Agent William Brandt sat in the uncomfortable sofa chair in his hotel room. A half-empty, lukewarm beer bottle was nestled in his hand. His head reclined on the chair's neck rest. He looked to be asleep, but his thoughts were traveling all across the globe. And every thought held flashes of a certain woman in his mind's eye.
"And so it is," he grumbled to himself, taking a swig of the drink.
He saw the way she curled her hair behind her ear as she checked her gun's ammunition supply. Her hair cascaded down her back, spilling over her black t-shirt. She'd said something to Benji, a teasing remark, that Benji always responded to in kind. And such an exchange would sometimes elicit a soft laugh from her-like a whisper-that lit up her entire face. And before Ethan would look at her, before her face would resume its stoic origins, she'd looked at Brandt. See herself caught. And she'd grin at him, a different grin than what she'd given Benji. And he'd, yet again, find that he couldn't take his eyes off of her.
He found this to be a growing occurrence since their first mission. His eyes just couldn't leave her; especially after missions with near-death conclusions. He'd had a close call this time, and his mind wouldn't abandon her face.
The way her eyes closed as the breeze caressed her face, sweeping her ponytail behind her, as they all stood overlooking a building armed with several men. Her face was without a single wrinkle, as though she was at complete ease. But he knew her tell—the way she would bite her lip ever so slightly. A tiny mark of apprehension.
His eyes were always drawn to her nervous tick, wanting to run his finger over her mouth and stay her worriedness. And then, his mind's eye would see him slowly lean forward and press his mouth to hers to make her completely forget about the dangers around the corner. To make her realize how close he was to her.
In fact, he found himself often scavenging their surroundings just to note her position; just so when the action went down, he was certain to have her behind him. In case that small gesture gave her an extra second to kick ass. Or to run.
'I can't..." he mumbled under his breath again. He couldn't take his eyes off of her. It was like an addiction, to always be near. He'd call it a distraction, but then it would be deemed negative. And he had long since decided that the way Jane filled him with kinetic energy was anything but negative.
He could hear her melodic counter to him in his mind, as though she was leaning over him in the hotel room. He imagined her hands gripping the chair's arms, her hair dusting his bare arms, and her husky voice brushing his cheeks to say, "But we're partners."
He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. "Like I haven't thought of that. Doesn't matter. I don't care."
"Would be dangerous to the mission, your love for me..."
"Who said love?" he replied with a bittersweet smile. She stared back at him with her own bittersweet smile.
"That isn't denial. That's aversion to my comment," she replied.
"I..." he began, losing his voice.
"Did I say that I love you? Did I say that I want to..." she whispered to him, his mind's eye blurring with his fantasy of her caressing his skin with the tips of her curls.
"I want to," he repeated her with affirmation, closing his eyes, imagining the goose bumps from her proximity.
In his mind's eye, he'd reach out to her in that instant, and try to draw her to him. But this was merely his mind's eye and, in reality, he'd be reaching for empty space. So he cheered the empty air.
He sighed. He couldn't take his mind off of her.
A soft knock awoke him from his half-conscious slumber, his neck cramping against the chair. He attempted to stand and stumbled slightly, his foot having fallen asleep. When he looked into the peephole, his eye landed on the figure of Jane.
"Agent Carter?" he said upon opening the door.
"Agent Brandt," she replied, looking curiously into his face. "This a bad time?"
Brandt thought for a moment whether it was a good time—whether it was safe to have her so close when his mind couldn't be controlled. He finally shook his head, realizing he had left her alone outside of his thoughts. He stood aside to let her by.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Brandt asked.
Jane looked solely at him, ignoring the mess around her and the notion that they were to be bound on a plane in less than three hours. Her eyes swept his figure, as though searching for something specific. If she were anyone else, he'd feel uncomfortable with her stare. But his eyes were trained on her nervous tick.
She couldn't leave the memory of their latest mission behind. She'd been frantic when she'd seen him fall backwards upon the sound of gun shots. Benji had taken the gunman down immediately afterward, disengaging the danger. But Jane still ran toward Brandt when he didn't immediately stir, collapsing at his side to quickly strip him of his jacket.
"You didn't go through, you didn't go through," she'd whispered over and over under her breath, her mantra acting as a spell against the bullets she'd seen make contact. Brandt's lids were closed, his eyes moving behind them as though he was fighting consciousness—he'd hit his head hard when he'd fallen. Her fingers touched the bullet-proof vest as though it burned, seeing the indentations where the bullets had struck. She tugged the vest off as gently as she could. Seeing his white undershirt with light streaks of red, she began to panic inwardly and lifted the fabric up. There were two entry wounds into his torso, but that was better considering that four rounds that had hit him.
"Jane?" Brandt's soft voice interrupted her thoughts, and she realized she'd been staring at his chest without really being there. "Jane," he repeated, setting his beer down.
She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it and continued to stare at him. She couldn't take her mind off of the invisible bandages beneath his shirt. Before he had come to. While Benji had called for a medic. While Ethan had rushed to double check the perimeter. Jane had stared down at Brandt's wincing face, her hand running over his hair in soothing waves. She'd alternated from applying pressure to his cheek, to his forehead, to his chest to keep him awake. She'd engaged him in small talk, trivia, as though nothing was wrong at all to keep him responsive. She trained her eyes on him, willing the tears that threatened to fall to stay away. The déjà vu of her holding another fallen man wasn't lost on her. But she couldn't take her mind off how much this man here…
The instant Brandt saw something change in her eyes, that spark that snapped whenever she made up her mind, she closed the distance between them and carefully wrapped her arms around him. He was far from prepared for how warm and solid-strong she was; more than he had imagined her to be. He couldn't help but pull her closer to him, despite the humming pain of his concealed wounds. She began to speak again, but she couldn't find the right words. So, instead, she nestled her face into his neck. Her sigh was shaky as she allowed herself to hold him tighter. He was whole. He was fine. And so he found himself tentatively caressing her long hair the way his mind's eye had imagined it; noting how she felt, her weight against him, her breath against his skin. And she leaned into his touch, allowing some of her weariness to drain from her.
They stayed in each other's arms until it was time for their flight.