Author's Note:

Hi, remember me?

Yeah, it's been a while, and I know I have some yet to be continued stories. They will continue, too. It just...takes a while, due to my new job. But, as a tide-over, I wrote a little something I want to show you:

We never see Ethan lose control, right? In the 'drunk', 'sloppy' or simply "talkative" kind of way, I mean.

Well, I want to change that. In fact, I want to change that very much.

Therefore, I let circumstances create a situation where the decision is kind of taken out of Ethan's hands. This is a situation where Ethan has to surrender his tight control on himself for a while, and has to rely on his team to keep him safe.

Interested?

Then read the story. :o)

Summary:

Ethan takes his responsibilities as a team leader seriously. But what happens when he loses control of a mission, and is forced to rely entirely on his team to get him through the day? What if his life depended on it?

One Drink Won't Kill You

Part 1

"Everything ready?" Jane asked through the com-link subtly hidden in her fake ear-rings as she entered the restaurant through a side entrance.

"Sure," Benji immediately responded from his surveillance point near the kitchen, where he had set up with a perfect view of the entire room, "Ethan is at his table and making easy conversation with Varsov. A couple of more minutes and they should be getting the drinks I prepared."

"And then Varsov goes nighty-night, Ethan 'helps' him to the car, we grab him – and you get to do your first interrogation of a suspect."

"Right." Benji agreed with a chuckle. He was indeed looking forward to this.

Ethan had finally deemed him ready to take on more responsibility, so Benji had been put in charge of questioning the woozy target once they had him in the bag. What with the pre-mixed combination of sedative and truth drug that they were about to administer to Varsov, the whole thing should be a walk in the park.

Still, Benji was nervous. Sure, he was happy that Ethan had been willing to split up their roles for this mission to accommodate Benji's new status as an active field agent. But Benji also prayed that his more active role in this would not result in him getting Ethan into trouble somehow.

Jane could hear the nervousness in Benji's words and tried to calm him with a smile in her voice. After all, they all had started out as fresh agents at one point. And nobody had to do it alone.

"Don't worry, Benji, Ethan is good at this stuff. He'll talk to the guy, and have him out in your van in ten minutes. By the way, how did you get the waiter to agree that he would hand Varsov the specific glass with the drug?"

"I just told the waiter that Varsov was a recovering alcoholic and that he doesn't want anybody to know, so they should just quietly get him a non-alcoholic look-alike version of the drink, and that would be the one to give Varsov. I watched the waiter prepare the glasses and I put our little mixture into the glass without the alcohol. And voila – Varsov gets the 'Benji Special'." Benji grinned happily, as he whispered into the com-link hidden in his wrist cuff.

Jane couldn't help but chuckle at Benji's enthusiasm. And she had to admit that there was a certain logic to Benji's plan. If all went smoothly they would soon be able take their 'guest' back to the safe house, where Brandt had stayed behind to prepare the accommodations.

As her eyes accustomed to the dimmed light in the restaurant, she could now see Ethan's table, but steered past it towards the bar from where she would have a clear view of the proceedings. As soon as Varsov got his drink, she and Benji would start to move.

Half a minute later she saw a waiter leave the bar who looked like he was headed towards Ethan's table. There were two glasses on his tablet. So far so good. The two drinks looked like Scotch.

'Or rather', Jane corrected herself, 'one glass of scotch and one glass of something that is probably some kind of ice-tea'.

Ice tea à la Benji.

Varsov would not get the time to wonder about the taste of it. The powder Benji had created would be fast-acting, and it would instantly create an alcohol-like taste. By the time Varsov swallowed the first sip of the brew, he would think he was drinking normal Scotch.

She watched as the waiter approached Ethan's table.

But just as the man was about to set down the first drink, Benji's panicked voice came over the com-link in Jane's ear.

"Oh no!"

"What is it?"

"That's not the guy I spoke to! That's another waiter!"

"What? What do you mean that's another waiter? Ain't those the drinks?"

"It's the drinks alright, but that guy doesn't know about the glasses! They must have switched table duties. I don't know if this guy knows about what glass to give whom!"

"Oh sh-…" Jane began, as she watched the clueless waiter put the two glasses on the table, one before Ethan and one before Varsov.

"Did you see which glass went where?" Benji immediately checked with Jane.

"No, I couldn't see it from here, either. The damned waiter is standing in the way."

"Oh, great…this is going to be a catastrophe…!"

Benji was getting close to panic now. There was nothing he could do from where he was. Neither could Jane.

They could only hope that, by accident, each one had gotten the correct glass.

"Don't panic yet, Benji. We might still be on track. Just watch closely and keep an eye on Varsov and Ethan. We might have to go in fast, if this goes wrong."

"Okay…watching Ethan,…watching Varsov…"

Jane, too, was now watching like a hawk.

She saw Varsov toast to Ethan. And then Varsov put the glass to his lips, taking a first sip. And then he smiled. He obviously liked the taste of it.

"Benji, I'm getting a bad feeling." Jane muttered.

Benji, getting the same bad feeling in the pit of his own stomach, now kept an even closer eye on Ethan, and he watched as Ethan took a sip of his own glass. For the fraction of a second, Benji thought he saw a flicker of something cross Ethan's face, like he tasted something strange, but then he was completely back in character, nodding to Varsov that the Scotch was indeed a good one.

So far, neither of the two showed any signs that would tell who had gotten the tampered-with glass.

So Jane and Benji kept watching. They saw Ethan put down his glass after another short sip, but that didn't have to mean anything. Then Jane noticed that, just for the fraction of a second, Ethan seemed to be looking at Varsov, as if he was checking to see if Varsov showed any reaction to Benji's drug. But when they all saw that Varsov simply took another sip of his Scotch without any signs of hesitation, Jane knew that this wasn't going right.

And she knew that by now Ethan also must have realized that something had gone wrong.

As if in reaction to Jane's thoughts, Ethan's hand, which had been about to pick up his own glass again, suddenly stilled, with his fingers just slightly circling the rim of the small glass.

At the bar, Jane was at Ethan's back, so she could not see Ethan's face. But she could see Varsov. And there was a slight frown appearing on Varsov forehead. Then it looked like Varsov was asking Ethan a question.

She assumed Varsov had asked Ethan if he was alright. Ethan nodded slowly, but they could see that something was definitely wrong.

"Okay, time to improvise. I think we know who got which glass." Jane had seen enough to come to the only possible conclusion. And she knew they had to act now, or things would spiral totally out of control.

"You distract Varsov, I'll get Ethan out of here," Jane whispered in her com-link, as she got up from her barstool on the other side of the room.

"Distract Varsov? How?!" Benji asked right back, not really sure what Jane expected him to do.

"THINK of something!" Jane hissed nervously, as she grabbed her purse, and got ready to move.

Benji, for his part, felt like he was frozen, thinking a mile a minute, but coming up blank, again and again, totally lost for any instant ideas whatsoever.

'Think, she says.'

Right.

Think. Do something. That's the job, Benji. A field agent has to think on his feet, and act. You're no longer sitting behind your computer. This is real.

God, if only that darned waiter hadn't…

Wait.

W…waiter.

That's it.

Yes! Yes. That might work.

"Okay, I'm moving in." Benji sputtered, not entirely sure if he was doing the right thing, but lacking any alternatives, he knew that he had to be doing something, no matter how little the chance for it to work.

So Benji grabbed a jacket from the nearby kitchen wardrobe and, smoothening out any left-over creases in the clothes, he quickly hurried around the outer walkway of the room, to approach Ethan's table from the left, where the concierge desk was.

A touch out of breath, but forcing his voice into something that resembled normalcy and even the air of sophistication, Benji quickly proceeded to address the two men at the table elegantly.

"Excuse me, gentlemen, is one of you a Mister Varsov?"

Somehow, Benji even managed to add just the right touch of obsequiousness to his voice, coming across as just another helper of the concierge.

Varsov, for his part, did not look entirely happy about the distraction, but still turned to look up at Benji.

"Yes, that is me. What is it?"

"Sir, there is a call for you at the back of the hall; they said it was urgent business."

Varsov seemed torn between his wish to continue his conversation with Ethan, and the urgency that the phone call implied.

As Varsov looked across the table, Ethan managed to make a 'don't worry, take the call, I'll wait' gesture with his hand. Ethan's gesture was even underlined with a smile, but unlike Varsov, Benji could tell that it was more strained than the ones he usually saw on Ethan's face.

As Benji inconspicuously threw another side glance at Ethan, he also saw that there was a light sheen of sweat on Ethan's forehead. Somehow, Ethan seemed to be hanging on by a thread, determined to play his role until they could get him out of this somehow.

Benji almost breathed a sigh of relief when he finally heard Varsov say:

"Alright, then I guess I'll have to take that call."

Adding an 'I'll be right back' in Ethan's direction, Varsov then nodded at Benji and got up from his seat.

Benji instantly led Varsov away, down through a side hall, and towards the phones in the back. Out of the two men walking towards the phones, only Benji knew that unfortunately, the caller would already have hung up again by the time they would get there. Benji would then apologize for the misunderstanding, and let Varsov return to his table.

And Benji prayed that Jane would have successful gotten Ethan out of the room by then.

As soon as Varsov was out of sight, Jane moved in.

The moment she stepped up to Ethan's table, the show began.

"Oh my gosh, now that's what I call a surprise!" Jane gushed happily, pretending to have only just realized who she was seeing at the table.

As she saw Ethan look up at her, she was hard-pressed to hide her worry at seeing how unfocused Ethan's eyes were when he met her gaze. Still, she kept playing her role, acting like she had just stumbled over someone she had never thought to run into in this restaurant, of all places.

"Wow, I can't believe you're actually here. How many years it's been since we last ran into each other? Oh, it is sooo good to see you again! How have you been, honey?"

Outwardly Jane was all smiles and exuberance, but inwardly she could see that Ethan was having trouble following her line of thought – which showed just how much an effect Benji's mixture was having on him already. Under normal circumstances, Ethan would have been two steps ahead of her already, but now he was barely catching up.

In the end though, he did. Although it was costing him an effort that was hard to watch.

"Oh….Yes, uhm…it's good seeing you, too…I uhm…actually, I'm not feeling too good right now…. I guess that Scotch hit me a bit harder than I thought it would…"

Hoping that Ethan would be able to keep with it just a little longer, Jane immediately picked up on that line, turning it into Ethan's next cue.

"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that, honey. You know you should have listened to your doctor about that. He told you that you should always take enough time to recover from the flu, especially with your heart. I better get you out of here and take you home, so you can rest up a little more."

"But…I'm in a …meeting here… I…." Ethan replied with a slight frown of confusion that wasn't fully an act, his coordination obviously going downhill fast, but she could see that he was trying to give her one last line to work with. And she was not about to disappoint him.

"Oh, I'm sure one of these nice gentlemen will let your business partner know that you weren't feeling well and that you had to leave. Right?" Jane looked directly at the nearest waiter, who had come over to see what was going on at the table.

"Uhm, sure, I can do that, Misses-?" the waiter's glance shifted between Jane and Ethan, then back to Jane, who didn't give him a chance to retreat.

"Carlyle. June Carlyle. I'm his … well, one of his long-time girlfriends." Jane said with a twinkle in her eyes, letting the waiter know that Ethan was in good hands with her. She also put a 50 dollar bill on the table to put the waiter's mind at ease about any open bills.

"Oh. Well, in that case…I'll be sure to tell the other guest that Mr. Hunter had to leave. I hope he'll be feeling better soon." The waiter nodded respectfully as he took the bank note off the table and excused himself to also cancel the food order accordingly.

"Thank you." Jane nodded gratefully. As soon as the waiter was on his way, she quickly turned back to Ethan.

"Okay, uhm…you think you can get up, honey?" she asked, half jokingly for the audience at the nearby tables, but also with true worry regarding Ethan's state of physical ability.

Ethan didn't look particularly steady anymore. In fact, if the slight tremble in his hand was any indication, Jane was pretty sure that his legs also had to be feeling like jello by now. Just as they had planned it for Varsov.

Only this wasn't Varsov.

"Yeah, …I'm…I'm fine…" Ethan murmured, even though his voice sounded anything but fine.

"I'll help you, okay?" Jane quickly offered, and this time her words were not for show, but directed straight at Ethan as she reached out and she got a careful hold of his left arm.

Putting his arm over her shoulder, and ignoring the looks she was getting from some of the other guests in the room, she helped Ethan to his feet. Without wasting another moment, she began steering Ethan towards the exit next to the kitchen. Once there, and finally out of sight from prying eyes, she helped Ethan lean against the wall for a moment, while she gave Benji the 'all clear'.

And then, things started to happen…fast.

Varsov returned to the table, only to be told by the waiter that, unfortunately, the other guest had been feeling ill, and had been taken home by a lady-friend, who happened to be there by chance.

Benji had meanwhile circled back around the room the same route he taken before and was making his way over to where Jane was waiting with Ethan.

And Ethan…he was barely able to stand up anymore.

Whatever dose Benji had calculated for Varsov – a rather big guy – it sure was having an even worse effect on Ethan. That much was obvious, despite the fact that Ethan was clearly trying to stay in control of his senses.

Jane didn't have to be an expert on medical matters to see that he was having some serious trouble keeping himself from collapsing right then and there, and that it was a fight he was slowly losing.

They had to get him out of here and fast.

"How is he?" Benji asked a little out of breath when he ran up to Jane and finally saw with his own eyes that she had successfully extracted Ethan.

When he saw Ethan's pale face, however, Benji's momentary joy turned from concern to outright worry.

"He's still with us," Jane quickly informed him, already checking their exit route with her eyes, "but you better give me a hand to get him the rest of the way to the van, because I don't think he's gonna stay on his own two feet much longer." She worriedly concluded as she saw Ethan start to sway despite the hold she had of him.

"Right." Benji agreed and, with an encouraging nod at Ethan, he added, "Don't worry Ethan, we'll have you out of here in a minute."

As if in direct reaction to Benji's comforting words, Jane suddenly saw Ethan's legs start to buckle and they both had to react quickly to keep Ethan from crashing to the floor.

"Okay, so maybe this will take a little more than a minute..." Benji mumbled sheepishly as he saw how bad Ethan was really doing.

Jane immediately directed an 'oh, really?' glare in his direction, which Benji knew he totally deserved for that remark.

Together, they then took Ethan's unresisting form between them, and carefully carried him out towards the parked van in the alley behind the restaurant.

Once they had him safely in the van, Benji jumped forward into the driver's seat, and got the engine going. Jane meanwhile made sure that Ethan would not slip off the backseat onto which they had unloaded him. And, more importantly, she tried to make sure that he didn't slip into a state from which they would not be able to wake him up again. There was no telling what reaction Benji's cocktail might cause.

With a little luck, a severe hangover would be all that Ethan took away from this incident. But if worse came to worst - and Jane knew that Ethan had a knack for finding trouble - this could seriously put more than the case in danger.

'Forget the case for now,' Jane thought, 'right now saving Ethan is priority number one.'

Only as an afterthought she added:

'And once Ethan is safe, I'll think of all the ways I could kill Benji…'

Once they reached their current safe house, which this time really wasn't actually a house, but the penthouse on the 21st floor of the local Ritz - permanently written over to a Lord Mallory from some unknown but very rich country in some place or other, a cover the IMF had successfully put in place months ago – they were immediately greeted by a worried-looking agent Brandt, who had been anxiously waiting for their return as soon as Benji had called him from the car.

When Benji had explained to him what was going on, Brandt's first reaction had been one of surprise. But seeing how Benji had kept the message short, without too many details, Brandt had concluded that once his team mates got back, worst case, he would be faced with a slightly uncoordinated Ethan, likely a bit tipsy, maybe even really drunk. But as he opened the door of the penthouse and saw Ethan half-unconscious, held upright only by the power of Jane's and Benji's arms around their team leader's shoulders, Brandt immediately revised his initial plans of just putting Ethan under a cold shower for the worst effects to wear off.

Ethan didn't look drunk. Nor did he look tipsy.

He looked ill.

The shallow breathing was the first sign of trouble Brandt recognized as he looked at Ethan's shivering form. Ethan's eyes were open yet unfocused, and there was a sheen of cold sweat on his entire face. Ethan looked like he was trying to make sense of what was happening to him, but his body wasn't cooperating at all, leaving him completely at the mercy of what was going around him.

Jane saw Brandt's shocked reaction, and she also noticed how Benji had to once again adjust his grip on Ethan's shoulder to keep their precious burden from slipping, so she decided to cut this moment at the door as short as possible.

"Let's just get him inside first. Then we'll see what we can do."

Brandt merely nodded, still a bit shell-shocked to see their leader incapacitated like this, but then he immediately stepped aside to let them in. As he watched Jane and Benji take Ethan towards the first comfortable-looking piece of furniture – a wide couch right there in the main room – Brandt wondered how this simple mission had managed to go so completely wrong in such a short time. He knew that Benji had something to do with. But the how's and why's could come later. At the moment, all he wanted to know from Benji was what exactly was wrong with Ethan.

And then they would have to consider what to do about the fact that they had a pretty much drugged out and helpless team leader on their hands for however long it took for Benji's drink to leave Ethan's system.

-o-

Having set up their own little version of a war council about ten feet away from where Ethan lay, they all kept glancing over to their team leader as they tried to come up with a plan of how to handle this. So far, Ethan was doing okay – not great, mind you – but if putting their team leader into a restless sleep was the worst Benji's drug did to him, then they were getting off easy after all.

They could see that Ethan was still sweating heavily, his eyes unfocused whenever he opened them, but at least his breathing had eased a little.

"Alright," Jane began, turning towards Benji to finally get a handle on what lay ahead of them, "so, what did you calculate for Varsov when you fixed the drink?"

Benji, sparing another nervous glance in Ethan's direction and cringing at how bad Ethan looked, hesitated. He knew this was his fault. But the best he could do right now was to help Jane and Brandt figure this out, so they could help Ethan. So, with a slight tremble in his voice, Benji told them what he knew about the mixture he had intended for Varsov:

"Considering Varsov's size, I thought I better use a rather large dose, so it would have taken no more than an hour for the truth serum to take effect. Then I estimated another two hours or so during which Varsov would have been in a compliant state so we could have gotten him back to wherever he needed to be, and then he would have simply woken up with an impressive hangover that would make him think he merely had one drink too many."

Listening closely to what Benji was saying, Brandt waited until he was sure Benji was finished, before he countered with the obvious question that they were all facing now:

"So, seeing how this isn't Varsov, what's it gonna do to Ethan?"

Feeling his anxiety return full force, Benji answered with more than just a touch of despair:

"Well…to tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure." Benji's eyes darted from Brandt to Jane, "It's not like I have ever overdosed anyone with that stuff before today, so I don't have any references," Benji swallowed nervously, "but my guess would be that the symptoms should be pretty much be the same…only probably much more severe."

"What, like he's gonna start spilling national secrets he would normally not even think about in the presence of other people?" Brandt asked, drawing Benji's attention once more.

"Maybe. Maybe not. I mean…this is Ethan we're talking about here, right?" Benji swallowed nervously, before he continued,"Surely he's had some training in that regard, so I don't know how much he can resist it. I also don't know what might happen if he does start to resist," Benji added worriedly.

"What do you mean…?" Jane tore her gaze away from where she had been looking at Ethan. Fixing her eyes on Benji instead, it was clear that for a moment neither she nor Brandt understood what Benji was saying.

Benji helplessly broke eye contact with his team mates and also glanced over to Ethan before he faced Brandt and Jane again:

"This stuff is meant to get you talking, any way it can…it starts messing with your biorhythm if you don't give in to it."

As Brandt realized what Benji was saying, he saw Jane react as well. And he could tell that Jane wasn't taking this new development lightly.

"I'll get the medical equipment, just in case," she said, before she turned to one of the bathrooms to get whatever they might need, should Ethan take a turn for the worse.

That left Benji and Brandt to watch over their downed team leader in the meantime. For a moment, the both of them silently contemplated the severity of the situation as they took in the sight of Ethan lying helplessly, restlessly on the couch just a few feet away from them.

Eventually, it was Brandt who spoke up.

"Ethan is not gonna be happy when this over."

The words weren't spoken in anger or resentment. It was just a statement of a fact. But Benji knew that Brandt was right.

This mess really was his responsibility. He should have found a better way to make sure that the drink he had tampered with went to Varsov, not to Ethan.

He was pretty sure Ethan would want to have a word with him about that when he woke up.

Benji wasn't exactly looking forward to the lecture.

But, considering that the alternative was even worse, he really hoped Ethan would be alive to give it.

-o-

To be continued…if you want to know what Ethan is about to go through.

Feedback will help. ; )