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[personal profile] vanillafluffy
Title: Matched Set
Authored by: [ profile] vanillafluffy
Pairing/spoilers: Gen
Rating/Work-safeness: Gen. PG-ish
Summary: Will would never have let his brother join Outcome – but he wasn’t there. Backstory happens.

Matched Set

Gstaad is bustling in January, and with their latest mission accomplished, it’s time to meet the team for drinks by the fireside and a convivial evening before they go their own ways. The lodge elevator stops on its way down from the penthouse and William Brandt walks in. Ethan Hunt blinks, because William Brandt is already standing next to him. The newcomer’s gaze slides over Ethan and locks on his companion. “Billy?!”

Brandt stands rigidly, staring back at him. “You’re dead,” he says in disbelief.

His doppelganger grins, an expression Brandt doesn’t often use. “Not so much.”

For a dead guy, he looks damn good. His hair is slightly longer than Brandt’s, and in contrast to the agent’s neat grey suit, he’s après-ski casual in a mossy green pullover sweater and slim black jeans under a black leather coat. Even though the wrapping is different, the similarity between the two men is striking, down to the little notch appearing between both sets of eyebrows.

Ethan recalls the Latvarian job, when Brandt had reminisced about his dead twin brother. Supposedly, he’d been killed in Iraq. There’s always a chance this guy is a ringer, but looking at the two of them, Ethan’s gut tells him this guy is the real thing.

“I can’t believe it,” Brandt says, regarding the other man at length. “My god, Kenny, what’s it been, thirty years?”

The other man nods. His stance is more relaxed than his brother’s, but he’s still alert, not standing flat-footed but poised for action, as if expecting trouble is a habitual concern.

“Going to introduce us?” Ethan says mildly to Brandt.

“Sorry. Ethan, this is my brother Kenneth Kitsom. Ken, my colleague, Ethan Hunt.”

Kitsom extends his hand with a smile. Ethan is the recipient of a firm handshake—not the kind that tries to break bones, but no limp fish, either. “Good to meet you.” They even sound alike.

“If you two want to go catch up, I don’t mind,” Ethan offers. “We can get drinks any time.” Brandt nods. He looks dazed

Ethan gets out of the elevator in the lobby, and as soon as the doors have closed behind the pair, he reaches into his pocket and thumbs on the control that brings Brandt’s ear-bud live. He wants to be a fly on the wall for this conversation, partly for his partner’s safety, but mostly out of sheer curiosity.

The elevator readout shows it going back up and stopping on four, which was where Kitsom had gotten on. A soft chime as the elevator reaches its floor, a momentary lull and the hushed buzz of a door being keyed open. The pause gives Ethan time to find a quiet corner of the lobby to loiter in as he eavesdrops.

“This isn’t going to cause you work problems, is it?” Given the distance from the mike, it’s Kitsom speaking.

“No, we’re flying out in the morning, we were just going to hang out in the lounge.”

“I’m on a red-eye myself. So, what have you been up to? Can I get you anything? A beer, some Scotch?” There’s the sound of ice cubes rattling into a glass. “I take it Mom remarried? I wanted to find you, but the trail went cold.”

“Thanks. She did, and my stepfather adopted me, changed my name. I’m William Brandt now. I saw an obituary for dad online—we were nine when he died?”

“Yup. He was changing the oil in his truck and just fell over…poor bastard had a massive aneurysm, he was dead before I could even get to the phone.”.

“That must’ve been rough. What did you do?”

“Ended up in a group home. Joined the army. Got a little banged up.” There’s a tone of dry amusement in Kitsom’s voice…his brother often makes light of disappointments the same way, Ethan knows.

“I Googled you, it said you were dead.”

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, Billy. What about you, where did you end up after she ran off with you?” There’s a bitter edge to the pronoun; clearly their mother hasn’t been forgiven by the child she left behind.

“She had family in Rhode Island, we stayed with them, then she met Hartley at the Newport Jazz Festival. He lived in Massachusetts; that’s where they lived after they got married. Of course, I got shipped off to prep school so the newlyweds could bill and coo without me underfoot, but I shouldn’t complain—he did get me into his alma mater, Dartmouth, as a legacy.”

“Nice work if you can get it. Tell me something, Billy—how well do you know Ethan Hunt?”

This is definitely worth being a fly on the wall for, thinks the subject of that question.

“We’ve worked together for years.”

“Do you trust him?”

“With my life, and vice versa, why?”

There’s a moment of silence that draws out until Ethan’s ready to go upstairs and shake an answer out of him. “I don’t know how he’s represented himself to you, or what the nature of your work is,” Kitsom says, choosing his words with care, “but that man is known to be in the employ of a government agency that uses extreme measures to police threats against the U.S. and the world.”

That’s completely accurate, and Ethan is wondering how the hell this random stranger knows it, when Brandt speaks up. “How would you know?”

Blunt, but to the point.

“Have you ever heard of a government program called ‘Outcome’?”

Ethan’s memory daisy-chains Outcome to Blackbriar and Treadstone, and he has to consciously close his mouth. He feels like a jolt of static electricity just zapped him.

Brandt recognizes it, too. “Outcome? Jesus, Kenny—don’t tell me you were involved in that mess!”

There’s a short bark of laughter. it sounds like Brandt’s most scornful laugh, except it’s at the edge of mike range. “Involved? You could say that. Involved right down to my DNA. After I was wounded in Iraq, they came to me and offered to fix me up better than ever, and I took them up on it. Except there were some strings attached, and I had a few close calls before I got away from them.”

“Oh god, if I’d only known—I never would have let you go through with it.”

“Let me?” Kitsom gives another mocking laugh. “They thought I was an orphan, no next of kin—if they’d known about you, I’d be bagging groceries or asking people if they want fries with that. See, while you were off at boarding school, there was only one way for me to get out of Podunk, Utah. I played high school football. I was good. I was inline for a juicy scholarship at UCLA, then I took one hit to the head too many.”

He’s angry, and Ethan can understand why. These days, head trauma is a more widely recognized hazard of contact sports, but a couple decades ago, not so much.

“The scholarship went away, and the only thing left was to enlist. I found a recruiter who wasn’t above fudging my scores to get me in, and that’s how I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time for Outcome to resurrect me as Aaron Cross. And if you know what’s good for you, Billy, you’ll forget you ever heard that name, because Aaron Cross is a dead man too—and so is anyone who knows him.”

The silence is profound. Ethan draws a deep breath, lets it go slowly. It’s been a few years, but he remembers the uproar when Jason Bourne kicked over the apple-cart and revealed some of the country’s most under-handed Black Ops.

“What did they do to you?” Brandt sounds sad and almost as if he’s afraid of the answer.

“A little tinkering,” Kitsom’s tone is off-handed. “Increased my stamina, my healing ability, things like that. Also bumped my IQ up by a few decades, revved up my problem-solving skills, what they call ‘neural flexibility’. Good stuff. It kept me alive when they were trying to wipe out all traces of the program when the business with Bourne went public.”

“I’m so sorry.” Ethan hears real regret in his partner’s tone.

“What the hell for? I’m a lot better off than I would’ve been without Outcome.” Another rattle of ice cubes, and Kitsom asks, “I’m presuming if you’re working with Hunt and you know what he does, that you’re with IMF?”

There’s no sound from Brandt, but he must have twitched, because his brother chuckles. “Not bad. They have a pretty good reputation, over all…. You look like you need another drink, Billy. Here you go….”

There’s a clink of glasses. “Here’s to family,” Brandt says.

It’s the damnedest thing, Ethan thinks, that brothers separated so long ago have come together with so much in common, including a decidedly uncommon profession. If he’s survived the repercussions of Outcome, Kitsom must be very, very good at what he does. Ethan needs to find out what the man is doing now, and what his plans for the future are, because there are quite a few applications he can think of where a matched set of operatives—no masks necessary—would come in really handy.

So much for an evening of rest and relaxation, he thinks, going to find Benji. Tonight R&R stands for research and recruitment.


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