There's no other love like the love for a brother.
There's no other love like the love from a brother.
It was simpler when they were children, Will thinks, when Arthur was just his adorable kid brother. (There's ten years between them, but there'd never been a moment where they hadn't loved each other.) Back then, if Arthur was in trouble, he could just swoop in and save the day and the only person they'd had to answer to was their mother. Like that time when Joey Pendleton had been flicking Arthur's ear the entire bus ride home, and Will had gotten Joey to believe that his fingers would fall off if he kept doing it.
Now, unless Will literally swoops in, Arthur's in a fucking shitstorm of danger, the kind that ends in blood and bullets.
"You know him?" Ethan asks when Will gulps, panic setting in. "Brandt?"
"Yeah, yeah." He blinks. "He's my kid brother."
Ethan grits his teeth, whispering, "I'm guessing his name isn't Nicolas Barth."
In his ear, Benji asks, "Are we switching to a rescue then?"
And Ethan nods, because really, their mission's screwed as it is: their mark's not here and hasn't shown. It's why Arthur's been tied to a chair, because the assholes who've been lying in wait think he knows where the other guy is and fuck, Will can't move—
Arthur's seen him and his eyes widen as he whips his head away and bites down on the gag.
Will comes home for break on Christmas Eve. He's got a print out of his transcripts in his backpack, proudly proclaiming his 4.0 GPA for what will ultimately be his senior year, a ratty old suitcase that smells like mildew and he bought at the Salvation Army for five bucks, and a brown grocery bag of presents for Arthur that he had to work forty hours of overtime to afford.
He tries to sneak in quietly—it's after eight and he's been talking about surprising Arthur for Christmas since the idea formed two months back—but the suitcase handle breaks in the foyer and the bottom of the grocery bag erupts; the cats run at the racket and Will sighs, hanging his head forward.
He doesn't move, just waits, knowing that it's only a matter of time before he hears feet on the stairs. And it comes, as expected, Arthur's footfalls too loud to not be missed.
"Will?" Arthur grins before jumping off the last step and launching himself at his big brother.
They get Arthur out in the end and Benji drives like he's at fucking Indianapolis, the van sliding sideways up a one-way street; Ethan and Jane get the IV started, get the blood off his face and the shredded dress shirt off of him as they hunt for more injuries. They're thorough, just this side of being too rough, and both give curt, stern orders to Will for saline and gauze as they work.
No one speaks save for those orders, not until the van stops at the trainyard and Ethan hefts Arthur into his arms, saying, "Number 42. Find it."
Will knows it's one of IMF's emergency caches, this one stuffed with medical supplies; he scans the cars, but his vision is blurry and he's starting to shake from the adrenaline crash—or he thinks; really it's the onset of shock—and reaches out to touch the back of Arthur's hand.
It's so cold.
The reply is weak, but there: a soft whimper and a few seconds of an attempt to open his eyes that fails miserably. Ethan shoots Will a warning look, then takes off when Jane waves her arms at them and the noise of the train car door opening is loud in the dark night; Benji is keeping it open, helping Ethan to hoist Arthur inside, then reaching out for Will's hand.
"Fuck. Jane!" Benji calls. "Will's in shock."
She throws a blanket at Benji and says, "You know first responder care. He'll be fine—we don't start working on his brother, we're fucked."
(Here, Will becomes useless, and he's okay admitting that later. Because he ends up sitting on the floor of the car, feeling the jump and give of the tracks below as the train moves, against a wall while his teammates work. Frozen in place, one hand in the scratchy wool of the blanket and he can only listen as the EKG beeps and flatlines and Ethan starts pounding on Arthur's chest and Jane's injecting epi and atropine and they all hold their breath for a few minutes.
Then the beeping starts again and Ethan tells Benji, "Get the docs on the phone.")
Somehow, despite the odds, they keep him alive and when the train pulls to a stop a few hours later, it's at the IMF's own station just a few miles from Headquarters. There's an ambulance, a handful of the IMF's medical staff, and Ethan doesn't even have to order Will to get checked out because he follows the EMTs and the stretcher like a moth to a flame.
Instead, Ethan tells Benji, "Find me everything you can on Arthur Brandt."
Will is twenty-six when he becomes Arthur's legal guardian.
Their father had walked out on them when Arthur was two, leaving their mother to provide for them both and the Lord knows, she did everything for her boys: she'd worked as many jobs as she could, lived on little to no sleep sometimes, and the barest meals. She wore hand-me-downs from the church donation box and, for her boys, she withstood the sad looks and the shame of taking them to the soup kitchen when there was nothing in the house. They lived just above the poverty line and if they hadn't, Will knows he'd never have gone to college at all. (Instead, he had won a full-ride scholarship with his perfect grades, his enviable work ethic, and an entrance essay where he'd called his mother his hero.)
The stress of that life, however, had taken its toll on Naomi and she'd passed away of a heart attack just a few weeks after Will's birthday. Arthur was sent to a group home in the interim which continues to bother Will even after the court awards him custody rather than sending Arthur all the way to Vero Beach to live with their elderly Aunt Ethel.
He takes Arthur to Boston, after the hearing; they take the train because Will doesn't have a car, and eat McDonalds when they arrive because Will'd forgotten to buy them food before boarding. He introduces Arthur to the T and watches in fascination as his brother takes in everything around him with wide eyes.
The docs get Arthur stabilized and set up in a room in the hospital ICU; they tell Will that they'll set Arthur's broken hand in the morning, and the gashes on his baby brother's stomach need to be able to drain on their own so they won't be stitching them unless it becomes necessary. They give Will some sedatives—at Ethan's urging—so he can sleep and then politely yet firmly kick him out for the night.
He's reluctant to go, but Ethan's still covered in Arthur's blood and they both need to eat. So he touches Arthur's hand, the one with the IV and the not-broken bones, and tells Arthur, "I'll be back in the morning. And I'll call Danny. You just... rest, and enjoy the morphine," even though Arthur's sleeping the sleep of the wounded and can't hear.
Ethan guides him out to the waiting car with a hand in the small of Will's back and tells the driver to take them home, knowing Benji and Jane are already there and that there's a high likelihood of yelling in the near future when Will finds out that Benji's been building a profile on Arthur. So he relishes the tired silence that's between them at the moment, not comfortable but not uncomfortable either, thinking of it as the calm before the storm.
Which it absolutely turns out to be because the minute they walk into the house, Will sees the papers on the coffee table—job history, legal troubles, financials, and photos all scattered across the lacquered wood—and he's pissed.
"You want to know something about my family, you ask, Ethan! You don't sneak around like you're doing research on a fucking terrorist."
"He was in a building with confirmed members of the Syndicate," Ethan replied, "and he was supposed to be meeting with Alexander Rukovski."
Will snapped, "He was setting up for an Extraction! He's a fucking point man, you asshole, for the dream sharers."
They all freeze: only in the last year has dream sharing become part of the Agency's repertoire and only a select few know who the team consists of. Hell, Benji had heard rumors that IMF had brought in people who'd been part of the original project to compose the team, Jane's heard the agents are from their own ranks.
"Point man?" Jane asks.
"He does research mostly, but also he does the initial legwork to set up the meeting with the mark. Which I assume is what he was trying to do today when everything got fucked up." Will takes a step away from Ethan, still so incredibly angry because while he'd never been forthcoming with Ethan (he'd told his boyfriend he had a brother but little else), he would have answered any question Ethan asked. Now he's got Arthur's life, including a criminal history he'd tried so hard to put behind him, spread out for all to see. "He's on our payroll—fully sanctioned—so this was not only a waste of time and paper, it was pointless. Start shredding it. Now."
Benji nods and gathers the papers with Jane's help; they sequester themselves in Will's home office where the shredder is, and close the door behind them. They never know that when Will heads up the stairs to the bedroom, Ethan follows, only to stop short when Will slams the door in his face.
Two years pass and Will has to beg Arthur to go to college instead of heading directly into the workforce. His brother is certainly smart enough and since they're pretty much as financially poor as they always were, there's more than enough aid being offered to him by no less than six of the institutions in the state.
"I just don't think I need to go, Will. I'd rather join the service," he argues over dinner one night in October.
Will ladles out the mac 'n cheese he'd agreed to make despite his hatred toward the chemically-tasting sauce because, well, his brother had conned him. "And I'm very proud of you for wanting to do that. I'm only asking you to consider it, okay? Mama always wanted you to have a degree and I know I'm not the best example of what college can do for you, but, please, think about it."
"Low blow, brother mine, bringing Mom up."
"Sometimes you gotta play dirty."
"Okay, so if I agree to go to college for, let's say, at least a year, what would you do in return?"
"You mean besides providing food, clothing, and spending money for you?"
Arthur makes a face, the patented Arthur Brandt Bitchface #12 if Will's not mistaken, and replies, "No, jackass—I mean, if I do the college thing, will you please get yourself out of here? You double majored, you have a masters, and you work for twelve dollars an hour. You're better than that."
Will smiles sadly at him. "As long as that job helps me take care of you, I will never think that it's beneath me."
Will doesn't say anything to Ethan the next day, or interact with him at all; he'd slept in the guest room and he showers in the second bathroom, changes into clothes he dug out from the clean laundry, and when Ethan tries to hand Will his travel mug with fresh coffee, he ignores it.
Sadly, Ethan knows that this isn't anger: this is how Will is when he's devastated, when his trust has been abused and he's trying to put up walls. And he feels more than a little frustrated by it—he made one bad choice, but who would blame him? Really, all Ethan had been trying to do was ensure that Will's brother wasn't about to do something colossally stupid, like arrange for the Syndicate to bomb New York.
If he was honest, he was trying to protect Will, too, in Ethan's own way.
"I can take you to the hospital," he offers.
"I can drive myself."
Will eyes him—(a please from Ethan Hunt is an absolute rarity)—and, after a few moments, nods; he doesn't speak to Ethan again, doesn't look at him, and Ethan tries to remind himself that, eventually, his boyfriend will come around. He knows Ethan, he knows how Ethan thinks... he has to come around.
Will gets a job with the CIA while Arthur's in college.
When Arthur graduates, he joins the Army.
For a while, this is perfect and they're both happy, but as always, their lives can never stay this wonderful for too long and before Will knows it, his baby brother is sucked into the life of a nomad, too skinny and perpetually tired.
Dominick Cobb becomes someone Will hates and he wishes he'd never heard of a PASIV.
He buries himself in his work and by the time Cobb is getting off a plane in LA with Arthur in tow, Will's gone from the CIA to IMF, from a well trained and effective agent to Chief Analyst.
"Don't be so hard on him," Arthur whispers, his throat still unbearably sore.
He'd ended up spending four days unconscious—which Will still refused to call anything other than sleep—and only this morning they had pulled the trach tube. Eames, whom Ethan had called on day two, had gone on a hunt for ice chips an hour ago, and Arthur knows his lover is probably in the waiting room with Ethan, trying to convince him (as Arthur was trying to do with Will) that everything is okay now.
"He dug into your personal history. There was no reason to."
"He also rescued me, treated my injuries, did CPR, and made sure I got to a hospital."
Will huffs. "Stop talking before you damage something."
"He was doing what he was trained to."
"Seriously, I'll tape your mouth shut."
Arthur smirks tiredly at him, then lifts his casted hand to bump it gently against Will's head. "Love you, big brother, but I can protect myself."
"All evidence to the contrary."
"Okay, I can protect myself somewhat."
Daniel Eames' voice breaks in between them, "You were supposed to call with the location for the meet so we could arrange back up and get you your weapon. That is how you protect yourself, darling, not get bloody tortured because you never called. So I'll be doing the protecting from now on."
Arthur grinds out, "I hate you both. So hard."
"That's what you get for not following SOP, you ass. And for the record, Danny's agreed that you both should move in with me and Ethan."
"You agreed to what?" Arthur manages to shout, even hoarse as he is and Eames quickly shoves an ice cube in his mouth.
Dom retires and for the first time, when he visits Arthur, it's not with a job he wants Arthur in on and Will's hate dims. He meets the Eames Arthur's always talking about, and for a few weeks, at least, they both feel like normal people: friends visiting, eating crappy take out while they watch movies and argue the merits of Blu-Ray, Arthur looking over the job listings.
He ends up taking a position at Lockheed Martin in their legal department and talks about finishing law school; Will breathes a sigh of relief, no longer worrying that his brother's in imminent danger of being shot, stabbed, poisoned, or end up in a coma.
"I have to go to Russia this Friday. Think you can handle remembering to feed the cat?"
"If I don't remember, Eames probably will."
"Don't you think it's kind of strange that you call your boyfriend by his last name?"
"Not when you take into account that we were both in the service when we met and worked together for six years before we got to the part with the fucking."
"Hey! My innocent ears!"
"Your ears haven't been innocent... ever." Arthur grins, and looks into the fridge, nonchalant as he adds, "Oh, by the way, IMF contacted me yesterday. Apparently, they bought out the files on dream sharing and they want me and Dom to advise on and possibly lead a team. Looks like we're going to be coworkers."