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Reality Check

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Usually, when Ethan comes back from his morning run, Will is still in bed, his golden body tangled in sheets and bathed in the morning sun, basking in late-morning sleep. (Not that it’s late morning, really. Seven-thirty is late morning for Ethan, but not really for anyone else.)

 

Usually, Ethan takes a quick shower and slips back into bed with Will, his arms wrapping around his boyfriend as Will mumbles in sleep and he presses kisses onto Will’s back.

 

Usually, Ethan watches Will get up at 8 and dress in Ethan’s shirts, which are a little big for him. It’s a bit of a fetish Ethan has, really, to be able to wrap his arms around Will and smell himself. He then sits on their little kitchen counter with the high stools and watches Will boil water for coffee and heat the pan for French toast.

 

Today, Ethan comes home early from his morning run because it’s starting to rain outside and Will has forbade running in the rain. It’s barely seven – he’s been out for maybe an hour, but Will is sitting up in bed, staring out into the gray morning. “Will?” Will turns and Ethan notices immediately there is something wrong. “Will, what’s wrong?”

 

Will quickly bows his head and shakes it. “Maybe I shouldn’t be on the team anymore.”

 

Ethan freezes and stares. “What?”

“I’m a liability.”

 

Ethan presses and tries to cajole Will into telling him more about the sudden outburst, but Will clams up and says nothing else. Ethan doesn’t mention it to Jane and Benji. Maybe Will had a nightmare, or maybe the way the last mission had gone had bothered Will. But they’d succeeded in the end, and mostly because of Will. Why would he think so?

 

But before Ethan can think more into it, Will is laughing and smiling and seducing Ethan back into bed like nothing happened, so Ethan lets it slide.

 

It happens again two weeks later, and it’s raining again. Will says the same two sentences, and this time when Will tugs Ethan to him, wrapping his legs around Ethan’s waist, Ethan sees the haunted doubt in Will’s eyes. He wants to fix it and he tries in the only way he knows how. He tells Will he loves him, more than anything, and he needs him, more than anything else, over and over again as he pushes himself inside Will. The haunted look fades a little, and Ethan isn’t good enough at reading emotions to see that the doubt still lingers.

 

The process repeats. There’s no pattern that Ethan can figure out as to when they come. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes it’s sunny. There are spaces of three weeks at most, and two days at least. Sometimes they come right after a mission. Sometimes during, sometimes a week after. The only thing constant about them is that they lead to sessions in bed that leave dotted bruises on Will’s hips and bright-red scratches on Ethan’s back.

 

Will gets sick one day, and has to sit out a mission. It’s a short, two-day mission, easy in and out, and when Ethan comes back, Will is gone.

 

Ethan stares at the note on the bed. Sorry. I love you. But I don’t belong here. He folds the note neatly, pushes it into his jeans pocket and calls Benji and Jane.

 

Finding Will takes the better half of a week during which they refuse all missions directed at them. Will has managed to cover up all of his tracks because his brain knows which street corners and buildings have cameras and which don’t, but they can limit routes down with camera-free streets. Will doesn’t even seem surprised when Ethan shows up in front of his door in a mangy, run-down motel. Jane and Benji have cleared out, giving them privacy, and Ethan sits on the messy bed. Will doesn’t drink or smoke, and Ethan sees the one outlet he’s had on the scratched and otherwise rather beat up table next to the window.

 

Will’s laptop is open and running, plugged into the outlet that Ethan is frankly surprised it works. The motel doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, of course, but that is exactly what Will wanted so Benji couldn’t track him through his computer. So Will is working on files, reconstructing IMF database with his memory.

 

Ethan doesn’t ask Will to come back. Not yet. He sits down on Will’s bed and watches Will settle back down onto the wooden chair that can’t be comfortable to sit on for more than thirty seconds, and spend the rest of the day typing without a break.

 

Ethan quickly finds out that there are forty-six other people in the motel, mostly male. Thirty are from the biker gang, and exactly all thirty of them are interested in fucking Will. He doesn’t intercept their line of sight when it lingers on the way Will’s jeans fit on his ass, even though what he’d actually like to do is staple their eyes shut for even thinking about ogling Will. Will can protect himself if any of them make unnecessary attempts.

 

And what Will needs right now is for Ethan to show Will that Will isn’t useless, that the team needs him and that he needs him. Ethan doesn’t really understand why Will suddenly decided to believe he didn’t belong on the team, but he couldn’t be more wrong. So for now Ethan is just comfortable snuggling beside Will at night and holding him tight against his chest, pressing Will’s ear to his heartbeat.

 

“Let’s go back.” He whispers one day, and Will tenses in his arms. “You belong on the field with us. We need you.”

 

Will shakes his head. His short blonde hair is a little longer and they sort of droop weakly on his head. “You don’t need me. Look at the mission you just took. You all did fine.”

Ethan knew that was going to come up, and he’s been ready for it. “Will, it was a babysitting mission. We babysat the President for two days in Canada. It doesn’t get much easier than that. And you know that.” Ethan slides his gaze down and notices that Will has his eyes closed. “You were always one of us. You know that. We need you.”

 

Will sighs and shakes his head. “I’m not fit to be a field agent.” He whispers. “I don’t make the right choices.” He presses his cheek onto Ethan’s bare chest, and Ethan says nothing when he feels hot liquid slide down onto his skin. “I had a nightmare. About Croatia. I kept seeing Julia, and she kept climbing out of her body bag, bloody and broken, and kept screaming that it was my fault. And then I woke up and you weren’t there.” He whispers, his voice trembling. “I mean, I saw the clock, and I realized you were out running. Just shook me up a bit.”

 

Oh. Oh. Ethan’s grip around Will tightens. His breath stops in his throat when he thinks of Will, screaming and waking from a nightmare in cold sweat and patting around the bed for him, and not finding him. Something tells Ethan that Will walked around the entire house, brokenly calling his name before reading the clock and dejectedly crumbling back into bed. His lips find Will’s forehead and he presses kisses onto it. “But that doesn’t make you a bad agent.” Ethan whispers. “It doesn’t at all.”

 

Will has his eyes closed again. “I don’t make good choices.” He whispers. “Back in Croatia, who cares if it was a setup. I should have told you. If we were in reverse positions, you would have screwed with the rules and told me. On the Burj, you knew exactly what to do and I just couldn’t see it your way until you had to reason it out with me. Jane and Benji all knew it was the right thing to do. I hesitated to jump and it cost us those extra few seconds that we could have beat Wistrom and Hendricks to the machine. I hesitate all of the place and I… My instincts are never right.” He finishes softly. “I’m better behind the desk, next to a computer. Where I don’t use instincts.”

 

Ethan laughs, and Will makes an offended noise. Ethan can’t help it, though, and he kisses Will’s noise. “Will.” He whispers. “That is exactly why we need you with us.” He kisses Will’s nose again. “I’ve been in plenty of trouble just recklessly following instincts. You need to be there, questioning every step of the way, making sure that what we’re doing is actually the best. Look at it this way. If you interfered in Croatia, then I would have needed to make another pseudo-mission to save Julia. Then I might have never gotten into the Serbian prison for information. On the Burj, it was your doubt that made me sure that I was doing the right thing. Not because if you’re questioning, it’s right, but because your questioning made me think what I was doing. And when I reasoned it out with you, I knew that it was the right thing to do because in the end you agreed. Don’t you see, Will? This is the reason why we need you. Because Jane and Benji and I are a storm of recklessness, and you need to be there to ground us all and give us a reality check. Because you need to be the one questioning every step we take, analyzing and making sure it’s the best, and you need to be not using your instincts, because that’s what Jane and I do, and Benji to some extent when he’s feeling too hyper. You need to be the one that’s thinking. And no one does it better than you do.”

 

When he’s done, Will is looking at him, his eyes wide. Ethan hasn’t made up any of it. All of it had come tumbling out of his brain, sure, but he means every single word. Will lets a fleeting smile whip across his face before he ducks his head back down and presses his cheek to Ethan’s chest again.

 

Ethan smiles and presses another kiss onto Will’s forehead. Sure, it’ll take some time, but he’ll make sure Will knows they all need him. He pulls Will flush to him and he coaxes Will’s eyes open by tipping his chin up. “Most of all, I need you.” He whispers, and Will smiles. “So don’t go off like this ever again. Because I’ll find you even if I have to search all the corners of the world.”