critically eyeing the way the analyst was moving.
"I'm fine, Ethan, thank you." Brandt hit a few buttons on the laptop, then paused as he realized Hunt was still staring at him. "I said I'm fine. Go back to whatever it was you were doing before you had to come play 'babysit the cripple.'"
"Any word on the undercovers?" Will interrupted without looking away from his screen, his tone one of simple, mild curiosity. Ethan knew better.
"Cary's last report looked promising," he offered. "He thinks they're getting closer."
"Cary's a shitty agent." The insult was mumbled under Brandt's breath, but Ethan heard it just the same. The little smile that suddenly appeared on Will's face told him that Benji and Carter and heard it, too, and one of them had probably piggybacked on the insult…more than likely both of them had. Ethan was inclined to follow suit, but being team leader meant sometimes playing devil's advocate.
"He's trained as well as the rest of us," he countered. "Doesn't matter, anyway. It's not our mission anymore, so you don't need to worry about it. Your mission is to get better, should you choose to accept it."
Brandt paused in what he was doing and arched his eyebrows up at Hunt. "Really?" He shook his head. "That was bad, Ethan, even for you."
Benji agreed in his ear, "Pretty corny, yeah."
"Right there with you," Jane said, bemused.
Brandt grinned. "The Wonder Twins agree," he informed his team leader.
"Great, well, the 'Wonder Twins' can agree to meet me at Shortie's in three hours," Ethan replied, talking louder just to make sure Benji and Jane could hear him clearly through Brandt's mic.
The smile dropped from Will's face. "You're meeting at Shortie's? What's our mission?"
Hunt glared at Brandt. "We don't have a mission. I'm debriefing Carter and Benji on a potential threat. They're going in to do some digging, you're resting, and I'm staying here to-"
"Babysit the cripple, right."
Ethan frowned at him. "Would you sto-"
"Take me home," Brandt blurted out. He reached up to his ear and flipped the mic off. "Take me home, put someone else on babysitting duty, and go with them. You need to be watching their backs instead of mine."
"It's just simple recon, they don't need me there."
Brandt scoffed. "Come on, this is our team we're talking about. We attract trouble like flypaper. They need you on point." At the argumentative look on Ethan's face, Will gestured with the hand that been pressed against his side, and wrapped his case with a single word: "Crocodile."
With a relenting sigh, Hunt nodded his head. "Tell them four hours; we'll fly you home, first." He stood up straighter and pointed his finger in Brandt's direction. "But I'm putting an agent on you."
"Great, you can set me up with Cary. He's not doing anything, anyway." Brandt shrugged and turned back to his computer, his manner so nonchalant that Ethan almost missed the insult.
Hunt smiled. "Cary's a shitty agent. I'll find someone I can trust."
With a nod and a subtle smirk, Brandt gently slid the laptop onto his good leg and flipped his mic back on. "You've got an extra hour. Anyone up for DCU?" There was a pause before Brandt huffed out a sigh. "Villains, Benji, the heroes are lame. We've been through this."
Ethan laughed as he left his agents to their game, thinking that he'd have to get someone good to watch over Brandt, someone quick on their toes. The "boring analyst" didn't sit still as easily as everyone would think upon first meeting him, and just one week out of the hospital had already proven to be a bit of a challenge. No, someone like Cary wouldn't do at all for Mission: Keep Brandt Subdued.
…In fact, he was having a hard time coming up with anyone who would fit the bill. This was going to be harder than he thought…
Shortie's, a tiny little café on the outskirts of Topeka, had become the meeting grounds for Hunt's team purely by accident. At the end of an exhausting (but surprisingly injury-free) mission, they were on the road back to their hotel when a twister, of all things, threatened to end their careers for good. Benji had spotted the little diner off the side of the road in time for all of them to get inside, after which the owners of the place ushered the four of them down into the cellar. Half the restaurant, plus the government's sanctioned van and it's millions dollars of equipment, disappeared in the blink of an eye; but after hours in the cellar waiting for rescue teams to unbury the hatch door, Hunt and his crew had been accepted as family by the business owners and the other locals who had been trapped with them. In thanks for saving their lives, Hunt offered the funding to rebuild the café, after which he and his team were granted free service for a life time in their own private dining room, never to be used by anyone but them (as per Ethan's request under the guise that they were regular FBI agents who sometimes worked in the area). Etta and Dale, the owners, never tried to pry into the team's personal business, always greeted them with smiles, hugs, and friendly pecks from Etta, and could also cook a damn good meal. Even more convenient, with Ethan living in Seattle, Brandt in Burbank, Benji in Detroit, and Carter in Miami, the place was centered nicely between all of them, making it a quick and easy trip via IMF-sanctioned private jets. For everyone on Hunt's team, it had practically become a welcome second home.
Jane swirled the straw through the ice in her glass as she propped an elbow on the table and rested her chin on her closed fist. With a glance down at her phone's clock, she let out a bored sigh.
Benji glanced up from his computer. "Wha- I'm sorry, am I that bad company? Would you like me to talk about guns, or cars, or, or, or maybe ponies. I saw the way you were looking at those Shetlands last month." She glared at him, but it only seemed to spur him on. "Admit it, you thought they were cute."
She laughed once and dropped her gaze. "Yes, they were cute; and no, you don't need to talk about them. I was just wondering what was taking Ethan so long. It's not like him to be late."
"Well maybe he-"
Whatever Benji was about to say got cut off as they heard Etta gasp and saw her shoot past the door of their room that they always left open until debriefing time. "Lord in Heaven, honey, what happened to you?" she practically shouted.
It was all that was needed for Jane and Benji to rush out into the commotion that the rest of the diner patrons were creating. Above the small crowd they could see Ethan trying to wave people away. The pleading look he shot Etta was almost comical as he failed to keep the well-meaning locals at bay.
Etta gave Hunt an understanding nod before throwing her arms up in the air. "Alright, ya damn nosy nellies, go on! Git back to your tables! Don't want the good food Dale cooked for y'all gettin' cold, now, do ya? Now git! Scram!"
As the mumbling crowd parted, Jane and Benji's jaws dropped as a tiredly smiling Brandt was revealed sitting in his wheelchair. Etta bent down and said something to him that they couldn't hear, and his smile grew wider as he nodded and replied back. She gave him his token kiss, patted his shoulder, and was off in her usual whirlwind manner to manage the café as its sole waitress.
"Hey, guys," Brandt greeted as Ethan rolled him over to the doorway of the private room where Carter and Dunn still stood in stunned silence. "Etta's making me a chocolate, cherry, banana milkshake."
Their eyes shifted from the beaming Brandt up to Ethan, who shook his head at their confused looks. "I gave him something a little stronger for the flight over. He should be coming down sometime in the next hour." He offered no other explanation as he wheeled his charge over to the single table.
Jane and Benji exchanged a glance as they followed behind him and shut the door.
"What is he doing here, Ethan?" Jane hissed, pulling Hunt over to one side as Benji jumped to keep Brandt from playing with his computer.
"I couldn't find anyone to watch him," Ethan responded, his clipped tone revealing that he was no more happy with the situation than she was. "The only people I'd want are out on mission. I didn't have a choice." At Brandt's laughter, they turned to see that Benji had put some stupid cartoon up on his screen. The tech looked back at them and shrugged apologetically, to which Ethan closed his eyes in irritation for a second before continuing. "When he passes out we'll do the debriefing."
"And during the recon?" she questioned.
Hunt turned his attention back to the giggling agent. "I'll figure it out."