Mneme tugged on his hair and Will knew he was in trouble.
“She’s gorgeous,” the gray colored bird informed. Will agreed without hesitation. One of their marks, the husband of the couple they’re supposed to be guarding has the most stunning red fox they’ve ever seen. She’s beautiful with thick russet fur and a tail so thick it could wrap around her whole body and still have more fluff to spare. With Long legs, manicured nails, and wise eyes like fresh poured gold still hot, Mneme couldn’t look away. Her partner was just as stunning with dark hair to match his fox’s lush pelt and a never ending smile.
Will didn’t favor men but in that single moment he found himself imagining a life with Ethan Hunt. He thought of going on missions with IMF’s best, running fingers through his hair, stroking the fox as Ethan pet his bird. He thought of whispered secrets and stolen kisses. He thought of sleepy mornings around a brew of coffee and picking red colored hairs off his clothes. He thought of Mneme making a nest between them both and Ethan sucking on the juncture of his throat and collar bone.
In the next moment Julia Hunt and her panda-bear daemon strolled up to Ethan and Julia wove her fingers with his. The panda and fox touched noses as they followed their human counterparts. Blushing like a painful sunburn, Will shook his shoulder to get Mneme focused on the task at hand. Ethan was a spoken for man. He was married for heaven’s sake. He was also their job.
A handful of days later a mangled corpse was being swept into too many body bags with a positive on Julia’s ID. Will threw up till he had nothing left then gagged on his empty stomach. He convulsed and wept on a dirty bathroom floor, Mneme making mournful noises as she burrowed into his coat.
“We should have warned them. We should have warned them,” she kept chanting. Out of the two of them Mneme was always more vocal. “We should have warned them.”
“Contact was against orders,” Will remind because he had to. They were having a breakdown. He could see it in his daemon as she lost plumes of feathers.
“We should have warned them,” she said again. “I don’t want to be a field agent anymore. Promise me we won’t do this again. I can’t do this again. We won’t survive.”
Will ran a hand over her tiny form and tried to ease his daemon’s hurt. Who was he to argue with his soul?
Ranking Chief Analyst was easy. Will didn’t want the position, wanted to keep his head down but he and Mneme had one of the best memories around. Eidetic Memory it was called, a perfect recall of sounds, images, and events that made of a person’s memory. They could remember dates, last night’s dinner, and how many toothpicks had fallen at the diner with absolute certainty. They never lost the keys and they could remember faces like no one’s business. They also remembered Ethan and his fox with perfect clarity, his hands and her ears. Every time they did they also remembered Julia’s mutilated corpse with hair and blood and teeth flung everywhere. They remembered how perfect her nose was before it was dug out of her skull. It was messy and disgusting and entirely their fault.
In too short a time he reunited with Ethan in person, he and his fox composed as they listened to the Secretary’s activation of Ghost Protocol and his unofficial plans for Ethan’s escape.
In the next moment the Secretary’s skull was shot through and his bobcat daemon burst into a shower of golden dust. Will’s eyes went wild as Mneme started cursing in surprise. Both he and Ethan ducked low, the other agent blinking back sorrow for cold determination. He held the fox close to him as they went over the bride. Mneme was well a truly screaming now, though Will remained stone faced. He made a grab for the bird and shoved her into his breast pocket as they went under.
Soaked and desperate, he held Mneme up into what little air they had left, Ethan’s fox looking all the part just as collected as her partner. Ethan put a flare on corpse and they made their baffling escape, Will laughing through his panic attack.
“The Secretary’s dead! The Secretary’s dead!” Mneme squawked as they ran.
“Be quiet, we know,” he hissed back as he breathed as warm as he could onto the sopping daemon. Not once did Ethan or his fox, Raziela break composure. Will was jealous. They’d been out of the field too long. No. No they were put back too soon. Neither he nor his daemon wanted to be in the field. It was a simple detour to the airport, the Secretary promised him. Just a little pick up of IMF’s best before the organization was devolved for good and Will would spend the rest of his life working as an analyst for the FBI. The Secretary promised they’d have the job after they picked up Ethan. Now the Secretary was dead and he and IMF’s best met up with the two other agents that made the entire organization.
He recognized Jane Carter and Benji Dunn without needing to think about it. Their names and a list of accomplishments sprang up over their faces when Will looked at each agent. He focused the memory off as Mneme did the same for their daemons, a mongoose named Czcibor and basenji named Bina respectfully. All four pairs watched the video of Hendricks’ speech about nuclear evolution, his bearded vulture surveying their audience like a royal eagle. Mneme couldn’t stop vibrating with worry on his shoulder so he put her back into his turtleneck collar.
How had things gone so bad so quick?
When Ethan offered a final out for the group, Mneme squirmed. They weren’t field agents. Not anymore. He promised they wouldn’t be on the field anymore. Mneme couldn’t survive another botched life or death situation. Will cleared his throat to speak but Mneme answered for him.
“We’re in,” she said with her head out of his collar. All eyes turned to the pair and Will flushed. It wasn’t polite for a daemon to speak to a human or vice versa. As children they always got into trouble because Will preferred to let Mneme speak for him. Mneme made a determined sound and nipped at Will.
“What she said.”
Ethan grinned again with a big flash of teeth and Will tried not to roll his fingers into his sleeves like a twelve year old. They packed and headed for Dubai so fast Will’s mind was still playing catch up as it logged all the information. There was a lot to file away. Key things like the mission strategy. Simple things like way Jane’s mongoose followed her on his feet rather than hanging around her neck like most weasel-like daemons. Fantastic things like the way Ethan’s Raziela sniffs at Mneme and offered a reassuring, “Impossible is what we’re trained for” when she senses Will’s reluctance. He ducked his head as Mneme trilled.
On the flight all Will could think about was Julia’s body. He wanted to tell Ethan that it’s his fault his wife is ash. He wanted to grab the man and apologize, offer a gun with a bullet written with Will’s name on it for penitence. Mneme shook again with a consuming need to tell Ethan everything. How gorgeous Raziela is, how sorry they are about Julia, and how they wish every morning and every night that they could turn back time to warn Ethan about the hit.
For once she said nothing. They’re both too scared.
The area around Dubai was beautiful in the way a skeleton is. It’s barren and etched with hints of life. Sands shift and the landscape changes. Dubai itself springs up out of nowhere like a desert flower. They can see the Burj miles before the rest of the city. It’s a citadel unlike any other. The car ride to it was less magnificent.
They bounced over every rock and weave around every animal. To both human’s surprise, Mneme and Benji’s Bina get along like kittens. It’s a surprise because Bina is shier than a spider. Half the time Will’s known her she hid behind one of Benji’s legs as her counterpart made extravagant gestures and jokes. Will supposed the pair shared the same kind of bond he and Mneme did. Since Benji was loud and friendly Bina didn’t have to be. Because Will was an introvert Mneme was an extrovert. Such opposing personalities didn’t happen often but it was common enough not to be unusual. Most bonds were like Jane and Czcibor – darker reflection of the human’s tendencies or like Ethan and Raziela, a perfect mirror.
In the empty space in the back of the van, Bina lay down and swatted at Mneme as she bounced around. Both daemons couldn’t stop laughing at each other and Czcibor joined in on the roughplay. Raziela watched from Ethan’s lap, a smile about her as the team played. Benji laughed and Will couldn’t calm his own smile. This plan was half baked and just as crazy as the team but they’re good people.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of bird is Mneme?” Benji asked after their plan in the Burj was explained again.
“I’m a Clark’s Nutcracker,” the bird replied, hopping onto Bina’s head to peck at her ears. Bina is not a fan of painful affection and smacks her off with a paw. Mneme fell to the van’s floor with a flush of feathers before huffing with laughter.
By now the team is used to the bird speaking to them. That’s just how Mneme operates, like a sieve with too many holes. She has no censor and Will is tired to trying to keep her quiet when the group doesn’t seem to mind. This team was great.
“A nutcracker?” Benji can’t stifle his laugh which turns into a horrendous cough.
“Laugh all you want, she’s the only Clark’s Nutracker registered in the world.”
Jane gapes. That was more surprising than the camels in the road earlier. “What? No way. There’s something like seventy-five thousand registered mongooses. I can’t believe you’re the only Nutcracker.”
Benji giggled again.
“Last one registered was in1974.” Will grinned. “I’m sure there are others out there but they haven’t been registered or are mistaken for a color variant. Where I grew up we had wild Nutcrackers everywhere so we knew right away what she was when she settled.”
Mneme bounced over to Will and hopped onto his thigh. Trilling again she settled. Czcibor and Bina observed the bird in stunned approval.
Will wondered how many mirrors Ethan broken, black cats he’d crossed, and old witches he’d insulted to end up climbing the Burj. As with everything else on the mission, their plans fizzled and they improvised. Improvised meant their team leader was climbing one-hundred stories in the air with no safety harnesses and some gecko sticky gloves. Mneme fluttered in an anxious dance from one of Will’s shoulder’s to the other as Banji explained the gloves to Ethan. Bina watched the progress of the double masks, Raziela focused on her partner’s conversation.
Mneme pecked at Will’s ear to get him to speak up. “What’s going to happen to Raziela? Should we get a harness for her? A bag maybe?”
He shoved his hands in his pockets as the fox turned her careful attention on him. He felt very small under her gaze. They, meaning Mneme and he felt it was an appropriate question. Raziela wasn’t small enough to tuck under his shirt to put in a pocket. She couldn’t fly or hold onto Ethan with her claws or tail.
“No need to worry,” Ethan reassured. He headed for the already opened window. “We can be separated.”
Will blanched and Mneme squawked. Both stared at Raziela and the fox was decidedly not looking at either. His first thought was of Intercision but it couldn’t be something as grisly as that with how downright creative Ethan was. Separated people lacked all of the warmth both Ethan Raziela radiated with each smile. The idea was ludicrous.
“It was an old requirement for IMF field agents, optional even when I joined. We’re not separated just –“
“Stretched,” Raziela finished. Bina flicked her ears and stared as Benji gaped. Even Ethan was surprised. Mneme was a bad influence on the daemon. “It’s a technique from old times. The distance we can be apart is further than normal.”
“How far,” Will asked, then redirected his attention to Ethan when he remembered it was impolite to talk to the daemon.
“Far enough.” He winked and crawled out the window.
Despite their talk, Raziela’s ears still went flat against her skull at Ethan’s departure. She gave no other outward sign of disapproval as she squatted several feet from the window. Mneme jumped down and tried to get close to the fox but snuck back at a crackle of pain from getting too far away from Will. Raziela’s ear flicked and she repositioned herself to a distance the bird could get to. None of this was missed by Benji who wiggled his eyebrows at Will. Will scoffed at him and reminded Ethan of the time.
Close to twenty-two minutes till door knock there was a shout audible to their room as Raziela jerked.
“You alright?” Mneme asked, a breath’s distance from the fox. Raziela lay down and flipped her tail in quick agitation.
“We are okay. Just . . . startled. Ethan is having fun.” By her tone, one would think fun was something to be banned. Then again, slipping down the Burj wasn’t their interpretation of fun either.
Seconds later Will was hauling Ethan back into their room by his feet, Raziela tugging Will’s pant leg with her teeth and Jane held onto the other one. Mneme and Czcibor were little more than cheerleaders for all their help. Will’s heart was in his throat and was so worried for Ethan he put the thought of staring down one hundred floors out of his mind. He was sure it’d come back when he was trying to sleep, images of him being too late to catch Ethan or Jane too late to catch himself. If they did plummet Will just might have confessed his love on the way down. They’d have enough time, maybe even for a kiss.
Things didn’t get any easier from there as on cue their masks failed and they went faceless to the meeting.
Ethan pulled another harebrained scheme from nowhere and Will grabbed the case before Benji could alter it. The stakes were getting too high. He couldn’t let the terrorist get the codes. He couldn’t allow another life or death situation to go south again so he hung the case out the whistling window. Everyone in the room watched him like a suicide bomber, even Mneme.
How could she not understand? This was just like Julia but a thousand times worse. If this went wrong everyone would be dead. There’d be billions of Julias out there, corpses eviscerated in fire so quick they couldn’t comprehend death.
“Tell me this is our only change to stop him, right here, right now. Tell me that and this will all be over.”
And damn it, Ethan was being honest. Ethan didn’t want this either but there was no other way. Razelia drew near to him, closer than Ethan and wouldn’t look away until Will darted his gaze at her. He felt so small again. He still wanted to toss the case out the window, wanted to fall to his knees and tell them that he was the reason Ethan was a widower but instead he handed the case over.
Entering into the room with Sabine Moreau and her guards was an experience Will didn’t want to go through again. They cataloged everyone in the room but didn’t have a file on anyone but Moreau and her bowerbird.
Paid in diamonds. Assassin. Killed Jane’s Partner.
Both birds eyed each other from their partner’s shoulder, the bower in particular focused on Will’s eyes until the diamonds were provided. The daemon shook out his feathers in delight at the shiny stones. Will read the information as calm and quick as he could, heart flying in his chest. Mneme wasn’t doing well either. She wanted to talk and bounce and stop everything they were doing because Will was giving a terrorist nuclear launch codes. With all those tells of course Moreau knew they were agents.
Details flew by as Will reacted on instinct. He wasn’t thinking at all as he and Ethan killed the attacking guards. His years of honed training and continued practice even off the field came back in vivid Technicolor. That didn’t mean he understood half of what happened. He found the dying scientist in an elevator just as his rat daemon burst into brilliant gold dust.
Next thing he knew he was in their room watching Jane kick Moreau out a window. Her daemon’s scream was something from nightmares as the two were ripped from each other with how fast she plunged. Will cupped his ears and the bower didn’t make it out the window before erupting like the rat moments ago. Benji was so shocked his eyes might have fallen out and Bina cowered behind his leg. Jane collapsed with her face in her palms but Czcibor pranced by the window’s edge with a smug pride that made Will sick. They needed Moreau’s information.
Ethan returned after the sandstorm without the case. It was over. Will should have tossed the case when he could. He should have thought of another strategy or put a bullet through Wistrom’s head when he had the chance. Razelia wouldn’t look at any of them as they drove to a safe house. The car still skidded over every bump and wove around every wayward camel but no one laughed anymore. Poor Benji couldn’t even speak. He and his quiet daemon were spot on now. Will held Mneme close to himself and tried to clean away the images of Julia multiplied a billion times over.
They messed up again.
Will emptied himself yelling at Jane. She was the easiest scapegoat since she killed their only lead to Hendricks. Shouting felt good in the worst way but he couldn’t stop. For years now, Will kept everything bottled up, his horror at the Secretary’s death, his dismay at aiding a global terrorist with his fix, and the ever present shame of Julia’s death. Will had been mourning in silence for such a long time. He batted his anger at Jane, gnawing at problems that didn’t matter. Mneme was the more talkative of the pair but now that Will found his voice the bird was quiet as a ball of yarn. She tucked her head into his neck, refusing to look at any of them.
Of course it was Ethan who got him out of the rut with shocking clarity. A gun was shoved in his face and Will acted on instinct. Two more were drawn by Benji and Jane when he blocked Ethan’s attack and took the gun. Czcibor pawed at the cement floor, rearing for attack. Bina barked, coiled tail springing at every sound. Benji himself looked ready to start barking. Will unloaded the weapon and dropped it.
“What analyst has reactions like that?”
The Chief, he wanted to answer but his lungs were like empty balloons. Raziela watched him for the first time since returning without the case and Will couldn’t stand the heavy weight of her eyes. Why wasn’t Mneme talking for him? Of all the moments where her gift of gab would come in handy this was the mother lode. She remained on his shoulder, pressing her face to his neck so she didn’t have to acknowledge any of them.
“Tell me yours and I’ll tell your mine.”
It was the moment he was waiting for since before finding Julia’s body, his chance for catharsis. He moved his jaw several times but found his tongue in a ship worthy knot. Like his daemon he faced a wall, struggling to get his lips working again.
“We all have our secrets, don’t we Ethan?”
Raziela chuffed at him as Ethan’s phone rang. The pair walked out the door, gone for good. Mission failure. It was over. They lost. By this time tomorrow they were going to be dead.
As soon as Ethan was gone he could talk again. He told Jane and Benji everything (nearly, he left out the part about pining for Ethan) but there wasn’t any solace. The shame was still there in his chest like a tumor and he wanted to track Ethan down to admit it all. Will was desperate as the team packed to leave the country.
In typical format Ethan appeared without warning on their jet with renewed confidence and a last scheme to save the world. Even Raziela was smiling again. Will took off his sunglasses to tell Ethan everything but the other agent cut him off, Raziela nodding to a still quiet Mneme.
Next stop India.
“So I jump. . .”
“And I catch you.”
No matter how many times Benji nodded his head it didn’t ease Will’s anxieties. Jane would seduce the rich man for codes while Will uploaded them into the computer for Benji to work – or that’s what he was getting out of it. That was good, that was alright, but his heart skidded over the start line at the mention of a 25ft drop. Two hundred feet or fifty didn’t matter when the result was the same. With how often all their technology was failing Will was surprised their jet was still flying.
To just. . . jump, it was crazy. No rigging, or harnesses, or inflatable trampolines awaited him. If the magnets didn’t work he’d be splattered over the wall so fast Mneme wouldn’t have time to be frightened about being dust.
The daemon in question shivered on top of his knees, tiny and frightened. She still hadn’t recovered since the Burj. Bina sloped forward and sniffed at the other daemon.
“I’ll make sure he keeps you both safe,” she assured Mneme. Bina’s voice was quiet as a candle. Will knew it was a rare honor to hear it. Mneme shifted her head from under a wing to look at the basenji. Bina’s lips pulled back in a toothy, doggy-grin.
“Mneme!” Will flushed in embarrassment. There were no such things as promises in their world, or in any world beyond that of five years-old. Benji went back to fiddling with a device even as Bina nodded her head.
“Of course. Czcibor plays dirty when he tussles. I don’t want to be out a playmate.”
Will coughed into his hand and was surprised by the smile he found at his lips. A sense of peace and affection pooled from Mneme as she and Bina shared a contented conversation. Benji caught his gaze for a moment and they knew they’d be alright.
Jane and Ethan were still caught in a dark mood but after the two of them spoke together in quiet hushes, Czcibor and Raziela joined the other pair. Mneme hopped down to stand between Bina’s paws and chirp up at Raziela. Bina bore a startled expression that wasn’t helped by Czcibor swatting at her tail. To all their surprise Raziela yipped and took a playful stance. As the humans worked their counterparts rough-housed.
Although it didn’t follow any IMF standards about preparing for a mission, it was exactly what the crew needed.
Will tucked Mneme into his front pocket before the final plunge. They teetered at the edge, stating down the cold drop like it was a bottomless pit. It wasn’t. There was a spike of a fan blade waiting for them at the end. Anxious and jittery, Will slapped his hands together and worked his legs in a desperate attempt to calm himself.
“Damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” Mneme reminded him. They needed to jump. The nuke would go off any moment. World War Three was seizing for a sneeze.
“Jump,” Ethan said over the com. A desperate, breathy laugh escaped Will. “Jump.”
Will closed his eyes and leaned out, frozen in place as his eyes flew open. He couldn’t move, transfixed on the plummet. Of all the times Will thought he might have jumped to his death he never imagined the man of his affection egging him on to leap.
Benji was reassuring him again, though his quieter “I’ll catch you,” was overridden by a final shout from Ethan, “Jump!”
He leaped, Jane crushed her target’s hand, Banji caught him, and Ethan’s rasped in his ear from the two-way. Mneme giggled like a loon. They did it. They actually did it. Benji rolled him into position and after several minutes of burning his fingers on heating metal, Will was more than ready to get out of the computer.
He had to admit it, he panicked on the way out but it worked fine in the end. Laying on the floor he pulled Mneme out of his pocket as careful as he could, wincing not from his own pain but from her’s. Will hadn’t landed with the grace expected of a man with a bird daemon.
“Peachy,” Mneme retorted. Her wing didn’t look too good but at least she wasn’t squashed. Will groaned again as he put her back into his pocket. His arm mirroring the daemon’s felt sprained or at the very least bone deep bruised. “Tell Ethan I don’t want to do that ever again.”
“You can tell him yourself when we’re done.”
A chuckle against his ear from the com had Will grinning.
Jane got the code too late and they had three minutes till part of the map was blown off. Ethan, Jane, and their daemons sped off to where Hendricks and his bearded vulture housed a suitcase that could cancel everything. He and Benji followed but got there after Ethan was gone and Jane shot. Czcibor burrowed against her neck as Jane put pressure on the wound.
Then the power went off and Bina barked orders at Benji to get her partner fixing the main computer. Will flew on adrenaline to the main power station but Wistrom and his dove daemon cut them away from the switch just as his fingers grazed it. Will’s vision went fuzzy as he fought, Mneme screaming at him as other daemon - the dove launched into her own attack. His pain doubled at he dove tore at Mneme’s injured wing.
Will blinked away the pain in furious breaths. He couldn’t give up now. Ethan needed the power back on to stop the missile. Innocent people all over the world depended on that missile being disengaged. He couldn’t give up, not when he was so close.
The dove imploded in a shower of golden dust before her partner fell. Will surged forward after Benji shot Wistrom and turned on the power. Bina sniffed in their direction but turned on her heels when Beji bolted back down stairs.
Will collapsed again a wall, collecting Mneme back into his palm from where she sat shaking on the floor. They had seconds left.
“We did it,” he encouraged.
Three weeks and two days later Ethan was fit for duty again, even with his sprained leg. He assembled the old team at an open air bar in the same city that was almost nuked. Will recognized Luther and his gibbon before the man shook his hand. As he left, the team gathered around Ethan. Benji was all smiles, even Bina was happy to have the team back. Jane and Czcibor recovered well, the mongoose perky as ever. Ethan was more relaxed than Will remembered ever seeing him. His smile wasn’t wide as usual but it was soft and genuine. Raziela snuggled in a content heap at his feet, calm enough to curl up with her tail over her nose.
The night was cold, weather dreary but expected. Mneme was tucked under his jacket collar, her head peeking out. She was still quiet but anything aside from content. Will suspected the bird might never get her voice back till he came clean.
His opportunity presented itself when Ethan offered a phone for each member of the group. Missions. Ethan wanted to work with this team again. He even went as far as to say it was the only thing that functioned during their last mission. Will scoffed. Tech wise that was true but the team was a wreck. From Jane’s assassination of a hopeful informant to Will’s reluctance to trust Benj, the team fell apart. He had three guns drawn at him at one point!
However, the longer Will thought about it the more it made sense. There was the human safety line Will and Jane made to pull Ethan back from out the Burj, how their daemons played when they traveled, and everything that led to the moment where Ethan could call off the nuke. They worked like a Rube Goldberg machine, each piece necessary for the next to do its part. They stopped World War III. Will helped save . . . well everyone.
It was a lot to take in.
Suddenly coming clean to Ethan didn’t seem so impossible.
Benji was the first to accept Ethan’s proposal, to no one’s surprise. Didn’t matter how smart or cat-like the man was, a dog daemon was still a loyal, friendly dog daemon. Jane looked between the two remaining team members before grabbing her own cell, Czcibor eager to learn the mission. Just Ethan and Will remained; their daemons between the two. Raziela was in Ethan’s lap now, Ethan combing his fingers through her fur. Mneme sat quiet as a stone next to the last, untouched cell.
“I’m not picking it up because I don’t think you want me on your team,” Will began.
The whole story tumbled out after that, everything except his hidden fancy. Ethan didn’t need to know about that. What he did need was Will’s honesty about Julia’s death. Will spoke as clear as he could, the whole speech written over and practiced ten thousand times before this moment. Funniest thing about the whole event was how quick it was over.
He felt gutted, so clean it hurt like leaving the dentist’s after getting your teeth cleaned. Some plaque remained around his soul regarding his affection for Ethan but now Ethan knew everything that mattered. Will picked up Mneme to slink off as quick as he could, plans of booze already in his head.
As he started to leave Ethan told his side of the story.
Julia was . . . Julia was alive.
Will sat back down, floored by the development. He was more lightheaded and faint than he’d been through all of Ghost Protocol. Even dangling out the Burj hadn’t been quite as much of a rush. A laugh born of disbelief tore from his throat. He petted Mneme with quick fingers, the bird just as stunned as he.
Julia was okay the whole time. Her disappearance, death, and Ethan’s prison sentence were all staged. The body was someone else, DNA matched to one Julia Hunt’s. Will couldn’t stop smiling despite himself. He should be spitting in anger at being lied to for so long, or the damages to his psyche. He lost sleep over this. Hell, near had a break down at the mention of field work.
How could he possibly be angry when Julia was alive and well? She and Ethan could get back together, one day. Ethan could be happy and prospect of Ethan happy made Will happy. He felt like setting off fireworks. He let out a big, bright boom of a smile and Mneme began chirping again at last.
Will grabbed the cell and stared at Ethan for a last, perfect moment. He hoped one day Ethan and Julia could be reunited. Ethan deserved everything he wanted. He deserved the world, especially after saving it on such a grand scale.
“You should get what you want to, Will,” Mneme said from his shoulder. He stopped to look at her, confused. What he wanted? He had all he wanted. He had more than he wanted – Ethan didn’t hate him for his mistake and Julia was alive. What else was there?
“Kiss him already,” Mneme insisted, voice blaring. Color drained from Will’s face and he couldn’t stop himself in time from looking at Ethan to see his expression. The other agent cocked his head to the side, a perfect reflection of the curiosity displayed by his daemon.
“We like you! We have since Croatia,” Mneme blabbered. She fluttered her wings and squawked when Will tried to shush her. “Kiss him Will! It’s what you’ve thought about doing every ten minutes since Moscow!”
Of all the rotten moments for his daemon to get her voice back. Color rushed back to Will’s face so fast he felt dizzy. He swatted at Mneme and turned to leave in a quick march. Hopefully by the time they met up again Mneme would stop gossiping and Ethan would be kind enough to pretend this hadn’t happened.
“Wait,” a still, regal voice ordered. Will stopped like a clockwork doll, jerking his head around to look at Raziela. She trotted to Will’s side, circled him once and sat in front of him. Mneme watched from the cage Will made of his fingers, struggling to get a good look at the other daemon. Will didn’t look back at Ethan, couldn’t because he was mesmerized by the fox.
“Let her speak,” Raziela said. Will’s hands were open in an instant and Mneme flew down so fast she plummeted. Will winced when she bounced off the ground but any sensation of pain was washed away when Raziela nudged the bird with her nose. Will felt the cold-nosed sniff at the base of his spine, flooded with amusement from his counterpart.
Ethan’s chair hissed as he stood, watched Will and their daemons. His hands hung at his sides like he didn’t know what to do with them. Ethan Hunt baffled. What a world.
“You’re pretty. Prettiest daemon I’ve ever seen and I’ve met a lot,” Mneme offered, blunt as ever. “Will thinks the same thing about Ethan but is too shy to admit it.”
“He also doesn’t like doing things that make him happy if it comes at the expense of someone else. We like you. We really like you.” Will buried his face in his palms, Mneme tucking her head to the side like a turtle dove as she peered at the fox. “We want you to be happy. I want Will to be happy.”
“That can be arranged,” Ethan said and Will just about forgot the other man was there. Will wasn’t one to blush but everything to his ears heated up. Ethan didn’t look so distressed though.
He spotted something over Will’s shoulder, eyes flashing in recognition. Will started to turn when Ethan pulled him back and kissed him. Will pulled back at first in shock and thankfully Ethan was ready to chase after him. The second time their lips met it was a hasty clash of emotion, befuddlement on Will’s part and a determination on Ethan’s. Ethan, Will realized, had come to a decision. Even Raziela was in on it, swooping down to nuzzle Mneme who chirped in delight.
Given green lights all around, Will surged against Ethan, nipping at the other man’s lips until he got into the other’s mouth, his hands snagging around Ethan’s shoulder and hip to bring him close. Ethan accepted each gesture, breaking only to kiss Will’s forehead, nose, and chin as he wove his long fingers into Will’s hair. He yanked at the locks at the beginning of Will’s spine, Will letting out a moan that had been waiting since Croatia that made Raziela jolt forward and pressed Mneme onto the ground. Someone behind them whooped and another cat called.
If Will thought he was dizzy before it was nothing compared to now. He pulled away to breathe, leaned against Ethan for a moment and collected himself.
“Are you sure? What about –“
“Julia has moved on with her life, as I wanted her to,” Ethan answered. He tossed some bills at their abandoned table and nudged Will along before the bar tender hassled them.
“But you still love her, right?”
Ethan was quiet as he pressed another kiss to Will and the other agent got it. Yes he was still in love, always would be, but Julia was his past now. Will was here in the present. Better yet, Ethan wanted him. By the way Raziela nuzzled against Mneme he knew the thought was entirely mutual between Ethan and his soul.
Mneme settled against Will’s messy nest of hair hours later and the agent knew he was in trouble. Naked, sated, with Ethan Hunt pressed into his side and the fox daemon at their feet, Will decided this was the best trouble of his life.