Will Brandt tried unsuccessfully to stifle his yawn as he slapped the stream of water off and shook out his wet hair. A hot shower was an unimaginable indulgence right after a mission, made possible only by the fact that said mission had ended in New York and Will had finally taken Clint up on his repeated offers of bunk space whenever he was in the area. The shower might even have been nicer than the bed, which was saying something, considering the rigorous inspection Ethan and Will had subjected it to. But however nice, it was still no match for sleep. Sleep was always in short supply in the field, and even after a good night’s rest Will was still not exactly feeling awake.
“Coffee,” Ethan moaned from the bed.
“Agree,” Will sighed, tossing his damp towel onto the floor and reaching for his pants. They weren’t sitting on the floor where he’d left them last night, though. And when he finally located them, they were no longer crumpled and stained with the various leavings of two subway tunnels, a ventilation shaft, and a frantic gunfight.
They were sitting on a coffee table. Folded. Neatly. They smelled vaguely of citrus. They had been pressed.
So had the rest of Will’s clothes, upon closer inspection. And Ethan’s clothes. And Will’s shoes had been shined.
They were sneakers.
“Wow,” Will said out loud out of sheer bemusement. “That’s one heck of a laundry service.”
“Thank you,” a voice said, and both Will and Ethan jumped. Despite having been flopped on the bed moments ago, Ethan had his gun in his hand, and he looked ready to face the laundry threat.
If he had slept with that gun under his pillow again, Will was going to kill him.
“I’m sorry for startling you, sirs,” the voice continued. It was male, cultured, and sounded genuinely apologetic. “I am JARVIS, the butler.”
Ethan lowered the gun. “The AI?”
“Wow,” Will opined again.
“I wished to inform you that if you go down the hallway to the left and take the elevator to the thirty-third floor, there is a small kitchen where the Avengers, including Agent Barton, usually gather for meals,” JARVIS continued. “And, in fact, another member of Agent Brandt’s family is present right now. Agent Bond.”
“James?” Will asked in trepidation, zipping up his pants. “He’s here eating breakfast?”
“He is indeed,” JARVIS confirmed.
Will swiveled to look accusingly at Ethan. “I’m fine! What did you tell them?”
Ethan held his hands up. “Nothing, I swear.”
“I don’t believe he is here out of a concern for your health, Agent Brandt,” JARVIS interjected. “He said something about a conference.”
“Oh.” Will blinked and grabbed his shirt. “That’s all right, then.” James in protective mode was a frightening thing, but James on what passed for a paid vacation for him could be a lot of fun. “Tell him I’ll be right up. Coming, Ethan?”
“I’ll be right behind you,” Ethan sighed, heading for the bathroom.
Will met up with Clint in the elevator. “Did you hear?” Clint asked immediately, bouncing up and down on his toes like a particularly overactive five-year-old. “James is in town!”
"Yeah, uh, JARVIS told me.” Will mentally shook his head over the oddity of having a self-aware computer butler, but apparently Tony Stark was just like that, if even half of what Clint told Will was to be believed.
The elevator doors opened, and Clint cheerfully hip-checked Will to one side to be first out into the kitchen. “Morning James!” Clint sing-songed, then stopped abruptly in the middle of Will’s exit. “Oh! Um, good morning?”
Will rolled his eyes and side-stepped Clint. “Morning,” he started, then did some blinking of his own.
James was indeed present, sitting calmly at a small breakfast bar. He was fully dressed for the day, with a cup of tea and the remains of what looked like a Danish in front of him. Sitting next to him was another suited man with a cup halfway to his lips, a devil-may-care smile, and an aura that said Yes, I’m every bit as dangerous as James, I just don’t bother to hide it as well.
“Be nice,” James murmured.
The other man snorted softly and sipped his tea. “I’m always nice, James.”
His accent was sharper than James’, but it was close enough to allow Will to place him. “Alec!” he blurted, seconds before Clint’s elbow caught Will in the side. And, okay, yeah, most people would probably be a little quicker to recognize their older brother’s long-term partner, but it wasn’t like they all worked on a regular schedule and got to meet up over the holdiays every year. James and Alec had only ever managed to coordinate their leaves for one family Christmas to date, and all Will remembered from that year was the hangover. That, and the way everyone had left hime to explain to the police that no, they had no idea what had caused those explosions, officer.
Alec and James were sharing a single, long-suffering look. “Any more of them, James, or just the two?” Alec asked.
“Agent Hunt is on his way up,” JARVIS announced.
“Hunt?” Alec raised his eyebrows. “That IMF puppy?”
James took a sip of tea. “He’s with Will.”
Alec considered this. “Shall I kill him?”
“I’ve already given him the talk.”
Will sputtered. “What talk?” Clint, ungrateful bastard that he was, was laughing. Will rounded on him, feeling somewhat betrayed; Clint was supposed to be his ally when James got overprotective. “This isn’t funny!”
“It wasn’t, no.” James might have smiled. “Clint’s man took the talk much better.”
Will’s jaw dropped. Fortunately for the state of family harmony, the elevator took that moment to open. Ethan made his way out and regarded the tableau with carefully concealed dismay.
“Morning, Ethan,” Clint jumped in, and Will was almost grateful enough to forgive Clint’s earlier laughter. “Sleep well?”
“Fine,” Ethan said carefully. He eyed Alec, wearing a look that was unfortunately familiar to Will; it was the what insanity is my boyfriend’s family springing on me now? look. “I’m Ethan Hunt.”
“Alec Trevelyan,” Alec returned.
Ethan blinked. “006?”
“But – ” Ethan stared. “But reports said you were KIA.” He stopped. “In 1986.”
Clint started laughing again, catching himself on the edge of the counter.
“Don’t be dense, Ethan, of course not,” Will said hastily, glaring daggers at Clint and gesturing soothingly at James before his brother could overreact. Alec was watching them both over the rim of his teacup as if they were some of the best entertainment money could buy. Will’s hands slowed as a thought occurred to him. “But… wasn’t there something… back in the nineties? With a stolen Soviet missile system and a big dustup in Cuba?”
“Alec wasn’t in Cuba,” James said, giving both of his younger brothers a Look.
“And neither was James,” Alec continued cheerfully. “And neither was the CIA, nor anyone from any other agencies whatsoever. Especially not yours.”
“And definitely nobody died,” James said firmly.
“Agent Coulson is on his way up,” JARVIS announced.
“Excellent!” Clint said, sensing a chance to escape and grabbing it. “I’ll make pancakes.” He wandered around the breakfast bar and started rooting in the enormous, stainless-steel fridge.
Ethan was still eyeing Alec and James warily. Will’s self-preservation instinct tried to argue for leaving the topic alone and helping Clint with the pancakes, but if he didn’t say something Ethan would. And he was curious. “So since there wasn’t a mission and there weren’t any agencies involved and definitely there weren’t any deaths – what, er, wasn’t the point?”
“Mole hunt,” a calm voice said from behind Will. Coulson strode around them towards the breakfast nook, giving everyone his usual bland smile.
“You were involved with that?” Ethan wanted to know.
Coulson shrugged. “Only peripherally. MI6 needed an expert for a long infiltration job; we loaned them a specialist.” He reached past Clint and snagged something from a bowl on the counter.
“Hey, I’m cooking with those!” Clint yelped.
“There’s plenty more,” Coulson chided.
"So, mole hunt,” Will said, at least partly to head off his brother being cute with his husband. Not that he didn’t like Phil – or Clint, for that matter – but he still hadn’t had any coffee. He tried to surreptitiously look around for the coffee maker.
“Mmm.” Alec sipped his tea forbiddingly.
“Those missions are always clusterfucks,” Ethan offered. He snaked an arm around Will’s waist, and Will could feel the grip of Ethan’s weapon pressing into the small of his back. That wasn’t a euphemism, much as he could wish otherwise, just a fact of life with Ethan Hunt. James was giving Ethan what Will knew to be an amused but tolerant look for carrying concealed so poorly. “I was on the wrong side of one once in Prague.”
“Prague?” Will demanded, twisting to look at Ethan. He’d never heard Ethan mention Prague before. Now it was coming up in a conversation about James’ partner’s death – not death – death – whatever. Will felt a headache coming on.
“Long story,” Ethan sighed. He let Will go and reached around Clint to grab an orange from the bowl of fruit on the breakfast bar. “And not very good breakfast conversation.”
“Better than a nine-year undercover,” James muttered pointedly.
Alec sighed a little. “I really am sorry about that. And M did tell you.”
“Eventually.” James stared into his teacup. Alec looked dismayed. Phil actually frowned guiltily. Clint, setting milk and eggs down on the counter, started fiddling with his wedding band.
Will looked from James to Clint and realized he was one wrong IMF mission away from completing the family trifecta. Which, no. Just… no.
“Ethan.” Will turned around and grabbed his boyfriend’s hands. “If you ever, and I mean ever, fake your own death without telling me first, I will hunt you down and kill you for real. I won’t care how good of an excuse you have, or how many lives it will save, or from how high the orders came. Do you understand me?”
“…yes?” Ethan offered weakly.
“Well, now that that’s settled,” Clint said with forced cheer. “Who else wants blueberries in their pancakes?”
“Agent Romanoff is on her way up,” JARVIS announced.
Will speared the last of his pancakes and looked up at Clint. “Should we have saved her some?”
“There’s a stack for her in the warming tray.” Clint gave Will a pitying look. “You don’t get between Nat and her pancakes.”
Behind him came the sound of the elevator doors opening. Across the table, James’ gaze sharpened. “Natalya!” he said, sounding both surprised and delighted. “Haven’t seen you in ages! How have you been?”
“Fine, fine,” the new arrival answered, waving casually at them and heading unerringly for the warming tray. “Good morning, everyone. Hi, Alec. You get out of that antenna dish okay?”
“Good as new,” Alec told her, something roguish curling up at the edges of his mouth.
“Thanks for the assist,” James added warmly.
“Anytime,” Romanoff told them both, and to Will’s surprise, she actually smiled. He hadn’t been sure the infamous Black Widow could smile. Maybe it was the pancakes. She set her plate down on the table and drew up a chair.
Ethan had his fork halfway to his mouth, looking from the red-headed Russian specialist to the suave British agents in some perplexity. “Okay, I’ll bite. Where on Earth did you guys meet?”
Alec grinned. “Cuba.”