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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: Afloat

August 19th, 2011 (07:08 am)
Tags: ,

Title:  Afloat


Disclaimer:  Not mine.


A/N:  I wrote this on the prompting of altpointofview.  Beta provided by the amazing moogsthewriter.


Summary:  “Well, is it just me, or did we just get stranded at sea?”



-o-


The world slips away, and Rick’s stomach churns.  The sky above him is moving quickly, clouds disappearing as water sprays in his face  He thinks he should move, but can’t quite figure out how, and a shadow passes over him.  He sees a thick beard and dark eyes scowling at him before something connects with his head and the world goes dark.


-o-


Sunlight presses against his eyelids.  There are voices now, over the rumbling of an idling engine.


“It doesn’t have to be this way, gents,” someone says, and Rick recognizes Billy’s voice even if he can’t see him.  “We’re all grown men here.  There have been some rather unfortunate misunderstandings, but it’s nothing we can’t work out.”


Billy’s voice is cut short by the retort of a gunshot.  The world goes silent and Rick blinks, trying to focus on anything while puffy clouds drift above him.


He thinks, he needs to get up.  He thinks, this isn’t going well.  He thinks, their cover’s been blown.  He thinks.


And then he’s moving.  Rough hands hauling him up.  He tries to protest as he stumbles on his feet.  There’s a splash somewhere and a hoarse yell.  Rick shakes his head.  “We’re not who you think we are,” he says, trying in desperation to explain even if he’s not sure what he’s defending himself against.


The man laughs, breath hot and rank.  “It doesn’t matter,” he says.  “You’re not who you need to be.”


And Rick is propelled backward, airborne just for a moment before warm water hits his back and he goes under.


-o-


The world comes alive, warm salt in his mouth, burning his eyes.  He tries to take a breath and finds himself choking, thrashing as the water churns over his head.  He can’t figure out up or down, left or right, and he thinks he’s going to die.


It seems stupid to die like this.  It seems stupid to die at all.  It had been a simple mission.  Their cover had been good.  Rick doesn’t know how their mark made them.  Rick doesn’t know if Michael and Casey know they’re missing yet.  One minute, Rick had been at a meet with Billy; the next, something hit him hard over the head.


In between, there had been questions and accusations.  Who are you and Who do you work for and Rick had shaken his head and said that they all had it wrong.


Now he’s drowning.  Drowning for nothing and he wants to cry because his lungs burn and his head hurts and it’s all so stupid--


Then, air.


He gasps, gaping like a fish.  Blind in the sunlight, he doesn’t need to see.  He just needs to breathe.


There’s a strong arm around him, holding him close and buoying him up.


“Easy, lad,” Billy says, voice in his ear.  “Just take it easy.”


Rick might protest if he had the strength.


Since he doesn’t, he lets his body go lax in Billy’s arms as he focuses on breathing.


-o-


It could be minutes.  It could be more.


Rick rouses from his stupor and pushes himself away.  He flails for a moment before his instincts kick in and he’s treading water.


Blinking, he sees Billy across from him, grinning.  His head is bobbing over the water, hair wet and sticking to his forehead.


“What’s so funny?” Rick asks, almost in accusation.


“You just look so surprised,” Billy returns.  He has a blossoming bruise over his right eye.


“Well, is it just me, or did we just get stranded at sea?” Rick asks.


Billy nods, looking around.  There’s nothing for miles.  No land, no boats.  Just water.  “Aye,” he says.


“And that’s not surprising to you?” Rick says.


Billy shrugs a little, still bobbing lazily as the waves rise and fall lightly.  “It is a new one, I’ll admit,” he concedes.  “But all things considered, it really could be worse.”


Rick stares at him, incredulous.


Billy has the decency to look sheepish.  “At least it’s not prime shark season, mate.”


-o-


Rick goes over the mission in his head.  “What do you think tipped him off?”


Billy is treading water with his head tilted back.  “Hard to say.”


“But if you had to guess,” Rick persists.


Billy sighs.  “Lucky guess,” he says.  “Barked up the right tree.”


Rick frowns, legs still kicking.  “So it doesn’t bother you?”


Billy lifts his head to look at him.  “Oh, it bothers me,” he says.  “But those are the details we need to ask ourselves later.”


“And what are we supposed to do now?” Rick asks.


Billy’s smile is rueful.  “Stay alive long enough for rescue.”


This is a facet of the conversation Rick hasn’t fully considered and now that he does, it hits him with concern.  “They’ll know we’re gone, right?” he asks.


Billy lets his head loll back again.  “Indubitably.”


“So you’re not worried,” Rick hedges.


Billy shakes his head.  “We’re stranded at sea with no fresh water in the blazing sun,” he says.  “Why would I be worried?”


Rick feels the fear building.


Billy looks at him.  “We’re talking about Michael Dorset and Casey Malick,” he reminds Rick.  “Contrary to any odds, I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either.”


Rick treads water and doesn’t respond, but he wants to believe.


-o-


“I never liked boats,” Rick muses at some point.  His body feels tired now, skin pinched and hot.  


“And why’s that?” Billy ventures congenially.


Rick shrugs.  “Water just seems so limited,” he explains.  “I mean, it never gets you where you really want to go.”


“But boating isn’t mere function,” Billy contends.  “There’s the sense of freedom in being on the open water.”


For a moment, they lapse into silence, the waves lapping against them as they look out over the expanse.


“Then again,” Billy says, thoughtful.  “Maybe not.”


Rick snorts a little and settles back, too tired to do anything else.


“Though there is good news here,” Billy continues.


“What’s that?”


Billy smiles.  “We’re not on a boat,” he says, eyes twinkling.


Rick rolls his eyes.


“Glass half full, right there,” Billy says proudly.


“Try an ocean full,” Rick retorts.


Billy nods in approval.  “Now there’s the spirit!”


-o-


Rick’s leg starts to cramp and his stomach hurts.  “How long do you think it’s been?” he asks, his lips cracking under the heat as the salt burns them.


Billy swallows with effort.  “Hours, at least,” he says.  “The sun is moving toward the west.”


Rick nods.  “So almost the entire day,” he says, taking a breath and feeling it fill his lungs painfully.


Billy understands Rick’s drift, but he doesn’t acknowledge it.  “They’ll come,” he says instead, closing his eyes as he floats further on his back.  “They’ll come.”


And Rick doesn’t have the energy to disagree.


-o-


Night falls.  Rick treads closer to Billy, grabbing a hold of his shirt.


Billy rouses a little and looks at him.  “Getting personal are we, mate?” he asks.


“We can’t lose each other in the dark,” he says.  “We’ll have to take turns.”


Billy nods.  “Do you want me to take first watch?”


Rick breathes out and tries to stay calm.  “Okay,” he says, but doesn’t know how to close his eyes.


In the growing dimness, Billy smiles at him.  “Trust me,” he says.  “I’ve got it.  You won’t drown out here.  Not with me on watch.”


It’s hard to believe, but harder still not to.  Billy says a lot of things he doesn’t mean, but he says it all with such veracity that Rick doesn’t know how to question.


Instead, he nods, shoulders tense as he closes his eyes.  The waves rock him and Billy’s fingers are entwined around his wrist and soon Rick can’t tell the night from his dreams as the hours drift on.


-o-


Rick wakes with sunlight.  His eyelids are sticky and his mouth is dry.  Movement sends aching pains through him and he groans.


There’s still pressure on his wrist, and next to him, Billy blinks lazily.  “Morning,” he says.


Rick frowns.  “You didn’t wake me,” he says.


Billy gives him a half hearted smile.  “It took more energy to try than it did to stay awake,” he says.


Rick pulls himself upright a bit, moving his legs with a fresh vigor.  He eyes Billy, notes the glassiness of his eyes.  “How do you feel?” he asks.


Billy swallows and it seems to hurt.  “Been better,” he admits.  


“Dehydration will set in worse today,” Rick says.  He moves closer, tilting Billy’s head to the side.  It’s something that the Scot lets him.  There’s something more there, something of pain Rick can’t place.  “But it’s more than that, isn’t it?”


Billy doesn’t deny it.  “Might have taken a shot to the leg,” he says with a nonchalant shrug.


Rick comes fully alert and he stares at Billy with new incredulity.  “You’ve been shot.”


“A flesh wound,” Billy says.  “In and out.  Nothing serious.  The salt water has been an ideal cleanser.”


“Yeah,” Rick says.  “And the blood loss is making you more prone to dehydration.”


Billy shrugs meagerly.  “You can’t have everything.”


Rick just stares, gaping, wishing like hell that at this point they just had something.


-o-


The burning in his throat is palpable now, but Rick refuses to think about it.  He keeps himself awake and upright, a keen eye glaring at Billy as he forces the other man to rest.


Billy obeys, floating on his back, but it doesn’t stop him from talking.  “You know, this isn’t the strangest place I’ve been shot before,” he says.  “Not even the worst.”


Rick shakes his head, but indulges him.  “And what was the worst?”


“Northern China,” he says without hesitation.  “So cold that I could feel the heat leaving my body.  Quite unpleasant all the way around.”


Rick has to admit, that does sound pretty bad.  “You survived that,” he says.  “So this should be easy.”


Billy nods with confidence.  “Walk in the park,” he agrees.  “And the water is quite comfortable.”


Rick snorts.  “Except for the fact that I want to drink it and it’d kill me.”


“Details,” Billy says.  “And Michael will bring water.  I can promise you that.”


Rick nods and is silent for a moment.  He treads water, one hand holding Billy’s wrist.  “How much longer do you think?”


“Not long,” Billy says sagely.  “Not long at all.”


-o-


The sun is high now and Rick can barely move his legs.  The heat seems to be deep within him, the need for something to drink so strong that he can barely hold himself together.


Billy floats, semiconscious next to him.  


“They’ll come,” Billy says, and Rick thinks he’s delirious, no matter how certain he sounds.  “They’ll come.”


-o-


Rick wakes to water in his face and he realizes that he’s almost asleep.  He jerks back, spluttering.  Billy’s still there, but his eyes are closed.


Panicked, Rick shakes him.  “Billy,” he says.  “Billy!”


Billy stirs slightly, mouth moving soundlessly as the water laps his recumbent body.


“Billy,” he tries again, begging this time.  “They’ll come.  You’re supposed to stay awake to see it, though.”


There’s no response, just the sounds of the waves as Rick forces his feet to move and keeps his grasp tight.


-o-


On his back, Rick rolls his head toward Billy.  His face is scorched, beet red and turned up to the unrelenting sky.


Rick breathes, tasting salt on his lips.  His skin is stretched, pulled taut and itchy.  The warm water seems to be taking him under and all Rick can feel is the heat on his face and his fingers wound tightly around the Billy’s wrist.


He can’t let go, he tells himself, even as he closes his eyes.  He can’t let go.


-o-


The waves increase and Rick thinks that this is it.  They cover him and he’s sinking and he can’t stop it.  Doesn’t want to.  


But something stops him.  Even as he’s sinking, Billy still in his grip, something pulls him back.


Billy is pulled away and his wrist slips from Rick’s failing grasp; Rick is helpless to stop it.  He wants to protest, but there’s not time.  Rick breaks the surface of the water and just keeps going.  He’s pulled up, like he’s being dragged to the sky.  Rick lets himself go limp, can’t do anything as the water drips clear of his body and the sun seems to lower to meet him.


This is death, he thinks.  He can still hear the questions, who are you and who do you work for?  Rick doesn’t know what to say to that, because it doesn’t matter.  You’re not who you need to be.


Still, with the fresh air around him and the water dripping away, Rick may not be who he says he is, but he thinks he might still be enough of someone to make a difference.  


He holds onto that -- holds on tight -- and doesn’t let go as he floats into the darkness beyond.


-o-


There are no more waves.  His body rocks, but the ground beneath him is hard.  Voices drone above him.


“We’ll need a hospital,” Casey is saying.  “Something to replenish the fluids.”


“And Billy’s leg?” Michael prompts.


“The least of his problems,” Casey replies.


“But they’ll be okay?” Michael asks, and it’s as uncertain as Rick’s ever heard him.


“They will be,” Casey says.  “They will be.”


Rick takes that as a promise and drifts away again.


-o-


The lights are still bright, but he’s cool now.  There’s something gentle running through his veins and the rocking is gone entirely.


Opening his eyes, Rick looks to his side.  


Michael’s sitting there, as if he’s waiting for him.


Rick wants to ask something but can’t make his voice work.


“You’re badly sunburned and dehydrated,” Michael explains.  “But you’re okay.”


Rick blinks and tries to make his mouth work again, the question pressing in his mind because his hands feel empty.


“You’re both okay,” Michael says with a knowing smile.


Rick wants to ask something more, wants to say something, but the fact is, that’s all he needs to know as he slips away again.


-o-


When he wakes up again, he swallows hard.  The saliva sticks in his throat, but he manages to clear it, feeling his lips crack painfully at the movement.


He groans.


“About time you woke up,” Casey says harshly.


Rick opens his eyes and sees Casey perched at his side.  He’s scowling, but Rick can still see the concern he’s just keeping at bay.


It makes him smile.  “Sorry,” he says.


Casey rolls his eyes.  “For getting dumped at sea or being unconscious for a full day after your rescue?”


Rick shrugs.  “Both?”


Casey snorts.  “You’re doing better than Collins anyway,” he grumbles.  “Selfish son of a bitch still isn’t awake.”


Rick frowns.


Casey rolls his eyes.  “The blood loss and dehydration did a number on him,” he says.  “He’ll be fine, of course, but he’s enjoying his beauty sleep.”


With effort, Rick wets his lips.  “Can I--?” he tries, but his voice is garbled.


Casey just shakes his head.  “Yeah, yeah,” he says.  “Let me go get a wheelchair.”


-o-


It takes some effort, and being upright still makes Rick woozy.  But he fights back the dizziness as Casey pushes him through the unfamiliar halls.  When they pull up to another room, Casey pushes him through the door.


The first thing Rick sees is Michael, reclined but alert by the bedside.  In the bed, Billy is stretched out, the thick bandage around his thigh visible underneath the blanket.


Billy’s face is a mess.  The bruise on his forehead is an array of purples and blues now, but it’s all hindered by the deep red of sunburn.  It’s starting to peel in places, and the skin is altogether frayed around his lips.


“Don’t judge,” Casey snipes from behind him.  “You look just as bad.”


“He’s doing much better,” Michael says.  “Doctor thinks he’ll be awake any time now.”


Rick doesn’t have anything to say, and Casey rolls him up to Billy’s bedside.  As they settle into silence, Casey excuses himself for food and Michael retreats to check in with Higgins.


Alone with Billy, Rick feels his spirits waver.  “We did it,” he says, trying to sound confidence.  “We did it.”


It’s hard to believe, though, and it’s not until Rick reaches out and wraps a hand around Billy’s wrist that he feels his spirits buoy once again.


-o-


Rick wakes to movement.  Not the wafting waves, but stirring.


Jerking awake, Rick remembers where he is.  Upright, Rick’s hand is still around Billy’s wrist, but this time, the Scot is looking at him through sunburnt and tired eyelids.  “Did we make it?” Billy asks, voice like sandpaper.


Rick just grins.  “We made it,” he says.


Billy’s smile ghosts over his face, his eyes fluttering.  “Told you,” he says.  He stops and opens his eyes, looking at Rick again.  “You kept me afloat.”


“No,” Rick says, squeezing Billy’s wrist.  “We kept each other afloat.”


Billy smiles again at that, his body relaxing as his energy seems to wane.  “Aye,” he says.  “And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Who we’re meant to be.”


And that’s the answer, Rick thinks.  The truth that matters.  They may lie about who they are and what they do, but when they’re lost at sea, they’re still there for each other.  Hell or high water.


Especially hell or high water.


As Billy drifts off, Rick still doesn’t let go because this time, he agrees.  He probably doesn’t need the contact anymore to keep either of them buoyant, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.


Smiling as Billy sleeps, Rick thinks it doesn’t hurt at all.


Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: August 19th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
Observer

Ah, being lost at sea is mean :) But I just love Billy's endless positive outlook that the rest of the team will save them and Rick holding on to that optimism.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 12:23 pm (UTC)
billy likes

LOL, sometimes the hardest part of whump fic is finding an original context :)

Billy's eternal optimism is just so Billy--and I love that we all know there's a lot more to him underneath it.

Thanks!

Posted by: squeezynz (squeezynz)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 05:43 am (UTC)

good grief, but you are so good at writing this stuff...I can almost feel the sunburn, and taste the salt.

poor boys, glad they'll be better soon...

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 12:24 pm (UTC)
chaos team moves

LOL, yeah. I'm sort of a whump addict--nearly all of my plot bunnies revolve around maiming characters.

Anyway, thanks :)

Posted by: Starrylizard (starrylizard)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 06:46 am (UTC)
T - :O Freaking out! (Chaos Rick)

lovely! Really enjoyed this. Particularly liked that Billy was so in character. :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 12:24 pm (UTC)
chaos team 2

It's hard with a show that was on so briefly to be completely confident in characterization, so I'm very glad you felt this rang true.

Thanks!

Posted by: Starrylizard (starrylizard)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
NT - glasses Michael (Chaos: Eric Close)

This: "Billy has the decency to look sheepish. “At least it’s not prime shark season, mate.”

So Billy! :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 22nd, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
chaos team 2

:) I'm going to miss this show so much. I already miss it so much. I really need to not fall in love with canceled shows. It's not good for my sanity.

Posted by: fara (farad)
Posted at: August 20th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)
Vin over his shoulder

Excellent, as always! You have such a wonderful "Billy voice". I can hear every line with his accented voice. Well done!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 22nd, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC)
billy guitar

I so enjoy Billy, so I'm glad he comes across well in print :) Thanks!

Posted by: Lym (lymricks)
Posted at: August 23rd, 2011 01:59 am (UTC)

This is the first thing I've read in days, and I'm so glad I picked this one! Love your Billy voice every time. The chopped structure was a great way to get across everything they were experiencing as well, it really puts your readers in the situation. Loveloveloved it!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: August 24th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
billy likes

It is always a sad state of things when there is no time to read fic. So I'm especially glad that this one hit the spot for you :)

Thanks!

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: February 12th, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
Chaos: Team

So intense! And I love the ending ♥

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: February 16th, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
billy content

I do like happy endings :) Thanks!

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