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Chaos fic: Two Months 1/1

July 19th, 2011 (11:24 am)
Tags: ,

Title: Two Months

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: I wrote this because when it said Two Months Later in Proof of Life, I thought it was a bit of a cop out. Beta'ed by the awesome moogsthewriter . Don't look too closely at the CIA plotty aspect of this because yeah, I run pretty fast and loose with such things :)

Summary: Because a lot can happen in two months.

 

-o-

Day One

Given that Rick's been on some substantial missions, he has to admit that being on the lam doesn't feel nearly as noteworthy as he sort of thinks it should. All things considered, it's quite a fall from grace - from being a tried and true patriot to a wanted fugitive sold out by the very man who recruited him. But it just doesn't feel any different.

After all, they're still staying under aliases in locally owned motels. They're still conducting routine surveillance and putting out feelers with their assets and allies in the intelligence community. And given the ODS' sometimes questionable methods, the fact that all of it is off the books doesn't even bother Rick as much as it used to.

The rest of the team seems to be taking it all in stride, too. Michael still plots. Billy still tells stories. Casey still scowls. And Balshik still flirts unrepentantly. There are no leads on Simms just yet, and they're working on transportation out of the country with Salazar in tow, and somehow to Rick it seems like par for the course.

At the end of the day, when they settle in to regroup for the night, Rick still sleeps easy because he thinks, just a few more days, just a few weeks at best, and he'll be home to his life, just like it was before.

Day Four

Finagling their way out of the country is harder than Rick thinks it will be, and he has to admit, being smuggled in the hull of a boat is not a means of transportation he ever wants to repeat. It might not be so bad except that there's six of them, including one women who wants to get jiggy and a seething man in handcuffs who tries to kill them every chance he gets.

Worse, it's not exactly a short trip to Cuba.

After the first five hours passes, Rick is hot and sweaty and tired and when he's groped for the twenty-third time, he breaks.

"Can you please stop doing that?" he hisses to Balshik.

She blinks at him demurely. "Honey, that wasn't me," she says. "But if you'd prefer-"

Rick frowns. "Then who?"

There's a brief silence while everyone else exchanges a look. Then Billy looks apologetic. "Sorry, laddie," he says. "Had a bit of an itch but all these limbs in such a small space, I got a bit confused. Though I have to say, I didn't think that felt like my big toe."

Balshik waggles an eyebrow.

Rick begins to consider just how long this exile might be after all.

Day Seven

In Cuba, the reality of it starts to hit Rick.

"It doesn't bother you?" Rick asks Billy while they're figuring out where to go next. "I mean, we're fugitives. We can't go home."

Billy shrugs, and he seems genuinely indifferent to the severity of their current predicament. "I've been through worse."

"Really?" Rick asks. He's not sure if Billy just has more confidence in their ability to fix this or if the idea of being exiled simply doesn't bother him as much as it does Rick.

Billy looks at him, eyebrows up. "I was deported from my homeland," he says. "I think I understand a thing or two about public disgrace and banishment."

"Oh," Rick says, and considers that. "But you turned out okay, right?"

Billy grins at him, winking slightly. "I'm still here," he says. He pats Rick on the arm. "And besides, after you get kicked out of one country, it just keeps getting easier."

Rick nods before he realizes what Billy has actually said. Billy is already chuckling as he walks away, leaving Rick to wonder if Billy's telling him the truth or not.

Day Eight

After Cuba, they actually manage to get a flight to Africa, thanks to some false IDs that Michael pulls out of nowhere. How he has enough for all of them on such short notice is still a mystery to Rick, but considering that it gets them actual seats on an actual plane, he's not going to complain about the questionable lapse in legality.

Besides, what's a few more charges to add to his looming jail time back in the states?

As they're over the Atlantic, Rick thinks about life back home. He thinks about his family and what they know about the warrant for his arrest. He thinks about Blank's warnings and his job offer. He thinks about Adele and the date he'd never been able to accept.

Sighing, he reminds himself that two weeks isn't so bad. Two weeks is doable. He'll be home soon, and everything will be okay. They just need to secure Salazar, catch Simms, and they'll be on their way home.

Day Ten

The travel days are chaotic. They spend most of their time covering their tracks and changing their looks in order to avoid detection. There's no telling how seriously they are being pursued, and they don't want to take chances with getting caught before they have a chance to properly prepare themselves against the worst of the consequences.

Still, it's a whirlwind, and Rick finds himself struggling to keep up. He can't remember where they are or what language is being spoken. He's starting to blur his cover IDs together, and it's easier to smile and nod and let Michael do most of the talking when possible.

At one layover, Rick thinks he may pass out on his feet. Wearily, he sighs and looks at Michael who is still somehow alert and coherent.

Rick almost laughs. "Was Simms always such an ass?" he asks, and he knows the question is crass and probably unfair, but it's something that keeps going through his mind. He keeps thinking about the way he trusted the man and how easily Simms had cuffed him and left him there, regardless of the outcome.

Michael doesn't seem phased by the question. "Yes," he says. "But not in the way you're thinking."

Rick scoffs. "Are there multiple ways to be an ass?"

Michael looks at him pointedly. "Simms has always been stubborn and defiant," he says. "But he always used that to be doggedly loyal."

"You mean, until he screwed us."

Michael sighs. "He spent three years in captivity," he says. "That changes a man. There are many ways to break, Martinez."

Rick knows that's probably true, but he still can't wrap his mind around it. "Would you still do it?" he asks. "Would you still try to save him if you knew?"

"Of course," Michael says. "I probably would have put him on the first chopper back home instead of letting him continue to help, but I couldn't just leave him there."

Rick shrugs and just asks the next question because they're in a time zone Rick can't identify and it's not like his team is going to ditch him now, even if they are inclined. "Why not?"

Michael studies him for a long moment. "You know, four years ago, we were on a mission in Taiwan," he says.

"So?" Rick asks.

"The entire thing was a mess," Michael continues. "Casey, Billy, and I got captured. Billy caught a bullet and was going down with infection. We weren't being fed and were each being used intermittently for torture. We had no way out. It was the closest I think I've ever come to total despair on a mission."

Rick blinks.

"Simms was supposed to go back and get backup," he says. "It would have taken weeks to stage a proper mission. Billy would have been dead within three days, and there was no guarantee how much longer Casey or I would hold up in those conditions."

Rick breathes.

"Do you know who saved us?"

He swallows, because he knows.

"Simms," Michael says. "Risked everything including his career to come after us. He defied orders, broke international laws, but he came in and dragged us out. Billy was half dead but Simms refused to leave him. He made sure we all got out, damn the consequences to himself."

Rick has to look away.

"That was the man I knew," Michael says. "That was the man I rescued. Because that mission - as dramatic as it may sound - was just one of many. Time changes who people are, but it doesn't change what they've done. We owed it to him. I can't regret it."

Of course, Rick can't argue. Doesn't have the energy to even try. He just rests his head against the wall of the airport and stifles a yawn. He wonders how long it took Simms to change. How long it took for a good operative to compromise everything - even his friends.

Rick tells himself he'll never be like that. He'll never break.

He just hopes this time on the run doesn't prove him wrong.

Day Twelve

New Guinea is not what Rick expects it to be. From Africa, they crisscross a few locales until they arrive there via a contact of a contact Michael has. When they finally settle, they're running low on supplies and Michael says they'll have to start roughing it.

Rick thinks that means it'll be like camping.

Instead, they're in huts in the jungle with mosquitoes so bad that Rick thinks his entire body is literally covered in bites.

"A little time outdoors builds character," Billy tells him at night as they're all huddled close on slats beneath one of the two mosquito nets in the makeshift room.

"I've always said that character is overrated," Casey mutters back.

From across the room, Balshik sighs "I already told you, some of you boys are welcome over here with me," she says.

And no one sees fit to complain any more for the rest of the night.

Day Fifteen

Getting into New Guinea is easier than getting out.

"We need money," Michael says.

"Don't we have the counterfeiting expert right here?" Casey asks, glancing at Balshik. By now, they're all worse for wear. Their hair is greasy and their facial hair is ragged. Balshik has given up makeup and all of them have stopped noticing the foulness of the body odor.

Balshik holds up her hands. "When we went rogue, all my standard lines of credit dried up," she says. "I may have some bills to burn but at this point that's all they're good for. We spend any of them, we'll lay a trail for ourselves that even the yahoos over at the Treasury won't be able to foul up."

"So we'll have to look for more conventional methods, then," Billy surmises.

"What do normal people do to earn money anyway?" Casey asks.

Rick tilts his head. "Work."

Michael smiles at him. "I knew we had you around for a reason, Martinez."

Day Eighteen

"This is my spot," Casey tells Rick one morning by the fire.

Rick looks up at him, spooning some pathetic concoction that barely passes for food into his mouth. "What?"

Casey nods at the rock Rick is sitting on. "That's my spot."

Rick stares at him, wondering if this might be some kind of joke. "It's a rock."

"Yeah," Casey says, his annoyance clearly mounting. "And it's my rock."

"I didn't realize we were claiming the rocks," Rick says.

"Of course we're claiming the rocks," Casey say with a glower. "We're claiming the rocks and the bath schedule and sleeping positions."

"You do know this is just temporary, right?" Rick asks him.

Casey snorts. "Temporary is a very vague term," he says. "We're trying to recover our reputations after being sold out by our own director. I know you still have stars in your eyes about being the American hero, but there is a reality here."

Rick's stomach churns a little. He shakes his head. "We're getting out of here."

Casey sighs. "Of course we are," he concedes. "But I'm saying it's no easy task. I'm preparing myself for the long haul here, and I strongly suggest you do, too."

Rick considers this. He thinks about what that means. He thinks about weeks becoming months. Becoming years. It's all he can do not to shudder.

"Wonderful," Casey says. "Now that you've mentally considered the reality for the first time, get the hell off my rock."

Day Nineteen

When Rick gets back from work, he's so sticky that he wants to go rinse off immediately. They don't have running water, but they've set up a bath hut not far from their sleeping area. He doesn't think twice as he opens the door but when he catches a glimpse of Balshik lounging in the water, he turns away with a gasp.

Later, when Balshik is out and dressed, she saunters up to him at the fire. "Get a nice view?" she asks.

Rick fumbles for words. "Balshik, I'm so, so sorry."

She tuts. "Sweetie, we're on the lam together in New Guinea," she says. "It's going to happen."

Rick shakes his head. "Still, I mean. Balshik-"

She sighs, rolling her eyes. "At least call me Doris," she says.

If that means he doesn't have to see her naked again, it's a concession Rick can live with.

Day Twenty-Two

The good news about New Guinea is that most local employers don't care where you come from. They're not particularly concerned with legal documentation. Though, Rick figures, illegal immigration probably isn't much of a problem in these parts.

The bad news about New Guinea is that the work is neither glamorous nor pleasant. If they went to the city, they might be able to find something better, but with their remote location and limited transportation capabilities, working for a local farmer is about all they can manage.

It's hard work - and mostly manual. The hours are terrible and the pay is minuscule. They take shifts working, leaving two people back at all times to guard Salazar. Balshik works her contacts, keeping her feelers out there, but the rest of them have to stay committed to the daily grind so they can earn enough cash to make their way out.

Rick's in the fields, wiping his brow. He shakes his head and looks at Michael. "You really didn't know he'd turn on you?" he asks.

He doesn't need to give context. It's the question they'd all been thinking about even if none of them would give voice.

Michael just shakes his head. "Simms was a good operative."

"Who sold you out," Rick says. "He knew your asses were on the line and he walked off anyway after you risked everything to get him out."

Michael shrugs. "He was in captivity for a long time."

"You were his team," Rick says. "You went back for him."

Michael looks at him. "It took us three years," he says plainly. "A lot can change in three years."

"So you're not mad at him?" Rick asks, truly curious.

"If we'd done the mission right, this never would have happened," Michael says. He pulls out his canteen, taking a drink. "Your team is like family, Martinez. No matter what they do, they're still a part of you."

"Yeah," Rick agrees. "But I still have cousins that I could do without."

Michael actually laughs at that, a real laugh that Rick's not sure he's heard before. He nods. "Me, too," he says as his chuckles taper off. "Problem is, you'd still go after them, no matter what, wouldn't you?"

Rick considers that. He sighs. "Yeah," he says. "I guess I would."

Day Twenty-Four

On the way back to the hut with Casey, Rick feels like his feet are going to fall off. "This has got to be the worst mission we've ever been on."

"Considering it's not really a mission at all, I'm not sure I agree," Casey returns.

Rick shakes his head. "Fine, but it's still pretty bad."

Casey doesn't look at him. Sets his jaw. "Bad is being captured by North Koreans and tortured for two weeks straight," he says.

Rick's eyes are wide. "Casey, I'm sorry-"

Casey turns to him, annoyed. "I'm not saying it happened to me," he says. "Only an idiot gets captured in North Korea."

Rick's mouth opens.

"I'm just saying that no matter how bad things seem-"

"They can always be worse," Rick concludes. "I know. I try to tell myself that."

Casey shakes his head. "No, I was going to say that no matter how bad things seem, you're likely to experience worse someday so enjoy it while you still have it relatively good."

It's backward advice maybe, and Rick's not sure it actually makes him feel better.

Day Twenty-Nine

It's hot and it's lonely. Rick's tired and he's barely recognizable. He doesn't want to sleep in a hut and he doesn't want to swat mosquitoes as a hobby. He's tired of checking for snakes every time he digs a hole to pee.

He wants to go home, to his small apartment and his crappy desk. He wants to see his mother, he wants to eat real food. He wants to see Adele.

He wants to hold Adele. He wants to touch her and tell her that he loves her.

It comes as a revelation.

He loves her.

He's been away almost a month and she's the only fantasy that's still worth holding on to. She's what makes it worth it. She's all he wants and he loves her.

It's a bittersweet realization. To know it and be so sure and not be able to tell her at all.

Day Thirty

Rick hates it here. Rick hates everything about it. He hates that he got on the plane with the ODS to rescue a man he should have let rot. He hates that he's been gone for a month and that everything he may have worked for is gone.

He hates the jungle. He hates the way Billy sings as he works. He hates Casey's meditation techniques and he hates Michael's teeth grinding at night. He hates the way Doris ogles him and he hates this entire damn mission.

And he hates that no one seems to hate it as much as he does.

Day Thirty-One

Rick's on perimeter duty, and it hasn't been a good day. He's had to pull a snake out of his shirt and almost got bit by a monkey he can't identify. His left shoe is rubbing his heel raw and his underwear is almost too tattered to wear.

Work is hard. Maintaining the compound isn't much better. The food is horrible. Rick's exhausted.

When he gets home, he wants to curl up in a pile and sleep. Because if he's sleeping, then he's not dwelling on how completely awful he feels and how much he misses life in America.

He comes into camp and grunts a hello. He sits down in the hut and starts to get himself undressed when Billy walks in.

"Good evening there, Rick," he says, jovial as ever.

Rick scowls at him.

Billy winces. "Is someone having a bad day?" he asks.

"Try a bad month," he says.

"Ah," Billy says with a knowing nod. "I admit, it can be a bit of a strain, being so far away from all that is familiar and good."

"A strain?" Rick asks and stops to look up at the Scottish operative in total incredulity. "I haven't talked to my girlfriend in a month. I haven't had a real shower in a month. I'm working menial labor after spending a lifetime training for the most elite job the government has to offer. I've dedicated everything I have to a country that wants to arrest me and put me in prison. So I think it's really more than a strain."

Billy actually looks duly regretful. "I know, lad," he says. "It's an awful lot to ask of anyone, especially a young agent like yourself when it was never your fight."

That part stings, too. That he risked his life and reputation for a man who could have taken his job but took his freedom instead. That he followed his team as blindly as they followed after Simms. That this hellhole is all he has to look forward to now, day in and day out, no reprieve in sight.

"Yeah," Rick says, more than somewhat spitefully. "It is an awful lot to ask and yet you all ask it of me anyway. It's like, all I ever do it work and work to prove myself to you guys and now look at me! A tried and true proud member of the ODS now."

Billy's brow furrows. "Despair happens to the best of us," he says softly. "I've been there. Trust me."

Rick quirks an eyebrow. "Trust you? That's how I ended up here."

Billy nods, pursing his lips. "Tell you want," he says. "Sleep on it and see you how feel in the morning. I often find a good night's sleep is all I need to be refreshed and recharged."

Rick doubts that and he's still glaring when he falls asleep.

Day Thirty-Two

In the morning, he finds himself alone in the hut. The mosquito net is neatly arranged around his sleeping area and there's a package on his pile of belongings along the wall.

Curious, Rick goes and looks. It's just a box folded shut and Rick pops the top open and looks inside.

There's a pillow there, with a waterproof cover and real down inside. There's also a package of underwear and a new pair of shoes.

For a second, all Rick can do is stare.

Then, all he can do is smile as he gets ready for the day.

Day Thirty-Four

Rick wakes up to singing. He rolls over on his portion of the floor and sees Billy serenading no one as he gets dressed. He turns around and Rick realizes just how naked Billy is.

"Oh, God!" Rick says.

Billy grins at him. "After a month on the lam, you still manage to retain your modesty," Billy says. He nods. "Good for you. I like a man who can stick to his ideals even under the most extreme of conditions."

On the floor next to him, Casey grunts. "Billy is always looking for reasons to strut around naked," he says.

"Just because I am comfortable with my body does not mean that I am some kind of freak, let me assure you," Billy says as he pulls on more clothes. "You have to find the silver lining, is all. And the freedom to eschew normal dress codes is one of the few perks about this type of living."

"I'm not sure I'd count it as a perk," Rick admits, the image of Billy still fresh.

"Give it time, lad," Billy croons. "We'll break you of it yet."

Rick doesn't know if it's good or bad that he actually sort of hopes they're right.

Day Thirty-Six

When they get back from work, Balshik is standing over the fire proudly. There's something crackling and it smells strangely good. Of course, the fact that they've been eating rice and insects for a week straight might have something to do with that.

"Good Lord, Doris," Billy says as he slings his pack down. "You've become domestic."

She looks at him pointedly. "Don't get any crazy ideas, Scotty," she says.

"So then there is no reason for this sudden burst of kindness?" Billy asks as he leans over the fire and gives it a sniff.

"I figured there was cause for celebration," she says.

Billy frowns.

Rick says, "What for?"

Michael comes out of the hut, Casey not far behind. "Because I managed to find us a transport out of here," Michael says, holding up a wad of cash as he comes near the fire.

Casey rounds it with him and offers something of a smile. "To Poland," he says.

Rick's eyes go wide.

Billy claps his hands. "That is splendid news!"

"You mean we get to leave this place?" Rick asks, in total disbelief.

"What, you mean you don't like it here?" Michael says, with mocking innocence.

Rick is almost too exhausted to glare at him. For not officially being on the job, Rick feels like he's never worked harder.

"In some ways, I've found it oddly refreshing," Casey says. "Fewer distractions to clutter my mind. I feel like I am more on my game than ever."

"Which is good," Michael says, "because we'll need to be back on our game in full force. No more farm work. We need to set up a remote base and secure Salazar for the long haul."

"And then we can refocus all our efforts on catching a certain former ally," Billy says.

"All of which gets us one step closer home," Balshik says with a satisfied grin. She pulls up something from the fire and puts it on a plate. "Okay, boys, who wants the first bite?"

Rick's in such good spirits that he accepts the plate. It's not until after he's eaten half of it that he thinks to ask, "Hey, what is this?"

Balshik smiles salaciously. "You know those bats bothering the last few nights?"

Rick chews slowly. "Yeah, so?"

"They were our sacrificial lambs to enjoy this occasion," she says.

Rick feels his stomach churn.

She grins. "Bon appetit."

Day Thirty-Eight

They leave New Guinea on a chartered plane. They have new fake IDs in hand and they've all donned their best clothes for the occasion. When they touch down in Poland, Rick takes a long whiff of the air and smiles.

Michael climbs out after him. "Don't enjoy it yet, Martinez," he warns. "We still have a ways to go."

Rick knows that's true, but he still can't help but feel like this is one step closer to home.

Day Forty

Finding a location isn't too hard and they put down the last of their money to buy it and set up shop. There are a lot of details to iron out, including a security network with no capital investment and arranging a secure location for Salazar during the next (and hopefully last) leg of the mission.

Doris is preening with her ability to take showers, and they all seem to be enjoying small feats such as actual beds and running water. Billy is working through some connections to get them off-the-books work in the meantime, and Rick has been tasked with setting up Salazar's new home.

Getting it in order feels a little strange. Over the last month, they've dragged Salazar with them but kept their contact with him to a minimum. While he knows his teammates and Doris better than ever, Salazar is still a mystery to him, one that he's not keen on cracking. He just wants the man in prison so he doesn't have to be.

And yet, here Rick is, making sure his bed is safe and comfortable and checking the accommodations.

"Doesn't it feel weird to you?" Rick asks Casey, who is helping him with the finishing touches.

"Being in Poland or the fact that we're finally in clean clothes again?" he asks.

Rick frowns. "I mean, setting up a room for Salazar."

"Unless you wanted to bunk with him, I think it seems pretty reasonable," Casey says.

Rick pauses. "But look at this place."

Casey barely slows down and eyes Rick warily.

"It's just so nice," he says. "You saw the place where he kept Simms."

"Yeah," Casey says gruffly. "I seem to remember it."

"So doesn't part of you want to do the same to him?" Rick asks.

Casey shrugs. "Of course," he says. "But we're the good guys."

"We're fugitives who were sold out by our own government," Rick reminds him. "Salazar may not be enough to get us out of our own jails and here we are, making a comfortable bed for him."

At this, Casey sighs and he stops. "It's a hard thing to be stuck in the field for so long," he says. "Sanctioned or on the lam, it changes you. It's easy to lose your grounding which is why you have to fight harder than ever to hold it."

Rick shakes his head. "I don't understand."

"You're losing hope," he says. "You miss the comforts of home."

Rick tries to protest.

Casey pins him with a look. "You're talking about mistreating a prisoner," he says. "The real Rick Martinez wouldn't stand for it. In fact, he'd probably be lecturing me about doing it right."

It's true, of course, and it's funny that Casey's the one to tell him that.

"I promise you, all I want to do is shove my fist in Salazar's face for everything he's done - not only as a criminal but to someone who I considered my friend," he says. "But we do the right thing. Even if it's illegal and pointless, we still do the right thing. If you ever lose sight of that, then you're no better than Salazar."

Day Forty-One

While he's watching Salazar that night, Rick thinks about what Casey says. Salazar looks around the room and sighs, trying out the bed warily. It's better than where he's been staying and they both know it.

Watching Salazar, Rick realizes that the man has changed. He's not as scary as he used to be; his confidence is gone and his prowess is diminished. Just over a month, and the man before him has changed and if Rick hadn't met him already, he might feel sorry for him.

But Rick has met him before. Rick knows what he's done. The present doesn't change the past.

Rick realizes that's why the team still defend Simms and fights for him even when Simms has actively fought back. Because the past matters, for better and for worse.

This is what Casey is talking about. This is why Billy still sings in the shower. This is why Michael still plans like there's a future worth planning for. Because if Rick's not careful, this can change him, too. A month and he's feeling his hold on reality slipping. Another month and there's no telling where he can be.

He can't become Simms. He can't become less than he is.

Being a fugitive doesn't change the fact that Rick's still fighting for the right cause. At least, not unless he lets it.

Rick can't let it. He's stronger than that. He has to be.

For everything he left back home. For his family, for Adele. For the career he wants to have. For the team that's still here.

So Rick watches Salazar, not without compassion but while always remembering. A month can change a lot of things but Rick can't let it change him just yet.

Day Forty-Three

Things are going well. Billy finds them work at a factory. Salazar's location is secure and Doris is actively following up on leads to Simms.

Life in Poland isn't bad. They make enough to put food on the table, and they all take turns with housework. Casey is impeccably clean and can turn down a bed like no one's business and Billy proves himself to be a creative cook. Michael keeps the security in check and somehow, it starts to feel a little like home.

They eat dinner together, joking and laughing about days gone by.

"And that's an entirely true story," Billy concludes, coughing slightly into his napkin.

"No way," Rick says. "Michael?"

Michael shrugs. "Given the present company, I see no need to deny it," he says.

"Plus, we have photographic evidence," Casey interjects.

Michael raises his eyebrows.

Casey shrugs. "Just our own little insurance policy."

Billy opens his mouth to add something but then coughs again, more railing than the first.

When he's done, they're all watching him. "You feel okay?" Michael asks.

Billy waves a hand. "Apparently, while my mind and soul are heartily encouraged by our current location, my body misses New Guinea," he says. "It's not used to all this cold, moist air."

Rick snorts. "Then your body is the only thing that misses New Guinea."

"Oh, it wasn't that bad," Billy cajoles.

"There were fewer security threats," Michael says.

"Unless you count the poisonous snakes and the disease-laden insects," Rick says.

Billy clears his throat. "Come now," he says. "You're going to make me nostalgic."

Rick scoffs. "If you're going to be nostalgic, think about home," he says, shaking his head. "What I wouldn't give for a latte."

"Baseball," Michael says. "I miss baseball season."

"Online martial art chat rooms," Casey says.

"Men with tans," Doris adds.

"All well and good," Billy says. "But I can one up you all with memories of Scotland."

"I'd like to see you try," Casey says.

And Billy does, well into the early hours of the morning. When they finally go to bed, Rick is full and sated for the first time in a long time.

Day Forty-Five

Billy tells them it's nothing. The first day, it's a cold. The second day, he can't get out of bed.

Casey comes out to report. "He's running a fever - pretty high, too," he says. "My guess is it's just a local flu bug."

Michael thinks on that. "We have enough over the counter stuff?"

Casey nods. "We should be able to control it."

Michael nods, glancing at Rick. "I want you to take Billy's shift at work. I'll cover his guard duties. We'll let him sleep it off today and see how he feels tomorrow."

Day Forty-Six

Billy does not feel better tomorrow. Rick has to pull a double shift and when he gets home late, he finds Casey seated with Michael pacing.

"We can't take him anywhere," Michael says.

"I know that," Casey replies patiently. "But he may need more than we can give him. I asked around. This bug has put countless people in the hospital and there have been a few deaths."

Michael shakes his head. "We can't be sure it's the same strain."

Rick steps closer. "What are we talking about?"

Michael looks at him, wary. Casey's face is grim. "Billy's worse," Casey says. "Lung are fully congested and he's spiked a fever of almost 104."

Rick's stomach roils uneasily.

"We can give him the same care of a hospital," Michael says.

"Except the antibiotics," Casey reminds him.

Michael pauses, shaking his head. "We can get the antibiotics."

Casey doesn't look surprised. "It's a huge risk," he says. "That's a felony and if we get caught-"

"We won't get caught," Michael says.

"We could compromise everything," Casey reminds him.

Rick feels his heart stutter.

But Michael doesn't even hesitate. "We left a man behind once," he says. "We're not doing it again. We all get out or we all stay in. End of story."

Day Forty-Seven

Michael's plan is mismatched and haphazard, but there's no time to second guess it. Billy's deteriorating, completely incoherent now, and if they don't do something soon, it may be too late.

Michael and Casey are going alone. Doris is in charge of guard duty. Rick's on post with Billy.

At first, Rick feels like he's got the easy job, but when he's alone with Billy, he realizes that's not the case. Because there's nothing to secure when it comes to Billy, but watching Billy fight against the fever with no means to help him is the hardest thing Rick's done yet.

But Rick can't back down. Not now. Not after all this.

Instead, he sits by Billy's bed, keeping a cool cloth on his head even as he bucks weakly against it. Billy mumbles through it all; most of it, Rick can't make out, but sometimes he catches things about Scotland and the ODS, sometimes about Simms.

It's unsettling for Rick. To see a man he knows to be strong and able, who never shows a weakness be reduced to this state. It reminds Rick of how vulnerable they are out here. How they're not just playing house or taking an extended vacation. This is life and death in a very real way.

It bothers him to think that if Billy were to die, they'd have no means for a proper funeral.

It bothers him more that he even thinks about Billy dying at all.

In the early dawn, Billy's eyes flutter open and settle on Rick. They're clouded but more coherent than they have been. "I'm glad you're here," he says.

Rick feels awkward and thinks Billy must be hallucinating. Considering the fever burning through his body, it seems more than plausible.

But Billy nods seriously. "I'm glad you're on the team, Rick," he says hoarsely but with determination. "Simms - was good. But you're better. Your heart is better. Know that."

Rick's too stunned to reply and he's still gaping when Billy's eyes close and he moans, tossing with the fever again. All Rick can do is change the cloth and stay true, because Michael was right. They're all getting out together or they're not getting out at all.

It seems like years before Casey and Michael come back and set up the IV. Billy has gone still, his breathing harsh and labored, as they wait together by his bedside throughout the day.

Day Forty-Eight

Billy's fever has peaked. He sweats away the illness and rouses enough to eat and drink at some point. They still keep watch, though, but take shifts while life goes back to this new-found normal.

When Michael comes in to take his turn, Rick lingers.

"Something on your mind, Martinez?" Michael asks.

Rick considers saying no, but they're past that point. They're pushing two months on the lam, and all their pretenses are gone.

"Is Simms the reason why you still treat me like the new guy?" Rick asks.

Michael doesn't seem surprised by the question. "Do you mean to ask if Simms is the reason why you feel like you're not one of us yet?" he asks.

Rick shrugs. "Yeah."

Michael shakes his head. "No."

Rick waits for more. "No?"

"You're worried that we haven't accepted you because we don't value you like we valued Simms."

"You did follow me on my first solo mission," Rick reminds him.

"Because you are one of us," he says. "We're a team. We don't do solo missions. That's a lesson we learned the hard way with Simms. We lost a man once; we don't intend on doing it again."

Rick considers that.

Michael looks at him. "Now go to bed," he says. "We still have work to do."

And Rick sleeps well.

Day Fifty-One

Billy is up and about again; he starts telling jokes at breakfast and Rick thinks things have turned a corner.

He's proven right when Doris comes in all smiles. "I've got a lead," she says, her eyes twinkling.

For a second, Rick doesn't know what she means.

"You're serious?" Billy asks.

Casey pauses in drinking his coffee. "You should not toy with us, woman."

Her eyes gleam and she throw a paper on the table. "I only toy when it's time to play," she says. "And it's been fun, boys, but I think playtime is just about over."

They all lean in to look at the paper.

"We've got him," Doris says. "We've got Simms."

Day Fifty-Seven

Getting their things together to go to Greece is a bit of a rush. They hire someone to tend to Salazar, and when Rick packs his bag, he actually lingers in the room.

On the way out, Billy stops next to him. "You're going to miss this place?" he asks.

Rick shrugs. "I don't know," he says. "It sort of felt like home."

Billy nods sympathetically. "It was home," he says.

"I mean, not really," Rick says. "But...still."

"Home is wherever you choose it to be," Billy says leaning in close. "Trust me, as a man barred from his own country, I've had to adapt a new definition of home."

"So is it hard for you, too?" Rick asks.

Billy shakes his head. "Not really," he says. "Because this house - it's just a place. What we built here, the things that mattered - that's all coming with us. Between the group of us - now that's home and no matter where we end up or who we're working for, that will never change."

Billy claps him on the shoulder and heads out. Rick gives the place one last look and follows him.

Day Sixty

The meet is set. Doris is ready. They have their plane tickets home in anticipation.

"It's going to work," Michael tells them as they prepare to take their positions.

"It better," Casey growls.

"I have faith," Billy says. "Both in Doris' ability to manipulate and Simms' ability to fall into a predictable trap after all these years."

"And then we'll be headed home," Michael says.

There's a small pause and Rick finds himself wondering. It's been two months and he hasn't asked and he may never ask if he doesn't now. "If Simms hadn't turned," he says. "If he had wanted a job at the CIA - would you have kicked me off the team?"

They all look at Rick. "I mean, do you wish he was still here?"

"If you're wondering if we would wish him three years of exile and torture," Michael says. "Then no."

"We're not animals," Casey says.

"But if you're asking if we regret Higgins putting you on our team," Michael says.

"Then that's a definitely not," Billy says. "We needed the new blood."

"You have been a rather...valuable asset," Casey concedes. "I'd forgotten how effective we could be as a four-man operation."

"This team is family," Michael tells him. "Family comes and family goes, but that doesn't change the fact that they're family. We didn't want Simms to leave but that doesn't mean we want you to go either. We can't change what's happened and we can't predict what might come, but we didn't go down to rescue Simms to replace you. You're family now, Martinez, and you'll never get rid of us, no matter how badly you may want to at times."

Billy nods. Even Casey looks genuine.

Rick swallows hard against the lump in his throat. He wants to say thank you. He wants to say he feels the same. He wants to say a lot of things, but he just doesn't know.

Then Michael's radio crackles and they all straighten. "He's here," Michael says.

"Then it's showtime," Casey says.

Billy inclines his head. "It's been fun, gents," he says. "But I'm ready to make honest men out of all us."

Michael nods. "Shall we?" he asks, looking from Casey to Billy and finally to Rick.

Rick nods, resolute. "Let's do it."

As a team, they fan out and move in unison not for the last time but it sort of feels like the first.

Day Sixty-One

With Simms in custody, Salazar still locked away, and the plates well in hand, they're ready to go home. It's been two months and when Rick's finally sitting in a plane headed for the States, he has to admit, it doesn't seem real.

But it is real. And the fact is, Rick's more than ready to go home.

On the plane, Rick looks at his teammates. On the outside, they all seem the same. Like nothing has changed. Back in their work clothes and fully cleaned and dressed, they've prepared themselves to come back like nothing has changed. But Rick knows better. He can see how this trip has aged Michael, how weary he is for putting his team through this. He can see Casey's itching focus to be back and doing what he's meant to be doing. He can see Billy's forced nonchalance, as if coming home doesn't matter when they all know it does.

Even Doris seems different. She's not just a man-hungry operative, but a strong and lonely woman who has fared this better than any of them.

And it makes Rick wonder what's waiting for them. Michael has an empty house his ex-wife is trying to sell. Billy has a rented hotel room. Doris has her job in counterfeit. No one knows what Casey has.

Suddenly, it occurs to Rick, how much more he has. How much he has that they don't. He doesn't know if that's a choice or just what happens, but he's suddenly grateful of how much he has to look forward to.

Because he still misses it all more than ever. He misses his apartment. He misses his morning paper. He misses his family and his job. He misses Adele - really misses her. He misses the way she smells, the way her hair bounces, the way she smiles at him even when it's clear she doesn't think she should. All he wants is to see her, to be with her, to hold her, because he loves her, and it may have taken him two months to build up the courage to say that, but at this point he realizes that he doesn't really have anything to lose.

For as much as he wants to be home, Rick still can't regret the last two months. Yes, he was a wanted fugitive. Yes, he had to sacrifice what was good and comfortable and safe in the name of a job that had sold him out. Yes, he almost lost everything he spent his life working for.

But he found so much during those two months. A team to belong to. A family to call his own. A confidence in himself, in the place he's supposed to be, in the people who are are around him.

This is his comfort as they fly back. This is the lingering thought on his mind as he closes his eyes to sleep. And just before he drifts off, he thinks about home. Not just the home he's going back to but the home he's found (and probably had all along).

 

Comments

Posted by: Average Girl Extraordinaire (legsi003)
Posted at: July 19th, 2011 05:20 pm (UTC)
Happy Sigh

Thankyou for filling this gap. The show delt with the gap in time so nonchalantly, this is a wonderful take on what could have happened. And the little added Billy!Whump was a bonus! Amazing work as always :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 20th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
billy guitar

I think I'm incapable of writing fics of any length that don't incorporate whump to some degree.

And yeah, when it said Two Months Later, I did a double take and just felt like we missed so much.

Thanks!

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: July 19th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
Coffee

That was awesome. It really felt like CBS copped out with the two months later thing. But your story fills those two months perfectly. I just love that the team supports each other and that they still tutor Rick through everything.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 20th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
chaos group

It was an odd storytelling choice that made sense only from time constraints but it just felt like a huge missed opportunity.

Thanks!

Posted by: Lym (lymricks)
Posted at: July 19th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)

This is exactly what "Proof of Life" was missing, and you tell it in voices so accurate and believable that I can completely see this being part of the episode. Brilliant job.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 20th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
billy likes

I know they couldn't fit two months into a single ep but I still felt like we missed too much. So I'm glad others like this take on it, too :)

Thanks!

Posted by: fara (farad)
Posted at: July 19th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
martin - pizza boy

As always - brilliant. But this time is even better; it's a perfect 'missing scene(s)' and you nailed all of them. I can hear Casey's voice every time he speaks, and Billy's, and Doris' (great!), and best of all (for my personal bias), Michael's. Really really well done!

Thanks for sharing! What a wonderful labor of love!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 20th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
chaos team moves

Some episodes just beg for missing scenes and this was one of them. I couldn't help myself.

And I'm glad you liked it so much! Thanks :)

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: July 20th, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
Chaos2

Great fic to fill in the gap.
With hurt/comfort and a naked Billy FTW *g*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 21st, 2011 12:49 am (UTC)
billy watches

The world always needs more h/c and naked!Billy!

Thanks :)

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