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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: (Love or) Fear of the Cold 3/3

September 12th, 2011 (07:15 am)

A/N: Notes still in part one. Posts still cut to appease LJ.




-o-

The next day is a whirlwind. Billy is awake and he is okay, but from Fay’s brief visits, it’s clear he’s far from recovered. He manages to answer questions and smile when he’s awake, but those times are fleeting as he lapses in and out of sleep at seemingly random intervals. It’s a far cry from his normal vibrancy, but Fay understands the truth in Michael’s declaration. Because Billy’s eyes are tired and cloudy from the extent of his injuries and the drugs being used to treat him, but there’s still a twinkle in them that Fay trusts and recognizes.

Within a few days, Billy is upgraded to a regular room and visiting hours are more flexible. He’s still asleep more than he is awake, and watching him try to shift in bed is a painful process for everyone, no matter how much he tries to hide it. The rest of the team still takes shifts, but everyone is better fed and showered now, as life seems to resume some semblance of normal.

Normal for spies, anyway. For Fay, it’s still a bit surreal. She’s in Paris, just like she’s always dreamed about, and while there’s good food and laughter now, she’s with her ex-husband and his teammates, winding down a mission that none of them have talked about in days. She can only imagine that Higgins is itching to get them home, not necessarily out of concern for his agents, but for the hotel and food bills they are surely racking up at the government’s expense.

Luc, who Fay recognizes in name only from the ODS’ last mission in Paris, stops by to inform them of how successful the bust was. The uranium is off the black market and the potential leads from the people snatched in the bust are impressive. She doesn’t feel bad that Lucas will be going to prison, and she certainly doesn’t feel bad that Richard has been charged with conspiracy and various sundry charges for his peripheral involvement. It’s not a straight up harassment charge, but Fay understands that in order for their work here to be successful in the long term, they need to maintain a low profile, even if it means not calling Richard out on being the scum bag that he is.

With this, she figures Higgins must be happy enough to endure the lingering costs of the ODS being overseas. And no matter how much the man distrusts the ODS, he’s not one to begrudge agents who make sacrifices in the field, and Fay knows Michael well enough to know that’s a card he’s played to explain why none of them are on a plane home just yet.

Still, the comfortable camaraderie makes it easy to forget such practicalities. She remembers being on the other side, the morning briefings with Higgins when she had to cautiously explain that the ODS wasn’t home yet and she didn’t know their ETA because Michael kept giving her the run around. She even remembers waiting for Michael during their marriage, marking days off on the calendar past his date of estimated return, hoping for more than a voicemail to tide her over until he got back.

It had always seemed frivolous at the time, but it’s a healing process for all of them. Billy is still weak and pale, and the others seem to gravitate toward him, to buoy him up as much as themselves. It’d be wrong for any of them to leave. They came into this together; they’ll leave together. It’s as simple as that.

Fay falls into routine with them as best she can. They seem to accept her without a word; it’s as if she’s earned her place with them. For years, she’s resented them. Now she feels like part of them.

It’s nearly a week after the mission when Billy is finally starting to be alert enough to maintain normal conversation. The doctors are impressed with his recovery; his body is bouncing back faster than they anticipate. There’s talk of transferring him back to the States within a week or two, though despite all the optimism, Fay knows that the Scotsman still has some extensive recovery time ahead of him.

But that kind of things are details for reports, not for the ODS in the field. This is why she smiles with the rest of them, making jokes and small talk as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

That doesn’t stop her from feeling guilty, of course. During her shift, Billy has just come back from a therapy session, which has left him visibly tired. His face is drawn with pain; his color still isn’t what it used to be and no matter how hard he tries to hide it, exhaustion is wearing him thin.

When he’s settled, Fay says, “So it looks like they’re working you pretty hard in the therapy.”

Billy makes a face, waving one hand dismissively. “I just like to give them a challenge,” he says. “If I woke up jumping through hoops, the poor physical therapy department would feel rather neglected.”

Fay rolls her eyes slightly. “I’m sure that’s it.”

Billy manages an impish grin. “Truth is more often a matter of perception than concrete reality,” he tells her knowingly.

She nods at that and tries to brush away her unease. It’s hard, though. She can still see Billy’s blood on the floor, his slack features. “You just have to believe your own lies, right?” she remembers, smiling vaguely. “Put everything aside and do what needs to be done.”

Billy looks mildly impressed that she remembers. He nods in approval. “So I see you did take my inspirational pre-mission speech to heart,” he says. “That’s quite reassuring; with the rest of the team, sometimes I feel like my sage kernels of wisdom fall on increasingly deaf ears.”

“Well, you certainly saved my life,” she says. “In more ways than one.”

He shakes his head. “All in the line of duty.”

“No, you risked the mission for me,” she insists.

“You make it sound so melodramatic,” he says.

She scoffs. “It felt pretty melodramatic.”

“For someone with little field experience, I can see why you’d think that,” he tells her. “But I assure you, my actions were entirely keeping with my duties to the team.”

This is true, Fay has figured out by now, but still doesn’t change her gratitude. And yet, she’s not quite sure what more to say, how to bridge this silence. Billy isn’t looking for a thank you; he’s not even looking for her gratitude anymore than the rest seem to be looking for an apology.

It’s an awkward silence that lingers, but Billy seems to take pity on her. “Besides, I’m sure it’ll all provide for a rollicking report for the director to read,” he says, eyes twinkling slightly.

At that, she laughs. “It should be one of my more interesting ones.”

“I should say so,” Billy says. “Undercover in Paris! Taking down international criminals and protecting countless lives in America and abroad.”

He says it with such conviction and enthusiasm that it is hard to doubt him.

But it’s still so hard to let the rest of it go. Because it is as simple as Billy says and yet it’s not. “So, that’s it, then,” Fay says, shrugging her shoulders as she tries to understand. “We just go home, job well done, and move on?”

“What more were you looking for?” he asks, and he seems genuinely curious.

“I don’t know, closure?” she asks. “Something to make it feel like it’s really over, that it was all really worth it.”

Billy’s expression softens in sympathy. “It always sounds more impressive in reports, I know,” he says. “When you can tally the details and see the overall strategic gains.”

“But it’s harder in the field,” she says. “I know we kept the uranium safe and brought criminals to justice, but...”

“But it doesn’t seem like enough,” Billy concludes.

She presses her mouth together.

Billy collects a breath and looks at her evenly. “Each mission is important, for all the reasons you can surely delineate,” he says. “But real success isn’t so much pleasing the director or even protecting national security for another day.”

“So what is it?” Fay dares to venture.

“Coming home,” he says. “Coming home with your teammates and living to fight another day. When you’re back amongst all that is good and simple, you’re reminded why you do what you do. Why the sacrifices are worth it.”

He’s right, of course. Just like he’s been right about most of it.

Softly, he continues, “You know, I understand that the time Michael spent with you was difficult. I can’t imagine he was much of a husband with the hours he kept and the way he could jet off at a moment’s notice, much less how he needs to micromanage every detail.”

The memory makes her smile ruefully.

“But those years were Michael’s best,” Billy says, and he’s earnest about this. “Having someone to come home to, having someone worth fighting for on the other side--it made all the difference. We’ve always been self-sacrificial bastards for one another, but for that time, Michael was more focused, more intent, and more devoted than ever. Because every mission was about getting back to you.”

In the past, she would doubt him. She would tell him that he didn’t know anything about their marriage or who they had been together.

But Billy’s right. That shouldn’t surprise her, but Fay’s still new at this sort of thing. “You know,” she says, shifting in her seat and shaking her head. “What’s so funny about this entire thing is that the more I lied to other people, the more truth I learned about myself.”

Billy winces. “An unpleasant side effect,” he agrees. “It gets easier to deal with over time.”

“What if you don’t want it to?”

Billy smiles. “In the end, it’s still about survival,” he says. “You have to protect your soul just as readily as your life, and for any spy both are always in mortal peril.”

“And it’s worth it?” Fay asks.

“The uranium is secure. My friends are safe. And you are standing, perfect and lovely before me,” Billy says with a confidence that belies his still weak condition. He nods. “It’s worth it.”

And in everything, for Fay, that may be the truth that matters the most.

-o-

It’s not much longer before they get to go home. Billy is continuing to improve, regaining his color and increasing his stamina. The doctors seem reluctant to approve a trans-Atlantic flight, but Billy is so charming and the rest of the ODS is pretty damn convincing. Still, they have to arrange a military flight with medical provisions, and while Billy insists it’s overkill, Fay sees how taxing the trip is for him. He’s transferred by ambulance to Georgetown and the ODS is finally home.

Fay is finally home.

After seeing Billy at the hospital, she goes home alone. In her apartment, things feel strangely unfamiliar to her. It’s her home, these are her things, but something’s different.

She’s different.

When she goes to sleep that night, she wonders if it’s for better or for worse.

Or maybe for both.

-o-

At work the next day, she gets in early and finishes her report. By the time Higgins is in his office, it’s already on his desk. Giving it a cursory glance, he turns curious eyes up at her. “I was beginning to wonder if you and the ODS had defected,” he muses, and the joke is light but pointed all the same.

“We were waiting for Operative Collins to be well enough to travel,” she reports.

Higgins nods, almost cautiously. “Yes, yes,” he says. “That’s what Dorset has been telling me.”

“He’s been checked into--”

“Georgetown,” Higgins says for her. “I’ve already had a chat with his doctor.”

“So you understand then,” Fay presumes.

It’s not so much that Higgins understands as much as it is that he knows. His eyes are narrowed just slightly, a muted skepticism as he looks her over. “And the mission was a success?” he asks.

“You’ve talked to Operative Dorset--”

“But I’m asking you,” he says.

Fay swallows uncomfortably. It’s not the first time Higgins has wheedled her for information about the ODS that the team might otherwise choose not to share. It’s always made her uncomfortable before but this time she’s not protecting herself, she’s protecting them. From what, she’s not entirely sure. The ODS has never cared about its reputation and it’s never been concerned with Higgins’ overt approval, which is why Fay has never been too worried about them. But the thing is, they deserve better around here.

“It’s all in the file,” Fay reports dutifully, nodding her head. “Our initial contact went as planned and the plan developed accordingly. Operative Collins endured his injury away from the action and thanks to the efforts of the ODS, the mission was not disrupted and our cover was maintained.” She hesitates just slightly. “You were right to send me, sir.”

“Yes, Operative Dorset explained how valuable your connection was in the field,” he comments, perusing the file with fresh interest. He looks up. “And he was quite keen on singing your praises. Sounds like you may have the heart of a field operative after all, Ms. Carson.”

It’s all Fay can do to not balk outright. Still, she manages to say, “Thank you, sir. But I think I’m better suited to office work.”

Higgins inclines his head. “Suit yourself,” he says. “But you have also proven yourself to be a valuable asset in regards to the ODS. That’s not something I’ll soon forget next time I need to find some sort of leash for those misfits.”

Fay just smiles. Because Higgins is half right--her connection with the ODS is stronger than ever--but he’s also half wrong. Because she could no more sell them out than they could leave her to fend for herself. Some bonds are forged under pressure, some relationships are based on nothing more than a desire to get out of the cold, but that doesn’t change how strong they are.

Nothing changes that.

Fay keeps her smile, proper and polished, and nods again. “Yes, sir,” she says. “Anything to get the job done.”

To that, Higgins has no reply and when Fay goes back to her office, her smile just keeps growing.

-o-

Fay thinks about going by Michael’s office, though she’s not sure why. It doesn’t matter, in the end, because when she gets back to her own office, Michael is already there, leaned against her desk and looking through her calendar absently.

It’s not an uncommon scene. He was waiting for her before they went on the mission, and she suspects he'll be waiting her before the next one, too. In the past, she might quip about how it’s not his place to be in here, how it’s certainly not his place to look through her things, but when his eyes meet hers, somehow, this time, she has to smile.But what she does know--more than anything--is that a good man isn't necessarily so easy to define. Some people can look and talk the part, but underneath, they're only in it for themselves. Other people--people like the men in the ODS--can defy the stereotype, can lie and hurt and frustrated, but ultimately they're the ones who will always do what's right, even at their own sacrifice and perils.


Walking in, she skirts around the desk, eyeing him guardedly. “If you’re worried about what I said to Higgins--”

Michael frowns. “Why would I be worried about that?”

She eases into her seat, shrugging. “Well, you usually have some kind of motive to come down here.”

He keeps his expression impassive, but there’s more than a flash of emotion in his eyes. “It’s just weird not seeing you every day,” he comments.

“We’ve been divorced for years,” she reminds him.

“But the mission--”

“Was the mission,” Fay concludes. “It doesn’t change everything that’s happened between us.”

Michael is watching her carefully and Fay works to retain her composure. She’s sure he can see it on her face, see it in her eyes; it doesn’t change everything, but it does change something, even if neither of them is sure what.

Instead, Michael nods. “Fair enough,” he says. “I just wanted to make sure you were settled back into work and all after our foray into the field.”

Fay gestures around her. “Everything is back to normal,” she says. She hesitates before she adds, “Any new word on how long it’ll be before Billy’s cleared to come back to work?”

“With Billy’s persuasive skills, my guess is sooner than the doctors would like,” Michael says.

Fay laughs a little. “Just make sure it’s not too soon,” she says. “He’s been through a lot.”

“So have you,” Michael says.

Fay refused to let herself blush. Instead, she keeps her head high. “You know what I mean.”

Michael holds her gaze before nodding. “Yeah,” he agrees. “I do.”

There’s a silence and it’s not quite awkward, but Fay still doesn’t know what to say. She’s not sure what she wants to say. Their apologies and their regrets don’t change what happened, and she’s not even sure it’ll change what comes next. More than that, she’s not sure there’s anything she has to say, as if somehow she and Michael could finally stand eye to eye and understand each other.

Pushing away from the desk, Michael rubs his hands together. “Well, we’re all still going to be taking turns visiting Billy,” he says. “So I’m sure he’ll love it if you stop by.”

“Of course,” she says. “I might be able to swing over on my lunch hour.”

Michael continues nodding. “Just don’t let him talk you into smuggling him in any food,” he says. “Billy can be quite the con.”

Fay knows this first hand. She smiles. “I think I can handle myself.”

Michael looks thoughtful. “Yeah,” he says. “I guess you can.”

He moves to leave, and Fay suddenly has to stop him. “I appreciate the concern, though,” she adds, and it feels hasty and uncertain.

When Michael turns back around, his smile is genuine. “Anytime,” he says.

And Fay nods as he heads off again. She watches him as he slips into the hallway, until he’s around the corner and she can’t see him anymore.

She stares after the empty hallway for a moment and tries to make sense of it. Tries to make sense of what she knows now and what she knew then. Tries to make sense of the ODS risking their lives for her, Billy in the hospital at her expense, Michael stopping by her office and how it actually made her smile.

It actually makes her smile.

It’s a strange fact, and one that she’s surprisingly not torn about. She’s not sure about where she and Michael stand at the moment, but it’s not as important as she might have thought. She trusts him to do the right thing and she trusts that he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.

How she fits into that, she’s not sure.

But she’s willing to wait to find out.

After all, sometimes all she can do is focus on the job and do what it takes to just get it done. Trust that it’s right, trust that she can do it. No matter what.

She continues smiling to herself as she gets back to work. No matter what.

-o-

If your strife strikes at your sleep
Remember spring swaps snow for leaves
And you’ll happy and wholesome again
When the city clears and sun ascends


Comments

Posted by: blackdog_lz (blackdog_lz)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
Observer

And I'll bet Fay's still going to bring Billy food :)
I absolutely adore Fay's POV on the ODS and her changing view as she gets to work together with them. I also like her the introspective thinking on her marriage with Michael and accepting that it has failed.
All around a great story that I'm definitely going to re-read.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 14th, 2011 12:07 pm (UTC)
billy considers

LOL, yeah she probably will :) How could you not if he asked really nicely?

I enjoyed writing this more than I thought I would--which was why it ended up being a lot longer than I originally envisioned. The Michael/Fay dynamic is one I'm sure we'd have seen evolve if the show had continued airing, which probably would have been interesting. Another thing to mourn that we'll never see!

Thanks! I'm glad it's worth a reread!

Posted by: Flute (sgflutegirl)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 08:52 pm (UTC)
Quote - Woot!

Loved this! :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 14th, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC)
billy likes

Thanks :)

Posted by: Ally (leafy07)
Posted at: September 12th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
right bastard

This was great, there need to be more stories dealing with Fay and Michael. I loved the sense of closure we got at the end.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 14th, 2011 12:09 pm (UTC)
billy watches

Sometimes canon ships get lost in the shuffle when it comes to fic writing. Nothing wrong with that--we like to explore the what-ifs--but I did find this venture into Michael/Fay sort of fun.

Thanks!

Posted by: fara (farad)
Posted at: September 14th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
Vin over his shoulder

Brilliant.

Lovely weaving of the various threads - strong plot, great angst, wonderful team, and the POV was so strong I kept getting lost in it. This may be your best one yet.

Thank you sooooo much!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: September 14th, 2011 12:09 pm (UTC)
CHAOS team

Aw, I'm so glad it read so well! You make it sound a lot better than I think it was :)

And I'm just glad people are still willing to read since I can't stop writing for this show.

Thanks!

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