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Never Mind the Darkness, We Still Can Find a Way

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Ethan is startled awake at two a.m, when the very edge of his consciousness registers something’s not right. It takes two minutes, with adrenaline coursing through his blood, chasing away any trace of sleep, before he can accept that there is no threat. Another minute passes before he lets himself relax and slide the gun back under his pillow. Fifteen seconds after that, he realizes what woke him in the first place. He had rolled over in his sleep and been left curling into a cooling indentation and not a warm body. Will’s gone, stealthily enough that Ethan never noticed. It’s not the first time he’s done this, it won’t be the last, but this is the first time Ethan’s woken before Will returns. Usually he wakes later, when Will's trying to sneak back into bed.

He feels around for his clothes and dresses in the faint street light visible from beyond the flimsy curtains. He stumbles over Will’s shoes on his way to his own, and wonders what it was that made the other man walk out barefoot.

It takes him five minutes to locate his wayward partner, and even then it’s only by accident. He’s checked three of the five usual places Will goes when they’re in a hotel and he needs to be anywhere but with the team. He’s walking past the lounge when he hears the last notes of a familiar song being played on the piano, and he has to stop. There’s barely a pause before another song begins, one that he recognizes right away, and he creeps in, curious at who would be playing.

Ethan recognizes Will instantly, even with his back to him, bent over the piano and coaxing the melody out of the keys. He’s almost at the bench when he realizes Will’s singing along softly and he doesn’t dare move out of fear that Will might stop. He didn’t know the other man could play the piano, didn’t know he could sing, and definitely didn’t know he was so good at both.

He’s lost in thought, Will’s piano playing and voice a soothing background noise, and it takes him several seconds to realize it’s stopped.

“How long are you going to stand there?” Will asks.

“Depends,” Ethan says.


“How long you’ll play.”

Will looks over his shoulder, a faint smile ghosting across his face, and he scoots over on the bench. “Sit.”

Ethan does, settling close enough to feel Will’s body heat, but not enough to impede his movements. “You’re good,” he says after a moment. “And you sound better than Axl,” he adds.

Will snorts a laugh. “Don’t knock Axl.” He leans towards Ethan a moment, just enough to bump their shoulders together, and settles his fingers back over the keys. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Obviously.” Ethan takes a risk, lays his hand on the small of Will’s back, and is rewarded by a subtle shift of Will’s body into the touch. “Woke up, you were gone.” He knows he sounds a bit petulant, but this was supposed to be two days of uninterrupted rest for the team, and jerking awake in the middle of the night at the lack of body heat is not Ethan’s idea of rest.

“Sorry,” Will apologizes, and he means it. He hadn’t expected Ethan to wake, to even notice he was gone. Of course, this is Ethan Hunt and he notices practically everything, so maybe he should have thought of that.

“S’okay.” Ethan rubs his thumb over the ridge of Will’s spine. “Play more?”

Will thinks a moment and begins another song, even sings along, and Ethan knows this one too.

“Better than Vince Neil too,” he murmurs, and grins as Will rolls his eyes, but doesn’t pause in his playing.

This is still new to them, both trying to figure out what to share, what to hold close to the chest a while longer. They both have so many defenses in place that forming this relationship sometimes feels more dangerous than leading a marching band through no man’s land. There are days where one comment rips open a wound, unintentional but still painful, and there are days where just the other’s presence is like fiberglass under their skin. But there are good days, lazy days where they don’t have to go save the world, they’re not picking at each other to see what happens, and Ethan’s come to accept the rough days, knowing they’ll lead to better ones.

He imagines getting a piano for the little house that’s slowly becoming theirs, imagines having Will go through every song he knows, and asking him to learn new ones, then asking him to teach him. For now, he’s content to place this night into the good days category, to let the outside world fall away, and he eventually begins to hum along.

Sleep can wait.