?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos Big Bang: A Matter of Luck 3/3

September 5th, 2011 (01:50 pm)


A Matter of Luck 3/3

Rick doesn’t need luck; he just needs his skills and his determination and this case will be over in no time.

PART ONE  //  PART TWO  // PART THREE  // ART // MASTER POST


-o-

Rick dozes.  He hovers just below consciousness, easily roused by the passing doctors and nurses.  In the hazy morning, he wakes to find Michael’s hand on his shoulder, his mouth close to Rick’s ear.  “Ready for a little trip?” he asks.

Rick blinks against the fog and tries to get his bearings.  In the dimness, he can see Casey looking at him with his trademark scowl.  He tilts his head and lifts his eyebrows.

Swallowing, Rick nods.  “But where are we--”

He doesn’t get to finish the statement when Michael unlocks the wheels on his bed.  Casey has disconnected the machines and Rick tries to sit up.  

Casey promptly pushes him back.  “Just lie there,” he orders.

Rick obeys, but his brow creases in confusing.  “Are we leaving?” he asks.  “The doctors--”

“Say you’re going to be just fine,” Michael concludes.

“But I feel--” Rick tries to explain.

“Like crap, we know,” Casey says.  “Pounding your head against a brick wall would produce the same effect, but you’re suffering for the glory of your country.”

Rick wets his lips, shaking his head again.  “But where are we--?”

His question is cut short by a sharp turn down a corridor.  Above him, Michael smiles and nods at a passing nurse, who seems skeptical of their movements.  Still, Casey and Michael hurry him through.

“Are you guys not supposed to be doing this?” Rick asks, even though he’s fairly sure he knows the answer.

“Technically, we outrank the military officers here,” Michael says.

“So they can’t do anything to us,” Casey says.

“But--” Rick says.

They make another sharp turn.  “But nothing,” Casey says.  “We’re doing you a favor.”

“But--” Rick tries again as they careen through a door.

“But I thought you might like to see someone,” Michael says and pulls his bed up to a stop.

Rick’s head rolls and he has to blink, refocusing his eyes on the new room.  It looks a lot like the one he came from, except that it’s private and fully enclosed.  There’s more equipment, which hums with artificial life.

There are a few chairs and a bed.  On the bed is Billy.

All of Rick’s questions and protests dry up and he lays there for a moment, mouth open while Michael locks his wheels and Casey rearranges his medical accouterments.

“He’s still on the critical list,” Michael explains, his voice hushed.  “The doctors don’t want him disturbed while he recovers.”

“But since you’re still doped up and laid up, we figured you might make an apt roommate,” Casey says.

Rick doesn’t know what to say.  He’s still gaping, still looking at Billy.  He looks worse than Rick remembers almost, face pale and gaunt.  He’s still got the tube in his mouth and his chest is swathed with bandages and covered lightly with a blanket.  But his heart monitor is beeping and even in the darkness, Rick can see his chest rising and falling.

“He’s going to be okay,” Michael says.  “You both are.”

Rick still can’t find the words, but they don’t seem necessary.  Michael and Casey linger a minute longer before exchanging a look and retreating out the door.  Alone next to Billy, Rick just keeps staring, wishing for something--anything.

He wants to tell Billy he’s sorry this happened.  He wants to explain to Billy that waiting to break cover was the hardest thing he’s ever done.  He wants to tell Billy that he’s glad they’re both alive, that they’re both going to be okay.  He wants to say how grateful he is for this second chance.  For both of them.

He wants to, but doesn’t know how.  The pull of his own drugs is hard to resist and as he blinks slowly into unconsciousness, he keeps his eyes trained on Billy’s face and thinks that the Scot probably already knows it all anyway.

-o-

It’s not chance that Rick’s still there when Billy first wakes up.  After a day, he’s formally released from medical care, but the only thing that changes is his clothes.  He still sits cooped up by Billy’s bedside, while Casey and Michael take alternating turns.

Billy improves slowly, but everyone else seems to think it’s good progress.  After a day, his intubation tube is removed.  In another day, he’s moving on his own.  After three days, his eyelids start to flutter and Rick leans in close and waits.

As with most things, Billy seems to take his time.  But again, like most things, Billy always pulls through.  

His blue eyes are bright but muddied, and he blinks several times before he seems to focus on anything.  There’s a frisson of uncertainty between his eyebrows as his eyes travel from the light of the window to the bare walls and finally find Rick’s expectant face.

Rick knows it’s probably not very professional, but he still grins like a schoolgirl.

Billy’s brow crinkles and his lips move.  It makes him wince and he swallows with difficulty.

“Hey,” Rick says, torn between going to get a nurse and being there for Billy.  “Just take it easy.”

Billy doesn’t listen to him, which might be concerning if it wasn’t a completely common experience.

Instead, Billy swallows again and seems to work his mouth.  It takes some effort, and when he speaks, his voice is raw and scratchy, barely audible over the hum of machines.  “See,” he breathes.  “Sometimes you definitely get lucky.”

And Rick’s smile widens so far that his face almost hurts.

-o-

From there, things get better.  Billy is awake more often, and when he starts pelting doctors and nurses alike with friendly pick-up lines, Rick dares to believe that maybe things will turn out okay in the end.  Michael and Casey seem to hover next to Billy in equal turns, providing strength and comfort in their own understated ways.

Billy endures their lectures and showy exasperation with humor and ease.  The more experienced operatives never explicitly say how scared they were or how close this came, but Rick can read it in their interactions plain enough.  After years together, they don’t need words.  Even after a mission like this, their gratitude and warmth is shown best in their closeness and their bickering.

In some ways, Rick understands this.  He takes solace in Michael’s plotting, just like he finds comfort in Casey’s scowls and Billy’s jokes.  The idea of things being normal again, no matter how abnormal that may be to most people, is something of blessing, Rick figures.

And yet, it’s hard to forget.  It’s hard to forget Omar’s sinister eyes when he pulled the trigger.  It’s hard to forget pulling Billy through the hallways and blowing through a wall in the compound.  It’s hard to forget speeding through the desert with no hope and no plan.

He goes over it in his head.  He thinks about how he did everything right.  He thinks about he controlled all of the variables perfectly.  He thinks about how it didn’t make a difference.  They could be just as easily sending Billy home in a casket as a medical transport, and Rick knows this even if no one will say it.

Maybe it’s because he’s the new guy.  Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have as much experience. Maybe it’s just who Rick is.  

But when Michael’s talking to Langley and Casey’s eating lunch somewhere and it’s just him and Billy, Rick feels like he can’t wait any longer.

“I didn’t know if we were going to get out of there alive,” he says, almost blurting it.

Billy is poking at his tray of food and looks up in surprise.  “I can’t say that I didn’t have my doubts for a bit there,” he admits.  Then he shrugs.  “But all’s well that ends well.”

Rick swallows hard and refuses to accept the friendly cliche.  He shakes his head.  “What if it doesn’t?” he asks.

Billy shrugs.  “Spies live and breathe in an indefinite area of gray,” he says.  “It can be somewhat difficult to grasp until you get used to it.”

“But how can we plan missions around that?” he asks.  “I mean, your life was on the line and I had nothing to trust in.”

Billy makes a sound in his throat.  “Oh please,” he says.  “You can’t believe entirely that.  Because I know for myself that I trust in your abilities far more than the inherent random chance built into any mission.”

“But how?” Rick asks.  His frustration is mounting, and he is almost demanding now.  “I was trained to do my job and do it well, but when we were down there, when Omar had a gun to your head and pulled the trigger, it wasn’t enough.  Nothing was enough.”

Billy’s light humor has faded and he’s looking at Rick earnestly.  “But it was,” he says.  “I’m still here.  And you’re still here.  And I’m eating this disgusting looking pudding to prove the point.”

“But it was luck!” Rick says, almost exploding.

Billy looks apologetic.  “In all your training courses, I suppose that’s a topic they never covered, eh?” he asks.  

Rick feels himself deflate a little.

“Well, let me tell you a secret,” Billy says, leaning forward slightly.  “They don’t teach you about luck because there’s nothing to teach.  Luck is life.  It’s how you end up where you are.  Part of it is our own doing, of course, but some of it is just the way the chips fall.  Some people believe that it’s entirely random.  That chance comes and goes in equal turns, with no discernible pattern or ultimate go.”

Rick’s throat feels tight.  “Do you believe that?”

Billy shrugs, shaking his head a little.  “I think it often seems random,” he says.  “But I prefer to think that there’s a bigger picture in play.  That our own volition is paired with the fate the universe has prepared for us to create our stories, both good and bad.  But even if it goes poorly, I find comfort in knowing that it’s still meant to be, even if I may never understand.”

The words make sense.  They do.  He’s reminded of his mother, her hands smoothing his hair and telling him how the real world is not so easy, how sometimes in the real world you need luck.

“So it doesn’t bother you?” Rick asks, pushing the question one last time.

“Does it bother me that sometimes my life rests upon the fickle graces of the universe?” Billy asks.  “Maybe.  But I’ve found that fate likes to tip the odds in our favor more often than not.”

“How?” Rick asks, and the question sounds almost hopeless.

At that, Billy smiles.  “Come on, now,” he cajoles.  “If not for the kind hand of luck, how else do you explain how a by-the-book recruit like yourself ending up with the questionable likes of the ODS?”

Rick still has his fears.  He still has his uncertainties.  But that’s a truth that Rick can’t dispute, one he doesn’t want to even try to disprove.

-o-

Getting off the plane in the United States feels strange to Rick.  It’s still the same country, but he feels like a different person entirely.

And yet, nothing has changed.  They took military transport home.  Michael spent the trip with his eyes open, watching everything.  Casey glowered his way into sleep, and Billy joked and slept in equal turns while Rick just took it in.

Now, standing on the tarmac, Billy’s in a wheelchair that Rick’s pushing, and Michael and Casey flank them on either side as they look toward the terminal and the inevitability of life and paperwork that awaits them once they really go back.

“Higgins wants us in ASAP,” Michael informs them.

“Of course he does,” Casey says tersely.

“You think he might grant me a short reprieve?” Billy asks, squinting up at his teammates.  “I feel like I might be due for a wee bit of time off, all things considered.”

Michael looks down, something of a smile playing on his lips.  “You mean because the doctor told you that you could only be released if we promised him that we’d keep you in bed for another two weeks?”

Billy frowns.  “He was being overly cautious,” he says.  “One, two days max.  After that, I’ll go stir crazy.”

Michael smirks.

Casey rolls his eyes.  “It is a terrifying thought,” he agrees.  “You in a room with no one but yourself for days at a time.”

“We’ll check in on you,” Michael promises.  “And by the time you get back, Higgins will be concerned with the next greatest disaster so you probably won’t even get debriefed.”

Billy seems to bright at that.  “Now that’s a bit of luck I could go for,” he says, the words emphatic.

Michael collects a breath and lets it out.  “So,” he says.

Casey looks at him.  “So,” he says.

Rick looks from one to the other.

Michael offers him an indifferent shrug.  “We ready to do this?”

Casey’s face settles back into its usual cantankerous state.  “As if there’s a choice.”

“Lead on,” Billy says, gesturing with one arm.

Michael’s eyes settle back on Rick.  “What do you think?” he asks.  “Ready to go home?”

Rick can’t be sure, but maybe he doesn’t have to.  

“Ah, don’t fear,” Billy says looking up at him with a smile.  “We fudge our way through most things.  The key is just to look like you’re in control.  Remember that and you’re going to be just fine.”

After this mission, Rick’s had his doubt, but he thinks maybe that’s a bet he can count on.

-o-

Rick doesn’t get home as much as he wants to.  He says it’s because he’s busy, which he is, or the cost of gas, which is pretty extreme, but really it’s because he hasn’t felt like he belongs.

His brothers are still in and out, sometimes living with their mother when things get tough.  They’re up and down with their successes and their failures, and Rick stopped keeping track of their exploits years ago.

He does miss his mother, though, and when he doesn’t get two feet in the door when she swoops in on him with kisses and offering him something to eat.  He barely has time to put his things down and she’s rattling about how things are going, what the family is up to and the things that need to be fixed around the house.

She sits him at the kitchen table and gives him a glass of milk as she moves around the kitchen.  There’s something that smells good in the oven and something else sizzles on the stove.  “And how is your new job going, hijo?” she asks, testing the sauce on the stovetop with one finger.  She turns, wiping the finger on her tattered apron.  “At the bank?”

Rick hesitates, but he knows his cover.  He knows how important it is.  He smiles.  “It’s going great,” he says.  Then his look turns a little rueful.  “Quite the learning curve, though.”

She nods her approval but as she turns back toward the stove, she shakes her head.  “I never knew they would have you travel so much,” she says.  “Where did you say you were last time?”

“Topeka,” Rick reports.  “There was a banking convention.”

His mother tuts, coming back toward the table to set hot rolls in front of him.  “A banking convention,” she says.  “Who has ever heard of such a thing?”

“They’re more common than you think, Mom,” Rick offers, taking a steaming piece of bread and ripping a chunk off.

“All that flying, though,” his mother says.  “It’s too dangerous.”

Rick smirks because she doesn’t know the half of it.  “It’s important,” he tells her, because he doesn’t know much about banking, but he knows what he does matters.

She pauses, smiling down at him.  “Oh, of course it is, hijo,” she coos.  Hurrying, she moves back toward the stove.  “Your brothers should be by soon.  They’ve missed you.”

Rick scoffs.  “Somehow I doubt that.”

His mother stops cold.  “No more of that,” she says, leveling him with a hard look.  “You are a part of this family just as much as they are.  There’s a lot to their lives you don’t know about, what with all your studying and traveling.”

Somehow, Rick actually considers this.  He wonders what he’s managed to miss.  It seems possible, suddenly, that he’s been focused so much on what he can achieved that he’s overlooked the things he already has.

A family who cares about him.  A team who will die for him.  Rick can’t earn these things.  He can’t study for them.  He can train for them.  They’re just his.  By sheer chance, they’ve been given to him and maybe it’s about time he started accepting that.  All of it.

This time when he smiles, his throat is tight.  He’s thinking of being in Omar’s factory, seeing the gun to Billy’s head.  He thinks about the gunfight and the car ride and the damn luck that let him get back here alive.

“No, it’s good,” Rick says, and he means it.  “It’ll be nice to see you all.”

Her face brightened and her vigor seemed to return.  “Good, good,” she says.  “None of us can believe us.  Our little Ricky, all grown up.  And such an important job, too!  I told them all your hard work and studying would pay off.”

Rick feels himself blushes, the warmth of his mother’s love filling him.  She doesn’t know everything but in some ways, she knows the things that matter.

“Nah,” Rick says, taking another bite of bread.  “I think maybe I just got lucky.”

Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: September 6th, 2011 12:29 pm (UTC)
Coffee

Action and whump, absolutely what I needed :)
Rick as an operative in charge was great and I could really feel his panic. And I can never get enough of Billy whump.
Was really happy to read this when I came back. And also great art.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 6th, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
billy considers

Thank you! I'm glad it made for a next welcome back at any rate :) And I'm glad someone read it, because I was getting worried!

Posted by: Lym (lymricks)
Posted at: September 8th, 2011 02:21 am (UTC)

Man, school is kicking my butt. I've been trying to read this since you posted it. Finally I had time! And man, I'm so glad I did. The nuances of the story are great. Sometimes in stories, changes in fortune lack subtlety. Yours were definitely obvious--but in such a wonderful way. The theme of luck was carried out really wonderfully from the first word to the last word, and I loved that you literally worked it into everything. The delivery of that was perfect. Your Rick is so much fun to read too, you really capture him well. And obviously, I'm always on board for some Billy!Whump.

This was a great read. Thanks for writing it :D

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 9th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
billy likes

I was worried it was too heavy handed, but I'm kind of a lazy writer so by the time I'd written it, it seemed too late to try to change :) So I'm glad you liked the effect.

I enjoy the new guy lens Rick brings--it can lend itself well to action and angst, at any rate. And honestly, I don't think I write long fics in this fandom without Billy!whump because LOL, what would the point of that be?

Thanks for reading :)

Posted by: Ally (leafy07)
Posted at: September 9th, 2011 10:35 am (UTC)

Wow! That was amazing :) I loved it so much!

Congratulations on finishing and thank you so much for participating and helping out :D!!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 9th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
CHAOS team

Thanks :) And I'm glad you thought to organize this because it was fun!

Posted by: altpointofview (altpointofview)
Posted at: September 9th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)

Where in the world were you hiding this fic!!?!?! It was freaking amazing!!!!! I was supposed to be sleeping for work & I thought I would just jump on & see how you were --- but I didn't see you around & since it's been like a week since I could check I decided I'd better click on LJ. WHAT A FREAKING WONDERFUL THRILLING PRESENT TO FIND WAITING FOR ME!!!!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! THANK YOU!!!!
This fic was freaking epic!!!!!
The Russian roulette scene was too evil!!!! It was absolutely without a doubt the most perfectly brilliant torture you have ever written & you know how much I applaud your use of cruel & unusual circumstances in your fics!
This was the perfect emo-torture fic & you did it to Rick!!!! (((((HUGS)))). Oh you are just the bestest!!
I wish I had time to say more bit if I don't get in the kitchen now not only will I have no sleep before work I will also have no dinner. Rest assured more comments on this fic later!
I just hope this comment posts from my phone.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 10th, 2011 01:36 pm (UTC)
billy likes

I wasn't hiding it; I just hadn't posted it because it had to be posted as per the schedule :) That and I lose track of all the fics I have.

That said, I'm glad it proved to be a nice respite for you amid all the work :) I very much enjoyed the game of Russian Roulette--it was how the entire fic premise got started--so I'm glad it read okay :)

Anyway, don't work too hard and I hope to see you soon!

Posted by: Evil Insane Monkey (eviinsanemonkey)
Posted at: November 25th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)

This fic is brilliant!
Great work!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 1st, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
billy likes

Thanks :) Glad you liked it!

10 Read Comments