Author's Note: First of all, I am no native speaker, so if you spot any errors, please let me know. Second of all, this is the first story I've ever gathered the guts to upload, so please be nice. ;] A huge Thanks with a capital T goes to Christoph and PeggsterLover for the beta. Without your support, this would not have been possible. Last but not least, I only know the movies and made most of this up.
Disclaimer: No copyright, no money, just pure fun! I only own my OCs, so if you want to borrow them, please let me know first.
— † —
Agent William Brandt raced down the halls of IMF headquarters while trying to simultaneously check his watch and avoid bumping into colleagues on the way. The reason for this chase was the technician on his team, namely the one and only Benjamin Dunn. The whole of headquarters seemed to have known that it was his birthday today and had covered the laughing agent in exclamations of "Happy birthday!" and presents while Will stood at the sidelines, dumbfounded. Benji, Ethan, Jane and himself had grown quite close as a team and as friends and therefore he felt even more sheepish. Thus, he had silently backed out of the room in order to go find Ethan.
"Why didn't you tell me?", he had demanded to know with his hands on his hips.
Ethan had raised an eyebrow. "I thought you'd read his file." He clearly had been amused by Will's posture, so the analyst had folded his arms across his chest instead and straightened his back defiantly.
"I did! I just didn't memorize his date of birth." He had sighed in defeat at Ethan's unimpressed expression. "Alright. Do you know what I could get him then?"
There, that infuriating smile. William had felt like he had lost an argument that hadn't even taken place.
It had taken up all day and demanding the return of a few favours to hunt down two tickets for the sold out AC/DC show on the following evening, as per Ethan's suggestion. His team leader had been 'absolutely sure' that Benji had wanted to go, but hadn't been able to get any. I hope he's right. No need to embarrass himself even further. But, on second thought, that music really fit the cheerful technician.
When he finally reached the main computer lab, there was no Benji in sight. You must be kidding me! Normally, the agent would turn up late but work way into the night hours. Today was no normal day, though. It's his birthday after all. He may have gone home early. William wanted to bang his head against the wall in frustration. Just as he was about to seriously contemplate that option, a laugh right behind him made him jump.
"Will! Where were you all day?" He turned around to face a smiling Benji. How did he manage to sneak up on me?
"Happy birthday, Benji!" William pulled his friend into a short, but tight embrace. "Trying to get you a lovely present, what else?" Well, here goes nothing. He presented the tickets whilst preparing himself for whatever reaction was to come. When Benji's eyes went wide as saucers, he allowed himself to relax a fraction.
"I can't believe it! Where did you get these?" He snatched the tickets from Will's hand to get a closer look.
"How about the wonderland of unfulfilled wishes?" He laughed when his friend tried to punch him in the shoulder without taking his eyes off his birthday present. "Instead of slapping me you could be a bit more grateful."
"Oh, sorry! Thanks a lot, Will! I really appreciate that!" Benji turned hopeful eyes on him. "Do you want to join me?"
"Listen, it's perfectly okay if you want to take someone else. You don't have to ask me just because I got you the tickets!" I'm sure you can find someone more suitable. The thought was clearly written across his face.
Benji's smile turned into a scowl. "Don't be silly! Why wouldn't I want to ask you?"
Does the God of Embarrassment know no mercy? "I don't even know their songs, to be honest."
"Now that must be an outright lie! Everybody knows a few AC/DC songs! And even if it was true, you are just going to get to know them!" The smile returned. "Tomorrow. Seven o'clock. Your Door." With that, he was gone.
What have I gotten myself into this time?
— † —
It was ten minutes past seven when Will's doorbell rang. Twice. Typical. He opened his door only to reveal a giddy and grinning-like-a-Cheshire-cat Benji. "Ready to go?"
Actually, he wasn't. "And you really think this is a good idea?"
A flash of insecurity crossed Benji's features as he avoided his eyes. "Well, if you don't want to, it's okay. You can tell me, you know."
"No! It's got nothing to do with you! I just don't want to spoil this evening for you. It's been ages since I last went to a concert. A rock concert at that."
His friend obviously couldn't help the wide grin spreading across his face. "You've been to a rock concert before?" The laughter was evident in his voice and Will could have banged his head against the wall – again – for admitting too much – again.
"Yeah, I have. Horrible band. I even forgot the name." Actually, he knew it quite well, but there was no need to pay tribute to the God of Embarrassment once more. "Now, shall we?"
Benji looked like he was about to show a particular interest in the name of that 'horrible rock band', but seemed to decide against it. "Yeah, let's go. Can't wait to see them!"
On the car ride to the concert hall, Benji told stories about concerts he'd been to, which at times Will found hard to believe. They did serve their purpose though, and he felt himself loosen up while listening to his babbling friend. He had reached a level of calm relaxation when Benji suddenly pulled into a small backyard with a big red sign on the wall that said 'No parking!'.
"Benji? You are not allowed to park here." He shot him a 'You idiot!' look.
"Yes, I am." Benji grinned. "I know the owner of the Irish Pub that's located on the other side, so I asked him if I could park here just for tonight."
"Why don't we park at the concert hall?" Will got out of the car nonetheless and followed his friend down the pavement to catch his answer.
"You don't want to do that. Believe me. We'd be waiting there all night to get out of the parking lot. There are far too many people coming to the concert."
Waaait! "Far too many people? How many tickets did they sell?" Benji just grinned and motioned for him to wait just as they rounded a corner and William was able to see the concert hall – and the sheer mass of people waiting to get inside. Holy mother of God.
William had to admit that getting through the security check had taken far less time than expected. He felt uncomfortable, surrounded by thousands of people mostly clad in black AC/DC shirts without knowing what exactly was heading his way. Thank God I did choose a black shirt as well. No need to draw attention to myself.
He was amazed, though, at how relaxed Benji seemed to be. Truth be told, the technician had gained a good deal of self-confidence after the Ghost Protocol mission had been successfully completed, but he still seemed to be on edge half the time. Now though, Will witnessed his friend relax in an environment he apparently knew by heart as Benji joked around with the brawny security guards and guided William to a spot which he thought was best in order to see the show – all the while laughing and greeting some of the staff along the way.
His reverie was interrupted when Benji caught him staring at him. "What is it? Aren't you feeling right?"
Will shook his head to clear his thoughts and shrugged. "I've never seen you that much at ease, that's all."
Benji had no chance to reply, for suddenly the lights went out and the support band mounted the stage, accompanied by reluctant applause. Instead, his friend turned to him and rolled his eyes. Half an hour later Will knew why – he sure was glad that the band played not a minute longer. He turned to Benji in order to tell him what he thought of their music, but stopped when he caught his friend regarding him with a scrutinizing gaze. He raised an eyebrow.
"Well," Benji began hesitantly, "you don't seem awfully comfortable."
Are you kidding me? "Come on! That band really wasn't that good."
"That's not what I meant. You've been looking miserable the whole time since we came in through that door. Do you want me to take you home?"
Will was speechless for a moment. "Do I want you to take me home? Hell, no!" Benji didn't look entirely convinced. "Listen, I spent your whole birthday trying to get you those tickets and I think I may be able to sit through two hours of rock music to make a friend happy, okay?"
Said friend looked like he might argue, but then he just sighed and held up his hands in surrender. "Fine. I still think you won't regret it, though."
William resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He hoped AC/DC were any better than that support band, because if they weren't, the next two hours would be a pain in the ass.
— † —
Three hours later, Agent William Brandt felt completely worn out and unable to stop grinning like a lunatic. He couldn't remember when he last enjoyed himself that much. Before his life took that unpleasant turn in Croatia anyway. He'd jumped when the lights had dimmed and the whole concert hall, including Benji right next to him, had freaked out. As the intro played he'd just stood there, staring at the people surrounding them who had jumped and shouted. The next few songs had changed that however. Plus, the fact that Benji had seemed to sail through total bliss put him at ease. To be honest, Will remembered no song in particular, but he could remember the feeling of being alive.
"So..." Benji's voice interrupted his thoughts. "That wasn't that bad, was it?"
Will turned in the passenger seat of Benji's car, incredulously regarding his friend who had a manic grin plastered across his face. "I'd say that was absolutely brilliant!"
The grin widened even more. "I didn't think I would ever witness you refer to something as 'absolutely brilliant', with your pessimistic attitude and all."
Benji just laughed.
— † —
Agent William Brandt swore under his breath as he crept down the hall of an abandoned warehouse, his gun trained on the darkness surrounding him. The mission had sounded easy enough: Get in, kill the four men sitting inside, snatch the wanted documents and get out.
Up to the killing part, everything had gone according to plan. Benji had cut the power to the house, effectively switching off the lights while the others had sneaked in through different entrances – two of which had been unguarded. That should have rung a bell, but it hadn't. They had just killed the four men protecting the documents when Benji had warned them that several heavily armed guards were on their way into the house. Nothing they hadn't encountered before.
Yet, here I am, trying to survive. Will scoffed to himself. Neither of them had been prepared for the clever way in which the well-trained guards had managed to split up their team in order to hunt them down separately. If they wanted to get out of this mission alive, they had to take down all of the guards on their part. Not to mention blow this whole warehouse up.
William froze when his headset came to life. "I killed three of them," Ethan whispered. "Sector one is clear now. How about you?"
Will didn't catch Jane's answer, for the shadows, poorly lit by the moonlight streaming in through the dirty windows, suddenly shifted. He raised his gun to shoot, yet the feeling that he recognized the way the man hiding in the dark moved made him hesitate. Then it hit him.
"Benji?", he hissed. The shadows stilled again.
"Yeah?", came the hesitant and similarly hissed answer. "You alright?"
Will felt the immediate need to knock the technician over the head with his gun. "What are you doing here? You are supposed to stay outside!" Where it's safe, you moron.
He could practically hear the guilty half smile of his friend in his voice. "I thought you could use some help."
Will took two quick steps forward. "Go back to the car. We got this-"
He wasn't able to finish his sentence, for Benji suddenly leapt forward and knocked him to the ground while firing his gun into the shadows. It took Will a few seconds, through the haze of hitting his head on the cold floor and the deafening sound of gunshots, to clear his head and get back onto his feet. He aimed his gun into the direction of the assailant, but could only make out a motionless heap on the floor.
He waited for a few seconds before allowing himself a small smile once he was sure there weren't any more guards waiting in the dark. "Well done, Benji!" When the expected witty remark didn't come, he turned around and the sight that greeted him made his blood run cold. Benji knelt on the floor, his hands clutching his chest.
God, no! "Benji!" Will raced to his friend's side and enveloped him in his arms. "Easy," he whispered as he felt the tremors running through Benji's body. "You'll be fine."
"Will?", Jane's concerned voice came over his headset. "What happened?"
He cleared his throat against the lump of fear that threatened to render him speechless. "Benji has been shot twice in the chest." He tried to ignore her shocked intake of breath. "Did you get all of the other guards?"
"Yes. Don't move. We'll find you." Crackling, then nothing.
William refocused on Benji's half closed eyes and his task of trying to prevent his blood from fleeing the wounds. "Ben? Can you hear me?"
He allowed himself a relieved sigh when he received a small nod. "Good. Now concentrate on breathing and staying awake, okay?" Benji swallowed hard and opened his mouth as if to speak. "No, don't talk. Please, save it for later."
William watched his friend's pained face morph into a scowl. "See," he rasped in a voice that send shivers of fear down Will's spine. "This is just like in the movies, isn't it?" He ignored his friend's incredulous stare. "I'll take that as a sign to tell you already."
Will couldn't help the slight edge in his voice. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Benji smiled, despite the thin trail of blood running down his chin. "You know, nobody knows, although I think that Ethan might suspect something." He swallowed again and took a shuddering intake of breath. "I don't want to lose you as a friend and I hope we can continue being colleagues, but if you don't want to, I'll understand, you know." He closed his eyes, but forced them open again when Will shook him by the shoulders.
"What do you mean? What could you possibly tell me that would ruin our friendship?" Instantly, he regretted asking, when Benji tried to answer but was instead shaken by a coughing fit. Will tightened his hold on his friend and waited for him to calm down again.
Benji heaved a sigh and tried to focus his tired eyes on his friend's pale face. "I like you. More than a friend should, I'm afraid." He smiled again and finally let his eyes fall shut.
Will felt like his veins were being filled with ice. "What?" There was no reaction. "Benji?" He shook his friend again, but his body remained limp in his arms.
Footsteps echoed through the warehouse and he whipped his gun up. With wide eyes, he stared into the worried faces of Ethan and Jane and the weapon slipped from his bloodied fingers. Jane knelt down next to him and pulled him into a hug before running a hand through Benji's hair and checking for a pulse.
"He's still there. Don't worry," she whispered into his ear. Will just sat there, unblinking, his hands still holding onto his friend's body as if for dear life. He said he liked me, didn't he?
— † —
The next few hours went by in a blur. Taking Benji to IMF headqarters, calling the doctors on the way, sitting through a debriefing that he remembered nothing of and then waiting in front of the doors to the operating room, all the while thinking of the last words Benji had said to him. No, don't think of last words!
He sighed and leaned forward until his head hung between his knees. Concentrating on slowly breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth, he tried to remember if there had been moments where Benji's affection might have been obvious. He couldn't think of any. The technician had hidden it quite well. Perhaps Will would have never known if his friend hadn't saved his life by catching bullets that had been meant for him. Jesus Christ... What if he doesn't make it? I wasn't able to protect someone yet again!
Before he was able to wrap his mind around those depressing thoughts, he felt himself being nudged gently in the shoulder. He raised his head and a cup of coffee came into view. Behind it, a tired looking Jane stood with a sad expression on her face. Will nodded his thanks and took the cup while motioning for her to sit down beside him.
"How are you feeling?", she asked softly.
He regarded her with an 'Are you kidding me?' look. "Like shit."
Jane looked sympathetically at him. "Listen," she hesitated for a second. "Ethan and I could hear the conversation you had with Benji before he lost consciousness."
Will shut his eyes tightly. Oh, fucking great. Now what?
"We just want you to know that if you want to talk, we'll be there for you, okay?" She gently patted his knee and he had to resist the urge to jerk away from her touch. Get a hold of your nerves! She doesn't mean any harm, stupid!
He pried open his eyes and forced himself to smile at her. "Thank you."
She smiled back tentatively. "Look, why don't you go change out of your mission gear while I wait here for any news?" Will looked down at his blood soaked jacket and the red stains on his hands. "I'm not going anywhere, I promise. And I'll call you, should any information come through that door."
Will nodded and stood against the protest of his aching limbs. If he was to sit in that bloody uncomfortable chair for the next few hours, he might as well do so in clean clothes that didn't remind him of the severe blood loss that Benji had suffered from.
— † —
"Brandt?" What? Someone shook him by the shoulder. He rubbed his eyes while trying to sit up – trying, for his whole body ached from sleeping on the bench in the locker room. Wait a minute. Locker room? His vision finally cleared and Ethan's serious face came into view.
"Well," Will said, feeling absolutely idiotic. "I must have been really worn out." He remembered taking a shower and then sitting down on the bench in order to put on his shoes. Glancing down, he noted that, apparently, he had been too exhausted to do that.
He looked up at Ethan again, whose features didn't show the amusement that he had expected. "How long was I out?"
Ethan shrugged. "Ten minutes at most." He looked like he was about to say something that Will wouldn't like to hear.
"What is it?", he asked, suddenly alarmed.
"Calm down. Concerning Benji, there's no news." Ethan heaved a deep sigh. "I wondered if you wanted to call his brother and tell him what happened, that's all."
Oh. Benji's brother. Sam Dunn. Will covered his face with his hands. Why didn't I think of that earlier? Hmm, perhaps I wanted to avoid doing that. Sam Dunn had been an IMF field agent with a reputation that rivalled Ethan's – a smart, resourceful and ridiculously successful team leader. Yet, one stray bullet had changed that and Benji's brother hadn't been able to walk without a crutch anymore. He now worked as an instructor for new recruits at the Los Angeles department, but it didn't make a difference – Sam Dunn was a legend within IMF borders.
William had never met him in person, yet he had heard a few intimidating stories about him. And now he was supposed to call this man and tell him that he was responsible for the state his little brother was in?
"Will?" He jumped at Ethan's voice. Right. He's waiting for an answer. Get a grip, Will!
"Yes, I'll do it." He took the phone his team leader handed him. The number already shone on the display. God help me. He took a deep breath, then pressed the call button.
Ethan gave him a 'thumbs' up, then quietly backed out the door. Will nearly jumped a foot in the air when the call was answered nearly instantly. Calm down! He took a deep breath.
"Sam Dunn." The voice sounded deep and pleasant and was nothing like William had expected.
He closed his eyes and decided to be professional. "Agent Dunn, this is Agent William Brandt from IMF headquarters. I'm afraid I have some bad news about your brother Benjamin. He has been shot twice in the chest and is currently in surgery for his injuries." There, you did it. Without stuttering, too! Will nearly rolled his eyes at himself.
There was a short silence at the other end. "Sir?"
"I'll catch the next flight, but I won't make it until tomorrow. Thank you, Agent Brandt." A pause. "And please, don't call me Sir."
Will wasn't able to reply, for the call was ended and a monotonous beeping was all he could hear. Well, he was about to meet Sam Dunn. And he still had to tell him how it all had happened. Fucking great. He decided to find himself a coffee before going back to sitting in that lovely chair.
— † —
Four bloody hours! He'd been waiting for four hours in front of that goddamn door, every groove of which he had now memorized. In the company of either Ethan or Jane, he had paced, cursed and taken little naps of a few minutes in that chair he had learned to hate. Still no news. It drove him crazy.
Just as he had decided that he would seize the next person that came through the door and demand an update on Benji's condition, said door opened to reveal the doctor that had lead the surgery. Will shook Jane awake by the shoulder and jumped up to greet him.
"How is he?", he asked in a voice that sounded unnaturally loud to his own ears.
The doctor cleared his throat. "He'll live." Will felt the tension seep out of his shoulders. "We were able to remove the bullets, which fortunately didn't puncture any vital organs. He's lost a lot of blood, though, and we have had to place him in an artificial coma." He rubbed his tired eyes. "We did what-"
William felt his blood run cold. "Wait! What?"
The doctor drew a step back at the warning glare he received from both agents. "It's up to him now. I'm sorry." He looked like he was about to attempt a hasty retreat back through the door. He didn't get far, for Jane jumped forward and grabbed him by the elbow.
"Wait! What's that supposed to mean?" Even Will was impressed by her commanding tone.
The physician carefully pulled his arm free, irritation shining in his eyes. "The barbiturates keeping him under allow us to perform artificial respiration and his wounds to heal. However, his body determines the pace of recovery now." He levelled them with a glare of his own. "Come back tomorrow. There's nothing you can do today." Then he was gone.
Jane softly cleared her throat. "Maybe we should go home, try to get some sleep." Her friend just stared ahead. "Will?"
He visibly shook himself and focused pained eyes on her. "Yeah. What did you say?"
"You should go home and try to catch a few hours of sleep. I'll tell Sarah to call you if there's an update on Benji's condition. We'll try again tomorrow."
She watched him hesitate for a few seconds, but then he nodded once. "Thanks, Jane."
— † —
Agent William Brandt lay awake for the third time since he had crawled into bed, physically and emotionally exhausted. At first, he had been able to sleep in peace for a few hours, but then he had become restless. A thousand thoughts and questions ran through his mind, the most important ones being: How should he react to Benji's confession once the technician had awakened? Did he have feelings on his part for the younger Dunn? In their line of work, what would become of them?
He sat up and glanced at his alarm clock. Six in the evening. Rubbing his eyes, he decided to call Sarah, a young technician at IMF headquarters. He stood and rummaged through the pockets of his jeans. Dialling her number, he padded through the hall and sat down heavily at his kitchen table.
"Sarah Mitchell?" Her voice sounded as tired as Will felt.
"Hey Sarah. This is Will. How is Benji doing?" He heard the rustling of a scarf being put on.
"Oh, hi Will. You're lucky. I was about to head home." She stifled a sigh that could have been a yawn. "The doctors said that if he wakes up in the next few days, he could make it without any permanent damage."
Will closed his eyes. "If he wakes up?"
"Yes. Listen, Will." She hesitated for a moment. "I'm really sorry." His eyes shot open. Who had told her? "I know he's your best friend."
Will released the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. Relax!
"Thank you very much, Sarah." And thank God. "Bye." He leant back in his chair while shutting the phone. A wave of weariness washed over him, and at the same time all the questions came tumbling back with even more force than before.
He'd never been attracted to a guy before. How should he know how that felt? Sure, he felt comfortable around Benji and their friendship was very dear to him. He'd even dare to call Benji his best friend, for they'd grown quite close over the past year – despite their different personalities. Still, it worked.
But what exactly would it take for a relationship to work? How could they both do their job properly if they were constantly worried about each other? Will had tried to make relationships work in the past – yet always with women outside of IMF. He had never considered trying to date someone from work. It just didn't fit. A man at that. Will let his head hit the table. Why must this be so complicated?
Perhaps trying to get some more sleep was a good idea after all.
— † —
The moment William came in through the front door of IMF headquarters, he could feel that all eyes focused on him. He held his head low and marched through to the hospital area, muttering greetings along the way while dodging questions about Benji. When he arrived at that blasted door, his chair was already occupied by Ethan. Will noted that his team leader looked like he hadn't slept all night.
"Morning, Brandt." Ethan turned tired eyes on him. "How are you feeling?"
William took the chair beside him. "Worse than yesterday. His brother will be arriving at any moment." He rubbed his eyes. "He's going to demand to know how it all happened. And then I'll get smashed to pieces by a mad brother with a stick."
His friend shook his head despite the small smile that tugged at his lips and portrayed his amusement. "Now, come on. I know him well. He wouldn't do that."
"How do you know?" Will stood and began to pace up and down the hall. "How do you know he won't blame me?" Like I do myself.
Ethan stood as well and stopped Will's pacing by grabbing him by the shoulders. "You will know what I mean as soon as you meet him. He is not how you think he is." Again, that small smile. "He's quite unusual."
He released the analyst and stepped back. "By the way, I talked to the Secretary this morning and he told me that our team would be left out in future missions. At least until Benji is awake."
Will nodded absentmindedly. "That's good to know." He drew a deep breath to ask if Ethan knew anything about Benji's condition, but was interrupted by irregular footsteps sounding in the corridor.
Both agents turned towards the newcomer and while Ethan approached him with a smile, Will found himself unable to move. A tall man in jeans, combat boots and shirt – all in black – walked down the hall, supported by the equally black crutch he held in his left hand. His dark red hair fell freely down the length of his back and Will could see from several feet away that his eyes, although momentarily focused on Ethan, were a piercing green. His team leader used the hand that the infamous Sam Dunn offered him to pull him into a friendly hug. Patting each other on the back, they shared greetings before turning to a terrified Will. This man is supposed to be Benji's brother?
"Agent Brandt, I assume?" Sam Dunn offered him a hand. "Nice to meet you at last. Benji has told me a lot about your adventures over the past year." He smiled. "It's Sam, by the way."
Will automatically took his hand and nodded mutely. Ethan was right. Sam Dunn was nothing like he had imagined – nothing at all. He couldn't tear his gaze away from those bright green eyes which regarded him kindly. The same kindness Benji possessed. Perhaps the brothers weren't as different a person as their outer appearance was. Shaking himself out of his reverie, William managed to get hold of his manners.
"Nice to meet you as well. And please call me Will." He nodded to show his respect. "I take it you were updated on Benji's condition?" See. Professional.
"Yes." Sam's eyes darkened while his features turned sad. "I had hoped you could tell me how it all happened in the first place."
Will fought hard to keep his distress invisible. Instead, he nodded again. "Of course."
"I will leave you two alone then." Ethan patted Sam once on the shoulder. "It was nice to see you again, old friend." With an encouraging wave, he rounded the corner and was gone.
Turning back to Will, Sam gestured to the chair previously occupied by Ethan. "May I?"
"Of course," Will repeated around the lump in his throat. He watched Benji's brother settle into the uncomfortable chair before slowly gliding into the one next to him. Where to begin? It wasn't helping that Sam just sat there, watching him and waiting patiently.
Will cleared his throat. "It was a simple mission, an extraction of a few documents, guarded by only four men. Or so we thought. We weren't prepared for being separated by a group of backup guards who were surprisingly well-trained in doing so. Benji must have thought we might need an extra gun on our side and sneaked in to help us get rid of them. When I caught him, I was distracted for a moment." He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath to calm himself. "One of the guards sneaked up on me and was about to shoot. Benji saved my life by shoving me out of the way and taking the bullets that were meant to kill me."
Will hated his voice for wavering during the last sentence. He shut his eyes tightly in order to will the images of a bleeding and dying Benji away. When he felt a strong hand cup his shoulder, he jumped, breathing hard.
"I'm so sorry," he croaked, shooting out of his seat. "If I had paid attention, it wouldn't have happened!" He covered his face with his hands, trying to compose himself.
Sam regarded him silently for a moment. "I know my brother very well," he began cautiously. "And therefore, I'm absolutely sure that he wouldn't blame you. That won't stop you from blaming yourself, I know, but he cares a great deal about you."
Will couldn't help himself. "How can you be so fucking calm about this? Your brother is in there, fighting for his life and you sit here like he might come out any moment, laughing and joking?" His eyes turned wild as he watched Sam's features darken. He knew his next question could prove to be very dangerous. Damn it! "Do you care at all?"
He tensed when Sam abruptly stood, leaning heavily onto his crutch. The expected blow, however, didn't come. Instead, the instructor regarded the analyst with a pained expression. "I care for my brother more than anything else. But there is one thing I had to learn with the both of us working for this agency: I couldn't be there any time he was in danger. I couldn't prevent him from getting hurt. And it drove me crazy." He brought his free hand up to rub at his eyes. "So, over the past few months, I had to come to terms with the fact that my little brother leads his own life and makes his own decisions."
Sam took a step forward and Will found himself unable to meet his piercing gaze. "It was his decision that your life was more precious to him than his own. There is nothing I could do to change that, even if I wanted. And I don't want to. Rather I'm glad that he finally found something worth living for. A purpose to believe in. Even if it means he has to sacrifice himself to ensure its safety." He turned back to his chair and sat down heavily, suddenly devoid of all strength.
"I'm sorry," Will whispered. "I don't know what came over me." He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling embarrassed. An accomplishment that most likely was handed down within the Dunn family tree, it seemed.
Sam smiled a sad smile. "Don't be. I know how you're feeling right now." He drew himself up to his full height. "Now that this is settled, how about pestering those doctors?"
— † —
The doctor certainly wasn't pleased to see Will again after being threatened by him the day before. Yet, in the presence of Sam Dunn, he didn't dare to complain about this, in his eyes, disrespectful treatment. Instead, he lead them down a few halls while delivering a speech on the risks of an artificial coma that neither agent was able to follow.
He stopped in front of a door with Benji's name attached to it. "We can't know for sure exactly how much he is able to perceive in this condition, but it won't do any harm if you try to speak to him." Opening the door, he motioned for them to enter. "If you have any questions, I'll be down the hall in the second room on the left." With a nod, he left them alone.
Will and Sam shared a worried glance before the instructor took charge and entered the room with the analyst close behind. Although they both knew what to expect, the sight that greeted them shook the agents to the core. Benji, pale as a ghost, lay in a bed with irritatingly white sheets, hooked up to half a dozen beeping and humming machines, his whole torso wrapped in bandages. What disturbed Will the most was the oxygen mask that covered half of Benji's face, hiding his ever-smiling mouth.
Sam approached his brother and reached out to run a shaking hand through his hair, before sitting down in the chair by the bed. "Hey, Ben," he whispered, his voice trembling slightly. "Long time no see."
Will hovered by the door, unsure of what to do. He didn't want to disturb the family reunion, yet the longing for speaking to Benji threatened to suffocate him. Sam seemed to sense his predicament, for he stood slowly after pressing a kiss to his brother's forehead.
"There is someone who would like to see you." The ghost of a smile tugged at his lips as he turned to leave the room. "I'll see you in a few."
When he reached Will, he stopped but didn't meet his eyes. He stared straight ahead and visibly gathered himself. "I'll go fetch us coffee."
The analyst nodded his head and watched Sam close the door before taking a deep breath. He wasn't ready to face the consequences of his failure; yet, there was no way he could avoid that. Benji needed him. He closed his eyes for a few seconds and willed his fraught nerves to calm down before approaching the hospital bed and hesitantly sitting down in the now vacant chair. Pulling a hand through his hair, he couldn't bring himself to look at Benji's masked face.
"Hey, Benji. It's Will. I don't know if you can hear me, but I..." He trailed off, once more unsure of what to do. How about pulling yourself together? As if in a trance, Will slowly reached out and gently took Benji's hand into his own, wincing due to the cold skin. When he finally dared to look up at his friend's pale face, his composure wavered and he bent forward until his head rested on their linked hands. "I am so sorry for failing you. If I had not been distracted, you wouldn't be here, fighting for your life!" A strangled noise of agony escaped him and echoed in the sterile room.
William tried desperately to contain a sob. "I don't know what I would do if you didn't make it. I just don't know." The reality of being close to his breaking point hit him as a wave of regret washed over him. Unable to breathe, he felt himself trembling uncontrollably. His vision darkened until all he could see were stars, dancing over a black abyss that threatened to swallow him. He could hear his blood singing in his ears as his heart beat a thousand times per minute.
All of a sudden, he felt hands pulling him away from the depth. Fear took hold of him and he gasped for breath. Benji! "No," he breathed, fighting back with all the strength he had left. Yet, the hands tearing at him proved to be stronger and he cried out in rage. A white hot pain exploded in the right side of his face and his senses came tumbling back all at once, leaving him stunned and unable to move as Ethan's worried face came into view.
"Will?" His team leader sounded strangely out of breath. William stared at him with wide eyes, slowly becoming aware of his surroundings. He lay on the floor in Benji's hospital room, Ethan and Sam kneeling next to him with concern and shock written all over their faces.
"What happened?" He too sounded breathless and his throat felt as if he had been screaming for hours. It unsettled him to no end. When Ethan didn't immediately react, Will pushed himself up into a sitting position and shook him by the shoulders. "Ethan, what?"
In the end, it was Sam who answered his question. "You had a mental breakdown." When Will whipped his head around to stare incredulously at him, he raised his hands in a gesture of helpless concern. "Ethan had to hit you to bring you back."
His mind reeling, Will staggered to his feet. "I need fresh air," he muttered and fled the room before either could hold him back.
— † —
William wandered down the streets leading away from IMF headquarters without aim or sense of time, his head oddly empty. He didn't want to meet anyone who knew him or even worse – who knew about Benji. All he wanted to do was to think things through, just like he had always done. He was a cautious person, thinking way ahead at all times before acting. Yet, the fact that Benji hovered on the brink of death because of him had rendered him helpless and out of control. If he wanted to feel like himself again, he needed a place where he was able to calm down enough to think straight.
Just as he was about to turn around in order to head home, he spotted a little park on the other side of the street. Without hesitation, he crossed the road and entered the park area through the rusty gate. There were only few people scattered across the grass, enjoying the last warm shafts of sunlight before autumn was due. He trotted to the small lake located at the centre and slowly lowered himself onto the empty boardwalk.
Pausing for a moment with his eyes closed, he willed his breathing to even out and his body to relax. And after what felt like an eternity, the guilt and the anger ebbed away, leaving his mind clear and at ease. Finally. Taking a deep breath, he reopened his eyes and let his gaze wander across the lake. He thought of Benji – not of his best friend lying in a hospital bed, but of moments in their friendship he had memorized. He thought of the amicable bickering which at times got out of hand and ended in a shrieking Benji fleeing down some corridor at headquarters with a shouting Will close on his heels. He thought of their many inside jokes, of tricks they had pulled and of Benji's contagious laughter.
Will didn't know how long he had been sitting there, staring ahead with unseeing eyes, but when the light faded faster and faster, he woke as if from a dream. Despite the dull pain in his lower back and the numbness in his legs, a deep sense of peace filled him. There was no way he could change the past by tearing himself apart.
Yet, he could seize the opportunity to alter the future for Benji's benefit – and for his own. His best friend wasn't dead yet and that was all that mattered. It was now Will's turn to bring him back to life.
— † —
Will walked down the dimly lit corridor towards Benji's hospital room, determined to not let himself be overpowered by neither despair nor regret. He paused at the door, recalling the level of calmness he had reached at the lake before raising his hand to knock. At first, nothing happened. He was just about to knock again, this time with worry gnawing at his heart, when the door opened and Will came face to face with Ethan, whose eyes narrowed instantly. Before the analyst was able to react, his team leader quietly slipped through the half open door and closed it behind him.
"Where the hell were you all day?" His eyes burned with anger and concern. "You had us all worried! Not to mention that you switched off your phone and there was no way of contacting you!"
Will felt his stomach drop. "Did something happen? Is it Benji?"
Ethan slowly shook his head. "His condition remains unchanged." He buried his hands in the pockets of his jeans and leaned his back against the wall. "So, do you want to tell me where you ran off to?"
Will rubbed the back of his neck, feeling uneasy. "I felt like I would suffocate in there. And I needed to clear my head, so I found a place where I could think about everything that has happened in the last two days." He straightened his back. "And I think I've found a way to help Benji's mind relax so his body may start the healing process on its own sooner rather than later. We both know he's obsessed with music. Why not give it to him?"
Ethan seemed to think about it for a moment, pensively rubbing his chin. Then he smiled and pushed himself away from the wall. "That's a brilliant idea. Why didn't we think of it before?"
Will returned the smile. "Doesn't matter now. Do you know where Benji's iPod is?"
His team leader nodded, relieved that he could do something useful. "Yes, I think I saw it on top of the chaos on his desk. I'll go get it." He turned to walk down the hall, but a thought stopped him in his tracks. "Oh, and Will? Sam's sleeping in there."
The analyst nodded his thanks. "I'll be quiet." He watched Ethan disappear around the corner before taking a deep breath and opening the door.
He instantly spotted Sam resting on a camp bed by the window that hadn't been there before. He couldn't help the grin spreading across his face as he thought of the poor doctor being harassed by both the agents Dunn and Hunt to let them stay in the hospital room in order to take turns in standing guard. The physician certainly was no match for the combined force of the two best agents IMF had ever employed. Yet, his amusement faded quickly when he turned to Benji. Seeing him like that still hurt, but this time, the determination to help his best friend back to consciousness oppressed the stranded desperation he had felt before.
Will sat down in the chair next to the bed and forced himself to look at Benji's motionless face. "Hey Benji." He kept his voice down in order to avoid waking Sam. "It's Will again. I'm sorry for leaving this morning, but I had to get away from everything for a while. You threw me for a loop here, you know." He reached forward and once again linked their fingers together. "You scared the hell out of me with that stunt you pulled. But I guess I have to thank you for that, because otherwise I wouldn't be alive."
He was silent for a few moments, abstractedly caressing Benji's palm with his thumb. "I want you to know that we all will be waiting for you, as long as it takes. But, between you and me, I'd prefer it if you got your lazy British ass out of this bed sooner rather than later. After all, you said you liked me, didn't you? You've yet to show me just how much." Will closed his eyes, feeling caught. Did I just say that out loud?
He glanced over his shoulder at Sam who hadn't moved at all. Surprisingly enough, he found that he didn't care if the older Dunn had overheard his monologue. Somehow, he was pretty sure that the instructor knew of Benji's feelings for him, the brothers were quite close after all. Still, there was one question which afflicted him. And it needed to be answered, preferably before the technician regained consciousness. Yet, it was the question he had fought to avoid since the night at the warehouse. Do I return his affection?
The sound of the door opening interrupted his thoughts. "I've got it." Ethan shut the door and approached Will with an expression of hope on his face. "Do you want to try it right away?"
Will nodded and gently released Benji's hand. He took the iPod his team leader handed him and switched it on. As he skipped through the files, he furrowed his brow. He didn't know half of the bands his best friend apparently listened to. Just as he was about to doubt the success of his own idea, he came across a folder named 'AC/DC'. That's it!
Sam appeared next to him. "What are you doing?"
Will jumped at his voice. And another round of justifying. While Ethan explained the headphones, he hesitantly raised his head to meet Sam's eyes, but relaxed when he caught the look of understanding the other man shot him.
Feeling reassured, Will carefully placed the headphones over Benji's head. "Ben? We thought you would like to hear some music." He pressed the play button, a feeling of anxiousness settling in his stomach.
For a few quiet seconds, all three agents stood there, watching Benji's face as if he might awaken any moment. Will sighed. Now that would be a miracle. He stood and motioned for Sam to take the chair. "Ethan? Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Ethan threw him a curious look. "Of course." With a last glance at Benji, he followed his analyst out the door.
Once out of earshot, he held a hand up to stop Will from speaking first. "Let me guess." He smiled a strange half smile. "You don't know what to do about Benji's confession?"
Will seriously contemplated digging himself a hole in the floor to hide in. "Am I that easy to read?" Unbelievable. All of a sudden, he felt self-conscious, a feeling he wasn't used to. It unnerved him even more. "But yeah, you're right. I don't know what to do."
Ethan regarded him with a thoughtful expression. "You are afraid of what will happen if you choose to give him a chance." When his friend shot him a 'Who said I will do that?' look, he rolled his eyes. "Come on, Will. Jane and I were able to see how special your relationship is to one another. It doesn't seem too far-fetched to assume there might be more between you."
Will leaned his back against the door frame. Running a hand through his hair, he stared at the opposite wall. "How is this supposed to work then? It didn't work out with you and Julia." He cringed as suppressed memories threatened to surface.
His team leader, however, didn't seem to mind. "She would have never been safe as long as she was with me. And she wasn't even allowed to know why, for I was bound to silence. Benji however..." He trailed off, a small smile lighting up his features. "He may not seem born to be a field agent, but he is more than capable of taking care of himself." He laughed at the unimpressed look he received. "Don't give me that look. You've been shot before, haven't you?"
His friend nodded somewhat begrudgingly. "Indeed, I have."
Ethan took a step forward. "What is the problem then?"
Will regarded the tips of his shoes as if he might find the answer engraved in the black leather. "I don't want to hurt him. And that's exactly what I'll do if I'm not absolutely sure." Suddenly very tired, he leaned his head against the wall.
"With these things, you can never be absolutely sure. There are risks you have to be willing to take." Ethan turned back towards Benji's hospital door, but seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. "It is a terrifying leap, but it may make our line of work easier to bear if you were able to share it with someone else."
With a last backward glance, he left William to his troubling thoughts.
— † —
Jane found him ten minutes later, still unmoving, staring ahead while thoughts and memories merged into a huge mess of possibilities. As she quietly made her way down the hall, she regarded him curiously. So Ethan had talked to Will after all. The unwanted image of a smiling Agent Trevor Hanaway filled her with a familiar regret which she quickly covered with a surge of determination. She wouldn't let her friend suffer the same way she had.
"Will," she called softly. He didn't seem to notice her. She tried again, louder this time.
A shiver ran through his whole body before he pushed himself away from the wall and turned to face her with an exhausted expression on his face. He tried to smile at her, but failed miserably.
"Hey, Jane. Come to replace Ethan on the beat?" Following an instinct, she merely nodded and took a step forward to envelop him in her arms. The fact that he positively melted into her embrace instead of laughing it off multiplied her worries. Yet, she knew there was no advice she could give, for it was a decision he alone was able to make.
She carefully released him and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead. "Go home," she whispered. "We got this."
Will nodded without meeting her eyes. "Thank you so much. For everything."
Jane returned the nod. "Go." She watched him leave with concern pooling in her stomach before turning to Benji's hospital room. She hated feeling helpless.
— † —
When Agent William Brandt entered his dark and silent apartment, a cold feeling of loneliness sunk its teeth into his neck and sent shivers running down his spine. He couldn't stop images of Benji, lounging on his couch or rummaging through his fridge, from invading his mind. A desperate smile spread across his face. This is driving me insane.
He missed Benji. More than he would ever admit to should his other team members ask him about it. He missed their banter and their candid conversations about all kinds of topics the others considered dull or even nerdy. He missed watching movies together which both of them would deny knowing later. But most of all, he missed the feeling of having his best friend by his side, cheering him up whenever he was upset and kindly offering imaginative, albeit sometimes naïve advice.
He let the front door fall shut and kicked off his shoes before making his way through the dark hall to his bedroom where he lay down on the bed without taking off his clothes. All he wanted to do was curl up beneath the covers and pretend that none of it had happened. He didn't want to think anymore.
All of a sudden, a thought struck him like a whip. What if he doesn't remember? What if he doesn't know that he confessed his feelings to me? Yet, the expected feeling of relief failed to appear as this new possibility entered his mind. Somehow, he knew he didn't want that to happen.
He let out a strangled, angry noise and covered his face with his hands. Man up, Will! It won't be that easy! Benji didn't deserve being treated like some one-night stand he couldn't remember the name of. Instead, he should be treated like the loyal best friend he was. Will owed him that much. Sighing in defeat, he pulled the covers over his head and forced himself to relax his tense muscles one by one.
Suddenly, an annoying beeping sound startled him. It took a few moments for him to fully regain consciousness. When did I fall asleep? He glanced at his alarm clock before lifting his covers into the air in order to search for his phone. At least I managed to sleep for five hours straight. New record!
When he finally caught hold of his phone, he instantly recognized the number and all the worry came tumbling back. "Hey, Ethan," he said, trying to suppress the weariness that threatened to invade his voice. "You got news about Benji?"
Ethan, however, sounded relieved and excited. "Yes, Will. The doctor told us that they would gradually withdraw the barbiturates, for they think Benji's body is able to cope with the recovery on its own now."
Will sat up quickly, suddenly wide awake. "He's going to wake up?"
"Not right away." Ethan laughed. "But it's only a matter of hours. So take it easy, okay? I don't want to worry about another team member."
"Promise." Will couldn't help but laugh out loud himself while hurrying through the corridor towards his bathroom.
"Oh, by the way, the tests they've already run confirmed that brain damage could be averted. We'll get the old Benji back." The smile was evident in his voice.
Thank God. "I'll take a quick shower and then head over, okay? See you in a few!"
He ended the call and allowed himself to grin like a maniac. He would get his best friend back.
— † —
Will didn't know how long he had been waiting in the hospital room for Benji to open his eyes, but the minutes ticked by at an agonisingly slow pace. He had been watching the others talk from his position on the camp bed for hours, answering questions when he was asked, yet never participating in their conversations. The surge of joy he had felt at getting the good news had given way to an enervated feeling of anxiousness and he found himself unable to follow their discussions. His mind was everywhere and nowhere at once. At least the oxygen mask had been removed and he was able to regard his best friend's face without any barriers.
Lost in his thoughts, he nearly jumped a foot in the air when his phone suddenly rang, effectively tearing him out of his reverie. As he fumbled for the phone in the back pocket of his jeans, three sets of curious eyes followed the movement.
He didn't recognize the number that shone on the display. Strange. "William Brandt?"
"Agent Brandt, this is Secretary Deramore." The voice was calm and clearly used to giving orders. Will shot to his feet, caught off guard.
Trying to ignore the identical raised eyebrows of his team members, he fought to keep his voice even. "Mr. Secretary. What can I do for you, Sir?" He turned his back on his team to avoid being distracted by their incredulous stares.
The Secretary cleared his throat. "I am well aware of the fact that one of your team members is due to wake from a coma at any minute now, but I need your assistance concerning a terror cell in Kashmir. It's a region you are specialising in, is that correct?"
"Yes, Sir. That is correct. What kind of information do you need?" Will didn't like it at all. Why now of all times?
"I'm sure you know the leader of the organisation called 'Free Ladakh', namely Raghavan Datta." He didn't wait for an affirmative answer. "His recent recruitment activities differ immensely from the methods he has used in the past. I need you to study those activities and tell me if there is something else going on that we should know about."
"Yes, Sir." Will pulled a hand through his hair. Damn! "I will look into it straight away."
"Good. Agent Murray is waiting for you right outside the hospital wing and will provide you with all the information you need." A click sounded, followed by monotonous beeping.
Will heaved a sigh before turning to face his team, barely contained curiosity mixed with concern rolling off them in waves. He looked away and out of the window, trying to hide the frustration he felt. Why fucking now?
"I have to leave for an hour or two." I hope so at least. "Please call me if he wakes up, okay?"
He didn't wait for anyone to nod, but disappeared through the door, forcing himself to not slam it shut.
— † —
Poor Agent Cory Murray sat next to Agent William Brandt in the analyst's office, keeping a safe distance of three feet between them. He had made the mistake of asking about the condition of his injured team member and had received the most intimidating death glare he had ever witnessed in return. Therefore, in a rare moment of uncharacteristic wisdom, he had decided to quickly hand over the flash drive containing the information and remain silent throughout the whole process.
He had been sitting in this chair for nearly two hours now, watching Agent Brandt sift through the files on the flash drive while simultaneously calling his contacts one by one, seamlessly switching back and forth between different languages and dialects. Every now and then, he would shoot a dark glare in Murray's general direction, causing him to shrink further into the chair. The rookie agent didn't want to be on the receiving end of the anger of a former chief analyst, and a member of Ethan Hunt's infamous team no less.
When Agent Brandt returned the flash drive to him and told him that he had already added his report, he allowed himself a sigh of relief. He had just opened his mouth to thank the analyst when the door to the office burst open to reveal Agent Carter, out of breath and beautiful. Agent Murray felt himself blush violently and decided that this day couldn't get any worse.
"He's awake," she exclaimed and he watched, intrigued, as the grim expression on Agent Brandt's face morphed into one of utter relief.
Her face softened until a small smile graced her lips. "He's been asking for you."
And without another word, they were gone.
— † —
It's over. These two words repeated themselves endlessly in Will's mind as he once more raced down the halls of IMF headquarters, Jane close on his heels. Still, when he reached Benji's hospital door, he stopped for a moment to compose himself. As soon as he walked through that door, there would be a decision to make.
Jane placed a hand on his shoulder and he reached up to cover it with his own. "We will be there for you," she whispered. "No matter what."
Nodding his thanks, he opened the door and was met with the sound of laughter.
"Yeah, especially when-" Sam stopped mid-sentence when he spotted Will at the door. The analyst shot him an enquiring look before turning his attention to the bed. Benji locked tired eyes with him and smiled faintly. Mesmerized by the fact that he was once again able to look his best friend in the eye, William fumbled for words but found none.
In the end, Benji broke the silence that had descended upon the room. "Would you mind leaving us alone for a few minutes?" He shot a pleading look at his brother who looked like he might argue. Sam engaged in the silent battle of stares, but after a few seconds, he sighed and nodded.
Will silently watched them back out of the room before taking a deep breath. This is it. He approached the bed with measured movements and slowly took a seat without meeting Benji's eyes. His friend huffed and carefully crossed his arms over his chest, wincing when he applied pressure to his wounds.
"You know," he began, his voice low and hoarse. "I'm not dead."
Will bent forward to regard the floor and sighed. "I know."
"Then stop acting like I am!" Benji pointed an accusing finger at him before drawing back with a hiss and rubbing his chest. "Oh my, who would have thought that getting shot hurts that much?"
Will whipped his head up, levelling him with an angry glare. "What? Is that why you decided to endanger yourself in spite of Ethan's orders? Because you wanted to know how getting shot felt like?"
His best friend immediately jumped into defence mode. "Now that's not fair! The last thing I hear is Ethan's 'Hot damn!' and suddenly, everything goes deadly silent! Literally! What would you like me to do in that situation? Sit around and watch you die?" He wearily closed his eyes, all of his anger spent. When he opened them again, they were dark with emotion. "I could not risk letting you get killed. Don't you understand?"
Finally, Will found the courage to meet the pleading gaze. Now or never. "Do you remember what you said to me after you took the bullets?"
It was now Benji's turn to avert his eyes, uneasy embarrassment written all over his face. "Yeah," he whispered. "You were never meant to know. But..." He trailed off, unsure if he wanted to voice that thought.
"You didn't know if you would survive?" Will nodded. "I understand."
Benji shifted anxiously in his bed and kept his eyes glued to the ceiling. "So... What-" He cleared his throat. "What happens now?"
"Now?" Will grinned despite the mixture of dread and boldness that raced through his veins. "Now I'm going to act on the advice our fearless team leader gave me." He watched his friend close his eyes, clearly afraid of the answer to the question he was about to ask.
"And what would that be?"
Jump! Will's grin grew even wider as he remembered that particular scenario during the Ghost Protocol mission. "He told me that it would be a terrifying leap." He reached out and linked their fingers together once again – yet, this time Benji hesitantly returned the gentle grip. I could get used to this. "But that it would be worth it."
Will tightened his hold. "Look at me." He waited patiently until Benji had gathered the courage to open his eyes and meet his. "I'm willing to give it a try. I'm willing to risk that terrifying leap."
Benji regarded him with shining eyes, a grin of his own spreading across his face. "And I'll catch you."
After a moment of just staring at each other, both of them burst out laughing, the tension suddenly broken. It didn't last, however, when Benji started coughing and rubbing his chest to calm himself down. "Oh my," he wheezed.
Will shook his head. "Take it easy there, okay?"
His friend just rolled his eyes. "Yes, mum." He smiled again. "So, what are we now? Together?" He laughed once more, carefully this time.
"I suppose so." Will felt a hint of insecurity rise in his stomach. "If you still want it, I guess."
Benji snorted, trying to contain another fit of laughter. "Of course, don't be silly!" He rubbed his chin, regarding the analyst with a scrutinising gaze. "Aren't you supposed to kiss me now?"
Now it was Will's turn to laugh as he stood to satisfy his wish. Unbelievable.
Maybe he would not regret taking that leap.
— † —
Thank you very much for reading! :)