Fortunately for the world, the next evil fuck who wants to destroy all civilization and remake it according to his (it's always a he, Jane notices) own weird plan is nowhere near as organized or efficient as Hendricks. They manage to stop him with minimal collateral damage, and, thanks mostly to the geniuses who invented Kevlar, nobody on the team even takes a bullet (though the bruising that happens when .357 ordinance meets said Kevlar is spectacular in and of itself.) Taking on a mission without the proper back-up is fucking exhausting, though. Everything takes three times as long; no one's ever sure of their intel; and just having to wait for the cleaners to get there rather than knowing they'll be along without fail adds almost a day to the end of a mission.
The safe houses are starting to come back online, though, which means that they can at least go pass out once they finish with debriefing. A full day of sleep makes a world of difference, enough that Jane's back in fighting form when the next call comes in. Ethan grins at her from across the room and Benji's already heads-down in some decryption algorithm. Will looks a little blurry, but she puts it down to getting back into the field groove, especially once they kick it into high gear and he's right there with her and Ethan, rolling with the curve balls the same as they are. She loses herself in the flow of the team coming together and doesn't think any more about it.
The third op is based out of Hong Kong, and then the fourth starts in Shanghai before they double back, ending up in Cape Town after a brutal series of flights. There's no safe house there yet, and none of them are comfortable risking downtime in a non-secure location, not after seeing firsthand how compromised the intel has been. It's another fifteen hours back to Paris, and they take turns keeping watch. Jane gets maybe an hour of sleep before they touch down, but she doesn't think Ethan gets even that much. Will, either--he spends most of the flight with Benji's second-best laptop, fingers flying over the keyboard while he downs coffee after coffee (Jane makes a note to give him a hard time about batting those eyes to get what he wants, but she certainly isn't going to blame him for it) and chews distractedly on his bottom lip. She notices Ethan watching him thoughtfully, but her brain is honestly too fuzzed out to do anything but file it away for future contemplation.
The safe house in Paris truly is a house, in a quiet suburb that's miles away from the IMF ops center in a modern part of the city. Fortunately, Paris has enough personnel on staff that they don't have to find their way by themselves. Jane finds Benji out roaming the halls after she's gone over her mission report with whoever it is that cares these days. Will is still in with the analysts; he waves them off when they stop to see if he wants to ride with them.
"Ethan?" Jane asks as she and Benji stagger out to where the driver is waiting for them.
"God knows, luv," Benji says. "He was stalking the halls the last time I saw him, striking fear into the hearts of lesser men. I'm sure he can make it to the safe house without a trail of breadcrumbs."
Jane nods and is very proud of herself for staying awake through the ride. She even manages a shower before she collapses in the small single bed and sleeps the day and night and half the next day away. Benji is in the kitchen when she makes her way out and the shower is running in the background. Benji is too busy eating to say much of anything to her, but she doesn't take offense since he pushes the basket of croissants toward her and waves in the direction of the coffee.
Jane's on her fourth croissant and second cup of coffee when Ethan comes out, hair still wet. He looks at the two of them thoughtfully.
"Where's Will? He said he was leaving with you two."
Jane manages not to actually say words to the effect of Why would he leave with us when he's sleeping with you? because she hasn't really worked out how to best communicate that yes, she and Benji have eyes and have figured it out; and, no, they don't care at all; and just blurting it out like that seems like it would be a bad way to break the news. Given all the intense looks she′s pretended not to see, she'd like a little credit for her restraint, but then the full import of Ethan's words hit her.
Jane looks at Benji and Benji looks at Jane and that's enough to have them all scrambling.
"He was with the analysts when we left," Jane says, as Ethan slams through the house.
"Did you want a driver--" Benji starts, but Ethan is already out the door, the keys for the little car the agency keeps there for local trips in his hand. "Right, then, never mind that," Benji finishes, pelting after them.
Ethan is tense with the kind of tight-lipped fury Jane has only heard stories of, never seen in person. Benji keeps shooting him quick, worried looks, especially when they get hung up in the ever-present Paris traffic, but Ethan keeps it under control, all his considerable focus on the road in front of them and Benji's quiet relays of turns and directions. He pulls up in front of the anonymous office building and, tossing the keys to Benji, leaves the car in a controlled rush. Jane's right there with him; they go through security like only Ethan can, flashing credentials that Jane knows have to have come straight from the director's office, and hit the door to the central analysts' room shoulder to shoulder, so Jane knows exactly when Ethan's eyes find Will.
Everyone looks up when they storm in and Jane--it takes every bit of Jane's professional training not to give anything away, but inside, she is so coldly furious that she wouldn't trust herself with a weapon. How--how--did they not see the gray cast to Will's complexion, the kind you get only on the edge of complete collapse? His eyes are red-rimmed and puffy; his mouth bitten raw; and if she's not mistaken--which she's not, thanks very much--she knows he's got his hands curled in his lap because if he lays them out on the table everyone would see them shaking. Worse, now that she's paying attention, she can see he's lost weight, lost muscle mass, which means it's been going on for a lot longer than just this mission.
Will blinks at them twice, then goes back to the laptop in front of him, and Jane can't even look at Ethan because if she's this close to losing it, Ethan is an armed nuclear warhead.
"Would someone care to explain why my senior field agent, who cleared debriefing twenty-seven hours ago, is not in stand-down at the safe house?" Ethan doesn't raise his voice past conversational level, but he doesn't have to. He's scary as shit when he gets like this, and Jane's saying that knowing they're on the same side. The temperature of the room is glacial and the analysts are suddenly all looking everywhere but at Ethan or Will.
Some dickhead director-type--Jane can tell he's that just from the smug look on his face, the one that says he is so very impressed by his "credentials" and can't imagine how the rest of the world isn't, too--comes up to Ethan in full condescension mode. Ethan lets him get two sentences out--Jane's impressed by his control--before he snaps, "Not answering my question," and Dickhead starts gesturing for security.
Jane sighs inwardly, because she could use about another ten hours of sleep before she can be sure she won't slip up and seriously hurt anyone, but obviously, there's no way she and Ethan are allowing themselves to be removed from the room. Jane's tracking three in front of them and there are probably that many coming up behind them, and the adrenaline is just starting to hit her blood when Will looks up and says, "I'm not in stand-down because I'm needed here."
"You're a field agent," Ethan says. "Just back in from a mission. This is not your job now."
"There are certain things that can best be demonstrated," Will says, and there's such exhaustion in his voice Jane isn't sure how he's still vertical. "Things that I have to demonstrate," he adds, not bothering with the because everyone else is gone that Jane knows Ethan is filling in.
"I'll have them set up a seminar," Ethan says, his voice almost gentle. "After you've slept." Will looks down at the screen again, and then around at the room, and shakes his head. Ethan draws a deep, careful breath, and when he speaks again, the gentleness is gone. "When I added you to my team, it was with the understanding that you wouldn't fuck us over, Brandt. I'm sorry to see that I had that wrong."
Jane wants to look away from the naked emotion in Will's eyes--Ethan might as well have slid a knife between his ribs, left him to bleed out on the floor--but he doesn't back down.
"Ethan," he says, helplessly. "There are other teams--I can't walk away, leave them--" He stops and Jane suddenly understands. The analysts in the room are almost all new, kids for the most part, and Dickhead must be worse than useless. If Will leaves, whoever is out there is on their own, and that's not something William Brandt is going to let happen.
Ethan makes a wordless sound and Jane's inner sigh is one of relief this time. They still might have to take out an overzealous security team or two, but at least her own team isn't about to tear itself apart.
"Who can handle this?" Ethan asks. "Without any political BS, who can take care of this?" Will hesitates, his eyes on the floor; Jane can almost see the gears turning in his head as he considers Ethan's question. Ethan adds, "Don't over-think it, Will; just give me a name." There's a ghost of a smile on Ethan's face, one that Will doesn't see, but that fits with everything Jane has decided about their relationship, even if they both probably think they're just fucking.
"MacIntosh," Will finally says, without looking up.
"Mr. MacIntosh," Ethan calls, amending it quickly when a woman steps out from behind a desk of monitors. "Er, Ms. MacIntosh, congratulations, you're now Lead Analyst, European Theater."
"You can't just walk in here and start running my office." Dickhead comes storming back. "I don't care you are, you have no jurisdiction--"
Ethan steps forward to get Will, finally raising his voice, just enough to carry over Dickhead's ranting. "Can somebody get me the director's office, priority code Alpha-Alpha-Bravo-Tango."
"On it," Jane says, taking mercy on the kids in the room who have no idea what's just happened or who they should be backing in this pissing match, and stepping up to the nearest terminal. Besides, she's never heard that code before, and she's dying to find out what it does.
"Look at that," she murmurs to MacIntosh, as she keys it in and a video line is activated on one of the big wall screens, with the acting director, not a assistant or aide, at the other end. "Open Sesame."
Ethan grins like he heard her, which he probably did, the sharp-eared bastard, but then he's all business as he briefs the director. The security teams all melt back into the background and Dickhead is escorted out of the room. Sometimes, Jane really loves Ethan Hunt.
Ethan has Will firmly by the arm, steering him toward the door. Will isn't fighting, but Jane can't tell if that's just because he's given up.
"MacIntosh," Ethan calls, as they weave around the rows of terminals. She tears herself away from the screen and joins them by the door. "What I'm about to ask you has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion of your capabilities. If Agent Brandt says you can handle this, I am totally fine with that. I need him to hear your own assessment, though. Can you hold this office together for the next twenty-four hours?"
"Absolutely," MacIntosh says, and for all that she looks like she's twelve, Jane believes her. "Will," she adds. "We're good--I know the patterns now, and we can crunch through the data and see what else pops. You should go with your team."
Will hesitates, but finally nods, and Ethan passes him off to Jane. As they make their way out of the room, Jane hears Ethan say quietly, "If you hit any snags, or run into anything you can't parse, call me. I'll get you to somebody who can help."
She thinks Will hears it, too; he's marginally less tense as she guides him out the door. He stumbles as they come out of the building, though, the sun all but blinding him, and seriously, Jane thinks, Dickhead is so fucking lucky he only got relieved of his command. A black SUV pulls up, tinted window rolling down smoothly to reveal Benji's grin. It fades when he catches proper sight of Will, but he doesn't say anything, just pops the locks on the doors. Jane gets Will into the back seat and, then, at Ethan's nod climbs in after him, leaving Ethan to ride shotgun. They pull away in silence.
Will has his head back on the seat, eyes closed, but he's still tense enough to launch a thousand migraines. Jane can just imagine how he's spinning that it's her in back with him rather than Ethan, but there's not a lot she can do about it, not without throttling Ethan and that seems counter-productive at the moment.
"Hey," Jane murmurs, nudging Will gently, because the least she can do is not let him get too tangled up in his head. "It's Benji and Paris traffic--you should probably buckle up."
He moves slowly, but does as she suggests, and when he's finished he says, almost inaudibly, "I never meant to fuck you over, I swear, Jane--"
"I know," Jane whispers. "You didn't, Will. I don't think that, and neither does he." Will doesn't react, but Jane doesn't expect him to. That would be too easy. "He just needed to get your attention."
While they'd been inside, Benji has apparently been on a roll, not only commandeering the SUV--which is much more comfortable than the tiny car they'd had at the safe house--but also hunting down a case of bottled water and some of the protein shakes they tend to live on during a mission. Ethan passes one of each over to Jane. His eyes flick over Will, and his mouth is tight, but he doesn't say anything. Jane thinks he doesn't trust himself, which is too bad, because right now, Ethan is what Will really needs, but nobody ever said those two weren't idiots sometimes.
Will takes both containers, but Jane isn't fooled. She lets him down the water in peace, but then pokes him over the protein shake. "I know they're disgusting," she says. "But they're better than MREs and don't think Ethan won't hunt some of those down if you don't get something in you."
"We're in fucking Paris, Jane," Will grumbles. "Have a little decency and don't mention those abominations while we're driving past places that serve actual food."
"Which we will get when you wake up,"Jane says.
"At least one Michelin star," Will says, making a face as he drinks the shake. "God, two." Jane's happy enough to hear him trying for a little humor that she passes on telling him how utterly awful his voice sounds. She takes the empties out of his hands and tries to figure out where the hell they are, because Benji most certainly hasn't headed back out to the suburbs, not if the palace-looking building in front of them is anything to go by.
"Really, Benji?" Ethan's saying. "The Crillon? Aren't we a little out of our pay grade?"
"Funny, that," Benji says, pulling up in front of what indeed turns out to be a service entrance for the venerable Hotel Crillon. "Seeing as how we more-or-less compromised the safe house on our mad dash in--pathetic security there, by the way--and then staged a minor palace coup, I got to thinking we could just borrow the suite they keep here. A little extra helping of TLC, you might say."
Ethan snorts, but gets out of the car, motioning for Jane and Will to follow. Benji winks at Jane and Jane laughs at his very satisfied expression; whatever else, she's definitely not going to argue with his thinking here. Will follows along, but Jane knows he's purely on autopilot. They could be pulling up to the White House and he wouldn't notice.
Benji has everything taken care of; as soon as Ethan steps up to the door, a team dressed in pure IMF-security-black meets them and whisks them up a service elevator. Jane steers Will toward a bedroom, but Ethan finally gets over himself and intercepts them two steps into the suite, waving Jane off toward the sitting room.
Will is still in the clothes he'd worn on the plane, the same ones he'd been wearing for the last part of the op; they're creased and stained and rumpled. Jane has never known him not to care about what he's wearing, even if they're just hanging out in a safe house. On days when it doesn't matter, when they're just themselves, Ethan lives in worn jeans and faded t-shirts; Benji favors hideous plaid flannel sleep pants; and Jane herself has a semi-embarrassing collection of leggings and shapeless dresses. And in the middle of all of that, Will always looks like he's stepped out of a men′s fashion mag, a what to wear on Casual Fridays article. Jane wants to hit something at how much he doesn't seem to care right now. She wonders if the fitness center might have a heavy bag.
"C'mon, luv," Benji says, waving a the thick, leather-covered menu at her. "I don't know about you, but my breakfast was not even near to finished before we got our rescue on." He smiles at her and adds, "Ethan's on a proper tear now; he's got it well in hand, I'd say."
"All right," Jane says. "But I'm ordering, and I don't care if they do keep beans around for you Brits, they are not getting anywhere near my table."
"Oh, I like that," Benji says, mock-indignantly, squawking and fussing as Jane goes through the menu. She actually has no idea what time it is, but it's the Crillon. Anything she wants, they'll get, so she orders a round of steaks, bloody, and a bottle of the biggest cab they have. Benji stops making noise after that and they sit in a companionable silence until the waiters arrive with the food.
"Ethan," Jane says quietly, tapping on the bedroom door. Enough light spills in from the sitting room that she can see Ethan settled in a chair, his eyes on Will sprawled out the bed. "Food's here."
"I didn't want him to spook if he wakes up and doesn't remember getting here," Ethan murmurs, still not really looking at Jane. It's all very touching except for how Will has no idea it's going on, which sort of defeats the purpose. It's amazing to Jane just how clueless Ethan can be on occasion.
"He's out for now--come eat while you can."
Ethan hauls himself to his feet with none of the grace and energy Jane knows he's capable of well into a mission. Then again, she's not moving all that well herself.
"You know he'll hate you when he finds out he missed all this," Ethan says, taking in the impeccably laid table, the silver and the crystal, bone china and candles. There are flowers at each place setting, and the wine is open and breathing in its own cut-class decanter. Of all of them, Will is the one who would actually appreciate this the most. Not that Jane doesn't plan on enjoying it to the hilt, but Will would be the one who'd want to speak with the sommelier and make notes on the vintage, the one who'd send comments and thanks to the chef.
"Oh, we've already opened negotiations on his first conscious meal," Jane says, trying not to moan around the steak in her mouth. Even if it's only them, it'd be rude. Besides, Benji is taking care of appreciative noises for her. "We may hit new heights of creative expense reporting to take care of it, but you'll sign off on--"
"Damn it," Ethan says, suddenly, his knife and fork crashing down on the china. "How did we miss this?" He shoves his chair back from the table and starts pacing. "I practically had to hold him up in the shower."
"He's a very good agent," Jane says, her enjoyment of the meal fading quickly. "He makes you see what he wants you to see."
"We're his team," Ethan snaps. "Not his mark."
"And he was doing his best to take care of us, and all the other teams," Jane says. Ethan looks like he wants to punch a wall, with which sentiment Jane sympathizes, but God knows how much that'll cost in this place. "Speaking of," she says, by way of distraction, "you did tell him you don't really think he'd screw us over, right?"
"Why would I need to do that?" Ethan looks at her blankly and Jane stifles her sigh. "You know I didn't mean--"
"Right, because William Brandt would never carry the slightest bit of unearned guilt," Benji says, going back to his steak with a bland expression that Jane wants to kiss.
Ethan paces around some more, but finally sits down and eats, then disappears back into the bedroom to head off any incipient freak-outs, which isn't a tremendously unlikely scenario. They've all been there, opening their eyes and not knowing exactly where they are for the first couple of seconds. Jane drags herself down to the fitness center, but ends up just stretching a little. When she comes back upstairs, Benji is asleep and drooling on the couch, and when she peeks into the first bedroom, Ethan is crashed out next to Will on the bed. One of Ethan's hand is resting lightly at the small of Will's back; Jane thinks Will looks more like he's sleeping comfortably and less like he's in a coma. She showers and wraps herself up in the million-thread bathrobe and takes the room with the bed bigger than several of her apartments.
When she opens her eyes again, it's dusk, the lights of the city just beginning to come on outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. Benji is still on the couch, but he has a remote in hand and he's flipping aimlessly through the channels. Ethan and Will are out on the small balcony, the remains of yet another room-service meal on the table between them. Upon closer inspection, Jane decides that it's not just a meal; it's possibly everything that room service offers. Will is picking at bits and pieces, while Ethan is being very casual about how he's pushing plates in Will's direction. Will is anything but casual as he kicks Ethan under the table with every plate, but Jane doesn't notice him pulling away.
Even from inside, Jane can see that they're relaxed with each other, so that's one--huge--thing off her list. Will still looks worn down, but he's lost that gray tinge to his complexion, and when he notices her moving around inside, he tosses her a wink. It's not quite up to his normal standards, but it's about a thousand times better than before. There's a determined set to Ethan's shoulders that says he's only just warming up his mother hen, but Will doesn't look like he's fighting it.
"You missed all the shouting," Benji says. "Very exciting. I don't think they broke anything, but it was a near thing." He moves his legs so there's more space on the couch. "If I've got it right, Ethan won't bitch if Will needs to work with the analysts, so long as Will swears he'll take better care of himself, which he will do, but if Ethan ever insinuates that Will doesn't have our best interests at heart again there will be guns involved. Possibly knives as well, and not in the fun, kinky way. It got quiet after that," he adds, with a waggle of his eyebrows. "Relatively speaking, of course."
"What day is it?" Jane asks, deciding that ignoring the last comment is in her sanity's best interest. She curls up at the other end of the couch.
"Saturday," Benji answers after thinking about it for a bit. "Saturday night in Paris and here we are."
Good times," Jane says, resting her head on the back of the couch and trying to decide if she's hungry.
"The best," Benji says. Will and Ethan come back inside, the wind catching the doors and slamming them shut on whatever Ethan's saying. Will is laughing, though, that affectionate You're a menace laugh, and Jane's not going to argue with Benji, not at all.