Because You're You
Michelle Perry

Brandt felt himself cringing inwardly at the sound of Ethan hurling in the bathroom. Ethan was his leader, the strongest man... the most secure man Brandt had ever met. Times like this were almost surreal. Those (admittedly rare) moments when Ethan's shields, which seemed to be as tough as twenty feet of solid steel, would suddenly crack and reveal another side of him.

Brandt slowly stood and walked to the bathroom, being careful to make some noise as he walked. He'd never known Ethan to take well to being snuck up on - especially not at these times. Ethan was on his knees, crouched over the toilet bowl. There was a sheen of sweat over his bare, muscular back. Those muscles shifted as his stomach continued to heave.

Brandt stepped into the room and crouched behind him. "I'm here, Ethan," he said, putting his hand on Ethan's back. He meant it partly as a heads-up, but the shudder under his hand let him know that Ethan felt the other, more emotional meaning as well.

Ethan began taking deep, slow breaths almost immediately. Brandt moved his hand in slow, rhythmic circles on Ethan's back as he calmed down. Slowly, he began to relax, and his breathing regulated. He didn't move right away, though. After a while, Ethan sat up sat back on his haunches, and shook his head. He let out a mirthless chuckle. "Wow," he whispered.

After a moment, Ethan turned around, and sat facing Brandt. He had a serious expression on his face - brows furrowed and mouth turned down slightly. He shook his head slightly. "Why do you trust me?"

Brandt started, taken aback. "Wha- why? Why do I trust you?"

"Yes, Brandt, why?"

He frowned, still confused by the question. "Because you're... trustworthy," he said.

"That's circular," Ethan said.

Brandt sighed. "Because... because you're good... no, you are an expert at what you do, and what you do is save the world and keep yourself and your team alive."

Ethan practically winced. "Not always," he said.

Brandt nodded. "I know." He watched Ethan's face - his eyes clouded, thinking about some team member he'd lost in the past. Or maybe about the dream that had resulted in him sitting on the bathroom floor questioning his life choices.

It was strange to be the one who was sure this time. Brandt had doubted himself for so long, and even after Ethan had wiped away those doubts, it was still in his nature to second guess everything. To pick at things until he was absolutely positive nothing could go wrong if circumstances remained constant. That's what had made him such a great analyst. But now, the man who always seemed to operate on blind faith (but who really plotted and planned with the calculation of a master analyst himself), was the one sinking into that dangerous region of doubt and guilt.

"Ethan." He waited for Ethan's eyes to focus on him. "Every single agent who answers a call has a choice. Just like you do when you first get your assignment. We don't have to say yes. Don't have to accept. And if we do, we know that we're risking our lives and we walk into that with eyes open, just like you do. That's part of what we're accepting when we accept the mission. Right?" Ethan gave him a slow nod.

"The reason I always accept, every time my phone rings? It's you." Ethan's lips pursed and he shifted uncomfortably, but he kept his eyes on Brandt. "It's because I know that whatever we do, it's either the best thing we can do, or it's the only thing we can do. It's because I know that you're not going to stop until our goal is accomplished, but you're going to do everything you can to keep us alive." Brandt moved closer to Ethan, so he was sitting next to him, their legs touching. He put a hand on Ethan's leg, and squeezed. "It's because I know that if something did happen to one of us... if we got captured, you'd come after us no matter what. And if one of us got killed..." He paused, feeling Ethan's body tense. "Well... you'd be in here puking your guts out. Right after you crushed the fucker who did it."

He smiled, and he was glad to see Ethan smile in return. Brandt leaned forward, reached out and took hold of the back of Ethan's neck. He pulled Ethan forward and kissed him. Then Brandt smiled and looked Ethan in the eye. "Does that answer your question?"

Ethan smiled again. "Guess so."


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