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shipmateee

[fic] post hoc ergo propter hoc

post hoc ergo propter hoc
hunt/brandt ; mission: impossible - ghost protocol ; 2557 words ; mature
| Five times Ethan kisses Brandt and one time he doesn't. Or: How Brandt becomes Ethan's good luck charm through no fault of his own. |

a/n: fill for this prompt on the mi4 kink meme.

also at ao3 here.



one.

"Now, don't get panicky on me."

Ethan's shooting quick glances over his shoulder and Brandt has to fight the unbearable urge to turn, to seek out whatever threat is hovering behind him.

He mentally counts to three, lets out a slow breath and locks his trust into Ethan.

He has a what? on the tip of his tongue when Ethan presses in close, one hand settled comfortably on the nape of his neck.

The kiss is short and swift and Brandt doesn't really think much about it at all. Which is certainly a first.

He's panicking, though. Definitely panicking. For sure.

They're supposed to be impersonating guests at a gala held in Florence, waiting for their planted art dealer to set a fake trail for their mark to follow. It was supposed to be simple. Low-risk. Easy, one could even say. This was not part of the plan.

This was not part of the plan at all.

Then again, in the short time they've been acquainted, Brandt's never really known Ethan to stick to any plan.

When they separate Ethan's hand remains where it is, but his focus is clearly elsewhere, sizing up the two guards (oh) that had just discretely slunk down a staircase to the left of them. One turns and shoots a suspicious look at Brandt, at the line of his jacket where his Glock is hiding beneath.

Ethan circles round and shields Brandt from view in a deceptively proprietary stance. Brandt holds his breath until the sound of the guard's footsteps fade.

Ethan's thumb absentmindedly strokes half circles against Brandt's skin as he scans the room, and his tux suddenly feels one size too small.

"Well, that was lucky," Benji says through the com.

"Lucky, indeed," murmurs Ethan.


two.

The second time it happens, it's a similar situation as the first, the team in need of a quick distraction and Brandt thinks he knows what's coming.

He expects a soft, barely anything there kiss. He expects gentle hands. He expects to walk away unruffled.

This is not what he gets.

"Okay, she's spotted you, divert attention. Don't look like a threat."

Jane's voice is mostly calm but there's an undercurrent beneath her tone that sounds strained through the com link. Brandt sees her moving through the crowd below, tracking the target across the room. She slips between the guests as easily as the silk of her dress slips between her fingers. Brandt's mind goes blank in terms of ideas.

Ethan's eyes sharpen when he turns to him, like he's focusing, cutting out everything else. Brandt flushes from the feeling of being caught under his gaze.

He catches Brandt's chin and tilts his head and Ethan takes control of the kiss like they've been doing this forever, like he knows how to take Brandt apart and put him back together again, easy.

He panics.

He stamps it down, regulates his breathing, forces himself to relax. Ethan takes the in, and licks into his mouth. Brandt lets out a soft sound in the back of his throat, prays it was too quiet to be picked up by Ethan.

His grip goes white knuckled on the hand rail surrounding the upper tier of the ballroom. Ethan slides his hand over, brushes his thumb across Brandt's knuckles in what he realizes is meant to be a soothing manner.

Ethan presses him back against the nearest pillar, slides a knee between Brandt's and fits his hand against the small of Brandt's back. Ethan uses the leverage to grind against him and oh fuck, this is meant to be a distraction for the assassin, not for them.

Ethan's hand slides underneath his jacket, fingers splaying across the cotton underneath and Brandt shivers from the heat of them. He feels Ethan pause before he's pressing in impossibly closer, heat radiating off him like a furnace and––

"Coast is clear," Jane says, and wait, what, no.

But Ethan's already pulling away, stepping back, and straightening his tux. He slides a hand through his hair and grins at Brandt almost obnoxiously before turning back to survey the room.

"Right, phase three," and Ethan's back in business mode, just like that. It takes Brandt a moment but he's right there with him a minute later, kiss all but forgotten.

(A couple hours later he honestly has forgotten about it until Benji says lewdly, "Well, someone got lucky in more ways than one tonight." Brandt says nothing and merely raises an eyebrow, but when Ethan and Jane's backs are turned he punches Benji in the shoulder. Hard.)


three.

Ethan's bleeding out all over the concrete.

Every breath is shallow and hitching and Brandt's hands are shaking where they're pressed against the wound in Ethan's side, stemming the blood flow as much as he can, which is apparently not at all, because everything surrounding them is stained a dark carmine, and Jane is still seven minutes out, and while all immediate threats have already been taken out, Ethan is dying, right here, right underneath his hands and he doesn't know how to fix this oh god––

"Hey," Ethan whispers.

Brandt can barely bring himself to meet his eyes, has to steel himself before looking up and, and.

Ethan's smiling. A small one, but it's there.

It's like his body is on autopilot, muscle memory and instinct, because his thumb is already brushing Ethan's cheekbone (leaving smears of blood, so dark, obvious, brands of guilt laid out across his skin), and he's leaning over him, smile skittering across his face before he can stop it.

"Hey."

How is this happening again, why does this always happen under his watch, god, he thought it would be different this time, he thought he could do this, people were relying on him, people trusted him––

Ethan chuckles wetly.

"Stop thinking."

Brandt watches the movement of his chest, counts every rise and fall, narrows his world down to Ethan.

"It'll be fine," Ethan murmurs.

He feels like a child, all of six years old again when he whispers, "How do you know?"

He feels Ethan's (cold, cold, freezing) fingers slide against his wrist, watches mute as Ethan uses what little strength he has to shift Brandt's hand from his cheek. Ethan's lips are slick with blood and when he presses the kiss to Brandt's palm it leaves a dark imprint on the skin there.

"You're my good luck charm, aren't you?"

Brandt looks down at him, bruised and bloody and broken (but still smiling, always fucking smiling) and he thinks am I?

Then Jane's at Ethan's side and Benji's at his shoulder and reality is crashing back in, noises and training and thoughts and he's going going going.

(It turns out fine. Ethan still has the scar, wrapping around his torso like a snake. Brandt can count on one hand the number of times he's lain awake in bed remembering the feel of blood-slick lips on his palm.)


four.

Another mission, another anonymous hotel room, and this time they're in Astana.

Ethan and Jane are going undercover, masks and all (which Benji continually reassures them "will work this time, I re-calibrated the machine and everything!", but Brandt's pretty much stopped believing a word he says these days), while he's been relegated to research.

Which is fine. That's totally fine. He's good at research, at finding the patterns in the chaos, the connections between the obscure and nonsensical. It's what he'd been doing most of his career before Ethan stepped into that car with the Secretary and fixed him with a look that said well, hello you seem like a challenge.

Ethan suddenly appears next to the arm of his chair.

"Brandt."

The tone of his voice makes Brandt feels a little like prey. It's not the most reassuring feeling.

"…Yes?" He responds tentatively.

That seems to be all the confirmation Ethan needs, because he's suddenly way beyond the perimeter of Brandt's comfort zone, one hand planted on the back of his chair and the other gently but firmly gripping his jaw.

Ethan kisses him right there, right in front of Benji, like it's no big deal, like it's a normal thing.

He thinks he might hear Benji make a short choking noise.

Ethan grins into the kiss, tilts his head, licks into Brandt's mouth, makes it dirty, like he doesn't give a fuck if there's an audience.

Brandt curls his fingers into the fabric of the armrests and swallows back a moan.

Ethan's fingers slip from his jaw. Brandt feels his thumb slide across his cheek briefly, before his fingers slip into his hair and Ethan uses the grip to maneuver Brandt how he wants.

He leans forward, papers falling from his lap to the floor, and fists a hand in Ethan's shirt for balance when Ethan tugs a little too roughly. Ethan makes a pleased growl in his throat, biting at his lower lip, and Brandt lets out an embarrassingly loud whimper at the sensation. He's mildly surprised when Ethan tongues the sting away as if in apology.

After that, it's a little slower, a little more soft and Brandt finds it difficult not to be disappointed when Ethan steals one final kiss before pulling away. He thinks that's the end of it until Ethan tugs him forward again, leans in close.

He feels Ethan's lips right against his ear, unconsciously shivers when he hears, "Wish me luck."

Ethan presses a hard kiss just at the underside of his jaw and steps away.

Brandt throat feels dry and he swallows, glancing at Benji who is pointedly looking at everything but him. He coughs, straightens his tie, lifts the papers from where they're scattered across the floor, and picks up right where he left off.

If his heart's beating a little too fast for him to concentrate for the first couple minutes, well.

(Eleven hours later, when the mission's complete and Ethan and Jane are only a little beat up, Ethan gives him a sharp look across the bar table and Brandt feels like something's just slipped out of his control.)


five.

"––drugged him with some kind of fancy version of sodium pentothal mixed with––"

"––maybe a form of hallucinogen––"

His head hurts.

A lot.

"––should be fine, the tests will tell us––

"––just sit with him––"

Did a door just close? His fingers grapple around. Scratchy sheets. Hospital bed?

"Will?"

Ethan. Good, that's nice. Warm. Safe.

Brandt smiles.

"C'mere," he says. His voice sounds a bit scratchy.

He hears a chair scrape across the floor (ow noise noise) and then Ethan's sitting next to his left, leaning forward, arms folded on his sheets.

He looks tired. There's a cut slicing up near his temple. Looks fresh.

He's not smiling.

"Hey. Stop it." Brandt tries for authoritative, but it comes out a little whiny. Same old, same old.

Ethan looks bemused, but there's a smile toying at the edge of his mouth and that's what Brandt wanted anyway, so.

The lamp casts a really soft, sleepy orange glow on the sheets. Mmm. He closes his eyes.

He feels something start to gently fiddle with his fingers, and when his eyes flicker open Ethan's threading his fingers through his own, then unthreading them, then just stroking his thumb across the knuckles, then he's tangling his own fingers with them again. On, off, on, off.

It's cute. Brandt would laugh if he didn't feel so hazy.

Then it reminds him of something.

"Hot. Cold. On. Off. Typical."

"Hm?" Ethan looks concerned.

And then it's like the dam breaks.

"What are you going to do with me, Ethan? You've already hooked me in. Is that it? Is it over now?"

What is he saying? He can't stop, he just keeps going, he's just so dizzy and frustrated and he needs to know why.

"Was it just a bit of fun? Are you done? Because I can't just…I just can't." Christ, his vision's blurring, is he crying? Fuck. He tries to blink it away.

Ethan's eyes are dark and solemn.

The silence in the room suddenly feels very loud.

"Do you want it to be over?" There's not a trace of inflection in Ethan's tone.

"I–" but then his thoughts are suddenly sluggish. It feels like ice is starting to slip through his veins.

He lifts his wrist and sees a clear liquid running into his wrist through a catheter. No, no, not the right time, not now.

He glances up at Ethan, but he's staring past him, staring through him, like he can't even look him in the eye.

The last thing Brandt takes in before he slips into unconsciousness is Ethan leaning close (close and warm and safe), brushing his lips against his cheek and murmuring softly, so soft that he almost doesn't hear,

"Sorry."


+ 1.

It's been awkward.

No, that's an understatement. Since he got checked out of the hospital, it's been horrifically agonising. The kind of awkward where you want to rip your own face off. Even Benji sort of hunkers off in the corner now, laptop screen a mini shield from the tension suffocating the air.

He wishes he didn't remember any of what happened in the hospital room, wishes the drugs had erased it all from memory, and that the whole experience could just drift off into the ether.

But no. Even if he wanted to fake it, Ethan could see it in his eyes the moment he walked into the room, and now–

And now.

Here they are.

God damn it.

Jane's eyeing him across the table where she's sifting through some files. He expects her to look accusatory, but she doesn't. Just a little sad.

Ethan's leaving in a moment, going to track their target in preparation for phase two of their plan.

It'll probably be dangerous. He'll probably come back a little battered. He'll probably keep ignoring Brandt until hell freezes over and okay, fuck this, this is stopping right now.

Ethan's already halfway down the hotel corridor when Brandt decides to go after him.

"Wait!" His voice sounds nervous, a little panicked. Like this is his last chance.

Ethan stops, but he doesn't turn. "What?"

A pause.

He swallows his pride and fear and everything else that's been holding him back until now, and quickly strides toward Ethan.

It's only when he hears footsteps that Ethan turns, and by then Brandt's already in front of him, one hand sliding into his hair and the other tugging him forward by his shirt, and Ethan could stop him but he lets it happen, lets Brandt lean in and kiss him.

It's not perfect, but it's what he wants, it's what he wants more than anything, and he's smiling when he realizes, whispering against Ethan's lips,

"I don't want it to be over."

And then Ethan's kissing back, hard and desperate, pressing him up against the wall, and he doesn't want to stop, he really doesn't, but the mission and–

"Wish me luck?"

Ethan's grinning, thumb running over Brandt's lower lip almost reverently. He looks happy. He looks really fucking happy and Brandt realises it's because of him, and he doesn't know what to think about that so he just kisses him again and again, tilts his head to whisper in his ear.

"Like you've ever needed luck."

Tags: [movie] mission impossible, [pairing] hunt/brandt, fic
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